Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Raise Me And Then You Let Me Fall

Al Jazeera has bought series five, six seven of Doctor Who, it was announced on Monday. The episodes were snapped up at the BBC Worldwide Showcase 2013 event and will be shown on the satellite TV broadcaster's pan-Arabic children's channel JCC, which launched in 2005 and is based in Qatar. The showcase is a four-day international TV market being held at ACC Liverpool. It started on Sunday and is welcoming some seven hundred TV buyers from around the globe. Paola Tonella, BBC Worldwide's sales and distribution territory manager for the Middle East and Africa, said: 'Drama is topping the bill at this year's showcase and it's clear that BBC Worldwide's programming, with its quality scripts and first-class production values, are extremely attractive to global buyers.' Among the star names at yesterday's gala opening were Eve Myles and Mark Williams. The showcase will also be hosting special events to both celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who and to spotlight the natural-history documentary series Africa. Steve Macallister, the president and managing director of sales and distribution at BBC Worldwide, said: 'In another record-breaking year, we welcome our largest number of buyers to Liverpool - up by ten per cent on last year - and we have two brilliant programme-themed evenings planned. Africa is certain to capture the imagination of our delegates, as it has the British public over the past few weeks. What a perfect opportunity to also celebrate the world's longest-running sci-fi series with Doctor Who in its fiftieth year.'

The Hour and The Thick of It actor Peter Capaldi is to star in a new ten-part BBC1 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers. Capaldi will play the shadowy Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers, with Skins actor Luke Pasqualino as D'Artagnan. The drama is due to be broadcast in 2014 and has been written by BAFTA winner Adrian Hodges. Hodges said he was 'thrilled' the actors have committed to his 'modern and original take on this great story.' The Musketeers will be played by Great Expectations actor Tom Burke as Athos, Santiago Cabrera from Merlin as Aramis, and Howard Charles, who has acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company, as Porthos. Tamla Kari from The Inbetweeners Movie, Maimie McCoy from Loving Miss Hatto and Bedlam's Hugo Speer will also star in the series, which begins filming in March. Hodges co-created the ITV SF adventure drama Primeval and wrote the screenplay for the 2011 film My Week With Marilyn. Speaking about The Musketeers, he said: 'This series is all about passion, romance, heroism and action, and I can't think of a better group of actors to embody those diverse qualities.' The story is set in Seventeenth Century Paris and follows a crack team of soldiers and bodyguards to King Louis XIII. It recounts the adventures of a young, skilled fighter from rural Gascony called D'Artagnan, who dreams of joining The Musketeers of the Guard and meets the trio on a journey to right the wrong of his father's death.

It was a trifle unfortunate - if, admittedly, sodding hilarious - for ITV's Twatting About On Ice that its biggest-name contestant was voted out in the first week of the 2013 series. Just over five million viewers watched its latest results shows on Sunday a sign of the way in which the appalling drivel of a series has struggled. Eight million sad and desperate punters watched Pamela Anderson in the opening episode of the eighth series of Twatting About On Ice on 6 January, with another 7.2 million watching the large-breasted former Baywatch star's exit a few hours later. But by Sunday night's eighth outing for the current series, ratings for the main Twatting About On Ice show had fallen to an average of 6.25 million between 6.15pm and 7.45pm, with just 4.93 million for Twatting About On Ice: The Skate Off between 8.30pm and 9pm. The sliding ratings has prompted speculation the show, hosted by the prime minister's bestest chum, Phillip Schofield and the curiously orange Christine Bleakley, may have twatted about its last, on ice or indeed elsewhere. Twatting About On Ice's early evening outing still had the better of the second half of new BBC1 series Deadly Sixty On A Mission, in which Steve Backshall hunts down the world's sixty most dangerous animals. No one knows why. It began with 3.5 million viewers, down thirty three per cent on the BBC1 slot average over the last three months. The BBC News followed with 4.9 million between 6.35pm and 7pm, but Twatting About On Ice was comfortably thrashed from 7pm onwards by Countryfile, with 7.11 million between 7pm and 8pm. The Twatting About On Ice results show predictably had it ass beaten hollow by BBC1's all-conquering drama Call The Midwife, with 8.63 million viewers, between 8pm and 9pm. BBC1's crime drama Ripper Street, recently commissioned for a second series, ended its first with a steady 5.11 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. Rival ITV drama Mr Selfridge won the slot with 5.65 million viewers. The ITV drama is also returning for another series next year. In the same time slot, Professor Brian Cox's Wonders of Life came to the end of its five-part run on BBC2 with a more-than-decent average of 2.5 million viewers (including BBC HD viewers). Top Gear was, again, BBC2's most popular show of the night (and, indeed, the week) with 5.2m viewers (once again including BBC HD figures). Channel Four's new cookery series, Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast, began with but seven hundred thousand viewers between 7pm and 8pm. It had the misfortune of going up against BBC1's Countryfile – enough to put anyone off their nosh. Swansea's 5-0 trousers-down hiding of Bradford City in the League Cup final (or, whatever they're calling it this year) had an average of 2.06 million viewers across three hours of coverage on Sky Sports 1 between 3.30pm and 6.30pm. The football had a five-minute peak of 2.7 million viewers. Match of the Day 2 - led by coverage of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Magpies giving The saints their marching orders was seen by 2.42m viewers on BBC1, and then the BBC's highlights of Swansea's stroll to victory was watched by just under a million punters. Overall, BBC1 scored a comfortable victory in Sunday primetime with 25.4 per cent of the audience share over ITV's 17.6 per cent.
Ant and/or Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway returned with big ratings on Saturday night, pulling in the biggest audience of the evening for the launch episode of the tenth series. After a three-year hiatus, the cheeky chappie double act brought back their hit entertainment format and beat off competition from BBC1's Let's Dance For Comic Relief in the overnight ratings. Saturday Night Takeaway had an average audience of 6.45 million for ITV from 7pm. Let's Dance was watched by 5.05 million at the same time on BBC1. Odious risible Take Me Out had a disappointingly good evening on ITV with an average of 4.1 million sad crushed victims of society. It rather shatters ones faith in humanity, does it not, dear blog reader? Meanwhile, BBC1 had an audience of in 4.98 million for Casualty and 4.74 million for a repeat of Mrs Brown's Boys. Dad's Army remains popular on BBC2 and attracted 1.82 million in the early evening, while eight hundred thousand punters tuned in for the movie Terminator Salvation on Channel Four. Channel Five's NCIS and Law & Order: Criminal Intent remained the channel's biggest weekend hitters with audiences of 1.06 and 1.05 million. Elsewhere, BBC4's cult French crime drama Spiral attracted three hundred and fifty six thousand punters at 9pm.

Meanwhile, here's the final and consolidated ratings figures for week ending 17 February 2013:-
1 Call The Midwife - BBC1 Sun - 10.15m
2 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.83m
3 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 8.69m
4 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.78m
5 Death In Paradise - BBC1 Tues - 7.49m
6 Lewis - ITV Mon - 7.48m
7 Mr Selfridge - ITV Sun - 7.22m
8 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 6.99m
9 Let's Dance For Comic Relief - BBC1 Sat - 6.98m
10 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.79m
11 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 6.23m
12 Ripper Street - BBC1 Sun - 6.10m
13 The National Lottery: In It To Win It - BBC1 Sat - 5.88m
14 Penguins: Spy In The Huddle - BBC1 Mon - 5.73m
15 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Thurs - 5.71m
16 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 5.55m
17 Top Gear - BBC2/BBC HD - 5.31m
18 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.20m
19 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.06m
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 4.87m
21 All Star Family Fortunes - ITV Sun - 4.83m
22 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Sat - 4.80m
23 Pointless Celebrities - BBC1 Sat - 4.70m
24 My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine - Channel Four Mon - 4.46m

Yer actual Daniel Day-Lewis has made Oscars history by becoming the first person to win the best male actor prize three times. Day-Lewis, who had been the runaway favourite, was rewarded for his role in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. 'I really don't know how any of this happened. I do know I've received much more than my fair share of good fortune in my life,' he said. Ben Affleck's Iran-set rescue thriller Argo beat Lincoln to the top prize for best picture. In a live broadcast from The White House, Michelle Obama joined Jack Nicholson to present the best picture award at the end of the night. Argo, directed by and starring Affleck, is the first best picture winner not to have also been nominated for best director since 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. Ceremony host Seth MacFarlane joked at the start of the ceremony: 'Argo's story is so top-secret that its director remains unknown to the Academy.' Accepting his award alongside fellow producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Affleck paid tribute to the 'genius' Steven Spielberg, who lost out in the same category. Referring to his previous Oscar success with 1997's Good Will Hunting, Affleck said: 'I never thought I would be back here and I am because of so many of you who are here tonight. It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life, all that matters is that you get up.' Day-Lewis previously won best actor for My Left Foot (in 1990) and There Will Be Blood (2008) and has a reputation for immersing himself in his roles. This year's victory puts Day-Lewis ahead of Hollywood legends Spencer Tracey, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks - who all have two best actor wins to their names. Jennifer Lawrence won best actress for her role as a troubled young widow in Silver Linings Playbook. The twenty two-year-old, who stumbled over her dress on her way to the stage, joked: 'You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell over and that's embarrassing.' Surveying the audience in Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, she added: 'This is nuts.' It was the first Oscar win for Lawrence, who was previously nominated for best actress in 2011 for her performance in Winter's Bone. Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress for her role as tragic factory worker Fantine in movie musical Les Miserables. Hathaway's version of 'I Dreamed a Dream' had made her an Oscar favourite. 'It came true,' the actress said when she collected her statuette. Hathaway's Oscar was her first after previously nominated in 2008 for Rachel Getting Married. She said: 'Here's hoping that someday in the not too distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and not in real life.' British singer Adele won the Oscar for best original song for her James Bond theme 'Skyfall', which she also performed during the show. She struggled through tears, snivelling miserably and letting the whole side down as she thanked the Bond producers and her co-writer Paul Epworth, who collected the award alongside her. Ang Lee won his second Oscar for directing Life of Pi, the adaption of Yann Martel's fantasy novel about a boy stranded in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The film won four Oscars in total, more than any other film. The Taiwanese-born director, who won previously for Brokeback Mountain in 2006, exclaimed: 'Thank you, movie God!' Life of Pi also picked up technical Oscars for cinematography, original score and visual effects. Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar for best supporting actor in a Quentin Tarantino film, this time for playing a German bounty hunter in the slave revenge saga Django Unchained. Collecting the award, Waltz offered thanks to his character Doctor King Schultz and to 'his creator and the creator of his awe-inspiring world, Quentin Tarantino.' The Austrian actor won his first Oscar as a Nazi colonel in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in 2010. Tarantino won the original screenplay prize for Django Unchained, adding to the Oscar he won for writing Pulp Fiction in 1994. 'I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and boy this time did I do it,' he said. The best adapted screenplay Oscar went to Chris Terrio for Argo, while Pixar's Scottish adventure Brave won best animated feature. The award for costume design went to Briton Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina, who described the win as 'completely overwhelming' and paid tribute to her children, who were 'fast asleep in England.' The make-up and hairstyling award went to fellow Brits Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for Les Miserables. Tom Hooper's musical also picked up the Oscar for sound mixing. Unusually, there was a tie in the sound editing category - the Oscar was shared by Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall. Searching for Sugar Man, which tells the story of musician Rodriguez who disappeared from public view in the early 1970s but developed a cult following in South Africa, won the Oscar for best documentary. Producer Simon Chinn said: 'Rodriguez isn't here tonight because he didn't want to take any of the credit himself.' Austrian drama Amour won the Oscar for best foreign language film. The French-language film, directed by Michael Haneke, portrays the indignities of an elderly Parisian couple - Anne and Georges - as they cope with Anne's wish to die after a stroke. The show also included a tribute to the James Bond franchise, followed by an appearance by Dame Shirley Bassey, who sang her theme song to Goldfinger. A salute to movie musicals saw Chicago Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones and Dreamgirls winner Jennifer Hudson join Les Miserables cast members Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter and Amanda Seyfried on stage. During the section of the show that pays tribute to those who died in 2012, Barbra Streisand sang the late Marvin Hamlisch's 'The Way We Were', from the 1973 romantic drama in which she starred with Robert Redford. It was Streisand's first Oscars performance for thirty six years.

Pan-European broadcaster RTL reported record revenues of nearly six billion Euros in 2012 but profits took a tumble for the Britain's Got Talent and American Idol co-producer. RTL, the former owner of Channel Five, had revenues of €5.99bn, up four per cent on 2011, but pre-tax profits fell 18.9 per cent the previous year, according to its full-year results published on Monday. Overall, reported earnings before interest, taxation and amortisation fell 4.9 per cent, with net profit down 13.2 per cent to six hundred and ninety million Euros. The company doubled its dividend per share, from €5.10 to €10.50. The company described an 'increasingly challenging economic environment', with higher revenues from its production arm Fremantle Media and its German TV channels but worsening market conditions elsewhere in Europe. Fremantle Media co-owns American Idol with Nineteen Entertainment and co-produces Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor through its UK production subsidiary Thames with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' company, Syco. The Fremantle global production business increased its revenues by 19.7 per cent year-on-year, but earnings before interest, taxation and amortisation slipped 3.5 per cent to one hundred and thirty eight million Wuros. RTL blamed the fall on 'continued pressure from broadcasters on margins and volumes.' Privately owned German company Bertelsmann owns 92.3 per cent of RTL, but is considering reducing its stake to about seventy five per cent in an two billion Euro equity sale. While the German TV advertising market was slightly up year-on-year, France, the Netherlands and Belgium were all down with a 'more pronounced decline' in Spain, Hungary and Croatia. RTL's German TV business saw revenues grow 3.7 per cent to 1.98bn Euros and operating profits up 9.8 per cent. Fremantle Media's revenues were driven by growth in the US, Britain, Germany and Asia-Pacific. It was responsible for more than nine thousand one hundred hours of programming across sixty two countries in 2012. The X Factor, not the force it once was in the UK, has now been produced in thirty five countries, adding another six in 2012 including Indonesia and the Philippines, and sold to more than forty. Fremantle's ... Got Talent format added another seven territories, including Ecuador and Nigeria, taking its total to fifty two. RTL formats include The Price is Right, which is still on daytime television in the US after forty years, and its reality show The Farmer Wants a Wife, which failed to take off in the UK but is very popular elsewhere. Other UK shows include vile and dreadful Keith Lemon's Celebrity Juice on ITV2 and ITV's odious, risible dating show, Take Me Out. Both Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor UK surpassed one billion views on YouTube last year, two of one hundred and one YouTube channels operated by Fremantle Media. In a joint statement, RTL's co-chief executives Anke Schaferkordt and Guillaume de Posch said the company had 'once again demonstrated that it can operate successfully even in a very challenging economic environment. Looking ahead to 2013, economic conditions remain challenging, in line with local market conditions, and visibility continues to be limited. Facing this environment, we have a clear focus on maintaining our leadership positions and delivering financially while pursuing opportunities in broadcasting, content and digital which will develop the business further in future years.'

Meanwhile, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is alleged to be developing a new Saturday night entertainment show, a tabloid report has claimed. The TV and music mogul and sour-faced Scottish chef is alleged to be working on a new format for ITV that will 'mash-up' classic TV shows such as The Generation Game and Noel's House Party, according to the Daily Lies. So, not very original, then? Mind you, this is the Daily Lies we're talking about. If they told this blogger black was darker than white I'd ask for a second opinion. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' latest TV project - the Carol Vorderman-hosted cookery series Food Glorious Food - launches on Wednesday night. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is currently working on a new series of Britain's Got Toilets and is expected to revamp The X Factor line-up and format for its upcoming tenth series. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' last new UK TV project, game show (and horrorshow) Red or Black?, amusingly flopped flat on its collective boat-race on ITV and was dropped after its second series.
The Sun on Sunday appears to have morphed over the past month into the Scum of the World in everything but name. It has returned to the agenda of News International's late, hugely unlamented Sunday tabloid. Three weeks ago the splash was a celebrity 'confession' about some z-list pop star's 'wild night with a stripper.' Two weeks ago, the lead was a rather sickeningly obvious kiss and tell (a woman telling tales about The Scum's Patrice Evra). Last week, a page one blurb headlined My love for Ashley by topless bisexual nympho alerted the newspapers readers (or, at least, those who buy it and look at the pictures, anyway) to an inside spread in which a woman told of her relationship with another footballer, Moscow Chelski FC's Ashley Cole. But they were mere pointers to this Sunday's confirmation of the new Scum of the World: a classic sting by The Fake Sheikh (Mazher Mahmood). Billed as 'a world exclusive' (though one can't for a second imagine that anyone else would be fighting to get it), the story was given five pages. It claims to have exposed a former world heavyweight boxing champion, Herbie Hide, 'as a drug Mr Fixit ready to throw a title fight for one million pounds.' It is a somewhat typical Mahmood 'investigation.' Hide, now forty one, who last fought in the ring three years ago, was 'approached' by reporters posing as businessmen 'interested in organising exhibition bouts in the Middle East.' He was secretly filmed agreeing, in return for a million smackers, to throw a fight. He was also persuaded to procure four grams of cocaine 'when our reporter suggested that cocaine was not readily available in Norwich.' Unlike, say, Delia Smith's fairy cakes which are ten-a-penny there. According to the Mahmood article, Hide 'called a friend' who turned up with the drugs (which, upon further investigation, turned out to be a mixture of cocaine and mephedrone - so it's even fake Charlie). And in classic fashion, the last couple of paragraphs tell how the the Scum on Sunday has 'passed its dossier' to the police. The rest of the story was remarkably similar to that of the old Scum of the World, which was shut down in disgrace and ignominy on billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's orders in July 2011 following the confirmation of its wicked phone-hacking activities. On page three of the latest issue were pictures of a celebrity in a bikini on a Caribbean beach, one of which showed her two children (isn't that supposed to be against the editors' code?) There was also some shitehawk 'exclusive' spread about Katie Price being pregnant as if anyone other than Ms Price herself gives a frig about such nonsense. A serious spread, with editorials and Guido Fawkes's political gossip column, featured a lengthy 'exclusive' article by the chancellor, George Osborne, explaining the significance of Britain losing its AAA rating. And on it went, through a couple more celebrity spreads, an odd tale of woman alleged to be 'tanorexic' and a much more serious spread about a woman, now forty three, describing the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather when she was thirteen. Gradually, in a post-Leveson environment, the paper has become indistinguishable from the Scum of the World. The advantage for billionaire tyrant Murdoch is that it's much, much cheaper to produce and, of course, it's hacking-free. At least, as far as we know.
Sir Denis Forman, the former Granada TV chairman who was responsible for bringing programmes such as Coronation Street to the screen, has died aged ninety five. The TV executive died on Sunday at a nursing home in London. Sir Denis was one of the founding executives of Granada TV in the mid-1950s and served as its chairman from 1974 to 1987. Other series he oversaw included World in Action, The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisited. Born in Dumfries, Sir Denis moved into the TV and film industry after World War II, when he lost a leg at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. He joined the British Film Institute as chief production officer in the Central Office of Information's film division before being appointed its director from 1948 to 1955. Joining Granada TV at its launch in 1956 as one of the founding executives, he also oversaw such shows as What The Papers Say, A Family at War and The Verdict is Yours, a series of fictional trials improvised by the actors and featuring a real jury. ITV director of television Peter Fincham said: 'Sir Denis Forman was one of the great pioneers of British broadcasting. He made a lasting contribution to quality drama and investigative journalism being at the helm of Granada Television for the commissioning of Coronation Street, and responsible for programmes such as World in Action, Seven Up, Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisited. He was a remarkable man and will be sadly missed.' Forman also wrote three memoirs, one of which was made into a film - 1999's My Life So Far starring Colin Firth and Malcolm McDowell. He later served as the deputy chairman of the Royal Opera House from 1983 to 1991. He is survived by his second wife, Moni, two sons and two step-children.

Swansea City secured the first major trophy in their one hundred and one-year history as League Two Bradford City were thrashed in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. The Bantams had beaten Premier League trio Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa as well as Championship side Watford on the way to becoming the first side from English football's fourth tier to reach a domestic cup final since 1962. But Swansea proved a step too far and there was to be no storybook ending to this remarkable campaign as Bradford were taken apart by Michael Laudrup's side en route to the biggest win in the final of this competition. The Bantams were swiftly out of their depth and goals from Nathan Dyer and Michu gave Swansea a comfortable half-time lead that was no more than their ordered passing game merited. Dyer's second goal just after half-time removed any remaining doubt about the destination of the trophy and a thoroughly chastening experience for Bradford was encapsulated by Swansea's fourth on the hour. Goalkeeper Matt Duke, a hero of the run to Wembley, was sent off for bringing down Jonathan de Guzman, who scored from the spot. De Guzman added his own second in stoppage time - not that this stopped Bradford's supporters rising to acclaim the team that has given them and their city so much to be proud of as they went up to collect their runners-up medals. The victory capped a fine first season in South Wales for Laudrup after he succeeded Brendan Rodgers in the summer. The Dane, along with chairman Huw Jenkins, can now plan for a campaign in next season's Europa League. It is back to the business of reaching the League Two play-offs for Bradford - but they can still reflect on this achievement with great satisfaction after illuminating the season with one its most heart-warming stories.

Success had still not quite sunk in for Becky James as she travelled back to the British Cycling team's hotel after leaving the Minsk Arena for the final time on Sunday. 'I am a world champion,' she kept repeating to herself. 'I have to keep telling myself that this is really happening to me.' She has the gold medals to prove it. James may have missed the Olympics party but, with two world titles and four medals in total, she started her own in Belarus. While James's emergence on the world stage is the perfect way for British Cycling to begin life after London 2012, it is certainly not the only reason to feel cheerful at the start of the journey to Rio 2016. Britain topped the medal table in Minsk with a total of nine medals (five gold, two silver and two bronze) from nineteen events. When you only count the current Olympic events, that ratio climbs to seven out of ten, and four victories. We were told performances were what mattered this time around rather than results, but results arrived too. They are even more impressive when you consider the number of established stars - from Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy, to Geraint Thomas and Jo Rowsell - who were absent this week, with some gone for good from the track. And, to put it in perspective, Britain only managed two world golds the last time they started a new Olympic cycle in Poland in 2009. 'Things went better this time than anyone could have hoped for before we came here,' said Olympic champion and BBC analyst Chris Boardman. 'Across the board, a lot of young riders are coming through.' 'Not everything went according to plan, of course. But the upside about what went wrong is that there is still more than three years to put it right. It would be easy to brush the one or two dodgy performances under the carpet, but that won't happen,' double Olympic medal winner and BBC Radio 5Live co-commentator Rob Hayles said. 'Any mistakes will be looked at in detail. Overall, though, I think the British coaches will be happy. The strength in depth we have got with these new riders is incredible.'

Fragments of an ancient continent are buried beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean, a study suggests. Researchers have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between two thousand and eighty five million years ago. The strip of land, which scientists have called Mauritia, eventually fragmented and vanished beneath the waves as the modern world started to take shape. The study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Until about seven hundred and fifty million years ago, the Earth's landmass was gathered into a vast single continent called Rodinia. And although they are now separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean, India was once located next to Madagascar. Now researchers believe they have found evidence of a sliver of continent - known as a microcontinent - that was once tucked between the two. The team came to this conclusion after studying grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius. While the grains dated back to a volcanic eruption that happened about nine million years ago, they contained minerals that were much older. Professor Trond Torsvik, from the University of Oslo said: 'We found zircons that we extracted from the beach sands, and these are something you typically find in a continental crust. They are very old in age.' The zircon dated to between nineteen hundred and seventy and six hundred million years ago, and the team concluded that they were remnants of ancient land that had been dragged up to the surface of the island during a volcanic eruption. Professor Torsvik said that he believed pieces of Mauritia could be found about ten kilometres down beneath Mauritius and under a swathe of the Indian Ocean. It would have spanned millions years of history, from the Precambrian Era when land was barren and devoid of life to the age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. But about eighty five million years ago, as India started to drift away from Madagascar towards its current location, the microcontinent would have broken up, eventually disappearing beneath the waves. However, a small part could have survived. 'At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite, or continental crust, which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean,' explained Torsvik. 'But once upon a time, it was sitting North of Madagascar. And what we are saying is that maybe this was much bigger, and there are many of these continental fragments that are spread around in the ocean.' Further research is needed to fully investigate what remains of this lost region. Torsvik explained: 'We need seismic data which can image the structure. This would be the ultimate proof. Or you can drill deep, but that would cost a lot of money.'

Last evening, together with his good mates Jeff and Billy, yer actual Keith Telly Topping attended another one of Uncle Scunthorpe's Record Player events. 'But wait a minute Keith Telly Topping,' I hear you bellow, 'I thought they were always on a Thursday.' Well, yes, they usually are, dear blog reader and, indeed, this coming Thursday we'll all be back at the Tyneside for the playing of two of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's most favouritist LPs of all time, bar none, Sound Affects and Unknown Pleasures. Monday night's event, however, was a little different, one of a series of four monthly shows at the Live Theatre, just off the back of the Quayside to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the venue. So, all of the LPs being featured are from 1973 and it kicked off with an inevitable playing of yer actual Dark Side of the, if you will, Moon. Which, I have to say, sounds better and better every time I hear it these days. So, anyway, that was a really nice bonus night out and many, many thanks to the lovely Jeff for providing yer actual Keith Telly Topping with a spare ticket. People are nice, dear blog reader. Sometimes.

Which bring us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day and yer actual Keith Telly Topping is on something of an early eighties 'slightly weird electro pop' vibe at the moment. Don't know why, really (these things go in cycles, I suppose). So, here's a little classic from Blancmange. 'Up and down, I'm up the wall, I'm up the bloody tree!'

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