Sunday, January 01, 2012

Week Two: It Was Fifty Years Ago Today ...

So, we say farewell to thee 2011. Which, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has to say, out of all the forty eight years he's spent on the planet, this has been one of the worst. Both personally and more generally for a hell of a lot of people I know. It's had some tough competition, mind - a couple of years in the 1980s, 1998 and 2004, in particular - but, on a purely personal level (financial, notwithstanding) it's been a two-steps-sideways-eight-steps-back sort of twelve months and yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be really glad to see the back of it. And good riddance to bad rubbish. Although, let's face it, we've started the New Year free of Westlife so, you know, it's not all bad. Welcome, then 2012, on the basic assumption that it can't, possibly, be any worse than the last one. Unless, of course, those Mayans were right. In which case, make the most of 2012 while you can, you've got a maximum of twelve months to enjoy yourself.
Charlie Brooker's end-of-year Screenwipe review appealed to just under five hundred and thirty thousand discerning punters on Friday night. Featuring contributions from filmmaker Adam Curtis and Scottish comic Brian Limond, the irreverent look back pulled in five hundred and twenty nine thousand viewers to BBC4 at 10.30pm, one of the best-rated multichannel broadcasts of the evening. In a flat night for the terrestrial channels, Have I Got News For You (4.32m) at 8.30pm, a repeat of New Tricks (4.5m) in the 9pm hour, and The Graham Norton Show (3.3m) from 10.35pm - along, of course, with EastEnders, the most watched programme on British TV at the moment - helped BBC1 to an easy primetime victory with an average of just over twenty per cent. Trailing way behind was ITV, which suffered slot losses for That Was 2011: ITV News Review of the Year (a miserable 1.95m) at 8pm, You've Been Framed (3.1m) at 8.30pm and A Royal Year to Remember (2.2m) at 9pm. Over on BBC2, The Many Faces of Judi Dench drew 2.64m at 8pm and 1.51m watched Mrs Dickens' Family Christmas with Sue Perkins an hour later.

Meanwhile, broadcast from the banks of London's River Thames, the audience for BBC1's New Year Live rocketed to 12.43m in the five minutes from midnight. As a spectacular ten-minute firework display illuminated Big Ben and the London Eye, the audience peaked at 12.82m in the five minutes immediately after 12.05am. It was the biggest audience for a 'seeing the New Year in' type show since at least 2006. 2010-11's celebrations were seen by 10.25m drawing 11.18m at midnight. It was another good night for BBC1, with their showing of Pirates of the Caribbean III scoring five million viewers and Match of the Day achieving a slightly above average 4.3m. On BBC2, Jools' Annual Hootenanny drew 2.64m from 11.15pm to 1.35am - pulling a further one hundred and seventy six thousand punters on its BBC HD simulcast. It could not quite match last year's audience of 3.13m, and was the show's lowest overnights since 2008. Elsewhere at the time, ITV News and Weather was watched by 1.66m from 11.45pm to 12.05am across ITV and ITV HD. Another thirty eight thousand watched later on time-shifted ITV+1. Channel Four broadcast the clip-show Rude Tube from 11.35pm to 12.40pm, drawing six hundred and seventy thousand viewers. ITV again had something of a damp squid of a night, with Westlife: For The Last Time drawing 2.4m, The Cube 2.8m and It'll Be Alright on the Night 3.7m. BBC1's average all day share of 22.3 per cent was over twice that of any other channel.

Channel Four has reportedly commissioned a new series about a beauty pageant in Wales. The show, which has been dubbed 'the new Big Fat Gypsy Weddings', will feature contestants battling to become Miss Merthyr Tydfil. Scouts reportedly spent two weeks looking for suitable girls for the competition at a local retail park, according to the Sun. The pageant is held at a leisure centre in the Welsh town, with the girls being styled by local hairdressers Beehive Hair Consultants. The grand finale involves three rounds - Casual Wear, Little Black Dress and Evening Wear - and the winner will represent Merthyr in the 2012 Miss Wales competition. Miss Wales will eventually represent the country in the Miss World pageant in China in July. A Channel Four 'source' allegedly said: 'The girls taking part in Miss Merthyr mean serious business. They preen and primp themselves to look their very best and will stop at nothing to get that crown. They also have to prove they have some kind of talent so some of those going for the 2012 title have already taken part in pageant classes aimed at getting the best out of themselves. Show bosses are already billing it as the new Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. There are flamboyant costumes and intense beauty regimes and the competition between finalists is always fierce. The winner is decided by a public vote so family and friends of rival contestants get involved in a big way.' Filming on the project, currently titled Miss Merthyr, has just begun and the show is expected to launch in summer.

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 8 January
The wretched and vastly unlikable Take Me Out returns for a third series - 7:30 ITV. if you've never seen it before, dear blog reader, then yer actual Keith Telly Topping's considered advice is, keep it that way. A personal trainer from Huddersfield, a Birmingham haulage worker, a Royal Navy serviceman from Middlesbrough and a Somerset surfing enthusiast enter the 'love lift' in the hope of impressing thirty single over made-up women all desperate to get themselves on television. Winning a date is the supposed object but, in reality, it more to do with self-promotion. However, the contestants must first get the female participants to keep their lights on as a sign of approval. Far less funny than he appears to think he is Paddy McGuinness - a one-trick TV personality the sustainability of whom has worn very thin very quickly - plays matchmaker. Vile and repulsive, a horrible critical summation of just about everything that is wrong with television and public perceptions of what constitutes 'entertainment' in the early years of the Twenty First Century. There is no dignity, no self-restraint and no soul in this horrorshow. Just an endless stream of willing volunteers to the flames.

And, still it gets worse. The Talent Show Story - 8:30 ITV - is a new series exploring the history of televised talent contests, from the original Opportunity Knocks to today's super-slick shows such as The X Factor. The first edition includes Susan Boyle discussing her 2009 breakthrough on Britain's Got Talent, and examines Will Young defeating Gareth Gates in 2002's Pop Idol, and how the Noughties series Popstars ushered in a new era of programmes. There is also a tribute to former New Faces host Marti Caine and a contribution by ex-judge Nina Myskow. Narrated by yet another less funny than she thinks she is alleged comedian, Victoria Wood.

Speaking of far less funny than they think they are, former New Faces winner Lenny Henry is one of those featured in The Talent Show Story and Len, who last said something even mildly funny sometime around 1984 is a link to the next programme featured on what is, it has to be said, a pretty wretched Saturday night all round on TV. The BBC give us a return of The Magicians - 6.35 BBC1 - although, thankfully they've ditch Henry this time; othwerwise we'd've had a trio of shining examples of the less funny than they think they are school of alleged comedy. Instead Darren McMullen (no, me neither) presents the magic contest in a new live format. Sleight-of-hand artist Pete Firman pairs up with Boyzone's Keith Duffy, illusionist Jason Latimer is joined by Strictly Come Dancing's Flavia Cacace and conjurers Barry and Stuart work with Outnumbered stars Tyger Drew-Honey and Daniel Roche, battling in front of a studio audience to prove who is the best act. The contestants with the fewest viewer votes face a dramatic forfeit, and this edition features a breathtaking escape, a laser routine and a perplexing stage illusion. Why does every TV programme at the moment seem to require a public voting element? Can't we just watch some magicians think, 'yeah, they were pretty good' and leave it at that? Are we all so desperate to pay extortionate premium line telephone costs? Don't we know there's a recession on?

The Beeb are obviously hoping for another crossover hit like The Killing with Borgen - 9:00 BBC4 - which starts tonight and works on yer average Gruniad reader's fascination with all things Scandinavian at the present time. The series is made by DR, the in-house production wing of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and is a kind of sister production to The Killing (it's got, essentially, the same production crew). Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, the leader of a Danish political party, decides to make a drastic change to her campaign strategy just three days before a parliamentary election. However, her colleagues and the media are far from convinced this risky tactic will pay off. Meanwhile, her press adviser Kasper Juul and leading TV journalist Katrine Fonsmark both receive surprising news. West Wing-style Danish drama series, starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and Pilou Asbaek. Looks rather good from the clips I've seen so far.

Sunday 8 January
A terrified client claims that his father was killed by a monstrous creature stalking the wilds of Dartmoor, so Sherlock Holmes and John Watson head to the countryside to investigate the dastardly shenanigans in the latest episode of Sherlock, The Hounds of Baskerville - 8:30 BBC1. But what seemed like mere fantasy back in 221B Baker Street proves to be a very different prospect when the duo look into an ultra-secret army base at the edge of the moor. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman star in this modernist adaptation of what is probably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, with Russell Tovey (Being Human), Amelia Bullmore (Twenty Twelve) and Clive Mantle (Casualty) in guest roles. Mark Gatiss provides the script in suitably macabre, Hammer style. Paul McGuigan directs with his usual flair and camera poetry. And, of course, as in the original story, one of the best 'characters' in the thing are the wild and windy Dartmoor exteriors. A potential classic.

In To Boldly Go - 9:00 BBC2 - medical expert Kevin Fong explains why mankind can only comfortably live on less than a quarter of Earth's surface, and explores the technologies and techniques that enable humans to survive in the depths of the planet's seas and oceans. He discovers the dangers of nitrogen narcosis, walks through a tank of sharks in an antique diving suit and meets saturation divers, whose jobs require them to live in a pressurised habitat equivalent to being one hundred and fifty metres underwater. First of a two-part series.

Phillip Schofield and his new co-host the Curiously Orange brainless wonder of the age Christine Bleakley present the celebrity ice-dancing contest Twatting About On Ice - 6:30 ITV - in which fifteen allegedly well-known faces (and I use the word 'allegedly' in full knowledge of what is to come) battle it out for viewers' votes and the chance to be crowned Twatting About on Ice Champion. You can probably bet your last quid that at least four of them you'll have never heard of in your life. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean return to train these jokers in new routines every week, which will be judged by Robin Cousins and two new faces - camp choreographer Louie Spence and Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt - who replace nasty Jason Gardiner and waste-of-space Emma Bunton on the panel. Tonight, the first group of contestants competes to remain in the competition. Plus, of course, horrible Bleakley and her thoroughly objectionable million pound deal with ITV. Just one more reason not to watch this awful, miserable excuse for entertainment, dear blog reader.

Following the loss of Leopard's Den, only Danny and Du Plessis remain in South Africa, desperate to raise enough money to buy a new reserve in the new series of Wild At Heart - 8:30 ITV. When pregnant Alice arrives from the UK unannounced, she realises the pair have been lying to her about their jobs, and things go from bad to worse for Danny when a confrontation with Peeters pushes him to breaking point. Robert Bathurst joins the cast. As usual, Stephen Tompkinson gets acted off-screen by giraffes. Look out later in the series of Jill Halfpenny turning up as well.

A fifteen-year-old paddleboarder is abducted, and the team faces a race against time as the teenager is not carrying medication for her heart condition in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1 - that yer actual Keith Telly Topping saw about four months ago, dear blog reader.
Meanwhile, Governor Denning introduces a new recruit (Lauren German), who is given the task of making sure her colleagues abide by the new rules. Captain Vince Fryer from Internal Affairs interrogates Kono and reaches an unpopular view on her career in the force. Alex O'Loughlin, the excellent Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park star.

Monday 9 January
In The One Jasper Carrott - 8:30 BBC1 - the once very popular Brummie comedian and singer performs a mixture of stand-up, sketches and music. He shares his thoughts on grandchildren and getting older, reunites with Robert Powell in a new crimebusting outing for The Detectives and performs for the first time alongside his daughter, The Office star Lucy Davis. He also demonstrates another of his talents as singer and guitarist with the band Belch, which also features Phil Tree, Rick Wakeman and Jasper's best mate since childhood, Bev Bevan (the drummer with The Move and ELO). For too long, frankly, Jasper was stuck in a rut of presenting crappy game shows and the like when he was, and remains, on his day one of the funniest men in the country. So, it's nice to see him back doing what he does best. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping really hopes this is a hit and a series follows because if there's anyone who could brighten up 2012, it yer man Jasper Carrot.

An Island Parish returned to BBC2 last week - 8:30. In the latest episode crofter Angus John Morrison turns his hand to tourism as Easter comes to the island of Barra, bringing with it a spell of good weather and a new air of optimism. Meanwhile, Fr Roddy's departure hits Fr John Paul hardest, leaving him feeling more isolated than ever.

Investigative author Andrew Cook sheds light on evidence that challenges the classic view of the Great Train Robbery in The Great Train Robbery's Missing Mastermind? - 8:00 Channel Four. On 8 August 1963 a gang of naughty scallywag armed blaggers, tooled up, coshed up and ready for some tasty aggro raided the Queen's Mail in the wake of a summer marred by the scandals of the Profumo Affair and Kim Philby's defection to the Soviet Union. The writer, however, speculates that the heist of 2.6 million in readies must have been an inside job, gaining access to reports from the subsequent investigation that were sealed for nearly fifty years, and revealing the hidden story of the pursuit of criminal 'insiders' thought to be responsible for leaking sensitive information to Bruce, Buster, Ronnie and the chaps.

Inside Out also returns after a break for Christmas - 7:30 BBC1. Chris Jackson reports on a night dealing with drunks in the north's A and E units, Kirsten O'Brien discovers how unborn children are harmed by drink, and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's old mate Mike Parr finds out just how easy it is to live without drink for a month. Dead easy, Mike, you just don't drink.

Tuesday 10 January
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 9:00 BBC2 - is, of course, a psychological thriller based on Charles Dickens' unfinished final novel. Choirmaster John Jasper is a troubled man, frustrated by his life in the claustrophobic cathedral town of Cloisterham, addicted to opium as he seeks to expand his horizons and obsessed with the seventeen-year-old Rosa. The only thing standing between him and the girl is his own nephew, Edwin Drood. Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant and Freddie Fox star in the first of this two-part adaptation.

The Exit List - 8:00 ITV - is a new game show, hosted by the unbearably smug and full of his own importance Matt Allwright, based on 'an epic challenge' (it says here) in which a pair of contestants descend into a giant twenty six-room maze containing varying amounts of money - with only one room holding the coveted one hundred thousand smackers. Standing in their way is a set of questions, and their answers are added to the Exit List, which the players must memorise to make their final escape with the winnings. Sounds miserable.

Or there's the eagerly awaited UK terrestrial debut of Body of Proof - 9:00 Five. After a car accident leaves her unable to work in the operating room, neurosurgeon Megan Hunt gets a job as a coroner in Philadelphia. She and her partner investigate when the body of a female jogger is found floating in a river. Crime drama, starring Dana Delany.

Meanwhile, Burglar in the House - 10:35 BBC1 - is a documentary exploring Nottinghamshire Police's use of webcams in the fight against crime, which involves placing hidden cameras around homes in areas shown to be vulnerable to burglaries. The programme includes footage of intruders and follows the legal process as the suspects end up at the police station viewing themselves on film. Narrated by Paul Thornley.

Wednesday 11 January
In the latest episode of the very popular One Born Every Minute - 9:00 Channel Four - a fashion designer who has not attended any antenatal classes because she did not want to know about pain prepares to have a water birth, while wearing a striking outfit she designed herself. Another woman is hoping her second experience of labour will be easier than her first, and her fear becomes so great she panics. Meanwhile, a couple are keen for their child to come quickly due to the cost of hospital parking.

Members of the Midsomer-in-the-Marsh Ornithological Society fall out when Ralph Ford claims to have spotted a blue-crested hoopoe, meaning he wins the group's year-listing competition in Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV. However, their president, Patrick Morgan, says that the rare species could never have been seen so far away from its native Uganda and brands Ralph a cheat. The next day, Barnaby and Jones have a murder case on their hands when Patrick is found dead at the scene of the reported sighting. Guest starring Paul Nicholls and James Dreyfus along with regulars Neil Dudgeon and Jason Hughes. Last in the current series.

Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff talks to sporting professionals including Steve Harmison, Vinnie Jones and Ricky Hatton about the impact of depression, and confronts his past experiences as a player under pressure at the top of his game in Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport - 10:45 BBC1. He also explores the stigma attached to discussing the condition in the face of an often unforgiving public, and interviews vile, odious oily twat and former tabloid editor Piers Morgan about this hidden side of sport.

In How to Be a Good Mother with Sharon Horgan - 10:00 Channel Four - the actress and writer (most recently seen in The Borrowers) meets six different mothers each convinced they are raising their children in the best way possible, even if their methods are unusual. And, in at least a couple of cases, potentially ruddy certifiable. They include a former stuntwoman who thinks many children have been conditioned to be too afraid, a woman who claims to be in love with placentas (ewww!) and a mother who refuses to use nappies.

Thursday 12 January
Architect George Clarke meets Andy Critchlow, who bought a cylindrical, Grade II-listed water tower on a hill in Congleton, Cheshire, at auction without even seeing the inside of the property in The Restoration Man - 9:00 Channel Four. Andy and his girlfriend Ana Perkins intend to turn it into a modern family home over nine months, but the intensity of the work threatens to have an adverse effect on their personal lives. The presenter also finds out how the building once saved the lives of the people it overlooked.

Earthflight reaches Europe this week - 9:00 BBC1 - and we get a bird's-eye view of our own continent. Including the migration routes of cranes and storks toward the continent, the spectacle of twenty million starlings over Rome, and the hunting techniques of sand martins in Hungary. Plus, at Bass Rock, gannets dive in search of food, and geese land in Svalbard to raise their chicks. Narrated by David Tennant.
In the concluding part of The Grammar School: A Secret History - 9:00 BBC4 - the study of Britain's grammar schools continues. Institutions which gave talented children the chance to attend the highest standard of secondary education, regardless of their social or economic background. The programme recalls the establishments' heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, and explores the reasons for their subsequent demise. With contributions by Edwina Currie, Neil Kinnock, Michael Wood and Michael Portillo.

An early contender for the most ridiculous title for any TV show this year is My Daughter the Teenage Nudist - 10:00 Channel Four. This is a documentary following Mollie and Alex, who are part of a growing group of teenagers and twentysomethings embracing public nudity away from designated places. Their aim is to normalise naturism and question the media's apparent obsession with perfect bodies. The programme asks why this lifestyle is gaining in popularity and finds out what parents think about their offspring revealing all in the most public of places.

Friday 13 January
The tricksters discover a valuable Picasso has been stolen, so they try to sell a forgery of the painting back to the original owner - only to come unstuck when Mickey is kidnapped in the latest episode of Hustle - 9:00 BBC1.
To rescue their leader, the grifters have to find out who took the original and then steal it back, but with so many fakes and double-crossers lurking behind every corner, they have a challenge on their hands to save Mickey in time. Sheila Hancock, Bill Bailey and Martin Kemp guest star.

The Million Pound Drop Live returns - 9:00 Channel Four. Davina McCall presents the latest series of the quiz show in which contestants can win one million smackers. They are challenged to place large quantities of the cash over trapdoors and face a series of questions, the wrong answers to which will lose them money every time they slip up. Celebrity pairs also compete for their chosen charities during the series.

R.E.M. At The Beeb - 9:30 BBC4 - presents a selection of archive performances from throughout the popular US band's career, originally recorded for BBC programmes including The Old Grey Whistle Test (so, that'll be that version of 'Pretty Persuasion' with an a capella bit of 'Moon River' as the introduction), Top of the Pops, Parkinson, The Late Show and Later with Jools Holland. Songs featured include 'Losing My Religion', 'Orange Crush', and 'Half a World Away'. All, you'll notice from the period from the early 1980s until around 1996 when they used to be, you know, really good. Singer Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills also reflect on the band's split in September 2011.

Milton Jones's House of Rooms - 10:30 Channel Four - is, as you might expect from the title, a comedy, starring the great Milton Jones as a man who lives with his mother in an old house and rents out the spare rooms to a variety of tenants.
These include Alice, a shy woman to whom he is attracted. He feels awkward in her presence, but when new tenant Paul arrives and hits it off with the object of Milton's affections the landlord realises he must raise his game to compete for her attention.

And, on that bombshell, we return to the news: And we start with a proper heartwarming bit for 2012. David Tennant reportedly married Georgia Moffett on New Year's Eve. The actor began dating Moffett - the real-life daughter of another previous Doctor, Peter Davison - back in 2008 and he proposed to her last Christmas. The pair reportedly pledged their whatsit in 'an intimate New Year's Eve ceremony' in London. 'David and Georgia can't wait to get married, they are madly in love,' an alleged friend allegedly told the Daily Scum Mail. 'They have tried to keep everything quiet and the wedding is for family and closest friends only.' The couple, who met when Moffett had a guest role as The Doctor's daughter in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, welcomed their daughter, Olive, in April. Moffett already has a nine-year-old son called Tyler from a previous relationship. Davison previously said of the pair's wedding plans: 'I very much doubt they'll have a Doctor Who-themed wedding. I don't think that's their thing.' Oh, I dunno. This is David Tennant we're talking about! Davison has previously expressed his happiness about David and Georgia becoming a couple. He said: 'It's great because David is a genuinely nice guy. I'm delighted Georgia has found happiness because she hasn't always had an easy life.'

Sky1 and Sky Atlantic revealed several new programmes for next year, including the American musical drama Smash, British comedy Stella and the documentary series Great Britain: Our Story. Sky Atlantic has acquired the exclusive UK rights to Smash the latest in a line of musical dramas. Developed from an idea by Stephen Spielberg, Smash explores the subculture of musical theatre; celebrating the beauty and heartbreak of Broadway. The fifteen, hour-long episodes are scheduled to be broadcast on Sky Atlantic in early 2012. Commenting on Sky's acquisition of the series, Director of Sky Atlantic HD Elaine Pyke said: 'Created by, and starring, some of the most accomplished talent working in showbusiness today, Smash is the perfect addition to Sky Atlantic's impressive slate of exceptional drama – both originated and acquired – set to air in 2012, including Hit + Miss, Luck and Mad Men.' The channel has also commissioned three programmes to be produced especially for the network. Sky say this represents the channel's biggest investment in UK content to date. 'The new commissions, which span drama, factual and factual entertainment, are part of Sky's commitment to increase its investment in original British content by fifty per cent over the next three years. By 2014, Sky expects to invest six hundred million wonga a year in British programmes across its portfolio of channels.'
In drama, the channel will show Falcón, a four-episode drama, based on Robert Wilson's best-selling Javier Falcón novels. The series centres on the titular Falcón, a Chief Inspector in the Seville police, a complex and layered character, with a psychological darkness which mirrors the brutal darkness which surrounds him in Seville. There is also Great Britain: Our Story, which is described as 'a bold and celebratory factual television event' bringing to life the events and characters which have shaped the nation's history. 'Big, ambitious and gripping,' the new series will tell the history of Britain and Ireland from the Roman invasion to the Coronation of Elizabeth II and Sky state 'the birth of TV in 1953.' Actually, the birth of TV occurred sometime in the early 1930s but, you know, why quibble? Spanning over two thousand years in seven hours, the series will 'bring the real and often surprising stories of the unsung heroes of history vividly to life through compelling drama and spectacular CGI which will sweep across Britain to see it change and evolve through time.' Sky Atlantic is to also screen Morgan Spurlock's New Britannia, a lively new factual entertainment show in which the acclaimed American humourist will dissect the eccentricities of British culture. Unapologetically candid and shamelessly irreverent, no subject will be off-limits as Spurlock takes a comedy sideswipe at the behaviours and institutions which make Britain so, well, British. Meanwhile over at Sky1 they're starting the New Year with a trip to the Welsh Valleys as comedy Stella becomes the latest offering of original British comedy. The brainchild of Ruth Jones, co-writer and co-star of the multi-award winning Gavin and Stacey, Stella is a ten-episode 'warm, funny, down-to-earth family saga' which promises an authentic slice of the working-class Welsh Valleys. Drama on Sky1 sees the channel venture to Treasure Island which is set in the dangerous world of buccaneers. This new adaptation of the much loved Robert Louis Stevenson classic will take viewers through the story across two episodes. The drama follows the story of Jim Hawkins who is unexpectedly drawn into the world of piracy when he discovers Cap'n Flint's treasure map. However, John Silver will stop at nothing to get hold of the gold for himself. Me hearties. As they set sail for Treasure Island, Jim embarks on an action adventure that will change his life forever. With Silver preparing to lead a mutiny who will be the first to find Flint's buried booty? Who will keep control of the ship? And who will leave the island alive? Silver and Jim explore the true meaning of loyalty and betrayal as they battle it out for the treasure and ultimately their own survival. The extraordinary cast includes Eddie Izzard, Elijah Wood, Donald Sutherland, Philip Glenister, Rupert-Penry Jones, Daniel Mayes and Keith Allen. Skill. (And, if you miss it tonight because you're watching Sherlock remember, it is repeated at 5pm on 2 January on Sky2). There is also Moone Boy for Sky1 in 2012 which is adapted from Chris O'Dowd's comedy short which was broadcast on the channel last December as part of the Little Crackers series. Chris will star in this part autobiographical comedic look at his life growing up in Ireland in the 1980s. Moone Boy is scheduled for broadcast in the summer. Set in a small town in Ireland in 1989 it follows the antics of the youngest member of the Moone family, eleven year old Martin. He has a unique perspective on life aided by an imaginary friend, Sean Murphy, played by O'Dowd himself. Martin's imagination comes into play both in his childish drawings, which come alive through animation, and in the ridiculous schemes he comes up with, against Sean's better judgement. With Sean's help, Martin negotiates life as the youngest in a chaotic, scatter-brained family. Both Johnny Vegas and Steve Coogan have signed up to take on roles in the series and auditions are underway across several locations in Ireland to find a young actor to take on the lead of Martin Moone.

The Labour party has made what their arse-licking pals at the Gruniad Morning Star describe as 'a serious complaint' to the BBC about 'a lack of political balance' in its news coverage as it attempts to reinvigorate Ed Milimolimandi's disastrous leadership and counter what it sees as widespread media bias in favour of the David Cameron-led coalition. The Gruniad's Sunday paper, Observer, seemingly fed up for the moment with writing shite stories about Jeremy Clarkson, claims that it has 'learned' that 'Labour chiefs' have written to the corporation raising concerns that its party spokesmen are not receiving their fair share of airtime at a time when they are neck and neck with the Tories in opinion polls. They've 'learned' this, of course, because those Labour chiefs have told them. So, not really so much 'learned' as 'been informed', then? It is understoodm they state, that party officials have 'monitored invitations', and time given, to senior Tory and Liberal Democrat figures on the BBC's main news outlets against that allotted to Labour counterparts. Their 'analysis' (ie. their sums) has shown that Labour has been represented less than half as often as the coalition. While acknowledging that the Tories and Lib Dems are in government and should therefore take precedence, they believe that the imbalance has left Labour struggling to get its messages across. They have made their point to top BBC executives 'in forceful terms.' To which, one hopes, the BBC executives in question have told them to fuck off and elect a leader that makes them want to have him on their programmes instead of berk they've got now. One 'source' allegedly familiar with the alleged dispute said that Labour had made 'a very serious complaint' to 'the relevant authorities.' Labour 'insiders' insisted on Saturday that the party was not 'declaring war' on the BBC or 'whingeing' - although that appears to be exactly what they're doing - but merely 'holding the corporation to its obligation to show impartiality.' Something which, one recalls, they seldom mentioned when they were in government an Ben Bradshaw was using the BBC as his own personal punchbag. However, they stressed there was concern in the Milimolimandi 'camp' that the BBC was becoming an 'echo chamber' for a press that is dominated by newspapers 'determined for David Cameron to succeed.' Personally, if I was them, I wouldn't used the words 'Miliband' and 'camp' in the same sentence, but there you go. Milimolimadi's team are also growing 'increasingly frustrated' at the way newspapers, particularly in the pro-coalition Rupert Murdoch-owned stable, run prominent stories about their own opinion polls only when the Tories enjoy a surge but not when Labour is comfortably ahead, as it was for most of last year. The BBC refused to be drawn into the dispute but strongly denied any bias. A BBC News spokesperson said: 'Our news coverage is impartial and features a range of voices.' Labour is no stranger to confrontations with the BBC, which often finds itself harangued by political parties alleging bias. In June 2003, Tony Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, demanded explanations of the corporation's coverage of the Iraq weapons dispute. In the same month he stormed on to Channel Four News to take on presenter Jon Snow over Iraq. The latest dispute comes to light as Milimolimandi and his team prepare a series of new year interventions on policy after a miserable few weeks in which the Tories have regained a lead in several polls. A poll of polls in the Independent on Saturday showed the Tories ahead of Labour for the first time in fourteen months. It put the Conservatives on thirty nine per cent, (up four points), with Labour on thirty eight per cent (down one). The Lib Dems were unchanged on twelve per cent. Many Labour MPs are frustrated and worry that the party is lagging well behind the coalition on key indicators of economic credibility. Behind the scenes, pressure is growing for Milimolimandi to be bolder, with many urging him to back a transaction tax on banks – a move resisted by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls. 'Senior figures' are said to be concerned that unless Milimolimandi can stem the flow of negative coverage and push ahead of the Tories, there is a danger he could sink to a low point from which it would be difficult to recover. Strategists say Labour is determined in the new year to show a 'sharpened focus' on the 'cost of living crisis' facing families on low to middle earnings – those who are in the so-called 'squeezed middle.' In a first move the party calls on the government to ban train operating companies from raising rail fares above strict limits. Ahead of new year prices rises that will see many fares soar by as much as nine per cent, Labour says its plan would limit increases to a maximum of one per cent above inflation. Further initiatives to highlight Labour's push for fairness are expected in coming weeks as the party announces plans to rein in bank credit card charges and deliver a fairer deal on university fees, housing and tax credit reform.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are among the Internet sites to have threatened a coordinated blackout in protest to the Stop Online Piracy Act. Markham Erickson of NetCoalition - a group consisting of the trio and other popular destinations such as PayPal, Yahoo and Amazon - confirmed that the drastic move was already 'under consideration. Mozilla had a blackout day and Wikipedia has talked about something similar,' the director told FOX News. 'A number of companies have had discussions about that. This type of thing doesn't happen because companies typically don't want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet.' He added that the move could be 'just the tip of the iceberg in terms of response' from anti-SOPA organisations. The SOPA bill has been backed by motion picture and recording industries who hope to permanently eliminate online theft, though there are concerns that its piracy restrictions could have a harmful effect on legitimate websites. The bill has been backed by Adidas, Burberry and, of course, News Corporation. Facebook and Google first voiced their opposition to the act earlier this month.
Luis Suarez gave 'unreliable' evidence to the body which was investigating claims that he racially abused Patrice Evra, according to a report published by the Football Association. Liverpool's Suarez was given an eight-match ban and a forty thousand knicker fine after he clashed with Manchester United's Evra. The report says that Suarez has 'damaged the image of English football around the world.' Two similar offences in future could lead to 'a permanent suspension.' The incident happened during the 1-1 draw at Anfield on 15 October. In giving the reasons for the length of the ban, the report said: 'Given the number of times that Mr Suarez used the word "negro", his conduct is significantly more serious than a one-off use of a racially offensive term and amounts to an aggravating factor.' The FA and Liverpool were given the findings on Friday by the Independent Regulatory Commission. Both parties have the right to an appeal and must reply by 13 January. The one hundred and fifteen-page document details the conversation between the two players. The report concludes: 'Mr Evra was a credible witness. He gave his evidence in a calm, composed and clear way. It was, for the most part, consistent, although both he and Mr Suarez were understandably unable to remember every detail of the exchanges between them. Mr Suarez's evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the evidence, especially the video footage. For example, Mr Suarez said that he pinched Mr Evra's skin in an attempt to defuse the situation. He also said that his use of the word "negro" to address Mr Evra was conciliatory and friendly. We rejected that evidence. To describe his own behaviour in that way was unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument. That this was put forward by Mr Suarez was surprising and seriously undermined the reliability of his evidence on other matters. There were also inconsistencies between his accounts given at different times as to what happened.' Suarez was found guilty on the 'balance of probability' - a lower standard than the criminal standard of 'beyond all reasonable doubt.' According to the report, Evra admitted that he begun the exchange with Suarez by referring to the Uruguayan's sister in Spanish. The report added: 'After the referee Andre Marriner separated them, Mr Suarez said that he turned to Mr Evra and said, "Por que, negro?" [Suarez] said that he used the word "negro" at this point in the way that he did when he was growing up in Uruguay, that is as a friendly form of address to people seen as black or brown-skinned or even just black-haired. [Suarez] said that he used it in the same way that he did when he spoke to Glen Johnson, the Liverpool player. [Suarez] said in no way was the use of the word "negro" intended to be offensive or to be racially offensive. It was intended as an attempt at conciliation.' The entire conversation took place in Spanish and linguistic experts Professor Peter Wade and Dr James Scorer helped the panel with the meaning of the phrases. The commission added: 'In our judgment, Mr Suarez's use of the term [negro] was not intended as an attempt at conciliation or to establish rapport; neither was it meant in a conciliatory and friendly way.' In the report, Suarez claimed: 'I would refer to Glen Johnson as "negro" in the same way that I might refer to Dirk Kuyt as "Blondie" - because he has blond hair, or Andy Carroll as "Grandote" - "Big Man" - because he is very tall. Where I come from it is normal to refer to people in this way by reference to what they look like. There is no aggression in referring to somebody in this way and there is certainly no racial connotation.' After the match Evra and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson both spoke to the referee about the incident, while Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish remarked to referee Marriner in reference to Evra, 'Hasn't he done this before?' Despite the punishment, the commission conceded: 'This case is not about whether Mr Suarez is in fact a racist. Indeed, the commission will no doubt conclude that there are some indications that he is not.' Suarez's defence was that he had been called 'South American' in a derogatory way by Evra. But the commission added: 'We found that Mr Evra did not use the words "South American" when speaking to Mr Suarez.' Evra, Ryan Giggs, Kuyt, Liverpool's director of football Damien Comolli and Dalglish all gave evidence at the hearing.

Russell Brand has announced that he has filed for divorce from US singer Katy Perry after fourteen months of marriage. Which is, obviously, very sad not only for the couple but, also, for all of their friends and families. But, having said that, is it really so wrong to wonder if Andrew Sachs is tempted to ring Russell Brand's answering machine and just snigger for a few moments before hanging up? Yeah, probably is actually. Okay, moving on ...

And so to the first Keith Telly Topping's (bootleg) 45(s) of the Day for 2012. On 1 January 1962, four young chaps in a popular beat combo from Liverpool arrived in the Big Smoke at Decca's recording studios in Bromhurst Gardens, West Hampstead for an audition for the label. They were nervous and it clearly shows on the recording which were made that day featuring the majority of their then stage-act. Although initial response from the staff at the studio was broadly positive, a couple of weeks later their manager (who had, unbeknown to the band, actually paid for the session) was told that they had been rejected in favour of another group, from Dagenham, who had their audition later the same day, Brian Poole and the Tremoloes. The eventual decision not to sign the Liverpool combo was taken by Decca's Head of A&R, Dick Rowe, who allegedly told their manager 'groups with guitars are on their way out, Mister Epstein.' (History hasn't been very kind to Rowe, who died in 1986. The most memorable public image of him probably being the character based on him, Brian Thigh, played by Dan Ackroyd in The Rutles: All You Need is Cash, a chain-smoking nervous wreck. In actual fact, Rowe was rather philosophical about his decision not to sign the biggest selling band in history. And his decision - eighteen months later, on a recommendation from George Harrison - to sign the second biggest selling band in history, The Rolling Stones, is definitely a point in his favour.) As for the actual reason why The Beatles failed their Decca audition? It might just have been that at that stage - and, particularly on that day - they simply weren't very good. You can judge for yourself, here.
And here.

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