Friday, March 25, 2011

Week Fourteen: If The Boys Wanna Fight You Better Let 'Em

The long-running BBC1 sitcom My Family, starring Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker, has been cancelled. The eleventh series of the show - which depicts the comic trials of a dysfunctional modern family - will be broadcast on BBC1 later this year and will be its last. 'Now that all the Harper children have fled the nest we feel it's time to make room for new comedies,' said BBC1 controller Danny Cohen. Its two stars, however, would remain 'part of our BBC1 comedy family,' he added. 'In Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker we are proud to have had two of Britain's finest comic actors,' said Cheryl Taylor, the BBC's comedy commissioning controller. She added that 'almost a generation of British children has grown up with the Harper brood,' who have been played by actors including Kris Marshall and former EastEnders actress Daniela Denby-Ashe. The tenth series of the sitcom, broadcast last summer, attracted an average audience of 4.6 million viewers, a very respectable figure but a long way below the regular audiences of eight or nine million that the was achieving five years earlier. In a recent interview Lindsay said he was 'amazed by the public's love for the series. When Kris Marshall left in 2005 I was convinced that was it. But somehow Zoë and I have kept the essence of it together,' he told the Daily Telegraph. Zoë Wanamaker said in 2007 that she was no longer happy with the quality of the writing, and claimed she and Lindsay even refused to film one episode because it was so poor. In May 2009, the two leads revealed they were still unhappy with the writing quality, with Lindsay stating 'There's some real dross and we're aware of it.' The sitcom, which first appeared on BBC1 in September 2000, was created by Fred Barron. The US producer and writer had previously worked on Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show and imported such American production methods as salaried writers and exclusive use of the studio during the production period. Barron said Lindsay's character - grumpy dentist Ben Harper - had been inspired by his own father.

The writers of [spooks] have hinted at the future of the relationship between Harry and Ruth in the BBC1 espionage drama, telling fans of that they 'want them to get together.' It's nice to know that 'shippers can get a job in TV scriptwriting after all. The characters, played by Peter Firth and Nicola Walker, have skirted around romantic involvement with each other since Ruth joined the team in series two. Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley, who wrote five episodes of last year's series and are currently working on the tenth season of the show, told the CultBox website: 'As fans of the characters and the two ace actors who play them, we want them to get together too!' They continued: 'But as writers, we can’t judge it by those standards we have to work with the team to find the best and most truthful story. Stay tuned, it’s not the end of the road for them yet, not by a long shot.'

Musician-turned-cosmologist Professor Brian Cox has confirmed his status as one of the hottest properties in television with a double win at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. Cox, whose Wonders of the Universe will come to an end this weekend, was named best performer in a non-acting role whilst his earlier BBC2 hit, Wonders of the Solar System, was named best documentary series. It follows a double win for Cox at the Royal Television Society awards earlier this month. ITV's drama series Downton Abbey and Channel Four's Mo Mowlam biopic Mo were also double winners at the awards held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on Friday. And there was a prize for actor Graham Seed, who played Nigel Pargetter in The Archers for twenty seven years before his character fell to his death from a roof in a storyline to mark the soap's sixtieth birthday at the start of 2010. Downton Abbey beat BBC1's Sherlock to be named best drama series of 2010, with its creator Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes picking up the writer's award. But there was some consolation for Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who won the best actor prize. Julie Walters was named best actress for her title role in Mo, which was also named best single drama. Miranda Hart, a multiple award-winner at the Royal Television Society and British Comedy Awards for her BBC2 sitcom Miranda picked up yet another prize, winning best comedy show. Last year's Channel Four's Cutting Edge documentary My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding – since turned into a hit series – won best single documentary, while BBC1's The Apprentice won the best factual entertainment award. The innovation prize went to the 2010 leader election television debates, while the multichannel award was given to G.O.L.D's Fry and Laurie: Reunited. Coronation Street creator Tony Warren picked up The Harvey Lee Award for outstanding contribution to broadcasting to mark the soap's fiftieth anniversary at the end of 2010. Now in their thirty seventh year and voted for by journalists who write about TV and radio, the awards are sponsored by Dave.

All of the Frappuccino-sipping Gruniad Morning Star reading trendies will be blubbing like girls into their muesli this morning. Because, whilst it was billed as one of the star attractions of BSkyB's glitzy new TV channel, Sky Atlantic, the fifth series of the critically acclaimed US drama Mad Men may be delayed until next year because of a financial dispute. Production of the show - whose DVD box-sets are a required status accessory in the more snotty middle-class areas of North London - is likely to be put back after AMC, the US cable network which broadcasts the show, has so far failed to strike a deal for the new season with producer Lionsgate or its creator Matthew Weiner. Sky last year snatched the rights to the show from the BBC, which has broadcast its previous four series in the UK, and when Sky Atlantic launched earlier this year Sky claimed that the show would return in August 2011. However, speculation is now mounting in the US that the fifth season will not be ready for broadcast until late autumn or January next year. The drama's star Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, recently described the series as 'still in limbo. Usually we start shooting in April or May, and it doesn't seem like it's happening now because the writers' room is not in place,' said Hamm. 'I don't know if it even exists.' AMC, which currently pays more than two million dollars an episode for the show, had not yet announced a new deal with either Lionsgate or Weiner, although an agreement may be imminent, the New York Times reported. Weiner told Entertainment Weekly in January: 'They are fighting over a very lucrative property, and who is going to pay for it to get made; it's one of the biggest perils of success – everyone wants a piece of it now, and they are fighting over who is gonna get the biggest chunk.' BSkyB said: 'Mad Men is an outstanding show and we look forward to bringing its next season to Sky customers soon after it airs in the US.' It neglected to add 'whenever that is.' AMC has the rights to the show until the end of the next season, although Weiner's contract expired after season four, according to the New York Times. Weiner has previously said: 'I want the show to go on and on and on until it has worn out its welcome with viewers, and we can't think of anything more for the characters to do.' Fans of the show – and those rather closer involved – could be forgiven a sense of déjà vu. The triple Emmy-winning drama was held up in 2008 following protracted contract negotiations in the run-up to its third season. Mad Men usually returns for a new series on AMC in July, with the UK broadcast date of its fourth series on BBC4 having been brought forward to bring it closer to its US transmission. Mad Men is one of the 'marquee shows' of Sky Atlantic, which launched in February with other high-profile US imports including Martin Scorsese's Boardwalk Empire and David Simon's Treme.

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 1 April
Tonight's first episode of a new series of A Place in the Sun: Home or Away - 8:00 Channel Four - poses a particularly tricky hypothetical question: Hertfordshire vs Le Marche, Italy? Ooo, that's a toughie. That's TVs hardest conundrum, frankly, since Daddy or Chips yer actual Keith Telly Topping reckons. Anyway, in this show Jonnie Irwin and Jasmine Harman help a couple, who have recently been made redundant, decide whether to stay at home in Hertfordshire or take advantage of their situation and move to Italy. The pair have a budget of three hundred and eighty grand, so one would imagine that their recent redundancy didn't exactly put them on the breadline as redundancies tend to for normal people. They also, somewhat inevitably, have 'a long wish list,' leaving the property experts with the difficult task of delivering everything they want. How decidedly unexpected for a TV lifestyle property show, because they normally feature people who are pure dead easy to please, don't they?

Big Hits: TOTP 1964 to 1975 - 8:30 BBC4 - is, as the name suggests, a selection of performances from the BBC archives from the first twelve years of Top of the Pops. This programme featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones, Peter Sarstedt, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder, Julie Driscoll, Queen, The Kinks, Procol Harum, Stealers Wheel, The Seekers and Status Quo. In lots of clips that you'll be very familiar with from every BBC music compilation show they've put together for the last couple of decades. And, hopefully, one or two that you might not have seen before. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is hoping for John Peel introducing Amen Corner in 1968 with the opinion that viewers should 'go out and buy some Tyrannosaurus Rex or Captain Beefheart instead.' But, knowing my luck, it's probably been wiped!

Just a couple of weeks after Top Gear finished its most recent series it's less popular cousin, Fifth Gear returns at 7:30 on Channel Five for a new series. Tiff Needell and Jason Plato test the Nissan GT-R's onboard computers around the eight hundred million pounds Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit in Abu Dhabi. Vicki Butler-Henderson gives her verdict on the Audi RS3 as she drives it in Monaco and, in the new Team Test, the presenters put the BMW X3 though its paces.

Saturday 2 April
We have a very welcome repeat from the archives on Saturday night. The Last Goon Show of All - 7:20 BBC2. This was, if you're too young to remember, a comedy special in which Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan reunited to perform an edition of The Goon Show as part of the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC in 1972. The show was recorded at London's Camden Theatre, with music by Ray Ellington and His Quartet, Max Geldray and the original members of the Wally Stott Orchestra, conducted by Peter Knight. The announcer was Andrew Timothy. It was also attended by several members of the Royal Family and, for once, dear old Spike didn't even insult them. Not even Prince Phillip which probably took some doing, to be fair.

Tonight also sees the return of the French detective drama Spiral - 9:00 BBC4 - for a new series. Police captain Laure Berthaud (the excellent Caroline Proust) seizes the opportunity to redeem her tarnished reputation when the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered, and immediately launches a search with her squad for the sadistic killer. Meanwhile, Judge Roban's investigation into the case of a child bitten by a dog turns out to have broader implications. Spiral was first shown in the UK on BBC4 during the summer of 2006. It was the channel's first French-language drama series, attracting a modest but loyal audience (of around two hundred thousand per episode) and firm critical approval - including the appreciation of this blogger. if you've never seen it before, it's sort of a French version of CSI with a bit of The Killing thrown in. Highly recommended.

In Live Celebrity Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: Mother's Day Special - 8:25 ITV - Chris Tarrant hosts. As usual. Comedy actor David Walliams, joined by his mother Kathleen, takes part in a special charity edition of the quiz show with X Factor 2009 runner-up Olly Murs and his mum Vicky, and EastEnders star Patsy Palmer and her son Charley. Viewers also have a chance to share half the winnings with a worthy cause. Which sounds like just about the worst idea for a quiz show I think I've ever heard. Probably worth watching then, for novelty value if nothing else.

Sunday 3 April
In the latest Time Team - 5:30 Channel Four - Tony Robinson and the archaeological experts head to Llancaiach Fawr manor, near Caerphilly in South Wales, to investigate an ancient moat. Diane Walker, general manager of Llancaiach Fawr and an archaeology graduate herself, invited Time Team to see if they could find a house marked as Faldray on early maps. Previous small scale investigations and surveys suggested a moat and possible structures on land close to the Manor. Could it be an earlier house built before the imposing Sixteenth Century manor that can still be seen and visited today? The team's geophysicists feel the site should provide them with the ideal conditions to determine what the ditch was originally designed to guard - but the project soon becomes one of the most baffling investigations in the programme's history.

There's a new series of The Cube starting tonight- 7:00 ITV. A fire-fighter and a dustman take part in the game show, completing tasks within the confines of a large transparent cube in a bid to win a whopping two hundred and fifty thousand smackers. Each player has nine lives and must tackle up to seven challenges, ranging from agility tests to skill trials. Presented by Phillip Schofield. Who, frankly, looks a bit startled by the whole thing.

And, speaking of returning favourites we've also got Lewis - 8:00 ITV. Oxford's last-surviving all-female college is holding a reunion to bid farewell to one of its most prominent professors. However, the evening leads to tragedy when a guest is found murdered, and Lewis is convinced the killing is connected to an attack that occurred at the same institution ten years previously. The detective calls in his former Detective Sergeant, Alison McLennan, to help with the investigation, but the case takes a twist when two more bodies turn up. Crime drama, guest starring Juliet Stevenson and Saskia Reeves, with, of course, Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox. Wor Kev remains proud of his drama: 'Everywhere I go, people talk about the production values of Lewis. Punters notice it, they're not stupid - they know when things are shot in close-up against a brick wall. I love the space in Oxford and the use of the city. It makes a huge difference, because, when it comes down to it, a lot of these cop shows are inevitably very similar. It makes such a difference to ours, having those locations and production values. We are still exploring the Hathaway relationship with Lewis - they're developing that gradually as we did with Morse and Lewis. It still keeps me interested and we have a lot of fun doing it. I think the characters can develop more.'

Of course, some git in scheduling at ITV thought it was a right good idea to start the new series of Lewis whilst Waking the Dead was still going on at 9:00 on BBC1. People like that, dear blog reader, should be horsewhipped through the streets to within an inch of their lives, frankly. And then, they should be horsewhipped some more. Anyway, in this opening episode of the second-to-last story of the popular drama, the cold case team discovers a DNA match between a medical student reported missing six years previously and a corpse which was found at around the same time. Investigations into the man's background reveal that he had been suspected of having links to terrorist organisations -unmasking the fears and tensions of the post 7/7 terror attacks. But bonkers-as-a-badger Peter Boyd inevitably believes that a high-level cover-up is obscuring the whole truth about the case and, as usual, he's probably right. Hang on, this all sounds remarkably like yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own favourite previous Waking The Dead story, False Flag (albeit that was Irish terrorism rather than any other sort). So, that's definitely one reason for watching it. Another, is that it guest stars the great Don Warrington. Then there's the fact that it is Waking The Dead. Listen, just watch the damn thing, will you. Concludes tomorrow.

Monday 4 April
Lambing Live returns for a new series - 8:30 BBC2. Kate Humble and Adam Henson reveal the challenges and risks faced by sheep and their owners on a farm during lambing season, as they prepare to deliver and rear a flock of newborn lambs. The presenters meet the Marstons as they prepare for the new arrivals, and Kate learns about the harsh conditions of hill farming, while Adam shares his findings after travelling the UK to learn more about sheep. And, as we noted last year there's news on all our lambs. (Don't you just love the way the BBC have got their audience claiming partial ownership of these animals. One imagines that the farmer might have something to say about that.) As well as the possibility of an actual birth occurring live on TV. With all the blood and 'bah-ing.' Will Kate be mauled to death by a rabid ewe? Be afraid, dear blog reader. Be very afraid.

In tonight's Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Gail urges Audrey not to sign over the salon to David, confiding her misgivings about Kylie, and John offers to help Chesney with furniture for the flat. Jim faces a setback in his bid to raise enough money for the pub, while he and Liz reveal they are giving their relationship another go, and Xin arranges a rendezvous for Graeme and Tina.

When yer actual Keith Telly Topping started doing TV reviews for BBC Newcastle about fifteen years ago one of the criteria for the programmes that he picked for his patented Top Telly (if you will) Tips was that that they should accurately reflect programmes that were likely to be enjoyed by the core demographic of the listenership. Which, in the case of much local radio is around fifty years of age. Now, at the time, I still had this idea in my head that somebody who was fifty was someone like my dad - who was forty five when I was born and, therefore, in his fifties for most of my formative years. Somebody born in 1918 whose idea of popular culture was Bing Crosby and who thought that Frank Sinatra, let alone The Beatles, was 'new fangled rubbish.' Course, now yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self is forty seven he realises, fully, that that's nonsense! Just as it’s not where you're from, it's where you're at, also, you're only as old as the person you're feeling. Or something. This also means that Panorama: Finished at Fifty? - 8:30 BBC1 - is a programme that I'm as interested in as anyone else. Fiona Phillips investigates the difficulties that unemployed people in their fifties face in finding work. The programme follows the progress of four case studies who have been challenged by former business leader Digby Jones to change their approach to getting a job. Fifty, dear blog reader - it's the new sixty five. Trust me on this one.

Rooftop Rainforest - 8:00 Sky1 - is a new two part series in which wildlife expert Dusty Gedge attempts to build an indoor rainforest on top of London's Westfield shopping centre. He faces obstacles as he tries to create an artificial environment that will support a variety of tropical trees, plants, animals and insects.

Tuesday 5 April
Candy Cabs - 9:00 BBC1 - is a new comedy drama following the fortunes of two women struggling to run an all-female taxi firm after the death of their ambitious business partner. Best friends Jackie and Elaine are mourning the death of their friend Shazza, whose passing has left them in the lurch just as they were set to go into business with an all-female cab company. It's at Shazza's funeral that they make a pact to proceed with their plan. With chaotic personal lives, a secretly re-mortgaged home and a bunch of best friends depending on them for jobs, they embark on their dream of Candy Cabs. Taking the biggest gamble of their lives, they accept delivery of a fleet of bright pink taxis, celebrate with a launch party and pray that business will flow. But they soon discover a host of hidden obstacles and Jackie takes an unorthodox approach to manipulating the media, much to Elaine's dismay. And just what are the motives of Kenny Ho, the enigmatic boss of the town's largest fleet of cabs? A poor showing at the opening party leaves the pair worried, and things get worse when they discover all their cabbies must pass the Knowledge if they are to continue driving. Starring Jo Joyner, Lisa Millett, Paul Nicholls, Paul Kaye, Jodie Prenger and Claire Sweeney.

In Filthy Cities - 9:00 BBC2 - Dan Snow takes a tip from Larry Grayson and says 'look at the muck in 'ere.' Dan embarks on a grime-filled journey through the histories of three of the world's leading modern cities. He begins with London, using CGI footage and re-enactments to experience life in the capital in the Fourteenth Century. He spends a night as a medieval muck-raker, and tries on a pair of wooden platform shoes designed to elevate the wearer above the filth that covered the streets.

Meanwhile, Smugglers - 9:00 ITV - is the first of a two-part documentary exposing the work of organised crime gangs and the average holiday-maker as they try to beat UK border controls and smuggle drugs and tobacco into the country. The programme reveals the case of a sixty two-year-old retired taxi driver from Birmingham caught with five kilos of cocaine concealed behind the engine of his car, and follows a cutter crew from the UK Border Agency as it stops a container ship suspected of carrying a large consignment of narcotics. Narrated by Samuel West.

Campus - 10:00 Channel Four - is a comedy following the fortunes of staff at the troubled Kirke University. With the facility's bank balance and academic reputation in decline, vice chancellor Jonty de Wolfe insists all the faculty members follow maths lecturer Imogen's example and produce top-class textbooks for publication. Meanwhile, underachieving English professor Matthew Beer is forced to collaborate with Imogen who has just written a popular maths bestseller. But first he has to deal with the fact that she is female, and therefore technically on his 'to do' list. First seen as part of Channel Four's 2009 Comedy Showcase season. With Joseph Millson, Sara Pascoe, Will Adamsdale, Dolly Wells and Lisa Jackson.

Wednesday 6 April
The Crimson Petal And The White - 9:00 BBC2 - is an adaptation of the best-selling Victorian-set novel by Michel Faber. Tormented by debt and his unstable wife, failed writer William Rackham finds solace in the arms of renowned prostitute Sugar, but as he falls under her spell, his life begins to be transformed. Starring Romola Garai, Chris O'Dowd, Amanda Hale, Richard E Grant, Mark Gatiss and Gillian Anderson. Revealing the true underbelly of Victorian life in a way never before seen on screen, The Crimson Petal And The White is a bold and original new serial, adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by Marc Munden. Evocative and sexually charged, this provocative and riveting emotional tale takes viewers into a hidden world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion in which a young prostitute and a prominent businessman embark on a dangerous relationship with epic consequences.

Meanwhile, in yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef - 9:00 BBC1 - the five remaining contestants cook a three-course meal for restaurant critics big fat Charles Campion, Tracey MacLeod and sour-faced stick insect, the loathsome Kate Spicer. The hopefuls have one hour and forty five minutes to impress their discerning guests, before hearing John Torode and Gregg Wallace's verdict on who should leave the contest. And, it's to be hoped that whomsoever loses walks straight into the restaurant and pushes a plate of red hot chips into Spicer's scowling boat race. Hard. Don't worry, dear blog reader, it's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's problem, he can learn to deal with it.

And, of course, there's the single worst TV show currently poxing up my small screen, OK! TV - 6:25 Channel Five. Astonishingly, this celebrity lifestyle magazine show, presented by the vacuous Kate Walsh and the bland Matt Johnson is even more of a disgraceful, shallow, wretched example of celebrity by non-entity than the programme it replaced, Live From Studio Five. A weekday show featuring a mixture of allegedly 'big-name' interviews, showbiz 'gossip' (for which read tittle-tattle) and reports from the worlds of music and fashion, it features an intellectual content that even Heat magazine would find frighteningly lightweight. What's it for? Who is supposed to find this exercise in banality entertaining? God help us all if this is the future.

A Different Breed - 8:00 Sky1 - is a new series following people whose lives are dedicated to dogs, including the work of staff at a canine grooming salon and owners who are prepared to break the bank to keep their pets happy. The first edition meets the hosts of dog-based radio show Barking at the Moon, and the co-owner of Essex boutique Diva Dogs. Why? Why, for the love of God, why?

Thursday 7 April
It doesn't seem five minutes since Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) finished his last show for the BBC, The Ancients. Yet, like the marauding barbarian hordes, you just can't keep him (or his lovely hair) down, and he's back with A History of Celtic Britain - 9:00 BBC2. In this, Neil explores the origins of Britain and its people. He dives for three thousand-year-old treasure and potholes through an ancient copper mine to discover how a golden age of bronze gave way to a period of social and economic crisis and sharp climate change, eventually to be replaced by a new era of iron.

Possibly the single most important television show in the history of the world - for some, anyway - is likely to be an episode of the ITV documentary strand Tonight entitled The True Price of a Pint - 7:30 ITV. Oh God, do we really want to know? Health experts claim that a quarter of a million people in England and Wales will die from alcohol-related illnesses over the next twenty years if they do not reduce the amount they consume. Morland Sanders reports on the real cost to society of this issue and asks whether the Government is doing enough to encourage people to change their drinking habits. Because, of course, everything is bad for you, dear blog reader. Just in case you didn't already know that.

There's a new series of Watchdog - 8:00 BBC1. In which, hatchet-faced harridan Anne Robinson, Matt Allwright and Chris Hollins return with the investigation show that seeks to expose rogue traders and fights for consumers' rights. Just like That's Life used to all those years ago. Only, this time, without Cyril Fletcher and a talking dog. They begin by revealing the supermarket tricks that make prices seem cheaper than they really are, and examine private parking companies that are reportedly buying personal details from the DVLA. Plus, passengers discuss their bad experiences on board a luxury cruise ship.

Rubicon - 10:00 BBC4 - is an American thriller series created by Jason Horwitch and produced by Henry Bromell that was broadcast on the AMC television network. The series centres on an intelligence analyst at a national think tank in New York City called the American Policy Institute who discovers that he may be working with members of a secret society that manipulates world events on a grand scale. The series stars James Badge Dale, Jessica Collins, Miranda Richardson, Dallas Roberts, Christopher Evan Welch, Michael Cristofer and Peter Gerety. And, it's very good - albeit, it's one that you've got to take the plot twists with a very unhealthy dose of salt. Influenced by conspiracy films of the 1970s like All The President's Men, Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View, which find an innocent character caught up in, and slowly unraveling, a major conspiracy, it focuses on intelligence analyst Will Travers. He has his world shattered by an untimely death and begins to ask questions, leading him to a complex conspiracy. He discovers a pattern in several daily newspaper puzzles, which he suspects is connected to the freak accident that killed his boss. .

So to the news: Ever since the announcement by BBC America that Doctor Who would premier in the USA on the 23 April, speculation has been rife within UK fandom as to when The Impossible Astronaut would premier on BBC1. This is widely expected to be broadcast on the same date as the States, based upon the 'traditional' Saturday evening series start to Doctor Who. Being that this is the first occasion on which the series is to commence with a two-part story, the second episode Day of the Moon has also been subject to intense speculation as to whether it too would be shown over the Easter period. An intriguing piece of information has emerged via the CV of actor John Mash; as well as being cited as playing a character called Grant in the episode, the CV also includes an entry that states that episode two will be broadcast on 24 April. At this time the BBC have only confirmed via the end of the Red Nose Day special that The Impossible Astronaut will see its premier on BBC1 at Easter 2011. Schedules are generally not 'locked' until about ten days before broadcast, so any information published via the Internet prior to then may not accurately reflect how the show will eventually be broadcast. But, it's certainly starting to look as though the opening two parter will be broadcast on consecutive nights. Which'd be nice. Meanwhile, a two-minute prequel episode guest starring actor Stuart Milligan as the President provides viewers with their first glimpse of The Doctor's latest foe.

The title has been announced for the finale two-part Waking the Dead episode, scheduled for Sunday 10 and Monday 11 April. In Waterloo, Peter Boyd is informed that he will be moved out of the Cold Case Unit. As his last case, he chooses to re-investigate the first which he worked on: the disappearance of sixteen homeless teenage boys between 1979 and 1982.

The BBC has ordered new series of its daytime dramas The Indian Doctor and Land Girls. The Indian Doctor stars Sanjeev Bhaskar as a young doctor who moves to South Wales in the 1960s. The show was recently honoured at the Royal Television Society Programme awards. Meanwhile, Land Girls focuses on a group of women working for the Women's Land Army during the Second World War. Writing on the BBC's TV Blog, controller of daytime Liam Keelan said: 'A record number of you (well over four hundred) posted your appreciation on this blog for our recent daytime drama The Indian Doctor, so I'm absolutely delighted to tell you first that I have just recommissioned it for a second series. I can also reveal that our wonderful World War Two period drama Land Girls is also returning for a third series.' Keelan, who suggested that The Indian Doctor may not return until next year, explained that he is pleased that the two series have been so popular. 'I commission programmes on BBC1 and 2 daytime, and it's fantastic to see a series resonate so strongly with you, our viewers,' he wrote. 'Bringing more drama to daytime is something I care passionately about.'

John Barrowman and Bill Pullman will be promoting the new series of Torchwood at the MIPTV Media Market in Cannes. The two actors will be joined by executive producer Julie Gardner to launch Torchwood: Miracle Day to buyers on Monday 4 April. Steve Macallister, Managing Director of BBC Worldwide Sales & Distribution, commented: 'We're thrilled to have John Barrowman and Bill Pullman with us at MIPTV. The fact that Torchwood: Miracle Day is able to attract such a high-calibre, international cast reflects the quality of the production – so it's sure to prove popular with buyers again, along with the rest of our exciting drama slate.'

They were greeted as the most important innovation in television coverage of a general election for a generation. But David Dimbleby, the host of BBC1's flagship political programme Question Time, has questioned whether the hugely popular TV party leader debates were a good thing after all. Dimbleby, who hosted the BBC's edition of the live head-to-heads between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg last year, used an awards ceremony on Friday to warn that people could 'come to regret' the advent of the TV debates, which look set to become a permanent fixture of the UK political landscape. 'The debates certainly were an innovation. They will change the way electoral campaigns are conducted, not necessarily entirely for the better,' said Dimbleby in a video message to the Broadcasting Press Guild awards in central London, where the party leader debates won the innovation prize. 'In one way they are odd because we don't have a presidential system in Britain. We have a parliamentary system. We don't elect prime ministers, we elect parliaments and MPs. We have, after all, got a coalition now,' he added. 'And looking back on it we introduced the debates as the three men who want to be prime minister. What are we going to do at the next election? Maybe say the two men who want to be prime minister and the one man who wants to be deputy prime minister.' Dimbleby said he also had 'doubts on another score. I would hate it if these debates stop people taking part in the kind of thing we do on Question Time. During the campaign the party leaders come in, face the voters and make their case and face fierce criticism from them,' he added. 'So as an innovation we have to be a bit cautious. It was fun to do – I was lucky to be third on, actually all I had to do was try and remember the next person to speak which wasn't always that easy. But that said it's a big innovation, a big change, an exciting event and I am really grateful for this prize. I just hope it's not one of those things that you could come to regret what you wish for.' But his concerns were dismissed by Sky News's political editor Adam Boulton. 'All the research shows they engage people and engage young people in the political process,' said Boulton after the awards at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. 'I don't think they distort the political process and I hope they are going to happen again,' he added. 'Obviously everyone has their own views. I think we would all like to experiment and innovate with the formats and do slightly different things. All that depends on having the confidence of the parties to do it.' Boulton said Dimbleby had 'covered the political process for god knows how long, he obviously has some thoughts on the impact [of the debates] on the political process. It's an interesting question given his age and all that whether he is going to be around for the next election anyway.' Dimbleby's views did not appear to be shared either by the BBC's head of political programmes and analysis, Sue Inglish, who commented at the end of the Question Time presenter's recorded message: 'That's very David, is it not?' Inglish said it had been 'a great honour' to be involved in organising the debates, which she said had been watched by nearly twenty two million people, describing the combined audience as 'quite extraordinary.' The first ever UK televised leaders' debate, broadcast on ITV on 15 April last year, was watched by an average audience of 9.4 million viewers, a thirty seven per cent audience share beating both Coronation Street and EastEnders. The second, broadcast across Sky News, the BBC News channel and Sky 3, had a combined audience of 4.1 million on 22 April, while the third - broadcast on BBC1 and hosted by Dimbleby - drew 8.4 million viewers. The debates were only made possible following prolonged negotiations between broadcasters and political parties which resulted in a seventy six-point pact on the format they would take place.

YouView has confirmed that Sky is among a group of content partners working with the project, despite the satellite broadcaster previously opposing the BBC-backed IPTV service. A wide range of content and digital service providers are said to be engaged with YouView, the joint venture that aims to upgrade the Freeview and Freesat platforms to support video on-demand and Internet services when it launches next year. The list includes broadcasters STV, UTV and the Travel Channel, along with subscription movies streaming service LoveFilm and VOD platforms Blinkbox, Film4oD and IndieMoviesOnline. YouView is also engaged with RadioPlayer, the new online radio platform launching next week, along with Blinkx, Guardian News & Media, Pushbutton, Stream UK and new online TV platform Woomi. Most interestingly, though, is that YouView is also working with Sky, especially considering the satellite broadcasting giant's previous strong and very public objections to the platform. Last year, Sky chief operating officer Mike Darcey said that YouView, then called Project Canvas, would 'distort fair competition' in the nascent market for online video services. Sky is said to be among twenty nine content providers selected for an advisory group to work closely with YouView to help 'shape and test the processes for making content available via the platform.' Richard Halton, chief executive of YouView, said: 'We're delighted with the response we've had from the creative industries. We want all types of content providers to be able to deliver their content via YouView so viewers get the best possible choice. The diversity and expertise of the organisations that are informing our development will ensure that YouView is able to support a potentially unlimited range of content in the future.' A Sky spokesperson added: 'We already distribute Sky content across a wide range of platforms. It makes sense for us to continue to explore new ways of reaching customers, but it's too early to say at this stage whether we'll offer a service over YouView.' YouView, which recently appointed Lord Alan Sugar as its new non-executive chairman, has also selected Alcatel-Lucent, Blinkx, Capablue, Deluxe, easeltv, IMD, ioko, Kaltura, Nativ, Ooyala, Red Bee Media, Technicolor, TripleSEE and Twofour to form a technology and service providers' advisory group for the platform. All the content providers, including those in the advisory group, will be invited later in the year to confirm their formal intention to make content available on YouView. Alistair Brown, chief technology and platforms officer at STV, said: 'We are delighted to be engaging with YouView alongside leading UK content providers. We are confident that the development of this platform will be a great fit for our "STV Anywhere" strategy, which strives to make STV content available across all platforms, whenever and wherever our audience wants it.'

Writer Neil Gaiman has confirmed that a television adaptation of his Sandman comics is still in development. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke previously suggested that the planned series had been dropped, though DC Entertainment chief Geoff Johns later refuted the rumours. In a recent interview, Gaiman told the Digital Spy website: 'We are actively starting to look at and interview potential showrunners.' Explaining Kripke's departure from the project, he added: 'I really liked him and his pitch was good, but it didn't convince us all. We all had reservations of one kind or another.' Gaiman also suggested that the project will only reach television screens once all parties are satisfied. 'It's one of the jewels in DC Comics' crown,' he said. 'They know that and they don't want to spend it cheaply.'

Simon Cowell has reportedly agreed to change the date of upcoming X Factor auditions in London to avoid clashing with the royal wedding. Which is big of him. Hopefuls were due to perform in front of the judges at London's Excel Centre on April 29 - the same day Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry at Westminster Abbey. However, following a request from security bosses, the Daily Lies reports that Cowell has now brought forward the auditions to 26 April - ensuring that they end on 28 April. The paper claims that increased security will include a no-fly zone over the city, which would have prevented the judges from arriving at the venue by helicopter. Road blocks would also have caused chaos for contestants making their way to the centre. An X Factor spokesperson confirmed: 'We will not be holding auditions on the day of the royal wedding.'

Former This Morning host Fern Britton has allegedly 'made peace' with former co-presenter Philip Schofield. The Sun claims that Britton received a text message from Schofield wishing her good luck on her new television show. Britton told the newspaper that she was not expecting the message and that it was out of the blue. It has been nearly two years since Britton presented with Schofield on This Morning. Just before Britton quit the show the newspaper revealed that Schofield was being paid up to three times more than her. It is not known though if this was one of the reasons why she left the daytime show.

Embittered old faceache and drag Arlene Phillips has claimed that she always turns down the sound when Alesha Dixon speaks on Strictly Come Dancing. Which seems more than a shade petty, frankly, but there you go; this is embittered old faceache and drag Arlene Phillips we're talking about here. Phillips was - amusingly - sacked and replaced by Dixon on the Strictly panel in 2009. She is now working on Nigel Lythgoe's dance series So You Think You Can Dance and was reluctant to discuss Dixon in an interview with the Sun. 'I genuinely don't want to talk about Alesha,' she said, he lips trailing the ground. 'I write my own Strictly column for the Sun, so I have to concentrate on my own judging and expertise,' she said. of course, nobody had the heart to point out to her that since she was sacked, her judging doesn't, actually, matter. Or, at least, it doesn't matter as much as Dixon's. 'Whenever Alesha starts judging, I have to put her on mute,' Phillips said. During last year's series, Phillips was outspoken in her criticism of some of Dixon's scores and comments.

Oliver Stone has reportedly started developing a drama with FX. Stone, who has worked on movies such as Wall Street, JFK and Nixon, is expected to executive produce and direct the project. Deadline says that the show focuses on 'Darkhorses', a secret group of people who make up fake news stories to help their clients. The project is being written by Adam Gibgot, who has previously collaborated with the illusionist David Blaine.

Serena Williams has reportedly seen her latest advert scrapped because it was 'too sexy.' The advert for the Wii tennis game Top Spin 4 featured Williams, introduced as the 'world's sexiest tennis player,' face up to her opponent, 'the world's sexiest gamer,' both dressed in revealing black outfits and fishnet tights, reports the Daily Scum Mail. On Monday, the actress Rileah Vanderbilt, Williams's rival in the advert, tweeted a link to the video, announcing: 'Check out my newest commercial with @serenawilliams! Directed by: @waltercmay.' Williams then tweeted: 'Stay tuned for a [sic] awesomely sexy video I am tweeting later.' However, the video was never posted. Instead, maker 2K Sports released a statement saying: 'As part of the process for creating marketing campaigns to support our titles, we pursue a variety of creative avenues. This video is not part of the title's final marketing campaign and its distribution was unauthorised.'

Keira Knightley has revealed that she was terrified during a school visit to prepare for her latest play The Children's Hour. Knightley visited Brentwood School in Essex alongside co-star Elizabeth Moss, the Mad Men actress who recently described Knightley as 'hot and very talented.' To prepare for the boarding school setting of The Children's Hour, Knightley and Moss were put in charge of a class of ten drama students. Knightley said that the experience was 'terrifying' but the pupils were 'brilliant,' reports the Evening Standard. Describing the students, Knightley said: 'They were so kind. I got them to do a scene from the play - basically I did a drama class. It left me with a great respect for teachers. It gives you an insight into how tired you are after just an hour.' The pupils at the all girls' school were impressed with Knightley too, with one saying: 'We were not allowed to take photos of her or ask for autographs. Not everyone obeyed the rules but she remained lovely and polite throughout the day.' Headteacher Ian Davies said that the pair inspired the pupils, adding: 'It was a wonderful opportunity for our girls to work with such fantastic actresses.' Knightley is now rumoured to be starring opposite Jude Law in the upcoming film adaptation of Anna Karenina.

OMG, LOL and FYI are among the latest additions made to the Oxford English Dictionary in a new update. The online edition revealed that it had selected a 'number of noteworthy initialisms' for publication. The latest three, used widely in online and text speech, join previous entries IMHO, TMI and BFF. 'Of course in such a context initialisms are quicker to type than the full forms, and (in the case of text messages, or Twitter, for example) they help to say more in media where there is a limit to a number of characters one may use in a single message,' the OED said in a statement. 'OMG and LOL are found outside of electronic contexts, however - in print, and even in spoken use where there often seems to be a bit more than simple abbreviation going on.' However the OED insisted that the abbreviations are not just associated with a younger generation and revealed that research has unearthed former uses. 'OMG is from a personal letter from 1917; the letters LOL had a previous life, starting in 1960, denoting an elderly woman [as 'little old lady'] and the entry for FYI, for example, shows it originated in the language of memoranda in 1941,' they revealed. A surprise new entry also came from the heart symbol '♥'. Referenced 'as a symbol for the verb love,' the heart has become widely associated with the I ♥ NY tourism campaign. Meanwhile, the term WAG - used to collectively describe the wives and girlfriends of footballers - will also enter the collection, following its first cited use by the Sunday Telegraph in 2002. 'It is remarkable to see how much the environment has changed over the ten years since the OED first went online,' OED's chief editor John Simpson said. Other new entries include: muffin top, dotbomb, non-dom, tragic [when used to define someone said to be boring or socially inept] and yuck factor.

The man who hacked into an electronic billboard in Moscow to make it display ten minutes of pornography has reportedly been given an eighteen month jail sentence. According to AFP, Igor Blinnikov of Novorossiysk was found guilty on Wednesday of distributing pornographic materials and illegally gaining access to information on a computer. The incident reportedly caused a major traffic jam in central Moscow as drivers slowed down to look at the billboard. Blinnikov pledged to appeal the sentence and said that the incident at Moscow's Garden Ring highway was 'a joke that went wrong,' the RIA Novosti news agency reports. He had previously claimed that he had only wanted to 'give people a laugh' with the prank. Moscow's Zamoskvorechye court had previously sentenced Blinnikov to six years for attempting to sell marijuana.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a towering slab of Big Paddy Bop from Phil and the chaps. And, just as a minor side point, one of the great feel-good records ever made. By anyone.

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