Sunday, May 08, 2011

She's Got Herself A Universe Gone Quickly

The late Tony Hancock apparently claimed that it was he who first came up with the idea of the Daleks- and not Davros as everybody thought. Sounds somewhat implausible but we'll hear him out. The man actually credited with creating The Doctor's arch-nemesis, Terry Nation, of course was one of Hancock's writers post Galton and Simpson on his ATV series. The lad himself, it is claimed, stated that the Skarosians distinctive form came about after a boozy night surrounded by salt and pepper pots. When Hancock left the BBC, he worked on several ideas for series, including one abortive effort called From Plip To Plop, a comedic history of the world which would have ended with a nuclear apocalypse, after which the survivors would be reduced to living in dustbin-like robot casings. According to Hancock's biographer Cliff Goodwin, when Hancock saw the Daleks' debut on Doctor Who in late 1963, he allegedly shouted at the screen: 'That bloody Nation – he's stolen my robots!' Stone the flamin' crows! (Of course, according to this character Terry Nation didn't create Davros either and he was planning of suing the BBC over the matter. How's that going, by the way?)

Doctor Who's overnight audience was back up over six million for last night's pirate episode. The Curse of the Black Spot had an initial audience of 6.21m viewers, eight hundred thousand higher than last week's overnights. Of course, as we've been noting all year, timeshifting will take both of those figures much higher as people's viewing habits - quite literally - change before our eyes. It does goes to show, however, that being on fifteen minutes later and the weather not resembling the Mediterranean in July can do wonders for live TV viewing! So, do we expect to see the Daily Scum Mail running a 'Doctor Who gains almost one million viewers' story on Monday, however? Do we shite as like. It was also a good night for Britain's Got Talent whose - much commented upon - 'missing millions' all seemingly returned to the fold in a big clump as the talent contest's latest episode had an overnight of 10.4m. (9.95m on ITV plus a sliver under five hundred thousand an hour later on ITV+1.) Elsewhere it was pretty much business as usual with Sing If You Can (3.99m) giving the now clearly dead-on-its-feet So You Think You Can Dance (3.47m) a damned good kicking in the 7pm hour. Hence, next week's swap around in the schedules with Doctor Who one supposes. Don't Scare The Hare had its highest audience so far - 2.27m. Still nothing to get carried away with, of course, but it's actually nine hundred thousand more than last week's overnight audience so we might just see some headlines about that. It was still about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition, though. But, satisfyingly for the BBC, Casualty (4.58m) beat Piers Morgan's Life Stories (3.68m) as the smug twattish chat show host's interview with David Hasselhoff pissed away almost seven million of its lead-in audience from Britain's Got Talent in just fifteen minutes. A further one hundred and ninety eight thousand crushed victims of socieity watched Morgan on ITV+1.

Just before Don't Scare The Hare incidentally, the BBC broadcast their new trailer with lots of clips clever lipsynced to Eric and Ernie doing 'Bring me Sunshine.' You can check it out here. When it's worth watching, watch it with us.' I should bloody cocoa.

And so we come - for the moment anyway - to the last time that Il Est Venu Du Nord will bother you, cher lecteur du blog on the subject of Engrenages as Spiral reached its third series climax on Saturday night. Earlier this week, in a superb article in the Gruniad, which also included an interview with Caroline Proust, Angelique Chrisafis noted that 'Engrenages is France's answer to The Wire. Paris's first "hyper-realist" TV show, its gritty take on the justice system has stunned executives by becoming the biggest- selling French TV show ever. Proust loves the fact that Spiral, now in its third series, has a cult following in the UK. In France, the show's hit status is a question of national pride. Quite simply, Spiral saved French TV. It sent a rocket up the backside of the embarrassing tradition of appallingly clunky cop series. With Spiral, Canal Plus, the subscriber channel, decided to turn itself into a kind of French HBO. It wanted addictive drama with faultless realism. The rules were simple: plotlines came from real-life cases, there was little sex, few scenes on the telephone, shots would not be just limited to the point of view of the hero (a staple in bad French drama) and nothing sentimental. Most important, no character would be all good or all bad.' Described by Gruniad TV critic Sam Wollaston as 'CSI directed by Jean-Luc Godard,' Spiral shows Paris under a grey cloud, Chrisafis notes. 'Where police are the moodiest on earth and lawyers are the sexiest existentialists ever racked by self-doubt. Hailed by Libération as "bleakly addictive", it's loosely inspired by real cases, from mutilated bodies gnawed by rats in dustbins to the "barbecues" of Paris's high-rise suburbs, a game where a car is torched with the driver still inside.' Proper ripping stuff. In the final two episodes of The Butcher of La Villette we discover that it was actual Vlad behind Ronaldo's prison beatings earlier in the series (many people assumed it was Joséphine playing a dangerous game of push and shove). Even Gilou's jaw hit the floor when the identity of The Shark was revealed. Niko gave a sim-card to bent as a nine Euro note prison guard William Porche to pass on to Vlad (whose real name is Uke Shala). Vlad subsequently gets a really nasty kick in the 'nads from Gilou for his gross impertinence. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Vlad is not really motivated to help CID find Ronaldo any time soon. Though the fact that he can stand upright without his eyes watering and begging for his mommy after taking one straight in the knackers is pretty damned impressive, yer actual Keith Telly Topping reckons. Laure Berthaud and her team therefore have to follow Niko and Tani to Dunkirk to intercept the 'goat' exchange. Further complicating matters, Patricia goes to Brémont with the scoop on the prostitution ring after Gilou sends her packing and before you know it both CID and the Crime Squad are pulling an all-nighter on the coast to play a game of 'catch the pimps.' With Berthaud and Brémont stumbling over each other like Maddy and David in Moonlighting, it's all a bit chaotic. And, very exciting. The girls and their captors are all arrested, but as Gilou pursues the fleeing Niko he turns into one of the Fat Sweaty Coppers from The Fast Show and collapses in a rumpled heap clutching his chest. Years of stress, dicey street blow, more booze than Jack Regan stuck away and cholesterol-loaded stakeout sarnies have finally caught up with his poor old heart, and the survival odds of CID's prime rottweiler look - for a while - to be decidedly shaky. However, as so often in the past, it is Laure standing over him, slapping his face and shouting like a lunatic that brings him back from the brink. And again, within mere minutes of a major cardial trauma he's back on his feet and looking for someone else to kick in the knackers. Christ, they're hard these French coppers. He also gets the episode's best line of dialogue by a mile and a half: 'Send Brémont out to get some sweets. I'll make the Albanian git talk!' Elsewhere, it may have only lasted for about four seconds but the kiss between Joséphine Karlsson and Pierre Clément was - quite simply - one of the most singularly erotic things the BBC have ever broadcast. There should be government health warnings for displays like that. And possibly laws against it. The other obvious emotional highlight of the episode was the devastating fallout of the Villedieu case for François and Isabelle. The action was beautifully played and scenes between the two were simply electric – Philippe Duclos is superb and Anne Alvaro has a face born for displaying sorrow and regret. Although Laure finally collaring Ronaldo - with a 9mm bullet to the chest - was strangely satisfying, it was the tragic final chapter in the Roban love story that cut, by far, the deepest. And the harshest. Though Gilou almost causing a prison riot by stamping on Vlad's balls pushed it pretty close. The pimps finally get their grubby hands on 'the footballer' but Ronaldo manages to talk his way out of an immediate bullet in the face while Tani is monologuing and he gets to stay in the luxurious surroundings of Tani's cousin's cellar whilst they decide what to do with him. It looks bleak for Ronaldo but, as we know, he's as much of a twisted firestarter as any prodigy could wish to be. When Marlbor comes to free him - without bothering to wonder how a concrete cellar could possibly have become a raging inferno - Ronaldo cuts the cretin's throat with a razorblade and makes good his escape. Being a Parisienne brunette just got a hell of a lot more dangerous, something dramatically underscored when Ronaldo abducts the woman he was seen stalking in the previous episode. Once the arrests at Dunkirk take place it's testimony from Mila that ultimately seals Ronaldo's fate. Hell hath no fury like a Romanian prostitute sold down the river by her abusvie bastard of a pimp. She remembers Marlbor's restaurant – a nugget of information which sets police on the trail that eventually brings them to a derelict building in an industrial zone just in time to save Ronaldo's last victim and for Laure to put two holes in him where, as Billy Bragg once suggested, no holes should be. He was slowly approaching his firearm but at no point did Laure issue a warning. Cold, hard, immaculate. It's like the end of Get Carter, a dog being put down. In an investigation strewn with procedural errors, police brutality, evidence tampering and witnesses being paid with cocaine(!), there was no way that Larue intended to let Joséphine Karlsson - or someone even remotely like her - take this one to trial. Ronaldo was dead from the moment that Laure got to him before Brémont did. In the other running storylines, Szabo gets the thoroughly horrible Dylan to drop the molestation charges against Pierre on the condition that Joséphine works with him and one of his shady Russian clients again – a long-term arrangement. When she tells Pierre about her deal with the devil she knows, he's horrified. He wants to extricate her, forever, from Szabo's sinister clutches but she won't have it. 'Let me go,' she implores and then leaves before running back and giving him that kiss. In saving a good man - possibly the only good man she's ever cared about - Joséphine, once again, finds herself in the pit of snakes. Judge Roban confronts Arnaud about his pefidious treachery and demands his immediate resignation. 'I spent thirty years fighting for justice to mean something. I sacrificed the life I could have had with your mother for my job. So I refuse to betray my beliefs now to pass on the baton to an idiot like you,' he says in one of the episodes standout moments. François sticks to his principles even if it means defeat - as, one kind of knew all along it surely must. The stakes were simply too high. Arnaud takes the end of his legal career badly and becomes the second suicide of this series. The judge subsequently unearths the system of hidden surveillance cameras in the mayor's offices and he knows that this is potentially a huge development. The President was the mayor of Villedieu when the system was installed. You might be able to fight city hall but can you really take on the Palais de l'Elysée? Predictably, it turns out that you can't. Martin Roban confesses full and sole culpability for the cameras, the extortion racket and the entire conspiracy, meaning that François will be taken off the case as it involves his brother. Being the one honest man in a system of thieves and liars means that the Judge loses the case and loses the girl as well. Ultimately, Spiral did what the series does best: Shone a - perhaps too bright - light on the murky labyrinth of the French legal system exposing every back-covering-hack, every brutal end-justifies-the-means policeman and every vile corrupt ambitious official within its walls. The procedural horse trading, rule breaking and double crosses were as engrossing as ever. There was some terrific character development too, with Gilou mothering Laure for a change (usually it's the other way about), Roban his world turned upside down by love and Joséphine finding a conscience and showing something approaching humanity for the possibly the first time in three series. And that very tight blue dress she wore in the last episode might, just, be the single greatest contribution France has ever made to world culture. Series four of Engrenages will find us in new territory with CID infiltrating an activist cell – filming begins in the summer. I can't wait.

Amanda Holden has described being mistaken for Joanna Lumley by a contestant on Britain's Got Talent as her 'all-time cringiest moment.' What, worse than being in Big Top? I'm impressed by your quasi-Stalinist airbrushing of that fiasco from your personal history, Mandy. Auditonee Mary Sumah-Keh thought the actress was Joanna Lumley during the opening episode of this series. 'Being mistaken for Joanna Lumley was my all-time cringiest moment from the auditions,' Holden told the Daily Record. 'It has never happened before. I don't think I look anything like her.' Don't have any of the talent of her, either. Speaking about new judge Michael McIntyre, she said: 'I was asking him the other day about his bouncy hair because everyone is obsessed with it. I think he should take over from Cheryl Cole as the face of L'Oreal - because he's worth it.' She added: '[David Hasselhoff] already has a T-shirt line, mugs and so many funny catchphrases. I hear he is planning on Hoffee Coffee. Is there nothing this man can't do?'

And, speaking over vastly overpaid and not particularly impressive female TV presenters, Christine Bleakley has 'spoken out' against her portrayal as an 'overly ambitious, dangerous woman' in the wake of her defection from the BBC to ITV. The thirty two-year-old giggling waste-of-oxygen and Breakfast TV flop followed her ONE Show colleague Adrian Chiles to new breakfast show Daybreak last summer in a controversial multi-million pound deal. Satisfyingly, lots of viewers did not follow them. Speaking to the Daily Scum Mail, Bleakley whinged that the pair had been 'prompted' to join ITV after the BBC's 'hurtful' decision to replace Chiles with Chris Evans on Fridays. She stated: 'We were willing to stay where we were for no extra money. But then we were told Chris Evans was replacing Adrian on Fridays. We thought, "Why?" We were on a really successful show and the audience figures were increasing.' Which they've continued to ever since you left whilst your next project is getting less viewers than Don't Scare The Hare, Christine. All of which very much suggests that you and your gloomy mate were never the reason for The ONE Show's success in the first place, any more than your replacements are for its continued success. But, rather it was the format that people liked and still like. Nevertheless, her rewriting of history continued. 'It was a very hurtful time for everyone. It wasn't as if anything was going wrong so you could understand the shake-up. So Adrian decided to go to ITV. My contract ran until October. Suddenly, I got a call on a Saturday in May telling me I had to sign a new contract that weekend. I thought, "Hang on, I've got months left. What are you talking about?" By Sunday morning I was told I wasn't on the show any more. There have been so many lies spread since.' Referring to the media coverage at the time, she added: 'They were trying to make out that I was this overly ambitious, dangerous woman and that wasn't true. Look, we were very lucky that ITV presented us this opportunity at the right time - it was just a rocky road to get there.' And it's been a minefield ever since you got there, with crap ratings, rubbish AI scores and constant lies about the show 'turning the corner.' All of which is very amusing for people like myself who loathe disloyalty. Bleakley previously described her move to ITV as a 'very bizarre' and 'not terribly pleasant' period in her life. And were supposed to, what? Feel sorry for you? Go and count your money, love, personally I've got better things to use my sympathy on. 

Senior doctors have accused the BBC of being 'breathtakingly irresponsible' and 'damaging public health' by advising readers on its website how to make roll-up cigarettes. Medical leaders have protested about an online article, entitled How to roll a perfect cigarette which - they claim - encourages smoking. Well, two have, anyway. Dr Gabriel Scally, regional director of public health for south-west England, came across the page when he was researching roll-up cigarettes for a local NHS anti-smoking campaign. He wrote to Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, saying: 'By allowing this type of content to be carried under a BBC logo gives an implied level of legitimacy for what is effectively a How 2 guide to shortening your life and experiencing chronic, life-altering illness.' Scally, a senior public health specialist with the Department of Health, added: 'I would like to stress my deep dissatisfaction and anger on behalf of the residents of the south-west that the BBC are happy to provide such information on what is a proven source of widening health inequalities, illness, premature death, massive NHS expenditure amongst many other "beneficial" qualities to the public who provide an ongoing licence fee.' Well it's very nice to hear you expressing all of this 'on behalf of the residents of the south west.' I trust you did actually ask all of them before you spoke in their name? No, of course you didn't because, like all loud mouth full-of-their-own-importance chebends who just love seeing their name in print, you don't need to go to the trouble of asking people to know that they all agree with you, do you? Professor John Britton, chair of a tobacco advisory group at the Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors, said: 'The RCP believes it is breathtakingly irresponsible for the BBC to have information on their website on how to roll the perfect cigarette. This material is freely available to children and young people, who may be tempted to try smoking after reading this information. There would be widespread outrage if the BBC had information on their website that explained how to inject an intravenous drug. It is no less irresponsible or bizarre for the BBC to explain how to roll cigarettes in this way.' Well, apart from the fact that drugs are illegal and cigarettes, at least at the moment, are not, of course. There, the simile would appear to fall flat on its face. As it were. Jesus, and there people are 'expects'? Scally said that roll-ups were often unhealthier than cigarettes because many users do not put filters into them when they make them. Something which the article - which has been on the site since 2001 - freely acknowledges in its final paragraph. 'I don't think that assisting people to roll their own cigarettes is any part of the BBC's role in society. This is a very damaging article,' he added. Loudly. And the people of the south west all think so too. Apparently. Nick Reynolds, a social media executive at BBC Online, said the article would not be taken down. Which is gratifying to see in the face of such crass bullying. It is located on a part of the BBC website called H2G2, which was founded by the late Douglas Adams as a place intended to 'encourage the community to write about all aspects of human existence for a collaborative guide to life, the universe and everything' and the piece had been written by a member of the public, not a BBC journalist. 'Because the articles are not produced by the BBC they are not subject to the rules around impartiality that would apply to our own output. Smoking is not illegal, H2G2 is not aimed at children and the piece carries a disclaimer which reads: This entry in no way wishes to endorse the smoking of tobacco. For these reasons we do not accept that the article should be removed from H2G2,' Reynolds added. He didn't go on to say that Scully and Britton should 'mind their own effing business' because he's BBC and they are, of course, far too polite to say things like that. But, I'm not. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport refused to be drawn on the BBC article, saying: 'Responsibility for their online content rests with the BBC.' Instead of saying, as they should have, 'why the hell don't people just grow up and mind their own sodding business about stuff that's non of their concern? Especially when they claim to speak on behalf of people whom they, clearly, do not.' But, of course, that's far too sensible for the department of Culture, Media and Sport. God save us all from armchair critics.

The BAFTA nomination for BBC1 sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys surprised a lot of people – including the corporation itself. Creator Brendan O'Carroll said: 'I got a text from the BBC saying "we are amazed" to tell you that you are nominated for a bafta,' he said. 'I think they're shocked.'

David Hasselhoff has revealed that he would love to star in a remake of the 1990s TV show Lovejoy. The Britain's Got Talent judge was being interviewed by Piers Morgan for a new series of Life Stories when he disclosed his desire to play Lovejoy or Lawrence of Arabia, but not Hamlet. Hasselhoff said: 'I just haven't had the right role yet, and I don't think it's ever going to come, because The Hoff has taken over. I'd like to remake Lovejoy, I loved Lovejoy, I think it's great. I'd like to do Lawrence of Arabia. I'd say I'd like to do Hamlet, but I don't think so - it's too hard, long hours.' Lovejoy appeared on the BBC between 1986 and 1994, and starred Ian McShane as a roguish antiques dealer. During the interview, Hasselhoff revealed that his dad still calls him Michael after his Knight Rider character. Baywatch co-creator Michael Berk also told Morgan that they had to arrange shooting on the show so that Hasselhoff was not overshadowed by Pamela Anderson's breasts. Berk claimed: 'David would say, "Look, I don't want to be in scenes upstaged by Pamela Anderson's breasts." Our directors had to learn how to stage the different shots so that attention wasn't drawn off David too much.'

Qutoe of the Week: Irish comic and Black Book's creator Dylan Moran on the subject of Michael McIntyre: 'I hope he falls off his money and kills himself!'

Sir Paul McCartney has become engaged to long-time girlfriend Nancy Shevell, it has been confirmed. An 'insider' close to Shevell has allegedly told People that the couple are 'very much' looking forward to tying the knot. 'Nancy and Paul are getting married,' the 'source' revealed. 'Ring and all - very exciting. They have the right chemistry. They're both cool, chilled out and optimistic.' The former Beatle's publicist told The Associated Press: 'We're all thrilled for him.' McCartney and Shevell - seventeen years younger than the singer - began dating four years ago after meeting in the Hamptons. McCartney has been married twice before. He wed his first wife Linda in 1969 and later professed that they only spent a handful of nights apart before his spouse's untimely death nearly thirty years later. Four years after Linda's death, McCartney married model Heather Mills, but their union ended in a bitter and costly divorce in 2008.

Spanish golfing legend Seve Ballesteros has died after a protracted battle with cancer. The fifty four-year-old died surrounded by his family at his home in Pedrena in the early hours of Saturday morning. Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008 after losing consciousness at Madrid Airport. The five-time major winner had four operations to remove the tumour as well as undergoing chemotherapy. In a statement, the Ballesteros family expressed gratitude for the 'support and gestures of love' it had received and asked for 'respect and privacy at such a painful time.' Ballesteros, who claimed eighty seven titles over his career, won the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and became the first European to win the Augusta Masters in 1980, repeating the feat in 1983. He also enjoyed a successful Ryder Cup career as both a player and captain - playing in eight Ryder Cups and winning twenty points from thirty seven matches before guiding Europe to victory over the United States at Valderrama in 1997. But it was his daring and flamboyant style that made Ballesteros special, transforming the image of golf and bringing a whole new audience to the sport. BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter said: 'No golfer did more to popularise the game in Europe than Seve. He played a fearless, exciting and charismatic brand of the game. It thrilled sport fans all over the world.' Tennis star Rafael Nadal described Ballesteros as a 'reference point' for Spanish athletes. 'He's one of the greats of this country without a doubt,' he said. Ballesteros appeared in public for the first time following the surgery in May 2009 when he went to watch his local football team Racing Santander and was given a standing ovation. He had called his battle against the tumour the 'hardest challenge of my life.'

Arthur Laurents, writer of such classic stage musicals as West Side Story and Gypsy, has died in New York aged ninety three. The director and screenwriter died at his Manhattan home from complications of pneumonia, his agent said. Born in Brooklyn, the attorney's son began in radio and wrote military training films during World War II. His screen credits include the Alfred Hitchcock film Rope, the Barbra Streisand romance The Way We Were and the 1977 ballet drama The Turning Point. Laurents won a Tony award in 1968 as author of the book for the musical Hallelujah, Baby!, and another, in 1984, for directing La Cage aux Folles. He remains best known for writing the books for West Side Story and Gypsy, hit Broadway shows that were later turned into movies. Featuring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the former retold the Romeo and Juliet story as a drama about rival New York street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. The latter, based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, premiered in 1959 and was successfully revived four times on Broadway. Laurents directed three of the revivals himself, most recently in 2008 with Patty LuPone in the leading role. His other credits as a stage director include I Can Get It For You Wholesale, best remembered as the musical which introduced a nineteen-year-old Barbra Streisand to Broadway in 1962. Earlier this year the Oscar-winning actress confirmed she plans to star in and possibly direct a new film version of Gypsy.

A kitten named Cleo was saved by firefighters after spending thirty hours stuck up a tree. The incident started last Friday in London after Cleo and fellow cat Figaro traversed a tree in their owner's front garden. Zara McIntosh recalled: 'We were doing the gardening on Friday morning when our two cats, Cleo and Figaro, both went up the tree but Cleo wouldn't come down.' While Figaro safely came down, the thirteen-week-old Cleo got stuck and attempts to get her back to the ground were initially unsuccessful. 'We tried everything, including coaxing it down with microwaved cat food so she would pick up the smell,' continued McIntosh. 'But nothing was going to tempt her. Our four-year-old son was really upset. The next day, firefighters came and first tried using a water cannon to scare her into coming down, but that just made the cat go further up the tree.' Cleo eventually climbed to the very top of the 50ft tree and stayed up there until another group of firefighters arrived on Saturday. They closed off the road and brought a hydraulic device that enabled one of the firemen to reach the kitten and carry her down.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we present Madonna's greatest five minutes and eight seconds.

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