Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Universal Sufferage

The great Jessica Hynes has written a new BBC4 sitcom about a group of unlikely suffragettes. Up The Women - titter ye not, missus - is set in 1910 and stars Jessica herself alongside Rebecca Front, veteran actress Judy Parfitt and Vicki Pepperdine from BBC4's medical comedy drama Getting On. Twenty Twelve and Spaced star Hynes has described the ensemble show as 'a character study. A kind of female Dad's Army.' The action revolves around a group of women in an embroidery circle in Banbury who become political activists. The show will be recorded in front of a live studio audience next month. Hynes is also writing an hour-long pilot for a possible Sky Atlantic action series, Justine, which she calls 'Buffy meets Kick-Ass.' So, that'd be Buff-Ass, surely?

ITV have announced that Hugh Fraser, Phillip Jackson and Pauline Moran will return to Poirot in the network’s adaptation of The Big Four. The trio will rejoin David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in one of the final adaptations of Agatha Christie's novels featuring the Belgium detective. The adaptation of The Big Four is being written by Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard. Gatiss has previously written the Poirot episodes Hallowe'en Party and Cat Amongst the Pigeons and also appeared in Appointment with Death and the Agetha Christie's Marple episode Murder at the Vicarage. Fraser and Moran will reprise their roles of Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon for the first time on-screen since the 2001 adaptation of Evil Under the Sun. Jackson's last appearance as Chief Inspector Japp was also last seen in Evil Under the Sun. Following the adaptation of the novel the Poirot series moved to solo outings for David Suchet with occasionally appearances from Zoe Wanamaker as the novelist Ariadne Oliver. The Big Four will also feature Sarah Parish, Michael Culkin, James Carroll Jordan, Patricia Hodge, Nicholas Burns and Simon Lowe. The Big Four will make up part of Poirot's last season along with the stories Elephants Can Remember, The Labours of Hercule Poirot and Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. According to several reports The Labours of Hercule Poirot will also feature Fraser, Moran and Jackson in their respective roles.

Here's another on location photo from the BBC's Doctor Who anniversary biopic An Adventure In Space And Time.
Derren Brown has denied claims (reported yesterday on this blog) that he will attempt to change people's sexuality in a future TV episode. The Sun reported the news based on quotes from an interview the illusionist and master of mesmerism and prestidigitation gave to Gay Times, in which he said it would be 'interesting' to attempt to turn a straight person gay and vice versa. 'I was thinking about this the other day - it would be interesting wouldn't it? To take a gay guy and make him straight and a straight guy and make him gay,' he said. Brown has since tweeted: 'Article in the Sun newspaper saying my next show is about changing sexuality: Total rubbish. Thanks for that, being printed everywhere as fact. Same paper printed "story" that Steven [from Derren's last series, Apocalypse] was an actor. And when we spoke to journo, she said she didn't really believe it herself.' He then joked: 'Exclusive: the next show is changing the Sun into a publication that reports facts.' Now that would be a trick.
The six-year-old BBC HD channel will end next month and be replaced by a high definition simulcast of BBC2, it has been announced. BBC2 HD will launch at 6am on 26 March and will be available on Sky HD (channel 169), Freeview HD/YouView (102), Virgin Media (187), Freesat HD (109) and BT Vision (852). The channel will be a HD simulcast network of BBC2, broadcasting new programmes such as Paul Hollywood - Bread, much anticipated drama The Fall, Science Britannica and Keeping Britain Alive, along with channel stalwarts such as Top Gear (which regularly pulls in over a million viewers of BBC HD), Mock the Week, Qi and Springwatch. It will replace the BBC HD channel and be available as before as a subscription-free HD network on all platforms. Launched in December 2007, the BBC HD channel was the UK's first free-to-air high definition television channel, offering HD content from all BBC channels. But after BBC1 HD launched in November 2010, the corporation decided to rejig its HD networks. The transition to BBC2 HD was approved by the BBC Trust in 2011 as part of the Delivering Quality First efficiency drive. BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow said: 'BBC1 HD has already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I'm delighted that we're able to follow this with the launch of BBC2 in HD. The launch of BBC2 HD will allow us to showcase more of our programmes at their very best - helping to highlight our commitment to high quality, engaging and ambitious programmes on BBC2.' It is as yet unclear where HD content from BBC3 and BBC4 may be made available, although it can still be offered via on-demand platform BBC iPlayer.

Ant and/or Dec have revealed that they are insured in case one of them dies. Which would, of course, be a tragedy. The TV double act claimed that they will get a 'fair chunk' of yer actual wonga if one of them were to pass away. Say, for instance, horribly mangled to death in a motorway pile up. Or crushed beyond recognition if the shelf containing all of their NTA awards were to collapse under its own weight and fall on one of them. Speaking to the Radio Times, Ant said: 'We're insured against the other dying. It's not for tens of millions but a fair chunk. If [Dec] does ever die in unfortunate circumstances, I'm going to be the first person the police come to because I've got a motive. Maybe when we're fifty and not getting paid as we used to, I'll knock him off.' You heard it here first, dear blog reader.
Laughably full-of-his-own-importance X Factor host Dermot O'Dreary has 'expressed an interest in' (ie. used the press to tout himself for the job of) presenting a political TV show. O'Dreary revealed in an interview with the Daily Torygraph that he had once turned down the chance to appear on BBC politics show Question Time, but said that he would consider fronting his own politics project. Fortunately, broadcasters aren't that desperate, they've actually got some real political journalists who can do that sort of job before they need to turn to light entertainment chancers like Mr O'Dreary.

Barry Cryer had to cancel a live show at the weekend, after falling four feet off the stage. The seventy seven-year-old comedy legend stumbled as he made his way off the stage for the interval of his Butterfly Brain show at the Regal in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, on Saturday. The audience reportedly gasped and then fell silent as they saw him fall, but he was quickly attended to by a nurse in the audience until paramedics could give him a check-up. Although Barry suffered only minor cuts, he decided to call off the remainder of the show after the medics warned he could be suffering from shock. The decision won the approval of the audience. The local Tenbury Blog reported: 'Initially he wanted to continue with the show, but was persuaded to rest, and not attempt to continue. The audience applauded loudly as the announcement was made.' Theatre manager Ian Little said: 'Due to the dazzle from the lights Barry lost sight of the exit into the theatre wings and fell from the side of the stage. Luckily he only only suffered a slight cut to his hand.' After the show, Barry was seen laughing and joking with some of the one hundred and fifty audience members about the incident – and had promise to organise a return date. A statement on the venue's website said: 'The Regal Tenbury, Barry Cryer and his management would like to thank the audience for their understanding and warm wishes after the show had to be abandoned. It added that all ticket-holders would be contacted once a replacement date has been organised.'

So, to cheer everybody up after that unhappy discombobulation, here's three of the funniest comedy moments on The Interweb. Firstly, Keith Allen telling 'That Max Bygraves Story'.
Secondly, Jasper Carott - back in the dim and distant past when he used to be the funniest man on the planet - proving that his ITV special The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott (1979) really was live.
And, finally, Xander, Ben and Jessica Random's deliciously naughty take on what happens when children's TV presenters have to apologise for their adult moments.
And now, sadly, to a considerably less amusing subject: Millionaire Old Etonian David 'Four Houses ' Cameron has said there were 'no grounds' for Monday's strike by journalists at the BBC because the corporation remains a well-funded broadcaster after a 'fair' licence feel deal in 2010. The prime minister, who contrasted the six-year freeze in the licence fee with cuts to some public spending, noted that the BBC was still paying large salaries after the appointment of James Purnell. The former Labour culture secretary is to rejoin the BBC as director of strategy and digital on a salary of two hundred and ninety five thousand smackers – more than double the prime minister's salary of one hundred and forty two grand. Albeit, Cameron himself isn't short of a bob or two as his four houses kind of proves. 'Quite a lot of people at the BBC do that,' the prime minister said when reminded that Purnell is to earn more than him. Cameron gave a muted response to the appointment of Purnell, one of the first major hirings by the incoming BBC director general Lord Hall. 'I haven't fully taken it on board,' Cameron said of the Purnell appointment. 'I'll judge it by the results. They have clearly had a traumatic time with the departure of the director general. So let's judge it on the results. Clearly he is a talented person and let's see how it all turns out.' The prime minister was dismissive of Monday's strike by BBC journalists. 'I think the licence fee settlement we came to in 2010 was a fair one,' he said. It wasn't, but never mind. 'When you look at what other institutions have had to bear in terms of efficiencies I think that freeze in the licence fee and taking on some additional costs was a good outcome. So I think the BBC is a well funded broadcaster and I am sure it has got the resources necessary to cover important things going on in the world.' Thousands of BBC journalists joined in the twenty four-hour strike, forcing flagship news programmes including Radio 4's Today and World at One off the air. The National Union of Journalists organised the strike in protest at cost-saving measures, dubbed Delivering Quality First by BBC bosses, introduced after the hastily agreed licence fee settlement in 2010. About two thousand jobs are expected to go over seven years as part of the BBC cuts. Red Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the NUJ, said that rank-and-file journalists were angered at the huge payouts to recently departed senior executives at the corporation, including former director general George Entwistle and ex-chief operating officer Caroline Thomson. 'Not only has the impact of the cuts been felt now – we're seeing the effect on quality journalist and programming – but they're having to sit by and hear revelation after revelation at the reality of executive pay [and] the pay-offs that have been given,' she said. 'All the time they're supposed to accept that journalism at the BBC is being compromised as a result of the cuts – they've simply had enough.' Newsnight's economics editor, Paul Mason, joined about fifteen BBC staff on the picket line outside the corporation's New Broadcasting House headquarters in Central London. The corporation rescheduled a planned appearance by former The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. He was due to play a session on Lauren Laverne's 6Music show, but the host got all militant and refused to cross the picket line. The BBC said it was 'disappointed' with the industrial action, adding that it would not alter the fact that it has to make 'significant' savings.
A prison officer has been charged with misconduct in public office by police investigating alleged payments made by journalists for information. Richard Trunkfield, who worked at HMP Woodhill, in Milton Keynes, is alleged to have passed on information about a 'high-profile' prisoner according to the BBC. The prison operational support officer has been investigated by officers from Operation Elveden. Trunkfield is alleged to have 'wilfully misconducted himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust' while working at the prison between 2 March 2010 and 30 April 2010. Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, said: 'It is alleged that in 2010 Mr Trunkfield provided information to the Sun newspaper in breach of the terms of his employment and was paid three thousand three hundred and fifty pounds. The charge relates to an allegation that Mr Trunkfield provided details to the newspaper about a high-profile prisoner.' No date has been set for his appearance at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Meanwhile, in some considerably less important - but hilariously funny - celebrity tittle-tattle nonsense, MC Harvey who used to be a rapper of some description, I believe, fell victim to 'a calculated and meticulous' hoaxer posing as yer actual Cheryl Cole when he claimed last year to be having a 'secret relationship' with Cole. Now magazine claimed this in a formal - and mind-blowingly grovelling apology to the Girls Aloud singer. Harvey, a former So Solid Crew member, told Now that he had a 'communication relationship' with Cole following her separation from her ex-husband Moscow Chelski FC's Ashley in 2010. Cole strongly denied the suggestion, asking Harvey via Twitter: 'Was this "relationship" happening in your head?', but Now stood by the claims after having 'several hundred e-mails' apparently between Cole and Harvey over a six-month period 'verified' by a media lawyer. Cole responded by taking legal action against the publication, while Harvey quickly sought to play down the extent of his alleged 'relationship' with the former X Factor judge, saying that he was 'mortified' and 'devastated' by the situation. A situation which, you may recall, he caused in the first place by bragging about his 'communication relationship' with Cole to the magazine. In the apology, published in the new issue of Now, the magazine announced that it has agreed to pay - presumably not inconsiderable - damages and legal costs to Cole after determining that the e-mails allegedly sent from her to Harvey were 'not genuine', and were in fact the work of a hoaxer who 'went to great lengths to deceive' the rapper into thinking he was talking to Cole. 'In an article last February we said that Cheryl Cole had had a secret romantic relationship with Michael Harvey Jr, aka MC Harvey, formerly of the group So Solid Crew,' the miserable statement from Now read. 'When Cheryl went to Twitter to deny this we published a second article saying we'd seen e-mails that evidenced there had been a relationship. Although we had seen several hundred e-mails, written over a six-month period, apparently between Cheryl, her mother and Michael, we are now satisfied that the e-mails from Cheryl and her mother are not genuine. They appear to be the work of a calculated and meticulous hoaxer masquerading as Cheryl who went to great lengths to deceive MC Harvey. The hoaxer's motives remain unknown but what has become clear is that there was never any relationship between Cheryl and Michael and we were wrong not to accept Cheryl's denial. We're sorry, Cheryl, for any embarrassment and upset we have caused you. We have agreed to pay Cheryl damages and her legal costs.' So, that's another mucho lover-er-lee wonga day for the Colester her very self without her, seemingly, having done anything as dreadful as work for it. It's a living, one supposes. Following the publication of the apology, Cole posted a photo of the magazine cover on her official website, branding Now 'liars.' She also wrote on Twitter: "Now magazine expensive lies mugged-off who has egg on their face?'

Tom Cruise's visit to a Hertfordshire curry house has been turned into a film. Last August, the diminutive Mission: Impossible actor ordered lobster and chicken tikka masala when he and eight companions visited the Veer Dhara in St Albans. Tasty. One of Cruise's companions settled the bill after the restaurant told Cruise that it did not accept American Express. (So, not so much' that'll do nicely' in the Veer Dhara, then?) A video about his curry night has been entered into the inaugural St Albans Film Festival's short-film competition. Festival director Leoni Kibbey said: 'Everyone in the film is wearing a Tom Cruise mask. It's very funny.' Kibbey said the festival - which runs from 8 to 10 March - showcases the county's historic links with the film industry. Director Stanley Kubrick lived in the St Albans area, film pioneer Arthur Melbourne-Cooper was born in St Albans and the Pinewood and Elstree studios are nearby. Cruise was in Hertfordshire last August for the filming of All You Need Is Kill, which was shot at the county's Leavesden Studios.
Sweeney Todd was the clear champion of champions at the far-more-prestigious-than-they-sound Whatonstage.com Awards in London at the weekend, with the much-loved stage musical taking five wins, including best musical revival, best actor (for Michael Ball), best actress (for Imelda Staunton), best director and best lighting. The awards are voted for by theatre goers, so although the more traditional ceremony critics might sniff their nose at them, they often mean a good deal more to the recipients, given that it's the public vote. For instance take Stephen Fry, who won a best supporting actor award for his performance as Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. 'I am simply astonished' said the Qi host and national treasure, according to Sky. 'Seventeen years ago, I left this country in disgrace having run out of a play and I thought I might never return to the stage again. But thanks to the I have been back on stage in a wonderful play and had the privilege of playing with one of the best casts that has ever been assembled.'
Derek Batey has died at the age of eighty four. The broadcaster was best known as the host of Mr & Mrs between 1964 and 1980. He died in Blackpool's Trinity Hospice at the weekend after recently becoming ill on holiday in the US. 'Derek was a people person, who was never happier than when he was talking to either a prince or a pauper,' ex-ITV producer and director Harry King told the News & Star. 'He would do interviews with prime ministers and he could also talk comfortably to the lady next door. It was a great skill which he had.' Born in Brampton, the one-time ventriloquist started his broadcasting career with the BBC, then joined Border when it was formed in 1961. In all, Batey worked for Border for nearly thirty years and his passion for his home county was such that he earned the nickname 'Mister Border.' He had originally seen Mr & Mrs on a Canadian TV channel and decided to develop a version for Border. The game show pitted married couples against each other in a quiz that tested how well they really knew their own spouse, and attracted up to nine million viewers during its heyday in the 1970s. Batey presented over five hundred TV episodes of Mr & Mrs and over five thousand times on stage after developing a successful theatrical touring version. Derek worked as a consultant and wrote some of the questions on the 2008 reboot of the show fronted by Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield. The assistant controller of programmes for Border Television also hosted the chat show Look Who's Talking between 1973 and 1985. The show had the ambitious aim of bringing the biggest stars of the day to the Border studios in Carlisle.

Tony Sheridan, the rock and roll artist who collaborated with The Beatles on their first recording sessions, has died aged seventy two. Sheridan first met The Beatles during the group's formative period in Hamburg, in the early 1960s. Performing under the name Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers, The Beatles - then featuring Pete Best on drums - backed the singer on a number of recordings including the single 'My Bonnie'. The Beatles were great fans of Sheridan's, turning up to see him play many times in Hamburg and sometimes backing him on stage. Paul McCartney has referred to Sheridan as 'the teacher', a mark of respect concerning the artist's influence on the band. Tony was born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity in Norwich in 1940. In his early life, he was influenced by his parents' interest in classical music, and by the age of seven, he had learned to play the violin. He eventually came to the guitar, and in 1956, formed his first band. He showed enough talent that he soon found himself playing in London's legendary Two I's coffee bar. In 1958, at eighteen, he began appearing on ITV's music show Oh Boy! Viewed as a very promising guitarist he was then employed as a session musician by a number of singers, including Conway Twitty. He was also a founder member of Britian's premier rock and roll group, Vince Taylor & The Playboys (he plays on Taylor's début single, 'Pledging My Love' though not on its more famous b-side, 'Brand New Cadillac'). Early in 1960, Sheridan was hired as the guitarist of the pick-up band backing Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran on their tour of Britain. On 16 April, the pair turned down Tony's request to ride along with them in their Ford Consul to the next venue, and he thereby escaped the appalling road accident which would claim Cochran's life and leave Vincent a cripple for the rest of his life. However, Tony's penchant for being late and sometimes showing up to gigs drunk or without his guitar, got him a bit of a reputation for being high maintenance, and cost him much of his professional standing in the UK. Providentially, he was offered a gig in Bruno Koschmider's Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg in the summer of 1960. Meanwhile, the resident band at Koschmieder's other Reeperbahn club, The Indra, were the savage young Beatles fresh off the boat from Liverpool. A friendship between Scousers and the, barely older, East Anglian soon developed (Sheridan himself was only twenty, just a few months older than John Lennon). George Harrison reportedly never missed an opportunity to corner Sheridan and practice with him. While performing in Hamburg between 1960 and 1963, Sheridan employed various back-up bands however, in June 1961, when Polydor producer Bert Kaempfert saw the pairing of Sheridan and The Beatles on-stage at the Top Ten Club, he suggested that they make some recordings together. That led to 'My Bonnie', a rocked-up arrangement of the traditional sea shanty 'My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean' which Sheridan had based on Gene Vincent's version of the song. 'What a silly choice,' Sheridan would recall. 'But Bert Kaempfert said we had to do something that the Germans would understand, and they all learned 'My Bonnie' in English lessons.' The success of the 'My Bonnie' single in Germany (it made the national top five) was followed by an LP of the same name, first in Germany, where it was released under the moniker Tony Sheridan & The Beat Boys, and then in Britain after The Beatles had signed to EMI. Sheridan's Polydor recordings - both with and without The Beatles - also enjoyed much exposure in the US during the initial surge of Beatlemania where anything even vaguely connected to The Fab Four was eagerly snapped up by record companies. In the mid-Sixties Sheridan's musical style underwent an abrupt transformation, away from his rock and roll roots and towards a more blues and jazz oriented sound. Though these recordings were highly regarded by critics, some of his older fans reportedly felt disappointed. This change was presaged by liner notes from his 1964 LP Just a Little Bit of Tony Sheridan where his musical preferences were listed as 'jazz and classical.' The same 1964 sleeve notes mention his wanting to go to the southern US 'to hear at first hand the original negro music and experience the atmosphere that has been instrumental in creating negro jazz and the spiritual, for which he has a great liking.' By 1967, Sheridan had become disillusioned with his Beatle-related fame. He agreed to perform a tour for Allied troops at US bases in Viet'Nam. Whilst there, however, the band that he had assembled was fired upon by the Viet Cong and one of the members was killed. Reuters even reported that Sheridan himself had died. For his work entertaining the military, Sheridan was appointed an honorary captain of the US Army, and presented with an Army Ranger cap which he subsequently often wore on stage. Tony lived for most of his life in Seestermühe, a village north of Hamburg, latterly with his third wife, Anna (who died in 2011) recording, touring and attending Beatles conventions. In addition to music, he was also interested in heraldry and designed coats of arms. He released his last CD, Vagabond, in 2002. He made a rare live appearance in 2012 at Beatlefair in San Diego a few weeks before undergoing heart surgery in Germany. He is survived by five children. His oldest son, Tony Sheridan Junior, is himself a rockabilly guitarist and singer.

Which means, of course, that this is yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Recorded sometime around 22 June 1961 in a converted sports hall, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle and Studio Rahlstedt, in deepest Hamburg and features Pete Best on drums, James Paul McCartney on bass, John Winston O'Boogie Alcoholic Scouse Wife-Beater on rhythm, George Harrison on lead and yer actual Tony Sheridan. Rock and/or roll music.

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