Monday, December 09, 2013

That Fearful Darkness

Yer actual Peter Capaldi has discussed his upcoming role as The Doctor in Doctor Who. Capaldi his very self will make his first, proper, appearance in the Christmas Day special The Time Of The Doctor (having appeared in a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-him' cameo in the recent fiftieth anniversary episode The Day Of The Doctor), before starring in his first full series in late 2014. Discussing the fifty five-year-old's role with the Press Association, the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama's showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat said: 'The Doctor is thousands of years old, they've never actually been able to find an actor old enough to play him.' Peter his very self added: 'I'm like, nineteen hundred and ninety five years too young for the part really. So no, I think he's going to be quite happy to look his age at last.' Peter said that he admires all the previous actors who have played the character before him. 'They are just one, there are all of these actors and they're all a delight. I think they're all fabulous,' he said. And, this blogger agrees. Except for The Crap One. 'I'm lucky to have them in my DNA because I've watched it from year dot. They're great.' Moffat recently suggested that Capaldi's portrayal of The Doctor is 'not at all elderly in style', and said that he 'leaps around the place' more than any other Doctor has during his first scene. He also described the twelfth Time Lord as 'an old beast.' The Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) said: 'We've got used to two brilliant iterations of the younger, more popular Doctor and they have both been superlative. But now it's time for the old beast to snarl at you for a bit!'

Doctor Who's next series will be broadcast as one complete run, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has confirmed. Both the BBC popular long-running family SF drama's sixth and seventh series were split, the latter across two years, with six episodes being shown in late 2012 and eight in early 2013. However, there will be 'no split' for Peter Capaldi's first series Moffat confirmed at a BFI event over the weekend. The new series of Doctor Who begins filming early in the New Year and is expected to be shown on BBC1 from either August or September 2014.
Moffat has also confirmed what has been much speculated in fandom over the last few weeks, that yer actual Matt Smith is Doctor Who's thirteenth Doctor. Smudger is generally regarded as the show's eleventh Time Lord, but the introduction of John Hurt's 'War Doctor' and David Tennant's aborted regeneration in 2008 episode The Stolen Earth means that he is, in fact, the thirteenth and - in theory, anyway - final incarnation. 'We'll find out [in the Christmas special] that Matt Smith is actually the thirteenth Doctor,' Moffat confirmed to Radio Times. 'Although everyone knows that The Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. That twelve times limit is a central part of Doctor Who mythology - and science fiction is all about rules, right? So if The Doctor can never change again, what's Peter Capaldi doing in the Christmas Special?' What indeed. Moffat also addressed The Doctor's regeneration limit last month - the concept first being established (in a throwaway line) in the 1976 adventure The Deadly Assassin. 'Paul McGann turns into John Hurt so they're not the same incarnation,' he said. 'He used up another regeneration and I expect he'll be in trouble shortly.'

'I don't care how you faked it. I want to know why.' A trailer for Sherlock's highly-anticipated third series has been unveiled. The trailer, which was shown on BBC1 on Sunday, focuses on Sherlock Holmes (yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch) making a grand re-entry into the lives of his brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) and friend John Watson (Martin Freeman). You can watch it here.
Meanwhile, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has admitted that Louise Brealey's performance as Molly Hooper in Sherlock made Moffat and co-creator that Mark Gatiss break their 'first rule' of not introducing new regular characters. Speaking to journalists recently, the show's co-creators discussed the impact of Brealey's character on their version of Arthur Conan Doyle's classics. 'She's really interesting, Molly, because she was an absolute one-scene character for the pilot but Lou Brealy was just so fantastic,' Moffat said. 'We went against our first decision which was "We will not add a regular that's not from Doyle." The first thing we did was add a regular character that's not from Doyle!' He continued: 'I think she's fascinating because over time, certainly by the time you get to the second series, she wins every encounter with Sherlock. All the time, always. And by being honest and truthful with him. He's so on the back foot now with Molly, I think it's hilarious. In a way that John can never put Sherlock on the back foot, Molly really does. She sort of wins every single conversation.' Mark added: 'It's a fascinating thing because it's a new idea. We were doing the pilot and I said, "What if she has a boyfriend and Sherlock says he's gay?" That rolled on to the whole thing with Jim [Moriarty] and it massively expanded. It's so much to do with Lou's interpretation making it so heartwarming.' The Moffat agreed: 'What you don't get a lot of in the original stories is, "What do women think of him?" They don't talk much in the original stories. There's Irene Adler who he barely meets in the original. There's Mrs Hudson who just brings tea in. It was fun to have that perspective on him, what would a modern young woman make of this vulnerable monster.' Gatiss said of the audience response to Molly: 'You could imagine that the audience might not like her, that maybe the girls who like Benedict might not, but they adore her.' Yer actual Benny his very self said of Molly and Sherlock's changing relationship: 'It's a beautiful thing. It's just a lovely thing. She's extraordinary. She's a wonderful actress, Louise Brealey. So it's really good fun, that strain of it. All the characters feature more. All of them are back and all of them play a role.' Asked how much Molly - like John - is a way into the Sherlock character for the audience, he said: 'You'd have to ask Lou. But I imagine so from what I hear. She sort of represents a few people out there. They feel like her about someone in their lives who's blissfully cruel to their advances.' He added: 'It's also about what she has, which is independence. She may be quiet, she may be retiring but she's a strong woman at the same time. Just because she's fallen for a couple of sociopaths doesn't necessarily rule her out as a sane and courageous and strong woman!' Asked about the different role of women in Moffat and Gatiss's Sherlock compared to the original novels and short stories, Martin Freeman said: 'I suppose they do, definitely, have more to do. Even though we're doing it in 2013 and it's contemporary, they're obviously extremely respectful of Conan Doyle but they can't be hamstrung by it. It has to be our own version.' He continued: 'Because it's 2013, rightly women are going to have more input in the show but at the same time it doesn't really impinge much on John and Sherlock because there has to be that relationship in a way. Also because Sherlock's attitude towards humanity, including women, is what it is, which is pretty dismissive. John is a lot more open to humanity and women, certainly open to women.' Marty added: 'Sherlock's pretty dismissive of everybody regardless of gender so it doesn't really affect John and Sherlock. They are a very very tight unit those two, which I guess is where the thing of them being a couple comes in, it's a pretty short walk to go there. John also tries to live a reasonably 3D life whereas Sherlock is totally focused on the job in hand. So he doesn't really listen to Mrs Hudson. He uses Molly Hooper when he needs to. It's not that he's a monster, he's not a monster at all but he's fixated. I guess by John Watson's terminology, he's a psychopath.' Of working with his own real-life partner, Amanda Abbington, who has been cast as Mary Morstan - John Watson's love interest and eventual wife in the Conan Doyle stories - Freeman said: 'It's been lovely. She's known Sue Vertue and Mark Gatiss for a very long time and they wanted her to be in it, which is fine by me. She's a really good actor, I know how good she is and I know how easy she is to work with and I'm a big fan of hers as a craftsperson. So yeah, she's wonderful!. Martin also revealed his concern that the new series will be an anti-climax for viewers in regards to how Holmes faked his death in the previous episode. He said: 'There's something slightly mundane in knowing the truth of a thing. It's like asking Derren Brown to explain one of the amazing things he does. When he tells you, you're likely to go, "Oh, right, erm ..." I still think it's going to be satisfying, though. Loads of people have gone to town on how they think it happened - and some of the theories have been quite close. We have some fun with that in the show.' Sherlock will return for a third series on 1 January 2014 at 9pm on BBC1.

It was very total splendid this week to see the great Richard Schiff (Toby in The West Wing) turning up in a - very sympathetic - guest role in the latest episode of Bones. We see far too little of this great actor on telly these days. Somebody, give him his own series.
Now, for the latest Examples of things that are, like, totally geet cush, and make the world a better place by their very existence, number thirty four: Lucy Lawless nude.
Followed, immediately, and because we're always equal-opportunists with regard to full frontal nudity at From The North, Examples of things that are, like, totally geet cush, and make the world a better place by their very existence, number thirty five: Benedict Cumberbatch also nude.
See, something for everyone today. Much like the latest issue of That's Life magazine. Put this blogger down for a subscription, immediately.
Strictly Come Dancing hit an overnight peak audience of 11.3 million on Saturday evening during the quarter-finals of the popular BBC1 dancing competition. An average audience of 10.3m tuned in from 7.10pm to see the remaining six couples take to the dancefloor in a bid to win a place in the semi-final. On ITV, The X Factor was up six hundred thousand punters from last Saturday's episode, with 8.29m watching Luke Friend, Sam Bailey, Rough Copy and Nicholas McDonald sing for their supper in the semi-final at 8.15pm. On BBC1, Atlantis pulled in 4.07m at 8.15pm, while Casualty attracted 3.37m at 9pm. Match Of The Day had an audience of 3.89m at 10:25pm, most of them one imagines delighted at watching The Scum getting twanked reet good and proper by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies. Truly, dear blog reader, it was glorious in my sight. A quiet Saturday night on BBC2 saw the semi-final of the UK Snooker Championship bring in eight hundred and ninety thousand punters at 7pm, followed by a repeat of Never Mind The Buzzcocks- with panellists including Rita Ora and Labrinth - which attracted but five hundred and twenty thousand at 9.30pm. A superb Qi XL - with Victoria Coren-Mithcell, Sue Perkins and The Reverend Richard Cole - was watched by nine hundred and thirty thousand at 10pm. ITV's I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) pulled in the channel's highest ratings of the night, with 8.36m tuning in to see Lucy Pargeter (no, me neither) finish in third place at 9.45pm. The Jonathan Ross Show, featuring interviews with Tom Daley, Jack Dee and Olivia Coleman, was watched by 2.45m when it was shown at 10.45pm. On Channel Four, six hundred and eighty thousand tuned in for the documentary Stephen Hawking: A Brief History Of Mine at 7.15pm, while the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown attracted nine hundred and forty thousand at 9pm. Channel Five's new drama The Bible continued with an audience of eight hundred and forty nine thousand at 9pm. ITV3's Foyle's War pulled in the highest multichannel ratings of the night, with eight hundred and sixty five thousand punters tuning in to the detective drama at 8pm.

Meanwhile, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) ended on Sunday night - thank Christ - once again topping the ratings, according to overnight data. The victory of Kian Egan (whom?) over David Emmanuel (whom?) in the final of this year's sick Victorian freak show attracted 10.97 million punters at 9pm. This is significantly up from last year's overnight total for the final of 9.5 million. Earlier, The X Factor climbed by over a million viewers from last Sunday's results show to 9.01m at 8pm. On BBC1, Strictly Come Dancing dropped nearly a million viewers from the previous Sunday results episode to 9.37m at 7.15pm as Ashley Taylor Dawson (who is a Hollyoaks type person, apparently) leave the competition. The Paradise dipped to 4.15m at 8pm for its final episode. Britain And The Sea - which has been nothing short of a total flop, the ludicrous publicity over Dimbles tattoo, notwithstanding - interested but 2.69m at 9pm. BBC2's coverage of the Snooker UK Championship final scored an average 1.51m from 7pm. On Channel Four, Secrets Of The Terracotta Warriors intrigued 2.36m at 8pm, followed by the latest Homeland with 1.66m at 9pm. Channel Five's broadcast of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was watched by 1.14m at 9pm.

Here's the consolidated figures for the Top Nineteen programmes, week-ending 1 December 2013:-
1 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 11.38m
2 I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) - Mon ITV - 10.74m
3 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 10.40m
4 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 9.20m
5 The X Factor - Sat ITV - 8.49m
6 Last Tango In Halifax - Tues BBC1 - 7.60m
7 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.13m*
8 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.91m
9 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.57m
10 Atlantis - Sat BBC1 - 5.26m
11 The Paradise - Sun BBC1 - 5.08m
12 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.03m
13 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.94m
14 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 4.89m
15 Animal Odd Couples - Thurs BBC1 - 4.83m
16 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.65m
17 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 4.62m
18 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 4.57m
19 The ONE Show - Tues BBC1 - 4.48m
ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. Ripper Street's consolidated audience was 4.27m - and that, dear blog reader, is why it's getting cancelled. BBC2's top-rated show of the week was, again, MasterChef: The Professionals which, for the fourth week running, saw all four of its weekly episodes top the three million mark, the highest being Tuesday's 3.76m. That was followed by University Challenge (3.42m) and Great Continental Railway Journeys (2.83m). There is no data available for Channel Four's ratings for the week. The Mentalist was Channel Five's highest performer (1.76m). The Sunday night episode of The X Factor was watched by 8.19m on ITV and ITV HD (the lowest figure for an X Factor results show since 2005). Strictly's Sunday results show audience was 10.75m.

The BBC News director has defended the corporation's coverage of Nelson Mandela's death, after eight hundred and fifty crass and ignorant shit-scum whinged that it had devoted 'too much airtime' to the former South African president and not enough to the storms which lashed Britain's Eastern coast. James Harding showing less backbone than one might have hoped in the face of such scummish tripe, apologised to anyone who thought the corporation did not do enough about the weather on its BBC1 10pm bulletin on Thursday night - although quite why he felt the need to even comment on such bollocks instead of just telling those making these comments to 'grow-the-fuck-up' is not, at this time, known. And it should be known. He said that Mandela was 'a man of singular significance' and the 'most significant statesman of the last one hundred years.' As should be fairly obvious to anybody with even half a brain in their skull. But, not eight hundred and fifty glakes, seemingly. The BBC reportedly received that number of whinges about the extent of its Mandela coverage, including its decision on Thursday evening to interrupt a repeat of sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys on BBC1 to bring viewers news of his death. A repeat, mark you, not even a new episode. 'Firstly I'm sorry if there are people who felt we didn't inform them of what was happening in the weather,' Harding told the BBC's Newswatch programme on Friday. 'The decision-making is one around the significance of Nelson Mandela. Nobody needs a lecture on his importance but we are probably talking about the most important statesman, the most significant statesman, of the last one hundred years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness. The importance of his life and marking his death seems extremely clear to us.' As, indeed, it should seen to anyone. But eighty hundred and fifty numskulls. BBC1's 9.30pm repeat of Mrs Brown's Boys averaged 2.8 million viewers, while the channel's 10pm news bulletin, doubled in length to an hour, attracted 5.1 million. ITV - who did not interrupt I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) which says so much about where that particular network's priorities lie - also ran an extended News at Ten, which averaged 2.8 million. Among those viewers who whinged, one - no doubt perfect specimen of utter human magnificence - reportedly said: 'Major stories such as Mandela's death need to be dealt with but a balance has to be struck. His death was not unexpected, he was an elderly man who had been ill for many months.' And, of course, Twitter - which as we all know, is The Final Arbiter of The Worth Of All Things these days (at least, according to the Gruniad Morning Star) - was full of it. As usual. 'BBC interrupts Mrs Brown ten minutes before the end for a newsflash about Nelson Mandela. News At Ten could've waited!' said someone of no importance. Sick, dear blog reader. Harding said he 'completely took' people's point about the weather but pointed out that the BBC had other news services, such as local radio and online. 'But in this particular moment I thought on BBC1 we were telling people as they switched on the news as they came home that president Mandela a man of singular significance had died,' he said. 'In addition to that there is a lot of news that is rolling, you are seeing President Obama come out and make comments, David Cameron make comments. The BBC and only the BBC managed to get former President FW De Klerk.' He added: 'I completely take your point about the weather. What's happening in people's communities, what's happening closest to where they live matters enormously. We had been rolling weather coverage from early in the day, particularly when the storms were at the strongest.' Incidentally, this is something worth noting. In 1990, more than five hundred Antiques Roadshow viewers whinged after the BBC cut away from an episode to news of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. Which proves one thing above all else. That, whilst in South Africa twenty years have seen many changes, mostly for the better, in Great Britain, the priorities of some television viewers remain reliably diarrhoea. Separately, Harding defended his decision to create a handful of new senior management posts in BBC News, including the newly created role of managing editor, at a time when the corporation's budget was being cut. 'In the last three or four years we have been cutting senior management within BBC News by about thirty per cent. It is a very large news organisation and it is important it is well managed. It can't be a free-form jazz band.' Although, it would be a ruddy good laugh if it was. Next ...
The BBC has brought forward its launch of five new subscription-free HD channels in time for Christmas. The new channels, which launched on Tuesday, are BBC3 HD, BBC4 HD, BBC News HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD. They will all be available on Freeview HD, Sky HD, Freesat HD, YouView, and Virgin Media. Tony Hall, the BBC's Director General, said: 'This year, people will be able to watch even more of our programmes in brilliant quality. I am delighted that we're able to launch our new HD channels in time for Christmas, when families gather to enjoy some of the best TV from the BBC.' The BBC launched its first HD channel, BBC1 HD, in 2010. It was followed by BBC1 Scotland HD, BBC1 Wales HD, BBC1 Northern Ireland HD and BBC2 HD. More than fifty per cent of homes in the UK are HD enabled but it is estimated this will rise to more than eighty per cent by 2018 and more than ninety per cent by 2019. BBC3 HD and CBBC HD will use existing BBC HD capacity on Freeview HD and YouView, which covers all UK homes. The new channels for BBC News, BBC4 and CBeebies will use new HD capacity, which will cover seventy per cent of UK homes by June next year. Writing in her blog, the director of BBC distribution, Alix Pryde, said: 'In July 2013, we confirmed our intention to launch our five new HD channels by early 2014. But we couldn't resist the possibility of being able to deliver these early, in time to give them to you for Christmas. It's said that launching a channel takes at least six months. We will have managed to launch five channels in five months. So I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the brilliant team of dedicated professionals, across the BBC, our suppliers and our platform partners, who have been pulling out all the stops to achieve this for our audiences.'

A sixty three-year-old alleged TV psychic has been charged with careless driving following a crash in Merseyside. Derek Johnson, widely known as Derek Acorah, was driving a Nissan GT that was in collision with a Ford Ka in Southport, on Saturday. The fifty two-year-old Ka driver and her passenger, a man aged twenty one, were taken to hospital with 'whiplash-type' injuries. Whether Acorah - or, indeed, his alleged psychic link, Sam - suffered any injury is not known at this time. Acorah was bailed and is due to appear at Sefton Magistrates' Court on 30 December. Merseyside Police said that he has also been charged with 'failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis', following the crash in Scarisbrick New Road. Acorah's television career commenced in 1997 with the niche channel Granada Breeze in programmes such as Psychic Livetime, Psychic Zone and Predictions With Derek Acorah. In July 2001, Acorah was asked to feature in Haunting Truths, which was subsequently sold to Living and renamed Most Haunted. He worked on the show for six series until his sudden departure in 2005. Acorah claims that he left the show 'to pursue other projects', although the show's presenter and executive producer, Yvette Fielding, told the Metro reporter, James Ellis that in fact Acorah was 'asked to leave' after he claimed to have been 'possessed' by the spirit of a fictional character, which led Fielding and the programme makers to question Acorah's credibility. Acorah claimed he was possessed by the spirit of a man called Kreed Kafer. In a later interview Ciarán O'Keeffe, a parapsychologist for the show, said that the character was a fabrication he had invented. O'Keeffe had fed this name to Acorah before the programme, and Acorah had repeated it during filming. In a separate interview, Fielding said: 'Unbeknown to us, Ciaran O’Keeffe had suspicions about Derek and decided to plant some information to see if it would be repeated. He left a piece of paper around with the name "Kreed Kafer" on it and said, within earshot of Derek, that he was a nasty South African jailor. When we started filming, Derek decided to get possessed by this fake person. The name is actually an anagram of "Derek Faker". We tell people everything is real, then it turns out he was a fake, so he had to go. I was more angry than anything. I was upset that someone we considered to be close could do that.' After his departure from Most Haunted, Acorah filmed a one-off special for LivingTV, Derek Acorah's Quest For Guy Fawkes followed by Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns. In November 2009 Acorah featured in a - truly risible - programme where he claimed that he was attempting contact the spirit of Michael Jackson. The show was subsequently named the worst TV programme of 2009 in a poll of Yahoo! users. Acorah also made a cameo appearance in the Doctor Who episode Army Of Ghosts. His other television work includes Celebrity Five Go To ..., Harry Hill's TV Burp, Celebrity Quitters and Paranormal Egypt. He has also made appearances on Celebrity Juice, Loose Lips, Richard and Judy, Bo' Selecta!, Brainiac: Science Abuse, The Paul O'Grady Show, The Weakest Link and Loose Women as well as a cameo in the 2011 film Big Fat Gypsy Gangster.

Ben Frow, soft core pornographer Richard Desmond's director of programmes at Channel Five, always looked to be in danger of making a really thick rod for his own back with his summer 2013 attack on Channel Four for 'going downmarket' – in particular, he took aim at both the trashy title and subject-matter of the rival network's hit documentary, The Man With The Ten-Stone Testicles. Yet, it was without any hint of a blush that Frow last week unveiled a factual slate including one-offs with the tabloid titles like Baby Face Brides and Holiday Love Rats, and the really classy sounding keynote series Autopsy: The Last Hours Of ... (which will feature, get this, 'hypothetical autopsies' of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Anna Nicole Smith). Maybe Frow's dictionary has a different definition of 'downmarket' from the usual one?

Russian president and slapheed The Butcher of Grosny has appointed a 'controversial' - for which read 'homophobic heedbangerr' - news anchor known for his ultraconservative views to head a restructured state news agency. A decree published on the Kremlin's website on Monday announced the appointment of Dmitry Kiselyov to be head of Russia Today, which will replace RIA Novosti in a major structural overhaul of the company. Kiselyov has been known for his controversial and conservative views. In one August episode of his show, he said he believed that the organs of homosexuals were 'not fit for transplants' and 'should be burned.' The decree, which in effect transferred all property of RIA Novosti to Russia Today, was effective immediately. The chief can be appointed or dismissed directly by The Butcher Of Grosny.
Manager Gus Poyet says his relegation-haunted Blunderland side are currently 'not good enough' and 'too easy' to play against. And this constitutes 'news' apparently. This follows reports of two Mackems sitting on a bus. One was heard asking the other 'you goin' to see Sunderland this afternoon?' To which his mate replied, 'no. They didn't come to see me when I was bad.'
Former Premiership footballer DJ Campbell has been arrested following allegations of fixing in football matches, his club has confirmed. Six people were arrested on Sunday after ex-Portsmouth player Sam Sodje told an undercover reporter from the Sun that he could arrange for players to be booked or sent off in exchange for mucho wonga. Portsmouth said it was 'shocked and saddened' by the claims. Campbell currently plays for Championship side Blackburn Vindaloos. The thirty two-year-old played in the Premier League for Birmingham, Blackpool and Queens Park Strangers. Blackburn Rovers said in a statement: 'Following reports in today's national media, Blackburn Rovers can confirm that striker DJ Campbell has been arrested. The club will be making no further comment on what is now an ongoing legal matter.' Police have not named the six people who are being questioned. Sodje was secretly filmed by the Sun on Sunday describing how he punched an opponent, hard, in the mush in a League One game to get a red card in exchange for seventy thousand smackers. He was sent off in the fiftieth minute of a League One match while playing for Portsmouth against Oldham Athletic on 23 February this year. His team were losing 1-0 at the time, and that remained the final score. The paper also claimed that an Oldham player, Cristian Montano, had apologised to Sodje after failing to get a yellow card in the first half of a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 22 October. It also claimed that Sodje's brother Akpo, a striker at Tranmere Rovers, had said that he would be 'prepared' to be paid to be booked. The allegations prompted the National Crime Agency to launch an inquiry. 'An active NCA investigation is now under way and we are working closely with the Football Association and the Gambling Commission,' it said in a statement. 'Six people are in custody and are being questioned by NCA officers. We cannot comment further at this stage.' In a statement from Portsmouth, spokesman Colin Farmery said: 'If these serious allegations are true then we are extremely shocked and saddened by them, as match-fixing of any type goes to the heart of the integrity of the game. The player in question no longer plays for the club and we have not been contacted by the authorities, but of course we would co-operate fully with any inquiry.' Former Professional Footballers' Association chairman Clarke Carlisle said an increase in the number of betting markets in recent years had made it 'very easy to manipulate a single incident. Influencing a match used to be wholly more complex because it's twenty two men - or twenty five if you're including officials - who you need to get to,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. But now something as simple as a booking, a red card - these can be manufactured incidents. I think the betting markets are something that we could have a look at as an industry.'

The Brazilian football season ended on Sunday with a violent brawl that seriously injured three people. A match in Southern Brazil was stopped for an hour after a geet massive fight broke out between supporters of Vasco Da Gama and Atletico Paranaense. TV images showed seemingly unconscious men being kicked in the head despite appeals from the players to cut it out. A helicopter landed on the pitch to transport an injured man to hospital. The shockingly violent scenes, broadcast live to millions of homes on Sunday afternoon, are bound to raise questions about Brazil's ability to keep fans safe during next year's World Cup. The brawl in the Arena Joinville, in the Southern state of Santa Catarina, started during the first half of the match. One of Atletico Paranaense's players was filmed crying after witnessing fans being viciously beaten. 'I've been playing for twenty years and I've never seen anything like this in person. We will have a World Cup in our country and we know these images will be shown everywhere,' defender Luiz Alberto told reporters. Vasco Da Gama needed to win the game to stay in the elite division of Brazilian football. Despite tensions running high, there was no police inside the stadium. 'It is a private event and the security has to be ensured by a private company hired by Atletico Paranaense. We were responsible for policing the external areas,' a spokesman for the state's military police, Adilson Moreira, told EFE news agency. Riot police only stepped in and fired rubber bullets after at least two fans from Atletico Paranaense were lying on the stands. The match ended in a resounding 5-1 win for Paranaense. Vasco Da Gama and fellow Rio de Janeiro team Fluminense – last year's champions – will now be relegated to the second division. Cruzeiro, from the South-Eastern state of Minas Gerais, had already secured the Brazilian championship four weeks before the end of the season.

A patch of Northumberland's night sky has become the largest area of protected sky in Europe. Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park have been granted 'dark-sky status' by The International Dark Skies Association. I know it sounds like something out of The X Files, dear blog reader, but it's a real thing. The status means the night sky is protected and lighting controls are in place to prevent light pollution. In honour of the award the area will be renamed Northumberland Dark Sky Park this week. The two-year campaign to protect the five hundred and seventy nine square mile area was jointly led by Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society. The International Dark Skies Association, based in Tucson, Arizona, granted it 'gold status', which is the highest accolade it can bestow. Steve Owens, Dark Skies consultant and chair of the IDA's development committee, said: 'The quality of Northumberland's night sky, and the huge efforts made by local communities to preserve them, make Northumberland Dark Sky Park a gold tier site, and one of the best places to stargaze in Europe.' Elisabeth Rowark, director of the park's trust, said: 'We have worked so hard together to reach this tremendous day for everyone committed to securing protection for England's largest area of starry skies. We do not want to turn off the lights, but rather encourage better lighting using the latest technology. This is the start of a new chapter for Northumberland where quite literally the sky is the limit.' A new lighting management plan will guide planning authorities in ensuring new developments take account of the night sky. The park's darkest areas, which are mostly uninhabited, will remain light-free. Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal for England, said: 'All humans, everywhere in the world and throughout history, have looked up at the sky and wondered at it. This experience is now denied to most people, because of the background light in towns and cities. It is important to ensure that there will be somewhere in England where young people can fully enjoy a cosmic panorama.' Organisers said they hoped the award would boost 'astro-tourism' in the North East. About fifty thousand people have visited the Kielder Observatory since it opened in 2008 to explore the night sky. Gary Fildes, founding director of the observatory, said: 'We have known for a long time that this is a special place, but we also know how fragile a truly dark sky is when so much has been lost to rampant light pollution. Together with other stargazers I'm relieved, excited and delighted to see that these magical skies have at last been recognised and protected.' Bob Mizon, from the British Astronomical Association Campaign for Dark Skies 9for there is such a thing), said: 'The UK leads the way in protecting its best starry night skies and this project will add a new star to the constellation of dark-sky preservation areas. People are becoming more appreciative of the wonders of the universe. Experiencing them in places like the Northumberland Dark Sky Park will encourage them to protect their own local night sky from the ravages of wasted light.'

And, so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Definitely, one to play next time you're up at Kielder I'd've said.

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