Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: What A Gift You Could Be!

The final episode of Death in Paradise pulled in an overnight audience of 5.32m for BBC1 on Tuesday night. It won the 9pm slot despite strong competition from Channel Four's My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas which had 5.11m overnight viewers. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping thinks, short of Ben Miller having something else to do, a second series of Death in Paradise is pretty much certain. It's been pulling in around five and a half to six million punters each week on final ratings, that should be more than enough to justify the cost of filming in the Caribbean! It was actually a very good night all round for the BBC with Holby City getting a 'slightly-above average for the slot' 5.46m at 8pm. Meanwhile over on BBC2, the second of the four final episodes of MasterChef: The Professionals brought in 3.29m. The actual final episode of last year's competition was watched by 3.7m on overnights (3.9m consolidated) so Thursday night's episode should make for an interesting comparison. By contrast it was a truly desperate night for ITV. The Adventurer's Guide to Britain was watched by 2.68m at 7:30 and, bad as that was, it proved to be the highlight of the night for the commercial channel. At 8pm the risibly, apocalyptically dreadful High Stakes was viewed by just 1.97m whilst things got even worse at 9pm - My Child's Not Perfect getting an overnight audience of 1.64m. One didn't imagine for a second that ITV's press chief, James MacLeod, would be tweeting those figures first thing on Wednesday morning in an attempt to big them up. And, indeed, he didn't. The other very welcome news of the night was the 2.23m pulled in by This is England '88 on Channel Four at ten o'clock.

The BBC has released a first look promotional image from new drama We'll Take Manhattan. The one-off biopic - first announced in March - stars Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan as 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton. Aneurin Barnard will also appear as Shrimpton's lover, Vogue photographer David Bailey, in the John McKay-penned piece. Gillan recently revealed that both Shrimpton and Bailey had given their approval of the project. '[Jean] left a lovely message saying she really enjoyed it,' she explained. 'David Bailey loved it too. And they're really honest people so that means something to me.' The Scottish actress previously admitted that she was concerned about portraying a real-life figure. 'I guess there is more pressure because part of me thinks I should stay true to what this person actually was,' said Gillan. 'And they're still alive, which is quite a significant thing as well, because they're going to see how you portray them.' We'll Take Manhattan will be broadcast on BBC4 in January.
The penultimate episode of the year's MasterChef: The Professionals kicked off with Michel and Gregg tasking the three finalists to come up with one dish in one hour and thirty minutes bringing in everything they'd learned from the time in the professional kitchen in Spain the previous episode. 'You have seen what it takes to achieve perfection,' Michel told them. Lovely little Claire, tonight modelling a rather fetching 'sexy librarian, "why Ms Hutchings, you're beautiful"'-look produced roasted white asparagus with a buttermilk panna cotta, accompanied by rhubarb purée and ribbons, and served with toasted pine nuts, baby violet flowers and a mustard aioli. Michel tasted it first, immediately telling his co-judge, 'there'll be nothing left for you, Gregg.' You sensed this was more a compliment and less a complaint about the parsimonious size of the portion. When Wallace finally got his fork in, all he could say was: 'I've ever eaten anything like that before.' Then, he added, in best Jazz Club style, 'Niiiice!' Next up was Steve who made a tasting of squab pigeon with braised Savoy cabbage and potato croquettes, including a truffle and pigeon ballontine and stuff cabbage balls. 'You're in the final for a reason,' Michel told baby-faced Steve. 'You're a good chef.' When Gregg tasted the dish he couldn't talk, he just made several slightly orgasmic whimpering noises! Then he recovered his power of speech. 'That has a punch well beyond its size. I eat out three to five times a week and have done for the last twenty years. This is up there with the best of them!' Aussie Ash's dish was, officially, at least, a lobster salad but it was unlike any lobster salad you've ever seen before. It contained a ballontine of lobster, carrot and quinoa with a cashew nut sauce, a butter-poached claw of lobster with a brown butter emulsion and fried lobster with a crust of quinoa and breadcrumbs, served with pickled carrot and a carrot and orange emulsion. 'It's not really a salad, is it?' asked Michel. 'It is, however, eye wateringly beautiful. It hurts, it's so pretty!' Then, he tasted it and confessed that's the first time he's ever really enjoyed eating quinoa. Ash replied, with a cheeky grin, that if he'd known that, he'd've cooked something different! Gregg, as usual, went off the deep end. 'Your food tastes every bit as good as it looks,' he noted, before concluding: 'I don't know where I'd go to if I wanted to eat that sort of food again. Your house, I guess!' So, that was the easy part out of the way. Next, our three musketeers had to do a bit of real work. The Chef's Table. But, this year, Michel broke with tradition - usually, the three finalists would be expected to cook some of his recipes. This year, he said that he'd been so impressed with the standard of Claire, Ash and Steve that he was prepared to let them loose to create their own menu for a list of the great and the good. One that included about thirty five of tBritain's best chefs, the likes of Clare Smyth, Heinz Beck, Nathan Outlaw, Claude Bosi, Andrew Fairlie, Marcus Eaves, Ben Tish, Michael Caines, Alexis Gaultier, Michel's dear own dad, Albert, Monica Galetti ('she's looking fierce' her boss, Michel, noted) and, inevitably, Gregg in his best whistle and dickie-bow Peckham. Claire looked like she'd just shat herself. Steve and Ash both appeared as though they wanted to cry for their mommies. It was time, clearly, for the tough to get going. 'If you're not nervous, you're not normal,' said Michel and he set them to work with six hours to cook 'the best plates of food you've ever dreamed of.' The rest of the show seemed to pass in a blur of manic activity as, somehow, all three managed to get their nosh sorted to quite extraordinary standards. Claire, cooking the starter, produced something totally unexpected. Dressed raw curried scallops with black olive emulsion, fresh almonds, apricot jam and a lime and vanilla syrup. It went down a storm. There were one or two sniffy comments about the fact that some of the guests didn't know the scallops would be Sashimi-style beforehand but, old Albert Roux's comment said it all: 'Look at my plate.' It was empty! Ash had probably the hardest job, doing the main course. He them made it even harder for himself by coming up with a fiendishly complex dish of Roasted Guinea fowl with morcilla de arroz (basically, a sort of Spanish black pudding) and Basque cider (of course!), baby leeks and potato rosti. Part of the dish involved braising the ballontines of Guinea fowl legs encased in Serrano ham, topped with braised apple balls and garnished with onion purée. Man, it looked good! Ash showed signs of stress during the preparation, something he's displayed almost none of so far in the series. But he got his shit together and got his plates out on time (with a little help from Steve, admittedly), even despite hitting himself in the eye with some hot fat at one point. 'I'm not blind, so I'm all right,' he said sounding not unlike Ricky Ponting after a particularly close run out decision. He survived and got stronger, Michel even resisting the urge to go in an help Ash out knowing that he could complete the task if left to get on with it. And, the guests went bananas for the dish. There were half a dozen comments of 'faultless' as he came out of the restaurant floating on air. Last up there was young Steve whose dessert of rum coconut cream with passion fruit jelly, lime curd, mango mousse and pineapple served with a coconut tweel broke hearts right around the room. Even Monica was smiling (which was, in itself, pretty disturbing, actually). This, dear blog reader, is why yer actual Keith Telly Topping is such a big fan of the MasterChef format in all its forms. Because, when it's at its best - as it was with this episode - it combines all of the thrills and tension and excitement of The X Factor but without the sheer meanness of spirit that the ITV show appears to revel in. A welcome rarity in today's television of stabbing your fellow contestant in the back with a smile on your face.
Motorsports commentator Ben Edwards has confirmed that he will replace Martin Brundle as the BBC's lead Formula 1 commentator. Edwards, who currently commentates on motor racing classes including the British Touring Car Championship for ITV, will take up his position alongside David Coulthard for the start of the 2012 season. He wrote on his Twitter page: 'So, it looks as though it's really happening. I will be the BBC F1 commentator in 2012 and I can't wait! It took a while for things to be sorted, and thanks to ITV for being so understanding. Really looking forward to working with the crew.' The news was also confirmed by BBC Sport anchor Jake Humphrey, who wrote: 'Delighted to welcome Ben Edwards into the BBC F1 commentary box with DC for 2012. Big fan, great commentator!' Edwards started his racing career as a mechanic and competed in a number of British and European motorsport championships, racing against the likes of his new colleague Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen in their pre-Formula 1 days. He has worked as a commentator for ESPN in the United States and has Formula 1 commentary experience at both Eurosport and the short-lived F1 Digital pay channel. Although the BBC has not yet made a formal announcement, Edwards and Humphrey's confirmation means that the pair will join Coulthard and pitlane reporter Lee McKenzie as part of the corporation's F1 presentation team next year. And, the best news of all for fans of the BBC's coverage, they also seem to have managed to keep Eddie Jordan on in his regular role as analyst, insider and agent provocateur. The BBC has been used to getting plenty of face time with the F1 drivers, and has done an excellent job with it, but unless teams such McLaren agree to double the amount of time they make their drivers available to British broadcasters - which is unlikely - the BBC will have to find a way of dividing its current access with Sky. Sky is paying more money, has a larger production staff and budget, not to mention twice the live races, so it will be interesting to see whether it tries to demand more access. There is speculation that British-based teams such as McLaren and Red Bull may still prefer to make their drivers available to the BBC since their sponsors rely on 'eyeballs.' The BBC averaged between four and six million viewers per live race this year. It is unclear what kind of viewing figures Sky can expect. Estimates range from around five hundred thousand to one million per race.
The ex-Scum of the World editor says that 'the full force of the law' should be used against anyone who acted in an illegal way at the paper. Colin Myler told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that he did not recognise a witness account of hacking phones and defrauding expenses. 'That's not a world I recognise, notwithstanding that core of people, whoever they may be,' he said. Earlier, a former Scum of the World lawyer denied that a 'culture of cover-up' had existed. Last month, Paul McMullan, the paper's ex-deputy features editor told the hearing that phone-hacking was 'in the public interest', claimed that celebrities often 'loved' being chased by journalists, and argued that 'privacy is for paedos.' Myler said: 'The criminality that took place, if it did take place, at the News of the World, is one thing, and whatever acts that individuals took part in, the full force of the law should take care of them. I'm sure it will. Mr McMullan often drifted off into a world of car chases, hacking phones, blagging, doing rather disagreeable things, and that is no world that I recognise.' Myler became editor of the Scum of the World in January 2007 after Andy Coulson resigned as editor when Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were jailed over phone-hacking. Former Scum of the World legal manager Tom Crone said that the out of court payment to football union boss Gordon Taylor over phone-hacking was about avoiding 'reputational damage.' Asked who was the 'guardian of ethics' at the Scum of the World publisher News International, he said that 'compliance' was not within his job. Crone was asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC if the 2008 Taylor case had to be settled 'to avoid the parading of these matters at a public trial.' He replied: 'Yes. It was not a culture of cover-up, it was a culture of avoiding reputation damage through bad publicity,' he said. But later, another former NI lawyer Jon Chapman told the inquiry that he believed compliance was part of the remit. 'I've heard Mr Crone's testimony. I would have thought compliance would have been picked up by lawyers on the editorial side. Clearly Mr Crone doesn't agree with that,' he said. The Scum of the World's former head of legal said he 'held up' the front page of an e-mail that suggested phone-hacking went beyond a single journalist at the paper during a critical meeting with James Murdoch to discuss how best to settle Taylor's legal action. Crone told the Leveson inquiry that he went into the 10 June 2008 meeting with Murdoch, who was chairman of the paper's owner News International, armed with documents which appeared to show that hacking was not the work of a lone 'rogue reporter', a position which the company had maintained up to that point and which they continued to stick to, limpet-like, for the next two and a half years despite several executives now claiming that they knew this to be false. 'I think I took a copy of the "for Neville" e-mail,' Crone told the inquiry on Wednesday. 'I can't remember whether they were passed across the table to him but I'm pretty sure I held up the front page of the e-mail. I am also pretty sure he already knew about it.' Myler, the paper's editor at the time, was also at the meeting. The e-mail in question contained transcripts of voicemails intercepted from a mobile phone belonging to Taylor, who was suing the Scum of the World. It was sent by one of the journalists on the title, to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for the attention of 'Neville', which is understood to be a reference to the paper's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck. It emerged on Tuesday that Murdoch was sent an e-mail by Myler ahead of the June meeting which referred to and included a message from Crone referring to the e-mail and the existence of the transcripts. The e-mail chain was published by the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee yesterday along with a letter from Murdoch in which he insisted that he had not read the 'for Neville' e-mail. Asked on Wednesday by inquiry counsel Robert Jay QC about the 10 June meeting, which was called to discuss how to respond to Taylor's claim, Crone told the inquiry: 'I certainly took a copy and possibly spare copies of the [legal] opinion.' The legal opinion was drawn up by Michael Silverleaf QC and warned that there was evidence of 'a culture of illegal information gathering' at the disgraced and disgraceful tabloid. Murdoch told parliament in October that he had been told about the e-mail and the legal opinion but insisted he had not be shown either document. Murdoch told MPs that he had been advised by Myler and Crone to settle the Taylor case because the PFA chief executive had obtained evidence from Scotland Yard which proved his phone had been hacked by the Scum of the World. He denies that he was told that hacking went beyond Goodman and that this was the reason he authorised a six-figure pay-off to Taylor. So far, however, Murdoch has failed to explain why he could possibly have assumed that the newspaper's royal reporter would have any interest in the voicemail messages of a football executive. At the time, News International was insisting that only one reporter - former royal editor Clive Goodman - had hacked into mobile phone messages, and that he had done so secretly with Mulcaire without the company's knowledge. Crone said of the 10 June meeting: 'What was certainly discussed was the damning e-mail and what it meant in terms of further involvement in phone-hacking beyond Goodman and Mulcaire.' He added: 'This document clearly was direct and hard evidence of that.' Cone said: 'I left that meeting knowing that Mr Murdoch was prepared to settle the case if necessary for a bit more than three hundred and fifty thousand pounds.' Myler told parliament earlier this year that Murdoch was told about the contents of the 'for Neville' e-mail.

Glenn Mulcaire's demand to be paid seven hundred and fifty thousand smackers by the parent company of the Scum of the World in return for information about phone-hacking was the private investigator's 'price for co-operating' with News International, the high court has been told. Mulcaire asked News Group Newspapers, a subsidiary of News International, for the lump sum payment in June 2010 in return for details about who instructed him to intercept voicemail messages at the Scum of the World. NGN refused to pay Mulcaire the sum and told the high court on Wednesday that it had the effect of negating an earlier agreement that the company would fund the investigator's legal costs in voicemail interception cases. Alain Choo Choy, counsel for NGN, told the court that Mulcaire's request – which came to light on Tuesday – was 'significant' and 'represented [his] price for his co-operation.' Mulcaire wants the chancellor of the high court, Sir Andrew Morritt, to grant a declaration that NGN had 'no right' to terminate an alleged indemnity agreement relating to legal fees run up in voicemail interception cases. NGN made an alleged indemnity offer to Mulcaire on 29 June 2010. However, Mulcaire told NGN through his solicitor, Sarah Webb, that he wanted seven hundred and fifty grand plus the indemnity agreement if he was to fully co-operate in giving information about alleged hacking to NGN. Choo Choy told the court: 'There was no reason to think that what NGN was asking for was a special form of co-operation. But from Mr Mulcaire's perspective it was a special form of co-operation. Mr Mulcaire had made clear he was not prepared to co-operate unless NGN paid this sum of money. It was not merely an exploratory discussion – it was a counter-offer which Mr Mulcaire felt strongly about.' He later added that Mulcaire's seven hundred and fifty thousand knicker request was 'a key moment of crisis' for the negotiations over indemnity and that Mulcaire 'wanted to behave in the way he considered appropriate. And preserve the freedom to co-operate or not as he saw fit.' Choo Choy said that Mulcaire made clear he felt hard done by and 'was threatening to go to the press.' The request for seven hundred and fifty thousand wonga 'went to the heart of the quid-pro-quo he was asking for,' he said. The hearing continues.

The judge running the Leveson inquiry into press behaviour dismissed claims on Wednesday that the Milly Dowler case was 'the only reason why his inquiry had been set up.' Lord Justice Leveson said that the evidence of tabloid misconduct collected during his month of hearings would dispel any such doubt. David Sherborne, the lawyer representing the Dowler family and other victims of the Scum of the World's phone-hacking, told Leveson when the inquiry hearings opened: 'It's very important not to lose sight of the fact that firstly the accessing of Milly's voicemails by the News of the World is not in dispute. It was admitted, and it is an outrage. But secondly, it is not the only reason why this inquiry is being heard into the practices, culture and ethics of the press.' Leveson replied: 'Oh, Mr Sherborne, if anybody had any doubt about that, I anticipate that the last month has dispelled that doubt.' Well you'd better shout that a bit louder, Mr Leveson, sir, because clearly from the tone of several scum articles which appeared in several scum national newspapers on Tuesday and Wednesday - notably the Sun and the Daily Scum Mail - that's a message that doesn't seem to have gotten through to more that a couple of scum tabloid editors, for a kick-off. The inquiry has heard from a string of witnesses, including the Dowlers, who have described their alleged experiences at the hands of the tabloids, both from News International, the company which ran the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, and Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Scum Mail. Sherborne also disclosed on Wednesday that the Daily Scum Mail had now been reported to the Press Complaints Commisison for trying to attack the Dowler family. He said there had been 'a storm of misreporting' since the Metropolitan Police asserted that the Scum of the World may not have deleted Milly Dowler's voicemails, although it did admit to hacking them. Sherborne said that the Dowlers' solicitor, Mark Lewis, had been 'pursued' by the Scum Mail on Tuesday night. 'Mark Lewis received a telephone call from a journalist who identified himself as a reporter on the Daily Mail [Ephraim] Hardcastle column, and this journalist asked Mr Lewis whether, and I quote: "In view of these revisions, will the Dowlers be giving their money back?" Mr Lewis's reaction was understandably to question the moral compass of this journalist.' He said this approach had been made 'despite all the Dowlers must be going through at the moment.' The Dowlers had previously issued a statement through their lawyer confirming that they had a 'clear recollection' of the police telling them Milly's voicemails had been deleted by the Scum of the World. This contradicts claims by employees of News International that the Gruniad 'sexed up' its coverage, when it first reported there had been deletions as well as hacking. New evidence secured by police has established that the tabloid was 'probably not' responsible for the initial deletion of e-mails which caused the Dowlers to have false hope that their daughter was alive. Leveson is conducting his own investigation into how the allegation of deletion came to be made and reported. News International has refused to comment on whether any Scum of the World journalists were responsible for deleting any messages on Milly's phone.

A big budget TV campaign promoting BSkyB's on-demand service Sky Anytime+ has been banned by the advertising watchdog after rival Virgin Media complained that it 'misled' consumers by telling them it was free. The TV campaign featured a number of characters from the fictional court of Camelot – including King Arthur, Merlin and Guinevere – explaining the benefits of Sky Anytime+ for watching films and TV series box sets but 'T'will not cost us one penny more.' Verily, however, t'will ye varlets. The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint from pay-TV rival Virgin Media, which has an ongoing tit-for-tat advertising complaints battle with BSkyB, that the advert was misleading. It was also naff as an Atomic Kitten reunion but Virgin seemed less worried about that. Virgin Media argued that in order to watch films on the on-demand service, subscribers had to be signed up to a Sky Movies package which comes at an additional cost. BSkyB said the complaint should be dismissed because it ran an on-screen text message explaining that access to content on Sky Anytime+ 'depends on Sky TV subscription.' But the ASA said the advert 'gave a misleading impression of what was being offered.' It banned the TV advert for breaching the advertising codes on the grounds of exaggeration and for misleading consumers.

Sky1 has renewed its comedy Spy for a second series. The broadcaster ordered ten more episodes of the show as well as a one-hour Christmas special, Broadcast reports. Spy, which premiered in October, stars Darren Boyd as a man who is inadvertently hired by MI5. Robert Lindsay plays his boss The Examiner, while his son Marcus is played by Jude Wright. The cast also includes Mathew Baynton, Rebekah Staton, Tom Goodman-Hill, Dolly Wells and Ed Coleman. Sky's head of comedy Lucy Lumsden said: 'Finding smart yet accessible pre-watershed comedy for adults and kids to watch together is a vital part of our story on Sky1. We couldn't have asked for a better start [for Spy] and are excited by the plans for the next series.'

Justice secretary Ken Clarke has ruled out expanding the relaxation on TV cameras in courtrooms during criminal trials to include witness testimony. In September, the government confirmed that the ban on television cameras being allowed to film inside law courts is to be overturned, as part of plans to improve 'public confidence' in the justice system. However, MPs have expressed concern that court hearings could become 'theatrical' after the move, while some defendants could use legal privilege to harass their victims. Conservative MP Christopher Pincher said that court officials and lawyers must be protected from 'unwanted attention,' adding that while justice must 'be seen to be done, it mustn't be seen to be fun.' Oh, very witty your Toryship. Did you think up that one on your own or did you have help? Speaking this week, Clarke insisted that courts would not become 'theatres' as filming would be limited to just the judges' remarks, reports the Press Gazette. He also confirmed that the ban on filming would be lifted first to allow judgements in the Court of Appeal, expanding to the Crown Court 'in due course. We will not allow filming of jurors, victims and witnesses under any circumstances,' he told MPs. 'So far as the judge is concerned, giving a sentence or a judgment, he is a public official forming a public function. His words can be quoted, he will be reported and there is no real reason why he shouldn't be filmed. But other people need to be protected because otherwise the whole nature of the proceedings will change. Some people will be intimidated and some people will have their behaviour affected.' Chris Bryant asked whether defendants could use the arrival of television cameras to launch damaging attacks on their victims. But Clarke insisted that the new system would be 'subject to tight controls' preventing such problems. 'I strongly disprove any attempt for this to be used for people to make allegations against the victims or for the defendant to make a theatrical display in the witness box or for the jurors' reaction to be filmed or anything of this kind,' he added. 'We are talking about the judgments and what is said as part of his official duties by the judge and at this stage I am not contemplating going any further.' Meanwhile, new guidance has been issued allowing journalists to tweet, text or e-mail during court proceedings in England and Wales without first having to make an application.

Here's a quite interesting fact, dear blog reader. Stephen Fry has had his ear pierced. It was not an entirely long-term decision, however. The Qi presenter had it done for an episode of BBC2's I've Never Seen Star Wars, in which celebrities do things they hadn't done before. However, Fry had to remove it after two days to film the new Sherlock Holmes movie, in which he plays Mycroft, according to the Sun. 'It was an experience but I don't think I'll have a re-piercing,' said Fry.

Media regulator Ofcom is to launch an investigation of an episode of Channel Five's The Wright Stuff over comments made about a teenager's murder which prompted more than two thousand complaints from viewers. Wright had to apologise after he appeared to joke about the murder of Liam Aitchison on the Scottish island of Lewis in a newspaper review on the show. After the papers reported the murder inquiry last week, Wright caused controversy by putting on a Scottish accent and saying 'there's been another murder,' copying the famous phrase from detective show Taggart. Also on the Channel Five show, a guest panellist described the investigation into the murder as 'the longest-ever episode of Taggart.' Two men have appeared in court charged with the murder of the sixteen-year-old, who was found dead in a derelict building in Stornoway on Lewis almost two weeks ago. Wright sent a letter of apology about his comments to Aitchison's parents, but Ofcom has decided to launch an investigation after receiving around two thousand two hundred complaints from viewers. Norman Aitchison, the teenager's father, wrote on The Wright Stuff website: 'Would your panel members be making a joke of this if it was one of their own children? My son's death is no joke and I am disgusted with every single one of you on that panel, let my son rest in peace.' Wright had initially called on those campaigning for people to complain to Ofcom about the incident to 'grow up.' But he later insisted that there was 'no intention on my part to belittle the seriousness or the tragedy of this story, or to offend anyone who knew Liam.'

Ola and James Jordan have been axed from the Strictly Come Dancing tour, allegedly over the latter's bad behaviour on the show. The professional couple, who partnered Robbie Savage and Alex Jones respectively this series, were apparently told by e-mail that they would not be allowed on the nationwide jaunt. 'Myself and Ola will definitely not be doing the Strictly Tour!' James confirmed on Twitter. 'Just received an e-mail to say we are not needed!' Alleged 'sources' allegedly told the Sun that the decision was intended as an alleged 'wake-up call' for James. Allegedly. 'His behaviour has got worse and worse,' an alleged 'insider' allegedly commented. 'Bosses thought he needed a reality check.' The Strictly tour begins on 20 January at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and will come to a close in Dublin on 23 February.

Australia's communications minister Stephen Conroy has used the F-word during a live TV broadcast. Conroy, who argues for censoring the Internet in Australia, is responsible for setting national broadcast standards. His gaffe was broadcast on Australia's ABC channel during the hours of children's programmes. Strewth!

Kerry Katona has been recruited as a wedding planner for a new reality TV show. Katona will appear in the four-part Channel Five series Celebrity Wedding Planner from 6 January, the Sun reports. As to whether this is actually true or not, we'll have to file it away with the previous one hundred and fifty seven thousand Kerry Katona stories that one or other of the tabloids has run over the last couple of years until it happens. or doesn't. Mind you, it is Channel Five we're talking about so, you know, anything's possible.

A strip club in Chicago has reportedly offered free lap dances to patrons who donate Christmas presents to disadvantaged children. The city's Admiral Theatre has relaunched its 'Lap Dances For The Needy' initiative, in which complimentary performances will be given in exchange for toy donations over the festive period. Toys must be new and donors will only receive one lap dance per visit, regardless of how many items they give, according to the Chicagoist. 'Lap Dance For The Needy' will run until Saturday in conjunction with a 'Nude Pillow Fighting' event. The same scheme resulted in 'five car loads' of toys being donated last year. These were then distributed to underprivileged children by local churches. A Christmas charity auction offering dates with scantily-clad versions of Joseph and the Virgin Mary was pulled from eBay recently for containing 'adult content.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Day's Of Christmas. Here's a slice of yer actual Solomon Burke. Soul deep, brothers and sisters. A stone groove.

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