Sunday, January 17, 2016

Don't Let Me Hear You Say Life's Taking You Nowhere

At some indeterminate point around mid-afternoon on Saturday of this week, dear blog reader, From The North received its two millionth individual page visit since the blog began transmitting to The Cosmos (or, you know, that bit of The Cosmos which constitutes the Interweb its very self) in March 2006.
That sounds like a queue for a song. Mind you, it has to be said that the fact that two million punters have, over the course of the last decade, decided to check out some of what yer actual Keith Telly Topping has to say about, you know, stuff isn't the most curious aspect of this story so much as the fact that someone - ie. yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self - was counting them.
        Incidentally, if you want to know what two million looks like, here's a representation.
There was, of course, a small party at Stately Telly Topping Manor to celebrate this gloriously insignificant milestone. It looked a bit like this ...
Right, that's quite enough of all that nonsense. Let's get on with the news.

It was announced last year that yer actual Jenna Coleman will make her post-Doctor Who ​return to television in ITV's ​Victoria ​- a biopic of the young,and very short, Queen. ​Now Rufus Sewell - who plays Lord Melbourne, ​then-Prime Minister in the drama - has told ​the Digital Spy ​website that he has been 'working very closely' with Jenna on the 'ambitious project.' Sewell has filmed for two months on the eight-part series during 2015 and will return to the set following a Christmas break - shortly before shooting season two of Amazon's The Man In The High Castle. 'Working with Jenna has been delightful,' he said. 'Melbourne and Victoria were inseparable for the first couple of years of her reign. It was a really lovely relationship - a very close relationship.' Sewell told ​Digital Spy ​that playing Melbourne was 'particularly refreshing' after his time spent on ​The Man In The High Castle​ - in which he plays the ruthless Nazi antagonist John Smith. 'It was wonderful - especially straight after playing this Nazi - to be playing Lord Melbourne, who was a gentleman and a very sweet-natured person. Equally intelligent to John Smith, but just a completely different type of character and it was almost instantaneous how I went from one character to the other - it was a matter of weeks. Being pigeonholed as a bad guy has been an intermittent problem with me over the years. So even if no-one watches Victoria, for me, to be doing something absolutely opposite almost immediately was fantastic - it really flushed it out of my system.'

As previously reported, Sherlock​ proved to be the biggest hit on UK tellies over the Christmas period and it has also enjoyed a successful run at the global box office. The BBC drama starring yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman his very self performed like a mean motherfucker around the world at special cinema screenings in Australia, China, the US and beyond. The Abominable Bride was released in over six thousand screens in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It hit number one in the Hong Kong and South Korea box offices for English language releases and, in the latter territory, it overtook Star Wars: The Force Awakens during its opening week. Overall in China, The Abominable Bride's box office revenue exceeded nineteen million dollars and it took over seven million dollars in South Korea. Its limited cinema release at over seven hundred and fifty screens in the US and Canada grossed $2.7m, while it made over seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in Australia. Sherlock​ also reached eighty six cinemas in Poland and hit the top of the box office in Russia based on per-screen average, with ticket revenues at 4.3 million roubles on 4 January. Finally, its limited simulcast screening in the UK was seen by over eighteen thousand cinema-goers at one hundred and twenty seven screens across the country. Sally de St Croix, BBC Worldwide's Head of Drama Brands​ - and daft names - said of the results: 'The intention was always to give Sherlock: The Abominable Bride a limited release to amplify the TV moment and create a piece of event cinema for fans to enjoy. We never expected it to outshine major Hollywood franchises at the box office and couldn't be more thrilled with the results.'
Midsomer Murders​ enjoyed a decent rise in the overnight ratings on what was, elsewhere, a very underwhelming Wednesday night in ratings terms. The long-running ITV drama rose by around one hundred thousand overnight punters from last week's series opener to an average overnight audience of 5.09 million at 8pm. On BBC1, Dickensian​ continued with 2.21m at 8pm, followed by Would I Lie To You?​ with 1.81m at 8.30pm and Great Barrier Reef​ with 2.45m at 9pm. BBC2's fascinating Trust Me, I'm A Doctor​ was watched by a terrific audience of 2.55m at 8pm, the second night of Stargazing Live was seen by 1.3m at 9pm while Russell Howard's Good News​ failed to amuse eight hundred and twenty five thousand at 10pm. On Channel Four, Secret Shopper​ appealed to 1.60m at 8pm, followed by Twenty Four Hours In A&E​ with 1.82m at 9pm and Bodyshockers​ with eight hundred and sixty five thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Celebrity Big Brother​ was gawped at by 1.91m brain-dread morons at 9pm.

Death In Paradise​ was still the attraction on Thursday nights for BBC1. The exotic Kris Marshall crime drama continued with an average overnight audience of 6.09 million at 9pm. That was a drop of around seven hundred thousand from the previous week's opening episode of the new series. Earlier, Dickensian​ brought in 2.48m at 8pm, followed by Room 101​ with 2.71m at 8.30pm. On BBC2, World's Sneakiest Animals​ was watched by 1.67m at 8pm whilst Stargazing Live had an audience of 1.18m at 9pm. ITV's wretched, unfunny, Birds Of A Feather​ rose by around eight hundred thousand overnight punters week-on-week to 4.68m at 8.30pm, while ITV's latest drama flop, Jericho​, dipped by two hundred thousand to 2.75m overnight viewers at 9pm. On Channel Four, Location, Location, Location​ is still going strong with 2.25m at 8pm, followed by another of the channel's long-running formats, Restoration Man​ with 1.45m at 9pm. Channel Five's Celebrity Big Brother​ attracted 2.10m sick voyeurs at 9pm, as viewers tuned-in for 'more dramatic scenes including an intervention from security in the house' it says here. Earlier, Britain's Bloody Crown was watched by seven hundred and ninety one thousand.

The highlight of Thursday evening's telly was the return of Simon Day's cult favourite Brian Pern for a third series in BBC4's Brian Pern: Forty Five Years Of Prog & Roll. As usual, the best moments of this delightfully daft spoof, if you will, rockumentary about the up-his-own-arse Peter Gabriel-like rocker were the magnificent contributions from the great Michael Kitchen as Brian's foul-mouthed manager, John Farrow: 'V Festival people have asked if you want to headline, but they're offering half of what Tom Jones is getting so I told them to fuck off!' he tells Brian at a business meeting. 'Celebrity Mastermind, Celebrity Pointless, Celebrity Crimewatch, turned them all down. There's one more ... oh yes, Children In Need. Told them to fuck off!' 'You didn't?' 'Politely!' 'What did you say?' 'Fuck off please!' Also on terrific form, as usual, was Nigel Havers as Thotch's louche keyboard player Tony Pebblé, recalling the horrors of 1970s rock festivals. 'I hate playing in daylight, you can see everybody. Drunk bald people, children dancing. I kept looking at this squirrel at one festival, really put me off it was, like, staring me out like it hated me. I shot it!' We also got the previously untold story of how Mike Batt of The Wombles spiked the teapot of the Salvation Army who were providing security at the - previously undocumented - 1975 Isle Of Wight Festival. 'There was a big fat bloke and he jammed his tuba on people's heads!' recalled Pebblé. 'Part of me was thinking "Christ what a disaster,"' added Farrow. 'But another part was thinking "what better publicity could there be?"' 'But, someone died,' says the disgusted director (Rhys Thomas OBE). 'Well, there was that I suppose but ... it was a long while afterwards. The bloke was six months in a coma before he finally booked out!' There were some lovely additions to the cast for the episode including Suranne Jones as Brian's pushy new American Yoko and John Thomson as an obsessive fan. Plus, the usual pithy one-liners from Paul Whitehouse and glorious cameos from the likes of Paul Gambacchini, Rick Wakeman ('I played piano on that!') and Chas & Dave. It's great to have it back.
The return of the Douglas Henshall drama Sheltand for a new, third, series of BBC1 on Friday evening attracted a more than decent overnight audience of 4.78 million viewers at 9pm. Up against it, ITV's Mr Selfridge could only manage 3.03 million in the same slot. BBC1's evening began with 6.33m for the return of Babs Windsor to EastEnders. On BBC2, Mastermind attracted 1.91m whilst What To Buy & Why was seen by 1.43m, the final episode of this year's Stargazing Live - featuring Major Tim's, somewhat shorter than expected, first spacewalk - drew 1.47m and Qi was watched by 1.11 million. Channel Four's night was also pretty steady, Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Horrorshow (And Drag) had an audience of 1.38m at 8pm. Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown had 1.68m viewers an hour later, after which First Dates attracted 1.32m. On Channel Five, Celebrity Big Brother pulled in 2.21m glakes at 9pm. Then, the second episode of the much-hyped - and, frankly, horrific-looking - Lip Sync Battle was seen by 1.63m. As the Gruniad's reviewer noted: 'The show's success in the US lies in it attracting huge names keen on sticking a self-effacing side of themselves above the PR parapet. Here in the UK, we're more prone to a default hum of self-mockery and entirely used to seeing our celebrities send themselves up. This version [therefore] needs to find a niche less reliant on goofy novelty alone.' It was a pretty decent night for BBC4, where the latest The Good Old Days repeat was seen by three hundred and eighty thousand. Then One-Hit Wonders At The BBC drew five hundred and eighty three thousand and, at 10pm Music Moguls: Masters Of Pop had the channel's evening high of six hundred and two thousand.

The Voice remained on top of the overnights for Saturday evening, with the second episode of (for the moment still) the BBC's talent contest attracting an overnight audience of 6.37 million punters from 7.45pm. It was a reasonably strong night for BBC1, kicking off with Final Score (2.32m from 4.30pm). Now You See It was also watched by 2.32m, followed by a bumper audience for Pointless Celebrities (5.12m). The opening episode of the much-trailed Getaway Car - with Dermot O'Dreary and The Stig - drew 4.14m. In an interview for Radio Times, O'Dreary described his new show as 'Gogglebox meets Total Wipeout'. However some louse of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail was not impressed: 'The Getaway Car is the worst TV spin-off since Joey Tribbiani got his own series on the back of Friends. To bypass the problem that The Stig won't or can't talk, the producers brought in motormouth Dermot O'Leary, a man who won't or can't shut up.' Which is really annoying as it means this blogger actually agrees with something written in the Daily Scum Mail. Later Casualty was watched by 4.78m, The National Lottery Live had 4.07m and the evening ended with Match Of The Day - including yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies giving Them West Hamsters a damned good shellacking - pulled in an audience of 3.73m. On BBC2, Dad's Army as seen by 1.73m. Over three sodding hours of Masters Snooker sent 1.64m punters to sleep. As that - mercifully - finished early, a hastily scheduled compilation episode of Mock The Week was watched by eight hundred and forty nine thousand whilst, at 10.30pm, Qi XL - this episode featuring Bill Bailey and Sue Perkins - was seen by seven hundred and sixty four thousand. ITV's evening began with Ninja Warrior (4.28m at 7pm), followed by odious, risible, worthless Take Me Out (watched by 3.68m people who, frankly, should all be damned-well ashamed of themselves) and The Jonathan Ross Show (2.74m). Channel Four's World's Weirdest Homes drew 1.03m. Later, the movie Fast & Furious Six had an audience of 1.23m. On Channel Five Football League Tonight brought in four hundred thousand punters. Celebrity Big Brother dropped to 1.24m at 10pm. Earlier, the controversial - for which read sick - World War II Battlefield Recovery had six hundred and forty nine thousand.
BBC1 continued to dominate Sunday night's overnight ratings with Countryfile attracting 7.50m overnight viewers to start the evening. That was followed by Still Open All Hours (6.96m), Call The Midwife (the highest audience of the night, 7.98m), War & Peace (5.13m) and Match Of The Day 2 (2.11m). By contrast, ITV's night began on a low note and then got worse before improving. Unbelievable Moments Caught On Camera was watched by 2.41m overnight viewers, whilst the latest episode of the - massively expensive - fiasco Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands could only manage laughably piss-poor 1.52m. Yeah, I wouldn't get too attached to the idea of that five series contract ITV was banging on about a couple of weeks ago if I were you, guys. Good old reliable Endeavour at least managed to stabilise the channel's plummeting figures with 4.01m from 8pm, although it still got utterly twanked by Call The Midwife and War & Peace On BBC2, the final - at last - of the Masters Snooker went on and on and on and drew 2.07m (with a peak of 2.91m at around 19:45). A repeat of Alex Higgins, The People's Champion was watched by 1.14m whilst Madagascar attracted eight hundred and eleven thousand. On Channel Four, the movie Epic was watched by 1.18m. Walking The Himalayas had 1.86m and Deutschland Eighty Three was seen by nine hundred and twenty one thousand. George Of The Jungle began Channel Five's evening with 1.03m whilst Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls pulled in seven hundred and eighty nine thousand. Then Celebrity Big Brother dulled the senses of 2.37m brain-dead glakes.

The final and consolidated numbers for the Top Twenty Two programmes, for week-ending Sunday 10 January 2016 are as follows:-
1 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.96m
2 Silent Witness - Tues BBC1 - 8.72m
3 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 8.71m
4 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.26m
5 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 7.87m
6 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.46m
7 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.45m
8 Still Open All Hours - Sun BBC1 - 7.31m
9 War & Peace - Sun BBC1 - 6.95m
10 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 6.34m
11Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 6.24m
12 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.15m
13 When Ant & Dec Met The Prince - Mon ITV - 5.93m*
14 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 5.62m
15 The National Lottery: Saturday Draws - Sat BBC1 - 5.34m
16 FA Cup Match Of The Day Live: Exeter Versus Liverpool - Fri BBC1 - 5.33m
17 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 5.28*
18 Endeavour - Sun ITV - 5.16*
19 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.07m
20 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.85m
21 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.79m
22 Holby City - Tues BBC1- 4.76m
These consolidated figures include viewers who watched the programmes live and on catch-up, but does not include those who watch on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via computers. Those ITV programmes marked "*" indicates these figures do not include HD viewers. It was a marginally better week for ITV than the last few, but it still saw some relatively average final and consolidated figures for the returns of Birds Of A Feather (4.29m) and Mr Selfridge (4.09m) and a very disappointing figure for Jerico (3.77). The second episode of Beowulf didn't even register an audience high enough to make it into ITV's top thirty programmes (less than 2.75m). On BBC2, University Challenge drew an audience of 3.34m. Trust Me, I'm A Doctor had 3.06m viewers, followed by Dragons' Den (2.94m), Victorian Bakers (also 2.94m), Only Connect (2.47m), Dad's Army (2.07m), World's Sneakiest Animals (1.93m), Celebrity Antiques Road Trip (1.91m), What To Buy And Why (1.71m), Mastermind (1.64m), Great British Railway Journeys (1.62m) and Qi (1.60m). The Undateables was Channel Four's top-rated broadcast of the week (2.73m), followed by Location, Location, Location (2.47m), Twenty Four Hours In A&E (2.33m) and Food Unwrapped (2.32m). The second episode of imported drama Deutschland Eighty Three was watched by 1.54m. Celebrity Big Brother dominated Channel Five's top performing broadcasts of the week (Tuesday's series opener, 3.12m, was the highest-rated). Sky Sports 1's Live C1C and the clash between Dirty Stoke and Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws was watched by 1.31m punters, the largest audience for a multichannel broadcast during the week. Sky Sports 2's coverage of Live Test Cricket and the final day of England's second test against South Africa was watched by one hundred and ninety four thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was Sky Sports News's highest-rated broadcast, as usual, with five hundred and ninety eight thousand punters. ITV2's broadcast of Nanny McPhee attracted six hundred and eighty eight thousand. Foyle's War was ITV3's top-rated broadcast with seven hundred and sixty one thousand. The Young Montalbano on BBC4 drew an audience of 1.10m. Empire Of The Tsars: Romanov Russia was watched by 1.06m (whilst the Sunday repeat of the same episode had six hundred and thirty three thousand), whilst The Queens Castle was seen by eight hundred and five thousand and Crusades was watched by five hundred and twenty thousand. Repeat broadcasts of The voice (six hundred and eighty four thousand) and EastEnders (six hundred and forty six thousand) topped BBC3's top-ten list. Sky 1's most watched programme was awful, laughless, waste-of-space A League Of Their Own watched by nine hundred and eighty two thousand numskulls. Hawaii Fie-0 drew nine hundred and fifty one thousand. Sky Atlantic's weekly list was topped by Blue Bloods (three hundred and seventy seven thousand). On Sky Living, Blindspot was watched by nine hundred and six thousand and Scandal by four hundred and thirty five thousand. Sky Arts' Legends In Concert: Elvis Presley had sixty five thousand whilst Jimi Hendrix: American Landing was seen by sixty two thousand. 5USA's broadcast the latest episode of Castle was watched by three hundred and ninety eight thousand viewers and NCIS by three hundred and twenty four thousand. NCIS also featured in the top tens of FOX - the first episode of series thirteen's British debut attracting nine hundred and seventy seven thousand - and the Universal Channel - on which Law &Order: Special Victims Unit drew an audience of seventy seven thousand. Yet another episode of NCIS - a different one, because they always are - was in CBS Action's weekly-list (seventy six thousand). Bad Girls drew one hundred and thirty three thousand. On Dave, Storage Hunters UK was the channel's highest-rated programme with three hundred and fifty four thousand. That was followed by Have I Got A Bit More News For You (three hundred and forty one thousand), Would I Lie To You? (three hundred and thirty thousand), Dave Gorman: modern Life Is Goodish (two hundred and eighty six thousand), Top Gear (two hundred and eighty two thousand) and Qi XL (two hundred and seventy one thousand). Drama's New Tricks was watched by four hundred and thirty seven thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programme was Castle (three hundred and ninety six thousand), with a Sherlockrepeated seen by eighty nine thousand. Watch's broadcast a bunch of old episodes of MasterChef was a relative success for the channel, the best-rated episode being seen by two hundred and seventy three three thousand. Yesterday's Who Do You Think You Are? had an audience of two hundred and thirty six thousand viewers. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush was watched by four hundred and twenty nine thousand punters. Alaska: The Last Frontier had one hundred and sixty six thousand. On Discovery History, Seven Ages Of Britain topped the weekly-list with audience of thirty seven thousand viewers. When Rome Ruled Egypt drew twenty three thousand, as did Al Murray's Road To Berlin. On Discovery Science, How The Universe Works was watched by forty thousand punters. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme were Fast N' Loud (forty two thousand) and Wheeler Dealers (thirty six thousand). National Geographic's top ten was headed by Air Crash Investigations which had one hundred and fifty five thousand viewers and Richard Hammond's Wildest Weather (fifty thousand). A Crime To Remember was ID's largest audience of the week (sixty six thousand). The First Forty Eight topped CI's top ten (sixty six thousand). Eden's Deadly Sixty was seen by thirty seven thousand and Galapagos by twenty one thousand. GOLD's top ten was headed by Bottom (one hundred and forty seven thousand) and Morecambe & Wise: The Greatest Moments (one hundred and thirty nine thousand). Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (four hundred thousand). On ITV Encore, Downton Abbey was watched by one hundred and thirty two thousand viewers. True Drama's Taggart had twenty five thousand. Your TV's Ghostly Encounters had sixty three thousand viewers. On More4, Come Dine With Me was watched by four hundred and seventy one thousand. A broadcast of From Dusk Till Dawn had two hundred and seventy two thousand viewers on Spike.

The BBC is to broadcast a US drama looking behind the scenes at the OJ Simpson trial. The People V OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, whose cast includes Cuba Gooding Junior, John Travolta and David Schwimmer, examines the infamous 1995 trial of the former American footballer and actor for the alleged murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The BBC says that the series 'promises to lift the lid' on how chaotic dealings between the legal teams and a 'combination of prosecution overconfidence, defence shrewdness and the Los Angeles police department's history with the city's African-American community' led the jury to deliver the - unexpected - not guilty verdict, which drew more than one hundred million viewers on American TV. The series' UK première next month follows the success of true crime shows including Netflix's Making A Murderer and the hit podcast Serial, which is reportedly being made into a TV series. Scheduled to be broadcast in the US on 2 February on FX, The People V OJ Simpson is based on Jeff Toobin's book The Run Of His Life: The People V OJ Simpson. The cast includes Gooding Junior as Simpson, Travolta and Schwimmer as defence attorneys Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian, Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark and Bruce Greenwood as Los Angeles county district attorney Gil Garcetti. Executive producer Ryan Murphy, best known for Glee and American Horror Story, is using the show to launch his American Crime Story franchise. The series was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski, the pair behind The People Versus Larry Flynt, the 1996 biopic of the porn magazine publisher and editor starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton. BBC2 and BBC4 controller Kim Shillinglaw said: 'I'm absolutely thrilled to be bringing this gripping, highly distinctive series to BBC2. With an outstanding cast and a top-rate creative team, it is just the kind of grown-up, contemporary drama I want to see on the channel.' Sue Deeks, head of BBC programme acquisition, added: 'I am so excited for BBC viewers to see this series. The People V OJ Simpson is a fascinating and totally absorbing dramatisation of a case seared into the public consciousness. It is a case that you might think you know all about – but believe me, you don't know the half of it.'
The BBC has long complained about the 'iPlayer loophole', which means that people are legally allowed to watch BBC programmes via the Interweb without forking out for a licence fee. Over the last couple of years, the BBC has said that it wants to change the situation and, apparently the general public actually in favour. 'Respondents were strongly in favour of ending the iPlayer "loophole" which allows people to watch BBC content without having to pay for a licence fee,' said the BBC Trust, summing up its latest consultation findings. 'In the BBC's September 2015 publication British Bold Creative, it was estimated that Licence Fee modernisation would prevent income falling by some one hundred million smackers a year by 2021-22.' The findings themselves state: 'Those who did not take issue with the licence fee considered retaining it in its current form, but closing the iPlayer loophole, to be the most preferred alternative funding model. In addition, many of those who disliked the licence fee in its current form still maintained that this was the best of the three funding options. The majority of respondents felt that the BBC should adapt to the digital age by making those who watch catch up via BBC iPlayer pay the licence fee. It was felt to be only fair that those who use BBC services should pay for them.' In the British Bold Creative document, the BBC said that the government will 'modernise the licence fee, to adapt it to cover PSB-VOD services as well as live TV' as part of its recent licence fee settlement. BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said: 'Over fifty thousand people have responded to our two consultations and they have been clear that their future BBC must deliver the services and programmes they value, while continuing to innovate and do more to reflect the whole UK population. These findings will inform our discussions with Government and ensure the views of Licence Fee payers are heard in the Charter debate.' Beyond UK viewers without licence fees, the BBC also has tried to block so-called 'geo-pirates' abroad who are accessing iPlayer via Virtual Private Networks that effectively trick the service into thinking they are based in Britain, the ghastly scoundrels. An update rolled out last summer allows iPlayer users to Live Restart shows which have already started broadcasting on linear broadcast TV. BBC Director General Tony Hall has said that he wants the iPlayer to be 'more like Netflix', as it could 'showcase content from others' in addition to BBC programming.

The BBC has insisted that filming of the new series of Top Gear is going ahead as planned, despite media reports suggesting that the show may not be ready for its scheduled May launch. The Metro - which is alleged to be 'a real newspaper' despite some evidence to the contrary - had claimed the relaunch 'has stalled', and said it is 'not known' when the next series will be broadcast. But the BBC denied suggestions of problems with Chris Evans's relaunch. A BBC spokesman said: 'Filming on Top Gear continues as planned and on schedule.' Pictures that emerged at the weekend appeared to show the new host of BBC2's popular motoring show looking unwell. Evans was photographed wearing a white helmet and holding his glasses as he was bent over on the track, watched by the show's crew. A report in the Sun claimed that Evans 'felt ill' after a fast drive in an Audi R8 V10 with his rumoured co-presenter Sabine Schmitz in California.
Dame Barbara Windsor has confirmed that she is leaving EastEnders one the same day that it was revealed her character, Peggy Mitchell, will be killed off in a forthcoming episode. Viewers saw Peggy make a surprise return on Friday night when she told her son, Phil, her cancer had returned. Dame Babs said that she had thought 'long and hard about it' but that it was 'now time to say goodbye' to the character. She joined the soap in 1994 and played the character full-time until 2010. She then has since made occasional returns. Unlike her previous storyline, she will not win her cancer battle and will die from the disease. 'Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to her once and for all, as otherwise she will always be there, urging me to go back, and that is something I need to shut the door on,' Dame Barbara said. She said that EastEnders executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins had 'accepted' her decision and they had been 'secretly plotting Peggy's last scenes' since last summer. The scenes were filmed, secretly, in November, and will be broadcast in the late spring of 2016, according to a blog posted on the official EastEnders website. 'After thinking long and hard about it, I realised that it is time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I have loved for many years and I thought that whilst the guv'nor, who I adore, is still in charge I want him to be the one to oversee it,' said Dame Barbara.

The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy has resigned as a patron of the Oxford Literary Festival over their failure to pay guest speakers. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World At One, Philip Pullman said that he could no longer be a patron of a festival which did not pay authors for their time. 'Everybody else is being paid, except the only reason the festival exists in the first place: the author,' he said.

UKTV has struck a deal to air same-day repeats of EastEnders and bring back the popular weekend omnibus of the BBC1 soap, as part of a revamp of the Watch channel into a more 'female-focused' channel under the new brand, W. The pay-TV company has taken over the EastEnders rights from BBC3, which will - to the delight of millions - close as a TV channel next month. W will reinstitute the omnibus, which BBC1 dropped a number of years ago. The move is part of a rebranding of the eight-year old Watch as a premium entertainment channel and will see it compete with rivals such as Discovery's TLC and ITVBe. W will feature a higher proportion of originally commissioned content including Nev's Indian Call Centre, a spin-off of the BBC3 show The Call Centre and factual entertainment shows Get Me To The Church and Honey I Bought The House. UKTV says that it has 'identified a growth area' in the market targeting thirty-to-thirty nine-year old women and their families. 'W will be a premium channel for smart women and men seeking high-quality escapism,' claimed Emma Tennant, UKTV's controller. The new channel, scheduled to launch on 15 February, will also broadcast a number of US shows including the medical drama Code Black, CSI: NY and Grimm.
ITV's Peter Fincham has announced that he will step down from his role after nearly eight years. During his time as Director of Television, Fincham commissioned many huge hits for ITV including Downton Abbey​​ and Broadchurch​. Current Managing Director of ITV Studios Kevin Lygo will succeed him, while Managing Director of ITV Studios in the UK Julian Bellamy will replace Lygo. Adam Crozier, Chief Executive of ITV, said in a statement: 'Peter came to see me in September to say that he wanted to step down and whilst I am sorry to see him leave, eight years is a long time and I fully respect his desire for a new challenge. He and I have worked closely together since I joined ITV and he has been a great creative partner and has led a brilliant creative transformation of ITV's programming, launching some of the biggest shows on British television. We wish him all the very best for the future.' Fincham said: 'This is a personal decision that I have been thinking about for a good while. By the time I leave at Easter I will have been a channel controller at the BBC and ITV, amazing as it seems, for eleven years. Quite simply, it's time to do something different.' Fincham will stay at ITV until the end of March, while Lygo and Bellamy start their new roles on 1 February. Having joined ITV from the BBC in May 2008, Fincham also commissioned the likes of Cilla​, wretched, worthless Celebrity Juice​ and Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs​, as well as bringing back Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. He was also responsible for launching current affairs strand Exposure ​and relaunched News At Ten. ​He also helped secure contracts for Six Nations Rugby, The Voice and Family Guy.

​The Simpsons​ has posted its own unique tribute to the late Alan Rickman who died earlier this week. The FOX animated series tweeted a YouTube clip from a 2013 episode, in which guest star yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch performed a brief impression of the actor in one of his most famous roles, as Snape from the Harry Potter​ films series. The clip also happened to include a brief burst of 'All the Young Dudes' by Mott The Hoople, which was, of course, written by David Bowie, who also died a couple of days earlier. Two tributes for the price of one. The clip begins with Homer and his Springfield pals trying to understand their wives by watching Love Indubitably, featuring a Prime Minister voiced by Cumberbatch using his power to declare his love for his secretary, Eliza Commonbottom before parliament. As they kiss, 'All The Young Dudes' is heard. Then, not randomly at all, Rickman appears dressed as Professor Snape to give a speech about love. 'Love is more powerful than all my magic,' he says, before Shakespeare, Churchill, Sherlock Holmes and Isaac Newton perform The Full Monty dance as Alfred Hitchcock steps out of the TARDIS and breakdances. 'Hard to believe that country used to rule anything,' notes Bart. You said it, man.
Still on the subject of The Simpsons, their recent gloriously over-the-top 1980s action movie-style couch gag remix seems to have gone down a storm with fans. Almost as much as last year's Game Of Thrones title sequence parody did.
Matthew Perry will not be attending the much-hyped Friends reunion show due to rehearsals for his forthcoming West End play. Which, if you look up the phrase 'making something completely pointless' on Google, you'll find that pretty near to top of your search list. According to his spokeswoman, 'Matthew may tape something' for the tribute to the show's creator James Burrows. 'In other words, this is not the reunion people have been hoping for,' Lisa Kasteler told Us Weekly. Could she be any more correct? Perry's former co-stars, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc are all expected to take part in the special. It is set to be broadcast on NBC on 21 February. Perry has written and will star in the play The End Of Longing which is set to run in London from 2 February until 14 May. It will be directed by Lindsay Posner. The dark comedy follows four disparate people approaching middle age, who meet in a bar one night. It marks Perry's return to the West End for the first time since 2003, when he starred in David Mamet's Sexual Perversity In Chicago.
And, speaking of making something completely pointless, 24 is reported to be getting a FOX reboot ... without Kiefer Sutherland. So, in other words, this is a bit like making another Jaws movie ... without the sodding shark. At the TCA press tour on Friday of this week, FOX's co-chair Dana Walden told the assembled press that 24: Legacy follows 'a new military hero' named Eric Carter - to be played by an, as yet unannounced, black actor. Upon returning to the US from an overseas mission, Eric finds himself roped into a CTU operation to stop the biggest terrorist attack in US history. While this new season will not centre around Jack Bauer, Walden stressed that she would 'never say never' to characters from 24's past returning in the new show. Confirming that a time jump will take place between 24: Live Another Day and Legacy, Walden added: 'It's a very contemporary-feeling story about the potential to activate sleeper cells in the United States and radicalising Americans. There are nods in the pilot to prior CTU agents, but not ongoing characters.' Sutherland remains attached to Legacy - though only as an executive producer, working alongside fellow series veterans Howard Gordon, Manny Coto and Evan Katz. Last year, Sutherland expressed his reluctance to return to the role of the globe-trotting armour-plated killing machine for another 24 adventure. '24 is definitely over now for me,' he said in September. 'It's one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given as an actor, but it's moving on without me, I want to do other things.' A pilot episode for 24: Legacy will be filmed this winter - with Stephen Hopkins, director of the original 24 series, on board.
The X-Files's Mulder and Scully are probably TV's most iconic 'will-they-or-won't-they' couple - certainly since Moonlighting ended - their long-unresolved romantic tension fostering a legion of devoted 'shipper fans who flood the Internet with really bad fan-fiction. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson's chemistry proved undeniable – series creator Chris Carter vowed for many seasons that the relationship would remain platonic and we all know how that turned out. Asked at the TCA Press Tour to define what makes great chemistry, Duchovny suggested: 'It's like an arranged marriage, right? Some of those work and some don't.' 'There is something extra and I don't know what that is,' From The North fave Gillian added. 'It seems like it's separate from us,' to which Duchovny added: 'Can you feel it right now?' (Whether Gillian could or couldn't remains unrecorded.) He went on to suggest that what people observe between him and Anderson isn't chemistry so much as history – they've worked together for so many years that there's a natural intimacy which has emerged. 'I don't buy that,' Gillian responded. 'We had it from the very beginning!' 'I'm not saying we don't have chemistry – we have chemistry and we have history. We're gonna try to get biology,' Duchovny concluded.
NBC is still moving ahead with the second season of David Duchovny's low-rated Aquarius, albeit with what they describe as 'a new release strategy.' Unlike last summer, NBC says that it is 'leaning away' from releasing the entire series online ahead of its première episode's TV transmission. All thirteen episodes of the 1960s-set procedural crime drama were released on Hulu and NBC's streaming service for a month prior to their broadcast on TV in 2014. While Aquarius started moderately strongly with 5.67 million viewers for its two-hour début, viewing figures bottomed out with a mere 1.13 million for the August finale. Duchovny's face will be all over TV this year, first with the revival of The X-Files and later the return of Aquarius. In the NBC drama, the actor plays a police detective tasked with tracking down Charles Manson at the height of the counter-culture movement.
when the Digital Spy website interviewed From The North fave Gillian Anderson at the TCA Press Tour they couldn't resist asking a Hannibal-related question. Specifically, concerning the much-discussed post-credits scene in which Anderson's Bedelia is glimpsed at a dinner table, seemingly about to be served her own impeccably-cooked leg. 'Bryan [Fuller] and I talked a lot about what the possible meanings of it might be,' Gillian told the website. 'It's so broad that everyone had a different take on what it meant. I think there's just an enjoyment in the fact that it's a huge question mark.' Fuller said, after the finale was broadcast last August, that he was 'surprised' by just how outlandish some of the fan theories got. While Gillian was tight-lipped on her own interpretation of the scene, she did offer one thought: 'Obviously, it's a great place to lead forth from, if there were to be another incarnation [of the show].' Earlier in the TCA press tour, Hugh Dancy confessed that he is still hoping Fuller's planned fourth season will see the light of day in some form. 'Given the world we're in, I can't see any reason why [not], in three years time – in fact I think that would make sense, story-wise – we could all drop back into it,' he told IGN. 'I know that Bryan and Mads [Mikkelsen] would be more than amenable, and myself too. So I hope so.'
A new stage version of Get Carter is to get its première next month in Newcastle, the city where the majority of the cult 1971 film was set. Actor Kevin Wathen is preparing to follow in Michael Caine's footsteps (and trenchcoat) as the gangster Jack Carter. For the soundtrack, singer-songwriter Nadine Shah will compose original music as well as making new arrangements of songs by 1960s Newcastle band The Animals. The play will open at Newcastle's Northern Stage on 13 February before going on a UK tour. Director Lorne Campbell said: 'It's a tragic noir study of a corrupted man struggling to find a way out of a corrupted world. We've brought together a fabulous team of North East actors and hope to do justice to the telling of this epic tale.'

And now, dear blog reader, just when you thought this story had died a death, back it comes ...
The private investigator whose arrest and conviction led to the closure of the Scum of the World in shame and ignominy has claimed that the Sun also published stories obtained through phone-hacking. In evidence presented to the high court on Thursday, convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire detailed examples of stories published in the Sun between 2004 and 2006 which, he claimed, were obtained by intercepting voicemails under orders from the former Scum of the World news editor Greg Miskiw. 'I am aware of stories that were published in the Sun that contained information that I obtained through the use of phone interception,' says Mulcaire's written statement. 'Due to the length of time that has passed I cannot recall every story. However, I do recall several particular stories that I was tasked to provide information on, where I am almost certain that the information that I obtained through phone interception was published in the Sun newspaper.' Mulcaire claims that he used phone-hacking to 'provide information for stories' in the Sun about a convicted rapist who won the lottery while serving his sentence and another about a brothel receptionist and the footballer Wayne Rooney. The statement says: 'I strongly suspect that this job – which relates to international footballer Wayne Rooney and former brothel receptionist Pat Tierney – was a job for the Sun via Greg Miskiw, who was based in Manchester at the time. I remember that "the Sun" appears in the left-hand corner of one of the pages of my notebook, which also shows the names of Rooney and Tierney. This means the information ended up at the Sun as I would have been told this upon tasking.' Mulcaire alleges that although he was commissioned by Miskiw, the jobs were carried out for the Sun. In a separate statement, Miskiw admitted to hacking phones while at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, but does not detail doing so for the Sun. The stories Mulcaire cites were published during the editorship of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, who in September returned to become chief executive of News UK, a role she occupied at the company's previous incarnation, News International. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks was cleared in 2014 of all charges relating to phone-hacking at the Scum of the World whilst she was editor, prior to taking over at the Sun. Mulcaire was very arrested in 2006 along with the Scum of the World's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and extremely sentenced to six months porridge in 2007 for hacking into the Clarence House phones. He was found guilty of further charges in 2014 and sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence. Miskiw, who left the Scum of the World in 2005 to set up his own news agency in Liverpool, was extremely sentenced to six months stir in July 2014 after pleading very guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages. Mulcaire's statement was presented at a pre-trial hearing in a civil claim brought by sixteen celebrities and public figures who allege that their phones were hacked by newspapers owned by News UK. Five of the claimants say that the Sun published stories based on information obtained by phone-hacking. A number of claimants also allege that their phones were hacked by journalists working on the features desk before and after the period between 2005 and 2006, when convicted phone-hacker Dan Evans worked there. Lawyers representing News UK subsidiary News Group Newspapers, through which the Sun is owned, claim that only Evans intercepted any messages. News UK denies phone hacking took place at the Sun. Dear blog readers with long memories may also recall that the company spent several years denying that any phone-hacking had gone on at the Scum of the World as well, apart from those carried out by a 'lone rogue reporter' (Goodman) until they were eventually forced to change their story in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This, despite the fact that, as we subsequently discovered, several senior figures at the company knew perfectly well that illegal activities appeared to have been taking place at least two years before they coughed up publicly. A spokesperson for the company said: 'Following many years of investigation, there were no charges against the Sun or its employees for voicemail interception. Today, certain claimants seeking financial settlements arising from activities at the News of the World have made unsubstantiated claims against the Sun. If the court permits such claims to proceed, the Sun will defend them vigorously.'

A remarkable spell of hostile bowling by Stuart Broad inspired England as they beat South Africa by seven wickets in the third test to secure a series victory and regain the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy. In one of his trademark hot streaks, Broady took five for one in thirty one balls as the hosts were bowled out for eighty three in Johannesburg. Broad ended with six for seventeen, while Ben Stokes claimed two for twenty four and James Taylor held two stunning catches at short leg. England, earlier bowled out for three hundred and twenty three, were taken to their target of seventy four by Alastair Cook's forty three for a three-day victory. Cook's men go two-nil up, with the fourth test still to play, for a first overseas series victory since 2012. Regardless of the result of the final match in Centurion, South Africa - now without a win in nine tests - will be replaced by India at the top of the test rankings. Broad had taken five wickets in a single spell on six previous occasions for England, the most famous of which were Ashes-winning hauls at The Oval in 2009, Chester-le-Street in 2013 and Trent Bridge in 2015. This spell was just as devastating, not least because the match was finely poised, with England holding only a ten-run first-innings lead. On a pitch offering bounce and seam movement and under a slate-grey sky, Broad's hostility and accuracy was too much for a South Africa batting line-up that did little wrong, but had no answers. Immediately after lunch, Broad bowled six overs to claim the first five wickets to fall - the one run he did concede resulted from a dropped catch. Broad was not alone in his brilliance - he was supported by the rest of the England pace quartet and Taylor under the helmet at short leg. His first catch, to remove Hashim Amla, was impressive in that he managed to stay low to hold the ball in two hands inches from the turf after it had been turned off the middle of the bat. The second, to dismiss Dane Vilas from Steven Finn's second delivery, was breathtaking. As Vilas clipped the ball off his hip, Taylor dived full-stretch to his right and clung on, one handed. After that, Stokes found prodigious swing to york Chris Morris and have Kagiso Rabada caught behind, James Anderson pinned Hardus Viljoen leg before and Broad completed his haul by athletically taking a catch off his own bowling when Faf du Plessis swiped the ball into his thigh pad. England's emphatic victory seemed unlikely after South Africa had the better of the morning session. From two hundred and thirty eight for five overnight, the tourists lost their last five wickets for eighty one runs. Joe Root added only four to his overnight one hundred and six before playing a loose drive at Rabada, who would go on to claim his first five-wicket haul. Bairstow's forty five helped to nudge England into the lead, but when he skied to mid-on to become the last man to fall it looked as though Cook's side had wasted an opportunity for a match-winning lead. Then came Broad's devastating spell and, after that, England's chase was a mere formality.
Jonjo Shelvey made an impressive début for yer actual Keith telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle as he helped his side move out of the relegation zone with a win over West Hamsters United. Shelvey had a hand in both goals as Ayoze Perez curled in a low shot before Georginio Wijnaldum side-footed in from six yards to make it two-nil. A stray backpass by Chancel Mbemba let Nikica Jelavic score for the Hamsters early in the second half. The Magpies squandered a number of further chances but held on for a first win in six league games. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic produced a hard-working performance but was denied by Hamsters keeper Adrian on three occasions. Missed opportunities almost cost the home side, but keeper Rob Elliot kept out a ninetieth-minute Cheikhou Kouyate header with his knee.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, this blogger believes there are some things we can all agree on. This, for instance.
Quite right, an'all.

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, dear blog reader, on Thursday of this week yer actual Keith Telly Topping had to go to the Royal Victoria Infirmary Endoscopy Department for an colonoscopy. 'What will it be like?' this blogger nervously asked the doctor doing the procedure (a lovely lady named Nicola). 'It's ... a bit like having a plastic implement covered in grease shoved up yer bum' Nicola replied with a frankness that this blogger really rather admired. Anyway that was comfortably - actually, 'comfortably' probably isn't the best word to use in this regard - the single least pleasant experience this blogger has ever had in all his life. Bar none. Although he could, at least, reflect on the fact that there are said to be people who'd willingly pay good money for that sort of thing in Soho and West Hollywood. Thankfully, as yer actual is on the NHS, he got it for nowt.
The one good thing to come out of all that - well, apart from the moment of sheer bliss when Doctor Nicola pulled the endoscope out of Keith Telly Topping's sphincter, obviously - was the need for Keith Telly Topping to have something to read (or, re-read, actually) in the waiting room whilst various other people we getting anally probed. This blogger grabbed the first thing to hand which, as it happened, was the lovely Nick Pegg's quite stunning last edition of The Complete Bowie. This blogger managed to get a whopping thirty four pages into the seven hundred and sixty four-page monster during two bus trips and a lots of waiting about in the RVI. Which was something nice to take his mind off what the aliens were about to do to him. One imagines that, in light of events this week if not before, Nick will - between this other, Dalek-related, gigs - be working on a perhaps final, and definitive edition since the last one came out shortly before a) that Top Of The Pops film of 'The Jean Genie' was recovered and b) The Next Day came out. And, obviously, other stuff has happened since. Quite significant stuff as it happens.
On a related theme, obviously the playlist at Stately Telly Topping Manor this week has been dominated by The Grand Dame and her many doings - Hunky Dory in particular. But, Friday was the first time this this blogger has blown the dust off this one and stuck it on the turntable in decades. A wonderful K-Tel compilation from 1980 specifically designed for Johnny-Come-Latelys and people who were too young to buy ChangesOneBowie when it came out. IE, me.
Have any of you recently discovered a disturbing capacity for memory loss at the worst possible moment, dear blog reader? It's been happening to this blogger with increasing frequency. Case in point, this blogger kept on seeing clips from a classic American advert or promo film from the 1950s used in all sorts of different places, you probably know the one I mean, it's used in loads of things; Adam Curtis used in on the title sequence of Pandora's Box and David Mallet in Bowie's 'Hallo Spaceboy' video. The thing is, Keith Telly Topping used to know what it was and now he's forgotten and it was starting to do his crust in! Thanks, however, to Facebook, Keith Telly Topping's chums Nick Cooper and Tim Tucker and, especially, lovely From The North regular dear blog reader David McDonald, Keith Telly Topping now knows what he had forgotten. This. This blogger promises never to forget Design For Dreaming again!
The TV writer Robert Banks Stewart has died at the age of eighty four. Robert will be best known to Doctor Who fans as the creator of The Zygons, but his body of work encompassed far more than the shape-shifting body-snatchers, creating some of the most popular drama series on British Television. Born in Edinburgh in 1931, Robert's father, was a master printer, performed as a Pierrot in end-of-the-pier shows. His mother, Agnes's maiden name was Banks and Robert adopted this to distinguish himself from other similarly named writers as his television career took off. He started writing at his primary school, Moray House in Edinburgh, and after winning a Burns Essay prize and contributing stories to local newspapers he left school at fifteen to become an office boy at the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch. National Service with Field Marshal Montgomery's peacetime staff intervened (he subsequently gained a commission), following which he joined the Scotsman before returning to the Evening Dispatch as news editor. By this time he had written several plays and enjoyed a stint as a radio commentator. He eventually left Scotland for a post as foreign correspondent on Illustrated magazine. When this folded he joined the Rank Organisation, providing rewrites on some of its Pinewood films. Starting in the 1950's he provided scripts for TV series such as Danger Man, The Human Jungle, Top Secret, Zero One, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, Public Eye, Callan, Jason King, Arthur Of The Britons, The Protectors, Sutherland's Law, Jukes Of Piccadilly, Charles Endell Esq, The Sweeney and two memorable episodes of The Avengers. In 1975 he was asked by Robert Holmes to write for Doctor Who and came up Terror Of The Zygons, as story that mixed elements of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers and the Loch Ness Monster and went on to be one of the most fondly remembered of the original series by fans of 'a certain age'. The Zygons would return for the popular long-running family SF drama's fiftieth anniversary special in 2013, and again in the most recent series. Due to the success of The Zygons script Robert was asked to write the six-part conclusion to the 1976-76 series, coming up with the very Avengers-like The Seeds Of Doom, introducing The Krynoid and the deranged horticulturist Harrison Chase (played by the excellent Tony Beckley). And, casting Tom Baker and Lis Sladen as, essentially, Steed and Mrs Peel in a story that also included more than a few nods to The Quatermass Experiment. Robert was influenced in the writing of this ecological tale of rampant flora by his then residential location abutting Kew Gardens as well as his distant familial connection to the noted botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820). It is one of this blogger's favourite Doctor Who stories, in part because it was so utterly unlike many of the stories which surrounded it. Science fiction had featured early in Robert's career: he devised the ITV series Undermind (1965), in which brainwashed humans were manipulated by a sinister alien force. In 1979, knowing that the BBC was looking for a new crime show, Robert decided to jettison the idea of traditional cop-drama, instead conceiving – along with the playwright and fellow Avengers author, Richard Harris – a series about a private eye (or, actually, a 'private ear'), Eddie Shoestring, a former psychiatric patient who works for a local radio station. With its unusual Bristol setting (chosen by Stewart to be a welcome change from the London suburbs hitherto ubiquitous to such dramas), distinctive score by George Fenton and breakout performance from the then little-known Trevor Eve, Shoestring became a huge critical and ratings hit. It ran for two series and was nominated for a BAFTA. When Eve elected not to return for a third series, Robert followed the same formula in creating Shoestring's replacement – an eye-catching location, Fenton's music and the casting of the right actor for the part rather than a 'name'. Bergerac (1981-91) featured John Nettles as a police officer attached to Jersey's Bureau des Etrangers (a fictional department overseeing non-residents). Jim Bergerac was recovering from injury, alcoholism and a messy divorce and proved very popular with viewers. In 1991 Robert's adaptation of HE Bates' novel The Darling Buds Of May for ITV, gained one of the highest ratings for a new series in the history of British Television and launched the career of Catherine Zeta Jones. He also produced Hannay, the first series of Lovejoy and the disappointing Call Me Mister as well as acting as script-editor on Armchair Theatre (1966-67), Van Der Valk (1973), Rooms (1977) and Armchair Thriller (1978). His final credit for television was for the adaptation of My Uncle Silas starring Albert Finney. At the age of eighty one, Robert published his first novel – a thriller entitled The Hurricane's Tail, featuring a detective called Harper Buchanan who uncovers a political plot against the Prime Minister of a Caribbean island. It was originally envisaged as a two-part TV drama, but Robert said that he decided to turn it into a novel after 'getting nowhere' with TV executives, which he attributed to ageism. His memoirs of working in television, To Put You In The Picture, told with his trademark wit and self-effacement, came out last year. Robert died at home on Thursday of this week after suffering from cancer. He is survived by three sons from his second marriage and a daughter from his first.

So, it's time for Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader. Yeah, we're still on a Bowie-thing, I'm afraid. One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite this one.

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