Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Turkeys Voting For Christmas

Top comedy comment of the week, dear blog reader, comes from Daily Scum Mail reader Martin, Ashford: 'Doctor Who, utter cobblers and written by left-wing idiots.' Those were the thoughts of Dail Scum Mail reader Martin, Ashford, there dear blog reader. Bet you're wondering just how you managed to get this far through life without acquiring as much wisdom as Daily Scum Mail reader Martin, Ashford, eh?
Strictly Come Dancing's Alex Jones has reportedly undergone 'daily physiotherapy sessions' to combat a back issue 'caused by her ample bosom.' This is all according to the Sun, of course. I mean, you knew that the second that her tits became the story, didn't you? The ONE Show host has, the tabloid claims, 'been prescribed painkillers and will be wearing outfits with sports bras sewn inside' for the remainder of her time on the BBC contest. 'Alex has got a gorgeous figure but big boobs do cause back ache,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'Her back is really bad at the moment. She's been suffering for a few weeks now but she is embarrassed and doesn't want the sympathy vote.' Which is, presumably, why this story appeared on the morning of the Strictly semi-final? Jones last week revealed that she was 'in absolute agony' after bruising her ribs during rehearsals with partner James Jordan. That wasn't an appeal for a sympathy vote either. Oh no, very hot water. Oddly, whenever yer actual Keith Telly Topping sees Alex Jones he tends to think 'pain in the neck' first.

There's an interesting, if rather simplistic, take on the Strictly versus X Factor ratings clash by the Torygraph's Michael Hogan this week. 'Strictly got its casting spot-on this year. It landed a trio of big characters in Russell Grant (hilariously camp), Nancy Dell'Olio (deluded bad dancer) and Robbie Savage (all hip gyration and humble gratitude). Strictly's themed nights have worked well, while The X Factor's have seemed tenuous and tacked-on. Perhaps there's something about Strictly that suits this time of austerity, too. It has old-fashioned charm, an innocent have-a-go feel. The X Factor, by contrast, is brashly commercial, crammed with copious ad breaks and constantly exhorting us to call this number, text that and download the other. If we're cutting back, why line Simon Cowell's already bulging pockets?' Yeah. Hard to argue with a lot of that. In fact, it seems that everybody is suddenly Strictly's bestest friend in all the land at the moment. Even the traditionally BBC-loathing lice at the Daily Scum Mail are writing broadly supportive pieces about it. Albeit one which is, seemingly, obsessed with how much money the judges are making: 'Strictly Come Dancing has trounced The X Factor in the weekend TV ratings war. Without Simon Cowell, viewing figures for ITV's singing contest have fallen by three million since last year. But it's not just BBC producers who are delighted with Strictly's success. The show's judges - once relative unknowns - also have much to celebrate. Len Goodman recently admitted he makes "pots of money" from his weekly trek to Los Angeles - where he's head judge on Dancing With The Stars - and back to London to perform the same role on Strictly.' For pure comedy, though, once again, I refer dear blog readers to the comments section afterwards. And, particularly, to those of one Billy Britain, Ingerland, who states: 'I earn more money than all of them combined.' Which is jolly impressive. Especially considering the handicap that you can't spell the word 'England', William. So, well done, mate. Jolly well done.

So, anyway, to Saturday night's overnight ratings this week where, once again, Strictly emerged slightly ahead of X Factor. Just minutes after the Daily Record had confidently predicted that 'sixteen million viewers' (a figure which they seemed to have plucked out of thin air) would have watched The X Factor final on Saturday, initial figures - released by the ITV press office - show that The X Factor was watched by an average of 10.6m viewers on ITV and ITV HD rising to 10.9m when additional ITV+1 viewers were taken into account. The show's peak audience was 12.1m. For the fourth Saturday in five weeks, Strictly was the the most watched show of the night across all channels, averaging almost exactly eleven million viewers. Strictly's peak audience of 12.3m (a forty seven and a half per cent audience share) was also the highest of the day. It occurred round about the time that Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff were performing their astoundingly melodramatic Argentine Tango and getting maximum marks from all the judges. Including Bruno's declaration that it was 'like watching Death By Kristina' and Craig's 'I'd put that woman on an assault charge!' Back to the ratings, kids, and incidentally, it's probably worth noting that The X Factor's figure of 10.9m is the lowest average for an X Factor final show since 2006 - when the overnight for the final was 10.2m. I mean, let's get this into some context, var nigh eleven million viewers for a TV show in this day and age is still a brilliant performance, no matter what anyone says. But, undeniably, by The X Factor's own previously sky-high standards, it's a shade disappointing - particularly for a final. Sam Hodges, the BBC's Head of Vision also tweeted that BBC1 was 'the most watched channel both in all hours and in peak (18.00 - 22.30)' helped by good figures for Merlin (5.5m) and the final Bristol-based episode of Casualty (4.3m) after twenty six years of production in the South West. Which they celebrated with a gorgeous final shot of Jay and Ruth driving across the Clifton Bridge and into the sunset as Georgia Turner and Ben Taylor left the show. When the popular medical drama returns, in the New Year, Holby will have - mysteriously - relocated itself to South Wales!
X Factor finalists Little Mix are reportedly 'being lined-up to perform at the London 2012 Olympic Games.' Hang on ... I think I need to rephrase that statement. X Factor finalists Little Mix are reportedly 'being lined-up to perform at the London 2012 Olympic Games,' by the Daily Lies Sunday. Just a bit of necessary context there, in case you were thinking of taking this story in the slightest bit seriously. Simon Cowell is said to be 'in talks' with 'event bosses' for the band to sing at the opening ceremony, the Daily Lies Sunday claims. He has, they continue, 'been negotiating with Olympic organisers since February to secure a slot for one of his X Factor acts.' An alleged 'insider' allegedly lied: 'This is the biggest opportunity an X Factor act will have been offered in the history of the show. It's taken months to pull off. To get a new act on the billing has been a massive task. Getting this sorted will be ­impressive, even for a heavyweight name like Simon Cowell. Originally they wanted the winning act to perform but even if Marcus [wins], Little Mix are still the stars of the series. Some of the biggest names in British music are desperate to be part of it and that's why Simon wants his newest favourites to play a part. It will make their ­careers. Simon is ­hoping The X Factor will finally have a winner to match Leona Lewis. This will showcase them to the world. A lot of Americans will be watching as well, so this will give the winning act a good chance of making it over there. The closest X Factor has had to an international act in recent years is Jedward - but Simon and the Olympics team think Little Mix could change all that.' The newspaper goes on to note that Sir Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Take That are 'also rumoured to be performing at the opening ceremony' after David Cameron increased the budget by forty one million quid. Director Danny Boyle and dance act Underworld head the creative team behind the opening and closing ceremonies.

So, that story will, no doubt have put a smile on Simon Cowell's mush - even if it is a load of old toot. I'm not sure this one will, however. The X Factor is to be investigated over allegations that unpaid interns have been employed to work on the show full-time. HM Revenue & Customs confirmed on Saturday that it 'has received information from careers advice service Graduate Fog suggesting that young people on work experience have been put to work in the styling department.' It has been alleged that four interns had been working as fashion assistants for the last three months, with more occasionally recruited for the live shows. 'We welcome HMRC's move to investigate The X Factor,' Graduate Fog founder Tanya de Grunwald told those Communist trouble-makers at the Gruniad Morning Star who, of course, were sitting there with a massive chimney-on at the prospect of 'gettin'g Cowell. In fact, their only real annoyance was that they couldn't manage to shoehorn Jeremy Clarkson into the story as well. 'With record youth unemployment, the spread of this illegal practise is a big and emotive issue for young people. Unpaid labour is not the solution to youth unemployment, it is a big part of the problem,' de Grunwald continued. 'Although there is no suggestion that Simon Cowell is aware of the alleged issue,' the Gruniad quickly continued, de Grunwald declared: 'If The X Factor is found to have broken the law, we would like him to issue a public apology, so that other big businesses will get the message loud and clear that it is not okay to take advantage of their young staff.' X Factor producers Talkback Thames told the Gruniad that they were 'unaware' of work experience personnel assisting show stylist Laury Smith, though they clarified that 'her interns are not X Factor interns.' A statement insisted: 'Talkback Thames does not use free interns. We have a strict policy on all of our shows where we always pay people except when they are doing genuine, short-term work experience and are not actually performing any work or it's a formal school or college placement. Everyone else is paid. We were not aware that interns were being used by the stylist and we are looking into the matter.' 'The practice of employing unpaid interns is said to be rife within the media industry,' the Gruniad claims, and HM Revenue & Customs are planning to expose violations within production companies and the print media with unannounced inspections.

X Factor judge Gary Barlow has reportedly told 'bosses' that he will quit the show unless Louis Walsh is fired. The Take That singer is said to have 'issued the ­ultimatum' after 'tiring' of Walsh's 'constant bitching and sniping.' Barlow is 'still furious' that Walsh accused Misha B of bullying her fellow contestants and believes it is the reason she missed out on a place in the final, 'denting the show's credibility.' He is also unhappy that Walsh has 'formed an alliance' with Tulisa ­Contostavlos, the Sunday Mirra reports. Oh, who friggin' cares?! Big fight, little people.

The BBC has revealed the line-up for this year's annual Top of the Pops Christmas Special with Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates both returning as hosts. Presented by Radio 1 DJ's Cotton and Yates, the hour long special will feature performances from The Wanted, Pixie Lott and For Example. Blimey. That'll be well-worth developing a nasty case of salmonella from yer turkey to avoid. Other acts performing will include this year's The X Factor winner, Professor Green and Emeli Sandé, Ed Sheeran, Olly Murs, Rizzle Kicks, The Vaccines, Will Young and Noah and the Whale. Yeah. An hour having your stomach pumped really is looking like a viable alternative, here. The 'hour of festive fun and top tunes' (it says here) concludes with the exclusive announcement of this year's Christmas number one just before The Royal Christmas Message. 'Hosting the yearly specials of Top Of The Pops with Fearne Cotton is one of the highlights of my year, it's always such a thrill to present such a loved show,' said Yates. Vacuous airhead Cotton also wittered something but, to be honest, it wasn't worth transcribing as it barely qualified as English. In addition to this yuletide feast of pop music, BBC2 will also broadcast 'an affectionate tribute' to Sir James Savile OBE with archive footage of Top Of The Pops and rarely seen material of Clunk Click and Jim'll Fix It. Sir Jimmy Savile at the BBC: How's About That Then? will be broadcast on Thursday 28 December at 7pm.

The BBC have released new details of what to expect from the second series of BBC2's The Hour, which began filming in London this week. Series two of the 1950s newsroom drama will see Peter Capaldi, Hannah Tointon and Tom Burke join the cast. The official storyline summary for the new six-part series is as follows: 'The series will chart political intrigue and corruption against the highly charged backdrop of a country in the grip of unsettling and rapid change. With the space race and nuclear power, Britain seems on the threshold of a new era of modernisation, economic optimism, scientific progress and cultural change in the face of new immigration from the Commonwealth. But under the buoyant veneer, our characters become deeply embroiled in cover-ups, sexual intrigues and the resurgence of Mosley’s fascism. Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) is still single and determined not to get involved with another married man. Clarence is in prison and she must now report to Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) the eccentric new Head of News. Whilst juggling the sparky relationships around her, she finds out that Hector is being lured to ITV. She fights for her programme and finds herself taking on her adversary, Bill Kendall (Tom Burke), a producer whose magnetic charm she can't help but find irresistible. Hector Madden (Dominic West) has risen to the status of a national celebrity, all whilst maintaining his lifestyle as a happily married man and face of The Hour. He is unsettled by Marnie’s (Oona Chaplin) desire to establish her own career and finds himself drawn to the late night clubs of Soho where he befriends Kiki (Hannah Tointon), a club hostess. No longer happy at The Hour under Randall's new regime, he is tempted by offers from ITV, but when a night at the club goes badly wrong, scandal threatens and Hector must try to stop a news story that could destroy his marriage and his career. Freddie Lyons (Ben Whishaw), who was fired after The Lord Elms live interview, makes an unexpected return to The Hour. Having been away for several months travelling around the world, he returns as co-host of The Hour, to both Bel and Hector's surprise. He has however not lost his passion to investigate and as he becomes embroiled with exposing a cover-up, it becomes clear that the ghosts of the past will not let Freddie go. Lix (Anna Chancellor) is still heading up the foreign desk, fighting for airtime for international stories, but a new side to her is revealed when Randall arrives at The Hour. Meanwhile, McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt) is now Head of Press for Macmillan, protecting the recently elected Prime Minister and the closed circle of his cabinet.'

Sherlock returns to BBC1 on New Year's Day. Yes, I know it's not, exactly, 'news' per se, but I'm excited about it, dear blog reader, I don't know about you lot!
Anyway, there's a very good preview of A Scandal in Belgravia by GQ's Jamie Miller here which contains only very mild spoilers if you just can't wait to know what's occurring.

Paul O'Grady is reported to be quitting his job as a talk show host, seven years after launching his first programme. The fifty six year old has announced the current series of his chat show Paul O'Grady Live is to be his last because he's grown tired of 'becoming part of the PR machine' as celebrities flock to the show to plug themselves. He tells the Daily Mirra, 'I really don't want to do any more chat shows, to be honest with you. There's just so many of them - This Morning, Lorraine, The ONE Show, Loose Women, Graham and Alan and Jonathan. I'd often end up with a guest I'd had on the couch six times and think, "What are we going to talk about?" And people weren't coming on for a chat, they were plugging a book or a film or a TV show. Some weeks I'd have nine books to read. I'd plough through them, then try to watch all the films. It became all-consuming and I felt I was becoming part of the PR machine.' O'Grady reveals that TV chiefs had asked him to return for another season next year but that he was keen to move on from the format. He adds, 'They wanted me to come back in February, but I had itchy feet and I wanted to do something else.' O'Grady is next due to appear on stage as the host of the new Coronation Street musical, which is launching next year.

STV has reported its strongest ever online and on-screen performance in Scotland due to the extreme weather that hit the country this week. News coverage of the storm, dubbed 'Hurricane Bawbag' by the Scottish public (allegedly), broke all previous record highs for the ITV licence holder in central Scotland. STV online's unique browser hits reached five hundred and fifty six thousand viewers on Thursday, one hundred and eleven per cent higher than the broadcaster's previous record of two hundred and sixty three thousand during the 'Big Freeze' in 2010. The average browser requests for STV last month was also just one hundred and fifty thousand.
Rumours that STV are changing their theme music to this cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News International is reported to have approved 'a confidential payout' to the former home secretary David Blunkett over allegations that his phone was hacked. So, not so confidential now, it would seem. The exact size of the payout is not clear, reports the Observer with something approaching disappointment. Presumably because this time they couldn't get anybody to Copper's Nark them a figure. However, they continue, three 'well-placed sources familiar with the negotiations' allegedly suggest that the alleged payout to Blunkett ('and several others') is worth around three hundred thousand smackers. This is getting less confidential with each passing statement, it would appear. The agreement, the Observer claim, 'was approved by Will Lewis, News International's former general manager' who went on to join News Corp's management and standards committee, the body set up in July this year to resolve the hacking scandal at the now closed, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. The settlement, 'believed to be one of several made by NI this year' according to the Observer Morning Star, was agreed in May, weeks after the company announced it would admit liability in a number of cases brought against the Scum of the World in relation to claims of phone hacking between 2004 and 2006. 'It is not known who else shared in the Blunkett settlement' which, the newspaper claims, 'contains a series of confidentiality clauses' and is understood to have been drawn up by well known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, NI's former chief executive who resigned in July shortly before she was arrested as part of the on-going Operation Weeting. The deal with Blunkett, the Observer state, is the latest out-of-court settlement by NI. The chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, received seven hundred grand in costs and damages in 2007, while it is claimed that last year celebrity publicist Max Clifford received a retainer of two hundred thousand knicker a year for two years. The question of who approved the out-of-court settlements is becoming a significant issue in the scandal. James Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corp's Europe operations, has told MPs that he did not authorise the agreement with Clifford. It has been claimed by lawyers representing the Murdochs that Brooks personally negotiated the deal because 'she had authority to do so.' Blunkett declined to talk directly to the Observer, claiming that the newspaper's actions 'constitute harassment.' He said that he had referred the questions which were e-mailed to him to Lord Justice Leveson, the judge leading the inquiry into press ethics, saying that they were an example of 'blinding hypocrisy' and warned that he was considering a complaint about the newspaper to the Press Complaints Commission. Ooo, get her! His spokeswoman said: 'Mr Blunkett has made it clear that his private life was intruded on grossly between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2005. He has also made it clear that he has no intention of allowing further intrusion into his private life by the Observer, or any other newspaper purporting to be reporting in the public interest. He has not commented and does not intend to comment on anything to do with Operation Weeting to anyone other than those investigating wrongdoing.' So, that's them told! The Blunkett settlement, the newspaper continues, seemingly not knowing when to shut the hell up, 'will trigger interest in how many confidential payouts News Corp has agreed' with people who feel that the Scum of the World invaded their privacy. 'It is unclear whether Blunkett will raise the apparent hacking of his phone with the Leveson inquiry or the Metropolitan Police, which is conducting several investigations into the scandal. But it is likely news of his settlement will be scrutinised closely as it raises potential issues of national security.' As the home secretary, Blunkett was in charge of the security service MI5, and the suggestion that the security of his phone was compromised would be 'a major concern' for both the police and counter-terrorism officials. Blunkett has enjoyed a close professional relationship with News International and is said to be 'a friend' of Brooks, dining with her the night he resigned from government in 2005. His register of interests entry shows that he 'advises' News International on corporate social responsibility issues on a six-month contract, worth twenty five thousand quid. He also has an advice column for The Times, worth up to five grand per financial year. Before October 2009 he wrote a column for the Sun worth around forty five thousand smackers a year. There have been suggestions that any MP receiving a payout from NI relating to phone-hacking would be obliged to declare it to parliament. But it is not clear from parliamentary guidelines whether a payment of this nature would be registerable. His spokeswoman said: 'Mr Blunkett complies entirely with the register of members' interests and any suggestion otherwise will result in legal action.'

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Daily Scum Mail for, infamously, publishing the incorrect verdict in the Amanda Knox case. The Scum Mail's website reported that Knox had lost her appeal against her conviction for murdering Meredith Kercher when, in fact, she had been successful. Reports on how long the article, published on 3 October, was live for continue to be the subject of debate. The Scum Mail insist it was only available for ninety seconds but, as this blog reported at the time, when yer actual Keith Telly Topping accessed the report almost an hour after it went live, at 8:50GMT, it was still accessible. At some stage on the night of 3 October, it was replaced with an article reporting the correct outcome. In addition to the main thrust of the complaint - which concerned accuracy - the complainants were also concerned about 'additional elements' of the reporting. These included direct 'quotes' attributed to the prosecutors apparently reacting to the guilty verdict, and the description of the reaction in the courtroom to the news, stating that Knox 'sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.' Just to be clear, none of this actually happened.
It further stated that the family of Meredith Kercher 'remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.' Which, also, didn't happen. The newspaper apologised for 'the mistake.' It claimed that it was 'standard practice' in such high-profile cases for two alternative stories (plus supporting quotes) to be prepared in advance, and cited the fact that other news outlets had also initially published the wrong verdict due to some confusion in the courtroom. It had published an online apology and explanation to readers, published the correct verdict in print the following day, launched an immediate internal inquiry (and subsequently changed its practices regarding such 'set and hold' stories) and also 'disciplined' the person responsible for the error. Although the PCC recognised that the newspaper had 'acted swiftly and proportionately' to correct the breach of the editors' code - and acknowledged that the story had only been live for a short period of time (something which, as noted, many people dispute) - it nonetheless remained 'particularly concerned' about 'other aspects' of the report, most particularly the entirely fictitious 'account' of what had happened in the courtroom. The attempt to present 'contemporaneous reporting of events' in such a manner was 'clearly not acceptable.' Stephen Abell, the PCC's director, said: 'This was a common-sense decision from the commission. The article described reactions and behaviour that had not taken place, which is a clear breach of the Code. We are pleased that Mail online has undertaken to change its processes as a result, which should stop this happening in future.' The Mail will carry the adjudication online. Presumably in very small print. Meanwhile, the Bloggerheads website continues to ask the alleged 'journalist' (and I do use that word quite wrongly) involved, Nick Pisa, some awkward questions.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's The Twenty Two Days of Christmas were present Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band's version of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.' Bit of a standard, I know, just to prove this isn't all wilfully obscure b-sides from 1968. However, rather than feature the single version, which is good but perhaps a bit over familiar, I've gone for the almost legendary 'Christmas 1978 at Winterland' version with the extended intro. So there you go, dear blog reader, you get populism and obscurity in one throw of the dice. And a story for Christmas. 'You better watch out...'

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