Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week Fifty Two: I'm Gonna Give You A Second Helping

Director Douglas Mackinnon has announced on Twitter that he will be returning to Doctor Who for series eight in 2014, the first to star Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. Mackinnon - who was previously behind the camera on The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky for series four in 2008 and The Power of Three and Cold War for series seven - also confirmed that he will be directing two episodes of series eight. He begins pre-production work on his episodes on Monday, with actual shooting taking place next year. Mackinnon is the third director to have been confirmed for the forthcoming series. In October, it was announced that Ben Wheatley will direct Capaldi's first two episodes and Paul Murphy has previously been announced by his agents as directing episodes three and six of the series. Meanwhile, Peter Jackson has confirmed that 'plans are under way' for him to direct a future episode of Doctor Who. The award-winning director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit spoke of the prospects while promoting the release of the second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug. Speaking to reporters at the film's Berlin premiere on 9 December, Jackson spoke of his involvement being 'actually kind of serious. I would be very happy to. I'd love to try my hand at television, because I've never had the discipline of having to shoot for those impossibly tiny schedules. I think I could do it okay now. I did suggest [to the producers] that they did a New Zealand story - something to do with the All Blacks versus The Daleks.'

BBC America are to broadcast a specially commissioned programme celebrating Matt Smith's time on Doctor Who this Christmas. Doctor Who: Farewell To Matt Smith will see members of cast and crew talk candidly about Smudger his very self, the actor's departure from the show and the legacy that he will leave a'fore he turns - as if by telly magic - into Peter Capaldi on Christmas Day. Contributors include Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna Coleman, David Tennant, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat and many, many more. News on whether it'll eventually turn up on some obscure channel in the UK is awaited.
Strictly Come Dancing hit a peak audience of 10.61 million overnight viewers during Saturday night's semi-final. An average of 9.92 million viewers tuned in to see the five remaining couples perform two dances for a spot in next week's final. It was immediately followed by Atlantis, which drew 4.2m viewers at 8.20pm. Approximately 3.69m stuck around to watch Casualty at 9.05pm, while 3.51m viewers tuned in to watch highlights from The Arse get a reet good hiding off Sheikh Yer Man City on Match Of The Day. Not to mention yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies battling 1-1 draw with Southampton, of course. The first of a two-part The X Factor final was ITV's highest-rated show on Saturday night. An average of 8.24m viewers watched the final three contestants battle it out for the grand prize. That's down more than a million punters on The X Factor final Saturday last year. The latest ratings are the lowest overnights for an X Factor final since 2004 when eight million people watched Steve Brookstein win the series. In 2010, fourteen million viewers tuned in to see Matt Cardle named winner. Also on ITV, The Chase: Z-List Celebrity Special attracted an audience of 3.3m at 7pm, while 3.7m watched Will Ferrell on The Jonathan Ross Show at 10.05pm. On BBC2, Tron Legacy was watched by nine hundred and ten thousand punters at 8pm, while six hundred and seventy thousand watched a repeat of professor Brian Cox's The Science of Doctor Who at 9.55pm. Channel Four's highest-rated show was Cornwall: Walking Through History, which drew 1.2m viewers at 8pm. The broadcaster's Psychopath Night, which explored mental illness, pulled in 1.05m viewers immediately after. On Channel Five, episode three of The Bible was watched by six hundred and ninety six thousand people, while three hundred and twenty six thousand saw Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

And then, The X Factor dropped to its second lowest-rated finale ever on Sunday, according to overnight data. Viewing figures for Sam Bailey's victory in the Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads talent contest were up a million viewers from Saturday's show to an average audience of 9.51 million from 7.30pm. This is down over 1.4 million from last year's average score and is the lowest-rated final for The X Factor since 2004's launch series, seen by 8.1m punters. Sunday's episode peaked with an audience of 10.6m at 8.45pm. On BBC1, Strictly Come Dancing was up nearly three hundred thousand viewers from last week's results show to 9.63m at 7pm. Following that, Sports Personality of the Year 2013 scored 5.72m at 7.45pm, down a massive nine million punters from the previous edition. However, it should be recalled that last year's ceremony was not up against The X Factor final and also marked a historic year in British sport. This year, not so much. The audience peaked at 7.82m during the last fifteen minutes of the broadcast, as reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was given the award. BBC2's The Great British Sewing Bee interested 1.15m at 7.45pm, followed by the Keira Knightley movie The Duchess with 1.43m at 8.45pm. Later on ITV, Through the Keyhole was watched by 3.72m at 9.30pm. On Channel Four, Britain's Killer Storms appealed to 1.42m at 7.30pm, while the latest Homeland had 1.59m at 9pm. Channel Five's broadcast of the movie Ghost Rider achieved nine hundred and nineteen thousand at 7.30pm.

Have I Got News For You led Friday's primetime overnight ratings outside of soaps, drawing in 4.68m viewers to BBC1. The long-running satirical news quiz, which was hosted this week by the excellent Martin Clunes and featured Jennifer Saunders and Bernard Cribbins as guests, took twenty two per cent of the available audience share at 9pm. It was immediately followed by Live At The Apollo, which attracted 3.16m viewers. Also on BBC1, The Graham Norton Show - featuring Ben Stiller and Martin Freeman - pulled in 3.12m viewers at 10.35pm. Over on ITV, the anniversary concert Boyzone At Twenty: No Matter What was, as expected, thoroughly worthless yet was viewed by 3.06m sad, crushed victims of society at 9pm. Off The Beaten Track, which saw the curiously orange Christine Bleakley visit Fife (Christ only knows why), pulled in 2.89m at 8pm. Qi was BBC2's highest rated show, drawing in 2.05m viewers at 10pm. The channel enjoyed consistent ratings throughout the evening, securing 1.74m for Mastermind at 8pm, 1.21m for Kangaroo Dundee at 8.30pm and 1.67m for Wild Burma at 9pm. On Channel Four, Derren Brown: The Great Art Robbery was watched by 1.63m at 9pm. It was the station's highest-rated show of the evening, beating Marvel: Agents of Shield with 1.04m viewers and Alan Carr: Chatty Man with 1.02m. Channel Five's ABBA Night peaked with The ABBA Years at 9pm. The documentary secured 1.21m viewers. A fraction under a million viewers stuck around to watch ABBA: Absolute Image at 10pm, while a further eight hundred and ninety thousand watched ABBA: Live In Concert at 11pm. On the multichannels, six hundred and two thousand viewers watched a repeat of the Sherlock series two finale The Reichenbach Fall.

The British Comedy Awards was down in the ratings from last year, according to overnight figures on Thursday. Which is hardly surprising, frankly, given that this was a fiasco in which odious, irksome unfunny lanky streak of piss Jack Whitehall was declared to be the 'King of Comedy'. Apparently. King of horseshite, more like. Channel Four's broadcast of the annual ceremony and slavver-fest was watched by 1.34 million viewers at 9pm. This is down five hundred thousand punters from last year's event. Earlier, George Clarke's Amazing Spaces attracted 1.26m at 8pm. On BBC1, Keeping Britain Safe 24/7 interested 2.51m at 8pm. Gregg Wallace's Christmas Supermarket Secrets topped the evening overall with 4.01m at 9pm. A Nelson Mandela special of Question Time was watched by 1.65m at 10.35pm. BBC2's MasterChef: The Professionals final brought in an impressive 3.68m overnight punters at 8pm who saw Steven Edwards become the latest recipient of the coveted crown. Silent War continued with 1.16m at 9pm. ITV's You've Been Framed was watched by a thoroughly piss-poor audience of 2.30m at 8pm, followed by Susan Boyle's There's Something About Susan which had an equally unimpressive 3.19m at 9pm. On Channel Five, the documentary Mummy's Little Murderer brought in an audience of 1.37m at 9pm, followed by the latest Person Of Interest with eight hundred and fifty nine thousand at 10pm.

Here's the consolidated figures for the Top Twenty programmes, week-ending 8 December 2013:-
1 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 - 11.92m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 11.84m
3 The X Factor - Sun ITV - 9.57m
4 Coronation Street - Wed ITV -9.34m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.32m
6 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.21m*
7 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.37m
8 Last Tango In Halifax - Tues BBC1 - 5.96m
9= Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.64m
9= Six O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 5.64m
11 Robbie Williams: One Night At The Palladium - Fri BBC1 - 5.29m
12 Atlantis - Sat BBC1 - 5.27m
13 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.09m
14 The Paradise - Sun BBC1 - 5.07m
15 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.49m
16 The ONE Show - Thurs BBC1 - 4.45m
17 Pointless - Mon BBC1 - 4.34m
18 Match Of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 4.26m
19 BBC News Special: Nelson Mandela - Thurs BBC1 - 4.23m
20 Ripper Street - Mon BBC1 - 4.18m
ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. Not a single ITV programmes outside of their big four - 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), The X Factor, Coronation Street and Emmerdale - pulled in a final audience of more than 3.8 million punters. And, if Peter Fincham isn't worried about that, then he should be. BBC2's top-rated show of the week was, again, MasterChef: The Professionals which, for the fifth week running, saw all four of its weekly episodes top the three million mark, the highest being Tuesday's 3.55m. That was followed by University Challenge (3.24m) and Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two (2.47m). Channel Four's best rated show for the week was Secret History: New Secrets Of The Terracotta Warriors with 2.75m. A broadcast of the film The Goonies was Channel Five's highest performer with 1.67m followed by The Mentalist (1.65m). The Saturday night episode of The X Factor was watched by 9.07m on ITV and ITV HD. Strictly's Sunday results show audience was 10.02m.

And, finally in our huge trawl through the detritus of the ratings jungle, Ripper Street concluded its run by topping Monday evening's overnights. The BBC1 drama ended climbing by around eight hundred thousand viewers from last week to 3.72 million at 9pm. Just think, if a few of those people had decided to start watching it earlier, the drama might not have got cancelled. But they didn't, so it was. Earlier, Panorama interested 3.03m at 8.30pm. ITV's A Night Of Heroes: The Sun Military Awards appealed to only 2.82m at 9pm. Which probably says something about something, do come looking to me for easy answers on that score. Tales From Northumberland with Wor Geet Canny Robson Green brought in 3.08m at 8pm. On BBC2, University Challenge was watched by 3.05m - including this blogger - at 8pm as the very impressive Cardiff University team gave Liverpool a reet good hiding in the quarter-final. Keys your eyes on those four, they're smart. That was followed by Tom Kerridge Cooks Christmas with 2.30m at 8.30pm. The Choir continued with 2.47m at 9pm, while the series finale of Never Mind The Buzzcocks pulled in 1.24m at 10pm. Channel Four's Crafty Christmas with Bossy, Musmy, Full-Of-Her-Own-Importance Tory Kirstie Allsopp was seen by 1.22m at 8pm, followed by Liberty Of London with 1.73m at 9pm. Fresh Meat had an audience of seven hundred and forty thousand punters at 10pm. Seven hundred and forty thousand too many, frankly, but what can you do? On Channel Five, The Gadget Show acquired but seven hundred and one thousand viewers at 8pm. Monty Hall And The Ghost Ship Of Thunder Bay brought in six hundred and twenty nine thousand at 9pm. On BBC4, a very good episode of Only Connect - presented by the Goddess that is Victoria Coren-Mitchell, had nine hundred and fifty seven thousand punters at 8.30pm.

Full marks, incidentally, to the BBC for electing to go ahead with a repeat of last year's Nigellissima Christmas special on Monday evening on BBC2. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? 'At Christmas time, I am really in my element, not least because it gives me an excuse to throw a party. But, I've never really given a themed party ...' Well, if you're looking for a festive theme, Nigella, what about snow? That's usually quite abundant around this time of the year.
Once again, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV critic, the Metro's Keith Watson, has come up with the goods, this time, his review of the final episode of Ripper Street: 'It's been a while since a TV drama had me flinching at the screen from behind my fingers but the ripping finale of Ripper Street (BBC1) was like a prequel to Rocky set in Victorian times. If I'd been watching in 3D I'd have been out for the count, reeling from one of Detective Sergeant Drake's deadly uppercuts. All other legal and legitimate efforts to nail the monstrous Detective Inspector Jedediah Shine having failed, it came down to a blood-spattered scrap, slow-motion firework sprays of blood striping the screen in a manner that would have made Dexter green with envy. Full respect here to actors Jerome Flynn and Joseph Mawle and the visceral direction: if there's been a more convincing boxing scene on British TV, I don't recall it. This was a boxing bout with sledging that would put an Ashes encounter to shame, taunts about Drake's dead wife stirring the passions of a man who had been striving to put his violent past behind him. The message was driven home with force: when pushed to extremes, the human condition will revert to its most craven instincts. By the end Reid, the erstwhile beacon of decency in the human cesspit Ripper Street takes perverse delight in sloshing about in, had been reduced to a savage, entreating his henchman Drake to "Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!" as Shine staggered punch drunk on the ropes. All Reid's cultivated calm and suppressed rage at the iniquities of his daily toil blew like a volcano in a waistcoat. Richard Warlow’s luxuriant dialogue is one of the joys of Ripper Street, multi-syllables scattering like marbles on the Victorian cobbles, but here he went for the gut. His guard was down and Reid, deftly played by Matthew Macfadyen, was revealed to be as morally compromised as those he’d been spending his life attempting to bring to heel. It wasn't the most upbeat way to end a fine show but it packed an emotional punch. If there was a message it belonged to Sergeant Artherton, a man with his own philosophy for getting through life: "All we may do is put one foot in front of the other, may we not?"'

TV comedy line of the week came from Friday's Have I Got News For You and Ian Hislop. It was on the subject of David Cameron's completely witless comments concerning Nigella Lawson earlier in the week. 'He said he was a great fan of Nigella's recipes, particularly the ones involving white powder up your nose,' noted Hizza. 'He said "I'm [on] Team Nigella" and the judge said: "Can you not make those sort of remarks, Prime Minister, it's not very helpful." It'd be like me saying "I'm Team Rebekah!"' It was a particularly fine Have I Got News For You  episode if you missed it, with Bernard Cribbins - paired, obviously, with yer man Paul Merton - on especially fine form. You can simply never have too many live renditions of 'A Hole In The Road', can you?
Elsewhere, there was the truly shocking revelation that Ian Hislop finds Borgen 'boring.' You have no soul, Hislop! But we still love you. Just, a bit less than previously. This week, the real comedy genius was to be found in various quote captions that the episode featured. Like this one, allegedly said by the footballer Sam Sodje concerning an incident in which he - allegedly - deliberately got himself sent off (an allegation which Sodje denies.)
And, the following little three-part classic reported by the Daily Scum Mail as an example of someone complaining about politicians.
It was a decent enough Qi on Friday too, despite it being almost fatally ruined by the inclusion of that thoroughly full-of-herself waste-of-space Wood woman. Fair stank the episode up something rotten with her witless interjections, so she did. Seriously, dear blog reader, has Victoria Wood ever said anything that was even remotely funny in her entire life? Thankfully, she didn't get much of a look-in here with Jason Manford and Richard Osman also appearing. Never invite her back, Stephen, she's shit.
This week also saw the end - on British TV, anyway - of Borgen, the best television drama in the world (that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title'). As usual, at the start of each episode we had a caption - an astute aphorism which was, in some way, relevant to the theme of the episode. For the finale, The Election, they chose Abraham Lincoln's quotation: 'Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.' In many ways that one line could have been a perfect leitmotif for the entire series; a trilogy of brilliantly-paced ten-episode serials which took their heroine, Birgitte Nyborg (played by the wonderful Sidse Babett Knudsen), from happily married mother and decent, principled MP in the Danish parliament with her integrity in tact via the role of a pragmatic, not always likable Statsminister to, ultimately, a wise stateswoman who remembers one of the most important lessons she had learned through all of this. That doing the right things isn't always doing the easy thing, but it remains the right thing nevertheless. In the process, we saw Birgitte lose her marriage, almost lose her daughter and, during several agonising sequences during the final series, appear to be on the verge of losing her own life - to the horrors of breast cancer. It was how she handled power in spite of these difficulties which made this near-perfect political drama work so well, and it is creator Adam Price's achievement to have made the political strand the most important of Borgen's narrative threads, such an achievement. Whatever Ian Hislop might think. The last episode, as so often in the best of dramas, had a curiously circular feeling, recalling many elements from the first. Both concerned elections. Both ended with Birgitte triumphant - albeit, in very different ways - and both included sagacity and pragmatism walking, properly, hand-in-hand proving, as The West Wing once did on a weekly basis for seven years, that the politics of integrity and the politics of realism are not, always, mutually exclusive. Even in an imperfect world, it's possible to have both if you make the right sacrifices. We were presented with the peaks of both Birgitte's human vulnerability and her political conscientiousness. And, it was properly gripping stuff. On the day of the election, we saw her heading to the hospital, wrongly fearing that her cancer had returned. 'I strive all my life to do something that has meaning, to make sense of it, to make things important and valuable and meaningful,' she said, tearfully, to her English boyfriend, Jeremy. 'But, in the end, it's meaningless, it's just a big hole - it's tearing me apart.' Sidse's beautifully malleable face crumpled at that point. However, this was all the pity that we saw Birgitte ask for - perhaps the only time we have seen her vulnerable enough to break down so completely in any of the three series. Subsequently, she learned that the cancer scare was a false alarm and the collective sigh of relief from fans of the series at that point, could be heard on the International Space Station. After that malarkey, the election was always going to be a breeze. Her decision to ignore personal attacks and go after Jacob Kruse and the Moderates using only facts and political argument was risky but an unlikely success. In the evening, Birgitte discovered that her newly formed party - the centrist New Democrats - had won a wholly unexpected thirteen seats and were thus - once again, as in the opening episode of series one - Birgitte herself was being courted by both left and right to form a new coalition. At one point, in a frantic round of post-election wheeler-dealing, Birgitte was even offered the Prime Minister's job all over again. Magnificently, and wholly realistically, she turned the opportunity down because she didn't think a party with only thirteen MPs had the people's mandate to lead the country, no matter who appealing the idea might be. She went the other way and became Foreign Minister in a broad Liberal-Green coalition instead. In the episode's finest scene, she sat with her wise old friend and mentor Bent Sejrø (the terrific Lars Knutzon), debating the pros and cons of Labour's offer of ultimate power. As with so often in the past, it was the scenes between these two - recalling the ethical debates of Josiah Bartlet and Toby Ziegler in The West Wing - that summed up, for many, what the series was all about. 'When were you happiest?' asks Bent. He knows the answer as well as Birgitte does. But, that doesn't mean that her own happiness should outweigh the needs of a nation. Price and his writers have always managed to persuade us to believe in the concept of the noble politician. They make Birgitte's endeavour to put 'the greater good' beyond her own ambitions not only plausible but, actually, a punch-the-air moment. They managed this precisely because she has made some wrong choices in the past, and sometimes ended up hurting the people she loves in the process. That's why Borgen was as good as - if not better than - the sometimes more abstract ethics of altruistic politicking in the only other series to tackle the conceit of handling power in a democracy, The West Wing. You didn't just want to vote for these people but you actually believed that, somewhere out there, they might just exist. Perhaps that's also why the single most moving moment in the final episode wasn't the news that Birgitte didn't have cancer any more - good as that was - but, rather, the scene when she looked up at the Danish parliament - the titular citadel - and described it as her 'second home.' The finale's other truly outstanding scene was a tiny cameo between two characters who've rather been sidelined in series three, repulsive - but furiously principled - old right-wing bigot Svend Åge Saltum (Ole Thestrup) and Birgitte's ex-spin doctor Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) about the dishonesty of the media when reporting on politicians and how they're so willing to become spinners for the same politicians they've abused and forget everything they've said in the past. This, too, oddly recalled the series initial episodes; remember how it was Svend Åge who was one of the few people to talk some sense into Birgitte in the aftermath of her first election victory as she struggled to form a coalition with unlikely bedfellows. His 'you're the Prime Minister, act like it' instruction to her would find echoes in Birgitte's conversation with Lars Hesselboe (Søren Spanning). Who ended the last episode as he began the first, as a weak Stasminister propped up by powerful coalition partners. Plus ca change ... Or, the Danish equivalent. In its picture of domesticity, the drama has also, quietly, been exploring some necessary modern truths. That single working mothers, for example, can be dominant figures in their chosen careers without needing help from a man. Centre stage in series three alongside the divorced-with-two-kids Birgitte has been Katrine Fønsmark, working out how to juggle her devotion to her young son with her high-powered job as Birgitte's head of press. Never for a second did the actress playing her, Birgitte Hjort Sørenson, for her all her palpable sadness at her son being without a full-time father, let us think this was a conundrum she couldn't - or, indeed, wouldn't - solve. In fact, it was the third series' male lead, Torben Friis (Søren Malling), Katrine's ex-boss and Head of News at TV1, who came unstuck in the game of work-versus-life balancing which Borgen has analysed so peerlessly and with so little jaundiced cynicism. Albeit, even Torben was given a - relatively - happy ending, reunited with his estranged wife and getting back the job he loves but thought he'd lost. 'My arse has been saved by a clapped-out women's libber and a metrosexual media darling.' Brilliant. Each series of Borgen built up from lighter-hearted episodes with self-contained stories about topics as seemingly mundane as bacon production to become gripping races to a climax focusing on child abuse, broken marriages, a teenager suffering from mental illness and (in all three series) what it actually means to run a country, philosophically, morally and practically. Even if we British don't, the Danes seem to believe that this last challenge can bring out the best in people. Which, in and of itself, is why something like Borgen has been such an inspiration. If you haven't been watching this beautiful, delicate, nuanced, powerful, humane drama for the last three years, dear blog reader, you're not, quite a lost cause. Close, but no cigar. You can, after all, go out and buy the DVDs. Trust me, you won't regret it.
The BBC has unveiled the first photo from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's new sitcom. The duo appear alongside co-stars Matt Berry, Morgana Robinson and Daniel Simonsen in the cast picture from House Of Fools. The comedy is set in 'Bob's grubby flat' and will see Vic and Bob as flatmates who are visited by lots of unwanted guests, including lady-obsessed Lothario Beef, ex-con Bosh and man-eater Julie. The series will be broadcast on BBC2 in 2014, although a premiere date is yet to be confirmed. Vic and Bob previously commented: 'We're back where we belong, and over the moon about making a series of House Of Fools for the BBC.'
One is a global blockbuster movie trilogy, the other a homegrown TV show but it's Sherlock rather than The Hobbit that has had the biggest impact on the life of Martin Freeman his very self, thanks to the detective drama's rabid fandom. 'It's probably Sherlock,' Marty noted, when asked which of the two franchises has had the greatest effect on him. 'The Hobbit was an extremely big gig. It's enormous. But when people make themselves known to me it is more for Sherlock.' The actor is currently promoting the second instalment in the movie trilogy and says that he has now completed all three after a mammoth two-and-a-half-year project. 'It's done, it's all finished – for however long your think you are going to be in a Peter Jackson film, you are going to be in it longer. It was a long gig. My main challenge was checking in with Peter to see where Bilbo was at a given time. Two and a half years is a very long time to keep a handle on it.' One thing Marty did take time out to do, of course, was film the third series of Sherlock with yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch. The detective drama returns to BBC1 on New Year's Day after an absence of two years and will finally explain to those avid fans how Sherlock Holmes survived his fall from the roof of St Bart's Hospital.
The Gruniad Morning Star's John Plunkett attended the BFI's Sherlock series three premiere event this week (having, obviously, run out of nasty anti-Top Gear stories to write) and penned a - frankly, rather mean-spirited and ugly - sort-of review of it, which you can read, if you fancy wading through eight paragraphs of sour-faced toss, here. From this masterpiece of journalistic cack, we learn that a) Steven Moffat 'pleaded with the five hundred strong audience not to give anything away' (and, this constitutes 'news', apparently). B) that the irksome Plunkett expects ten million viewers to watch the episode on New Years Day (although where, exactly, he got this figure from, he doesn't say). C) that the preview audience, made up largely of fans of the show, 'whooped and hollered at its return.' As opposed to, what, booing it? D) Beryl Vertue said that the humour in the new episode reflected 'how Sherlock and Watson are such good friends. It's their way of dealing with a really tough situation.' And, most intriguingly e) that the new series 'features the début of two guest stars close to Cumberbatch's heart (their identity must remain secret).' If that means who this blogger thinks it means then ... ooo. But, perhaps I've 'ooo'd too much. BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore was quoted as saying: 'It's really important to BBC1 when you have a drama that is not only internationally recognised and sold to two hundred countries, but also that you know that everyone is waiting and waiting to see. It's a really great show to get around the telly and watch as a family. It's one of those shows that you watch and have lots of questions to ask afterwards – it is going to create more conversation afterwards.'

Una Stubbs her very self has joined the ranks of her co-star Benedict Cumberbatch's female admirers. However she revealed that it took her 'a short while' to come round to the full extent his physical allure. 'Especially early on you look at him and you think that's an extraordinary face and later you think: "God, he's gorgeous" and success sits very well on his shoulders now I think and that has added another layer to his appeal I think,' the actress told Radio 4 magazine show Loose Ends this weekend. However Una insists that Benny's character is not in love with her character, Mrs Hudson, in the way many women would probably like to be loved by him. Asked by Loose Ends presenter Nikki Bedi if she is 'the only Baker Street Babe that [Sherlock] is in love with' she replied: 'He loves me as a Mum and he is probably grateful I'm looking after him.' Una was speaking to promote her new BBC2 Christmas Day drama The Tracdate Middoth, the MR James ghost story adapted by Sherlock's Mark Gatiss. Una, traditionally one of the most self-deprecating performers in the business said she plays 'a silly old fool on the train' in the drama. 'I used to be kooky and now it's barmy,' she joked about the roles she is now asked to play.

And so to an extra-specially extended set of yer actual Top Telly Tips. As Lord Noddy once noted, dear blog reader, 'iiiiiiit's Christmas':-

Saturday 21 December
Over the past three months we have certainly witnessed some spectacular dancing (no, not from you, Tony Jacklin. Or, indeed, you, Vanessa Feltz) in yer actual Strictly Come Dancing - 6:30 BBC1. Natalie Gumede and Abbey Clancy were terrific from the start, while the usually sofa-bound Susanna Reid surprised us all, not least with her terrific shapely ass. There's also been dad-dancing (thanks to Davey Myers who managed to make many cry with laughter at his efforts), confirmation that practice does make perfect from the ever-improving Patrick Snake Hips Robinson, and one extraordinary tale of survival: Mark Benton was in the dance-off a record four times before he finally got the heave-ho. No wonder Strictly's viewing figures have been properly astronomical this year. By the second of tonight's two shows - 8:40 - we'll be down to just three couples. It will be the first all-female final on Strictly after Robinson was eliminated from the competition last week. Coronation Street actress Gumede beat Robinson in the dance-off to join Susanna, Abbey and and luscious, pouting Sophie Ellis Bextor in the final. For the first time this series it won't matter what the judges think. Their votes count for nothing so it's down to viewers to decide who'll be lifting that glitterball trophy.

Renowned magicians and illusionists Andrew Basso, Jeff Hobson, Kevin James, Mark Kalin, Jinger Leigh and Dan Sperry perform in front of a celebrity-packed audience at Hammersmith's Apollo theatre, as part of a sell-out world tour in The Illusionists - 9:10 ITV. The show features a mix of dazzling large-scale tricks, comedy magic and death-defying escape stunts, many of which have never been seen before. Want to see a full-size train magically appear on stage? That's the sort of thing you can expect, apparently. Personally, this blogger would sooner see a full-sized train in a station where it can be used to its intended purpose. But, maybe that's just me. This show, recorded in London earlier this year, features seven of the world's top magicians (because of their comic-book, superhero images, they're sometimes called, rather melodramatically, The Avengers Of Magic). The show has a very big, rock 'n' roll feel (Dan Sperry, the so-called 'Anti-Conjurer', looks uncannily like Marilyn Manson), even though the tricks all come from the traditional levitation-escapology-disappearance-reappearance school of magic. However, Philip Escoffey in particular has Derren Brown-style mind-reading skills which appear to be nothing short of witchcraft. Hosted by Stephen Mulhern.

If you're struggling to find anything to watch tonight, you could do a lot worse than a very fine episode of the much-lamented Waking The Dead - 8:00 Drama. In this feature-length episode from the acclaimed drama's third series - Walking On Water - Peter Boyd's cold case team are called in to investigate when a convicted killer is cleared of the murder of his adoptive father on appeal. Not fully convinced that the man is innocent (well, he's a transvestite for a kick-off, so that proves there's obviously something criminal about him in Boyd's world), Boyd tries to find the rest of the family to establish the truth, but when he does eventually track the relatives down, he realises that they all have a lot to hide. Starring Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Holly Aird, Wil Johnson and Claire Goose.
Sunday 22 December
Jonas Armstrong stars in The Whale - 9:00 BBC1 - a drama about the fateful last voyage of the Nineteenth Century Nantucket whaling ship the Essex, which was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820, leaving the crew struggling to survive in three smaller boats. Stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the men must decide whether to head for the nearest islands, a thousand miles downwind to the West, or set out on an epic journey of almost three thousand miles to reach the South American mainland. Seen through the eyes of fourteen-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, the incident subsequently went on to inspire Herman Melville's novel, Moby-Dick. It's dramatised here from the point of view of its youngest crew member, played in old age (and a very reflective mood) by former President Martin Sheen. So his presence, obviously, lets the audience know in advance that Ton survives the ordeal thus destroying a lot of the potential tension. Just a small salty point to pour into the open wound. The young Tom (Charles Furness) is beginning to fall into the rhythm of life on board, with its tensions, strict hierarchy and tough codes, when one of the whales the crew has been hunting takes its terrible revenge. On the point of death and without clear leadership, the men must contemplate a course of action that will always be taboo. Underwater shots of the mighty whale add an extra dimension to salty but uncomplicated fare. The crew includes Paul Kaye, Adam Rayner and Jolyon Coy.

The latest of BBC4's wonderful Timeshift strand is The Ladybird Book Story: How Britain Got The Reading Bug - 9:00. This charming documentary is full of quasi-Proustian moments for anyone whose parents gave them two shillings and sixpence in weekly pocket money to buy Ladybird books. This blogger included. These hard-backed little treasures informed childhoods from the 1950s to the 1970s and were windows on the world, with their exquisite illustrations and crisp texts. Telling The Time, Shopping With Mother ('Here is the fish shop'), historical biographies, Britain’s Wild Flowers and the Well Loved Tales series of fairy stories were among titles which sparked millions of young imaginations. 'Ladybird Land was a place where we all wanted to be,' says one fan. 'People were decent to each other.' Natural history presenter Chris Packham was inspired by its nature series and fellow devotee, poet Andrew Motion, rejoices in Ladybird's 'Orwellian perception of Cinderella.'

Mark Radcliffe delves into the BBC vaults to present a selection of Christmas music in Top Of The Pops 2 - 7:30 BBC2. This features perennial classics from the likes of Slade (yes, that one), Wizzard (yes, that one), Wham! (yes, that one), Jona Lewie (yes, that one), The Pogues featuring yer Kirsty MacColl (yes, that one ... masterpiece that it is), Paul McCartney (yes, that one). And, of course, Christmas simply wouldn't be Christmas without the sight of alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie the late John Lennon. The latter, obviously, is depicted warbling his way through his truly miserable waste-of-space anthem 'Merry Christmas (War Is Over)' one of the very worst records ever made, by anyone. Ever. Full of trite, risible and genuinely rotten Hallmark Christmas Card sentiments and banal clichés and then, just when you think this horrorshow (and drag) can't, possibly, get any worse, Yoko Bloody Ono starts singing as well. What a nightmare. Plus, there is a new allegedly festive performance from Boyzone, a sneak-peek at The Killers' annual Christmas video and not-particularly-Christmassy archive performances by The Teardrop Explodes (ah, now you're talkin'), Darts, Mud, Depeche Mode, Emeli Sande, The Hollies and Little Jimmy Osmond. Terrific line-up!
Again, if you're looking for quality away from the main channels, it's repeats time. But, even there, you can find good stuff if you look hard enough. There is, for example, an excellent episode of Lewis - The Great And The Good - on 8:00 at ITV3. Oswald Cooper (played by Jason Watkins at his creepiest) is the prime suspect in the rape of a teenage girl, but he presents an alibi which is supported by three pillars of the community. When Cooper himself is subsequently murdered (and, has his Jacob's Cream Crackers hacked off for good measure), Robbie Lewis discovers a web of deceit and nefarious skulduggery going back twenty years, in which the dead man was used by the trio to cover up for their own sordid series of secrets. But, unsurprisingly, the case soon takes on a personal dimension for the good inspector. Kwame Kwei-Armah, Sean McGinley, Richard McCabe and Daniela Nardini guest star, with regulars Kevin Whately, Laurence Fox, Rebecca Front and Clare Holman.

Monday 23 December
Rob Brydon introduces a seasonal special of the comedy panel game Would I Lie To You? - 8:30 BBC1 - a particular guilty pleasure of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, let it be noted. 'This is my cape,' proclaims posh and repressed David Mitchell – words we've always wanted to hear him say. 'I used to put it on to pretend I was Doctor Who and head into my TARDIS, or as my parents called it, the airing cupboard.' Its all too believable, the kind of absurd but just-plausible-enough claim this series loves to tease us with. Except, of course, that the character was (and still is) called The Doctor, the series is called Doctor Who. And, everybody knows that. So, lie. Equally tricky: does Miranda Hart begin every Christmas Day with a cigar in bed? It's a delightful thought. Did Stephen Mangan name his puppy after a gravestone? As usual, the panellists’ festive fibs (or, otherwise) are great excuses for repartee, cross-examination and stories with more embroidery than a Downton Abbey gown. But, as usual, it's beautifully, stupidly funny, not least because everybody looks like they're having such an excellent time, so we do too. Other guests include Barry Cryer and Miles Jupp and they join team captains Mitchell and Lee Mack to hoodwink their opponents with a few festive porkies or facts about themselves.

Tonight, finally, sees the Qi XL episode Keeps - 10:20 BBC2 - mysteriously postponed from a few weeks ago. Sarah Millican, Jason Manford and Bill Bailey join the regular panellist Alan Davies on the popular long-running comedy intelligence quiz. Host Stephen Fry asks a range of fiendish questions on the topic of keeps, with points being awarded for interesting answers as well as correct ones.

In Len Goodman's Dance Band Days - 9:00 BBC4 - the Strictly judge reflects on the heyday of British dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s and asks why, within just two decades, the nation's love affair with the genre had dissipated. He explores the development of crooning - a singing style which was made possible due to upgraded microphone technology - before tracing the story of the popular vocalist Al Bowlly, who was killed in London's Blitz in April 1941. 'Please, Sir John, suppress this nightly wailing,' a radio critic beseeched the first Director General of the Beeb in a 1930s newspaper. Although most listeners couldn't get enough of the craze for crooning, others were aghast that the BBC was allowing the airwaves to be corrupted by this sick filth. Hot jazz or 'negroid music' – as one hugely regrettable internal memo called it – was more contentious still. So, Len looks back on the heyday of dance bands: when bandleaders were The Beatles of their day and syrup-voiced Bowlly became Britain’s answer to Bing Crosby. As always, Len is an effusive, exquisitely turned out, twinkly-eyed companion – and a surprisingly good crooner, too.

There's also John Bishop's Christmas Show - 9:00 BBC1. So, that'll be worth avoiding, then.

Tuesday 24 December
Though Alan and Celia are the twin heartbeats of Last Tango In Halifax - 9:00 BBC1 - in many ways this second series has been about the flourishing of another relationship, the one between their respective daughters Caroline and Gillian. Last week's episode was pivotal for the women when, in vino veritas, spiky, defensive Gillian (the always wonderful Nicola Walker) revealed a very dark episode from her past to an unwitting Caroline (Sarah Lancashire). Tonight, in the last episode of the current series, the pair emerge from a foggy alcoholic haze to take stock. Gillian wakes up in a panic after remembering her horrific confession, although her stepsister's reaction rather surprises her. Caroline, however, soon has problems of her own to worry about when pregnant girlfriend Kate is rushed to hospital. Has she lost the baby? Preparations are well under way for Alan and Celia's big day, although while she is focusing on the ceremony, he seems more concerned about the stag do. However, the news that the groom's brother won't be flying over puts paid to the idea of getting the entire family together. Finally, the big day arrives and the celebrations are in full swing - but with Caroline's emotions running high and Gillian eager to make a move on Robbie, will it all go smoothly? as ever, don't get the idea that it's all Grim Ooop North stuff. There is a wedding to organise as Alan and Celia (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) renew their vows on a snowy Christmas Eve. It's a lovely occasion and writer Sally Wainwright, with her gift for putting her finger exactly on a drama's emotional pulse, brings us an occasion to cherish.

Two Qi XL episodes in two nights, now that's public service broadcasting. T'was the night before Christmas, dear blog reader, and for tonight's episode witty and gregarious quizmaster Stephen Fry, resplendent in a deep crimson, Noël Coward-esque dressing gown, hosts a sparkly extended Qi Christmas special - BBC2 9:00. He's joined by Mrs Brown's alter ego Brendan O'Carroll, Phill Jupitus, Jo Brand and Alan Davies. It's The Feast of Stephen, of course (well, it will be in two days time, anyway) and Fry introduces a young lady who's invented what she describes as an 'unknitting machine' which is operated behind the scenes in the studio by her brother, much to everyone's ribald delight.
Rebecca Front narrates Mel Smith: I've Sort Of Done Things - 9:45 BBC2 - a celebration of the life and career of late actor, writer and director who died in July at the age of sixty. His comedy partner Griff Rhys Jones, Not The Nine O'Clock News creator John Lloyd and screenwriter Richard Curtis are among those talking about Mel's work both in front of and behind the camera. Having enjoyed what Stephen Fry described as 'a full life', Mel died earlier in 2013. At this time of year, it's probably his dreadful 'Rockin' around the Christmas Tree' duet that comes to mind first, but the clowning about was part of a rich career that shaped British comedy but also took in straight acting and directing, TV production and more than a modicum of high living. Rowan Atkinson remembers 'a wonderful sort of peace' in performing alongside Mel and John Lloyd credits Smith with developing the naturalistic style that characterises modern alternative comedy. Lloyd and Atkinson are joined by Richard Curtis and, of course, Mel's sketch partner Griff Rhys Jones to commemorate Mel's contribution to both comedy and life in general. Home video and lots of classic sketches (many of which really do stand the test of time) tell the story of a beloved comic personality. There are visits to Hammersmith's Latymer Upper School, where Mel's talents were first spotted and Oxford University, where he honed his theatrical and comedy skills as a member of its dramatic society. Plus, rare archive clips and a selection of classic sketches.

It's a time of joy and happiness in Midsomer for once. Christmas is coming and DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and his wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman) are soon to become parents in Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV. But the festive mood changes when a man is stabbed to death with an antique sword during a ghost-hunting party at a spooky manor house in Morton Shallows. Well, this is Midsomer, what do you expect? Is blacksmith's daughter, Rose Wilton, seeking revenge from beyond the grave? Before Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) has even introduced himself as Barnaby's new sidekick, there's been a murder. At a Fright Night in the pretty village of Morton Shallows (and it's good fun picking out the familiar faces among the various ghost hunters) someone is run through with an antique sword. As Nelson and Barnaby investigate, they uncover the usual array of festering feuds, deceits, secret affairs and murderous intent that are the bedrock of all Midsomer stories. 'ABC,' Barnaby crisply reminds Nelson, 'Assume nothing. Believe Nothing. Check everything.' He's clearly missing his old partner and you can understand why, this new chap seems nice but it may take a while to warm to him. Guest starring Les Dennis, Elizabeth Berrington, Mark Heap, Emily Joyce, James Murray and Hannah Tointon.

Wednesday 25 December
In 1966, as illness (and a variety of other problems, at least some of which related to what a cantankerous old man he'd become) began to affect Doctor Who's original lead actor, William Harntell, the popular long-running family SF drama's creator, Sydney Newman, and its then producer, Innes Lloyd came up with one of television's most brilliantly innovative conceits. It was called 'regeneration' and was an inspired way of refreshing the programme by making a casting change which didn't defy logic or depend on plotlines involving plastic surgery or previously unmentioned long-lost brothers. In 1976, the - by now massively popular - family SF drama's script editor, Robert Holmes, wrote a four-part story for the then-current Doctor, Tom Baker, called The Deadly Assassin which, aside from putting much flesh on the bones about what we knew about the central character and his people, in one throwaway line, saddled Doctor Who with something that successive production teams have always had in the back of their mind ever since. 'After the twelfth regeneration, there is no plan that will postpone death.' Oh, do you bloody think so? (Of course, The Master overcame this annoying little hurdle ages ago. So, you know, it's not that set in stone.) In The Time Of The Doctor the Time Lord clocks up the eight hundredth episode since his televised adventures began fifty years (and a month) ago. After three series, four Christmas episodes and last month's anniversary special, Matt Smith is finally handing over the key to the TARDIS - but before he can regenerate into Peter Capaldi, he still has some unfinished business. The massed forces of the universe's deadliest alien species have gathered on a quiet backwater planet, drawn to a mysterious message that echoes out to the stars. Among them is The Doctor, who has rescued Clara from a family Christmas dinner to help him discover what this signal means for his own fate and for that of the universe. For the Gallifreyan whom we always assumed to be the eleventh incarnation of The Doctor has, thanks to a couple of relatively recent events, been bumped up to thirteen. Jenna Coleman co-stars.

In a quiet academic library, John Eldred seeks the help of young Mister Garrett in his search for a seemingly obscure Hebrew text as we discover in an adaptation of MR James' classic Edwardian ghost story The Tractate Middoth - 9:30 BBC2. But there is something unusual about this book and something not entirely scholarly about Eldred's intentions, and Garrett's quest unleashes terrifying apparitions and a vengeful menace from beyond the grave. Written and directed, of course, by Britain's foremost authority on the macabre, Mark Gatiss and starring Sacha Dhawan, John Castle, Louise Jameson and Una Stubbs. Immediately afterwards, Mark examines the life and career of author MR James, trying to discover how this devout Anglican bachelor created supernatural tales that continue to chill readers more than a century on in MR James: Ghost Writer - 10:05 BBC2. Mark visits James's childhood home in Suffolk as well as Eton and King's College, Cambridge, the two institutions where he spent most of his life, and ventures into ancient churches, dark cloisters and echoing libraries along the way as he attempt to uncover the writer's inspirations.

It's Christmas time in Poplar and love is in the air as Jenny's relationship with Alec continues to blossom, while Shelagh is planning her quiet wedding to Doctor Turner in Call The Midwife - 6:15 BBC1. However, the peace is suddenly disturbed when the police arrive at Nonnatus House to announce an unexploded wartime bomb has been discovered just around the corner and everybody in the district is being evacuated to safety. The electricity has been cut off and the streets are pitch-black, and with the locals scurrying to safety, the nuns and nurses reach out to anyone in need of medical help. The spirit of the Blitz takes over as the community's members pull together - aware that, at any moment, their homes could be reduced to rubble. Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Laura Main star in a festive special of the 1950s-set drama, with a guest appearance by Sandi Toksvig.

In Bear's Wild Weekend With Stephen Fry - 8:30 Channel Four - Bear Grylls returns for another adventure with a famous face, taking the actor, writer and Qi host on an expedition to one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe. Over the course of two days high in the Italian Dolomites, the survival expert pushes Stephen to his limits with a series of challenges - travelling on the skids of a helicopter, descending a terrifying five hundred foot waterfall, sleeping in a First World War trench and abseiling down a towering cliff face.

Thursday 26 December
Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys and Jenna Coleman her very self star in Death Comes To Pemberley - 8:15 BBC1 - a sequel to Pride And Prejudice, adapted from the best-selling novel by PD James, which brings Jane Austen's world back to life in a highly original way - with a murder mystery plot at its centre. The drama picks up six years on from the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet and Mister Darcy, as the couple prepare for the lavish annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley home. However, the unannounced arrival of Elizabeth's wayward sister, Lydia, brings the event to an abrupt halt when she stumbles in screaming that her husband, Wickham, has been murdered. 'orribly. Darcy leads a search party out to the woodlands and finds a blood-soaked corpse - but it's not the body they were expecting to find. Yer actual Trevor Eve, Rebecca Front, James Fleet and Matthew Goode co-star. Continues tomorrow.

Idris Elba: King of Speed - 8:15 BBC2 - is the first petrol-soaked episode of a two-part documentary in which the Luther star embarks on an international journey to learn about the history of car racing while experiencing the thrill of driving competition vehicles. The actor travels from his childhood home in East London to the Motor City of Detroit and on to New Jersey, where he finds out about the first boy racers and explores how an obsession with driving fast has shaped professional motorsports and popular culture.

In Never Mind the Baubles: Xmas '77 With The Sex Pistols - 10:00 BBC4 - director Julien Temple presents a unique insight into the tradition of transgression at Christmas, focusing on 1977 when The Sex Pistols - banned from playing just about everywhere in the UK at the time - performed their last UK concert with Sid Vicious for the children of striking firefighters in Huddersfield. Includes archive footage of the punk rockers at their peak.
Friday 27 December
In the second part of Ben & James Versus the Arabian Desert - 9:00 BBC2 - James Cracknell and Ben Fogle continue their expedition across the Arabian Desert, and after only four days they are behind schedule. As they try to pick up the pace, disaster strikes when one of them suffers a serious injury, leading to further delays - although it does allow them to reflect on their friendship. With sandstorms and boiling temperatures ahead, can they ever hope to finish their journey?
The Joy Of ABBA - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary exploring how pop legends ABBA raised the bar for their music genre in the 1970s and early 1980s, popularising the sound of Swedish melancholy. The programme explores how the quartet of Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad came to dominate the British music charts with simple, catchy melodies, but also divided opinion due to the mass-produced popularity of their output.
Again, if you're struggling to find anything worthwhile on the box tonight, you could do worse than check out an old classic, in this case a memorable Christmas episode from Jonathan Creek - 9:00 Drama. In The Black Canary, a classic from 1998, the inexplicable death of a retired female illusionist, whose twin sister was killed during an on-stage power-saw stunt some years ago, has Maddy and Jonathan clutching at straws. Perhaps the dead woman's long-lost niece might be able to help the duo and the suave and brilliant Detective Inspector Gideon Pryke - a big fan of Jonathan and his methods - piece together a reasonable explanation for the grisly murder. Starring Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin (when she used to do something worthwhile to earn her salary), with the always excellent Rik Mayall, Francis Matthews and Hannah Gordon.

Saturday 28 December
Pasiphae finds Ariadne guilty of treason and sentences her to a gruesome execution, and with the court fully behind the Queen, it seems Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras are the young woman's last hop in the series finale of Atlantis - 8:15 BBC1. But they will need all the help they can get if they are to save their friend's life. John Hannah guest stars in the finale of the fantasy drama set in the legendary city, with Mark Addy, Jack Donnelly, Robert Emms and Sarah Parish.

The Fifty Funniest Moments of 2013 - 9:00 Channel Four - is, as you might expect from the title, a countdown of the most hilarious (it says here), surprising and sometimes shocking and stunning incidents from the past twelve months. So, is it going to be full of tension in the Middle East, 'Plebgate', the death of Nelson Mandela and Wigan winning the FA Cup and getting relegated in the same season? Is it shite, as like. What do you expect from Channel Four, proper journalism? No, you know what you're getting here - a trawl through the tittle-tattle of the arse end of 'celebrity', from Miley Cyrus hitting the headlines to Prince Harry's skill with helicopters. Crap, dear blog reader, pure and total crap as evidenced by those talking heads taking part in it. Danny Dyer, Charlotte Crosby, Russell Kane (very popular with students) and Helen Flanagan are among those contributing their  thoroughly worthless 'thoughts' on events. Sounds unmissable. If you're a brain-damaged moron, or the victim of a cruel medical experiment. Otherwise, might be an idea to check out BBC2 instead.

Because, on a broadly similar - but, obviously, funnier - note is Charlie Brooker's 2013 Wipe - 10:40 BBC2. In which the writer and broadcaster takes a satirical look back at the events of the past twelve months. Which, even on Charlie's worst day ever will still be a thousand times more interesting than the combined witterings of Danny Dyer, Charlotte Crosby, Russell Kane (very popular with students) and Helen Flanagan. Topics included all of the stuff Channel Four wouldn't touch with a barge-pole; the horse-meat scandal, the charging of athlete Oscar Pistorius with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp and Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. Charlie also comments on the leaking of NSA intelligence documents by Edward Snowden, the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son George, the death of Margaret Thatcher, Russell Brand's appearance on Newsnight and the US government shutdown. With barely a Miley Cyrus in sight. Although, one imagines, he'll probably have something to say about that as well. American stand-up Doug Stanhope also gives his own take on the year's events. Which will be rude but, probably, very amusing. You have been warned.

Sunday 29 December
Monty Python's Flying Circus star Michael Palin heads to rural Pennsylvania and Maine to explore the life and work of Andrew Wyeth, one of America's most popular and controversial artists in Michael Palin in Wyeth's World - 9:00 BBC2. He goes in search of the real-life stories that inspired Wyeth's depictions of the US landscape and its hard-working inhabitants, tracking down the farmers, friends and family featured in his paintings. He also chats to Helga Testorf, who secretly posed for Wyeth from 1971 to 1985.
Newlyweds Mike and Ellie decide to build their dream home at a beauty spot called Gypsy's Acre, ignoring the warnings of elusive Romany, Mrs Lee, about an 'ancient curse' supposedly cast upon the land in the latest Agatha Christe's Marple, Endless Night - 8:00 ITV. The couple settle into their new life, but the mysterious woman makes her presence felt, subjecting them to a campaign of hatred in an attempt to force them out. Tragedy soon strikes, but as luck would have it Jane Marple is staying nearby with her recently widowed old friend Mrs Phillpot. However, if the amateur sleuth is to solve the puzzle, she must put her own life in grave danger. Murder mystery, starring Julia McKenzie, with Wendy Craig, Glynis Barber, Hugh Dennis, Tamzin Outhwaite, Tom Hughes, Joanna Vanderham, Aneurin Barnard, William Hope and Janet Henfrey.
The last ever episode of Mad Dogs - 9:00 Sky 1 - sees the lads try to turn their lives around with a plan from Rick that could pocket them two million euros each - although knowing their luck, things won't quite work out that way. Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren star.
Jimmy Carr oversees the disputes and deliberations on the festive topics that have set the British public's chins wagging in the run-up to Christmas in Eight Out Of Ten Cats - 9:00 Channel Four. Comedians Jon Richardson and Sean Lock head the teams, joined by Holly Willoughby, Henning Wehn, Alan Davies and Roisin Conaty. Nick Helm and Joe Wilkinson also make guest appearances.

Monday 30 December
It's New Year's Eve - not in the real world but, rather in Agnes Brown's house. And, there's a lot of funny business going on - as usual - in Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:30 BBC1. The main plot thread in this latest episode revolves around Agnes's plan to stop her grandson, Bono, being enrolled in the infamous local primary school. But, along the way she takes in a homeless parrot with an extraordinary vocabulary. There's also a severe new priest, Father McBride, to get the better of and Dermot and Buster dress up as Laurel and Hardy. For no adequately explained reason The doting mother's hectic house becomes a little more noisy when she finds herself lumbered with a new guest. To add to her problems, she is on a desperate mission to make sure Bono doesn't get sent to the infamous local primary school, against his parents' wishes. At least she has her New Year's Eve party to look forward to - which seems to be going well, until her guests start dropping like flies. Will she be left to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' all alone? Second of two festive episodes of the hit sitcom, starring yer actual Brendan O'Carroll.
The need to make sense of our world by telling stories was as compelling for our ancestors as it is for us. It led to the creation of many sacred places and Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair, of course) visits some of the earliest in Britain in the first of three episodes of The Sacred Wonders Of Britain - 8:30 BBC2. Of course, the Neolithic period means stone - and lots of it - so this is not an hour short on grey shapes looming out of ancient landscapes. Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) investigates the hallowed sites of ancient Britain, looking at how people expressed their religious beliefs by reshaping the landscape around them. He begins by examining the very first stirrings of religion, visiting Nottinghamshire to view clues to a world of magic and ritual etched into the rock of Creswell Crags by Ice Age hunters, while tombs In the South of England and in the Scottish Borders are evidence of ancestor worship among the farmers of the Neolithic age. Looks proper good, this one and, of course, the presence of Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) is sure to bring in a large audience from his, largely female, female fandom so, expect this one to become something if a cult very quickly.
Biographer Margaret Lea (the excellent Olivia Colman) is summoned to the home of reclusive and terminally ill novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave) to document the author's life in The Thirteenth Tale - 9:30 BBc2. Vida reveals the secrets of her dark and unsettling childhood at ancestral home Angelfield, forcing Margaret to face up to the tragedy she herself suffered as a young girl. Anyone who's read Diane Setterfield's subtle, unsettling Gothic chiller of loss, grief, destructive jealousy and the peculiar dynamic of twins probably thinks the novel is unfilmable. But writer Christopher Hampton's clever, eerie screenplay and two mesmerising performances, from Redgrave and Colly make this something of a tour de force. The Thirteenth Tale won't be to everyone’s taste – there's a slow build-up and it's a tense, unhappy story of the sort that some glake will whinge about – but it is sinuous and will, if you give it the chance, wrap you in a prickly embrace as ghostly laughter rings through a large, sprawling, unhappy home. It's the kind of television drama that will hang around you like a cloak, long after it ends. Psychological mystery adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Hampton from the novel, with a superb supporting cast that includes Robert Pugh, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Mackintosh and Alexandra Roach.
Tuesday 31 December
Staying in on New Year's Eve when you'd rather be out? Comfort comes in the form of Simon Carlyle’s one-off comedy Two Doors Down - 9:00 BBC1 - which demonstrates that Hogmanay parties aren't all prawn rings, soft light and witty banter. Alex Norton and Arabella Weir star as Eric and Beth, who are hoping that their son Angus, serving in Iraq, will be home in time for a slice of Beth's legendary steak pie. Eric and Beth are throwing a Hogmanay party for a selection of family and friends, including Norwegian neighbours Henning and Nina, aspirational acquaintances Colin and Cathy, their son Ian's outgoing partner Tony, and Beth's unpredictable sister Caroline. As the drink flows, secrets are revealed, scores are settled and a gazebo is destroyed. Sounds like a few parties yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been invited to. Daniela Nardini, Doon Mackichan, Jonathan Watson, Greg McHugh and Sharon Rooney co-star.
In The Graham Norton Show - 10:15 BBC1 - Graham presents a star-studded night of reunions for New Year's Eve, bringing together the stars of Anchorman 2 - Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate and David Koechner - the surviving members of the Monty Python's Flying Circus team - John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam - and sisters Joan and Jackie Collins. There's also comedy from Frank Skinner and a song from Canadian crooner Michael Buble. It's just to be hoped the sofa is big enough!

Jools Holland presents his twenty first annual Hootenanny - 11:30 BBC2 - featuring a mixture of veteran artists and current chart stars. The line-up features former Kinks frontman and, possibly, the greatest living English songwirter yer actual Ray Davies, singer Lisa Stansfield, Edinburgh duo The Proclaimers (ah, yeah!), Spice Girl Melanie C, Jamaican vocalist Dawn Penn, who teams up with Madness saxophonist Lee Thompson, East London grind outfit Rudimental and Colorado band The Lumineers. Others to watch out for include rising soul star Laura Mvula, the excellent Haim, Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band, John Newman and a woman who's become a fixture on the annual show - Ruby Turner. As usual, Jools' own Rhythm and Blues Orchestra will be backing many of the solo stars and as the clocks strike twelve, The Pipes and Drums of the First Battalion Scots Guards help ring in the New Year in their own rousing fashion. As well as the musical entertainment, Jools chats to the celebrity audience members, asking them to share their thoughts on the past year and give their predictions for 2014.

Wednesday 1 January 2014
This is the one we've all been waiting for. Two years on from reports of his - if you will - Reichenbach Fall, Sherlock Holmes resurfaces as London comes under threat of a huge terrorist attack in the much-anticipated return of Sherlock - 9:00 BBC1. John Watson, though, has mixed feelings about this chains of events - he's naturally delighted to see his old friend again (once he's biffed him on the conk for making him think Holmes was dead, of course), but he also harbours worries that the consulting detective's reappearance will have an adverse affect on his now settled domestic life, in particular his romance with the lovely Mary Morstan. Mark Gatiss's The Empty Hearse couldn't be more of a treat if it came wrapped in a bow and was delivered to the audience individually by the Top Gear lads. It's a playful, willy, exhilarating, gregarious ninety minute adventure with yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch (now a proper Hollywood star, of course) oozing a new maturity and confidence as master of all he surveys. It's two years since Sherlock Holmes seemingly hurled himself from the roof of St Bart's Hospital and, in Sherlock as in real life, theories are myriad and ridiculous. (Watch for Gatiss's sly little nod to the outer reaches of the show's fandom and its endless propensity to write lurid slash fiction about Moriarty and Watson and Sherlock.) Despite an enveloping sadness, the hollow, bereaved John Watson (the peerless Martin Freeman, also now in huge demand across the water) has finally moved on. He's grown some - very unwise - facial hair and found a - very wise and loving - girlfriend (Marty's real-life partner Amanda Abbington her very self). But he's haunted by thoughts of Sherlock Holmes. With Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Lou Brealey and Gatiss himself as Mycroft.
So to the news: Two cast members will depart Homeland at the end of the current third season. Morena Baccarin, who plays Jessica and Morgan Saylor, who plays Dana, will not return as series regulars in season four, TV Line reports. Jessica and Dana have not appeared in the show as much this season because of Nick Brody's reduced role. According to the website, both actresses are welcome to return on a guest-star basis in the future. Damian Lewis recently admitted that he did not expect to get 'even halfway through' his full contract with the show. 'Brody is such a conundrum for the writers,' he said. 'They've been slightly hijacked by the brilliance of their own creation. I don't think anybody quite knew how Brody was going to work, and I don't think anybody anticipated how compelling the Carrie-Brody relationship would be. He's a brilliantly complex and unpredictable character and he could still be there in season seven. Who knows?'

And now, here's a letter from the Daily Scum Mail.
Thanks for that, Harry. Nice to see that you, yourself, manage to avoid indulging in the 'self, self, self, moan, moan, moan' that you're so sick. Next ...

A football match between Great Britain and Afghanistan should be held to 'mark' the withdrawal of British troops from the country next year the frequently injured former England footballer and utter waste-of-space Michael Owen has said. The Little Shit, now 'working in the media' (if you can describe taking part in a talk show watched by about four people on BT Sport thus) and, having somehow managed to wrangle himself onto a trip to Afghanistan with his new bestest chum in all the land, the Prime Minister, claimed that a 'peace game' held at Wembley, would be a 'fantastic milestone.' Why hold it there? Why not in a minefield in Kabul in sight of Taliban snipers? That'd probably be more far entertaining for television - particularly if The Little Shit himself were to be playing up front. So, to sum up then dear blog reader, Michael Owen - a malingering wazzock who got paid millions for four years of mostly lying on a treatment table at Newcastle - thinks it would be 'fantastic' to mark the end of a truly horrific conflict in which thousands have died - and which isn't over and probably won't be for the next fifty years - with a kick-about. Jesus, with ideas like that he could be one of the great thinkers of our generation. Or, maybe not. The Prime Minister, of course, said he thought the idea was 'excellent.' Why does that not surprise me?
'The rapid-fire, witty, screwball dialogue of the hacks' in His Girl Friday is 'no mere dramatic device – it's how people at Channel Four News communicate', claimed Cathy Newman in a T2 piece comparing screen versions of television news with the reality. What, even their most hard-boiled reporters? Seems so. Her main revelations concerned two male counterparts whom she interviewed. Her co-anchor, Jon Snow, 'tells me – and I think he's only half-joking – that he models himself on the wayward newscaster played by Peter Finch in the film satire Network', and who ends up urging viewers to shout out of their windows 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more.' Yep, that definitely sounds like The Snow Man. ITN veteran Alastair Stewart admits to a more unexpected link with another celluloid newscaster, the legend that is Ron Burgundy: 'When I started at Southern Television in 1976, I owned and, worse still, wore a burgundy jacket and white shoes. I bless the day I met my future wife and she told me I looked like a prat.'

It's an old story, but it's worth repeating. Michael Palin this week retold one 'fairly ridiculous censorship decision' made by the BBC during the third Monty Python's Flying Circus series. All six comedians had an argument with the head of comedy over the right to say 'masturbation' in the Summarise Proust Competition sketch. The line was that a competitor's hobbies were 'strangling animals, golf and, masturbating.' 'They just cut the word,' Palin recalls, 'So you had: "My hobbies are strangling animals, golf ..." short pause, huge laugh. What was so funny about golf?'
The BBC, ITV and Channel Four have criticised Ofcom's proposals to tap into 'white spaces' of TV spectrum to launch new wireless services, arguing that errors in its plan could disrupt viewing in potentially millions of Freeview households. Ofcom - a government appointed quango, elected by no one - intends to use the so-called gaps in the spectrum used to broadcast digital terrestrial TV service Freeview to nineteen million homes across the UK for a range of potential wireless services. In October Ofcom announced a pilot involving twenty companies – including Google, Microsoft and BT – to trial a variety of potential uses for the 'white space spectrum', including rural broadband, transmitting data on traffic congestion and creating a 'smart city' of Wi-Fi hubs in Glasgow. Industry body Digital UK, which is owned by the BBC, Channel Four and Arqiva, on Friday submitted a response to Ofcom's consultation on how to technically achieve using the white space. The twenty two-page response is highly critical of Ofcom's technical plans, pointing out 'errors' which have led the consortium of broadcasters to have serious concerns that reception in Freeview households could be affected. 'We believe, based on the technical parameters detailed in the consultation, certain assumptions in the modelling have the potential to significantly affect digital terrestrial television coverage, which could ultimately disrupt TV viewing to noticeable levels,' said Digital UK. Ofcom said in its consultation, TV White Spaces: Approach To Co-existence, that perhaps only 'a small proportion' of the ten per cent Freeview households that might be affected would 'suffer harmful interference.' However, the broadcasters are also concerned that Ofcom doesn't offer adequate assurances of protection from interference to Freeview households that use indoor or set top aerials – estimated to be about a quarter of the nineteen million homes that get the service via a main or secondary TV set. 'We urge Ofcom to act with caution as it assesses the impact TV white spaces may have on the availability and functionality of the terrestrial television platform and its viewers,' said Digital UK. '[Ofcom should] continue to support the robust levels of reception that viewers have enjoyed since the very beginning of terrestrial broadcasting, and which form part of the reason why many consumers select [Freeview] as their platform of preference.' A spokesman for Ofcom said: 'Ofcom has designed its white spaces plans in a way that protects against interference to the airwaves. Any suggestion that it will compromise TV services is unfounded.'

A Comic Relief sketch starring Rowan Atkinson as a fictional Archbishop of Canterbury is the most complained-about TV moment of the year so far. Ofcom received four hundred and eighty seven complaints from whinging glakes with nothing better to do with their time who opined that the monologue was 'offensive.' It featured Atkinson claiming prayer 'doesn't work.' The regulator did not agree and stated in July that the sketch was not in breach of rules, saying it was justified by the context. Big Brother, with nine hundred and sixty five complaints, was 2013's most complained-about TV show. It is the second consecutive year that the Channel Five reality show has topped Ofcom's complaints list. It received complaints across the series concerning a number of issues including allegations of racism, bullying and fighting. The second most-complained about programme was The X Factor results show, which generated seven hundred and thirty four complaints. Some three hundred and seventeen people complained about an episode broadcast in October that featured Lady Gaga performing in an 'inappropriate' skimpy outfit made of shells and flesh-coloured underwear. Ofcom also received one hundred and twenty two complaints over Robin Thicke's performance of 'Blurred Lines' a week earlier, but the regulator ruled there were 'no grounds to investigate' either issue. ITV News was third on the complaints list, with a total five hundred and seventy four complaints including two hundred and seventy eight specifically related to its coverage of the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby. An Ofcom investigation into the issue will be published following the conclusion of criminal proceedings. BBC News, Five News, Channel Four News and Sky News are also among the broadcasters being investigated for showing graphic pre-watershed images. Celebrity Big Brother, Britain's Got Toilets, Emmerdale, Downton Abbey and Coronation Street were also in the top ten most whinged-about programmes. Ofcom said it had received thirteen thousand seven hundred and eighty complaints so far this year. The most complained about programme in the past ten years was Celebrity Big Brother in 2007, which generated over forty five thousand complaints after a racism row following remarks by the late Jade Goody (and others) to Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.
The makers of Family Guy have brought back one of the show's characters, weeks after he was killed off. Brian Griffin, the family dog, was run over by a car in an episode called Life Of Brian on 24 November. The talking pet, voiced by show creator Seth MacFarlane, was replaced by a new dog called Vinny but returned in a Christmas episode broadcast on Sunday. The episode, called Christmas Guy, saw talking baby Stewie travel back in time to save his friend, after asking the Father Christmas at a local shopping centre to bring him back. Stewie, who is known for being incredibly intelligent, has a home-made time machine which features in several episodes. It is unclear if Brian's replacement, voiced by Sopranos star Tony Sirico, will appear in the show again. Following the episode's broadcast in the US Seth Macfarlane asked his Twitter followers: 'You didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you?' He also tweeted: 'Thanks for caring so much about the canine Griffin. He is overcome with gratitude.' Brian, who drinks, goes out with women and is an aspiring novelist, has been a major character since the pilot of Family Guy in 1999. He has appeared in more than two hundred episodes of the animated cartoon comedy. The show, which is set around bumbling father Peter Griffin, his wife Lois, teenage children Chris and Meg and baby Stewie, is known for its often controversial humour. It has been criticised by watchdog groups in America and episodes often features characters in compromising or inappropriate situations. Which is one very good reason for watching it. The EMMY-nominated series is currently in its twelfth season and averages six million viewers an episode in the US.

Thanks to Broadcast magazine for its - up-its-own-arse, as usual - slavvery account of Ruby Wax's speech when hosting the recent Women In Film And Television Awards ceremony, where she said that she was always aware in her twenty-odd years as an 'in-demand presenter' that her time at the top was finite. 'I knew eventually I'd be replaced by someone younger and more beautiful,' she told guests. 'It was Alan Yentob.' Which, actually, might be the single funniest thing that Ruby Wax has said during her twenty-odd years as an 'in-demand presenter.'
Nigella Lawson lied under oath, allowed her children to smoke cannabis and allowed one of her aides to buy them cigarettes, a court has heard claimed. Elisabetta Grillo, who is accused of fraudulently spending six hundred and eighty five thousand smackers on credit cards belonging the TV cook - and self-confessed snorter of cocaine - and her former husband, made the claim as she was quizzed about a transaction of almost seventy knicker at a duty free shop in New York. 'It was cigarettes for the children,' the forty one-year-old said. 'I bought them there and Nigella allowed me to buy (them).' She was then asked by the prosecutor Jane Carpenter: 'What on earth do you think you were doing buying cigarettes for under age children?' 'If Nigella Lawson let them smoke weed ...' she replied, before Judge Robin Johnson stopped the line of questioning. Earlier, Grillo accused Lawson, her former husband Charles Saatchi and members of her employer's so-called 'Team Cupcake' of lying in court. Giving evidence last week, Lawson admitted to taking cocaine on several occasions but claimed that she had only used the drug after she found out her late husband, John Diamond, had terminal cancer, and again in July 2010 during her troubled marriage to Saatchi. However, Grillo claimed that although she had never actually seen Lawson taking drugs, there were 'signs' of regular use. Jurors at Isleworth Crown Court heard that Grillo found 'a packet of white powder' in the home Lawson shared with Diamond, as well as rolled-up banknotes and credit cards with white powder on them. Could have been icing sugar, of course. I mean, Nigella does do a lot of cooking. Asked why she did not speak out about Lawson's drug use, Grillo said she wanted 'to protect Nigella until the end. I didn't want to disappoint her,' she added. 'Nigella was a very nice person. She was very generous to me.' Grillo claimed that she had decided to mention Lawson's drug use as part of her defence when photographs emerged of Saatchi apparently pinching his then-wife's nose outside a London restaurant, but she denied that she was 'taking advantage' of the situation. As details of some of her alleged spending were revealed, Grillo claimed Lawson allowed her to buy a bed from Ikea and sign up for a fashion course. She was 'given permission' to use a credit card during a weekend in Paris because 'it was my birthday' and bought Calvin Klein underwear while shopping for Lawson's daughter 'because we are the same size', the court heard. 'Nobody told me I could not take money,' she said, adding that Lawson allowed her to withdraw extra cash for herself if she worked beyond her hours. Grillo, who claimed Saatchi gave her two hundred notes to 'bump up sales' of his book, also denied that she was 'better dressed' than other household staff members and said that she bought clothes at discount stores and online. 'I was allowed to buy clothes for myself. I worked hard,' she said. 'I was part of the family for fourteen years.' Grillo and her sister Francesca, deny committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain. The trial continues.

There seems to be much speculation in the papers over Susanna Reid's future. This comes after the - always reliable - People's front-page story on Sunday that there is a 'bidding war' over the presenter after she 'strongly hinted' that she is ready to quit BBC Breakfast. The People - the same paper which recently claimed that one hundred and six missing Doctor Who episodes had been found in Ethiopia; which they hadn't - claimed that ITV is 'ready to offer' the Strictly Come Dancing finalist a five hundred thousand smackers-a-year-plus deal, quoting an alleged ITV 'source' (anonymous, of course and, therefore, almost certainly fictitious) as, allegedly, saying: 'Susanna is being talked about at a senior level. She is the hottest property in TV-land at the moment and her versatility makes her an attractive proposition for primetime.' Which sounds uncannily like what an alleged ITV 'source' was allegedly quoted as saying shortly before ITV signed The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley. And, my, didn't that turn out well for all concerned. Especially, the BBC. The People claimed that Channel Five is, also, 'interested' (to misquote Craing Revel Horwood at this point: 'You couldn't afford her, darling'). However, it was something of a reverse ferret on Monday morning, with the People's sister paper, the Mirra quoting Reid as responding to such claims: 'If you cut me open I would bleed BBC. I said when BBC Breakfast moved to Salford that the BBC runs through me like a stick of rock – and nothing has changed.' A BBC added: 'We are ready to offer her some generous incentives to show Susanna how well she is thought of on the Breakfast show. We will be looking at things like making life more comfortable for Susanna when she travels.'

Stottingtot Hotshots have sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas in the wake of Sunday's 5-0 pants-down thrashing by Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws. The defeat was the club's worst at White Tart Lane in sixteen years and left Spurs seventh in the Premier League - eight points behind leaders The Arse.

Screen legend Peter O'Toole died on Saturday aged eighty one, his agent has said. He was being treated at London's Wellington hospital after a long illness. Peter's daughter, Kate, said that the family was 'overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us.' Peter received an honorary Oscar in 2003, having initially turned it down. In a letter the actor asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay it until he was eighty, saying that he was 'still in the game and might win the bugger outright' one day. His agent added that Peter was 'one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field.' The Irish-born actor got his big break when Sir David Lean cast him as British adventurer TE Lawrence in the 1962 epic biopic. Lawrence Of Arabia earned Peter the first of eight Oscar nominations, with others coming for such films as Becket, The Lion In Winter and Goodbye, Mr Chips. Other performances included leading Shakespearean parts, comic roles in adaptations of PG Wodehouse and his famed starring role in Keith Waterhouse's stage play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, a chronicle of the life of his friend, the legendary hard-drinking writer and Spectator columnist. In the latter, Peter's versatility delighted a whole new generation of theatre-goers. Peter also had a reputation for riotous behaviour following often epic bouts of drinking. 'We heralded the 1960s,' he once said. 'Me, [Richard] Burton, Richard Harris; we did in public what everyone else did in private then, and does for show now. We drank in public, we knew about pot.' But in the mid-1970s he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and was warned by doctors that more alcohol would prove fatal. He had yards of his intestinal tubing - 'most of my plumbing' - removed and he gave up the drink. 'If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it,' he once said. 'If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do As Thou Wilt.' Katharine Hepburn, his wife in The Lion In Winter, is said to have told Peter that he was profligate with his talent as an actor. But perhaps Peter's metier was always risk in that department. Even in Lawrence Of Arabia, made when he was not quite thirty, he looked like an elegant wreck - the Keith Richards of historical epics - dipped in suntan, his eyes full of fire and fever. Peter made his height, his giddy conviction and his theatricality hold that movie together. He was a freed bird in white robes, yet he shuddered like a schoolboy at the thought of torture. Last July, after a career spanning fifty years Peter said that he was retiring from the stage and screen. 'I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell,' he said. 'The heart for it has gone out of me. It won't come back.' However, last month it was announced that he was being lined-up for a role as a Roman orator in Katherine Of Alexandria, a film scheduled for release next year. The president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, was among the first to pay tribute: 'Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre. In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor,' Higgins said. 'He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean sonnets in particular. While he was nominated as best actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage. Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence, or through the role of Henry II in Becket and The Lion In Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime devoted to the art form of the camera.' Higgins, who knew O'Toole as a friend since 1969, said 'all of us who knew him in the west will miss his warm humour and generous friendship. He was unsurpassed for the grace he brought to every performance on and off the stage,' he said. Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole was born in 1932. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara in County Galway and others as Leeds, where he grew up. O'Toole himself said that he was not certain of either his birthplace or the exact date, noting in his autobiography that, while he accepted 2 August as his birthday, he had a birth certificate from each country, with the Irish one giving his birth date as June 1932. He was the son of Constance Jane Eliot, a Scottish nurse, and Patrick Joseph O'Toole (known to all as Captain Pat), an Irish metal plater, footballer and racecourse bookie. he was a colourful character, the first of many to grace O'Toole's remarkable life. When Peter was a year old, his family began a five-year tour of major racecourse towns in Northern England. He was brought up as a Catholic and went to St Joseph's Secondary School in Leeds, where he was 'implored' to become right-handed. 'I used to be scared stiff of the nuns: their whole denial of womanhood – the black dresses and the shaving of the hair – was so horrible, so terrifying,' he later commented. 'Of course, that's all been stopped. They're sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.' Upon leaving school Peter worked as a trainee journalist and photographer on the Yorkshire Evening Post, until he was called up for National Service as a signaller in the Royal Navy. As reported in a radio interview in 2006, he was asked by an officer whether he had something he had always wanted to do. His reply was that he had always wanted to try being either a poet or an actor. He and a friend once hitch-hiked to Stratford-upon-Avon, where they saw Michael Redgrave in King Lear. from that moment, Peter knew acting was what he wanted to do. On leaving the army, Peter attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1952 to 1954 on a scholarship after being rejected by the Abbey Theatre's drama school in Dublin. He later said his studies at RADA began 'quite by chance. Not out of burning ambition but because of all the wonderful-looking birds. I hitched to London on a lorry, looking for adventure. I was dropped at Euston Station and was trying to find a hostel. I passed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and walked in just to case the joint.' At RADA, he was in the same class as Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford. Peter described this as 'the most remarkable class the academy ever had, though we weren't reckoned for much at the time. We were all considered dotty.' Peter began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company, before making his television debut in 1956 in a BBC adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. In three years at Bristol, he played more than fifty roles. These included Vladimir in Waiting For Godot (his favourite play), Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion, Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, the dame in pantomime, and a Hamlet which drew Peter Hall and Kenneth Tynan down to Bristol to see it. He often played men older than he was, and his model was Eric Porter – 'because of his great looseness and power.' He left Bristol in 1958, and did Willis Hall's The Long And The Short And The Tall in London in 1959 (directed by Lindsay Anderson, with Terence Stamp as his understudy). From there, he went to Stratford for a season, where he played Shylock in a 1960 production of The Merchant of Venice. His Portia, Dorothy Tutin, graciously stepped aside at the final curtain to signal the debut of a new star. He first appeared on film in 1959 in a bit-part in The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England. Peter's major break came when he was chosen to play TE Lawrence in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), after Lean's initial choice, Marlon Brando, proved unavailable and Albert Finney turned down the role. The film introduced Peter to US audiences and earned him the first of his eight Oscar nomination. On stage, Peter played an acclaimed Hamlet under Laurence Olivier's direction in the premiere production of the Royal National Theatre in 1963. In 1965, he demonstrated his straight-man comedic abilities alongside Peter Sellers in the Woody Allen scripted What's New Pussycat? He also appeared in Seán O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Peter fulfilled a lifetime ambition when taking to the stage of the Irish capital's Abbey Theatre in 1970, to perform in Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot alongside Donal McCann. In 1980, he received wide critical acclaim for playing the director in the behind-the-scenes movie The Stunt Man. Peter was nominated for another Oscar for 1982's My Favorite [sic] Year, a witty romantic comedy about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a 1950s TV variety show in which O'Toole played an ageing film star strongly reminiscent of Errol Flynn. In 1972, he played both Miguel de Cervantes and his fictional creation Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha, the motion picture adaptation of the 1965 smash-hit Broadway musical, opposite Sophia Loren. Widely criticised for using mostly non-singing actors and shunned by the public at the time, the film has gone on to become something of cult classic. In 1980, Peter starred as Tiberius in the infamously dreadful Penthouse-funded biographical film Caligula. Far more controversial was his Macbeth, at the London Old Vic in 1980, directed by the film-maker Bryan Forbes, with Frances Tomelty as Lady Macbeth. It was not just that critics deplored the concept, the stagecraft and O'Toole's own playing (monotony was frequently mentioned). Rather, it was the sense that Peter had set himself up against the world – that he even fed on the rebukes. He won an Emmy Award for his role in the 1999 TV mini-series Joan of Arc. In 2004, he played King Priam in the summer blockbuster Troy. In 2005, he appeared on television as the older version of legendary Eighteenth Century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova in the BBC drama serial Casanova. O'Toole's role was mainly to frame the drama, telling the story of his life to serving-maid. The younger Casanova was played by David Tennant, who had to wear contact lenses to match his brown eyes to O'Toole's blue. Peter earned his eighth best-actor nomination for 2006's Venus, in which he played a lecherous old actor consigned to roles as feeble-minded royals or aged men on their death beds. 'If you fail the first time, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again,' O'Toole said in a statement on nominations day. He was reportedly offered a knighthood in 1987, but turned it down for personal and political reasons. Peter appeared in the second season of Showtime's drama series The Tudors, portraying Pope Paul III. Away from acting, Peter received critical and popular acclaim for his two volumes of autobiography, published under the general title Loitering With Intent. Cricket was one of his main passions. His seemingly effortless ability to play eccentrics was brought to the fore again in Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, where he played the Scots tutor to the young ruler of China. In a BBC Radio interview in January 2007, Peter claimed that he had 'studied' women for a very long time, had given them his best try, but still ended up knowing 'nothing' about 'how they work.' In 1959, he married the Welsh actress Siân Phillips, with whom he had two daughters: Kate and Patricia. Peter and Siân were divorced in 1979. Phillips later revealed in two autobiographies that O'Toole had subjected her to mental cruelty, largely fuelled by his drinking, and was subject to bouts of extreme jealousy when she finally left him for a younger lover. Peter and his second wife, the model and actress Karen Brown, had a son, Lorcan (born in March 1983, when O'Toole was fifty years old). Lorcan is, like his half-sister Kate, also now an actor. Michael Freedland, the author of Peter O'Toole: A Biography, told the Independent: 'He was charismatic, even when he had lost his good looks and age had crept up on him. There was something about him. Whatever he did, people knew they were dealing with a star.' Peter was a man of great wit and intellect. The breadth of his ability, on stage and screen, in comedy and drama and, latterly, as a writer, was matched by the depth of his commitment to his work. A sometimes turbulent private life was mirrored by performances of real feeling. He was never afraid to take risks with his work and he was dismissive of those who went for the soft option. In an early poem, Peter O'Toole vowed to 'stir the smooth sands of monotony.' He undoubtedly managed that.
Colin Wilson, best known as the author of The Outsider, has died aged eighty two. Colin Stanley, Wilson's publisher and bibliographer, said the writer and philosopher never fully recovered from a stroke in 2011. Wilson was admitted to hospital in Cornwall in October for pneumonia and died, peacefully, on 5 December, he said. The Outsider, published in 1956, was an examination of alienation in modern society that became a major success. A study of creative icons from Vincent van Gogh to Franz Kafka, Wilson wrote it in the Reading Room of the British Museum while living in a sleeping bag on Hampstead Heath. Selling twenty thousand copies in two months, it earned him a place among the 'Angry Young Men' of British literature, alongside the likes of Kingsley Amis and John Osborne. 'It seemed to me at the time, one of the most important books ever written, and fifty years later it still seems one of the most important books I've ever written,' he said, on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. In later years, however, Wilson confounded critics with a prolific output in dozens of unconnected genres. Over more than one hundred and fifty books, he wrote about serial killers, alien abductions, sexual fetishes, criminology and the occult with science fiction novels such as The Spider World trilogy and The Space Vampires giving him a loyal cult following. None of them ever achieved the same success as his debut, however, and he often spoke of 'the tremendous backlash, and the attacks on me which I found pretty hard going.' Born in Leicester in 1931, he is survived by his wife Joy, their three children and a son from his first marriage.

The X Factor winner Sam Bailey has said that she hopes the paparazzi 'respect' her. If they do, chuck, they'll be on their own since nobody else does.
Paul Gambaccini and another man have been rebailed by police investigating claims of historic sexual offences. Gambaccini, and an unnamed seventy four-year-old were arrested at separate South London addresses in October as part of Operation Yewtree. He denies all the allegations made against him. The pair were the fifteenth and seventeenth people detained under the investigation set up following the Jimmy Savile fiasco. Police say they fall under the strand of the Yewtree termed 'others' - those allegations not connected to dirty old scallywag and rotten rotter Savile and his filthy ways. The other two strands concern the naughty actions of Savile himself, and those involving 'Savile and others.' Gambaccini and the unnamed seventy four-year-old were initially bailed until January 2014 but have now had their bail extended until March. Operation Yewtree has been investigating historical sexual offences since claims of abuse were made against Savile, following his death at the age of eighty four in 2011. At the time of his arrest, a spokesman for Gambaccini said he was co-operating with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the former TV weather presenter Fred Talbot has been rearrested by police investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse at a school. Officers are examining claims of abuse at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys in the 1970s and 1980s. The sixty three-year-old former teacher has been arrested on suspicion of indecent assaults on five former pupils. He was also arrested on suspicion of indecent assault in relation to an alleged offence in the North East of England. He remains on bail over a previous count of indecent assault. Police said no further action had been taken in relation to previous allegations of two counts of indecent assault and four counts of inciting a child to commit acts of gross indecency. Talbot remains in police custody for questioning. He is best known for his work on the ITV programme This Morning when it was hosted by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. He was also the weatherman on ITV's Granada Reports but has not appeared on the show since the claims emerged. An ITV spokesman said: 'Given that there is a police investigation, it would not be appropriate for us to comment.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has been feeling as grotty as fuck over the last few days, dear blog reader. Just, you know, fishing for a wee bit of sympathy there. The dreaded lurgy which has been lingering around Stately Telly Topping Manor for most last week finally broke, big-style(e), over the weekend with the snot and coughing and the headache and all that. Yer actual, therefore, spent most of Sunday wrapped up in bed shivering with cuppa-soup watching Dave and feeling extremely sorry for himself. Whilst, simultaneously, being loaded full of snot and feeling as rotten as a rotten thing with rotten knobs on it. On Monday, yer actual went to see the doctor - that was nowt to do with the cold, of course. There's little even my miracle worker of a doctor can do for that except tell yer actual Keith Telly Topping to stop being such a bloody baby and deal with it. Rather, this was for the latest diabetes-related check up. Of which there have been many since I was diagnosed in July. Well, it seems that the blood and wee-wee samples wot yer actual gave a couple of weeks ago have been thoroughly analysed and are the subject of quasi major celebrations around Walker Medical Centre. Not quite, 'Lordy, issa miracle' but getting surprisingly close. It's good blood and twenty-four carat proper wee-wee apparently. When Keith Telly Topping his very self was diagnosed with Type Two a few months back his blood sugar level was seventy one. No, me neither, I'm afraid but that's bad, apparently (and, not in a remotely 'bad-meaning-good' type way). On the latest test, it's down to forty seven. Which, whilst not 'good' per se, is certainly a Hell of a lot better. 'Let's put it this way, if you were having the test now, we'd say you were borderline,' said Doctor Chris. So, effectively, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is back to roughly the same position he was in two years ago. 'Whatever it is that you're doing, keep on doing it' Doctor Chris added, very helpfully. Weight is fractionally up (by about two pounds) since the last check - that'll largely be down to the fact that yer actual hasn't been swimming or gyming for the past week due to the cold wot he's got. And, he still feels like shit, with the sneezing, and the snotting and the sore throat (and the ear-ache, new symptom, there). But, a little piece of yer actual Keith Telly Topping felt much better with life in general when walking out of the surgery on Monday morning. That'll never last.
Yer actual Matthew Perry made an appearance on Newsnight on Monday and took part in a heated discussion with a Daily Scum Mail journalist. Which was truly a sight to see, dear blog reader. The Friends star sat with host Jeremy Paxman to debate drug addiction and drug courts, alongside thank tosser Peter Hitchens and the House of Lords' Baroness Meacher. Matthew, who has been treated in the past for addiction to Vicodin and alcohol, is a noted supporter of drug courts in the United States. Asked by Paxman why he has faith in such courts, Perry said: 'I see that they work. I've been involved with them for a little over four years and people that go through drug courts have a fifty five per cent less chance of seeing handcuffs ever again.' The vile and odious, full-of-his-own importance smear Hitchens, however, claimed that Perry and Baroness Meacher believed in a 'fantasy of addiction', and called for a 'stern and effective criminal justice system which persuaded [victims] it was unwise to take drugs in the first place.' Perry asked: 'When do I get to speak? I didn't come here to listen to ludicrous things like that.' He's from the Daily Scum Mail, Matthew, we have to put up with that sort of shit seven days a week.

A chance encounter on a railway station platform in Kent, without which The Rolling Stones might never have existed, is to be marked with a historic blue plaque. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards meet for the first time since they were small boys at Dartford station on or around 17 October 1961. The teenagers recognised each other as they had both been in the same class at Wentworth Primary School in the town, with Jagger then going on to study at Dartford Grammar and the less academically-minded Richards attending Dartford Technical High School For Boys. Despite living quite close to each other, their paths didn't cross again for several years until the meeting on the platform. Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite said the town was proud of the link. The two musicians - then aged seventeen - met on platform two. Richards was on his way to Sidcup Art College, carrying his hollow-bodied Höfner cutaway electric guitar, while Jagger was travelling to the London School of Economics and was holding some prized blues records which he had recently ordered from America. 'This cat's got Rockin' At The Hops by Chuck Berry and The Best of Muddy Waters,' Richards would recall twenty five years later. 'It was like "Hi, man, how you doin'? And where'd you get the records!' 'Fate was sealed and they started talking about playing their music together,' Kite said. 'They went off and recruited Brian Jones next, and the rest is history,' he added. The Rolling Stones formed in 1962, and went on to become one of the most successful, influential and enduring rock 'n' roll bands in the history of music. Kite said the heritage blue plaque at the station would remind people of the historic moment.

A stage musical telling the early story of The Kinks frontman Ray Davies is set to open at London's Hampstead Theatre next year. Sunny Afternoon will feature a number of the band's hits, written by Davies, and a script by award-winning playwright Joe Penhall. The show will also chart the band's rise to stardom during the early 1960s and is named after their 1966 number one hit single. The Kinks' numerous other hit records include some of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite tunes of the era - 'Waterloo Sunset', 'Dead End Street', 'Days', 'See My Friend', 'Lola' and 'You Really Got Me'. Casting details for the new show have yet to be announced, or whether Davies will take an on-stage role. Davies has previously created a stage musical based around his music, called Come Dancing, which he wrote himself and appeared in. The show was premiered at the Theatre Royal in Stratford in 2008 to good notices, but a planned nationwide tour a year later failed to materialise. The band was formed by Davies with his younger brother, Dave, in North London in 1964. They were considered part of the British invasion of the US, scoring five top ten singles, although what many consider to be their golden period occurred during four years in the mid-to-late-1960s when they were effectively banned from America (due mainly to an incident involving a US American Federation Of Musicians official which resulted in The Kinks being refused work permits). The subsequent period saw the band producing many of their most memorable - and most memorably 'English' - singles and LPs like Face To Face, Something Else, The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire). The group were also very influential on a whole couple of generations of British songwriters. They performed for the last time in public in 1996 amid reports of a rift between the Davies brothers. The pair went on to pursue solo careers. Ray Davies hinted earlier this year that The Kinks would consider a reunion to mark their fiftieth anniversary next year, and said that new material could be written to mark the occasion.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's the best Ray Davies song that Ray Davies never wrote. And, it's got some serious competition.

No comments: