Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Theatre

We start today's update, dear blog reader with a special request for a dear blog reader who wrote to yer actual Keith Telly Topping asking if From The North could feature a picture of 'a nice pair of firm, juicy melons.' Your wish, is my command, sir (or madam).
And, because we always like balance on this blog, here's a picture of a massive cock.
Marvellous.

On Monday evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self took part in the lovely John Scott's regular monthly satirical comedy night at The Stand, Sod The Tories (And Have A Nice Week). Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was the interviewee in a segment called Ask The Activist. I did ask if, for one month only, John could change the name of the show to Sod The Lot Of Them (And Have A Nice Week) since yer actual Keith Telly Topping is, if nothing else, an equal opportunities despiser of all the political classes. Anyway, it was a jolly night with John being joined by four young local comedians - Katherine Tanney, John Whale, Stewy Robz and Andy Fury - all of them properly terrific and whose future careers yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be following with great interest. Essentially, the night is a sort of topical panel show, similar to a slightly more friendly and inclusive version of Mock The Week if you like, with rounds in which the comedians are given various subjects in the news to tackle - there was lots of stuff about the royal sprog this week, obviously. And, also, the size of chips in Gloucestershire. Trust me, you had to be there. John-Paul Stephenson, with whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping had a lengthy chat, wrote a rather good review of a previous show for Giggle Beats which will hopefully give dear blog readers a flavour of the event. Among the questions which yer actual Keith Telly Topping was asked were; what is the best and worst protest song by notorious alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon? If religion is the opiate of the masses what is television? It's been a year since the Olympics, have you stopped giving a shit yet? Does television have a right wing bias and how great a political influence does it exert over its viewers? You used to work for the Civil Service but left to become a full time writer, is that the real reason or is it because the Department of Employment couldn't offer you a full time position? And, perhaps best of all, do you only watch so much telly because it always pisses down in England and what did you do last week when it was all sunny? It was all very light-hearted and funny, too. Sadly, because the buses to the East End are so notoriously bad late on, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had to flee the gaff at quarter past ten as soon as he'd done his slot which he really felt bad about (it's like turning up to a poetry gig, doing your bit and then buggering off whilst others are still performing). So, many apologies to all of the - very decent-sized - audience for that rank rudeness. Oh, and the comedy highlight of the night was that John had forgotten to put yer actual Keith Telly Topping on the guest list and he almost had to pay to get in to a gig that he was taking part therein! Fortunately, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is a total past-master at blagging his way into gigs with a dismissive 'don't you people know who I am?!' Anyway, Sod The Tories (And Have A Nice Week) is on one Monday each month at The Stand, and is highly recommended for lovers of satire, cynicism and ... well, chips. So, that's everybody, basically. Check listings for dates, details et cetera.

It's the Radio Times cover that could have been but never happened - publicising the first episode of Doctor Who in November 1963. A special two-page feature in the new edition of the listings magazine - out on Tuesday and covering week commencing 3 August - takes a look at how Doctor Who missed out on the prime Radio Times spot at its birth, including a modern-day mock-up of how the cover of that edition may have looked. The Cover Story: Radio Times At Ninety exhibition, which opens at the Museum of London this coming Friday to mark the publication's ninetieth birthday, has turned the spotlight on a document from the BBC archive that reveals the corporation's doubts about the programme that has subsequently appeared on the front of the magazine more times than any other show. Back in 1963, Radio Times existed to publicise only the BBC's output on TV and radio, and an internal memo by Donald Wilson, head of the BBC's serials department, to Douglas Williams, then-editor of the magazine, complained that the forthcoming launch of Doctor Who on 23 November 1963 was 'not being supported' by Radio Times with a cover feature. Dated 5 November 1963, the memo read: 'I was unhappy to hear today that the proposal to give Dr Who [sic] the front page of the Radio Times had now been abandoned. It was particularly distressing to hear that one reason given was lack of confidence in the programme at Controller [Kenneth Adam's] level. I assure you that this does not exist and if you have a word with [him] I know he will express enthusiasm. I myself believe that we have an absolute knock-out in this show and that there will be no question but that it will run and run.' And, of course, he was dead right. 'I would be most grateful,' Wilson continued, 'if it is not too late, for the decision against it to be reversed, and that will help me to get this show off to a good start.' However, Wilson's pleas for a reprieve in regard to front-page publicity for the show's first episode fell on deaf ears and the cover star for the issue ended up being Kenneth Horne, publicising his popular Light Programme radio comedy Beyond Our Ken. The new family SF drama was granted a short mention in a side panel on the front cover, highlighting an article on page seven of the magazine. Doctor Who would ultimately have to wait another three months and for the start of its fourth serial - the epic historical adventure Marco Polo - before landing a coveted front cover. Radio Times, seemingly, wasn't alone in having doubts about the show. Many within the BBC were also said to be uncertain what to make of this odd-seeming new drama, as the show's first director Waris Hussein - who also directed Marco Polo - explains in the new edition of the magazine: 'Radio Times echoed the prevailing attitude, and it was only when the programme began to make its mark that the magazine started to give it a prominent billing. As far as I knew at the time, the BBC was fairly indifferent to Sydney Newman's whole concept of Doctor Who. This was echoed in the placing of the production in basic facilities at Studio D Lime Grove. Verity Lambert and I were newcomers entrusted with what was considered a fill-in show for children between Saturday football and Juke Box Jury. There was no apparent need to promote an oddball show. Radio Times covers are very important in promoting a show and in the case of Doctor Who I'm proud to say David finally became bigger than Goliath.' Meanwhile, Doctor Who's current showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat comments on whether he would have 'pleaded' for a cover if he were running things back in 1963: 'It's a different show now. I knew Verity Lambert and part of her back then was amazed it broke through in the way it did. For them it was just the show they were doing at the time and they had no idea it would become what it was. But when I look back on the historic Doctor Who covers, I can imagine being a child again and looking at it and scrutinising it and probably thinking, "I want to write my own stories for it."' A postcard set of one hundred and one classic Radio Times covers - including six from Doctor Who - will be on sale at the exhibition, which will have a special display devoted to the magazine's long association with the programme. The Doctor Who covers in the set will be the 5 November 1966 issue for the start of The Power of the Daleks and the beginning of the Second Doctor's era, the 1 January 1972 issue for the season opener The Day of the Daleks, the 26 March 2005 issue heralding the show's return from the wilderness with the episode Rose, the award-winning 30 April 2005 'Vote Dalek!' issue and the 8 July 2006 Daleks-and-Cybermen issue covering the series two finale Doomsday (and World Cup final).

And, speaking of 1960s icons, yer actual Honor Blackman her very self is to appear in the BBC medical drama Casualty, playing 'a feisty pensioner.' Her character ends up in hospital after being hit by a bicycle and reveals to the Casualty staff that she has a past which includes driving ambulances in African war zones. Blackman made her name in The Avengers and played Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger. She appears in the first episode of the new series, starting on 3 August. Casualty executive producer Oliver Kent explained that Honor 'plays a fantastically witty and charming character on a mission. We've had a long history of famous guest appearances but never a Bond girl.' The new series also sees the arrival of two new characters - a trainee doctor called Lily Chao, played by Crystal Yu and a nurse called Rita Freeman, played by Chloe Howman. Aside from acting duties, Honor is set to tour a one woman show - on her life and rise to stardom - around the UK in September.

Griff Rhys Jones has admitted there was 'little natural connection' between himself and the late Mel Smith. The duo teamed up on Not The Nine O’Clock News and went on to make sixty two episodes of Alas Smith And Jones over fourteen years – as well as co-founding the production company Talkback which made them both millions. But in an interview, Jones claimed that the partnership was ‘not exactly a marriage made in heaven', and suggested they used to joke that they stayed together for the money. The fifty nine-year-old told Radio Times: 'We didn't have a lot in common, except [our work]. He loved a drink. I am teetotal. He never carried a credit card. I never have cash. He never went for a walk. I run ten miles a week. It is a long list.' But, Griff said that there was 'a strong professional link' with Mel, who died at sixty earlier this month from a heart attack. 'I think we made some fifty hours of TV together,' Jones said. 'God knows a lot of it won't bear repeating – but when it was good it was sheer bliss to perform with Mel.' Well, this bit will always bear repeating.

The government has launched a consultation into UK media plurality which calls for the impact of the BBC to be included for the first time, and questions whether newspaper websites and digital outlets, such as The Huffington Post, Google News, Facebook and Twitter should be included. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport unveiled a twenty four-page consultation on Tuesday, following Lord Justice Leveson's recommendation for a clear measurement framework to evaluate how media plurality should be measured in the digital age. The consultation points out that the BBC is 'the biggest provider of news on TV, radio and the Internet' – spending four hundred and thirty million smackers on news and current affairs in 2011, more than the rest of the UK's broadcasters combined – but has never been included in a market plurality review. 'As a major player in the market, the BBC has a significant impact on the overall range and scale of provision,' the DCMS said in the consultation. 'As such, we consider that a measurement framework should assess the BBC's impact on plurality. [This is] distinct from the question of whether the BBC should be subject to any new plurality regulation.' News Corporation - in the shape of the odious James Murdoch the Small - has previously lobbied vigorously for the corporation to be included in any review of media plurality in the UK. Existing media ownership rules only take into account newspapers, television and radio, and the consultation will look at whether digital-only businesses should be included in future reviews of plurality. It will also look at whether to include the impact of the websites of newspaper publishers, which could impact the -twenty-twenty' rule of media ownership. That rule, sometimes dubbed 'the Murdoch clause', prevents any person who owns a national newspaper group - such as billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, whom nobody is scared of any more, and his grubby spawn - from holding more than twenty per cent of a regional or national ITV service or Channel Five. Instead, that's owned by a soft core pornographer. Currently, the measure of the twenty per cent threshold of national newspaper market share is based solely on print sales figures. The consultation will also look at what type of content should be considered in any test of media plurality. The rules have traditionally looked at news provision. Respondents will be asked to give a view on genres including sport, light entertainment and drama, as well as whether social media should be included in a measurement framework for plurality. 'Social media enables individuals and special interest groups to publicise their views and opinions more easily, and can be a first source of breaking news,' the DCMS said. 'For example, some major news stories in recent years, such as the American forces' raid on Osama bin Laden and the announcement of the royal wedding, were broken first on Twitter. It has also been argued that a tweet is more like a broadcast than an email and as a consequence is subject to the law of libel in the same way.'

Michelle Ryan will star in the upcoming third series of Death In Paradise. The former EastEnders actress will play a character 'with a dark past' in the BBC1 Caribbean crime drama. Yeah, that'll be her remake of The Bionic Woman, in all likelihood. She said of her casting: 'It's very exciting to be a part of this excellent series. I play an actress with a dark past and who is quite a handful. The action element is always appealing for me and getting to film on the gorgeous island of Guadeloupe was incredible - we had so much fun.' Yer actual Peter Davison and silly Helen Baxendale will also join the cast of the third series. Adrian Scarborough, Hannah Tointon, Daniel Lapaine, Kathryn Drysdale and Tristan Gemmill are among the guest stars for the latest run of the popular Caribbean saga. Belinda Campbell, executive producer for Red Planet Pictures, said: 'We're thrilled to have another fantastic list of talented guest stars involved for the third series of Death In Paradise. We're very lucky to have such gifted actors and actresses to accompany our equally brilliant regular cast in bringing the intricate twists and turns to life. Hopefully the new series will help bring some Caribbean sunshine to the UK during the cold and rainy winter months.' However, a word of warning dear blog reader, the excellent Ben Miller - who plays Richard Poole - will be replaced by Kris Marshall as the lead character during the third series. Which means that the single best reason for watching Death In Paradise has just walked out the door.

Long Lost Family was the most-watched programme aside from the soaps on Monday, overnight figures reveal. The ITV series attracted 5.12 million viewers at 9pm. Earlier, The Dales was seen by 3.26m at 8pm. On BBC1, a repeat of The Sheriffs Are Coming appealed to a surprising 4.20m at 7pm, while another repeat - the opening episode of Death In Paradise's most recent series - brought in 2.93m at 9pm. A Panorama special on dating websites gathered 2.30m at 8.30pm. BBC2's University Challenge had an audience of 2.53m at 8pm. Raymond Blanc's How To Cook Well interested 1.49m at 8.30pm, while Mary Beard's Caligula documentary pulled in a very decent 1.89m at 9pm. Channel Four's latest episode of Undercover Boss was seen by 1.72m at 9pm. On Channel Five, Botched Up Bodies attracted but seven hundred and eighty nine thousand punters at 9pm. The latest Big Brother completely failed to entertain 1.59m crushed victims of society at 10pm. BBC4's Only Connect topped the multichannels with nine hundred and sixty three thousand viewers at 8.30pm.
Steve Coogan has described celebrities who apologise when their indiscretions are splashed across newspapers as 'pitiful', saying that they should not have to justify themselves in terms of the 'slightly antiquated morality' of the tabloid scum. The comedian and actor, currently promoting the Alan Partridge movie, Alpha Papa, struck an unrepentant note in an interview with Radio Times. His personal life has been the subject of lurid headlines in the past. 'When my life has been the subject of tabloid intrusion, what I have never done is get engaged in justifying myself,' he said. 'Celebrities who go round apologising are pitiful, and don't do themselves any favours. They shouldn't have to justify themselves on these preconceived, pious, sanctimonious projections of the slightly antiquated morality of these tabloid newspapers.' Coogan, along with the actor Hugh Grant, became one of the highest-profile celebrities to speak out about the behaviour of the press at Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media standards and ethics in November 2011: 'My closet is empty of skeletons as a result of the press, so unwittingly they have made me immune in some ways.' He told Radio Times that he had agreed to appear before The Leveson Inquiry because he knew other well-known figures did not want to risk negative press coverage and he wanted to use his status to 'make a point' on behalf of 'ordinary' people. 'I thought the way [the press] behaved – and yes it was towards me, but also towards a lot of other people who didn't have a voice like me – was just wrong,' Coogan said. 'And what makes them feel uncomfortable is when you say something and there's no ulterior motive; they get pissed off that you might be doing something on a point of principle. If someone's a victim of crime and they're a forgotten person, like thousands of people who've been fucked over by the tabloids, if they got on their moral high horse, no one's going to listen to them. The double-edged sword of being in the public eye is that you'll be afforded some sort of platform.' During his Leveson appearance, Coogan said that he had never made 'a Faustian pact with the press' or 'courted fame.' However, he told Radio Times that he understood the necessity of 'dealing with the media' to promote his work, within limits. 'The truth is, this is part of what I have to do to sell the film,' he said. 'I'm contractually bound to be here to talk to you. Not that I'm not having a nice time, but Baby Cow have put money into the film, and I have to support that by getting people to go and see it. I don't talk about my personal life, I don't go in Hello! magazine to get a free kitchen because I show them my kitchen. I like to be creative, but I'm not interested in being recognised.' Coogan, a noted Labour supporter, also criticised comedians who are unwilling to express their personal beliefs or voice potential controversial opinions. 'If there's one thing that annoys me, it's people who put their career before absolutely everything,' he said. 'There are some people, especially in this industry, who don't have an opinion on anything. Because of postmodernism, they think it's fashionable to not give a shit about anything.'

Steve Coogan should be aware that kitchens can be dangerous places, and it would appear none more so than the set of BBC2's The Great British Bake Off. Giving a new twist to having some claret with your meal, every contestant managed to cut themselves on day one of the new series which started filming recently, the Sun reports. An alleged 'insider' allegedly said the set 'looked like a horror show' (whether it looked like 'a drag' is a question perhaps left for another day, dear blog reader) and that 'medics were rushing around' attempting 'to stem the crimson tide.' It looks like there will need to be some heavy editing to spare the popular show's more sensitive viewers.
BBC3 has announced plans to début all its scripted comedy on iPlayer. From the end of August, the channel will broadcast shows such as Bad Education seven days prior to their first TV broadcast. The announcement follows a separate BBC trial to première four hours of programming on iPlayer, including Peter Kay's highly anticipated BBC sitcom début, Car Share. Also, earlier this month, BBC3 released a batch of Comedy Feeds exclusively on iPlayer. BBC3 boss Zai Bennett - the prick who cancelled Ideal, remember - said: 'BBC3 audiences are digitally savvy, and view our programmes in a number of different ways online and on the go. We've already been experimenting with online content, starting with the hugely popular Comedy Feeds, now in their second season and with a third in the pipeline. Premièr our scripted comedies on BBC iPlayer is an obvious and exciting step forward for BBC3 and yet another innovative way to give our viewers more choice in the ways they can enjoy our programmes.'
Robin Williams is returning to TV screens for the first time since starring in the 1970s classic Mork & Mindy with a new comedy, The Crazy Ones. Williams - who used to be, you know, funny - rose to fame as the alien Mork in the hit series. He will play an eccentric advertising agency boss in the new sitcom. Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Sarah Michelle Gellar - whose career has been in a bit of a downward spiral for the last few years - will play his daughter. The show, from Ally McBeal creator David E Kelley, is due to be shown in the US in September. Williams said that he hopes audiences will be drawn to his character, Simon Roberts, and will enjoy watching how he relates to his daughter. 'You have to establish a character that people buy into,' he said. 'I think people will buy into not just my character but the relationship with everybody else. He has good ideas and bad ones.' Williams will be given the freedom to ad lib and 'be spontaneous' in The Crazy Ones. 'He says my words perfectly. Then he uses his,' said Kelley. 'He manages inside the box, then we give him a few takes where he gets to take out of it.' The show is one of a number of new formats added to the autumn TV line-up in the US. A new four-hour mini-series will see Diane Lane in the role of former first lady and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. NBC said that the drama, simply named Hillary, will 'track Clinton's life and career' from 1998 to the present. The series will be broadcast ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. Clinton has not yet said whether she intends to make another run for the Democratic nomination for president.

The BBC Trust - as usual, showing the collective backbone of a jellyfish, because they're shit-scared of the Daily Scum Mail being mean to them - has ruled that a 'controversial' programme about welfare reforms, written and fronted by the Today presenter John Humphrys, breached its rules on impartiality and accuracy. The programme The Future of the Welfare State was first broadcast in November 2011 and featured Humphrys going back to his 'poor, working-class' birthplace of Splott, in the centre of Cardiff. Which, according to Ianto in Torchwood, is pronounced 'splow'! There, one in four of the working-age people are on some form of benefit. The Trust - and unelected cabal which governs the broadcaster and is chaired by Lord Patten - chided the documentary-makers saying that 'judgments reached or observations made are still required to be based on the evidence and should not give the appearance of presenting a personal view on a controversial subject.' The programme, which was broadcast on BBC2, put forward the contentious idea that Britain was going through 'an age of entitlement.' In it, Humphrys interviewed claimants, including a couple on sixteen hundred smackers a month in benefits who thought 'living on benefits is an acceptable lifestyle' and welfare experts, from centre-right think-tanks and from the United States, which runs a much tougher public assistance system. Following a complaint from the Child Poverty Action Group charity and another 'unnamed individual', the BBC Trust decided the programme met its criteria for being 'a controversial subject' and a 'major matter.' The complaint was decided on by the five-strong editorial standards committee, composed of five BBC trustees. Significantly the committee found that the programme had 'not backed up its controversial views' with statistics and that this had led to the programme being 'inaccurate.' In a rather blunt assessment, the trustees found 'the absence of sufficient complementary statistical information to underpin contributors' accounts, viewers were left unable to reach an informed opinion and the accuracy guidelines had been breached.' Specifically, the committee said that viewers 'would have concluded' that the government was 'targeting benefits' which were responsible for leaving 'the welfare state in crisis' and creating the impression that 'despite the anecdotal testimonies of jobseekers heard in the programme that there was [a] healthy supply of jobs overall. Both issues are central to the viewers' understanding of the key issues discussed in the programme, and because this was a controversial issue the failure of accuracy had also led to a breach of impartiality.' In considering the case, the committee rejected the claim that Humphrys had presented 'a personal view'', in contravention of guidelines for senior current affairs presenters on controversial issues. Before the programme was broadcast, Humphrys wrote a personal opinion piece in the Daily Scum Mail to publicise his views and the programme. In it he wrote of 'the predictable effect of a dependency culture that has grown steadily over the past years. A sense of entitlement. A sense that the state owes us a living. A sense that not only is it possible to get something for nothing but that we have a right to do so.' Left-wing critics (so, that'd be some lice of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star, basically) claim that the BBC has, in recent years, hardened its stance on benefit claimants and point out that there has been a welter of countervailing information about the true state of Britain's welfare state. Laurie Penny writing in the New Statesman complained that the recent BBC1 series Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits echoed 'the rhetoric of the Department for Work and Pensions, pit[ting] taxpayers against "shirkers."' Which, more than anything, suggests that Laurie hadn't actually watched the programme in question since Margaret and Nick were both shown to be extremely sympathetic to the benefit claimants, and both - specifically - made the points that there often wasn't the work to be had, that it often doesn't pay enough and the biggest 'drain' on resources in terms of benefits is, actually, pensioners rather than the jobless. However in recent weeks, the welfare secretary, odious slaphead and full-of-his-own-importance glake Iain Duncan Smith, who used to preface his remarks on Today about benefits with a positive reference to Humphrys' programme has, according to reports, 'become exasperated' with an apparent 'left-wing bias' of the corporation. So, basically, the Gruniad and the New Statesmen seem to think the BBC is 'too right-wing' and the Tories and the Daily Scum Mail think it's 'too left-wing'. Which, probably, suggests that it's neither and that it's doing all right. Earlier this month Duncan Smith his very self 'hit out' during a bad-tempered interview with Humphrys on Today over his cap on benefits, accusing Radio 4's flagship programme of using 'politically motivated people' to attack his policies. Duncan Smith had the day before been criticised by the official statistics watchdog for misusing benefits cap numbers. Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: 'These are major issues of public interest deserving of robust debate and challenging media coverage but which, crucially, also require journalists to speak truth to power, rather than speak untruths about the powerless. If they don't, television audiences and the public at large will continue to be denied the debate they deserve. This programme, like too many media stories, failed the public by swallowing wholesale the evidence-free myth of a "dependency culture" in which unemployment and rising benefit spending is the fault of the unemployed. As well as telling the truth about the lack of evidence for the "dependency culture" narrative, media coverage on social security must give due coverage to important matters like the lack of jobs, poverty pay, zero hour contracts, the high costs of childcare, the high cost of housing and the disappointing performance of the Work Programme.'

Meanwhile, in better news for the corporation, the BBC has topped a list of the ten best websites for science news. The BBC News science and environment page beat off tough competition such as New Scientist and National Geographic in the list compiled by the website RealClearScience. The BBC's journalists were commended for an 'ability to communicate complex topics to a global audience.' Nature News came just behind the BBC in the top ten and Wired's science coverage was listed at number three. RealClearScience also said the BBC's science team had 'extraordinary journalistic instinct.' On Nature News, which came at number two in the list, the site said 'the reliability and readability of the information found here proves that Nature takes its commitment to journalism every bit as seriously as it does its commitment to ground-breaking research.' Wired's science coverage took third place, with the magazine being praised for being 'at the forefront of all things science and technology.' Its reporters Brandon Keim and Nadia Drake were also described as 'top-notch.' The other science news sites commended by RealClearScience, included: Ars Technica, New Scientist, Popular Science and National Geographic.

A UK-wide 'well-being survey' has found 'small improvements' in people's general state of happiness over the year. Well, indeed. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has never been happier. Next ...
Odious greed-bucket, horrorshow (and drag) Alesha Dixon her very risible self has topped a recent survey by McAfee of the' most dangerous' reality TV talent to search for online. Called the McAfee 'Riskiest Reality TV Star to Search for Online' study, the firm's research names Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman as 'the second most dangerous' reality TV personality. People looking to stream episodes of programmes such as Britain's Got Talent or The Only Way Is Essex typically search for the names of celebrities associated with the shows. That's, if they can spell. Which is unlikely. Nearly two in three searches for terms involving Britain's Got Talent judge, the odious greed-bucket Dixon direct users to a malicious website, McAfee said. will.he.is, Gary Barlow and David Walliams are among the people who also appear in the top ten. So, you know, avoid them at all costs dear blog reader.
Yer actual Papiss Demba Cissé says that he wants to 'focus one hundred per cent on football' after agreeing to wear the Wonga logo on his Newcastle United shirt following discussions with Islamic teachers. The striker, a Muslim, fell out with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies owner, Mike Ashley, because he was not prepared to promote the money-lending company. The two parties eventually resolved their differences, but Cissé admitted it had been 'a very difficult time.' He told the club's official website: 'I feel great and ready to go.' The Senegalese forward is now set to play in a pre-season game at Scottish side St Mirren on Tuesday. Cissé is one of a number of Muslims at Newcastle but he was the only player to object to the club's choice of shirt sponsor on religious grounds. The contract with high-interest pay-day lender Wonga is thought to be worth around eight million smackers a year to the club. And Ashley is, after all, a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. 'I have had some useful discussions with my club, my family and Islamic teachers in the last few weeks,' Cissé said. 'After a huge amount of thought and reflection, I have made the decision to follow my team-mates and wear the kit. Although I did not go to Portugal on the training camp, I was back here working hard on my fitness and preparing for the start of the new season. Since then, it has been great to be training with my team-mates again.' Cissé joined the Magpies from German side SC Freiburg in January 2012 and has scored twenty six times in just over sixty games all competitions.

England will play co-hosts Australia on the opening day of the 2015 cricket World Cup. Pool A is completed by the other co-hosts New Zealand, 1996 winners Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and two associate nations from qualifying tournaments. Holders India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and another qualifier are in Pool B. The tournament starts on 14 February with the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - where Pakistan beat England in the 1992 final - on 29 March. After their opening match against Australia, which will also take place at the MCG, England head to Wellington to face New Zealand six days later. Alastair Cook's men then stay in New Zealand for two more matches, against one of the qualifiers in Christchurch - still in the process of rebuilding from an earthquake two years ago - and against Sri Lanka in Wellington on 1 March. They then head back to Australia for games against Bangladesh on 9 March in Adelaide, and the other qualifier in their group on 13 March in Sydney. The tournament will follow the same format as the 2011 event with the top four teams from each pool progressing to the quarter-finals. International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said the World Cup 'is the flagship tournament of the fifty-over game.' He added: 'I'm absolutely confident that the success of the Cricket World Cup 2015 will further strengthen the status of fifty-over cricket as a successful and viable format alongside Tests and Twenty/20 internationals.' Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said: 'This is one of the biggest events in world sport. It will attract cricket fans from around the globe and also promote Australia and our close friend New Zealand internationally - especially in India and other parts of South Asia.' Defending champions India, who beat Sri Lanka in the 2011 final, will begin their campaign against Pakistan in Adelaide on 15 February.

The London Fire Brigade has urged anyone using handcuffs as part of a sexual act to 'keep the keys handy' after a reporting a rise in the number of people getting themselves stuck. In 2012 to 2013 there were seventy nine incidents involving people getting trapped in handcuffs, usually whilst involved in some sort of spanky-tie-up-fun-games with a consenting adult partner of their choice. Which is totally fine, by the way, nowt better than an Of Human Bondage roleplay version. Remember your safe-word as well as the keys an'all. Officer Dave Brown said: 'Some of the incidents our firefighters are called out could be prevented with a little common sense. I don't know whether it's the Fifty Shades effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up. I'm sure most people will be Fifty Shades of red by the time our crews arrive to free them.' Oh, F=Dave. A future on the stand-up circuit clearly awaits with rapier-like wit of such sharpness. The LFB also reported nine instances of men getting rings stuck on their penises and also urged people to only call 999 'in a genuine emergency.' Well, you know, if you've got a ring stuck on your little chap, I'd've said that was a real emergency, personally. Not that this blogger ever has, of course, dear blog reader. Although, it sounds like fun, I might give it a go. 'If it doesn't look safe, it probably isn't, so don't do it,' said the service in a -rather judgmental - statement. '[And] if you use handcuffs, always keep the keys handy.'

Which brings us to your actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's Joe Strummer his very self providing some further useful advice to the sexually adventurous. Always have one handy.

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