Thursday, June 09, 2011

... And, As Silly As It May Seem ...

Robert Lindsay has whinged about the BBC's decision to cancel his long-running sitcom My Family. Lindsay plays dentist Ben Harper in the BBC1 comedy alongside Zoe Wanamaker, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Gabriel Thomson. The series has run for ten seasons and an eleventh, and final, batch of episodes is due to be broadcast on the BBC soon. Earlier this year it was revealed the BBC had axed My Family after its ratings dropped below five million viewers. There was also the small matter that it stopped being even remotely funny about four or five years ago, but the decision has angered still Lindsay who blames the series' demise on the corporation's 'poor treatment' of it. So, nothing to do with the fact that it's - hugely - past its sell-by date, then Robert? Ho-kay. 'The BBC has treated it appallingly,' he told TV Times. 'The ratings were great but they ruined it by putting it out after the 9pm watershed. It's a genuinely good family show - as my dad used to say, "You can watch it quite safely with your grandchildren."' At the time the decision to axe the comedy was also linked to Danny Cohen (the new BBC1 controller) reported comments that the BBC's comedy output was too 'middle class.' Which is probably a fair comment. However, just to repeat, it was probably also linked to the fact that the last 'funny' episode of My Family was shown in around 2008. My Family originally launched in 2000 and, not counting the final series, has so far clocked up over one hundred and eleven episodes. All good things come to an end, Robert. Some fair-to-average ones do to.

Top Gear is likely to return to BBC2 on Sunday 26 June. Excellent. That'll give the lice at the Scum Mail and the Gruniad something to proper to whinge about. James May revealed that the new series, which will be broadcast at 8pm on BBC2 and BBC HD, promises 'some proper demolition' and 'some actual racing.' No! Such a thing cannot stand. The presenter explained on the Top Gear website: 'Well, there's some affordable performance cars, some electric cars, some actual racing, some proper demolition, some silly cars, and Top Gear's attempt to improve public transport, which I think is going to be absolutely brilliant.' May also spoke of his excitement at a Formula 1 challenge due to appear on the new series. 'Did you see some of the clips on the Formula 1 last Sunday of us in the hot hatches going round the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit? That's part of the new series, and that was great, very intimidating,' he declared. 'I'm not very good at driving around tracks anyway, and if you get it wrong there you have a crash. I used to watch F1 a lot years ago and it felt really special for us to be allowed to go round it. That will be a good film.'

Mr T, the former star of The A-Team, boosted BBC3's usual audience figures with his new comedy clip show on Monday. World's Craziest Fools featured half-an-hour of 'stunts and gaffes' introduced by the gravel-voiced, bling-wearing TV star in a 10.30pm slot. The first in a ten-part series drew an average audience of seven hundred and fifty five thousand viewers, well above the year-to-date slot average of four hundred and eighty five thousand, according to overnight BARB figures. Just for comparison that's eighty thousand more than were watching Psychoville on BBC2 on the same night. An additional one hundred and forty thousand punters watched a repeat of the Mr T show at 1.15am.

Cheryl Cole is reportedly 'upset and annoyed' at Simon Cowell. Nice to see Cheryl catching up with the rest of us in this regard.

Idris Elba has confirmed that he is keen to star in a third series of Luther. The actor told the CultBox website that he would like the crime drama's next run to be stripped across the week in five episodes. 'I wouldn't mind seeing a larger version of Luther, maybe a film perhaps,' he said. 'Or take over television for a week, boxset-style Luther. You know, event television. Something like that would be dope.' Which, yer actual Keith Telly Topping, is led to believe is of 'young persons' expression meaning 'good.' Apparently. However, Elba admitted that the future of Luther very much depends on the reception to the four-part second series. 'We'll have to see what the appetite is like for it at the end of this series,' he explained. 'If it's a good, healthy appetite then we'll figure out how we're going to do some more.'

The latest episode of Qi to be recorded - the thirteenth of series 'I' - featured the theme Intimacy & Infancy with guests Ronni Ancona, Lee Mack and, for the first time since series one, Dave Gorman.

Pressure is building on the Metropolitan police to expand their phone-hacking inquiry to include a notorious private investigator who was accused in the House of Commons on Wednesday of targeting politicians, members of the royal family and high-level terrorist informers on behalf of Rupert Murdoch's News International. Inquiries conducted by - who else? - the Gruniad Morning Star have, they claim, revealed that the former prime minister Tony Blair is among the suspected victims of Jonathan Rees, who was involved in the theft of confidential data, the hacking of computers and, the paper also alleges, burglary. According to 'close associates' of Rees, he also targeted Jack Straw when he was home secretary, Peter Mandelson when he was trade secretary and Blair's media adviser Alastair Campbell, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, all of whom are said to have had their bank accounts penetrated and Kate Middleton when she was Prince William's girlfriend, the former commissioner of the Metropolitan police Sir John Stevens, and the current assistant commissioner John Yates, who later supervised the woefully failed phone-hacking inquiry for nineteen month and the governor and deputy governor of the Bank of England, whose mortgage account details were obtained and sold. Rees, who worked for the Mirror Group as well as the New of the World, is also accused of using a specialist computer hacker in July 2006 to steal information about MI6 agents who had infiltrated the Provisional IRA. According to a BBC Panorama programme in March, Rees was commissioned by Alex Marunchak, then the News of the World's executive editor, to hack the information from the computer of Ian Hurst, a former British intelligence officer in Northern Ireland who had stayed in contact with several highly vulnerable agents. Marunchak has denied the allegations. The Gruniad has previously identified other suspected targets of Rees, including Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, George Michael, Linford Christie, Gary Lineker, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan and the family of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. None of these cases has been officially confirmed or even apparently investigated. With many of them, the newspaper notes, it is not yet clear precisely 'what form of surveillance Rees and his agency, Southern Investigations, were using.' Answers, the suggest, may lie in the 'boxloads' of paperwork the Metropolitan police are believed to have seized from Rees. But the Labour MP Tom Watson told the prime minister on Wednesday that the head of the Operation Weeting inquiry into the News of the World's investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, had told him it may be 'beyond its terms of reference' to investigate this evidence. 'Prime minister, powerful forces are attempting a cover-up,' Watson said. 'Please tell me what you intend to do, to make sure this doesn't happen.' While Glenn Mulcaire worked for the News of the World as a full-time employee from 2001, Rees worked freelance for the Mirror Group and the News of the World from the mid 1990s. His agency was earning up to one hundred and fifty thousand pounds per year from the News of the World alone, the Gruniad suggest. In 1999, Rees was arrested and sentenced to seven years for conspiring to plant cocaine on a woman so that her husband would get custody of their children. After his release from pokey in May 2004, the News of the World continued to hire him under the editorship of Andy Coulson, who went on to become David Cameron's media adviser. Rees's targets during this period included Prince William's then girlfriend, Kate Middleton. Scotland Yard is believed to have collected hundreds of thousands of documents during a series of investigations into Rees over his links with corrupt officers, and over the 1987 murder of his former business partner, Daniel Morgan. Charges of murder against Rees were dismissed earlier this year. Morgan's brother, Alastair, who has been gathering information for a book, told the Gruniad he was aware from his own investigations and from material revealed in court hearings that the Metropolitan police was holding 'boxloads' of evidence on Rees's activities. Gruniad 'inquiries,' they claim, suggest that this paperwork 'could include explosive new evidence of illegal news-gathering by the News of the World and other papers.' According to journalists and investigators who worked with him, Rees 'exploited his position as a freemason to make links with masonic police officers who illegally sold him information on targets chosen by the News of the World, the Sunday Mirra and the Daily Mirra.' One 'close contact' - Det Sgt Sid Fillery - they allege left the Metropolitan police to become Rees's business partner and 'added more officers to their network.' Fillery 'was subsequently convicted of possession of indecent images of children.' Some police contacts, they newspaper carries on, 'are said to have been blackmailed into providing confidential information. One of Rees's former associates claims that Rees had compromising photographs of serving officers, including one who was caught in a drunken coma with a couple of prostitutes and with a toilet seat around his neck.' Rees claimed to be in touch with corrupt Customs officers, a corrupt VAT inspector and two corrupt bank employees, the Gruniad continues. An investigator who worked for Rees claims that he was 'commissioning burglaries of public figures to steal material for newspapers.' Southern Investigations has previously been implicated in handling paperwork which was stolen by a professional burglar from the safe of Paddy Ashdown's lawyer, when Ashdown was leader of the Liberal Democrats, the newspaper claims. The paperwork, which was eventually obtained by the News of the World, recorded Ashdown discussing his fears that newspapers might expose an affair he'd had with his secretary. The Gruniad has, they claim, 'confirmed that Rees also used two specialist "blaggers" who would telephone the Inland Revenue, the DVLA, banks and phone companies and trick them into handing over private data to be sold to Fleet Street.' One of these so-called 'blaggers' who regularly worked for him, John Gunning, was responsible for obtaining details of bank accounts belonging to Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, which were then sold to the Sunday Mirra. Gunning was later convicted of illegally obtaining confidential data from British Telecom. The Gruniad also claim that Rees also obtained details of accounts at Coutts bank belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Kent. The bank accounts of Sarah Ferguson, the grand old Duchess of York (she had ten thousand quid), are also 'thought to have been compromised.' The Gruniad has been 'told' that Rees 'spoke openly about obtaining confidential data belonging to senior politicians and recorded their names in his paperwork.' One - again, nameless - 'source close to Rees' claims that apart from Tony Blair, Straw, Mandelson and Campbell, he also targeted Gaynor Regan, who became the second wife of the foreign secretary, Robin Cook, the former shadow home secretary, Gerald Kaufman and the former Tory minister David Mellor. It is not yet known precisely what Rees was doing with the information that he allegedly obtained from these political targets, although in the case of Lord Mandelson, the paper claims that Rees obtained 'confidential details of two bank accounts which he held at Coutts, and his building society account at Britannia.' Rees is also said to have 'targeted his brother, Miles Mandelson.' Separately, for the News of the World, Glenn Mulcaire was hacking the voicemail of the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, Straw's successor as home secretary, David Blunkett, the media secretary, Tessa Jowell, and the Europe minister, Chris Bryant. Scotland Yard has repeatedly refused to reveal how many politicians were victims of phone hacking, although Simon Hughes, Boris Johnson and George Galloway have all been named. The successful hacking of a computer belonging to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst was achieved in July 2006 by sending Hurst an e-mail containing a Trojan program which copied Hurst's e-mails and relayed them to the hacker. This included messages he had exchanged with at least two agents who informed on the Provisional IRA – Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife. And a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the very few people who knew their identities and whereabouts. The hacker, the Gruniad notes, cannot be named for legal reasons. 'There would be further security concern if Rees's paperwork confirmed strong claims by those close to him that he claimed to have targeted the then Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Stevens, who would have had regular access to highly sensitive intelligence,' they note. Sir John's successor, Sir Ian Blair, is believed to have been targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, although it has not been confirmed that Mulcaire succeeded in listening to Blair's voicemail. Assistant commissioner John Yates was, the Gruniad claim, also targeted by Rees when Yates was running inquiries into police corruption in the late 1990s. It appears that Yates did not realise that he, himself, had been a target when he was responsible for the policing of the phone-hacking affair between July 2009 and January 2011. Perhaps if he had, he might have done a slightly better job of it. Targeting the Bank of England, Rees is believed to have earned thousands of pounds by penetrating the past or present mortgage accounts of the then governor, Eddie George, his deputy, Mervyn King, who is now governor, and half-a-dozen other members of the monetary policy committee, the Gruniad claim. According to 'police information provided to the Guardian in September 2002,' an internal Scotland Yard report recorded that Rees and his network were 'engaged in long-term penetration of police intelligence and that their thirst for knowledge is driven by profit to be accrued from the media.' Operation Weeting has been investigating phone hacking by the News of the World since January. The News of the World's former assistant editor, Ian Edmondson, chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and former news editor James Weatherup have also been arrested and released on police bail in connection with the case.

A former member of the IT team at Ofcom was jailed yesterday for stealing more than half a million pounds from the media regulator and collection of unelected, politically appointed nobodies. The Metropolitan Police said that Jurgen Whitehouse, thirty seven, from Welling in Kent, used his insider knowledge to steal the funds from Ofcom between July 2008 and April 2009. This week, he was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court after admitting to charges of fraud. The allegations against Whitehouse were first reported to police on 17 March last year by the financial controller of Ofcom. Following an investigation by the Met Police's Economic and Specialist Crime Unit, Whitehouse was arrested on 29 June 2010, and subsequently charged in February this year. He stole five hundred and twenty two thousand one hundred and twenty three smackers from the regulator, but later repaid 'a large percentage' of the money. Detective constable Elliott Toms said: 'This was a premeditated and calculated fraud on a public body which was conducted over a prolonged period. He exploited his expert knowledge of systems in place at Ofcom in order to steal in excess of half a million pounds. This sentence will hopefully serve as a deterrent to others who are similarly tempted to abuse their positions of responsibility.'

David Simon has claimed that HBO drama Treme is the project he is most proud of. The showrunner, who also created acclaimed crime drama The Wire, told the Los Angeles Times that his latest series is 'very well researched and very specific.' Simon said: 'I'm probably most proud of Treme. We're not relying on the TV tropes of lawyers, doctors or cops. Who in their right mind would construct a show about culture, Mardi Gras, second-line dancers and music?' Simon also defended his decision to populate Treme with over a dozen major characters, claiming that the show's writers are 'prisoner[s] of our ambition. Our subject matter is the American city, and we have to utilise shorthand,' he said. 'We have to pick and choose, yet cover enough ground so that you get a sense of community. If you have just three lead characters, then the show becomes about them. We're trying to speak to the nature of urban America and how our society is defined by [it].'

Shooting will commence on the eighth and final series of BBC1 drama Hustle next month, Adrian Lester has confirmed. Lester, who plays Mickey Bricks in the show, commented on Twitter that the new series 'should be on screens [in] 2012,' asking fans: 'How should we end it?'

The managing director of Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly's production company Gallowgate, Ed Forsdick, has died. It is understood that he had a heart attack while on a family holiday. Forsdick worked on some of the biggest entertainment shows on UK commercial TV, including Channel 4's Big Breakfast and ITV's Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. The Big Breakfast creator, Charlie Parsons, who worked with Forsdick on the hit breakfast series and on Parsons' groundbreaking reality show Survivor said: 'I gave him his first job in television and it's a devastating loss to all – a loss to all his friends and to television.' Elaine Bedell, ITV's director of entertainment and comedy, who told the Gruniad last month that she was talking to Gallowgate about future programme ideas, added: 'Ed has been responsible for some of the most iconic ITV entertainment hits of the last decade. His relationship with Ant and Dec was one of those great pieces of chemistry between a producer and on-screen talent that's hard to come by. He was a formidable presence in the gallery of his shows – dry, funny, chewing his pencil, pacing up and down, never missing a detail. We will miss him sorely.' The ITV controller of entertainment, John Kaye Cooper, said: 'In recent years he has steadily grown Gallowgate into one of the leading entertainment indies, and I will really miss his passion for creating new shows, and his wicked, caustic sense of humour. It is a tragic loss to the entertainment industry.'

Ofcom has reportedly received seventy six complaints over a joke about suicide bombers on Have I Got News For You. As reported previously, while hosting the BBC1 panel show last Friday, the Irish comedienne Sharon Horgan delivered the one-liner about Mecca being 'the Mecca for suicide bombers.' She has since written on Twitter: 'HIGNFY, like all good satire plays on prejudices and that's exactly what we were doing with this joke. Really hope that people understand this and stop threatening me. But if anyone misunderstood the intention of the joke - for it was a joke - then I apologise for any offence caused.' Horgan later added: 'I am anti any prejudice of any kind. And particularly the generally lazy media portrayal of Muslims or any blanket negativity towards Islam.' A spokesman for Ofcom said the regulator had yet to decide whether to investigate the complaints. Horgan, best known for creating comedy series Pulling, is currently working on new BBC3 comedy Life Stories in which she plays a woman falsely imprisoned for the murder of her boss.

The BBC will broadcast the men's and women's singles finals at this year's Wimbledon Championships live in 3D. The matches, scheduled to be played on Saturday 2 July and Sunday 3 July, will be the first programmes to be shown in 3D by the BBC. The free-to-air broadcast will be available to anyone who has access to a 3D TV set and HD Channels. Danielle Nagler, head of BBC HD and 3D, said: 'We're bringing audiences a new way of getting close to the action.' She added: 'I'm sure that 3D will only add to the drama as the world's greatest players compete for the championship.' Rafael Nadal's victory over Tomas Berdych in the 2010 final was watched by an average of 5.6m viewers, while 2.3m watched Serena Williams win her fourth singles title. BBC executive sport producer Paul Davies said: 'This unique 3D transmission is the latest innovation to bring to life all the tension, drama and excitement on one of the most iconic sporting arenas in the world.' As well as coverage on BBC1, BBC HD and BBC2, viewers will also be able to follow the tournament via the BBC Sport website and the BBC Red Button. he only problem with all of this no-doubt hugely innovative TV experience is that it's still tennis. And, therefore, about as welcome as a smack in the knackers with a tennis racket. Although, I'm sure that yer actual Keith Telly Topping speaks for all TV viewers (well, the majority of the male ones, anyway) when he notes that there is one great moment in tennis history he'd love to have seen in 3D.
Graham Linehan has criticised BBC Radio 4's Today programme after being invited on Monday's show to talk about his upcoming stage adaptation of The Ladykillers. In a column for the Gruniad, the Father Ted, Black Books and IT Crowd creator claimed that he realised on talking to the theatre critic Michael Billington in the Green Room before the programme began that he had been set up in 'an ambush.' Linehan said: 'Michael, somewhat embarrassed, told me that he was actually providing the opposing side in an argument about the wisdom of adapting The Ladykillers at all. What I thought was going to be a discussion about the technical challenges afforded by turning a classic film into a worthwhile play, was actually going to be a typical Today programme bunfight. Fine - if they were going to ambush me, I would ambush right back. I decided not to play. I tried to reveal as little about the play as I could, and made an early decision not to engage with any of Michael's arguments.' Linehan claims that producers had told him he would be asked about 'problems in adapting a classic film for the stage' during the interview. Linehan added: 'What a treat it was to be able to complain directly to Today's pompous John Humphries stand-in [Justin Webb] about the squabbling that passes for debate on that programme. The style of debate practised by the Today programme poisons discourse in this country. It is a binary view of politics, of life and, as a result, it is also a dishonest one. Replace it with anything - anything - because anything would be better.' He also asked if it is policy for the producers of the show to 'deliberately misbrief' guests and suggested that 'such tactics [are] the only way you guys feel you can maintain your little fight club.'

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are returning to sketch comedy – under the same sponsorship deal that revived Alan Partridge last year. The Shooting Stars duo will return with a new series of original sketches for the Internet, starting next month. Vic and Bob's Afternoon Delights will introduce a number of new characters. The series is being made by Foster's, following their funding of Mid-Morning Matters with Alan Partridge. Gayle Harrison, the brand's marketing manager called Vic and Bob 'a unique comic phenomenon' and 'two of Britain's most admired comedy actors.' She added: 'We know our core brand audience will enjoy seeing Vic and Bob unearth more precious comedy gold moments in the new series.' Reeves said: 'Foster's has given us the freedom to let our imaginations run wild and present to you, via the Internet, some exclusive characters and sketches.' But, what's on the end of the stick, Vic? Well, a carrot, obviously, I suppose. The pair have always said they wanted to return to sketch comedy such as The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer and Vic Reeves Big Night Out but the BBC only wanted to commission Shooting Stars. The new series will be webcast on weekdays from 4 to 29 July on the Foster's website fostersfunny.co.uk.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we present a piece of pure, unadulterated filth dressed up as a twenty four carat pop classic. Actually, come to think about it, it could, just as easily be a twenty four carat pop classic dressed up as filth. You decide, dead blog reader.

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