Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week Four: The King Told The Boogie Man, You Have To Let That Raga Drop

It was jolly nice to see one yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, the excellent Joe Armstrong (Alun's son) in Friday night's new episode of Hustle. Joe featured as Emma's teenage sweetheart who's fallen on hard times after the death of his wife and whom Mickey and the team decide to help (without him knowing about it). It was a rather a decent episode as it happens, and one that also had the bonus of a so-far-over-the-top-she's-down-the-other-side turn from Corrie's Angela Griffin as a wicked money lender.

Top of the Pops' Christmas specials have not been axed despite what you might have read in certain newspapers, the BBC has confirmed. The Independent - among others - reported last month that the new Channel Five boss Richard Desmond would 'take advantage of the opportunity to air the long-running music show.' Yeah, but he's only going to be able to do that if the BBC scrap the thing for good. And, they're not. However, a BBC spokesperson told Music Week that no decision has been made over the programme, as it is too early in the year. The most recent Top of the Pops pulled in a more-than-respectable audience of just over four million on Christmas Day afternoon last year, a rise of around seven hundred thousand viewers on the 2009 special. And, it proved that Fearne Cotton can, despite much evidence to contrary, stand still and read an autocue. Although, to be honest, that's about the limit of her skills.

Hundreds of viewers have complained to Channel Four about its decision to axe most editions of The Daily Show from More 4. Last month, the channel dropped the Jon Stewart-fronted satire show, which it had broadcast four days a week since it launched. However, by the end the US series was only attracting eighty thousand viewers a day, so executives decided to broadcast just the weekly Global Edition compilation, late on Monday evenings. On a blog post, C4 viewers editor Paula Carter said: 'We have received a steady influx of complaints from devoted viewers of the show, for whom a weekly Global Edition is no compensation. I spoke to the scheduler responsible who explained after five years of reaching a very loyal but small audience it was time to say goodbye to the daily version of the programme. The money that was spent on acquiring The Daily Show will now be used across the More4 schedule and will support home grown documentaries in the True Stories strand as well as new US imports that fit More4’s audience profile. He acknowledged that this would be a disappointment for fans of The Daily Show, but pointed out that Channel Four was launching its own political satire show, Ten O'Clock Show on January 20.' Carter also pointed out that the daily version of The Daily Show is available on iTunes, although she omitted to mention the fact that it costs the punter £1.89 an episode to acquire that way.

David Tennant and his partner Georgia Moffett are reportedly expecting their first child together. The pair, recently announced their engagement, have been keeping the news a secret and will welcome the new arrival in the spring, the Sun reports. The former Doctor Who actor met Ms Moffett - the real-life daughter of one of his many predecessor, Peter Davison - when she made an appearance on the show in 2008. (Playing, ironically, his daughter. And, very good she was too.) The actress already has an eight-year-old son, Tyler, from a previous relationship. A 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'David is thrilled, though slightly worried having a baby with Georgia will break the space time continuum because of their Doctor Who connections.' Err ... no he isn't, pal. He's probably more concerned about shit made-up quotes like that getting into the public domain and making him look like a berk. 'David gets along brilliantly with Tyler,' the anonymous 'source' allegedly continued, 'and he can't wait for the baby.'

There was an excellent line of dialogue in Saturday's Primeval - well, there were several, but one in particular: Connor asking Becker and Matt 'why do all schools smell of the same thing? Spot cream and misery!' It was a rather good episode all round, actually - nicely structured, some really good scares, a moral dilemma at the core of the plot, Ben Miller at his pithy, manipulating best and Little Hannah looking all gorgeous when she gets upset. Plus, the director - Cilla Ware - spent nearly half of the episode shooting Ruth Kearney from a high angle, thus making her quite magnificent rack one of the central points of the episode. Or, two of the central points of the episode, to be exact. Which was nice, frankly. What a pity nobody's watching the damn thing because it really is a very good little show when it gets everything right.

And, on that sad-but-true-ism, here's yer next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips, like.

Friday 21 January
Tonight sees the start of the fifth series of one of yer Keith Telly Topping's guilty pleasures on TV, An Island Parish - 7:30 BBC2. However, after four years of watching the almost soap opera lives of the islanders of the Isles of Scilly, this year, we're off Oop North. The documentary series this time chronicles life on Barra, the most southerly island of the Outer Hebrides. New Roman Catholic priest John Paul Mackinnon is taking up his parish post with cameras following him which will reveal how he copes with life on one of Britain's most remote communities. And whether he can live up to the expectations of colleagues Calum and Roddy. Hopefully, the new series will maintain the charm, warmth and ease on the eye of previous strands.

On a somewhat similar theme, I know that Ice Road Truckers - 8:00 Channel Five - has a real genuine cult following in Britain. Well, there's a new series of that show kicking off tonight as well. Greg Boadwine returns with a point to prove following a rookie season that saw him spill a load of pipes, and Lisa Kelly aims to earn the male drivers' respect as she hauls a tricky car-carrier for the first time. Novice driver Ray Veileux takes to the ice to support his family after his business went bust in the global recession, and finds himself facing a treacherous mountain pass as night falls. Strangely addictive, this one. A tale of rugged, manly men (well, and Lisa, obviously), doing rugged manly things.

In this week's Hustle - 9:00 BBC1 - Albert (the great Robert Vaughn, of course) is angered to learn his great-great-grandfather Charlie is known as the first cheat ever to be caught by Wendell Casinos, a famous American chain. As one might expect, Albert is rather pissed off at this long-standing bit of family shame and is prepared to pay any price to clear his ancestor's name. Or, at least, con the current owner of Wendells out of house and home. So, he proposes a high-stakes deal on the roulette wheel to the current owner, who will watch the game throughout, leaving the team members to rely on their wealth of expertise to outsmart him. The guest star for the episode is another nostalgia figure, Michael Brandon (Dempsey & Makepeace). Hustle is a drama that is superior, slick, runaround nonsense - usually logically flawed but papering over the cracks with wit, pace and not a little bit of charm.

Saturday 22 January
Qi finished this week - with a particularly fine episode featuring a brilliant deconstruction of the Bayeux Tapestry. That isn't. And being only twenty minutes late to start since the sodding snooker went on forever. But, thankfully, due to some men in their late fifties with long girly hair appearing on BBC2 back in November for a singsong, there's still two episodes of Qi XL left to be shown and the first appears on Saturday night at 9:00 on BBC2. This one is Hypothetical and Stephen and Alan are joined by guests Sandi Toksvig, John Lloyd and Johnny Vegas for the quiz with a difference. Hopefully the other episode will be shown next week (the one with Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard and Danny Baker). And, is it too much to hope that they might follow that up by broadcasting the four episodes of XL from last season that still haven't been shown on terrestrial TV?

I know a few people at work will be very happy to hear that The Tudors is back for a fourth (and last) series - 9:45 BBC2. Starring, of course, Jonathan Rhys Myers - here's Henery the Eighth, he is, he is. Pretty boy, it must be noted, and actually quite decent in this even historical drama though personally I've never been all that convinced about him as an actor. (It's entirely possible that Velvet Goldmine warped my sensibilities to his talent!) Teenager Katherine Howard becomes Henry's fifth wife. Yeah, that's not gonna end well, you can tell. But, her beauty and chequered past inflame the passions of Henry's trusted courtier Thomas Culpepper, which is never a good start for one of Henry's queens. Look out later in the season, once young Katherine's been deprived of her head, for Joely Richardson playing her successor, Catherine Parr. And Jonathan getting very fat! That'll be a laugh.

The Killing - 9:00 BBC4 - is a Danish crime TV series produced by Danmarks Radio. It was known as Forbrydelsen (The Crime) in Denmark. The first season was broadcast in 2007 and, following the success of the the BBC's import of the original Swedish Wallander they've obviously decided that Scandinavian crime drama travels well to these shores. Which is a very healthy and mature attitude and it's rather reassuring to know that, apparently, we in Britain are aware there are other countries out there (besides America and Australia) that produce some decent telly. If you look hard enough. As head of investigations at the wonderful wonderful København homicide department Sarah Lund is spending her final few days in the job saying goodbye to her colleagues in preparation for her move to Sweden. But, she is forced to reconsider her plans when a teenage girl goes missing. The drama's key is that each episode covers a day of the case, a bit like the BBC's Five Days. Starring Sofie Gråbøl and Lars Mikkelsen. Intriguing. I think I shall give this one a go.

I mean, if I do, the only thing I'll be missing will be British Comedy Awards - 9:00 Channel Four. So, no tragedy there then. Jonathan Ross returns to host the annual ceremony as the industry gathers to honour the best comedy actors, actresses, entertainment personalities and newcomers, along with the pick of the year's TV and film comedies. The twenty second staging of the event also brings a new gold award to crown the King or Queen of Comedy 2010, as voted for by members of the public, and there are new categories for Best Male and Best Female TV Comic. The British Comedy Awards: Live Lock-In is on E4 at 11pm. The alternative is ... I dunno, I hear genital torture can be quite fun compared to this.

Sunday 23 January
Guess who just got back today? Them wild-eyed boys that've been away ... Yes, all you stinking lice-ridden hippies, Gruniad-licking Communists and Daily Scum Mail jack-booted bully boy thugs, prepare your best shots and make space on page three each Monday for the next six weeks for another series of shitehawk 'exclusives' about which ten glakes have been 'upset' by something on Top Gear this week. Because, it's back - 8:00 BBC2. In the opening episode of the popular motoring show's sixteenth series Britain's best stand-up (and indeed sit-down) comedian, Jezza Clarkson subjects the Skoda Yeti to a thorough examination, while smug-but-still-funny Richard Hamster charts the evolution of the Porsche 911 by pitting the current Turbo cabriolet against its oldest relative - and the power of gravity. Meanwhile, foppish dandy and raconteur James May takes the Ariel Atom V8 for a spin on the test track, another celebrity gets behind the wheel of the Reasonably Priced Car, and the Cool Wall returns to start yet more arguments in the studio. Many people, it should be noted, don't like this show. And for many different reasons - most (though not all) of them agenda-based. And, all of them are wrong. Next -

Gosh this is a good night for telly. Being Human also returns at 9:00 on BBC3. One of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite flatshare-comedy-drama-soap-horror gestalts, if you've never seen it before Being Human (currently the subject of a - horrible looking - US remake) is the story of three (now four) twentysomethings who find themselves sharing a house. One of whom is a vampire, another is a werewolf (and, now, his girlfriend's caught a nasty dose of lycanthropy as well) and the third is a ghost. It sounds stupid, I know. It sounds mega-stupid with terminal potential. But, it isn't. In fact, it's brilliant. About as good as anything else the BBC have come up with - in almost any field of storytelling - in the last five years at least. In the opening episode of this third series, George, Nina and Mitchell decide to move from Bristol to Barry in Wales, in the hope of a fresh start, and set up home at a kitsch B&B. Annie also finds herself in new surroundings - trapped in purgatory, waiting to hear her fate. Struggling to fit in and missing his friend, Mitchell decides to rescue the ghost and ends up meeting Lia, who tells him a dark secret which threatens to haunt him for ever. Lenora Crichlow, the excellent Russell Tovey and the darkly brooding and Byronesque Aidan Turner star, along with the lovely Sinead Keenan as Nina and guest starring Lacey Turner (formerly EastEnders' Stacey Branning). Watch out later in the season for an appearance by Robson Green who, apparently, plays another werewolf.

I suppose we should end the weekend's telly recommendations with comfortably the most memorable - and stupid and ignorant - title for any TV show this week. Or, indeed, this year, probably. The British Suck in Bed - 9:00 Channel One. Blimey. Is that literally, or metaphorically? Or is that the point of this smart-arse piece of single entendre that some bell end probably thought was, like, rilly clever when he or she thought it up? Perhaps, we'll never care. And, given that this documentary is being shown a channel that's about to go out of existence within the next few weeks, maybe that's a good thing. Anyway, the documentary examines British people's sexual habits - because, of course, there's nothing British people like talking about more than that - and comparing them with those of the residents of other European countries. The programme also follows the exploits of three couples who are hoping to introduce Swedish, German or Italian practices into their lovemaking. So, that'll be 'love in a cold climate,' thigh slapping on wet Lederhosen and 'having an affair with the Prime Minister for a place in his cabinet?' Allegedly.

Monday 24 January
In Stop Stalking Me: Panorama - 8:30 BBC1 - reporter Richard Bilton investigates stalking, which affects an estimated two million people in Britain every year, most - though by no means all - of them women. In addition to suggesting the problem is not being adequately tackled, the programme tells the story of a woman who has recorded years of abuse, losing her job, home and child in the process.

Tonight's episode of Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - sees a guilty Eileen desperately waiting for the stolen money to arrive in her boss's account. But there is a shock in store for Owen when he tries to buy Izzy a birthday present. Chris's plan appears to be coming together as Lloyd finds himself in the frame over the break-in. Fiz frets about John's state of mind and Janice takes up Leanne's offer of refuge, while Ciaran and Michelle finally admit their feelings for each other.

One of the more interesting cult successes of British TV in the last year has been One Born Every Minute - 9:00 Channel Four. This focuses on providing helpful insights into the realities of giving birth, especially in a hospital environment. The intimate footage gives parents-to-be (or anyone thinking of having children) a unique inside view of what it is really like when life begins. In this opening episode of the show's second series, a mother-to-be who thought she might never have children due to being born with a major heart defect waits for the arrival of her first baby, and her partner is on hand to offer support when her spirits begin to flag. Meanwhile, a woman fears her labour could be a repeat of the previous one, which lasted several days.

Tuesday 25 January
Scenes from a Teenage Killing - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary by BAFTA-winning director Morgan Matthews, exploring the impact on families and communities of murder among teenagers in Britain and naming every victim who died as a result of violence in the UK in 2009. The film provides numerous perspectives on such crimes, with testimony from bereaved relatives and friends, plus passers-by and police officers. It also questions society's attitude toward young people, and investigates the meaning behind media references to 'gang-related' offences and 'gang violence.' Part of the Justice - A Citizen's Guide season.

It's all documentaries tonight, it would seem. Red Sea Jaws - 8:00 Channel Five - re-examines the events of November and December 2010, when one tourist was killed and four others injured in a series of shark attacks at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The programme features an interview with seventy-year-old Lyudmila Stolyarova, who lost a hand and a leg in one of the incidents, and includes eyewitness testimony and expert opinions as to why a normally peaceful stretch of the Red Sea became so dangerous. Of course, this being Channel Five, expect the subjects of Nazis and sex to pop up in the episode at some stage too.

Once upon a time Andrew Flintoff was the finest English cricketer of his generation (and, indeed, of the several before that) and, but for a couple of notoriously injury-prone ankles, would probably be out in Australia right now, giving Straussy and the boys a hand taming them there colonials. Unfortunately, as his body was unable to cope with the rigours of the constant pounding it was getting in test cricket, he's now reduced to appearing on appallingly trite and inconsequential Sky1 sports quiz shows presented by big fat unfunny blubber of lard, James Corden. And, trying to get his own career as a TV presenter off the ground. Freddie Flintoff Versus the World - 9:00 ITV4 - is his opening gambit in finding a format that will allow him to escape from having to look at Corden's gurning mush once a week. In this, the former Lancashire and England cricketer travels across the American continent - Forrest Gump-style - taking part in extreme sports in competition with other sportsmen and women. He is joined by another cricketer-turned-TV-personality Strictly Come Dancing winner Dazzling Darren Gough on a trip to Mexico for a spot of lucha libre wrestling (see right - at least, I assume that's what they're doing), paintball paragliding and a dive off the cliffs of Acapulco. Sounds crap, frankly. Though, to be scrupulously fair, even if it is crap it'll still be a hell of a lot more interesting and worthwhile than anything James Corden's ever done in his entire life. And not just on TV either.

How TV Ruined Your Life - 10:00 BBC2 - is a new series in which Screenwipe satirist Charlie Brooker reveals how concepts such as love and success often fall short of the mark when depicted on the small screen. He begins by exploring themes of fear, including ominous public information films and grisly crime dramas from the TV archives. This opening episode features material from film and TV, as well as sketches and interviews which illustrate the extent of the gulf that exists between fiction and reality.

Wednesday 26 January
In Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - Andrew Neil travels around Britain to examine the academic origins of politicians and the effects of this on social mobility whilst he hangs out with the nobs. As it were. But, perhaps I've said too much. The journalist meets members of the public who are worried about the new privately educated elite, and visits public and state schools to reveal why the achievement gap is widening between the two, giving those who studied in exclusive institutions a head-start in the race to become top of the political class. As though that's a new thing.

The National Television Awards 2011 - 7:30 ITV - is always good for a laugh. Dermot O'Dreary hosts the star-studded ceremony celebrating the best of British TV over the past year, as the biggest names on the small screen gather at the O2 to hear the results of a nationwide poll across twelve categories. First-time nominee Dermot himself features in the entertainment presenter shortlist for his work on The X Factor, which takes on Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent and Dancing on Ice for the title of best talent show. Sherlock and Doctor Who are named in the line-up of the nation's favourite dramas, and Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith are also nominated for their performances as the title characters in those series. Glee, Peter Andre and The Inbetweeners battle it out in the digital choice category, while soap stars Katherine Kelly, Steve McFadden, Lacey Turner and Danny Miller compete to win best serial drama performance. Last year's evening was ludicrously entertaining, largely for Stephen Fry winning two awards and Piers Morgan having to sit there and take it with a face that looked like a man whose finger had just gone through the toilet paper, mid-wipe. Hopefully, this year will feature some moments which are equally memorable.

Or, you may prefer Almost Famous IV - 7:00 BBC3 - featuring various embarrassing clips from some of the world's biggest celebrities in the days before they were household names. Will the side-splitting hilarity never ... start?

Thursday 27 January
JLC: Turning Japanese - 9:00 Channel Five - is the lastest vehicle for the everything else he's touched has turned to shite Justin Lee Collins. Will Bristol's answer to King Midas in Reverse once again demonstrate his fantastic ability to pick manure for formats with this one? Justin heads east to learn more about Japanese culture, beginning with an exploration of love and relationships. In Tokyo, he visits a store specialising in women's underwear adapted for male proportions, demonstrates his pulling technique in a dating class, investigates the world of 'love dolls,' and gets a sleek new look to spend the evening as an escort. If there is so much as a hint of a Benny Hill impression during this one, dear blog reader, then I trust you will all kindly bombard Channel Five with as much phlegm as you can summon.

The BBC seem to have found themselves another one of those surprise factual hits that go far beyond their expected station in life of being enjoyed by people in nice houses who work in advertising but end up getting an audience among us common plebs, the likes of us, dear blog reader, as well. The opening episode of Human Planet - 8:00 BBC1 - was not only well reviewed but, also, got a more than handy five million plus audience. Fair restores ones faith in humanity, so it does. Anyway, tonight's episode is called Arctic: Life in the Deep Freeze. The lives of people in the Arctic, an environment where little food grows, temperatures stay well below freezing for much of the year and it is dark for months on end. Amos and Karl-Frederik travel across the sea ice with their dogs to catch a Greenland shark, Inuit mussel-gatherers embark on a perilous quest to collect their food and the trick-or-treating children of Churchill, Manitoba, risk coming face to face with deadly polar bears. The great John Hurt narrates. Proper, heart-warming, interesting, 'you might just learn something' TV, ladies and gentlemen.

On a marginally similar theme, there's a repeat of Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World - 9:00 ITV3. The well known Scottish comedian boards a Russian cruise ship in this episode to make an eight-day trip through the Northwest Passage and visit the sites where explorers have lived and died. I said at the time this was first shown, they really missed a trick by not calling it Billy Connolly's Northwest passage. What? Anyway, stopping off on Beechey Island, where Victorian naval officer John Franklin was stranded for two years, Billy moves on to Gjoa Haven, a settlement on King William Island where Roald Amundsen stayed fifty years after Franklin's expedition. He then heads south to Dawson City, the site of a gold rush in the late Nineteenth Century.

If you've got teenage kids then you might want to give Skins - 10:00 E4 - a miss. The fourth series of the popular (but controversial) drama begins with eight new friends start at Roundview College. Determined not to be a loner, things go well for Franky until she accidentally challenges Mini's position as queen bee and ends up being rejected. She meets Matty who persuades her to stand up to the bully, but by finding new friends, she inadvertently starts a war with Mini.

And, so to the news: A thirty eight-year-old Londoner has, apparently, told the Got To Dance judges that he is a better dancer than Michael Jackson. Which, given that Michael Jackson has been dead for a year is, probably, factually accurate. On this weekend's audition shows, hopeful Afshin promised big things when he took to the stage in the dance dome. 'I'm a great dancer and everyone tells me I am a great dancer. Since I was fifteen years old I have been inventing my own dance moves,' he says. Most of us do that, mate. It's just that we only get to do our dancing when we've had a skinful and we're at our cousin's wedding.

CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler has confessed that the network has a 'high level of concern' about Charlie Sheen. Entertainment Weekly reports that while speaking to critics at a press conference earlier this week, the CEO expressed worry over the Two And A Half Men star's well-being and addressed rumours that CBS is considering halting production on the series. 'I personally thought a lot about this. We have a high level of concern. How can we not? Let me speak personally first. On a very basic human level, I am concerned of course. This man is a father, he has children, he has a family,' Tassler explained. 'You can't look at it simplistically. Charlie is a professional. He comes to work, he does his job extremely well. We are taping tonight. It's very complicated, but we have a very good relationship with Warner Brothers TV. We have tremendous trust and respect with the way they are managing the situation.' She added: 'On a personal level, we obviously have concern. On a professional level, he does his job and he does it well. This show is a hit, that's all I have to say.'

David E Kelley has suggested that a new Wonder Woman television series could find a home at NBC. The Boston Legal creator previously confirmed that the comic adaptation was still in development, despite reports that all of the major networks had passed on the project. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter that NBC would be 'a good home' for the pilot and expressed his intention to pitch a series to incoming programming chief Robert Gleenblatt. 'I like to think of it as a smart script and I know he responds to smart material,' said Kelley, adding that his version of Wonder Woman would be 'a real complex woman and not just a superhero.' He also implied that taking the project to a cable network was 'a possibility' and claimed that the show could reach the public by 2012. 'I think the likelihood is we'll see it next year,' he said. 'I'm being optimistic, but I don't think I'm being unrealistic.'

David Mitchell has revealed that seventies sitcom Terry and June was a key inspiration for him going into comedy. The actor and comic, best known for playing Mark Corrigan on Peep Show and for That Mitchell & Webb Look, admitted that satirical programmes did not appeal to him. He told TV & Satellite Week: 'I grew up watching Terry and June and I'm still very fond of it for that reason. If anything inspired me, it must have been watching that. The title sequence where Terry's deckchair collapses under him while he's holding his drink was a formative lesson in why things that aren't supposed to happen in real life have to happen to make comedy work.'

Rachel McAdams has revealed that she used to miss school so that she could watch daytime TV. The Mean Girls actress explained that watching such programmes gave her an advantage when she took on the role of TV producer Becky Fuller in the movie Morning Glory. She explained to Bang Showbiz: 'It's very interesting to be on the other side of the fence. It was really fun to go on these shows [while researching for the part] and see the anchors with their fluffy slippers on underneath the chair. And then from the point of the view of the control room. I mean it's completely crazy, very dramatic, fast-paced, yelling - I had a hard time following it at first when we got there, it's so fast and the stories were over before you'd even acknowledged it. I have a lot of respect for what happens back there and how much energy and vitality you have to make it through this 3am to 10am shift and then do it all over again the next day.' However, the thirty two-year-old said that she now prefers to listen to the radio than watch TV in the mornings. She added: 'I find it really a nice fix for the morning.'

CBS has picked up a drama pilot starring former Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. The series, titled Ringer, will mark the return of Gellar to regular prime time television following a lengthy absence. According to Entertainment Weekly, the show tells the story of a young woman on the run who takes on the identity of her rich twin sister, leading to dangerous consequences. Ringer is being written by Eric Carmelo and Nicole Snyder and will air its pilot episode later this year. Nice to see that Sarah's film career has been such a super soaraway success (and, after quite a promising beginning too) that, seven years after leaving Buffy and telling every reporter that she spoke to that would be the last time she'd go near a TV show and, if you ever saw her back there you'd really know she screwed up bad, she's back where she started. Only, seven years older.

ITV has appointed former Royal Mail corporate affairs director Mary Fagan as its new head of communications. Later this month, Fagan will officially join ITV as group communications and corporate affairs director, replacing Ruth Settle, who is leaving to set up her own PR firm. Fagan will report directly to ITV chief executive Adam Crozier, who she previously worked with when Crozier was chief executive of Royal Mail. She will also take a place on ITV's management board. ITV director of communications Mike Large, director of programme publicity Zoe McIntyre and director of public affairs Nigel Warner will all report to Fagan. In a statement issued to Broadcast, Crozier said: 'Mary has a wealth of government, corporate affairs and communications experience. I'm looking forward to working with her as the transformation plan unfolds over the next five years. Ruth is a great communications professional and has played a key role in both promoting and protecting ITV in the press over the past eight years. I'd like to thank her for the terrific contribution she has made and wish her all the very best for the future.' Also, it was announced that ITV's director of group development and strategy Carloyn Fairbairn is to leave the broadcaster after four years. She will be replaced by Simon Pitts in the newly-created role of director of strategy and transformation.

ESPN has agreed an exclusive deal with North One Sport for UK broadcast rights to the FIA World Rally Championship. The agreement enables ESPN to air four-and-a-half hours of programming for each WRC race meeting, the most extensive season-long coverage of the championship to date. Using multiple media platforms, including ESPN Classic and ESPN.co.uk, the broadcaster's coverage will start on 2 February with an hour-long documentary, titled Road Car to Rally Car, about the development of the new Mini World Rally Car. Each of the thirteen WRC events will be previewed on ESPN with an hour-long programme, titled Rally World, starting with the season opener in Sweden on 10 February. A thirty-minute highlights programme will be screened in the evenings of all three days of each rally, and an hour-long round-up show will air the following week, offering a recap of the action, along with in-depth features and analysis. Over the course of the season, ESPN Classic will feature thirty one-hour WRC archive programmes, as well as two brand-new documentaries on the sport. 'This is a pioneering TV agreement, not only in the UK but globally. It brings the exciting prospect of more coverage, fresh programming and more promotion than ever before,' said Simon Long, chief executive of North One Sport. 'The combination of the innovative content, production and digital promotion that ESPN offers combined with our revamped sport is extremely good news as we seek to reach out to new fans in the UK.' Jeroen Oerlemans, ESPN's vice president and channel manager EMEA, added: 'WRC is a superb, dynamic product with a fervent following a growing legion of enthusiasts, and fits extremely well as a key part of ESPN's growing portfolio of motorsports from across the UK and Europe.'

Alex Reid is reportedly refusing to leave the house which he shares with his wife Katie Price following their alleged split. The Mirror claims that the cross-dressing cage fighter has ignored Price's orders to move out of their two million pound home, after he objected to legal papers that would end their eleven-month marriage. A 'source' allegedly stated: 'Katie has tried everything to make him see sense, saying the marriage is dead and she will never return his feelings. But he won’t listen. Alex is desperately clinging on to the belief they can make a go of things and refuses to pack his bags. She has asked him numerous times but he won't go. Essentially Alex has become a squatter. There is no shifting him and it is making Katie miserable. It's a disaster.'

A woman found a live gecko in broccoli she purchased from Tesco, it has been revealed. Well, the answer to how to avoid that happening in future is simple, dear blog reader. Don't buy broccoli. For, it is the spawn of satan, and stinks up the gaff when you cook it. Take Keith Telly Topping's advice, say 'no' to broccoli. Anyway, housewife Margaret Perthen is said to have screamed when she discovered the lizard in the vegetable but managed to contact a local vet specialising in exotic animals. Perthen told the Mirror: 'I don't know who was the most frightened - me or the gecko. I felt sorry for him, especially as he had lost his tail. I called it Gordon.' Gordon Gekko? Oh, very droll, madam. There's a spot for you on Comedy Rocks With Jason Manford next week if you want it. With material like that, you're already ten times better than Lee Nelson for a kick off. The reptile apparently survived the one thousand-mile trip from Spain to the store in Lydney, Gloucestershire in heat-sealed plastic. Tesco has since apologised. Obviously to Mrs Perhten but, hopefully, also to poor old Gordon. And, they've said that their plans for a new range of organic gecko soup (in cartons, not in tins) are currently being re-evaluated. Tescos. They care about geckos.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Given the current political situation in Tunis, possibly on the face of it not the most tactful of choices but, to be honest, there are few things in life that can't be improved by The Clash. Even a riot (white, or otherwise). I was always very impressed by the armadillo's acting abilities in that one, dear blog reader.

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