Friday, July 29, 2011

Mister Oswald Said He Had An Understanding With The Law

'I read blogs for a living.' Magic Jane Espenson's first episode of Torchwood - Dead of Night - was something of a critical summation of this quite wonderful scriptwriter's entire career: Espionage drama, corporate conspiracy theory, questions about lack of responsibility in a suddenly changing world, sinister cults, emotional blackmail, police violence, dead friends, the loss of innocence and the discovery of nihilism, power struggles on all levels, medical ethics, Robert Frost poetry allusions, slammin' techno and a bit of steaming red hot sodomy. Just what the doctor ordered. Gwen's still getting all the best lines ('Found one!'), Esther got something to do at last, Rex and Vera had a - rather perfunctory but fundamentally tender - night of rumpy pumpy, we were assured that Rhys is still alive, Lauren Ambrose continued to be dryly sinister and funny at the same time and, once again, Bill Pullman was magnetic. I think I'm starting to get it now, it took me a couple of weeks but I'm beginning to figure out what we're dealing with; Miracle Day is, essentially, a dark and very cynical satire about the power of pharmaceutical companies and the lengths they will go to for a profit, even if it means inflicting eternal pain on humanity. Sounds about right. 'You weren't impaled.' 'You should've seen the other guy!' As the Metro reviewer notes: 'You could moan about Torchwood's histrionics and absurdly fast-paced plot but it's better enjoyed like a re-run of Rush Hour, and if nothing else it remains the only supernatural caper where you can watch people from 8 Mile, Seinfeld and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria shout one-liners and kung-fu kick each other.'
The BBC will share the rights to Formula 1 with Sky from next year. The new arrangement will continue until 2018, with the BBC showing half of the races live, Autosport reports. Sky Sports will broadcast coverage of all practice sessions, qualifying and every race on pay channels. The BBC will broadcast races including the Monaco grand prix, British grand prix and the final race of the season - all the good ones, in other words! It will also carry highlights of any grand prix that it does not show live and in full. Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: 'We are absolutely delighted that F1 will remain on the BBC. The sport has never been more popular with TV audiences at a ten-year high and the BBC has always stated its commitment to the big national sporting moments. With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence-fee payers.' Sky Sports' managing director Barney Francis said that the announcement was 'fantastic news for F1 fans' and promised to 'give F1 the full Sky Sports treatment, with a commitment to each race never seen before on UK television.' BBC Radio 5Live will have live commentary of all races. Seems like a sensible decision all around, that. Unlike many people who have a cynical disdain for Sky generally, I have no problem with their sports coverage which is, frankly, top of the range. But, I do want to see some sport still left on terrestrial telly and this is good news especially as the BBC cover F1 so well.

Mad Men will begin production on its fifth season on 8 August it has been announced. AMC revealed at their 2011 TCA Summer Press Tour that the long-delayed series will finally go back into production early next month for a 2012 return. In March, Mad Men was officially postponed until next year due to contract negotiations between the network and series creator Matthew Weiner. Weiner recently confessed that he regrets how issues surrounding the negotiations were made public, saying that he was thankful the dispute was ultimately resolved. It has also been reported that Mad Men star Jon Hamm will direct the fifth season premiere episode. The actor said that he was thrilled to be taking a behind-the-camera role on the drama. Weiner previously revealed that actress January Jones's pregnancy will not feature on the AMC series, and suggested that he plans to use a body double to conceal Jones's physical appearance.

Channel Four's Emmy Award-winning campaigning project Battlefront has launched its third series. Battlefront, which is a Channel Four Education commission, follows young campaigners on missions to change the world. The new series will follow six campaigns looking at issues including youth unemployment, getting young people involved in activities such as sport and dance, sex education in schools and increasing the number of organ donors. A final sixth campaign will be found via an online competition. Previous series of Battlefront have tackled issues including gun and knife crime, airbrushing, disabilities and gangs. Jo Twist, commissioning editor at Channel Four Education, said: 'We are very proud of what the Battlefronters have achieved over the last two seasons. In its third season, Battlefront will see a fresh set of ambitious and vocal campaigners join forces with celebrities; they will use every media platform to recruit more supporters, shout louder and influence more than ever before to change lives. With new polls, petitions and info graphics, this year's site aims to be the first place people go to understand what young people in the UK think of big issues.'

BBC reporter Ahmad Omed Khpalwak was killed today in southern Afghanistan's Urozgan province in an insurgent attack, the corporation has announced. Officials say that at least twenty two people were killed in the gun and suicide bomb assault in the Afghan town of Tarin Kowt, with all eight attackers also dead in the incident. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near the governor's office, close to the main market and a building housing a local radio and TV station. Ahmed Omed, aged twenty five, was in the building when it came under attack. He joined the BBC in May 2008, and most recently worked for the BBC Pashto radio service. He has also contributed to the Pajwak Afghan news agency. Peter Horrocks, the director of BBC Global News, said: 'The sympathies of the BBC and all of his colleagues go to Ahmed Omed's family and friends. Only this morning he was reporting on BBC Pashto about another Taliban attack that happened last night. The BBC and the whole world are grateful to journalists like Ahmed Omed who courageously put their lives on the line to report from dangerous places.' Earlier in the month, BBC World Service condemned the detention of its correspondent Urunboy Usmonov by authorities in Tajikistan, warning that the journalist was 'frail and frightened.' The Tajik security services arrested the reporter in June on charges of being a member of Hizbut-Tahrir, an extreme Islamic group calling for the unification of Muslims under Sharia law. The BBC strongly refutes these claims and has campaigned for Usmonov's release.
Hackgate, now: Former detective chief inspector Martin Underhill from Sussex police, who was second in command of the investigation into the death of Sarah Payne, has told the BBC that he thinks his mobile was hacked. Underhill contacted officers from Operation Weeting two weeks ago to say he thinks his phone may also have been hacked, according to Newsnight. His concerns relate to an occasion when he was contacted by 'a senior News of the World executive' about a story which, he now believes, was gained from listening to his messages. A former News of the World journalist has told the BBC that the allegations regarding the Sara Payne's phone support Rebekah Brooks' claim that she was unaware of the phone hacking when she edited the News of the World. The - nameless - journalist said: 'This latest allegation makes it very clear that Rebekah was not aware of phone hacking. She was personally far too close to Sara Payne. No way would she have sanctioned this. It's clear it was a renegade executive within the office who was giving the go ahead to all of this.'

The News of the World's publisher may be forced to pay legal fees for the private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, despite announcing that it was ceasing payments 'with immediate effect.' Solicitors for Glenn Mulcaire have written to Rupert Murdoch's News Group publishers to put them on notice that the company is still legally liable to indemnify the investigator in a high court appeal he is taking. The law firm Payne Hicks Beach warns: 'We have had no written confirmation that NGN is going to cease funding our client.' Last week, News International announced it had terminated 'with immediate effect' its arrangement to pay the legal fees of Mulcaire in his case. The decision came after James Murdoch told the Commons culture, media and sport select committee he was 'as surprised as you are' when he discovered 'certain legal fees were paid to Mr Mulcaire.' Sources at News International said it had verbally notified Mulcaire's representatives that it was ceasing funding Mulcaire, and had written to Payne Hicks Beach to confirm this. 'If they haven't already received this letter, they will do so shortly,' an alleged 'source' told the Gruniad. Mulcaire is appealing against a high court order requiring him to identify the News of the World journalists involved in phone-hacking. Up to now this case, the Gruniad claim, was being entirely funded by News International. The firm tone of the Payne Hicks Beach letter, dated 26 July, suggests that they and Mulcaire will not give up on his funding without a fight. The letter says the appeal was 'brought to protect Mulcaire's legal interests with the full knowledge and support, from the outset of News Group Newspapers they provided an indemnity in respect of costs to cover that appeal.' It goes on to say: 'We consider that the contract of indemnity is for the whole of the appeal' and considers that its client 'continues to be indemnified in respect of his costs until the matter is resolved.'

Incidentally, tiny little trivia sidebar to Hackgate, you may already know this dear blog reader but just in case you don't, in addition to being a private investigator and - allegedly - a hacker of the phones of murdered schoolgirls, young Mr Mulciare was also (once upon a time) an amateur footballer. He played for AFC Wimbledon, the club formed by fans after the old Wimbledon FC moved up to Milton Keynes to become MK Dons. In June 2002, in order to assemble a competitive team at short notice, the newly formed AFC Wimbledon held player trials over three days on Wimbledon Common, open to any unattached player who felt he was good enough to try out for the team. From these, the club's squad for their inaugural season was chosen. 'Trigger' Mulcaire as he was known, was one of those picked up. He was a regular in the side during the following season and even scored their first ever goal in a competitive match, a stunning left foot volley in their opening Combined Counties League game against Bromley. And here it is. What a screamer! This occurred in August 2002, about two months after Mulcaire was, allegedly, busily hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler. A decade on and, after a series of almost fairy-tale like promotions AFC Wimbledon will start next season back into the football league. Mulcaire's future looks considerably less bright.

Sky is to revive its series of Little Crackers short films, this time featuring such comedians as John Bishop, Alan Davies and Shappi Khorsandi. It follows the success of the twelve short films released last Christmas, featuring the likes of Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Catherine Tate, Kathy Burke and Jo Brand reliving tales from their childhood. This year, the theme will be 'The First Time I...' Other names signed up so far include Sanjeev Bhaskar and annoying voiced waste-of-space Jane Horrocks, with more to be announced nearer the time. Sky's head of comedy, Lucy Lumsden said: 'Last year Little Crackers was a fantastic success for Sky 1 HD, bringing some of the biggest and best names in British comedy to the channel. But there were always more names that I wanted to be a part of the show, and I'm delighted to have secured such brilliant comedians for the second series.' The new Little Crackers will be produced by independent comedy production companies including Baby Cow Productions, Sprout Pictures and Open Mike Productions.

Daniel Craig has said that he is more excited about the script for the latest James Bond movie than he was for Casino Royale. The British actor believes reuniting with his Road to Perdition director Sam Mendes will result in a 'classic' 007 movie. Craig said: 'I think it's a great choice because Sam has a fervour and energy to really direct a Bond movie with a capital B. He'll feet-first run himself into it, [he's] read every book and just soaked up everything about it. I read the script the other day and I'm more excited about this than I was about Casino because we've kind of got a classic Bond movie plus lots of other things.' Asked if a classic Bond meant a return for Q, Craig suggested that the new movie would continue to be light on gadgets. 'Trying to find something that's new and interesting is really difficult. Mostly, the technology is in the public arena now or some type of it,' he noted. Craig's third outing as James Bond, following on from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, will be released on 26 October 2012. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's forty ninth birthday as it happens, dear blog reader. Just thought I'd mention that!

Sky Arts has made Rockin' Ronnie Wood and pain-in-the-dong Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley the cornerstone of its Sky Arts Centre Stage strand. The unlikely duo have both been given their own programmes, which will focus on rock and pop performers from the past and present. The Ronnie Wood Show, which will premiere in February 2012, is based on his Sony Award-winning radio show. It will feature performances, interviews and chat from some of Wood's most famous friends in the industry. 'I've had so much fun doing my radio show and had lots of success with recent awards, so I'm really excited it's now going to TV to give the audience the chance to see behind the scenes,' he said. The Jo Whiley Music Show is 'a topical talk show' format which will aim to debate the big talking points in the music industry. Journalists, musicians and commentators will join in the discussion with Whiley. There will also be a live strand featuring extended performances from guest bands. 'Doing a show like this with Sky Arts is a hugely exciting project for me,' Whiley said. 'Performance is going to be a big part of both shows; getting on the established acts but also the opportunity to give new bands a showcase on the channel. I'm delighted to be part of a programme that gives a forum to debate the complex issues facing the music industry today, and I'm looking forward to giving our guests the opportunity to really speak their mind.' James Hunt, channel director of Sky Arts, added: 'Jo and Ronnie are both wonderful assets to Sky Arts and we're delighted to have them on board. The two programmes are innovative and exciting, incorporating discussion, debate and live music in a unique way. Both Ronnie and Jo have such an incredible wealth of experience, not to mention talent; their rapport with the guests and performances will make both programmes a complete joy to watch.'

Astronomers have detected an asteroid not far from Earth, moving in the same orbit around the Sun. The two to three hundred metre wide rock sits in front of our planet at a gravitational 'sweet spot,' and poses no danger to the general public. Its position in the sky makes it a so-called Trojan asteroid - a type previously detected only at Jupiter, Neptune and Mars. 2010 TK7, as it is known (catchy name), was found by NASA's Wise telescope. The discovery is reported in this week's Nature journal. It is a fascinating observation because the relative stability and proximity of Trojans would make possible targets for astronaut missions when humans eventually go beyond the space station. 2010 TK7 is probably not the rock of choice, simply because it travels too far above and below the plane of Earth's orbit, which would require a lot of fuel to reach it. Nonetheless, its detection means it is highly likely there are other, more suitable Trojans out there waiting to be found. The difficulty is the viewing geometry that puts any Trojan, from the perspective of an Earth-based telescope, in bright skies. Wise, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer launched in 2009, examined more than five hundred Near-Earth Objects, one hundred and twenty three of which were new to science. The authors of the Nature paper sifted through data on these rocks, looking for the candidates that might be Trojans. Follow-up work on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope confirmed the status of 2010 TK7. It traces quite a complex path at its orbital point. Currently, it is about eighty million km from Earth, and should come no closer than about twenty five million. The team says its orbit appears stable at least for the next ten thousand years. 2010 TK7's existence should not really be a surprise. Jupiter, Neptune and Mars all have collections of rocks sitting in the so-called Lagrange points sixty degrees ahead of or behind the planets in their orbits. In the case of Jupiter, the number of Trojans now tops a thousand rocks. 'These objects are difficult to find from Earth, simply because they're not very big and they're pretty faint, and they're close to the Sun as seen from Earth,' explained Christian Veillet from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and a co-author on the Nature study. 'But we can find them from space, and future satellites will likely find some more. We think that there are others which will be very close to the Earth and have motions that make them relatively easy to reach. So, they could be potential targets to go to with spacecraft,' he told BBC News.

Rob Brydon was joined by Bill Bailey, Beverley Knight and Aussie comic Celia Pacquola on his chat show this week. It was Bill, inevitably, who causes the biggest stir, joining Rob for a cover of 'Always On My Mind'. You can watch the duo's brilliant take on the King's legendary love song here.

Thus we come to Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, seems appropriate for all sorts of reasons. Heeeeere's Elvis.

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