Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why, Because Of What You Are?

Big budget TV dramas including Downton Abbey could be offered twenty five per cent tax breaks for filming in the UK, the chancellor is expected to announce in his forthcoming budget. Odious slime bucket George Osborne will say that too many 'cinematic' UK TV shows are filmed abroad because of the tax incentives on offer. A forthcoming Titanic TV show, written by Downton Abbey creator - and, completely co-incidentally, highly vocal Tory - Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes, was filmed in Hungary for this reason. Lord Snooty said that tax relief would be 'a fantastic move forward' for the industry and country as a whole. But, especially, for him. The UK TV production industry comprises more than fifteen hundred independent TV production companies, employing twenty one thousand people with total revenues of £2.2bn, according to the Treasury. Osborne is expected to announce a consultation on tax breaks for Lord Snooty in Wednesday's Budget. The government believes that competitive tax incentives would lead to the creation of thousands more British jobs. 'British television is second to none but unfortunately, time and time again, great British programmes are being made overseas where the tax climate is more favourable,' smug Tory snob Lord Snooty said. He added that, if the Budget addressed this, 'a host of new productions would undoubtedly be produced here as they certainly should be.' While global hit Downton Abbey was filmed in the UK, other major TV dramas filmed abroad include Tom Stoppard's forthcoming BBC/HBO adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, which was shot in Belgium. Sky1's Strike Back, based on the novel by former SAS man Chris Ryan, was produced in South Africa, which offers tax relief of fifteen per cent for foreign and twenty five per cent for homegrown productions. Hungary and France offer tax relief of up to twenty per cent of production costs while Ireland offers up to twenty eight per cent, the Treasury said. 'One of the ways the world sees Britain at its best is through world-class films and television made in Britain,' a Treasury source said. 'They not only help us showcase the country but are also an important part of a dynamic and diversified economy.' Existing tax relief for British films had been critical in 'ensuring that industry continues to thrive,' it was added. Under that scheme, smaller films, with a budget of twenty million smackers or less, are offered a twenty five per cent rate of relief with bigger budget productions offered a twenty per cent rate.

The 2012 MasterChef final managed an overnight peak of over 6.1 million viewers for BBC1 on Thursday night. Shelina Permalloo's cooking victory was seen by an average of 5.62m on BBC1 across the 9pm hour, beating the premiere of ITV's new romantic drama Love Life, which drew 3.93m and two hundred and fifty thousand additional punters on ITV+1. MasterChef's final show average is down three hundred thousand on last year's final when it was broadcast on Wednesday nights. Before the cookery show, Anne Robinson's Watchdog held a respectable 3.81m against ITV's 8pm soap hour. Live football boosted Channel Five's early evening ratings between 5.15pm and 8.05pm, as 2.53m and a peak of four million watched The Scum deliciously crash out of the Europa League. And truly, it was glorious in our sights. Action film XxX followed with 1.05m. Sarah Millican's Television Programme was BBC2's most-watched show of the night with 1.6m at 10pm. Natural World interested 1.32m at 8pm, and 1.09m stayed for White Heat an hour later. Which, despite much pre-series publicity appears to be dying on its feet. Location, Location, Location was watched by to 1.59m for Channel Four at 8pm, then factual series Mary's Bottom Line opened with 1.49m at 9pm. Overall, BBC1 overtook ITV in the Thursday night primetime battle with twenty one and a half per cent audience share against ITV's 20.3 per cent. Keith Lemon's Celebrity Juice continued to dominate the multichannel airwaves with a total of 1.6m including ITV2+1 figures. After last week's low, Glee limped back onto Sky1 with just three hundred and thirty nine thousand viewers. One would imagine that Sky are rather regretting the millions they reportedly paid for the American series at the height of Gleemania. Now there's a format that's gotten really old really quickly.

Merlin's co-creators have given some hints about what to expect in the show's fifth series, which is due to begin filming soon. Speaking to SciFiNow in the magazine's latest issue, producer Julian Murphy teased: 'I don't see Morgana getting any less powerful. She's growing into a stronger and more committed enemy than ever before.' He added: 'The stakes are becoming higher now that Arthur is king and the future of Albion is being created, there's more for Merlin to fight for and more for him to protect so as he gets older, he's tested as a character because everything in the world becomes more serious.'

One of the writers of Upstairs Downstairs may be stand-up comedy fan - or short on inspiration, anyway. The boxing opponent of chauffeur Harry Spargo in last Sunday's episode was named Micky Flanagan. It could be something of a dig as Flanagan himself recently slagged off costume drama in his stand-up routine. 'I just hate everything about them,' he has told an interviewer. 'The self-importance, the ridiculous stories, the low-level luridness – like a bad Carry On film without the jokes.' Which coming from someone as, seemingly, full-of-his-own-importance as Mickey Flanagan appears to be something of a pot-kettle-black-type situation.

The BBC is developing a new SF sitcom pilot. V Sign will follow a group of human survivors fighting off the universe's most incompetent alien invasion force. Written by Steve Turner, the pilot will be shot and produced in Northern Ireland, with casting currently ongoing, according to Broadcast. 'I'm delighted that we're getting a chance to show the class of Northern Ireland talent on screen and off,' said Jon Rolph, managing director of production company Retort. 'A global alien invasion isn't usually the best way to start a collaboration, but we hope that V Sign's hapless visitors will spearhead many more projects to come from Green Inc and Retort.' Green Inc's Stephen Stewart added: 'We have several projects in development with Retort, and are very excited that our first successful project is V Sign. Steve Turner's script and the world he has created excited us the first time we read it.' Retort currently produces E4's PhoneShop and The IT Crowd, while Green Inc makes Ask Rhod Gilbert for BBC1. Ed Tracy will direct the V Sign pilot, with Simon Lupton acting as series producer.

An American Doctor Who fan has reportedly taken to dressing his two-year old daughter up in miniature versions of each of the current Doctor's outfits. Whether the authorities regard this as a form of child abuse, we'll have to wait to find out.

Kate Humble is to present Volcano Live from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's big island. Hopefully it won't go off whilst she's there and engulf her in molten lava. Because that would be awful. If, highly memorable telly. The BBC have announced that they will be broadcasting live from Hawaii in July to showcase four episodes which will feature pre-recorded and live material from the island. The show has commissioned on the back of the success of Lambing Live (which also featured Humble not being ravaged by an angry ewe) and Stargazing Live which have been hits for BBC2. Humble will be joined in Hawaii by the BBC's resident sexy young geologist professor Iain Stewart. Controller of BBC2, Janice Hadlow says: 'Volcano Live will offer BBC2 viewers a rare opportunity to join world-class experts at the forefront of cutting-edge volcanology research. Broadcasting live from the edge of one of the world's most active volcanoes over four days will offer a completely new and unique way of experiencing this powerful and unpredictable natural phenomenon.' The live action begins from 9 July and will continue until 12 July so long as Kate manages to keep her head above the lapping lava flow.

The BBC's cookery competition Great British Menu is to celebrate the London Olympics rather than the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year. After previously honouring serving British troops, UK food producers and other causes, the corporation is to devote the 2012 series to the sporting extravaganza in London. The BBC2 show features 'celebrity' chefs such as Antony Worrall Thompson, Gary Rhodes and Mark Hix competing to get their dishes on a banquet for a major event. The programme was originally devised to celebrate the Queen's eightieth birthday, but it will not mark the sixtieth anniversary of her accession to the throne this year. Pru Leith, a judge on the show, told the Daily Torygraph: 'We're about to start another Great British Menu, but it won't be cooking for the Diamond Jubilee. It will be about the Olympics this time, as it's such an exciting event.' The 2010 series featured a banquet hosted by the Prince of Wales in honour of British food producers. It is not clear whether a royal will again host the banquet for 2012, or if it will be someone like London 2012 chief Lord Sebastian Coe. Speaking at the launch of her autobiography, Leith - who was awarded a CBE in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours - confirmed that the chefs would be producing dishes for athletes, most likely after they have finished competing. 'The chefs will be cooking for these great athletes, which, I can only imagine, will be after the Olympic Games because, with the different, strict diets they must be on, it could be terribly tricky otherwise,' she said. A tip, Pru, apparently Usain Bolt really likes chicken nuggets.

The Nicholas Parsons-fronted Radio 4 show Just A Minute is to mark four-and-a-half decades on the wireless with ten special TV episodes on BBC2 starting later this month. Parsons will chair the television version of the show, announced last October, as he did for the very first radio broadcast back in 1967. He has not missed a single episode since then. Broadcasting weekdays at 6pm from 26 March to 6 April, the BBC2 programme will stick to the long-running radio format, featuring a range of comics and performers talking for one minute on a given subject 'without repetition, hesitation or deviation.' Show stalwarts Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Sue Perkins and Julian Clary will all appear on the TV version, along with new players like Russell Tovey, Ruth Jones, Hugh Bonneville and Jason Manford. Radio 4 will also mark the birthday with Just A Minute Without Hesitation on 17 March, featuring Parsons discussing the history of the show, and introducing classic performances from the likes of Merton, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Linda Smith, Shelia Hancock and Kenneth Williams. There will be two Just A Minute in India specials on 19 March and 23 March at 6.30pm, as Parsons, Merton and regular panellist Marcus Brigstock head to Mumbai to greet the programme's legions of fans in the Indian Sub Continent, where it has something of a cult following. They are joined by Indian comedians Cyrus Broacha and Anuvab Pal for the shows, which were recorded in Mumbai's Comedy Store in front of a 'lively, excited and sometimes unusually vocal audience of Mumbai urbanites.' Topics up for discussion included the legendary traffic in Mumbai, colonialism under the British Empire and 'It's Just Not Cricket'. The shows will be followed by Parsons presenting his own Just A Minute Indian Adventure on 2 April at 11.30am, discussing how the programme rose to prominence in India on BBC World Service, and how it spawned a range of 'Indianised' versions of the game and 'jam' sessions among young Indian students.

The BBC, ITN and Sky News have been granted a judicial review into a court decision that they should hand hours of unbroadcast footage of the Dale Farm eviction to police. The broadcasters argued that the Essex police demand for footage filmed at the UK's largest Travellers' camp last October was too wide-ranging. They were told to hand over the footage – which includes video of a police officer apparently using a stun gun at close range – after a Chelmsford court granted the police production order in December. However, Mr Justice Ouseley at the high court in London ruled on Friday that the TV companies should be allowed a judicial review into the court's decision. The high court is expected to hear the review after Easter. The legal challenge comes after the broadcasters warned of a 'worrying' increase in police demands to hand over unbroadcast footage of public unrest. They argued that journalists were in danger of being seen as an evidence-gathering arm of the police after a 'deluge' of requests for unused coverage of the England riots, the Dale Farm eviction, and a protest outside the Syrian embassy in London. John Battle, the head of compliance at ITN, said on Friday that the appeal could set 'an important precedent' for journalistic independence in Britain. 'If we are successful [at judicial review] it would set an important precedent and would hopefully show the police that broadcasters do have a right to report independently and impartially and that should be respected,' Battle told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'We hope it means that the police will start to be far more specific when they come to make applications [for production orders].' The Association of Chief Police Officers has attributed the rise in number of production orders to an increase in public disturbances since the summer riots across England. The National Union of Journalists appealed the Chelmsford court ruling on behalf of the freelance journalist Jason Parkinson, who filmed the stun gun footage, and appeared alongside the BBC, Sky News and ITN, which produces ITV News, Channel Four News and Five News.

Viewers are 'very comfortable' with the BBC's plans to launch an iTunes-style download service which would open up thousands of hours of never-before repeated content, according to a senior corporation executive. The BBC's director of archive content Roly Keating said he wanted it to be the 'norm, not the exception' that BBC shows were available to buy online soon after transmission. He said more than ninety per cent of BBC programmes are currently unavailable to buy once they are removed from the iPlayer. He said the plans – dubbed Project Barcelona – would also enable the corporation to open up a 'far greater volume of archive content' which has long been the corporation's ambition. 'The research we've done with audiences tells us they're very comfortable with the idea of BBC programmes being made available for purchase like this – there's a clear understanding of the difference between viewing something once and keeping it to enjoy in perpetuity,' said Keating in a blogpost on the BBC website. 'As Mark Thompson said in his speech, this is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC. At the moment, although partners such as iTunes offer a selection of the most popular BBC titles for purchase as downloads, we estimate that more than ninety per cent of what the BBC commissions becomes unavailable for download once it's removed from BBC iPlayer. We'd like to change that, and get to a point where it's the norm, not the exception, for shows to be available for digital purchase soon after transmission, with the most comprehensive range of BBC titles being offered via a bespoke online shop. We envisage this being a commercial site separate from the licence fee-funded BBC iPlayer, which would of course continue to offer its hugely successful and popular service of recently broadcast BBC programmes to catch up on-demand for free.' BBC director general Mark Thompson confirmed plans for the paid-for download service in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday. He said that the proposal, which would require the approval of the BBC Trust and is being negotiated with rights holders and programme makers, would allow viewers to 'purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep [for] a relatively modest charge.' Keating said: 'Over time the aim would be to make available not just an expanded range of recent titles, but a far greater volume of archive content as well. Barcelona would open up an important additional space for that very broad set of BBC programming that currently isn't being made available by the market, much of it never seen since its original transmission.' He added: 'The rights for programmes in Barcelona would be wholly non-exclusive: producers would be free to work with other digital retailers as well, and of course to exploit their programmes in multiple other ways, such as secondary TV channels, subscription services, DVD, video-on-demand, and so on. We believe there's public value in that, as well as additional revenues for producers, rights holders and the creative industries.'
The chief constable of Avon and Somerset police, Colin Port, is due to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry in two weeks' time. He has been called in order to answer questions about alleged leaks to the press during the Joanna Yeates murder inquiry. Her landlord, Christopher Jefferies, referred to one specific instance in his evidence to Leveson in November last year. He said that the day before he was arrested, he was surprised to find 'a large number of reporters and photographers' outside his house who questioned him about a statement he had previously made to the police. As we know, Jefferies - an entirely innocent man - was vilified by various tabloid newspapers whilst in custody. As he told Leveson: 'It was clear that the tabloid press had decided that I was guilty of Ms Yeates' murder and seemed determined to persuade the public of my guilt. They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me, which were completely untrue, allegations which were a mixture of smear, innuendo and complete fiction.' That shoddy, disgraceful episode is now a matter of public record, not least because Jefferies was awarded huge damages for libel from two newspapers, the Daily Mirra and the Sun, both of whom were also found guilty of contempt of court. But, aside from the disgraceful treatment of Jefferies, chief constable Port will need to address how the Sun came to publish two controversial stories while the murder hunt was still going on. The first, on 5 January 2011, revealed that one of Yeates's socks was missing.
This was regarded as a vital piece of evidence by the murder inquiry team and they were anxious to keep it secret. They were said to be 'astounded and upset' when it appeared in print. The second, on 17 January, concerned the fact that two delivery men working for Ikea were to be questioned by police. Again, detectives were astonished by its publication. In fact, the drivers had already been interviewed as a matter of routine simply because they happened to have delivered goods to Yeates's flat some five weeks before she disappeared. Police had asked them to provide DNA samples. Less than forty eight hours after they had spoken to police, they were approached by reporters working for the Sun. One found a reporter turning up on his doorstep. The other was called on his mobile phone. How, he wondered, had the paper obtained his number? The mystery of how the Sun managed to obtain its two exclusive stories was first made public on BBC Bristol's current affairs strand Points West on 25 January this year. The programme's home affairs correspondent, Steve Brodie, interviewed the two Ikea drivers, James Crozier and James Alexander. Alexander said on camera: 'When we first heard we had to speak to the cops - it was fine. When the press got in contact, it escalated into something - I wouldn't say paranoia but it put you on edge. I didn't go home - and stayed at girlfriend's house. It was horrible.' Crozier expressed 'amazement' that the paper had his address. He said: 'We went to see two senior detectives and told them the papers had our names and addresses. We were told they were under the impression they had been eavesdropped.' The leaked information also baffled Ann Reddrop, head of the Crown Prosecution Service's complex casework unit in the south west region. She told Brodie: 'At the time when forensic tests were underway and we were awaiting outcome, we agreed that we were going to not use mobiles phones, only use secure e-mails - and only talked about case to a very small group of people - did not want any further leaks or difficulties.' So how, exactly, did the Sun come by such sensitive information? Several questions about this matter are likely to be be raised by Lord Justice Leveson when Port appears before him. How does the chief constable explain the publication of the confidential information such as the missing sock episode? How does he explain the paper obtaining the identities and addresses of the Ikea delivery men? And why, when one of the men complained to his police force, was he told that detectives were under the impression that the investigative team had been eavesdropped?

A French porter is to receive a five-figure payout after his former colleagues kept calling him names including 'Basil Fawlty' and 'Inspector Clouseau'. Appadoure Basile successfully sued his ex-employer, the Royal College of General Practitioners, for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Other names he was called include 'Basil Brush', 'French wanker' and 'French tosser'. Furthermore, his ex-manager Nicholas Rogers - who was also found guilty - would apparently make 'sexual hand gestures' at him or start the day by asking: 'How's it hanging?' The court came to the conclusion that 'Inspector Clouseau' was a 'humiliating' nickname due to Clouseau being 'a British comic creation of a stereotypically bumbling French character.' Basile, who has been living in London since 1998 and has a 'discernible French accent,' was refused claims of race discrimination and unfair dismissal due to it being more than three months since his redundancy from the college in 2010. However, his lawyers believe that his former employer still faces a bill of approximately one hundred thousand smackers taking into account the payout and legal fees.

Gerard McCarthy has joined forthcoming BBC2 thriller The Fall. Gillian Anderson will star as DSI Gibson, a detective in pursuit of 'a deadly serial killer' in Belfast. Although what other sort of serial killer there is other than deadly, yer actual Keith Telly Topping isn't really sure. A not very good one, presumably. Former Hollyoaks actor McCarthy has now signed up for the project. He is probably best known for playing Kris Fisher on the Channel Four soap from 2006 to 2010, and recently joined twelve-part period drama Titanic: Blood and Steel. 'I'm very excited about working on The Fall,' said McCarthy. 'The scripts, by Allan Cubitt, are very special and our director Jakob Verbruggen has assembled a stellar cast of actors.' The BBC's controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson described The Fall as a 'rich and complex psychological thriller' and 'a unique, forensic and characterful take on a classic genre.' Rehearsals are currently underway on the project, with filming expected to begin next week in Belfast.

Russell Davies is to be one of the inaugural judges in a new ten thousand quid initiative for writers living in Wales. The Wales Drama Award, which will be given every two years, was launched at this week's official opening of the BBC's Roath Lock drama studios in Cardiff - the new home of Doctor Who. For this year's award, writers must submit a full-length, unperformed, or unproduced script in any medium and in English, with a minimum running length of thirty minutes, by 16 July. Six writers who are shortlisted will then be asked to submit a one-page outline of an original idea for development before meeting the judges in September to discuss their script as well as the idea. The winner, who will be announced in September or October this year, will receive ten thousand smackers and the chance to develop their script and idea with BBC Cymru Wales or National Theatre Wales. Two runners-up will each receive a grand. The other three get nowt. Not a sausage. Bugger all. The judging panel will also comprise BBC creative director of new writing Kate Rowland, BBC Cymru Wales head of drama Faith Penhale, National Theatre Wales artistic director John McGrath, and writer Abi Morgan (Sex Traffic, The Iron Lady, The Hour). Wales's First Minister, Carwyn Jones, performed the opening ceremony at the Roath Lock production centre by unveiling a plaque on the TARDIS prop. The drama village, which took just fourteen months to build, is part of the Porth Teigr renovation projection on Cardiff waterfront. Open days over the weekend of 10 and 11 March gave members of the public the chance to see props from Doctor Who and Upstairs, Downstairs, as well as a look round the sets of Casualty and Pobol y Cwm, which have also shifted production to the one hundred and seventy thousand square feet space - the BBC's largest drama production centre in the UK. An exhibition included costumes from Sherlock and a Dalek.

And, speaking of Daleks, Margaret Thatcher had a secret meeting with Rupert Murdoch at Chequers just weeks before his 1981 purchase of The Times newspapers, newly released files show. A note by her press secretary, odious bombastic Bernard Ingham says that the Prime Minister thanked Mr Murdoch for 'keeping her posted.' But the contentious issue of whether to refer the bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission was 'not raised.' The official history of The Times had stated there was 'no direct contact' between the pair at that stage. As with much else that News Group have been involved in over the last forty years, that has now proved to be untrue. The papers are being released by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust. The note by Ingham refers to a lunch with Murdoch at Chequers on 4 January 1981, 'to be treated Commercial - In Confidence.' It details the News Group chairman's intention to buy The Times newspapers and its supplements from the Thomson family. Other papers among the archive reveal a hidden rebellion among backbench MPs, Ronald Reagan's doodles, and Margaret Thatcher's letter to a girl whose parents were divorcing. According to Ingham, Murdoch told Thatcher that he wished to make The Times operation profitable by introducing new technology and 'a twenty five per cent reduction in overall manning.' And that went down really well with the horrid old milk-snatcher her very self, one imagines. Big on redundancies was Thatch. During the meeting, he also stressed the inevitability of progressing gradually. 'Nor did he accept that printing outside London was an option; he was firmly of the opinion that the titles must be printed in London,' wrote the odious Ingham. The files show the key political question of whether Murdoch's bid should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission was not considered at the meeting. At the time, Murdoch already owned the Sun and the Scum of the World newspapers. The Fair Trading Act 1973 required that all significant newspaper takeovers be submitted to the MMC, unless the Secretary of State certified a paper was unprofitable and under threat of closure. In the end, this clause enabled the purchase to go ahead without a referral because of major losses at The Times. Redundancies had already been announced by the Thomsons, which owned the newspaper. However, The Sunday Times had remained profitable during that period and was expected to return to financial health. The takeover issue was first discussed in government at the cabinet economic strategy committee on 26 January 1981, chaired by Thatcher. Recently-released minutes of the meeting show that the PM began by highlighting the exemption under the Fair Trading Act allowing Murdoch's bid to avoid referral to the MMC. Chris Collins, the only historian to have studied the papers closely having worked for Thatcher since 1992, told the BBC the meeting with Murdoch at Chequers was clearly fresh information. 'He's not setting out some great plan to absolutely transform the British newspaper industry. He's hinting at it, but he certainly doesn't go far in that direction.' Collins said the meeting was 'not really an attempt to do a political deal. His great asset, which he lays out before her, is that actually he's the only person who wants to keep The Times going. He's in a very strong position and he knows it.' Ingham's note finally recalls how 'the Prime Minister thanked Mr Murdoch for keeping her posted on his operations. She did no more than wish him well in his bid, noting the need for much improved arrangements in Fleet Street affecting manning and the introduction of new technology.' In a letter included in the archive, Murdoch later wrote: 'It was kind indeed of you to let me interrupt your weekend at Chequers ten days ago and I greatly enjoyed seeing you again. The Times business is proceeding and the field has contracted down to only two or three of us. Thomsons will make up their mind in the next day or so. We hope to see you in New York on the 28 February.' Following his successful takeover of The Times newspapers, Mr Murdoch established the News International printing plant in Wapping. It was here in 1986 that violent protests broke out over working conditions and the dismissal of employees. It became one of Britain's most bitter industrial disputes, lasting a year and effectively breaking the power wielded by print unions over the newspaper industry. Along with the miners' strike of 1984-85, the trouble in Wapping is often seen against a background of new legislation to curb the influence of the unions, brought in by Thatcher. The revelation of the 1981 meeting between Thatcher and Murdoch comes after recent evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry revealed an allegedly cosy relationship between the press and politicians in the UK. The Leveson Inquiry was set up in July 2011 to examine relations between the press, politicians and police following the phone-hacking scandal at News International. Thatcher's private papers are among a collection being made available to the public at the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge and on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. The meeting between Thatcher and Murdoch was specifically denied in The History of The Times, Volume VII, Graham Stewart's book covering events at the newspaper between 1981 to 2002.

Former Take Me Out contestants have allegedly accused the odious freak show of fakery. 'Several' female players were allegedly ordered by producers to keep their lights on despite their reluctance to go on a date with certain men, the Mirra reports. However, Thames has denied the accusations, insisting in a statement: 'We strongly refute any claims that we tell the contestants how to act or how to respond.' Competitors have claimed they were 'humiliated and exploited' and told off for being 'too picky' on the Paddy McGuinness dating show. One of them - anonymous, of course - said: 'The producers pulled some of the girls in and said, "If you're waiting for George Clooney or Brad Pitt, they're not coming." They told us to keep our lights on for the next contestant, who was more than ten years younger than me. I refused and was taken off.' Meanwhile, another - also anonymous - girl alleges that she was forbidden from keeping her light on for a man she fancied 'to make better television. It didn't matter what we thought,' she said. 'I really fancied a bloke on my first week on the show, he was just my type, but the producers made it quite clear I wasn't to pick him and he left without a date. It's a shame because in the end he went away feeling a fool for going on the show, but I told him afterwards how much I had liked him and we've seen each other a number of times since. I ended up going away on a date with someone I wasn't that interested in. It was a waste of my time and his,' the unnamed girl added.

Sir Mick Jagger and The Prince of Darkness Keef Richards have reportedly called an end to their feud which dates back two years. Richards made a series of comments about his 'unbearable' band mate Jagger in his 2010 autobiography Life, causing a rift between the pair. However, the sixty eight-year-old rock legends said in a joint interview with the Mirra that they recently resolved their differences during a warm-hearted meeting in New York. 'Looking back at any career you are bound to recall both the highs and the lows,' Jagger said. 'In the 1980s, for instance, Keith and I were not communicating very well. I got very involved with the business side of the Stones, mainly because I felt no-one else was interested. But it's plain now from the book that Keith felt excluded, which is a pity. Time, I reckon, to move on.' Meanwhile, Richards divulged: 'Mick's right. He and I have had conversations over the last year of a kind we have not had for an extremely long time and that has been incredibly important to me. As far as the book goes, it was my story and it was very raw, as I meant it to be. But I know that some parts of it, and some of the publicity, really offended Mick and I regret that. What some of our detractors forget is that although we look like old codgers living an ocean apart we are still at bottom the boys on platform three at Dartford station.' The Rolling Stones, who were reportedly in talks to open the London Olympics, earlier this month delayed their much-anticipated fiftieth anniversary tour until 2013.

Tap dancing, a singing bear and classic gig photos form part of an exhibition of The Smiths' influence on art. Works by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and photographer Stephen Wright, who took some of the iconic pictures of the seminal band, are on show. The Gospel According To... at the Holden Gallery in Manchester, explores how the group's lyrics and music have inspired contemporary visual artists. The exhibition has been timed to mark the group's thirtieth anniversary. Jeremy Deller's works reposition Smiths lyrics as Biblical quotes. In one, the line 'I am human and I need to be loved, just live everybody else does', from 'How Soon is Now', is followed by the attribution 'Stephen chapter eight, verse one'. The exhibition also includes Lucienne Cole's video of a girl tap-dancing - badly - to 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and Andrew Bracey's animated bear singing along to 'This Charming Man'. Hey, I'll tell you what, dear blog reader, this yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has to see! Stephen Wright's photos, including some famous images of The Smiths posing outside Salford Lads' Club and playing live, are accompanied by more recent photos taken of fans on a pilgrimage to the club. The Smiths drummer Mike Joyce was among those at the exhibition's opening on Thursday. 'It's a great tribute to the band,' he said. Co-curator Jane Anderson said she wanted to give a 'contemporary viewpoint to show how generations of artists and cultural people have been inspired by their lyrics and humour and tragedy.' Presumably through the medium of modern dance? She added: 'Usually when you see an exhibition looking at something like The Smiths, it's more of an archive exhibition with memorabilia and things like that, so I wanted to give it a more contemporary perspective.'

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is well on the way to setting a world record for the highest free-fall jump. On Thursday, the adventurer leaped from a balloon-borne capsule seventy one through five hundred feet (that's about twenty two kilometres if you've converted to metric) above New Mexico, landing safely eight minutes later. The dive was intended to test all his equipment before he tries to free-fall from one hundred and twenty thousand feet later this year. In doing so, he would better the mark of one hundred and two thousand eight hundred feet set by US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger in 1960. Even just Thursday's jump puts Baumgartner in a select group as only Kittinger and Russian Eugene Andreev have descended from higher. Baumgartner, who is famous for stunts such as jumping off the Petronas Towers, is seen in the special pressure suit he must wear to stay alive in the thin air and extreme cold of the stratosphere. His Red Bull Stratos team estimates he reached three hundred and sixty four mph during the descent, and was in free fall for three minutes and forty three seconds before opening his parachute. From capsule to ground, the entire jump lasted eight minutes and eight seconds. The forty two-year-old was quoted afterwards as saying that the cold was hard to handle. 'I could hardly move my hands. We're going to have to do some work on that aspect,' he said. The Austrian also said the extraordinary dimensions of the high atmosphere took some getting used to: 'I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of fifty thousand feet.'

An investigation is under way after an attempted break-in at the Houses of Parliament, Scotland Yard has said. The Metropolitan Police received reports of a forced entry to an office in the Palace of Westminster just before 19:00 on Friday. Nothing of any value was taken. And, indeed, nothing of an value ever goes on in that joint so, you know, no harm done. The attempted break-in reportedly took place in the Norman Shaw Buildings where Ed Miliband's office is. It was not the Labour Party leader's suite which was targeted, alleged 'sources' have allegedly told the BBC. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: 'Police were contacted at 6.55pm regarding an alleged forced entry to an office in the Palace of Westminster. Inquiries continue.' These anonymous - and possibly fictitious - 'sources' have also told the BBC that the door of an office used by Labour staff was forced, and that it follows a spate of laptop thefts around the House of Commons. Labour Party staff were away at a youth conference in Warwick on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton beat McLaren team-mate Jenson Button to take pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton was 0.152 seconds faster than Button, with Lotus's Romain Grosjean an impressive third fastest ahead of Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher. The Red Bulls of Mark Webber and world champion Sebastian Vettel could manage only fifth and sixth places. Ferrari struggled, with Fernando Alonso twelfth and Felipe Massa sixteenth. Hamilton set his time on his first run in qualifying, when he was a massive 0.7secs faster than his rivals. But he failed to improve on his second run and Button came close to beating him, losing out following a small mistake at turn fourteen. Hamilton said: 'We've had a couple of tough years but we never gave up. It was a good lap. The second lap I tried to brake ten metres later into turn one to see if I could do it, but it didn't work out. Fortunately the first lap was good. Jenson did a fantastic job, he was very close behind me and as always keeping me on my toes.' Button added: 'I was actually a bit surprised by the gap back to the Red Bulls and some of the other guys but we'll take that.' BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard said: 'It was incredible. The big surprise was that the Ferraris were not part of that top 10, but what impressive laps from the McLaren drivers. The frustration at Ferrari must be immense right now.' Ferrari's performance confirmed the impression, from pre-season testing and the practice sessions here this weekend, that they are struggling with a difficult car. Alonso spun off at turn one after his first run in second qualifying. Massa managed both his planned runs in the session but was a second slower and sixteenth.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, get out the tap-dancing bear and express yourself through the medium of modern dance, here's The Smiths Group live on The Tube, and Andy's Rourke's finest six and a half minutes. Dance, Johnny, dance!

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