Friday, June 07, 2013

Here We Are. Where Are We?

Neil Gaiman has argued that Doctor Who should not cast a big-name star as Matt Smith's replacement. Which they're not going to do anyway, so it's a bit of redundant comment, frankly. As previously discussed on this blog, the ten-month-a-year shoot and the fact that the BBC haven't got much of a pot to piss in, money-wise, being just two of several reasons why a 'big name' wouldn't even be considered for the role. The actor cast as the twelfth Doctor should be 'a star waiting happen', the acclaimed, award-winning writer - who has scripted two Doctor Who episodes, one of them very good - said in a post on his Tumblr blog. 'I actually like it when The Doctor is a relatively unknown actor, or one without one huge role that made them famous,' Neil wrote. 'I like to see The Doctor as The Doctor, and an actor who doesn't bring baggage is a grand sort of thing. A star waiting to happen. So I don't want to see Helen Mirren or Sir Ian McKellen or Chiwetel Ejiofor, or any of the famous names people are suggesting.' Which, they're not going to. So, that's all right, then. 'I want to see The Doctor. I want to be taken by surprise. I want to squint at a photo of the person online and go,' Neil continued. '"But how can that be The Doctor?" Then I want to be amazingly, delightedly, completely proven wrong, and, six episodes in, I want to wonder how I could have been so blind. Because this is The Doctor. Of course it is.' Indeed. Smart lad that Gaiman. Good writer too. Next ...

Meanwhile, yer actual Alex Kingston her very self has revealed that she knew of Matt Smith's intention to leave Doctor Who. It was announced last Saturday that Smudger would be departing the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama at Christmas. 'I wasn't surprised [by the news], because he and I had a chat,' Alex explained during an appearance on The ONE Show on Wednesday evening concerning her on-screen husband. 'At some stage, you have to move on and we did discuss when would be the right time in a young actor's career [to leave] if they were very associated with a particular role.' Kingston added that thirty-year-old Matt was 'wise' to depart the series before he became 'typecast' as The Doctor. 'You have to move on, otherwise it becomes very difficult,' she said.

Samuel West has put himself up for the lead role in Doctor Who in an interview with Radio Times. And, so has Russell Brand when talking to Absolute Radio. But, neither of them are likely to get the gig so, who's next?

The Apprentice bounced back in the ratings on Wednesday night for BBC1, according to overnight figures. Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's latest firing regained six hundred thousand viewers from previous week - when, admittedly, it was moved back to Tuesday and up against Britain's Got Toilets - attracting 5.96 million at 9pm. You're Fired!, the spin-off show climbed to a new series peak of 2.27m at 10pm on BBC2. Earlier, Watchdog was seen by 3.80m at 8pm on BBC1, whilst A Question of Sport was watched by 2.01m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Springwatch was seen by 1.81m at 7.30pm, followed by Springwatch Unsprung which actually had marginally more than the parent show, two million, at 8pm. The Iraq War documentary series continued with seven hundred and forty five thousand at 9pm. ITV's All Star Mr & Mrs was watched by 3.59m crushed victims of society at 8pm. Alison Steadman's new comedy drama Love and Marriage debuted with a decent 4.49m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Location, Location, Location continued with 1.13m at 8pm, followed by D-Day: As It Happens with eight hundred and sixty four thousand at 9pm. Ten O'Clock Live fell to six hundred and seven thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's D-Day: The Ultimate Conflict brought in seven hundred and twenty nine thousand punters at 7pm. NCIS continued with 1.48m at 9pm.

Paul O'Grady's For the Love of Dogs topped the overnight ratings outside of soaps for ITV on Thursday. However, the latest episode dropped over six hundred thousand viewers to 4.10 million at 8.30pm. David Walliams' show Snapshot In Time was seen by 2.37m at 9pm. It boasted one of the big political scoops of the year but the 'cash for questions' episode of Panorama sank to one of the current affairs programme's lowest ever audiences. The hour-long undercover report, which featured footage of Tory MP Patrick Mercer allegedly agreeing to take four grand to lobby on behalf of business interests from Fiji, had just 1.3m viewers, a 6.8 per cent share of the audience, between 9pm and 10pm. It is understood to be the show's lowest audience for a decade. In a sting jointly organised with the Daily Torygraph, Panorama also appeared to show Mercer, who has since resigned from the parliamentary Conservative party and said he would stand down at the next election, agreeing to take money from a lobbyist to produce a parliamentary report. Panorama was beaten by rival documentaries on BBC2, ITV and Channel Four. It was unfortunate in airing on a night when the belated good weather meant ratings were down across the board. Later, Question Time brought in 2.35m at 10.45pm. BBC2's Springwatch continued with 2.36m at 8pm, followed by Melvyn Bragg's The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England with 1.61m at 9pm. On Channel Four, the second part of D-Day: As It Happens was seen by 1.35m at 9pm.

The BBC has turned to a bull, an armadillo and a game show presenter called Dougie Colon for a new Saturday night puppet show from the creators of The Muppet Show. That Puppet Game Show will, apparently, feature celebrities competing in 'a series of madcap games' to win ten thousand smackers for their chosen charity. To be honest, without the puppet aspect it sounds awful. It sounds, in fact, exactly like the brain-mush, z-list celebrity-fronted numskull bollocks that ITV seems to depend upon for much of its schedule. However, the celebrities doing a lot of work for 'charrridddeee' are only part of the action. The BBC hopes the real comedy to be found in the new series to be broadcast this autumn will be in the Muppets-style backstage action which will, we are promised, make up a big part of the show. The cast of puppet characters, created by The Jim Henson Company, include American showrunner Mancie O'Neil, the big boss, a bull called Udders McGhee, Germanic resident science expert Doctor Strabismus and Ian The Armadillo, a Derren Brown-style mental agility expert. Colon – pronounced 'cologne', or course, just in case the Daily Scum Mail were getting worried, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to gurning odious Northern buffoon Vernon Kay – will hold the action together, much as Kermit the Frog did in The Muppet Show. Actually, this is sounding better by the minute. By coincidence, the series, which will be shown on BBC1 in August or September this year, is being filmed in the same studio as The Muppet Show, in Elstree. The various tasks undergone by the celebrities - the only humans to appear on the show - will include blowing one hundred candles out in the fastest time and being strapped to a spinning wheel. 'Celebrities' who will be taking part in the show will include Gary Lineker, Claudia Whatsherface, Katherine Jenkins, yer actual Freddie Flintoff, Tess Daly as well as Vernon Kay himself. And, again, to be fair, at least those named do qualify as bona fide celebrties as opposed to much of the z-list tripe that usually appear in these kind of things. Although the world's greatest broadcaster, yer actual Danny Baker, was involved in writing the pilot, he is not one of the writers on the eight-part series, who include American Tom Leopold, who has worked on Seinfeld, Cheers and Will & Grace, George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler Moore (from Channel Four's Star Stories), Toby Davies, Daniel Peak and Jamie Ormerod. The BBC will be hoping That Puppet Game Show fares better than its previous Saturday night offering to feature a fictional animal, the legend that was games show fiasco Don't Scare The Hare, or the last high concept show to combine behind the scenes with a 'traditional' TV show – ITV's Echo Beach and Moving Wallpaper. The Muppet Show ran in the UK on ITV for five years until 1981, and have since found new life in various spin-offs like Muppets Tonight and on the big screen.

BBC drama controller yer actual Ben Stephenson has revealed that he is keen to commission an 'adult fantasy series' for BBC2. However, Stephenson added that he is 'wary' of mimicking hit shows being broadcast on rival channels, such as Sky Atlantic's US import Game Of Thrones. 'I think there is something in adult fantasy,' Broadcast quotes him as saying. 'It's a very interesting world and you can tell complex stories that would be difficult to tell on BBC1.' Stephenson also announced that he is interested in 'more contemporary drama series' outside of the crime genre. 'I would be interested in what other contemporary pieces on BBC2 can have the same impact as Line Of Duty and The Fall, but don't necessarily have a basis in crime,' he said. Family fantasy series Atlantis is currently in the works for BBC1 and is being eyed as a replacement for Merlin on Saturday nights.

BBC2 is to revive Modern Times, the 1990s documentary strand which 'walked softly and carried a big gun', twelve years after it was cancelled. The new series of one-off observational documentaries will return to BBC2 next year. Channel controller Janice Hadlow said it was 'a fantastic part of our heritage and is still in my view the defining series for single documentaries.' The return of Modern Times was one of a number of new documentaries announced by BBC2 on Wednesday, including a two-part series by Stephen Fry on homosexuality and programmes about dieting, airports, the Iceland food chain and the Piper Alpha disaster. Hadlow said Modern Times 'had quite big things to say that were smuggled into the film-making. They may have been about particular moments or experiences but they had something bigger to say about the world we live in. It was done with wit, attitude and authorship, and was a great place for directors to spread their wings in a free and exciting way.' Modern Times was cancelled by the then BBC2 controller, Jane Root, in 2001 after a five-year run to make room for 'historical projects and longer films.' Memorable documentaries to feature in the strand include Lucy Blakstad's The Lido, about Brockwell Park Lido in South London, which first aired in 1995. Hadlow, announcing its return last night, flagged up a film about families and their nannies. 'It captured a particular moment in the mid-90s, about people's relationship with their nannies and their children,' she said. 'It had something to say about money and its influence on our families and the way we dealt with that at that moment. This is an opportunity to recover those sort of very characteristic, original distinctive films.' Observational documentaries are enjoying something of a resurgence of late, with BBC2 winning plaudits for its three-part hotel series, Inside Claridges, which was broadcast at the end of last year. Other new BBC2 documentaries include Stephen Fry – Out There, about what it means to be gay in different parts of the world, and seeking to find out why some people feel so threatened by homosexuality. Dan Snow will attempt to do for airports what Brian Cox did for stargazing with Airport Live, in which he will spend four nights at Heathrow tracking the planes and the people who work there. Spending four nights at Heathrow. He could've just booked up for a holiday, frankly, that would've had the same effect. Iceland will follow the high street supermarket and its boss, Malcolm Walker, over the course of a year. Welcome to the World of Weight Watchers will look at dieting and Piper Alpha will return to the oil rig disaster in the North Sea on its twenty fifth anniversary. After BBC2 went underground with its series about the tube, The Route Masters: Keeping London Moving will look at the capital's roads, while The Crane Gang will look at the 'gritty world of mobile cranes and their drivers.' Charlotte Moore, commissioning editor for documentaries and acting controller of BBC1, said: 'We live in astonishing times and the mission is clear – we want the very best film-makers to find and tell stories that illuminate, provoke and reveal modern Britain in all its staggering variety.'

The Queen has officially opened the BBC's rebuilt Broadcasting House, prompting laughter when she appeared behind the newsreaders live on TV. That moment came as she toured the BBC newsroom, after earlier declaring the building open with a broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and also visiting the studios of Radio 1. The Queen said it was 'a great pleasure' to declare the building open. The Duke of Edinburgh had also been expected to attend, but was admitted to hospital on Thursday for an operation. BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and BBC director general Tony Hall met the Queen and escorted her on the first part of her visit. She started the tour, her first visit to the corporation's recently expanded headquarters, by visiting Radio 1 and meeting presenters including Nick Grimshaw, Trevor Nelson and Sara Cox. She then visited the station's Live Lounge to watch a live performance by The Script, whose lead singer is Danny O'Donoghue, also well-known as a judge on BBC1 show The Voice. Her next destination was the building's third floor, where Fran Unsworth, the BBC's acting director of news, introduced her to several BBC Radio 4 staff, including Today presenter John Humphrys. She then joined another Today presenter, James Naughtie and Sian Williams live on Radio 4 where she gave a short address to declare the BBC's new home open. 'I hope this new building will serve you well for the future and I am delighted to declare it open today,' she said. Afterwards, she met BBC newsreaders Huw Edwards and Sophie Raworth and weather presenter Carol Kirkwood at the start of a tour of the BBC newsroom. The guided tour took her to look through the glass during a News Channel broadcast, and staff in the building laughed and broke into a round of applause as she appeared in the background of the studio shot. After leaving the basement-level newsroom she met David Dimbleby and Sir Bruce Forsyth in the ground-floor reception. At the end of her visit, the Queen unveiled a plaque marking the occasion at a reception attended by BBC staff, presenters and trustees. Before the plaque was unveiled, Lord Patten wished the Duke of Edinburgh a quick recovery from his operation. He said it was 'a particular privilege' to welcome the Queen to Broadcasting House. The Queen had previously visited Broadcasting House on five previous occasions.

There's a very interesting news story in Friday's Daily Torygraph - plus a leading article - about the lack culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Miller being in danger of losing her department. The editorial, Culture in decline, opens by stating that the vile and odious rascal Miller 'is not exactly an admirer of the Daily Telegraph.' Well, fair enough. Even a broken clock's right twice a day. Which is more than the Torygraph ever is. In fact, it appears that the vile and odious rascal Miller - and/or her senior staff - are actively hostile towards the right-wing scum paper. So much so that the department not only no longer briefs Torygraph journalists but even fails to inform the paper of important events, such as the vile and odious rascal Miller's initiative over Internet pornography. According to the leader, the antagonism dates back to last December when the Torygraph revealed that the vile and odious rascal had claimed more than ninety thousand smackers in taxpayers' funds for a second home where her parents lived. The paper, naturally enough, approached the vile and odious rascal Miller for a comment and her special adviser, Jo Hindley, 'warned that we should tread carefully, given the culture secretary's involvement in new press regulation – a warning repeated by No 10's director of communications.' This extraordinary post-Leveson Report response was, unsurprisingly, made much of at the time. It appeared to be a clumsy threat and one might have expected the adviser and the minister to have had second thoughts. Far from it. The Torygraph gradually realised that the vile and odious rascal Miller had declared the paper and its journalists as persona non grata, ensuring that its reporters 'were kept in the dark about her department's activities.' This attitude has, needless to say, played into the hands of the Torygraph because it reinforces its determination to avoid any parliamentary oversight of press regulation. The editorial makes this clear: 'For this newspaper, such obstructionism is more irritation than inconvenience. If we had wanted friends in Westminster, we would never have published the details of MPs' expenses in 2009. Yet the culture secretary's actions do serve a valuable public function – for they illustrate precisely why creatures as touchy and thin-skinned as politicians should never be given oversight of those who report on them. The original threats were a perfect example of the chilling effect such regulation has, in encouraging the media not to probe too deeply into the affairs of the powerful.' It goes on to point out 'how easily ministers can put personal grudges above their duty to inform the public' and concludes with a reference to its news story: 'There are suggestions that Mrs Miller's department may be abolished during the next spending round.' So what about that story? Headlined 'Disappointing' Miller faces losing culture department, it was run on page two. It states that Miller 'may be stripped of her responsibility for media policy under radical plans which could ultimately lead to her Whitehall department being closed to cut costs.' Several leading media firms, including telecom companies, were said to 'have privately requested that responsibility for policy in their area be returned to the business department.' There were no named (or even alleged) 'sources' for this claim, nor for a further allegation that the vile and odious rascal Miller 'is regarded as one of the cabinet's weakest performers.' But it is a fact that since the publication of The Leveson Report Miller has played a secondary role. The prime minister chose to give the responsibility for conducting negotiations to the cabinet office minister, Oliver Letwin. Newspaper executives who have attended talks with the government say that the vile and odious rascal Miller has been 'largely sidelined.' So the Torygraph appears to be on good ground in its contentions. The paper claims that the chancellor, George Osborne, has been 'angered' by the vile and odious rascal Miller's department's 'failure to swiftly roll out a high-speed broadband network.' The vile and odious rascal Miller is also under investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards over her alleged abuse of expenses (an inquiry that appears to be dragging on longer than most). In addition, the Torygraph refers to a Daily Scum Mail article, on 31 May by Quentin Letts, in which he argued that the vile and odious rascal Miller had been 'promoted way beyond her talents.' According to an unnamed alleged Whitehall 'source' cited by the Torygraph, 'there is a growing feeling that the culture department is not looking fit for purpose.' Something this blog has been arguing for, ooo, at least the last three vile and odious lack of culture secretaries. And, an alleged anonymous Conservative cabinet minister allegedly told the paper that there is 'a strong case' for dismantling the DCMS. One other pointer was the recent resignation of Jonathan Stephens, the vile and odious rascal Miller's most senior official.

Dad's Army star Arthur Lowe played on a sleeping condition to avoid the paparazzi and 'over-zealous' fans, his co-star Ian Lavender has revealed. Lowe, who played Captain Mainwaring, pretended to nod off whenever press photographers or autograph-seekers approached, even snoring to protect his privacy. But the ploy didn't always work. He was caught out 'a few times', Lavender said, when he attempted to stifle a giggle or opened one eye to check his pursuers had gone. Lowe, who died in 1982 aged sixty six, was long known to have suffered from a form of narcolepsy, and had to give up driving because of the condition, which involves unexpected episodes of deep sleep lasting up to thirty seconds. Speaking this week to mark AudioGO's release of the new Mr Men audiobook cartoon series, which Lowe narrated, Lavender described his friend as 'a real-life Mr Lazy. Arthur was really friendly when he let you in, but was very protective of his privacy and used his narcolepsy to protect it,' he said. 'Arthur would even fall asleep standing up, like a horse, but because he was always being pestered by fans and photographers, if he didn't want to be bothered by them then he would feign falling asleep. He "fell asleep" an awful lot but you'd see him with one eye open to see if they'd gone. He couldn't always feign being asleep though, as some fans used to push and prod him to wake him up.’ Away from the spotlight, Lowe was described as 'a pompous man' whose personality was not too dissimilar to the character he played on screen. But Lavender said that Lowe also had 'a warm, human and cheeky side' and hoped his revelation would help people to understand Arthur's complexities. 'People thought that as a celebrity he belonged to them and that he was public property, and that's where his reputation for being pompous comes from,' Ian added. 'He was often construed as a pompous man, but Arthur knew this and often played up to it. It was his way of constructing up a protective wall.' In the Seventies Lowe became the voice of the BBC cartoon series Mr Men, in which he was the narrator and its characters. Lavender said that his co-star 'relished' working on the series, adding: 'Arthur really enjoyed the fame as it got him being asked to do things that you don't expect to do when become an actor. You'd expect to read children's books to your own children and grandchildren but narrating a series such as Mr Men wouldn't have been on the horizon when Arthur started out. They were sort of the perks of the job and he really loved them.' Lavender, who is set to make his Edinburgh Festival debut this summer in a new adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, is one of the few surviving members of the Dad's Army team after Bill Pertwee, who played the argumentative air raid warden Hodges, died last month aged eighty six.

Richard Ayoade and Micky Flanagan will be the team captains on Channel Four's new full-of-his-own-cleverness David Mitchell panel show, Was It Something I Said? Ayoade is The IT Crowd actor-turned-director with his acclaimed feature film debut, Submarine. The comedy will feature 'some of the teams' own one-liners', reports the Sun.

The Borgias has been cancelled by Showtime. The show will end after three seasons, with its 16 June episode serving as the series finale. It was previously reported that Showtime executives were waiting to see how the current season of The Borgias performed in the ratings before making a decision on the drama's future. However, the network is now focused on preparing another religion-themed drama with The Vatican, starring Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler. The pilot will reunite the actor with Showtime's Entertainment president David Nevins. Weeds and The Big C have both drawn to a close on the network in recent years, while Dexter will also be ending its run after its upcoming eighth season.
Leigh Francis has confirmed that he is to make a sequel to his 2012 Keith Lemon movie. Whether the sequel will be as huge and towering a flop (both critically and commercially) as the first one, it remains to be seen.

Under The Dome is to be broadcast on Channel Five in the UK. The CBS series - due to premiere in the US on 24 June - is based on the 2009 science-fiction novel by Stephen King. Channel Five will broadcast the thirteen-part first season in the autumn, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 'We are thrilled to be bringing this unmissable drama event to our viewers later this year,' said Katie Keenan, head of acquisitions at Channel Five. 'Stephen King, the master of mystery and suspense, transports the viewer into a world of intrigue, drama and action.' Under The Dome follows the residents of a small US town as their home is cut off from the rest of the world by the mysterious appearance of an enormous transparent dome. 'Under The Dome is a very unique and highly anticipated summer television event in the US,' said Armando Nunez, president of CBS Global Distribution Group. 'We're excited to be working with Channel Five to bring this high-quality CBS production to UK audiences.'
Former Downing Street spokesman and the prime minister's, if you will, chum Andy Coulson has pleaded not guilty to extremely naughty phone-hacking and bribing public officials during his career as a journalist. Coulson, a former editor of the Scum of the World, denied a charge of illegal interception of communications. He also pleaded not guilty to two counts of misconduct in public office relating to alleged payments for information from public officials. He entered the pleas at Southwark Crown Court and has been released on bail. Coulson became deputy editor of the disgraced and disgraceful newspaper in 2000 and was editor from 2003 to 2007. It was forced to close, in shame and ignominy, in 2011. He then became the Conservative Party's director of communications and continued working for David Cameron in government after the 2010 election, before resigning in January 2011. Prosecutors allege the phone-hacking offence took place between October 2000 and August 2006. The first conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office charge relates to the period from August 2002 to January 2003, while the second allegedly took place between January and June 2005. The charges were brought as part of Operation Weeting, Scotland Yard's investigation of phone hacking and Operation Elveden, its probe into alleged corrupt payments to public officials. Coulson is also currently awaiting trail on charges of having committed perjury in 2010 during the Tommy Sheridan trial.

The former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike, Rebekah Brooks, is to face a trial starting in September over five charges relating to the phone-hacking scandal, a court has ruled. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, a former editor of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World and the Sun, will be tried at the Old Bailey alongside eight other defendants including Andy Coulson, the prime ministers, if you will, chum and another ex-editor of the Scum of the World who is facing one charge in relation to alleged phone-hacking. On Wednesday well-known Crystal Tipps looklike Brooks pleaded not guilty to all of the charges she is facing which include one general accusation that she conspired with others to hack phones, two charges relating to making inappropriate payments to public officials for stories and two charges alleging that she conspired with others to conceal material including computers and documents from police investigating the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011. Also to stand trial with Brooks in September are her husband, millionaire Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, the race horse trainer and another chum of the prime minister and two others who worked with her around the time of the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid, Brooks's former secretary Cheryl Carter and the News International head of security Mark Hanna. They face separate charges alleging they conspired to pervert the course of justice and all pleaded not guilty in a hearing earlier this week. The trial will start on 9 September, said Mr Justice Saunders at Southwark crown court in a pre-trial and case management hearing on Friday. The other defendants who will be tried in September are the former Scum of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former head of news Ian Edmondson and senior reporter James Weatherup. They have all pleaded not guilty to a single charge in relation to allegations of phone hacking. It was decided at Southwark that Glenn Mulcaire, who is facing a separate charge relating to the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, which he denies, will also be tried in September. Further trials are provisionally scheduled for January relating to allegations of inappropriate payments to public officials for stories and are expected to last until April 2014.

Meanwhile, a former prison officer has been arrested as part of Operation Elveden. The unnamed thirty nine-year-old was arrested at his home in Waltham Forest on Thursday. He was, reportedly, held on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and suspected corruption and was interviewed at an East London police station. He is the sixty sixth person to be arrested as part of Operation Elveden.
A man recently arrested by police over historic sex offences which was widely reported on Tuesday is former BBC Radio 1 disc-jockey Chris Denning according to reports. The seventy two-year-old was questioned on Monday as part of the Operation Yewtree police inquiry set up after the Jimmy Savile fiasco. Denning reportedly faces allegations unrelated to Savile himself. He is the thirteenth person to have been held as part of Scotland Yard's investigation. He has been bailed until July. The former DJ was one of the original Radio 1 team when the station was launched in 1967. He previous worked for Radio Luxembourg and Radio London before presenting the Saturday afternoon programme Where It's At with Kenny Everett on the BBC's Light Programme. He also worked as a music producer, helped launch the careers of The Bay City Rollers and Gary Glitter and ran his own music and video production business. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police issued a statement saying that the previous day a seventy two-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of sexual offences, taken into police custody and later bailed to return pending further inquiries. The Met did not name the individual although plenty of people on the Internet attempted to - most of them getting it extremely wrong and naming another seventy two year old showbusiness personality. Of the thirteen Yewtree suspects, two have been charged - Max Clifford and David Smith, a driver who used to work for the BBC. Ex-BBC producers Ted Beston and Wilfred De'Ath and an unnamed sixty five-year-old man have all been released without charge. The eight others, including Gary Glitter, Freddie Starr, Dave Lee Travis, Rolf Harris and Jim Davidson, remain on police bail.

A former Coronation Street actor has told a court that allegations of child sex offences might have been brought against him because he 'played a rapist' in the ITV drama. Andrew Watkinson, forty two, from Liverpool, denies six counts of indecently assaulting a teenage boy in the 1990s. He described character Frank Foster to Liverpool Crown Court as 'horrendous.' The judge said he would be directing the jury to find Watkinson not guilty on two of six counts he faces. This was because the complainant could not be sure the alleged abuse happened before his fifteenth birthday. Watkinson, whose professional name is Andrew Lancel, remains on trial for the further four counts relating to when the complainant was fifteen. The actor told the jury 'in the back of his mind' he thought the allegations - which are claimed to have taken place when the complainant was attending a theatre group in 1993 and 1994 - were 'to do' with the 'horrendous' character he played in Coronation Street. Watkinson denies any sexual contact ever took place and instead told the court that he had acted as a 'sort of mentor' to the boy. Watkinson told the court he received a text from the complainant, a man he described as 'a mate' whom he had known for years and invited to his wedding, when he was playing the 'high profile' role of Foster in the soap. He thought the text message alleging what he had done was #massively illegal' and may 'have been a set-up.' He told the court: 'I remember thinking is it a wind-up? Is it him? Is he stoned or is he drunk?' The actor, who is married with a son, said he was heterosexual and denied 'intimate contact' with his accuser. He also denied such contact with a second man who gave evidence in the trial, who accused Watkinson of performing a sex act on him when he was fifteen. Andrew Menary QC, defending, asked Watkinson if any of what the two men complained of had ever happened. The actor replied: 'Absolutely not.' Kim Whittlestone, prosecuting, said Watkinson, then twenty three, met the teenager when he visited a theatre group and allegedly began taking the teenager for coffees. The actor, who had just got a part in the television drama Cardiac Arrest, then took him to his house where the offences allegedly started. Whittlestone told the court after one early meeting, they went into an upstairs study where 'the defendant began to touch him over his underwear.' The victim felt he could not tell the defendant to stop because he was 'embarrassed and confused' as Watkinson was an adult and a friend, the court heard. Whittlestone said Watkinson 'had every intention' of turning the friendship into a sexual one, with the ensuing assaults including oral sex. Regarding the two charges that Watkinson will be cleared of, Judge Clement Goldstone QC told the jury that the complainant had agreed while he was being cross-examined that he could not definitely say some of the allegations related to when he was still fourteen years old. Judge Goldstone told the jury: 'In due course I will direct you to return not guilty verdicts on counts one and two.' The trial continues.

Meanwhile, Coronation Street actor William Roache has been charged with five counts of indecent assault involving four girls aged between twelve and sixteen in the 1960s. Prosecutors said that it was 'in the public interest' for the prosecution to take place after reviewing evidence gathered by Lancashire Police. Roache, eighty one, already faces two counts of rape involving a fifteen-year-old girl, in 1967. He appeared in court in May. He is due before Preston magistrates on Friday. The latest charges relate to a period between 1965 and 1968, when the assaults are alleged to have been committed in the Manchester area. Lancashire Police said in a statement: 'Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service an eighty one-year-old man has this evening been charged with five offences of indecent assault. Roache was arrested this morning after attending a police station by appointment.' The Crown Prosecution Service said three of the alleged offences took place in 1965 and two in 1968. Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for CPS North West, said: 'We have carefully considered all the evidence gathered by Lancashire Police in relation to recent allegations from four complainants that William Roache indecently assaulted them in the 1960s. We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Roache to be charged with five offences of indecent assault relating to four girls who were aged between eleven or twelve and sixteen at the time that the alleged offences happened.' He said the allegations were made to police after Roache was charged with two offences of rape on 1 May. Roache, of Wilmslow in Cheshire, who is accused of raping a fifteen-year-old girl in Haslingden, is due to appear at Preston Crown Court in relation to that case on Monday. Although the actor has previously said in a statement he 'strenuously denies' the allegations of rape he is yet to enter a formal plea.
America's spy chief, the excellently-named James Clapper, has strongly defended government surveillance programmes after revelations of phone records being collected and Internet servers being tapped. He said disclosure of a secret court document on phone record collection threatened 'irreversible harm.' Revelations of an alleged programme to tap into servers of nine Internet firms were 'reprehensible', he said. Internet firms deny giving government agents access to their servers. The director of US national intelligence said he wanted to 'reassure Americans' that the intelligence community was committed to respecting their civil liberties and privacy. He issued a strong-worded statement late on Thursday, after the Gruniad Morning Star said a 'secret court order' had required phone company Verizon to hand over its records to the National Security Agency on 'an ongoing daily basis.' That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Gruniad that US agencies tapped directly into the servers of nine Internet firms to track people in a programme known as Prism. Whether this will result in the secret rendition of some Gruniad staff by the CIA for a short trip to Cuba is, at the present time, unknown. Although, if must be admitted, the idea of Gruniad editor the odious Alan Runtbudgie in an orange jumpsuit getting waterboarded in Guantanamo certainly boggles the mind, somewhat. The reports about Prism will raise fresh questions about how far the US government should encroach on citizens' privacy in the interests of national security. The NSA confirmed that it had been secretly collecting millions of phone records. But Clapper - who looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp, said that the 'unauthorised disclosure threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation.' The article omitted 'key information' about the use of the records 'to prevent terrorist attacks and the numerous safeguards that protect privacy and civil liberties.' He said reports about Prism contained 'numerous inaccuracies.' While admitting the government collected communications from Internet firms, he said the policy only targets 'non-US persons.' Oh, so that's all right then - they're not spying on their own people, just everyone else. Sounds fair enough. Incidentally, if yer actual keith Telly Topping was one of those 'non-US persons' who had his Internet history accessed by the NSA, listen guys, most of those websites were, you know, 'for research purposes.' But, perhaps I've said too much. Anyway, Prism was reportedly developed in 2007 out of a programme of domestic surveillance without warrants that was set up by President George W Bush after the 9/11 attacks. Prism reportedly does not collect user data, but is able to pull out material that matches a set of search terms. Clapper said the communications-collection programme was 'designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen, any other US person, or anyone located within the United States,' he added. Clapper said the programme, under Section seven hundred and two of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was 'recently reauthorised' by Congress after hearings and debate. 'Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats,' he added. But while American citizens were 'not intended to be the targets' of surveillance, the Washington Post says large quantities of content from Americans are, nevertheless, 'screened' in order to track or learn more about the target. The data gathered through Prism has grown to become a major contributor to the president's daily briefing and accounts for almost one in seven intelligence reports, it adds. The Washington Post named the nine companies participating in the programme as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. Microsoft said in a statement to the BBC that it only turned over customer data 'when given a legally binding order', and only complied with orders 'for specific accounts. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don't participate in it,' Microsoft claimed. Meanwhile, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook said they did not give the government direct access to their servers. In a statement, Google said: 'Google does not have "a back door" for the government to access private user data.' On Wednesday, it emerged that the NSA was collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans, after the Gruniad published a secret order for the Verizon phone company to hand over its records. A senior congressman, House intelligence committee chairman, Mike Rogers, told reporters that collecting Americans' phone records was 'legal, authorised by Congress' and had not been abused by the Obama administration., He also said that it had prevented 'a significant attack' on the US 'within the past few years', but declined to offer any more information. The order requires Verizon - one of the largest phone companies in the US - to disclose to the NSA the metadata of all calls it processes, both domestic and international, in which at least one party is in the US. Such metadata includes telephone numbers, calling card numbers, the serial numbers of phones used and the time and duration of calls. It does not include the content of a call or the callers' addresses or financial information. The Washington Post says one of the many things still unclear about the phone surveillance programme is why Americans didn't know about it. In an editorial, the paper says the public 'needs more explanation' to be able to make a reasonable assessment of whether such programmes are worth the security benefits. The New York Times says President Obama 'is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.' The Patriot Act should be 'sharply curtailed if not repealed', it says. The Los Angeles Times says this week's disclosures 'underscore' how US intelligence and law enforcement now 'secretly glean vast amounts of information from communications technology.' The San Francisco Chronicle says the collection of phone records 'conducted with only the barest legal oversight' is 'another policy disappointment from a president who came to office promising to ease the worst of the panicky, ill-considered policies launched after the 11 Sept attacks thirteen years ago.' As surveillance practices come under scrutiny in the US, a new system to monitor phone and Internet connections in India is being criticised as "chilling" by New York-based group Human Rights Watch. The Central Monitoring System enables authorities to follow all online activities, phone calls text messages and social media conversations. The Indian government said in December 2012 the system would 'lawfully intercept Internet and telephone services.' But HRW says the system by-passes service providers in a country that has no privacy law to protect people from arbitrary intrusions. In the UK on Wednesday, a committee of MPs criticised a decision to allow Chinese firms such as Huawei to become embedded in British network infrastructure without the knowledge and scrutiny of ministers. Huawei - which denies close ties with the Chinese state - signed a 2005 telecoms deal with BT to supply equipment for a ten billion smackers major network upgrade.

A pair of concrete wellington boots given to the alleged comedian Jimmy Cricket by fellow funnyman Ken Dodd have been stolen from his garden in Rochdale. The sculpture, given as a birthday present to the Northern Irish comedian, went missing on Tuesday. The comedian, who said he was "gutted" about the theft, wears wellingtons marked with the letters R and L, but on the wrong feet, in his act. He said that he had told police to 'look for a burglar with a hernia.'

The author Tom Sharpe, who wrote the 1974 novel Porterhouse Blue, has died aged eighty five. Sharpe, who was born in London in 1928, died in the coastal town of Llafranc in Spain on Thursday. He wrote sixteen novels, including Blott on the Landscape in 1975, which was adapted into a six-part BBC television series, starring David Suchet. He also wrote the Wilt series of comedy books, the last of which - The Wilt Inheritance - was published in 2010. 'Tom Sharpe was one of our greatest satirists and a brilliant writer: witty, often outrageous, always acutely funny about the absurdities of life,' said Susan Sandon, Tom's editor at Random House. 'The private Tom was warm, supportive and wholly engaging.' Porterhouse Blue, published in 1974 told the story of Skullion, the head porter of a fictional Cambridge college Porterhouse. The story, a satirical look at Cambridge life, was later made into a an award-winning television series on Channel Four in 1987. The four-part TV series starred Sir David Jason in the lead role alongside Ian Richardson as Sir Godber Evans and Barbara Jefford as his wife Lady Mary. The son of a Unitarian Minister who was a Nazi supporter in the 1930s, Sharpe was educated at Lancing and Cambridge. He spent time in the Royal Marines, serving overseas on ships during the 1940s. In an interview on Desert Island Discs in 1984, Sharpe told Roy Plomley he was initially influenced by his father's ideas. His National Service experience and the death of his father in 1944, brought the discovery 'that Hitler was not the man I was led to believe he was. My mind was blown by the horror of what had been happening.' Sharpe moved to South Africa in 1951, working as a social worker, teacher and photographer, and writing anti-apartheid plays during the 1950s, however, he was deported to Britain in 1961. His experiences in South Africa inspired him to write his debut novel, Riotous Assembly, in three weeks in 1971, and his second novel, Indecent Exposure, in which he mocks the apartheid regime. In 1975, he wrote Blott on the Landscape, centred on the proposed construction of a motorway in a fictional rural county in England. The book was adapted into a six-part series by Malcolm Bradbury for the BBC in 1985. 'Books and films are totally different things,' Sharpe said during his interview on Desert Island Discs. 'I say throw the book out the window and use the characters.' His next novel, Wilt, published in 1976, was inspired by his experiences working a lecturer in History at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. The first in a series of five comedic novels, Wilt was based around the lead character, Henry Wilt, a demoralised assistant lecturer who teaches literature to uninterested construction apprentices at a community college. 'He has the same uncertainties about the world that I have, but he carries them on into the enactment of fantasy and he tends to run into trouble,' Sharpe said. The novel was adapted into the film Wilt in 1989, with Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith in the lead roles. Sharpe, who had been living in northern Spain for two decades, was married with three children.

On Thursday evening yer actual Keith telly Topping, as usual, attended the latest of Uncle Scunthorpe's Record Player events at the Tyneside. But, this week it was just a load of old hippie malarkey and you're not interested in that, dear blog reader. Instead, because I was talking to somebody about it, today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day features, in fact, ten and a half of yer actual Sir Paul McCartney MBE's finest minutes.

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