Friday, November 02, 2012

What You're Thinking That You're Proving With Your Lies

Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch his very self is to play Brian Epstein in a new film about the Beatles' legendary manager, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And, thinking about it, Benny does actually look a bit like Brian (albeit, somewhat taller). Paul McGuigan, who has directed the thirty six-year-old in four of the BBC's six Sherlock episodes to date, will be behind the camera on the proposed biopic. Epstein was instrumental in the rise of The Fab Four only to die at the age of thirty two at the height of their success in 1967. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks is one of the film's producers. The movie has been described as the story of 'the man who threw the biggest party of the 1960s but ultimately forgot to invite himself.' Dubbed 'the fifth Beatle' by alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon, Epstein also managed Gerry & The Pacemakers and Cilla Black as well as The Beatles. In 2010, the year a special plaque was unveiled in his honour in central London, Black said that Brian had been 'instrumental in changing all our lives with his vision, generosity and dedication.' With any other manager, The Beatles may never have got out of Liverpool. Epstein was, as Lennon would later note, 'a theatrical, intuitive guy who presented us well.' Shy, Jewish and gay (in an era where homosexuality was still a crime in Britain), by the time he met The Beatles in 1961, Brian was successfully running his family's electrical goods and record shop (NEMS), but was still looking for a challenge. In The Beatles, he found his life's work. There has been much speculation concerning Brian's motives in becoming their manager (did he fancy John, for instance?). However, what is certain is that once he got the position, he worked tirelessly for them and used his influence to knock the rough edges off the band, subtly changing their image (without, seemingly, changing their personalities) and getting them things they'd never dreamed of – radio and TV appearances, record contracts, US tours. Signing the cream of Liverpool talent during 1962-63 Epstein became an important figure in the London showbusiness scene. Although taken for a ride more than once by unscrupulous industry wide-boys, he was well-respected for his charm and gentlemanly manner and, as has been noted, he helped to introduce The Beatles to film-makers, theatre people and establishment figures who would, otherwise, have been out of their sphere completely. Marianne Faithfull has talked of how Epstein was seen as a big brother figure - in the nicest possible sense - by many of those involved in the beat-group movement. A wise and mature man surrounded by teenagers, able to advise and understand their problems. His tortured personal life was, for the most part, hidden not only from the public but also from The Beatles. But by the time that they stopped touring in 1966, Brian’s role in their lives was gradually diminishing. Nevertheless, his death in August 1967 (from an, almost certainly accidental, overdose of barbiturates) was a crushing blow to The Beatles – one from which they, arguably, never fully recovered. Cumberbatch recently appeared in BBC2 drama Parade's End and has two roles in Peter Jackson's upcoming Hobbit films, not to mention playing the villain in the next Star Trek movie.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was, this week, having a chat with the excellent Steffan Peddie (Hebburn's Big Keith) his very self in BBC Newcastle. Steffan was saying that he'd been checking out this blog on a regular basis in the somewhat vain hope that yer actual Keith Telly Topping would've given the series a thoroughly glowing review. It's a fair cop, actually, I should've done so long before now. So, here it, belatedly, is then. Hebburn is magnificent; a tiny gem in the BBC's - at the moment, rather spotty - sitcom output and a comedy with real heart to it. It has a number of splendid performances in it and Jason Cook's scripts manage that most difficult of tricks of walking a fine line between sentimentality and humour never overbalancing either way. If you've never seen it before Hebburn is the home town of stand-up comedian Jason, who has created this warm, true-to-life comedy based on his own experiences of growing up in the North East. It tells the tale of the Pearson family and their son, Jack (played, superbly, by Chris Ramsey), who left Tyneside for Manchester. Whilst away, he's secretly married a middle class Jewish girl, Sarah (Kimberley Nixon), and realises that it is about time he introduced her to his family. It's got a splendid cast - Vic Reeves, as Jack's dad is a revelation, Gina McKee, as Jack's mum, reminds us what we should never have forgotten, that she's one of the finest actresses this country's produced in the last twenty years - and a sense of abusrdist realism that's both moving and hilarious. Seriously, take it from Keith Telly Topping his very self, dear blog reader, this one could - given a fair wind and continued decent ratings - run forever. It's certainly got the potential to.
Oh, and keep your eyes open, dear blog reader, for a cameo in a forthcoming episode (I think it's the week after next) from the broadcasting legend that is Keith Telly Topping's sometime-writing partner, Wor Alfie Joey playing a doctor. Can't say fairer than, that, can you?

This week's CSI was a rather ordinary (and, far schmaltzier than usual) piece about Nick befriending a grieving police dog whose handler is killed in the line of duty. Yes, you heard it here first, dear blog reader, CSI this week, officially, went to the dogs. Actually, to be fair (because of the actors involved and a rather decent subplot about a murdered lawyer) it's not, quite, as hopelessly, bowel-shatteringly dreadful as the above description makes it sound. But, only 'not quite'. For a show that's as often clever and complex as CSI, it's rather a surprise to find them, occasionally, doing depressingly generic and one-dimensional episodes like this which wouldn't have seemed out of place in The Littlest Hobo school of sentimentality and mush. Next week, guys, get back to serial killers for God's sake.

Idris Elba will start filming a third series of cult crime thriller Luther - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith telly Topping - later this month, it has been confirmed. The BBC has released a video which details the show's plans for four new episodes about the depressive maverick cop John Luther. 'We start shooting in November. To create something as brilliant as Luther takes time. But it will be worth the wait,' says the video. 'There will be four, perfectly dark, chillingly-formed episodes.' The video cryptically hints that Ruth Wilson's fan favourite character Alice Morgan will return for series three. Show creator Neil Cross has previously suggested that he is planning a Luther movie and an Alice spin-off, which are likely to follow the third series.

As Andrew Collins writing in the Radio Times notes: 'It feels eerily apposite that the beginning of a conversation with Mark Gatiss about the twisted delights of European horror should be drowned out by a constant, violent hammering.' Not least because you suspect with anyone else, Collins wouldn't have used the word 'apposite' but, rather, found a more common term instead. Is it, Collins wonders, some vampire countess being nailed, bloodily, into her coffin? Or an unspeakable act of torture on some virgin in the basement? On the contrary it turns out, it's merely a slab of veal being tenderised in a bijou Italian restaurant in Swiss Cottage. Pity, really. The writer, actor, novelist, Sherlock co-creator and all-round extraordinary gentleman didn't order the cruel escalope in question, apparently - he had the salmon carbonara instead, Collins gleefully informs us. But he'll be getting through much of the menu over the next five weeks while he stars as King Charles I in Howard Brenton's new play, Fifty Five Days in a theatre nearby. Yer man Gatiss is, of course, a very busy man these days. He started researching his ninety-minute documentary, Horror Europa, for BBC4 straight after finishing a run in The Recruiting Officer at the Donmar Warehouse in April. He has also been writing BBC1's beloved Sherlock, which he co-created with Steven Moffat and in which he appears as a deliciously inscrutable Mycroft (a third series, of course, goes into production in January) and a couple of episodes of his, equally beloved, Doctor Who which are due for broadcast in 2013. Following on from his unashamedly personal - and brilliant - three-part A History of Horror in 2010, Horror Europa catapulted Mark on a whistle-stop, ten-day tour of the continent. While occasionally forgetting which country he had woken up in, he got to interview several key horror genre figures - including legendary Italian director Dario Argento and powerhouse Guillermo del Toro (yes, technically he's Mexican, but his The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth depict the horror of the, very real, Spanish Civil War). And, by visiting their locations, Mark trod in the footsteps of Germany's granddaddy of the horror genre, Nosferatu, France's post-war masterpiece Les Diaboliques and the more obscure 'horror for the package holiday era,' Who Can Kill A Child? from 1970s Spain. Horror Europa follows the same remit as A History of Horror – 'personal taste woven into a sort of thesis,' as Mark describes it. It's another vital, informed, affectionate document about a genre all too readily dismissed as schlock with low artistic merit. In the previous series, Gatiss exorcised his boyhood love of the 1930s Universal Studios monsters and the gory, glory years of our own Hammer, Amicus and Tigon. Horror Europa allows him to explore further flung corners of the generic map, from silent German Expressionism - itself an affirmation of national esteem after First World War humiliation - to the wave of symbolic Gothic horror movies in Spain under the jack boot of yer actual Franco. Films like Narciso Ibáñez Serrador's La Residencia (aka: The House That Screamed, 1969, and also a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping as it happens), which Mark describes as having 'defeat, loss and melancholy' running through them. The programme wears its cleverness lightly, but it's properly brilliant stuff, even for horror nerds. As Collins - a fellow horror lover - notes: 'As we stab at our pasta, a reverie for arcane images of German silents The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919), The Golem (1920) and The Student of Prague (1913) takes hold.' 'One of the reasons those stills are chosen is that they're fucking scary!' Mark says. 'Conrad Veidt from Caligari with the girl draped across his arm? When you actually see the film it's all jerky, but it doesn't matter. You'd glimpse that Golem head in House of Hammer magazine, or in these books, and say to yourself, "well, I'll never see that one."' It's for the greater cultural good, Collins suggests, that Mark has been allowed to channel his 'horror-obsessed youth' into something concrete, with rarely seen clips from movies like Beligum's great lost horror masterpiece Daughters of Darkness (1971). The kids of today, with online access to pretty much everything, will never know the wonder of unattainability our generation experienced. (Though, sadly, his programmes are unlikely to turn up on DVD because to licence those clips would be prohibitively costly. So, record them off BBC4 while you have the chance, dear blog reader.) 'That wonderful line from Inherit the Wind, when Spencer Tracy's talking about evolution and progress. "You can have a telephone but you lose the charm of distance." For everything you gain, you do lose something. How marvellous it is that you can now watch what remains of The Golem on YouTube, whereas you used to have to wait for a BBC scheduler to put it on.' Those same schedulers have honoured Horror Europa with a Hallow'een week slot, and BBC4's door is, it seems, open for future geographical excursions. Don't expect an affectionate treatise on modern horror films, though. The Human Centipede - a rare Dutch entry in the canon - gets a quick nod in Europa, but on the whole, Gatiss finds its ilk 'disturbing in the wrong way. There's nothing there, except a sort of numbing repetition. I was a very bloodthirsty youth,' he admits. 'But without any supernatural element, you might just as well stand and watch a car crash.' It does make you wonder, though, what Mark made of a modern masterpiece like 2008's Låt Den Rätte Komma In. The previous Friday, Mark says, he watched the 1973 Amicus movie ... And Now The Screaming Starts! 'For its time, it's quite gory,' he says. 'Geoffrey Whitehead with his eyes out? At the time people thought it was repellent and disgraceful, but you look at it now, you think: good on you!' In Horror Europa, Mark provided further confirmation that he's one the most astute, likeable and measured figures contributing to our current cultural landscape. His approach is entirely personal, but is never derailed by unfettered enthusiasm or formless digression. A cross-border journey through continental European horror film, Horror Europa was a treat. As the Gruniad Morning Star reviewer noted: 'It's all enormously cheering, with Gatiss once again succeeding in crocheting the macabre into something you could place a cupcake on. "Yes," you think, as you watch his brogues clacking along another forlorn cobbled boulevard to the strains of a throttled theramin. "This sort of leisurely boffinry is just the ticket in these days of X Factor arsery and Made In Chelsea and whatnot." Ultimately, no amount of dubbed disembowelings can drown out one's sobs of gratitude that there's still a place where this sort of thing – understated, considered, insightful, not crap – is allowed to exist. Three screams for BBC4, then; itself a prodigiously brained outsider in a world of bewildered zombies and mojoless arse. Don't have nightmares.' What she said.

Gary Barlow is to guest star in an episode of the BBC1 sitcom Miranda. A BBC spokeswoman said the singer - who will appear as himself in the show - will 'get friendly in an unexpected way' with Miranda Hart. The scenes will be broadcast in the next series which begins at the end of the year. The pair previously worked together in the summer for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Barlow is about to embark on a solo UK and Ireland tour later this month while continuing to judge on The X Factor. At least, if he doesn't flounce out in a stroppy huff again like he threatened to recently. Hart is currently promoting her first book, Is It Just Me?, which details her life's past awkward experiences.

National treasure Danny Baker has hit out after being told his daily afternoon show on BBC London was being axed, likening his bosses to pinheaded weasels. 'Just been told the BBC London Show - The Treehouse - is to be shut down,' he tweeted. 'Saves BBC money apparently.' Broadcaster Stephen Fry, actor Rob Brydon and comedian Ross Noble were among those to criticise the decision. A BBC spokesperson said that Dan The Man, fifty five, would continue to host his - superb - Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 5Live. However the presenter rejected a subsequent claim he was 'currently in discussions' with the BBC over another weekly programme. 'BBC London and I are NOT "in discussion" about a new weekly show,' the presenter said, rather indignantly. 'In fact, I haven't heard a single word from them at all.' He went on to thank his followers for their support, adding: 'We dwell amid pinheaded weasels who know only timid, the generic and the abacus.' Baker's afternoon show, broadcast Monday to Friday, is due to finish at the end of this year, the BBC confirmed. The news follows the legendary, and award-winning broadcaster's return to radio last year after taking time off to receive treatment for throat cancer.

The journalist who wrote Jimmy Savile's authorised biography has written about being 'betrayed' by the man she regarded as a close personal friend. Just, you know, not that close. Alison Bellamy, whose book How's About That, Then? was published in June this year - and, sold pretty well until about six weeks ago - has been 'devastated' by the allegations that Savile abused underage children. One images that her bank balance has been devastated even more. When the allegations first emerged a month ago, she writes in her paper, the Yorkshire Evening Post, 'I felt a pang of sickness in my stomach.' Bellamy's story is a timely lesson in the difficulties everyone faced - journalists, police officers, BBC co-workers and hospital staff - when confronting Savile about the rumours of his sexual predilection. Bellamy says that, like many people, she heard the rumours about his fondness for young girls adding: 'Like almost everyone who knew him, I never believed them. Or maybe I did not want to believe them.' During a series of interviews in 2006 with Savile she asked him about the rumours and admits to accepting his dissembling replies. She writes: 'He was dismissive, as if what I was saying was ridiculous. But he was always manipulative with the press and, even though he insisted he would always answer any question thrown at him, he would often change the subject or talk nonsense.' Bellamy relates how she became friendly with Savile in the late 1990s after covering his charity work for the Yorkshire Evening Post and went on to write many stories in which he was involved: 'He liked to keep the positive media coverage bubbling. Even at the age of eighty four, he would ring me and announce a publicity stunt, which he had created from thin air. I was his "good news girl" giving him the positive press stories on which he thrived.'

Yer actual Stephen Fry has narrated a new twelve-part series about the history of humanity. Mankind: The Story of All of Us premieres on the History Channel on Wednesday 14 November at 10pm. Fry said of the show: 'Just when you thought you knew it all, along comes a fantastic series, which throws a whole new and surprising light on the events that shaped our survival on this planet. I'm delighted to be part of such an exciting and epic project that explores through geology, astronomy, meteorology and physics the forces of nature that have shaped the story of mankind.' Adam MacDonald, vice president of programming at A+E Networks UK, said: 'We are delighted that Stephen Fry will be narrating Mankind: The Story of All of Us. His intelligent and engaging delivery is a perfect match for the programme's storytelling. This epic television series will look at the history of the human race through the ages in a way that is highly ambitious in the scale of its cinematic vision and dramatic reconstructions of the most critical events in human history.' Jane Root, CEO of producers Nutopia, said: 'Mankind: The Story of All of Us will redefine history - the series takes a completely new look at who we are and where we came from. I believe it will fundamentally change the way we view the world forever. Who better to take viewers on this spectacular journey of exploration than the multi-talented Stephen Fry, who has a thirst for knowledge, science and discovery that is infectious and unrivalled.'

BBC Worldwide has announced the closure of two of its non-news channels in India, BBC Entertainment and CBeebies. The two channels would be discontinued at the end of November, it said in a press statement. It cited the delays in digitisation and the need for channel operators to pay hefty fees to cable platforms as reasons for taking them off air. It said that it would consider re-launching the non-news channels if the situation changed. The BBC said many of its programmes were available on other channels, both terrestrial and cable, as well as digitally and on its YouTube channel, and would continue to be seen in India. It added: 'We believe India is an exciting market and in the event of changes in the options available to us we would certainly consider re-launching our non-News channels in the market.'

The BBC has announced the resolution of its dispute with the Indian cricket authorities over its right to broadcast Test Match Special radio coverage of England's forthcoming Test series. The BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew became embroiled in a Twitter row over the issue on Thursday with The Cricketer magazine, whose TestMatchSofa.com website will provide an alternative commentary. Agnew, who was a supporter and investor of The Cricketer until they bought TestMatchSofa last winter, reacted angrily to the comments of The Cricketer's editor Andrew Miller which appeared on Thursday morning. 'I've never read such hypocrisy and assumed knowledge as that spouted by the once great Cricketer magazine today,' he tweeted. 'I won't be reading it again.' In a newspaper article, Miller had wondered how the BBC got themselves into such an 'extraordinary situation having paid for the rights without checking they would be allowed in. It makes you wonder what they are paying licence-fee payers' money for.' Given that the BBC weren't the only broadcaster apparently in this situation (Sky have also been having the same problem), that rather spiteful little dig smells, just a touch, like having the unhealthy stink of agenda smeared over it like a thin coating of diarrhoea. Miller was, he claimed, 'responding' to articles which had appeared in the Scum Mail on Sunday and then in Wednesday's The Times by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Agnew's predecessor as the BBC's cricket correspondent. Martin-Jenkins wrote: 'The thought of having to listen to the predators who purport to be producing commentaries from a sofa or armchair without paying a penny to the England and Wales Cricket Board for the rights is too ghastly to contemplate. The sooner they are nailed and swept offline, the better.' Miller also criticised the BBC's Test Match Special programme for employing only former players in its commentary team, and said 'it would be a shame' if the BBC bowed to the demands of the Board of Control for Cricket in India by paying an extra fifty grand for the production costs of broadcasting from the grounds. Sounds like a right charmer, this berk. However, Adam Mountford, the producer of TMS, then tweeted at lunchtime: 'We are pleased to confirm that Test Match Special will broadcast England's cricket tour of India from the grounds.'

The chief executive of S4C is considering adding English language voice-overs to some programmes to encourage a wider audience. Ian Jones's comments come on the thirtieth anniversary of the launch of the Welsh language channel, which began broadcasting on 1 November 1982. Jones said the English service would be available through the red button. He said it would pay for itself through extra advertising revenue that higher audience figures would attract. 'If we're producing content, why not put an English language track on the red button so that everybody can enjoy the programming? We would only do it if we feel there is a commercial case for doing so,' he said. Jones also wants to address the loss of viewers to other platforms, such as online and mobile phones. 'What we should be doing is breaking out of that box, the television, and making sure that we provide content for the widest possible audience, any time, any place, anywhere,' he said. His ambition has been backed by media commentator Maggie Brown, who writes in the Gruniad Morning Star and the Observer. She said: 'One of S4C's duties is to actually promote and spread the Welsh language. And, of course, you have to recruit the rising generation, and they're increasingly turning to other devices [to watch television] such as mobiles and tablets, so there really does have to be a multi-media strategy.' But she said S4C's options for making money from advertising were limited. 'It doesn't really have the chance to make much of its commercial opportunities. Channel Four is a very different animal, it's able to command and control its income because it raises over eight hundred million pounds a year in advertising. S4C is a much more niche, public service channel,' she said. S4C was launched after a long campaign by language activists for a Welsh television channel. Its audiences and commercial revenue have declined in recent years as more channels have become available to viewers in Wales. From 2013 most of S4C's budget will come from the BBC licence fee, following the UK government's decision to stop direct funding. The BBC Trust's national trustee for Wales, Elan Closs Stephens, now sits on the board of the S4C Authority. On the issue of low ratings for some S4C programmes, Jones said the value of these programmes should be measured by more than just the size of the audience. He said: 'I'm not convinced that S4C should be judged on cost per viewer hour, or the average number of viewers who watch S4C in peak times at any one point. It's wider than that. If S4C's core audience is six hundred thousand, then ten per cent of that audience is actually a good rating, if you just focus on ratings. But what I'm saying is we shouldn't just be focussing just on ratings. It's a wider collection of measures that we should focus on.' The tough economic climate means there will be no champagne receptions to mark S4C's thirtieth birthday. But a number new and archive programmes being broadcast to celebrate the occasion.

Bill Dees, the successful US songwriter who co-wrote Roy Orbison hit 'Oh, Pretty Woman', has died in Arkansas aged seventy three. Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Gene Pitney were among other performers to record songs penned by the prolific Texas native. A memorial will take place on Saturday in Mountain Home, the Northern Arkansas city where Dees died on 24 October. Dees started out as a singer but enjoyed his most fruitful period as Orbison's collaborator and bandmate. Born in the small town of Borger in the Texas Panhandle in 1939, Bill played guitar and sang with a band called The Five Bops, gaining enough recognition to perform on an Amarillo radio station. Dees eventually made his way to Nashville where his meeting Roy Orbison led to a collaboration that produced a string of successful songs for Monument Records. Other Orbison singles Dees co-wrote included 'Born On The Wind', 'Walk On' and 'It's Over', the latter another number one hit in the UK. Dees continued to write songs and perform following Orbison's 1984 death and released a solo CD in 2002 called Saturday Night at the Movies. In an online obituary posted by Kirby & Family Funeral Services, he was remembered as 'a glass is half full kind of guy who loved to play the guitar or piano and sing.'

A German man who was expecting a female dominatrix received something of a shock when another man came out and tried to lock him in his 'sex cellar.' Though dominator Uwe B claimed it was simply 'a misunderstanding,' Michael K pursued legal action for bodily harm and 'sexual coercion.' Michael stated: 'In our Internet chat, Lady Gina assured me that she was absolutely real and - of course - she was a woman.' The thirty-year-old added: 'When I arrived, a man opened the door. I was held, pushed down the stairs and was going to be locked in the cellar.' Michael K eventually escaped and fled to a kebab shop nearby. Shop owner Mehmet Solar recalled: 'I was just about to close up, and he came in wearing a torn T-shirt and his trousers round his knees. He asked me to call the police.' Uwe B's lawyer said that his client does not deny the events, claiming: 'The holding was part of the game that they had agreed upon in advance.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, this was yer actual Keith Telly Topping's contribution to Scunthorpe Steve's 'Scary Songs' addition to the Hallow'een Record Player event. Didn't win, of course. Nowhere near scary enough. Here's yer actual Copey, Gary Dwyer, Balfie and Alan Gill and proof. if any were needed, that there was some strange stuff going in the water supply in Liverpool in the late 1970s.

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