Friday, September 21, 2012

I Could Have Burned Your Fate In The Sand

Yer actual Matt Smith his very self was a guest on Alan Carr: Chatty Man on Friday evening on Channel Four. The show was recorded on Tuesday, during which the actor commented about his lack of interest in the Internet, daytime television and insomnia. A woman taking on the role of The Doctor inevitably cropped up too, with host Carr commenting: 'I'd like to see Julie Goodyear as The Doctor. After all, she has been around for nine hundred years like he has.'
Speaking of Internet technology, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has abandoned Twitter for the time being. His wife, Sue Vertue, commented: 'For all asking he is well and currently having a family lunch but he's got a huge amount on and Twitter was proving a distraction.'
Smudger, meanwhile, seems to be angling for another continental filming experience: 'I think New Zealand would be an absolutely wonderful place to film Doctor Who,' he told Waikato Times. Well, yeah. So would The Moon, but I can't see them going there any time soon either. 'There's clearly a great film industry out there. It's something I would be very interested in it's just whether we can persuade the producers to fly us all over.' With the country home to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, he also said: 'Let's get Peter Jackson to direct one and go and make it in New Zealand. I would love to, I will campaign endlessly to come over and film there.' To which the director, when contacted, responded: 'Do it mate, do it. Come on. I'm a huge Doctor Who fan, and I think Matt's fantastic. Just name a time and place, and I'll be there!' The cause seems to have been taken up by Australasian-based writer Neil Cross (whose second script for the 2013 half of the current series is about to go into production): 'It would be awesome to see the TARDIS materialise here - I suspect Steven and I will have a long conversation about this, one way or another. We will drink gin and talk a lot about bringing Doctor Who to New Zealand. Matt Smith and I just talked about what an amazing place New Zealand is and said it was amazing how this country did not have the biggest film industry in the world. He is such an extra-ordinary human being. I am not actually convinced that he's not actually The Doctor.'

Toby Whithouse talked about the origins of A Town Called Mercy: 'It was Steven's idea – he said he wanted to do a Wild West episode because this year, certainly for the first half of the series, it's these big kind of movie marquee ideas. The pitch he gave was just, "There's a town that is being terrorised by some kind of robot." I thought about what it was in the town that the robot wants. What if it's a person? Then the idea kind of fell out from there.' Meanwhile, Chris Chibnall has also been speaking about what makes The Power of Three a little different to the normal narrative: 'It's Doctor Who from Amy and Rory's point of view. We're in the last days of the Ponds as everybody keeps saying, and it was really a chance to see where they've got to in their lives since The Eleventh Hour, and to see what it's like to be them. And I think what's interesting is that the companion/Doctor relationship in this series is very different to any we've seen before because really, they're part-time travellers. They're living at home, and The Doctor pops in and goes, "Shall we go somewhere?", and they're off. That's very new, because they're not permanently with him, and I wanted to see what that would mean. I think it's very different to pretty much any other episode of Doctor Who ever, which is both wonderful and terrifying.'

Ashley Walters who is, apparently, a rapper, m'lud, has confirmed that he has filmed a guest role for Doctor Who. The musician and actor recently shot his scenes in Cardiff and admitted to the Press Association that he got in trouble for tweeting a photograph from his trailer. 'I'm sworn to secrecy - I don't want to be killed by the Doctor Who police!' he said of his role. 'I can't tell you anything about Doctor Who. I wasn't even allowed to tweet pictures or anything, I was really upset about that.' He added: 'I did tweet one picture in my trailer and I got in huge trouble with the producers on my first day so I'm not saying anything any more about it. But it was amazing working with Matt Smith for a few weeks.' Walters, a former member of So Solid Crew, has had previous screen roles in Goal!, Anuvahood, Sket and Demons Never Die, as well as playing Jack Holt in BBC drama flop Outcasts.

Russell Tovey has said he would like to do a Being Human spin-off featuring his character George and Nina (Sinead Keenan). The actor made the suggestion for a show following the deceased werewolf couple in a message to the official BBC3 Twitter account. 'Just putting it out there. How about a George and Nina spin-off special?' he wrote. In response, BBC2 said: 'OMG. That would be AMAZING!!!! I like your thinking!' Because, nobody at BBC3 talks English, it would seem. After a number of fans voiced their support for such a project, they added: 'Ooh you've opened a can of worms now!' Before adding, 'because you know we can't, we've barely got a pot to piss in after Delivery Quality First. Tovey's character was killed in the opening episode of Being Human's fourth series earlier this year, while Nina perished in an off-screen vampire attack between series three and four.

Merlin's executive producers have confirmed that they know how the series will end. Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy told reporters that they have known how the BBC fantasy drama would conclude 'almost since the beginning. I think what's interesting about it is it's always been about the end,' Capps said. Murphy agreed: 'We were talking about Arthur's death in episode eight, series one. There's something about this legend that works because it failed - they did create this Camelot. And it failed. You can't really run away from that, but [it remains to be seen] how we get there and how long it takes.' At the press screening for the show's fifth run, Murphy also admitted that he is now 'horrified' by how certain scenes in Merlin's first two series were realised. 'If we look back at the first and second series, we're pretty horrified at the way we executed it - genuinely - 'cause we can do things so much better now,' he explained.

Yer actual University Challenge celebrates its fiftieth birthday this week. The long-running quiz programme broadcast its first episode on 21 September 1962. Current host Jeremy Paxman spoke about the show's milestone on BBC Radio 4's Today with John Humphrys, saying that he is always 'amazed' by what students know. When questioned by Humphrys about whether today's students are 'dumber' than they used to be, Paxman dismissed the very suggestion in his usual affably grumpy fashion. He said: 'It's clearly not true, we've deliberately made questions more difficult. That's because the level of knowledge has gone up. They know incredible things about science and computing, and all sorts of cultural things. The last person that knew everything died in the Eighteenth Century, it's impossible to know everything.' Paxman stated that the show still has huge popularity among people of all ages, and it proves that the media's portrayal of young people is 'absolute rubbish. As you get older, you do find that knowledge sticks to you. You do [know more] when you're fifty or sixty than when you're twenty, but the speed of retrieval is much slower. It's one of the best-performing shows on the channel, I hope it will go on for a long time. It reassures tax payers that their money is being well spent when they see these clever people at university. The media stereotype of young people is absolute rubbish. They know amazing things and they care about interesting things. I hope it will go on for a long time yet.' During the interview, Paxo also criticised the Mastermind host's questioning, at one point exclaiming: 'Oh come on John, you've got to do better than that. Ask more interesting ones!' University Challenge was based on the American NBC show College Bowl from the 1950s. The show was broadcast for nine hundred and thirteen episodes on ITV from 1962 to 1987 with Bamber Gascoigne presenting. It was revived by the BBC in 1994 fronted by yer man Paxo. The quiz returned for its forty second series in July.

Dallas's overnight viewing fanbase in the UK has nearly halved after three episodes, as the revived American drama drew 1.7 million including timeshifted figures on Wednesday evening. Premiering on Channel Five with nearly three million punters earlier this month, the latest episode of the soap took 1.57m in the 9pm slot, adding one hundred and forty thousand further viewers an hour later. Who Do You Think You Are? topped the highly competitive 9pm hour with 4.31m, pipping the ITV drama Mrs Biggs which had 4.08m. BBC2's best figures appeared earlier on with Celebrity MasterChef, which served up an average of 1.6m at 7pm. During the 8pm hour, Watchdog won 4.75m for BBC1, while All Star Mr & Mrs was watched by 4.18m crushed victims of society on ITV. At the same time, The Food Hospital had an audience of 1.46m on Channel Four, Antiques to the Rescue appealed to 1.2m on BBC2, and six hundred and thirty three thousand viewers watched The Truth About Hillsborough on Channel Five. Much aided by its 7pm hour soap block, ITV just beat BBC1 in primetime with 19.9 per cent of the audience share versus 19.5 per cent. Earlier in the day, ITV's The Chase led the teatime ratings battle over BBC1's Pointless with 2.35m against 2.06m.

Gareth Malone's The Choir format made a triumphant return to BBC2 on Thursday night, overnight data reveals. The BAFTA award-winning series, the latest of which gathers groups of singers from busy workplaces, was watched by 2.37m on BBC2 and BBC HD in the 9pm hour. Sing While You Work, which will be six episodes long, launched with a higher audience than last year's three-part Military Wives series. Wartime Farm climbed to 2.53m an hour earlier in the 8pm slot, while Mock the Week maintained a steady 1.58m, overall helping BBC2 to a healthy audience share for the night. Despite not facing BBC1's Good Cop finale which was postponed following the murders of two policewomen in Manchester, ITV's The Bletchley Circle shed nearly eight hundred thousand viewers week-on-week - the mystery drama's third episode had 3.48m. Filling the 9pm hour for BBC One in Good Cop's place, repeats of Outnumbered and Have I Got News For You amused respective audiences of 2.47m and 1.75m. Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws and Stottingtot Hotshots's first Europa League games were popular on ITV4, with rolling coverage lasting a total of four hours averaging a huge 1.43m - peaking with over 2.2m at around 7.30pm for the conclusion of The Reds thrilling 5-3 victory over Young Boys of Berne. If only the Swiss had played Older Boys instead, it might have been closer still. Meanwhile on Channel Four, Location, Location, Location was watched by 1.67m from 8pm. Overall, BBC1 led primetime with 16.8 per cent of the audience share versus ITV's 15.8 per cent.

Writer and actress Emma Kennedy has been crowned the winner of this year's Celebrity MasterChef. The forty five-year-old beat former footballer and skinhead Danny Mills and TV host Michael Underwood at the climax of the six-week competition. Her winning menu included pan fried turbot and a dessert of poached meringue in creme anglaise. That's custard to you and me, all right? Gushing about the prize, Kennedy said it was 'up there in one of the all-time life achievements - wow, wow, wow.' All right, dear, calm down, it's only Celebrity MasterChef. 'This is the first trophy I've ever won and what a trophy to win; there's been blood, sweat and burns that have gone into this.' I hope she didn't mean that literally or Gregg Wallace and John Torode have been eating something they shouldn't have for the last six weeks. 'My mother is going to scream for about three months without stopping. We're probably going to have to sedate her,' she joked. Torode said Kennedy had 'propelled herself to absolute greatness through sheer tenacity - the skill, the touch, the finesse, the flavours!' Fellow judge Wallace said she had produced dishes 'that are as good as many professionals - she is unbelievable.' Over the course of the series, contestants catered for the cast and crew of BBC's New Tricks, cooking a three-course meal at the historic Bletchley Park; and created a Michelin-standard meal for four top chefs.

The butcher's which stood ready to foil a Nazi invasion of Britain in Dad's Army is up for sale. Comedy fans are expected to pay more than twenty grand for Lance Corporal Jones's van used by the Home Guard platoon of Walmington-on-Sea in the television comedy. The 1935 Ford Box Van painted with an advert for Jonesy's shop had special portholes in side and along the roof, to allow the platoon to point their rifles at any incoming enemy invasion.
It is part of The Patrick Collection, a private collection of cars covering one hundred years of motoring housed in a private museum in Birmingham. But it is being sold by auctioneers Bonhams with an estimated value of twenty to thirty thousand smackers. A spokesman said: 'Anyone who loves Dad's Army will know this butchers van immediately. It is bound to put a smile on your face - it is nearly as iconic in comedy as Del Boy's Robin Reliant.' Actor Clive Dunn played butcher Jack Jones in Dad's Army for nine series between 1968 and 1977. His van was often the Home Guard group's main mode of transport during military exercises. Bonhams is offering it for sale among other motoring classic at at auction in December.

Only Fools And Horses actor John Challis - who played Boycie in the long-running sitcom and its, really rubbish, spin-off The Green Green Grass - has won his legal battle to force a children's home to put up a twelve-foot hedge to 'maintain his privacy.' However, the sixty nine-year-old is still calling for Mill House Care Home to be shut down after some of the youthful residents broke into his gaff in Adforton, Herefordshire, and stole a bottle of whiskey. The naughty scallywags. Challis was on holiday with his wife in Hawaii at the time when two youngsters broke into his Grade I listed mansion, which is just sixty yards away from the home. Challis has since complained that teenagers from the home have been 'peeking' into his windows. Probably saying 'isn't that Boycie off Only Fools and Horses and the - really rubbish - spin-off The Green Green Grass?' I'll wager. Police have revealed that nineteen of twenty six crimes which were reported in the small community from January to June were linked to the centre.

British Telecom have raided the BBC again for talent by signing up the corporation's head of production for London 2012, Jamie Hindhaugh. This follows the announcement on Wednesday that Jake Humphrey, the BBC's lead Formula One presenter who also fronted much of BBC3's Olympics coverage, is to join the forthcoming BT sports operation. The telecoms giant is preparing for the 2013-14 season when it will start showing thirty eight live Premier League games per season, along with Aviva Premiership Rugby as part of separate multi-million pound deals. Hindhaugh will join BT in mid-October as chief operating officer of the as-yet-unnamed new sports channel. He will be responsible for launching the network and then oversee the day-to-day operations to ensure it is running as effectively as possible. BT is expected to introduce the channel to its BT Vision platform with additional content related to its broadband network. But it is also expected to wholesale the network to rival services such as Virgin Media and Sky to reach a bigger audience. The firm has paid nearly nine hundred million notes for the Premier League and Premiership Rugby rights over multi-year deals, and there will be additional costs in setting up a production operation, acquiring talent and marketing the new channel. BT will, therefore, be pure dead keen to start recouping that investment as quickly as possible. As head of production for London 2012, Hindhaugh implemented and managed the safe delivery of multiplatform coverage of the Olympic Games, along with other associated programming. Discussing his move to BT, Hindhaugh said: 'This is a fantastic opportunity for me, and really addresses the "where do you go from there?" question after the Olympics. I'm really excited to be joining at a time when I can help shape the channel, and ensure we deliver a quality viewing experience that all sports fans will want to be a part of. I think as a TV person, launching a channel is something you can only usually dream of, and now I'm going to make that happen.'

Tory-supporting legal tax avoider (allegedly) Gary Barlow and yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch his very self are to feature in YouView's ten million smackers launch advertising campaign this weekend, as the long-delayed video-on-demand service attempts to convince consumers that it represents the future of TV. YouView – a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel Four, Channel Five, Arqiva and TalkTalk – aims to replace Freeview as a subscription-free interactive TV service to rival pay-TV giants BSkyB and Virgin Media. The launch campaign will focus heavily on TV advertising. Spots have been bought during ITV's The X Factor on Saturday with adverts running simultaneously on Channel Four and Channel Five, supported by a national newspaper and poster campaign. YouView's TV advertisement features stars and characters from the biggest shows the venture partners air – including The X Factor's Barlow, Sherlock's Cumberbatch, Doctor Who's Daleks, Dallas's Larry Hagman and some of the cast of Downton Abbey – seen projected on buildings across the UK. 'This is YouView hitting the public airwaves,' said the YouView chief executive, Richard Halton. 'The brand is well-known in the media village but now it is about the public. The scale of the marketing budget is pretty heavy from launch. TV is still the biggest medium for reaching a mass audience, especially for launching a brand no one has really heard of.' A series of press and poster adverts aim to reinforce YouView features such as recording shows, catch-up TV and on-demand content. A prime target for the campaign is the ten million-plus Freeview households which might be persuaded to upgrade to an enhanced TV service. The advertising campaign runs with the strapline 'Extraordinary for everyone.' YouView's marketing budget was officially set in late 2009 at £48.4m up to the end of four years of operation, according to BBC Trust documents. The partners agreed to invest up to one hundred and fifteen million notes between them over the same period. However, YouView's longer-than-expected development period, means that the partners have already spent seventy million quid, according to the project's chairman Sir Alan Sugar-Sweetie. The launch comes more than eighteen months after initial business plan projections of early 2011. This leaves about forty five million knicker to spend over the next four years, with the marketing budget a casualty. Halton refused to comment on the scale of the budget, but admitted that it would not be anywhere near the original 2009 figure. Media buying sources estimate the budget could have dropped by about half, but that YouView will need to commit at least ten million quid in its first year to give the brand a chance of establishing itself. YouView's advertising campaign has been created by Adam & Eve, the agency most famous for those wretched John Lewis's Christmas adverts. YouView boxes went on sale in eight hundred stores, including John Lewis, Argos and Comet, in July priced at two hundred and ninety nine knicker. Their maker, Humax, recently dropped the price to two hundred and seventy nine quid and some observers expect the price to be lowered further still in the run-up to Christmas. At a launch briefing for the media in July, Sugar-Sweetie said that he expected much of the marketing effort to be made by BT and TalkTalk when they launched advert campaigns to push their YouView boxes to customers. TalkTalk and BT are effectively offering their YouView set-top boxes for free to customers who sign up for bundled packages of TV, broadband and phone-line.

Sketch trio Pappy's are to make their own six-part sitcom for BBC3. The studio-based sitcom – which has the working title The Secret Dude Society – will be filmed in front of a live studio audience in Glasgow early next year. The news comes less than a month after the trio - Tom Parry, Matthew Crosby and Ben Clark – were nominated for the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award for their supposed Last Show Ever. It is not their first venture into TV, but it is their first series. In 2009, they made a pilot of a spoof game show, called Mr And Mrs Hotty Hott Hot Show, which went out as part of E4's Comedy Lab strand and the previous year, while a foursome with Brendan Dodds and still called Pappy's Fun Club, they made a self-titled sketch show pilot for Channel Four. The Secret Dude Society will be made by The Comedy Unit, the Scottish production company behind Rab C Nesbitt and Limmy's Show. Creative director Gavin Smith said: 'We've long been fans of Pappy's amazing live shows, so it's been great to work with them on finding a sitcom world that has room for all the mayhem they convey to a live audience.' This will be BBC3's first studio sitcom since 2009's ill-fated flop We Are Klang. Channel controller Zai Bennett said 'The Secret Dude Society with Pappy's has fantastic energy and a super high gag rate. It's the first a studio sitcom we've green lit in years on BBC3 and should complement our on-going comedy renaissance.' Said the man who cancelled Ideal.

Maths teacher Chalky Chalk will be leaving Waterloo Road next year, it has been confirmed. The popular character, played by the excellent Mark Benton since 2011, will bow out partway through the current eighth series of the school drama. The news first broke on the show's official Twitter account.
Channel Five has commissioned a new reality TV series based in Blackpool. Blackpool Lights - which sounds like the biggest load of horse-diarrhoea since Don't Scare The Hare - will 'take a look at the lives of a number of larger-than-life characters living in the Northern seaside town.' Among those featured in the show are pier comedian Joey Blower, who is hoping to lose weight and find love, cab driver Dean, who spends most of his time complaining about his passengers, and gay couple Steve and Leigh who run a B&B in the town. Also featured is Alan Haworth, who is in a long-distance Internet romance but has to overcome his fear of flying in order to meet his true love. Blackpool Lights will initially be a three-part series. And, if that description is anything to go by, that's three episodes too many.

Actor Seamus Gubbins has avoided a jail sentence over the cannabis factory he was running at his home. Gubbins, who played Ray Mullan in Emmerdale between 2001 and 2002, was arrested and charged last year after a volume of cannabis plants were found with a value of over twenty four grand at his home in Walton. The actor claimed he had been growing the plants 'for personal use' however Judge David Fletcher rejected his claim this week at Liverpool North Community Justice Centre. Judge Fletcher told the court: 'I'm afraid I am incredulous that he did not work out the value of the yield and the cost of cultivation. You are an intelligent man. The prosecution have proved their case that he was cultivating cannabis on a commercial basis.' Gubbins was handed a twelve-month jail term, suspended for two years. He must also wear an electronic tag for eight weeks and complete one hundred and sixty hours of community service, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Odious slime-bucket (and drag) James Murdoch the small is reportedly being 'lined-up' for an expanded role at News Corp, the media empire controlled by his father, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch the small, thirty nine, who gave up his main executive jobs in the UK earlier this year, is said to be taking charge of News Corp's US television businesses. The Financial Times and News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal newspapers carried the story. On Thursday, Murdoch the small was heavily criticised by the UK media regulator. Ofcom said Murdoch the small's record as head of the London-based News International newspaper group 'repeatedly fell short' of what was expected and was at times 'ill-judged.' If confirmed, the appointment would give Murdoch the small responsibility for the successful FOX Networks Group, which includes cable channels such as National Geographic. It does not include the FOX News channel, which is a separate division. The Financial Times claimed that the appointment was likely to be confirmed later this year. Murdoch the small, deputy chief operating officer at News Corp, moved back to New York earlier this year after relinquishing his roles as chairman of BSkyB in April and executive chairman of News International in February. Ofcom had been reviewing whether pay-TV company BSkyB, which is thirty nine per cent owned by News Corp, was 'fit and proper' to hold a broadcasting licence in the wake of the scandal. The regulator allowed BSkyB to keep its licence, but criticised Murdoch the small for failing to uncover the extent of phone hacking at the newspaper group. News Corp welcomed Ofcom's decision on BSkyB's licence, but defended Murdoch the small, saying some of the statements about him were 'not at all substantiated by evidence.' The Wall Street Journal said News Corp had been waiting for 'some clarity' on the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal before making a decision on Murdoch the small's new role.

Two doctors arrested after a Sunday Times story claimed they were offering to carry out female genital mutilation have been released from police bail without any charges. The undercover investigation was bylined Mazher Mahmood, the notorious former Scum of the World reporter and Eleanor Mills. But the Crown Prosecution Service 'expressed doubts' over evidence obtained by the paper, deciding that there were 'inconsistencie's in statements made by a reporter and that she 'consistently failed' to sign off her statement to the police. Dentist Dr Omar Sheikh Mohammed Addow and GP Dr Ali Mao-Aweys, both from Birmingham, were arrested in May this year on suspicion of offences contrary to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. The arrests came two weeks after The Sunday Times published an investigation, headlined I can circumcise them here: Seven Hundred and Fifty pounds for the first daughter. It also carried a leading article that day based on the story. The Mahmood-Mills story alleged that the two men, when approached by a reporter posing as the aunt of two girls, aged ten and thirteen, agreed to perform genital mutilation on them. After the men's arrest the case was investigated by the West Midlands police. Its evidence was then reviewed by the CPS, which issued a lengthy statement explaining its decision. Harry Ireland, chief crown prosecutor for the West Midlands, said: 'Having carefully reviewed the evidence obtained by the police, I have decided there should be no further action against either of these two men. There is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. The main evidence in this case is from the undercover journalist. But she has consistently failed to sign her draft statement for the police despite being given every opportunity to do so over the past five months. I also have concerns over discrepancies between her draft statement and the evidence from the covert recordings. For example, at one stage, the covert recordings record the doctors refusing to help the woman with her request. I am also troubled by the fact that the covert recordings disclose a time gap which is insufficiently accounted for when the undercover journalist or agent apparently went with one of the doctors from the surgery to his home. Unless there is a very compelling explanation for this, the covert evidence is very unlikely to be admissible in evidence. That explanation has not been forthcoming.' The CPS added that a search of the suspects' homes, computers and phones failed to provide any evidence that they were involved in FGM. A Sunday Times spokesperson said: 'The intention of this investigation was to highlight the alarming practice of female genital mutilation. The article was not accusing the doctors of committing a crime, but of being willing to consider aiding FGM. We stand by our investigation.'

More than two hundred and fifty archaeological remains from the lives of people in the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum will feature in a new exhibition at the British Museum next year. The two cities on Italy's southern coast were buried following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. The exhibition will include casts of some of the volcano's victims. The British Museum said it will explore 'real' Roman people, not the emperors and gladiators portrayed in films. The event will be the first about Pompeii and Herculaneum in London for forty years and will bring together recently discovered objects and finds from earlier excavations, many of which have never been seen outside Italy. Museum director, Neil MacGregor, said the exhibition has been possible following a collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Naples and Pompeii, 'which has meant extremely generous loans of precious objects from their collections, some that have never travelled before.' Furniture in the exhibition includes a linen chest, a garden bench, and a baby's crib which still rocks on its curved runners. The famous casts show victims of the volcano in Pompeii, including a family of four huddled together in their final moments, and a dog 'fixed forever at the moment of its death as the volcano submerged the cities.' Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum will open on 28 March and run until 29 September 2013.

Scrapping the ten-yearly national census could harm social science in the UK, a group of MPs has warned. The government is looking into whether there are less costly alternatives, with a view to scrapping the next census in 2021. But the MPs said other methods of data collection may not be adequate and might not be any cheaper. The government said the census was outdated and a 'more effective, less bureaucratic' survey was needed. The last census, which took place in 2011, cost an estimated four hundred and eighty million smackers. In 2010 Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: 'There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper.' But the Science and Technology Committee said they were not convinced that alternative ways of collecting the data would be a cheaper option. The MPs also raised concerns that social science in the UK would suffer if serious consideration was not given to how the data would be replaced and that any alternative may not be able to provide nationwide coverage like the census. However, the MPs acknowledged there were a range of problems with the census in its current form, which is always at least two years out of date by the time the data is published. Chair of the cross-party committee Andrew Miller said: 'Ministers must think hard before they take the decision to scrap the census. The census has provided the UK with one of the richest collections of population data in the world. It is incredibly valuable to social researchers, charities and the public sector and a move to cancel the census on financial grounds may prove to be a costly mistake.' The Office for National Statistics is currently consulting on alternatives to the 2021 census and is expected to report its findings in 2014. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: 'The government believes that the census, in its current form, is outdated. We are supporting ONS' work to design a replacement which will allow for more effective, less bureaucratic collection of the information necessary for the operation of public services. We will keep Parliament informed about the progress of this work.'

Pressure is mounting on Conservative minister Andrew Mitchell after police leaders urged him to resign and Labour called for 'a full account' of his outburst at an officer. The Tory Chief Whip denies claims that he swore at a policeman on duty outside Downing Street and called him 'a pleb.' The officer concerned, however, has insisted reports of what happened 'are accurate.' So, clearly, one of them is lying. Who you gonna believe, dear blog reader, a police officer or a Tory minister? Toughie, isn't it? Mitchell has apologised but Labour said No 10 'must make clear' the exact words he used in the confrontation. The body representing rank-and-file police officers said Mitchell's alleged remarks were 'outrageous' while the prime minister said the minister's conduct was 'not appropriate.' John Tully, the Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, said the minister's outburst was 'disgraceful' and he must resign, adding that the minister was 'lucky not to be placed under arrest if indeed he did say those words, and I have no reason to doubt that he did.' Mitchell's behaviour has also been criticised by a number of Conservative colleagues. The incident occurred on Wednesday after Mitchell, the MP for Sutton Coldfield, was told by officers to get off his bicycle as he left Downing Street and use the smaller pedestrian gate instead of the main entrance used by cars. He is reported by the Sun to have used foul language and told the officer at the gates to 'learn your place' and 'you don't run this government.' Neither do you, mate. The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the officer had backed up the Sun's version of events and the language - including the word 'pleb' - which Mitchell was reported to have used. Downing Street said Mitchell had 'apologised profusely' to the officer on the telephone and alleged 'sources' allegedly also stressed that Cameron had made clear to Mitchell how 'displeased' he is at the confrontation with a police officer. The alleged 'source' allegedly added that the PM still 'has faith' in Mitchell as Chief Whip and that the minister disputes the Sun's version of events. Cameron said: 'He has obviously apologised to me, but more importantly he has apologised, thoroughly, to the police and that needed to be done.' The prime minister also praised the police, saying they do an 'outstanding job', in that sort of crawly, lick-arse way that Cameron normally uses whenever one of his minister has been caught doing something a bit iffy. The vile and odious rascal Hunt, for one. But Mitchell's apology has not been accepted by police union leaders. Police Federation national chairman, Paul McKeever, said: 'It is hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office. Mitchell's half-hearted apology for the comments made whilst leaving Downing Street will do little to build bridges with the police who feel they have once again been treated with a lack of respect and civility by members of this government. The lack of regard that some within government appear to hold police officers in is especially disappointing during this tragic week for the service and does nothing for the rock bottom morale of officers in this country.' A senior backbencher, who spoke to the BBC on sole condition of anonymity, said the comments were 'not out of character' and Mitchell should 'consider' his position. 'I am deeply shocked that a senior member of the government could speak to an officer in this way,' he said. Asked if Mitchell's position was tenable, he said, 'I think it's very difficult for him to continue.' Labour have said the reported comments were 'appalling' and that Downing Street has 'a lot of questions to answer. Downing Street must make clear exactly what Andrew Mitchell said to the police officer,' a party spokesman said. 'There are two alternatives. Either the chief whip used appalling and offensive language to an officer going about their duty or Mr Mitchell is saying the officer is lying. Downing Street will know. They must make the position clear urgently. A half-hearted apology is not enough.' Mitchell only became Conservative chief whip earlier this month, after being moved from his previous position as international development secretary in Cameron's first major reshuffle. In his current role, he is responsible for enforcing party discipline and keeping rebellious backbenchers in line.

England manage Roy Hodgson wants television companies to stop asking Premier League's top teams to play on the Sunday before an international. Yeah, that's going to happen. Because affected players need time to recover, Hodgson thinks such scheduling limits his amount of preparation time. Hodgson also called for a winter break, saying it would give the English season a more 'logical' schedule. 'It would be lovely to think that one day we could all get together and say "England is important,"' he said. Four of England's eight remaining World Cup qualifiers are scheduled to be played on Friday evenings. Hodgson's training time with his players is already in short supply and he feels it is limited further when his main players are involved in Sunday's fixtures. He cited the example of The Scum's recent televised clash at Southampton, ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, as 'unhelpful' scheduling. Speaking in a question-and-answer session, broadcast on the Football Association's website, he added: 'It would be nice if, when we're playing on Friday, the top teams played on Saturday and not Sunday. Then on Monday we could do a bit of work and on Tuesday do some serious work. But every time, the top clubs have played on Sunday and some at five o'clock on Sunday. If they're from Manchester and they've played in Southampton, they get back late at night then have to come down again.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United hit the woodwork three times as they started their Europa League campaign with a goalless draw away to Maritimo on the beautiful island of Madeira. Dan Gosling struck the foot of the post with a low drive on the half-hour. And Shola Ameobi hit the bar with a curling shot, having earlier had a header pushed against the post. Valentin Roberge's powerful header from a corner, nodded off the line by Davide Santon with ten minutes to go, was as close as the Portuguese hosts came. The game at Dos Barreiros stadium in Funchal was Newcastle's first European appearance since their defeat in the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup by Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in 2007. Manager Alan Pardew named the same four-man defence WHICH played in the 2-2 Premier League draw with Everton on Monday, but otherwise made seven changes. Haris Vučkić joined captain-for-the-night Ameobi up front, and there was a debut for left-winger Romain Amalfitano, who signed in the summer from Stade de Reims. Newcastle's much-changed starting eleven began slowly on a dry, difficult pitch in front of a sparse crowd at a half-built stadium, and Newcastle's Rob Elliot soon had to produce a fine save to deny Maritimo's Sami. Newcastle's midfield in particular struggled to impose themselves early on, but the visitors' first sustained period of pressure nearly brought reward. On the half-hour three corners in two minutes caused havoc in the Maritimo area, betraying the home side's vulnerability in the air. First Santon's whipped dead ball dipped dangerously under the bar, forcing French keeper Romain Salin to palm the effort behind. Newcastle centre-back Mike Williamson then had his shot from the edge of the area blocked and, with the ball loose in the box, Ameobi's stooped header was bundled onto the post and behind by Salin. From the resulting corner Gosling could not have come closer, his rasping left-foot drive crashing against the base of the post. The woodwork saved the hosts yet again straight after the break. Ameobi dispossessed Joao Guilherme and charged forwards before unleashing a right-footed curling effort that rattled the crossbar. But the lack of good fortune seemed to sap Newcastle's confidence as, in very hot temperatures eighteen hundred miles from home, their energy levels dropped along with their creativity. Magpies boss Pardew brought on Sammi Ameobi to join his older brother, Shola - making them the first brothers to appear on the same pitch for Newcastle in European football - in an attempt to inject some pace. However, if anything Maritimo dominated the final fifteen minutes and could well have won the game when a Goncalo Abreu corner was flicked on at the near post. Roberge met the ball with a fierce header that cracked against the underside of the crossbar and was only kept out as Santon showed fine reactions to head the ball off the line.

The man given the job by FIFA of investigating corruption and general naughtiness within world football's governing body says he is 'facing some resistance.' Mark Pieth, chairman of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee, told BBC Sport: 'We've introduced this new, independent judicial system but I think they need to look at the past. They have skeletons in the cupboard, that's true,' added the fifty nine-year-old. FIFA has faced a series of corruption claims in recent years. The IGC was set up in 2011 to look at corruption in football and produced a report in April 2012. As a result FIFA chief the odious Sepp Blatter introduced a new two-chamber ethics committee but Pieth believes more needs to be done, despite the resistance encountered. 'There are some, usually older people, who don't agree with what is happening,' revealed the Swiss professor. He also warned that football is in danger of becoming like boxing with multiple governing bodies 'where you have four world champions in the end.'

Luke Wright hit ninety nine not out as England began their World Twenty20 defence with a crushing one hundred and sixteen-run win over Afghanistan to book a place in the Super Eights. England were nought for one after one over and fifteen for one after four, but Wright, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan transformed the innings with a barrage of boundaries. Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow added some late muscle to drive England to one hundred and ninety six for five. Afghanistan lost two wickets in the first seven balls and crumbled to eighty all out to go out of the tournament. Jade Dernbach, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Samit Patel all took two wickets but there was no doubt about the man of the match. Wright had been in the international wilderness for fifteen months before he replaced the out-of-form Ravi Bopara for the two pre-tournament matches against South Africa earlier this month. An inconsistent performer for England in the past, he has clearly benefited from spells in the Indian Premier League and Aussie Big Bash and come back with a game based around clean, straight hitting. The Sussex all-rounder smashed six sixes and eight fours in fifty five balls as he amassed his highest score in seventy nine limited-overs matches for England, missing out on a century by one run when he could only collect two from the last ball of the innings. Wright entered the fray with England in a pickle after Craig Kieswetter played on from the last ball of a maiden first over from Shapoor Zadran. He began slowly, but his innings took off in the fifth over as he drilled Shapoor for a straight four and a six after Hales had got England going with consecutive boundaries. The duo added sixty nine for the second wicket before Hales was unluckily run out backing up when bowler Karim Sadiq diverted Wright's drive onto the non-striker's stumps. Morgan kept up the momentum with a breezy twenty seven and Buttler bashed fifteen off seven balls before he was trapped LBW by Izatullah Dawlatzai. Bairstow bludgeoned his first ball into the stands and Wright smashed poor Izatullah for three sixes in a row to surge into the nineties. Bairstow was out for twelve in the last over, leaving Wright to face the last ball on ninety seven. A low full toss was heaved away to leg but when the wide long-on fielder did his job Wright had to settle for two, and ninety nine not out. Afghanistan showed tremendous spirit in making India work hard for victory in their opening match, but they never came close to troubling a ruthless England side. Their run chase got off to a woeful start when big-hitting opener Mohammad Shahzad skied the last ball of the first over to mid-off and was swiftly followed back to the pavilion by Shafiqullah, who perished playing a similarly reckless shot. Superb fielding accounted for the next three wickets as Broad held on to a sharp caught-and-bowled chance to remove captain Nawroz Mangal, Buttler ran out Karim Sadiq and Asghar Stanikzai was brilliantly caught by Bairstow running in from long leg. Spinners Patel and Swann rattled through the next three batsmen to leave Afghanistan in a hopeless predicament on twenty six for eight, only for an entertaining forty four by Gulbodin Naib to spare them the ignominy of the lowest Twenty20 international total - the sixty seven scored by Kenya against Ireland in 2008. Naib's innings merely delayed the inevitable and when he was the last man out, caught by Morgan off Dernbach, Afghanistan's World Twenty20 adventure was over. England, meanwhile, go on to face India on Sunday with both teams already through to the last eight.

Simon Russell Beale had to leave the stage during Wednesday's performance of Timon of Athens at London's National Theatre after falling and dislocating his finger. The actor slipped during an intense scene in the second half of the play. The audience was unaware what had happened until Beale announced he thought he had broken his finger. He walked off and, within minutes, his understudy Paul Dodds, who had been cast as a thief in the play, took over. Dodds, who has previously had minor roles in Antigone and The White Guard, had to change costume before stepping into Beale's shoes, but a spokeswoman for the National described it as a 'smooth' transition. Speaking to the BBC, Dodds described the 'numbing' moment he realised he had to take over from the play's star. 'I didn't have time to get nervous. It was about an eight-minute turnaround from Simon deciding he couldn't continue to me going on stage to replace him. I think I very quickly became some kind of pragmatist!' The actor revealed he had had just one dress rehearsal playing Timon, as he only took over as the understudy five weeks ago. 'The audience gave me a tremendous welcome and I just got straight into it,' he said. 'It's probably the only time I'll get to play a Shakespearean character in front of an audience of twelve hundred.' Some of those who watched the play subsequently praised the cast's performance on Twitter. The National Theatre's spokeswoman said Beale was dressed as a 'down and out' and smeared with tomatoes when he fell, 'so he insisted on showering and changing out of his costume' before going to the nearby St Thomas' Hospital. 'He had his fingers splinted at the hospital. It was his right hand so he has had to slightly amend his performance,' she added. Beale resumed his role as Timon on Thursday night.

Thursday evening also saw yer actual Keith Telly Topping attend the first Record Player event of the new season at the Tyneside Cinema. As mentioned in a previous blog yer actual Scunthorpe Steve presented a Glam Slam, with yer actual Electric Warrior versus Transformer its very self with a show of 'shouting' at the end to sort out which one, like, won. For those who weren't there, typically, it was a draw! Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping likes Transformer and his mate Geoff's comment that it hangs together, conceptually, better than Electric Warrior, which is more of a collection of songs than a concept in and of itself per se, has some merit. But, I'm with Steve, I reckon the second side of Lou's LP lets it down a bit compared to the former which is flawless and doesn't have a bad song on it. Still, it's was lovely to hear both of them on proper, virgin vinyl played really loud! One of the highlights of the night was the slide show for the former which included a wonderful reminder of the days when weird things happened on BBC light entertainment shows, in this case a legendary appearance by Marc and T Rex on Cilla on 27 January 1973.
And a duet performance of 'Life's A Gas' which remains spellbindingly beautiful.

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