Sunday, July 01, 2012

Anyone For Tennis?

Once again, the BBC's schedules were completely bollocks'd up on Saturday night as - hip-hurrah! - Andy Murray reached the fourth round of Wimbledon with a victory over Marcos Baghdatis, a match that didn't finish until two minutes past eleven. A match of tennis, that is, not anything remotely important. British number one Murray (which sounds impressive when you say it like that although this blogger is always minded of Andy Parsons' joke that having spent a week at a tennis centre he was surprised to find himself 'Britain's number six') came through 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 in three hours and thirteen minutes of an allegedly 'thrilling' match. Though, in yer actual Keith Telly Topping's opinion, it was utterly frigging boring, just like all tennis is. Others may disagree, of course. But they are quite wrong. The encounter started at quarter past seven in the evening and the Centre Court roof was closed at nine o'clock after Baghdatis had pulled level at one set all. With local rules stating that no play beyond eleven o'clock is allowed, Murray served out in a hurry and will play Marin Cilic on Monday. Murray - who was twice penalised after a ball fell out of his pocket - admitted: 'I was under the impression I was stopping at eleven regardless of what the score was - even if it was in the middle of a game. I am obviously glad I managed to get the finish. The atmosphere at the end was excellent.' That was probably due to him dropping his balls. Nah, lissun. It was, according to various reports, 'a memorable finish to a bizarre battle,' following on from late-night matches involving Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the previous three evenings. This one was given added spice by the presence of Miles Maclagan - Murray's former coach - in the Baghdatis corner and Maclagan suggested before hand that 'inside knowledge' could help his man win the tie. It certainly seemed a shock was on the cards as Baghdatis fought back from a set and a break down to lead 4-2 in the third, only for Murray to rally as the Cypriot tired. Baghdatis beat Murray en route to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2006, the same year that he reached the Australian Open final. He has since dropped from the top ten and is now ranked forty second in the world. But, his play oozed quality and experience in the opening stages. He mixed baseline tenacity with aggressive net play to engineer break points in game eight, only for Murray to escape by punishing a poor volley with a forehand pass that kissed the baseline. Baghdatis would rue that error when he let Murray back from forty-fifteen and angled an off-forehand drop shot wide to fall 6-5 behind. Murray sealed the first set with an ace and made a fine start to the second as a superb cross-court backhand winner helped him strike for 2-1. However, he immediately relinquished the advantage with a double-fault and the momentum shifted in game five as Baghdatis saved five break points. Things got worse for Murray when his serve was broken again in game six and hurt his left ankle slipping at the net as his opponent moved 5-2 in front. Baghdatis managed to serve out in diminishing light at nine o'clock and the players were informed the roof would be closing. When they returned from the locker room thirty minutes later, Murray's left knee was heavily strapped - but the new conditions seemed to suit him and he hit four aces in his first two service games of the third set. Baghdatis was his equal, though, and the twenty seven-year-old broke to love with a backhand down the line before holding for 4-2. Murray faced more trouble in game eight - clutching his groin after another slip - yet he got off the turf to draw level with a roar of delight from a partisan crowd. As the clock ticked on Murray rushed around in search of victory. A double-fault gifted him the break in game two and he struck again for 5-1 before serving and revelling in the crowd's acclaim. They might not have been so happy when they realised they'd all missed the last bus home.

Interestingly, from 18.30 to 21.00 the Wimbledon average audience was only 5.6m. I mean, I say 'only', it was still comfortably above slot average - and, the highest audience for any programme for the day - but it was a good deal less than one might've been led to believe when listening to hyperventilating commentators wittering on about 'the whole country watching' the Murray match. Not even close, Mac. From 21.30 until 23.15 the average audience was 6.9m. Murray's victory peaked with just over eight million viewers (during the fifteen minutes from 22.45 until 23:00). Nevertheless, despite the loss of the night's episode of Casualty, BBC1 was the highest rated channel in every single time-slot from 6am until close on Saturday, a somewhat chastening experience for ITV who suffered a dreadful day. The Hollow Crown: Richard II weighed in with a decent audience of over eight hundred thousand viewers on BBC2 for those who didn't fancy watching any more bloody tennis. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was flicking backwards and forwards between that and the final two episodes of series two of his beloved Spiral on BBC4.

On a marginally related note, here's some American ratings which, one trusts, all dear blog readers will greatly enjoy reading. Piers Morgan has had the worst ratings seen in primetime on CNN for over two decades. Which is funny. Will the odious, smug, oily disgraced and sacked former tabloid editor be bigging these set of statistics up on Twitter anytime soon, one wonders?
Father Ted co-creator Arthur Mathews - the one that wasn't Graham Linehan - has created a new radio sitcom set in BBC Broadcasting House in the Thirties. Three episodes of The Golden Age are to be recorded for Radio 4 next month, starring Cold Feet and My Dad's The Prime Minister actor Robert Bathurst. He plays the BBC's fictional director of programmes, John Tharb, who has to deal with the foibles and fragile egos of radio's biggest stars of the era such as flamboyant band-leader Ronaldo and depressed newsreader Roger Eves. Still Game's Ford Kiernan will play the BBC's irascible and autocratic - if visionary - first director-general, Lord John Reith. The cast also includes Kevin Bishop, former Brookside star Malcolm Tierney, Pippa Evans and This Is England's Vicky McClure. Mathews told the Chortle website: 'I had these cigarette cards with all the old stars of radio on them, and I though that'd be great for a sitcom set in the Thirties in Broadcasting House, with dance bands and comedians and variety acts. And one episode seems inspired by a particular hit movie. There's one episode where the King comes to make a speech and everyone's really worried about it,' Mathews said. The shows will be recorded in the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, naturally enough, on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 July. Meanwhile, Mathews is also making a return to British TV with a pilot starring Matt Berry. Toast Of London will go out as part of Channel Four's Funny Fortnight in August and revolves around a successful London stage actor who finds himself embroiled in a controversial West End play.

Still on the subject of comedy, dear blog reader, do you want to read the full transcript of Jeremy Paxman  on Newsnight abjectly humiliating and giving a verbal spanking to the hapless junior minister Chloe Smith last week? Yes, of course you do. Well, here it is. Now, be honest, it's a toss up between which is the funnier, that or Piers Morgan's ratings, is it not?
Actor Stephen Mangan has admitted he is 'bitterly upset' at the BBC's decision to drop the Dirk Gently series which he starred in. The BBC said last month that the Douglas Adams-inspired comedy drama on BBC4 had not been recommissioned due to the freeze on the licence fee. And, due to the fact that it cost lots of money to make and not many people were watching it. More than a million viewers saw the Dirk Gently pilot in December 2010. A three-part series followed in 2012, with just under six hundred thousand viewers tuning for its final episode in March. Nowhere near enough to justify the outlay in these tough financial times, no matter how good the product was. And, to be honest, whilst the pilot was genuinely rather good, the three-part series which followed was rather bland and insipid. The drama, based on the 'holistic' detective Adams created and used in two novels, also featured Darren Boyd as Gently's sidekick Richard MacDuff. Mangan, appearing in a new play at the Royal Court this week, told the BBC News website that he'd been 'gratified' by the reaction of fans to the news. Some had taken to Twitter to express their dismay. 'You wonder whether it's just you that's bitterly upset,' he whinged. 'You put your heart and soul into it, and I wasn't the only one. A lot of people worked really hard to produce something that, by all accounts, is a triumph and then doesn't go on.' I don't know who these 'all accounts' are, but describing the series as 'a triumph' is a rather selective reading of both the critical as well as commercial response to the show. The actor claimed that he 'understood' the BBC 'had to cut their budgets. You would have hoped that another channel could have taken it in and found a place for it. The politics of that are devastatingly complicated. No-one from the BBC has spoken to me about it, but we have to hope that when things pick up in a few years someone will come along and dust off the covers of Dirk's Austin Leyland Princess [car].' News that the Dirk Gently series had been dropped was originally revealed by Mangan on Twitter a month ago. 'We've loved having Dirk on the channel but the licence fee freeze means less British drama on BBC4,' said a BBC spokeswoman at the time. 'In future we will focus on the best dramas from around the globe, like The Killing and Borgen, whilst BBC1 and BBC2 become the main homes of original British drama.' So, there you go. It's all the vile and odious rascal Hunt's fault, apparently.

Geordie Shore's Vicky Pattinson has claimed that appearing on the MTV reality show has led to her and her co-stars being 'hated' in their home town of Newcastle. Well, hate is such a strong word. But, yes. Pretty much. Let's use 'strongly dislike for a variety of reasons, not least being their crass playing up to numskull regional stereotypes thing' and leave it at that, eh? According to Metro, Pattinson told the BBC that she and her follow desperate wannabes felt as if they had 'angered' the population of Newcastle. She claims: 'We didn't just walk into series one and instantly become famous and get loads of money and get liked. We came out to find out that pretty much the whole of Newcastle hated us. We couldn't get into magazines. Nobody really wanted to talk to us. Money was tight because we didn't have ordinary jobs. Nobody wanted us to do anything and now, finally, we're getting to that level. I do feel like we all deserve to pat ourselves on the back. It's not conventional hard work in that sense but it's tiring.' Another one of the Geordie Shore ... people, Charlotte Crosby shared Pattinson's sentiments about the trials of being a reality TV regular, claiming: 'People think we get paid loads. The show doesn't pay us. You can't pay someone for getting drunk on TV.' And, we're supposed that, what, feel sorry for you? Jesus, what a thoroughly marvellous example of Twenty First Century entitlement culture mixed with a healthy dose of banal self-pity, don't you think? Want, want, want. Want it all. Want it now. Don't want to pay for it.

And, speaking of greedy waste-of-space arseholes with no discernable talent who seemingly get paid for doing nothing, Christine Bleakley has revealed her 'harrowing experience' during a recent skin cancer scare. The harrowing experience being that she hasn't got cancer, seemingly. The Twatting About On Ice presenter, breakfast TV flop, and odious greed bucket (and drag), told the Press Association about a recent skin test which left her 'terrified' of the results. 'I had my moles checked, just because I thought it was a good thing to do,' Bleakley explained. 'I discovered I had to have three removed." Bleakley was relieved when the moles removed from her back, leg, and neck later tested clear of cancer. 'It's a funny old thing when you start realising it's not like you're eighteen and you think you're going to live forever,' she added. 'You start thinking slightly differently and you take a bit more care of yourself.' As someone whose mother is currently suffering from inoperable stomach cancer, and whose father died from esophagal cancer, please allow this blogger to - genuinely - share Ms Bleakley's relief that she does not have this most invasive and life-shattering of diseases. No one should have to suffer that. However, is it just me that's wondering if the sole reason this titbit of alleged 'news' (TV presenter doesn't have cancer, shock) has appeared is because Bleakley hasn't been on TV for a few months and was starting to feel like a forgotten woman? Yet another terrific example of a different aspect of Twenty First Century celebrity culture. The 'why isn't everybody talking about me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me...?' routine. Sickening.

The French government is considering extending the country's television licence fee to include computer screen owners to boost revenues for public-sector broadcasting operations, the culture minister said on Saturday. President François Hollande's government aims to raise an extra €7.5bn this year through tax rises included in an amended budget bill to be unveiled next week. 'Is it necessary to extend the fee to [computer] screens when you do not have a television? It is a question we're asking ourselves, but obviously it would be a fee per household and you would not have to pay an [additional] fee if you have a computer and a television,' Aurélie Filippetti said on RTL radio. She added that the government would study the new measure in 2013. The licence fee – one hundred and twenty five euros in mainland France and eighty euros in its overseas territories – is used to finance public television and radio. According to a Global TV survey in March, more than eleven million French people watch television programmes on computer screens, tablets or smart phones, a rise of forty one per cent on 2011. The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, on 28 June announced plans to cut staff at most ministries by two and a half per cent annually for the next three years and reduce the government's operating costs in 2014 and 2015 as it seeks to reduce its budget deficit to meet EU targets.

The BBC has begun streaming live sporting events on Facebook, the biggest tie-up to date between the social-networking site and an international broadcaster. The application launched on Thursday, with live coverage from the Wimbledon tennis championships. So people can be bored titless whilst on the move rather than wait until they get home, no doubt. During the Olympic Games, the BBC will run twenty four simultaneous streams in addition to the main BBC channels. Users outside the UK will not be able to access the feeds. Because they're foreigners. And, they smell. The service used the same 'geo-IP blocking solution' to limit access as other offerings, such as the iPlayer, the BBC said. It added that users must have a TV licence to legally watch the material. Other international broadcasters, such as NBC, have set up alternative streaming services - the US broadcaster has teamed up with YouTube to provide live coverage on NBCOlympics.com. The launch is the first time the BBC has used Facebook to broadcast live events. Users are able to share information about what they are viewing with their friends, as well as discuss the action with other fans via a live-chat feature. The app, which is in beta test mode, is currently providing up to six simultaneous streams of Wimbledon tennis matches. Which won't be any more boring than they are on TV but, at least, users will be able to tell their friends how bored they are whilst watching them. Targeted advertising, not controlled by the BBC, will appear to the right of the app in line with the Facebook-wide layout. The BBC does not make money from the arrangement. However, during the Olympics these adverts will be removed due to restrictions put in place by the International Olympic Committee. Facebook said the BBC's coverage would be added to its London 2012 portal which it announced earlier this month. 'We are really pleased that the BBC has chosen to bring its legendary sports coverage to Facebook,' a spokesman said. 'Watching major events such as Wimbledon and the Olympic Games is a naturally social activity. Now viewers within the UK have the ability to share their favourite moments with friends and to discuss the action live as it unfolds.' Phil Fearnley, general manager for BBC News and Knowledge, said the app would create a 'distinctive live-streaming experience' for viewers. 'We hope to use it to test the benefits of social viewing, as part of our ambition to deliver more innovative and transformative experiences to sports fans,' he said. The BBC said there were 'no plans' as yet to bring other live events, such as news, to the social network.

England outplayed Australia to ease to a six-wicket win in the second one-day international at The Oval. Chasing two hundred and fifty two for an eighth successive ODI win, the hosts got home with twenty six balls to spare thanks to an impressive eighty two from Ravi Bopara and seventy five from Ian Bell. Earlier, the tourists were restricted to two hundred and fifty one for seven, with George Bailey and Shane Watson making - rather slow - half-centuries. England, who can go top of the world rankings in the unlikely event of a five-nil series victory, now hold a two-nil lead with three matches to play.
The BBC has unveiled the title sequence and marketing campaign for the London 2012 Olympic Games. A sixty-second trail was broadcast during half-time in the Euro 2012 final. Based on a 'Stadium UK' concept, the animation will be seen on television coverage and used on computers, mobiles, tablets and connected TV. The song, 'First Steps' by Elbow, will be available as a digital-only download from 27 July with all profits going to BBC Children in Need and Sport Relief. The UK is seen as a giant stadium with Olympic athletes preparing and competing in a range of landscapes. Scenes include swimmers battling it out in lanes created by buoys on a net cast by a fisherman, a BMX rider preparing at the edge of a cliff, track cyclists racing around quarries, sprinters and gymnasts going through their paces on streets.
BBC 2012 marketing head Louisa Fyans said the challenge had been to create a campaign reflecting the BBC's 'unique role' as the UK's Olympic broadcaster and the scale of the Olympic Games. 'Animation enabled us to deliver to this brief and helped us create something really special for the BBC's London 2012 campaign,' she added. The concept was devised by creative agency Rainey Kelly, Campbell, Roalfe Y&R. The animation was created by Passion Pictures and it was produced by Red Bee Media. Alison Hoad, joint chief executive of Rainey Kelly, said national anticipation had been building since London was awarded the Games in 2005. The agency had tried to capture national pride and excitement by depicting the UK as one huge stadium, with an 'epic' anthem scored by Elbow. The band's lead singer, Guy Garvey, said: 'The Olympic Games is about the coming together of people to celebrate our best athletes and it was as important to have a sympathetic theme for the losers as it was for the winners.' The song was performed with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the NovaVox gospel choir. Elbow have waived all fees and royalties and retailers will not take profits from the download. The full two minute forty second version of the trail will be broadcast at 19.30 on Tuesday 3 July on BBC1 with sixty, forty, thirty and five second edits used throughout the campaign.

Spain sealed their place in history as the first side to win three successive major international football tournaments with a quite stunning victory over Italy in Kiev at the final of Euro 2012. The Spanish were at their scintillating best to make a mockery of some recent - ludicrous - suggestions they are not entertaining to watch. Like this nonsense, for instance. A David Silva header and neat finishes from Jordi Alba and substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata gave La Rojas the win. But the whole team played their part to seal the largest winning margin in a European Championship final. The scoreline was, perhaps, a shade cruel on Italy, who were forced to play the last thirty minutes with ten men following an injury to Thiago Motta shortly after they had made their third and final substitution. However, even when the teams were equal in number, reigning World and European champions Spain dominated and never looked like relinquishing their grip on the Henri Delaunay trophy which they won in Vienna four years ago. Their play sparkled with intelligence, imagination, guile and flair as they wove intricate triangles in and around the Italian box whilst effectively cancelling out the Italian's playmaker, Andrea Pirlo. Their goals owed as much to wonderfully constructed build-ups - in which midfielder's Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi played prominent parts - as they did to clinical finishing. And, remember, they did all this without Carles Puyol and David Villa. Scary. Albeit, the BBC panel's ludicrous arse-licking superlatives at the end of the game felt a bit over-the-top. As good as Brazil 1970? My arse!

And so, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which features a necessary question. I know what my answer is, dear blog reader.

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