Monday, December 15, 2014

Week Fifty Two: I've Been Living Through Changes

We start off the latest From The North bloggerisationisms with an announcement of a somewhat personal naturette, dear blog reader. Over the last few weeks there have been a couple of potentially significant changes occurrin' in yer actual Keith Telly Topping's every day circumstances at Stately Telly Topping Manor. Changes which will have at least some impact on the amount of spare time that yer actual Keith Telly Topping has to devote to From The North for the foreseeable future. Now, don't worry - if, indeed, you were worrying. If not, then just ignore this bit - this blog ain't goin' nowhere any time soon; it remains a vital release valve for yer actual Keith Telly Topping to vent his considerable spleen and let forth the wrath of his bombast when talking about stuff which grates his effing cheese. And, frankly, the world is a far better place with this blogger able to do that sort of thing here rather than, you know, out on the streets. Nevertheless, dear blog readers will probably find that in the early part of the New Year at least bloggerisationisms updates will be less frequent than they have previously been - though I'll still be aiming for at least one a week. You may also notice that a few of the regular features of From The North are gradually being phased out, most notably the weekly Keith Telly Topping's Top Telly Tips. For the basic reason that this blogger has done this thing, weekly, for the last seven years and he feels that it has now served its purpose (and thoroughly paid its debt to society). And, of course, if you want to know what's coming up on TV in the next week, then the Radio Times website should be your first port of call anyway. Also, if you're interested in a snapshot of what's coming up in 2015, yer actual Keith Telly Topping refers you to the TV Custard website's very excellent summation. One or two other semi-regular features will also be disappearing though, this blogger is sure, some new ones will crop up soon enough to replace them. In the mean time, From The North will continue to provide all of the media news which is fit to print - and various other stuff what floats yer actual Keith Telly Topping's boat - along with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own, unique, take on what's occurrin', and how much of it is pants. This was a public service announcement. With banjos.
The BBC has released a new trailer for the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special Last Christmas.
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has revealed that the possibility of the characters of River Song and Captain Jack Harkness returning in Doctor Who is 'never, ever closed off'. Alex Kingston was last seen as River Song in 2013's episode The Name Of The Doctor, while John Barrowman last played Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who in 2010's The End Of Time. The Moffat - who, of course, created both characters - told the Zap2it website: 'It's never, ever closed off. It's all about "Do you have a story that’s worth it?"' He explained: 'Unless you've got a story that is absolutely informed and invigorated by their presence, just bringing a character back in an ordinary story won't do.' Steven added: 'Both River Song and Jack Harkness are massive characters in Doctor Who mythology. Their returns would have to be seismic, not routine.'
Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch his very self has been discussing the differences between the main characters in Sherlock and Doctor Who. The actor spoke to Chris Hardwick's Nerdist podcast about his character and the Time Lord in The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat's other big show. According to E!, the podcaster told Benny that he had previously put it to The Moffinator that The Doctor was 'really just space-Sherlock', and said that Steven had replied: 'That is absolutely not true. The Doctor cares for everyone. Sherlock's a sociopath.' Yer man Benny broadly agreed with this assessment: 'That's kind of true,' he noted. 'One uses a sonic screwdriver and time travel, and the other uses his brain and isn't nine hundred years old, isn't reincarnated … One doesn't solve crimes quite as much.' Benny his very self also made a - humorous - reference to Sherlock Holmes's sexuality and his close relationship with John Watson, saying: '[Sherlock] talks fast and is clever. That is, literally, the only bracket [he and The Doctor] share. They've got different dress senses, different taste in the sex of their partners.' Benedict added that he thought there should be 'more full frontal male flashing' on-screen, saying that he believed many Sherlock fans - particularly Russian and Chinese girls with Internet access - would very much enjoy seeing Sherlock expose himself to friend. He said: 'He's got a long coat, a lot going on underneath that long coat. If the Internet had its way I'd probably [flash] Doctor Watson.'
After years in development limbo, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comics are well on their way to the big screen – and the SF and fantasy author has some very ideas of who he wants in the lead role. The Sandman, first released in 1989, is the comic which made Gaiman's name. Across seventy five issues it centred around Morpheus, an abstract being - one of family of sub-deities called The Endless - who rules the domain of dreams. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self was - and remains - a huge fan and even has several issues of comic signed by the great man himself (which, obviously, decreases their value on eBay, considerably). Man of Steel's David S Goyer is producing a film adaptation, alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gaiman himself, with The Fades' Jack Thorne has been hired to write the script. But what actor could possibly do justice to a character typically portrayed as tall, dark and with the sort of cheekbones that could skin a cow? 'It's a funny thing with Morpheus. Again, it's that thing where you look around and think, "Yes this person would be fantastic" and then time passes,' Neil told Radio Times. 'There was a time Johnny Depp would've been a great Morpheus, but now he's too old and it's fine. I think the first time I saw Benedict [Cumberbatch] was as Sherlock Holmes, I thought, "wow, that's incredibly Morpheus." And fans probably thought the same because they immediately started doing fan-art, meshing the two of them up.' Sadly, Benny is now committed to Marvel's Doctor Strange movie, meaning that he probably won't want to do another quasi-superhero movie any time soon. Gaiman, however, does have a back-up plan. 'Tom Hiddleston is still out there!' he notes. 'And the truth is, as far as I'm concerned, anybody who sounds English with great cheekbones can probably pull it off.' Gaiman also gave us an update on what it's been like to oversee the script's development. Throughout the late 1990s, a Sandman movie was planned by Warner Bros, parent company of DC Comics, but the scripts were, apparently, dreadful, with the character reportedly being written as more of a pants and tights superhero than with the cerebral tone of the comics. In fact, Neil once described the last screenplay sent to him as being, 'not only the worst Sandman script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read.' This time, however, Neil is much more involved in the writing process. 'I really am [glad to have more input],' he says. 'My position on it has always been, for over twenty five years now, I would rather see no Sandman movie than a bad Sandman movie. A couple of times, people say, "It's a crime there's never been a Sandman movie", and a couple of times, to be honest, I have thrown my body in front of a bus on bad ones over the years. I'm just happy that no bad Sandman movie has ever been made. But I'm really hoping that a good one will be. They're a good team. And with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in charge, his instincts are good and he loves the material. He wants it to be true to the material. Every now and then, I'll come in and last time I was in was earlier this year spending a day in a hotel room with Joe, and going over everything and answering questions with him. So they've written a script. I got a phone call about two, three weeks ago from Joe and David saying, "Jack did a script, we read it, we want some things done to it. We want you to see it, but not this version. The next version will be in three weeks and then you'll be the first person to see it." So I am now a week before seeing the script. It's going to come in just before Christmas. I'm nervous, I'm on tenterhooks. But do I have good feelings? Yeah I do.'

The Apprentice bounced back in the ratings on Wednesday, according to overnight data. The BBC1 series was one of several shows this week to benefit from the end of 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), rising by around seven hundred thousand viewers week-on-week to an average 5.54 million at 9pm. BBC2's spin-off show, The Apprentice: You're Fired followed with 2.12m at 10pm. Also on BBC2, MasterChef: The Professionals appealed to 2.71m at 8pm, followed by The Great Continental Railway with 1.81m at 9pm. ITV's 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): Coming Out 'special' (and, one uses that word quite wrongly) was gawped at by 5.42 million glakes at 8pm, while the docu-drama The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries was seen by a disappointingly low 3.11m at 9pm - especially considering how well-acted and well-written it was. Channel Four's Posh Pawn gathered 1.24m at 8pm, followed by Bear's Wild Weekend featuring Ben Stiller with 1.40m at 9pm. On Channel Five, Gibraltar: Britain In The Sun was watched by eight hundred and sixty two thousand at 8pm. Benefits Britain attracted 1.18m at 9pm, followed by My Crazy Christmas Obsession with seven hundred and nineteen thousand at 10pm.

The inaugural BBC Music Awards topped the overnight ratings outside soaps on Thursday. The awards ceremony brought in an average 3.94 million viewers at 8pm. In comparison, this year's Brit Awards ceremony attracted an overnight rating of 4.20m in February. Later, Russell Brand and Nigel Farage's appearance on a heated episode of Question Time had an audience of 3.40m at 10.35pm, up by over a million viewers from the previous episode. On BBC2, MasterChef: The Professionals continued with 2.38m at 8pm, followed by the latest episode of The Fall with 2.08m at 9pm and Russell Howard's Good News with 1.17m at 10pm. ITV's Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs appealed to 3.57m at 8.30pm. The second part of The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries drew 2.88m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Amazing Spaces brought in 1.33m at 8pm, followed by Twenty Four Hours In A&E with 1.76m at 9pm. Babylon fell to a new low of three hundred and twenty six thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's The Railway gathered six hundred and forty thousand at 8pm, followed by Britain's Bloodiest Dynasties with five hundred and sixty four thousand at 9pm.

A Night In With Olly Murs was seen by 3.06 million overnight viewers at 9pm on ITV on Friday evening. Ahead of the weekend's X Factor final, Murs performed some of his 'best known hits', apparently, and was joined by a number of z-list celebrity guests. Earlier in the evening, The Martin Lewis Money Show was watched by 2.72 million at 8pm. BBC1's Have I Got News For You was Friday's highest-rated overnight show outside of soaps, drawing in an average audience of 4.33 million at 9pm. The channel's evening kicked-off with 4.23 million for The ONE Show at 7pm, followed by 3.37 million for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook. Citizen Khan picked up 2.71 million at 8.30pm, while Not Going Out was seen by an increased audience of 3.53 million at 9.30pm. With guests such as Jim Carrey and Jude Law, The Graham Norton Show ended the evening with 3.03 million at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Mary Berry's Absolute Christmas Favourites dominated the ratings with 2.28 million at 8.30pm. It was preceded by 1.01 million for The Home That Two Built at 7pm and 1.97 million for Mastermind at 8pm. Canterbury Cathedral continued with 1.3 million at 9pm, while Qi ended the evening with 1.64 million at 10pm. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD was watched by a reduced audience of seven hundred and thirty thousand on Channel Four. Gogglebox was Four's highest-rated show of the night, entertaining 2.62 million at 9pm. The evening ended with 1.14 million for Alan Carr: Chatty Man at 10pm. On Channel Five, Ice Road Truckers had an increased audience of eight hundred and ninety thousand at 8pm, followed by 1.2 million for Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild at 9pm.

TV Comedy Line Of Week came from Friday's Have I Got News For You and guest host Martin Clunes' observation: 'Also this week in the land of the free, a Senate report revealed extensive torture of terror suspects. The CIA system of torture techniques included cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, use of insects and mock burial. In the US it's employed by the CIA, in the UK it's hosted by Ant and Dec!'
He went on to highlight the Independent's splendid article on previous CIA controversies which included: 'The Iran-Contra scandal and the Bag of Pigs fiasco"! You can't write comedy like that. Well, except if you work for those worthless Middle Class hippy Communist wrteches at the Indi, that is.
Overnight ratings for the first part of The X Factor finale dipped to a ten-year low on Saturday, despite attracting more than a third of the available audience. The ITV talent show drew an overnight average audience of 8.14 million. Only the 2004 final had lower overnight ratings, when eight million watched Steve Brookstein become the first ever X Factor champion. The singing contest has seen a marked decline in its audience over recent years. For example, at its peak in 2010 - they year Matt Cardle was crowned The X Factor winner - the equivalent episode drew 14.1 million overnight viewers. The return of Wee Shughie Mcfee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads and The Heaton Horror Cheryl Fernandez-Versini-Whatsherface to the judging panel appears to failed to significantly boost viewing figures with BBC1 rival Strictly Come Dancing remaining the more popular of the two talent shows over the course of their respective runs this year. Strictly's semi-final episode on Saturday was watched by an overnight audience of 9.78 million viewers, taking more than forty two per cent of the available audience. The BBC1 show was also down one hundred thousand overnight viewers on the equivalent episode from last year. The Chase was watched 3.74m on ITV whilst The Jonathan Ross Show had 2.77m from 10.35pm. The latest Atlantis episode appealed to 3.57m and Casualty drew 3.44m from 9.10pm. On BBC2, Flog It! was watched by eight hundred and fifty four thousand, Perry And Croft: Made In Britain was seen by nine hundred and forty four thousand and a Dad's Army repeat garnered 2.07m, before Qi XL attracted an audience of 1.06m from 9pm. Channel Four showed the Meryl Street movie Hope Springs, which averaged nine hundred and fifty thousand from 9pm. Channel Five's My Crazy Christmas Obsession and TV's Fifty Greatest Magic Tricks managed five hundred and three thousand and six hundred and fifty eight thousand viewers respectively.

The Sunday final of The X Factor was the show's lowest-rated since its debut in 2004, overnight data reveals. Ben Haenow's victory over Fleur East attracted an average audience of 9.22 million viewers at 8pm. This was down by around three hundred thousand punters from last year's overnight score, and is the lowest-rated final since 2004's launch series. It was beaten overall by BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing semi-final, which averaged 9.61m at 7.15pm. The Sports Personality Of The Year ceremony - won, not unexpectedly, by Lewis Hamilton - was up by around three hundred thousand from last year's show, being watched by 6.00m at 8pm. Earlier, Countryfile appealed to 6.77m at 6.15pm, while Match Of The Day 2 scored 2.24m at 10.45pm on what was, overall, a very good day for the BBC. ITV's Christmas Catchphrase ahem 'special' had an audience of 3.99m at 7pm. On BBC2, the Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want appealed to 1.19m at 8pm. On Channel Four, Britain's Wildest Weather 2014 interested 1.28m at 7.30pm, followed by Homeland with 1.47m at 9pm. Channel Five's ABBA Years attracted six hundred and thirteen thousand at 8pm, while a repeat of Michael Bublé's Christmas Special brought in four hundred and twenty seven thousand at 9pm.

From the overnights, to the final and consolidated ratings for the Top Twenty programmes for week-ending Sunday 7 December 2014:-
1 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 - 11.15m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 10.97m
3 The X Factor - Sun ITV - 8.65m
4 Coronation Street - Fri ITV - 8.20m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.76m
6 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.91m
7 The Missing - Tues BBC1 - 6.88m
8 The Apprentice - Wed BBC1 - 6.66m
9 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.92m
10 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 5.82m*
11 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 5.69m
12 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.62m
13 Remember Me - Sun BBC1 - 5.38m
14 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.22m
15 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 4.85m
16 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.72m
17 The ONE Show - Tues BBC1 - 4.55m
18 Atlantis - Sat BBC1 - 4.49m
19 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.05m
20 Pointless - Fri BBC1 - 3.88m
Those ITV programmes marked '*' do not include include HD figures. Now, here's a truly astonishing statistic; outside seven nightly episodes of 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), the two episodes of The X Factor, five episodes of Coronation Street and seven episodes of Emmerdale not a single ITV programme across the entire week drew a final and consolidated audience higher than the 3.05 million picked up by ITV News on Sunday. The next highest rated show after that was The Chase with a mere 2.94 million. Saturday evening's episode of The X Factor had a final rating of 7.73 million whilst Strictly Come Dancing's Sunday results episode drew 9.71 million. BBC2's highest rated programmes of the week were MasterChef: The Professionals with 3.53m and The Fall with 3.26 million. University Challenge drew 2.85 million, followed by The Apprentice: You're Fired! (2.71m), Great Continental Railway Journeys (2.41m), Only Connect (2.20m), The Great Interior Design Challenge (2.12m), sleep-inducing coverage of the snooker (2.10m), Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two (2.07m) and Qi (1.98m). Gogglebox was again, by a distance, Channel Four's largest-rated show (3.22m), followed by the movie Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (2.57m) and Homeland (2.20m). Channel Five's best performers were Gotham with 2.22 million, the movie Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (1.65m) and The Last Hours Of Elvis Presley (1.46m). Lewis was ITV3's most-watched programme with nine hundred and forty two thousand viewers, with Doc Martin attracting six hundred and six thousand. Inspector Montalbano drew BBC4's largest audience of the week (eight hundred and forty eight thousand), with Bombay Railway being watched by seven hundred and eighteen thousand. E4's The Big Bang Theory had the largest multichannels audience over all (2.04m). Sky Living's Elementary had eight hundred and sixty one thousand. On FOX, The Walking Dead was watched by eight hundred and eighty five thousand. A repeat of Sherlock produced BBC3's largest audience of the week (nine hundred and sixty four thousand).

Yer actual Ben Miller is to appear in the BBC4 comedy about what the Gruniad Morning Star describe as 'a government whistleblower' (or, 'a dirty snitching Copper's Nark' according to the Daily Scum Mail), inspired by Julian Assange's two-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy. The BBC is billing Asylum as 'a satirical comedy about a government whistleblower and a millionaire Internet entrepreneur trapped together in a London embassy.' The resemblance to any person alive or dead being entirely, you know, co-incidental, obviously. The fictional comedy drama has been created by Fonejacker's Kayvan Novak and producer Tom Thostrup. 'Assange sought political asylum in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid a perceived threat of extradition to the US for publishing military secrets,' the Gruniad claims. Slightly more accurately, it was because because Swedish prosecutors wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual molestation. Asylum will be broadcast in 2015 and is being made by 2LE, the independent production company behind prank E4 show The Work Experience. Written by Thom Phipps and Peter Bowden, the comedy is part of a BBC season next year called Taking Liberties, celebrating eight hundred years of Magna Carta and exploring democracy in the run-up to the General Erection.

Peter Kosminsky, the director of BBC2's lavish adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall novels, has delivered an impassioned defence of the BBC. Speaking on the same day that the Corporation set out its plans for moving BBC3 online – a decision which the BBC admits it was forced into because of financial constraints – Kosminsky used Wednesday night's screening of the Tudor-set historical drama to urge the public to 'safeguard' the organisation as it faces the squeezing of its budget. 'At its best the BBC is there to speak truth to power and that is something that every free society, every democracy badly needs,' he said. 'And in my opinion that's because of its unique funding because it is largely immune from the pressures of commercialism and because it exists at arms length, at least in theory, from government. To me at least it is a uniquely precious institution and one of the very few things of which we as a nation can be unequivocally proud and I beg you personally please don't let us piss it away or, worse, let it go by default for some short-term financial or political advantage. Because once it's gone we will never get it back.' Kosminsky referred obliquely to the BBC's financial situation and did little to disguise his belief that the Corporation is currently under threat. The BBC is engaged in identifying around £1.5bn in savings over the next two years as part of its obligations under the current licence fee settlement. It also faces an agonising two years' negotiating with the government before the renewal of the Corporation's charter and the decision about the size of the new licence fee in 2016. Kosminksy, whose dramas have included Warriors, The Promise and Britz, said: 'There's lots said about the BBC and about the licence fee. In fact it's a subject on which almost anyone seems to have a strong opinion. I suppose the voices we don't hear from often are the programme makers, so I'm going to say one or two words from the heart and I hope you'll forgive me for that. For us the programme makers, it's pretty straight-forward really. The BBC is the captain of the ship. They are who we look to. They set the standards, and when they are absent from the bridge, as they occasionally are, we feel it particularly keenly. Before I started having the honour of working with actors I made documentaries for ITV for about ten years in some of the most troubled parts of the world. Because we were British, whenever we showed up people assumed we were from the BBC and to be honest we didn't tend to disabuse them of that. It was a pretty honourable flag to sail under to be honest and the people we were dealing with tended to think that the BBC stood for honesty, stood for straight dealing and had high standards. Those were standards to which we tried to aspire.'

And so, dear blog reader, we come to your last lot of yer actual Top Telly Tips. It's been emotional:-

Saturday 20 December
Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman host the live final of Strictly Come Dancing - 6:30 BBC1 - which sees the four remaining celebrities performing two routines each, hoping to pull off an array of dazzling lifts, tricks and surprises as they compete to win the glitterball trophy (worth four pound fifty three due to BBC cutbacks, obviously). Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Darcey Bussell give their verdicts on the performances, but the all-important votes from viewers determine who waltzes off with this year's title. The results can be seen later in the evening, at 8.50pm.

The appallingly sudden and unexpected death of the comedian and actor Rik Mayall in June and was mourned by many, including this blog. Rik, of course, left behind a body of work which spanned four decades and was a blend of rocket-fuelled physical comedy, surrealism, subversive satire and pompously brilliantly punk wit. Rik's most memorable characters included the Black Country investigative journalist Kevin Turvey, the Felicity Kendal-adoring student 'People's poet', Rick in The Young Ones, unemployed oddball Ritchie Richard in Bottom, ruthless Tory MP Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman and, even though it was only for two episodes, the memorably roguish Lord Flashheart in Blackadder. Narrated by Simon Callow, the documentary Rik Mayall: Lord Of Misrule - 10:05 BBC2 - celebrates Rik's part in British comedy history, with contributions from Michael Palin, Simon Pegg, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Christopher Ryan, Tim McInnerny, Jools Holland, Ruby Wax and Greg Davies. We all miss you, Rik.
In the latest episode of Atlantis - 7:55 BBC1 - as Ariadne's life hangs in the balance, Jason's guilt is almost too much to bear and he resolves to do all he can to save her, embarking on a dangerous quest into the unknown. However, after a daring encounter with the ancient Grey Sisters, his mission sees him come full circle, bringing him face-to-face with Medea and Pasiphae once more. Can he thwart their powerful magic to save his love? Fantasy family drama, starring Jack Donnelly, Aiysha Hart, Amy Manson and Sarah Parish.

If you missed it earlier in the year, Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This - 9:00 ITV Encore - should definitely be on your watch list for tonight, dear blog reader. David Threlfall delivers a proper tour de force as the much-loved (but very complex) comedian, undergoing a transformation which was much deeper than just the donning of a fez and saying 'just like that'. Cooper's studied incompetence with magic tricks and gentle physical comedy made him a star, but Simon Nye's script centres on Tommy's relationships with the two women in his life, his volatile and long-suffering wife Dove (a great turn by Amanda Redman) and his mistress, Mary Kay (Helen McCrory). Tommy in this, as in real life off-stage, is at times quite hard to like – he drinks far too much, he's tight with money and there are hints that he's capabler of being physically abusive. But Threlfall and Nye work hard to show why he inspired such abiding loyalty in both women, and in his friends and fellow comedians, right until that final show when he collapsed and died on stage in front of a TV audience, an extraordinary fifteen minutes from Threlfall who does the act note for note. With Jason Manford, Gregor Fisher and Paul Ritter.
Sunday 21 December
Stephen Fry continues Qi XL's exploration of subjects beginning with the letter L - 9:40 BBC2 - as he Lumps Together a whole host of topics, from lava lamps to love handles. Joining regular panellist Alan Davies are the comedy writer, actor and Mister Victoria Coren, yer actual David Mitchell, the impressionist Ronni Ancona and stand-up comedian and comfortable hate figure for the Daily Scum Mail, Jimmy Carr.
Tonight is the final of The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1 - after eleven weeks of crass bullying and challenges which have seen the teams making candles, launching their own YouTube channels and trying to sell soft drinks to New Yorkers, only two candidates remain - and ronight they battle it out to go into partnership with shouty Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie. Their final task is to launch their businesses, coming up with brands and devising campaigns before pitching them to an audience of industry experts. The former contenders return to help each finalist and while one candidate takes a dictatorial approach to management, the other succumbs to stage fright during the filming of a promotional video. Will the industry bigwigs like their ideas? And, who will have done enough to convince Lord Sugar-Sweetie to pick them as his partner? And, in all likelihood, be signing on at their local Job Centre in about three years time. Once the winner is announced it's over to The Apprentice: You're Hired studio, where Dara O Briain his very self talks to the main players about this year's series, with the help of entrepreneur Dale Murray and comedian Romesh Ranganathan.

Sammy Davis junior was once, reportedly, asked what his handicap was whilst playing a round of golf with Jack Benny. 'I'm a one-eyed Negro Jew,' he is alleged to have replied. Sammy Davis Junior: The Kid In The Middle - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary charting the rise and fall of dancer, singer and actor who made his debut at the age of five and was a key member of The Rat Pack. The entertainer overcame racial prejudice and became known as a civil rights campaigner, marching alongside Martin Luther King in the 1960s, but he remains something of an enigma - a workaholic and spendaholic, a Democrat who ended up a close supporter of Richard Nixon, and a man who put his career before his family and died leaving them millions of dollars in debt. The documentary features contributions by family and friends including Paul Anka, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Ben Vereen. It's narrated by Lynne Seymour. That's followed by An Evening With Sammy Davis Junior - 10:00 - a compilation of the singer, actor and dancer's performances for the BBC, filmed in the 1960s and 70s and featuring classic songs including 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Once In A Lifetime'.

You've Got To Love Christmas - 7:00 ITV - is, it says here, 'a comic trawl through the TV archives celebrating the funny side of Christmas past, present and future.' So, a clip show in other words. Thrilling. Can't ever have too many of those, obviously. The narrator, nasty Jane Horrocks - whom this blogger simply cannot stand what with her horrible squeaky voice and a face like a pinched lemon - 'guides viewers through the pitfalls and perils of the festive season'; including shopping, decorating, preparing the turkey, office parties and the Boxing Day hangover. Well, the simple answer to all of those is, firstly don't buy anybody else presents and get your food shopping done in the week before, don't decorate as it's a pointless waste of time and effort, have chicken instead of turkey, it's more moist and better for you, don't go to Christmas parties, they're usually awful and, finally, don't get drunk, it's jolly bad for your health and your intellect. It's really not rocket science, people. Anyway, with contributions from various 'famous faces' (mostly b-list, some z-list) who, seemingly, can't get a job elsewhere on any of the other twenty seven similar 'talking head' conceits which will be littering up the TV schedules this - and, indeed, every other - Christmas. Including Barry Humphreys, Al Murray, Linda Robson (Christ, talk about 'bottom of the barrel'), Adil Ray, John Thomson, Warwick Davis and Will Mellor. See what yer actual Keith Telly Topping means? This blogger hopes that everybody involved in this wretched waste-of-time abomination undercooks their Christmas bird, gets food poisoning and, as a consequence, spends Boxing Day suffering from a very nasty dose of exploding diarrhoea. Then, they'll know how we all feel when being served with tripe like this.

Monday 22 December
Rob Brydon introduces a seasonal special of the comedy panel game Would I Lie To You - 8:30 BBC1. Screen hard man Ray Winstone, comic Josh Widdicombe, Countdown's Rachel Riley and actor Ricky Tomlinson join team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack to hoodwink their opponents with a few festive fibs or facts about themselves. Does one of the contestants really apologise to their boiled egg before smashing its head in? Who apparently writes Christmas cards with their feet? And did one of the line-up really prevent their bandmate joining The Beatles?
The pompous, Prog-rock musician records a charity record in aid of bi-polar polar bears, but there are conditions from his label about its content in the final episode of Brian Pern: A Life In Rock - 10:00 BBC2. They demand that he must make the CD commercial, Christmassy and full of cutting-edge duets with big stars - none of which comes easy to Brian. Meanwhile, his health problems also come to a head after he learns he has invested millions into an aggressive tax-avoidance scheme and HM Revenue & Customs wants its money back. Now. Spoof rockumentary, starring Simon Day, Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers. With guest appearances by Anna Maxwell Martin, Roger Allam, Alan Yentob, Roy Wood, Tony Blackburn, Rick Parfitt, Paul Gambaccini, Roger Taylor out of The Queen Group, Chrissie Hynde, Annie Nightingale, Tim Rice, Melanie C, Billy Bragg and Rick Wakeman. Who played piano on that. Plus, again, providing he's got more of a sense of humour than many of us would have credited him for, yer actual Peter Gabriel.
Much trailed, and still looking like the heap of unfunny dung it is, The Wrong Mans returns tonight - 9:00 BBC2. But, don't bother with that, dear blog reader. Because it's rubbish. Mind you, the BBC1 competition at the same time is John Bishop's Christmas Show. So, you know, ditto.

Mark Radcliffe returns with another seasonal trawl through the archives of Top Of The Pops, introducing 'a feast of festive delights' from the BBC vaults (ie. all those clips they drag out every year) including performances by Blur, Pretenders, The Bluebells, Katie Melua, Paul McCartney and Kurtis Blow in TOTP2 - 7:30 BBC2. There's a rendition of 'Baby It's Cold Outside' by Cerys Matthews and Tom Jones, as well as perennial yuletide favourites from the likes of Slade, Wham!, Wizzard, Mud, The Jackson Five and Johnny Mathis, along with rarely-seen footage of Kate Bush extolling the delights of December and the festive season.
Tuesday 23 December
After seven weeks of competition, only three MasterChef: The Professionals contestants remain and their last challenge is to prepare a succulent three-course menu for Marcus Wareing, sour-faced Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace - 8:00 BBC2 that will make their heads and sphincters exploded with culinary cum. They have just one hundred and eighty minutes - the three hours in old money - to draw on everything they have learned during the contest and over the course of their careers thus far to create a starter, a main and a dessert that show off their culinary ability. The judges then assess their efforts before deciding who will be crowned champion, succeeding last year's winner Steven Edwards. And, also, who will go home with nothing.
Since the first National Lottery draw in November 1994, three thousand seven hundred millionaires have been created. The documentary Lottery Stories: Be Careful What You Wish For - 9:00 ITV - features a range of winners to explore the dizzying experience of sudden fortune - and sometimes sudden fame - which comes as a result of matching six balls. The film asks how it has affected their lives and relationships, what they spent their winnings on and whether money really can buy happiness. Many people say it can't. This blogger's attitude is that this may well be true but, nevertheless, he'd like the opportunity to be miserable but rich. Seriously, if anyone out there's won the lottery and don't want the coin, I'll take it off your hands, no questions asked. Anyway, those featured include Michael Carroll, the self-styled 'chav' and former binman who took just eight years to spend the £9.7million he won in 2002, Ray and Barbara Wragg, who won £7.6m in 2000 and have given seventy five per cent of it away to charity, and a couple who split up and ended up half-a-million pounds in debt - despite having won £1.8m in 2005.
Poet and comedian Tim Key, Antiques Roadshow specialist Andy McConnell, singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald and Richard Stilgoe - no, I thought he was dead as well, who'd've thought? - reveal what they know about tennis star Andy Murray, the singer Joe Cocker, Scottish TV comedy Still Game and British musicals up to 1980 in the latest episode of Celebrity Mastermind - 7:00 BBC1.

The Romans were a smart bunch of lads and lasses, dear blog reader. They were the first foreign army to invade and occupy Britain and their architecture and way of life left a legacy much of which has lasted the sixteen hundred years since they left. Which, of course, should mean that any TV programme about them will be fascinating and highly watchable - and, the vast majority of them are. But, what are we to make of Roman Britain From The Air - 8:00 ITV - which is presented by former Daybreak flop The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley? Eh? What the flipping flip?! Is this somebody at ITV's idea of a joke? Are things really so desperate that they need to find something for the odious, worthless Bleakley to do to justify the millions of quid they paid to poach her from the BBC and this was the best they could come up with? Jesus, the Time Team must be turning in their graves at such a occurrence. Well, the ones that are dead, that is. Anyway, since the Curiously Orange one got - hilariously - dumped on her bottom in the gutter after Twatting About On Ice was cancelled, the rotten, pointless Bleakley has done absolutely sod all. Here, she takes to a helicopter to view remains which are best seen from the air. Why her, you might wonder? Why indeed. Historian Michael Scott is on the ground, meanwhile, exploring further what each sky-high vantage point reveals and wondering how on Earth he ended up getting lumbered with the odious greed bucket (and drag) Bleakley as his oppo during his big TV break. Their journey takes them from London, across to Wales and North to Hadrian's Wall, visiting fascinating sites which include the best-preserved Roman legionary barracks anywhere in Europe, the six thousand-seat amphitheatre at Caerleon and town walls that stretch for more than a mile. No, sorry, I've said all that and I'm sure the bits featuring Michael will be good telly and good archaeology to boot, but this blogger still can't get past the idea that somebody at ITV thought Christine Bloody Bleakley was a worthy presenter of this format. As a consequence of that decision, expect this show to get an audience of about four.
Wednesday 24 December
Harry Hill - remember him? - takes the title role in The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm - 8:30 BBC1. It's the story of an absent-minded inventor, who is oblivious to the chaos caused by his ridiculous contraptions when they go wrong - which is more often than not. Luckily, his long-suffering housekeeper, Miss Flittersnoop, and his dim-but-loyal best friend Colonel Dedshott are usually on hand to make sure he doesn't blow himself to smithereens. However, the trio meet their match when a local councillor tries to run the professor out of the village for being a dangerous nuisance. So Miss Flittersnoop's science-mad niece Connie comes to their aid. Comedy drama, co-starring Vicki Pepperdine, Simon Day and Madeline Holliday, with David Mitchell, Miranda Richardson and Ben Miller. Written by Charlie Higson from the popular children's books by Norman Hunter. No, not the former Dirty Leeds and England centre-back widely known for his biting tackles. Obviously.
The will-they-won't-they tension between Lee and Lucy reaches unseen new highs in the epic series finale of Not Going Out - 9:30 BBC1 - an episode which series creator Lee Mack has suggested may well be the last ever. Sally Bretton, Bobby Ball and Katy Wix co-star.

ITV's big movie of the Christmas period is Skyfall - 8:00. Director Sam Mendes brings all the classic Bond elements together to make this twenty third film in the series one of the very best. The impressive Daniel Craig begins his third 007 outing all washed-up, having been left for dead after a mission backfires and getting shot by Eve Moneypenny. Which was, obviously, careless. When national security is compromised, however, it's a stubbled, battered and booze-soaked Bond that reports back to London for duty, casting serious doubts on his fitness for the job. Likewise, the future of M (the outstanding Judi Dench) is called into question by a parliamentary committee eager to see her made accountable for her department's various failings. Although Mendes is still best known for the Oscar-winning American Beauty, any doubts that he could deliver on the thrills front were quickly put to rest by a breathless pre-credits sequence through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. But perhaps the biggest stunt he pulled off was creating a convincing human drama - centred on the complex relationship between M and James - to ground the all-important action. Mendes was also helped by an intelligent, witty script (no cheap double entendres here) delivered by a fine cast that included Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Wishart and Albert Finney. But it's Javier Bardem as Silva, the Hannibal Lecter-like villain with a pathological need to settle old scores, who got most of the best lines. The sheer class of the production is felt in Roger Deakins's polished cinematography, Adele's really rather decent emotionally charged theme song and a beautifully judged appearance by that ultimate Bond accessory, the original Aston Martin DB5. Released fifty years after Dr No this production not only paid due tribute to the series' past in style but paved the way for its form in the future.

Young Rebecca refuses to leaves her mum's side and go to school, worried the Grim Reaper is going to strike at any moment in a repeat of Rebecca Front's classic contribution to Sky1's Little Crackers - 7:00. So kind-hearted headteacher Miss Dyson comes up with a plan. Rebecca and Jeremy Front's charming period piece explores the gulf between childhood fears and adult understanding of them with gentle humour and a great heart, while steering clear of trite nostalgia. Lucy Hutchinson is terrific as the morbid young Rebecca, while Samantha Spiro and Richard Lumsden deliver their usual quality, and Front herself, a particular favourite of this blogger, is commanding as the kindly headmistress who comes to young Rebecca’s aid.
Thursday 25 December
Yer actual Peter Capaldi is back for his first festive time-travelling adventure in the Doctor Who special, Last Christmas - 6:15 BBC1. And, the good news is that, having said goodbye to Clara at the end of the last episode, Jenna Coleman is back too, helping The Doctor fend off terrifying creatures (who might or might not be Ice Warriors) attacking an Arctic base. Even better, Hot Fuzz and Mr Sloane actor Nick Frost co-stars as Santa Claus - a character glimpsed as the credits rolled last time around - while fans of the classic series will be delighted by the appearance of Michael Troughton, son of the second Doctor, Patrick. If you miss it, the episode is repeated on BBC3 at 8pm on Boxing Day.
For decades, Action Man has promised much with its eagle eyes, gripping hands and array of outfits, but what has he ever achieved? James May has decided he is going to try to redeem its reputation by propelling one of the figures through the sound barrier and return it safely to Earth in James May's Toy Stories - 5:10 BBC2. The Top Gear presenter and his team have to deal with high-speed physics, unforeseen explosions and catastrophic design setbacks, before settling on an experimental supersonic vehicle made entirely from scratch. Finally, Action Man must go faster and higher than another attempt led by arch-rival Sindy.

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and comedians Bill Bailey and Jimmy Carr join regular panellist Alan Davies for a festive edition of Qi - 10:30 BBC2. Stephen Fry asks them a range of unusual questions on topics related to Christmas (No-L), with points being awarded for interesting answers as well as correct ones. The XL edition will be shown on Saturday at 10:30.
It's a bittersweet day for fans of the hit sitcom Miranda - 7:15 BBC1. It may be returning for a two-part Christmas special, but Miranda Hart has said that these will be the final episodes. So here's hoping that Miranda (the character) finally gets her happy ending. Or, if she doesn't that, last least, she fails hilariously. Speaking of which, the first episode picks up where the last one left off, with the unlucky-in-love shop owner having received two proposals of marriage - one from chef Gary and the other from new boyfriend Mike. Who will she choose, if either? And, if she does make a decision, could she actually cope with the pressures of being a wife? Tom Ellis and Bo Poraj co-star as the rivals for her affections, with Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and Sally Phillips.
It's Christmas time in Poplar and rehearsals are well under way for the Sunday School festive concert, but dancing snowflakes and sewing Santa costumes soon take a backseat when Chummy is asked to help out at a mother-and-baby home, where poor management has given the residents little in the way of Christmas cheer in Call The Midwife - 7:50 BBC1. Meanwhile, Cynthia is drawn into a case concerning two former patients of a Victorian psychiatric hospital, who have been left to fend for themselves and are barely coping, and as she gets to know them better, she finds herself making a life-changing decision. Miranda Hart (dominating the airwaves good and proper tonight), Emerald Fennell and Bryony Hannah star, with narrator Vanessa Redgrave's first on-screen appearance as the older Jenny.

Meanwhile, in Downton Abbey - 9:00 ITV - it's the autumn of 1924 and Rose's father-in-law Lord Sinderby has rented Brancaster Castle in Northumberland (really Alnwick Vastle where the episode was filmed) and invited the Crawleys to a grouse-shooting party. However, the Sinderbys' butler Stowell (guest star wor geet canny Alun Armstrong) has an axe to grind and a scandalous secret threatens to derail the holiday. Back at Downton, the servants hold the fort and unlikely later-life romances abound, while Bates takes drastic measures to clear Anna's name as she faces an uncertain future behind bars. The seasons change and another Christmas is enjoyed at the Abbey, where a heartbreaking farewell and a joyful reunion take place. Feature-length festive special, starring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, James Faulkner, Penny Downie, Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle.
Friday 26 December
The Boy In The Dress - 6:55 BBC1 - is a family comedy adapted from the hugely over-rated David Walliams' children's book about twelve-year-old Dennis, an ordinary boy who lives in an ordinary town, but somehow feels different from everyone else. A chance sighting in a fashion magazine introduces him to a whole new world of colour and creativity. But can a boy really wear a dress without being killed with sticks? And, what will his headmaster, dad and friends in the football team think if they find out? Billy Kennedy stars as Dennis, with a supporting cast including Jennifer Saunders, Tim McInnerny, Meera Syal, Steve Speirs, Felicity Montagu, James Buckley and Walliams himself, with a cameo appearance by supermodel Kate Moss.
The members of a children's choir are reunited in 1969 for a TV documentary, forty years after a historic recording at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in That Day We Sang - 9:00 BBC2. Middle-aged insurance salesman Tubby is on his own following the death of his mother, but he gets a glimpse of the boy he once was - and the man he could still be - after hearing the record for the first time in decades. At the same time, his fellow ex-chorister Enid lives in a safe world of her own construction, but as the music stirs powerful memories in both of them, dare they make a last grab for love? Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball star in this musical drama inspired by a true story, written and directed by the dreadful Victoria Wood, with Conleth Hill, Lyndsey Marshal and Daniel Rigby. Likely to be over sentimental and full of crap - unrealistic - dialogue just like everything else that awful Wood woman does.

Ashley Jensen plays the title role in Agatha Raisin & The Quiche Of Death - 9:00 Sky1 - a quirky crime drama, based on the novels of MC Beaton. Bored with her new life in the Cotswolds, former London-based PR whizz Agatha Raisin re-doubles efforts to ingratiate herself with the local community. However, when entering its annual quiche-making competition, she inadvertently finds herself a suspect in a murder case. With her reputation tarnished and hopes of romance with a dashing ex-army neighbour seemingly thwarted, Agatha feels she has little choice but to clear her name by unmasking the real culprit. With Hermione Norris, Robert Bathurst, Katy Wix and Mathew Horne.
Last year's one-off special of Still Open All Hours revisited Granville twenty eight years on, and found that he'd not only inherited his uncle Arkwright's shop, but practically turned into him, with his happy-go-lucky son, Leroy, whizzing around on the delivery bike, much like his dad had done decades before. Now, Roy Clarke's popular sitcom is back for a full series - 6:25 BBC1. Andm, unlike other recent sitcom revivals - notably the wretched Birds Of A Feather - this one is, actually, quite decent. The first episode finds Granville forced to take extra security precautions, causing him no end of discomfort, while regular customer Eric suffers a curious injury and love is in the air for Madge. Johnny Vegas, Brigit Forsyth and Sally Lindsay co-star. The next episode is on Sunday at 7.30pm.
Morecambe & Wise Live! 1973 - 8:00 Channel Five - features the legendary duo's performance at The Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon in October 1973, which was the only one of their stage shows ever captured on film. Backed by the Johnny Wiltshire Sound, Eric and Ernie make their entrance to the familiar strains of 'Bring Me Sunshine', before entertaining the audience with a mix of sketches, one-liners and musical numbers honed during their many hard years on the comedy circuit. Part of Channel Five's Best of British Comedy Day. That's followed by Tommy Cooper's Christmas Special - 9:25 - a festive edition of the classic comedy show from 1974 as Allan Cuthbertson, Tommy Godfrey, Glyn Houston, Damaris Hayman and Annette Potts join Tommy in a selection of sketches and magic routines. Providing the music are Irish singer Dana and American crooner Vic Damone and there is a guest appearance by the French puppeteer Andre Tahon. Then, there's the rarely repeated Carry On Christmas - 10:25 - the team's first TV special, originally broadcast in 1969. It consists of a series of sketches based on A Christmas Carol - with supporting characters including Frankenstein's monster and Dracula. Sid James heads the cast as Scrooge, with Barbara Windsor, Frankie Howerd, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Terry Scott and Peter Butterworth. But, not Kenneth Williams. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, he didn't do Christmas, apparently.
Saturday 27 December
And, speaking of people who were massive in the seventies (and, aren't currently serving considerable stir at Her Majesty's pleasure, obviously), veteran showman Bruce Forsyth returns to his old performing home of the London Palladium to host a one-off special in which a line-up of stars are given the chance to emulate their idols in Bruce's Hall Of Fame - 8:30 BBC1. EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace, jazz singer Jamie Cullum, Alfie Boe, impressionist Jon Culshaw and actor-comedians Jason Manford and Ben Miller pay tribute to the entertainers that have inspired them by stepping into their shoes for one night only, performing live for the theatre audience - not to mention the millions watching at home.

Tonight will also see Middle Class hippy Communist professional offence-takers everywhere glued to Top Gear - 8:30 BBC2 - simply to see if they can find something (however trivial) to whinge, loudly, about in an effort to stir up trouble and get Clarkson sacked by the BBC. Which, one expects, they will manage to do in relation to the former but not so much concerning the latter (given that Top Gear, effectively, pays not only for itself but much of BBC2's other output as well). This is, of course, the first half of a two-part special, the filming of which 'caused controversy' (with the Gruniad Morning Star, the Daily Mirra and the Daily Scum Mail, and with the Argentine ambassador to Britain if not with anyone that actually matters). All, allegedly, because of a registration plate which, allegedly, drew alleged links to the Falklands War. That wasn't alleged, that definitely happened. But, of course, it was nothing to do with that, rather it came about because of some people with a sick agenda (professional offence-takers, in other words) looking to sell a few newspapers and cause some bother for the BBC at the same time. It all looked so straight-forward on paper as Jezza Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May planned to take three used V8-engined sports cars on a gruelling road trip covering sixteen hundred miles through Patagonia. Their chosen vehicles were the Porsche 928, Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang, which were subjected to rigours beyond the scope of their original designs - from tackling swamps and crossing deserts to navigating forests, beaches and ski slopes. Their destination is Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, where they hope to stage a game of car football against Argentina. But, of course, we all know that ultimately, this didn't happen. Expect, therefore, a bumper audience of all the usual suspects line-up to try and find something to be whinge about. Which, to repeat, they probably will. In other news, the Pope is Catholic and bears do shit in the woods. The second episode - where it all kicks-off big-style and features all the rock-chucking and lots of Argentines getting aal stroppy and discombobulated - will be shown on Sunday ay 8pm.
Meg Hamilton moves with her husband Alec and their children Penny and Harper to Radcliffe House, a remote estate on the Yorkshire moors that she has been hired to renovate in The Haunting Of Radcliffe House - 9:35 Channel Five. Following a series of strange events, it appears that their arrival has triggered paranormal emanations related to the estate's tragic past and when Meg unlocks the secret of an intricate mosaic, the Hamiltons finds themselves in grave danger from demonic forces unleashed by the previous owner. Supernatural drama written and directed by Nick Willing, with Olivia Williams and Matthew Modine.

In a repeat of the Christmas Day episode (which, like as not, you'll have missed because, by that time of Christmas night, you'll have been asleep in the armchair for a few hours, dear blog reader) Brendan O'Carroll's foul-mouthed matriarch makes a popular return for the first of two festive editions of Mrs Brown's Boys - 10:05 BBC1. As Christmas descends on the Brown household, Agnes is intrigued by the arrival of a large box for Cathy - and even more puzzled when it turns out she's the only one in the family who doesn't know what's inside. The concerned mum also isn't happy at the news that Rory is having plastic surgery, especially when she gets the wrong end of the stick about what sort of nips and tucks he'll be having. Bad news for Winnie prompts her to make a life-changing announcement, which could spell the end of her lifelong friendship with Agnes, while Buster Brady delivers a new Christmas tree - and true to form, it refuses to cooperate.
Sunday 28 December
Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi return for a third series as the septuagenarian newlyweds Celia and Alan in Sally Wainwright's popular family drama Last Tango In Halifax - 9:00 BBC1 - with Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker as their troubled daughters. The action begins on Valentine's Day, when Gillian is enjoying a date with a handsome man from Halifax. But as the evening draws on, things aren't quite what they seem with the charming Gary. Alan and Celia plan a honeymoon adventure to New Zealand to visit his brother Ted, although their happiness is short-lived with the unexpected appearance of someone from Alan's past. Caroline proposes to a heavily pregnant Kate, while her ex-husband John turns up with bad news. Tony Gardner and Nina Sosanya co-star.

He's threatened to become a tax exile if Labour win the next election - which, frankly, is one very good reason for hoping Mister Milimolimandi overcomes all expectations to the contrary and gets the gig. But, for tonight at least, Griff Rhys Jones (who used to be funny, many, many years ago, but now isn't) continued to get his money for nothing as he serves up yet another selection of TV clangers, gaffes and fluffed cues, all rescued from the cutting-room floor in All New It'll Be Alright On The Night - 9:00 ITV. All those dear blog readers who upon hearing this news, said 'Christ, is that bollocks still going?', be advised; this blogger is right there with you. Anyway, this features, among other 'hilarious' (it says here) malarkey, Shane Richie in a less-then-perfect moment as EastEnders' Alfie Moon, the Come Dine With Me couple who almost split up and obnoxious lanky streak of worthless piss Jack Whitehall putting his foot in it, plus out-takes from All Star Mr & Mrs, Birds Of A Feather and Australian prison drama Wentworth. All the usual nonsense, in other words. Oh, the hilarity.
Showing a 'Christmas special' on 28 December is a bit like showing an Easter special in the middle of July, frankly, but that's what BBC2 is doing tonight with House Of Fools - 10:05. It's Christmas Eve (oh no it isn't!) and Vic and Beef can't wait to get the party started, but Bob's celebrations are cut short when the special present he organised for his sulky son Erik is unexpectedly engulfed in flames. To find a suitable replacement, the housemates join Julie and Bosh on an underground boat journey to 'pop icon' balding Tory tax exile Phil Collins's mansion, while a final surprise awaits when Santa (Reece Shearsmith) arrives to save the day. Festive edition of the sitcom written by and starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, with Matt Berry, Dan Renton Skinner, Morgana Robinson and Daniel Simonsen.

Most Shocking Celebrity Moments 2014 - 9:00 Channle Five - is exactly the sort of crass clip show you'd expect at this time of the year and from a channel formerly owned by a soft core pornographer. Pre-publicity suggests a 'countdown of the biggest showbusiness stories and scandals of the year, from Solange Knowles attacking brother-in-law Jay Z in a lift, to Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's whirlwind romance and marriage as well as her return to The X Factor.' Wow. Pass the valium. Pass out. Plus, 'the ongoing antics of Justin Bieber, One Direction's alleged dalliances with drugs, Russell Brand's attempt to start a revolution, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's "conscious uncoupling" and Judy Murray's efforts on Strictly Come Dancing.' So, a barrel load of banal, worthless z-list 'celebrity' obsessed rank and utter bollocks and exactly the sort of thing that will be watched by people who believe obnoxious lanky streak of piss Jack Whitehall is 'the king of comedy' three years running. At times like this, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is reminded of something the Reverend Richard Coles said during one of his appearances on Qi. Recalling a phone-in complaints show that he used to present for 5Live, Richard remembered a lady called Marjorie ringing in to say 'I am appalled by everything' and then slamming down the phone. When presented with diarrhoea the likes of this, dear blog reader, this blogger knew exactly how Marjorie felt. Anyway, if you're at all interested - and, if you are, then why the Hell are you reading this blog? - the programme also has 'the inside track' on the weddings of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin and considers whether Kim Kardashian's bottom is set to take over the world. Featuring talking-head contributions by Len Goodman, Janice Dickinson, James Jordan, Sinitta, Kerry Katona, Ollie Locke (who?), Jasmine Waltz (who?) and Suzanne Shaw. All of whom should be sodding well ashamed of themselves. Except that awful Katona woman, she has no shame to show.

Monday 29 December
Miss Elizabeth Mapp reigns supreme in the picturesque town of Tilling and has even more reason to gloat than usual when she lets her house for the summer to a very desirable tenant - Mrs Emmeline Lucas, known to her friends as Lucia in the much-anticipated adaptation of Mapp and Lucia - 9:00 BBC1. However, when the newcomer proves more popular with the locals than expected, Mapp is left out in the cold, leading to a constant battle for supremacy over bridge parties, garden fetes, art competitions and even the odd yoga class. Period comedy, starring Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor. Written by co-star Steve Pemberton, based on the comic novels by EF Benson. Continues tomorrow.
Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan hopes to get closer to wild wolves than anyone before to discover the true nature of this feared predator and heads to the North of Canada in search of a pack that has never seen people and so has no fear of humans in the first of the two-part Snow Wolf Family And Me - 9:00 BBC2. He begins to gain the trust of an Arctic wolf family and as time passes becomes accepted by the pack, including a female and its three newborn pups, and has some close encounters that reveal a softer side to the animals.

In Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies - 9:00 BBC4 - the comedian focuses his attentions on, as you might expect from the title, British spy movies. From their pre-Second World War roots in producers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger to the genre's Cold War heyday when The Ipcress File, Our Man In Havana and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold were released. Al - who produced a similar, and really rather decent, show on British war movies earlier in the year - also reflects on some modern classics, such as the recent adaptation of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy. Former Director of MI5 Stella Rimington, political comedian Matt Forde and film expert, the lovely Matthew Sweet join Al to discuss issues emanating from the genre, including an inherent distrust of the intelligence community, moral ambiguity and sexist characterisation. Al also recalls some of the screen's most enduring spies, such as Harry Palmer, George Smiley, and of course the greatest and most enduring of them all, James Bond.

It's the time of the year where clips shows rule, sadly. Christmas Epic Fails - 9:00 ITV - is yet another one. Angus Deayton (remember him?) 'celebrates the funny side of Christmas', featuring everything from cringeworthy gifts and festive fads to cheesy songs and unsettling Santas. Quelle original. There's a look back at The Krankies' Christmas TV Special (oh God, do we have to?), a 1950s cartoon oddity with 'an unfortunate name' and the 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids craze, as well as footage of Christmas light failures, a reindeer stuck on a rooftop (which isn't funny, it's rather tragic) and a very disappointing grotto. Which, again, isn't so much funny as a regular occurrence. Angus also uncovers a variety of strange yuletide traditions from around the world (which, isn't funny it's actually borderline racist) and presents a collection of new television bloopers (which also won't be funny. If there was any danger that they were, Griff Rhys Jones would've nabbed them for It'll Be All Right On The Night two days ago). Don't worry, kids, another couple of days of this sort of tripe and then we've got about three hundred and fifty odd days before they start all over again.

Strictly Come Dancing judge and former Royal Ballet star Darcey Bussell has admired the work of Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn for decades, impressed by a few striking parallels between them - their love of dance, the ability to reinvent themselves and a strong belief that family comes first. In Darcey Bussell's Looking For Audrey - 10:35 BBc1 - Darcey takes the opportunity to explore the actress's private world, discovering how she survived starvation during the Nazi occupation of Holland, and went on to win respect and admiration for her work in the theatre and movies as well as for her humanitarian deeds.

Tuesday 30 December
In Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe - 10:00 BBC2 - the writer, broadcaster andgrumpy professional misanthrope takes a 'satirical' (for which read 'cynical, but often very amusing') look back at the events of the past year, casting his jaundiced, world-weary eye over the news, film, TV and social media in an effort to find the most ridiculous shit that people chose to care about. Among the stories Big Chaz reflects upon are the bizarre ice-bucket challenge craze, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's marriage ending in what the pretentious 'entirely made of hummus' couple called 'a conscious uncoupling' (that's a divorce to you and me, dear blog readers) and the poppy installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Featuring contributions by Diane Morgan, Al Campbell and Jake Yapp.
The property expert Phil Spencer returns to help Middle Class people with 'that's not a real job' type jobs in the Home Counties struggling to sell their homes, beginning in the cathedral cities of Hereford and Gloucester in Phil Spencer: Secret Agent - 8:00 Channel Four. Nick and Carolyn have recently separated and are desperate to get rid of their house after seven months on the market, while Lorna and Stuart need a bigger place to accommodate their growing family. Phil must persuade the sellers to do what it takes to attract buyers, and get it all done in time for open day.

In Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives And Loves Of CS Lewis - 9:00 BBC4 - the biographer AN Wilson goes in search of the man behind the Narnia novels - a best-selling children's author and world-famous Christian writer, but an under-appreciated Oxford academic and an aspiring poet who never achieved the same success in writing verse as he did with his prose. Lewis's private life was marked by secrecy and even his best friend, JRR Tolkien, didn't know about his marriage to an American divorcee late in life. Lewis died on the same day as the assassination of John F Kennedy (as did Aldous Huxley, interestingly) and few mourners were at his burial. However, his life as a writer is now being remembered alongside national literary heroes in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner.
In the last episode of Elementary before a winter break - 9:00 Sky Living - Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson join forces with the NYPD to investigate the murder of a police officer. Meanwhile, Sherlock also searches for the creator of a 'recovery blog' who is posting details of things the detective has said in sobriety meetings.

Wednesday 31 December
Given that much of the country will be spending the majority of tonight getting absolutely bladdered and ending the night on their hands and knees in the gutter puking their ring, it's to be expected that much of tonight's TV offerings are of the 'undemanding, bordering on lazy' variety. Cos, let's face it, anybody watching will, by definition, we friednless. Just like yer actual keith Telly Toping, in fact. Take Britain's Favourite Sitcoms - 9:00 Channel Five. Mel Giedroyc (who is capable of so much more) narrates another one of those trivial-to-the-point-of-banality examples of 'list TV', a countdown of the nation's fifty best-loved TV comedies, as voted for by Channel Five viewers - all five of them - in an online poll. Shows including Only Fools And Horses, The Vicar of Dibley, The Inbetweeners, Cheers, The Black Adder, Friends, Father Ted, Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones are sure to be included in the list. Mind you, so is Birds Of A Feather, which says it all, really. With contributions by Shelley Long, Ardal O'Hanlon, Emily Atack, Vicki Michelle, Ruth Madoc, Leslie Ash, Nigel Planer, Derek Fowlds, Lesley Joseph and Annette Crosbie among many others. Whether you watch this or eat your own earwax is, frankly, a tough one to call.
On a similar note, yet another one from the 'only watch this if you're terminally depressed' column is FA Cup's Fifty Greatest Moments - 9:00 BBC3. Former England captain Rio Ferdinand and alleged 'pop star' Olly Murs (the obvious choice for presenting such a show, clearly) count down the most memorable moments from the prestigious domestic football competition. So, Christ dear blog reader, that's going to be a meeting on minds and no mistake. With contributions from stars of the game Thierry Henry (who was a great player but always seems to have a look on his face like he's just smelled shit nearby), Jack Wilshere, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, The Little Shit, Vinnie Jones, Gary Lineker and Ruud Gullit, plus 'football fans' Helen Skelton, Russell Brand, Louis Tomlinson, Wretch Thirty Two (no, me neither) and Eliza Doolittle. You would have to be a brain-damaged moron, or the victim of a cruel medical experiment to consider this bollocks even remotely worth five seconds of your time, dear blog reader.

Jason Manford presents his own end-of-year comedy review show, A Funny Old Year 2014 - 9:00 ITV - an allegedly 'humorous celebration' of the highs and lows of the past twelve months, from the brilliant to the infuriating. What, you may wonder, will be the difference between Jason's end-of-year show and those of Angus Deayton and Charlie Brooker from earlier in the week? Christ only knows. Anyway. the stand-up gives his 'personal take' on everything from TV to sport, as well as the gaffes, feuds and trends of the year. Yeah, that's original.

Jools Holland presents the twenty second edition of his New Year's Eve musical extravaganza Jools' Annual Hootenanny - 11:20 BBC1 - as he sees out 2014 with a host of stars. The line-up features British singer-songwriters Ed Sheeran, Paolo Nutini, Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith and Joss Stone, while America is represented by Ronnie Spector, blues musician Boz Scaggs, soul singer William Bell and country band Hayseed Dixie. Plus, Clean Bandit with Jess Glynne perform their chart-topping single 'Rather Be' and there are appearances by former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson and Hootenanny regular Ruby Turner, while The Pipes & Drums Of The First Battalion Scots Guards play in the New Year in traditional fashion.

And so we bid a fond farewell to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Top TV Tips and turn, instead, to the news:

ITV has confirmed the premiere details for Broadchurch's forthcoming second series. The crime drama - which stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman - will return to screens on Monday 5 January. Little is known about the plot of the next series, which will feature new cast members Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Meera Syal, Eve Myles and James D'Arcy. Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Arthur Darvill were previously confirmed to be reprising their roles.
The American remake of the hit ITV drama Broadchurch will not return for a second series, it has been confirmed. Because it was - as expected - shit and no one was watching it. Which is the usual reason that TV shows get cancelled. Renamed Gracepoint, the drama saw David Tennant his very self reprise his role as a detective investigating the murder of a boy in a small coastal town. Only, this time, with a rather dodgy American accent. Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn co-starred as Ellie Miller, the part played by yer actual Olivia Coleman in the ITV original. The drama, as this blogger had anticipated on several occasions over the last year since Gracepoint was announced, delivered hugely disappointing ratings for FOX, with audiences dropping from almost five million for the opening episodes to well below four million for the later ones. The US version had originally been billed as a 'limited series' and not a continuing drama, so another season was not, necessarily, expected. However it is inconceivably that FOX would have renewed it had the ratings been higher. But, they weren't, so they didn't.
Meanwhile, Olivia Colman her very self and The Mighty Boosh's Julian Barratt are to feature in a new comedy pilot, Flowers, for Channel Four. Colly will play the mother of twentysomething twins in the sitcom about 'the ultimate dysfunctional family.' Barratt will play Colman's husband in the comedy, written and directed by Will Sharpe, who will also appear as the family’s 'home help.' Sharpe was one of the co-directors of the low budget film Black Pond, starring Chris Langham and Simon Amstell, which was nominated for the BAFTA outstanding debut award in 2012. Currently a non-broadcast pilot, filming has just finished on the opening episode of Flowers with Channel Four hopeful that it will progress to a full series. Channel Four's head of comedy Phil Clarke said: 'It is really dark, funny and challenging – everything a Channel Four family sitcom should be.' Except funny, one imagines. 'It's possibly the most dysfunctional family you will ever come across and yet somehow they still manage to function as a family. The humour is very dark but at times it's really broad as well. It's a very original piece – I don't think there's anything like it anywhere else.' Abeit, if it isn't funny then, there's plenty like it elsewhere. Mainly on BBC3. Clarke said that the pilot, which is being made by Kudos, the production company behind Broadchurch, [spooks], Hustle, Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes et al, was in many respects a traditional sitcom. 'They have twins, a son and a daughter, the nanny lives at the house as well; they have neighbours and there are builders in. If it goes to a full series the builders will probably always be there,' he said. 'It's got all the classic sitcom things and yet it is absolutely not like anything else I have read for a very, very long time.' Clarke said he 'really loved' Black Pond, a dark comedy about a family who are accused of murder when a stranger comes to dinner.

A series based on the detective novels written by JK Rowling under the name Robert Galbraith is to be made for TV, the BBC has announced. The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm will form the basis of the serial, which will be made with the assistance of the, hugely over-rated, author of books for teenagers. The BBC said that it was 'a coup' to secure the books, which feature private detective Cormoran Strike. Filming details for the series have yet to be determined. The number of episodes for the series are also still in discussion, as is a title and it is not yet clear when it will be broadcast. The BBC - together with US broadcaster HBO - has already made a small screen version of Rowling's A Casual Vacancy, which is due to be broadcast in February. Production company Bronte Films, which made the mini-series, will also be responsible for the new crime drama. BBC director of television Danny Cohen said: 'It's a wonderful coup for BBC TV to be bringing JK Rowling's latest books to the screen. With the rich character of Cormoran Strike at their heart, these dramas will be event television across the world.'

Citizen Khan is to return for a fourth series. This blogger is pure dead sorry, so he is, to be the bearer of such rotten bad news at this, supposedly, joyous time of the year, and all that ...
Sean Bean his very self has been announced to present a Waterloo documentary for the History Channel. The Game Of Thrones actor will be fronting the two-hour special, to be broadcast on the two hundredth anniversary of the battle in June 2015. Using historical eyewitness accounts and analysis from present-day military experts, The Battle of Waterloo is planning to provide a different 'ground-level perspective' on the events of 18 June 1815. Bean will also work with a team of soldiers and experts in testing the weapons and tactics that shaped the outcome of the battle. The documentary is commissioned by A+E Networks UK and produced by independent company Wavelength Films. Bean, who previously starred in Sharpe, based on the novels of Bernard Cornwell, as the fictional British rifle officer Richard Sharpe during the Peninsular Wars, said: 'I am excited to be following the footsteps of Sharpe and those who fought in the Battle of Waterloo to tell the story of this iconic battle on History.' Patrick McGrady, managing director of Wavelength Films, stated: 'We are excited to be embarking on a partnership with History to tell the story of Waterloo. His interest in this period makes Sean Bean the perfect choice to present this special programme, and we are looking forward to working with him on this fascinating project.' Filming for The Battle of Waterloo begins in England and Belgium this month.

An early version of the script for the forthcoming James Bond film Spectre has, reportedly, been stolen by hackers. The producers of Spectre have confirmed that the screenplay was taken as part of a cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November. In a statement on the film's official website, Eon Productions said that they were 'concerned' the script may be published online. Spectre is due to be released in November 2015. The statement said: 'Eon Productions, the producers of the James Bond films, learned this morning that an early version of the screenplay for the new Bond film Spectre is amongst the material stolen and illegally made public by hackers who infiltrated the Sony Pictures Entertainment computer system. Eon Productions is concerned that third parties who have received the stolen screenplay may seek to publish it or its contents.' Filming on Spectre began this month after the title and cast were unveiled in London. A new car was unveiled to the public, but few details were given about the plot for the film. A Sony spokesman denied reports that the cyber attack had forced the studio to stop filming. 'Productions are still moving forward,' Robert Lawson told the Reuters news agency.
Former BBC DJ Chris Denning has been jailed for thirteen years for sexually abusing boys in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Denning - one of the original line-up of Radio 1 DJs in 1967 - was extremely sentenced for forty sick and sordid offences against twenty four boys aged nine to sixteen. Judge Alistair McCreath called the convicted kiddie-fiddler Denning 'utterly depraved' and said that he 'corrupted' boys at a 'critical stage in their development.' The court heard that the seventy three-year-old used his fame to 'entice' boys. This included taking some victims to recordings of Top Of The Pops and, in other instances, introducing them to celebrities including dirty old scallywag and right rotten rotter Jimmy Savile. One victim recalled being assaulted at Savile's house, while other assaults took place at locations including Denning's home and a computer game shop he owned in Poole, Dorset. Neil Moore, prosecuting, said: 'The defendant used the allure first of the record industry and celebrity, and then the world of computer games to entice boys into his company. He spoke to them about his career and the celebrities of the moment he knew.' Denning pleaded very guilty to the thirty eight counts of indecent assault, a charge of gross indecency with a boy and another of indecency with a boy under the age of fourteen. The crimes were dreadful, hellish committed between 1967 and 1987. Extremely passing sentence at London's Southwark Crown Court, the judge told Denning: 'It is not to be forgotten that all of this suffering was inflicted by you without thought for anything other than your own selfish pleasure.' He added: 'You gave them alcohol and drugs. To some of them you gave money. You showed them pornographic material. You introduced them to inappropriate sexual behaviour by making it seem normal and exciting.' The abuse had a 'devastating effect' on the boys - now middle-aged men - the judge added. Denning wrote to the judge apologising to his victims - but the judge said that the 'only real mitigation' was the fact he had pleaded guilty to the charges. David Burgess, Denning's lawyer, said: 'The years have passed and he in short failed to grasp the enormity of the consequences of his behaviour. He is enormously sorry for what he did to these boys then - men now - and that's something he will have to live with.' One victim - who visited Denning's home in Winchester in either 1978 or 1979 - described it as 'an Aladdin's cave' with 'lots of pornographic magazines.' Another recalled a sleepover at the same property when 'the lounge was full of boys.' The court heard that Denning often recorded his assaults on videotape or with photographs. He told one victim that another boy who had caused him 'trouble' would have compromising photos of himself dropped from a helicopter over his home town. Denning was very arrested in June 2013 under Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into allegations which arose after the sex abuse perpetrated by dirty old scallywag and right rotten rotter Jimmy Savile came to light. Convicted kiddie-fiddler Denning's arrest was under the strand of the investigation into offences not connected to Savile. He had previously served prison sentences in the UK, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for sick and disgraceful sexual offences involving young boys.

A costly eight-week trial of one of Britain's most prolific child abusers nearly collapsed at the eleventh hour after Channel Four News published 'misleading and inaccurate' material about the story on its website. Simon Harris was found very guilty at Birmingham crown court on Tuesday of a host of dreadful sex offences against vulnerable young Kenyan street boys. But the case was nearly thrown out after Channel Four News - whose tip-off about Harris's offending triggered events which led to him being charged – published an online news item wrongly stating that he had already been convicted only hours after jurors began deliberating, last Wednesday afternoon. The offending article was shown to have been accessed by dozens of computers and included what the trial judge criticised as 'triumphant and boasting' pre-recorded interviews with senior investigating police officers. Judge Philip Parker QC said that he regarded the broadcaster's mistake as 'beyond unfortunate' and said that he would be referring the matter to the Attorney General to consider possible legal action against those responsible under contempt of court procedures. Addressing prosecution and defence counsel in court, Parker said: 'I regard it as repugnant. It shows no respect for the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty.' Channel Four News said that it apologised 'unreservedly.' A statement said: 'As soon as we were made aware of the error, we removed the piece. Jury members confirmed none of them saw the article.' It is understood that ITN, which makes Channel Four News, has appointed an external lawyer to conduct an internal investigation into how the human error occurred and whether the human who erred should have his or her arse kicked into jail forthwith, of not sooner. In further comments aimed at what he described as 'a repugnant practice', Parker criticised police for giving pre-recorded media interviews in which officers were gleefully anticipating guilty verdicts, saying it 'rode roughshod' over the independence of the police. 'If it reveals there is a practice of pre-recording triumphalist police interviews boasting about success before a verdict, it is a practice that to my mind should stop,' the judge said. 'To consider how wrong it is – why was it not recorded before the case started? Might the answer be that the police are supposed to show some independence? Am I to publish my sentencing remarks to the media before verdicts on the off-chance the defendant is convicted? This is a repugnant practice.' The matter only came to light when Harris' sister found the article more than forty eight hours after it had apparently been published to the broadcaster's news website. On Monday, three-and-a-half days after deliberations began, jurors were asked if they had seen or been told of 'a misleading and inaccurate report', however all claimed not to have seen it. The report, including three videos, would not have shown up on a Google search according to Channel Four lawyers, and had only been accessed by sixty eight computer IP addresses, although exactly how many members of the public saw the page remains unclear. Gavin Millar QC, for the broadcaster, said: 'We obviously profusely apologise.' Obviously. He added that the page had been published to show 'Channel Four executives and others' internally, and was only viewable from searching Harris' name on the news site. Millar said: 'It seems to us unlikely in the extreme that those non-ITN/Channel Four News hits on Friday, after the jury had been sent home (for the weekend) would include jurors, who had been given a direction not to search on the Internet.' Parker, who by this stage appeared to have a right chimney on with Channel Four's crass comments, replied that he had given no such direction and that while jurors were directed not to research the case, they were 'perfectly entitled to look at the news and how it is reported.' He considered the material would be 'highly prejudicial to a fair trial, had anyone seen it.' The case only came to court after a documentary team working for the Unreported World series passed on evidence it had uncovered concerning the fifty five-year-old Harris's naughty offending, while filming in Kenya. Members of the documentary team, including the channel's news anchor Cathy Newman and EMMY award-winning producer Wael Dabbous, were in court as the matter was discovered. However, it was said to be another staff member at Channel Four News who uploaded the article, so it could be viewed by channel executives.
A former Scum of the World journalist has been spared jail in relation to illegal payments to a prison officer for tips about Jon Venables, one of the killers of two-year-old James Bulger. The journalist who, according to the Gruniad Morning Star 'cannot be named for legal reasons', was extremely sentenced to six months in the pokey, suspended for one year. The reporter was also ordered at the Old Bailey on Thursday to do one hundred and fifty hours unpaid work and put under tagged curfew for three months between the hours of 6pm and 7am. Addressing the journalist in the dock, Judge Wide said that this would be 'a daily reminder of how close to prison you came.' The former prison officer, Scott Chapman, and his then wife, Lynn Gaffney, were both extremely handed jail terms. Chapman was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in The big House, while Gaffney, who allowed her bank account to be used for payments, was given thirty weeks porridge. The judge said that Venables had committed a 'truly awful crime' when he was ten years old, which 'with justification stayed in public memory.' He had been returned to prison in 2010 after admitting downloading and distributing pictures of child abuse. Turning to the reporter, Wide said: 'It is obvious that you knew perfectly well that Chapman was a prison officer but you persisted in your denials.' He added: 'You also claimed you had been acting consciously in the public interest. I don’t accept that.' Chapman made over forty grand by selling tips for thirty nine stories to seven newspapers: the Sun, the Sunday Mirra, the People, the Daily Mirra, the Daily Lies, the Daily Lies Sunday and the Scum of the World, the judge noted. In sentencing, Wide said that he 'took account' of the fact the reporter in the dock was only involved in two stories, that Venables had been given board games and a personal trainer, and these were not very prominent. 'The two stories you wrote, separated by only a fortnight, were not very sensitive revelations and these were, in the jargon, back of the book,' said Wide. He said that Chapman was motivated by nothing but blind greed and had made more money than any other public official who had faced a similar sentence. He told Chapman that he had committed 'a very grave' offence when he revealed to journalists the assumed name of Venables, who had been given a new identity when first released for the Bulger killing. In his mitigation plea Chapman's barrister Paul Mendelle, QC, told Wide that Chapman had 'not volunteered' this information but was asked for it as a way of verifying his credentials to journalists. Venables' new name, it was claimed, was 'common knowledge' on Fleet Street. 'It was asked of him of a badge of genuineness, it wasn't something he volunteered,' alleged Mendelle. Passing sentence Wide told Chapman: 'It is a seriously aggravating feature that in that first call you told the journalist [Venables'] assumed name. I regard that as very grave indeed. Whether it is common knowledge in what is known as Fleet Street is beside the point.' Mendelle had also pleaded with the judge for leniency arguing that Chapman would be 'singled out' for 'punishment' by prisoners using 'boiling water with sugar so the boiling water sticks to the skin and a plastic toilet brush with twin blades, so the cuts are far apart that they can't be successfully stitched.' Mendelle told Judge Wide: 'He said to me today that the worst things in prison are number one, an ex-prison officer, number two, an ex-policeman, and number three a sex offender.' Gaffney had allowed her bank account to be used for ten grand of the payments to her former husband, Wide said: 'This was effectively money laundering and you took an active part. It was not passive acquiescence.' The stories related to a period in 2010 when Venables was sent back to prison after admitting downloading and distributing indecent images of children. The resulting stories which appeared in newspapers included one in which he was described as sitting in his 'den' strumming 'Oasis hits' and others reporting his 'fascination' with Harry Potter and his attempts to lose weight. The articles claimed that the prison service had made life inside prison for Venables as 'comfortable as possible' and the journalist had attempted to claim during the trial that it was 'in the public interest' to reveal Venables had been given board games and a personal trainer. A strange defence one might consider when taking into account the fact that the law does not provide a 'public interest' clause against paying public officials for information. Giving evidence, the journalist said: 'He had been taken in by the prison service, given millions of pounds for a new identity and then repeat-offended and the prison service deal with it by making his life as comfortable as possible. Public interest. What sort of message are they sending out to him that it's okay to look at two-year-olds being raped?' The reporter denied knowing that Chapman was a prison officer and denied receiving picture messages from him showing his prison security pass and a wage slip. In evidence the journalist claimed that the consequences of articles were 'always thought about' before publication. 'I think I would have been thinking about the public interest of the story rather than the impact on Jon Venables's mental state,' the reporter said. 'I would have thought the fact he had to live with the fact he murdered a two-year-old would have more affected his mental state than a piece in the News of the World that he may or may not have seen.' The reporter said that both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers wrote stories about Venables's treatment in prison 'because they believed the public should know these things.' Chapman said he sold the stories because of his 'concern' at the 'complete injustice' of what he saw as Venables' preferential treatment in prison, and that the money was 'welcome' but a secondary concern. 'The overall total sounds staggering,' Chapman told the court. 'I'm human. It shocked me. Money they were chucking at me – two thousand five hundred pound for a five-minute conversation.' The journalist also denied any knowledge of e-mails allegedly sent to their boss referring to Chapman as 'a prison tipster' and 'prison guy.' The jury, seemingly, did not believe him. Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC told the court that bank account analysis showed Gaffney was 'liquidating funds' from newspaper deals for Chapman and giving him money in cash. Analyst Nadia Tuominem said that between April 2000 and February 2012, Gaffney's expenditure outweighed her income by £12,815 – equal to around a third share of the forty grand total payments. The couple spent more than fifteen thousand smackers on holidays between January 2010 and April 2012, including a family trip to Orlando, in September 2011, she said.

The former features editor at the Scum of the World is facing a potential jail sentence after he extremely admitted overseeing four years of illegal phone-hacking. Jules Stenson pleaded very guilty to involvement in what the prosecution has called 'industrial-scale hacking' operation at the News International newspaper under disgraced and jailed criminal Andy Coulson between 2003 and 2007. Stenson, from Wandsworth, will be sentenced on a date to be fixed next year. The paper's former deputy editor Neil Wallis, pleaded not guilty to the same allegation at the Old Bailey on Friday and was given unconditional bail. He awaits a six-week trial from June next year. The pair were the first to be charged under the Metropolitan police's Operation Pinetree, an investigation into allegations of phone-hacking at the features desk which stemmed from the Operation Weeting inquiry that led to the conviction of Coulson earlier this year. The Weeting conspiracy involved the Prime Ministers former, if you will, 'chum' Coulson, news desk executives Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup, Neville Thurlbeck and Ian Edmondson, features reporter Dan Evans and private detective and hacker in chief Glenn Mulcaire, all of whom pleaded very guilty or were found extremely guilty of being involved in hacking on the paper. Stenson was the boss of the former Scum of the World journalist Evans, who admitted to routine hacking, including eavesdropping on the messages of the actor Daniel Craig, in the earlier trial. In a separate trial at Kingston crown court, a judge ruled that Chris Pharo, the Sun's head of news, will no longer face trial for paying a prison official at Swaleside prison for stories about security breaches in 2007 and 2009. Judge Richard Marks told jurors: 'For reasons I need not go into at the present time, my intention is having considered the matter with counsel to discharge you from giving a verdict on that count.' Pharo still faces three other charges, all of which he denies.

News International has been described in the crown court as a geet filthy stinkin' 'copper’s nark' what 'shopped' a number of mid-level Sun journalists up to The Law in order to save the skin of senior staff in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal in 2011. Fitted up like a toffer, Tommy Nutters, so they were, it was claimed. Counsel for the Sun's head of news, Chris Pharo, told jurors that the police and prosecution allowed themselves to be 'spoon fed' evidence 'by a mighty multinational desperate to save its own skin.' Nigel Rumfitt QC, told Kingston crown court that the company had 'cynically' set up its management standards committee to give the impression it was fully cooperating with the police. But, he told jurors: 'The MSC was about as independent as the Isle of Wight.' It had not given all the evidence to the police, he said. Rumfitt claimed that three million e-mails were deleted and only one document authorising cash payments showing the Sun's former editor, that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks's signature was found, despite claims made in court that she would have signed 'hundreds'. Rumfitt described the MSC as 'a front for News International and it's plain it engaged in a wholesale cover-up of the roles of the senior members of staff at the expense of the more junior.' News International, he claimed, was 'a copper's nark – a grass, and like all grasses gives a mixture of inaccurate and misleading information to the police to save its own skin.' Rumfitt was making his closing speech on behalf of Pharo, one of six Sun journalists on trial over alleged unlawful payments to public officials for stories. All six journalists deny all the charges. Rumfitt suggested that the MSC had 'knowingly' given police incomplete evidence when they handed over the internal e-mails, which included references to payments to a 'police contact', a 'Chelsea copper' or 'Tipster Bob', who worked at Broadmoor high security hospital. 'News International were terrified that the company itself would be prosecuted and, if it was, the US authorities might withdraw its licences bringing down the whole empire with the loss of forty six thousand jobs. This was described by one of the US lawyers as "apocalyptic". So they set up the MSC, to make it look as if they were co-operating fully,' said Rumfitt. News International's motivation was cynical, Rumfitt alleged. It was 'an unscrupulous company which has decided the best way to save its skin is to shop its own employees,' the jurors were told. Pharo, the papers’s head of news, has pleaded extremely not guilty to three charges of illegally authorising payments to public officials including prison officers and police. Rumfitt reminded jurors of e-mails telling Sun staff that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks - who is not on trial - was 'the only one' who could authorise cash payments at the paper when she was editor. He questioned why it was that only one document signed by her, was produced as evidence in the trial. 'Do you think Rebekah Brooks only ever signed one of those?' Rumfitt asked. The evidence of one of the company’s staff, Charlotte Hull, was that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks would have 'signed hundreds of them', he said. He claimed that the MSC was appointed by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch - who is, also, not on trial - and paid by Murdoch and that its boss, Will Lewis, had himself 'bunged' a public official when he was at the Daily Torygraph in exchange for the scoop on MPs expenses. 'The MSC, it's a front for NI and it's plain it engaged in a wholesale cover-up of the roles of the senior members of staff at the expense of the more junior. That's why the most senior employee of NI that I have been able to cross-examine is Charlotte Hull,' he alleged. 'The Crown Prosecution Service and senior officers in the Met police have been taken for a ride, led up the garden path, by a foreign corporation.' Rumfitt told jurors that Pharo had been suspended from his job, arrested, kept on bail for three years and 'unable to work at the profession he loves' because of the 'flimsy, ill-conceived' case against him. He reminded jurors that the judge had already struck out the prosecution’s main charge that the six journalists had been involved in an 'overarching' conspiracy over nine years. The count, struck out half way through the trial, was more than 'a ridiculous charge, a fiasco,' Rumfitt said. 'It's an absolute disgrace that Chris Pharo had to wait for nearly three years to have that classical example of forensic illiteracy thrown out by the judge.' He also criticised the prosecution for the execution of their case, saying they had sought to make 'capital' out of allegedly 'humorous banter' about victims of crime or accidents. Journalists, just like police and lawyers, he said 'erect a callous and cynical barrier' to deal with the 'misery', they face in their job. Rumfitt claimed that criticism of the paper's headlines, designed to sell papers, was like prosecuting 'Persil for fraud for claiming it washes whiter.' Except, of course, that it isn't like that or anything even remotely like it and to suggest that it is, is ignorant casually bordering on mendacious. 'This prosecution simply doesn't understand what the tabloid newspaper industry is about,' he claimed.
    However, the prosecution argued that the six Sun journalists on trial over allegations of extremely paying public officials for stories used 'the journalistic fig leaf' of 'public interest' to cover their 'naked and venal conduct.' They used 'wheelbarrows of cash' to entice prison officers and policemen to sell tips and stories on the 'lives and personal tragedies' of the rich and famous and of notorious criminals, prosecutor Peter Wright, QC, said. He told jurors that the culture at the Sun newspaper was one in which 'cash was king' and 'everything and everyone had a price', irrespective of their jobs or their duties to the public. 'The story was all. The end justified the means,' he said. On trial are Pharo, the paper’s head of news, Ben O’Driscoll his former deputy who now works at the Daily Scum Mail, the paper’s managing editor Graham Dudman, its picture editor John Edwards, Thames Valley district reporter Jamie Pyatt and former reporter John Troup, who has left journalism and now works in a butcher’s shop. All six have been accused of conspiring to pay public officials for stories, including reports about the Soham murders, celebrities such as Mick Hucknall, prisoners such as Peter Sutcliffe or officers investigating the murder of Milly Dowler. Closing his case against the six, Wright said O'Driscoll had made 'a somewhat rueful observation' during the trial, when he said that 'in an ideal world' he would have liked sources 'to pass on information voluntarily but they were enticed at the Sun by "a large wheelbarrow of cash."' This, Wright asserted, was 'as insightful as it was acerbic. It was an observation, we say, that encapsulated all that was wrong at this national newspaper in the period reflected in the indictment.' Wright told jurors that the paper had 'a never-ending fascination with Broadmoor' high-security hospital, which 'could be serviced from the goldmine” by a member of staff who was prepared to sell information about some of its notorious inmates. The famous, the not-so-famous, the infamous could be supplied by Tipster Bob, by police officers, by PC Quinn, by police officer B,' Wright said in reference to health worker Robert Neave, a former Surrey police officer Simon Quinn and a police officer who, apparently, cannot be named for legal reasons. 'The lives and personal tragedies could be sold to the most willing buyer for public consumption,' he said. The prosecution, he said, maintained that the Sun had 'a policy of payments to public officials in return for confidential information.' This was evident from 'the open way in which public officials were referred to in e-mails' between staff and in expense claims. He said that when they were caught committing the alleged crimes, the staff had reached for the 'journalists' fig lead in order to cover what we say was naked and venal conduct.' Turning to each of the defendants, he put it to jurors that Pyatt was not lying about his police contacts in his e-mails to his bosses because he had 'no reason to lie', as the people with whom he was in communication 'were either parties to the agreement or were in the know.' Wright questioned Pharo's claims that he was merely 'pricing the stories' when he approved payments for authorisation further up the hierarchy. The barrister asked jurors if Pharo struck them as 'a shy, retiring type' who 'found it hard to refuse the requests of his staff.' Was he, Wright asked, 'just a cipher, the man who was going through the paperwork, some sort of functionary' or was he 'shifting the blame away, higher up the chain to Rebekah Brooks?' He told jurors that O'Driscoll 'must have known' he was approving payments to public officials. 'Why else would Journalist A have e-mailed him in relation to tips from a Chelsea copper.' He was, Wright suggested, involved in 'the casual use of corruption to feed an insatiable hunger for exclusives.' In reference to a feed of stories about celebrities from the so-called 'Chelsea copper', Wright said: 'The casualties of terrible accidents such as Mika's sister's, the casualty of terrible crimes and their families, the morbid, humourous, mundane, the outrageous, the truly gripping, macabre, heart-rending, the tragic, the spectacular and the disturbing, everything had a price.' The evidence against picture editor Edwards centres on four e-mails. 'There may be only four e-mails, but involvement is not determined by any quantative assessment of the evidence, it is determined by the quality,' said Wright. 'The tragedy of this case, is that each of these men have such commendable qualities, hard-working, sensible, decent and John Edwards reflects all of these qualities,' said Wright. For Edwards 'it went badly wrong' as he came under pressure as picture editor. Jurors were also told that Dudman had 'lost his way' at the Sun. 'With age comes maturity, with seniority comes responsibility. Graham Dudman lost sight of these things some time ago. He thought he could do as he pleased,' claimed Wright, urging the jury to ignore Dudman's attempts to justify his conduct. Wright accused Troup of having 'intermittent amnesia' which, he said, was 'borne not out of any defective memory' but 'out of necessity.' His poor recollection was, Wright said, 'a product of a man seeking at all times to hedge his bets, to tailor his case to try to fit.' He invited the jury to find all the defendants guilty. All six have denied all the charges. The trial extremely continues.

Hilary Mantel has responded to critics of the BBC's decision to broadcast her short story The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher on Radio 4. The story, imagining the assassination of the former prime minister, is due to feature on Book At Bedtime in January. That dreadful old gobshite Lord Tebbit criticised the decision, calling it a 'sick book from a sick mind' and accused the BBC of being 'deliberately provocative.' But Mantel dismissed the comments as mere 'froth and bile' from a whigning old waste-of-space. And rightly so. Tebbit, who served in Thatcher's cabinet in the 1980s, described the BBC as 'a sick broadcasting corporation' and called on Director General Tony Hall to stop the broadcast. Lord Bell, Thatcher's former PR guru, also criticised the decision, saying the BBC was 'inevitably going to be accused of political bias. If it really was independent it would avoid doing things that were provocative,' he said. Mantel responded: 'I recognise that this latest nonsense from the Mail [on Sunday] is not about me or my work; it's a skirmish in a war with the BBC,' the double Booker Prize winner told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'A couple of days back I spoke in praise and support of the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall, which the BBC will show next year. Possibly this has triggered the bout of froth and bile.' Set four years after Thatcher took office in 1979, Mantel's story imagines the killing of the prime minister by an IRA sniper. It proved controversial - well, with the Daily Scum Mail, if not anyone that actually matters - when it was published in a collection of ten short stories in September. The author said she was 'delighted' the BBC would broadcast a selection of the stories. 'My title story has the form of a debate,' she said. 'It demonstrates how very easily history could have worked out in a different way. There is no need for me or any writer to justify or explain herself to people who have no interest in fiction except when it feeds their dim sense of being injured in some way. The story speaks for itself, and I stand behind it.' A BBC spokeswoman said: 'The work of Hilary Mantel - a double Booker Prize-winning author - is of significant interest to the public and we will not shy away from the controversial subject matter that features in one of the four stories read across the week.' Dame Harriet Walter will read the story when it is broadcast on 9 January.
Northern Soul fans are bidding more than eleven grand for a rare seven-inch record, a week before its online auction ends. The London Records' pressing of Darrell Banks' club classic 'Open The Door To Your Heart' is thought to be the only copy in circulation. It had been thought that all of the original pressings were destroyed when rival label EMI won the rights to release the song in 1966. Fans described the record as 'the find of a lifetime.' John Manship, who has been selling rare vinyl since 1969 and runs the RareSoulMan website, told the BBC News website that it Banks's single was 'the holy grail' for rare record collectors. He said that nobody believed the 'mythical' single even existed - and that his 'pulse was racing' when he realised it was the 'most exciting record' he had sold in his forty eight-year career. The owner, who had apparently worked at Decca Records in the 1960s, turned down an offer for ten thousand smackers to part with it instantly. Collector and dealer Pete Smith, who helped identify the validity of the single on an Internet forum, said that it was 'the rarest British soul record of all time. Hardened collectors are sobbing at the sight of it,' Smith posted online. Some collectors believe it could even be rarer than Frank Wilson's legendary Motown single 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)', of which only two copies of the original Soul label pressing are known to exist one of which was bought by a collector in Hull in 2009 for more than twenty five thousand knicker. Banks, who toured with soul singer Jackie Wilson, only released two full-length LPs and a handful of singles before he was killed in Detroit in February 1970. He was shot in the neck by an off-duty policeman, who had reportedly been having an affair with Banks's girlfriend. 'Open The Door To Your Heart' was his only hit, reaching number two on the R&B chart in the US.
The Premier League is to introduce regular Friday night live matches and 'make more football available' on television than ever as it attempts to top its current three billion quid broadcasting rights deal. But, there are no plans to allow matches to be televised at 3pm on Saturday afternoons. For the next TV rights deal, running from August 2016, the Premier League is to make one hundred and sixty eight live matches available per season – fourteen more than the current one hundred and fifty four – divided into five packages of twenty eight matches and two packages of fourteen matches. One of the packages will include up to ten live games per season on a Friday night. Live matches are currently broadcast by BT and Sky on Saturday lunchtime and evenings, Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings. No single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than one hundred and twenty six matches, the Premier League said, as it published the tender document for the next TV rights auction on Friday afternoon. The tender includes a separate free-to-air highlights package. ITV – which will lose live Champions League football from next season – is expected to challenge the BBC for these rights, threatening the future of Match Of The Day. A separate sales process will take place for two other Premier League rights packages – a 'near-live' long-form package of two hundred and twelve games and an Internet-based clips package. These packages are currently held by Sky and News UK, the publisher of the Sun, respectively. The rights auction will take place next year, with the contracts likely to be awarded in February and the new deal running for three seasons from August 2016. Currently the lion's share of games is broadcast on Sky, which paid £2.3bn for one hundred and sixteen live matches a season in the three-year deal agreed in 2012. The rights to the other thirty eight games were bought by BT at a cost of seven hundred and thirty eight million knicker, making a total of £3.038bn. The telecoms company-turned-pay-TV operator became the latest challenger to Sky's dominance of live top-flight football, after Setanta then ESPN, and it later spent another eight hundred and ninety seven million notes for exclusive live rights to the Champions League and Europa League, for three years from next season. The opening up of live Friday night football means the Premier League is almost certain to top its money-spinning 2012 deal, expanding the percentage of its games broadcast live from forty one per cent to forty four per cent. Each game was worth approximately six and a half million smackers in the last rights sale, with an extra fourteen games a season equating to a possible ninety million quid a season or around two hundred and seventy million knicker over the course of a three-year deal. Sky and BT will go head-to-head for the rights but the cost of live games is likely to be pushed up further by interest from rival broadcasters such as Discovery – the US media company which now owns Eurosport – and the Qatar-backed al-Jazeera. There has also been speculation that technology companies such as Apple and Google-backed YouTube could bid for some and/or all of the digital rights. Some analysts believe the expected increased competition could increase the total value of the next live rights deal by fifty per cent to £4.5bn. Televised live Friday night football is not unprecedented, with both the BBC and ITV having shown Friday night games in the decade before the top flight became the Premier League. The first live Friday night game is thought to have been Stottingtot Hotshots against The Scum, broadcast on the BBC in 1983. ITV broadcast the 1989 championship decider on a Friday night, when The Arse beat Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws 2-0. Premier League chiefs are thought to have looked to Friday night because most weekend slots are already taken outside the 3pm kick-off time, along with Monday evenings. However, opportunities for Friday night football are likely to be limited by top teams' participation in European competitions during the week. Games will either have to feature teams not competing in Europe, or be broadcast during weeks where there is no European competition. The media regulator Ofcom last month opened a competition probe into the way the Premier League sells its TV rights, following a complaint by Virgin Media. The cable company claimed a lower proportion of matches (forty one per cent) was shown on TV in England than in other major European markets and that as a result consumers paid higher prices. The Ofcom inquiry prompted speculation that it could open up the possibility of live football on a Saturday afternoon for the first time. Any substantial increase in the number of matches could require the football authorities to abandon the 2.45pm to 5.15pm broadcasting blackout on Saturday afternoons that has been in place since the 1950s to protect lower league attendances. Ofcom said it would consult supporters' groups as well as consumers, media companies and the football authorities over the case. The Premier League said the tender created an 'attractive offering for broadcasters and fans whilst allowing the continued protection of the Saturday 3pm "closed period" – the purpose of which is to encourage attendances and participation at all levels of the sport at the traditional time at which English football takes place across the country.' A spokesman for Virgin Media said: 'This slightly restructured auction simply highlights how few of the Premier League's games will be available on live TV. It doesn't change the fact that UK fans will continue to pay the most for the least amount of football in Europe.'

Meanwhile,according to the Gruniad Morning Star, the Football League is set to announce that the BBC has lost the rights to the weekly highlights show to Channel Five. 'It is understood', the paper states, that Channel Five 'will show the highlights at 9pm on Saturday evenings with the prime-time TV slot hugely appealing to the Football League clubs who want to attract younger audiences.' The BBC has scheduled its highlights of matches from the Championship, League One and League Two beginning after Match Of The Day – usually starting just before midnight and ending after 1am. The Channel Five deal, the Gruniad claim, 'will take effect from the start of next season and will also include Capital One Cup highlights. The Football League is expected to make an announcement before Christmas.'

The Football Association and Wigan Not Very Athletic have both refused to respond to press reports that the club's odious gobshite of a chairman, Dave Whelan, has accepted a charge over comments he allegedly made about Jewish and Chinese people. Whelan had been given until 12 December to answer the FA's charges. The governing body has received his response, with some newspapers claiming that he has 'accepted' the charge and is now, simply, awaiting his sorry fate. Whelan who, seemingly in a rather childish 'I'm taking my ball and going home' fit to stroppiness, claimed that he would resign as Wigan's owner if the FA punished him for his alleged comments, has constantly denied making racist remarks. He insisted that he was misquoted in a newspaper interview with the Gruniad Morning Star last month, where he was trying to defend his appointment of Malky Mackay as the club's new manager, in which he used the term 'chink'. He subsequently apologised 'for any offence caused.' Which is one of those non-apology apologies so frequently used by politicians when they've just said something incredibly offensive. The FA has also looked into other comments attributed to Whelan about Chinese people in a December interview with the Jewish Telegraph, in which he said that he used to refer to a local Chinese restaurant as 'chingalings.'

And from that, to this ...
Vicky Pattison - who is a Geordie Shore-type person, apparently - will follow in the footsteps of Marge Simpson and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad among others and host Channel Four's Alternative Christmas Speech on Christmas Day. Pattison will go head-to-head with Her Maj at 3pm on Christmas Day. This blogger reckons even rapid anti-Monarchists like his very self will probably sooner watch Liz than some squealing Bigg Market fish-wifey when they're aal full of turkey and Chrimbo pud.

Jenson Button's Formula 1 career will continue into a sixteenth season following McLaren's decision to retain him alongside new signing Fernando Alonso. McLaren finally announced their line-up on of last week Thursday after taking several weeks to decide whether to keep Button or his 2014 team-mate Kevin Magnussen. 'I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit,' said Button. 'In fact, I am absolutely raring to go.' Magnussen remains with McLaren as test and reserve driver. 'Fernando and Jenson have started a combined total of precisely five hundred Grands Prix between them - a mighty aggregate - and have won forty seven of them,' said McLaren chairman Ron Dennis. 'I can safely say, therefore, that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team.' Double world champion Alonso was signed weeks ago after being persuaded to leave Ferrari. The Spaniard's capture is a big coup for McLaren, but they are unlikely to challenge world champions Mercedes in 2015. The Surrey-based outfit are starting a new engine partnership with Honda, with whom they won four consecutive titles between 1988 and 1991, but to expect a sustained title bid in 2015 is probably overly optimistic. 'I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me,' said Alonso. He added that he had received a number of 'really tempting' offers but revealed McLaren had contacted him more than a year ago and asked him to return to the team he left at the end of 2007. Magnussen, who made his F1 debut in 2014, had appeared to be favourite to get the drive alongside Alonso, but a late change of heart swung the decision back in Button's favour. Button's new contract is said by alleged 'insiders' to be for one year with a further year as an option. The Englishman, who was world champion in 2009, had admitted to being unhappy about the delay but wanted to remain in F1 and test himself against Alonso, who is regarded by many as the best all-round driver in the world.

A gay bull saved after a campaign backed by The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon appears to have found romance within minutes of arriving at his new home. Benjy, from County Mayo, was destined for the abattoir after showing more interest in breeding with other bulls than with cows. He arrived at Norfolk's Hillside Animal Sanctuary on Sunday where he befriended Alex, a one-year-old bullock. 'He's a handsome little lad, so you can't blame him,' said a spokeswoman for the sanctuary. Simon said it 'thrilled' him to have helped Benjy. Gay and animal rights campaigners launched a joint online appeal to save the two-year-old Charolais bull. It raised ten grand in weeks, helped by a five thousand smackers donation from Simon. The money will be used to fund Benjy's keep and welfare.

The character actor Tom Adams has died at the age of seventy six. Tom, who lived in Windsor, died at Slough's Wexham Park Hospital on Thursday after battling cancer for some time. He was probably best known to Doctor Who fans for playing Commander Vorshak, the leader of Sea Base Four, in the 1984 four-part story Warriors Of The Deep opposite Peter Davison. He also played Dai Nimmo in the 1963 classic war movie The Great Escape. In both of these, against all odds, his characters survived the respective blood-soaked carnage. Tom taught English and drama at the Cardinal Griffin Secondary Modern School, Poplar in the early 1960s before moving into acting. He appeared in Shakespearean stage productions then got his big screen break with a minor role in John Sturges's The Great Escape. As a handsome leading man, Tom starred as the James Bond-like intelligence operative Charles Vine in Licensed To Kill (also known as The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World in 1965 and its two sequels Where The Bullets Fly (1966) and Somebody's Stolen Our Russian Spy (1967). He was the second male lead in the 1966 Disney film The Fighting Prince Of Donegal and also appeared in the Amicus horror classic The House That Dripped Blood (1970). Tom's television credits include General Hospital, The Onedin Line (as Daniel Fogarty), Emmerdale Farm, Casualty, Strike It Rich!, The Enigma Files, the TV movie The Pyrates (playing Calico Jack), Dixon Of Dock Green, Spy Trap, Z Cars, The Avengers, Fiddlers Three, Emergency-Ward Ten, R3, Strange Report, UFO, The Persuaders!, Madigan and Remington Steele. During the late 1970s, Tom appeared in TV commercials for Dixons and for many years in the 1980s and 1990s he was the face of the furniture store chain DFS/Northern Upholstery's advertising campaigns. In 2011 he was seen in a series of commercials advertising the Aero Biscuit and he later appeared in an advert for Stannah Stairlifts. He was also noted as a voice-over artist and a long-running voice of the E4 channel. His agent Emma Harvey paid tribute saying that Tom was: 'A true gentleman, his personality was as big and warm as his voice. We'll miss him very much.'

On Thursday, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping braved the windswept wastes of Central Tyneside, travelling half-way across the city (with a bad back, an'all - I'm thoroughly fishing for sympathy here, in case you hadn't noticed) to record a couple of pieces for BBC Newcastle to be broadcast over the Christmas period with the lovely Si Logan and producer Uncle Scunthorpe. This blogger is not sure, as yet, when they will be broadcast - one was on the TV highlights of the year and what to look forward to in 2015, the other was largely about Christmas Day telly its very self. Anyway, it seemed to go all proper terrific and that (and, it was also nice to bump into yer actual Alfie Joey for the first time in a couple of months and arrange to 'do coffee' sometime in the near future) so, once the date and times of broadcast have been decided, this blogger will let you know.

Nevertheless, that said, starting the previous Friday afternoon, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had a really bad week. A number of - mostly unrelated - shitty little things all happened, one after another. Almost all of them were rather trivial in and of themselves but, when heaped together they really made this blogger feel like he just can't buy a break at the moment. Then, on Thursday - post BBC, obviously - the latest shitty little thing occurred mid-afternoon. Again, on its own, it wasn't of any great import but, as the glistening ripe cherry on top of the shit cake which yer actual Keith Telly Topping had been baking all week, it was just about the final straw. As a consequence, this blogger was in a foul mood when he went out on Thursday evening to the final Record Player of 2014 (and, according to Uncle Scunthorpe his very self, the last one for a good few months). So, it is therefore with considerable gratitude that Keith Telly Topping sincerely thanks all of the RP regulars (well, except for Christian, Vicky and Bruce who weren't there - but, he thanks them as well, in absentia, cos he's nice like that) for managing to put the traces of a smile back on yer actual Keith Telly Topping's scowling boat-race - however unwillingly. Thanks Sam. Thanks Bill. Thanks Steph. Thanks Chris and Gill. Thanks Geoff. Thanks Ewan and Vicky. And, especially, thanks to Uncle Scunthorpe his very self for playing a record which is today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This, in fact.
That, if only for a few minutes, made the sour and rotten events of the last few days disappear. Though, personally, this blogger would have played the b-side as well. Keith Telly Topping is something of an elitist snob when it comes to stuff like that. You might have noticed.