Saturday, April 02, 2011

Week Fifteen: They Were Long & Clear & There Were Lots Of Stars

ITV has unveiled the details of its coverage of the royal wedding on Friday 29 April. As previously rumoured, that very well known news journalist Phillip Schofield will anchor the broadcast, together with ITV News At Ten's Julie Etchingham. They will present the coverage from a specially-constructed studio located opposite Buckingham Palace. Michael Jermey, ITV's director of news, current affairs and sport, said: 'ITV will give viewers excellent close-up coverage of the all the day's events.' With adverts at regular intervals, of course. 'We'll be on-air live for more than ten hours capturing the spirit of the day both in central London and around the country. It promises to be a memorable day.' Unless it rains. Jonathan Munro, director of newsgathering and deputy editor of ITV News, added: 'Covering the wedding will be one of the most complex and ambitious projects ITV News has ever undertaken. We will have every moment covered live, and we'll aim to capture the atmosphere on the streets of the capital - and at the parties and festivities across the UK. We are deploying technology not even dreamt of when Charles and Diana were married, and we want to use that to reflect the nature of the event - a celebration of two young people to which every one of our viewers will have a front-row seat.' For God's sake, how many times ... it's 'dreamed' not 'dreamt', are you ignorant or what?! Anyway, presenters and reporters including Alastair Stewart, Mary Nightingale and Mark Austin will contribute to the coverage, being based at major procession points across the capital, while James Mates leads commentary of events from Westminster Abbey. The horrorshows that are Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley will kick off the coverage during Daybreak from a special studio at London's Canada Gate. Although hardly anybody will be watching that, as usual. After the marriage ceremony, Tom Bradby will given an insight into the couple. As well as live rolling coverage of the event, the channel will present longer news programmes in peak slots, including an extended edition of News At Ten, following an hour-long news special at 6pm. The BBC have announced that Huw Edwards will front its royal wedding coverage, while Sky has opted for, hilariously, Eamonn Holmes. Although he'll probably have to be partnered up with someone as it's likely he'll need to pop out to Gregg's for lunch at some stage.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping watched - and very much enjoyed - BBC4's Friday evening of breathless nostalgia in their Top of the Pops night. All four hours of it. One small side point - I know this about forty three years too late but, does anybody else reckon that his lovely should've just given that smug oily git Peter Sarstedt a reet good hard slap in the mush and told him to mind his own Goddamn business about where she went to when she was alone in her bed? Just a thought.

This week's episode of CSI - Hitting For The Cycle - was one of the US forensic crime series occasional 'funny' ones as the team find themselves taking bets on the occurrence of a homicide, suicide, accidental, and natural death all taking place during one night shift.A string of deaths - inevitably - follow, including an overweight video gamer found dead on his couch and a newly divorced man lying shot at the bottom of a pool. But, for one reason or another none of them turn out to be the natural death that they are all looking for to complete the set. Until fate lends a somewhat welcome hand. Very good episode, that one, with all of the regulars getting a few funny one-liners.

ITV has confirmed that Britain's Got Talent will return on Saturday 16 April. The date of the fifth series launch of the talent show was revealed this week on the official Twitter feed of the broadcaster's press centre. Michael McIntyre and David Hasselhoff have been added to the panel of this year's show, following the departure of Piers Morgan and absence of Simon Cowell from the earlier phases. They join Amanda Holden, who has retained her place on the programme. Hosts Ant and Dec have claimed that the audition phases have been 'a lot fresher and much more exciting' without Morgan and Cowell. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that a new online round had been added to the contest, with producers picking twenty acts from a shortlist of fifty to go through to the live shows.

Production has started on the tenth series of [spooks]. The six episodes, which will be broadcast on BBC1 later this year, will feature a number of new characters. Lara Pulver, who has featured in Robin Hood and True Blood, will join the show as an ambitious spy called Erin Watts. Geoffrey Streatfeild will play IT expert Calum Reed, while Jonathan Hyde and Deadwood's Alice Krige have also landed roles in the series. The tenth run of [spooks] will see Harry (Peter Firth) trying to cope when one of his biggest secrets is revealed. With problems in the Middle East and Britain's strained relationship with America, Harry is forced to remember the relationships he forged during the Cold War. The show's executive producer Simon Crawford Collins said: 'The heart of the show for the last ten years has been Harry Pearce and his increasingly thwarted relationship with the wonderful Ruth. In Harry and Ruth, Peter and Nicola [Walker] have created two of the most subtle and engaging characters in TV drama today and this series will take them both on a very unexpected journey. We hope it will be unmissable television.' Filming for [spooks] is expected to continue until June.

Maggie Q has suggested that the action genre on television has evolved. Speaking to Emmy magazine, the Nikita actress suggested that programming is of a higher quality now. 'I think we've evolved in the genre since Buffy and Alias,' she said. 'I remember seeing bad wigs on doubles. Then they cut to a close-up, then there's a wide shot and you know the actress is not doing it. When I fight, you're right there in our faces - very Bourne. You expect that from that calibre [of film], so why wouldn't you expect it on TV?' Q also revealed that she is thrilled to be the highest-profile Asian actress in a broadcast drama series. 'It was a mixed moment [when I found out] of, "Wow! What? How come this hasn't happened yet?"' she said. 'But what really thrills me is that it's going to be exciting for other people, for everyone after me. Once it was said, "They aren't hiring minorities in this capacity." Guess what? Now they are.'

Here's your latest batch of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 8 April
The satirical current affairs quiz Have I Got News for You returns tonight at 9:00 on BBC1 for its forty first series. That' in and of itself, isn't so remarkable. What is a bit of a surprise is that someone was, actually, counting them. Anyway, tonight's guest host is the wonderfully dry and acerbic comedian Jack Dee. Regular team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop are joined by panellists Richard Madeley and the comedian Jon Richardson who made such a fine impression on his last appearance of the show. As ever, I know we say this every year, but it really is good to have it back. There's never too much wrong with British TV so long as we've got Have I Got News For You on the Beeb.

One of Have I Got News For You's regular guest hosts in the excellent Bill Bailey. He's also on TV tonight but not, perhaps, where you'd most expect him. Baboons with Bill Bailey - 8:00 ITV - might, just, be the greatest name for a TV programme ever. Well, certainly since Extreme Fishing With Robson Green anyway! Anyway, the talented comedian, musician, Belgian jazz expert, wildlife lover and part troll takes a light-hearted look at the everyday lives and loves of three troops of South African baboons (shouldn't that be a flange of South African baboons? Or, is that gorillas? I always get what Gerald said muddled up), revealing their rich and varied existence replete with politics, sex, violence and crime. Yes, crime. You know, murder, rape, robbery, fraud with menaces, shoplifting from Kwik-Save. The usual rap sheet. On the coast south of Cape Town the Smitz troop, led by alleged criminal mastermind Merlin - though he's never been convicted of nothing in a court of law - lies in wait to raid the cars of tourists distracted by the appearance of whales close to shore. Call the cops.

Saturday 9 April
There's a highly welcome repeat of Blackadder: The Whole Rotten Saga - 9:00on G.O.L.D. This was a documentary celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of the award-winning sitcom, featuring behind-the scenes footage and interviews with the actors and crew. Writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton are among the contributors, along with cast members Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Miriam Margolyes and Brian Blessed, producer John Lloyd and Howard Goodall, who wrote the theme tune. Sadly, Rowan Atkinson didn't take part in this one although he did, subsequently, do so for another, similar, documentary for the BBC. Narrated by David Mitchell. The interviews are pretty good but, ultimately, it the classic clips that make the thing really enjoyable. If you liked the series, dear blog reader, you'll like this. Stranger things have happened. That horse becoming pope, for one.

Sunday 10 April
Tonight sees the beginning of the final two-part Waking the Dead - 9:00 BBC1. Called, perhaps in tribute to ABBA, Waterloo (or, you know, maybe Napoleon). In this episode, Peter Boyd learns that he is being removed from the Cold Case unit after being snitched up by that dodgy Copper's Nark Sarah Cavendish. For his final assignment, he re-opens an investigation into the disappearance of sixteen homeless teenagers between 1979 and 1982 - the first case that he ever worked on. However, as the team struggles to find any new information, Grace worries about her colleague's reasons for revisiting his past. First part of the crime drama's finale, stars, of course Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston et al. And, special guest star, the great Paul McGann. Make the most of it, dear blog reader, it's not going to be here for much longer. You'll miss it when it's gone.

Meanwhile, over on ITV, Lewis - 8:00 - just goes on and on and on. A bishop visiting St Gerard's College is found dead after drinking poisoned wine, and when another two killings occur, both mirroring macabre murders from Jacobean revenge tragedy, it appears the culprit is targeting candidates in the election to become vice-regent. Just another day in the murder capital of the world, Oxford. However, when Innocent learns one of the suspects is hiding a dark secret, Lewis and Hathaway realise the motive is much more twisted. Guest starring Sian Phillips and Ronald Pickup, with Kevin Whately and Mr Billie Piper Laurence Fox.

In the latest episode of Time Team - 5:30 Channel Four - horse owners Stephen and Stephanie Fry (no relation!) believe an Eleventh Century flour mill once stood on their land, and ask Tony Robinson and the experts to search for evidence. When Stephen and Stephanie bought a few acres of prime Somerset pasture to graze their horses, they inadvertently also bought the remains of Buck Mill, an Eighteenth Century water mill. But as Stephanie began to look into its history, she realised that there may have been a flour mill on the land since Domesday. So she called in Tony and the Team to help her unravel the mystery of their mill. For Professor Mick Aston, the prospect was too good to turn down. As the diggers get to work uncovering the whole of the mill, Mick takes off into the landscape to look for clues from earlier centuries. He finds more than he bargained for: the whole area was awash with the tell-tale mill streams needed to power grindstones. The dig throws up constant reminders of the importance of wheat and bread to the medieval population, and of how rich millers could become. The only spanner in the works for this industrial dig is the surprise discovery of an Anglo Saxon comb.

Storyville: Knocking on Heaven's Door - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather fine looking documentary celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight into space and the inspiration for the mission. 12 April 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of Gagarin's flight in Vostock 1, hailed by the Soviet Union as a triumph for socialist science over capitalist decadence. But the true story is much stranger. George Carey's film shows how the Russian space programme was actually kick-started by a mystic who claimed that science would make humans immortal, and that ideas from this era have survived Communism and adapted themselves into modern scientific theory. Part of the channel's Space Night.

Monday 11 April
So, anyway, all good things come to an end, dear blog reader. And yer actual Waking the Dead - 9:00 BBC1 - was a good thing. In the last-ever episode of the detective drama, Grace is not convinced by Nicholson's belief that Jason Heath is responsible for the murder, and the team tries to determine why he may be protecting the killer. Meanwhile, concern grows over Sarah when she goes missing and her abandoned car is found. That's what you get for nitching up Peter Boyd's maverick policing methods to your superiors, hen. Natural justice. Eve contacts Boyd about a blood sample in Sarah's car, but Nicholson seems to be constantly one step ahead of them as the sample disappears before Eve can test it. Nicholson tells Boyd his investigation has failed. He offers Boyd his job back if he frames Jason Heath for the murder of his father. Boyd plays along; but just as the team is making headway a murdered body is found at Boyd's home and he is arrested. Does Boyd have any more moves available against this deadliest of foes? And who is the new victim in this devastating final case? Of course, lovers of this fine drama series will already know that a spin off series, called The Body Farm and focusing on Tara Fitzgerald's character, is already in production and will be seen next year. Which sounds, to be honest, like a sort of straight cross between Silent Witness and a cheaper version of Waking the Dead without executive producer Trevor Eve's massive wage bill!

In The Great Estate: The Rise & Fall of the Council House - 9:00 BBC4 - journalist and author Michael Collins explores the history of council housing, meeting the people whose lives were affected by the social experiment that began with a bang at the start of the Twentieth Century, but ended with a whimper eighty years later. At its height in the 1970s, social housing provided homes for over a third of the British population. He visits flats in Liverpool and a high-rise structure in Sheffield that has become the largest listed building in the world, as well as an estate on the banks of the Thames which was billed as the 'town of the Twenty First Century.' Part of A History of the Home season.

If ever a programme had a title that was just asking for a bit of mocking parody then Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates - 9:00 Sky1 - is that show. Yar. Y'scurvy dogs. The actor gets paid a bunch of tasty doubloons to visit Southeast Asia as he concludes his exploration of the increasing risk of piracy on the world's oceans. Beginning in Singapore, where he sees the huge volume of shipping that comes through the Strait of Malacca, and sticking his Jolly Roger right up his mast of The Good Ship Venus, apparently, Ross heads to Batam Island. Then, this crusty old sea dog, partial to a lick o'the cat, negotiates access to a pirate in Somalia who provides an insight into their training by ex-Somali marines. With a yo, ho, ho and, I might suggest, a bottle of rum. And, he does it all with a crutch and a parrot on his shoulder, me hearties. Aye, that 'ee be. Serious subject, I know dear blog reader, but I'll be buggered in a ditch on fire if I ever find myself taking Ross Kemp remotely seriously when he's swanning about in abject nonsense like this.

'Neil Armstrong, astronaut, he had balls bigger than King Kong,' Shaun Ryder informed us some years ago. Sounds about right. (We'll forget about the 'first big suit on the moon and he's off to play golf' propoganda, shall we?) In Being Neil Armstrong - 7:30 BBC4 - Andrew Smith, author of the best-selling book about the Apollo missions, Moondust, explores the life of the former astronaut, who has become increasingly reclusive during the four decades since he became the first man to set foot on the moon. It has been said that ten thousand years from now, only one name from this era will still be remembered - that of Neil Armstrong. But in the four decades since he first set foot on the moon, Armstrong has become an increasingly reclusive figure. Smith journeys across America to try and discover the real Neil Armstrong. He tracks down the people who knew Armstrong, from his closest childhood friend to fellow astronauts and Houston technicians, and even the barber who sold his hair, in a wry and sideways look at the reluctant hero of the greatest event of the Twentieth Century.

Tuesday 12 April
We've got another show with a twenty four carat genius title, Britain's Next Big Thing - 8:00 BBC2. Err ... okay. I'm game. Dragons' Den veteran and the vicious velociraptor of entrepreneurialism Theo Paphitis offers people a chance to pitch their wares to three of the country's leading retailers. Retailers are always on the lookout for the next big thing and, in this new series, the buying teams of high street giants Boots, Habitat and Liberty are prepared to take an enormous gamble by asking members of the public to supply them with their next best-selling products. By staging three unique open days, Britain's Next Big Thing offers unknown designers and producers the chance of a lifetime: to pitch directly to the retail industry's power brokers in an attempt to get their products stocked in these prestigious stores. Theo begins his six-month campaign by asking Ed Burstell, buying director at department store Liberty, to examine ideas and items presented by would-be entrepreneurs. Six hundred people get up early to queue around the block for the opportunity to pitch their products to the buying team, led by Ed. The commercially inexperienced artisans are given just three minutes to pitch their wares to the team and only a handful makes it through to a second round with Burstell, whose decision is final. Meanwhile, high-street chain Boots invites member of the public to fill the gaps in the health and beauty market.

Destination Titan - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary following the work of British scientists as they prepare to send a space probe to Saturn's largest moon, the titular Titan. The film follows them as they construct the vessel that will travel two billion miles to the satellite, hoping their ambitions will be realised and the ship will survive the descent onto the unknown surface. It's a voyage of exploration like no other - to Titan, Saturn's largest moon and thought to resemble our own early Earth in so much as it has a rich atmosphere. For a small team of scientists this would be the culmination of a lifetime's endeavour - the flight alone, some two billion miles, would take a full seven years. This is the story of the space probe they built, the sacrifices they made and their hopes for the landing. Would their ambitions survive the descent into the unknown on Titan's surface?

There's another rather involving episode of the very popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 9:00 Channel Five - called All That Cremains. When a dismembered body is delivered in boxes to a charity shop, and a forensic examination reveals the presence of ashes in the victim's mouth, the Crime Scene Investigation experts visit an address after testing the DNA of the remains and discover the murder scene, then try to fathom who committed the crime. Meanwhile, Ray Langston's ex-wife reveals her plans to remarry, much to his chagrin. Guest starring singer Christina Milian, with Laurence Fishburne, Jorja Fox and George Eads.

As noted last week, the BBC's new comedy drama Candy Cabs - 9:00 BBC1 - is about a group of friends who set up their own, all-female taxi firm in the face of their chaotic personal lives, and opposition from existing companies. In this episode, business begins to pick up following Jackie and Elaine's TV appearance, and they attract a celebrity customer in the form of local footballer Eddie Shannon, who books transport for his high-profile wedding. Meanwhile, tensions rise among Kenny Ho's drivers, who begin to feel threatened by the women's successes. Guest starring former Hollyoaks actor and Strictly Come Dancing runner-up Ricky Whittle, with Jo Joyner and Lisa Millett.

Wednesday 13 April
This week sees the return of the Caroline Quentin sitcom Life of Riley - 8:30 BBC1. This centres around second time newly-weds Maddy and Jim, and the joining of their two families into a new dysfunctional whole. The ever-optimistic Maddy suddenly finds herself at the head of a modern-day extended family made up of a complication of children, stepchildren, step siblings and half siblings - with a few ex-partners and in-laws thrown in. I must admit, I'm not the biggest fan in the world of this one, I find it a bit like a watered down version of My Family only with not as many good jokes in it. It's also a rather old fashioned conceit in some ways - which isn't necessarily a bad thing as Miranda has proved recently - but, I've always thought it's the kind of second division sitcom that, in the 1970s would've been made, caused no great fuss and then disappeared to be replaced by something ... funnier. It's inoffensive and now and again can produce some effective comedy set pieces and it's got the new Midsomer lead Neil Dudgeon in it as well so, it's not all bad. In the opening episode of this, the third series, Maddy discovers her mother has a boyfriend and tries to talk her out of the relationship, but things do not work out as planned. Ted finds a way to outwit a bully, while Katy misplaces a car.

The four remaining amateur chefs receive a masterclass from Michel Roux and prepare for him one of the most challenging cakes for a cook - the croquembouche - a tower of choux pastry buns filled with creme patissiere and bound with spun sugar in MasterChef - 9:00 BBC1. Oh, for God's sake, are you trying to induce a coronary in yer actual Keith Telly Topping, that's almost pornographic. All you need to complete the job is a line to say that the winning entry will then be placed on the stomach of a nineteen year old beauty queen from Northampton and it will be this blogger's job to, you know, lick it off. Anyway, the hopefuls then head to Woburn Abbey, where they are asked to produce their own pastry creations for the Duke, Duchess and Dowager Duchess of Bedford, and finish their set of challenges with a full tea service for sixteen Second World War veterans.

If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home - 9:00 BBC4 - is a new series and another part of BBC4's A History of the Home season. Snotty-yet-sexy voiced Lucy Worsley, the chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, explores the British home over the past eight hundred years, meeting experts, historians and writers along the way. You've probably seen the trailer in which Lucy is up to her neck in a bubble-bath indulgently flirting with the camera. It's rather good fun! In If Walls Could Talk, she gets to tell the story of British domestic life from the Middle Ages to the present day through four rooms – the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom and the lounge – Lucy examines ever-shifting attitudes to privacy, class, cleanliness and technology. She recreates a range of domestic experiences, from attempting to do a Tudor laundry to cooking and eating a meal in a medieval crofter's cottage. In this first episode, which focuses on the living room, Lucy tries out a communal great hall, holds a candle-lit party in a Georgian drawing room and finds out about the development of taste in a grand country house. She also discovers the impact of gas and electric lighting on Victorian parlours, and experiences 1950s-style leisure. Featuring interviews with a range of specialist historians, curators and living history experts, If Walls Could Talk will change the way you look at your home forever.

In the latest - five thousand eight hundred and ninety third - episode of Emmerdale - 7:00 ITV, Alicia confesses her crimes to a stunned Leyla, who orders her to pack her bags. Moira is shocked to discover Declan offered John a generous deal to leave Butler's Farm, Nicola tries to be more approachable and sympathetic with Jimmy, and Paddy insists Marlon should be the one helping Rhona choose the baby's name.

Thursday 14 April
The Animal's Guide to Britain - 8:00 BBC2 - is not, sadly, a chance for Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine and Alan Price to put past differences aside on a tour of some of the nation's R&B hotspots. Shame, that. I'd watch it. Rather, this is a new series in which Springwatch's entertaining and occasionally controversial Chris Packham examines Britain from an animal's point of view as he tries to understand the needs, problems and histories of native species. He begins with freshwater creatures, visiting the Highlands, where he witnesses a fishing display by ospreys in Poole Harbour and learns how to tempt them to nest farther south. He also investigates what white-faced darter dragonflies, black water voles and brown trout can reveal about the changing nature of waterways. And he discovers the grisly truth behind why beavers became extinct here, some four hundred years ago.

It's the final episode of the Jimmy Nesbitt vehicle Monroe - 9:00 ITV. Which has been all right. It's a Peter Bowker script, you'd expect nothing less. The main problem has been, frankly, the elephant in the room. It's House. Not that the medical drama has been a blatant rip-off of the American mode it's just that it's virtually impossible to see any show about 'a maverick doctor' and not immediately compare it - inevitably unfavourably - with what Huge Laurie and the gang are doing over at Princeton Plainsboro. Anyway back, reluctantly, to Monroe, which as noted, it all right as far as it goes. And, Nesbitt himself is very good in it. It's well written, nicely filmed and it's got enough of an audience to virtually guarantee it'll get any series. In fact, it's sort of thing that I can see running for many three or four or five years no problem. It's just not the most original idea Peter Bowker's ever tackled. Then again, a lack of originality is hardly the worst crime in the world of television. In tonight's final episode of the series, when a thirteen-year-old girl is admitted to hospital after a road accident, Monroe believes there is little chance of saving her and an operation could leave her severely damaged. However, her father begs him to operate and give her a chance to live - whatever the consequences. The trainees face their final assessments and Shepherd considers leaving following his break-up with Bremner. Co-starring Sarah Parish and Tom Riley.

Top of the Pops: 1976 - 7:30 - continues on BBC4, thirty five years to the day after it was first shown on BBC1. The hairy cornflake himself Dave Lee Travis presents an edition of the pop show from 15 April 1976, featuring Brotherhood of Man's Eurovision-winning song 'Save Your Kisses for Me' - which was number one for a fourth week - Eric Carmen's limp melodramatic ballad 'All By Myself', and camp europop band Sailor's top ten hit 'Girls Girls Girls'. There are also performances by Fox, Smokie and the Stylistics. Odd year, 1976. Personally yer thirteen year old Keith Telly Topping was listening to a lot of Wings. I quite liked The Real Thing as well, I seem to remember. But, like most of the country, I guess I was just waiting for something to come along and shake me from my apathy, a situation that occurred sometime during the summer of the following year when I saw Paul, Bruce and Rick doing 'All Around The World' on the Marc show. Life would never be the same again.

Terror Weapon of the Somme: A Time Team Special - 9:00 Channel Four - sees Tony Robinson joins a dig near Mametz on the site of the Somme battlefield, where British trenches from nearly a century ago are uncovered. The experts investigate whether a top-secret weapon known as the Livens Flame Projector was deployed as the army launched their assault in Northern France. Unleashed at the start of the Battle of the Somme, it produced a terrifying effect the like of which had never before been seen on a battlefield. From a small, concealed nozzle on the surface, the 'weapon of terror' spewed flames over a range of three hundred feet. As the nozzle pivoted, the jet raked along the German front line, pouring blazing oil onto the enemy position. Four of these vast, top secret weapons were assembled in shallow tunnels beneath the mud of no-man's-land to be deployed on the first day of the Somme battle, on 1 July 1916. Two were destroyed by German shells in the build up to the attack and could not be operated. Two others were deployed on the morning of the assault and were credited with helping the British in those areas to capture the German trenches with comparatively few losses. But despite their success, their contribution to the ill-fated offensive has been largely forgotten. Now, however, a team of historians and archaeologists believe they have found the last remaining machine, still buried beneath the mud of northern France.

And so to yer actual Top Telly News: Traditional linear broadcasters have in recent times felt somewhat besieged by the inexorable march of technology. But one form of technology might be turning out to be more of a champion of old style TV. Technology moves so fast that now we are having to get our heads round stuff like the concept of 'cloud computing.' The PVR, relatively old hat these days, is practically an extra on-demand channel now and playing an increasingly important role in re-commissioning decisions. Smaller digital channels have, for a long time, been aware of the difference that timeshift recording can make. The networks, which not so long ago were vaguely aware of the trend but not that bothered about measuring its impact since it hardly made that much difference to them, now look to the final rating more intently than the overnights because for some shows, especially drama, recording can add a million or more viewers to the overnight live figure. And that might make the difference between a series being re-commissioned or getting the axe. Take Silk for instance. The BBC's new legal drama got the good news of a recommision for a second series earlier this week. The series ratings average based on overnight viewing was 4.95m. That's a reasonable figure for a drama these days, not stellar but decent enough, although for a Tuesday 9pm slot with relatively soft opposition on ITV and for a drama with, it was hoped, broad appeal it might have been considered to have slight under performing. But a week later – and with a further week of consolidation remaining – the series average is now 5.9m. With all other things considered that makes series two far less of a risky punt for the BBC that the overnight figure may have suggested. Similarly, ITV's Law and Order: UK, which is suffering under the yoke of Waking the Dead on overnight figures, is benefiting from consolidation to the main channel and ITV+1. The 14 March episode went from a live ITV-only figure of four million to five million when timeshift recordings and +1 figures were added. Since Waking The Dead turned up in the opposition slot the ITV+1 channel has grown in importance from adding one hundred and fifty thousand viewers to Law & Order: UK to nearly three hundred and fifty thousand to the final figure. The 21 March episode consolidated to 4.6m – about a million more than the live figure. Whether this is enough to fulfil its strategic role as a reliable, solid, economically viable long-runner is a more difficult call but at least it's in the game. it appears as if we're all going to have to change how we regard overnight ratings. Steven Moffat acknowledged this last year. The BBC have acknowledged it too with their new 'Rating +7' initiative. It's going to be hard to change the old mindset for long-term ratings analysts like this blogger, we've had probably the best part of fifty years of a system which has drummed into us that the overnights are the only thing that matters. Now, even the tabloids are starting to come around the idea that, yes, it's still a sexy headline to say X Factor hits eighteen million or whatever but, more than ever, decisions on recommissioning and whether a show is classified as 'a hit' or not are going to depend just as much on things like how many iPlayer hits it gets as how many bums on seats it got when it was actually broadcast. Elsewhere on Monday, Mrs Brown's Boys live rating of 2.8m grew by over a million with timeshifts to end with a consolidated figure of 3.8m. On Friday, Channel Five's The Mentalist slipped after a couple of strong weeks in the teeth of Comic Relief on BBC1. Recordings of nearly half a million, however, saw the popular US crime drama finish with two million viewers, roughly in line with its usual audience - actually, the third best of the series so far. As Comic Relief decamped to BBC2 at 10pm, FX’s True Blood went from three hundred thousand to six hundred and forty thousand. ITV’s Monroe climbed from an overnight 5.1m to 5.7m via timeshifts, the sort or performance which will make a return for the series much more likely. Sky Living’s original supernatural drama Bedlam ended with a final consolidated figure of six hundred and forty seven thousand, just behind the Monday 10pm average of seven hundred thousand.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite April Fool of yesterday - by about a mile - came form the pen of the great Peter Anghelides - Doctor Who author and wit. Now that's brilliant! Scatological, but brilliant!

On a somewhat related theme, Rob Brydon tricked Radio 2 listeners yesterday morning by presenting a whole show in place of regular presenter Ken Bruce. The comedian managed to present most of the two-and-a-half-hour show doing a pretty faultless impression of Bruce before he finally started to drop a few hints that it was an April Fool's prank towards the end of the show. Listeners reportedly took to the Radio 2 message boards, commenting on Bruce's erratic behaviour, and questioning whether the usual presenter was drunk. Brydon had still not revealed his true identity by the end of the programme, where he handed over to the next presenter Jeremy Vine, who he called Tim - the name of Vine's comedian brother. Brydon also conducted a spoof interview with Terry Wogan, who was actually played by the impressionist Peter Serafinowicz. The real Bruce later joked: 'It's been wonderful to be able to listen to the radio - tuning into someone entertaining in the morning for a change. I'm offering him a contract to share the honours on a regular basis.'

ITV Studios has hired Nic McNeilis, the executive producer of Channel Four's The Million Pound Drop Live, as part of its drive towards 'creative renewal.' McNeilis, co-developer of the Davina McCall-fronted gameshow, will join ITV from Endemol UK in May, becoming one of six creative directors for entertainment at ITV Studios. She will be responsible for a range of entertainment programmes and work with the development team to pilot new primetime formats. McNeilis's executive production credits also include Soccer Aid and Comic Relief Does Fame Academy. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier wants to revitalise the fortunes of production arm ITV Studios, which saw its revenues drop by twelve and a half per cent in 2010. McNeilis will report directly to Kevin Lygo, who Crozier hired from Channel Four last year to become the new managing director of ITV Studios. 'Growing the ITV Studios business is dependent on developing and piloting a larger volume of new ambitious content and this means recruiting even more experienced creatives,' said Lygo. 'I'm delighted to be welcoming Nic to join our team of entertainment creative directors, she is one of the most experienced and creative executive producers working in the industry today; with a background in developing and producing live primetime entertainment she is perfectly placed to be part of ITV Studios' next stage of growth.'

The Daily Sport and Sunday Sport will not be published this weekend and face closure, after their parent company ceased trading on Friday and called in administrators. Sport Media Group has ceased trading, after suspending trading on the stockmarket earlier on Friday. SMG admitted that an 'insufficient recovery' since the poor weather which stymied newspaper sales in December, had left it 'cash-strapped' and 'uncertain of support' from its bank. The Daily Sport has not appeared on newsstands today, with printing halted for an indefinite period of time. SMG, which is believed to have about one hundred staff, including one or two alleged journalist, is in the process of appointing an administrator which will seek to sell, or close, the operation. If no buyer is found, it will be the first closure of a UK national newspaper since News International folded the midmarket tabloid Today in November 1995. The Sunday Sport was first published in 1986, soon establishing its depressingly downmarket reputation with an editorial mix of wacky stories – World War 2 bomber found on moon for example – and pictures of models with massive knockers. A daily version followed in 1991. 'The company announces that as a result of its inability to meet certain creditors as they fall due, the company has today ceased trading with immediate effect,' said SMG in a statement. SMG, which in 2009 was saved from going out of business by former proprietor and West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, had looked like it might have survived the downturn after last month forecasting earnings to be 'in excess' of one million pounds for the year and securing funding through to March 2013. However, the poor weather in November and December hammered circulation and led to a squeeze on the working capital at SMG's disposal, leading to crisis talks with its bank, RBS, on Friday. Circulation of the titles peaked in 2005 with the daily at one hundred and ninety thousand, the Saturday edition at one hundred and ten thousand and the Sunday Sport at one hundred and sixty thousand. When SMG took over the company in 2007 it hired Loaded founder James Brown as 'consultant editor-in-chief' to help move the title from 'sleazy to sexy' and recapture 'a bit of the reckless fun of their early days.' However, by 2009 SMG took the decision to withdraw its titles from the official newspaper industry monthly circulation audit after suffering massive declines in sales that left each title with a circulation approaching just one-third of peak levels. In February of the same year the company unsuccessfully tried to sell the business after receiving 'a number of unsolicited approaches.'

Katie Price has defended the viewing figures for her new Sky Living fly-on-the-wall series. The former glamour model's programme Katie launched last week. It is Price's first with the broadcaster, following her multi-million pound defection from ITV2. Overnight viewing figures suggested that the first episode was watched by a somewhat meagre overnight audience of four hundred and ten thousand. Nevertheless, the thirty two-year-old retweeted a message posted by Black Sheep Management on Twitter, which read: 'Consolidated figs [sic] for Katie series opener a million and rising. Hits Sky targets. Bringing young demographic to Living.' Good God, even Katie Price - or, at least, Katie Price's management anyway - understand the importance of consolidated ratings versus overnights. See above. Maybe we should invite her over to the Gallifrey Base ratings threads when the new series of Doctor Who starts so she can explain it to the naysayers? She would probably raise the level of the discussion a great deal. Metro states that a final, consolidated figure of nine hundred and twenty five thousand includes viewers who recorded the show either on video or DVD or using PVR services such as Sky +. 'The figures are exponential,' a Sky Living spokesperson told the paper. 'It was absolutely not a flop. We are so proud and so pleased. Katie has a loyal audience and those figures will continue to grow as the launch episode did.' The channel said that it is 'thrilled' with the ratings - which are said to be four times higher than the slot average. Overnight ratings for the second episode broadcast earlier this week showed that an initial three hundred and six thousand viewers tuned in to see Price continue life without her second husband Alex Reid.

And finally, for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's latest 45 of the Day, here's an ambient trance masterpiece from The Orb.

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