Monday, September 24, 2012

Love Is Such A Small Word For Something That Is So Vast

Andrew Marr returned to BBC1 on Sunday night with a shade more than three million viewers for his new think-piece series Andrew Marr's History of the World, losing out to Downton Abbey. Marr's eight-part documentary launched with an average of 3.3 million viewers in the 9pm hour. This was 66.5 per cent down on the BBC1 slot average for the past three months. Andrew Marr's History of the World predictably lost out to the second episode of the third series of Downton Abbey, which averaged 8.4 million viewers and a 31.8 per cent share of the audience on ITV from 9pm. Downton nearly tripled ITV's slot average compared to the last three months. However, Downton's audience - boosted by an additional two hundred and eighty four thousand punters watching on ITV+1 - was nevertheless one million overnight viewers lower than the equivalent episode last autumn and six hundred thousand down on last week's premiere overnight rating. Other 9pm competition included BBC2's Dragons' Den (a reasonable, if unspectacular two million, including one hundred thousand on BBC HD), Channel Four's Big Fat Quiz of the 90s (an excellent three million) and Channel Five's Judge Dredd repeat (nine hundred thousand). Kevin McCloud's Man-Made Home, in which the Grand Designs presenter builds a cabin using material found in the Somerset wood where it is to be situated, launched with 2.9 million viewers on Channel Four in the 8pm hour. The X Factor's final boot camp episode was, inevitably, the most watched show in the slot – and, indeed, all day – with 9.4 million viewers and a thirty five per cent audience share. But in a now familiar trend for this year's series, the ITV reality show was down from the eleven million plus average overnight audience for the equivalent episode of the 2011 series. Other 8pm competition included BBC1's Countryfile (5.6 million) and BBC2's Vikings repeat (1.1 million). Prior to Countryfile, Fake or Fortune? interested 4.29m. Match of the Day 2 scored 2.68m later from 10.30pm. And, speaking of footie, The Scum's Premier League win over Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, preceded by a, really rather moving, tribute to the Hillsborough victims, was the most watched programme of the day outside the five main channels. Sky Sports 1's coverage of the match averaged a shade less than two million viewers – 1.99m - between 1pm and 3.30pm. The match had a five-minute peak of 2.8 million. The second most watched programme outside the big five was another Premier League match on Sky Sports 1, with Shiekh Yer Man City's 1-1 draw with The Arse averaging 1.7 million and a ten per cent audience share between 3.30pm and 6.45pm. Sky's sports channels had a busy Sunday, with England's World Twenty20 defeat by India attracting an average of four hundred and seventy thousand viewers between 2.30pm and 6.30pm. Earlier in the day, coverage of the Singapore Grand Prix averaged four hundred and forty three thousand on Sky Sports F1 between 11.30am and 4.15pm. The BBC's coverage of the race had a peak audience of 3.4m.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping very much enjoyed his favourite TV reviewer, the Metro's Keith Watson's take on Andrew Marr's latest venture: 'Someone had to fly the BBC's Sunday night flag in the face of the all-conquering Downton Abbey. Manfully stepping up to the plate was political-prober-cum-man-who-knows-everything Andrew Marr with Andrew Marr's History Of The World. It was like watching the proverbial lamb being slaughtered. Not that it didn't do what it said on the tin. Marr started out with primitive nomads in Africa and by the end of episode one he'd wound up in a Minoan ruin in Crete. In between, we’d stopped off in China and Egypt and a blur of others. It was the world, it was history, but unless you were an alien from another planet and knew nothing of Earth, it was little more than box-ticking key points, a crammer for history virgins. Trying to cover everything that's ever happened in eight hours is an If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium approach to history. But maybe that's the point. History is falling off the radar in modern education – there was a student on Pointless the other day who'd never heard of Karl Marx – so maybe Marr is right to assume that no one knows anything. But it still couldn't help but feel patronising. You'd learn a lot more from Horrible Histories, where at least you get some cracking jokes. Marr's History was littered with daft dramatic reconstructions – a bit of whipping in an al fresco Egyptian courtroom here, a mildly pervy human sacrifice scene there –hammed up by actors channelling old Carry On movies. Marr gave it his best gravitas but he was really just skimming the surface.'

And, still on the subject of ratings, last week's Doctor Who episode, A Town Called Mercy had a final consolidated rating of 8.42 million viewers. The final figure includes all those who recorded the programme and watched it within seven days of transmission. It is a large increase on the initially estimated overnight figure - 6.6m - and gives the show a 33.4 per cent share of the total TV audience. It is the highest rating of the series so far, and the first time since the series returned in 2005 that the third episode has out-rated the series opener. It is the best performing third episode of a season since the 2005 story The Unquiet Dead. The figure does not include those watching on iPlayer.
On a somewhat related note, dear blog reader, here be the final consolidated ratings figures for the Top Thirty shows for week-ending 16 September 2012:-
1 Downton Abbey - ITV Sun -10.88m
2 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 10.11m
3 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.35m
4 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 Sat - 8.96m
5 Doctor Who - BBC1 Sat - 8.42m
6 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 8.35m
7 New Tricks - BBC1 Mon - 8.31m
8 Emmerdale - ITV Wed - 6.84m
9 Countryfile _ BBC1 Sun - 5.98m
10 England FIFA World Cup Qualifier - ITV Tues - 5.64m
11 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.49m
12 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Fri - 5.24m
13 Inspector George Gently - BBC1 Sun - 5.21m
14= Watchdog - BBC1 Wed - 4.99m
14= The Bletchley Circle - ITV Thurs - 4.99m*
16 The Great British Bake Off - BBC2/BBC HD Tues - 4.93m
17 Who Do You Think You Are? - BBC1 Wed - 4.87m
18= Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 4.62m
18= Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 4.62m
20 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 4.61m
21 The Chase: Celebrity Special - ITV Sun - 4.58m*
22 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 4.57m
23 Mrs Biggs - ITV Wed - 4.46m*
24 God Cop - BBC1 Thurs - 4.39
25 All Star Mr & Mrs - ITV Wed - 4.38m*
26 Waterloo Road - BBC1 Thurs - 4.35m
27 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 4.24m
28 Match Of The Day - BBC1 Sat - 4.13m
29 Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs - ITV Mon - 4.20m
30 Leaving - ITV Mon - 4.02m*
Those shows marked '*' do not include HD figures. Just for anyone who is still interested - that'll be about two of you, no doubt - odious, risible ITV game show fiasco Red Or Black?'s final figures for its two episodes on 15 September were 3.14m and 2.99m. Which is funny, frankly. The Great British Bake Off aside, BBC2's best performers included Wartime Farm (2.70m), University Challenge (2.63m) and Qi (2.50m). Grand Designs (2.89m) was Channel Four's best performer whilst, despite considerable audience drop-off after the opening episode the previous week, Dallas (2.46m) was Channel Five's highlight.

Yer actual Arthur Darvill is to appear in the new BBC drama The Paradise. The period series - starring Joanna Vanderham and Sarah Lancashire - tells the story of a love affair against the background of England's first department store opening in the 1870s. Arty will make a guest appearance in the fifth episode as Bradley Burroughs, a barber who comes into conflict with Moray (Emun Elliot). When Moray seeks to extend The Paradise by buying up Bradley's shop, the barber seeks to become his business partner, but his ambition quickly places him in grave danger. Thirty-year-old Arthur is, of course, best known for playing Rory Williams on Doctor Who and will make his final appearance on the long-running popular family SF drama this Saturday night. He also featured in the BBC's adaptation of Little Dorrit in 2008 and will next be seen in ITV thriller Broadchurch opposite former Doctor Who actor yer actual David Tennant.

Doctor Who's executive producer Caroline Skinner has admitted that she is keen to work with Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings director recently revealed that he is a 'huge' fan' of the BBC family drama and expressed his interest in directing an episode. 'It is beyond wonderful that Peter is a fan of the show and it's beyond flattering that he'd even think about it,' Skinner told the Waikato Times. 'I'm absolutely sure that we couldn't afford him but, you know, we can always negotiate. His enthusiasm is just fantastic of course.' Skinner added that the Doctor Who team would 'love' to film an episode in Jackson's native New Zealand. 'Of course at some point we'd love to bring Doctor Who down under [but] it won't be possible until at least a year after the fiftieth anniversary [in 2013],' she explained. 'We are already two-thirds of the way through the shoots of series seven and although we filmed a couple of episodes abroad, [but] I can confirm for the rest of series seven we will be shooting entirely in Cardiff Bay.' She added that the logistics of filming Doctor Who in the 'beautiful country' would require 'an awful lot of planning and time.' well, of course it would, it's on the other side of the world. 'It is also an extremely long way from Cardiff Bay so it's an enormous thing to move an entire production down there for an episode or two,' Skinner explained.

Whitechapel has been recommissioned for a fourth series by ITV. The crime thriller - starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton - will begin filming six new episodes, comprising three two-part stories, later this year. The League of Gentlemen co-creator Pemberton - who plays Edward Buchan - will also write the second two-parter. 'I'm thrilled that the audience enjoyed our new formatted triple dose of Whitechapel as much as we enjoyed making them,' said executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle. 'With the brilliant, inventive mind of Steve Pemberton behind one of the stories, Whitechapel promises to reach new thrilling depths.' ITV's director of drama Laura Mackie added: 'The first full series of Whitechapel was a huge hit with the ITV audience with its unique take on the crime genre and the brilliantly original combination of Chandler, Miles and Buchan. I'm so pleased that they're coming back to solve more historically-inspired crimes.' Whitechapel debuted in January 2009, pulling in overnight ratings of 8.13 million viewers - not entirely unconnected with the fact that the majority of the country was under three foot of snow at the time. The ratings average for the disappointing series two was 6.5 million, while the, much more enjoyable, third run - broadcast last year - saw a rise to seven million. The new series will be produced by Patrick Schweitzer and executive produced by Any Human Heart's Woodward Gentle. The Last Weekend's Jon East will return to direct two of the stories.

If anyone should bring closure to the long-lived Scottish detective series Taggart it should be Steven Moffat, say series star John Michie. The actor, who played Robbie Ross in the series before it was dropped last year, said: 'I'm still extremely loyal to the character and I really hope I'll be back playing it one day, as part of a series or a one-off. One way to round it off could be to get a really top writer in, a big name, and who could be better than Steven Moffat? Everything he touches turns into gold, it would be a great way to sell it.'
Unfortunately for Taggart fans - all three of them - yer actual Lord Thy God Steven Moffat his very self has far more important things to do with his time than provide them with a wrap-up murrrrrrduuurrrr. Pfft. Chancers.

David Tennant has been elected onto the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The board is made up of fifteen non-salaried (ie. rich) people, chosen for their skills and experience, who work closely with the senior management team in leading and steering the company. The actor, who did much to promote the RSC when he took on the title role in Hamlet in 2008, will be in the post for three years.
Damian Lewis has won an Emmy for best actor in a drama for his performance in Homeland. Lewis plays an American soldier who returns home after spending years in captivity in Iraq, and who is suspected of becoming an al-Qaeda agent. 'I'm one of those pesky Brits, I apologise,' said Lewis. Fellow Briton Dame Maggie Smith won best supporting actress in a drama series, winning Downton Abbey's only award. Homeland, Game Change, HBO's story of Sarah Palin's entry into the 2008 US vice presidential race, and US comedy Modern Family each won the most awards, with four apiece. Homeland also won outstanding drama, meaning that Mad Men failed to set a record by winning its fifth best drama award. Lewis said: 'I don't really believe in judging art, but I thought I'd show up just in case.' The show's prizes included best actress for Clare Danes and outstanding drama series. Lord Snooty's Downton Abbey had been up for sixteen nominations, which was the most a British drama has received at the Emmys. BBC's Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman also missed out in their categories of outstanding lead actor, and outstanding supporting actor in a mini-series or a movie, respectively. Their series itself did not manage to top its nominated category of outstanding mini-series or movie - that prize went to Game Change. Game Change won four awards - including outstanding lead actress in a mini-series or movie for Julianne Moore and best director for a mini-series or movie going to Jay Roach. 'I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down!' Moore said while accepting her first Emmy. Homeland's writing team of Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff won best writing in a drama series. Meanwhile, Modern Family had a successful night, with awards including one for best comedy series. Cast members Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen won best supporting actor and actress, while the show's director Steven Levitan won an award for best director of a comedy series. And Jon Cryer won best actor in a comedy series for his role in the show Two and a Half Men. 'Don't panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned,' said Cryer. It is the first series of Two and a Half Man since Charlie Sheen was sacked. Kevin Costner was named best actor for the history-based miniseries Hatfields & McCoys.

Stars from the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be honoured at the National Television Awards in January. A special Landmark Award will be presented to key members of London 2012 'to pay homage to the UK's greatest Olympic teams in over one hundred years.' The most contentious awards battle is expected to be between talents shows. The first series of BBC1's The Voice will compete against more established rivals, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent. The newly revealed longlist also features Twatting About on Ice, Got To Dance and Let's Dance for Sport Relief. A special film featuring highlights of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which achieved record TV audiences, will be shown during the ceremony to celebrate the Landmark Award. Viewers are being asked to vote on their favourite moments, such as Mo Farah's gold medal wins, or even the Queen's James Bond-style skydive. Probably not much from the Olympic swimming team, I'm guessing. This year's drama category pits hit ITV period drama Downton Abbey against BBC1's new Edwardian adaptation Parade's End, popular hits like Sherlock and Doctor Who and detective dramas Scott & Bailey and Lewis. The comedy panel show category sees the likes of sharp and witty BBC shows Qi, Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week and Would I lie To You? up against risible nonsense like ITV2's Celebrity Juice. Which, like as not, will win as it did last year. The Great British Bake Off gets its first NTA nomination, up against Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs and Watchdog in the factual entertainment category. Jonathan Ross' ITV  chat show is again nominated against The Graham Norton Show, which replaced Ross in the coveted Friday night slot on BBC1. Earlier this year they both lost out in the chat show category to Alan Carr's Chatty Man. However 2013's awards will see them compete in the entertainment programme category, against shows including Piers Morgan's Life Stories, The Only Way Is Essex and The Million Pound Drop Live. Presenting duo Anthony McPartlin and/or Declan Donnelly will be fighting to take the Entertainment Presenter award home for a twelfth consecutive year.
Matt Smith is up for Drama Performance, Male. There are twenty nominations in this category, which include Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Sherlock), Kevin Whately (Lewis) and Sir Kenneth Branagh (Wallander). Karen Gillan has slightly less to contend with for the Drama Performance, Female, with a mere twenty five nominees, including Gillian Anderson (Great Expectations), Claire Danes (Homeland), Emilia Fox (Silent Witness) and Suranne Jones (Scott & Bailey).

A tweet by Alan Sugar-Sweetie the other day really made yer actual Keith Telly Topping chuckle. 'Watch Doctor Who tonight at 7.30,' wrote his Lordship. 'I have a small cameo role. This is a privilege only afforded to certain people. Piers Morgan will never be asked.' Damn straight, baby.
Yer actual Alan Davies has been given a warm reception at his first gig in Liverpool since making allegedly 'controversial' comments about Hillsborough. Personally, I always thought it was a bit of a storm in a teacup and that Davies, whilst phrasing his comments a bit unfortunately, nevertheless made a couple of valid points. But, anyway, Davies defused tension at the outset by joking that he wanted the house lights on 'in case there were any riflemen.' The Liverpool Empire was not sold out and he said: 'Thank you for filling at least half of this wonderful theatre.' He has claimed that he received death threats after criticising Liverpool FC's decision not to play on the tragedy's anniversary (and the FA for allowing them to dictate when they play around this date, often at the expense of other teams), including, he noted, some - really badly spelled - criticism from people 'who weren't even born in 1989.' Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the crush at Hillsborough in April 1989, something which should never be lost sight of. This April, Davies said it whilst this was a massive tragedy, it was 'ridiculous' that the club should not want to play on the anniversary. He later apologised for his insensitive tone. The Jonathan Creek and Qi star, who is on his first UK stand-up tour for twelve years, told the Liverpool crowd that he had considered calling the show off. 'It's been an ambition of mine to play here and I've just about scraped enough people together to make it worthwhile,' he joked. 'I can't thank you enough. It's much appreciated. I mean that. I'm generally a very sincere person. It gets me into a lot of trouble.' He made light-hearted references to the furore at the beginning and end of the show but otherwise delivered his normal routine, ranging from his experiences of parenthood to his dislike of Facebook. His appearance came less than two weeks after official papers revealed something anybody with half-a-brain in their head had known since 1989, that police changed officers' statements after the Hillsborough tragedy to remove unfavourable comments, and that up to forty one people could have potentially been saved if they had received treatment earlier. Justice for the Ninety Six.

The BBC's campaign to convince the North that it knows and loves it has run into another problem. A correspondent to Radio Times - who clearly has nothing better to do with his or her time - notes a pattern of 'geographical gaffes' in BBC1's Inspector George Gently, set in Northumbria but made by Company Pictures of London's Covent Garden. One episode saw a girl in high heels improbably setting out to walk from Byker to Whitley Bay, 'a blistering twelve miles.' And, then there's the 'mysteriously mobile church' - a building 'immediately recognisable as Durham Cathedral' has been seen fifteen miles away from Durham.
Channel Four has commissioned a sequel to its acclaimed historical drama The Devil's Whore and new shows from Abi Morgan and Skins creator Bryan Elsley. New World is a four-part series written by Peter Flannery and Martine Brant and is a follow-up to The Devil's Whore, which was broadcast in 2008 and featured a cast including Andrea Risborough, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and John Simm. The Channel Four head of drama, yer actual Piers Wenger, said: 'It's terrific and I want to make it as soon as we can. I would love it to be on screen next year. I don't want to say too much about it but it has a connection to The Devil's Whore and it takes place across two continents. The clue might be in the title.' Elsley has written a nine-part drama, Dates. About the anatomy of modern dating and modern relationships, each episode will focus on a different date. Morgan, whose credits include BBC2's The Hour and Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady, has written a four-part international thriller, Home Before Dark. Set in London, Italy and America it follows the hunt for a killer and looks at the way the Internet can corrupt, and be corrupted by those who use it. A Cowboy Films production for Channel Four, its executive producers include Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland, State of Play). New World is being made by Company Pictures, with Dates produced by Balloon Entertainment.

Parade's End's success - critically, at least, if not in terms of actual viewing figures - may have been bittersweet for Piers Wenger, the former BBC executive who worked closely with Sir Tom Stoppard to bring Ford Madox Ford's novels to the screen. By the time the acclaimed period drama was broadcast on BBC2, Wenger had switched sides to Channel Four, where he is four months into his new role as head of drama. 'That was the show that in many ways was the hardest to leave,' says Wenger. 'I left about halfway through the shoot. I thought it was wonderful.' Wenger will have to watch from another table at awards time if the adaptation cleans up, as expected. 'I thought Benedict and Rebecca [Hall] really worked in those roles. They found romantic comedy in a very unlikely place.' Now Wenger has his own parade to boast about. Apart from the award-winning pair of Ronan Bennett's Top Boy and Shane Meadows's This Is England '88, homegrown C4 drama has been relatively quiet of late, Wenger acknowledges. 'There has been a pause but by the time the next few months are through it won't feel quite the same,' he says. His predecessor, Camilla Campbell, quit in December to set up her own production company, one of a string of executives to leave the broadcaster last year. 'It wasn't like the shop was shut up – shows were commissioned after Camilla left and before I arrived,' Wenger points out. 'But since I've come into the post we have commissioned a lot of new stuff and next year will feel very rich and diverse.' But it is telling that the shows that come up in a discussion of the channel's recent hits, The Devil's Whore and David Peace adaptation Red Riding, were shown in 2008 and 2009 respectively. 'They have that double helix of delivering great reputation for the channel but also being able to deliver the numbers,' says Wenger. 'That is the thing we are looking to do with the shows we commission.' Wenger joined Channel Four in 2011 at its big screen arm, Film4, and will continue to oversee the projects he started there, including the keenly awaited Paul Raymond biopic King of Clubs, starring Steve Coogan. Previously head of drama at BBC Wales, Wenger executive-produced two series of Doctor Who and was responsible, along with its showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods before He), for The Doctor's latest incarnation in the shape of Matt Smith. Moffat describes Wenger as 'incredibly brilliant and sharp,' and a very effective manager of creative talent. 'He makes you feel clever all the time when it's actually probably him,' adds The Moffster. 'You go out with a flattering sense of your own brilliance when in fact what you are doing is what he wanted you to do in the first place.' Wenger lists Doctor Who and his two collaborations with Victoria Wood, Housewife Forty Nine (which Wood also wrote) and the Morecambe and Wise biopic Eric and Ernie, both of which won BAFTAs as the shows of which he is most proud. He was also responsible for the misfiring Upstairs Downstairs comeback. He met Wood after writing her a fan letter while he was still at ITV, where he began as a trainee script editor in 2000 working on the ill-fated soap Night and Day. 'To my great amazement she replied,' he remembers. 'I was a massive fan to an almost embarrassing degree. I could quote big swaths of her sketch shows,' adds Wenger, who hopes the pair will collaborate again. 'She understands characters' emotions and lives in a way that no one else does. She has a very thin skin which allows her to absorb and have insights into other people's emotional lives that audiences find a ring of truth around.' Wenger began his career as a journalist on Just 17, but in his late twenties he took nine months out of journalism after his father was paralysed in a serious car accident. 'I found myself watching lots of television drama and the depths and intellectual challenge of working in drama started to appeal.' He found out about his latest job when C4's chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, telephoned him in Los Angeles where he was celebrating his fortieth birthday. She told him to talk to Tessa Ross, C4's controller of film and drama, when he returned, and he drove straight to Ross's house from the airport. Wenger wants the next year of drama output on C4 to be a 'shop window' for the range of work that writers and directors can expect to do on the channel. It will also include The Fear, starring Peter Mullan as a crime boss suffering from dementia, Dennis Kelly's cult conspiracy thriller Utopia and Tony Grisoni's Southcliffe, about a fictional English market town devastated by a shooting spree. 'I want the buzzwords for next year to be scale and range,' Wenger says. 'I wanted to send a very clear message to the world that this is the place where you don't have to feel hidebound by a very defined commissioning brief. There is a huge amount of drama which is of a certain type, the trick to get audiences to come to them afresh is to find new ways into those stories, new perspectives on these subject matters and the only way to do that is to empower the authors.' C4's hit US import Homeland, a Showtime adaptation of the Israeli drama Hatufim, returns for its second season next month. Wenger says the channel can take inspiration from the show, which finished its first run with an average overnight audience of nearly three million. 'We don't want to be a minority choice. I've always worked on really mainstream shows, whether it's Doctor Who or my work with Victoria Wood. My instincts are to try and reach as big an audience as possible,' he says. 'If you look at the success of Homeland, or even the Paralympics, Channel Four is a place where you can take a big idea and shape it in a unique way.' Like Homeland, Abi Morgan's thriller Home Before Dark will be given a 9pm slot. 'We are going to attack nine o'clock hard. We absolutely want to compete on as big a stage as possible.' Paul Abbott's Shameless has been a ratings banker since 2004. But after one hundred and fifteen episodes and in the middle of series ten (an eleventh is already in the pipeline), how long can it and Frank Gallagher last? 'It's like every series, we look at how they perform when they go out, and how the creative team feel about how much more they have to say,' says Wenger. More serious questions have been asked of Hollyoaks, as this year Hunt said the seventeen-year-old tea-time soap as 'not on its best form.' 'It had a tough summer but like any soap its ratings can go up and down,' says Wenger. Is it on notice? 'Absolutely not. The sense was we needed to look at it and make it stronger, and we've done that.' Its producer, Bryan Kirkwood, credited with reviving the show between 2006 and 2009, has returned after a stint on EastEnders, and last week it had around a million viewers. 'It has to reflect the audience's life in an entertaining and authentic way,' says Wenger. As he looks for C4's next big hit, thoughts turn back to Parade's End. 'Even though it was quite a lengthy and exhausting process getting that show financed and co-produced and cast, I am really glad that it has found an audience and that what was there in the novels has resonated with people thanks to Tom,' says Wenger. 'There are [other] literary properties that feel as difficult and as brilliant as those novels did that we are going after, because I think that's the best of what television can offer people.'

Michael Grade has, reportedly, dressed up as a pantomime dame for a BBC4 series on panto. Meanwhile one of his BBC successors could face another - even more severe - form of indignity. In an otherwise innocuous diary in the October issue of Television magazine, Channel Four's chief executive, David Abraham, signals the start of a feud by naughtily calling Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, 'General Patten.' Those under the command of Abraham and Jay Hunt are no doubt already at work in a Horseferry Road basement on a YouTube video in which scenes from the movie Patton: Lust for Glory are revoiced – so the gung-ho US general appears to be bellowing about somehow making the BBC 'fifteen to twenty per cent better' despite savage cutbacks.
Odious little waste of space horrorshow (and drag) Nick Clegg has warned the press and Conservative party not to 'pre-empt' or 'reject' the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry into media regulation, indicating he would work with Labour to implement the recommendations so long as they were 'proportionate.' He said the test of the reforms would be whether politicians, journalists and media proprietors could look the parents of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked, in the eyes in a post-Leveson world. Clegg stressed that he did not have prior knowledge of the Leveson recommendations and that he was not seeking to restrict the press. He added: 'Britain benefited massively from having such a vibrant, raucous, lively and dynamic press. The question for Leveson is how do you balance that great liberal tradition with a reassurance to Mister and Missus Dowler that the lessons have been learned and it won't happen again.' Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his report in November, but there are already signs that David Cameron is looking for a way to reach an agreement with the media which stops short of any statutory underpinning of the press. Answering questions at his party's conference in Brighton, Clegg was asked repeatedly whether it was possible for the media to be independently regulated in the long term without some form of statutory framework. He claimed the written press was like 'desperate animals around a disappearing waterhole, fighting over an increasingly small number of customers,' which explained its 'increasingly shrill tone.' He said he doubted his children would buy newspapers in the traditional manner. Senior Tory MPs opposed to regulation have started to attack the way in which Leveson conducted his inquiry - most notably chief Murdoch cheerleader, rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove. But Clegg said: 'We as a government asked him to do a job and, assuming he comes up with proposals that are proportionate and workable, we should implement them.' His stance was welcomed by the Hacked Off campaign which, along with the comedian Steve Coogan, is due to meet Clegg on Tuesday to urge the party not to backtrack on its call for some form of statutory underpinning to press regulation. Clegg warned against 'some of the cardboard cut-out characters being bandied about statutory regulation.' He said 'some people were creating a spectre of statutory interference which is never going to happen.' He said: 'The true question is that everyone knows that in order to ensure that the press, like any other industry or vested interest, is properly held to account when things go wrong and people abuse citizens' privacy there is proper recourse to scrutiny and accountability. Everyone accepts that the indispensable ingredient has to be a proper form of accountability and scrutiny independent of the industry itself. Can you have something that is genuinely independent of the press – so it can be tough on the press when it is merited – that does not even indirectly have some kind of footing in statute? How do you ensure that independence for good if you do not have it reflected in some sense in statute? That is where the argument lies. Everyone agrees that the Press Complaints Commission was a joke – a judge and jury of the press itself.' Clegg added that he agreed with David Cameron that the test for a government response to Leveson will be whether the proposals are seen as acceptable from the point of view of the victims of media intrusion. He said: 'Can we look Milly Dowler's mother and father in the eye, whose privacy was so outrageously abused at a moment of extraordinary grief?'

With twenty one of their number arrested so far, Sun journalists naturally resent the presence of police investigating wrongdoing at News International in a Wapping building near their paper's offices. In much the same way, no doubt, that bank robbers resent the attention of The Sweeney on their manor. Anyway, tension between the cops and the hacks was reportedly increased when one plain-clothes officer was spotted happily lunching in the NI canteen. How was he recognised? Easy: by one of the people whom he'd previous arrested. Tom Mockridge, NI's chief executive, is said to have been 'incandescent' when he heard about this discombobulation and malarkey, and has since banned the police from the canteen.

Andrew Mitchell is facing renewed pressure after the Sun revealed that an official police report of that notorious confrontation in Downing Street claimed that he described armed officers as 'plebs.' In a blow to the chief whip, who had been warned by No 10 that his position would be in jeopardy if more damaging details emerged, the Sun said the report confirmed the officers' account of the incident. Mitchell has, repeatedly, said that he 'did not use the words attributed to me' and claimed that he had apologised to the officer involved. He added that he now wanted to 'draw a line' under the matter. Oh, I'll bet he does. Fortunately, that's not going to happen now that the tabloids have scented blood. The official report, which has been seen the Sun, says that Mitchell swore at the officers and described them as 'plebs' when they declined to open the security gates in Downing Street to allow him to cycle past. Mitchell admits to swearing in the presence of the officers, though he fiercely denies describing them as 'plebs.' His position would be untenable if he was proved to have used the word, because it would lend support to Labour claims that the Tory leadership regards public servants – even those charged with guarding the prime minister his slimy and wretched self – as 'socially inferior.' The decision of the police to issue a direct challenge to Mitchell, by showing their report to the Sun, means that the prime minister will once again have to review the position of his new chief whip. Cameron had let it be known that Mitchell would be allowed to keep his job after apologising to the police last week only if no more damaging details emerged. Alleged 'sources' allegedly said that there were 'no excuses' for Mitchell's behaviour, which has prompted a difficult few days for the government. Mitchell has admitted swearing in front of officers, though he insisted he used the word 'fucking' to express frustration and did not direct it at the police. The chief whip, who went to public school, has emphatically denied accusations by unnamed police officers that he called them 'plebs.' The chief whip's explanation cut no ice with Labour, which said his account was 'unravelling.' Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said that the confirmation that Mitchell had sworn in front of police guarding Downing Street merited an investigation by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary. Cooper said: 'Andrew Mitchell's account of what went on is unravelling day-by-day and we need to know exactly what happened. Everyone is already deeply concerned that a senior cabinet minister is reported as dismissing police officers doing an important security job as "plebs." It is really important that the prime minister does not compound this by dismissing the testimony of police officers and the evidence from their notebooks without proper investigation.' Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, lard bucket (and drag), said he accepted Mitchell's explanation that he did not use the word 'plebs.' But, Pickles mocked Mitchell when he told the BBC's Sunday Politics: 'He's never used it in my presence, but then again I'm very proud myself to be a pleb.' The most authoritative account of Mitchell's side of his confrontation with the police was published by the Sunday Telegraph. In his weekly column, Matthew d'Ancona wrote that Mitchell has admitted he swore, though it was 'not aimed directly at the police.' The paper says that Mitchell admitted muttering in earshot of the police: 'You guys are supposed to fucking help us.' Mitchell has 'let it be known' that he used the word 'adjectivally' and was not, he claimed, unconvincingly, directing it at the police. Mitchell's explanation may raise questions about the statement he issued on Thursday night when the Sun reported that he had sworn at police and had called them 'plebs.' In the statement, Mitchell said he 'did not accept' he had used the words attributed to him. One of those words was 'fucking.' The Sun reported Mitchell as saying: 'Best you learn your fucking place. You don't run this fucking government. You're fucking plebs.' The newspaper also reported a witness as saying that Mitchell had described police as 'morons.' Nick Clegg told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1: 'I think that civility, being courteous to the police is important at all times. But of course it's especially important given the tragic events – the killing of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.'
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory in the Singapore GP after Lewis Hamilton's McLaren retired on Sunday. Hamilton headed Vettel from the start but a gearbox failure dealt a major blow to the Briton's world title hopes. His team-mate Jenson Button took second in his McLaren from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who leads Vettel by twenty nine points in the standings. Hamilton slips to fourth, fifty two points off the lead with only one hundred and fifty available, seven points behind Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen. The retirement means Hamilton will almost certainly not be able to catch Alonso in the remaining six races, barring some bad luck for the Spaniard, and it remains to be seen whether the latest in a series of disappointments this season has an effect on his future career choice. Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the season and has two offers on the table - one to stay with McLaren and one to move to Mercedes. Vettel's pace following Hamilton's exit suggested the McLaren might have been holding up the Red Bull slightly but Hamilton was in control of the race until his car lost drive on lap twenty three coming out of the first chicane. He had known for about a minute that there was an impending problem. 'It's one of the toughest races all year,' said Vettel. 'It's very long, we did the full two hours, the circuit is a killer, there are many bumps and there is no room for error. Obviously I benefited from Lewis's failure, which I could see for a couple of laps. I'm very happy, it's such a tough race and very proud to win it. I'd like to dedicate it to Sid Watkins. He will be remembered [as] one of the main reasons we can go out on a circuit like this and be reasonably safe. It's an incredible weekend for all of us. We have a lot of races left, we just have to use the momentum and keep pushing.' That left Vettel in front from Button, Williams's Pastor Maldonado and Alonso but they raced only until lap thirty three, when a crash by Narain Karthikeyan's HRT brought out the safety car. Maldonado dropped down the order after pitting to change tyres, even though he had made his second pit stop only four laps earlier at the same time as Alonso. The Venezuelan, who had qualified second, retired before the race was restarted with a hydraulics problem. The re-start came on lap thirty nine, but the cars raced for only half-a-lap before Michael Schumacher smashed into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, who was battling with Sauber's Sergio Perez. It was the second time in succession Schumacher had retired in Singapore after running into the back of another car - and the second time this season after doing the same to Williams's Bruno Senna in the Spanish Grand Prix. He said there was a problem with the car that meant it did not brake in the normal way. The race was restarted again on lap forty two, when it was already clear it would reach the two-hour time limit before the full sixty one laps were complete. In the end it was stopped two short of full distance. Vettel and Button exchanged fastest laps for a while before Vettel began to open the gap and establish a comfortable lead. He was eight seconds ahead before backing off on the final lap. Behind them, Alonso measured his pace to ensure his tyres would last to the end - they were four laps older than those on the Force India of Paul di Resta behind him. The Scot took an impressive fourth place after a strong qualifying saw him start sixth, ahead of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen. The second Lotus of Romain Grosjean was seventh, ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull's Mark Webber. The closing stages of the grand prix were enlivened by some exciting racing as closely-packed drivers battled for position. Massa might have helped secure his Ferrari future with a strong drive, including an improvisational pass on Williams's Bruno Senna into turn thirteen. The Brazilian was last at the end of the first lap after picking up a puncture. And both Sauber drivers lost their front wings in separate incidents with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.

Demba Ba scored his third goal in two games, and fourth of the season to spoil Norwich City manager Chris Hughton's return to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle. Ba scored twice after coming on as a substitute against Everton on Monday, and he marked his return to the starting line-up by converting Hatem Ben Arfa's defence-splitting pass. Papiss Cisse could not add to Ba's goal when he missed a penalty just before half-time. Wes Hoolahan and Andrew Surman wasted chances for Norwich, who have yet to win in the league this season. It was a deserved victory for Newcastle, who should have won more convincingly, while Hughton, who was sacked as Magpies manager in December 2010 despite leading them to promotion months earlier, will be concerned by his side's ongoing problems in front of goal. The Canaries, who lost defender Sebastien Bassong - another former Newcastle employee - to a hamstring injury after just six minutes, did create some decent chances but their composure was missing - something that cannot be said about Ba at the moment. The twenty seven-year-old striker, whose agent upset manager Alan Pardew with comments suggesting Ba may want a move away from Newcastle, scored against the run of play with a well-worked goal which was direct in definition but exquisite in its execution. Goalkeeper Steve Harper, deputising for the injured Tim Krul, rolled the ball out to Ben Arfa who glided forward before splitting the Norwich defence with a sublime pass which Ba latched onto and, with his second touch, clinically placed the ball past John Ruddy and into the back of the net. The goal summed up much of Newcastle's play, with Ben Arfa regularly picking the ball up in the deep and causing the Canaries defence problems with his mixture of inch-perfect passing and mazy dribbling. The French midfielder almost set up Ba and Cisse on two other occasions - with the Senegalese pair experiencing contrasting fortunes. While Ba appeared to be buoyed by his strike, his partner is now without a goal in six matches this season. And his effort for the penalty, won when Mike Williamson was backed into and knocked over by Steve Morison, summed up his day - the ball never threatening the goal as it soared high into the stand. Hughton's decision to bring in Hoolahan and Morison to replace Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson did not bear dividends, and the Canaries have now scored only twice in five Premier League matches. Left-back Javier Garrido was their best attacking option, with the former Sheikh Yer Man City man creating two useful chances for Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass, but they struggled to assert themselves after they had fallen behind. Their best chance came at the beginning of the second half when Harper denied Surman after the midfielder had been put clean through on goal. Hughton sent on Holt and Jackson, but it was the hosts who looked more threatening in the final stages as Ba was put through by Cabaye and saw his shot saved by Ruddy before the keeper denied Gabriel Obertan in stoppage time. Victory moves Newcastle up to tenth in the Premier League table while Norwich, who face Liverpool, Moscow Chelski FC and The Arse in their next three league games, remain just above the relegation zone.

As noted above, Robin van Persie's late penalty gave The Scum victory over Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws on a poignant afternoon at Anfield. On an occasion when the Hillsborough victims and families were remembered in moving scenes before kick-off, these two great rivals produced a typically competitive and contentious encounter. Liverpool were reduced to ten men when Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a first-half foul on Jonny Evans - but it did not stop captain Steven Gerrard volleying them ahead seconds after the interval. The Scum, barely in the game for long periods, responded with a spectacular equaliser from Rafael Da Silva before Van Persie confirmed a fourth straight Premier League win nine minutes from time after Glen Johnson fouled Antonio Valencia. It left Liverpool Alabama Yee-haws and new manager Brendan Rodgers without a league win in five attempts this season and in the Premier League's bottom three, once again rueing their lack of cutting edge. Liverpool enjoyed spells of complete domination in territory and possession but failed to make it count, leaving The Scum the opportunity to take full advantage for their first win at Anfield in six games.

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert produced a scintillating burst of speed to win the world road race in the Netherlands. The thirty-year-old attacked on the last of eleven ascents of the Cauberg after two hundred and sixty nine kilometres of racing on an undulating course. Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen was second, four seconds behind, with Spain's Alejandro Valverde third. Britain's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was nineteenth, five seconds adrift, while 2011 winner Mark Cavendish quit through exhaustion with one hundred and ten kilometres to go. Sprinter Cavendish had already indicated that the hilly terrain meant he had no chance of winning the race but the outgoing world champion put in a tremendous stint for his British team-mates. After a relatively benign opening hour of racing, racing through the Dutch countryside from Maastricht, eleven riders established a break and Cavendish immediately went to the front of the peloton to control its pace and not allow the escapees to build an advantage of more than six minutes. He spent the vast majority of the next one hundred kilometres in this position, allowing Tiernan-Locke in particular among his team-mates, the chance to conserve energy by slipstreaming him. Cavendish eventually tailed off after completing three of the ten sixteen kilometre circuits that made up the closing one hundred and sixty kilometres of the race. His British team-mates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who were first and second in this year's Tour de France also failed to finish the race, pulling out after five laps. However, Tiernan-Locke, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Luke Rowe and Steve Cummings lasted the distance.

Most of the UK is braced for an average monthly rainfall within the next twenty four hours as autumn comes in with force and the wind doth blow like buggery. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self did the morning rounds of the doctor, the chemist, the post office and Morrisons in a force nine gale whilst dressed as Nanook of the North, dear blog reader. Nice to see summer's finally arrived, isn't it? Winds of up to sixty mph hit the North of England and south of Scotland while other areas could see eighty millimetres of rain before Monday evening, forecasters say. There are twenty flood warnings and ninety four alerts in England and Wales, and flood alerts in eight areas of Scotland. Northern Ireland is set to be severely affected, while a woman was killed by a falling tree branch in London. Police said the thirty-year-old died on Sunday at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, during rain and gusts of wind close to thirty mph. Kew Gardens has since been closed to the public as a precaution after a Met Office severe weather warning. Winds of up to fifty three mph have been recorded at the Isle of Portland in Dorset and at St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight. Met Office amber warnings - advising people to be prepared for severe weather - are in place for London, South-East, South-West, North-East and North-West England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Central Scotland, South-West Scotland, Lothian and Borders, Tayside and Fife, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. And in North Utsire, South Utsire, Viking, Cromerty, Forties, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Humber, Thames, Dover, Shannon, Hebrides, Faeroes, Fair Isle and Southeast Iceland. Probably. Ebngland and Wales, expected to Rockall. Good. Lesser yellow warnings - indicating that people should 'be aware' of the fact that its lashing it doon - are in place for much of the rest of the UK. Alison Baptiste, national flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said: 'There's been some fairly heavy weather from yesterday and continuing tomorrow and into Tuesday, particularly down in the South West. We are asking people across the Midlands and up into the North to be aware of the risk of flooding because we're seeing this weather pattern move up across the Midlands and up into the North today and tomorrow. We know it has been causing quite significant disruption, particularly to roads and rail across the south west, and that's why we do urge people to be aware, to check on our website, to follow us on social media as to what the latest situation is.' The Met Office said there was going to be a big change in the weather compared to what the country experienced during the first part of September. Parts of Britain have seen temperatures in the mid-twenties during September, a welcome break from the rain and wind which dogged much of July and August.

Who says that children's TV isn't a force for good? Well, the Daily Scum Mail, mainly as it happens. However, here's a heartening story that might just make even the Scum Mail change their mind. Little Liam Robinson's mother collapsed - don't worry, that's not the heartening part - but, when she came around she was surrounded by paramedics. The Daily Mirra reports that the plucky six-year-old had called emergency services after remembering a line from a song from Fireman Sam that says to dial 999.

Authorities are investigating the apparent drowning of a crew member on the set of forthcoming Johnny Depp film The Lone Ranger, near Los Angeles. The unnamed forty eight-year-old diver is thought to have suffered a heart attack while cleaning out a pool that was going to be used in the film. He was pronounced dead on Friday according to the coroner's spokesman. Walt Disney studios said: 'Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this time.' Spokesman Paul Roeder added in a statement: 'Our full support is behind the investigation into the circumstances of this terrible event.' Police revealed the man had been wearing scuba equipment to carry out maintenance on a deep pool on a ranch near Palmdale, in the desert north of Los Angeles, where the Western is being filmed. It is thought he was preparing a tank for an underwater scene to be shot at a later date. The Lone Ranger, due to be released in July 2013, is a remake of the classic adventure with Depp as Native American spirit warrior Tonto and Armie Hammer in the title role.

An eighteen-year-old has shot himself in the penis and left testicle. Fortunately, he missed the right one. Michael Smeriglio in Port St Lucie, Florida was 'cleaning his new gun' (a likely story) when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The bullet lodged itself in his thigh after travelling through his genitals, according to WTSP. At first, Smeriglio - now recovering from the shattering injury - lied to police claiming that another person had shot him before finally admitting that he did it himself. Investigating the scene of the accident, police found marijuana in the house leading to the arrest of twenty two-year-old homeowner Joseph Lamar James. Last year, Joshua Seto shot himself in the penis while grocery shopping in Chandler, Arizona. Well, it's something to do, I suppose.

A Perth man has appeared in court after causing 'fear and alarm' with a black pudding. Actually, you know, there's no punchline necessary with this one. Bradley Davidson allegedly behaved in a threatening manner, before throwing the foodstuff across the room in his flat. BBC News reports that Davidson behaved 'in a threatening or abusive manner which was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear and alarm in that you did act in an aggressive manner, shout and throw a black pudding across the room.' The forty seven-year-old also faces a charge of assault after kicking a ten-year-old girl on her leg on the same day, and was accused of damaging property by kicking a door, which caused a glass panel to smash. Davidson denied the charges against him. Stuart Richardson, procurator fiscal, told the court that the Crown was prepared for trial and that the case was to continue until 16 October in what appears to be the world's first ever case of black pudding rage.
Or, possibly second.

On Sunday evening yer actual Keith Telly Topping attended Scunthorpe Steve's latest Record Player Special. A genuinely brilliant night, firstly reminding everyone there (if they'd been fool enough to forget) what a properly superb LP yer actual Fog on the Tyne is. Especially with that backdrop from the Baltic Terrace, as dusk fell over the Quayside which inspired much of the LP's lyrics and all the lights came on. Awesome.
And yer actual Keith Telly Topping only went and got Ray Laidlaw's autograph. What a total sad fanboy yer actual Keith Telly Topping is! Highlight of the night, however, was half-way through 'January Song' when a UFO appeared over The Tyne Bridge. Only for it subsequently to turn out to be the Gatesheed Poliss helicopter off on the look out for some lads on the rob. So, guess what today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day is, dear blog reader? Correct.
The next Record Player event is on Thursday back in its - spiritual - home of The Tyneside and will, by a curious coincidence, feature another classic North Eastern LP, Prefab Sprout's imperious Steve McQueen. Every other sentiment an antique, dear blog reader.

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