Friday, June 22, 2012

One Bleak Friday

Let's start off with a couple of snatches of Doctor Who news. Karen Gillan won the award for Scottish Fashion Icon of the Year at this year's Scottish Fashion Awards. For there is, indeed, such a thing. On the red carpet beforehand the actress had said: 'It would be a huge honour to win an award like that and really unexpected. I honestly didn’t think I would be nominated for anything wearing the clothes I wear.' Talking about her departure from Doctor Who she said: 'It was so sad. It was this bittersweet thing 'cause I'm really excited to move onto other things, I'm actually going on to do a film in Glasgow which I'm really excited about, but yeah it was so sad because I'm leaving my best friends in a weird way.' The actress also made an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival in order to promote her forthcoming film, Not Another Happy Ending. Meanwhile, Karen's former co-star Arthur Darvill is to star in the West End production of Jonathan Lewis's award-winning play Our Boys alongside Laurence Fox and Cian Barry. The play is a candid account of the tedium, terror and tribulations suffered by five young soldiers recovering from injuries incurred in the line of duty. But when their daily routine of TV, lonely hearts ads and banter is interrupted by the arrival of an unwelcome authority figure, their unlikely camaraderie gives way to betrayal, accusations and all-out war. The play opens at the Duchess Theatre on 3 October, with previews from 26 September.

Meanwhile, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before he) has explained to Entertainmentwise how he approaches writing: 'I never make a note of anything, I never even write a plot down. I have a terrible superstition of writing things down. I have to write in sequence and only in sequence.'

The first quarter final of Euro 2012 dominated primetime on Thursday evening, despite being a piss-poor advert for the tournament and, indeed, the sport, the latest overnight data indicates. BBC1's coverage of the - dire - Czech Republic versus Portugal, hosted by Gary Lineker, averaged 7.91m between 7.30pm and 10pm, peaking with over ten million viewers at 9.15pm. Question Time was watched by 2.71m at 10.35pm, up five hundred and sixty thousand viewers week-on-week. On ITV, a Lewis repeat gained 3.4m between 8pm and 10pm, prior to which an hour-long edition of Emmerdale cleared six million punters. Elsewhere, BBC2's The Men Who Made Us Fat climbed to a decent 2.04m at 9pm, then Mock the Week achieved 1.96m. Overall, BBC1 gave ITV a damned good thrashing in primetime with thirty per cent versus seventeen per cent of the audience share.

The ONE Show may have a reshuffle in its weekly schedule later this year. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen is reportedly planning changes in order to compete with ITV in the autumn, according to the Sun. So, this is probably all bollocks, then. The show's hour-long episode may move from Fridays to Wednesdays, to face-off against Coronation Street. ITV is moving its Thursday edition of the popular soap to Wednesdays as its Champions League coverage shifts to Tuesdays from the autumn. The ONE Show's potential move to Wednesdays is said to be due to being no EastEnders to compete against its rival soap on that night. Chris Evans may receive a pay cut if the move takes place, as he will not move to Wednesdays, and his Friday show will be halved in length. An alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'Moving the Friday episode to a Wednesday would see Chris's work cut in half so his pay would reflect that.' An alleged 'BBC insider' allegedly said that 'talks will be held' with Evans if the changes were to take place.

Sky have commissioned a new eight-part drama for Sky1 set in a London fire station from the company behind [spooks], Hustle and Life on Mars. The Smoke will follow the lives of the members of White Watch and promises 'bigger explosions and fires than any other British drama' but with 'a strong emotional vein running through it.' It was one of two new dramas for Sky1 announced on Friday, along with Moonfleet, a two-part family drama adapted by Company Pictures from the classic John Meade Falkner story. The Smoke will be made by Kudos Film and TV, the Shine-owned independent producer with a long and successful track record of drama for the BBC and others. It is ten years since another drama set in a fire station,ITV's popular London's Burning, came to an end after a fourteen-year run. The commissions are part of Sky's commitment to increase spending on UK-originated content by fifty per cent to six hundred million smackers by 2014. Comedies Moone Boy, starring and co-written by Chris O'Dowd, and Charlie Brooker's detective spoof A Touch of Cloth have both been recommissioned for further series although neither first run has aired on Sky 1. Two more instalments of A Touch of Cloth, have been ordered. The series, starring John Hannah and Suranne Jones, will debut with a ninety-minute special in August. A second two-parter - currently titled Cloth Undercover - has already begun filming and is scheduled to broadcast in 2013. The third story - a two-hour TV film - has also been commissioned. Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adrian Bower, Navin Chowdhry and Daisy Beaumont also star in the series, along with guest stars Stephen Dillane and Anna Chancellor.

Mark Williams has been cast in a new BBC1 crime drama. The Fast Show and Harry Potter actor - soon to be seen in Doctor Who as Rory's dad - will lead the cast of Father Brown, which will begin a ten-part run next year. The series is based on the classic short stories by GK Chesterton, following a priest who accidentally finds himself as a crime detective. Father Brown is set in the parish of St Mary's Catholic Church in Kembleford in the Cotswolds. Each episode will see Father Brown investigate different crimes in the area, which all seem to fall into his lap. However serious the crime, he believes that there is always a scope for forgiveness and redemption. Father Brown will be assisted in each episode by Parish Secretary Mrs McCarthy (played by Sorcha Cusack) and the extravagant Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll). They are also joined by reformed criminal Sid Carter (Alex Price) and the priest's housekeeper Susie Jasinski (Kasia Koleczek). The Full Monty's Hugo Speer also joins the cast as Inspector Valentine, the head of the local police force. BBC's Daytime Controller Liam Keelan said of the new series: 'We're excited by the opportunity to bring a great literary character to life and to introduce a new original high quality drama to viewers on BBC Daytime.' Executive producer Will Trotter added: 'This wonderful series gives us a great opportunity to build on BBC Birmingham's drama expertise in creating popular returning period drama series, featuring lavish locations, classy artistes and telling compelling stories.' The character who first appeared in 1910's The Blue Cross - the first of fifty two short stories written by Chesterton - has previously been played in movies by Sir Alec Guinness and Walter Connolly and in a (very fine) 1974 ITV series adaptation (thirteen episodes) by Kenneth More.

A Muslim who admitted posting Internet threats against the creators of the South Park TV show has been sentenced to eleven years and six months in prison. Jesse Curtis Morton, thirty three, who founded the now-offline Revolution Muslim website, had already admitted using it for al-Qaeda propaganda. He conspired against South Park's writers after the show depicted the prophet Muhammad wearing a bear suit. Co-accused Zachary Chesser received a twenty five-year sentence in February. Chesser, a twenty-year-old American Muslim convert, was handed a stiffer sentence as he had twice tried to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabab, which the US designates as a terrorist group. The pair used their website to deliver thinly veiled threats against the creators of South Park, the popular satirical cartoon. Morton, a Muslim convert from New York, offered an apology for his conduct, saying he had 'contributed to a clash of civilisations' by 'espousing a violent ideology.' His lawyer had sought a prison term of less than five years. But prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said that Morton, arrested last year in Morocco, had abused his free speech protections by inciting murder. Summing up Morton's views, Kromberg said: 'Make a TV show we don't like - we'll slit your throat. Draw a cartoon we don't like - we'll slit your throat.'

US broadcasters have won the latest round in their ongoing bout with TV regulators over the limits of 'decency' on the small screen. In their judgment, the justices sided with FOX and ABC against the Federal Communication Commission gives the edge to the two broadcaster over the broadcasting of momentary expletives and nudity. But the ruling, issued eight votes to nil with Justice Sonya Sotomayor recusing herself, does nothing to change the fundamental constitutional limits of decency on daytime television as the court declined to consider the first amendment aspects of the case. The ruling related to two separate incidents in which the FCC moved against broadcasters for indecency transmitted before the 10pm watershed. The first concerned a FOX broadcasting of the Billboard Music Awards in 2002 in which Cher said 'fuck' on live TV, followed by a similar expletive by Nicole Richie at the same awards the following year. The second was a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue, in which the actress Charlotte Ross exposed her backside for seven seconds. Very nice it was too. In the outcome, the regulators fined ABC $1.4m for alleged 'indecency' but let FOX off with a reprimand. The supreme court found that in both cases the broadcasters had been given insufficient notice to be aware that they were in breach of the rules. Previous decisions by the FCC, the court noted, had taken no action against TV networks for isolated and brief moments of nudity. The author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote: 'Regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly; and precision and guidance are necessary so that those enforcing the law do not act in an arbitrary or discriminatory way. When speech is involved, rigorous adherence to those requirements is necessary to ensure that ambiguity does not chill protected speech.' Though FOX was not fined, the commission was still required to give fair notice because its censure of the network 'could also have an adverse impact on FOX's reputation with audiences and advertisers alike.' Especially as there are plenty of arseholes regularly seen on FOX news, for instance. The judgment amounts to a victory for the broadcasters, albeit a partial one. The court did not address the more fundamental issue of where the line should be drawn between free speech and the need to protect child viewers from indecency and, indeed, who it is that gets to decide where that line should be. The justices declined to consider the ruling of a lower court that the FCC had been acting unconstitutionally in breach of the first amendment. As a result, the rules return to the thirty four-year-old precedent set in FCC vs Pacifica. In that case, the supreme court rejected Pacifica's claim that its first amendment rights had been violated when it was censured by the FCC for having broadcast the notorious 'filthy words' monologue of the comedian George Carlin. Transmitted in the middle of the afternoon, Carlin recited a list of seven words that he predicted could never be said on television: "shit", "piss", "fuck", "cunt", "cocksucker", "motherfucker" and "tits." He was wrong, in that the routine was broadcast, but right in that in the ensuing legal action the supreme court allowed the FCC to insist such a conscious use of swear words was never repeated before 10pm over the public airways. Which is, of course, a right old of old wank.

Neil Gaiman, John Challis, Jon Culshaw, and Andrew Sachs are among the star names providing the Voice of the Book for The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show Live! which is currently on tour in the UK. The show re-creates the work by Douglas Adams. For more details on where and when the different voices are appearing, see the Hitchhiker's Live! website.

Jimmy Carr was roundly mocked over his involvement in a tax avoidance scheme on this week's Eight out of Ten Cats. The comic recently hit the headlines after it was revealed that he puts £3.3 million each year into an offshore tax shelter, which, despite being perfectly legal, still drew condemnation from the exceedingly rich Old Etonian prime minister, David Cameron. Carr, who hosts Channel Four's Eight out of Ten Cats, was the subject of a number of jokes at the latest taping of the topical panel show on Thursday from his colleagues. Team captain Sean Lock said: 'We all like to put a bit of money away for a rainy day, don't we? But I think you're more prepared than Noah.' Lock went on to ask the presenter if, when he discussed his financial affairs with his accountant, there was 'a thick pane of glass between the two of you. Did he have on a sort of boiler suit-type uniform? And a sort of brutal haircut? Because the best accountants, that's where they are - in jail,' he quipped. Commenting on what he immediately thought when he heard that Carr was on the front page of the papers, Lock added: 'I was expecting to see one of those white police tents in the background and a copper holding a laptop in a see-through carrier bag.' During the show's opening round What Are You Talking About?, Carr was forced to admit that he was this week's second most popular news story behind Euro 2012, prompting guest Georgie Thompson to note: 'On the plus side, at least you've been in a top five list of something.' Tragically, the episode was not remained One Out of Ten Cats (For Tax Purposes) for the week.

Meanwhile, one of the main sticks used to beat Jimmy Carr with over this affair is not that he did anything wrong, per se, but rather the hypocrisy card in that he had previously used the tax avoidance of banks as comic material during the last series of Ten O'Clock Live. Fair enough, I supposes, getting caught being hypocritical is hard to defend, something Jimmy Carr himself seemed to accept when Tweeting his mea culpa. So what, then, are we to make of David Cameron who has refused to be drawn on the controversy surrounding Gary Barlow's reported tax avoidance scheme? Take That members Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen are claimed to have invested a total of twenty six million quid in a tax shelter. However, Cameron - who was quick enough to condemn Jimmy Carr's tax arrangements just a day previously - chose not to comment about Barlow, who has recently received an OBE for services to licking royalty's arse. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday, the PM said: 'I am not going to give a running commentary on different people's tax affairs. I don't think that would be right. I made an exception because it was a very specific case where the details seemed to have been published and it was a particularly egregious example of an avoidance scheme that seemed to me to be wrong and I made that point.' The Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle argued: 'Oddly, [Mr Cameron] did not take the opportunity to condemn as morally repugnant the tax avoidance scheme used by Conservative supporter Gary Barlow, who has given a whole new meaning to the phrase Take That.' Nice one, Ange - do you want a slot on Mock The Week next Thursday? 'If [Barlow] is also morally repugnant, why has he been given an OBE in the Birthday Honours? Why is the Prime Minister's view of what's dodgy in the tax system so partial? Sir Philip Green has interesting tax arrangements but far from being labelled morally repugnant in a Mexico TV studio, he has got a Government review to head up.' A good question. Over to you on that one, Dave.
Greg Davies is to write and star in his own Channel Four comedy pilot. The stand-up, who portrayed headmaster Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners, will play a teacher who hates his job in Man Down, reports the Sun. Channel Four's comedy commissioning editor Nerys Evans said: 'Greg is in more ways than one a giant of British comedy. He has managed to write a joyfully funny, laugh-out-loud script. We're thrilled to be working with him on his first solo piece.' Jon Thoday of Avalon, which will produce the show, added: 'We are very excited to be part of bringing Greg's brilliant comic creation to Channel Four.' Davies will soon embark on a nationwide stand-up tour entitled The Back of My Mum's Head. The comic's previous tour Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog was extended three times and released on DVD last year. He is also due to star opposite former Saturday Night Live performer Andy Samberg in BBC3 sitcom Cuckoo.

Ex-News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks should know by the end of the summer whether she is to face further charges in relation to allegations of phone-hacking and illegal payments to public officials. Southwark crown court heard on Friday morning that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks is currently on bail until the end of July and a date in early August in relation to Scotland Yard investigations into alleged phone-hacking and police corruption, respectively. Brooks, forty four, her husband millionaire Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, forty nine, and four other people have also been charged with perverting the course of justice. They were bailed on these charges until 26 September, the date set by Justice Fulford for a plea hearing. Andrew Edis, prosecuting QC, said that in relation to the phone-hacking and police corruption allegations, although there were no 'definitive charging decisions' he was 'reasonably confident' that the Crown Prosecution Service would know which way it would proceed by the middle of August. Hugo Keith, QC for Brooks, said: 'It is a matter of public record that charges dates and bail dates loom.' But Keith added that all that is known so far is that files relating to unidentified people have been sent to the CPS. He also expressed concern about the amount of material on the Internet in relation to his client. What, like this you mean? Hey man, I just report the news. Brooks was the first defendant to arrive at court, greeted by a wall of about fifty photographers and camera crews at around 8.30am on Friday. Brooks emerged from the court two hours later to shouts from the photographers of 'Rebekah, Rebekah.' An ITN camerman was knocked to the ground and left with a bleeding head in the melee. Which is, of course, terribly sad. The former News International executive and confidant of billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch sat along with the five others in the glass-encased dock of court number four at Southwark crown court in central London throughout the thirty five minute hearing. The court was packed with barristers and journalists who filled the press, jury benches and the public gallery. She spoke just once, to confirm her name, and barely made eye contact with anyone in the court, flashing an occasional glance at her husband, a race horse trainer and 'friend of the prime minister.' (I wasn't aware that was an occupation but, apparently, these days, it is.) Brooks faces three charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in relation to the Metropolitan police's investigation into allegations of phone-hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the Scum of the World. She is accused of conspiring to conceal documents, computers and electronic equipment from police and conspiring to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International. Four others also appeared at the court. Brooks's former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, forty eight, of Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, head of security at News International Mark Hanna, forty nine, of Glynswood Road, Buckingham, Brooks' chauffeur Paul Edwards, forty seven, of Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green and security consultant Daryl Jorsling, thirty nine, of Vale Road, Aldershot, all face a single charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All six were bailed. Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, was charged last month by detectives from Operation Weeting, Scotland Yard's phone-hacking inquiry.

A further twenty alleged victims of phone-hacking are expected to lodge civil claims against News International shortly, taking the latest total to more than seventy claimants, the high court has heard. Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has also accepted sixty four further claims into its compensation scheme for Scum of the World phone-hacking victims, Hugh Tomlinson QC told the high court on Friday. The twenty new claimants that will lodge claims shortly, according to Tomlinson, were not named in court. The number of those taking action against News International is likely to grow further. The Metropolitan police service has received two hundred and eighty six requests for the disclosure of evidence related to phone hacking, including the notes of the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, since late April, the court was told on Friday. Those who have lodged claims include professor John Tulloch, who was just three feet from Mohammad Sidique Khan when he detonated his rucksack explosives at Edgware Road tube station in the 7/7 bombings, Hannah Pawlby, the aide to former home secretary Charles Clarke and Lewis Sproston, the boyfriend of murdered model Sally Anne Bowman. Others include Cherie Blair, David Beckham's father, Ted, and footballer Wayne Rooney. It also emerged at the high court on Friday that News International, News Corp's UK subsidiary and the former publisher of the now disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, has retrieved the company iPhones of three unnamed executives and is trying to track down another one. Phone, that is, not executive. Tomlinson, acting for the claimants, said outside court that News International had located three of the four Apple smartphones. Those suing the newspaper group have asked that the iPhones be kept and the information on them preserved, in the event it could be used as evidence in phone-hacking claims. Michael Silverleaf QC, for News International, told Mr Justice Vos at the high court case management conference that one iPhone that had been checked produced no new information. 'The exercise is completely pointless,' Silverleaf said. It is not known whether the other two iPhones in News International's possession have been checked. Silverleaf declined to comment outside the court. David Sherborne, for the claimants, told the court that the existence of the iPhones contradicted evidence previously given to an earlier case management conference. He said that News International had confirmed the smartphones did once exist, but not whether they still existed.

Theresa May has been accused of 'unacceptable and regrettable behaviour' by a judge as she became only the second Home Secretary in history to be found guilty of contempt of court. May ignored a legal agreement to release an Algerian robber from immigration detention in a decision that lawyers say 'risked throwing the whole system into confusion.' As a result, Judge Barry Cotter, QC, made the extremely rare ruling that the Home Secretary was in contempt of court. He said there has been the 'most regrettable and unacceptable behaviour' of the Secretary of State leading to an 'intentional breach' of her previous undertaking to free the foreign criminal, Aziz Lamari. The judge said he recognised the seriousness of her failure to obey the deal, and said that a clear message must be sent that it must not happen again. However because the Home Secretary eventually released the prisoner, she escaped sanctions which could have included a fine or even imprisonment herself. Which would have been funny. A spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: 'HHJ Cotter QC found the defendant guilty of contempt for failing to release Aziz Lamari having undertaken to do so. There was no penalty imposed for the contempt - the finding in itself is serious.' It is only the second time in British legal history that a Home Secretary has been found guilty of contempt of court. On the first occasion, in 1991, Kenneth Baker ignored an instruction from a judge in an asylum case and the ruling against him was backed up by five law lords in a landmark judgment.

Jana Bennett is leaving BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, following a major reorganisation that will see her global responsibilities split between seven new regional divisions. BBC Worldwide confirmed on Friday that Bennett will be stepping down from her job as president of worldwide networks and the global BBC iPlayer. Bennett's departure brings down the curtain on a BBC career spanning more than thirty years. The BBC confirmed she will remain with BBC Worldwide until late autumn as part of the handover process and to complete 'a number of major commercial deals.' BBC Worldwide's reorganisation will result in the business switching from five global divisions to seven geographic units, including the UK, North America, and Australia and New Zealand. The heads of each region will have responsibility for turning a profit from their business unit. Bennett said: 'My time at BBC Worldwide has been exciting and stimulating. I am delighted to have grown the BBC's international channel portfolio at a time when global markets are so highly competitive and to have brought quality British programmes and events to new audiences around the world both through our worldwide networks and the global BBC iPlayer pilot.' Bennett joined BBC Worldwide in her current job in February 2011, with responsibility for the global roll out of the iPlayer. She was once seen as a possible contender for director general. However, her stock fell after she was criticised for showing 'a lack of curiosity' about what had occurred by the official BBC report into the so-called 2007 Crowngate affair, which also led to the departure of the then BBC1 controller, Peter Fincham. A BBC veteran who has spent all her career at the corporation aside from a two-and-a-half-year stint running Discovery's TLC cable channel in the US, Bennett joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1979. She went on to work for Newsnight, The Money Programme and Nationwide before producing Panorama, editing Horizon, and running the BBC science department in the late 1990s when it made Walking with Dinosaurs and The Human Body. John Smith, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: 'Jana has made a hugely positive contribution to BBC Worldwide in her time here. She deserves our gratitude, and leaves us a great legacy to build on. She has extended our channels internationally, driven schedule changes which have translated into ratings and advertising uplifts, and moved forward our digital offer across several platforms.'

Lord Coe has staunchly defended the sponsorship of the London Olympics by fast food and soft drinks companies, arguing that the investment by brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's is 'essential' to making the event a success. The chairman of the London 2012 organising committee said he felt that some of the Olympic sponsors – which have invested more than seven hundred and fifty million quid to associate themselves with this summer's spectacle – have been 'unfairly maligned.' Coe pointed to the legacy that the London Olympics will deliver, including the regeneration of East London, as well as programmes of sports and health activities the sponsors have funded. 'Sponsors play a really important role to help that happen,' said Coe, in conversation with WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity on Friday. 'In large part it is easy to talk fast food and soft drinks but I'm a great believer in input and output. No one is suggesting Coke and McDonald's are not doing a massive amount in terms of the legacy. They are doing an extraordinary amount to make sport come alive for young people.' Official London Olympic sponsors including Coca-Cola, Cadbury and McDonald's have come under fire for choosing to spend tens of millions of pounds to be associated with the event, while many of the products they sell are high in fat, sugar and salt, which critics say is fuelling the growing obesity crisis in the UK. Coe said the financial reality of hosting an Olympic Games meant that it is impossible to expect the event to be delivered without significant commercial support. 'Sport now is a very different landscape than it used to be,' he added. 'Sport is doing so much more and is being asked to do so much more than crash, bang, wallop at Stamford Bridge on a Tuesday night. No organising committee alone is resourced to drive the legacy ambitions we set out in Singapore [when London won the bid in 2005].' Sorrell asked whether Coe would have believed that the UK should host the Olympics – with the massive investment required – if he had known in 2005 what the state of the economy would be. 'I would have redoubled my efforts because of the economic benefits to the country, which has been massive,' Coe replied. 'I don't think any games in history have been delivered in such a difficult environment, but the economic dividend around this has already been profound.'

The London 2012 torch relay reached the halfway point on Friday as the Olympic flame travel;ed from Kendal to Blackpool. The day's sixty-mile journey began at the ruins of Kendal Castle at 08:00 and went through Morecambe, Lancaster and Blackpool. Southport's Peter Cunningham took the flame on the Blackpool Tramway. It ended the day at Blackpool Tower, where was danced into the ballroom by Strictly Come Dancing champions Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani. The Olympic flame's journey through the north-west of England on day thirty five of the relay involved one hundred and thirty nine torchbearers. Kendal local Michael Liptrot was the first of the day as he started the relay at the Twelfth Century Kendal castle. The forty nine-year-old represented Britain at judo and it is through his work that the Kendal dojo gained pre-Olympic training camp status ahead of the London Games, hosting boxers from the Pacific island of Nauru. From Kendal, the torch then travelled to Milnthorpe and Carnforth. It carried on to Bolton-le-Sands and Hest Bank before arriving at the seaside resort of Morecambe. There Victoria Brier carried the flame to the Eric Morecambe statue on the promenade. Graham Ibbeson's bronze sculpture was erected in 1999 as a tribute to the late and much-loved comedian, who adopted his hometown's name as his stage name. Brier has been nominated for her work at a residential college for young adults with cerebral palsy. From Morecambe, the relay moved on to Lancaster, the county town of Lancashire, before continuing its journey to Garstang, St Michael's on Wyre and Fleetwood. Leila Hamrang from Manchester carried the flame in Fleetwood. The twenty three-year-old has twice battled through leukaemia but has continued to work for charitable and voluntary organisations. The relay then moved on to Cleveleys and Blackpool. The flame was carried on the Blackpool Tramway, Britain's first electric tramway, from the Rossall School stop in Cleveleys to West Drive in Blackpool. Richard Clement also carried the flame in his hometown. The thirty two-year-old lost both his legs and suffered extensive injuries to his torso and an arm while on active service in Afghanistan in 2010. Clement now champions the cause of injured soldiers and has campaigned successfully for soldiers to have the right to have their sperm frozen before tours of duty. The torch relay event scheduled for Blackpool Tower Festival Headland at seven o'clock was instead held in the Tower Ballroom. Heavy rain and winds gusting to more than forty mph marred the Cumbria to Lancashire leg, but didn't deter big crowds from turning out. The flame had been due to ascend in a lantern to the top of Blackpool Tower, which opened in 1894 and is five hundred and eighteen feet tall. Sue Henry from the Wirral was to carry the flame to the top of the tower. The fifty three-year-old had been nominated for her work for the NHS 2012 Challenge, which encourages staff to become more active and get involved in sport. A Blackpool Council spokesman said: 'Despite the terrible weather conditions, the Olympic Torch relay will go ahead through Blackpool and we urge everybody to line the route and support the torchbearers. Unfortunately, the evening celebration that was due to take place on the Tower Festival headland between 4pm and 7.30pm can no longer go ahead due to the weather conditions.'

Andrew Flintoff has launched a stinging attack against his former England and Lancashire captain Mike Atherton, questioning the commentator and journalist's credentials to analyse international cricket. According to the Daily Torygraph, Flintoff described Atherton as a 'fucking prick' on Thursday night at a party in London held by Sky, which employs both men. Atherton has forged a successful career as a respected cricket commentator for first Channel Four and then Sky since retiring from the international game in 2002. However, he made some critical comments about Flintoff when the latter was England captain during England's disastrous Ashes whitewash in 2006. Flintoff - unlike many ex professionals - did not enter cricket commentary after retiring due to injury from the England team in 2009, instead opting for a career in alleged TV 'entertainment' shows such as Sky's lamentable A League of Their Own. And, adverts for Morrisons. Atherton has maintained his dignity and not responded to Flintoff's comments, which the Torygraph reports 'went beyond' just name calling. This is, however, a very good piece on other people's reactions to Flintoff, here. 'He sits there making judgments about players that are much better than he ever was, believe me, he's a prick,' Flintoff is quoted as saying. Flintoff added:'"How can he talk about a player like Alastair Cook who is ten times the player he ever was? He has a much bigger average and will go on and on. Atherton averaged in the thirties for England and yet he thinks he can judge others.' Asked if he wanted his comments taken as 'off the record', Flintoff replied: 'I don't care. Say what you like. There's no love lost there.' Seemingly not.

And, speaking of cricketers who used to be well respected but now, aren't, Danish Kaneria has been banned for life from playing in England and Wales after being found guilty of corruption. The Pakistan leg-spinner, thirty one, encouraged former Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield to spot-fix. Pace bowler Westfield, twenty four, was jailed for four months in February for deliberately bowling badly during a CB40 game against Durham in 2009. Kaneria denied the charge, but the England and Wales Cricket Board said he was a 'grave danger' to the sport. Westfield, who has since been released from prison, pleaded guilty to the charge of accepting money to underperform and has been banned for five years, but can play club cricket in the final two years of the suspension. Neither man has played county cricket since 2010. During Westfield's trial, Judge Anthony Morris said that the scam had been orchestrated by Kaneria, who spent six seasons at Essex from 2004. But Kaneria, who played sixty one Tests and eighteen one-day internationals between 2000 and 2010, was never charged by the police on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Both players were charged by the ECB in April for 'alleged breaches of the ECB's anti-corruption directives.' The ECB disciplinary panel concluded that Kaneria acted as a recruiter of spot-fixers; approached a number of what he saw as potential targets at Essex; cajoled and pressurised Westfield into becoming involved, knowing he was young and vulnerable and was present when Westfield received his payment for underperforming. In handing down the punishment, the panel said: 'Danish Kaneria has been banned for life from playing in England and Wales after being found guilty of corruption. We regard Danish Kaneria as a grave danger to the game of cricket and we must take every appropriate step to protect our game from his corrupt activities.' ECB chairman Giles Clarke told BBC Radio 5Live: 'If somebody is found guilty of this sort of thing in a match in England that is a very sad day for cricket. All of us involved in this game, be it here or in other parts of the word, need to have a long, hard look at the judgment and make sure we don't have this kind of thing happening again. In anything where this type of things goes on, where young men are abused and are foolish, we need to do something to stop it. I want to get something out to those who are abusing them as well - we'll get you too.' Kaneria's ban comes the day after Pakistan captain and former team-mate Salman Butt was released from a jail, having served seven months of a thirty-month sentence for spot-fixing. Captain Butt, twenty seven, was jailed with seamers Mohammad Asif, twenty nine, and Mohammad Amir, nineteen, for conspiring to bowl deliberate no-balls against England in the 2010 Lord's Test. All three were also given five-year playing bans, which they are appealing against.

A start-up firm backed by Stephen Fry, Pushnote has announced its closure after less than eighteen months. Pushnote was a browser add-on tool which allowed users to easily add comments to online articles by using just one button. Fry said at its launch back in January, 'I'm very pleased to be in the background as a silent but enthusiastic member of the Pushnote team. It's one of those little ideas that I think will grow and grow. It will soon, I think, become second nature for those browsing the web to look up to the Pushnote icon and check what fellow "Pushnoters" have said about the site they're on, its content, its value, reliability and so on.' However, things didn't go as well as Stephen had hoped. The Pushnote website has been replaced by a notice of closure, which reads, 'We're very sorry, but Pushnote has been taken down. It was a difficult decision, not least because we loved the great content shared on Pushnote, and we're sorry we can no longer support the site. Pushnote was always a bit of an experiment. It was a lot of fun, but our passions have led us elsewhere.'

Ricky Gervais has donated a thousand quid to charity after giving Gary Lineker a dare on Twitter on Thursday night. 'A dare'? Are you twelve, or something? During the Euro 2012 Portugal versus Czech Republic game, Gervais dared Match of the Day host Lineker to use a specified footballing cliché during his next link. Lineker obliged, leading Gervais to donate money to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Gervais wrote to Lineker: 'I am watching you on my TV. I dare you to use the phrase "it was a game of two halves." I would enjoy that.' Lineker replied: 'I will suffer the abuse that will follow my uttering of the cliché, just because it's you.' After he used the phrase, Gervais added: 'Hahaha. You did it! You are a man of honour. I will donate one thousand pounds to Great Ormond Street Hospital. The boy done good.' Lineker also became a trending topic on Twitter - which is, apparently, a 'thing' - after he continued his recent habit of using street slang while promoting Lethal Bizzle's official England song. Earlier this week, Lineker said the words 'sick' and 'tekkers' during the punditry, and on Thursday he added that Bizzle's track was 'dench', in relation to the word championed by the rapper. He said: 'I'm reliably informed that the word dench is the word to describe that.'

South Africa's tropical coastal city of Durban and its spectacular Moses Mabhida stadium provided Top Gear with the perfect backdrop for its biggest live show yet. A total of sixty seven thousand punters visited the venue over the two days to be entertained by supercars, stunts, pyrotechnics and the hair-raising antics of the Top Gear presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. 'South Africa is amazing. This show in Durban will go down as one of our best Top Gear live events ever. That's because this is our first ever show in a stadium and our biggest live audience yet,' said Jezza. Since 2008 Top Gear Live events have played to over 1.2m people in seventeen different cities and twelve different countries including South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and the Netherlands. But it was more than the size of the audience that had Clarkson gushing. The venue for the four live stadium shows on 15 and 16 June, Moses Mabhida stadium, which was built to host the semi-final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, clearly impressed the host. 'Durban is an astonishing city and Moses Mabhida is an amazing stadium. I have never seen anything like this in the world,' Clarkson said at a tribute dinner honouring Durban-born former McLaren F1 car designer Gordon Murray.

The Euro 2012 quarter-finals finally burst into life after the desperately disappointing opening match on Thursday as Germany produced a scarily dominant display to sweep past a limited Greece side and set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with England. Or, more likely, Italy. Look, I'm just a realist, all right? The Germans - with a somewhat experimental line-up - having dropped Thomas Müller, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gómez in favour of André Schürrle, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus - wasted a host of early chances before their captain Philipp Lahm fired them ahead in spectacular fashion from the edge of the box. With Mesut Özil in particular in outstanding form in midfield, the Germans should have been half-a-dozen up by half-time against a Greek team who seemed not to have a Plan B to fall back on after Plan A (don't let them score) failed. At half-time the ITV analyst and former England international Gareth Southgate sounded so depressed by the Greeks' lack of anything approaching ambition, that yer actual Keith Telly Topping was genuinely worried the poor chap might do himself harm in the second half. No, hang on, what's the opposite of worried...? Anyway, against all odds (and, seemingly, All Laws Of God and Man) Greece threatened a scare when early in the second half Celtic plank Georgios Samaras who'd looked more likely to miss a barn door at two feet than do anything remotely worthwhile somehow levelled after a quick Dimitris Salpingidis counter-attack. If nothing else, that bit of deficit reduction had the impact of wiping an annoyingly smug smirk, briefly, off Angela Merkel's mush. Which was nice. But, sadly, that didn't last long and Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose soon responded with quality strikes (particularly the former). Marco Reus thumped home a fourth for the Germans before Salpingidis stroked home a late consolation penalty. Germany will now take on England or Italy in the last four in Warsaw next Thursday. And, probably, win. Like I say, I'm a realist. 

The opening of an annual travelling fair in Newcastle, one of the largest in Europe, has been postponed due to Thursday and Friday's horrendously bad weather. Organisers of The Hoppings, held annually during the third week of June on Newcastle's Town Moor, said that heavy rain and thick mud had made it difficult for the showmen to set up stalls and rides. There were also concerns about safety risks to members of the public. It was due to be officially opened by the Lord Mayor on Friday, but this will not happen until conditions improve. A statement issued on behalf of Newcastle City Council, the Freemen and the Showmen's Guild, said: 'Due to unprecedented rainfall, the official opening of the Town Moor Fair tomorrow has been postponed. We will assess the weather conditions on a daily basis and make a decision as to when the fair can open based on the ground conditions and weather forecast.' It added: 'Our intention is to ensure that the Town Moor Fair is a safe and enjoyable experience, but the continued rainfall is making this difficult to achieve.' Mind you, it should be noted from one who goes there pretty much every year that the Hoppings wouldn't be the Hoppings unless it's knee deep in clarts. You can always tell when it's that time of the year - it starts raining. The fair began as a Temperance Festival in 1882. It was scheduled to coincide with Race Week at Newcastle Racecourse, during which the Northumberland Plate was awarded. It has been held, uninterrupted, on the Town Moor ever since. It has over sixty large rides and many more smaller rides, stalls and sideshow attractions - everything from rollercoasters and funhouses to teacups and big wheels, fortune tellers and many food vans. It can be a bit tacky but it retains a certain nostalgic value for many people of a certain age on Tyneside.

Ross Noble has admitted that he was the person behind a notorious rumour that a Newcastle Park was infested by crocodiles. Police and reptile experts swooped on Heaton Park Pond in 2000, amid reports that a six foot beast has been seen lurking beneath the water. ‘We are taking these reports very seriously and would urge anyone who sees this crocodile or alligator not to approach it themselves,’ the man from the Reptile Trust told the Independent at the time – believing someone had dumped an overgrown pet in the park. But on The Graham Norton Show last week, Ross admitted that it was all down to him persuading his audience all to call local Metro radio host Alan Robson with 'sightings' of the croc. Following the revelations, Robson admitted Ross 'caused chaos. But it was hilarious.'

Building Stonehenge was a way to unify the people of Stone Age Britain, researchers have concluded. Teams working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project believe the circle was built after a long period of conflict between east and west Britain. Researchers also believe the stones, from southern England and west Wales, symbolise different communities. Professor Mike Parker Pearson said building Stonehenge required everyone 'to pull together' in 'an act of unification.' The Stonehenge Riverside Project has been investigating the archaeology of Stonehenge and its landscape for the past ten years. In 2008, SRP researchers found that Stonehenge had been erected almost five hundred years earlier than had previously been thought. Now teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London, have concluded that when the stone circle was built 'there was a growing island-wide culture. The same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast - this was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries,' said Pearson, from University of Sheffield. 'Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.' Stonehenge may also have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons. The SRP team found that its solstice-aligned avenue sits upon a series of natural landforms that, by chance, form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset. 'When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun's path being marked in the land, we realised that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance,' said Pearson. 'This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else. Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world.' Previous theories suggesting the great stone circle was inspired by ancient Egyptians or extra-terrestrials have been firmly rejected by researchers. 'All the architectural influences for Stonehenge can be found in previous monuments and buildings within Britain, with origins in Wales and Scotland,' said Pearson. 'In fact, Britain's Neolithic people were isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries. Britain may have become unified but there was no interest in interacting with people across the Channel. Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel.'

A twenty one-year-old Czech woman climbed a forty foot electricity pylon after taking super-strength cannabis. According to The Huffington Post, she believed it was a bridge across the Morava river in the Czech Republic.The woman was stuck up the pylon for two hours. With the aid of the police, a drug councillor and a cherry picker, they eventually managed to bring her safely back down to earth. Physically if not, you know, mentally. Police spokesperson Jan Macalikova, who was present at the rescue, said: 'It was a nightmare because she was very much under the influence of drugs and wasn't making much sense.'

The mystery of the man who was reported to have died laughing watching the comedy show The Goodies in the 1970s may have been solved by doctors. Alex Mitchell, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, suffered heart failure after viewing the so-called Ecky-Thump episode (Kung Fu Kapers, broadcast in March 1975). His granddaughter Lisa Corke, twenty three, had a near fatal cardiac arrest at home on the Isle of Sheppey, in May. She has now been diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome which doctors think could have also caused Mr Mitchell's death. He died, reportedly, after laughing for half-an-hour watching The Goodies, a story which made headlines around the world in 1975. Later his wife, Nessie, wrote to the show's stars Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie to thank them for making her husband's final thirty minutes so enjoyable. Their son, Alex, who was seventeen at the time, said: 'They just thought it was a heart attack. After what happened to Lisa I spoke to my sister, who was with my dad at the time, and my mum and they said it was as though my dad fainted and started breathing funny. Listening to how Mick [Lisa's husband] described what happened to Lisa it was almost identical symptoms. That's when the doctors put two and two together and came up with the idea that actually they think it's hereditary.' Consultant cardiologist Dr Pier Lambiase said: 'You may find other members of the family that have unexplained deaths and it was put down to a heart attack at the time, but it was actually due to this condition. I would say given the fact that his granddaughter, I believe, had Long QT Syndrome and the circumstances of the death it would be good circumstantial evidence. To be absolutely certain you would have to see if there was an abnormality in the gene that causes Long QT Syndrome found in the granddaughter [that] is also evident in other members of the family, particularly the individual who passed away.' Mrs Corke was put into a medically induced coma after she suffered the cardiac arrest in May. She said: 'The [doctors] know what it is, they know that it is genetic so hopefully they'll be to find if the children have it, if my brother has it and if my father as well. And hopefully protect future generations in our family.' A person with Long QT Syndrome suddenly faints or passes out during exercise, or when experiencing intense emotions, such as fear. Or, in this case, laughter. Symptoms typically begin in young children, but may occur in newborns and can appear as late as middle age. Mind you, that Goodies episode was bloody funny. About the last properly funny thing Bill Oddie was involved in, but still ...

Which, I suppose (tragically) means this has to be today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. I tried to fight it, dear blog reader, but some things are just pre-determined.

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