Friday, November 18, 2011

Week Forty Eight: Did You Have To Pay The Fine, You Were Dodging All The Time?

The first image from this year's Doctor Who sketch for Children In Need has been released. The picture shows Matt Smith in character as the Eleventh Doctor at the door of the TARDIS, with just his braces and his gold watch visible. It ties in with the announcement that the Eleventh Doctor's costume is being auctioned during the annual appeal. Smith said: 'I saw Terry Wogan on TV the other night, and thought, "Come on! Let's make more money!" So, hopefully we can raise a good amount.' The actor had previously commented that his favourite part of the costume is the boots, although he described The Doctor's tweed jacket and bow-tie as 'the most iconic' items. The winning bidder will also receive, in addition to Matt's clobber, a copy of Steven Moffat's script for the sketch which has been signed by Matt his very self. Also released this week - and, slightly more seriously for hardcore Doctor Who-nutters like yer actual Keith Telly Topping - is the first picture from the forthcoming Christmas special. That looks rather good, actually. Very, very very rather good.
Meanwhile, still on the subject of Children In Need, what on earth is Tulisa doing here to poor little Pudsey? Whatever it is, though, he doesn't seem to be objecting too much.
Amid all the differences between the first and the second series of The Killing, there is one change which may slip by unnoticed to many viewers: the language. According to the Gruniad Morning Star the BBC has requested that the swearing used in the subtitles on the popular Danish import be 'toned down.' A memo sent to Voice and Script International, the company doing the translation, stated: 'Going forward, the consensus here is that we should keep an eye on the number of expletives being added. Where there are a number of options of which word to use, err on the side of caution, and use the less strong word.' The memo followed a complaint from a viewer - who, seemingly, had nothing better to do with his or her time - that during the cult-hit first series, relatively inoffensive Scandinavian expletives had been rendered almost exclusively as the f-word. Simon Chilcott, editor of programme acquisitions at the BBC, who was instrumental in bring The Killing to the UK, confirmed that there were 'concerns' over the consistency of the subtitling. 'We did feel the need to rein them in if they are being a bit edgy; it was a reminder to keep it consistent with the character and to bear in mind the context of the original script, and of the series. If there are suddenly lots more uses of the f-word in one episode, we have to check it’s consistent with the script and the rest of the series.' A source at VSI explains the background to the complaint: 'When we looked back at the instances of the f-word in the twenty episodes of the first series, we found that seventy five per cent were in the original script and twenty five per cent had been added. The translator who worked on the series then said that where there was an expletive that could range in meaning from "goddammit" to "fuck", he had used the f-word as he felt that in the scenes it was meant to offend or insult another person, which he felt fitted the overall tone of the series.' The 'source' allegedly stressed that 'translation is subjective to some extent; you have to use language that best fits the tone of the programme' and gives examples of Danish words that can be rendered in several different ways in English. 'Svin in Danish translates directly as "swine" but also has a stronger meaning. In English you could use either "bastard" or "fucker". The Danish piss actually translates as "shit" or something stronger. The Old Norse word faen literally refers to the Devil but can now also mean "bastard", "shit" or "fuck."' Svin piss faen means bastard shit fucker. Apparently. Chilcott also points out some of the pitfalls of translated subtitles: 'Inevitably the translator puts some of their own voice into the subtitles. It's not just a straight translation; it's a rewrite. Often a direct translation would be awkward and stilted, and would not read well on screen. Subtitling can also be about précis. You can't have too much text.' He adds that the BBC's review process means they will always go back and correct any inaccuracies. So prick up your ears and keep your eyes peeled in the new series for how 'svin', 'piss' and 'faen' have been translated. Alison Graham, the Radio Times sour-faced and extremely annoying television editor, said: 'It's a shame, I've spent months priding myself on my ability to swear in Danish having carefully read the subtitles, then equally carefully listened to the dialogue to pick out the supposedly mucky words. And now it turns out I'm not saying "fuck", I’m saying "devil" or "bastard." What a bastard.'

There's a very good piece by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's producer Scunthorpe Steve Drayton on the BBC Tyne website on the forthcoming Jesting About II: 'What do you get if you cross Ian La Frenais, Bob Mortimer and Ross Noble with a room full of writers and performers? Comedy gold, that's what. When Jesting About was launched last year, looking for new comedy talent, the organisers - the BBC and Northern Film & Media - were overwhelmed by the response. More than two hundred scripts flew in. From these twenty four people across three strands were hand-picked to create work across multiple platforms: TV sitcom, radio and online. Comedy writer Ian La Frenais helped the team who were writing a treatment for a sitcom. They were a highly experienced lot, and used to being put through the grinder, so expected some tough love. They got that in spades. They also came away with a firm endorsement of their work and a very funny script. The online teams had a tough job. Create some comedy virals - short and sweet was the mantra for this. Both Ross Noble and Vic Reeves ended up supporting and working alongside some of the online film makers and original works were commissioned by BBC Comedy online.'

The X Factor final in December could earn ITV in excess of eighteen million smackers, with media agencies predicting that spots during the two live shows will cost more than two hundred grand each. Which will, no doubt, have ITV's executives getting their greed-on, big-style. Despite lower-than-usual ratings for the current series in the absence of Simon Cowell, The X Factor is still a massive draw for advertisers and major brands. Retailers Marks & Spencer and John Lewis have already debuted their crucial Christmas campaigns during the show - in the case of the latter with that utterly shite abomination featuring some bird massacring 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.' The X Factor live final is often referred to - by glakes - as the 'Superbowl of British television,' as spots during the breaks cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and are often used by firms to premiere prestige adverts. According to Campaign Live, media agencies are already being informed that advertising spots will cost fifty per cent more than their usual price for the live programmes on 10 and 11 December. However, the price of spots will depend on which break they are in and the position they run, along with whether they are part of existing deals with ITV. Despite the massive draw of The X Factor final, ITV predicted earlier in the week that its advert revenue would be down two per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2011, including a drop of up to ten per cent in December.

And, so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 25 November
I'll be you thought the current series of Would I Lie To You 8:30 BBC1 - had finished, didn't you? Well, it has, dear blog reader, but they've got a clip-show on tonight to help get you through the bone-sweating pain of withdrawal symptoms. Previously unseen footage from the fifth series of the comedy panel show hosted by Rob Brydon is featured in the 'very special episode.' Or, 'a clip show' as normal people call them. Team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack are joined by a plethora of celebrity guests including Mackenzie Crook, Lorraine Kelly, Dara O Briain, Chris Packham, Miranda Hart, Sarah Millican, Louie Spence and Bill Turnbull, who try to deceive their opponents with plausible lies and absurd facts about themselves.

One imagines that there will be plenty of material for the Have I Got News For You boys to work with in tonight's episode - 9:00 BBC1. The Leveson inquiry, the Eurozone crisis, Sepp Baltter being an odious knobcheese and Sinitta's appearance in I'm A 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 If You Want) being just a handful of the potential subjects for the panellists to get stuck into. Plus, of course, anything else that's occurred by then. Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens guest-hosts the long-running but still highly effective satirical current affairs quiz, with celebrity guests including comedian and actor Miles Jupp joining in the fun with regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

As with the previous two programmes, Charlie Higson, John Thomson and Adrian Edmondson will not be appearing on Qi - 10:00 BBC2. Which is, of course, devastatingly tragic. Or not, as the case may be. Instead Stephen Fry hosts the quiz with a difference, joined by comics Jack Dee, Chris Addison, Rich Hall and regular panellist Alan Davies. He asks questions on the subject of illumination, and awards points for the most interesting answers. And millions will watch despite the shitty rancour of a few other comedians who are, seemingly, pissed off that they never get invited to the party. Except, of course, that Charlie Higson occasionally does. So, double shame on him for being such a whinging gobshite. The XL edition will be on tomorrow at 9:15 on Beeb2.

Prince: A Purple Reign - 9:00 BBC4 - is, as you might expect, a profile of the enigmatic American musician, the wee man in purple trousers who rose to fame in the 1980s with hits including '1999', 'Kiss' and 'Raspberry Beret'. As well as achieving significant commercial success around the world, the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince won critical acclaim for his adventurous, genre-blurring albums, such as Sign 'O' the Times and Around the World In A Day - while also making headlines for his sexually explicit lyrics and stage shows, as well as his legal battle to retain control of his name and music. Featuring contributions by guitarist Dez Dickerson, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, soul singer Beverley Knight and Paisley Park label president Alan Leeds. The film Purple Rain follows.

Saturday 26 November
Bored with The X Factor? All danced out with Strictly? Decided not to bother anymore with Merlin since Tony Head left the cast? Looking for something to watch on Saturday night which doesn't involve a voting element and cruel and unnecessary meanness? How about Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters - 8:15 Channel Four? In which, old Baldrick his very self explores the history of belief, superstition and religious experience in Britain. He begins by focusing on the human fascination with and terror of dead bodies, examining why people in the past thought they could rise from the grave to cause havoc among the living. It was also believed that even in death a body retained some vital force. Why did they believe this? What powers did they believe the dead had? And what did they do about it? Tony's journey takes him on a fascinating and sometimes humorous tour of some of the darkest recesses of the ancient mind, and brings him face to face with a plague-breathing zombie, a dead body that seems alive three weeks after it died, and the English monarchs who ate the bodies of their subjects.

There's one, genuinely, must-see moment on TV tonight is CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 9:15 Channel Five. Not because this is a new episode nor nothing (it was actually first broadcast around this time last year) but, for the simple - and very satisfying - reason that, in the episode, the been and done and gone and killed Justin Bieber. And, let's face it, that's always something worth seeing. A brush with death for Nick (the excellent George Eds) places the team on another collision course with the teenage bomber Jason McCann (played by guest-star The Biebster who, almost unbelievably, is actually rather good in the two episodes he's in), whose legal guardian is suspected of being the leader of an extremist terror cell. Meanwhile, Langston (Larry Fishburne going so far over the top he's down the other side) gives evidence for the prosecution at Nate Haskell's trial. A good one, this!

In the latest episode of Pan Am - 10:00 BBC2 - Laura tries to retrieve her engagement ring after pawning it, only to find it has already been sold. Meanwhile, Kate is assigned to obtain the fingerprints of a KGB spy, and Dean flirts with a glamorous woman who charms her way into the cockpit - but the pilot is unaware she is the mistress of the airline's president. From what I've seen of it so far, it's a decent enough drama on the evidence of the first two episodes - a bit frothy and rom-com in places although handsomely made and with stunning period details. The main reason I mention it tonight is a) the dearth of other good stuff on any of the sides (witness the recommendation of a fourteen month old episode of CSI for the simple reason that an annoying teenage pop star gets the Bonnie and Clyde treatment in it) but, mainly, b) so that I can source an image of the divine Karine Vanasse. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is a man of jolly simple tastes, dear blog reader. Episode six follows immediately afterwards.

If you didn't see it on any of the previous four occasions on which it was shown, Fry and Laurie Reunited - 9:00 Dave - is probably worthy of a smidgen of your time. Specially filmed during a break in their respective massively busy schedules, former colleagues Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie discuss their friendship and array of comedy collaborations. In an amusing and witty way, of course. In what was, quite frankly, one of the single most important moments in the history of Western Civilisation, Stephen John Fry and James Hugh Calum Laurie OBE reunited for a ninety minute TV special to mark the thirtieth anniversary of their partnership. For younger dear blog readers who may well be wondering what Doctor House could possibly have to do with that nice man who hosts Qi, makes all those programmes about endangered species and turns up occasionally as Gordon Gordon in Bones, a short history lesson. The pair first met amidst the dreaming spires of Cambridge in the autumn of 1980. One of them went on to become a world class actor, writer, best-selling author and renowned wit. The other one's Stephen Fry. The programme sees the former double act reminisce about their friendship, careers and sketches. It was made to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their first meeting, at Cambridge University introduced by their mutual friend Emma Thompson. Throughout the programme, Stephen and Hugh reveal some fascinating insights into their friendship, and take a look back at their work together - and apart - interspersed with clips from their careers. Filming reveals some genuine insights into the duo: Fry and Laurie have completely different memories about where they first met for instance.

Sunday 27 November
The Secret Millionaire - 9:00 Channel Four - goes one better than its usual conceit of placing a successful business person in an impoverished environment to find deserving cases to highlight and give a bit of coin too. Tonight, somebody from the shallow and utterly preposterous world of television gets the gig! Former ITV chief executive Charles Allen goes undercover in Leeds in search of worthy causes to support. He volunteers with paint recycling charity Seagulls, youth arts organisation Gipton Together and Simon on the Streets, a group which provides help to homeless people. He also spends a night sleeping rough on the city's streets.

Elsewhere, it's the usual miserable Sunday night in November bollocks. The X Factor, I'm A 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 If You Want), Strictly ... if you're looking some something without a voting element, you're going to be pushed into some dark corners of the TV landscape. I'd recommend The Cube - 7:00 ITV - but ... I'm not gonna.
Monday 28 November
Panorama continues its seemingly self-appointed mission to make everybody in this country thoroughly miserable about every single aspect of life. It's not that I don't admire their brilliant record for investigative journalism or getting to the truth of issues that many would really rather they didn't but, just once in a while, can't we have an episode that features some good news? Life Not Quite As Shit As You Might Think - Panorama tells it like it is. Anyway, in Who's Getting Rich on Your Money? - 8:30 BBC1 - John Ware investigates Private Finance Initiatives, where companies build new schools and hospitals and lease them back to the Government. He uncovers evidence that their value for money to taxpayers may have been misrepresented and asks why the coalition has signed so many PFI deals when David Cameron and Nick Clegg questioned the practice while in opposition.

The British Woman on Death Row - 8:00 Channel Four - features the story of Linda Carty, a British grandmother and former teacher who is currently awaiting execution by lethal injection in Texas. Found guilty of being the mastermind behind the abduction of a three-day old baby boy and murder of his mother, she has always denied any involvement in the crime - but circumstantial evidence, together with testimony from the gang who carried it out, led to her conviction in 2002.

Charley Boorman's Extreme Frontiers - 9:00 Channel Five - sees the adventurer travels across Canada on his motorbike. Beginning at the most easterly point of Newfoundland, where he goes iceberg-hunting in the rough seas of the Atlantic. Charley also learns the skills of lobster-trawling and joins a pack of daredevil dirtbike riders on a trip through a dense and dangerous forest. But the real drama comes when he dives to a shipwreck in Lake Huron and ends up suffering a panic attack.

And finally, for what's been yet another thoroughly miserable top telly night, there's always MasterChef: The Professionals - 8:30 BBC2. A new set of chefs begins the last of the weekly heats. The contestants are given fifty minutes to prepare a meal from six predetermined ingredients - strawberries, white chocolate, an aubergine, tofu, basil and mushrooms. The hopefuls have to impress judges Gregg Wallace and sour-faced dream-killer Monica Galetti if they are to stand a chance of cooking for Michel Roux Jr.
Tuesday 29 November
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping rather likes the sound of Money - 9:00 BBC2. Which, apart from being a very good song by Pink Floyd is, also, his favourite subject. When he can get a hold of any. Which, isn't often. Anyway, in the first of this three part series, a question is asked. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Well, Chris Tarrant, obviously, but ... Hang on, let's start again. These are three programmes focusing on aspects of money, beginning with the extraordinary rise of wealth creation gurus, who teach others how to become rich. The practice developed in America about fifteen years ago, and has now spread worldwide, with coaches writing books, releasing DVDs and hosting hotel seminars attended by devoted followers. The film features American wealth gurus Robert Kiyosaki and T Harv Eker, who preach financial freedom through the cultivation of a 'millionaire mind', and asks whether any of their British disciples have become rich as a result of their methods.

America on a Plate: The Story of the Diner - 9:00 BBC4 sees Stephen Smith exploring the importance of diners in Twentieth Century American culture, arguing they are its last surviving link with the mentality of the frontier - a place where strangers are thrown together and anything can happen. He travels across the country to visit some of the most famous establishments and analyse their roles in works of art including Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks and Michael Mann's film Heat.

In the latest episode of Death in Paradise - 9:00 BBC1 - Richard is struck down with a tropical disease (well, that's been coming for the last five episodes) and Camille is in Paris. So, when a diver's body is found in shallow waters, with peculiar markings on his chest, Dwayne and Fidel have to solve this tricky case themselves. To add to their problems, a holidaying British cop pokes her nose in where it isn't want - and she is even more annoying and out of her depth than the out-of-sorts Detective Inspector. Caribbean crime drama, starring Danny John-Jules, Gary Carr and Ben Miller, with guest appearances this week from Shirley Henderson and Lisa Faulkner.

Or, alternatively, there's Coronation Street - 8:00 ITV. In which, Kylie pins Becky to the cafe wall and accuses her of kidnapping Max, before the search for him is stepped up. Nick and Eva huddle together in the warehouse as a security guard closes in, and Amber drops her plans with Sophie in favour of seeing a uni friend. Owen suggests tearing down the Windasses' shed after Faye has an accident.

Wednesday 30 November
There's bound to be a severe paucity of larfs on That's Britain! - 7:30 BBC1 - as it features sour and bitter miserable old fruit Adrian Edmondson, a man who has seemingly developed a nasty condition - constipation of the funny. Cheer up, Ade, matey, it might never happen. Although, hopefully, it will. Whatever it is. Anyway, taking time off from his series of latest celebrity-led travelogue nonsense on ITV, Ade investigates the National Grid. And they say there's no humour left of British TV. Elsewhere Grainne Seoige tackles the problem of overcrowded trains and Stephen K Amos tries to make milkmen a common sight once more. Stanley Johnson finds more good Samaritans from the general public, the worst roadworks in Britain are revealed and the programme celebrates the people who ensure cashpoints always contain money. Banal, characterless rubbish. Avoid like the plague.

Ade will probably be particularly annoyed that tonight also sees the first of a repeat run on some selected Mock The Week episodes. Mock the Week Again - 10:00 BBC2 - features an episode first shown in 2010. The great Milton Jones, the average although occasionally amusing Patrick Kielty and the really very dreadfully unfunny Mark Watson join regular panellists Hugh Dennis, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons to offer opinions on world events. well, world events of that particular week almost two years ago, anyway. No-longer-topical comedy quiz, hosted by Dara O Briain. And, no Ade Edmondson. Which is good.

In Frozen Planet - 9:00 BBC1 - David Attenborough explores the life and work of people in the polar regions, including the residents of Norilsk in Siberia, the coldest city on Earth. He also discovers how the Danish armed forces maintain their country's claim to Greenland's natural resources by mounting a two thousand-mile dog sled patrol during the winter, and finds out how a research base at the South Pole is able to cope with being cut off from the outside world for six months at a time.

A repeat, but a good one - and certainly preferable to a lot of the utter crud that's masquerading as 'entertainment' tonight - is Boom Bang a Bang: Fifty Years of Eurovision - 9:00 Watch. Terry Wogan looks back on the best and worst of the music competition as he prepares for the fiftieth contest on Saturday. Tracing its history back to the UK's first entry in 1957, he considers the politics behind the voting, and reveals the effect of changes in television technology over the five decades. 2006 contender Daz Sampson also performs his entry, 'Teenage Life.' Though why, no one is too sure.

Thursday 1 December
Always rewarding, Rev continues - 9:00 BBC2. The church school is up for religious inspection and headmistress Ellie is sure they will pass will flying colours, thanks to inspirational new teacher Mr Feld. The only problem is, he's an atheist. Which is a bit of a drawback. Adam is understandably troubled, but he has another battle on his hands - he has signed up for an inter-faith football tournament, but St Saviour's is not exactly overrun with goal-scoring talent.

In the latest episode of Top of the Pops: 1976 - 7:30 BBC4 - a man who was then, simply, James Savile OBE, introduces an edition from 24 November 1976, which saw depressingly soft rock band Chicago top the charts for a third week with the limp ballad 'If You Leave Me Now.' The show also features performances by The Kursaal Flyers (and little do they know this will be their only hit), Elton John, Billy Ocean and Cliff Richard, as well as a routine by dance troupe Legs & Co.

From TV history to a TV non-entity. It's All About Amy - 10:00 Channel Five - is possibly the most thoroughly worthless conceit in the sadly bulging sub-genre of so-called-celebrity-vanity-projects. This is, tragically, a documentary following the reality TV regular Amy Childs as she 'makes plans to open her own beauty salon and enjoys the trappings of her celebrity lifestyle.' Why anybody would actually want to follow reality TV regular Amy Childs as she 'makes plans to open her own beauty salon and enjoys the trappings of her celebrity lifestyle' is another matter entire. And probably one that deserves an eight-part TV documentary all of its own. But, in the meanwhile we're stuck with this ... thing. As the series begins, the former The Only Way Is Essex person leaves the Celebrity Big Brother house and is thrust into a world of paparazzi, TV appearances and photoshoots, meeting fellow worthless non-entity Kerry Katona and 'old friend' Brian Belo along the way. Why anybody with an ounce of dignity or self-respect would want to watch such a horrorshow is, again, probably a question worth asking. In some considerable depth.

If you don't fancy that - and Christ alone knows why you should - then you may prefer the latest episode of House - 10:00 Sky1. In The Perils of Paranoia, there are surprises in store when the team treats a troubled prosecutor, and Wilson is convinced that House is hiding something. Meanwhile, Park starts to come out of her shell.

And so to the news. Yer Keith Telly Topping was genuinely delighted earlier this week to stumble upon a piece in the Yorkshire Post from earlier in the year which confirmed that the delightful and inspirational Hannah Hauxwell is still alive and well and living in Cotherstone in County Durham. For those younger dear blog readers who don't remember Hannah, she was something of a TV regular during the 1970s and 80s. It all began with an article in the Post in 1970. Under the headline How To Be Happy On One Hundred And Seventy Pounds A Year, it told of Hannah's daily lone struggle against the harsh elements at her Dales farm in Baldersdale and led to her starring role in the award-winning Yorkshire Television documentary Too Long A Winter in 1973, part of their Real Lives strand. Hannah had never had many visitors, let alone a camera crew, but she turned out to be a natural on television. Then in her forties, unmarried and with apparently little interest in the changing fashions of the time, she seemed to belong to a different age. Her farm had neither electricity nor running water, something many readers may find difficult to believe in 2011 - this was, after all, only forty years ago. It was undoubtedly a harsh existence, a constant battle against poverty and hardship, but Hannah's innocent, yet common-sense observations, honesty, dignity and humour as she braved blizzards and ice to ensure that her animals were fed and watered made her an instant hit. Yorkshire TV's phone lines were, reportedly, jammed for three days after the initial broadcast with viewers wanting to find out more about Hannah and many wishing to help her in any way they could. Over the next twenty years, her life was transformed. A local factory raised money to fund getting electricity to Low Birk Hatt Farm, and she continued to receive thousands of letters and generous donations from well-wishers around the world. Coach trips and autograph hunters began to descend and the local branch of Woolworths started selling postcards with her picture on. The farm had always been a family affair, but following the deaths of her parents and uncle, Hannah had been left in charge and alone aged just thirty four. She never once complained that her bath tub was a cow pail and her bread was delivered to a gate three fields away. That was just the way life was. Almost two decades after Too Long A Winter, the same TV crew returned to her farm to catch up with Hannah. The second documentary, A Winter Too Many, saw that Hannah had a little more money, which she had invested in a few more cows. The crew followed her to London where she was the guest of honour at a Women of the Year gala. But, out of the spotlight, her back-breaking work on the farm continued and each winter it became harder for her to endure. With her health and strength slowly failing, she had to make a heart-rending decision: to sell her family farm and the animals she adored and move into a cottage in a nearby village. Subsequently, Barry Cockcroft who had directed the two documentaries also took Hannah around Europe for a further series Hannah Hauxwell: Innocent Abroad. On a grand tour of Europe, reminiscent of Victorian ladies, Hannah visited France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy in her naive but captivating style. The series proved so popular it was followed by another trip, this time to the USA in 1993. Cockcroft, who was the driving force behind her time in the public eye, died in 2001. 'I was lucky he came, Mr Cockcroft, and I was lucky that he was who he was,' she says, admitting that she would be wary of working with today's TV executives. 'There aren't people of his class. The media isn't what it was,' she says. In 2008 he story was retold in Thirty Years On, which saw Hannah, in retirement, living in much more comfortable conditions. It was truly excellent, inspirational and heartwarming stuff. Well, as you can see from the article, Hannah is still active into her eighty fifth year. 'She's still able to get out with the aid of two walking sticks,' notes Peter McNerney of the Post. 'Friends had taken her out for a picnic just a few days earlier. She had a bad fall ten years ago, breaking her hip, and she's been troubled recently by back ache, but with characteristic cheerfulness she says, "the friends I've made make me glad to be alive." This is her favourite time of year. Winter is over and spring has sprung. "The winters are too long now," she says with a twinkle in her eye, adding somewhat ironically for someone who never seemed to be troubled by minus temperatures, that she's "not a winter person." Short shrift from Hannah for the season that gave the spinster her season in the sun.'

And so, from a lady of courage, dignity and class to some people of no earthly worth whatsoever.
News International reportedly wants a high court judge to strike out demands from phone-hacking victims for high-value exemplary damages in a case conference due to be heard in London on Friday. Olswang, the Murdoch-owned publisher's new lawyers, wants Mr Justice Vos to rule that the company should not be liable for punitive fines in any of the cluster of civil actions ranged against it. News International is the defendant in more than sixty phone-hacking-related civil actions, including cases brought by Sheila Henry, the mother of 7/7 victim Christian Small, actor Steve Coogan and football agent Sky Andrew. Trials in a handful of 'lead actions' are expected to be conducted next year, with the intention of setting a benchmark for compensation cases in the future. Exemplary damages are payments so large that they are intended not as compensation to the victim but to deter the publisher from doing something similar again. News International is not disputing that it could be liable to pay a lower level of compensatory damages, in cases where it has admitted liability or a judge had ruled against it. In October, News International reached a two million quid settlement with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone had been targeted by the Scum of the World. Rupert Murdoch also made a personal donation of one million quid to charities nominated by the family. Earlier this year, Sienna Miller agreed to a one hundred thousand smackers in compensation after the Scum of the World accepted unconditional liability for her phone hacking claims, which had been considered a high level of payout before the Dowler settlement was announced.

When sixty nine-year-old judge Len Goodman called his Strictly Come Dancing colleague, the bisexual Craig Revel Horwood, 'a silly little sod' on Saturday's show, it prompted a stern telling-off from host Bruce Forsyth. There then reportedly followed more than six hundred viewer complaints and a swift, if grudging, apology from Goodman himself. One viewer described the insult as 'completely unacceptable.' But is it? The term certainly doesn't, as one online commenter suggested, mean simply 'a bit of soil.' Or rather, it can, as in the hymn Good King Wenceslas ('Heat was in the very sod'), but not in the context in which Goodman used it. Sod as an insult appears in the OED as an abbreviation of 'sodomite', and its first definition is certainly pejorative: 'One who practises or commits sodomy.' But its secondary use isn't inherently homophobic, and can even be a term of endearment, 'Used as a vulgar term of abuse for (usu.) a male person. Also with weakened force, as the equivalent of "fellow", "chap". Affectionately or in commiseration.' In fact, sod has several non-pejorative uses. Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English cites: 'Good on yer, Martha, yer old sod!' in a book from 1962, while urbandictionary.com's first entry on the word states: 'The meaning "sodomite" is a little old-fashioned. More typically it's used as a softer form of "fool", "idiot", or "bastard."' So, no apology necessary really. Goodman wasn't being homophobic. He was just being a daft old sod. What's slightly more worrying is that six hundred people are also, it would seem, daft old sods as well.

Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis have reportedly threatened to quit Dragons' Den over the show's proposed move to Manchester. According to fellow investor Duncan Bannatyne, the tycoons have opposed plans to film the business programme's tenth series at the new BBC headquarters in Salford Quays. However, Bannatyne has told the Sun that he is still lobbying for Dragons' Den to relocate from London despite his colleagues' objections. 'We are just debating whether or not we should film in Manchester or down in London,' he revealed. 'At the moment it's in London. But I'd love it to be filmed up here. I'd be able to get home easier. I'm pushing for it - but Peter and Theo are pulling.' Production on the next series of Dragons' Den is set to begin over Christmas. Jones has been part of the show since its first series in 2005, while Paphitis joined for the second season.

South Riding and Primeval actor Douglas Henshall is to portray award-winning journalist Sean Langan in factual drama Hotel Taliban. The story brings to screens the drama of Langan's kidnapping by the Taliban in 2008. The BBC describes the production as a 'gripping and intense single drama' which has been co-written by Norman Hull and Sean Langan. Richard Klein, BBC4's controller, said: 'It's a mad, mad, mad world - that's the sentiment I got when Sean Langan told me of his astonishing three-and-a-half month kidnapping by the Taliban. Not just terrifying, though it truly was, but also absurd, moving and funny: Sean's story is really a story of our times, how a journalist obsessed with getting his story finds himself instead locked in a game of words with captors who have as far removed a view of the Western world as Martians. And yet what Sean discovered was that these people were in many ways just like him. Hotel Taliban tells a gripping, terrifying and thrilling story that has a happy ending, thank goodness.' Hotel Taliban has already started production for broadcast on BBC3 in 2012, and will dramatise the events as told in Sean's diaries, as well as his testimony to the film producers in which he described the ordeal he and his interpreter Sami went through during their three-and-a-half months in captivity. The cast include EastEnders' Jimi Mistry as Sami, Ramon Tikaram as Mr C and New Tricks' Kate Ashfield as Anabel Langan.

Matt Baker is closing in on the final leg of his Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge, which has involved The ONE Show presenter cycling from Edinburgh to London. Baker, who has already raised over half a million smackers with his efforts, told the Digital Spy website today that the task is physically taking its toll on his knees and bottom. 'I've got a few knee sores, which is pretty horrendous and my backside is so sore I can't even describe it,' said Baker.

Almost half of British people believe that the lack of legitimate access to new television shows from other countries is fuelling online piracy, new research has revealed. The survey, conducted by Red Bee Media as part of its Tomorrow Calling research programme, found that forty six per cent of respondents feel that illegal downloading would be 'greatly reduced' if it was possible to pay to watch overseas TV series without having to wait for a UK release date. More than half of people surveyed said that television shows should be released at the same time all over the world, with fifty seven per cent thinking the same for films. British consumers are prepared to pay to watch content, with sixty three per cent saying they will spend the same on television in the future, but twenty per cent intending to spend more. The timing of hit new TV shows, particularly those from the US, is often cited as a driver for piracy, with consumers seeking illegal ways to watch programmes instead of waiting for them to become available legitimately. A number of measures have been taken to tackle the problem, such as Sky1 showing the final ever episode of Lost in May 2010 at the same time as the US. Red Bee Media's research showed that British TV and film viewers are frustrated by a lack of accessibility to content, with seventy one per cent wanting the freedom to choose what they watch and when they want to watch it. Channel brands such as ITV and Channel Four continue to play an important role for viewers, but thirty nine per cent of UK consumers feel that technology and content providers could do a better job than existing TV channels. Almost a third of consumers would be interested in taking up content packages on Internet-connected TV platforms such as Sony and Samsung if they could choose to only receive the TV channels and content they want, and not pay for those they don't. Also, thirty three per cent of pay-TV subscribers in the UK would be prepared to downgrade or cancel their subscriptions if they could find a cheaper way to watch movies, while thirty three per cent would do so to watch TV without advertising. The survey further indicated that forty five per cent of people want access to all back episodes of their favourite shows and thirty nine per cent watch the catch-up TV 'window' extended from seven days to six months. 'Viewers are more engaged with TV and movies than ever before and it is clear that our industry will continue to experience an unprecedented level of change,' said Bill Patrizio, the chief executive of Red Bee Media. 'The results show that viewers are increasingly savvy about what they watch and how and when they watch it and they are ever more cynical about current offers when their preference is for a more immediate, selective and flexible experience. This research provokes us to listen closely to what tomorrow's consumer has to say and ask ourselves whether or not their expectations are driving our industry's innovation agenda.'

A movie about the break-up of an Iranian marriage has been named the winner of this year's BBC4 World Cinema Awards. Director Asghar Farhadi of A Separation was unable to attend the ceremony, which took place in London. Collecting the prize, executive producer Negar Eskandarfar said he was pleased the movie had been 'welcomed internationally.' French actress Isabelle Huppert won the world cinema achievement award. The actress, who is best known for her role in 2001 film, The Piano Teacher, said she was 'deeply touched' to collect the prize. A Separation was chosen from a shortlist of five by a panel of judges comprising of film director David Hare, documentary filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, Oscar-winning documentary producer John Battsek and Booker Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. The film, which stars Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami, became the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. The award ceremony, which was hosted by Jonathan Ross, will be broadcast on BBC4 on 20 November. Last year Oscar-nominated drama The White Ribbon was named the winner of the BBC4 World Cinema award.

Police in the US have reopened an inquiry into the death of Natalie Wood, who drowned in 1981. Los Angeles police said that they had received 'new information' relating to the case, but have not given details. Wood was found dead during a boat trip off the coast of California and her death was ruled to have been an accident at the time. She was forty three. Best known for her roles in West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause, she was nominated for an Oscar three times. Wood had been partying with her husband, Robert Wagner, and the actor Christopher Walken the night before her death, and the coroner ruled that she had been drinking and may have slipped trying to board the dinghy. A news conference on Friday is expected to shed further light on the information that led Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to reopen the case. 'Recently sheriff's homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning,' the department said. 'Due to the additional information, Sheriff's Homicide Bureau has decided to take another look at the case.' Wood's body was found floating in a Catalina Island cove. Police reports say she was found wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a jacket. The post-mortem report said Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as a facial abrasion on her left cheek. But questions over the exact circumstances her death have persisted for thirty years. Family members have previously asked for authorities to re-examine the original findings. The Los Angeles Times cited County Sheriff Lee Baca as saying detectives wanted to talk to the captain of the yacht, the Splendour, about comments around the thirtieth anniversary of Wood's death. The Times also reported allegations that the captain had 'remembered new facts' about the incident. Natalie Wood's sister, Lana Wood, told CNN last year that she believed her sister drowned soon after an argument with Robert Wagner on the deck of the yacht. 'I just want the truth to come out, the real story,' she said. And the former captain, Dennis Davern, has published a book entitled Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, alleging the actress died after a fight with her husband. In his own book Pieces of My Heart, Wagner acknowledged that there had been a fight with Wood, before she had disappeared. In a statement issued by his publicist, Wagner's family said they supported the reopening of the inquiry and trusted the detectives would 'evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the thirty year anniversary of her tragic death.' Wood was the child of Russian immigrant parents in San Francisco, originally named Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. As a child, she featured in films like Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street and The Ghost and Mrs Muir. She was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar her role in Rebel Without a Cause, and for best actress in Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger.

Scientists - seemingly with nothing better to do with their time - have named 'the toast sandwich' as the UK's cheapest meal. Costing seven and a half pence, The Royal Society of Chemistry is offering two hundred pounds to anybody who can prove there is a more cost-effective alternative. Describing the recipe, Doctor John Emsley is quoted by BBC News as saying: 'You simply put a piece of dry toast between two slices of bread and butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I've tried it and it's surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling. I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories (three hundred and thirty) as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else.' So, to get this into perspective, you spent several years at university for this, John? The simple recipe, first promoted by Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton, turns one hundred and fifty years old next month. Emsley added: 'Of course, when we finally emerge from these dark days we will seek something more celebratory from Mrs Beeton's pantheon of rich recipes to welcome back the good times.'

And finally, dear blog reader, we come to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which features a genuine twenty four carat Twenty First Century classic from The Zutons. Apparently there was a cover version of it a couple of years later but I've not come across that one, personally.

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