Saturday, February 14, 2015

Obscenity, Who Really Cares?

Can you remember the exact moment when football began to lose its soul, dear blog reader? For yer actual Keith Telly Topping it occurred at some point in the mid-afternoon of 12 May 1990, the date of that year's FA Cup Final. For those who don't remember, the final itself was actually a terrific game between The Scum and Crystal Palace which ended in a three-three draw, but the day had already been soured for this blogger by events from an hour or so earlier. (The Scum won the subsequent replay one-nil a few days later.) In those days the Cup Final was still a big deal and was covered extensively by both BBC1 and ITV. During the course of the BBC's six hour coverage, an interview took place between the late Tony Gubba and Crystal Palace's then owner the, now also late, Ron Noades. I dare say there will be quite a few younger dear blog readers who won't even know who Noades was so, for you, a brief history lesson. Noades was a multi-millionaire had made his money in developing golf courses before getting involved in football and becoming owner, firstly, of Wimbledon and then of the Palace (and, later, Brentford). He was, in those days, something of a controversial figure, one of the first of a new breed of maverick, media-savvy, full-of-their-own-importance owner-chairman who seemed to relish the limelight in a way that few of the dull grey boardroom men of previous generations ever had and were to be found getting their boat-races on telly as often, if not more often, than the managers they employed. Of course, these days, where our clubs are mostly owned by a series of very shady figures - floggers of mucky books or cheap sports gear, Russian oligarchs who used to be in the KGB, Arab oil billionaires or American or Indian or Malaysian absentee landlords - a figure like Ron seems rather tame by comparison. But, nevertheless, in 1990, he was known for his outspoken pontificating on all manner of subjects in front of the cameras and, thus, the Beeb felt an interview with him during the course of Cup Final Grandstand would probably be value for money. During the interview, Gubba asked Noades a fairly straightforward question about how the Palace owner responded to criticism of the way in which he ran the club from the supporters who, after all, paid their money through the turnstiles. Didn't they deserve a say in the way in which their money was being spent? Noades's reply is etched onto this blogger's memory: 'Gone are the days,' he began, 'where supporters can makes those sort of demands of chairmen because they pay the players' wages.' He went on to explain that match day receipts now only accounted for about half of the income which a football club depended upon (I believe the exact figure he actually quoted was fifty five per cent, the rest being made up with external merchandising, sponsorship and other commercial activities). Now, remember, this is 1990, two full years before the first Sky TV deal was done which would make that situation a million times worse over the course of the next two decades. This blogger can remember being astounded by what Noades was saying; effectively suggesting that paying football supporters were perceived to be less important by those who ran their clubs than the number of replica shirts they could sell in the Far East. 'You might well be right, Ron,' yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought. 'But I'll tell you what, I'll bet you and all of the other wideboys that run our clubs would, collectively, shite in your own pants and run an effing mile if, next Saturday, no one turned up at any football ground in this country.' Of course, that will never happen, our fandom ultimately works against us in this regard. But, that was the first moment where the mask, momentarily, slipped and many football fans realised the true level of utter contempt with which they, as consumers, were held by those in charge of this game we all love.

This blogger mentions all of this because, as you may have read elsewhere, Sky Sports and BT Sport have won the latest batch of television rights for the Premier League from 2016 to 2019. The deal covers the rights to show one hundred and sixty eight games per season and is worth a total of £5.136 billion. Yes, dear blog reader, you read that figure correctly - over five billion smackers which, is the gross national debt of several third countries. Somebody's got their greed right on, good proper. The previous deal had fourteen fewer games, with Sky paying £2.3bn for one hundred and sixteen matches and BT paying seven hundred and thirty eight million knicker for thirty eight games per season. The new contract will see Sky paying £4.176bn, with BT paying nine hundred and sixty million notes. This equals three hundred and twenty million smackers per season for BT, compared to two hundred and forty six million at present. Sky's deal of £1.392bn per year is eighty three per cent up from what they paid for the current deal. 'This outcome provides a degree of certainty so clubs can continue to invest and run themselves in a sustainable manner; it also allows us to start planning how the Premier League can continue to support the rest of the football pyramid from the grassroots upwards,' claimed the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, as greedy disgusting Capitalist slavver dripped from his lips. 'This structure also allows us to strike a balance between match-attending fans and those who choose to watch on television. Keeping grounds full is a priority for the Premier League and our clubs, and I am sure the flexible ticketing policies that have helped keep attendances so high will continue to develop. Although we have had a successful outcome for this process, following on from the highlights' award, there is still the ongoing Ofcom investigation to be concluded. We remain confident that the Premier League's live UK broadcasting rights are sold in a way that is compatible with both UK and EU competition law as well as being of great benefit to the whole of English football.' Scudamore added that the five billion quid deal is 'not obscene.' Although, some might argued if it isn't then what, exactly, is obscene? Scudamore told BBC Sport that the size of the deal was 'a consequence' of what the fans want. 'it's market forces,' he said like a good Thatcherite when asked how the deal was justifiable in an era of supposed austerity. 'There is a product that people want to watch. First of all, first priority, keep the stadia full. Then make sure people want to watch and people want to view - and you're seeing the product of that today.' But, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised in all this naked greed. After all, football didn't lose it soul just this last week, it's a process which has been ongoing for twenty five years.
Filming on the BBC's Sherlock special has concluded according to the episode's director, Douglas MacKinnon. Doug posted a photo of a clapperbroad with the words 'Sherlock shoot done' on his Facebook page earlier this week. The episode - which is rumoured to be based, at least in part, on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes Christmas short story The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle - is likely to be shown at some time around Christmas 2015 although the exact scheduled date is, as yet, unknown.
And, on a related noted, filming has started on the second block of episodes for the next series of Doctor Who, helmed by Blink director Hettie MacDonald.
The big Doctor Who event of the year - well, apart from the return of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama itself for series nine later in the year - occurred this past weekend in Los Angeles with the Twenty Sixth annual Gallifrey One convention. And, unlike last year, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was unable to attend. Due to, you know, stuff. Unlike the majority of his closest fandom pals who were very much in attendance. So, that was nice. For them. That's sarcasm, just in case you were wondering, dear blog reader. Ah well, there's always next year.

It was the most anticipated drama return of the year, but even Broadchurch's second series could not stop ITV from slumping to its worst consolidated January ratings on record. The main ITV channel had just a 14.4 per cent share of the available audience across the whole of the month, hit by a string of spectacular prime-time weekend flops including Get Your Shit Together, Planet's Got Toilets and Harry Hill's Stars In Their Eyes. Broadchurch has, thus far, failed to reprise either the critical acclaim or audiences of its first series and another big ITV drama, Mr Selfridge, has also seen a large percentage of its audience drift away for its current third series. ITV’s woes have been compounded by a run of poorly received factual shows, including The Wonder Of Britain, the first ITV series fronted by former Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury, which was pulled from its mid-evening slot last month after just two episodes. It is ITV's lowest January share of the audience since at least the turn of the century and, given the fragmentation of viewing over the last twenty years, almost certainly an all-time low. ITV's share of viewing across its portfolio of channels was also its lowest since at least 2002. Its share including ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 and its recently launched sister networks, entertainment and lifestyle channel ITVBe and premium drama channel ITV Encore, had a combined 20.5 per cent share of viewing in January, according to figures revealed this week by the Gruniad Morning Star. BBC1 had a 23.1 per cent share in January, giving it an 8.6 per cent lead over ITV. This represents BBC1's biggest ever advantage over ITV apart from the exceptional summer months of the London Olympics in 2012 when ITV dropped to its lowest ever audience share of 11.3 per cent. The audience share for ITV's main channel dropped below ten per cent on six days in January 2015, including all five Saturdays and one Sunday (25 January), with its lowest all-day share being a risible 7.9 per cent on Saturday 17 January. ITV has found itself up against a strong weekend performance by BBC1, bolstered by the return of The Voice on Saturday and a trio of big-rating BBC1 shows on Sunday: Countryfile, Antiques Roadshow and Call The Midwife as well as dramas like Last Tango In Halifax and comedy in the shape of Still Open All Hours. ITV has struggled to fill the void left by Twatting About On Ice - now, there's a sentence yer actual Keith Telly Topping never thought he'd find himself writing - which was broadcast for the last time on the channel around this time last year and, despite being composed entirely of horseshit, regularly pulled in consolidated audiences of six million viewers or more. But its new weekend line-up, including Harry Hill's hilariously disastrous reboot of Stars In Their Eyes, Stephen Mulhern wretched alleged 'talent' show Get Your Shit Together and another new format, Planet's Got Toilets, have been nothing short of ratings disasters, pulling in consolidated audiences of little more than two million viewers each. ITV had looked to an expensively acquired Israeli talent format, Rising Star, to air on Saturday nights but the show was dropped in a blaze of publicity before it had even been made after poor ratings performances for the format in the US and Germany. Broadchurch started strongly for the channel on Monday nights but has failed to repeat the success of its first series, while the third run of Mr Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven, launched with fewer than six million viewers against more than nine million for its first run. Laughless, horrible sitcom Birds Of A Feather - in direct contrast to the BBC's comedy revival of Still Open All Hours - has also seen a huge, and very satisfying, drop in audience. Elsewhere, the first three weeks of the new daytime show fronted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins averaged fewer than a million viewers, failing to repeat the ratings magic of their BBC1 show, The Great British Bake Off. Many of ITV's factual programmes have struggled in the 9pm slot, including The Wonder Of Britain and Bring Back Borstal. Tuesday night's documentary at 9pm on ITV, Young War Widows, about three women whose husbands died in Afghanistan, had less than a million overnight viewers – a 5.2 per cent audience share. Although such a topic - worthy as it is - was never likely to attract a huge audience, it nevertheless was ranked seventh behind all the other main channels as well as ITV3's Midsomer Murders repeat and BT Sport's coverage of yer actual Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws' 3-2 Premier League win over Stottingtot Hotshots, which had 1.3 million viewers. Broadchurch and Mr Selfridge remain two of the channel's biggest shows outside of ITV's big-hitting soaps, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Broadchurch's consolidated audience, including people who record it and watch it in the subsequent seven days, has been around seven to eight million, with Mr Selfridge watched by a consolidated audience of approximately five million viewers. The only good news on the immediate horizon for ITV is the forthcoming return of Ant and/or Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. The popular light entertainment show's twelfth series will begin on 21 February.
Meanwhile, ITV has also confirmed that one of their finest ever examples of crass, ignorant, dumbed-down lowest common denominator shite in the history of that sub-genre, Love Island, is to return to our screens. Well, that's, clearly, the answer to all of ITV's problems. The banal, wretched, worthless reality format was originally produced - as Celebrity Love Island - between 2005 and 2006. The new series will be broadcast on ITV2 (no surprise there) and aims to match members of the public instead of celebrities.

Actually, the worst may be over for ITV as Broadchurch regained more than a million overnight viewers on Monday of this week. The latest episode of the ITV crime drama's second series, which had been struggling badly opposite the BBC's Silent Witness of late, was the most watched programme of the evening with 5.86m at 9pm. Earlier, Richard Wilson On The Road interested 2.71m at 8pm. BBC1's Inside Out appealed to 3.77m at 7.30pm, before a well-trailed Panorama about allegedly dodgy tax doings at HSBC allegedly averaged 2.7m at 8.30pm and a New Tricks repeat had 3.17m at 9pm. On BBC2, University Challenge brought in 2.86m at 8pm, while Only Connect had an audience of 2.16m at 8.30pm. A Cook Abroad was watched by 1.6m at 9pm. Odious Unfunny Lanky Streak of Pale & Worthless Rancid Piss Jack Whitehall's Backchat failed to entertain eight hundred and fifty thousand glakes at 10pm. Serves them right for watching such rank tripe. Channel Four's The Jump ended with a muffled splat and 1.73m at 8pm. Later, Heston's Recipe for Romance was watched by eight hundred and thirty thousand at 9pm, while Catastrophe continued with four hundred and eighty thousand at 10pm. On Channel Five, Police Interceptors was watched by 1.13m at 8pm. Benefits Britain: Life On The Dole brought in two million punters at 9pm, and Ten Thousand BC continued with nine hundred and fifty eight thousand at 10pm.

BBC1's The Gift topped the ratings on Tuesday, according to overnight figures. The new series - which follows Matt Baker and Mel Giedroyc as they meet people who missed their opportunities to say sorry or thank you to others - was watched by 3.6m at 9pm. The fact that such a low figure was the highest-rated overnight figure of the evening will probably give dear blog readers some idea of what a thoroughly shocking night of telly it was all round. Later, Count Arthur Strong amused 1.44m at 10.45pm. BBC2's Antiques Road Trip appealed to 1.6m at 7pm, before Alex Polizzi: The Fixer averaged 1.86m at 8pm and Inside The Commons brought in 1.59m at 9pm. It was yet another truly horrible night for ITV where River Monsters was watched by a mere 1.7m at 7.30pm, while Bad Builders: Bang To Rights attracted but 1.92m at 8pm. Even worse, as previously mentioned, Young War Widows couldn't even break the one million mark, having an overnight audience of just nine hundred and eighty eight thousand at 9pm. Channel Four, by contrast, had a rather good night - beating ITV in both the 8pm and 9pm hours: The Secret Life Of Four-Year-Olds drew 2.27m at 8pm, before Twenty Four Hours In Police Custody appealed to 1.42m at 9pm. Kid Criminalsi was watched by 1.13m at 10pm. Channel Five's Benidorm ER brought in eight hundred and ninety seven thousand punters at 8pm, followed by an episode of Killer Psychopaths about the serial killer Joanna Dennehy with 1.16m at 9pm. Later, Ten Thousand BC continued with six hundred and eighty four thousand at 10pm.

The Great Comic Relief Bake Off topped the overnight ratings on Wednesday. The first episode of the series - which saw Jennifer Saunders named Star Baker - brought in 6.41m for BBC1 at 8pm. Can You Cure My Cancer? interested 1.97m at 9pm, before a midweek Match Of The Day averaged 2.26m at 10.45pm. On BBC2, Antiques Road Trip continued with 1.33m at 7pm, while Alaska: Earth's Frozen Kingdom was watched by 1.78m at 8pm. Wolf Hall's fourth episode drew an audience of 2.79m at 9pm. ITV's Midsomer Murders was watched by 4.24m at 8pm. On Channel Four, The Restoration Man appealed to nine hundred and forty thousand at 8pm. Twenty Four Hours in A&E interested 1.99m at 9pm, while Bodyshockers continued with 1.21m at 10pm. GPs: Behind Closed Doors brought in nine hundred and sixty six thousand for Channel Five at 8pm, before The Ten Faces Of Michael Jackson attracted nine hundred and forty thousand at 9pm. My Family Disapprove - Age Gap Love was watched by five hundred and sixty one thousand at 10pm.

Wolf Hall could return for a second series on the BBC. Executive producer Colin Callender told the Radio Times that the production team and cast are 'eager' to work on a series based on the third and final instalment of Hilary Mantel's trilogy. Mantel is currently writing The Mirror & The Light, which is expected to be published later in 2015. The current series of Wolf Hall is based on the first two novels of the trilogy. Callender said: 'We are waiting for Hilary to deliver it, but everybody involved felt they were making something of substance. Subject to everybody's schedule I think they will want to come back.'
Death In Paradise stayed top of the overnight ratings on Thursday. The popular BBC1 Caribbean crime drama appears to have survived the departure of Sara Martens as easily as it did that of Ben Miller last year with the majority of its viewership in tact, maintained roughly the same audience level as the previous week's episode with 6.66m at 9pm. Earlier, Eat Well For Less? appealed to 4.72m at 8pm, while Question Time was watched by 2.41m at 10.45pm. On BBC2, Antiques Road Trip continue with 1.66m at 7pm, before The Great British Sewing Bee drew 2.5m at 8pm. Modern Times averaged 1.01m at 9pm. ITV's horrific The Kyle Files was watched by 2.48m at 7.30pm, while the latest - and, hopefully, last - series of Birds Of A Feather concluded with 3.87m at 8.30pm. Car Crash Britain brought in 3.02m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Location, Location, Location gathered 1.41m at 8pm. Cucumber rose slightly week on week to five hundred and sixty thousand viewers at 9pm, while My Tattoo Addiction interested seven hundred and fifty thousand at 10pm. Benefits Britain: Life On The Dole was watched by six hundred and fifty five thousand on Channel Five at 8pm, before Britain's Biggest Primary School had seven hundred and eighty thousand at 9pm. The Mentalist returned for a new series with seven hundred and seventy eight thousand at 10pm. On BBC3, Bangkok Airport brought in six hundred and eighty six thousand at 9pm, while E4's Banana had an audience of one hundred and ninety two thousand. Sky Atlantic's Fortitude lost around two hundred thousand viewers week on week with two hundred and ninety four thousand also at 9pm.

Benidorm was Friday's highest-rated overnight show outside of soaps. The ITV comedy show was seen by an average audience of 4.37 million at 9pm. Elsewhere, ITV secured average ratings of 3.32 million for Barging Round Britain With John Sergeant at 8pm. The ONE Show kicked-off BBC1's evening with 3.9 million at 7pm. It was followed by 3.01 million for A Question Of Sport at 7.30pm and 3.47 million for Room 101 at 8.30pm. BBC1's evening continued with a very disappointing 2.92 million for The Musketeers at 9pm and ended with 3.42 million for The Graham Norton Show at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Antiques Road Trip was seen by an audience of 1.45 million at 7pm, followed by 2.07 million for Mastermind and 1.51 million for Food & Drink at 8.30pm. Italy Unpacked averaged 1.62 million at 9pm, while a Qi repeat ended the evening with 1.21 million. On Channel Four, Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast drew 1.23 million at 8pm, followed by 1.72 million for Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown and 1.31 million for The Last Leg. With 1.17 million viewers, last year's two-part NCIS New Orleans sojourn - showed as a prelude to next week's start of the NCIS: New Orleans spin-off was Channel Five's highest-rated show of the night. Ice Road Truckers drew an average audience of seven hundred and ninety nine thousand at 8pm. With an average four hundred and ninety seven thousand, ITV3's 8pm showing of Agatha Christie's Marple was among the highest-rated multichannel shows.

The Voice's blind auditions continued with more than 8.7 million punters on Saturday, according to overnight figures as ITV had yet another Saturday night horroshow. The BBC1 singing competition appealed to 8.76m from 7.15pm, over a million more viewers than the equivalent episode last year. It was followed by The National Lottery: Win Your Wish List and Casualty, which were watched by 4.94m and 4.87m respectively. Earlier Live Six Nations Rugby Union dominated the BBC's afternoon and earlier evening schedules with 4.30m watching England give Italy a damned good twanking and then 4.61m watching Ireland versus France. Match Of The Day with FA Cup highlights ended the evening with 3.01m viewers. BBC2's How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson began with eight hundred and eighty two thousand from 7.35pm. A Dad's Army repeat took 1.61m, before Simon Rattle: The Making Of A Maestro drew seven hundred and sixty one thousand. The Dave Clark Five & Beyond: Glad All Over pulled in a highly respectable nine hundred and ninety thousand from 10.05pm. On ITV, Harry Hill's Stars In Their Eyes concluded its miserable run with a laughably poor 2.12m from 6.30pm. Hopefully that's the last we shall see of that particular pile of crass, lowest common denominator diarrhoea. Don't let the door hit your arse, hard, on the way out, Harold. Boy, did his act get very old very quickly. Planet's Got Toilets averaged an embarrassing 1.66m with Take Me Out attracting an evening high for the channel of just 3.03m. The Jonathan Ross Show managed but 2.18m from 9.20pm. The channel's opening night of coverage of the Cricket World Cup drew a mere three hundred and thirty thousand. Mind you, that did include England getting a very severe slippering from Australia so, perhaps, such a low audience was to be expected in the circumstances. On Channel Four, The World's Weirdest Weather was watched by 1.17m in the 8pm hour, before The Bourne Legacy drew 1.53m. The latest episode of Channel Five's CSI was watched by nine hundred and thirty two thousand. The multichannels were topped by ITV3's Foyle's War (nine hundred and twenty thousand).

As for yer actual Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, his own personal Saturday was absolutely sodding lousy for a variety of reasons. And it had the perfect end when the Stately Telly Topping Manor DVD recorder only went and decided to corrupt the disc containing the second half of series five of Spiral. Taking with it, in the process, not only Saturday night's two climactic episodes but, also, the four episodes from the last two weeks as well. If there'd been any point in this blogger taking out his white-hot impotent and righteous fury on an inanimate object at that moment, he would have thrashed the bastard thing to within an inch of its life. And, then he would have thrashed it some more. But, he'd've only been wasting his energy. Magnifique, as they say in Paris. When they're being ironic in a Gallic way. C'est la vie.
'On my own, I lose touch with reality.' In the event, the final two episodes of Spiral's fifth series brought all of the the necessary resolutions even if, as usual, it ended on something of a cliffhanger; in this case with Laure in hospital, in danger of losing her baby, after a flawed attempt to save completely mad murderess Karen from suicide. That final moment of Gilou weeping like a big soft girlyman for a baby that wasn't even his if the first place will have all Spiral fans anxiously awaiting the sixth series (which will, seemingly, go into production later this year) and wondering about what is and what might have been. Just like the majority of the previous four series, then. Hell, this is Engrenages, dear blog reader, what did you honestly expect? Poor, dog-bitten Kim's hospital confession to Laure revealed what actually happened with Sandrine and Lucie. After Karen and her psycho girl-gang smashed up Sandrine's gaff, she banned them from her home and Karen from seeing Lucie any more. Which made Psycho Karen really rather vexed in a way that you don't want her to be. Therefore, she decided to kidnap Lucie with the help of drugs from her dying father's stash, only for Sandrine to catch her in the act and a deadly fight to ensue. 'Oz wanted to keep Lucie, but we knew it wasn't possible,' Kim told Laure. 'And no one tried to save that little girl? Not even you?' replied the pregnant and hormonal inspector with a look on her face like she wanted to hit somebody, really very hard indeed, at that point.
      Thus, in a series which - whether it directly acknowledged it or not - was all about childhood and parenting came full circle. Witness, for instance, those sub-plots involving Karen's own childhood abuse at the hands of her foster parents and the way she was rejected by her birth mother, her unfulfilled desire to have a relationship with her sister, her - apparently entirely sincere - love for Lucie and her disturbing ability to both care for and about children and, simultaneously, to hurt them for money. Then, there was Laure's own struggle with her pregnancy and Gilou's offer to bring the child up with her in what we presume would turn Spiral into some sort of French version of a 1970s flat-share sitcom (hell, I'd watch it!), Stephane Jaulin's fight to be reunited with little Leo, Tintin's separation from his kids and even Judge Mendy's apparently uncomplicated love for her daughter alluded to in almost every scene that she was in. Due to this constant theme of kids and our responsibility to protect from the worst that the world has to offer being the series' effective leitmotif, the final cliffhanger made complete sense in both a contextual and an emotional way. After an entire twelve episodes of Laure going backwards and forwards on whether she wanted to be a mother or not it was, perhaps, inevitable that in those final moments of the last episode we got a sense that Laure had decided this was something she actually desires in her life. Which was what made the cliffhanger all the more interesting and, at the same time, frustrating. As all cliffhangers can be. As for the other characters, the formerly loathsome Herville -in one of TV's most unexpected changes of character motivation - turned out to have a conscience after all - taking an (off-screen) bullet for Gilou and genuinely supporting Laure in a way that you kind of wish he'd been doing for the last two series. The scene of him drunk and incapable was pretty funny too. Gilou himself was back to his spectacularly blundering best (or, should that be worst?) following Laure's seeming refusal to consider playing And Mother Makes Three games with him (a decision she appeared to almost instantly regret, incidentally). Taking the disastrous decision to getting all jiggy with his informant's girlfriend and being so busy with her texts that he managed to lose the team's most important suspect in the shopping centre whilst trailer her. Then, he got a right good kicking from Djibril for doing the dirty with Cindy after, worst of all, telling Djibril that he was about to be picked up by Brémont's team – thereby destroying one of Spiral's most important props, Laure trusting relationship with Judge Roban. It wasn't only Gilou who took step back to the bad old days, either. Joséphine's also taken a major shuffle back towards T'Dark Side, it would seem. Her ruthlessly betraying the man who rescued her from professional oblivion by using new, blackmailed, powers to vote for him getting the tin-tack as as predictable as it was heart-breaking. That she looked a bit sheepish about selling Edelman down the River Seine was an indication, hopefully, that at least a fraction of her recently acquired post-Pierre integrity remains although, given the deal she accepted from the law firm for helping to push him out the door, one wouldn't count on it. To be fair, it was obvious from day one that Edelman would have done exactly the same to her if the situation had been reversed and her rationalising her actions - 'I need to work or I'll fall apart' - made perfect sense. But, she should know better than anyone that manipulating people into giving you everything you want does, rather, invite them to take advantage of your ruthless ambition (she has, after all, spent four whole series playing on the human weaknesses of others). Hopefully we will see more of the Karlsson and Ziani relationship in the next series. 'And take your hands out of your pockets,' might well have been this blogger's favourite line of dialogue all series, a perfect summation of an awkwardly watchable combination of sexual tension and mutual professional respect mixed with personal loathing.
     Roban discovers that the nosebleeds do not seem to have been anything too serious and with Marianne back at her desk after their emotional reunion in which Roban admitted that without her, he couldn't do his job and Jaulin, properly, reunited with his son, you'd expect Monsieur Le Judge to be, broadly, a far more contented man than he's been for the majority of the series. But, despite Marianne's return, he seems incapable of leaving the Ziani case to lie. While Mendy appeared able to walk away from their defeat at the hands of that duplicitous wretch Marchard, Roban was positively gleeful about Brémont's raid on his garage. And look what that achieved: Laure's apparent betrayal of his trust and Joséphine's apparent betrayal of his trust. In both cases, of course, the ladies Roban presumes to have sold him out are innocent of everything expect trusting the men they work with. So, it wasn't what you'd call a perfect conclusion for Roban either, even if Sandrine and Lucie's murder was, finally, resolved. That, then, was Spiral series five, dear blog reader. Tough, relentless, awkward, violent, wryly amusing, often uncomfortable viewing. But, never less than brilliant.

The Casual Vacancy launched with over six and a half million overnight viewers on Sunday evening. The BBC1 adaptation of JK Rowling's novel was seen by an average audience of 6.61m at 9pm. Call The Midwife continued to top the Sunday ratings, climbing over one hundred thousand viewers week-on-week to 8.95m at 8pm. Earlier, Super Cute Animals appealed to 4.13m at 6pm, followed by Countryfile with 7.61m at 7pm. Match of the Day 2 scored 2.58m with its FA Cup round-up including plucky little Bradford City's 2-0 victory over relegation-haunted Blunderland at 10.35pm. So, another terrific Sunday night for BBC1 and not a bad one for BBC2 either, as Top Gear's latest episode entertained an overnight audience of 5.44 million at 8pm. Much to a chagrin, no doubt, of lots of Middle Class hippy Communist Green Party Gruniad Morning Star readers. Oh dear, how sad, never mind. Later, Dragons' Den gathered 2.51m at 9pm. It was another rotten night for, with Get Your Shit Together hitting a new overnight low of 1.87m at 7pm, followed by Family Fortunes with 2.40m at 8.15pm. Mr Selfridge suffered from The Casual Vacancy's opening, dropped around seven hundred thousand week-on-week to 3.17m at 9pm. It seems a very long time ago when the period drama was regularly pulling in audiences of eight million plus a couple of years ago. On Channel Four, their new drama Indian Summers opened with 2.57m at 9pm. Earlier, The Hotel brought in 1.22m at 7pm, while Auction House was seen by 1.18m at 8pm. Channel Five's showing of War Of The Worlds had an audience of eight hundred and sixty three thousand at 9pm.

One does have to wonder, however, how many of that six-and-a-half million audience will still be watching the second episode of the BBC's new three-part party political broadcast for Labour, The Casual Vacancy. This blogger didn't think much of it, to be frank, and is relieved to discover that he wasn't alone in this, either. Certainly yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV reviewer, the Metro's Keith Watson, had a few jolly harsh words for say about the drama: 'You have to wonder if The Casual Vacancy, the story of a Costwold village in turmoil over an election for the parish council, would have been made into a star-studded three-part TV drama without the golden ticket [of] JK Rowling attached,' wrote yer man Watto. 'Actually, you don't have to wonder: obviously, it wouldn't.' He went on to suggest that the drama's impressive cast 'deserve better than The Casual Vacancy's ham-fisted stab at a Dickensian-style dissection of modern rural English society. Neither full-on caricature or credible social realism, it aims at an easy target - the petty-minded bourgeoisie - and misses by a country mile. To make matters worse, the portrayal of the criminal underclass on the grim estate outside the well-to-do village is poverty tourism at its most offensive.'
Here's the final and consolidated ratings for the Top Twenty Five programmes for week-ending Sunday 8 February 2015:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.38m
2 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 9.74m
3 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.96m
4 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 8.47m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.29m
6 Silent Witness - Mon BBC1 - 8.26m
7 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.62m
8 Broadchurch - Mon ITV - 7.57m
9 Rugby: Six Nations - Fri BBC1 - 7.48m
10 Emmerdale - Wed ITV - 7.32m
11 Top Gear - Sun BBC2 - 6.14m
12 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.97m
13 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.50m
14 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 5.49m
15 Eat Well For Less - Thurs BBC1 - 5.37m
16 The National Lottery: Win Your Wish List - Sat BBC1 - 5.27m
17 The British Academy Film Awards - Sun BBC1 - 5.09m
19 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.99m
20 Ten O'Clock News - Fri BBC1 - 4.91m
21 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 4.82m*
22 The ONE Show - Wed BBC1 - 4.72m
23 Mr Selfridge - Sun ITV - 4.56m*
24 FA Cup: Match Of The Day Live - Wed BBC1 - 4.50m
25 Wolf Hall - Wed BBC2 - 4.13m
These figures do not include iPlayer or ITV Player viewers. ITV programmes marked '*' also don't include HD figures. Aside from Corrie; Broadchurch, Emmerdale, Midsomer Murders and Mr Selfridge, the only ITV programme of the week to achieve a consolidated audience of more than four million viewers (minus HD figures) was the stinkingly rotten Birds Of A Feather (4.07m) with Benidorm dropping below the four million mark for the first time this series (3.99m). Once again, neither of ITV's most spectacular weekend flops, Harry Hill's Stars In Their Eyes and Get Your Shit Together, managed consolidated audiences of more than two-and-a-half million punters and neither made ITV's top thirty broadcasts of the week. BBC2, enjoyed another good week. Their highest-rated programmes, apart from Top Gear and Wolf Hall, were University Challenge with 3.07 million, The Great British Sewing Bee (2.93 million) and Dragon's Den (2.83 million). Alaska: Earth's Frozen Kingdom drew 2.62 million, followed by Only Connect (2.47m) and Alex Polizzi: The Fizer (2.22m). Our Guy In India was Channel Four's most watched programme of the week (2.84m), followed by Twenty Four Hours In A&E (2.46m), The Undateables: Two Weddings & A Baby (2.41m) and the final of The Jump (2.17m). Channel Five's top-rated broadcasts were, again, dominated by Celebrity Big Brother, the most watched episode being Thursday's 2.81m. Foyle's War was ITV3's most-watched programme with 1.06m viewers. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Spiral again drew BBC4's largest audiences of the week (eight hundred and sixty one thousand for the first episode, eight hundred and forty nine thousand for the second), with the excellent Digging For Britain being watched by seven hundred and forty eight thousand and The Mary Rose: A Timewatch Guide attracting seven hundred and fifteen thousand. Storage Hunters on Dave was seen by three hundred and eighty eight thousand. The FOX Channel's latest episode of NCIS's twelfth series had eight hundred and thirty four thousand viewers. The Universal Channel's most watched programme was Major Crimes with one hundred and forty nine thousand. BBC3's weekly largest-rated list was topped by Waterloo Road (six hundred and ninety one thousand). A new episode of Bones was Sky Living's highest-rated show with seven hundred and twenty six thousand viewers. Sky Atlantic's second episode of Fortitude drew 1.26 million viewers on Thursday (the following evening's repeat of the episode added a further two hundred and nine thousand). Sky 1's most watched programme was Hawaii Five-O (eight hundred and eighty nine thousand). Murdoch Mysteries on Alibi drew two hundred and sixty nine thousand viewers.

Figures showing the Live+7 performance of the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas are now available. The Live+7 figure is calculated by the BBC to try to get an accurate estimate of the total unique 'reach' audience for an episode of a programme. Unlike official BARB figures the Live+7 uses data to include those who watched one of the broadcast repeats of the episode and those who watched the episode on iPlayer within seven days of the original transmission. Overall the episode had a audience of 9.62 million who watched either on the day of broadcast or within the following seven days. Of that 6.29 million watched overnight on Christmas Day, 0.53 million watched the next day repeat on BBC3, 1.97 million watched a timeshifted recording while 0.83 million watched on iPlayer.
The BBC has responded to crass and whinging complaints it has received regarding its coverage of the BAFTAs last Sunday. A non-specified number of whinging viewers whinged to the broadcaster about the 'strong language' used by presenter Stephen Fry during the ceremony. The BBC replied: 'The BAFTAs is not a BBC event, but during our coverage of the awards ceremony we try to find a compromise between presenting the events of the night as they happened, while remaining within the expectations of the majority of the viewers at home - which saw over five and half million people tuning in to watch. Attitudes to strong language vary enormously and we considered very carefully how to reflect this. Stephen, whose irreverence and style is extremely well-known to viewers, has presented the BAFTAs for several years. Any strong language was used after the watershed and there was a presentation announcement at the start of the programme warning viewers that the broadcast would contain language of this nature. We accept that some viewers disagreed with this approach and this feedback has been noted.' Tragically, the BBC didn't use the opportunity to also tell these whinging bell-end whingers to all go fek themselves into the bargain. An opportunity missed, one could suggest.
Nick Hornby will write a new five-part series for BBC1. Love, Nina is a drama series based on Nina Stibbe's prize-winning book, which features letters she wrote to her sister after moving to London to work as a nanny. It is acclaimed novellist Hornby's first drama for television and will be produced by See-Saw Films who also made Top Of The Lake. 'Love, Nina has already attained the status of a modern classic, and I am so happy that I've been given the opportunity to adapt it,' said Hornby. 'We want to make a series that is as charming, funny and delightful as Nina Stibbe's glorious book.'

Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, will step down later this year. The comedian said it had 'been an absolute privilege' to have been at the helm of the satirical show since 1999. 'This show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host and neither do you,' Stewart told his audience on Tuesday. Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless paid tribute, saying: 'His comedic brilliance is second to none.' Stewart's show has often been cited as a leading 'news' source for young people, with an average audience of one million viewers. His targets - and his guests - have been politicians and public figures, addressed in tones that are often indignant, or teasing. The Daily Show has also been a launch pad for several well-known comic performers, including Steve Carell and John Oliver, as well as Stephen Colbert. 'I'm going to miss being on television every day,' Stewart said. 'I'm going to miss coming here every day. I love the people here. They're creative and collaborative and kind. It's been the honour of my professional life, and I thank you for watching it, for hate-watching it, whatever reason you are tuning in for.' The host said that he was 'not sure' exactly when he would leave, or what he would do next although rumours that he intends to run for President might appear to be a little far fetched. In 2013, he took time out to direct the film Rosewater. 'I don't have any specific plans,' he said. 'Got a lot of ideas, got a lot of things in my head. I'm going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people.' Asked about the show by The Hollywood Reporter last year, Stewart said: 'Like anything else, you do it long enough, you will take it for granted, or there will be aspects of it that are grinding. I can't say that following the news cycle as closely as we do and trying to convert that into something either joyful or important to us doesn't have its fraught moments.' In an interview with US broadcaster NPR in November, he admitted that he had considered leaving The Daily Show. 'You can't just stay in the same place because it feels like you've built a nice house there, and that's really the thing I struggle with,' he said. 'It is unclear to me. The minute I say I am not going to do it any more, I will miss it like crazy.'

US news anchor Brian Williams has been suspended by his employer, NBC, after he admitted 'giving a misleading account' of coming under fire in Iraq. Or, 'telling lies', in other words. The broadcaster said that Williams would be suspended for six months without pay for his 'inexcusable' actions. Williams, the most-watched network anchor in the US, has often spoken of being shot down in a helicopter whilst reporting in Iraq. However, after veterans disputed his account, he admitted getting his story wrong and blamed the 'fog of memory' for his being economical with the actualité as it were. Last week, he apologised on-air for the lapse. 'I made a mistake in recalling the events of twelve years ago,' he said. 'I want to apologise. I said I was travelling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was, instead, in a following aircraft.' NBC News President Deborah Turness said that Williams had 'misrepresented' events. 'It then became clear that, on other occasions, Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues,' Turness said. 'This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian's position.' Williams's apology came after veterans who were on the helicopter which was hit challenged his version of events. One of them, Flight Engineer Lance Reynolds, wrote: 'Sorry dude, I don't remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.' Last week, Williams said that he was taking himself off-air 'for several days', as it had become 'painfully apparent' he was 'too much a part of the news.' On Tuesday, a statement from Steve Burke, NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer, said Williams had 'jeopardised the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.' NBC is currently conducting a review into what happened and there is reported to be speculation about whether the anchor will ever return to his job, now that his credibility has been so badly damaged. Questions have also been raised about Williams's coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with one health official challenging a claim that Williams contracted dysentery while reporting on the aftermath.

Veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Simon has been killed in a car accident in New York. In a career spanning five decades, the seventy three-year-old covered many war zones from Viet'nam to the former Yugoslavia. At the end of his stint in Saigon in the 1970s Bob was, reportedly, on one of the last helicopters out of the city. Simon won multiple awards, including twenty seven EMMYs, for his reporting and regularly appeared on the network's flagship programme Sixty Minutes. His last piece, a report about the Oscar-nominated civil rights drama Selma went out on Sixty Minutes last weekend. 'It is a tragedy made worse because we lost him in a car accident, a man who escaped more difficult situations than almost any journalist in modern times', Sixty Minutes executive producer Jeffrey Fagan said. Simon was a passenger in a hired sedan which hit another car stopped at a traffic light and then slammed into metal barriers separating traffic lanes, police said Wednesday. CNN's Anderson Cooper, who worked with Simon on Sixty Minutes said: 'Bob was for the last five decades simply one of the best, in my opinion, at getting a story, telling a story, writing a story and making it simply unforgettable.'

BBC1 has commissioned a new series from Anthony Horowitz. The Foyle's War creator has devised New Blood, a seven-part crime thriller set in contemporary London. The series will follow junior investigators Stefan and Rash, who are brought together by a link between two seemingly unrelated cases. The pair come up against a new breed of rich and powerful criminals protected by the law. Horowitz said of the commission: 'For a long time I've been wondering how to take a fresh approach to crime drama and I hope that with New Blood I've succeeded. This is a show about the so-called "Y Generation"; young people starting out in their careers, the powerless against the powerful. It's so refreshing to be writing about two central characters who are still in their late twenties, and Twenty First Ventury London is the perfect setting.' Charlotte Moore, the Controller of BBC1, said: 'I'm thrilled to welcome Anthony Horowitz back to the BBC. In New Blood he has created a contemporary crime series that will take BBC1 viewers into a modern and complex world that moves the genre into exciting new territory.' New Blood will be produced by Eleventh Hour Films. Casting for the series will be announced in due course.

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch married his pregnant fiance Sophie Hunter this weekend after a short engagement. The thirty eight-year-old Sherlock actor and theatre director Hunter, thirty six, wed at an undisclosed location in the South of England surrounded by close friends and family on Valentine's Day. Speculation about when the couple would tie the knot had been growing, amid reports that they wished to marry before their illegitimate love child is born. Last month Benny suggested that a wedding was 'a long way off'. Noting that Sherlock recently resumed filming, he said: 'One thing at a time. My main focus is going to be on that.' However, it now appears that his comments were merely designed to avert rumours that the wedding was imminent. The couple have already confirmed that they are expecting the baby some time in the summer. They have appeared on the red carpet together in recent weeks and may yet have to cut a honeymoon short as Benny attends the Oscars to celebrate his role in The Imitation Game.
Professor Brian Cox (no, the other one) is to host new BBC1 show called Forces Of Nature. Whereas Foxy Coxy's previous shows for BBC2 have predominantly focused on aspects of the solar system, the new science programme from The People's Scientist will focus on the wonders of the Earth. The four-part series will explore the relationship between the Earth and the sun's light, analysing phenomenon such as rainbows. Charlotte Moore said: 'Brian Cox will enthuse and inspire audiences in his debut series for BBC1. Revealing some of the most extraordinary phenomena and events on Earth, he will set out to illuminate our understanding of the planet like never before, bringing science to a mainstream audience in a surprising way.' Brian will soon be leading the line-up for the Manchester International Festival 2015. He will write and present The Age Of Starlight, a show about the history of the universe.

The BBC's press office has responded following recent criticism of the corporation by some arsehole pond scum louse of no importance with an agenda at the Sun. The Sun accused the BBC of a 'scandal' for paying 'greedy' MPs to appear on BBC shows, describing the payments as a splurge of public money and 'Beeb's bungs'. Which, given that the Sun is a newspaper which currently has about a dozen of its current and former journalists either on or awaiting trial for, allegedly, making illegal and corrupt payments to public officials for stories some might regard as a classic example of dramatic irony. This blogger, of course, prefers to await the outcome of all of those court cases before passing comment in this regard. The BBC, it should be noted, did not make this fairly straightforward connection in their response to the Sun's comments. Because, by and large, the BBC are far too nice and polite to do any such thing. But, this blogger is not. In a statement on its website, the BBC asserted that MPs are only paid for certain shows, such as documentaries or programmes 'where they're going beyond their usual role as an MP. We could always have an empty seat though,' the statement continued. 'We're sure Sun readers love hearing from MPs - and quite right too - given it too pays MPs to write for it.' Good point. The BBC's statement goes on to thank the Sun for holding it to account and keeping it on its toes, adding: 'We know that deep down, Sun journalists like the BBC as well - that's why they're happy to be paid to contribute to some of our programmes as well.' Another good point. In response to the Sun's accusation that the BBC 'splashed out' on a new senior job, the BBC countered that it has cut the number of senior managers and its pay bill by a third since 2009.

The Tunnel is set to return to Sky Atlantic for a second series. Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy will reprise their roles in the drama, which is an Anglo-French adaptation of Scandinavian classic The Bridge. The Tunnel 2: Debris will be broadcast early next year, reuniting detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann on a new case which, in this particular case, is not inspired by The Bridge. Ben Richards is returning to write the eight-part sequel, which is co-produced by Sky Atlantic and Canal+ with Kudos and Shine Films France.

The highly anticipated third season of House Of Cards was, briefly, leaked online two weeks ahead of its scheduled release. Nice to know that Doctor Who scripts aren't the only victims of such glakery. For thirty minutes on Wednesday afternoon America got a glimpse of life under the iron fist of Francis Underwood's presidency. But, almost as soon as news began to spread the series was pulled as quickly as the show's Machiavellian lead can destroy a political career. Netflix has denied that the leak was a marketing ploy, telling BBC radio's Newsbeat that it was down to 'a technical glitch.' On Wednesday night eagle-eyed Netflix viewers in America could watch the series online for just under half-an-hour. The entire season was listed, along with episode titles and plot descriptions. Although the mistake was sorted out quickly, some fans on Twitter claimed that they were able to keep streaming episodes which they had begun watching before they were removed.
And, speaking of men who would be king, a planned televised head-to-head between yer actual Jeremy Paxman and Nigel Farage his very self has been shelved after talks between Channel Four and UKiP 'broke down.' A programme was planned to be to broadcast after a documentary-drama imagining the first one hundred days of a UKiP government after the next election. But the idea has now been dropped after Channel Four first cancelled it, before resurrecting it with Jon Snow as the mooted interviewer – only to have UKiP refuse the second invitation as well. In an e-mail to the party, Channel Four's Head of News and Current Affairs, Dorothy Byrne, withdrew the original invitation extended to Farage. Which is such a pity because, let's face it, Farage is seen so infrequently on television.
Meanwhile, some proper good news: On 5 February, NBC officially renewed The Blacklist for a third season.
Basil Brush is moving into the digital age with his first online show. The long-running character will appear in thirty two episodes of The Basil Brush Show on Videojug Network's new comedy channel Quipstar. The new series begins on Monday 16 February. Each episode series will see Basil and his latest human sidekick - Mister Stephen - go on fun-filled adventures. The pair will be seen jet skiing and will also head out on a safari adventure.

Griff Rhys Jones is to bring a new cultural dimension to the quiz show format with a new brainteasing BBC series set in museums. In what is thought to be a television first, the actor, comedian, writer and yachtsman will host The Quizeum in museums around the UK, including the Ashmolean in Oxford and the National Maritime Museum in London. For some rounds of the quiz, the BBC said that artefacts from the institution's own collections will be the subject of the questions and in others the competitors will explore the museum as part of a treasure hunt. Those taking part in the eight-part BBC4 series include Antiques Roadshow regular Lars Tharp, art and cultural historian Doctor Janina Ramirez and author and historian Kate Williams. Others due to appear are broadcaster and historian Dan Cruickshank and former Minister for Security and Counter-Terrorism and First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Lord West. They will be organised into two teams which will compete against each other, but the programme will also feature 'lively discussion' between the experts. Rhys Jones, whose production company Modern Television is making The Quizeum, said: 'There are spectacular treasures in all of our museums. The Quizeum will uncover the stories behind some of the lesser known ones. From Roman penknives to Canalettos, from enamelled reliquaries to model boats, we will be looking for connections, testing history, unearthing startling facts and putting real experts on the spot. And most of all, we're on the road exploring fabulous collections in unexpected places. This is a really exciting series to be involved with – pure joy.' And, presumably, he said it in that curiously unique Griff Rhys Jones style where he starts off talking really fast and then, half way through realises this and slows down in a deliberately mannered and quite bowel-shatteringly annoying way. BBC4 channel editor Cassian Harrison commented: 'We have so many fantastic museums up and down the UK and I'm delighted that The Quizeum will be visiting some of these great institutions and exploring their collections, while putting our range of experts to the test. And with Griff Rhys Jones hosting, it promises to be a real treat full of fun and surprising facts.' The Quizeum is due to be broadcast on BBC4 later in the spring.

And, speaking of Janina Ramirez (a particular favourite of all of us here was From The North), dear blog readers are advised to clear an hour of your TV schedules on Thursday night - and, record Fortitude if you must - for her new series, Saints & Sinners: Britain's Millennium Of Museums on BBC4. According to the press release, Janina will explore 'how monasteries evolved from a cult of extreme isolation and self-deprivation into powerhouses of Anglo-Saxon art, industry and learning. Janina begins her journey on the desolate rock of Skellig St Michael off the east coast of Ireland, home to the oldest surviving monastery in the British Isles. She investigates the harsh lives led by these early monks, and tells the story of the arrival of hermetic Irish monasticism in Anglo-Saxon Northumberland. Monasteries such as Lindisfarne and Whitby became beacons of civilisation and literature in the barbaric Anglo-Saxon world, creating wondrous works of art including the Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert's pectoral cross. A rival form of regimented, communal monasticism was imported into Southern Britain from Rome and Janina reveals the holy struggle that ensued between these two opposing monastic ideals. The victors would transform the culture and landscape of England, until they too were destroyed by a new wave of barbarian invaders.' As a great fan of her previous work - particularly 2013's Chivalry & Betrayal: The Hundred Years' War - this blogger sticks that one right at the top of your 'if you're not watching this, you're nowhere, baby' list for the coming week.

Seemingly, the fact that Countdown's Suzie Dent turned fifty last November has suddenly, become newsworthy this week (well, if you count the blitheringly crap tittle-tattle that constitutes 'news' on Yahoo as such) four moths later. No, this blogger doesn't know why either.
Further to the previously reported appearance of David Tennant on Just A Minute earlier in the week, Dangerous Dave has been widely reported to be 'the most successful debut contestant' on the long-running Radio 4 panel game show. Wavey Davey his very self talked for one minute on the subject of 'Exit, Pursued by a Bear' without once being interrupted by his fellow panellists - Paul Merton, Julian Clary and Stephen Fry. It is believed to be the first time in nearly fifty years that a contestant has made such a fluent Just A Minute debut, with host Nicholas Parsons congratulating DT on his performance. Former RSC regular Tennant proved delighted with his first topic, Shakespeare's memorable stage direction from The Winter's Tale. Describing it as 'the most famous direction in theatrical history', David spoke at length about the precise staging of the play (albeit, as noted on this blog's last update he did, in fact, repeat the word 'perhaps' but no one seemed to have noticed). The long-running quiz show, which began in 1967, is something of a British institution and sees contestants challenged to speak for one minute 'without repetition, hesitation or deviation'. It has played host to the cream of British acting and comic talent over the years, with regular panellists including Clement Freud, Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams and, since 1989, Merton. A spokesman for the Radio 4 press office said that the Just A Minute team, including veteran host Parsons, could not recall any other example of a newcomer making it through a full minute on their first attempt saying it was 'very possibly' the only time it had happened in the show's history.

Channel Four's Head of Drama has said that the network will continue to be 'different' in providing programmes with 'something unique to say.' In a piece for Broadcast magazine, Piers Wenger directly responded to television critic Maggie Brown's review of Russell Davies's Cucumber, in which she questioned why Channel Four's drama slate was struggling to attract viewers. 'As Channel Four Head of Drama, it's a bit of a badge of honour to open Broadcast and see you have appalled a TV critic. Writing last week, Maggie Brown described discomfort in her family home at all the lingering shots of buttocks and biceps at the start of Russell T Davies' brilliant new drama Cucumber,' Wenger wrote. 'I have known Maggie for many years but I have to say I think she is missing the point. Channel Four drama is there to do what others won't. Of course, on an average Thursday night you can find a new crime series or a Scandi thriller on offer elsewhere, but our drama has to be bolder in tone. That approach has led to critically acclaimed hits like Dennis Kelly's dystopian vision Utopia and the BAFTA-winner Complicit. It also delivered distinctive ratings winners like The Mill and Southcliffe.' Wenger continued: 'We're here to be different, here specifically to back writers with something unique to say. With Cucumber, that meant giving one of the outstanding writers of his time the platform to write about what it's like to be middle-aged and gay in 2015. With Indian Summers, it was backing Paul Rutman's perspective on the end of the Raj. With No Offence, it was saying yes to Paul Abbott's brilliantly comic take on the police force. Of course, all channels need audiences but it's a mistake to see them as the only metric of success. That's why on C4 this year you'll see real range in our drama from sci-fi like Humans to much-loved returners like This Is England.' He concluded: 'It's a mix of shows that share a strong commitment to creative and cultural diversity and are all uniquely C4 at heart. We know bums on-screen won't always mean bums on seats. But, let's face it, if that becomes the sole benchmark of success, then we're all buggered.'
And now, here's the latest
It has been widely reported that Australia will compete at this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Organisers have, apparently, invited the country - which is not, actually, in Europe, just in case you hadn't noticed - to participate as part of the contest's sixtieth anniversary celebrations in 2016.
News on whether the Federated States of Micronesia will also be invited to take part in Eurovision is not, at this time, known. But, if they aren't, this blogger will be forced to concluded that it's simply down to racism, dear blog reader. It's the only answer.
Channel Four's hateful, sneering, ignorant documentary series Benefits Street has been shortlisted for an award by the Broadcasting Press Guild. The controversial programme, accused by many - this blogger included - of exploiting its participants and demonising the working classes, is one of four series for the guild's best documentary series award. Keeley Hawes, Toby Jones, James Nesbitt and Sheridan Smith are among those in contention for acting honours. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London on 13 March. Benefits Street will compete for its prize against ITV's Broadmoor and two other Channel Four programmes - Twenty Four Hours In Police Custody and Grayson Perry: Who Are You? The drama series category sees three BBC shows - Happy Valley, Line Of Duty and The Honourable Woman - nominated alongside ITV's biographical drama Cilla. The single drama award pits Dylan Thomas drama A Poet In New York against Toby Jones' Marvellous, BBC3's Murdered By My Boyfriend and ITV's Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This. Last year's awards saw the first series of ITV thriller Broadchurch take home three awards - one for best drama series, one for lead actress Olivia Colman and a writing award for creator Chris Chibnall. How times have changed.

ITV has commissioned a new topical puppet sketch show. That's original. Newzoids will 'tackle the week's news events, while featuring some of the world's most recognisable faces in unique ways.' So, not at all like Spitting Image in any way shape or form, then, clearly? On, no. Very hot water. The six-episode series which, just to repeat, is nothing whatsoever like Spitting Image, no siree Bob, will feature the voices of impressionist duo Jon Culshaw and Debra Stephenson, with a mixture of low-tech puppetry and animation. Yep. Definitely nothing even remotely like Spitting Image. 'Imagine a world where David Cameron and Nick Clegg battle it out on Jeremy Kyle, where Ed Miliband joins Ant & Dec on I'm A Catastrophe ... Get Me Out Of Here and where Professor Brian Cox finds an extraordinary new planet in the solar system - Kim Kardashian's backside,' ITV said in a press release. Before adding' this is not even a little bit like Spitting Image. Honest.' Among those set to feature on the show, which is not at all like Spitting Image, are Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Barack Obama, Prince Harry, Simon Cowell, Ant and/or Dec and Wayne Rooney.

Channel Four News's resident snooty, full-of-her-own-importance presenter Cathy Newman - the pin-up lady for every Middle Class hippy Communist Gruniad Morning Star reader in all the land - has been forced, very amusingly, to apologise for her 'poor choice of language' after her attempt to visit a mosque last month turned into a public-relations disaster. Which was funny. The presenter,who appears to really think that she's totally it, had claimed - entirely wrongly, as it turns out - that on 1 February she had visited the South London Islamic Centre during 'Visit My Mosque' day but had been 'ushered' out of the door. The implication being that this had occurred because she was a woman or white, or both. 'I just visited Streatham mosque for Visit My Mosque Day and was surprised to find myself ushered out of the door,' she sneered in an atypically Channel Four News way on Twitter after the alleged incident. Clearly believing - as, indeed, do most slightly famous people who use Twitter - that everyone in the whole wide world is so fascinated in such trivial malarkey and doings that they would instantly shit themselves and fall to the ground, rending their garments and chanting 'we're not worthy Cathy, you big, funky, gun-totin' sex machine. You rock my world, baby'. Tragically, Newman failed to add 'didn't they know who I was' at that point although, the subtext was reasonably clear enough. 'I was respectfully dressed, head covering and no shoes but a man ushered me back onto the street,' she claimed. 'I said I was there for Visit My Mosque. But it made no difference.' It was later reported that Newman had, in fact, been at the wrong venue and was meant to be at the nearby Hyderi Islamic Centre, which was participating in the event. Newman eventually found her way to the right venue and wrote later that day: 'Had wonderful warm welcome - not to mention tea and cake - at Hyderi Centre.' Subsequently, CCTV footage from the South London Islamic Centre emerged, obtained by The Huffington Post, which showed Newman entering and then leaving the mosque after a brief conversation with a congregant. But, importantly, she left the building unaccompanied and did not appear to have been 'ushered' anywhere as she had previously claimed in such a 'poor little me' manner. Newman later - grovellingly - apologised for the alleged 'mix-up' and on Thursday of this week further wrote: 'I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error. I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word "ushered". My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened. I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.' And, that last bit constitutes 'news', apparently. Quite how a member of Channel Four News's sneeringly awful and obnoxious Middle Class hippy Communist presentation team will survive for more than five minutes without letting the world know her every move on Twitter is not, at this time, known. Or, indeed, much cared about. The mosque at the heart of the dispute has described the episode as the toughest in its small community's history and warned of a 'fog of Islamophobia' in the national debate. The Streatham mosque said that it had accepted the apology from Newman. But in a statement, the mosque said that it was 'deeply disappointed' by what it described as Newman's 'instinctive reaction' in assuming that she was being mistreated by Muslim men because of her gender.

EastEnders actress Linda Henry has been cleared of racially abusing a council warden after being asked to pick up a cigarette butt. The actress was accused of telling a community warden 'Do you know who I am, I'm Shirley', before hurling racial abuse at the woman outside a Jamie Oliver restaurant. The fifty five-year-old, who plays Danny Dyer's on-screen mother, Shirley Carter, in the BBC drama was found very not guilty of calling the woman 'a nigger' after being reprimanded for dropping a cigarette butt in the street outside the premises. The incident took place near Jamie's Italian in Greenwich on 14 September. Dressed in a black suit with white shirt, Henry dipped her head and embraced supporters after the verdict was read out. Henry was charged under her married name, Varilis. District Judge Nigel Dean said: 'Ms Varilis is of previous good character, which means that she has enhanced credibility, in addition to which she is someone who does not have the propensity of behaving in the way that the Crown allege that she did on the occasion in September.' Adding that there was 'no corroborative evidence' to support the version of events given by the alleged victim, warden Iyabo Adetokunbo, he dismissed the charge against her.

Katie Price has described Katie Hopkins as 'a disgusting human being'.Which is probably true although it does, rather, smack of a pot describing a kettle as 'a member of an ethnic minority', somewhat.

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Trinity Mirra - the owner and publisher of the Daily Mirra and the Sunday Mirra - has apologised to 'all its victims of phone-hacking'. In a thoroughly grovelling apology, published in the Daily Mirra on Friday, it said that voicemails on 'certain people's phones' were unlawfully accessed 'some years ago'. The publicity accompanying the company's - final - admission of liability over phone-hacking, after several years of constant - and very public - denials, could start a flood of further claims against the company. It was the first significant admission of phone-hacking by a newspaper group not owned by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and it is regarded as significant because it confirms that the practice was widespread in parts of the British newspaper industry during the early years of the century. Information found was then used in the papers, which was 'an unacceptable intrusion' into private lives, it said. Trinity Mirra has already settled a number of phone-hacking claims. The company told its shareholders that it would set aside 'more money' to pay the cost of settling further phone-hacking claims which may emerge. It has reportedly set aside an extra eight million smackers, taking the total to twelve million knicker, to cover compensation payments to victims and associated legal costs. Whether that will be anywhere near enough is another matter entirely. In the printed apology, it said: 'It was unlawful and should never have happened and fell far below the standards our readers expect and deserve. We are taking this opportunity to give every victim a sincere apology for what happened.' It said that phone-hacking had 'long since been banished from Trinity Mirra's business and we are committed to ensuring it will not happen again.' Trinity Mirra also publishes the Sunday People which will also carry the apology along with the Sunday Mirra at the weekend. Cilla Black was among celebrities who settled phone-hacking claims for 'substantial' punitive damages in the High Court last month. The actor Darren Day, EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace and singer and reality TV regular Peter Andre also settled claims against Mirra Group Newspapers, which is a subsidiary of Trinity Mirra. The hacking was alleged to have taken place between 2000 and 2006. Settlements were also previously agreed with the former head coach of the England football team, Sven-Goran Eriksson, former Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston, David and Victoria Beckham's former nanny Abbie Gibson, the actor Shane Richie's wife Christie Roche and his agent Phil Dale. In September last year, Trinity Mirra admitted for the first time that some of its journalists had been involved in phone-hacking - after years of flat out and outraged denials - and said that it would pay compensation to four people. They were Shane Richie, soap actresses Shobna Gulati and Lucy Benjamin, and the BBC's creative director Alan Yentob. In November, former the Sunday Mirra investigations editor Graham Johnson pleaded very guilty to intercepting voicemail messages in 2001. He was the first Mirra Group Newspapers journalist to admit to phone-hacking. Trinity Mirra told shareholders: 'As the process of dealing with the civil claims has progressed, it has become evident that the cost of resolving these claims will be higher than previously envisaged. Inevitably there remains some uncertainty as to how matters will progress and whether or not new allegations or claims will emerge and their possible financial impact.' Allegations of phone-hacking at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, owned by News International, led to a large-scale police investigation that uncovered many victims and led to the newspaper's closure in shame and ignominy 2011. It also prompted the Leveson inquiry into press standards and regulation and to jail terms for several Scum of the World staff found to have done the dirty deeds.
Samsung is warning customers to 'avoid discussing personal information' in front of their smart television set. The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature. Such TV sets reportedly 'listen' to every conversation held in front of them and may share any details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said. Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens. The warning came to light via a story in online news magazine the Daily Beast which published an excerpt of a section of Samsung's privacy policy for its net-connected Smart TV sets. The policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands are issued. It goes on to warn: 'If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.' They didn't add that their TV sets would be watching you so it's probably not a good idea to wank at Internet porn in front of it or, indeed, sit around your living room in just your pants, eating crisps and drinking pop either. Though, perhaps, they should have. Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation which campaigns on digital rights issues, told the Daily Beast that the third party was probably the company providing speech-to-text conversion for Samsung. She added: 'If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I'd definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.' In response to the widespread sharing of its policy statement, Samsung has issued a statement to 'clarify' how voice activation works. It said that the privacy policy was an attempt to be 'transparent' with owners in order to help them make 'informed choices' about whether to use some features on its Smart TV sets, adding that it took consumer privacy 'very seriously'. Samsung said: 'If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.' It added that it did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. Smart-TV owners would always know if voice activation was turned on because a microphone icon would be visible on the screen, it said. The third-party handling the translation from speech-to-text has not been named. Samsung is not the first maker of a smart, net-connected TV to run into problems with the data that the set collects. In late 2013, a UK IT consultant found his LG TV was gathering information about his viewing habits. Publicity about the issue led LG to create a software update which ensured that data collection was turned off for those who did not want to share information.
Former TV weatherman Fred Talbot has been found very guilty of historic sex abuse charges that he indecently assaulted two teenage boys when he was a teacher. The sixty five-year-old dirty rotten scoundrel was cleared of eight other indecent assault charges by a jury at Manchester Crown Court. He was accused of abusing four former pupils at Altrincham Grammar School and a fifth schoolboy from the Newcastle area. Talbot was remanded in custody for sentencing on 13 March. Judge Timothy Mort told Talbot that his sentence should start immediately bearing in mind his 'abuse of trust' and his sickening and sordid crimes. Talbot displayed no obvious reaction when the verdicts were read and nodded at the judge as he was taken down to the cells. He had denied abusing boys aged fourteen to seventeen, but the jury didn't believe a word of it and he was found extremely guilty of two counts relating to former pupils at Altrincham Grammar on canal boat trips. The jury heard that Talbot staged a 'naked orgy' involving ten drunken schoolboys on a canal barge. He was said to have asked some of the pupils to pretend they were girls and lie on top of each other as photographs were taken. One victim, who said that he thought he was fourteen at the time of the incident, claimed Talbot abused him after he was told to share a bed with him. Another boy was abused on another barge trip in similar circumstances. He said that boys would 'take turns' to sleep in Talbot's bed during the trip and when it was his turn, Talbot 'started talking to me about sexual stuff'. The incidents are said to have taken place on school trips in the 1970s. It can now be reported that a number of similar complaints against Talbot have been passed by police to the Procurator Fiscal about alleged offences said to have been committed in Scotland. Talbot worked as a biology teacher at the boys' school until May 1984. The court heard that his teaching career came to 'an abrupt end' following an indecent proposal he made to two pupils he invited to his home to 'look at his telescope.' The jury was told that he was said to have been 'obsessed' with teenage boys throughout his teaching career and 'could not help himself' around them when under the influence of drink. During the investigation, police seized a number of diaries which Talbot kept during his teaching career. Police found entries 'highly suggestive of inappropriate behaviour'. During the trial The Stone Roses singer Ian Brown told the court that his former teacher, Talbot, had showed pupils what he later realised was 'probably a gay porn film'. He said that Talbot also suggested boys go home, try to masturbate and report back on the results. Brown told the court that he remembered 'in particular' two or three lessons given by Talbot when Brown was an eleven-year-old schoolboy. He said that the class went to the science block, but instead of the usual classroom went into another room with a projector set up. Brown said: 'A three minute film on a Super Eight projector of a guy walking into a room dressed in denims, sits on bed, takes trousers down and masturbates. It was only a few years later I realised it was probably a gay porn film. It wasn't a sex education film.' Neil Usher, prosecuting, asked if there was any response from the boys. 'Nervous giggles,' Brown said. 'He wanted to know who was successful in the masturbation. He asked boys to raise the hand.' Brown said in further biology lessons, his teacher would approach the boys who had raised their hands and have 'private words' with them. 'I can remember sitting there wondering, "What is he saying to them?" They were all the same age but they were a foot bigger than us.' Suzanne Goddard QC, defending, cross-examined the singer about the biology classes and suggested part of Talbot's responsibility as a teacher was sex education. Brown said: 'I doubt that's on the curriculum.' Asked why he had not told his parents about these incidents, the singer said: 'It was 1974. I was eleven and the teachers ruled with an iron rod. It would have been an embarrassment to tell my parents things like that.' Detective Constable Chris Doggart, of Greater Manchester Police, said after sentencing: 'Talbot was an extremely popular and well liked individual - both as a celebrity weatherman and formerly as a science teacher - who earned not only the trust and adulation of many of his peers and pupils, but also much of the nation. Now he has been exposed as an opportunistic sex offender and that reputation is rightly in tatters. Even when he was not committing offences against the two vulnerable young boys, his behaviour was wholly inappropriate and so far removed from his duty as a teacher to nurture and safeguard those under his care it really does defy belief.' In a statement, Altrincham Grammar School for Boys said: 'These awful events took place over thirty years ago and naturally our thoughts go out to those former pupils who were subjected to this abuse. We are confident that our present pupils and their parents know that the school is totally committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff at all times and that these historical offences have no bearing on the school's outstanding reputation today.' Talbot became best known for presenting the weather forecast on a floating map in Liverpool's Albert Dock for ITV's This Morning programme.

A court in South Korea has extremely sentenced the daughter of the boss of Korean Air to a year in The Big House after she threw a big stroppy tantrum over a packet of airline nuts. Heather Cho was the Executive Vice President of Korean Air until she was forced to extremely resign in December following the incident on a Korean Air flight from New York to Seoul. Cho had ordered the plane to return to its gate so that the Chief Steward could be removed after she had been offered her first-class snack in a plastic packet rather than in a dish. The forty-year-old was convicted of obstructing aviation safety after making an unauthorised demand for the plane to return to the gate. She was cleared of charges relating to allegations that she had tried to bribe the victims in the case. One of the three judges said that the incident would never have occurred if Cho had 'shown consideration' for other human beings, had not treated them as slaves and had been 'conscious of public perception.' Cho, who has been extremely in custody since 30 December, wiped away tears as a letter expressing her claims of remorse was read to the court by head judge Oh Seong-woo. It included details about how Cho, one of the richest women in South Korea, was adjusting to the basic conditions in prison and reflecting on her life. 'I know my faults and I'm very sorry,' Cho said in her letter. The incident occurred in a three-minute period as the plane was backing away from the gate in preparation for take-off. CCTV footage from the gate at JFK airport, played in court, shows the Korean Air plane pulling back from the stand. After backing up for twenty five seconds, the plane stopped and remained stationary for three minutes before moving back up to the gate. Inside the first class cabin, Heather Cho had been offered her nuts by stewardess Kim Do-hee. Angry that they had been presented to her in their packet, Cho remonstrated with the stewardess. The chief steward of the flight, Park Chang-Jin, attempted to resolves the situation but he, too, was given a public dressing down by Cho. Park told the court: '[Cho] was like a beast that found its prey, gritting its teeth as she became abusive, not listening to what I had to say at all. I don't think Cho showed an ounce of conscience, treating powerless people like myself like feudal slaves, forcing us to sacrifice and treating it as if it was the natural thing to do,' the chief steward told the court in evidence. As the plane sat on the tarmac metres from the gate, Cho ordered that Park bring her a tablet computer containing the airlines protocol so that she could prove to him that he had violated airline procedure in the distribution of nuts to first class passengers. The computer was produced but Park was unable to remember the password. It is alleged that Cho then began to hit Park and ordered that he be removed from the flight. The Captain returned the plane to the gate and Park was removed. Prosecutors had asked for a three-year jail sentence, but the judge said he had taken into account the fact that Cho had two young children and that her personal and professional reputation had been shattered. In finding Cho guilty of illegally altering the course of a plane, the judge ruled that an aircraft should be deemed 'in flight' from the moment it begins to move, even if it is still on the tarmac. Cho was not found guilty of the second charge of using her position to obstruct due process, but another Korean Air executive, Yeo Woon-jin, was convicted of interfering in the government probe of the incident by attempting to cover up the incident and destroying evidence and sentenced him eight months prison term. Transport ministry official Kim Woon-sub was found guilty of leaking the ministry's investigation into the airline. He received a six-month prison sentence suspended for one year. The incident has sparked a wider debate within South Korean society about abuse of power and nepotism within the country's so-called 'Chaebols' – family-owned conglomerates who dominate South Korean business. Cho's father, Cho Yang-ho, the airline's chairman was very convicted of tax evasion in 2000 and given a suspended sentence before being issued with a presidential pardon. There have been numerous other cases involving 'Chaebols' which together have prompted suggestions that they act above the law and lack proper checks and balances. In 2008, Samsung's Chairman, Lee Kun-hee was given a three year suspended sentence for financial wrongdoing. He too was later given a presidential pardon.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping happened to been flicking about the TV channels one afternoon this week, dear blog reader, and noticed that Pink Floyd's concert movie The Delicate Sound Of Thunder was being broadcast on Sky Arts. For those who've never seen it, still the funniest bit in it - even funnier, in fact, than the sight of the mulleted tosser the Floyd had playing bass with them on that tour who looks like the bastard offspring of Hoddle and Waddle - remains the bit in the middle of 'One Of These Days' where the camera picks out a member of the audience. Presumably stoned off his sodding tits on illegal substances of some description, the chap screams 'LOOK AT THAT FUCKING PIG!' to the bloke standing next to him. Personally, this blogger doesn't think that's any way to talk about Dave Gilmour ... Actually to be fair, the music on Delicate Sound Of Thunder is great but the cast of characters playing with Dave, Nick and Rick appear to be a checklist of everything that was wrong with the 1980s. Nasty hair, nasty clothes ... They've even got the Robert Palmer MILFs on backing vocals fer Christ's sake! On second thoughts, this blogger would like to qualify that statement - most of the music on Delicate Sound Of Thunder is great ... apart from Nick Mason sounding uncannily like he's putting up shelves in his garage on most of the first half of the show (particularly on 'Learning To Fly') - another tick on the 'everything that was wrong with the 80s' list; drummers resembling medieval stone masons. Or, in this case, medieval stone nick masons.
A British artist and some helpers from a local lingerie boutique spanked one another at the London Fifty Shades Of Grey premiere to protest at Britain's new pornography laws. Bert Gilbert and a team from Bordello Lingerie gathered outside the Leicester Square Cinema on Thursday to spank one another with hand-shaped 'bottom blushers' in protest at the new laws placing restrictions of certain forms of pornography. Gilbert posted on her Facebook page the 'guerrilla spanking protest' was 'a success' and she was able to 'spank the police' while being escorted away from the theatre. The pornography laws were previously the subject of a 'face-sitting' protest involving about two hundred people outside the houses of Parliament in December. Cos, normally you have to pay good money for that sort of thing. Apparently.
Meanwhile, B&Q admitted on Thursday that a memo warning staff of a likely rush by customers clamouring for rope, cable ties and duct tape in the wake of the release of Fifty Shades Of Grey was, in fact, 'a ruse' set up by its PR office. No shit?! In a memo to staff reported by multiple media outlets earlier this week, the hardware chain said that managers would need to 'anticipate the need for extra stock' and encouraged staff to 'familiarise themselves with the contents' of film ahead of its release this weekend. It said: 'When the book was released in 2012 DIY and hardware stores in the UK and US reported increased demand of certain products and queries from customers as they tried to recreate their own Fifty Shades experiences. We need to be prepared for the same effect when the film is released this month.' The memo – which appeared to be from head office – generated headlines across the when it was picked up by the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Mirra, the UK’s Press Association news agency, the Gruniad Morning Star and others. However, it now appears that the e-mail was, in fact, a publicity stunt by the firm's PR team. A B&Q spokeswoman told the Gruniad: 'We can confirm that the leaked memo was indeed a bit of fun. Both B&Q, the public and the media have been entertained over the past few days and we are looking forward to a big weekend. We would have confessed to this sooner, but our hands were tied.'
Meanwhile ...
I wonder if she does takeaways?

Scientists at a US conference have said that it is time to 'try actively' to contact intelligent life on other worlds. Researchers involved in the search for extra-terrestrial life are considering what the message from Earth should be. This blogger suggests it could, perhaps, be something along the lines of: 'Psst. Got n resources cos we're running short? Thanks in advance.' The call was made by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence institute at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose. But others argued that making our presence known might be dangerous. Researchers at the SETI institute have been listening for signals from outer space for more than thirty years using radio telescope facilities in the US. So far there has been no sign of any aliens. The organisation's director, Doctor Seth Shostak, told attendees to the AAAS meeting that it was now time to step up the search. 'Some of us at the institute are interested in "active SETI", not just listening but broadcasting something to some nearby stars because maybe there is some chance that if you wake somebody up you'll get a response,' he told the BBC News website. 'A lot of people are against active SETI because it is dangerous. It is like shouting in the jungle. You don't know what is out there; you better not do it. If you incite the aliens to obliterate the planet, you wouldn't want that on your tombstone.' Shostak is a credible and popular figure and has been invited to present his arguments. Leading astronomers, anthropologists and social scientists will gather at his institute after the AAAS meeting for a symposium to flesh out plans for a proposal for active SETI to put to the public and politicians. High on the agenda is whether such a move would, as he put it so starkly, lead to the 'obliteration' of the planet. 'I don't see why the aliens would have any incentive to do that,'Shostak said. 'Beyond that, we have been telling them willy-nilly that we are here for seventy years now. They are not very interesting messages but the early TV broadcasts, the early radio, the radar from the Second World War - all that has leaked off the Earth. Any society that could come here and ruin our whole day by incinerating the planet already knows we are here.' His argument isn't entirely reassuring. But neither is the one made by David Brin, a science fiction writer invited to speak at the AAAS meeting, who opposes the plan. 'Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilisations and indigenous people does not go well,' Brin said. He believes that those in favour of active SETI have been 'railroading the public into sending a message without a wide and detailed discussion of what the cultural impact might be.' He claims that he does not fear a Hollywood-style alien invasion and thinks the likelihood of making contact with anyone (or, indeed, any thing) is extremely low. But the risks, he argues, are extremely high and so merit careful consideration before anyone sends out a signal to potentially habitable worlds. 'The arrogance of shouting into the cosmos without any proper risk assessment defies belief. It is a course that would put our grandchildren at risk,' he said. Also on the agenda at the active SETI symposium is that if we are to send a message to ET - what should it be? Some involved in the discussions believe we should send a sanitised account of ourselves, leaving out parts of our history that we aren't proud of - you know, the Holocaust, genocide, racism, slavery ... the bible - and putting a positive spin on our achievements - as if our species were attending a job interview or first date. Shostak disagrees. He thinks the only way to win over the aliens is to be ourselves. 'My personal preference is to send the Internet - send it all because if you send a lot of information then there's some chance that they'll work it out.' Including all the porn, presumably. That'll sort out the, alien men from the alien boys.

A change of speed, now, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 78 of the Day, here's the virry granddaddy of rock and roll his self and some real soul music.