Sunday, July 20, 2014

Week Thirty One: What Is And What Should Never Be

Doctor Who series eight location filming continued over the weekend in London, at and around St Paul's Cathedral. Where, seemingly, those naughty Cybermen were busy invading.
Of course, they do have considerable form doing that sort of malarkey.
Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez were also spotted.
Doctor Who's anniversary episode The Day Of The Doctor was the most watched drama on BBC Television last year, with a final and consolidated average audience of 12.8 million viewing. The figures were confirmed in the BBC Annual Report published this week, which also reveals that 3.2 million also requested the episode on iPlayer. Doctor Who is listed as one of the 'global highlights' of the year with the anniversary special being shown on TV in ninety eight countries, with 3D screenings in twenty three countries, broadcast in fifteen languages and selling six hundred and forty nine thousand cinema tickets in twenty five countries. Following transmission the episode went straight to the top of the iTunes and Amazon charts, illustrating appetite for the Doctor Who brand, which has 4.3 million followers on Facebook. BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, also report on how well the series performs for the corporation. Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor sold more DVD copies in its first week than any previous Doctor Who title. Additionally the returned 1960s Doctor Who episodes, The Enemy Of The World and The Web Of Fear, topped the iTunes TV chart in October. In North America The Day Of The Doctor reached almost four and half million viewers on the day and set a record for activity related to a televised event on Tumblr. Which is 'a thing', apparently. The Doctor Who Christmas special première was BBC America's first ever audience over three million punters. BBC Worldwide report that although revenue from consumer products in the US as a whole, was marginally down, it outperformed the declining US DVD market. This was aided by Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary programming which also fuelled an eighty per cent uplift in licensing, with total licensing revenue equating to over one hundred million dollars in retail sales. The one-day theatrical release of Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor delivered the equivalent of $4.8m at box office, making it the second highest US box office hit on the night. In Australia the anniversary broadcast reached 1.7m viewers while the sales of Doctor Who DVDs increased by almost sixty per cent. Live events included The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular touring three cities and the fiftieth anniversary episode screening seen by over ninety five thousand cinema goers in one hundred and thirty cinemas. Overall BBC Worldwide made a headline profit of £157.4 million.

To mark yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch's birthday on Saturday (presumably, this will from henceforth be known as 'Cumberbatchmass'?), more than one hundred people have attempted to set a world record for the number of people dressed as Sherlock Holmes in one room. Too much time on their hands, obviously. Some one hundred and thirteen people dressed as the famous fictional detective gathered at University College London on Saturday. They will find out later in the week if they have the record given that there is not a current one to beat. The event raised money towards the restoration of Sir Conan Doyle's house. Yer actual Stephen Fry, Mark Gatiss his very self and Louise Brealey had all previously voiced their support for the event. The author's Surrey home has fallen into disrepair and about £2.6m is needed. Roger Johnson, from The Sherlock Homes Society, said: 'To come dressed as Sherlock Holmes in itself is pretty pointless.' Yep, that's probably true, Roge. 'To do it to raise awareness of National Literacy Trust and to help raise money to restore Conan Doyle's house in Surrey, that's the important thing. But we do it, and we have fun doing it,' he added. He said that he did not expect the record to stand for long as another event was planned in August in Leeds to raise money for a brain research centre.

Monty Python Flying Circus's final live show scored record ratings for GOLD on Sunday, according to overnight data. The show at London's O2 Arena brought in an average audience of five hundred and ninety seven thousand viewers from 7.30pm. The audience peak was just over eight hundred thousand during the final half-hour. On BBC1, Countryfile appealed to 4.63 million at 7.15pm, followed by Antiques Roadshow with 4.66m an hour later. Seven Wonders Of The Commonwealth was seen by 4.15m at 9.15pm. BBC2's F1 coverage scored 2.92m at 7pm, while Dragons' Den returned with 2.40m at 8.30pm for its latest series. Britain's Flying Past brought in 1.24m at 9.30pm. It was something of a horrorshow night for ITV, Catchphrase attracting but 2.65m at 7pm, followed by a Foyle's War repeat with 1.98m at 8pm. Poor even for a Sunday night in the middle of summer. Channel Four's The Mill returned for a new series with 1.72m at 8pm, while Child Genius drew 1.45m at 9pm. On Channel Five, My Child Is A Monkey had an audience of eight hundred and four thousand punters at 8pm, followed by Big Brother with 1.35m at 9pm.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was one of those watching the Python finale on GOLD as it happens, dear blog reader. Well, they've all been a presence in this blogger's life for as long as he can remember so it seemed worth attending the wake. It was quite enjoyable, as it goes - this blogger particularly enjoyed John Cleese retooling a joke he told forty years ago about Richard Nixon having an arsehole transplant and the arsehole rejecting him for 2014 and the current Daily Scum Mail editor, the odious diseased wretched pond scum Dacre. Starting with a half hour behind-the-scenes broadcast presented by Dara Ó Briain, GOLD's coverage was brash and enthusiastically fan-orientated as you might expect. Emanating his usual turbo-charged  gobshite avuncularity, Dara merrily chatted with yer actual Martin Freeman, Lee Mack, a rather pissed-looking Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard (who, he said, had already seen the comeback show six times). It was a nice appetiser though things got a bit repetitive as comic after comic squeezed in alongside Ó Briain on the VIP lounge sofa, vying to sing their own personal Python-praises. Such uncomplicated jollity was in stark contrast to the actual show, which - though very funny in all the places you'd want it to be - was, at moments, deeply poignant. Comedy functions best pushing hard against sentimentality yet it was impossible not to experience a tingle of sadness knowing that these chaps would never again tread the boards together. So, seeing Terry Jones completely corpse during The Crunchy Frog Sketch or watching Cleese and Palin manage to get through their medley of The Parrot Sketch and The Cheese Shop without screaming 'why am I still doing this in my seventies?' was, one sensed, part of the fun. There was some online whinging about GOLD cutting out the swear words - and one entire musical sequence - although quite who seriously expected that any television channel anywhere in the world would have been able to broadcast a song about penises at 7:50pm without getting their own collective dicks slammed in a door by Ofcom is a question well worth asking, I'd've said. As Dara noted several times, the full show will be repeated, post-watershed and uncontaminated, on Tuesday. The show was also, of course, being broadcast at more than two thousand cinemas around the world (they got the full thing - including penis song and 'fucks' and 'cunts' - as these had a 12A certificate!) It was the last show in a run of ten for Cleese, Palin, Gilliam, Idle and Jones and, unless Cleese has another expensive divorce (alluded to, brilliantly, during Palin and Idle's 'Camp Judges' interlude) the last time we shall ever see them on stage together. Eddie and Mike Myers made on-stage appearances (the former as one of the Bruces from the Philosophy Department of the University of Woollamaloo) whilst professors Brian Cox (no, the other one) and Stephen Hawking appeared in a filmed insert. In The Parrot Sketch, Cleese and Palin both noted that the parrot was 'as dead as Doctor Chapman' and raised their thumbs towards heaven knowing that, probably, their old mate Graham was shouting obscenities down at them! The show ended, obviously, with a sing-a-long of 'Always Look On the Bright Side of Life' and barely a dry eye in the house. We shall try. But it might be different in a post-Python world. Monty Python's Flying Circus, dear blog reader, 1968 to 2014. That was comedy, that was.

Live At Edinburgh Castle was watched by more than 3.6 million viewers on BBC1 on Saturday evening, according to overnight figures. Presented by shrill Alex Jones, the musical concert featuring the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Paloma Faith, Smokey Robinson (minus his Miracles, sadly) and Culture Club averaged 3.64m from 8.30pm. Earlier on the channel, A Question Of Sport: Super Saturday was watched by 2.71m from 7pm. On BBC2, The Men Who Made Us Spend had eight hundred and sixty two thousand in the 9pm hour. ITV's Tipping Point: Lucky Stars failed to entertain 2.89m from 7.30pm. It was followed by the nine hundred and twelfth terrestrial showing of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which managed but 1.15m. On Channel Four, repeats of Restoration Man and Grand Designs attracted five hundred and thirty seven thousand and nine hundred and forty seven thousand respectively before Rise of the Planet of the Apes was seen by 2.79m between 9pm and 11pm. Channel Five's Big Brother coverage averaged nine hundred and seventy four thousand from 9pm. The multichannels were topped by ITV3's Foyle's War, which appealed to nine hundred and forty two thousand punters from 9pm.

BBC services including iPlayer and some online material were affected by 'technical problems' on Saturday. Total post-apocalyptic nightmare. The person responsible has had his knackers removed with a rusted Stanley knife. Or something. Some online users saw error messages when trying to access material on web pages including SpringWatch and the BBC's World Cup coverage. The issues have also affected publication of videos on the BBC website. The BBC press office said that it was 'aware of an issue' which means 'some people cannot access certain parts of BBC online.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, as it happens, could. Make of that what you will, dear blog reader. 'We are working hard to fix this as soon as possible,' a spokeswoman added. Before adding; 'And, it'd go a lot quicker if you left me alone to get on with it instead of interrupting me with damn-fool questions.'

The Celebrity Masterchef final was Friday's highest-rated primetime show outside of soaps, attracting an average audience of 4.76 million overnight million viewers. The episode, which was contested by Sophie Thompson, Charley Boorman and Jodie Kidd, peaked with an audience of 5.79 million as the results were announced with Thompson getting the trophy. Lawdy, mama. BBC1's evening kicked off with 2.75 million for The ONE Show at 7pm, followed by 2.91 million for The Village That's Falling Into The Sea at 7.30pm. Replacing The Graham Norton Show, a repeat of New Tricks rounded off the evening with 1.9 million at 10.35pm. After a mammoth session of golf on BBC2, the channel drew five hundred and eighty thousand punters for live coverage of the First Night Of The Proms at 8pm. An average audience of eight hundred and thirty thousand watched a Qi repeat immediately afterwards. The Cruise Ship was ITV's highest-rated show outside of soaps, pulling in but 2.77 million at 8pm. Doc Martin was seen by 2.27 million an hour later. On Channel Four, the latest episode of The Million Pound Drop attracted an average audience of eight hundred and fifty thousand at 8pm, while Friday Night Dinner was seen by six hundred and ninety thousand at 10pm. Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown was once again the channel's top-rated show, with average viewing figures of 1.28 million. The latest Big Brother live eviction Victorian freak show saw Channel Five attract 1.19 million brain-dead numskulls. BBC4's The Joy Of The Guitar Riff was among the highest-rated multichannel shows, with seven hundred and seven thousand at 9pm.

Celebrity MasterChef rose by around five hundred thousand punters to top Thursday's night's ratings outside soaps according to overnight data. The finals stage of the competition brought in 4.49 million at 9pm on BBC1. Earlier, Talk To The Animals appealed to 1.85m at 8pm. On BBC2, Horizon interested 1.62m at 8pm, followed by The Honourable Woman with 1.48m at 9pm and Mock The Week with 1.30m at 10pm. ITV's Harbour Lives with Ben Fogle was seen by 2.62m at 8.30pm. Britain's Poshest Nannies attracted 1.75m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Amazing Spaces gathered 1.27m at 8pm, while Embarrassing Bodies drew 1.10m at 9pm. The Secret Life Of Students was seen by five hundred and seventy five thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Black Market Britain brought in eight hundred and thirty two thousand at 8pm, followed by Caught On Camera with 1.16m at 9pm and Big Brother with 1.49m at 10pm. On E4, the series finale of How I Met Your Mother was seen by nine hundred and forty nine thousand at 8.30pm.

Rufus Hound has joined the cast of Russell Davies's new series Cucumber. The actor and comedian will guest star as Rupert, a man who is interested in the show's lead character Henry (played by Vincent Franklin), Gay Times reports. Meanwhile, Father Ted's Ardal O'Hanlon and Adjoa Andoh have also been added to the cast. The new Channel Four series - which was first announced last year - is an eight-part drama and will focus on gay life in the Twenty First Century. Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh will appear in the show, alongside Cyril Nri, Freddie Fox, Fisayo Akinade, Con O'Neill, James Murray and Ceallach Spellman. Channel Four has also commissioned an E4 follow-up series - titled Banana - as well as an online factual series called Tofu. All three series are expected to debut in 2015.

Yer actual David Tennant has spoken about the 'unusual situation' of starring in both Broadchurch and its US remake Gracepoint. 'They both look quite like me,' David said. '[But] they feel different to me for all sorts of reasons. It's the same character, and yet it's not. It's probably easier for objective observers to point out how they differ, but they feel very different to me.' So, clear as mud, yes?
FOX's musical comedy Glee - remember when that was flavour of the week? - may have to be renamed for UK broadcast. Earlier this year, the American network extremely lost a legal battle against the British comedy chain Glee Club, with the court ruling that the series breached a trademark held by the chain. The High Court has now ordered Twenty First Century FOX to 'cease naming' the series Glee in the UK, and awarded one hundred thousand smackers in damages to Glee Club owner, Comic Enterprises Ltd. 'I find it hard to believe that the cost of the re-titling and publicising of the new name would be so prohibitive compared to the value of the series,' Judge Roger Wyand said in a written ruling this week. 'I was told many times during the course of the trial how this series is a "blockbuster."' Ooo, saucer of sour milk for Mister Wyand, there. However, the judge went on to order that the name-change injunction cannot be enforced until the case has been considered by the Court of Appeal. Mark Tughan registered the name 'The Glee Club' as a British trademark in 1999, ten years prior to the TV show's first season. He now runs four venues under the brand in Birmingham, Cardiff, Nottingham and Oxford. In court, he stated that he had been 'losing custom' since the series began broadcasting on Sky1 in the UK and claimed that the nature of the show had 'hampered [the company's] ability to establish [its] brand of cutting edge' live comedy and music performances. 'It's a relief because you can't get any more David and Goliath than this,' said Tughan following the court victory in February. 'I always knew it would be a career-defining situation but I did not take it on for the fun of it - I took it on to win.' Twenty First Century FOX lawyers had argued that a series name change was 'unnecessary, unfair and disproportionate' and would be 'a costly and complex' process. But, the judge didn't agree with them. Which was funny, frankly. Following the previous ruling, a spokesman for FOX told the Digital Spy website of their intention to appeal and stated that they 'remain committed to delivering Glee to all of its fans in the UK.' Both of them. The sixth and final series of Glee will run for thirteen episodes and is expected to be broadcast in 2015.

Ripper Street will reportedly broadcast extended episodes exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video when it returns for a third series. The period thriller's latest eight-part run is a co-production between the BBC and Amazon. Prime customers will be able to watch the new, extended, episodes from late 2014, with the show being edited to fit an hour-slot when it is shown on BBC1 in 2015. 'We don't have a sixty-minute slot to fill at 9pm,' explained Chris Bird - Amazon Instant Video Film & TV Strategy Director. 'So we said to Richard [Warlow, the series creator], "We want you to write this season completely unencumbered. If you want to write a seventy-minute episode, write a seventy-minute episode." I think that's one of the areas of flexibility that we do offer content makers - there are no rules for us in terms of what we can and can't do. '

Here's yer next batch of Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 26 July 2014
Hazel Irvine and Gary Lineker introduce live coverage of this evening's swimming finals at the Commonwealth Games, which take place at Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Glasgow. The semi-finals in three events - the men's one hundred metres freestyle and fifty metres backstroke, and women's fifty metres butterfly - are scheduled in the pool, along with seven finals, as the swimming timetable reaches the halfway point. The men's finals are the Para-Sports two hundred metres freestyle S Fourteen, one hundred metres breaststroke and two hundred metres butterfly, with the women's being the fifty metres freestyle, one hundred metres backstroke, two hundred metres breaststroke and four by two hundred metres freestyle relay. The men's butterfly race should involve Chad Le Clos, who became one of the global stars of the sport with his gold and silver medals at London 2012 and the South African also claimed five medals when the Commonwealth Games were held four years ago in India. There will also be plenty of interest for the home nations in the pool, notably in the women's fifty metres freestyle, which should feature England's Fran Halsall, who already has seven Commonwealth medals to her name, including a silver in this discipline in 2010. Plus, updates and reports on a variety of sports on day three of the games, which has seen the start of the rugby sevens tournament and the conclusion of the rhythmic gymnastics and judo. Coverage continues on BBC2. Coverage of the Rugby Sevens will be on BBC3 introduced by Dan Walker.

Jacques Peretti visits American behavioural researchers who use their skills to help companies advertise goods to children in the final episode of The Men Who Made Us Spend - 9:00 BBC2 - as he explores the history behind marketing products to younger consumers. He talks to a Nickelodeon executive who brought American-style kids' TV to Britain and also meets a car designer who promoted his vehicle to the children in the back seat. Jacques reveals how these techniques have been applied to adults, and explores the rise of computer gaming for grown-ups and chats to the people behind the Neopets craze.

When an unpopular employee at a military psychiatric hospital is found very murdered, there are no shortage of potential suspects, but a colleague of the dead man, an exiled Polish Jew, holds himself responsible for the death in Foyle's War - 9:00 ITV3. Christopher Foyle (the great Michael Kitchen) is convinced that there is another explanation for these events - as, to be fair, there usually is when it's one of his cases - but his priorities soon shift when news of a missing boy from London reaches Hastings. Superior period crime drama, also starring Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell, Phyllida Law and Nicholas Woodeson.

Forget Kevin Macdonald's Hollywood remake with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren - more than decent as that, undeniably, was - it added nothing to Paul Abbott's scintillating original six-part version of State of Play, a gripping, mature, clever, intriguing political thriller from 2003 which begins a repeat run on the Drama channel tonight with the first three episodes from 9:00. David Morrissey has never been better as the tormented New Labour MP on the rise Stephen Collins, a man who is at the crossroads of both his personal and professional lives when his young research assistant (and secret lover), Sonia Baker, dies under a London Tube train one morning at rush hour. Stephen breaks down in tears at a press conference when he's asked about her death and the assembled hacks sense a story. Although, perhaps inevitably, it's the wrong story. Alarm bells quickly ring at the offices of the Herald (Bill Nighy rightly won a BAFTA as the mercurial, seen-it-all editor Cameron Foster at the Gruniad-like newspaper) and ambitious reporter Cal McCaffrey (a grand, star-making turn by John Simm) digs deep into the background of Collins, a man who was once, and not very long ago either, his best friend. It's easily the best thing that Abbott has ever written (and, given that it directly followed both Touching Evil and Clocking Off, that really is saying something); his script is complex, taut, witty, just a bit dangerous and never, for a single second, patronises the grown-up audience it was intended for. The direction, by David Yates, is flawless and adds greatly to the tension. And the once-in-a-lifetime cast (which also includes the likes of Philip Glenister, Amelia Bullmore, Michael Feast, Polly Walker, Marc Warren, James McAvoy, Sean Gilray, Rory McCann and Kelly Macdonald) are all on properly outstanding form. If you missed this first time around, dear blog reader, or you didn't buy it on DVD when HMV were flogging it off for a fiver a couple years ago on the back of the movie adaptation, do yourself a favour and use your recording devices very wisely. The BBCs naughties drama revival - and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's restored faith in British TV - started here.
Sunday 27 July
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - more commonly known as The Red Arrows - is based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and has taken part in more than four and a half thousand displays since 1965. The documentary Red Arrows: Inside The Bubble - 9:00 BBC2 - offers an insight into the day-to-day work and lives of the one hundred and twenty-strong team of pilots and ground crew as they prepare to mark the unit's fiftieth display season, with celebrations reflecting how The Red Arrows remain the public face of the RAF, helping with recruitment and acting as ambassadors for the United Kingdom.

Esther comes of age and leaves the apprentice house, moving into a small, dirty cellar in Styal village, and her head is still spinning from her initial encounter with trainee shoemaker Will in the latest episode of The Mill - 9:00 Channel Four. Daniel spends more time away from home at political meetings, and his wife Susannah struggles to adjust to life away from her friends. Meanwhile, Peter returns from a speaking tour with Hannah and gets to know Miriam better, but she is horrified by the rumours that start circulating about them the next day.

Elsewhere, it's a bit of nothing night, frankly. There's more Commonwealth Games coverage on BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3, a night of Qi and Would I Lie To You? on Dave and the fourth, fifth and sixth episodes of State Of Play on Drama. Failing that, it's World War I night on Yesterday with a repeat of Ian Hislop's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (9:00) and the Michael Palin documentary The Last Day Of World War I an hour later.

Monday 28 July
The Timeshift documentary Killer Storms And Cruel Winters: The History Of Extreme Weather (9:00 BBC4), solar scientist Doctor Lucie Green (a regular on The Sky St Night, of course) reveals how some of the UK's worst and most dramatic weather disasters occurred many years ago, despite the popular belief that the brunt of climate change has been felt in the Twenty First Century. Considering how many people today are pre-warned about potential catastrophes due to innovations in weather prediction, the presenter learns how an Eighteenth Century storm surge once led to a the deaths of a thousand workers in Somerset fields, a hurricane drowned a fifth of Britain's naval officers, and several brutal winters threatened to completely shut down most services in the country.

Following the shocking death of one of their own, Clarke and Finn grow closer as they try to figure out a way of communicating with The Ark in The One Hundred - 9:00 E4. Meanwhile, as life takes a desperate turn for the worse on Earth, Bellamy tries to keep the group from destroying itself, and Abby risks having herself floated in order to give Raven the chance to hitch a ride in the escape pod bound for earth. Post-apocalyptic drama, starring Eliza Taylor and Thomas McDonnell.

Gone are the days when the big four supermarkets dominated the food retail business according to Chann le Four's Dispatches special, Supermarket Wars - 8:00. Discount stores like Aldi and Lidl are undercutting Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and ASDA, whose sales are stalling and profits are slumping. Despite the fact that yer actual Keith Telly Topping does all his shopping in the latter two and wouldn't be seen dead in an Aldi or a Lidl even if there was one quite close to Stately Telly Topping Manor. I have some standards, dear blog reader. Harry Wallop (no, really) asks 'where did it all go wrong?' for the major retailers and reveals the tricks of the discounters' success. He also investigates how the supermarkets are fighting back with an aggressive price war, claiming to have slashed thousands of everyday items. But are these deals all they're cracked up to be?

Pembrokeshire: Coastal Lives - 7:00 BBC2 - is a new four-part documentary series about people who live and work on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, following them through the short, but very hot, summer of 2013. The James family of St Davids starts to prepare for a wedding on the farm, recycling guru Buzz Knapp-Fisher gets his cafe ready for passing walkers and forager Julia Horton-Powdrill pulls in the tourists at her Really Wild food festival.

Tuesday 29 July
Richard and Anne Smith are found very stabbed to death at the Sky View Motel in Las Vegas and the CSIs recall two separate cases in which people were savagely attacked in the same room in the latest episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 9:00 Channel Five. They first question a male prostitute with a previous record for sexual battery in the establishment, while another suspect is a vagrant with mental-health issues whom the Smiths rescued after he was beaten up. Crime drama, starring Ted Danson.
Now totally convinced that Hannibal Lecter is The Chesapeake Ripper, Jack Crawford's obsession with catching him in the act forces Kade Prurnell (a fine guest tune by Cynthia Nixon) to put him on mandatory leave in Mizumono, the second series finale of Hannibal - 10:00 Sky Living. Of course, that's not the sort of thing one does to a character played by Big Larry Fishburne and you just know someone is going to, soon, have Jack going completely Medieval on their ass. The leave thing does little to deter him from his goal. With Will Graham's help, the FBI agent tries to lure Hannibal into a trap, but will they be able to outsmart a man who prides himself on being one step ahead of the competition? Stick around for a total sodding bloodbath by the episode's climax and then a long wait to find which of the regulars is still alive for series three. Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, the terrific Caroline Dhavernas, Gina Torres, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Kacey Rohl and yer actual Gillian Anderson also feature.
Enumerating the events of a century of war could be a crushingly dull affair but, as previously discussed, Doctor Janina Ramirez brings each antagonist and incident vividly to life, in some cases by getting up close with the remains of the dead in the excellent Chivalry And Betrayal: The Hundred Years War - 9:00 BBC4. At a time when royal bones have been all over the news, Janina digs back further and finds the death mask of Edward III (1377) and the mummified skull of Simon of Sudbury, the Lord Chancellor beheaded during The Peasants' Revolt. 'Poll taxes never worked for anyone,' Doctor Ramirez notes dryly. Tell that to the Daily Scum Mail, chuck. This second episode covers the period from 1360 to 1415, brings the story up to Henry V and finds Janina making some very pertinent points about England in the fields of Agincourt.

It's all brutal and rotten homicide tonight, I'm afraid, dear blog reader. We've also got the conclusion of the two-part See No Evil - 10:00 ITV3 - Neil McKay's generally well-regarded 2013 dramatisation of the  quasi post-apocalyptic and horrific events surrounding The Moors Murders in Manchester in the mid 1960s. Wicked-as-fuck psychopathic duo Ian Brady and Myra Hindley have, finally, been arrested after damning evidence points to their involvement in the deaths of several missing children from the Greater Manchester area. Myra's sister, Maureen Smith, struggles to comprehend events, but decides to take to the witness stand to give evidence against the pair. With Joanne Froggatt, Maxine Peake, Sean Harris, Michael McNulty, George Costigan and Charlotte Emmerson.

Wednesday 30 July
Oxford in the morning sunshine, the mist hovering over moss covered walls. Students are punting on the river. A group of well-meaning folk in wellies set off to dig up rhododendrons in the woods. Hang on, that's a rash thing to do in the opening titles of an episode of Lewis - 8:00 ITV3 - isn't it? of course it is, dear blog reader. As sure as a pound of shit, there is a dead body amid the shrubbery and it turns out to be, as you'd probably expect, a brutally murdered academic. I mean, why would anyone want to take a job at Oxford University? The staff there have the life expectancy of the average Spinal Tap drummer. This is the start of a case that gets Lewis in quite a stroppy temper (very unusual for the generally quite laid-back Geordie detective). But it's hard not to love Lewis's discombobulation here, getting really rather cross about just about anything remotely intellectual because it's 'all a load of old cobblers', while his sidekick James Hathaway, of course, knows everything about everything; specific to this episode, Lewis Carroll, botany and secret societies, all of which are involved. As is a young botanist who catches the sergeant’s eye. They're an increasingly enjoyable pairing, Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, ably supported, as usual by Clare Holman and Rebecca Front and this episode - The Soul of Genius - is a typically absorbing, cerebral mystery, with a sad side-plot involving the excellent Celia Imrie about the grief of bereavement – something Robbie Lewis knows all about.

Tonight also sees a rare TV broadcast of, quite possibly, the worst film ever made, Two Headed Shark Attack - 9:00 Syfy. A ship carrying a party of students is attacked and sunk by a monstrous mutated shark. With two heads. No, really. I'm not making this up. The survivors escape to a deserted atoll, only to find their safe refuge is sinking beneath the waves, and the unnatural predator has followed them. Horror - in every possible sense of the word - starring Carmen Electra, Charlie O'Connell and Brooke Hogan. All of who, one would hope, have a curiously blank space on their CV where this worthless piece of celluloid shit should be. Not ever a 'so bad, it's brilliant' ninety minutes of your life, I'm afraid. Just 'so bad ...'

Or, you could try actually learning something from watching TV. Novel suggestion, I know but, hey, that's yer actual Keith Telly Topping down to the ground, dear blog reader; always full of crazy, madcap ideas. In the, somewhat obviously named series The Stuarts - 8:00 BBC2 - the historian Clare Jackson examines, as you might expect from the title, the history of The Stuarts, who grappled with the chaos of three separate kingdoms, multiple religions and civil war during the Seventeenth Century. In the opening episode, Clare looks at James VI of Scotland's attempts to unite his country with England and Ireland and persuade his subjects to feel more British. By inventing Chicken Tikka Masala. Probably. Or was that someone else? We'll have to watch to find out.

Sarah and Jonathan met at junior school as eight-year-olds and were best friends for years until they eventually got together. Now they're in Southmead expecting their second baby, but the mother-to-be is getting increasingly anxious and the memory of her difficult first labour begins to induce a panic attack as we discover in tonight's One Born Every Minute - 9:00 Channel Four. Meanwhile, Vikki and Jack are having their first child - well, Vicki's the one that's actually having it, Jack's just going to, you know, be there - and are keen for a big family after both having gone through somewhat lonely and troubled upbringings themselves. Also, Naomi has to spend the night in hospital away from her partner Chris as she waits for labour to kick in.

Thursday 31 July
George Clarke continues the search to find Britain's best shed why, no one knows - focusing on the Summerhouse/Cabin and Normal categories in Amazing Spaces Shed Of The Year - 8:00 Channel Four. He and his fellow judges - who, tragically, do not include Arthur Two Sheds Jackson - visit a Gothic grotto decorated with fifty thousand seashells, a replica Eighteenth-Century US frontier cabin, a scaled-down Elizabethan lodge, a 'disco shed', a 1970s amusement arcade - complete with a twelve foot-high Ferris wheel - a 1950s American diner and a museum dedicated to TV comedy Dad's Army. The sister programme, Compost Heap Of The Year will be shown on More4. Probably.
The third series of the US political thriller Scandal begins - 9:00 Sky Living - with crisis management guru Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) becoming the White House's latest scandal. As her team rallies round to figure out how to proceed, First Lady Mellie is determined to take matters into her own hands, while Vice President Sally Langston takes the opportunity to be the moral centre of the party following President Grant's indiscretions.
Never been a big fan of Noel Fielding hasn't yer actual Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader. I don't find him as offensively shite and worthless as unfunny lanky streak of piss Jack Whitehall or Russell Kane (very popular with students) but this blogger has never really understood why so many people seem to find Noel's weirdo act so hilariously wee-in-yer-own-pants funny. So, this blogger will be approaching Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy which begins its second series tonight - 10:00 E4 - with some caution though, nevertheless, approaching it as opposed to avoiding it like the plague; he shall be doing so on the off-chance that one of these days he might, actually, get the joke. After all, it happened with The League of Gentlemen - admittedly after about two series - so, you know, hope springs eternal and all that. Noel returns with his mix of live action and animated comedy, which takes place in a coffee shop on the edge of a volcano in Hawaii. Okay, I admit, that does have some comedic possibilities. In the opening episode, the cast of Magnum PI attempt to sacrifice Noel to a volcano God and all hopes of being rescued are in the hands of Internet sensation Paul Panfer. Co-starring Dolly Wells.

The Wyoming Wetlands Society is a non-profit organisation that relocates beavers that have been damaging expensive landscaped areas and flooding yards and roads with their dam-building activities in Teton County. The Natural World documentary Beavers Behaving Badly (steady!) - 8:00 BBC2 - follows the work of Drew Reed as he traps the problem animals and takes them to drainage areas of the Gros Ventre River, where the beavers help to restore and enhance wetland habitats, providing many direct and indirect benefits to both wildlife and people. Rob Brydon narrates.

Friday 1 August
Tonight sees the welcome return of 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. The trio offer their own unique insight into some of the most difficult and delicate issues in modern Britain, and answer that most important of questions: Is it OK?
Captain Gregson reveals details about his private life when his home is invaded by a masked gunman in the latest episode of Elementary - 9:00 Sky Living. Although his wife Cheryl is shaken by the ordeal, Sherlock Holmes does not automatically assume that she is innocent. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu star.
The murder of two younglings in apparently ritual slayings leads the police into a case of yer actual Black Magic - not the chocolate collection - and things soon become even more incredible. From animal sacrifices and paintings in blood to two of the Alex Fielding's team apparently cursed by voodoo dolls in Nocebo, a memorable Wire In The Blood - 10:00 ITV3. Tony Hill remains sceptical throughout - so, no change there, then - until Alex and her son become the killer's next potential targets. Superior thriller, starring Wor Geet Canny Robson Green and Simone Lahbib.

The BBC's News department is to axe four hundred and fifteen jobs as cost-cutting measures continue, the BBC's director of news James Harding has announced. The move is part of eight hundred million smackers efficiency savings required after the licence fee was frozen in 2010. The latest cuts are expected to save forty eight million notes by 2017. BBC News currently employs around eight thousand four hundred people, including around five thousand journalists, based in London, around the UK and overseas. Harding also set out plans to substantially restructure the news division and put the BBC 'at the forefront of producing news for the digital age' using new technologies. A total of one hundred and ninety five new posts will be created to fulfil this plan, meaning a net reduction of two hundred and twenty full-time jobs overall. Around seventy per cent of the annual running costs of BBC News are staff-related, meaning there would inevitably be an impact in this area, Harding said. 'It will be a testing time of uncertainty and change,' he told staff, adding, the 'challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money.' He added that the BBC would be at the forefront of a 'fourth revolution in news' and 'delivering ever better value for money is part of that.'

Is David Cameron (who claims he is waiting to binge on the box-set of series four) as much of Game Of Thrones fan as he claims? Only asks because, in reportedly saying that the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove's new job as Chief Whip made him 'the Hand of the King', the PM probably wasn't fully clued up on what that job means in Westeros (or, indeed, aware of the fates of those who have held it). Yes, it's the king's closest adviser, but a briefing on the post in the show's official guide is headed by the less flattering job description, 'the King shits, and the Hand wipes'. Apt, then, that on his very first day as The Hand the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove should have found himself trapped in the Commons privy.

Hollyoaks has overtaken EastEnders as the UK's most violent soap, according to new research from Ofcom. The media watchdog - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - found that Channel Four's youf drama had 11.5 violent scenes per hour in 2013, up from 2.1 in 2002. By contrast, violence in EastEnders has dropped, from 6.1 scenes per hour in 2002 to 2.1 per hour today. Across all four main soaps, including Coronation Street and Emmerdale, seventy per cent of episodes depicted at least one incidence of violence. The violence logged by Ofcom's researchers ranged from intimidation and menace to drownings and shootings. Pushing, prodding and grabbing were the most common acts, accounting for thirty five per cent of all violent scenes across the eleven-year period of research. Strong violence which might make the viewer 'uncomfortable' was very infrequent, Ofcom noted, accounting for just six per cent of the total. And, there were no reported instances of characters being roughly sodomised by a grinning rapist. Although, you know, there's always a first time. 'Violence appears to be quite prevalent,' the report said, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the entire period covered by the report was one which saw Britain involved in not one but two rather violent wars. Ironic, you say? This blogger couldn't possibly comment. 'It occurred in the large majority of episodes and even the remainder may be considered to have had an evident potential for violent scenes to develop. However most of the violence portrayed was quite mild. Indeed, in the majority of cases, the violent act portrayed was judged as too mild to result in any evident injuries.' The study found that soaps usually indicated when violence was likely to occur, so viewers were 'rarely surprised' by it. Carried out in four 'waves', over a twelve-year period, the research reflected 'an upward trend' in soap opera violence, but noted the incidence of aggressive acts fluctuated widely between programmes. The research comes a year after Hollyoaks was censured for a scene in which a character was pushed under a train and somewhat killed. Ofcom ruled the 'violent and shocking' scene was 'unsuitable' to be shown before the watershed. In its ruling, Ofcom highlighted official BARB figures which showed ten per cent of the total audience of the episode were aged between four and nine years old.
A retired detective has accused Scum of the World journalists of 'attempting to undermine' the police investigation into an axe murder. Daniel Morgan, a private investigator, was bludgeoned to death in 1987. He was allegedly about to expose cases of police corruption. Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook believes that links between the newspaper and former detectives that Cook was investigating led to him being 'turned on' by the tabloid. Morgan, who was originally from Llanfrechfa, was found with an axe embedded in his head in a pub car park in South-East London. His killer or killers have never been brought to justice. However, by 2002 when Cook was tasked with heading a new investigation into the murder, two suspects were running a private investigations agency and that company worked closely with the Scum of the World, feeding the newspaper stories and confidential information. Cook made a fresh appeal on the BBC Crimewatch television programme, but within days of his appeal the officer was himself being watched. It has now emerged that Greg Miskiw, then news editor at the Scum of the World, tasked Glen Mulcaire - another private investigator and convicted phone-hacker, used widely by the paper - to compile an illicit personal dossier on Cook. A Scum of the World photographer claimed it was pursuing a 'kiss-and-tell' story that Cook was 'having an affair' with the Crimewatch police liaison, Jacqui Hames. In reality, however, already Hames was Cook's wife. Some of those connected with the surveillance operation have stated that they were 'just following a tip-off' which turned out to be misguided, but Cook believes that the surveillance of him was for a different purpose. 'They were trying to undermine me,' said Cook, who has now left the force. 'They were trying to undermine the investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan, it's as simple as that.' The former Met officer said: 'I was told the News of the World were offering assistance to those suspected of the murder of Daniel Morgan. The phrase that was told to me was that they were looking to "sort you out."' The BBC has spoken to alleged 'sources' who, allegedly, corroborate Cook's claims. Recalling the surveillance, he told the BBC: 'Parked discreetly opposite my house was a van, so I called the Met and said, "This is the registration number." Within a short time it came back: "This van is leased to News International." I put the kids in the car and I drove out. Within seconds of pulling out a car parked down the lane pulled out and started to follow me.' The Met soon received several intelligence reports that Cook had been 'placed under surveillance' by the tabloid newspaper. Furious that Scum of the World staff were working hand-in-hand with his murder suspects, Cook demanded a meeting with the company and eventually met with then editor well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. Cook said: 'I brought this to the attention of Rebekah Brooks. I had the meeting, that is a fact. She chose to do nothing about it.' The BBC asked well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks what action she took when presented with evidence of the corrupt links between the Scum of the World and those being investigated for murdering Daniel Morgan. To date, she has not responded. However well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks told a Parliamentary Committee in 2011 that her 'recollection' was that the meeting was on a different topic. Alastair Morgan, Daniel Morgan's brother, said: 'It's outrageous. The more I find out about it this case the worse it gets. I am beyond surprised now with what's emerged. There's a lot of questions that need to be answered.' Greg Miskiw has recently been extremely jailed for phone-hacking and, as a consequence, when contacted by the BBC was 'unavailable for comment'.

A former police constable has been extremely jailed for eighteen months for offering to sell a salacious story about a 'womanising and bullying' colleague to the Sun. A jury took just over an hour and a half to find ex-Wiltshire officer Darren Jennings very guilty of committing misconduct in a public office following a trial at the Old Bailey. The forty one-year-old, of Saffron Walden, had denied asking the tabloid to pay ten grand for information about his colleague, Mark Andrews, in September 2010, claiming he was 'set up'. Sentencing him, judge Charles Wide told Jennings that his crime was 'particularly serious' because of the embarrassment he could have caused to many people if the story had been published. He told the married father-of-two: 'This was an isolated endeavour but what you did was very serious. You were trying to line your pockets to the tune of ten thousand pounds and doing so by making allegations against one of your colleagues who had been convicted but not sentenced, later to be acquitted. You also make allegations against other people, police officers, of a salacious kind. As far as Sergeant Andrews is concerned, you provided information that you hoped would be published that he had committed repeated crimes of violence; that he bullied a female police officer into having a mental breakdown; that he regularly used excessive force. You accused him of promiscuity that would have caused embarrassment not only to him but to his wife and children - imagine how they would have felt reading that story you wanted to plant for ten thousand pounds in a tabloid newspaper.' The judge went on: 'The sheer number of people who were going to be at least gravely embarrassed and potentially have career damage as a result of your scheming bid makes this a particularly serious case.' The court heard that Jennings contacted the Sun in September 2010 after Andrews had been arrested over an alleged assault in custody. Jennings, using the pseudonym Robert Stone, sent an e-mail to a journalist claiming that the married officer had affairs with colleagues, including a police community support officer, an ex-PCSO and a special constable, the court heard. He alleged that Andrews 'took part in a threesome' with another male officer and a female police officer and regularly went to a strip bar in Salisbury, the prosecutor, Oliver Glasgow, said. The defendant also alleged that the sergeant 'used excessive force' towards members of the public at Salisbury police station and on one occasion slammed a woman's head against a concrete floor. Andrews was convicted at Oxford magistrates court of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but that was later quashed on appeal, the trial heard. Jennings told the Sun journalist: 'I'm taking a massive risk in giving this information and have an enormous amount to lose by doing so if I am found out.' Which, very satisfyingly, he later was. The story was never published and Jennings's contact emerged only after officers trawled through millions of e-mails in the Sun database as part of the phone-hacking investigation in 2012. Police linked him to the Sun through an examination of his laptop and home phone records, jurors were told. When he was first interviewed by police, Jennings claimed that he'd 'had problems' with Andrews and other colleagues unhappy about his personal relationship with a female officer who became his second wife, Rachel. He said that, before they got together, Rachel confided in him that Andrews had 'made a pass' at her and she told him 'in no uncertain terms' that it was 'not going to happen', the court heard. Alleged problems at work allegedly escalated to the point where Jennings was posted away from Salisbury and he launched a grievance procedure against another colleague, jurors were told. But when he gave evidence in the witness box, Jennings could not identify any particular officer who had a sufficient grudge against him to set him up by using a Hotmail account under a fake name that was linked to his laptop. Under cross-examination, Glasgow said: 'Don't you agree when you look at it and stand back, it does look like you are guilty, doesn't it?' Jennings replied: 'The evidence against me does seem compelling evidence. Even though it is compelling, I will still stand here today, tomorrow, and next year and deny the allegations put before me, because I'm innocent.' The jury, it would appear, didn't not believe him. In mitigation, Jennings's lawyer, Tom Godfrey, said: 'It was salacious, it was unpleasant but it was not of a compromising nature.' Jennings's wife suffers from ME and is 'heavily reliant' on her husband, he added. Following Jennings's conviction, Superintendent Charlie Armstrong, of Wiltshire police, said that there was 'no evidence of wrongdoing by the officers named by Jennings and no action is being taken against them.' He said in a statement: 'Clearly, this case demonstrates the importance of ethical and professional behaviour. The dishonest actions of this officer for his own personal financial gain could have impacted on live criminal proceedings and caused harm to those he sought to sell information about. Jennings is no longer a serving police officer; he was dismissed from the force in December 2013 following a disciplinary hearing regarding a separate matter. He has appealed against his dismissal and a review of this decision will be carried out by an independent panel in due course. It is right and proper that Jennings has been tried before the courts and justice has been done.'

Singer Tulisa Contostavlos's trial over drugs allegations has collapsed. Judge Alistair McCreath said he thought prosecution witness Mazher Mahmood had lied to Southwark Crown Court. Mahmood had claimed that Contostavlos put him in touch with her rapper friend, Mike GLC, to supply him with Class A drugs. The damning comments by the judge both vindicated Contostavlos – who had always insisted she was entrapped by the reporter into promising to arrange a cocaine deal – and potentially brought down the curtain on the long and controversial career of Mahmood, better known as The Fake Sheikh after one of his common disguises. Mahmood made his name with the Scum of the World, often dressing up as a rich Arab to persuade the famous, gullible or criminal to divulge their secrets on tape via elaborate subterfuge. The Sun journalist has been 'suspended pending an internal investigation' the newspaper said. The Sun now faces a 'significant bill' for court costs, to be determined at a later date and it is possible that Mahmood could be tried for perjury. The judge told the jury the case 'cannot go any further' because there were 'strong grounds to believe' that Mahmood had 'lied' at a hearing before the trial started. Explaining his decision Judge McCreath said: 'Where there has been some aspect of the investigation or prosecution of a crime which is tainted in some way by serious misconduct to the point that the integrity of the court would be compromised by allowing the trial to go ahead, in that sense the court would be seen to be sanctioning or colluding in that sort of behaviour, then the court has no alternative but to say "This case must go no further."' The court heard that Mahmood had posed as a film producer when he met Contostavlos at several luxury hotels and restaurants. He claimed the singer vowed to procure cocaine for him when he offered her a lead role in a film. Giving evidence from behind a screen, Mahmood claimed he used 'subterfuge' when he secretly recorded meetings to establish whether she was involved in drugs. Under cross-examination he denied the reason was to create 'a sensational story' but said it was 'in the public nterest to expose criminality.' Contostavlos vehemently denied brokering the deal, which was reported in the Sun on Sunday in June 2013 under the headline Tulisa's Cocaine Deal Shame. It now looks like it might, actually, be the Sun its very self that's the one getting, if you will, shamed. The collapse of the trial is a catastrophic result for Mahmood, a paradoxical figure who has relished his high profile while also taking extraordinary measures to avoid being photographed in public. He was allowed to give evidence in court behind a screen, a courtesy previously extended when he spoke before The Leveson Inquiry. The official explanation is that Mahmood 'needs to protect his identity' from the criminals jailed due to his stories over the years – he claims a tally of more than one hundred – though there is also an element of preserving a sense of mystique. A Sun spokesman claimed that the paper took the judge's remarks 'very seriously' and had suspended Mahmood. The spokesman added: 'We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry's code. This was demonstrated by the CPS decision to prosecute.' Following the dismissal of the case, she urged police to investigate the reporter. Outside court she said: 'I have never dealt drugs and never been involved in taking or dealing cocaine. Mahmood has now been exposed by my lawyers openly lying to the judge and jury. These lies were told to stop crucial evidence going before the jury.' The singer said that the evidence related to her telling Mahmood's driver that she disapproved of drugs, but she claims the 'driver was pressured to change his statement to strengthen Mahmood's evidence and to damage mine.' Mahmood gained access to Contostavlos by posing as a wealthy Bollywood film producer interested in casting the singer as the lead in a major film, purportedly opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and for a supposed fee of more than three million pounds. The singer was flown to Las Vegas for meetings with Samir Khan, the role played by Mahmood, and his associates. She was then dined by Mahmood at London's Metropolitan hotel. She also claimed she was 'tricked' into believing she was auditioning for a movie and was encouraged to 'act the part of a bad, rough, ghetto girl.' She said: 'They recorded this and produced it as evidence when I thought it was an audition. It was a terrible thing to do. Thankfully, the lies have been uncovered and justice has been done.' After the meal in London, Contostavlos was driven home by Alan Smith and told him that she had seen the 'terrible impact' of drugs and did not approve of them – a conversation which he recounted to police. At a pre-trial hearing at the end of last month Mahmood denied discussing that statement with Smith, particularly whether the anti-drugs comments might undermine the prosecution case. Under cross-examination on Thursday, however, Mahmood conceded that he had in fact received an e-mailed copy of the statement three days before the pre-trial hearing and had spoken to Smith about it. This prompted the judge to intervene, saying this apparent 'manipulation of the evidence' meant he had three options: to order a retrial, to allow bad character evidence against Mahmood or to drop the case entirely. After an adjournment until Monday morning, McCreath called the trial off. Mahmood, he told the jury, was 'key' to the case as the 'sole progenitor' of the prosecution as well as the only investigator and prosecution witness. In a thinly veiled condemnation of the Sun's tactics, McCreath said that Mahmood was 'someone who appears to have gone to considerable lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths than would have been regarded as appropriate had he been a police investigator.' The case is yet another blow for News UK and the retrospective reputation of the Scum of the World. The disgraced and disgraceful tabloid was closed in shame and ignominy in 2011 in the wake of revelations about phone hacking which saw the paper's former editor (and the Prime Minister's former, if you will, 'chum') Andy Coulson extremely jailed earlier this month. Contostavlos's co-defendant, Mike GLC, whose real name is Michael Coombs, previously pleaded guilty to supplying half an ounce of cocaine. Coombs also walked free after the judge informed him the case against him could not proceed.

Italian police have arrested three men suspected of extorting a production company shooting scenes for a television drama about the mafia in a mobster's villa. The three are alleged to be linked to the Gallo-Pisielli clan of the Camorra, the Naples-based mafia syndicate which is the subject of the series Gomorra on Sky, Italian news agency Ansa reported on Thursday. The company believed to have been extorted is the Rome-based Cattleya, which has previously denied the allegations. The Italian weekly Panorama reported last month that an investigation was under way, and claimed the production company had paid members of the Camorra to rent the villa and was then asked for 'further payments on the side.' It said the villa belonged to mafia boss Francesco Gallo and had been under court administration when filming took place after it was seized by police following his arrest. Italian media said that the villa near Torre Annunziata is modelled on the one in the 1983 film Scarface, starring Al Pacino, and includes an eight-person hot tub, Versace floors and baroque decor.

Some two hundred and ninety eight people were on board the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17 to Kuala Lumpur which was, apparently, shot down in an act of unspeakable murder in Eastern Ukraine after taking off from Schipol earlier this week. At least nine Britons were passengers on the flight, along with passengers from dozens of other countries. In any tragedy of this sort, of course, whilst ones sympathy automatically extends to all of the families, friends and colleagues of those who died - or, it should do if one has any sort of a heart beating in ones chest - many little personal side-stories will emerge and, here's one. This blogger was absolutely horrified watching the BBC's Six O'Clock News on Friday to discover that he actual knew one of the Britons killed (albeit only very slightly). He was a chap called John Alder and yer actual Keith Telly Topping sat next to him at half-a-dozen Newcastle United matches back in the 1990s including, memorably, one at Swindon which was the one thousandth consecutive United match that John had attended. John, a retired BT engineer from Deckham in Gateshead, was a well-known figure on Tyneside and a regular at just about every United away match stretching back to the 1970s - reportedly he only ever missed one game (due to a family bereavement) since 1973 and had travelled to America, Thailand and all over Europe to watch his beloved team. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping along with Our Colin Telly Topping and Our Graeme Telly Topping had a three or four year period during the 1990s where we also regularly went away with The Toon and John was someone we'd often spot and nod to in recognition in the middle of Cambridge or somewhere. Like I say, this blogger knew John only very slightly but it did bring a very distant and apocalyptically dreadful event rather shockingly closer to home than one could ever have expected. What a truly awful thing, a lad on his way to the other side of the world to see his favourite team play a game of football dying because of a political conflict that, seemingly, those involved in don't give a shit about whom they drag into their nasty little war. Is it really so wrong to hope that those who fired the weapon at the plane, those who ordered them to and those who supplied them with it all die from cancer of the arsehole? Probably it is but, on a day like today it's hard not to feel such antipathy to those who, seemingly, care so little for the sanctity of human life. John and another United fan, Liam Sweeney, were understood to have been travelling on the flight to New Zealand to watch United's pre-season tour of the country. As the website noted John and Liam were both 'in attendance at Oldham on Tuesday, doing what they loved. Our thoughts are with their friends, families and the many fans who knew them by sight. Watching Newcastle will never be the same again.' A statement from the club paid tribute to John and Liam, who it said were 'two of the club's most loyal supporters.' Manager Alan Pardew said: 'Myself and all the players are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news.' Present and former-United players, including Tim Krul, Steve Harper, Yohan Cabaye, Micky Quinn, Ryan Taylor and Joey Barton posted their own tributes to the pair on social media whilst United youth team player Kyle Cameron dedicated the United under eighteen side's 6-2 win in a Swedish tournament on Friday to John and Liam. Newcastle's players are to wear black armbands for both their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand. A tribute - of, as yet, unspecified form - will be organised at United's first home game of the new season, against Sheikh Yer Man City on Sunday 17 August.

Sky News has apologised 'profusely' after one of its presenters was shown rifling through the personal belongings of a stricken passenger at the MH17 crash site. In a live broadcast on Sunday afternoon, Sky News presenter - and scumbag - Colin Brazier was shown picking items, including a set of keys and toothbrush, out of the opened luggage before saying: 'We shouldn't really be doing this, I suppose.' No, you shouldn't, mate. That's the kind of thing Drop The Dead Donkey satirised two decades ago; to think that someone is doing a Damien Day for real is a bastard outrage. So, why did you? The footage was met with a storm of - for once, entirely justified - criticism online, including media professor Joe Watson who described it as 'a horrible moment for journalism' and others who accused Sky News of invading the privacy of the deceased. Much less contaminating a crime scene. BBC Sport presenter Jacqui Oatley said that she was 'absolutely astonished' by Brazier's disgusting actions, while BBC radio presenter Shelagh Fogarty added: 'Sky, get your reporter to STOP rummaging thru [sic] belongings at MH17 crash site. "We shouldn't really be doing this" NO shit, Sherlock. Those items are essentially sacred things now for the relatives. Just appalling.' The incident came amid concerns from air accident investigators that the MH17 crash site had been contaminated by the round-the-clock presence of armed pro-Russia separatists, locals and the international media. A coalition of investigators are expected to arrive at the site for the first time on Monday, four days after the disaster which killed all two hundred and ninety eight people on the Malaysian Airlines aircraft when it came down near Grabovo in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday. A spokeswoman for Sky News weaselled: 'Today whilst presenting from the site of the MH17 air crash Colin Brazier reflected on the human tragedy of the event and showed audiences the content of one of the victims' bags. Colin immediately recognised that this was inappropriate and said so on air. Both Colin and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused.' The spokeswoman said that Sky News had received 'a handful' of complaints from viewers in the hours after the broadcast, which was shared hundreds of times on Twitter. One imagines that'll rise to several thousand now that the Daily Scum Mail have the story. Some viewers said that they would take their complaints to the media regulator Ofcom for the 'appalling' breach of privacy. Brazier, who was nominated for the presenter of the year award at this year's Royal Television Society Awards, later reported that he had 'come across' scores of human remains at the site. He said: 'I've been walking around, coming across body parts all the time, many of them charred beyond recognition. Men, women and children, indeterminate frankly, you can't tell. Very often you are looking at charred spines, that's all that's left. There are flies. It is hot. There are stretchers lying by the roadside. They have not been used because many of the bodies were dismembered by the forces of the impact. It is a truly macabre, horrific situation. There is a degree of anarchy and lawlessness.' Yes, but apart from your actions, what about everyone else. What a twat.

A London-based correspondent of Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today has resigned in protest at its coverage of the shooting down of MH17. Sara Firth, who worked at Russia Today for five years, described the channel's reporting of the tragedy as 'the straw that broke the camel's back.' Russia Today, which has previously been criticised as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian government, suggested that Ukraine was to blame for the crash, while most media organisations have speculated that it was shot down by a suspected Russian-made missile. 'It was the most shockingly obvious misinformation and it got to the point where I couldn't defend it any more,' Firth told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'When this story broke that was the moment I knew I had to go. I walked into the newsroom and there was an eyewitness account making allegations [against Ukraine] and analysis, if you can call it, from our correspondent in the studio. It was just appalling, in a situation like that where there are families waiting to be informed and a devastating loss of life.' She added: 'I have always fought against this argument that RT is an evil network but you wake up and think, that's just wrong. It was not an easy decision, I started my career at RT, and I respect many of the team there. In the end it got to the point where I couldn't defend it and I didn't believe there was something to defend. A story like this really highlights it.' Firth said that she previously had a 'lot of editorial independence' filming reports for the network but said there had previously been examples of senior editorial interference, and said she had been pulled out of Syria after some 'very heated discussions' about the channel's coverage. Firth said on Twitter: 'I resigned from RT today. I have huge respect for many in the team, but I'm for the truth.' Firth added: 'There is bias against Russia but you don’t counter wrong by doing even more wrong. They are putting all this money into making it look like the truth and it's not, it's just so sad. It's so close sometimes to be being great. I have always said it's better to have RT than to not have that perspective, but actually with a story like this and they way they misreport it, it's quite dangerous, I don’t want to be party to it.'

The film and TV legend James Garner has died at age eighty six, TMZ has reported. The star of The Rockford Files and The Great Escape was found dead when an ambulance arrived at his Los Angeles home around 8pm on Saturday evening. He had suffered ill health since a severe stroke in 2008. Amiable and handsome, James Garner obtained success in both films and television, often playing variations of the same charming anti-hero or conman persona he first developed in Maverick, the offbeat Western series which shot him to stardom in the late 1950s. 'I'm a Spencer Tracy-type actor,' he once noted. 'His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. Most every actor [who] tries to make it something it isn't looks for the easy way out. I don't think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.' Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma in April 1928, James was the youngest of three children. His two older brothers were the actor Jack Garner (1926 to 2011) and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator who died in 1984. Their mother, who was said to be of part Cherokee descent, died when James was five years old and James grew to hate his stepmother, Wilma, who allegedly beat all three boys. When he was fourteen, Garner had finally had enough and after a particularly heated battle, she left for good. James' brother Jack commented, 'She was a damn no-good woman.' Shortly after the break-up of the marriage, James's father, Weldon, a carpet layer, moved to Los Angeles, while Garner and his brothers remained in Norman with relatives. After working at several jobs he disliked, at sixteen Garner joined the Merchant Marine near the end of World War II. In 1995, he received an honorary doctorate from The University of Oklahoma, in his home town. When speaking at the event he took the opportunity to remind the officials who had invited him to speak, of the circumstances of his original departure. 'It's nice to be invited back as a VIP after being run out of town on a rail!' At seventeen, he joined his father in LA and enrolled at Hollywood High School where a gym teacher recommended him for a job modelling bathing suits. 'I made twenty five bucks an hour,' James recalled. 'That's why I quit school. I was making more money than the teachers. I never finished the ninth grade!' He never did graduate, explaining in a 1976 Good Housekeeping magazine interview: 'I was a terrible student, but I got my diploma in the Army.' He served in Korea for fourteen months with the Fifth Regimental Combat Team. He was wounded twice, firstly in the face and hand from shrapnel fire from a mortar round and secondly in the buttocks due to 'friendly fire' from US fighter jets as he dived head first into a foxhole. James was awarded the Purple Heart for the first injury (and not, as often inaccurately reported, for 'getting shot in the arse', a story which James himself reportedly enjoyed telling gullible journalists). He did, finally, receive a second Purple Heart in 1983, thirty two years after his injury. Garner was a self-described 'scrounger' for his company in Korea, a role which he later played in The Great Escape and The Americanisation of Emily. In 1954 a friend, Paul Gregory, whom James had met while attending school, persuaded Garner to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, where he was able to closely study Henry Fonda in the lead role. Garner subsequently moved to television commercials and eventually to TV drama roles. His first movie appearances were in The Girl He Left Behind and Toward The Unknown both in 1956.
   After several further minor movie roles, including Sayonara with Marlon Brando, Garner got his big break on TV playing the part of the professional gambler Bret Maverick in the comedy Western series Maverick. James was earlier considered for the lead role in another Warner Brothers Western series, Cheyenne, but that role went to Clint Walker because the casting director reportedly couldn't reach Garner in time (this, according to Garner's autobiography). James ended up playing an Army officer in the pilot instead. Maverick almost immediately made Garner a household name. He was the solo star of the first seven episodes but production demands forced Warner Brothers, to create a Maverick brother, Bart, played by Jack Kelly. This allowed two production units to film different storylines and episodes simultaneously. The series also featured in popular cross-over episodes featuring both Maverick brothers, including the famous Shady Deal At Sunny Acres episode, upon which the first half of the 1973 movie The Sting was reportedly based. Garner and a very young Clint Eastwood staged an epic fistfight in an episode entitled Duel At Sundown, in which Eastwood played a vicious gunslinger. Critics were positive about Garner and Jack Kelly's chemistry, but Garner quit the series during the third season because of a dispute with Warner Brothers over money. 'I was young and dumb,' he said many years later. 'I said a couple things about being under contract that they didn't like, like that I felt like a ham in a smokehouse. They were waiting to get back at me by laying me off. We went to court and got out of my contract. I didn't want somebody in an office guiding my career. If I had a failure, I wanted it to be my failure. If I had a success, I wanted it to be my success.' The studio attempted to replace Garner's character with a British Maverick cousin, played by Roger Moore, but Moore quit the series after filming only fourteen episodes as Beau Maverick. When Charlton Heston turned down the lead role in Darby's Rangers shortly before Garner's departure from Maverick, James was selected as his replacement. As a result of Garner's performance, coupled with his Maverick popularity, Warner Brothers subsequently gave him lead roles in other films, such as Up Periscope and Cash McCall. After his acrimonious departure from Warners, in 1960, James spent the following decade appearing in movies like The Children's Hour (1962 with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine), Boys' Night Out (also 1962), The Thrill Of It All (1963 with Doris Day), the classic romcom Move Over, Darling (a 1963 remake of My Favourite Wife also co-starring Day), The Great Escape (1963), The Art Of Love (1965), Duel At Diablo (1966) and as Wyatt Earp in Hour Of The Gun (1967), a role he would play again in a very different way, in the movie Sunset, twenty one years later. In the classic The Great Escape, Garner played the second lead for the only time during the decade, supporting another ex-TV series cowboy Steve McQueen among a cast of British and American screen veterans. And to this day, people are still trying to work out how McQueen managed to get from Poland to the border of Switzerland on a motorbike faster than it took James and Donald Pleasance to not quite make the same journey in a fucking plane! In an interview on US TV in 2002, he told Charlie Rose: 'John [Sturges] was a great director and editor and he got the most out of his actors. I don't know how he did that, I think it was just a pat on the back and that sort of thing.' James also admitted that he was 'always nervous' when acting, adding: 'Keeps me on my toes. I've never been that confident, I don't have the background in acting. Some people do, they went to all these classes. A lot of people say you have to have this foundation, you have to have all the great teachers and all the great theory. I don't think so. I was twenty five when I first started acting, I'd been around the world a bit. I'd travelled in a lot of different societies. I felt I knew as much as any of these actors who'd been to acting school.'
   The Americanisation Of Emily (1964), a literate anti-war D-Day comedy, co-starring Julie Andrews and featuring a screenplay written by Paddy Chayefsky remained Garner's favourite of all his work. The cult racing film Grand Prix (1966), directed by John Frankenheimer, left Garner with a fascination for motor racing for the rest of his life though the Cinerama epic did not fare as well as expected at the box office at the time, it has subsequently acquired something of a cult following. In 1969, Garner joined a long list of actors to play Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in Marlowe, a detective drama featuring a karate scene with Bruce Lee. The same year, Garner scored a hit with the comedy Western Support Your Local Sheriff! In the 1970s, Roy Huggins had an idea to, essentially, remake Maverick, but this time as a modern-day private detective. Starting with the 1974 season, James appeared as the down-on-his-luck gumshoe private investigator Jim Rockford in the classic The Rockford Files, a hugely popular serial crime drama filmed mostly in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles and a particular, and enduring, favourite of this blogger. He appeared for six seasons (one hundred and twenty two episodes), for which he received an EMMY Award for Best Actor in 1977. Veteran character actor Noah Beery, Jr played Rockford's father, Rocky, while Gretchen Corbett portrayed Rockford's lawyer and sometime lover, Beth Davenport, until she left the series over a salary dispute. Garner said it was the happiest time of his life but ultimately ended the run of the show, despite consistently high ratings, because of the physical toll the part was taking on his body. Appearing in nearly every scene of the series, doing many of his own stunts - including one that injured his back - was a wearing process. A knee injury from his army days worsened in the wake of the continuous action scenes and he was hospitalised with a bleeding ulcer in 1979. Garner returned to his earlier TV role in 1981 in the revival series Bret Maverick, but NBC unexpectedly cancelled the show after only one season despite reasonable ratings. During the 1980s, Garner played dramatic roles in a number of TV movies, including Heartsounds (with Mary Tyler Moore), Promise (with Piper Laurie) and My Name Is Bill W. In 1984, he played the lead in Joseph Wambaugh's The Glitter Dome for HBO Pictures, which was being directed by his Rockford Files co-star Stuart Margolin. The TV movie generated a mild controversy for a bondage sequence featuring Garner and co-star Margot Kidder. He was nominated for his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the movie Murphy's Romance opposite Sally Field. Field, and director Martin Ritt, had to fight the studio, Columbia Pictures, to have James cast, since he was regarded by many within the industry as a TV actor (despite having co-starred in the box office hit Victor Victoria opposite Julie Andrews two years earlier). Columbia reportedly didn't want to make the picture at all, because it had no 'sex or violence' in it. In 1991, Garner starred in Man Of The People, a series about a conman chosen to fill an empty seat on a city council, with Kate Mulgrew and Corinne Bohrer. Two years later James played the lead in another well-received TV-movie, Barbarians At The Gate, and went on to reprise his most famous role of Jim Rockford in eight - largely very good - Rockford Files made-for-TV movies beginning the following year. The powerfully frenetic opening theme song from the original series was rerecorded and slowed to a funereal pace and practically everyone from the original cast of recurring characters and most of the crew returned for the new episodes with the exception of Noah Beery who had died in the interim. In 1994, Garner played Marshal Zane Cooper in a movie version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson in the title role. In 1995, he played lead character Woodrow Call, an ex-lawman, in the TV miniseries sequel to Lonesome Dove entitled Streets Of Laredo, based on Larry McMurtry's novel. In 1996, Garner and Jack Lemmon teamed up in My Fellow Americans, playing two former presidents who uncover scandalous activity by their successor, Dan Aykroyd, and are pursued by murderous NSA agents. In addition to a major recurring role during the last series of Chicago Hope, Garner also starred in a couple of short-lived series, the animated God, The Devil & Bob and First Monday, in which he played a Supreme Court justice.At the beginning of the new millennium, after an operation to replace both knees, Garner appeared to great acclaim with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland as a team of old astronauts brought out of retirement in the hit movie Space Cowboys. During a group appearance by the cast on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno ran a brief clip from Garner and Eastwood's saloon fistfight during Eastwood's Maverick appearance over forty years earlier. In 2001, Garner voiced the main antagonist, Commander Rourke, in Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The following year, after the death of his The Great Escape co-star James Coburn, Garner took over Coburn's role as TV commercial voiceover for Chevrolet's Like A Rock advertising campaign. He also starred with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn in mother-daughter drama Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, in 2002. Upon the death of John Ritter in 2003, James joined the cast of Eight Simple Rules as Grandpa Jim Egan. Originally intended to be a one-shot guest role, he stayed with the series until its end in 2005. James also starred in the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. The Screen Actors Guild nominated him for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
  In 2011, Simon & Schuster published James's autobiography The Garner Files: A Memoir. In addition to recounting his career, the memoir, co-written with Jon Winokur, detailed the childhood abuses Garner and his brothers suffered at the hands of their stepmother. It also offered frank, often unflattering assessments of some of Garner's co-stars like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. 'Steve was my neighbour for some time, I called him "Crazy McQueen", because, quite frankly, he was crazy,' James wrote. 'We were good friends, but he wanted to play my part in Grand Prix and because of that we didn't talk for four years. He wasn't a great actor, but he was a star - McQueen had probably the highest amount of star quality I've ever seen in an actor.' In addition to recalling the genesis of most of Garner's movies and television shows, the book also featured a section where the actor provided individual critiques for every one of his projects and some wonderfully self-deprecating appraisals of his own abilities and status: 'I got into the business to put a roof over my head. I wasn't looking for star status. I just wanted to keep working.' James was married to Lois Clarke, whom he met at an Adlai Stevenson for President rally in 1956. They married a mere fourteen days later in August 1956. 'We went to dinner every night for fourteen nights. I was just absolutely nuts about her. I spent seventy seven dollars on our honeymoon and it just about broke me,' James recalled in his autobiography. According to Garner, 'Marriage is like the army; everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist.' When Garner and Clarke married, James adopted Lois's daughter Kim from a previous marriage. James and Lois themselves had one daughter, the author and film producer Gigi Garner. On 22 April 1988, James had quintuple bypass heart surgery. Though he rapidly recovered, the doctors insisted that he stop smoking and James complied ... seventeen years later. He underwent surgery again in May 2008, following a stroke he had suffered two days earlier. On 28 May 2014, The National Enquirer reported that James Garner's health was failing rapidly and that he was 'battling severe depression' in addition to the aftermath of his previous strokes. The article cited an alleged 'source' claiming that Garner allegedly felt he had 'nothing left to live for.'
   A lifelong Democrat and Civil Rights activist (he was, reportedly, one of those who helped Martin Luther King to organise his March on Washington), a private family man ('I don't like to speak in public, it scares the devil out of me'), keen golfer, amateur racing driver and twenty four carat Twentieth Century icon, James Garner is survived by his wife of fifty nine years, Lois and their two daughters.

Skye McCole Bartusiak has died at the age of twenty one. The actress was discovered at her home in Houston on Saturday having reportedly died in her sleep, according to Variety. A family spokesperson described Bartusiak as 'a brave and caring young woman' who will be 'deeply missed by her family and friends.' Bartusiak appeared as Mel Gibson's youngest daughter in the 2000 film The Patriot. She also had a recurring role in series two of 24 as Megan Matheson, as well as making guest appearances on CSI, House, Frasier and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Other credits include the movies The Cider House Rules and Don't Say A Word. The cause of death is not, at this time, known.

The blues guitarist Johnny Winter, known for his energetic solo performances, has died at the age of seventy. Johnny - hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time - rose to fame in the 1970s, including memorable collaborations with his mentor, the Blues legend Muddy Waters. Johnny died in Zurich earlier this week, just days after playing at the Lovely Days Festival in Austria. He recently said that he wanted to be remembered as 'a good blues musician.' he was certainly that. John Dawson Winter III was born in Beaumont, Texas on 28 February 1944. Johnny, along with his multi-instrumentalist younger brother Edgar, were nurtured by their parents in musical pursuits. Johnny and Edgar, both of whom were born with albinism, began performing at an early age. He began his musical career on the clarinet and then the ukulele, before moving on to the guitar. When he was ten years old, Winter appeared on a local children's TV show, playing ukulele and singing Everly Brothers songs with his brother. His recording career began at the age of fifteen, when his band Johnny & The Jammers released 'School Day Blues' on a Houston record label in 1960. Another of his early singles was the classic 'Gangster Of Love'. During this same period, he was able to see performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, BB King, and Bobby Bland. In his early career Winter would sometimes sit in with Roy Head & The Traits when they performed in the Beaumont area, and in 1967, Winter recorded the single 'Tramp' with The Traits. In 1968, he released his first solo LP, The Progressive Blues Experiment, on Austin's Onobeat Records. Johnny caught a major biggest break in December 1968, when Mike Bloomfield, whom he met and jammed with in Chicago, invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield and Al Kooper concert at The Fillmore East in New York. Representatives of Columbia were at the concert and were taken with Johnny's version of BB King's 'It's My Own Fault'. Within days, he was signed to what was reportedly the largest advance in the history of the recording industry at that time six hundred thousand bucks. Winter's first Columbia LP, Johnny Winter, was recorded and released in 1969. It featured the same backing musicians with whom he had recorded The Progressive Blues Experiment, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, plus Edgar on keyboards and saxophone, Willie Dixon on upright bass and Big Walter Horton on harmonica. The LP featured some of Johnny's signature songs, including his composition 'Dallas' (an acoustic blues, on which Winter played a steel-bodied guitar), plus covers of 'Good Morning Little School Girl' and 'Be Careful With A Fool'. The same year, The Winter Trio toured and performed at several festivals, including Woodstock. Johnny then recorded the Second Winter in Nashville. The two-record LP, which only had three recorded sides (the fourth was blank), introduced further staples of Winter's concerts, including Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B Goode' and Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'. During this period, Johnny had a short-lived affair with Janis Joplin and was also a close friend of fellow guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In 1970, when Edgar released his own solo LP, Entrance, and then formed Edgar Winter's White Trash, an R&B/jazz-rock group, the original Johnny Winter Trio disbanded. Johnny formed a new band with The McCoys guitarist Rick Derringer, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs and drummer Randy Z. Originally to be called Johnny Winter & The McCoys, the name was shortened to 'Johnny Winter And', which was also the name of their first LP as a collective. This included Derringer's 'Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo' and signalled a more rock-oriented direction for Winter. Their mixture of the new rock songs with Winter's blues material was captured on the live LP Live Johnny Winter And. It included a new performance 'It's My Own Fault' and Johnny's outstanding adaptation of The Rolling Stones' 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'. In live performances, Johnny often told the story about how, as a child, he dreamed of playing with Muddy Waters. In 1977, after Waters' long-time label Chess Records went out of business, Johnny got his chance. Winter brought Waters into the studio to record Hard Again for Blue Sky Records, a label set up by Winter's manager and distributed by Columbia. In addition to producing the LP, Winter played guitar with his hero. He would go on to produce two more studio LPs for Waters, I'm Ready and King Bee and a best-selling live LP. The partnership produced three Grammy Awards for Waters and an additional Grammy for Winter's own Nothin' But The Blues, with the backing of various members of Waters' band. Waters told Deep Blues author Robert Palmer that Winter had 'done remarkable work' in reproducing the sound and atmosphere of Waters's vintage Chess Records recordings of the 1950s. The LPs gave Waters the highest profile and greatest financial successes of his life. Johnny's momentum was throttled, however, when he sank into heroin addiction during the Johnny Winter And days. After he sought treatment for and recovered from the addiction, Winter was courageously put in front of the music press by manager Steve Paul to discuss his addiction candidly. By 1973, he returned to the music scene with the release of Still Alive & Well, a blend between blues and hard rock. In 1975 Johnny returned to Bogalusa, Louisiana, to produce an LP for the band Thunderhead. After his time with Blue Sky Records, Johnny recorded for several labels, including Alligator, Point Blank and Virgin, where he focused on blues-oriented material. In 2004, he received another Grammy nomination for his I'm a Bluesman CD. In 2011, Johnny Winter released a new studio CD titled Roots. It included Winter's interpretation of eleven early blues and rock 'n' roll classics and features several guest artists. Johnny continued to perform live, including at festivals throughout North America and Europe. A statement from his wife, family and bandmates said that they were all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists. He was due to release a new CD entitled Step Back on 2 September.

So, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, heeeere's Johnny.