Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week Forty Four: When The Stars Are Born, We'll Race To Meet The Dawn

'That fellah is a serious talent.' Former England rugby union captain Phil Vickery was the deserved winner of the 2011 series of Celebrity MasterChef. After six weeks of challenging culinary tests, judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace announced Vickery as the winner in the televised final on Saturday evening. 'I'm absolutely gobsmacked, I can't believe it,' said Vickery, looking gobsmacked and disbelieving, so he clearly wasn't lying. 'I dreamed of winning MasterChef but literally it was just a dream. I never ever thought for one second I'd have it in me to be champion – who says miracles can't happen?' The thirty five-year-old father of two, beat fellow finalists Newsnight's Kirsty Wark and Hollyoaks actor Nick Pickard in the final of the series which has been rather hamstrung by some damned queer scheduling by the BBC but which finally came to life over the last couple of episodes. Flambéed, deglazed, chiffonaded and quennelled like demon chefs the trio produced some marvellous food in the final - who would've thought, for instance, that such a big man as Phil could produce such delicate dainty dishes? Vickery's final trio of plates - scallops with black pudding, crisp prosciutto and apple purée, lamb loin with baby carrots and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and fondant potatoes and chocolate and orange bread and butter pudding had Torode and Wallace purring. Only the latter proved any real disagreement between the two, Gregg loving it, John thinking it was merely edible. Kirsty with sorrel soup with salmon and dill and oatcakes, calves liver with swiss chard, rosemary garlic chips and mustard mayonnaise and pistachio meringues with rose cream and rose and cardamom panna cotta and Nick who produced crab and avocado with yuzu dressing, roasted duck with braised red cabbage and bordelaise potatoes and warm treacle tart with pecan brittle and vanilla ice cream also impressed. Torode said: 'Phil has got something very, very special. He wants to feed people to make them happy and that is what a true cook is all about.' Wallace also said that Vickery had 'serious' talent. 'He's a great big bloke with a heart to match and he fell in love with food during this competition,' he said. The finalists had to demonstrate creativity, skill and determination through a series of challenges which included catering lunch on-set for the entire cast and crew of [spooks] in the challenging confines of a mobile catering truck, travelling to Ireland to cook lunch for the workers on Patrick Howard's farm and cook a three course Michelin-standard meal for five of the best chefs in the country. Meanwhile, the Mirra claims that the next series of Celebrity MasterChef will return to a primetime slot on BBC1. This will certainly be welcomed by many of the show staff who remain baffled by the decision to switch the timing of such a previously successful show to The Dead Zone of mid-afternoons in the first place. One 'insider' allegedly told the newspaper: 'This has almost destroyed one of the BBC's best-loved brands. It's a huge shame. Millions of viewers have disappeared and the hosts weren't at all happy. The rows behind the scenes over this have been pretty brutal.' The original schedule change was claimed to have been put into effect to enable 'a greater examination' of the celebrities' culinary talents, with BBC bosses also arguing that the programme could be broadcast for longer in a different slot. Speculation exists that however, actually, it was either because Shine delivered a longer series than expected (thirty episodes) and the BBC simply couldn't fit them all in to evening slots or (or, possibly, and) it was felt that the standard of 'celebrities' this year was less impressive than previously. Nevertheless, the format remains a popular one when people can actually get to see it as the final proved.

Bad, wicked, naughty, evil Derren Brown. The opening episode of his new series, The Experiments, saw the illusionist and master of prestidigitation and malarkey attempting to mesmerise a normal member of the general public (and, very definitely not a management stooge) into assassinating national treasure Stephen Fry. Was he working for the Daily Scum Mail in all their horribleness and scummish doing? No, of course he wasn't, it was all an experiment (as the title suggested) and Stephen was in on the whole thing. The show began with Derren giving the audience a brief history of MK Ultra, mainly focusing on the subject of Sirhan Sirhan (the assassin of Robert Kennedy). But this was, essentially, a stunt show, showcasing Brown's ability with mind-mangling methodology so he didn't dwell on the subject. Testing a roomful of fragile minds for suggestibility, Brown talked his most malleable candidates into chucking what they believed was acid into the faces of people standing opposite them and then talked them into climbing into an ice bath. Of all the subjects, a rather personable young chap called Chris was deemed to be the most impressionable. Which, I dunno, personally I wouldn't be using as a badge of honour any time soon. The process highlighted just how much of hypnosis might, as many people have suspected over the year, be the subject 'playing along' and submitting to autosuggestion, rather than the hysterical trance state that others assume it to be. If you play along to the point that you're breaking your own moral code, that's still hypnosis, whether you're rendered amnesiac or not. Next, it was on to training at a gun range, where Chris was moulded into a hitman using a couple of key triggers (a mobile ringtone and a polka-dot pattern) and an appeal to Chris's more focused subconscious. It didn't take long before he was firing the majority of his shots bang on the bullseye, and all whilst, seemingly, in a disassociated state to boot. When the moment came for Chris to open fire on our beloved Stephen, there weren't really any obstacles. In a small theatre, with a woman sitting in front of him telling him 'your target is Stephen Fry', Chris coldly took his gun out and fired, with Fry convincingly going down in a heap (one images freaking out the uninformed audience as he did so). The interesting thing came later in watching Chris' reaction, backstage, when the memory of what had happened was prised from his enforced amnesia. Acting as proof that what we'd just seen wasn't a set up (although Chris' reaction told its own story), it was also a tidy way of finishing, with the fact he was just coaxed into firing, against his will, on an innocent man dawning on Chris with crashing horror. The fact that Derren largely used the term 'conspiracy theorist' as a pejorative at the opening, when describing people who have time for the idea that there might be brainwashed assassins, seemed a odd give4n what he subsequently achieved. Or appeared to achieve. But, as ever, with Derren Brown you're never entirely sure if what you've just watched in real or, merely, an awful illusion. That's probably why we watch his shows.

Meanwhile, Lulu has reportedly called in Derren Brown to help her remember her Strictly Come Dancing routines. The Mirra reports that Derren gave the sixty two-year-old icon tips so that she wouldn't forget her moves during a training session with professional dancer Brendan Cole. A Strictly 'source' was allegedly quoted as allegedly saying: 'Lulu struggled in the first week, then she and Derren got chatting. She asked him to her next session and he ran her through some mind techniques to improve her memory for the complicated routines. He also helped her deal with pre-show nerves. Derren agreed to help Lulu after she realised he was using the rehearsal studio next door to hers. The 'insider' allegedly added: 'They got chatting and Derren hinted he might be able to help. Last weekend was her best-ever score, so it looks like something has clicked.' Lulu scored twenty six out of forty last weekend for the rumba. Chief judge Len Goodman told her: 'Every week you've got better and better, well done.' She has said of joining the BBC1 show: 'This is something completely out of my comfort zone.'

The Gruniad's Roy Greenslade somewhat takes issue with the European Commission for daring to complain about Jeremy Paxman whom, they claim, insulted its spokesman on Newsnight: 'The EU's letter of complaint to the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, accuses Paxman of losing control of the discussion. He did not. He was doing what he does night after night - provoking people to make as clear as possible their opposing viewpoints. That's his job. He isn't hosting a tea party. It's a programme for grown-ups. I can't help thinking that the letter - sent by Olli Rehn, a Finnish politician who is a commissioner for economic and financial affairs - tends to confirm [Peter] Oborne's point about idiots in Brussels. And it may well suggest to him, and to the rest of us, that the EU - well, one of its commissioners - lacks a proper respect for the exercise of free speech.' You tell 'em, Roy.

A few bits of commissioning news now: BBC1 has a new four-part live consumer show, How Hard Can It Be? which, they claim, investigates 'issues which most annoy viewers.' It'll be broadcast over four weeks next month. Can you investigate the vile and odious rascal Hunt, please, because that's an issue that genuinely irritates this licence fee pater. Meanwhile, ITV has reportedly greenlit a new heist drama for 2012 called Doors Open, featuring Stephen Fry and based on the novel by bestselling Edinburgh crime author Ian Rankin. That'll be worth looking forward to.

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 28 October
Friday night, as you might have noticed, is BBC's comedy night with a trio of their most popular and inclusive formats on one after another across the Beeb's two main channels. Have I Got News For You - 9:00 BBC1 - is, of course, the long-running satirical news quiz in which the week's major news stories as dissected for comic effect, merriment and japery and all that. The latest episode, as usual, features celebrity guests including Ross Noble (who, if he isn't the North East's best comedian is, certainly, in the top two) join in the fun on the satirical current affairs quiz, with regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. Hosted by a man who seems to be really in-favour at the Beeb at the moment, Lee Mack.

Of course, showing the sometimes rather incestuous nature of comedy in general, Ross Noble was on Qi last week and Mack was also on the popular comedy intelligence quiz not too long before that. Lee Mack is also, as you probably know, one of the regular team captains on the second of the Beeb's major Friday night attractions Would I Lie to You? - 9:30 BBC1. The great Barry Cryer, stalwart of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and one of the best comedy scriptwriters Britain has ever produced, takes his place on Lee's team in the last episode of the current series (next week's show is a 'best-bits' compilation). Barry remains convincingly po-faced as he tells some incredible tales. Does he really hail a local bus by saying, 'Hello, darling'? Did he once write romantic novels under a female pseudonym? Sue Perkins (who was also on Qi last week - see what I mean about comedy eating itself?) just about manages to get a word in edgeways, and Lorraine Kelly is a giggly good sport on David Mitchell's team with Mock The Week's Dara O Briain. But, as ever, it's Mitchell and Mack's banter that steals the show. Rob Brydon hosts.

And, speaking of Qi - 10:00 BBC2 - the latest episode is all about Inequality. The great and lovely Stephen Fry - whom, thankfully, Derren Brown's assassin didn't manage to murder! - hosts the quiz with a difference, asking questions about manifest injustices and awarding points for the most interesting answers from Sandi Toksvig, Clive Anderson, first time panellist Henning Wehn and series regular Alan Davies.
The extended XL edition can be seen tomorrow at 9:40.

So, after a trio like that, if you can tear yourselves away from the BBC for the night, then you've probably been hypnotised. Oh, I must be Derren Brown again! Derren Brown: The Gameshow - 9:00 Channel Four - is a useful alternative if you fancy a break from ... well, game shows, basically. And, also, it's pretty funny in its own way. He's a frightfully clever chap, that Dazzling Dezza Brown. How does he do it? All that prestidigitation and mesmerism malarkey. Suffice to say he's incredibly talented illusionist, adept at misdirection, cold reading, assessing body language and autosuggestion and you can be sure of an unsettling hour in the second of his new four-part series of TV experiments. Brown knows his psychology and here he puts his talents to good use as he turns himself into a game show host for one night only. Lee Mack, Rob Brydon and Stephen fry immediately wonder if their own positions are in danger! It's the jumping off point for a thoughtful look at the darkness which, Derren claims, lurks within all of us. Using his usual armoury of stunts and audience manipulation Brown, the master, draws us in to show how easily we can be made to bend to another's will. Top stuff.

Upside Down: the Creation Records Story - 9:00 BBC4 - is an overpopulated but evocative chronicle of the rise and fall of Creation Records - the label which, between 1983 and 1999, gave the world The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, The Boo Radleys, Primal Scream, The Weather Prophets, Ride, The House of Love and, most lucratively, Oasis. The film is possibly guilty of the same sort of self-mythologising as the independent label itself specialised in which is as you'd expect when dealing with the subject matter here. Founded in London by the visionary shortarsed Glaswegian ginner (and, let it be said, genius) Alan McGee in the fertile aftermath of punk, Creation was as much about revolutionary spirit as selling records, its reputation being forged on signing bands which couldn't necessarily play all that well but who looked way-cool and a relentless wooing of the music press. A garrulous and entertaining McGee himself dominates the documentary, as effusive as any recovering addict (his drug-linked breakdown is candidly covered), but contributions from key players, including Oasis guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher, add colour and some wry humour. Blending grainy archive with black and white testimony, and drawing on a squealing, pumping soundtrack, first-time director Danny O'Connor captures the hedonistic mood of a particular time - although anyone who wasn't there might find it a bit impenetrable. Fortunately, yer Keith Telly Topping was there as his record collection will testify. There's nowhere near enough coverage given to The Loft, though!

Saturday 29 October
In the latest episode of Merlin - 8:10 BBC1 - the newly crowned King Arthur faces his first true test as monarch. This happens when he incurs the considerable wrath of the formidable Queen Annis - and as thousands of lives hang in the balance, he struggles to find the strength to become the leader his people so desperately need. Lindsay Duncan guest stars in the sword-and-sorcery drama, with Bradley James, Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath.

Tonight's episode of the always risible and wretched Piers Morgan's Life Stories - 9:45 ITV - might, just, be the single worst hour of TV in the history of the medium. Because it's all about James Corden. There you, go, don't say I didn't warn you. The actor and - alleged - comedian, most famous for co-writing and starring in the hugely over-rated Gavin & Stacey, and his wretchedly unfunny full-of-his-own-importance shtick, talks about his journey from lazy schoolboy to - utterly undeserved - fame and fortune. He reflects on how his over-inflated ego sent him into meltdown and discusses the highs and lows of a career that has seen him take a bath with David Beckham for Sport Relief. He was also quite reasonable in two Doctor Who episodes but, that's still no reason to watch this crass exercise in ego-stroking, particularly as it's presented by the odious, oily horrorshow (and drag) Morgan. Avoid it like the plague, dear blog reader. Go out that night. Watch something else. Read a good book. Take to your bed with the vapours. If you happen to stumble upon it half way through by accident, keep a brick handy so you can smash your TV set in and, thus, avoid it. Trust me, you'll thank me in the long run.

Sunday 30 October
Leonardo da Vinci is considered by many to be one of the greatest artists who ever lived. Yet his reputation rests on only a handful of pictures - including the world's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. As the National Gallery in London prepares to open its doors on a remarkable new exhibition of Leonardo's work, Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure - 9:00 BBC1 - sees Fiona Bruce (and her award-winning bum) travelling to Florence, Milan, Paris and Warsaw to tell the story of Leonardo da Vinci's life, exploring why a man whose reputation rests on only a few pictures is regarded as one of the greatest painters of all time. She also visits New York to see a recently discovered piece by the artist.

As Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin movie introduces a new generation to the exploits of Herge's intrepid reporter, Frank Gardner explores the origins of the cartoon strip which inspired him to become a news correspondent in Tintin's Adventure with Frank Gardner - 8:00 BBC2. Frank investigates the similarities between Tintin's adventures and those of real-life photojournalist Robert Sexe, on whom the character was allegedly based. His quest leads him - inevitably - to Belgium and then on to Russia, where he explores the secretive world of the early Soviet Union and an era now seen as a golden age of exploration and travel. And, the film looks great by the way.

The Cube returns for a new series - 7:00 ITV. A childminder and a Londoner (or no fixed occupation, seemingly) take part in the game show, aiming to complete tasks within the confines of the cube to win a jackpot of two hundred and fifty thousand smackers. Each player has nine lives and must complete up to seven challenges, ranging from agility tests to skill trials. Hosted by Phillip Schofield.

Monday 31 October
In the latest episode of Inside Out - 7:30 BBC1 - a North East heart surgeon tells Chris Jackson why he volunteered to stop operating on children. And, also, why he backs plans to cut the number of hospitals offering children's cardiac surgery. Additionally, Richard Peppiatt meets the northerners who are joining Britain's fastest growing religion - and converting to to Islam.

Attack of the Trip Advisors - 9:00 Channel Four - is a Cutting Edge documentary which explores the impact of negative online reviews on the British hospitality industry. And, whether the Trip Advisor website is beneficial to consumers or an online resource which is open to abuse. With more than forty million users a month, the site is the world's largest and most powerful travel guide, but some businesses struggle to cope with the relentless picky criticism that is published on its forums. Is it a case that some people are never satisfied, that these days its far easier to complain, publicly, than ever before or that there are those who simply love the sound of their own voice?

Just how did the Devil get inside our heads? And who put him there? On Hallow'een night, Andy Hamilton's Search for Satan - 9:00 BBC4 - sees the creator of the Radio 4 sitcom Old Harry's Games exploring the history of Satanic mythologies. Andy examines the roots of stories about the Devil and how perceptions of him have changed through the centuries. He also assesses the importance of Satan in society and popular culture, and considers his importance in explaining the presence of evil in the world. Of course, Andy is a very funny man so expect a few laughs along with the serious side of the subject!

Top Boy - 10:00 Channel Four - is a new drama focusing on inner-city gang culture. Cos, of course, that hasn't been done before. Dealers Dushane and Sully have their stash of drugs stolen by a rival, leaving them owing a debt of two thousand quid to their boss. Meanwhile, depressed Lisa ventures out to do her shopping, but is sectioned when she is unable to cope. Fearing her thirteen-year-old son, Ra'Nell, will be taken into care, she neglects to mention him when she arrives at the hospital.

Tuesday 1 November
Patients with a wide range of ailments are invited to attend the Food Hospital, to find out to what extent tailored food treatment programmes can help them in The Food Hospital - 8:00 Channel Four. Among those in need of assistance are a twenty four-year-old woman suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, and a forty four-year-old single father battling type two diabetes. Pixie McKenna also investigates the truth about 'superfoods', and the programme also features an experiment to see if chocolate can help combat high blood pressure. Oh, gosh I hope so.

Death in Paradise - 9:00 BBC1 - is, as noted last week a drama series about a detective inspector who is assigned to investigate a murder on the paradise island of Saint-Marie in the Caribbean, despite his hatred of sun, sea and sand. In the second episode of this attractive new drama, stiff-upper-lip Richard Poole (the excellent Ben Miller) is trying to get used to his new Caribbean surroundings when news comes through of yet another murder - a bride shot through the heart with a spear gun just hours after getting married. This is a island, it seems, with a murder rate higher than the rest of the Caribbean put together. A bit like Midsomer only, you know, more black people. Teaming up with Camille, Richard quickly establishes no one entered or left the fifth floor of the hotel where she was celebrating, meaning one of the wedding guests must have been responsible. Mystery drama, starring Sara Martins and Don Warrington, with Frances Barber, Matt Di Angelo and Paterson Joseph.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, a former special forces commando, tells the story of the 'Cockleshell Heroes', who led one of the most daring and audacious commando raids of World War II in The Most Courageous Raid of WWII - 9:00 BBC2. Ashdown tells the story of Operation Frankton and its part in defending Britain as it struggled against Nazi Germany. In 1942, the twelve-strong unit of Royal Marine commandos used canoes specially designed by their leader, Major Herbert George 'Blondie' Hasler, to navigate the most heavily defended estuary in Europe, dodging searchlights and machine gun posts to destroy enemy shipping in Bordeaux harbour, seventy miles down the river. The documentary recreates parts of the raid, and reveals how Major Hasler came to be hailed as one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War. The raid, of course, became the basis for the 1955 movie The Cockleshell Heroes.

A really welcome repeat this evening is The Road to Coronation Street - 9:00 BBC4 - Jane Horrocks, David Dawson, Lynda Baron and Jessie Wallace star in a classic one-off drama telling the story of how the long-running soap was born. It's 1960 and bolshy young scriptwriter Tony Warren joins producer Harry Elton and director Derek Bennett as they struggle to create a new drama series, faced with opposition from Granada's formidable bosses Sidney and Cecil Bernstein, while Margaret Morris begins the hunt for the show's cast. With Stephen Berkoff and Celia Imrie. If you missed it last year, make it date it's one of the finest bits of British drama produced in the last decade.

Wednesday 2 November
In the latest episode of Frozen Planet - 9:00 BBC1 - a mother polar bear hunts with her cubs, while the warmer weather of spring causes an area of ice the size of Australia to melt into the Arctic Ocean. A woolly bear caterpillar emerges from the snow after spending the winter frozen, and in Antarctica male Adelie penguins arrive to begin constructing nests in fierce storms as they try to attract mates.

As part of a night of programmes about the birth of television BBC4 is showing the memorable 2006 Imagine documentary And Then There Was Television at 9:00. Exploring the development of television and the BBC on the seventy Fifth anniversary of the first highly defined TV broadcast from Alexandra Palace, Alan Yentob follows pioneering engineers and on-screen talent back to the studios, where they reminisce about those early days, including the famous potter's wheel 'interlude' shown when cameras failed.

Following that, they delve even further back into the archives with The Fools on the Hill - 10:00 BBC4. Jack Rosenthal's memorable 1986 drama was based on the BBC's first 'high-definition' television broadcast at Ally Pally on 2 November 1936. The service was set to be the first of its kind in the world - but behind the scenes, not everything was going to plan. Starring Shaughan Seymour, Nick Farrell, Caroline Embling, Robert McIntosh and Wilfred Harrison.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not one of those TV commentators who has a problem with BBC3 on general principle. I actually think it's a fine network which, admirably, fulfills most of the criteria that it was created for and had a dedicated audience. However, just occasionally a programme comes along which appears determined to prove me wrong. Hot Like Us - 9:00 BBC3 - might just be one of them. This is, apparently, a 'reality contest' in which eight 'self-proclaimed attractive couples' are challenged to live together under one roof, 'competing in a series of relationship-themed tasks' for the chance to win a modelling contract with a leading agency. Each episode is themed around one aspect of a long-term relationship, including marriage and family. The group's first challenge is to take part in a David and Victoria Beckham-style underwear photoshoot judged by Jody Furlong and Emma Kenny. Narrated by Kieran O'Brien. Nah, even I'm struggling to defend such a conceit.

In the latest episode of Waterloo Road - 7:30 BBC1 - the wife of a local entrepreneur visits the school, thinking about making a sizeable donation. But Michael struggles to keep focused with the VIP after discovering his tormentor's identity and then learning that Linda knows about his affair with Sian. Emily's rebellious streak threatens to land Scout back in foster care, a house party gives Ronan and Finn a chance to find new girlfriends, while a new pupil who recently underwent a heart transplant gets on the wrong side of Denzil and Phoenix.

Thursday 3 November
Symphony - 9:00 BBC4 - is a new series in which [spooks] actor Simon Russell Beale charts the history of classical symphonies, beginning with the works of three of the most renowned composers of all time - Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He explores how the Austrian-born Haydn's work was influenced by his time in England, recalls how the prodigious talent of Mozart caused a sensation in the Eighteenth Century, and explains why Beethoven's Eroica is still regarded as one of the greatest symphonies ever created almost two hundred years after it was written.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was something of a late convert to Educating Essex - 9:00 Channel Four. It took about four weeks of hearing friends tell me 'you've got to watch this thing' to finally get me to tune-in but, in the end I'm rather glad I did. A combination of That'll Teach 'Em and Please, Sir, it's made genuine TV stars of the Pogues-loving teacher Mr Drew, stern faced sporty Miss Conway and several of the semi-articulate but strangely likeable kids. Those students who do 'do the wrong thing' have the pleasure of spending break time in Mr Drew's office, and the benefit of listening to one of his famously exhaustive lectures. In this final episode, it is leavers' day, and the staff try to prepare two very different students for the future - a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger's and a troubled top-set student who went into temporary care earlier in the term. Elsewhere, headteacher Vic Goddard is anxious about reaching the school's targets.

Britain on the Fiddle - 8:00 BBC1 - is a Panorama special investigating the world of benefits cheats, who effectively steal millions of pounds in taxpayers' money every year. The rotters. Reporter Richard Bilton uses undercover cameras to expose people on benefits sailing yachts and driving expensive cars, and follows fraud investigators as they tackle those using false identities to make illegal claims.

And, finally there's our weekly looks at Top of the Pops: 1976 - 7:30 BBC4. Ed Stewpot Stewart - now, there's a blast from the past! - presents an episode from 21 October 1976, the second week in which Pussycat's 'Mississippi' topped the chart. The show also features performances by John Miles, Demis Roussos, The Climax Blues Band, Paul Nicholas and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, as well as the debut of the Top of the Pops Dancers - later to be known (after a competition for viewers to name them!) as Legs and Co. Lulu was always yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite, dear blog reader. Fantastic thighs.

And so to the news: It is a very long time to wait for a second series. Nine years after it first aired, ITV is bringing audiences the second instalment of the legal drama The Jury, with writer Peter Morgan at the helm and Julie Walters starring. Morgan followed up the original show with a string of high-profile scripts – he has since written Frost/Nixon, The Deal, The Special Relationship, The Damned United and The Queen, for which he was Oscar nominated and this year adapted Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for the cinema. But he was keen to revisit the ITV drama, which will follow the story of a fictional murder retrial and its jurors' decisions and lives outside court, across five nights next month. 'I'm a big fan of jury service – and although the criticism is that it's costly and tends to acquit, just the idea of an eight hundred-year system that is still so integral [is appealing]. I don't think any system that's been designed to replace it has improved upon it,' said Morgan, who weaves debate about jury trials into the drama. 'I'm a big believer of the combined life experience of twelve people – whether you go from someone who can barely read and write to highly-educated, rich and poor, that body of experience taken collectively is very, very powerful life experience. There are so many nuances that even an unbelievably sophisticated legal system cannot address, and human instinct is powerful.' Walters stars as a barrister defending a man convicted for the violent murder of three women he met on the Internet, leading a cast that includes Steven Mackintosh, Anne Reid, Sarah Alexander, Aqib Khan and Roger Allam. 'I can't imagine doing [that job]. That was why it was so lovely to play her: being able to be combative and articulate and ordered in your thinking,' said Walters. 'I'd never played anyone like that before, and I've never been in this kind of drama. I loved the coolness and the clearness and the factual nature.' Walters, who said she spent time following barristers at the Old Bailey in preparation for her role, has recently starred in a number of biographical films including Mo, A Short Stay in Switzerland and Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story. It was a something of a relief to be playing a fictional character again, the actor said. 'You don't have that kind of responsibility to someone's family and loved ones that you have when you're playing someone like Ann Turner or Mo Mowlem. So [there's] much more freedom.' Morgan himself will never serve as a juror, thanks to 'an indiscretion as a young man at university' that means he has a criminal record for a minor offence. 'The trial brings people together in a way that really intrigued me. Anybody in this country can be a juror, even as you can see from one of the storylines, someone who isn't a British citizen. You can write how we are today,' he said. The drama looks beyond the decision of the jury and its members' experience of court, and unpicks their lives outside court – from a just eighteen-year-old, to a devout Christian, and a man who lives at home and cares for his mum. 'I only unlocked the story of The Queen by having Tony Blair in it. And similarly here it only unlocks the personal stories by having a crime whodunnit going right through it like a skewer,' said Morgan. The writer said that the long wait for a second series of The Jury came to down to miscommunication. 'ITV hadn't approached me and I hadn't approached them and I think I assumed from their silence they didn't want one and they assumed because I'd been writing films I wouldn't do one, so we just got into this impasse of misunderstanding.' Asked if a third series was a possibility, Morgan said he would be keen to develop the drama further.

X Factor judges Kelly ­Rowland and Tulisa ­Contostavlos have reportedly stopped speaking after a series of backstage rows. Rowland apparently offended Contostavlos after giving her and Louis Walsh ­handwritten notes containing advice on how to mentor their acts. Contostavlos later 'fumed' that the Destiny's Child singer has 'no idea' about the UK music industry, while Rowland branded the N-Dubz star 'a spoilt brat' for not accepting her guidance, the Sunday Mirra reports. 'Tulisa could not believe her ears,' an alleged 'source' allegedly said. 'She was relaxing with her entourage and Kelly walks in with all these notes. She was dumbstruck. So in a ­dismissive tone she just said, "Don't worry about it babe, I'll be fine." Producers are likening the studios to a disaster zone. The acts are getting the blame for the show not going so well, so they're a bit downtrodden - like the walking wounded. Meanwhile, the judges are sniping at each other.' X Factor pulled in an overnight audience of 9.77m on Saturday (with a further three hundred and forty thousand on ITV+1). That's more-or-less the same audience as last week. Nevertheless, the gap between X Factor and Strictly is certainly narrowing. Strictly picked up on overnight of 9.45m its highest of the year so far and up three hundred thousand on last week's figures. More importantly from the BBC's point of view, during the fifteen minutes that Strictly and The X Factor overlapped (19:45 to 20:00) Strictly had more than 1.2m more viewers watching than the ITV show. Even more worryingly for ITV, Strictly's peak (10.48m at around 19:30) was actually higher than The X Factor's peak (10.37m at 20:45). I can't remember the last time that Strictly had a higher audience peak than The X Factor on a night when both were on, if indeed it ever has. It might have happened before but certainly hasn't recently! Celebrity MasterChef final had an average overnight of 3.87m with a peak of almost six million during the last ten minutes. It was, generally, a very good night for BBC1 with Merlin pulling in 5.52m and Casualty 4.23m. The BBC also managed a smaller victory on the multichannels, with a screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian on BBC4 outdoing ITV2's The Xtra Factor. The classic comedy was watched by nine hundred and seventy five thousand viewers compared to the Olly Murs-fronted show's eight hundred and sixteen thousand. As an added bonus, it also beat Channel Five's Big Brother which had an overnight audience of just nine hundred and thirty eight thousand.

As more television viewers choose to watch their favourite shows on 'catch-up services' or by recording whole series in bulk, American online distributors are planning a revolution in the way we are presented with high-quality drama. Internationally acclaimed series such as The West Wing, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Lost, The Wire and Mad Menhave been setting the cultural agenda for some time. But now the industry has woken up to the fact that these shows are affecting the way much of the public watches television. American online programme services such as Netflix – along with rival providers Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube and Hulu – are moving to capitalise on the fact that the most popular shows being streamed on their sites are drama series. 'Maybe we will start to premiere multiple episodes so you can do the binge-watching from day one,' Ted Sarandos, head of content for Netflix, suggested. Speaking this month at Mipcom, the annual TV marketplace held in Cannes, Sarandos revealed that up to sixty per cent of the filmed content viewed on his site is television programming and that shows such as Mad Men are top of the popularity poll.
As a result, his company has started to buy series directly from the producers and distributors who financed them: cutting out the TV networks and cable channels entirely. It now plans to make these shows available as early as possible, during what is known as 'the first-run window.' Among Netflix's first purchases is the political thriller House of Cards, an American remake of the successful British television adaptation of Michael Dobbs's novel, which will feature Kevin Spacey among its onscreen stars and producers. Netflix has also bought the Renaissance Italian drama, Borgia, starring Art Malik, a European rival to the Showtime series The Borgias, which stars Jeremy Irons. The change in viewing habits has also jogged the youth-oriented US service Hulu into buying the cult British series Misfits, which is shown in the UK on E4. In a dramatic shift in practice, Hulu, which developed its business by supplying TV shows aired on expensive cable channels, took a gamble on the forthright show and got lucky. 'American cable channels can be conservative, and we needed to find the right place in America because of the rudeness of Misfits,' Petra Fried, the programme's executive producer, told the Observer. 'We were excited about Hulu because they wanted to start showing original drama and wanted something that would make a splash.' Screened this summer, Misfits was Hulu's most viewed show and has now had a total of more than nine million viewers. As a result, Clerkenwell Films, the London-based makers of the show, announced on Thursday that they are now developing a US adaptation of the show with Josh Schwartz, the man behind the hit American series The OC and Gossip Girl. 'It suited the youth-skewed audience for Hulu, so it was a great place to start,' said Fried. 'People watched Misfits on their computers then tweeted about the experience, so it did well very quickly. This sort of computer viewing mirrors the way that older viewers watch box-sets in one go. People were watching one episode of Misfits and then going back to the beginning to watch all of them.' The shows being developed to feed this appetite for complex storylines spinning out over several seasons has led to the phrase the 'cinematisation of television' in America. One of the big beneficiaries in the marketplace has been BBC Worldwide, which is the world's largest distributor of TV programmes outside the major US studios. It saw revenues from digital rights rise by thirty two per cent to eighty two million smackers in the last financial year, which represents eight per cent of its total revenue. Analysis carried out by the BBC and by Screen Digest shows that most of the time-shifted viewing takes place just a few days after the original broadcast, so this benefits primetime drama content the most. People feel more relaxed about committing to an emotionally engaging series when they know they are not going to miss an episode. Although there is no cheap equivalent to iPlayer or ITV player in America, the intelligent recording service TiVo and the computer streaming providers are beginning to alter behaviour. It is no surprise that the BBC's recently confirmed Delivering Quality First budget cuts have attempted to protect its investment in drama and the iPlayer service.

Strictly Come Dancing bosses have reportedly banned judge Craig Revel Horwood from winking at contestant Harry Judd. Because it's really disturbing. The judge had previously winked at the McFly drummer when he was introduced each week, but has been told to stop by producers after other dancers complained he was 'showing favouritism.' Well, it's either that or it's code for 'd'ya fancy a quick shag round the back?' An 'insider' allegedly told the Sun: 'Craig is loved-up with his partner, Grant. But he has developed something of a soft spot for Harry, particularly after he flashed his six-pack on last week's show. He has taken to giving him a cheeky wink when Brucie introduces him. It is just a bit of fun and doesn't mean anything. But after some of the professional dancers complained the producers have stepped in to tell Craig to stop. The celebrities thought it was hilarious. It just shows how competitive a lot of the people are.'

Former Byker Grove actress Donna Air has given her support to saving energy by modelling a fetching new frock, made from loft insulation. The actress and presenter may have been used to silly outfits and pranks while working on Channel Four's popular morning magazine show The Big Breakfast, but this fancy dress is no joke. In the week that Chris Huhne and David Cameron met with the country's biggest energy firms to tackle soaring energy prices, a new survey has revealed the extent to which homeowners are going to struggle to keep up with payments this winter. In the survey carried out by home improvement retailer B&Q, four in ten people said they would find it difficult to pay their monthly energy bills, as figures last week showed annual bills have now risen to thirteen hundred and forty five smackers a year for the average household – double the seven hundred and forty quid of five years ago.

Sulty stunning sex-bomb Olivia Wilde has said that she is unlikely to make another appearance on House following her exit from the show earlier this week. Wilde's character Remy Hadley made her exit from House in Monday's episode Charity Case, after House fires her so she can move to Greece with her hot girlfriend. The actress said that she is happy with her character's story arc and doesn't expect to return again despite the show's current season probably being its last. 'I think the way we left it, if she came back, it would probably seem forced,' Wilde told EW at the In Time premiere in Hollywood this week. 'So I don't think she should come back,' Wilde explained. 'I liked her exit story a lot, so I am happy with it.' House creator David Shore previously confirmed Wilde would have a 'reduced role' on the show's eighth season, but ultimately the actress only appeared in a single episode.

Channel Four is closing its Comedy Labs series of pilots, which helped launch the careers of Peter Kay, Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand. But, it also produced some good stuff as well. The strand, usually of six shows from comedians new to television, will be replaced by a four-part series E4 Funnies. The broadcaster will also be ordering another twenty four Comedy Blaps – comedy shorts designed for online platforms from very new talent. And for more established stars piloting new programmes, Channel Four has its bi-annual Comedy Showcase, which will return in 2013. Comedy Labs have been running since 1998, with notable successes being Trigger Happy TV, Fonejacker and Peter Kay's The Services. Demetri Martin, Karl Pilkington and Tommy Tiernan are also among the comics to have made them. Of this year's run, Anna & Katy, Totally Tom and Rick and Peter have already been broadcast, with three more – Mr & Mrs Hotty Hot Hot, The Warm Up Guy and Kabadasses – scheduled for E4 slots later this year.

Hundreds of friends and colleagues of Coronation Street star Betty Driver have gathered with her family for her funeral in Manchester. The much-loved actress, who played the role of Betty for forty two years, died on 15 October, aged ninety one. She was the Rovers Return's longest serving barmaid and was famous for her homemade hot-pots. Among those at St Ann's church were her former co-stars Julie Goodyear, Bill Tarmey and William Roache. Helen Worth, who plays Gail McIntyre in the soap, told the congregation: 'I think I speak for all the cast, crew, production, everyone. We will miss her so very much. The Rovers will not be the same without her. So how do we say goodbye to her? In the way she wanted us to do with a smile, remembering her infectious laugh, her perfume which announced her arrival, her love of life and everyone in it and celebrate with joy the glorious ninety one years of Betty Driver.' Worth said that Driver had wanted her funeral to be on a Saturday so 'that all at Granada were to free to share her life, to remember her and to say goodbye to our dearest Betty.'

Cast members of the US sitcom Happy Days have suffered a setback in their ten million dollar legal case over unpaid royalties. A Los Angeles judge has dismissed their claim that TV network CBS committed fraud by not paying them for sales of merchandise based on the hit show. The cast members will continue to pursue CBS for breach of contract. But they cannot receive damages in response to their case, the judge said. The actors involved are Marion Ross, Don Most, Anson Williams and Erin Moran, who respectively played the characters Marion Cunningham, Ralph Malph, Potsie, and Joanie Cunningham. The widow of Tom Bosley, who played Howard Cunningham, is also part of the case. The breach of contract trial is due to commence in June 2012. 'We are thrilled that the court has thrown out all claims for punitive damages and significantly narrowed this to a case of contract interpretation,' said CBS in a statement. Jon Pfeiffer, a lawyer for the actors, said they had never received revenue statements related to merchandising - including slot machines, trading cards, T-shirts and dolls - and that CBS never intended to pay them. 'We intend to press forward with the lawsuit,' he told CNN. 'If we can't punish the defendants, we certainly intend to expose their practices.' Happy Days - which ran for two hundred and fifty five episodes between 1974 and 1984 - was set in the 1950s and 1960s. Neither Henry Winkler nor Ron Howard - who went on to become an Oscar-winning film director - are part of the claim.

Yohan Cabaye's first goal for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle United condemned Wigan Athletic to their sixth successive Premier League defeat. The Latics started positively, Victor Moses forcing Tim Krul into a fine diving save and Hugo Rodallega slicing wide in the opening twenty minutes. The Magpies had struggled to create chances in the first half although Leon Best went close with a header, well saved by Ali Al Habsi. The Magpies improved during the second half and dominated possession but Wigan seemed set for a draw until Cabaye curled in from twenty yards spanker, as Newcastle moved level on points with third-placed Chelsea. It was possibly a bit unlucky on Wigan, who, despite their abysmal run, acquitted themselves admirably. In the early stages they had a faint penalty appeals for a challenge on Mohamed Diame but some clear chances too, Moses with a sweetly struck left-footed shot smartly turned over by the left hand of Krul and Rodallega slicing wide when well placed inside the area following a through ball from David Jones.
Newcastle took more than half an hour to fashion their first notable opportunity. Jonas Gutierrez sent an inviting cross from the left flank which Best met with his head inside the six-yard box, but Al Habsi managed to claw it away. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew wasted no time in changing things, introducing Hatem Ben Arfa for Best at half-time, and the Magpies made a much improved start to the second period. Demba Ba had been a largely anonymous figure before the break but he thought he had broken the deadlock with a deft glancing header. However, the alert Al Habsi ensured that though he himself was behind the line, his gloves and the ball were not. The home side began to enjoy long spells of pressure, but, having conceded five goals in the last two matches, Wigan defied them valiantly with some determined blocks and challenges in key areas. Ben Arfa's fierce drive after a jinking run was beaten out by Al Habsi, but with ten minutes remaining substitute Sylvain Marveaux laid the ball back for his fellow Frenchman Cabaye who struck a first-time shot high into the corner of the net.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, today, features one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite bands, the hugely under-rated Trash Can Sinatras. There's a great story about the Trashies told in a sleevenotes of their double compilation CD On A B Road which features numerous b-sides, oddities, radio sessions and cover versions from the band's lengthy career. They were in Japan in 1996 recording a radio session for FM802 in Osaka. John Douglas comments that they were ushered into the station for a early morning session where none of the staff spoke any English. So, they set themselves up in the corner and, on cue, played a quite beautiful acoustic cover of 'Alfie'. As they finished, the excited deejay exclaimed 'Burt Bacharach!' Y'see, dear blog reader, music truly is the universal language. And, if you've never heard the Trashies gorgeous version of 'White Horses' (the b-side of their 1990 single 'Circling The Circumference' and also available on On A B Road) then you're about to be introduced to something that might, just change you life. Check this out.
'Claudine Longet's version was pastoral and dreamy,' notes Stephen Douglas. 'Ours ended up sounding like The Jesus and Mary Chain!' Pop perfection in three-and-a-half minutes.

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