Saturday, August 11, 2012

And People Are Rude And Cruel To You I'll Tell You Why

Outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson has denied claims that he ordered news executives to focus less on Britain's Olympics success in bulletins. Thompson was forced to issue a clarification after the BBC News director, Helen Boaden, said in a memo circulated to staff that the director general was 'increasingly unhappy' at the emphasis on Britain's gold medal-winning exploits. Boaden's memo was sent to a small number of BBC News executives on Thursday after a conference call in which Thompson was reported to be 'increasingly unhappy that we are focusing far too much on Team GB's performance to the exclusion of all else.' Then, presumably, one of those executives leaked it because within hours its contents were all over the media. However, a BBC spokesman said on Friday that it was 'mischievous' to suggest Thompson had complained about the corporation's news coverage, which has received widespread praise from viewers and pundits. And, indeed, from this blog. They're doing a fine job and anybody who thinks they aren't, should be attending that party around Morrissey's house, frankly. The spokesman added: 'We emphatically deny that the director general has made any complaint about the nature of our news coverage of the Olympics and to suggest otherwise is mischievous and wrong.' So, Helen Boaden is lying, in that case? Good. Glad we got that sorted out. Some BBC News journalists were said to be 'surprised' at the directive, which came shortly before Nicola Adams made Olympic history when she became the first woman to win a gold medal in boxing. The individual dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin also took the top prize in her event and Jade Jones won a third gold in taekwondo to seal another highly successful day for Britain. The BBC spokesman said it was 'business as usual' on Friday and pointed out that Thursday night's 6pm and 10pm TV news bulletins led on Britain's latest gold medals, as well as Usain Bolt's emphatic win in the two hundred metres. In a statement issued late on Thursday, Thompson himself said that he was 'delighted' about the performance of Britain and of the BBC's Olympics coverage. However, the memo sent to staff from Boaden, titled An Order From The DG, appeared to suggest otherwise. At least, according to the nitching grass who leaked it to the press. But, thanks to the BBC spokesperson we've already established that Boaden was lying, so there's really no issue here, is there? 'Mark Thompson is increasingly unhappy that we are focusing far too much on Team GB's performance to the exclusion of all else. This is also becoming a theme within the press,' Boaden wrote. We now know, from no less a source than Mark Thompson himself, that this is not the case. 'As editor-in-chief, he has issued a directive that this needs to change from today. So you need to get cracking on making that shift.' Or, indeed, not. The memo risks causing considerable friction between Boaden and Thompson on the eve of the Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday. Thompson will step down after eight years as director general next month. Boaden was one of the internal candidates overlooked for the top job, which went to the BBC Vision director, George Entwistle, last month. In a statement issued late on Thursday, Thompson said: 'The BBC has been right to focus on sporting achievements which the whole country has been celebrating and we will continue to do so with pride. We can do that while at the same time making sure that our news programmes fully reflect some of the other great sporting achievements and human stories of the London Games.' Boaden, meanwhile, said nothing. Nath-thing. Which is curious since she had so much to say for herself earlier. One wouldn't mind betting that she's on the hunt for the Copper's Nark who released the memo in the first place, however.

The BBC, meanwhile, repositioned cameras in its London 2012 Olympic Park studio, after inadvertently giving free advertising to controversial official sponsor Dow Chemical in the build-up to Danny Boyle's opening ceremony. BBC production staff had to make the hurried adjustment after a Dow Chemical giant billboard wrap on the outside of the Westfield Stratford shopping centre was visible to viewers through the studio window behind presenters Gary Lineker and Sue Barker during the Opening Ceremony Countdown programme on Friday 27 July. They were alerted to the unintentional breach of the BBC's editorial guidelines, in time to shift the camera positions for the 9am BBC1 Olympics show the following morning, Saturday 28 July. 'As soon as we became aware that there was undue prominence for a commercial brand within camera shot, we changed the angle of the camera,' said a spokesman for the BBC. The BBC's London 2012 studio is situated on top of container boxes with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, affording a stunning view behind guests and presenters of the Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford shopping centre. Dow Chemical has paid more than one million smackers for a giant billboard, the approximate size of two tennis courts, to wrap around part of Westfield for a twelve-week period covering the Olympic and Paralympic Games. BBC production staff did not realise when setting up the camera positions for the Olympics that the billboard was visible. It was seen on a few occasions during the Opening Ceremony Countdown programme from 7pm to 9pm on Friday 27 July. The show drew a peak five-minute audience of almost nineteen million and had an average of just over ten million on BBC1. One media buying executive, anonymous of course, allegedly quoted by the Gruniad, allegedly said that appearing in the live coverage of such a 'globally important event' could have been worth 'anything up to the equivalent' of spending two million smackers on TV advertising. 'This is a coup, I think you could say it is invaluable given the nature of the event and the fact it was the opening ceremony of a once-in-a-lifetime event not available on commercial TV,' this nameless alleged 'media buying executive' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'While estimating value is tricky, I would say such a unique opportunity would potentially be worth well over one million pounds.' Whether that figure is even remotely true or not is difficult to gauge - the amounts quoted seem rather to have been randomly plucked from the air - I'm not sure about you dear blog reader, but I'm fairly certain this blogger didn't watch that particular show, notice a vague billboard in the mid-distance and suddenly think to myself 'you know what, I really feel like popping out and buying myself some Dow Chemicals.' And anybody who suggests that many viewers watching the programme did think that, or anything even remotely like it, is a frigging moron. Of course, that didn't stop some odious Communist louse at the Gruniad Morning Star from running this bit of shit-stirring in a clear, agenda-soaked, effort to cause some trouble. Dow Chemical is, admittedly, one of the more controversial Olympic sponsors. They struck a one million dollar ten-year deal with the International Olympic Committee in 2010. Last summer it agreed to sponsor the seven million smackers wrap that will surround the stadium and took several other high profile slots, including the giant billboard space that accidentally appeared in the BBC coverage. In 2008 the BBC was forced to end sponsorship of its live events after the BBC Trust ruled that it 'compromised its independence' by allowing drinks brand Robinsons to sponsor the Sports Personality of the Year award.

If this is the Olympics dear blog reader then, by The Law, there has to be at least one British relay fiasco. And, indeed, sure enough one occurred on Friday. Britain will miss the men's Olympic four by one hundred metres relay final after being disqualified in their semi-final. The team finished second in their heat - in a very fast time, an'all - but the final handover between Daniel Talbot and Adam Gemili, occurred outside the box and was, thus, illegal. Young Gemili, whose fault it appeared to be, said: 'Maybe I went early or too hard. It's disappointing as we could have been in contention in the final.' Favourites Jamaica rested Usain Bolt but still won that heat, whilst, in the second semi, the United States recorded the fastest overall qualification time. Britain were also disqualified in Beijing four years ago and have now made a complete and total arse of baton changes in five of the last six major championships in this event. Talbot said: 'I don't know what happened. I just couldn't catch Adam. I'm really gutted and it's devastating.' Christian Malcolm, who ran the first leg for Britain, described the outcome as 'unfortunate.' Big on understatement is our Christian. He added: 'It's one of those things that happens but it's a fantastic performance to run the time we did. Daniel has come in at the last moment. This is a big stadium and it can be overwhelming.' In the final of the other men's relay, the four by four hundred metres, the Bahamas snatched a dramatic gold from USA with a national record time of 2:56.72. The Americas - with faces like a collective smack arse - had to settle for silver - and that was funny - while Trinidad and Tobago took bronze just 0.13 seconds ahead of Great Britain in fourth, the same position that they finished in Beijing. Anchorman Martyn Rooney ran a storming final leg of 44.1 seconds but could not, quite, close in to snatch bronze having been given slightly too much to do. Dai Greene, captain of the British athletics team, had come in to replace Nigel Levine from the quartet which qualified from the heats. But his - not especially impressive - third leg of 45.5 seconds may bring that decision into serious question. Conrad Williams's forty five seconds had Britain in fourth after the first leg before Jack Green's 44.8 maintained that position. But Greene, who'd blame his fourth place finish in the four hundred metres hurdles on him being 'too tired' - ran the slowest of Britain's four legs at a time when they could have really used something half-a-second quicker. South Africa's quartet, anchored by double amputee Oscar Pistorius, finished eighth, whilst Cuba failed to finish.

'It's a war zone out there - and we are taking an awful lot of casualties.' Not the words of some British general in Afghanistan but, rather, of BBC commentator Ed Leigh at the Olympic BMX track on Friday afternoon. But, it was another comment which will be best remembered by those who were watching the event on TV: 'I don't really know what to say,' was all Shanaze Reade could shrug as yet another of several British athletes who'd has their profiles inflated for the majority of the last four years by ridiculous arse-licking media predictions as a virtual medal 'certainty' didn't produce the necessary performance when it was most needed. In front of a capacity crowd - including David Beckham and the prime minister (I'm putting them in order of importance and popularity, you understand) - Reade could only come a very disappointing sixth in the final as Colombia's Mariana Pajon won gold with Sarah Walker of New Zealand taking silver and Laura Smulders of the Netherlands bronze. Reade who missed out on the Olympic medal four years ago when she crashed attempting to overtake the leader in the final corner appeared to try to blame the 'tough' schedule for her placing, ignoring the fact that her schedule was the same for those five riders who finished ahead of her. 'Today's schedule has been pretty hard,' she whinged. 'I just tried to stay focused and do my best and today it just wasn't good enough. At the moment, I'm pretty emotionless. I'm sure it'll sink in,' she said. 'I can't thank all these people enough for supporting me and I don't really know what to say. I just didn't get the start I needed to win the race and that was it.' In the men's race immediately afterwards Liam Phillips fell off his bike. Yeah, it was that sort of day at the BMX, frankly. As former world champion and BBC Sport pundit Jamie Staff noted: 'The crazy thing about this sport is they could all race against this time next week and it could well be a completely different result.' Which was, no doubt, of little consolation to either Reade or Phillips. And, speaking of British athletes subject to ridiculous arse-licking media hype, diver Tom Daley endured, by his own high standards, an extremely poor preliminary round in the ten metre platform but at least he edged through to Saturday's semi-finals. A poor start was compounded by a sloppy fifth dive to leave Daley in sixteenth place with a round to go. The eighteen-year-old did just enough with his final dive to move up to fifteenth, with the top eighteen in the thirty two-man field progressing. Daley, the sport's poster boy, has been in very good form this season, claiming three second-place finishes and a first in the World Cup Series. But he never looked happy on Friday and his fifth dive was one of the worst of his entire career, a 39.60 for a backward three-and-a-half somersault. An 84.15 in the sixth round did however put some gloss back on his display. 'If I was going to have a bad competition today was the best to do it on,' he said, not unreasonably. British sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell at least got themselves on the medal podium at Weymouth, though they had to settle for silver after falling just short of their Australian rivals in the men's 470 medal race. It was terrific effort, though. The British duo were already guaranteed at least a silver medal and went into the final race needing to beat the Australians with one boat between them to clinch gold. The British led around the first mark, but Australia's Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page made ground downwind and stayed clear to clinch gold. Argentina held onto third place to secure the bronze. 'To stand on an Olympic podium, it's not gold, but we're young boys and we'll be back,' said helm Patience. 'We're happy, happy boys. What a place, we're in paradise. It's so cool.' Bithell added: 'We tried, we got the better of them at the start and just managed to sneak ahead, but unfortunately we sneaked ahead of the rest of the fleet. They sailed a fantastic race, they're worthy champions, but we're happy with second.' Patience, twenty six, and Bithell, twenty five, teamed up in 2009 and shortly afterwards finished runners-up at the world championships in Denmark. Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark also picked up a silver after losing out in their final 470 shootout with New Zealand. The two crews and shared the lead going into the winner-takes-all final. The British were undone by a big wind shift on the opposite side of the course in the first leg and finished the medal race next to last. New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie won the race to clinch overall gold. 'We feel a bit gutted at the moment that we didn't put a big show,' said Clark, who was sixth in the 470 in Beijing with Christina Bassadone. Mills, twenty four, and Clark, thirty two, only paired up in February 2011 when the latter was left without a helm after double gold medallist Sarah Ayton retired. Britain's haul of five medals, one gold and four silver, from the regatta falls just short of the six they picked up in Beijing, but was roughly on par with their pre-event target. There was also something of a happy ending for Britain's women's hockey team who put aside the heartbreak of their semi-final defeat on Wednesday to beat New Zealand 3-1 and take a very well deserved bronze at the Riverbank Arena. Alex Danson, Crista Cullen and Sarah Thomas were the scorers - all of them following penalty corners - and captain Kate Walsh, playing with a fractured jaw, was ... yer actual Keith Telly Topping was going to say Man of the Match there but, you know what I mean? Lady of the Match? Let's move on. 'It was a wonderful performance following their semi-final against Argentina when they were utterly distraught at the end,' said commentator the legend that is Barry Davies. 'They've come here and shown real character and produced an excellent performance to win bronze and to finish the tournament with something to show. Right from the word "go" they were on top of their game and played with a determined but relaxed style. This is a huge consolation for them.' Afterwards, the Netherlands women won the hockey gold for the third time in their history with a comprehensive 2-0 win over Argentina. In boxing Luke Campbell reaching the final of the men's bantam fifty six kilogram after a very impressive semi-final win against Satoshi Shimizu of Japan. Later, tough little Welsh welterweight Fred Evans also won a bruising semi-final against the division's world champion Ukraine's Taras Shelestyuk. Unfortunately, their team-mate Anthony Ogogo - despite a valiant effort - couldn't overcoming a big, rock-hard Brazilian, Esquiva Falcao Florentino, in his semi-final and Anthony had to settle for a bronze. And, a bit a chinning, if we're being completely honest. Falcao looked proper tasty and it's going to take a very good fighter indeed to stop him picking up the gold medal. One day after British taekwonda found a new golden star, the team had a hugely disappointing morning in the ExCel Arena where expectations had been high for more success. The much fancied Sarah Stevenson, a bronze medallist four years ago, got the day off to the worst possible start in the women's sixty seven kilogram category taking a surprise five points to one defeat from the American Paige McPherson. One in which Stevenson was, frankly, outclassed. Worse was to follow, initially at least. Lutalo Muhammad progressed into the men's eighty kg quarter-final after defeating Tajikstan's Farkhod Negmatov seven to one but, there, he met Spain's Nicolas Garcia Hemme who proved, simply, far too good for him. The unfortunate Muhammed had been a controversial selection for the games in preference to world number one Aaron Cook - who had beaten Garcia Hemme on several occasions previously. British taekwodno's performance director Gary Hall looked a pretty forlorn figure in the stands after Muhammed's defeat. Muhammad admitted his opponent had clearly 'done his homework' and the match had 'not gone according to plan.' In so much as, you know, he didn't win it. Nevertheless, all was not lost. Due to the oddness of the way taekwondo works, before the night was out Muhammad would become the first British man to win an Olympic taekwondo medal, beating Arman Yeremyan nine points to three in the bronze medal match. He was handed a repechage place once Garcia Hemme reached the final. Muhammed responded to the disappointment of his loss earlier in the day to defeat Yousef Karami eleven to seven in the first round of the repechage before claiming the win over Armenia's Yeremyan. Elsewhere on a definite day of ups and downs for the British team, Bradford-on-Avon's Ed McKeever qualified for Saturday's K1 two hundred metres canoe sprint final.

Defending Olympic champions Norway will have to overcome Montenegro in Saturday's final if they are to retain their women's handball title, fast becoming one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite Olympic sports. Even if you do sometimes have to look on some sodding obscure TV channels to actually find some to watch. Montenegro guaranteed their first Olympic medal as Katarina Bulatovic's nine goals inspired them to a thrilling twenty seven to twenty six semi-final win over Spain. The day before, Norway had proved too strong for an injury-hit South Korea at a sold-out twelve thousand capacity Basketball Arena. I must admit, I've never understood why handball's hasn't really made it in the UK, it's massive right across the rest of Europe (particular in places like Germany, Hungary and Slovakia where they'll often get twenty thousand crowds for a handball match). Heidi Loke scored eight goals as the 2008 winners Norway won thirty one to twenty five. Spain will see their semi-final defeat to Montenegro as an opportunity missed after performing well throughout the tournament. They will now contest the bronze medal with South Korea on Saturday.
Now, here's a great moment of Olympic TV. A Belgian fan gets a little over excited after his team won a bronze medal in the women's sailing whilst being interviewed live by a BBC reporter. Imagine what he'd've said if it had been gold!

Daniel Fogg says that he is concerned about the effects of potential cuts in funding to British swimming after London 2012. Fogg was one of the few successes of a generally very disappointing effort by Britain's Olympic swimming squad, finishing a strong fifth in the ten kilometre open water event. But Britain won only three swimming medals at the games, half the total they managed in Beijing in 2008 and well below the target set for them before the games. 'We have been under a bit of stick for the medals we have got,' admitted Fogg. 'You've just to give us a bit of time; the medals will come.' Yeah, mate. So will Christmas. Michael Jamieson's brilliant silver in the two hundred metres breaststroke and Rebecca Adlington's two third-place finishes in her four and eight hundred metres freestyle title defences were the only times British swimmers have been on the London 2012 podium. And, in Adlington's case, the eight hundred metres bronze, at least, has been viewed by some commentators as something of a disappointment in itself, Rebecca having been expected to challenge strongly for gold. Rather than, as actually happened, getting spanked by a fifteen year old schoolgirl. The sport was set a target of winning between five and seven medals at the games, but the likes of Keri-Anne Payne, Fran Halsall, Gemma Spofforth and Ellen Gandy, whilst making finals in several cases, have not been among the top three in the women's events and there has been a lack of strong contenders among the men for some time. Swimming was due to receive a total of over twenty five million quid between 2009 and 2013 from UK Sport which allocates public funds to high-performance athletes. Only rowing, cycling and athletics - which have delivered a total of twenty six medals in London between them, so far - receive more cash from the pot. Most other sports get a fraction of the amount poured into swimming. And this blogger says all of that not as some crass armchair critic but, rather, as a tax payer. You know, one of those 'annoying little people' who pay British swimmers wages. Everyone has the right to an opinion in a free and democratic society, even if it isn't a particularly well informed one. But, especially, if they're paying for the privilege. Fogg believes that despite several less well-funded sports - judo, gymnastics, triathlon, canoeing and equestrian - all exceeding their own targets it would be wrong to switch money away from swimming. Well, of course he does. Because it'll mean less wonga for him and his mates. 'If funding is cut it's going to be extremely hard for us,' Fogg added. 'All we have to do is look at the performances and the amount of finalists we have had compared to the last four years and it's improving. They've just got to give us all the support that they can to turn those finalists into medals.' British swimming, ladies and gentlemen. Not reigning, but drowning.

In a previous blog, we mentioned the potential new game show for Channel Five, Is That A Banana Down Your Shorts Or Are You Just Glad To See Me? Here's the next set of contestants.
It appears that the chap on the extreme left has got a bunch of grapes down there rather than a banana. That's an entirely different game show, frankly.

Questions about the scoring in the Olympic boxing have been raised after a series of disputed results. Last year, Newsnight spoke to alleged Olympic boxing 'insiders' who alleged that London 2012 medals could be 'bought.' They were told that nine million US dollars had been paid from Azerbaijan to the international boxing authorities in return for two golds. The International Boxing Authority strongly denied any wrongdoing. The IOC found 'no formal evidence' of 'cash for medals.' However, some of the results over the last few days have raised some serious questions about the scoring system. Eyebrows were first raised last Wednesday when Azerbaijani bantamweight Magomed Abdulhamidov fought a Japanese boxer and won the match despite going down six times in the final round. After an appeal by Japan the decision was overturned. The boxer from Azerbaijan was thrown out, the Japanese fighter reinstated and the referee of the match had his ass slung onto the next plane home to Turkmenistan. Days later another Azeri, Teymur Mammadov, entered the ring and was awarded a very narrow victory against a Belarusian fighter, Siarhei Karneyeu. In the third round Mammadov seemed to commit holding fouls without being heavily penalised. The crowd and commentators were, reportedly, 'astounded' when he won. Belarus appealed but this time it was not upheld. Last year the Newsnight investigation acquired a confidential investment agreement between someone from Azerbaijan and World Series Boxing, which is run by AIBA, who also run Olympic Boxing. The investor from Azerbaijan paid nine million bucks to fund what Newsnight claims is 'an almost bankrupt tournament called the World Series Boxing.' The contract had been e-mailed by Azerbaijan's Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov. The alleged 'insiders' allegedly said Ivan Khodabakhsh, the Chief Operating Officer of WSB, told them that 'a secret deal' had been done in return for two gold medals. One alleged whistleblower allegedly told Newsnight: 'Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash.' Another said that Khodabakhsh came in and said: 'We are safe now - Azerbaijan came in - we have to give them medals for that. He was talking about gold medals in London in return for millions of dollars of secret payments,' the alleged 'insider' allegedly added. 'Medals are being sold so blatantly it's amazing.' But Khodabakhsh told Newsnight that claims that there was any deal with Azerbaijan were 'an absolute lie.' The president of the International Boxing Association, Ching-Ko-Wu who was ringside with David Cameron on Wednesday, said: 'The allegation that AIBA took a ten million dollars bribe from Azerbaijan in exchange for two gold medals at the Olympic Games in London is untrue. I have worked extremely hard over the past six years to clean up amateur boxing after years of corruption scandals under the previous administration. There is only one way to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games and that is to train hard and fight well.' Boxing has had its fair share of scandals and accusations of match fixing. The most memorable one was at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when the American Boxer Roy Jones Junior lost out to South Korean fighter. Three judges were later suspended amid accusations the boxing authorities had been bribed two million dollars by South Korea in return for two gold medals. The scoring system has since changed and there is no evidence that any of the fights at London 2012 involving Azerbaijan, or any other countries, have been fixed. There have been a number of appeals by other countries. Tom Stalker, from the British Boxing team's appeal was rejected by AIBA. American Welterweight Errol Spence was upheld after he fought India's Krishan Vikas. Some people would like to see even more transparency in the scoring. The BBC's anonymous alleged whistleblower allegedly said: 'The reason I wanted to blow the whistle was to make sure that all the results were above board. But there are some very serious questions that need to be answered and I would like to know why the IOC can't intervene.' Jim Neilly,the BBC commentator who has been ringside at all the fights, said that scoring has always been subjective and no scoring system was entirely fool proof. He said: 'Boxing has to be seen to be squeaky clean here for the remainder of the London Olympics and if there is something as major as Roy Jones Junior or any incident or scandal the IOC would have to look very seriously at boxing. The whiff of that scandal has hung around since 1988. The big success of these games has been in women's boxing and that will help keep the sport in the Olympic Games.' It costs five hundred million dollars every time an appeal is lodged and he said many countries such as Cuba cannot pay to contest the decisions. Neilly added: 'It's upsetting because I still believe the Olympic games should be true and altruistic and Corinthian and the best person should win.' Teymur Mammadov was defeated on Friday and finished with a bronze medal. The other Azeri boxer Magomedrasul Mezhidov fights in the semi-finals later on Friday for a place in Sunday's final where he will face either Britain's Anthony Joshua or Kazakhstan's Ivan Dychko.

'The night Thatcher tumbled, there was a twenty four-hour party in my house and I danced on the ceiling when Michael Portillo skidded out of his safe seat,' wrote yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV critic the Metro's Keith Watson. 'So, Wonderland: Young, Bright And On The Right (BBC2) caught me on the left-wing hop. Having never felt sorry for a Tory in my whole life, surely I wasn't about to start now? But there was something so pathetic about Joe Cooke and Chris Monk, twenty and nineteen-year-olds disguised as middle-aged crusties and with ambitions to climb the Oxbridge Tory ladder, that my initial impulse – stick the knife in and twist it, giggling maniacally – felt too easy, like gloating about stuffing the Aussies on the Olympics medal table. That's pathetic in its pure form of pathos. Cooke (Oxford) and Monk (Cambridge) were outsiders among the entitled Oxbridge elite, state school - educated boys who'd reinvented themselves as über-Tories with poshed-up accents and fogey clothes. Their student lives were consumed with political scheming and backbiting, when they'd have been better off chasing girls. They both seemed odd and lonely, Cooke struggling with his family's criminal past and his own dyslexia, Monk simply struggling to find a pair of trousers that fit. They seemed essentially lonely characters. But just when my sympathy buds were on tweak alert, a nagging fear took over: these two goons could end up running the country. Phew, danger over: I've still never felt sorry for a Tory in my life.' Marvellous stuff although, given that Metro is owned by Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Scum Mail, I wonder if Keith ever has the feeling that he's in the wrong gaff?

The BBC has released the first - brief - teaser trailer for BBC1's Ripper Street, starring Matthew Macfadyen. Due to be broadcast this autumn, the eight-part crime drama is set in and around Whitechapel in London's East End in 1889, during the aftermath of the Jack The Ripper murders. The cast also includes Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Myanna Buring, David Dawson and Joe Gilgun.

Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler are working on a possible new spoof chat show for BBC3. The former Edinburgh Comedy Award nominees are reported to be returning to the Fringe later this month for two work-in-progress run-throughs of the programme, Speak Easy with Kristen and Kurt. The shows will involve the cult US favourites in conversation with the alter-egos of Fringe character comedians, with The Horne Section as house band. The TV shows are being developed by the Scottish branch of Avalon Television. Schaal is known for her regular appearances on The Daily Show and Thirty Rock while Braunohler’s game show parody Bunk, has just begun on US TV station IFC.

David Walliams will reportedly narrate an upcoming dog-themed talent show on ITV. The Britain's Got Talent judge is said to have signed up to provide his voice for the upcoming Top Dog Model series. Seriously, I'm not making this up. I wish to hell I was, but this is, indeed, the channel that once brought you The Avengers, World in Action, The World At War, Rising Damp, Coronation Street, The Sweeney et cetera. Is it really so very wrong to harbour the hope that whoever commissioned this catches some really nasty skin disease of the testicles?

Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws have been drawn against Heart of Midlothian, whilst yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle United will face Greek side Atromitos in the Europa League play-off round. Other possible options for Alan Pardew's side in the draw had been teams in Russia, Norway, Romania and Azerbaijan. This will be United's third trip to Athens, following their UEFA Cup campaign of 2004-05 when they won 1-0 at Panionis and then returned to Olympiakos in nearby Piraeus to register a 3-1 success. Liverpool are due to travel to Hearts on 23 August, with The Toon heading to Atromitos. The return legs are scheduled for 30 August. The winners of the two-legged games will join Stottingtot Hotshots in the group stage. Both Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws and Newcastle have previously won the competition. Liverpool, when it was the UEFA Cup in 1973, 1976 and 2001, Newcastle when it was the Inter City Fairs Cup in 1969. Meanwhile, Glasgow Celtic have been drawn to face Swedish side Helsingborgs in the Champions League play-off. Celtic are due to play the first leg in Sweden on either 21 or 22 August, with the return in Glasgow on 28 or 29 of the month. It is the first time Celtic have faced a Swedish club in European competition. Liverpool beat FC Gomel 4-0 on aggregate to take their place in the final round of Europa League qualifying, while Newcastle are back in Europe for the first time since 2007, when they lost to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup. Newcastle's opponents Atromitos finished fourth in the Greek Super League last season. Motherwell are also in the play-off round after crashing out of the Champions League qualifiers with a 5-0 aggregate defeat by Panathinaikos. They have been given a tough assignment against Spanish La Liga side Levante.

Mel Stuart, the director of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has died aged eighty three. His family said he died at his Beverly Hills home after suffering from cancer. Beginning his career mainly directing documentaries, the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic was Stuart's second feature film. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for his documentary, Four Days in November, about the assassination of John F Kennedy. According to his own website, Stuart made more than one hundred and eighty films. However he was best-known for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder. He embarked on the ambitious musical fantasy after his eleven-year-old daughter asked him to make a movie of the book she loved. She was also given a cameo in the film, along with her brother. Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt in the movie, told the BBC she had 'fond memories' of working with Stuart. 'He always said he didn't like kids and that he made a movie for adults that he hoped kids would like,' she said. 'He created an amazing film that has lasted and endured against all odds as it wasn't popular at the time.' The actress last saw the director in October in New York when the cast reunited for the film's fortieth anniversary. 'He was on form - barking orders as he always had done, organising a photoshoot,' she said. 'I'm glad I saw him last year - it's one hell of a legacy to leave.' The Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, who got his break from Stuart at the age of twenty six, described him as 'a mentor by way of drill sergeant, much-feared boss and much-loved friend.' Born in New York, the director had originally aspired to be a composer, but after university decided to instead pursue a career as a filmmaker. During the 1960s and 1970s, Stuart worked with award-winner David Wolper's production company to make dozens of documentary films. Stuart's films included three editions of The Making of the President, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the groundbreaking film Wattstax, which focused on Los Angeles' black Watts community in the aftermath of the 1965 riots. After leaving the Wolper Organisation in 1977, Stuart went on to independently direct and produce numerous other documentaries such as AFI's One Hundred Years-One Hundred Movies, Inside the KGB and the Ripley's Believe It Or Not TV series. His other features include the 1969 comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, starring Suzanne Pleshette and Ian McShane. He is survived by his wife, Roberta, and three children.

And so to your actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This is for the British swimming squad. Next time, try setting a few personal bests, eh?

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