Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week Thirty Five: Send Me The Pillow, The One That You Dream On

'The reality show made its debut on its new channel, Five – and in the process plumbed new depths,' was the Torygraph's Michael Hogan's view on the return of Celebrity Big Brother. 'Cynics predicted that reality behemoth Big Brother's move to Richard Desmond's Five would drag it even further downmarket. Judging by tonight's live launch show, those cynics were absolutely correct. If anything, they underestimated how much further downmarket. "Celebrity" reality shows often stretch the word's definition to breaking point but this batch may finally have snapped it. Rumours of famous names had been rife in the build-up, often disseminated by Desmond's own tabloids. None came to fruition. The barrel-scraping cast of ten contestants had a definite whiff of last minute pull-outs and parachuted-in reserves. The majority are notable only for who they married or for taking part in other reality shows. It was hardly a meeting of minds either, with half the housemates irredeemably thick. The show's usual pre-entry psychological evaluation has presumably been waived too - especially for fragile Kerry Katona and faded Hollywood starlet Tara Reid, who seemed so spaced out, she could barely open the door to the gaudily-revamped house.' Contrast that, for example, with the Daily Lies' thoroughly sick and venal attempts to convince its readers that there is, actually, no other news in the world at the moment (apart from a bit of Europa League football).
Scum.

Kerry Katona was handed the first Big Brother task - a 'secret mission' to become 'the biggest diva the house has seen' by throwing a massive tantrum. She poured herself champagne and griped: 'They're all going to hate me.' Yes. But they did that anyway so, you know, no change there. The Gruniad was one of several papers to pick up on some of the names rumoured to have been invited but who were, as it turned out, not involved. 'The Speaker's wife is among the housemates, but US superstars Charlie Sheen, Pamela Anderson and Mike Tyson fail to make rumoured appearances on Channel Five reincarnation of reality show,' they noted, adding: 'American superstars were conspicuous by their absence.' That was the Independent's view, also: 'The rumour mill spiralled into meltdown as the relaunch of Celebrity Big Brother approached: the troubled Hollywood star Charlie Sheen had been spotted at Heathrow and was surely heading for the Elstree house. But when the contestants were finally unveiled, it appeared that Richard Desmond's chequebook had failed to lure the A-listers that the Channel Five owner promised would drive twenty million viewers to the reality show's new home. After a day of high intrigue, with lawyers at Channel Five HQ said to be poring over contractual demands and at least one late withdrawal, believed to be R&B star Bobby Brown, viewers were instead presented with Bobby Sabel. Bobby who? Sabel, it transpired, is a fashion model, who has graced Esquire magazine and appeared in "a number of high-profile advertising campaigns" including those for Cast Iron Denim and Sony. Sabel was joined in the house by Lucien Laviscount, a teen actor said to have "boy-band appeal." He enjoyed a year on Coronation Street before graduating to the BBC school-set soap Waterloo Road. There was no Sarah Ferguson, said to be the subject of a one million pound offer to take part. Instead we have Darryn Lyons, a mohican-wearing Australian paparazzo. And there are the usual stars fallen on hard times – Kerry Katona and Amy Childs, a product of The Only Way Is Essex, who has defected to CBB after being made "an offer she couldn't refuse."' The vile and odious loathsome louse bigot Jan Moir headlined her piece in the Daily Scum Mail Day one of the freak show ... and I hear the scraping of a barrel already. The Belfast Telegraph was even more blunt: Big Brother returns, with a cast of Z-list celebrities. So, once again, no change there.

Record audience as BB line-up revealed, announced the front page of the Daily Lies after Thursday night's Celebrity Big Brother launch. The Lies clearly knew something everyone else didn't, because the audience for the show was not published until Friday morning around ten o'clock, along with the rest of the TV ratings, some time after the paper went to print. They're not called 'overnights' for nothing, you know. Still, owner Richard Desmond had asked for twenty million punter to turn up, and what Desmond wants, presumably he gets. It turned out the ratings were rather less than a record – although still pretty impressive for Five – at 5.1 million. How many of them will still be around for episode two, we'll have to watch for a couple of hours to find out. Or, we could just ask the Lies. Presumably, they've recently hired Mystic Meg after she failed to foresee the closure of the Scum of the World.
A Metropolitan Police officer has reportedly been arrested for leaking information about phone hacking to the Gruniad. The newspaper has followed the phone hacking scandal since the outset, with journalist Nick Davies breaking the story when no one else would touch it with a bargepole, including the revelation that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had her voicemails intercepted by journalists at the Scum of the World. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is in charge of Operation Weeting, said: 'I made very clear when I took on this investigation the need for operational and information security. It is hugely disappointing that this may not have been adhered to. The Metropolitan Police Service takes the unauthorised disclosure of information extremely seriously and has acted swiftly in making these arrests.' The detective is reported to be a fifty one-year-old man who was working on the phone hacking investigation. He was said to be arrested at his desk and later suspended from his position. Earlier this week, Conservative MP and gobshite Louise Mensch said on Twitter that it was wrong for documents in the investigation - such as Clive Goodman's letter to News International - to be leaked to the Gruniad before their official publication. 'It is pretty shoddy stuff that somebody leaked documents to the Guardian before they were published. Nobody should be handing out exclusives,' she said. Please do remember that, dear blog reader, the next time notorious self-publicist Bagashite shoots her mouth off about ... Piers Morgan or whatever else is on her mind for the benefit of any newspaper that'll stick her smug boat on its front page. The Met also on Friday arrested a thirty five-year-old man, whom Sky News named as former Scum of the World reporter Dan Evans, on suspicion of phone hacking. He has been released on police bail. Evans was suspended by the paper more than a year ago after being named in a civil case against the now defunct tabloid's publisher, News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers, brought by interior designer Kelly Hoppen. Evans is believed to be the fourteenth person to be arrested and bailed as part of Operation Weeting although one of those - the Press Association's Laura Elston - has since been told that she has been cleared of any involvement and will not face any further action.

Meanwhile, Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the Scum of the World phone hacking, has been ordered by a court to reveal who instructed him to access the voicemails of the model Elle MacPherson and five other public figures including Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes. Mulcaire is due to reveal these details by the end of next week in a move which will, the Gruniad reckons, 'throw further light on the scale of phone hacking at the now defunct News International tabloid.' The Gruniad says that it 'has learned' that Mulcaire has lost an attempt to appeal against a court order obliging him to identify who instructed him to hack the phones, something he has resisted since February. Ah, but from whence did you 'learn' this, Gruniad? Louise Bagashite wants to know, apparently. Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 after pleading extremely guilty to hacking the phones of members of the royal household for the Scum of the World, has been forced into making the disclosure following legal action by the comedian and actor Steve Coogan. In February, Coogan's lawyers argued in court that if it were proved that the Scum of the World had instructed Mulcaire to hack into the phones of the six public figures, it would show that phone hacking was taking place 'on an industrial scale.' Mulcaire must now 'name names' in relation to MacPherson, Hughes and four others – the celebrity PR Max Clifford, the football agent Sky Andrew, Jo Armstrong, a legal adviser to the Professional Footballers Association and Gordon Taylor, the former head of the PFA. He must, it would seem, name the guilty men. Unless, of course, they're guilty women. In which case, he must name the guilty women. And leave the guilty men out of all this. At his trial in 2006 Muclaire also admitted hacking the phones of five of the six names in Coogan's court order. Taylor was gagged by News International after reaching a seven hundred thousand smackers out-of-court settlement. Armstrong also settled with the paper out of court. 'After six months of refusing to answer these questions I am pleased that Glenn Mulcaire has now finally been ordered to say who at the News of the World asked him to hack the mobile phones of Max Clifford, Sky Andrew, Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes, Elle MacPherson and Jo Armstrong,' Coogan said. 'Whilst I am pleased with this latest development I remain frustrated by Mr Mulcaire's refusal to answer questions about who authorised him to unlawfully access my voicemail messages and will continue to press for these answers.' The latest developments are the second blow this week to News International. On Tuesday it emerged that NI's head of human resources had been sent a letter by the Scum of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, alleging that phone hacking had been 'widely discussed' in editorial meetings chaired by the paper's former editor, Andy Coulson. Goodman was jailed at the same time as Mulcaire in early 2007 on the basis that he was the 'lone rogue' Scum of the World journalist involved in intercepting mobile phone messages and other naughty shenanigans and disgraceful malarkey. Coulson has maintained ever since that he was 'unaware' of this activity at the Scum of the World when he was editor. News International claimed that any phone hacking was the work of a single 'rogue reporter' – Goodman – from 2006 right up until January of this year when they unexpectedly changed their tune. The high court ordered Mulcaire to reveal the names in relation to the six people and refused him leave to appeal against the order. Mulcaire went back to the court of appeal but on 1 August Lord Justice Toulson rejected his application. Separately, Mulcaire is appealing against an order requesting him to name who ordered him to hack Coogan's voicemail, and a court case is expected to be listed in October. That appeal may fall by the wayside because News International has now stopped paying Mulcaire's legal fees. However, Mulcaire is now alleged to be suing News International itself in an attempt to force the company to continue paying his legal bills. Coogan's solicitor, John Kelly of Schillings, described Toulson's decision to refuse Mulcaire leave to appeal as 'a very significant development.' He said: '[Mulcaire] will now have to identify exactly who at the News of the World asked him to access the mobile phones of the named individuals and who he provided the information to at the News of the World. Mr Mulcaire is due to provide these answers by the end of the month and we await his answers with interest.' As, indeed, does everybody else.

And so, to yer next actual Top Telly Tips:-

Friday 26 August
In a repeat of the latest episode of the long-running A Question of Sport - 8:30 BBC1 - former Arsenal and England midfielder Ray 'you can't pass' Parlour, Irish golfer Paul McGinley, model and polo player (allegedly) Jodie Kidd and cricket commentator (and former player) Jonathan Agnew join regular team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell on the light-hearted sports quiz which stopped being remotely interesting around the time David Vine left in 1978. Television's least interesting sportsperson-turned-presenter ex-tennis flop Sue Barker asks the questions. In a droning fashion. That goes on, and on, and on until you just wish you had remote control to hand. But it's lost down the back of the sofa of despair and so you sit there, transfixed with a sort of inertia of mundanity, unable even to stagger to the fridge and get yourself a nice cooling beverage to sooth your troubles. Still ... it could be worse. Celebrity Big Brother's on the other side. Ah, David Coleman, where are you, Emlyn and Willie when your country needs you?

Fraud Squad - ITV 9:00 - is a two-part investigation into one of Britain's biggest share frauds, following detectives hoping to recover twenty million quid stolen from victims as they hunt for the Nigerian ringleader, thirty year old George Abrue. Over the course of eighteen months, officers discover Abrue has numerous false identities, launders his cash with the help of corrupt bankers and has criminals working for him across Europe to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Narrated by [spooks]' Richard Armitage.

Beck Lomax's film in the First Cut strand The Merits of Ferrets - 7:35 Channel Four - centres upon the lives of three friends who run a rescue centre for traumatised ferrets based in the suburbs of Bristol. Daft title but a very serious subject and one that will, hopefully, get an audience in spite of the daft title. Many people think ferrets are smelly, vicious animals, but best friends Maria, Kelly and David love them and have dedicated their lives to rescuing and rehabilitating Britain's most mistreated ferrets. Ferrets mean more to Kelly than just pets; they are her best friends, therapy and a lifeline. They have been there for Kelly during the emotional ups and downs of her gender reassignment surgery and have helped her cope with the post-traumatic stress she suffers as a result of serving in the Falklands as a young man. In return, Kelly is dedicating her life to helping these outsiders of the animal world. Kelly, Maria and David run Second Chance Ferret Rescue in Bristol, and this film joins them at one of their busiest times: ferret show season.

Saturday 27 August
So, there summer's been and gone - the cricket's nearly over, the football's back and so is X Factor. We've had the sun now it's time to start contemplating those long dark winter nights ahead. And, what better way to do that than with the return of Doctor Who - 7:10 BBC1. And, it's nice to see that after a couple of years of faffing around with start times as early as six o'clock the BBC have finally remembered that the show works best when it goes out slightly later. The popular family SF adventure series returns after its summer break, picking up events following the shocking conclusion to the Battle of Demon's Run.
The Doctor's frantic search for the infant Melody Pond takes him to 1930s Berlin, where he comes face-to-face with the most notorious war criminal in the universe. With conflict brewing in the background, the Time Lord prepares to teach his enemies a lesson in responsibility. Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. Doctor Who Confidential follows at 8:00 on BBC3. Matt, Karen, Arthur and executive producer Steven Moffat provide an insight into the making of the opening episode of the second half of series six, Let's Kill Hitler. The programme goes backstage to see the show's reconstruction of 1930s Berlin, and the cast and crew bring to life a mini-episode written by schoolchildren.

With the bone-chilling thoughts of Don't Scare The Hare fresh in our still traumatised minds, it's hard not to approach the BBC's latest attempt at early evening light entertainment with similar feeling of disquiet. Epic Win - 5:30 BBC1 - sees comedienne Katy Brand and EastEnders' Rita Simons (Roxy Mitchell) join the occasionally funny Micky Flanagan on the panel as more people put their unusual skills to the test in a bid to win up to three thousand pounds. Why they do this, nobody quite has the courage to ask. Ever wished you could inflate hot water bottles whilst cycling? Ever tried playing keepy-uppy with a football whilst getting dressed? Ever thought you could identify a song by your favourite band just from listening to a single second of their music? No, me neither. The judges each put a secret cash value of up to one thousand smackers on the skill, based on originality, personality and performance, but the contestants must guess the total amount or they leave with nothing. Comedy game show, hosted by Alexander Armstrong whilst Joe Lycett shouts 'Epic win!' a lot in really very annoying way indeed. It sounds, frankly, about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse kicking competition (what's the betting that there'll be a one-legged man trying to kick arses amongst those with 'unusual skills'). Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has an unusual skill, dear blog reader. He can whistle and hum 'Do You want To Know A Secret' by The Beatles at the same time. Discovered he could do it when he was about eleven. Never made millions from it on Britain's Got Talent but it's come in useful as a party trick on, ooo, about three occasions. I suppose that yer actual Keith Telly Topping is very self could probably get himself on Epic Win with this novelty turn and win a small cash prize for his efforts. But, he's not going to. Because, he's got more effing dignity than that!

Grand Prix: The Killer Years - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather fine-looking documentary exploring the dangerous aspects of Formula 1 racing and the deaths which occurred at Grands Prix during the 1960s and early 70s. The film examines the boycotts organised by drivers and the lengthy battle they fought to achieve improvements in safety standards. Featuring contributions by three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, who was a leading campaigner for increases in the sport's safety, double champion Emerson Fittipaldi and John Surtees, who won titles on two and four wheels.

Sunday 28 August
It's a really good drama weekend for the BBC. Doctor Who yesterday and tonight's big event is Page Eight - 9:00 BBC2. Bill Nighy stars as Johnny Worricker, a long-serving MI5 officer whose boss and best friend dies suddenly, leaving behind a file that threatens the stability of the organisation. State of Play meets The Hour with a bit of [spooks] thrown in. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny's political-activist neighbour Nancy Pierpan seems too good to be true, and he is forced to walk out of his job to uncover the truth. Spy drama written and directed by the great David Hare, also starring Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.

In David Jason's Great Escapes - 8:00 ITV - as the title suggests the actor examines various wartime escapes which inspired films and TV dramas. He begins his journey in Germany at the legendary Colditz Castle, where William Neave tells how his father Airey fled dressed as a German soldier. Jason then heads to Poland to visit the setting for The Great Escape, where former Stalag Luft III internee Ken Rees describes how he helped dig the tunnel immortalised on the big screen. It's worth remembering, of course, that more of them might've got out if it hasn't been for that daft prick Nigel Stock tripping over his own feet. I mean, Ian Chesterton was due out next! Then again, it's hard to look past Gordon Jackson's elementary schoolboy-type error in answering the Jerry in English as him and Dickie were getting on the bus. You can bet Bodie and Doyle wouldn't have fallen for that malarkey. Anyway, where were we? oh yes, wartime Silesia, where Steve McQueen has nicked a motorbike and somehow managed to get to the borders of Switzerland faster than Jim Rockford and Donald Pleasance can get there in the bloody plane. Explain that, David Jason! He can't, of course, no one can but he does meet a Frenchwoman who sheltered an escaped Briton - and learns how a love story developed.

On tonight's Countryfile - 8:00 BBC1 - Adam Henson visits North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands. As a child, he helped his father save the island's native sheep and the experience led to him cultivating a passion for rare-breed conservation that has continued to the present day. He also looks back at memorable moments from life on his own farm in the Cotswolds. Including Weather for the Week Ahead.

Monday 29 August
Soho Blues - 9:00 Channel Five - sees the return of the series following police and paramedics in London's West End. Officers raid a suspected fraudster's luxury penthouse flat, a methadone user's belongings are stolen and the 'booze bus' - an ambulance that deals solely with drunk people - patrols the streets looking for revellers who have partied a little too hard.

After the surprising - but very well deserved - success of her last series, If Walls Could Talk Lucy Worsley - funny face, odd voice, excellent presenter! - explores how British culture was transformed between 1811 and 1820 in Elegance and Decadence: Age of the Regency - 9:00 BBC4. She begins by profiling the future George IV, then the Prince Regent, and charts how his rivalry with Napoleon served as a catalyst for change and led to the development of a grandiose architectural style that changed the face of London.

Remember all of those seemingly endless Channel Four 'list' shows which, a few months ago, they said that they weren't going to be doing any more of? Well, there were one or two in the pipeline already when that announcement was made, it would seem and the first of them, Stephen Fry's One Hundred Greatest Gadgets is on tonight at 8:00. The actor presents a countdown of his favourite devices and contraptions, all of which have revolutionised aspects of ordinary people's lives, including the tin opener, the sainted trouser press, the answering machine, apple peeler, the steam iron and the MP3 player. With contributions by gadget enthusiasts including Charlie Brooker, Jo Brand, Jon Snow and Heston Blumenthal, who shares a novel use he has found for the SodaStream. If it involves sticking anything into any orifice whatsoever, I think I'd rather not know, personally. We are promised, however, that the show is 'an entertaining mix of cutting edge technology, misty-eyed nostalgia, and the fascinating insights for which Stephen Fry is renowned.' So, that should be good.

In a couple of weeks it'll be ten year since the 9/11 attacks which, quite literally in the blink of an eye changed the world forever. Expect, therefore, a plethora of programmes about the subject. The Conspiracy Files - 9:00 BBC2 - is merely but the first. In 9/11 Ten Years On the documentary team examine why some people still question the exact circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, nearly a decade after they took place. Theories focus on the damage to the Pentagon, the way the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed, and why military forces were seemingly unprepared. The death of Osama Bin Liner and the subsequent refusal to provide images of the body has also fuelled speculation. Modified repeat of an episode first shown a couple of years ago.

Tuesday 30 August
Inside Nature's Giants - 8:00 Channel Four - returns for a new series. Mark Evans and Joy Reidenberg travel to Australia to dissect a camel, revealing how the species has managed to thrive in such a hostile environment, and exploring the structure of the animal's hump. The creatures were introduced to the country by European settlers, but the advent of roads and cars made them redundant, and their owners released them into the desert.

Former Heat editor Sam Delaney investigates how much the public is entitled to know about the private lives of celebrities and public figures, in light of the phone-hacking scandals and superinjunctions that grabbed headlines over the summer Sex, Lies and Gagging Orders - 9:00 BBC3. Or, at least how much he thinks the public are entitled to know since opinion seems rather divided upon the matter. Depends on the alleged 'celebrity' one imagines. Kerry Katona or Katie Price, for instance, deserve no privacy whatsoever since they appeared to have spent the last decade shamelessly self-promoting themselves at every given opportunity. Others may have a different perspective. Delaney meets people who claim to have had their secrets exposed via tabloid exposes, and joins photojournalists on the job as they hunt for juicy shots.

As if we haven't had enough fly-on-the-wall airport documentaries to last us a life time, what's that landing on runway four? Why, it's Inside Gatwick - 9:00 Sky1. Documentary charting the overhaul of Gatwick Airport, an eight hundred million smackers project in response to declining passenger numbers and the adoption of fresh looks by rivals. The programme follows CEO Stewart Wingate, baggage handlers and travellers as the facility is transformed.

Donor Mum: The Children I've Never Met - 10:35 BBC1 - features the story of one of Britain's first anonymous egg donors as she ponders whether to make contact with the recipient, who went on to have twins, and considers the likely consequences. Having discovered the identity of the children's mother through a newspaper report, she has been distressed to see them grow up as strangers, even though they are genetically hers.

Wednesday 31 August
In this week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - the former EastEnders actor Larry Lamb traces the ancestry of his mother, who was adopted as a baby. His investigation into her biological parents leads him to a world of fairgrounds, travelling showmen, and performing animals, as well as the first photograph he has seen of his elusive grandfather. Searching for more information on his grandmother takes him to America, and a reunion with a long-lost relative.

Once a genuine cult show with an audience to match, these days Location, Location, Location - 8:00 Channel Four is starting to look more than a little tired and short of ideas. Nevertheless Kirstie Kirstie Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Phil Phil Spencer are back for a new series and, tonight, they try to help two couples search for their ideal properties. Rob and Hilary are searching for a family home in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, but finding one on their budget of two hundred and fifty thousand smackers has been a struggle. You want to try the North, kids, for that money you could buy, ooo, Northumerland. Meanwhile, Rupreet and Sundeep should be able to locate a house in that will suit them with three hundred and eighty grand to spend - but not without abandoning their postcode snobbery and obsession with Pinner. And, as usual, the forthcoming series will be full of chinless young professionals with Home Counties accents and unrealistic expectations. As we often note at this point, it's never 'Barry, a sheet metal worker from Gateshead and his heavily pregnant girlfriend, Tracey, who are looking for a one bedroom council flat on any estate that hasn't got a recent history of arson and rioting' is it?

Natural World: The Woman Who Swims With Killer Whales - 8:00 BBC2
- focuses on the life of New Zealand marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser who does not regard swimming with killer whales to be dangerous. Personally, this blogger begs to differ. I haven't got any expertise in the field, you understand, but I've always considered that the clue's in the name. Anyway, Ingrid does so regularly enough to know the local ones by sight. She sets out to investigate an unusually high number of deaths of the creatures in the past year, and her findings reveal disturbing information about the health of the world's oceans.

Meanwhile, in the latest episode of National Treasures Live - 7:30 BBC1 - Dan Snow and Sian Williams explore the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, where they find out about the history of the vintage car collection started by Lord Montagu, which includes an original Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping went there when he was about seven whilst on holiday at me Uncle George and Auntie Betty's in Southampton. it was very nice. Meanwhile, the actor Larry Lamb - who seems to be on telly more often than The News this week - visits east London to trace the history of a music hall and Xanthe Mallett explores the surviving documents from the original police investigation into Jack the Ripper. Yeah. William Gull did that. Next ...

Thursday 1 September
Hang out the flag, there's a new series of Watchdog - 8:00 BBC1 - the programme that gives small businesses a really hard time. Sour-faced hatchet woman Anne Robinson, Matt Allwright and 'soon-to-leave-for-ITV-and-wads-of-moolah-because-that-really-worked-out-for-Adrian-Chiles-didn't-it?' smug-faced Chris Hollins return to investigate more consumer issues and expose alleged rogue traders. They begin by examining the soaring cost of household energy bills, the Dukan diet, compulsory tipping on cruise ships and an airport car-parking company.

We're up to episode eight of Torchwood: Miracle Day - 9:00 BBC1. In tonight's exciting instalment, Captain Jack faces a showdown with a man he thought was dead, and although Rex takes extreme action (as is his want, he's ex-CIA after all), it may be too late to prevent the collapse of society as we know it. Which, some might consider to be a good thing. Don't come to yer actual Keith Telly Topping looking for a short answer on that score. Quality SF thriller, guest starring Wayne Knight (from Jurassic Park), with John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins.

If you haven't caught any of Our War - 10:35 BBC1 - in its various showings so far then, trust me, you've missed out on one of the most thoughtful, intelligent and touching portrayals of life on the frontline ever made. In the current BBc1 repeat run, tonight we reach Caught in the Crossfire. Private Mike McCabe films Taliban attacks on Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in 2009 as the platoon comes to terms with new rules of engagement intended to protect civilians. By 2010, the Scots Guards are fighting a battle for hearts and minds, and cameras capture their struggle to teach the Afghan National Police to curb their reckless behaviour. Last in the series.

To the news, now: Sky's control over pay-TV movie rights in the UK is restricting competition, leading to higher prices and reduced choice, the Competition Commission has provisionally ruled. The commission said it was considering whether to restrict the number of Hollywood studios from which Sky currently has the exclusive rights to be the first to air their new releases. Sky said that it continued to consider that no regulatory intervention was needed. A final ruling is due next year. Sky has twice as many pay-TV subscribers as all its rivals combined. At present it has agreements with all six of the major Hollywood studios to be the first UK broadcaster to be able to air their new releases on pay-TV. The commission said that because of the company's large subscriber base, 'would-be rivals are unable to bid successfully against Sky for these rights.' Laura Carstensen, who led the commission's investigation, said: 'If things stay as they are, we see no likely prospect of change.' She added: 'We have found that, as a result of this lack of effective competition, subscribers to Sky Movies are paying more than they otherwise would, and there is less innovation and choice than we would expect in a market with more effective competition.' The commission said other possible remedies it was considering included requiring Sky to offer its range of new movie releases to its rivals on a wholesale basis. It is also considering restricting the nature of Sky's rights with the Hollywood studios, such as giving its rivals the chance to offer subscription video on demand. Sky said: 'We note that the Competition Commission's findings remain provisional and have been issued for consultation. We will continue to engage with the Competition Commission during the on-going regulatory process.' Sky broadcasts new movie releases via the pay-per-view Box Office section of Sky Movies. This Box Office area is not included in the Sky Movies channels it offers its rivals, such as Virgin Media, on a wholesale basis. Carstensen added that while many companies are now seeking to offer Internet-distributed movie services, 'we have found no evidence to date that any of these alternative providers of movie products are likely to affect significantly Sky's ability to secure the first pay-window rights of the major studios in the foreseeable future.'

Dozens of new local TV stations could be the first broadcasters in the UK to have sponsored news bulletins, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has said. 'News programmes at the moment can't be sponsored and I would like to find a way of getting around that if I can,' he told a summit on plans for local TV. The vile and odious rascal Hunt wants around fifty new local TV stations to open by 2015. But there must be a mechanism to make sure that the news remains independent and impartial, he added. Speaking in Birmingham, he said the sponsorship of bulletins could provide crucial funds for the fledgling stations. He said he would 'look at the law in this respect,' but added that regulations meant it would be difficult to achieve. 'We are looking to find ways to enable them to get revenue in any way they can, and if we can find a way that allows them to get sponsorship of certain programmes in a way that doesn't breach the current broadcasting code, then that's what we'd like to do.' However, allowing companies to sponsor news programmes is currently prohibited by media regulator Ofcom's code and by EU regulations. A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that the government was 'keen to maximise the revenue sources available to local TV stations. One way of doing this would be to increase sponsorship opportunities,' she said. 'The law prohibits the sponsorship of news but, as we are drawing up the licences for the new TV stations, we are looking at what we may be able to do within the existing rules. Whatever we do though we would insist on robust impartiality, accuracy and fairness rules remaining in place.' Debra Davis of City TV, which is bidding to run the Birmingham channel, said she would support the move. 'You want to make sure local TV is commercially viable,' she said. 'Most people watch the news and you'd be able to sell the [advertising] time in and around the news quite well, for good rates. How it's done creatively and editorially needs some consideration. Commercial and editorial will always be separated.' Broadcasters would not compromise their integrity by giving sponsors special treatment, she added. 'You would ruin your reputation. You couldn't do that, you wouldn't do that.' Jocelyn Hay from the Voice of the Listener and Viewer said the notion of local news sponsorship was a matter of 'great concern. At the very least, programme makers minimise the danger of offending sponsors by avoiding active criticism and controversial subjects. The result is bland programming and a lack of investigative journalism, which contributes little to local democracy or holding local politicians to account,' she added. The vile and odious rascal Hunt added that rules on political impartiality and taste and decency would not be relaxed for the local stations. The government has just published a list of sixty five locations where local TV services could potentially broadcast. Around twenty initial licences will be awarded next year, with the first stations going on air in 2013. They are likely to be broadcast on Freeview on channel eight in England and Northern Ireland, with another channel to be found in Scotland and Wales.

The historian David Starkey has attempted to defend comments he made last week on BBC's Newsnight – when he appeared to blame the recent riots in English cities on a black gangsta culture – by claiming that 'the subject of race has become unmentionable, by whites at any rate.' Which is, arguably, true although not entirely without reason. In an article in the Daily Torygraph, Starkey describes the public reaction to his remarks as 'hysterical,' and says that a breach in what he calls the taboo on discussing race is 'punished by ostracism and worse … the witch finders already have their sights on me.' Which, again, might well be true but it does go to show that in life, if you give somebody enough rope, they'll be delighted to hang you with it. The article comes after a furore provoked by comments made by him during a discussion on BBC's Newsnight, during which Starkey claimed that 'the whites have become black.' In his Torygraph article Starkey writes: 'But how, then, to explain the black educationalists Tony Sewell and Katherine Birbalsingh defending the substance of my comments on "gangsta" culture, as well as Tony Parsons, who wrote in the Labour-supporting Daily Mirra that, "without the gang culture of black London, none of the riots would have happened – including the riots in other cities like Manchester and Birmingham where most of rioters were white."' Admitting that friends agreed his greatest error was mentioning the politician Enoch Powell, whose 1968 Rivers of Blood speech attacked immigration, Starkey added that part of the legacy of the reaction to Powell had been 'an enforced silence on the matter of race.' Which, again, has an element of truth in it. Although various revisionist attempts to rationalise Powell's comments and suggest that his outre classical allusions were misunderstood by the hoypoloi as racism rather comes unstuck when you get to the part of the 1968 speech where this vastly intelligent man - the youngest ever Brigadier in the British army - speaks of 'wide-grinning piccaninnies.' Starkey attempts to defend his own comments he made on Newsnight that white 'chavs' have 'become black,' by arguing that discussion of the successes or failures of integration in Britain is central to any examination of the state of the nation today. Saying that he was misconstrued as condemning all black culture, the historian writes: 'I was trying to point out the very different patterns of integration at the top and bottom of the social scale.' As previously noted, this blogger has a lot of time for Starkey on many issues but, I've got to say, David, in general terms when you're in a hole it's usually wise to stop digging.

Alexander Armstrong has claimed that it is hard getting costumes for his new comedy. Felix and Murdo, which also stars Armstrong's collaborator Ben Miller, follows two men engaging in a drink and drugs spree during the first London Olympics in 1908. However, Armstrong told TV & Satellite Week that other period dramas have monopolised the costumes. 'Ben Miller and I are making an Edwardian sitcom called Felix and Murdo,' he said. 'Trying to get costumes for it has been a nightmare because they're all out on hire to Downton Abbey and Titanic.' Armstrong also revealed that he is excited about his new Saturday evening game show Epic Win (see above), which focuses on people with unusual skills. 'We wanted a fun show for Saturday nights on which we could celebrate the slightly odd hobbies and skills of a select few,' he said. 'The acts aren't like the ones you see on Britain's Got Talent. For example, we have a man who can recognise different types of fish while being slapped around the face with them. It's a great skill, but I can't see him going down well at The Royal Variety Show.'

Sally Lindsay has suggested that more 'warmth' is needed on television. The former Coronation Street actress will appear in Sky1's new comedy drama Mount Pleasant, which focuses on a group of people living in a fictional suburb of Manchester. Lindsay told What's On TV that she thinks people will enjoy the show because it has a lot of humour. 'It's got a lot of laughs in it, which is rare for modern comedy,' she said. 'There's a lot of grittiness in TV at the moment. I'm a bit sick of gritty. Everything seems to have a Simon Schama's History of Britain wash on it. Everything's a bit dark. We need a bit more warmth. There's warmth in things like The Royle Family and Coronation Street, and that's what we're going for.' Only, without the audiences to match, one imagines. Lindsay also praised the representation of the region in the show, saying: 'I'm quite proud of it because it's a modern portrayal of the North. It isn't grim up here, like so many people think. It's quite sparky, we've got nice restaurants and we wear good clothes.' Speak for yerself, darlin'. She added that she likes the mix of comedy and drama in Mount Pleasant. 'It's got a lot of heart,' Lindsay said. 'It's a script with some amazing comic lines and some amazing characters, too. They are people you'd quite like to live next to. They hold parties you'd want to be invited to.' Given Sky's recent record of comedy - the wretched Trollied, for instance - this one's got 'twee sub-Victoria Wood tripe' written all over it, I'm afraid.

Three members of a TV news team - including a veteran reporter - are feared dead after a helicopter crash in South Australia, police say. Reporter Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst are all employed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The helicopter went down in the Lake Eyre region. The cause of the crash is being investigated. ABC described the men as 'news gatherers at the peak of their craft. This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days,' ABC managing director Mark Scott said. 'Paul, Gary and John have each given decades of service to the ABC. They are passionate about their work and finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public.' It is believed the aircraft crashed on Thursday evening local time. Three bodies were later found at the scene of the crash - however, the victims' names have not been officially released. The news crew was working on news and feature projects in the region. ABC described Lockyer as one of its most experienced reporters, who had worked in Washington, Singapore and throughout Asia in a career spanning more than forty years.

There was absolutely sheer bloody carnage at the The Oval on the second day of the final test as England's batsmen once again put the sorry Indian attack to the sword. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen piled up England's highest partnership against India as the hosts took control. The duo, who came together with England somewhat on the back foot, sapped the life out of the tourists with huge hundreds in a phenomenal stand of three hundred and fifty runs on the second day. Pietersen made one hundred and seventy five and Bell finished unbeaten on one hundred and eighty one - his fourth Test century of the summer - as England closed on a commanding four hundred and fifty seven for three. After the frustrating opening day when only twenty odd overs were possible due to rain and bad light, England resumed on seventy five for no wicket but lost Alistair Cook in the opening over without adding to his overnight score thirty four. Cook pushed lazily at Ishant Sharma and edged to Virender Sehwag at first slip. India, so sloppy and indolent in the field on the opening day had a really good session pre-lunch. They looked sharper and more interested than at virtually any stage during the series, limiting the scoring to a snail's pace. England did not score a run until the last ball of fourth over, with Andrew Strauss finding scoring particularly difficult. The captain added only two runs to his overnight thirty eight before, with the score at ninety seven, he wafted his bat loosely at a ball from Sreesanth and nicked through to MS Dhoni. With India in the ascendancy for the first time since the early stages of the second Test at Trent Bridge, Bell and Pietersen batted cautiously early on. But, that was as good as it got for India as, after lunch, Bell and Pietersen simply took them apart. The pair added three hundred and fifty runs - a record third wicket partnership for England against India beating Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb's three hundred and eight at Lord's in 1990 and England's seventh highest stand against any team. A couple of half-chances aside, it was virtually flawless displays as the pair took apart the knackerless Indian bowling attack. Pietersen almost fell in the last over before lunch when a glance off his hips dropped just short of leg slip Suresh Raina. But the momentum swung dramatically after the interval, with Bell and Pietersen going on the offensive and cracking fifty nine runs in the first ten overs - eight more than England mustered in the entire first session. Pietersen slapped two Amit Mishra full tosses for four and Bell brought up his fifty with a flurry of four boundaries in five balls. With the series back in its default mode of England dominance, there was a certain inevitability in both men reaching three figures. Bell got there first with a square cut off Raina and Pietersen brought up his ton with a pull to the fence off the first ball after tea. Attempting to repeat the shot off Sharma's next ball, he top-edged it in the air and was dropped by Gautam Gambhir as he back-pedalled from mid-on, banging his head on the turf into the bargain. It was a costly error as the onslaught continued with Pietersen charging down the wicket to club boundary after boundary and Bell keeping his own score ticking over with some textbook strokeplay until he let himself go by heaving the hapless Mishra for two consecutive sixes. Pietersen smashed Raina over his head for four but was out next ball fifteen minutes before close as he mis-hit a drive and fed a return catch to the bowler to took it diving to his left. Pietersen departed to a standing ovation, safe in the knowledge that his exploits with Bell had put England in a great position to go on and record a series whitewash. Pietersen hit twenty seven fours in an innings that lasted a mere two hundred and thirty two balls. With the appearance of nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson, the scoring slowed during the final moments and England ended the day on four hundred and fifty seven for three with Bell one hundred and eighty one not out (seventeen fours and two massive sixes) and Anderson on three. England scored three hundred and eighty two runs in the day at a run rate of just over four an over. The Indian bowling figures do not make for pretty reading. Pietersen's nineteenth Test hundred - his fourth at The Oval - puts him level with team-mates Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook on the list of England's all-time century makers, three short of the record of twenty two jointly held by Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and Wally Hammond. 'It would be nice to get a record, but I think there are a lot of players in this team who are going to get more than twenty two hundreds,' said Pietersen.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's yet another Morrissey and Marr classic - and an age-old romantic truism that yer actual Keith Telly Topping has spent most of his adult life learning the hard part thereof. 'Oh, I say ...' Johnny playing every chord with a plectrum, dipped in gold and plucked from heaven's gates.

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