Sunday, April 08, 2012

Week Sixteen: It May Never Be The Same Again

Three Doctor Who stories have been nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The scripts for the Neil Gaiman's The Doctor's Wife and Tom MacRae's The Girl Who Waited, will compete against showrunner Steven Moffat's A Good Man Goes To War for the award which will be presented at Chicon 7 to be held in Chicago at the end of August. Doctor Who has won five previous Hugo Awards with Steven Moffat winning for The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, while Russell Davies and Phil Ford won for The Waters of Mars. The awards are given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.

Meanwhile, several national newspapers (like this one, for instance) have printed a series of location photos from what they claim to be Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill's 'final story' in the new series of Doctor Who. Actually, this blogger thinks these are actually from episode one of the new series rather than episode five which is what they're filming at the moment. However, I could be wrong. It has been known. Time will tell. It usually does.
The BBC is demanding that a Virgin Media television advert featuring David Tennant is 'pulled off air' because, they argue, it is trying to cash in on the success of Doctor Who. Well, according to the Daily Scum Mail, anyway, so it's probably all a load of old made-up bollocks. 'Bosses' (er, that's 'executives' to me and you, and anyone else who uses words with more than two syllables) are said to be 'furious' that the rival broadcaster has included references to the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama in its new commercial for its TiVo on-demand TV service. They say they have not given clearance for the references and have written to Virgin 'insisting that the campaign be suspended.' The BBC, of course, has strict rules to prohibit the exploitation of its programmes, brands and characters by any third parties. In the advert, launched last week, Tennant – who played The Doctor between 2005 and 2010 – appears as himself. He explains the TiVo service now features a function allowing viewers to search for programmes by an actor's name. He then calls up a list of his old shows and selects the Doctor Who section. While Tennant is talking, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is shown carrying out repairs to the 'Virgin Time Machine'. In a comic twist, the beardy tycoon becomes trapped in the machine and then reappears as his younger self. BBC guidelines state: 'We should ensure that the BBC brand is not used to endorse outside companies or organisations. We can achieve this by ensuring commercial advertising, promotion and press releases by outside companies do not give the impression of BBC endorsement, and advertising does not "pass off" BBC programmes.' A Virgin Media spokesman confirmed the company was 'talking' to the BBC about the advert. But she said it was less about Doctor Who and more to do with Branson's 'fascination with exploration and travel.'

The Voice continued to attract massive overnight ratings for the BBC on Saturday. BBC1's new talent show attracted four million more than Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' Britain's Got Talent when the pair went head-to-head between 8pm and 8.20pm. The Voice's average audience during this period was ten million compared to Britain's Got Talent's six million. Overall, the third blind audition episode of The Voice averaged 9.54m from 7pm, peaking with a colossal 10.55m around 7.45pm. The Voice gained half-a-million viewers for the second week running and has now found over a million new viewers since its launch episode a fortnight ago. Britain's Got Talent pulled in an average of 9.43m for ITV from 8pm, peaking with 10.26m at 8.45pm, eight hundred and fifty thousand viewers down on the previous week. It, just, managed to score more viewers than The Voice overall when ITV+1 numbers were included. But, as previously noted, it's going to be difficult for ITV to spin these numbers as anything less than a victory of the BBC. They set out, by having BGT start on the same night as The Voice, to destroy the BBC format at birth. Anything less than a complete massacre in favour of the established format was going to be seen as the BBC's victory even if (as on the last two weeks) slightly more people actually watched the ITV show. It's now backfired on them and the tabloids, it seems, sense blood. Across primetime, BBC1 beat ITV for the third week - something almost unique on a week when one of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' shows was the centre piece of ITV's night. The BBC had 26.9 per cent of the audience share versus ITV's 23.5 per cent.

Anyway, here's yer next batch of Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 14 April
As you haven't had quite enough of the Titanic over the last few weeks, dear blog reader (and, if you haven't, then what the bloody hell is wrong with you? It sank, all right. It was very sad but, jeez, it happened a hundred years ago) then Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film - BBC2 8:30 is likely to be right up your straße. John Humphrys marks the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic in a live show from Belfast's Waterfront Hall, in which music and documentary footage are used to tell the story of the ill-fated liner. Imelda Staunton and Simon Callow read material drawn from survivors' accounts and newspaper reports from 1912, while musician (and tiny little dwarf) Jamie Cullum explores the importance of music on board the ship. Also includes performances by Bryan Ferry, Joss Stone, Nicola Benedetti, Alfie Boe, Charlie Siem, Maverick Sabre, the Ulster Orchestra, and the debut of Titanic Drums, an original composition featuring one hundred traditional drummers from across Ireland. All right, that actually sounds quite good. I might give that one a shot. But then, I have been avoiding both Lord Snooty's Titanic and Len Goodman's Titanic like the plague so I'm coming to this relatively fresh.

There's a new series of The Cube (or, you know, in a really portentous voice "THE CUUUUUUBE") - ITV 9:15 immediately after the latest episode of Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced Scottish chef of Crossroads' Britain's Got Toilets. Another night of quality entertainment on ITV, dear blog reader. The channel that once produced The Avengers and World in Action and Rising Damp. Insert your own punchline here. Paramedic Alan and fitness expert Jodie take part in the game show, aiming to complete tasks within the confines of the cube to win a jackpot of two hundred and fifty thousand knicker. Each player has nine lives and must complete up to seven challenges, ranging from agility tests to skill trials. Phillip Schofield presents. Thankful, no doubt, to be presenting an ITV primetime weekend format on his own and without the dubious aid of a Curiously Orange helper.

The final round of blind auditions - the last chance for the remaining hopefuls to win a place on the coaches' teams - occurs in The Voice - BBC1 7:00. Once Tom Jones, Jessie J, Will.i.am and ... the other one have chosen their final ten, they will train them in readiness for next week's battle rounds. Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates are backstage with the singers and their families.

Forget the verdant peaks of New Zealand. When JRR Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings it was, apparently, Iceland that he visualised for the landscapes of Middle Earth. It's easy to see why: immense glaciers, boiling springs, giant clouds of steam and sulphuric gas, saw-toothed crevasses in which lava bubbles far below. Technically speaking, much of this didn't actually exist in Tolkien's day, for Julia Bradbury has chosen to climb the newest landscape on earth: the volcano which grounded airlines in Europe last year after it spewed ash into the atmosphere. 'It makes you want to cry,' sighs the divine Julia at one point, clearly overcome. That'll be James May's tire-tracks that she's following in the footsteps thereof. In Julia Bradbury's Iceland Walk - BBC4 8:00 - the presenter embarks on a thirty eight-mile journey along Iceland's most famous hiking route. She navigates daunting mountain climbs, red-hot lava fields, freezing river crossings and deadly clouds of sulphuric gas to reach the volcanic crater at the centre of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. Spectacular. And, that's not just the scene in which yer actual Jules gets her bikini on and goes swimming. Although, that's very nice as well!

Sunday 15 April
Jake Humphrey presents action from the grand prix of the season, staged at the Shanghai International Circuit in Formula One - BBC2 7:00. This year's drivers' championship looks to be wide open, with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel struggling to match his dominance of last season, and McLaren, Sauber and Ferrari all recording confidence-boosting results in the opening two races in Australia and Malaysia. Will Jenson or Lewis be in with a shout at this one? With commentary by Ben Edwards and David Coulthard, and analysis from the great Eddie Jordan. Followed, marvellously, by a Top Gear compilation (last in the current series). Stick that in yer exhaust pipe, hippy Gruniad readers.

In the opening episode of the latest Silent Witness two-parter - BBC1 9:00 - Nikki is furious with Leo when he re-examines a child abuse case by her former mentor, leading to conflict between the pathologists. But she soon has more to worry about when a workman at the centre reveals how his mother is being manipulated by a convicted serial killer into searching for his hidden teenage victims. Emilia Fox, William Gaminara and Tom Ward star, with Rakie Ayola, Pooky Quesnel and James Cosmo.

Stephen Mulhern hosts quite possibly the single most risible, odious and wretched idea for a TV format in the entire history of risible, odious and wretched TV formats. Including Don't Scare The Hare. And The Ludicrous Ms Dahl. The Big Quiz: Benidorm v Essex - ITV 8:00 - is, as the title suggests a (mercifully) one-off quiz in which several of the cast of the hit comedy drama Benidorm - Jake Canuso, Crissy Rock, Janine Duvitski and Shelley Longworth - take on Joey Essex, Lauren Goodger, James Argent and Gemma Collins from the reality show The Only Way Is Essex. None of whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping has the faintest idea of whom they, actually, are and what they do to justify their existence or their share of the world's oxygen. The contestants 'face questions on memorable moments from both programmes.' Yeah, I'll definitely go out of my way to watch this one.

Brody resolves to finish his mission after trying to sever his ties with Abu Nazir, only to find himself reliving his time in captivity and painfully reminded of a tragic loss in the ninth episode of Homeland - Channel Four 9:00. Carrie, meanwhile, becomes embroiled in a public-relations nightmare following the mosque shooting, and when Estes refuses her radical plan to get the Imam to talk, she finds answers in an unexpected place. Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and David Harewood star.

In the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0 - Sky1 9:00 - the team investigates when a woman is murdered in a hotel during a black-tie charity event. However, the killer is being protected in the Russian consulate and, after efforts to lure him out, one member of Five-0 is forced to resign. Crime drama, starring Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.

Monday 16 April
The historian Dominic Sandbrook was once described by Charles Shaar Murray as 'the Hoodie historian, throwing whatever passes for gang signs in the history department of the University of Sheffield.' He has, however, written several brilliant, readable, histories of the sixties and seventies (White Heat, State of Emergency, Mad As Hell). Now the BBC have given Sandbrook the opportunity to go back forty years to present a fresh look at The 70s - BBC2 9:00. He begins with the years 1970 to 1972, from the housing boom that led to the creation of new towns, through the arrival of thousands of Ugandan Asians seeking shelter from General Idi Amin to the 1972 miners' strike. He also touches on the political battle over Europe, the growth of package holidays, the popularity of Marc Bolan and David Bowie, and how the latter's androgynous persona inspired a new type of male fashion. Of course, as previously discussed on this blog, at length, the seventies was rubbish to live through if you happened to be a ten year old on a council estate in Newcastle. So, let's store all this cosy nostalgia in a place marked 'bollocks' and stick to reality.

Rachel meets Sean's son, who turns out to be an eight-year-old version of his dad, and the idea of becoming a stepmother puts her further off the idea of marriage than she was before - not that she even agreed in the first place in Scott & Bailey - ITV 9:00. Meanwhile, Andy asks Janet out for a drink, but when she turns him down he accuses her of leading him on. A woman in a sexy cop's uniform turns up dead, and the DCI assumes the killer was her lover - the question is, which one of her many lovers was it? And to add to the mystery, why was her face painted green?

Professor Robert Bartlett explores the variation in thought between the Middle Ages and the present day, beginning with the basic cornerstone of the rational mind - knowledge in Inside the Medieval Mind - BBC4 8:00. For hundreds of years, the ability to learn from literature remained almost exclusively in the hands of monastic orders, but this monopoly came under threat with the discovery of such classical works as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

In Dara O Briain: School of Hard Sums - Dave 8:00 - the comedian and former maths and theoretical physics student is joined by guests from the world of comedy to come up with answers to a variety of unusual and everyday problems. The Irish comedian and broadcaster, of course, studied maths and theoretical physics at University College, Dublin and now he's on a mission to use all his knowledge and intuition to solve some very tasty real-world brainteasers and conundrums. Dara (alongside Oxford University maths professor and Horizon regular Marcus du Sautoy) uses maths, physics, chemistry, logic and all those hidden mechanics of the world we don't see. Or, are too distracted by the football to solve problems. Each episode in this eight-part series is themed and Dara, along with comedy guests like David O'Docherty, Andi Osho, Alex Horne, Simon Evans and Jason Byrne, dissect each conundrum and find out guaranteed ways to solve them. In this episode, the conundrums they tackle in the series include the best way to save a drowning man and how to get the most slices out of a pizza that can only be cut three times.

Tuesday 17 April
Leanne's past catches up with her and she is thrown into a panic when Stacey goes missing - and Stuart's attempts to help only cause domestic problems of his own in The Syndicate - BBC1 9:00. Bob has flown out to South Africa in the hope of prolonging his life, a budding romance helps to heal Denise's wounds and Jamie uses his winnings to enter the erotic-dancing business. But things begin to look bleak for the brothers when one of the women thinks she may have worked out the robbers' identities. Drama, starring Joanna Page, Matthew McNulty, Lorraine Bruce, Tim Spall and Matthew Lewis.

In late 2010 Mary Beard - the Professor of Classics at Cambridge and a fellow of Newnham College - made a little documentary for BBC2, Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town. It did exactly what it said on the tin, bringing the ancient city to life and was, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the best one-off history documentaries produced by British TV in the last decade. Maybe longer. It was terrific, dear blog reader and, if you missed it, you missed a bloody treat. Well, Mary's back, taking a fresh look at the history of the Romans and what they did for us, putting aside the bloody stories of emperors and armies to learn about the ordinary Roman on the ordinary Roman street in Meet the Romans with Mary Beard - BBC2 9:00. Her travels take her from the Via Appia roadway, originally built in 312BC, to the Colosseum and Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill made of broken crockery. Along the way, she tells the stories of a slave-turned-baker who made a fortune out of the grain trade, building his tomb in the shape of a giant bread-oven, three prisoners of war and a purple-dye seller whose raw material was imported from Tunisia.

Russell and the team are taken aback by the unusually precise methods used to murder a woman and discover the victim's identity from an implant in her corpse in Freaks & Geeks, the latest episode of CSI - Channel Five 9:00. The evidence leads them to a travelling freak show where she performed as a 'human candelabra' - but as the investigation continues, another of her former colleagues is found dead.
Guest starring the great Kevin McNally from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Rory McGrath, Paul Blinkhorn and the 'time, gentleman please' team (ho-ho!) dig up the car park of the Six Bells pub in St Albans, Hertfordshire, searching for Roman treasure in Rory McGrath's Pub Dig - Channel Five 8:00. And, thankfully, it's not on opposite Mary Beard's documentary as that might've been seen as somewhat competitive scheduling. Mercifully, dear blog reader, you can watch both without resorting your recording devices and using them, wisely. Anyway, back to Rory and Paul diggin' it up. Sounds like a decent excuse to build up a thirst. The have high hopes of a good find as the pub lies within the walls of the ancient town of Verulamium and begin by drilling down through two thousand years of history. They discover an Eighteenth Century lime-kiln, evidence of medieval pilgrimages and even a recipe for nettle beer, before unearthing a find beyond their wildest expectations that gets the archaeologists very excited indeed.

If you're looking for something to use you recording devices wisely for tonight then can I suggest a repeat, but a very worthy one. In Frank Skinner on George Formby - BBc4 9:00 - the West Bromie comedian and wit puts a positive spin on his film biography of one of his heroes, the 1930s music hall and movie star George Formby, whose little banjolele strumming and saucy songs full of positively filthy double entendre kept British audiences smiling through the Second World War. Although, arguably, not if a bomb dropped on their street. If hard to smile when you're under five ton of rubble, no matter how much fun 'Leaning on a Lamppost' is. True story. George's was a life full of fascination but Skinner scoots through much of the detail. In a film of more diversions than the M6, Skinner learns how to make a little stick of Blackpool rock and talks about his hero to a class of delightfully brattish schoolchildren, who greet him with: 'Good morning, Mr Frank Skinner.' Sweet, rather like the programme, actually. Frank presents his profile of the entertainer, who was arguably the biggest star in Britain during the 1930s and 40s. He explores why Formby's films and records enjoyed unprecedented commercial success both in the UK and abroad, and performs a selection of the songs that made him famous - as well as investigating the circumstances surrounding his sudden death.

Wednesday 18 April
As Finn retaliates against Tariq's crew, Michael installs extra security to deal with the escalating gang violence in Waterloo Road - BBC1 8:00. But when the funding is cut, he is told the school's future is under threat - just as former pupil Lorraine reminds him about her job offer in Glasgow. So, it's probably just as well, they're all moving to Scotland from the week after next, isn't it? Scout prepares to marry asylum-seeking pupil Danilo, only to call the wedding off after seeing him flirting with Emily. Grantly feels guilty after waking up with Maggie, and Zack struggles to cope now his father has gone.

Elizabeth Taylor: Auction of a Lifetime - Channel Four 9:00 - is an exploration of the actress's life through some of her most treasured possessions as they are sold at auction in London and New York, in some cases for fifty times their pre-sale estimates. The documentary provides an insight into the star's love of jewellery and diamonds and her tumultuous lifestyle off-screen. Includes interviews with Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli and Mickey Rooney as well as some of Taylor's favourite designers, who worked for houses such as Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior and Valentino.

In Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - Sky Atlantic 8:00 - the food writer visits Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, and discovers its streets are home to a diverse range of cultures and high-quality dining.

Another repeat that's probably worthy of a bit of your time if you missed it first time around is Wild Swimming - BBC4 11:00 - in which the Goddess of punk archaeology Dr Alice Roberts embarks on 'a personal quest' to discover what lies behind the new-found passion for swimming in the wild that is said to be 'sweeping Britain.' Can't say I've noticed this huge trend myself. Possibly I just move in the wrong circles. Anyway, Alice follows in the wake (if you will) of Waterlog, the classic swimming text written by the late journalist and author, Roger Deakin. Along the way Alice becomes aware that she is not alone on her watery journey. She visits rivers and underground lakes and, memorably, gets her kit off and taking a skinny dip in a moorland pool. Tasty.
Thursday 19 April
9/11: The Lost Tapes - Channel Four 9:00 - features newly released audio recordings which offer a moving insight into the moments leading up to the terrorist attacks, and the reaction of air-traffic controllers and military commands after the hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Featuring testimonies from those who appear on the tapes, the recordings reveal detailed accounts of the chaos and confusion wrought by the strikes.

Director Lindy Wilson explores the life of her uncle Roger Bushell, an RAF squadron leader during the Second World War, who served as the basis for Richard Attenborough's character in the 1963 film The Great Escape in Storyville: The Real Great Escape - BBC4 9:00. Despite being threatened with execution by the Gestapo after escaping from two other German prison camps, he agreed to organise a plot that saw seventy six Allied soldiers break out of Stalag Luft III in March 1944. It would've been a lot more if that stupid Nigel Stock hadn't tripped over his own feet on the way to the trees. By the way, have you ever noticed, dear blog reader, that Steve McQueen on his motorbike manages to get from Poland to the border of Switzerland faster than Jim Rockford and Donald Pleasence get there in a plane? I'm just sayin', that bike must've have some turbocharger on it. Anyway, it is claimed that Adolf Hitler personally ordered the brutal retribution on that that got caught after Gordon Jackson's elementary schoolboy error when getting on the bus and answering the Gestapo man in English.

In Playhouse Presenters - Sky Arts 1 9:00 - Paul O'Grady and Sheila Hancock star in a comedy drama, Nellie & Melba, co-written by O'Grady and Sandi Toksvig, about a mother and son who both harbour seemingly hopeless dreams of stardom. A talent contest at their local pub provides them with a shot at glory - but the evening takes an unexpected twist. With Rosie Cavaliero.
Russell Howard's Good News is back - BBC3 9:00 - and, the comedian - who used to be really funny on Mock The Week but now, isn't, offers his perspective on stories dominating the media, whether TV, online or print, as well as picking up on overlooked items that 'raise a smile.' it says here. He is joined by a mystery guest who has featured in the news, while members of the audience are invited onto The People's Podium, and the show ends with a heart-warming tale.

Friday 20 April
Once again, Friday night is comedy night on the BBC. Starting with, probably, the best comedy programme on TV at the moment. Team captain David Mitchell is joined by TV presenter Richard Madeley and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, while his counterpart Lee Mack welcomes naturalist Kate Humble and comedian Miles Jupp in the latest episode of Would I Like To You? - BBC1 8:30. Host Rob Brydon oversees the comedy panel show as the contestants try to hoodwink their opponents with absurd facts and plausible lies about themselves.

The hilarity simply never ends on BBC1 on Friday nights. Well, not until The Ten O'Clock News comes on, anyway. Immediately after Would I Lie To You? there's Have I Got News For You at 9:00. Comedienne Jo Brand guest-hosts the satirical current affairs quiz, with regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton joined by celebrity panellists to poke fun at the stories that have made the news this week.

After half-an-hour break, Lee Mack returns at 9:30 in Not Going Out. Lee is looking forward to a lazy weekend when his dad turns up on the doorstep, looking for somewhere to stay having just come out of hospital - and in need of someone to care for him. Yer actual Bobby Ball ('Rock on, Tommy!') guest stars, with Tim Vine and Sally Bretton.

Or, if you prefer a decent slab of yer actual dub sounds, an' ting, ya Rass clot, BBC4 have a very welcome repeat of the excellent Reggae Britannia - 9:00.
Examining the influence of the genre on the music and society since its arrival in the UK in the 1960s, and celebrating the changes it brought and its legacy. The programme features footage of performances by artists including Big Youth, Max Romeo, Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Specials, UB40 and Dennis Bovell. And, unfortunately, The Police. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is completely with Elvis Costello on this score. 'The Police would be really good if only Sting didn't try to sing in that ridiculous Jamaican accent.' Although, actually, on reflection, I'd lose the last five words and merely make it 'The Police would be really good if only Sting didn't try to sing.' Yeah, that sounds about right. Remember, dear blog reader, make Sting history.

And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader, so to the news: Current TV is facing further woes as Keith Olbermann is suing the US network for fifty million bucks, after hitting out at 'shoddy equipment' and 'poor leadership' at the broadcaster. Olbermann filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in Los Angeles, requesting that a judge rules his former employer 'violated' his agreement by revealing the value of his contract. The former MSNBC talk show host also wants it to be shown that he did not 'disparage' the network before his firing, reports Associated Press. Olbermann's lawsuit fires a series of pointed barbs at Current co-founder Joel Hyatt and network president David Borman, claiming they were responsible for 'many of the problems' on his Countdown show. A spokesperson for Current TV declined to comment on the lawsuit, which comes around a week after Olbermann was fired from Countdown. The suit states that 'Current's dysfunction permeated all levels of the organisation.' It adds: 'After being on the air for nearly eight months - long after all "growing pains" should have ceased - Current still couldn't manage to, literally, keep the lights on.' Olbermann's complaint lists a range of technical issues, including substandard equipment which would not operate in the rain, broken teleprompters and malfunctioning earpieces. He also hits out at the 'terrible sound and filming' of the show and cites instances of guests 'abruptly falling off air.' Olbermann claims that he could be owed more than seventy million dollars by Current TV. According to the filing, he has 'an ownership stake' in the network. 'Olbermann deeply regrets his decision to put his trust in Hyatt and Gore,' the lawsuit says. 'Current had neither the desire nor the ability to produce a first rate news commentary show. Olbermann did not join Current to ruin his hard-won reputation and appear on a show that was an embarrassment.' Current TV fired Olbermann on 30 March and replaced his programme with a new show hosted by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. In a statement at the time, Gore and co-owner Joel Hyatt said their relationship with Olbermann 'no longer reflected' the station's values of 'respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. We are moving ahead by honouring Current's values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily - especially now, during the presidential election campaign,' they added. 'Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.' However, Olbermann accuses Hyatt in his lawsuit of erratic leadership of the network, saying that Hyatt threatened to fire him days before Countdown premiered. He also describes Hyatt and Gore as 'dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.' Current TV is also facing problems in the UK after it was dropped from the pay-TV line-up of the part-Rupert Murdoch owned satellite broadcaster Sky, putting its future as a channel here in serious doubt. The move came within months of Sky Italia also controversially dropping the network in Italy, leading to claims that Murdoch was 'victimising' Current TV for the initial decision to hire the left-leaning Olbermann, who has often criticised Murdoch's media empire.

A leading US conservative magazine, The National Review, has fired a prominent contributor over a spectacularly nasty and ignorant online column advising children to 'protect themselves' by avoiding African Americans, to 'closely scrutinise' black politicians and to 'accept that white people are more intelligent.' John Derbyshire wrote the offending article, The Talk: Nonblack Version, as a response to widespread debate over 'the talk' that many African American parents give their teenage sons about racism in America following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Derbyshire's column appeared in another publication, Taki's Magazine, run by the right-wing Greek socialite Taki Theodoracopulos, who has himself faced accusations of racism and is a self-confessed anti-semite. Although The National Review had no editorial responsibility for Derbyshire's article, it said he was 'so closely associated' with the magazine that his 'outlandish, nasty and indefensible' writing was, in effect, 'a letter of resignation.' Derbyshire, who has previously described himself - seemingly seriously - as 'a racist and homophobe', wrote the column in the form of 'advice' to his white teenage children on how to 'stay safe' when around African Americans. Among other things he says they should 'stay out of heavily black neighborhoods' and 'not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks. If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks,' Derbyshire wrote. 'If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.' He also says not to live in an area run by African American politicians and to 'scrutinise' black politicians more closely than white ones. Derbyshire goes on to write that 'the mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites.' He says that many black people only have 'cognitively demanding jobs' because of affirmative action. Hang on, can I just check, this is still 2012 isn't it? I haven't slipped through the time vortex to Alabama in the 1960s, have I? Many of Derbyshire's points are linked to newspaper stories about crimes involving African American perpetrators. The article prompted a barrage of accusations of racism and would, arguably, have opened Derbyshire to prosecution for hate crimes if he'd been based in Britain. Elspeth Reeve, writing for the Atlantic, called Derbyshire's article 'race-baiting. You're probably familiar with the phrase "No offense, but …", which always precedes something offensive wrapped in an "I'm just telling it like it is" attitude. In certain parts of the country, there's a similar use of the phrase, "I'm not racist, but …", which always signifies that the speaker is about to say something racist. Derbyshire's speciality is the fancy-pants version of "I'm not racist, but …"' Reeve wrote. However, Reeve also writes for Taki's Magazine, where Derbyshire's article remains online despite the uproar. The National Review – founded by the conservative author William Buckley in 1955 and which describes itself as 'America's most influential conservative magazine' – finally bowed to the rising tide of criticism as even its own writers turned on Derbyshire. The magazine's online editor, Jonah Goldberg, tweeted that the article was 'fundamentally indefensible and offensive. I wish he hadn't written it,' he said. The National Review's editor, Rich Lowry, initially distanced the magazine from Derbyshire by calling his article 'appalling.' But as the criticism continued to build, he went further on Saturday. Lowry praised 'Derb', as he called him, as 'a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer.' But he said that the article in Taki's Magazine 'went too far. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is, effectively, using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we'd never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways,' he said. Derbyshire has a reputation for expressing views 'apparently intended to provoke.' Three years ago he wrote a chapter in a book arguing against women having the right to vote. His other targets have included immigrants, gay people and liberals. The focus will now be on how Taki's Magazine handles the controversy. Theodoracopulos, who also founded the American Conservative magazine, is no stranger to controversy over race and is perhaps less likely to bow to the demands to sack Derbyshire.

A man has been charged over an incident which led to the one hundred and fifty eighth University Boat Race being halted. The Oxford and Cambridge boats were side-by-side after ten minutes and thirty seconds when the race was stopped. After a thirty minutes delay the race was re-started. Trenton Oldfield, thirty five, of Whitechapel, will appear at Feltham Magistrates' Court on 23 April charged under the Public Order Act. Cambridge went on to win the race with relative ease after Oxford broke an oar in a clash moments after the resumption, but the drama continued after the race. Oxford bowman Dr Alex Woods collapsed in the boat after they had crossed the line and was transferred to the race launch for medical treatment, before being taken to Charing Cross Hospital. His condition is described as stable. The traditional post-race presentation ceremony was abandoned out of respect for Woods. A closely fought race had looked to be heading for an exciting finish going into the final bend, only for a man wearing a black wetsuit to swim in front of the boats and narrowly avoid being hit by the oars of the Oxford crew. 'They almost took his head off,' said Sergeant Chris Tranter of the Metropolitan Police. Race umpire John Garrett halted the race after his assistant, the four-time Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent, spotted the protester in the water just after the crews had passed Chiswick Steps. Garrett told BBC Sport: 'It was totally unbelievable. We are grateful to Matthew for spotting the swimmer. We thought it was some debris, then we realised it was a swimmer. I wasn't sure if he was going to get out of the way in time, it was quite clear he was waiting for the boats to come across him, so I just had to stop the race. Last year there was the possibility of swimmers in the water and we discussed it. This year it was not something we were expecting at all. It was a great shame because the race was developing into an excellent contest.' Pinsent added: 'It's not ideal but given those circumstances what could we do? It's a safety issue. Fortunately we spotted him and stopped the race. We couldn't possibly have carried on.' The last time the race had to be restarted was in 2001 when there was a clash of blades. The two boats headed back to the halfway point and the race restarted, but Oxford's Hanno Wienhausen broke his oar in a clash with Cambridge and the contest was effectively over as eight men took on seven. Sean Bowden, Oxford coach, said: 'Obviously our biggest concern is Alex's welfare and it was good to see that he was conscious and taken off to hospital with good care. The clash was obviously just one of those extremely unfortunate things. And the outcome of the crash was a broken blade. And I guess you can only imagine the desperation that Alex must have been in with only six crew mates left and that's probably how he ended up pushing himself beyond his limits.' Oxford had gone into the race as the defending champions, but Cambridge's victory extended their lead overall in the contest to eighty one to seventy six. 'It's not the way anyone wants to take away the win,' coach Steve Trapmore said. 'We're more worried about the Oxford boat right now and we'll reflect later on what's gone on.' Light Blues president Dave Nelson added: 'I feel bad. Finishing the race there was a lot of raw emotion and some of the celebrations seem pathetic in retrospect, but I wasn't aware of the broken oar and of Alex at the time. It was a dramatic race. We said through our whole campaign to expect the unexpected. That happened.' In a statement, the Boat Race Company Ltd said: 'First and foremost, we are delighted that Alex Woods is in a stable condition and looks set to make a full recovery. It is very sad that the one hundred and fifty eighth Boat Race, which was heading towards a thrilling finale, was disrupted by a member of the public in a manner that risked serious injury to himself and the competing crews. These incidents are planned for and we would like to congratulate both crews and the Race Umpire for their speed and professionalism in unfortunate circumstances as a result of which the protestor suffered no injuries.' Oldfield wrote in a blog ahead of his actions: 'This is a protest, an act of civil disobedience, a methodology or refusing and resistance. This act has employed guerrilla tactics. I am swimming into the boats in the hope I can stop them from completing the race and proposing the return of surprise tactics. This is "peaceful." I have no weapons (don't shoot!) My only fear, is not swimming fast enough to get in the right position to prevent the boats.' The lengthy statement appeared on his website, entitled 'Elitism Leads to Tyranny', which discusses civil disobedience tactics. Oldfield, who studied contemporary urbanism (whatever the hell that is) at the London School of Economics, is apparently a former employee of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. He is also joint co-ordinator of a not-for-profit organisation called This Is Not A Gateway, which 'creates platforms for critical projects and ideas related to cities.' No, I'm still none-the-wiser. According to the website, he has worked for more than a decade in 'non-governmental organisations specialising in urban renewal, cultural and environmental programmes.'

The Liberal Democrats would 'kill' plans for more monitoring of e-mails and Internet usage if they were not watered down, the party's president has said. Tim Farron told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show that he was prepared to look at draft legislation when it is published but would not back 'authoritarian' laws. The plans would allow government listening post GCHQ to monitor Internet traffic in real time. The Home Office has said the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism. Under the proposed Bill, Internet firms would be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ real-time access to communications on demand. Although intelligence officers would not be able to access the content of e-mails, calls or messages without a warrant, it would allow them to identify who an individual was in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited. The government has faced criticism over the plans, announced last week. Some senior Conservatives joined Lib Dems and civil rights campaigners to warn the proposals would cause an intrusion into freedom and privacy. Farron told the BBC: 'I am prepared to recognise that there is obviously a need in modern society with new technology to have a look at what needs to be given to the security services, but only if it is absolutely clear there is no universal access. But we are prepared to kill [the plans], be absolutely clear about that, if it comes down to it. If we think this is a threat to a free and liberal society then there would be no question of unpicking them or compromising, this just simply must not happen.' The Lib Dem president said he would be 'surprised' if the Bill ended up looking 'anything like the press reports we have had this week.' He said he felt that a government which includes Liberal Democrats 'should ensure that Britain ends up a more liberal place, not less.' Attempts by the last Labour government to bring in monitoring of Internet communications failed after opposition from MPs, including many Conservatives.

Two artefacts valued at £1.8m have been stolen from Durham University's Oriental Museum in a night-time raid. Thieves got into the museum's Malcolm MacDonald Gallery late on Thursday, escaping with an Eighteenth Century jade bowl and porcelain sculpture. Museum officials described the objects as 'highly significant' examples of the Qing Dynasty. Two men and a woman have been arrested in the West Midlands in connection with the burglary. They have been brought to a Durham police station for questioning. The two artefacts have not been recovered. Detective Chief Inspector Traci McNally said: 'We are still trying to locate several outstanding suspects in relation to this investigation. We believe those individuals would be aware of the police investigation and would urge them to contact Durham Police on 101 without delay.' Both stolen items are from the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in China, which ruled from 1644 to 1911. The large green jade bowl, dating from 1769, is from the collection of Sir Charles Hardinge, a British collector of jades and hardstones. A Chinese poem is written inside. The thieves also took a Dehua porcelain sculpture, with a cream white glaze, of seven fairies in a boat, which is about eleven inches in both height and length. A spokeswoman for Durham Police said the estimated value of both pieces was £1.8m. She said it was possible the items had been stolen to order for a foreign collector. Museum curator Dr Craig Barclay said: 'We are extremely upset to have fallen victim to such a serious crime. The two pieces are highly significant in that they are fine examples of artefacts from the Qing Dynasty in the mediums of porcelain and hard stone. We very much hope that police will be able to recover them and we urge anybody who may have any information about their whereabouts to contact the police immediately.' The museum will be closed until further notice. Dr Barclay added: 'We are very sorry that our customers have been affected by this incident and intend to reopen as soon as possible.' The university has been targeted by art thieves in the past, most notably when a rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio was taken in 1998. County Durham antiques dealer Raymond Scott was later convicted of handling stolen goods. He was found dead in prison earlier this year.

The Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole has reportedly decided to drop her surname in her professional life. The singer, whose new single 'Call My Name' will be debut later this month, will simply be known as Cheryl when she releases her new material from now on. 'Cheryl is beginning a new chapter in her life so she doesn't want to be associated with negative stuff from the past,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the alleged tabloid, the Sun. 'She's not removing Cole legally, it's just a career statement. She's in a really good place at the moment and wants to take life by the balls. She can't wait to start performing live again and her new stage name has given her comeback an extra bit of spice.' Right. Yeah. Okay. Whatever.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day continues young Lee's punishment for daring to diss the mighty Wings. Here's a twenty-four carat disco masterpiece for a kick-off. The extra long version, an'all, just for added spite!
'I did get Paul McCartney out of Wings.'
'You idiot! He was the most talented one!'

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