Friday, July 26, 2013

Beware! Killer Squirrels!

Doctor Who's Matt Smith has admitted that his decision to leave the show could be a 'mistake.' Yer actual Smudger - who has played The Doctor for the last four years - said that he has 'pondered' the decision to move on. Speaking at the Television Critics' Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday, he told The Wrap website: 'I've done it for four years and we shoot nine to ten months per year. The show has come to a natural tipping point. I'll miss it. It's a hard choice. I've pondered it and I've thought I've made a huge mistake. It has transformed my career. It has been wonderful for my life and my family's life,' he added. The thirty-year-old actor will appear in two more episodes of the series before departing from the role. He will next appear in the show's highly anticipated fiftieth anniversary special before his final episode is broadcast at Christmas. 'I feel proud to be part of such a wonderful legacy of the actors,' Smudge explained. 'The fiftieth anniversary will honour the ones before me. Then, the show will get bigger and better. People will forget me.' Matt and his on-screen companion, Jenna Coleman, told the Digital Spy website at Comic-Con that the Smith's final episode is 'great' and 'fitting.' Meanwhile, the show's executive producer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has hinted that the twelfth Doctor will have a 'familiar world around him', with the continued presence of the characters Clara, Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax.

The fiftieth anniversary episode of Doctor Who will reportedly simulcast worldwide. According to the ever-reliable Sun (so, this may all be a load of old rubbish), global broadcasters have agreed to show the episode at the same time to avoid any leaks. Which will mean that it'll be going out in the middle of the night in Australia and during the morning and early afternoon in the US. It is thought that the episode, due to be broadcast on Saturday 23 November, will be the biggest-ever global simulcast of a drama and could be watched by more than one hundred million viewers from some two hundred territories. Including the federated States of Micronesia. And Azerbaijan. Probably. It's all right, dear blog reader, I'm not going to list all of them, tempting though it is. The move comes amid fears that spoilers for the episode will be easily accessible via the Internet once the episode is broadcast on BBC1. Although ... if you don't go looking for them ... Or is that just too easy a concept for people to get their heads behind? According to the report, as the episode is due to be shown at 8pm in the UK (which seems a bit later for a starting time for a Doctor Who episode), viewers in Los Angeles, for example, could be watching it at mid-day, while fans in Sydney would get a 6am broadcast on Sunday morning. The report also claims that the episode will be ninety-minute long (tying-in with Steven Moffat's previously reported comments that it would be 'movie-length') and that the simultcast on TV would be in addition to plans to show the 3D episode in cinemas. Long-running enemies The Daleks and 1970s fan-favourites The Zygons are set to return for the fiftieth anniversary episode, as well as former Doctor David Tennant, yer actual Billie Piper, Jemma Redgrave, scary John Hurt and that bloody annoying woman from Gavin & Stacey.

Channel Four has won the rights to broadcast the second series of the hit French drama The Returned according to the Digital Spy website. The channel will shown the second run of the show in 2014.
University of Bristol graduate Lindsey Russell has been revealed as the latest Blue Peter presenter after a nationwide talent search, continuing Britain's baffling - and, frankly, worrying - trend of just about every TV format now requiring a voting element for the general public. Will the next Doctor be chosen this way, one wonders? The twenty two-year-old, from Oxford, was named live on the show by current presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood. CBBC viewers voted for her to become the thirty sixth presenter of the world's longest-running children's TV show. It is the first time in the BBC programme's history that a presenter has been chosen this way. Because, once upon a time, Blue Peter used to be presented by, and indeed, made by adults. I know, I know, hard to believe, but there it is. Twenty thousand people applied to be a presenter. They were whittled down to ten finalists who took part in a series of programmes called Blue Peter - You Decide! Do you know, dear blog reader, I think it's the exclamation mark in the title that just about sums up, for this blogger, everything that's wrong about this whole fiasco. The contenders were put through a series of - frankly risible - 'tasks' before the judges, who included utterly pointless Myleene Klass, odious, lardy Eamonn Holmes and teenage actor Ceallach Spellman (no, me neither I'm afraid). One applicant was eliminated each week - sadly not by a fight to the death with the show's leopard - until just three remained. CBBC viewers then voted for their favourite from the final contenders. The other finalists were psychology and cognitive neuroscience graduate Ben Hunte and farm-raised Freddie Ingleby. Who weren't good enough according to, you know, those noted experts about everything, the public. Russell presented student television programmes during her time in university and also performed in an award-winning comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe. 'I feel amazing' said the redhead, who rather alarmingly, wears a ring in her nose (Biddy Baxter will be turning in her grave at such malarkey). She thanked everyone who voted for her. 'It's the best job in the world - you get to do incredible things. Right now it feels a little strange. I'm quite shaky,' she continued. CBBC controller Cheryl Taylor said it was 'brilliant' that viewers 'have been so closely involved in choosing a new Blue Peter presenter.' 'Brilliant?' Anybody remember when BBC executives used to be, you know, overpaid but rather grey and understated individuals who didn't try to sound like they were desperately trying to fit in with Tha Kidz at the local rave? Can we have a return to those days, please (minus the excessive pay, preferably)? Except, of course, that it wasn't 'brilliant', or anything even remotely like it. It was, in fact, rather like 1984 in its slightly sinister malevolence and nastiness. Next, one imagines, we'll have a return to public executions carried like on Sky News, where Twitter followers can vote in a poll to decide the method of dispatch.
One of the stars of the TV series Homeland has been presented with his own star on the Birmingham Broad Street Walk of Fame. Which, just in case you're wondering, really does exist. David Harewood, who is from Small Heath, played the director of the CIA in the American drama series. Until he got killed in the last episode. 'As a naughty schoolboy it's something I could never have imagined,' he said. Harewood returned to his old school in Washwood Heath last year to help students put on a performance of Macbeth. He was presented with a replica of his star by the mayor of Birmingham, Mike Leddy. The actual star that will go in the Walk of Fame is still being made. The actor said that he was 'absolutely bowled over' to be included alongside 'great names I grew up with' including Julie Walters, Chris Tarrant and, err, Jasper Carrot. Lenny Henry's also got one, which say it all, really. Mind you, so has Ozzy Osbourne. Despite attending two Golden Globe ceremonies in America Harewood said that he never forgets his roots. 'Looking across the room at George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt - I keep thinking "I'm from Small Heath." It doesn't strike me as real - my feet are still planted firmly on the ground,' he claimed. And, he said, his Birmingham accent 'comes straight back out when I come back here.'

Pop stars in these modern times: here today, gone tomorrow it would seem. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads has 'ruthlessly chopped' three X Factor winners – the not-exactly-household names Steve Brookstein, Leon Jackson and Matt Cardle – from a TV medley celebrating a decade of the talent show, according to the Daily Lies. Although, tragically, it would appear, they haven't been 'chopped' with an actual chopping implement, because frankly I'd watch that. The trio all scored number one hits after appearing on Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's ITV juggernaut – but have since dropped out of the limelight.
The divine Goddess that is Rosamund Pike looks set to star in the film adaptation of popular thriller Gone Girl. The British actress has been offered the role and is expected to sign to the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She will play female lead Amy Dunne, whose deteriorating marriage to husband Nick - to be played by Ben Affleck - becomes central to the plot after she disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman and Emily Blunt are reported to have been in-line for the role at various points, but were ruled out due to availability 'among other reasons.' Reese Witherspoon had been the favourite to take up the role of the controlling female protagonist, having bought the rights to develop the book into a movie last summer. Gone Girl has already been hailed as this year’s 'publishing sensation' after selling over half-a-million copies since it was first published in January. The book's author, Gillian Glynn, who was nominated for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction, has written the screenplay for the film which is due to start shooting in September. Pike, currently to be seen as Sam in Edgar Wright's really rather good The World’s End, is best known for her roles in Die Another Day, Made in Dagenham, An Education and Pride & Prejudice in which she played Jane Bennet. The Gone Girl film will be directed by 0scar-nominated David Fincher, whose credits include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network and Fight Club.

And, speaking of The World's End Big Talk, the movie's production company, has been bought by ITV for an initial twelve-and-a-half million smackers in cash, a figure which could rise to thirty million knicker depending on the company hitting performance-related earn-out targets over the next five years. Big Talk, which was founded in 1995, is sixty five per cent owned by Nira Park, Kenton Allen and Matthew Justice. About ten per cent of the company is owned by minority shareholders including Simon Pegg and his The World's End, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and Spaced collaborators Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. BBC Worldwide also owns twenty five per dent of the company and stands to make between three and eight million smackers on the deal. Big Talk's sale was prompted by the expiry of its five-year deal with the corporation's commercial arm, which is understood to have paid £1.6m for its stake. Big Talk was understood to be on target to make revenues of close to twenty two million notes in the year to the end of June, compared with the eleven million quid recorded in Companies House documents for the previous twelve months. Other potential suitors for the film and TV producer, which also makes comedies Rev, Friday Night Dinners, Him & Her and The Job Lot, are thought to have included Time Warner, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Television, Entertainment One and Shine. Big Talk's TV output also includes Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm drama A Young Doctor's Notebook and the alleged comedy Chickens for Sky. Films produced by the company include Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, Attack The Block and Sightseers. The deal adds Big Talk to ITV's growing portfolio of UK and US production companies. Over the past year the broadcaster has bought Graham Norton's company, So Television, and The Garden, which makes Twenty Four Hours in A&E. In the US the company has snapped up Gurney Productions, High Noon Entertainment and Thinkfactory Media. Kevin Lygo, managing director of ITV Studios, said: 'Great comedy is an important part of the genre mix for broadcasters around the world and it's fantastic that Big Talk is joining us. They have a brilliant track record in creating channel-defining, returning scripted comedy and drama across many different channels, and they are also developing some fantastic new shows that have the potential to travel internationally.' Allen, Big Talk's joint chief executive, said: 'This marks our next phase of delivering quality comedy and ambitious original drama as we push into the international marketplace and really show the world what we can do.' A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: 'We've enjoyed a successful and productive five years with Kenton, Matthew, Nira and the hugely creative team at Big Talk. Although we've now sold our twenty five per cent shareholding in the business, we're delighted that we'll continue to work with them through our global distribution rights to Big Talk's back catalogue and any future UK series based on those shows.'

Film music – whether Max Steiner's ground-breaking score for King Kong in 1933 or Bernard Herrmann's brilliant four chords and five notes which went into the music for Citizen Kane – will be examined in a major BBC autumn season. The broadcaster on Thursday announced details of programmes on BBC4 and its radio stations celebrating composers, songs and film scores that can sometimes be just as important as the images audiences are watching. Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of radio, said there would be 'an incredible breadth' of programming. 'We want to give our audiences a deep understanding of what music does for film. How it works – which I think most will find fascinating – and the people involved in that relationship. And of course we want to give pleasurable programming, simple enjoyment. It is not just the things that are good for you, it is things that give you pleasure.' On BBC4, the writer and composer Neil Brand will present a three-part documentary called Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made the Movies, exploring great scores including Vangelis's music for Chariots of Fire, Martin Scorsese's decision to use 1960s rock and pop in Mean Streets and what Brand described as 'one of the finest of all scores', John Barry's music for The Ipcress File. Radio 3 will feature many programmes over three weeks in September including the Gruniad Morning Star's Tom Service exploring some of the most significant composer-director collaborators such as George Fenton and Ken Loach and James Horner on his partnerships with James Cameron and Ron Howard. Radio 2's contribution will be a four-part series from Mark Kermode called The Soundtrack of My Life while Radio 6 Music will include programmes in which people such as the actor Cillian Murphy and the composer David Arnold pick their favourite film moments. Jarvis Cocker will also explore the sound effects department at a UK film studio while Huey Morgan will examine the Blaxploitation genre. There will also be themed programmes on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and the BBC Asian Network. Boaden said: 'I honestly think that only the BBC could offer this range, this depth, this expertise and this simple delight and pleasure in music.'

Naughty old scallywag and dirty rotter Stuart Hall's fifteen-month sentence for a series of indecent assaults has been doubled by the Court of Appeal. Increasing the term to thirty months, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said the original term had been 'unduly lenient' given the impact on Hall's victims. Hall, of Wilmslow, admitted fourteen counts against girls aged from nine to seventeen between 1967 and 1985 in June having previously denied all the charges. The eighty three-year-old's term was increased after the attorney general's appeal. Lord Judge said that some of Hall's victims had written to the court and said they were 'disappointed' by Dominic Grieve's decision to challenge the length of the sentence. However, he said that Hall had 'got away with it' for decades and had 'lived a lie for more than half of his life.' He added that Hall would have been seen as 'a figure of power and authority and influence' by his victims and his broadcasting career had 'put him in a position of trust that he was then able to exploit.' Lord Judge, Lady Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Macur ruled that one of the fifteen-month sentences Hall received for the assaults should run consecutively to the others, thereby doubling his prison term.

James Gandolfini's final TV appearance is unlikely to be screened according to HBO. The fifty one-year-old star of The Sopranos, who died of a heart attack in June, had recently filmed the pilot for Criminal Justice. Programming president Michael Lombardo said that he could not imagine the show airing because Gandolfini would not continue with the drama. Criminal Justice, an adaptation of the 2008 BBC series, saw Gandolfini playing a New York lawyer. Speaking to The Television Critics Association, Lombardo said it was 'difficult' to think of recasting the part and that it was 'unclear' what future there was for the project. Gandolfini had also finished two films before he died. Crime thriller Animal Rescue and the romance Enough Said are still awaiting release. The latter film, which also stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener, will have its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

The sold out twelfth Wickerman Festival is getting under way at East Kirkcarswell Farm in Dumfries and Galloway. Primal Scream and Amy Macdonald are headlining the two-day event near Kirkcudbright. KT Tunstall, The Enemy, Dexys, Admiral Fallow and Bellowhead are also among the acts. The festival will conclude on Saturday night with the traditional burning of a giant wicker figure in homage to the 1973 film The Wicker Man. Thousands of fans are expected to descend on the farmland site in southern Scotland over Friday and Saturday. The event is a sell-out and organisers have stressed that it will not be possible to buy tickets on the day. They have described the festival as 'the ultimate summer party.' The polis has called on all revellers to 'have fun but keep themselves safe.' Inspector Amanda Scott said: 'Our priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities, including the community that gathers for the weekend at The Wickerman. We want people to have fun and enjoy what is sure to be another excellent festival. At the same time we want them to look after themselves, have respect for others and be mindful that what is against the law in Scotland is also against the law within any festival venue in Scotland.' Police stressed that drugs would not be tolerated and anyone caught dealing or carrying drugs would be arrested. Including the bands. So, that's Primal Scream probably pure dead worried. They have also advised festival-goers to drink plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration. The police, that is, not Primal Scream. Although, Bobby and the boys probably agree with that. Particularly if you're buzzing yours tits off. The weather forecast for the two days of the festival is mixed with some heavy rain showers possible. So, the whole thing is likely to be knee deep in clarts by Saturday lunchtime.
A change in French law means that it has now become entirely legal to insult the French president. Which, obviously, British people have been doing for about a thousand years. Y'French bastard. Sorry. Just keeping up a long-standing national tradition, there. We're very good at it. You know, Crécy, Agincourt, Waterloo, 1966 and all that. Anyway, the French Parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech. Previously, anyone tempted to offend the head of state risked a fine. In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled France violated freedom of expression by fining a man for insulting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The abuse, repeating words that Sarkozy himself had used previously, was a crude version of 'get lost!' A very crude version, admittedly. The European Court said that the man's conviction and his thirty-euro fine had been 'disproportionate.' The president would now need to prove there had been slander or defamation towards him.

A woman had to be rescued by firefighters when she got her bottom stuck in a wall after a night out. The woman, who has not been named, had 'sat down' on the wall 'to rest' in East Grinstead. Yes, of course she had. A 999 call was placed at around 1.30am on Saturday after the woman was heard shouting, the East Grinstead Courier and Observer reports. The emergency services managed to set her free quickly on their arrival. Firefighter Neil Mason said: 'The wall was made up of stone pillars, some of which were varied in shape and size. It appeared the woman sat down and slipped, and got her hips caught in the wall. We tried to pull her out front ways, but it wasn't working. In the end, we managed to get her to reverse back through the wall and through a gap. It's the first call of that nature that any of us have been out to.' Mason added that he and his colleagues 'remained professional' during the operation and didn't snigger. Christopher Wheatley, who lives at the property where the wall is located, told Metro: 'I understand a lady came down this road and at some point leaned against our balustrade. She was obviously feeling a bit worse for wear, and she probably leaned against it for support.'

A squirrel infected with THE PLAGUE has been discovered near Los Angeles, prompting US officials to close three campsites. No, this isn't the plotline for a new The Androemda Strain-style apocalyptic Hollywood movie, although it probably will be, soon. The diseased animal - a ground squirrel - was trapped in the Angeles National Forest during routine surveillance by the US Forestry Service. Jonathan E Fielding, Los Angeles' director of public health, said: 'Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we close affected campgrounds and recreational areas as a precaution while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population. It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal.' A health advisory issued by the County of Los Angeles Public Health department said that plague has been 'known to reside' in the ground squirrel population in the San Gabriel Mountains. The advisory added that transmission of plague through flea bites causes bubonic plague in humans, with symptoms including enlargement of lymph glands near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills. Known as The Black Death, bubonic plague killed around twenty five million people across Europe in the Fourteenth Century. All forms of the disease can still be fatal, but most patients respond well to antibiotics these days, something not readily available to most patients during the Middle Ages. Previous routine surveillance had identified one plague-positive ground squirrel in 2010, one in 2007, two in 1996 and one in 1995. Officials said that 'further testing' of the rodents will be carried out and squirrel burrows in the area will be 'dusted' for fleas before the area is re-opened to the public. The ground squirrel – part of a group so named for preferring to live on the ground rather than trees – was trapped for routine surveillance on 16 July. The test result was confirmed on Tuesday. The squirrel is now believed to be in the ground, as it were.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's something horribly appropriate for a world threatened by squirrels.

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