Thursday, February 20, 2014

Week Nine: I Is For Injury (And, Also, Inconvenient)

So, as noted in the last blog update, the twenty fifth Gallifrey One convention, held in Los Angeles over the weekend, is now over and done with and yer actual Keith Telly Topping has returned, unwillingly, to the UK. Where he is, currently, suffering from a reet nasty bad back. The two things are not, entirely, unrelated as this blogger is sure you can imagine, dear blog reader. Spending the best part of twenty four hours sitting in aeroplane seats over the last week doesn't do much for the spirit or, indeed, the skeleton. And, can yer actual Keith Telly Topping get an appointment to see his doctor about this occurrence? No, he can't (rhetorical question, just in case you were wondering, dear blog reader). The reason? Keith Telly Topping's doctor is, currently, on holiday himself and out of the country. The bloody sod! Not good news at a time when this blogger's spinal column resembles a cheese grater and, every sudden move he makes hurts like buggery. Doctor Chris will be back next week, they reckon, so I've, provisionally, booked in an appointment for first thing on the following Monday morning. By that time, yer actual may have exhausted Keith Telly Topping's current supply of Ibuprofen, Tramadol, Codeine and, indeed, money to put in the Stately Telly Topping Manor swear box. Travel may broaden the mind, dear blog reader, but it narrow's the vertebrae, which is considerably less delightful.

One delightful post-Gallifrey thing that this blogger has to mention which yer actual Keith Telly Topping omitted from his - less than thorough - convention round-up: On one of the panels he was on, yer actual Keith Telly Topping got asked a question about his BBC Newcastle colleague Jonathan Miles. No, really. Seems the interview that Jonny and Keith Telly Topping did last October when The Web Of Fear and The Enemy of The World were recovered was linked to on several Doctor Who website when it turned up on iPlayer (not least, this one) and, in a very minor way, it when mildly viral around parts of fandom. Someone asked Keith Telly Topping about it and he explained that there are about forty local BBC radio stations around the country and each one of them has their own, tame, captive Doctor Who fan on-call so that when any major news story about the show breaks - like episode recoveries or anniversary stories - they get wheeled out for the occasion. Anyway, seems a lot of people had heard the interview on iPlayer, and particularly liked Jonny playing the Nigerian national anthem before we started. Keith Telly Topping mentioned that he stood up and saluted during this which got a round of applause. Then, one guy said: 'So, tell me, is Jonathan Miles as camp as he sounds?' To which yer actual Keith Telly Topping replied, truthfully: 'Oh God, no. He's ten times worse than that!' This, also, got a laugh. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping then said that we should probably try to drag Jonathan out there next year and have him walking around the lobby with a mic interviewing people dressed as Cybermen. He'd fit in like a natural!
Karen Gillan has defended Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat's ability to write for female characters from the ignorant whinging of people whom nobody normal actually gives a big stiff shit about. So, The Special People in other words. Speaking at The Dallas SF Expo, Kazza 'spoke out against' (that's Internet speak for 'mentioned in passing, when asked') 'critics' (that's Internet speak for 'mad people') who have accused Moffat of sexism, according to the DoctorWhoTV website. Who the fuck these 'critics' are and what gives them the insane idea that their views are any more worthy of being listened to than anyone else with access to a computer is not, at this time, known. But, we can probably guess. 'I just don't understand that,' the actress said. 'I feel like [with Amy Pond] I had a very rounded, interesting, flawed and layered character to play.' Kazza continued: 'I wore skirts but Steven Moffat had nothing to do with that. He doesn't care about costumes. So I don't really understand [the criticism] if I've got to be honest.' Presumably, it came from people who don't wear skirts. So, that would be men, basically. 'cept for Scotsmen, obviously. Meanwhile, as a very special treat, dear blog reader, here's the first ever picture taken of Smudger and Kaz in costume, which was released by the BBC this week exactly four years to the day that the first official photos of the pair were disributed. This one wasn't,actually, used then. But, we're delighted to see it now. Well, I say we, this blogger certainly is. I couldn't give a frig about anybody else!
And, speaking of yer man Smudger, that bastion of always truthful and accurate reportage the Daily Mirra is claiming that Matt has agreed to film a cameo appearance for the first episode of the next series of Doctor Who. Time will tell if this is true or not. It usually does.
One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Michael Smiley, has been linked with a role in Doctor Who. Not by anyone you'd trust as far as you could spit, admittedly, but rather 'some people on the Internet.' Rumours emerged over the weekend that the Luther actor will appear in a role in an episode of Peter Capaldi's forthcoming first series. Mind you rumours also emerged over the weekend that Planet of Giants episode four had been recovered by the BBC. From Antarctica. Or somewhere, So, you know, take both of these rumours with as many pinches salt as you feel is applicable, dear blog reader. For what it's worth, the Michael Smiley rumour certainly has a deal more credibility than the Planet of Giants one. Then again, so has the rumour that Elvis faked his own death and now lives on Mars with Lord Lucan and the Easter Bunny. So, who knows? A BBC spokesperson told the Digital Spy website that reports linking Smiley to the show are 'just speculation.' Which, to be fair, isn't actually a denial (though, it's not a confirmation, either, merely a statement of fact). The actor and comic has previously collaborated with director Ben Wheatley - currently shooting Phil Ford's Doctor Who episode in Cardiff - on the acclaimed films Kill List (2011) and A Field in England (2013). Michael's previous TV credits include episodes of Spaced (in which he was properly magnificent as the psychotic, rave-music obsessed bicycle courier, Tyres), Utopia and Black Mirror and in the movie The World's End.

Never one to blow off his own cornet too loudly, dear blog reader, but yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has had the first, minor, bit of casting news for the next series of Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi aside, obviously) for a couple of months now. Simply because, the actor in question is a friend of a friend. However, obviously, I'm keeping this potential scoop of the century under my hat until the BBC announces it as I don't want to get anyone into trouble with The Moffster. Last of all me. He's been known to crush the head of wilful leakers like a peanut, so he has. So, when it's safe to announce it, I'll be happy to be second.

BBC iPlayer has recorded its biggest ever month for requests. January 2014 saw the on-demand service reach a record of three hundred and fifteen million programme requests for both TV and radio. Meanwhile, the first episode of Sherlock's third series - The Empty Hearse - broadcast on New Year's Day, generated over 3.6 million requests, making it the third-most requested programme of all time. This, remember, in addition to a consolidated final TV audience for the episode of over twelve million viewers. Staggering. Other popular programmes have been The Voice, as well as the fifth and final series of Outnumbered. It was the first time that the three hundred million barrier has been broken, and an average of 10.2m daily requests were seen in January - the highest ever. The number of requests via mobiles and tablets accounted for forty per cent of all requests at one hundred and twenty seven million overall. This was another record high.

Death In Paradise remained top of Tuesday's overnight ratings for BBC1 - and not by a little bit, either - despite an eight hundred thousand viewer drop, week-on-week. The popular Caribbean crime drama attracted 6.42 million overnight punters at 9pm whilst up against the football, down from the previous week's figure of 7.2m. Later, Traffic Cops was seen by 2.51m at 10.35pm. So, that would be less. On BBC2, The Great British Sewing Bee returned for its second series with an impressive 3.08m at 8pm, which is up from last year's two and a half million overnight launch. Earlier, the Winter Olympics highlights programme scored 2.78m at 7pm, whilst the documentary How China Fooled The World interested 1.77m at 9pm. Completing a very good night for BBC2 overall, House Of Fools was watched by seven hundred and fifty eight thousand at 10pm. ITV's Champions League coverage of Sheikh Yer Man City's loss against FC Barcelona gathered 5.81m at 7.30pm. And much disappointment in Manchester, but considerable glee in ... Essex, Wiltshire, London, Australia, Mumbai. You know, anywhere that supporters of The Scum live. On Channel Four, Location, Location, Location was watched by 1.36m at 8pm. The Taste failed to live up to its name, yet again, bringing in only seven hundred and forty six thousand at 9pm, followed by the documentary Sexting Teacher with 1.21m at 10pm. Channel Five's latest example of shitty tabloid-TV, Holiday Love Rats Exposed, fascinated 1.36m gawping voyeurs at 9pm. Law & Order: SVU continued with eight hundred and thirty four thousand at 10pm.

Channel Four's Benefits Britain live debate programme attracted 2.78 million on Monday, according to overnight data. Yer actual Keith telly Topping was out of the country and, therefore, missed it. Although he's certainly have watched it had he been able to. And by certainly, I mean of course, definitely not. Richard Bacon's show at 9pm brought in a further half-a-million punters on +1 as well, while the Benefits Street follow-up programme Last Word - which, of course, it won't be - was seen by 2.52m at 8.30pm. The return of Eight Out Of Ten Cats had an audience of 1.26m at 10pm. ITV's DCI Banks remained on top of the overnight ratings overall, dipping by around eighty thousand from the previous episode to 5.61m at 9pm. A Great Welsh Adventure interested 3.35m. On BBC1, a Panorama flood special appealed to 2.82m at 8.30pm. it would have appealed to more but, most of the target audience currently haven't got any electricity and, even if they have, their telly is floating in the middle of the living room. This was followed by the final Britain's Great War with 3.02m at 9pm. BBC2's Winter Olympics coverage continued with 2.54m at 7pm. University Challenge was watched by 3.46m at 8pm, followed by Food and Drink with 1.92m at 8.30pm and Horizon with 1.13m at 9pm. Channel Five's latest effort to create riots in the streets, Big British Immigration Row, was watched by but eight hundred and fifty thousand people at 8pm, although that's still eight hundred and fifty thousand too many frankly. Can't Stop, Won't Stop gathered nine hundred and ninety four thousand viewers at 10pm. On BBC3, the documentary Is Amanda Knox Guilty? was seen by seven hundred and eight thousand at 9pm, followed by the final episode of Uncle's first series with four hundred and sixty two thousand at 10pm.

The 2014 BAFTA Film Awards ceremony was down by around eight hundred thousand viewers from the previous year's event, according to overnight data from Sunday. Stephen Fry's hosted of the annual event which attracted 4.56 million viewers at 9pm on BBC1, down from last year's 5.38m. Call The Midwife remained miles out on top on Sunday night, but dipped by around three hundred thousand week-on-week to 8.43m at 8pm. Earlier, Countryfile appealed to 6.25m at 7pm. BBC2's Winter Olympics coverage scored 2.32m at 7pm, while Alan Davies's Apres-Ski took in seven hundred and eighty nine thousand at 10pm. Top Gear climbed by roughly eighty thousand punters from last week to 5.58m at 8pm, followed by Dragons' Den with 2.71m at 9pm. ITV's Twatting About On Ice continued with a laughably piss-poor 4.71m at 6.15pm, while its results show was seen by 4.25m at 8.30pm, getting skated over not only by Call The Midwife but, also, for the third week running, by Top Gear. Not hard to see why The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley is soon to be looking for another job. All-Star Family Fortunes was watched by 4.06m at 7.45pm. Mr Selfridge attracted 4.59m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Scandimania interested 1.01m at 8pm, followed by the movie RED with 2.12m at 9pm. On Channel Five, the Meryl Streep film The River Wild gathered seven hundred and sixty thousand at 7pm.

The final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Seven programmes for week-ending Sunday 9 February are as follows:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.23m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 9.54m
3 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 9.41m
4 Death In Paradise - Tues BBC1 - 8.45m
5 EastEnders - Tues BBC1 - 8.30m
6 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.74m
7 DCI Bankks - Mon ITV - 7.12m
8 Top Gear - Sun BBC2 - 6.97m
9 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.74m
10 Inspector George Gently - Thurs BBC1 - 6.48m
11 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.28m
12 The Musketeers - Sun BBC1 - 6.14m
13 Birds Of A Feather - Thurs ITV - 6.04m*
14 Outnumbered - Wed BBC1 - 6.03m
15 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 6.01m
16 Benidorm - Thurs ITV - 6.00m
17 Ten O'Clock News - Wed BBC1 - 5.81m
18 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 5.71m*
19= Pound Shop Wars - Thurs BBC1 - 5.66m
19= Six O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 5.66m
19= Mrs Brown's Boys - wed BBC1 - 5.66m
22= The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - Sat BBC - 5.46m
22= Rugby: Six Nations - Sat BBC1 - 5.46m
24 Twatting About On Ice - Sun ITV - 5.15m*
25 Mr Selfridge - Sun ITV - 5.06m*
26 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.98m
27 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.93m
ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. BBC2's top-rated show of the week apart from Top Gear was Dragons' Den (3.12m), followed by some Winter Olympic coverage (3.08m) and University Challenge (2.94m). Channel Four's highest-rated show was, agonisingly, Peter Kay: Live And Back On Nights with 2.96m. And still, it was about as funny as a slow and painful kick in the cream crackers. Worse, The Big Benefits Row: Live was Channel Five's best performer with 2.23m. About the same audience that will likely be tuning into the Channel's night experiment of this kind, Pro-Celebrity Bear-Baiting. Expect it soon. Meanwhile, in really good news, the 8 February episode of Pro-Celebrity Drowning had an audience (minus HD) lower than 2.86m, which was the figure that the last of ITV's Top Thirty shows got. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a recommission of that one. BBC4's first two episodes of new Belgian import Salamander were the most viewed programmes on multi-channels outside of Sky football coverage, watched by 1.35m and 1.26m respectively.

A French television channel has provided a weather forecast for Broadchurch to promote the series in the country. Sort of, there will be lots of sun but at least one murder of a small child, type of thing. France 2 began showing the popular ITV crime drama on Monday of this week and attracted over a quarter of the total viewing audience for the slot. The channel has been heavily promoting the series and gave a glimpse of its actual weather prospects from its Dorset shooting location. An average of 6.7 million viewers tuned into the first three episodes of the David Tennant and Olivia Colman-led series, giving France 2 a twenty seven per cent audience share and its best results since May 2012. Meanwhile, production on the US remake of Broadchurch is well under way with Tennant and new female lead Anna Gunn, the first location photos having been released this week. The ten-part drama - set to be broadcast in the US in late 2014 or early 2015 - also stars Nick Nolte, Michael Peña and Jacki Weaver. And, it will be shit.
He is sporting a long coat, has a thick crop of dark hair and an obsessive an eye for detail. But the man in this trailer clip for the forthcoming return of Jonathan Creek is not yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes but a criminology student called Ridley in a deliberate parody which features in an episode of Alan Davies's rival BBC1 crime series. Kieran Hodgson, the actor who plays the pseudo-Sherlock told the Radio Times that he studied yer man Benny's performance in order to get the 'patter' and delivery. 'Wearing the coat and everything I felt a bit like Sherlock,' Hodgson said. 'It's quite nice flouncing around. It was very interesting, trying to be him. It feels quite busy when you watch Sherlock but a lot of the movement comes from the camera – in fact Benedict Cumberbatch's acting is quite still, his face is quite still.' In the clip, Ridley uses the fact that Jonathan's watch is an hour behind to help deduce that he has recently returned from a trip to Iceland. However he is completely wrong. 'Shall I tell him it needs a new battery?' Creek says at the end of the scene. Davies said that he had enjoyed the 'piss take' of the character. 'Sherlock is great – I'm a fan,' said Davies. 'I don't know what Benedict Cumberbatch would make of it. He is probably far too busy as a Hollywood superstar.' The first Jonathan Creek film in the series also reportedly mimics some of the camera techniques used in Sherlock. Davies said that writer David Renwick was also a fan of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books. 'He will never watch Sherlock and say all the fast cutting and and so on and say we should do that,' said Davies. 'He will watch that and take the piss out of that.'

Anyway, after all that malarkey, here's a long-overdue batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 22 February
Salamander - 9:00 BBC4 - is, as you probably know if you've been watching it, a rather decent Belgian thriller following Paul Gerardi, a rough, tough, shabby but uncorruptible police inspector whose investigation into the theft of sixty six safe-deposit boxes from a private bank in Brussels unearths a complex political conspiracy involving the highest echelons of Belgian society. And that. The latest developments involve Gerardi finding himself trying to learn the truth about a sinister organisation called Salamander featuring many high ranking Belgians. Followed, immediately, by the night's second episode. Starring Filip Peeters, Mike Verdrengh and Koen de Bouw. In Flemish and French with English subtitles.

Elsewhere it's, broadly speaking, a perfectly horrible night on telly. This is best exemplified by the fact that there's two and a half hours of Take Me Out on ITV (from 8:20). Yes, seriously, two and half hours of oafish unfunny Professional Northerner buffoon Paddy McGuinness acting like a total berk. Horrorshow (and, indeed, drag). If you've got any sense in your skull, dear blog reader, you will watch anything other than this.

Sky Atlantic begins a new imported US series, True Detective tonight with a feature-length episode - 9:00. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been hearing some very good things about this one from the states. It's Louisiana in 1995, and newly paired state police detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle are called out after a woman's dead body is found in a farmer's field, posed kneeling in front of a tree with a crown of deer antlers on her head. Seventeen years on, Hart and Cohle find themselves being interviewed separately about the case by the Crime Investigation Division, stirring up harrowing memories for them both. Crime drama, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Sunday 23 February
Tonight's episode of Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - including test drives and reports on the latest models. Jezza Clarkson heads to Italy to get behind the wheel of the exclusive, hand-crafted Touring Superleggera Disco Volante, which is based on the already rare Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione sports car. Richard Hammond asserts authority over the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi in the six-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6, while James May defies his status as Mister Slowly by blasting two Caterhams around the test track - the minimalist entry-level Seven 160 and the full-fat supercharged Seven 620R. Odious, unfunny lanky streak of piss Jack Whitehall turns up again somewhere he isn't wanted sand sets a lap time in the Reasonably Priced Car. Hopefully, however, he won't crash the car and die, screaming, in a massive fireball of death. Because, that was be awful. Albeit, riveting telly.

In Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry with Jonathan Meades - 9:00 BBC4 - Meades concludes a two-part documentary celebrating Twentieth-Century Brutalist architecture, which typically takes the form of block-like concrete constructions. The presenter explores the post-war work of architect Le Corbusier, and argues that buildings once maligned by critics stood for optimism and grandeur.

Hallow'een ends in murder when a man posing as a zombie is shot dead in Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1. It turns out the victim was dosed up on a drug knows as The Devil's Breath and McGarrett's team is led to a crazy scientist who's getting a little carried away with his experiments. Meanwhile, Max asks Sabrina to move in with him and Danny is shocked to find his house has been vandalised.

Monday 24 February
Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones return in the legal drama Silk - 9:00 BBC1. Clive has finally become a silk, but his celebration party is dramatically cut short when news comes through that the son of the head of chambers has been arrested for killing a police officer. Martha is assigned to defend the young man - but the evidence against him seems overwhelming. Meanwhile, Billy struggles with a secret and a new practice manager sends ripples through the clerks' room. Neil Stuke, Miranda Raison, Frances Barber and Alex Jennings co-star.
In the run-up to Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, resident film critic Big Quiffed Marky Kermode honours actors, directors and writers whom he believes were overlooked in this year's Oscar nominations in The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. He talks to some of the film-makers and stars he feels deserve to be celebrated for their achievements in the past year, and for the first time gives an award to the film he deems the worst of the year.

In episode three of The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern - 10:00 BBC4 - the host (played by the very excellent Simon Day) presents his guide to The Life of Rock from prehistoric man to the present day, in a spoof chronology of some of the biggest moments in rock history. The terrific Michael Kitchen steals most of the best lines (though, Michael Smiley, Nigel Havers, Paul Whitehouse and Day himself all get their share). Vic and Bob are excellent as an embittered Mulligan and O'Hare. This is the last in this excellent series and features cameo performances by John Humphrys, Noel Edmonds, Mike Read and, of course, Peter Gabriel whom Pern is, quite clearly, based on.

Tuesday 25 February
Humphrey - who, admittedly, is getting less irritating week-by-week - and his colleagues are called to a neighbouring private island whose property developer owner has been shot extremely dead at a family gathering in the latest Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. Five people are in the frame for the dirty deed - the victim's housekeeper, his PA and his three children - although when an approaching hurricane strands the police officers on the island, knocking out all of their phones and computers, they are forced to rely on good old-fashioned investigative techniques. Or, in Dwayne's case, guesswork. As evening approaches, the police realise they will be spending the night in a house with a killer. Can they solve the mystery before he or she strikes again? Holby City's Jimmy Akingbola, Caroline Proust from Spiral, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Nikki Amuka-Bird guest star.
Extremely right-wing historian Max Hastings outlines his belief that Britain was right to enter the First World War and oppose Germany's aims, arguing that the conflict was neither avoidable nor futile in The Necessary War - 9:00 BBC2. He explores the key questions surrounding the outbreak of hostilities and the necessity for Britain to step in, and examines how and why the common perception of the conflict as a bungled, unnecessary bloodbath emerged after it ended. Featuring contributions by scholars and military historians including Michael Howard, Hew Strachan, John Rohl and Margaret MacMillan.

Strippers - 10:00 Channel Four - is a three-part documentary series filmed at strip clubs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, revealing how exotic dancers 'handle the stigma' attached to their profession and justify getting their baps out for the lads. That's not a euphemism from yer actual Keith Telly Topping, incidentally, that really is what it says in the press release. The first programme follows the girls of Diamond Dolls in Glasgow as they learn to juggle love, life and lap dancing, including Laefena, who has come to the UK to earn enough money to pay off her debts from her nursing degree.

Wednesday 26 February
Lindsay Denton is attacked while on remand in prison awaiting trial and tells Fleming she had a relationship with a high-ranking officer - who may have reason to want her framed in the latest episode of Line Of Duty - 9:00 BBC2. After AC-12 gains access to the files on the protected witness, the evidence suggests a possible police conspiracy and the cohesion of the team is further threatened by the arrival of a former adversary. Crime drama, starring Keeley Hawes, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar.
In 1943, Ian visits Canada's Camp X to undertake frontline training and shows his talent for storytelling when he cooks up a meticulous plan to send the enemy on a wild goose chase in episode three of Fleming - 9:00 Sky1. Meanwhile, his passionate affair with Ann intensifies, but she presents him with an ultimatum after receiving devastating news. Drama, starring Dominic Cooper and Lara Pulver.

When dairy worker Debbie Moffett (played by Martine McCutcheon) is crushed to death by a giant round of cheese at the home of the world-famous Midsomer Blue, Barnaby and Jones are soon on the case in Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV. Pathologist Kate Wilding discovers the victim's daughter was being expelled from the local prep school and it emerges Debbie died just hours after an argument at a parents' council meeting. Her phone leads the detectives to Oliver Ordish, with whom she was having an affair. It is a sad fact that too much cheese can be very bad for you. McCutcheon, playing a flash-and-trash modern-day dairymaid, discovers just how bad when she's battered to death with a wheel of the world-famous Midsomer Blue. Barnaby and Jones must, therefore, navigate the fraught territory of falling milk prices, specialist maggots and the death of rural artisan skills – it's like a particularly violent and blood-soaked episode of The Archers, but with sharper cheesewire. The storyline is, of course bonkers - mad as, if you will, cheese on toast - but could all of the drama at the dairy be leading the detectives (and, of course, the audience) away from the childhood rivalries, jealousy and mistrust which persist in the country village where everyone knows each other's business and the murder rate is higher than Baltimore? The crimes come thick, fast and spreadable as a packet of Dairylea, setting a lively pace as well as offering several tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements of just how cheesy Midsomer Murders has become. Thankfully, it knows this and that's proof that, though occasionally a bit hard around the edges, it certainly hasn't gone off yet.
Thursday 27 February
Bacchus and Gently are called in to investigate the death of a miner, which is being treated as suspicious because even though his body was discovered down t'pit, records show that he was above-ground when he disappeared in the last of the current series of Inspector George Gently - 8:30 BBC1. Alleged victim Arthur Hawkes was a proud union man and his children confirm that he fought a long and bitter battle to keep the closure-threatened mine open. But as the detectives dig deeper, they find that not everyone agrees with this portrait of him. Could he really have sold his union comrades down the river? Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby star, with Simon Greenall, Jack Deam and Michael Socha.
Jumbo: The Plane That Changed the World - 9:00 BBC2 - is a documentary examining the origins and development of the Boeing 747, which was the world's first wide-bodied commercial airliner and revolutionised air travel after coming into service in 1970. In interviews filmed on the original prototype, chief engineer Joe Sutter and his team describe the challenges they faced, from exploding engines to vibrations that threatened to tear the aircraft apart, and test pilot Brien Wygle reveals how on the first flight they hooked up car batteries as back-ups in case of engine failure.

Mike Read presents an edition of Top Of The Pops - 7:30 BBC4 - first broadcast on 1 March 1979. The episode includes performances by The Skids, Thin Lizzy, Chic, Violinski (the horror!), Lene Lovich and yer actual David Essex. Plus, dance sequences by Legs & Co. Obviously.

National treasure Danny Baker seems to have taken over BBC4's tiny studio and refuses to leave, returns with a second series of Brushing Up On - 8:30 - and yet more overpoweringly musty archive fun. He has the best charmingly awful clips and a script which manages to rip the beardy obsessives in them to shreds without seeming lofty. Dan The Man uses archive footage to explore a different subject every week, beginning as he embarks on a Lilliputian odyssey to examine small objects and creatures. He looks at tiny trains, pint-sized cows and model villages.
Friday 28 February
Alan Davies returns as the master illusionist, who has retired from crime-solving to join the corporate world with wife Polly in the long-overdue reappearance of Jonathan Creek - 9:00 BBC1. David Renwick beckons us back into the world of his reluctant detective for the first new series in over a decade (there have been occasional one-off specials, of course). And, what a horribly strange world it is, full of knowing puzzles and macabre little games. Polly (the excellent Sarah Alexander) is less than keen: 'I sometimes wonder, Jonathan, exactly what I married. Free admission for life to The Twilight Zone?' The titular hero is soon tempted back to help investigate a seemingly impossible attack on a West End actress - and he's not alone, as a criminology student tags along for a spot of 'work experience.' At the same time, a personal tragedy for Jonathan and Polly uncovers a series of dark and disturbing secrets. With Paula Wilcox, Ali Bastian, Raquel Cassidy, Kieran Hodgson and Rhydian Jones.
Historian Niall Ferguson uses cutting-edge graphics and short illustrative stories to offer his perspective on the First World War, arguing that Britain's decision to enter the conflict was a tragic mistake in The Pity Of War - 9:00 BBC2. He examines why a crisis in the Balkans escalated into global war, suggesting that much of the responsibility for the scale of the hostilities lay with Britain. At the end of the programme, leading historians and a studio audience debate the issues raised. Ferguson promotes his theory that the British cabinet's decision to go to war in August 1914 was 'the biggest error in modern history', in a lecture before a studio audience and then invites a panel of historians to chip in. Broadly, they bat aside his idea that without Britain's involvement, Germany would have fought a brief war and ended up dominating Europe – much as it now does anyway. But as a provocative way to get some serious debate going on historical issues that still haunt us, this is an inspired format.

Tonight also sees the return of The Blacklist - 9:00 Sky Living - the crime drama starring the superb James Spader. Red goes off grid on a mission to seek out the FBI's mole, while Cooper assigns Liz to a dangerous investigation, hoping that by placing her in jeopardy, he will lure the master criminal out of hiding. Guest starring Alan Alda and Frank Whaley.
To a news round-up now. And, since yer actual Keith telly Topping had been away for about a week, the following is a necessary selection of the best bits. Hang on tight for a bumpy ride.
Tony Blair advised well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks to launch 'a Hutton style inquiry' into phone-hacking at the Scum of the World at the height of the scandal over the issue, according to an e-mail that was read out in court at the Old Bailey trial this week. The revelation emerged in the e-mail on Wednesday and followed what well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks claimed was an hour-long telephone call. According to the e-mail, sent the day after the Scum of the World's final issue and six days before well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks was arrested, Blair also told her that he was 'available' to her and to billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and his son, and James Murdoch The Small as an 'unofficial adviser' on a 'between us' basis. The advice was said to have been given on 11 July 2011 and contained in an e-mail well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks sent at 4.20pm to James Murdoch The Small, the then executive chairman of News International. According to well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks's e-mail, Blair advised her to set up 'an independent inquiry', suggesting it could have 'outside counsel, Ken Macdonald [the former director of public prosecutions], a great and good type.' He said the inquiry would be 'Hutton style' – a reference to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would 'clear' her, but warned that 'shortcomings' would 'have to be accepted' as a result of the report. According to the e-mail the advice was given in an hour-long conversation. Blair advised well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks to 'tough up' and not to make any 'rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches.' He also told her to 'keep strong' and advised her to 'take sleeping pills.' Whether he meant lots of them or just the usual number, the court didn't hear. Prosecutor Andrew Edis read out the entire e-mail exchange between well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks and James Murdoch The Small to the jury as part of the formal conclusion of the Crown's case. After finishing in the e-mail he turned to the jury to simply say: 'Well, that's that' before moving on to the next piece of evidence. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks told James Murdoch The Small in the e-mail: 'I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair' and then proceeded to outline the points he had, allegedly, made during the conversation. 'Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers et cetera in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton-style report,' she said. 'Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings [sic] and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short term solutions as they only give you long term headaches. It will pass. Tough up. He is available for you, KRM [billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us,' she wrote. Now, this blogger has to say, having actually read exactly what was said in court - and whilst yer actual Keith Telly Topping is no particular fan of either of these people - this is a bit of nothing story. Essentially, it boils down to a woman who is about to be arrested ringing a friend she knows who has a legal background (and whose wife is a judge as it happens) and says 'I think I'm about to be arrested.' To which he replies: 'My advice is get yourself a lawyer. And make it a good one.' I'm not sure any of that is illegal, unethical or, indeed, not exactly what anyone else facing the prospect of plod kicking down their door at 6am would do. It is, however, highly embarrassing for an ex-Prime Minister of the country to be in such close contact with someone who, a few days later, would be facing charges of perverting the course of justice, phone-hacking and making corrupt payments to public officials. Charges all of which, it is important to note, she denies. Whilst this blogger has had a lot of fun covering Hack-Gate - including, let it be said, this bit of the story - I do feel it's just a splash of window dressing to the far bigger picture. This blogger, for instance, was far more interested in a subsequent bit of evidence. This was that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks allegedly discussed 'a survival plan' which would see her 'ring-fenced' from the phone-hacking scandal just days before the Scum of the World closed - in shame and ignominy - and a week before she resigned. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks discussed a detailed 'Plan B' in another e-mail to James Murdoch The Small, which would have involved her stepping down from a company governance board, the promotion of the then general manager Will Lewis and an announcement that 'outside lawyers' would review 'all previous investigations.' She wrote: 'We will not be on trial by the media.' No, indeed, you'll be on trial in an actual court. Odd how things work out, isn't it? According to the e-mail, sent on 8 July 2011, the so-called 'Plan B' (not to be confused with the singer and actor of the same name) also included the possible launch of the Sun On Sunday to replace the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, which closed two days later. Part of the e-mail had already been shown to jurors in the phone-hacking trial. In November the jury was told that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, then News International chief executive, discussed launching an investigation into phone-hacking with James Murdoch The Small, the publishing company's chairman, which might save her job but 'might look bad' for Les Hinton, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's then right-hand man in New York and former boss of News International. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks discussed the prospect of an internal report which would 'slam Les, Colin [Myler, the former Scum of the World editor]' and 'vindicate' her position. The jury learned on Wednesday that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks went on to propose an announcement to the public that News International's previous investigations into phone-hacking allegations 'fell short.' She suggested that the statement should say: 'Our internal investigations were woeful and limited and we failed to hold the right people accountable. The result was the very sad closure of an outstanding newspaper whose reputation was irreparably tarnished by the actions of a few. We are committed to retaining as many jobs as possible.' Under the plan, Lewis would be promoted to News International deputy chief executive; he would go on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC to face questions on the growing scandal and the company would review all previous investigations. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks e-mail continued: 'Concurrently outside counsel Olswang will review all previous internal investigations and investigate every new allegation into the News of the World over the last decade. (Includes my editorship.) We will not be on trial by the media whose previous practices were. NI will publish the findings of this report and where there were serious failings or errors of judgment those culpable will be held accountable and leave the company.' Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks suggested that until the report was published Lewis would take her place on The Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd governance board. The result would be: 'I am ring-fenced clearly and properly', she wrote. 'It will be written as slippery slope for me but I hardly have a reputation left,' she added. She then moved to the subject of a Sunday edition of the Sun. 'On another note if we don't launch the Sunday Sun this weekend but we relaunch the Saturday Sun.' She said that they should 'beef up football', add a magazine and 'go for the Mail. Its the tabloid Sunday Times,' she wrote. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks is facing five charges in the phone-hacking trial, all of which she denies. She is due to start her defence on Thursday morning.

This blogger seldom recommends anything worthwhile about the Gruniad Morning Star, the full-of-its-own-importance newspaper for middle-class revolutionaries everywhere, however just occasionally they surprise me. This is a case in point; a piece from the forthcoming book Is The BBC In Crisis? by Vin Ray called Newsnight's McAlpine scandal - thirteen days that brought down the BBC's chief. Which describes in horribly matter-of-fact detail the 'perfect storm' which engulfed the BBC in late October 2012 and how a boastful conversation at an Oxford Union debate and a subsequent crowing tweet - both from a man who didn't even work for the BBC - ultimately led the bringing down of a hapless Director General unprepared for the tidal wave that was about to swallow him alive. Well worth a few moments of your time.

Sheridan Smith is to play the singer and TV presenter Cilla Black in a new three-part drama, ITV has announced. The actress will star as the famous Liverpudlian in the drama, by Jeff Pope, which will 'capture the essence of 1960s Liverpool.' It will look at her friendship with Ringo Starr which brought her to the attention of The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein and their producer, George Martin. Smith said that she was 'thrilled' to be 'playing a British icon.' Black enjoyed a dozen hits between 1963 and 1971 including some of George Martin's finest productions. Shit, for 'Alfie' alone she deserves a pretty significant place in pop music immortality. She went on to become a prominent TV presenter with shows like Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise and, last year, celebrated her fifty years in showbusiness. Cilla, written by Pope - who, along with Steve Coogan won a BAFTA for his screenplay for the film Philomena, will follow her journey from a young typist, Priscilla White, to meeting and befriending Brian Epstein and then recording and launching her career at Abbey Road. Her explosive on-off relationship with her future husband Bobby Willis will also be explored. 'Her life story is fascinating,' said Sheridan. 'I'm so excited and can't wait to start filming. Golden Globe-nominated Jeff Pope has written it and Paul Whittington, who directed Mrs Biggs, is directing.' Smith, who recently starred in the BBC's two-part The 7.39, said that the drama would 'hopefully show a younger audience what a star Cilla has always been and for the older generation they can relive those swinging sixties! I hope I do her story justice,' she added. Filming on the drama is due to start in Liverpool in March. ITV director of drama Steve November said: 'Jeff's scripts offer an extraordinary insight into Cilla's humble beginnings and meteoric rise to chart success. It's fascinating to thinking of her hanging out backstage at the Cavern Club with The Beatles.' They were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, dear blog readers. You might've heard of them.

Damien Molony has said that he was surprised to see the 'powerful' Ripper Street cancelled. Molony played Detective Constable Albert Flight in the period police drama, which was dropped by BBC1 after two series. Because it had lost half its audience in a year, basically. 'The last series ended in such a gripping way - it was really powerful,' the Irish actor told Metro. 'I think there were a lot of possibilities still open to the characters, including my own.' At the time of its cancellation, the BBC said in a statement that it was 'very proud' of Ripper Street but cited dwindling audience numbers as the cause of the show's demise. Later in December, it was reported that the show could be revived for a third run as part of a partnership between the BBC and LoveFilm. But everything seems to have gone rather quiet on that front.

Helix is to go on hiatus and shift channels in the UK. Channel Five has aired the first six episodes of Ron Moore's SF drama, which will now go on a mid-season break. When it returns later in the year, Helix will instead be shown on Five's freeview channel, 5*. Because, presumably, no one was watching it.

Robert Lindsay has ruled out the possibility of a My Family comeback. The actor played Ben Harper for eleven series and several Christmas episodes between 2000 and the show's conclusion in 2011. Asked if there would ever be a My Family return - even for a one-off special - Lindsay told the Digital Spy website: 'Oh no! No, no, no, no. That's gone now. The kids are forty five! When the kids kinda went like that you went, "Oh..."' So, one of the finest actors in Britain is, currently, looking for a gig. Quick, Moffat, grab him now whilst you've got the chance. He can handle a mean sonic screwdriver. After a few attempts.
Sky is reportedly being sued over its 2010 reality show Must Be The Music. Which is hilarious, frankly. Cos, if you're going to get sued, at least get sued over something that some people actually watched. The competition - hosted by the risible Fearne Cotton and judged by Jamie Cullum, Sharleen Spiteri and Dizzee Rascal - saw contestants battling it out with original songs, which were available to buy after the episode had been broadcast. The show ran for just one series before being dropped by Sky because of its cost and piss-poor ratings, with Cullum later suggesting that the format 'wasn't cruel enough.' However, Waif Productions co-founders Brian Wade and Geraldine Perry have filed a lawsuit claiming that the format was their idea, Broadcast reports. The duo say that they had the idea for a talent show featuring original compositions, with songwriter judges and the ability to download the songs after the show. A Sky spokesperson confirmed that the broadcaster will fight the lawsuit, saying: 'A format infringement claim has been brought against Sky relating to the Sky1 HD show Must Be The Music. We reject the claim and are defending our position.' A hearing in the case will take place in the High Court this week.

Oh, and speaking of threatened court cases, a tiny gem that yer actual picked up during a wonderful two hour dinner conversation with the legend that is Terrance Dicks in Los Angeles last week. Dear blog readers with a long memory may recall the curious case of one Steven Clark from Kent who caused much kerfuffle  in the Doctor Who world and got a - rather agenda-soaked - Daily Scum Mail story out of his announced plans to sue the BBC claiming that he, and not Terry Nation, had created the character of Davros. Back in 2011 when From The North first reported Clark's somewhat dubious claim, this blogger did promise that yer actual Keith Telly Topping would be reporting 'the next, thrilling, twist in this most extraordinary of true stories.' Sadly, apart from one follow-up from 2012, all appeared to have gone quiet on the Davros-gate front. That is, until Terrance mentioned, in passing, that he had spoken to BBC lawyers about the case a couple of years ago - he was, after all, one of the original judges of the comic book competition through which Clark claimed to have 'created' Davros. 'Whatever happened about that?' yer actual Keith Telly Topping asked. Terrance replied that, unsurprisingly, the judge, at a pre-trial hearing, had decided there was no case to answer. So, that's one dangling plot thread from this blog's past that we can put to bed. What a shame, I'd've really rather enjoyed reporting the twists and turns of that case.

Lynda La Plante has announced that she is developing a new prequel to Prime Suspect. The author is writing a new book, Tennison, for publication in 2015 and hinted that a TV adaptation could follow. 'I am extremely excited to have begun work on the Tennison project,' La Plante said in a statement. 'Jane Tennison is a character who millions of people know and admire from my books and TV series, Prime Suspect, portrayed brilliantly by Helen Mirren. But nobody knows what drove her to become a DCI or want to join the police force in the first place. When you first meet her in the early 1990s, she is a very complex character, but what made her so?' La Plante originally created Prime Suspect in 1991, with the show's final two-part serial airing in 2006. 'Readers will find out [about Tennison's origins] next year when the book is published; or in 2016, which is the twenty fifth anniversary of Prime Suspect, when they watch Tennison the series,' the writer said. Prime Suspect was previously remade for US television with Maria Bello in the lead role, though the NBC adaptation was dropped after thirteen episodes. Because it was shit and no one watched it.

The Wrong Mans series two is 'current being written.' Sadly.

A TV advert for a 'nude scanner' mobile phone app has been banned after it was shown during a prime-time show. The advert, which showed images of a naked woman, was broadcast during six episodes of Hollyoaks on Channel Four. Some viewers - with nothing better to do with their time, seemingly - complained that the advert was 'demeaning to women' and was shown 'while children were watching.' Wont somebody, please, think of the children? The Nude Scanner 3D advert was approved by a compliance and clearance agency. But the Advertising Standards Authority has since deemed it 'offensive.' The advert showed a mobile phone 'scanning' a woman's body and included naughty nude images, with the crotch and breasts blurred out. So, not that naughty. The voice-over described the app as a way to 'prank your friends to think you can see what any of them look like without clothes on.' Yeah, what a laugh. Twenty-six people complained about the advert, with twenty one saying it could be seen by children - including young teenagers. Some claimed that it could 'cause serious or widespread offence' because it was demeaning to women, while others said it could cause 'anti-social behaviour.' Compliance and clearance agency Clearcast approved the advert, with a restriction preventing it from being shown during children's programmes. It said the images were no more risqué than ads for underwear or music videos. It also rejected suggestions that the advert condoned or promoted an unwanted 'scan.' On-screen text in the commercial said that the app was 'for entertainment purposes only' and for over-sixteens. The app's developer, Jesta Digital GmbH, which trades as Jamster, said it pulled the advert following the complaints. It said it had been restricted from being broadcast during children's programmes and that it did not consider the programme in question as being 'targeted at children.' However, the ASA referred to figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board, which showed the proportion of children watching the programme when the advert was viewed by the complainants was, on two occasions, above the threshold at which a programme is said to appeal to under-sixteens. It said: 'Because the ad focused on the product's apparent ability to enable the user to view naked images of women using the camera on their phone, and had a prolonged focus on the female model, we considered it was unsuitable for a child audience and was likely to be viewed as demeaning to women and, therefore, offensive.' The advertising watchdog also banned an advert for Dyson's smallest vacuum cleaner, after finding it misled viewers about how much space it would save in their homes. The advert for the vacuum showed it being collapsed into itself and in another sequence, the machine was stored on a shelf in a cupboard without its hose and wand. The watchdog said viewers could be 'led to believe' that one of the advantages of the machine was that it could be stored in its entirety, including the hose and wand, in a small place.

Former Casualty and Robin Of Sherwood actor Clive Mantle - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping - had part of his ear bitten off in a row over noise at a hotel, a court has heard. Newcastle Crown Court was told how the actor was woken by shouting in the corridor outside his room in the Quayside Travelodge - a mere stones throw up the road from yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor as it happens - on 24 March. When he asked Philip McGilvray and Alan French if they wouldn't mind being quiet, the pair 'laid into him', the jury heard. Both men of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, deny wounding with intent. The actor, who played the surgeon Mike Barrett in the BBC medical dramas Casualty and Holby City, had been appearing in a play at the city's Theatre Royal when the incident happened. He was on the way to reception to complain when the two defendants 'deliberately blocked his path', the court heard. Mantle claimed that he put his hands out to force a gap through them. 'Immediately, my arms were caught,' he said. 'I had one man on each arm and I couldn't free myself. It was then that a tussle, a jostle, and me trying to free myself, turned into a melee.' French pinned him down and McGilvray was to his side, he said. 'The next thing I was aware of was a pain in my left ear which triggered a massive response within me,' he said. 'The adrenaline it gave me enabled me to rip my right hand away. The only thing I could do is put my thumb in his eye socket to make him release,' the court heard. Mantle lifted his hair to show the jury his disfigured left ear at the request of the prosecution. McGilvray, of Arbroath Grove and French, of Forrest Gate were visiting Newcastle with friends and had been 'out drinking.' No shit? Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said Mantle: 'told them he needed to get past and placed his hands between them and tried to force his way through, perhaps not unreasonably considering the situation he was in. At this point they both decided to grab his arms and set about him. Both men threw a flurry of drunken punches, some landed, some didn't. Ultimately, it ended with him being dragged on the ground face down.' Perks said the row had 'culminated with a substantial part of his ear being bitten off.' Mantle said that the pair threw 'many' punches, landing 'four absolute pearlers. I remember being attacked by two men with every blow they had in their armoury,' he told the court. The actor told the jury his ear was bitten while he was pinned to the floor and that the two men had felled him 'like two hyenas bringing down an old water buffalo.' Robin Patton, defending McGilvray, accused Mantle of losing his temper and running at the two men. 'You took out Philip McGilvray, he did not stand a chance and with your weight, you took him to the ground,' Patton claimed. The actor replied 'absolutely not' and said that he was 'flabbergasted' at such a claim. On Tuesday, Mantle told the court that his 'guardian angel' Alice Klenk, a nurse who was staying at the hotel, had heard the fighting and came out of her room. She grabbed the drunken defendants by the scruff of the neck to stop the attack, the jury heard. Mantle told the court that after her intervention he 'looked down on the floor and there was my ear lying on the carpet.' The prosecution has said that there is 'no dispute' about what McGilvray did and that French faces the same charge because of his 'joint responsibility.' The trial extremely continues.

Richard Desmond is calling for prospective suitors to submit bids for Channel Five by the end of next week, although some would-be buyers have concerns over details on issues such as programme deals and advertising sales. Companies thought to be taking a look at Channel Five include BSkyB and BT – which are weighing the strategic importance of the free-to-air broadcaster in their high stakes pay-TV war – ITV and US companies Time Warner, Viacom, Discovery and Scripps, which owns fifty per cent of UKTV. BT and one other potential bidder are understood to have already held 'private discussions' with Desmond last year, with a public sale process pursued after talks petered out. NBC Universal, previously considered to be an interested party, is now considered an outside contender following parent company Comcast's decision to focus on pay-TV with its forty five billion dollars deal to buy arch-rival Time Warner Cable in the US.
A snake-handling pastor who appeared on US TV show Snake Salvation has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake. What were the chances of that happening, eh? Jamie Coots was holding the snake at his church in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where the cowshit lies thick, when he was bitten on the hand, according to fellow preacher, Cody Winn. The Middlesboro Police Department said that Coots 'refused to have medical treatment' for the bite. Presumably believing that The Lord Himself would protect Coots from the venom. He didn't. Coots said last year that he needed the snakes 'for religious reasons', citing a Bible passage in Mark's gospel which reads: 'They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' National Geographic said in a statement that it was 'struck' by Coots' 'devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced.' A police statement said that when an ambulance arrived at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church on Saturday evening, staff were told that Coots had 'gone home.' Coots was contacted at his house but refused to have any treatment. Emergency workers returned later in the evening, by which time Coots had died. Winn said that after the bite in church, Coots dropped the snake but then picked it up again. 'He had one of the rattlers in his hand,' Winn told a local news station. 'It just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand within a second.' Coots' son, also named Cody, said that his father had been bitten eight times before but had never had such a severe reaction. He said that the family thought he would recover as he had on previous occasions. 'We're going to go home, he's going to lay on the couch. He's going to hurt. He's going to pray for a while and he's going to get better,' Cody Coots said. 'That's what happened every other time, except this time was just so quick and it was crazy.' Last year Jamie Coots was caught transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads through Knoxville, Tennessee. The snakes were confiscated. Coots subsequently pleaded guilty to illegal wildlife possession and was given one year of unsupervised probation. In 1995 twenty eight-year-old Melinda Brown, of Parrottsville, Tennessee, died after being bitten by a timber rattlesnake at Coots' church.

The actor Ralph Waite, best known for playing Pa Walton in the long-running TV show The Waltons, has died at the age of eighty five. 'Ralph was a good honest actor and a good honest man,' said Michael Learned, who played his on-screen wife, Olivia. 'He was my spiritual husband. We loved each other for over forty years. He died a working actor at the top of his game. He was a loving mentor to many and a role model to an entire generation.' An ordained Presbyterian minister, social worker and former Marine, Waite turned to acting in the early 1960s, starring on Broadway opposite Faye Dunaway in Hogan's Goat. Small screen roles followed, working alongside the likes of Paul Newman and Jack Nicholson in films such as Cool Hand Luke and Five Easy Pieces. But it was with The Waltons, which began in 1972, that Waite found global fame. The actor, already in his mid-forties played Depression-era homesteader John Walton - the father of seven, living in rural Virginia, who worked hard to look after his family while imparting homespun wisdom and authority to his children. 'I am devastated to announce the loss of my precious Papa Walton,' said Mary McDonough, who played Erin in the series. 'I loved him so much; I know he was so special to all of us. He was like a real father to me. Goodnight Daddy. I love you.' The show was an unexpected hit, running for nine seasons, it prompted a series of movie spin-offs and found viewers around the world. 'Somehow, we struck a vein in the life of the world,' Waite, who also directed sixteen episodes of the series, said in an interview last year with local paper the Lancaster News. He once recalled a woman had told the actor that she was inspired to go to college by the paternal figure of John Walton. 'She said, "Now, I'm a lawyer and I don't think I would be if I hadn't seen that show,"' Waite said. 'I'm still amazed by that.' The actor received an Emmy nomination for his role in The Waltons and another for his performance in the 1977 mini-series Roots, playing Slater, the first mate of a slave ship. In 1975 he founded the Los Angeles Actors Theatre, donating fifty thousand dollars to get the company off the ground. Simultaneously he ran for Congress in California three times as a Democrat - albeit unsuccessfully - and, mindful of his own struggles with alcohol, became involved in an addiction recovery programme. He remained a very much in-demand actor until last year, starring in 1990s big screen hits such as Cliffhanger and The Bodyguard. In later years Waite starred in the popular crime series NCIS, playing the father to Mark Harmon's character, Leroy Gibbs. He also made appearances in Bones (as the grandfather of David Boreanaz's Seeley Booth) and the US soap Days of Our Lives, as Father Matt. He was married three times, and is survived by two daughters from his first marriage.

Curling must be a mystery to many viewers of the Winter Olympics – even hardened sports fans. So who better to explain the intricacies of the sport than Sir David Attenborough? Radio 1 DJ Greg James persuaded the veteran BBC natural history presenter to revoice the commentary from a Britain versus USA match in Sochi – with hilarious consequences, obviously. Attenborough begins by confessing that 'in all my years of exploration, these are the creatures I find most curious.' He continues: 'Here we have a pack of sliding curlers. Watch as the alpha female displays her dominance over herd by tapping the head of the frisking broom to check for rogue insects.' He describes how the curler launches an 'oversized walnut' (rather than, as everyone else calls it, a fiendish thingy) down 'a frozen river' followed by the herd 'gently frisking the foreground.' It sounds like he's enjoying himself a great deal as he concludes: 'Frisking is frantic and often futile, making no difference to the success of the net thrust. But it's playful, and all part of what makes this game the sliding curlers play so magical. Look how happy it makes them.' Top bloke.

Louis Theroux will return to BBC2 later this year with three new films promising to take viewers to 'the most extreme parts' of Los Angeles. Yer actual Keith telly Topping has just been there, dear blog reader, so I'm guessing a Doctor Who convention will definitely be on Louie's list. You don't get more 'extreme' than that. The documentary maker and presenter, who was last on BBC2 in 2012, spent a year living in LA for the three documentaries, which will look at the treatment of patients with terminal illness at Hollywood's Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, sex offenders after they are released from prison and the way the city deals with neglected and feral dogs. 'I've been living in Los Angeles with my family for the past year or so. It seemed a chance to explore different sides of a single place, by spending longer immersed in stories and going deeper with the subjects,' said Theroux. 'I have a love-hate relationship with the city. It embodies the best and worst of America. It combines wealth and glamour with social breakdown and deep neglect. We've concentrated on stories that take us into the extremes of life and the extreme parts of one of the world's great cities.' The three films will be broadcast on BBC2 in the spring and continue Theroux's focus on America since his When Louis Met … series came to an end in 2002, featuring Max Clifford, Neil and Christine Hamilton and the late dirty old scallywag, rotten rotter and kiddie-fiddler Jimmy Savile. Theroux's US-based documentaries have included a look at neo-Nazis, the US prison system and The Most Hated Family In America, about a family at the Westboro Baptist Church, as well as a look at 'extreme love', investigating the effects of autism and dementia. Emma Willis, head of commissioning for documentaries across BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4, said: 'Louis is one of Britain's most iconic interviewers and we're delighted that he's returning to the BBC to explore three diverse subjects in his own idiosyncratic style. In the sixteen years that Louis has been making films for the BBC, he has produced some of our most challenging documentaries on a range of topics and we're fascinated to see where he'll take us next.'

The Grand Dame Her Very Self David Bowie has been named Best British Male at the Brit Awards in London, while Arctic Monkeys have won best British group for the third time. The Sheffield band also scooped their third best CD award, becoming the first act to achieve the feat. Bowie's win came at the expense of four much younger hopefuls Jake Bugg, Tom Odell, John Newman and Mercury Prize winner James Blake. At sixty seven, he is the oldest recipient of a Brit Award in the ceremony's history and the award comes eighteen years since his last Brits success. The singer, who released a new CD, The Next Day last year after a ten-year hiatus, previously won the same award in 1984. Bowie, who spends much of his time in New York, did not attend the gala. Noel Gallagher, presenting the award, remarked: 'You maniacs didn't think he'd actually be here. David Bowie's too cool for that.' Model Kate Moss accepted the prize on Bowie's behalf, and read a speech prepared for him. Bowie said that it was 'a great way to end the day' and then urged Scottish voters to reject independence in September's referendum.

Meanwhile, religious clerics in the UAE have reported issued a fatwa against one-way trips to Mars, arguing that inhabiting the Red Planet 'goes against Islamic teachings.' Well, that's The Grand Dame David Bowie cattled in that case. And, he was having such a good day apart from that.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's A To Z Of Groovy Tunes, this one is especially for my good friend Roberta who asked me at Gallifrey why I didn't feature more Motown 45s of the Day. Good question, R. Perhaps The Isley Brothers know the answer.

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