Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet Caroline

The BBC has recommissioned Silk for a third series, it has been announced. Starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Maxine Peake, the legal drama - following the lives of a group of barristers - recently wrapped its second run on BBC1. Creator Peter Moffat said in a statement: 'It's a joy to write for Maxine Peake and this group of actors. I feel very privileged and lucky. Can't wait to get going. Lots of big ideas about cases, characters, relationships, politics as well as a great deal of unfinished business from this current series.' Moffat added: 'It's usually a good sign as a writer when your anxiety about a new series is not what to say but how to fit everything in. The big challenge for all of us is keeping what is very obviously a highly intelligent and focused audience entertained and engaged.; New episodes of Silk have been performing very well in the ratings for BBC1 despite airing during hot weather and often clashing with international football. The show, which began last February, also stars Neil Stuke and Nina Sosanya.

Sky1 has announced that their new epic fantasy drama Sinbad will start airing on the channel in the second week of July. The twelve-part series promises 'a Twenty First Century take on the classic Eighth Century hero' and stars newcomer Elliot Knight as Sinbad, alongside Lost's Naveen Andrews as Sinbad's nemesis, Lord Akbari, Orla Brady (from Fringe) as the evil Taryn, the great Sophie Okonedo as Razia, Queen of the Water-Thieves and Timothy Spall as Anicetus, The Old Man of the Sea. Episode One will be broadcast on Sunday 8 July. Anne Mensah, Sky's Head of Drama, commented: 'Sinbad may be set centuries ago, but the story of a young boy yearning to be a man is timeless. Heroes never go out of fashion and Sinbad has a classic hero's journey, with lots of action and adventure. A good adventure remains fun whatever age you are, or whatever decade you're in.' Orla Brady said: 'This version, as imagined by Andy Wilson, feels very modern but is true to the ancient tale. I think that Elliot and all the Providence gang bring a zeal to the story which feels modern, yet timeless.' Sophie Okonedo added: 'Myths and fairytales are not only enduring but are necessary to help us understand and interpret darker, stickier aspects of our nature. Sometimes it's easier to understand less digestible parts of ourselves in fairytales and myths.'

Two further episodes of Qi's J series were filmed on Wednesday this week. Jobs will feature guests David Mitchell, Sarah Millican and, an interesting first timer the Reverend Richard Coles (formerly of The Communards) along with regulars Stephen Fry and Alan Davies. The thirteenth episode of the series - the title for which is not yet know - had three regular guests Jo Brand, Dara Ó Briain and John Sessions. As noted earlier in the week, episodes fourteen, fifteen and sixteen will be filmed next Monday and Tuesday. The series is scheduled to be broadcast on BBC2 sometime during the autumn.

Mock the Week host Dara O Briain won't particularly celebrate the panel show's hundredth episode next month – but the comedian says that he is happy that the programme has calmed down since the Mad Frankie Boyle years. 'We've been through a few different versions of it in the hundred years it feels like we've been doing it,' O Briain told Radio Times. 'If you look back at the first series there are eight rounds! But even Have I Got News for You had that phase, where they tried every round for a minute and a half each. Way too much stuff. Then there were the angry young man years, when it was very bolshy. Now it's much more reflective. It may be we're all a little bit older. Or maybe it's because Frankie has gone. But there's not the same emphasis on savage one-liners. It's much more of a messing-around kind of show, which for me is a lot more fun. We're in that third phase.' So did it feel to Dara like Mock The Week had become Frankie Boyle's show? 'Frankie would distill the discussion into a brilliantly punchy killer line. Putting comedians together is like a jigsaw. Some are open-ended: they say something to add to the discussion and move it along, riffing on it. Frankie would be more: bang! That's the end of that. That's the last word on that topic. That was his genius – and it was perfectly suited for the editing of this kind of show - but it did breed an atmosphere where everyone had to get in there as quickly as possible. We became a bit of a bear pit. People who do it now don't find that.' O Briain observed that Mock the Week's policy of booking only stand-up comics as guests may have contributed to its harsh tone: 'Mock the Week is unusual in that only stand-ups do it. Most panel shows give themselves the luxury of a celebrity booking – they offer a breather because they're not expected to come out with jokes and they can say things the comedians then jump onto. That helps. We, crazily, have seven comics on every show! All of them are professionally obliged to do their own jokes. You're meshing seven different comedians all trying to be funny. On Would I Lie to You? there are maybe four. Have I Got News for You: three or four. Eight out of Ten Cats: two captains and maybe one or two others. Seven is just ridiculous!' As host, O Briain has sometimes felt the need to help less experienced guests along. 'Seann Walsh is a very talented comic and he's never done badly on the show, but he did say once that he was on and he'd suddenly thought "Oh my god, I'm on the show!" and then he didn't say anything for a few minutes. It can move so quickly past people that if you haven't done it several times before, it's bewildering. It was like fingers on buzzers. It's less of an issue now. When you're bringing new people on you have to carve them a bit of space.' So was it a conscious move to make it less gladiatorial, or was that just down to Frankie Boyle leaving as well? 'Actually, it was Frankie and Russell Howard. Russell was similar. It wasn't just that Frankie's comedy was dark: he and Russell would bang it across to each other and the other four, and me, would have to find windows within that. When Chris Addison came in, his natural thing is to pick up things that have been said and run with them, to be listening as much as talking and look for off-the-cuff things – that's my instinct too. That's why it's shifted in that direction.' Changing the feel of the show might account for some of its longevity – but for O Briain, as a maths and physics graduate and self-confessed numbers nerd, a superstitious milestone like the hundredth episode doesn't mean much. 'Being a numbers man means they're all the same for me,' he told the magazine. 'It's like when there was a whole debate about whether David Beckham should be allowed to join the club of people who had one hundred caps for England. I remember pointing out that he was already in the club of people who had ninety nine caps, so it was relatively moot whether he got another one. As if somehow now he was on a par with Billy Wright and Bobby Moore – he already is! I'm not one of those numbers nerds who says no, that's not really the millennium. I'd celebrate one hundred episodes if by chance it fell on the last episode of the series. I could combine the parties.'

The journalist responsible for a - seemingly entirely made up - Scum Mail on Sunday story which claimed, incorrectly, that Lord Justice Leveson had threatened to quit over comments made by a government minister is expected to appear before the inquiry next week to explain himself. Scum Mail on Sunday political editor Simon Walters co-wrote the report which led Leveson to consider holding an emergency hearing earlier this week. The front-page story claimed that Leveson had issued a stern ultimatum to Downing Street after rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Michael Gove warned in a speech of the 'chilling atmosphere' the inquiry has had on press freedom. It is understood that the judge made no such threat to quit or anything even remotely like it. Leveson briefly considered convening a special meeting but decided against it because of the extra costs involved. An alleged 'senior Associated Newspapers source' allegedly indicated to the Gruniad that the alleged story 'would be addressed' by the inquiry next week. Allegedly. Walters can expect to be dragged before the inquiry - by the hair, if necessary - and pumped, thoroughly, about the article, headlined Leveson's threat to quit, which appeared in the odious right-wing rag last weekend and suggested that alleged 'Government insiders say they were convinced Leveson was prepared to resign in protest unless ministers stopped passing comment on his inquiry.' Who these nameless - and probably entirely fictitious government 'insiders' were, or where they gleamed this information from, the Scum Mail on Sunday, of course, did not reveal. Next week the inquiry will hear from political editors from a number of newspapers. Full details of the witnesses and when they will appear will be published on the Leveson inquiry website on Thursday. A spokesman for the inquiry declined to comment on who would be appearing. Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove gave a speech to political journalists on 21 February in which he said the inquiry had created a 'chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression.' Leveson clashed with the lack of education secretary - the brown-tongued cheerleader for billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch - when rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove later gave evidence to the inquiry on 29 May. After rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove said journalists exercised a 'precious liberty' when they wrote articles, Leveson told him: 'Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don't.' The inquiry is currently taking a week-long break following the appearance of David Cameron and several other senior political figures including Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Sir John Major last week.

London mayor and hairdo Boris Johnson dined with billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and other key News International executives in January last year, just days before Scotland Yard launched a major investigation into phone-hacking. Labour called for an official investigation into the mayor, after it emerged that Johnson met Murdoch at his home in the capital on 24 January 2011. Johnson also met two of Murdoch's top executives, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and Will Lewis, for a lunch on 14 January that year. The meetings came to light on Wednesday following a Freedom of Information request by the left-leaning website Political Scrapbook. City Hall claimed that the meetings were disclosed on the Greater London Authority website in July last year, but appear to have gone unreported until this week. They took place at a hugely sensitive time in the phone-hacking scandal in January 2011, as the Metropolitan police launched its Operation Weeting investigation and Andy Coulson, the former Scum of the World editor who became David Cameron's director of communications, resigned from Downing Street. Len Duvall, leader of the Labour group on the London Assembly, called for City Hall to investigate the 'truly scandalous' dinners. 'This is extremely serious, for the mayor to not declare a meeting with Rupert Murdoch at the height of the phone-hacking crisis is truly scandalous,' he said. 'He even stated in May this year that all his meetings had been declared. To think he could "drop into dinner" with Rupert Murdoch and not declare it is jaw-droppingly arrogant, especially at the height of the phone-hacking inquiry.' Duvall said that if Johnson did not disclose the dinners the mayor had committed a clear breach of the Greater London Assembly's code of conduct. He has asked City Hall's monitoring officer to investigate. Well, maybe he just forgot. He can be a bit absent-minded can old Bozzer, you've seen the act on Have I Got News For You, surely?

News Corporation's board 'ignored illegal conduct,' including phone-hacking and bribing of public officials by its employees, according to a lawsuit filed by investors. A New York bank and an Illinois pension fund submitted an amended complaint yesterday in Delaware Chancery Court. They accuse the board of allowing News Corp chairman and chief executive billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch to 'misuse' the company resources 'to gain political influence.' The filing claims that News Corp directors knew that some of the company's reporters had hacked into mobile phones and bribed police officers in 2009. But the board members refused to properly investigate the acts over fear of upsetting Murdoch and his children who serve as company executives, the suit alleges. According to Bloomberg, the filing claims that the board's approach was a 'textbook example of failed corporate governance and domination by a controlling shareholder.' It also accuses the directors of having 'condoned Murdoch's use of News Corp to pursue his quest for power, control, and political gain' at shareholders' expense. News Corp has not responded to the lawsuit. But the company did issue a statement on Monday denying reports the James Murdoch the small, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, may have obstructed the Leveson inquiry. Police are currently investigating whether Murdoch the small may have failed to disclose an iPhone allegedly used by senior executives at the paper's publisher News International. Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry in April that there had been a 'cover up' at the Scum of the World, but denied that he had been party to it. But in its report on the hacking affair, the Commons culture, media and sport committee (by a majority of six to four split along party lines and yes, it's to be hoped the voters of Corby won't be forgetting that at the next election Ms Mensch) said that Murdoch was not a 'fit person' to lead a major international company. Or, indeed, a piss up in a brewery. The MPs also said that he had 'turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies.' On May 2, News Corp's board said that it had 'full confidence' in Murdoch's ability to lead the company, despite the Parliamentary committee's findings. 'The Board based its vote of confidence on Rupert Murdoch's vision and leadership in building News Corporation, his ongoing performance as Chairman and CEO, and his demonstrated resolve to address the mistakes of the Company identified in the Select Committee's report,' said News Corp. But New York-based Amalgamated Bank and Jacksonville, Illinois-based Central Laborers Pension fund say that the board's backing of Murdoch shows that they cannot be relied upon to act in shareholders' best interests. 'Plaintiffs seek to obtain redress for News Corp's public shareholders for the harm caused by the board's bad faith failure of oversight,' according to the complaint. The investor's lawsuit has now been substantially amended since it was first filed in March last year, following another amendment in September.

And, in a related matter, Scotland Yard has referred the files of four more journalists arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking offences to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS was passed the files for charging advice on Tuesday and is now considering the cases of eleven journalists arrested under the Metropolitan police's Operation Weeting investigation into alleged criminal activity at the Scum of the World. Each of the four files referred to prosecutors on Tuesday relates to an individual journalist and is understood to be in connection with alleged voicemail interception, rather than any other offences. A spokesman for the CPS said: 'We are not prepared to discuss the identities of those involved or the alleged offences in any greater detail at this stage as a number of related investigations are ongoing. We are unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered very carefully and thoroughly, and the decisions will be made as soon as is practicable.' The four files sent to the CPS on Tuesday are in addition to the five journalists referred to the prosecution service on 11 June and the two others referred on 15 June. The CPS is now deciding whether there are reasonable grounds for a potential prosecution in each of the cases. It is also considering prosecutions against three police officers in relation to alleged misconduct in public office.

Talks are reportedly under way to provide the first permanent state-subsidised arts TV channel with funders already hoping that an experiment involving the BBC this summer will pave the way for a more lasting arrangement, the Gruniad has allegedly been told. Arts Council England, the body which distributes public money from the government and National Lottery to arts organisations, revealed it was in discussions with the corporation just hours after the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, had floated the idea of just such a channel and making state grants to arts, cultural and heritage organisations conditional on them supplying content. The minister had suggested developing an online presence for live performances 'to ensure we reach the largest possible audiences completely free of charge.' In a speech to arts groups in London on Monday, the vile and odious rascal Hunt had urged them to build on the experience of The Space, a pop-up online channel funded to the tune of £4.5m by the arts council and the BBC. It began broadcasting last month and was due to close in October but the council said talks are now under way to extend the scheme, which they hoped would be permanent. This would require extra spending both from the council, which has already funded hundreds of hours of commissions from fifty three arts groups, and the BBC, which provided technology, training and mentoring. The council, though keen for The Space to be permanent, is however opposed to making government grants conditional on providing content for the channel or a successor. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's aides stressed that the vile and odious lack of culture secretary was giving 'a nudge rather than instructions' – and that any firm proposals would have to come from the council and cultural organisations it funds. However in his speech, the vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'For too many of our cultural organisations technology is still about having a good website, instead of a tool to boost artistic innovation, help fundraising and reach new audiences.' Praising The Space where 'you can listen to John Peel's record collection, see hip-hop dancing from Sadler's Wells, enjoy a live broadcast of Britten's War Requiem or watch the entire Globe to Globe Shakespeare season,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt asked: 'Should we turn this into something much more ambitious? A permanent digital channel with live broadcasts every night of our very finest cultural offerings? Indeed should it be a condition of government funding to supply some live content – whether from museum exhibitions, live performances or parts of our heritage – for a new digital arts channel to ensure we reach the largest possible audiences completely free of charge?' The lack of culture secretary said this could help organisations explore new revenue streams, new partnerships and new sponsorship arrangement. Asked later whether the government would be dangerously dictating to the arts sector by making groups provide free content for a digital channel, he said: 'I don't think arts organisations will resist this at all because it's part of their core mission to make sure that their output is seen by as many people as possible.' There was no hint from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport either about whether it thought longer term arrangements for The Space might involve the BBC or a rival broadcaster. BSkyB has significantly boosted its arts coverage in recent years on the Sky Arts channels while BBC licence fee funds have been or will be used for the digital TV switchover support scheme, roll out of broadband and supporting the launch of new local TV services. However a spokesperson for the council said: 'The Space has a huge potential to make more of the arts available in new ways to new audiences. The Arts Council would like to continue and we're in active talks with the BBC about the implications and logistics of this, and hope to be able to make this clear before the current pilot phase comes to an end. We would prefer a day when arts and cultural organisations are automatically willing to contribute to a public digital space. To get there, we need to improve skills, solve rights issues, and also make sure the quality of the digital output is good and engaging enough to provide the public with a quality contact with the art form in question – it needs to be more than pointing a camera. So rather than make it a condition of funding, right now we need to illustrate the benefits to arts organisations of willingly embracing the opportunities that digital technology presents. And that's exactly what The Space is doing – by proving an effective learning ground for artists and developing into a popular destination for audiences to discover the arts – and why it does need to become a permanent fixture.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt made his remarks as a panel led by former Conservative minister - and, since he left parliament, seemingly, rather decent chap - Michael Portillo announced publicly funded grants to thirty four organisations, totalling fifty six million smackers, to support endowments. The organisations are expected to find another one hundred and six million notes in matching funds from corporate and individual philanthropists.

Channel Four was the big winner at the Broadcast Digital Awards 2012 on Wednesday night, while BBC4 and MTV also took home major accolades. Channel Four managed a clean sweep of the multiplatform categories with four wins, including Best Game (The Bank Job), Best Multiplatform Project (Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic), Best Website (Sexperience) and Best App (Facejacker). During the ceremony at The Lancaster Hotel in Central London, the broadcaster was also honoured in the 'Best News or Current Affairs' digital category for the website supporting shocking but extraordinary documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields. However, BBC4 - deservedly, in this blogger's opinion - scooped the most coveted prize of the night, 'Channel of the Year', after being praised by the judges for its 'innovative approach' to science, history, arts, comedy and drama.

The number of times programmes are viewed on iPlayer or repeated on the BBC's digital channels will determine how much extra the BBC pays their writers, as part of a new agreement that takes effect next month. The deal follows four years of negotiation between the BBC and PMA (agents association) and the Writers Guild of Great Britain and reflects the growing importance of digital viewing. From July, a new organisation called Writers Digital Payments Limited (run by the PMA and the Writers Guild) will calculate and arrange payment for writers based on the popularity of their work on iPlayer. This new payment arrangement will also cover any future online developments such as Project Barcelona - the proposed digital shop where users can download shows from the BBC archive - which would avoid the need for the BBC to obtain and pay for the clearance of rights on an individual basis. The deal will also see writers earning a percentage of their original fee when their work is repeated on BBC3, BBC4, CBBC or CBeebies - rather than a standard payment. Currently, writers receive a fifteen per cent additional fee for the rights to include their programmes on iPlayer and to repeat them on the digital channels over a five year period. 'This new deal redefines the relationship between writers, agents and the BBC,' Bal Samra, director of Vision Ops and Rights, told Ariel. 'We have worked closely with the Writers Guild and the PMA to create a radical new way to commission and reward television writers that we hope will set a benchmark for the industry.' The agreement will also see lower payments for repeats on the BBC's main channels. And the BBC's Writers Forum - the group made up of the BBC, PMA and WGGB that negotiates terms for new uses of BBC commissioned content - will include, for the first time, shorter scripts, sketches and online commissions within its collective bargaining. 'We believe that these new agreements will facilitate the production of terrific new content in a framework that values fairly the contribution of all parties,' says Samra.

At the grand old age of thirty five, yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch reckons it is time that he played Hamlet. 'I hope to return to the theatre soon, hopefully as Hamlet, as it's a role I've been interested in for a long time,' the Sherlock actor told the Torygraph. 'I don't know if there is such a thing as a right age to play the part, but thirty six or thirty seven seems appropriate to me, so I need to do it before long.' Last year, Michael Sheen got away with playing the Prince of Denmark at forty two. Before that national heart-throb David Tennant was thirty eight. David Warner, who played the part when he was twenty four at Stratford, says that the scholars always reckon Hamlet to be about twenty at the start of the play and thirty three at the end. Still, Sir Michael Redgrave was fifty when he played the role and Sarah Bernhardt managed to do it at fifty five — and on one leg, too.

A TV extra who has appeared in Doctor Who and Casualty was beaten to death by a jealous love rival, Cardiff Crown Court has heard. Gary Suller, forty five, was allegedly killed in a bitter love triangle over twenty seven-year-old Katie Gilmore - and the murder trial jury heard he wanted to marry her. But the court heard she had another lover, Barry Bowyer, who 'hated' Gary because he was afraid of losing her. Bowyer allegedly broke into Gary's terraced house in Pontnewydd, near Cwmbran, and lay in wait for him to come home. Prosecutor Peter Davies said: 'Barry Bowyer and Gary Suller were not strangers to each other - they where both in love with the same woman. It was an prolonged, unrelenting and brutal attack where he inflicted gross and fatal injuries.' Father-of-two Gary appeared in Doctor Who, Casualty and other TV dramas in minor roles often as a policeman or prison officer. He also had a small part in the Rhys Ifans film Mr Nice. Bowyer, of Croesyceiliog, near Cwmbran, denies murder but admits burglary and manslaughter claiming he killed Gary in a 'momentarily lapse.' The trial continues.

The Top Gear Live Stunt Team has become the first to complete a double loop-the-loop on four wheels. The stunt - dubbed the Deadly 720 - was the finale to the first of four Top Gear Festival shows staged at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban at the weekend. The team was also the first to complete a single loop-the-loop in an indoor arena, but Top Gear Live creative director Rowland French admitted: 'We've pulled off some pretty outrageous stunts in the past but this was by far the most audacious yet. We were all holding our breath as the buggy hit the first loop, knowing there was virtually no margin for error - we'd tried this stunt three times in practice and failed on all three attempts. Nevertheless, the maths said it was possible if we got everything exactly right - and we did.' The stunt featured two giant steel loops positioned eight metres apart, which the specially prepared buggy had to complete in quick succession. Testing had shown that the G-force would have held the accelerator pedal down, causing the buggy to crash on the exit, so special hand controls were fitted, along with a big shift light that went from red to green when the speed was just right to complete the loops. 'To avoid disaster, the buggy had to enter both back-to-back loops at exactly the right speed - too slow and there was the danger that it would have tumbled from the top; too fast and the driver could have blacked out from the G-force,' explained French. 'It really was one of those epic "I was there" moments. The fans just went wild.' To defy gravity not once but twice, the buggy had to enter each loop at between thirty eight and forty two kmh. Failing to achieve the minimum speed risked the buggy falling out at the top of the loop. Too much speed would have resulted in extra G on the driver and could have caused him to black out. Moreover, the buggy needed to exit the first loop going fast enough to enter the second loop at the right speed. Top Gear's presenters - Jezza Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond - were hosting the show in Durban. Clarkson said later: 'It was quite remarkable - we're much more famous for mucking about and breaking things like caravans, certainly not for breaking world records! I'm just glad nobody asked me to do it.'

BBC Radio 4 is marking the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war with a drama to be broadcast over the time span of the original conflict – four years. The drama, which has the working title Tommies and is believed to be the UK's biggest ever one-off radio drama commission, will be scripted by a writing team led by Jonathan Ruffle and will tell the story of signals corps soldiers' experiences during the war in real time. Tommies – the nickname for British soldiers – is still in the planning stages but is expected to begin broadcasting around the summer of 2014 and follow the group as they prepare for the war, which broke out in August 1914. The as-yet-uncast drama will follow the trajectory of the conflict in real time and finish broadcasting in the autumn on 2018, the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the conflict, which claimed about nine hundred thousand British lives. Already two years of the drama have been sketched out. Current plans take the unit up to 1915 and the Battle of Loos, the British offensive which marked the first major example of trench warfare in the conflict and the first time the British used poison gas on the enemy. This will be be broadcast in 2015. In 2016, the Battle of the Somme is also expected to be marked one hundred years after it started on July 1916, and some of the soldiers featured in the drama will inevitably be killed as the war progresses. Radio 4's heard of drama, Jeremy Howe, said the signals corps was chosen because these units, responsible for communications, were more mobile than most and as a result the drama would be able to give a more varied portrait of the conflict. 'It's the biggest drama because of the length, certainly,' added Howe. 'When I pitched it I asked [Radio 4 controller] Gwyn [Williams] what she was doing in Christmas in five years' time and that is the length of the war – the scale is big.' Howe added that Ruffle will lead what he called 'the bravest and the best' writing team. He said Ruffle has experience of a similar but smaller project, having written a 'real-time' dramatisation of Len Deighton's documentary novel Bomber for Radio 4 in 1995. Williams said she was 'working out how the schedule' the drama but confirmed that 'while it was early' in project's development, it had been green-lit. The commission is part of Williams' attempt to give drama a higher profile on her station. Earlier this month Radio 4 broadcast an ambitious five-and-a-half-hour adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses, spread across its Saturday schedule. Promising a series of new commissions, Williams told a press briefing last month that she wanted Radio 4 to become more of a 'playground for artists and writers.'

Cristiano Ronaldo's match-winning goal helped Portugal past Czech Republic and into the semi-finals of Euro 2012. Nasty little cheat Ronaldo, who scored twice against the Netherlands, also hit the woodwork in each half. And he finally found the net with twelve minutes remaining, thumping a header into the ground and beyond Petr Cech. The Czech Republic failed to muster a single shot on target as they rarely threatened throughout a tense evening and seemed to be playing for penalties. Portugal will now face Spain or France for a place in the final.

Some very sad news to finish. After a year in which we lost Nick Courtney and Liz Sladen, Caroline John, familiar to millions for playing Doctor Who companion Liz Shaw, has died at the age of seventy one. A funeral was held in South-West London on Wednesday for the Yorkshire-born actress, who starred opposite Jon Pertwee's Doctor in the BBC series in 1970. Caroline played Liz Shaw in four Doctor Who adventures (twenty five episodes), later reprising her role in 1983's twentieth anniversary story The Five Doctors. Doctor Who's current showrunner Steven Moffat paid tribute to 'a brilliant actress' and 'tremendous co-star' for Pertwee. He said Liz Shaw was 'not just a sidekick but a scientist in her own right and a match for the universe's number one know-all.' As Liz Shaw, Caroline made her first appearance alongside the newly-regenerated third Doctor in the memorable story Spearhead from Space. Her character witnessed the reawakening of an ancient reptilian race in Doctor Who and The Silurians and stopped an insane scientist from cracking open the Earth's crust in one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite ever Doctor Who stories, the epic seven-part Inferno, partially set on a 1984-style parallel Earth (which allowed Caroline to play an unusually severe, dark haired and jack-booted militaristic version of her character). The series' new producer, Barry Letts, decided to phase the character out in favour of a more traditional assistant, but Caroline had already decided to leave the drama as she was pregnant with her first child. Before she went, however, she got to drive Bessie, the Doctor's yellow roadster, despite the actress not actually having a driving licence at the time. Doctor Who Magazine assistant editor Peter Ware told the BBC News website that Caroline's character was 'a very different type of companion than any that had come before. For the first time, the Doctor had an assistant who was basically an equal and he treated her as an equal,' he added. 'Intelligent, beautiful, her character was a genius and in real life she was intelligent and beautiful too.' He added that, from the 1990s onwards, Caroline had made regular appearances at fans' conventions where she was 'very kind, very warm and very generous. She only stayed with the show for one year but was very fondly remembered by the fans,' he said. Indeed, yer actual Keith Telly Topping met Caroline a couple of times at conventions and found her to be a thoroughly lovely lady with a charming smile and a keen sense of humour. Both Caroline and her husband, the actor Geoffrey Beevers (who also appeared in Doctor Who as one of the incarnations of The Master), went on to work on several Doctor Who audio plays and straight-to-video spin-offs. 'Carry was always delighted to return to Liz Shaw and reprised the role several times in our audio series,' said David Richardson of production company Big Finish. 'She was a brilliant actress and a lovely, kind soul who was a joy to be around and who was interested in everyone. She will be greatly missed.' Born in York in October 1940, Caroline trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and went on to be a member of the National Theatre company under Sir Laurence Olivier. She toured with Olivier's production of Juno and the Paycock as well as in King Lear and The Merchant of Venice, played Ophelia in the first touring production of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and appeared as Hero in Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 TV production of Much Ado About Nothing. In 1969 Doctor Who was in the process of being revamped after running for six years. The producer of the programme, Derrick Sherwin, decided to attempt a style closer to the more adult Quatermass serials of the 1950s. Pertwee's Doctor was assisted by the no-nonsense military outfit UNIT, and an intelligent scientist sidekick – albeit a glamorous one who also got involved in action sequences – was an appropriate addition. After leaving Doctor Who having returned, successfully, to the stage, in recent years, Caroline was seen in the 2003 film Love Actually and episodes of Casualty, Doctors, Midsomer Murders and Silent Witness. She and her husband appeared opposite each other in the classic 1988 mini-series A Very British Coup and a 1989 episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot. Caroline also appeared in episodes of Z Cars, Crown Court, Love Story, The Bill, The Power Game, Dorothy L Sayers Mysteries and, memorably, Harry Enfield's Television Programme as the housekeeper of the sparring geriatric Tory and Labour politicians Freddie and Jack. Her other credits included The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982), opposite Tom Baker, and The House of Eliott (1994). She is survived by Geoffrey, their daughter, Daisy, who is also an actor, and their sons, Ben and Tom.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we back in Dusseldorf at KlingKlang. And, as we always say at such times, why ever not?

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