Saturday, October 08, 2011

Week Forty Two: Conquering Myself Until, I See Another Hurdle Approaching

Comedy line of the week was, unquestionably, from Friday's - excellent, as always - episode of Qi. In reply to Stephen Fry's question about the identity of the world's largest invertebrate, Jimmy Carr suggested: 'Nick Clegg?' Ba-doom. And, indeed, tish.
Robert Lindsay is to lead the cast in an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities for BBC Radio 4. The My Family star will play Dickens in the dramatisation, which sees him narrating some of the story. The drama will also feature Alison Steadman as governess Miss Pross and Rumpole of the Bailey's Jonathan Coy as Jarvis Lorry. It will be broadcast over five consecutive days in Radio 4's Afternoon Play slot from 26 December. Other performers in the cast include Andrew Scott - who played Paul McCartney in the BBC drama Lennon Naked - as Charles Darnay, and stage actress Lydia Wilson as Lucie Manette. 'For the first time, Radio 4 has given us the opportunity to tell the whole story in five afternoon plays,' director Jessica Dromgoole told The Stage. 'We're very proud to have attracted such a talented cast and put it down to the sheer brilliance of the script.' The drama is being made as part of the BBC's Year of Books. The season also includes BBC1's forthcoming adaptation of Dickens' Great Expectations, marking the two hundredth anniversary of the author's birth.

New BBC1 drama Hidden proved a popular addition to the schedules on Thursday evening, outperforming Billy Connolly's Route 66 on ITV, overnight audience data has shown. Hidden, starring Philip Glenister as down-on-his luck solicitor Harry Venn, was seen by 5.22m on BBC1 in the 9pm slot. The conspiracy thriller proved too strong for Billy Connolly's Route 66, which concluded with 4.27m on ITV in the 9pm hour and a further two hundred and eighty thousand punters on ITV+1. Elsewhere on BBC1, Watchdog was seen by 4.3m in the 8pm hour and, later, Question Time had an audience of 2.33m from 10.45pm. Over on Sky One, Glee maintained the majority of its weekly audience with five hundred and two thousand in the 9pm hour. Afterwards, the new series of House premiered with two hundred and eighty four thousand punters.

Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour party, is to assume the post of shadow lack of culture secretary. Which is the perfect job for her since, so often in the past, she's showed herself to be a wannabe TV reviewer. The veteran Labour MP is to replace Ivan Lewis, who moves to the international development brief, barely a week after giving a poorly-received speech at the Labour party conference, in which he called for rogue journalists to be 'struck off.' The appointment of Harman, a former leader of the Commons and solicitor general, is seen as recognition of the huge issues facing the media industry over the forthcoming months, not least the Leveson inquiry into phone-hacking and press standards. She will combine the job with her duties as deputy leader and party chair, making her job title the longest in the shadow cabinet. Lewis, the MP for Bury South, moves to become shadow international development secretary after spending a year covering the culture patch. The Labour leadership last week distanced itself from Lewis's call for the media industry to 'consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off,' after it was widely interpreted as a call for a licensing scheme for individual reporters. Harman will face the task of overseeing Labour's stance in relation to Rupert Murdoch and the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal. Lewis is credited with persuading Ed Miliband to take a tougher line against News Corporation, after the party initially avoided confrontation with the media group.

Danny Baker has criticised the - alleged - scrapping of his award-winning radio show under the BBC Delivering Quality First cuts programme. Baker's BBC London radio show is, according to reports, 'facing the axe' as part of cuts to the station's budget totalling one million smackers. BBC London is having to cut its budget by twenty five per cent - understood to be equivalent to more than twenty members of staff – as a result of the changes announced in BBC director general Mark Thompson's Delivering Quality First review on Thursday. It will also have to syndicate an afternoon programme to surrounding BBC local stations including BBC Radio Kent, BBC Essex and BBC Sussex and Surrey. It has been widely speculated that the shake-up means the London station will have to axe one of the afternoon shows presented by either Baker – who airs between 3pm and 5pm – or Robert Elms, whose lunchtime programme airs between midday and 3pm. The DJ presents The Danny Baker Show on BBC London on weekdays from 3pm to 5pm. Baker said on Twitter: 'So the BBC London afternoon show - current Sony Gold Holder - is to be part of the Delivering Quality First cuts. The logic of Genius. Nothing like having your show axed under an initiative called Delivering Quality First to let you know how valued you are. Just off up the end of the garden with three Sony Gold awards (one current, one not even mine) and a stick of dynamite.' It is understood the savings required in local radio would have been even higher until a last minute change of heart by BBC management which saw one million quid returned to the biggest stations in England. Station controllers have predicted the changes will have a huge impact on the quality of the services they offer. Of the 7.2 million people who listen to BBC local radio every week, around a third of them are thought to listen to no other BBC radio service. As predicted, all local radio stations in England will be asked to share a networked evening programme between 7pm and 10pm, which is being described internally as a 'ONE Show for radio.' Only the breakfast, mid-morning and drivetime shows will remain unique to every BBC local radio station. But the proposals have raised questions among some BBC staffers as to why the corporation is spending money on another quasi-national network when it already has eight national radio stations. An early proposal to share some of 5Live's content across local radio was rejected. All of the BBC's local radio stations will have their sports budgets cut, with more football commentaries to be shared across regions and online cricket commentaries axed.

Newsnight treats such as Jeremy Paxman's encounter with Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference in Manchester last week look set to become a thing of the past after falling victim to BBC cuts. Flagship BBC news and current affairs shows including Newsnight and Radio 4's PM will no longer be broadcast live from party conferences, as part of a drive by the corporation to make sixty nine million smackers a year in savings from its news operation. The BBC has been heavily criticised for the large costs involved in sending more than one hundred staff from its news and current affairs programmes to report on party conference season. Well no more. As part of the Delivering Quality First plan unveiled on Thursday, BBC News executives have decided to halve the amount the corporation spends on covering party conferences, with only Radio 4's Today programme and The World at One to continue to be based on-site. The decision means that programmes such as Newsnight and Radio 4's The World this Weekend and PM will no longer have presenters such as Paxman broadcasting live from the party conferences. According to one source much of the budget savings will come from no longer having to set up expensive studio and support services. Overall the BBC News operation is to scrap about eight hundred posts, roughly fifteen per cent of the five thousand total, to save sixty nine million quid from its four hundred and thirty million smackers annual budget. About half the cuts will come from the news and current affairs operation in the English regions - so, that's local radio and local TV in other words - and the other half from the central BBC News operation. Within the BBC News operation about seventy to eighty job cuts will come from the newsroom, with the rest coming from the newsgathering and programmes departments. However, reinvestment in the news operation during the second half of director general Mark Thompson's five-year savings drive is expected to create a number of new jobs, leaving the net loss across the news operation at about five hundred and fifty roles. An internal staff e-mail from Mary Hockaday, the head of the BBC multimedia newsroom, said that savings would be made through measures including cutting the number of presenters on the BBC News channel. Hockaday said the BBC News channel's budget would be focused on 'big stories and breaking news,' with spend on 'back half hour programmes' cut along with the network's discretionary budget. 'The channel will be affected by the wider newsgathering savings in foreign, home and political newsgathering. There is no getting away from the fact that we will cover fewer stories and that we will not always be able to deploy as much as we do today,' she added. 'But we believe that even with these savings, the channel will still be well placed to deliver a strong core and breaking news service, which is what audiences most value,' Hockaday said. 'We are putting the News Channel at the top of the list for a correspondent two-way on UK breaking stories. The channel will also benefit from the decision to make filing breaking news copy the first priority for all newsgatherers in the field.' The BBC News channel will also no longer have regular business slots, although Hockaday said the service will continue to cover business stories and breaking City news. Sport and weather coverage on the rolling news channel is also to be 'reviewed.' In other areas of TV news output, BBC1 morning summaries will be scrapped along with the 3pm summary and regional opt-out. However, Hockaday stressed that the BBC1 6pm and 10pm news bulletins would remain a priority, with 'access to the best of BBC reporting, at home and around the world.'

And, as a final comment on Delivery Quality Last, here's the thoughts of the blogger Bill Rogers: 'Mark Thompson's last serious intervention as DG is a major disappointment. Conservative with a small c - a retreat to allegedly 'high' culture, and a sharp kick in the teeth for services trying to reach social grades C2, D and E. Nothing to lift the spirits in terms of new ideas; vague promises of preserved quality on BBC1 and Radio 4 for the audiences and staff to cling on to, through the chill autumn and winter. For the staff, it's simply two-faced. How can assistant producers and producers in BBC Radio Factual square being re-graded and re-applying for their own jobs, with a commitment to continued quality? English local radio takes a big hit - with no message of comfort or suggestion that this is going to reverse a steady decline in audiences, or indeed, that it's the end of their cuts. And they seem to be fumbling the message in several areas - is Danny Baker getting the cut from BBC London, or not? He seems to think so, which is uncomfortable enough, considering the year he's had.'

Still, it's not all bad news. Kylie Minogue has received an honorary degree from a university with campuses in Essex and Cambridgeshire. For services to 'looking pretty.'
And, on that bombshell, so to the next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips.

Friday 14 October
Have I Got News for You returns for its forty second series - 9:00 BBC1. Jo Brand asks the questions on the popular comedy news quiz, with Ian Hislop and Paul Merton joined by Father Ted writer Graham Linehan and presenter and champion poker player that divine Victoria Coren to poke fun at the past few weeks' news stories. Heh. I got to use the words 'Victoria Coren' and 'poke' in the same sentence. As usual, Jo will be caustic, rude and mildly amusing in small doses; Ian will be dryly smug but with a charmingly cheeky take on those in authority and Paul will be surreal to the point of almost losing it but will get all of the really funny lines. It's good to have it back.

Meanwhile, speaking of returning comedy favourites, Comic Strip Presents ... is back for its first new feature in six years (since 2005's dismally poor Sex, Actually, as it happens). The new piece is called The Hunt for Tony Blair - 9:00 Channel Four and is a rather clever combination of Hitchcock’s The Thirty Nine Steps crossed with Kind Hearts and Coronets-style black humour. Prime Minister Tony Blair is suspected of murdering the foreign secretary Robin Cook, so one foggy night he escapes from Number 10 just before the police arrive and sets out to clear his name in finest Robert Donat in The Thirty Nine Step tradition. But with no one willing to harbour a wanted man and the newspapers demanding his capture, he is forced to go on the run, hotly pursued by the cops. Spoof 1950s-style noir thriller, starring Stephen Mangan as the fugitive PM, with old Comic Strip regulars Nigel Planer (as a desperately slimy Peter Mandelson), Jennifer Saunders, Rik Mayall and Robbie Coltrane joined by Harry Enfield, John Sessions, James Buckley, Wor Ross Noble and Ford Kiernan.

Sky One's own efforts at creating a comedy format as long-lived as either Have I Got News For You or The Comic Strip Presents ... has a new kid of the block in the shape of Spy - 8:30. Thirtysomething Tim - nice but, essentially, dim and played by the excellent Darren Boyd - is accidentally recruited to be a trainee spy for MI5, a dramatic change from his former dead-end job. However, he is locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife over their son, who does not enjoy spending time with his dad, and also has to contend with his new boss known as The Examiner. Also starring Dolly Wells and Robert Lindsay.

Saturday 15 October
In the latest episode of Qi XL - 9:45 BBC2 - Stephen Fry hosts an extended version of the quiz with a difference, joined by comics Nina Conti, Sean Lock, Bill Bailey and regular panellist Alan Davies. He asks questions on the topic of inventiveness, and awards points for the most interesting answers.

Following last week's elimination on Strictly Come Dancing - 6:25 BBC1 - Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly host a Broadway-themed show in which the thirteen remaining couples perform to classics evoking the spirit of the stage. Taking inspiration from Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, they will be hoping to dazzle judges Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Alesha Dixon, as well as the voting public.

Tonight's The X Factor - 7:45 ITV - is two hours and ten minutes long. Jeez, have they no pity? I mean that's just taking the piss, surely? After last week's 'big twist' (whatever that was), the remaining contestants perform in the second live studio round in a bid to secure viewers' votes and impress the panel. Gary Barlow mentors the boys, Kelly Rowland is in charge of the girls, Tulisa Contostavlos is leading the groups and Louis Walsh has the over-fifties. Dermot O'Leary is on hand to pull funny faces, act like a berk and deal with the war of words as the judges defend their own acts. Who will then face an agonising twenty four-hour wait for the results show to find out if they will get one step closer to their greedy dreams of mucho wonga. The results can be seen tomorrow at 8pm.

Sunday 16 October
[spooks] - 9:00 BBC1 - continues towards its inevitable conclusion. Harry kidnaps Jim Coaver and interrogates him about the recent attacks, but he soon realises that the CIA deputy-director could be innocent. Before he can plan his next move, the Americans arrive to liberate their boss, at which point Coaver gives his old friend one final clue - vital evidence can be found on a laptop at the US Embassy, requiring Harry's team to steal the computer from under the noses of The Cousins.

Lank-haired civil war casualty and lightweight fop Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall spends a summer living on a vegetarian diet, and shows viewers how to create varied and exciting meals without using meat or fish in the new series of River Cottage Veg - 8:00 Channel Four. He begins by exploring the range of vegetables growing in his own garden at River Cottage, before sampling Asian-inspired recipes created by vegetarian chef David Bailey and taking on the challenge of hosting a meat-free barbecue, with dishes including halloumi, tomato and potato kebabs and chard and samphire tarts. I think I went out with one of those once. True story.

Stephen Fry continues his exploration of language with a look at the written word, which has made it possible to communicate across space and time in Fry's Planet Word - 9:00 BBC2. He discovers the earliest known form of writing - cuneiform - at the British Museum, learns where the English alphabet came from and meets experts in dyslexia to find out why some people have trouble reading. Stephen also considers the importance of printing and the way writing evolves in parallel with language.

Monday 17 October
In Origins of Us - 9:00 BBC2 - anatomist and anthropologist, Coast and former Time Team regular and the divine Goddess of punk archaeology Alice Roberts reveals the story of human evolution as told through the body. Revealing, as she does, that the way people think, look and behave is a product of the six-million-year journey that took man from forest-dwelling apes to the most successful species on the planet. She begins with the skeleton, revealing how the evolutionary journey of man's ancestors has affected everything from the way a person walks and runs to the back pain they suffer, their narrow waist and the shape of their bottom.

The latest episode of Panorama is called The Great Fuel Robbery - 8:30 BBC1. This is a report on how the high cost of diesel and petrol in Britain has led to a growing black market. Samantha Poling has access to the police and HM Customs and Revenue teams tackling fuel crime, revealing a dangerous underworld run by gangsters and former terrorists.

Meanwhile, all week on BBC3 we have Up for Hire Live - 9:00 - in which Richard Bacon and Tina Daheley seek to tackle the problem of unemployment in the UK. Industry experts offer advice on finding a post in the increasingly competitive job market. Four hopefuls begin a course of work experience with entry-level roles at an adventure park in Devon, but some of them struggle to make a good impression on their first day. Plus, former X Factor contestant Stacey Solomon and millionairess Michelle Mone share their CV secrets.

Meanwhile, down in Cornwall where the cowshit lies thick, in Doc Martin - 9:00 ITV - Maggie gets the all-clear from the doctor and decides she will return to Bude. This forces PC Penhale to take desperate measures to persuade her to stay in Portwenn. Ruth uncovers a raft of family heirlooms while clearing out a barn at the farm, and the mounting tension between Martin and Louisa peaks when she discovers he has booked a date for James Henry's christening without consulting her.

Tuesday 18 October
It's the last in the current series of The Body Farm - 9:00 BBC1. Which has been all right. Nowt startling and certainly not as good as the - more expensive - programme it replaced, Waking The Dead, but functional enough. In this episode, a man is killed in a robbery at a classic car garage, but the victim's family - who are from a close-knit community of travellers - refuse to speak to Hale, preferring to take the law into their own hands. When it turns out a youngster has also gone missing and could be in danger, Eve has to earn the family's trust in the hope they will help her and the police find justice for their son. Brenda Fricker (Casualty) and Jamie Draven (Billy Elliot) guest star in the forensic crime drama, with Tara FitzGerald and Keith Allen. Who remains, considerably cheaper than Trevor Eve.

High Stakes - 8:00 - is ITV's latest wretched, mind-numbing lowest common denominator conceit. On the evidence of the first episode it's Red or Black? for cheapskates and will, hopefully, go the same way as the disastrous Any and Dec vehicle. Down the plughole. Jeremy Kyle hosts the 'big-money game show' (it says here) in which the players use clues to guide them across a grid containing cash prizes ranging from one thousand quid to half a million smackers. But if they stand on a trap, the whole grid descends and the game is over for them. Much like Jeremy Kyle's career. One hopes.

Alphas - 10:00 5* - is a new SF drama from America about a team of superhumans. The Alphas investigate the shooting of a suspect at New York Police Headquarters. However, when inquiries lead the group to a minor-league baseball player who has received ominous orders to kill, they wonder whether the culprit could be one of their own. Drama, starring David Strathairn, Laura Mennell and Ryan Cartwright.

In 71 Degrees North - 9:00 ITV - the teams are given different modes of transport to tackle their next challenge, with one racing on cross-country skis, while the other travels by snowmobile. The competition steps up a gear as the celebrities cling to a rope web to cross a treacherous ravine, and the Arctic assault course gives them the chance to avoid the elimination vote. Paddy McGuinness and Charlotte Jackson then reveal who is next to be sent home. But, given the fact that hardly anybody's watching it, no one really cares.

Wednesday 19 October
Kirstie's Handmade Britain - 8:00 Channel Four - is a new series in which mumsy Tory Kirstie Allsopp travels across Britain visiting county and agricultural fairs, and puts her creative skills to the test by entering some of the toughest craft competitions. Because, of course, 'normal' people have the time for crap like that. At the Devon County Show, she tries to succeed in the Afternoon Tea contest by offering up her finest baked goods, and receives advice about scone-making from baker Richard Hammond (no relation). Stick to scowling at people from the Home Counties with 'that's not a real job'-type jobs looking for a second home on Location, Location, Location, Kirst, you're much better at it.

Three driving instructors take on the challenge of teaching a selection of motorists who have passed their tests but have picked up bad habits and forgotten the rules of the road in Dangerous Drivers' School - 8:00 Channel Five. Sounds like they should be on danger money for that. Weymouth bra-fitter Karen McGuinness simply struggles with life behind the wheel, Southampton-based Tara Self is petrified of motorways, while Essex club promoter Lewis Beaty refuses to wear a seat belt (which is illegal), bumps his car on a regular basis (which is costly), drives at a snail's pace and stalls five times a day (which is annoying) - usually because he is reading his texts (which is, again, illegal). Unsurprisingly, his instructor Sarah Dean cannot believe he ever passed his test in the first place.

Paul Merton's Adventures - 9:00 Channel Five - sees the comedian turn travel presenter in a range of globetrotting enterprises to learn about some of the most fascinating places on Earth - and meets a few lively characters along the way. He begins by boarding a luxury ocean liner for a cruise of the Caribbean, during which he joins up with the Jamaican dog-sled team, gets lost on a reef in Mexico and has a run-in with a tiger. Hang on, there aren't any tigers in the Caribbean. This, I have to see.

Film 2011 with Claudia Winkleman returns for a second series - 11:20 BBC1. The host and journalist Danny Leigh return to discuss the week's new releases, beginning with Steven Soderbergh's film Contagion, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet. They also review We Need to Talk About Kevin and Steven Spielberg's latest movie Tintin.

Thursday 20 October
It's the third episode of the new series of House - 10:00 Sky1. An altruistic man suddenly collapses after an act of remarkable generosity, leading House to suspect his behaviour is a symptom of a medical disorder. As the team struggles to find an explanation for his loss of consciousness and lack of response to treatments, they recruit former prison doctor Jessica Adams to help crack the case - before the patient endangers his life any further. Guest starring Wentworth Miller (Prison Break).

Or, alternatively, there's Hidden - 9:00 BBC1. Harry returns from Paris desperate to figure out who he can trust and how he can save himself. But when he goes back to the Kent house where it all started twenty years ago - the home of Ben Lander, the only survivor from that fateful night - he is forced to confront his past head on. Conspiracy thriller, starring Philip Glenister, Thekla Reuten, David Suchet and Andrew Scarborough.

ITV's Tonight strand features a piece presented by Eddie Izzard called Didn't We Fix Famine? - 7:30. The actor and comedian investigates current food shortages across the drought-stricken Horn of Africa - where more than thirty thousand children have died in three months - and asks why appeals for foreign aid have failed to meet targets. Is it because people simply don't have the money to give in this tough financial times? Or, is it because of 'charity fatigue'?

Top of the Pops: 1976 - 7:30 BBC4 - sees Jimmy Savile present an edition from 7 October, 1976, the final week that ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' topped the chart. The show also features that week's number two single, 'Mississippi' by Dutch hippies Pussycat, as well as performances by Paul Nicholas, The Manhattans, T Rex, Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, Smokie and dance troupe Ruby Flipper. Meanwhile, in the same week, The Sex Pistols' were in Abbey Road with Chris Thomas recording 'Anarchy In The UK'. But, you won't see that even when it's released, in November.

And finally there's a new series of Beeny's Restoration Nightmare - 8:00 Channel Four. Sarah Beeny continues the challenge of saving East Yorkshire stately home Rise Hall from ruin. The property expert and her husband tackle the restoration of an old dining room, originally one of the most lavish rooms in the house, but risk taking on too much when they decide to host a full-scale Regency dinner as a charity fundraiser.

And so to the news: Strike Back is to return to Sky1 HD for a third season. Ten new episodes of the action drama will begin shooting in South Africa in early 2012 and will be broadcast later in the year. The show's second run - starring Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton and Amanda Mealing - is currently airing on Sky1 and Cinemax. The third season will once again be co-produced by Sky, Cinemax/HBO and Left Bank Pictures. 'Strike Back has proved to be an incredibly successful brand for Sky1 HD, and our collaboration with HBO/Cinemax made the scale and ambition of the second season even more exciting,' said Anne Mensah, Sky's Head of Drama. 'The third season is shaping up to be even stronger. We want it to be the most high-octane, action-packed drama on British television.'

The Simpsons has been renewed for two more seasons. FOX has announced that the Matt Groening animation has been ordered for a twenty fourth and twenty fifth season. The renewal follows reports that the show's future was in jeopardy due to a contract dispute between the show's voice actors and the network. FOX had previously said in a statement: 'We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows The Simpsons to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.' It was later claimed that several Simpsons producers had indicated a willingness to take a pay cut in order to keep the show on the air. FOX did not reveal the terms of the new deal with the actors and producers. The Simpsons first premiered in December 1989. It is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated programme and the longest-running American primetime scripted television series in history.

Amber Benson has signed up for a guest role on Ringer. The actress will reunite with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar in the show's tenth episode, according to TV Line.

Noel Fielding has said that Mel B 'became absolutely furious' with him when he joked about her on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The Mighty Boosh comedian - whom loads of people seem to find effing hilarious but I can't see what they find so amusing in him - told Metro that Ms B - seen left swanning about some Leeds sinkhole housing estate in a tracking and bing-jewellery like Jimmy Saville - did not take kindly to one of his jokes on the set of the music panel quiz. Fielding said: 'When I tried to introduce myself, she was a bit sniffy. Then she said she worked at Pizza Hut. I asked if that was before or after the Spice Girls and she became absolutely furious.' Actually, I take all that back, that is really funny. In 2010, Fielding was quoted as saying that Simon Amstell had 'ruined' Never Mind The Buzzcocks with his presenting style, adding that Mel B was 'terrified' about appearing on the programme. However, he later denied making the comments. Of other guests who had problems on the show, Fielding added: 'One of the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet was doing sofa adverts and told Simon he could have one joke about it. It was like a red rag to a bull - Amstell made ten jokes about it. You can't make demands on what comedians can and can't say.'

Warren Brown has landed the lead role in BBC1's new drama Savage. The show, which has been written by Five Daughters author Stephen Butchard, focuses on a policeman in Liverpool whose life is turned upside down when his best friend is murdered. He ends up hoping to get revenge on his friend's killer. 'As soon as I read the script I knew I wanted to be part of this project,' Brown said. 'Savage is fantastically written and to be given the opportunity to play such a complex character is something every actor dreams of.' Brown has previously starred in shows like Luther, Single Father, Criminal Justice, Occupation and Dead Set. He will be joined in Savage by Boardwalk Empire's Stephen Graham, Boys From The Blackstuff star Michael Angelis and Five Daughters actress Aisling Loftus. Other actors who have joined the cast include Mark Womack, Kerrie Hayes and Christine Tremarco. Filming on Savage will begin in Liverpool this month and the show is due to be broadcast on BBC1 next year.

Paul O'Grady has said that he is not feuding with ITV bosses, amid reports that his chat show Paul O'Grady Live has been cancelled. This week it was claimed that the programme had been 'shelved' due to 'disappointing ratings.' However, the host has said that he is now planning to focus on new projects. Speaking to the Mirra, the fifty six-year-old commented that 'everyone's doing' chat shows. On his relationship with ITV, which saw him first leave the broadcaster in acrimonious circumstances in 2006, he said: 'I'm doing stuff for them next year, there's no fight. It's hunky dory. It's just I'm writing a book at the moment, I'm doing a play. I've got all manner on.' Meanwhile, O'Grady has been tipped as a possible replacement for comedian Michael McIntyre on Britain's Got Talent. 'Paul would be a great addition - he's a national treasure,' an alleged (and anonymous) 'insider' allegedly told the paper. 'He would no doubt prove to be hugely popular.'

Cheryl Cole will not host a fashion show on Channel Four, her spokesperson has confirmed. The singer was rumoured to be 'in talks' with the broadcaster over 'a variety of ideas' for a programme. However, her representative has told Vogue: 'This story is not true.' Well, it appeared in a tabloid so we'd already kind of worked that out, chuck. The twenty eight-year-old is presently working on her third solo CD with some trippy-hoppy baseball-cap-on-backwards producer called Alex Da Kid, apparently, following her brief judging stint on The X Factor USA earlier this year. From which she was, of course, sacked.

Eamonn Holmes has apologised to This Morning viewers after using the term 'retarded.' Reviewing the papers with guests Jonathan Wilkes and Lizzy Cundy, the foursome discussed a poll which claimed that a third of Britons do not know where the UK's three biggest cities - London, Birmingham and Glasgow - are on a map. When Wilkes admitted that he is 'in that third,' Holmes used the word in response, prompting laughter from the other three. Apologising after a break, the Sky News presenter said: 'Sorry to three or four of you who have got in touch this morning, because I used the word "retarded" during the newspaper review. You seem to take it personally or seem to say that I'm insulting all sorts of people who have all sorts of conditions.' The fifty one-year-old, who was presenting the daytime magazine series alongside his wife Ruth Langsford, said that he did not know what word he would have used instead, adding: 'But obviously I would never want to do that or cause any sort of offence. There's this man who has got an autistic son, who said that somehow I had insulted his child. I really hope it hasn't, because I certainly wouldn't use it in that context. Sorry if that caused you offence.' Writing on Twitter, Holmes thanked followers for their 'support and understanding,' continuing: 'We all make mistakes. Those who want to find mischief will push things.'

Some very sad news now. One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, George Baker, who starred as Chief Inspector Wexford in TV's The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, has died. The eighty-year-old, from West Lavington in Wiltshire, died of pneumonia on Friday after a recent stroke. Although Wexford was probably his most famous role, Baker's repertoire included movies, comedy, drama, soap operas and science fiction over a six decade career. He appeared in The Dam Busters and the TV series I, Claudius, as the Emperor Tiberius, and was once suggested for the role of James Bond. Baker was married three times and leaves five daughters and a number of grandchildren. Speaking to the BBC, his daughter Ellie Baker said of her father: 'He absolutely loved Wexford. He loved the whole thing. It was a joy to him.' She went on to say even though Ian Fleming had said he wanted her father to play James Bond, it was 'probably a very good thing' that he was tied into a contract with another studio at the time and was unable to do so. 'He enjoyed being a character actor, being broad and having the chance to do so many different roles. Perhaps if he'd done that one he would have got typecast,' she said. His third wife, who died earlier this year, was Louie Ramsey, who played his wife Dora in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. George was born in Varna, Bulgaria. His father was an English businessman and honorary vice consul. When World War II broke out, his Irish mother took him to England, and after a brief spell at public school - he attended Lancing College, Sussex - he became an actor in repertory while still in his teens. In the 1950s he toured with the Old Vic, and made the first of thirty films, which included three Bond movies - The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service - and also The Ship That Died of Shame and The Thirty Nine Steps. This was followed by a string of Ealing films and the swashbuckler, The Moonraker (1958). However over time, Baker became more well-known as a television actor. He was the second actor to portray the role of Number Two in The Prisoner, appearing in the series' pilot episode. He appeared in his own sitcom Bowler and was also in the first episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, playing a company boss interviewing the show's hapless main character, Frank Spencer. Adept at both drama and comedy, George became a very familiar face on television in the 60s, 70s and 80s, appearing in Minder, The Baron, Coronation Street (as brewery owner Cecil Newton), The Goodies, Up Pompeii! (as the spy James Bondus), Doctor Who (he was excellent in the 1980 Tom Baker story Full Circle) and Bergerac, before, in 1987, he was cast as the kindly Chief Inspector Wexford in ITV's adaptation of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. The show, which lasted for thirteen years, drew huge audiences on Sunday evenings. He also formed his own theatre company and toured the country, acting in and directing plays. He was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his fundraising activities for his local youth club. As well as acting, Baker was also a talented writer for radio and television and a noted cookery author and bon vivant. His award-winning play, The Fatal Spring, was shown on BBC2 in 1980. One of George's last roles was in the TV spy series [spooks] in 2005.

Oscar-nominated Australian actress Diane Cilento, who was once married to Sean Connery, has died aged seventy eight. The actress, who died at the Cairns Base Hospital close by her Queensland home, rose to fame in the early 1960s opposite stars such as Charlton Heston. She was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Molly in the 1963 movie Tom Jones. Close friend and playwright Michael Gow paid tribute to Cilento, calling her 'a performer to the end. She kept us all hugely entertained until the day before yesterday, when she just couldn't manage anymore and we took her to hospital.' Cilento married Connery in 1962, and divorced in 1973. The couple's son, Jason Connery, went on to star in TV series Robin of Sherwood in the mid-1980s. She also had a daughter, Giovanna, by her first husband Andrea Volpe. A versatile performer of stage and screen, Cilento's leading men included Charlton Heston in the 1965 classic The Agony and the Ecstasy and Paul Newman in the 1967 western film Hombre. She was nominated for a Tony Award playing Helen of Troy in the 1956 Broadway production of Tiger at the Gates. Cilento later married Sleuth playwright Anthony Shaffer. The couple met in 1973 on the set of The Wicker Man, the cult horror movie which Shaffer wrote and in which Cilento played the school mistress Miss Rose. However, she largely dropped out of screen work in the 1980s, following her decision to set up the Karnak Playhouse open-air theatre in northern Queensland, where she settled with Shaffer. John Kotzas from the Queensland Performing Arts Centre said she 'achieved all sorts of artistic heights.' Cilento was awarded a Queensland Greats Award in 2001 in recognition of her status as a National Treasure. Her autobiography, My Nine Lives, was published in 2006. 'While she was originally known as a glamorous international film star, her work in later years in the far north showed her commitment to the arts,' said Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh, in a statement. 'I know that Ms Cilento will be sorely missed by many in the industry.'

An advert made by Mr Bonio out of U2's One Foundation has been banned from UK television. The minute-long film, which stars Mr Bonio out of U2 alongside George Clooney, Colin Farrell and Kristin Davis, is part of the Hungry No More campaign which calls for governments to help tackle the causes of famine in Africa. However, Clearcast, the organisation which approves adverts, claimed that it breached the 2003 Communications Act because of its political content. A Clearcast spokeswoman told the BBC: 'These rules ensure that adverts aren't being broadcast by bodies whose objects are wholly or mainly political. One appears to be caught by this rule as they state that part of their raison d'être is to pressure political leaders. It also appears that a number of the claims made in the version of the advert that we have seen are directed towards a political end, which is again against the rules.' However, One's Europe director Adrian Lovett insisted that the foundation is not a political party, nor does it have any political affiliation. 'We recognise the purpose of the broadcasting code is to keep political propaganda off British television,' he said. 'But our ad highlights the desperate plight of seven hundred and fifty thousand people in East Africa who, the UN warns, could die before the end of the year. Unless we keep the spotlight on this crisis and the need for urgent action, those people will be forgotten. Who can object to that message? We are challenging this decision and hope the broadcasters will reconsider.' A broadcaster carrying an advert which breaks political advertising rules faces a possible Ofcom fine or a revocation of its licence.

A Spearmint Rhino executive has claimed female students should consider working at strip clubs to help pay their university fees. John Specht, the firm's UK vice president, made the comments as tuition fees are continuing to rise. 'We don't force anyone to come in,' he stated to the Daily Torygraph. 'If the girls are looking to do this type of entertainment and make good money in a safe, fun environment - and enjoy their work - then why not? The students know they can come in and earn the money they need. Times get harder and as things go up, people will turn to alternative means of income to earn money.' A law student from Sheffield admitted that she has been dancing for Spearmint Rhino for two years because of financial reasons. 'I thought it was a really nice atmosphere,' she said. 'It's nothing like what is portrayed by the media. It was a way for me to cover most of my bills whilst working at the university. I am studying law and I want to be a corporate lawyer. I worry massively that somebody might find out that I've done this and it might affect my career, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.' NUS representative Estelle Hart countered: 'I think the government has got some questions to answer about why students are turning to what is quite a dangerous job. It's sad that the government has thoughtlessly cut quite a lot of money from education and have done nothing to improve the maintenance situation for students.' Hart added: 'I think it is particularly sad with university students when we should be talking about their academic achievements, and not how they look based on a narrow idea of what's good-looking created by the executive of massive strip clubs.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, this one's for Mark Thompson. Speak your mind, Reverend McCulloch.

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