Saturday, June 11, 2011

Week Twenty Five: Show Me That I'm Everywhere And Get Me Home For Tea

We start off the latest sample daily malarkey with some ratings, dear blog reader. Because, yer actual Keith Telly Topping knows how much you love those. Mock The Week returned with two million viewers on Thursday evening, whilst the documentary The Duke At Ninety outperformed ITV's crime drama Injustice, according to the latest audience data. The popular comedy panel show Mock The Week, presented by Dara O'Briain had an audience of 2.01m on BBC2 from 10pm. The Duke At Ninety, featuring saucy Fiona Bruce exploring the 'incredible' life of Prince Philip, averaged 5.01m for BBC1 in the 9pm hour, beating the penultimate episode of Anthony Horowitz's drama Injustice, which had 4.41m on ITV and two hundred and forty two thousand viewers on ITV+1. Andrew Marr's Megacities had an audience of 2.46m on BBC1 in the 8pm hour and Question Time averaged 2.68m from 10.45pm. Meanwhile, When Piers Morgan Met Andrew Lloyd Webber could only muster a pathetic nine hundred and eighty thousand on ITV1 from 10.30pm. Which was quite fitting given that it featured one of the most vile, oily and disgraceful things ever to infect my television. And Piers Morgan. On BBC2, Clydebank Blitz was watched by 1.02m in the 7pm hour, before Springwatch achieved 2.03m from 8pm and a further one hundred and twenty five thousand viewers on the BBC HD channel. Noir thriller The Shadow Line maintained the majority of its audience from the previous episode with 1.31m in the 10pm hour and one hundred and forty two thousand on HD. Sarah Beeny's Help! My House Is Falling Down had an audience of 1.57m (7%) on Channel Four in the 8pm hour and a further four hundred and forty thousand on C4+1. The documentary series Born To Be Different was watched by 1.89m from 9pm and three hundred and sixty six thousand an hour later. On Channel Five Extreme Fishing with Robson Green got 1.2m punters from 9pm, and a screening of Outlaw was watched by seven hundred and eighty thousand viewers from 10pm. Elsewhere, Peter Andre: The Next Chapter was watched by seven hundred and fifty four thousand sad crushed victims of society on ITV2 in the 9pm hour. Series seven of the Johnny Vegas sitcom Ideal continued with five hundred and fourteen thousand viewers on BBC3 from 10.30pm.

Stand-up comedy legend Milton Jones is currently working on a sitcom for Channel Four. Milton, probably best known for delivering deliciously surreal one-liners on Mock The Week and for his long-running Radio 4 sitcom Another Case Of Milton Jones, is set to record a pilot episode of House Of Rooms this summer. The 'daft and silly' sitcom will form part of Channel Four's 2011 Comedy Showcase season. House Of Rooms (a working title) has been written by Jones and fellow stand-up Dan Evans. The premise of the show is that Milton and his mother live in a big house together with lots of other tenants. The residents are out-of-control and Milton must do his best to try and restore order. Sounds suitably madcap! The pilot is being made by Objective Productions, the company behind Peep Show, Pete Versus Life and the forthcoming university-set Channel Four comedy drama Fresh Meat. Milton confirmed the project to The British Comedy Guide website, explaining: 'It's a Comedy Showcase pilot for Channel Four which, at the moment, is called House Of Rooms - we'll see if that name lasts. It's about me with my mother in a big house with lots of tenants and me messing things up. Phil Clarke at Objective is in charge of it. I'm looking to cast the character of my mother in the next month. Which will be interesting.' Milton's previous TV, radio and live work has usually involved pun-driven scripts with a series of rapid-fire jokes, but House Of Rooms will apparently be a single-camera sitcom recorded on a closed set. He said: 'There are jokes in it but it's supposed to be character driven. It's a non-audience sitcom, so the jokes will be in the edit. I'm not standing there doing gags, but it's definitely odd and surreal and there will be some trademark stupidity. It is very daft and silly. Father Ted is a dangerous thing to compare it to, but it's that kind of silliness but without a studio audience.' House Of Rooms is set to be filmed this August and September and will be broadcast as part of Channel Four's 2011 Comedy Showcase season in the autumn. Milton has a busy year ahead of him. He is set to record a fifth series of Another Case Of Milton Jones later this month and will appear on more episodes of Mock The Week following his brilliant performance on Thursday night's series opener. He will also be performing at the Edinburgh Festival, before resuming his nationwide tour.

Bruce Forsyth says that he is 'very proud' after being knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours. The recognition for the eighty three-year-old comes after years of campaigning by fans and a parliamentary Early Day Motion signed by seventy three MPs. The annual list sees the actor Colin Firth and singer Bryan Ferry become CBEs and Radio 4 presenter Jenni Murray a dame. They were going to give that title to Bryan Ferry as well but then somebody pointed out that he'd been one of those since 1972. Ex-EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, twenty seven, a campaigner against knife crime since her brother's murder, is made an MBE. Ashes-winning England cricket captain Andrew Strauss is made an OBE and fellow opening batsman Alastair Cook an MBE, while golfer Lee Westwood is appointed an OBE. Sir Bruce's career has spanned almost seventy years, including presenting TV hits such as The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right and, most recently, Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1. He was made an OBE in 1998, and a CBE in 2005 and since then there has been considerable speculation about when he might be knighted. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which manages the honours system, said: 'Generally speaking, committees like to see another four or five years' further achievement or service before they start to consider a further award.' Sir Bruce told the BBC he was 'so happy and so relieved in a way. "When I got the CBE there'd been speculation every year and I think there's been too much talk about it, so I'm thrilled at last it has happened,' he said. 'I feel very proud that my career hasn't been in vain. I just love getting out there and performing and this is a reward that I never expected and hope I'm worthy of.' But he admitted that he even feared a hoax when he was notified of the knighthood. 'We were doubtful because it's been going on so long, the speculation, we thought it might be a hoax so we did check all the way down the line that it was real,' he said. 'Didn't he do well?' said BBC controller of entertainment commissioning, Mark Linsey, quoting one of Brucie's catchphrases. Fifty-year-old Firth is honoured by the Queen after winning an Oscar and BAFTA for depicting the struggle with a stammer of her father, George VI, in The King's Speech. Ferry, sixty five, has enjoyed success as lead singer of Roxy Music and as a solo artist, with hits including 'Love is the Drug', 'Dance Away' and 'Jealous Guy.' He said being made a CBE was 'a great honour,' and expressed thanks to 'all the musicians and others behind the scenes who have helped me throughout my career.' The owner of one of radio's most distinctive voices was also honoured; Radio 2 DJ Whispering Bob Harris becomes an OBE. Actress and director Janet Suzman, seventy two, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra but is probably better known for her theatre work, becomes a dame. There is good news for two stars of comedy series The Goodies: Writers and actors Graeme Garden, sixty eight, and Tim Brooke-Taylor, seventy, are made OBEs. Their fellow creator of the 1970s show, annoying little Communist Bill Oddie, became an OBE in 2003. Actor Bernard Cribbins has enjoyed a prolific career since the 1950s, in films including Carry On comedies and The Railway Children and on TV in the likes of Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, Jackanory and as narrator of The Wombles. Appointed an OBE, the eighty two-year-old said he was 'gobsmacked. You can't go through life expecting to get prizes. You just get on with things, which is how it should be,' he said. There are MBE awards for authors Kate Atkinson, whose books include Behind The Scenes At The Museum and Case Histories and The Gruffalo creator and children's laureate Julia Donaldson. England cricketers' achievement in winning their first Ashes series in Australia for twenty four years in January is recognised as skipper Strauss and coach Andy Flower are appointed OBEs. The MBE honour for twenty six-year-old Cook rewards his seven hundred and seventy six runs, the most by an Englishman in an Ashes series since 1928, which earned him the player of the series title. Two athletics world champions become MBEs - heptathlete Jessica Ennis, twenty five, and triple jumper Phillips Idowu, thirty two. Cyclist Mark Cavendish is also appointed an MBE after a year in which he won five stages of the Tour de France.

There's a great piece on Danny Baker's return to radio in the Gruniad by Simon Hatterstone. 'What would be the cruellest trick to play on a man who talks for a living and loves his food? It's nine months since Danny Baker was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth and throat. His fans knew something was up – there were replacement presenters on his six weekly BBC radio slots for starters. But he never announced what exactly was wrong. After all, Baker's never been big on self-pity. Irreverent NME journalist, scriptwriter, TV presenter and radio DJ, he has always done things his own way – which usually involved having a great time, until he wasn't, and then walking out. The programme, which he presents with Amy Lamé and Baylen Leonard, is a wonderful potpourri of nonsense. Baker asks listeners to phone in or e-mail with stories about what's in their bin, surprising gaps in their partner's knowledge, genres they just don't get and people whose eyebrows and hair colour don't match up. He sings along to Arthur Askey's 'The Christening', which turns into The Beatles' 'Paperback Writer', and constantly feeds us useless titbits – who knew that David Bowie shaved off his eyebrows because he was so upset that Mott The Hoople wouldn't record a cover of 'Drive In Saturday', or that in Jamaica, Jim Reeves is more of a hero than Bob Marley? Occasionally, he stops to sip from his bottle of water, explains he has no saliva glands and apologises to his audience. With his headphones bizarrely perched across his forehead, he looks like he could be undergoing the electric shock treatment in A Clockwork Orange. Two hours on, and the show's over. Pre-cancer, Baker would have celebrated with a couple of bottles of wine, but not now. "White wine tastes like Brillo pads. I managed four spoonfuls of lasagne today," he says triumphantly. Off-air, he speaks faster, with more of a cockney accent. It's amazing how he keeps going, without the saliva. I pop a sweet in my mouth and guiltily tell him I'm not offering him one. He smiles. "No, there's nothing I could do with that. There are very few things I can eat." The lasagne? "Yeah, that was a small victory. Anybody who's had that kind of cancer is suddenly made aware of the machinations of your mouth. You think, well, I must be able to eat that if my appetite's still up, and you put it in your mouth and it just turns to stone. Your tongue is pulverised, all the muscles are dry, you can't swallow, you can't manoeuvre things in your mouth, and you're rushing to bins to spit it out."'

Mary McDonnell says that fans of Battlestar Galactica are still 'so engaged' with the show two years after the show went off the air. The Closer actress, who played Laura Roslin in the hit SF series, praised BBC America's decision to re-broadcast the series from the beginning starting later this month, calling the move 'perfect timing. Battlestar is so rich and relevant that one time through is not enough,' McDonnell told AOL TV. 'The fans are still so engaged. Everywhere I go, people want to talk about it. Since I stopped doing the show, I've gone to Germany, Italy and Australia to represent Battlestar at conventions, and it's been so stimulating and engaging. People who loved the show were big thinkers.' McDonnell went on to confess that she often misses her time on Battlestar Galactica despite having moved on to other projects. 'It doesn't really fade. I suppose when you lose someone, it's the same way. You always grieve,' she said. 'The person doesn't get replaced but you feel expanded by having known them. But there is a sadness that's left.' McDonnell was recently confirmed for a spin-off of The Closer, the new TNT drama Major Crimes.

HBO has signed a deal with the BBC to remake the 1976 Emmy-winning miniseries I, Claudius. Based on the novel by Robert Graves, I, Claudius tells the story of the eponymous - reluctant - Roman Emperor and his murderous family. The 1976 thirteen-part version was adapted by the BBC and proved to be one of its most successful and acclaimed series. HBO and BBC2 will now remake the historical novel into a new miniseries, according to Deadline. The rights to I, Claudius have long been pursued by Hollywood. Producer Scott Rudin previously attempted to mount a film version of the novel starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but the project ultimately fell through. The 1976 version of I, Claudius - written by Jack Pulman - starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius. Other cast members included Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, John Hurt, George Baker and Patrick Stewart. Like that, the HBO/BBC version will be based on the two books which Graves wrote with Claudius as the protagonist, I, Claudius and Claudius The God. I, Claudius will be produced by Jane Tranter and Anne Thomopoulos, executive producers on previous HBO series Rome.

And, on that bombshell, here's yer next lot of Top TV Tips:

Friday 17 June
Shown on The History Channel earlier in the year and a cause célèbre before it had even been filmed, The Kennedys - 9:00 BBC2 - is a biopic starring Greg Kinnear as John Kennedy, charting the political conflicts that the American President had to deal with during his term in office, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis. On the eve of the 1960 presidential election, the senator is poised to become the youngest man ever elected to the role. Whilst he and his heavily pregnant wife, Jackie, are in the media spotlight, behind the scenes his father Joseph Kennedy Sr works furiously to ensure his son's victory over Republican vice president Richard Nixon. With Katie Holmes playing Jackie Kennedy. And, having caught a couple of episodes first time around, yer actual Keith Telly Topping can confirm that it wasn't too bad. Quite well acted. The script was decent - not, necessarily, historically accurate to the nth degree although, to be honest, I've seen much worse - from British TV drama let alone the US. It certainly didn't deserve the shoeing it was given critically - sight unseen in many cases - in the US. But then, it looked like there was a bit of thuggish political agenda going down there.

And speaking of Americans and things they do well, Castle - 9:00 Channel Five - is a rather fine US crime drama series. Castle follows the excellent Nathan Fillion (so good in Firefly a few years ago) as Richard Castle, a famous mystery novelist who has killed off his main character in a book series as he has writer's block. He is called in to help the NYPD solve a copy-cat murder based on one of his novels. Stana Katic co-stars as his police liaison Detective Kate Beckett. Castle who becomes interested in Beckett as a potential character for a new book series, uses his connections at the mayor's office and receives permission to continue accompanying Beckett while investigating other cases. And it's pretty good in a sort of Moonlighting or Bones kind of way, if you can imagine that. If you like those series then I think you'll have a lot of fun with this one, which has already picked up something of a following on the satellite channel, Alibi. Channel Five have bought it and stuck it in The Mentalist's slot. Hopefully, it'll get as big an audience.

Festivals Britannia - 9:00 BBC4 - is another of BBC'4s excellent 'Britannia' series of documentaries, this one - as the name suggests - tracing the history of British music festival culture. From its jazz-styling beginnings ('groovy!') at Beaulieu in the late 1950s to the Isle of Wight festivals at Freshwater which began in 1969 (full of lice-ridden festering hippies and, sadly, no thermonuclear warhead to hand - come on, if you've seen Message to Love it's hard to not agree with that chaps who talks about 'young kids running around nay-ked fakkin' in the bushes!') to one-offs including Bickershaw in 1972 right up to the modern line-up of Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. The film explores the tension between those attending the performances and the forces of the establishment policing them, and focuses on the sometimes flexible relationship between freedom and shifts in the political, musical and cultural landscape. With contributions by Michael Eavis, Richard Thompson, Acker Bilk, Terry Reid, The Levellers, Billy Bragg, John Giddings and many more. As with most of these things, it's a bit of yer actual proper social history mixed in with great archives footage and some top tunes. Thoroughly recommended.

Saturday 18 June
After a very successful one-off show last year, Penn & Teller: Fool Us - 8:00 ITV - returns for a full series. The magicians and masters of mesmerism and prestidigitation challenge guest illusionists to outwit them with mind-boggling tricks, and offer those successful performers the chance to appear on stage with them in Las Vegas, before showcasing their own talent in the studio before a bedazzled audience. If you've never seen them before, they're very good. Think Derren Brown. Only, American. And, flashier. And, there's two of them. Only one of them doesn't talk. Anyway, in the first episode, those vying for the chance to make the trip to Sin City are magic acts High Jinx and Jon Allen, and mind-reader and mentalist Graham Jolley. Jonathan Ross presents with genuine enthusiasm. ITV proving that, when they put their mind to it, they can actually come up with a decent bit of quality light entertainment.

But, usually, they don't. As evidenced by The Marriage Ref - 9:00 ITV. In this wretched fiasco of a concept, couples take 'quirky and humorous domestic disputes' to a panel of three celebrities, who listen to both versions of events before deciding which partner is in the right. So, it's Judge Judy sorting out who didn't clean their belly button fluff out of the bathroom sink, basically. Rotten. I mean, honestly, why would anyone with a single, solitary ounce of dignity about them go on a TV show like this to be guffawed at by baying voyeurs? The only difference between this crap and The Jeremy Kyle Show is, at least the producers of that know it's bear-baiting and ramp it up accordingly. You suspect that the people behind this are blissfully unaware of the fact. Dermot O'Dreary presents, if you want one further reason not to watch. Those on panel duty during the series comprising Jonathan Ross and James Corden (oh, and there's another reason!), singer Geri Halliwell, comedians Alan Carr, Jimmy Carr (and another one) and Micky Flanagan, plus stand-up Sarah Millican. Sarah, love? What are you doing?! Is the money that good?

Sunday 19 June
In the latest episode of the always lovely-to-look-at Coast - 9:00 BBC2 - the programme travels to Holland. There Nick Crane explores how Dutch engineers created their massive coastal defences following the great North Sea flood in 1953, which killed thousands of people in the Polderlands. The disaster prompted a new approach to the design of dikes and other water-retaining structures, based on an acceptable probability of overflowing. Risk is defined as the product of probability and consequences. The damage in lives, property and rebuilding costs is offset against the cost of water defences. Meanwhile, a new face on the team, the historian Tessa Dunlop investigates how the tulip trade nearly bankrupted the country four hundred years ago and Mark Horton finds out about a project to reclaim an area of land bigger than Greater London from the sea. Wither the Goddess Alice, Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) and the Deadly-Killer Miranda, I hear you bellow? God knows. Maybe they're stuck on a ferry from North Shields in heavy seas? Or, possibly, they reached Amsterdam, checked out the Ann Frank museum and the mouse (where?), there on the stair, and then got themselves into a coffeehouse for an afternoon's schmoke. That's what I did last time I went to the Netherlands, to be fair. It was very nice.

Once again, at nine o'clock there's a choice of which crime drama you want to watch. On ITV there's another episode of Scott & Bailey - 9:00 ITV, which I've been rather enjoying so far. Adult-film star Vicky Birkinshaw (bet she's been to Amsterdam a few times) is arrested on suspicion of her husband's murder three weeks after she reported him missing. Rachel faces the task of going through the suspect's home-made pornography collection in search of clues, but the case takes a dark twist when Vicky's daughter turns up with her much older boyfriend. Meanwhile, Janet's affair with a colleague is exposed. Detective drama, starring the proper excellent Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones.

Or, if you prefer, there's Case Histories - 9:00 BBC1. First of another two parter starring the really very good indeed Jason Isaacs. An irate client pesters Jackson into investigating a seemingly routine case of adultery. However, the private eye becomes involved in a train accident while searching for evidence, and gets drawn into the world of a troubled girl who needs his help. Guest stars include Gwyneth Keyworth (who you'll probably remember from Royal Wedding) and the terrific Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Survivors). Continues tomorrow.

Monday 20 June
Made In Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - is a new series in which big-eared, cross-eyed Evan Davis examines how Britain pays its way in the world. I'm guessing it's 'on credit, like the rest of us.' And also whether it was wrong to let so many manufacturing industries go abroad in the 1980s. In the first episode, Evan tries out a revolutionary military jet and one of the world's fastest supercars. Isn't that sort of Top Gear territory, Evan? If you want a job, just ask Clarkson I'm sure something could be arranged. Although, if you want to be The Stig, you might struggle to get the helmet on. And he also discovers that Britain still makes much to be proud of, thanks partly to new methods and money from overseas.

Speaking of Top Gear, James May never seems to be off the telly at the moment. Which is no bad thing despite what some hippies, Communists and wretchedly unfunny 'alternative' comedians might opine. And will so, on and on and on in the pages of the Gruniad Morning Star. Anyway, James May's Things You Need to Know - 10:00 BBC2 - is a new three-part show in which the pleasant bloke-y presenter contemplates the human body, using motion graphics in his search for answers as to why individuals inherit certain family characteristics, the reasons for catching colds and having hangovers, and what people will look like in one thousand years time. Dust, I'm guessing.

Four of a Kind - 9:00 ITV - tells the story of Jose and Julie Carles from Bedfordshire, who are the parents of Ellie, Georgie, Jessica and Holly - the UK's only identical quadruplets. The programme follows them in the run-up to the girls' fifth birthday, sharing some of the milestones of their lives including Christmas and their first day at school. A trip to America to meet a set of teenage identical quads also gives Julie an insight into what the future holds for the family. Narrated by Keeley Hawes and part of ITV's Extraordinary Families season.

Tuesday 21 June
In Three Men Go to Venice - 9:00 BBC2 - Rory McGrath, Dara O Briain and Griff Rhys Jones embark on their sixth journey together, heading for Venice to take part in a gondola race. Usually, the BBC show these around New Year but, for some reason, this time they've decided to stick this one on in the middle of summer. Flawlessly logical. The chaps have been entered into a gondola race on Venice's busiest waterway, the Grand Canal, in front of thousands of tourists. There's just the small problem of actually getting there. They will be travelling up the stunning Dalmatian Coast battling rain and more rain and probably a bit more rain to get to the city of love. They'll also be trying to blend in with the locals, diving, flying and basically blagging their way onto any boat that will take them across borders to one of the greatest cities on earth. Beginning in Montenegro, and up the coast of Dubrovnik, the personable and amusing trio (well, I suppose, if we stretch a point for Griff) work on board former Yugoslavia president Marshal Tito's boat and test their skills at Moreska sword-dancing, before trying to charm their way onto a yacht to make their way along the Croatian coastline. The ten day voyage is being shown - as usual - in two sixty minute episodes. Along the way, and with the help of Rory's really very dreadful language skills the trio find themselves honing their sword dancing skills (Dara is a natural, apparently), shedding clothes when passing a nudist colony, learning the art of glass blowing and finally, discovering they are well and truly in the deep end as they try to race a gondola.

Still on a nautical theme, there's Submarine School - 8:00 Channel Five. This documentary follows five submariners as they undergo a gruelling training scheme, nicknamed 'The Perisher', in preparation to become nuclear sub commanders. They begin by proving they can make use of a periscope to escape being captured by an enemy frigate, before practicing the art of loading and unloading specialist covert troops in the confined space of the vessel's hull. I'm reminder of Ringo and Paul's exchange on the way to Pepperland at this point. 'Look, it's a school of whales.' 'They look a little bit old for school.' 'University then.' 'University of Wales?' All right, suit yerselves y'miserable bunch.

In the latest Luther - 9:00 BBC1 - Jenny's ruthless boss seeks revenge against Luther, whom she believes has stolen her protégée, and demands compensation. However, the detective has other problems to deal with, namely the rescue of Ripley, who has been abducted by the serial killer in preparation for a final murderous set-piece. Superior, if occasionally very nasty, crime thriller starring Idris Elba, Aimee-Ffion Edwards and Lee Ingleby.

Wednesday 22 June
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping gave In with the Flynns - 8:30 BBC1 - something of a slagging sight-unseen last week. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson after he did the same thing to Miranda a couple of years ago and looked like a total berk afterwards. Don't get me wrong, I don't think In With The Flynns is that good, but the opening episode made me laugh about four or five times which, to be honest, is pretty good going for a sitcom these days. In the latest episode, after a pregnancy scare Liam and Caroline agree that he should get a vasectomy, but he is too scared to go through with it, and several weeks later he is still hiding his failure from his wife. Meanwhile, Jim discovers Mikey has shoplifted a toy gun and Chloe thinks she has found true love.

Repeated, but still essential Paul O'Grady: Lady Gaga Special - 9:00 ITV2 - sees the host joined by the American pop star and trendsetter, who performs four songs from her latest CD Born This Way, including 'You and I' and 'The Edge of Glory.' She also talks about her hugely successful music career, which has seen her sell more than fifty million singles in three years and be regarded as one of the world's most powerful celebrities.

Waterloo Road - 7:30 BBC1 - has been on good form of late and the change of start time doesn't seem to have harm its audience (indeed, it's probably dragged a few more punters in). The latest episode see Chris discover that new pupil Scout is a drug courier, but trying to help her lands him in trouble with both Karen and, slightly more worryingly, with the police. Vicki and Jess realise the value of their friendship when they run in a mock student election. A redundancy notice is served on Waterloo Road, causing concern among the staff and Eleanor continues to covertly help with Richard's plan to close down the school.

Thursday 23 June
In tonight's Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - Steve decides to spend a few days away, but Becky refuses to go down without a fight and marches into the Rovers with an announcement that stuns Stella. Stuns, I tell ya. An argument also breaks out between Eva and Leanne, while Frank bears the brunt of Carla's short temper after a phone call leaves her an emotional wreck. Elsewhere, Julie thinks Dennis may be related to the Grimshaws. A fate worse than death, clearly.

The first episode of a new series of the excellent History Cold Case - 9:00 BBC2 - is called The Bodies in the Well. This series focuses on the work of Professor Sue Black, Doctor Xanthe Mallett and Professor Caroline Wilkinson, who use carbon dating, bone chemical analysis and facial reconstruction to find out more about Britain's past. They begin by investigating the remains of seventeen people whose skeletons were discovered in a dry well shaft in Norwich. The remains are thought to date from the early 1200s, and the team suspect that this is a case of medieval murderousness.

Having got off to a cracking start last Thursday, Mock the Week continues - 10:00 BBC2. Dara O Briain hosts the latest bunch of topical comedy with guests Chris Addison, another of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourites Stewart Francis and Ava Vidal joining regular panellists Hugh Dennis and Andy Parsons to offer opinions on the past week's world events.

And finally, there's Ideal - 10:30 BBC3. I've said it before but it's worth repeating, it's British comedy's best kept secret. Moz tries to turn his flowering friendship with Tilly into a proper relationship. But, will he cock it up as he usually does when it comes to women? Meanwhile Colin (the fantastic Ben Crompton) hires his estranged wife Carmel as an escort girl. Comedy, starring Johnny Vegas and Janeane Garofalo and this episode featuring recent BAFTA-winner Daniel Rigby (Eric & Ernie).

To the news now: Adam Curtis, the documentary-maker behind Pandora's Box, The Power of Nightmares and All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, has said he may draw inspiration from the critically acclaimed HBO drama The Wire for his next major TV project. In a wide-ranging interview at the Sheffield Doc/Fest Curtis also attacked Twitter as a 'self aggrandising, smug pressure group' which promoted 'a narrow non-social view of the world.' He said that the site has been used by journalists reporting the Arab spring to simplify the complexities of the uprisings to narrow stories of individuals writing on the site. 'Twitter is fun and it feeds the rat of the self but it is almost as if you miss large chunks of the world [through it],' he said. Speaking about ideas for his next project Curtis, whose three-part series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace was recently broadcast to some great reviews on BBC2, said that he was thinking of examining the links between managerialism and criminality. He noted: 'I am thinking about doing a series on how managerialism and criminality mirror each other. In a series like [BBC2 drama] The Shadow Line or The Wire we see they mirror each other and I'm thinking of doing something like that.' In The Wire, which was first broadcast on the FX channel in the UK (and, later, on BBC2), the brutal activities of the Baltimore drug cartels are portrayed alongside the often corrupt and bureaucratic public institutions. The character Stringer Bell, played by British actor Idris Elba, is shown studying a business course at college while the machinations of institutions such as Baltimore's school system, city hall and the world of newspapers are also explored. Curtis is usually given enormous licence and time to make his films and his next project has not yet been green lit by the BBC. But his disclosure provides the first indication of what his next project might be. He told the packed audience at the city's Lyceum theatre that his principal guide to picking a project is 'a really good story.' Curtis began making films in the early 1980s. His most famous include The Century of the Self in 2002 which examined how Freud's theories of the unconscious shaped the development of PR and advertising. His 2004 series The Power of Nightmares was a polemic on the war on terror and the use of fear by western governments to manipulate the population. In All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace he examined, among many other things, the theories of the late American author and philosopher Ayn Rand and the Silicon Valley pioneers and argued that machines make us believe in a stable world.

The BBC is said to be 'in talks' with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about cutting the red tape involved in axing a service, possibly the clearest indication yet that the corporation could close a channel to save money. According to the Gruniad the DCMS and the BBC have held talks about changing the so-called public value test – a lengthy consultation the corporation must undertake if it wants to launch or close a service. According to sources the BBC wants to remove a stipulation that it must launch a PVT if it wants to close a service. 'DCMS has had discussions with the BBC about the PVT provisions in the BBC agreement but no decisions have been reached,' a spokesman for the department told the newspaper. Following last autumn's stringent licence fee settlement, the BBC is looking at how it can make twenty per cent cuts. The BBC Trust wrote to the director general Mark Thompson earlier this year saying that so-called 'salami slicing' – spreading cuts around equally – 'would not be in the interests of licence payers,' even if it could achieve the scale of savings required. However those working on Thompson's Delivering Quality First consultation, which aims to trim budgets by about sixteen per cent, were told that there would not be cuts 'in services.' Thompson is trying to use DQF to work out how the BBC can manage with a six-year licence fee freeze and take on additional funding obligations such as the World Service. There has been keen debate, the newspaper alleges, between executives and the BBC Trust about salami-slicing versus axing a service. One 'insider' allegedly said: 'One of the things that makes it more difficult to close down a channel is the process that it is subject to.' Under article twenty five of the BBC agreement that was laid out in 2007, the BBC Trust 'will be required to apply the PVT before a decision is taken to make any significant change to the BBC's UK public services' which can include introducing a new service or discontinuing a service. 'We are in discussions with the DCMS about some of the detail in the PVT provisions but no decision has been reached,' said a spokesman for the BBC Trust. According to sources, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt is not keen on the idea of changing the agreement. For obvious reasons. Closing a channel or drastically changing one as a result of the new 'shotgun' licence fee settlement would undoubtedly reflect very badly on the government. And, quite possibly, lead to people wanting to vote the vile and odious rascal Hunt out of parliament at the earliest given opportunity. The lengthy consultation the BBC had to go through when it wanted to close 6 Music, a decision which was eventually reversed, proved how much bureaucracy the corporation has to go through to axe a service. And also how much negative publicity such a move can provoke. And, if you think that a threat to close 6 Music was unpopular with the general public then have a think how much more vexed licence fee payers might get if the threatened service were to be, say, BBC4, or local radio, or 5Live. PVT's have been considered an important safeguard to making sure the rationale for launching – or closing – a service is thoroughly sound. To date the BBC Trust has conducted four PVTs - it approved the iPlayer, HD television and controversial Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba, but blocked a plan to launch a network of sixty local video sites which had incensed commercial rivals.

The Dam Busters dog will be renamed for a new version of the classic war movie, it has emerged. Stephen Fry, who is writing the film's screenplay, said there was 'no question in America that you could ever have a dog called the N-word.' In the remake, the dog will be called Digger instead of Nigger. The black Labrador was the mascot for RAF 617 squadron, which during World War II destroyed dams in Germany with Barnes Wallis' famous bouncing bomb. Owned by the squadron's wing commander, Guy Gibson, the dog was run over and killed during the planning of the Dambuster raids, and was buried at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire - from where the operation was launched. Stephen told Radio 5Live: 'It's no good saying that it is the Latin word for black or that it didn't have the meaning that it does now - you just can't go back, which is unfortunate. You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog's grave and there he is with his name, and it's an important part of the film. The name of the dog was a code word to show that the dam had been successfully breached. In the film, you're constantly hearing "n-word, n-word, n-word, hurray" and Barnes Wallis is punching the air. But obviously that's not going to happen now. So Digger seems okay, I reckon.' The 1955 film, which starred Sir Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd, told the story of Barnes Wallis' struggle to develop the bomb and the subsequent raids on Nazi Germany - codenamed Operation Chastise. The remake is being produced by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

Sarah Ferguson has sold a lot of things in her lifetime: slimming courses, Wedgwood crockery, books about a little helicopter, her company as a dinner guest, apparently, and of course access to her husband for half a million quid a time. And now, for a mere two hundred thousand smackers she is selling her soul. The grand old Duchess of York (she had ten thousand quid) is baring it on American television in return for a cheque from Oprah Winfrey. Broadcast this weekend, Finding Sarah is a six-part series on the Oprah Winfrey Network in which the former wife of the fourth in line to the throne delves deeply into her psyche to discover why she has made such a monumental mess of her life, before trying to tidy it up by consulting shamen, hiking in the Canadian Arctic and subjecting herself to faux-confessional therapy sessions. This 'voyage of self-discovery' is the latest -seemingly desperate - attempt by the Duchess to restore her battered reputation and finances following her near bankruptcy and a disastrous sting operation by the News of the World in which she was secretly videotaped hawking access to the Duke of York, Britain's trade envoy, for half a million quid. Like Weight Watchers, who until 2008 employed the Duchess as its 'face', Winfrey demands her pound of flesh. In exchange for what appears to be a modest fee by the standards of American reality television, the Duchess is expected to fully exorcise her demons in public - literally, as it turns out. During an interview this week to plug the series, Ferguson explained how she was the product of a dysfunctional upbringing. Her mother Susan, she claimed, beat her regularly, while informing her that she carried the mark of the Devil on her forehead. Something that anyone who saw her wretched ITV self-promotion The Duchess on the Estate would probably agree with and, perhaps, request and encore beating. Her father Ronald, a former Army officer intolerant of failure, was equally unhelpful she claims, apparently likening the young Sarah to a sheep's behind. Can't fault the chaps eyesight, then? No matter that her elder sister, Jane, remembers none of this, or that her parents, both being dead, cannot defend themselves. The knock-down price paid for this unedifying spectacle by the billionaire TV mogul Winfrey is evidence of the Duchess's continuing financial malaise. Family 'secrets' appear to be one of her few-remaining saleable assets, needed to fund what one 'friend' described wearily to the Gruniad as a life of 'default extravagance.' 'That is a very low fee,' says Murtz Jaffer, a US commentator on the reality TV industry. 'For her to subject herself to the ups and downs of reality television for that little is shocking. People get more than that for appearing on simple competition shows, and she's a former member of the British royal family. Are you kidding me? Lots of people will probably watch it, though. Like they stop to watch a pile-up on the highway.' Fergie cannot afford to be choosy. Earlier this year the Duke of York and others were forced to mount a rescue operation to prevent her from declaring bankruptcy. Debts of some four million smackers were repaid at an average rate of twenty five pence in the pound to a range of creditors ranging from butchers to department stores to solicitors. It then emerged that, as part of the rescue, the Duke arranged a fifteen thousand quid payment to Johnny O'Sullivan, a former assistant to the Duchess, from Jeffrey Epstein, a Wall Street financier and a convicted paedophile. 'The bills have been settled,' says the family friend. 'It all seems to be sorted.' For the time being, the Duchess is again travelling upward on the rip-roaring rollercoaster that is her relationship with money. But she has done that before and come hurtling down again. Following her divorce in 1996, she sank deeply into debt but rescued herself by signing lucrative contracts with Weight Watchers and Wedgwood. By 2007 she had rebuilt her financial position, despite her near-pathological spending, ploughing her earnings into Hartmoor, her US-based company, created to handle her books, product endorsements and speaking engagements. It collapsed in 2008, plunging the Duchess back into debt. By last year, as she told the undercover reporter from the News of the World, that she had not 'a pot to piss in.' 'The Oprah deal is a pragmatic one,' the alleged friend allegedly told the alleged newspaper. 'She has to generate income. There is no-one advising her - all her staff are gone except one assistant. Oprah is talked of as her friend but didn't she describe Sarah as "morally bankrupt?"' This is one hell of a 'friend' you've got here, Ferige. Winfrey is said to have delayed broadcasting the series to make it harder-hitting. No amount of grilling by psychologists and debt counsellors is likely to dissuade the Duchess of her essential wonderfulness, however. She has already justified her comments about her parents as 'just banter' and is promising to 'rebuild the brand Sarah.' She appears to know some limits, however, declining lucrative offers from American networks to front coverage of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Of her banishment from the ceremony, the alleged 'friend' says: 'She was, of course, really upset about it. She spent so many weekends with the boys (Prince William and Price Harry). William would probably have wanted her there but the father (Prince Charles) put his foot down.' She duly took herself off to a 'spiritual healing' resort in Thailand. The Duchess, says the 'friend', allegedly hopes to 'capitalise' on her relationship with Winfrey. 'Sarah is very good on television, very empathic. I think she is hoping that there may be a series in there, a show of her own perhaps.' The smallness of the fee for Finding Sarah does not augur well for the future. 'Some people in reality-type TV shows over here are getting money on a par with sitcom stars - up in the millions of dollars,' says Casey Lee, another television commentator. 'But Oprah's channel is struggling; it's not a well-watched station. And I don't know if Sarah Ferguson's popularity over here is what it once was.' As the Gruniad notes: 'The sources of income which have allowed the Duchess of York to maintain her power plant-sized carbon footprint may at last be reaching exhaustion. But could she ever give up the swanky hotel suites, the holidays, the instinctive habit of turning left when getting on a plane?' 'Sarah is flying by the seat of her pants,' says the alleged 'friend.' Finding Sarah is billed as a voyage of self discovery, and what a long voyage that will need to be. Sarah Ferguson, the girl from Dummer, may be short of cash but she is endowed with an inexhaustible capacity for self-exculpation. Speaking of the News of the World sting, she explained: 'I knew this guy was wrong. I knew that he was a journalist. I had an instinct as it was, and yet my people-pleasing addiction kept me going on - that if he could help me and if he could invest in my business. And he also promised to build schools in Afghanistan - that, maybe then, everyone would love me more, or maybe then all my staff would be paid. And you know what? It wasn't real.'

Writer Kay Mellor is tackling the fall-out from government cuts and the recession in a new drama for BBC1. Five-part series The Syndicate, about a group of Lottery winners, was inspired by a friend who was losing her job. 'It's looking at where we're at today, in light of this coalition government and the current cuts,' said Mellor. 'A friend rang up and said: "Well I haven't won the Lottery this week," and it just came like that.' Mellor said the series would not be political 'with a big P,' but that it would tell the story of people, like her friend, who were at the mercy of the economic downturn. 'She's a woman of a certain age, she's going: "Will I get work?" There's a million and one things going on in her life - she's got mortgages and things to pay and is worried about her life, obviously. She lives her life from one worry to the next,' Mellor said. The writer is known for sharp works of social realism, such as Band of Gold, about a group of prostitutes in Bradford in the 1990s, and Fat Friends, about a slimming club. The Syndicate will follow six workers at a cut-price supermarket in Leeds. 'There are a lot of people who don't know where their next penny's coming from, and more and more you hear people going: "Well, I haven't won the Lottery this week,"' Mellor said. 'I was thinking, what if somebody does? Let's have a look at money. Let's see what happens. I've taken my research seriously, so I've met up with a few Lottery winners and talked to them.' Filming will begin in September for transmission next year.

Simon Pegg has pledged to begin work on a script for The World's End 'very, very soon.' The actor and comedian said that fans could expect a 'very different' closer to the first two parts of his so-called Cornetto Trilogy, which - like previous films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - will be written and directed by Edgar Wright and co-star Nick Frost. 'Edgar and me have been very determined that we're going to start in earnest very, very soon,' he told Ain't It Cool News. 'Not just do the same thing again, to do something very different. Not to the point of alienating people who want something, but just give people something new and something different. You can't just stay where you are forever. You have to mutate to survive, and I think we're going to make sure that we do that. I'd hate to become stale and predictable.' Pegg, who will juggle the project with his commitment to the upcoming Star Trek sequel, also spoke of his determination for The World's End to outdo the pictures of his similarly-minded contemporaries. 'People are already making films that are kind of like the sort of thing we might do. I want to stay a little bit ahead of the curve at least,' he said.

A person claiming to have written the controversial Internet pdf document which accused Britain's Got Talent of being 'a fix' has written a new post, seemingly, to apologise. The person - incorrectly identified by many media outlets as 'a blogger' - provided no proof that he or she had written the original piece, yet claimed in the second posting to be suffering from bipolar disorder. The new document was also posted to the anonymous JustPaste.It website. In the post, the writer offered his 'sincerest and unreserved apologies to anyone who read that document and for all the distress and hurt I've caused to so many people. But in particular, Ronan Parke and his family, Mr Simon Cowell, SyCo, Sony Music and everyone associated with BGT.' He or she claimed that being in a manic phase of their condition meant that they 'believed everything I was seeing and hearing was fake and contrived in order to dupe and manipulate the viewers. I became over-occupied, if not a little obsessed with my feelings about BGT,' the piece continued. 'I began seeing fans of the show as "morons" for perpetuating, on Facebook and Twitter, what I saw as Simon Cowell's "cancerous manipulation."' They added: 'Even if the authorities wanted to catch-up with me, I doubt they'd be able to, as I always mask my true IP Address with someone else's. So that doesn't bother me too much. What deeply troubles me in all this though, is the hurt and distress I have caused to so many people, including a young lad. This is wholly unforgivable of me and I'm finding that aspect of my actions particularly difficult to live with right now.' The poster claimed that they would preserve their anonymity out of fear of being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. They also posted a link to a UK National Health Service Choices page about bipolar disorder. Syco and Sony issued a statement threatening legal action to prevent publication of allegations that Ronan Parke had been signed by the company in advance of this year's reality talent contest. Cowell claimed that he was 'sick' about the 'poisonous' and 'malicious' document. Someone described as a 'label insider' claimed that there had been 'good progress' in tracking down the individual and that 'there's no way this person will get away with this.'

A convicted rapist on the run since May 2007 has been brought to justice following an appeal on new BBC1 daytime series Crimewatch Roadshow. Police in Liverpool asked the programme for help in tracking down Turkish national Tolgay Istek, who was convicted in absence of raping a woman in 2007, but was believed to still be in the UK. After running an appeal on Thursday's programme, two viewers called in and reported Istek as being in a café in London. Within four hours after transmission, he was in custody and is due to be sentenced soon. In a live interview on Crimewatch Roadshow, detective sergeant Simon Fitzpatrick said: 'Following the programme yesterday, we received some excellent information from members of the public who were able to identify the whereabouts of the offender. This enabled me to co-ordinate a response with the Metropolitan Police, who attended the café in London where they arrested the male. It's excellent news for the victim, who I contacted shortly after the arrest. She is absolutely thrilled he's been caught.' Rav Wilding, the presenter of Crimewatch Roadshow said that it was 'great to get a result within days of going to air.' Liam Keelan, the controller of BBC Daytime, added: 'This is exactly the kind of success story which makes Crimewatch Roadshow such an important part of the daytime schedule. I'm really pleased we were able to give the police such an important lead, so quickly.'

A city council in England has conceded that it doesn't have emergency plans for a zombie attack. That's a  bit remiss of them. The admission - from Leicester City Council - came after a member of the public sent a Freedom of Information request to them inquiring how the council intended to deal with 'an undead apocalypse.' The letter - from this smart arse - read: 'Can you please let us know what provisions you have in place in the event of a zombie invasion? Having watched several films, it is clear that preparation for such an event is poor and one that councils throughout the kingdom must prepare for. Please provide any information you may have.' Yeah, yeah, very funny. And of course, some poor local authority employee had to waste time and tax payers money replying to that. Money that the council could probably have found something else to waste upon. 'We've had a few wacky ones before, but this one did make us laugh,' said Lynn Wyeth, a spokesperson for the council. She added that zombie attacks aren't specifically mentioned in the council's emergency plans, but believes that parts from them could be used, should such a scenario arise. Other concerned citizens sent letters to the council regarding paranormal activity and haunted buildings. As yer actual Keith Telly Topping has mentioned in the past, I'm always a bit narked by scenarios in which people 'struggle to survive a zombie apocalypse.' That's too much like hard work. Why not just get bitten and then try to change the system from within. It's much easier and far less zombies have to get short in the head in the process.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we take some inspiration form a legendary Neil line in The Young Ones. 'Oh, no! Steve Hillage!' Fine version, as it happens but Beatles cover verisons should not be done by 'chaps with beards.' It's The Law.
And, here's the - glorious - original.

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