Monday, December 30, 2013

Weeks One And Two: I Had My Dinner Watching Something On TV

This will almost certainly be the last blog posting of 2013, dear blog reader, so allow yer actual Keith Telly Topping to wish you and yours all the very best for the coming year. 2013 has been, sad to report, a pretty shitty year all round at Stately Telly Topping Manor for a number of reasons, only a few of which relate to the shite that ITV keep shovelling down our throats passed off as 'entertainment.' Although that said, and despite everything, it was still marginally better than 2012.
So, anyway, by Monday morning the weekly shopping was done and that was, for definite, the last time that yer actual Keith Telly Topping intended to be crossing the threshold of Stately Telly Topping Manor a'fore 2014 arrives on Thursday morn. Ah, the heating is on full blast, I've got a glass of Baileys, a chicken sandwich, a hot mug of cocoa and Ice Station Zebra on BBC2 as I write this, dear blog reader. That's the life!
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has revealed that the next series of Doctor Who will see the tone of the show change from recent years. The showrunner told the Nerd³ website: 'If Russell [Davies] had stayed on, [the show] would still have changed. I remember when we had our hand-over chat, he was saying "so what are you going to do, are you going to change that?" And, I said: "What would you change?" We both agreed "it's time to kick a lot of stuff out." And, actually, it is time again to do that.' The Moffinator his very self added: 'I just felt watching last time around [series seven] that "it's time we fixed that and changed that and moved that up a bit and changed that tone."' Matt Smith departed the show on Christmas Day in The Time Of The Doctor, which wrapped up the majority of the Moffat era's plotlines thus far. Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) explained: 'It changes all the time, and it's keeping ahead of the audience in a way. All shows age and they all age sort of in the same way. You learn how to do it, you get really slick at it, and then you think you’re really, really slick at it and everyone's started to yawn. And you think "God, we’re really slick at this but everyone knows what we're going to do."' He teased: 'So now we've got to actually get a bit raw at it and do it in a different direction. It happens on every show – you get good at it and "good at it" is the enemy in the end.'

The Time Of The Doctor achieved an audience Appreciation Index score of eighty three. Highest scorers of the day included Call The Midwife and Mrs Brown's Boys, both of which scored eighty seven. The BBC3 repeat of the Doctor Who Christmas special had an audience of three hundred and fifty thousand viewers, and an AI score of eighty four.
Yer actual Peter Capaldi has reportedly been put forward as a candidate for the position of Rector at the University of Glasgow, though the actor his very self has yet to agree to run for election. A petition was started by politics student Fiona Duncan, who said: 'I'm trying to show that there is a demand from the student body for him to stand before contacting him. It would be great to have someone from the arts representing Glasgow students.'
John Hurt his very self has been voted joint first in the annual Beard of the Year Awards - for such a thing does, indeed, exist - sharing the award with choirmaster Gareth Malone and England rugby player Geoff Parling according to the Daily Torygraph. The trio came top of the poll from The Beard Liberation Front - that exists as well. The poll attracted over ten thousand votes. From beardy blokes. Well, everyone's got to have a hobby, I guess.
Yer actual David Tennant told Metro that he currently doesn't know whether he'll be involved in the second series of Chris Chibnall's Broadchurch: 'We don't know where the characters are going,' David reportedly said. 'We don't know the story he is telling. Some people say they know they are in it. I am not sure they do, though. I think some might get a shock. I was dying of a heart attack, so I don't know how able Alec Hardy will be to do any more crimefighting, so we will have to see.'
Now, as many dear blog readers will know From The North and this blogger have, pretty much, a zero tolerance policy towards arseholes when it comes to Doctor Who. Specifically relating to The Special People. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that yer actual Keith Telly Topping hasn't, occasionally, come across some truly astounding examples of knobcheese plankishness during his journeys around the very Interweb itself. Two cases in point are highlighted below. These are a pair of postings which yer actual ran into on Facebook - I hasten to add that neither of these were written by anyone this blogger is in regular contact with - or, indeed, would like to be in regular contact with. Firstly, this gem: 'I've wanted to see Moffat sacked for about two years ... because he's ill-suited for his current role. He's a good writer of Doctor Who, but not a terribly good producer.' So, to sum up, this odious fraction of an individual - who doesn't bother to indicate what he or she does for a living - wants to see a man 'sacked' - deprived on his employment, no less - for the dreadful crime of 'producing a TV show in a way that I don't like.' Jesus, some people are just scum. Secondly - needless to say, this one was from an American-type person: 'The things I have seen Capaldi in, I have not enjoyed his portrayals. He is just not a charismatic enough actor for the role [of The Doctor].' This is Oscar-and-BAFTA winner Peter Capaldi this moron is talking about here. You know, the star of Chain, The Cricklewood Greats, The Thick of It, the superb character actor noted from numerous acclaimed appearances in this likes Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Prime Suspect, Waking The Dead et al. That Peter Capaldi. 'Not charismatic enough.' In the opinion of 'some American person on the Internet.' It'd be funny if it wasn't so properly nasty.
And, speaking of arch prick-nonsense written by people who wouldn't know quality if it gave them a haircut, check out this, written by some plank of no importance at the Daily Torygraph. Not a fan, seemingly. Oh well, tough shit, kidda. As The Stone Roses once wisely noted: 'The past is yours, the future's mine.' It's back to the Tom Baker DVDs for you, I guess. Give my regards to 1976.
Notice anything unusual about the photograph above, dear blog reader? Yes, quite right, it features two people wearing syrups! As if it wasn't surprising enough for Doctor Who fans to see Karen Gillan her very self make a brief return in the Christmas episode, her flowing luscious ginger locks were even more unexpected. The actress – whose character showed up fleetingly as Matt Smith bowed out of the show and Peter Capaldi arrived - has been sporting a shaven slapheed recently for her role in the movie Guardians Of The Galaxy. However that wasn't the case when it came to Doctor Who – with showrunner Steven Moffat revealing that her newly restored barnet was, in fact, a wig made out of her own hair. And she wasn't the only one donning a syrup for the episode, with Smudger his very self also having to opt for a hairpiece after shaving his own bonce for the Ryan Gosling movie How To Catch A Monster. 'They're very good wigs but they're both wigs. Though in Karen's case that's her own hair,' Moffat explained. 'That wig is made of her own hair, it's just detachable now. When they cut her hair they made a wig. Doesn't she look lovely?' Kazza is set to star as villainous space pirate Nebula in Guardians Of The Galaxy - revealing her newly baldy look at Comic-Con in San Diego earlier this year. She described the new look as 'liberating', adding: 'I think everybody should shave their heads.'

As fans eagerly wait to find out just how Sherlock Holmes faked his own death in the hit BBC1 drama, Mark Gatiss his very self has been explaining the show's enormous popularity. 'What can't we get enough of?,' he says in an interview with The Sunday Times. 'It's the friendship, but also the deduction. He's a superhero for adults. He has achievable powers. We can all try to be him and think, "Oh if only I were a little clever, a little more observant."' In the interview, yer man Mark adds that he is keen to develop new projects beyond the two successful TV reinventions he is most associated with - Doctor Who and Sherlock. 'I am often asked "what are you going to bring back next?" and I shudder,' he says. 'Sherlock and Doctor Who are great, but they're both very successful reinventions. The biggest problem you have is trying to get anything new off the ground. What I would really like to do is to make new stuff that people can be nostalgic about in thirty years' time. It's hard but there is such a pressure to go with brands that people already know.' Sherlock will return on Wednesday 1 January, with the following two episodes of Sherlock series three showing on the show's traditional primetime Sunday evening slot. This means fans will have to wait just four days for the second feature length episode, The Sign Of Three, on Sunday 5 January, with the third and final part, His Last Vow, set to air a week later. The events of the third season are still being kept closely under wraps by Mark and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat even though the opening episode has been shown in preview and explains how the sleuth survived his plummet from the roof of St Bart's Hospital.

Death Comes To Pemberley maintained BBC1's primetime ratings success, drawing an overnight audience of 4.4 million on Friday. The PD James adaptation lost 1.2 million viewers from Boxing Day's audience, showing forty five minutes later at 9pm. However, its twenty per cent share still comfortably beat ITV's wretched horrorshow (and drag) of a sitcom Vicious, which pulled in merely 3.1 million in the same slot. One imagines someone over at ITV is really rather regretting the decision to recommission that one. Earlier on BBC1, 3.82 million tuned in for Miranda, while a repeat of Christmas Day's Mrs Brown's Boys attracted a further 2.94 million at 10.30pm. ITV's already low audience dropped even further for Bridget Jones's Diary, which managed but 1.47 million at 9.30pm. BBC2's 7.30pm edition of University Challenge provided the channel's biggest ratings of the evening, with 1.68m. Idris Elba: King of Speed secured 1.31 million viewers immediately afterwards. Adventurer Ben Fogle and Olympian James Cracknell attracted an audience of 1.37 million at 9pm for Ben And James Versus The Arabian Desert. Tom Hanks's survival movie Castaway boasted figures of 1.64m from 10pm. Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking was shown on Channel Four at 7.15pm to four hundred and eighty thousand punters. Celebrity Come Dine With Me doubled the audience at 8pm, as Hugo Taylor, Danniella Westbrook, Louie Spence and Sinitta's efforts in looking like a bunch of complete and utter twats attracted nine hundred and eighty thousand viewers. And, saw the quarter succeed in the efforts to look like complete and utter twats. So, jolly well done to them. The Inbetweeners Movie performed well for the channel in context, drawing a nine per cent audience share - and 1.94 million viewers - at 9pm. A double helping of risible malarkey from Mr Bean proved a hit on Channel Five at 9pm, with eight hundred and forty three thousand. The second episode boosted ratings to 1.01m. Tommy Cooper's Christmas has an audience of eight hundred and fifty one thousand at 10pm. BBC4 dominated the multichannel ratings with an evening dedicated to Swedish popstars ABBA. The documentary The Joy of ABBA achieved an impressive nine hundred and nineteen thousand audience at 9pm, with archive performances ABBA At The BBC drawing in eight hundred and seventy thousand an hour later. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, who was a bit tired after a heavy day eating turkey sandwiches, watched both in bed. Agnetha: ABBA And After had seven hundred and fifty five thousand viewers at 11pm.

In actual fact, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is having something of an ABBA phase this week (it happens occasionally). So, here's the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day.
Back to the ratings; Death Comes to Pemberley continued to pull in a reasonable amount of viewers for BBC1 with an audience of 4.43 million for its third and final episode on Saturday. Twenty per cent of the available audience tuned in to watch the conclusion of the PD James adaptation at 9pm. Meanwhile, a new series of All Star Family Fortunes topped the night's ratings for ITV. Which says it all, really. 4.84m viewers saw the Twatting About On Ice team take on the cast of Coronation Street in the series premiere at 7pm. Back on BBC1, a showing of the movie Up pulled in 3.55m at 6.50pm, while Atlantis dropped almost two million punters from the previous week, with the season finale attracting 3.67m at 8.15pm. On BBC2, Dad's Army was seen by 1.93m at 7.30pm, while a repeat of the 2010 documentary One Hundred Years Of The Palladium attracted 1.8m at 8pm. SF drama I Am Number Four, starring Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron, pulled in 1.46m at 9pm. On ITV, a festive edition of Phillip Schofield's The Cube brought in 4.08m at 8pm, followed by The Jonathan Ross Show at 9pm, with 2.85m tuning in to see interviews with John Bishop, Jamie Oliver, Ray Winstone and David Attenborough. Channel Four's broadcast of The Italian Job attracted in 1.12m at 7pm to see more than the bloody doors being blown off, and that, while a countdown of The Fifty Alleged Funniest Moments Of 2013 had 1.48m punters at 9pm. Channel Five's biggest primetime ratings came from Taylor Lautner movie Abduction, which attracted 1.33m at 9pm. Earlier in the evening, the third heat of World's Strongest Man was watched by nine hundred and fifteen thousand at 8pm. BBC3 topped the multichannel ratings, with a showing of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa pulling in nine hundred adn twenty two thousand at 8.15pm. Ray Winstone's new two-part drama Moonfleet opened to five hundred and eighty two thousand punters at 8pm on Sky1.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides helped BBC1 dominate the overnight ratings on Sunday. The fourth film in the franchise appealed to 5.40 million at 8pm. Antiques Roadshow was the most-watched programme of the night, attracting 6.43 million at 7pm, before which Countryfile was seen by 5.58 million at 6pm. Agatha Christie's Marple was the main attraction for ITV on yet another thoroughly rotten night for the commercial channel, drawing 4.3 million at 8pm, with Catchphrase achieving 3.79 million an hour earlier. Moscow Chelski FC's victory over Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws on BBC1's Match Of The Day 2 at 10.30pm was viewed by 3.18m, easily beating Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn comedy The Break-Up, which pulled in but nine hundred and ninety thousand punters at 10.15pm for ITV. Michael Palin In Wyeth's World was watched by 1.22 million on BBC2 at 9pm, followed by a repeat of the festive Qi with 1.48 million and retrospective 2013: Moments in Time with seven hundred and seventy thousand. On Channel Four, a new series of Speed with Guy Martin was watched by 1.82 million, while Eight Out Of Ten Cats' Christmas special got 1.86 million and Rude Tube had 1.35 million. World's Strongest Man continued on Channel Five with nine hundred and thirty thousand at 8pm, as An Audience with Bruce Forsyth and Bruce Forsyth's Comedy Heroes were watched by six hundred and thirty thousand and five hundred and twenty thousand respectively.

Mrs Brown's Boys topped Monday night's ratings, pulling in 8.71 million overnight viewers. The New Year special Who's A Pretty Mammy? was watched by twenty per cent share of the audience when it was broadcast on BBC1 at 9.30pm. The impressive ratings come after a festive edition of the Brendan O'Carroll comedy was the most-watched programme on Christmas Day this year. Elsewhere on the channel, 4.67 million tuned in to see famous faces including David Bradley and James Allen take on Celebrity Mastermind at 7pm, while a showing of fairytale movie Shrek Forever After attracted 3.79 million afterwards at 7.30pm. On BBC2, Dad's Army drew 2.02 million at 7.30pm, followed by a Christmas University Challenge episode at 8pm, which was seen by 2.3 million. The channel's new series The Sacred Wonders of Britain, fronted by scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) kicked off with 2.36 million viewers at 8.30pm. Aside from soaps, ITV's primetime programming was taken up by 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace. 3.97 million punters watched Daniel Craig's second outing as the spy at 8.30pm. On Channel Four, Gok Wan's behind-the-scenes documentary Gok Does Panto was seen by five hundred and fifty thousand viewers at 7.05pm, whilst 1.02 million crushed victim of society were inspired to watch Odious Jamie's Rotten Festive Feast and nine hundred and seventy thousand punters tuned in to canine competition documentary Doggy Styling. Eddie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers' festive compilation was watched by four hundred and twenty two thousand viewers on Channel Five at 7.30pm, followed by World's Strongest Man at 8.30pm with 1.04 million. Nine hundred and fifty eight thousand watched a 9.30pm showing of Dirty Dancing. On BBC3, the four hundred and twenty seven millionth terrestrial showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark brought in seven hundred and twenty three thousand viewers at 9pm, while a broadcast of Love Actually attracted six hundred and forty six thousand to ITV2 in the same timeslot.

We knew that the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie is a jolly dangerous place to live with a murder rate second only to Midsomer but viewers of BBC1's Death In Paradise have always had Ben Miller's detective Richard Poole on hand to help solve the grisly crimes what occur there. That was until the actor announced last April that he was leaving the popular police drama. But how he was to depart had been a closely guarded secret – until now, with the Radio Times spilling the beans (or, you know, the mango chunks, if you prefer). If you want to watch the episode scheduled to be broadcast on 14 January unspoiled then this blogger suggests you stop reading right now. Not the whole blog, obviously, just this next bit.
The BBC have revealed that Ben's eccentric - though, very likeable - character, the best reason for watching the show by about a million miles, is, his very self, going to be the latest victim of the beautiful island's virulent crime rate. Viewers will see Richard horribly murdered before the opening credits of the first episode on Tuesday 14 January, with his replacement Humphrey Goodman (played by My Family actor Kris Marshall, whom you'll all probably know from all of those rotten BT adverts) attempting to solve the murder – with the aid of clues that Richard has left behind to help him along the way. 'I have loved being part of the show,' said Ben. 'But for personal reasons [I] just couldn't continue. Being away from my family for six months a year – even if it was in the beautiful surroundings of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean – was just too hard. Once I had made the decision to leave I talked to the writers about the best way to make my exit. Filming DI Poole's death was very emotional but I hope viewers will agree it is a sensational way to go ... in a good way. It was a really bold thing to do and it is quite shocking but it's also kind of clever. The way that Humphrey and Richard work together to solve the murder is a brilliant way to transition from me to Kris and I hope despite being sad viewers will enjoy it.' Poole arrived in Saint Marie two series ago to replace his murdered predecessor, so Miller says that the latest twist offers 'circularity' to the plot-arc. Ben added that he did not want to keep the door open for his character to return. 'Richard in Croydon wouldn't be quite as much fun as Richard in Guadeloupe,' he notes. 'It's the fish out of water thing that's important, isn't it? Although people have grown to love his eccentricities, so maybe he could have continued solving crime elsewhere. It's a bit late for that now. Cornwall would have been close enough to home and still a bit alien to him - I suppose Doc Martin would have had something to say about that though! Despite his moaning, Richard loved his little corner of paradise and wasn't about to go quietly, so joining the improbable crime statistics of Saint Marie really was the best option. Kris is one of our most talented actors and I have every faith that he will solve Richard's murder.'

And, on that bombshell, here's yer next Top Telly Tips and that:-

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.
If you're not up for Sherlock - and, if you're not, you need to provide a note to explain why - then you could, at a pinch, try a repeat of The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher - 9:00 ITV3 - instead. Paddy Considine returns as the pioneering Nineteenth Century inspector in this one-off feature-length drama first broadcast last Christmas. Having left the Metropolitan Police under a cloud, Whicher's days as a detective are behind him. However, when he saves a respectable country lady from a violent robbery in a dangerous part of London, she hires him to investigate the savage murder of her sixteen-year-old niece. The investigation pits Whicher against wealthy and powerful figures, as well his former colleagues in the Met, and leads to a psychiatric institution where he must confront his own demons. Co-starring Olivia Colman, Shaun Dingwall and Mark Bazeley. Very good stuff it is too - Hot Fuzz co-stars Considine and Colman being on particularly fine form - and, if you haven't seen it yet, do try and catch it some time on repeat. But, seriously, it's Sherlock tonight, no excuses.

Phil is annoyed when Ronnie asks for his help with Carl but he soon enjoys finally getting his revenge on the local bully - although his cousin has to step in before he goes too far in EastEnders - 8:30 BBC1. However, he simply isn't prepared to watch his daughter marry a man he doesn't like - and takes an extreme course of action to prevent the ceremony going ahead. Tina creeps out after her night with Billy, and Denise and Masood struggle to remember their drunken actions. Meanwhile having waved goodbye to Joey, Janine and several other Walford regulars over Christmas, we’re getting to know the new landlords of the Queen Vic who have unpacked an awful lot of emotional baggage since their arrival. In this episode Mick (Danny Dyer, who is well known for his hard man and tasty geezer roles) shocks Linda and oversteps the mark at his tearaway daughter, Nancy's wedding.
There's also two whole hours of Jack Whitehall on BBC3. So, you know, avoid that like the plague if you know what's good for you.

Thursday 2 January
In the first of a two-part documentary, Dolphins: Spy In The Pod - 8:00 BBC1 - takes an intimate look at the world of the marine mammal, one of the most captivating and intelligent creatures on the planet, using camcorders attached to fast-moving submersibles to record life in the oceans. The man-made `spies' swim alongside bottlenoses and a megapod of spinner dolphins, filming behaviour rarely seen before, such as a newborn and his mother hunting kingfish, while nearby males play chicken with supertankers, visit a coral health spa and surf the waves. Narrated by national heart-throb David Tennant.

The Lyell Centre has a new boss in the shape of forensic pathologist Thomas Chamberlain, but he is met with a frosty reception from Nikki, Jack and Clarissa, who are still coming to terms with the death of Leo in the opening episode of the latest series of the long-running Silent Witness - 9:00 BBC1. Meanwhile, detectives are demanding results in two unsolved cases involving a wealthy mother and son murdered in their London home and the disfigured body of a young woman. Richard Lintern joins the cast for the first of a two-part story, with Emilia Fox, David Caves, Kaye Wragg and Hugo Becker. Concludes tomorrow.

Tonight also sees the start of what is likely to be one of the very worst TV shows of the year - and we're only at 2 January. ITV's revival of the 1990s BBC sitcom Birds Of A Feather, starring Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph. It shows the sheer desperation of ITV to try and buy themselves a hit that they've taken a punt on this wretchedly awful conceit. A comedy that was about as funny as a kick in the knackers back then (though, bafflingly popular), it remains a thoroughly awful and trite thing now. The plot, such as it is: Sharon is back in her council flat and Tracey is still in Chigwell with younger son Travis (played by Pauline Quirke's real-life son Charlie), but what has become of Dorien? Can anything bring all of the gang back together and will anyone else return to the nest? With Matt Willis of Busted. Yep, that about sums it up. Rotten.
Friday 3 January
In the latest episode of James May's Toy Stories - 9:00 BBC2 - the Top Gear presenter sets out to build a motorbike and sidecar entirely out of Meccano and complete a lap of the Isle of Man's TT circuit. A total of fifteen thousand pieces must be assembled to create a full-size, road-legal motorcycle that James hopes will be more than a match for one of the world's most demanding courses - as well as bearing the weight of himself and passenger his old wine drinking mucker, Oz Clarke.
The Story of Top Of The Pops 1979 - 9:00 BBC4 - features a look back at a heady year for the chart show (a particular favourite of this blogger, as it happens), which recorded its highest audience of nineteen million viewers (though, that possibly had something to do with the fact that ITV was on strike at the time), as physical format singles peaked at four times that number. Social problems in Britain during the Winter of Discontent did not stop inventive musicians from making hay as eager fans queued up to embrace their output, and new wave, Two-Tone, the Mod revival, reggae, hard rock, folk and electro-pop hits competed for the top slots. It really was a properly great year for music, dear blog readers, and it's nice to see that - despite the unfortunate necessity to avoid about one episode in every four or five due to, ahem, 'reasons', BBC4 is to be applauded for continuing with the repeat run. Among the featured artists are Gary Numan, Nile Rodgers of Chic, yer actual God of Bass, Jah Wobble and Woody from Madness. That's immediately followed by a sister clip-show, Top Of The Pops 1979 - The Big Hits, a look at the year music went portable with the launch of the Sony Walkman, and saw the Mod revival and the Two-Tone label flourish with The Jam, The Specials, Madness and The Selecter. New Wave also thrived with Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Squeeze and the 'machine rock' of Gary Numan and Tubeway Army. On a more comical note, Dame Edna Everage's performance of 'Waltzing Matilda' made a big impression, incongruously alongside reggae-influenced punk band The Ruts.

Saturday 4 January
It's nice to see that ITV are starting off the New Year which such an unparalleled pile of dung. So, no change there, then. Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan return with the diving competition Pro-Celebrity Drowning - 7:20 ITV - challenging a new line-up of z-list non-entities, wannabes and never-weres to jump in at the deep end under the guidance of Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley. The first five contestants are TV presenter Michaela Strachan, Diversity dancer Perri Kiely, Gemma Collins (who?), ex-EastEnders actor, now 'anything for fifteen more minutes on telly' Ricky Groves and Hollyoaks actress Gemma Merna. Blimey, that's a line-up you really want to go out of your way to watch belly-flopping, isn't it? All of them will be aiming to secure votes from what viewers this fiasco acquires and impress the judges - Jo Brand and diving experts Andy Banks and Leon Taylor - as they compete for the first two semi-final places. Horrid in every way imaginable. You would have to be a tragically brain=damaged moron, or the victim of a cruel medical experiment to find any ounce of worth in this wretched odious example of modern television's obsession with 'celebrity'.

And, then its gets worse. Gurning, unfunny professional Northern plank Paddy McGuinness returns with a new line-up of thirty women, all hoping to be whisked off on a hot date to the Isle of Fernandos in the return of Take Me Out - 8:50 ITV. This time around, the single men will be given the choice of opting for a mystery girl based solely on the sound of her voice instead of selecting one of those with their lights still on. In the first edition, the love lift delivers an IT consultant from Leeds, a Birmingham entrepreneur, a daredevil dad from Gwent and a Brighton music student. Words fail me.

If you don't fancy either of those - and, if you do, Christ only knows why - then BBC2 is probably the place to be, for an evening of programmes celebrating the life and work of Dave Allen. At 9:00 there's a repeat of the excellent documentary Dave Allen: God's Own Comedian. That's followed by Dave Allen: The Immaculate Selection - 10:00 - a compilation of the finest, funniest and most irreverent routines by the Irish comedy writer and performer, known for his combination of laid-back storytelling and anger at social and political hypocrisy. The programme features a selection of BBC archive material originally recorded between 1971 and 1986. Let's hope they include the 'ethnic Hamlet' sketch. And, finally, at 11:00 there's a much-anticipated repeat of Dave Allen in Search of the English Eccentric - a 1974 documentary following the comedian as he encounters a variety of eccentric characters, including a man who resides in a box-on-wheels, a cowboy vicar and an aircraft enthusiast who pretends to fly a Lancaster bomber in his garage.

The acclaimed Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge returns - 9:00 BBC4. Thirteen months after the events of the first series, a coastal tanker leaves the Oresund waterway and is headed straight for the bridge. When the coastguards board the ship, they discover there is no crew, but five youths are found chained below deck. It also includes a quite remarkable sequence about bees, keep your eyes open for that bit. In the second episode, while Saga and Martin are quarantined, someone posts a video online of four individuals wearing masks and using signs to claim responsibility for the plague. This coincides with several reported deaths as a result of eating, among other things, poisoned apples. Scandinavian crime drama, in Danish and Swedish, starring the brilliant Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia and Dag Malmberg.

Sunday 5 January
John and Mary's wedding day arrives, presenting Sherlock with one of the toughest challenges he has ever faced as he sets about delivering a best man's speech in the second episode of series three of Sherlock - 9:00 BBC1. But soon he is on more familiar ground as mortal danger stalks the reception, leaving the brooding detective to solve the case and stop a killer before the happy couple make it to their first dance. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman star in the acclaimed, award-winning modern reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic stories, with Amanda Abbington, Rupert Graves and yer actual Una Stubbs.
Griff Rhys Jones presents a collection of TV bloopers, gaffes and fluffed cues rescued from the cutting-room floor in the latest It'll Be Alright On The Night - 9:00 ITV - featuring unscripted moments from Coronation Street, Emmerdale, This Morning, Surprise Surprise and Twatting About On on Ice, as well as some never-before-seen royal clangers. Be careful if you intend to watch this, your sides might split. No, really. Honest.

Monday 6 January
In the opening episode of The 7:39 - 9:00 BBC1 - we meet Carl Matthews. Carl is happily married with two teenage children - but he also feels stuck in a rut. As he waits on the platform for the daily commute into Waterloo, he realises his life has become predictable. Sally Thorn, meanwhile, has recently moved out of London, where she still works as the manager of a West End health club. But she's unsure if she likes her new suburban life - or the prospect of marriage to personal trainer Ryan. So when a fight over a seat on the 7.39 train leads Carl and Sally to start talking, there's a spark between the pair - and suddenly their daily journeys become a whole lot more interesting. David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith star in this two-part romantic drama, with Olivia Colman and Sean Maguire. Written by David Nicholls. Looks terrific. Concludes tomorrow.
Good God, a half-way decent drama on ITV? What are the chances? The code-breaking drama The Bletchley Circle returns - 9:00 ITV - with the first of a two-part story. A year has passed and the women are reunited for their second case when former Bletchley Park colleague Alice Merren is sent to prison to await trial for the murder of a distinguished scientist. Jean is determined to prove the accused is innocent and calls in the team for assistance, but with the evidence stacked against her, Alice is quietly resigned to the fact she will hang for the crime. Starring Julie Graham, Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling and Sophie Rundle, with Hattie Morahan and Paul McGann.
Secrets Of The Living Dolls - 9:00 Channel Four - is a documentary delving into the extraordinary world of 'female masking', where men strive to become their own ideal fantasy woman by wearing elaborate rubber suits. For some, it's an all-consuming passion, with hundreds of pounds and thousands of hours spent creating their alter egos. California-based Robert is preparing to appear as 'Sherry' in public for the first time, while British bartender Joel plans to reveal Jessie to his closest friends.

Tuesday 7 January
Yer actual Dara O Briain and Professor Brian Cox his very self return for further exploration of the night sky in the annual Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. The begin with a mission to capture the Northern Lights on camera, as Liz Bonnin joins aurora researchers in northern Norway to unravel the secrets of the dazzling spectacle. Plus, Dara and Brian reveal what the weather is like around the solar system, and NASA scientist Doctor Carolyn Porco shares photographic images of Saturn's storms and hexagonal clouds, as taken by the Cassini probe. Mark Thompson also advises viewers on the best astronomical sights that can be observed from the UK. That's immediately followed by Stargazing Live: Back to Earth - 9:00 BBC2 - in which Foxy Cox, Dara and theirs guests return for an extra half-hour of chat, debate and audience participation celebrating all things astronomical from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. Featuring Doctor Who's shooty dog thing K-9 as quiz master, the team judges viewers' most extraordinary images of space.

The Taste - 9:00 Channel Four - is a culinary competition in which contestants try to impress Nigella Lawson (she has her knockers), Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre with a single spoonful of food. The judges begin by sampling the cooking of twenty five hopefuls, including amateurs and professionals from some of Britain's best restaurants, who must demonstrate their talents in one mouthful to earn a place on the show.
In The Lying Game: Crimes That Fooled Britain - 9:00 ITV - forensic psychologists and behavioural experts examine some of the notorious criminal cases from the past twenty years in which the perpetrators appeared in front of the cameras with fake displays of grief. Aiming to show how such lies can be exposed through scientific methods, they look at the murders committed by Ian Huntley, Stuart Hazell and Mitchell Quy, Karen Matthews' plot to kidnap her own daughter for publicity and Fadi Nasri, who hired a hitman to kill his wife. Narrated by Lesley Sharp.

Wednesday 8 January
A series of killings in Midsomer St Claire seem to be inspired by macabre images on a medieval fresco recently discovered in the church crypt in the latest Midsomer Murder - 8:00 ITV. As the village prepares for storms and flooding, it appears that someone is using ancient torture methods to punish modern-day 'sinners'. With help from sidekick Charlie Nelson, Barnaby tries to get to the bottom of the case, and unearths a long-held secret that takes him by surprise. With Rebecca Front, Andrea Lowe, Michael Jayston, Vincent Regan and Roy Hudd.
Tonight also sees the return of the surreal comedy This Is Jinsy - 10:00 Sky Atlantic - set on a fictional island and starring Chris Bran and Justin Chubb. Maven's annual Arbiter ceremony goes catastrophically wrong when the historic wig he uses to crown himself suddenly becomes reanimated - much to the displeasure of the hairpiece's keeper Doctor Bevelspepp (Stephen Fry). Followed by a second episode in which Maven needs to sort out his finances, but Jinsy's ink-addicted book-keepers have gone feral. He ends up having to strike a deal with the chief accountant and his daughter, Berpetta. Guest starring Ben Miller in a dual role.

The Tomorrow People - 9:00 E4 - is, as you probably know, an American SF drama, based on the original, fondly remembered if a bit ludicrous, 1970s British series of the same name, about the next evolutionary leap of mankind - a generation of humans born with paranormal powers. Teenager Stephen Jameson has been hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep, never knowing where he might wake up. Now his mother is worried about his strange behaviour, most of his friends have abandoned him, and he is beginning to question his own sanity. Starring Robbie Amell, Luke Mitchell, Peyton List, Aaron Yoo, Madeleine Mantock and Mark Pellegrino.
If you're burning the midnight oil tonight and are looking for something grim and gritty to take yon into the wee small hours, allow this blogger to recommend a repeat of a classic Murphy's Law - 11:00 Drama. Tommy Murphy goes undercover in a prison to befriend a suspected kidnapper in a race against time to locate a missing businesswoman and secure a confession of his involvement in her disappearance. Very dark drama, starring Jimmy Nesbitt (in the role that proved he could, actually, act), Claudia Harrison and Vincent Regan.
Thursday 9 January
In Great British Garden Revival - 7:00 BBC2 - Charlie Dimmock makes her TV return and urges gardeners to consider installing ponds in their outdoor spaces, revealing the positive impacts water features have made in an East Yorkshire community and at Nottingham Trent University. Plus, Chris Beardshaw makes the case for stumperies, a Victorian oddity similar to rock gardens but created from upturned tree stumps.

It's a thoroughly rotten night on telly, as evidenced by the fact that just about the only other thing worth watching anywhere is a repeat of a two year old episode of Qi - 9:30 BBC2. Stephen Fry presents an edition of the show celebrating the Cultural Olympiad, asking Bill Bailey, David Mitchell, Sue Perkins and regular panellist Alan Davies questions about William Shakespeare among other things.
Apart from that, if you're looking for a night to go out, this might be the one.

Friday 10 January
And, speaking of Qi, the latest new episode of the popular long-running knowledge panel show is broadcast at 10:00. Sue Perkins, Reginald D Hunter and Jimmy Carr join Alan Davies on the comedy quiz, with host Stephen Fry asking a range of questions on the theme of Kitsch.
Born To Be Wild - 9:00 BBC4 - takes a look at the evolution of Twentieth Century American rawk music, beginning with the days of flower power, Viet'nam and LSD. When bands like The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and The MC5 sang about 'the revolution'. And that. The first episode concentrates on the late 1960s, exploring the artists that made the soundtrack to the Peace and Love generation, culminating in the Woodstock music festival which featured half-a-million stinking lice-ridden hippies in one place at one time and nobody had the forethought to fire a thermo-nuclear missile in their general direction. Big mistake. However, the event proved a watershed moment for rawk music's reactionary era, as the marketeers lined up ready to turn this kind of output from protest into profit. Contributors include Alice Cooper and Tom Petty. That's followed by rather good looking documentaries on Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.
Tonight also sees the return of Italy Unpacked - 9:00 BBC2. Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli embark on a fresh tour of the country, this time travelling down the west coast. They begin in Liguria - a region whose rugged mountains and rocky coastline once inspired English poets of the Romantic era. The pair visit Genoa, where opulent Baroque palaces and celebrated Van Dyke and Strozzi paintings reflect its past as a great maritime republic, before heading on to Cinque Terre - meaning `five lands' - to navigate the scattered villages by boat. Finally, Tuscany beckons the duo, who conclude this leg of their trip by exploring Pistoia, Pisa and Livorno.

A painting bought for four hundred quid and featured on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow has been revealed to be a Sir Anthony Van Dyck portrait worth about four hundred thousand smackers. Father Jamie MacLeod, who runs a retreat house in North Derbyshire, took the artwork to Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, in 2012. He said that he was now planning to sell the piece by the Seventeenth Century Flemish artist to buy some new church bells. The BBC show's host Fiona Bruce said she was 'thrilled' by the revelation. The Van Dyck portrait was identified after Fiona, who was making a show about the artist with expert Philip Mould, saw the painting and thought it might be genuine. Following restoration, the painting was verified by Doctor Christopher Brown - one of the world authorities on Van Dyck - obviously, in the period before he did Mary Poppins and Diagnosis Murder. The portrait, originally bought at a Cheshire antiques shop, is the most valuable painting ever identified in the show's thirty six-year history. Father Jamie, who runs the retreat house in Whaley Bridge, in the Peak District, said: 'It's been an emotional experience and it's such great news.' Van Dyck was the leading court painter in England under King Charles I and is regarded as one of the masters of Seventeenth Century art. The painting is a portrait of a Magistrate of Brussels which is believed to have been completed as part of the artist's preparation for a 1634 work showing seven magistrates. Fiona said: 'It's everyone's dream to spot a hidden masterpiece, I'm thrilled that my hunch paid off, to discover a genuine Van Dyck is incredibly exciting. I'm so pleased for Father Jamie.' Mould added: 'Discoveries of this type are exceptionally rare. The painting's emergence from beneath layers of paint was dramatic. It's been revealed as a thrilling example of Van Dyck's skills of direct observation that made him so great a portrait painter.' A Van Dyck self-portrait which was recently sold to a collector who wants to take it abroad, has become subject to a temporary export ban. The National Portrait Gallery is trying to raise twelve and a half million knicker to keep it in the UK.

David Morrissey has admitted that he felt 'intimidated' working with Olivia Colman and Sheridan Smith on The 7.39. The actor said that he had 'admired' both actresses for 'a long, long time' before they began working on the BBC drama earlier this year. Yer man Mozza told the Press Association: 'It was very intimidating. They're two actresses who I've admired for a long, long time and while we were actually shooting The 7.39 the television BAFTAs happened so at one point Sheridan had to run off set in a ball gown to get to the venue in time. And of course they both won, Sheridan won Best Actress and Olivia won Best Supporting Actress and Best Comedy Performance. And the next day I arrived in the make-up trailer and Sheridan was sitting there with her award on the desk. So it was quite intimidating to be working with award-winning actresses right there right then.' Speaking about The 7.39, Mozza added: 'It's a very grown-up drama which people will relate to and see as a modern story about people like them. It's not a sensationalist story in any way, it's a very heartfelt story about a very true event.'

Yer actual Neil Gaiman - seen right with this blogger when we shared a convention panel in Minneapolis in 2000 - has been named the winner of the 2013 Book of the Year Award, with his novel The Ocean At The End Of The Lane winning the public vote in the National Book Awards. Which is terrific news. The writer commented: 'I've never written a book before that was so close to my own heart: a story about memory and magic and the fear and danger of being a child. I wasn't sure that anyone else would like it. I'm amazed and thrilled that so many other people have read it, loved it, and made their friends read it too.' Neil, of course, made his name writing comics including The Sandman series and Coraline. He has penned two recent Doctor Who episodes for his old mucker The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (one of them really very good indeed, the other one, a bit more 'meh') and is currently writing a prequel to The Sandman, the news of which gave this particular fan of Neil's work a proper little tingle in a very special fanboy place. A TV series of his - superb - novel American Gods is said currently in development.

Advertising campaigns often don't yield the desired results, but pony-tailed executives (with very small dicks) will be cringing at the 'news' that one in four Britons actually boycott a brand because the telly advert annoys them so much. The Daily Torygraph reports the claim that insurance companies top the list, followed by comparison sites – certain long-running campaigns featuring meerkats and the one with an opera singer are mentioned. And, if it's in the Torygraph, it must be true, obviously. A spokesman for Ask Jeeves, the search engine which conducted the survey, said: 'It seems a lot of people are so annoyed by what they perceive to be awful advertising that instead of merely switching channels, they vote with their feet and actually avoid the product.' Irritating jingles, pure repetition and annoying characters are the main reasons for people ditching a brand.

Many cricket fans – and non-cricket fans too – chuckled with pleasure as the former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee peppered vile and odious twat Piers Morgan with some short stuff during an exhibition over on Friday, but one of the game's greatest players, Sir Richard Hadlee, has attacked the stunt as 'dangerous and unnecessary.' Which is also, frankly, a jolly good description of vile and odious twat Piers Morgan's existence, into the bargain. Lee had challenged vile and odious twat Morgan to face an over of fast bowling after the sacked former newspaper editor questioned the courage of the England batsmen during the current Ashes series. Many saw the vile and odious twat Morgan's acceptance as a cheap publicity stunt by a many seemingly desperate to do anything to get himself into the news. But Hadlee says that the vile and odious twat Morgan could have been seriously hurt. Sadly, he wasn't. 'I only hope that Brett takes a few minutes to reflect on his stupidity – this was a brain explosion of the highest order – it was a deliberate attempt to hit, injure, hurt and maim his opponent,' wrote Hadlee for Fairfax New Zealand News. 'If [Morgan] was hit on the head or across the heart the result could have been devastating.' The vile and odious twat Morgan was hit, painfully, several times during the over - which was a right good laugh - and later tweeted some nasty-looking bruises but Hadlee believes cricket itself was damaged. 'Lee has erred badly and on reflection may realise that he has damaged the image of the game of cricket,' wrote Hadlee. 'There will be many mums and dads around the world who saw that exhibition and may decide to stop their kids from playing the game.' Hadlee said that most players would agree with his view: 'I can guarantee that most cricketers (if not all) who have played the game at the highest level would say that Lee's actions were dangerous and very wrong.'

The Labour party has asked to open 'formal negotiations' with broadcasters on the format of TV debates between party leaders in the 2015 general election, saying it would like to see a repeat of the 2010 arrangements but did not rule out the participation of the UK Independence party. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, Ed Milimolimandi has 'instructed' his election co-ordinator, Douglas Alexander, to 'start talks' with the TV companies next week as soon as parliament returns. Alexander said: 'The starting point for Labour in the talks is that the format should be the same as the election when TV debates were introduced and seen as important to stimulating public interest.' He said Labour believed in the so-called 'three-three-three formula' – three debates between the three main party leaders over three weeks of the campaign. He added: 'That was the formula approved by both Nick Clegg and David Cameron in 2010 and widely seen as a success.' One hurdle will be the treatment of the other political parties. UKiP, likely to do well in May's European elections and possibly secure the largest popular vote, will be even more insistent than in 2010 that its leader, the risible comedy figure of Nigel Farage, is not excluded. Alexander said: 'Farage, potentially, taking part is not a deal-breaker for Labour, but it appears that it might be for David Cameron. The priority for us is to ensure that there is a debate between the two prospective prime ministers of the country – Ed Miliband and David Cameron. The other issues about format are a matter for negotiation.' Some TV companies oppose Farage's inclusion, fearing it would open the doors to legal challenges from other smaller, and even more ridiculous, parties demanding a platform, such as the hippie communists of The Green Party or the numskull fascists of the BNP. Even if UKiP are excluded, some newspaper stories have suggested that Cameron may now be reluctant to adopt the three-three-three formula. 'Labour sees no reason why Cameron should now retreat from the position he embraced with such enthusiasm at the last election,' said Alexander. 'Although the exact format of the debates should be open to negotiations, we are determined to secure an agreement in principle as early as possible to prevent any party from securing narrow political advantage by wrecking talks or dragging their feet on a matter that should be an issue of cross-party consensus. We as the Labour party signed up to a seventy six-point agreement in 2010 covering the format of debates and we should use that document as the starting point for these fresh negotiations.' A potential barrier to a repeat of the 2010 election debates is a belief in Conservative circles that the debates 'sucked the life' out of the rest of election campaign, turning the three weeks into a run-up to the TV debate, the debate itself and then the media postmortem on the debate. The Gruniad claim that 'senior Tories' have 'spoken' of staging 'some' debates well before the election itself, but Alexander said the confrontation between the political leaders should be held 'as close to the point of decision as possible.' Cameron himself has hinted at 'different priorities', saying: 'The campaign is when you want to get around the country, you want to have arguments and interviews.' Labour clearly feels that Milimolimandi will perform above expectations in the TV debates and might have the advantage as the outsider in the mould of Clegg in 2010. He would also be able to attack the other two party leaders as they defend the coalition's record. Alexander denied that TV debates 'trivialised' politics or distracted from deeper policy debates in the campaign. 'TV debates are a way of staying in touch with millions of undecided voters. Polls suggest that the TV debates were hugely popular in 2010 and voters genuinely regarded them as helpful in making them decide their democratic choice. The debates will be especially important in an election campaign in which the Conservatives will have access to significant greater sums from rich donors as well as the support of large sections of the printed press. David Cameron has already stated he will dust down the playbook from the 1992 election – widely regarded as the dirtiest in recent memory. And, in those circumstances, we think it is all the more important that voters can hear directly from all three party leaders, unmediated by the press or distorted by smears. They enriched rather than diminished debates in 2010.' The first 2010 debate attracted 9.4 million viewers to ITV and two thirds of those said they 'learned something new' from it. Mainly that Nick Clegg could walk in a straight linje and talk at the samwe time, something Gordon Brown was, seemingly, incapable of doing. Half of the eighteen to twenty four age group said that they were 'more interested' in the campaign as a result of watching the debates. Voter turn-out in 2010 rose from 2005, which in turn was an increase on 2001, challenging well-worn claims about inexorable voter disengagement. Sky has supported the retention of the three-three-three formula, but the BBC and ITN have not yet said how they would like the issue addressed. Alexander insisted Labour was 'willing to be flexible. We can look at the format. Some have said a seventy six-point agreement actually constrained the ability of the audience to interact with politicians in a more free-flowing debate. But I think the public will judge very harshly any party that tries to run and hide from the public scrutiny that those PM debates brought to 2010. It's healthy for our public life to have moments and occasions when the focus of national attention falls on national leadership.' Alexander claimed Milimolimandi was 'good at the town hall format', and predicted that Clegg will want to present himself as 'the opposition within the government' when in fact he will be seen by the public as 'an enabler' of the government. He said: 'We relish watching Nick Clegg explaining the way he supports the policies he has had, from a rise in the tuition fees, the bedroom tax and the economic policy he supported.' Alexander added: 'Even George Osborne's biggest defenders would not be able to say what his plan for modern economic success is, beyond cutting wages, cutting protection, and cutting regulation. If he wants to start the new year with a victory lap, then good luck to him. Prices are still rising faster than wages and the central dominating question of the 2015 election will be: "After five years, are you better off?" This will be the first full parliament in decades when millions with be worse off at the end of the parliament than the beginning.'

Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula 1 champion, is 'fighting for his life' after a skiing accident in the French Alps, his doctors say. The driver remains in a 'critical' condition in hospital in Grenoble with head injuries suffered on Sunday morning at the resort of Meribel. 'We cannot tell you what the outcome will be yet,' the team treating him told a news conference on Monday morning. His family are at his bedside. Schie underwent surgery on arrival at the University Hospital in Grenoble. He remains in a coma and the medical team treating him said that they are working 'hour by hour.' 'All we can do is wait,' the doctors added. Professor Jean-Francois Payen told reporters that if Michael had not been wearing a protective helmet 'he wouldn't be here now. We had to operate urgently to release some pressure in his head,' the anaesthetist said. Neurosurgeon Stephan Chabardes said that a post-operative scan had shown 'diffuse haemorrhagic lesions' on both sides of Michael's brain. The doctors refused to comment on his prognosis. The forty four-year-old German was skiing off-piste with his teenage son when he fell and hit his head on a rock. Following the accident, Schumacher was evacuated to the hospital in the nearby town of Moutiers. Chabardes said that the driver was in an 'agitated condition' on arrival in Moutiers and his neurological condition 'deteriorated rapidly.' He was taken from Moutiers to the larger facility in Grenoble. Michael is being kept in a coma at a low temperature to facilitate his recovery, Payen said. The medical team said that the driver's relative youth and the fact that he was operated on without delay count in his favour. Tim Wall, who produces a snow conditions report for La Tania, a neighbouring village to Meribel, told the BBC that visibility was good in the area on Sunday. 'There was about twenty centimetres of snow late on Saturday and overnight. On Sunday morning the snow was very light and the skies were clear - perfect skiing conditions.' But despite this and a similar snowfall earlier in the week, off-piste snow cover was patchy, he said. 'There have been quite high winds, so there are areas with good snow cover, but where it's exposed there's not much snow.' Michael, who turns forty five on 3 January, retired from F1 for a second time in 2012. He won seven world championships and secured ninety one race victories during his nineteen-year career. The driver won two titles with Benetton, in 1994 and 1995, before switching to Ferrari in 1996 and going on to win five straight titles from 2000. He retired in 2006, and was seriously hurt in a motorcycling accident in Spain three years later, during which he suffered neck and spine injuries. Michael recovered and made a comeback in F1 with Mercedes in 2010. After three seasons which yielded just one podium finish, he quit the sport at the end of last year. The Mercedes F1 team said that their thoughts and prayers were with Schumacher and his family. The team tweeted that the driver had 'amazing fighting spirit.' Michael's former team-mate, BBC commentator David Coulthard said that 'if anyone knows how to muster inner strength and determination then there's no doubt in my mind Michael Schumacher is the man to do it.' He told BBC News that Schumacher was 'risk averse' as an F1 competitor, like other drivers - contrary to the popular image of the sport. 'It's all about finding the limits of your car, and staying within the limits,' he said. A spokesman for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she and her government were, like millions of Germans, 'extremely shocked. We hope, with Michael Schumacher and with his family, that he can overcome and recover from his injuries,' the spokesman said.

The playwright Alan Bennett, whose Yorkshire tones are familiar to generations of TV and theatre audiences, has tackled BBC Radio 4's Shipping Forecast. The celebrated author read a 'classic' forecast on Monday's edition of Radio 4's Today programme, which was guest-edited by Michael Palin. Taking to the airwaves at 8.40am, Bennett warned of rough conditions in the North Sea: 'South-east Dogger, Fisher: south-westerly five to seven becoming cyclonic gale eight to storm ten for a time. Rough or very rough. Rain or squally showers. Moderate or poor. Occasionally good.' Today presenter James Naughtie pointed out that the three-minute forecast was a 'classic' from 28 October. 'If you're on a ship, please don't worry!' he said. Palin, who was guest editing the current affairs programme, described Bennett's forecast as 'such a lovely rendition. The shipping forecast is rather poetic, it's beating the bounds of our country,' he said. 'Alan was unsensational but the words themselves – especially what was happening to Plymouth – were actually quite serious.' Bennett, the owner of a distinctive Yorkshire cadence, is familiar to audiences for his reading of literary greats including The Wind In The Willows and his TV series Talking Heads. The seventy nine-year-old now joins a small short list of non-BBC presenters to have read the famous bulletin. Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister and before that a ship's steward, became the first non-BBC person to read The Shipping Forecast in March 2011. In a guest-slot for Comic Relief, Prezza read the main part of the bulletin for the thirty one sea areas before a BBC announcer tacked the trickier inshore waters and coastal stations.

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