Thursday, October 20, 2011

Very Naughty Boys

As yer actual Keith Telly Topping's good friend Danny Blythe noted this week on Facebook: 'I think I may split up this morning. That'll get me some press at least. Then just before all the weeping dies down, I'll announce that I'm getting back together.' Word.

Electric sports car manufacturer Tesla Motors has this week lost a significant part of its libel battle with the BBC's Top Gear, after complaining about a bad review they received on the motoring programme that showed its Roadster model constantly running out of battery. Justice Tudgendhat ruled in the high court that no Top Gear viewer would have 'reasonably compared the car's performance on the Top Gear test track to driving on a public road,' reports some Communist hippie in the Gruniad Morning Star. Who sounded really disappointed, frankly. The judge said that the contrast between 'the style of driving and the nature of the track as compared with the conditions on a public road' was so great that 'no reasonable person could understand that the performance on the track is capable of a direct comparison with a public road.' The case continues on other charges levied by Tesla, including that the Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson 'maliciously' made false statements about the Roadster in the review. In March, Tesla sued Top Gear over the show's 2008 piece on the Roadster, claiming that it 'contained lies and misinformation about the Roadster's performance, behaviour and reliability.' The US car maker accused the programme of using 'staged' footage to create the impression that the car had run out of battery, along with suffering various mechanic faults. Clarkson said in the programme that the Roadster ran out of battery after fifty five miles, just over a quarter of the two hundred miles which Tesla claimed it could achieve. In its legal filing, Tesla claimed that it had seen the 'continuing impact' of the review on its reputation, due to the episode being 'repeatedly' re-shown on BBC television channels, DVDs, video on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and third-party channels such as Dave. Which appears to suggest that Telsa believe motorists trust Top Gear more than Telssa themselves, a pretty shocking thing for any car manufacturer to be admitting to. The BBC has always said that Tesla's entire claim should be struck out. Because they're sodding ludicrous. It's to be hoped, particularly in the current economic climate, that the BBC will also be awarded costs as I really don't see why my licence fee should be used to pay lawyers who have to defend the Beeb on groundless crap like this. From Americans at that.

'The devil is in the detail when it comes to reconstructing the past. Deft little touches, such as big chunks of scrolling text and the melancholy chorus of 'Death Of A Clown' by Dave Davies undercutting the irreligious action, marked Holy Flying Circus (BBC4) out as something special.' Thus began Keith Watson's review in the Metro of last night's BBC4 deconstruction of Monty Python Flying Circus's most controversial hour and a half. We all have our crosses to bear in life, of course and, as Watson continues 'for this TV reviewer, it's the knowledge that whenever the notion of religion rears its head in a programme, someone, somewhere will get offended.' Which was, indeed, just the kind of knee-jerk over-the-top intolerance that the Monty Python's Flying Circus team was pointedly poking fun at - and then subsequently, found themselves a (willing) victim of - in their 1979 biblical satire, Life Of Brian. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone, and all that. Important point number one, if you set out to deliberately annoy people, don't be surprised if some people become annoyed. In Holy Flying Circus, the fictionalised John Cleese put his finger squarely on the bloodied stigmata of the issue. 'There's nothing wrong with being offensive. It's part of life,' he tells a fretful and anguished Michael Palin who, of course, just wants to be loved. In terms of characterisation, Holy Flying Circus couldn't really fail because unlike many recent BBC biopics it made absolutely no pretence towards attempting to show us the men behind the persona. Rather, it just gave us a stocking full of the persona itself instead. Gleefully. The whole thing was, ultimately, a thoroughly entrancing mash-up of self-references, rude knob gags, cross-dressing, ribaldry and utter nonsense. It was, in short, just like a ninety minute episode of the TV series. Bloody excellent! Seeing each of the Pythons caricatured was the first of Holy Flying Circus's many joys.
Terry Jones (played beautifully by Rufus Jones) had a 'tewiffically pwonounced' speech impediment and spent most this time banging on about how great the camera angles which he shot were in the scene in the movie where Brian opens the window to reveal his genitals to the crowd below. Graham Chapman (Tom Fisher) was possibly the most subtle of the characters on display (perhaps, the sole example of a bit of necessary respectfulness in the entire piece. After all, Chapman is, sadly, no longer with us). He cradled a pipe and wore a 'really nice' American jacket and was played as a dignified, softly-spoken gay man seemingly at ease with his place in the group and with life in general; notably, when sipping an orange juice whilst his colleagues downed pints of bitter in the BBC bar. (Chapman himself was, of course, a recovering alcoholic at this point in time.) Terry Gilliam (Phil Nichol) was a manic ball of unrestrained American energy constantly turning off-the-wall ideas into animations. He's thrilled, for example, when somebody writes an angry letter to the team suggesting that their movie must have been 'conceived in Hell' and promptly animates a conversation between the Pythons and the Devil as, effectively, their script editor. (Even the Devil, it seems, gets shocked when animated-Chapman suggests a particularly gruesome spunk-wanking sequence.) Meanwhile, Eric Idle (a great turn by Steve Punt) is casually ironic but, far more importantly, obsessed with making loads of money as quickly as possible so he can bugger off to Los Angeles and hang out with rock stars. Just like real life, in fact! The scene in which he tells a terribly nice Tim Rice that he'd love to write a hit musical one day is a corker. Darren Boyd's contrary, uptight, petulant John Cleese was one of the best thing about the drama right from the start. 'Just wanted to point out that this is a fictional representation of me based loosely on my Basil Fawlty persona,' he explains to the audience whilst stroking a pet cat in one of the drama's many - cleverly constructed - surreal dream sequences. Whilst the intention of these scenes may have been to mimic the style of the original Flying Circus TV series, the effect was actually to shake off many of the lingering encumbrances of a traditional biopic dramatisation. So, for example, just as in the series, all of the show's main female parts are played by the Pythons themselves in pepperpot-drag. Michael Palin (Charles Edwards) is married to Jones The Wife (Rufus Jones, again) whilst Edwards also plays Palin's mother. Any sense of time was entirely malleable throughout. 'I notice you haven't made fun of the Muslims,' an annoying newspaper vendor - styled, perhaps, on Palin's argumentative Dennis character from Monty Python's Holy Grail - challenges Cleese. Are the Pythons afraid of getting a fatwah or a jihad declared upon them? 'It's 1979,' replies Cleese/Fawlty, wearily. 'No one in this country knows anything about Islam!' 'Okay, imagine it's the future and there are, I dunno, two and a half million Muslims living in Britain. Would you make a film about them then?' 'No,' says Cleese bluntly. 'They would still only represent four per cent of the population. Assuming the population had risen to, let's say, sixty one and a half million.' At which point an on-screen graphic flashes up the words 'actual figures'! That's typical of Holy Flying Circus. It meanders, gently, wandering off at hugely self-referential tangents at regular intervals, forwards in time, to Mexico (for no apparent reason), or off into an alien spaceship for a discussion on racism. It slips into fantasy sequence as regularly as episodes from the original series did. There are knowing nods – to Life of Brian itself, of course ('What have the Christians ever done for us?!'), but also to the future; the state of the BBC in 2011, Mad Frankie Boyle's controversial Rebecca Adlington joke on Mock The Week and the Liberals becoming the Lib-Dems. It's certainly appropriate to the subject matter and, usually, these scenes are very funny and very clever. Constantly inventive, the drama follows a fictional religious group (with a typical Python's 'People's Front of Judah'-type name) intent on pillorying the Pythons and having Life of Brian banned in the UK. 'I'm going to a higher authority,' one of the group tells the Python's manager (Simon Greenall) after the BBFC have given Brian a double A certificate. 'Whose that then, God?' asks the manager. 'No, the council!' the Christian replies with wonderfully Little Englander bombast. One of the most impressive tactics was to dispense with any notion of good taste from the outset. Tony Roche's drama (directed by Owen Harris) actually ended with a significant remark from the real life Terry Jones earlier this year: 'I think we'd think twice about it now.' The point being, one imagines, that the freedom to be irreverent may actually have diminished in society at large since the row over Life of Brian's release thirty years ago. As if to reclaim lost ground, this drama begins with an authentic-looking Jesus emerging from the wilderness to explain to us - in Herbew - that, 'most of what you are about to see never actually happened. It's largely made up. Just like the Bible.' When an Eric Idle-type figure appears to protest that this might be considered offensive to some people, Jesus turns around and farts in his face. Good start! Then the roller titles began: 'The year is 1979,' they read, 'and big chunks of scrolling text are still all the rage.' The movie has just been completed, we learn, and the team are thinking about its release, initially in America, where they can make First Amendment arguments about freedom of speech if anybody gets uppity about it. But the religious protests there which inevitably follow make a British release far more complicated and, as the Pythons gather in their manager's office to discuss the problem, it becomes clear that Holy Flying Circus isn't - thankfully - going to be historically literal about the story which it is telling. In America we're shown a picket line at a Life of Brian screening including a nun who thinks 'that Monty Python is an evil man', a couple of Klansmen who want to ban the film because it's morally repugnant ('and, also, kill the blacks!') and an Afro'd dude who, like, totally agrees with his white brothers in the Klan ('except for the bit about killing black people. That's not cool'!) Cleese suggests that there will be no such protest here because 'the great British public aren't closed-minded or quick to judge.' There's a brilliant comedy pause and then, in Fawltyesque manner he blusteres, 'Oh no, sorry... They are!' The Gilliam animation sequence is the first of numerous Monty Python-style interruptions to the flow of the piece. The best of them being a - horribly accurate - 2011-style Internet trainspotter's soul-destroying whinging letter of complaint to BBC4 about an anachronism in the script, which provokes a panicked cascade of references through ascending tiers of BBC bureaucracy. And, at the end of that, a really witty little comment on Delivery Quality First into the bargain. Some of it was knowingly offensive. I mean, deliberately knowingly offensive. Religious objections were represented by the Popular People's Church of St Sophia, a body whose representatives include one man with severe Tourette's and another with a terrible stammer, both of them shamelessly exploited entirely for laughs. But most of it just relished the genuine absurdities thrown up by any attempt to police laughter - no matter how well-meaning. There's a very funny scene, for instance, in which the BBC's 'Head of Rude Words' ('frightfully nice chap' notes Chapman) dictates a revised register of obscenities which are banned to his secretary, writhing in obvious embarrassment at each word. Particularly a discussion about whether 'motherfucker' is one word or two ('"Cocksucker." "Shit." We are now over the worst...') Only belatedly does he realise that he could have just handed her the list without having to actually say any of them out loud. What was best about the drama, though, was that you simply couldn't predict at any given moment what was going to happen next. There was also a great, really nuanced, performance by Spaced's Mark Heap as the Popular People's Church of St Sophia Reg-like leader who has his consciousness raised and his humanity revealed by events. Splitter! Boyd has Cleese down to a tee but, even better was Edwards as Palin, 'the nicest man in the world,' who manages to be self-deprecating about everything, including being self-deprecating itself. Add in a convincing support cast (many playing several different characters) and it was easy to believe that we were back in the Pythons heyday and the mob of Godbotherers were getting their knickers in a twist about the Life Of Brian's supposed profanities and blasphemies. The drama climaxed with the notorious TV encounter between Cleese and Palin and their critics, set up by the 'Head of BBC Talk,' Alan Dick. Jason Thorpe played Dick as a variant of Rik Mayall's Lord Flashheart, ranting hyperbolically and 'cumming in my pants' at the thought of obscenity befouling the airwaves to create 'the greatest TV show ever made.' And, winning him a BAFTA into the bargain. But even the performances were trumped by writer Tony Roche, a man who clearly knows his Python lore inside out but who never let the story get in the way of a merry saunter up a surreal alley or several. What Holy Flying Circus pulled off - with some aplomb - was the feel of a Python show-within-a-show, bizarre fantasy scenes juxtaposed with holy hand grenades of actual happenings. Thus, to the climax, when Palin and Cleese appeared on a late night BBC chat show - Friday Night, Saturday Morning - to defend the film in what was supposed to be a serious, informed debate with the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood and the satirist Malcolm Muggeridge, a public convert to Christianity. One moderated by, of all people, Tim Rice. Southwark turned up - by all accounts slightly drunk - a vision in purple complete with the biggest crucifix you've ever seen in your life. 'Are you expecting vampires, Bishop?' asks Cleese, not unreasonably. In the ensuing confrontation, the pious couple (played respectively by a deliciously effete and pompous Roy Marsden and a gloriously haughty Michael Cochrane) summoned up a level of spite and arrogance that made the Pistols notorious chat show outburst to Bill grundy from a couple of years earlier appear like an episode of Blue Peter. 'This tenth-rate film,' Muggeridge kept sneering. 'I was a governor of a mentally deficient school,' said Stockwood. 'I felt I was back on familiar ground.' Here were two Christians - so-called - who didn't seem to have read Matthew 7:1, or 7:3 recently. The thrust of their attack was that the Pythons were not comedy messiahs at all, they were simply (as The Virgin Mandy notes in the film) 'very naughty boys.' Which, might've been true - hell, it probably was true - but it rather missed the point. As, indeed, did these gentlemen themselves when they, infamously, were late to a special screening of the film, put on for their benefit, and missed the opening two scenes in which the Pythons clearly demonstrate that Christ and Brian are different characters. They also, probably far more importantly from the public's point of view, came over as thoroughly arrogant and condescending whilst Cleese and Palin appeared as reasonable, intelligent, likeable men who were enduring their own version of The Spanish Inquisition. Which they didn't expect, obviously. It stands as one of the most famous TV contretemps and it's played almost entirely straight in Holy Flying Circus. Smuggeridge, tells Palin and Cleese: 'I came on this programme to say that it was morally without merit and undeniably reprehensible.' To which Palin, no longer 'the nicest man in the world' but a very angry man indeed, replies, bitterly: 'Yes, you started with an open mind, I realise that.' Even now, thirty two years on, the incident throws up all sorts of important questions on the nature of censorship and about how you react to it when it smiles in your face. As Cleese pointed out: 'Three hundred years ago, if we'd said what we are saying in this film, we would have been burnt at the stake. Now, I'm suggesting that we've made some kind of an advance.' The drama preserved this encounter pretty-much intact – the only point in the film in which some unwanted reality intrudes. But, even here, Roche still couldn't resist adding a short fantasy sequence of Palin losing his cool and glassing Muggeridge in the face with a water jug whilst an impressed Cleese does a silly walk. Subsequently, Jones The Wife tells a despondent Palin: 'You won.' Which, in the court of public opinion, they undoubtedly did. Taking no prisoners, Holy Flying Circus cocked its considerable and worthy snook at everything from speech impediments and greed to blind-leading-the-blind religious fanatics and internal BBC politics, amounting to a hymn of praise to the original Life Of Brian and to the notion that comedians have a right, even a duty, to piss some people off. If for not other reason than that there are some people who really need pissing off every once in a while. Whether they know it, or not. It showed - in deliciously Pythonesque fashion - scant regard for whose noses it might (and almost certainly will) have got up - including, apparently, real-life Cleese himself who broke ranks from his former colleagues and had a go at the film last week, sight unseen and based only on a copy of the script. Yes, that is  indeed exactly the sort of thing that a bunch of uncharitable Christian bigots were doing concerning his movie thirty years ago. Ironic, you say? I couldn't possibly comment. The ultimate get-out clause for them in 1979, and for Roche and his cast now, is that at the end of the day it was 'all made up – like the Bible.' Never, as Keith Watson's review concludes 'have quote marks been so vital.' Oh and Stephen Fry plays a rather wonderfully nice and benevolent Home Counties, BBC-loving God. Of course he does.

The biopic proved to be, ahem, 'something completely different' as it were for the digital channel gaining more than half a million viewers with an overnight audience of five hundred and thirty four thousand. Rufus Jones, who played both Terry Jones and, also the fictional Jones The Wife, has written a blog about making the programme, in which he says this: 'I suppose the challenge with Jones The Wife was to try and create something sweet, something truthful, then stick some fake boobs on it and see if the audience still bought it.'
A lawyer who advised News International has said the company was told in 2008 there were three journalists other than Clive Goodman involved in phone hacking. Julian Pike told the Commons culture committee he had 'not done very much' to dispute the firm's claims that only 'one rogue reporter' was involved. But he insisted that he was 'not party to any cover-up.' Which, of course, dear blog readers may recall is exactly what everyone involved in Watergate said. Whilst the were involved in a cover-up. Goodman was jailed in 2007 for hacking phones belonging to royal aides. Pike, who works for solicitors Farrer and Co, advised News International in its phone-hacking case with the Football Association's Gordon Taylor. His case is seen as the key to the dispute over how widespread hacking was. Taylor settled out of court with the Scum of the World for a reported four hundred and twenty five thousand smackers. But an e-mail handed to his lawyers by the police - known as the 'For Neville' e-mail - has been at the centre of a disagreement during previous committee hearings. When the Scum of the World's royal editor was jailed for hacking into phones of the royal household in 2007, the paper insisted that the practice was not more widely used, a story which they publicly stuck to right up until the beginning of this year. But the 'For Neville' e-mail is said to have implied that the Scum of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, at least, was also implicated in malpractices. Pike told the committee the e-mail was a 'critical piece of evidence' relating to phone hacking. 'It was quite clear having seen the 'For Neville' e-mail that there was involvement of News of the World journalists other than Goodman,' he said. The lawyer also said that in 2008, at the time of the Taylor case, the advice given to News International was that there were 'three journalists other than Goodman involved in phone hacking. They were also advised by counsel and ourselves that there was a powerful case to support [the existence of] a culture of illegal accessing of information to get stories,' he added. Pike claimed that there was 'no obligation' for him to report to the police that he knew phone hacking was more widespread at the Scum of the World than the company was publicly claiming. Asked what he had done to correct those claims, he said, 'I'll be honest, I haven't done very much,' but he added that this did not cause him 'any professional embarrassment.' Which, probably says more about lawyers than it does about anything else. The committee also heard from Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represents many of the alleged victims of phone hacking - including the family of Milly Dowler - and who represented Taylor. Lewis said the settlement for Taylor was much higher than would have been expected in a privacy case in which no story was actually published. He told MPs he believed that was to 'hush up' the matter and encourage him not to bring any further claims or make public any further allegations. 'They didn't want it to get out,' he said. 'They paid my costs in full. They didn't knock a penny off - that's unheard of in litigation.' Lewis also claimed his own phone had been hacked as recently as 2011. Committee chairman John Whittingdale said in September he wanted to hear from Pike before recalling News Corp boss James Murdoch to give further evidence. Former Scum of the World legal manager Tom Crone has told MPs that he is 'certain' he informed Murdoch about the existence of the 'For Neville' e-mail. But, Murdoch, who is the European chief executive of News Corporation - the parent company of News International, which owned the Scum of the World before it was closed in shame and ignominy in July 2011 - has insisted he was never told about it. Next week, the MPs will hear evidence from News International's former executive chairman Les Hinton. He will appear via videolink from the United States, where he lives.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Tom Watson (power to the people!) will tell News Corporation shareholders at the company's annual meeting on Friday that Rupert Murdoch's business has 'behaved unethically.' All eyes will be on News Corp's meeting at Fox Studios' Zanuck theatre tomorrow at 6pm UK time, as Rupert Murdoch and his son James are widely expected to face an open revolt from some shareholders. Around a quarter of the company's investors have already announced various tactics to disrupt the meeting and challenge the News Corp board, which is headed by Rupert Murdoch and includes his sons James and Lachlan. Watson, who sits on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee and has been a committed and outspoken campaigner in the phone-hacking scandal, is planning to speak at the meeting after securing a proxy which will allow him to vote on behalf of a shareholder. Before flying out to the US earlier this week, Tommy told the Birmingham Post & Mail: 'I want the institutional investors to be in no doubt about the wrongdoing that is taking place in the name of News Corp. There are motions to be discussed at the meeting about improving corporate governance and I want to see those approved.' The MP from West Bromwich East has pursued News Corporation since 2009, a fight which only recently gained more mainstream support and momentum. In July, Watson quizzed Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch on the phone hacking scandal at the Scum of the World, as well as other unethical behaviour from journalists. He had previously helped uncover that Scum of the World journalists had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002. The revelation kicked off the scandal that resulted in the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid and the launch of a judge-led inquiry into press ethics. Also, a New York Times article has claimed that a rift has developed between Rupert Murdoch and his son James. The paper said that their disagreements stem 'from the clashing visions of a young technocratic student of modern management and a traditionalist who rules by instinct and conviction.' It claimed that James Murdoch's position 'came into question' after the phone-hacking scandal at News International, in which he played a key role by signing off a settlement to Gordon Taylor. His standing within News Corp, the New York Times allege, 'became tenuous enough at one point this summer that he and other senior executives considered whether he should step aside.'

BSkyB has reported thirty three per cent increase in pre-tax profits to three hundred and seven million smackers in the three months to the end of September, as an expected slump in new TV subscribers was balanced by an increase in selling products including broadband and telephony to existing customers. BSkyB, which was on the brink of being taken over by its largest shareholder, News Corporation, until the phone-hacking scandal at the Scum of the World scuppered the deal, exceeded most analyst targets. As the economic downturn has hit the UK the company has been aiming to move the focus away from the number of new subscribers it achieves each quarter – a culture engendered under former chief executive James Murdoch who set the company a target of hitting ten million households – to how many products it can cross-sell to its existing base. BSkyB managed to add twenty six thousand new pay-TV customers in the quarter, taking the total subscriber base to 10.2 million, well down on the almost one hundred thousand added in the same quarter last year. However, the company managed to sell in a total of six hundred and eighty three thousand products to customers in the three months to the end of September. The company will also be pleased that average revenue per user – a key metric for analysts and an indicator of whether the company could be facing a slowdown in the economic climate – remained relatively stable at five hundred and thirty five smackers, up twenty five quid on a year ago. In addition, BSkyB managed to keep 'churn,' the proportion of customers leaving Sky altogether, to analysts' seasonal expectations of 11.1 per cent. The composition of BSkyB's board has been criticised by some investors who argue that News Corp wields too much influence and that a significant number of members should be changed. In July BSkyB said two directors, Allan Leighton and David Evans, would retire later this year. James Murdoch, who has been criticised over his handling of the phone-hacking scandal, remains chairman of BSkyB. BSkyB revenues increased by nine per cent to £1.6bn as its overall subscriber base rose by seventy seven thousand households. BSkyB said programming costs increased by fifty three million smackers, about eleven per cent year-on-year. Half of that increase in spend was due to BSkyB's drive to build its entertainment content. Sports costs increased by fifteen million. Expenditure on movies and news was 'broadly level.'

The BBC's long-running internal newspaper Ariel is to publish its final print edition later in the year as the corporation's communications department prepares for a restructure that will cost thirty jobs. Ariel, which was first published seventy five years ago, will release its last print edition in December before being available exclusively online with a significantly reduced staff, reports The BBC's communications department is being restructured as part of the Delivering Quality First strategy, which will result in nearly two thousand job losses by 2016-17 as the corporation seeks to make savings of six hundred and seventy million quid. Despite being an internal title, Ariel has often made it into the mainstream media over the years with its stories, such as the announcement of cuts to the BBC Comedy team and a letter published from BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson criticising the new BBC licence fee settlement agreed last year. It is understood that the Ariel team will lose four jobs in total in the switch to an online-only publication. Candida Watson, editor of Ariel for the past two years, said that the closure of the newspaper 'pales into insignificance' in the context of the 'savage cuts' being inflicted in other areas of the BBC. However, she added: 'That doesn't make it any less of a shock to the long-serving staff who produce Ariel, to our regular correspondents who make the letters page a thing of occasional joy and frequent conversation, or to those of you who like to pick up the paper and read it quietly in a break, or take it to read on the journey home. And how will certain tabloids fill their diary columns now?' Watson noted that some BBC staff would see the closure of Ariel as 'a none-too-subtle way of diminishing internal criticism of BBC management.' But she added that it was 'hard to argue' for a licence fee-funded internal newspaper at a time of major austerity at the corporation. In a statement, BBC director general Mark Thompson said: 'The Ariel newspaper has been an important part of the BBC's history for seventy five years and like many of you I will be sad the paper version has to close as part of DQF savings. However, I am pleased that it will live on online, reflecting the lives, issues and challenges that we face every day.' Last week, Thompson was criticised by the broadcast and journalism unions after allegedly telling employees at a meeting in Belfast that 'no-one is forcing you to stay' at the corporation.

A TV advert for a computer game featuring a naked woman pole dancing and two girls in school uniforms about to kiss in a nightclub has been banned from being aired before 11pm. The animated TV advert, for the computer game Duke Nukem Forever, also features a full-frontal view of a thong-wearing woman with pixellated patches covering her breasts and bottom and action scenes including aircraft firing guns over a blazing city. Two versions of the advert, developed by computer game company Take Two Interactive, had been given the green light for clearance to run after 7.30pm and 9.30pm. Nevertheless, the Advertising Standards Authority received thirty four complaints from viewers, who all saw the advert after 9pm and said it was 'offensive and irresponsible because it was sexist, violent, overly explicit and included imagery which was likely to harm children and vulnerable people.' Take Two Interactive said the game was a 'cartoonish' take on the ultra-realistic first-person shooter games that dominate the market. The company added that the sexual content was shown in an 'exaggerated, non-realistic way' to send up the main character who was a '1980s, muscle-bound, ultra-macho figure of fun.' All the game footage used in the TV advert was classified as eighteen by the British Board of Film Classification and was typical of the type of imagery common in 'mass-market entertainment such as TV, film or music videos,' according to Take Two Interactive. In regard to the scenes of violence, the ASA admitted that the advert was not overly graphic for broadcast after 9pm. However, it said the scenes showing 'women's naked bodies and their very sexual movements and gyrations were overly sexually explicit' for airing at 9pm. The ASA said the images of the two girls about to kiss 'appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour.' In addition, the strip club scenes were 'overly explicit,' according to the ASA, and the advert was irresponsible and should be broadcast only after 11pm.

Current affairs programmes such as the BBC's Panorama and Channel Four's Dispatches face increasingly sophisticated and orchestrated campaigns against their investigations by PR companies and lobbying groups, a Lords committee has been warned. Dorothy Byrne, Channel Four head of news and current affairs, told the Lords communications committee that programmes such as the broadcaster's investigation into alleged war crimes during the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war faced 'worldwide PR exercises.' Byrne said Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, which was broadcast in June and featured graphic footage of alleged war crimes, faced a demonstration outside Channel Four's London headquarters – which she claimed had been organised by the Sri Lankan ministry of defence. Veteran Panorama journalist John Ware, appearing before the same Lords committee on Tuesday, said that the cost of dealing with a concerted campaign of complaints about a recent edition of BBC1's Panorama was more than it cost to make the programme itself. Although Ware did not reveal the edition of Panorama in question, it is understood to be Death in the Med, about the Israeli boarding of the Mavi Marmara, which aired in August 2010. Death in the Med prompted two thousand calls to the BBC, a quarter of them part of a lobby organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website. The BBC Trust ruled in April this year that it was 'accurate and impartial' overall but upheld three out of fifty one points raised in complaints. Byrne said the impact of PR companies on television current affairs was something 'not just us but the whole of society needs to be aware of. They will not just try to threaten us with libel actions, they will launch worldwide PR exercises against us, she told the Lords communications committee, which is holding an inquiry into the future of investigative journalism. They will try to make complaints against our bosses, leak stories against us to newspaper diaries, they will go to our regulator [Ofcom] and make potentially scores of complaints against us. If we are doing a really big investigation that could take six months to a year. We have to be ready that we could be living with an investigation for a year after it has gone out.' Byrne added: 'Stories have appeared, for example, about our Sri Lankan investigation all over the world in a highly organised way,' she told the committee. 'They appear to be normal stories and they are not – they are obviously coming from somewhere. Demonstrations have taken place in the street – there was one outside Channel Four – and this demonstration had been organised by the Sri Lankan ministry of defence.' Ware said that investigative programmes such as Panorama were at risk of being overwhelmed by complaints from PR companies and lobby groups. 'A recent Panorama was cleared in almost every respect save for some minor matters. I'm pretty sure the bill for that was significantly more than the actual transmission itself,' he added. 'That's fine – it's a public service broadcaster – but what I'm saying is there aren't the funds, the resources, to deal with the aftercare and the aftercare is getting greater because of the lobby groups.' Ware's concerns about concerted complaints campaigns which were 'utterly determined' with a 'never say die' attitude were echoed by Panorama editor Tom Giles. He said PR companies would start 'Twitter bombing' during the course of a programme in a bid to discredit its investigation. 'PR is very wise to it. Ten or fifteen people will start tweeting from a particular point of view it has invariably been set up by a PR organisation,' added Giles. He said dealing with serial complainants, who go first to BBC management before taking it to the BBC Trust and the appeals process 'takes up an enormous amount of time and effort and we have to take these things seriously. The threat of a mass outbreak of legal action, legal letters from particularly powerful groups, we have had that on an increasing level on Panorama,' he added. 'I hope we are still pretty rigorous in facing it off where it needs to be faced off. But there is an increasing amount of spin, PR, and people who are very clever at stopping us putting material out.' Asked to what degree the BBC had been intimidated by News Corporation over its phone-hacking coverage, Giles claimed a story had been placed in one News International title in an effort to undermine Panorama. He said the story had appeared after a Panorama investigation into computer hacking at the publisher. 'For my own part I wasn't [intimidated],' added Giles. 'In terms of News International and News Corporation there were people within News Corporation who we did deal with and did ring me. When we put a film out about computer hacking there were stories put in one News International paper that were clearly designed to smear Panorama as a result. On that level, there was some pressure,' added Giles. 'In terms of the top corporate level [at the BBC] you would have to ask the top corporate level.' Giles did not specify which title or story he was referring to. However, The Times ran a particularly anti-BBC story about Panorama the day after the current affairs show's investigation into News International in March this year.

Ricky Gervais has been criticised by disability groups for repeated use of the word 'mong' on his Twitter feed. The comedian's recent tweets have included phrases like 'Good monging everyone,' 'Night night monglets' and 'Two mongs don't make a right.' The word can be used offensively about people with Down's Syndrome. Mencap said that using it could reinforce prejudice but Gervais insists the word itself has changed meaning and that he never meant to refer to people with Down's. The Office creator criticised 'the humourless PC brigade' on his Twitter feed and said the term is 'now commonly used' to refer to someone who is very stupid or idiotic. Which is is. A very mean, rather spiteful reference to someone who is very stupid or idiotic. 'The modern use of the word mong means "dopey" or "ignorant,"' said Gervais in a statement. 'It's even in modern slang and urban dictionaries.' On Sunday, he tweeted: 'Well done everyone who pointed out that "Mong" used to be a derogatory term for DS, "Gay" used to mean happy. Words change. Get over it.' However, disability charity Mencap called Gervais's tweets 'very disappointing.' Campaigns and policy officer Mark Gale said: 'When people in the public eye use words of this type [it] can be offensive to people with a disability and their families. We want people to know that such language can perpetuate discriminatory attitudes towards disabled people.' Down Syndrome Education International also said it was concerned and claimed that many people would find it just as bad as offensive language related to race or sexual orientation. It is not the first time the fifty-year-old full of his own importance tosser has got into hot water for using that particular word. During a 2010 stand-up show he used it to describe singer Susan Boyle, but following criticism again made it clear he was not intending to refer to people with Down's Syndrome. Ricky Gervais. Is he the new Jim Davidson?

Just A Minute will transfer to BBC2 for a special series next year. The popular Radio 4 show will broadcast ten special episodes to mark its forty fifth anniversary, the BBC announced this week. Host Nicholas Parsons will present the television programmes, while regular guests like Paul Merton are expected to take part alongside new players. Just A Minute challenges contestants to speak on a particular subject for sixty seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation. 'After forty five years of chairing Just A Minute on the radio, I am very excited to be hosting these special celebratory episodes for BBC2,' Parsons said. 'I'm sure they will be popular with the show's many fans and hopefully with a few new ones as well.' Meanwhile, BBC's controller of daytime Liam Keelan said he is 'absolutely thrilled' about bringing the show to TV, saying: 'I know it's something that daytime viewers and fans of the radio series will love to see.' The ten Just A Minute episodes will be filmed next month and will be broadcast over two weeks on BBC2 daytime early next year. Several previous television versions have been attempted in the past. Two pilot episodes were recorded for TV in 1969 and 1981 but neither were broadcast, except for some clips in two documentaries about Kenneth Williams. In 1994 and 1995, two series of a TV version of the show were made by Carlton Television. In 1999, the BBC televised the show, with twenty episodes recorded during a single week in Birmingham.

Salman Rushdie has revealed that he is a fan of Game of Thrones. The award-winning author told Israeli website Haaretz that he likes the HBO series even though it is 'garbage. There was a series called Game of Thrones which was very popular here in the United States, a post-Tolkein kind of thing,' he said. 'It was garbage, yet very addictive garbage - because there's lots of violence, all the women take their clothes off all the time, and it's kind of fun. In the end, it's well-produced trash, but there's room for that, too.' Rushdie also praised other favourite TV shows like The Sopranos, Deadwood, Breaking Bad and Dexter, but referring to The Wire, he said: 'I think it's okay, but in the end it's just a police series.' Rushdie explained that he has been watching a lot of television because he is about to pen his own show, The Next Series, which is being developed for Showtime. 'I watched all that because if I am going to work in this field, I need to know what is going on,' he said. 'I have been making myself have whole-series marathons to get the point of how it goes. I will soon start writing my little series.'

The publisher of the Daily Scum Mail, Associated Newspapers, has agreed to pay 'substantial' damages to the former manager of Susan Boyle over an article that falsely suggested he had lied about the Britain's Got Talent winner's finances. Osmond Kilkenny said that the article published on 27 March 2010 caused him 'acute distress and anxiety.' The article, which was later removed from the Daily Scum Mail's website, was headlined Family at war over SuBo's millions. It suggested that because of doubts over his trustworthiness Kilkenny was unsuitable or unfit to handle Boyle's affairs. The Daily Scum Mail has now accepted this was untrue and apologised to Kilkenny. Associated Newspapers has agreed to pay him 'substantial' damages plus legal costs. Nicholas Armstrong, of the solicitor's firm Charles Russell LLP, acting for Kilkenny, told the high court in London on Wednesday the allegations were 'an unwarranted slur on his character and professional reputation.'

Mädchen Amick has signed up for a potentially recurring role on Ringer. The Twin Peaks star will play socialite Greer Sheridan on the CW drama, according to TV Line. A former close friend of Siobhan (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Sheridan will run into her twin sister Bridget at a charity event. Still posing as Siobhan, Bridget will work to discover what ruined the relationship between her sister and Sheridan. Amick has previously played recurring roles on Gossip Girl, Damages and CSI: NY. She has also appeared in episodes of White Collar, Californication and ER.

Screenwriter Norman Corwin, who penned the 1956 Kirk Douglas film Lust For Life, has died aged one hundred and one. He died peacefully of natural causes at his US home, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said. During a career that spanned more than seventy years, Corwin wrote, produced and directed for radio, TV, film and stage. In 1957 he was nominated for an Academy Award for Lust For Life, which told the life story of painter Vincent van Gogh. But he was best known for writing and directing plays for radio during the 1930s and 40s. He joined CBS in 1938 at the height of the radio network's glory and went on to write We Hold These Truths. The play - which featured the voices of Lionel Barrymore, Walter Brennan and Orson Welles - was broadcast on all four radio networks days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In 1945 he wrote On a Note of Triumph, which was broadcast nationwide on 8 May - the day of the Allied victory in Europe. A film about that broadcast, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, won the best short documentary Oscar in 2006. Corwin, who died at his home in Los Angeles, also wrote at least nineteen books and several stage plays.

An unnamed actress is suing the Internet Movie Database for revealing her age without gaining her consent. The actress claims that she chose not to disclose her age when signing up for an account on IMDb's subscription service Pro, but someone else edited her account to add her date of birth. She has accused both IMDb and parent company Amazon of breech of contract, fraud, and violation of privacy and consumer protection laws. She is asking for in excess of one million dollars in 'punitive damages' as well as seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in compensatory damages. You've got to love America, the only country in the world where a matter of public record like someone's date of birth can be considered sueable! IMDb and Amazon haven't commented on the lawsuit. The acrtess insisted that she tried to get IMDb to remove any reference to her age, but the company's refusal caused her to 'miss out' on several acting roles. 'If one is perceived to be "over the hill," ie approaching forty, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an "upside,"' the unnamed woman said in court filings, according to The Associated Press. John W Dozier Jr, attorney for the actress, said the suit could force Internet databases to rely solely on first-hand sources of information if it is successful. 'The number of claims that could be asserted against them would overwhelm them,' Dozier claimed. IMDb was launched on 17 October 1990 to provide information on actors, film and television productions and entertainment companies.

Noel Gallagher has claimed that his friend Paul Weller is a closet X Factor fan. No, yer actual Keith Telly Topping don't believe it either, dear blog reader! The former Oasis guitarist and songwriter said that his daughter and Weller's daughter had talked about their fathers watching the ITV talent contest. 'Anyone who says they don't watch it is is a bullshitter.' Err ... I don't, Noel. Honest. 'I know for a fact that Paul Weller watches it,' Gallagher told ShortList. 'We've never spoken about it, but his daughter told my daughter that he watches it with her. That's fucking interesting, isn't it? The Modfather sitting around watching The X Factor. It's an endearing image, that.' Gallagher has previously claimed that his daughter has never forgiven him for turning down an offer from Simon Cowell to become a judge on The X Factor.

One of John Lennon's teeth is expected to make ten thousand pounds when it is auctioned next month. The tooth was given to the alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie's house-keeper, Dot Jarlett, when she worked for him at his Kenwood home in Surrey in the late 1960s. He told her to give it her daughter 'as a souvenir' after he had pulled it out in the kitchen of the Weybridge property. The tooth will be auctioned in Stockport on 5 November. Dot's son Barry Jarlett said: 'He was in the kitchen and he had this tooth which he had wrapped in a piece of paper. He said: "Dot will you dispose of this" and then he said: "Or, as your daughter's a Beatles fan, you can give to her as a souvenir." It is something that we felt was very personal and my mum actually gave it to my sister who has kept it safe.' It comes with an affidavit signed by Mrs Jarlett who has previously sold items including the jacket worn by John Lennon on the Rubber Soul album. 'He was very generous to my mother,' Jarlett said. 'He treated her like family because he didn't really have a very big family and he really looked after my mum. He used to call her Auntie Dot.' Karen Fairweather, from Omega Auctions, said: 'This is the most wonderful and weird item that we have ever had for sale. It is a truly unique item and it is really difficult to put a value on it. We are expecting it to achieve at least ten thousand pounds but it is not unknown for these items as rare as this to reach six figures.' And, somewhere, you can absolutely guarantee that a mad scientist is now wondering in a Boys from Brazil style about the possibilities of cloning Lennon from his tooth. Don't do it. One was enough.

The end of the world will happen this Friday an American evangelist has claimed. Yes, that American evangelist. Harold Camping earlier this year predicted that a powerful earthquake would take all the 'righteous' spirits off earth on 21 May. However, the day passed without any notable incident. He later amended his prediction, calling 21 May an 'invisible Judgment Day' and saying that the Rapture would really arrive on 21 October. Camping added: 'At that time, the whole world will be destroyed. God has now opened our eyes to the fact that 21 May was a spiritual coming, whereas we had thought it was a physical coming. It won't be spiritual on 21 October. The world is going to be destroyed altogether, but it will be very quick.' Oh, well that's good to know, anyway. This will be the American's fourth prediction after he previously stated that the Rapture would happen on 21 May 1988 and 6 September 1994. Camping admitted: 'I have never, never told anybody that I am infallible.' Which is probably just as well.

And so, if tomorrow is the last day then this will be your final Keith Telly Topping's Beatles 45 of the Day from Around the World. So, make the most of them. It's 'The Early Years.' Specifically 1964 when a record of John, Paul, George and Ringo farting in the bath would've probably made the charts somewhere. Particularly America. Unfortunately, EMI's subsidiary in the States was a bit slow on the uptake and didn't acquire the rights to Please, Please Me or the 1963 singles pre-'I Wanna hold Your Hand.' Thus, it was open season for any chancer with access to a record pressing plant. We kick-off, therefore, with a trio of singles from early 1964 in the US that weren't on Capitol. Like, 'There's A Place' on Tollie.
Or, George warbling his way through 'Do You Want To Know A Secret?' on Vee-Jay.
And 'I'll Get You' on Swan. Whose slogan was 'Don't Drop Out!' Sensible advice, no doubt.
Meanwhile, With The Beatles also proved a fertile ground for singles in Europe. Take, 'Devil in Her Heart' released as a 45 in Spain.
And then there's 'Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand' in, where else, Deutschland.
Tomorrow, if we're all still here, we'll have another one.

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