Saturday, June 16, 2012

Week Twenty Six: Going South

Caitlin Moran, the award-winning Times columnist and author of the bestselling book How To Be A Woman, has written the pilot for a Channel Four sitcom about an overweight sixteen-year-old looking for a boyfriend. The Big Object reportedly focuses on the lives of three characters, two sisters and a mother, but no casting has yet been made. Shane Allen, Channel Four's head of comedy, said the comedy's title 'was chosen to be deliberately ambiguous,' and is a reference to the main character's hunt for a boyfriend, but also to her size. Yeah. Got that. Allen said that the pilot would go ahead 'after rewrites.' Moran signed a separate deal last year with Channel Four subsidiary Film4 to write a movie adaptation of her book, which has to date sold half-a-million copies. If the sitcom pilot – which is expected to be broadcast before the film version of How To Be A Woman is released – proves successful, a six-part series could follow. Channel Four won the film rights after a fierce bidding war last summer against Eric Fellner's Working Title. Allen said that Moran's original idea for the comedy was to make it a period piece, but he had asked for it to be altered to bring it up to date and distinguish it from the book, which opens in Wolverhampton in 1988. This is similar to a crucial change that Allen ordered for the hit comedy The Inbetweeners, which started with a pilot set in the 1980s but was switched to the present day. Both Moran's TV comedy and the film are being made by independent producer Big Talk. The TV pilot is being executive produced by Caroline Leddy, who was closely involved with The Inbetweeners, and whose credits include Friday Night Dinner, Smack the Pony and Brass Eye. The film is being produced by Nira Park, the Big Talk founder and joint chief executive. Kenton Allen, the Big Talk joint chief executive, said: 'Happily [Moran] brought them to us. The two things are distinct and separate, the comedy is more advanced than the movie, and it is different. We are waiting for Channel Four to green-light production of the comedy.'

BBC2 is to air an ambitious eight-part series which will provide a 'top to bottom' profile of the NHS in one day. Hot on the heels of the Britain In A Day documentary in which viewers took footage of their lives, broadcast on BBC2 last week, the channel will dispatch about fifty camera crews around the country to examine what happens in GP surgeries, hospitals and other care facilities in one day. The series, which has the working title Keeping Britain Alive, will be filmed sometime this year and broadcast in 2013, although the BBC is remaining tight-lipped about which specific day will be chosen. BBC commissioning editor for documentaries Charlotte Moore said that the time was ripe for the commission, given the changes which the health service is undergoing and the size of the NHS. 'It is estimated to be the third biggest employer in the world – behind the Chinese Army and the Indian railways, with 1.4 million people working for it and 1.5 million patients treated a day – we want to get some sense of that scale,' she told some trouble-maker of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star. 'This will be a top to bottom examination of a very important institution.' Moore's department has also commissioned a new Gareth Malone documentary series, a new format in which he trains up workplace choirs who will compete with each other. Sing While you Work, a new six-part series, will see choirs from four different British workplaces receiving training from Malone before competing with each other. The series follows Malone's other award winning shows, The Choir and The Choir: Military Wives, in which he taught choral singing to people with little experience. 'There will be a real edge to this, but we also want it to be quite heart-warming in these tough times,' said Moore. 'There is a lot of equality about a choir – and introducing that into the workplaces, which can be very hierarchical places, will be very interesting,' she added. In addition, Louis Theroux has been signed up by the BBC for a three-year deal. His recent documentaries have included BBC2's Extreme Love: Autism in which he profiled various young people in the US with the condition.

Billie Piper will 'ignite controversy' with scenes in her new BBC1 drama True Love, an alleged - but curiously nameless (and, therefore, probably non-existent) - BBC 'source' has allegedly claimed. Or not. Because, he or she allegedly claimed it to the Mirra and, frankly, if they told me up was the opposite of down I'd want a second opinion. No stranger to provocative material after starring in four series of the sexually explicit ITV series Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, the twenty nine-year-old plays an unhappily married woman who engages in a dangerous affair. Her character, Holly, is a secondary school teacher who falls for her teenage pupil, played by Skins star Kaya Scodelario. So this alleged - and probably fictitious - BBC 'source' allegedly told the Mirra: 'This storyline will get some criticism, but it's been well researched and is similar to real-life events.' Yeay, that sounds like exactly the sort of thing a BBC employee wouldn't say. Scodelario has previously stated that the lesbian storyline in True Love is not deliberately sensational, claiming: 'It's very hard to get two female actors, put them together in a relationship and not make it about sex. [This story] was more about the connection that they share as women [and] the points that they're at in their lives.' The five-part serial was semi-improvised by the actors, and sees Piper re-unite with her Doctor Who co-star David Tennant for the first time since Tennant's final episode as the Doctor in 2010.

England's dramatic and diarrhoea-inducing 3-2 victory over Sweden has become the most-watched match of Euro 2012 so far, overnight figures confirm. BBC1's coverage on Friday evening between 7.30pm and 10.15pm averaged 10.96m, with a peak of 16.3m punters tuning in at around 9.30pm just as England regained their lead through Danny Welbeck. Over on ITV, the delayed match between France and Ukraine scored 4.56m between 6.30pm and 8pm, after which a Lewis repeat mustered 1.74m. Meanwhile, The Graham Norton Show capped a strong evening for BBC1 with 3.77m at 10.45pm. Antiques Road Trip was BBC2's best-rated programme with 2.03m at 7pm. Overall, BBC1 obliterated ITV in primetime with 42.2 per cent of the audience share versus 13.1 per cent. Russell Howard's Good News Extra appealed to six hundred and thirty three thousand punters on BBC3 at 10pm, and was primetime's biggest multichannel show.

Here's yer next batch of Top Telly Tips:
Saturday 23 June
Sex and the Sitcom - 9:00 BBC2 - is a documentary exploring how sitcoms responded to the sexual revolution, exploring frustration as a recurring theme, the changing role of women and the British love of a bit of good old fashioned boys own innuendo. The programme also considers the evolving language of the genre, and contrasts the nation's comedy with that of America. Featuring contributions from Leslie Phillips (Casanova 73), Wendy Craig (Butterflies) and Lesley Joseph (from the thoroughly wretched Birds of a Feather). Previously shown on BBC4.

Grumpy odious greed bucket and breakfast TV flop Adrian Chiles gets his ugly mush on my TV again to present - wretchedly, as usual - coverage of the third quarter-final at Euro 2012 (kick-off 7.45pm), between the winners of Group C and the runners-up in Group D, held at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. A place in the last four is at stake in tonight's clash, which would see the winners of this contest face the victors of the opening quarter-final in this stadium for a place in the showpiece occasion. Group C included three nations that featured at this stage four years ago, with eventual champions Spain facing Italy in Vienna, while Croatia were eliminated on penalties by Turkey. The Republic of Ireland had hoped they could better their performance at their only previous appearance in this tournament, when they failed to progress from the group stage at Euro '88 in Germany. But, that proved to be a case of pissing in the wind and two ruddy good hidings will see them return to Dublin on the first available plane. Whoever topped the table will fancy their chances this evening against the runners-up of Group D, with England and France both producing teams that appeared to be weaker than in years gone by and co-hosts Ukraine taking part in a European Championship for the first time.

A schoolgirl's killing in the woods outside Durham brings Gently into the alien world of pop and media celebrity when it turns out the victim's best friend is a rising TV star in a repeated Inspector George Gently - 8:30 BBC1. Bacchus suspects the dead girl's music teacher to be guilty of some nefarious skulduggery, as rumours persist that she was having an affair with him. But when it seems everyone has a different opinion about the girl, Gently must uncover these different faces to get to the truth of her murder. In town, her friends are happily slapping on the make-up and hitching up their hemlines in preparation for going to Upside Down, a TV show that's an obvious stand-in for Ready, Steady Go! but with Neil Morrissey as a lecherous host. Not at all like that nice Keith Fordyce. This is the 1960s of Inspector George Gently – a time when sexual equality was in its infancy and a slug of Scotch, a fag and a clout round the head were all a good copper needed to help him solve a crime. Ah, happy days. Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby star.

Sunday 24 June
Gary Lineker - and his lovely teeth - presents coverage of the concluding quarter-final (Kick-off 7.45pm), between the winners of Group D and the runners-up in Group C, held at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Whichever team emerges triumphant from this contest will have just three days of preparation ahead of the second semi-final, which will take place at the National Stadium in the Polish capital of Warsaw. Before the tournament began, Group D appeared to be wide open with regards to which nations would occupy the top two positions in the table. Recently appointed England manager Roy Hodgson will have seen this as a positive having had little time to work with his squad after taking charge last month, in addition to being unable to call upon the services of Wayne Rooney for the first two matches, as they attempted to finish ahead of Sweden, 2004 champions France and co-hosts Ukraine. Whereas three of the teams in Group C took part in the last eight of this competition four years ago, Group D was made up of two teams who failed to progress to the knockout phase and two teams who failed to qualify for the tournament, making it arguably one of the weakest of the four groups, and providing either Spain, Italy or Croatia with an excellent opportunity to progress. Subsequent programmes are, of course, subject to change.

Chris Packham reveals the ways in which animals help balance the ecosystem and help the world's grasslands to flourish in Secrets Of Our Living Planet - 8:00 BBC2. White rhinos in Kenya create essential nitrogen hot spots by trimming and fertilising grass, fruit-eating maned wolves control the Brazilian Cerrado and the Australian Outback is managed by rat kangaroos and bandicoots. Chris also reveals that termites are major source of protein for wildlife and examines the relationships between the insects and other animals.

Gregory Doran directs an adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the tragedy Julius Caesar - 8:00 BBC4. Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me. The setting is a modern African state in which the tyrant Caesar is about to seize power and Cassius persuades the loyal Brutus to join the conspirators plotting an assassination. Because, they were honourable men. Starring an all-black cast including Paterson Joseph, Cyril Nri, Jeffery Kissoon, Ray Fearon and Adjoa Andoh and shot on location and in the RSC's theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Cutting Edge goes inside Gartree Prison, Leicestershire, which houses Europe's largest population of inmates who have been sentenced to life, with access to the cells, visiting rooms and segregation unit in Lifers - 9:00 Channel Four. The film follows prisoners as try to come to terms with their crimes, and the varying degrees of remorse they show, and examines the behavioural courses the convicts undergo in a bid to convince the parole board they no longer pose a threat to society.

Monday 25 June
Once again, there is no footie on telly tonight. Bah. What a bugger. Still, there's plenty of snorting testosterone and violence on offer in Traffic Cops - 9:00 BBC1 if you can do without your daily fix. A woman from Luton is arrested after unleashing her Staffordshire bull terriers on a man in the town centre, leaving him lying in a pool of blood and snots. And, a helicopter search for a reported knifeman leads to the discovery of late-night revellers attacking a betting shop. Narrated with bloodthirsty glee by Jamie Theakston.

King George And Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued The Monarchy - 9:00 BBC2 - is a repeat but a very worthy one and highly recommended. Queen Mary's rise to the throne from a comparatively low position within the royal hierarchy is the focus of this documentary. She was selected as a potential future wife to the monarch by Queen Victoria when still a child and was first betrothed to Prince Eddy, heir to the throne. After his death she was unceremoniously passed onto his brother George, and following her husband's death in 1935 she emerged as an eccentric yet determined royal matriarch. Inevitably, this absorbing portrait of Mary covers some of the same ground as the previous episode's exploration of her husband George V's reign (and includes many of the same clips). But Mary is a fascinating figure in her own right, in particular the arc she travelled from family disgrace when she was sixteen (her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, were forced by debts to sell the family silver) to reincarnation as a Queen Empress. As we explore her passionate belief in duty, self-denial and the correct playing of a role, what followed later for the royal family comes into clearer focus.

Actor and rapper Adam Deacon investigates the public's perception of the police and asks the all important question Can We Trust The Police? - 9:00 BBC3. He examines different aspects of their work and meets people who feel let down by the force, including a football-loving family left hospitalised after being attacked by police dogs and a mother who claims incompetence led to the death of her daughter.

Documentarists David Redmon and Ashley Sabin let their footage speak for itself in Girl Model - 9:00 BBC4 - a harrowing exposé of the Japanese modelling market. Such is the national obsession with lithe youth that hundreds of impoverished Siberian girls place themselves in the hands of unscrupulous agents in the hope of making it big in Tokyo. Thirteen-year-old Nadya Vall is desperate to succeed and endures a humiliating cattle call and a punishing dietary regime to land a contract with Tigran, a shady Russian who employs American ex-child model Ashley Arbaugh as his go-between with an equally dubious Japanese counterpart known only as Messiah. Dismissing the distressed video-diary entries she made in the 1990s, Arbaugh justifies the industry and her role in it, even though it's clear from Vall's miserable experience that girls are being exploited, deceived and discarded without a thought for their physical or psychological welfare. The result is intrepidly filmed, unflinchingly revelatory and deeply disconcerting.

Tuesday 26 June Three British families turn back the clock to experience life as it was in the 1900s, and then fast-forward to another four pivotal eras in history in a new series of Turn Back Time: The Family - 9:00 BBC1. The Meadows are transformed into a typical Edwardian working-class clan, coping with poverty while their daughters adapt to their new roles as breadwinners. The Taylors become upper class, forced by etiquette and formality to live separate lives - which proves particularly difficult for Adele as her status as a working mum is stripped away - and the Goldings represent the middle class, giving dad Ian the chance to test his theories on the benefits of discipline.

Much anticipated thanks to a terrific cast and an excellent trailer is Line of Duty - 9:00 BBC2. This is a crime thriller following one multi-stranded inquiry over the course of five hours. Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott is transferred to a police anti-corruption unit and assigned to investigate a senior officer, DCI Tony Gates. Not only is his target one of the most popular cops on the force, but his squad has returned the best crime figures for three consecutive years. Surely no one can be that good? Arnott soon finds himself in a cat-and-mouse struggle as he slowly unearths his superior's secrets. Lennie James, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Gina McKee and Neil Morrissey star.

The investigators look into a burglary in which an entire house was stolen after being removed from its foundations in CSI - 9:00 Channel Five. The home's owner also believes the thieves must have abducted his wife along with the building - and when two bodies are found that appear to have links to the case, DB and the team try to untangle a family's troubled history to get closer to the truth. Guest starring Jeff Kober (Sons of Anarchy) and Ashley Williams (How I Met Your Mother).

Ethan Hawke takes a look at MacBeth in Shakespeare Uncovered - 9:00 BBC4. The American actor researches the role of Shakespeare's tragic Scottish nobleman, exploring the events and locations that inspired the play and discovering how biased histories led the playwright to distort the truth. He also examines the importance of the character of Lady Macbeth to the story, speaks to actor Antony Sher and director Gregory Doran about their 2001 production, and looks at the first-ever printed folio edition of the script from 1623.

Wednesday 27 June
The football's back. Hurrah. Tonight sees the BBC having first pick of coverage of the opening semi-final at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk (kick-off 7.45pm), where the winners of the first and third quarter-finals face each other. The team that triumphed in the third quarter-final may be at a slight physical disadvantage having had two days less to recuperate from their previous match, but could well hold a psychological edge with that contest having taken place in this very arena, while their opponents tonight are playing here for the first time in the competition. A place in the final is at stake for the winners of this game, in which they will meet the victors of tomorrow night's clash for the right to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy. The semi-final stage of Euro 2008 featured two teams that, prior to the competition at least, were not considered to be genuine contenders to make the final, which only serves to illustrate the unpredictability of the European Championships, as well as the competitive nature of the teams who qualify. Turkey fell to Germany in a valiant 3-2 defeat, whilst eventual champions Spain recorded a second victory of the tournament over Russia, with their 3-0 success proving the 4-1 win they recorded in the group stage was no fluke. Presented by Gary Lineker.

Barrister and historian Harry Potter (no, the other one) charts the formation of legal rights and freedoms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many of which still exist today in The Strange Case of The Law - 9:00 BBC4. He explores the case of a lawyer who risked assassination to put the king of England on trial for his crimes against the people, a civil rights activist Oliver Cromwell banished to an offshore prison, and a pillar of the establishment who made a judgement that dealt a blow to the slave trade.

Big quiffed Marky Kermode talks to The Exorcist director William Friedkin about his new film Killer Joe, while Alexei Sayle - who used to be funny about twenty odd years ago - joins Andrew Graham-Dixon at Tate Liverpool to view an exhibition of later works by JMW Turner, Claude Monet and the American painter Cy Twombly in The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. Meanwhile, Miranda Sawyer - smart girl, but with a face like a bag full of spanners - interviews the comedian and musician Tim Minchin about Matilda, musicals and megalomania, the members of Hot Chip reveal their theme for the London Olympics Table Tennis Tournament and James Runcie discusses with author Richard Ford the border between the ordinary and the criminal in his new novel Canada.

Thursday 28 June
BBC also have coverage of the concluding semi-final at the National Stadium in Warsaw (kick-off 7.45pm), where the winners of the second and fourth quarter-finals meet for a place in the final. The teams will come into this match already knowing who lies in wait should they make it to the showpiece match in Kiev in three days' time, but in truth, the knowledge they are one game away from contesting the trophy should be incentive enough for them to strive for victory. Four years ago, when the tournament was held in Austria and Switzerland, Spain swept aside Russia in the second semi-final before going on to succeed in securing their first silverware in forty four years with victory over Germany. The concluding last-four encounter in the preceding tournament, held in Portugal, also provided the nation that would go on to prevail in the final, as Greece profited from their victory over the Czech Republic by going on to claim the ultimate prize by upsetting the host nation in Lisbon. While one suspects the winners of tonight's match will declare they are at a slight disadvantage as they progress to the final having had one day less to recover, recent history would suggest otherwise.

Brendan Walker ventures outside to explore how inventions and innovations improved people's leisure time in the 1950s in the final episode of The House the 50s Built - 9:00 Channel Four. He uncovers the simple but brilliant secret that made a British motorcycle the world's first superbike, learns about the rise in holidays thanks to family cars and passenger jets, and reveals how pesticides developed during wartime transformed gardens from muddy patches into visions of floral perfection. Back at the house, he holds a party to celebrate Britain's first truly modern decade, serving up two final innovations - instant coffee, and tea made from stringless teabags.

Top of the Pops 1977 - 7:30 BBC4 - features a vintage edition of the BBC's pop music show from June 1977 - a year which saw number one singles by artists including Donna Summer, Wings, Rod Stewart, David Soul, Abba, the Jacksons, Manhattan Transfer, Hot Chocolate, Leo Sayer, Kenny Rogers, Julia Covington, the Floaters and Deniece Williams. Still, it wasn't all bad.

And so to the news: Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch called Tony Blair urging him not to delay the invasion of Iraq, former Number 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell has claimed. The allegation is made in the latest part of Campbell's diaries, which are being serialised in the Gruniad Morning Star. Campbell said there were three calls in March 2003, a week before a crucial vote on Iraq in the House of Commons. Murdoch's company, News Corporation, said claims he lobbied Blair were 'complete rubbish' and 'unsubstantiated.' The media boss previously told the Leveson inquiry he 'never asked a prime minister for anything.' According to Campbell's book, The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq, Murdoch's moves were made to support Republicans in Washington. The ex-Downing Street director of communications said the interventions from Murdoch came 'out of the blue.' In one call Murdoch was said to have tried to pressure the then Prime Minister Blair to accelerate UK military involvement in Iraq. On 11 March 2003, Campbell wrote that Blair 'took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc.' Campbell continued: 'Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got.' The following day he added: 'TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever.' The claims were dismissed by News Corporation. In a statement, it said: 'It is complete rubbish to suggest that Rupert Murdoch lobbied Mr Blair over the Iraq war on behalf of the US Republicans. Furthermore, there isn't even any evidence in Alastair Campbell's diaries to support such a ridiculous claim.' The company is understood to be stressing Murdoch has 'never denied' stating his opinion on policies to politicians, and that he 'made this clear' in a written statement to Lord Leveson, whose inquiry has examined the relationship between the press and those in power. After Murdoch told the inquiry he never asked a prime minister for anything, former PM Sir John Major this week told Lord Leveson that Murdoch had pressed him on policy when he was prime minister in the mid 1990s. Sir John said the media magnate asked him to change the Conservatives' stance on Europe otherwise his papers would withdraw their support. Sir John recalled the exchange from a private meeting in 1997, which he said he had not spoken about before.

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh has been knighted in a Queen's Birthday Honours list which also sees ex-Olympic minister Tessa Jowell made a Dame. Take That singer Gary Barlow is made an OBE for his cringingly sycophantic royal rim-licking and there is a CBE for Oscar winner Kate Winslet. Gareth Malone, the choirmaster behind the chart-topping Army Wives who also took part in the Diamond Jubilee concert, becomes an OBE. Other stage and screen figures recognised with OBEs include Upstairs Downstairs actress and co-creator Jean Marsh, playwright and former Casualty star Kwame Kwei Armah and Jenny Agutter, for her charitable work. Amanda Redman, star of TV's New Tricks, has helped train dozens of actors at her Artists Theatre School and is recognised with an OBE for services to drama and charity.

Menawhile, Armando Iannucci has defended his acceptance of an OBE after an attack from one his most regular comedic targets – Alastair Campbell. Campbell, the former spokesman for Tony Blair believed to have been the inspiration behind the foul mouthed spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in Iannucci's BBC sitcom The Thick of It, suggested that the satirst's edge could be blunted by his new honour. 'So Iannucci OBE joins the establishment he claims to deride. Malcolm Tucker and I do not approve of honours system,' Campbell commented on Twitter, sparking a series of testy exchanges with the writer who once penned a spoof column purporting to be by the former New Labour spin-doctor. Taking on the persona of Tucker, Campbell accused Iannucci of joining the tribe he had become famous for parodying. Speaking after the spat, Iannucci denied his OBE would impede his comedy in any way. 'Does Chris Hoy cycle less well after being honoured? Is there a suggestion that he has sold out?' he asked. 'My comedy is not about judging where people come from, or what they are called or what school they went to. I don't care. It is about what they do.' Iannucci explained it was a matter of being polite and discreet. 'If you accept any awards or prizes then why not this one?' he asked the Observer. 'I have accepted honorary degrees too and it seems to me bad manners not to. It is good manners to accept and then bad to crow about it afterwards.' The comedian responded online to Campbell by comparing his alleged offence to the Blair government's decision to march into Iraq. 'It's probably more establishment to order your army to march into other countries for no reason. Swings and roundabouts,' he tweeted. Leading broadcast journalists Andrew Neil and Samira Ahmed joined the Twitter dispute. 'Why would somebody who constantly parades their anti-establishment credentials accept such a bauble?,' asked the odious Neil, adding that he believed journalists should also never accept honours 'from people we are supposed to be holding to account.' Speaking later in the day Campbell argued that, while he admired Iannucci's work and liked him personally, he 'could not resist asking the question' because of his own long-held opposition to the honours system. 'I have always had a bit of a thing about the honours system, partly because I know what it is like and how it works. People may ask why we did not change it while we had the chance, but the truth is that Tony Blair did not see it as a priority and he was prime minister. He also felt it was something that made a lot of people very happy.' Campbell did not feel performers could be forgiven for accepting public plaudits. 'Satirists like Armando have extraordinary recognition in this country. He is definitely popular and rightly so. But if you have made your name by making fun of the establishment, which he has done very cleverly, then it weakens it if you accept an honour. It seems strange that someone who should invent Malcolm Tucker's character should start spinning his own answers to these questions.' The former master of spin said although he is part of the establishment he retains 'an anti-establishment streak.' He argued that while David Frost had accepted a knighthood, he suspected the satirist and interviewer would not have done so while appearing on the hit 1960s satirical show That Was the Week That Was. Campbell's former political colleague and friend Tessa Jowell, who now becomes a Dame, was entitled to accept her award, he argued, because she had not set herself up in opposition to the established institutions of state. Campbell said he believed satire was important because it could actually damage politicians. 'Jack Straw came to me quite worried about the effect of the portrayal of the relationship between Tony and me in Rory Bremner's show, and in the 1980s David Steel was certainly damaged by the Spitting Image puppet of him sitting in David Owen's pocket.' Iannucci made fun of his own new status by suggesting on Twitter that he had joined an army platoon of celebrities: 'I now have to salute Kate Winslet. Gareth Malone and I drive a tank.'

You will know Noel Clarke best for playing Mickey Smith, boyfriend of Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, dear blog reader. But since leaving the regular cast in 2006, the actor-writer-director-producer has been busy. Having written hugely successful movies Kidulthood and its follow-up Adulthood (which he also directed), Clarke has recently landed a part in the much-hyped Star Trek sequel alongside fellow Brits Benedict Cumberbatch and Alice Eve. Friday saw the release of his latest offering, Fast Girls, which he wrote and starred in – a feel-good movie about a group of girls training for the 2012 Olympics, only you wouldn't know it's London 2012 as halfway through the shoot Clarke was informed he couldn't mention the words 'Olympics' or '2012' because they were, and you're not going to believe this, dear blog reader, copyrighted. 'It's a disgrace. A total disgrace. We had to approach the Olympic Committee and they had to check with all their sponsors,' Noel said. 'This is the problem with films in this country. They are not respected enough and not helped enough. In America that would never have happened. The sponsors would have got involved and said "Yeah, great." But this is how we treat ourselves.' Fast Girls – warm, sugary and uplifting – represents Clarke's desire to make varied films. His successes with Kidulthood and Adulhood led to the industry consigning him to the 'grime' genre: 'I wrote loads of films that were different, and people weren't interested - they just wanted another hood movie. So I said, well I kind of grew up in that environment, but it wasn't me. If it was me, I probably wouldn't be writing, d'you know what I mean?' He admits that he didn't have a clue about directing when he made Adulthood. So, wasn't he scared? 'No. I think I've got a bit of cold blood. If you've got to do it, you just do it.' Clarke's breakout role was in Doctor Who where he worked with two doctors – Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Which is his favourite? 'Matt [Smith],' he says. 'He just brought something different to it that I like. No disrespect to the others. I'm not going to say them just because I worked with them. Also when Matt got on, the budgets were larger and the show was more ambitious.' Nowadays Clarke's priority is to give British film its fizz back: 'I want to be ambitious. I want to see spaceships in British films, I want to see aliens, athletics, cage fighting, action. There'll be ninjas running across New York City and you won't bat an eyelid. Why can't they be running across Canary Wharf?'

The TMZ website reports that legendary horror writer Clive Barker - who's responsible for the Candyman and Hellraiser franchises - is being sued because he, allegedly, gave his ex-boyfriend HIV. Emilian David Armstrong claims in the suit that he met Barker in early 1996 and they moved in together. Armstrong had a daughter from a previous heterosexual relationship. Armstrong adds that in November 1996, he was diagnosed with HIV. The suit claims that Barker had tested positive and had urged Armstrong to get tested. Armstrong's case is that that Barker gave him HIV. Armstrong claims that Barker confessed he had previously engaged in a sexual relationship with his own cousin, who had AIDS - and also engaged in sadomasochism in prior relationships that involved syringes. As for why Armstrong waited sixteen years to file a lawsuit, Armstrong suggests that he and Barker tried to work out their relationship and battle the virus together. According to the lawsuit, in 2003 Barker became addicted to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, and Oxycodone. Armstrong claims Barker would mix these drugs with alcohol, cocaine, and/or crystal meth and use them for recreation. But Armstrong says he still didn't give up on the relationship and tried to help Barker through his drug problems. Armstrong claims that Barker started throwing drug-fueled parties with young men. The suit claims that in 2009 Barker kicked Armstrong out of his house - along with Armstrong's daughter - and 'left them destitute.' Armstrong claims he was a partner in Barker's business ventures and is entitled to a cut of the profits. He also says he was promised 'support for life.'

Caravaggio's Resurrection of Lazarus has gone on display in Rome, after seven months of restoration work. The painting, also known as The Raising of Lazarus, is believed to have been created in 1609, one year before the artist's death at the age of thirty eight. It depicts the story in the Gospel of St John in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. It marks the first time the painting has been restored in sixty years. It will remain in Rome until 15 July. The painting was housed for centuries in the church of the Crociferi fathers in Messina, Sicily, before it was moved to the city's museum. It shows the instant that Christ points to the dead Lazarus - who is being held in the arms of those who exhumed him - and brings his friend back to life. The background of the painting is mostly dark, which art historians say was probably because Caravaggio was in a hurry to complete the commission. 'During this period of his life, Caravaggio was forced to finish his paintings very quickly, and therefore he refined his technique in order to achieve this objective,' said restorer Anna Maria Marcone. 'He used local materials and used the dark background in order to quickly realise the figures,' she told a news conference. The painting was done on six pieces of canvas - five vertical and one horizontal - that were sewn together to reach the desired size. Marcone said the most difficult part of the restoration was repairing some of the damage done by what was believed to have been the first restoration on the painting, in 1670. The painting was unscathed in the great Messina earthquake of 1908, which killed some two hundred thousand people and destroyed thousands of buildings in Sicily and Calabria. It will be on display in Rome's Palazzo Braschi, overlooking Piazza Navona, until mid July, when it will be returned to Sicily.

Having been through God's Own Country yesterday and ended up as part of a high-wire act to cross the Tyne, the Olympic torch abseiled down The Sage in Gateshead before travelling from to Durham (via a very curious circular route) on day twenty nine of the relay. Along the route, the torch was carried on a lap around Gateshead International Stadium (seemingly, there was no problems with allegedly 'unofficial' advertising there) and also visited the iconic Angel of the North. An evening celebration took place at Durham University Racecourse. The day's ninety nine-mile journey saw the flame passed between one hundred and thirty one torchbearers, as the relay travelled through Gateshead, South Shields, Whitburn, Cleadon, The Dark Place (Sunderland), Washington, Low Fell, Blaydon, Ryton, Prudhoe, Stockfield, back - briefly - over the Tyne into Northumberland for Hexham then south again to Riding Mill, Consett, Moorside, Castleside, Tow Law, Esh Winning, Langley Park and ending in beautiful Durham. Poor old Chopwell didn't get a bloody look in. Neither did Pity Me or No Place for that matter. And as for it going anywhere near Stanley - two hopes, Bob Hope and no hope. Following Friday's ride on a zip-wire from the Tyne Bridge, the relay again adopted unusual methods of travel when it began Saturday's journey at shortly after 7am. The torch was carried during an abseil down the iconic Sage Building on Gateshead Quayside, centre for musical education, performance and conferences. It was in the hands of Richard Jackson, forty five, from Seaton Sluice. Seen off by a Northumberian piper, he paused to give a wave which elicited a cheer from the small crowd below. Even in the drizzle, the mirrored windows of The Sage reflected the flame beautifully as Richard abseiled down. Just before making his descent, he told BBC Newcastle's Charlie Charlton that he was nervous. He said: 'It's all about where you put your feet so you don't slip on the glass and fall on your face - or drop the torch.' Thankfully, he didn't. He told ITV News' Ian Payne: 'Flames and ropes don't mix so I had one eye on the torch, one eye on the ropes, one eye on my feet and one eye on the public! I couldn't really take it all in - it was an amazing feeling and I'll reflect on it later with a lot of pride.' About an hour later, the torch was taken around the athletics track at Gateshead International Stadium - the venue where, in 2006, Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell equalled his own then-world record of 9.77 seconds for the hundred metres. BBC Newcastle's Steph Finnon was there and said: 'At half past six in the morning there were hundreds of people in the stands - when do you ever see that in Gateshead Stadium?' Her colleague young Matty Raisbeck added that the stadium had provided 'a wonderful reception for the torch.' He said: 'You can hear the cheers and applause from the crowds.' Among the torchbearers in South Shields were distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie - a regular competitor in the region, particularly at the Great North Run from Newcastle to South Shields - and the founder of the Great North Run itself, the Hebburn-born Tyneside legend and Olympic bronze medallist Brendan Foster. He then carried the flame to the spot where the famous annual half-marathon ends on the seafront. After crossing the line Foster said: 'It was a memorable moment for the people of South Tyneside, who will savour this occasion for ever.' Meanwhile Gebrselassie said: 'The Olympics isn't just about winning medals, it's about people coming together and taking part.' Local boy and fifteen hundred metre Olympic silver medallist Steve Cram carried the flame into Sunderland's Aquatic Centre where he stood on a boom in the pool. Speaking after his 'walk on water' moment, Cram said: 'The purpose of the torch relay is to take the Olympics past your front door almost. It's one way people can get to the Olympics and feel as if they have just about touched it.' He also said that he thought Team GB would have its 'best Games ever.' In another of the day's highlights, the torch visited the Angel of the North. The Anthony Gormey-designed steel structure, which is twenty metres high and has a wing span of fifty four metres, has stood on a hill on the southern edge of Low Fell since 1998. The final leg of the relay was run by BBC presenter Matt Baker, who carried the torch in his home county of Durham. Baker, who co-hosts The ONE Show and was the runner-up on Strictly Come Dancing in 2010, lit a cauldron on Durham University Racecourse, which burned throughout the celebration evening.

Giorgios Karagounis scored a dramatic winner as Greece produced one of the shocks of Euro 2012 to knock Russia out of the tournament and seal their place in the last eight. Russia had utterly dominated the game before Karagounis pounced on a Yuri Zhirkov mistake to drill in a low shot past Vyacheslav Malafeev. Roman Shirokov had earlier been denied a penalty after claiming a push by Karagounis, who also had a strong spot-kick shout himself waved away later on - and, to add insult to injury was booked for diving meaning that he will miss the quarter final. A Giorgos Tzavellas free-kick struck the post for Greece as Russia went out. Who'd've thought that was likely to happen as they crushed the Czechs in their opening group game just a week ago? if a week's a long time in politics it's an eternity in football. So, whilst the Greeks might be pulled out of the Euro, they're still in the Euro Zone. if you see what I mean.

And, just to complete what was a thoroughly bizarre night, Petr Jiráček scored the only goal of a scrappy game in Wroclaw to break Polish hearts and send the Czech Republic - spanked 4-1 in their opening game by the Russians, remember - into the quarter-finals as winners of Group A. The Wolfsburg midfielder poked the ball beyond Poland goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń eighteen minutes from time to dump the co-hosts out of Euro 2012. Poland came into the game knowing that a win would have taken them into the last eight for the first time. But while Poland's attacking quartet created a succession of clear-cut chances in an opening half hour they dictated, all of them were, crucially, spurned. Robert Lewandowsk had the best of them, linking up delightfully with Jakub Błaszczykowski only to slice a left-footed shot wide of the upright under pressure from Theodor Gebre Selassie. Captain Błaszczykowski had a last-gasp header cleared off the line by Michal Kadlec. The Czechs, for whom Václav Pilař was outstanding in midfield, held on during a frantic final few moments.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson both claim that England were lucky to escape with a win in Kiev on Friday that saw Sweden depart Euro 2012. At one stage the Swedes led the Group D fixture 2-1 but a Theo Walcott-inspired rally secured a 3-2 win for England which propelled them into second place and sending the Swedes back home to Stockholm with nul point. Ibrahimovic said: 'I think we were the better team against England.' Mackem midfielder Larsson agreed: 'We were definitely better.' Yeah, yeah, what ever. Enjoy your summer off, lads.

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Croatian Football Federation following racist chanting during their recent game with Italy. It was investigating reports that a banana was thrown onto the pitch during the Group C match with Italy on Thursday. A photographer reportedly saw a steward retrieving a banana and heard monkey chants directed at Mario Balotelli. The disciplinary proceedings are outlined for 'racist chants [and] racist symbols' in the crowd. 'UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Croatian Football Federation for the setting-off and throwing of fireworks, and the improper conduct of supporters (racist chants, racist symbols) at the UEFA Euro 2012 Group C match against Italy in Poznan on Thursday,' it said in a statement. The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body will deal with the case on Tuesday 19 June. Football Against Racism in Europe announced on Friday that their observers heard between three hundred and five hundred Croatia fans chanting monkey noises, which prompted UEFA to investigate the matter. The Croatian Football Federation has condemned the 'deviant" fans who had shamed their country but urged UEFA to spare them further sanctions. In a statement it said: 'The Croatian Football Federation distances itself from all deviant behaviour of the part of the fans during the final tournament of UEFA Euro 2012 and strongly condemns it. The HNS, its national team players and members of the technical staff support all UEFA activities aimed at identifying individuals whose behaviour damages the reputation of the competition, no matter which country they come from. The HNS appeals to UEFA not to punish the Croatian national team, which is for a number of years at the top of world football because of its performances and behaviour, both on and off the field of play, and not to associate it with the part of the fans who actually are not supporters, but hooligans which should be isolated from all sports events.' Or, in other words 'please sir, don't cane me I was led astray by older boys.' Croatia were fined fifteen grand by FIFA just under four years ago after England striker Emile Heskey was subjected to monkey chants during a World Cup qualifier in Zagreb. They were also given a small fine during Euro 2008 for racist abuse from their fans during their game against Turkey. Alleged racist chanting in the Spain versus Italy and Russia versus Czech Republic games are already subject to investigations. A Spanish fans' group has said that some of its country's supporters abused striker Balotelli in their game with Italy, while Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie told reporters he 'noticed' racist chants directed at him. Balotelli, who started the 1-1 draw against Croatia, said before Euro 2012 that he would 'not accept racism at all' and would walk off the pitch if racially abused by fans. The latest allegations emerged after an AFP photographer and a racism monitoring body said they heard racist chanting at the match. The photographer, who was positioned in front of the majority of Croatia fans, also saw a steward pick up a banana from the pitch.

An American man has called 911 to complain about a wrong sandwich order. Rother McLennon rang the emergency services because he was 'not satisfied' with the sandwiches that he had been given. The operator who answered the call was baffled by what McLennon was saying and told him not to purchase the sandwich if he wasn't happy with it. McLennon told the dispatcher: 'They are playing games with me, so I was just wondering if you could come by.' The man made the call while standing in the Grateful Deli in East Hartford, Connecticut. Tila Azinheira, the owner of the deli, claimed that McLennon made an order for fourteen sandwiches but then refused to pay for them after seeing them in the shop. McLennon says: 'I specifically asked for little turkey, and little ham, a lot of cheese and a lot of mayonnaise and they are giving me a hard time.' The shop owner said that he couldn't take them back and make new ones, prompting McLennon to call the emergency services. Since the incident, McLennon has apologised to the deli - for being a glake, basically - and said that he plans to take his custom there again in the future. Which, one imagines, they're delighted about.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, it should be noted that yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been having something of Krautrock-techno crossover week. And, thus, this trend is likely to be reflected not only in today's choice but also the next few top tunes. Fire up that keyboard, Ralf.

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