Thursday, January 07, 2016

You Better Pick Yourself Up From The Ground Before They Bring The Curtain Down

There's an excellent The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) interview with Time Magazine which you can read here, dear blog readers. In this Steven (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods before He) was asked the question 'Do you feel like social media has changed the way creators like yourself write their shows?' His reply is gloriously revealing. 'I certainly hope not. I think there's a terrible danger in social media for writers. When writers come onto Sherlock or Doctor Who I always tell them, "Close your Twitter account. Move away from all that. I don't want to see you on that." They never listen to me, but what I always tell them is "the criticism will hurt you and the praise will kill you." You start writing with the wrong voice in your head and you're no longer addressing the audience at large, you're addressing a tiny little niche. And that's the beginning of the end of your show. It's like if a comedian only catered his act towards the one heckler. It doesn't make sense. Simply trying to determine what people like and give it to them is wrong. In truth what I should say is that I actually don't do any audience research because it's a very good way to tell what they liked about last year. You don't know what people are going to want next and you're not going to find it in either what people say they want or they liked the last time. That information isn't available. Anybody who says they can tell you that is a charlatan. There's no formula. Tell the story you want to tell and are passionate about and if you're lucky, it'll be a big hit. If you're unlucky, it will be a disaster. And most of the time, it'll be just okay.' 'That Time interview actually quotes me correctly,' Steven noted on Facebook after the interview had appeared online. 'Been a while since that happened. I remember being really bored and grumpy in the interview and they managed to tidy that away. Bless them for [being] decent folk!' On a related note, there's also a very good interview with Steven and Mark Gatiss here at the TV Tonight website. '"It's kind of mad and not very good journalism," says Steven Moffat. "By extracting one sentence of a paragraph and then putting it in capital letters, you change the sense of what was said. It's like you're yelling one simple thing when in fact you were making quite a complicated point. But if you start having to moderate the way you speak about what is, I think, a complicated and interesting subject so that it cannot be strip-mined by some click-baiting hack who wants to make you look bad, then we end interesting discourse in print." "What’s happened in a rolling-news cycle is that if you put the words Sherlock or Doctor Who beside something, it's assumed you are taking some sort of contrary position," Mark Gatiss suggests. Gatiss recalls a journalist question about whether Sherlock would mirror the death of Mary Watson from the original Sherlock Holmes story. "I said 'Just because Conan Doyle did it doesn't mean we're going to but it will be the same mixture of triumphs, laughs and tragedy' and I actually said to the guy 'I bet you make this into five separate stories.' What went around the world was 'Gatiss teases tragedy in Sherlock!' I said nothing of the kind," he insists. "But that's one of those quotes that simply doesn't leave you." Moffat tells an even more alarming tale. "I was once asked a fairly benign question, 'Why do you write such complicated plotlines for Doctor Who?' First of all I said, 'This is a show for eight year olds, it's not that complicated.' But the fact is I'm frightened of that because Doctor Who fans are not stupid. It was quoted as 'Steven Moffat says Doctor Who fans are stupid if they don't follow the plots' and the headline was Steven Moffat says Doctor Who fans are stupid. It's straight-forward, spite-driven lies! A lot of people we know are stopping doing print interviews – and I will one day, too - because they are sick of it happening."'

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch's quest for world domination appears to be going to plan: Sherlock's New Year's Day special has only been and gone and topped China's box office, hasn't it? Launching on 4 January, The Abominable Bride grossed $5.39 million (on its opening day alone, according to Deadline. An impressive 1.7 million people in the country saw the one-off episode, which included twenty five minutes of bonus footage. It also did well in Korea, ranking in second place in the box office after taking five million bucks. In the UK, The Abominable Bride dominated the overnight ratings, scoring more than 8.4 million viewers on New Year's Day for BBC1. BBC Worldwide's Sally de St Croix said: 'BBC Worldwide are thrilled that fans across the world have been enjoying the Victorian-themed Sherlock special. Following on from a strong performance on BBC1, the show has now seen multi-million dollar success at the Korean and Chinese box offices - an outstanding achievement for a British TV show.'
He once shaved his head for Ryan Gosling and now yer actual Matt Smith's had his highlights done to portray a young - blond - Prince Philip in upcoming Netflix drama The Crown. Smudger plays a central role in the streaming service's right royal outing, challenging the young Queen Elizabeth (the excellent Claire Foy) and her government at every possible juncture. The ten-episode series takes us on a whirlwind adventure through the political rivalries and romance behind Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that shaped the second-half of the Twentieth Century. Smudger's many fans were a little disheartened to see so little of him in Terminator Genisys last year, so all of us at From The North are sure they'll be delighted to find him popping up all over the place in this. You'll also be able to see John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill, Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother, Jared Harris as King George VI, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and Dame Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary, among others.
In the least surprising telly-related news of 2016 so far, ITV has been axed their drama flop Jekyll & Hyde after a single series. The drama fell foul of the tabloids early on in its run, amid hundreds of whinges that the first episode was 'too violent' for its 6.30pm slot. Later episodes were shifted to 7pm, though the fourth episode was delayed by a week in the wake of November's Paris attacks and episodes eight and nine were shown in a midweek slot, back-to-back, seemingly in an effort by ITV to get shot of the thing as quickly as they possibly could. Starring Tom Bateman as the grandson of the original Doctor Jekyll, the show launched to a decentish 4.3m consolidated audience in October. However, the final episode attracted a series low of 1.8m - with the series average being a mere 2.6m viewers. That's final, consolidated ratings, incidentally, not overnights. Creator Charlie Higson confirmed the cancellation on Twitter, noting that while some 'great stories' were planned for series two, he is 'moving on' to new projects. Some pre-production work - including location scouting - had, reportedly, been undertaken by the Jekyll & Hyde team in anticipation of a recommission. Although why is a jolly good question since if they weren't expecting the axe, they were being hopelessly optimistic. 'One small good thing to come out of Jekyll & Hyde cancellation. Our sets have been shipped to Calais to make refugee shelters. True,' Higson told his Twitter followers.
ITV's Ninja Warrior returned for a second series with 3.77m overnight viewers at 7pm on Saturday evening. Odious, risible Take Me Out​ was also back for a new series with 3.67m people with nothing better to do with their brain on a Saturday night watching it at 8pm. Shame on the lot of you. Earlier, You've Been Framed! was seen by 2.78m whilst, at 9pm, the movie The Dark Knight attracted 2.38m. On BBC1, Bruce's Hall Of Fame With Alexander Armstrong drew and audience of 3.85m, the movie Iron Man 3 was watched by 4.22m, Casualty attracted 4.95m, The National Lottery Live had 4.46m viewers and the evening ended with Match Of The Day and 3.58m watching yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved though unsellable (and seemingly relegation bound) Magpies latest 'surrender before kick-off' against The Arse. Growing Up Wild: Natural World was seen by 1.02m on BBC2, followed by Flog It! (1.88m), Dad's Army (2.19m), Leningrad & The Orchestra That Defied Hitler (eight hundred and thirty two thousand) and Qi XL (1.12m). Channel Four's evening began with a double bill of Mission: Impossible and Tom Cruise pulling lots of masks off his face at regular intervals. The first movie in the franchise was seen by 1.05m whilst, afterwards, Mission: Impossible II had an audience of 1.16m. At 9pm, The World's Greatest Spy Movies was watched 1.03m. Ben Fogle In Winter Wonderland drew eight hundred and ten thousand on Channel Five at 7pm. That was followed by Building The Ice Hotel (nine hundred and forty three thousand) and Football League Tonight (four hundred and eighty thousand). BBC3's repeat of the Sherlock New Year's Day special was watched by four hundred and seventy two thousand. On BBC4, Young Montalbano had an audience of eight hundred and twenty seven thousand.

Comedy line of the week came from Saturday's episode of Qi XL. Stephen Fry was explaining the psychology behind 'The IKEA Effect' in which people appear to believe that something which they have made (or, at least, assembled) themselves is, inherently, better than the same item which had bought already made by someone else. Stephen used the example of him having made some apricot jam recently: 'It was the best apricot jam that ever was. I know this, it's a fact. I'm told this is part of The IKEA Effect. If you've made something yourself using your own ingredients, you just think it's better than anything else you could buy in a shop.' 'Is that why people are really smug about their babies?' asked Wor Geet Canny Sarah Millican with superb comic timing!
Soccer Saturday viewers got a surprise on their first programme of 2016. Presenter Jeff Stelling was caught off guard when his phone rang live on-air during the Sky Sports News show. He fished through his bag to pick it up, and quipped as he answered: 'Hi darling, yeah I'm at work.' However, afterwards, Stelling revealed that the caller was actually Sky Sports' broadband section - although, what they wanted, he didn't say. Possibly, they were trying to sell him an upgraded service. The anchor then addressed Sky directly, saying that they 'need to be more professional.' Unbelievable, Jeff.
BBC1's new adaptation of War & Peace​ almost topped the ratings for the entire weekend but was pipped by the perennially popular Countryfile​. The costume drama starring Lily James and James Norton attracted an average overnight audience of 6.30 million at 9pm on Sunday. In the Daily Torygraph, Serena Davies gave War & Peace four stars, calling it 'an excellent adaptation' and 'smart storytelling on a truly epic scale.' Some risible berk of no importance in the Daily Scum Mail called the opening hour-long episode 'nothing less than a sweeping victory', while the Guardian Morning Star's Viv Groskop said: 'It's hard to imagine how the BBC could have done a better job.' The classic novel follows a trio of young Russians as they experience love and loss against the backdrop of Russia's wars with Napoleon in the early Nineteen Century. The adaptation also features Gillian Anderson, Rebecca Front and Stephen Rea, who were also praised for their performances. Earlier, Countryfile​ appealed to 6.88m at 6.30pm, followed by Still Open All Hours​ with 6.22m at 7.30pm and Antiques Roadshow​ with 5.19m at 8pm as BBC1 opened 2016 with a strong Sunday night line-up. It was a piss-poor night for ITV, Ninja Warrior's second episode dipped to 2.91m punters at 6pm, the Game Of Thrones-​style drama Beowulf: Return To The Badlands​ attracted a mere 2.32m at 7pm, while Endeavour​ returned with 4.44m at 8pm. The latter, at least, was rather good with its 1967 setting and The Velvet Underground on the soundtrack a couple of times. Channel Four's Walking The Himalayas​ was watched by 1.72m at 8pm, followed by the imported drama Deutschland Eighty Three​ with a more than decent 1.24m at 9pm. On BBC2, The Millionaire's Gift Guide was watched by 1.38m, Dragons' Den had an audience of 2.48m and My Mediterranean With Odious Grumpgy Greed Bucket, Horrorshow (And Drag) Adrian Chiles attracted a mere 1.04m. Looks like Chiles remains every single bit as ratings-toxic as his old mate Christine Bleakley.
He's probably best known to TV viewers as Endeavour Morse's boss Fred Thursday but the great Roger Allam wouldn't mind finding himself on the wrong side of the - universal - law if he was in an episode of Doctor Who. The veteran character actor, who admits he was 'one of those children who'd hide when Doctor Who started' when growing up, would love to get his teeth into a nasty role in the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama series. 'I'd like to do it', Allam says in this week's edition of Radio Times. 'Playing a villain would be great.' Over to you, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat.
ITV's ​Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands ​was reported in most of the press over the weekend as being 'eyed as a long-running series' - with cast-members signed up for five series.​ Although, of course, should the series turn out to be a Jekyll &Hyde-style flop - as seems likely following the awful overnight ratings for the first episode - one imagines those five series might be forgotten about in a big hurry. ​Da Vinci's Demons ​actor Kieran Bew plays the title role in the epic fantasy series, with ​Downton Abbey​'s Ed Speleers cast as his rival Slean. Speleers said that he's 'excited' to embark upon what could be a long-term project. But, probably won't be. 'There was a time I didn't work for months so the fact that someone wants to offer me a five-year contract a lot of people would look at this as being tied down but I take it as a compliment,' he said. 'They want me to be a part of this thing and that's a positive. It's a massive role and I have never before had a chance to play a part like this ever - and there's always time to do a few things on the side.' Based on the classic Dark Ages saga and also starring William Hurt and Joanne Whalley, ​Beowulf ​has been described by co-creator Katie Newman as 'one of ITV's biggest ever shows, and incredibly ambitious. "I hope this goes on for years and years - and that this is just the beginning,' said Speleers. Time will tell, but if yer actual Keith Telly Topping was Ed, this blogger would have his agent actively search for some other roles just in case.
The final and consolidated numbers for the Top Twenty programmes, for week-ending Sunday 27 December are as follows:-
1 Downton Abbey - Fri ITV - 10.46m
2 Mrs Brown's Boys - Fri BBC1 - 9.49m
3 Call The Midwife - Fri BBC1 - 9.30m
4 Stick Man - Fri BBC1 - 9.28m
5 And Then There Were None - Sat BBC1 - 8.61m
6 Strictly Come Dancing - Fri ITV - 8.54m
7 Doctor Who - Fri BBC1 - 7.69m
8 EastEnders - Fri BBC1 - 7.67m
9 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 7.40m
10= Luther - Tues BBC1 - 6.52m
10= Dickensian - Sat BBC1 - 6.52m
12 The Queen's Christmas Message - Fri BBC1 - 6.35m
13 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 6.32m
14 Emmerdale - Tues ITV - 6.23m
15 Film: Brave - Fri BBC1 - 6.05m
16 Shaun The Sheep: The Farmer's Llamas - Sat BBC1 - 6.04m
17 Still Open All Hours - Sat BBC1 - 5.87m
18 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 5.76m
19 Peter Kay: Twenty Years Of Not Particularly Funny - Thurs BBC1 - 5.54m
20 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.52m
Downton Abbey's final episode has added 3.9 million people to its viewing figures via catch-up, making it the most watched Christmas Day programme. The episode was watched by an average of 6.6 million overnight viewers on the day. Consolidated figures show a total of 10.46 million watched the ITV drama. The consolidated figures include people who watched the programmes on catch-up, but does not include those who watch the BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player through computers. For the record, the figures for Coronation Street and Emmerdale for Christmas Day were 6.99 million and 5.77 million respectively, whilst the second episode of And Then There Were None on Sunday drew 7.68 million. On BBC2, the three episodes of MasterChef: The Professionals drew audiences of 3.79m, 3.55m and 3.49m placing the series first, second and third in the channel's weekly list of most-watched programmes. The excellent We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story also attracted 3.49m viewers, followed by Christmas University Challenge (2.85m), Christmas Shopping Fever: John Lewis (2.76m), Dragons' Den (2.42m), Only Connect (2.34m), Gorilla Family & Me (2.22m), Carols From King's (2.08m), Mock The Week (2.01m), Top Gear: From A To Z (1.91m), Dad's Army 1.80m and Qi (1.74m). Gogglebox spin-off Gogglesprogs was Channel Four's top-rated broadcast of the week (3.52m), followed by Big Fat Quiz Of The Year (3.28m), a broadcast of the movie Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (2.67m), Inside Lego At Christmas (2.49m), The Supervet (2.24m), Eight Out Of Ten Cats (2.14m) and Walking The Himalayas (2.07m). Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away was Channel Five's top performing broadcast of the week (1.55m), with World's Strongest Man attracting 1.34m. This week's episode of The Big Bang Theory brought in a figure of 2.23m, by a distance the largest audience for a multichannel broadcast of the week. ITV2's broadcast of Skyfall attracted 1.88m and the Sky Movies Premiere channel's showing of Big Hero Six also attracted an audience above the channel's usual average (1.73m). ITV2's other big Bond movie of the Christmas period, Christmas Eve's broadcast of Casino Royale was watched by 1.50m. Sky Sports 1's Live Ford Football Special and the lunch time Boxing Day clash between Dirty Stoke and The Scum was watched by 1.46m punters. Live Ford Monday Night Football and The Arse taking on Sheikh Yer Man City attracted 1.14m punters. Live FL Seventy Two and Nottingham Forest against Dirty Leeds had an audience of four hundred and forty six thousand punters, aal gannin' geet mental and that. Sky Sports 2's coverage of Live Test Cricket and the second day of England's - ultimately successful - first test against South Africa in Durban hundred was watched by two hundred and forty one thousand. The Boxing Day Gillette Soccer Saturday was Sky Sports News's highest-rated broadcast, as usual, with six hundred and twenty five thousand punters. A showing of Mamma Mia! - one of the worst films ever made by anyone, ever - was ITV3's top-rated broadcast with eight hundred and fifty five thousand. The channel's more usual fare, Lewis and Foyle's War were watched by six hundred and thirty six thousand and five hundred and sixty five thousand viewers respectively. The documentary From Andy Pandy To Zebedee: The Golden Age Of Children's TV on BBC4 drew an audience of six hundred and sixty two thousand. The Christmas 1978 episode of Top Of The Pops was watched by six hundred and eight thousand, whilst Detectorists had five hundred and fifty five thousand, Gypsy: Live From The Savoy Theatre was watched by five hundred and six thousand, Rome's Invisible City had four hundred and sixty one thousand, Blood & Gold: The Making Of Spain drew four hundred and forty one thousand and the much-trailed Christmas Eve broadcast of All Abroad! The Sleigh Ride had an audience of three hundred and ninety four thousand. The movie How To Train Your Dragon topped BBC3's top-ten list (nine hundred and fifty four thousand). A top-ten which includes six others films, repeats of EastEnders and The Gruffalo and a grand total of one programme actually made for BBC3 - the usually awful Live At The Apollo. Don't forget to close the door behind you when your arses get booted online in six weeks time, chaps. You won't be missed by anyone that actually matters. Sky 1's most watched programme was the new adaptation of the children's classic Fungus The Bogeyman (featuring that bloody awful Wood woman) watched by 1.46 million. Sky Atlantic's weekly-list was topped by The Affair (three hundred and sixty three thousand). The rest of the top ten was dominated by the channel's nightly re-run of Game Of Thrones - Friday's episode drawing one hundred and fifty one thousand. On Sky Living, Elementary was watched by nine hundred and four thousand and Criminal Minds by eight hundred and twelve thousand. Blindspot drew eight hundred and ten thousand and Grey's Anatomy had three hundred and seventy four thousand. Sky Arts' Andre Rieu: Wonderful World Live In Maas had one hundred and twenty six thousand. 5USA's Castle was watched by four hundred and ninety two thousand viewers, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by three hundred and fifty seven thousand and NCIS by two hundred and fifty eight thousand. NCIS also featured in the top tens of FOX - which was headed by American Horror Story: Hotel (two hundred and forty thousand) and Da Vinci's Demons (one hundred and twelve thousand) - and the Universal Channel - on which How To Get Away With Murder drew an audience of two hundred and sixteen thousand whilst Battle Creek attracted one hundred and six thousand. And, yet another episode of NCIS - a different one, because they always are - headed CBS Action's weekly-list (ninety three thousand). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,the part of the Star Trek franchise that got good the quickest and stayed good the longest, began a repeat run with ninety two thousand. On Dave, Red Bull Soapbox Race 2015 was the channel's highest-rated programme - why, no one knows - with four hundred and twenty two thousand. That was followed by the Top Gear African special (four hundred and nine thousand), Alan Davies XMas Unfunny (three hundred and eighty eight thousand), and Storage Hunters UK (three hundred and seventy six thousand). Drama's Judge John Deed was watched by three hundred and fifty one thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programmes were A Merry Murdoch Christmas (one hundred and sixty three thousand) and Death In Paradise (one hundred and fifty eight thousand). Sherlock drew one hundred a five thousand. Watch's broadcast of Gangsta Granny was seen by one hundred and fifty two three thousand and a repeat of the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas special (Last Christmas) by one hundred and fifty one thousand. Yesterday's Fawlty Towers: Basil's Best Bits continued with three hundred and twenty eight thousand viewers. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush was watched by three hundred and eighty nine thousand punters. Gold Divers had one hundred and ninety four thousand and Alaska: The Last Frontier was seen by one hundred and seventy four thousand viewers. On Discovery History, Vulcans, Victors & Cuba topped the weekly-list with audience of twenty five thousand punters. Egypt's New Tomb Revealed drew twenty one thousand, as did Tutenkhamum: Secrets Of The Boy King and Archery: Tales Of The Bow. On Discovery Science, Aliens On The Moon was watched by fifty six thousand punters. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme was Cafe Racer (forty eight thousand). National Geographic's top ten was headed by Lawless Island which had fifty four thousand viewers and Terror In The Skies (forty nine thousand). A Crime To Remember was ID's largest audience of the week (fifty seven thousand). CI's Nightmare In Suburbia brought in forty two thousand viewers and Britain's Darkest Taboos by thirty four thousand. Eden's Mountain Gorilla was seen by thirty six thousand. GOLD's top ten was headed by Only Fools & Horses (three hundred and seventy one thousand). Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for The Middle (two hundred and fifty seven thousand). On ITV Encore, Agatha Christie's Poirot was watched by seventy four thousand viewers. True Drama's Diana: Last Days Of A Princess had twenty two thousand. Your TV's Past Hunters had fifty seven thousand viewers. On More4, The World's Weirdest Weather was watched by three hundred and sixty seven thousand.

Silent Witness​ was back for its nineteenth series on Bank Holiday Monday evening and it, apparently, remains as popular as ever. The BBC1 crime drama starring Emilia Fox attracted an average overnight audience of 6.54 million at 9pm. This is down only slightly from last year's 6.66m opening for the previous series. Earlier, at 7pm, The ONE Show drew its highest overnight audience in several months, 4.70m. On ITV, Wor Geet Canny Ant and/or Dec's 'special' documentary about Prince Charles and The Prince's Trust - complete with a Byker Grove​ trip - interest​ed 5.41m people with nothing better to do with their time at 9pm. Channel Four's The Undateables​ returned for a new series with 1.77m at 9pm. BBC2 enjoyed its usual story Monday evening with Celebrity Antiques Road Trip drawing 1.50m, University Challenge pulling in 3.12m for St Catharine's Cambridge's victory over Nottingham and Only Connect - back in its 'proper' slot - attracting 2.28m (most of whom, one imagines, would have loved the bit where Victoria did some rock-chick miming to 'You Can Get It If You Really Want' the mostest, baby). Channel Five's night began with Police Interceptors (six hundred and eighty thousand), followed by Sinkholes: Buried Alive (eight hundred and forty one thousand) and World's Most Dangerous Prison (nine hundred and twenty nine thousand). On BBC4, Horizon was watched by four hundred and forty two thousand at 8pm, whilst Legends Of The Deep: Deep Sea Sharks had an audience of two hundred and fifty three thousand at 9pm.
God how all of us at From The North love that woman! Next ...

Worthless horrorshow (and drag) Celebrity Big Brother​ attracted its lowest January launch overnight audience on Tuesday. Channel Five's flagship reality show was seen by an average overnight audience of 2.67 million at 9pm. This is down by around four hundred thousand punters from last winter's series. Elsewhere, BBC1's Silent Witness​ topped the night outside soaps, rising over one hundred thousand from Monday's launch episode to 6.69m at 9pm. On BBC2, Victorian Bakers​ appealed to 2.60m at 8pm, while ITV's new series Saved​ interested a mere 1.36m at 9pm. Bloody hell, even Beowulf managed double that. It was a truly horrifying night for ITV, Emmerdale aside, with the return of The Kyle File being watched by a risible 1.57m and the documentary Trawlermen Tales drawing only fractionally more, 1.78m. Channel Four's Tricks Of The Restaurant Trade​ brought in 1.59m at 8pm, followed by Richard Ayoade's Travel Man​ with 1.56m at 8.30pm. The Big Fat Quiz Of Everything​ was watched by 1.50m at 9pm.

Midsomer Murders​ returned for a new series to top the overnight ratings outside soaps on Wednesday night, with a slightly higher overnight audience than last year's opener. The ITV crime drama about the sleepy Somerset village with a murder-rate higher than Baltimore - attracted an average overnight audience of 4.95 million at 9pm. This was around two hundred thousand punters higher than last January's première. Although. interestingly, this was the first occasion in one hundred and five previous episodes in which no one died in Midsomer MurdersOn BBC1, Dickensian​ continued with 2.66m for its latest episode at 8.30pm, followed by Sir David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef​ with 3.20m at 9pm. BBC2's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor managed an impressive 2.44m for its series opener, possibly denting the audience for EastEnders slightly. Channel Four's Secret Shopper​ With Mary Portas opened with 1.30m at 8pm, while Twenty Four Hours in A&E​ appealed to 1.77m at 9pm. Katie Piper's Bodyshockers​ returned with eight hundred and fifty four thousand at 10pm. On Channel Five, Celebrity Big Brother​ dipped to two million punters at 9pm losing six hundred and seventy thousand viewers from its opening episode.

Imagine well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks roller-skating through the Sun's newsroom as editorial staff, having been told to avoid making eye contact, duck below their desks. And conjure up this image: a wheelchair-bound billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch locked in a room by Wendi Deng as she spends time with guitar-strumming Rock God Tony Blair. Envision the former Gruniad Morning Star editor Alan Runtbudgie leading a news conference sing-song of the newspaper's anthem with a refrain about swinging to the left. These are just three of the memorable scenes from The Comic Strip Presents ... Red Top, to be screened later this month. It's an irreverent post-hacking lampoon, a fantasy set in the 1970s with flairs, moustaches and disco music, which tells the story of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah, an ingenue from the North of England who, having accidentally become chief executive of News International, gets embroiled (entirely innocently, of course) in a scandal. Conceived and written by Peter Richardson - with co-writers Pete Richens and Brigit Grant - it is his latest Comic Strip presentation. Maxine Peake stars as well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, the eponymous red-top, and there are a clutch of brilliant cameo performances. These include Harry Enfield as Ross Kemp, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks's husband (until that nasty business when she beat the shite out of him), Stephen Mangan as Blair, Russell Tovey as convicted phone-hacker Andy Coulson, Nigel Planer as billionaire tyrant Murdoch and Eleanor Matsuura as Wendi. Look out also for From The North fave Johnny Vegas, Alexei Sayle, Dominic Tighe (as a subservient David Cameron) and a double role by John Sessions. Richardson describes Red Top as a 'Boogie Nights-style parallel universe with a disco soundtrack.' Red Top is due to be shown on G.O.L.D, at 10pm on 20 January. Any resemblance between it and Channel Four's similarly-themed Hacks from a few years ago is, of course, entirely coincidental!
A new logo has been revealed for BBC3 ahead of its - much celebrated, except for students - move online, with 16 February announced as the date for the channel's switch-over. The new logo is made up of two white bars and an exclamation mark on a pink background. BBC3's head of marketing, Nikki Carr, acknowledged a handful of whinging critics of the logo on Twitter - as though, once again, Twitter is the Sole Arbiter of The Worth of All Things, which it isn't despite what some Middle Class Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star would have you believe - but added that she was not worried. 'Some people are resistant to change and we wanted to be bold and create something that looks forward and will be around for years to come,' she said. She added that the logo needed to work both on TV and as an app icon, saying: 'Look at Snapchat. They're doing okay without having Snapchat in their logo.' Carr admitted following the BBC's satirical show W1A and its infamous line 'we're cursed at the BBC when it comes to marketing.' Carr explained that the three bars were chosen because the new channel is founded on three principles which underpin everything it does. 'The first is "make me think", the second is "make me laugh"' (very unlikely on BBC3, this blogger would have said), 'the third, the exclamation mark, is "give me a voice", which is what we will do for young people,' she claimed. Carr said the BBC will 'make young people part of the decision making process' at the channel and include them as content creators. So, that's another reason to avoid the thing like the plague, then. In the next few weeks it is launching a collaboration with fifty 'young creative people' (whatever the Hell that means). Content will range from short form films, blogs and animation, to picture-led stories and will be delivered daily via soon to be launched products. In November, the BBC Trust approved proposals to move BBC3 online as part of cost-cutting moves at the corporation. It was agreed on the condition the channel's long-form programmes would be shown on BBC1 and BBC2, which is likely to account for around two hours a week. On 16 February BBC3 will become more of a promotional channel letting people know about content that can be found online. The BBC3 TV channel will go dark in the weeks following. And there will, truly, be rejoicing throughout the land.

​The former Stig - you know, the one that got sacked after he published a book revealing who he was - has claimed that Top Gear was in need of a revamp, and has praised the appointment of Chris Evans as host. Ben Collins played The Stig between 2003 and 2010, before his got his arse booted out the door, and has suggested that the show's format had outrun its lifespan. 'I think there are very few formats that survive,' he told Bang Showbiz, as reported by that good friend of Top Gear, the Daily Mirra. Still, at least they seemingly didn't get this story via phone-hacking - at least, as far as we know - so, some might consider that an improvement. 'It's usually three or four years max. Top Gear had that format for about twelve or thirteen years so it was a very long time and I think that definitely everyone gets to come back with something different​.' Collins said that audiences get used to formats, which is difficult when many shows are produced. "'It was an absolute riot coming up with this off-wall stuff but it's very hard to be new and innovating when you're producing that many shows every year and the audience becomes wise to your tricks and they expect more with bigger and better all the time and it does become very hard,' he said. Collins added: "'I think that will be true of both shows. Fans get the best of both worlds because if they want to follow the original trio they can and still get something new on BBC.​'

The BBC, meanwhile, has rubbished claims that Chris Evans is struggling to drive fast and talk at the same time. The host is currently recording the first series of the driving show since Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were replaced. A BBC spokesperson told the Digital Spy website: 'This "story" is complete nonsense. The truth is that Top Gear producers have been blown away by how quickly Chris has taken to talking to camera whilst driving at speed, a skill which has taken some presenters a long time to master.' An alleged - though suspiciously anonymous and, therefore, almost certainly fictitious - 'insider' had allegedly been 'quoted' by the Sun as saying: 'Chris is really struggling to master the art of driving and talking to camera, which is crucial. It's a skill. Jeremy, Richard and James could do it no problem, in one or two takes.' The alleged 'insider' allegedly added: 'Chris is in a massive sweat about it because he often ends up fluffing his lines. The professional drivers are doing a lot more to cover for him and the camera crew are getting frustrated. Things haven't run smoothly.' But, of course, the BBC spokesperson has said this isn't true so, basically, we have a question here of whom do we believe, the BBC or the Sun and whom do with think is lying. I'll leave the answer to those two questions up to you, dear blog reader.

With The X-Files just a couple of weeks from its US première, UK fans now have a rough idea of when the popular SF drama revival will be shown over here According to a new trailer, The X-Files will appear on Channel Five in 'early February.'
The year 1066 was a pretty eventful one in British history (you probably weren't around then, dear blog reader but, take yer actual Keith Telly topping's word for it), but apparently more 'young people' know about the political intricacies of Game Of Thrones than what went on at the Battle of Hastings. In a recent poll - one of those really annoying ones that this blogger has complained about before, compiled for no obvious reason and reported, sneeringly and twattily, by various smug feks of no consequence in the broadsheets - twenty three per cent of twenty four to thirty five-year-olds could name characters from the popular TV fantasy drama, but only fifteen per cent could name the kings involved in the famous battle which changed the course of British history. Questioned on the date, thirty eight per cent could name the Norman prince, William the Bastard, fifteen per cent Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon king of England (who got one in the eye from Johnny Foreigner, allegedly) and another fifteen per cent confessed that they knew Edward the Confessor was the king whose death earlier in the year prompted the succession crisis. Only nine per cent of those who expressed a preference knew that Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, fought and lost to Godwinson's forces at Stamford Bridge (not Moscow Chelski FC's home ground) a few days before Hastings and just three per cent knew of Edgar the Atheling and the many things what he done. Though, this blogger - with his History A level that he likes to brag about at regular intervals - would have struggled with the latter, let it be noted. However, twenty three per cent of younglings could identify King Joffrey and Stannis Baratheon from Game Of Thrones and a further twenty two per cent named fellow character Daenerys Targaryen. And, all of this proves ... nothing, really. Except that some people have a better memory of something they watched on TV the other night as opposed to something they might have learned about at school a couple of decades ago. No shit? What a revelation, eh? The online poll of two thousand and fifty three people by ICM Research was conducted to mark the anniversary of the death of Edward, who died on 5 January 1066. Why, no one knows.
And, on a marginally related subject George RR Martin has said that the new Game Of Thrones novel will be delayed because it 'isn't done yet.' A sound enough reason, one supposes. Still, it'll give potential readers the time to swot up on the Battle of Hastings in the meantime in case they get asked about it in any more stupid polls. The Winds Of Winter - the sixth novel in the popular fantasy series - had been due to be published to coincide with the sixth series of the TV show based upon it in April. The HBO production has now caught up with the novels, based on Martin's A Song Of Ice & Fire series. In a blog post, Martin said that he had written a lot of the story but that he was still 'months away, and that's if the writing goes well.' He added: 'Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You're disappointed and you're not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed, but no-one could possibly be more disappointed than me. For months now, I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, "I have completed and delivered The Winds Of Winter" on or before the last day of 2015. But the book's not done. Nor is it likely to be finished tomorrow, or next week.' Martin told fans last January that the follow-up to 2011's A Dance With Dragons would not be published until 'at least 2016.' The writer asked fans to 'stop pestering' him about storylines for the TV show and said in his latest blog post that he admitted he'd had a busy year, which could have affected his writing. 'The writing did not go as fast or as well as I would have liked,' he wrote. 'You can blame my travels or my blog posts or the distractions of other projects and the Cocteau and whatever, but maybe all that had an impact. You can blame my age and, maybe that had an impact too. But if truth be told, sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn't and that was true for me even when I was in my twenties.' Martin acknowledged that it would be 'strange' for his readers, because for the first time TV viewers of Game Of Thrones would be ahead of them in terms of storylines. But, he said The Winds Of Winter and the sixth series of Game Of Thrones will be different anyway. 'When you ask me, "Will the show spoil the books?" all I can do is say, "Yes and no," and mumble once again about The Butterfly Effect. Those pretty little butterflies have grown into mighty dragons. Some of the "spoilers" you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all because the show and the books have diverged and will continue to do so.' Last July HBO said that there could be three more series of Game Of Thrones, including the forthcoming sixth. Network executives say they had initially planned to run the show for seven seasons but it could have eight plus a prequel.

We finally know when Game Of Thrones will be returning to screens in America and the UK. Series six of the immensely popular fantasy series hits US screens on HBO on Sunday 24 April and returns to the UK a day later on Sky Atlantic. In the US, Game Of Thrones is scheduled to premiere alongside comedies Veep and Silicon Valley on HBO.
​Game Of Thrones ​is expanding its already impressive - and massive - cast with a few new faces in series six - including the Danish actor Pilou Asbæk - best known for his star-making role in Borgen​. Asbæk​ will play Euron Greyjoy​ in the HBO fantasy epic. He told the Digital Spy ​wrbsite that working on the series was 'a dream come true' as he was already an avid viewer. 'I must say, I'm a big fan of the work that Dan and David have created with Game Of Thrones, and George the writer, of course,' Asbæk​ said. 'It was great fun being part of a TV series that I'd been a fan of for five years. I've been watching it every single Monday when with my wife. It was like a ritual - every Monday night on HBO Nordic, we would watch Game Of Thrones together.'
Ripper Street ​is likely to end after its forthcoming fifth series, media reports indicate. 'I think we're supposed to be mysterious about it,' Adam Rothenberg recently told the Digital Spy website. 'It's over - it's definitely done.' Ripper Street series four will be available exclusively for Amazon Prime Members in the UK from next Friday 15 January, it will be shown later in the year on the BBC.
The BBC is to release one of the three 'lost' episodes of Dad's Army as an animation after uncovering an audio recording of the programme. The episode, A Stripe For Frazer, was broadcast once, in 1969, and went missing along with two other episodes as many tapes of programmes from the era were either recorded over or burned. A high quality audio recording of the episode was recently discovered and the BBC has now created an animated version of the story. It is to make the new episode available on its digital service, BBC Store, from 4 February. 'As the UK renews its love affair with Dad's Army we're delighted to be bringing fans an exclusive chance to buy this brilliant lost episode which has been missing from the Dad's Army portfolio for nearly half-a-century,' said Jonathan Green, director of BBC Store. In the thirty-minute episode Captain Mainwaring makes Frazer a Lance Corporal but soon regrets it. Frazer vies with Jonesie for Mainwaring's favour and resorts to issuing a series of increasingly bizarre charge sheets to the consternation of Mainwaring and other members of the Warmington-on-Sea platoon.
After an - alleged - 'fan outcry' (on social media if not anywhere more important), Netflix is planning on broadcasting the entire final episode of Lost after eighteen minutes of footage from the episode was edited out during a recent showing. Some viewers noticed the finale had been heavily edited and showrunner Damon Lindelof​ weighed in saying he was 'befuddled' as to why. He told EW: ​'Love it or hate it, the finale that aired is the definitive finale and to alter it in any way defies explanation. Something tells me that this isn't Netflix's fault, that it's an honest mistake and something got miscommunicated​.' He added: 'This is a fix that needs to happen, so at least people can love or hate it in its entirety.​' Netflix promptly took to Twitter to confirm it does intend to rectify the error, writing: 'We are in the middle of correcting now, and will have the uncut version back streaming as soon as possible.​' Later Lindelof praised Netflix for its quick reaction. 'If governments moved with the same determined alacrity that Netflix just did, there would be worldwide harmony,' he said.
Yer actual Huge Laurie is returning to the small screen to play the role of a complicated doctor. Hang on, that sounds a bit familiar. Huge's new show ​Chance will ​premiere on streaming service Hulu in late 2016, according to Deadline​. The series focuses on San Francisco forensic neuropsychiatrist​ Eldon Chance - who doesn't, in any way, resemble Greg House what so bleedin' ever, no siree - and is based on a novel by the American author Kem Nunn. Chance becomes involved with a patient who may, or may not, have a personality disorder and her abusive spouse, who is also a police detective. Hulu has ordered twenty episodes - effectively, two full seasons - with Chance representing a continuation into original programming after its series Casual. Lenny Abrahamson will direct and executive produce some episodes. The series originates from Fox Twenty One TV Studios, whose president Bert Salke revealed: 'Hugh has very strong feelings, and he will be involved in every aspect of production.'
Endemol Studios is to produce an English-language adaptation of Canal Plus' hit crime thriller Spiral (Engrenages) for US television. And, yet again, we just have to ask, does nobody working in US telly have any original ideas? And then Americans wonder why the rest of the world hates them. They've already shagged up The Killing and The Bridge, they're said to be currently planning a desecration of Borgen, now the prospect of this horrifying sacrilege. Produced by the Paris-based Son et Lumiere in association with French cable network Canal Plus, Engrenages started on French TV in 2005 and has been drawing critical acclaim and huge ratings in its homeland ever since. It's sixth series is already in development. On top of being a local success, Engrenages is also an international sales hit, having sold and broadcast to great acclaim in over sixty territories, notably in the UK - on BBC4 - and in North America - where the first three series are available on Netflix. The police drama centres on the tumultuous life of a female detective and her two lieutenants, as well as judge, a prosecutor and a lawyer with whom their cases cross. The show follows the characters as they investigate murder cases and unveil corruption at the highest levels of the French judicial system. 'Engrenages offers a hyper-realistic take on the French judicial system,' said Philippe Maigret, Endemol Studios CEO. 'The show's masterfully complex storylines and layered characters give us the right blueprint to further explore society's ever-changing codes of justice and develop a distinctive, un-apologetic, gripping television drama set against the backdrop of today's US legal system.' Endemol Studios' previous track record includes Hell On Wheels, Low Winter Sun and Red Widow.
Television coverage of horse racing is set for a major change next year with ITV to replace Channel Four as the free-to-air broadcaster. ITV has won rights to cover fixtures including the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National, The Derby and Royal Ascot, from January 2017. It will broadcast a minimum of thirty four days annually on the main ITV channel, with another sixty days shown on ITV 4. Reports suggest that the four-year deal is worth thirty million knicker. 'The unprecedented level of interest in the tender shows what an attractive proposition the sport is,' said Richard FitzGerald, chief executive of Racecourse Media Group, who headed racing's negotiating team and got their greed right on when doing so. 'This is reflected in the new deal, which will generate increased revenues for racing.' The big Cheltenham, National, Derby, Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and York Ebor meetings will all be shown on the main ITV channel, along with Doncaster's Saint Leger and British Champions Day at Ascot. However, it has yet to be revealed which channel will broadcast other meetings, including the Guineas Festival at Newmarket, which features two of the Classics. Channel Four, which has broadcast racing for more than thirty years, will show ninety one days of racing in 2016, concluding with the Challow Hurdle meeting at Newbury on 31 December. Its portfolio was expanded to include racing's 'crown jewels' of The National at Aintree, Epsom's Derby and Ascot when taking those meetings from the BBC, rather smugly, let it be noted, in the last rights deal in 2012. ITV will broadcast The Grand National for the first time in April 2017, although the broadcaster has an historical link with racing, going back to the days of the 'ITV Seven' bet, a key component of the Saturday afternoon World Of Sport programme in the 1970s. Its coverage moved to Channel Four in 1985, together with well-known presenters such as Derek Thompson and the awful John McCririck bloke, although they were both dropped (in the case of the latter, quite hilariously) when the channel won the exclusive terrestrial rights in 2012. It sought to innovate, won awards for its coverage and brought in guests including jockeys Frankie Dettori and AP McCoy and fashion expert Gok Wan, but ratings for some meetings, particularly Epsom and Ascot, have dropped significantly and Channel Four last month agreed a deal to show Formula 1 after the BBC cut short its deal. A Channel Four statement said: '2016 will be an unprecedented year for premium live sport on Channel Four as it becomes the new terrestrial home of Formula 1 alongside the Rio 2016 Paralympics and horse racing. We are proud of the award-winning coverage we have given to horse racing over the last three decades - and the ninety days of live terrestrial television exposure per year we have offered the sport, backed by significant editorial investment, marketing and programming across our schedules.' Which, if you look up 'long-winded ways of trying to make something bad sound good' on Google, you'll find that right at the top of the list. The sport currently has two dedicated channels in Racing UK and At The Races, while all the major races are broadcast on BBC Radio 5Live. ITV director of sport Niall Sloane said: 'We want our coverage to reach not only its loyal, core audience, but beyond, by capturing the full enjoyment of this most wonderful of sports.'

Three bodies found in the garden of the house belonging to the former EastEnders actress Sian Blake are those of Blake and her two children, police have confirmed. The remains of Blake and her sons, Zachary Bilal Kent-Blake and Amon Ben George Kent-Blake, were found at the family's South-East London home on 6 January. A police spokesperson said that they had all died from head and neck injuries. Blake's partner is currently being sought by police for questioning over the deaths. However, Arthur Simpson-Kent has reportedly left the UK and travelled to Ghana. Blake and the couple's sons had not been seen since 13 December. They were reported missing three days later. The case is now being treated as a triple murder inquiry.
Rhod Gilbert is teaming up with faded auld glam queen Midge Ure, yer actual Peter Hook and Jazzie B for new BBC Four series, The UK's Best Part-time Band. The show will see the judges 'travel the length and breadth of Britain in a search for the UK's best part-time musicians.' They will 'hit the road to check out some of the twelve hundred bands who applied to be on the show, seeing gigs in pubs, clubs and rehearsal spaces.' Eventually, a winner will be announced and they will get the chance to ​perform at a BBC Music event in 2016.​ Yes, that sounds truly horrifying.
A group which says that it 'targets' online activity linked to ISIS has claimed that it was behind an attack on the BBC's website last week. All the BBC's websites were unavailable for several hours on New Year's Eve after what a BBC 'source' described as 'a distributed denial of service' attack. The group, calling itself New World Hacking, said claimed that it had carried out the attack as 'a test of its capabilities.' Although, quite why they decided to pick on the poor old Beeb to do their test instead of, perhaps, an organisation less dedicated to the promotion of freedom of speech, they didn't explain. The corporation's press office said on Saturday that the BBC would not be commenting on the group's claim. A 'distributed denial of service' attack, which the group claims it carried out, aims to knock a site offline by, effectively, swamping it with more traffic than it can handle. In a tweet to the BBC's technology correspondent, yer actual Rory Cellan-Jones, someone claiming to speak for the group said: 'We are based in the US, but we strive to take down ISIS affiliated websites, also ISIS members. What is a "distributed denial of service" attack? We realise sometimes what we do is not always the right choice, but without cyber hackers who is there to fight off online terrorists? The reason we really targeted [the] BBC is because we wanted to see our actual server power.' Earlier, New World Hacking had said: 'It was only a test, we didn't exactly plan to take it down for multiple hours. Our servers are quite strong.' One of the group's members - Ownz (probably not his real name) - told the BBC that New World Hacking was a team of twelve people - eight male and four female - who came together in 2012. The group's other recent activities included taking part in a campaign against the Ku Klux Klan and the #OpParis effort to identify and report ISIS-related social media accounts following the November attacks on the French capital. Ownz added that his group used a tool called Bangstresser - created by another US-based 'hacktivist' - to direct a flood of traffic against the BBC and had supplemented the attack with requests from its own personal computer servers. The group has already used the technique against IS websites, but intended to 'really get into the action' against a new list of targets associated with the sick militant Islamist murdering bastards from Tuesday, Ownz claimed. The problems on the BBC sites began at about 7am on New Year's Eve and meant visitors saw an error message instead of the intended content. The attack hit the main BBC website as well as associated services including the iPlayer catch-up service and iPlayer Radio app. An initial statement tweeted by the BBC blamed the problems on 'a technical issue.' The corporation said that it was working to make sites, services and pages reachable again. By 10:30am the site was largely working again although some pages and indexes took longer than normal to load. At midday, the BBC said its websites were now 'operating normally' and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

Channel Five has been accused of supporting 'grave-robbing' over plans for a show featuring amateur archaeologists unearthing war graves on Europe's Eastern front. The channel has scheduled the first episode of Battlefield Recovery to be broadcast on Saturday at 7.05pm. But archaeologists have launched a campaign calling for executives to cancel the show, which they say brings their profession into disrepute. The programme is believed to be a rebranded version of a production called Nazi War Diggers, which drew much criticism when the National Geographic Channel planned to broadcast it in May 2014. It was eventually scrapped by the broadcaster before being shown. It features a team of historians, relic hunters and a military antiquities dealer travelling to battlefield sites with metal detectors and unearthing human remains and military hardware. Production company Clearstory is believed to have offered the four one-hour shows to a number of broadcasters, including Channel Five in the UK and the History Channel in Australia and New Zealand. The History Channel bowed to pressure from archaeologists on Thursday and tweeted: 'Due to feedback from our community, we have decided to drop Battlefield Recovery from our schedule. Thank you for sharing your views.' Campaigners now want Channel Five to do the same. Doctor Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at University of Glasgow, said: 'The show attracted quite a lot of opposition the first time round. It was a sad indictment of the way TV was going with reality shows and exploitation.' Pollard, who appeared in BBC2's Two Men In A Trench archaeology documentaries, said: 'These people who are carrying out these excavations are not archaeologists. If a massive broadcaster such as the National Geographic channel can see sense and pull it, it's a real disappointment that a terrestrial British channel is showing it. The whole thing is hugely distasteful and is going for that double axis of death and human remains and interest in "sexy" artefacts. They know which buttons to push.' He added that Clearstory – which had approached him to consult on the show but he had refused – might have 'tried to raise the bar' by changing the name from Nazi War Diggers, but the show remained just a 'motley crew of metal detectorists and militaria collectors.' He said: 'There was a publicity image of this group posed around an unearthed skeleton – it's truly distasteful. True archaeologists would tackle such projects with far more sensitivity and treat the dead with much more respect.' Pollard said the buried remains of soldiers on the Eastern front were 'a well-known phenomenon' and said when he had visited Russia he had seen market stalls filled with unearthed German war memorabilia. He said: 'There's a dark market for this kind of stuff – there's a roaring trade in Nazi memorabilia. I was outraged by the programme when it was first announced, as were many archaeologists. I suppose I feel more disappointed now that Channel Five are running it.' According to Clearstory, which features Battlefield Recovery on their website, the series 'throws light on less well-known and well-documented battlefields' of the second world war's Eastern front.' They add: 'The production team, cast and the local organisations we worked with made these films for a positive purpose – to recover battlefield artefacts, hand over excavated items to authorities for safekeeping and bury the dead with honour.' Channel Five are not backing down and are refusing to remove the programme from the schedules. A spokesman said: 'In deciding to acquire Battlefield Recovery for broadcast in the UK, Channel Five has examined the concerns raised about the programme. Having discussed these concerns with the show's producer, Clearstory, we are sufficiently satisfied with the reassurances we have been given about the process of production to go ahead with our planned broadcast. We note the production team's reassurance that, when carrying out excavations, they worked side-by-side with government-licensed organisations, who are expert in this field and work in conjunction with relevant war graves authorities.' One or two people even believed them.
An Israeli journalist has been stabbed accidentally while demonstrating a protective vest designed to prevent those wearing it from being stabbed for a TV report. There is a kind of 'didn't you just know that was going to happen?' element to this story, don't you think? Eitam Lachover, of Israel's Channel One, was asked to don the - supposedly 'knife-proof' - jacket and be stabbed several times in front of the camera. But, the knife penetrated the vest and he suffered a,thankfully small, cut to his back which required stitches. Israeli soldiers are due to receive the same safety vest following a recent wave of stabbings by Palestinians. Yaniv Montakyo, a vice president of the company which makes the vest, told Israel's Channel Two that he had stabbed Lachover in a section of the vest where there had been 'no protective material.' That was a bit careless. He said that 'an earlier recording' had been 'successful' and the reporter had 'not been harmed.' Linda Bar, a spokeswoman for Israel's state broadcaster, said that the report would be broadcast on Wednesday despite the mishap. Or, if not, in a future episode of It'll Be Alright On The Night, no doubt. Lachover said on Twitter that he was discharged from hospital after receiving the stitches. Which is good, obviously.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was very much enjoying the cricket coverage on Sky Sports earlier this week but, he was somewhat disturbed when one of the South African commentators (it might have been Graeme Smith) suggested, in relation to Alex Hales taking a glancing blow on his arm during England's first innings, 'he'll need to get some arse on that.' And then, they were also saying they hoped all of the drinks had 'arse in them.' Appalled, so this blogger was.
Great moments of Sky Sports cricket commentary from this week's second test at Cape Town, number two. Yer actual Nasser Hussain speaking on his perception of the deficiencies in the South African bowling attack: 'I wrote one word down here, and Bumble nicked it, and that's "Jacques Kallis"'. Err ... that's actually two words, Nasser.
On Monday of this week, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping went and did the weekly shop at Morrisons and then, as he promised last week, got his barnet well and truly cropped so that he now no longer looks like a member of some Third Division heavy metal band of the 1970s. Then things started to go wrong, as they so often do. On the way home, this blogger slipped on the stairs of the bus and came crashing down the last three or four steps, twisting his left ankle and smacking his arse, right elbow and shoulder a geet painful blow. Keith Telly Topping didn't complain about this, however (well, he did, but that was later). He merely limped up the street to Stately Telly Topping Manor to find a letter from the hospital giving him an appointment for next Thursday for a - long-put off - procedure (which will involve a camera being shoved up a place where, to be honest, no camera should ever really be shoved. So that'll be fun). And then, this blogger noticed a small damp patch on the wall which appears to be from a leaky roof caused by eleven days on non-stop rain in the North East. He then spent a further fifteen minutes on the phone trying to get that malarkey reported to ... the people you report that sort of malarkey to so that someone can come around, probably in about a months time, and do something about it. By which point, presumably, Stately Telly Topping Manor's loft will look like an Olympic sized swimming pool. So, bit of an up and down start to the New Year, then. Below, we have a small - colour-coded - illustrated image of the outcome of some of these events. The new haircut is pointed to in green, the elbow injury (and it effing knacked more than it looks on the photo, dear blog reader, trust me) is indicted by the red arrow. The stain caused by the leaky roof is in white whilst the blue arrow is pointing to a completely different patch of bare Stately Telly Topping Manor wall occasioned when this blogger had some new electric sockets put in two years ago which he still haven't got around to repainting (that's only there for information purposes). The orangey-yellow arrow points towards Keith Telly Topping's poor, throbbing ankle (which is, obviously, out of shot). Hope this helps to give you all a visual idea of the utter shite state that yer actual and Stately Telly Topping Manor its very self was in that afternoon.
A couple of days later, yer actual Keith Telly Topping managed to get himself an appointment at the local medical centre just to make sure that the foot injury - which is still knacking, by the way - wasn't broken. Doctor Chris confirmed that it wasn't but that Keith Telly Topping had done some ligament damage to the top of the instep and the ankle (which Keith telly Topping had suspected). Rest, compression, cold-water bandages and lots of painkillers were advised. All of which this blogger was doing anyway. So, you know, that was all a bit pointless, really. But, it was nice to see Doctor Chris for the first time this year.

DC Comics did something really rather stupid in its recent Superman/Wonder Woman Annual issue two and received a - for once thoroughly righteous and deserved - kicking on social media for their daft glakery. Some of the characters were speaking 'Pakistanian' according to the comic. Pakistan's official national language is, of course, Urdu. Lots of the population also speak English thanks to the country's colonial past and until recently that was an official language too. There are plenty of other languages spoken among the population. Regional lingua include Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Brahui, Shina, Balti, Khowar, Dhatki, Marwari, Burushaski and Wakhi. There is one language, however, that not a single person in Pakistan speaks, and that's Pakistanian. Because, it doesn't exist. Let's cut someone at DC a bit of slack here (perhaps a chap called 'Ed') and assume that they probably meant 'Pakistani' instead - that isn't a language either but is at least a word in the English language.
Motörhead's Lemmy has been honoured in a Finnish milk advert filmed a month before his death. Lemmy died on 28 December aged seventy after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer.​ The advert, ​for the Finnish dairy giant Valio​, features Lemmy walking out of a bar and saying: 'I have never drunk milk and never will!' Text at the end of the advert paid tribute to the musician with: 'We raise our glasses to you.' It continued: 'This is offered in celebration of the life of a lovely, exceptional man - a man who celebrated life so vibrantly himself. This was our magical encounter with a great man and we're honoured to share it with the world.'
Robert Stigwood, who managed Cream and The Bee Gees before producing the movies Saturday Night Fever and Grease has died at the age of eighty one. The Australian impresario's death was confirmed on Facebook by Spencer Gibb, son of the late Robin Gibb. Spencer described Stigwood as 'a creative genius with a very quick and dry wit' adding that 'Robert was the driving force behind The Bee Gees career.' Son of an electrical engineer, Robert Stigwood was born in Adelaide in 1934 and educated at the Sacred Heart College in the city. He worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency and then, aged twenty one, travelled to Britain via Asia in what he would later call 'the reverse direction of the hippy trail.' On arrival, Robert got a job in an institution for 'wayward' teenage boys in East Anglia but, finding this work unpleasant, decided to open a theatrical agency with a business partner in the Charing Cross Road supplying actors for television commercials. The Oxo Family is often claimed to have been Stigwood's initial idea. In 1960, he signed a young actor and singer called John Leyton to his roster. As acting jobs were sparse, Stigwood sent Leyton to singing auditions instead, receiving a series of rejections until the maverick pop producer Joe Meek stepped in, declaring that Leyton's lack of vocal ability was no problem, as he was so good-looking he would sell records anyway. Stigwood, meanwhile, had got Leyton a role on the TV show Harpers West One. The deal allowed Leyton to perform a song - the haunting 'Johnny Remember Me', his new single, produced by Meek - which subsequently spent four weeks at number one in 1961. This success established Stigwood and Meek as Britain's first independent record producers. While Leyton was soon more in demand as an actor (he's in The Great Escape, for instance), Stigwood persevered with other singers, scoring several small hits while making decent money as an agent and promoter. In January 1965, however, Stigwood Associates promoted a package tour headlined by Chuck Berry (who, infamously, always demanded payment in cash, up-front) supported by the likes of The Graham Bond Organisation (with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker), Long John Baldry and The Moody Blues. The tour was poorly attended and, adding to Stigwood's problems, The Moody Blues pulled out when their single 'Go Now' reached number one, halfway through the tour. Stigwood's company finances ran out and he called in the receivers, owing forty grand to his creditors. EMI offered to bail him out, but he refused because he was anxious to get out of the unfavourable deal he already had with the company. Stigwood fought valiantly to maintain the illusion that he had kept his personal wealth intact, although in reality he was virtually broke. But, according to his friend Simon Napier-Bell, Stigwood managed to fool enough people to keep his creditors at bay while he re-established himself. Within two years, the crisis was over.
     In popular myth, Stigwood was an inveterate party-giver, a 'confirmed bachelor' with a taste for fancy dress. As a businessman he was a formidable figure who combined a take-no-prisoners toughness with a willingness to take risks. He was once described as being 'as gentle as a shark with tungsten fillings and a toothache.' In person, however, Stigwood – a shy and rather private man was few of those things. Stigwood's aggressive business style and his drive to expand his interests occasionally brought him into conflict with other entrepreneurs and, in the 960s, in an industry dominated by thugs and wide-boys, that wasn't always healthy. Stigwood, for instance, is the subject of one of the most famous stories in British showbiz, a fabled altercation between himself and the notorious Don Arden. During 1966 one of Stigwood's staff had reportedly made the mistake of discussing a possible change of management with one of Arden's top acts, The Small Faces. Arden took exception to this, and in spite of the fact that Stigwood had never met the group personally, Arden decided to pay him a visit with some of his minders, to teach Stigwood a lesson, a confrontation which, allegedly, ended with Stigwood being dangled head first out of a fourth-story window by one of Arden's goons. After the disaster of the Berry tour, Stigwood took on David Shaw, an ex-City banker, as his partner, giving him access to previously unavailable funds and expertise and he gained some extra cash flow by subletting his offices to The Who's managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert. One of the first acts Stigwood managed during this period was Junco Partners, a blues band which succeeded The Animals as the house band at Newcastle's Club-A-Go-Go. The band recorded for Columbia and the French Barclay Records, with one of its first releases being co-produced by Stigwood and his friend the TV producer Vicki Wickham, but the band couldn't achieve the hit Stigwood was looking for. In 1966 Stigwood made an important deal when he paid six hundred notes to Stamp and Lambert for the right to become The Who's booking agent. This soon enabled him to lure the band away from their deal with Shel Talmy and Brunswick Records and onto his own newly established Reaction label, for whom they recorded 'Substitute', 'I'm A Boy' and 'Happy Jack' before Stamp and Lambert set up their own label, Track. Stigwood also began managing the fledgling rock trio Cream, also signing them to Reaction and their powerful psychedelic blues-rock soon proved immediately successful on both sides of the Atlantic. During this period Stigwood also managed Oscar (real name Paul Beuselinck) who had been the pianist in Screaming Lord Sutch's backing band, The Savages. Oscar released four singles for Reaction, including songs by Pete Townshend ('Join My Gang') and the young David Bowie (the memorably dreadful 'Over The Wall We Go'), although all sank without trace. Beuselinck re-emerged in the late 1960s under the name Paul Nicholas and maintained a connection with Stigwood, performing in the London productions of Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Grease and then played the sadistic Cousin Kevin in Stigwood's film version of The Who's Tommy.
     In January 1967 Stigwood signed a deal with Brian Epstein to merge their companies. The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might have heard of them) were no longer touring and Epstein was tiring of the demands of his ever-expanding business. He was keen to reduce his involvement in NEMS Enterprises, the company he had founded in 1963, so he struck a deal with Stigwood. Why Epstein decided to merge with Stigwood is uncertain. There had been numerous other offers made for NEMS over the previous couple of years and Epstein is reported to have turned down more than one multi-million-dollar offer from American interests, so it is unlikely that he chose to become a partner with Stigwood simply for financial reasons. According to the author George Gunby, Epstein told his assistant, Alistair Taylor, that Stigwood had originally offered to buy NEMS completely, but the deal eventually became a merger, in which Stigwood would have to put all his company assets into NEMS; in return he received a reciprocal shareholding in NEMS, plus a salary. Stigwood, meanwhile, signed The Bee Gees in early 1967 and steered them to international success with an intensive promotional campaign for their breakthrough single 'New York Mining Disaster (1941)'. By the early 1970s, though, The Bee Gees - despite still having the odd hit single - had largely fallen out of favour and Eric Clapton (whom Stigwood had continued to manage after Cream's break-up) was inactive due to drug addiction. Stigwood turned his attention theatre production and brought the Broadway production of the hippy rock musical Hair to London, where it generated much controversy and, partly because of that, big box-office returns. He repeated this formula with the adult revue Oh! Calcutta! in 1969 and began regularly to stage musicals on Broadway and in London's West End, producing both the stage and movie versions of Rice and Lloyd-Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar and Ken Russell's insane adaptation of The Who's Tommy. Having bought the management rights to Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, Stigwood was also instrumental in cracking down on unlicensed performances of the musicals in the US - including school productions - to ensure profits went into the pockets of its creators. In 1967 Stigwood had also purchased a controlling share in the writers' agency Associated London Scripts, which had produced many of the best British television sitcoms. He developed the hit series All In the Family and Sanford & Son for the US, based on Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe & Son. He also formed RSO Records, where in the mid-seventies, he resuscitated the careers of his two biggest acts; Clapton cleaned up and topped US LP and singles charts. Stigwood had recently taken his RSO organisation from Polydor to Atlantic Records and, at the recommendation of one of the label's executives, he hooked up The Bee Gees with the R&B producer Arif Mardin. Mardin's successful reinvention of The Bee Gees as an urban disco act surprised everyone – except perhaps Stigwood – and in 1975 they scored huge international hits with the single 'Jive Talking' and the LP Main Course. The Australian's midas touch continued in the late 1970s, when Stigwood produced Saturday Night Fever, making a global star of television actor John Travolta and selling forty million copies of The Bee Gees-dominated soundtrack LP. Stigwood followed it with the evergreen teen musical Grease and was particularly proud of casting fellow Australian Olivia Newton John in the role of Sandy. But, he faltered badly with the 1978 Be-Atles musical Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - a fantastical but very unfocused movie starring The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and Frankie Howerd. 'If you like The Beatles and you like movies, do yourself a favour and stay away,' wrote the influential US film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. Audiences took note and the film was a huge flop at the box office, although the soundtrack did sell well (even yer actual Keith Telly Topping had a copy of that, not that he's played in in a good couple of decades). Stigwood went on to produce the similarly-disappointing sequels Grease 2 and Staying Alive - but found success later in life with the Madonna-starring musical Evita, which won the 1997 Golden Globe for best film. For many years, Stigwood lived privately at Barton Manor Estate on the Isle of Wight and, later, in the South of France. He made a rare public appearance at the 2006 Ivor Novello awards, where Barry Gibb described him as 'the man who turned our whole industry upside down.'

On the playlist at Stately Telly Topping Manor this week, dear blog reader, have included these fine works of rock and/or roll and that.
So, just an average week in the gaff, basically. Well, this blogger has a sore foot, he's needed to listen to something.

Which brings us, nicely, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. One from Robert Stigwood's stable. And a corker, at that.

No comments: