Tuesday, February 11, 2014

G Is For Going Away

The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has said that casting the fifty five-year-old Peter Capaldi 'makes no difference' to Doctor Who. Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other God Before He) told IGN that the return to an older Doctor 'will not affect' the BBC's long-running popular family SF drama. 'It's all the difference in the world - because suddenly he's a man in his fifties with grey hair - and [yet] it's no difference at all,' the showrunner claimed. 'Never mind that, John Hurt's seventy three and how great was he? Kids love the John Hurt Doctor.' Moffat added that he could think of 'only one actor' of a similar age to Capaldi's predecessor, yer actual Matt Smith, 'who'd be a brilliant choice for The Doctor. But, you just think, "It's another sexy young man with amazing hair," and we've done that,' he argued, without, actually, naming the individual he had in mind. Doctor Who's eighth series is currently shooting in Cardiff and will be shown on BBC1 in the autumn of 2014.

Sherlock is to get its first official convention. Sherlocked will take place later in 2014 and will be run by Massive Events in association with Hartswood Films and Showmasters Ltd. The three-day convention will feature 'star guests, special activities, talks, photo shoots and autograph sessions.' Full details on cast and crew attendance, dates and, even, a venue are all yet to be confirmed. But what is known is that, if you fancy going, it's going to cost you an effing packet. Official conventions always do.

And, speaking of conventions (official, or otherwsie), this, dear blog reader, is likely to be the last From The North update for a short while as yer actual Keith Telly Topping has, you know, stuff to do. Just thought I'd let you know that in case you get worried.
But, before I do that, here's a nice picture of Lara Pulver from the Metro this week.
Well, that's certainly one sure-fire way of totally making a lot of chaps day. And, indeed, a fair number of ladies as well. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm suddenly feeling much more chipper. Next ...

More good news: Lewis is to return to ITV for an eighth series. Which is not only terrific for those of us who very much enjoy a decent bit of home-grown crime drama but, also, very good news for ITV3. Because it will mean that about a year after the new series is shown on ITV, they'll get their hands on it and be able to show the episodes twice a day for the rest of time, just like all the previous series (and episodes of Poirot, Foyle's War and Wire In The Blood for that matter). The detective drama has been recommissioned for six hour-long episodes, with stars Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox reprising their roles as Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway. The new series will see a retired Lewis returning to active duty and re-teaming with his old partner - now promoted to Inspector. 'Viewers have a great deal of respect for Inspector Lewis and a huge loyalty to Kevin Whately,' said ITV's Director of Drama, Steve November. 'Together with Laurence, he has forged a formidable partnership and we're delighted to have them back on ITV.' The new Lewis episodes will enter production in March with a broadcast date yet to be announced, but sometime later this year looks likely. Fox had previously claimed that the seventh series - which was broadcast in January and February 2013 - would probably be the show's last. But, since he's done virtually nowt since then, it looks like that might have been wishful thinking. The seventh series ended with Hathaway quitting his job, wracked with guilt after a suspect he had questioned aggressively killed himself. ITV said the new series would see the character return, newly promoted to Inspector. After he fails to find a suitable partner, his old colleague Lewis will be brought out of retirement. Other actors reprising their roles in the new series include the excellent Clare Holman as forensic pathologist Laura Hobson - and, Lewis's love interest - and the equally excellent Rebecca Front as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent. 'We're delighted ITV have commissioned series eight of Lewis,' executive producer Michele Buck said. 'Since we started producing the series in 2006, Lewis has achieved a reputation for thought-provoking stories and we're determined to continue to set high standards.' Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter will continue to serve as a production consultant on the drama.

The overnight audience for the second episode of Top Gear climbed by over two hundred thousand overnight punters week-on-week on Sunday evening. The BBC2 motoring series - loathed by some middle-class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star and jack-booted bully boy thugs with a sick agenda at the Daily Scum Mail but loved by many 'normal people' - attracted 5.5 million viewers at 8pm. Later, Dragons' Den held steady at 2.83m at 9pm, whilst Alan Davies's - marginally amusing - new series, Après-Ski appealed to a million punters at 10pm. BBC1's Call The Midwife continued its Sunday dominance, although it dipped by around two hundred thousand viewers from the previous week, its audience of 8.77m at 8pm was still enough to spank the bare bottom of all opposition. Countryfile appealed to 6.55m at 7pm whilst The Musketeers shed viewers for the third week running, on the same day that the BBC confirmed it had been recommissioned for a second series. The fourth episode for the BBC1 drama attracted a still very decent 5.1 million between 9pm and 10pm, down from 5.4 million the previous week. It still did more than enough to beat ITV's Mr Selfridge, however, which four episodes into its ten-part second series is now looking rather like a busted flush. It drew 4.36 million viewers. Twatting About on Ice also fell by over three hundred thousand to 5.19m at 6.15pm whilst the results show once again got owned by Top Gear, bringing in but 4.15m at 8.30pm. All-Star Family Fortunes was watched by 4.23m at 7.45pm. Channel Four's Scandimania gathered seven hundred and seventy thousand punters at 8pm, followed by the much-anticipated comedy drama Babylon, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, which had an audience of 1.37m at 9pm. On Channel Five, The Expendables had 1.19m at 9pm. The Winter Olympics proved a ratings winner for BBC2 over the weekend, with a peak audience of three million viewers watching Jenny Jones win Britain's first-ever medal on snow. That means she was skiing rather than she had been taking cocaine. Which she hadn't. Just so we're absolutely clear about that. Oh yes, very hot water. BBC2, which is the home of the BBC's coverage of the Sochi games after missing out on the London 2012 Olympics to sister channels BBC1 and BBC3, drew a fourteen per cent share of the audience across the whole of Sunday, more than twice its typical audience. With its daytime schedule dominated by coverage of the winter games, BBC2 beat ITV's all-day share on both Saturday (when the commercial channel had a risible eight per cent) and Sunday. The last time BBC2 out-rated ITV across a whole day's viewing was the final weekend in June last year with a combination of Wimbledon tennis, Top Gear and the Glastonbury music festival. Jones's slopestyle bronze medal win attracted a five-minute peak of three million viewers, although BBC2's coverage peaked later on Sunday with four million viewers around 7pm.

Meanwhile, more than three hundred absolute twenty four carat arseholes - with nothing better to do with their time, it would appear - have whinged to the BBC over 'the quality of commentary' during the snowboarding slopestyle final at the Winter Olympics. Jenny Jones's close friend and fellow British snowboarder Aimee Fuller had joined Ed Leigh and Tim Warwood in the commentary box. These whingers - a fraction of one per cent of the overall audience, just for a bit of context - apparently complained that the trio cheered when Jones's competitors fell, and that the commentary was 'of a low standard.' Well, how very dare they? Give them all a damned good slippering on their bums for such naughty badness. Jesus Christ, dear blog reader, the utter shite that some - risible - individuals chose to care about continues to both amaze and stagger. Fuller had taken part in the early stages of the event but failed to make the final, after which she was invited into the BBC box. Clearly delighted that her friend and team mate was doing so well, she was heard cheering when the final competitor, Austria's Anna Gasser, fell meaning that Jones would definitely clinch the bronze medal. Fuller quickly said: 'Are we supposed to do that? Probably not.' All three commentators began crying when it became clear that Jones had won a medal, Britain's first in a skiing event in Winter Olympic history. Warwood later tweeted: 'Snowboarding just won the Olympics and I just cried live on BBC2! If I get fired I'm invoicing you, Jenny Jones.' He is a former UK snowboarding champion who now presents CBBC's Wild! and Disney XD's Goalmouth. Ed Leigh is the, very experienced, presenter on Channel Four's Freesports and BBC2's Ski Sunday. As US snowboarder Karly Shorr began her run, Warwood said: 'She's got the same birthday as me, so she's obviously very cool.' Nice bit of completely useless info there, Timbo. Other comments - as reported by some cheerless louse of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star - included: 'She's got a face that could help bread rise', 'this feels like I've got slugs in my knickers' and 'riding switch is like writing left-handed while wearing a chip hat and being attacked by seagulls.' Interesting mental image, there. As Jones waited for her score, Leigh noted: 'I can feel my pulse in my lower intestine.' 'That's not your pulse, Ed,' Warwood replied. No, it's probably your lower intestines, that's what's usually in there. The commentary team also came in for criticism from a handful of loud-mouthed full-of-their-importance bell-ends on Twitter. Because, of course, as everybody who reads the Gruniad Morning Star knows, Twitter is the sole arbiter of the worth of all things. I don't think. A BBC spokesperson said: 'This was a truly historic occasion for Team GB and the commentary team were, understandably, very excited.' Indeed. And you'd think even the world's stupidest prick would have been able to work that out for themselves instead of whinging. 'However, we acknowledge that on occasion this excitement got the better of them and this is something that we will work on for future events.' So, Tim, it might be an idea for you to get that invoice for Jenny ready just in case you do get the old tin-tack. Which you hopefully won't but, you know what the BBC are like? Backbone like a plate of jelly. The BBC has also said it received fifty three whinges on its general Winter Olympics coverage since the event opened on Friday. From whingers.
Benefits Street continued with high ratings for its final episode on Monday night according to overnight data. The Channel Four series concluded with 4.02 million at 9pm. Later, Chris Stark's Celeb Hunter - whatever the hell that was - attracted six hundred and sixty two thousand gormless glakes at at 10pm. ITV's DCI Banks remained on top of the overnights, dipping slightly from last week to 5.69m at 9pm. A Great Welsh Adventure appealed to 3.49m at 8pm. On BBC1, Panorama interested 2.99m at 8.30pm, followed by Jeremy Paxman's Britain's Great War with 3.22m at 9pm. BBC2's Winter Olympics highlights scored 2.60m at 7pm. University Challenge had an audience of 3.26m at 8pm. On Channel Five, the Jim Davidson 'special' - and I use that word very ironically - At Least I'm Not Boring attracted 1.14m at 9pm. Police Interceptors gathered 1.01m at 8pm.

One of the highlights of Monday night telly was the opening episode of Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades. Not just because it was as gregarious, witty and opinionated as last year's Album Showdown or that Peter Hook was as dry and sarky as ever but, also, because Viv Albertine is still a fine lookin' lady.
Following that The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern sent up, brilliantly, exactly the kind of thoughtful and worthy music documentary that BBC4 specialises in (all done with a lot of affection, let it be said). But, despite the presence of Simon Day, Vic and Bob, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers, Annie Nightingale, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman ('I played piano on that!') et al, the best thing about it - by a mile - was the always excellent Michael Kitchen's deliciously foul-mouthed manager, John Farrow, who got all the wittiest lines: 'I am there to protect the interest of the artists. And, very often, the artists from themselves. It is my job to say "no" when they want to tour some ridiculous country where people can't even afford yoghurt let alone concert tickets or they want to put on some pretentious rock opera starring the cast of Sherlock!'
Death In Paradise jumped to a new series overnight peak on Tuesday. The popular BBC1 crime drama attracted 7.19 million viewers at 9pm, climbing by over half-a-million punters from the previous week. Later, A Question Of Sport was watched by 2.38m at 10.35pm. BBC2's Winter Olympics coverage was seen by 2.75m at 7pm, followed by Children's Emergency Rescue with 1.83m at 8pm, Inside The Animal Mind with 1.37m at 9pm and House Of Fools with six hundred and seventy seven thousand at 10pm. On ITV, Chris Tarrant's final look back at Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire? brought in 2.21m at 8pm. River Monsters gathered 2.45m at 7.30pm, while Births, Deaths & Marriages interested 2.15m at 9pm. Channel Four's Location, Location, Location appealed to 2.11m at 8pm. The Taste continued with eight hundred and thirty four thousand at 9pm, while Secrets Of The Pickpockets was seen by eight hundred and forty thousand at 10pm. On Channel Five, Gibraltar: Britain In The Sun had an audience of 1.09m at 8pm, followed by Two Hundred Nips & Tucks & I Want More! with 1.07m at 9pm. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit pulled in eight hundred and fifty three thousand at 10pm.

The final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Seven programmes for week-ending Sunday 2 February are as follows:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.55m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 9.91m
3 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 9.37m
4 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.65m
5 Death In Paradise - Tues BBC1 - 8.04m
6 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.98m
7 Birds Of A Feather -Thurs ITV - 7.26m
8 Silent Witness - Thurs BBC1 - 7.09m
9 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.02m
10 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 6.93m
11 Outnumbered - Wed BBC1 - 6.80m
12 The Musketeers - Sun BBC1 - 6.77m
13 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.14m
14 Top Gear - Sun BBC2 - 6.12m
15 Rugby: Six Nations - Sat BBC1 - 5.97m
16 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - Sat BBC - 5.95m
17 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 5.84m*
18 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.42m
19 Twatting About On Ice - Sun ITV - 5.28m*
20 Benefits Street - Mon Channel Four - 5.04m
21 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.97m
22 Mr Selfridge - Sun ITV - 4.91m*
23 Benidorm - Thurs ITV - 4.87m*
24 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.71m
25Britain's Great War - Mon BBC1 - 4.65m
26 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.60m
27 Fake or Fortune? - Sun BBC1 - 4.48m
ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. BBC2's top-rated show of the week apart from Top Gear was Dragons' Den (3.13m), followed by University Challenge (2.98m) and Horizon (2.86). Channel Four's highest-rated show, apart from Benefit Street was The Undateables with 2.61m. The finale of Celebrity Big Brother was Channel Five's best performer with 3.53m. Let us, once again, all simply stand up and applaud the British public for giving Pro-Celebrity Drowning a thoroughly laughable consolidated audience (minus HD) of but 3.5 million punters for the second week running. Steady, but rubbish. BBC4's final two episodes of series two of The Bridge were the most viewed programmes on multi-channels, watched by 1.62m and 1.55m respectively.

Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke are to star in a new ITV drama Chasing Shadows. Shearsmith will play Detective Sergeant Sean Stone in the four-part series, which follows a special unit hunting down serial killers. Socially awkward but brilliant, Stone is a misfit with self-destructive tendencies and an eccentric manner. Kingston will play his partner, Ruth Hattersley. An analyst from the Missing Persons Bureau, Hattersley is tasked to work alongside Stone and her empathic nature helps to balance out his awkward temperament. Fellow Doctor Who veteran Clarke has been cast in the role of DI Prior in the drama from DCI Banks writer Rob Williams. Christopher Menaul will direct the first self-contained story Only Connect across two episodes. The director of the second two-part story Off Radar will be Jim O'Hanlon. Sounds promising.

Ever fancied being Top Gear's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, doing a lap with The Stig his very self in the passenger seat? If you have, the guys at BBC Worldwide have given you the chance to put your face in the driving seat using an app on the show's Facebook page. Those of you thinking about putting one of Jezza Clarkson's adversaries such as odious oily twat Piers Morgan in the driving seat – the sacked former Mirra editor tweeted, pompously, last year 'I don't drive reasonably priced cars' – may be disappointed, however. You have to use one of your own profile pics for the photo.
At Channel Five, their head of programmes Ben Frow's campaign to differentiate soft-core pornographer Richard Desmond's up-for-sale station from the 'downmarket' Channel Four (Frow's words, not anybody elses) is going absolutely brilliantly, it would seem. After a Celebrity Big Brother which Desmond's own Daily Lies suggested was 'the filthiest ever' – and quoted z-list participant Linda Nolan as calling it 'a porn show' – the mission is continuing with Frow's factual fare. This week's highlights on Channel Five include a documentary called She's Seventy Eight, He's Thirty Nine: Age Gap Love and, next week, they're showing Two Hundred Nips and Tucks and I Still Want More!. Classier and, indeed, classier.

The US remake of Broadchurch has lost one of its stars. Georgina Rylance has exited FOX's adaptation - retitled Gracepoint - 'for creative reasons', TVLine reports. Probably because she suspects, as yer actual Keith Telly Topping also does, that it'll end up a right load of old effing toot, just like ever other US adaptation of British TV format. The actress previously signed up to play flirtatious hotel owner Gemma, but the role will now be recast. Yer actual David Tennant will lead the cast of Gracepoint while Breaking Bad actress Anna Gunn will star as the show's female lead.

Davina McCall had to be carried out of the water after completing a one and a half mile swim in a freezing cold Windermere as part of her Sport Relief challenge. The presenter appeared to be limp as her team carried her to a nearby hotel. She had been in tears before the swim, telling BBC1's Breakfast: 'I'm quite nervous about it because I know it's life-threatening, really, that water.' She was later pictured with a hot drink and tweeted: 'That was hairy. The moment I got in the water my chest felt crushed,' added McCall, after recovering from her ordeal. 'I couldn't do front crawl, I couldn't put my head under water, I couldn't breathe. I kept trying to lift my arm to swim, trying to pull the crawl out of the bag, but I couldn't even get it up. I ended up doing doggy paddle! Although I'm shattered, I never felt unsafe, I'm in the best possible hands.' The former Big Brother host is mid-way through a seven-day triathlon challenge during which she is running, swimming and cycling more than five hundred miles from Edinburgh to London. Sport Relief's own Twitter feed gave a blow-by-blow account of her swim. Their reporter wrote that McCall was 'really struggling to get air in her frozen lungs' and that she was 'shedding tears in the water.' At one stage, McCall had to hold onto her support team's kayak and the Twitter feed said: 'Unfortunately this swim is proving to be every bit as difficult as Davina feared. She's stopped. She's talking to herself, desperate not to give up. This is hard to watch. She's battling with herself and the water.' The comments continued: 'Very slow progress now. She can't afford to stay in the water too long. Third of a mile still to do.' The final moments of her swim were put on YouTube and showed just how weak she had become as she was carried to warmth to raise her core temperature. She was described as 'very distressed' as she reached the finishing line. After she recovered, McCall posted a short film on Instagram, saying: 'I am alive, I can't quite believe I'm getting on a bike. I'd quite like to go to bed right now, but I can do this, I've just swum Lake Windermere.' McCall, who has presented shows including Channel Four's Million Pound Drop and ITV's Long Lost Family, had earlier told Breakfast that Windermere was 'absolutely beautiful but perishingly cold' with the temperature at 5.9 degrees Celsius. She added that she had already had to battle 'horrific, gale force, really gusty winds' on her bicycle during the challenge. Within hours of setting off on Saturday morning her team was concerned she was exhibiting signs of hypothermia during her one hundred and thirty-mile stint in the saddle. Long-term Sport Relief challenges trainer Professor Greg Whyte said: 'These are the worst weather conditions we've seen on any challenge - it's the worst weather ever.' On Monday, McCall successfully climbed through snow on Scafell Pike. The presenter told Breakfast she was being 'well looked after' and that it was 'incredibly tough' eating enough food to give her energy. 'I've got an amazing team of people around me who keep trying to force feed me, it's the hardest thing trying to consume calories. I'm having to consume eight thousand calories a day, which normally I'd just think was brilliant and I'd just have a drip feed of banoffee pie, but actually it's really hard when you're very anxious and frightened all the time. You don't want to eat. It's the last thing I want to do.' The presenter is following other celebrities who completed tough Sport Relief challenges, including David Walliams who swam down the River Thames, contracting stomach bugs and developing wetsuit sores along the way. Comic John Bishop did back-to-back marathon distance runs from Paris to London and was in great pain amid worries about stress fractures.

And now a story very definitely from both the 'B-list celebrities throwing their weight around' and 'big fight, little people' columns. Both of which are, usually comedy gold at the best of times. This, it would appear, if no different. Nigella Lawson - she has her knockers - appeared to get into a online spat with the lover of her ex-husband, Charles Saatchi earlier this week. Lawson tweeted a recipe for 'Slut's Spaghetti' after Trinny Woodall (remember her?) seemed to take aim at the TV chef in a blog marking her fiftieth birthday. Got to say, if this all ends up in a big girly catfight - with the hair-pulling and the scratching and that - this blogger would bet good money on Big Nigella being able to snap Skinny Trinny in half and throw her across London like a matchstick. But, remember, fighting is for zeroes, kids. Don't do it. The former What Not To Wear presenter - who celebrated her fiftieth with the seventy-year-old Saatchi in the Lake District - posted a blog which appeared to reference the infamous photos of the art dealer shaking Nigella, warmly, by the throat which led to divorce proceedings and a poliss caution. 'It's great that, at fifty, life can still grab you by the throat and shake you up,' she wrote. Ho, and indeed, ho. 'And it's even better when you've learned to cope with whatever's thrown at you — so long as it isn't a bedside lamp.' In what appeared to be a further attack on Lawson, Woodall wrote: 'If you used to like showing your cleavage, just be aware your skin probably looks like old chammy leather now. So wear something round-necked. You can still show off your shape.' Careful, chuck, Nige has her close personal friend the prime Minister on 'Team Nigella', he said so his very self. Soon afterwards, Lawson tweeted her five hundred thousand Twitter followers: 'Slut’s Spaghetti — aka pasta alla puttanesca — is recipe of the day. Do I need to say anything more?' Okay, please do, this is jolly entertaining.
Janice Hadlow has announced she is to step down as BBC2 controller. She will now take on a wider role within the TV division. Hadlow has run BBC2 since November 2008, and will remain in her position until early March. Her new role will include developing new series, seasons and special TV events across different platforms on the BBC, and will advise director of television Danny Cohen and other controllers. Hadlow's departure will occur shortly before BBC2's fiftieth anniversary in April. Cohen described Hadlow as 'an extraordinarily successful leader.' He said: 'Janice truly understands how to make the popular good and the good popular. Her intellectual and creative skills are formidable and I am very glad indeed that she has decided to stay with us in BBC Television in a new senior role.' Hadlow added: 'There's nothing quite like BBC2 anywhere else in television, and, as it approaches its fiftieth birthday, I'm incredibly proud to have played a part in its distinguished, stimulating and always surprising history.' Highlights during Hadlow's control of the channel include commissioning Peaky Blinders and The Fall, as well as the hugely successful series The Great British Bake Off. Hadlow's other BBC2 credits have included acclaimed Olympics comedy Twenty Twelve and Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan's The Trip, documentaries 7/7 and The Secret Life Of The Cat (the latter watched by more than five million viewers), Stargazing Live with Brian Cox and its Shakespeare season, The Hollow Crown. Janice joined the BBC in 1987 as a Radio 4 producer. She was also controller of BBC4 from 2004 to 2008.

Bell-end Michael Grade has said the BBC has become 'unmanageable' and called on licence fee money to be used to fund Channel Four, which he used to run. So, no obvious, sick, agenda going down there, then. The former BBC chairman and chief executive of Channel Four (and, the plank who cancelled Doctor Who, now one of the BBC's biggest money-spinners, let us never forget) told MPs on Tuesday that there should be 'a radical shake-up' of both broadcasters, with a smaller BBC – including the merger of BBC2 and BBC4 – and a publicly-funded Channel Four, which he said was commercially 'unsustainable. Where the BBC fails is in its management. It has become virtually unmanageable,' Grade claimed. 'It tries to do everything itself. It is now into property, the post-production business, it's into everything and has become far too big in areas it doesn't need to be in.' Such is the scale of the role of the Director General, Grade said, 'there was no person on earth who can do the job successfully. We ask the Director General to be a master of the digital universe, a master of property, of international exploitation and distribution, of studio management, production, creativity. I don't know any business that is as diversified as the BBC.' Grade, who was giving evidence on the future of the BBC to the House of Commons culture select committee, said the BBC had to slash back its cost base and outsource large swathes of its business to the private sector. 'That is the only way they are going to keep the licence fee within a number that is affordable and defensible,' he claimed. Grade added 'some things would have to go"' including a combined BBC2 and BBC4, echoing calls made by former BBC executive - and knobhead - Roger Mosey and presenter - and numskull - David Dimbleby. Which, as this blogger has previously discussed, at length, has all the hallmarks of frigging stupid notions from the tiny brains of troglodyte morons with a specific - and sinister - agenda to push. 'The nation is in desperate need of more spectrum, it's a precious resource,' said Grade. 'The distinction between BBC2 and BBC4 seems to be very blurred.' Which it isn't. 'They are trying to stretch too little money over too much. It is a small example of what could be done. I am much more interested in the BBC withdrawing from services that it could get from the private sector.' Grade, a former BBC1 controller - and a shite one, at that - who was chief executive of Channel Four for a decade until 1997 repeated a suggestion, he made in 2010, that Channel Four should be turned into a publicly funded broadcaster paid for through the licence fee. He said that increased competition and the 'haemorrhaging' of the TV advertising market meant a commercially funded Channel Four's was no longer a sustainable model. 'You can go one of two ways – you can relieve Channel Four of its public-service organisations and let it float into the free market, or if you believe as I do that the BBC should have some public-service competition to fill the gap, then I think Channel Four could come into play as a competitor to the BBC for the licence fee.' By contrast, John Birt, who gave evidence alongside Grade on Tuesday and was Director General of the BBC between 1992 and 2000, said that the job of Director General was 'difficult, but doable.' He said it 'plainly needs to be looked at how you can run the institution more effectively.' Birt said the BBC had performed 'exceptionally well' in recent years and been an 'amazing technological innovator' but that 'there have been some pratfalls' which 'raise questions about the way in which the BBC is organised and run.' Birt was fiercely critical of the last licence-fee settlement, done at breakneck pace as the BBC was dragged into the government's spending review, describing it as 'unseemly' and 'skulduggery in the middle of the night. To my knowledge, I can't recall any debate in the House of Commons, there wasn't in the House of Lords, and it effectively took sixteen per cent out of the BBC's funding overnight,' he said. 'It was a sorry, sorry day, a very regrettable piece of policy-making on behalf of the government. We have to fix that particular issue to make sure it never happens again.' Birt, a former executive at Granada and LWT, said there had been 'a draining away' of competition in British broadcasting, most obviously on ITV. 'If I ran ITV, I wouldn't do it any different, ditto Channel Four. I don't like monopolies and we are facing a situation where the BBC has an increasing monopoly on creative matters.'

Meanwhile, another former Director General, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten for his role in 'a pretty dismal twelve months' for the corporation. Dyke said that Patten, who he has previously described as 'a busted flush', did not do enough to back the then Director General George Entwistle, who resigned after just fifty four days in the job at the height of the Jimmy Savile fiasco. 'I don't think [Patten's] doing a good job because I don't know where he was when the crisis happened,' Dyke told MPs on the culture committee on Tuesday. 'Let me take that a bit further: the relationship between a chairman and chief executive is all-important in any organisation, it is the most important relationship probably in the organisation, and I thought at the stage at which George Entwistle was clearly in difficulty he needed significantly more support than he got.' Dyke appeared alongside former BBC chairman Gavyn Davies as part of the committee's investigation into the future of the BBC ahead of its charter renewal at the end of 2017. Reflecting on the Savile fiasco, Dyke said: 'I don't think you could describe the Savile affair as a consequence of what the BBC is today. I doubt whether if Savile had been in the commercial sector it would have been any different.' He added: 'I never had any doubt the Newsnight decision [not to run a report on claims against dirty old scallywag and rotten rotter Savile] was taken by the editor of Newsnight. If you are the Director General of the BBC and you ask Newsnight not to run a programme, it will be all over the papers within twenty four hours.' Despite recent troubles, Davies said that the BBC 'had a pretty good decade' and 'remained pretty central to our national life.' But, he admitted it had a tendency to be over-competitive and paid 'too much attention to ratings. I thought that the first day I walked through the door and I thought it more the last day. There is no other currency for them, they don't have revenue and they don't have profits.' Dyke said the BBC was the reason Britain's TV industry was more successful than its big screen counterpart. He admitted 'no-one would invent' the licence fee today but said the principle of universality, with all of the BBC's services available to everyone, was hugely important. He said the BBC 'had to serve the young black guy in Leeds as much as the affluent South of England viewer.' Davies said the rise of the iPlayer and the different ways people were able to watch television meant 'one day the licence fee based on a TV in a sitting room may not be a sustainable thing for the BBC to base its funding on. Right now I think it still is. In ten years time? We will have to think about alternatives.' On the subject of one of the corporation's most persistent critics, the Daily Scum Mail, Dyke said: 'I had a piece of research done looking at Daily Mail readers and the BBC. What was really interesting, the average Daily Mail reader is more likely to support the BBC than the population at large. One shouldn't confuse what the Daily Mail thinks with what Daily Mail readers think. As long as the BBC appeals at some stage to most people, that's the test.'

On Wednesday, some poor hapless BBC staffer was charged with doing an OB on the flooding in South England from yer actual Staines. 'Staines-upon-Thames' said the caption. If this is anything to go by, shouldn't that be 'Staines-IN-Thames'?
Kronenbourg scored something of an own goal in their advert featuring Eric Cantona which claimed hop farmers in France were as lauded as footballers are in the UK. While this may well be true, the advertising watchdog decided the implication was that the lager was brewed in France – despite (extremely small) on-screen text making it clear that it was, actually, produced in Good Old Blighty. Le Grand Eric says that the farmers are 'idolised and adored', but not, seemingly, by the ASA, which saw fit to give the advert the red card.
The government has failed in its, rather silly, bid to silence a spoof JobCentre Plus Twitter feed which mocked welfare policies. Twitter bosses had shut down the satirical @UKJCP site last month, following a complaint from the Department for Work and Pensions. But it was restored on Saturday morning after those behind the account successfully petitioned the social media site, saying that suspending the account 'amounted to censorship' by 'effectively silencing criticism of UK Government.' Senior civil servants had previously evoked threats of libel proceedings against Twitter in its bid to close the account, a document published under a Freedom Of Information request, revealed. In an earlier official complaint, the DWP's brand and public information manager, Jon Woodcock, said: 'The @UKJCP account has been set up with deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of JobCentre Plus. There are a number of rude and potentially libelous [sic] tweets aimed at UK government, elected politicians and the heads of large private sector organisations who are committed to working with government on reducing unemployment.' Or, making fun of people who really don't like being made fun of, in other words. The department further stated that it wished to use the account – which has twelve thousand three hundred followers – for itself. Twitter refused to comment on the initial suspension for 'privacy reasons' but pointed to its policies for parody accounts, impersonation and trademark violations. However, the account, which has adapted the official JobCentre Plus logo so it read 'Job Centre Pus', was upfront about being a parody, saying in its description: 'Welfare rights information, news, satire and parody. We're not the real UK Job Centre Plus we're just funnier.'

Although the launch of Evgeny Lebedev's local TV channel London Live is still nearly two months away, working patterns at Lebedev's Independent have already been altered by it. According to rival hippy Communist rag, the Gruniad Morning Star in an extremely sneering piece of the kind those lice seem to specialise in, 'every afternoon, the struggling paper's newsdesk – who are also asked to keep their workstations unnaturally tidy, lest roving cameras pick up scruffy signs of journalistic activity – are required to vacate their seats and relocate ten feet to provide an exciting if somewhat bogus visual backdrop for the TV station's studio. Mutterings about "Potemkin television", referencing Lebedev's compatriot who created fake villages for Catherine The Great, are inevitably getting louder.' As preparations advance, the wisdom of the station's branding is being questioned, given the fate of an earlier channel that similarly had Live in its name and which was a press empire's spin-off trumpeting ultra-cheap, lively programmes by and about young Londoners as its chief selling-point. The previous venture was, of course, the Mirra Group's infamous and ill-fated L!ve TV, launched by Janet Street-Porter in 1995 but later overseen by odious former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie who, notoriously, brought in such classic programming as Topless Darts, the News Bunny and weather forecasts presented by a trampolining dwarf.

Samuel L Jackson has scolded a US TV host who mistook him for fellow movie star Laurence Fishburne. KTLA reporter Sam Rubin began an interview with the actor by asking about his recent Super Bowl commercial. He was referring to an advert for the new Kia Sedan - in which Fishburne reprised his role from The Matrix. 'We don't all look alike! We may all be black and famous but we don't all look alike,' said Jackson looking for all the world like he was about to strike down upon Rubin with great vengeance and furious anger. 'There's more than one black guy doing a commercial.' He continued: 'I'm the "What's in your wallet?" black guy. He's the car black guy! Morgan Freeman is the other credit card black guy. You only hear his voice, though, so you probably won't confuse him with Laurence Fishburne,' said the actor, who was appearing live from Atlanta. Rubin, who was probably quite glad he was several states away in his studio in Hollywood, grovellingly apologised on numerous occasions and tried to steer Jackson onto a discussion about the revival of Robocop - the original reason for him doing the interview in the first place. 'Let's talk about Robocop,' he said. 'Oh hell, no,' replied Jackson. 'There must be a very short line for your job,' he continued. The actor continued to rib Rubin for his mistake, asking if he would have trouble telling apart his co-stars Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton. 'You do know who they all are though, right? Just in case they have some of them on the show. Do some work. Do some research. Make sure you don't confuse them with those other white actors,' he said. Veteran entertainment correspondent Rubin, who has won numerous awards during his career, said on-air after his gaffe that 'more often than not I really do know what I'm talking about. But I didn't thirty minutes ago and I'm really embarrassed about it, and I very much apologise to Samuel L Jackson and anyone else who was offended for what was a very amateur mistake.'
James Arthur, who is an X-Factor-type person, apparently, has been whinging about his lot in life and is quoted in several newspapers as saying: 'I wish I was still poor and unknown.' One is sure that, given eighteen months, the general public can arrange both of those wishes for you, Jim, mate.

Meanwhile, speaking of talentless young flibbertigibbets, One Direction have claimed that they are not as good as The Be-Atles. They were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, dear blog reader, you might have heard of them. A quote from the band (presumably, they spoke as one as some kind of five-headed gestalt entity) states: 'We all sat and watched the film [of The Be-Atles] arriving in America and that really was like us. Stepping off the plane, the girls, the madness, it was the same as when we got there. But none of us think we're in the same league as then, music-wise.' No shit, Sherlock?
Jackets worn by yer actual George Harrison and Ringo Starr his very self in The Be-Atles' 1965 film Help! are being put up for sale. The jackets also appear on the iconic LP cover of the movie's soundtrack. The comedy musical - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping - was directed by Richard Lester and the jackets are from his private collection. They are part of an auction of more than two hundred lots of rare Be-Atles memorabilia and are expected to sell for more than fifty thousand smackers and that. The film saw the popular beat combo - George, Ringo, Paul and the alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie ('rhtyhm guitar and mouth organ') - come up against an evil and naughty Indian cult who want to slit Ringo, jolly, with a knife and included a sequence where they flee to the Austrian Alps to seek refuge. George and Ringo wore the jackets in question throughout the six days of filming which took place in Obertauern (15 to 20 March 1965 according to Barry Miles's ever-reliable The Beatles Diary Volume One) during which time they also smoked a shitload of weed and tried not to get blown up by Victor Spinetti's 'fiendish thingy'. Auctioneer Paul Fairweather said he believe they would sell very quickly. 'As Beatles clothing goes these have got to be amongst the Holy Grail for any Be-Atles collector. They feature on one of their most recognisable album covers and I have a feeling these could really fly off the block! The coats are tailored and very stylish and if I had the money to afford them I would wear them without hesitation,' he added. The sale, which will also include a large collection of rare vinyl takes place 20 March, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Be-Atles single 'Can't Buy Me Love'. A fiendish thingy is not thought to be part of the auction. They're using all of those at the Winter Olympics at the moment.
There were mixed fortunes for the Russian speed skater Olga Graf on Monday at the Winter Olympics where, first, she landed a surprise bronze medal, but then nearly stripped off for fans in Sochi. The thirty-year-old came third in the women’s three thousand metres metres long track speed skating and promptly unzipped her lycra suit, not realising she had nothing on underneath. TV viewers worldwide had a glimpse of Big Olga's bare torso (and, nothing more than that). She said later: 'I totally forgot [I had nothing on underneath]. We have very good suits and they are very tight. You just want to breathe and take off your suit. Only afterwards did I realise that maybe this video will appear on YouTube. But I don't think it will be so bad.'
TV review of the week, yet again, comes from yer actual Keith Watson in the Metro. 'Benefits Street ended last night but I just couldn't bring myself to sign on when you know the "stars" will pop up on next year's Celebrity Big Brother or, failing that, on Splash! as an injury sub.'

The BBC has commissioned two hundred more episodes of Pointless. The new deal will stretch over three series - the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth - for BBC Daytime, along with twenty four episodes of Pointless Celebrities in primetime. Pam Cavannagh, BBC Commissioning Editor, said: 'It is great to see Pointless go from strength to strength, pulling in stellar ratings for BBC1 in both its weekday and primetime Saturday night spot.' Pointless - hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman - originally launched on BBC2 in 2009 and was shifted to BBC1 in 2011. The quiz has proved to be a surprise ratings success for the BBC, with the highest-rating episode of series ten pulling in 5.18m viewers and the highest-ever rated episode of Pointless Celebrities attracting 7.7m on 14 December.

'A cacophony of jangling, misheard and misused words, a sea of Stygian self-justification and stilted self-conscious prose.' AA Gill's caustic review of Morrissey's Autobiography has been named the Hatchet Job of the Year. Gill - a full-of-his-own-importance wanker at the best of times - was revealed as the winner of the coveted prize, set up by The Omnivore website and going to the writer 'of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review' of the past year, on Tuesday of this week. The Sunday Times journalist was up against biting write-ups from the likes of David Sexton, Rachel Cooke and Peter Kemp, but was found to be easily the most scathing of reviewers by judges Rosie Boycott, Brian Sewell and John Sutherland. 'The thirty reviewers on the long list were easily reduced to eight, and then, as we knocked them off the list from bottom to the top, the winner emerged without argument. It was exactly like awarding the head boy a gold cup for expert caning,' said Sewell. Mozza's Autobiography was published by Penguin, under its Classics imprint – a decision with which Gill takes great issue in his review, calling it the singer's 'most Pooterishly embarrassing piece of intellectual social climbing.' Gill concludes that putting the book, 'a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness', in Penguin Classics 'doesn't diminish Aristotle or Homer or Tolstoy; it just roundly mocks Morrissey, and this is a humiliation constructed by the self-regard of its victim.' His review also lays into Morrissey's take on his early life – 'laughably overwrought and overwritten, a litany of retrospective hurt and score-settling that reads like a cross between Madonna and Catherine Cookson' – before dismissing the memoir as a book which should never have been written. 'This is a book that cries out like one of his maudlin ditties to be edited. But were an editor to start, there would be no stopping. It is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability,' writes Gill. Which, coming from an apparent smug, odious fuck like Gill whose writings seldom - if ever - include any of those things is, frankly, a bit rich. He continues: 'Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities.' The Hatchet Job of the Year prize is intended to 'raise the profile of professional critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism.' Tuesday's ceremony at the Coach and Horses pub in Soho, saw Gill presented with 'The Golden Hatchet' and, with a year's supply of potted shrimp. Nice. He became the second Sunday Times journalist to win the award: Camilla Long took the prize last year, for her write-up of Rachel Cusk's memoir Aftermath, in which she dismissed Cusk as 'a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish', and who 'describes her grief in expert, whinnying detail.' Adam Mars-Jones won the inaugural Hatchet for his review of Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall, in the Observer.

Former Doctor Who director Christopher Barry has died, aged eighty eight. Chris began his TV directing career in the 1950s and was behind the camera on some of Doctor Who's most iconic episodes. The longest-serving director on the original run of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama (and one of only three directors to work with all of the first four Doctors), Barry's credits include The Daleks' first appearance in 1963's The Dead Planet episode. Chris joined the Doctor Who team in the late summer of 1963, when he was assigned to direct the second story, The Daleks, replacing Rex Tucker who had left after artistic differences with Verity Lambert. The script he would bring to life would see the introduction of The Daleks and ensure the success of the fledgling series. Chris ended up directing episodes one, two four and five of the story, creating the iconic 'sink-plunger' cliffhanger at the end of episode one. He was in the studio directing episode two when the news of President Kennedy's assassination broke on 22 November 1963. He also directed Patrick Troughton's first outing - 1966's The Power Of The Daleks' - and Tom Baker's debut - 1975's Robot as well as directing Jon Pertwee in the 1971 story The Dæmons, fondly regarded as a particular favourite by many members of the cast and production team. Although, being the contrary sod he is, yer actual Keith Telly Topping reckons it's a bit over-rated, personally (the 'chap with wings, five rounds rapid' line notwithstanding). Chris's final Doctor Who work was 1979's The Creature From The Pit (and, it wasn't his fault the script was such a turkey). Christopher began his film and TV career in the movies, working as an assistant director on star vehicles including Meet Mr Lucifer (1953), The Love Lottery (1954) and The Ship That Died Of Shame (1955). By 1958 he was directing, working on the BBC's Starr and Company, the crime drama Private Investigator and the long-running soap opera Compact. He was also renowned for his work on Thirty Minute Theatre, Z Cars, Paul Temple, The Onedin Line, Juliet Bravo, Dramarama, Out Of The Unknown (the classic 1969 adaptation of John Wyndham's Random Quest), Moonbase 3, Angels, Poldark, All Creatures Great and Small, The Flying Swan, No Cloak - No Dagger and The Tripods among many others. He also wrote episodes of the 1966 mini-series Broome Stages. Since retired, Barry was residing in Oxfordshire at the time of his death.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's A To Z Of Groovy Music, dear blog reader, G is for a guy, as it were, called Gerald.

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