Monday, March 26, 2012

If You're Wondering Why, When All I Wanted From Life Was To Be Famous

Matt Smith has revealed that he doesn't plan on leaving his role on Doctor Who anytime soon. Which is great news for most of us and really terrible news for tabloids who enjoy crass and pointless speculation and a portion of The Special People. So, no great loss there, then. The actor, who took over from David Tennant in 2010, has enjoyed success in the role of the Eleventh Doctor alongside his companions, played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. It was recently announced that Darvill and Gillan will be leaving in the fifth episode of the new series, in a final showdown against The Weeping Angels to be filmed in New York City. Jenna-Louise Coleman, known for her work on Waterloo Road and Emmerdale, was recently unveiled as the new companion. When asked about Smith's role in the future of the series, showrunner Steven Moffat stated that Smith was undecided on when he'll go. In an interview with The Huffington Post at this weekend's Doctor Who Convention in Cardiff, however, the actor divulged more on his future plans. He said: 'We've got the anniversary coming up, there's another Christmas special to shoot, we've got another season with our new companion coming in, there's a lot to be getting on with before I leave, so I'm here for the foreseeable future.'

As noted Doctor Who will return to America to shoot the final story featuring Amy and Rory, as they depart the series in an epic battle with The Weeping Angels to be shot in New York. Executive Producer Caroline Skinner confirmed the news at the Doctor Who Convention taking place in Cardiff this weekend, were fans were given an exclusive premiere of series seven, with a showing of the first trailer featuring footage from the upcoming series. The trailer will be available on the BBC Website on Monday. Asked how they felt about leaving the series Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill both said that they felt 'the time was right' and that Amy and Rory's story had run its course. Darvill said: 'We've had the most incredible time and it will be really sad when we leave. We had the read through for our final episode last night and it is going to be an amazing piece of television.' Gillan said she was so pleased with the way she was leaving: 'I just hope I can deliver it well.' Matt Smith said he would miss two of his closest friends, and that they had developed an incredible creative relationship. But that all good things come to an end: 'The thing about Doctor Who is that it is in constant change so we embrace the future and look forward to Jenna.' Asked how they felt about attending the convention, all of the actors agreed said it was 'amazing' to meet the fans and to see the reaction: 'When making the series you forget how much people love it. We just try to make it the best it can be and its brilliant to see the reactions.' The production team were remaining tight lipped about plans for series seven and the show's fiftieth anniversary next year. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) gave the headlines already known: 'Amy and Rory leaving, tragedy, heartbreak and a Western, what more do you want out of television. Come on Downton take that on!' Oh, don't tempt Lord Snotty, Steven, he will, you know.

BBC3 has ordered a fifth season of Toby Whithouse's supernatural drama series Being Human. The squeeze on budgets at the BBC - especially BBC3 which is cutting back its drama output - had put some doubt on the future of the series. Earlier this year it was suggested that a cull of BBC3's dramas would take place with only one of Being Human, lesbian drama Lip Service and new supernatural series The Fades surviving. It's not currently known if the renewal of Being Human means then other two dramas are doomed especially as Lip Service's second series has yet to be aired. As yet details about the fifth season are few and far between. Entertainment Weekly report it has been commissioned jointly by the BBC and BBC America.

The BBC's news reporting has become 'incredibly cowed', the playwright David Hare has said at the Gruniad Morning Star's Open Weekend, with 'proper journalism' shunted to the margins and replaced by 'unquestioning echoes of government policy.' Oh, great. Another bitter old Jimmy McGovern-style red whinging that 'it weren't laaaike that in t'maaa day.' In case you hadn't noticed, pal, it isn't your day anymore, the world's moved on. All politicians are scum and always have been. Taking part in 'a web chat with Gruniad readers' (Christ, I'll bet that was a laugh and a half) before an appearance at the event, Hare, whose often politically informed writing career has spanned forty years, was asked whether the corporation had 'given up covering a whole sector of society and the spending cuts.' Hare replied: 'Yes, I do think BBC news reporting has become incredibly cowed,' arguing that just about the only in-depth journalism at the corporation now came from Paul Mason, the economics editor for BBC2's Newsnight. 'It's 10.45 every night before Paul Mason finally comes on bringing news of places and issues which ought, rightfully, to be covered from morning till night. In fact in the last few years he's become a sort of BBC within the BBC.' Hare continued: 'It's part political funk, but it's also part a change in reporting itself. Less time on the street, more time on the computer. Whenever the government hangs out a stinking fish like the forty pee alcoholic unit story or the Chinese-to-own-our-roads story, the BBC falls for it hook, line and sinker. And meanwhile real lives go unreported.' Hare has sought to examine the state of Britain through a succession of plays focusing on particular issues of the times, whether the newspaper industry (Pravda), the Anglican church (Racing Demon) or the legal system (Murmuring Judges). More recently he has tackled the buildup to the war in Iraq, through Stuff Happens, and the banking crisis, with The Power of Yes. He has enjoyed a parallel career adapting books by other writers, such as The Hours and The Reader, into film and TV screenplays.

Sunday saw the best episode of the current series of Time Team so far. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping always enjoys the Roman ones and it's always good to see the excellent Guy de la Bédoyère loaning his expertise to the show. There's a very good article by site director Dr Peter Guest about the filming of the episode at the Time Team website.

Interesting take on The Voice-versus-BGT battle from John Plunkett in the Gruniad: 'Simon Cowell told the BBC to "get their sense of humour back" over the rivalry between their Saturday night talent shows Britain's Got Talent and The Voice. But Cowell may not have been smiling quite as much as the BBC1 controller, Danny Cohen, when the first audience figures came through on Sunday. True, ITV's show had a bigger overall audience than The Voice. But the ratings for the ITV show were down on the launch episode of last year's series despite the return of Cowell to the judging panel and the high-profile signings of David Walliams and Alesha Dixon. And in the twenty minutes when the two shows went head to head, The Voice prevailed with an average of 8.9 million viewers against Talent's 6.6 million. This would have particularly delighted Cohen because ITV was accused of spoiling tactics by bringing Talent forward from its traditional April launch (ITV blamed the Queen's diamond jubilee and Euro 2012).'

Jessica Hammond, a singer on The Voice, has spoken out in criticism against The X Factor's treatment of her. Hammond, who opted for a place on Jessie J's team in Saturday night's show, revealed that she unsuccessfully auditioned twice for the ITV talent contest. She told the Daily Lies: 'The Voice is a completely different show to The X Factor. The BBC were really kind, and the production team were really kind, and that does make a massive difference. On The X Factor, I had to arrive at 7am and didn't leave until 11pm. I was stuck in a room all day without food or water. I was just sat around waiting all day. I wasn't given a proper warm-up or the help the BBC gave me.' She went on: 'On The Voice, you are given all the help and encouragement to perform well. It was an incredible moment when all four judges turned around. The judges on The X Factor said I was an average singer and my performance was just average. They have their opinions and I wasn't on top form that day. But they didn't make me want to give up.' Hammond added: 'In fact, I went straight home and wrote a song about it called 'Try Again Tomorrow'. On The X Factor, I couldn't perform with my guitar, and I think that made a big difference.'

Prime Minister David Cameron has denounced the party's former treasurer for boasting that a big enough donation could lead to high-level access. He said Peter Cruddas' claims, filmed by undercover Sunday Times reporters, were 'completely unacceptable.' Cruddas quit hours after publication and seconds before his ass was thrown out the door and into the gutter by the party. Cameron pledged a 'party inquiry' into the claims that two hundred and fifty thousand smackers would get donors a private dinner with him. Bloody hell, I'd want an inquiry too under such circumstances. Going out for dinner usually only cost me about thirty notes a time. Labour said that was inappropriate - and very expensive - and demanded a 'full, independent inquiry.' Cruddas was secretly filmed saying that a donation of two hundred and fifty grand gave 'premier league' access to party leaders, including private dinners with Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, and with any feedback on policy shared with Downing Street. Of course, Cameron and Osborne both claim they knew nothing whatsoever about this. So, that'd be sort of Wigan Athletic end of the premier league rather than Sheikh Yer Man City FC? Cruddas was heard initially saying that it was 'not possible' to buy access to the prime minister. But, as we all know in a Tory world, anything's possible if you have the right amount of coin. He then went on to discuss what 'access' different size donations would get. He was speaking to the reporters posing as staff from a fake wealth fund based in Liechtenstein who were interested in doing business in the UK. He told them: 'Two hundred grand to two hundred and fifty is premier league. What you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.' He said they would be able to ask Cameron 'practically any question you want.' Like 'were you really a fan of The Smiths and The Jam or are you just saying that to appear less of a Banker?' Stuff like that. Party funding and lobbying can be two of the most toxic areas of modern politics. But when they combine (as in the case of the Cruddas episode) the results can be even more poisonous. That's why Cruddas resigned so quickly and politicians on all sides have issued swift and strong condemnation. David Cameron is trying to stamp on any suggestion that the party's rich friends in finance could or still can buy influence or shape policy. But it will be hard to draw a line under this affair. Labour says questions remain. How many donors have been invited to cosy dinners or drinks in Downing Street and Chequers? Did any of them happen to mention their views on big policy decisions - like the reduction in the fifty pence tax rate? Were any of them members of News International, for example? A trawl begins today for any evidence that donors shaped policy, and the can of worms that is party funding reform will be opened once again. Cameron claimed: 'What happened was completely unacceptable. This is not the way we raise money in the Conservative Party. It shouldn't have happened. It's quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can't happen again.' In his resignation statement, Cruddas said: 'I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation. Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians. Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.' During a review of party funding by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life last year, the Conservatives suggested an annual cap of fifty thousand smackers. This was dismissed by the committee as it amounted to twice the average salary and over a five-year Parliament added up to two hundred and fifty thousand knicker. Instead, a cap of ten grand was recommended by the committee, with an extra twenty three million wonga of taxpayers' money to reduce reliance on 'big money' donations. Committee chairman Sir Christopher Kelly said on Sunday: 'he only way to remove the suspicion surrounding very large donations would be to ban very large donations. That requires all the parties to address something very hard. For the Conservatives it means giving up their advantage of having more wealthy supporters. For Labour, the relationship with the trade unions,' he said. The Conservative Party currently has several levels of donation, with the top one being the Leader's Group, where for an annual donation of fifty thousand quid donors can be invited to join Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-Prime Minister's Questions lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches. Cruddas had been involved in fundraising for the Conservative Party since June last year, and took over as the party's principal fundraiser earlier this month. Lord Fink - excellent name, by the way - will now return as principal treasurer, the party announced on Sunday morning, with Michael Farmer acting as co-treasurer. Labour called for an independent inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life - rather than a party inquiry. It said it wanted the names of Tory donors who have visited government property - including Downing Street and Chequers - and of those who have made submissions to the Downing Street policy unit, to be published. Labour former Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: 'The idea that policy is for sale is grotesque. This goes to the heart of the question of the relationship between a party and the government. It crashes through the lines that should exist between party and government.' Labour MP Michael Dugher wrote to Cameron on Sunday, saying: 'Given the seriousness of the allegations about how government is conducted, it is not appropriate for the Conservative Party to investigate itself.' He said he particularly wanted to know, in light of last week's Budget, the details of all donors who had made representations, both written and orally, on changes to the fifty pee tax rate. Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats were also concerned. Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: 'It's utterly disgraceful and there is no place for this sort of unacceptable behaviour in British politics.' He also said 'reform' of funding system was necessary. He said there was a 'perception that people who make large donations - be they wealthy people from the city or trade unions - have influence. They should not have that influence, nor the perception of that influence.' Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon told the BBC's Sunday Politics that Cruddas had been wrong to boast about something that did not happen in the party. He said details of the prime minister's meetings with businessmen were published quarterly but that the party would consider The Sunday Times's evidence and see if its rules needed tightening. 'David Cameron is the first prime minister who has published lists of those who've been to stay with him at Chequers, who've had his hospitality,' Fallon said. 'His meetings with businessmen - with anybody else - are a matter of public record.' Cameron has declined to reveal whom he has invited to dinner at his home - after a request made in the wake of the donor row - because such details are 'private', Number 10 has said.
By hell, things must be serious, even the Daily Scum Mail is on the Prime Minister's case. Stephen Glover writing a really rather thoughtful article entitled Just why is Cameron such a terrible judge of character?!

Steve Coogan has said he is 'nervous' that the parliamentary report into privacy and freedom of expression will be too lenient on newspapers. Speaking at the Gruniad Morning Star's Open Weekend conference on Saturday, the actor said he feared the report due to be published next week by a committee of MPs and peers would give the press 'more ground than they deserve.' The report has been widely trailed and is not expected to recommend the introduction of a privacy law. The committee will endorse Lord Hunt's proposals for a reconstituted Press Complaints Commission while warning that a credible package of reforms could result in statutory regulation. Coogan revealed for the first time that his high-profile legal action against the Scum of the World over alleged phone hacking cost him four hundred thousand smackers. In an interview with the Gruniad's editor, Alan Rusbridger, Coogan said in total he lost thirty grand over the legal action, after News International paid him three hundred and seventy thousand wonga in compensation last year. 'I am nervous about the privacy thing; I'm not hugely hopeful about that,' Coogan said. 'I think that the press will get more ground than they deserve.' The actor shied away from calling for the introduction of a privacy law, but said newspapers must be able to 'demonstrate' that potentially infringing stories are in the public interest. Coogan explained why he decided to embark on the 'lonely' route of legal action against News International. The actor said he decided to pursue Andy Coulson after seeing the former Scum of the World editor walk into the heart of government as David Cameron's chief media adviser. Coogan claimed that Coulson secretly recorded a phone call with the actor before publishing a kiss and tell story in the Scum of the World based on the taped admissions.

The God damn Modfather his very self yer actual Paul Weller's latest CD has entered the Official UK chart at number one, giving him the fourth chart-topping LP of his solo career (added to the two number one LPs he had with The Jam, and one with The Style Council). The psychedelic-jazz-rock-fusion of Sonik Kicks knocked last week's number one by The Military Wives down to third place. The triumph for Weller (looking uncannily like the late Jimmy Savile in the photo to the right, now then, now then, as it happens) comes thirty years after his first band, The Jam, last reached the top with the single 'Beat Surrender'.

Sebastian Vettel described one of the backmarkers in the Malaysian Grand Prix as an 'idiot' after a collision cost him fourth place. The world champion got a puncture while lapping Narain Karthikeyan's HRT and dropped back to finish eleventh. 'Like on normal roads, you have some idiots driving around. It seems there is also one driving here,' the Red Bull driver said. Karthikeyan claimed that some leading drivers 'try and bully you' when lapping him. Neither man mentioned the other by name, although it appeared clear who they were talking about. The incident happened on lap forty six, with ten laps to go, as Vettel was chasing Lewis Hamilton's McLaren for the final podium place behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Sauber's Sergio Perez. Vettel passed Karthikeyan on the back straight at the Sepang track but the two collided as the Indian moved back towards the racing line. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was Karthikeyan's 'responsibility to get out of the way of the leaders as he is a lapped car.' Karthikeyan said: 'With Vettel, I got on to the marbles and the car had a lot of wheelspin. I had to jink to get out of it and unfortunately he was there. What else I could I do? Some of these guys when you get lapped, they just try and bully you so much, it's not fair. I won't mention names but sometimes they overtake you and they want you to go off the road. With this car it's a big task to qualify and to finish is a big task. We're a small team. We don't want to be a hindrance but doesn't give them the right to bully you. This is not right.' Karthikeyan was also involved in an incident earlier in the race in which McLaren's Jenson Button collided with the HRT and lost his front wing. Jenson subsequently acknowledged it was his fault. 'I can't do anything but laugh really because it was such a horrendous race,' Button said after finishing fourteenth. 'I didn't do a very good job and everything that could have gone wrong did. Just one of those afternoons. A lot of the issues were because I wiped my front wing off, locked up my rears and couldn't slow down.'

A hot-air balloon crashed into power lines in Northamptonshire, trapping a woman and two men fifteen metres in the air. The balloon's canopy wrapped round live cables just after six o'clock on Sunday evening, at Bozeat near Wellingborough. Firefighters had to wait about four hours before receiving confirmation the power was off and beginning the rescue. By 23:30 the three people had been brought safely back to the ground. They were treated by ambulance staff for minor injuries including burns. Relatives gathered at the site ahead of the rescue attempt. The pilot, eighteen-year-old Adam Griffiths, said: 'We were coming in to approach a playing field but unfortunately we hit the power lines, which went with quite a bang. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, it's all a bit of a blur to be honest. We are all a bit cold from staying up there for so long and there are also a few minor specs of burns, but we are all fine. Things do go through your mind when you are stuck up there about what could have happened, but the main thing is that we are back down here and safe.' It took about forty minutes for firefighters to complete the rescue once the power had been isolated. Robin Porter, from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, said: 'We had to wait until the power lines had been earthed before we could carry out the rescue. The electric company will continue to work over the next few hours to get the balloon away from the power lines before the electricity can be switched back on.' The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun an inquiry into the crash.

Papiss Demba Cisse scored twice as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies delivered a first-half masterclass in a 3-1 win over the West Bromwich Albinos on Sunday that maintained United's push for a European finish. Newcastle produced an excellent attacking performance to beat The Baggies at The Hawthorns and move level on points with fifth-placed Moscow Chelski FC. The Senegal striker finished off well-worked moves either side of a solo effort by French playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa, virtually securing victory for Newcastle by the thirty fourth minute. West Brom improved after the break, with substitute Shane Long reducing the deficit in the fifty second minute after a defensive mix-up in which Mike Williamson looked like a right plank when he collided with Tim Krul. But, Newcastle held on to move level on points with fifth-place Moscow Chelski with eight matches of the season left. Stottingtot Hotshots are five points ahead in fourth, The Liverpool Yee-Haw Alabamans eight points being The Toon in seventh. Cisse has now scored five goals in six matches since joining United from Freiburg in January. The tone was set as early as the fifth minute when Cisse's cross was only half cleared by Liam Ridgewell to Demba Ba, whose volley into the ground was tipped over the crossbar by Ben Foster. Within a minute the Magpies were ahead. Jonas Gutierrez slid possession out to the unmarked Ben Arfa, wide on the left and his cross was clinically converted by Cisse, who was marginally onside despite appeals from the Baggies defence and howls of derision from their more numskull supporters. You know, like Adrian Chiles, fr instance. By the twelfth minute it was two thanks to a counter-attacking masterclass from the Magpies. Starting on the edge of his own area, Ben Arfa played a neat one-two with Yohan Cabaye and then exchanged passes with Cisse to leave him deep in Baggies territory. Then, shaping on to his left foot, he cut in from the right channel before unleashing a spanker of a left foot shot into the far corner of Foster's net. James Morrison and Marc-Antoine Fortune both spurned chances as the Baggies attempted to gain a foothold in the contest, however any prospect of a comeback was more-or-less dismissed by Alan Pardew's team's third in the thirty fourth minute. Once again, it occurred with all of the brute force of a savage slap across the chops in terms of counter-attacking. Ben Arfa was, again, at its core, releasing Ba down the left with a perfectly-weighted pass. The Frenchman continued his run beyond the Senegal striker, who released him with a cute backheel, before his cross was swept home by Cisse. Chris Foy's half-time whistle was, unsurprisingly, greeted with discord from the sour-faced home crowd, while a double substitution by Hodgson, replacing Keith Andrews and Jerome Thomas with Shane Long and Chris Brunt, hardly came as a shock. United were also forced into a half-time change, Fabricio Coloccini suffering a hamstring injury late in the first half. He was replaced by Davide Santon with James Perch moving inside to partner Williamson at the centre. An untimely slip from Billy Jones presented Cisse with a one-on-one duel with Foster for his hat-trick, but the goalkeeper prevailed, standing tall to block with his body. The home side created a chink of light for themselves in the fifty second minute when Long reduced the deficit. Tim Krul darted off his line to deal with a flighted ball but Williamson, panicked under pressure from Peter Odemwingie and diverted it into the Irishman's path to leave him with an empty net. Which, of course, was queue for the locals to go mental and start beating their chests and chunter on about how they were gonna do this and that and the other. In the event, they did none of the above. Long's energy certainly provided the Baggies with fresh impetus, yet with their onus now on the offensive, it left them vulnerable to counter-attacks and, after another delicious dribble, Ben Arfa forced a fine Foster save. The comeback ended there, however, as a combination of stoppages for injuries and resolute Newcastle defending halted Roy Hodgson's side's momentum, leaving the travelling Toon Army to toast a hugely impressive display from their side. It has been a memorable season for the Magpies so far - despite a feeling that they've rather punched above their weight - and on this evidence they certainly remain capable of challenging for a top-six finish. Key to their chances are the attacking trio of Ben Arfa, Cisse and Demba Ba - none of whom West Brom could live with early on. The Baggies are now without a win in three matches but remain eleven points clear of the relegation zone in fourteenth.

Like a sinister, cat-stroking, vile and odious Bond villain intent on total world domination, Mike Ashley has seemingly hatched a terrible plan to rebrand not just the home ground of yer actual Newcastle United, but also anything with the name of St James' Park attached to it. At least, that's if the BBC's sports website football result compilers are to be believed. Having now spread his tentacles down to Devon - and Exeter City's so-called 'real St James Park' - nothing would seems sacred and beyond the billionaire's horrifying doo-dah. From The North awaits the chilling news from London of the newly-christened 'Sports Direct Palace', 'Sports Direct Royal Park', 'the Court of Sports Direct Arena' and 'Sports Direct Tube Station.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This is for the Prime Minister from, allegedly, your favourite band. And some wise words for politicians of all stripes.

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