Monday, May 02, 2011

The More I See, The More I Know. The More I Know, The Less I Understand

If anybody needed a perfect illustration of just how good, bad or any number of indifferent shades of grey in-between Doctor Who's overnight audience of 5.4m was at 6pm on a blazing-hot Saturday evening, check out the overnights for, respectively, BBC1's Exile (4.39m) and ITV's Vera (5.26m) on Sunday evening. Two huge budget, well-trailed quality dramas with highly impressive casts (including Oscar-winners in both) and they still couldn't beat, neither of them, a daft little show about time travel. Saturday was also, as it so often is these days, very much a tale of two AI scores. One, the audience appreciation index of eighty seven scored by Doctor Who, one of the highest of the weekend for any show, which  appears to suggest that a broad spectrum of the show's audience very much enjoyed the opening two-part story of the current series. Despite what some - no-doubt sincere - naysayers on the Internet may attempt to suggest to the contrary. The other saw Don't Scare The Hare improving from the lowest AI score for a non-party political broadcast on record last week (forty six) to, err, the second lowest AI score for a non-party political broadcast on record. Fifty one. Not as bad, admittedly, as forty six. But still, you know, bad. I mean really bad. As bad as a very bad thing with bad badness drizzled upon it from a big bad height. Very definitely not bad meaning, you know, good. You catch my drift?

Right, dear blog reader, before we got much further - and with a shelf-load of further Doctor Who news at that - I suppose it is beholden upon this blogger to make at least a passing comment on what is, obviously, the biggest news story not just of today, or this week, or even this year but, possibly, this century so far. Because, let's face it, if I don't say something then I'll become just about the only person on planet Earth who hasn't inflicted their worthless views upon you about Mr Bin Liner's demise and the reaction to it. Now, this blogger am not, by nature (or indeed inclination), much of a political animal. There are things that go on in this world which I feel genuinely passionate about but most of them don't, to be honest, tend to involve body counts. All I can really say about Bin Laden is that he appeared to be, very clearly, a deeply unpleasant and murderous individual and that the world is - probably - a much better place without him in it. Though I'm slightly uncomfortable with some of the coverage of reactions to news of his death in the US, particularly the 'dancing in the streets' reportage coming from Times Square and Pennsylvania Avenue (and the rather gormless chanting of 'You-Ess-Ay'. At least try and pick a more articulate turn of phrase, guys). Just as I'm equally uncomfortable with those images one sometimes sees from the streets of Baghdad, Tripoli or Tehran featuring shots of burning flags and locals with their faces twisted into the most unimaginable hatred towards the West in general and the US in particular. No one is innocent. Although, I must admit to having had a small involuntary a chuckle at one guy in New York who was holding up a hastily penned sign on a piece of cardboard which read 'Obama 1, Osama 0.' I guess, ultimately, we react to these kind of potentially world-changing events in very different ways and that's why, for example, I completely understand the anger behind the Philadelphia Daily News's front page even if a part me is made somewhat uneasy by the direction of such anger.
Yes. You did. And he was, very definitely, that. But, do you have to be so ... I dunno, dogmatic about it? The probable answer, I suppose is that, yes, they do. They need that to exorcise a terrible moment in their history. The world has always had - and probably always will have - some very bad people in it, that much is undeniable. Is it wrong to celebrate - and, I mean, gloat - over the removal of one of them from it? I don't know is the short answer. Maybe it is, but it's also a very human reaction to grief and loss and fear. And that's something one would need an advanced degree in soullessness not to understand even if you don't, necessarily, agree with it. Strange as it may seem, one of my first reactions upon hearing the news of Bin Laden's death first thing on Monday morning was Toby's 'they'll like us when we win' speech to Andrea in The West Wing. 'There's a lot of reasons why they hate us. You know when they're gonna like us? When we win.' Aaron Sorkin, so far ahead of the game at times it was scary. Bit of politics, ladies and gentlemen. Don't expect to see much more of that on From The North because, to be truthful, it's not something this blogger is very good at. Unless it's to do with the Tories and their attitude towards the BBC. In which case, I reckon they're fair game.

Hugh Bonneville wasn't able to watch Doctor Who ahead of his guest stint on the show because he'd banned it from his house. The forty seven-year-old actor, who guest stars in next Saturday's pirate-themed episode of the popular family SF serial, hasn't been able to watch the programme in case it scares his son. Hugh, who plays pirate Captain John Avery alongside Matt Smith in next Saturday's episode, explained he was forced to erase all of the episodes of the last series which he'd recorded after his son was terrified by a Dalek. He explained: 'Slightly sore topic. My nine-year-old got so freaked out about Bill Paterson's demise in the Daleks episode last year, he had some sleepless nights. So we've had a slight embargo on Doctor Who at our house, which was annoying for me because I'd got them all recorded and then I had to wipe them all! So I'm going to get the box-set, and we'll watch them together leading up to this episode.' He added that his son hadn't been that thrilled at the prospect of his dad's role on the BBC1 hit, and would probably have preferred his father to star in one of his favourite cartoons. 'It's funny, because he's used to me working but he's new to the whole Doctor Who thing, so to him it's just another job,' Hugh said. 'Had I said I was going to be in Spongebob Squarepants, then he'd have been really thrilled.'

Christopher Eccleston has insisted that he has no interest in returning to Doctor Who. Chris portrayed the ninth incarnation of The Doctor when the series was revived in 2005, but departed after only one series. He was succeeded by David Tennant. During an interview on Graham Norton's BBC Radio 2 show, Eccleston expressed pride over portraying the Time Lord and admiration for Doctor Who's former executive producer Russell Davies. 'I heard Russell was going to do Doctor Who and I thought, "That's quite strange,"' the actor admitted. 'When I heard he was writing it, I e-mailed him and said I'd like to play the part. I went after the part.' Eccleston added: 'I'd done a lot of television for adults. I actually think the most intelligent and the most difficult audience are children. They will be not patronised. I wanted to front a big series like that, which I felt was going to be intelligent.' The actor went on to suggest that he was drawn to the role of the time-travelling alien because of the character's belief in not judging others. 'The thing about The Doctor is, he's very inclusive. He doesn't see the alien in aliens and I loved that about him,' he added. 'Also the fact that he's never at home. He's a Time Lord and he's always, always falling though the universe. When I thought about that, I thought I could play that.' After insisting that his only intention was to do one series to 'make that show a success,' Eccleston balked at Norton's question as to whether he'd reprise the role for Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary in 2013. 'No, I never bathe in the same river twice.'

Doctor Who's two-part opener has been praised by critics and viewers alike. Written by showrunner Steven Moffat, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon - a tale centred around the mystery of The Silence - was given rave reviews by many newspaper columnists. Metro's Tom Phillips wrote: 'In between the OMG drip-drop of precisely-timed reveals, we also get another twisty-turny Who episode - although, as increasingly seems to be the house style, one where the second episode feels very different in tone from the first.' Self-described 'lifetime Doctor Who fan' Gavin Fuller however has been rightly ridiculed for his review of the latest episode in the Sunday Torygraph: 'Yes,' he wrote, 'the episode was interesting and showed just how, when the writers use their imagination, Doctor Who can tell stories in a way little else on television can. But by leaving so much unresolved it is very hard to take a firm view on this episode until the series as a whole pans out, making it a distinct departure from the generally self-contained stories of recent years. For example, I presume that the mysterious markings on Amy, River and Rory were a tally count of meetings with the Silence, but as this was never explained it can only remain as that, rather than a solid affirmation, and there was probably too much of this sort of thing going on this week.' The Torygraph's comments section was instantly filled with the thoughts of numerous readers who observed that for somebody who once won Mastermind, Fuller's memory seems to have failed him on this occasion. Specifically in the case of the three lines of dialogue starting exactly eight minutes and twenty five second into the episode which specifically do explain exactly what the tally marks are all about. You know, the lines starting with Canton saying 'so that's why you marked your skin?' Elementary schoolboy-type error, Gav me auld cocka.

John Simm has confessed his stage fright was so bad when he starred in Hamlet, that he feared he was going to have a heart attack. The Life On Mars star played the prince in Shakespeare's tragedy at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre last year, attracting the likes of Sir Ian McKellen and Frances Barber to the opening night. John said: 'I wasn't going to turn down Hamlet at forty years old. There's that thing where you think, "I've done that, I can do anything" which is a bit dangerous. So I've chosen to look at it another way: "I've done that, so surely nothing else can be as hard as that." It's affirmed my love of acting in a way and I'd love to do more Shakespeare, but not yet. The pressure backstage on the press night was ridiculous. I just thought, "I'm going to have a heart attack." And then you go out and say, "To be or not to be" and look into Ian McKellen's eyes and the whole world stops.' John revealed that the stage production was so taxing he vowed not to do anything else afterwards, but then he found his role in new BBC1 psychological drama Exile too good to turn down. He said: 'I'd just finished Hamlet, which had slayed me physically and mentally and I was absolutely adamant I wasn't going to do anything else. Then this arrived and it was so good, I'd have been an idiot to say no because someone else would have done it and I'd have spent a long time regretting it.'

Omid Djalili has revealed that he has trouble falling asleep at night without first watching an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. The comedian and actor, who worked with David on an episode of the recently cancelled Paul Reiser Show, has said that viewing the HBO improvisational sitcom helps him to relax. Yeah, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is the same either with Qi, Time Team or The West Wing depending on the sort of mood he's in in when he rests his weary head on his pillow. God bless whomsoever it was that invented the concept of DVDs-in-bedrooms. 'I watch it almost every night,' Djalili said, according to The Press Association. 'I actually can't sleep unless I put it on. Even when I'm asleep I like to know the good stuff is going into my brain.' While David has achieved widespread notoriety in the US, Djalili claims that the Seinfeld co-creator has trouble believing that he's garnered fans around the world. He added: 'Larry David is possibly one of the nicest people you could ever meet and was very happy to hear that people like his show [in the UK]. He knows it's shown on cable but I don't think he's aware of how big it is.'

Coronation Street actress Brooke Vincent has 'slammed' - that's yer basic tabloid-speak for 'criticised' - the Prime Minister David Cameron for apparently backing a proposal which could lead to a ban on pre-watershed same-sex kisses. The eighteen-year-old, who plays Sophie Webster in the ITV soap, questioned Cameron's commitment to equal rights. She wrote on Twitter: 'I swear David Cameron's meant to be supporting equal rights. I just think if same-sex kisses are what he is prioritising and concentrating on changing, our country's in trouble.' And, you've only just noticed this, Brooke? Her comments follow a tabloid report - in that bastion of truth and honesty, the Sun - suggesting that an 'independent review' (by whom, they don't say) may recommend gay embraces to be restricted to post-9pm and which, they claim, would be supported by Cameron. Yeah. See, the thing is, what's happened here is that you've just discovered an important life-lesson, Brooke m'love. All politicans are - without exception - scum. They are, quite simply, not to be trusted. They will lie and they will obfescate and they will say anything - anything at all - that will get you to vote for them, or like them, because they are all, again without exception, towering ego-maniacs. They will cheat and they will cajole and they will bend every truth, half-truth and no-truth-at-all to their own advantage but they will never, ever do as you want them to. Because they are scum. Once you've realised this, you'll find life is much easier to get through without having a massive attack of anger and disappointment about once a day for the rest of your life. Don't vote for them, chuck, it only encourages them.

Two inveterate tweeters, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston and the socialite-turned-civil liberties campaigner Jemima Khan, have been in the doghouse this weekend for messages which they sent out during the royal wedding. First, Peston got in hot water with his bosses at the Beeb after tweeting about the happy couple's sex life. 'The really important thing about this truly magical day,' Peston declared to his thirty htousand plus followers, 'is they can have sex at last.' BBC executives considered the tweet 'highly inappropriate,' according to 'sources' quoted by those agenda-driven lice at the Daily Scum Mail, and ordered Peston to remove it from his account, despite his defence of the 'light-hearted Carry On-style comment.' And, that this is still - just about - a free country in which free speech is a given and - within the boundaries of the law as it currently stands - what the hell anybody says or believes is no effing business of anyone elses. Particularly not the Daily Scum Mail and the lice who work there. This was not the only one of Peston's royal wedding tweets that appeared to jar with the general tone of the BBC's super-respectful attitude to the monarchy. His tweet that 'Her Majesty knows the name of every one of the horses. Bless her,' has drawn accusations of condescension toward the UK's head of state, while his quip that Kate Middleton 'plainly didn't read her BBC health and safety manual. Too much waving. Big RSI risk' has also been called 'disrespectful.' By people with an agenda. What a surprise. Jemima Kahn, meanwhile, also used Twitter to royally put her foot in it on Kate and William's big day. 'No offence to Camilla,' she wrote, 'but I'd have preferred – out of respect – that no one had substituted for the mother of the groom at the register signing.' She then followed the comment with another tweet: 'I know William is close to Camilla – who I like – and this must have been what he wanted. Just can't help missing my friend Diana today.' The comments are said to have widened an ongoing rift between Khan's mother Lady Annabel Goldsmith – a great friend of Princess Di but who was not invited to the wedding – and the Duchess of Cornwall. Last year the thirty seven-year-old former wife of Imran Khan had tweeted 'Kate Middleton – those are not heir-bearing hips are they? Unfeasibly narrow.' The comment was said by several newspaper gossip columns to have 'irked' Charles and Camilla then, and these latest tweets are unlikely to help thaw a frosty relationship.

Lord Sugar-Sweetie has defended The Apprentice's reputation amid claims that the reality show is unrealistic and a crass and disgraceful example of bullyboy TV watched by baying voyeurs who can only get The Horn by watching someone being ritually humiliated by an ego-maniac who'd give most politicians a run for their money. Or something. Journalists have questioned whether Sugar-Sweetie's brutal treatment of his contestants is a reflection of the business world today. Or, indeed, ever. However, the entrepreneur told the Radio Times: 'We have to accept that in order to produce a programme that is interesting, there has to be a certain amount of drama. What really sickens me is when journalists talk to other leaders in industry and ask them, "Do you ever watch The Apprentice, Mr Chief Executive of Large Supermarket/Large Fashion Store?" and they say, "It's rubbish. If I did things like that I'd be fired! It's not real business, blah blah blah." Those comments are really, "Why didn't the BBC ask me to do The Apprentice?" Because yes, that is my style you see on TV. I'm not an actor, that's the way I do business. "And the point I would make is that if you look into my companies you will find people who have worked for me for years - there is one bloke who has worked for me for forty four years.' So, that's what really sickens Alan Sugar-Sweetie, dear blog reader. What really sickens yer actual Keith Telly Topping, I hear you ask dear blog reader? Hate. Intolerence. Bigotry. Racism. Homophobia. Unrequited love. Bullying. The Daily Scum Mail. The smell of cabbage. The Toon getting beat. Don't Scare The Hare. Drinking a pint of salt water and then sticking my fingers down my throat. You know, the usual.

A fund raising auction for a Scottish first division football team is to go ahead with a wide range of items - including a bullock and a heifer. It is the latest in a series of events aimed at helping struggling Dumfries side Queen of the South. Proceedings get under way at the town's auction mart on Huntingdon Road after its livestock sale. Dozens of items have been donated to help the side facing 'extremely difficult trading conditions.' The Palmerston Park club has reported six-figure losses in the last couple of financial years and is expected to do so again this campaign after a series of costly match postponements. It has prompted directors to warn there is no option but to cut the budget for player wages. In response to the financial difficulties, fans have set up a Save Our South campaign to help raise funds. Their latest event will be held at the town's auction market. The full list of items to be sold runs to more than forty lots. It includes an Aberdeen Angus bulling heifer, a one-year-old bullock, a farm gate and fifteen-dozen free range eggs.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we've got another in our semi-regular 'same riff, different song' specials. And, trust me, this one's more than a bit special. Starting off with a bit of yer actual Electric Light Orchestra and the sympathetic cello stylings of yer actual Roy Wood his very self before he nicked off to Wizzard.

The only way to follow that, of course, is listen to it all over again. Only with, you know, different words. Take it away Mr Weller, you Goddamn Modfather of Total Cool, you.

'Is happiness real, or am I so jaded?' Good question, fellah. Me, I'm open to extreme possibilities. Sometimes.

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