Monday, March 12, 2012

Love Me Before I Grow Too Old

Sir Tom Jones has predicted that he will find the winning act on The Voice. The singer, a coach on the upcoming BBC talent show, revealed that he was 'blown away' by the auditions on the BBC talent show. The Welsh legend claimed that he will 'definitely' find the winning act, saying: 'I have got the natural voices on my team. What would I say to the other coaches? Bring it on!' The seventy one-year-old went on: 'I was blown away by the standard of the singers. We have all said that it's a shame we can only pick ten artists to be in our team. I would have loved it if I could have picked twenty!' Describing his mentoring style, the singer added: 'I'd like to think I am a fair coach. I am always listening to see if they are in tune. People are always coming to me to ask for advice, and it's nice to be able to give people tips. I know how much I really appreciated people giving me advice when I was younger.'

BBC1 completed a clean sweep over ITV in primetime on Saturday night, overnight ratings data reveals. Let's Dance for Sport Relief was watched by 5.08m from 7.10pm, then Dale Winton's In It To Win It returned with 5.54m. Thereafter, 5.18m saw Casualty at 9.20pm. Meanwhile, odious, wretched dignity-stripped Take Me Out (4.27m) continued its ratings decline at 8pm. Take Me Out: The Gossip had six hundred and sixty two thousand miserable wretches viewing it on ITV2. And the gossip would seem to be, this format is shit, don't watch it. The Jonathan Ross Show followed with a very modest 2.65m at 9pm, down considerably week-on-week. Surprisingly, Harry Hill's comedy filler You've Been Framed (4.57m) at 7pm was more popular than TV Burp (4.56m) which was broadcast at 7.30pm and, frankly, seems to be running on empty at the moment. Once essential viewing, the show now feels like a format in the middle of a final series slowly dying from lack of new ideas. Elsewhere, The Bank Job continued with a steady audience of 1.11m for Channel Four at 9pm, but 8pm's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings repeat was slightly more viewer-appetising, drawing 1.16m at 8pm. US drama CSI: NY was Channel Five's best-rated show of the night with 1.29m at 10pm, followed by NCIS (nine hundred and fifty two thousand) and CSI (nine hundred and fourteen thousand). On BBC2, the documentary duo The Story of Light Entertainment (1.57m) and The Story of Musicals (1.67m) continued to perform solidly, before 1.59m tuned in for I'm a Popstar! in the 9pm hour. Overall, BBC1 overwhelmed ITV in primetime with a share of 23.8 per cent of the audience share against 15.3 per cent. The popular Martin Clunes drama Doc Martin was the pick of the multichannel shows, with 1.05m for an old episode on ITV3. John Simm's masterclass in Doctor Who's The Sound of Drums, originally screened in 2007, had an audience of six hundred and eighty three thousand on BBC3 at 7.50pm.

A Doctor Who 'fan' has, reportedly, renewed his claim of ownership of the character of Davros. Dear blog readers with longer memories than the average goldfish (and a proper sense of the ridiculous) may recall the story of one Steve Clark - who is, clearly, not mental or anything even remotely like it - which we reported early last year. Clark claims - with absolutely no supporting evidence whatsoever except for an, undated, childs drawing - that he came up with the name and submitted it with a design, as well as a handwritten essay entitled The Genesis Of The Daleks: The Creation Of Davros, for a TV Action competition in 1972. His entry didn't win the prize of a seventeen-inch portable colour TV set but, Clark claims, both the name and design were later used by the BBC without his permission. Davros was first seen in the series in Genesis of the Daleks in 1975. As this blog noted at the time, 'everybody with half-a-head knows that when the BBC want to commission a Doctor Who story featuring a new monster, instead of employing professional writers and designers to create the name and the look of the character, they go rooting around through a three year old competition run by a comic to find something a thirteen year old allegedly came up with. Makes perfect sense to me.' Clark launched High Court proceedings last year for copyright breach after an 'attempt to come to an amicable solution' with the corporation foundered. Basically, because the 'amicable solution' suggested by the BBC was likely to have been 'oh, for Christ's sake, go away and grow up.' Or, words to that effect. Now, with the case on hold, Clark claims that a teacher's handwriting could decide the matter. Clark, from Brabourne Lees in Kent, says that his original sketch, done when he was thirteen, has comments written on it by David Tidy, who was a teacher at Duncan Bowen School in Stanhope, Ashford, in the 1970s. He is now seeking former pupils who have books with Tidy's handwriting in them, which could be used to validate the writing on his sketch and therefore his claim. Clark said: 'Unfortunately the samples we have are inconclusive, according to the handwriting expert.' No shit? 'We just need as much hard evidence as possible to help with the case as the BBC keep digging their heels in.' The BBC and BBC Worldwide dispute the claim. A spokesman said: 'These proceedings are ongoing and the BBC and BBC Worldwide are defending the claim. Davros was created by Terry Nation and the BBC.'

As reported last week, Suranne Jones, Tom Ellis, David Warner, Sarah Smart and Donald Sumpter are to star in the modern-day ghost story The Crickley Hall on BBC1 this autumn. James Herbert's novel has been adapted by Joe Ahearne, who will also be directing it. Filming on the three-part drama begins this month in and around the Manchester area. Suranne was quoted by the BBC as saying: 'The Secret Of Crickley Hall is a classic haunted house spine chiller. With an emotional family story at its heart, Joe Ahearne has adapted the novel perfectly, and I am really excited about working with him as a director. It's a great cast and I am looking forward to working with David Warner, Donald Sumpter, and Tom Ellis.' Ahearne added: 'Everyone loves a good ghost story and James Herbert is an iconic writer in the genre. He's come up with a really thrilling and moving story that delights you while it's terrifying you. It's a testament to his craft that we've attracted such a great cast to play the characters he created.'

Professor Stephen Hawking is to appear in US sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The research director at Cambridge University's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology filmed his cameo in Los Angeles on Friday. According to TV Guide, the seventy-year-old physicist has a 'run-in' with the character Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons. The scene will be broadcast in the States on 5 April, a week after an episode featuring Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance as Mr Spock in a dream sequence. The sitcom's premise of a bunch of geeks living across the hall from an attractive woman might appeal to Hawking, as last month he was, reportedly, seen in a swingers' club in California. This is not the first time that Hawking has featured in a TV comedy, having voiced himself in both The Simpsons and Futurama.

Chemmy Alcott has become the latest celebrity to be voted off ITV's Twatting About on Ice. Not that anybody with half-a-brain in their head is in the slightest bit interested in rank knobcheese glakery like that.

Melanie C and Jason Donovan have been announced as judges for part of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar talent search. The former Spice Girl and the musical theatre star will assist Lloyd Webber at callbacks for the ITV show, which begin on Monday and are due to continue for three days. The trio will whittle down the remaining hopefuls to a final forty and continue to judge them at a subsequent 'intensive training' session. At which power-crazed megalomaniac (and gnome) Lord Webber will, hopefully, get his throne and his shoe-tree of despair from Over The Rainbow out of mothballs for an encore. The panel for the Superstar live shows will be announced at a later date. Speaking about the contest last week, poisoned dwarf (and Tory) Lloyd Webber declared that the audition stages have been 'extraordinary. We had a boy from New Zealand, a boy from Israel, we had somebody coming in from Lithuania,' he said. 'We've had three thousand people in to audition for the role. We've even had a few girls [and] one girl who's very, very good.' The sixty three-year-old also said that the eventual winner of Superstar will have to possess 'enormous charisma. He has to be a genuine rock tenor,' the odious Webber explained. 'Think Freddie Mercury, I mean that's the kind of range we're talking about.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is now thinking about the late Freddie Mercury in the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ, Superstar. And cringing. Gracious, that's an image which is not going to leave me for a long time. 'Whoever plays this role will be opening at the O2, and there are going to be big stars alongside. It's not just going to be any old casting.'

Jamie Oliver has revealed that he might return to Australia next year. And, let's hope the odious wretched horrorshow stays there.

Some advice to BBC4 boss Richard Klein. Try to get your presenters' names right before you go bragging about them. Reportedly 'battling illness' as he celebrated his channel's tenth birthday on senior staff blog About the BBC, the controller clearly had trouble differentiating between the historian Lucy Worsley (whom he called 'Worseley') and celebrity-infested London eatery The Wolseley as he listed his favourtie things on BBC4 since 2002. Kleinian eccentricity was evident too as he praised Andrew Graham-Dixon's series for being 'effortlessly propositional' – which may suggest the art critic tossing out philosophical ideas, but more commonly involves 'an invitation to engage in sexual intercourse.' More BBC3 fare that, one would've suggested.

There's a superb interview with Sir David Frost by the Gruniad Morning Star's Tara Conlon to which yer actual Keith Telly Topping draws your attention, dear blog reader. 'His Nixon showdown in 1977, in which Frost persuaded the disgraced former president to speak on camera and admit he "let down the country down", was voted the greatest broadcast interview of all time and achieved record-breaking ratings. He has interviewed every British prime minister since Harold Wilson and every US president since Nixon, bar Barack Obama. He says with a wry smile he is "not any further away" from getting Obama but says Lord Lucan would be his top choice of interviewee. "He has re-emerged as an exciting interview prospect ... today Lord Lucan is as good as we'll get."' On fine form there, old Frostie!

The actor Michael Madsen has been arrested for child cruelty after an alleged fight with his teenage son. The fifty fiour-year-old, who is a regular star in Quentin Tarantino's films, was arrested after officers were called to his home in California on Friday. Madsen 'appeared under the influence of alcohol,' Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said in a statement. He was arrested 'without incident' and bail was set at one hundred thousand dollars. His release, early on Saturday morning, was filmed by US celebrity website In the video the actor said 'everything's fine' and that the incident was 'all a big misunderstanding.' Madsen is best known for his roles as Mr White in Reservoir Dogs and as Susan Sarandon's tough boyfriend in Thelma And Louise. Earlier this year, he appeared in the latest series of UK reality show Celebrity Big Brother.

Each week in Henan Province in central China, millions of people tune in to watch an extraordinary talk show called Interviews Before Execution, in which reporter Ding Yu interviews murderers condemned to death. Every Monday morning, Ding Yu and her team scour the court reports to find cases to cover on their programme. They have to move quickly, as prisoners can be executed seven days after they are sentenced. To Western eyes the show may seem exploitative, but Ding disagrees. 'Some viewers may consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed. On the contrary, they want to be heard,' she says. 'Some criminals I interviewed told me: "I'm really very glad. I said so many things in my heart to you at this time. In prison, there was never a person I was willing to talk to about past events."' Interviews Before Execution was first broadcast on 18 November 2006 on Henan Legal Channel, one of three thousand state-owned TV stations in China. And Ding has interviewed a prisoner every week since then. The aim, the programme-makers say, is to find cases that will serve as a warning to others. The slogan at the top of every programme calls for human nature to awaken and 'perceive the value of life.' In China, fifty five crimes carry the death penalty, from murder, treason and armed rebellion to bribery and smuggling. Thirteen other crimes, including VAT fraud, smuggling relics and credit fraud, were only recently removed from the list of capital offences. Interviews Before Execution, however, focuses exclusively on cases of violent murder. It has never interviewed political prisoners or cases where the crime is in question, and the team has to have the Henan high court's consent in every case. 'Without their consent, our programme would end immediately,' Ding told a BBC documentary team. Broadcast every Saturday night, the programme is frequently rated one of Henan's top ten shows, with nearly forty million viewers out of the one hundred million who live in the province. After more than two hundred interviews, it has made Ding Yu a star, known to many as 'Beauty with the Beasts.' If people do not heed the warnings the programme offers, she says, then it is 'right' they face consequences. 'I feel sorry and regretful for them. But I don't sympathise with them, for they should pay a heavy price for their wrongdoing. They deserve it.' Many of the cases featured in the programme are motivated by money and one case in particular stands out for Ms Yu. The perpetrators were boyfriend and girlfriend - young, educated college graduates. The couple planned to rob her grandparents but it went wrong and the young man, twenty seven-year-old Zhang Peng, ended up killing them both. 'They are so young. They never had the chance to see this world, or to enjoy life, a career, work, and the love of family. They've made the wrong choice, and the price is their lives,' she says. But after so many interviews, little surprises Ding. 'I've interviewed criminals even younger than that young student, some just eighteen years old. That is the minimum age you can be sentenced to death.' Homosexuality is still a huge taboo in China, and when in 2008 the show covered the case of Bao Ronting, a gay man who murdered his mother, ratings soared. It was the first time Ms Yu had ever met an openly gay man. 'I had never come close to a gay man, so I really couldn't accept some of his practices, words and deeds. Though he was a man, he asked me in a very feminine tone, "Do you feel awkward speaking to me?" Actually I felt very awkward," she recalls. She and her team made a further three episodes on the case of Bao Ronting and followed him until the day he was executed in November 2008. During one of these meetings, Bao asked Ding: 'Will I go to heaven?' Rembering these words, she reflects: 'I witness the transition from life to death.' Bao Ronting was paraded in an open top truck on the way to his execution with a placard around his neck detailing his crime. The practice is illegal in modern China - but the law is not always observed. Judge Lui Wenling, who works closely with the programme-makers, says things are changing in the Chinese legal system. 'The present criminal policies in China are "To kill less and cautiously" and "Combining lenience and strictness." It means, "If the case is fit for lenient treatment, give it lenience," and, "If the case should be strictly treated, give it a strict punishment,"' he says. Ding recently covered the case of Wu Yanyan, a young mother who murdered her husband after allegedly suffering years of abuse. She was initially sentenced to death for the murder. But since 2007, every execution verdict in China has to be approved by the Supreme Court, and in this case it took the view that the abuse provided mitigating circumstances. The higher court kept returning the case to the local court until the death sentence was suspended. Ding visited the prison with Wu Yanyan's daughter for an emotional reunion. If the young mother continues to behave well in prison, after two years she could ultimately be released - a small sign of changing attitudes in China. One of China's more liberal judges, Judge Pan, along with some other senior figures in the justice system, foresees more far-reaching reforms in future. 'A life could end in the twinkling of an eye after a trial. I'd say this is also very cruel,' he says. 'It's also a means of getting rid of evil deeds through an evil deed. Should we abolish the death penalty? Since the death sentence for criminals is itself a violent act, then we should abolish it. However, I don't think our country is ready yet. But in the future, it would be good to abolish it.'
Former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson is trying, once again, to force News International to pay his legal costs. The Press Association reports that Coulson has renewed his application for permission to appeal against a high court decision that his former employers do not have to pay costs arising from the phone-hacking affair. The application, as shown on the justice ministry's case tracker site, means that he will get an oral hearing in front of three judges on 8 May. The panel will consist of Lord Justice Maurice Kay, who is vice president of the appeal court's civil division, Lord Justice Etherton and Lord Justice Aikens. On 21 December, Coulson lost his high court bid to force News Group Newspapers - the News International division which published the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World - to pay costs. Then, on 14 February, he was denied permission to appeal in a ruling by Sir Richard Buxton, a former lord justice. After the December judgment, Coulson put his south London house up for sale with an asking price of £1.6m. Coulson's lawyers have argued that a clause in his severance deal meant NGN should pay professional costs and expenses incurred by him 'in defending allegations of criminal conduct' during his tenure as editor. In July last year Coulson - former director of communications for the Prime Minister - was arrested by police officers investigating phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The Leveson inquiry is under pressure to publish the files of Operation Motorman, the 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into breaches of the Data Protection Act by newspapers. The Hacked Off campaign argues that Lord Justice Leveson should reveal them because they could expose widespread illegality by journalists. The files have been seen by members of the inquiry and by most national newspapers but they remain secret from the public - and from the victims of the alleged intrusion. It follows a call last month by Labour MP Denis MacShane that the ICO should inform victims whose private information was obtained by potentially illegal means. The ICO did publish two reports about its Motorman findings - What price privacy? (May 2006) and What price privacy now? (December 2006). But, crucially, those reports did not include specific details of individual cases. Neither the victims, nor the three hundred and five journalists said to have carried out what the ICO called 'the unlawful trade in confidential personal information,' were identified. Hacked Off believes there is evidence of illegal activity in the files, which are said to detail some seventeen thousand five hundred transactions. These include evidence of payments to police officers for information from the Police National Computer and the accessing of criminal records and phone records. According to the former information commissioner, Richard Thomas, in evidence to the Leveson inquiry in December, these practices were 'at least as serious as phone-hacking, and may be even more serious.' It is believed by Hacked Off campaigners that the files can answer a string of outstanding questions: Who were the three hundred and five journalists involved, which newspapers were they working for and why aren't any of them in jail right now? How many of them now occupy senior positions at national papers? How much did papers pay? What kinds of people were targeted? What methods were used? What kind of information was stolen? Where confidential information was stolen, was it for stories that served the public interest? Hacked Off believe the files could be published with redactions enabling victims to be protected from further scrutiny. Meanwhile, victims should be privately informed about intrusions. The call is supported by Tory MP Zac Goldsmith. He said: 'I certainly believe these files should be appropriately redacted and then released to the public. The only way we will can ever fully address our rotten system is if it is exposed it to maximum sunlight.' Brian Cathcart, a co-founder of Hacked Off and professor of journalism at Kingston university, said: 'The records of Glenn Mulcaire blew open the hacking scandal at the News of the World. With Motorman we have a second database that may tell us just as much about press abuses at several other papers. There must not be another cover-up.'

On a whistle-stop tour of Europe last week – including 'a great few hours in Berlin,' he tweeted – yer actual Rupert Murdoch met the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara. Murdoch-watchers believe that he is still interested in the TV station ATV and the newspaper Sabah, having considered a bid when they went on sale five years ago; and Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, happens to be chief executive of Calik Holding, the conglomerate that bought them. (A potential stumbling-block, though, is Murdoch's existing papers' vigorous support for Israel.) Disappointingly, reports failed to indicate if Rupert is already on 'back door' terms with Erdogan, as with Brown and Cameron, or still humiliatingly forced to enter the PM's residence through the front door like yer average run-of-the-mill multi-billionaire mogul. 'The men don't know, but the little girls understand.' Apparently.

'Kirsty Wark is in the chair tomorrow night,' Jeremy Paxman signed off on his final shift last week, before slyly adding 'lucky old you.' Naughty, but the Newsnight inquisitor did have a potential excuse for being even spikier than usual – perhaps he'd just seen the first ratings for his BBC1 series Empire, at 3.9 million, well behind those for Andrew Marr's The Diamond Queen, which preceded it in the same slot.

Jackie Mason has proved he's still capable of controversy after claiming Jewish and black people are no longer the victims of racial discrimination. Speaking on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on Sunday, the seventy five-year-old comic claimed that some people from minorities wrongly blame persecution for their own lack of progress. He told host Kirsty Young: 'I wouldn't say the Jews or the blacks today are suffering from racism. I don't think it's such a terrible disadvantage to be black or Jewish today. But because they once were they are still not comfortable enough with the new situation. They still can't accept the fact that they are completely accepted everywhere. It's all in their minds.' Although Young challenged him on his views, Mason said: 'The younger the people are the less it matters to them what their identity is in terms of their religion or their colour. Whites and blacks would never marry in those days. Jews and Gentiles would never marry. Today, that type of marriage is very common.' He added that the election of Barack Obama proved times have changed, with colour not being a bar to any job. '‘I see this with all the minorities,' he said. 'You can't get a job somewhere. He can't admit to himself that he is inadequate – they'll claim it's anti-Semitism. It's pure imagination.'

Canadian television reporter Kent Molgat walked into a lamp post live on air last week. An, it was hilarious although it looked like it really hurt. CTV's Molgat was trying to interview a reluctant lawyer who had just come out of a court building when he walked straight into the pole. 'Oh my God, that hurt!' he is heard shouting after the incident. Even the person he was chasing down the street stopped to see if he was all right. 'Ever wanted to see a reporter refusing to take "no comment" for an answer take a hit to the face?' Molgat joked on Twitter with a link to the video, which at least proves that the chap has a sense of humour. The clip has since become a hit online, achieving almost two hundred thousand views since it was posted.

A Californian police chief sent an armed sergeant to a newspaper reporter's home in the early hours of the morning to demand that he make changes to a story. The chief of Berkeley police department, Michael Meehan, ordered the mission after reading an online story filed by Doug Oakley of the Bay Area News Group. A day later, after as storm of criticism for an act perceived as intimidation and attempted censorship, Meehan issued an apology, calling it 'an overzealous attempt to make sure that accurate information is put out.' He said that he didn't think Oakley would be upset because the police sergeant, Mary Kusmiss, regularly deals with the media. But Oakley said that he and his wife were shaken by the 12.45am knock on the door. Tragically, reports don't indicate whether Kusmiss then did a Jack Regan and kicked the door in shouting 'get yer trousers on, you're nicked!' But, I'm sure it would've been a sight to see if she had. Meehan objected to a report by Oakley about a raucous community meeting in which Meehan had sought to explain his department's alleged failure to respond to an emergency call by a man who was subsequently murdered. Christ only knows what he'll do when he sees some of the press coverage of this story. if you're thinking on sending the boys round to Stately Telly Topping Manor, Chief, can you make it before midnight, because I have to be up early in the morning. Oakley did eventually change two paragraphs in his story, but Meehan's actions were described as 'totally despicable' by Jim Ewert, a lawyer for the California Newspaper Publisher's Association. He said the chief should have just called the newspaper the next day or written a letter to the editor.

A study has suggested that LSD could be used to help people overcome alcoholism. Bit of a drastic solution, perhaps, but hey, if it helps ... Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have theorised that a single dose of the class A drug has a 'significant beneficial effect' on alcohol abuse. Presumably those tripping on acid are so freaked out by a bottle of booze that they can't touch it. They reached their conclusion after analysing studies on the drug between 1966 and 1970, in which fifty nine per cent of subjects given LSD showed reduced levels of alcohol misuse, compared with thirty eight per cent in another group that did not receive any. Although, as alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon proved, it was perfectly possible to be on both and still write 'I Am The Walrus.' This effect was maintained for six months after taking LSD, according to the BBC, but disappeared after a year. 'Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,' said the report's authors Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen. Err ... because it's replacing one form of (psychological) dependency with another? Just a wild stab in the dark. It was also suggested that more regular doses could have a long-term benefit, while higher levels of abstinence were also recorded in those taking the hallucinogen. Plus, Atom Heart Mother sounds 'really great' when you're tripping off your face. Apparently.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, having spent the weekend doing very little other than playing Be-Atles records (not for any particular reason, it just felt like that sort of weekend), here's another one.

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