Monday, April 02, 2012

Week Fifteen: Oh My God, They Killed Kenny!

Waterloo Road starts filming in Scotland this week after its curious relocation from Rochdale, where the previous seven series were recorded. The school drama is the latest BBC programme to move from England as the corporation aims to boost production in the other nations, and follows Casualty's transfer from Bristol to Cardiff last year. Since its inception in 2005, Waterloo Road has been made by Shed Productions for BBC Scotland but it had recently outgrown its Rochdale site. In 2008, the BBC announced it was increasing network spend in Scotland to at least nine per cent by 2016 - reflecting the nation's proportion of the UK population - as part of a plan to make half of its network output outside London. Gaynor Holmes, BBC executive producer for the show, said: 'When the BBC asked Shed to move the drama here, it was very much part of a commitment to building a strong drama base in Scotland, and this is just the start, we are not done.' The drama will now be filmed at the former Greenock Academy school near Glasgow, which also includes edit and dubbing suites. Shed Productions have said the drama's relocation will lead to twenty five million quid in direct investment over the next two years and will create around two hundred and thirty jobs. Government body Scottish Enterprise is also supporting Shed with funding of one hundred and seventy five thousand quid. Eileen Gallagher, chief executive of Shed, referred to the drama's relocation as a 'game-changer for the Scottish television industry.' She added: 'Having a big drama that returns and employs many people means we can now have a critical mass of talent in Glasgow and Scotland, so that we can grow lots of other dramas around it. This is not a ceiling on the ambitions, this is going to help them grow more TV drama.' Currently being broadcast, the seventh series of Waterloo Road will end this month with what has been called an 'explosive storyline,' involving an offer for headmaster Michael Byrne (played by Alec Newman) to set up a new school in Scotland. An initial run of fifty one-hour episodes will be filmed over two years at Greenock, with the first Scottish-set shows to be shown this autumn. Speaking on how the relocation will affect the storyline, Gallagher said: 'We have worked very hard to make sure it is as strong and even stronger than it was in Rochdale. There is a fear, when you love a drama, that something is going to change it, but it is our responsibility to make sure the heart of it is always here and becomes even stronger.' A popular and well written drama Waterloo Road regularly draws around five million punters and was a surprise winner of most popular drama at the 2011 National Television Awards, beating Doctor Who and Sherlock. Other BBC drama made in Scotland include Case Histories, Lip Service, The Field of Blood and the Scottish soap River City. However two other Scottish-based dramas, Garrow's Law and Young James Herriot have not been recommissioned. Although the relocation of Waterloo Road is a loss to production in Northern England, Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama commissioning, has previously said that 2012 would demonstrate the BBC's commitment to drama from the region with six titles including The Syndicate and upcoming The Fuse with Christopher Eccleston and Andrew Scott.

Filming is continuing on the seventh series of Doctor Who with work progressing in studio with the opening episode, featuring the return of the Daleks, generating banter between Steven Moffat and Arthur Darvill on Twitter. To wit: 'After extensive deliberation, THE DOCTOR HAS SPOKEN. Matt Smith likes the Sixties' Dalek best. This just in: Amy Pond concurs. The Last Centurian has yet to speak.' To which Arthur replied: 'I could tweet several incriminating pictures of my favourites but I feel they may be ... How do you say? Spoilers?' The Lord Thy God Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) then released a photo illustrating the object of their discussion. See yesterday's blog. Meanwhile, John Sheppard, part of the FX crew, also commented on proceedings: 'Job Saturday, watching Daleks explode at the Doctor Who studios, Wales. Looking forward to this one, big fan of the Daleks.' He later added that it was 'interesting to see all original Daleks since 1960 in one episode.'

It's also been reported that Jenna-Louise Coleman visited the Doctor Who studios last week, and said: 'There were scenes built from all around the world. So I'm looking forward to going on all these big adventures. I think Ancient Rome would be great – to play Cleopatra would be good fun. Hopefully it'll happen. There's no limit to what they do with the stories and where in time we can go. I'm excited to see where we go time travel-wise.' Talking about her future co-star, Matt Smith, she said: 'He's so full of energy which is infectious. Me joining him will be a new dynamic for the show and we'll be working hard to make that work.' Since we still don't know the name of the character that she'll be playing, many fans have, apparently, taken to referring to the doctor's new companion as Avocado.

Once Upon a Time debuted with a strong overnight audience on Sunday night. The US fantasy drama, heavily promoted by Channel Five, pulled in 2.01m at 8pm and a further two hundred and twenty eight thousand viewers an hour later on +1. Silent Witness proved too strong for ITV's Titanic as the BBC1 drama - now in its fifteenth series - returned with a slot-winning 6.7m in the 9pm hour. At the same time, Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes's mini-series Titanic sank almost as fast as the ship itself, getting 4.38m on ITV, a whopping 2.7m down on the previous week's opening episode overnights. Titanic was preceded by an audience of only 3.7m for ITV's screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, way below the figures for Twatting About on Ice's figures last Sunday. On BBC1, Antiques Roadshow (6.82m) and Countryfile (6.45m) continued to perform solidly. Elsewhere, Homeland took a slight dip with the latest episode drawing 1.93m for Channel Four (with a further three hundred and seventy thousand on C4+1), a two hundred and fifty thousand drop on the previous episode. Match of the Day 2 was easily BBC2's best performer with 2.78m at 10pm. To see yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies give scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Scotsman Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws a damned good hiding. A second showing of Friday's Twenty Twelve was watched by eight hundred and ten thousand punters at 11pm. Overall, BBC1 topped primetime with twenty six per cent of the audience against ITV's 14.7 per cent.

Top Twenty Five shows for week-ending 25 March:-
1 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 11.12m
2 Britain's Got Talent - ITV Sat - 10.87m
3 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 9.93m
4 The Voice - BBC1 Sat - 9.44m
5 Titanic - ITV Sun - 8.48m
6 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.70m*
7 The Apprentice - BBC1 Wed - 7.61m
8 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.56m
9 Scott & Bailey - ITV Mon - 7.39m
10 Sport Relief 2012 - BBC1 Fri - 5.92m
11 Benidorm - ITV Fri - 5.86m
12 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 5.80m
13 John Bishop's Sport Relief Hell - BBC1 Thurs - 5.64m
14 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.55m
15 Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - Channel Four Tues - 5.34m
16 Upstairs Downstairs - BBC1 Sun - 5.22m
17 Waterloo Road - BBC1 Wed - 5.21m
18 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 5.10m
19 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.05m
20 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 wed - 5.01m
21 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 4.98m
22 Midsomer Murders - ITV Wed - 4.94m*
23 Take Me Out - ITV Sat - 4.71m*
24 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 4.41m
25 The National Lottery: In It To Win It - BBC1 Sat - 4.27m
All ITV figures, except those with an asterisk include HD figures. BBC2's top rated shows were Sport Relief 2012 (3.74m including BBC HD), University Challenge (3.12m not including HD) and The Hairy Bikers' Bake-Athon (2.87m, including HD). Channel Five's top performer was CSI (2.51m).

Odious smug-faced horrorshow (and drag) Jack Whitehall's new BBC3 sitcom, Bad Education, has been tipped to become 'the new The Office or Gavin & Stacey.' So, vastly over-rated then?

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 7 April
Week three of The Voice - 7:00 BBC1. Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates invite another set of hopeful singers to perform for the coaches. Willoughby even manages to walk in a straight line and talk at the same time. When she thinks about it, really hard. Tom Jones is funny, gregarious, bombastic and talks about jamming with Elvis a lot. Jessie J is bright, spunky, a bit chavvish but rather touchy-feely. Will.i.am is witty, sharp, knows his stuff and mentions Michael Jackson occasionally in passing to screams from the audience. And then there's Danny O'Donoghue. Who's just there. The outstanding feature of The Voice, the thing that sets it apart from The X Factor to which it is, ostensibly very similar, is that the judges sit with their backs to the auditionees and only face them if they hear something which they like, offering them a place on their team. At stake is a recording contract - but there are several more tough rounds to sing their way though first. Reaction to the show so far has been hugely positive with nine million viewers and audience feedback which suggests that the punters rather like the less mean spirited nature of the programme as compared to the vile creations of Wee Shughie McFee, the miserable Scottish chef off Crossroads. Time will tell whether Danny Cohen's huge gamble in buying to format for the Beeb has paid off but, early signs are certainly encouraging. Even the Daily Scum Mail's saying nice things about it. Stop the world, I want to get off!

Alternatively, over on the other side, Wee Shughie McFee the miserable Scottish chef off Crossroads continues to inflict his own, unique brand of stab-your-back light entertainment for the masses in Britain's Got Toilets - 8:00 ITV. More acts show off their stuff in the third round of auditions, hosted by yer Ant and yer actual Dec. With fingers firmly on the buzzers, judges Wee Shughie McFee, the miserable Scottish chef off Crossroads, not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is David Walliams, horrible, odious Amanda Holden and talentless greed-bucket Alesha Dixon sit through a line-up of wannabe singers, dancers, performing dogs and variety acts all hoping to win the prize of five thousand smackers and a slot at this year's Royal Variety Performance. And, the opportunity, like last year's winner, to get dumped by your record company after a few months. Cor, where do I sign up?

ITV4 continues its live coverage of the Indian Premier Legaue cricket - 11am till late. The Royal Challengers Bangalore face the Delhi Daredevils and the Deccan Chargers take on the Chennai Super Kings in a double-header in coverage of the Twenty20 matches, staged at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and ACA-VDCA Stadium respectively. Presented by Matt Smith (no, the other one) and Shonali Nagrani, with Simon Hughes.

It's the final episode of odious, risible Take Me Out - 9:15 ITV. And, perhaps significantly, it features a sewage worker from Newcastle, a Birmingham student, a groundsman from London and a Berkshire model. They enter the 'love lift' in the hope of impressing thirty single women - but must first get the female participants to, ahem, 'keep their lights' on as a sign of approval. No, that's not a euphemism for something. Although, it probably should be. Last week's couples also go on their dates, and host Paddy McGuinness discovers first-hand whether they are matches made in heaven or hell. Last in the series. And thank God for that, frankly. As embarrassing, soul-crushing, desperate-to-get-my-boat-race-on-TV formats go, this one takes the biscuit, the cake and the nice cup of milky cocoa. Utterly worthless in every single way.

Sunday 8 April
Nikki sees a barefoot girl being knocked over by a car, marking the beginning of a case that takes the team into the harrowing world of sex grooming and prostitution for underage girls in the opening episode of a new two-part Silent Witness - BBC1 9:00. The police know the teenager has been abused but the question is, by whom? Suspicion soon falls on her stepfather. Meanwhile, an early-morning bath saves Harry's life, and two puzzling corpses are brought in to the centre - a heavily tattooed man and a decomposed body found at the airport. Keep your eye open for a guest appearance by Robin Hood's Sam Troughton. Concludes tomorrow.

Nicholas Brody is rescued from captivity in Afghanistan, eight years after going missing in action. But, if you've been watching the superb Homeland - 9:00 Channel Four - for the last seven weeks then you'll know that already! Brody (played, in the performance of a lifetime, by Damian Lewis) returns home to a hero's welcome - but CIA agent Carrie Mathison believes there is more to his case than meets the eye, and suspects he is secretly working on behalf of a notorious terrorist. Superior US thriller, also starring Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Mandy Patinkin and David Harewood that has, thankfully, picked up a decent-sized and highly appreciative audience in the UK just as many of us were starting to believe that most TV viewers really do have an attention span of the average goldfish. It's nice to be proved wrong once in a while.

And speaking of quite decent US drama, the fantasy Once Upon A Time continues - Channel Five 8:00. Regina steps up her efforts to get Emma out of town, threatening her with poisoned apples, having her arrested, getting her evicted from the B&B and then trying to destroy Henry's faith in her. But Emma is made of strong stuff and gets her back where it hurts - with the aid of a chainsaw. In the fairy-tale realm, the story of how the Evil Queen cast her dark spell is revealed. Lana Parrilla, Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Robert Carlyle star. Watch out, later in the series, for a guest turn by the greatest actor in the world, The West Wing's Richard Schiff.

And, still they come from across the mighty blue ocean. Or, in the case of Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1 - across two mighty blue oceans. One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's great guilty pleasures over the last eighteen months, the (if you will) reimagining of the classic Seventies cop drama continues with an episode in which the team investigates when two passengers escape through the wheel-well of a plane following the murder of a US Marshal. One of the fugitives turns out to be a familiar face for Danno, who is forced to fight for the safety of his - really annoying - daughter, Grace. Gorgeous locations feature heavily in this attractive, occasionally witty crime drama deconstruction, starring Scott Caan, Alex O'Loughlin, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. The latter, usually in a very short skirt and, occasionally, a bikini. What's not to love?

Monday 9 April
Janet comes face to face with the man who left her fighting for life just months earlier - serial killer Geoff Hastings, who has vowed to finally reveal the full extent of his crimes in the latest episode of Scott & Bailey - ITV 9:00. Rachel and the rest of the team investigate the racially motivated murder of a taxi driver. On the personal front, Andy refuses to take no for an answer, so Janet threatens to report him to the DCI. Domestic crime drama, starring the great double act of Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones, with an appearance by Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey's Molesley).

He's an actor and a professional Geordie (though, be fair, it's far better than being an amateur one like yer actual Keith Telly Topping). Now, Wor Robson Green undertakes another round-the-world trip to experience some of the most extreme fishing destinations in the return of Extreme Fishing With Robson Green - Channel Five 9:00. As usual, Robson challenges local experts to five rounds of angling to see who can catch the biggest fish. And, he'll say 'eeee, it's a whopper!' and 'whey, y'bugger!' a lot in a genuinely amiable and fun format. He's a good bloke, is Wor Robson, and he clearly enjoys his time globetrotting and murdering a few poor, innocent exotic sea creatures in the name of entertainment. Anyway, in the first edition, he travels to Florianopolis near Rio de Janeiro (it's aal reet for some, innit?!), where he casts his line into the ocean before heading inland to a tributary of the Amazon, all the while pitting himself against the skills of the natives. After catching catfish and the notorious deadly killer vampire fish, he finishes the competition on Ipanema beach.

Mark Miodownik charts the story of mankind's understanding of plastic and its properties, and the ways this knowledge contributed to the development of civilisation. He explores how it brought luxury to the masses, and looks back at some failed inventions, including plastic billiard balls and Bakelite in Materials - 9:00 BBC4. He also examines the properties that have made plastic such a popular resource, and reveals what the future holds for the material.

Tyrion turns his anger on Cersei for alienating Joffrey's subjects in the wake of the capital's bloody purge, and Theon returns to the Iron Islands for first time in nine years, where he discovers his father Balon is planning to rebel against the crown once again in the latest episode of the cult favourite Game of Thrones - 9:00 Sky Atlantic. Arya shares a secret with her new friend Gendry while travelling north to the Wall, and Stannis recruits an ally who may prove useful in his naval invasion of King's Landing. And, lots of other characters wander in and out saying things in a highly portentous, sub-Shakespearean way which, nevertheless, contrives to capture the viewers attention even if one hasn't got the faintest buggering clue what they're going on about. Very popular, though, this one. And, clearly a quality production with lots of fine actors in it. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's advice, therefore, dive in with both feet, ignore all the 'Foeglandrepolthing The King's Snot-Gobbler thence fought The Thaags at The Battle of Wazzock's Nodule' nonsense and just enjoy it as a spectacular bit of film-making.

Tuesday 10 April
Bob is left reeling after the result of his brain scan, forcing him to re-evaluate his life and deal with problems that no amount of money can solve in episode three of The Syndicate - BBC1 9:00. But as he awaits a second opinion, his colleagues seek help on the Internet and discover a possible cure overseas for their beloved manager. The brothers come under increasing pressure as the police investigation into the robbery continues, but while Jamie is convinced he is untouchable after his lottery win, Stuart is not so sure. Drama, starring Timothy Spall, Matthew McNulty and Matthew Lewis.

Morgan (the terrific Elisabeth Harnois) joins medics transporting an injured man to hospital by helicopter, but finds herself at the centre of a hostage situation when the patient hijacks the flight in a really exciting and unusual episode of CSI - Channel Five 9:00. One which yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self saw last October on a preview disc from the US as it happens. But, hey, what can I say? That's yer actual Keith Telly Topping for you, always been a bit previous as it were. Anyway, Russell (the proper fantastic Ted Danson) and the team, including a particularly anxious Ecklie, try to find a way to get her back on the ground safely, and search the wounded man's apartment to discover what has motivated his desperate actions - only to realise he has a frighteningly violent past. On a really good run of form at the moment is CSI. Which, for a series that's coming up to thirteen years old is quite a feat I'd've said.

The historian David Reynolds explores Josef Stalin's handling of the conflict between the Soviet Union and Germany during the Second World War in World War Two: 1941 and the Man of Steel - BBC4 9:00. He reveals how the dictator's mental frailties nearly caused his country to fall to the Nazis in 1941 and examines the compromises he was forced to make to survive. He also investigates the events that led to Stalin eventually siding with the Allied powers, including Winston Churchill's 1942 visit to Moscow. Stalin, indeed, wasn't stallin' when he to1d The Beast of Berlin, that they'd never rest contented till they had driven him from the land. So, as the documentary demonstrates, he called the Yanks and English, and proceeded to extinguish the Fuhrer and his vermin, and that was how it all began. If you accept the traditional, Western-centric view of the Second World War, which some manages to write Stalingrad and Kursk out of existence and make D-Day into the turning point then you may not agree with Professor Reynolds's argument that Russia and Germany's bitter struggle for the Eastern front was more critical to the survival of Britain than the Battle of Britain. Although, he does make a very good case. But one can't argue with his ability to weave a compelling story around the complex figure of Uncle Joe. Reynolds picks apart the threads that led to Stalin making such terrible blunders when Hitler invaded in 1941, and to him emerging from the war more powerful than ever – the moral compromise of Allied victory. As a presenter Reynolds is very much of the same mould as Andrew Marr, emphatic diction, a penchant for portraying his protagonists in imaginary vignettes and bringing a broad sweep of history to life with telling personal details. His description of Stalin's monotone voice as 'like having George Formby for a dictator' is a gem.

In The Mighty Mississippi with Trevor McDonald - ITV 9:00 - the popular broadcaster embarks on a journey through the heart of America, following the course of its famous river, the Mississippi. He begins by exploring the legacy of slavery in the Deep South, and is invited to witness a jazz funeral, unique to New Orleans. He makes a poignant visit to rare surviving plantation slave-quarters and has an encounter with an alligator in America's largest swamp.

Wednesday 11 April
Luscious pouting sexy academic Bettany Hughes - the thinking man's crumpet - traces the history of women in religion in Divine Women - 9:00 BBC2. And, she argues that this history has often been ignored or hidden despite its importance to the development of spiritual traditions. Rite on. My sister is not my enemy, and all that. She begins by visiting the world's oldest religious site and finds women were present at the earliest days of organised religion. The historian explores why the divine was often thought of as female, and attends a Hindu Durga Puja festival to experience goddess worship first-hand.

A repeat, but a very worthy one, is Foyle's War - 8:00 ITV. As Inspector Foyle prepares to be replaced at the police station and begin retirement, his attention is grabbed by a news story about a man sentenced to hang for high treason, and he decides to take on the case. But with the prisoner's execution date approaching, the detective has to work fast to find evidence that will clear him. Meanwhile, Samantha and Adam fight to save Hill House from the town planners determined to demolish it - but disaster soon strikes. Starring the terrific Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks and Max Brown. Worth watching safe in the knowledge that ITV are currently shooting more episodes of the popular period crime drama set in the immediate post-war period. Foyle's Peace, anyone?

A Navy officer scheduled to testify in a forthcoming murder trial suddenly goes missing in the latest episode of the usually reliably entertaining NCIS - Channel Five 9:00. The NCIS agent enlist the aid of the deputy district attorney in an effort to locate him. With hilarious consequences. Popular crime drama, starring Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, Cote de Pablo, Sean Murray and David McCallum. From the stable of executive producer Donald Bellisario (Magnum, Quantum Leap), it's a curiously weighed drama series, occasionally displaying moments of quiet brilliance amid the often generic plotlines. But, like all good US series, it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is always a good thing in a genre as potentially loaded with up-its-own-arse-ness as crime drama.

In Tales from the National Parks - 7:30 BBC4 - Richard Macer spends a year filming in the Peak District, where the increased use of off-road vehicles on the area's green lanes has angered many walkers, horse riders and residents of local villages, who believe drivers are ruining the area's natural beauty. He follows campaigners as they try to get the vehicles banned from their local lanes, and meets officials from the Peak District Park Authority who are trying to resolve the conflict.

Thursday 12 April
Never has so much money been spent on so many trailers and yet the ensuing series been watched by so few as White Heat - BBC2 9:00 - which comes to an end tonight. Heavily (and I mean Giant Haystacks heavy) promoted before it started as a kind of 'Our Friends in the North for the Twenty First Century' by its climax it was being watched by fewer viewers than the average episode of The Only way is Essex. Although, bless 'em, they still managed to beat Daybreak. Not that it's been bad, necessarily. Indeed, in places it's been rather decent, with a good cast struggling manfully with an overly weighty script full of dial-a-cliche and rent-a-cause. Possibly for that reason it just never seemed to catch the public's imagination as other, similar, formats have in the past. As the action moves to 1990, Jack decides to sell the flat, so Orla organises a final get-together for the friends. Victor is the last to arrive, bringing with him a revelation that stirs up old ghosts and secrets from the past - but that proves to be only the beginning in an evening of shocking confessions and angry truths. Finally, back in 2012, the sixth flatmate arrives to help - and it is clear that the consequences of that day twenty two years earlier still haunt them. Claire Foy, Sam Claflin, MyAnna Buring and Lee Ingleby star.

Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell present Long Lost Family - 9:00 ITV - the show aiming to help people reunite with long-lost relatives, beginning with the stories of two babies given up for adoption. Former professional rugby player Mark Appleson, forty four, has spent more than a decade searching for his birth mother, while seventy one-year-old Stella Stanley is trying to find the daughter she last saw fifty years ago.

In the amusingly titled Leotards and Vests: The Great British Workout - BBC4 9:00 - Mark Benton presents a humorous exploration of the ways British people keep fit, examining the tortures inflicted by bench presses, barbells, rowing machines and electric shock mittens. Yeah, not the first person you'd imagine for such a role in big cuddly Mark. Which is one of the main reasons why this blogger is recommending this particular show.

David Jensen introduces the latest episode of Top of the Pops 1977 - an edition from 7 April 1977, the second week in which ABBA's 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' (ah-ha!) was at the toppermost of the poppermost. The show also features Deniece Williams' first UK hit 'Free', Southern soul singer OC Smith, The Manhattans, yer actual Sho-wuddy-wuddy their very selves, The Dead End Kids (and their tripe cover of 'Have I The Right?') and husky voiced Elkie Brooks, as well as another dance routine by Legs & Co. Still, stick with it, kids, in a little over a month's time you'll have the first sign that things are changing when an eighteen year old Paul Weller first appears on the show doing 'In The City'. Life, as they say, would never be the same after that.

Friday 13 April
The start of a triple-bill of comedy on BBC1 as Friday night becomes comedy night with the return of not one, not two, but three old favourites. Rob Brydon returns with Would I Lie To You? - at 8:30 - the comedy panel show, in which team captains middle-class smuggy David Mitchell and working-class oik Lee Mack are joined by guests Alex Jones (no, really!), Chris Tarrant, Alexander Armstrong and Mel Giedroyc to hoodwink their opponents with absurd facts and plausible lies about themselves. it is, as previously noted, Call My Bluff for the Twenty First century. it's frequently silly, it's often rather obvious comically. And it's also, comfortably, one of the funniest things on TV at the moment.

From the ridiculously sublime to the topically sublime, the satirical current-affairs quiz Have I Got News For You returns at 9:00 with Dirk Gently's Stephen Mangan taking the role of guest host for the third time. Comic actor and celebrity cricket fan Miles Jupp and broadcaster Grace Dent join regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton as they begin the forty third series of the show which began in 1990. And, on its day, it's still as good as anything Ten O'Clock Live can even dream of coming up with. Except, maybe, that Charlie Brooker poem about the Sun and witch-hunts, of course.

And, finally, it's Lee Mack's encore as his sitcom Not Going Out also returns - 9:30. Tim becomes part of a band at work and Lucy falls for the lead guitarist. In a fit of jealousy, Lee decides to follow his best friend's example and try his hand at the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Comedy, also starring the terrific Tim Vine and Sally Bretton.

Sweet Home Alabama: The Southern Rock Saga - BBC4 9:00 - looks at how groups including Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band helped popularise a style of rock music rooted in the culture of America's Deep South during the 1970s. The programme explores how the genre, allegedly, had an impact beyond the world of music, shaping the cultural identity of some of America's most deprived and marginalised regions. Oh, great. All fifteen effing minutes of 'Freebird'. I think I'll just kill myself now. Did we fight The Punk Wars for this, dear blog reader? Featuring contributions from various long-haired individuals including Gregg Allman, Mike Mills, Charlie Daniels, Doug Gray, Al Kooper and Bonnie Bramlett. Watch, digest, then play Neil Young's 'Southern Man' very loud as a necessary counterpoint.

And so to the news: The Happy Mondays have reportedly 'fallen' for an April Fool's thing in the Observer. The publication ran a story which claims to detail the band's frontman Shaun Ryder being 'headhunted' by David Cameron to help ease the government's recent 'pastygate' scandal. The alleged 'joke' (and I use that word quite wrongly) included Ryder allegedly 'bringing in' various celebrities including David Walliams, Amy Childs, David Tennant and Miranda Hart to launch a T-shirt campaign titled We're All Eating This Together. Ryder was 'quoted' as saying: 'I never thought I'd see the day when the Prime Minister was ringing me for advice. But let's face it, after the past week or so, with pastygate and everything, they obviously need help. People assume I'm a lefty because I'm working class and from Salford, but I'm not really. The Mondays were all children of Thatcher's generation. The hefty wedge they offered helped as well. It's funny because it seems like everyone else is paying for an invite to No 10 these days, and I'm the only one who is getting paid to go there, which is nice.' Of course, as anybody with half-a-head would've realised that doesn't sound anything like Shaun Ryder. Too many words with more than one syllable for a kick-off. The Happy Mondays later denied the reports on Twitter, stating: 'Shaun may be a Tory thats [sic] his choice. Me n Paul are firm Labour and if Cameron does come to a Mondays gig we wont be greeting him [sic].' Former X Factor contestant and Happy Mondays collaborator Rowetta Satchell later told them of the joke, saying: 'April Fool from the Guardian!', prompting the group to collectively reply: 'Is it? I hope so.' The band later realised they'd been had and issued a further statement directed at the newspaper: 'April fool? For fuck's sake. How old are they? People still do that as adults? Fuckin' ell, the cold winter evenings must fly by.' For what it's worth, I'm with the Mondays!

Pepe Reina deserved to go, scowling, sour-faced Kenny Dalglish said as much. But many more afternoons like Sunday and Liverpool's American owners might wonder if the same also applies to their manager, Merseyside legend or not. Scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Scotsman Dalglish has pleaded for togetherness from his Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws side after defeat by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies marked their sixth loss in seven Premier League games. Liverpool, one of the 'top four clubs' according to their own greedy and vastly over-inflated sense of self-worth, were made to look like planks by a Newcastle side which, quite simply, wanted it more. Goalkeeper Reina was sent off in the 2-0 defeat for trying to stick the nut on James Perch (and, failing), while Andy Carroll was booked for diving against his old club when it was easier for him to score. 'There's no point in feeling sorry for ourselves,' Dalglish told BBC Sport. Which might, just, be the single funniest thing that scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Scotsman Dalglish has ever uttered having made a virtual career of feeling sorry for himself. 'We've just got to realise that if we stick together and believe in what we're doing, then we've got a better chance.' Being able to score some goals might, also, help Kenneth. Two goals either side of half-time from in-form Newcastle striker Papiss Demba Cissé ensured a disappointing return to Tyneside for former Newcastle players Carroll, Crain Bellamy and full-back Jose Enrique. Carroll was booked in the first half after he rounded Newcastle keeper Tim Krul but then dramatically fell over his own feet with the goal at his mercy. He was later replaced and was last seen storming off down the tunnel pulling off his Liverpool shirt in disgust to sarcastic 'bye-bye' waves from United supporters. Fans who had recently serenaded the thirty five million quid flop striker with derisory chants of 'what a waste of money.' According to the Mirra, who clearly have their own lip-reader on staff, 'Carroll stormed off the pitch red-faced and close to tears, growling: "Fucking joke this, fucking shit, fuck off," towards the dug out. Carroll, who was booked for diving in the penalty area, also clashed with Pardew on the touchline, telling his former boss: "It wasn't a dive you fucking cunt."' It's probably worth noting at this point that Cissé has scored more league goals (seven) in his seven games for United since signing from SC Freiberg in January than Carroll (five) has managed in fifteen months for Liverpool following his thirty five million knicker transfer. Hilarious. Enrique (who also suffered at the hands of Newcastle supporters over some unwise comments he made on Twitter shortly after leaving Tyneside last summer about how the club would 'never' challenge for the Top Six again) ended up in goal after Reina attempted to headbutt James Perch late on, with Liverpool having used all their substitutes. Liverpool have won just two Premier League games in 2012, although they have won the Carling Cup and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals. Their current form is the second worst in the Premiership with only relegation-haunted Wolves having a worse record. And, they will be not helped in pursuit of their second cup final this season with Reina now missing the semi-final against local rivals Everton on 14 April as part of a three-match ban. Scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Scotsman Dalglish claimed, unconvincingly, that the actions of Reina and Carroll were borne of frustration with their recent form. 'The boys have shown a wee bit of frustration and disappointment because of results,' Dalglish added. 'That's probably why Pepe was sent off. It was the frustration of being behind. When Andy Carroll comes off and runs up the tunnel, it's purely disappointment and frustration. It's all very well and good having frustration and disappointment, but we have to manage that and make sure we channel it in a proper way.' Dalglish tried to claim that Carroll had not dived during the incident with Krul (when he clearly had) and was 'left frustrated' by the rejection of a first-half penalty appeal when Danny Simpson appeared to stop the ball going into the net with his shoulder. But, he said, he had no complaints about Reina's eighty second-minute sending off. Asked if Reina had apologised, Dalglish replied: 'There was a bit of remorse there, yes.' On Carroll's fall the scowling Scotsman claimed: 'I don't think it was a penalty and I also don't think he went down deliberately to get a penalty. He said he never went down, he stumbled over.' Krul subsequently accused his former team-mate of diving – 'he was looking for a penalty, like all strikers try to do.' On his own side's penalty claim, Dalglish added: 'I think you need to go to Vision Express if you don't think that was a penalty. We never got it, maybe we were not vocal enough with the referee, I don't know. We can't do too much about the refereeing decisions but we can do a lot about ourselves and we will work really hard to do something about ourselves.' Dalglish's former Liverpool teammate turned BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson said on Radio 5Live: 'I do not think Kenny would walk away. And I do not think they will sack him. Until they get into the Champions League places, they cannot attract Champions League players. They are trying to play catch-up.' Lawrenson continued: 'As a manager in the Premier League, if you lose a couple of games it is a crisis. The performance against Newcastle became inept after they went behind. Unfortunately for Kenny, I think Aston Villa is a must-win game. The players he bought, this year they have contributed six goals between the four of them. But you should be looking at twenty five to thirty.' Asked about Perch's part in Reina's dismissal, Alan Pardew, Newcastle's manager, was seemingly sensible circumspect to the point of schutm. 'I've watched it again and I don't want to delve into it too much,' he said. 'But the goalkeeper had to go.' Pardew was more forthcoming about Carroll, whom he sold controversially to Liverpool in January 2011 a piece of business which now looks like a stroke of absolute footballing genius. 'Andy needs to have a game plan that works for him and Liverpool are struggling to find that game plan for him with the players they have,' he said. 'When Andy was here we were more direct than we are now and he was magnificent. But Andy will be magnificent again. I felt for him today, I really did. He's having a tough year but he's a terrific lad and his game will come back.' Pardew attributed Cissé's excellent performance to his diet. 'We had Africa Day at the training ground on Friday,' Pardew said. 'We made him feel at home by having curried goat for lunch. It was lovely.' Feed him goat and he will score, it seems. He may speak hardly a word of English and has to rely on teammate Demba Ba to translate the instructions of his manager, but Cisse is converting the chances that his pal from Senegal was taking earlier in the season. He is clearly relishing Newcastle and Newcastle is relishing him. 'His English is not great but his overall performance was probably his best for us yet and he gave Jamie Carragher problems all day,' said Pardew.

So, anyway, on that hilarious note here is today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which just seems appropriate somehow.
Remember, 'there is no cause for celebration.' Although a couple of quality strikes from yer actual Papiss Cissé come pretty close.

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