Tuesday, March 18, 2014

T Is For Troubles

Sherlock is now available to stream on Netflix in the UK. The first two series of the popular drama - totalling six ninety-minute episodes - have been added for members in the UK and Ireland. Series six of Doctor Who - plus 2010's Christmas special, A Christmas Carol - will also join the first five series of the BBC family SF drama on the service. Totalling fourteen episodes, series six was the second run to feature yer actual Matt Smith as The Doctor and also stars Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston. Other new additions to Netflix UK include the first two series of Call The Midwife and the first, six-part series of Last Tango In Halifax. The streaming service also recently made episodes of Homeland and American Horror Story available to UK members, with the first two seasons of both series now available to stream.

Now, the following couple items were included in a late update of a previous From The North entry, but, in case any dear blog readers missed 'em first time around, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is repeating them. You know, like the BBC does with a good show. And indeed, the odd bad one, come to that. There have been further announcements of casting for Doctor Who's series eight. And, in one case, yer actual Keith Telly Topping knew about it months ago but he never said nowt. Because, that's the kind of guy he is. Episode two of the new series - the one written by Phil Ford and which is rumoured to be a Dalek episode, although that's still unconfirmed - will feature Ben Crompton playing a character called Ross. Ben is probably best known for his role in Game Of Thrones (as Dolorous Tollett) though British dear blog readers may also be familiar with Ben from numerous character appearances in the likes of Clocking Off, Housewife 49, Pramface, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, a properly superb turn in the ITV drama Collision and, most notably, as the permanently 'on probation' Colin in the much-lamented BBC3 sitcom Ideal. On the latter he worked with the Doctor Who episode's director, Ben Wheatley. Far be it from yer actual Keith Telly Topping to blow his own cornet nor nowt, but the reason that yer actual Keith Telly Topping happened to stumble across this bit of news, around Christmas, is that he and Ben share a mutual friend. However, being the good fanboy that he is, yer actual Keith Telly Topping remained schtum about it until the BBC confirmed the news. Mainly because he didn't fancy the idea of The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat storming around to Stately Telly Topping Manor and kicking Keith Telly Topping's 'nads through his hat. Thankfully, that's no longer an issue. So whilst From The North lost out of - minor - scoop, yer actual Keith Telly Toppng's 'nads remained in tact. Also confirmed for a guest role in the same episode - still as yet unnamed - is the great Michael Smiley - Spaced, Luther, The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern, Wire In The Blood, Utopia - playing a character called Colonel Blue. Michael has also previously worked with Ben Wheatley on the acclaimed 2011 movie Kill List and in last year's even more acclaimed A Field In England. He's one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors and, also, a friend of a friend (the same mutual friend as Ben Cromtpn as it happens - it's a small world, innit?) Also confirmed are additional cast members for the opening episode of the new series, written by Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) his very self. In addition to the previously announced return of Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey - and a rumoured, though still unconfirmed, cameo by Matt Smith - the episode will also feature Emmerdale's Nigel Betts, Game Of Thrones' Tony Way and theatre actress Maggie Service.

That's, of course, in addition to the recent announcement that yer actual Keeley Hawes will be featuring as the guest villain in episode five of the series. And, that's as good an excuse as any to dig out this photo.
And, this one.
Just can't get enough of those.

Matt Smith his very self will be playing football for England when he takes part in this year's Soccer Aid. And he'll be facing a former nemesis in the shape of Michael Sheen - who provided the voice of House in The Doctor's Wife - at the charity event at Old Trafford on Sunday 8 June. Doors open at 5pm and kick-off is at 8pm (so, if you get there early, you can sit in the cold for three hours sipping over-priced Bovril), with the match being broadcast live on ITV. It is being held in aid of the global children's charity UNICEF, with Smudger signed up for Robbie Williams's England team. Meanwhile, Sheen is heading the opposing Rest of the World Squad. Before he became an actor, of course, Smudger's dream was to be a professional footballer and he played for the youth teams at Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. Sadly, a spinal condition wrecked his sporting hopes, though the Premiership's loss was, ultimately, to be the universe's gain. However, Matt retains links to the game through his avid support of Blackburn Vindaloos and through the 2010 Doctor Who episode The Lodger which saw The Doctor leading the pub team The King's Arms to victory in a key Sunday morning clash. And, dear blog reader, if you've now got a right hump because you'd already read all of that yesterday, tough. Quit whinging, you're getting it again for no extra charge! Next ...

National heartthrob David Tennant will join Olivia Colman in the second series of Broadchurch, their co-star Jodie Whittaker has claimed. Seems unlikely but, she should know. Whittaker told the CultBox website that she is 'still uncertain' about her own role in the ITV drama's next series, but appeared to confirm that its two leads would both return. 'I know Olivia and David are back,' she said. 'But [the producers] haven't told us anything. They don't want us to know anything so that we can't spoil it if we are back!' Tennant's participation in Broadchurch series two was called into question when the actor was cast in FOX's upcoming US remake of the drama, Gracepoint. Which will be shit. Earlier this year, Broadchurch's creator Chris Chibnall also suggested that Tennant might not reprise his role of Alec Hardy.
A new BBC crime drama starring yer actual Trevor Eve has been barred from filming in a part of North London due to fears it would 'send out the wrong message' about guns. The owners of Camden Lock Market have denied the producers of The Interceptors permission to shoot scenes involving firearms inside the venue because they feel it would 'fuel a false perception of the area.' Grafton House Productions, which is making the series for the BBC is understood to have instead used a stretch of canal just outside the market. Will Fulford, the founder of Urban Market Company which owns the Camden Lock Market, told the Radio Times that the market rejected the filming request because he was 'uncomfortable' about 'the use – and more importantly the sound of guns. Filming can be quite a lucrative sideline for us so we don't reject requests to film lightly,' said Fulford. 'But we didn't have to think too long because having people running around with guns did not feel right. We have been working hard on the perception people have of Camden Lock and Camden Town and the false perception people have of its links with drugs and guns crime would not be helpful. This is a very people-friendly, family-friendly place.' The eight-part drama about police tackling major gangsters stars Waking The Dead's Eve - by all accounts a bit of a pain in the arse to work with but a properly fine actor - as a ruthless criminal called Roach, with David Gyasi as lead investigator, Ash. It is due to be screened on BBC1 in the autumn.

Luckily, Trev's mates at Top Gear have already made the title sequence for them.
Better late than never, news reaches From The North that CSI has been renewed for a fifteenth series by CBS, along with the commissioning of further series of Criminal Minds and Person of Interest.

New ITV drama The Widower topped Monday's overnight ratings outside of soaps. The Reece Shearsmith and Sheridan Smith drama launched with 5.03 million viewers at 9pm. Earlier, I Never Knew That About Britain brought in 3.31m at 8pm. On BBC1, Silk continued with 3.90m at 9pm, followed by The Michael McIntyre Chat Show, which dipped around four hundred thousand punters week-on-week to 2.04m at 10.35pm. One imagines, someone is getting their stones twatted with a flip-flop for having commissioned that turkey. Earlier, Bang Goes the Theory had an audience of 3.02m at 7.30pm, and Panorama was seen by 2.27m at 8.30pm. BBC2's University Challenge was watched by 3.02m at 8pm, followed by Mary Berry Cooks with 2.61m at 8.30pm and new series The Plantagenets with 1.69m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Shop Secrets intrigued 1.63m at 8pm. One Born Every Minute attracted 1.83m at 9pm, while Eight Out Of Ten Cats attracted nine hundred and seventeen thousand viewers at 10pm. Channel Five's Police Interceptors appealed to 1.04m at 8pm. Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! gathered 1.27m at 9pm, followed by The Big Can't Pay Debate with eight hundred and fourteen thousand at 10pm. On BBC3, new series Life and Death Row interested nine hundred and seventy thousand at 9pm, followed by Prostitution: What's the Harm? with seven hundred and fifteen thousand at 10pm. BBC4's Only Connect Sport Relief special was watched by seven hundred and thirty five thousand at 8.30pm.

The BBC has commissioned a second series of Vic and Bob's House Of Fools. Bob Mortimer confirmed the news on Twitter on Tuesday morning. All the key supporting cast – Daniel Simonsen, Morgana Robinson, Matt Berry and Dan Skinner – are set to return. The first series initially won an audience of 1.27 million to BBC2, although this slipped over the series to round eight hundred thousand for the final episode. The BBC's controller of comedy commissioning Shane Allen said: 'House of Fools is a much needed big old rainbow of daftness in a world that is too grey and sensible. Those two loveable twits work very hard at making something that looks so effortlessly silly and it's a thrill to know there’s plenty more where that came from.' Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer said in a joint statement: 'We are overjoyed and thankful to our great Corporation for their diligence in this matter.' This blogger makes the point that it was a joint statement just in case any dear blog readers thought they the comedy duo had turned into a gestalt entity or that the pair has simultaneously chanted their comments to waiting journalists. Hope that clarifies matters.

Alan Titchmarsh has announced that he has quit his ITV chat show. And, lo, there was rejoicing throughout the land at such news. We like this news. Bring us more news of this kind.

And now for today's properly thigh-slapping 'yes, this time I think his brain is broken' news; The Beard of Despair Noel Edmonds has claimed to be part of 'a group of investors' that wants to 'buy the BBC.' No, really. The former BBC presenter told The Sunday Times that the corporation must 'wake up' and that viewers had been 'cheated' over the TV licence. Well, they certainly were when you were presenting House Party, mate. The Deal Or No Deal host and former, if you will 'chum' of Mister Blobby, claimed that he has already 'held meetings' about the BBC's future and that he has 'assembled' a group which 'could' attempt to buy it. But, probably won't because to even think about it you'd need to have pockets deeper than Roman Abramovitch's salt mines. Appearing on Newsnight on Monday - which, if you didn't see it, was effing hilarious - Edmonds was asked by a very unimpressed looking Jezza Paxman what his value of the BBC would be. 'I have absolutely no idea, Jeremy,' The Beard Of Despair replied. Which dear blog readers might think should be a bit of a pre-requisite if he intends to try and make a bid for it. 'The problem about valuation is that the actual components of the BBC are changing almost by the week. So I've got no idea - we've run some models on what it would be worth today, or after the next round of cuts, or what it could be worth,' he waffled. Pushed for an exact number, Edmonds insisted: 'I'm not going to say. For obvious reasons.' Which are? Edmonds claimed that his fellow investors were 'like-minded people who actually don't want to see Britain lose the BBC', but Paxman was having none of it and asked if they were all 'bearded gentlemen with programmes on afternoon TV.' Paxo - who managed not to blurt out 'you're out of your effing tree, mate!' at any stage, despite much provocation - then asked if Mister Blobby would be able to save the corporation, an unruffled Edmonds replied: 'I like the little extras you're throwing in but this situation is very serious. As you and John Humphrys have said, this is a serious situation because of the way the BBC has been funded, the historic baggage - its future is in doubt.' Asked if he is currently paying the TV licence fee himself, Edmonds claimed: 'I don't have a television, no. I don't watch [TV] except on catch-up.' Well, there's a hundred and forty odd quid the BBC should be claiming for a kick-off. That'll probably be enough for an episode of some BBC3 comedy. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonders of the Interweb, we now have evidence of Noel's Sceret Plan.
Mad as effing toast, ladies and gentlemen, although he has got Ron and Russell on board, already.

And, if you want to read something even funnier than Mad Noel's crazy witterings, check out this risible op-ed piece, It's the BBC's rightwing bias that is the threat to democracy and journalism by some utter pillock called Owen Jones (no, me neither) in - of course - the Gruniad Morning Star. It was going to take something really special to 'out stupid' Noel Edmonds, dear blog reader, but, fair play to the lad, he's only been and gone and managed it, hasn't he? What an absolute load of bollocks and drivel. Seriously, dear blog reader, if you need a reet good laugh, you'll go a very long way before finding a conspiracy theory quite as pure dead mental as this pile of stinking shite. A tip, Owen mate, tin-foil hats keep the alien transmissions out of your brain, apparently.
ITV has announced casting details for its upcoming Cilla Black drama. The White Queen star Aneurin Barnard will feature as Cilla's husband Bobby Willis in the three-part series, opposite Sheridan Smith in the title role. Ed Stoppard will play Brian Epstein, while John Henshaw has been cast in the role of Cilla's father, John. Melanie Hill rounds out the cast as Cilla's mother, Priscilla. Cilla - from Philomena writer Jeff Pope - will focus on the singer and presenter's rise to fame in 1960s Liverpool. The drama follows the unknown Priscilla White as she pursues her dreams of stardom whilst working as a hat-check girl at the Cavern Club, begins a relationship with future husband Bobby and meets Brian Epstein. It will also feature Black's friendship with The Beatles and how their success helped to launch her career. Cilla begins filming in March and April in Liverpool, and will feature many of the city's famous landmarks including the Cavern Club (the new one, at least, the original having been knocked down and replaced with a car park). It will be produced by Kwadjo Dajan and executive produced by Pope alog with Paul Whittington.

BBC1 is reviving the Comedy Playhouse series of one-off pilots, with Hugh Dennis set to star as a sacked BBC weatherman in the latest self-referential sitcom from the corporation. Over To Bill is one of three new shows in the series, along with the recently announced Monks starring Seann Walsh and Miller's Mountain about a family of Scottish mountain rescue volunteers. Classic sitcoms that started in the Comedy Playhouse strand, which will return in April in the 10.35pm slot, include Steptoe And Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Last of the Summer Wine and Are You Being Served? Shane Allen, the BBC’s head of comedy, wants to revive the historic format, which ran for fourteen years until 1975, in order to persuade more comedians to work for the broadcaster's flagship channel. He said: 'BBC1 delivers enormous audiences for comedy and this season revival reflects our commitment in mainstream to do new and daring projects. We want BBC1 fly the flag of popular British comedy and want this dedicated space to promote tomorrow's classic comedy today.' In an interview with the Independent, Allen lamented comedians worrying about BBC1 being seen as too mainstream. 'Everybody wants to be on BBC2, the channel with the cool kids, and it's a much braver thing to want to be on BBC1' he said. 'I want BBC1 to be a place where people do want to come and do different and interesting and experimental work.' Highlighting the success of Lee Mack on the channel and the way that Catherine Tate, David Walliams and Matt Lucas had become 'national phenomena' when they appeared on it, he added: 'Maybe it's a British mentality compared to an American mentality? People think you've sold out when you get popular. John Cleese was accused of being a sell-out after Monty Python because they thought that Fawlty Towers was a throwback.' In Over To Bill, Dennis plays Bill Onion, a meteorologist fired after cracking an innocuous gag about the South of England being better than the North. This sets in motion 'a blackly farcical train of events' which ends in his humiliation in front of a prospective employer from another network. Co-starring Men Behaving Badly's Neil Morrissey as Onion's best friend Jez, Tracy-Ann Oberman as his wife and Helen George as Jez's frosty partner and Bill's nemesis, Over To Bill was written and directed by Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor and produced by his son Richard. The pilot is a co-production between their recently formed production company Three Feet Productions and Baby Cow. A previous version of the pilot, which was finally shot in Surrey recently, has been with the BBC since 2010. Naylor said: 'Richard and I are absolutely thrilled to be working with such a wonderful cast with all the great support we're getting from Baby Cow. We think the show is going to be something really special but then again we both thought Man United were going to win the league this year.' Also confirmed is Monks, starring Seann Walsh in his first lead role, playing a benefits cheat who hides in a monastery threatened with closure due to falling numbers, alongside James Fleet, Mark Heap, Justin Edwards and Fergus Craig. Gary Woodcroft (Walsh) is described as 'the living definition of the word "chillax", straddling a narrow line between unemployed and unemployable. After years of dubious benefit claiming, he finds himself finally threatened with prosecution. Faced with the real prospect of prison, he decides to do what anyone would ... run away and hide in his local monastery.' Written by Danny Robins and produced by Alex Walsh-Taylor, the in-house BBC production has been fourteen years in the making. Originally co-written by Robins with his regular writing partner Dan Tetsell, it first surfaced as a one-off on Radio 2 in 2000, called Hey Hey We're The Monks and starring Bill Bailey and Catherine Tate. In 2008, the BBC made a previous pilot, starring the talentless James Corden and described at the time as 'Father Ted meets Men Behaving Badly.' Edwards is the only cast member of that unbroadcast episode to be in the latest version. Pete Thornton, executive producer of Monks said: 'While Monks has been in development for about as long as the Catholic Church, I'm convinced it's now about as immaculate as any BBC sitcom pilot on Earth, or indeed in Heaven. The show is set in a world that the BBC1 heartland audience will feel immediately at home with, and yet it's far from a traditional, old fashioned audience show. We're delighted to be one of the trinity of pilots being lined up for the new BBC1 comedy playhouse season.' Another in-house production, Miller's Mountain is a studio sitcom that was recorded in Glasgow earlier this month. Starring My Big Fat Diary's Sharon Rooney alongside Jimmy Chisolm, Kevin Guthrie and David Ireland, the comedy is written by Fags, Mags and Bags writer Donald McLeary and set around 'the antics of a group of Mountain Rescue volunteers.' Miller's Mountain's executive producer Mark Freeland said: 'With memorable comedies such as Still Game and Rab C Nesbitt, there's a brilliant tradition of laugh-out-loud Scottish sitcoms. That's a high bar, but with its infectious joyousness, I so hope Miller's Mountain can scale those heights.'

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse are to make an hour-long satire mocking fifty years of BBC2. Harry & Paul's History Of The Twos is due to be broadcast in May as part of the channel's half-centenary celebrations. It is held together by Enfield in the guise of the historian Simon Schama, initially describing how 'Auntie Beeb' give birth to a new channel – with executives scratching their heads about what it should be called, until settling on BBC2. Shows parodied include The Ascent of Man, The Forsyte Saga, Top Gear, The Great British Bake Off, University Challenge, The Old Grey Whistle Test and Monty Python's Flying Circus. An alleged 'source' allegedly told the Independent on Sunday: 'They lampoon every iconic programme and every genre and every major talent.'
The odious, risible greed-bucket (and drag) Christine Bleakley took Phillip Schofields place on the This Morning sofa, on Monday. The Curiously Orange one sat alongside the programme’s usual presenter Holly Willoughby while Schofield was away filming another series. But, according to the Daily Scum Mail, fans of the show - for there are, apparently, This Morning 'fans', go figure - were divided about Bleakley's appearance with some saying that they missed the regular hosting duo. One such individual, quoted by the Scum Mail, is alleged to have said: 'Christine Bleakley is just sitting there like a vase.' A curiously orange vase at that. Another is reported to have said: 'Oh! Not Christine Bleakley standing in for Phil, I can see where this is going when Holly's on maternity leave.' The OMG gossip website claimed that Bleakley had been 'slammed' for her 'wooden' performance' on Twitter. As though, again, Twitter is The Sole Arbiter Of The Worth Of All Things. Although, in this particular case, it does at least prove that, like a broken clock, Twitter can sometimes be right once or twice a day. They quote one twatterer -or whatever they're called - as saying: 'I am just waiting for Christine Bleakley to fuck off. She irritates me.' Someone else posted: 'Is there anyone more plasticky gormlessly fakely [sic] wooden [as] that Christine Bleakley? I Think Not.' So, there you have it dear blog reader. Someone on Twitter 'thinks' apparently. And on that bombshell ...
Cheshire's Arley Hall will inevitably recall ITV's Downton Abbey, but the Nineteenth Century country house is the setting for Disney's first-ever TV mini-series filmed in the UK. Evermoor will tell the story of a fourteen-year-old girl, Tara Bailey, uprooted from her urban American home to move to rural middle England with her best-selling novelist mother and British stepfather. The family of four children soon discovering that all is not what it seems. As you do. The four-part supernatural series, set in the present day, will be shown on the Disney Channel in more than one hundred and sixty countries. Described as 'a multi-part movie' by Disney (and as 'a bloody TV series, you pretentious wankers' by just about everyone else), it will also be shown as a TV film, prompting comparisons with Disney's High School Musical, the 2006 TV movie which went on to spawn two sequels and a best-selling soundtrack. David Levine, vice president of programming, production and strategic development for Disney Channels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: 'It gives us a great opportunity to work with British talent both in front and behind of the camera. We will take full advantage of the fact it is a series set in a British village, with an incredible British backdrop and location at the heart of the story. You'll see a lot of imagery and settings that will be very different to things we have done before but it is produced for a global audience. It's a suspense mystery with elements of comedy. It's different to most of the Disney Channel content but keeps all of the great Disney Channel promises – celebrating your family, believing in yourself and following your dreams.' Evermoor will be made by independent producer Lime Pictures, whose credits include Channel Four's Fresh Meat and the ITV2 reality show, The Only Way Is Essex. Rebecca Hodgson, head of drama for Lime Pictures, said: 'The manor is beautiful on the outside but as they go in its gets more and more creepy and they discover they are not the only people living there. We pull the rug from under your feet – you think you are going into this beautiful world but there are strange things going on.' The series, described by Disney as 'a mystery adventure punctuated with comedy', will be shown this autumn. Filming will take place in Arley Hall, owned by Viscount Ashbrook and close to the village of Great Budworth, and a studio in a warehouse in Warrington. Although Disney has been producing content in the UK for many years in a variety of genres, it is the first live-action drama series for the Disney Channel shot in Britain.

Channel Five has been taken to the woodshed by Ofcom following an altercation between two housemates on last summer's Big Brother. Boxer Daley Ojuederie was removed from the house in July over threatening and aggressive behaviour towards the model Hazel O'Sullivan. Some one hundred and sixty five viewers complained to the regulator, saying that they were offended by Ojuederie's actions. Ofcom said that showing the incident unedited was 'not justified' by the context. Although it could be argued that this is exactly what you get when you allow a soft-core pornographer like Richard Desmond to own a TV network. Others may disagree. as is their right in a free and democratic society, so long as they remember that I am right and they are wrong. Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one, let us remember - added that the absence of a sufficient warning ahead of the broadcast along with 'a lack of clarity' on Ojuederie's conduct during the show, led it to its decision that Channel Five broke 'generally accepted standards.' In the episode, broadcast on 15 July, Ojuederie and O'Sullivan were shown alone in the Luxury House laughing and joking before a pillow fight ensued. During the fight, O'Sullivan took Ojuederie's duvet and later pulled down his shorts. Appearing upset over the incident, the boxer was seen on top of the model, saying he would 'finish' her and pinning her down to her bed by her throat. In an expletive-filled exchange, he threatened to 'nut [her] one' before the Big Brother production team intervened and he was called to the diary room. Viewers saw Ojuederie explain his version of events and the producers told him they did 'not tolerate aggressive behaviour or language.' The programme then showed events the following morning where O'Sullivan was given a formal warning for her behaviour during the incident. Ojuederie was also shown being told by producers that his conduct was 'unacceptable' and they could not 'permit behaviour which may cause harm and offence.' He was then removed from the house. In its response to Ofcom, Channel Five claimed that Big Brother was 'well known' for 'dealing with controversial and difficult situations' and its audience 'expected such scenarios.' Oh, so that's all right, then. It argued that if the incident had breached generally accepted standards, it would have expected more than one hundred and sixty five complaints from around 1.8 million viewers who watched the incident broadcast at 22:40. It argued that Ofcom's code did not prohibit broadcasting material 'such as Daley's threatening behaviour towards Hazel', arguing 'similar scenes appear in television dramas and films without question or complaint.' The broadcaster said its pre-show advisory about 'scenes of a sexual nature and some scenes that some viewers may find distressing' gave sufficient warning to viewers. It added that, as the housemates' fates were 'decided by viewer voting', it was 'impossible' to ignore the confrontation and it therefore broadcast it in full to allow viewers to see the context, rather than an edited version which 'could potentially have resulted in viewers being "misled."' On the issue of not intervening sooner, Channel Five claimed that there was 'no indication' O'Sullivan was distressed by the altercation or felt an immediate threat when being held, warmily, by the throat. It denied Ojuederie's initial warning did not make it sufficiently clear that his behaviour was unacceptable. It added that the whole sequence of events through to his eviction were broadcast to 'mitigate offence' and ensure 'no person was left wondering what was going on or how any party was feeling.' Ofcom said that it 'recognised' viewers expected tensions on the show, but also expected offensive behaviour to be dealt with 'in an adequate, timely and proportionate manner.' The regulator said Ojuederie's comments and actions 'were clearly capable of causing grave offence', containing 'clear descriptions and threats of violence ... and his actions compounded these verbal threats.' The watchdog said that viewers had 'different expectations' watching dramatised, fictional violence than violence in a reality TV format which 'reflected real events' and would, therefore, expect the broadcaster to intervene at the earliest opportunity. Watching the footage, Ofcom said it was 'reasonable' to interpret O'Sullivan was in distress and producers should have taken action sooner. Ofcom said that while it noted Channel Five took steps to 'contextualise' the incident, it should have edited the footage to 'limit offence.' It added the lack of a more specific warning nearer to the incident during broadcast led it to conclude the offence to viewers was not justified by the context.

The BBC is to apologise to the London School of Economics after John Sweeney's Panorama North Korea documentary, which used a student trip as cover to gain access to the secretive state, was criticised by the BBC Trust for breaching the corporation's editorial guidelines. There was 'strong public interest' in the BBC broadcasting the documentary, North Korea Undercover, the BBC Trust ruled, but it also concluded that a number of editorial guidelines had been breached. Those at the BBC responsible for the episode, broadcast on 15 April last year, 'failed to consider a number of important issues and risks, and to deal with them appropriately', according to the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee report, published on Monday. The documentary hit the headlines after some of the LSE students who accompanied Sweeney and his wife, Tomiko Newson, on a trip to North Korea claimed they only became aware that BBC journalists were embedded with their group once they got to the capital, Pyongyang. The director of LSE complained about the risks to which the students had been exposed, as did the father of one of the students. The BBC said on Monday that it would be writing to both to apologise. However the father – whose daughter is referred to only as 'student X' in the report – has called for the BBC to 'go further' and make an on-air apology and has accused the director general, Tony Hall, of making 'misleading and inaccurate statements.' The father said that he wanted the BBC to issue 'a broadcast correction of both this apology and all the misleading and inaccurate statements made by BBC executives – including those made by the director general during their attempts to defend this ill-advised trip.' He added: 'It is now clear that the BBC failed the students, who were unwitting human fodder used to fulfil John Sweeney and his wife's personal ambition to film inside North Korea. We are all extremely fortunate that everyone returned safely. On any objective view given the risks involved, the deception of these students, and the use of licence-fee payers' funds to make the programme, including paying for two further "phantom student" places, must be highly questionable.' The BBC Trust said in a statement: 'The provision of information to the students who took part in the trip was insufficient and inadequate and the use of the LSE's address details on the programme team's visa applications was inappropriate.' It went on: 'The BBC failed to consider a number of important issues and risks and failed to deal with them appropriately. In particular, the provision of information to the students who took part in the trip was insufficient and inadequate and meant the daughter of the complainant did not possess the knowledge necessary to give informed consent.' BBC guidelines state that contributors to a programme should always 'be in possession of the knowledge that is necessary for a reasoned decision to take part' and while there is an allowance for 'verbal consent', written consent should be obtained 'wherever practical.' Alison Hastings, chair of the ESC, said: 'Discovering stories in difficult or dangerous places is one of the BBC's greatest strengths. There was a real public interest in making this programme in North Korea but, in the Trust's view, the BBC failed to ensure that all the young adults Panorama travelled with were sufficiently aware of any potential risks to enable them to give informed consent. This was a serious failing, and the BBC is right to apologise to the complainants.' The BBC Trust also said that Sweeney's wife should not have been the trip organiser and tour leader. 'Tomiko Newson had a conflict of interest which was further compounded when she became employed by the BBC and the BBC should have ensured that someone independent of it was there to lead the trip.' In addition, the Trust said: 'The use of the LSE's address details on the North Korea visa applications was inappropriate and this, combined with a number of other factors risked linking the LSE with the trip and resulted in unfair treatment to the LSE.' For the programme, Sweeney spent eight days undercover in North Korea. Foreign journalists are not allowed to get visas to enter North Korea but overseas academics and students are. Sweeney went with the LSE group on a trip ostensibly arranged by the Grimshaw Club – the student society of the university's international relations department. They pretended to be part of the trip, accompanying the students and filming as they travelled around the country on an organised tour given by North Korean guides. The father of student X, wrote to the director general on 2 April 2013 – shortly after his daughter returned from the trip to North Korea and almost two weeks before the programme was broadcast. In the finding released by the BBC Trust it said that the complainant 'alleged the BBC had failed to obtain informed consent from the students who travelled to North Korea and the risk that Mr X considered had been caused to them and the guides as a result of the BBC's deception.' The trust added: 'Mr X referred to eight fairness and privacy guidelines in his letter. He also attached a letter from student X, asking for footage of her and photos and video taken by her not to be used in the programme and raising concerns about the possible harm caused to the North Korean guides who accompanied the group.' The matter was referred up to the executive editor for TV current affairs, Clive Edwards, who told the complainant that his daughter would not be used in the film but 'said that the deception used to film the programme was justified by the public interest and proportionate.' However, the father of the student was dissatisfied with that and wrote again to Hall on 5 April, asking him to 'satisfy himself before broadcast of the programme' that the BBC 'behaved properly' in approving the deception of these LSE students' [and] reiterated that student X had not provided informed consent, because she had not known about various facts including: the fact that three journalists were travelling instead of one, the journalists were television journalists rather than print journalists and that the BBC was involved. Mr X also complained about the risk posed to student X and the other students as a result of the trip. The LSE chairman, Peter Sutherland, also wrote to Hall asking him to shelve the documentary, but the request was rejected. The day before it was broadcast Ceri Thomas, BBC News head of programmes, defended the corporation's actions on Radio 4's The World This Weekend on Sunday, saying that the Panorama film was 'an important piece of public interest journalism.' Thomas added: 'The material fact is that [the LSE students on the trip] were made fully aware of what the risks were if this journalist were to be discovered. The only people we deceived were the North Korean government.' On 25 April, Lord Hall admitted to MPs that it 'would have been better' to get written consent from the students. Hall told the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on 25 April that he had reviewed the programme before transmission. He said: 'The process we went through in two sets of meetings and a third in Beijing was that students were aware of the risks and were content to go along with what was being proposed, although one or two now say they weren't.' Hall added that he was 'satisfied with what I have been told and the accounts I have been given by the team, by the head of news programmes and also by the director of news', but that 'lessons had been learned' about consents. The same day, student X's father wrote another letter to Hall, alleging that, 'senior BBC executives had made numerous public statements after the programme was broadcast that were either untrue or deceptive and designed to mislead the public as to the true nature of the BBC's involvement.' They included claims that the 'trip would have happened without BBC involvement, that the corporation became involved with the trip after the students had signed up, that the BBC briefed the students, that the students supported Sweeney's deception [and] that they paid for the trip after receiving two briefings.'

Off-air audio recordings of Alan Bennett's first major TV show has been recovered, decades after the episodes were wiped. The recordings of the six-part satirical BBC2 series On The Margin were made in 1966. The show, written by and starring Bennett, also featured Prunella Scales and John Sergeant, who later became the BBC's chief political correspondent. The recordings, made during a 1967 repeat of the series, are due to be returned to the BBC archive. The show contained satirical and observational sketches, including its own mini-soap opera. There were also serious poetry and musical slots during the programme, including readings from Scales, and archive footage of music hall stars. On The Margin was something of a critical success and was repeated on BBC1 a few months later, prompting the wrath of television campaigner and mad old heedbanger Mary Whitehouse. She objected to a sketch which contained the line 'knickers off ready when I come home' which, she claimed, was 'insulting to Norwich'. No, honestly. The programme was wiped after its final broadcast, with tape recycling - a common practice at the time as telly archivists such as yer actual Keith Telly Topping know only too well. Michael Brooke, writing for the British Film Institute, said the show was 'one of the most notorious victims' of material being destroyed. It was feared that with the exception of some fragments, On The Margin had been lost forever.

It's not often you find an all-women panel show appearing in a tabloid's betting section – but the woes of Loose Women have achieved just that. With ratings down two thirds on the halcyon days of ten years ago, the Daily Mirra reports that ITV producers may be prepared to 'wield the axe' on some top names and is giving odds on who's most likely to be cut loose. Lisa Maxwell stands at a pessimistic five-to-one on, Jamelia fares slightly better at six-to-four on, and the show's top earner, Carol Vorderman, is on a precarious two-to-one to be subtracted from the panel. Poor ratings and dodgy odds, now there are some numbers that even a lesser maths expert than Carol could probably calculate in thirty seconds.
A female juror has been discharged by the judge in the phone-hacking trial. Mr Justice Saunders said on Monday that the trial of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and six other defendants would continue with eight women and three men. Under the law, the trial can continue so long as the minimum of ten jurors remain. Saunders said that one of the nine women serving on the jury since the the trial began in October had 'become unwell' and that after consultation with her doctor he had 'no option' but to discharge her. The judge told jurors: 'On Friday, juror number one was involved in an incident which upset her greatly, she was not well and was not fit to attend court on that day. It is a very serious matter to lose a juror. It's important, particularly in a long trial like this, that we do not lose jurors unless it's absolutely essential. I gave her the weekend to see if she was well enough to come back today or not.' Saunders said it had 'now transpired' that she was not. 'I have discharged her from giving a verdict in this case,' he said. The judge added that it was 'absolutely vital we do not lose any more jurors,' advising them all to 'stay well' for the remainder of the trial, which is due to last until mid-May. 'You are now eleven, you are a jury of elven and we will now carry on with that,' he said. He directed the jury not to make any communication with the juror who has been discharged. In his second day in the witness box, Clive Goodman, the former royal editor of the Scum of the World, told jurors that it was 'normal' to create false identities for alleged 'sources' who were paid cash for stories. Asked by his counsel, David Spens QC, if management knew that this was the case, Goodman responded: 'Yes, it was.' He claimed that the system was in place for 'at least twenty years. It was there when I arrived in 1986 and went on all the way till I left in 2006.' The jury also heard that Goodman paid two people carrying the fake names 'Anderson' and 'Farrish' for stories. But, he also had his own 'sources' within royal circles. 'Some were working for the royal family, some were friendly with the royal family, some were members of the royal family,' he claimed. Goodman, who was extremely imprisoned in 2007 for phone-hacking related offences when on the Scum of the World, has denied conspiring to cause misconduct in public office by paying public officials for internal royal telephone directories. He said it was 'quite obvious' that other journalists on the beat, including Richard Kay on the Daily Scum Mail and the now deceased James Whitaker on the Daily Mirra, had 'good sources' too. He told jurors it was 'a big risk' for those who were working within the royal household to talk to journalists. If they were caught they could go from 'a position of some comfort to complete ruin overnight.' Goodman said that he 'repeatedly' told his bosses that he 'needed cash' to pay police officers working at royal palaces when, in truth, he was passing the money to other journalists. The claim was made by Goodman who also told the court that his former editor, odious oily sacked tabloid boss and sacked TV presenter Piers Morgan, had made 'a heartless commercial decision' to expose the identity of one of the paper's genuine palace 'sources', who was arrested and sacked as a result. Giving evidence in his defence, Goodman denied paying royal police officers to obtain three confidential palace phone directories. He said it was 'fairly routine' for journalists to exaggerate the importance of their 'sources' and that he had often done so. 'If people thought your sources were more important than they actually were, you stood a much better chance of getting your stories in the paper.' He claimed that he invented the false names for two alleged 'sources' who regularly sold him information and then requested payments for them in internal e-mails that described them as 'one of our palace cops', 'a man who normally wears a uniform' and 'a Buckingham Palace cop.' He claimed that he had 'never discovered' their real names but believed that Farrish was 'an executive in another newspaper group' and that Anderson was 'probably' a freelance journalist. It was these two alleged sources, he said, who had received payments totalling two thousand seven hundred and fifty smackers for the three directories. Answering questions from his barrister, Goodman agreed that twenty five per cent of the stories credited to Farrish and eight per cent credited to Anderson were about palace police officers. But, he claimed, he had never paid police for a story: 'There is no truth in that whatsoever.' The jury has heard that detectives have visited addresses recorded for Farrish and Anderson but been unable to identify them. Goodman told the court that one of Prince Charles's valets, Kenneth Stronach, had been a long-standing source, providing stories initially through his son and then directly. Stronach had decided to leave his job and to write a book about his long career with the royals and had asked the Scum of the World to find a publisher who would give him a one million quid contract. Goodman claimed that the then editor, the odious oily has-been Morgan, and an associate editor, Alex Marunchak, decided the plan was 'too complicated' because of confidentiality problems and instead exposed Stronach for trying to sell royal secrets. 'It was a heartless commercial decision that he would be of little use to them in the future as a contact.,' Goodman said. When the Scum of the World published its story, royal protection officers arrested Stronach and threatened to charge him with theft of royal property. They also tried to interview Goodman. In the event, Stronach was released without charge and dismissed. 'One of the golden rules of newspapers is that you don't rat on your sources, and that's exactly what we did do. It was a pretty shameful thing to do.' Piers Morgan doing something shameful? Who'd have thought it? Goodman also claimed that the phone-hacking of royal aides at the Scum of the World 'went further' than he had previously admitted. The jury heard that he had also hacked royal aides in the months preceding his arrest in 2006. Goodman told jurors that he had hacked the messages of Mark Dyer, an equerry to Prince William and Prince Harry, in September 2005 and that in October 2005 he had also snooped on the messages of Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, private secretary to the princes. Months previously, in January 2005, Goodman says that he had hacked the phone of Helen Aspery, who was at the time the personal secretary to the two princes. 'You were in fact hacking these three people, before November 2005 and they included Mr Dyer who was not part of the original case in 2006-2007,' said Spens. Goodman replied that he was. Goodman also admitted that he hacked the phone of Tom Parker Bowles, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall. He got the voicemail numbers and the pin numbers for various royal aides from Glenn Mulcaire and Greg Miskiw, both former Scum of the World colleagues who have already admitted their guilt over hacking and thrown themselves upon the mercy of the court. Goodman has not been charged with phone-hacking offences but others in the trial, including the Scum of the World's former editors Andy Coulson and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks have been charged with conspiring with Mulcaire, Goodman and 'persons unknown' to unlawfully intercept telephone voicemails. The Prime Minister's former, if you will, 'chum' Coulson and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brook both deny the charge. Coulson was shown a transcript of a hacked voicemail left on a royal aide's phone by Prince Harry, it was claimed. Goodman, told the court on Tuesday that he had to show the transcript to Coulson and another member of the paper's editorial staff 'so they could assess how strong the story was.' Goodman said that he discovered from a voicemail in December 2005 that Prince Harry had asked his private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former soldier, for help on an essay about the 1980 Iranian embassy siege while studying at Sandhurst military training academy. He added that the voicemail was originally played down the phone to him by Mulcaire and that it was transcribed in the Scum of the World offices. 'It was a good story but you need to be able to convince people it's a good story. I had to show the transcript to the editor' and to another journalist who cannot be named for legal reasons, said Goodman. Coulson 'needed' to see the transcript, Goodman claimed, so 'they could assess for themselves just how strong the information was and make a story out of it.' The jury was shown an e-mail exchange from 8 December 2005 in which Goodman claims to a journalist on the paper that Coulson had 'a full briefing' on the transcript. Goodman was asked by the journalist whether Coulson was 'fully aware of the facts' in relation to the Harry story. He replied: 'Completely. He had a full briefing last night and his verdict was "steam in."' In an e-mail to Coulson himself the following day, Goodman referred to the story and how he was going to 'hit the private secretary tomorrow, then go toe to toe with Clarence House' and contact the Ministry of Defence. 'As you know, it's one hundred per cent fact,' Goodman told Coulson. Asked by his counsel, why he said it was 'one hundred per cent fact', Goodman claimed: 'Because he had seen the transcript of the message.' Goodman also claimed that he referred to Mulcaire's work in a series of e-mails he sent to Coulson. The jury was shown an e-mail from Coulson to Goodman, dated 28 April 2006, querying a story about Prince Harry. Goodman replied that the story was from 'the same source we had on a retainer. We absolutely know it to be true.' Spens asked Goodman why he told Coulson he 'knew' the story about the prince to be true. 'Because it was on a voicemail,' he replied. In another e-mail he told Coulson that the 'source' of a story was 'that fellow that used to be on the monthly retainer for us.' He described the information he had as 'rock solid.' Asked by Spens if 'rock solid' meant 'product of voicemail interception', Goodman said: 'Yes it is.' Earlier, he told the jury that a journalist on the paper - who also cannot be named for legal reasons - had been 'shown transcripts' of voicemails to a royal aide in relation to an incident that happened at Prince Harry's passing out parade in April 2006. 'Clearly he needed to know whether it was true' that Harry had been involved in 'the drunken incident', Goodman said. The jury was shown an e-mail from Goodman to an administrator on 12 April 2006 requesting cash payment for 'Mr Alexander' be made as soon as possible. He told her that he was 'relying' on him to 'help get information about Prince Harry's passing out ball' at Sandhurst. A transcript of a voicemail from a general at Sandhurst to the prince's private secretary regarding the incident was subsequently found at Mulcaire's home. In another e-mail dated 25 July 2006, Goodman sent Coulson a draft of a story about Prince William being upset after two cadets at Sandhurst 'almost die' in front of him during an army training exercise. Goodman told Coulson that the story was from 'the same source' as a previous 'Kate tale' and that 'these are William's exact words' in the story. Goodman also told the court that Coulson approved a two-month contract with Mulcaire in 2005. Coulson allegedly agreed to pay Mulcaire five hundred smackers after being approached by the paper's former royal editor with a proposal to monitor royal aides' phones. Goodman told the trial that Mulcaire, who pleaded extremely guilty to phone-hacking charges after being arrested in 2006, came to him after he was told the paper was trying to cut his two thousand smackers weekly payments in October 2005. '[Mulcaire] was pretty sore because he felt he believed the News of the World was trying to cut his budget by five hundred pounds a week. I think he was looking to make up this shortfall and through Greg Miskiw knew that I had been monitoring some royal voicemails,' said Goodman. He told jurors that Mulcaire offered to provide him with direct dial numbers for voicemails and secure pin numbers to people close to Princes William and Harry. Goodman added that he 'had no budget' of his own to pay Mulcaire, so he approached Coulson. 'I said [to Coulson] "Greg's old contact Glenn Mulcaire had offered to monitor three royal telephones for us." He would give us the DDNs and pin numbers. We could monitor them or he could monitor them and for five hundred pounds a week we could see what the results were,' Goodman told jurors. Asked if he had told Coulson how Mulcaire would be doing this, Goodman said he told the editor there was 'a suggestion' the information had come from 'the security sources.' Goodman's counsel asked: 'At that point when you spoke to him did he know you have been hacking?' He replied: 'No, no, he didn't.' Goodman said the 'editor agreed to a two-month trial to see what it produced.' The money would be paid in addition to Mulcaire's annual one hundred and four thousand knicker contract with the paper, he added. On Monday, the trial heard that Goodman had already been hacking the phones of Helen Asprey and Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, aides to Princes William and Harry in 2005. Goodman said on Tuesday this was how he came by information about an injury that Prince Harry picked up in Sandhurst in January 2005 but that Coulson 'didn't know about hacking at this stage.' He also testified that he 'did not know' that hacking was illegal at the time but knew that it was 'underhand and unethical.' Goodman e-mailed Coulson in January 2005 to tell him the information about Harry's injuries had been 'scammed from Helen Asprey (William and Harry's personal assistant) so it's solid.' On Tuesday he told the jurors he that did not intend the word scam 'to convey hacking because Andy didn't know about hacking at this stage.' Goodman said that after the agreement for a trial period with Mulcaire for royal monitoring, he 'created an identity' for him for payments. The deal between Mulcaire and Goodman, approved by Coulson, was known as 'the Alexander project.' Goodman added that he would have put the payment request through to the paper's then managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, who would have authorised cash payment. Kuttner has denied a charge that he conspired to hack phones. It was claimed that Coulson agreed to extend Mulcaire's project for one month and again for one week in February 2006 after Goodman e-mailed him to tell him that Prince William was out of Sandhurst that weekend and having the private investigator on board would make it 'a whole lot more probable' that they could find out where he was spending the weekend. The jury was shown an e-mail from Goodman to Coulson after a decision by Kuttner about the payments. Goodman protested that Coulson had asked him to find 'new ways of getting close' to the young royals and said that he had 'come up with this safe, productive and cost effective' means of getting stories. He added: 'I'm confident it will become a big story goldmine if we let it run for a little longer.' Goodman told jurors how he got a story in January 2005 about William displaying two photos by his bed at Sandhurst, one of the Queen and one of Kate Middleton, from a hacked voice message. He told jurors Mulcaire did the hack 'under the new arrangement' he had with him. Separately Goodman was asked about the discussion of hacking at the paper's editorial conference. He claimed that one journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would 'occasionally talk about messages' between couples they were monitoring. Goodman claimed the journalist discussed how they might identify the location of a rapist who had won the lottery after he was released from prison. He talked about 'how his man could triangulate a position for Iorworth Hoare from his mobile phone signal.' Spens asked Goodman whether Coulson 'said anything after that' discussion. Goodman claimed that Coulson said: 'That's enough of that. We are not talking about this sort of thing in conference.' Goodman claimed he never raised phone hacking with the journalist as he would 'not have tolerated sharing Mulcaire' and that if he had known he had a separate side deal with him there would have been 'world war three.' Goodman said he initially knew Mulcaire as 'an enquiry agent' who had 'a reputation as being able to crack apparently impossible stories.' He first learned what Mulcaire's actual techniques were in January 2005 when the Scum of the World's then news editor, Greg Miskiw, approached him and gave him some direct dial numbers for the voicemails of royal aides and their pin codes. Miskiw has already pleaded extremely guilty to conspiring to hack phones. 'He said "dial these, enter the pins and pick up the messages,"' The trial continues.

Qatar's World Cup organising committee has defended its bid to host the 2022 tournament following newspaper claims casting doubt on the process. Disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and his family were paid more than one million smackers by a company owned by an ex-football official from Qatar, a Daily Torygraph report claims. But Qatar's World Cup organising committee said that its bid 'adhered to FIFA rules' and that it was 'unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals.' The newspaper claims that Warner and his sons appear to have been paid £1.2m by a company owned by Mohamed Bin Hammam. Some of the payments were allegedly made shortly after Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Bin Hammam was a powerful figure within FIFA for many years but was given a life ban in 2012 by the governing body following allegations of 'conflicts of interest' during his time as the head of Asian football. The new documents, which the Torygraph claims to have seen, may now attract the attention of FIFA's chief ethics investigator, Michael Garcia, who is looking into how both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded. In a statement, Qatar's World Cup organisers said: 'The 2022 bid committee strictly adhered to FIFA's bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics. The supreme committee for delivery and legacy and the individuals involved in the 2022 bid committee are unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals.'

Jennifer Saunders will be the first guest host in the new series of Have I Got News For You. The actress will be at the helm on Friday 4 April, when the long-running topical news quiz returns to BBC1 for its forty seventh series. Saunders appeared for the first time on HIGNFY in 2013 as a guest and will return this time in the hot seat, alongside team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. 'It's thrilling to have worked up the courage to take on Have I Got News For You and I shall pitch myself somewhere safely between Kirsty Young and Kathy Burke,' said Saunders. Have I Got News For You's forty seventh series will be a nine-episode run.

Scientists say they have 'extraordinary new evidence' to support a Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe. Researchers believe they have found the signal left in the sky by the super-rapid expansion of space which must have occurred just fractions of a second after everything came into being. It takes the form of 'a distinctive twist' in the oldest light detectable with telescopes. The work will be scrutinised carefully, but already there is talk of somebody getting a Nobel for this malarkey. 'This is spectacular,' commented Professor Marc Kamionkowski from Johns Hopkins University. 'I've seen the research; the arguments are persuasive, and the scientists involved are among the most careful and conservative people I know,' he told BBC News. The breakthrough was announced by an American team working on a project known as BICEP2. This has been using a telescope at the South Pole to make detailed observations of a small patch of sky. The aim has been to try to find a residual marker for 'inflation' - the idea that the cosmos experienced 'an exponential growth spurt' in its first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Theory holds that this would have taken the infant Universe from something unimaginably small to something about the size of a marble. Space has continued to expand for the nearly fourteen billion years since. It's now a bit bigger than a marble, apparently. Inflation was first proposed in the early 1980s to explain some aspects of Big Bang Theory that appeared to not quite add up, such as why deep space looks broadly the same on all sides of the sky. As President Barlet said to Josh in The West Wing: 'Are you telling me that not only did you invent a secret plan to fight inflation, but now you don't support it?' The contention was that a very rapid expansion early on could have smoothed out any unevenness. But inflation came with a very specific prediction - that it would be associated with waves of gravitational energy, and that these ripples in the fabric of space would leave an indelible mark on the oldest light in the sky - the Cosmic Microwave Background. The BICEP2 team says that it has now identified that signal. Scientists call it 'B-mode polarisation.' It is a characteristic twist in the directional properties of the CMB. Only the gravitational waves moving through the Universe in its inflationary phase could have produced such a marker, they suggest. Speaking at the press conference to announce the results, Professor John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a leader of the BICEP2 collaboration, said: 'This is opening a window on what we believe to be a new regime of physics - the physics of what happened in the first unbelievably tiny fraction of a second in the Universe.' The signal is reported to be 'quite a bit stronger' than many scientists had dared hope. This simplifies matters, say experts. It means the more exotic models for how inflation worked are no longer tenable. The results also constrain the energies involved - at then thousand trillion gigaelectronvolts. Or, 'a lot'. This is consistent with ideas for what is termed Grand Unified Theory, the realm where particle physicists believe three of the four fundamental forces in nature can be tied together. But by associating gravitational waves with an epoch when quantum effects were so dominant, scientists are improving their prospects of one day pulling the fourth force - gravity its very self - into 'a Theory of Everything.' As CJ asked Josh in The West Wing when told about the 'Theory of Everything': 'Is it comprehensive?' The sensational nature of the discovery means the BICEP2 data will be subjected to intense peer review. It is possible for the interaction of CMB light with dust in our galaxy to produce a similar effect, but the BICEP2 group says that it has 'carefully checked' its data over the past three years to rule out such a possibility. Other experiments will now race to try to replicate the findings. If they can, a Nobel Prize seems assured for this field of research. Who this would go to, though, is difficult to say, but leading figures on the BICEP2 project and the people who first formulated inflationary theory would certainly be in the running. One of those pioneers, Professor Alan Guth from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the BBC: 'I have been completely astounded. I never believed when we started that anybody would ever measure the non-uniformities of the CMB, let alone the polarisation, which is now what we are seeing. I think it is absolutely amazing that it can be measured and also absolutely amazing that it can agree so well with inflation and also the simplest models of inflation - nature did not have to be so kind and the theory didn't have to be right.' British scientist Doctor Jo Dunkley, who has been searching through data from the European Planck space telescope - no, really, that's what it's called - for a B-mode signal, commented: 'I can't tell you how exciting this is. Inflation sounds like a crazy idea, but everything that is important, everything we see today - the galaxies, the stars, the planets - was imprinted at that moment, in less than a trillionth of a second. If this is confirmed, it's huge.'

From the sublime to the ridiculous Cricket Australia has suspended the seam bowler Daniel Worrall for 'defacing a wicket with a lewd image.' The South Australia player reportedly committed the offence during a Futures League game with Victoria on 14 March. A CA statement read: 'Worrall scratched an image of a penis and testicles into a wicket being prepared for a grade cricket final that coming weekend.' Worrall pleaded extremely guilty to the charge and will miss either two four-day matches or four one-day or T20 games. He disputed the punishment but the penalty was upheld.
On a marginally-related theme, a man who had his penis severed in an attack on Teesside is still 'too distressed' to give an account of what happened, police have said. I should bloody cocoa, an'all. Poor chap. The forty-year-old, who has not been named, remains 'in a stable condition' in hospital after being found on the A66 in Middlesbrough on 13 March. Detectives were hoping to talk to the man at the weekend, but said that he was 'too distressed to be interviewed.' A twenty two-year-old man arrested over the attack remains on police bail. A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: 'We are looking at various lines of inquiry. However we have still to obtain an account from the man who remains in hospital. We would ask anyone with information to contact us as this may help progress our inquiries.'

Yer actual Kevin Spacey is to star in a one-man show at London's Old Vic to mark ten years as artistic director of the institution. The Oscar winning actor, who is due to step down from his role next year, will appear in Clarence Darrow, a play about a pioneering Nineteenth Century lawyer. The fifty four-year-old said he was 'thrilled' to be returning to the stage of the 'very special theatre.' Preview performances will start on 28 May. The production will be directed by Thea Sharrock, who took charge of the Christmas episode of Call The Midwife. Spacey has called her 'one of the most exciting directors of her generation.' The actor played the character on stage twenty two years ago and in a film for US broadcaster PBS. He has also appeared in numerous Old Vic productions in the past - including the title role in Richard III, directed by Sam Mendes. The Old Vic's summer and autumn season will also include a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which will be directed by Yael Farber and is due to open in July. Kristin Scott Thomas will also star in a new production of Sophocles' Greek tragedy Electra, to be directed by Ian Rickson. House Of Cards star Spacey added: 'I know our audience will be excited by this programme and I can't wait to be back on stage myself.'
Bitter has-been - or, actually, if we're being strictly accurate here, bitter 'never-was' - Miriam O'Reilly has accused Julia Bradbury of trying to get 'down with the lads' after the Countryfile presenter denied that O'Reilly, her predecessor, was the victim of age discrimination. O'Reilly won an employment tribunal against the Corporation after it dropped her from the show. But in a recent interview Bradbury claimed that O'Reilly's departure was not due to her age. Her comments prompted a series of angry and abusive tweets from O'Reilly in which she accused Bradbury of 'arse licking.' Charming. O'Reilly - who left the BBC in high dudgeon in 2012, later defended her tweets, telling the Evening Standard: 'I did use the term "arse licking" but I stand by that, I think Julia was trying to ingratiate herself and getting down with the lads rather than seeing the bigger picture and perhaps she should have thought about that before she opened her mouth.' She added: 'Obviously [Bradbury] didn't understand the issue or how big an issue this is for older women around the country. The majority of women who watch TV are over fifty. They're not going to appreciate [Bradbury’s comments] because they get it, they know it.' Bradbury, who recently announced that she is, herself, leaving Countryfile for ITV, told The Times: 'I've been through millions of programme changes when they say, "Sorry, love, we've changed the slot."' She added: 'With Miriam, the decision certainly wasn't made because she was old. The decision was because they were changing the programme.' O’Reilly responded by tweeting Bradbury: 'You say the decision to drop me from Countryfile was not because I was "old"? So you know better than three judges in a legal case and former BBC DG Mark Thompson who accepted the tribunal decision?  Before you make ill-informed statements I suggest you look at the legal case - one day you might need it.' She ended with: 'Until then good luck with the arse-licking.'  Ooo, get her! A spokesman for Bradbury - perhaps wisely - declined to comment. Big fight, dear blog reader. Little people.

The Rolling Stones have postponed their Australia and New Zealand tour after the death of Sir Mick Jagger's girlfriend L'Wren Scott. The celebrated US fashion designer was found dead in her New York flat on Monday, in an apparent suicide. The veteran rockers were due to play in Perth on Wednesday. Their promoter said that no further information was available at this time. Ticket holders are being asked to hold on to their tickets until a further update is available. Scott, who was believed to be forty nine, was found by her assistant at 10am local time on Monday. Sir Mick said that he was 'completely shocked and devastated' by her death. The Stones On Fire tour is scheduled to move to Europe in June, with concerts planned for the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Belgium although whether they will go ahead is, again, not yet known. Sir Mick began dating Scott in 2001. On Monday night, a spokesman for the singer issued a statement to deny a report that he had recently ended his relationship with the designer. 'The story in the New York Post re a split between Mick Jagger and L'Wren Scott is one hundred per cent untrue,' said his spokeswoman, Victoria Scarfone. 'There is absolutely no basis in fact to this story. It is a horrible and inaccurate piece of gossip during this very tragic time for Mick.' Supermodel Naomi Campbell, Vogue editor Anna Wintour and singer Madonna were among those who were clients of the designer. Scott was found dead by her assistant ninety minutes after sending her a text message asking her to come to her Manhattan apartment without specifying why, the Associated Press news agency reported. Police said that there was no sign of foul play and no suicide note was found. Naomi Campbell said that Scott was 'the epitome of elegance and femininity.' Anna Wintour described Scott as 'a total perfectionist, always unbelievably generous, gracious, kind and so much fun.' She added: 'Her old world American manners and charm were from another time, but her sensibility was always fiercely modern.' Madonna wrote in a statement: 'This is a horrible and tragic loss. I'm so upset. I loved L'Wren's work and she was always so generous with me.' Actress Nicole Kidman, said to be a friend of many years, was 'heartbroken and in shock right now and unable to say anything', according to a spokeswoman. Bianca Jagger, one of Sir Mick's former wives, tweeted: 'Heartbroken to learn of the loss of the lovely and talented L'Wren Scott. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.' Scott's death comes a month after she cancelled a show at London Fashion Week, saying that 'production delays' had left key pieces unready for the show. Scott, born Luann Bambrough, was raised by Mormon adoptive parents in Utah. The six foot three inch tall former model began her career in Paris, then moved to Los Angeles to become a fashion stylist, according to a biography on her company's website. She founded her own high-end fashion label in 2006 and created a more affordable line of clothes with Banana Republic. Scott had dressed actresses such as Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Angelina Jolie for red carpet events. She was also a costume consultant for films such as Ocean's Thirteen and Eyes Wide Shut.

The Stooges drummer Scott Asheton has died, aged sixty four. Scott and his guitarist brother, Ron, were founding members of the influential proto-punk group along with frontman Iggy Pop and bassist Dave Alexander. The drummer died on Saturday of undisclosed causes, five years after the death of his brother. He was remembered as 'a great artist' by bandmate Iggy in a statement released on Sunday. Iggy wrote on Facebook: 'My dear friend Scott Asheton passed away last night. Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Asheton's have always been and continue to be a second family to me. My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.' The Ashetons formed The Stooges with Pop and Alexander in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1967, with the group later undergoing several line-up changes. Their landmark LPs include their 1969 debut, the following year's Funhouse and 1973′s critically-acclaimed Raw Power, recorded in London and produced by uber-fan David Bowie. During The Stooges' lengthy separation Scott was among the few ex-members to play again with Iggy, with the mini-reunion occurring during a 1978 European tour. Asheton also played drums with Scott Morgan in different bands, among which were The Scott Morgan Band, Scott's Pirates and most notably Sonic's Rendezvous Band. Scott then went on to play drums touring in a late incarnation of Destroy All Monsters, under the name Dark Carnival. He also recorded extensively with Sonny Vincent, playing drums on four full studio LPs along with Captain Sensible on bass, as well as making special guest appearances on other Vincent releases. Scott took part in a Stooges reunion in 2003 and the band recorded the new studio CD The Weirdness in 2007 followed by 2013's Ready To Die. Scott suffered ill health in recent years after suffering a stroke at the festival in 2011, but was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

And so, dear blog reader, in due tribute to that bit in Absolutely where Calum Gilhooley spent an afternoon sorting his cassettes into alphabetical order, but got into problems in the 'T' section over whether or no to include bands with The in their name, for today's Keith telly Topping's A To Z Of Groovy Tunes, dear blog reader, T is for The The.

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