Saturday, October 25, 2014

In The Forest Of The Night: Songs Of Innocence

'You have reached your destination.' 'No we haven't, we're supposed to be in the middle of London.' 'You have reached your destination.' 'Oh, stop saying that!'
'Do you like the forest being in Trafalgar Square? I think it's lovely!' The award-winning screenwriter and novelist Frankie Cottrell Boyce has had a jolly interesting career, dear blog reader, taking in everything from scripting British primetime TV's first lesbian kiss on Brookside - to which he was a regular contributor - and his collaborations with Michael Winterbottom on several films including Twenty Four Hour Party People and Welcome To Sarajevo to his acclaimed contributions to Danny Boyle's 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. But, this week, he topped all of them shenanigans by writing the latest episode of Doctor Who. It was called In The Forest Of The Night (and, yes, the title is taken from William Blake, well spotted). The plot: One morning, the human race wakes up to find that the entire planet has been invaded by .... its own trees, as overnight a forest has grown everywhere and taken back the Earth from humanity. The people are, as you might expect, a bit shocked and stunned by all this malarkey but The Doctor knows more than everyone - that this bizarre stranglehold of vegetation means the final days of humanity might well have finally arrived.
'Obviously we wrote all of our scripts [from the eighth series] before we saw [Peter Capaldi],' Boyce told the Radio Times. 'We knew the story and that this guy was going to be older, a bit grumpier, a bit sharper. The minute they had any footage of him they showed [me], but there's an interplay between the writing and what he's trying to bring to it.' With that in mind, what tips and directions did The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat give to Boyce and the other staff writers about writing for Capaldi, he was asked. 'I've had his voice in my head since Local Hero came out in 1980-whatever-it-was,' Boyce noted. 'I think the key note Steven gave was that whereas the other Doctors tell you what they're doing, he'll keep things to himself for a while. Matt would tell you everything, but [Capaldi's Doctor] keeps the process to himself until he acts on it.' It's an approach which Boyce believes echoes another of Moffat's hyperintelligent leading men. 'I guess that's more like Sherlock Holmes,' he added. 'You know the wheels are turning in his head, but he's not really letting you in on the process.'
'A tree is a time machine.' The premise of the episode has The Doctor, Clara, Danny and a gang of precocious Coal Hill pupils - some of whom are more annoying than others, let it be noted - discovering that the whole Earth has been enveloped by trees overnight. 'Don't worry, the trees won't hurt you.' might once have been The Doctor's mantra. Hell, he ever dated a tree once. But, these trees really do have no mercy, it would seem. Meanwhile a young girl in a red hood finds herself - not very originally - lost in this new forest and she might hold the key to solving the predicament. There's an, utterly obvious, environmental message at the heart of the episode as you might expect and, minor criticism, it's not an especially subtle one. Mind you, neither was The Green Death's forty years ago, to be fair. When it comes to things like the environment, subtly isn't one of Doctor Who's strong points. As noted on at least a couple of previous occasions this series, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. That's French for 'shut yer effing trap and watch the damn thing instead of whinging' just in case you were wondering. Boyce said that he wanted The Doctor in his episode to be 'removed of his superpowers' and, he is rather powerless here, which is an interesting diversion from the 'all knowing' Doctor Capaldi has presented us with at moments in the last three episodes. As the Doctor exclaims at one point, 'I can fight monsters, I can't fight physics.' He does, thankfully, get to share a couple of properly great scenes with Clara as they ponder the apparent end of the world which might well include some of this blogger's favourite moments of the series.
'You? Have you got a name at all?' As you may expect, dear blog reader, on several level - not least, visually - this is something of a radical departure from the past handful of episodes. It's lighter in tone, if oddly lacking in any obvious direct humour, with a strange and very unconventional story containing no monster of the week to speak of - unless you count the tiger. Nor, indeed, is there really any overt horror element present, apart from the forest itself. Nature is the threat in this episode but, was with Kinda for example, there's a clever Doctor Who twist. The general look and feel of the episode is very impressive. The director, Sheree Folkson who is also making her Doctor Who debut, contributes a visually stunning episode to fit it well with the quasi-fairytale aesthetics in Frankie's script. The accompanying score - from the always reliable Murray Gold - enhances this curiously attractive blend which, again, recalls a handful of the odder, more cerebral and outré episodes from the series past (there's a bit of The Mind Robber, a splash of Castrovalva, a touch of Inferno and a definite hint of The Androids Of Tara floating around in here at various points if you know where to look.Mind you, there's more than a smidgen of Fear Her as well).
'I haven't phoned home, but I know my mum is worried about me.' A number of child actors make up the guest characters this week. Centre stage of them all is Maebh a vulnerable young girl with a haunted past, played by Abigail Eames. As we've discussed previously this year, the casting of child actors can be something of a lottery and having an episode of any series depending for its success on a young child is fraught with dangers at the best of times. We all remember Fear Her. Sadly. It's probably fair to say that In The Forest Of The Night really does need its audience to care about Maebh's thoughts on the world around her for the episode to work. Thankfully, Abigal is really very good here and adds a convincing and charming naivety to the episode. As for the rest of the kids, the performances range from more than adequate - 'anger management' Bradley's good, for instance - to okay at the worst. At least the children are well served with some impressively believable dialogue - what you'd expect from a children's author as good as Frank Cottrell Boyce. One particular stand out is Harley Bird - the voice of Pegga Pig, of course - who plays know-it-all Ruby. In a line reminiscent of Lisa Simpson, Ruby says of the new world they find themselves in. 'There was a forest, there wasn't a forest - nothing surprises us any more.'
'Why would the tress want to kill us? We love trees!' After a few episodes of being relegated to being on the end of phone calls, Danny gets a much larger role here as he takes on the leadership of the Coal Hill kids. Clara's walk down some questionable forest paths continues, of course. Her lying to Danny isn't really followed up in a satisfying way, although one suspects a lot of dangling plot threads are going to be tired together in the forthocming two-part series finale.
Continuity: The Day Of The Doctor ('what are the round bits for?'), The Eleventh Hour ('wood'), The Mark Of The Rani ('trees have no moving parts'), The Ice Warriors ('exactly what they said about the ice age'), Doctor Who & The Silurians ('that;s how this planet grows, a series of catastrophes'), Hide ('she hears voices'), The Doctor Dances ('not everything can be fixed with a screwdriver, it's not a magic wand'), The Long Game ('I've just informed you that a solar fares is going to wipe out your planet'), The Mind Robber, Fear Her, Utopia, Rose ('I don't want to be the last of my kind'), Remembrance Of The Daleks ('the human superpower, forgetting!'), The Ark, Kill The Moon ('I walk this Earth too, I breathe your air') and Mummy On The Orient Express ('what you gonna do, leave them on an asteroid?')
The dialogue is as enjoyable as you'd expect: 'I don't wanna see more things. I wanna see the things that are in front of me more clearly.' And: 'I'm allowed a torch sir, I've got a note. I'm darkness phobic.' And: 'Why are you asking me all the questions? Give someone else a go!' And: 'What are wolves scared of?' And: 'We will create pathways through the trees using carefully controlled fires.' And: 'Do you have an appointment? You need an appointment to see the Doctor.' This particularly blogger loved: 'You need an appointment to see The Doctor.' And: 'Miss Oswald? Dark hair? Highly unpredictable? Surprisingly round face?' And: 'In three hours time, the Ghana Black Star are due to play Sierra Leone in the African Cup of Nations. It does not look like the pitch will be ready!' And: 'Brand new forest?' 'Yes, it's like the New Forest except ... even newer!' And: 'You've got a spaceship, all we've got is Oyster Cards!' And: 'Trees have no moving parts and they don't communicate.' And: 'London has just been taken over by a giant forest, who do you want to talk to, Monty Don?' And: 'What use is "clever" against trees? You can't reason with them, you can't lie to them.' And: 'When the ice age was here, you lot managed to cook mammoth. Now, that there's a forest you'll just have to eat nuts.' 'I can't eat nuts, I've got an allergy!' And: 'She's probably dead by now, anyway. Crushed by Nelson!' And: 'I haven't got an imagination, ask Miss Oswald!' And: 'Any minute now we're gonna find a Gingerbread House with a witch inside!' And: 'Told you they were rubbish!' And: 'There are very good, solid scientific reasons for being really quite frightened just now!' And: 'We were here before you and will be here after you.' And: 'You've been chopping them down for furniture for centuries, if that's love, no wonder they're calling down fire from the heavens.' And: 'Class project - save the Earth.'
'Stick to the path, Red Ridinghood.' As emotional as the episode is, there's still plethora of adventure: 'Stars grow cold, planets implode. Catastrophe is the metabolism of the universe!' proclaims The Doctor on the realisation that this battle may already be over. The episode features some pointed - and slightly disturbing - observations on the way that adults treat children and their innocence ('why does everything have to go?') Boyce's script is literate, witty, informed and in places, very deep and complex. Yet, it's also, simultaneously, the sort of thing that this blogger can imagine a seven year olds understanding, and loving, on a far more basic level. 'Apart from being almost savaged by a tiger and abducted by a Scotsman, she's allowed any nervous ticks she likes!' In The Forest Of The Night is beautiful mixture of ecological polemic, love story, political allegory and comfortingly familiar Doctor Who elements. 'Fear a little bit less, trust a bit more.' Can we have Frank Cottrell Boyce on a permanent transfer, please?
The BBC has announced a special event, held in London and hosted by Frank Skinner, will take place on Monday 17 November, to mark the release of the Doctor Who series eight DVD and Blu-ray set. This will be the first chance the cast have had to reflect on the conclusion of Peter Capaldi's debut series as The Doctor, in front of one hundred and forty lucky fans at a Central London location. BBC Worldwide is offering seventy pairs of tickets for this exclusive event. Fans will be treated to a special screening followed by a Q&A with members of the cast. All they need to do is visit doctorwho.tv and correctly answer the multiple choice question, when they will subsequently be entered into a prize draw. The competition is now open and will close on Wednesday 29 October. Winners will be selected at random and will be notified within seven days of the closing date. Fans should only enter if they can travel to London for the afternoon of the 17 November. And, if they aren't, you know, one of The Special People. The event venue will be disclosed to winners on their invitation closer to the time. Frank Skinner commented: 'When they asked me to host this event I was over the moon. Luckily the space-dragon incubation period is such that I was in no real danger. I have so many questions I want to ask and, when we're all talked out, I'm planning to finish off by crowd-surfing for ten to fifteen minutes, dressed as Chief Engineer Perkins.' This event continues BBC Worldwide’s celebration of a new Doctor in the world's longest running family SF drama. Earlier this year, yer actual Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman her very self travelled the globe visiting Doctor Who fans in Seoul, Sydney, New York City, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro and this week the interactive and immersive attraction in Cardiff Bay – The Doctor Who Experience – will reopen with an updated adventure featuring the Twelfth Doctor. The DVD and Blu-ray release of The Complete Eighth Series sees The Doctor and Clara encounter previously unimaginable wonders and horrors The time travellers meet a fleet of Daleks as they attempt to rescue a stranded ship of human survivors, face ranks of Cybermen stalking Earth, go back in time and join Robin Hood in a fight with killer robots in Sherwood Forest, become outlaws when they break into the deadliest bank in the cosmos, face a Mummy on the Orient Express, discover a deadly horror dwelling on the Moon and meet the last man standing at the end of the universe. The box set contains all twelve episodes from Peter Capaldi's debut series in the role and is also packed full of extras including four audio commentaries, Doctor Who: The Ultimate Time Lord, Doctor Who: The Ultimate Companion, Doctor Who: Earth Conquest and other stuff.

BBC1's new Sir David Attenborough series Life Story topped the overnight ratings outside soaps on Thursday with 4.41m at 9pm. Earlier, Watchdog appealed to 3.04m at 8pm, and Question Time brought in 2.49m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Strictly: It Takes Two had an audience of 1.55m at 6.30pm, followed by Big Dreams Small Spaces with 1.35m at 7pm. The Children In Need Sewing Bee gathered 1.66m at 8pm, while the latest episode Peaky Blinders was watched by 1.41m at 9pm. Russell Howard's Good News returned for a new series (and, on a new channel) with 1.27m at 10pm. On ITV, For the Love of Dogs attracted 4.20m at 8.30pm, followed by the second episode of The Great Fire with 2.62m at 9pm. Channel Four's Amazing Spaces was seen by 1.45m at 8pm, while Educating The East End attracted 1.11m at 9pm. Scrotal Recall brought in four hundred and forty five thousand at 10pm. On Channel Five, Underground Britain attracted eight hundred and eighty eight thousand at 8pm, followed by Burglars & Break-Ins with seven hundred and fifty seven thousand at 9pm and Inside Holloway with nine hundred and five thousand at 10pm. The Big Bang Theory returned with impressive ratings for E4. The US sitcom amused an average 1.65 million viewers.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD returned to more than a million overnight viewers on Channel Four on Friday. The opening episode of the second season was watched by an average audience of 1.1 million from 8pm. It was followed by Gogglebox, which had an audience of 2.95 million at 9pm, and Alan Carr: Chatty Man with 1.34 million at 10pm. Channel Four's evening ended with five hundred and sixty thousand for The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night at 10pm. With an average audience of 4.33 million at 9pm, BBC1's Have I Got News For You was among the evening's most watched shows. The latest episode of Lewis also proved popular, playing to an average audience of 4.31 million at 9pm on ITV. Secrets From The Sky attracted 2.3 million viewers for ITV at 8pm. BBC1's evening began with 3.77 million for The ONE Show at 7pm, followed by 2.88 million for A Question Of Sport at 7.30pm. After an episode of EastEnders, BBC1's night continued with 3.14 million for Would I Lie to You? at 8.30pm, and 3.35 million for Not Going Out at 9.30pm. With guests including yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Miranda Hart, The Graham Norton Show rounded off the night with 3.45 million at 10.35pm. The final episode of BBC2's Big Dreams Small Spaces entertained 1.3 million at 7pm, followed by 1.59 million for The Children In Need Sewing Bee at 8pm. Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes continued with nine hundred and ten thousand at 9pm, Gardeners' World had 1.22 million at 9.30pm and Qi finished the evening off for the channel with 1.69 million at 10pm. On Channel Five, Rome: The World's First Superpower was seen by eight hundred and fifty five thousand at 8pm, followed by seven hundred and ninety five thousand for Alex Polizzi's Secret Italy and six hundred and nineteen thousand for Body Of Proof at 10pm. BBC4's showing of Agnetha: Abba & After was among the highest-rated multichannel shows with five hundred and seventy thousand at 11pm.

Miranda will come to an end with two Christmas specials. The sitcom's creator and star Miranda Hart confirmed the news during an interview to promote a new book about the series. When asked by Radio 2's Steve Wright why she had chosen to release The Best of Miranda, the award-winning comic actress explained: 'Because I'm actually coming to the end of the whole sitcom. This is the first time I'm saying it out loud, so it's a bit weird!' Hart continued: 'I'm doing two Christmas specials, but they are going to be the finale of the show, full stop. So I wanted to do a book to celebrate the series and celebrate all the people who have supported it and watched it, so they get to see the scripts and some backstage gossip and all that sort of thing.' Miranda debuted on BBC2 in 2009, moving to BBC1 for its third series in late 2012. Speaking last year, co-star Tom Ellis had hinted that the show would return to television, saying that he felt the story - including his character Gary's on-off relationship with Miranda - needed a conclusion. 'I think there's certainly some more of the story to be told. I can't say when [another series is] going to happen, but I think it's not going to go away.'
A drama about British Muslims who sign up to fight for militant group Islamic State is being developed by Channel Four. Peter Kosminsky, the writer and director behind topical dramas Britz and The Government Inspector, is directing the programme. Channel Four said that the currently untitled drama is in the 'very early stages of development' but 'should' be broadcast in 2016. Production on the drama, which will feature fictional characters, is expected to begin next year. A Channel Four spokeswoman said that the drama would 'seek to cast light on why a small number of British-born Muslims might be tempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to live in and fight for the self-declared Islamic State.' Kosminsky, she continued, will shortly begin 'an extensive six-month research process' before writing the drama. Channel Four's representative said that Kosminsky's previous work showed he had 'an unrivalled track record of tackling sensitive subject matter.' The BAFTA-winning writer, whose other credits include 2011's The Promise, is currently directing Wolf Hall, the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker-winning novel. Islamic State is a radical Islamist group which has seized large swathes of territory in Eastern Syria and across Northern and Western Iraq. It is estimated that more than twelve thousand foreign nationals from more than eighty countries have travelled to Syria to fight over the past three years.

The BFI has confirmed that two lost episodes of pre-Monty Python sketch show At Last the 1948 Show have been re-discovered. The first and last-ever episodes were recently discovered on reels of sixteen mm film in the private collection of the late David Frost. Frost executive produced the ITV sketch show in 1967 and 1968, with future Monty Python's Flying Circus members John Cleese and Graham Chapman along with Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Aimi MacDonald. Cleese will be presenting the episodes at BFI Southbank in London on Sunday 7 December as part of the BFI's annual Missing Believed Wiped event. The episodes have not been seen in full since their original broadcasts. BFI television consultant Dick Fiddy said: 'This latest recovery is a crucial find. It represents a key moment in the history of British television comedy featuring the combined talents of some of its greatest exponents. These gifted comedians, all in their twenties and thirties, were let off the leash and allowed to experiment with style and content, resulting in shows which have had an enduring influence on comedy worldwide. Even very recently the famous Four Yorkshiremen sketch - which originated on At Last the 1948 Show - was used as the opener for the Python's stage shows at the 02 and had been performed previously by the team in galas such as The Secret Policeman's Ball. Cleese, Feldman, Brooke-Taylor and Chapman, created, scripted and starred in the 1948 Show and the fact that the show remains very, very funny forty seven years later is a tribute to their extraordinary abilities.' 'It was ground-breaking in a sense in that it was very silly, former The Goodies member Brooke-Taylor told the BBC. 'We were thinking, will we get away with it basically?' The series featured sketches which the Monty Python team would go on to adopt, including The Four Yorkshiremen and the line: ' ... And now for something completely different.' The two episodes were found when Fiddy was invited to explore the collection of Sir David Frost, who died last August. Rewatching the material after many years 'made me laugh a great deal', admitted Brooke-Taylor. 'I think the sketches would be shorter now, but I'm rather pleased with it.' Some of the sketches were previously released on an LP, but this is the first time since their original broadcast that any footage has been available to go with them. Cleese will present the two episodes, on loan from the Frost family, as part of Missing Believed Wiped. The event is also believed include a recently recovered episode of the 1960s BBC 'youth' series A Whole Scene Going featuring The Spencer Davies Group.

And, on a similar note, a rediscovered haul of television dramas that has been lost for forty years or more is set to change the way we think about many of Britain's biggest acting talent. The extraordinary cache of televised plays – described by experts as 'an embarrassment of riches' – features performances from a cavalcade of post-war British stars. The list includes John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Gemma Jones, Dorothy Tutin, Robert Stephens, Susannah York, John Le Mesurier, Peggy Ashcroft, Patrick Troughton, David Hemmings, Leonard Rossiter, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Jane Asher. The tapes have been unearthed in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. After months of negotiation, the library and the New York-based public service television station WNET have agreed to allow the British Film Institute in London to showcase the highlights in November, an occasion which is certain to generate intense nostalgia for what many critics maintain was the golden age of television. A hint of what is to come appears in the joint BFI and National Film Theatre guide for November, which refers to the forthcoming Missing Believed Wiped event and mentions the discovery of hundreds of hours of British TV drama. The tapes are understood to have been sent out to WNET for broadcast and later stored in the TV station's collection inside the Library of Congress, where they were recently catalogued. They were originally broadcast by the BBC and the independent television companies Granada and Associated-Rediffusion between 1957 and 1970. News of their rediscovery was inadvertently leaked to the public in an events bulletin put out at the weekend. The programmes include works by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen, as well as new work written for weekly strands such as The Wednesday Play and Armchair Theatre. Among other gems found in the archives are a BBC production of Jean Anouilh's version of Sophocles' Antigone starring Dorothy Tutin and David McCallum, that made the front cover of the Radio Times in 1959 but has not been seen since. Notes inside the listings magazine confirm the production was Tutin's BBC television debut and describe her as 'the leading young actress of the contemporary scene.' A BBC production of Henrik Ibsen's Rosmersholm from 1965 stars Peggy Ashcroft with a supporting cast including John Laurie. Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens star opposite each other as Beatrice and Benedick in a 1967 production of Much Ado About Nothing recorded for the BBC, while Sean Connery appears with Dorothy Tutin in a rare BBC Sunday Night Theatre production of Anouilh's Colombe from 1960. The earliest rediscovered recording is a 1957 production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, directed for ITV by Charles Crichton and starring Tutin opposite Emlyn Williams and Michael Gough. The library's hoard also includes finds of interest for social reasons. A production of Twelfth Night, starring John Wood as Malvolio, was made by Rediffusion for its schools programming in the afternoons. It was a seventy five-minute reduction of the play and was broadcast at the end of a nine-part series that examined the work's cultural and historical background.'Negotiations to secure the release of these dramas have been going on for some time and we have been holding on to the information until the time is right,' said a spokesman for the BFI. 'It is very exciting, but we don't have all the information yet.' Jane Asher appears in a 1962 schools production of Romeo and Juliet, along with another 1967 Play Of The Month staging of the same Shakespeare play, starring Kika Markham as Juliet, Hywel Bennett as Romeo and John Gielgud as the chorus. Among the bit players are Thora Hird and Michael Gambon, while Ronald Pickup plays Mercutio. The Library of Congress initially approached Kaleidoscope, the classic TV experts, who took the good news to the BBC and ITV this spring. 'We brokered the deal for the BFI because so many different companies have copyright over the material,' wrote Kaleidoscope's Chris Perry in a blog this weekend. The cast list for a production of The Young Elizabeth shows Hugh Paddick playing a courtier, while Hannah Gordon stars in a Wednesday Play, The Bond, from 1965. Robert Stephens, who died in 1995, appears several times, starring in a 1967 production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale alongside Jeremy Kemp and Anna Calder-Marshall. A year earlier Stephens stars in a 1966 Theatre 625 production of Chekhov's The Seagull with Annette Crosbie and Pamela Brown. An early ITV Play Of The Week from 1963 will also be of great interest to theatre historians. It stars Jill Bennett, the fourth wife of playwright John Osborne, in a production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters with the actress Hilda Barry.

A twenty eight-year-old mixing desk used by BBC Essex is to be stored at the Science Museum in London as part of a move to help preserve a bygone era of radio. The Mark III mixing desk used by the BBC in Chelmsford since 1986 is being replaced with new technology. The desks, designed in the 1960s, were among the last to be designed and built by the BBC, and are still in operation at a handful of stations, including the one yer actual Keith telly Topping used to freelance for! A Science Museum spokesman said the desk was an 'exciting new acquisition.' John Liffen, of the museum, described the equipment as 'a valuable device to explore how people's relationship with radio has changed over time.' The Mark III desk was installed in the corporation's first wave of local radio stations. Geoff Woolf, a technology development manager at the BBC, said: 'The Mk III is entirely analogue as digital audio was very much still in its infancy, with CD players considered to be luxury items. Accommodating PCs, screens and keyboards was not on the agenda when these were designed as in 1986 computers and software to provide studio solutions was still fifteen years away.'
The US TV network AMC, which broadcast Mad Men and The Walking Dead, is to take over the running of BBC America after a one hundred and twenty five million smackers deal with the BBC. BBC America is available in almost eighty million homes in the US via cable and satellite. AMC has bought a 49.9 per cent stake in the channel, while the corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will retain 50.1per cent. BBC Worldwide chief executive Tim Davie said that AMC was 'the ideal partner. They are committed to the kind of high-quality, unmissable content that has already gained BBC America one of the most educated, affluent and tech-savvy audiences in all of US television,' he said. BBC Director General Tony Hall said that the deal would 'help us reach new audiences in the US, strengthen BBC America's position for the long term and create opportunities for the UK creative community.' The broadcasters have already co-produced dramas including The Honourable Woman. 'This partnership means we can produce even more top quality drama together,' Hall said. BBC America will be managed as a standalone channel within the AMC Networks portfolio, which also includes Sundance TV and more than sixty international channels. But the channel will be run in line with the BBC's editorial standards and policies. Ed Carroll from AMC Networks said: 'Orphan Black and Doctor Who are just two examples of bold and original BBC America content that creates passionate viewers and fits well alongside AMC Networks shows such as Mad Men, Portlandia and Rectify.'

Dave Myers, one half of the Hairy Bikers chef duo, left the Countdown team with something of a conundrum when he came up with an unusual choice of word in an episode of the long-running quiz. The presenter, who starred in last year's Strictly Come Dancing, was doing a stint in dictionary corner on Friday's show when he offered up the seven-letter word 'todgers' – much to the amusement of host Nick Hewer and Rachel Riley. It was left to dictionary corner supremo Susie Dent to explain that the word could have counted because it is in the dictionary.
And, speaking of todgers, the lack of culture secretary has warned that the entire system of funding the BBC would be 'up for debate' if the Conservatives win the next election. Which is merely one very good reason for hoping that they, you know, don't. In comments which reveal the extent of the battle faced by the BBC in the run up to the renewal of its charter in 2016, the vile and odious rascal Javid said: 'We need to take a fresh look at how to fund the BBC for the long term. There are various funding models out there. Charter review should rule nothing out or rule anything in.' Asked exactly what alternatives there are to the current model of an annual flat-rate licence fee, the vile and odious rascal Javid weaselled that he 'hasn't made any decision' before going on to mention a subscription model such as that funding commercial rivals such as Sky and a 'state-owned commercially funded model' similar to Channel Four. The minister indicated that the charter review process will start in earnest next June once the election is over and a review of licence fee enforcement is complete. Such a review will give the government and the BBC just eighteen months to hammer out a deal, whereas the last review process took three years. Just before his appearance before the Commons select committee on media, culture and sport, the government announced that David Perry QC, a leading criminal law barrister who has worked on several high-profile cases including the prosecution of Abu Hamza and the cash for honours scandal, would lead its independent review into whether non-payment of the BBC licence fee should be decriminalised. The vile and odious rascal Javid was the final figure giving evidence to the select committee's inquiry into the future of the BBC. In her first appearance before the committee since her appointment as chair of the BBC Trust two weeks ago, Rona Fairhead appeared to back the BBC's decision to close the BBC3 TV channel before the Trust had even received final details of the proposal. Talking of the challenges of producing for an online-only world, Fairhead said: 'The idea of moving BBC3 and making it online in and of itself is good,' before going on to add: 'We haven’t done our final review of BBC3. It's a really difficult challenge. [Younger viewers] are certainly watching very differently, typically they watch on the go.' Odious Tory gobshite Philip Davies accused Fairhead of having 'gone native in record time' as she seemed to think that everything at the BBC was wonderful. Fairhead, the former FT group executive, replied, 'I don’t think I have gone native, I don’t ever intend to go native.' Outgoing trustee David Liddiment, who is standing down after eight years, said that there was a 'widespread view that the Trust was not fit for purpose' and admitted there was a 'faultline in the way that the Trust was set up.' He also raised eyebrows among committee members by suggesting that 'few licence fee payers had heard of the Trust.' Having brought forward his review into decriminalisation last month, the vile and odious rascal Javid repeated his opinion that the cost of the licence fee was 'too high for some people', with cases of non-payment taking up ten per cent of the time in magistrates’'courts. 'I do think £145.50 a year for some families is a lot of money,' he said. To other questions including those from committee chair John Whittingdale about the TV licensing authorities using powers under RIPA to chase people over non-payment of licence fee, the vile and odious rascal Javid said that he had 'no answers' but added that asking such questions 'suggests there will always be a licence fee.' The vile and odious rascal Javid said the much-criticised BBC Trust model of governance should be reviewed. 'I think there definitely needs to be a fresh look at what the governance structure should be in the charter review process. Some people have said should there be one board. Other ideas out there are should [media regulator] Ofcom have a role. Another idea I've heard about is should there be a BBC Trust-type structure but independent from the BBC, for example not funded by the BBC. These are good questions. I don’t have an answer at this point.' In comments that recognised controversy over executive pay and the Jimmy Savile fiasco the vile and odious rascal Javid said: 'The Trust has had to deal with significant challenges and they have made some mistakes which has been well recognised over the last few years and part of that is down to governance. There's a bit of a question-mark over how accountable BBC has been to licence fee payers.' However, the vile and odious rascal Javid seemed less keen on scrapping the idea of a charter altogether, saying, 'The current structure of the royal charter is still relevant today. Anything that has big impact on the independence of the BBC should be treated very carefully. Notwithstanding that parliament's role is very important in holding BBC to account. What I would absolutely expect and certainly happen if I was Secretary of State at the time [of charter review] is once government puts forward a proposal for charter it should be debated in the house and MPs given an opportunity to share their views.' Among other issues the vile and odious rascal Javid suggested would have to be part of the charter review process were spinning off BBC Worldwide, as well as the full privatisation of the BBC TV production operation. Of the latter, he said: 'This comes back to whole issue of the size of the BBC and does it need to be doing everything it does.' The vile and odious rascal Javid said that he used to be a fan of Newsnight, now anchored by Evan Davis following the departure of Jeremy Paxman. 'It's not that it is too late, I don't find it as compelling viewing as it was before,' he said. 'Maybe it has something to do with when one of the presenters left or something.' However, the vile and odious rascal Javid revealed himself to be a Doctor Who fan, telling MPs it was the one BBC show he 'never missed.' Though, with friends like the vile and odious rascal Javid, who needs enemies?
A police raid at the home of veteran pop star Sir Cliff Richard has been described as 'inept' by a group of MPs. The home affairs select committee said South Yorkshire Police should not have tried to 'cut a deal' with a BBC reporter who approached them about the story. The committee's report looked into how the BBC obtained details in advance of the raid in Berkshire on 14 August. South Yorkshire Police claimed its actions were 'well intended' but admitted they were 'ultimately flawed.' Sir Cliff denies an alleged historical offence of sexual assault at a religious event in Sheffield in 1985. The committee said police sometimes decided to publicise the name of the subject of an investigation for operational reasons - for example, to encourage potential witnesses to come forward, but it was wrong to do so otherwise. The MPs said that when the BBC journalist approached South Yorkshire Police about the story ahead of the raid in Sunningdale, the force should have contacted senior BBC executives to explain how any premature publication could have damaged the investigation. BBC Director General Lord Hall confirmed to the committee that the broadcaster would act on such requests from chief constables, the report said. The committee said that without such an approach the BBC was 'well within its rights' to run the story - although Sir Cliff had 'suffered enormous, irreparable damage to his reputation' as a result. Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: 'South Yorkshire Police's handling of this situation was utterly inept. The force allowed itself to hand over sensitive information to a journalist and granted him privileged access to the execution of a search warrant. The e-mail exchanges could easily be mistaken for a script from The Bill. The force should have refused to co-operate and explained to senior BBC News executives why the premature broadcasting of a story, which they claimed the journalist threatened, would have prejudiced the investigation.' Vaz added: 'No British citizen should have to watch their home being raided by the police live on television. Sir Cliff Richard has suffered enormous and irreparable damage to his reputation and he is owed an apology over the way matters were handled. Police forces should consider carefully how they deal with approaches from journalists on such matters in the future. Someone in possession of sensitive information decided to leak details of the investigation to the media. We deplore this. South Yorkshire assert that the journalist stated it came from Operation Yewtree. The journalist denies this. South Yorkshire should have alerted the Metropolitan Police immediately. Their reasons for failing to do so are unsustainable.' BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the matter had been 'an editorial decision.' Fairhead, speaking in her first BBC interview since taking up the position earlier this month, said: 'Clearly, I have huge sympathy for anyone, whether they are a celebrity or not, if they are known and publicised to be part of a police investigation, particularly if it doesn't lead to charges. But I have to say this is an editorial decision. It is a matter for the executive and the Home Affairs select committee did say that the BBC was entirely appropriate in making this report.' South Yorkshire Police said in a statement: 'Whilst we believe our actions in relation to dealing with the media were within policy and were well intended, they were ultimately flawed and we regret the additional anxiety which was caused to Sir Cliff Richard. South Yorkshire Police has changed the way it deals with this type of media enquiry. In high profile cases the force no longer provides privileged briefings to reporters, nor does it confirm information which media sources seek to verify.' The force said that it was 'fully co-operating with the Metropolitan Police investigation regarding the original source of information.' Sir Cliff has been has been interviewed under caution by appointment with police but has not been arrested or charged. He says the claim of an assault is 'completely false.' A BBC spokesman said: 'The committee chairman has already said that the BBC acted "perfectly properly" in handling this story, and we're pleased today's report confirms this. Our reporter said very clearly he did not reveal his sources to South Yorkshire Police. We stand by his account.' Scotland Yard said it had 'no evidence' to substantiate the claim that Operation Yewtree had been the source of the leak. 'Any suggestion or speculation that the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) may have been responsible for the leak of information to the BBC about such a sensitive and live investigation causes us grave concern,' it said in a statement. 'Officers who have responsibility for Operation Yewtree have worked for years to build trust amongst the victims of abuse, giving many of them the confidence to speak out and report offences. Over the last two years the Yewtree team has routinely handled and received a significant amount of information and intelligence that is high-profile, sensitive and newsworthy, none of which has come into the public domain. Indeed, the MPS has faced criticism from the media for not providing them with greater levels of information. If any further information comes to light that allows us to investigate this matter further we will of course do that.'

Rwanda has suspended BBC broadcasts in the Kinyarwanda language with immediate effect because of a film questioning official accounts of the 1994 genocide. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency said that it had received complaints from the public of incitement, hatred, revisionism and genocide denial. At least eight hundred thousand ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the genocide. The BBC has denied that any part of the programme constitutes a 'denial of the genocide against the Tutsi.' On Wednesday, Rwandan MPs approved a resolution calling on the government to ban the BBC and to charge the documentary-makers with genocide denial, which is a crime in the country. Those killed in the genocide are generally believed to be mostly members of the minority ethnic Tutsi group, and Hutus opposed to the mass slaughter. The BBC programme Rwanda, The Untold Story, includes interviews with US-based researchers who say most of those killed may have been Hutus, killed by members of the then-rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, which has been in power since 1994. The programme also included interviews with former aides of RPF leader President Paul Kagame, accusing him of plotting to shoot down the presidential plane - the act seen as triggering the slaughter. He has consistently denied previous such accusations. RURA said that it had established a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations it had received about the programme, after which further action may be taken. The cabinet is meeting next week to discuss parliament's recommendations. The BBC broadcasts affected by the suspension are produced by the BBC Great Lakes service, which was initially set up in the aftermath of the genocide as a lifeline service.

Goodfellas actor Frankie Sivero has filed a lawsuit against FOX claiming The Simpsons character of Louie, a member of Springfield's Mafia, was based on his portrayal of Frankie Carbone in Martin Scorsese's film. That's according to legal documents made public on the Deadline website. It's twenty three years since Louie made his debut opposite the long-running cartoon's mob boss, Fat Tony in the episode Bart The Murderer (first broadcast in October 1991). But now, apparently, Sivero wants two hundred and fifty million dollars for the alleged 'infringement.' He claims that he was 'the originator of the idea and character' of Louie, as he based Goodfellas' Frankie Carbone on his own personality. In the documents, he claims that at that time, in 1989, he was living in the same apartment complex as James L Brooks, when 'they saw each other almost every day.' He also claims that he was promised a film and a part in the future of The Simpsons and that he lost money because he was 'type-cast' as a result of Louie. Like Frankie, Louie has black curly hair, but Dan Castellenata, who voiced the character, said that he based the voice on Joe Pesci. It's not the first time this year that Sivero has taken legal action after claiming his rights to the Goodfellas character were infringed. In July he filed a suit against a Californian sandwich shop, Deli Belly, because they named an Italian-style sandwich 'the Frankie Sivero' after he once ate there. As Goodfellas' Jimmy Two Times would say 'somebody get the papers, the papers'. FOX Entertainment, which makes The Simpsons, has so far not commented on the claim. Although one suspects when they do, the second word will be 'off'.

Steve Coogan has been cast in a US TV series that was to have starred the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman had been due to begin filming the lead role in Happyish at the time of his drug-related death in February. Showtime will shoot a new 'pilot' show, starring Coogan as a Briton in New York whose world is disrupted when he gets a much younger boss. Show creator Shalom Auslander said Coogan 'possesses the unique combination of talents this role demands. Steve's range is astounding,' continued the writer and producer, describing Coogan as 'a comedy legend [and] a gifted satirist.' The original Happyish pilot also featured Rhys Ifans and comedian Louis CK alongside Hoffman's character. It is not yet known whether any of the original pilot's actors will reprise their performances in the reshot version. Meanwhile, the FOX network has announced it is developing a TV series based on the Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch. Smith will executive produce the spin-off from his 2005 film, in which he played a New York 'date doctor' who assists lovelorn singletons.

FA Cup football is returning to BBC television this season after the broadcaster made a new four-year deal with BT Sport. Sixteen live matches will be broadcast on TV, while BBC Radio 5Live and local radio will broadcast live commentaries. All the goals of the competition will be available to watch on the BBC Sport website. Coverage starts this Monday 27 October with Mark Chapman presenting the first round FA Cup draw live from St George's Park. The draw will be shown on BBC2 and broadcast on 5Live at 7pm. The deal for the BBC to broadcast the competition will last until 2018. And, best of all, it keeps Adrian Chiles off my telly.

Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson has said that he has been 'cured' of the terminal pancreatic cancer with which he was diagnosed in 2012. The sixty seven-year-old was initially given ten months to live after rejecting chemotherapy, but had radical surgery to remove the tumour earlier this year. 'It was an eleven-hour operation,' Wilko said at the Q Awards in London. 'This tumour weighed three kilos - that's the size of a baby,' he continued. 'Anyway, they got it all. They cured me.' The guitarist went on his 'farewell tour' in 2013 and recorded a CD with The Who's Roger Daltrey. 'I thought that was going to be the last thing I ever did,' he told BBC News entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson after the ceremony on Wednesday. Then, at the end of last year, a doctor got in touch and said 'something strange' was going on because he was still alive. Johnson went to see a cancer specialist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and it was discovered that he had a rare form of tumour. He then had the surgery in April. After the initial diagnosis, he was 'absolutely convinced that this thing would kill me,' Johnson said. 'I accepted it. I didn't lose a minute's sleep about that.' The musician said that he had spent a year 'calmly accepting the idea that I was going to die.' He said: 'I decided that was the way to deal with it - not to curse it or fight it or anything like that. Just try and enjoy the time left, which I'd done. In order to do that, you have to accept, yes you're going to die, which in itself was quite an experience because it gives you a whole different way of looking at things. And then for someone to come up and say "We can fix it" ... When they first said they could operate, I was thinking, "What are they saying? They may be offering me two or three more months life?" But, no they weren't, they were saying they could get rid of the tumour, and that's what they did. And it's gone. I don't have cancer. It's so weird and so strange that it's kind of hard to come to terms with it in my mind. Now, I'm spending my time gradually coming to terms with the idea that my death is not imminent, that I am going to live on.' He said that he was 'still recovering' from the operation. When asked what he would do next, he replied: 'I don't know really.' Johnson's declaration came as he accepted the Icon Award at the Grosvenor House ceremony on Wednesday. Johnson's operation also involved the removal of his pancreas, spleen part of his stomach, small and large intestines and the removal and reconstruction of blood vessels relating to the liver.

Singer Alvin Stardust has died aged seventy two after a short illness. He had recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and died at home with his wife and family, his manager said. Born Bernard Jewry in the East End of London in 1942, his hits included 'My Coo Ca Choo', 'Jealous Mind' and 'I Feel Like Buddy Holly'. The former rocker had been due to release his first studio CD in thirty years on 3 November. He recently announced the record, titled Alvin, was finished and would represent 'a new and exciting departure' of which he was 'immensely proud'. Stardust grew up in Mansfield and started playing guitar as a schoolboy. He met one of his biggest influences, Buddy Holly, at a gig in Doncaster in 1957 and played backstage with the singer and his band The Crickets. Bernard signed his first record deal in 1961 as the frontman of Shane Fenton & The Fentones. The Fentones were actually an unknown teenage band who recorded a demo tape and mailed it in to the BBC with the hope of being picked to appear on television. While waiting for a reply, the band's seventeen-year-old singer Shane Fenton (whose real name was Johnny Theakston) died as a result of rheumatic fever. The rest of the band (Jerry Wilcox, Mick Eyre, Bonny Oliver and Tony Hinchcliffe) decided to break-up, but then they unexpectedly received a letter from the BBC inviting them to come to London for an audition. Theakston's mother asked the band to stay together and to keep its name, in honour of her son's memory. Bernard, who was working as the band's roadie at the time, was asked to join and to use Shane Fenton as a pseudonym. The combo had a handful of minor hits in the UK over the next couple of years basing their sound on that of The Shadows: 'I'm A Moody Guy', 'Walk Away', 'It's All Over Now' and their biggest hit, 'Cindy's Birthday'. These and several subsequent less successful singles were all issues on Parlophone where The Fentones were labels-mates with The Be-Atles (who supported them at a couple of gigs on Merseyside in 1962). Jewry later also appeared in Billy Fury's movie Play It Cool. He was managed by Larry Parnes. Jewry disappeared from the spotlight for a decade after the break-up of The Fentones, working in music management and performing at small venues with his wife Iris Caldwell, the sister of Rory Storm. In 1973 he signed with Magnet Records and took on the name that would make him famous. 'It started off as Elvin Starr, because they wanted a kind of rocky, country name,' he recalled in 2010. 'But [a woman] who was doing promotion for us said it wasn't "glam-rocky" enough, so it became Stardust and then Alvin.' 'My Coo Ca Choo', the debut song under his new guise - with its trademark echoy Elvis-influenced hiccuping-style vocals - peaked at number two in the singles chart whilst the follow up, 'Jealous Mind', made number one. 'Red Dress' and 'You, You, You' were also sizeable hits. Known for his rockabilly quiff, sideburns, and black leather gloves, Alvin projected a glowering persona which he said he adopted because he was nervous and 'didn't want to be found out.' His success led to him being part of a Green Cross Code road safety campaign in 1976, which saw him instructing children to look both ways before they crossed the road ('they must be out of their tiny minds!') That success continued into the 1980s with 'Pretend', 'I Feel Like Buddy Holly' and 'I Won't Run Away' all making the top ten. Once described as 'the Godfather of British Rock 'n' Roll' by Keith Richards, Alvin made sporadic acting appearances in Hollyoaks, The Grimleys and Doctors. In 1989, he hosted his very own Sunday morning children's series on ITV called It's Stardust. He also appeared on stage in such musicals as Godspell, The Phantom of the Opera and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, in which he played the fearsome Child Catcher. Alvin was married three times. With Iris, he had two sons, Shaun and Adam. His second wife was the actress Liza Goddard, with whom he had a daughter, Sophie. Alvin went on to marry Julie Paton, an actress and choreographer, with whom he had another daughter, Millie. Shaun is now a headmaster of a school in Reigate, while his brother is a producer and DJ who records under the name Adam F. DJ Tony Blackburn remembered the singer as 'a great showman' who would be 'sorely missed. Performing was his life,' added the veteran broadcaster. 'He had this bad boy image, but he was not like that at all,' Blackburn continued. 'On stage he was brilliant, but off stage he was just an ordinary guy.' Alvin, a committed Christian, was also remembered as 'a great bloke' by his former Hollyoaks co-star Jeremy Edwards.

Jack Bruce, bassist from 1960s band Cream, has died aged seventy one, his publicist confirms. Legendary supergroup Cream, which also included Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, are considered one of the most important and influential bands in rock history. They sold thirty five million LP in just over two years and were given the first ever platinum disc for 1968's Wheels of Fire. Bruce wrote and sang many of the songs, including 'I Feel Free', 'White Room' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love'. Born in the Glasgow suburb of Bishopbriggs in 1943, Jack's parents travelled extensively in Canada and the USA and the young Bruce attended fourteen different schools. He finished his formal education at Bellahouston Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, to which he won a scholarship for cello and composition. At the same time, he was playing bass in Jim McHarg's Scotsville Jazzband to support himself. The Academy reportedly disapproved of its students playing jazz. 'They found out,' Bruce told Musician magazine. 'They said "you either stop, or leave college." So I left college.' Jack left the academy - and Scotland - at the age of sixteen and eventually found his way to London where he became a member of the influential Alexis Korner's Blues Inc, where Charlie Watts, later to join The Rolling Stones, was the drummer. He played in a number of bands throughout the early 60s, including John Mayall's Blues Breakers and Manfred Mann (it's his bassline on the worldwide hit 'Pretty Flamingo') before joining Clapton and Baker in Cream. He had previously played with Bkaer - with whom he enjoyed a tempestuous, often violent, relationship - in The Graham Bond Organisation two years earlier. Cream split in November 1968 at the height of their popularity, with Bruce feeling he had strayed too far from his ideals. They only made four LPs - Fresh Cream, the stunning Disraeli Gears, Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye - but they had a massive influence over a couple of generations both both British and American guitars bands. Cream's music included songs based on traditional blues such as 'Crossroads' and 'Spoonful' and modern blues such as 'Born Under A Bad Sign' and 'Badge', as well as more eccentric songs such as 'Strange Brew', 'Tales of Brave Ulysses' and 'Toad'. In particular, they provided a heavy yet technically proficient musical theme which foreshadowed and influenced the emergence of Led Zeppelin, The Jeff Beck Group and Black Sabbath. Bruce never again reached the commercial heights he did with Cream but his reputation as one of the best bass guitarists in the business grew throughout the subsequent decades. As a session musician he was much in demand and he turned up on many chart records (like The Scaffold's 'Lily The Pink' for one, rather ridiculous, example). Collaborative efforts with musicians, in many genres – hard rock, jazz, blues, R&B, fusion, avant-garde, world music – were a continuing theme throughout Bruce's career. Alongside these he produced a long line of highly regarded solo Lps. In contrast to his collaborative works, the solo work usually maintain a common theme: melodic songs with a complex musical structure, songs with lyrics frequently penned by Pete Brown with whom he'd worked in Cream, and a core band of world class musicians. This structure was loosened on his live solo CDs and DVDs, where extended improvisations similar to those employed by Cream in live performance were often evident. In May 2005, he reunited with his former Cream bandmates for a series of concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. Bruce's death was announced on his official website, and confirmed by his publicist Claire Singers. She said: 'He died today at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family.' A statement from his family said: 'It is with great sadness that we, Jack's family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father and granddad and all-round legend. The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts.'

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's a tasty bit of Northern Soul from the archives.

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