Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week Seventeen: I Just Feel That We're Going No Place

Have I Got News For You claimed a historic, and much celebrated overnight victory in besting the odious, risible Piers Morgan's Life Stories on Friday night. Which was funny. No, I mean it was sodding hilarious. It was something of a twenty four carat Friday the thirteenth nightmare for the odious, risible, oily, wretched horrorshow (and drag) Morgan as the BBC1 panel show, on which Morgan's nemesis yer actual Ian Hislop appears, pulled in 5.74m from 9pm. Meanwhile, odious, risible Life Stories featuring a much-trailed high profile interview with Coronation Street's William Roache had a mere 4.22m and a further two hundred and sixty thousand punters on ITV+1. One wonders just how, exactly, the odious, risible, oily, nasty Morgan will try to spin this as a victory since, apparently, the odious, risible, oily, nasty, disgraceful Morgan has been predicting on Twitter that his show would 'eat up' Have I Got News For You's ratings. What a thoroughly odious, risible, oily, nasty, bucket of pond scum that slimy, odious individual (and drag) is. Even funnier, is that all of this came despite Morgan having a lead-in audience of over eight million punters from Corrie, compared to Have I Got News For You's inheritance, which was much smaller - 3.53m from the first episode of the new series of Would I Lie To You? The odious, risible, oily, wretched horrorshow (and drag) Morgan had earlier in the week predicted on Twitter that Life Stories would 'rip Have I Got News For You's ratings apart.' So, as right about that as you were when you published those faked 'torture' photos in the Mirra, then? Lee Mack's sitcom Not Going Out returned with a respectable 4.54m, a couple of hundred thousand less than last year's opener. At 10.35pm, a new run of The Graham Norton Show kicked off on BBC1 with 3.83m.

Saturday's overnight figures suggest that The Voice had an average audience of 10.68m on BBC1, the highest rated show of the day by over one million punters (excluding +1s). The show's peak was 12.1m - its highest audience peak to date - in the final fifteen minutes. Britain's Got Talent pulled in an average of 10.04m between 8pm and 9.15pm, peaking with 11.3m and adding a further five hundred thousand viewers ITV+1. Both shows seem to be benefitting from the competition, picking up extra viewers week-on-week, with The Voice gaining seven hundred thousand punters and Got Talent getting a six hundred thousand increase from last week's overnight audiences. During the 20:00 to 20:20 head-to-head, The Voice averaged a whopping 11.8m, over twice the audience of any other channel. And then people wonder why Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads felt obliged to move his show to avoid further mebarrassment. It was cracking day for the BBC all round with their coverage of The Grand National peaking at 10.9m. Casualty also won its slot against The Cube with 4.91m viewers opposed to 4.09m on ITV. Actually, you know, that's pretty damn impressive in and of itself, given that one of these shows had The National Lottery as its lead-in and the other had Britain's Got Toilets. Elsewhere, it was really poor night for ITV with Lemonaid (2.93m) suggesting the Leigh Francis's character might well be a hit with the sort of punters that ITV2 regularly gets but, you know, 'normal people' aren't all that fussed about him. All Star Family Fortunes (3.31m) confirmed what we already knew - that Vernon Kay bigging up of himself on Twitter doesn't really equate to decent ratings either. Overall, BBC1 led primetime with twenty eight per cent of the audience share, increasing its lead over ITV which had 22.6 per cent. And, if ITV aren't worried about that then one is sure their advertisers will give them reason to be first thing on Monday morning.

Meanwhile greedy, talentless BBC traitor and Britain's Got Toilets judge Alesha Dixon has admitted that she is a fan of rival show The Voice. News of the pants-down hiding that she's going to receive from Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads when she gets into work on Monday will, of course, be carried by From The North as soon as we get it. Hopefully, pictures too.

David Walliams and Paloma Faith have joined the cast of a new BBC1 comedy Blandings. Starring Jennifer Saunders and Timothy Spall, the series is set in 1929 and follows a chaotic family at the fictional Blandings Castle. David Bamber and Mark Williams have also signed up to star in the show, which is based on PG Wodehouse's stories and will be broadcast as six self-contained episodes. Spall plays Lord Clarence Emsworth, who longs to be left at peace with his beloved pig, The Empress, while Saunders appears as his sister, Connie. Williams will play Beach, Lord Emsworth's long-suffering and loyal butler. Bamber plays the role of Herr Schnellhund, Clarence's dance teacher. Pramface's Jack Farthing has also been cast as Freddie, Lord Emsworth's unlucky-in-love and financially irresponsible son. Walliams will guest star in two episodes as Rupert Baxter, Clarence's new secretary, and Faith plays dancer Georgia, who creates a stir when she accompanies Freddie to Blandings. Tony Maudsley from Benidorm plays Cyril Wellbeloved, who looks after The Empress, while Sam Hoare has the role of Beefy Bingham, who dreams of marrying Connie's daughter, Gertrude. So, this is Downton Abbey meets You Rang, M'Lud, basically. Filming is currently underway on location at Crom Castle with the support of Northern Ireland Screen.

Len Goodman will reportedly adopt a more 'scathing demeanour' in his role as Strictly Come Dancing judge. The sixty seven-year-old, the ballroom dancing show's head panelist, is apparently set to become more like rival X Factor head honcho, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads. 'Len is getting more like Simon Cowell every day,' an alleged 'source' alleged told the Daily Scum Mail. Unless all of this is made up lies, of course. Your guess, dear blog reader, is as good as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's his very self. 'He has started to be loudly booed by the studio audience, which has caused a lot of embarrassment,' his alleged (and nameless) 'source' allegedly continued. Referring to his role on US show Dancing with the Stars, the alleged 'insider' allegedly added: 'He was heckled during a recent show by fans, who called for him to be sacked after he criticised one of the couples. But Len is enjoying the new approach - it's spicing things up.'

TV critic Richard Arnold is expected to reprise his role for risible ITV breakfast flop Daybreak, two years after he and GMTV were axed. According to the Daily Mirra, Arnold will return as the regular TV critic in which he previews upcoming television programmes. When GMTV was cancelled and rebranded as Daybreak, Arnold was dropped along with several favourites from the morning programme to make way for grumpy greedy Adrian Chiles and curiously orange, greedy, risible Christine Bleakley. Both of whom have, since, been - hugely satisfyingly - given the tin-tack. An alleged ITV 'source' allegedly told the alleged newspaper: 'The plan really seems to include lots of elements of GMTV, including Richard's return. He is at advanced talks to come back and try to brighten up the show.'

And, on that bombshell, here's yer next lot of actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 21 April
With the blind audition rounds now complete, the coaches have ten acts each - and now face the tough task of halving their teams for the forthcoming live shows in The Voice - 7:00 BBC1. Of course, now that they know what their choices actually look like, they can start getting rid of the ug's and the fatties they've been lumbered with and be leave themselves with the pretty ones instead. At which point this format, which has been such a refreshing change from the norm over the last four weeks, runs the risk of turning into, essentially, The X Factor lite, with Tom Jones instead of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads. Anyway, in a two-part special, being shown tonight and tomorrow, Jessie J, Sir Tom his very Welsh self, Danny O'Donoghue and - fast emerging as the genuine star of this show - have to choose two of their acts at a time to sing alongside one another. Immediately after the battle performance, the coach have to decide who to send through to the live shows and whom to eliminate and send packing back to their miserable lives with their dreams of stardom and riches beyond avarice shattered. Crushed like the petals of a delicate flower beneath the marching boots of the soldiers of an oppressive regime. Or, you know, something like that anyway. Presented by Holly Willoughby (who can, astonishingly, walk in a straight line and talk at the same time. No, I was surprised as well) and Reggie Yates.

Shifted half-an-hour later in the ratings to avoid a clash with The Voice and, therefore, effectively admitting defeat in ITV's shockingly blatant attempt to undermine the BBC show, Britain's Got Toilets continues - 8:30 ITV. These days looking thoroughly knackered and in need of either a good holiday or a coffin. The search for new talent continues as more desperate hopefuls take their turn in the spotlight in front of the audience and judges. These being, of course, nowhere-near-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is David Walliams, looking-like-her-nose-is-well-and-truly-out-of-joint-these-days Amanda Holden, greedy, talentless BBC traitor Alesha Dixon and, of course, Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced chef off Crossroads. Hoping not to hear the dreaded sound of the panel's buzzers, the auditionees have one shot at winning the prize of five hundred thousand quid and a chance to perform at the Royal Variety Performance. Ant and Dec are backstage with the entertainers. Hopefully one of the dancing dogs won't shit all over their shiny shoes because that would be terrible.

1973 was the year when television realised its potential, it is often claimed. Elvis Presley's Aloha from Hawaii became the first show with a global audience of one billion people via satellite and the arrival of large screen colour TV sets confirmed that as a domestic fixture, the television had come of age. Mark Lawson examines the dramatic rise in the popularity of television in 1973, and considers five of the most successful programmes of the year, with reference to how they reflected British society at that time in TV 1973 - The Defining Shows - 8:00 BBC2, part of BBC2's themed Seventies Night. A worthwhile exercise in social history and the public's fascination with a genuinely defining era or a crap exercise in cosy nostalgia with a clip-show at its core? You be the judge, dear blog reader. Lawson's presence does tend to suggest the former but you can never be too sure. Included are such shows as The Generation Game, That's Life!, The Burke Specials and The Onedin Line. Includes contributions by former BBC1 Controller Bill Cotton, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? creators, the great Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (ah, now you're talking!) and - according to the pre-publicity blurb the late drama producer Verity Lambert. (One presumes Verity's contribution comes from archive footage unless they're planning on holding a séance.) 

Following the success of The Killing and Borgen (not to mention the somewhat less Danish Spiral), The Bridge - 10:00 BBC4 - is one drama format a lot of us have been really looking forward to. Detectives from Denmark and Sweden are forced to work together when a body is found on a bridge between the two countries. However, further investigation reveals the corpse has a gruesome secret - and investigators Saga Noren and Martin Rohde realise the criminal they are chasing will stop at nothing to get his twisted and sinister message across. Scandinavian crime drama, in Danish and Swedish with English subtitles, starring Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia. The general consensus coming across the North Sea from those who know is 'not as good as Borgen, but probably near enough on a par with The Killing.' So, should be good then.

TV movie of the week, without question, is The Italian Job - 6:20 ITV. No, not the crap American remake, the proper one, the classic 1968 caper movie starring Michael Caine and Noël Coward. When yer actual Charlie Croker is released from stir, he is soon up to no good. Duckin' and divin', dodgin' the dibble and all that malarkey. After securing the financial backing of crimelord Mr Bridger and his man on the outside, Camp Freddie, Charlie puts into motion an audacious plan for a gold-bullion robbery that will take place in Turin during the European Nations Cup and, effectively, see him and his gang stealing for England. But, the Mafia have other ideas when they learn what these dodgy chancers are up to. At which point, Benny Hill becomes involved. The legendary vehicle stunt work - the mini-chase, which is a genuine cinematic tour de force - distinguishes this classy Swingin' Sixties romp, shot in glamorous Turin with interiors filmed at the less glamorous Twickenham. The writer, the great Troy Kennedy Martin, managed to get away with something of a rock and roll swindle himself, essentially reworking the heist plot for his next film, the following year's Kelly's Heroes, and hoping that no one would notice. A minor classic and a hugely popular Sunday afternoon cult for chaps of a certain age (or, in this case, early Saturday evening), helped immeasurably by the now-iconic status of Caine, the jazzy soundtrack from Quincy Jones, the editing by John Trumper and the marvellous Coward ('someone has broken into my toilet!'), who masterminds the whole wheeze from his prison cell. If you're out at the football this afternoon, get yer skates on, mate, to be home in time for this little cracker. Even if, like most people in Britain, you've already seen it about twenty five times and have the DVD. Blow the bloody doors off, and give it up for The Self Preservation Society. Ironically, the tragically shit Mark Wahlberg remake is also on tonight, on Sky1 at nine o'clock. But, don't bother with that, dear blog reader. Because it's rubbish.

Sunday 22 April
There is little sympathy when child-killer James Wade dies in his cell, but Leo's encounter with dying ex-prison inspector Rachel Kruger compels him to investigate the notorious Redhill jail - only to come up against a wall of silence in the latest two-part Silent Witness story - Redhill. Meanwhile, Harry meets Wade's sister Miriam and agrees to help find her brother's killer. Forensic crime drama, starring William Gaminara, Emilia Fox and Tom Ward, with Juliet Aubrey, Gillian Kearney and Jaye Griffiths.

In the first of the two-part Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission - 9:00 BBC2 - the well-known Scottish actor embarks on a quest to immunise children in some of the most remote places in the world, using a network of freezers - or cold chains - supported by Unicef to preserve the vaccines en route. His first trip takes him through India and into Nepal, where he must endure a two-day trek and brave one of the world's most hazardous airstrips to reach a small village in the Himalayan mountains. Against the odds, health workers deliver vaccines to the world's most remote children, but their fragile nature means the vaccines must be kept constantly cold as they are passed along the supply chain, from freezer to freezer - wherever that may be. In the opening episode, Ewan chooses a route which takes him through a country with a booming population, the cold chain is a race against time to stop polio before it can enter the country and spread. From India, Ewan continues his journey into the isolated wilderness of Nepal. He must endure a gruelling two-day trek to reach a tiny community secluded high in the Himalayas, but not before attempting to land at one of the world's most dangerous airstrips. These two programmes give Ewan an opportunity to go to three very different countries, three situations, and look in detail at one strand of Unicef's work. It's the perfect kind of match, says Ewan, 'of furthering my work with Unicef and at the same time, going on an adventure, which I really like to do.'

Brenda Blethyn returns as DCI Vera Stanhope in four stand-alone episodes of the crime drama Vera - 9:00 ITV. The detective's former colleague, Sergeant Stuart Macken, is left badly burned when his house is petrol-bombed, while his teenage daughter fights for her life in intensive care. As Vera tries to discover why anyone would attempt to kill Stuart, her investigation leads to unpleasant revelations about his personal life, and she has to face long-buried memories of her own. With Steven Hartley from The Bill and Julie Graham.

Secrets of the Saxon Gold: A Time Team Special - 7:55 Channel Four - features an investigation of the Anglo-Saxon treasure discovered in Staffordshire in 2009. With analysts in Paris and from the British Museum having traced the materials used to Turkey, India and Sri Lanka what, exactly, was it doing in a hole in the ground in Staffordshire? Some of the hoard was discovered to be made from recycled jewellery and luxury goods, leading to a better understanding of Britain's so-called Dark Ages and shedding light on the skills of those who made the items. Tony Robinson, as usual, presents. Well, let's face it, it'd be a pretty mental episode of Time Team if he didn't.

Monday 23 April
Anybody who has start through five episodes of The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo - 8:30 BBC2 - and been thoroughly sickened by this nauseatingly full-of-its-own-importance and nastily twee piece, and bloody outraged that their licence fee is being used to pay this Goddamn woman, whoever the hell she is, will be delighted to know that tonight sees the last episode of this fiasco. What a great relief. Now, all we need to know is which berk it is within the BBC who continues to commission such sub-The Ludicrous Ms Dahl nonsense, and how soon they're going to get the sack, and we call all go back to waiting for the next series of MasterChef. The horribly smug and full-of-herself pastry chef brings the series to a close by preparing a classic quiche Lorraine, and turns her hand to crepe-making with the help of a street vendor. She also visits a Vietnamese restaurant to discover the latest Asian food trends, before serving up her own twist on a beef Wellington - venison surrounded by caramelised onions in flaky pastry. A total pox on it and everybody involved in it.

A gangland killing takes a surprising twist when it turns out the victim has been sexually mutilated in Scott & Bailey - 9:00 ITV. Andy punishes Janet by keeping her out of the heart of the investigation, and when she rebels, the ensuing argument becomes personal. Rachel feels ambushed by Sean, who announces his mother wants to meet her - especially as she has spent years trying not to think about her own mum. Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp, Sean Maguire and Nicholas Gleaves star.

Playwright: A Jacobean History - 9:00 BBC4 - is a new series in which the American academic James Shapiro examines the plays which yer actual William Shakespeare wrote during the first decade of James I's reign, including King Lear, Measure for Measure and Timon of Athens. Shapiro begins his documentary by investigating how the Scottish king's ascent to the English throne in 1603, which united the two countries, created a climate of uncertainty amongst many Englishmen of standing (Shakespeare, having been Elizabeth I's favourite writer being bigly among them), and explores how Shakespeare was also inspired by actual historical events of the period writing some of his best known works. Hamlet, for a kick-off.

And, still of the subject of those with massively embiggened brains, Dominic Sandbrook continues his history of The 70s - 9:00 BBC2 - with a look at the years 1973 and 1974. The only thing that yer actual Keith Telly Topping can remember about the latter year, dear blog reader, is his beloved Newcastle United totally embarrassing themselves and all their supporters at Wembley, a family holiday in the Isle of Wight where it pissed down with rain like the flood for a full fortnight, and dancing like someone having a kind of fit to 'There's A Ghost In My House' by R Dean Taylor at a school disco which won him the prize of a Mars Bar. True story, dear blog reader. Oh, and Jon Pertwee dying and turning into Tom Baker. Also a true story. 1973, on the other hand, thanks to Life on Mars (and that Mark Lawson show form the couple of nights ago), I remember like it was yesterday. Hey, I don't just throw these things together, you know. Anyway as Britain celebrated the wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips - well, those that weren't Republicans and would have rather seen the pair of horsey parasites fed to the dogs, anyway - war raged in the Middle East. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. On 17 October 1973, in response to the escalating Yom Kippur war and the West's support of Israel therein, OPEC, the Arab oil producing countries, summarily cut production and quadrupled the world price of oil. This, effectively, ended the relative affluence on which, as Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head, 'the preceding ten years of happy-go-lucky excess in the West had chiefly depended.' A less sentimental suggestion for 'the day that the 1960s (conceptually) ended' than some symbolic musical event like The Rolling Stones' at Altamont, the break-up of The Beatles or the death of Jimi Hendrix perhaps, but, it's probably a much more realistic one. As a bizarre coincidence, on theat very same day, England's national football team drew 1-1 with Poland in a World Cup qualifier. This failure to reach the final stages of a tournament which England had actually won eight years previously may seem a vastly insignificant event to some. But, just as that famous 'some people are on the pitch...' victory over West Germany in 1966 appeared to encapsulate the spirit of an entire era - when England (and, specifically, London) was, quite literally, on top of the world - so the gloom that settled over the country during the winter of 1973-4, with its three-day weeks, power cuts, Cod War with Iceland and general mood of stroppiness and austerity, was inextricably tied to the failing fortunes of Sir Alf Ramsey's ageing side. So, you see, it was all Norman Hunter's fault for screwing up that tackle on the halfway line. And, in America, if we thought we had it tough, they were in the middle of Watergate! Although, to be fair, that was funnier than Ted Heath taking on the miners and getting his arse kicked into orbit. Just. The resulting financial crisis in Europe sent inflation spiralling and led to all sorts of ramifications in unexpected places (not least, the virtual destruction of the British film industry for the next decade). It was the moment when the swinging sixties turned, almost overnight, into the sober and soon-to-be-unemployed seventies. And, if you believe all the conspiracy theories out there, a cabal of MI5 officers, right-wing industrialists and members of upper classes were plotting to stage a coup if Labour won the 1974 general election and place Dickie Mountbatten in charge of a state of emergency government. Hey, maybe yer actual Keith Telly Topping should be presenting this programme rather than yer man Dominic. He considers how the oil crisis led to escalating inflation, partly caused another by-product - the mass consumerism resulting from access to easy credit. He also touches on growing awareness to global environmentalism and how erotica came to the masses thanks to movies like Last Tango in Paris. Fantastic trailer for the series, too, if you haven't seen it yet.

Tuesday 24 April
In the second episode of the delightful and wryly amusing Meet the Romans with Mary Beard - BBC2 9:00 - the professor continues her exploration of the real ancient Rome, descending into the streets to reveal a vast metropolis with little urban planning and poor sanitation. Mary also finds out where the Romans went to hang out, get drunk, have sex and get clean (all the same place, as it happens, the baths), and visits the Forum, where all manner of activities took place, from gambling and prostitution to dentistry. Along the way she tells the story of three citizens, including an apartment dweller who lived in fear of the rent collector and a seven-year-old girl killed in one of the city's many fires. Great stuff. This is what yer actual Keith Telly Topping pays his licence for. Well, this and Match of the Day and Doctor Who and the fact that if he didn't, he'd be breaking the law and would probably end his days banged up in pokey with all of the murderers and the rapists and the people who nick stuff from ASDA. So, it's probably safer to buy one, then.

Richard Bacon follows members of the public who scientists believe could have extraordinary abilities they were never aware of in Hidden Talents - 9:00 Channel Four. In the first episode, a forty five-year-old nurse is identified as a potentially gifted climber, and receives expert training from coach Martin Chester before tackling the Old Man of Stoer, a two hundred foot-high stack of sandstone off the coast of Sutherland in the Highlands - an ascent which is usually attempted only after years of training. Elsewhere, a sixty three-year-old retired woman discovers she has an uncommonly advanced ability to detect lies, and travels to America for a two-day crash course in interrogation techniques with former FBI agents Jack Schaeffer and Joe Navarro.

A human brain is found at the scene of a car crash, and the CSI investigators are surprised to discover it does not belong to any of the three victims in a clever and intricately constructed episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Brain Doe) - 9:00 Channel Five. They learn that one of the deceased drivers had been transporting it in a cooler and realise there must be a connection with the theft of a brain from an Afghan war veteran's corpse - despite the organ they found not being a DNA match to the body. Guest starring Robyn Lively (from Twin Peaks). One of the series funnier and more unusual episodes, this.

Malick balances his new role as Clinical Skills Lead with his duties as a doctor, but starts to realise how serious a teacher's responsibilities can be in good old reliable Holby City - BBC1 8:00. Greg struggles to remain professional when he gets too involved in a young patient's case, and Annalese visits Holby with some unexpected news for Michael. With Hannah Waterman (EastEnders' Laura Beale) and the great Murray Head.

Wednesday 25 April
The end of an era approaches as the school prepares to close its doors for the final time, but Michael has a plan to keep Waterloo Road alive in the final episode of the current series of Waterloo Road - 9:00 BBC1. Will he succeed? well, since they're currently filming the next series up in Scotchland, the answer's probably yes, I'm guessing. However, if he does succeed it would mean persuading the staff to relocate two hundred twenty miles to the north. Again, I repeat, since they're currently filming the next series ... Meanwhile, Janeece receives a surprising gift, Finn and Trudi get back together and Josh is dragged into the gang fighting - just as Tariq and Kyle smuggle a deadly weapon into the school. Last in the series.

In Queen Victoria's Last Love - 9:00 Channel Four - the monarch's relationship with Indian servant Abdul Karim is examined. Karim was initially employed as a waiter but soon rose to become Victoria's confidant and teacher, giving her daily lessons in Hindustani. His position violated racial and class taboos of the period, and the presence of a Muslim at the heart of the royal household caused problems for the politics of Empire, leading to a dramatic confrontation between the Queen and her family in 1897, which threatened to disrupt her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Blimey, and you thought Camilla was problem?

Sarcastic New York waitress Max Black forms an unlikely friendship with new co-worker Caroline Channing, the penniless daughter of a recently disgraced financial tycoon, and they try to open a cupcake business together in 2 Broke Girls - 11:05 Channel Four.
In the opening episode, Max agrees to let Caroline become her room-mate, but things get off to a bad start when Max's boyfriend flirts with the new arrival. Comedy, well of sorts anyway, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs.

Bettany Hughes reveals how the period known as the Dark Ages was a golden era for women in religion as education and the written word became vital tools for them in the final episode of Divine Women - 9:00 BBC2. She explores the legacy of two wives of the prophet Muhammad - Khadija, the first convert to Islam, and Aisha, a scholar whose words are still read by more than two billion people today. Bettany also profiles Theodora, a former dancer and prostitute who became a Byzantine empress, Wu Zetien, the only woman to rule China as emperor, and St Hilda, one of the most prominent figures in Anglo-Saxon England.

Schedules for Thursday 26 April and Friday 27 April are not yet available. When they are, dear blog reader, you'll have the Top Telly Tips from them. Can't say fairer than that now, can I?

And, so to the news:
The Information Commissioner's Office has summoned political blogger Paul Staines to an interview over his leak of Operation Motorman files on the Guido Fawkes website. Staines was asked to attend an interview 'in the very near future' in a letter from the ICO sent on Wednesday. In the letter - which the trouble-making hippy Communist scum at the Gruniad Morning Star boast they 'have seen' (yes, because Guido showed it to them, obviously) - Staines is asked to 'reveal' the source of his Operation Motorman files. Something which, equally obviously, he is not inclined to do and probably can't be forced to. So, that's a bit of an impasse, then. The blogger said that he was 'considering his response' and described the ICO's questions as 'comical.' Staines published details of more than one thousand alleged requests by News International journalists to the private investigator Steve Whittamore for information including ex-directory telephone numbers, criminal record checks and vehicle registration details. The information was contained in the so-called 'blue book' of data retrieved by ICO investigators from Whittamore's home office in 2003. The publication by Staines included names of some of those who were the subject of requests from journalists. The letter to Staines begins: 'As you are aware the Information Commissioner's Office is concerned about the publication of a redacted version of part of the Operation Motorman records which appeared on Guido Fawkes blog site overnight on the 10 April 2012.' It added: 'The ICO is concerned that your publication of this data has compromised the information rights of individuals. I would therefore invite you to engage with the ICO and submit to an interview to discuss the following topics:-
• The source of the database that was published by yourself;
• The extent of your access to the unredacted version of the blue book or whether the copy you obtained was redacted by a third party;
• Your access to copies of the other journals, ie the green, red and yellow books if applicable;
• The security measures you have in place to ensure that the information you hold is kept safe and secure in order to protect against accidental loss or destruction of the information.' The information commissioner, Christopher Graham, last week said the leak was 'irresponsible' and a possible breach of the Data Protection Act. Staines himself told the Gruniad: 'I'm considering my response – if any. Not sure what jurisdiction the British Information Commissioner imagines he has over an Irish citizen, in Ireland, publishing information on a website hosted in California. Some of the questions are comical; reveal your source, tell us what else you have, the measures you have put in place to keep the information safe. I put the information on the Internet for everyone to see. In any event this is all covered by publication being in the public interest.' The disclosure by Staines has put the information commissioner under pressure to publish the data behind his office's Operation Motorman investigation, which examined the private trade in information between newspapers, magazines and Whittamore, the private investigator. Staines indicated in an interview with BBC Radio 4's The Media Show on Wednesday that he did not have access to the other Operation Motorman files, which detail requests for information by newspaper groups.

The American Nazi Party has registered its first lobbyist in Washington DC. John Bowles, fifty five, told the US media that he wanted to 'address political rights and ballot access' and that he expected congressmen 'would accept meetings.' Lobbying was something the party would 'try out for the first time and see if it flies,' Bowles told ABC News. Lobbying is a common practice in US politics and lobby groups are required to disclose their interests in detail. Bowles' Capitol Hill registration also listed his lobbying interests as agriculture, clean air and water, civil rights, the constitution, healthcare, immigration, manufacturing, and retirement. And, invading Poland. Probably. Bowles said he would not be paid for his work on Capitol Hill and would take a 'careful and objective' approach. 'I'm not going to go in and shove a swastika in their face,' he said. That's probably a good idea, mate. He conceded that there might be 'some resistance' to holding meetings with him. 'There might be some congressmen who crumple up the paper and some who say: "This is interesting,"' he told ABC. Bowles also said that his move to officially register as a lobbyist was 'inspired' by his reading of the constitution, congressional newspaper The Hill reported. Bowles previously stood as a presidential candidate for the National Socialist Movement in 2008. The American Nazi Party traces its ideology to George Lincoln Rockwell, who founded a post-war National Socialist white supremacist movement in the US. The group reportedly holds meetings in South Carolina and lists a postal address via a post office box in Michigan. The reminder of Twentieth Century ideology comes at the end of a week in which Florida Congressman Allen West said publicly that as many as eighty one members of Congress are 'active members' of the Communist Party. Without, seemingly, any evidence to back up his claim.

Nico Rosberg took his maiden Formula 1 victory with a dominant drive in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday morning. The German led from pole position, built a lead and any hopes of challenge ended when McLaren's Jenson Button was delayed at his final pit stop. It was Mercedes' first victory since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. A titanic battle for second place ended in favour of Button, who finished just ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was sixth, ahead of the Williams pair of Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta's Force India. The race was a classic strategy battle between those doing two stops and those doing three. Rosberg and Mercedes chose two, Button, Hamilton and McLaren three, and it appeared set for a close battle to the finish in the final stint between the two until a problem fitting a rear wheel at his final pit stop delayed the Englishman. That put Button into a huge scrap for second, stretching initially from Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus in second place back to di Resta's Force India in thirteenth, all running in line astern. A frantic last ten laps first saw Raikkonen, on two stops, drop to the back of that group after running wide as his tyres started to lose grip. That left Vettel, also on two stops, in second ahead of the two McLarens, with Button ahead of Hamilton, who did three stops like his team-mate. Button passed Vettel for second place on lap fifty, Hamilton followed him four laps later, and Webber took fourth place from his team-mate between the penultimate and last corners on the final lap. Alonso had been battling with Hamilton and Webber but he made a catastrophic error in trying to pass Maldonado around the outside of the fast turn seven, ran wide and lost ground, finishing ninth. Earlier in the race Michael Schumacher had run second to team-mate Rosberg, losing half a second a lap, until his first pit stop, when the team did not tighten the nut on his right front wheel and he was forced into retirement. The best single moment on the Sky commentary of the race occurred when Schui pulled up. 'I haven't been this disappointed since Shrek 2' noted Martin Brundle. Oh, I dunno, it had its moments!

Despite banking a reported thirty five million notes from selling him over a year ago, Andy Carroll continues to boost the fortunes of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle United it would seem. A trademark header in the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley on Saturday sealed a 2-1 victory for Liverpool Alabama Yee Haws over their fierce Merseyside rivals Everton - and handed his old side a likely (although still not yet confirmed) ticket to a European return next season. Assuming that they can secure a finishing position in the top six. And given that United currently sit in fifth, with twelve points separating them and Everton in seventh, and only five games to go and a maximum of fifteen points up for grabs, The Magpies return to some sort of European competition after a five season absence would be mathematically assured if they can win four more points. Miserable, sour-faced Kenny Dalglish's side trailed at half-time, but gained a route back into the tie just after the hour, when another former Magpie, hopeless blundering Sylvain Distin's top comedy back pass allowed Luis Suarez to equalise. And having missed four previous chances to find the net (including a couple of sitters), Carroll made no mistake when a fifth presented itself four minutes from time, from a Craig Bellamy free kick. Another ex-Mag. The world's full of them! Liverpool will now face the winners of Sunday's other semi-final between Moscow Chelski FC and Happy Harry's Stottingtot Hotshots at Wembley on Saturday 5 May. The top four finishers in the Premier League will qualify for the Champions League, unless Moscow Chelski go and upset the apple cart and managed to win the Champions League this season (yeah, some hope, they're playing Barcelona, not Sunderland). In such an unlikely event, they would take a place in the Champions League even if they finished outside the top four and the team finishing fourth would then qualify for the Europa League. If Chelsea don't win the Champions League, three clubs will enter the Europa League: the Carling Cup Winners, the FA Cup winners or runners up, and the fifth placed finishers. However, with Liverpool already assured of qualification after winning the Carling Cup and now through to an FA Cup Final against one of two sides both of whom are likely to qualify for Europe elsewhere one way or another, a place opens up for the sixth place finisher. There's still, of course, every incentive for all of these teams to try and gain as many of the fifteen remaining points available to them this season though: the possibility of Champions League qualification remains, while the single Europa League Group stage place is available going to the club with the highest finishing position of all the Europa League qualifiers. Understand all that? Clear as mud, eh?!

Some very sad news now, the ex-Italy under-twenty one footballer Piermario Morosini has died following a suspected heart attack on the pitch, officials say. The midfielder was playing for Livorno in the Serie B match at Pescara when he fell to the ground in the thirty first minute. A defibrillator was used and Morosini, twenty five, was taken to hospital. The game was halted with other players in tears. All league games in Italy this weekend have been called off following Morosini's death. Morosini had been on loan to Livorno from the Serie A club Udinese. He collapsed face down and appeared to be in convulsion. The referee's assistant drew the referee's attention and he immediately stopped the game. The footballer was taken to Pescara's Santo Spirito hospital by ambulance, but he could not be revived. Last month, of course, Notlob's Fabrice Muamba was technically 'dead' for seventy eight minutes after collapsing in an FA Cup tie. The twenty four-year-old player is now, happily, said to be making 'strong and steady improvements.' Following Muamba's collapse, attention had been drawn to the situation for athletes in Italy, which has mandatory cardiac screening for all young people engaged in organised sport. The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young says that the Italian measures have reduced the incidence of young sudden cardiac death in Italy by ninety per cent in the thirty years since the screening was introduced.

And, in further terrible - although, sadly, not entirely unexpected - news, Robin Gibb is said to in a coma after suffering from pneumonia, according to his official website. He has been recovering from cancer in recent months, but was too ill to attend a performance of his new work a few days ago. 'We are all hoping and praying that he will pull through,' the website said. In February, Robin said that he had been making a 'spectacular' recovery from cancer but he was later readmitted to hospital for intestinal surgery. The message on his homepage added: 'Because of this situation, Robin's website is temporarily unavailable. Sorry for any inconvenience.' The Gibb family have been keeping vigil at his bedside at a private hospital in Chelsea the Press Association reports. 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 as early as last month. On 11 April, Robin was unable to attend the London premiere of his first classical work because of the pneumonia, his son said at the time. The singer had also been due to perform a new song, called Don't Cry Alone, at The Titanic Requiem concert.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, the song that broke The Smiths up!

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