Tuesday, March 08, 2011

There's Always Something Happening (And It's Usually Quite Loud)

Robbie Williams has reportedly turned down a two million pounds offer to join The X Factor. Star magazine claims that the Take That singer has asked for a bigger deal to replace Simon Cowell on the judging panel. 'With Simon leaving to judge the US show, he's convinced Robbie would be the perfect successor. Rob's likeable, opinionated and funny,' a 'source' allegedly said. 'But money has been a stumbling block. He wants more of an incentive to put himself out there on live TV every week.' Meanwhile, Williams is said to be worried about the affect the work could have on his marriage. 'Ayda loves the limelight, and there are rumours she's in talks for the next series of The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills. But Rob prefers the idea of a quiet life,' the alleged 'source' allegedly added. 'If he had his way, he'd move to a desert island and live like a recluse. He also wants a baby in the near future, and that's going to be tricky enough to fit in with the upcoming Take That tour as it is.'

And, Cheryl Cole has reportedly told her family that she will not return to the UK version of The X Factor. Only, she probably didn't say it quite like that. Something more along the lines of: 'Ah'm not nivva gannin back there, like, wot wi'them charvas and tha aal on wobbly-eggs and that shit, like. Knaa worra mean, like? Ah'll stott the fukkas up a-height, like. You're my bessht mate, ye are, like. An'aal that, like.' Probably. According to Heat magazine, speculation about Cole joining the US series has led Cole to develop a heed the size of geet massive roond thing, like, and believe that she is 'too famous' to rejoin the British judging panel. An alleged 'insider' allegedly told the alleged magazine: 'After the US stuff, she seems to think she's too big for the UK X Factor.' However, the 'source' then, supposedly, added: 'The TV network FOX said, "We need a J-Lo." So Simon is trying to get [Cheryl] a Sinitta-style role. He has an influence, but it's the FOX execs who will decide. She'd told mates she thought she'd got the US X Factor gig. It's a real comedown. If Simon can't get her the gig, no-one can.' Cole's mother, Joan Callaghan, is said to be 'tearing her hair out' about her daughter's alleged decision to allegedly quit the UK show and has, allegedly, told her alleged friends that she, allegedly, 'doesn't think it it's a good career move.' Allegedly.

Miranda Hart will take part in a 'special' Comic Relief episode of MasterChef. Hart will compete against Claudia Whatsherface and Ruby Wax in a cook-off during the Funny For Money evening of shows on 18 March. Other events during the evening will include, as previously announced, two mini-episodes of Doctor Who and comedy turns from Armstrong and Miller, Steve Coogan and Summer Heights High's Chris Lilley. Stand-up comedians the wretched and dreadfully oily smug tosser Jack Whitehall and the much less offensive Kevin Bridges will take over the show in the early hours for a Late Night Lock In comedy clips show. It was previously announced that James Corden will return with another sketch as his - unfunny - Gavin & Stacey character Smithy, while Fearne Cotton, Lenny Henry, Davina McCall, Michael McIntyre, Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross will be among the hosts during the course of the evening. Corden, David Walliams, Alan Carr, Catherine Tate and John Bishop will also be teaming up for one night only as tribute band Fake That.

And, speaking of Corden, he and Paul McCartney have teamed up for the Comic Relief Smithy sketch. Corden will reprise his Gavin & Stacey character for the TV fundraiser and will be joined by the Beatles legend. 'It blows my mind to think we were filming with Sir Paul McCartney,' Corden told the Radio Times. 'He was open and warm, and very respectful to all the people involved. He was funny too, and he didn't take himself too seriously, because that's what you're asking the stars to do in these sketches. And that can be the biggest hurdle to get over, asking them to put it before themselves and remember the big picture. He was really aware of that.' McCartney added: 'I love the shorts that James does for Comic Relief, so I really was just keeping fingers and legs crossed that it would work. In the end my fear subsided and I enjoyed it very much.' Macca, mate, what are you doing?!

The ONE Show host Alex Jones has admits that she once turned up for work in her bra after forgetting to wear a top. The TV presenter is among a number of celebrities asked to name their most embarrassing moment for Comic Relief. 'When I got to work I took off my coat and sat down at my desk and realised that I had not put a T-shirt on,' said Jones. 'I was sat there in my bra.' Miranda Hart said her most red-faced incident happened in a train loo. 'I fell through the door, which hadn't been locked, and was trouserless and pantless in front of a buffet queue in the train carriage,' she said. The most embarrassing moments for Britons were breaking wind in public, leaving trouser zips undone and being overheard while complaining about a colleague, according to a survey for Red Nose Day. The survey also revealed the funniest celebrity embarrassing moment was when a baby elephant ran amok in the Blue Peter studio and trod on John Noakes's foot.

Here's a rundown of some of the projects that BBC Learning will be involved in over the coming year: Firstly, there's Domesday Reloaded. The story behind this one is a bit complicated but, bear with me! In 1985, the nine hundredth anniversary of The Domesday Book, the BBC produced The Domesday Project. School children and members of the public were invited to survey an area local to them. Much of the United Kingdom was mapped in this way, with land type, use and facilities noted. Three photographs and around twenty pages of text describing each three-by-four kilometre square were loaded on a 'Community disc', creating a unique snapshot record of the United Kingdom in the mid-eighties. Unfortunately the technology used at the time to record and store the data collected soon became obsolete. The Domesday Project, a valuable record of a moment in time, became effectively a lost archive. To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original project, the BBC has managed - with difficulty - to unlock the original data and will be releasing the collected images and text on a new website. In this way the BBC will bring the Domesday '86 story up to date. The site is due to launch in early May and BBC Learning are inviting people to browse the photos, send in stories about the changes which have occurred in the last twenty five years, and to re-photograph the sites of the original images. Following that we have there's Digging for Britain (likely to launching in either August or September). Presented by the total Goddess of punk archaeology Doctor Alice Roberts, the second series of BBC2's Digging for Britain reveals some of the newest finds, research and social history via large scale archaeological digs: from Traitors Gate at the Tower of London and Woking Palace, the birth place of the Tudor Dynasty to one of the earliest Neanderthal sites and the remains of Shakespeare's family home. Hands on History are looking to work with, and link up with, Archaeological societies, museums and libraries around the country to showcase local finds and support audiences to learn practical historical and archaeological skills. Later in the Autumn there's Reel Stories: In this series of programmes Melvyn Bragg meets people as they recount fascinating and surprising stories about how life in Britain used to be, as told through movies from the British Film Institute and a number of regional archive collections. Each episode will see Melvyn visit a new location and will focus on a different aspect of British life, with twenty themes across the series. The programme will use archives and real stories to highlight the hardships and simple pleasures of the past, as well as the enormous social changes which took place from 1900 onwards, building to a compelling social history of Britain. In this case, Hands on History are looking to connect people with their past through films. Activity will aim to increase people's knowledge of the film archives, to develop research skills, teach people how to digitise film and look after original reels, create social groups for viewing footage and to use them to share stories. Coming up in 2012 in Roman Britain, Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) continues his landmark exploration of Ancient Britain and looks at one of the greatest mysteries of history: In the thousand years which created Britain, who, what, and where were 'the Celts'? To find the answer Neil visits some of our island's most amazing historical sites, gets hands on with some top experimental archaeologists, and marvels at wonders that were created over two thousand years ago. Our Secret Streets is a history series about Modern Britain, which traces the roots of streets and communities in London to shed light on class and community today. And, possibly saving the best till last, Michael Wood's The Story of the Nation, a landmark BBC history series, is currently being developed for 2012. It will tell the story of two thousand years of British history through up to twenty different communities (urban and rural) around the UK in much the same was as Michael's previous The Story of England did using one town. At the heart of this series is mass participation as the communities get 'hands on' to unearth the history of their area. Guided by experts, they will track down and investigate ancient documents, explore the clues in the landscape, conduct archaeological digs, identify objects, decode buildings and gather witness testimony to piece together the story of their place. Together these stories will tell a People's history of Britain. Hands on History will be looking to create guides to researching the history of your area to support families and groups inspired to find out the story of their locale. These will reflect the skills taught in the series itself. Hands on History are also supporting a new BBC2 programme, Filthy Cities this coming April. The show will see Dan Snow going back in time in London, Paris and New York to see how the cities sites, sounds and especially smells have changed. Viewers will be able to use Scratch and Sniff cards with the Red Button version of the programme for digital viewers or by watching online. BBC Learning will be distributing the cards directly to all libraries over the next month. The ONE Show will be discussing the programme before transmission and sign-posting people to their local library to pick up a card. That's, of course, if the current government haven't shut your local library (or, indeed, the BBC) before then.

Sue Johnston and Trevor Eve have admitted that they are disappointed that Waking the Dead has been cancelled. The crime drama will come to an end after its ninth series but Johnston told TV Times that the decision made her feel 'robbed. I'm very sad about it,' she said. 'It was a lovely job. The show gets great audiences, it's sold all over the world and I don't quite get why it's going.' Johnston added that the show may have been dropped for financial reasons, saying: 'They say it's too expensive to make in these austere days.' The reason it's too expensive, meanwhile, her co-star Trevor Eve claimed that the show had 'an audience appreciation rating of ninety' but added that he would rather it was cancelled than made on a tighter budget. And, given that he is reportedly on a one million pounds a year contract that, essentially, means he'd sooner see it finish than for him to take a pay cut. 'They could make it if we changed how it's done at the moment, but I don't want that,' he said. No, I can see why. 'I can't see the point of suddenly delivering a show that's a different kind of programme, just to cut costs. The BBC can go and make other stuff that costs them less money, that's fine.' The BBC's controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson defended the move, saying: 'It's always hard bringing successful series to a close, but like Ashes To Ashes and Mistresses, we want to end on a high.' Except that Mistresses didn't. But, that's quite another story.

Here's the Top Twenty programmes week ending 27 February 2011:
1 Coronation Street - ITV - 11.21 million
2 EastEnders - BBC1 - 10.20 million
3 Twatting About On Ice - ITV - 8.46 million
4 Emmerdale - ITV - 8.35 million
5 Benidorm - ITV - 8.22 million
6 Let's Dance For Comic Relief - BBC1 - 7.74 million
7 Six Nations Rugby: England vs France - BBC1 - 7.38 million
8 South Riding - BBC1 - 7.20 million
9 Wild At Heart - ITV - 7.00 million
10 Casualty - BBC1 - 6.60 million
11 Countryfile - BBC1 - 6.57 million
12 Top Gear - BBC2 - 6.56 million
13 BBC News - BBC1 - 6.41 million
14 Silk - BBC1 - 6.34 million
15 Marchlands - ITV - 6.32 million
16 Antiques Roadshow - BBc1 - 6.28 million
17 Holby City - BBC1 - 6.07 million
18 National Lottery: Secret Fortune - BBC1 - 6.07 million
19 Champions League: Marseille vs The Scum - ITV - 5.96 million
20 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 - 5.57 million

And, still of the subject of ratings, South Riding finished with a series overnight average of 6.23 million, the best performance for a drama in the Sunday 9pm slot on BBC1 since Sherlock last summer; in fact a look at all of the BBC's Sunday 9pm drama series since January 2010 reveals the following average overnight audiences:
Sherlock - 7.17 million
South Riding - 6.23 million
Inspector George Gently - 5.15 million
Wallander - 4.97 million
Garrow's Law - 4.95 million
A Passionate Woman - 4.90 million
Zen - 4.70 million
Single Father - 4.53 million
Which, actually, puts Zen's much whinged-about recent cancellation (in the Gruniad Morning Star comments section, anyway) into a bit of context. For all the Frappuccino-drinking marketing executives in Islington who really rather liked it, it never got much of an audience elsewhere.

Hugh Bonneville has discussed the success of ITV's Downton Abbey, putting some of its popularity down to a fascination with the structure of pre-World War I British society. Speaking to the Radio Times about a revival in fortunes for period dramas on TV, Bonneville suggested that it could be in part due to the current economic circumstances. The actor, who plays Lord Grantham in the Julian Fellowes-penned series, said: 'This country is currently in a complete mess and the pre-First World War era was, rightly or wrongly, one in which the structure of society worked. Our show coincided with this country losing its confidence, while we were looking back to a time of dignity and mutual respect - simple values that we slightly piss on these days. I don't think I'd like to live then but as somewhere to go to for a couple of hours on a Sunday night? Yes, I'd rather live in that world.' Coy about upcoming storylines for his character in the second series, he added: 'I haven't seen a script! I learnt from the newspapers that this series is set a couple of years after the last episode and the house becomes a convalescent home [for First World War casualties]. And I definitely wear uniform because I got fitted for it the other day - but other than that I know nothing. I could get killed!' Hugh will shortly be seen in the new BBC documcomedy Twenty Twelve and, thereafter, getting his 'Yar, yars' out for the lads in Doctor Who.

Peter Fincham has insisted that ITV is not over-reliant on mega brands The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. One or two people even believed him.

BBC soap EastEnders this week filmed a car crash stunt involving Max Branning and his daughter Abi. The Sun reports that - in scenes to be broadcast next month - the pair end up trapped in Max's car after he hits a lorry on the way to his ex-wife Tanya's wedding. News that Max would suffer an accident first emerged last month, but exact details of the sequence had been unknown until now.It is thought that Max and Abi both suffer injuries in the crash and require a trip to hospital. Tanya is then expected to hear the news shortly after she exchanges her vows with fiancé Greg Jessop - prompting her to flee from the church. The accident has also been tipped to spark the conclusion to the soap's current baby swap storyline. On Monday, it was reported that Ronnie Branning comes to her senses whilst visiting Max following the incident, as she gave birth to her late son James in the hospital where her brother-in-law receives treatment. While at the hospital, Ronnie reportedly realises the enormity of her decision to steal Kat Moon's baby and later makes a dramatic confession, leading to Kat being reunited with her son.

Almost three hundred viewers complained to Channel Four about its factual series The Joy of Teen Sex. Quoting figures from Channel Four's Viewer Enquiries, Broadcast revealed that two hundred and eighty complaints were received about the four-part series that looked at teenagers' sex and sexual health problems. 'I simply think this programme is not appropriate on TV and does not help our teenagers,' one viewer said in their correspondence. 'This can change the mentality of teenagers and influence them negatively. Please look into it.' They did, and they decided you were talking rubbish, pal. The message was among one thousand seven hundred and forty nine criticisms received by Channel Four throughout the month of February. Of the almost fifteen thousand phone calls and e-mails dealt with, four hundred and ninety are reported to have been 'positive comments.' Viewers were also critical of the cutting back of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on More4 and alleged ageism on gameshow Million Pound Drop. Eighty six also contacted the team to complain about controversial series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, with one message stating that the programme 'should be called my big fat IRISH gypsy wedding.' The five most praised Channel Four shows of the month included The Promise, Beauty & the Beast: The Ugly Face of Prejudice and Ten O'Clock Live.

ITV has ordered a new series of the game show Odd One In. The show, which is hosted by Bradley Walsh, sees panellists Peter Andre and Jason Manford trying to work out which person in a line-up has an odd talent or secret. ITV's commissioner of entertainment Kate Maddigan said: 'We're thrilled to have Bradley, Peter and Jason back for a new series of Odd One In. 'This simple format proved a hit with the viewers and this series guarantees to have even more outlandish line-ups which I'm sure will provide lots of laugh-out-loud moments with our viewers.'

Check out Cravendale's new milk advert, dear blog reader, and the horrifying prospect of pussy power.

BBC World Service has confirmed plans to temporarily retain an evening news broadcast in Hindi for Indian audiences while it seeks alternative funding for the service. In January, World Service announced sweeping operational cuts towards the aim of saving around forty six million pounds a year by 2014. The global broadcaster will shed up to six hundred and fifty jobs by 2015 and shut down various broadcast services, including its news and current affairs radio output in Hindi. In a statement on Monday, the BBC noted that there has been 'much public discussion' since the announcement about the potential for retaining the BBC Hindi broadcasts. A campaign to save the service has also resulted in 'a number of commercial parties' approaching the BBC with alternative funding proposals. BBC World Service has therefore decided to retain an hour-long evening news and current affairs bulletin in Hindi on an interim basis. The broadcast will be available on all platforms via shortwave, online and mobile. During the 2011-12 financial year, the corporation will seek commercial funding to support the Hindi broadcast on a more permanent basis. However, if a sustainable source is not found before March 2012, then World Service said that it will be forced to close the service.

Christine Bleakley has admitted in an interview with the Daily Lies that she is 'a Stepford Wife at heart.' What, plastic? Well, that explains much.

Freema Agyeman has denied reports that she has become engaged. The Law & Order: UK actress, who is also known for playing Martha in Doctor Who, said she thought it was 'hilarious' that people believed she and her boyfriend were engaged. 'Oh my God, no!' the thirty one-year-old told the Press Association. 'I'm going to look at that, that's so funny, my boyfriend's going to panic!' But she wouldn't rule out marriage completely. She said: 'I'm in a really great relationship for the first time ever, but I've never been a massive marriage fan. But of late, I'm really happy, so you start entertaining the idea. Maybe it would be quite nice. But it's definitely not happening any time soon.' The actress added that she would love to have children but that her job means that she has to think about such a decision carefully. 'I would be happy to do that tomorrow, but in this business timing is everything, because you have to take a year out. It's quite tricky, but I'm going to be thirty two and I've always wanted children. My niece is a year old and I'm absolutely obsessed with her, so I want children more than ever. The reality, however, is I'm midway through a shoot. You wonder when it's all going to fit in, but these things happen when it's the right time,' she said.

It is not, perhaps, the most surprising news of the year – but Charlie Sheen has, finally, been fired from Two And A Half Men following a series of bizarre rants against the show's bosses. Warner Brothers, which produces the CBS series, said the decision was made after 'careful consideration.' The sitcom had already been placed on an indefinite hiatus partway through filming its eighth season because of Sheen's bizarre behaviour. But although its star has now been sacked no decision has been made on the future of the series, Warner Brothers said. Their statement read: 'After careful consideration, Warner Brothers Television has terminated Charlie Sheen's services on Two And A Half Men, effective immediately.' Sheen said that his sacking from the sitcom, which broadcasts on Comedy Central in the UK, was 'good news' – and indicated he would now sue the producers. He told celebrity website TMZ.com: 'This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at whatshiscock again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension.' According to the site, Warners sent a letter to Sheen's lawyer, stating the actor's contract was being terminated because he committed a felony involving 'moral turpitude,' involving the use of cocaine. It added: 'Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill.' Meanwhile, in the latest expletive-riddled video rant posted online, titled Torpedoes of Truth, Sheen said that he was going to be 'worshipped like a God.' The forty five-year-old actor – who was paid a reported $1.2million an episode – said: 'I'm gonna write my sermons, I'm gonna deliver them like truth torpedoes, and people are gonna fucking take it or leave it, we know they're gonna take it cause they can't process it, so they must condemn it. And it they can't condemn it, they'll like fucking turn me into a God and worship it, and realize I'm behind them, cutting their throats, and their children's.' Wild and crazy guy. Earlier in the video, he’s heard to say: 'I'm videoing this phone call because I'm tired of losing all my gold into the fucking ether-sphere of fucking stupidity.'

Labour has accused the government of 'serial bungling' over the situation in Libya, following a botched SAS mission to the troubled country. Which it has although, after some of the things the previous government got up to in the 'tripping over their own feet' department that is a little bit pot-kettle-black. Not that this blogger wishes to be seen defending, in any way, the current governments rank and chebbish glakery. Ladgeful, dear blog readers, the lot of them. As detailed on this blog yesterday, six soldiers and two Foreign Office officials were detained for two days in eastern Libya but were released on Sunday and have left the country. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the men were 'withdrawn' after a 'serious misunderstanding' over their role. Labour's Douglas Alexander said that ministers were 'losing their grip.' Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, said: 'I believe I speak for many when I say that the news on Sunday that British diplomatic and military personnel were being held was seen as just the latest setback for the UK and raises further serious questions about ministers' grip and response to the unfolding events in Libya.' The mission was alleged to be aimed at making contact with opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi amid the ongoing unrest. Most of the group were dropped by helicopter into eastern Libya on Friday night but were later seized and taken to a military base in handcuffs by opposition fighters. Witnesses said they were found to be carrying weapons, ammunition, maps and passports from four different countries, claims reportedly denied by the group. Hague told the Commons: 'Last week I authorised the despatch of a small British diplomatic team to eastern Libya, in uncertain circumstances which we judged required their protection, to build on these initial contacts and to assess the scope for closer diplomatic dialogue. I pay tribute to that team.' He added that the situation which led to their detention was 'resolved' and they were able to meet council president Mustafa Abdel Jalil, but 'it was clearly better for this team to be withdrawn.' Hague said that the timing and details of the mission had been decided 'by professionals,' but he took full ministerial responsibility for the operation and confirmed that the prime minister had been aware in advance. The prime minister's spokesman said it was still the government's intention to send diplomats to eastern Libya to make contact with opposition groups. Probably the best comment in the entire session came from Labour backbencher Paul Flynn who noted that British troops were being led for Tory ministers 'who have overdosed on James Bond.' I'd've gone for Austin Powers, personally. Baby. The Gruniad, meanwhile described the raid as a 'botched SAS and MI6 raid' and, seemingly, taking their queue from Flynn a 'unilateral act of James Bond diplomacy.' To add to the humiliation of the British team being captured by a group of young rebels, a spokesman for the anti-Gaddafi factions said that the officials did not seem to know who they wanted to meet. Fathi Baja, a member of the interim revolutionary council, said that people in the newly liberated areas of Libya were naturally suspicious of the landing because of a broad concern about the role of mercenaries fighting in support of Gaddafi and the motivations of foreigners involving themselves in matters that are, frankly, none of their sodding concern. After fighting first broke out in Libya, the government was criticised for being slow to charter flights to bring home stranded Britons and creating confusion over the possibility of a no-fly zone. Alexander said: 'After the events of this weekend and following the flights fiasco, twice in as many weeks ministerial decisions have generated an embarrassment that could all too easily have become a tragedy.' He went on to ask whether ministers were learning lessons from the 'serial bungling' seen in recent weeks. Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell called the operation 'ill conceived, poorly planned and embarrassingly executed.' And Labour's Denis MacShane asked the foreign secretary whether he was considering his position after 'the present fiasco.' The British ambassador to Libya, Richard Northern, was called in to explain to opposition forces what the group was actually doing in eastern Libya. He spoke to a spokesman for former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who is now a rebel leader, to explain the men's mission. A telephone call between Northern and Jalil's spokesman was intercepted by the Gaddafi regime and excerpts were - gleefully - played on Libyan state television on Sunday as proof of 'foreign interference' in the country's internal affairs. In it, Northern could be heard apologising for the 'misunderstanding' and pleading for the men's release. Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, said he found the entire incident 'bizarre.' He added: 'The phone lines to the country still work so there's still quite a lot of information there if you're prepared to dredge for it. I'm glad that this particular episode seems to have ended in farce rather than tragedy.' He pointed out that Britain is not the only country to have experienced military embarrassment in Libya. The Dutch government is currently negotiating to free three of its marines who were captured along with their helicopter by pro-Gaddafi forces. The troops had apparently been tasked with evacuating Dutch nationals from the port of Sirte. What appeared to be video of the personnel has since been broadcast on Libyan state television. Sir Emyr Jones Parry, former UK ambassador to the United Nations, said the government had been right to try to establish contact with the rebels, but had not gone about it in the correct way. Parry said he found it 'difficult to fathom' why the Foreign Office had not contacted the provisional council in Benghazi to say that UK diplomats with military protection would be coming to Benghazi with a view to meeting senior figures. 'I think the mistake perhaps was to blur the distinction between what is a routine diplomatic activity, where your protection is declared to the host government or to the authorities in place, and something which is altogether more clandestine,' he added. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said there had been no need for a 'cloak and dagger approach. The problem was they had communications kit with them which they didn't want compromised. But now the situation is worse - they've presumably lost the kit and their helicopter,' he said. 'We've been told there'll be other efforts, but the next time they'll have to use the front door.' Forces loyal to Gaddafi have fought bitter clashes with rebels, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence, according to the UN. More than six hundred British nationals have been evacuated from Libya, Hague said. About one hundred and eighty Britons remain there but many have said that they intend to stay. BBC correspondents in Libya say opposition forces are facing increasingly serious resistance from government forces as they move westwards from their stronghold in Benghazi. Libyan air force pilots have also been involved in the fighting, strafing and bombing rebel targets. Hague said: 'We are making contingency plans for all eventualities in Libya.' Nato has been tasked to work on a range of options, including a possible no-fly zone, the evacuation of civilians, international humanitarian assistance and support to the international arms embargo, he added.

Meanwhile, a row has broken out between the BBC and the Labour party over the corporation's use of the word 'savings' to describe what senior Labour officials insists are government cuts. The disagreement reflects growing unease among opposition figures over the way the BBC is reporting the coalition's spending cuts. Labour sources claim the corporation is caving in to government pressure to tone down its coverage. Labour lodged a complaint after BBC London News ran a report last night about NHS cuts in a bulletin broadcast after the Ten O'Clock News on BBC1. Officials are angry the item mentioned NHS budget 'savings' around half a dozen times, while a graphic illustrating the piece also referred to 'savings.' A Labour party source confirmed to the Gruniad Morning Star that the party had phoned the programme's editor Antony Dore to lodge a complaint. They said Labour was 'puzzled' that the BBC has adopted an editorial policy that regards the words 'cuts' and 'savings' as analogous and interchangeable. A BBC spokesman described the complaint as 'nonsense.' He said: 'We use a variety of terms and words such as "cuts" and "savings" are used in context as appropriate. The top line in the BBC London bulletin on Monday read: London hospitals could be forced to close as a result of budget cuts. In the subsequent piece which listed targets for individual trusts, the word "savings" was used. Both were entirely appropriate in context.' The Labour party complaint represents what the Gruniad describe as 'a shot across the bows' of the BBC following the use of the word 'savings' in a number of TV reports discussing spending reductions in recent weeks. Labour is also uneasy about the influence the Conservative party's new director of communications Craig Oliver, who was previously editor of the BBC Ten O'Clock News, might have over his former colleagues at the corporation's news operation. It is understood there was a lengthy discussion between editors and journalists at BBC London News about the right way to describe the latest round of budget cuts. The corporation was criticised last year for dropping a pair of scissors from a logo it used to illustrate a series of programmes broadcast in the run-up to George Osborne's public spending review in October last year. In September the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, was also criticised for visiting Downing Street to discuss the corporation's coverage of the cuts. The meeting came at a sensitive time for the corporation as the government prepared for negotiations over the BBC licence fee, which was subsequently frozen. The BBC insisted it was a scheduled visit and pointed out Thompson holds regular meetings with the leaders of all the main political parties. The Gruniad suggests that Number 10 is 'thought to be increasingly frustrated' about the way the BBC is covering the budget cuts. David Cameron branded the BBC as the 'British Broadcasting Cuts Corporation' in February after giving an interview to a BBC journalist about youth unemployment. So, basically what they're saying is the BBC are getting it from scum on both sides. They can't do right for doing wrong, it would seem. Well, smack their arses for existing. The BBC spokesman said: 'We are reporting impartially on council and government spending and no instructions have been issued about terminology to be used in our coverage. It is nonsense to suggest that any word has been banned, as regular viewers of BBC London News programmes will be aware.' And, just maybe, one day one or two of these disgraceful shite-scum rent-a-quote politicians - on all sides of the House - are going to realise that the BBC - collectively - is better than them. Much better. That it's a World Class broadcaster with a hard-earned reputation for fairness and balance which far exceeds that of the British government, or any other government for that matter. That the BBC is trusted by virtually everyone - unlike the vast majority of politicians who aren't even trusted inside their own heads - and such a state of affairs is only, ever, challenged in crass, knobcheese Third World dictatorship. And, ironically, in its own back yard by career politicians looking for a quick headline. That's why BBC reporters are in Libya right now, risking their lives and liberty to let people in the UK, and around the world, know what's actually going on there. Our government's attempts to do the same thing with six armed goons and a helicopter displayed an inability to organise a piss-up in a brewery. But, take heart dear blog reader, the BBC will still be here, in some form, long after Cameron, Hague, Clegg and Millimollimandyband and all such crappy lice are long gone and mere footnotes in history. All politicians are scum.

Cult Australian sitcom Kath & Kim is to be made into a movie, after securing a funding deal. The production – titled The Kath and Kim Filum – has received financial baking from Screen Australia, which called the movie 'iconic Australian comedy.' And one that, as bonus, doesn't feature Yahoo Serious. Little is known about the plot, other than the fact that Jane Turner and Gina Riley's suburban Melbournite characters will head overseas on a trip that becomes 'a vajazzling tale of love, lust and revolution.' I think you'll find that vajazzling isn't, actually, a proper word but, otherwise, yer Keith Telly Topping likes the sound of this. Announcing the deal, Ruth Harley, chief executive of the government-funded Screen Australia said: 'Australia's comedic sensibility is world renowned and is a distinctive part of our cultural identity. The Kath & Kim Filum represents iconic Australian comedy.' It will be directed by Ted Emery and produced by Riley's husband Rick McKenna, with both of whom worked on the TV series. Turner and Riley will write and co-produce. Kath & Kim ran on Australian TV from 2002 to in 2007, including a ninety-minute TV movie in 2005. It has been shown on BBC2 and digital channels in the UK, but a 2008 American remake starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair was a flop.

Twice a year (since 2005) BARB tracks the growth of viewing beyond TV sets via questions on an omnibus survey. This does not provide precise data on usage but it does give a broad estimate to the extent to which viewing beyond TV sets exists and how it has grown - via what methods and devices. The latest results cover November 2010 and continue to show a steady growth in the numbers of adults saying that they view TV programmes through PCs and laptops. This is shown below in the chart below. In November 2010, thirty four per cent of adults claimed to have watched TV programmes via a PC or laptop, an increase from twenty seven per cent the year previous. Almost a quarter of adults claimed to have watched in the past month and fourteen per cent had done so in the previous week. The average time spent watching TV per day in UK homes rose to four hours and two minutes, from three hours forty five minutes in 2009. Pfft. Lightweights. Part of this viewing increase is attributable to increased monitoring of secondary TV sets. Digital reception grew by seven per cent in total, as digital switchover continues throughout the UK, the highest increase being digital terrestrial. Increased television audiences in 2010 were fuelled by a number of significant events, in addition to high rating finales of several popular reality shows and the success of numerous dramas and comedies. The weather played a notable part, with extremely severe cold snaps at both ends of the year when many of the population were snowed-in or, at least, viewed a night in front of the box as a preferable warm alternative to freezing their flaming 'nads off outside on a trek to the pub. The volcanic ash cloud prevented many people from flying for several weeks during the early part of the year. The first live televised political party leaders’ pre-general election debates broadcast in the UK attracted in total over twenty two million viewers. A series of high profile news stories about disasters around the world also affected viewing: the Haitian earthquake, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform and the human story of the thirty three trapped Chilean miners, for example. At home, an horrendous shooting spree by Derrick Bird in Cumbria, a manhunt for the psychopathic gunman Roaul Moat in Northumbria and various outbreaks of lively student protests around the country attracted the attention of viewers. It has also been speculated, with probable good cause, that an effect of the continued economic recession is a damned good reason for many people staying home, getting their feet up the fire and tuning in to something on TV that will, briefly, make them feel better about themselves and the world they inhabit.Sony has acquired Hawk-Eye, the UK-based provider of live ball-tracking technology for sports such as tennis and cricket, as part of its fresh push into the live sports entertainment field. The Japanese electronics giant said that Hawk-Eye's technology, based on vision processing and triangulation, would combine with its AV production expertise to 'enable the delivery of leading managed services and innovative solutions for sports stadia and broadcasters.' Sony's full acquisition of Hawk-Eye Holdings includes all Intellectual Properties Rights, along with the company's staff, technology and software engineering capabilities. Hawk-Eye will become part of Sony Professional, the business-to-business branch of Sony Europe. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, but previous estimates valued the Hawk-Eye business at up twenty million smackers. Paul Hawkins, who founded Hawk-Eye in 1999, is expected to remain with the company. Naomi Climer, vice-president of Sony Europe, said that the firm sees 'strong opportunities' for the expansion of Hawk-Eye's business across the sports and broadcasting industries. 'Hawk-Eye is recognised globally for its innovative solutions for resolving close calls in critical sporting situations, particularly in cricket and tennis where they have developed a worldwide reputation,' she said. 'Players, officials and sports fans have all appreciated the accurate and entertaining way in which Hawk-Eye has integrated its technology into these key sports. Hawk-Eye presents Sony with the opportunity to acquire a small, innovative company with unique knowledge and excellent growth and synergies potential.' Hawkins added: 'Over the last decade Hawk-Eye has become the reference standard technology for ball tracking and graphics in tennis, cricket and snooker. Our skills and established knowledge coupled with Sony's breadth of capabilities and technologies will create immense opportunities for the Sports industry. Hawk-Eye has shown impressive year-on-year growth throughout the last decade and is now well positioned to develop its business towards other global sports.' Alongside cricket and tennis, Hawk-Eye's technology is currently being used in snooker and some sports training exercises, but the long-term goal would surely be to get into football. FIFA, football's world governing body, previously rejected the use of goal-line technology in the sport, but is now thought to be reconsidering whether it should be introduced.

Embarrassed Sarah Ferguson yesterday stepped in with an attempt to take the heat off her ex-husband Prince Andrew as he became further mired in his links to a convicted sex offender. The grand old Duchess of York (she had ten thousand men) apologised for accepting fifteen thousand quid from Jeffrey Epstein to help 'settle a debt' with a former secretary. She admitted it was a 'gigantic error of judgment' - one to add to a huge list of gigantic errors of judgment the woman has made - but said that Andrew was 'a first-rate father and first-rate man who does not know how to tell an untruth or behave dishonourably.' The Duchess added: 'I abhor paedophilia and any sexual abuse of children and know that this was a gigantic error of judgment on my behalf. I am just so contrite I cannot say.' But, she tried, seemingly. 'Whenever I can, I will repay the money and will have nothing ever to do with Jeffrey Epstein ever again.' Andrew has faced claims that he received massages from teenage girls while staying several times with US entrepreneur Epstein, who has served an eighteen-month jail term for sex offences with underage girls. The Duke has also been condemned for meetings with overseas figures such as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif, and the son-in-law of deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. His ex-wife joined prime minister David Cameron in offering their full support to the royal in his role as a trade ambassador for Britain, despite growing calls from MPs that he stand down or be removed. Business secretary Vince Cable appeared to suggest that Andrew might quit. Cameron’s official spokesman, however, said: 'The prime minister thinks he is doing an important job and is making a major contribution, and he is supportive of him in that role.' Oh no, the 'dreaded vote of confidence.' Labour former foreign office minister Chris Bryant said: 'The charge list now against him is so long that he is a bit of an embarrassment.' Andrew has known fifty eight-year-old Epstein since the early 1990s. Epstein was convicted of soliciting an under-age girl into prostitution and has been accused of 'exploiting' young girls at his Florida mansion.

Martha Kearney, the host of BBC Radio 4's World At One programme, has reportedly emerged as the leading candidate to join the Channel Four News presenting team. Last December, Channel Four News confirmed plans to hire a new, high-profile presenter to cover for Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy when they are away. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the fifty three-year-old Kearney is now the preferred choice to take on the role. Her extensive presenting experience includes working across a variety of major BBC news programmes, including Newsnight on BBC2 and Radio 4's Today programme, along with Woman's Hour. She also previously worked at Channel Four on The Week in Politics. It is not clear at this stage whether the Channel Four News role would require Kearney to leave World At One, which she has fronted since 2007. Kearney's agent declined to comment on the report. But a Channel Four News spokesperson said: 'We are in the initial stages of identifying a new main presenter to join Jon and Krishnan and are considering a number of options. This will be a central role to the programme and it would be inappropriate to begin ruling people in or out at this early stage.' The Channel Four News changes, part of the broadcaster's post-Big Brother 'creative renewal,' also include an expanded role for Guru-Murthy and more live studio debates.

Staff at Food Network UK have beaten the world record for the tallest ever stack of pancakes. In total, seven hundred and twenty five pancakes were placed on top of each other to reach a thirty two-inch height. The pancakes were made over thirteen hours with two hundred and fifty three eggs, eleven lbs of flour and twenty six pints of milk. Managing Director of Food Network UK Nick Thorogood said: 'We wanted to celebrate this year's Pancake Day with something a little different and what better way than to create a giant stack of pancakes! Needless to say the team at the Food Network UK headquarters are going to have their fill by the end of the day.'

Government officials showed 'a lack of courage or determination' when they gave a Northamptonshire start-up business permission to supply Tasers to police despite its close links with the firm stripped of its licence after its weapons were used in the stand-off with gunman Raoul Moat, MPs have said. Tactical Safety Responses, based in Daventry, is staffed exclusively by former personnel of the previous supplier Pro-Tect Systems, leases its premises from them, and its website is 'a near-duplicate,' the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said. The MPs also raised concerns about the confusion over what was and was not allowed under the terms of the licence after it emerged even the National Policing Improvement Agency 'purchased what was considered to be an "unauthorised" weapon' from Pro-Tect. 'We are perturbed by a turn of events which has led to the new supplier of Tasers to police forces in England and Wales being so closely involved with the previous supplier,' the MPs said. 'We were surprised that Home Office officials could so readily satisfy themselves that a company composed of more or less identical personnel operating in the same premises with a near-duplicate website would be a fit body to distribute this equipment when its predecessors had been judged unfit to conduct such business. The response by the Home Office, in this regard, seems to have been pusillanimous.' The MPs also raised concerns that TSR would continue to be a monopoly supplier of Tasers and related ammunition, saying the arrangements previously led to a situation where 'police forces in England and Wales faced running out of stock.' The news comes just after the Newcastle Journal revealed that the boss of the company which supplied Tasers during the stand-off with Raoul Moat drove to Rothbury personally in an attempt to help police at a time of a crisis. Former police officer Peter Boatman decided to take the experimental X12 Tasers, which were still being tested by Government scientists, directly to police involved in the Moat manhunt. According to MPs at the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Boatman simply put them in the boot of his car and drove to Rothbury 'inspired by a genuine wish to assist the police at a time of crisis.' Northumbria Police told the MPs that the weapons were supplied under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that 'a state do everything possible to discharge the state's duty to preserve life.' But the MPs said: 'We are not persuaded by this argument, and express great concern at the implications if this were to be taken as carte blanche to override legislation.'

Lionel Messi's body double in an Adidas advert has spoken about filming the commercial. Hussain Isa, twenty two, covered for the Barcelona star when Messi was unavailable because of his busy domestic and European schedule. The advertisement shows Messi facing the Spanish international team on his own. The Argentine’s head was digitally added to Isa's footage in post-production. Isa, a primary school sports teacher and semi-professional footballer, told the Sun: 'It makes me smile that billions around the world think it's Messi when it's actually me - a normal bloke from Essex.' Isa, who spent three days filming a variety of tricks for the commercial, explained that a friend suggested he should apply for the role. He added: 'I play for Canvey Island Football Club, and one of my friends has been Ronaldo's stunt double - lookalike - when he was at Manchester United. He said, "Why don't you come to a casting? You never know what might happen!" I've followed Messi all my life, and to be offered to do something like this is just overwhelming really. I was really happy and proud.'

The BBC has said that it will contact the Premier League to express its disappointment at Manchester United's media blackout following Sunday's defeat to Liverpool. After the 3-1 loss at Anfield, The Scum's manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a face like a smacked arse and reused to perform any media engagements, snubbing the BBC, along with Sky Sports and TalkSport. The BBC intends to 'discuss the matter' with the league, but will stop short of submitting a formal complaint which would trigger punishment action against The Scum, who - quite disgracefully in this blogger's opinion - cannot refuse to make a player or member of the coaching staff available to rights holders for interview. As no other media outlet has indicated that it will complain about the snub, it is likely that The Scum will escape any sanctions under new rules designed to protect rights holders brought in at the start of this season. 'The BBC is disappointed Manchester United did not put forward a spokesperson following on from the Liverpool match. We will speaking to the Premier League about this,' said somebody snitchy at the BBC. The Scum imposed the media blackout after last week's Football Association charge against Ferguson over his comments about the refereeing during a game against Moscow Chelski FC. The silent protest even extended to The Scum's in-house TV channel MUTV. Ferguson's assistant Mike Phelan also did not carry out his usual post-match engagements with the BBC, arranged due to the manager's long-running feud with the corporation. The Scum are understood to be facing an up to six-figure fine for Ferguson's continued boycott of the BBC, but the league is hoping that the situation can be resolved amicably at ongoing negotiations. They can. By removing this stupid 'rule' that says anybody has to talk to someone. It is, surely, everyone's right in life to speak to whomsoever they chose and to try and force someone to do so is not only crass bullyboy antics of the worst kind it's also likely to be, as in this case, counterproductive.

A footballer for non-league team Dorchester Town was sent off at the weekend after dragging a streaker to the ground during a Blue Square Bet South match. Player-manager Ashley Vickers was shown a red card by the referee after rugby-tackling the man in the one-piece Borat-style swimsuit when he interrupted the match against Havant & Waterlooville. Vickers told the Dorset Echo: 'I'm dumbfounded and speechless. A guy ran on to the pitch without any of the stewards getting near him and I thought I was doing them a favour. My only thought was to get hold of him so we could get on with the game. I managed to grab him and bring him to the ground and the funny thing was the stewards actually thanked me for it.' He added: 'But the ref decided to send me off and it beggars belief. Their players told the ref not to send me off and their chairman even offered to take a player off to even things up.' The game was poised at 1-1 at the time of the sending off, but Havant & Waterlooville finished 3-1 winners after Dorchester were later reduced to eight men with two further red cards. Neither, apparently, for tackling a streaker.

Meanwhile, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has taken part in a football refereeing course in a bid to better understand the offside rule. In an interview with the TalkSport commercial radio station, the vile and odious rascal Hunt revealed that it was his New Year's Resolution to learn more about the people's game. 'I am going to start a refereeing course as it was my New Year's resolution,' he said. 'If you asked me what the offside rule was, I couldn't tell you. I decided to put it right, so the FA is very kindly sending someone to my office.' He added: 'It amazes me that referees have to be fitter than any of the players because the players have their quiet moments, but the referee has to be there the whole time.' Football comes under the vile and odious rascal Hunt's remit as part of his leadership of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Speaking to Ian Collins on The Late Show, the vile and odious rascal Hunt revealed that he did not know much about football four years ago when he become shadow lack of culture secretary, but he is now starting to appreciate the game. 'When I first took on this brief I didn't know very much about football but I've come to really enjoy it,' he said. 'I went to the Chelsea versus Liverpool Champions League match last year, and this year I saw Arsenal versus Spurs. I quite like the London derbies actually - the atmosphere is just incredible.' Aye. I wonder who paid for the tickets for those particular seats. Any dispute resolution skills the vile and odious rascal Hunt learns on the course may come in handy to deal with the growing controversy surrounding his blitheringly stupid decision to green light the takeover of Sky by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. A public consultation is currently underway of the vile and odious rascal Hunt's approval for a News Corp plan to spin off Sky News as a separate company to address media plurality concerns about the takeover. However, a consortium of rival media companies has already signalled its intention to explore legal options to challenge the deal, possibly via a judicial review.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. Which, today, has a gander at the work of, quite simply, the best - certainly the most consistent - singles band British has produced since the 1960s. In one of his final interviews with the BBC's Andy Peebles shortly before his murder in December 1980, the alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon was asked about which contemporary bands he liked. Showing a fairly reasonable grasp of the British charts - considering he'd been living in New York for nearly a decade - he spoke with some admiration about The Pretenders, The Clash, Blondie and, in particular, a seven piece pop group from Camden Town whose second single had just hit the UK Top Ten a few weeks earlier. 'I think they're extraordinary,' he noted. A few days later, he was shot dead by a deranged tragic victim of depersonalisation. One Step Beyond, indeed.There were several things that always set Madness apart from their contemporaries. The combination of influences, for a start - obscure Jamaican ska mixed in with The Kinks, The Beatles, music hall, Tommy Cooper, Max Wall and Kenneth Williams. And the fact that they were one of the first bands to fully realise the possibilities of video to not just put on a performance and sell some records but to actually create an almost cartoon world for themselves to inhabit. As in this episode of It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Sing Lofty!But, ultimately, it was the simple fact that they wrote some of the best tunes of their era. Witty, clever little story-songs - even if sometimes they were about pretty strong subject matter. As with this twenty four carat classic. Though they contained several great writers in the band, there's a fabulous irony in that one of their two best remembered singles is, in fact, a cover version. But, God, it's a good one! And it's got Chris Foreman playing the guitar underwater in video as well so, double bonus!They made a joyous run of over twenty singles during the years 1979 to 1986 - most of them Top Ten hits - with barely a duffer among 'em. Each one with a brilliant accompanying video that could usually make even a professional misanthrope smile. (Check out Chris in this one, he's using Dave Hill from Slade's 'Super Yob' guitar!)Of course, their best known number - their only major hit in America, in fact - and the song that they will probably always be associated with was this little piece of glorious wistful nostalgia. Come on, you must know this one!Personally, a particular favourite 45 of this blogger was their next single. Mainly for the lyric about it being 'built in fifty nine/in a factory by the Tyne' and for the bit in the video where Bedders is in a Brazil strip! Naggingly, annoying-yet-memorable tune as well. I suppose we really should include their only number one as well, even though it's not one of the singles I'd, personally, take with me to a desert island. If I had to pick a desert island Madness single, it'd probably be this one, Chas Smash's finest three minutes and fifty seven seconds. Fantastically moody Ipcress File-inspired video, too. Or, maybe this one, one of the few Madness singles that doesn't, actually, sound like Madness if that makes any sense. But, what a beautiful song, showing their more serious, melancholy side. Of course, it wasn't as big a hit as 'Our House'! Time for another top tenner, I reckon. What about this one, featuring the Gospel Choir from the First Born Inspirational Church of the Living God? And, it was one of the few times where they went anywhere other than a five miles radius of NW5 to film a video. 'Blue train'!Next, we need a bit of politics. Speak, ye, to the people, Suggsy.Eventually, they split up. But, they reformed in the early 90s for their bi-annual Madstock concerts in Finsbury Park. They remain a huge live draw and even still make the odd - often brilliant - hit single. Madness, dear blog reader. A British institution. Rockin' in A flat down Razor Blade Alley and straight to your heart. Thank you to Suggs, Chas, Barzo, Carl, Bedders, Woody and Lee for the last thirty years of my life. Don't ever stop bringing us that nutty, nutty sound.

2 comments:

Fair Geraldine said...

I loved your post about Madness, but being a fan of theirs for 30-odd years, I hope you don't mind just one tiny little correction .The guitarist's name is Chris Foreman, not Carl, as you wrote. Carl was Carl Smyth, their second singer (after he abandoned the trumpet, a move, I always thought, to give him an instrument to include him in the band). Carl also went by the nickname Chas Smash.

Fair Geraldine said...

I loved your post about Madness, but being a fan of theirs for 30-odd years, I hope you don't mind just one tiny little correction .The guitarist's name is Chris Foreman, not Carl, as you wrote. Carl was Carl Smyth, their second singer (after he abandoned the trumpet, a move, I always thought, to give him an instrument to include him in the band). Carl also went by the nickname Chas Smash.