Sunday, June 02, 2013

Week Twenty Four: Just A Glance From Behind Happened By Chance Or Design

So, anyway dear blog reader, apparently there's this odd rumour going around that Mel Smith is leaving Alas Smith & Jones. Anybody heard anything about that?

Inevitably, the news that yer actual Matt Smith is to leave his role in Doctor Who at the end of the year has already prompted all manner of absurd, ill-informed and borderline moronic speculation and rank and total glakery from crazy fools about the identity of his likely replacement. Sorry, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was having a Mr T-style moment there, dear blog reader. It's just, this numskull foolishness really gets right on my tit end. Case in point: A host of names - most of them, utterly bloody stupid - have been suggested in Sunday's papers, among them Luther's Idris Elba, Dame Helen Mirren and yer actual John Hurt. Completely ignoring the fact that since Doctor Who is in production for ten months every year anyone who takes on the role would have little time to pursue any other work in short or medium term. So, any actor who has already got a major film or TV career on the go is unlikely to venture within a thousand miles of the gig even if they were to be offered it. Which, they won't be for exactly that reason. 'Somewhere out there is someone who's about to become The Doctor,' said executive producer Steven Moffat. And, of course, he's dead right - he's got the job of picking said individual, after all. Like Matt and David Tennant before him, this blogger expects that the next Doctor will be someone probably in their late twenties or thirties (an older actor is possible but unlikely due to the seriously exhausting nature of the production) and, likely to be not especially widely known to the general public - for a variety of reasons, at least one of which is the fact that the BBC haven't got as much money as they used to and, frankly, couldn't afford an Idris Elba-type Doctor even if they wanted one. It has been widely suggested that the role may go to a black actor for the first time, with Homeland's David Harewood and former rapper Ashley Walters among those mentioned alongside Elba, Paterson Joseph and Chiwetel Ejiofor who were both strongly fancied last time there was a regeneration. Walters appears on this list, seemingly, for the sole reason that he recently appeared in an episode of the popular long-running family SF drama. Mind you, Harewood has also appeared in a guest role on the show (in 2010) for that matter. There has also been speculation that the role could go to a woman, with Twenty Twelve and Broadchurch actress Olivia Colman and Fiona O'Shaughnessy from the Channel Four drama Utopia among the candidates cited in the weekend's papers. Albeit not cited by anyone that actually knows what they're talking about, seemingly. For example, quite how Colman, one of the great actresses of her generation and who is massively in demand in both TV and film at the moment, would fit in her other, numerous, commitments around a ten-month-a-year shoot, the idiot who made this daft suggestion doesn't care to speculate. Certainly it has been established within the series lore (as recently as the 2011 episode The Doctor's Wife) that Time Lords can regenerate into a different gender. So, that's not the issue it may once have been although I'd, still, expect heated arguments and significant exploding of heads and sphincters in some of the less enlightened corners of fandom at any - even slight - suggestion that the next Doctor 'might be a bird'! If Zawe Ashton from Channel Four's Fresh Meat were to land the role, as the historian and broadcaster Matthew Sweet suggests in the Independent, she would fit both the black and female criteria. Good actress, too. And such an eventuality would certainly piss off any bone-thick sexist, racist scum loitering around the periphery of the show's audience. So, good. Let's do that, then. Older actors whose names have been linked to the role (without, seemingly, any supporting evidence whatsoever) include seventy one-year-old David Warner, who was seen as a Russian scientist in a recent episode of the drama, along with perennial names like Bill Nighy, Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley. In the Sunday Scum Express, Sebastian Brook of the fan website Doctor Who Online raises what the paper claims to be 'the intriguing prospect' of Sean Pertwee following in the footsteps of his father Jon. But, that's not gonna happen either so don't get too excited. Bookmakers William Hill have made former Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint and Russell Tovey from Being Human and The Job Lot (who also previously appeared in a minor role in Doctor Who, something of a running theme amongst many of those speculated about) as their joint ten-to-one favourites to named the next Doctor. But, both are also unlikely as, again, frankly they're too big a name already in their career. Ludicrously, the bookmakers are also offering odds on Sherlock's Martin Freeman, Skyfall's Ben Whishaw and former assistant Billie Piper returning to the series as The Doctor's new incarnation. The Pied Piper has more chance than any of that trio. William Hill offer the same odds - sixteen-to-one - on David Morrissey returning to the show following his appearance in its 2008 Christmas special as a man believing he is The Doctor. Which, says far more about the limited imagination of bookmakers when it comes to casting decisions as anything else. Among their more outlandish (for which read 'total-arse-bollock-stupid') suggestions are Tom Cruise, David Beckham (no, seriously) and Britain's Got Toilets judge Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, all of whom are ranked two hundred and fifty to one outsiders. No shit. See, it's this sort of numskull tabloid glakery that really grates this blogger's cheese, dear blog reader. Why not stick the Chuckle Brothers, Andy Townsend and Kerry Katona in there as well and make it into a Frankie Boyle punchline? Among the - slightly - more plausible suggestions are Ben Daniels (an early favourite with some bookmakers although, again, possibly a touch too established a name already), Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd, Eddie Redmayne from Les Miserables, Richard Madden from Game of Thrones and Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel who are all cited in various Sunday's newspapers along with Bond actor Rory Kinnear (whom, in an ideal world would probably be yer actual Keith telly Topping's own personal choice) and Waking The Dead's Tara Fitzgerald. Merlin's Colin Morgan, some cracking young actors like Tom Hiddleston, Rafe Spall and Daniel Rigby, odious full-of-his-own-importance bag-of-rancid-diarrhoea Jack Whitehall, yer actual national sweetheart Sue Perkins (who isn't even an actress so that's, sadly, a non-starter) and Freeman's Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch have also been mooted as potential replacements for Smudger. Mostly by glakes, admittedly. See, basically, nobody has a ruddy clue, dear blog reader. It's just a total guessing game and it doesn't really matter if the name you throw into the ring at this stage is even vaguely realistic as, for the moment anyway, no one is likely to contradict you by ramming an unwelcome dose of reality harshly down your throat. What, David Bowie as the next Doctor? Wow, really? 'A life is going to change and Doctor Who will be born all over again,' said The Lord Thy God Moffat his very self. 'After fifty years, that's still so exciting.' Aye. That's undeniably true even if the media circus surrounding the process isn't. So, what would yer actual Keith Telly Topping's guess be, if somebody held a gun to his head, I hear you bellow? Well, dear blog reader, I'd say that the next Doctor will probably (though for once not definitely) be a man; may well be of an ethnic background other than Caucasian (although, again, that's not a deal-breaker), will be under the age of forty and will, likely, be someone whose previous work is not especially familiar to the majority of the drama's audience. Just a wild stab in the dark, you understand. I trust William Hill will be paying me billions if that description turns out to be accurate. Next ...

Britain's Got Toilets' latest semi-final attracted 7.96m on Friday, overnight data shows. A peak of 9.8m viewers saw Francine Lewis and Asanda Jezile move into next week's grand final from 7.30pm. The results show was seen by 7.2m at 9.30pm. Predictably, opposite that, the BBC had somewhat lean pickings - Have I Got News For You and Not Going Out earned 3.81m and 3.32m respectively from 9pm on BBC1. Earlier Would I Lie To You was seen by 2.63m at 8.30pm and, subsequently, The Graham Norton Show was watched by 3.6m at 10.45pm. On BBC2, The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England interested 1.77m from 9pm, prior to which Gardeners' World had 1.85m viewers at 8.30pm. Meanwhile, Channel Four's Sarah Millican: Thoroughly Modern Millican Live was watched by nine hundred and ten thousand punters at 9pm and Alan Carr's Chatty Man had an audience of 1.17m at 10pm. A repeat of Lewis was the highest rated show across the digital channels, earning seven hundred and forty seven thousand punters for ITV3 at 8pm.

Jenna-Louise Coleman her very self, meanwhile, has admitted that it will be 'very difficult' to say goodbye to Matt Smith. Well, he's not dying, love, he's just leaving one job for another. People do it every day. 'I could not have imagined coming into the show without Matt as my Doctor, holding my hand, really, quite literally. I totally lucked-out in having a creative, generous, clever, and lovely fella to work alongside day after day,' Coleman said. 'I feel so privileged to have been part of Matt's reign, to have to been companion to what is and what I think always will be one of our greatest Doctors. He is so in love with the show, he works tirelessly hard, surprises me every day, always creating and discovering something new about the Doctor. A true gent, a leading man and a very special friend. I know it will be a very difficult goodbye for me, but I for one can't wait to see where his career takes him next.' Yer actual Jenna-Louise will continue to appear alongside the new Doctor when the show returns in 2014. She added: 'Of course with the same welcome I was brought in with, I look forward to welcoming the next Doctor. But it's not over 'til it's over.'
Britain's Got Toilets final semi-final also dominated the overnight the ratings on Saturday evening with 8.13 million punters. Including - for once - yer actual Keith Telly Topping who happened to be round his brother's gaff enjoying a very nice meal and a few glasses of wine with Our Colin, Our Maureen and Our Graeme. A peak of 9.14m viewers saw Attraction and Jordan O'Keefe move into next week's grand final from 7pm. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping told Our Colin that the ventriloquist wouldn't make it through on the public vote. Anyway, the results show was seen by 7.42m at. Over on BBC1, The Voice fell to 5.73m from 8.30pm. The show peaked at 6.27m for its latest episode, which featured the first of the knock-out rounds. Between episodes of Britain's Got Toilets on ITV, Les Dawson: An Audience With That Never Was had 5.1m viewers at 8.30pm, while new US spy thriller The Americans debuted with a slightly disappointing 1.98m at 10pm. Back on BBC1, Casualty had 4.22m at 9.45pm and Beyoncé and Friends Live From Twickenham attracted 1.39m from 10.45pm. BBC2 continued its Tudor Court Season with an evening of programming including A Tudor Feast and Henry VIII: Patron Or Plunderer?, which took nine hundred and ninety thousand and 1.14m respectively. The movie The Other Boleyn Girl was watched by 1.23m at 9.45pm. Channel Four showed the 2007 blockbuster Transformers at 8.30pm, bringing in eight hundred and eighty thousand viewers (4.5%). Elsewhere, a double bill of NCIS took six hundred and twenty one thousand and eight hundred and eighty thousand punters on Channel Five.

A group of new professional dancers will be introduced to Strictly Come Dancing when the next series begins later in the year. Producers have announced four of the existing group will be leaving the programme. One, Erin Boag, has been on the show since it began in 2004. Aliona Vilani, Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone will also not be returning. In a statement the BBC said they were all leaving 'to focus on their careers outside of Strictly and for professional reasons.' Boag has previously danced with Olympic medalist Colin Jackson and impressionist Rory Bremner. She said: 'After ten wonderful years, and with a truly heavy heart, I have decided to decline the BBC's very kind offer to compete again in series eleven.' Flavia won last year's series with gymnast Louis Smith. Iveta Lukosiute, who stood in for Vilani on last year's Strictly and danced with TV presenter Johnny Ball, will be joining the show on a permanent basis. British-born Emma Slater, who appeared in musical film Mamma Mia!, is another newcomer. She said: 'I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to join Strictly, it's such an honour. One of the first things I thought of was my mum - she's going to be over the moon!' Slovenian dancer Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara, who is a dancer in TV series Glee will be the other new faces.

And, so to your next batch of Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 8 June
After weeks of auditions and five tedious semi-finals, the national talent search comes to a close as the remaining contestants perform one more time in Britain's Got Toilets - 7:30 ITV. And, for the next two and a half hours, Arisxandra, Gabz, Luminites, Richard & Adam, Jack Carroll, Pre-Skool, Francine Lewis, Asanda Jezile, Attraction and Jordan O'Keefe, plus a wildcard entry selected from those who just missed out on the final ten will bore you shitless. Or, you know, maybe not. They have one simple aim - to win a coveted slot at this year's Royal Variety Performance and get their hands on the two hundred and fifty thousand wonga prize. All they have to do is impress the voting public, as the opinions of judges Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon now count for nothing. Not that they ever counted for anything in the first place, of course. Who wins is entirely down to the viewers at home. Ant and/or Dec - and their shiny foreheads - present all the fun, plus a few surprises along the way. Last in the series. A peak audience of more than fourteen million viewers watched Ashleigh Butler and her dog, Pudsey, dance their way to victory in last year's show. Two facts which probably say more than a thousand Channel Four documentaries about the right-shite-state-of-affairs that is Britain in the early years of the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader. This is what we're reduced to. God help us all.

Anybody who was a teenager in the 1970s probably owned and grew up with a copy of The Eagles' Hotel California. Unless you were yer actual Keith Telly Topping who would have the damn thing in the house. At the time it was the height of rock sophistication, a sign that you were adult and cool and into that whole fierce lead guitar thing and what punk rock set out to destroy. Anyway, if you were a sad old stinking hippie who worshipped Joe Walsh for those unforgettable solos, prepare to wallow in a warm bath of nostalgia with the two-part documentary History Of The Eagles - 10:00 BBC2. It explores the evolution and enduring popularity of the American rock band, beginning by charting the group's formation and rise to fame in the 1970s through to its break-up in 1980. Featuring rare archive material, concert footage, home movies and interviews with members past and present including Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B Schmit, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Felder. Plus, contributions by Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Kenny Rogers. Concludes tomorrow at 10.30pm.

The Jennings' latest assignment is to plant a bug in the office of defence secretary Caspar Weinberger before an Anglo-American conference is due to take place in The Americans - 10:00 ITV. However, with little time to complete their mission, the couple apply pressure to Weinberger's maid by poisoning her son and withholding the antidote until she agrees to help. Meanwhile, FBI agent Beeman persuades a clerk at the Soviet embassy to spy for the Bureau. Cold War drama, starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich.

Sunday 9 June
As the crime drama Agatha Christie's Poirot returns for its thirteenth and final series - 9:00 ITV - The fastidious Belgian detective and his little grey cells confront their final problems, starting with Elephants Can Remember. His crime-fiction writing pal Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) does most of the donkey work when an overbearing friend, Mrs Burton-Cox, tries to stop her son's engagement to a young woman with a mysterious past. Her parents died thirteen years previously of gunshot wounds on a cliff top, apparently the victims of a murder/suicide pact. But, fearing a scandal, the battleaxe (Greta Scacchi) is keen to put the kibosh on young love. As for Poirot (the great David Suchet), age doesn't seem to diminish his extraordinary powers of intuition and foresight when he is summoned to investigate the death of a friend at a strange clinic. It's the usual enjoyable drama trifle with heaps of guest actors providing the glacé cherries. Elsewhere, Ariadne is being pressed to uncover the truth behind two decade-old deaths. As the pair dig deep for evidence, they soon discover that their separate investigations are linked and join forces to solve the overarching mystery.

Liz Bonnin, who was a wildlife biologist before her TV career, joins a group of experts in the brutally cold and inhospitable terrain of Siberia to track a handful of the world's few remaining Siberian tigers in Operation Snow Tiger - 8:00 BBC2. They are sleekly beautiful creatures but there are just three hundred or so left in the wild. It's the usual sad story: poachers killing the animals to sell body parts to the Chinese to be made into useless alleged 'medicines'. A Siberian tiger carcass can be worth up to fifty thousand dollars. The team sets up cameras throughout a snowy, dense forest in the hope of catching footage of the tigers, and there is much excitement when a ghostly, burning bright figure pops up one night to gaze dolefully into the lens. But Operation Snow Tiger soon becomes a rescue effort when three orphaned cubs are spotted in a blizzard.

A school bus carrying pupils on a day trip swerves off a road and plunges into an Alpine ravine. Years later, one of the 'dead' teenagers returns home to her village, showing no sign of injury or ageing — her only memory is of setting off on her final journey that very morning. This intriguing plot is the startling opening to the much-anticipated French supernatural thriller The Returned - 9:00 Channel Four. As the episode unfolds, more seemingly 'dead' people start arriving. Other inexplicable things happen — a butterfly pinned in a display cabinet comes alive, the water levels in a nearby reservoir drop. It's all terribly French and restrained, but this means that The Returned unfolds carefully, and the tension thickens like the best béchamel sauce. Their arrival coincides with a series of gruesome murders which bear a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past.

Monday 10 June
Gibson arrives at the Annie Brawley crime scene and realises it is the work of the serial killer, while Burns and his team are still trying to piece together the events surrounding Olson's murder in the final episode of The Fall - 9:00 BBC2. Spector raises Sally Ann's suspicions when he asks her to provide him with an alibi and he decides to make one final play with Gibson that will bring the two hunters closer than either could have previously imagined. Spector (Jamie Dornan) is completely out of control after last week’s brutality and everyone watching will fear what he plans to do next amid the chaos. His wife, who is oblivious to her husband's deadly double life, is keen to move on with their family life. But Detective Superintendent Gibson (the excellent Gillian Anderson) tries to draw her prey out from the darkness. As the story ends, the shadows cast by The Fall will not leave. But, it'll be back next year.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy, numerical evangelist, deserves an award. Well, he's probably got several already, but he deserves more. Time and again he takes an unappetising premise and turns it into educational telly gold. After The Story of Maths and The Beauty of Diagrams comes a new three-parter Precision: The Measure Of All Things - 9:00 BBc2 - and it's another winner. Marcus is a master storyteller and in the opening instalment of a series about our need to quantify the world, he brings alive the concepts of time and distance. Genius. This documentary explores humanity's obsession with compartmentalising the environment into ever-more-precise units of measurement - from the first cave paintings of the Cro-Magnons, to today's atomic clocks. In the first edition, Professor Marcus charts the history of the metre and the second, and examines scientists' continuing efforts to redefine how time and length are quantified.

Will Mellor, so good as the unhappy psychic in Broadchurch recently, plays David, a nervous man waiting in a restaurant to meet his agency-organised date for the first time in the opening episode of Dates - 10:00 Channel Four. She's supposedly called Celeste and it looks like she's not going to show up. It turns out, though, that her name is Mia (played by Oona Chaplin) and she's actually sitting at the bar, preparing to flee. It's a slight tale, the first of nine in the series of half-hour dramas. Neither is it particularly rewarding, but the leads make it work. Chaplin is great as Mia, a horrible, narcissistic woman who's rude to her date, leaving him cross and humiliated.

Tuesday 11 June
The lads' holiday from hell continues in Mad Dogs - 9:00 Sky1 - although the action has moved on two years since they were dropped off in South Africa and ordered not to contact each other again in case the CIA kill them. They have all rebuilt their lives with varying degrees of success, from drug dealer to lawyer. However, it is only a matter of time before their covers are blown, thanks to Baxter uncovering some key information - and possibly a route home. Rick is constantly in trouble, mainly for drug dealing but also because he keeps glimpsing a sinister white-faced dwarf. He doesn't know it but it's a tokoloshe, an evil spirit malevolent people can call up to cause trouble for others. John Simm, Max Beesley, Philip Glenister and Marc Warren star.

Russell and the team investigate when a poker professional is found dead in a hotel lift and Hodges speculates that a playing card thrown quickly enough through the closing doors could have severed the man's artery in the latest CSI - 9:00 Channel Five. When another card player is found dead after having been force-fed seven chicken hearts, the detectives question magician James Nefarro. Guest starring 1970s pop star David Cassidy in a blin-and-you'll-miss-it cameo and the terrific Henry Ian Cusick from Lost.

She was one quarter of 1970s colossus ABBA, but who is the real Agnetha Faltskog? Is it the smiling 'Girl with Golden Hair'? Or is it the crestfallen loner perched awkwardly on a park bench, as depicted on the famous Greatest Hits sleeve. Agnetha: ABBA & After - 10:35 BBC1 - an intimate profile of Agnetha reveals both sides of the story. The fantastic footage is a smorgasbord of great little moments: the joyous 'Dancing Queen' recording session, Agnetha doing vocal warm-ups backstage, the silly finger-dance. But just hearing the reluctant star, reflecting with maturity on success and stage fright, is the reason to watch. ABBA's Bs, Benny and Björn — the latter, Agnetha's ex-partner — are also good value, particularly on her musical gifts (she was composing from the age of five but became self-critical as ABBA went on) and why the devastating break-up song 'The Winner Takes It All' was actually a good thing. One gaping absence on the contributors roster is that of Frida, Agnetha's sister in harmony.

Wednesday 12 June
The candidates are called to the Tower of London, where Alan Sugar-Swetie sets them the task of selling products at the Motorhome & Caravan Show in The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. While some of them test camping accessories and try to win over suppliers, the project managers head straight to the NEC in Birmingham to each select an item worth thousands of pounds. On sales day, the teams divide, with half pushing must-haves such as electric bikes and rooftop boats, and the rest attempting to shift expensive trailers - and with price tags of up to seventeen grand, every minute counts in the race for a winning deal. There aren't quite the humiliations and horrors we always hope for, but there are comically flubbed lines ('It's an extional opstra') and surreal double entendres ('Hello madam, do you want to have a look at my boat box?') as the candidates adjust their antennae to a market they largely despise. 'I literally hate caravans,' opines one bright young thing, but he turns on the fake enthusiasm like a pro. Later, in the boardroom, the blame game begins on the losing side and Lord Sugar-Sweetie has a few surprises in store.

After a journalist is killed by a man-made virus, Brennan and Booth race to prevent an epidemic and investigate the agenda of its creator, but disaster strikes when Arastoo is infected in Bones - 9:00 Sky Living. He volunteers to remain at the lab so his symptoms can be studied, providing the scientists' only hope of understanding the threat and catching the killer, but then he takes a turn for the worse.
Life Savers - 11:05 BBC1 - is a documentary capturing the real-life drama of frontline emergency medicine, following patients from the roadside to life-saving treatment and recovery at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. The team is called out when a head-on collision traps a family of three in one car and a single driver in the other - while at the hospital, hi-tech equipment used by the paramedics allows consultant Rod Mackenzie to determine that the mother needs an urgent operation at the scene of the crash, putting his colleagues' skills to the test.

Thursday 13 June
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games present the final update after three weeks at the RSPB's Ynys-hir reserve in mid-Wales in Springwatch - 8:00 BBc2. Including the latest news from the live nest cameras, a last report on the red kites and a look ahead to the BBC's Summer of Wildlife season.
We're all used to Horizon films that probe the outer reaches of the universe or the mysteries of sub-atomic physics. Tonight's - 9:00 BBC2 - isn't one of those. Instead, it tackles the everyday conundrum: what do cats do all day? The odd thing is that we know more about the habits of lions and cheetahs than we do about our own pet pussies. When you think about it, domestic cats lead a bizarre double life. Cosseted companions curled up on the armchair half the time; wild merciless killers the other half. But what exactly is their life like beyond the cat flap? How far do they roam and what do they get up to? Finding the answers involves attaching GPS units to fifty cats in a Surrey village and tracking their movements. There are intriguing results and interesting titbits about the chemical Post-it Notes cats leave each other, what goes on in those yowling face-offs, and why they leave their kills on the kitchen floor. The follow-up programme Horizon: Little Cat Diaries is on BBC2 tomorrow at 11.05pm.

Confessions of an Alien Abductee - 9:00 Channel Four - is, as the name suggests, a documentary following the work of one of Britain's most unusual phone-based services - the Anomalous Mind Management Abductee/Contactee Helpline - set up for people who claim to have had close encounters with extraterrestrials. None of whom are totally bloody fruitcake, obviously. Callers include town councillor Simon, who believes that in addition to his regular wife, he also has an alien family, housewife Chantelle, a 'victim' of thousands of otherworldly abductions, and accountant Marie, who is convinced her DNA has been altered and that she is not all human.
Tonight's repeat episode of Top Of The Pops - 7:30 BBC4 - is presented by David Jensen. Featuring music from Black Sabbath, Heatwave, Showaddywaddy, Brotherhood of Man, San Jose, Thin Lizzy and Bob Marley & The Wailers, plus, a dance sequence by Legs & Co it was first broadcast on 22 June 1978.

Friday 14 June
Stand-ups Sarah Millican and Jon Richardson, actor David Harewood and yer actual Bob Mortimer join team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack for Would I Lie To You? - 8:30 BBC1 - the panel show, trying to hoodwink their opponents with absurd facts and plausible lies about themselves. Rob Brydon hosts.

A repeat, but a great one, is What's Going On? The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye - 9:00 BBC4. Insight into the tumultuous personal life of the successful soul singer, who was shot and killed by his abusive preacher father in 1984. With contributions from fellow Motown legend yer actual Martha Reeves, genius songwriter Lamont Dozier and Gaye's two former wives.
And, so to the news: MP Patrick Mercer agreed to offer a Commons security pass to a fake firm which paid him four grand to table parliamentary questions, the Daily Torygraph has alleged. The claim emerged after he resigned the Tory whip over Panorama allegations that he broke Commons lobbying rules. The Newark MP said that he was 'taking legal advice' and had referred himself to Parliament's standards commissioner. He claimed that he took the money for 'consultancy work outside Parliament.' On Thursday, Panorama will broadcast allegations from a joint investigation with the Torygraph - but some of the details were made public on Friday. Panorama said that Mercer had been approached by a fake company set up by the programme, in conjunction with the newspaper. The fake company, Alistair Andrews Communications, had claimed to lobby on behalf of Fijian business interests for Fiji to be readmitted to the Commonwealth. The country's membership was suspended in 2009 amid criticism of its human rights record and lack of democracy. A clip of Mercer being filmed undercover has been released by Panorama. It shows the MP meeting an undercover reporter, who was posing as a representative of the fake company. Mercer can be heard saying: 'I do not charge a great deal of money for these things. I would normally come out at five hundred pounds per half day, so one thousand pounds a day.' And that's 'not a lot of money,' apparently. Anyway, the undercover reporter replies: 'Okay, fine.' Panorama said it had paid Mercer four thousand smackers for 'working' two days a month at a rate of two thousand quid per month, but that the money had yet to be declared to the parliamentary authorities. Further allegations were published in the Torygraph on Saturday, including that Mercer agreed to offer a security pass for 'a representative' of the fictional Fijian client to provide access to Parliament. The paper reported earlier that Mercer offered to set up an all-party parliamentary group of politicians to 'consider issues around Fiji.' It went on to allege that, in secretly-recorded conversations, Mercer admitted APPGs could be 'a way of getting passes for people to get into Parliament.' In a statement, Panorama said: 'Patrick Mercer MP said he agreed to be a consultant for work he said was outside parliament. But he submitted five parliamentary questions, which were all answered, as well as an early day motion - all in relation to Fiji.' Under parliamentary rules, politicians are required to declare publicly any money that they receive beyond their parliamentary salary, but some paid work should not be undertaken at all. For example, MPs should not be paid 'to ask a parliamentary question, table a motion, introduce a bill, table an amendment to a motion or a bill, or urge colleagues or ministers to do so.' Peter Facey, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy, told BBC Breakfast: 'The borderline here is - if you've actually gone and then asked a question, or tabled amendments, or set up an all-party group, where does your financial interest stop and your public interest start? And here it's very difficult to tell what the difference is between him being a consultant and him being a lobbyist.' In a statement, Mercer said: 'Panorama are planning to broadcast a programme alleging that I have broken parliamentary rules. I am taking legal advice about these allegations - and I have referred myself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. In the meantime, to save my party embarrassment, I have resigned the Conservative whip and have so informed Sir George Young. I have also decided not to stand at the next general election.' MPs who resign the whip can continue to sit in the Commons as independents. A Conservative spokesman said that the prime minister was 'aware' of the allegations and thought Mercer had 'done the right thing in referring himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and resigning the whip. It's important that the due processes take their course,' the spokesman said. Facey said: 'If you're being paid to give your advice on how to change the law, it has to be wrong, there's a huge conflict of interest.' Parliamentary records show that in March, Mercer put down an early day motion - used by MPs to draw attention to issues - saying Fiji was 'making efforts to restore democracy' and there was 'no justification' for its continued suspension from the Commonwealth. He also asked five questions in Parliament about Fiji's human rights record, UK investment in its public transport and the effects of its suspension from, and government policy on, its readmission to the Commonwealth. All the questions were answered by Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire. The coalition government is committed to setting up a statutory register of lobbyists - companies that seek to influence government policy, often by paying current and former MPs for advice and guidance.

Meanwhile, three peers have been dragged into the row over political lobbying after being accused of agreeing to carry out parliamentary work for payment. Undercover Sunday Times reporters filmed the men who appear to offer to help a fake solar energy company. Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird and Labour's Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham deny any wrongdoing. The House of Lords code of conduct says that peers cannot engage in 'paid advocacy' - using their access to Parliament to make a profit. The Sunday Times suggests that the peers, whom it filmed separately, may have broken those strict rules. Lord Cunningham - a minister under Tony Blair - said he could arrange 'parties on the terrace' of the House of Lords after being asked if this was possible. He also offered to ask parliamentary questions and was offered a monthly payment of ten grand but said that he could 'do a deal' for twelve thousand knicker a month. Lord Mackenzie - a former chief superintendent for Durham police and President of the Police Superintendents Association - was asked whether he could 'get around' Parliament's rules forbidding peers from booking dining facilities for events related to their financial interests. 'I just say to a colleague who has nothing to do with it, "would you host a function for me?"' he said. And Lord Laird was asked if he could 'help' with things such as amendments and debates. 'Oh yeah,' he replied. The Sunday Times said all three had told their undercover reporters at the time that they would declare any payment in the House of Lords register and if they were advocating solar energy either in the Lords or in writing to ministers. In a statement to the BBC, Lord Laird said that he had been 'the subject of a scam' by journalists. 'This has led to allegations that I have broken the rules of the House of Lords,' he said. 'I wish to make it clear that I did not agree to act as a paid advocate in any proceedings of the House nor did I accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.' He said that, although he had not broken any rules, he had referred himself 'to the appropriate authorities' and would be making 'no further statement until I have received their ruling.' In a statement sent to The Sunday Times on Friday night, Lord Mackenzie said: 'I totally refute that I have breached any of the parliamentary rules or lobbied on behalf of any commercial organisation in parliament or abused my position in any way.' He said he was 'more than happy for these complex matters to be investigated by the House of Lords authorities and confident that I have not breached any part of the code of conduct.' Cunningham, also in a statement sent to The Sunday Times, said: 'I deny any agreement to operate in breach of the House of Lords code of conduct and, in fact, recall that I made it clear that I would only operate within the rules.' He said his reference to 'a fanciful twelve thousand pounds a month payment' was made 'to test his suspicion' that he had been 'talking to journalists.' Labour said in a statement that it expected all peers to 'comply with the Lords code of conduct' and that, where there was evidence of wrongdoing, the party would 'consider disciplinary action.' Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, Lord Laird was approached by a fake lobbying company - claiming to represent business interests in Fiji - set up by Panorama in conjunction with the Daily Torygraph. He was secretly filmed being asked if he would be 'interested' in being paid to work for the company. He said that he would be interested in accepting a retainer of two grand a month and also discussed with undercover reporters how he would get other people to raise questions in the House of Lords.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, Herbie rides again. Nice.

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