Saturday, January 04, 2014

Week Three: Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?

As briefly reported on the New Year's Day blog update nearly three million punters recorded the festive special of Doctor Who and watched it during the week after Christmas Day, with Downton Abbey among the other most popular timeshifted programmes, through Mrs Brown's Boys - just - held on to the top spot as the dust settled on the festive TV ratings battle. Doctor Who increased its overnight audience from 8.3 million to 11.1 million in the consolidated figures published on Thursday, which includes delayed viewing over the seven days after the programmes were broadcast on TV. And, of course, these figures do not include iPlayer viewings which usually add an additional million plus viewers to the BBC's 'plus seven' total. Downton Abbey's overnight audience of a fraction over seven million viewers was up by almost two million to 8.95 million (9.4 million with ITV +1 figures taken into account). Although it was still down on last year's consolidated audience of 10.3 million the Lord Snooty drama, which was scheduled against an hour-long EastEnders and Mrs Brown's Boys on Christmas Day, moved up from seventh to fifth place in the ratings. Downton Abbey couldn't quite overtake the Albert Square soap in the consolidated ratings it topped last year, though it did pass Call The Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing. Brendan O'Carroll's bawdy sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys - loathed by the broadsheets but enjoyed by normal people - reigned supreme, piling on another 2.1 million viewers during the week after Christmas Day to give it a total audience of eleven and a half million, around two hundred thousand punters more than watched last year's number one Christmas Day show, EastEnders. Mrs Brown's Boys did not air on Christmas Day in 2012, so a strict year-on-year comparison is not possible. Of the shows which were shown on the same day last year, Doctor Who was the big gainer, with its consolidated audience was up more than a million, from 9.9 million. But other BBC1 shows Call The Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing were both down, from 10.2 million and 9.2 million respectively.

Forget about the mystery of how Sherlock Holmes survived that fall from the roof of St Bart's, Wednesday's return of the BBC1 drama posed an even bigger puzzle – what were that group of people doing standing in the back of the shot in Westminster tube station and what were they gawping at? The answer, of course, a film crew shooting Sherlock, obviously, the station being only partially cleared for the scenes in which Sherlock and John go underground to save parliament being blown up (just after the one hour two minute mark, if you're wanting to check the video). That's the price you pay for shooting in the capital, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat explained at a preview screening of the show last month, although he was not entirely enamoured by the unfortunate incursion being pointed out. Still, there's an easy way to rectify it – get Derren Brown to visit the show's ten million odd viewers and persuade them they never saw it. It worked on Watson. Allegedly

The Daily Scum Mail Online seemingly took some considerable delight on Friday morning in pointing out 'errors' in Sherlock which had been 'uncovered' by 'fans'. So it is only fair that we should highlights certain, if you will, elementary mistakes in a review of The Empty Hearse posted on the Scum Mail website on New Year's Day. The Media Blog reported that the review, when originally launched, featured a picture of Martin Freeman as Watson captioned: 'Quieter and more human, as Doctor Watson, Tim Freeman actually upstaged Sherlock's star Dominic Cumberbatch.' Meanwhile, a photo of screenwriter and actor Mark Gatiss stated: 'Scene-stealer extraordinaire: Mark Gatiss not only wrote The Empty Hearse but upstaged Dominic Cumberbatch and Tim Freeman, not as the evil mastermind, but as Sherlock's brother Mycroft.' Both the captions were later corrected – as was a reference in the text to a guest appearance by "one 'Darren Brown.' Was the Scum Mail Online confused by Martin Freeman's role as Tim in The Office? And was it thinking of Dominic West rather than Benedict Cumberbatch? As Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in The Man With the Twisted Lip: 'It is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.' Something the scumbag lice at the Scum Mail frequently demonstrate.
It left it until the last minute, but BBC1 appears to have bagged the biggest-rating show of the year after nearly fourteen million people watched its coverage of London's New Year's Eve Fireworks – pipping ITV's I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) into second place. BBC1's New Year's Eve Fireworks, a fifteen-minute spectacular presented by Susanna Reid, averaged 13.7 million viewers, a sixty seven per cent share of the audience, from 11.55pm on New Year's Eve to 12.10am on New Year's Day.
There's a marginally interesting piece by arch smugger Mark Lawson in the Gruniad Morning Star entitled Sherlock and Doctor Who: beware of fans influencing the TV they love in which the fat slapheed, full-of-his-own-importance Communist writes: 'For most of the history of TV drama, fans have been on the outside looking in. New episodes or series were released by the creators for consumption by the audience, whose only possible effect on the product was to raise or lower the ratings figures that might influence whether a new series was commissioned. More recently, websites and social media have changed beyond recognition the way in which a show is watched, through preview, real-time and review discussion between viewers. But again, this had relatively little impact on the product, apart from recent cases such as Arrested Development and Ripper Street, in which digital petitions won a streamed reprieve for a franchise cancelled by a network. Both the 25 December Doctor Who episode and the 1 January Sherlock were, without actually being interactive, crucially responsive to fan reaction. Written by Steven Moffat, The Time Of The Doctor included a plot twist that granted the Time Lord another dozen physical regenerations, thus resolving (at least in the minds of the producers) the problem, much discussed on fan sites, that according to the rules originally set down, The Doctor was permitted only twelve embodiments. And, writing The Empty Hearse, the first Sherlock of the 2014 run, Mark Gatiss seemed even more blog-aware. A running gag in the script utilised and satirised the wild and sometimes lurid online speculation in the real world about the circumstances in which the detective had apparently been able to fake his death in a rooftop fall at the end of the second series in 2012. Two lengthy sequences proved to be fan fantasies dreamed up by characters within the drama who were as obsessed with the fate of Sherlock as are viewers on the outside. These internal theories included elements (the medical effects of squash balls, an alleged homoerotic charge between Holmes and Moriarty) that have been aired in external fan-fiction. This sense that the characters are able to see through the screen into our world – in the way that a figure in a stage play will sometimes break the fourth wall and talk to the audience – was employed in different ways and for contrasting reasons.' As the Doctor Who author Peter Anghelides noted 'this TV reviewer risks becoming as patronising about over ten million "non-fan" viewers as some fans increasingly are.' Mark Lawson? Patronising as well as smug? That's his default state, isn't it?

Now, dear blog reader, sometimes, you can believe everything which is claimed on the Internet. And sometimes ...
Wretched, horrible, nasty, tragically unfunny Birds Of A Feather made an impressive comeback on ITV on Thursday, according to overnight data. Which is, frankly, proof if any proof were needed that a portion of the population are, quite simply, numskulls. The wretched, horrible, nasty, tragically unfunny sitcom - as odious and twattish now as it was in the 1990s on the BBC and still about as amusing as a twisted knacker - attracted an overnight average of 7.54 million viewers at 8.30pm. How many of them will still be watching next week is another question entirely. Later, Benidorm also returned for a new series with 5.99m at 9pm. This is slightly down from the series five launch in 2012, which was seen by 6.24m. However, it equals the 5.9m audience that tuned in for the final episode of the previous run. On BBC1, Celebrity Mastermind was watched by 4.82m at 7pm, while documentary Dolphins: Spy In The Pod interested 4.90m at 8pm. Silent Witness returned for a new series with 6.10m at 9pm. This is slightly higher than the previous series opener in January 2013. BBC2's University Challenge was watched by 2.84m at 7.30pm. Jeremy Clarkson's excellent, and genuinely moving, documentary about the merchant navy, PQ17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster was seen by 2.26m at 9pm, followed by Rab C Nesbitt with 1.91m at 10pm. On Channel Four, Restoration Man brought in 1.48m at 8pm. My Big Fat Gypsy Holiday had 1.24m at 9pm, followed by Secrets Of The Scammers with 1.28m at 10pm. Channel Five's Too Fat To Fly pulled in 1.03m voyeuristic scum at 8pm, while Fifty Shocking Facts About Diet & Exercise gathered nine hundred and twenty six thousand at 9pm.

And, it gets worse. More than three million sick, sorry fekkers tuned in to watch the Celebrity Big Brother live launch on Channel Five on Friday night. Every single one of whom should be horsewhipped through the streets for such rank glakeishness. An average of 3.18m crushed victims of society watched the likes of odious not-even-remotely-funny right-wing louse Jim Davidson, Dappy (who is 'a rapper', apparently) and Sam Faiers (no, sorry, never heard of him. or her) enter the compound, an increase on last summer's launch night, which attracted 2.66 million viewers, but down slightly on the 3.5 million who tuned in last January. It was, however, trumped by Silent Witness on BBC1 at 9pm, which was the highest-rated show outside of soaps with 6.22 million viewers. Which, somewhat restores ones faith in humanity. Elsewhere on BBC1, A Question of Sport kicked-off the evening with 4.32 million viewers at 7.30pm, a Miranda repeat was watched by 3.75m at 8.30pm, while 3.57m watched highlights from The Graham Norton Show at 10.35pm. On ITV, 3.83 million punters watched The Martin Lewis Money Show at 8pm, while Odious Oily Twat Piers Morgan's Life Stories with guest June Brown attracted but 2.82m. That was funny. Nature's Weirdest Events pulled in 1.91m at 7pm on BBC2, followed by 1.97m for Kangaroo Dundee an hour later. BBC2's evening programming peaked at 8.30pm, as 2.4m watched University Challenge, while 2.03m were attracted to James May's Toy Stories: The Motorcycle Diary at 9pm. The new series of Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown was watched by 1.53m on Channel Four at 9pm, followed by 1.04m for Rude Tube.

Del Boy and Rodney Trotter are to return to British TV screens for the first time in more than then years, the BBC has confirmed. The much-loved South Londoners, played by Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, will feature in 'a short Only Fools And Horses sketch' for this year's Sport Relief in March, it said. The popular sitcom, which ran from 1981 to 2003, was regularly voted Britain's best sitcom. It was created by writer John Sullivan, who died in 2011. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'There are plans afoot for a short Only Fools And Horses sketch for Sport Relief. Further details will be announced in the build up to the appeal night on 21 March.' Seven series of the programme were made, between 1981 and 1991, which were followed by a number of Christmas specials over the subsequent decade. The 1996 Christmas special - Time On Our Hands - in which Del Boy came good on his ambition to turn the Peckham brothers into millionaires, was seen by more than twenty four million people. The new sketch will be the show's first outing since 2003 Christmas special, Sleepless In Peckham.

Which brings us to the next batch of Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 11 January
Tonight sees the return of The Voice - 7:00 BBC1 - the singing contest in which the emphasis is on vocals rather than looks. It says here. As if to prove it, the BBC have hired one of the prettiest singers on the scene, pop princess Kylie Minogue. Because of course, she's a perfect example of someone who would have been signed up by Stock, Aitken and Waterman if she'd been fifteen stone and from Grimsby merely on the strength of her voice, wouldn't she? Kylie, Kylie, sweet and smiley, sing us a song in a rub-a-dub style(e) comes in as a replacement judge for Jessie Whatsherface. Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson is the other new coach replacing Danny ... you know, alongside the old hands - or, in Tom Jones's case, very old hands - the Welsh Wizard and Will.he.is. Big Brother's Emma Willis and JLS's Marvin Humes (no, me neither) take over as hosts who, in the early rounds, are on hand to console and congratulate the hopefuls and the dreadfuls backstage. As always, the contest kicks-off with the blind auditions, in which the coaches begin the process of building their twelve-strong teams by sitting with their backs to the auditionees and spinning their chair if they want that singer. If more than one coach turns, then the hopeful gets to choose whose team they join.

Sue Perkins, Reginald D Hunter and Jimmy Carr join regular panellist Alan Davies on the comedy quiz Qi Xl - 9:30 BBC2. Host Stephen Fry asks a range of fiendish questions on the topic of Kitsch, with points being awarded for interesting answers as well as correct ones.

The cult Scandiwegian thriller The Bridge's quite brilliant cop partnership, curiously Asperger's-like Saga Noren and damaged and vulnerable Martin Rohde, continue to hunt down the eco-terrorists who, realising that they are being followed by the police (of two countries, at that) proceed with far more caution in episode three of series two - 9:00 BBC4. Already this series, we've had one of the TV drama highlights of the year so far in the opening episode - the couple's discussion on bees: Martin asks Saga if she likes them. She is non-committal. 'You should. Einstein said that without bees the human race would die out in four years.' Saga inclines her head to one side in that way of hers. 'Without oxygen, humans would die after four minutes. But, I don't go around "liking" air!' Brilliant. Meanwhile, Jakob realises that living with his new girlfriend is not always easy and Martin makes some progress with Jens. Then, in the following episode, the deaths of the eco-terrorists are investigated and, after ruling out suicide, Saga and Martin are led to believe the group has a leader who is still alive. The pair set out to track him down, hoping to stop any further attacks being planned. Meanwhile, Martin hits it off with his Danish colleague, Pernille. Classy Scandinavian crime drama, in Danish and Swedish, starring Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia.

The Drama channel's repeat run of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Waking The Dead continues with one of the very best two-part stories of the long-running crime drama, the third series' finale Final Cut - 9:00. in this textually fascinating Stephen Davis script, Peter Boyd's Cold Case Unit discover a link between a mummified body found in a skip and a crumbling Notting Hill house which featured as the location for a murderous fight between gangsters in a notorious Sixties movie (based, not particularly subtly, on Performance). Present-day renovation work after the gaff has been purchased by an American pop singer reveals more skeletons behind the walls - both literal as well as metaphorical. Spencer complicates matters further by revealing that he once lived in the house with his family when he was a small boy and at roughly the same time that these events took place. The gangster responsible for the murders, Vinnie Peverell (the excellent Maurice Roëves), is still at large and as thoroughly nasty as ever and past events cause further deaths as an international drugs turf war erupts. As investigations proceed, it becomes clear that Spencer's personal history - and his father, a prize-winning boxer missing since Spencer was a boy - holds the key to solving the mystery. Dear old Mad Ken Russell, essentially, plays himself and camps it up like no one's business and Gina Bellman gets brained on the noggin with the BAFTA statue that the series won the previous year (one of the most brilliantly postmodern murders in a TV series ever, bar none!). All-in-all, it a bit of a twenty-four carat masterpiece, this and if you've never seen it before, you need to put that right, The Bridge or no The Bridge. Use your recording devices wisely. Starring Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Holly Aird, Wil Johnson and Claire Goose.
Sunday 12 January
A mere twelve days into 2014 and, already, the most anticipated TV drama of year will be over a'fore the night is out. In His Last Vow, the series three finale of Sherlock - 8:30 BBC1 - the consulting detective's latest case sees him coming up against the master blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen - the one man in the world he truly despises. But how can Sherlock tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world? Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman his very self star, with Amanda Abbington, Rupert Graves and an appearance by Lars Mikkelsen, best known to fans of Danish dramas The Killing and Borgen. Last in the current series. We'll probably have to wait another two years for the next one so, you know, make the most of it while you can.
Sadly, some idiot at the BBC has chosen to start a very good looking Timeshift film, How To Be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces Of A Master Detective at 10:00 on BBC4 whilst the majority of any prospective audience will still watching recovering from the last few minutes of Sherlock on BBC1. What a complete and utter numskull glake. You could at least have given us all half-an-hour's grace. The documentary explores various portrayals of the sleuth, charting the evolution of the character on screen, and showing how different actors' performances have influenced the public's image of the detective. With contributions from yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Tim Pigott-Smith (who's played both Holmes and Watson) and Mark Gatiss. Narrated by Peter Wyngarde.

Monday 13 January
Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) travels to Iona in the Inner Hebrides to learn about Saint Columba's tough brand of monasticism in the last of the three-part series The Sacred Wonders Of Britain - 9:30 BBC2. He finds out how the epic journey of Saint Cuthbert led to the writing of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the building of Durham Cathedral. At Canterbury Cathedral, Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) discovers how the gruesome murder of Thomas Becket spurred the building of its nave, and on Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, he investigates the story of the Holy Grail, the sacred cup of everlasting life. And, the holy killer rabbit of Antioch. Probably.
The friends search for the evidence which will prove Alice's innocence and save her from a grizzly fate at the gallows and the hangman's noose in The Bletchley Circle - 9:00 ITV. Documents found at Lizzie's flat, inside information from the police and Alice's knowledge of Richards' background begin to point to a high-level military conspiracy, centred on Porton Down. Starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling.
In Storyville: Mandela, The Myth & Me - 10:00 BBC4 - South African film-maker Khalo Matabane offers a personal reflection on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela in a documentary that sees him explore the true meanings of freedom, reconciliation and forgiveness - concepts with which the former leader is considered synonymous. The programme features contributions by thinkers, politicians and artists including the Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger and Ariel Dorfman.

Tuesday 14 January
So, tonight see the return of the popular Caribbean detective drama Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. And, it also sees the loss of the single best reason for watching the damn thing in the first place, the very excellent Ben Miller. So, expect a significant drop-off in overnight audience figures after the opening scene when he gets stabbed to death. A group of old university friends arrives on the island for a reunion, only for one of the party to meet a sticky end when he is murdered with an ice-pick. Richard Poole is out of action and unable to investigate the crime - due to his own rather messy demise in the pre-title sequence - so another British inspector (played by that plank Kris Marshall) is quickly drafted in to help the team get to the bottom of the mystery. But it soon becomes clear that the newcomer, Humphrey Goodman, will have trouble fitting in. Like Poole, however, he is bright and is soon questioning the partygoers, all of whom are prime suspects, while pondering the biggest mystery of all - how did the culprit commit the crime in full view of all the other guests? With Sara Martins and Danny John-Jules.

In Wild Brazil - 9:00 BBC2 - Stephen Mangan narrates a documentary following capuchin monkeys, giant otters and coatis as they strive to raise their families. The first episode sees the young animals taking their first steps in some of the world's most extraordinary habitats, where they have to beware of deadly predators including jaguar and caiman.

Meanwhile, it's all animals to night. In Paul O'Grady's Animal Orphans - 9:00 ITV - the sentimental comedian and chat show host travels across South Africa and Zambia helping to hand-rear orphaned animals, from hippos to rhinos, lions to elephants, and prepare them to be released back into the wild. Ah, bless 'im. As his trip begins he drops into a penguin sanctuary, where he bonds with one named Stevie whose life hangs in the balance. He also meets a two-year-old elephant who is recovering after being attacked by the poachers who killed his parents, and takes some lion cubs for a walk at a rehabilitation centre in Kruger. Sounds turgid and mawkish, just like everything else the King of Cheese O'Grady is involved in.

Wednesday 15 January
Tonight may well be the single worst night on telly in the history of the medium. There is, literally, not a single sodding thing on any of the five main channels that's worth as so much of a second of your attention, dear blog reader. Best of a not-much-better bunch of the multichannels is Hidden Histories: Britain's Oldest Family Businesses - 9:00 BBC4. Profiling present-day bosses of three long-running family companies as they face a crossroads in their lives, beginning with Richard Balson, from Bridport in Dorset, whose butcher's business is almost 500 years old. He meets historians and experts, unearthing the age-old secrets of his trade and charting the origin of the British high street. Narrated by Margaret Mountford.

And, that's it. You got a Live At The Apollo on BBC1 featuring nobody even remotely funny (so, no change there, then), a Midsomer Murder on ITV which has a plot so old that you expect John Nettles to be solving the crime crime and there's more depressing bastard Celebrity Big Brother on Five. An early night is clearly called for. That or, you know, read a book instead.

Thursday 16 January
Hidden Kingdoms - 8:00 BBC1 - is a, rather fine-looking, documentary - the first in a three-part series from the BBC's Natural History department - which focuses on the survival techniques employed by the animal kingdom's smallest creatures. North America's Sonoran Desert is home to the grasshopper mouse, which is capable of disarming scorpions and centipedes twice its size, and displays a power and athleticism that enables it to avoid the attentions of rattlesnakes and tarantulas. In Africa, the elephant shrew, known as the sengi, employs speed to keep its distance from predators, following a meticulously constructed - and maintained - network of tiny racetracks in the Savannah. Narrated by yer actual Stephen Fry.

David Jensen presents an edition of Top Of The Pops - 7:30 BBC4 - from 11 January 1979, with performances by Bonnie Tyler, Sally Oldfield, Paul Evans, The Shadows, Steve Allen, Driver Sixty Seven, The Village People and Rocky Sharpe & the Replays. Plus, dance sequences by Legs & Co.

It's another piss-poor night, frankly although, at least, there's Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe - 10:00 BBC2. The writer and broadcaster offers a satirical look at the latest news from politics, the media and the Interweb, casting a critical eye over trends in TV, cinema, computer games and social media. Charlie will be joined in the studio each week by guest commentators and there will be regular contributions from American comedian Doug Stanhope.

Friday 17 January
The Qi arena is buzzing tonight - 10:00 BBC2. Sometimes you get the feeling that everyone on the panel is enjoying themselves so much that the show's lovely meandering jollity quickly becomes infectious. On the panel for the latest episode we have Radio 4 regular Susan Calman, Sandi Toksvig and Liza Tarbuck, plus an in-form Alan Davies, who breaks into even more of those whimsical little mimes he likes doing (or, you know, 'being an arsehole' depending on your point of view) than usual – a randy spider and a kayak being surprised by a trawler. But there's fascination aplenty too as the audience learn about the tall tales of cinnamon salesmen, ultra-hot chillies and female weightlifters. Plus the urgent and surreal question: why would German soldiers have abnormally large breasts? Host Stephen Fry asks a range of questions on a Kaleidoscope of topics beginning with with the letter 'k', with points being awarded for interesting answers as well as correct ones.
The documentary An Island Parish returns - 8:30 BBC2 - with more tales chronicling life on Sark in the Channel Islands, beginning with the residents making preparations for Christmas. Julie installs lifesize handmade elves in her shop, fisherman Baz Adams distributes vast quantities of mistletoe and Methodist lay preacher Karen Le Mouton calls in some help for a special service.

The news now: Victoria Pendleton is among sixteen celebrities taking part in a special Bake Off series, along with horrible Jane Horrocks and unfunny impressionist Alistair McGowan. The hopefuls will be seen in four programmes for BBC2's The Great Sport Relief Bake Off to be screened later this month, with four participating each night. Queen Victoria's fellow Olympian, Greg Rutherford, is also in the series along with another 2012 Strictly Come Dancing competitor former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, under the watchful eyes of judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Others taking part are Twatting About On Ice judge nasty Jason Gardiner, Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young, Saturdays singer Rochelle Humes (no, me neither), Michael Ball, Jamelia, Doon Mackichan, Samantha Bond and Bonnie Wright, writer and broadcaster Emma Freud, Johnny Vaughan and Helen Skelton, the former Blue Peter presenter. Skelton admitted she is 'absolutely rubbish at baking.' Bit stupid taking part in a programme about baking, in that case, one could suggest. She said: 'All my friends and family laugh at anything I do in the kitchen, so I thought this might be a chance to redeem myself. I wished I'd practised more beforehand. When they said to me "you've got to make a pizza", I thought they meant just put the toppings on a pizza – I didn't realise they meant make the dough and everything.' Jesus, with a mind like that, she should be running the country. Participants will be tasked with baking signature, technical and showstopper dishes for shows screened over four consecutive evenings from Monday 13 January. Regular presenter Sue Perkins will be without her usual sidekick, Mel Giedroyc, but will be joined by guest hosts Omid Djalili, Ed Byrne and Jo Brand. The series will also follow Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Nicola Adams as she visits Comic Relief-funded projects in South Africa. The fundraising Sport Relief weekend takes place from 21 to 23 March with members of the public invited to run, swim or cycle in the Sainsbury's Sport Relief Games. Events will be held at the former Olympic venue in East London, now renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove has made 'an extraordinary attack' on the classic comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth for, allegedly, 'peddling left-wing myths' about the First World War designed to 'belittle Britain and its leaders.' Which is didn't, or anything even remotely like it. Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove claimed that the massively popular series had 'sought to denigrate' British patriotism and had been used by 'left-wing academics' to portray the British war effort as a 'shambles' led by an out-of-touch elite. He forgot to also criticise in the acclaimed, and award-winning book The Donkeys, written by his former Conservative party colleague the late historian Alan Clark which suggested pretty much the same thing. 'Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage,' rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove claims in, of course, the Daily Scum Mail. 'The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.' He claims that the war was, in reality, a 'noble cause' - which it wasn't - and a 'just' conflict - which it wasn't - against the cruel 'social Darwinism' of the Germans. Which it wasn't. 'The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified. And the war was also seen by participants as a noble cause. Historians have skilfully demonstrated how those who fought were not dupes but conscious believers in king and country, committed to defending the western liberal order.' Even the battle of the Somme (1916), which has become a byword for futile and indiscriminate slaughter, is defended by Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove who describes it as a vital 'precursor' to victory. The lack of education secretary's risible and ludicrous comments follow controversy over his attempts to rewrite the national history curriculum in schools. Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove was forced to withdraw several planned changes to the curriculum last year after he was criticised for focusing too much on British history at the expense of the wider global view. Prominent historians including Simon Schama, Sir Richard Evans and Sir David Cannadine all criticised his plans. Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove appears to be in some sort of contest with odious slapheed (and drag) Iain Duncan Smith to see which of them can be the most reprehensibly arrogant, snide and out-of-touch-with-reality arsehole in the current cabinet. Although the pair of them will have a job to take the title from its current holder, the vile and odious rascal Hunt.

Nigella Lawson - she has her knockers - has claimed that having 'distortions' of her private life 'put on display' in court was 'mortifying.' Speaking on TV for the first time since her personal assistants were cleared of fraud, the fifty three-year-old self-confessed cocaine sniffer also said that her main goal during the trial was to 'protect my children.' Lawson was depicted as a habitual user of cocaine during the three-week trial. During her testimony in December, she admitted to taking the drug in the past but denied being an addict. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said after the trial that she would not face an investigation over the allegations 'at this stage.' Lawson gave her interview to US TV show Good Morning America. During the discussion, Lawson reiterated concerns she expressed after the trial about being 'maliciously vilified without the right to respond. It's one of the niceties of the English legal system that you're not allowed any counsel if you're a witness,' she said on Thursday. Lawson said her 'only desire really was to protect my children as much as possible, which I wasn't, alas, I couldn't always do.' She also said she 'couldn't really remember exactly' how it felt to give evidence 'because you're so focused on answering the questions to the best of your ability that actually you don't really have an enormous awareness of yourself.' Yet Lawson claimed she'd 'had a very good Christmas' since and was keen to put the experience behind her. 'There are people going through an awful lot worse and to dwell on any of it would be self-pity,' she said during the interview. Lawson went on to promote her US cooking show The Taste, which begins its second season on the ABC network later.

A person who appears in the reality TV programme Geordie Shore has pleaded guilty to assault after hurling her shoes at a woman during a bar brawl. Vicky Pattison, of Waalsend, 'lashed out' after being hit by ice at Florita's Bar in July last year, Newcastle Crown Court heard. She, wrongly, thought victim Hannah Kelso, who subsequently needed four stitches, had thrown the ice. Pattison admitted two counts of assault and will be sentenced next month. Judge Brian Forster QC told Pattison she would not face jail. The hearing heard that she began arguing with Kelso and then threw her shoes at her when security staff tried to pull her away. A member of bar staff also suffered a cut lip during the fracas, the hearing heard. Anthony O'Donohoe, mitigating, said Pattison 'did not mean' to injure her victim and had admitted it was a 'reckless act.' He claimed that she mistakenly thought the ice had come from the booth Kelso was in and asked the judge not to send her to pris saying that doing another series of Geordie Shore was a far worse punishment. Judge Forster QC said: 'I have looked at the summary of this case, I take into account your character and can indicate to the court that I will not consider any form of custodial sentence.'

Soft core pornographer Richard Desmond has appointed Barclays to advise on a possible sale of Channel Five, after turning the loss making broadcaster into a - marginally - profitable operation. The process is understood to be at a very early stage with Barclays, which was involved in evaluating the potential value of Desmond's magazines including flagship title OK! in 2011, not yet thought to have approached potential buyers. The most obvious buyer which would gain the biggest strategic synergy would be ITV. However, ITV, by some distance the UK's biggest advertiser-funded broadcaster, would almost certainly run into competition issues. BSkyB could be another potential buyer, although billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch - whom no one is scared of any more - has in the past ruled out out bidding for the free-to-air broadcaster. Channel Five could be a target for a foreign buyer, such as NBC Universal or Time Warner subsidiary Turner Broadcasting, although its previous owner RTL, majority-owned by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, found it difficult to turn a profit from the UK's smallest terrestrial broadcaster. The move follows Desmond taking 'soundings' among rivals, including ITV, about the potential appetite to buy Channel Five last spring. Desmond added Channel Five to his Northern & Shell media empire, which includes the Scum Express and Daily Lies national titles as well as a number of x-rated TV channels for singles blokes in their thirties to wank whilst watch, in 2010 buying it from RTL for one hundred and three million smackers. Heavy cost-cutting, rejuvenating Channel Five's TV advertising sales operation, and securing Big Brother have moved the business from a forty eight million knicker loss at the time of the acquisition to a £20.6m profit in the six months to the end of August last year. On the assumption that Channel Five maintained that performance for the year then at nine times profits, considered a common earning multiple for media assets, would mean the broadcaster could be worth about four hundred million quid. Last year analysts at Espirito Santo Investment Bank estimated Channel Five could be worth five hundred million to 'the right buyer.' The exact value of the broadcaster is difficult to ascertain, with the Financial Times reporting that Desmond would seek more than seven hundred million notes, or ten times anticipated pre-tax profit for 2013 (which assumes a figure of about seventy million smackers). 'As a media group with a broad portfolio of assets we are often the subject of speculation, but it remains our policy not to comment on these matters,' said a spokeswoman for Northern & Shell. Other Channel Five shows include US drama imports CSI and The Mentalist, Edie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers, The Hotel Inspector and Extreme Fishing with Wor Geet Canny Robson Green. The broadcaster's children's strand Milkshake features shows including Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam and Thomas & Friends. Commenting on the intermittent speculation about selling off assets, Desmond told the Gruniad Morning Star last year: 'As a private shareholder from time to time it is nice to value your assets. Bit like a house. I've only moved twice in forty years but from time to time, pushy estate agents like to make you value your assets.'

John Fortune, the British satirist and comedian who found fame through his TV collaborations with John Bird and Rory Bremner, has died aged seventy four. He died peacefully on Tuesday with his wife Emma and dog Grizelle at his bedside, his agent Vivienne Clore said. 'I'm so sorry to let you know that my friend John Fortune died this morning,' Bremner tweeted. Fortune died after treatment for leukaemia, which he was diagnosed with several years ago. Bremner remembered John as a 'lovely man [a] dear friend' and 'a brilliant and fearless satirist.' Born in 1939, John was educated in Bristol before going on to Cambridge where he met fellow satirist Bird. His early career included contributions to Peter Cook's Establishment Club team in 1962, and as a regular member of the cast of the BBC satire show Not So Much a Programme, More A Way of Life, both alongside Eleanor Bron and John Bird. Fortune and Bird also worked together on A Series Of Birds in 1967, and Fortune and Bron wrote and performed a series of sketches for TV in Where Was Spring? in 1969. In 1971, with John Wells, Fortune published the comedy classic A Melon For Ecstasy, about a man who consummates his love affair with a tree. He appeared with Peter Sellers in a Barclays Bank advert in 1980, shortly before Sellers's death. Fortune shared a BAFTA with Bird in 1997. The award, for Best Light Entertainment Performance, came for their work on Channel Four's Rory Bremner, Who Else? programme. The trio went on to work together on the channel's satirical sketch show Bremner, Bird and Fortune, which ran from 1999 to 2008. Comedian and impressionist Bremner went on to describe Fortune as 'the most lovely man' who 'had the most beautiful brain of any man I've ever known.' He said that Bird and Fortune had been 'on to' subjects such as the banking crisis and the utilities 'years ago' which they dissected 'beautifully' in their comedy sketches. 'In some ways Bird and Fortune were the pillars of the anti-establishment,' Bremner told the BBC. 'Their timing was so superb and they had the ability to dissect a subject like a scalpel.' Geoff Atkinson, a longtime producer of Rory Bremner's shows and a head of Vera Productions, the TV production company set up with Bremer and Clore, described Fortune as 'unique. His partnership with John Bird seemed effortless on air, yet every week they'd sit with a blank sheet of paper and ten minutes to fill in five days' time. That they filled it so brilliantly week after week never failed to amaze me,' he said. He described his friend as 'a joy to work with, an inspiration as a writer, and the funniest person you could ever meet', adding: 'Honest, kind, caring, over twenty years, I benefited so much from his quiet wise words as a friend, and an inspiration.' Broadcaster Stephen Fry tweeted that Fortune he had been 'a huge influence on the satire boom', while the actor David Morrissey said that Fortune was 'such a funny man.' ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart said Fortune, Bird and Bremner had created 'some of the cleverist [sic], funniest stuff ever.' Only Fools and Horses actor John Challis, who acted alongside Fortune in a 1980s episode of C.A.T.S. Eyes, said he was sad to hear of John's death. 'I played henchman to his chief villain and we laughed a lot,' the actor recalled. 'Another goodun gone.' Susan Penhaligon also shared her memories of Fortune, recalling the time they acted together in a production of Ibsen's play A Doll's House. 'So sad to hear about John Fortune,' she said remembering him as 'a lovely, clever man.' The comic Frankie Boyle also tweeted his respects, and linked to one of his favourite sketches, in which Fortune interviews a British army general (Bird) about preparations for the war in Iraq. A former member of the Cambridge Footlights, Fortune was known for his imposing height and his knack for mimicking old-school establishment types. He also had small roles in a number of films, among them Calendar Girls, The Tailor Of Panama and Woody Allen's Match Point. Along with writing several series for the BBC, in 1982 Fortune appeared in an episode of the sitcom Yes Minister, as an army officer who brings the minister's attention to British-made weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. In 1999, he starred with Warren Mitchell and Ken Campbell in Art at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End. He also appeared in the films Maybe Baby and Saving Grace and had a guest part in Steven Moffat's sitcom Joking Apart. Yet he remains best known for the' Long Johns' sketches he performed with Bird, in which they offered witty characterisations of bumbling politicians, military figures and businessmen. During an appearance on Desert Island Discs in 2004, Fortune said it was 'very difficult to keep a straight face' during his and Bird's largely improvised duologues and that he was 'very ashamed' whenever he 'corpsed'. Fortune, who recently suffered a stroke, is survived by his wife and three children.

The television producer Allan McKeown, who died on Christmas Eve aged sixty seven from prostate cancer, created the ground-breaking Witzend Productions with the sitcom writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and had hits on both sides of the Atlantic. It was one of the earliest independent production companies outside the British broadcasting establishment to find success within it. A prime example of Witzend's attempts to push the boundaries of the medium – and McKeown's credit as executive producer – was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983 to 1986, and subsequently revived, 2002 to 2004). The series, about a group of itinerant British builders in Germany – developed by Clement and La Frenais from an idea by the film director Franc Roddam – went beyond the sitcom format to become one of the first - and best - in the comedy-drama genre. ITV at first had no plans to make a second series but backtracked when up to thirteen million viewers tuned in to the adventures of Denis, Neivlle, Oz and their mates. The 1986 run caught up with the characters back in Britain, then regrouped them on a building site in Spain. Both series benefited from strong acting performances, good writing, three-dimensional characters and believable situations. Following a string of other television successes, McKeown was involved in furthering the US career of his wife, the comedy actress Tracey Ullman, whom he had married in 1983. He was executive producer of the special Tracey Takes on New York (1993), which was followed by the EMMY award-winning series Tracey Takes On ...(1996 to 1999), with Ullman tackling various topics and playing a variety of characters. Later, they made the sketch show State Of The Union (2008 to 2010) together. McKeown was born in London, where his father was a bricklayer (later a clerk of works when the family moved to Hainault in Essex) and his mother a hairdresser. On leaving Beal grammar school in Ilford, Allan joined the Vidal Sassoon salon in Bond Street as an apprentice ladies' hairdresser. In 1966 he opened his own salon, where his clients included The Beatles, Jean Shrimpton, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He also worked as a hair stylist on films including If ... (1968) and Get Carter (1971). The bright lights rubbed off on McKeown and, in 1970, he joined the James Garratt agency as a producer of commercials, becoming managing director a year later. He set up a similar company, Pembridge Productions, in 1974 and established an American base with it in 1976. Three years later, with his friends, the acclaimed comedy writers Clement and La Frenais, McKeown founded Witzend Productions. They produced To Russia With Elton, with the writers directing this documentary film about Elton John's 1979 tour – the first by a western pop act in the Soviet Union. The trio also made Porridge (1979), a film version of Clement and La Frenais's popular television sitcom. Before the 1982 launch of Channel Four provided the first chance for independent companies to make programmes in large numbers, Witzend was getting commissions from ITV, starting with the sitcoms The Other 'Arf (1980 to 1984), Astronauts (1981, written by Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden), Dead Ernest (1982) and Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's comedy-drama Shine On Harvey Moon (1982 to 1985, later revived in 1995). After further sitcoms – the wretched Roll Over Beethoven (1985), Clement and La Franais' one major failure Mog (1985) and ITV's attempt at a Young Ones-style comedy Girls On Top (1985, which featured Ullman) – McKeown had a major success with Marks and Gran's truly horrible Birds Of A Feather which began in 1989. Witzend also made Lovejoy (1986 to 1994), starring Ian McShane as a roguish antiques dealer. In 1986, Witzend had bought SelecTV, which became its parent company. Two years later, it launched the Marks and Gran subsidiary Alomo – producer of Love Hurts (1992 to 1994) and Goodnight Sweetheart (1993 to 1999) – before being sold to Pearson in 1996 for fifty one million quid. McKeown was also a founder of Meridian, which won the ITV South and South East franchise in 1993. After his wife found fame in the US, McKeown and Ullman spent most of their time in America. McKeown became the first Briton to produce for all the three big American networks and as well as starring in her own shows, Ullman was heard as the Telephone Voice in the India call-centre sitcom Mumbai Calling (2007), made by McKeown's newly founded company Allan McKeown Presents. McKeown also had success with stage musicals: he co-produced Jerry Springer – The Opera (2003) for the National Theatre and Lennon (2005) at the Broadhurst Theater in New York. He is survived by Tracy Ullman and their children, Mabel and Johnny.

The broadcaster Geoffrey Wheeler, best known for presenting Songs Of Praise and the quiz show Top Of The Form, has died aged eighty three, his son has confirmed. Geoffrey died on 30 December in a care home in Prestbury, Cheshire, after a long illness. He created the popular ITV game show Winner Takes All, which was hosted by cheeky gap-toothed Scouser Jimmy Tarbuck between 1975 and 1986. Wheeler, who provided the voiceover during the Tarbuck era, hosted the show himself from 1987 to 1988. He also appeared on Call My Bluff and Jackanory. 'He was an absolute gentleman and that's the conclusion that everybody who dealt with him came to,' the broadcaster's son, Robin, told the BBC. Wheeler had originally conceived Winner Takes All as a horse-racing quiz but it became a multiple choice game show when it was first produced by Yorkshire Television in 1975. Robin Wheeler recalled: 'He didn't want there to be a quiz where people have to say "I don't know the answer", which was very typical of him.' Geoffrey Wheeler, was born in Manchester in 1930 although much of his childhood was spend moving around the country due to his father's job as a hotel manager. He studied law at the University of Manchester. After auditioning for a radio drama, he made some two hundred radio broadcasts for the BBC while still a student. In 1954, he became a trainee BBC radio producer for the North of England, making variety programmes with comedians such as Benny Hill, Ken Dodd and Morecambe and Wise, and rising to become senior programme producer for the region by 1962.He soon began working as a television host on programmes including Come Dancing and, in 1960, an innovative early evening regional programme using mobile cameras, Lookout. After going freelance in 1963, Geoffrey presented the school quiz show Top Of The Form on BBC TV for twelve years from 1962. For Yorkshire Television, he presented the educational drama series How We Used to Live in 1969. He also presented Songs Of Praise many times over twenty years. 'My memories of him when I was at prep school was that he was constantly recognised in restaurants and on the street, and he would get quite a few letters,' Robin Wheeler said. Geoffrey is survived by his son, a daughter and four grandchildren. Geoffrey's younger brother, the broadcaster Peter Wheeler died in 2010.

Phil Everly, one half of The Everly Brothers, has died, aged seventy four, in California, his family has said. Everly died in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank of complications from lung disease on Friday, his wife, Patti, told the Los Angeles Times. 'We are absolutely heartbroken,' she said, adding that the disease was the result of a lifetime of smoking. Phil Everly and his brother, Don, made up The Everly Brothers, one of the biggest pop acts of the 1950s and early 1960s. They had a string of memorable and highly influential close-harmony hits including 'Wake Up Little Suzie', 'Cathy's Clown', 'Bye Bye Love', 'When Will I Be Loved?', 'Let It be Me', 'Crying In The Rain' and 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'. 'It's a terrible, terrible loss - for me, for everybody,' US rock pioneer Duane Eddy, a close friend of Everly, told BBC Radio 5Live. Phil died on Friday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his son Jason Everly told AP. The Washington Post quoted a woman at Don Everly's home as saying he was 'too upset' to talk about the death of his brother. 'He expected to go first,' she told the newspaper. Rolling Stone magazine called The Everly Brothers 'the most important vocal duo in rock' - a major claim considering the competition but one with a fair degree of truth in it. In the magazine's biography of the pair, it notes that Phil and his older brother were the children of Midwestern country music singers Ike and Margaret Everly and performed on the family radio show while growing up. In their heyday - between 1957 and 1962 - The Everly Brothers had nineteen Top Forty hits, may of which they wrote themselves. They had a huge influence on many subsequent acts notably The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Simon and Garkfunkel. The pair continued recording throughout the following decade but had an on-stage break-up in 1973 that led to a decade-long estrangement. Phil later told Time magazine the brothers' relationship had survived this. 'Don and I are infamous for our split,' Phil said, 'but we're closer than most brothers.' The brothers got back together in 1983. Their reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall was instigated by Albert Lee (who was also the concert's musical director). This concert spawned a well-received live LP and video. The brothers then returned to the studio as a duo for the first time in over a decade, resulting in the album EB '84, produced by Dave Edmunds. The single 'On the Wings of a Nightingale', written by yer actual Paul McCartney, was a minor success and returned them to the United States and UK charts for the first time since the mid-sixties. They then earned a final charting country-music hit with 'Born Yesterday' in 1986. The brothers also sang vocals with Paul Simon on the Grammy award-winning title song to Simon's Graceland. Even though the brothers had not produced studio LP since 1989's Some Hearts, they toured and performed. They collaborated with other performers, usually singing either back-up vocals or duets. In 1994, a 1981 live BBC recording of 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', featuring Cliff Richard and Phil sharing vocals, was a UK Top Twenty hit. The Everly Brothers were elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986, and they were given a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 1997.

This blogger really didn't know which one of several Everly Borthers singles that he adores he was going to chose for the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. So, in the end, he went for not one, not two, but three of them! Thanks for all of these, Phil (and Don, obviously).

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