Friday, June 28, 2013

This Boy's Too Young To Be Singing The Blues

Yer actual John Lloyd has launched 'a broadside' (that's broadsheet-speak for 'having a right bloody good whinge') against 'timid, interfering and indecisive TV executives' – and hinted that Qi could become an online incubator for new ideas. The creator of the Stephen Fry-fronted panel show has also produced Blackadder, Not The Nine O’Clock News and Have I Got News For You over an illustrious forty-year-career, but said that he 'despaired' about the current state of commissioning, which was 'top-heavy' with office-bound administrators too scared to put their faith in creative talent. 'I'm very cross about the current system,' he told the Chortle website's Comedy Conference on Friday. And, you wouldn't like to see him when he's cross, dear blog reader, much less very cross. Ooh, pure dear vexed, so he was. Havin' a right stroppy moment. 'I'm bleak about it,' he continued. No shit. 'I despair about it actually and it's a crying shame for our culture that television's not what it was.' Yeah. Lots of things are not what they were, John, mate. It's called progress - you're an intelligent man, supposedly, you should be familiar with the concept. Not that this blogger, necessarily, disagrees with a single word yer man Lloyd has to say on the subject, it's just that it always gets right on my effing tit-end watching people employed in an industry that many would give their right arm and all their worldly possession to get into whinging like a comedy version of Freddie Trueman because things 'were like this in t'maaa day.' Grow up, fer Christ's sake, it's 2013 not 1983. 'I don't want to boast,' Lloyd said, boastfully. 'But I've been doing this for forty years and I've been involved in some pretty good things across a huge variety of genres, but I've still got to sit and listen to someone who's never done five minutes of stand-up, who's never written a funny line, who's never produced a sitcom. You've got to listen to their opinions. It's not about me, it's about finding people to know how to do it, and let it go. There is no point, or need, for half-a-dozen people or hierarchies or committees of people to sit around bothering the producer or the director or the stand-up comedian – they know best; it's their necks on the line. I actively do get very cross about it, and I know from talking to comedy writers, actors, performers that everyone feels the same way. I don't know what people are doing in those offices or those development departments. There were no development departments in television companies in the Eighties. A producer had an office and a PA and you sat in your office and every so often you had an idea – about twice a year, usually – and you'd rush into your head of department and say: "I've had this brilliant idea, or I've got this script."' Lloyd then described how the TV version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was commissioned on the strength of one script from Douglas Adams, explaining that there was no pitching, nor trying to find shows which fitted into pre-defined slots in those days. 'But the way commissioning works now is they ask, "We're looking for two pink ones and a green one, have you got any of those?" It used to be the creative people driving the bus and the administrative people enabling them, not the other way around. It's the only thing I get cross about. It's such a waste because the talent out there is fabulous.' However, calming down slightly, Lloyd did say that he was encouraged by how Netflix is commissioning shows – 'getting good people and saying "you do it"' with little interference – and said the first British broadcaster who finds a hit that way will have struck 'a winning formula.' Lloyd also said that broadcasters should have more confidence in comedians and producers to get their shows right – if they are given a chance to fix any problems without meddling. 'All the things I've done were quite honestly ragged, if not flops, in the first series,' Lloyd confessed. 'The pilot of Not The Nine O’Clock News was described by Mel Smith as "the single worst half-hour of television I've ever watched." But that's creativity, you get it wrong because it's ambitious and strange, but you move it about a bit and eventually you get it right. But it's not helped by people going: "Ooh dear, it's not working, we should cancel it. We should move it late night! Oh no, it's not working there! Oh no, it's dead! That's the end of it!" There used to be this confidence [within broadcasters] but that's lacking now. Everyone thinks a show is going to work and when it doesn't they panic.' He said that comedy is 'more lively and more exciting' than ever, but this is not always reflected in what makes it to the screen. However, he advised the aspiring comedians at the conference to take a leaf out of Mrs Brown's Boys book, and 'work hard to make something' that becomes 'so huge that people are begging you to do it. That's the only way to get past the commissioning system relatively unscathed.' Lloyd said that the Internet hadn't democratised the process and created as many comedy stars as some people would have hoped, because making the best comedy takes work, 'and the only way to get that is for these publicly funded corporations [the BBC and Channel Four] to support those people. The Internet isn't producing a gigantic flood of brilliant new stuff. What we all do is get pissed and noodle around on YouTube all night trying to find something that's entertaining – and you end up watching old Two Ronnies sketches.’ Lloyd, who his making his solo Edinburgh Fringe début this August, was once part of an online comedy venture called Comedy Box, which he said 'failed from lack of money' – but added that he hadn't ruled out returning to the idea. 'It was set up to encourage young stand-ups to come and make stuff online,' he said, 'and I still think that will happen. I think that's probably what Qi is going to do next, we're going to mutate online and start doing stuff where we can develop at our own speed.'

Maggie Gyllenhaal is to take the lead role in a BBC2 thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gyllenhaal, whose film credits include The Dark Knight, Crazy Heart and Secretary, will play a British life peer who is drawn into the world of international relations and espionage following the murder of a Palestinian businessman in The Honourable Woman. She joins a growing roster of American acting talent signing up for the channel's dramas. BBC2 viewers have just seen former X Files star Gillian Anderson shine in the serial killer drama The Fall and, shortly, Elisabeth Moss – from Mad Men and The West Wing – will play a police detective in Jane Campion's New Zealand-set thriller Top of the Lake, which will be shown on the channel in the summer. Christopher Walken and Winona Ryder will feature in the second BBC2 instalment of David Hare's Worricker Trilogy, Turks & Caicos, in which Bill Nighy reprises his Page Eight role as an MI5 officer. Ralph Fiennes also returns. BBC2 is reaping the rewards of a decision three years ago to invest an extra ten million quid a year in drama, doubling the channel's budget in the genre, which has resulted in shows including The Shadow Line, The Hour, last summer's Shakespeare history play adaptations The Hollow Crown and Line of Duty. The Honourable Woman is the latest project from The Shadow Line creator Hugo Blick and features Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein, the daughter of a Zionist arms procurer who is made a life peer for her promotion of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Like Top of the Lake it is a co-production with Robert Redford's Sundance Channel. Filming is due to begin in London next month, with foreign location shoots also planned for a story that spans the UK, America and Middle East. 'The Honourable Woman is scintillating drama: it is both a tightly plotted international political thriller and a superbly wrought character piece about hope, compromise, guilt and families,' said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel president. Ben Stephenson, the BBC drama controller, said he had been keen to work with Blick again after The Shadow Line and described The Honourable Woman as a 'really grown up, complicated' drama. Stephenson said the expansion of BBC2's drama output had been inspired in part by the channel's rich heritage in the genre, which includes Boys From The Blackstuff, Edge of Darkness and Our Friends in the North. 'I would like writers to feel they can do high concept pieces, fantasy, or relationship dramas,' he said, and 'tell big stories and come at things from a different angle.' Other upcoming BBC2 dramas include an adaptation of Hilary Mantel's historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, with Mark Rylance reportedly lined-up to play the lead role as Thomas Cromwell. A second series of Jed Mercurio's police corruption thriller Line of Duty has been commissioned and BBC2 will also be showing Peaky Blinders, a historical gangster drama set in Birmingham in 1919 and starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Helen McCrory. Stephenson said the channel should not shy away from risky material – including sex, violence and bad language – 'but never for the sake of it.' He added that he had been struck the strong feedback, both positive and negative, for shows such as The Shadow Line and The Fall. 'BBC2 drama is about taking risks,' said Stephenson. 'Some people are going to love these pieces, some people are going to hate them.' Indeed. Whingers, basically. Seems to be something of a running theme on today's blog.
The Apprentice saw a dip in the ratings on Wednesday night for BBC1, overnight figures show. Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's latest firing - following Jason Leech's departure last week - lost almost three hundred thousand viewers, falling to 5.85 million at 9pm. However, it was still the most-watched show outside of soaps and by a comfortable distance as we reach that point in the year where, for many people, watching telly is just too much like hard work. The Apprentice: You're Fired! was seen by 2.25m on BBC2. Earlier, Rhys Jones's Wildlife Patrol interested 2.06m at 7.30pm, whilst A Question of Sport has an overnight audience of 2.12m punters at 10.45pm. BBC2's Today At Wimbledon rose to 3.39m at 8.30pm, followed by Horizon with 1.45m at 9pm. On ITV, risible odious and wretched All-Star Mr & Mrs held steady from last week with 3.67m at 8pm, while Love & Marriage fell to 2.96m at 9pm. Channel Four's Twenty Four Hours in A&E continued with 1.96m at 9pm, followed by the latest Dates with six hundred and seventy six thousand viewers at 10pm. Why Am I Still Single? attracted four hundred and ninety four thousand punters at 10.30pm. On Channel Five, NCIS was watched by 1.51m at 9.15pm, followed by the latest Big Brother with 1.20m at 10pm. BBC3's coverage of the Confederations Cup match (and riot) between Brazil and Uruguay scored 1.60m at 7.30pm.

In selecting yer actual Charlotte Moore as the new BBC1 controller, one of the most powerful posts in British telly, the Beeb's director general Tony Hall has opted to promote a comparatively new face – a personable, friendly executive by all accounts and one who, at least according to the Gruniad Morning Star, 'does not stand on her own ego.' Which, considering it comes from a newspaper entirely made up of wankers who do, is perhaps, not quite the ringing endorsement you'd expect it to be. As commissioning editor of documentaries since 2009, Moore has led her team in providing a wide range of challenging and often highly acclaimed documentaries to all four BBC channels. Her stand-out programmes include Protecting Our Children, 7/7: One Day in London, The Great British Bake Off, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, The Choir, Inside Claridges and The Call Centre. She has no direct experience of picking popular 'shiny floor' light entertainment, comedy or drama, the key drivers which ensure BBC1 remains the UK's most popular channel, and where most of its near one billion smackers annual budget is spent. Nor has she the benefit of the 'nursery slopes' of a running digital channel, like her BBC1 predecessor Danny Cohen and BBC2 counterpart Janice Hadlow. However, since 2012 she has been responsible for all BBC knowledge programmes, including the award-winning BBC3 documentary series Our War and the forthcoming mental health season. Moore was, in the past year, marked out for promotion, selected first to step in to temporarily run BBC daytime and then, when Cohen was promoted to director of TV in April, to be acting controller of BBC1. She executed this responsibility with aplomb thanks to a calm and unshowy personality in an organisation still tragically riven with divisions. In addition, Moore is not one of those 'BBC lifers' so disdained by BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, tarnished by internal politics or prone to corporate jargon. She joined in 2006 from Ideal World, the Scottish company behind shows including Location, Location, Location, having worked in the independent production sector since the 1990s. Yet her understanding of the difficulties of programme-making means she is widely respected and well-liked by producers inside and outside the BBC, because she remains close to the creative community. Brian Woods, whose independent company True Vision makes social action documentaries such as Poor Kids for BBC1, said: 'She's absolutely delightful and very thoughtful.' Woods added that in meetings 'she gives you her full attention, appearing not to be very busy even if she is, and the notes at the end of a programme are helpful.' Moore, a graduate of Bristol University, is, according to the Gruniad profile, 'married to another television maker and has two school-age children. She has been known to push back meetings to attend school events, and often e-mails late at night once her children are in bed.' At an April breakfast panel at BAFTA where ambitious documentary makers hung on her every word – she commissioned about two hundred and twenty hours last year – she delivered a clear message about how the BBC's public service broadcasting remit translated into factual programming. 'I am looking for the next turn of the wheel,' she said. 'What are we saying about the modern world? Be ambitious.' Moore then provided a concise outline of what she was looking for, noting that The Secret Life Of Our Streets had been an unexpected hit. Moore has enjoyed a rapid rise, but she has been conscious of being in the right place at the right time: 'I think we are enjoying a boom time – there has never been such a demand for documentaries,' she said. Her appointment signals a rising appreciation of collaborative team players with an eye on the greater good of the BBC.

ITV's Myfanwy Moore has described the flop sitcoms Vicious and The Job Lot as 'a learning curve.' And a jolly steep one, at that. The comedy commissioning editor claimed that ITV is 'really proud' of both series, but added that 'no decision' has been made on whether they will be recommissioned, Broadcast reports. Moore added that in addition to their current Monday night comedy double-bill, the channel is looking for new hour-long shows to fill the Friday night Benidorm slot. 'It's the white heat of primetime - we have to play things in punchy places, so we know there's nowhere to hide,' suggested Moore in explanation as to how to shows could lose four fifths of their initial audience in just six weeks. Sir Derek Jacobi recently claimed that a second series of Vicious might not shoot until 2014, due to his co-star Sir Ian McKellen's busy film schedule. That's, if ITV recommission it at all after its disastrous slump in the ratings. 'We've done a Christmas special to remind people that we're still around, because Ian, of course, is a movie star,' Jacobi explained. 'He goes off and does the movies, and he's not free now 'til this time [May] next year, so we can't do another one until he's free.'
Lord Justice Leveson his very self is to appear before MPs for the first time to discuss his report on press regulation and the ensuing impasse over setting up a new industry watchdog – but not before the autumn. Leveson has accepted an invitation from the Commons culture, media and sport select committee to give evidence as part of its inquiry into the future of the press regulation. However, he said that existing commitments meant he would not be able to appear before parliament's summer recess begins on 18 July. Parliament returns on 2 September. Leveson was responding to a letter from John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP who chairs the culture select committee. 'Lord Justice Leveson has now received an invitation from the culture, media and sport select committee,' a spokeswoman for the committee said on Thursday. 'He has written to the committee chair accepting the invitation but explaining that existing commitments make it impossible for him to attend before 18 July. Lord Justice Leveson has offered to make arrangements for when parliament returns after the summer recess.' The court of appeal judge has spoken publicly just once since the publication of his report on the future of press regulation on 29 November, giving a speech in Melbourne, titled Hold the front page: newsgathering in a time of change in mid-December. MPs will undoubtedly want to hear Leveson's views on the current stand-off between politicians and the industry over setting up a new press regulator. And, perhaps on why the prime minister appointed him to chair his inquiry in the first place since he, seemingly, had no intention of putting the judge's recommendations into action. Last week the Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, proposed at a culture select committee hearing that Lord Grade, the former BBC and ITV chairman, act as mediator between the two sides.

Meanwhile, five phone-hacking defendants, including well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and the prime minister's former 'chum' Andy Coulson, have lost a last ditch legal bid to block their prosecution over alleged phone hacking and other alleged naughty badness. Former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks has pleaded not guilty to phone-hacking charges and has Coulson. Revelations about phone-hacking led to the closure of the Scum of the World in shame and ignominy in July 2011. Brooks, forty five, also denies conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and obstruction of justice.

Britain's Got Toilets winner Pudsey the dog was reportedly replaced by stand-in dogs for a TV show last year. Expect the Daily Scum Mail to have an article on the public being deceive by 'wicked TV bosses' on stand-by as we speak. David Walliams's Christmas BBC1 show Mr Stink hired Pudsey to play Hugh Bonneville's canine sidekick Duchess. However, two of Pudsey's puppies Crumpet and Dillon were apparently used on-screen for some scenes when Pudsey was 'too tired', reports the Sun. Pudsey won Britain's Got Toilets in 2012 for his dancing tricks alongside owner and trainer Ashleigh Butler. Handlers are said to have applied make-up to Crumpet and Dillon, while their coats were altered to make them look like Pudsey. Pudsey's agent Jonathan Shalit said: 'Yes, there is a spare Pudsey because if you do a film it's expensive, and if Pudsey gets ill or goes above and beyond the number of hours, you need to have a spare Pudsey so he isn't abused. There aren't any rules - but it's about caring and not abusing animals.' He added: 'We've got a Hollywood film coming up and it starts filming in September. We'll need several doubles then. Lassie had five doubles. It's not unusual. In fact we're looking for more dogs that look just like Pudsey because his own family don't quite look the same.' A BBC spokesman said: 'Pudsey was the consummate professional. But never too proud to ask family members for a helping paw.'

Sky Sports 1 will be made available for free on the first day of the 2013-14 Premier League football season. On Saturday 17 August, the channel will replace Sky 2 (on Sky and other pay TV services) and Pick TV (on Freeview and YouView). Managing director of Sky Sports Barney Francis said: 'It's our biggest ever season of Premier League football and we're inviting every home in Britain to enjoy the opening day. All fans can join the action as we launch our new Saturday schedule for the most eagerly awaited Premier League season in years.' Pundit Jamie Redknapp added: 'This is a brilliant way for everyone to follow the action from the first day of the Premier League season with Sky Sports.' Although, when asked to walk in a straight line and talk at the same time, the former Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws and Stottingtot Hotshots midfielder developed a mysterious groin-strain and had to spend the rest of the day on the treatment table. So, no change there, then. The announcement marks the relaunch of the Sky Sports weekend - which includes Sky's 5.30pm Saturday evening Premier League fixture as part of Saturday Night Football.

The Sun's new editor David Dinsmore has pledged to retain pictures of topless women on page three of the tabloid. No surprise there, of course. But more than a few eyebrows may well have been raised in Liverpool at another of the articles in Dinsmore's paper on Wednesday (though, of course, the city's continuing Sun boycott means that few Merseysiders will have actually seen it). Wednesday's Sun contained in a policy spread attacking the police for a series of 'disastrous failures' such as the Jimmy Savile fiasco, the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson and, wait for it, Hillsborough. The paper ran its piece alongside a facsimile of its The Real Truth"front page from last year rather than its more family and despicable front page of 1989, just after the tragedy which cost ninety people their lives. That's not to say that the Sun is, necessarily, wrong about the disgrace of the various police cover-ups related to Hillsborough. Similarly, its other case histories of policing scandals, including the latest Stephen Lawrence revelations, make some genuinely excellent points. But, they cynically overlook the uncomfortable truth that the Sun itself was responsible for crass and ignorant reporting failures in at least some of those instances. Sometimes, it was the result of unquestioningly accepting what reporters were told by police officers; sometimes it was due to a knee-jerk pro-police prejudice which the newspaper cultivated over many years. In all cases, the end result was the smearing of innocent victims (just as with Hillsborough). For example, following the death of Ian Tomlinson in 2009, the Sun reported: 'New photos show paper seller Ian Tomlinson — unsteady on his feet through booze — being shoved aside after he blocked a police van and refused to move. The pictures cast doubt on claims the forty seven-year-old dad-of-nine was on his way home and got caught up in trouble accidentally. And they add to the confusion surrounding the cause of his death.' The picture - which is still up on the paper's website for all the world to see - actually shows no such thing. He happens to be walking in front of the van and it is impossible to know what the driver was saying to him. There is no shoving of any kind, no is there any indication of how the knows him to be 'unsteady on his feet through booze' except that that's what they had been told by one of their police friends. Then there was the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man killed by police officers who mistook him for a bomber in the wake of the July 2005 tube and bus atrocities. It was the Sun that reported he was carrying a large 'suspicious' bag into Stockwell tube station prior to the shooting. He did not have a bag. It was the Sun which carried a report saying that he had been accused of raping a woman. This falsehood, attributed to 'anonymous police sources', led to de Menezes's body being exhumed, against the wishes of his family, to obtain a DNA sample. This proved that he had not raped the woman. Of course, it's fair to say the paper was often misled by the police. But that didn't stop it from continually allowing itself to be misled down the years. There are two overlapping reasons why the Sun has, seemingly, chosen to attack the police at this time, one of which is touched upon in the leading article itself - hostility towards the Leveson report. The other one, of course, is about the arrest of numerous Sun journalists - often on charges of colluding with, and paying police officers and other public officials, for stories. The editorial, states: 'The key to a better [police] force is more scrutiny by the media, not less.' Hard to argue with this. But, in his column accompanying the feature, the odious scum Trevor Kavanagh writes: 'Too often, like a dog returning to its vomit, the police insist on investigating their own crimes and misdemeanours.' Also hard to argue with that. But didn't the odious scum Kavanagh and the Sun say something entirely different about press dogs returning to their own vomit by insisting on investigating their own crimes by preserving press self-regulation? The article the odious scum Kavanagh writes is entitled As our cops are shamed by cover-ups and corruption, we ask: can we ever trust them? One might well ask the same thing about journalism.

As speaking of odious louse organs of the press, the Daily Scum Mail has been forced to grovellingly apologise and pay one hundred and ten thousand smackers in libel damages to a London defence firm it wrongly linked with an alleged chemical weapons plot in Syria. Britam Defence Limited complained that an article on the Daily Scum Mail's website falsely accused two of its executives of conspiring in a 'nefarious and illegal plot' in the Middle Eastern state 'for enormous financial reward.' The article quoted one e-mail supposedly sent between two executives at the company which claimed to show that Britam had agreed to supply chemical weapons to Homs for use in an attack. However, the e-mails turned out to be forged. In a statement at the high court in London on Wednesday, a lawyer for Britam said its founder, Philip Doughty, and its business development director, David Goulding, had 'suffered considerable distress and embarrassment' over the article. Adam Tudor, a solicitor at law firm Carter-Ruck, said on behalf on Britam: 'The e-mails were not written or sent by the claimants (or by anyone at Britam Defence Limited or anyone associated with them), and the illegal hacking of Britam Defence's website remains the subject of a criminal investigation. The claimants had no involvement in any chemical weapons plot and would never contemplate becoming involved in the heinous activities which were the subject of the article.' The Daily Scum Mail publisher, Associated Newspapers, agreed the six-figure libel settlement after accepting that the e-mails were fabricated and that the allegation of a chemical weapons plot was entirely untrue. Martin Wood, for Associated Newspapers, said in a truly heart-warmingly sycophantic statement before the judge, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies: 'On behalf of the defendant, I confirm that the defendant offers its sincere apologies to the claimants for the damage and distress caused by the publication of these false allegations, which had appeared on US websites. The defendant acknowledges that the e-mails in question were completely fabricated and that there is no question of any of the claimants being involved – or even considering becoming involved – in the heinous actions to which the article referred. The defendant is pleased to set the record straight.' The case is the second six-figure libel payout by Associated Newspapers in under a week. Last Thursday, the Daily Scum Mail paid one hundred and twenty thousand notes in damages to the alleged TV psychic Sally Morgan over an article which made an untrue allegation that she had used a hidden earpiece to deceive a theatre audience.

Meanwhile, one Daily Scum Mail louse might be about to have a very nasty brush with celebrity vengeance. Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin has threatened to 'fuck up' the Daily Scum Mail's LA-based showbiz reporter, and then promptly deleted his Twitter account, after being outraged by a story claiming that his wife tweeted during the funeral of the late actor James Gandolfini. The Scum Mail's George Stark had claimed that Hilaria Baldwin 'made a string of tweets and retweets' about things including 'smoothie recipes and shopping tips' during the funeral of The Sopranos actor. Baldwin, who was once infamously caught on tape calling his young daughter a 'rude, thoughtless little pig', went into attack mode, calling Stark a 'toxic little queen' whom he intended to 'find and fuck up.' He followed that up with a bit of trash talk saying that he would 'put my foot up your fucking ass. But I'm sure you'd dig it too much.' Ooo, get her. Baldwin then deleted his Twitter account and was last seen prowling the streets of Santa Monica wearing a pair of Doc Martens. It's a response that Tony Soprano, everybody's favourite gangster with a violent streak, would have been proud of.

The Glastonbury Festival starts in earnest on Friday, as the main musical programme gets under way. Acts on the opening day include Rita Ora, Chic, Dizzee Rascal and headliners The Arctic Monkeys. Drummer Matt Helders told the BBC that the band would 'have some fun' with their set. By Thursday evening, one hundred and eighteen thousand ticket holders were on site - giving Worthy Farm in rural Somerset a population about the same size as Chester. Another sixty two thousand people are due to arrive by the time the festival is fully underway. The three-day event caters to all tastes, with cutting-edge dance acts Skrillex and Rudimental rubbing shoulders with veteran entertainers like Kenny Rogers and Sir Bruce Forsyth. As tradition dictates, the site was drenched with rain on Thursday and, on Friday morning, everybody was knee-deep in clarts. What was forecast as a short, sharp shower turned into an all-day deluge. It did little to dampen spirits of those attending, however. Revellers either retreated to indoor arenas or made the most of the sludge - creating impromptu mud slides and assault courses around the nine hundred-acre site.

Meanwhile, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self is indebted to the excellent Doug Morris for today's Thought For Today. Which comes from a piece in the Independent by the, occasional wee-yer-pants-funny, Grace Dent in a piece entitled Spare me your "Glastonbury vibes." At our age, the only reason to camp is a humanitarian disaster: 'I don't like hippies,' begins yer actual Grace, positively. 'There is not one person in the Green Field doling out positive vibes and head massages whom I don't believe wouldn't benefit from some solid employment and regular exposure to a bar of Cussons Imperial Leather. And while I'm here, people dragging your toddlers to Glastonbury: this is child cruelty. Your kids would rather be in a tiddlers club on a Thomas Cook holiday in Lanzarote, not observing you skanking to The Two Bears, in scenes that they will vividly retell during therapy sessions in 2036.' Never trust a hippie, dear blog reader. It's this blog's mission statement.

More4 has announced an evening of tribute programmes to Mick Aston. The archaeologist and author - who was best known for his appearances in Time Team from 1994 to 2011 - died earlier this week. The night will include a selection of classic Time Team episodes featuring Aston, along with his former colleagues sharing their memories and stories. Channel Four's head of factual programming, Ralph Lee, said: 'We have been terribly saddened by the death of Professor Mick Aston. We are broadcasting a tribute night, recognising his important contribution to Time Team over the years, and the key role he played in making archaeology so popular.' Time Team's executive producer Philip Clarke said: 'Mick was a one-off. He was really irreplaceable as the heart and soul of Time Team. Thousands of people were not only inspired by him but truly warmed to him and felt they knew him. He was a television natural whilst professing to have no interest in the medium. He lived for the thing he loved, which was archaeology.' Sir Tony Robinson said of his close friend: 'Mick Aston was a great British eccentric; an atheist whose life's work was medieval monasticism, an anarchist who for many decades loyally fulfilled the labyrinthine requirements of his university and British television, and a grumpy old curmudgeon with the kindest of hearts and a great capacity for friendship. His mission was sharing his passion for archaeology with ordinary people rather than keeping its secrets locked away behind the walls of Britain's universities. This made him a contentious figure among some of his contemporaries and he was deeply wounded by the vociferous attacks he suffered, particularly in the early years of Time Team. But archaeology is now a subject that tens of thousands of people enjoy and value, and this is almost solely down to him. I hope he'll receive belated recognition for that fact. He will be sorely missed by all of us who worked closely with him over the years.'

Channel Five has axed the live feed from this year's Big Brother house. The two hours aired every evening from 7pm to 9pm on 5* will cease from 6 July. 'Big Brother's live streaming has been removed from the 5* schedule from next week,' a spokesperson confirmed matter-of-factly to the Digital Spy website. No reason has been given for the decision, but a fuller statement will follow from producers, the spokesperson said. On its launch in the UK in 2000, Big Brother had a round-the-clock live feed, broadcast with a ten-minute delay. Channel Four reduced its red button live feed output in 2008 due to falling viewer figures. It reinstated a round-the-clock live feed for Big Brother series eleven, the final series on the station, exclusively online - priced at forty nine pence for a day pass, £1.99 for a week pass and £14.99 for a season pass. When Channel Five bought the rights to the show in 2011, it announced that it would not be featuring a twenty four-hour live feed and would instead focus on social media to engage with viewers. 'We can confirm there will not be a twenty four-hour live feed from the house available online or on-air,' it said at the time. 'This year, we have decided to focus on the nightly highlights show and on directly engaging with the show's viewers through social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and specially created iPhone, iPad and Android apps.' Short bursts of live footage from the house were reintroduced on sister channel 5* for 2012's Celebrity Big Brother after major events such as evictions or new housemates arriving on the show.

Previously unheard sketches from cult sketch team Absolutely are to be broadcast for the first time. The group got together in April for their first stage appearance in the twenty years since their Channel Four show ended. They recorded scenes for Radio 4's Sketchorama show, sharing the bill with other acts. But the predominantly Scottish team actually performed almost forty five minutes of material – and now a one-off special has been commissioned to accommodate it. Radio 4 commissioning editor Caroline Raphael said: 'Having heard the sketches chosen for the recent episode of Sketchorama, I was delighted to learn there was more. The Absolutely crew are still held in high esteem and remembered with affection. This is a comeback treat.' Pete Baikie, Morwenna Banks, Moray Hunter, Gordon Kennedy and John Sparkes all took part in the Sketchorama reunion, which was recorded in Glasgow. Sketchorama: Absolutely Special will be broadcast on 8 August at 6.30pm and promises characters such as Frank Hovis and The Old Lady Artist and more from the Stoneybridge council and Calum Gilhooley. Skill.

A man is reportedly suing Japanese television for using 'too many foreign words'. Hoji Takahashi, seventy one, is suing Japan's national broadcaster for 'emotional distress' and demands 1.41 million yen (which is about nine grand) in damages, AFP reports. The pensioner, who is a member of The Treat Japanese As Important Association, believes that the broadcasters in Japan are 'too reliant' on using English words instead of traditional, Japanese ones. His lawyer, Mutsuo Miyata said: 'The basis of his concern is that Japan is being too Americanised. There is a sense of crisis that this country is becoming just a province of America.' Since World War II, Japan has regularly borrowed words from other languages. For example, most Japanese speakers use 'trouble', 'risk', 'drive' and 'parking' during everyday conversations. Japan also uses words from other countries, such as Germany, France and Spain.

Billionaire tyrant (and drag) Rupert Murdoch's FOX News Channel threatened to sue the makers of The Simpsons over a spoof news ticker, the show's creator Matt Groening has claimed. Groening said FOX News raised the unlikely prospect of suing a show broadcast by its sister channel, FOX Entertainment, because it wanted to stop The Simpsons parodying its famously anti-Democratic party agenda. The alleged row centred on a parody of FOX News' rolling news ticker, which included headlines such as 'Do Democrats cause cancer?' Groening claimed that the news channel backed down because it would have caused FOX to bring a lawsuit against itself. 'FOX said they would sue the show and we called their bluff because we didn't think Rupert Murdoch would pay for FOX to sue itself. We got away with it,' Groening told National Public Radio in the US. 'But now FOX has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news,' he added on NPR's Fresh Air programme. The episode of The Simpsons in question showed a rolling news ticker at the bottom of the screen, which read: 'Pointless news crawls up thirty seven per cent ... Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at ... Rupert Murdoch: Terrific dancer ... Dow down five thousand points ... Study: Ninety two per cent of Democrats are gay ... JFK posthumously joins Republican Party ... Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple...' FOX News denied that the channel had ever threatened legal action. 'We are scratching our heads over here. We liked the cartoon. We thought it was great,' Robert Zimmerman, a FOX News spokesman, claimed to the Independent. So, either Matt Groening is lying, or Robert Zimmerman from FOX News is. Which one do you believe, dear blog reader?
It has become fashionable - not to mention entirely accurate - of late to describe Coldplay as boring middle-class tits. However, that has not stopped the tedious Chris Martin-fronted rock band being the highest ranked Britons on Forbes's 2013 global celebrity power list. A list, seemingly, full of, and indeed voted for by, lots and lots and lots middle-class tits. It's so nice to see them all sticking together, isn't it?

Russia really knows how to celebrate Pride Month, it would appear. After the country's public feuds with Madonna, Pussy Riot and their own LGBT community, it's no secret what the Russian establishment thinks of 'the homosexual lifestyle.' Now, the Communists of Russia, a small group in the south of the country, are threatening to protest an upcoming Elton John gig in the city of Krasnodar if the singer doesn't change his flamboyant outfits. Mikhail Abramyan, who heads the local chapter of the Communists of Russia, called Sir Elt's outfits 'homosexual propaganda.' But he didn't stop there - he even suggested a 'more appropriate' wardrobe for the musician: 'a knee-length caftan, a fur hat and leather boots.' In other words, looking like Rasputin. Cos, that's not camp at all, is it? Even though the concert promoters have rejected the idea, Abramyan hopes Sir Elt will reconsider. Madonna was sued last year for ten million dollars by Russian anti-gay groups because they claimed her concert in St Petersburg 'promoted homosexuality,' a criminal offence in many regions in the country. Hopefully Sir Elt his very self will pull a few of the more outrageous costumes, if you will, out of his closet in his own form of protest when he rocks the Urals in July.
And indeed, dear blog reader, that brings us to the first of today's two (yes two) Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. For on Thursday evening, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self attended the final Uncle Scunthorpe's Record Player of the 2012-2013 season at the Tyneside. Fear not, however, dear blog reader, there is a one-off end-of-season special featuring Kraftwerk next Friday and then the next series kicks off in September so yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will still be getting out of the house. Anyway, the final vinyl of the season was yer actual Sir Elt's magnificent 1974 epic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which thoroughly entertained a full house. And the slide-show this week was particularly fun (although one doubts the Communists of Russia would have approved of much of it. Particularly those images involving animals).
Tell 'em all about it, Sir Elt.
Some very sad news now. Alan Myers, the long-time drummer for the US new wave band Devo, has died, aged fifty eight, after suffering from cancer. Myers died on Monday in Los Angeles, the band said. He was Devo's drummer from 1976 to 1985, when they produced the massively influential LP, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, and on several hit singles, including the classic 'Whip It'. One of the band's two founders, Gerald Casale, called Myers 'the human metronome. People watching him thought we were using a drum machine,' he told the Associated Press. 'Nobody had ever drummed like that.' Myers played on classic Devo songs such as 'Mongoloid', 'Jocko Homo' and the band's minimalist version of The Rolling Stones' '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'. The comments were echoed by Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo's co-founder. 'I think he probably influenced a lot of drummers that are out there now because he was really great at being very precise and minimalist,' he told the Reuters news agency. Myers, the band's third drummer, played on Devo's first seven LPs, but was increasingly unfulfilled, according to the 2003 book We Are Devo! 'He could not tolerate being replaced by the Fairlight and autocratic machine music. I agreed,' tweeted Casale. Myers parted company with Devo after their LP Shout, to pursue jazz and music 'off the beaten path', Mothersbaugh said, adding: 'We always regretted it when he left.' Following his departure from the band, he worked as an electrical contractor in Los Angeles, and since 2005 had played improvisational music with his wife, Christine Myers, in the group Skyline Electric, and more recently Swahili Blonde, whose line-up features his daughter Laena Myers-Ionita.

So, for today's second Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, a somewhat obvious choice, but a great one, and Alan Myers at his finest.

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