Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cover Us In Chocolate, Sell Us To The Neighbours

As reported yesterday, the final episode of Call the Midwife attracted 9.2 million overnight viewers, according to initial figures. The BBC said that it was the most successful new drama series on the channel since 2001, when the current ratings system began. (They're, presumably, not counting Doctor Who's 2005 debut as a 'new series' per se.) The drama's finale saw the wedding of popular midwife Chummy - played by Miranda Hart - and policeman PC Noakes. Written by Heidi Thomas, the series was adapted from the real-life memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth. Her books recalled her work and life in the East End of London as a midwife in the 1950s. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said: 'It's been wonderful to see viewers respond so warmly - and in such large numbers - to this world of babies, nuns and extraordinary women.' A second series has already been commissioned and will return to the BBC next year. Thomas said: 'When Jennifer Worth was dying, I took her hands in mine and promised I'd do everything in my power to make her books sing as a drama. She will be looking down now from the heaven she undoubtedly believed in, and smiling. That means more than I can say.' On Sunday, Call the Midwife was moved half-an-hour later than usual to avoid clashing with Coronation Street on ITV, which was itself moved from its mid-week slot due - they claimed - to a UEFA Europa League football match. Coronation Street was seen by an average audience of 8.6 million viewers, while Upstairs Downstairs - which returned for a new series on BBC1 straight after Call The Midwife - attracted an overnight of 6.5 million.

And, speaking of ratings, here's the final, consolidated Top Thirty shows for week ending 12 February:-
1 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 10.66m
2 Call The Midwife - BBC1 Sun - 10.42m
3 EastEnders - BBC1 Thurs - 9.85m
4 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 8.00m*
5 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.46m
6 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 7.41m
7 The Diamond Queen - BBC1 Mon - 7.12m
8 Wild At Heart - ITV Sun - 7.11m
9 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 6.60m
10 Whitechapel - ITV Mon - 6.52m
11 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 6.36m
12 Top Gear - BBC2 Sun - 6.13m (includes 1.03m BBC HD)
13 Hustle - BBC1 Fri - 6.10m
14 Prisoners' Wives - BBC1 Tues - 5.96m
15 The ONE Show - BBC1 Tues - 5.91m
16 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - BBC1 Sat - 5.63m
17 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.57m
18 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 5.56m
19 Take Me Out - ITV Sat - 5.47m*
20 British Academy Film Awards - BBC1 Sun - 5.45m
21 MasterChef - BBC1 Wed - 5.16m
22 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 5.10m
23 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 5.09m
24 Super Smart Animals - BBC1 Wed - 5.06m
25 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV Sat - 5.03m*
26 Rugby Six Nations - BBC1 Sat - 5.03m
27 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 5.01m
28 Match of the Day - BBC1 Sat - 5.01m
29 Law & Order: UK - ITV Fri - 4.77m*
30 All New You've Been Framed - ITV Sat - 4.71*
* = ITV HD figures not included.

The BBC have released a trailer for Paula Milne's epic new drama, White Heat, which charts the lives of seven friends from 1965 through to the present day. Launching on BBC2 next month, the six-part series follows the group over almost five decades as their lives, loves and destinies are shaped by the political events of each era - from the death of Churchill, the union strife of the Seventies, the ascendancy of Thatcher, the Falklands, AIDS, the end of the Cold War to the Twenty First Century. Sort of 'Our Friends in the South', if you will. Looks terrific. Good cast, too - Claire Foy, Sam Claflin, Lee Ingleby. I reckon that might be well worth watching, actually.
As previous discussed, filming is now underway on the next series of Doctor Who in the Welsh seaside town of Penarth. The first guest star for the series has been revealed as the comedian and actor Mark Williams. Having risen to fame as one of the faces of The Fast Show (y'ain't seen him, roit?), Williams has appeared in a variety of television and films, most recently on Sunday evenings as vampire lore-master Regus in Toby Whithouse's supernatural show Being Human. Arguably, though, the actor is now recognisable worldwide - to fourteen year old girls, anyway - though his role as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter film franchise. To this blogger, he'll always be Jesse from The Fast Show's Jesse's Diets ('This week, I have been mostly eating chicken'), Petersen from Red Dwarf, Don Powell in the Slade In Residence segments of A Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer and, indeed, the chap from some insurance advert who says 'we wanna be togetha!' It is not yet known what role Mark is taking although some fan rumours suggest he could have been cast as Rory's dad.

And, speaking of Rory, here's a shot of an extremely cold-looking Arthur Darvill arriving for work. You can find several further location shots at The Daily What's webpage. Check it out.
STV Sales has given out detailed scheduling information about what ITV are doing next month. A summary of the main points:
- Britain's Got Talent is set to launch on Saturday 31 March.
- Titanic, the new four-part drama written by Downton Abbey's Lord Snooty, will be broadcast weekly from Sunday 25 March (and not, as many rumours had it, strip scheduled across four nights Thursday to Sunday). The first episode will have a lead-in from the Twatting About on Ice final (or 'grand final' it says here. Listen, mate, there's nothing even remotely 'grand' about it.) It will also be up against the final episode of Upstairs Downstairs.
- Homes From Hell is going to be taking the Tuesday 8pm timeslot from mid-March onwards.
- Trevor McDonald's three-part travelogue Mighty Mississipi is also set to be broadcast on Tuesdays at 9pm from 20 March.
- There's a one-off episode of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire on Sunday 1 March sandwiched between the two Twatting About on Ice shows.
- A new episode of Midsomer Murders will be shown on Wednesday 21 March.

Oh and, incidentally, just in case you didn't know, The Voice is coming.
Live from the deck of the Starship Enterprise, it would seem. 'Captain's log. Supplemental. Sir Tom Jones, what are you doing?!'

Scowling boatrace of manifest discontent Jeremy Paxman has criticised the BBC's decision to sell Television Centre and move some staff to central London during budget cuts. The Newsnight presenter compared the broadcaster – which has announced plans to vacate the famous doughnut-shaped TV Centre in West London by 2015 – to the British empire on the years before decolonisation. He told the Radio Times: 'They always said that the way you know if the British are going to decolonise is when they start building massive government buildings – that was certainly the case in India. And the BBC's much the same. What organisation – at a time when it has no money, allegedly – would move from cheap square footage in West London to Oxford Circus?' The BBC announced in 2007 its intention to sell Television Centre, the Shepherd's Bush home of BBC television and news which opened in 1960, to maximise the site's value to the BBC and licence-fee payers. Staff are moving to the revamped Broadcasting House in Central London and the corporation's new BBC North headquarters in Salford. Paxman, who presented a series on the British empire on BBC1, described the BBC as 'one of the legacies of empire', along with sport, religion and the prevalence of the English language. But, asked in the Radio Times whether he ever felt echoes of empire at the corporation, he said: 'No, they're all far too politically correct, I'm afraid.' The sixty one-year-old, whose younger brother is the British Ambassador in Spain, also told the magazine that the Foreign Office should be a thing of the past. He said: 'There's a very strong case for getting rid of the whole of the Foreign Office, apart from trade missions and consular services. It grew as the empire grew, and it predates not merely e-mail and video-conferencing, but the Bakelite telephone. We could spend the money on expanding the British Council, funding scholarships in Britain and developing the World Service of the BBC. That's the way you spread influence in the modern world.' Paxman also criticised the former prime minister Tony Blair for apologising for the Irish potato famine, telling the magazine that 'apologising for things that your great, great, great, great-grandfather or grandmother did, seems to me a complete exercise in moral vacuousness.'

How to Look Good Naked's Gok Wan has landed his first cookery show for Channel Four. The fashion and body image expert will be showcasing his talents in the kitchen and his passion for Chinese food in Gok Cooks Chinese. Wan will be joined by his dad John, nicknamed Papa Wan, as he aims to prove that he is the 'master of the cleaver as well as the cleavage.' Channel Four features commissioning editor Katie Boyd said: 'Gok's a whizz with a wok - and his delectable yet simple Chinese recipes are made to make your mouth water.'
Labour MP Tom Watson (power to the people!) has written to the head of the Metropolitan police questioning whether Rupert Murdoch is 'legally entitled' to lift the suspensions of Sun staff arrested in relation to alleged payments to public officials. Watson alleges that it has been 'known for many years' Murdoch's company has 'destroyed and obstructed police and parliamentary inquiries into corrupt and illegal practices' and asks the Met commissioner, Bernard Hogan Howe, whether he is 'satisfied vital evidence is secure as a result of Mr Murdoch's actions.' The media mogul announced on Friday that any of the ten staff who were arrested in relation to alleged bribery could return to work and five of them have already done so, with the remaining five expected to return in the next week. Watson's intervention comes as the Sun prepares to launch its first Sunday edition this weekend. Watson, who has been at the vanguard of the parliamentary investigation into phone hacking at the Scum of the World, believes that the bail conditions ban any of those arrested from making contact with each other, which would suggest that it could be problematic for them to work together. Scotland Yard has refused to comment but sources at News International have indicated that a 'no contact' condition does not apply to the ten Sun staff. In his letter to Hogan-Howe, Watson says: 'It seems remarkable that the people being investigated of such serious crimes should be put in a position that makes it impossible to determine whether bail terms have been breached.' In addition to this clarification, Watson asks Hogan Howe to 'confirm that you have secured computer and paper filing systems' relevant to the investigation into police payments. 'The public will think it odd that the circumstances that lead to the bail of a number of high profile individuals will allow them to be in the proximity of evidence that can be tampered with.' In January police launched a raid of the Sun headquarters in Wapping and are believed to have taken away computers, notepads and other material. Watson's letter comes just weeks after News International was accused by a high court judge of destroying evidence that could have helped in the investigations into phone hacking. In January News Group Newspapers, the part of News International that owned the Scum of the World, was ordered to search its computer databases for evidence of an alleged cover-up. Mr Justice Vos, who is presiding over civil actions against News International said he had seen evidence that raised 'compelling questions about whether [NGN] concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot free.' In that same hearing, it was alleged that in 2010 computers used by eight Scum of the World journalists implicated in phone hacking were 'physically destroyed' by the company.

A man at the centre of allegations that computers were hacked for the Scum of the World has been convicted of conspiring to illegally access private information for profit. Until Monday legal restrictions meant that what is known about Philip Campbell Smith's alleged involvement in computer hacking could not be reported, according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Who took a few moments off from their massive disappointment that Ofcom cleared Jeremy Clarkson despite their best efforts, to do some proper reporting for a change. Smith is, the Gruniad notes, 'alleged to have hacked the computer of a former British army intelligence officer in 2006' as part of a commission from the Scum of the World. In a tape recording, Smith says that he was 'in contact' with Andy Coulson, the former Scum of the World editor who went on to become David Cameron's director of communications. Smith claims that Coulson is in his mobile phone directory. Smith, the newspaper alleges, is 'understood' to be 'under investigation' by a Scotland Yard inquiry, Operation Kalmyk, which is examining allegations that e-mail hacking may have been used against several dozen targets. The allegations against Smith highlight, the Gruniad adds, 'a growing concern over computer hacking.' The state that Met officers are 'known' to have approached leading members of the Labour party 'as possible victims.' These include Gordon Brown, the former No 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell, the former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and Tom Watson (power to the people!) However, the Gruniad hastily adds, if any of the Labour figures were targets, 'it is not known who carried out the hacking and for whom.' Although, one could, if one was of a mind, probably hazard a pretty informed guess. The computer that Smith is suspected of hacking belonged to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst. Computer hacking involving Smith is alleged to have been carried out in July 2006 by sending Hurst an e-mail containing a trojan horse virus that copied Hurst's e-mails and relayed them back to the hacker. It is claimed this was commissioned by Alex Marunchak, who was a senior editor on the Scum of the World when it was edited by Coulson. The material accessed by the hacker included messages concerning at least two agents who had informed on the Provisional IRA: Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the few people who knew their whereabouts and the e-mails contained information capable of disclosing this. Hurst found out that Smith had hacked his computer and went on to tape him confessing to it. Sections of that confession were broadcast last year as part of a BBC Panorama programme. Hurst told the Leveson inquiry into press standards that he had been shown a seven-page fax by the BBC containing 'material' from his computer. Hurst said that the hacker worked for a private investigator, Jonathan Rees, who was in turn working for the Scum of the World. Rees ran a firm called Southern Investigations and last year was acquitted of murdering a former business partner, Daniel Morgan. Rees has worked as a private investigator for the Daily Mirra, the Sunday Mirra and the Scum of the World under the editorship of well-known Crystal Tips look-alike Rebekah Brooks. He was jailed for trying to frame a woman, and on his release from prison in 2004 he resumed his work for the Scum of the World, then being edited by Coulson. The defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid paid Rees up to one hundred and fifty thousand smackers for his 'services' and a bug placed by police in his south London office recorded corrupt officers taking cash for information. An internal police report said that Rees and his 'network' were involved in 'the long-term penetration of police intelligence' and that 'their thirst for knowledge is driven by profit to be accrued from the media.' Hurst told the Leveson inquiry of admissions that Smith (referred to as 'X' due to the legal reporting restrictions) had made to him, which were covertly recorded: 'He states for a three-month period, and all documents he could access via the back door trojan: our e-mails, the hard drive, social media, the whole range of – I mean, he didn't say this, but the trojan that we've identified would have allowed the cam, your web cam, so he could have actually seen me or my kids at the desk.' Smith was arrested in 2009 and his computers seized, but Hurst was not told his computer had been hacked until October 2011. Panorama claimed that Marunchak had decided to 'target' Hurst during the summer of 2006. It claimed that he hired Rees to do the job, and Rees subcontracted it to Smith. Marunchak denies the allegations. MI5 became aware that Smith had targeted Hurst's e-mail in an attempt to find the location of Scappaticci, the Gruniad allege. They made no approach to Hurst, apparently on the grounds that he was preparing to write an unauthorised book about his experience in Northern Ireland and 'could not be trusted.' They may have taken steps to alert Scappaticci, the Gruniad goes on to claim. They then asked the Serious Organised Crime Agency to investigate. Hurst told the Gruniad that police 'missed a number of opportunities to investigate. In 2007 they chose not to do anything about it,' he said. 'In 2009, after the arrest of Philip Campbell Smith, they came again into information that my computer had been hacked and chose again to do nothing. Even in 2011 they didn't seem that interested.' Hurst said that he had taped meetings and conversations with Smith, during which the private investigator had said he was 'in contact' with Coulson. Hurst, the Gruniad cliams, says that he is 'prepared to provide his tape recordings of Smith making admissions about computer hacking and the alleged relationship with Coulson to Leveson.' In one recording made by Hurst, Smith said: 'I got introduction in [sic] Andy Coulson. On my phone, he's the first name that appears before yours. I ended up deleting it.' Smith is also alleged to have hacked the e-mail of a former police officer who was acting as a police informer known as Joe Poulton. This happened between September 2005 and January 2006. This informer had been providing information about Rees and his private detective company called Southern Investigations. The hacking exposed the informer and is alleged to have been ordered by Rees. At Leveson, Sue Akers, who is leading the Met investigations into hacking, confirmed details about Operation Kalmyk, a sub-inquiry of Operation Tuleta. Kalmyk is investigating the allegations made in the BBC Panorama programme. 'This relates to illegal accessing of computers belonging to others for financial gain and this is the one of them that has been a full investigation as a result of the scoping exercise that Tuleta has undertaken,' Akers said. The Scum of the World has admitted liability for hacking into the actor Sienna Miller's e-mail in September 2008. At the high court in January counsel for News International, Michael Silverleaf QC, said that the Scum of the World had unlawfully accessed the e-mails of the son of the serial killer Harold Shipman and the freelance journalist Tom Rowland. Christopher Shipman said that he had been shown and provided with copies of e-mails dating from 2004 which had been intercepted by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was regularly commissioned by the newspaper for their nefarious skulduggery and sour and rotten doings. The News International chief executive, Tom Mockridge, has denied his company's newspapers were involved in any hacking of Hain's computers. In a separate case, Smith and three others – Adam Spears, Daniel Summers, and Graham Freeman – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by illegally obtaining confidential information. The trials were held at Kingston crown court but their outcome could not be reported until Monday. That was to avoid prejudicing another case against Campbell Smith, which ended on Monday with him pleading guilty to possessing three rounds of ammunition. The trials did not involve allegations of hacking being carried out for media clients. The case about the obtaining of confidential information involved the tactic of blagging. The case was investigated by SOCA and the activities took place between 16 January 2007 and 19 May 2009. SOCA, the Gruniad suggests, 'officially says the operation did not involve computer hacking.' But, they continue, an alleged 'source' with alleged knowledge of the case allegedly said: 'There could have been hacking. There is some suggestion they got mobile phone passwords and pins to hack voicemails and text messages.' The alleged 'source' allegedly said computer hacking was also possible: 'They might have trojaned.' The men convicted are believed to have been able to get information from banks, Interpol, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. In an e-mail to a client in March 2007 about why their charges of up to five thousand quid 'may seem high,' Freeman wrote that police and Interpol databases that may be accessed were 'not open to the general public and are tightly regulated,' meaning that 'should we be apprehended a custodial sentence' may be handed out. In an e-mail from Smith which was copied to Freeman, he discussed trying to get information from the DVLA: 'My contact is trying to get this information without causing too many waves.' Smith wrote that if his contacts suspected he may be uncovered he would 'drop it like a hot potato' adding: 'It is getting tougher to get this information and ensure there are no footprints left behind.'

David Walliams is to star in a BBC1 adaptation of his children's novel Mr Stink. The story of a schoolgirl who befriends a homeless man and hides him in her family's garden shed, Mr Stink has sold two hundred and fifty thousand copies and was shortlisted for the Blue Peter best book of the decade award. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen described the family comedy drama as a 'heart-warming, nose-clenching and funny tale which will appeal to viewers of all ages.' The book, first published in 2009 and illustrated by Quentin Blake, has been adapted for the small screen by Walliams himself, who said: 'I am beyond-thrilled that BBC1 is adapting my children's book Mr Stink into a family film. I have written the script and can't wait to see actors bring it to life.' Mr Stink has already been adapted for the stage. Walliams will play the prime minister in the sixty-minute film. The TV adaptation was commissioned by Cohen and Cheryl Taylor, the BBC's controller of comedy. It will be executive produced by Mark Freeland, head of BBC Comedy, and is being made in-house at the BBC in association with Walliams and his company DEW Productions. Walliams, who has starred in BBC1's Little Britain and Come Fly With Me alongside Matt Lucas, has written several children's books, including The Boy in the Dress, Billionaire Boy and Gangsta Granny. Freeland said: 'I am delighted that the BBC is continuing its relationship with the multi-talented David Walliams. Mr Stink has become an instant classic and it's so exciting to see it come to life on TV.'

A second graffiti attack at Newcastle United's ground is being investigated by police. The words 'St James' Park' were written in black paint on an outside wall of the stadium, on Sunday evening. They even for the apostrophe in the right place. Most of it was later removed by workmen but traces remained clearly visible on Monday morning.
The announcement that owner Mike Ashley was changing the stadium's name to The Sports Direct Arena has sparked righteous anger among many fans. Most have said that they would continue to use the old name. This blog included. At the time the club said that the 'rebranding' was a temporary measure to 'showcase' the sponsorship opportunity to 'interested parties', and that it could, eventually, generate up to ten million smackers a year. Which, not a single, solitary person believes. It has not commented on the latest incident. Northumbria Police said in a statement: 'At 6.30pm on Sunday 19 February police received a report of criminal damage at the Newcastle United ground. Between 5pm and 6.05pm someone had vandalised a wall of the stadium. Anyone with information is asked to contact police.'

And now, the first in a recurring series. From The North's sillies names in television. Number one: Christopher Lillicrap.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a little twenty-four carat pop classic from james.


chas_m said...

Still trying to find the "like" button.

You missed a splendid Gallifrey this year.

chas_m said...

Still trying to find the "like" button.

You missed a splendid if crowded Gally this year. I was particularly heartened by all the love Russell and Maureen got.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping said...

Aye, so I hear. Massive attendance an'all by all accounts. It weren't like that in t'maaa day.