Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who's Watching The Watchers?

Mrs Brown's Boys was the most watched television programme live on Christmas Day for the second year running, according to initial overnight data. The first of two festive specials of the Brendan O'Carroll sitcom was watched by an average overnight figure of 7.61 million, giving the show a thirty two per cent share of the available audience from 10pm to 10.30pm. Overall figures for live TV viewing this year were sharply down on previous years, an increasing sign that the way in which audiences consume television is changing, and changing rapidly. Far too rapidly it would seem for several national newspapers who ran the usual hysterical stories about viewers switching off in disgust over ... something. Immigration, probably, that seems to be the only thing which produces disgust in people these days (at least, according to the Daily Scum Mail. Well, that and house prices). The Gruniad Morning Star, on the other hand, used the opportunity for a further good hard lick of Netflix's wrinkly scrotum (as is their want). 'The slump in audience numbers is a further sign of the fragmentation of TV viewing,' wrote John Plunkett. 'As well as the proliferation of channels in the digital era, the last few years have seen the rise of online providers such as Netflix, maker of Kevin Spacey's House Of Cards and on-demand viewing via personal video recorders and platforms such as the BBC iPlayer.' Quite what the hell House Of Cards (the second series of which appeared on Netflix ten months ago) had to do with Christmas Day terrestrial TV viewing habits is another question entirely. But then, this is the Gruniad Morning Star we're talking about, and they always talk Middle Class hippy Communist drivel. BBC1 had seven of the top ten most watched programmes while ITV had three - as usual, the channels shared The Queen's Christmas Broadcast, the combined audience of which across both channels made it the most watched programme of the day (something else about which the Daily Scum Mail had plenty to say). Mrs Brown's Boys also topped the ratings last year, but it dropped from the overnight of 9.4 million viewers it attracted in 2013, while second-placed EastEnders also saw its traditionally high Christmas Day overnight audience fall, to a decent but hardly Earth-shattering 7.55 million. ITV had three shows in the top ten, according to the figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board, with Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Downton Abbey in seventh, ninth and tenth places respectively and, also, all significantly down on the overnight audiences they attracted on Christmas Day 2013. The Queen's Christmas Broadcast attracted 5.71 million on BBC1 and 2.11 million on ITV, while a further four hundred thousand watched a repeat of the monarch's message - in which she didn't abdicate - at 17:00 on BBC2. The Queen used her broadcast to highlight the importance of reconciliation between people, speaking of the impact of the Scottish independence referendum and recalling the moment German and British soldiers put down their weapons and met on Christmas Day in 1914 for a game of football. As has long been the case there was a strong preference to watch the broadcast on BBC1, attracting more that double the figure who tuned into ITV. Elsewhere on BBC1, 6.98m overnight viewers saw Louis Smith win Strictly Come Dancing Christmas at 5pm. Call The Midwife attracted 6.83m at 7.45pm, while Doctor Who's Last Christmas achieved 6.34m overnight viewers and Miranda's penultimate episode was watched by 6.67m. The Doctor Who episode had an audience appreciation index score of eighty two. Last year, of course, more than four-and-a-half million people either recorded that year's Doctor Who special - The Time Of The Doctor - and watched it during the following week, or downloaded it from the BBC's iPlayer, increasing its viewing figures hugely and it wasn't the only Christmas Day programme to achieve a massive timeshift. To demonstrate that point, in the first four days after Christmas Day this year, video on demand timeshift figures reported on Tuesday, saw an increase in Last Christmas's audience of approximately 1.75 million additional viewers to those who watched the episode live, taking its audience, at that stage, up to 8.08m. And, that's without adding in any iPlayer viewers, who are counted separately. So, it's highly likely that when the final and consolidated figures for the Christmas period are released in early January, some of the top ten positions will be shuffled around. Changing times and technologies does not mean Christmas Day programmes are becoming less popular, of course. It merely means - as this blogger mentioned on his appearance on local radio last week - that audiences now watch when they want, rather than gathering around the TV as was traditional for many years. In recent years, live viewing figures for Christmas Day have continued to decline, as viewers use on-demand services such as iPlayer and the ITV Player, video on demand services like Sky+ or watch online. Downton Abbey's much-trailed two-hour episode was ITV's biggest programme of the day outside of the two soaps - 5.51m watched from 9pm as the Crawley family celebrated Christmas. Earlier in the evening, Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs got a damned good hiding when placed opposite Doctor Who, being watched by a mere 2.97m. On BBC2, a selection of festive comedy repeats led the schedule. Morecambe & Wise In Pieces topped the channel's ratings at 6.15pm with 2.03m, while 1.24m watched Dad's Army at 7.45pm and 1.37m saw Blackadder's Christmas Carol at 8.15pm. University Challenge performed well too, securing 1.52m at 7.15pm. Channel Four's festivities began with a film, Arthur Christmas, which had an audience of 1.43m at 6pm. Then, 1.13m stayed with the channel at 8pm for Frozen At Christmas. Meanwhile an extended Alan Carr: Chatty Man was watched by 1.09m at 9pm. On Channel Five, a showing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang brought in 1.17m from 3.30pm, while Chas & Dave's Xmas Knees Up was watched by eight hundred and thirteen thousand geezers at 7pm. BBC3 was the best-performing multichannel at 9pm, securing 1.00m for Shrek Forever After. BBC1, which traditionally dominates Christmas Day TV, had a twenty nine per cent share of the overall peak-time viewing, between 6pm and 10.30pm, well ahead of ITV's twenty three per cent. 'It's fantastic to see millions of viewers choosing BBC1, with the top five most popular shows on Christmas Day,' said the channel's controller, Charlotte Moore. 'Audiences tuned in for an incredible range of quality programmes from drama, comedy and entertainment; with Mrs Brown's Boys taking the top spot for a second year running.'

As you probably know, dear blog reader, if you were watching Last Christmas - either live, via your TiVo box or online - yer actual Jenna Coleman is to continue playing the part of The Doctor, if you will, friend Clara Oswald for another series of the show. There had been uncertainty about the future of the former Emmerdale actress, who joined the show in 2012. Most of it caused by a series of stories in the Daily Mirra which, first of all, claimed that she was leaving, then that she wasn't. So, ultimately, they were right. And wrong. Both, in fact. Jenna has starred alongside two Doctors - first Matt Smith and now Peter Capaldi. 'It's wonderful,' she said. 'I get a whole other series of stories with The Doctor and I couldn't walk away with the story being unresolved.' She added: 'There is so much more to do. I think they've finally just reached a point where they really understand each other. The arrival of [Capaldi's] Doctor has just kind of dropped this whole bombshell and allowed the dynamic to totally change, so I think just when Clara was feeling more comfortable in the relationship, it has suddenly thrown something new up.' Capaldi his very self added: 'I'm thrilled. Jenna has just been fantastic and such a pleasure to work with.'
BBC1 also came out on top in the Boxing Day overnight ratings thanks to Still Open All Hours and the first terrestrial showing of Marvel's Avengers Assemble. The opening episode in a new series of the updated Sir David Jason sitcom attracted 5.69m viewers from 6.30pm, while Joss Whedon's comic book action movie pulled in 5.28m at 8.30pm. David Walliams's The Boy In The Dress was seen by 4.80m at 7pm, and wasn't quite as rotten as this blogger feared it would be, before EastEnders topped the night across all channels with 7.41 million. A packed Match Of The Day - including yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved, though unsellable Magpies getting a Christmas stuffing off The Scum - rounded off the night with 3.24m. Horrible, wretched, way past its sell-by date Birds Of A Feather's return could only attract a mere 3.95m overnight viewers for ITV at 9pm, a massive drop on the kind of overnight audiences it was pulling in a year ago for its first ITV series. So, perhaps there is a baby Jesus after all. Bradley Walsh's Christmas Cracker had 2.77m prior to that. A festive offering of Through The Keyhole (down the plughole, more like) interested 2.74m sad, crushed victims of society at 9.30pm on what was, overall, a very disappointing night for ITV who seldom perform well on Christmas Day but usually mange to pull something out of the bag for Boxing Day. Not this year. On Channel Four, the mid-season finale of Agents of SHIELD was watched by five hundred and eighty thousand, an encore showing of the Bear's Wild Weekend episode with Ben Stiller took eight hundred and seventy thousand and The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year amused 2.11m (10.1%). That awful Wood woman's twee and simpering musical That Day We Sang got 1.99m at 9pm on BBC2, while a repeat of the comic's horribly piss-poor Midlife Christmas brought in 2.38m an hour earlier. This blogger resigned from the general public in protest, dear blog reader, though I don't think it did much good. he latest Christmas University Challenge special claimed 1.55m at 6.45pm. Channel Five's line-up of festive comedy favourites saw a Rob Brydon live show appeal to four hundred and seventy eight thousand, a Morecambe and Wise performance from 1973 bring in eight hundred and three thousand and Tommy Cooper's 1974 Christmas Special interest six hundred and ninety nine thousand. Elsewhere, Sky1's murder mystery Agatha Raisin And The Quiche of Death drew an audience of three hundred and twenty seven thousand at 8.30pm and BBC4's debut of the the first two episodes of the Swedish adaptation of Wallander, Faceless Killers got three hundred and ninety thousand and three hundred and seventy six thousand at 9pm and 9.55pm respectively.

The first of the two-part Top Gear Patagonia Special was seen by an average overnight audience of 4.7 million on Saturday night on BBC2. At least a portion of whom, one imagines, were professional offence takers and Middle Class hippy Communist lice tuning-in to see if they could find something to whinge, loudly, about. Shown at 8.30pm, the first of a two-part special saw Jezza Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May drive three classic V8-engined sports cars throughout Argentina and Chile. With explosive results. The show peaked with 5.11 million viewers at 9.15pm. It was sandwiched between Operation Grand Canyon With Dan Snow and a repeat of Christmas Day's episode of James May's Toy Stories, which were watched by 1.57 million and 1.69 million, respectively. BBC2's evening ended with 1.25 million for the Qi XL Christmas episode and five hundred and ninety thousand for Harry & Paul's Story Of The Twos. On BBC1, Pointless Celebrities topped the evening's ratings with average viewing figures of 5.04 million from 6.45pm. The night continued with four million watching The National Lottery: Win Your Wish List at 7.40pm, followed by 3.85 million for Bruce's Hall of Fame at 8.30pm. A repeat of Mrs Brown's Boys was seen by 4.45 million at 9.40pm, while Live At The Apollo drew 2.48 million at 10.35pm. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 dominated ITV's schedule, attracting an average audience of 3.1 million from 7pm. ITV's evening ended with 1.74 million Darcy Oake: Edge Of Reality at 9.50pm. Mission: Impossible 2 was seen by nine hundred and eighty thousand on Channel Four from 7.10pm, while The Fifty Funniest Moments 2014 picked up 1.05 million at 9.30pm. Channel Five attracted viewing figures of 1.21 million for The Haunting of Radcliffe House at 9.35pm. It was preceded by Chas & Dave's Xmas Knees Up! with six hundred and ten thousand and The Dog Rescuers With Alan Davies with six hundred and thirty three thousand. BBC3's showing of Shrek was seen by eight hundred and twenty six thousand at 7pm, followed by six hundred and seventy seven thousand for Donkey's Carolling Christmas-tacular at 8.25pm.

Still Open All Hours was also Sunday's highest rated show with 6.39 million viewers. Figures for the second episode of the David Jason-starring comedy were up by seven hundred thousand compared to the first episode on Boxing Day. It was followed by 4.88 million for Antiques Roadshow at 8pm and 5.68 million for the beginning of a new series of Last Tango In Halifax at 9pm. Featuring highlights from The Arse versus The Hamsters, Sheikh Yer Man City versus Burnley and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies giving the Everton a reet good twankin', Match Of The Day was seen by 3.39 million at 10.30pm. The second part of the Top Gear's Patagonia Special was seen by an average audience of 4.84 million on BBC2 at 8pm. Sunday's episode concluded with several minutes of footage showing the production team's convoy being escorted out of Argentina by police and, at one point, being pelted with stones and eggs by an angry mob of Argies who were clearly aal stroppy and discombobulated. Over a number plate, apparently. The episode concluded, amusingly, with an homage to the famous final scene of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. Speaking of Top Gear, there's a - surprisingly balanced and, seemingly, factually accurate - piece by Harriet Alexander on the story behind the 'allegedly controversial' Patagonia special which you can check out here. Makes quite a change from the shrill, politically agenda-soaked wank you normally get on the subject from the Gruniad Morning Star. Racing Legends: Barry Sheene drew 1.47 million at 9.05pm. ITV's evening kicked off with 2.95 million for Unbelievable Moments Caught On Camera at 7pm, followed by 3.78 million for All Star Family Fortunes' Christmas Special at 8pm and 3.37 million for All New It'll Be Alright On The Night at 9pm. Down the Christmas Plughole rounded the evening off with 1.18 million at 10.15pm. The return of The Hotel secured 1.53 million viewers for Channel Four at 8pm, while the Homeland season four finale was seen by 1.31 million immediately after. Channel Five's coverage of The World's Strongest Man attracted seven hundred and twenty seven thousand at 7pm, while Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away followed with four hundred and fifteen thousand at 8pm. Most Shocking Celebrity Moments 2014 secured an evening high for the channel of seven hundred and eighty two thousand at 9pm. With 1.15 million viewers, BBC3's 8pm showing of Shrek 2 was among the most popular multichannel shows.

The Daily Mirra - who, of course, have, in no way, spent the last year engaged in a rather sinister and seemingly political agenda-based campaign against Top Gear. Oh no. Very hot water - claim that Jezza Clarkson appeared to 'mock' Top Gear's recently upheld Ofcom ruling of racism in the second episode of the popular driving and entertainment show's Patagonia special. Driving over a makeshift bridge in Argentina, Jezza said to Richard Hammond: 'That is a proud moment, Hammond, but ... is it straight?' This, the Mirra claim, 'echoed' the remark which got the show into hot water in last year's Burma special. So, seemingly, Top Gear can't do right for doing wrong according to the Mirra. Who, to be fair, at least seemed to get this story by watching the episode instead of, you know, hacking people's phone. That, in and of itself, might be regarded as a step in the right direction.
Mapp & Lucia topped the ratings outside soaps on Monday, overnight data reveals. The BBC1 drama adaptation's first episode attracted an average overnight audience of 3.81 million at 9pm. Earlier, The Muppets entertained 2.70m at 6.30pm, followed by a Miranda repeat with 3.04m at 8pm. Darcey Bussell's Looking For Audrey documentary brought in 2.23m at 10.35pm on what was, all round, a quiet night. BBC2's repeat of Nature's Weirdest Events appealed to 1.95m at 6.30pm, followed by a rerun of Operation Grand Canyon with 1.62m at 7.30pm. Christmas University Challenge attracted 2.32m at 8.30pm, while new documentary Snow Wolf Family & Me was watched by 2.05m at 9pm. On ITV, Countrywise gathered 2.56m at 8pm. The Angus Deayton-fronted clip show Christmas Epic Fails was, every single bit as rotten as this blogger had expected, and was seen by a mere 2.50m at 9pm. Channel Four's Mini Cooper: For the Love Of Cars - shown immediately after a broadcast of The Italian Job - attracted seven hundred and fifty thousand at 8pm, followed by Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown with 1.75m at 9pm. On Channel Five, World's Strongest Man continued with a million punters at 8pm, while The Rock had an audience of eight hundred and fifty thousand at 9pm.
A bizarre selection of vexatious and ridiculous complaints to the BBC have been highlighted by the corporation including an alleged 'gay agenda' in Doctor Who and a 'bias against tall women' in the popular sitcom Miranda. A report from the BBC Trust has publicly named and shamed some of the more strange issues which a handful of viewers have written in to the corporation to whinge about. Around thirteen thousand complaints were made to the BBC directly in the past eighteen months, with many popular shows causing upset. To morons. One viewer accused Miranda Hart's self-titled comedy series of 'ridiculing' tall women, despite it being written by its six-foot-tall star. Three viewers - or, sick homophobic wastes of oxygen with an agenda smeared all over their no doubt ugly and sour faces, in other words - were 'concerned' with perceived 'promoting homosexuality' in the Doctor Who episode Deep Breath, in regard to the same sex relationship between the Silurian Madame Vastra and her human wife Jenny. Another viewer objected to the use of the word 'numpty' in Dragons' Den, used in one episode by Peter Jones. Ten people whinged about Jonathan Ross's return to the BBC following the Sachsgate incident. Meanwhile, The Great British Bake Off angered one viewer - or, one plank to be more accurate - for its use of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah, and actors in Last Tango In Halifax were criticised by one busybody with nothing better to do with their time for 'not paying attention while driving.' The BBC received thirteen thousand six hundred and eighty eight whinges between February 2013 and September 2014, with twelve thousand of them being taken through a formal process of review. A BBC spokesperson said: 'The complaints framework that the BBC Trust put in place in 2012 allows the BBC to close down, after an initial response, complaints that for example are hypothetical, use abusive language, fail to cite any evidence or breaches of the BBC's editorial guidelines. Only about ten per cent of complaints fall into this category and if complainants are unhappy they can appeal to the BBC Trust.'
Twelve Years A Slave actor Paul Dano will lead the cast of the BBC's forthcoming adaptation of War & Peace. The actor will star as Pierre Bezukhov in BBC1's upcoming version of the Leo Tolstoy classic, which will be broadcast in 2015. James Norton will also appear as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, alongside Downton Abbey's Lily James, who has already been confirmed to play Natasha Rostova. Norton said: 'I am thrilled to be entrusted with Andrei in this exciting adaptation. It's a privilege to bring to life one of Tolstoy's wonderfully rich and conflicted characters. And to get to work alongside talents such as Tom Harper, Andrew Davies, Lily James and Paul Dano is very exciting - I can't wait to get started.' Other cast members include Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily Kuragin, Adrian Edmondson and Greta Scacchi as Count and Countess Rostov and Jack Lowden as Nikolai Rostov. The Musketeers' Tom Burke will play Dolokhov and Aisling Loftus has been cast as Sonya. BBC1's channel controller, Charlotte Moore, said of the cast: 'War & Peace will be a major event drama on BBC1and it is only fitting that Tolstoy's epic masterpiece has attracted such a fine cast of actors to Andrew Davies' stunning scripts.' Original House Of Cards writer Davies has scripted the adaptation, which is a co-production between The Weinstein Company and the BBC. The series will be comprised of six hour-long episodes. Set in 1805 during Alexander I's reign, War & Peace follows five aristocratic families and Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Filming for the adaptation will begin in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia in January. A previous BBC adaptation in 1972 starred Anthony Hopkins, Alan Dobie, David Swift and, in a small role, Colin Baker.

The BBC has postponed a documentary based on the relationship between the Royal Family and the press in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana. Reinventing The Royals was due to be screened on Sunday and is described on the corporation's website as a 'two-part series about the twenty-year battle between the monarchy and the media - the first family and the fourth estate - over personal privacy and public image.' According to the Radio Times, the documentary, presented by former Panorama editor and regular Gruniad Morning Star contributor Steve Hewlett, was pulled from the 9pm slot on Sunday's schedule after lawyers 'known to represent senior members of the royal family' had made contact. A statement from the corporation said: 'The BBC is delaying broadcast of the documentary Reinventing The Royals, due to be shown on BBC2 on 4 January until later in the New Year while a number of issues including the use of archive footage are resolved.' In an article for the Radio Times, Hewlett said that the documentary includes the first-ever television interview with Sandy Henney, Prince Charles's press secretary at the time of Diana's death in 1997. Hewlett claimed that Prince Charles hired Mark Bolland as a form of 'spin doctor' to help with his portrayal in the media. Anti-monarchy campaign Republic have said they will write to James Harding, the BBC's head of news and current affairs, to 'seek clarification' on why the documentary has been postponed. Republic's spokesman Graham Smith, said: 'The decision to delay broadcast of this documentary looks like undue pressure and interference that would not be tolerated if it were from Cameron or Miliband. At best the BBC might make a quick edit to avoid libelling someone - but delaying the broadcast so it can discuss the content of a documentary with its principal subject is unacceptable. The BBC has a responsibility to the public to show no fear or favour in its reporting. Prince Charles is in line to be Britain's head of state - he must be subjected to the same standards of media scrutiny as any politician. The BBC and other broadcasters are far too deferential to the royals. It's time they began to treat them in the same way they treat politicians and other public officials.'

Margaret Thatcher conducted 'a covert war' against the BBC, believing its corporation's news coverage was 'biased and irresponsible', previously unpublished files have revealed. A series of Downing Street memos show that 'an unstated objective' of a sweeping review, initiated by the then Prime Minister, of the corporation’s finances was to 'knock the BBC down to size.' Thatcher - a hateful and bitter neo-Conservative who is now extremely dead and, if there is any such thing as justice in the universe, hopefully, currently being roasted in the pits of Hell - favoured 'a series of radical moves' to force the broadcaster to become more efficient, including introducing television sets which only showed ITV and Channel Four, and forcing its stations to run advertising. She also held secret talks with a Conservative-supporting BBC controller who warned that the corporation was 'contemptuous of politicians' and increasingly saw itself 'as a state within the state.' Documents released by the National Archives show that Thatch held similarly strong views of the BBC's coverage in the mid-Eighties. A record dated 9 January 1985 of a meeting between Thatcher and Leon Brittan, then the Home Secretary, said: 'The Prime Minister reiterated her concern about the BBC's journalistic standards. News and current affairs coverage was too often biased and irresponsible; and some programmes on both radio and television were distasteful to the point of offending against public decency.' In March 1985 Thatcher's government initiated an inquiry, chaired by Professor Alan Peacock, on the financing of the BBC. It was billed as 'a wide-ranging review of the corporation's funding arrangements' and the future of the licence fee. However, a memo written by Peter Warry of the Downing Street Policy Unit reveals that some of the 'unstated objectives' in establishing The Peacock Review were to 'knock the BBC down to size, to force them to improve efficiency, and to prevent them from extravagantly expanding into everything from DBS to breakfast-time TV.' Brittan also believed that the review might 'expose the weaknesses' in the BBC's objections to accepting advertising on its television and radio stations, 'which relied heavily on the argument that journalistic standards and objectivity would be threatened.' Thatcher suggested the introduction of advertising 'on light music radio' programmes as early as September 1979, four months after she took office, according to a Downing Street summary of a meeting between her and Willie Whitelaw, one of Brittan's predecessors as Home Secretary. The idea came amid 'considerable concern' in the government about the BBC's spending, which by November 1979 was running at a deficit of fifty million smackers. 'The Prime Minister also suggested that people ought to have the option of not paying for a licence and only watching ITV,' the September 1979 note stated. 'This would put pressure on the BBC to be more competitive and it would be consistent with the Government's aim of giving people as much free choice as possible. But it would of course be necessary for the TV manufacturers to produce a set which could only be tuned in to ITV stations.' Channel Four began transmission three years later and in 1985 Thatcher told Brittan that she saw 'no reason' why people should not be able to buy sets that 'could only receive non-BBC programmes.' Professor Peacock's review ultimately ruled out advertising on the basis that the BBC would be 'driven into a ratings war to attract advertisers' and that programmes which were 'loved by many people might be scrapped because they did not attract top viewing figures.' Thatcher had told Whitelaw that she was 'concerned about the extravagance of some BBC spending.' But by November 1979, she had, seemingly, changed her mind. Prior to that, she had also proposed that a tax could be charged on every new radio sold, with the money used to help finance the BBC and an amendment so that people would not have to pay the licence fee if they only watched ITV. But her proposals did not get universal backing. Bernard Ingham, her press secretary (another wretchedly loathsome piece of stinking pond scum whose various comments over the years about the Hillsborough tragedy and who was responsible for it won't be forgotten or forgiven in Liverpool any time soon), wrote: 'The BBC's reputation worldwide rests in part on its integrity as an independent source of information financed without commercial sponsorship. To introduce commerciality could only, in my view, damage its reputation, particularly in the areas of news and current affairs.' And, in a memo to the Prime Minister, Whitelaw wrote: 'I know that there have been suggestions that the BBC should be funded at least in part from advertising. This would be extremely controversial and would be bitterly criticised by the BBC Governors and others in the broadcasting world as well as by some people in our party.' By November 1979, a memo to the Home Office suggested Thatcher had gone off the idea, at least in the short-term. It read: 'The Prime Minister has decided that - on reflection - it would be a mistake for the Home Secretary even to raise the possibility of the BBC's accepting radio advertising at this stage' but that 'she would not like to rule this out for all time.'

BBC1's police drama Happy Valley was the best TV show of 2014, according to Radio Times' team of critics. Mind you, given that this collective includes that perfectly horrible, know-nothing Allison Graham woman with her manifestly ugly views, that's not really the glowing endorsement it could have been in the hands of someone that actually knew what the frig they were talking about. Graham, the magazine's TV editor, called the Yorkshire-based programme 'bitingly raw' and said that its writer, Sally Wainwright, and lead actor Sarah Lancashire had 'never been better.' All of which proves that, like a broken clock, Allison Graham is, occasionally, right. But, not very often. Line Of Duty and Sherlock took second and third place in a BBC-heavy top ten. The Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon comedy The Trip To Italy - which was decent, but nowhere near as impressive as the previous series - came fourth, with Sky Atlantic's US import True Detective - this blog's own suggestion for the best show on TV in 2014 - rounding out the top five. 'The critics' top five shows that our love of quality crime and detective drama is alive and well,' said Tim Glanfield, editor of the Radio Times website. Yet he said it was 'nice' to see such 'left-field comedies' as Channel Four's Toast Of London and BBC4's Detectorists also featuring in the top ten. Set in West Yorkshire, Happy Valley saw former Coronation Street actress Lancashire play a police sergeant investigating a kidnap plot. Work on a second series is due to begin in 2015 and will be broadcast later in the year. Peter Capaldi's début as The Doctor saw perennial favourite Doctor Who merit inclusion in the list, in ninth place. Writer Huw Fullerton admitted the actor's 'more hostile, older Time Lord' had been 'a hard sell' but said it was now 'hard to imagine anyone else at the helm of the TARDIS.'

Alan Davies has 'hit out' (that's tabloidese for 'criticised' only with somewhat less syllables) at TV soaps for 'destroying sitcoms.' rather than hitting out at the real culprits for the lack of any decent comedies on British TV of late, comedy writers who seem incapable of coming up with good or original ideas. The Jonathan Creek actor, who starred in his own flop sitcom, Whites, a couple of years ago, claimed that soap actors were not given enough time to learn their lines and that the likes of EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale were being churned out in 'a factory.' Which is probably true but that's not something that began happening last week, it's been that way for decades. He told Radio Times magazine that soaps had come to dominate the TV schedules, leaving 'no space for quality sitcoms.' Speaking about his family's viewing habits, Davies said: 'Any soap gets turned off. Just the theme tune of EastEnders is enough. I hold soaps responsible for the death of the sitcom. All the best slots have been taken by the soaps.' Mind you, crap programmes about dogs don't help the situation either. Anyway, the Qi panellist added: 'The actors are doing their best in an impossible situation, with so many lines to learn in not enough time. They have my professional sympathy.' But he added: 'It's just a factory turning out not very good drama.' The comedian told the magazine: 'I get why people get hooked on them, but like anything mass-produced, you're not going to get as nice a meal in a fast food place as when a chef has time to prepare it properly.' Davies also criticised The Jeremy Kyle Show as 'appallingly exploitative.' But he did praise US drama Homeland and Channel Four reality hit Gogglebox, 'which I find addictive.' While the 1970s is still regarded as the golden age of the British sitcom, traditional-style sitcoms such as Not Going Out, Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.

Very few actors can claim to have played Caligula, Jesus and The Doctor, but John Hurt, who has been made a knight in the Queen's New Year Honours List, is one of them. Over six decades, John's distinctive, gravelly voice and lived-in face have kept him in demand for lead and character roles alike. His portrayal of Kane, the astronaut who meets a particularly grisly death in Ridley Scott's Alien, has often been described as one of cinema's most memorable moments. But, John has also thrived in the theatre, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and staging Samuel Beckett's quietly devastating one-act play, Krapp's Last Tape, several times. An incisive character actor, John is often drawn to misfits and mavericks on the fringes of mainstream society, and his dignified portrayal of John Merrick in The Elephant Man earned him an Oscar nomination in 1981. John Vincent Hurt was born on 22 January 1940 in the Derbyshire colliery town of Chesterfield, the youngest of three boys. His parents later adopted a girl after their middle son died. John's father, originally a mathematician, had taken holy orders and, when John was five years old, his father became parish priest at Woodville on the Derbyshire-Leicestershire border. John's parents were reluctant to let him and his siblings mix with the local children, whom they considered 'common' and, although the family lived across the road from a cinema, John was never allowed to go and see any films. At eight, he was sent to board at a prep school in Kent, an establishment which he later described as 'so high Anglo-Catholic it was flying.' There, he played the part of a girl in a production of Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, a tale of two children seeking happiness with the aid of a fairy. 'I felt an extraordinary feeling that I was in the place that I was meant to be,' he later recalled. But, the school also had a dark side: John later revealed he had suffered abuse at the hands of a senior master. When he was twelve, his father was appointed to a church in Grimsby and John was enrolled in a nearby school, where, by his own admission, he could be 'distinctly lazy.' Nevertheless, as a sporty youth, he captained the cricket, rugby and football teams and also took part in school plays. By the time he was fifteen, John claimed, he knew he wanted to be an actor. At his parents' request, he agreed to study for an art teacher's diploma instead and attended art school for four years. But a chance meeting with two 'wild Australian girls' in London persuaded him to apply to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where, to his surprise, he was offered a full scholarship. He fell in love with French cinema while studying at RADA, once going to see Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim every Sunday for seven weeks. 'In exploring this complex relationship between two men and a woman, it looked into areas that film-makers don't normally look into,' he explained. 'It was full of secret moments, and I think film is a brilliant medium for that sort of secrecy.' When he finally graduated, John walked straight into a small role in a 1962 film, The Wild & The Willing which earned him the princely sum of seventy five smackers a week. At the same time, he began performing on the London stage, and took minor roles in TV shows such as Z-Cars, Probation Officer and Gideon's Way. He also married a fellow actress, Annette Robertson, although the union lasted less than two years. It was while appearing in a London production of Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against The Eunuchs in 1965 that John came to the attention of the director Fred Zinnemann, who cast him as the scheming Richard Rich in A Man For All Seasons. While his part was not a major one, the success of the film - it won six Oscars - pushed him into the spotlight. Five years, later he was nominated for a BAFTA for Ten Rillington Place, based on the true story of Timothy Evans, framed and executed for the murder of his infant daughter by the serial killer John Christie. Evans was the sort of vulnerable character that would become a speciality for John, but he was simultaneously gaining the reputation of something of a hell-raiser, mixing with Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris and claiming to get through seven bottles of wine a day, although he later revised the figure down to a slightly more believable three. He was considered part of the firmament - a good actor, but not necessarily a great one - until he was offered the chance to play Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, an ITV adaptation of Crisp's scandalous autobiography. 'It was an absolutely stunning piece of writing; it screamed off the page,' John told The Times in 2000. 'It was a very risky piece for an actor - a television play about an effeminate homosexual who is also an exhibitionist. Many people told me it would be the end of my career - well, how often do you have to hear that?' Crisp himself was so impressed with the performance, that he called John 'my representative here on Earth. I told Mister Hurt it was difficult for actors to play victims, but he has specialised in victims.' John said that the TV play 'changed the business's perception of me' and acted as his calling card in Hollywood. John would reprise the role on the older Crisp in 2009's An Englishman In New York. Film roles soon came thick and fast. In 1978, he narrowly missed out on an Oscar for his role as the heroin addict Max in Alan Parker's controversial prison movie Midnight Express. Alien followed a year later. Famously, Ridley Scott kept the manner of John's grisly death a secret from the rest of the cast before filming. So, when a prosthetic alien punched its way through the actor's chest, amid copious quantities of blood and snots - six gallons per take, it was said - Veronica Cartwright, who played Lambert, actually fainted. Prosthetics featured heavily in John's next major role, too, but to a very different effect. His moving portrayal of the deformed Victorian circus freak John Merrick in The Elephant Man required seven hours in the make-up chair every morning and won him a second Oscar nomination. Other impressive performances included Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 and the gleefully deranged Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC's acclaimed adaptation of I, Claudius in 1976. He also played Jesus in Mel Brook's The History Of The World, Part One and voiced the heroic rabbit Hazel in the successful animation Watership Down. Tragedy struck in 1983 when his partner of sixteen years, Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, died after a horse riding accident. The following year, John married a Texan barmaid, Donna Peacock, with whom he set up home in Kenya. But when he returned to the UK in 1988 to film Scandal, he instantly fell in love with a young production assistant, Jo Dalton. They married in 1990 and had two children, Alexander and Nicolas, but she eventually left him, apparently exasperated by his bouts of drinking. A brief reunion with Donna was also scuppered by his taste for alcohol but, since cleaning up his act almost a decade ago, John has married for a fourth time, to Anwen Rees Meyers, a former actress and classical pianist who is twenty five years his junior. Over the decades John's workload has remained prodigious, although he takes fewer starring roles than in the 1980s. 'I've never sought out a particular part,' he once said. 'I've never done a Meryl Streep and said "I've absolutely got to work with a particular director" and taken a piece to them. I've never had that confidence.' He was utterly convincing as the Tory minister Alan Clark in a BBC adaptation of the philandering politician's diaries, and a memorable Control in the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Children will know him as wand-maker Garrick Ollivander from the Harry Potter movies, but he has largely avoided big-budget Hollywood films, calling the process 'endless. They do shots from your point of view, from his point of view, from her point of view, from under your legs, from that corner, from the other corner, from different points of view, three sizes - until you are just bored stiff with the whole thing.' With more than one hundred films on his CV he has, inevitably, ended up in a number of turkeys - most notably in Michael Cimino's disastrous Heaven's Gate. 'I've done some stinkers in the cinema,' he admitted to the Torygraph in 2008. 'You can't regret it; there are always reasons for doing something, even if it's just the location.' He took a role on Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull solely for the experience working with Stephen Spielberg, but grew frustrated with singing the film's praises in publicity interviews. 'I don't suppose we could talk about the lack of enjoyment in making it?' he asked one journalist. In 2013, he appeared to great acclaim in Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary special, The Day Of The Doctor as The War Doctor, a hitherto unseen dark incarnation of the iconic character, who ditches his pacifist credentials to become a warrior during The Time War. He enjoyed it but it was one of John's toughest roles, as he told the Daily Scum Mail: 'There is a lot of quasi-scientific nonsense which doesn't stay in your head that easily and that meant entire weekends spent on solid learning.' As he approaches his seventy fifth birthday, the actor is still working as hard as ever, with upcoming projects including Warner Bros' revival of the Tarzan story. John was made a CBE in 2004 before being receiving a knighthood in the 2015 New Year's Honours. He also accepted the BAFTA fellowship in 2012, telling the audience he was 'very honoured. I know that film means a great deal to me, but I had no idea that I meant so much to film.'

American rock Goddess Patti Smith made a surprise confession at her gig at New York's Webster Hall on Monday night: she admitted that her secret love was for David Tennant. Patti, who was celebrating her sixty eighth birthday dedicated the song 'Distant Fingers' to David, telling the audience, 'I know I'm an older woman but I know so many things. Waiting for you, David Tennant,' she added, 'Because no-one plays Doctor Who like you. I would gladly face all those robots with your screwdriver.' Ooo err, missus. The concert also featured a rare stage appearance by former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe who opened the show with a six-song set. But, even that is not as utterly world shattering as discovering that Patti Smith is a - no longer closeted - Doctor Who fan. This blogger believes mountains have just tumbled.
John Carver and Steve Stone are set to be in charge for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle's next two matches with Alan Pardew poised to become Crystal Palace's new manager. The two clubs appear to have agreed compensation for Pardew to succeed Neil Warnock, who was sacked on Saturday. Pardew did not take training at United on Tuesday and assistant manager Carver and first team coach Stone have stepped in. They will oversee Thursday's Premier League home game against Burnley and Saturday's FA Cup tie at Leicester. 'Crystal Palace have offered compensation at a level whereby Alan has now been permitted to speak to them,' said a Newcastle statement on Monday night. Pardew, has been Newcastle manager since December 2010 and is currently the fourth longest-serving manager in English football, after The Arse's Arsene Wenger, Exeter City's Paul Tisdale and Karl Robinson of MK Dons. The former Reading, West Ham, Southampton and Charlton boss steered Newcastle to a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League in 2012 - winning both the football writers and LMA manager of the year award in the process - and is currently under contract at St James' Park until 2020. United are ninth in the table ahead of a home game against Burnley on New Year's Day, having ended a run of three Premier League defeats with a 3-2 victory over Everton on Sunday. Some supporters on Tyneside had called for Pardew to be sacked earlier this season when Newcastle were in the bottom three at the start of October after failing to win any of their opening seven league games and a record of just five wins since the start of the 2014. However, a run which included wins against Moscow Chelski FC, Stottingtot Hotshots and Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws dramatically changed both the Magpies league position and the humour of many fans. Pardew has strong links with Palace having spent four years playing in their midfield from 1987. He scored the winning goal as the Eagles beat Liverpool 4-3 after extra-time in a famous 1990 FA Cup semi-final and played in the final and the subsequent replay against The Scum. Newcastle are unlikely to deviate from Mike Ashley's 'master plan' as they look to fill the gap left by Pardew's impending departure. The process of identifying the fifty three-year-old's replacement began along with the discussions over his proposed exit. Whoever slips into the St James' Park hot-seat in his wake will have to buy into the same model under which Pardew has operated during his time at the club. Press reports have suggested that Pardew decided to call it a day at Newcastle - who he has always been something of divisive figure, respected and broadly supported by some (this blogger included) but actively disliked by a sizeable proportion of the club's fanbase - after being told there would not be significant investment in the squad during the forthcoming transfer window, and fearing that key players, midfielder Moussa Sissoko among them, could be sold next month. The Press Association says that it 'understands' Pardew had been given assurances that the Magpies would remain extremely strong on that front and would not be allowing the likes of the France international, who has been linked with Paris St Germain and The Arse, to leave in January. Ashley, who remains on holiday in Barbados with chief executive Lee Charnley conducting affairs back on Tyneside, is unlikely to make a hasty decision. Former Netherlands defender Frank de Boer had been linked with the vacancy at Newcastle by various press outlets but de Boer's agent, Guido Albers, told BBC Sport that the ex-Ajax and Barcelona defender would not leave his current position as Ajax manager during the season. 'Frank will never leave in the middle of the season,' said Albers, who insisted there had been no approach for the forty four-year-old from the Tyneside club. 'Lots of clubs have approached Frank in the past but he has always insisted that he would not leave Ajax before the end of the season. But after the season is over? Anything is possible. Frank has so much experience, especially with developing young players. He has a vision. He will be good for the Premier League.' Former Palace and Dirty Stoke boss Tony Pulis, Hull City's 'professional' Geordie' Steve Bruce and Fabricio Coloccini have also been attracting interest on the betting markets, with the Independent claiming an 'exclusive' for their report of a possible player-manager role for the club's captain, Coloccini. Though, the Evening Chronicle had their own exclusive in claiming this report was, in fact, bollocks.

Of course, those behind the the sackpardew.com website are, no doubt, properly delighted by the turn of events over the last couple of days. To which one can, merely, note the old adage that one should always be careful what they wish for, because it might just come true.

And so we come to the final Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day for 2014, dear blog reader. Here's to 2015 and another year in which television continues to strive to be the art form that it can be rather than the business of compromise which is so often is. And, to take us there, here's half an hour of Orbital.

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