Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week Twenty Seven: You Gotta Do The Thing With Soul

Doctor Who writer Tom MacRae has dropped a few hints about his forthcoming episode on the popular family SF drama. MacRae told the Daily Torygraph that his new episode, which will be broadcast tenth in the current run, is his 'most accomplished piece of plotting ever. What's interesting is that the requirements of the script meant that for various reasons nothing has gone out about it at all,' he explained. 'We didn't do much location filming, and the way the guest characters work is unusual, so no-one knows anything about my episode.' The writer, who previously scripted the Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel two-parter for the show's 2006 series, added that his new story contains 'a really big surprise. I'm amazed we've kept it this secret,' he admitted. 'All I will say is that it's an unusual episode and it's really great.' MacRae also dismissed early rumours about his episode and denied that the adventure had borne the working title of The Green Anchor. 'It has never been called that!' he said. 'There's speculation about it which is wrong.' Doctor Who will return later in 2011 - probably early September, although that hasn't been confirmed as yet - with Steven Moffat's Let's Kill Hitler. Other episodes due to be broadcast in the second half of series six include the Mark Gatiss-scripted Night Terrors and The God Complex from Being Human creator Toby Whithouse.

BBC executives have 'successfully fought off' a proposal for BBC2's daytime lifestyle programmes such as Cash in the Attic to be replaced by a BBC News channel simulcast as part of the corporation's Delivering Quality First drive according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Now, if only they could use a tenth of the same backbone they've shown here to successfully fight off - literally, if they wish using weapons of their choice - the constant pathetic sick-scum agenda-based whinging of the likes of the Communist hippies at the Gruniad Morning Star and the jackbooted right-wing thug bullyboy lice at the Daily Scum Mail and the Scum this blogger would be a much happier bunny. But, that's not going to happen, is it? Instead, they're just going to do what they usually do, curl up into a little ball in the corner and beg not to be hurt any more. The Gruniad claim that BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow and BBC daytime controller Liam Keelan 'are understood to be drawing up plans for a new afternoon schedule containing a two-to-three-hour zone composed of repeated factual programmes, slanted towards those that have already screened on BBC4.' Since BBC4 does not start broadcasting until 7pm there is some logic in giving daytime viewers an opportunity to see programmes they may have missed. The programme switch would also see BBC2 taking a leaf from BBC4's successful strategy of devising themed programme seasons, sometimes running across a week, sometimes linked to anniversaries and events. It would also be the place for archive programmes that have been digitised, where the rights can be cleared. The BBC2 schedule would then revert to the normal schedule at 6pm, with the popular quiz Eggheads offering an alternative to BBC1's early evening news hour. BBC2 would also continue to run the Daily Politics Show at lunch time. There is no chance, according to BBC executives, that the channel will be able to run repeats of drama series, even if that is what viewers would prefer, because of the high costs entailed, despite ongoing efforts to negotiate a cheaper rate with cast and crew for daytime repeats. The strategy is also expected to make economic sense once complete digital switchover occurs in 2012 and children's programmes are screened solely on CBBC and CBeebies. The final decisions on Delivering Quality First have now slipped into the autumn from the previous expected deadline of July for the final management proposals to be submitted to the BBC Trust.

Interesting developments over at Channel Four News, which is about to hire a weather presenters for the first time in its history. Currently, Jon Snow, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and other anchors read a thirty-second summary while a weather map is flashed on screen (a sort-of 'Today will be Muggy. Followed by Tuggy, Weggy, Thuggy and Friggy'-type affair). In the future, a new recruit will talk viewers through the next day's warm fronts and areas of high pressure. And, if they're anything like the weather presenters on other channels, they'll address the viewers as though they're five years old. They will also be on hand to report on and discuss weather-related stories in the studio and beyond, from freak storms to tropical heatwaves, hurricanes and tsunamis. Because, of course, we get loads of tsunamis in this country, don't we?

Lisa Edelstein has been confirmed to join CBS drama The Good Wife during its upcoming third season. The actress, who quit the FOX drama House after the completion of its seventh season, will appear in a multi-episode arc of the courtroom drama. Edelstein will play an intelligent poker-playing lawyer, who will appear in the beginning of the new season, according to TV Line. Edelstein's character is said to have shared a past with Will Gardner (Josh Charles), but no more additional details have been released. The actress decided to leave House in order to 'pursue other opportunities.' House creator David Shore admitted that he was 'disappointed' with her exit.

Charlotte Church has reportedly been 'left upset' over Gavin Henson's decision to star in the UK version of The Bachelor. Despite Church's current relationship with Jonathan Powell, she is said to be 'hurt' over the prospect of seeing her ex-partner, the rugby player in a Spanish villa with twenty five pining girls, a 'source' has allegedly told Star magazine. 'She couldn't help feeling upset and hurt that Gavin is going to be dating all these other women on national TV,' the 'insider' allegedly claimed. 'Charlotte says the thought of watching him fall head over heels for someone else is horrid - especially as these girls are all so gorgeous.' Church and Henson have two children, Ruby and Dexter. The couple broke off their engagement and ended their five-year relationship in May last year.

And so to the next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 1 July
On tonight's Paul O'Grady Live - 9:00 ITV - the presenter is joined by the shaft of brilliant white light that exists in the void once occupied by Saint Bob Geldof (OBE). Before becoming a divine-gestalt entity of almost unimaginable power along with Mr Bonio out of U2 and Sting for their Godlike ability to 'save the world' after discovering that there is 'no snow in Africa', Saint Bob was best known as the former frontman of The Boomtown Rats. Described as 'punk band The Boomtown Rats' in the publicity handout when they were, in fact, about as punk as my pants. And, also, for his political activism. Once O'Grady can tear himself away from the gaze of The Awesome One, he will also chat to singer Janet Jackson - yeah, Michael's sister, big deal - and Joe from American boy band Jonas Brothers, who performs in the studio. Plus, Paul attempts a daredevil stunt in front of the audience. And Saint Bob Geldof will, hopefully, use the opportunity to explain his daughter, Princess Peaches Tinkerbell Fluffy-Duffy-Lovely Geldof and his funny ways. But, I wouldn't bank on it.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been rather enjoying Castle - 9:00 Channel Five - which I came to relatively late but, as they always say, usually in relation to stuff I've slagged off in the past, better late than ... you know, something else. Tonight episode of the witty crime drama is called Hedge Fund Homeboys which, to be fair, made me laugh. And, that's once more than anything Jack Whitehall has ever said so they must be doing something right. In the episode, the body of a man with gunshot wounds is found in a boat, leading Castle and Beckett to discover that the eighteen-year-old victim had resorted to dealing drugs to his friends to pay for his own habit. They uncover details of a Russian roulette-style game that got out of hand between the youth and his buddies, but the case is complicated when another corpse turns up. Crime drama, starring the very excellent Nathan Fillion.

Saturday 2 July
Secrets of the Pop Song - 9:45 BBC2 - is a new series in which Guy Chambers, who co-wrote Robbie Williams' 'Angels', presents an insider's guide to crafting a modern pop hit. Guy is joined each week by a different musician to collaborate on the creation of a new song. Interesting idea. He begins by teaming up with singer Rufus Wainwright to write a ballad, taking the process from initial idea through to the first public performance. Boy George, Neil Tennant, Don Black and, tragically, Saint Sting also talk about their hits - in the case of the latter, really, really boringly - and lyricist Diane Warren reveals a few tricks of the trade.

There's a repeat of the second series of Walk on the Wild Side - 6:40 BBC1 - the comedy wildlife show, featuring natural history footage and the vocal talents of Jason Manford, Steve Edge, Isy Suttie, Jason Byrne, Gavin Webster and Sarah Millican. In this episode, tensions run high when a lion cub gets lost at Giraffestonbury, Candi tries to become America's Next Top Bison, and a Scouse dolphin suffers from serious wind problems.

Sunday 3 July
In the second episode of the new series of Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - the chaps travel to Italy to test high-performance hatchbacks. It's a dirty job, ladies and gentlemen, but someone's got to do it. And few do it better than Jez, Dickie, Jim and Stiggy. On their Italian jaunt, Jezza Clarkson is in the Citroen DS3 Racing, Richard Hamster champions the Fiat 500C Abarth and James May makes the case for the Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup as they navigate their way round a series of baffling Italian towns - full of baffling Italians - and take part in a scavenger hunt. But, that's just the prelude to the main event, putting the cars through their paces on the F1 street circuit in Monaco. You've probably seen some clips from the latter in the series trailer which, admittedly, looks fantastic. Especially Jezza having a very nervous looking Bernie Ecclestone as his passenger! Also, petrolhead comedian Wor Ross Noble is in the Reasonably Priced Car and the McLaren MP4-12C supercar comes under review. Now, I know a lot of people don't like Top Gear, for a variety of different reasons but, let me just say this ... you're wrong. Next -

There's been a lot of very good crime drama on British TV on Sunday nights over the last couple of months and tonight is no different. Stolen - 9:00 BBC1 - is a rather impressive-looking thriller, starring Damian Lewis. Detective Inspector Anthony Carter heads a human trafficking unit battling the rising level of children who are smuggled into the UK with the promise of a better future, only to be enslaved and exploited. The drama focuses on three such victims - an eleven-year-old girl from West Africa who was sold as a house servant, a young boy from Ukraine forced to work in the food industry and a Vietnamese boy imprisoned in a suburban semi to look after a cannabis farm. With Vicky McClure, Wunmi Mosaku, Michael Smiley and Jo Hartley.

Again, though, as Case Sensitive found over the last few weeks, it's got tough competition from Scott & Bailey - 9:00 ITV. Rachel has a lucky escape while walking home when she narrowly avoids being hit by a car. Shaken, she starts pursuing the driver, who has fled on foot, and the next day she suspects the incident was an attempted murder - and that Nick may be involved. As she tries to deal with the revelation, Janet is left to take charge of the latest case - the gang shooting of a teenager whose friend is a key witness. Detective drama, starring the very excellent Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones. Last in the current series. I fully expect this one to get recommissioned for another run as the ratings have been more than decent.

Nine o'clock on Sunday night is, once again, the toughest slot of the week it would seem. In addition to Stolen and Scott & Bailey we've also got the excellent Coast - 9:00 BBC2. This week the team goes island-hopping off Scotland, around the Western Isles and out to Shetland. Nick Crane has a close encounter with dolphins off Eriskay - not entirely sure that's wholly legal, Nick - and gets invited to a golden wedding party - along with everyone else on the island - whilst Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) is back from telling us about The Celts to hear the tragic story of a 1918 shipwreck off the Isle of Lewis in which more than two hundred servicemen returning home from the First World War were drowned. Hermione Cockburn tests the acoustic qualities of Fingal's Cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa and the deadly killer Miranda Krestovnikoff searches for the otters of Shetland. Again, the legality of which we'd best leave to the lawyers and simply stand back and admire their courage.

Monday 4 July
The hugely popular detective cold case drama New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1 - returns for its 2011 run with an episode wittily entitled Old Fossils. Once again, that's made this blogger laugh more than entire series' of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. So, well done for that. The veteran detectives return to investigate a fresh batch of unsolved crimes, beginning with the murder of a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in Kensignton. The team discovers the victim was a respected but outspoken scientist with a knack for rubbing people up the wrong way - and when it comes out he was strongly opposed to the museum's sponsorship deal with a large fuel company, the cops soon have plenty of suspects. Amanda Redman, Denis Waterman, James Bolam and Alun Armstrong star, with guest appearances by the late and much lamented Trevor Bannister (Are You Being Served?) whose final TV appearance this is. There's also guest roles from Primeval's Lucy Brown and Natasha Little from [spooks].

The popular naturalist Chris Packham's been in the new a bit recently, what with his Manic Street Preachers name-dropping all over Springwatch. In The Truth About Wildlife - 7:00 BBC2 - Chris explores the successes and failures of wildlife conservation in England. In the first edition, he turns his attention to the species in decline around farms, and meets a farmer who is abandoning Government nature schemes to increase profits from cash crops. He also meets other people in the agriculture industry who are committed to environmentally friendly methods.

Tonight also sees the return for a new series of University Challenge - 8:00 BBC2. Warwick take on Edinburgh in the opening student quiz. The glowering Jeremy Paxman, as usual, asks the questions and terrifies the poor students with his urgent requests that they 'get on with it.'

Tuesday 5 July
Only four episodes in this series of Luther - 9:00 BBC1 - of which tonight's is the last. But the series has leaped in popularity (ratings are up almost a million on the first year). The maverick police officer is on a knife-edge as he tries to cover up a death, appease the suspicious Baba and protect Jenny from any further harm. But his problems don't end there - with a killer at large whose actions are ruled by a roll of the dice, he has no way of predicting the next move. Despite a moment of doubt, he puts his plan into action - and is dragged deeper into the criminal world than ever before. Idris Elba recently suggested that further episodes were possible and, on the strength of the ratings alone, I'd suggest likely.

Has anyone noticed that Channel Five is full of programmes about big, rugged manly men doing big, rugged manly type things. Take Monster Moves - 8:00 - for instance. Expert movers face the challenge of towing decommissioned submarine rescue ship the USS Kittiwake sixteen hundred miles, battling winter storms and swells on the lengthy journey from Virginia to the Caribbean. They then conduct a controlled sinking in the waters off the Cayman Islands, where the two thousand-ton vessel will become an artificial reef to attract both fish and tourists. That's an awful long journey just to sink a ship. Surely the American navy would've done that for them for free. They like doing that sort of thing, I'm led to believe.

There's a new series of Restoration Home starting tonight - 8:00 BBC2. Which, for some Godforsaken reason will be presented by Caroline Quentin, as if she's not an television enough already. Oi, get a real job and stop being a burden on the taxpayer. Caroline meets the owners of crumbling historic buildings as they try to convert them into Twenty First Century dream houses. Some hope. She begins with a visit to St Thomas a Becket Church in Pensford, Somerset, which was deconsecrated following a flood in 1968, and bought in 2007 by newlyweds hoping to convert it into a three-bedroom home.

As mentioned last year Undercover Boss - 9:00 Channel Four - is one of the sickest and most criminally duplicitous and despicable TV formats imaginable and against all laws of God and Man. Basically, the boss of some company or other thinks it's a whizzing wheeze to pretend to be just another shop-floor grunt for a few weeks and turns up - with a camera crew in tow that they, somehow, explain away as being 'for a documentary' - so, while the rest of the staff are wondering if they've got an episode of Secret Millionaire taking place in their midst and are they going to be the lucky recipients of somebody else's hard-earned cash, these horrible management stooges are going around snopping on their workforce, blandly nodding as they're told about short-cuts and dodges. Strangely, at the reveal, when these people are unmasked as spies in their midst some bolshy shop-steward never seems to stand up and bellow, 'right, entrapment. Everybody out!' Which is, of course, a tragedy. I mean, it'd make great telly, regardless of the moral and ethical questions involved. Anyway, tonight's horrorshow involves Jacqueline Gold, CEO of the lingerie retailer Ann Summers. She doesn't even have the courage for become an undercover snitch herself so she sends her sister and Deputy MD Vanessa to work undercover in stores across the UK. Despite having been employed by the company from the age of sixteen, the incognito executive struggles to overcome her nervousness while talking to customers, especially when confronted by intimate questions about the products on sale. Actually, no, I take back everything I said, this sounds funny.

Wednesday 6 July
And, speaking of thoroughly unlikeable Channel Four formats brings us, perhaps unwillingly, to Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance - 8:00. In this, the alleged 'childcare expert' with the cruel glasses takes on the case of six-year-old Jack, who has his mother battered, bruised and defeated by the battle he wages at bedtime. And, seemingly, he is not afraid to take a swing at Jo when she intervenes either. Good on ya, Jack, many have wanted to do it before you, son. Meanwhile, five-year-old superhero fan George has become addicted to making ten costume-changes a day (what does he think he's a member of The Supremes or what?), and he now cannot concentrate at school and is falling behind. Unlocking the root of his obsession could be the way to break his habit. Either that or, you know, giving him a ruddy good hiding and telling him not to be so bratty could also work although, hey, don't ask me, I'm not an alleged 'childcare expert.' Maybe I should claim that I, actually, am and - as a consequence - get my own series of Channel Four giving out this rubbish to gullible viewers? Don't knock it, it's a living ...

In The Perfect Suit - 9:00 BBC4 - Alastair Sooke charts the history of the modern suit. A curious subject for a TV documentary, you might consider but let's give the lad a chance and watch it. You never know, it might, indeed, suit you. Hey, I don't just throw these things together, you know, there's a bit of thought gone into this. A bit, I said. Anyway, Alastair traces the rise to prominence of the now-traditional jacket, trousers and waistcoat design - as sported by public figures including politician Keir Hardie and King Edward VIII in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries - and explores how it became a mass-market product. He also follows its fluctuating popularity in subsequent decades and interviews designers including Paul Smith, Antony Price, Gordon Richardson and Patrick Grant.

A repeat, but a good one, Not Going Out - 10:45 BBC1 - the sitcom starring Lee Mack and Tim Vine. In this episode, Tim arrives home after a night out clubbing and realises he has picked up the wrong coat, one which contains a pocket full of drugs. After discovering that the coat's owner is Larry 'the Butcher' Stubbs, Tim enlists Lee's help to return the jacket - and the blow - without ending up in serious danger of a very nasty kneecapping.

True Justice - 9:00 5USA - is a new crime drama starring Steven Seagal as a former Special Forces operative in charge of an undercover team of Seattle-based cops. And, yes, it is as bad as that description makes it sound. Tonight, 5USA are showing the opening two episodes in which the crew welcomes new member Sarah to the ranks while investigating the complex web of drug suppliers in the city, and the discovery of a gang camping out in the woods leads to a major Russian dealer named Nikoli. With Sarah Lind and Meghan Ory.

Thursday 7 July
If you were one of several hundred thousand BBC4 viewers who fell madly in love with the original Danish version of The Killing (Forbrydelsen)) then you've probably been dreading the very thought of the subsequent US remake which has its British debut tonight - 9:00 Channel Four. Seattle homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos, who is decent but not a patch on Sofie Gråbøl) is preparing to leave her job and move to California with her fiance and son. On what is supposed to be her last day at work, she is sent with her intended replacement Stephen Holder to investigate the disappearance of seventeen-year-old Rosie Larsen. The American version of the Danish crime drama also stars Billy Campbell and Joel Kinnamon. It's ... adequate. I mean, I don't want to damn it with faint praise, they're certainly trying their best but it's a little bit like listening to The Beatles version of 'Straweberry Fields Forever' followed by Candy Flip's!

In Horizon: Forty Years on the Moon - 8:00 BBC4 - the BBC's pet tame sexy scientist Professor Brian Cox takes a journey through the BBC science archive to explore the story of man's relationship with the moon. From James Burke testing NASA equipment to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the lunar surface and the dramatic tale of Apollo Thirteen. He also asks whether international competition could help reignite the public's enthusiasm for space travel and bring about the dawn of a new space age.

The latest episode of Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - sees Fiz facing up to the prospect of life behind bars and makes a heartbreaking decision about Hope. Sophie finds Kevin's Internet banking details, intending to withdraw twenty thousand smackers without telling him, while Gail pulls out all the stops to host dinner for Marc, but the evening ends in chaos. As most Corrie evenings seem to these days.

And so to the news: Claudia Whatsherface's new comedy talk show has been 'cut short' due to her pregnancy, it has been confirmed. The presenter will not film the final two episodes of King Of... under doctor's orders, a Channel Four spokesperson has announced. 'Following medical advice, Claudia Winkleman is unable to continue with any work commitments. As Claudia is essentially the king of King Of... it will mean that the last two episodes will not be filmed,' a representative for the broadcaster told The British Comedy Guide website. However, the representative added: 'We are delighted with the episodes we have and look forward to working with Claudia soon.' Meanwhile, after recording was cancelled earlier this week, Winkleman tweeted: 'I can't do the others as am on bed rest. Was supposed to be with Ruby Wax and Jonny [sic] Vegas today. Livid.'

A group of faith healers who claim they can effect miracle cures for cancer and HIV have been condemned as 'irresponsible, even criminal' by a professor of complementary medicine, following a BBC Newsnight investigation. The group of healers, collectively known as ThetaHealing, claim that their technique - which focuses on thought and prayer - can teach people to use their natural intuition and 'brain wave cycle' to 'create instantaneous physical and emotional healing.' ThetaHealing have about six hundred practitioners in the UK who charge up to one hundred pounds per session. But the healers' claims have been called 'criminal' and 'not supported by any kind of evidence' by Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, whose unit not only carry out their own studies but also assess those done by other researchers. Newsnight recorded the Warrington-based ThetaHealing practitioner Jenny Johnstone - who charges thirty smackers for a telephone call or four hundred quid for a course - making a number of claims about the technique, including: 'There was a baby I worked on over the telephone and from one day to the next the cancer in his stomach had just disappeared.' Professor Ernst says such claims are 'irresponsible, even criminal.' He believes that the ThetaHealing group try to distinguish themselves from the other twenty thousand faith healers in the UK by applying 'a veneer of science,' but says 'it's still nonsense.' Repeated clinical trials appear to show that although such faith healing might make people feel better in the short term, it does not 'cure' diseases. Professor Ernst conducted one such trial which pitched faith healers against actors pretending to be faith healers and found that the actors actually performed better than the healers. One former client of ThetaHealing - who did not wish to be identified - told the BBC that he was 'angry and embarrassed' that he had wasted twelve hundred pounds on their healing and missed two years of proper medical treatment. 'There was never any suggestion I should go back to my doctor, which is what I needed to do,' he told the BBC. On ThetaHealing's website it claims that Vianna Stibal, the American founder of the group, 'facilitated her own instant healing from cancer in 1995.' It also suggests that Stibal conducts seminars around the world to teach people about ThetaHealing, and that she has trained teachers and practitioners who are now working in fourteen countries. Earlier this month, Stibal visited the UK to address a meeting at the London School of Economics. At the meeting Stibal responded to a question from an audience member who asked if it was possible for ThetaHealing to make an amputated leg grow back: 'I believe it's possible to grow it back. A lady grew back her ovary. You can grow back a leg. I've seen people grow back,' she told attendees. She didn't say where she saw this, however. I'm guessing a Tom and Jerry cartoon myself. Or, possibly in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets his arms stuck in a vending machine. 'Homer, this is never easy, I'm afraid we're going to have to cut your arms off.' 'They'll grow back, right?' 'Errr... sure.' Some of the one hundred people who attended the event told a BBC researcher that they were 'reassured' about the legitimacy of the group by the fact that the meeting was being held at the LSE. The LSE, however, told Newsnight that ThetaHealing's meeting was 'a normal commercial booking.' Further remarks made by Vianna Stibal at the London meeting, whereby she claimed that ThetaHealing could effectively reduce HIV to undetectable levels, have also alarmed AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. 'The fact is we've seen charlatans of this kind all the way through the HIV epidemic,' Lisa Power of the Trust told Newsnight. 'Those charlatans are more dangerous than ever now that we have effective treatment.' Lisa said that she worries some patients could put their lives at risk by delaying taking effective anti-retroviral drugs in favour of pursuing faith healing. Both Vianna Stibal and Jenny Johnstone refused to answer questions from Newsnight. Johnstone still insists she has healed a baby's stomach cancer, but said that there was no point in her trying to prove it because the BBC would not believe her anyway. Yeah. Pretty much.

Leverage's Timothy Hutton has told Assignment X that the show's team of con artists will be operating 'under the radar' in future episodes. 'The team [is] in a strong place with one another [because of the] success they've had, but there's definitely an undercurrent of concern that they've been exposed because of their success,' he explained. 'People are out there looking for them.' He continued: 'They have to watch their backs in a way they haven't had to before. They have to go a little bit underground.' Hutton explained that the increased scrutiny will cause 'tension' within the ranks of the Leverage team. 'This [exposure] becomes troubling so if anyone's doing anything that's not part of the playbook, there's some conflict between team members that we haven't quite seen before,' he revealed. 'They've got wind of a real possibility that they're being monitored [in] some of the most private places. They discover that perhaps where they live or [in] the cars they drive, somebody has a window onto their every move.'

Full-of-himself Stewart Lee has described his comedy as 'borderline art.' And, again, sometimes there's just no punchline required, is there?

News Corporation's James Murdoch has indicated that the takeover of BSkyB is just the beginning of a 'major expansion' over the next decade, arguing that compared with 'monolithic' technology and telecoms companies such as Google the global media business is 'not big enough.' Zen, ze vorld. Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, said that while the company may be considered to be a sprawling conglomerate in the media sector, the rise of the technology sector means there are 'much, much bigger beasts' posing a threat. 'The real issue becomes though, that as the competitive set changes we aren't big enough,' he added, interviewed at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Friday. 'So when you actually look at the competitive set in the all media marketplace, when you know you have sort of monolithic brands like Google, Apple, Telefonica, Deutsche Telecom, Verizon there are much, much bigger beasts than a News Corp or a Time Warner.' Murdoch said that it was the threat posed by tech and telecoms companies that would be the defining issue facing News Corp's next decade. 'That is a real challenge for us going forward – how do we make sure we can compete at scale globally with these new players [and still be] quick and creative and risk-taking,' he added. 'I think it is something very much unresolved. A big factor over how this plays out over the next five to ten years is going to be how we do that. How we make ourselves as good at a much bigger scale as we can be.' Sir Martin Sorrell, the WPP chief executive, who interviewed Murdoch in Cannes, then interjected to ask if his comments meant that 'Sky is just the beginning,' referring to News Corp's proposed plan to BSkyB. Murdoch dodged answering the question directly, saying that each Sky business — the pay-TV operator is in six markets, including Germany and Italy — is a local business. 'The national nature of those businesses doesn't work well with competing on a global basis with monolithic brands like Google,' he said. 'We co-operate with them as well but there is competitive dynamic.' Murdoch went on to illustrate this by pointing out that you can have a 'deep partnership' with a company in one market – as News Corp does with ESPN in parts of Asia – while 'wanting to throttle them over here,' a reference to FOX Sports versus ESPN in the US. 'It is about playing the ball, not the man,' he said. Murdoch also said that News Corp shared similar issues about fears that economic conditions globally appear to be worsening, admitting that the 'mood music' had changed for the worse. 'In the last couple of weeks, the last four or five weeks, the mood has not been great,' he said. 'Hopefully companies are in good enough shape after the shock of 2008-2009. We are in a better position. We feel healthy about the business but nervous about the macroeconomic [situation].'

An episode of an East German police TV drama banned by the politburo during the cold war is to get its premiere thirty seven years on. The storyline in Polizeiruf 110 (Dial 110 for Police) about a murderous paedophile was censored in 1974 because the GDR government feared it would lead to an uncomfortable debate about the death penalty. The tapes were confiscated shortly before broadcast was due to take place and were assumed lost until they were found in the German Broadcasting Archive in Babelsberg, near Berlin, in 2009. The recovered footage had no sound but, after the script also came to light, director Stefan Urlass recreated the dialogue with the help of actors from the long-running series, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. Urlass has spent much of the past two years working on the reconstruction of the episode, which will be broadcast on Thursday night. Polizeiruf 110 was conceived in 1971 as a competitor to the West German police series, Tatort (Crime Scene), which had become a big hit over the border. Keen that East German citizens did not tilt their TV antennas towards the west, the government asked state broadcasters to come up with their own version. From the start, an 'adviser' from the ministry of the interior (ie a Stasi spy!) was 'on hand' to 'oversee proceedings.' The episode was concerned with a notorious murderer called Erwin Hagedorn, who between May 1969 and October 1971 had sexually abused and killed at least three young boys in the East German town of Eberswalde. He was caught, sentenced to death and was shot by firing squad in Leipzig on 15 September 1972 – a fact which was withheld from the Polizeiruf team as well as the general population at the time. 'The interior ministry just told Polizeiruf that they thought it would be a good idea, in the light of the Hagedorn case, to do something about sex crimes,' Urlass said this week. The Polizeiruf producers were tasked with producing an episode loosely based on the Hagedorn case. But just before filming was over, the government confiscated the material without giving a reason. 'The top brass in the SED [ruling party] had a guilty conscience for what they had done to Hagedorn and they were afraid it would come out,' said Urlass. Capital punishment was a matter of controversy in Europe at that time, plus the question of Hagedorn's criminal culpability had been raised during the trial, as well as the fact that Hagedorn was under the age of criminal responsibility at the time of the first two murders. Talking about his prosecution became taboo, and the episode was scrapped. The original director, Heinz Seibert, fought for the film to be shown and was, according to Urlass, 'sent out into the cold' as a result. MDR, a German regional state broadcaster, said it decided to commission the reconstruction as a history project. 'The footage and script convinced us that this programme will still captivate viewers,' said Jana Brandt, head of TV drama.

Peter Falk, the great American actor most famous for his role as scruffy-but-brilliant TV detective Frank Columbo, has died at the age of eighty three. The actor died peacefully at home in Beverly Hills on Thursday night, his family said in a statement. He had been suffering from dementia for a number of years. Peter won four Emmys for his mesmeric performance as the cigar-chomping, bumblingly deceptive Columbo, and was nominated for Oscars in 1960 and 1961 for his roles in the movies Murder Inc and A Pocketful of Miracles. In the 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride, he played a kindly old man regaling his sick grandson with a fairytale combination of swordplay, giants, a beautiful princess and fearsome rodents and he also appeared in the BBC's 2001 adaptation of The Lost World. But for most fans, even his Oscar nominations were eclipsed by his performance as the sleuth in the shabby raincoat with a wife who seems to be a big fan of everyone and everything and the killer catch-phrase: 'Just one more thing...' The character had first appeared (played by Bert Freed) in a 1960 episode of the television-anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was, itself, partly derived from a short story by Richard Levinson and William Link first published in an issue of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as Dear Corpus Delicti. Levinson and Link subsequently adapted the character - based on a combination of Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment character Porfiry Petrovich, GK Chesterton's clerical detective Father Brown and Inspector Fichet from the 1955 French suspense-thriller Les Diaboliques - into the stage play, Prescription: Murder. In 1968, a TV-movie based on the play was broadcast with Falk in the title role after Bing Crosby had turned the part down. Three years later, a pilot episode for a recurring series was made, part of the NBC Mystery Movie rotation which also included McCloud, McMillan & Wife and other various other, less well remembered, whodunits. The detective appeared every third week in several series between 1971 and 1977. Falk made the part his own and the series was revived at regular intervals thereafter, Falk continuing to make episodes of Columbo well into his seventies. He reportedly turned down an offer to convert the drama into a weekly series, citing the heavy workload. The actor bought Columbo's trademark raincoat himself, only for it to be replaced after it became too tattered through its near constant use in the series. He told one interviewer his shabby detective looked 'like a flood victim. You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he's seeing everything. Underneath his dishevellment, a good mind is at work.' He also noted that 'I have great affection for the original raincoat and put a saucer of milk out for it every night.' Peter Michael Falk was born in 1927 in New York City, where his immigrant parents ran a clothes shop. He had an eye removed at the age of three due to cancer. He said that he learned to live with the disability after it became 'the joke of the neighbourhood. If the umpire ruled me out on a bad call, I'd take the fake eye out and hand it to him,' Falk told the Associated Press in a 1963 interview. Despite making his first stage performance at twelve years old, Falk was solely focused on academia - achieving a degree in political science in 1951 and a Masters in public administration in 1953. However, after being rejected for the CIA, his attention slowly turned back to acting, and in his spare time he performed in plays in Hartford where he worked as a management analyst. By 1956, at the age of twenty nine, Falk left his job and declared himself an actor. Moving back to New York, his professional debut came off-Broadway in Moliere's Don Juan, after which he starred in the lauded revival of The Iceman Cometh with Jason Robards. His theatrical agent advised him to stay on stage due to his glass eye. However, in 1960 Peter shunned this advice and moved to Hollywood where he landed his first movie role, Murder, Inc., for which he received an Oscar nomination. That year also, his portrayal of a drug addict in an episode of The Law and Mr Jones led him to an Emmy nomination. His success continued into 1961, as Falk grabbed another Oscar nomination for Frank Capra's A Pocketful of Miracles, which he starred in alongside Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, and won his first Emmy for The Price of Tomatoes. After saying no to many television series offers, he finally relented with the comedy The Trials of O'Brien which, despite running to relatively low ratings in 1965, received much critical acclaim. His next role, as the inimitable cigar-chomping Lieutenant Columbo, turned him into a fully-fledged TV star, scooping four more Emmys over the years. It became, by 1977, one of America's most-watched dramas. Remembered as perhaps the most iconic crime procedural in US TV history, Columbo was subsequently revived from 1988 by ABC for occasional TV movies with Falk as the lead, the last such movie being made in 2003. In all, sixty nine Columbo episodes were made. The plots of the stories were all beautifully simple - a major guest star (Robert Culp, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Vaughn, William Shatner, Patrick McGoohan, Roddy McDowell, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, Jack Cassidy, Nicol Williamson or Clive Revill to name but several of the most memorable ones) is initially shown to be carefully plotting and then coolly committing an, apparently perfect, murder. The first police officers on the scene are, inevitably, baffled and jump to wholly obvious conclusions. But then, about fifteen or twenty minutes in, Frank Columbo would wander onto the set like somebody lost of his way to a convention for tramps. He would take one look at the real killer, instantly seem realise the truth of things and then spend the rest of the episode chipping away at the towering edifice of lies until he finally gets his man (or woman) at the climax. Usually impressing even the murderer with his deductive skills and ability to quietly, but deliberately, trap them in a web of their own deceit. The best of the episodes - Ransom for a Dead Man, Death Lends a Hand, Blueprint for Murder, Étude in Black, Dagger of the Mind, How To Dial A Murder, A Stitch in Crime, Fade In To Murder and three extraordinary episodes featuring his friend Patrick McGooghan By Dawn's Early Light, Agenda For Murder and Identity Crisis - are genuine TV masterpieces. Columbo aside, more recognition came Falk's way with a Tony Award for his Broadway turn in Neil Simon's play The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971, while later films saw Falk star alongside Peter Sellers (in Murder By Death) and Woody Allen (The Sunshine Boys). Falk was a close friend of the independent film director John Cassavetes and appeared in several Cassavetes' films including Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence, and, in a cameo, at the end of Opening Night. Cassavetes, in turn, guest-starred in the memorable Columbo episode Étude in Black in 1972. Peter also appeared, in character as Columbo, on an episode of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast celebrating the career of another close friend, Frank Sinatra. More recently, his diverse acting skills have been evident from appearing opposite Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan in Disney's 2001 Corky Romano, while in 2008 he starred with Nicholas Cage in the thriller Next. An accomplished artist, Peter took classes at the Art Students League of New York for many years. Examples of his sketches can be seen on his official website. He was also a chess aficionado and was a spectator at the American Open in Santa Monica in November 1972. His memoir, Just One More Thing, was published by Carroll & Graf in 2006. Peter had been under twenty four-hour care for several years. The actor is survived by his wife of three decades, Shera, and daughters from a previous marriage to Alyce Mayo, Catherine and Jackie. In 2009, Catherine Falk applied to be put in charge of his estate, saying that he was suffering from Alzheimer's and that she had been blocked from seeing him for six months.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is this.
Otis at his fa-fa-fa-fa-finest. On this remarkable piece of footage from Ready Steady Go! ably assisted by not only The Bar Keys but also a - very sweaty - Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe. Soul, baby.

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