Saturday, December 06, 2014

Go, Tell The Spartans: A Dream Passing By In The Sky

The BBC have confirmed that the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas, will première on BBC1 at 6:15pm on Christmas Day. Additional cast members and their characters have also been confirmed for the hour-long special: Michael Troughton will play Professor Albert, Faye Marsay will play Shona, Maureen Beattie will play Bellows and Natalie Gumede will play Ashley Carter; they join the previously announced Dan Starkey as Ian, Nathan McMullen as Wolf. The episode stars yer actual Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Nick Frost.
A new BBC Christmas trailer offering clips from Doctor Who, Miranda, Mrs Brown's Boys, Top Gear and Still Open All Hours's festive specials has been released. Miranda Hart opens the extended trailer by inviting viewers to enjoy a 'hearty Christmas' with the BBC. Doctor Who's Last Christmas is prominently featured, as The Doctor quizzes companion Clara on if she really believes in Santa. Viewers can also catch glimpses of the Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman-starring adaptation of Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, David Walliams's The Boy In The Dress and Taylor Lautner's BBC3 alleged comedy Cuckoo.
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has confirmed that Michelle Gomez will return to Doctor Who. Gomez made her début as a new incarnation of The Doctor's old enemy, The Master in the popular BBC family SF drama's recent eighth series. 'I've already asked her to come back,' Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) told Radio Times. Missy was last seen apparently being vaporised in series eight's finale, Death In Heaven. 'I can't imagine anyone who's ever watched this genre being convinced that she's dead,' The Moff said. 'The Master is never dead, no matter what happens to him or her. She's entirely unzappable!'
Steven Moffat has said it is 'within the logic of the show' for a female actress to play the Time Lord at some stage in the future. Which, of course, immediately translated into a bunch of faux-outraged comments on Facebook and Twitter from planks with nothing better to do with their time than whinge like whinging whingers about ... stuff. So, no change there, then. Jesus, dear blog reader, the utter shite that some people chose to care about. Yer man Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before he) said it is 'logical' that a woman would, eventually, be cast as The Doctor. The fifty three-year-old was speaking at the Sky Women in Television and Film Awards, held at The Hilton in London. Asked why there can't be a female Doctor, Moffat replied: 'No-one says you can't.' Well, except a few thousand whinging Special People of course, Steven. Ooo, getting aal stroppy and reet discombobulated over the virry idea, so they were. But then, nobody that matters really gives a Monkey's banana about what they think so, no damage done. 'It's actually only since I took over the show that we have said it's possible within the logic of the show,' Moffat added referring to a line of dialogue in the 2011 episode The Doctor's Wife which, for the first time, confirmed that when a Time Lord regenerates, a sex change can sometimes occur. Moffat said that he had woven parts in to the script so that it would be plausible for a female actress to play The Doctor at some stage in the future. He said: 'The very first lines I wrote for Matt Smith [were him] checking if he had become a girl and then I put some dialogue into The Doctor's Wife about it. And now, of course, we have had the female master, with The Doctor not reacting to that fact at all. He doesn't seem to register the fact that his old friend is now a woman. So obviously, he doesn't think it’s a remarkable thing to happen. We must assume that gender is quite fluid on Gallifrey.' Speaking about whether it has become easier for women to find roles in television, Moffat said: 'I think it has. I mean, I think that's a question you should ask a woman. From Sandra Hastie [the producer of Moffat's first series, Press Gang] right at the beginning, my boss has always been a woman. So I have been saluting women since my first day in television. My wife is my boss and my other boss is my mother-in-law, so it seems to me to be quite a female industry, in a very good way. I would far rather have a female boss than a male boss. So I think it's a good time [for women in television]. But maybe on the set it's different, I don't know. Maybe the way we portray women is different. There are things we could certainly get better at; a lot of things we could get better at.' Moffat said he instantly knows when the right person for a role comes along. 'I think the easiest thing in the world is picking people who are good at acting. You can spot them, because they come along and they act really well in front of you. Picking a star is dead easy', he said. 'But you know, it's an awful lot down to Kate Rhodes James and Andy Pryor, the casting directors on Sherlock and Doctor Who, who put amazing people in front of us. I don't think star spotting is difficult. The entire population does it; everyone does it. I don't think it's much credit to me at all.'

Fan letters, fanzine articles, even a campaign to run the Official Doctor Who Fan Club - it's fair to say that yer actual Peter Capaldi was a full-fledged, card-carrying Doctor Who fanatic of long-standing back in the day. But, has his enthusiasm for the BBC's long-running family SF drama been dented by night shoots, endless promotion and all of the attention which comes with actually getting the role he'd longed-for since the 1960s and playing The Doctor? Seemingly, not at all. When Peter was interviewed by a number of media outlets recently, he suggested that he's still as big a fan of Doctor Who as ever. 'I'd quite like The Axons to show up again, but done with our modern CGI and the make-up techniques that we now have available to us,' he noted in relation to the relatively obscure aliens last seen in 1971 in The Claws of Axos. 'I loved them - with the BAFTA-award face, that then turned into the monster - I loved that kind of thing. Or The Daemons, I'd love them to show up. I think they'd be good to do again. It's a while since we've had a cult. I watched The Masque Of Mandragora the other day, in which there was a fairly classic cult of people with strange masks on, in hoods, who were doing pseudo-sacrifices. I like the little overlap between Doctor Who and Hammer Horror - it's been a while since we've had any of that. We need a cult. The funny thing is, you [now] have a greater understanding. I was watching Tom Baker and I thought he, more so than I, has to deal with things that are a little bit cardboard, but he elevates them to utterly cosmic levels. We have, sometimes, very rarely on our show but it is true that sometimes we have things that fall to pieces and are not looking so great as they might look at the end of the day, so it's the acting that has to make them believable. You suddenly understand much more about the work they're doing and how committed they are - how their truthfulness makes it work.'
Peter also said he had 'geeked out' when Michael Troughton guested in this year's Christmas special. 'I spoke to Michael a lot about his dad - he's got very interesting stories because, of course, when his dad took over Doctor Who, there was no guarantee that it would work. It was a very radical and brave move but it might not have paid off, so it was quite a risk for his dad to do it, because his dad was a quite established character actor - but it worked. So I was obviously digging stuff up about all of that - it was very interesting. I was a huge fan of [Patrick] - I had his autograph. I wrote to [a fan letter] - he used to have little photos of himself as Doctor Who to send out to fans, as I have. But he'd obviously run out of those, so he sent me a little snapshot of himself on his boat in the Norfolk Broads. I remember really cherishing that, because it was such a personal thing.' Peter said that he watches the Doctor Who Christmas special every year. 'It's fitted into my family tradition - I've always insisted on watching it on Christmas Day. It's a little bit terrifying [to be in it] because it's moved into the Morecambe & Wise slot, as it were. It just shows how the show has expanded its constituency and is so popular that it successfully works on Christmas Day. But it has that British mix of something a little bit scary and a little bit festive. It's like that thing of always having a ghost story on late on Christmas Eve. It fits right into that tradition, which is wonderful. But it is scary - Eric Morecambe, I'm sure, used to get extremely worried on Boxing Day because he had to start thinking about what they would do next year - so I'm sure Steven has the same problem.' Peter also thinks that being a Doctor Who fan is a wonderful thing. 'Although people may disagree very violently about different aspects of it, their affection for the show remains very sound and very pure. So that means that not everybody likes me and not everybody likes what we're doing - a lot of people do, but a lot of people don't. But they love the show so whoever is playing The Doctor becomes the focus of their affection for the show. You get the benefit of their love for Matt and David and Chris and everybody - so it's wonderful. They're so creative and so positive - I just think it's a good thing in the world. It's nice to be part of that.'
Peter described this year's Doctor Who Christmas special as 'one of the scariest [episodes] we've done.' He said that Last Christmas is 'both very festive and jolly and quite terrifying. I think it's a great episode,' he added. 'It's really quite scary - it's one of the scariest ones we've done, but it's also one of the happiest. Santa appears on Clara Oswald's roof with his elves, but what might otherwise be an excuse for cheer and happiness is actually a nightmarish development - and only The Doctor knows why! He has to arrive and save her from what Santa's going to bring into her life. The Doctor's slightly competitive with other semi-mythical characters!' Nick Frost portrays Santa in the episode, with Capaldi describing his co-star as 'fabulous and hilarious. I'm not a person who corpses very much, but Nick makes me laugh - and he knows that, so he would deliberately try and provoke that in me,' he revealed. 'There's lots of outtakes of me hiding behind monsters, giggling. He brings a great deal of jollity and fun and humour to that role - he's very convincing as Santa Claus. He's the real Santa - he's not a Santa robot or a Santa alien or anything like that. He's the real genuine Santa Claus, which is brilliant." Last Christmas has been rumoured to be Jenna Coleman's final appearance in Doctor Who - albeit, there have been counter-rumours that it won't be - but Peter is remaining tight-lipped on the character's fate. 'Something quite profound happens in this one,' he hinted. 'But I can't go into that.'
Finally, Peter suggested that his Doctor will be 'different again' when the series returns. The Time Lord will continue 'learning about himself and how he responds to the universe' in the family SF drama's ninth series. 'I think it would be wrong to say "we've arrived" - and that's certainly not how I feel,' he explained. 'I don't think Steven or anyone else feels like that - I think that would be lazy and foolish. You have to keep moving - if he's regenerated, he's learning about himself and how he responds to the universe, so I think he probably will be different again when he comes back. It's inevitable that when you play Doctor Who, the first season has to be a direct contrast with the previous Doctor,' Peter continued. 'Matt was wonderful and very open and accessible, so it was natural - and also appropriate - to be slightly more distant, which I think has worked. But we're still pushing to find out who this character is - there are more mysteries about him, I think.'

There's a very good piece by Levi Cohen-Kreshin on Doctor Who's so-called 'wilderness years' (or, 'The Theme Park Years' as this blogger's old chum Paul Cornell calls them) at the Doctor Who TV website called The End of Doctor Who: An Adventure in the Wilderness. Check it out here.

I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) topped the overnight ratings on Monday. The Victorian jungle freak show was about level with the previous Monday's episode with an average audience of 8.37 million at 8.30pm, as ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard became the first z-lister to be voted out by the general public. Earlier, Countrywise appealed to 2.95m at 8pm. BBC1's Miranda repeat averaged 3.09m at 8.30pm, while Wild Weather With Richard Hammond brought in 2.85m at 9pm. On BBC2, Strictly: It Takes Two attracted 1.92m at 6.30pm. University Challenge appealed to 2.69m at 8pm, followed by the latest Only Connect with 2.06m at 8.30pm. On Channel Four, coverage of the results of The Turner Prize was watched by four hundred and eighty eight thousand at 7.30pm, followed by The British Property Boom with 1.39m at 8pm. Skint continued with nine hundred and twenty thousand at 9pm. Eight Out Of Ten Cats drew six hundred and ninety thousand at 10pm, before Toast Of London brought in two hundred and fifty thousand punters at 10.45pm. Channel Five's Nevada Triangle appealed to eight hundred and eighty five at 8pm, followed by the latest Gotham with 1.05m at 9pm. TV's Most Shocking Moments had an audience of five hundred and ninety one thousand at 10pm. The Walking Dead went into its series five mid-season break on FOX with an average of four hundred and fifty three thousand viewers. This made it the second most popular show on pay-TV channels on Monday, behind Sky1's Modern Family (four hundred and seventy five thousand) and ahead of Sky Living's Criminal Minds (three hundred and sixty three thousand). BBC4's popular three-part documentary series Dancing Cheek To Cheek: An Intimate History Of Dance, presented by Len Goodman and Doctor Lucy Worsley, concluded strongly, averaging six hundred and twenty eight thousand from 9pm.

Meanwhile, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) dropped over one million overnight viewers on Tuesday evening. The ITV show still easily topped the night, attracting an average 7.25m sick voyeurs at 8.30pm. On BBC1, The Missing fell by nearly a million viewers from last week to 4.66m at 9pm. BBC2's Strictly: It Takes Two entertained 1.89m at 6.30pm, followed by The Great Interior Design Challenge finale with 1.83m at 7pm. MasterChef: The Professionals attracted a bumper 3.05m at 8pm, while Secrets Of The Castle was seen by 1.53m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners was watched by a million viewers at 8pm, followed by Seventeen Kids And Counting with 1.29m at 9pm. Britain's Craziest Christmas Lights garnered 1.08m at 8pm on Channel Five, while Autopsy: Elvis Presley had an audience of nine hundred and seventy seven thousand at 9pm. On Sky1, the latest episode of The Flashattracted four hundred and thirty four thousand at 8pm.

The Apprentice shed around half-a-million viewers from the previous week, according to overnight ratings for Wednesday. Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's latest crass bully-boy firing dipped to an average 4.85 million at 9pm, which is a new low for the current series. BBC2's You're Fired brought in two million viewers at 10pm. Later, a midweek Match Of The Day scored 2.01m at 10.35pm. On ITV, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) again easily topped the night, rising slightly from Tuesday's episode to 7.31m at 8.30pm. BBC2's MasterChef: The Professionals gathered 2.72m at 8pm, followed by The Great Continental Railway with 1.91m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Posh Pawn was seen by 1.18m at 8pm, while Liberty Of London interested eight hundred and twenty two thousand at 9pm. Channel Five's Gibraltar: Britain In The Sun appealed to six hundred and forty five thousand at 8pm, followed by Benefits Britain with nine hundred and forty one thousand at 9pm.

I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) stayed top of the overnight ratings on Thursday. The series climbed from Wednesday night to an average 7.48 million viewers at 8.30pm. On BBC1, Watchdog attracted 3.42m at 8pm, followed by Crimewatch with 2.61m at 9pm. Question Time drew 2.32m at 10.35pm. BBC2's snooker coverage scored 1.08m at 7pm, while MasterChef: The Professionals appealed to 2.39m at 8pm. The latest episode of The Fall had an audience of 2.10m at 9pm, followed by Russell Howard's Good News with 1.12m at 10pm. On Channel Four, Amazing Spaces was watched by 1.18m at 8pm, followed by Twenty Four Hours in A&E with 1.27m at 9pm and Babylon with fur hundred and eleven thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Railway: The First Great Western gathered six hundred and sixty four thousand at 8pm, while Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty attracted five hundred and fourteen thousand at 9pm. On E4, The Big Bang Theory was watched by 1.14m at 8.30pm. Sky1's Arrow continued with two hundred and sixty thousand at 8pm.

I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) was Friday's highest-rated overnight show with an average audience of 7.48 million. Earlier, The Martin Lewis Money Show was watched by 3.23 million at 8pm. Have I Got News For You was BBC1's highest-rated show of the evening outside of soaps, securing viewing figures of 4.02 million at 9pm. BBC1's evening kicked off with 3.77 million for The ONE Show at 7pm, followed by 3.27 million for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook. EastEnders attracted a high for the channel of 6.25m after which Citizen Khan - every bit as unfunny as usual - picked up 2.95 million at 8.30pm, while Not Going Out was seen by 2.89 million viewers at 9.30pm. With guests including Michael Keaton, Ian McKellen and that awful Wood woman, The Graham Norton Show rounded the evening off with 3.16 million at 10.35pm. BBC2's schedule was dominated by live FA Cup football. The thrilling North East derby a'tween Hartlepool United and Blyth Spartans, which the Spartans won 2-1 with a dramatic late goal (see below) was watched by 1.49 million from 7.30pm. Mastermind was watched by 1.17 million at 7pm, while Qi had an audience of by 1.62 million at 10pm. Gogglebox proved popular for Channel Four, attracting 1.98 million at 9pm. It was sandwiched between Marvel's Agents of SHIELD with nine hundred thousand at 8pm and eight hundred and thirty thousand for Alan Carr: Chatty Man at 10pm. On Channel Five, Ice Road Truckers played to an increased audience of eight hundred and three thousand at 8pm, followed by 1.04 million for Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild at 9pm.

Strictly Come Dancing secured more than 9.6 million overnight viewers on Saturday. BBC1's dancing competition appealed to 9.68m from 7pm. It was followed by Atlantis, which drew 3.5 million punters. The latest episode of Casualty was watched by 3.66m from 9pm. Football highlights show Match Of The Day averaged 3.11m from 10.20pm, the majority of that audience clearly there to see yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies end Moscow Chelski FC's pretensions of going the whole season unbeaten with a pulsating 2-1 victory at The Cathedral of Dreams St James' Park and give Jose Mourinho something real to whinge about for once. Which he did. By God, did he. Anyway, earlier, Pointless Celebrities was watched by a really impressive 5.92 million which caused Richard Osman his very self to get aal boastful on Twitter. Oh dear, success has clearly gone to the lad's head. ITV's The X Factor continued with 7.03m from 8pm, its lowest Saturday overnight figure of the current series. I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) drew 7.66m afterwards. Earlier in the evening, The Chase gathered 3.13m. BBC2's live snooker coverage bored the tits off 1.16m sleeping punters between 7pm and 10.50pm. On Channel Four, an airing of the Liam Neeson movie Battleship was watched by 1.55m from 8pm. Channel Five showed boxing film Rocky, which was seen by four hundred and eighty nine thousand from 8.30pm. On the multi-channels, a repeat of Sherlock was seen by seven hundred and eighty one thousand on BBC3 from 9pm.

Here are the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty programmes for week-ending Sunday 30 November 2014:-
1 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 10.76m
2 I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) - Sun ITV - 10.55m
3 The X Factor - Sat ITV - 8.38m
4 Coronation Street - Fri ITV - 8.09m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.78m
6 The Missing - Tues BBC1 - 7.30m
7 The Apprentice - Wed BBC1 - 7.04m
8 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.81m
9 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.92m
10 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 5.85m*
11 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.58m
12 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 5.62m
13 Remember Me - Sun BBC1 - 5.21m
14 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.96m
15 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.76m
16 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 4.71m
17 Atlantis - Sat BBC1 - 4.65m
18 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.63m
19 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 4.25m
20 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.12m
Those ITV programmes marked '*' do not include include HD figures. Saunday evening's episode of The X Factor had a final rating of 8.30 million whilst Strictly Come Dancing's Sunday episode drew 10.45 million. BBC2's highest rated programmes of the week were MasterChef: The Professionals with 3.44m (again, all three episodes of the latter achieved audience figures above three million yet again) and The Fall with 3.01 million. University Challenge drew 2.89 million, followed by The Apprentice: You're Fired! (2.84m), The Mekong River With Sue Perkins (2.52m), Only Connect (2.51m), Great Continental Railway Journeys (2.38m) and Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two (2.24m). Qi's latest episode drew 1.67 million. Gogglebox was, by a distance, Channel Four's largest-rated show (3.21m), followed by Homeland (1.83m) and Secret History: The Great Wall Of China (1.77m). Channel Five's best performers were Gotham with 2.22 million, and Benefits Britain: Life On The Dole (1.66m). Midsomer Murders was ITV3's most-watched programme with eight hundred and fourteen thousand viewers, with Foyle's War attracting seven hundred and eighty nine thousand. Inspector Montalbano drew BBC4's largest audience of the week (eight hundred thousand), with Dancing Cheek To Cheek being watched by seven hundred and thirty eighty thousand. E4's The Big Bang Theory had the largest multichannels audience of all (2.21m). Sky Living's Elementary had one million viewers. On FOX, The Walking Dead was watched by 1.08m. A repeat of Sherlock produced BBC3's largest audience of the week (seven hundred and twenty three thousand).

It's hardly a surprise, but Marvel has confirmed that yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch will play Doctor Strange. There have long been rumours that the actor would take on the role since Marvel announced the film's production. Benny will play the neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who suffers a car accident and gets involved in a world of magic and alternate dimensions. The film is due for release in November 2016. Announcing the casting, producer Kevin Fiege said: 'Stephen Strange's story requires an actor capable of great depth and sincerity.' The character of Doctor Strange has featured in numerous Marvel comics since the 1960s. He first appeared in Strange Tales in July 1963. In 1978, the actor Peter Hooten played Strange in a - not particularly memorable - TV movie, which was created as a pilot for a proposed series. But, it was never commissioned. In October, Marvel announced a roster of film releases for the next five years, of which Doctor Strange was one. Others include a new two-part Avengers film, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and a sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy. Before Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch his very self will be seen in four more episodes of Sherlock and will also be the voice of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book.
Meanwhile, Benny his very self has claimed that he will never tire of playing Sherlock Holmes. The actor, who can currently be seen as WWII code breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, has starred as the literary detective in three series of the BBC's worldwide hit Sherlock. You already knew that, right? Speaking to Vogue, Cumberbatch said: 'If we can keep the quality up, I can't imagine that I will ever get tired of being Sherlock. I'd love to play him as an old man.' Discussing his Imitation Game co-star the divine Goddess that is Keira Knightley, who he became friendly with on the set on Atonement, Ben said: 'Because we really are friends, we share this great shorthand. It made doing our scenes together a joy.' Cumberbatch also revealed that he has got to know Johnny Depp, saying: 'We rolled cigarettes and sat around and talked and talked and talked. He's a friend now. Which is an amazing thing to think about.'
National heartthrob David Tennant's performance as Shakespeare's Richard II is in the running for best actor at the WhatsOnStage awards. The actor's version of the monarch is up against Tom Hiddleston, who is nominated for his portrayal of Roman tragic figure Coriolanus. In the musical stakes, Marti Pellow in nominated for his lead role in Evita. The winners will be disclosed at a ceremony in London on 15 February 2015. Others noted for their stage and musical performances include Gillian Anderson for her lead role on A Streetcar Named Desire, singer Beverley Knight for Memphis The Musical and Gemma Arterton for musical adaptation Made In Dagenham. Also competing for best actress in a play are Billie Piper for new production Great Britain and Helen McCrory for her role as Greek tragic figure Medea.
The BBC Trust has received the official proposal to close BBC3 as a broadcast television channel. The BBC Executive has laid out its plans to move the channel online in the autumn of 2015, after making an initial announcement in March. After discussing the plans on Wednesday, the BBC Trust will now conduct a public value test to allow viewers and stakeholders to have their say on the proposal. Public consultations will begin in January 2015, with more information to be published on the BBC Trust website in due course. The BBC Executive has also outlined plans to launch a BBC One+1 channel, as well as extending hours for CBBC and expanding BBC iPlayer. From The North's position on this matter remains unchanged since the proposal was first announced; it's a shame as, despite its many faults, BBC3 has produced some great programmes - Our War and the like - and does, undeniably, serve its intended demographic far better than just about any other channel on British telly. However, if savings have to be made, and it seems they do, then it appears to be the only viable channel which could be cut - particularly as a chunk of the savings are intended for BBC drama. Plus, of course, the sooner that odious unfunny lanky streak of piss Jack Whitehall and Russell Kane (very popular with students) are pushed online where this blogger can, comfortably, avoid having to watch them comes, frankly, not a moment too soon.

Grumpy auld Jezza Paxman has been confirmed as the host of a new BBC one-off documentary marking the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's state funeral. The broadcaster ended twenty five years as Newsnight anchor in June; he still hosts University Challenge on the BBC. Paxo has vivid memories of the 1965 funeral which, he says, made 'a huge impression' on him. The hour-long BBC1 documentary Churchill: The Nation's Farewell will be screened next month. This will be Paxman's first new show since bowing out of his BBC2 news magazine programme and will see him meeting a range of figures who were involved in the events of 30 January 1965 when the statesman was laid to rest. For the documentary he will meet soldiers who acted as pallbearers, members of Churchill's family and a London docker who remembers some had misgivings about saluting the passing coffin by dipping their cranes. Under more neutral circumstances than previous political interviews, Paxman will also meet Mayor of London Boris Johnson, author of a new book on Churchill. 'Like most people who saw it - I was a schoolboy at the time - Churchill's funeral made a huge impression on me,' yer man Paxo said. 'Fifty years on, I thought it was time to find out whether it was all that it seemed at the time. What was it that made Winston Churchill uniquely worthy of this spectacular send-off?' Martin Davidson, the BBC's commissioning editor for history, said: 'Sir Winston Churchill is one of our greatest statesmen and this fascinating documentary shines a light on not only that unique day, but on just what his passing meant to the nation he had steered through some of their darkest days.' Radio 4 will also mark the anniversary with updated repeats of Churchill's Other Lives in which Professor David Cannadine looks at various aspects of the former Prime Minister's story. BBC Parliament will broadcast original footage of the funeral over a four-hour period in The State Funeral Fifty Years On. Introduced by Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston, the programme will aim to mirror the original timings of his funeral in 1965. BBC Parliament is also collaborating with BBC Archives in the restoration of the original footage of Churchill's funeral for re-broadcast. BBC2Daytime will screen a 2002 documentary about Churchill's life - presented by the late Mo Mowlam - from the Great Britons series, as well as the 1972 biopic Young Winston directed by the late Lord Attenborough. Paxo will be back on our screens next year to front Channel Four's General Erection coverage.

The BBC director of television has issued a reminder to critics and politicians firing shots at the corporation in the run up to charter renewal that it 'is a great British company, not a government department.' Good God, the BBC's backbone has been discovered in a draw in Danny Cohen's office. Well, I didn't expect that. Cohen used a speech at the corporation’s annual Christmas press drinks in London on Wednesday evening to 'make a direct and open plea' for support, saying: 'Perhaps this is time for a little less of the critical friend and a bit more of the friend.' Speaking ahead of a crucial year for the BBC in the run-up to the renewal of its royal charter and licence fee funding deal in 2016, Cohen argued that if the licence fee is cut again then the rest of the UK's creative industries will suffer. He said: 'A smaller BBC is, quite simply and incontrovertibly, a smaller UK creative industries. That's not in anyone's interests and it's something we should do everything to avoid. The BBC is the UK's creative risk capital. It triggers thousands of hours of quality content that creates jobs and exports - that in turn bring both revenues and reputation back to these shores. We must avoid undermining this success story, this growth of the UK creative industries, this reputational dividend for UK PLC.' His words appeared to be a counter to recent pressure from scumbag politicians with a sick and sordid agenda smeared all over their disgusting collective mush such as the Conservative MP - and rank gobshite - Andrew Bridgen, who want to replace the licence fee with 'a voluntary subscription.' Cohen acknowledged that 'the BBC doesn't get everything right, that it makes mistakes, that it is imperfect' and told journalists attending the event: 'You will always hold us to account - and so you should. Despite these imperfections I ask you to stand by the BBC in the year ahead. Support it, make the case for it, speak up for it, celebrate its achievements and help us make sure we can keep offering such an extraordinary range of programmes for all audiences. But if you ask yourself whether the UK and its audiences would be better off with a diminished BBC, unable to deliver the range of quality programmes in the coming years that I've just outlined, then I feel confident you will agree that a BBC that can flourish in a world of globalised media companies is the right thing for the UK and the right thing for audiences.' Cohen also used his address to lay out the BBC's defence of the licence fee. 'It would be crazy to damage, undermine or deflate what we have. The BBC will need to keep reforming itself and proving it provides value for money. In the last few days we have outlined the hundreds of millions of annual savings we have already achieved. But our choice in the end is between protecting, cherishing and enabling a great British institution or seeking to diminish it.' Negotiations with the next government (even though it's likely to still be Tory in shape) for the BBC's charter and licence fee renewal are due to begin after the general election in May. Of course, as one might expect, the Daily Scum Mail were very sympathetic towards Cohen's comments.
And, continuing this long-overdue trend of actually standing up for themselves and giving their whinging critics a damn good slap across their slavvering, disgraceful chops for their trouble, the BBC press team has come out fighting against the odious pond scum at the Sun with a pair of infographic fact-checks, which respond to repeated criticism from the scummish right-wing newspaper owned by the millionaire tyrant and phone-hacking apologist Rupert Murodch (of whom no one is scared any more). Well, it's about time they showed a bit of frigging backbone as well when dealing with this type of sick agenda-soaked nonsense. In two separate pieces of editorial vomit about the BBC, the tabloid accused the broadcaster of having the same 'left-wing prejudices' as 'the Guardian-reading elite' (whoever they are) and of handing out top jobs to friends of the senior bosses. The Sun's opinion pieces suggested that the BBC is no longer value for money and accused Director General Tony Hall of increasing the number of senior managers earning more than the Prime Minister. On the BBC Media Centre, the broadcaster has responded with blunt corrections and responses to the accusations, simply titled The facts behind the Sun's editorials, 2 to 3 December 2014. The BBC points out that the number of senior managers has been cut by thirty six per cent since 2009 and that their salaries are between twenty to eighty per cent less than their commercial rivals, ITV and Sky (the latter, of course, also part-owned by Murdoch). Specifically, they state that the Director General's wages are half of what Sky and ITV pay. Responding to criticism that they have handed out 'jobs to friends', the corporation argued that when appropriate, they have cut back on recruitment costs by fast-tracking the hiring process. The BBC concluded its response with the stat that public support for the licence fee has risen by twenty two per cent since 2004.
The BBC has played down the significance of a row with the Conservatives after George Osborne accused it of 'hyperbolic coverage' of government spending cuts during a Today programme interview. John Humphrys, the Today presenter who interviewed Osborne on Thursday morning for the Radio 4 programme, later told the Gruniad Morning Star the comments by a BBC colleague that the chancellor was criticising were 'obviously a joke.' Humphrys added: 'But, politicians tend to lose their sense of humour the closer it gets to a general election.' The chancellor was, apparently, angry about an earlier Today interview between Humphrys and Norman Smith, during which BBC assistant political editor said of the Office for Budget Responsibility's report: 'When you sit down and read the OBR report it reads like a book of doom. It is utterly terrifying.' Smith said that that public spending would 'have to be hacked back to the levels of the 1930s in terms of as a proportion of GDP and that is an extraordinary concept.' He added: 'You're back to the land of The Road To Wigan Pier.' This prompted Osborne to tell Humphrys that when he listened to Smith's comments it was like 'listening to a rewind of a tape of 2010 with BBC correspondents saying Britain is returning to a sort of George Orwell world', which was 'such nonsense. I would have thought the BBC would have learned from the last four years that its totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what has actually happened,' Osborne chundered. 'What I reject is the totally hyperbolic BBC coverage on spending cuts. I had all that when I was interviewed four years ago and has the world fallen in? No, it has not.' It is understood that no one from the government's communications team has contacted the Today production team directly about Smith's comments, although in the daily briefing with lobby journalists later in the morning a spokesman for the Prime Minister said David Cameron 'agreed' with Osborne's comments. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We are satisfied our coverage and analysis has been fair and balanced, and we gave the chancellor plenty of opportunity to respond on the programme. We will continue to ask ministers the questions our audience want answered.' The government's director of communications, Craig Oliver, has previously had an argument with Smith outside Downing Street in 2012 that was captured on camera, in which he accused Smith of alleged 'bias' over coverage of The Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and rank scummery. In December 2012 Oliver texted several BBC News executives to complain about a Today interview between Osborne and Evan Davis, then a presenter on the Radio 4 show, about the autumn statement of that year. Oliver was understood to have been called back by an unnamed BBC executive who 'acknowledged' that the interview 'could have been better handled', after Oliver whinged about Davis's repeated interruptions of Osborne. The BBC said that it had 'responded informally' to Oliver, that it had 'reviewed the interview' and that there was 'no question of any kind of reprimand' for Davis. The interviewer, responding to a suggestion from Tom Newton Dunn, the Sun's political editor, that he had been 'told off', tweeted that this was very much not the case: 'There is some confusion around just now, but just to clarify: I have not been told off for the way I interviewed the chancellor today.'
The government's ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales is unlawful, the High Court has declared. Under the current rules prisoners are prevented from receiving parcels unless they have 'exceptional circumstances', such as a medical condition. Mr Justice Collins said that he could see 'no good reason' to restrict access to books for prisoners. The legal challenge was brought by Barbara Gordon-Jones, a life sentence prisoner at Send Jail in Surrey.

ITV has closed the Good Morning Britain New York office. The announcement comes after a 'review' of the programme's operations, the Gruniad Morning Star reports. ITV's latest flop breakfast show launched in April as a replacement for the fiasco that was Daybreak. Producers of the show spent time in the US to analyse the success of American breakfast TV magazine programmes, but it has been announced that the New York bureau will now close. An ITV spokesperson said: 'USA news coverage will remain an integral part of the ITV's breakfast output. ITV is proud of the new show, and we are pleased by the recent audience increases.' The producer from the New York bureau will now transfer to the Los Angeles office. Over the past week Good Morning Britain has averaged around six hundred thousand viewers, compared to BBC Breakfast's average of around 1.4 million weekday viewers which is a situation which had remained pretty much constant since Good Morning Britain began. Speaking earlier in the year, ITV controller Peter Fincham insisted that the channel remains 'right behind' Good Morning Britain. Which is, of course, exactly what they used to say, regularly, about Daybreak, right up until a few weeks before the chucked it into the gutter along with all the other turds. 'We would like it to be a popular offering at breakfast. But I am not expecting an overnight transformation in the ratings,' said Fincham at the Edinburgh International TV Festival in August. 'We are coming into the autumn with the kids back at school and it would be nice to see the audience rise, and I dare say it will.'
Larry Lamb is joining New Tricks on BBC1 as a replacement for Dennis Waterman. The EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey actor will join series twelve of the popular crime drama in the second episode as former officer Ted Case. He will join Tamzin Outhwaite, Denis Lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst in the UCOS team. Lamb said: 'I'm thrilled to have been asked to join such a well-loved show. The writing and the cast are top notch, and I'm really looking forward to getting started.' Executive Producer Myar Craig-Brown added: 'Larry is a fantastic addition to the show and Ted Case will slot in perfectly with Sacha, Steve and Dan in the UCOS team. The stories for series twelve are absolutely classic New Tricks – a mix of gripping whodunits solved by witty, likeable characters that the audience can root for and identify with.' Waterman - the show's sole remaining original cast member - announced that he was leaving at the start of the twelfth series. His exit will be shown in an opening two-part story when New Tricks returns in 2015.

The first look at Stephen Fry and Kiefer Sutherland in Sky Arts' Marked has been revealed. The comedy-drama, which forms part of Sky's Playhouse Presents series, sees Sutherland play a debt-ridden character who agrees to perform an assassination for his neighbour. However, he doesn't expect to run into Fry's Father Christmas in the target's house. Fry said: 'It's so unfair to call Kiefer Jack Bauer because his career has been incredibly rich outside Jack Bauer. But to see Kiefer playing such an incompetent character is just blissful. Someone who doesn't know how to load a gun, someone who doesn't know how to climb a gate or do anything just makes me weep with joy.' Marked will be shown on Thursday 18 December at 10pm on Sky Arts 1.
Yer Jezza Clarkson has suggested he does not fear losing his Top Gear job, arguing that the global popularity of the motoring show proves the programme is not that 'awful.' Albeit, the only people who have ever suggested that it is are those with a specific - often sick - agenda against either it or the BBC (or both). Mirra, Gruniad Morning Star and Daily Scum Mail readers, basically. And, let's be honest, nobody whose views actually matter give much of a crap about what those clowns think. About anything. Jezza and Richard Hammond also confirmed on Friday that the upcoming Top Gear Christmas special will feature footage filmed in Argentina that caused controversy earlier this year. Filming of the Top Gear show earlier this year prompted a, probably entirely manufactured, diplomatic row –after Argentinian Falklands war veterans allegedly 'took offence' at Clarkson driving a Porsche with the registration number H982 FLK. Because, of course, normal people get angry about number plates all the time, don't they? In an interview with Chris Evans, on BBC Radio 2's Breakfast Show on Friday, Evans asked if he ever feared for his job. 'No, because you either have a job or you go and be a milkman, that is what I used to do,' he said. 'You go and do something else. You could always go and be a newspaper columnist.' Jezza, who has made an estimated tens of millions of pounds from the global licensing of the Top Gear franchise - which, to be fair, was his idea in the first place - said that the enduring popularity of the show proved that it cannot be was bad as is often suggested by its detractors and the professional offence-takers who seem to enjoy watching each episode just to find stuff they can then whinge about. 'I like doing this job, but if somebody decides one day actually said "you know what, you really have gone too far or you really are awful", then you go do something else. The way I work it is this, if Top Gear were as awful as people say it is it wouldn't be as popular as it is. And it is popular [in the UK], and around the world as well.' Evans was interviewing Jezza and Richard ahead of the broadcast of the Argentina Christmas special. The presenters and crew were forced to abandon filming and flee the country in early October, in such haste that they were forced to abandon the cars they had been driving behind at the side of the road. The incident sparked an international spat, with the Argentinian ambassador to the UK demanding a public apology from Clarkson and lodging a formal complaint with the BBC. One which they declined to give and, frankly, told the Argentine ambassador to try putting their own house in order before they start lecturing others on how to behave. Apologised for 'The Dissapeared' yet, have you? The Top Gear production team have insisted the apparent reference to the Falklands war in the number plate was entirely coincidental. Evans asked Clarkson how Top Gear was dealing with the issues that were front-page news in the editing of the Christmas special. 'You can only show what happened in one way, because what happened is what happened,' he said. 'Honestly, I'm not concerned, we have a piece of film which shows what happened. The ending, that was all provided by what happened, that actually writes itself.' Evans asked if Jezza could understand why the Argentinians whinged the way they did. 'Absolutely not,' he said. 'You've seen us drive through India and Viet'nam and across Africa a couple of times and it is the same sort of thing "oh no look, Jeremy has fallen over" and "look, isn't Richard Hammond small?" So there is no preparation in our minds to lead us to believe what would happen happened in the end. May, Hammond and me were all horrified by what happened because someone could have been killed. Were it not for the actions of a couple of the guys on the crew, someone could well have been killed.' Hammond told Evans that in the months in the run-up to the upcoming broadcast 'everyone has had their say' and now it was time to see what happened on film. 'The fairest thing is for people to watch and come to their own conclusions,' he said. 'When it comes to that bit, the bit that caused the controversy, there is footage of it [and] that will go on the TV.'

Meanwhile, Jezza has talked about the 'difficult year' he has been through and his views on Nigel Farage - which may surprise some of Jezza's more politically motivated critics. Talking to Jonathan Ross, Jezza admitted it had been a 'trying period' for both himself and for the show. 'You've been there,' he told Rossy. 'I know I've been there and it's not nice,' he added, making reference to Ross's own past difficulties with various louse tabloids - most notably the Daily Scum Mail. 'But you know, here we are, we made it through, nobody died and so let's carry on.' Clarkson again denied that the infamous registration plate which triggered the Top Gear team's hasty exit from Argentina, had been deliberate. 'We don't check registration numbers before setting off. How do I know I haven't driven through Scotland with H746 CDN - referring to Culloden - or France referring to Agincourt? I may well have done that in the past.' When pressed by Ross, who declared that, initially, he 'could not believe that you didn't do it on purpose,' Clarkson responded: 'I've given up trying to say to people that it was a coincidence because nobody believes us. Even if we had done it on purpose, and we didn't, but even if we had, it didn't warrant the reaction that we got because it was barbaric.' He went on to describe the attack by thug Argentinians, angry at this perceived reference to the war with Britain: 'Some of our guys were injured. Thousands of people turned up on the streets with bricks, paving stones, pick-axe handles, the whole nine yards and were intent on doing some serious damage to our crew,' he said. 'I hadn't gone down there to spark fury, we hadn't gone to upset anyone. I wish I could make fun of that but it just wasn't funny. We didn't know at that time that they do throw like girls,' he said, before hastily amending that to. 'They throw like children? They throw like small babies? They throw like puppies?' Miranda Hart, another guest on the show, later challenged Jezza to an orange throwing competition. Jezza also noted that he is not going to run as a parliamentary candidate for UKiP, laughing off such stories as a media smokescreen. 'That is absolute rubbish. Of course I'm not going to stand. That's Google-shunting, Jonathan. It means that when somebody writes a story in a newspaper that you don't much care for, you just think "I'd rather that wasn't sitting at the top of Google,"' he explained. 'So I will then go on Twitter and [joke] "I'm thinking of standing as an MP against Ed Miliband." All the newspapers print stories and then suddenly the story you don't want sitting there is shunted way down to page forty three.' He went on: 'I'm massively pro-European so it becomes rather difficult to support a party that wants primarily to get you out of Europe. Anyway there doesn’t seem to be a party for UKiP there's just one man in a Barbour with a pint and a fag.'

Yer actual Sir Paul McCartney MBE has recalled the 'horrific' moment when he learned of the murder of his former Be-Atles bandmate the alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon. Speaking on The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV, he also said he felt 'very lucky' that he eventually made up with Lennon after the rifts that split the pair in the early 1970s. Lennon was extremely shot to death outside his apartment in New York on 8 December 1980. 'For days couldn't think that he was gone. It was just a huge shock,' said Macca. He added: "I was at home and I got a phone call. It was early in the morning. It was just so horrific, you couldn't take it in.' Sir Paul said it was 'very difficult' to relay the news to his own family. He added: 'For me it was just so sad that I wasn't going to see him again and we weren't going to hang.' Lennon's murderer, Mark Chapman, reportedly said he had heard voices in his head telling him to kill the musician. He was sentenced to twenty years to life in 1981 after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and was denied parole again in August this year. Sir Paul told Ross: 'The phrase kept coming in my head "The jerk of all jerks." This is not even a guy politically motivated, it's just some total random thing.' After the Beatles split up in April 1970, Macca and Lennon did not see each other again for four years. Referring to the band's break-up, he said: 'We got to a point where we got really crappy over business. To me that rubbed off on me and for years I thought "oh me and John, bitter rivals" and all this stuff.' But Sir Paul said that they resumed speaking terms again after both of their wives gave birth in the mid-1970s. He said that the fighting between them had became 'boring' and they bonded over 'normal stuff' - being new fathers, cats and bread-making recipes. 'I'm so glad because it would have been the worst thing in the world to have this great relationship that then soured and he gets killed, so there was some solace in the fact that we got back together. We were good friends,' said Sir Paul. 'The story about the break-up, it's true but it's not the main bit, the main bit was the affection.'
A man who went to prison for hiring a hitman to kill his estranged wife and her partner is mounting an appeal against his conviction, claiming he was set up by a Scum of the World reporter and an acquaintance. Jasbinder Pal Heer, from the West Midlands, was exposed in the now defunct Sunday tabloid in July 2007 after meeting Neville Thurlbeck, a reporter with the paper whom he believed was a hitman. The paper carried a prominent story headlined Kill my wife and her lover for 3k which explained how it had uncovered Heer’s 'evil plot' and had passed on recordings of the meeting to the police. Following the story, Heer was jailed for five and a half years after a jury found him very guilty of soliciting the murder of his estranged wife, Monica Aheer, and her new partner, Harsarup Lal Mehmi. But Heer, who was released in April 2010, still protests his innocence and claims that he was'“coached' into saying he wanted his wife dead by a family friend, the prosecution’s chief witness, Ronald Sutton, a career criminal. Now, following the closure - in shame and ignominy - of the newspaper and Thurlbeck's subsequent conviction for illegally intercepting telephone calls during the recent phone-hacking trials, Heer is launching an appeal which is likely to place further scrutiny on the way the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World operated. The move comes as the Crown Prosecution Service begins contacting defendants in twenty five cases where concerns have arisen about evidence given by the paper's former star undercover journalist, Mazher Mahmood. Normally someone convicted of a crime has twenty eight days to mount an appeal after they are sentenced. But in special cases, when new material has come to light which may help their case, for example, they can launch an appeal later. Heer filed his appeal last year but held back until the conclusion of Operation Weeting, the police investigation into endemic phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. Since his conviction, Heer has been barred from having any direct contact with his son, although they exchange cards and letters. According to the grounds of the appeal, seen by the Observer Motning Star, Heer claims that he was 'set up' by Thurlbeck and Sutton during the meeting in a hotel in Coventry. He also alleges that he was 'in fear' of Sutton who had told him what to say during the meeting. Heer's legal team claim that Thurlbeck’s role in the phone-hacking scandal, for which he extremely received a six-month prison sentence, raises 'clear question marks over the integrity of the investigation which led to the prosecution of the applicant and the safety of his conviction.' The appeal also cites the judgment of Mr Justice Eady following a claim brought by Max Mosley against the Scum of the World after it revealed that the motor sport supremo took part in a spanking orgy with prostitutes. Eady set out a detailed critique of Thurlbeck's credibility, concluding that 'it would not be safe to place unqualified reliance on his evidence as to what took place.' In his appeal submission, according to the newspaper, Heer's barrister, Patrick O'Connor of Doughty Street Chambers, said the 'fresh evidence' which had arisen since his client's conviction 'rendered it unsafe' and that there was evidence that the Scum of the World and Thurlbeck, in particular, 'were prepared to stop at nothing in order to publish an exclusive story.' Crucial to the case is a telephone conversation between Sutton and Heer, the contents of which are disputed by both men. Suggestions that the jury should examine the credibility of Sutton were played down at the trial. According to Heer's legal team, Sutton, who was paid around three thousand five hundred smackers by the paper for his role in convicting Heer, 'had a truly prodigious criminal record.' At the time of the trial he allegedly had convictions for eighty one offences stretching over forty years. Of these, fifty nine were for dishonesty and seven were for various violent offences, including kidnap, wounding, assault with intent to rob, and harassment the Observer claims. However, the judge told the jury that the convictions 'may have little relevance on that important issue of the defendant's intention.' According to Heer's legal team, 'the original exhibits in the case have been destroyed and only a relatively modest amount of paperwork still remains.' At the end of the recorded meeting in the hotel room, after Heer had left, Sutton said to Thurlbeck: 'He said exactly what I wanted to, did he not?' In response, Thurlbeck said: 'Yes, I do not care how you do it, I do not want to know.' Sutton then said: 'I just want him to fuck off. He's in the net as we used to say in the good old days, ain't it?' A spokeswoman for Biteback, Thurlbeck's publishers, said that he would be 'putting his side of the story' into the public domain in the near future. 'The judge in the court case said he was satisfied there was no doubt in his mind that Heer had solicited Mr Thurlbeck to murder both his ex-wife and her lover,' the spokeswoman said. 'Thurlbeck taped and videoed the meeting and the judge said the transcript made "chilling reading." The whole episode is recounted in vivid detail in his book Tabloid Secrets which Biteback will be publishing next April.'

And, as noted, criminal convictions in twenty five cases are to be re-examined over 'concerns' about evidence provided by the undercover Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood. The Crown Prosecution Service said that it would review the convictions and had dropped three 'live' cases following the collapse of the trial of former X-Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos in July. The Gruinad claims to have, separately, 'learned' (ie. someone's snitched it up to them like a dirty stinking Copper's Nark) that another of the recent investigations halted was 'a major football spot-fixing inquiry' in which thirteen men were arrested following a Sun on Sunday 'sting' in December 2013. The CPS review could lead to the convictions of dozens of people being deemed unsafe, including some who were jailed on the basis of 'potentially compromised' evidence given by Mahmood, the so-called Fake Sheikh. The re-examination of twenty five old cases follows a judge's decision to halt the Contostavlos trial because he said there were 'strong grounds for believing Mr Mahmood told me lies' and 'had been manipulating the evidence.' Mahmood, a former Scum of the World and Sunday Times journalist, denies any wrongdoing. He has been very suspended by the Sun on Sunday. The Gruniad says 'it is understood that concerns about Mahmood's evidence led to thirteen men being released from police bail in July after being arrested in a football spot-fixing investigation launched following a Sun on Sunday sting in December 2013.' Those arrested included former Premier League striker DJ Campbell, Oldham Athletic's Cristian Montaño and Tranmere Rovers' forty one-year-old defender Ian Goodison. Also held were ex-Portsmouth player Sam Sodje and his brothers Akpo – a striker with Tranmere Rovers – and Stephen, a businessman who told the Gruniad that he was 'angry' the case was ever brought in the first place. 'We are delighted that we have been released, but feel very aggrieved at how it came about and how it was reported in the press,' Stephen Sodje said. 'The last ten months on police bail haven't been great, but hopefully we'll now get the chance to tell our side of the story.' Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represented scores of celebrities in phone-hacking claims, told the Gruniad that he was representing sixteen possible victims of Mahmood 'stings' spanning several years. His clients include the former soap actor John Alford and former page three model Emma Morgan. 'What we are talking about here is, in financial terms, bigger than phone-hacking ever was because people have lost their livelihoods, their homes and their incomes over a period of time,' Lewis said. 'It would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of these cases, but there are a lot of people whose convictions are unsafe and they will be pursuing the appropriate appeals against those convictions, which might have been many years ago.' The CPS said that it was 'in the process' of providing the defendants in twenty five cases with material that 'might cast doubt upon the safety of any convictions.' It said that there were no cases in which defendants were still in prison, but that it had identified three live cases where 'there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction' after reexamining evidence provided by Mahmood. In September, the CPS offered no evidence against Doctor Majeed Ridha and pharmacist Murtaza Gulamhusein, who were accused of illegally supplying an abortion drug, following concerns over Mahmood's evidence. Charges against Leon Starino Anderson and co-defendant Ashley Gordon were also dismissed. A spokesman for the Sun on Sunday said: 'We are aware of the CPS statement. Mr Mahmood remains suspended and we are continuing our internal investigation into the matter.'
As far as the time-honoured Fleet Street festive tradition of 'Christmas TV repeats shocker' stories is concerned, Thursday's Daily Mirra was the equivalent of blasting off and nuking the entire planet from orbit. The Sun devoted most of page nine to Scandal of Xmas telly … Déjà view and the Daily Scum Mail ran with Here we go again ... Christmas of TV re-runs on page twenty seven - while the Mirra - who, obviously, didn't have any stories gleamed from phone-hacking ready to run that da. Oh no, very hot water - splashed on Sixty Three per cent of Xmas TV will be repeats, on pages one and five. Their story opens: 'Fury erupted last night as it was revealed more TV repeats will be shown this Christmas than ever before.' One suspects there will certainly be fury in the Daily Scum Express newsroom at apparently having missed out on this hardy festive perennial. Given that the vast majority of the UK's hundreds of digital channels show almost nothing but repeats, the amount of airtime they account for on any given day is probably North of ninety per cent so, actually, sixty three per cent seems a rather low average. Then, of course, not entirely unexpectedly, a bunch of lice scum bastard politicians attempted to crowbar themselves into the story by raising the matter in parliament. Because, clearly, they're got nothing better or more important to discuss in the Commons. Like, ways in which they can screw up the country even more than they have already managed. Or, perhaps, finding different ways to fiddle their expenses in more creative ways. And then, they wonder why so few people bother to vote for them these days.
Spectre will be the title of the twenty fourth official James Bond film, its makers have announced. Director Sam Mendes revealed the title at a launch event at Pinewood Studios, where principal photography is due to begin on Monday. Daniel Craig will play 007 for the fourth time in the film, to be released in the UK on 23 October 2015. Other cast members were also announced at Thursday's event, which was beamed around the world. They include Sherlock's Andrew Scott, as a Whitehall-based character called Denbigh and Guardians Of The Galaxy actor Dave Bautista, playing a henchman called Mister Hinx. Italian actress Monica Bellucci and France's Lea Seydoux have been unveiled as the new 'Bond girls', named Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann respectively. As previously reported, double Oscar winner Christoph Waltz will have a role in the film, playing a character called Oberhauser. The name of the character is the same as that of Bond's former ski instructor, though it has been rumoured that Waltz will really be playing Bond's old nemesis Ernst Blofeld. Spectre - Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion - was the name of the international crime syndicate, whose 'Number One' was Blofeld his very self. The organisation featured in the Bond films of the 1960s and was part of a legal tussle with a rival film producer that was recently resolved. Thursday's event also saw the unveiling of the Aston Martin DB10 which Bond will be driving in his latest screen adventure. The car manufacturer had had a long association with the James Bond series, starting with the classic DB5 that featured in Goldfinger in 1964. Returning cast members Ralph Fiennes (M), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Ben Whishaw (Q) and Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner) were also presented before the world's media, alongside Craig himself. Craig first played Ian Fleming's legendary secret agent in 2006's Casino Royale, then in 2008's Quantum of Solace and, most recently, in 2012's Skyfall. 'We've got an amazing cast and, I think, a better script than we had last time,' Craig told the BBC's Lizo Mzimba after the announcement. But he refused to confirm that Waltz would be playing Blofeld in the film, saying people would have to 'wait and see. We started something in Skyfall, it felt like a beginning of something,' the actor added. 'This feels like a continuation of that. We're going to put all of those elements in and much more.' According to the film studio, the plot will see 'a cryptic message from Bond's past send him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind Spectre.' The 007 production will be based at Pinewood and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Solden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee. 'All of them are amazing places,' said Mendes. 'I'm very excited to be going to these locations over seven months, which is how long we'll be shooting.' Producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were 'excited to announce Daniel's fourth instalment in the series.' They also said they were 'thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of Skyfall with Spectre.' John Logan has written the script for Spectre alongside writing team Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, while Hoyte van Hoytema will be its director of photography. The Dutch cinematographer of Her and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy recently wowed audiences with his work on Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. Skyfall was the highest grossing film of all time in the UK and made more than $1.1bn at the box office worldwide. The film also picked up two Oscars: one for singer Adele's title song and another for sound editing.

Jarrett Rivers became part of FA Cup folklore by scoring in the ninetieth minute to send non-league Blyth Spartans through to the third round at the expense of League Two side Hartlepool. Rivers - who works in his mother's newsagent - broke forward on the right, produced a lovely step-over in the box before firing in a low angled shot that beat the reach of Scott Flinders. It sparked jubilant scenes as the scorer was engulfed by his team-mates, while some of the eleven hundred Spartans fans that travelled the forty miles down the north East coast to the 'Pool ran on, overwhelmed with emotion in front of the BBC TV cameras. However, the goalmouth drama was far from over as Hartlepool, bottom of League Two, mounted one last foray forward and came within inches of keeping alive their Cup hopes when Matthew Bates's strike came off the crossbar. But the Northumberland club, three divisions and sixty five places below their opponents, survived the six minutes of stoppage time to add 2014-15 to 1972, 1978 and 2009 in the list of occasions when they have reached the third-round. And if they reproduce the heart and guts on display at Victoria Park then perhaps English football's seventh tier side could emulate their exploits of thirty six years ago when they famously reached the fifth round (and, came within a minute of making it to the quarter final). Blyth hero Rivers said afterwards: 'I'm living off that goal for the rest of my life', while his manager Tom Wade told BBC Sport the victory was 'written in the stars.' Jonathan Franks's header gave Hartlepool a deserved lead for their first-half domination, before Stephen Turnbull levelled after the break for a rejuvenated Blyth, with a quality free-kick that found the keeper's top right. 'I said to the lads if we can stay in this game, these lads are getting beat week in and week out, and we have a chance,' said Turnbull, who is doing an apprenticeship with a ferry company. 'They are expected to batter us but we hung in there, sneaked a goal and got the other. We have an honest bunch of lads, everyone grafts. We are just buzzing.' Blyth are ball number fifty two in the hat for Monday's draw, when all the Premier League teams enter the competition. The draw will be televised live on BBC2. Rivers' late, late strike was heartbreak for the League Two's basement side. They created several chances in the first forty five minutes. Aside from Franks' goal - converted from Neil Austin's cross - Sidney Schmeltz had a header brilliantly saved by Peter Jeffries, while Marvin Harewood found the side-netting and Austin had two shots blocked. 'Pool were also denied when Harewood's strike at 1-1 was ruled not to have fully crossed the line; TV replays proved inconclusive. 'In the first half we were pretty good but didn't take our opportunities,' said their manager Paul Murray. 'The second half was diabolical. There was no fight, no passion, we thought we had it won. That's been the story in the league as well. There were angry words exchanged in the dressing room.' His opposite number Tom Wade added: 'We tried to keep the players calm at half-time. We knew we would have a few chances and if we could stay in the game after sixty minutes we would turn them over. We have a very young side, they are a brilliant set of lads, their attitude is fantastic. It is a great night and I am so proud.' On Saturday morning, Hartlepool made manager Murray the scapegoat for the and sacked his ass. The thirty eight-year-old had only been in charge since October after the departure of Colin Cooper. The former Oldham coach was Hartlepool's sixth manager since Mick Wadsworth's departure in December 2011 with no boss since Danny Wilson from 2006 to 2008 lasting two years in the job.

Speaking of whinging whingers with a sick agenda, Jeff Stelling launched a scathing attack on the BBC over its coverage of the Hartlepool versus Blyth match on Saturday. The Sky Sports presenter - and, completely co-incidentally, highly vocal Hartlepool supporter - criticised the rival broadcaster for filming pundit Alan Shearer inside the Conference North side's dressing room before the game, spurring the players on to their stirring deeds. Instead of Stelling, perhaps, concentrating his considerable ire on the fact that his own team's players let their supporters down so very badly with their woeful, inept and cowardly display. Just a thought to slip into your toaster there, Jeff and see if it pops up brown. 'There will be heroes on that pitch, make sure it's one of you,' Shearer told the Spartans players ahead of the match, a statement which Monkey Hanger Stelling thought was an example of BBC bias. He said: 'It's unacceptable to have Alan Shearer in the Blyth Spartans dressing room before the game saying "there will be heroes, make sure it's one of you in green and white." There are licence payers in Hartlepool too. BBC, hang your head in shame.' However, Stelling - who, of course, always presents Soccer Saturday with a complete lack of loud, crass, crowing bias whenever Hartlepool's latest appalling performance is the subject of any discussion - went on to suggest that he does not hold Shearer personally responsible for the segment, oh no, very hot water, as the former Newcastle striker was likely 'doing what he's told by a producer.' The idea that Alan Shearer does anything when 'told' to, by anyone is, of course, the biggest joke of this entire comedy saga. Shearer himself was unavailable for comment. But, if this blogger was Stelling, he'd certainly watching out for his nose if he happens to be marking Shearer at a corner any time sooner. Those elbows have felled far better men than you, kidda.
Two days after Blyth's memorable victory, another grand old North East non-league club with a cup fighting tradition, Gateshead, progressed to the third round for the first time in sixty years with a victory over eighth-tier side Warrington. The Northern Premier League Division One North outfit had, of course, reached the second round after their shcok giant-killing 1-0 win over Exeter City which was featured live on the BBC last month. Warrington fell behind to an early Gateshead goal from the former Newcastle midfielder Matty Pattison, who swept home Rob Ramshaw's cutback from the byline. Pattison and Danny Wright both hit the woodwork for The Heed, for whom former Sunderland winger John Oster was outstanding in midfield, before Wright sealed the victory in the last minute. The substitute capitalised on an error by Warrington goalkeeper Karl Willis to slide the ball into an empty net. Lee Gaskell's acrobatic volley that went just wide was as close as the visitors came.

Premier League leaders Moscow Chelski FC suffered their first defeat of the season as they were beaten at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved, though unsellable, Newcastle in their fifteenth top-flight game of the campaign. The Magpies took the lead when Papiss Demba Cissé his very self slotted home after Gary Cahill missed Sammy Ameobi's low cross. An Eden Hazard shot hit a Newcastle upright before Moussa Sissoko set up supersub Cissé for another tap-in, his seventh goal of the season. The hosts then had Steven Taylor sent off for a second yellow card but, despite Didier Drogba pulling one back for the Russians, United held on for the win. Moscow Chelski FC piled forward late on and Diego Costa had a shot tipped over by twenty one-year-old goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, who was making his first team début having come on as a half-time substitute for the injured Rob Elliot. Newcastle had beaten the Blues in their last two league games at St James' Park but a repeat appeared unlikely considering the marauding form of their visitors. However, a heroic defensive performance, marshalled by centre-back and captain Fabricio Coloccini, was the foundation of a victory which ended Moscow Chelski's hopes of setting a new club record of twenty four matches unbeaten in all competitions and, as a consequence, strutting around like they owned the gaff. The defeat will also end talk of the Torpedo Stamford Bridge side repeating The Arse's 'Invincibles' by going the whole league season without losing and gives the Moscow side's title rivals the chance to make up ground. Jose Mourinho had insisted that it was 'impossible' to remain unbeaten all season and he was proven dead right as his side were frustrated by a disciplined and organised Magpies side, much in the way they were in a goalless draw at Blunderland last weekend. Before the break, Moscow Chelski FC were limited to a couple of Willian strikes which went wide, a Cahill header over the bar and a well-struck Oscar overhead kick past the frame of the goal. The hosts gradually grew in confidence as they quelled the Blues' threat and might have taken a surprise lead. Ameobi found Ayoze Perez and his sliding pass released Jack Colback, but the midfielder was thwarted when Moscow Chelski's keeper, Thibaut Courtois, saved his close range shot with a foot. It was easy to see how Newcastle had lost just once in nine games but they suffered a setback when goalkeeper Elliot failed to emerge for the second half, having injured himself taking a goal-kick. With regular keeper Tim Krul already out injured, that meant a debut for young Alnwick, whose first piece of action was to punch away a Cesc Fabregas free-kick assuredly. Alnwick should have been tested again when another Fabregas free-kick found John Mikel Obi in space at the near post only for the midfielder to head wide, wastefully. The miss was immediately punished when, at the other end, Cahill missed a low Ameobi cross and Cissé who had just come on as a substitute slotted in from close range. Moscow Chelski exerted more pressure but, forty seconds after a Hazard shot came back off a post, Newcastle extended their lead when Cissé scored after a swift counter-attack involving the impressive Colback and Sissoko. A Steven Taylor foul on Andre Schurrle earned the defender his second yellow card left the Magpies a man down for the last ten minutes. And, in a dramatic finale, Drogba gave Moscow Chelski some hope when he nodded in a Fabregas free-kick. However, Newcastle stood firm as Mourinho was left still searching for his first win at St James' Park in five attempts as Moscow Chelski FC manager. After the game, Mourinho was his usual mixture of providing entertaining soundbites and, in equal number, providing sour-faced, graceless, undignified and whinging comments in which he blamed everyone - from the crowd to Newcastle's ball-boys - for his team's defeat. Blamed everyone, that is, except his own players' for their inability to score more goals than their opponents and to defend properly. Alan Pardew, meanwhile, celebrating his a fourth anniversary in charge at St James Park this weekend, will reflect on what a funny old game football can be.

The US space agency's new Orion crew capsule has completed its maiden, unmanned voyage with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico. Drone video sighted the ship descending gently on its parachutes, shortly before it hit the water. US Navy support vessels were on station to capture the floating capsule with the help of divers. Orion is designed eventually to take humans beyond the International Space Station, to destinations such as the Moon and Mars. Its brief four and a half-hour flight was intended to test its critical technologies, like the heat shield and the re-entry parachutes. Commentators on NASA's television channel said that the craft had made 'a bulls-eye' splashdown. 'There's your new spacecraft, America,' mission control commentator Rob Navias said as the capsule neared the water. Orion was launched on a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The orange-coloured triple booster was quickly lost in cloud after clearing the pad but headed effortlessly East out over the Atlantic for a two-lap circuit of the Earth. It was on the second of those two orbits that the Delta's upper-stage took Orion up to an altitude of six thousand kilometres, to set up a 'fast fall' back to the planet. The capsule was expected to attain speeds close to thirty thousand kilometres per hour as it entered the atmosphere, with pressing air likely to have generated temperatures on the ship's underside of up to two thousand degrees. This was one of the key aims of the mission - to see how Orion's thermal protection systems would perform. Engineers will know more when the capsule is returned to land for inspection. Orion is reminiscent of the Apollo command ships which took men to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s, only bigger and with cutting-edge systems. It is being developed alongside a powerful new rocket that will have its own debut in 2017 or 2018. Together, they will form the core capabilities needed to send humans beyond the International Space Station. Friday's mission is but one small step in a very long development programme. Unable to call upon the financial resources of the Apollo era, NASA is instead having to take a patient path. Even if today it had a fully functioning Orion, with its dedicated rocket, the US space agency would not be able to mount a mission to another planetary body because the technologies to carry out surface operations have not been produced yet and it could be the 2030s before we see them all - certainly, to do a Mars mission. To go to the Red Planet would require transfer vehicles, habitation modules and effective supply and communication chains. And fundamental to the outcome of the whole venture would be a descent/ascent solution that enabled people to get down safely to the surface and then get back up again to make the journey home. NASA's chief scientist Ellen Stofan told the BBC: 'We have all these technologies mapped out and we're asking, "what is the most sustainable path we can get on?" And when I say "we", I don't just mean the United States because it's not just NASA that's thinking about this; it's all the space agencies around the world.' To that end, Europe has been asked to provide the 'back end' for all future Orion capsules. This service module is principally the propulsion unit that drives Orion through space. NASA says that it is 'open' to similar contributions from other partners as well. Nonetheless, some commentators, like the respected historian John Logsdon, are worried that the policy as laid out cannot continue in its current guise. 'The first Orion launch with a crew aboard is 2020-21 and then nothing very firmly is defined after that, although of course NASA has plans. That's too slow-paced to keep the launch teams sharp, to keep everyone engaged. It's driven by the lack of money, not the technical barriers,' he said. But there is no doubting the enthusiasm within NASA for the Orion project. Rex Waldheim flew on the very last shuttle mission in 2011 and is now assisting the design of the capsule's interior systems. He told BBC News: 'The people that are actually going to fly in Orion - I just can't imagine the thrill they're going to have when they sit here at the Kennedy Space Centre atop the rocket, ready to go to the Moon or to Mars or an asteroid - these incredible destinations. It's just going to be spectacular.'
French fries are reportedly being airlifted to Japan to fill a supply gap brought about by a dockworkers' dispute. The Japanese arm of McDonald's has been having problems since mid-November, AFP reports. Not only are the Japanese chip-deprived, but butter has been in short supply too.
Nigella Lawson - she has her knockers - might be known as the most innuendo-laden cook on TV, but even she was, seemingly, left mortified when she realised just how much cleavage she had shown off during the return of The Taste in the USA this week. Returning to the third series of the - not very good - culinary show along with Ludo Lefebrve, Anthony Bourdain and Marcus Samuelsson, the fifty four-year-old appeared in a low-cut blue dress. Apparently, it wasn't just the fact that she had to send one of her team home that stressed her out, as she was left feeling 'mortified' when she realised just how much of her décolletage viewers had seen. You get many of those to the pound, dear blog reader.
People with extremely large bottoms should lose weight before travelling on commuter trains, an MP suggested this week after a journey where she claims she was 'crushed' by a man's large buttocks. One wonders why she's complaining since you normally have to pay good money for that sort of thing down Soho. Or, so this blogger has been led to understand. Former public health minister Anne Milton sent out a series of tweets about the posterior of the man next to her on the 7.34am train from Waterloo. She claimed that she had been squashed by the man's huge rear until he was 'roused from his slumber.' She then said, 'If you are going to sit on one of those seats for three people, you need to take up one third of the seat. If your bottom is bigger than a third then you need to reduce its size.'
Meanwhile, Cambridge University students have launched a Rear of the Year-style competition again, despite heavy criticism last year from women's groups. Twelve naked undergraduates - six female and six male - have been photographed from behind for the controversial Best Bums competition. Most of the students have been pictured in the grounds of their college but others ventured to the rooftops for a more picturesque photo. Others stripped naked on the banks of the River Cam while one male undergraduate posed for his picture next to a confused bull. Katie, who reads English at Sidney Sussex, posed on the roof of her college dressed in just blue stockings. Another girl called Lauren, who is reading History of Art at Pembroke, is pictured next to the river gazing at King's College chapel. Nick, who reads Classics at Girton College, was pictured standing on the chair of the president of the Cambridge Union. And Stanley, who studies English at Fitzwilliam College, is seen posing on the steps of a college chapel. Each photo is accompanied by a tongue-in-the-cheek comment with Nick stating that 'freedom of expression is a vital and unalienable right in a post-Millian society.' Which is, obviously, the most articulate excuse for mooning you'll probably ever see, dear blog reader.
Premier Foods, one of the UK's biggest manufacturers, has allegedly been asking its suppliers for payments to continue doing business with the firm. One supplier said the practice - known as pay and stay - was like 'blackmail.' Newsnight claims that the struggling company has received 'millions of pounds' from its suppliers in this way. Premier Foods said that it was 'confident' the scheme did not break any rules under competition law. Which may well be true but that isn't really the point - it's still a sodding scummy way to act. The government said that it was 'concerned by recent reports.' But, of course, it will do nothing about them since this is merely an example of the unacceptable face of capitalism, which they strongly support. The company, which owns brands like Ambrosia, Bisto, Oxo, and yer actual Mr Kipling is alleged to have 'demanded' the payments from suppliers across the country. Which one might suggest is exceedingly bad. Newsnight states that it 'has seen' a letter sent by chief executive Gavin Darby, dated 18 November. He wrote: 'We are aiming to work with a smaller number of strategic suppliers in the future that can better support and invest in our growth ideas.' He added: 'We will now require you to make an investment payment to support our growth. I understand that this approach may lead to some questions. However, it is important that we take the right steps now to support our future growth.' When one supplier raised questions in an e-mail about the annual payments, another member of Premier's staff replied. 'We are looking to obtain an investment payment from our entire supply base and unfortunately those who do not participate will be nominated for de-list.' One of the company's more than one thousand suppliers, Bob Horsley, said he had been 'taken aback' to receive the letter.

British pornography will be censored by new rules which ban video-on demand films from showing acts like spanking, caning and bondage. So, you know, all the kind of things which usually take place on the average Saturday night round Stately Telly Topping Manor, in other words. Harsh. The new rules mean that paid-for porn watched online in the privacy of the home will have to comply with the current British Board of Film Censors guidelines, which cover DVDs bought in sex shops. And from chaps in grubby overcoast - with stains - in the lavatories of public houses and other places of ill-repute. Probably. Videos shot abroad can still be viewed legally, however, but there will be severe restrictions on content which was created in the UK. The new Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 means that porn bought and watched online will have to comply with the 'Eighteen' rating as defined by the BBFC. The BBFC interpretation of these rules is based on a fifty five-year-old law, The Obscene Publications Act of 1959. From now on, material including urolagnia (that urination combined with sexual activity, the smearing of urine on the body or urination onto others for the purposes of merriment and/or japery), face-sitting and vaginal or anal penetration with the entire hand (fisting) or with extremely large dildos, will be cut by censors. As will any scenes featuring female ejaculation. But not, curiously, male ejaculation. Which, seems a bit random and more than a shade sexist, frankly. The Board has strict policies on material which combines sexual detail with activity which is considered 'illegal, harmful, abusive, or involves a lack of consent or the infliction of pain or injury.' So, that's gonna be a severe blow to a lot of people, one imagines. Especially considering that Britain is said to be the world capital of the search term 'strict mistress'.

Clare Balding, the principal anchor of Channel Four Racing for the last two years, will reduce her commitment to the channel's coverage of the sport from forty days to just nine high-profile afternoons in 2015 and 2016 to pursue alternative opportunities outside racing. Balding's agreement to join C4 as its senior racing presenter just months after she achieved national recognition for her work during the BBC's coverage of the London Olympics was seen as a significant coup for the channel when it secured a four-year monopoly on terrestrial racing broadcasts from January 2013. From next year, however, Balding will present coverage only from the Cheltenham Festival in March and Royal Ascot in mid-June. Balding's decision means that Channel Four Racing will lose its most familiar face from coverage of both the Grand National in April and all five of Flat racing's classics, including The Derby and The Oaks in early June. She will also be absent when C4's cameras cover the autumn highlights of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France and Champions Day at Ascot. Still, John McCririck might be avialable, one imagines.
Horrible full-of-his-own-importance glake Jamie Oliver has revealed that he once burned his penis whilst on a date. Which, presumably, given the fact that he is a complete cock, means that he suffered ninety per cent burns.

The actor Ian Fairbairn has died. Ian was a veteran on British television, appearing in a variety of programmes during the 1960s to 1990s, including Emergency Ward-Ten, Z Cars, The Onedin Line, Shoestring, The Professionals, Timeslip and Last Of The Summer Wine. He first appeared in Doctor Who in 1967 playing Questa, a human who lived in a colony secretly ruled by Macra, in the first episode of The Macra Terror. He returned to the series in 1968, playing Mark Gregory, a researcher for International Electromatics in three episodes of the classic Cybermen adventure The Invasion. In 1970 he appeared in the third Doctor story Inferno - a particular favourite of this blogger - as Bromley, a technician who became the first person to mutate into a Primord. In the Can You Hear the Earth Scream? extra on the 2007 Inferno DVD Ian proved to be a good interviewee, cheerfully describing his unease at having to climb up a very high water tower to fight Jon Pertwee via a precarious metal-runged ladder and then being on the wrong end of a blast from an (very cold) CO2 fire extinguisher. His final apperance in the series was in 1976 when he played Doctor Chester, a medical advisor stationed at the South Bend base in Antarctica, in the third episode of The Seeds of Doom. His CV also included appearances in Arrivederci Millwall, The Come-Uppance of Captain Katt, The Cedar Tree, Churchill's People, Spy Trap, Van der Valk, The Lotus Eaters, Ooh La La!, The Pearcross Girls, No Exit, Paul Temple, The Troubleshooters, Softly Softly, Adam Adamant Lives!, Dennis Potter's Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Maigret.

A woman who added Skywalker as her middle name has had her passport cancelled after being told her application was 'frivolous'. Laura Matthews - who is, obviously, not completely a mental - was told that her signature - 'L Skywalker' - infringed a trademark in July this year. She was issued with the document several weeks later, after threatening to take legal action. But she has now been told that the passport was issued 'in error' and has been cancelled. Matthews told the BBC the decision has left her feeling 'upset, frustrated and disappointed.' Not to mention 'unable to travel.' A Home Office spokesman said: 'Protecting the integrity of the UK passport is vital and we do not accept a change of name for frivolous reasons.' In a letter to Matthews, the Passport Office said that its 'published guidance provides that we will refuse to recognise a change of name. If it is made for a bet or frivolous purpose. Additionally, in your case, the signature used in the passport is different to your surname and by your own admission was done for "a laugh." Regrettably, an error was made in issuing your passport,' the letter added. 'I am sorry that the error was made but I have to inform you that your passport will be cancelled.' Matthews, from Southend in Essex, added the middle name using a deed poll in 2008 'for a bit of fun.' She had not renewed her passport since adding the name and experienced several weeks of delays when she tried to do so in April. She was told the delays were because her signature 'infringed a trademark.' Her passport was issued at the end of August after she contacted a law firm specialising in intellectual property law and said that she would take legal action unless her application was approved. Matthews said this was the fourth time the Passport Office had changed its mind about her case. 'Now I'm not sure if it's my signature they have a problem with, or my middle name,' she said. 'All I know it's extremely disappointing that I've been let down again by an organisation which doesn't seem to know if it's coming or going. I don't think I'm going to be able to fight it. I don't know what else I can do.' The Home Office spokesman added: 'We have apologised to the applicant and agreed to meet the cost of a new passport in a name that meets the published guidance.'

And now, to the saddest part of the latest bloggerisationisms. It's been a really bad week for several of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's musical heroes, dear blog reader. Firstly, Ian McLagan, keyboard player for The Small Faces and The Faces, has died aged sixty nine, due to complications from a stroke suffered earlier in the week. 'It is with great sadness and eternal admiration that we report the passing of [a] rock and roll icon,' read a statement on Mac's official website. Ian managed that rarest of things: to be in two great rock'n'roll bands. The irony is that two other men did the same thing, in the same bands – Kenney Jones and the late Ronnie Lane with both The Small Faces and The Faces. McLagan was never the starriest operator in those bands – in The Small Faces, Steve Marriott, one of the great British R&B singers, was usually the focus; in The Faces Ian had Rod Stewart and Rockin' Ronnie Wood strutting their stuff out in front, and Ronnie Lane sometimes stealing the show with his exquisite songwriting – but Ian was crucial to the sound of both. Mac first started playing in bands in the early 1960s, initially using the Hohner Cembalet before switching to a Hammond Organ and Wurlitzer electric piano, as well as occasional guitar. He was influenced by Cyril Davies' All Stars and his first professional group was The Muleskinners, followed by The Boz People with future King Crimson and Bad Company member Boz Burrell. In 1965, Ian was hired, on thirty quid-a-week, to join The Small Faces by their notoriously corrupt manager, Don Arden, replacing original member Jimmy Winston. Once a 'probation' period ended, Ian's pay was promptly reduced to twenty quid a week, which was what the rest of the band were getting. It wasn't until 1997 that the three surviving members started receiving any royalties for the millions of records they sold. McLagan, universally known to fans as Mac, played on all of the memorable Small Faces hits bar their début, 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It?' including 'Lazy Sunday', 'Itchycoo Park' and 'Tin Solider'. The band later became The Faces after the departure of Marriott when Rod Stewart and Rockin' Ronnie Wood joined in 1969 from The Jeff Beck's Group. Ian went on to record and perform with The Rolling Stones and also worked with Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Paul Weller, Frank Black and Bruce Springsteen among many others. In the late 1990s he joined Billy Bragg's band and could be seen playing for audiences who maybe didn't always recognise who the older bloke behind the organ was. That also led to Ian reviving a solo career which had spluttered briefly in the the late 1970s and early 80s, with several new records emerging as the new century began. In 2014, Ian was a founding member of The Empty Hearts. The group recorded on Four Two Nine Records and McLagan's bandmates included Blondie drummer Clem Burke, The Chesterfield Kings' bassist Andy BabCalifornia, The Cars' guitarist Elliot Easton and The Romantics' guitarist and vocalist Wally Palmar. The band's self-titled first CD was released in August this year. The Hounslow-born musician was about to embark on a North American tour, supporting his label mate Nick Lowe, at the time of his death in his adopted home town of Austin. 'I am completely devastated by this shocking news and I know this goes for Ronnie and Rod as well,' said Kenney Jones. Steward later added: 'I'm absolutely devastated. Ian McLagan embodied the true spirit of The Faces. Last night I was at a charity do, Mick Hucknall was singing 'I'd Rather Go Blind' and Ron Wood texted to say Ian had passed. It was as if his spirit was in the room. I'll miss you mate.' McLagan's manager, Ken Kushnick, remembered Ian as 'a beloved friend to so many people and a true rock 'n' roll spirit.' As a member of The Small Faces, Ian was known for his dexterity and the melodic qualities of his work. With The Faces in the 1970s, he had a large following in both the UK and US. His piano playing on, for example, Ronnie Lane's 'Ooh La La' is worthy of considerable note. Ian, who co-wrote several Faces songs including 'Cindy Incidentally', 'You’re So Rude', 'Bad'n'Ruin' and 'Three Button Hand Me Down', was also behind the distinctive Wurlitzer electric piano heard on songs like the hit single 'Stay With Me' and, later, The Rolling Stones' 'Miss You'. When Stewart departed to go solo and Wood left to join The Stones, the group continued as The Small Faces, before disbanding in 1978. The Faces reformed at the end of the 2000s, with Mick Hucknall filling in for Stewart, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. According to the announcement on his website, Ian had a stroke on Tuesday and died the following day 'surrounded by family and friends.' Billy Bragg tweeted that 'British rock has lost one of its greatest players', while Hucknall paid his own tribute. 'Ian McLagan will not be resting in peace,' the message read. 'He'll be rocking whichever house he chose [sic] to be in. Bless his soul.' Ian published an autobiography, All The Rage: A Riotous Romp Through Rock & Roll History, in 2000, and updated it in 2013. His wife Kim, who was the ex-wife of The Who's Keith Moon, was tragically killed in a car accident in 2006. Ian is survived by his stepdaughter, Amanda.

And so, for the first of today's two Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, here's The Small Faces finest three minutes and twenty seconds - and the template for Paul Weller's entire solo career, to boot. And, the truly horrifying thing is that of the five people featured in this, one of the great TV pop music performances of all time, only two of them are now still with us.
That news came just a day after Bobby Keys, who played saxophone with The Rolling Stones among many others, had died aged seventy. The musician had been a fixture on the rock'n'roll scene since the age of fifteen, playing with the likes of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon, George Harrison, Keith Moon, Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton over the course of his five decade career. His most famous work by far was for The Stones with whom his distinctive sax playing helped propel classic songs such as 'Brown Sugar' and 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking', along with much of their most acclaimed LPs Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. 'The Rolling Stones are devastated by the loss of their very dear friend and legendary saxophone player, Bobby Keys,' the band said in a statement. 'Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960's. He will be greatly missed.' Keith Richards, who was particularly close to Bobby, said: 'I have lost the largest pal in the world and I can't express the sense of sadness I feel although Bobby would tell me to cheer up. My condolences to all that knew him and his love of music.' Bobby was born on the same day as Richards and the pair struck up a lifelong friendship in the late 1960s, with Richards giving over several pages of his autobiography Life for Keys to tell the band's story from his own perspective. In that book, Keef describes the saxophonist as 'my closest pal. A soul of rock and roll, a solid man, also a depraved maniac.' 'If you believe in the magic of rock & roll, which I devoutly do, it isn't in the individual, Keys told Rolling Stone magazine in 2012. 'I've played in bands with A-team players around, but unless they can play together, it doesn't do any good.' Bobby played during the Stones' Glastonbury headline slot in 2013, although in October he was forced to pull out of dates in New Zealand and Australia citing poor health. He was born in Slaton, Texas, where he discovered the powerful sound of bandleader King Curtis. 'He approached his [sax] solos differently than your jazz cats – most of 'em were pretty snooty jazzberries who thought rock & roll was just a waste of time. But King Curtis, he played sax the way a guitar plays, like James Burton would play a lead on a song. It was how he played and how he attacked the notes and his phrasing that was different than the normal,' Bobby would note. In Lubbock, Keys befriended Buddy Holly, playing with him briefly as a teenager. 'I kind of weaseled my way into the perimeter of the garage,' recalled Keys. 'He was the first guy I heard play electric guitar and it impressed the hell out of me.' By the early Sixties, Bobby, still in his late teens was backing the pop star Bobby Vee, hitting the road on Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars tour. 'Rolling down the highway with Little Anthony and Little Eva and Major Lance and Billy Stewart and Freddy Canon. It was really cool. I was still a teenager. We played armories and gymnasiums and things like that. It was great training.' He first crossed paths with The Stones in 1964 at the San Antonio Teen Fair. He was skeptical of the English rockers at first - particularly as they were covering 'Not Fade Away', a song written by his hero, Holly - but said, 'I went out and listened to them and there was some actual rock & roll going on there. You got to realise that the vision, the image, according to 1964 US Rock and roll standards, was mohair suit and tie, and nicey-nicey ol' boy next door,' Keys said in Life. 'And all of a sudden hear comes this truckload of English jackflies singing a Buddy Holly song! Damn! I couldn't really hear all that well, amplifiers and PAs being what they were, but man I it reminded me so much of the energy I heard from Buddy and I heard from Elvis. There was something in there that was the real deal.' Keys reconnected with Mick Jagger at a Delaney and Bonnie session in London in the late Sixties. He backed The Stones on some of the band's most iconic LPs, including the trio of Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street which are generally considered to have captured The Stones are their artistic and creative peak. Bobby's most famous studio moment — the rasping sax break on 1971's 'Brown Sugar' — was originally supposed to be a guitar solo, but in a spontaneous moment, Jagger and producer Jimmy Miller suggested they add some saxophone. 'It was the first take – I just really shut my eyes and play,' said Bobby. 'I often play subliminally. I pull a lot of the stuff that I play off the rhythm tracks – and Keith Richards has been one of the main contributors to my inspirational playing.' Together with Jim Price on trumpet, Keys toured with The Stones throughout 1970, 1971 and 1972, and with Steve Madaio and Trevor Lawrence on the first half of their 1973 European Tour, from which Keys was thrown out after missing some shows. Keys became Richards' late night partner and accomplice in off-stage antics, once infamously throwing a television set out of a hotel balcony in 1972, captured for posterity in Rollin Binzer's life-on-the-road documentary Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones. During the making of Exile On Main Street, Bobby was very also open about his drug and alcohol use, once saying: 'Yeah, there was some pot around, there was some whiskey bottles around, there was scantily clad women. Hell, it was rock'n'roll!' But his wild ways became too wild even for The Stones. On their 1973 European tour, he missed a commitment and Richards reportedly found him drunk in a bath full of Dom Perignon. 'He's got a cigar, bathtub full of champagne and this French chick with him,' Richards recalled in Life. 'And he said, "Fuck off!"' Bobby stopped touring regularly with the band soon afterwards, instead playing clubs often billed as 'Mister Brown Sugar', and joining alcoholic wfie-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon for his infamous 'lost weekend' period. Bobby had previously recorded with The Plastic Ono Band on songs like 'Power To The People'. From 1973 to 1975, Keys participated in Lennon's period in Los Angeles along with the likes of Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon. Bobby played on Lennon's LPs Walls and Bridges and Rock 'n Roll and, additionally, took part in the notirous, cocaine-fuelled last known recording session between Paul McCartney and Lennon, released on bootleg as A Toot & A Snore In '74. "Sometimes in the afternoon, I'd roll a little hash and John and I would listen to music and then he'd have to go home because [Yoko] would be getting suspicious of his whereabouts,' said Keys. 'And she knew that I lived in the neighbourhood and she knew that I was up no good!' But Bobby himself never completely slowed down. 'I've been smoking pot for over fifty years, and I never let a day go by unless I'm in jail,' he told Rolling Stone in 2012. 'I am a devout pothead. I have been, will be, don't see a damn thing wrong with it except the cost. Legalise it!' He played with The Stones off-and-on over the following years, but had a contentious relationship with Jagger. He finally rejoined the band for good at rehearsals for the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, when Richards snuck Bobby into a rehearsal. 'He'd been out for ten years or so, apart from some one-night gigs,' Richards recalled. 'It took me that long to get him back in. And when I did, I didn't tell anyone first. I just told Bobby, when we play 'Brown Sugar', come in on the solo. So it was solo time, and Mick looked round at me and said, "What the fuck?!" And I just said, "See what I mean?" When it was over, Mick looked at me like, well, you can't argue with that.' Although better known as a session musician, Bobby released two LPs of his own in the 1970s: a self-titled instrumental LP on Warner Bros that featured Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Eric Clapton in 1972 and Gimme The Key on Starr's label Ring O'Records in 1975. Even after such a lengthy career, Bobby's love of rock remained undimmed. In an interview with The West Australian, shortly before pulling out of the recent tour, he said: 'It doesn't matter how many times I've played 'Brown Sugar', I never get tired of it.'

For today's second Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's Bobby's best known twenty eight second.

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