Sunday, July 15, 2012

Week Thirty: Do A Runner

Yer actual Matt Smith, dear blog reader, has said that Doctor Who's seventh series will be broadcasting 'in a matter of weeks.' Which, to be fair, most of us had guessed when it was announced that the first episode was getting a couple of press showings in late August so, strictly speaking, this isn't 'news' per se. But, From The North brings it to you anyway. Because we can. Speaking at the TV Guide Magazine Fan Favourites' panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, Smudger revealed that the series's first episode Asylum of the Daleks would be broadcast 'some time in August.' Almost certainly on Saturday 25 August, before Bank Holiday Monday. Just like last year, in fact. Like I say, not exactly 'news', per se. The confirmation comes after the announcement that the episode will be given a public premiere at BFI Southbank in London on 14 August, while it will also be screened at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which takes place from 23 to 25 August. The series six episode Let's Kill Hitler was given its first showing at the same festival last year and broadcast on BBC1 the following day, with Smith's comments suggesting that this may also be the case with Asylum of the Daleks. However, the BBC has yet to confirm an official broadcast date for the new series. But, they will. So, to get you in the mood, here's a picture of Smudger, Arty and Kaz on location in Spain and then one of The Doctor and Avocado on location in, err, Wales.
Meanwhile, Karen Gillan - who leaves her role as Amy Pond early into series seven - is going from British family TV to US horror cinema, as the lead in a film about a haunted mirror. Oculus begins a decade after a horrific incident has left Kaylie (Karen's character) and her brother orphaned. Convicted of the murders, Kaylie's sibling has undergone rehabilitation and is ready to move on with his life - but his sister has other ideas, reports Deadline Hollywood. Kaylie (the one who didn't get taken away for psychiatric analysis) is convinced that an antique mirror is responsible for her parents' deaths, and sets out to prove just that. Filming is due to begin on the project in Alabama this autumn. Kaz is also currently attached to another film, the Scottish independent romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, alongside Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay, Sophie Wu and Gary Lewis. And, she's got a nice bum as well, though, to be honest, that's neither here nor there, just an observation. Anyway ...

Channel Four has announced its drama line-up for the rest of 2012 and beginning of 2013. John Simm is to star in Here and There, a one-off two-hour drama from Michael Winterbottom (who made The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) about a family living through Simm's character's prison sentence. The programme is expected to be broadcast in either September or October. Peter Mullan is to play an ex-crime boss from Brighton in four-part series The Fear. His character, Richie Becket's family firm, now run by his two sons, has to deal with a ruthless new rival gang of Albanians in town. In volatile circumstances, the erratic, extreme behaviour of Becket threatens to inflame the situation. The Fear is scheduled for November and December 2012. David Oyelowo is the star of single drama Complicit from writer Guy Hibbert. Exploring the murky moral compromises underpinning the hidden intelligence war, the drama follows MI5 officer Edward (played by Oyelowo) who, desperate to foil another 7/7-type atrocity, wrestles with his conscience when he comes face-to-face with British terror suspect Waleed (played by Arsher Ali of Four Lions). Complicit will be broadcast during late 2012 or early 2013. Other new shows include Gabriel Byrne's Coup (September-October), the previously announced Olivia Colman vehicle Run (winter 2012-2013), the six-part thriller Utopia (2013) about a mysterious graphic novel and a shadowy unit called The Network, My Fat Mad Teenage Diary (November 2012) depicting teenage life in the 1990s at the height of Cool Britannia and a sequel to The Snowman which will, obviously, be screened in late December. There will also be a new series for each of Fresh Meat (October), the acclaimed US import Homeland (October), Misfits (October), Beaver Falls (August) and Top Boy (early 2013).

And, so to yer next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 21 July
Once more into the breach, dear blog readers, once more. Tom Hiddleston stars in the final episode of The Hollow Crown - 8:00 BBC2 - an adaptation, of course, of one of Shakespeare's best known works, Henry V. Just in case you've never read it, or seen one of the dozens of film or TV adaptations done previously, this is about the Fifteenth-Century king, Harry of Monmouth, who - before his untimely death from dysentery at the age of thirty five, had been responsible for the death of more Frenchmen than any other Englishman until the Duke of Wellington came along. Good for him, I say. Cry God for Harry, England and St George and all that. Would that he were here now, frankly. The thought of him leading all the skinhead on a terrace charge at the next world cup doesn't bear thinking about. Anyway, following his youthful trials when he was Hal, the Prince of Wales, Henry has grown to become a respected monarch, a clever diplomat and a fearsome warrior king to be trembled over throughout Europe. However, he faces the greatest test of his reign when he is disrespected and challenged by the French Dauphin to 'a bit of a barney at Agincourt.' Où est la masse de manœuvre? Inspired by his courtiers, Exeter and York, Henry swears that he will, with all force, answer this challenge and give the French a damned good thrashing that they won't forget in a hurry. The chorus tells of England's preparations for war and Henry's army sails for France with the king's doubts eased by the courage of his men. After Exeter's diplomacy is rebuffed by the French king, Henry lays a heavy siege and captures Harfleur before engaging in a bloody battle at Agincourt that will define his reign. With John Hurt, Paterson Joseph, Anton Lesser, Lambert Wilson and Richard Griffiths. Last in this excellent series. No, if somebody could persuade them to do The War of the Roses next, that'd be good too. 'Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night! Comets, importing change of times and states, brandish your crystal tresses in the sky. And, with them, scourge the bad revolting stars that have consented unto Henry's death.' He could definitely a write a bit, that kid from Stratford. Would that he were around these days, an'all. I'd love to see what he could do with an episode of Doctor Who. Especially the The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat script-editing him.

ITV's latest utterly pointless example of 'list TV' (a form which Channel Four used to specialise in) is TV's Biggest Blockbusters at 8:35. This, in case you're wondering, is a thoroughly obvious countdown of 'the most watched programmes in British television history,' revealing the top ten in four categories - entertainment, live events, drama and soaps and comedy. Who bloody cares? For fek's sake, ITV, show a bit of sodding imagination and creativity in your programming for once in your life instead of spoon shovelling shite down the nation's collective throat. You're the network that produced The Word At War and The World In Action, The Prisoner and Rising Damp. Act like it.  In recent years, England football matches, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's marriage ceremony and talent shows such as The X Factor have all attracted huge audiences, but back in the days of just three channels, there were some unexpected ratings smashes, with an episode of Neighbours reportedly pulling in more than twenty million viewers in 1990. Corrie's William Roache, Jean Boht (Nellie Boswell in the odious, wretchedly-unfunny Bread) and Anita Dobson (EastEnders' Angie Watts) are among the former celebrities recalling the small screen's biggest hits. Narrated by Fay Ripley. Sounds wretched.

In the week in which he's played a beautifully nuanced Henry Bolingbroke in The Hollow Crown, it's fascinating to see the great Jeremy Irons in an America take on costume drama as well. The Borgias - 9:00 Sky Atlantic - is, just like The Hollow Crown, a drama set around the turn of the Fifteen Century in a Europe divided by war and plague. There, however, the similarities end! In Rome, Rodrigo Borgia turns his attention to restoring the city to its former glory after he and Giulia Farnese discover a hidden gallery dedicated to the art of pleasure. Lucrezia dotes on her newborn child, the rivalry between Cesare and Juan takes on a public dimension, and Della Rovere's life comes under threat. Meanwhile, in Naples, King Charles tries to find someone to blame for the plague sweeping his city. Like The Tudors, it's well made, historically ludicrous (although, to be fair, no more historically ludicrous than many of Shakespeare's works!) and has got Americans watching a historical drama that doesn't include the cavalry. Starring Jeremy (who is very good indeed as Alexander VI), Holliday Grainger and Joanne Whalley.

Sunday 22 July
Anna Westin, a troubled childhood friend of Wallander's daughter, visits his house late at night begging for his help - but disappears soon afterwards in the last episode of the current series of Wallander - 9:00 BBC1. Which has been, on the strength of the first episode alone, a bit like The Borgias, frankly. And, that's something yer actual Keith Telly Topping never thought he'd find himself writing. It's utterly beautiful to look at, a bit bleak thematically, well-acted, for the most part well-written but do not start picking at the frayed bits around the edge or the whole thing will come to pieces in your hands like so much wet cardboard! Anyway, back to the plot. An elderly woman's burned body is found in a shallow grave and, when the manic-depressive detective discovers a connection between Anna and the murder victim, he fears that she could be the next target of a dangerous religious fanatic. Linda returns to Ystad to help with the investigation, and has life-changing news for her father. Guest starring Lindsay Duncan, with the terrific (if, you know, morose) Kenneth Branagh and Jeany Spark.

Former Mary Whitehouse Experience colleagues Hugh Dennis and David Baddiel travel along more than twelve hundred miles of hazardous roads in Ethiopia on a journey to Aksum, the country's holiest place in World's Most Dangerous Roads - 9:00 BBC2. 'See that World's Most Dangerous Roads? That's your favourite programme, that is.' Et cetera. Thank Christ it isn't Rob Newman doing the trip instead of Hugh as, like as not, the entire episode would just be him and Old Bladdybub doing History Today voices and talking about the good old days when comedy was 'the new rock and roll.' But, these days Newman's gone all serious and socio-political, writing plays and novels whilst Baddiel's a movie director and Dennis is a regular on Mock The Week. Is there any justice in that, dear blog reader? Well, if I was Ringo, sorry, Steve Punt then, frankly, I'd say 'no.' But, I'm not. So, therefore, I couldn't possibly comment. Anyway, David and Hugh - an amiable enough couple of chaps in their own way - have to contend with more than fatigue and unreliable terrain to reach their destination, as they encounter drug-taking lorry drivers, suffer a disastrous breakdown (mechanical, not nervous, hopefully) and start to run out of fuel at the worst possible time. In Ethiopia, I'd've said that's any time.

Phillip Schofield and odious horrorshow, greed bucket (and drag) The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley present a one-off 'special' of Twatting About On Ice - 8:00 ITV - in which Olympic medallists hope to demonstrate their ice-skating skills and impress the panel of judges, as well as viewers at home. No, dear blog reader, this blogger is, likely, not entirely sure how the words 'Twatting About On Ice' and 'special' have ended up in the same sentence either because if there's one thing this thoroughly obscene spectacle is sure not to be, in any way, shape or form, it's 'special.' Robin Cousins, Katarina Witt and Louie Spence reunite to deliver their verdicts on the routines as Colin Jackson, Olga Korbut, Tessa Sanderson, Pippa Wilson, Jamie Baulch, Steve Williams and Gail Emms - who all, frankly, should be sodding well ashamed of themselves - take to the rink with professional partners, putting weeks of training with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean into practice. Head coach Karen Barber also returns to offer her expertise and support the contestants, and there are performances by Torvill and Dean as well as a solo offering from Cousins. Hateful.

Monday 23 July
As that quadrennial festival of strength, fitness and agility the Olympics draws even near, Eddy feels past her sell-by date, with age catching up on her, party invitations no longer coming her way and the door of Stella McCartney's shop permanently closed to her in a new episode of the once essential but now, likewise, long past its sell-by date Absolutely Fabulous - 9:30 BBC1. Remember when this sitcom used to be a byword for 'must-see telly' dear blog reader? No, me neither, I'm only forty eight. Anyway, when Eddy (Jennifer Saunders) rents out her house to a Hollywood A-lister, best friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley taking five minutes off from saving the Gurkhas) insists she has to get into shape to impress her high-profile guest. Saunders and Lumley return in the last of three twentieth anniversary specials, the first two of which were shown at Christmas. Neither of which were, frankly, any good whatsoever. Will this be the final Ab Fab episode ever? Who cares?

In Horizon: The Truth About Looking Younger - 9:00 BBC2 - plastic surgeon Rozina Ali explores how the ageing process affects human skin. She examines why some people appear to age better than others, and explores scientific innovations including a pill which manufacturers claim has rejuvenating properties. I've taken a few of them in my time, dear blog reader. They don't work. Personally, I prefer a good curry. Rozina also discovers how the contents of a squid's eye could change people's experiences of summer. Urgh! Nasty.

Fresh from grilling Chloe Smith on Newsnight and 'making her his bitch' (and, let's face it, that never gets old), yer actual Jezza Paxman turns his steely glare and inquisitors manner to even younger subjects in University Challenge - 8:00 BBC2. At the news of which, presumably, eight students just shat in their own keks. Yer man Paxo asks the questions as four hapless medical students representing St George's, University of London, take on a team of trembling wretches from King's College, Cambridge, in the second of this year's first-round matches.

Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came To Dingle - 10:00 BBC3 - is a fascinating and touching Arena film which tells the story of the day the late Amy Winehouse recorded a stunning acoustic performance in a church in the small Irish fishing village of Dingle. Back in 2006, on a stormy December night, Amy flew to a remote corner in the South West of Ireland to perform for Other Voices, a highly acclaimed RTE TV music series filmed in Dingle every winter. Amy took to the stage of Saint James’s church (capacity eighty five) and performed for a little over twenty minutes. She absolutely wowed the small, packed audience, singing six songs from Back to Black accompanied for that one night only by guitar and bass. With that unique, stripped down formation and in that setting, Amy delivered a searing, wonderful set that will never be forgotten by anyone who was lucky enough to be there. Winehouse was a star and that night in Dingle she was shining at her very brightest. Immediately after she left the stage, a relaxed and happy Amy Winehouse crossed the road to Benner's Hotel, where she spoke about her music and her influences: Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles and The Shangri-las to name a few. Then she ate a plate of oysters and visited a couple of the more famous Dingle haunts before climbing into a taxi and driving to Cork. In all she was in Dingle for about six hours. A fleeting visit but she left a lasting impression. Arena joined forces with Other Voices and went to Dingle to catch up with some of the people that Amy met on that day, including Paddy Kennedy, the taxi driver who collected her from the airport, Aoife Woodlock, the musical director who booked Amy in the first place, Dale Davis, her bass player and the Reverend Mairt Hanley of the Other Voices church.

Tuesday 24 July
Gates goes on the run, convinced that he can save his career and his marriage by proving his innocence in the final episode of Line of Duty - 9:00 BBC2. As his options dwindle, the anti-corruption team faces renewed pressure to close the case - but rifts start to appear when Arnott questions how far Fleming is willing to go to get results. Well-done police thriller, starring Lennie James, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure.
Bad Boy Olympian - 9:00 BBC3 - is a documentary following judo fighter Ashley McKenzie as he leaves his mother and childhood home to live with his no-nonsense coach. Despite being in line for a place at the London 2012 Olympics, his severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has resulted in four misconduct bans from the British squad in the past three years, and the move is an attempt to keep himself on track and ensure his behaviour does not jeopardise his chances of competing.

Glamour model Holly Kent meets Nelly Shaheen, a woman who has a rare skin condition which could suffocate her if left untreated in a fascinating episode of Beauty & the Beast: Ugly Face of Prejudice - 8:00 Channel Four. They visit strip clubs to try pole dancing, before experiencing the realities of the adult-entertainment industry in Los Angeles - and Nelly tries to convince Holly that her profession is not as rewarding as she believes. Neither Holly nor Nelly looks ordinary. Glamour model Holly likes to enhance what nature gave her. Nelly has a dangerous skin condition, Harlequin Ichthyosis, and many people mistake her for a burns victim. Both are smart and good-natured, and they make a companionable pairing in this life-swap experiment. At twenty seven, Nelly is the oldest known person with HI in Britain, and the only survivor of four siblings who were all born with it. Holly's teens were blighted by emotional illness. The same spirit has got them both through. This blogger normally loathes the concept of life-swap telly - it often seems to bring out the absolute worst in everyone involved (especially if that includes the former Duchess of York) but this is one definite exception.

A slot-machine player is shot dead on the gaming floor of a casino, and the investigators comb through CCTV footage to identify the murderer in the latest episode of CSI - 9:00 Channel Five. A drop of blood provides them with DNA evidence which, under normal circumstances, would crack the case straight away. But, of course, this is an episode of CSI so it's not going to be straightforward as that. They discover an unusual fact about the DNA which leaves them with two chief suspects, each of whom is equally likely to have been the killer. And, then, just to make things really complicated, a third potential killer is found, dead, in his room.

Wednesday 25 July
Doctor Who star Matt Smith swaps his sonic screwdriver for a pair of oars in Bert and Dickie - 8:00 BBC1 - a timely fact-based drama about the 1948 London Olympics, an event which grew out of the country's stubborn determination to recover from the Second World War despite it being a time of poverty, unemployment and harsh weather. Sound familiar? There is, as it happens, a big 1948 revival going on round our way. Whole families trying to five of eight quid a week. Anyway, written by William Ivory and starring Smudger his very self and Sam Hoare, Bert And Dickie is the - genuinely - uplifting true story of how two young men defied all the odds and achieved gold in the double sculls. Thrown together just five weeks before the final of the 1948 London Olympics, Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell not only pushed physical and emotional limits, but also rose above distinctions of birth and class (Dickie was a journalist, the son of a stockbroker, World War I hero and former Olympian himself, Bert was the son a bricklayer and left school at fourteen to train as an apprentice at Thorneycrofts) to become Olympic gold medallists. Although both were experienced world class oarsmen, neither had competed in the double sculls before. Bert and Dickie's personal battle reflects a much greater struggle as London prepared to host the Olympic Games. In 1948, just three years after the end of the Second World War, London was still half in ruins thanks to the Luftwaffe and the British people were still recovering from the draining emotional turmoil of the end of the conflict that had been their entire life for six years. But, determined not to 'let the Games die', the British Olympic Committee convinced Prime Minister Clement Attlee that holding the Olympics - when no one else wanted to - could help bring the country back together. So The Austerity Olympics were born. While London again prepares to host the 2012 Olympics in a difficult economic climate, this film will hopefully remind viewers what the Games are really about – taking part, doing your best, heroic personal endeavour, courage, determination and a little bit of luck. With James Frain, Douglas Hodge and Geoffrey Palmer.

Meanwhile, the actual Olympics are under way. Oh, I know what you're going to say, dear blog reader. 'The opening ceremony isn't till Friday Keith Telly Topping. You're talking bollocks.' Well, that's as may be, dear blog reader but, nevertheless, some events have already started. Unfortunately, it's just the women's football. Not that there's anything wrong with the women's football, of course, it's just not something I can get myself too excited about. Even when they swap shirts at the end. Anyway, never mind all that, Jake Humphrey introduces live coverage of the second half of the Group E match between Cameroon and Brazil at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff - 7:00 BBC3. Brazil won all seven of their fixtures during the South American qualifiers to progress along with Colombia, and are regarded as one of the favourites to win the gold medal. Cameroon can consider themselves fortunate to be involved at London 2012, having lost to Equatorial Guinea at the qualifying stage, only for their opponents to be eliminated instead for fielding an ineligible player. There's also highlights and post-match reaction to the opening fixture between Great Britain and New Zealand. With analysis by Sue Smith and Faye White and commentary by Jonathan Pearce - trying desperately not to sound disappointed that he hasn't got a men's match - and Jo Potter.

Art historian James Fox follows up his - terrific - British Masters series last year by investigating artists' use of blue, white and gold, and explains how by choosing these colours, painters have changed the way people behave, stirred emotions and had an impact on the course of history in A History of Art in Three Colours - 9:00 BBC4. For the very first civilisations and also our own, the yellow lustre of gold is the most alluring and intoxicating colour of all. From the midst of pre-history to a bunker deep beneath the Bank of England, Fox reveals how golden treasures made across the ages reflect everything we have held as sacred. Opening with early sun worship, he storms across history, reinterpreting the golden treasures of the pharaohs, the lavish mosaics of Byzantium and the alluring work of the Renaissance master Benvenuto Cellini. We bask in the glow of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss and discover the curious case of a Birmingham inventor who made the alchemist's dream come true.

Top geezer Big Quiffed Marky Kermode interviews Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight Rises, about how his trilogy of Batman movies has depicted the only slighty gay caped crimefighter in The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. Meanwhile, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon (but, thankfully, not than annoying get Alex James) discuss Blur's forthcoming concert at Hyde Park in London, which will mark the end of the Olympics, and Mat Fraser visits an exhibition exploring mankind's attempts to artificially enhance the human body. The programme also reports on why puppets are experiencing a revival in popularity.

Thursday 26 July
Yesterday was the women's football, today they get back to making their husband's tea whilst the blokes give it a go. It's Great Britain versus Senegal (kick-off 8.00 BBC1). Gary Lineker introduces coverage of the Group A match at Old Trafford where the sides make their bow in the competition. Britain are coached by Stuart Pearce for this tournament and will also face Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates as they aim to finish in the top two in the group and reach the quarter-finals. Pearce can call on a squad of players aged under twenty three, augmented by three ‘over-age' members, and will be hoping the selected stars from England and Wales can gel quickly against the Africans, having only gathered for one warm-up match against Brazil last week. Senegal were the last side to book their place in the tournament, needing to win a play-off against Oman in April to secure their progress and are without Newcastle United duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé. Who have some real football to be getting on with. With analysis by Alan Hansen and a lack of anything even approaching analysis but lots of bellowing from Robbie Savage, and commentary by Jonathan Pearce and Mark Lawrenson. Plus, footage from Hyde Park on the arrival of the Olympic torch relay, and a look ahead to tomorrow's opening ceremony.

A millionaire is trying to save jungle tigers on the Indonesian island of Sumatra by capturing them in their natural habitat, then transporting them to his own land and setting them free, a story told in Natural World: Tiger Island - 8:00 BBC2. Sounds like a spectacularly dangerous thing to do, frankly, but good luck to the chap for at least trying to do something positive. However, zoologist Alan Rabinowitz is unsure about the wisdom of his scheme, particularly given the dangers the big cats pose to humans - although what the hell it has to do with him is, at this present time, unclear. So, he decides to investigate further - as you do - in a Gruniad Morning Star-style snooping expedition. Good luck to you too, sir, you nosey bastard. Haven't you got anything better to do with your time, like save white rhino, or something? God save us all from 'concerned' experts.

A repeat, but a good one, is The Night Watch - 9:00 BBC2. A one-off drama adapted from the best-selling novel by Sarah Waters, it follows the love affairs of four Londoners throughout three stages of the 1940s. Kay roams the streets, haunted by a traumatic personal loss, while Helen and Viv run a marriage bureau, helping people rebuild their shattered lives by finding love - but their own complicated relationships are less easy to solve. Meanwhile, Duncan's fragile existence is threatened when a face from his past reappears. There surely aren't many better actresses on television right now than Anna Maxwell Martin. She was so good as Sarah Burton in South Riding and in this super adaptation of Waters' novel, every flinch, every heart-piercing pain and ache of loss is etched across her face. Paula Milne (no slouch as a writer herself, she was behind the marvellous The Politician's Wife and the less impressive White Heat) did a magnificent job in bringing Waters' novel, with all of its narrative quirks (the story is, effectively, told backwards), to the screen. Maxwell Martin is Kay, an auxilliary ambulance driver in the Second World War who is transformed by the routine horrors of conflict; the 'mortuary runs' with bomb-blasted bodies, the indiscriminate killing. Kay is a lesbian, and her romantic feelings, in public, have to be confined to no more than glances and gestures. In a multi-layered narrative we see other women forced to hide their true selves behind facades of heterosexual domesticity, like flatmates Julia and Helen (played by Anna Wilson-Jones and Claire Foy). Then there's silly, trusting Viv (Jodie Whittaker) and her tormented gay brother Duncan (Harry Treadaway). All of these characters are woven into an elegant, overlapping narrative. if you missed this first time around, you could do a lot worse than stick in a video and record it even if you are watching the football on the other side.

Friday 27 July
Seven years after the announcement - on 4 July 2007 - that the 2012 Olympic Games were to be held in London, the moment has finally arrived - 7:00 BBC1. One billion people are expected to be watching worldwide as an eighty thousand capacity crowd fills the purpose-built stadium in the East End of London for the official start of the thirtieth Olympiad. This live programme follows the run-up to the ceremony, with BBC reporters capturing the atmosphere in the Olympic Park as crowds and dignitaries arrive to take their seats, and around the rest of the UK as people eagerly anticipate sixteen days of sporting competition. Or, the sour-faced ones, don't but, instead, mutter about a waste of money as sour-faced glakes usually do whenever somebody is trying to do something a bit uplifting. This blogger is not a big fan of sour-faced glakes, personally. You might have noticed, dear blog reader. Others may have a different point of view. But, they are all wrong. Anyway, the countdown is now over - the ceremony is about to begin with a show produced by Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. Or, in other words, the man who made Edinburgh look like the toilet of the world. Interesting choice. The chime of the largest harmonically-tuned bell in Europe is the cue for the cast of ten thousand volunteers to take the stage in a pageant about a land recovering from its industrial legacy. Sadly, the Irish potato famine will not be represented through the medium of rhythmic dance and there will not be a group of youths setting fire to a Nissan Mirca as an example of modern urban Britain. But, otherwise, there'll be men on stilts, lots of people in tracksuits and huge explosions. So, if you've ever lived in Liverpool, you'll know what to expect. The organisers have promised country scenes, with families taking picnics, farmers tilling the soil - and bellowing 'Oi! Gerrof moi laaaaand' whilst pointing a ruddy great shotgun at those 'families have picnics', probably - and people playing sports on the village green (dogging, probably). All this, on a set featuring real farmyard animals and landmarks like Glastonbury Tor. Expect, therefore, photographs a pig having a shit to feature strongly in some cynical piece of hippy drivel written by some louse of no consequence in the Gruniad Morning Star the next day. Further details are being kept strictly under wraps. Basically, so that this blogger can't do any more cheap jokes about the event. Which, trust me dear blog reader, is a good thing. The panorama also includes two mosh-pits, representing the Glastonbury festival and the Last Night of the Proms, while the music - if recent reports are to be believed - is an eclectic selection of approximately one hundred tunes ranging from The Beatles to the Monty Python's Flying Circus theme tune. That'll be to accompany the entrance of Team GB, no doubt. Oh yes. The performance is followed by the athletes' parade, in which more than two hundred countries are represented. Some of them with only one athlete, walking round really slowly, looking lonely. Will everybody boo when the Americans come in? Will Syria turn up and try to force their way in at gunpoint? Then Her Very Maj, the Queen, will carry out the official opening, before the arrival of the Olympic flame, when the identity of the final torchbearer - who has the honour of lighting the cauldron that will burn for the next sixteen days of competition - will be revealed. Yeah, that's gonna be Steve Redgrave just in case you were wondering. Sue Barker, Gary Lineker and Huw Edwards are among the presenters and commentators. The show is scheduled to run until after midnight although if - during the parade of the athletes - some countries walk a bit slower than others, then expect it to go on till 2am at least.

And so to the news: Britain's austerity drive is finally reaching one corner of the small screen: the total pay of the BBC's handful of on-screen million-pound earners has dropped by a third to just short of ten million smackers in the last financial year according to a spectacularly agenda-soaked piece in the Gruniad Morning Star. 'Graham Norton and Jeremy Paxman are among those understood to be taking pay cuts during the period,' they state. Quite how they know this to be the case, they do not say. The BBC is expected to reveal on Monday that the amount it pays 'top talent', earning one million notes or more, has dropped to £9.7m in the year to March 2012, which compares with £14.6m the year before, with Norton reducing his annual two million knicker salary and the presenter of Newsnight dropping out of the million a year bracket altogether. However, because there are fewer than ten individuals involved, the BBC will not say how many stars earned more than one million smackers last year – and is only expected to reveal that about fifteen received more than five hundred thousand quid from the licence fee during 2011-12 – a drop from nineteen in the previous year. A cut to Norton's pay, the Gruniad state, would leave Gary Lineker as the BBC's highest earner although, again, how they are party to the - presumably private - contract details on individuals, they do not reveal. According to the Gruniad, the former England footballer turned Match of the Day host earns an estimated two million quid a year, but he is under pressure to cut his pay when his contract comes up for renewal in a year's time after fellow pundit Alan Hansen had a third slashed from his £1.5m-a-year deal in February. Shearer, apparently, gets fifty quid and a bag of smarties. I could tell you how I know that, dear blog reader, but I'd have to kill you afterwards. Paxman, the best paid current affairs presenter, earned about a million wonga for his work on Newsnight and University Challenge - and deserves every single penny of it after what he did to Chloe Smith, frankly - but a new deal signed at the end of 2010 and whose effect was felt during the last financial year, saw his income trimmed to about eight hundred thousand snots, taking him out of the top bracket. Even Jonathan Ross is believed to have had an impact on the figures. The man who was the BBC's top earner filmed his last Friday night show in July 2010, but with his overall deal estimated at six million smackers a year, the fact that he was working for the public broadcaster for four months in the year would have taken him over one million quid and into the top bracket for 2010-11. The BBC has been desperately trying to cut the pay of its top stars by at least twenty per cent, as it tries to head off sick, agenda-based Conservative pressure to publish the pay details of all its household names and demonstrate to the public that it is responding to its own financial pressures that stem from the £145.50 a year licence fee freeze negotiated with the government in the autumn of 2010. That, though, as the Gruniad rather gleefully note, has 'not stopped one or two people coming into the higher pay brackets,' with will.i.am, the Black Eyed Peas front man, earning a fee of about five hundred grand for acting as a judge on The Voice. Or 'the under-fire reality show The Voice' as the Gruniad rather judgementally call it. I'm not saying they're wrong, necessarily, but hey stick to the facts, guys. In general, though, the BBC appears to have held flat or brought down most of the pay packages of the best known names. Although ITV is smaller, it pays its roster of top stars far more, with Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly earning a whopping five million quid a year each for their hosting duties on Britain's Got Talent and elsewhere. Alesha Dixon was poached by Simon Cowell to act as a judge on Britain's Got Talent, where she earned a reported three hundred and fifty grand - money for nothing, frankly - against the one hundred grand she received from the public broadcaster for judging Strictly Come Dancing. There are few women among the BBC's top earners, although Anne Robinson, earned an estimated one million knicker a year for hosting The Weakest Link and Watchdog during 2010 and 2011. But the sixty six-year-old has cut back her work, and the broadcaster dropped the game show once she decided she would no longer present it. Overall, the BBC is expected to confirm it spent about two hundred and two million quid on paying on-screen talent. The majority of those receiving cash are individuals paid the occasional one hundred and fifty smackers fee each time they appear as an expert on a news bulletin or Newsnight. That would represent a drop of about ten million quid on last year's £212.5m. The unique position of the public broadcaster has meant that it has been able to talk most presenters down. Although few stars will talk about their pay, rightly – 'leaving figures to be pieced together through a mixture of off the record briefing and industry information' claims the Gruniad, rather unconvincingly – there are one or two that go on the record. Norton, in an interview with the Daily Mirra last October, said: 'Will I take a pay cut? Absolutely. God yes. There should be no special cases. The cuts at the BBC are across the board, which is how it should be.' But one exception, the Gruniad state, is Lineker, whose advisers, the allege 'have been hinting he could switch to join new Premier League broadcaster BT, once it starts airing games in 2013.' A constant stream of 'leaks' suggest that the BBC's efforts to slash pay are continuing. Chris Evans, who earned an estimated million quid plus for his Radio 2 breakfast programme and his Friday night presenting of The ONE Show, saw his pay drop in 2012 when the weekend edition of the BBC1 programme saw its airtime cut by half – and his twelve grand a show fee drop in line with that. But 'loopholes', the Gruniad claim, 'allow stars to keep up appearances.' Which gives the odious lice at the Gruniad another opportunity to delve into the private affairs of Jeremy Clarkson. Yer man Jezza is 'understood' to earn less than five hundred thousand directly from the licence fee, but the Top Gear presenter - or 'motormouth' as the odious Communist hippy shit who wrote this piece, Dan Sabbagh if you're interested, calls him - generates most of his income through a contract with the BBC's commercial arm that allows him to profit from the sale of programme DVDs, foreign sales and live shows. Those added another £2.14m to his income last year, Sabbagh claims. Which is fair enough since it's his concept and he is mainly responsible for Top Gear's huge success as an export, which helps this country's balance of payments far many than anything anyone involved in the odious Gruniad Morning Star has even done to justify their worthless existence. And, since Top Gear is, even buy the most conservative of estimates, reckoned to bring into the BBC income of around fifty million smackers per year (effectively paying the entire budget of such Gruniad-beloved parts of the Beeb as BBC4, Radio 3 and 6Music and quite a bit else beside) many would argue he's cheap at half the price. Norton also benefits from income generated by his production company, So Television, adding another four hundred grand to his income, this odious excuse for journalism concludes. The Gruniad, dear blog reader, is there's some shit to be stirred, you can be sure they'll stir it thoroughly and then tell you all about it.

Shameless character Frank Gallagher will be seen sobering up and getting a job in the show's new series, it has been claimed. According to the Sun, Frank - played by the great David Threlfall - will have his benefits taken away when the comedy-drama returns. 'Everyone's amazed when Frank gets a job - especially Frank,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the paper, but probably didn't. 'He's been on disability allowance since 1997.' It has also been claimed that Frank will be seen writing a CV for the Job Centre detailing a colourful employment history. 'Frank's jobs range from sewer maintenance technician's assistant to being a roadie for Oasis,' the alleged 'insider' allegedly continued. 'Despite him dragging his heels, though, he does get a job in a fried chicken restaurant. Anyone who complains is going to get a little extra surprise in their meal to make up for any inconvenience caused.' Shameless is expected to return to Channel Four later this year.

Senior managers at G4S only realised 'eight or nine days ago', that they could not provide enough security guards for the London Olympics, the company's chief executive has said. Nick Buckles - what a fantastic name! - told the BBC that 'problems' in the recruitment and deployment process were 'only recently identified.' He also 'could not guarantee' all the security staff spoke fluent English. G4S will charge Olympic organisers LOCOG about two hundred and eighty million smackers, but says it will lose up to fifty million quid on the contract. Buckles said the company accepted it had 'underestimated the task of supplying staff to the Olympics. We deeply regret that and we are deeply disappointed.' Not half as effing disappointed a some people are going to be if they get blown up by a terrorist who managed to get past some of your security personal, matey. 'It was a daunting task to supply that number of staff in a short time scale. I began to know it was going wrong eight or nine days ago. Basically we are recruiting a large number of people and they are all working through a process of interview, two or three different degrees of training, licensing and accreditation. It is only when you get closer to the Games, you realise that the number is not as high as you expect,' Buckles added. G4S signed a contract with LOCOG in 2010 to supply two thousand security staff to work at Olympic venues. In December 2011, the Games organisers asked the company to provide some eight thousand more, bringing the total to approximately ten thousand staff. Allowing for attrition - reduction in numbers due to factors such as as sickness and no-shows - the company had to recruit nearly fourteen thousand people in total. About one hundred and ten thousand applied for security jobs, and fifty thousand were interviewed. Buckles confirmed on Saturday that four thousand staff were 'ready to go,' having been trained and vetted, and received uniforms and instructions about their job. A further nine thousand applicants were 'in the process of being scheduled,' meaning they had been trained and have security clearance, but did not have deployment information. Buckles described the recruitment process as 'very complex,' with applicants having to be 'screened, Security Industry Authority trained and licensed, role specific trained and accredited by the Home Office.' He would not confirm exactly what penalty the government was imposing on the company for failing to fulfil the contract. But he estimated the figure would be about ten to twenty million knicker. The Commons Public Accounts Committee has summoned G4S, two government departments and 2012 organiser LOCOG to answer questions in September. Buckles has been asked to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee next week. Actually, 'asked' might be too polite a description, he's been ordered. Dame Tessa Jowell, the shadow minister for the Olympics, said a review into security at the games should wait until after the event has finished. She said the breakdown in security planning had been identified and remedied 'in a way that the public can have confidence in.' But she added: 'The focus now has got to be on nailing this down and ensuring the integrity and resilience of the security plan.' Buckles said that he 'could not guarantee' that all of the security personnel were fluent English speakers. Why not, we live in Britain, after all? He said he was 'pretty sure' that the staff could speak English well 'but I cannot say categorically as I sit here today.' He went on: 'I do not know about the individuals. As part of the process they have to have a right to work in the UK, and they have been interviewed, screened and vetted to a very high standard.' Hey, listen mate, here's a tip. When you're in a hole, it's generally a good idea to stop digging. G4S has agreed to pay for the deployment of three thousand five hundred extra military personnel, to plug the gap in security staff. Buckles added: 'We are very very grateful to the military for providing this support. To the individuals we are grateful that they are giving up time with family to come and help us. Together we will provide a safe and secure games.'

Bradley Wiggins kept the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey after stage fourteen, which was won by Luis-Leon Sanchez. Reigning champion Cadel Evans suffered a puncture at the top of the last climb and had to wait for a replacement before making up his lost time. Wiggins also had a puncture but Team Sky quickly replaced his bike and he still leads the field by more than two minutes from his team mate Chris Froome. George Hincapie, Evans's BMC team-mate, said: 'There was something on the road. I've never seen anything like that.' A race official subsequently confirmed that carpet tacks were responsible for more than thirty punctures but said that they did not yet know whether it was a protest or an act of mischief. The thirty two-year-old Wiggins - a three time Olympic gold medallist and the coolest Mod on two wheels - is aiming to become the first Briton to win the famous race, which finishes in Paris on 22 July. The one hundred and ninety one kilometre stage had two main steep climbs but Wiggins's rivals failed to use them to attack the Briton's overall lead. Stage winner Sanchez, of Rabobank, was part of a breakaway group and made a solo surge for the line with eleven kilometres to go of the run from Limoux to Foix. The Spaniard held on to claim his fourth career stage victory on the Tour de France.

The fall out from John Terry's court case took something of a dramatic twist on Saturday when Rio Ferdinand reacted laughingly to the description of Ashley Cole as 'a choc ice' on Twitter and the Moscow Chelski FC left-back's lawyers felt obliged to become involved. Cole acted as a defence witness for his club-mate Terry, who was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton on Friday. The term 'choc ice', commonly understood to mean 'black on the outside, white on the inside,' was used in reference to Cole in a tweet sent to Rio Ferdinand. 'Looks like Ashley Cole's going to be their choc ice,' it read. 'Then again he's always been a sell out. Shame on him.' Ferdinand responded in a tweet: 'I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic! Hahahahahahha!' The Scum defender played dozens of times for England with Cole, who described himself at Terry's trial as 'a long-standing friend' of the Ferdinand brothers. Cole told the court that Terry was not a racist. Rio Ferdinand's tweet generated sizeable reaction, prompting him to return to Twitter to write: 'If I want to laugh at something someone tweets I will! Hahahahaha! Now stop getting ya knickers in a twist!' Christ, how old are you, Rio, twelve? Sorry, stupid question, you're a footballer, aren't you? You've all got the mental age of twelve. Except Rooney, he's probably a ten, maximum. The episode also drew a response from Cole's lawyers: 'Ashley Cole has been made aware of the discussion following comments appearing on Twitter and wishes to make it clear that he and Rio Ferdinand are good friends and Ashley has no intention of making any sort of complaint. Ashley appreciates that tweeting is so quick it often results in off-hand and stray comments.' So, why comment on it at all, except to get yourself in the newspapers? Terry could face a Football Association disrepute charge despite being cleared in court. Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of the anti-racism group Kick It Out, told the Observer: 'I am worried that this is a defining moment for the FA, to show it is a governing body prepared to keep to a high standard on the racism issue. If this incident, and the racial element of it, is not seen to be dealt with properly, there is the potential for black players to lose confidence in the authorities and withdraw their support for anti-racism campaigns.'

Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney had the plug pulled on them by some over-zealous prick after over-running at a concert in London's Hyde Park. Headline act Springsteen welcomed Sir Paul on stage for renditions of The Beatles' 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Twist and Shout' on Saturday evening. But their microphones were turned off immediately after the later song had finished and before they could thank the punters. It has been suggested that the band had intended to play one more song - 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out', their usual final number and a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping - before the power was cut. Bruce sang a few lines of the folk standard 'Goodnight Irene', audible only to those near the stage, before leaving. Springsteen had exceeded the time limit for the Hard Rock Calling event after playing for more than three hours. Both Bruce and Macca looked somewhat surprised by this rank and utterly glakery and had to leave the stage in silence. The American star, backed by his phenomenal E-Street Band is, of course, well known for his long sets - one recent show in Barcelona went on for over four hours. He had performed a string of his best-known numbers including 'Born In The USA', 'Thunder Road', 'Because The Night', Badlands', 'Born To Run' and 'Dancing In The Dark'. He had earlier invited Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello on stage to perform two songs, and singer John Fogerty joined him for another - 'The Promised Land'. Springsteen delighted one loyal fan who displayed a banner urging him to play one of his more obscure songs, 'Take 'Em As They Come'. Most Springsteen gigs include a slot mid-set where the singer invites fans to bring along banners requesting songs which his doesn't usually play live and he will pick one and perform it. But, 'Take 'Em As They Come' is certainly one of the more unusual items to make it. Originally recorded in April 1980 it was one of several songs cut during the sessions which didn't make it onto his LP The River. It was eventually released in 1998 on Bruce's four-CD outtakes collection Tracks. The artist said: 'Tonight, my friend, this is your lucky night. You're going to hear this damn thing. It's a completely obscure track I wrote for The River when I needed some rock songs.' Introducing yer actual Sir McCarntey, Springsteen said: 'I gotta tell you, I've been trying to do this for fifty years.' London's Westminster Council later claimed that concert organisers Hard Rock Calling had cut the power, saying they 'were sticking to their license for the event.' The concert organisers, meanwhile, blamed the council.  Bloody hell, you two, you're as bad as Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole. According to the Hard Rock Calling website, Springsteen's set had been due to finish at 10:15 and, thus, it over-ran by about twenty five minutes before the power was shut off. Little Steven Van Zandt on his Twitter account was not too happy about it: 'One of the great gigs ever in my opinion. But seriously, when did England become a police state?' He went on to have further harsh words for 'English cops' which probably means the next time he's innocently crossing a road to his hotel in London he'll get nabbed by the bobbies for 'looking at me in the funny way.' Goddamn Yankies. They come over here, they take over our festivals ... 'Ashamed to be British right now. Springsteen and McCartney playing 'Twist & Shout' in Hyde Park and council pulled the plug cos of curfew,' tweeted the actor and - alleged - comedian Stephen Merchant. Journalist Richard James tweeted, 'Springsteen and McCartney: Only in Britain could a local council pull the plug on the [two] greatest artists of the last fifty years giving it all.'

Prolific Hollywood producer Dick Zanuck has died aged seventy seven, suffering a heart attack at his Beverley Hills home. Zanuck was best known for his work on films such as The Sound of Music, Driving Miss Daisy and Jaws. Son of Hollywood royalty, he became the youngest studio head in history when he took over 20th Century Fox aged twenty eight. His friend Steven Spielberg called him a 'cornerstone of the film industry.' Dick Zanuck's parents were the legendary movie mogul Darryl Zanuck and actress Virginia Fox. After his father made him 20th Century Fox's head of production, the younger Zanuck went on to oversee the release of some of the era's classics, including The Sound of Music and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He ran his own production company after several big-screen musicals for Fox flopped and his father fired him, spending most of his career as an independent producer. Zanuck collaborated with Steven Spielberg on the blockbuster Jaws and several other films. 'He taught me everything I know about producing. He was one of the most honourable and loyal men of our profession and he fought tooth and nail for his directors,' Spielberg said in a statement. His 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy won four Oscars, including best picture for Zanuck and his wife and collaborator Lili Fini Zanuck. In his later years, Zanuck collaborated closely with director Tim Burton on a number of movies, including Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.

That brings us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day and, in the week that the Olympics start, this seems somewhat appropriate.

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