Sunday, June 05, 2011

Whisper Something Soft And Kind

The foreign secretary - and professional slapheed - William Hague says that he has been 'inspired' by his visit to the rebel-held city of Benghazi in Libya. Sadly, this probably doesn't mean that yer man Billy Fizz will be leading an armed peoples insurrection against the dark and sinister dictatorial forces which continue to oppress Britain. Because, that'd be just a bit too much like hard work, wouldn't it? He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that he had met 'representatives of all areas of Libya, and of many [political] shades' during his visit on Saturday. Hague said he discussed a political road map for the future with the rebels' Transitional National Council.

The BBC has cancelled the comedy series Candy Cabs, about a group of northern women establishing their own taxi firm. Because, it was shit and no one was watching it. Viewers turned off in huge numbers when the first three-part series went out on BBC1 earlier this year, with ratings slumping from a decent 5.48 million in the first episode to a less-than-impressive 3.62 million in the last. A BBC spokeswoman told the trade journal Broadcast: 'Unfortunately we will not be bringing Candy Cabs back but we're looking forward to seeing more from the team behind the show and we're already talking to them about new ideas.' The series, which featured an ensemble cast including Jo Joyner, Melanie Hill, Claire Sweeney and Paul Kaye, was created by Jane Lush, the BBC's former head of entertainment who went on to set up the production company Splash Media.

Ant and Dec have claimed that Jai McDowall's Britain's Got Talent win 'disproves' fix claims about the show. Presumably they did so, you know, separately rather than with one voice since they are, actually, two blokes, not one gestalt entity. The Scottish singer was the surprise victor on last night's BGT final, beating odds-on bookies' favourite Ronan Parke and the boyband New Bounce to the one hundred grand first prize. Speaking on ITV2's More Talent about McDowall's victory, Declan Donnelly said: 'He was the dark horse of the competition. All the attention has been surrounding Ronan. It was a great semi-final performance and a great final performance, but a shock.' Ant McPartlin added: "He's a lovely-looking fella, but I didn't really like his song tonight. But he is a nice guy and the public go for that. They just go for nice people.' Dec said: 'It's amazing. Where we're standing, you can see the pulse on the side of the contestants' necks. I can see how nervous they really are. I could see on Jai that he was going twenty to the dozen. It was a lovely moment [when he won].' Commenting on the well-publicised anonymous Internet post earlier this week - widely, but inaccurately described as the work of 'a blogger' by many media outlets - which alleged that Parke was being 'groomed' by Syco to win the show, Ant added: 'It just proves that these shows are not a foregone conclusion. They say this person is dead certain to win or that Simon wants this person to win. They say it's fixed. It's not.' An average of twelve million viewers saw the twenty four-year-old from Ayrshire win the one hundred thousand smackers prize and - far less importantly - a place at this year's Royal Variety Performance. McDowall said that he felt 'absolutely amazing, absolutely fantastic,' after winning the public vote. Simon Cowell said he thought the singer was 'a worthy winner.' Viewing figures peaked during the results show at 13.1m, while an average of 11.4m watched the ten finalists perform earlier, according to overnight figures. The overnight average for this year's final was lower than last year where 13.5m tuned in to see gymnastic troupe Spelbound win the competition.

Gary Barlow was reportedly booed at an X Factor audition this week after he mistook a female contestant for a man. The Sun suggests that the Take That singer 'stunned' the audience at Birmingham's LG Arena when he questioned a tall blonde contestant about her gender. Barlow allegedly tried to clarify his query by asking if she was 'born a man.' Ouch. The unnamed hopeful, who had given 'confusing' stories about her life, replied: 'What? Of course I'm not.' An audience member said: 'You could hear everyone gasp in shock. The woman was very pretty, but in fairness to Gary there was something a little bit suspect about her. She was extremely tall and thin and didn't stand like a girl. But it was a fairly full-on thing for Gary to come out with as she took it pretty badly. Gary was booed. It was quite shocking.' The woman in question performed 'I Will Survive' for the judges, and was put through to the next round of the competition. An X Factor spokesperson said of the incident: 'It was a light-hearted thing. She was happy.'

And so to a trio of Cherly Cole stories, dear blog reader. Because, let's face it, a day wouldn't be a day without one of the tabloids having a Cheryl Cole story. According to the Mirra on Friday, Cole has reportedly been offered a one million pound plus deal if she 'remains silent' about her axe from The X Factor USA. Cole would, therefore, effectively be paid her entire fee for the talent series for just four days' work, as previously reported. This equates to around twenty five thousand quid per hour. Nice work if you can get it. In return the singer must 'not speak negatively' about the show or about Simon Cowell in public. A 'source' allegedly told the Mirra: 'Cheryl is going to be paid off if things go to plan. The last thing we need is someone with an axe to grind saying bad things about the show before it even starts. We hope a simple statement can be released next week and that will be the end of it. It's is an incredible amount of money for four days' work, but this is a multi-million dollar show with so much invested, it will be worth it. If she takes the money she is effectively agreeing to a gag.'

But wait, what's this? According to the News of the World on Sunday Cole will reportedly return to the judging panel of The X Factor USA, just over a week after she was 'allegedly' axed from her role on the show. And, for once, it's the News of the Screws using the word 'allegedly' not anybody else. Cole's rumoured return was reportedly 'due to the financial implications of her initial axe.' The singer was alleged (there is it again, see) to have been dropped from the show and replaced with host Nicole Scherzinger. However, she will now rejoin the judging panel in time for the the New Jersey auditions on Wednesday according to the News of the World. Cole is said to have signed a 'pay or play' contract, meaning she gets paid whether she appears on the show or not. Executives at FOX and production company Fremantle were reluctant to lose money - seeming to make a complete mockery of the 'quotes' attributed by the Mirra to their 'source' - and therefore decided 'it was better to have her on The X Factor USA,' the gossip website TMZ reports. The Girls Aloud singer has, they continue, 'yet to decide whether to accept the comeback deal,' which will see her earn the same as fellow judges Paula Abdul and LA Reid. The report adds that Cole was due to return to her position on The X Factor UK following her initial departure, but that negotiations failed after her management demanded a two and a half million quid salary. Abdul had already cast doubt upon Cole's axing, stating that the development was 'all news to me.'

This is - also - seemingly news to the Gruniad Morning Star which just one day earlier was alleging that 'the BBC and ITV are locked in a bidding war for a new Saturday-night talent show being marketed as the "world's hottest new TV music property."' The Voice, already a hit in the US, offers a twist on the standard talent show by supposedly adopting a kinder and less image-obsessed approach to its performers. 'Its potential arrival on British TV screens, say some observers, could not be more timely: from Cheryl Cole's dramatic firing by The X Factor USA to allegations that this year's Britain's Got Talent had been "fixed" by Simon Cowell's production company, the talent show landscape has become convulsed with spats and rumours of skulduggery.' The Voice, with 'blind' auditions in which contestants are rated on their singing abilities alone and judges who give out more constructive criticism than cynical one-liners to the cameras, is touted as 'a soothing alternative to the world of Cowell and his shows.' And 'if that alternative happens to hire Cole as a judge, luring her away from her former mentor, so much the better.' The prospect of Cole signing up is 'a huge attraction for the BBC, where Danny Cohen, controller of BBC1, has taken personal command of negotiations with the UK production company handling the deal, Shed Media.' He, according to the newspaper, 'sees the show as the answer to a gap in his schedule's armoury.' His ambitions, however, could be thwarted by an eleventh-hour move last week from ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham: 'On no account does he want to lose Cole to his biggest rival. Nor, of course, does he want to pass on what could be the next talent show that the British take to their hearts.' And in case the next series of X Factor – without Cowell as a judge – does not perform as well as usual, Fincham would dearly like a back-up. Warning signs have already been detected in Britain's Got Talent, the Gruniad rather gleefully claims, 'which has performed erratically this year.' Last week the programme became engulfed in a row over twelve-year-old finalist Ronan Parke, whom an anonymous Internet poster claimed had been 'spotted' two years ago by Cowell's production company Syco. The claims have been vigorously denied by Syco and the boy's mother and legal action has been threatened - in what remains to this blogger to be a rather staggering over-reaction to a bit of Internet commonplace glakery. Compared with this, The Voice may seem 'a safe bet,' the Gruniad suggest. The latest idea of John de Mol, the Dutch media tycoon who made his fortune through the reality show Big Brother, it began in the Netherlands and was an instant hit in the US on the NBC network. On its debut in April, its twelve million viewers took it past Glee and Dancing With The Stars in the ratings. Its star coaching panel of Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine – the lead singer of Maroon Five – and country music singer Blake Shelton has been credited with pulling in viewers. Along with Cole, George Michael has been mooted as a potential judge for the British version. 'Not everyone, however, is convinced by the new show,' the Gruniad suggests. Channel Four says that it quickly decided against bidding for The Voice 'because it is derivative, a rip-off,' while viewers in the US appeared to cool after the show's debut, with ratings sagging in the so-called 'battle' round, where singers engage in one-to-one duels. As for the promise of a fresh approach to finding and nurturing talent, many have expressed scepticism. Critics in the US have described the 'blind' auditions – in which the judges turn towards the audience so they are not swayed by performance or appearance – a gimmick. The majority of contestants they have to choose from, point out such critics, are already suspiciously attractive. An - anonymous - 'seasoned expert' producer in the UK told the Gruniad that The Voice's claim to be different because of its coaching and development was spurious. 'All contestants in talent shows are coached furiously behind the scenes,' the producer claimed. None of this is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of the BBC. Cohen, who oversaw Big Brother when he was at C4, recently briefed journalists on his pressing need to find a fresh Saturday evening entertainment format. The BBC's controller of entertainment, Mark Linsey, has dropped a heavy hint that the wretched So You Think You Can Dance will be cancelled after a hugely lacklustre series this spring. This means that a British version of The Voice would slot in neatly on BBC1 when Strictly Come Dancing finishes before Christmas. However, any deal is, the newspaper claims, 'still some way off,' according to 'insiders.' The BBC could be hampered because it cannot run premium phone line votes, or offer instant downloaded songs or product placement by advertisers. It would also not be able to offer Cole anywhere near the kind of million-pound-plus deal that ITV could provide. 'This is not a money move for her, this is a career move,' insist BBC 'sources', whom, the paper claims, hope Cole will be swayed by the chance to widen her appeal and relaunch herself. They also believe her record label, Universal Music, favours a BBC show for her.

So, there you go dear blog reader, three completely different Cheryl Cole stories there for you. Which one - if any - do you believe?

Jacqueline Leonard has revealed that she 'very nearly' landed the role of Stella Price in Coronation Street. Quite how this is 'news,' dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping doesn't know, he merely reports in on the off chance that someone is interested. The former EastEnders actress, who played Lorraine Wicks in the soap, and has since appeared in Doctors and River City, told Inside Soap that she was 'just pipped' by Michelle Collins for the new role in Corrie. Second, eh? It comes right after first. Just ask Buzz Aldrin, Jacqui, he knows exactly how you feel. She said: 'I auditioned recently for the new part of Stella Price. I actually got down to the last few for the role, but as we now know, it went to Michelle Collins.' Leonard added that the role would have been 'perfect' as she lives in Manchester with her husband Alex and their eight-year-old daughter Aleisha. She added: 'That part would have been great to do because the Street set is right on my doorstep - but that's life, isn't it?' Yep, that is, indeed, life. Full of crushing disappointments. 'It's quite ironic really, what with Michelle being a southerner having to come up north to film her scenes!' Leonard is returning to work after suffering a cracked pelvis in an ice-skating accident. She explained that she is reprising an old role, but declined to reveal more details. She added: 'I'm going back to film that for a few weeks, but after it's done, I'm not really sure what's coming up next.' Signing on, probably.

The latest episode of Qi to be filmed has the theme of The Inland Revenue and features Sandi Toksvig, Dara Ó Briain and first timer Al Murray. Five more episodes are due to be filmed over the next couple of weeks before Stephen Fry heads down to the southern hemisphere to begin his acting roles in firstly The Borrowers and then The Hobbit. The sixteen 'series I' episodes of Qi will be shown in the autumn on BBC2.

Smug tosser Glenn Beck has confirmed that he will exit FOX News at the end of this month. Oh, what a shame. Still, life goes on, eh? FOX News chairman Roger Ailes announced in April that the network was ending Beck's nightly chat show, but added that the political pundit will continue to 'develop new programming' for FOX through his production company Mercury Radio Arts. The anchor has now disclosed his definitive departure from the cable channel, telling fellow FOX News host Bill O'Reilly that 30 June will mark the last episode of Glenn Beck. After O'Reilly joked that the TV presenter would be taking off on 'a circuit safari' once he leaves FOX, Beck promised that he will continue to make guest appearances on the network in the future. If they'll have him. Beck first joined FOX in 2009 and generated significant controversy by referring to US President Barack Obama as 'a racist' and more recently decrying Glee as 'a horror show.'

A new book claims that the word 'chav' is 'helping to reignite class war.' Does it need reigniting? For some of us it never went away! The journalist Polly Toynbee calls it 'the vile word at the heart of fractured Britain.' No, the vile word at the heart of fractured Britain is 'Cameron', dear. Get it right, you're an intelligent woman you should know these things. Recently a peer caused something of a kerfuffle and all that malarkey when she tweeted about being stuck in 'chav-land.' So, almost a decade after its emergence, is the word - and, indeed, the concept - of chav really 'the most divisive word in Britain'? For some it has been a satisfying label to pin on Burberry check-wearing louts. But for others, it's a nasty, coded attack on the working classes. And, for some commentators the word 'chav' itself is now at the heart of Britain's obsession with class. There has been much discussion over the origin of the term. The Romany word 'chavi' - meaning a child - was recorded in the Nineteenth Century. Others argue it's from 'Chatham average,' a disparaging reference to the inhabitants of the Kent town. There have always been regional labels equivalent to 'chav' - 'skangers', 'spides', 'charvers', 'scallies' and 'neds', respectively in Eire, Northern Ireland, the North East of England, the North West of England and Scotland. But 'chav' itself has somehow scaled regional barriers to become a national term of, depending on your viewpoint, either description or of abuse. The OED lists the first reference as a Usenet forum in 1998. Its first recorded use in a newspaper was in 2002 and by 2004 the word was in very common currency. Driven by websites like Chavscum and Chavtowns, and soon picked up by the mainstream media, the word has also mutated into 'chavtastic', 'chavsters', 'chavette', 'chavdom' etc. There are plenty of people for whom the word is harmless. The Daily Telegraph blogger James Delingpole argues it's merely an updating of 'oik.' But more left-leaning commentators have seen it as shorthand for bashing the poor. In 2008 the Fabian Society urged the BBC to put it on their list of offensive terms. 'This is middle class hatred of the white working class, pure and simple,' wrote Tom Hampsen, the society's editorial director. He also called on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to take this kind of class discrimination seriously. But last week a Lib Dem peer on that very commission caused a minor controversy by using the term on twitter: 'Help. Trapped in a queue in chav-land! Woman behind me explaining latest EastEnders plot to mate, while eating largest bun I've ever seen,' Baroness Hussein-Ece tweeted. Her comment appalled the Gruniad Morning Star columnist Polly Toynbee who compared it to two of the most serious racial insults, noting that chav is seen as 'acceptable class abuse by people asserting superiority over those they despise.' Now a new book - Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class - argues that the word is a coded attack on the poor. 'As inequality has widened it's a way of people saying that the people at the bottom deserve to be there,' says Owen Jones, the book's author. The situation is complicated by the decline in the number of people identifying themselves as working class. A survey in March this year by research firm Britainthinks, suggested seventy one per cent of people define themselves as middle class. 'I saw the "working class" tag used as a slur, equated with other class-based insults such as "chav,"' wrote researcher Deborah Mattinson. A belief has grown - amongst trendy left-wing tossers and Gruniad Morning Star readers, most of whom would in all likelihood shat in their own pants and run an effing mile if they ever actually met a real working class person - that the aspirational 'decent' working class has become middle class, Jones argues. According to this narrative, what is left behind is a 'feckless rump' housed on estates, living off benefits or working in low status jobs at supermarkets, hairdressers or fast food outlets. Now, as someone born, raised and who has lived his entire life on a council estate in Newcastle please allow this blogger the opportunity to bellow 'what a load of old effing crap.' Thanks, I feel much better now. That view has been reinforced by 'grotesque' sketches about chavs written by public school educated comedians like David Walliams and Matt Lucas, Jones argues. A 2006 survey by YouGov suggested seventy per cent of TV industry professionals believed that Vicky Pollard was 'an accurate reflection of white working class youth.' But Delingpole rejects Jones's utterly stupid and one-eyed analysis. 'The left loves this constituency of the deserving poor, honest people who would dearly love to get a job if the system would only allow them to.' Chav, for Delingpole, is both a term of abuse for an 'underclass' who won't work and also a wider term similar to how 'yob' or 'thug' was used in the 1970s. 'It's a young person in their teens or twenties. It covers a multitude of characteristics. It's not even exclusively used about white people.' For the tabloids, the word is associated with loud or aggressive behaviour. Lottery winner Michael Carroll, the footballer Wayne Rooney, ex-glamour model Jordan and Cheryl Cole have all been celebrated as 'chav royalty.' In 2005 Cole told Marie Claire: 'I'm proud to be a chav if by that you mean working class made good.' Everyone's missing the point, argues Labour MP Stephen Pound. The term chav just shows how jealous middle Britain is about working class people having fun. 'Chav is an utterly misunderstood term. It is used in envy by the lily livered, privileged, pale, besuited bank clerk who sees people dressed up to the nines and going to the West End.' It's no different, he argues to the Teddy Boys or Mods, youth style movements about asserting individual identity and confidence. Yeah, the chap's got a point. Mocking chavs' perceived 'bad taste' and excess has become a popular sport. In 2006 the Sun reported that Prince William and his fellow officers at Sandhurst dressed in chav fancy dress to celebrate finishing their first term. According to the paper, the future king 'donned a loose-fitting top and bling jewellery then added an angled baseball cap and glare to complete his menacing lookalike of Lotto lout Michael Carroll.' Whatever the complicated arguments over class, there is always a suspicion for some that the words represents contempt for 'the other.' 'What makes Britain so hard to love is this term "good taste." When what they mean is "my taste,"' notes Pound. Delingpole agrees and says that chav is an acceptable word in polite society. 'Of course you shouldn't worry about using it. All that happens when you put a word on the prohibited list is that another equally offensive one comes in to fill the gap.' Jones cannot even accept the word as a demarcator of taste. 'If you mean bling then say bling,' he says. The word chav 'is deeply offensive' and should no longer be permitted as a smokescreen for class hatred. I'm not sure what's the most patronising here, the fact that this bloke believes he can speak for the entire working classes or the fact that he is seemingly sincere in his belief that the working classes actually need 'protecting' from those of higher social status. To me, that's far more sinister than any mere word. Jones equally disapproves of the word 'toff,' but asserts it is far less wounding as it mocks the powerful rather than the poor. It's common practice these days to try to reclaim offensive terms, 'queer', 'queen' and 'slut' being three notable examples. But this is not the way to deal with the word chav, Jones claims. Ten years after it started filtering into the national consciousness, this term continues to be seen through the prism of Britain's complex class attitudes.

Three people were left hypnotised on stage when a hypnotist knocked himself out during a show in Dorset. David Days was performing at Portland's Royal Manor Theatre on Friday when he tripped over a participant's leg. His team could not rouse him and the audience was asked to leave while the people were still 'asleep' on stage. They were 'woken up' soon after when Days recovered. His manager said that the performer has a voice recording which can be used to bring people round. Days, who has hypnotised members of the pop band Blue on television, did not require hospital treatment, his manager Tara Nix said. She added: 'He was out for a little while and that is why we asked the audience to leave. Three people were left on stage but we always have a back-up tape and a back-up hypnotist to step in if needed. Luckily, it wasn't too long until he recovered and he and the guests are fine. To be honest I think this is the first time it has ever happened to a hypnotist.' Audience member Fiona Faye said: 'He was pulled from stage and there was loads of commotion from a number of people backstage including one man who ran to the other side of the stage to get a first aid kit. At first the audience, including us, found it very funny and thought it was part of the act, but as time went on we began to realise that it was not part of the show and he had actually hurt himself. At this point we become very worried not only for David Days but also the guests that were onstage oblivious to anything as they were still hypnotised. They simply just sat there "asleep."'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have the thoughts of an American in exile.

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