Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beware Of False Prophets

Details of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special have been announced by the BBC. Production has now started on the festive special, written as usual by showrunner Steven Moffat, which will see Matt Smith's Doctor embark on 'a magical and mysterious adventure in World War II-torn England with a young widow and her two children.' That sounds like just the thing to brighten up a dog-danglingly boring Christmas Day at home with the family, frankly. As previously reported, Outnumbered actress Claire Skinner is among the guest stars who will appear in the episode. Comedian, musician, naturalist film-maker, Qi regular and one of the funniest men on the planet Bill Bailey, The Fast Show's Arabella Weir and Xander Armstrong from The Armstrong & Miller Show will also feature. Good cast. I've been hoping to see all three of them - especially Bill Bailey - in Doctor Who for years. Bill, of course, is a lifelong Doctor Who fan and his famous 'Doctor Who-Theme-as-Belgian-Jazz' routine has been a long-term feature of his stage act. Here he is, for example, doing it in the late 1990s on his breakthrough BBC2 series Is It Bill Bailey? And, here he is last year in Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra along with the BBC symphony orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. Bill has just returned from a short tour of America to film his scenes. He confirmed his role on Twitter, tweeting overnight: 'Tour done, wine is on, thanks to all who came - back to Blighty to film Doctor Who Christmas special. Onward!' The story will see Madge Arwell (played by Skinner) and her two children, Lily and Cyril. They have been evacuated to Dorset, where they meet a 'mysterious young man in a bow tie, and a big blue parcel is waiting for them under the tree. They are about to enter a magical new world and learn that a Time Lord never forgets his debts.' So, Bedknobs and Broomsticks sort of thing? Nice. The story is reportedly set during Winter, with the Doctor acting as a caretaker in a creepy house. They'll also be an 'Ice Villain.' On the subject of her role, Skinner said: 'I am thrilled to be in Doctor Who playing Madge who is a bit of a super-mum. It's a magical part.'

Hawaii Five-0 returned for its second season this week with an episode that, of course, proved Steve McGarrett's innocence in that nasty matter of the corrupt governor who got shot in the face. That wasn't unexpected. With the addition to the cast of Terry O'Quinn and Masi Oka and yer another guest appearance by Sweet James Masters, the show is already in danger of turning into a Telefantasy icons Greatest Hits as it is. Ha'i'ole (literally, 'unbreakable') was a cleverly constructed piece of drama in which only the slightly too-rapid way in which everybody discovers the late governor's inherent rottenness and naughty ways jarred. But, it raced along at a truly epic pace, reintroduced all of the characters (and a couple of new ones) and, generally, as with the first season's best episodes, suggested this was one TV franchise which was well worth reviving. As usual Scott Caan and Daniel Dae Kim ran away with the acting honours. Marsters got to give the Oirish beggorah, bejesus where's me shillelagh accent another run out in public, Grace Park ran around a lot in a delightfully short pair of shorts, the episode had the best speedboat chase on TV this week(!) and the final two scenes, quite literally, you won't see coming. (And will, I imagine, have gone down fantastically badly with all the ladies over at Cold Dead Seed!) Nevertheless, shocking casual disposal of assets notwithstanding, it's really good to have this one back.

Meanwhile, the opening episode of Sarah Michelle Gellar's first TV show in seven years, Ringer, proved to be something if a curate's egg. If Hawaii Five-0 was a cleverly constructed piece of hokum them this appeared to have MS Escher on the design team. The plot of this Hitchcock-like thriller is fiendishly complex, almost - but not quite - to the point of being convoluted beyond redemption. Gellar plays Bridget Kelly ex-hooker, ex-stripper and alcoholic-in-recovery and with some very dark secrets in her past (there's a couple of hints that she may, in some way, have been responsible for the death of her sister's child some years ago). Thanks to being the only witness to a gangland murder, she has managed to get her life, vaguely, back on track. But, at a price. She's in witness protection in return for testifying against the spectacularly nasty individual what done the dirty murderin' deed when, on the eve of the trial that will send him down for life and a bit, and for reasons entirely to do with her own self-preservation and the furthering of the plot, Bridget decides to go on the run to New York. There, she meets with her estranged twin sister, Siobhan (also Gellar, obviously) whose is, frankly, something of an enigma: Spectacularly rich and glamorous, bitchy, manipulative, trapped in a loveless marriage, carrying on an affair with her best friend's husband and (it soon becomes clear) pregnant. After some awkward sisterly rebonding (remember the dead child), on a boat-trip Siobhan apparently throws herself overboard herself after taking an overdose of pills. In a split second Bridget decides to assume her sister's identity, only to find that Siobhan has some decidedly dark secrets of her own. (And, shockingly, the final scene reveals, she isn't nearly as dead as everyone thinks she is.) A neo-noir conceit with some terrific ideas and a very good supporting cast (Ioan Gruffudd and Nestor Carbonell included) ultimately the main thing Ringer has going for it is something that many of us - to our shame - had completely forgotten in the seven years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer finished. What a sodding brilliant TV actress Sarah Michelle Gellar is. Her film career might've been a bit of a cul-de-sac but every time she's on-screen she dominates the scene. There's, genuinely, not many performers with that kind of magnetic quality to their game. Whether Ringer will have the kind of plot diversity to become the long-running hit Gellar's last show did remains to be seen. I have a feel it's going to either be cancelled after four episodes or become this year's Lost, I sense there's little score for any middle ground. But it's got intriguing and curious foundations.

The BBC has defended its decision to air the current series of Celebrity MasterChef in a spectacularly stupid daytime slot. The cooking programme made a low-key return last week, when it began airing from 2.15pm to 3pm each day, with ratings falling as low as seven hundred and fifty thousand during the first week. Upset viewers complained that the show should be returned to primetime. However, responding to complaints, the broadcaster said: 'This series allows a greater examination of the celebs' cooking skills as there will be more hours of Celebrity MasterChef than ever before. The Friday and Saturday evening programmes will ensure that viewers won't miss out on the main event as they pick up with the three celebs facing their last terrifying challenges and battling for their place in the semi-final.' The BBC continued: 'While our audience may be more familiar with being shown in the evening, this ensures that both those who consume our output during the day and in the evening can enjoy this series of Celebrity MasterChef. This format means viewers will get even more Celebrity MasterChef than in previous years and more of our audience can follow the competition. With ninety minutes of catch-up in the peak schedule and availability on the BBC iPlayer we hope everyone can enjoy the series.' And, to be honest, so long as there's plenty of this, yer actual Keith Telly Topping doesn't really care where they show it! Or, indeed, a little bit of this.

Crime drama The Body Farm lost viewers on Tuesday evening, but still proved way too strong for ITV's wretched icy reality show 71 Degrees North, overnight ratings data has revealed. The Body Farm, starring Keith Allen as Detective Inspector Craig Hale, continued with 4.75m on BBC1 in the 9pm hour, down by five hundred thousand viewers on last week's debut episode. However, the drama easily outperformed 71 Degrees North, the show featuring celebrities such as Martin Kemp, Amy Williams and Brook Kinsella taking on challenges in Arctic conditions, which averaged 2.6m for ITV in the 9pm hour and one hundred and fifty thousand on ITV+1. The final, consolidated ratings figures for both will be released next week.

Charlie Sheen's exit on the sitcom Two and a Half Men was watched by 28.7m in the US - the highest ratings for the show since it began in 2003. The season nine opener began with the funeral of Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, after apparently being killed by a metro train in Paris. The episode also introduced Ashton Kutcher as Sheen's replacement. Sheen was fired from the show in March after criticising its producers and months of reported drug use. The audience for the opener was almost double that of last year's, where 14.65m viewers tuned in. The series pulled an average of between thirteen and fifteen million viewers each week. The sitcom's previous best was 24.24m viewers in May 2005, when it followed the final episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Details of how Sheen's character would meet his end and how Kutcher's would be introduced had created considerable speculation after producers kept the storyline secret. Viewers saw Sheen's TV funeral attended by his past girlfriends and fiancee, who eventually revealed how he died. While Kutcher appeared as heartbroken Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt who buys Harper's house after making a suicide attempt. Reviews for Kutcher's debut, in which he walked around nude, were mostly positive and suggested that the series was far from dead without Sheen. 'Kutcher's performance was good, nearly as poker-faced fine as Sheen's was. Kutcher will probably prove just as skilled,' wrote Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker. The Los Angeles Times called the premiere 'a promising beginning,' adding that 'Kutcher brings a softness to a series that could be brittle and sour, misanthropic and misogynistic, and temperamentally middle-aged.' Meanwhile, Sheen was also the victim of a TV roast on Comedy Central. The event, which featured the actor being ridiculed by celebrities including William Shatner, Jackass stuntman Steve-0 and boxer Mike Tyson, was watched by 6.4m. Comedy Central said Sheen's roast was the second most-watched broadcast in the cable network's history.
Scotland Yard has 'decided not to pursue' its legal bid to force the Gruniad to reveal the anonymous sources it used for stories about phone hacking. A hearing was scheduled for Friday but the police said that it had consulted the Crown Prosecution Service and opted 'at this time' not to go ahead with the hearing. The CPS said it had asked for more information and more time. The Gruniad previously said it would resist the 'unprecedented legal attack.' The Met is looking into leaks by an officer from Operation Weeting - which is investigating hacking by the Scum of the World - to the Gruniad about murdered girl Milly Dowler's phone being hacked by the tabloid. It had applied for a production order against the Gruniad and one of its reporters 'in order to seek evidence of offences connected to potential breaches relating to Misconduct in Public Office and the Official Secrets Act.' But, after consulting the Crown Prosecution Service on Monday and taking further legal advice on Tuesday, the force now says that it has decided not to proceed. 'This decision does not mean that the investigation has been concluded,' a statement from Scotland Yard said in what sounded quite a bit like a damage limitation exercise. 'This investigation, led by the DPS - not Operation Weeting - has always been about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information, and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that. Despite recent media reports there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists' obligations to protect their sources.' Scotland Yard also claimed that the application for production orders was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and not the Official Secrets Act as widely reported. 'The Official Secrets Act was only mentioned in the application in relation to possible offences in connection with the officer from Operation Weeting, who was arrested on 18 August 2011 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to unauthorised disclosure of information.' The Gruniad's report in July about Milly Dowler's phone being hacked re-ignited the phone-hacking scandal, leading to public outrage, politicians running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off and, ultimately, the Scum of the World being closed in disgrace. The Crown Prosecution Service and Met Police said they would 'work jointly' in considering the next step. Which would seem wise and, indeed, it will probably be a considerable surprise to most that they, apparently, haven't been already.

Meanwhile, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police has admitted that invoking the Official Secrets Act in attempts to make the Gruniad reveal its confidential sources for stories relating to the phone-hacking scandal was 'not appropriate.' Speaking a day after the Met announced an abrupt climbdown in its bid to make Gruniad reporters disclose their sources, Mark Simmons, head of professionalism issues at Scotland Yard, defended the police's duty to investigate 'robustly' leaks of information to the media. But he said claims that Amelia Hill, one of the reporters who broke the scandal, could have incited a source to break the Official Secrets Act – and broken the act herself – should not have formed a part of Scotland Yard's strategy. The Met had been due to apply on Friday for a production order to obtain all the material the Gruniad holds that would help identify sources for the phone-hacking stories. 'The view I came to when I looked at the matter was that the Official Secrets Act was not an appropriate element of the application,' Simmons told the BBC. 'We have acknowledged the role the Guardian has played in the history of what brought us to where we are now both in terms of its focus on phone hacking itself and indeed its focus on the Met's response to that. But in all the glare that's been thrown on to our relationships with the media, we have had to ask ourselves the question about how do we do more to ensure that public confidence in our officers treating information that is brought to them in confidence is maintained.' Simmons said that, although he had been 'aware' that an application was under way, he had not been aware of its detailed content or of the reference to the Official Secrets Act. After an intervention by the Crown Prosecution Service, Scotland Yard abandoned its bid to force the Gruniad to disclose its sources on Tuesday night. Simmons said: 'What I have clearly done is taken a view, based on consultation with the DPP, based on, as I say, our own legal advice, that the use of the Official Secrets Act this time was not appropriate, and that's the basis for withdrawing the application.' The statement put out by the Met announcing its retreat left open the possibility that the production order could be applied for again, but the Gruniad states that its lawyers have been told the police have 'dropped the application.' A senior Yard source - anonymous, of course - said: 'It's off the agenda.' The Gruniad's editor, Alan Rusbridger, was of course strutting about like he owned the gaff at this point but paused to caution against moves to curb responsible journalism. 'I just hope that in our effort to clean up some of the worst practices we don't completely overreact and try to clamp down on perfectly normal and applaudable reporting,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 'This was a regrettable incident, but let's hope it's over.' The police application was formally made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but with an assertion that Hill had committed an offence under the Official Secrets Act by inciting an officer from Operation Weeting to reveal information. The Yard 'source' allegedly said: 'There will be some hard reflection. This was a decision made in good faith, but with no appreciation for the wider consequences. Obviously, the last thing we want to do is to get into a big fight with the media. We do not want to interfere with journalists. In hindsight, the view is that certain things that should have been done were not done, and that is regrettable.' Many lawyers had expressed astonishment at the police resorting to the Official Secrets Act. Their surprise was reinforced on Monday when the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, revealed that the CPS had not even been contacted by officers before the application was made. Neil O'May, the Gruniad's solicitor, said: 'This was always a misconceived application for source material. Journalists' sources are protected in law. For the Metropolitan police to turn on the very newspaper which exposed the failings of the previous police inquiries and reported on hacking by the News of the World was always doomed to failure. The Metropolitan police need to control the officers who are involved in these sensitive areas.' The Met said in a statement: 'The Metropolitan police's directorate of professional standards consulted the Crown Prosecution Service about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting. The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter. In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September. Despite recent media reports, there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists' obligations to protect their sources.' The Gruniad claims that the 'picture painted by Met insiders is that a relatively junior officer took the decision to take on the Guardian without consulting his superiors, setting off a calamitous chain of events that saw the Met condemned for an attempted assault on press freedom.' The senior source allegedly said: 'There were not a lot of happy people at our place over the weekend because it was a decision made by the SIO. There was no referral upwards, and you would have thought on something as sensitive as this there would have been.'

The Scum of the World and its former chief reporter 'devastated' the life of former Formula One chief Max Mosley by publishing an article suggesting that he had organised a 'Nazi-themed sado-masochistic orgy,' a French court heard on Tuesday. The paper had used 'shocking' methods that were against 'all decent journalistic practices' to attack the privacy of a man who was known and respected, the tribunal at the Palais de Justice in Paris was told. Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter who is at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, was not present for the hearing, where he was charged with defamation and the Scum of the World was accused of violating Mosley's privacy. The front-page story, published in 2008, alleged Mosley had dressed as a Nazi guard and 'romped with prostitutes' pretending to be concentration camp victims. A two-hour video made of the party was obtained by the newspaper, published on their website and attracted millions of hits. Mosley, seventy one, is the former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and the youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists and his wife Diana, one of the celebrated Mitford sisters. Philippe Ouakrat, representing Mosley, who was not present, told the court that Thurlbeck was 'a member of the Anglo-Saxon gutter press.' Mosley had a passion for organising 'sado-masochistic occasions' among consenting adults and the two-hour video at the heart of the charges was made of what was 'clearly a private event,' he said. Essentially, it boils down to 'the chap like a bit of spanking, what's the big deal?' The 'violence of the attack was extreme,' he continued. Ouakrat said the only person to see a fascist element in the video of the sado-masochistic party, was Thurlbeck and the Scum of the World. He said this was used as an excuse to publish the article. 'Mr Mosley has no Nazi uniform and made no allusion to death camps. At no moment [does he] play the role of a concentration camp guard as Mr Thurlbeck said. At no moment did any of the women wear clothes representing inmates at a concentration camp,' he said. Mosley has, of course, already won a landmark privacy battle against the Scum of the World in the British courts, but launched a separate court battle in France because copies of the paper and the video were circulated across the Channel. The Scum of the World has been charged with breach of privacy and Thurlbeck with violating privacy laws. The maximum punishment is one year in prison and a forty five thousand quid fine. I was going to say forty five thousand smackers but, you know, there's a time and place for all that. The disgraced and disgraceful newspaper was - to Mosley's delight (and, he wasn't alone) - closed down at the height of the phone-hacking scandal. But its owners, News Group Newspapers run by Rupert Murdoch, could theoretically be ordered to cease selling its sister newspaper the Sun, in France. It could also be fined up to two hundred and twenty five euros. Mosley is reportedly seeking one hundred thousand euros in damages from each defendant. Ouakrat said although only about three thousand copies of the Scum of the World had been distributed and only about fifteen hundred sold, the damage to his client was considerable. 'Every copy of the paper distributed was a thorn in the skin of Mr Mosley. Every one was a prejudice,' he said. During the hearing, lawyer Jean-Frédéric Gaultier representing the Scum of the World and Thurlbeck said that the journalist could 'not be held responsible' for the appearance of the article in France. 'He is a journalist and he simply wrote his article for his employers. He knew the paper was sometimes distributed in France but he never participated in the distribution of this article.' If Thurlbeck was responsible then so was the main French newspaper distributor, NMPP (now known as Presstalis) he suggested. He said the Scum of the World and Thurlbeck had been 'judged' by the British courts and could not be tried twice over the same events. 'Mr Mosley has already gained satisfaction in England. This case here is not about justice but about vengeance.' Yep. No argument there. Doesn't mean it should be done and be seen to be done, though. The lawyer launched into a spirited defence of the British tabloid press describing them as the 'guard-dogs of British democracy. We have heard this kind of newspaper described as "trashy," but the tabloid is very common in England. We don't have this type of newspaper in France. It is a press known for its investigative journalism,' he said. 'I'm not saying it's good or bad, but it's a cultural exception.' He said Mosley had been 'completely compensated for the moral prejudice' he had suffered in the British courts. Public prosecutor Alexandre Aubert said the journalistic practises shown in the case were 'far more trashy' and 'far more shocking' than the images in the video. However, he said he felt Thurlbeck could not be held responsible for the distribution of the article in France, which was down to the Scum of the World. Speaking outside the Seventeenth chamber of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, before the hearing Ouakrat said Mosley was determined to pursue the newspaper 'on principle for its terrible behaviour. We've been a bit more traditional in France because we had the rules on protection of privacy that didn't exist in the UK. I think that the first decision rendered in the first Max Mosley case showed there was a limit. Now we see that when you don't sort out limits anything can happen and you can see what the trash press can do. If you don't put limits you see what the trash press can do.' He added: 'The right to write anything should not exist. You can have legitimate public interest in certain things being revealed, but the press does not have the right to write anything. I would say that English courts and police are now dissecting the corpse. Also the [newspaper] group still exists and I think has less considerable but still existing powers of nuisance against people.' He added: 'Nobody wants to have his phone tapped. Nobody wants to have his sex performance recorded and put online or in the newspapers. It's not an issue of deciding that privacy should rule or have precedence over everything because there is an issue of freedom of the press. But where do you put the line? I think in this case the line was crossed.' In 2008, Mosley claimed the video breached his privacy and contravened his privacy as it had been accessible on the Internet in France. A French judge ruled that the video was a matter for the British courts, but banned publication of the images on any other website in France and banned the copies of the Scum of the World carrying the story and pictures from being sold in France. Ouakrat said his client had decided not to pursue the Scum of the World over web distribution of images because 'it was too complicated.' The case continues.

Miranda star Tom Ellis has revealed that the third series of the sitcom won't air until 'coming up to Christmas next year.' The BBC announced in February that series three of Miranda would see the show move from BBC2 to BBC1, although the timing was 'yet to be confirmed.'

Hat Trick Productions, the company behind Have I Got News For You, has reported £4.8m pre-tax profit for the eighteen months ending on 31 December 2010. The company reported £33.1m turnover during the period, but highlighted the pressure of margins being reduced due to recession and the BBC licence fee settlement. 'Although the market rebounded in 2010 resulting in signs of increased commissioning, it is unlikely we will see margins returning to pre-recession levels in the near future,' said the directors in their report. 'We also expect the recent BBC license fee settlement freezing the licence fee until 2016-17 to exert downward pressure on programme prices. We seek to minimise the impact through strong broadcaster relationships, maintaining a reputation for delivering successful programming and seeking larger runs and co productions where appropriate.' The company reported a pre-tax profit of three hundred and forty seven thousand four hundred and fity eight smackers for the year end 30 June 2009 on £19.6m turnover. Over the past eighteen months Hat Trick made its first factual entertainment format, Dinner Date, for ITV and also had Facejacker recommissioned by Channel Four. It also made comedy Episodes, featuring former Friends star Matt le Blanc. The directors pointed to success of traditional TV commissions and digital work, such as Channel Four Education order, The Thrill Electric – a ten-part comic series set in Victorian times.

Peter Bennett-Jones, the co-creator of Comic Relief and founder of production company Tiger Aspect, believes the BBC needs to have two separate divisions for news and entertainment to stop a 'neutering' of the corporation's non-factual programming. Bennett-Jones railed against the BBC management's 'twisted tyranny of data' and their 'lack of faith in creative talent' he believes is smothering the TV industry. Bennett-Jones, giving the BAFTA annual television lecture on Monday, said it is the BBC's news and current affairs operation that shapes the corporation's overall relationship with the government – 'its paymaster' – and that crises such as the Hutton debacle have coloured who gets promoted to top roles at the BBC. He argued the BBC has a 'schizophrenic faultline' in the ranks of senior management – from the director general down to channel controllers and 'policy police' – which is smothering the creation of radical new programming. 'As a consequence of this [Hutton] dispute new draconian compliance rules were implemented across all output [and there was] an unwritten policy of appointing individuals with a journalistic news and factual background to most of the key posts within the BBC,' he said. 'On the grounds presumably that they are trained and best equipped to avoid future compliance and editorial breaches.' However he said the 'unintended consequence' of promoting people with 'little or no' experience in fields such as showbusiness, scripted drama or comedy means 'producers and their responsibilities have been neutered in the process. Fear of causing offence or upsetting viewers, politicians and regulators has straight-jacketed much original output,' he added. Bennett-Jones argued that the values so critical to news - such as impartiality – 'are the enemy of the passionate dramatist or comedian. The attitude and rules governing all of this need relaxing fast if the BBC is to retain first call working with the best creative talent, not just the best news people,' he said. 'There needs to be a major correction or even perhaps the cleaving of the BBC into two distinct entities – journalism on the one hand and entertainment on the other – with different governance, commissioning processes and accountability as with ITV and ITN.'

ITV is to reveal how Colonel Gaddafi armed the IRA and will expose a damagingly polluted city in Europe for its new investigative journalism strand. The commercial broadcaster this week unveiled the details of its Exposure series, which will bring together six unique current affairs documentaries from a range of producers. The strand is set to be scheduled on Monday nights after the news - similar to ITV's recent experiment in arts programming, Perspectives, which was shown late on Sundays. The films will include Gaddafi and the IRA (made by ITV Studios) which examines how Gaddafi, the (almost) fallen Libyan leader, gave the IRA enough weapons to turn a militia into an army. Also, The Factory (Wild Pictures) which focuses on a city in Europe where the pollution is so bad, children struggle to breathe, DNA is damaged, and the vulnerable are forced indoors. There's also On the Run (ITVS) in which former detective Mark Williams Thomas investigates how thousands of criminals go on the run every year after jumping bail or breaking their license conditions. He hunts down two men wanted by authorities. Another of the documentaries will be The World's Deadliest Arms Race (Brook Lapping) a probe into the struggle between the Pentagon's billion dollar military might, and the DIY weapons of the Taliban. The documentaries were ordered by ITV's director of television Peter Fincham, Ian Squires, controller of current affairs and news operations, and director of news, current affairs and sport, Michael Jermey. 'Exposure aims to shed light on a number of powerful and important subjects, from the world stage to very human and emotional stories, within individual and narrative-led hour-long films,' Squires said.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping got an e-mail t'other day from the very lovely Larry Dignan who had the following to say: 'The coverage of your site is so comprehensive and creative that it's turned many of us at Onlinecollegecourses.com into regular followers. We recently published a post, Twelve School TV Shows Where No One Seemed to Study that we hope you and your readers might also find interesting. If you have the time to consider it, we'd appreciate any mention or feature of it on your blog.' Consider it considered.

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was held up on his way to New York by a jar of Vegemite in his hand baggage. Officials at Mexico City's airport became suspicious when they spotted a jar of dark brown paste in the politician's hand luggage and, of course, assumed it was heroin. As you do. Rudd - who is now the country's foreign minister - called upon local diplomats to help him explain that the contents of the jar were, in fact, harmless. Although if you've ever had some on toast after a night out on the razz, 'harmless' isn't, necessarily, the first word that springs to mind. He wrote on his Twitter page: 'Only problem travelling to NY is that they tried to confiscate our Vegemite at the airport. Needed Foreign Ministerial intervention.' Rudd later added: 'Re: Vegemite Q's. Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you and I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through.' Launched in Australia in 1922, Vegemite is a dark brown spread made from used brewers' yeast extract. It bears some similarities to Marmite, although Vegemite is said to have a less intense flavour. Of course, the irony here is that if some comedian, say, had included a joke in his act that the foreign minister of Australia carries a jar of vegemite around in his hand-luggage when he's abroad, this would likely have been criticised as crass national stereotyping!

Cheryl Cole has reportedly told friends that she wants Simon Cowell to 'stop using her name to publicise his TV shows.' That's going to be difficult - breaking the habits of a lifetime (or, the last four years, anyway). The Girls Aloud singer has reportedly turned down offers to return to The X Factor or join the Britain's Got Talent panel after she was unceremoniously axed from The X Factor USA. A 'source' allegedly has told Metro that The Heaton Horror thinks Cowell is using her name to 'peddle publicity' for his TV talent competitions. 'There's absolutely no chance in hell Cheryl will even consider doing Britain's Got Talent,' the supposed insider allegedly said. 'She's not even willing to discuss it. She's turned it down before. Simon knows by mentioning her it will get publicity for his shows. She's fed up. Cheryl's walked away from it all and moved forward.' They added: 'Simon keeps dragging it up and her name. Cheryl's in a great place right now and has always said that music is her main focus. The X Factor is history for her now.' Nicole Scherzinger's ex-manager Jeff Haddad claimed in June that Cole's initial appointment to The X Factor USA panel was a publicity stunt for the show and that her replacement Scherzinger was 'always in line for the job.' It was claimed as recently as last week that Cole could return to British The X Factor for the live shows after Judges' Houses. However, other 'sources' have allegedly suggested that Cowell will 'never allow Cole back' on the programme, having decided it would be 'a backward step to reinstate her.' As for most of us? Perhaps we'll never care.

Rejected X Factor contestant Ceri Rees has reportedly claimed to have been 'hounded' into re-auditioning for the show. The fifty four-year-old made her fourth appearance on the ITV show during Sunday night's final audition programme. Facing the new panel, she was shown being turned down by all four judges following her performance. Amanda Roberts, a singing teacher who gave Rees free lessons following her last appearance in 2008, has criticised The X Factor for broadcasting the footage. 'The show just wants someone to ridicule,' she told the Sun. 'The producers and judges should hang their heads in shame - they are exploiting a vulnerable woman. When they approached her to go back, I rang the producers and told them it wouldn't be good for her. We had a slanging match for half an hour - they spoke to me like mud. I'm a professional person and all I wanted to do was protect Ceri from these people exploiting her.' Roberts continued: 'It was my duty as a friend to protect Ceri from being humiliated on TV. She doesn't realise she's being set up. I told Ceri that going back on X Factor would be bad for her, and I cried when I heard she was on the show on Sunday.' Speaking further to the Mirra, Roberts said that her friend 'wishes she'd never gone back' on the programme. 'She's been in tears ever since,' Roberts added. 'I think she realises they just wanted her to go back on so they could laugh at her. It's pretty mean really.' An X Factor spokesperson said that hopefuls' welfare was of 'paramount importance,' adding: 'We regularly welcome back contestants who want to audition again.'

And, speaking of talent show rejects, Kerry Katona's fly-on-the-wall series has reportedly been axed by ITV. The thirty-year-old, who came second in Celebrity Big Brother earlier this month, is said to have received the news on the very day that she was granted a divorce from second husband Mark Croft. Talks between the broadcaster and Katona's management broke down, according to the Sun, with an undisclosed contractual dispute said to have led to the project being canned by ITV2. An ITV spokesperson told the paper: 'We have enjoyed working with Kerry on two successful series of The Next Chapter, but we do not have any further episodes planned.' Katona's spokesman Max Clifford commented: 'It is a shame as Kerry wants to be on TV, and after her success on Big Brother people obviously want to see her. But with the ITV deal she was caught up in something that was beyond her control.'

Sally Morgan has reportedly 'angered' some of her fans who heard voices behind the audience saying words which were then repeated a few moments later by the alleged psychic on stage. Around two thousand people had paid to witness Morgan's alleged 'gift,' which she says she has had since she was a child, and which she claims led the late Diana, Princess of Wales, to consult her regularly before her death. The show was at Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre on 11 September and fans were said to be 'surprised and then angered' when they heard a man's voice giving what sounded to be prompts to the psychic. A woman called Sue told the Daily Torygraph: 'Everything he said, the psychic would say ten seconds later. It was as if she was having the information relayed to her.' The audience member claimed that a number of people in her row heard the man speaking, but when an usher heard him, the window closed and the voice was silenced. Morgan wears a headpiece which features a microphone but she has insisted that the equipment was not able to be used to pass messages to her as it was not two-way. She said: 'I totally respect cynics and sceptics. However, I will not stand by and be accused of fraudulent behaviour from inaccurate sources of information. It's completely and utterly balderdash.' A spokesman for Sally Morgan Enterprises also said: 'There are absolutely no plants on Sally's show. This is her gift and she has been sharing it for years with audiences and doesn't need to do that.' Stephen Faloon, the theatre's general manager, said that the voice belonged to one of two lighting technicians, adding that no one at the theatre would be 'a part of any scam.' Longer term readers may recall that when Sky Living commissioned the eight-part series Psychic Sally: On The Road, their commissioning editor, one Sophie Wurzer-Williams was quoted as saying 'Whether you're a believer or not, Sally delivers the most moving and jaw-dropping psychic shows in the UK today.' This blogger noted at the time that: 'Surely if you aren't a believer then the next, obvious, assumption to make is that Sally is making the whole thing up and that she is guilty of - at best - self-delusion bordering on mental illness and - at worst - deception of quite wilful and disgusting proportions. There's no middle ground concerning psychic ability, it either exists or it doesn't. And, if it doesn't, then television programmes like this are, in essence, condoning emotional fraud.' One would hope that should these allegations of fraudulent behaviour be proven then Ms Wurzer-Williams will be quick to apologise to all Sky subscribers - this blogger included - for having exposed them to chicanery and outrageous malarkey. How about refunding some of our payments, Sophie?

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, let me assure you, dear blog reader, there are absolutely no otherworldly miracles involved in this one. Well, maybe just the one.

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