Sunday, April 22, 2012

Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man

Jaz Ellington (even though he was battling with a nasty dose of bronchitis), Ruth Brown, Bo Bruce, Toni Warne and Max Milner were among the first nine contestants to reach The Voice's Live Rounds after the first of two weekend head-to-head episodes. Yer actual will.i.am, Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J and Danny O'Donoghue had to pick the best performers from their respective teams in the evening's Battle Rounds, and nine unfortunate singers were voted out of the BBC1 talent show. And, very good it was, too.
The episode, incidentally, had an overnight rating of 9.9m, across the ninety minutes - the highest for an show on British TV on the day, with a five minute peak of 11.6m around eight o'clock. Again, this was the highest peak audience of the day. It continues to get better and better for Danny Cohen who's decision to purchase the format for the Beeb (at what was, in the interests of fairness, a large chunk of licence fee payers money at a time when the BBC are having to justify every single penny they spend) was seen as a big risk when he did it. So far, at least, it's paid off big-style. Good on yer, Dan. We always had faith in you! Britain's Got Toilets was beaten for the third week in a row - albeit, only marginally with ITV moving the show to 8.30pm to avoid another clash with its BBC rival. It's average overnight audience was 9.5m, and it's peak was also around eleven million who watched utterly adorable twelve-year-old Lauren Thalia (and her rather less adorable pushy mum!), whose acoustic rendition of 'Turn My Swag On' won her a place in the next round. Along with, for example, the really rather decent London-based three-piece The Loveable Rogues and the dancing couple Kai and Natalia. And, also, French acrobat act Cascade who, according to the Daily Scum Mail, have got viewers all in a kerfuffle because they're, you know, not British. I dunno, these bleedin' foreigners, they come over here, they win our talent contests ...
The National Lottery: In It To Win It (4.49m) and Casualty (4.72m) maintained BBC21's to steady overall audiences. Philip Schofield's The Cube, shifted forward to 7.30pm, collapsed to 2.63m for ITV, while a repeat of Benidorm at 9.45pm was watched by 2.93m. Overall, BBC1 retained its primetime lead with 28.4 per cent of the audience share over ITV's 20.8 per cent. BBC Two claimed third place with 6.7 per cent for a 1970s-themed night which helped to pull in the punters. The Mark Lawson-fronted TV Seventy Three: The Defining Shows secured 1.48m at 8pm and 1.79m watched I ♥ 1971 an hour later. On BBC4 the opening episode of the channel's new Scandinavian import The Bridge was watched by a stunning 1.1m. The second episode, broadcast immediately afterwards, retained the majority of the audience - eight hundred and thirty eight thousand.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping - along with Mama Telly Topping - has a thoroughly splendid evening at his brother and sister-in-law's gaff on Saturday, dear blog reader. That was bloody terrific - garlic and ginger prawns, beef in black bean sauce and two types of chicken (oyster sauce and curry), basmati rice, a (very large) glass of chilled white wine, two - equally large - glasses Bailey's. Then, ice cream, a nice cup of rosie, the end of the Queen's Park Strangers versus Happy Harry's Hapless Stottingtot Hotshots match, most of The Voice, the first half of Britain's Got Toilets and Sounds of the 60s on the car on the way home, and back in time for Match of the Day. That's a proper Saturday night! I was, however, very pished, so that might've be the drink talking ... What was slightly startling, however, was arriving home and switching on the BBC News to see the lovely Katie Gornall doing the sport summery. I remember when she used to read the traffic and travel on Mike Parr's Breakfast Show on BBC Newcastle (and not all that long ago either!) Always knew Katie had star quality.
ITV has axed its African based drama Wild At Heart, starring Stephen Tompkinson, after seven seasons.  About five years too late, frankly but, still, better late than never. The Mirra reports that the drama series has been axed - although, sadly, not with an actual axe - confirming reports during the most recent run of Wild At Heart that ITV were planning on cancelling it. At the time ITV denied any decision had been taken over the future of the series. The seventh season of Wild At Heart saw a slump in ratings as BBC1's Sherlock and Call The Midwife proved to be fatal competition for the series. We should, perhaps, have known that the show was in serious trouble when odious, risible, and soon to be former, ITV Head of Press Comical Ali James MacLeod used the old 'Never mind about "winning" - over fifteen million were watching quality drama on both channels over the period' malarkey when Wild At Heart got its bare arse thoroughly spanked by the second episode of Sherlock in January. However, the Mirra claims that the cast and crew of the drama are actually putting the blame for its demise on Lord Snooty's hugely expensive four-part flop Titanic. The multi-million pound drama may have been sold to many countries around the world but it failed to attract even a half-way decent ratings for ITV with the final episode sinking to just three and a half million overnight punters. Which, if anything, is even funnier than the BBC being responsible.

What's been described as 'hardcore gay pornography' was accidentally played during a local morning news broadcast on a Canadian television channel. On Friday morning, around three minutes of 'indecent sex scenes' were played to viewers of CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ontario, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Blimey. I wonder if that's available on YouTube? The broadcast was also played in some homes in the Canadian capital Ottawa. The station's vice president of news Mike Katrycz issued a cringingly grovelling apology, explaining that the pornography 'originated at a local cable company.' The company had, he claimed, 'accidentally inserted' (probably not the idea word to use in such circumstances) the wrong programming 'during a repair of cut cable lines.' Because the content 'originated off-site', it took station controllers a few minutes to take, ahem, pull it off. Katrycz stated: 'In the splicing together, unfortunately, some inappropriate content went to air. Of course, we know there are kids out there, there are people who don't want this in their homes and would never invite this in our homes.'

The Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb has reportedly awoken from a coma after more than a week and 'begun to show signs of recovery.' Spokesman Doug Wright said that Robin was able to nod and communicate with his family who have held a constant vigil at his beside in a Central London hospital. The sixty two-year-old fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia in his battle against colon and liver cancer. Gibb's wife, Dwina, has revealed that he had cried when she played him Roy Orbison's 1962 song 'Crying'. Robin's brother, Barry, had also been singing to his brother to try to rouse him. And, when Barry Gibb singing in that falsetto, it's normally enough to get anyone out of bed and start dancing. Dwina Gibb told her local paper, the Impartial Reporter, based in Enniskillen, that their children Robin John, Spencer and Melissa, have been playing him music to 'try and bring him back to us.' She said that thousands of people have been saying prayers for him every day, and thanked his fans for their support. In February, Robin said that he had made a 'spectacular' recovery from cancer but was later back in hospital for surgery. Gibb was too ill to attend last week's premiere of his latest work The Titanic Requiem, a classical piece composed with his son to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the ship's sinking. He was due to sing 'Don't Cry Alone' in person at Central Hall Westminster. The singer's website is currently down because of traffic volumes, with fans directed to his Facebook page, where messages of support can be left. The Isle of Man-born singer had surgery on his bowel eighteen months ago for an unrelated condition, but a tumour was discovered and he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and later of the liver. It had been thought his cancer was in remission. Robin's musical career began when he formed The Bee Gees with his brothers, Barry and Maurice, in 1958. The group is among the biggest-selling groups of all time with hits spanning six decades including 'Stayin' Alive', 'How Deep Is Your Love?', 'Massachusetts', and 'I Gotta Get A Message To You'. As previously noted on this blog, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been a fan for many years. I know it sounds like a bit of a strange thing to say about the - whatever it is, seventh I think - biggest selling act of all time but I've always felt The Bee Gees are hugely under-rated and never, quite got the Goddamn respect they deserved. I can take or leave a lot of the disco stuff but their early work, when they were a find of proto-Beatles, is exquisite. Check out those first three or four LPs, dear blog reader (First, Horizontal, Idea and Odessa) and their soundtrack to the 1971 movie Melody, they will - I guarantee - change your life. Of course, it's their soundtrack to another movie, Saturday Night Fever, for which they'll probably best remembered. It was one of the best-selling LPs of the 1970s and the band have won seven Grammy Awards. Robin's twin brother, Maurice, died in 2003 aged fifty three due to complications from a twisted intestine. Their younger brother Andy, who also had a successful solo career, died of a heart ailment in 1988, aged thirty. Robin last performed on stage at the London Palladium in February, supporting injured servicemen and women in a charity concert. As we've said of several occasions, From The North continues to send Robin and his family our best wishes. And I say that as someone who has dealt with cancer in my own family.

Disabled rights campaigner Lord Ashley of Stoke has died aged eighty nine. The former Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent died on Friday night after a short battle with pneumonia, his family have said. One of the very few exceptions to the general rule that all politicians are twenty four carat scum, Jack Ashley represented the city for twenty six years until he was made a Labour peer in 1992. He was deaf for most of his political career. The Labour leader Ed Milimolimandi described Jack as 'an extraordinary campaigner for equal rights for people with disabilities.' BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who is married to the peer's columnist daughter Jackie Ashley, said that his father-in-law had also won major victories 'for the victims of the drug Thalidomide, for victims of Army bullying, and for victims of domestic violence.' Jane Ashley paid tribute to her father via Twitter saying: 'RIP Dad - my wonderful father, Jack Ashley, who was so loved and inspired so many people.' Born in Widnes, Jack Ashley was elected as an MP in 1966 after having worked as a BBC journalist and broadcaster. Two years later he lost his hearing following an unsuccessful - and, apparently minor - ear operation. He prepared to resign his seat, but after a crash-course in lip-reading he was able to continue to serve in the House of Commons. 'Early on when I first lost my hearing, I think people were a little fearful about attacking me,' he said. 'But as I re-established my confidence, that soon fell away.' Milimolimandi said: 'Jack Ashley turned his own tragic experience of losing his hearing into a mission of courage and determination for deaf and disabled people. There are many millions of men and women with disabilities who will have better lives thanks to Jack Ashley. He succeeded in changing the law and in changing attitudes. Anti-discrimination legislation for people with disabilities would not have happened when it did without his tenacity, his campaigning and his support. Jack will be missed by his family, his friends and his colleagues in the House of Lords. He led an amazing life and will be remembered with deep affection, profound respect and great admiration.' The Prime Minister David Cameron - the sort of over-privileged ponce that Jack would've probably hated to be eulogised by - said that he was 'saddened' to hear about Lord Ashley's death. 'He was a tireless campaigner for disabled people and had a huge impact, not just through his charity work and pushing for legislation in Parliament, but also in changing attitudes,' he said. 'It takes characters like Jack, with his extraordinary tenacity, to push for that kind of positive change. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.' Lord Ashley had also been president of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. Now renamed Action on Hearing Loss, the charity's chief executive Jackie Ballard described him as 'a great role model. Jack never stopped working for what he believed in right up until his death and would always speak up on behalf of people who are deaf or disabled,' she added. 'He was a tireless campaigner and there are many people in this country who have a lot to thank him for.' Dame Anne Begg MP, the first permanent wheelchair user to be elected to the Commons, described Lord Ashley as 'a trailblazer who made it possible for me to even think I could be an MP.' A decent man who stood head and shoulders above most of the grey and morally corrupt non-entities that pollute the Commons these days, he will be greatly missed.

Charles Colson, the domestic policy special adviser to Richard Nixon who was involved in the Watergate scandal and its subsequent cover up and later became an evangelical preacher, has died aged eighty. He was known as the 'hatchet man' for Nixon and served seven months in jail for his role in obstruction of justice relating to - illegally - attempting to discredit a political opponent in the early 1970s. Later, he started a prison ministry and campaigned for penal reform. The father of three died in hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, of complications from a brain haemorrhage. Chuck Colson had a reputation as a hard-nosed political operator and was once described by Nixon as the son he never had. A colourful and articulate character (his reminiscences are some of the highlights of the BBC's award-winning five-part 1993 Watergate series) Colson helped Nixon to a landslide victory in 1972, saying he would 'walk over his own grandmother' to ensure the President's re-election. In 1971, he compiled a now infamous 'enemies list' naming his boss's major political critics and opponents. His role in the actual Watergate scandal itself was rather limited, but he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice after he was involved in earlier efforts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked secret government documents about the Vietnam War, which became known as The Pentagon Papers. A break-in - by a group of White House spies Colson had helped created called The Plumbers and which included future Watergate conspirators Howard Hunt and mad-as-toast Gordon Liddy - was organised at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, in a search for documents which could be used to blacken Ellsberg's reputation. President Nixon's right-hand man served seven months in Federal jail in Alabama in 1974, although he was not convicted of organising the Ellsberg or Watergate break-ins themselves. After taking the Fifth Amendment on the advice of his lawyers during early testimony, Colson found himself torn between his desire to be truthful and his equal desire to avoid conviction on charges of which he believed himself to be innocent. Following prayer and consultation with his Christian fellowship group, Colson approached his lawyers and suggested a plea of guilty to a different criminal charge of which he did consider himself culpable. He came out of prison claiming to be a new man, renouncing the political machinations of his past and embracing his religious faith. Colson spent the next thirty five years as a leading campaigner for prison reform, founding the Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976. He was named as one of Time magazine's 'Twenty Five Most Influential Evangelicals in America' in 2005 (by hell, that's a list you really want to be on, isn't it?), having written over two hundred books in his lifetime. Later he lived in Naples and in Florida. In 2000 the state Governor, Jeb Bush, restored Colson's civil rights, including the right to vote, which he lost after he was convicted. So, a man with some lovely friends, then. He is survived by a second wife, Patricia and three children by a previous marriage. His youngest daughter is the author Emily Coulson.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though, still unsellable) Newcastle United continued their charge towards Champions League qualification with a convincing Premier League victory over a woefully poor Stoke City side. Yohan Cabaye nodded The Magpies ahead from close range before Papiss Demba Cissé slid in the Frenchman's exquisite pass. Cabaye sealed victory with a glorious curling twenty-yard strike as The Black and Whites climbed into the top four at the expense of Happy Harry's Hapless Stottingtot Hotshots, who lost 1-0 at QPR. Newcastle were eleven points adrift of yer actual Spurs following their 5-0 mauling at the hands of the North London club in early February. But a sixth successive Premier League win (combined with a run of just one win in ten for Tottenham, and 'England's next manager', remember) has put them on the cusp of European football next season. They have surged fifteen points clear of seventh-placed Everton, who have five games left to play. If Everton don't win at The Scum on Sunday afternoon, United's return to European competition for the first time since 2007 will be confirmed. The top six are assured of continental competition and after making a statement of intent against Stoke, it would take a dramatic collapse for Newcastle to surrender their place. Two of their final four games include a trip to Moscow Chelski FC, one of their rivals for a top-four finish, and a home match against title-chasing Sheikh Yer Man City as they aim to clinch Champions League qualification for the first time since 2003. Newcastle have put themselves within touching distance after a fantastic run which has been spearheaded by the goals of Senegal striker Cissé. The twenty six-year-old has proved a revelation since his ten million notes move from Freiburg, with eleven goals in ten matches hauling Newcastle above Spurs, who went down to Adel Taarabt's goal in Saturday's late kick-off at Loftus Road. Maverick French winger Hatem Ben Arfa has also taken plenty of plaudits recently and he was the architect of the opening goal with some superb trickery on the left touchline. He skipped past Marc Wilson before clipping a delicious cross into the Stoke danger zone, where Cissé's sharp movement allowed him to escape his marker, lumbering oaf Robert Huth, and send a far-post header crashing against the crossbar. And Cabaye was waiting to pounce on the rebound with a close range header. The midfielder turned provider moments later, his quite exquisite reverse pass perfectly weighted into the path of Cissé who raced on to and slide the ball past Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. Cabaye pulled all the strings in a dominant performance and capped a majestic individual display with a sumptuous first-time finish into the far corner for his second goal of the afternoon and fifth of the season. Newcastle had failed to penetrate a typically organised Stoke backline in the opening stages but, once Cabaye and then Cissé breached their defence, Newcastle oozed confidence and controlled the game with a swagger expected of a top-four team. In the end, they won at a canter and could have had more goals with Demba Ba and Fabricio Coloccini missing decent chances and Cissé having another goal chalked out for a marginal (but correct) offside flag. It could have been very different had Stoke striker Jonathan Walters not spooned Peter Crouch's knockdown high over the bar when well positioned in the game's first opportunity. But chances were rare for the lowest scorers in the Premier League against a mean Newcastle defence which claimed a fourth straight clean sheet and has conceded just one goal in their six game winning run. Former United icon Alan Shearer said: 'Tremendous credit to Alan Pardew. It's not as if Newcastle have been digging results out -they're putting in very good performances. I wouldn't say Chelsea are gone in the Champions League race but you would have to say the form team are Newcastle.' Pardew himself said: 'The Champions League is really a possibility. We're not going to hide from that or make some stupid clichés [or, indeed, Cissé's] about we're not going to do it. We're right in there and we go to Wigan, that's going to be a tough game. We will see where we are then. I know a result like this today will pipe through to the Tottenham dressing room and put pressure on them. There's no pressure on us - we're just bobbling along. Our quality really shone through - some great goals and great interplay. There's a lot of confidence in the dressing room, we've got a really nice feeling in there and you can see that on the pitch.'

Meanwhile, an early front-runner for the TV comedy line of the week came from the thoroughly full-of-his-own-importance Brian Woolnough on Sky Sports's Soccer Supplement on Sunday morning. 'So, Newcastle are flying,' said the odious Daily Lies journalist (allegedly) after a curiously dismissive two minute assessment of the job Alan Pardew's done (but, not before he and his three odious Fleet Street mates had spent twice as long talking about yer actual Sotttingtot Hotshots current woes). 'But, undoubtedly, the team of the week are Chelsea.' Well, yeah. Of course. They might only be sixth in the league, but heaven help any Northern chancers buggering up Woolnough's opportunity to give a London-based team's collective ringpiece a right good hard lick, you risible brown-tongued louse. What's happened to your love affair with Happy Harry Rwedknapp, anyway? One win in ten games for 'England's next manager' and, suddenly, it's 'Oooo, Roberto, you eeees the one for me. "Blue is the colour, football is the game..."' Lick, lick, lick. What a horrorshow (and drag).

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's a general description of what yer actual Keith Telly Topping looked like last night at a family dinner party. New whistle, nice dicky-dirt, the deal, dear blog readers. And, of course, a nice shave.

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