Sunday, February 02, 2014

Week Seven: B Is For Broken

Director Ben Wheatley is not setting out to change Doctor Who, actor Reece Shearsmith has insisted. Not that anybody that actually mattered had suggest that he would be, of course. The British filmmaker is currently shooting the first two episodes of Doctor Who's eighth series - the first to star yer actual Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. Shearsmith - who worked with Wheatley on his acclaimed 2013 short A Field in England - told the Digital Spy website: 'I think [Ben] thought it would be an exciting project to get his teeth into. He's learning all the time and I think he thought it would be a good challenge to do it. It's [also] very prestigious to do Capaldi's inaugural episodes.' Shearsmith added that Wheatley is not 'setting out to put his stamp' on the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama, but simply 'wants to do a good job of telling the story. I'm not sure that you could ever somehow visually taint it with your style,' he suggested. 'Maybe it'd be different if he was writing it as well. There's a very abrupt and savage streak in Ben's work, but I don't think it will quite filter through with a Who script."
Doctor Who fans are, of course, yet to see a full episode starring yer actual Peter Capaldi's Doctor – but the fashion-conscious Time Lord is already something of a trend-setter, it would seem. The Doctor's new look caused quite a stir when it was unveiled last week, drawing comparisons with, variously, Jon Pertwee's 1970s dandy Doctor, Dracula and somebody in the front row of a Two-Tone concert in 1979. But whatever its influences, the classy, stripped down new outfit has received a generally positive response – apart from a few scowling scum in The Special People, of course - a reaction backed up by interest in one particular item, The Doctor's new darza Crombie overcoat. Discerning shoppers with eight hundred smackers to spare flocked to Crombie's London, Manchester and Edinburgh stores to snap up the coats, while those feeling particularly flush enquired about made-to-measure versions featuring The Doctor’s red silk lining, which would set them back closer to three thousand quid. A spokesperson for the two hundred pounds-year-old British brand was unable to provide precise sales figures, but did reveal there had been 'a two-fold increase' in enquiries about the item. 'Calls and e-mails to our customer service line were double the usual,' said the spokesperson. 'More than half the queries for our made-to-measure service this week have been for the style of coat worn by Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.' Style.

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch is set to make an appearance on Sesame Street alongside number-obsessed Transylvanian puppet The Count. The news was revealed in a tweet by US broadcaster PBS, who pictured Benny alongside The Count and another furry friend. It's good news for American, if you will, Cumberbitches, who will presumably get to see the episode in the near future, but not necessarily for those of us in the UK. Selected episodes of Sesame Street (featuring appearances from the likes of David Beckham, Ricky Gervais and Nicole Kidman) currently air in this country on Virgin but it's unclear as yet whether the broadcaster intends to buy in further shows. Meanwhile, one further mystery remains – after meeting The Count, will the Sherlock star take time out to form the ultimate crime-solving duo with Sesame Street's resident detective Sherlock Hemlock? Perhaps John Watson should start worrying.
Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall has hinted that David Tennant will not return for the second series. So, that's one of the best reasons for watching it gone. Tennant played Alec Hardy in the hit crime drama's first run, but is now filming a lead role in Fox's American remake Gracepoint. Which will be shit. 'David's very busy and Alec Hardy, at the end of series one, he was fired from the police, he had a heart problem - I don't see how you come back,' Chibnall told the Radio Times. '[David is] a king on the stage, he's off doing an American show right now, he's got a lot on his plate.' Last year, Tennant stated that he was 'unsure' of his future with Broadchurch, saying: 'I was dying of a heart attack so I don't know how able Alec Hardy will be to do any more crime-fighting, we will have to see.'
The Voice continued to deliver high Saturday night ratings, going over eight million overnight punters for the third week running. The singing competition gave BBC1 an average of 8.5 million viewers during its 7.15pm - 8.30pm slot. On ITV, Tom Daley's Pro-Celebrity Drowning continued its sorry plight of getting its ass whupped every week, with 3.62m tuning in to see Perri Kiely (no, me neither I'm afraid) and Keith Duffy make it through to the final of the crass and awful diving competition. Back to BBC1, National Lottery: Who Dares Wins was watched by 5.89m at 8.30pm, while the latest episode of medical drama Casualty had 5.2m viewers at 9.20pm. BBC2's largest primetime overnight ratings came from Dad's Army at 8pm, with 1.94m tuning in to the wartime sitcom. The comedy movie Made In Dagenham brought in 1.22m at 9.15pm. ITV's atrocious Take Me Out attracted 3.28m at 8.15pm, while 2.83m watched The Jonathan Ross Show at 9.30pm. Channel Four's imported drama Hostages saw a slight dip in ratings, dropping around one hundred thousand viewers from last week, with six hundred and forty thousand at 9pm. Earlier in the evening, Speed With Guy Martin was watched by six hundred and ten thousand at 7pm, followed by Bigfoot Files with five hundred and forty thousand an hour later. On Channel Five, a double-bill of NCIS pulled in six hundred and forty eight thousand and eight hundred and nine thousand at 6.45pm and 7.35pm respectively, while feature-length episode The NCIS Movie: War on Terror attracted 1.18m at 8.30pm. On the multichannels, BBC4's The Bridge continued to do spectacularly well for the channel, with 1.12m tuning in at 9pm and nine hundred and eighty five thousand watching the series finale at 10pm. Those viewers will be pleased to know that a third series in already in the planning stages. ITV2's showing of Quantum of Solace had an audience of nine hundred and twenty seven thousand punters at 9pm.
Silent Witness was once again the highest-rated TV show outside of soaps on Friday night. The final episode of the BBC drama series drew an average overnight audience of 5.08 million viewers, representing a twenty three per cent audience share. Earlier in the evening, The ONE Show attracted 4.26 million viewers at 7pm, whilst Room 101 with horrorshow Michael Ball and, indeed, drag Caroline Quentin was watched by 3.16m at 8.30pm. The Graham Norton Show, which featured guests such as Matthew McConaughey, was seen by an average of 3.5 million punters at 10.35pm, while a transfer deadline day edition of Football Focus picked up 1.19m at 11.25pm. Oily twat Piers Morgan's Wretched Life Stories with Martin Kemp was ITV's highest-rated show of the night outside of soaps, albeit still only pulling in an average of 3.18m viewers at 9pm. Meanwhile, 2.87m tuned in to The Martin Lewis Money Show, which was sandwiched between two episodes of Coronation Street at 8pm. Mastermind was BBC2's highest-rated show, attracting 2.31 million viewers at 8pm, followed by 1.99m for An Island Parish at 8.30pm. The Natural World dropped to 1.02 million viewers at 9pm, before the last Qi of the current series had 1.32m at 10pm. The Jump continued to dominate Channel Four's ratings, attracting 1.79m at the later time of 9pm. Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast was the second highest-rated show, pulling in 1.16m at 8pm. Without Celebrity Big Brother on its schedule, it was back to normal for Channel Five with highest-rated show being Ice Road Truckers with 1.16m at 8pm. Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild was seen by eight hundred and ninety three thousand at 9pm. The 11.30pm episode of Family Guy was among the highest viewed multichannel shows, drawing an average audience of six hundred and fifty two thousand to BBC3. Meanwhile, the documentary Blondie: One Way Or Another was seen by six hundred and five thousand - including yer actual Keith Telly Topping - on BBC4 at 9pm.

Wretched, nasty, risible shite-smeared horrorshow (and drag) Birds Of A Feather stayed on top of the ratings outside of soaps on Thursday despite continued falling figures, according to overnight data. The ITV sitcom, which is about as funny as a big fat hairy wart on the knob-end, dropped by over four hundred thousand viewers to 5.87 million at 8.30pm. Benidorm was also down - in its case by around one hundred thousand viewers - to 4.63m at 9pm. On BBC1, Silent Witness's penultimate episode of the current series was down by around three hundred thousand to 4.95m at 9pm, while Hidden Kingdoms interested 2.74m at 8pm. BBC2's Restoration Home appealed to 2.20m at 8pm, followed by Dan Snow's History Of The Winter Olympics with 1.18m at 9pm. Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe entertained nine hundred and thirty seven thousand at 10pm. On Channel Four, The Jump fell to 1.61m at 8pm. The Undateables fascinated 1.85m at 9pm, while Katie Piper's Bodyshockers brought in 1.96m at 10pm. Channel Five's Dogs Dinner: The Truth About Dog Food was watched by nine hundred and forty two thousand at 9pm. Kids Who Kill had an audience of 1.07m at 10pm.

BBC4 has announced details of four new shows to be broadcast later this year. Mackenzie Crook will star in the six-part series Detectorists, in which he uses his own experiences as a metal detector enthusiast. Crook will 'tap into the world of the male hobby which is very funny and touching', BBC controller of comedy commissioning Shane Allen said. The BBC is looking to announce a 'big name' to appear opposite Crook in the series, according to Radio Times. The pair will 'embark on a journey of greed, betrayal, rejection and redemption as they hurtle towards Danbury Metal Detecting Club's greatest ever find.' Meanwhile, Miles Jupp will write and star as cookery writer Damien Trench in In And Out Of The Kitchen, a three-part series based on the Radio 4 comedy of the same name. Each episode follows Damien and his partner Anthony (Justin Edwards), their builders Mr Mullaney and Steven, and Damien's 'terrifying' agent, Ian. In February, the channel will broadcast The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern, described as 'a modern day This Is Spinal Tap' from The Fast Show's Rhys Thomas and Simon Day. The series - the trailer for which looks excellent - will spoof BBC4's own numerous, if you will, 'rockumentaries', focusing on an ageing rock star and frontman of progressive rock band Thotch - who is, clearly, not based on Peter Gabriel. Oh no, very hot water. Paul Whitehouse, Michael Kitchen and Nigel Havers will also star in the comedy, while the likes of Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman, David Arnold and Roger Taylor from Queen will make cameos. David Baddiel, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer round out the cast. Along with Matt Lucas. But, don't let that put you off. Graham Linehan's latest three-part series The Walshes will also be broadcast on the channel, co-written by Irish comedy group Diet of Worms. Scheduled to be shown in March, the comedy follows a family from the West Dublin suburb of Strollinstown. Tony (Niall Gaffney) and Carmel (Philippa Dunne) are parents to Ciara (Amy Stephenson) and Rory (Rory Connolly). The children are forced to move back home due to the piss-poor state of the Irish economy. Shane Allen said: 'This quartet of comedy treats is testament to BBC4's unique legacy in bringing the audience big name comedy talents in surprising and inventive shows that follow in the footsteps of award-winning predecessors like Getting On, The Thick Of It, Twenty Twelve and Screenwipe.'

When a Yorkshire businessman bought a reclining nude attributed to the early modernist Marc Chagall for one hundred thousand smackers, he hoped that the painting would provide a tidy nest-egg for his family. Instead, twenty years later, he faces the prospect of watching his sizeable investment being burned in front of a French magistrate. Martin Lang, from Leeds, bought Nude 1909-10, which was 'attributed to Chagall' in 1992, on the advice of a Russian art dealer who also worked for a major auction house. Whom, one imagines, Lang would rather like to kick in the knackers, really hard, round about now. Chagall, who died in 1985, was a Russian-French pioneer of modern art, revered by collectors worldwide. One of his paintings recently sold for ten million dollars. After watching last year's series of the BBC art programme Fake or Fortune?, Lang volunteered his - alleged - 'Chagall' to the programme's producers for scrutiny, citing its reproduction in an art book by a Soviet art expert and friend of Chagall. It turned out to be a really bad move. As research began to cast doubt on the provenance of Lang's painting, complex paint analysis showed that the blue and green pigments were far too modern, having been developed in the 1930s. Moreover, a later edition of the Soviet-era publication showed that the reference to Nude 1909-10 had been removed. The work was submitted to the Chagall Committee in Paris, the only authority with the power to declare conclusively whether a work said to be by Chagall is genuine or a forgery. The committee is headed by Chagall's two granddaughters. Handing over his painting for examination, Lang signed a contract stating that 'Marc Chagall's heirs could demand the seizure of the work, and/or any other measures stipulated by law.' But it now appears that the committee, which was expressly set up to defend Chagall's legacy, is determined to destroy the work. An archaic French law provides for the destruction of fakes in front of a magistrate. A proposal that the back of the painting be marked as fake was rejected. Philip Mould, the art expert used by Fake or Fortune?, condemned such an extreme measure as 'barbaric. I can't believe it, actually,' he told the Observer. He added that the Chagall Committee seems 'hell-bent' on destroying the painting, even though fakes have their uses in training the eye to what is genuine: 'They are getting back to Mr Lang this week. But, as it stands, this picture will be burned in front of a magistrate.' Mould said that, although one hundred grand is 'a big loss' – the original price reflected the fact that the painting had not been formally verified – it would have been worth perhaps half a million knicker if it had turned out to be genuine. The BBC programme reflects a Russian art market in which ninety per cent of works are fakes. Chagall is a particular target for forgers. The committee believes that Lang's painting is an imitation of the 1911 reclining nude. Pierre Valentin, a specialist art lawyer, told the programme's makers that two works purportedly by Joan Miró had been similarly destroyed as fakes. Their owners lost a legal fight and he does not believe that Lang can save the painting, even though he and his family have become attached to the forgery. Lang said he has no plans to seek a refund on his original purchase: 'I lack confidence in the system to give me the results I would be seeking.' He has, however, asked the committee to guarantee that he will be compensated if evidence ever surfaces to prove the picture's authenticity. He told the Observer: 'There's nothing definite in life. There's always room for error.'

Fantasy Football League will never return to TV, Frank Skinner has told the Digital Spy website. The comic, who hosted the popular comedy series which mixed sports critique and chat show format with David Baddiel, said that he was 'fairly confident' that there would never be a comeback, adding that there would also be no follow-up to the duo's classic football song '3 Lions'. 'Fantasy Football will never return. I can honestly say that. Baddiel and Skinner will never do another England song. And England will not win the World Cup in Brazil. That's three things I'm fairly confident about.' Fantasy Football League was originally broadcast on the BBC between 1994 and 1996 - yer actual Keith Telly Topping was a huge fan. ITV later picked the show up for World Cup and European Championship specials in 1998 and 2004. But, they were crap. As are most things which move from the BBC to ITV. Take Birds Of A Feather. For one. Skinner was more open to the idea of bringing back the comedy series Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned, revealing that there has been talks between the hosts about reuniting on stage or on TV. Frank - in need of another hit, frankly, after the disaster that was I Love My Country - confessed that his only worry was that the pair would look like 'later Star Trek movies. The ones where everybody is fatter and older and balder.'

The actors and writers of Borgen - the best TV show in the world that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title - are keen to revive the hit political drama which came to end last year after three series. However, fans of the show, which tells the story of Danish coalition politics and its impact on the personal lives of parliament's most high profile figures, could be in for quite a wait. 'I think we should do season four in ten years,' said Sidse Babett Knudsen. 'I still think that the life of the former PM, of someone who's been there but gone off in a completely different direction, is so interesting. I don't think we've exploited that. And I'll be out of work in ten years.' Speaking to Radio Times, series creator Adam Price confirmed that he would relish the chance to write a fourth series. He also told a packed audience at London's Old Truman Brewery that an American remake could be in the pipeline. Which has been talked about previous ad which is a fantastically bad idea. 'BBC Worldwide takes care of the remake rights and HBO currently claims that they want to do it but we don't know. Los Angeles is the hot air city but they seem to be very keen on doing it.' Although nothing has been confirmed, details of how the series could be made relevant for an American audience are being discussed. 'Of course it will be very difficult to adapt but I think one of the ideas is to bring it to state level, at least in the first season, because then you also have a multi-party system like we do in Denmark.' Until then, Price and his team hope that Borgen will continue to inspire the Danes to take an interest in their country's politics. 'The Copenhagen Business School recently did a survey of typical Borgen viewers asking them about their political views. People answered a clear"‘no" to whether their political views had changed since watching the show and a clear "yes" to whether they had become more interested in politics on the whole. That for us is the greatest thing.'
On Saturday evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping went round the corner for a bag of chip - as is his right in a free and democratic society. Bad move, though. The good news was that getting to the actual chipoil itself wasn't so tough as yer actual Keith Telly Topping had the hurricane and the monsoon behind him. There was really bad news, of course. Coming back to Stately Telly Topping Manor, though ... jeez, that was like tackling the North face of the Eiger. It then took yer actual Keith Telly Topping about two hours to thaw out and get some feeling back into his extremities (steady). Thanks God for the exciting conclusion to series two of The Bridge otherwise he might well have slipped into a hypothermic coma. Still, at least the chips were nice.

Top Gear's twenty first series kicks off on Sunday with an eighties theme as Jezza, Jimmy and Dick revisit the hot hatches of their youth. The trio believe that the golden age of hot hatchbacks was the decade of yuppies, Thatcher and Tom Selleck moustaches and, in the opening episode, set out to prove just that. Clarkson in a Volkswagen Golf GTI, Hamster in a Vauxhall Nova SRi and Mister Slowly in a Ford Fiesta XR2i set out on a trip of challenges, which include an unusual visit to the supermarket and an old Army base.
And, on that bombshell, here's some Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 8 February
Author, playwright and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi has amused, provoked and told it like it is since breaking through with the script for 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping considers The Buddha Of Suburbia to be one of the greatest novels ever written in the English language, for example (and The Black Album isn't far behind). In The Culture Show - 9:30 BBC2 - Kureishi chats to Alan Yentob about his new book The Last Word, his latest film, Le Week-End, and about placing his personal archive in the vaults of the British Library. With contributions by directors Stephen Frears and Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader.

If you've enjoyed The Killing, Borgen, Spiral et al, and are unsure what to do with yourself on a Saturday night now that The Bridge has finished then fear not, dear blog reader, BBC4 have another quality Euro product on tap. Salamander - 9:00 BBC4 - is a Belgian noir thriller following Paul Gerardi, a police inspector whose investigation into the theft of sixty six safe-deposit boxes from a private bank in Brussels leads to the unearthing of a complex conspiracy. The owners of the targeted boxes are all prominent high ranking figures from the top layer of Belgian society and Gerardi finds himself trying to learn the truth about a sinister organisation called Salamander. In the evening's second episode, on witnessing the assassination of Urbain and hearing about the death of his informant, Strubbe, Gerardi now knows his suspicions of a major unreported robbery are correct. However, he is perturbed to realise that his house seems to be under surveillance and that his official inquiries are being thwarted at a high level, seemingly with the active co-operation of his boss. Starring Filip Peeters, Mike Verdrengh and Koen de Bouw. In Flemish and French. Looks highly promising.

The Chemical Brothers: Don't Think - 10:20 Sky Arts 1 - is Adam Smith's extraordinary film of the dance duo's apocalyptic performance at the 2011 Fuji Rock festival in Japan, featuring many properly bangin' tunes including 'Block Rockin' Beats', 'Hey Boy Hey Girl', 'Setting Sun', 'Out of Control' and 'Star Guitar'. Surrender to the void.
Drama's very welcome repeat run of the award-winning fourth series of Waking The Dead features another cracker tonight - 9:00 - with The Hardest Word. The cold case squad investigates the extremely grisly unsolved murder of a headmaster, when another man is found killed in very similar circumstances, and they begin to suspect the victims may have been targeted because of their sexuality. However, their efforts are complicated by the Organised Crime Unit, who are also assigned to the case and have very different ideas about why these men were killed. Phil Daniels, Julian Glover, Emma Fielding and Paul Reynolds guest star.

Sunday 9 February
Yer actual small furry Richard Hammond gets behind the wheel of the mid-engined Alfa Romeo 4C on the shores of Lake Como in Italy - nice work if you can get it. But, his enjoyment of the lightweight vehicle is shattered into tiny fragments by the arrival of Big Jezza, who demands a race against his quad bike in tonight's Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2. Yer man Clarkson also visits Belgium, putting the McLaren P1 hypercar to the test in Bruges and around the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One circuit - and its combined power output of more than nine hundred bhp generated from electricity and turbocharged petrol V8 power is likely to cause astonishment. And a combination of terror and bloodlust in the icy hearts of middle-class hippy Communists with a sick agenda who read the Gruniad Morning Star. But, fortunately, nobody that actually matters gives an effing shat what they think. About pretty much anything. Meanwhile, Mister Slowly spends time at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan to learn about the army's vehicle redeployment efforts. The actor Tom Hiddleston tries to coax the best time he can muster from the Reasonably Priced Car.

Babylon - 9:00 Channel Four - is a new police comedy drama, directed by national treasure Danny Boyle and written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. The Met is in need of a public image revamp, so chief constable Richard Miller has hired American visionary Liz Garvey to revolutionise the force's PR department. In an age of rolling news, smartphones and an information-hungry population, Liz preaches transparency and honesty at all times. But, as an outbreak of violence erupts across London and internal back-biting begins, her mission faces its greatest test. Starring James Nesbitt, Brit Marling, Jill Halfpenny, Paterson Joseph, Bertie Carvel and Adam Deacon. The trailers suggest this could be patchy, at best, despite a very impressive cast - and the presence of yer man Boyle. However, bright side, it's just really nice to yer actual Jimmy Nesbitt - a fantastic actor when he puts his mind to it - in something other that those wretched, unfunny, twee Thomas Cook adverts. A pox on them, and all their works.
Maggie Aderin-Pocock joins Chris Lintott and The Sky At Night team 10:00 BBC4 - as they focus on Jupiter - the largest planet in the solar system. Together they explore what causes the planet's extraordinary weather, and how its coloured bands and iconic 'eye' are visible manifestations of a violent atmosphere. Guest reporter and physicist Dr Helen Czerski also explains why the planet looks the way it does.
There's one of the most memorable episodes of Qi XL repeated on Dave at 8:00. Stephen Fry is joined by two of the greatest comedians this country has ever produced, Bill Bailey and Eddie Izzard, national treasure Danny Baker and regular panellist Alan Davies on the quiz with a difference. Correctness and even intelligence go out of the window as the host asks questions on the topic of House and Home and awards points for the answers he finds the most interesting. Watch out, in particular, for the bit about ghosts and Danny saying that he doesn't want to be seen as a support of 'the ghost party' at which Bill replied, like a shot, 'yeah, cos all of the other parties, they're just scaremongering!' See, also, if you, too, find Alan Davies getting right on your tit-end when he cuts across Eddie to make some puerile cat noises with an appallingly 'everybody look at me, me, me, me, me, me, me' bit of rank childishness. Just this blogger, then?

Monday 10 February
One of the completely unexpected joys of British TV last year was BBC4's Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown, a wonderful three-part series which reminded everyone - if any reminder were needed - that, when it comes to pop music, there are few more articulate or passionate expects on the subject that The Bard of Millwall. In Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades - 9:00 BBC4 - the irrepressible writer, broadcaster and Goddamn national treasure celebrates the best of British rock music throughout the past forty years. In the first edition, he focuses on the sounds of the 1970s - from prog to punk - in the company of former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook, the divine goddess that is Viv Albertine from The Slits, and Rolling Stone correspondent-turned-gastronome Loyd Grossman.

In the latest Horizon, Man On Mars: Mission To The Red Planet - 9:00 BBC2 - a documentary film team goes behind the scenes at NASA to discover how the space agency is preparing for its most ambitious and daring mission yet - to land a manned craft on the surface of Mars. Reaching the planet would involve a journey of at least three years, and the film meets the scientists and engineers who are designing new rockets and spacesuits, as well as finding ways to help astronauts survive the perils of such a long voyage.

To mark the release of The Lego Movie on Friday, Tom Dyckhoff explores the toy's relationship with architecture - and argues that it has changed the way people think about buildings in the latest episode of The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. He meets artists and architects who played with it as children and who are using it to reimagine cities today, and looks at how cult computer game Minecraft may be set to transform urban landscapes of the future. With contributions by Alain de Botton, Peter Molyneux, Bjarke Ingels, Mark Dudek and Olafur Eliasson.
Benefits Street has sparked 'a national conversation' about Britain's welfare system, generating questions in Parliament, screamed tabloid headlines for sick bastards with an agenda and more social media reaction than the last episode of The Only Way is Essex. Apparently. And a quite staggering indifference from those of us who, frankly, couldn't give a monkey's about any of this malarkey. So, following tonight's episode, there's Benefits Britain: The Debate - 10:00 Channel Four. This discussion, chaired by Richard Bacon (why, for the love of God, why?), focuses on the socio-economic issues brought to the fore by the documentary series, hearing from a range of panellists, including some of those involved in the programme, and the studio audience. Yadda, yadda. So, expect lots of Jeremy Kyle style shouting and, hopefully, a really big brawl at the end with kids gettin' sparked and all sorts. That's entertainment.

Tuesday 11 February
The island's commerce minister is shot dead in his home, and with the incident coming shortly after the exposure of a scandalous affair - not to mention a suicide note at the scene - it looks like an open-and-shut case in the latest episode of Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. But Humphrey isn't convinced and believes someone else was responsible for the killing, whittling down the possible suspects to leave his betrayed wife, his son and his mistress in the frame. The rest of the team struggles to see past the physical evidence, which still suggests he took his own life - and then matters are complicated even further when Camille gets a blast from the past.
Chris Packham examines why the most intelligent animals on the planet are also the most social in the final episode of Inside The Animal Mind - 9:00 BBC2. Swimming with a pod of dolphins in the Bahamas, he explores their language and learns how they are able to recognise themselves in a mirror. He also witnesses the deviousness of chimpanzees and watches elephants as they mourn their dead.

Vic invites Bob's ex-wife, Erika, over as a surprise for his birthday, not realising she is intent on killing her former husband in House of Fools - 10:00 BBC2. The housemates decide to tell her that Bob is dead in an attempt to safely steer Erika back to Norway without her finding out the dreadful truth, but she turns out to be a lot more fun than any of them had anticipated. Guest starring Sofia Ledarp.
Last year, dear blog reader, some berk on no importance at Channel Five had a right go at Channel Four for, allegedly, 'going downmarket' with that documentary about the poor chap with the massive bollocks. Something which was, rightly and mercilessly laughed at by everybody else in the industry who couldn't believe that Channel Five, of all people, were claiming moral superiority over anyone in relation to anything. This, remember, being a network run by a soft core pornographer. Anyway, what are we make, dear blog reader, of Two Hundred Nips & Tucks And I Want More! - 9:00 Channel Five. Tabloidesque headline with its own exclamation mark and all. This investigates the stories of people whose pursuit of the ultimate body has taken over their lives and led them to have a great number of cosmetic surgery procedures. In California, fifty eight-year-old Monique has been going under the knife for more than thirty five years since undergoing gender reassignment surgery, but is now registered as permanently disabled after an operation performed by an unregulated doctor went wrong. Back in Britain, fifty nine-year-old Linda has spent more than fifty grand on everything from liposuction to having her toes straightened. Yes, that doesn't sound in the least bit sick, invasive and demeaning.

Wednesday 12 February
Pete's goddaughter comes to stay from Australia in the latest Outnumbered - 9:00 BBC1 - but her arrival has an unfortunate effect on the Brockman household - especially as Sue and Jake also have visitors. Meanwhile, Ben's role in Spartacus: The Musical is under threat. Family comedy, guest starring Emily Berrington, alongside Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis.

Tonight also sees the return of Line Of Duty - 9:00 BBC2 - the crime thriller about a police anti-corruption unit. DI Lindsay Denton is the sole survivor of the ambush of a police convoy in which three of her colleagues were killed and a witness is seriously injured. AC-12's commanding officer Ted Hastings assigns new recruit Georgia Trotman to work alongside Steve Arnott on the investigation, and suspicions are soon raised about Denton herself. Starring Adrian Dunbar, Keeley Hawes, Martin Compston and Jessica Raine.
Gerald and Sabrina's modernist home has lots of beautiful things in it of extremely high value, something viewers are shown immediately in this week's episode of Inside Number Nine - 10:00 BBC2. So when cat-burglars Ray and Eddie decide to break into the luxury house, they have to dodge all manner of tricky obstacles - including the warring couple who live there - to get their hands on a priceless painting. Starring Denis Lawson and Oona Chaplin.
The murder of Midsomer resident and biscuit factory boss Eric Calder leads Barnaby and Nelson to Copenhagen in the latest Midsomer Murder - 8:00 ITV. The pair join forces with local female detectives Birgitte Poulsen and Anna Degn in the hunt for the killer, and during the course of their investigation they discover the businessman had numerous links to the capital. Anglo-Danish collaboration marking Midsomer's one hundredth episode - it's hugely popular in Scandiwegia for reasons that escape most people over here - guest starring Ann Eleonora Jorgensen from The Killing, Borgen's Birgitte Hjort Sorensen plus Sanjeev Bhaskar and Joanna Scanlan alongside Neil Dudgeon and Gwilym Lee.

Thursday 13 February
A young woman's body is washed up beside a pier, leading Gently and Bacchus to question the staff and guests of the nearby holiday camp where she worked in Inspector George Gently - 9:00 BBC1. Though its location is a bit of a mystery given that there are no holiday camps in the North East of England and never have been. It turns out she was a popular member of staff, a charismatic performer and great with the guests - but her mother's reaction to her death makes the detectives suspect there is more to her family situation than meets the eye. And when her colleagues' alibis for the night of the murder don't quite stack up, a different picture of the victim - and the camp - comes to light. Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby star, with guest appearances from Pixie Lott, Lee Boardman, Lisa Riley and Andrea Lowe.

Fleming - 9:00 Sky Atlantic - is, as you might have guessed from the title a drama following James Bond author Ian Fleming's path from underachieving playboy to key figure in the admiralty and wartime intelligence spymaster. In London, 1938, Ian is propping up the bar at a jazz club when he meets Ann O'Neill, a wealthy and connected socialite who is more than a match for him, but already has a husband and a lover. Meanwhile, his domineering mother Evelyn secures him a job assisting naval intelligence's John Godfrey. Starring Dominic Cooper, Lara Pulver and Samuel West.
Bible Hunters - 9:00 BBC2 - is the first of a two-part documentary telling the stories of the dedicated men and women who travelled across Egypt in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries looking to unearth the earliest Christian texts. Their discoveries shed new light on the origins of Christianity and the story of the Bible.

The murder of two youngsters in ritual slayings lead the police into a case of black magic - and things soon become more incredible, from animal sacrifices and paintings in blood to two of the team apparently cursed by voodoo dolls in a repeated episode of Wire In The Blood - 10:00 ITV3. Tony remains sceptical throughout - until Alex and her son become the killer's next targets. Thriller, starring Robson Green and Simone Lahbib.

Friday 14 February
Mock The Week Looks Back At ... - 9:00 BBC2 - features a selection from the show's archives on the theme of health, including another chance to hear about Dara O Briain's curious exercise regimen, Frankie Boyle describing 'Mock The Week slash fiction' and the show's producer plaintively pleading with Dara through his earpiece. Plus, appearances by panellists including Russell Howard, Andy Parsons, Micky Flanagan, Greg Davies and Michael McIntyre.

Lee Mack hosts Duck Quacks Don't Echo - 9:00 Sky 1 - the comedy panel game, inviting actress Olivia Colman, funnyman Rhod Gilbert and baking king Paul Hollywood to come up with more amazing trivia. Yes, dear blog reader, it's Sky doing a pale rip-off of Qi. How stunningly original. Facts this weeks include - a shrimp is fitter than the average human being, a person can scale a wall using vacuum cleaners and a pet dog can 'catch' its owner's yawns.
In The Last Leg - 10:00 Channel Four - Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker are joined by celebrity guests for a comic review of the significant moments of the past seven days. They also look at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and follow Alex's quest to participate in the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

And so to the news: Doctor Michael Mosley has infected himself with different parasites for a new BBC4 documentary. He has swallowed tapeworm cysts, placed leeches on his arm and infected himself with lice to see how they affect the human body. The worms reportedly lived inside his body for several weeks and they did not make him ill. It says here. His stool samples will be used by scientists to study the signs of parasitic infection. Mosley has presented several other award-winning medical programme studies, including - famously - taking a 'truth serum', testing magic mushrooms and popularising the fasting 5:2 diet. During the new series, he swallows a 'pill camera' to display live pictures on his iPad of the results of the tapeworms. Lovely. Michael said: 'When I first saw the worms, I was in an Indian restaurant. I shouted out: "Blimey! There's a tapeworm in me!" The other diners looked very surprised. I was delighted, but at the same time, it was rather horrible. My wife wasn't too keen on the idea, either. But I told her not to worry - this particular tapeworm is relatively innocuous.' Interesting use of the word 'relatively' there. Michael added that he hopes to 'help scientists' at Salford University, who are testing for early signs of worm infections on humans. 'There are other tapeworms that are very nasty in humans - especially the pork tapeworm. It can get into your brain and eyes and causes cysts,' he said. Michael Mosley: Infested! Living with Parasites will be broadcast during BBC4's natural history season in February.

Discussing the - hysterical - coverage of the current spate of flooding in British in the papers for the BBC News Channel, Matthew Green, the foreign correspondent at Reuters, said: 'It's a classic blame game now developing. But I guess the question is whether there's going to be a real political debate going forward about what the long-term solution is here. There are some environmentalists saying the Somerset Levels should be turned over to become an Everglades of the UK - presumably without the crocodiles.' Well, hopefully.

The Prime Minister reckons that watching lots of telly has told him everything he knows about government surveillance of mobile communications and Internet data traffic. Interesting theory. Though, it should be noted that, if that's all it takes, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would be an ideal candidate of the next head of MI5, having watched every episode of [spooks] at least twice. In a wide-ranging discussion, hosted by the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, Cameron was questioned about national security concerns. He said that there are a lot of them, 'from floods to pandemics.' Well spotted, Dave. Hey, I'll tell you what, with vision like that you could be in line for a real job one day. He often cited counter-terrorism and, in response to talks about cuts in the national security budget, Cameron stated that the government has 'increased its investment in drones.' Well yes. I mean, just look at the backbenches, for a kick-off. Eventually the subject of the 'whistleblower' (according the Gruniad Morning Star) or, 'snitch' (according to the Daily Scum Mail) Edward Snowden and his revelations about government surveillance came up. Here, Cameron expressed 'some doubt' as to whether Britain is 'concerned' about this as the media have suggested. He added that the media should 'stop dallying' with its reports on the disclosures. He said: 'We are in danger of making ourselves less safe as a result [of the reporting],' claiming that the public has the view that the intelligence agencies do intelligent work, and that is 'good.' As a member of the public, this blogger should point out at this juncture that, actually, I didn't get that memo. So, if you really have asked all of the public whether they hold the 'view' you ascribe to them, Dave, there's at least one member that you didn't ask. Seemingly, two, because Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party 9whoever they are_, was 'unimpressed' with this, and suggested that there is 'an attention gap' somewhere. 'Anyone who argues that we don't have the capability to target communications clearly hasn't been paying attention over the months of the Snowden revelations. What is going on is an attempt to justify the liberties that have been taken without a democratic mandate,' said Loz - probably not his or her real name. 'To blame the media and campaigners for blowing this out of proportion shows how afraid Cameron is of real debate on this subject. The British public are very worried about this issue and will not let it be brushed under the carpet.' Although, again, Loz seems happy to speak for the entirety of the British public without, seemingly, having bothered to ask them if that's okay. Bit of a pot-kettle-black type situation, there. 'Cameron made some attempts to suggest that mass surveillance is fine and dandy because he has seen it on the telly and it works there,' noted Loz. 'I love watching, as I probably should stop telling people, crime dramas on the television. There's hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device,' said the PM, adding that there is 'increased use' of communications channels like Skype. 'If we don't modernise the practice and the law, over time we will have the communications data to solve these horrible crimes on a shrinking proportion of the total use of devices and that is a real problem for keeping people safe.' This did not go down too well with yer actual Loz either. 'Cameron saying we should accept mass surveillance because he likes crime dramas would be laughable if it weren't so chilling,' he or she added. 'He needs to learn the difference between fact and fiction. What next? Justifying the badger cull because of The Archers?'
TV Chef Heston Blumenthal has shut his central London restaurant after it was hit by an outbreak of a vomiting virus. A total of twenty four diners and twenty one members of staff were taken ill at the two Michelin-starred Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Hyde Park due to the norovirus. It was the same bug which forced him to close his award-winning Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire in 2009. Dinner's website said that it was expected to remain closed for a week.

A court in Italy has reinstated the guilty verdicts against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the horrible and grisly murder of British student Meredith Kercher in 2007. Twice convicted murderess Knox - who is in the US and, seemingly, plans to try and stay there - and her Italian ex-boyfriend Sollecito had pleaded extremely not guilty. But, the court didn't believe a word of it. The latest verdict overturns the pair's successful 2011 appeal, which freed them after four years in pokey. Knox has said she will only be extradited to Italy from America 'kicking and screaming.' Which, one is sure, the Italians will be hoping to arrange as soon as possible. In a statement after the case concluded, she said she was 'frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict.' Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, said that his client had heard the verdict on TV and 'looked annihilated.'
Some awfully sad news now. TheOscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has died at his home in New York at the age of forty six. His body was reportedly found after a friend called the emergency services. Police say that he apparently died of a drug overdose. Hoffman's family called his death 'tragic and sudden. We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone,' they said in a statement on Sunday. John Hurt, who starred alongside Hoffman in the 2003 drama Owning Mahowny, said that the news had hit him 'very hard. He was a great actor, a great member of the film and theatre community. An extraordinary talent, directorially as well as an actor. He'll be greatly missed,' he told the BBC. Philip was one of the most well-respected actors of his generation. He was known as an original and versatile performer who played a wide range of complex - and often dysfunctional - characters to great critical acclaim. He won twenty three awards for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in the 2005 film Capote, including the Oscar for best actor. Speaking to the New York Times about the role, the actor said: 'Sometimes being an actor is like being some kind of detective where you're on the search for a secret that will unlock the character.' In his Oscar acceptance speech in 2006, he thanked his mother, Marilyn O'Connor, a civil-rights activist. 'She brought up four kids alone and she deserves a congratulations for that,' he said, adding that she took him to his first play and inspired him to follow a career in acting. Hoffman trained at New York's Tisch School of Drama, becoming a founding member of a theatre company called The Bullstoi Ensemble. Soon after graduating he fell into drug and alcohol addiction, entering rehab at the age of twenty two. He was widely reported to have given up both for twenty three years. Hoffman established a successful and respected film career playing diverse and idiosyncratic characters in supporting roles, working with a wide variety of noted directors, including Todd Solondz, the Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Cameron Crowe, David Mamet, Robert Benton, Anthony Minghella and Paul Thomas Anderson. His breakthrough film roles came in the 1990s, notably with Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Scent of a Woman, Red Dragon and The Big Lebowski. His other well-known appearances include The Talented Mr Ripley, Cold Mountain, a truly superb, movie-stealing performance in Almost Famous as the rock journalist Lester Bangs, Love Liza (written by his brother, Gordy Hoffman) and, more recently, the Hunger Games series, as well as a number of independent titles and Hollywood blockbusters such as Mission Impossible III. He was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in The Master, inspired by Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. He earlier received supporting nominations for Doubt and Charlie Wilson's War. As well as numerous film accolades, Phlip was twice nominated for Broadway's Tony Awards - in 2000 for a revival of Sam Shepard's True West and in 2003 for a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. He also won acclaim for his work as a stage director - including with Jesus Hopped The A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis - and co-artistic director of the LAByrinth Theater Company, a New York collective that specialises in new American plays. His début as a film director came in 2010 with the New York-set Jack Goes Boating, in which he also starred. He is survived by partner, costume designer Mimi O'Donnell, and three children.

There will be no national extension of pub licensing hours during England's opening World Cup match, the Home Office has confirmed. The British Beer and Pub Association - for there is such a thing - had asked for serving times to be extended on two weekends during the tournament in Brazil this summer. But the Home Office rejected the bid, saying the World Cup was not a 'one-off' event like the Queen's Jubilee. England play Italy at 11pm on Saturday 14 June 2014. Industry body the BBPA had put in an application on behalf of all pubs to allow them to to stay open from 23:00 to 01:00 on that Friday and Saturday - the opening weekend of the tournament - so that aal the lads could get oot on the lash and get rammed off their collective faces. And then, when Roy's Boys (inevitably) get twanked, with their minds poisoned by alcohol, that would give them plenty of time to go out and smash up a few random hapless pizzerias in spite. It had also asked for an extra two hours on the closing weekend, 11 and 12 July. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds told BBC Radio 5Live: 'The Home Office wrote back to us and said "we don't consider this of national importance."' Remember that the next time Wavey-Davey Cameron is wrapping himself in the flag just before England play a big game. 'They've really missed something here and they should reconsider.'
Just days after Andy Gray returned to the front line of British televised football with BT Sport, a new video of apparently sexist behaviour during his Sky Sports days has emerged to further embarrass the pundit. By hell, somebody at Sky with access to their archives really seems to have it in for Randy Andy, don't they? Gray, who has been working alongside his former Sky colleague, the hairy-handed buffoon and non-entity Richard Keys at BeInSport in Qatar after he was extremely sacked by Sky in 2011 following the emergence of the leaked tapes which showed the cackling pair of overgrown school bullies making crude sexist off-air comments, was hired by BT last weekend for Stevenage's FA Cup tie against Everton. But his future employment opportunities might be affected by the emergence of footage, posted on the Football Ramble website and, according to the Gruniad Morning Star 'understood to be genuine', that shows an exchange between the pair and Sky reporter Clare Tomlinson in which they sing 'get your tits out for the lads.' Although it is not clear when the footage dates from, it appears to be from the period in the early 2000s when major domestic cup finals were held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff during the building of the new Wembley Stadium. Apparently recorded before they went on-air, it shows Keys and Gray first joking with Tomlinson and telling her to get off the pitch. They then burst into a chorus of the popular terrace standard 'get your tits out for the lads' and the camera cuts back to them in the studio laughing their collective cocks off like a pair of hyenas. Quite where the footage has been for the last decade or so and why it has emerged at this precise moment is something of a mystery. And, whether the person who leaked it had some agenda in doing so is, also, unknown at this time. But, you can't probably make an educate guess. BT received some criticism from viewers for bringing Gray back in a one-off capacity to stand in for odious pointless little turd and waste-of-space Michael Owen, although Gray's on-screen performance as a co-commentator was, broadly, well-received. Particularly in the Middle East where sexist gittery goes down rather well with all the Sheikhs. The newly-leaked footage appears specifically timed to cause Gray the maximum embarrassment and could also damage BT Sport's reputation at a time when it has highlighted its ambitious plans for women's sport and given a prominent role to Clare Balding, a passionate advocate of equality in sport. So, double agenda. A BT Sport spokeswoman said on Thursday: 'Andy Gray made a guest appearance last weekend and we were happy with his commentary.' She refused to comment on whether the broadcaster would employ him again. One alleged Sky 'source' allegedly said: 'We recognised this as an issue three years ago and we dealt with it.' Keys and Gray were the face of Sky's football coverage for near on twenty years, during a period when the pay TV giant became the dominant force in sports broadcasting. But their Sky careers came to an abrupt end when a tape of them discussing female linesman Sian Massey in very disparaging terms was leaked to a newspaper and they were suspended. Further leaked footage then emerged of Gray making a lewd comment to his colleague Charlotte Jackson before they went on-air and of Keys making even cruder sexist remarks to pundit Jamie Redknapp. Amid claims that there was 'a culture of sexism' around the football department at Sky, later denied by Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis, Gray was extremely sacked and Keys then resigned. Albeit it should be noted that many of the journalists who made these claims of 'a culture of sexism' at Sky are the very same ones who are, seemingly, happy to take Sky's coin and appear on The Sunday Supplement. You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem, chaps. Quit being part of the problem. In a lengthy - rather rambling and embarrassing - resignation speech on TalkSport, the radio station which later employed them for a daily show, Keys admitted their duo's culpability but also railed against the 'dark forces' behind their demise. 'I hope this starts the process of recovery and that everybody now can just step back and understand that you know these boorish and bullish guys understand the magnitude of what happened,' said Keys at the time. They have both since claimed that there was 'an agenda' to force them out, with Keys claiming that they were 'bugged'. Gray said later that the episode left him suicidal. 'This was a private bit of banter released to the social media and for some reason the press et cetera tore us apart,' he said. 'I have no problems with a woman referee. It wasn't a criticism, it was a light-hearted quip.' Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. After a spell at TalkSport, the pair were employed by Al-Jazeera owned BeInSport in Doha to front their live Premier League coverage.
And, finally dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has but a brief word to say to all of the players of his beloved (though tragically unsellable) Magpies following their ridiculous, cowardly capitulation and surrender in this weekend's derby against the Mackem filth. For the second year running. And, the brief word is this: You useless, glakeish waste-of-space shower of shite, I hope you're all bloody proud of yourselves. You gutless, over-paid, under-achieving cowards. It's to be hoped that Pardew takes a sodding great stocking full of diarrhoea to the lot of them on Monday morning. They let themselves down, they let the club down but, far more importantly than that, they let the supporters - you know, those annoying 'little people' whose season ticket money pays their, vastly inflated, wages - down. Badly.

And, thanks to the lads of nufc.com for the following.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's A To Z of Groovy Tunes, we reach B. And the Boards of Canada.

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