Tuesday, November 08, 2011

There's People Out Of Work Everywhere

MasterChef: The Professionals returned for a new series on Monday night with that scowling gravy boat of barely suppressed hatred Monica Galetti doing her very best to make ten hardened professionals chefs blub like girls crying for their mommy as she critiqued their work in the opening episode. Tasked with making something vaguely edible from a bit of duck, some blackberries, leeks, onions and not a lot else, she seemed surprised when all ten presented her with, well, duck with blackberries, onions and leeks. I dunno what she was expecting, lobster thermidor, perhaps? Gregg Wallace, needless to say, gobbled down each and every dish and, except for a couple of mildly 'that could've done with being a bit less blackberryish' comments, looks well satisfied with all of them.
A definite case of sweet and sour, one could suggest. The big change this year has been the decision to do always with the divine husky-voiced India Fisher's voice-over and replace her with ... husky-voiced Sean Pertwee's voice-over. Odd. But, it's good to have the show back and in a sensible timeslot too after the 'let's put Celebrity MasterChef on in the afternoon, that'll be good for a laugh' debacle earlier in the year.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping feels that he should now use the words 'Eurozone Debt Crisis' at this point in the conversation. Not for any specific story, you understand, just that if I don't then From The North will be just about the only media blog on the planet which hasn't in the last week.

Ofcom has launched an investigation into an allegedly 'mishandled' X Factor competition. When a multiple-choice quiz on the 22 October show was shown for a second time during the programme, the order of the answers had seemingly been mixed up, the Gruniad reports. The telecoms regulator is looking into the matter after thirteen complaints from members of the public. Ofcom has also launched an investigation into the portrayal of contestant Frankie Cocozza's drinking in a pre-recorded video clip on the same show, and a third inquiry into his on-screen swearing on the 23 October results programme. In 2008, Ofcom fined ITV over five and a half million quid following various scandals regarding premium rate phone and text competitions. The following year, Sky Sports was criticised by the regulator for charging Irish viewers who entered a competition that they could not win. Last year, Ofcom cleared Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? following 'human error' in an on-air competition. But, only on condition that the human who erred was taken out and shot. Badly. While it ruled that the show had 'materially misled' viewers by posing a different phone-in question to that shown on screen, it noted that the error was 'spotted immediately' and rectified with the offer of a refund.

Consolidated rating figures, now from those very lovely people at the BARB. Here's yer actual Top Twenty programmes for the week ending 30 October 2011:-
1 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 12.75m
2 Downton Abbey - ITV Sun - 11.88m
3 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 Sat - 11.29m
4 Doc Martin - ITV Mon - 10.47m
5 EastEnders - BBC1 Tues - 9.90m
6 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.26m
7 Frozen Planet - BBC1 Wed - 8.81m
8 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 8.25m
9 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 7.70m
10 Merlin - BBC1 Sat - 7.40m
11 Death In Paradise - BBC1 Tues - 6.78m
12 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 6.66m
13 Midsmoer Murders - ITV Wed - 6.39m
14 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Sun - 6.05m
15 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.73m
16 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Thurs - 5.57m
17 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.29m
18 Match Of The Day - BBC1 Sat - 4.96m
19 Young Apprentice - BBC1 Mon - 4.74m
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 4.59m
BBC2's highest rated programmes were University Challenge (2.97m) and Qi (2.66m). All of the ITV shows (except Emmerdale) include ITV HD.

The BBC's Tim Gudgin - the voice of Saturday tea-time football results on the TV - is to retire. Known for his distinctive rising and falling intonation, the BBC veteran is hanging up his microphone after more than sixty years. Gudgin is due to do his last Final Score on 19 November, the week before his eighty second birthday. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said: 'Saturday afternoons will never be the same again.' Having started out on British Forces Network Radio in Germany in 1950, Gudgin came to the BBC two years later to take up the job of studio manager for the corporation's European Service, where he was also a news reader. In 1976 he joined Grandstand, one of the broadcaster's longest running sports programmes, where he read out the racing and rugby results in the final score segment of the programme. This continued until 1995 when, after the death of the legendary Len Martin, he became only the second person to read out the football results for BBC television on Saturday afternoons. When Final Score became a separate programme in 2004, he continued in his role. Lineker described him as 'one of the most familiar voices in sport' and 'a quintessential part of Saturday afternoons in this country.'

Frankie Cocozza has been kicked out of The X Factor. The controversial singer was asked to exit the ITV singing competition after breaking a 'golden rule,' according to reports. That he could sing, perhaps? Cocozza, who has become notorious for his hard-partying ways, is believed to have been asked to leave The X Factor house on Tuesday morning. 'Frankie is devastated but he has broken a golden rule so producers had no option but to axe him,' a 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'He had an extra boost from being kept in at the weekend when he thought he was going to go. But now his dream is officially over and he only has himself to blame.' Cocozza is currently at the centre of two Ofcom investigations, amid accusations that he swore on screen and that his on-screen antics have glamorised the misuse of alcohol.
Former Creation Records boss Alan McGee has revealed that the Metropolitan Police have contacted him to say that his phone was targeted by the defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. McGee believes that journalists working for the horrible Sunday tabloid may have intercepted voice messages left for him by Courtney Love. Writing in a blog for The Huffington Post, McGee confirmed that he plans to sue the News International over the alleged hacking. McGee said that he 'couldn't abide' the Scum of the World, but jokingly added that he would have been 'gutted' if his phone had not been targeted by its journalists. 'In truth, I would have also been gutted to think I wasn't worth at least a little hack! Imagine being deemed by the people at News of the World as not being in the the top eight thousand most interesting people?' he said. McGee added: 'Joking aside, if the police confirm that I have indeed been hacked, and even though this will have been years ago, I will still sue. I couldn't abide News of the World, so I won't be losing sleep in suing them.' The Scum of the World was shut down by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in July after allegations that it hacked the phones of various high-profile public figures. McGee, who made almost twenty thousand pounds at the weekend by auctioning one of John Lennon's teeth, also joked that anyone eavesdropping his voicemails would have had the pleasure of listening to various 'rambles' from Courtney Love. 'The joke to me is that in the period they are talking about, whoever had the pleasure to get into my voicemail would have just been faced with hour-long Courtney Love rambles from LA about her new songs at 5am UK time,' he said. 'I hope they enjoyed their hack there (if, obviously, it happened) and I pity them having to listen to all that madness.' The phone-hacking scandal is expected to ignite once more this Thursday when News International chairman James Murdoch is due to appear in front of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee again to answer more questions over phone-hacking. Murdoch is facing serious questions over his knowledge of phone-hacking practices, after statements he made to the MPs in July were contradicted by various sources.

Meanwhile, the Scum of the World hired an ex-police officer early last year to carry out 'surveillance' on two prominent lawyers representing victims of phone-hacking, Newsnight has claimed. Derek Webb, who ran a private investigations firm called Silent Shadow, covertly followed lawyers Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris. Webb also filmed members of Lewis's family on a shopping trip. A spokeswoman for Scum of the World publisher News Group Newspapers declined to comment. The surveillance of the lawyers, who have been involved in cases against the Scum of the World, took place during the past eighteen months when James Murdoch was executive chairman. The surveillance was part of an attempt by the now-disgraced and disgraceful tabloid newspaper to demonstrate that Lewis was having a relationship with Harris and was sharing 'confidential information' with her. Lewis told Newsnight that he was 'devastated' on two levels to hear the revelations. 'To follow my teenage daughter and video her is nothing short of sick,' Lewis said, urging that the matter be investigated. Speaking exclusively to Newsnight's Richard Watson, Webb said he had been commissioned by the Scum of the World to carry out surveillance on Lewis and his former assistant Harris in early 2010. He was paid to go to Manchester, where the two solicitors were based. On one occasion during the surveillance, Webb followed Lewis's former wife and his daughter, filming them as they visited shops and a garden centre before trailing them in a car as they returned home. At the time Lewis was proving a serious threat to the Scum of the World by taking civil proceedings on behalf of phone-hacking victims. He had successfully won a payout of more than five hundred thousand smackers for one of his clients, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association Gordon Taylor. Other sources have told the BBC that advisers to the Scum of the World were interested in the information as part of 'an attempt to discredit Mr Lewis and stop him from taking on other phone-hacking cases.' Webb told Newsnight that the Scum of the World owed him 'compensation' for his loyalty to the tabloid following eight years of service, but that he had not received any. Webb's background was in police surveillance and he was trained by the police and once attended an MI5 training course. The paper folded in July after a string of hacking allegations emerged, including the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Lewis represented her family, whose case led to the paper's closure.

Australia's ABC has pulled out of BBC2's Jane Campion co-production Top of the Lake because of the decision to cast Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss in the lead role. Parochial, much? BBC Worldwide's UKTV channel has now stepped in to replace the Australian public broadcaster on the six-part drama, which is also co-produced by BBC2 and the Sundance Channel. It is likely to air in early 2013. A spokesman for ABC told Australia's TV Tonight: 'ABC TV withdrew its investment because we were not prepared to have an American actress play the lead role – who is an Australian police officer.' Moss, a superb actress best known for playing Peggy Olsen in Mad Men and Zoey Bartlet in The West Wing, has been cast as detective Robin Griffin, who investigates the disappearance of a pregnant twelve year-old in southern New Zealand. Also cast are Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan and David Wenham. Written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, Top of the Lake will commence filming in February 2012 in Queenstown, New Zealand. Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See-Saw Films will produce alongside Philippa Campbell of Escapade Pictures. Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Fulcrum Media Finance are providing investment and finance. BBC Worldwide will distribute the television series internationally.

Andrew Marr risked breaching BBC editorial guidelines with his three-year superinjunction which he lifted in May, two of the corporation's most senior legal and compliance executives have told a parliamentary committee. The BBC's head of editorial compliance, David Jordan, told a joint Commons and Lords committee investigating the use of injunctions that Marr would have breached the corporation's rules on conflict of interest if he had discussed gagging orders on air without disclosing to bosses that his own was active. Jordan said that Marr's injunction raised some 'interesting questions' and that the existence of the gagging order should have been disclosed to a line manager. A BBC spokesman confirmed that Marr did discuss the matter with his line manager, saying that 'appropriate discussions were held' when asked whether the presenter and journalist told executives of his superinjunction. Marr began hosting BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday mornings in 2005. The former BBC political editor took out a superinjunction to suppress reports of an extramarital affair in 2008, which he voluntarily lifted in April. Asked whether Marr's injunction 'effectively put the BBC in the dock' in its reporting on the matter, Jordan said: 'I'm not sure I would agree that it puts the BBC in the dock, but it raises some interesting questions about whether that is the appropriate thing to do given the role the individual is playing.' He added: 'I would expect that in those circumstances an individual who did take out an injunction which wasn't generally known about that it would be disclosed to the relevant line manager and there would be a discussion about the editorial implications of that course of action. It clearly wouldn't be appropriate for certain discussions to be conducted on programmes by people who clearly had those interests at heart.' Jordan added that journalists should reveal the existence of injunctions to editors in the same way they are required to disclose confidential sources so that stories can be verified. The BBC's head of programme legal advice, Valerie Nazareth, told the committee that it was difficult for a media organisation to tell employees that they cannot take out an injunction, but said that those taking this course of action should be warned by bosses about potential conflicts of interest. 'I don't think it is appropriate for an organisation to say to their staff or presenters that you cannot avail yourself of a legal remedy that is available by law,' Nazareth added. 'You may, however, say if you are going to use this particular law – take out an injunction, for example – that may raise issues of conflict of interest or raise issues of compliance with your own internal guidelines, then that would raise line management issues to ensure compliance.' Jordan, a former Panorama editor, said that editorial issues would not arise if the injunction was being brought by an entertainment presenter. He said: 'If the presenter of Law in Action had such an injunction and didn't make it clear that that was the case and was conducting interviews and discussions about the very subject then clearly there would be an editorial issue with conflict of interest. On the other hand, if an entertainment presenter was doing the same thing it would raise no issues at all.' In written evidence submitted to the joint committee in October, Marr said that he had offered his resignation to BBC executives before details about his extramarital affair were due to be published in 2008.

And, speaking of chaps with massive sticky-out ears, Russell Tovey has said that science fiction fans are 'incredible.' The Being Human star told Metro that he did not realise how much the fans would be moved by the work he does. Tovey said: 'Sci-fi fans are the best fans you can have. You could be doing the worst piece of tat which might have a robot or vampire in and some people will become obsessed by it and know every little detail. Being Human has crossed over from sci-fi fans to being a drama that everyone can enjoy.' Asked about fan conventions, he added: 'I did Comic-Con in the US which is the big one where everyone goes crazy and we've done signings across Britain. The fans are amazing. They really appreciate what we do. You make the shows and don't realise how much they can move and affect people.' Tovey has previously quipped that his personal fanbase is made up of 'middle-aged, balding gay men.' Of the impenetrability of some cult shows after their first series, he said: 'You want to stick with the series; the characters have their own story arcs, but you can also dip in and watch individual episodes. There's a new guest character in most episodes, which keeps it fresh.' Tovey recently filmed a guest role as Henry Knight in the second series of the BBC's Sherlock.

The ONE Show has been cleared by Ofcom following complaints from a pets' manufacturing company. The European Collar Manufacturers Association and Petsafe approached the media regulator earlier this year, after an April edition of the BBC1 show included a section looking at electric shock collars for dogs. The two parties claimed the show had exaggerated, dubbed and edited components 'for dramatic effect,' creating an 'unfair impression of the effect of electric collars.' The segment had been prompted by the first prosecution of a dog owner in Wales for using the collars after they had been made illegal in the nation. The report included interviews with an RSPCA representative, who highlighted welfare concerns about their use, and a professional dog trainer who supported them as a training method. It also indicated that although still legal in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UK government was 'investigating whether there should be a UK-wide ban.' The ONE Show presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones discussed the collars and vet Joe Inglis was given a shock using one. Inglis described them as 'clearly cruel' and described the shock as 'quite something,' adding 'so you imagine that round the neck of an animal.' Both the manufacturer and the association complained that they had been treated unjustly or unfairly. However, the BBC defended itself saying the focus had been on the use of the collars by pet owners rather than the manufacture or sale of the items, and that neither body had been named. It also noted that it had requested an interview prior to broadcast, but that the complainants were unavailable. Ofcom found that the programme did not give an unfair impression of electric shock collars for dogs, that the programme makers had taken care not to omit material facts relating to the collars and that it had not been necessary to offer an opportunity for the complainants to respond.

An original episode of Star Trek, Patterns of Force, featuring Nazi uniforms was shown on German public TV for the first time on Friday. First broadcast in the US in February 1968, the episode finds the crew of the Enterprise visiting a Nazi-like planet in a critique of the ideology and the concentration of power. Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Doctor McCoy dress up as Nazis in the episode to infiltrate a right-wing regime believed to be headed by a former Federation historian. The use of Nazi uniforms - including Swastikas - and the discussion of Nazi society as the 'most efficient' meant that the episode was not broadcast on public TV in Germany during previous runs aired by ZDF and private channel Sat 1, The Local reports. It was dubbed into German and shown on pay-TV in 1996, but last week's broadcast marked its first airing by state broadcaster ZDFneo.

ITV has announced the cast for its forthcoming adaptation of Daphne du Maurier novel The Scapegoat. The one hundred-minute drama, set in 1952, follows two very different men who happen to look like identical twins, John Standing and Johnny Spence, who swap identities. Brothers & Sisters star Matthew Rhys will play the two lead roles, while Dame Eileen Atkins will portray Johnny's mother Lady Spence. Sheridan Smith, Jodhi May, Andrew Scott, Anton Lesser and Alice Orr Ewing also feature in the cast, while award-winning French actress Sylvie Testud will make a special appearance. 'We're delighted to be bringing The Scapegoat to ITV,' said the channel's director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie. 'It's a terrific, suspenseful script featuring characters with sinister motivations and dark secrets. We've wanted to adapt a Daphne du Maurier novel for some time and we're thrilled we now have this opportunity.' Producer Sarah Beardsall said: 'The main roles of identical "twins" - so different in personality and experience – are a gift for an actor, and we're hugely excited to have Matthew playing the parts.' The Scapegoat will head to cinemas following its screening on ITV, with Beardsall adding: 'We're confident the film will be well received by audiences of both small and big screen.' Beardsall and Dominic Minghella's production company Island Pictures will produce the one-off film, while Charles Sturridge will write and direct. Filming on The Scapegoat began this week in London.

Andy Parsons has admitted that some comedians are unhappy with the editing on Mock The Week. The stand-up and show regular told the Digital Spy website that some comics do not return because they are unhappy with the free-for-all format of the show. Asked if the panel show is too adversarial or 'male', Parsons said: 'There have been some fantastic female guests, but not all of them have wanted to come back. It's recorded for three hours and it gets boiled down to half an hour. Within that time you can feel that you've done some really good stuff but you'll never see it in the actual edit. So certain people have not been happy with how the edit's gone.' He added: 'It is the only panel show where you don't get asked individual questions. They'll never go, "Andy, what do you think?" There's always just a little comedy topic chucked up in the air and you've got six hungry comics going for it. And often you'll find there's seven hungry comics, because Dara will chuck the topic up in the air and in fact answer it himself - he's a very shrewd man!'

Channel Five is - finally - to axe its wretched and odious early evening entertainment news magazine show OK! TV, as part of the move to switch its news contract from Sky News back to ITN. The Richard Desmond-owned broadcaster has confirmed the Gruniad's story that ITN would be replacing Sky News as the Five News provider from early next year. Sky News-produced OK! TV, a spin-off from Channel Five owner Desmond's equally odious and worthless celebrity magazine, will be axed at the end of 2011 after less than nine months on air. The show, which was launched in February as a replacement for the channel's previous, wretched, teatime magazine show Live From Studio Five, also produced by Sky News, aimed to deliver a ratings boost to the broadcaster's early evening schedule. However, it was beset with problems from the beginning when Denise Van Outen, who was to have been one of the main presenters, walked out days just before the first broadcast perhaps sensing what an utter dog the programme was going to be. The last episode will be broadcast on 16 December. ITN is expected to take over the Five News production contract in February. Desmond and Sky have been holding on/off discussions over the past year to cancel the agreement – thought to be worth nine million smackers a year. ITN supplied Channel Five's news from 1997 until 2005, when Sky News won the contract. John Ryley, the head of Sky News, said in an e-mail to staff that ITN would take over the news contract in mid-to-late February. 'Northern & Shell have also confirmed that OK! TV will not continue and therefore this part of the contract will end with the last show to be broadcast on 16 December 2011,' he said, rather bluntly. ITN's deal with Channel Five will run for an initial period of three years. The operation will be based at Channel Five's headquarters with a new editor to be appointed, following the announcement of David Kermode last month that he is moving to ITV's Daybreak. 'We are delighted to be working with Channel Five again and we see the evolution of its news service as a major pillar of our output,' said John Hardie, chief executive of ITN. A spokeswoman for Sky said there were forty eight staff involved in the production of news and OK! TV. It is understood that ITN will take on almost all the news production staff. It is not clear how many staff worked on OK! TV or how they will be effected.

Jockey Willie Carson, actress Stefanie Powers and reality regular Jessica-Jane Clement (who?) are the latest (and I use this word quite wrongly) 'celebrities' linked to the upcoming series of I'm Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms For You Want)! Former A Question of Sport regular Carson is reported to have arrived for the ITV competition at Brisbane Airport in Australia yesterday, where another rumoured contestant, Lorraine Chase, was also spotted. Carson and Powers - best known for her role in 1980s drama Hart To Hart - are said to have been recruited along with veteran alleged celebrities such as Freddie Starr and Benidorm's Crissy Rock due to the previous success of more mature contestants. 'It's a tough environment out there but we reckon these old folk can handle the pressure,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'Some of our best characters - Kim Woodburn, Jan Leeming and Tony Blackburn - were all well over fifty. This is not a show where age is a barrier, quite the opposite.' Meanwhile, The Real Hustle's Clement is reported by the publication as having impressed I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... 'bosses' with her 'fiery and fearless' demeanour. 'Producers fell in love with her when they met her,' an alleged 'insider' allegedly claimed. 'She's feisty, sexy and not afraid of the Bushtucker Trials.'

ITV is understood to be in 'advanced discussions' with Netflix about an output deal, as the US video streaming service's imminent UK and Ireland launch fuels bidding wars for the digital rights to films and TV shows. Netflix is thought to be close to agreeing a deal that would allow it to exploit ITV's archive of shows. The US company is also understood to be in talks with Warner Bros in a bid to snatch subscription video-on-demand rights to the Hollywood studio's output from BSkyB, as it looks to beef up its UK film and TV offering. The US company is said to have held talks with Channel Four about an output agreement, although negotiations are not thought to be at such an advanced stage as with ITV. Netflix is also believed to be lining up deals with Lionsgate, which has rights to films including Kick Ass, Saw and Rambo, and Momentum Pictures, which has rights to films such as The King's Speech, the trilogy of releases based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels and Lost in Translation. On Monday Netflix announced its first deal in the UK and Ireland market, securing the exclusive rights to films from MGM. This will give Netflix access to titles including Peter Jackson's two-film The Hobbit series and the big-screen remake of 1980s police show 21 Jump Street. The knowledge that Netflix is UK-bound has sparked a race for digital rights among rivals – which include Amazon-owned LoveFilm, BSkyB and Google's YouTube – that is fuelling spiralling deal costs and marks a boom period for movie rights holders. 'While TV shows get massive viewing [on demand] the real money lies in striking deals with rights holders to films,' said one source. Netflix executives are understood to be conducting a round of negotiations to seal UK deals as the clock ticks on what the company has already admitted will be a tough launch into the UK and Ireland in early 2012. ITV and Netflix have agreed commercial terms and are down to the final stages of sorting out the legal details, according to one source. A second source said there have been 'extensive talks' between the two parties, but warned that a deal has not yet been struck and could still fall apart. 'For Netflix a deal would mean a huge marketing partner to help its UK ambitions and for ITV it fits with their strategy of building pay revenue,' said one observer, quoted by the Gruniad Morning Star. The last US company in the digital streaming sector that tried to break the UK market – Hulu, the joint venture with partners including News Corp, Disney and NBC Universal – failed in large part due to being unable to strike a deal with the UK's largest commercial broadcaster. ITV's proposed deal with Netflix is understood to focus on archive programming, not new output airing in the thirty-day catchup window on the broadcaster's online ITV Player. The broadcaster is set to announce some form of micropayment system for the ITV Player early in 2012. A deal with Netflix would help ITV to fulfil chief executive Adam Crozier's aim of reducing the broadcaster's dependence on TV advertising revenue. One source said Netflix has also held discussions with Channel Four although they are not believed to be as advanced as those with ITV, although if a deal does emerge it is expected to be sewn up before Christmas. A second source characterised the Channel Four talks as 'a few weeks down the track from where ITV is at.' Netflix is also understood to be trying to secure the first-play rights for Warner Bros subscription video-on-demand films. The rights to films from Warner Bros, one of the six big Hollywood studios and home to the Harry Potter and Batman franchises, are currently held by BSkyB but come up for renegotiation next year. LoveFilm also recently struck a deal with Studio Canal – formerly Optimum Releasing – the distribution company behind movies including Source Code, Attack the Block and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Smokin' Joe Frazier has died after a brief battle with liver cancer, his family said. Frazier had been receiving hospice care in Philadelphia after being diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago. The sixty seven-year-old was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali in 1971, but lost his subsequent two bouts with Ali. He held the world title between 1970 and 1973. Frazier won an Olympic gold medal in 1964 after going to the Games as a replacement for Buster Mathis, who had beaten him in the trials but could not attend the Games due to an injury. He won the heavyweight title in 1970, after Ali had been stripped of the championship in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, by defeating Jimmy Ellis in New York. Three years later he lost his crown to George Foreman. But the boxer is perhaps most widely-known for three fights with Ali, including the third, the epic Thrilla in Manila in 1975. The pair had something of a fraught relationship dating back to taunts Ali directed at his rival in the build-up to their famous bouts. But in recent years, they were reported to be on better terms. 'The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,' said Ali, sixty nine. 'My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.' Frazier retired in 1976 after being beaten for a second time by Foreman. He then made an unsuccessful comeback in 1981, fighting only once before ending his career for good. 'Goodnight Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend,' said Foreman on Twitter. British former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis told BBC 5Live: 'Without him, other boxing heroes wouldn't be great because they tested their talent against him. He definitely was legendary and he made a great contribution to boxing. I'm so sad for his family. Nobody likes to hear about great heroes passing on. It's a very sad day for boxing.' Frazier, one of thirteen children born to South Carolina sharecroppers, began boxing on his father's farm, where an accident involving the family hog left his arm crooked and therefore permanently cocked to deliver what would become his fabled left hook. At the age of fifteen, Frazier left Beaufort and eventually lived in Philadelphia, where he forged a reputation as one of the finest amateur boxers in the United States. He won gold at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo before turning professional the following year. Frazier reeled off nineteen straight wins and, when Ali was stripped of his titles in 1967 for refusing to fight in Viet' Nam, was matched against Buster Mathis for the New York State Athletic Commission's version of the world heavyweight crown. Mathis, who had beaten Frazier in the Olympic trials only to miss the Games because of injury, was stopped in eleven rounds. Then, in 1970, Frazier defeated Jimmy Ellis, who had won the World Boxing Association's post-Ali elimination tournament, to unify the division. The same year as Smokin' Joe became undisputed heavyweight champion, Ali had his boxing license reinstated - and in 1971 the two men met for what was billed 'The Fight of the Century.' It was the first time two undefeated fighters had contested the heavyweight championship of the world and consequently the bout became the most hyped in history. Both men were paid an unprecedented two and a half million dollars for their efforts, but the fight was about much more than money. The build-up brimmed with social symbolism, with the nonconformist Ali painted as a shining light of the anti-establishment movement and the no-frills Frazier put forward as an emblem of President Nixon's pro-War 'Silent Majority'. In addition, Frazier, who had helped Ali financially during the latter's exile from boxing, was repaid for his kindness with a string of hurtful barbs, including the accusation he was 'dumb,' 'ugly' and, most nastily of all, 'an Uncle Tom.' Frazier, the suffocating brawler to Ali's classical boxer, dropped his rival with his signature left hook on the way to winning a points decision after fifteen gruelling rounds at New York's Madison Square Garden. Frazier defended his title only twice in the next twenty two months before he lost his title and his unbeaten record to the formidable George Foreman, who floored him six times en route to a second-round stoppage in Jamaica. Frazier's rematch with Ali in 1974 (which Ali won relatively comfortably) was something of a disappointment after their first fight but a third match-up the following year, dubbed The Thrilla in Manila, eclipsed even their first bruising encounter in terms of sheer brutality and endurance. After another ill-tempered build-up, during which Ali, who had regained the world title from Foreman twelve months earlier in the Rumble in the Jungle, repeatedly called his opponent a gorilla, the two men went toe-to-toe. What followed was fourteen rounds of sheer bloody torture before the challenger's corner threw in the towel (legend has it that Ali's corner were on the verge of doing the same). By that time Frazier, who fought much of his career unable to see out of his left eye, was almost blind. In 1976, Frazier retired after being beaten by Foreman again, hanging up his gloves for a second time in 1981 following an ill-advised, one-fight comeback. His final professional record was thirty two wins (twenty seven by knock-out), four defeats (only Ali and Foreman ever beat him) and one draw. In retirement, Frazier helped guide son Marvis, one of eleven children, towards an unsuccessful world title shot against Larry Holmes. In 2001, his daughter Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde fought Ali's daughter Laila and lost on a decision. In recent years, Frazier's health began to fail and he fell on hard times. He was living above his eponymous gym in his adopted home-town before he was forced to sell it in 2009. He remained bitter towards Ali almost to the end, seemingly taking a degree of pleasure in the part he might have played in the onset of Ali's own health problems, but there were signs he had softened towards his old rival in later years. And Frazier was certainly on to something when he stated: 'Ali always said I would be nothing without him. But who would he have been without me?'

Emmy-winning screenwriter Hal Kanter, who wrote films including Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii, has died at ninety two. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, his daughter Donna told the Los Angeles Times. He wrote Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movie Road to Bali, released in 1952, and adapted Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo for the big screen. He also wrote scripts for the Academy Awards broadcasts, for which he won two of his three Emmy awards. Writing for the Academy Awards was his longest-running job, spanning more than thirty years. Kanter won another Emmy for The George Gobel Show in 1955. He also wrote and directed another Presley movie, Loving You, and wrote the screenplays for Bob Hope's Bachelor in Paradise and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis' Money from Home. Kanter was also behind the TV show Julia, which was broadcast between 1968 and 1971. It was the first sitcom to star an African American actress, Diahann Carroll, as a professional rather than a domestic. He is survived by his wife of seventy years, writer Doris Kanter, his three daughters and a granddaughter.

Frankenstein actors Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch are to compete against each other at this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards. The pair are both up for the best actor honour in Danny Boyle's National Theatre production. Playwright Richard Bean also receives two nods in the best play category for The Heretic and One Man, Two Guvnors. The awards will be hosted by Barry Humphries' alter ego Dame Edna Everage at London's Savoy Hotel on 20 November. Cumberbatch and Miller, who alternated between the two leading roles in Frankenstein, are joined by Bertie Carvel for Matilda the Musical and Charles Edwards for Much Ado About Nothing in the best actor category. Actress Sheridan Smith receives a nomination for best actress for a second year running for her performance as a barmaid-turned-countess in Terrence Rattigan's wartime drama, Flare Path. Last year Smith was in contention for her role in musical Legally Blonde. She will be up against Kristin Scott Thomas for the West End revival of Harold Pinters' Betrayal and Samantha Spiro for Chicken Soup With Barley. The best musical category sees nominations for Betty Blue Eyes, the National's London Road and Matilda, which features music written by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. Oscar nominee Mike Leigh will compete for best director for the National's production of Grief against Rob Ashford for Anna Christie, Dominic Cooke for Chicken Soup With Barley and Edward Hall for his Richard III and The Comedy of Errors double bill at the Hampstead Theatre. The Royal Court and National Theatre dominated the awards shortlist overall, with eight and nine nominations respectively.

A reported sighting of a lion delayed train services in West Yorkshire on Sunday. A call was placed to police at around 3.30pm by a woman who claimed that she had seen the animal near the railway line at Shepley, a small village near Huddersfield. A police helicopter and around twelve officers were dispatched to look for the lion. Passengers were also held on trains at Shepley station, according to National Rail Enquiries' official Twitter account. Inspector Carlton Young of West Yorkshire Police told the Press Association on Sunday evening: 'We've had unconfirmed reports of a lion or a lion cub in the area. We've had officers looking around. At the moment we've had nothing confirmed and we've not located anyone who is claiming to have lost an animal.' The team behind the National Rail Enquiries Twitter feed - which usually only broadcasts short status updates and responses to customer queries - spent most of the evening interacting with users, including a joke account set up in the name of Shepley Lion. They quipped that the lion 'does work hard to ensure there's no fare dodging,' and linked to a user's photograph of a person in a lion suit sitting on a train platform, joking: 'Someone has just sent me a photo of it for proof.' The search was called off at 5.15pm and no lion was discovered, although police did say that the operation would resume if there were any additional sightings of the creature.

Finally, you have to be impressed at the length WH Smiths will go to to sell books, dear blog reader.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we've been asked to speak politics to you today. A piece of pointed social comment from 1972 from Third World War.

No comments: