Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just To Watch Him Die

BBC4 is going disco to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the corporation's 'gold card channel for arts, music and culture' next month. The channel's ten-year anniversary on 2 March will be marked with a 'lively' line-up of programmes on the impact of disco music, said the BBC. The Joy Of Disco looks at how a style of music that was originally mocked by the world went on to help define a generation, while Disco At The BBC showcases a range of great performances by artists. Most in flares. Since BBC4 replaced the BBC Knowledge channel in 2002 as 'a culturally enriching' network, the channel has covered subjects ranging from Doris Day to the A303. The digital channel was rumoured to be facing the axe last year under the BBC's cost cutting drive, but instead it was announced that the network will be 'refocused' to play more of a 'supporting role' to parent network BBC2. BBC4 reaches approximately 9.8m viewers each week, and - crucially - has the highest audience appreciation levels of any BBC channel. Last year, BBC4's audience share rose by eighteen per cent to an average of 1.3 per cent, while the share has increased further to an average of 1.7 per cent so far in 2012. The network enjoyed its best ever spell at Christmas 2011, averaging a two per cent audience share. This was largely down to 'heavyweight' programmes, including the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which was watched by more than a million viewers, and performances of The Nutcracker and Cinderella. Last year, BBC3 scooped Broadcast Digital's 'Factual Channel of the Year' and won a string of industry awards for programmes such as Secret Life Of The National Grid, The Road To Coronation Street, Getting On, The Killing and Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children. It had won praise for its importing of the cream of European TV drama (Borgen, Spiral) and for its on-going Britannia series' looking at different aspects of British music and culture. BBC4 controller Richard Klein said: 'It is an honour and a delight to be looking after BBC4 on its tenth birthday and I can think of no better way to celebrate this than with mirror balls, platform shoes and The Bee Gees. Blow-dried hair is optional.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping did enjoy the BBC's Six O'Clock News report on the Grammys. 'Adele is big in America,' quote they. In case you hadn't noticed, chaps, she's big everywhere.
Doctor Who's Matt Smith has revealed his plan to one day direct a movie. He also revealed his desire to skateboard down to Wembley, bang in a hat-trick before sitting in on a reunion gig with The Beatles whilst, simultaneously, licking the chocolate of seventeen Mars Bars. But, they're all unlikely to happen too. Speaking to the Gruniad - who took a few minutes off from rubbing their hands together over the Sun malarkey and searching the Internet for people angry about some aspect of Top Gear - the actor suggested that he would like to work with playwright and friend Simon Stephens on an idea in the future. When asked whether he would consider any film roles in the future, Smith replied: 'God yeah, absolutely - I'd quite like to direct.' Asked if he has a specific project in mind, he noted: 'Perhaps, but it's way down the line. But, [I'm] talking to a writer about it, a writer you may have mentioned before [Stephens], and we're on the road. We're just trying to find a window to do it because, obviously my filming commitments take up so long. And there's plenty of time.' Earlier in the interview, Smith had said that he would 'love' to work with Stephens, describing him as 'one of [his] favourite writers.' Meanwhile, the twenty nine-year-old revealed that 'a big name' has recently signed to guest star in an upcoming Doctor Who episode. 'Casting is going very well,' Smith added. 'I found out a lovely bit of news this morning actually about somebody who's going to be in it. I couldn't possibly tell you but it's exciting. You'll know him. Or her.' Talking generally about the new series of the BBC's popular long-running SF family drama, which starts filming on 20 February, Smith went on: 'Very excited - it's a long shoot. But we've got four or five scripts which look in really good shape.' Of his continuing desire to return to the theatre, Smith added: 'I really hope [I do] - I'm filming now until December on Doctor Who. But, depending on what happens thereafter, I'm itching to come back.'

Famous friends of the blogger, number one: A quick reminder to all that yer actual Keith Telly Topping's once-upon-a-time writing partner yer actual Martin Day will have his latest episode of Doctors premiered on BBC1 at 1:45 on Thursday of this week. In this, 'Heston uncovers a secret when he helps a man come to terms with his father's mysterious disappearance. Freya tries to persuade Mandy she is not interested in Kevin, while Julia is furious when she misses a call from Sally.' Yer acutal Keith Telly Topping did include it in Wednesday's radio Top Telly Tips (3:45 on yer actual Simon Logan's Afternoon Show) since it would've been too late on Thursday! So, if you're a regular listener you're going to be reminded again, tomorrow. God bless the Internet.

Famous friends of the blogger, number two: Speaking of yer actual Si Logan his very self, the man has many extraordinary talents - being a quite sodding brilliant broadcaster being not least among them. But, one of his most scary party tricks is his almost Asperger's-like ability to remember chart hits from the 1980s. It is a sight to see, dear blog reader, trust me, a sight to see. This morning, for instance, yer actual Keith Telly Topping gave Logie a pop quiz of two random Top Forty's from 1984 and 1987, giving him the title of the song and asking for the artist. The lad only went and got seventy nine out of eighty (he missed out on Herb Alpert!) Oh, the fun we have in the office.

Famous friends of the blogger, number three: This one's just an excuse for a bit of crass and pointed North Eastern intercity rivalry, as it goes. Purely for goods larks and thigh-slapping japery, of course. Us Geordies and the Mackems are, actually, terrific chums. Usually. Well, except for two days a year, anyway. (And, sometimes the other three hundred and sixty three as well, depending on what happens on those two days!) Anyway, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's former Afternoon Show oppo (and current writing partner) the legend that is Alfie Joey presented his Breakfast Show (along with the divine goddess of local radio, Charlie Charlton) this morning from The Dark Side. That's, err, Sunderland if you were wondering. At the very Stadium of Shite itself, indeed. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

And finally, in what's been a far more self-indulgent section than you normally get at From The North, dear blog reader. Famous friends of the blogger, number four: Yer actual Malcolm Holt, top Tyneside crime author and close personal chum of this blogger, has written a new anthology of short stories, Hard Drive, including several of Big Mal's previously published Crime Tyne Shorts. It'll be out soon on his own Saddle Up imprint. This after a hasty change of publisher occasioned by some shenanigans and malarkey. Malcolm, his very self, explains further here at his excellent A Bit on the Side blog. Check it out.

Parts of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation have been 'boasting' about handing information to police that has led to the arrests of ten journalists at the Sun, one of the tabloid's most senior staff said on Monday. Trevor Kavanagh, the paper's associate editor, told BBC Radio 5Live that the mood on the paper was 'despondent' and there was 'a feeling of being under siege.' And we're supposed to, what, feel sorry for you? Appearing on The Richard Bacon Show, he added: 'There has never been a bigger crisis than this.' Good. I hope they flush the lot of you into the gutter along with the rest of the turds. And, we'll ignore, I hope, the fact that somebody from the Sun who've never had a decent word to say about the BBC suddenly go running to auntie to try and get their story across when they're desperate. We'll do so because, dear blog reader, 'irony' is something the average Sun reader thinks their mom does with their shirts. In a clear swipe against News Corp's powerful Management and Standards Committee, Kavanagh said that 'there is certainly a mood of unhappiness that the company proudly, certain parts of the company – not News International I hasten to add, not the newspaper side of the operation – actually boasting that they are sending information to police that has put these people I have just described into police cells.' News Corp's MSC was set up last year in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal to co-operate with police investigations into hacking and allegations of corrupt payments to public officials. The arrests of Sun journalists comes after the MSC reconstructed an e-mail archive of three hundred million messages which the company had previously claimed had been deleted and turned over parts of that archive to the police, providing the information which led to five arrests of Sun journalists last weekend as well as four last month and one last year. In a tour of broadcast studios at lunchtime, Kavanagh launched a staunch defence of journalists on the tabloid, claiming that they were 'treated worse than terrorists' and that the police now had more officers — one hundred and seventy one in total, he claimed — investigating News International than they did on the Milly Dowler case or the Lockerbie terrorist attack. He told Radio 4's World At One there was 'concern' about the way in which the MSC is handing over information to the police. Oh, I'll bet there is. 'I think it's fair to say that there is unease about the way that some of the best journalists in Fleet Street have ended up being arrested on evidence that the MSC has handed to the police.' His remarks are being seen as a sign that Murdoch's British publishing operation is sliding into outright civil war, with journalists on the Sun and The Times 'furious' with they way they believe their bosses are 'throwing journalists to the lion's den.' On Monday morning Kavanagh – who had been considered close to Rupert Murdoch – penned an opinion piece for the Sun titled Witch-hunt has put us behind ex-Soviet states on free press. Kavanagh said the police operation was 'completely out of proportion,' with as many as twenty officers turning up at one journalist's home on Saturday. He said that he suspected police were trying to recover their own reputation after failing to investigate the original allegations of phone-hacking. 'They lost a police commissioner, they've lost a deputy police commissioner and they now want to make it abundantly clear that they aren't going to leave a single stone, floorboard, drawer, cupboard, Kellogg's packet or any other part of the household untouched,' he said. Kavanagh is leading a fightback by journalists on the Sun who are determined fight against this alleged 'witch-hunt.' He claimed that no one is opposed to co-operation with the police - which, coming from a company that four four years denied flatly that there was anything for them to cooperate with the police over this blogger finds to be rather far-fetched - and that the company should hand over information when appropriate, but it was up to the police to sift through the three hundred million e-mails and hordes of other documents, not the MSC. He said thirty current and former News International journalists have now been suspended with 'no evidence of wrongdoing and no arrests, yet their careers could now be destroyed.' A bit like the careers of many people whom the Sun have stitched up or shat upon over the years, perhaps, Trev? And, I repeat, and we're supposed to, what? Feel sorry for you? Sod that. Kavanagh fired the first fightback on behalf of staff in a pungent column in the Sun on Monday claiming there was a witch-hunt against the paper and protesting that police were treating staff on the paper like 'members of an organised crime gang.' But Kavanagh's lengthy column managed to avoid naming to the Sun's readers the alleged potential offence among those being investigated – the bribery of police officers. On Radio 4 he also denounced declarations two weeks ago that the MSC was charged with 'draining the swap.' He added: 'I think that's an appalling suggestion and it's resented bitterly and deeply by those many excellent journalists who have worked loyally for the company for most of their working lives. The point is you have people being raided by up to twenty police officers at a time when they are still in bed at home and they are having their children's underwear drawers searched by policemen who in fact are being seconded from sensitive terrorist units at a time when we are trying to prepare for the Olympic games and the potential of a mass suicide attack,' he said. Blah. Blah. De blah. He told Adam Boulton of Sky News that the Scum of the World staff had already paid 'a high price' for alleged wrongdoing at News International and that the police were now going to the other extreme after failing to investigate original allegations over phone-hacking. Kavanagh said closing the Sun would be 'surely the ultimate disproportionate act.' He added: 'I think there's no justification on the basis of what you and I know so far for any such precipitate and disastrous decision. I think it would be a catastrophe for British media and newspapers worldwide and even possibly for the BBC if action which at this stage suggests no actual guilt should be regarded as grounds for closing newspapers.' In the Sun newsroom there is a sense of anger and despair. 'Any of us could be arrested, we just don't know,' one alleged 'insider' who 'asked not to be named' allegedly told the Gruniad. Only if you done something illegal, mate. Or, at least, appear to have done something illegal. Then it's up to you to prove your innocence. Another said: 'The company has a legal duty of care to its staff. These people work anti-social hours, work overtime without question, miss family occasions for this paper. It's all very well to have the sympathy of your direct boss but when the overall company doesn't give a toss, that counts for nothing. There is going to be a backlash when Murdoch arrives here later this week.' Perhaps Trevor Kavanagh in his lionhearted rush to defence the 'great journalism' at the Sun would like to start with this. We're waiting, Trev. This should be good. I think what narks this blogger most about various Sun journalists reaction to all this is the sheer ridiculousness of it. It reminds one, rather, of the school bully who, after years of picking on the little kids and getting away with it is finally brought to book and, instead of taking his punishment like a man, stands there and, bare-faced, tries to lie his way out of his caning by blaming everything on somebody else. And, he does so whilst simultaneously snivelling wretchedly at the manifest unfairness of life. The fact that anybody with half-a-brain in their head actually buys into these risible crap excuses is sickening.
And, of course, the Gruniad were just loving this. In a piece by David Leigh headed Why the Met police and News Corp are turning the heat up on the Sun they revealed that just before Christmas Richard Caseby, the managing editor of the Sun, 'banged out a jeering e-mail to the Guardian. Police had recently started arresting their own officers over unauthorised leaks. "I hear Amelia Hill's source just got busted today," Caseby wrote to the Guardian's editor, the odious Alan Rusbridger, adding: "She must be terribly upset."' The aggression and lack of sympathy, notes Leigh, were 'typical of the tabloid's attacking style. Notable too was the poor grip on the facts.' The arrests in fact, Leigh claims, had nothing to do with Hill, one of the Gruniad's reporters who has helped to expose the phone-hacking scandal in the first place, nor anyone else at the paper. 'There were no more sneers from Caseby at the weekend,' Leigh writes with something approaching ecstasy. It transpired that it was in fact the Sun and Caseby's own staff who are the central target of large-scale the police attention over bribery and corruption allegations. 'Jeering appears to have been replaced this week by trepidation and anger at Wapping, and real fear that Rupert Murdoch will decide to shut the Sun as he did its former sister paper the News of the World – one paper hopelessly tainted by phone-hacking, the other threatened by allegations of bribery.' Ooo, get her.

The Gruniad also - gleefully - reported that the civil war at Rupert Murdoch's media empire 'broke out on a new front on Tuesday, with The Times reporting that parent company News Corporation had disclosed some of its journalists' confidential sources to police.' The Times claimed that News Corp's management and standards committee had disclosed the identity of police officers, a civil servant and an army officer to Scotland Yard because it did not believe they were 'legitimate sources.' The MSC, the News Corp body conducting an internal investigation into allegations of illegal activity by News International journalists, has according to The Times 'sought to reassure staff that it is protecting confidential sources by redacting names from documents but it has emerged that this does not apply if there is evidence that the source was a public official who may have been paid.' Six of those 'sources' have, according to the Gruniad, been arrested in connection with inappropriate payments from journalists.

The Metropolitan police - 'working together for a safer London ... by banging up dodgy hypocritical scum (allegedly)' - has defended its handling of the arrest of the nine Sun journalists, saying it does not believe the resources devoted to the relevant investigations is 'in any way disproportionate' given the 'seriousness of the allegations' and 'significant number of victims.' Scotland Yard issued a statement late on Monday describing the three linked investigations into alleged illegal activity by News International journalists as an 'enormous task,' with 'millions of pieces of documentation needing to be scrutinised and examined.' No other major investigation has been compromised at any stage by the number of police officers assigned to these investigations, the Met added. The Met said no more than ten officers were involved in each of Saturday's arrests of five Sun journalists at their homes as part of Operation Elveden, the investigation into alleged illegal payments to police and other public officials. So Trevor Kavanagh's descriptions of twenty burly police officers kicking in doors and dragging journos from their beds would appear to be, as with much else that appears in the Sun based on a gross exaggeration of the truth. Where have we heard about The Truth before? Oh yes, Hillborough. That was when the Sun and the police were, like, the bestest of friends. Several officers were needed 'for the thorough and efficient search of an address, including, where appropriate, specialist search teams,' according to Scotland Yard. It also revealed that it has one hundred and sixty nine officers and staff working on the three investigations – Operation Elveden (sixty one), Operating Weeting into alleged phone-hacking (ninety one) and Operation Tuleta (sixteen) into alleged computer-hacking. A detective chief superintendent is overseeing each of the investigations, with Met deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers having overall responsibility for all three. 'The linked Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta are extremely difficult and complex with literally millions of pieces of documentation needing to be scrutinised and examined,' the Met said in its statement. 'Given the seriousness of the allegations currently under investigation and the significant number of victims, the Met does not believe that the level of resources devoted to the three inquiries is in any way disproportionate to the enormous task in hand. The majority have come from Specialist Crime; Territorial Policing and the Directorate of Professional Standards. At no stage has any major investigation been compromised as a result of these deployments.' Scotland Yard added that the resources committed to the investigations were constantly reviewed and, where they relate to alleged corrupt payments to police officers, overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Meanwhile, whilst every other newspaper in the country lines up to make the Sun the story of the week, the Sun themselves have an alternative target. Twatting About on Ice and its sliding ratings: 'More than a million later deserted the skate-off show which was left with only 5.7 million. The figures are a blow to ITV. Executives fear fans are getting fed up with DOI which has failed to produce any stand-out moments.'

Comedian Ellie Taylor is to be the new presenter of the BBC3 reality show Snog, Marry, Avoid. She takes over the 'makeunder; programme – which travels the country showing the benefits of losing the fake tan, eyelashes and hair – for its fifth series. Taylor – a former model who appeared in ITV flop talent programme Show Me The Funny last year – tweeted: 'Orange people of the UK beware! I'm dead chuffed to say I'll be presenting a brand news series of Snog Marry Avoid on BBC3 in the spring!' She joins the series for ten half-hour episodes as it has a makeover of its own, with new graphics and audio for its personal overhaul device which dishes out 'no-nonsense advice.' Like, 'don't watch Snog, Marry, Avoid, it's crap,' no doubt.

The BBC's head of rural affairs is leaving the BBC after thirty five years. Andrew Thorman, whose career ran from local radio to 5Live to rural affairs for TV and radio, said the BBC had been a 'huge part' of his life. Under Thorman's leadership, Countryfile became a ratings hit and Radio 4's Farming Today achieved record audiences. He told the BBC's in-house title, Ariel: 'My team has been fantastic in helping put the countryside on the media map. Fifteen years ago Farming Today faced the chop - today it's reaching record audiences. The number of people watching Countryfile has grown from 1.5 million to more than seven million in three years. I believe the rural agenda will become even more relevant to people's lives as both a playground and a source of affordable and safe food.' An executive producer at the BBC, Bill Lyons, will take over Countryfile, moving to Bristol with the programme.

Sony Music has come under fire after, with staggering greed, it increased the price of a Whitney Houston CD on Apple's iTunes Store just hours after the singer was found dead in an LA hotel bathtub. The music giant is understood to have lifted the wholesale price of Houston's greatest hits CD, The Ultimate Collection, at about 4am California time on Sunday. This meant that the iTunes retail price of the CD automatically increased from £4.99 to £7.99. Houston's The Ultimate Collection, originally released in 1997, was the second top-selling CD on iTunes on Monday morning meaning mucho wonga for Sony. Apple returned the CD to its original price late on Sunday. 'Music fans' described the move as a cynical attempt to capitalise on Houston's in-demand greatest hits records. Not all of them, obviously. I mean, I didn't, for one. Because nobody asked me. Although, if they had, I'm sure I would have described it thus. And worse. I'd've called it odious greed. Houston was found dead in her Los Angeles hotel room on Saturday afternoon, local time, at the age of forty eight. One alleged 'insider' allegedly 'close to the situation' claimed that the price hike was not a 'cynical' move – but that the wholesale price of Houston's The Ultimate Collection was 'wrong.'

Zambia's dramatic penalties victory over the Côte d'Ivoire in the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday netted a peak audience of 1.35m viewers for ITV4. The channel, unsurprisingly, scored its biggest ratings of the tournament with the tense encounter between the two countries. The match kicked off in front of an audience of five hundred thousand at 7pm, but after no goals during ninety minutes and extra time, it was not until penalties that the audience really swelled. As the shootout started around 10.10pm, ITV4 boasted just over a million viewers and this climbed to a peak of 1.35m ten minutes later – around the time Zambia won 8-7 from the spot-kicks. Overall, the match trounced ITV4's slot average of two hundred and nineteen thousand viewers for the past twelve months, more than justifying the company's decision to broadcast the tournament.

Former Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston is to return to the National Theatre for the first time in twenty years in a production of Sophocles' Antigone. The forty seven-year-old will play the part of Creon in the drama. Jodie Whittaker, from Venus, St Trinian's and Attack the Block, will take the title role. Antigone begins previews on 23 May and will be directed by Polly Findlay. Eccleston - so good in last year's The Shadow Line and soon to be seen in another BBC1 thriller The Fuse - last performed at the National in 1990. That was a production of Abingdon Square. The same year he also starred opposite Sir Ian McKellen in Bent then he got the part in Cracker and the theatre's loss was telly's gain. Antigone, presented here in a version by Don Taylor, is an ancient Greek tragedy telling of a young woman who defies an edict saying her brother's body cannot be buried. That brings her into conflict with Creon, a ruler desperate to gain control over a city ravaged by civil war.

A Belgian court has rejected an application to ban a controversial Tintin book over claims that it breaches racism laws. The court said that it did not believe the 1946 edition of Tintin in the Congo was intended to incite racial hatred. Or anything even remotely like it. Congolese campaigner Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo launched legal proceedings in 2007 to get the book banned, saying its portrayal of Africans was 'racist'. Mbutu's lawyer said that he planned to appeal the decision. Written in the late 1920s, Tintin in the Congo was the second book Hergé produced featuring his young reporter hero. It was first serialised in 1930 and 1931 and was then reissued in 1946. The book tells of Tintin's escapades in the former Belgian colony and includes encounters with diamond smugglers, big game hunters and wild animals. Tintin in the Congo has often attracted criticism for its rather simplistic and naive portrayal of the African characters in it. Hergé himself said later that he was not happy with the work. The Belgian court said that it was created at a time when colonial ideas were prevalent. 'It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,' the court said in its judgment. Mbutu's lawyer told Reuters his client would 'take this case as far as he can.' UK editions of the book, published in English in 1991, are generally found beside more adult literature and inform readers the content could cause offence.

Christopher Aird has been appointed head of Drama BBC Scotland. Currently executive producer of BBC Independent Drama, Aird has worked in Drama development, production and commissioning in both the BBC and the independent sector. His credits include [spooks], Hustle, Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Hotel Babylon and BBC1's current Sunday night ratings winner Call the Midwife. Announcing Aird's appointment the head of Programmes Donalda MacKinnon and Nick Brown, the director of Drama Production, said: 'We are delighted that Chris will be taking on the leadership of BBC Scotland Drama at a very exciting time for the department with River City in brilliant form, production on Waterloo Road about to begin at Greenock Academy and a strategy of growth of in-house Drama production from Scotland in the coming years.'

Glasgow Rangers Football Club has lodged legal papers signalling its intention to go into administration. The Ibrox club lodged papers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Monday, notifying an intention to declare an administrator. It now has five days to confirm whether administrators have been appointed to take over the running of the club. The move comes as Rangers await a tax tribunal decision over a disputed bill plus penalties totalling forty nine million smackers. If the club is formally put into administration it faces an immediate ten-point penalty from the Scottish Premier League. That would place the Ibrox club fourteen points behind rivals Celtic in the race for the championship. It is understood the papers relating to administration were lodged by Rangers' lawyers on behalf of directors. Craig Whyte, who bought the club from former owner Sir David Murray last year, said recently that administration was an option if the club lost the tax case. The case relates to the use of employment benefit trusts to pay players and other staff. It is thought that HM Revenue and Customs believe the club misused the scheme and avoided paying significant sums in tax. The amount HMRC is claiming, including penalties and interest, is believed to be about forty nine million notes. BBC Scotland's business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser, said that the legal moves on Monday surrounding administration would give the club 'a few days for negotiations with HM Revenue and Customs.' The revenue could stand to lose out on any tax due if Whyte chooses to collapse the company. Whyte is understood to be the club's main secured creditor via a floating charge over its assets. This would allow him to pursue 'other avenues' such as receivership or pre-pack administration to satisfy the debts which the club owes him. These would involve transferring Rangers assets out to another company or companies to satisfy outstanding debts to the floating charge holder and leaving the club behind with the debt.

It's a far cry from Downton Abbey but From The North understand that actress Jessica Brown-Findlay has landed a role in a new movie inspired by the music of The Smiths. Jessica, who plays Downton's Lady Sybil Crawley is in the frame to star in the film, titled Shoplifters of the World Unite, which will be soundtracked by a host of songs from the Manchester indie Gods. The film is to be based on the true story of an American Smiths fan, who, devastated by the band's 1987 break-up, forced a heavy metal radio DJ to play nothing but Smiths songs for hours at gunpoint. Jessica is said to have been cast alongside the likes of Love Actually's Thomas Brodie Sangster and Jeremy Allen White who plays Lip Gallagher in the US version of Shameless. Rumour has it producers are also trying to sign up Russell Brand, a huge Smiths and Morrissey fan, to play the DJ in the movie. Although, given what happened the last time he had a job in radio that might not be the best idea in the world. The producers have, it is claimed, secured the rights to as many as twenty Smiths songs to be used in the movie (please let 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' be one of them!), with filming set to begin in the summer.

Italian prosecutors have launched an appeal against the acquittals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the 2007 murder of Briton Meredith Kercher. The pair's convictions for murdering Miss Kercher in Perugia were overturned by an appeal court last year.

More than two hundred and fifty people - or, nutters we in the business call them - are set to take part in a record-breaking hop – to recreate a classic scene from the Michael Palin and Terry Jones series Ripping Yarns. The stunt next month has been engineered to mark the DVD re-release of the cult Seventies comedy, and mimics an incident from the pilot episode, Tomkinson's Schooldays. In that episode, Palin – playing a pupil at the bleak Graybridge boarding school – had to take part in a thirty-mile hop as punishment for trying to escape (he, infamously, 'got seventeen miles before being caught by the school leopard'). However, DVD firm distributors Network have gone for a more manageable four hundred-metre version of the hop. They are hoping (or, indeed, hopping) to set an official world record for the largest group hop and the fastest four hundred metre hop (currently seven minutes) at Hampstead Heath Athletics Track, North London, on 3 March. Both Jones and Palin will be attending the event, and giving awards to charity for the winners. A spokesman for Network said: 'Thankfully Messieurs Palin and Jones have rejected the idea of pitting members of the public in the much-featured grizzly bear fight (still compulsory for some boys at Graybridge), or a St Tagder's Day ceremony (where students are nailed to the school walls).'
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, his name is Johnny Cash. And don't you damn well forget it.

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