Friday, March 03, 2017

Deception Is The Better Part Of Velour

Anthony Stewart Head (remember him?) has 'admitted' that he 'wouldn't say no' to replacing yer actual Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who. But, since he - along with the vast majority of chancers who are being publicly speculated-about in connection with the role - are unlikely to be asked in the first place, this is a bit of a non-story. Not that this annoying fact stopped the Metro, or the Daily Mirra or the Digital Spy website from filling some empty space with such speculative nonsense. In other news, Syd Little, John McCririck, Barry Chuckle, Abi Titmuss, the bassist out of Blur, the entire panel of Loose Women, Craig Charles, Ann Widdecombe, Jimmy Cricket, Bobby Davro, Jim Davidson, Phil Cool, That Awful Klass Woman, That Awful Keith Woman, That Awful (and curiously orange) Bleakley Woman, Odious greed bucket (and drag) Adrian Chiles, former Prime Minister David Cameron and many other currently unemployed z-listers are also thought to have indicated that they 'wouldn't say no' to the role of The Doctor. And, apparently, the Pope is still a Catholic. Next ...
Broadchurch is back for its third and final series - and seems to have gone down well with the majority of TV critics. Olivia Colman and national heartthrob David Tennant were back this week as Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy, this time investigating the rape of a woman in the fictional Dorset town, played by former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh. Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan also returned to play Beth and Mark Latimer, along with Arthur Darvill as Paul Coates. Other cast members for the new series include Lenny Henry (last funny in 1983), Georgina Campbell, Sarah Parish, Charlie Higson and Mark Bazeley. The first episode, shown on Monday night, drew 7.5 million overnight viewers broadly in line with the overnight audience for the first episode of the previous series in 2015.
The launch of The Nightly Show on ITV attracted an overnight audience of almost three million viewers on Monday night, but the channel's News At Ten recorded its lowest Monday audience of the year so far in its new, temporary, 10.30pm slot. ITV is attempting to replicate some of the success of late-night talk formats in the US, with a revolving cast of hosts each taking on a week of programmes for the next two months. David Walliams has taken the central spot for the first week, with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, cheeky-chappy Scouse comedian John Bishop and Gordon Ramsay to follow. However, ITV's decision to push News At Ten back half-an-hour for the eight-week run has raised questions about its commitment to the programme, which underwent a major revamp at the start of last year. Previous Monday editions of News At Ten, fronted by Tom Bradby, have averaged just over two million overnight viewers this year, but in this week's later slot it mustered only 1.6 million. News At Ten has made way for other programmes before, but The Nightly Show will cause its longest continuous absence from the 10pm slot since the overhaul, which included hiring Robert Peston as ITV's political editor from the BBC. Yer actual Pestinfestation recently told the Gruniad Morning Star that The Nightly Show would have to 'build a large audience quickly' if it is to keep the news from reverting to 10pm. He said: 'The simple point is that if it goes incredibly well, then that's great for the news because it will bring us a bigger audience at 10.30pm. And, if it doesn't, then the truth is we'll revert back to ten o'clock.' Though News At Ten won plaudits for its new style and coverage, it has not yet made any significant dent in the audience for the BBC's 10pm bulletin, which regularly pulls in more than four million viewers. ITV's director of television, Kevin Lygo, claimed that The Nightly Show will offer a 'real alternative' to the BBC Ten O'Clock News, but he suggested that he will not make a decision on whether News At Ten will be permanently displaced until the end of the eight-week run. The Nightly Show then made lots of headlines by losing more than half of its overnight audience between Monday and Tuesday night, attracting a mere 1.2 million overnight punters for episode two. And, being described as 'a flop' by the Daily Scum Mail. And, 'a regular shambles,' by the South Wales Argus. When you've lost the South Wales Argus, dear blog reader, you know you're in trouble.
Having already narrated one of the world's best-selling book series in the form of Harry Potter, yer actual Stephen Fry has returned to the recording booth to take on another hugely popular literary series. A Study In Scarlet was written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, where he introduced the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson to the world. Conan Doyle's writings were later to become the most popular fictional detective series in the world. Stephen spoke to BBC News about the challenges he faced in narrating the four novels and fifty six short stories.
Back in 2013, when he was asked in a Question & Answer session which role he would choose if he could play any literary character, yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch came up with the name, Patrick Melrose. Later this year, the Sherlock star will be taking on the role of the 'outrageously funny' playboy in a new TV series written by One Day author David Nicholls. Melrose, commissioned by Sky Atlantic and the US's Showtime network, is based on Edward St Aubyn's five semi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels. The first, Never Mind, was first published in 1992, whilst the fifth, At Last, appeared in 2012. Nicholls will write all five episodes of the drama, which is set in the South of France in the 1960s, New York in the 1980s and London in the early 2000s. According to the official announcement, the story 'hilariously skewers the upper class as it tracks the protagonist's harrowing odyssey from a deeply traumatic childhood through adult substance abuse, and ultimately, towards recovery.' Yer man Benny will serve as an executive producer through his SunnyMarch production company. He and production partner Adam Ackland said: 'We are delighted to be part of this incredible series. We have been huge fans of these books for many years and David Nicholls' adaptations are extraordinary.' Although, one imagines only one of them actually said it, speaking on behalf of both ... unless they chanted it simultaneously like some form of gestalt entity against all laws of God and man. Or something. Nicholls said: 'I've been a huge admirer of Edward St Aubyn's novels for years and [I] can't wait to bring these dark, witty, brilliant books to the screen. Benedict is the perfect Patrick Melrose.' Filming on Melrose is due to start in July.
Holly Willoughby was, apparently, called 'a shithead' this week by the comedian Romesh Ranganathan on the risibly wretched and rottenly rotten ITV panel show Play To The Whistle which has, bafflingly, returned for a second series. Some may regard Ranganathan's view as 'fair comment,' but don't come to this blogger looking for a quick answer on that one, dear blog reader. Oh no, very hot water.
Call The Midwife has been praised by viewers for tackling the subject of female genital mutilation in its most recent episode. The episode featured a pregnant Somali woman who had undergone the procedure as a child, leading her to go through a traumatic delivery. Viewers called the programme's makers 'brave' and praised the show for its 'sensitive' portrayal of the subject. More than eight-and-a-half million overnight viewers tuned in to watch the episode, giving the 1960s-set medical drama over thirty six per cent of the available audience share. Anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali, who runs the charity Daughters Of Eve, was a consultant on the episode and worked closely with the programme makers and travelled to Somaliland, where the character of Nadifa is from, to meet doctors dealing with FGM. The programme was followed by tweets from the NHS and the NSPCC offering advice, help and support to those affected. Writer and columnist Caitlin Moran called the episode 'important television,' while Sarah Doran wrote in the Radio Times: 'It's high time naysayers acknowledged Call The Midwife is one of UK TV's most powerful dramas.' Something which this blog has recognised for at least three years. Just, you know, blowing From The North's own cornet there, dear blog reader. It's nice when the rest of the world catches up.
The Trip returns to TV screens next month and, this time, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take to the roads and restaurants of Spain. It's all right for some, isn't it? But, while the location and the channel may have changed – the comedy has moved from the BBC to Sky Atlantic – it will, according to Brydon, have 'similar preoccupations' as its previous outings in the Lake District and in Italy. 'Again, it's all about ageing and mortality, which, at fifty one, is something I'm personally obsessed with,' said Brydon. 'What I like about doing it every few years is that we do really look older. We've aged far more than I would have expected, though we both take more care of ourselves now.' In the words of Coogan, the show is 'Last Of The Summer Wine ... for Guardian readers.' Although, to be fair, it's far better than that description makes it sound. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip To Spain repeats the format of a semi-unscripted comedy, based around the interaction between exaggerated versions of Coogan and Brydon as they joke, bicker and impersonate celebrities. While a template of the plot is laid out by Winterbottom, most of the conversation is improvised by the duo. This third series is also a gastronomic adventure, as the alter-egos of Brydon and Coogan review Spain's best restaurants for the New York Times and the Observer. Much has been made of the blurring of fact and fiction in the past series when it comes to Brydon and Coogan's characters. 'There's a modicum of truth in the way we portray ourselves, but it really is a small residue,' claims Coogan. 'We do crank up stuff. In real life we are far closer in our tastes and our attitudes, so for the show we try and seek out acrimony and conflict. Rob and I spent the evening together recently, genuinely, and it was quite dull. We just chat about things in that boring, middle-class way everyone does.' Brydon added: 'I would never in a million years sit at a dinner doing impersonations, arguing over the merits of Wales versus the North. It's ludicrous.' Of course it is. The North is far better, everyone knows that. Brydon said that while he didn't mind people mistaking the show for a true depiction of events, it had caused him 'issues' in the past, particularly over a storyline where he had a fling in Italy. 'I was worried about the philandering in series two,' he said. 'The day after the episode went out, my real wife was taking the boys to school and the teacher came up to her and put her arm around her shoulder and said, "This must be a very difficult time for you."' Brydon and Coogan's talents at impressions are similarly prominent in The Trip To Spain, with everyone from Mick Jagger and Roger Moore to David Bowie and Barry Gibb making a vocal appearance. There is one Brydon impression, however, which Coogan dislikes. 'It annoys me when Rob does me,' said Coogan. 'Not in a way that makes me anxious, but I don't like it.' Brydon appeared surprised by this. 'Really? I couldn't impersonate someone I didn't like. I've been hearing Trump, who is an impressionist's dream, but as soon as I try I think, "Oh God, no," and it's the same with [Nigel] Farage. So if I impersonate someone it's because I’m really fond of them.' 'It still annoys me,' Coogan added. Eight years ago, it took huge amounts of cajoling by Winterbottom to get Coogan and Brydon to agree to do the show. Now, three series in, both have said that they would be 'open' to a fourth if 'in a few years we have something else to say.' Ireland has been floated as a possible location. 'It's all Michael [Winterbottom's] baby really,' said Brydon. 'It's well known that we improvise loads in it but all the plot things, all the things that happen, are all his ideas and it's very much his voice. In the end, it all comes down to him.'
Tom Hardy will be back as James Delaney in the second series of Taboo. Although the BBC haven't yet confirmed a recommission of the East India Company drama, the actor says that his character's story isn't yet finished. Speaking to EW about what his character would do after setting sail to The Azores under the American flag at the end of series one, Hardy said: 'We're onto the next stage. The key really is Colonnade. When he says, "We are Americans," James is very ambiguous with how much information he's going to give. In his mind, you will know when the time is right.' And, when asked if the series would return, Hardy gave the answer fans wanted to hear: 'Oh God, yeah!' Taboo creator Steven Knight also revealed that he was 'confident' the drama would move on to its next chapter, saying 'all will be well' with regard to the re-commissioning. He added: 'In my mind, explosive stuff is going to happen, which will be great, should it happen. There's a great destination for it, but I don’t know if we're in a position to talk about the actual details of it.' This comes after Knight earlier told the Radio Times that he has plans for three series of the period drama. 'We think it has got a two and a three certainly, that's the plan,' the Peaky Blinders showrunner explained. 'After that, who knows? This series is eight parts – it's a lot of time.'
From The North favourite Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar will return to our TV screens in a third series of Chris Lang's crime drama, Unforgotten. ITV has announced that the duo will be back for a new six-part series focusing on another intricate historical investigation which reveals 'a fresh web of long-buried secrets.' Unforgotten series two broadcast recently saw police officers Cassie and Sunny choosing to walk away from a case, after discovering that their suspects had actually been victims of child sex abuse and worked together to murder their abusers. It ended on a cliffhanger, with Cassie walking off into the night after making the difficult decision, leaving the audience wondering what would happen next. Lang told the Radio Times that he was 'eager' to do 'one more series,' revealing that he already had plans for another story. 'I'd love to come back for another go, because I want to square various circles with Cassie and Sunny,' he said as series two drew to a close, with the pair struggling to come to terms with their decision to back away from the case. 'I don't think it's something that they will wear lightly. I hope the audience sort of feel that that was a very difficult decision to make. You can argue whether it's the right or the wrong one, but it's certainly one that I think you can understand given what those characters had been through,' Lang explained. 'It's a secret that they now have and they will have to carry with them through their job and if we do get a third series obviously, one will attempt to explore the ramifications of what making such a profound decision will be.'
Dame Diana Rigg her very self will join the cast of Victoria series two, ITV have confirmed, as filming begins on the new eight-part series and a Christmas special. The divine Goddess that is Diana will play the Duchess of Buccleuch, Queen Victoria's 'outspoken advisor.' She joins Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes in the royal drama, which will be broadcast on ITV later this year. 'In series one Victoria married the handsome Prince, but in this series she and Albert get down to the serious business of living happily, sometimes stormily, ever after,' creator Daisy Goodwin said. 'Victoria is the only Queen Regnant to marry and give birth while on the throne and the challenges of being head of state as well as a wife and mother are legion. In many ways Victoria's dilemma is a modern one - how do you have a successful marriage and a happy family when you are holding down an important job. Can you really have it all?' Rigg's character (full name Charlotte Anne Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch & Queensberry) served as Mistress of the Robes from 1841 to 1846. She was born, incidentally, in 1811, making her character approximately thirty when she first entered Victoria's circle. Diana Rigg is seventy eight. Just sayin' ... The Queen is said to have described Charlotte as 'an agreeable, sensible, clever little person,' and later became a godmother to the Duchess's daughter, Victoria Alexandrine (born 1845). The new series begins six weeks after the events of the first series, with Victoria and Albert trying to adjust to life with a young child. The creators also confirm that much of the cast from series one will return, including Nigel Lindsay as Sir Robert Peel, Alex Jennings as King Leopold, Peter Bowles as the Duke of Wellington, David Oakes as Ernest, Daniela Holtz as Baroness Lehzen and Catherine Flemming as the Duchess of Kent. Executive producer Damien Timmer said, 'Series one of Victoria was a big success both at home and abroad and it is a privilege to continue to tell the story of this fascinating woman at a particularly interesting point in her reign. Audiences will be intrigued by the meticulously researched stories Daisy has planned, brimming with scandal, romance and tragedy. At the centre of it is a beautifully nuanced study of a young marriage, and it's a joy to watch Jenna and Tom find new layers to this iconic couple.'
According to the cover of the latest Radio Times - the one with Matt Le Blanc on it - From The North favourite Doctor Lucy Worlsey claims that she has 'no shame.' And, this constitutes 'news', apparently. Some of us have known that for years.
And, to prove it, here's a picture of Doctor Lucy being very shameless indeed.
Mind you, she's not the only one. Everybody's shamelesss these days.
See what I mean?
The BBC has ordered an immediate investigation into how an outsourcing firm collects the TV licence amid claims that it runs 'an aggressive incentive scheme' to maximise collection of fees from non-payers. Under a bonus scheme alleged by the Daily Scum Mail - so, obviously it must be true - Capita's enforcement officers are told to catch more than twenty eight licence fee evaders each week, as part of the company's fifty eight million quid contract to collect the charge. Staff 'targeted vulnerable people' including, this month, a war veteran with dementia and a young mother in a women's refuge, the Scum Mail claimed. Capita was said to have told an undercover reporter, who posed as an applicant for an enforcement job, that the company was 'greedy' for 'as much cash as possible.' Area TV licensing manager Ian Doyle was filmed saying: 'We are looking to get twenty eight licence sales per week from each officer. As soon as you hit that magic twenty eight there's a bonus. Basically, you've got to get twenty eight conviction statements before you can start hitting extra money.' He added that the job involved 'attacking poor unsuspecting victims.' The BBC told Capita to investigate the claims and 'ensure swift and appropriate action' was taken. It confirmed that Capita operated 'an incentive scheme' for enforcement officers, but insisted that this should only apply to licence fee sales and not to prosecution statements as the undercover footage suggested. A letter to Capita from the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, demanded - demanded, I say - 'reassurances' that the practices revealed by the investigation were 'not standard,' and the collection teams were not targeting vulnerable people. In the letter, released by the BBC, Lord Hall wrote: 'Public trust is the cornerstone of the licence fee system. It is clear that, in this instance, Capita has fallen short of the standards the BBC has a right to expect on behalf of the British public.' A BBC spokesman said: 'We are very disappointed by the conduct of Capita's interviewing managers in this particular case, which is not in line with the high standards we expect and does not reflect the policies in place.' It added: 'We have asked Capita to investigate urgently and ensure swift and appropriate action is taken. We expect inquiry officers to behave in a courteous, professional manner and abide by a published code of conduct.' A spokeswoman for Capita said: 'Inquiry officers are expected to act in a professional manner, abide by strict rules of conduct and adhere to the [Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984] code of practice and we strongly refute any allegation that inquiry officers are instructed to act outside of these requirements.' She added: 'The comments made by these individuals do not reflect the culture, skills and attitude of TVL's operation. We have a strong set of procedures in place and should we find employees have not acted as they should we act appropriately. We are investigating.' One or two people even believed them. The House of Commons culture, media and sports committee is to raise the issue with both Capita and the BBC. Anyone with a television or who watches iPlayer without a licence can be fined up to a grand and given a criminal record.
The UK's annual television licence fee is to rise to one hundred and forty seven notes from £145.50, the government has announced. The increase, which will come into effect on 1 April, marks the the first rise in the licence fee since 2010. In October that year, the coalition government announced the fee would be frozen until 31 March 2017. Last year, the government announced that the licence fee would rise 'in line with inflation' from April 2017 for the next five years. The Government is responsible for setting the level of the licence fee, which covers all BBC services and contributes to the costs of rolling out broadband to the UK population. It also helps to fund the Welsh Language TV channel S4C and local TV channels.
BBC Three - you know, it used to be a TV channel - film maker, Stacey Dooley, has been 'stopped' by Japanese police whilst filming a documentary about child sexual exploitation in Japan. Officers held Dooley for two hours during the making of Young Sex For Sale In Japan. The twenty nine-year-old had been 'trying to highlight' the issue of girls, some as young as six, being exploited. '[The documentary] focuses on the fact they only made it illegal to possess child pornography in 2014,' Dooley claimed. 'We set out to try and understand why it took a privileged country, like Japan, so long to come to this conclusion. Also to see if the change in their law had made any real difference on the ground.' Japan has faced global criticism for its attitudes towards child abuse in the past. Sexualised images of young girls are widespread, men can pay to meet schoolgirls on public streets and comic books feature child rape. Dooley was reportedly stopped while filming on JK Alley in Tokyo - JK being short for 'joshi kosei' (high school girls) - where men can 'rent' teenagers to 'spend time' with them. She was, initially, confronted by two men who demanded 'no movies' before the police arrived. Speaking to the camera after being held, she claims: 'So I've just been kept by the police for the past two hours, they held us against our will.' Following the law change, the documentary examines what Japan is actually doing to stop normalising the sexualisation of children. Dooley met volunteers from a charity trying to help vulnerable girls, as well as the Head of the Juvenile Section at the National Police to find what they are doing to protect young girls. Speaking about the type of men who meet up with teenagers in Tokyo she says: 'Those grown men intimidated me, I'm nearly thirty years old, a strong woman. So if they do have a relationship with these girls. They'd be very easy to manipulate. If they asked them to do something they didn't want to do, I don't know how confident they'd feel to say no.'
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's bid to take control of the whole of Sky through his entertainment business, Twenty First Century FOX, should be rejected on competition grounds alone, according to research published on Wednesday. In a submission to the minister considering the bid, campaigners at the Media Reform Coalition and online activist network Avaaz argue that the overall market shares of both Murdoch-owned newspapers the Sun and The Times as well as Sky remain 'materially unchanged' since 2011, when media regulator Ofcom raised concerns about a similar takeover. The report, which urges the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Bradley, to extremely reject the bid given the 'unprecedented case for intervention on plurality grounds,' is to land on her desk as FOX is expected to formally notify the European competition regulator of its £11.7bn bid for full control of Sky this week. Justin Schlosberg, the chair of the coalition, said that the situation in terms of media competition was 'definitely no better than last time and probably worse.' In support, he cited the fact that the Sun's audience reach had increased after the removal of the paywall for its digital content despite declining print circulation; the increased reach for Sky television services through digital services such as You Tube and research from Cardiff University last year that the newspapers had a 'disproportionate impact' on broadcasters, for example. Cardiff University research on coverage of the 2015 general erection 'demonstrates the influence of national newspapers – and News UK titles in particular – over the issue agenda of broadcasters including the BBC,' it said. Supporters of the bid by FOX, which is thirty nine per cent owned by the Murdochs, have argued that an 'increasingly competitive media landscape' - with digital rivals such as Google and Facebook - has 'diminished the influence' of the family's media empire in the UK. One or two people even believed them. FOX executives have argued that there is 'no need' even for a referral 'given the increased competition.' But then, to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies, 'they would, wouldn't they?' However, the coalition, which argues that the British media market place is 'one of the most concentrated in the world,' believes media concentration has increased since 2011. In the summary to the report, the coalition argues that its objections are 'linked to, but separate from' the concerns over the 'fit and proper' person test. This was raised during the last attempt by the Murdochs to take over Sky at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in 2011. When the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World was close in shame and ignominy. Separately, Lord Puttnam has introduced an amendment to the digital economy bill, which would subject all media takeovers to the 'fit and proper test' and which is expected to be debated in the House of Lords. This comes after a group of cross-party politicians including Ed Milimolimandi has demanded - demanded - that the regulator 'launch an immediate review' of whether James Murdoch The Small meets such a test to hold a UK broadcasting licence. Given that James Murdoch The Small is the chairman of Sky, FOX supporters believe there are 'no grounds' for such a test. The report, Consolidating Control: The FOX/News merger and news plurality in the UK, also raises concerns about the 'editorial independence of Sky News, one of only two British television news channels with an average monthly audience reach of ten million.' The coalition argues that Sky News online is the most widely featured news source on Yahoo's UK news page, accounting for more than twenty five per cent of articles in February 2017 and over fifty per cent of headlines.
A member of staff at a Scottish school was told to 'watch The Big Bang Theory' as training to deal with a pupil with Asperger syndrome, MSPs have been told. Which, although not the most stupid of advice is still a bit like advising someone about to start a quantum physics degree course to watch some Doctor Who for a full understanding of the fourth and fifth dimensions. Holyrood's education committee took evidence on support for pupils with additional needs. Sylvia Haughney, a support for learning instructor, said that there was not enough teacher training. She said a support worker had been advised to watch the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory as a form of training. Colin Crawford, head of inclusion in the council's education services department, accepted that there 'may' need to be a review of what training teachers require, but said this should apply when they are at college as much as when working in schools. The Big Bang Theory is a hugely popular American sitcom focusing on a group of highly intelligent, but socially inept, young men. One character in particular, Sheldon Cooper, is often singled out by viewers as behaving in a manner consistent with Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. However, the programme's creators have stated that they did not use the syndrome as a basis while creating the character, having said they are 'uncomfortable labelling' Sheldon as, definitely, having Asperger's.
Ricky Tomlinson has claimed that the late Richard Whiteley, best known for presenting the afternoon game show Countdown for more than twenty years, was a member of the intelligence services. Tomlinson made the claim in an interview with the Chester Chronicle as he opened a Wetherspoons pub in the city. In 1972 Tomlinson, a former plasterer, helped to organise the first national building workers' strike in the upstairs room of the pub. He was jailed in 1973, along with his 'Shrewsbury Two' partner Des Warren, after being found guilty of conspiracy to intimidate, unlawful assembly and affray, following altercations at a construction site in Shrewsbury. The actor believes that the jury's decision to convict him may have been swayed by an ITV documentary which was broadcast on the evening that they retired to deliver their verdict. The documentary, Red Under The Bed, featured Warren and Tomlinson and was presented by the late Whiteley and the former politician Woodrow Wyatt, who died in 1997. Tomlinson claims that the film was 'designed, written, made and paid for by the security services.' Tomlinson said: 'I've got documents at home, which are printed "confidential", "strictly confidential", "not to be seen", but it involves the likes of Ted Heath and Woodrow Wyatt. We've just discovered that they made a film which went out on television the night the jury were out considering the verdict called Red Under The Bed and it was so anti-trade union that two of the jury changed their mind and brought a majority verdict in of ten-two guilty. We found out this week that the film was designed, written, made and paid for by the security services. Woodrow Wyatt was a member of the security services and, unbelievably, so was Richard Whiteley who hosted the show. Richard Whiteley from Countdown was a member of the intelligence services!' Thankfully, Carol Vorderman wasn't. Probably. At least, there's no evidence that she was. But, you never know ... Asked if he had any message for fans and admirers of Richard Whiteley who have been dismayed by his unexpected claims, Tomlinson said: '"Conspiracy" is a ten letter word.' It's also an anagram of 'I can spy roc,' interestingly enough. Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, 1972 ... Twenty-four men were arrested and charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to intimidate to affray following the first national building workers' strike. The strike lasted for twelve weeks and won workers a significant pay rise, but the union's picketing tactics enraged the construction industry and the Conservative government. Six men – including Tomlinson, who later found fame as an actor and starred in Brookside and The Royle Family – were sent to prison. Tomlinson served sixteen months of a two-year sentence. Another striker, Des Warren, was jailed for two years and eight months. His death in 2004 from Parkinson's disease has been linked to his time in prison, in particular to the use of a 'liquid cosh' – a cocktail of tranquillisers – which was allegedly administered to difficult inmates at the time. The defence applied to the judge for the television company to be held in contempt, but when the judge viewed the film he dismissed the application. The hour-long film, made by Yorkshire TV and broadcast on the ITV network, was followed by a thirty-minute studio discussion not broadcast in every ITV region, but it was transmitted by ATV, the region that covered Shrewsbury. A file on the programme, held by the National Archives, has not been made public, but it was 'retained' by the Cabinet Office 'in the interests of national security' under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958. Whiteley died in 2005. He joined ITN as a trainee after graduating from Cambridge. Despite his intelligence, Whiteley seemingly enjoyed projecting the image of an absent-minded eccentric which he cultivated during his twenty years presenting Countdown. His trademarks were his jolly, avuncular manner, his fondness for genuinely awful puns and his rather garish wardrobe. At the time of the documentary, Whiteley was best known as a regular presenter of Yorkshire TV's early evening magazine programme Calendar. On which he was one bitten by a ferret on live TV. True story. And a bloody funny one at that.
Facebook has reportedly blocked an Australian auction house from advertising an acclaimed artist's painting depicting nude figures. Charles Blackman's oil work Women Lovers features two extremely nude ladies resting on a bed beside a cat. Also naked. Art broker Mossgreen tried to promote the work on Facebook, but the social media network rejected it for 'advertising adult products or services.' Which itdoesn't or anything even remotely like it. Mossgreen chief executive, Paul Summer, said that the decision was 'ridiculous.'Which it is. 'This is a very beautiful image that is not overtly sexual in any shape or form,' he told the BBC. 'It's like going back to the 1950s. It's ridiculous to censor this sort of thing.' Facebook said that its decision was final, although Mossgreen has since reposted images of the work. 'Such ads lead to negative user sentiment and we have zero tolerance towards such advertisements,' Facebook said in a statement. Last month, a French teacher took Facebook to court after it suspended his account for posting an image of a nude woman painted by the Nineteenth Century artist Gustave Courbet. Summer said that Women Lovers was expected to sell for more than forty five thousand Australian dollars at auction next week. Although it might go for a bit more now given the publicity Facebook has managed to generate. 'Nobody said a single thing until Facebook suddenly decided it was going to offend somebody,' he said. 'I don't know who they're protecting because I have two teenage daughters myself and if I said to them that this painting has been banned I think they would have laughed at me.' Now aged eighty eight, Blackman has been described as 'the last man standing' from one of the great eras in Australian art. His contemporaries included modernist painters Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker. Last year, Blackman's painting The Game Of Chess was sold by Sotheby's Australia for A$1.78m. 'Charles Blackman is the most well-regarded and respected living Australian artist,' Summer said.
Presumably, given Facebook's zero tolerance attitude towards displays of naughty bare nudity, Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus is also banned.
... As is, Michelangelo's Dave.
And, speaking of ludicrous nonsense, a London theatre has asked audiences not to eat during performances of its latest production. The Harold Pinter Theatre sent out the request to those who had bought tickets to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 'Out of consideration for the actors and fellow audience members, we ask that no food be consumed during the performance,' an e-mail from the Ambassador Theatre Group said. It is thought to be the first West End show to make such a request. The e-mail to ticket buyers added: 'You may purchase food at the theatre bars to enjoy before the show, or during the interval. Drinks purchased at the bar areas may only be taken inside the auditorium in plastic containers provided by the venue staff.' In a statement released to the BBC, a spokesperson for the production reiterated that food had not been banned outright, but 'rather, we have politely requested that patrons refrain from eating during the performance.' What, exactly, they intend to do if patrons decline their request, the spokesperson did not say, though they added that talking, coughing and breathing would also be frowned upon. Probably. 'The nature of this production is such that anyone eating or using their telephone during the performance could disturb other patrons.' It follows calls from one of the show's stars, Imelda Staunton, for food consumption to be banned in theatres. 'I don't know why people can't engage in just one thing,' the actress told the Radio Times in November. 'I don't understand this obsession with having to eat or drink something at every moment of the day.' Theatre producer Richard Jordan also highlighted the issue after encountering what he called 'possibly the worst West End audience I have ever encountered' at a production of Doctor Faustus. 'What amazed me most was this audience could see nothing wrong in talking, eating and taking pictures throughout the show - or complaining when asked to stop,' he said. But, Kit Harington, who starred in the production, said: 'I am afraid that, if the theatre is going to die of anything, it will be from exactly this type of stereotyping and prejudice aimed towards a new and younger generation of theatregoers. I have been a theatregoer since childhood and I didn't feel that our audiences were disrespectful in the slightest.'
Elon Musk, it seems, loves nothing more than to spin plates. When most of us might be looking to lighten the load, he's piling on the ambition. The serial entrepreneur's latest gambit is to fly people to the Moon. Two wealthy individuals have apparently lodged 'significant deposits' with Musk's SpaceX company to make this journey. We have no idea who they are, just that these space tourists include 'nobody from Hollywood.' That Musk should announce his intention to carry out a Moon loop should not really be a surprise; such a venture is on the natural path to deep-space exploration and colonisation - his stated goals. What does take the breath away is the timeline. He's talking about doing this journey in late 2018, in hardware which has not yet even flown. The Dragon may need to carry some extra propellants, oxygen and water, to help sustain the required trajectory and the passengers. Communications at a distance would also have to be considered. But Musk in his teleconference with reporters on Monday said that 'major modifications' to the Dragon or the Falcon would 'not be required.' The journey is likely to last six or seven days. 'Back in the Apollo days the outbound journey would usually take between two and three days and the same for the return journey, maybe about a one-week round trip once they leave the Earth,' commented Jason Davis from the space advocacy group the Planetary Society. 'It is a little bit different than say putting an astronaut in low-Earth orbit on the International Space Station because your quick return to Earth is no longer an option. Once you fire that rocket and head towards the Moon, you can't turn around and go home so you are really kind of on your own for about a week with no-one to come and save you if there is a problem.' Which, everybody who's seen Apollo 13 knew anyway. Musk said that his space tourists 'understood the risks,' and that they would receive 'extensive training before going on the mission.' The entrepreneur added that the mission would be 'completed on autopilot.' It's hard to imagine the ticketed passengers flying without also being accompanied by at least one astronaut of experience and yet this seems to be what will happen. You might have thought that were there to be an Apollo 13-type problem, having someone aboard with intimate knowledge of the Dragon's workings could be quite important. It's a point picked up by retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson in a BBC News interview: 'I would tell [the tourists] to be ready for anything as best as possible. If you get on a flight from London to Washington DC, all you need to know is how to buckle your seatbelt and how to put an oxygen mask on your face before you put it on a child; how to find the emergency exit and how to use the bathroom. I hope, for them, it's that simple and that safe, but it remains to be seen. I would advise them to know as much as possible about any contingency activities that could happen and what their exact roles and responsibilities would be.'
The vile and horrible Katie Hopkins allegedly instructed her legal team to 'sling mud' at the food blog writer Jack Monroe while they defended Hopkins in court from accusations of libel, a strategy for which she should 'pay the price,' Monroe's barrister has said. Closing his submissions on the third and final day of the defamation hearing against Hopkins, William Bennett told the high court in London that the controversial columnist had never apologised for two Twitter messages she directed at Monroe in May 2015, which allegedly implied that the blogger had defaced or supported the defacing of war memorials. Monroe argues that the tweets are libellous, have caused serious reputational harm and led to death threats from other Twitter users. The judge, Mr Justice Warby, has reserved judgment in the case until later this month. The dispute between the two writers originated as a case of mistaken identity when Hopkins, who writes for The Scum Mail Online, messaged Monroe: 'Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom[?] Grandma got any more medals?' The court has heard that Hopkins had confused the food writer with Laurie Penny, a columnist for the New Statesman who had earlier tweeted that she had 'no objection' to the recent defacing of a war memorial as part of an anti-austerity protest. Monroe replied to Hopkins: 'NEVER "scrawled on a memorial." Brother in the RAF. Dad was a Para in the Falklands. You're a piece of shit,' and sent further tweets requesting an immediate apology or retraction. Hopkins - in a typically crass and cowardly fashion - deleted the original tweet two hours later, but posted a second, which read: 'Can someone explain to me – in ten words or less – the difference between irritant Penny Red and social anthrax Ms Jack Monroe.' Well yes, Katie, I think that's quite straight forward: 'They are two completely different women.' That's six words which, if you have trouble with maths is less than ten. Bennett told the court: 'We say the second tweet was published as an act of defiance against [Monroe]. It was absolutely obvious to the defendant that the complainant absolutely abhorred the behaviour being ascribed to her.' He disputed the argument of Hopkins's own legal team that the first message had merely been 'part of a heated political debate' – 'We say there is no political message in that tweet' – and rejected another of the defence's arguments, advanced earlier, that 'people don't believe what they read on Twitter, that somehow Twitter is the Wild West.' 'Even if Twitter is "the Wild West," which we dispute, that doesn't exclude it from the operation of the law. Even the Wild West had local marshals to ensure people weren't bullied.' The court was told on Tuesday by Hopkins' barrister that the claim was part of 'a crusade' against the columnist and that Monroe was 'an equally provocative voice' on Twitter who used 'an arsenal of dirty insults' to express 'outrageous' political views 'publicly, aggressively, on an almost daily basis.' Bennett said that he believed the defence lawyers had conducted the case professionally, 'but they are acting under instructions – the instructions of Katie Hopkins.' Those instructions, he said, were 'to throw mud at the complainant and rake up stale allegations that we say are wholly irrelevant to the court's decision.' He added: 'As with any libel case, a defendant ought to pay the price of running that sort of strategy during a trial.'
A floral Gustav Klimt painting has sold for nearly forty eight million knicker, making it the third most expensive piece of art ever sold in Europe. Bauerngarten (Farmhouse Garden) is now the highest-priced landscape by the Austrian artist. It is the first time in twenty years that the oil-on-canvas had been auctioned. The painting, showing 'an informal profusion of poppies, daisies and roses' sold for forty seven million nine hundred and seventy one thousand two hundred and fifty smackers at Sotheby's in London. It was part of a record-breaking sale totalling nearly two hundred million quid at the auction house on Wednesday.
Lingerie firm Agent Provocateur has been bought by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley after it was placed into administration. Private equity group 3i has owned the struggling company since 2007. Agent Provocateur has ten stores in the UK and employs around six hundred people. It is not known if there will be any job losses. It has been reported that Ashley paid around twenty five million smackers, seeing off competition from another private equity firm, Lion Capital. The lingerie firm was sold to Ashley via a so called 'pre-pack deal' - which means a buyer is lined-up to buy the assets of a company, but crucially not its liabilities, such as its debt and pension deficit. Rumours that this blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United, also owned by yer man Ashley, will be turning out in fishnets, suspenders and naughty knickers next season - whatever division they're in - cannot, at this time, be entirely discounted.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle's remarkable away record continued on Tuesday night, as a frantic finish to a second-versus-first tussle saw The Magpies deservedly regain pole position in the Championship table with a two-one victory over them Brighton & Hove Albinos. Trailing to an early - rather dubiously - penalty, the visitors ultimately saw their hard work pay off when the home defence was breached twice late on - Mo Diame's freak equaliser followed by a massively significant and celebrated winner from Ayoze Perez.
      United made their maiden league visit to The Amex Stadium - although they've twice trekked there for FA Cup ties, both lost - and, unlike those previous woeful displays, this time actually made a serious attempt to win. That had been called into question by some when a team missing Dwight Gayle through injury included neither Daryl Murphy or Aleksandar Mitrovic - Yoan Gouffran shouldering a lone burden up front. Such a cautious approach may have betrayed a desire to avoid defeat above all else, but it looked to have handed the initiative to a Brighton & Hove Albinos side beaten just once in seventeen home games. Pre-match worries about the potential influence of the referee Bobby Madley - widely reported to come from a family of Huddersfield Town supporters - on the game appeared at least partly justified when he decided that some inconsequential six-of-one-and-half-a-dozen-of-the-other tussling between Ciaran Clark and Glenn Murray was worthy of a fourteenth minute penalty which was duly dispatched by the Albinos forward. At that point, there was genuine apprehension that United's promotion push was starting to falter, but going behind so early seemed to galvanise Newcastle and they began to show more attacking initiative against a Brighton side who seemed unsure of quite how to respond. Karl Darlow made a couple of timely blocks but the visitors looked more likely to score and twice came close to a breakthrough at the end of the first half through Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie. Paul Dummett made a vital goal-line clearance shortly after the resumption, but when Albinos 'keeper David Stockdale presented the ball to Gouffran only for the Frenchman's arse to fall out when presented with a scoring opportunity, it began to look as if this wasn't Newcastle's night and the first of a trio of potentially season-defining away games within a week would be lost. Rafa The Gaffer's response was to dispense with Jack Colback and introduce Daryl Murphy. The veteran forward soon had the home defence cacking bigly in their own shorts, Stockdale saving twice from Murphy headers. Nine minutes of time remained when a corner was fisted clear by Stockdale and although Atsu sliced his shot, it clipped Murphy's toe before looping off the heel of Diame and arcing into the roof of the Brighton net. If that was a piece of fortune - and, it was - then the eighty ninth minute winner was majestic: an inch-perfect long-range pass from Matt Ritchie found Atsu and he crossed to substitute Ayoze Perez who side-footed his first time effort past Stockdale.
The travelling support when apeshit! Added time was negotiated without incident before some joyous scenes at full time saw some Toon players throwing their shirts into the crowd. Rafa Benitez acknowledged the acclaim of the fans, while Darlow deservedly claimed the man of the match award for some crucial stops. Turning one point into three against their nearest rivals on their own ground felt pivotal, but in no way a fluke. If other away victories for United this season were enjoyable, this one was the real deal, a genuine scalp and tangible reward for the effort of the players and those near three thousand supporters who made the thousand mile plus round-trip to Sussex on a weekday to cheer the team on. The discipline, patience and persistence the players showed pointed to a message delivered and received on the training ground. Given their next few fixtures, it could be a vital victory for Newcastle as they face every other team in the current top seven in the next few weeks. They travel to third-placed Huddersfield, who now trail them by eight points, on Saturday and then go to Reading next Tuesday. By the middle of April they will also have faced Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Dirty Leeds.
Also on a football theme, this blogger is jolly grateful to his good chum Danny for asking him the following question on Facebook: 'If [Girls Aloud] were a five-a-side team playing against Saturdays United, who would you play where?' To which this blogger replied: 'Cheryl in goal - she could stop everything with her gob. Big Hard Kim at the back, Nicola as the ball-winner in midfield (cos the ball winner in midfield is usually a pint-sized ginge psycho), Sarah and Nadine up front. Twin-strike force. (All four of them).'
Disgraced ex-England footballer, convicted kiddie-fiddler and reet bad'un Adam Johnson will have to wait to learn whether a fresh appeal against his child sex conviction has been allowed. The extremely naughty twenty eight-year-old was sentenced to do jail for six years last March for sexually touching and grooming a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. Extremely banged up at Her Majesty's, he was later refused leave to appeal his conviction and sentence, but launched a second bid late last year. A panel of three judges reserved its decision on the new application at the Appeal Court. A decision will be made at a future date. Johnson was found extremely guilty of sexual touching, but not guilty on a charge relating to another sexual act. The former Blunderland player had previously admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity with a minor.
A Tibetan women's football team has claimed that they have been denied United States visas to take part in a tournament in Texas. They say that they were told they had 'no good reason' to visit the US. Most of the players are Tibetan refugees living in India and had applied at the US embassy in Delhi. US President - and hairdo - Donald Trump has imposed a travel ban (now frozen) on nationals from seven countries, but neither India nor China is on the list. Tibet, a remote and mainly-Buddhist territory known as 'the roof of the world,' is governed as an autonomous region of China. Cassie Childers, the executive director of Tibet Women's Soccer and a US citizen, told the BBC that she had accompanied the group of sixteen players for interviews at the embassy on 24 February. 'I am disappointed because we had planned the trip for months. It was a big moment in every player's life when they were told about the trip. It was their opportunity to tell the world that Tibetan women are capable of achieving anything,' she said. Childers added that she was 'ashamed' her country had refused to grant visas to a women's football team. However, she said that she did not think the denial had anything to do with the Trump administration. 'I had feared an outcome like this because Tibetans usually struggle to get US visas as officials fear that they might request asylum,' she said. She added that her team 'was in good spirits despite this setback. The players are very positive. I was very dejected but they motivated me. I hope some other place will invite us where Tibetans are welcomed. Otherwise, we will just get together in an Indian city and practice anyway.' Most of the women in the team carry Indian Identity Certificates, which are documents issued by the Indian government to Tibetan refugees and function as passports. Two members of the group held Indian passports. Another four players who live in Nepal and are Nepalese citizens, have also applied for visas in Kathmandu, but haven't heard from US officials. A US official told the AP news agency that they 'did not comment' on individual cases, but that the US position on Tibet had 'not changed,' which is that Tibet is still recognised as part of China. The team was planning to take part in the Dallas Cup, an annual tournament for youth teams from around the world.
Some one hundred and twenty diners celebrating a baptism at a restaurant in a North-Western Spanish town all fled the restaurant without paying, the owner said. Which, to be fair, is a hell of a good trick if you can pull it off. The Romanian diners, who had paid a deposit of nine hundred Euros, scarpered from the El Carmen restaurant in Bembibre just as dessert was due to be served, Antonio Rodriguez said. 'It happened in the space of a minute,' he added. 'It was something they had planned and they left in a stampede.' They owe a further two thousand Euros, Rodriguez noted. He gave police the details on the reservation but said that he 'held out little hope' of being repaid. Police told El Pais newspaper that they had 'not yet' been able to contact any of the diners. The diners had consumed starters, a main course and thirty bottles of various alcoholic drinks, Rodriquez said, adding that it was the first time in thirty five years of working in the restaurant trade that he had 'seen anything comparable.'
Sir Bruce Forsyth has spent five nights in intensive care after developing a severe chest infection. The eighty nine-year-old's manager confirmed to the BBC that he had been in hospital since Sunday. It is not yet known when the former Strictly Come Dancing host will be discharged from hospital. A friend of Sir Bruce told the Daily Scum Mail the presenter remained 'in great spirits.' In 2015, the presenter underwent keyhole surgery after suffering two aneurysms, which were discovered when tests were carried out following a fall at his Surrey home. Sir Bruce left Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, having presented it since the first series, but his manager denied reports in October that he had retired from the entertainment industry. Ian Wilson said at the time that Sir Bruce was 'recuperating from various health issues,' adding: 'His sole focus at the moment is to continue getting better and he has made no formal or informal decision about retiring from showbusiness.' Sir Bruce has not been seen in public recently and was too frail to attend the funerals of his close friends Ronnie Corbett and Sir Terry Wogan last year. In an interview last October, his wife said that he was still having 'a bit of a problem moving. He's in incredible shape mentally but he gets very tired,' she said, adding: 'With a little bit of luck he should be back.'
Britain's tallest man, who played a giant in Game Of Thrones, has died, reportedly of a heart attack, at the age of thirty six. Neil Fingleton, from Durham, was seven feet seven inches tall and was a basketball player in the US before moving into acting. He also worked on the X-Men movie franchise and in Doctor Who, in which he played The Fisher King in the 2015 episodes Under The Lake and Before The Flood. His title as Britain's tallest man was confirmed in 2007. Speaking on his decision to become an actor, which followed his retirement from basketball due to injury, Neil said: 'There are tens of millions of people in this country and I'm the tallest, which is a very special thing. So why not use it to my advantage and be recognised, not just for being tall but for being a talented actor?' Neil -seen below on the Doctor Who set with yer actual Peter Capaldi - was born in Durham in 1980. An outstanding basketball player, he spent eight years in education in the United States, winning a sporting scholarship and studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 2004 he made his professional debut as a basketball player for the Boston Frenzy. He later played professionally in China, Italy, Greece, Britain and for the Spanish teams Club Baloncesto Ilarcuris and Ciudad Real. In 2007 injury forced him to abandon his sporting career and he took up acting. He appeared in the film Forty Seven Ronin alongside Keanu Reeves and played Mag The Mighty in Game Of Thrones. He appeared in the 2015 film Jupiter Ascending, X-Men: First Class and in the Marvel Entertainment movie Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

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