Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seconds Away As The Rhythm Comes Down

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has waded into the Top Gear Mexicogate row, attacking the show's presenters over their jibes about Mexican cars. Blair said he understood the hurt Jeremy Clarkson and his BBC colleagues had caused with their comments after reviewing a Mexican sports car and describing it as 'lazy and feckless.' During a visit to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, he said: 'Top Gear has said much worse things about me. You have my full support in this. Mexico is destined to be one of the great countries of the world, so don't worry when you come across prejudice.' Which all may very well be true but, to the best of my knowledge, neither Clarkson, Richard Hammond or James May have ever led their country into a costly, divisive, chaotic, badly-organised - and possibly illegal - war which has cost the lives of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi citizens and hundreds of British troops. So, I'm thinking, in the great scheme of things, Top Gear's 'crime' - if indeed a crime it is to make admittedly rather one-dimensional and stereotypical jokes about foreign cars - may be marginally the lesser of the two cases. That's just this blogger's opinion, of course. As a voter, a tax-payer, a licence fee payer and a Briton in whose name these things were done. Others may disagree.

Nick Briggs has praised his Doctor Who colleague Matt Smith for his 'magical' portrayal of the Time Lord. Briggs, who provides the voices for many of Doctor Who's monsters, suggested that Smith's performances echo the whimsy that Patrick Troughton instilled in the second incarnation of The Doctor. 'My favourite Doctor is Patrick Troughton and Matt has drawn from Patrick quite a lot, because he's watched DVDs of his,' he said, according to BANG Showbiz. 'I think Patrick is the Doctor all the actors like, because it is just a great, great performance.' The actor continued: 'I love the sort of anarchy in Matt's performance, I think it's quite magical actually. He has a charm, a kind of real charisma. He's not just sort of nuts and strange - he's nuts and charming. He's also fantastic to work with, he's a really nice bloke.'

The return of MasterChef cooked up an audience of almost five million viewers for BBC1 on Wednesday evening, despite tough competition from live Champions League football on ITV. The cult cookery competition's seventh series, featuring a revamped set and a new format, along with the same old John Torode and Gregg Wallace, averaged a more-than-solid 4.96m on BBC1 in the 9pm hour, peaking at 5.48m for the final fifteen minutes. That's almost a million viewers up on the opening episode of the show's previous series last year which began with 4.08m.

'Oi, Keith Telly Topping,' I hear you shout, dear blog reader. 'What was yer actual Keith Watson of the Metro's view of last night's MasterChef?' Well, since you ask, I'll tell you: 'There was a moment – specifically a "deconstructed trifle" moment – when the opening episode of MasterChef looked like it was turning into The X Factor. Gone was the illusion that the people who turned up for BBC's MasterChef could actually cook: when hapless Charity dolloped blobs of goo and gunk on a plate and presented it as "food," it was the culinary equivalent of Jedward covering Jeff Buckley. What next, me with a tin of Spam and a packet of Angel Delight, knocking out an audacious combo of flavours that would have droplets of sweaty pleasure writhing on Gregg Wallace's shiny pate? Sadly no, the rest of the over-egged omelette of an opening audition episode fell as flat as a dysfunctional soufflé, with an array of contestants displaying a wearying degree of competence. This was mostly because they were cooking their own recipes, rather than being asked to whip up something original from a batch of ingredients, so they were on pretty safe ground. Charity's car-crash trifle proving the noble exception. So the hour was stuffed with superfluous flannel, the only hint of faux drama coming when Wallace and fellow judge John Torode disagreed, pantomime-style, on whether a contender should go through or not. The truth is MasterChef, now more than two decades old, is past its sell-by date.' He's pure dead wrong on that last point, of course. But he's funny is Keith so we forgive him! As, indeed, are the chaps are Heatworld website who had this to say about the new series: 'Everyone's favourite television programme featuring two men grumbling over pasta is back! MasterChef may have changed slightly (it looks a bit more like X Factor now) but the premise is still the same: a bunch of Herberts cook some food, weep about how much they "want it," and then get told to eff-off by John Torode and Gregg Wallace.' Yeah, pretty much.

The House of Lords Communications Committee has recommended cutting the number of advertisements on television. According to the Daily Torygraph, the committee wants advertising on all commercial channels to be capped at an average of seven minutes per hour. Current regulations mean ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five must already keep to this limit. However, digital channels may currently broadcast up to nine minutes of advertisements per hour on average and up to twelve minutes per hour in peak time. Lord Clement-Jones, who chairs the Lords' Communications Committee, said: 'It is time to put the television viewer’s interests first. The Committee feels strongly that changes are needed to the regulation of television advertising and that our recommendations would encourage both public service and commercial broadcasters to provide their viewers with quality original UK television programmes.' The committee also recommended that the 'contract rights renewal' system, which limits how much ITV can charge for premium advertising slots, should be removed. However, the broadcaster will have to spend more on UK programming and industry training in exchange.

Jack Dee has confirmed that Lead Balloon will return to BBC2 on Wednesday 23 March at 10pm.

Mad Men star January Jones has insisted that fans should not be concerned about the future of the show. A fifth season of the AMC drama is currently on hold, due to contract negotiations between the cable network, Lionsgate and series creator Matthew Weiner. 'I don't have any updates as of now [and] I still have not heard a date we need to be back to the set, but it will come back,' Jones told Entertainment Weekly. 'We just don't know when. But we usually shoot in spring and summer and it is only February, so people should relax.' She insisted that the contract issues between the three parties will eventually be resolved amicably. 'I think it will all get worked out, because no-one wants to see the show end yet,' she said. 'Not the studios or the network or the creator or the actors. I think they just like the drama,' she suggested. 'They like the build up.'

Top Gear's success spreads far and wide. You might have noticed, dear blog reader. So much so in fact that it has already produced local variant offspring in the US, Australia and various other territories. Now, it looks like another version is getting closer production. The latest version of the successful car show appears to be in China, with reports that the pilot episode has already been produced. It seems that the Chinese version will at least attempt to maintain the humorous format of the original. For the pilot, the three-man crew led by comedian Cao Yunjin, apparently tried to do a test between a Cadillac and a donkey to see which could push millstones around a farmyard more effectively. Despite the dry attempt at catching a few laughs, the Chinese version of Top Gear won't be anywhere as near-the-knuckle as the British original. In an interview with China's Global Times, the host mentioned that partly because of stringent censorship in the country, Top Gear China will not be as over-the-top as its British counterpart with stunts. 'It may be too much violence for a fun program in China,' Cao said. 'We will do more localised fun stuff.' Except the Chinese equivalent of the Gruniad to be complaining soon. About something.

Kevin McNally has signed up for a role in new ABC crime procedural Poe. The pilot will portray writer Edgar Allan Poe as a detective employing unusual methods to solve crimes in 1840s Boston. They'll probably leave out the bit about Poe being addicted to opium, I'm guessing. Deadline reports that Pirates of the Caribbean actor McNally will play the tough and authoritative Commissioner Kyle Kilpatrick. The actor's past television credits include roles in I, Claudius, Dad, [spooks], Doctor Who, Shackelton, Conspiracy, Midsomer Murders, Law & Order: UK, Poldark and Life On Mars. He will also appear in forthcoming film The Raven, which stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. ABC's chief of scripted development Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs recently compared the tone of the Poe pilot to the network's comedy-drama Castle.

Adrianne Palicki has been cast in NBC's forthcoming Wonder Woman. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Friday Night Lights star has been signed up for the lead role in the NBC pilot. Palicki has also appeared as Cat Thatcher in the short-lived FOX series Lone Star and will play Toni Mason in the forthcoming remake of Red Dawn. It was reported last week that the Wonder Woman character will have three identities, with a separate love interest for each.

Jimmy Carr has suggested that there are now greater opportunities for female comedians to succeed in the industry. Speaking to the Sun, the Ten O'Clock Live host went on to praise new Loose Women panellist Sarah Millican for not being seen purely as a female comic. 'If anyone's reading this as a female thinking "I want to get into comedy" you're pushing at an open door,' he said. 'This year I think Sarah Millican will do extraordinarily well. She's a really funny comic. She isn't a funny "female comic." She's just a really funny comic. Suddenly people will hear of her and say "Wow, she's great - she came from nowhere."' He continued: 'I guess she was doing something else last year. But it takes a relentless five or ten-year slog to get on to TV. You're out every night in clubs and there's something about that lifestyle which takes a certain type of stupidity.'

The BBC is looking for 'a prominent ambassador' to become its new director of Vision. Headhunters have been appointed and an advert has been placed for a successor to Jana Bennett, who has moved to become BBC Worldwide's president of worldwide networks and global iPlayer. The director of BBC Vision job is one of the biggest in the corporation and includes overseeing more than twenty thousand hours of programmes. The advert states: 'Acting as a prominent ambassador for the BBC, you'll have credibility with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders and the ability to play a significant part in shaping the BBC's role in the changing media landscape.' Leading internal candidates are thought to be acting BBC Vision director and controller of knowledge commissioning George Entwistle, who confirmed recently to the Gruniad Morning Star that he will be applying, and BBC News director Helen Boaden. Others thought to be interested in the job include former BBC1 controller and ex-Talkback Thames chief executive Lorraine Heggessey and former Channel Four chief executive Michael Jackson. Heggessey left Talkback Thames abruptly last summer in a move which reportedly 'shocked' her colleagues. She has reportedly been discussing setting up her own production company. This comes as BBC Vision announced the loss last week of forty seven factual jobs.

The BBC has reportedly decided to not commission a second series of Just William. According to the Radio Times, the Simon Nye-penned adaptations of the classic Richmal Crompton novels will not be returning. A four episode run of the show, which starred Outnumbered's Daniel Roche in the title role, was broadcast in a lunchtime slot over the festive period. Rebecca Front, Linda Gree, Warren Clarke and Caroline Quentin all featured in the production. Commissioned originally by CBBC, who are limited in the number of dramas that they can produce, the show failed to pick up more than two million viewers.

Some general scheduling news now: The BBC has recommissioned Inspector George Gently for two further series (each two ninety minute episodes) to be broadcast in 2011 and 2012. Channel Four reportedly has greenlit another series of Shameless, once again a twenty two-episode run. ITV are said to be currently discussing plans to recommission Wild at Heart. Also Jonathan Ross has confirmed that he's doing six more episodes of Penn & Teller: Fool Us for ITV in the summer.

Lisa Edelstein has admitted that she felt terrified while filming a musical sequence for an upcoming episode of House. Executive producer Greg Yaitanes previously revealed that that a future instalment of the medical drama will feature dream sequences in the style of a Western, a musical, a sitcom, a horror movie and a black-and-white film. 'There is an episode that has music in it [but] it's not an entirely musical episode,' Edelstein told E! Online. 'I will be singing in said episode.' She revealed that singing on-screen had been 'terrifying but really fun. I really had a great time,' she insisted. 'What choice do I have? They write it, I do it. And it was easier than going and stripping.' She added: 'It's an awesome episode. I've seen a rough cut of it, which I rarely get to do, and I think it's really exciting.'

The BBC will have to find an extra twenty million smackers not previously factored into the cut in the licence fee to pay for redundancy and restructuring costs at the BBC World Service. The money comes on top of the three hundred and forty million pound dent to BBC finances as a result of the whirlwind licence fee settlement last year. Although it was agreed at the time that the corporation may have to foot part of the bill, the full extent was only arrived at late last month. The BBC is still seeking a contribution, expected to be relatively small, from the government. The twenty million pounds must be found ahead of the World Service being rolled into the licence fee in 2014 and means that licence fee payers are effectively footing the bill for a government cut to a state-funded body. No strategy has been put in place for where the twenty million pounds will come from, or when it will be needed. However, the BBC has said previously that the vast majority of redundancies - around two thirds - would take place this calendar year. The BBC's chief financial officer Zarin Patel is understood to have assured Trustees that there will not be a considerable impact on BBC output as a result of the additional cut, which raises the possibility of further job losses. A clearer picture will emerge when the budget is approved ahead of the new financial year, beginning 1 April. A Trust spokeswoman said: 'While this is clearly a new call on BBC funding, we have determined that allocating licence fee funding over three years for this purpose will not materially diminish the value of the BBC's UK public services to licence fee payers.' The additional twenty million pounds takes the reduction in the BBC's income from sixteen to seventeen per cent. On top of that reduction from 2014, the corporation is four years through a five-year plan to cut costs by five per cent through efficiency savings. More financial pressure comes from finding a two per cent saving annually for the next two years, because of the current licence fee freeze, as well as having to address the sizeable pension deficit. A source from within the Trust acknowledged there was not much room for manoeuvre given the tight economic situation but said the governing body had decided to act to avoid the World Service having to fully fund its own restructure, which would result in deeper cuts. Some six hundred and fifty jobs will go at the World Service over the next two years, and a number of services are being shut down or reduced. The full cost of the restructure is expected to reach about forty million quid, with the remainder coming from World Service coffers. The Foreign Office did not comment directly on the matter, but a spokeswoman said it was 'fully supportive' of the World Service. Just, you know, not financially.

The European General Court has ruled that UK football fans can continue to watch major events on free-to-air TV in future. Both FIFA and UEFA - pound signs flashing in their eyes as they worked themselves into a tool-stiffening orgy of debased greed - had challenged a decision allowing the UK government to designate the World Cup and European Championship finals as free-to-watch events. Both are on the UK list of 'protected events' of national sporting importance. The EGC now says that an EU member state can prohibit the exclusive broadcast of games at these two events on pay-TV. The court also dismissed FIFA's action against Belgium for showing all World Cup matches on free-to-air TV in that country. FIFA and UEFA had argued the current set-up interfered with their ability to sell television rights at the best price. And to make vast wads of cash that could then be used in sleazy behind-the-scenes deals and backhanded activities and vote rigging when it comes to who hosts major competitions. Allegedly. They had said there was no reason why all games at tournaments should be shown free on UK television, as part of a list the national sporting 'crown jewels' which have to be made available to everyone to watch. The court disagreed. Which was funny. The EGC said 'the court holds that the [European] Commission did not err in finding that the United Kingdom's categorisation of all World Cup and Euro matches as "events of major importance" for their societies are compatible with European Union law. Consequently, FIFA's and UEFA's actions are dismissed.' They then added 'and the greedy, corrupt bastards can go screw themselves.' Only, they did it quietly whilst no one was listening. Apparently. The EGC, formerly the Court of First Instance, is the first European court where a decision is made. Appeals about its rulings are taken to the European Court of Justice. FIFA and UEFA now have two months to launch any appeal. The two football bodies had argued that any games featuring England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would have still been shown on TV for free, as would have the finals and semi-finals of the tournaments. But the rest of the sixty four World Cup matches and thirty one European Championship matches would not have been free in the UK. UEFA had said the listing infringed its property rights, as it resulted 'in a restriction of the way in which the applicant may market the television rights to the Euro [championships].' It had also said that showing the entire tournament on free-to-air in the UK had led to 'a disproportionate and unjustified distortion of competition on the relevant market.' An EU directive gives all member states the right to designate sporting and cultural events of national interest for broadcast on free-to-air TV stations. Hence, the Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the British government the power to designate key sporting and other events as 'listed events.' The purpose of the list is to ensure that such events are made available to all television viewers, particularly those who do not have subscription television. 'This obviously is a bad day for rights holders,' said Daniel Geey, competition and EU regulatory expert at Field Fisher Waterhouse law firm. But, a good day for everyone else, it should be noted in the interests of balance. 'FIFA and UEFA argued that the listing legislation constrained their ability to sell the broadcasts at the maximum commercial level to the widest possible selection of broadcasters.' Geey said that the two football bodies had emphasised to the court they only wished to sell the rights to games that did not include the relevant member state's teams. 'The General Court ruling however stated that the World Cup and European Championships are to be regarded as single events rather than individual games and that individual matches should not be divided up into "prime" or "non-prime" matches,' Geey added. And he said that the ruling would have the knock-on effect of insulating free-to-air broadcasters from pay-TV competition. In December 2008, the Labour government announced a review of the list, carried out by an independent advisory panel headed by former FA chief executive David Davies. The panel reported in November 2009 with its recommendations. 'I have read with great interest the summary of the findings of the European court,' Davies told BBC News. 'It's remarkable how they reflect the debate and conclusions that our own panel on listed events came to eighteen months ago. Personally, they don't alter my view that for the UK at least, the best solution in the future would be a voluntary agreement on the broadcasting of events of national resonance. If the will is there among the broadcasters and the sporting governing bodies, this is achievable, and maybe today's judgement could bring that agreement nearer ' In July last year, the Coalition government said that any decision on the future of the list would be deferred until 2013 - after the conclusion of digital switchover in 2012. The UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport said they were pleased with the result. 'We welcome the decision from the EU and continue to support the principle of protecting sports events for free-to-air coverage,' a spokesman said. Emma McClarkin MEP, the Conservative sports spokesman in the European Parliament, added: 'We need to ensure that the crown jewels of our national sports are accessible to everyone. I hope that FIFA and UEFA will not appeal this ruling.'

The series producer responsible for ITV2's The Only Way Is Essex will head the team behind new E4 show Chelsea Girls. Broadcast reports that the reality series will follow socialites and wealthy playboys who 'mingle with royals' and enjoy their parents' wealth. Sarah Dillistone has been hired by Monkey Kingdom to executive produce the programme after her relative success with the ITV2 show. Dillistone commented: 'Joining Monkey offers me the chance to take all the experience I’ve gained in this genre and help create programmes I love. The huge appetite for shows like The Only Way Is Essex and The Hills illustrated how UK audiences' tastes have evolved. What makes a breakout hit is its characters, and I believe that we have found them in Chelsea Girls.' The series, which will comprise eight episodes, will begin filming at the end of the month ahead of broadcast later in the spring. 'Sarah has fabulous creative instincts and knows how to get great stories from real life characters, as she did in the runaway success that was The Only Way Is Essex,' Will Macdonald, creative director at Monkey said. "We're excited to bring her talents to Chelsea Girls and she's also developing some amazing new projects alongside it.'

It will be at least two years before the BBC launches another simulcast high-definition channel - despite producers being required to supply all content as HD from 1 April. BBC2 is the next channel earmarked for HD, but it is unlikely to launch before 2013, in part because of the corporation-wide review of its finances ahead of the start of the new licence fee settlement in 2014. Technical challenges - such as launching simultaneously on all platforms - are also a contributing factor. Danielle Nagler, head of HD and 3D, said it was imperative that at least half a channel's output was in HD prior to launch, as it had been with BBC1 HD. But she acknowledged suppliers were already close to meeting this criterion. Nagler said: 'The BBC's commitment to HD is not in debate - there is no one here who doesn't believe we should move towards it pretty rapidly - but it has to happen along with everything else the BBC does. Discussions have taken place throughout the whole time there has been financial pressure, so it has not specifically been delayed, but clearly everything the BBC wants to do requires expenditure and is subject to the same pressures as everything else.' Nagler added that there would be simulcasts for all the channels 'in time.' The standalone BBC HD channel will now offer an increasing range of programmes from BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 as it moved away from airing shows on BBC1, she said.

Women's rights activists and pro-change protesters in Egypt have rallied to condemn a serious sexual assault on American news reporter Lara Logan, which took place in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the moments following Hosni Mubarak's resignation last Friday. 'Lara Logan and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration,' Logan's employers, CBS news, said in a brief statement. 'It was a mob of more than two hundred people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated twenty Egyptian soldiers.' Logan, a thirty nine-year-old foreign correspondent, had previously been detained by the Egyptian police while covering the anti-government uprising. She has now flown back to the US and is 'recovering at home,' CBS said. The incident has provoked a storm of comment in both the Egyptian and American blogospheres, with many protesters in Cairo keen to show that Logan's attackers were not representative of the pro-change crowds. 'It's incredibly sad that this has happened, and it's something that the spirit of Tahrir and the spirit of revolution was resolutely against,' Ahdaf Soueif, an author who spent a great deal of time in Tahrir Square, told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'Women in the square were rejoicing that they felt freedom on the streets of Cairo for the first time, and [this is] definitely something that we want to stamp out alongside corruption and all the other social ills that have befallen Egypt during Mubarak's regime.' Mahmoud Salem, a well known Egyptian blogger, was one of many activists to express outrage. 'Lara Logan, what happened to you was reprehensible, I hope u [sic] don't judge the Egyptian people or Tahrir because of it,' he tweeted under his moniker Sandmonkey. Some activists have suggested that the assault was the work of pro-Mubarak gangs, whose use of sexual harassment as an intimidation tactic was extensively documented during the revolution, as was their targeting of foreign reporters. But the investigation and prosecution of sexual harassment cases is already low in Egypt, and the detention of those responsible amid the country's current institutional turmoil appears unlikely. The harassment of women on the streets has long been an issue in Egyptian society, although efforts to curb the problem have often met resistance from government officials. Scepticism about the extent of the harassment extended as far as the former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, who once accused the media of exaggerating the problem to tarnish the country's reputation. A survey by the independent Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights in 2008, however, revealed that eighty three per cent of Egyptian women and ninety eight per cent of foreign women had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment, including groping, verbal abuse, stalking and indecent exposure. Contrary to popular opinion, the incidents did not appear to be linked to the woman's style of dress, as three-quarters of victims had been veiled at the time. Throughout the eighteen days of mass unrest that brought millions to Tahrir Square, many women reported that the level of sexual harassment there was far lower than they had expected. Protesters maintained a disciplined internal security system and, apart from clashes with police and pro-Mubarak militants, no violence was recorded inside the square. 'We Egyptian youth are so proud of this revolution, and the first thing we will do is demand that all people stop sexual harassment,' said Marwa Mokhtar, a women's rights campaigner. 'This is our country now, not Mubarak's country, and we will not allow harassment to continue in the new Egypt.' An Egyptian Facebook group set up to condemn the attack on Logan carried similar sentiments. 'We should have continued guarding Tahrir even in the day of celebration,' posted Ahmad Fahmy, a pro-change demonstrator. 'I don't know what to say. Nothing we can do or say can make up for what happened. I guess for now I can just say "Sorry" to Lara and for all women Egyptians or non-Egyptians who were harassed or assaulted in Egypt before.' The White House said that President Barack Obama had called Logan on Wednesday but gave no details of the contents of the call. In the US, debate over Logan's assault has been fierce, after some commentators appeared to make light of the incident. Nir Rosen, an American journalist, was forced to resign from his fellowship at New York University following a series of posts on Twitter which drew jokey comparisons between Logan's experiences and those of CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper, who was assaulted by thugs in Egypt earlier this month, claiming 'it would have been funny if it [sexual harassment] happened to Anderson too.' Rosen has since apologised for the remarks. Right-wing blogger Debbie Schlussel also drew ire from many, after a post on her website appeared to blame Logan herself for the attack. 'So sad, too bad, Lara,' wrote Schlussel. 'No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows.' Her words were met with a chorus of objections and outrage online. 'Lara Logan's assault is horrifying, but shouldn't be an excuse for the right-wing to twist this into a story about Arab misogyny,' argued the Democracy Now correspondent Anjali Kamat on Twitter. An article published in the Colombia Journalism Review in 2007 claimed that the sexual abuse of female foreign correspondents is under-reported because many victims do not come forward for fear of losing out on future assignments. 'In the mounting rhetoric, what is getting lost is the fact that a reporter has been sexually assaulted,' said Laila Lalami in the Nation magazine. '[By coming forward] Lara Logan has broken a powerful taboo.' Heather Blake, of Reporters Without Borders, said that the incident should not be used to prevent female correspondents from going out into the field. 'Female journalists have distinct voices to male journalists and it is vital that those very different concerns and outlooks continue to be heard,' she argued. 'The attack on Lara Logan highlights the fact that there needs to be gender-specific protection and training of journalists. At the moment, female and male journalists have the same training. The truth is that female journalists need to be taught about different cultures and the ways in which men behave in those cultures. They need to know about gender-specific expectations in different countries, from what they wear to how they interact with those they met.' Paul Steiger, chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists, of which Logan is a board member, said: 'We have seen Lara's compassion at work while helping journalists who have faced brutal aggression while doing their jobs. She is a brilliant, courageous, and committed reporter. Our thoughts are with Lara as she recovers.' As, indeed, are those of everyone at From The North. And, one would hope, everyone with a heart beating in their chest.

Ex-EastEnders actor Des Coleman has denied two counts of possession of an imitation firearm. The former soap actor appeared at Huntingdon Crown Court yesterday and was accused of brandishing a fake weapon during a high speed motorway incident. It is alleged that Coleman pointed the instrument at a fellow driver on the M1. He has been charged with intent to cause fear or violence against fellow motorists. Coleman, who is now a BBC East Midlands Today weatherman, pleaded not guilty to both charges. The father-of-four was released on bail and a five-day trial has been scheduled for 9 May. Coleman played the role of DJ Lenny Wallace in EastEnders between 1996 and 1999.

Bones creator Hart Hanson has claimed that it is impossible to satisfy all of the show's fans. The showrunner told Give Me My Remote that different viewers have different reactions to the relationship between lead characters Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel). 'One third of the people will [always] hate it, one third of the people will love it, and one third of the people will say [that] the timing's wrong,' he suggested. '[That will happen] no matter what we do. If we stay the way we are, one third of the people will like it [and so on].' Hanson insisted that he was not concerned about upsetting some of the show's more vocal fans. 'I can't worry about that,' he said. 'Unfortunately there's the loud people who think they speak for everyone [but] they don't.'

Two thirty-minute 3D movies made as Nazi propaganda pieces have been discovered. The films, produced for the Third Reich in 1936, were discovered by Australian director Philippe Mora and pre-date Hollywood embracing the format in the early 1950s with André de Toth's House Of Wax. The first, named So Real You Can Touch It, shows bratwursts cooking on a barbecue. The second is called Six Girls Roll Into Weekend and stars actors believed to be from Germany's wartime studio Universum Film. Mora told ninemsn: 'The quality of the films is fantastic. The Nazis were obsessed with recording everything and every single image was controlled - it was all part of how they gained control of the country and its people.' Mora, who made the discovery while researching his documentary How The Third Reich Was Recorded, added of the 35mm prints: 'They were made by an independent studio for Goebbels's propaganda ministry and referred to as Raum film, or space film, which may be why no-one ever realised since that they were 3D.'

The BBC has confirmed plans to broadcast 'comprehensive highlights' of the 2011 Cricket World Cup when the tournament gets underway this weekend. Cricket fans in the UK will be able to enjoy commentary and analysis from the World Cup across the BBC's television, radio and online platforms. The corporation is the only terrestrial broadcaster with free-to-air rights to the tournament, which starts on 19 February across India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. BBC2 will broadcast an hour-long highlights programme every night during the World Cup, giving a round-up of all the day's matches. The highlights show will be presented by Manish Bhasin, Rishi Persad and Sonali Shah, with analysis coming from Test Match Special commentators Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott, as well as other guest experts. Live text commentaries from all England's group games will be available on the BBC Sport website, along with selected matches from the quarter-finals onwards. Course, you could just watch it on Sky Sports like normal people.

The actor Len Lesser has died at the age of eighty eight. TMZ reports that Len died on Wednesday morning of complications from pneumonia. He had been diagnosed with cancer. His daughter Michelle told CNN: 'It was very peaceful. He was a great grandpa, and an amazing father. He had a heart of gold - and a sense of humour of platinum.' Lesser made over five hundred film, television and stage appearances during his sixty-year career, including guest stints on ER, A Man Called Ironside and All In The Family. He had recurring roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Seinfeld, where he played Jerry Seinfeld's Uncle Leo. His last television appearance was in a 2009 episode of Castle.

Cheryl Cole was reportedly 'left fuming' when she discovered that her face had been used on a mail order bride website. The Daily Lies reports that pictures of the singer appeared on the Russian Brides site. The website claims to be the number one site in the industry and states that it has 'one hundred and seventy six thousand three hundred and twenty four Eastern European women' looking for marriage. 'She is one of the world’s most beautiful women and it's not surprising people want to use her image to attract customers,' a friend of the X Factor judge allegedly told the alleged newspaper. 'However she is extremely careful about any products she endorses - and this Russian bride agency is most certainly not one of them. It is clearly a deception and the plug needs to be pulled on it.' When contacted by the paper, the site's boss Irina Grebneva insisted that the images had been used 'by mistake' and claimed that she had not heard of Cole. The pictures have now been removed. Last year, it was revealed that an image of Girls Aloud was being used on a Russian escort agency's website. For anybody in Moscow who fancies something kinda ooooh.

The possibility of seeing the Northern Lights in Scotland and the North of England on Thursday and Friday night has increased after the sun unleashed a giant solar flare. Scientists said the burst of radiation and magnetic energy could also disrupt communications equipment. The phenomenon is caused by charged gas particles that flow away from the Sun as a 'solar wind' interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. The particles 'excite' gases in the atmosphere and then make them glow. The colours depend on the type of gas - a red or green glow is oxygen and the blue and purple colours are produced by nitrogen. Martin Hendry, senior lecturer in astronomy at Glasgow University, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: 'Sometimes the aurora can be a little bit indistinct but on other occasions it can be a very vivid colour. In fact the different colours reflect the different chemical elements in our atmosphere being affected and they then interact with the discharge from the sun.' He added: 'So if it is a bright one, and the evidence suggests that this might be, it is a large solar flare. It really should be unmistakeable.' Solar flares are caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun's atmosphere. Their effects can interfere with modern technology on Earth, such as electrical power grids, communications systems and satellites - including satellite navigation (or sat-nav) signals. Although scientists are expecting most geomagnetic activity to occur on Thursday, Chinese state media has already reported some disruption to short-wave radio communications in the south of the country. In 1972, a geomagnetic storm provoked by a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across the US state of Illinois. And in 1989, another storm plunged six million people into darkness across the Canadian province of Quebec.

For Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we're going back a generation or four. Crazy man, crazy!

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