Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Week Forty Six: Thicker Than Raindrops On November's Thorn

The BBC has defended Doctor Who following an unspecified number of whinges about 'the theme of death' in the most recent episode. Last weekend's episode, Dark Water, which served as the first part of the series finale, saw The Doctor (yer actual Peter Capaldi just in case you'd forgotten) learn more about the mysterious organisation 3W's beliefs on death and cremation. The broadcaster has now confirmed that it received crass whinges 'from some viewers who were unhappy with a storyline about death and cremation.' And, with nothing better to do with their bloody time, it would seem. Jesus, has everybody taken The Stupid Pill this week, or what? The Mirra subsequently claimed that the number of whingers had been one hundred and eighteen although where, exactly, they got that figure from, they don't say. The Huffington Post also reported the story, although they rather screwed it up by quoting overnight viewing figures, out of context, as part of the piece. Thankfully, one of their readers squarely put them right on that matter. In an official response, the BBC said that Doctor Who is 'a family drama with a long tradition of tackling some of the more fundamental questions about life and death. We were mindful of the themes explored in Dark Water and are confident that they are appropriate in the context of the heightened sci-fi [sic] world of the show.' It continued: 'The scene in which a character reveals 3W's unconventional theory about the afterlife was preceded by the same character warning The Doctor and Clara several times that what they were about to hear could be distressing. When The Doctor does hear these claims, he immediately pours scorn on them, dismissing them out of hand as "a con". It transpires that he is correct and the entire concept is revealed to be a scam perpetrated by Missy.' And, once again dear blog reader, let us simply stand up and applaud the utter shite that some effing numskulls chose to care about.
Michelle Gomez her very self has claimed that kissing her Doctor Who co-star yer actual Peter Capaldi was 'like Hell on earth.' Doctor Who revealed during Dark Water that Gomez's character, completely mad-as-toast Missy, is, in actual fact, a female regeneration of The Master. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Gomez said that she had 'greatly enjoyed' reading fan speculation about Missy's true identity throughout the series. 'My favourite is that I've been likened to Mary Poppins,' she declared. 'But then, of course I have to take that one stage further and say, "Are we saying that Mary Poppins is the most evil woman in the universe?" The problem is that, with me dressed as Mary Poppins, with this face, it's just going to look a bit evil anyway.' Gomez also made light of having to kiss Capaldi during an early scene in Dark Water. 'It was like kissing the Glaswegian version of David Bowie,' she said. 'Well, it was Hell on earth, really. And I say it was hell on earth, only because obviously Missy would have liked to have taken it further. In fact, she had to pull herself together. That was the hellish part. But maybe it will be revealed in this final episode.'
The Radio Times website has been running a Doctor Who trivia quiz asking readers the question do you know more about Doctor Who than Russell T Davies? You will be entirely unsurprised to learn that when yer actual Keith Telly Topping took the test, he ended up getting thirty out of thirty. It would seem, dear blog reader, that this blogger has entirely wasted his life in filling his head with Doctor Who facts and figures. Still, look on the bright side, if he hadn't done that, he'd've only ended up wasting it in some of the way. What you may be surprised - and, perhaps, rather angered - to discover is that according to a very credible source close to Big Rusty, the magazine didn't bother to ask him if they could use his responses and comments on the website in the way that they have. Which, I'm sure you'll agree, dear blog reader, is naughty bordering on the thoroughly twattish.
Yer actual Mark Gatiss will narrate an iPlayer special as part of the BBC's upcoming science fiction season. BBC2 series Tomorrow's Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction will be accompanied by three iPlayer specials later this month. The Sherlock and Doctor Who writer and actor will narrate My Life In Science Fiction: Stories From The Stars, which will feature some of those associated with the worlds of science fiction in films discussing their work and careers. Richard Dreyfuss, Rutger Hauer, Nichelle Nichols, Veronica Cartwright and Anthony Daniels will all appear. Invasion Of The Fans will follow some of the genre's 'most devoted followers' as they attend conventions and reveal how science fiction has changed their lives. Meanwhile, Days Of Fear And Wonder will focus on the British Film Institute's nationwide celebration of the genre. Historian and author Dominic Sandbrook is fronting BBC2's Tomorrow's Worlds, which aims to offer the 'definitive television history of science fiction.' Dates for the above programmes are yet to be confirmed.
Benedict Cumberbatch's engagement to his girlfriend Sophie Hunter has been announced. A Forthcoming Marriage notice on page fifty seven of Wednesday's edition of The Times. That sound you can hear, incidentally, is the wailing and gnashing of teeth of millions of Benny's girly fans worldwide (but, especially in China). Benny and Sophie were first linked in September, having been photographed attending the French Tennis Open together over the summer.
Doctor Who director Douglas Mackinnon has confirmed that he will be working on the next series of Sherlock. Doug revealed on Twitter that he will be behind the camera of an episode of the hit BBC drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The next episode of Sherlock will be a one-off Christmas special, with filming expected to begin in January. A full fourth series will then shoot later in 2015 for broadcast early the following year. Mackinnon has previously collaborated with Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat on seven episodes of Doctor Who - including 2013's Cold War written by Mark Gatiss. He first worked with Moffat on the excellent 2007 drama series Jekyll and has also directed five episodes of award-winning crime thriller Line Of Duty. Earlier this year, Moffat claimed that the 'devastating' outline for the new Sherlock had 'practically reduced [the] cast to tears.' Whether it has the same effect on fandom, we'll have to wait to find out.

Strictly Come Dancing topped the primetime overnight ratings on Saturday. The BBC1 dancing competition was watched by 9.79m from 6.30pm, beating ITV's The X Factor, which had 7.22m from 8pm by over two-and-a-half million overnight viewers. After Strictly, 5.27m tuned in for the Doctor Who episode Dark Water and the unveiling of Missy's true identity, the highest overnight for an episode of series since Robot Of Sherwood. The episode achieved an AI score of eighty five. Casualty had an audience of 4.21m from 9pm. Earlier, Pointless Celebrities picked up a very impressive 5.49m whilst the evening ended for BBC1 with an audience of 3.35m for Match Of The Day which included yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies giving the Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws a damned good shellacking. On BBC2, Restoring England's Heritage was watched by six hundred and forty eight thousand viewers from 7pm. A repeat of Dad's Army had an audience of 1.46m from 8.30pm, with Frankenstein & The Vampyre: A Dark And Stormy Night taking six hundred and fifty two thousand viewers afterwards. Qi XL ended the evening with five hundred and twenty thousand. ITV's The Chase continued with 3.33m in the 7pm hour whilst The Jonathan Ross Show was seen by 2.27m from 10.15pm. On Channel Four, Walking Through History attracted nine hundred and six thousand from 8pm. It was followed by the Bruce Willis film Red, which was broadcast to 1.31m. Channel Five showed repeats of The Missing Evidence (three hundred and ninety five thousand), World War II In Colour (four hundred and fourteen thousand) and Gotham (two hundred thousand). On the multichannels, a Sherlock repeat appealed to seven hundred and three thousand on BBC3 from 9pm.

Strictly Come Dancing also climbed to a new Sunday peak, overnight data reveals. The BBC show rose to an average audience of 9.72 million at 7.20pm, down slightly from Saturday's live show but well up on the previous week's Sunday results programme. On ITV, The X Factor was again down by nearly one hundred thousand punters from the previous week, dipping to 7.55m at 8pm. For the first time this year, it was beaten by Downton Abbey, which climbed over four hundred thousand viewers week-on-week to 8.03m at 9pm. Earlier, Keep It In the Family failed to interest 2.63m at 7pm. On BBC1, Countryfile appealed to 7.02m at 6.15pm, while Antiques Roadshow brought in 5.27m at 8pm. A Death In Paradise repeat was seen by 2.47m and F1 coverage attracted 2.51m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Human Universe gathered 1.10m at 7pm, followed by Wonders Of The Monsoon with 1.62m at 8pm. Afghanistan: Lion's Last Roar was watched by seven hundred and thirty six thousand at 9pm, and Match Of The Day 2 scored 1.77m at 10pm, including highlights of the Manchester derby. Channel Four's Speed With Guy Martin attracted 1.85m at 8pm, followed by the latest episode of Homeland with 1.22m at 9pm. On Channel Five, the movie Beetlejuice was watched by seven hundred and eighty nine thousand at 7pm, followed by the network premiere of Joss Whedon's The Cabin In The Woods with eight hundred and thirty six thousand at 9pm.

Gareth Malone's new BBC1 series was the second most-watched show on Monday outside soaps, overnight data reveals. All-Star Choir opened with an average 3.77 million at 9pm. Earlier, new drama The Passing Bells appealed to 3.67m at 7pm, while Panorama was watched by 1.80m at 8.30pm. On BBC2, University Challenge had an audience of 2.72m (12.0%) at 8pm, followed by Only Connect with 2.12m at 8.30pm. Intruders continued with four hundred and thirty thousand at 9pm. ITV's Countrywise interested 2.90m at 8pm, while Grantchester topped the night with 4.76m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Dispatches brought in one million viewers at 8pm, followed by How To Sell Your Home with 1.11m at 8.30pm. Make Leicester British launched with 1.11m at 9pm. Channel Five's Twin Towers: Missing Evidence was watched by nine hundred and seventy nine thousand punters at 8pm, followed by the latest Gotham with 1.33m at 9pm and Under The Dome with seven hundred and twenty nine thousand at 10pm. Micky Flanagan's new Sky1 series DeTour De France had an audience of four hundred and ninety thousand at 9pm. And, was ever single bit of a thoroughly wretched as expected. On FOX, The Walking Dead drew six hundred and sixty three thousand at 9pm.

The Missing held steady from last week to top Tuesday's overnight ratings outside soaps. The BBC1 drama dipped by around one hundred thousand punters from the previous week's opener to an average of 5.66 million viewers at 9pm. Earlier, The Passing Bells brought in 3.69m at 7pm. BBC2's Great Interior Design Challenge appealed to 1.62m at 7pm, followed by the return of MasterChef: The Professionals with 2.54m at 8pm. Human Universe ended with 1.51m at 9pm. On ITV, the Champions League coverage of Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws Reserves' loss to Real Madrid scored 4.57m from 7.30pm. A damn sight more than Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haw Reserves their very selves managed. Channel Four's Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners attracted 1.37m at 8pm. You Can't Get the Staff was watched by a million viewers at 9pm, while Eight Out Of Ten Cats had 1.10m at 10pm. On Channel Five, Britain's Worst Crimes was seen by seven hundred and thirty one thousand at 8pm, followed by Miracle Babies with eight hundred and sixty seven thousand at 9pm. On Sky1, The Flash's latest episode had an audience of five hundred and eighty one thousand at 8pm.

Here are the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Four programmes for week-ending Sunday 26 October 2014:-
1 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 10.65m
2 Downton Abbey - Sun ITV - 9.83m
3 Coronation Street - Wed ITV - 9.16m
4 The X Factor - Sun ITV - 8.21m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.98m
6 The Apprentice - Tues BBC1 - 7.79m
7 Emmerdale - Wed ITV - 6.98m
8 Doctor Who - Sat BBC1 - 6.92m
9 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.78m
10 New Tricks - Mon BBC1 - 5.75m
11 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 5.54m
12 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 5.20m
13 The Human Body - Thurs BBC1 - 5.12m
14 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.07m
15 Grantchester - Mon ITV - 5.03m*
16= Lewis - Fri ITV - 5.01m*
16= Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.01m
18 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.96m
19 Scott & Bailey - Wed ITV - 4.70m*
20 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 4.60m
21 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 4.46m
22 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.40m
23 The ONE Show - Tues BBC1 - 4.29m
24 DIY SOS: The Big Build - Tues BBC1 - 4.24m
Those ITV programmes marked '*' do not include include HD figures. Doctor Who's consolidated figure for the episode In The Forest Of The Night included a timeshift above the initial 'live' audience of a fraction under two million viewers (1.89 million to be exact). The series' average timeshift across all ten episodes of the series so far remains bang on two million. Saturday evening's episode of The X Factor had a final rating of 8.02 million viewers. Meanwhile, this blogger is trying to remember the last time that an episode of The X Factor didn't feature in the top three most watched programmes of the week during a week in which an episode was broadcast and he's really struggling. Let's put it this way, it was a long time ago. Strictly Come Dancing's Sunday episode drew 10.09 million meaning that the BBC show whipped The X Factor's bare bum on both Saturday and Sunday for the fourth week running. BBC2's highest rated programme of the week wasUniversity Challenge with 2.86m. The Apprentice: You're Fired drew 2.72m, followed by Trust me, I'm A Doctor (2.50m), Only Connect (2.27m), The BBC Children In Need sewing Bee (2.25m), Human Universe (2.12m), Peaky Blinders (2.06m) and Qi (1.89m). Channel Four,seemingly, did not provide BARB with any figures this week so, tragically, I can't tell you how many, for example, Gogglebox got. Channel Five's best performers were Gotham with 2.74m and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with 1.78m. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's largest rated programme with a fraction over one million viewers. The Code drew BBC4's biggest audience of the week (six hundred and fifteen thousand).

Yer actual Peter Davison - seen left with his son-in-law, David Tennant his very self - has joined the upcoming Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular UK tour. The Fifth Doctor will be a guest presenter for the UK performances of the concert tour in May 2015, BBC Worldwide and Vision Nine announced over the weekend. Due to strong demand for tickets, an extra matinee performance has also been confirmed for Sunday 24 May at the SSE Arena, Wembley. The tour will celebrate the music of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama series, including the scores written by Murray Gold since 2005. It will feature over one hundred performers, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and members of the BBC National Chorus of Wales, conducted by Ben Foster. Peter, of course, portrayed The Doctor between 1981 and 1984 - just in case you'd forgotten. he was very good - and previously hosted the event in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. He said: 'I am very excited to be hosting the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in the UK in 2015. Doctor Who fans are an extraordinary, wonderful bunch, who are very passionate about the series. The Symphonic Spectacular has already proved to be a monster hit down under with thousands of fans packing into arenas across the Southern hemisphere and the UK's first ever tour promises to be even bigger. I can't believe that I will be taking the stage at some of the UK's biggest arenas like Wembley's SSE Arena and the First Direct Arena in Leeds. With Murray Gold's amazing music performed live by the programme's 'house band', the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, I'm also looking forward to reuniting on stage with conductor Ben Foster.'

It has been announced that the first ever unofficial German Doctor Who convention will take place in Kassel on 24 and 25 October 2015. According to the newly started Facebook page and Twitter account, the event is called TimeLash and will feature guests from both the old and current series. The organisers plan to finance parts of the event via crowdfunding, which will start in the coming months.
Matt Smith features on the front cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly magazine to promote Terminator: Genisys, the fifth movie of the Terminator series. The actor appears along side Jason Clarke who is playing John Connor. Smudger's role is as an as-yet-unnamed character but EW describe him as a 'close ally of John Connor.' He told the magazine of the new film: 'It's like going on tour again if you’re Pink Floyd—the audience always wants to hear some of the old songs. There are enough nods to the past that people will feel satisfied.'
Call The Midwife has been recommissioned for a fifth series. The BBC1 period drama will also return for a Christmas special in 2015, as well as eight new hour-long episodes in 2016. The fifth series will see the nuns and midwives entering 1961. The fourth series has just finished filming, while viewing figures for the opening episode of series three earlier this year reached 11.4 million. Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama commissioning, said: 'Call The Midwife is one of UK's most popular dramas and in series four, Heidi Thomas's writing meets new heights. I'm delighted to be commissioning a new series.' Miranda Hart, Pam Ferris, Jenny Agutter and Helen George will all return for the Christmas special and new episodes for series four, while Fresh Meat's Charlotte Ritchie is also joining the cast. Jessica Raine departed after an emotional third series finale. Raine's character, Jenny Lee, quit her role as a midwife to begin working in a Marie Curie cancer hospital and to start a new life with Phillip Worth (Stephen Ashfield). The voice of mature Jenny (Vanessa Redgrave) will still narrate future series, as it was explained that she remained in contact with the staff at Nonnatus House and that she continued to share their stories with the world.

And so to the latest Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 8 November
'Clara Oswald has never existed.' So, Danny is 'deceased' (we presume), Clara is just a bit distraught, The Cybermen have invaded London (again) and The Doctor is reeling at the news that Missy is actually his Time Lord nemesis after a regenerative sex change in Doctor Who - 8:00 BBC1. The cosmos may not yet be ready for a female Doctor, but congratulations to The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat for delivering the next best thing: a gender reassignment for The Master. It's far from the most unlikely premise offered by this series. And it has the added bonus of, it would seem, having pissed off a lot of people who probably deserved to be pissed-off. And, that's always a good thing. The twelve episodes of this series have hurtled by like a runaway TARDIS. But what further shocks will this hour-long finale Death In Heaven deliver? And how will Peter Capaldi's Doctor, who all of a sudden despises soldiers, rub along with The Brigadier's daughter Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and her military cohorts at UNIT? As The Doctor and Clara face their darkest day, they need all the allies they can muster. The tone remains extremely macabre as black clouds swirl and the dead rise to conquer the Earth as Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Otehr Gods Before He) delivers one of his boldest, most exhilarating and peculiarly touching episodes, an excellent, deeply satisfying season finale. Capaldi and Jenna Coleman will be back for the Christmas Day special, of course, but before that, there's the little matter of what to do about Missy, the no-longer mysterious woman from the Nethersphere, and the little matter of London being over-run with Cybermen. As old friends unite, The Doctor faces possibly his greatest challenge - but sacrifices must be made before the day is won. With guest appearances from Sanjeev Bhaskar, the delightful Ingrid Oliver and Chris Addison.
Huw Edwards presents coverage of the annual Royal British Legion Festival Of Remembrance - 9:00 BBC1 - from the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Her Maj the Queen and other members of the royal family. Joss Stone, the cast of War Horse and D-Day veteran Jim Radford perform alongside the Massed Bands of the Household Division, and the bands of Royal Marines and the Queen's Colour Squadron. Together they pay tribute to the victims of conflict, from the First World War to the present day, in a festival that also includes the traditional two-minute silence as thousands of poppy petals fall from the venue's ceiling. This is a special year when several anniversaries coincide. A hundred Normandy veterans will join the commemorations for the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.
Question master Stephen Fry continues Qi XL's exploration of subjects beginning with the letter L - BBC2 10:30 - as he asks a range of fiendish questions on various L-themed thingys; a Liblabble, as he calls it. Joining regular panellist Alan Davies are broadcaster the People's Vicar, the Reverend Richard Coles and stand-up comedians Sara Pascoe and Bill Bailey. Proper.
In a major new BBC commission, poet Simon Armitage has written poems about the First World War that form the centre of a new Culture Show documentary, The Great War: An Elegy - 8:00 BBC2. He visits French beaches, German PoW camps, so-called 'thankful' villages and remote corners of the Highlands as he considers the deaths of more than seven hundred thousand British soldiers in the (ultimately pointless) conflict, telling seven real-life war stories - each of which culminates in a poem inspired by the writer's research. Featuring readings by both Armitage himself and relatives of those whose tales he brings to life.

Tony Robinson heads to the South-West corner of Wales and one of Britain's finest coastal paths to find out why Pembrokeshire feels so English, even though it's more than one hundred miles from the border in the latest Walking Through History - 8:00 Channel Four. To help him, he has a guide written by Gerald of Wales, a 'medieval Stephen Fry' with boundless enthusiasm for his homeland, who described the air around Manorbier as being 'like heaven's breath.' With its numerous castles and a fine cathedral, there are sure signs the Normans stamped their mark over the area. Tony's four-day walk traces the story of their conquest of the county, which he discovers was very different from the victory at Hastings, involving a long, fiercely fought struggle.
Sunday 9 November
In an extended Countryfile for Remembrance Sunday - 6:30 BBC1 - Wor Geet Canny Matt Baker visits a subterranean network carved out by Allied troops in the chalk quarries of Arras. On the surface the town looks much like any other historic French town. But there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Baker explores Les Boves, the network of tunnels carved out by the Allied troops during the First World War. Remarkably, by 1917 underground Arras had electric lighting, a hospital and a kitchen and could accommodate twenty four thousand men. Ellie Harrison reveals the iron harvest of bombs still unearthed by farmers today and Tom Heap retraces his great-uncle's journey from university to the trenches. John Craven discovers how tractors were adapted to make the world's first tanks and Adam Henson finds out how man's best friend became his greatest ally when dogs were trained for frontline duties by the British Army. Including Weather for the week ahead.
The comedienne. writer and Great British Bake Off presenter Sexy Suzy Perkins embarks on a three thousand-mile journey along the South East Asian river in The Mekong River with Sue Perkins - 8:00 BBC2 - exploring lives and landscapes on the point of dramatic change. Sue at one point early in the piece wonders why she's been asked to make a four-part series: 'I guess Michael Palin was busy,' she concluded. Well, it's either that or the BBC didn't fancy trying to pinch the half-a-s-interesting Caroline Quentin from ITV. It's a self-deprecating remark, of course, but Perkins is the perfect choice for this venture – she's a terrific guide and presenter, wise, thoughtful, funny and full of questions. Just like Michael Palin. In fact, if she were of a slightly different orientation, this blogger would definitely marry her. Ah well, we can dream at least, dear blog reader. Dreaming (as Blondie once noted) is free. Anyway, throughout her trip Sue is welcomed by families eking a living in the rice fields or fishing in the river. Everyone is delightful and hospitable, and they don't hesitate to poke gentle fun at their visitor. Sue starts her journey helping a lady serve bowls of noodles at dawn in Vietnam in what she describes as 'a gastronomic flotilla' as she meets traditional river people caught up in a new capitalist revolution, before trying her hand as a noodle saleswoman and prawn farmer. But in Cambodia she enters the very heart of darkness, visiting Pol Pot's Killing Fields and talks to an elderly gentleman brutalised by the murderous insanity of the dictator's Year Zero ideology (and genocide) before bonding with the residents of a floating village whose survival depends on the bounty of Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Asia.

Suzi Perry presents the key moments from Interlagos in Sao Paulo, where the eighteenth and penultimate round of the F1 season took place earlier today - 8:30 BBC1. Sebastian Vettel comfortably won the race here last year, but the reigning world champion has endured a difficult campaign and only has one further race before he leaves Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton can't, quite, clinch the title he last won in 2008 in this race - even if he wins and the odious Nico Rosberg fails to finish, the fact that double points are available in the final race of the season means we're going to Abu Dhabi with the championship still, in theory, in the balance. Commentary by Ben Edwards and David Coulthard, and analysis by Eddie Jordan.
Brian Cox (No, The Other One): Space, Time & Videotape - 9:00 BBC4 - the People's Physicist is joined by two of his heroes, the actor Brian Blessed and Professor Alice Roberts. Together, they talk about Foxy Coxy's TV idols - from the worlds of science fiction and science fact - as well as a whole selection of other topics.
Monday 10 November
Gary reveals a strange link between Amy and his former client, and when Jack joins him on his investigation they witness a weird ritual and arrange a covert rendezvous in the latest episode of Intruders - 9:00 BBC2. Madison's personality split widens, but help is hard to find, while Richard comes under increasing pressure from Rose. Supernatural thriller, starring John Simm, Tory Kittles and James Frain.

In a Children In Need edition of Only Connect - 8:30 BBC2 - the BBC's economics editor Robert Peston makes the shocking confession that he drinks tequila for breakfast. Allegedly. Pestoninfestation throws himself into good-humoured exchanges as he and his team mates, the playwright Patrick Marber and cookery writer Sophie Grigson, grapple with this thorniest of quizzes. Peston obviously hates the music question and claims to be taking part so his kids can watch him 'humiliate' himself. Opposite are the novelist Kate Mosse, the excellent Kevin Eldon and geneticist Steve Jones. There are two nail biting connecting walls and questions that clearly aren't made easy for the celebrity guests. Victoria Coren Mitchell, as usual, hosts as the teams attempt to make connections between four things that may appear at first not to be linked. One set of clues consisting of Theos, Hercules, Endeavours and Ellerys. Pfft. Easy.
With Amanda and Guy's wedding fast approaching, and his betrayal of Hildegard still fresh in his mind, Sidney is thrown deep into crisis, and the murder of a local cop doesn't help matters as he allows himself to become drawn into another case with Geordie in the last episode of Grantchester - 9:00 ITV. However, tragedy strikes as the duo close in on the killer, and with Geordie's life hanging in the balance, the clergyman finds himself cut out of the investigation as the police close ranks. But that doesn't stop him enlisting the help of Mrs Maguire and Leonard in a daring mission to gather information on the man who shot his partner.

Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock go in search of a man with a deformed ear who is distributing vials of a drug that makes users super-strong, but kills them within a few hours if they don't replace the calcium it removes from their systems in Gotham - 9:00 Channel Five. Meanwhile, young master Bruce tries to establish Wayne Enterprises' role in the Arkham project, and Oswald cements his place within the Maroni crime family. Starring Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sean Pertwee.
Tuesday 11 November
The week's first heat of MasterChef: The Professionals - 9:00 BBC2 - sees five more chancers enter the kitchen, with the first challenge giving them an hour to cook a 'signature dish' which, they hope, will showcase what they can do, before one - who, seemingly, didn't do what his signature dish promised it would - is asked to leave and never return. The remaining four contenders then try to impress scowly-faced Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace by preparing a woodcock for roasting, while Marcus Wareing - who has fitted into Michel Roux's shoes effortlessly - gives them sixty minutes to cook a spectacular dessert. Or, they die. No, not really, but it's certainly be highly watchable if they did. Marcus and Monica then decide which three will make it through to the next round.
Fergal Keane unearths powerful stories of boy soldiers on the Western Front of the First World War in Teenage Tommies - 9:00 BBC2. Officially, young men had to be nineteen to fight abroad - this blogger's grandfather was twenty one when he enlisted in 1916, for instance - but in the general enthusiasm to enlist as many as two hundred and fifty thousand boys under eighteen made it into uniform, some, horrifyingly, as young as fourteen. Keane - excellent, an empathic as always - traces the fortunes of several, including St John Battersby, a Manchester vicar's son who became the youngest officer on the Somme – a sixteen-year-old leading thirty or so men older than him. We also hear the account of a Cornish miner's son who was shot in the shoulder and crawled for two days to get back to his lines. It's a striking picture of how teenagers confronted the horrors of total war. Fergus examines what made them want to enlist and finds out how they coped with the reality of war and looks at how there was a movement in Britain to get them home as casualties began to mount. He also meets the children and grandchildren of veterans, taking them on an emotional journey to the places where their ancestors trained and fought.
Sherlock Holmes returns to New York with new apprentice Kitty in tow in the opening episode of a new series of Elementary - 9:00 Sky Living. However, he finds his former partner, Joan Watson, has become Gregson's preferred investigator in his absence and realises he won't get within earshot of a case unless he can convince her to forgive him over their earlier falling out. Modern-day Sherlock Holmes adventure - nowhere near as good as Sherlock but, for all that, decent enough in its own way - starring Jonny Lee Miller as the celebrated sleuth, with Lucy Liu and Ophelia Lovibond.

In what is, probably, the single most offensively shite TV conceit of the year, Penelope Keith (remember her) swans around some villages, places which, she claims, represent 'the true England' in Penelope Keith's Hidden Villages - 9:00 More4. As someone who grew up on a council estate in the North of England, please allow this blogger a moment of utter revulsion at the sheer nastiness of poxy wank the likes of this and all that it stands for. I hope whoever dreamed up this spectacularly rancid little exercise in twee 'Little Englander' bollocks gets home this evening to find that travellers have moved in next door to them. With really mean dogs.
Wednesday 12 November
Steered by his trusty 1913 edition of Bradshaw's Railway Guide, Michael Portillo takes the train down the spine of Italy as he travels from Rome to Sicily in the latest Great Continental Railway Journeys - 9:00 BBC2. The former MP keeps on charming the ladies throughout Europe. He meets two highly delighted British women at the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome. 'Hellooooooo! It's Mr Portaloo!' says one. And they giggle daintily when Michael wonders: 'Has anyone pinched your bottom yet?' Actually, old Portaloo is, as usual, great in this - what a pity he wasn't so effortlessly pleasant and good company when he was the Minister for Defence. Like millions of British tourists before him - this blogger included, let it be noted - Portaloo strolls down the Spanish Steps and looks around the house where the tubercular John Keats coughed up his last. After a quick selfie at the Trevi Fountain he's on the train to Naples. On arrival he must of course try to make a Neopolitan pizza. He begins his tour of the capital's landmarks on the back of a 1950s Vespa (Portaloo's a Mod, who'd've thought it?) before boarding the train south, where he finds out about the first railway to be built in the country and ventures into the crater of Mount Vesuvius. He also takes a detour to the island of Capri - yep, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's been there an'all. The Blue Grotto is highly recommended if you're ever in the area - before finishing his journey in the ancient hilltop town of Taormina.

Return of the documentary Liberty of London - 9:00 Channel Four - going behind the scenes at one of London's oldest department stores. Managing director Ed Burstell was brought in to revive Liberty's fortunes and his vision is to make it the city's premier shopping destination. Part of his rejuvenation is the Open Design Call, a Dragons' Den-style pitching contest where hundreds of hopefuls compete to have their products chosen by a panel of discerning buyers. Meanwhile, there's a visit from Pharrell Williams, who has launched an exclusive fragrance with Liberty. Encouraged by Liberty's star-struck boss, Williams explains what it's like to come up with such a product: 'Fragrance to me is paint for the nose, so people who make fragrances, the air is their canvas.' And,, on that bombshell ...
Tim McGee's girlfriend, the lovely (if soon-to-be somewhat crippled) Delilah, finds a break in a controversial case, prompting her to turn to Gibbs's team for help and that in NCIS - 9:00 FOX. Why, why, why Delilah? Oh, suit yerselves, I'm working with limited material here. Meanwhile, McGee decides it's a good idea to talk to Tony DiNozzo about whether he should move forward with his relationship. That's a wee bit like asking Adolf Hitler whether invading Russia's a good idea, isn't it?
The start of the final series of Aaron Sorkin's fast-paced media drama The Newsroom - 10:00 Sky Living - finds the ACN team still recovering from the damaged inflicted by the Genoa debacle and unwilling to take any chances when a major story breaks. Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn and Margaret Judson star.
Thursday 13 November
Tonight sees the very welcome return of The Fall - 9:00 BBC2 - the thriller about Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson's efforts to catch a serial killer. It has been ten days since Paul Spector told Gibson that she would never catch him and, as she tries to help a surviving victim remember the identity of her attacker, he is forced to deal with the loose ends that he left behind. He returns to Belfast only to discover someone from his past has been helping police with their inquiries, forcing him to change his plans - with terrifying consequences. Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan star.
The importance of power in the animal kingdom is the focus of tonight's Life Story - 9:00 BBC1 - revealing how dominant creatures have the best access to food and water and are also the most attractive to the opposite sex. An orphaned young chimp tries to climb the social ladder, but his troop is ruled by big, aggressive males and his first attempt to join them ends in a beating. A meerkat society will only allow newcomers in if they know how to deal with a venomous snake. And the only way to occupy the top spot in a meadow of kangaroos is to beat the ruling male in a boxing match - but few have challenged the current incumbent, who stands at eight feet. Will any animal dare take him on? The very Sir David Attenborough narrates.

Following on from Danny Boyle's pilot in February, the police comedy drama Babylon returns - 10:00 Channel Four - for six episodes. A private security firm calls for assistance to handle a riot at a young offenders institution, giving Commissioner Richard Miller an ideal opportunity to highlight the Met's opposition to the transfer of services to the private sector. But when Scotland Yard's PR strategy comes under pressure, tensions between the force and City Hall boil over and Miller finds himself under attack from Deputy Mayor Grant Delgado. As the Territorial Support Group is dispatched to quell the unrest, Robbie wonders whether he'll make it out unscathed on his last day before firearms training, and documentary cameraman Matt may have spotted a dangerous liaison within the ranks. When the pilot was broadcast, it felt perfectly poised between farce and drama. Or maybe imperfectly: there were plenty of absurd moments and funny lines (its creators worked on The Thick Of It), but also a thriller edge to proceedings. An action satire? As we start the full series, the tone feels clearer. The dialogue is still razor sharp – 'I sleep like a cokey meerkat on an electric fence. That's me relaxing,' snaps the excellent Jimmy Nesbitt's commissioner – but actual gags are rationed. We're more focused on the political minefield of policing London, and the PR machine – headed by Brit Marling's spin chief – that steers through it. Their main problem here is a youth prison riot where private contractors running the unit have been overrun. The good news? 'Joey Barton's said on Twitter he's willing to be an intermediary!' OPkay, admittedly, that was funny. With Adam Deacon, Daniel Kaluuya, Jill Halfpenny, Paterson Joseph, Nicola Walker and Nick Blood.

Much-trailed (and, from the evidence of the trailers, it looks shit, frankly), Puppy Love - 10:00 BBC4 - is a new alleged comedy, based around a dog training class in the Wirral, written by and starring Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine. In the first episode, trainer Nana V is called out to rescue a dangerous canine in a residential area. While there, she attracts the attention of Alexander Moss who is having an embarrassing problem with his hound, and soon finds herself competing against another woman for his affections. Charity worker Naomi and her husband Ravi also discover their daughter Jasmine had a secret relationship.

Friday 14 November
The arrest of slater Graham Lawrie for the murders of three police officers led to one of Robbie Lewis's first big successes as a Detective Inspector in Lewis - 9:00 ITV. Lawrie received a life sentence and, after being diagnosed as a completely mad psychopath during the trial, incarcerated in a secure hospital. However, thirteen years later, Lawrie is about to win his freedom, putting the detective's reputation in jeopardy. In the concluding part of the story, as Maddox's life hangs in the balance, Lewis joins Hathaway on the case, but they struggle to work well together. Last in the current series.
The London Markets - 9:00 BBC2 - is the first of three documentaries profiling London's prime food markets focuses on Billingsgate, which is on the verge of its biggest change in more than one thousand years. With fish merchants and licensed porters like Roger Barton and Chris Gill facing tough times, the centre is under pressure to modernise, meaning its traditions are under threat. Will ancient custom or modern commerce win out? Smithfield and New Spitalfields are the subjects of subsequent programmes.

Keen and Ressler attempt to track down a hit man known as the Scimitar, who has been dispatched to exact revenge for the assassination of an Iranian scientist in the latest episode of The Blacklist - 9:00 Sky Living. Liz also continues to try to uncover information on Berlin from Tom, while Red becomes friends with a woman working at a food truck. And, yet again, for about the third time in a half-dozen episodes this series, the producers manage to find a reason for an entire scene featuring Megan Boone stripped down to her pants. Not that this blogger is complaining, you understand. Oh no, very hot water.
Whispering Bob Harris explores America's country music capital and reveals why Nashville became 'Music City USA' in My Nashville - 10:00 BBC4. He charts the genre's Grand Ole Opry beginnings, through to the threatening onset of rock and/or roll music, to its modern mainstream hits. The presenter also visits the east of the city, where he discovers a rebellious flip-side to the genre, and explains why a nurturing community of songwriters is responsible for country music's enduring success. Featuring interviews with Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Duane Eddy and Dave Stewart, as well as performances by local acts.
Oh, and it's also Children In Need night on BBC1. So, please do give generously if you can afford to, it's a very worthy cause. But, don't, whatever you do, watch more than about ten minutes of the actual sodding programme itself - especially not the S Club 7 reunion - as it'll only rot yer brain, dear blog reader.

To the news ...

A new play set on the night of the 2015 UK general election is to be shown on television on election night itself. The 7 May performance of The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse in London will be broadcast live on More4. Described as 'a real-time play for theatre and television', it is the latest work by playwright James Graham. Graham previously wrote Privacy, about Internet security, for the Donmar and the political drama This House for the National Theatre. He has also written a ninety-minute drama for Channel Four about the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. Josie Rourke, the Donmar's artistic director, will direct The Vote, which will run on stage from 24 April to 7 May. The play will be set in a fictional London polling station and the theatre said that tickets to see the 'bold experiment' in person would be made available via a ballot. Other highlights of the theatre's 2015 spring season, announced on Monday of this week, include a revival of Patrick Marber's 1997 play Closer. Rufus Sewell and Oliver Chris will join Nancy Carroll and Rachel Redford in the acclaimed romantic drama, which runs from 12 February to 4 April. The season will also feature Temple, a new play by Steve Waters about the Occupy London camp set up outside at St Paul's Cathedral in 2011. Running from 21 May to 25 July, Howard Davies' production will see Simon Russell Beale return to the Donmar to play the Dean of the cathedral. The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles resigned as Dean of St Paul's in October 2011, saying that his position during the protests had become untenable. Doctor Giles Fraser, the St Paul's canon who also resigned over plans to forcibly evict the Occupy protestors, has reacted to the announcement on Twitter. 'Donmar just announced they [sic] putting on play about St Paul's and Occupy,' he tweeted on Monday. 'Now that will be a thing.'

Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman has revealed she missed the weekend's shows because her daughter 'was involved in an accident' while celebrating Hallow'een. A statement from the family read: 'She is having the best care possible and we are hopeful of a full recovery. We would like to thank everyone that has been so supportive,' it continued. Zoe Ball presented the weekend's Strictly alongside Tess Daly and will appear on this weekend's show again in Claudia's place.

Sir Tony Robinson has spoken of his 'journey of discovery' while filming his latest Discovery Channel series. Tony Robinson's World War I will see the Blackadder and Time Team star documenting the war using the recent discovery of thousands of 3D stereoscopic images taken at the time. Action sequences and interviews with historians will tell the story of the Great War, with each episode focusing on a different year of the conflict. Speaking to the Digital Spy website, Tony said that he was amazed so many 3D photographs had been found. 'I didn't know anything about it, I don't think many people did know that all these 3D images existed,' he said. 'I was approached at the beginning of the year and I thought they would be talking about five photos or something. But there's hundreds of thousands of these bloody things out there, but no-one has ever catalogued them or put a narrative together about them. WWI was the heyday of the 3D photograph. In the 1930s and 1940s, they went out of fashion and people didn't have the viewers any more. These things were just bundled in attics and boxes, and there were a load online. Suddenly, some smart people began to realise what a huge resource they were.' Robinson also filmed several action shots to recreate the conditions of the conflict, including trench warfare and driving tanks. He said: 'The one that impressed me most was going up in a WWI plane, I had never realised the incredible physical battering you get. It's the most uncomfortable form of transport that I've ever been in. It throws your back out just being in it for five minutes. I cannot imagine how those boys, and so many of them were boys, jumped into those planes and risked their lives, flew back and after a couple of hours did it again. For me, it's impossible to understand how that could have happened.' The presenter added that making the series reminded him of filming Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989. 'I got an increased respect to the designers of Blackadder when I realised the verisimilitude of what they'd done,' he noted. 'I'd always assumed theirs was a fantasy construction of what WWI was like, but not in the least. It was so similar and I found myself in so many places which seemed redolent of Blackadder Goes Forth.'
The BBC has announced that this week's scheduled Panorama about Mazher Mahmood, The Fake Sheikh Exposed, has been postponed 'while legal issues play themselves out.' According to a corporation spokesperson: 'We expect to broadcast on Monday 10 November.' There had been a hint of this outcome in a tweet on Wednesday by Panorama's producer, Meirion Jones, in which he wrote: 'Apparently we may be stopped from exposing the Fake Sheikh by the legal apparatus but I can't tell you more until Monday.' It was unclear exactly what 'legal apparatus' was involved, but it was alleged - by the Gruniad Morning Star, if not anybody more trustworthy - that lawyers acting for Mahmood had 'raised objections' to the programme's content. The BBC's publicity material for Panorama stated that its reporter, John Sweeney, had 'spoken to some of Mahmood's highest profile targets and the men who helped him expose them.' It stated: 'They allege that the Fake Sheikh was the real crook, using sophisticated entrapment and even creating crimes and fabricating evidence.' Mahmood, a Sun on Sunday journalist, was suspended by his newspaper in July this year following the collapse of a trial involving the singer and former X-Factor judge, Tulisa Contostavlos. Mahmood was the main witness in the trial, which concerned a story he wrote about Contostavlos allegedly setting up an alleged drugs deal. Allegedly. Contostavlos insisted that she had been entrapped in a sting operation. The judge ruled that it was 'likely' Mahmood had attempted to persuade a witness to change his evidence and then lied about it under oath. He, therefore, stopped the trial and extremely acquitted Contostavlos. The Crown Prosecution Service has since dropped two other cases in which Mahmood was set to be the key witness. There were suggestions after the collapsed Contostavlos trial that Mahmood himself may face a perjury charge. The Metropolitan police have previously refused to confirm or deny whether any action will be taken against him. According to 'people familiar with the situation' at the Sun, Mahmood is said to be the subject of 'an exhaustive internal investigation' by the paper's publishers, News UK.

Fans of the TV soap Crossroads have marked its fiftieth anniversary at a real hotel which doubled up as the show's motel. The ITV soap opera, set in fictional Kings Oak in the Birmingham area, was infamous for wobbly sets and equally wobbly acting but, at its peak, drew regular audiences in the eighteen million viewers range. The Sutton Coldfield Ramada site was used for outdoor filming in the 1980s before the soap was axed in 1988. Memorabilia including popular character Benny Hawkins' bobble hat were on show at the event. Launched on 2 November 1964, four years after Coronation Street, Crossroads initially ran five days a week. Tony Adams, who played womanising smoothy Adam Chance for ten years from 1978, said that it was recorded without stopping and with almost not time for second takes. He said: 'It was tortuous, terrifying. Yes there was pressure, but it was enormous fun. Hardly anybody lifted a cup because they were stuck to saucers so they didn't rattle. It was one of the best shows I ever did, if you went into M&S, to Scotland, to Ireland, to Jersey, people recognised you.' Adams added that one viewer who was so upset at the way his character treated his on-screen girlfriend, Miranda Pollard, managed to get into the Birmingham studios. 'He pulled a knife. Fortunately, there were two security guards. I didn't get hurt, but it was a bit of a shock.' Crossroads was revived in 2001, again starring Adams, but was axed in 2003 due to general viewer indifference. An anniversary cake featuring the motel sign has been baked for the Sutton Coldfield event. But the original red motel sign was not on show because 'it's too big' to transport, the Crossroads Appreciation Society said. Proceeds from sales of props and photographs will go to the Crossroads Care charity network, which gives a break to carers. Fan club member Chris Stacey said: 'As a child growing up it was like an extended family. They featured Spaghetti Junction in the opening titles at one point.' But he said that while it was 'escapism', there were many 'bizarre' storylines including 'when Amy Turtle, a famous Brummie, the cleaner, was thought to be a Russian spy.'

An EastEnders sketch for Children In Need will see some of the soap's former stars return. As ghosts. From beyond the grave. After being knocked unconscious, Ian Beale will be 'visited' by his mother, Kathy, his ex-wife Cindy and Big Fat Cuddly Pat, played by Gillian Taylforth, Michelle Collins and Pam St Clement respectively. He will also see the ghost of his daughter, Lucy, played by Hetti Bywater, whose killer is still on the loose. The sketch will be broadcast during BBC1's Children In Need night on 14 November. Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian, said: 'I never thought I would see the day where I was reunited with Gillian, Pam, Michelle and Hetti, so to work with them all again and for such a great cause was an absolute dream. It was one of the best days I have ever had at work. As soon as we got on set it was like none of them had ever left.' Producers said that Ian would be 'confronted' by the women from his past including his 'adulterous, home-wrecking ex-wife' and his mum, Kathy, who has a surprising new love interest, in various iconic locations around Albert Square. Taylforth, who played Kathy from 1985 to 2000, said that it was 'an honour' to take part in the sketch and 'surreal but fantastic' to be back on the EastEnders set. Woodyatt added: 'I don't want to spoil it but Ian is really happy to see some faces and completely knocked for six by others, but then again I think finding your late ex-wife in your kitchen is enough to shock anyone.' Bywater, who played Lucy for two years until her murder in April, said that she was 'happy' she and Ian could be united one last time. 'Ian feels guilty as the last few conversations they had didn't end well so it was nice for them to have a final moment together,' she said. Lucy's murderer will finally be revealed during a special live week of shows in February 2015 to celebrate the soap's thirtieth anniversary.

Other 'highlights' - and, this blogger uses the word quite wrongly - of this year's Children In Need will include a reunion performance by S Club 7. Can't wait to see that. Oh wait, I can. Next ...

Uma Thurman her very self has been cast in the US TV version of Christos Tsiolkas's best-selling novel The Slap, according to reports. TV Line claims that Thurman will replace Weeds and The West Wing actress Mary-Louise Parker who was originally hired, but has had to pull out while recovering from pneumonia. Thurman will take over the role of Anouk, a TV writer who is dating her show's young leading man. The Slap charts the fallout after a man slaps another couple's child at a neighbourhood barbecue. Published in 2008, the Booker-longlisted novel was previously made into an acclaimed Australian mini-series in 2011 starring Sophie Okonedo and former Home & Away actress Melissa George. George will also appear in NBC's eight-part mini-series, reprising her role as the overprotective mother, Rosie. Thandie Newton will take on the role first played by Okonedo, with Brian Cox (no, the other one), Peter Sarsgaard and Star Trek's Zachary Quinto also featuring in the series. Quinto will play Harry, the man who deals the fateful slap. Lisa Cholodenko, the Oscar-nominated director of The Kids Are All Right, is scheduled to direct the series. It will be Thurman's second foray into television - she appeared in five episodes of musical drama Smash in 2012.

Yer actual Eliza Dushku's plans to celebrate Halloween at Rhode Island Comic Con were well and truly spoiled after she found herself the victim of a robbery. The Buffy The Vampire Slayer actress claimed that she was mugged by two thieves in Hallow'een costumes. The robbers reportedly stole her Louis Vuitton handbag – a gift, she says, from Sharon Osbourne – as she checked into the Omni Hotel on Saturday evening. Eliza quickly took to Twitter to ask hotel guests for their help in tracking down the missing item and the naughty perpetrators what nicked it, one of whom was, she said, dressed as Julius Caesar. A cunning disguise, you might think. The robbery marks the second Buffy-related legal incident to happen to a former star of the popular show at a Comic Con event. Nick Brendon, who played Faith's one-time love interest Xander in the series, was very arrested on 17 October as he attended the Tree City event in Idaho. He was charged with misdemeanor offenses 'malicious injury to property and resisting police arrest.' Officers were reportedly called to the hotel lobby, where, it was claimed, Brendon had smashed 'a decorative dish.' They alleged that the forty three-year-old former actor was 'under the influence of alcohol' at the time. Gosh, the total scallywag.

A university that holds the largest collection of Hammer Studios memorabilia is to open its archives to the public for the first time. More than two hundred and forty original horror scripts from the Hammer film production company are held at De Montfort University's Cinema And Television History Research Centre in Leicester. Steve Chibnall, the director of the centre and professor of British Cinema, said: 'When I was growing up, Hammer and horror were virtually synonymous and seeing one of their films was a rite of passage into adulthood. Of course, they liked to sail as close to the wind as possible as far as the censor was concerned, but their products were memorable and influential internationally, and have now been recognised as Britain's most important contribution to fantasy cinema.' Mark yer actual Keith Telly Topping down for visit to that next time he's in Leicester.
Clarinettist Mister Acker Bilk, who personified the trad-jazz revival of the 1950s and 1960s, has died after a lengthy illness at the age of eighty five. His most famous tune, the deliciously laid-back 'Stranger on the Shore' was the UK's biggest selling single of 1962 and made him an international star. Born Bernard Stanley Bilk, in Pensford, Somerset, Bernie changed his name to Acker - Somerset slang for 'pal' - after learning to play the clarinet whilst in the Army. Pamela Sutton, who was Acker's manager for forty five years, said that he had 'been ill for some time', adding: 'He was my great friend and his music was legendary.' Bilk tried a number of different careers before borrowing a clarinet and copying recordings of famous jazz musicians while serving in the Army during three years national service with the Royal Engineers in the Suez Canal Zone. He learned the clarinet after his sapper friend, John Britten, gave him one bought at a bazaar. Acker formed his first band in Bristol after his demobilisation. Known for his goatee beard, trademark bowler hat and fancy waistcoat and his breathy, vibrato-rich, lower-register clarinet style, Acker was awarded an MBE in 2001 for services to the music industry. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000 but recovered and continued to play concerts, the last of which was at the Brecon Festival in August 2013. Bilk told the BBC in a 2012 interview that when he wrote his biggest hit 'Stranger on the Shore', he did not immediately realise it was something special. The instrumental made him the first British artist to have a simultaneous chart-topping hit on both sides of the Atlantic. 'I didn't think it was much different from any of the rest of it,' he said. 'It was just a thing that came out of my head, that's all. I didn't sort of work on it or do much at all with it.' Besides 'Stranger on the Shore', Acker also had several other hits with tunes such as 'Summer Set', 'That's My Home', 'A Taste of Honey', 'Aria' and 'Buona Sera'. Broadcaster Danny Baker described Bilk as 'a good jazzer and eternal answer to question: "What UK artist had first number one in USA?"' The poet Ian McMillan also paid tribute to the musician, describing him as the 'creator of one of the great earworms. That shore was strange, but memorable.' Kenny Ball Junior, whose late father played alongside Bilk for many years, said that he had fond memories of the two of jazz greats playing together. 'He was such a wonderful player,' Ball told the BBC. 'He conquered everywhere. He was such a lovely bloke, a very genuine guy.' Acker is survived by his wife Jean, daughter Jenny and son Pete.

Thus, dear blog reader, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, lay your sexy clarinet stylings upon us one last time, Mister Acker.

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