Monday, March 26, 2012

He Had No Decision, He's Just Tired Of Television

Fans of yer actual Doctor Who have been given their first glimpse at the new series as the BBC has released a trailer of some of the footage filmed for the two episodes completed so far. The trailer was first shown at the official (and extremely expensive) Doctor Who Convention held in Cardiff over the weekend and was made available on the show's official website on Monday morning. Doctor Who will return to BBC1 in the Autumn for the first half of the seventh season which will see Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill leave the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama in its fifth episode. Jenna-Louise Coleman will join the series as the new companion in this year's Christmas Special with the remainder of series seven being broadcast early next year - Matt Smith will continue in his role of The Doctor. But, you knew all that anyway, didn't you? Still, the trailer rocks!

Meanwhile, yer actual Steven Moffat has claimed that another spin-off from the popular long-running family SF drama is unlikely. The showrunner announced at last weekend's convention in Cardiff that any such programme is not likely to materialise in the near future. 'I'm not against it. Spin-off shows happen because you think "That is so good, you should spin it off" - but personally I'm relatively busy,' he explained. '[But] you never know,' added the show's executive producer Caroline Skinner. So, that'll be a no, then!
As announced over the weekend, Being Human will return for six more episodes in 2013. A fifth series of the popular paranormal drama-flatshare-sitcom-horror-gestalt was first announced on Sunday immediately following the conclusion of the fourth run. 'Being Human lives on!' said series creator Toby Whithouse. 'The response to series four has been terrific. We're thrilled that the audience have taken the new cast into their hearts with such enthusiasm and affection. We're delighted to have this opportunity to expand the world further and explore new characters and tell new stories. A heartfelt thank you to all the fans for their unstinting support, and to the BBC for letting us mess up the sandpit for a fifth year.' Details of the new episodes are still being kept under wraps, though both vampire Hal (Damien Molony) and werewolf Tom (Michael Socha) will return. 'In Being Human, Toby has created an extraordinary, funny, touching, supernatural world and I'm thrilled to be bringing it back for a fifth series,' said BBC3 controller Zai Bennett. You know, the arsehole who cancelled Ideal. Anyway ... It has also been confirmed that Lenora Crichlow will not reprise the role of Annie, with a video confirming the character's exit being released on the show's official blog. 'Sometimes, you have to just respect that a story [and] a character has come to a natural end,' said Whithouse. 'Lenora completely understood that and completely agreed with it.' The actress agreed: 'I don't know if there's much more for her to do, if I'm honest. [But] I really will miss playing Annie - she's such a fantastic character to play.'

Here's the Top Twenty Five rated TV show for week ending 18 March 2012:-
1 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 10.43m
2 EastEnders - BBC1 Tues - 8.98m
3 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.58m*
4 Scott & Bailey - ITV Mon - 7.57m
5 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.55m
6 Benidorm - ITV Fri - 6.62m
7 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 6.35m
8 MasterChef - BBC1 Thurs - 6.27m
9 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.14m
10 Let's Dance For Sports Relief - BBC1 Sat - 5.88m
11 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.83m
12 BBC News - BBC1 Sat - 5.83m
13 The National Lottery: in It To Win It - BBC1 Sat - 5.76m
14 Rugby Six Nations: England Vs Ireland - BBC1 Sat - 5.76m
15 UEFA Champions League Live - ITV Wed - 5.63m
16 Upstairs Downstairs - BBC1 Sun - 5.56m
17 Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - ITV Sun - 5.31m*
18 Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - Channel Four Tues - 5.27m
19 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.00m
20 Take Me Out - ITV Sat - 4.94m*
21 Waterloo Road - BBC1 Wed - 4.92m
22 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV Sat - 4.76m*
23 The ONE Show - BBC1 Wed - 4.71m
24 The Food Inspectors - BBC1 Wed - 4.64m
25 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Tues - 4.62m
Those programmes marked "*" do not include ITV HD figures which are unavailable. That's the first time yer actual Keith Telly Topping can remember the highest rated episode of EastEnders of the week has been any other day than Monday (albeit, Tuesdays episode figure of 8.98m was only just ahead of Monday's 8.89m). Scott & Bailey and Benidorm continue to perform well for ITV, the MasterChef final and the traditional Sunday night shows were the BBC's big pluses in a fairly substandard week all round. BBC2's best-rated shows were: Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey (2.95m including HD), The Hairy Bikers' Bakeathon (2.84m), University Challenge (2.73m), The Best of Top Gear (2.52m including HD), Gardeners' World (2.49m including HD), Match of the Day (2.44m including HD), The Tube (2.41m including HD) and Qi (2.11m). Channel Five's highest rated show was the return of CSI (2.95m).

A woman suspected of breaking naughtily into the home of wee Shughie McFee, the miserable-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, was reportedly armed with a brick. She appeared in court on Monday morning. Shughie McFee - the music mogul turned TV producer who created hit shows The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, and flop show Red or Black? - confronted the intruder late on Saturday at his home in West London, police said. Wee Shughie McFee was reportedly watching his own appearance on a TV talk show on Saturday night (which, I dunno about you, dear blog reader, but just kind of sums up how I always imagined Wee Shughie McFee goes through life - watching his own TV appearances) when he heard a noise. 'There was a loud bang and Simon rushed upstairs to find out what was going on,' Shuighie McFee's spokesman, full-of-his-own-importance Max Clifford, told the Sun. 'It came from the bathroom so he went in - and there was a woman standing there holding a brick.' Are we sure she wasn't shitting a brick? No, definitely holding, apparently. 'It was very frightening for Simon who told me it was like something from a horror movie.' Yeah, cos people appear in horror movies in bathrooms holding bricks all the time, don't they? 'He was just very lucky that all she had was a brick. She could have had a knife, a gun or any other weapon.' Well, indeed. She could've had a thermo-nuclear missile. But, she didn't. Oh well. Wee Shughie McFee's 'on-site security team' then turned up and 'detained' the woman until the police arrived, according to the Sun. Police said that nothing had been taken from the house and 'unnamed sources' allegedly told the alleged paper it was allegedly thought that the alleged woman was 'an over-zealous fan.' With a brick. As yer average over-zealous fan always goes out armed with. Wee Shughie McFee is not believed to know the woman. Security at McFee's home - worth an estimated nine million quid - is now being 'ramped up,' the Sun claimed. Wee Shughie McFee is is 'one of the biggest stars in the world but he is very much a people person and doesn't walk around surrounded by big, burly bodyguards. He makes a point of shaking hands and speaking to people when he's going about his business. This is bound to make him more wary about being so open with strangers,' the alleged 'insider' allegedly revealed to the alleged newspaper. London's Metropolitan Police said that one Leanne Zaloumis, twenty nine, would appear at West London magistrates' court on Monday charged with one count of aggravated burglary. The charge against Zaloumis, as read out in court, said she intended to 'inflict grievous bodily harm upon a person therein and at the time of committing the said burglary had with you a weapon of offence, namely a broken house brick.' Why anybody would want to do such a thing to poor inoffensive Wee Shughie McFee is anyone's guess. Zaloumis was remanded in custard. Shughie McFee had no comment to make. Which is unusual because he's normally got plenty to say for himself.

And so, on a related topic, to the aftermath of the Britain's Got Toilets versus The Voice malarkey. The general feeling within the industry on Monday morning after a bit of time for reflection (and including what whispers this blogger can get from inside the 'notoriously tight-lipped except when they're slagging something off 'ITV) are that 'those who matter' were reasonably happy with the actual ratings for BGT despite the fact that they're slightly down on last year's opening episode. However, it does appear that there's a feeling within some circles at executive and 'dealing-with-advertisers' level at ITV of 'we would have liked the gulf between The Voice and BGT to have been wider.' The fact is The Voice did very well, far better than many even with the BBC were expecting. (Note that Danny Cohen had spent at least part of the previous week managing expectations by playing down the numbers game and reminding people that The X Factor only got five million punters when it started.) The Voice certainly did far better than many in ITV had predicted where an overnight audience in the six-and-a-half-to- seven million range was at the very top-end of their reported guestimate. So although BGT had a higher overall average audience The Voice is now being seen very definitely as a threat. Certainly the media are painting Saturday night as a victory for the BBC. Early audience reviews (as opposed to those of the critics) seem to be very positive towards The Voice - and the positivity of the judges on the BBC show is being remarked upon by many. There are, it has been noted by many of those questioned, no bitchiness or 'rolling eyes' from Tom Jones and co. - it seems the warmth and apparently genuine interest of the panel in those they are listening to is going down well with a broad cross-section of viewers. Although, that said, it's also been noted that the preponderance of 'sob stories' from the contestants are seem as a bit 'X Factor went through that phase four years ago.' The big mistake ITV appear to have made is in scheduling. If Britain's Got Talent had started after The Voice - as it would have in previous years when all of its start dates have been in April and as it was, according to rumour, supposed to do this year until the BBC announced when The Voice was starting - then when it did start ITV would simply have had the headlines to themselves about BGT's return in triumph in the ratings. But instead, by choosing to start on the same night as The Voice there were only going to be two alternative stories. Either BGT was going to crush the living daylights out of The Voice, effectively drowning it at birth, which would have been a story admittedly or, anything less than that was going to be seen as a victory for The Voice. Which is, of course, is exactly what happened. It's a very definite own goal by ITV who have come over even to newspapers which traditionally support them and all of their doings as rather bullying and sneering in their collective arrogance. Alesha Dixon's rather catty comments about the BBC who, let's remember, gave her employment for two years when he records were selling less than Joe McElderry's, haven't gone down well with the BBC but also, perhaps more significantly, with a proportion of the general public who, as they've proved with regard to Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley tend to have a very low opinion of those who switch sides, seemingly, purely for the sake of their own greed. And, that's not all. Amanda Holden's tasteless comment about Tom Jones' age, for instance, might in normal circumstances have passed without much comment but, in the atmosphere created by Shughie McFee's competitiveness it went down really badly with several tabloids. Especially considering Holden's own recent health scares and the sympathy she received from the very same tabloids which are now, it seems, happy to quote her 'he might be dead by next week' comments in full. If ITV really believed The Voice would loses viewers from episode two (which, like as not, they will - shows tend to attract a large audience for their opening episode and then settle down a bit thereafter), as they have claimed in a statement to the Scum Mail on Monday, they should really have launched BGT next weekend. Then the story would have been Britain's Got Talent returns and takes viewers from The Voice. Instead, it seems they wanted all the glory - a blockbuster weekend all to themselves, and it's rather backfired on them. With Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced Scottish chef from Crossroad making it personal and throwing his toys out of his pram that the BBC have dared to put on anything opposite his shows, much of the media coverage that should have gone to Titanic, the Twatting About On Ice final and the last ever TV Burp just went to The Voice and BGT instead. And, at least in public relations terms, the BBC's new show has come out of it best. However, as previously noted the BGT rating has pretty much lived up to the expectations of those at ITV that matter. It's interesting that another whisper I'm hearing coming from ITV circles is that some of their staff would rather like to concentrate on the positives of BGT's return - a peak of over eleven million and all that - rather than dilute their fire by taking what appear to be needless and mean-spirited pot-shots at the opposition. But they're seemingly being overruled in this regard by a feeling that's grown up around ITV (and grown up is probably the least appropriate phrase to use at this point). That, where Wee Shughie McFee the scowling Scotsman's shows are concerned, he gets to call the shots and set tone and the agenda. Just for once, it seems, Wee Shughie McFee doesn't know what the public wants, it appears, quite as well as the public themselves do.

Meanwhile, also on the subject of arrogant pricks at ITVm Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes' Titanic drama has received largely lukewarm reviews from critics after Sunday's first episode. Writing in the Daily Torygraph, Sarah Crompton said: 'There was both too much and too little to concentrate on, and no-one to care about. If I were forced to judge Titanic on this one episode alone, I'd call it a damp squib,' she continued. The four-part drama coincides with the centenary of the liner's sinking. Crompton added: 'But having seen part two, I can assure you it gets better.' The mini-series has been generating huge interest following the success of Lord Snooty's Downton Abbey on both sides of the Atlantic. It attracted a strong audience, beating the final episode of 1930s drama Upstairs Downstairs on BBC1, which was broadcast at the same time and which, I think we can now describe as a qualified flop. Upstairs Downstairs had an average audience of 4.4 million, while Titanic's average was 7.4 million, according to overnight figures. The Times critic Andrew Billen said that he struggled with the speed of the opening episode of Titanic. 'The real design fault is Fellowes: by introducing disaster every thirty minutes into each of Titanic's four episodes, even his economy of quill struggles in involve us in his characters, let alone to persuade us to like them. Some will live, some will drown. So far, they'll none of 'em be missed.' The Gruniad Morning Star's Vicky Frost also questioned the structure of the episodes. 'In an innovative, but not entirely successful move, viewers will watch the boat begin to sink at the end of each episode, as Fellowes retells the story from different characters' viewpoints. The effect is sometimes confusing, with multiple story arcs over-lapping,' she wrote. The Independent's Tom Sutcliffe was reserving judgement. '"First I will change into something more gentlemanly,' declares Benjamin Guggenheim calmly, as the saloon starts to tilt, "then we will wait upon events." A fine moment, but as any Titanorak will know, life supplied that scene, not Mr Fellowes. We still have to see whether he can invent anything as good.' The Daily Scum Express was even less forgiving, with Matt Bayliss calling his review Class War Hits the Rocks. 'The problem with this four-part series, if I dare be rude about such a costly and over-hyped creation, is that it isn't quite a disaster movie nor quite a drama either.' Aye, aye, Cap'n.

Anyway, some good news now. Inspector George Gently is to return to BBC1 for four new feature-length episodes. Martin Shaw will reprise his role as the detective, with the excellent Lee Ingleby (currently the best reason for watching White Heat) also returning as his partner John Bacchus. The four films will be set in 1968 - the first has been written by creator Peter Flannery and will feature guest performances from Roger Lloyd Pack and Geraldine Somerville. Gently With Class will follow Gently and Bacchus as they investigate the death of a young girl found in the passenger seat of an aristocrat's upturned car. The second film Gently Northern Soul (fantastic title!) will focus on the racially-motivated murder of a young black girl. Written by Sea of Souls' David Kane, the episode will star Lenora Crichlow, Eamonn Walker and Maggie O'Neill. Simon Block's third episode will focus on the kidnap of a middle class couple's adopted child, while the final film, again written by Flannery, sees a suspended Gently pursued by old enemies from his London Met days. 'Gently and Bacchus return to Durham and Northumberland, my home turf, with plenty more murders and cases to solve,' said Flannery. 'It's 1968 with huge changes in society at that time, and hopefully our series continues to give a real portrait of the age.' The four new Inspector George Gently films are currently shooting on location in Durham and the North East and will be shown on BBC1 later this year.

Jamie Dornan has joined the cast of the much-anticipated BBC2 thriller The Fall. Gillian Anderson will star as DSI Gibson, a detective in pursuit of 'a deadly serial killer.' Although, as previously noted, what other sort of serial killers there are, other than deadly, we just don't know. Presumably, a not-very-good one. Once Upon a Time's Dornan will play the 'deadly' character called Paul Sector, who stalks his victims in and around Belfast. The Fall has been written by Allan Cubitt and will be produced by Artists Studio.

When Stephen Fry hurled himself from Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown attached to an elastic cord on Saturday, it is little wonder he used some vivid language. 'Holy suckmothering ARSE! I did it. I cocking did it. Bungy-jumped! Twice! Once solo and once in a Welsh sandwich with two AJ Hackett bungy girls,' Stephen posted on Twitter. Stephen Fry in a three-way, with girls. You heard it here first, dear blog reader. 'When I've got better netz, photos of me bungy-jumping will be posted to prove that I have grown a set and am now officially ALL MAN.' The actor, who is currently based in Wellington while filming The Hobbit, spent time with Sam Neill at his Central Otago vineyard. Neill, however, didn't make the forty three metre plunge: 'There are some things I prefer just to watch frankly,' he said, sensibly. But the actor also took to his social networking page to congratulate his friend. 'Spectacular bungee jumps by [Stephen Fry] yesterday; rather RAF - brave and yet stylish,' Neill tweeted. A representative for AJ Hackett Bungy would not comment on Fry's bungy three-way - dubbed the triple jump. 'He was a normal paying customer, we can't say any more.' A photo of a horrified Fry taking the plunge was posted online by an onlooker. Stephen was also seen on Friday queuing to buy the latest iPad3 for a friend. Sounds like he's having a whale of a time out there. Last week it was reported that Stephen and his fellow Hobbit co-star, Sir Ian McKellen, were credited for forestalling a legal impasse between a Hollywood producer and a small British pub. At the same time, Fry donated 'thousands of pounds' to a group of film-makers in West Norfolk after being impressed with their horror short-film series Bloody Cuts. Stephen, of course, lives in the area and is a director of Norwich City Football Club. Although he didn't tweet on the subject, one imagines his reaction to the Canaries defeat by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies last week was a General Melchie-style 'Damn!' Come home soon, Stephen, the country needs you. (And, another series of Qi'd be nice before the year's out.)
The BBC's chief operating officer has done something that someone at the corporation should have done years ago and hit back, fiercely, at past criticism of the BBC by odious scumbag Rupert Murdoch and his grubby spawn, James, saying that previous comments seem a 'bit rich' following the phone-hacking scandal at their newspaper group. Caroline Thomson, who is tipped by many informed people to become the next BBC director general, said that attacks on the BBC by rival media groups, including the odious, shit-stirring Murdochs, started to damage morale at the corporation two or three years ago. But, she went on to suggest that past criticism, including a notorious speech by James Murdoch at the 2009 Edinburgh TV festival, appears 'rather hollow' in light of the phone-hacking scandal, which has seen the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World and arrests at its sister paper the Scum. In an interview with the Cumberland News, Thomson said: 'Nothing is more important than the BBC's independence. You absolutely can't let politicians of any hue tell you what to do. Two or three years ago the level of negativity began to sap morale a bit. There was a lot of criticism from politicians and a lot of the press that are owned by people who are our competitors. Rupert Murdoch made a speech in which he lambasted Britain for having the BBC. James Murdoch said "the only guarantor of independence is profit." I think that looks a bit rich now.' In the 2009 MacTaggart Lecture, James Murdoch accused the BBC of being 'overly dominant' in the media industry, claiming that it was 'dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market.' As opposed to things it had heard on other people's telephones, that is. Last year, the BBC director general Mark Thompson hit back at the criticism by Murdoch, and also questioned the integrity of his father's News Corporation regarding phone-hacking. Caroline Thomson, who receives a pay package totalling three hundred and fifty thousand smackers from the BBC, is considered among the leading candidates to replace Thompson when he steps down in the autumn. She is one of the BBC's most powerful executives, particularly after taking on the role of deputy director general following the retirement of Mark Byford in March 2011. Thomson told the Cumberland News that the opportunity to become the BBC's first female director general would be 'enormously exciting. It's an enormous job. Mark Thompson once described it as like skateboarding downstairs holding a Ming vase,' she said. 'If you've been as close to it as I have, you find the prospect that you might do it a bit awesome. You stop and think, "my goodness, this would be big." On the other hand it would be enormously exciting and very challenging. So, we shall see.' Also in the interview, Thomson revealed that she got 'death threats' three years ago over the BBC's refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for Gaza following the Israeli invasion. BBC bosses had pointed to the need for the corporation to maintain impartiality, but not everyone was convinced by that argument. 'I was on a train on the way up here [to Cumbria, where she has a home] for the weekend. I was rung up and told I'd got to go back and go on Newsnight and defend the decision,' she said. 'Those things are quite tough. As well as tough questioning on the television, you get personal abuse. My e-mails completely collapsed. You get death threats. So there are times when it's not just scary because it's a big responsibility - it's actually scary.'

And speaking of odious old rotter Rupert Murdoch, he might have departed London for his News Corporation offices in San Francisco, but the mogul is still making his presence felt in Downing Street. Murdoch took to Twitter early on Monday to heap the pressure on David Cameron over the 'cash-for-access' furore exposed by Murdoch's Sunday Times at the weekend. 'Great Sunday Times scoop. What was Cameron thinking? No one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story,' mused Murdoch on the social network. 'Of course there must be a full independent inquiry on both sides. In great detail, and with consequences. Trust must be established.' A little promotion of his own outlets has become something of a hallmark since the mogul jumped on the Twitter wagon in January. But could there be more to Murdoch's missives? Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times, certainly thinks so: 'Murdoch's tweets on cash-for-access are bitter and gloating,' he notes. 'I sense this is man on a mission to wreak revenge on Cameron for Leveson et al.'

One Murdoch who, it would seem, had plenty of time for the Prime Minister was Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive of the publisher behind the Daily Torygraph, who attended a previously undisclosed 'thank-you dinner' hosted by yer actual David Cameron in Downing Street two months after the 2010 general election. The evening engagement, held at No 10, was 'a post-election show of appreciation for major donors' according to the Conservative party on Monday – but, they claimed, the chief executive of the archly Conservative-supporting title is himself 'not a donor to the party.' Probably can't afford it in the tough, austere, 'we're-all-in-it-together' times, one could speculate? The Downing Street dinner was disclosed as the Tories attempted to seize control of the rapidly escalating cash-for-access scandal that prompted the resignation of the party's co-treasurer, Peter Cruddas, on Sunday, following an investigation by The Sunday Times. In a briefing the Conservative party said MacLennan was invited by Cameron to Number 10 on 14 July 2010, while the Prime Minister's private flat was 'being refurbished.' MacLennan attended with his wife Elsa. The dinner was not previously disclosed in the Prime Minister's quarterly report of gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings launched by Cameron in his drive to create a 'sleaze-free' government. The MacLennans attended the dinner along with Lord John Sainsbury, the Tory peer and part-owner of supermarket giant Sainsbury's, Andrew Feldman, co-chairman of the Tory party, and five other couples described as 'major donors' to the party. The post-election dinner with MacLennan came in the same month that Cameron met Aidan Barclay, chairman of Torygraph Media Group and Rupert Murdoch in separate meetings in No 10. Those meetings were disclosed last summer in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal which prompted the Prime Minister to publish details of his relationship with News International. The Tories launched an internal inquiry into the cash-for-access row, in which the party treasurer Cruddas was filmed by The Sunday Times apparently offering private dinners with the Prime Minister and the chancellor in return for six-figure donations. The sting prompted the immediate resignation of Cruddas amid calls for a full independent inquiry into whether doners had been given influence over government policy.

New guidelines for the Metropolitan police could require all officers to make a record of all unofficial meetings with journalists, despite warnings that such a log could have a chilling effect on the press. Craig Mackey, the deputy commissioner of the Met, told the Leveson inquiry on Monday that he is recommending a systematic logging process is introduced, as part of a package of interim guidelines for press relations that will go before the Met's management board for approval in April. Mackey's proposals come after allegations of too-cosy relations between senior officers and the former deputy editor of the Scum of the World, Neil Wallis, who ended up with a PR post with Scotland Yard. 'We are recommending a note is made of it. It is a note about the fact that a meeting took place, not some verbatim transcript,' he said. The deputy commissioner is also recommending that the log of meetings between press and members of the management board are published on the Internet to aid 'transparency.' Mackey was tasked with drawing up new guidelines in the wake of Elizabeth Filkin's report into relations between police and press. She found that a 'close relationship' between parts of Scotland Yard and the media has caused 'serious harm.' However, her recommendations have drawn strong protests from crime correspondents - a crassly ignorant self-interest group at the best of times - who have said it will 'inhibit the flow of information.' Tough. Measures such as these are long overdue and it's no good the press bleating about the 'chilling effect' it will have. They should have thought of that when they were allegedly knocking back alleged champagne with certain alleged officers back in the 'good old days.' Allegedly. The Gruniad's crime correspondent, Sandra Laville, told the Leveson inquiry earlier in March that closing unofficial sources might 'drive information underground' and create 'a black market' for information. It'd certainly fuck-up the Gruniad's reporting on the phone-hacking scandal. Meanwhile The Sunday Times's Jon Ungoed Thomas said it would be 'a mistake' to record every contact. I fail to see why. If you haven't done anything wrong then you've got nothing to worry about. Sounds, rather, like a guilty conscience talking to me. Some crime correspondents predict that officers will be afraid to meet senior specialist reporters as they do now, because a log of their meetings might be held against them when they go for promotion. Colin Adwent, crime reporter with the East Anglian Daily Times, told the inquiry on Monday that such a system 'may well inhibit officers talking to the press in certain cases.' And, the problem with this, is exactly? here's a tip, mate, how about you let policemen do their frigging job and you do your job of reporting the news? Adwent said that senior officers who are dealing in life or death situations, surely should have 'the common sense to know what they can talk to the press about.' Mackey also told Lord Justice Leveson that people affected by the killing spree by taxi driver Derrick Bird in Cumbria in June 2010 were distressed by the way the national media reported the incident. Prior to his current post, Mackey was former Cumbria police chief constable, and was in charge of the force when Bird murdered twelve people before taking his own life. He said: 'The overwhelming feeling of the local community and the families is one of anger and dismay at the way they were perceived and they were treated.' Gill Shearer, Cumbria police's head of marketing and communications, told the inquiry there were notable differences between the way local and national journalists covered the story. '[There were] a number of occasions that we had to put out instructions to all the media. The local media adhered to those, whereas the national media didn't,' Shearer said. A regional journalist told the inquiry that the national media tended to 'grab whatever they [could] and then disappear again' during big stories such as the Bird killings. Anne Pickles, associate editor at Cumbrian Newspapers, which publishes the Carlisle News & Star and the Cumberland News, said: 'It has always been my experience that national media are liable to swoop in, do what they do, and swoop out again into some sort of black hole of anonymity. The local press and regional press, we have to live with the people whose lives we are reporting.'

Former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns has been awarded ninety thousand smackers in damages as part of the first ever libel case involving comments made on Twitter. The forty one-year-old took the action against Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, who had accused him of match-fixing on Twitter in January 2010. Cairns claimed that the 'unequivocal allegation' had made 'dust' of his career achievements, including two hundred wickets and three thousand runs in sixty two tests. Justice Bean, hearing the case without a jury at the high court, said that Modi had 'singularly failed' to provide any evidence to back up his match-fixing claims against Cairns. The judge said that he had even failed to demonstrate that there was grounds to suspect the New Zealander was a cheat. He further noted that the claim made against Cairns was 'as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman.' According to Sky News, the judge said: 'It is obvious that an allegation that a professional cricketer is a match-fixer goes to the core attributes of his personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity. The allegation is not as serious as one of involvement in terrorism or sexual offences (to take two examples from recent cases). But it is otherwise as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman.' The judge also noted that Modi's tweet about Cairns was picked up ESPN's popular CricInfo website and reported. After Cairns complained about this, CricInfo immediately withdrew the article, apologised and paid damages. However, Modi has steadfastly refused to apologise and always maintained the his allegations were true. He said that the claims related to Cairns's second and third stint as captain of the Chandigarh Lions in the Indian Cricket League, the predecessor to the IPL. In his evidence to the court, Cairns said: 'The defendant's allegations have also had a profound effect on my personal and private life. It put a strain on my marriage. It hurts that my wife may think that I am not the man she thought I was. It hurts me too that friends, many of whom are former cricketing foes, will question my integrity as a man and a sportsman and that all I achieved in the great game of cricket is dust.'

Paul Mason hails from Lancashire, so the cock-up that marred his Newsnight report last week on fraud at A4e must have been particularly galling – on a map behind Mason showing where instances had been revealed, the gigantic word 'Brootle' stretched across much of North-West England and North Wales. 'Sorry to all residents of Bootle,' the economics pundit and erotic novelist tweeted the next day. 'We will send those responsible on a re-education course in Barnoldswick!' Some, though, will also blame presenter Mishal Husain for not shouting 'look behind you!'

BBC Breakfast will start broadcasting from Salford next month. The date has finally been set for the flagship programme to be broadcast from the corporation's northern base for the first time on Tuesday 10 April. Bill Turnbull, Susanna Reid, Louise Minchin and Charlie Stayt will continue to form what the Beeb describes as 'a family of presenters.' In a statement making the announcement, Turnbull said he'd already visited MediaCity several times and was looking forward to working there because the open-plan design made it easier for people to 'mingle and exchange ideas. People trust us and, just as importantly, trust the BBC. They let us into their homes at what is a sensitive time of day. We are part of their [the viewers'] routine, and we are conscious of that all the time.' Reid likewise expressed her excitement at the move for what she described as a 'unique' show 'able to dedicate the time to really get under the skin of the material using the vast journalistic resources of the BBC. Breakfast really connects with its audience. We have fantastic, loyal, interested and engaged viewers who keep in touch regularly. They respond to stories, they suggest stories and they are generous in sharing their own experiences so that everyone can benefit – which means the show is also very real.'

Having survived cuts to its budget and fended off criticism from the odious twattish Murdochs, the BBC now faces a new threat – rats. The BBC has called in pest control experts after rats were spotted at its Television Centre headquarters in London, home of flagship programmes such as Radio 4@s Today. Staff reported seeing the rodents at the BBC's West London base, which is currently being sold as the corporation moves operations to the newly-refurbished Broadcasting House in the capital and the BBC North complex in Salford. Speaking to the Daily Scum Mail, a newspaper with more than a few rodents of its own, an alleged 'source' allegedly said that alleged working conditions at Television Centre are becoming 'increasingly squalid' as staff are due to leave the base soon so bosses are 'not bothering to carry out repairs.' The alleged 'source' allegedly added: 'We're not sure exactly how many [rats] there are. They keep popping up at different places around the office. Probably the main thing attracting them is the fact that people are so busy they eat at their desks and there are crumbs everywhere.' However, some BBC workers have seen the funny side of the situation, which follows last year's mice outbreak, including one leaving a fake rat on the desk of John Humphrys, the veteran host of the Today programme. Rod Liddle, the former Today editor, told the Scum Mail: 'It was a far more civilised regime in my day - we just had mice, lice and fleas. Once, when I was on a train from Wiltshire to work, a flea actually hopped off me and on to the table in front of two other commuters. But rats are pretty heavy duty. I mean, you don't mess with a rat. I think they should set John Humphrys on them.'

On the subject of Twatting About on Ice. Matthew Wolfenden won. No, me neither. Chico, apparently, came third. Which just about sums up the quality of this year's show. However, before we write it off as a complete disaster it's worth reflecting that the rating have not been terrible, albeit they have been lower (quite a bit lower, actually) than last year's series, something reflected by the final only pulling in seven million punters. According to whispers coming from ITV's general direction this year's series has been felt by many parts of the organisation to have been 'a bit of a non-event.' The aspects which have been receiving criticism from viewers have included the hosts (well, specifically, one of the hosts ... and it isn't Phillip Schofield) and the calibre of the alleged 'celebrities' (we kind of knew that might be an issue when the original announcement of the contestants concentrated almost exclusively on ex-soap actress Jennifer Ellison and Chesney Hawkes, he was the one and only). There have also, it appears, been some 'issues' with the judging panel, the speed of talking from some quarters (again, mentioning no names, but the main culprit is said to be Curiously Orange), the costs of production (particularly given the drop in audience figures) and the amount of padding (especially in the weekly results shows, although that's hardly a new complaint). In fact many of the criticisms are things which have been flagged up about Twatting About On Ice for a few years now. But in this particular series they all seems to have come together to produce something which isn't necessarily a complete write-off but is rather seen by ITV as something no-one seems to particularly care about. The only facet which has been receiving universal praise from viewers is Jayne Torvill and Chris Dean who, seemingly, remain very affectionately thought of by the British public. Everything else would appear to be up for negotiation.

Ever wondered what happened to the photographer David Cameron was forced to take off the civil service payroll six months after entering No 10? The Gruniad certainly has, and was, they state, 'pleased' to see the snapper (reportedly paid thereafter by the Tories rather than taxpayers) had found a new job: bylined as 'Times photographer Andrew Parsons', he covered the Camerons' recent US trip. Rather a choosy chap, it seems, he then avoided petty assignments last week before popping up again with a peculiar shot of George Osborne from behind, now confusingly billed by The Times as 'Andrew Parsons, Conservative Party Office.' That rapidly revolving door between the Tory high command and News International may still be in use after all.

Channel Four viewers puzzled as to why it needs another repeats channel (it already has one on air nineteen hours a day, remember) now have an answer. But, it's one that could cause tears. Dan Brooke, C4's marketing and communications boss, boasted to Broadcast that 4seven, the new service, 'will be populated with the really good stuff from Channel Four' – as opposed, presumably, to poor old More4 and its comparatively mediocre fare such as reruns of Come Dine with Me, Grand Designs and Relocation, Relocation. Kevin, Kirstie and Phil must already be feeling unloved. And, in Kirstie's case, that probably means somebody's going to end up getting a hiding.

An arrest warrant has been issued for an actor who failed to turn up in court for sentencing, after he racially abused his ex-girlfriend. James Howson, twenty four, of Haslewood Close, Leeds, earlier admitted racially aggravated harassment and was due to be sentenced at Leeds Magistrates' Court. The court heard in January he shouted threats at his former girlfriend. Howson starred as Heathcliff in a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights released last year. He won the role after attending auditions advertised on a Jobcentre wall and was the first black actor to play the role in a film based on Emily Brontë's novel. The court heard that Howson's relationship with Shakira Ramdihal turned sour after she became pregnant. Howson went to her family home on 18 November last year and banged on the window, shouting racist threats. He was initially due to be sentenced last month, but the case was adjourned after he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. His solicitor said he was discharged from a hospital in Newcastle on Thursday.

Veteran British film director Richard Lester has received a Fellowship from the British Film Institute. Lester, who directed The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night and Help! in the 1960s, was presented with the award last week by BFI chairman Greg Dyke. Dyke said Lester had 'enriched the lives of millions with his brilliantly surreal humour and innovative style.' Previous Fellowship recipients include Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Isabelle Huppert and Martin Scorsese. 'When my career was just beginning, the elegant TV critic Bernard Levin came to see me in rehearsal with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers,' said Lester. 'He wrote: "He seems an amiable young man who climbed into a lion's cage and realised he's forgotten his chair and his whip." Some fifty years later, I still haven't found the whip. But with this extraordinary honour, the BFI has kindly given me a chair.' Born in the US in 1932, Lester moved to the UK in 1956 where he began working with Milligan and Sellers. The comedy pair were seen in the 1956 ITV series' The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d, A Show Called Fred and Son Of Fred, among other collaborations including the Oscar nominated short The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film. After making It's Trad, Dad and the success of the Beatles films, Lester went on to win the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1965 for The Knack ... And How to Get It, starring Rita Tushingham and Michael Crawford. Crawford also starred in Lester's ground-breaking anti-war movie How I Won The War the following year. In the 1970s he directed such major Hollywood films as The Three Musketeers and Robin and Marian. His other screen credits include The Bed-Sitting Room, Royal Flash, Superman II and Superman III and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 2010 Lester donated his archive to the British Film Institute, citing a 'long association' going back over forty years. The organisation has always been very helpful to me,' he said at the time. 'It is a pleasure for me to be able to offer them the detritus of my working life.'

With its cunning mix of pop art, sophisticated humour, witty espionage conceits, pulp SF ideas and its defiantly English eccentricity, the television series The Avengers was among the most influential and significant products of the 1960s. As previously noted by this blog. The director Robert Fuest, who has died aged eighty four, cut his teeth on the series under the aegis of the writer-producer Brian Clemens, initially as a production designer when the show was produced 'as live' in the studio in black and white and co-starred Honor Blackman (and subsequently Diana Rigg) with Patrick MacNee, then as director when the series had moved on to colour, film and Linda Thorson. As designer and director, Fuest learned how to achieve style on a budget – making a great deal of the show's famously minimalist aesthetic and clever use of weird camera angles to convey specific emotional responses he wanted from the audience. And he carried this over into his best-known works as a film director, the two Dr Phibes horror movies of the early 1970s, starring the great Vincent Price, and the Michael Moorcock adaptation The Final Programme (1973). In 1970, he made a commercially successful literary adaptation of Wuthering Heights, with Timothy Dalton as a pin-up Heathcliff, and the highly regarded, recently remade suspense drama ... And Soon the Darkness written by Clemens and Terry Nation. Fuest was born in Croydon in 1927. He graduated from Wimbledon School of Art with a national diploma in design, then went on to Hornsey College of Art to study for his art teacher diploma. He did his national service in the RAF and was involved, in a small way, in the Berlin airlift of 1948 transporting coal to west Berlin. Fuest has also spent time as a drummer in a warm-up band for Chris Barber and George Melly. After a decade teaching illustration and lithography at Southampton School of Art, he entered the TV industry as a production designer in 1961, first working at Associated British Corporation on The Avengers. It would be whilst working on the first season of the new spy series for director Peter Hammond that Fuest developed the directing bug. Fuest later admitted on a DVD commentary for The Avengers episode Game that Hammond's visual style proved a major influence and opened him up to all the stylistic possibilities of film and TV. He worked for ITV and the BBC throughout the 1960s, mostly as an art director or production designer on prestige shows including Out Of This World, Armchair Theatre and the BBC Sunday Night Play. He also contributed material to the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch show Not Only … But Also, as a comedy writer, and seemed drawn towards the pop art and satire world epitomised in the British cinema by the films of Richard Lester. He also worked as a writer on Justin Thyme. In 1967, Fuest wrote, directed and provided songs for his first feature, the marriage-in-crisis comedy Just Like a Woman, starring Wendy Craig and Francis Matthews. The film ventures into freewheeling, surreal territory thanks to a Peter Sellers-esque performance from Clive Dunn as a modern architect who creates a stylish-but-hideous new home for the heroine. Seldom seen these days, Just Like a Woman might well have been Fuest's most personal film, though his subsequent work found him gravitating towards mainstream success and a lasting cult reputation. Fuest then directed eight episodes of The Avengers and continued his collaboration with Clemens on ... And Soon the Darkness, a beautifully tense Hitchcockian-style thriller about two girls (Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice) stalked by a murderer while on a cycling holiday in France. Wuthering Heights, one of several literary classics reimagined as 1960s-style youth romances in the wake of Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, and John Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd – was made for American International Pictures, which was at that time best known for beach-party musicals and Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring Price. Wuthering Heights was AIP's biggest success to that date – rather to the surprise of studio chief Samuel Arkoff, who tried in vain to persuade Fuest to deliver a sequel – and Fuest was then teamed with Price, who had at that time grown weary of his horror stardom and become rather prickly to work with. Rewriting without credit a simple parade-of-deaths film initially called The Curse of Dr Pibe, Fuest delivered The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971), in which a disfigured vaudeville organist-theologist kills off, in gruesome manners derived from the Plagues of Egypt, the doctors who failed to save his late wife's life. Aside from the relentless black humour of the premise, Fuest and Price worked hard on an unusual blend of sophistication and sickness, playing up the art deco sets and befuddled succession of mostly doomed British character actors. The film was a big enough hit to re-enthuse Price and AIP and led to an even more stylish and acid-dipped follow-up, Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972), which also did well. The Final Programme, with Jon Finch as Moorcock's futuristic superhero Jerry Cornelius and an absurdist take on the end of the world, was a bold artistic achievement although audiences did not initially take to it. It subsequently became something of a cult, particularly in America. After directing an entertaining American horror movie, The Devil's Rain (1975) – with Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner – Fuest mostly worked in television in the US and UK, inevitably directing episodes of The New Avengers, C.A.T.S Eye and The Doombolt Chase but also odd projects such as Revenge of the Stepford Wives, an hour-long version of Poe's The Gold-Bug, the softcore Aphrodite and children's programmes in the UK and the US (like 1981's life-swap drama My Mother Was Never a Kid). From the mid-1980s, he returned to teaching, as senior professor at the London International Film School, and then became a full-time painter, specialising in seascapes and maritime subjects. He was also a much admired guest at film festivals and cult movie events. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and their daughter Rebecca, and his former wife, Gillian, and their sons Adam, Ben and Aaron.

Maybe it's just as well that dear old thing Henry Blofeld isn't part of the Test Match Special team covering England's tour of Sri Lanka. In his forthcoming memoirs, Blowers's colleague Christopher Martin-Jenkins crisply notes that 'no one would accuse Henry of overdoing his research' and recalls a particular weakness: 'It was a standing in-joke that when the relatively easily pronounced John and de Silva were playing for Sri Lanka they seemed to do all the fielding between them while Henry was at the microphone.'

Yet again, Heffer's law – the rule that all naughty words must be entirely replaced by dashes, with no letters left as clues – has caused confusion and unnecessary alarm for Daily Torygraph readers. After Dirty Leeds humiliatingly lost 7-3 at home last week to yer actual Nottingham Forest, their annoyed manager Neil Warnock (a man seldom short of a decent emotional outburst when you want one) was bafflingly quoted in the paper as saying 'it wasn't a time for "----------" the players after the game.' What could the baffling ten letter word possibly be, dear blog reader? 'Eulogising', perhaps? Luckily, the sadly departed Simon Heffer no longer holds sway online, where a less fiercely censored report reassuringly made clear that a defeat would normally be followed by nothing worse than a 'bo**ocking.' Or, indeed, 'bollocking' as this blogger more accurately calls it.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew praised his side for a 'champagne' display in their 3-1 victory at West Bromwich Albinos. One take it he means 'bubbly and fizzy' rather than 'flat, tasteless and gives me wind.' Forwards Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa were particularly influential as the Magpies tore apart the Baggies and moved level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea. 'Today it was champagne stuff,' Pardew told BBC Sport. 'Demba, Papiss and Ben Arfa are a real front three. We've been phenomenal all year, the players have worked so hard and deserve all the plaudits they get.' Newcastle's recent victory over Norwich City was their first win in five matches, and the improvement continued at West Brom. Cisse put them in front on six minutes from Ben Arfa's cross before Ben Arfa himself doubled the lead with a superbly worked team goal involved Cisse and Yohan Cabaye. It was 3-0 on thirty four minutes when Ben Arfa and Ba combined to set up Cisse for his second as the Magpies took total control. A defensive mix-up with Mike Williamson doing a cunning impression of Coco The Clown and looking like a big clumsy plank allowed substitute Shane Long to pull one back in the second period, but the Magpies held on and could, indeed, have scored more but for two fine saves from Ben Foster. 'First half, we played some really fantastic stuff,' said yer man Pardew. 'I said before the game that at the training ground there was a new buoyancy after the win against Norwich. We had chances to get the fourth goal, we knew that would seal it and that was my half-time message. But we managed to see it out. This is a tough place to come and they've won with something to spare.' Pardew replaced the popular Chris Hughton as Newcastle boss in December 2010 and guided the club to twelfth place in the Premier League last season. Although they would have finished eighth if they hadn't let a three goal lead slip on the final day of the season against, ironically, West Bromwich Albinos. Having already acquired Ben Arfa (then recovering from a shocking broken leg injury whilst on loan) from Marseille for two million smackers in January 2011, Pardew signed Ba on a free transfer from West Ham United in the summer. The Senegalese has scored sixteen leagues goals this term - the most by a Newcastle player since Alan Shearer's twenty two in 2003-04. Yohan Cabaye arrived in July and has played a key role in central midfield, while Cisse joined for nine million notes from Freiburg in January. He matches Les Ferdinand as the quickest Newcastle player in Premier League history to reach five goals (in just six games). 'With players like we have at the top of the pitch you're going to score goals,' Pardew added. 'You don't amass those points without quality.' Meanwhile, West Bromwich head coach Roy Hodgson has apologised after cameras caught him throwing away an armband worn in memory of late Albion legend Ray Barlow during Sunday's home defeat. Hodgson was seen to tear off the armband and throw it to the ground by Sky cameras after the Magpies scored their third goal. Hodgson said: 'It is something I did without thinking out of pure frustration at conceding the third goal. I meant no disrespect by it to such a great player, nor his family, and offer my sincere apologies if it has caused offence.'

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day could be this blog's theme tune. Here's some Television.

1 comment:

Kev said...

At the Convention, Steven Moffat also confirmed that Series 7 was planned to run 14 episodes almost straight through... 5 episodes leading to the end of the Ponds (their finale being filmed in New York and featuring Weeping Angels), pretty much straight to the Christmas episode, then the final 8 episodes of series 7 running in January and February 2013.