Monday, June 04, 2012

You Know How The English Upper Classes Are Thick And Ignorant

Let us start today's bloggerisationisms, dear brethren, with a public service announcement (with, very definitely, guitars). As some dear blog readers will know, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's very brilliant local BBC radio station (BBC Newcastle) is rather dear to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's fast-beating heart. Not least because they use yer actual Keith Telly Topping every now and then when they want a crass and over-enthusiastic comment about some TV show or other. But, one of the other reasons why I love it the mostest, baby, is because of a Saturday evening show they have run for a decade or more called Beat Surrender. As the name suggests - taken, of course, from the final single by The Jam - this features well, basically, four hours (three and half during the football season) of all the music I like. Sixties beat, mod, garage, a splash of psychedelia, a bit of glam, loads of punk and new wave, plenty of indie, Madchester, Britpop, it's white boys with guitars essentially (their slogan is 'sharp guitars with attitude' which is pretty damn decent description, actually). Although there's also plenty of ska, a bit of reggae and the odd snatch of Motown as well. It's completely great - if you like a bit of The Who, The Stones, T Rex, Dr Feelgood, The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Specials, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses, Oasis or Blur, you'll think you've died and gone to Radio Heaven. It's presented with huge enthusiasm by the lovely Nick Roberts, or sometimes Doug Morris, or on the odd occasions where one or those two isn't available, Jamie Wilkinson. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping normally listens to it on Sunday afternoons on Listen Again and it's become, somewhat, the soundtrack of my declining years. Anyway, the reason why I mention it specifically this week as opposed to any other is that Saturday night's show was one of those perfect combinations of circumstances when great music and a lazy, dog-dangling day came together. Doug was sitting in the chair this week and spent the first hour and a half of the show playing - in ahem, 'celebration', of the Queen's diamond jubilee - lots of tunes from silver jubilee year. Tunes like, you know, 'God Save The Queen', '1977', 'Blitzkreig Bop, 'Watching The Detectives', 'Do Anything You Wanna Do', 'New Rose', 'Time's Up', 'In The City', 'Garageland', 'Complete Control', 'This Perfect Day', 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes', 'Prove It', 'No More Heroes', 'Because The Night' etc. etc. etc. (Yes, pedants, I do know - and so does Doug - that three of those were from late 1976 and one was from early 1978. Shut up!) It was, not to put too fine a point on it, effing epic. I mean, when was the last time you heard somebody on the radio (much less on the BBC) playing Wreckless Eric's 'Whole Wide World'? Or, indeed, all twelve minutes of Dexy's 'This Is What She's Like'?! If you've got a spare hour or four, I thoroughly recommend you catch up on iPlayer, it'll be available for the next week or so.

And, speaking of the jubilee weekend, Stephen Fry led criticism of the BBC's Diamond Jubilee coverage on Sunday, branding it 'mind-numbingly tedious.' he forgot to add arse-clenchingly sycophantic as well but, hey, he's friendly with Charlie Boy one supposes old Lord Melchie has to mind his Ps and Qs in such circumstances. The corporation drew stinging criticism during the Thames pageant with viewers attacking its 'inane' commentary, camera angles and sound quality. With broadcasters struggling to cope with technical problems caused by the bad weather - including the sound cutting out during musical performances. Stephen chose to single out other aspects of the BBC's coverage. The host of BBC panel show Qi's comments sparked an outpouring of criticism on Twitter. But the BBC defended its coverage. A spokesman said: 'We're very proud of the quality and breadth of the BBC's coverage of this extraordinary event.' Yer actual Fry wrote: 'Has the BBC ever presented a more mind-numbingly tedious programme in its history? "HRH the queen" said the first ignorant presenter. "HRH"?' His remarks appeared to resonate among his online followers, prompting a clarification of his comments in a further posting. 'Don't get me wrong peeps, I'm not saying this in relation to ER II's jubilee - just expected better of the beeb. Didn't mean to upset anyone,' he wrote. One follower responded: 'My mate who loves boats is appalled by BBC coverage - Sky certainly better and we saw more pageant and less jubilee babies!' Kevin Marsh, a former editor of the Today programme and The World at One, appeared to echo such views. He wrote: 'Am I being over-critical or is the BBC commentary lamentable?' In a retweet, he added: 'Why cut away from Queenie's River Pageant to watch that mindless Tess Daly nonsense? Scarcely credible.' Other social networkers were equally scathing. And this, dear blog reader, is being reported as 'news' by the Independent. Because, as we all know, Twitter is now the effing Arbiter of All Things.

Incidentally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's old mate Greg Bakun has written a quite superb review of Tales From Television Centre over on his From The Archie blog, which you can check out here.
Now, while anybody vaguely sensible was listening to Beat Surrender on Saturday night - or, you know, out drinking Bacardi Breezers and falling over, sick, in the gutter - more than seven million punters tuned in to see Leanne Mitchell being crowned as the winner of The Voice, according to overnight ratings. The big-voiced twenty eight-year-old, from Lowestoft had been mentored by yer actual Sir Tom Jones. She beat Bo Bruce, Tyler James and Vince Kidd. The final of the BBC1 show had an average audience of 7.1 million people across the two hours. That was just over half of the 13.1 million who tuned in for the Britain's Got Talent live final on ITV in May. A BBC spokeswoman said Saturday's viewing figures for The Voice had peaked at 8.7 million during the final twenty minutes and it was the most watched programme of the day, ahead of England's football friendly with Belgium on ITV. It also helped to make the series the highest-rating debut for a BBC entertainment programme on record, she added. Episodes of The Voice consistently attracted average audiences of more than ten million in April, but the ratings had dropped to an overnight of four and a half million by semi-final week. The series began with blind auditions as mentors Jessie J, Sir Tom Jones, Will.i.am and Danny O'Donoghue judged the contestants with their backs to the stage. It then progressed to live elimination shows. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen recently said that producers would look at ways to improve the final stages for future series. 'We'll take away a few things from the live shows to tinker with for series two,' he said. Mitchell, a former holiday camp singer, has now won a record contract. She writes songs, plays keyboards and had previously been close to sealing a record deal. Wiltshire singer Bo Bruce had been the overwhelming bookmakers' favourite to win the show. She was mentored by Danny O'Donoghue. Tyler James was backed by Black Eyed Peas star Will.I.Am and Vince Kidd was mentored by Jessie J. All four contestants performed with their celebrity mentors during the live show on Saturday. Speaking after her victory, Mitchell said: 'I am starting to believe in myself.' Sir Tom added: 'It gives me confidence that there is justice in this world.'

will.i.am, meanwhile, says that he wants to stay on for a second series of The Voice. The thirty seven-year-old told the Sunday Mirra - one of several tabloid newspapers that, at first, licked the arse of the BBC show and then, when the ratings started to drop, started a rather ugly campaign of whispers against it - that he is prepared to move to London full-time, saying: 'I'll definitely come back.' The Black Eyed Peas singer and songwriter said that he 'really enjoyed my time on the show' and has already recorded with contestants Tyler James, Jaz Ellington and Jay Norton. He added: 'The annoying thing for me is people go on these shows but it takes forever for their albums to come out. I wanted to do The Voice because I want to speed up the process. I just want to come live in London and do that.'

And, speaking of winners, Ricky Martin has been crowned the champion of The Apprentice. The twenty six-year-old recruitment manager was hired by Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie to become his new business partner over runner-up Tom Gearing, with fellow finalists Nick Holzherr and Jade Nash being fired earlier in the final episode on Sunday evening.

Bill Nighy has revealed that he was once asked to take on the role of The Doctor on Doctor Who. According to the People, the actor says that he turned down the offer as he was not ready for the intense media attention it would entail. Nighy is quoted as saying: 'I was offered the role once, I won't tell you when because the rule is that you're not allowed to say you turned that job down because it's disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached. But I didn't want to be The Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage.' Nighy subsequently appeared a small role in the episode Vincent and the Doctor two years ago, playing an art gallery curator opposite current Doctor Matt Smith. Christopher Eccleston, who left the show after one season, also suggested that the media attention associated with the role was too much for him.

Coronation Street character Lewis Archer will, reportedly, be killed off in an upcoming episode. According to the People, the ex-gigolo, portrayed by the very excellent Nigel Havers, will die in a road accident later this summer. The character has proved to be popular among viewers since his return in September 2011 and Havers was expected to sign a new deal to stay on the soap. However, an alleged 'source' allegedly close to the actor allegedly said that producers 'thought it would be tricky to keep his storyline going,' so it was eventually decided to 'kill off Lewis in a memorable fashion.' The alleged 'insider' allegedly went on to allegedly claim that 'soap bosses' (that's producers only with less syllables) believe the character's exit 'will become one of the most talked-about soap scenes of the year.' And, that's a good thing, apparently. The news frees Havers up to perform in a pantomime alongside Lee Mead at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre this winter, a role which will, allegedly, earn him more than his two stints on Coronation Street put together. Hell, doesn't anybody know there's a recession on?

Top Gear presenter James May has helped throw six thousand buns in Abingdon as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations across Oxfordshire. The town hosted its two hundred and fifty-year-old royal tradition from the roof of the county hall. May was asked to help come up with a contraption to fire buns at the hard-to-reach parts of the crowd (you know, 'the ordinary people') as part of his TV show Man Lab. There were chants of 'we want buns' before the crowd was pelted with them. The first bun throwing event marked King George III's coronation in 1761 and the town has been flinging currant buns to mark royal and national events ever since. James pitted his machine against two champion throwers as six thousand buns took to the sky - one hundred buns for every year of the Queen's reign. He said: 'When we got the call from the good people of Abingdon we were only too happy to rise to the challenge.' Elsewhere in Oxfordshire, more than fifty street parties had been planned. Ten flotillas from the Henley area also took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London. Banbury celebrated with a huge children's street party from 13:30, where one thousand children were given a post-war style ration book token which they were able to exchange for a plate of 'typical 1950s food.' This, ladies and gentlemen, is 'progress.'

Bad news for Rev, the BBC2 sitcom beaten at the BAFTAs by BBC1's Mrs Brown's Boys. The people behind the show which stars the excellent Tom Hollander as a vicar may be missing a trick. Kenton Allen, Rev's executive producer, recently told a Fast Train training seminar at the BBC that people of the cloth take such an interest in the series that they want to contribute. 'We get sent a lot of Rev scripts written by vicars,' he said, 'and they are shit.' But perhaps setting aside his scruples and using the best of them would secure the divine assistance needed to win the best sitcom BAFTA next time?

The British Heart Foundation is using Tommy Cooper in a new advertising campaign for cardiac health. The much-loved comedian and magician died of a heart attack in 1984, at the age of sixty three, during a live TV performance from Her Majesty's Theatre. Now the charity is using his image as it reminds heart patients to stick to prescribed routines, and for everyone else to seek help if anything seems wrong. Ads also include a helpline number people can to call 'just like that.' Radio adverts featuring classic Cooper jokes will run alongside the magazine campaign this month, while the foundation's website features clips of his routines. Like, hopefully, this one. As part of the campaign, Tom's daughter Vicky said: 'Showbusiness took its toll on him. His main priority was always his audience, and everything else – including his health – came second. He had lots of warning signs with strange aches and pains in his legs, chest pains, and lots of headaches. But he never went to the doctor. He always said "after this rehearsal" or "after I've learned this script." He had his life snatched away from him but it could have been avoided. My advice now is always that you shouldn't delay. Don't keep making excuses. If you think something might be wrong, get yourself checked. You're not being a nuisance.' The campaign follows the success of Prostate Cancer Research's use of a 'beyond-the-grave' Bob Monkhouse to raise awareness of its cause.

A small black dot will grace the face of the sun as it rises over Europe on Wednesday, when Venus makes a rare and historic journey across the burning disc of our parent star. Few people alive today will have another chance to witness the transit of Venus, as the laws of celestial orbital mechanics do not bring the planets into position again until December 2117. In previous centuries, nations dispatched astronomers to their farthest territories to record the transit in progress. In doing so, they embarked on the first global scientific collaboration in history and answered the pressing question of the size of the solar system. This year's observations from powerful telescopes will help scientists learn more about planets far beyond our solar system, and may even help spot those with atmospheres that are similar to Earth's and capable of harbouring life. To celebrate the event, national space agencies, universities and amateur astronomers will point telescopes at the sky and trace Venus's seven hours in the sun from 11.04pm on Tuesday until 5.55am the next morning. The transit occurs when Venus moves directly between the Earth and sun, an event that happens approximately twice a century. It takes place in pairs eight years apart (the first in the current pair was in 2004). Only the final stages of the transit will be visible from Britain, and then only if skies are clear on Wednesday morning, when the sun rises at 4.46am in London and 4.30am in Edinburgh. The start of the transit will be visible from North and Central America and the north-western countries of South America. Parts of Asia and Australia will see the entire show. Despite the early start, the Royal Astronomical Society said enthusiasts across the UK had organised transit parties and viewings from Ayrshire to St Austell and County Antrim to Whitby. Members of Ayrshire Astronomical Society are heading for a remote location off an unmarked road with three telescopes to witness the spectacle. The equipment needed to watch the transit safely has its own language, with Graham Longbottom, president of Ayrshire Astronomical Society, speaking of Colorado Hydrogen Alpha solar scopes and Baader-filtered white light scopes. Though Venus will be visible to the naked eye, observers should never look at the sun directly, and even with eclipse goggles (which you might have left over from 1999) only for a few minutes at a time. One way to watch the transit safely is to project an image of the sun onto a screen, using a telescope or binoculars. Subject to Scottish weather, Longbottom expects to watch the transit for two hours, though he is unsure how many will join him. 'There is a lot of interest in astronomy at the moment as a result of TV coverage, but 4am on a Wednesday morning is likely to test the resolve of all but the really committed, and that includes society members,' he said. The first observations of a transit of Venus came from Jeremiah Horrocks in Much Hoole, a tiny village in Lancashire. On 24 November 1639, Horrocks watched as the planet traversed the sun after projecting its image on to a sheet of paper through a small telescope. He died two years later aged only twenty two. The scientific importance of the transit was made clear by Edmund Halley, Britain's second astronomer royal, who in 1716 called on nations to join forces and record the event from positions around the world. Timing the transit from different spots on Earth allowed astronomers to calculate the distance from our planet to the sun, and so work out the size of the solar system. Halley's essay was visionary, written nearly fifty years before the next transit was due in 1761. At the time, astronomers knew only relative distances in the solar system, for example, that Jupiter was five times further from the sun than Earth. Their best estimate of how far Earth lay from its star was fifty five million miles. 'They didn't know the distance from Earth to the sun, and that was a base unit. It was like having a map without the scale,' said Andrea Wulf, author of the 2012 book Chasing Venus: The Race To Measure The Heavens. 'What was so different was that no observation on its own would work, they had to be paired up. You had to send astronomers to as many, and as far apart, places as possible,' she added. 'This was the first truly global international collaboration which lays the foundations of modern science.' The path Venus takes across the face of the sun varies depending on where the transit is viewed from. Halley's method called for pairs of astronomers a known distance apart to time the start and end of the transit. Taken together, the astronomers used these figures to calculate the separation of the Earth and sun using trigonometry. The British sent James Cook on the Endeavour to witness the transit from Tahiti, where his crew became so enamoured with the locals they made only cursory notes on the event. Others fared worse. The French astronomer Guillaume le Gentil was barred entry to Pondicherry for the first transit and watched hopelessly from sea. He stayed in the area to watch the second transit in 1769, only for cloud to obscure his view. On returning home, he discovered he had lost his job, and his heirs had divided up his estate, giving him up for dead. Halley's plan was a success despite the hardships of those who set out to observe the transit. The astronomers shared their records and eventually arrived at a new measurement for the distance between Earth and the sun of ninety three million to ninety seven million miles. Today, the accepted distance is 92.96m miles. 'The transit has this remarkable history, going back to Horrocks and the amazing efforts that were made to observe it in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. It was the first enterprise in big science,' said Lord Rees of Ludlow, the astronomer royal. 'Very careful measurements of what happens when the transit starts and ends may reveal that you can in principle learn something about the planet's atmosphere and such like, and about the atmosphere of the star itself,' he added. Rees said it was unlikely he would watch the transit this year though. 'Down here in the south we have even less chance of seeing it than in Scotland. And it's very early in the morning,' he said.

England defender Gary Cahill has been ruled out of Euro 2012 with a double fracture of his jaw after being smashed in the mush by some naughty Belgian. Liverpool's Martin Kelly has been called up as his replacement, the Football Association have confirmed. England concluded their preparations for Euro 2012 with a win over Belgium that gave new manager Roy Hodgson his second successive victory since taking charge. The Scum striker Danny Welbeck stated his case for inclusion in England's opening game against France in Donetsk with a cleverly taken first-half goal after fine work from club-mate Ashley Young. As in the 1-0 win against Norway in Oslo, this was an England performance built on the foundations of solid defence and tactical discipline. Hodgson's approach may not illuminate proceedings in Poland and Ukraine but early evidence suggests they will be tough to break down. Belgium, with Moscow Chelski-bound Eden Hazard and a host of Premier League talent in their line-up, dominated territory for long spells but once again England demonstrated admirable resolve to ensure they leave for their Krakow base this week with another win to accompany them. If there is a concern, it was the amount of possession England were prepared to concede to Belgium. Against a better side (say, France) they might have been punished for such sloppiness. The visitors were unable to take advantage but Hodgson will know his side must beware against superior opposition carrying a greater threat in front of goal. And this friendly was not without its injury worries, with defender Cahill substituted early on after a nasty, needless push by Dries Mertens that caused him to collide with goalkeeper Joe Hart and putting the ex-Notlob centre back out of his first major international tournament. Moscow Chelski team-mate John Terry was also left needing a scan after going off with a hamstring injury. Welbeck, in particular, will be happy with his work. Hodgson must now consider whether to promote him above Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws' Andy Carroll as Young's strike partner against France. Belgium did provide an anxious moment late on when Guillaume Gillet hit the post, but substitute Jermain Defoe also had a similar near miss for England. Hodgson, however, will be satisfied with another opportunity to see more of his squad play before the serious action starts, their number including Wayne Rooney, who came on as a second-half substitute even though he will miss the first two games of Euro 2012 through suspension. As Hodgson continues to formulate his plans, he handed a first England start to The Arse teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the youngster showed no sign of nerves as he was prominent early on. Belgium had seen more of the ball than England but it was Hodgson's side that made the breakthrough after thirty six minutes with a goal that was a delight in its creation and conclusion. Young's measured pass found Welbeck, who waited for keeper Simon Mignolet to make his move before scoring with a deft, lofted finish. Hodgson was clearly keen to give Rooney some game time so he was introduced as a substitute for Welbeck after fifty three minutes, his first action since The Scum's final game of the Premier League season at Sunderland on 13 May.

Richard Dawson, the English-born actor and TV host who found fame in the US at the helm of game show Family Feud and in sitcom Hogan's Heroes, has died. A former husband of the actress Diana Dors, Dawson was seventy nine. Born in Gosport, Hampshire, he played Corporal Peter Newkirk in World War II comedy Hogan's Heroes for six years. He became a panelist on TV show Match Game before hosting Family Feud for ten years. Family Feud was copied in the UK under the name Family Fortunes. His son, Gary, wrote on Facebook on Saturday: 'It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered.' After starting his career as a stand-up comedian, Dawson married the English pin-up Dors in 1959. The couple settled in California but he was devastated when she walked out on him and they divorced in 1967. By then, he was known as the Cockney prisoner of war in Hogan's Heroes, which ran on CBS from 1965 to 1971. He became Family Feud's host when it launched on the ABC network in 1976 and won a daytime Emmy Award in 1978 for best game show host. At its height, Family Feud was one of the most popular programmes on US TV, being broadcast eleven times a week - five in daytime and six in the evening. Known for giving the female contestants a kiss, he met his second wife, Gretchen, when she appeared on the programme with her family in 1981. He left the show in 1985 but returned for one further series in 1994. Not afraid to play on his TV persona, he appeared as the ruthless game show host Damon Killian alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 film The Running Man.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, this is one that Doug played, in full, on Saturday night. I believe the Italians have a word for it. But, I don't speak Italian myself. What's on yer mind, Kevin?

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