Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Hard Way

Put yer actual Victoria Coren Mitchell in an episode of Qi - like this week's Oddballs - and pure, unadulterated filth will, surely, not be far behind! And, that's why we love the divine Goddess that is VCM. 'Am I alone in this?' Victoria asked. 'Whenever you see great-looking women at premiers, I don't understand how they do it. They used to have a pose on Page Three [of the Sun] where you've got the tits and the bum in the same shot!' You don't get this on Only Connect, dear blog reader. Well no, actually come to think of it, often you do!
Good news, everyone – we're going to be getting more Doctor Who than we thought this year. It has been revealed this week that Jodie Whittaker's first episode in the popular, long-running BBC family SF drama will be sixty five minutes long, properly introducing the new Doctor and her TARDIS team (played, as previously announced, by yer actual Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole) before reverting to the fifty-minute format for the series' nine subsequent episodes. The running time was unveiled on Thursday as part of a listing for the BBC Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool later this month.
Jodie's debut in the Doctor Who Christmas special was one of the highlight of the episode, introducing her Doctor in a quite literal blaze of glory as she crashed the TARDIS through time and space. It has been revealed this week that one of the reasons why Jodie's first scene stood out so well in Twice Upon A Time, despite it being filmed last, was that it was actually written by new showrunner Chris Chibnall before any of the rest of the episode. '[Chris and I] talked quite early – I think that was actually the first bit of the script written,' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) said earlier this week at the Radio Times Covers Party. 'So, he said this is where he wanted Jodie to begin, or the new Doctor to begin, so he sent me those pages and I worked the script up towards it.' Steven added that he doesn't mind taking a backseat as Chibnall and Whittaker's new era begins - even if it does mean some of his creations (including the former TARDIS set, which was recently dismantled) end up resigned to the past. 'I'm happy to stand back and let everyone else make the decisions now,' he said. 'I did the same thing ages ago. Doctor Who has to change radically all the time, not because it's necessary, because it's fun.' Nevertheless, there was one way in which Steven found it slightly harder to let go of. 'I thought of a really good monster the other day and realised we're never gonna do it,' he said. 'So I suppose [I'm still coming up with ideas] a bit. But I used to make up monsters all the time when I was a kid watching Doctor Who, so that's quite nice. Knowing I came up with a Doctor Who monster and don't have to have twelve million meetings about it. It just stays in my head.'
If one particular scene from the latest episode of The X Files was someone's idea of subconsciously planting notions in yer actual Chris Chibnall's head relating to potential guest stars for Jodie Whittaker's first series of Doctor Who, then this blogger applauds such an endeavour!
The sixth series of the acclaimed French drama Spiral concluded on Saturday with two quite superb episodes that danced around a question which has long been right at the core of the show's popularity: Who polices not just the police themselves, but also the wider political and judicial system? More prosaically, we had plotlines in which Tintin, unhappy at being kept out of the loop, took dramatic action to right a wrong; Laure's murder investigation continued, offering Gilou plenty of opportunity to practise his personal space-encroaching interrogation methods (and for the pair of them to find time for some much-needed shower-shagging) and Joséphine and Judge Roban both face personal crises.
In the end, it was a series of unresolved endings for almost all of the characters which was, perhaps, how Spiral should be, given that it deals with shades of grey rather than black and white. Though, it was difficult to work out which of the central characters had the worst of it; Joséphine, banged-up in the pokey on remand for her revenge-is-a-dish-best-served-at-the-wheel-of-a-car malarkey; the good Judge forced into suspension over his medical issues and facing an uncertain future; Tintin, divorced - literally and, in terms of the term, metaphorically; Gilou, standing by his car with a giant panda waiting for Laure who has, seemingly, crumbled under the pressure on impending motherhood. Oh, it was all so sad. As the Gruniad's James Donaghy asked in his - excellent - review of the episodes: 'Has victory ever tasted so sour? ... Spiral is often compared to The Wire, but it also shares DNA with another US cable masterpiece: The Shield. As with Vic Mackey's strike team, there is no escaping your misdemeanours – they snowball and crush you. Unless you are Gilou, of course. Remarkably, he seems to have slipped the noose again. "I might be a twat, but I know things," he tells Drissa. They should put that on his tombstone if it turns out he is not immortal. And, what a scene it was with him punching the daylights out of Jolers, screaming: "What have you become?" Clearly, he was addressing himself as much as the hapless human punchbag beneath him.'
Now, here's a thing dear blog reader. All series, based on a stray one-liner this blogger seemingly misunderstood in an article from about three years ago, this blogger has been assuming that the current sixth series of Engrenages was likely to be the last. Seemingly not - something which delights this blogger no-end. Apparently, shooting on a seventh, twelve-episode, series began in January in Paris. The plot, apparently, involves a double homicide in a Chinese restaurant. Sounds like one or two nights out yer actual Keith Telly Topping has had in his time. Please allow this blogger a brief, but loud, 'Oui!' at this news.
Sherlock fans already know that it's going to be a while before the popular BBC crime drama returns. Co-creator The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) confirmed to Radio Times: 'Nobody has ever closed the door on Sherlock – we just say the same thing all the time and it gets quoted different ways. We haven't got an immediate plan, but I would remain surprised, given the collective enthusiasm we have for it, if we didn't do it again. When, I don't know. I think maybe the time for a longer gap is upon us. A longer gap? They're always long gaps!' Co-creator Mark Gatiss added that these days, he and The Moff are working hard on their new series. 'We're doing Dracula, which is going to take two years at least,' explained Mark. 'We're not going to do Sherlock whilst we're doing Dracula. So it's not going to happen in the immediate future. Never say never, but no - we don't have an idea [right now].' Moffat added: 'I could see us making more Sherlocks. I could see us making Sherlocks way in the future. It's not the kind of show that has to come back all the time. It can revisit. Every time Sherlock comes back, it's a reunion show.'
In the same interview Steven and Mark talked about their planned timeline for Dracula and even reflected on who could play the infamous titular Byronic vampire. Revealing they are at their 'favourite part' of the development process, 'throwing ideas around,' Mark confirmed that the pair will begin writing the series in earnest this month. 'We're going to go away to start writing it ... Next month,' he said. Gatiss added that Dracula won't be ready for at least two years. 'But once we get moving, we'll move fast,' Moffat added. Reluctant to give any further details about the project, Steven continued: 'I'm really not telling you anything about what we've got. We know what we're doing, but we're not saying it yet.' 'Who could play Dracula himself? Well, that's a very good question,' Mark mused, before backtracking on the idea of a female Dracula. 'Or herself? No, that's a mistake. That'll haunt me for the next ten years.'
Requiem, the spooky new drama on BBC1 about a cellist called Matilda Gray (played by Lydia Wilson) and an historic missing child case began on Friday followed by an immediate iPlayer box-set release. 'If the planets align and if we all decide that it's the right thing to do then it could come back [for another run],' writer Kris Mrksa told Radio Times. 'I originally conceived of it as a two-part story and it’s a possibility.' Before then viewers are urged to immerse themselves in the drama which takes the action to rural Wales where the suicide of Matilda's mother (played by Joanna Scanlan) appears to be linked to the 1994 disappearance of a young girl called Carys. Requiem also stars Joel Fry as Matilda's friend Hal, Downton Abbey's Brendan Coyle as Stephen Kendrick, the detective who originally investigated Carys's disappearance and ended up living in the area where she went missing, Claire Rushbrooke, Tara Fitzgerald and Hinterland's Richard Harrington. Pre-publicity had suggested it was being seriously touted as 'the scariest drama ever shown on British TV.' The opening episode was slow-moving but, really rather good and with a couple of proper jump-out-your-seat shocking moments in it. Here's the Radio Times review.
Yer actual Maisie Williams revealing when Game Of Thrones would, allegedly, broadcast its eighth and final series was reported pretty much everywhere last week. Amongst many other places, on this very blog. However, it now appear not to be true. HBO broke the news last year that the immense production schedule for the final episodes won't make it possible for Game Of Thrones to be broadcast in 2018. Metro recently published what it claimed were direct quotes from Williams about a possible broadcast date. 'We wrap in December and we air our first episode in April [2019],' she is alleged to have said. 'That's a four-month turnaround for these huge episodes. There's a lot that goes into the final edit. You would not want to rush this season at all. We owe it to our audience and our fans to really do this final season to the best of our abilities.' However, Maisie has since claimed on Twitter that the publication misquoted her: 'Just a tweet letting you know this Game Of Thrones release date "quote" I've supposedly given is completely false and taken from an interview I did years ago.'
Jason Isaacs has discussed the future of his Star Trek: Discovery character Captain Lorca after another huge episode which could have major repercussions for the rest of the series. Lorca, who it was revealed last week is actually from The Mirror Universe, was seemingly killed off in this week's episode What's Past Is Prologue, stabbed in the back and shoved into the ship's reactor by The Mirror Universe's Emperor (played by Michelle Yeoh). Isaacs confirms that this particular Lorca is very much dead. But that might not mean it's the last we've seen of the actor on the drama, of course. 'The prognosis is not good for [Mirror Lorca] given he was dissolved into a million pieces on camera,' Isaacs told Entertainment Weekly. 'There are not many homeopathic cures that can help that.' When asked specifically about Prime Lorca, Isaacs remained coy. 'There was a Prime Lorca,' he said. 'He was captain of the Buran in the Prime world. He swapped with him and found himself captain of the Buran. If I did [know what happened to Prime Locra], you'd have to stand behind my wife, friends and professional collaborators to find out the answer. I've kept this one big secret for six months - I am certainly going to keep any others.' One thing Isaacs was happy to talk about was the final fight scene between Lorca and Georgiou. In fact, he had very complimentary things to say about Michelle Yeoh. 'The fight was epic and shot in a day,' he recalled. 'It should have been a month, but it's TV, so what are you going to do? Michelle is a brilliant fighter and can fight at six times the speed that my eyelids work at. So it was tough to keep up with her and look like I was fighting her and not just being beaten up by her.'
National heartthrob yer actual David Tennant has accepted 'substantial undisclosed damages' from the publishers of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World over a phone-hacking claim. News Group Newspapers settled Tennant's High Court claim and issued a snivelling apology for their bad and naughty hacking ways. Ben Silverstone, acting on behalf of News Group Newspapers, claimed that the company offered 'sincere apologies' for the distress caused and it 'accepted' it had no right to intrude into his private life in any way. One or two people even believed them. He was among six individuals who settled claims on Tuesday of this week, including Olympic medallist Colin Jackson. NGN, however, made no admission of liability to claims relating to the Sun. One or two people even believed that too. Other people who settled claims were actress Sophia Myles, party-planner Fran Cutler, fashion designer Jess Morris and footballer David James's ex-wife, Tanya Frayne. Tennant first launched his lawsuit in March 2017, after the parent company of the Scum of the World closed its compensation scheme in 2013. Civil claims against NGN have been moving through the courts since 2012 and have resulted in four aborted trials, costing the company millions in legal fees. Earlier this month four other people settled claims with the publisher of the Sun and the Scum of the World. Coronation Street actor Jimmi Harkishin, TV presenter Kate Thornton, comedian Vic Reeves and former Spice Girls' manager Chris Herbert, all received damages on 18 January.
Peaky Blinders wrote out one of its most popular characters in series four's final but things could, apparently, have played out very differently. Fan favourite Alfie Solomons (played by Tom Hardy) was shot very dead by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) after it transpired that he had betrayed his former ally to the mobster Luca Changretta. Alfie's days were numbered anyway, as he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, according to Peaky Blinders actor Paul Anderson there was 'some debate' over Alfie's ultimate fate, since Hardy was keen to continue playing the character. 'I didn't know that was coming,' Anderson told the Digital Spy website. 'We were unsure. There was a whole thing [taking place] about whether or not Alfie would live or die, or get shot or not. It was up for debate and discussion. I know that Tom didn't want to go.'
Series two of American Gods has finally found a new writer. Former Lost scriptwriter Jesse Alexander replaces Bryan Fuller and Michael Green as showrunner alongside author Neil Gaiman for the upcoming new series. Ricky Whittle posted a picture of Jesse and Neil on Twitter this week. Neil revealed he was 'thrilled' by the new addition to the American Gods team.
Countdown is, yet again, causing some red faces at Channel Four. Something which does regularly and, indeed, so well.
Endeavour's upcoming fifth series will 'pay tribute' to the late Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter. The writer - who died aged eighty six last March - was from that rare strand, an author who not only created his long-running Inspector Morse series of novels, but also was part of the process of adapting them for the ITV series and its two sequels, Lewis and Endeavour. He turned over the reigns for prequel series Endeavour to showrunner Russell Lewis, who has now planned 'a fitting tribute' to the late writer in upcoming episodes. 'For us, he was our true North,' Lewis said. 'I hope everything we've done honours his creation and his spirit. He is still a presence for us. His initial creation of Morse and then it being turned into television from 1987 onwards, we never forget that for a minute. That's what keeps us at it. We don't want to let his standards and the standards of the three shows to drop in any way, shape or form. "What would Colin do?" is our cri de coeur. Colin was physically absent in the last series but made appearances via portraits and so on. We asked the family if they were happy for that to continue and they gave us their blessing. It really wouldn't be the same without our master somewhere in there.' Producer Damien Timmer of Mammoth Screen added: 'It was a privilege to work with Colin on Endeavour and everyone involved will miss his contribution to the show. He was the most delightful collaborator with a razor shape mind. We hope this new series will continue to do his legacy justice.'
From The North's highly-anticipated (by about four of you) regular weekly final and consolidated ratings round-up is missing-in-action in the latest bloggerisationisms (the figures for week-ending 28 January). This is due to some geet silly sausage at the BBC apparently failing to send in any figures for BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4 to the British Audience Research Bureau. The weekly top thirty programmes for ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five, plus the top tens for all of the multichannels can be found here and here if you're desperate for your weekly ratings fix. Hopefully, if the Beeb get their shit together, normal service will be resumed next time around.

Brendan Cole has announced that he will not be returning to Strictly Come Dancing. The professional dancer revealed during a TV interview on Tuesday that the decision was made by the BBC, saying that he was 'in shock' about getting the old tin-tack. 'They made an editorial decision not to have me back on the show,' he said on ITV's Lorraine. A spokesman for the popular BBC dance competition thanked Cole for 'being part of the show since the beginning' and contributing to its success. Cole was one of the first professional dancers when the show launched in 2004, which was the year he won the contest as the partner of the newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky. He said: 'I'm a little bit in shock at the moment. I'm quite emotional and a bit raw about it. I am very disappointed. It's an editorial decision. I will never know the ins-and-outs. I have had fifteen incredible series on the show, I'm very proud of the whole show, they're a great team.' Cole, who is currently on tour with his musical show All Night Long, said that the exit would give him time to work 'on other projects.' Which is exactly what people usually say when they they've just been elbowed out of a job they appeared perfectly happy in. He is also awaiting the birth of his second child with the model Zoe Hobbs. The New Zealand ballroom dancer will be remembered for fiercely defending his z-list celebrity partners in front of the judges on the show. This included Jo Wood during the seventh series when the judge Craig Revel Horwood compared her dancing to 'a bush kangaroo.' The most recent series saw Cole paired with Good Morning Britain presenter, Charlotte Hawkins, whom he defended before their elimination in week four. 'I'm a very strong character within the show, I have my views and I love that side of the show,' he told Lorraine Kelly. Subsequently, in an interview with Daily Scum Mail, Cole that said he now 'regrets' the constant rows he had with the judges over the years and the way he handled the situation, admitting he thinks it was perhaps this factor which ultimately cost him his job. You think?
Shannen Doherty has weighed in on The CW's Charmed reboot - reported on the last bloggerisationisms update - and she, seemingly, is every single bit as uphappy with how it is being sold as her former castmate, Holly Marie Combs. The planned revival was announced by the network last week and touted as 'a feminist reboot,' seemingly implying that the popular original version wasn't feminist – angering both fans of the original series as well as Doherty's co-stars. The official synopsis for the reboot read: 'This fierce, funny, feminist reboot of the original series centres on three sisters in a college town who discover they are witches. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy and maintaining familial bonds, a witch's work is never done.' In a Twitter Q&A on Saturday, Doherty - who played Prue Halliwell on the show from 1998 to 2001 - shared her thoughts on the synopsis, calling it 'offensive.' 'Their wording is terrible and a bit offensive,' she said. 'But, everyone makes mistakes. Perhaps with the backlash they will be more thoughtful in future. [It's a] very ignorant, stupid comment. Perhaps made by a millennial that never watched the show and just read a synopsis on it.' The reboot was previously criticised by Holly Marie Combs, who insisted that the stars of the original series should be 'heavily involved' behind the scenes.
The BBC has renewed its Premier League football highlights licence for another three years. That means Match Of The Day will continue to be on our screens until at least 2022. Match of the Day 2, Football Focus, The Premier League Show and the Sunday repeat of MOTD are also staying put for the time being. The Director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater said: 'To keep Premier League highlights on the BBC is testament to the continued success and popularity of Match Of The Day. Our long-standing partnership with the Premier League continues to flourish and evolve, as seen with the recently launched Super Movers initiative. The new deal strengthens that relationship even further and ensures the nation's favourite sport will continue to be seen by the widest possible audience.'
Katherine Heigl is joining legal drama Suits as a regular for its eighth series. She will play Samantha Wheeler, a new partner in the Pearson Specter Litt law firm. The former Grey's Anatomy and Roswell actress claimed that she 'watched Suits from the very beginning' and is 'an immense fan' of the cast. It comes after the show's broadcaster, USA Network, announced Meghan Markle and Patrick J Adams were leaving. Markle is, of course, giving up acting after becoming engaged to Prince Harry, while Adams - who plays Mike Ross, the boyfriend of Markle's character, Rachel Zane - said that he was 'looking forward to watching the show as a fan.' See above, re-Brenda Cole 'looking forward to other projects.' Heigl's new character in Suits has been described by the show's producers as the law firm's 'greatest ally or most powerful enemy.' It is Heigl's first major role since her departure from Grey's Anatomy, which she left after reportedly clashing with the production team. She has since appeared in White House drama State Of Affairs and thriller Doubt, but neither show was particularly successful. She will be joined by another newcomer in Suits - The West Wing's Dule Hill. He will play Alex Williams, a senior partner at a rival law firm. Series seven of the popular comedy drama will conclude in March, with filming for the new series starting the following month.
It has, almost unbelievably, been two years since yer actual David Bowie died and to mark the anniversary BBC World Service radio has commissioned a play about the making of his final CD, Blackstar. Jon Culshaw has moved beyond the comedy impressions that he specialises in to create a portrait of the artist in his final weeks in the place he loved so much, a recording studio. It may seem surprising, but until David Morley wrote his play The Final Take: Bowie In The Studio, no one seems to have portrayed Bowie at length in a drama. There had been countless brief impersonations in adverts and comedy sketches on radio and TV. Some of those were by Culshaw, of Dead Ringers fame, who has taken the central role in The Final Take. It's a semi-monologue, the other main role being Bowie's producer, Tony Visconti (played by American actor Martin T Sherman). 'But, of course, doing a quick forty five-second gag is totally different from a considered play about David's last weeks,' said Culshaw. 'And, I'm happy to acknowledge the great Bowie impersonator for comic effect has always been Phil Cornwell who used to do him so brilliantly on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2. But this play isn't about getting laughs.' The Final Take was recorded late last year in a studio in London, with Dirk Maggs directing. Culshaw says that it took 'a while' to find the right performance. 'I play David when he's in The Magic Shop recording studio in New York, so at first we tried to tape everything with the lights low for a laid-back, jazz club feel and me sitting down. But it didn't work: it sounded stilted. I needed to stand up and move around a bit even if the listener won't really get that. The play is half what's going on in David's head and half his conversation with Tony Visconti. They were long-standing colleagues and real friends so Tony is deeply worried when David tells him he has cancer. Overall about eighty per cent of what's in the script comes from what David wrote or said in interviews.' Culshaw researched the role by going through those interviews. They were 'invigorating,' he says. 'He has such a fantastic personality. However sad it was, I enjoyed studying what he said and figuring out how his brain worked. He was a wonderfully generous interviewee,' explains Culshaw. And, above all, he says that the accent he adopted had to be 'just right. David had started with a South London accent but it was definitely from out in the suburbs - and of course he'd spent much of the second-half of his life in the States. A comic take on Bowie's voice could be wildly exaggerated but if anything we underplayed.' But also vital was respect, for both the music legend - and his family. 'At one point in the script I was going to do a little a cappella singing of a bit of 'Lazarus' from the Blackstar album. But that was the one thing the Bowie estate asked us not to do,' says Culshaw. 'We show that David knows he has cancer but is resolute that it won't dim his energy or destroy his creativity. It's the core of the play and I think we all found it haunting. Even at the end he's at the top of his game.' Culshaw says that everyone involved thought of David Morley's play as 'a tribute' to Bowie. 'I'm delighted to be giving a performance that's not broadly comic but I was a little nervous at first about catching David's humanity,' he adds. But, Culshaw concludes, one interview in particular 'gave me courage. David said if you're feeling totally comfortable in the work you're doing then maybe you're not doing the right thing. He said always go a little bit further into the water than you feel you should. It was the rule he lived and created by - so I tried to do the same thing.'
Olivia Colman will be taking over from Claire Foy on series three and four of The Crown and she has revealed that she will start filming the role in July. It was announced last October that Colly would be taking over the main lead of the award-winning Netflix drama.
Luther series five is currently in the middle of filming and a widely-published on location photo shows Idris Elba having, seemingly, just been on the receiving end of a good chinning.
Trailers for the new - fourth - series of Shetland and the much anticipated Collateral have been released by the BBC this week ahead of the two dramas broadcast dates on Tuesday 13 February and Monday 12 February respectively.
Jenna Coleman has debuted her new blonde hairstyle in a photograph on Instagram as she prepares to film psychological TV drama The Cry in Australia. And, this constitutes 'news', apparently. The Cry, a four-art psychological thriller is adapted from a novel by Helen Fitzgerald and is currently being filmed in Australia.
There was a pure dead choice Columbo triple-bill on 5USA on Sunday. First there was Shatner overacting his little cotton socks off in Fade Into Murder, then Murder By The Book (directed by Steven Spielberg and with David Cassidy's dad as the killer!) and then Troubled Waters with Robert Vaughn and Patrick Macnee. Sunday afternoons just like they were in the 1970s, dear blog reader; only with better central heating, obviously.
Indeed, what with both ITV3 and the Universal Channel also occasionally running episodes from the later, post-1989 series it's not unusual for a day to go by where there's as many as five different episodes on British TV per day (usually at weekends). One, even more staggeringly, three different episodes on three different channels at the same time. And, why not? it is, after all, as Stephen fry has deemed 'the greatest TV show ever made.' Seems it's still running regularly in the US too. This blogger's dear and excellent fiend Ben Adams noted on Facebook that he'd just watched Any Old Port In A Storm, considering Donald Pleasance's performance to be one of the best of his career (and, he's not wrong, either). He asked for suggestions for favourite episodes and this blogger went straight for the astounding Étude In Black (1972), in which the cat-and-mouse games between Peter Falk and guest murderer John Cassavetes (a close friend of Falk in real life, of course) twist and turn through ninety seven agonising, intense, thrilling minutes. It is, if you've never seen it, a work of genius (written by Steven Bochco from a Richard Levinson story, incidentally).
But then, of course, that bypasses Nimoy's superb turn in A Stitch In Time, Dick van Dyke playing wonderfully against type in Negative Reaction, Johnny Cash's sympathetic killer in Swan Song, Nicol Williamson having a dog and barking himself in How To Dial A Murder, a surprisingly mature and balance look at Irish politics in The Conspirators and McGoohan at his twitchy, neurotic best in Identity Crisis (the closest we ever got to a lost eighteenth episode of The Prisoner!)
'Just one more thing,' dear blog reader, whilst we're on the subject. A few years ago, dear blog reader, when HMV were having their 'we're in liquidation, no we aren't, yes we are' period they, briefly, stopped accepting their own voucher which was bastard annoying as yer actual Keith Telly Topping had thirty quids worth from the previous Christmas. As, this blogger wrote with some righteous and incandescent fury at the time! However, after about a week, they bowed to public outrage and started taking them again and, also, slashed the price of pretty much everything in the shop in half. So, this blogger went in with his thirty quid, bought the Columbo box-set (in the really rather lovely Cigar Box design), the Thick Of It box-set and the Flight Of The Conchords box-set and walked out of the gaff with all three having only spent about a tenner in actual money! That, dear blog reader, was a good day. And, despite the fact that episodes seem to be on TV more often than The News, the Columbo DVDs still get a regular bashing whenever this blogger's in the mood. Every home should have one, frankly.
Greg Dyke, the former Director General of the BBC, has criticised politicians who accuse broadcasters of chasing TV ratings as 'pompous.' And, what a great pity it is he didn't show that sort of backbone when he was in the job. Dyke said that one of the 'great myths' about television was that winning ratings was easy and questioned critics who try to stop broadcasters 'going downmarket' to win audiences. The BBC is frequently criticised by scumbag politicians and louse rivals - who, obviously, have no thoroughly sick agenda smeared all over their disgusting faces, oh no, very hot water - for chasing ratings, especially on a Saturday night. Negotiations for the most recent renewal of the BBC's royal charter – which sets the licence fee and the BBC's obligations – were marred by calls from politicians for the broadcaster to be 'barred' from broadcast popular programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing in prime slots. However, in an article for the Radio Times, Dyke said that winning the Saturday night ratings battle between the BBC and ITV was 'a bit like winning Christmas' and 'demonstrates that the BBC takes seriously the "entertain" bit of its remit to inform, educate and entertain.' He also said that getting a show to work in the Saturday night slots was 'incredibly difficult,' which is why the likes of Casualty, Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor are all long-running programmes. 'One of the great myths propagated by people who observe television from the outside is that getting ratings is easy,' Dyke said. 'As such, the more pompous amongst them – usually politicians – see their role as stopping broadcasters going further downmarket in their search for ratings. If only it was that easy.' Dyke was Director General of the BBC for four years until he resigned in 2004 on the back of The Hutton Inquiry into the corporation's handling of Andrew Gilligan's story on the so-called 'dodgy dossier' on Iraq. Before then, Dyke had revitalised TV-am, which ran breakfast television for ITV and led London Weekend Television. The audience for ITV's The X Factor fell to the lowest levels since the show launched in 2004 during last year's series, but Dyke said that the programme was 'still valuable' to the broadcaster because it attracted a young audience. He said The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing were 'among a small number' of entertainment formats that have proved popular on a Saturday night for a sustained period, including The Generation Game, Blind Date, Beadle's About and Noel Edmonds' shows. 'What's really interesting is that it's hard to come up with a programme that was created in the last decade, with the possible exception of The Voice, which has been a moderate hit on both BBC1 and ITV,' Dyke said. 'Although its rating are in decline, The X Factor is still valuable to ITV because it attracts a young audience, while Strictly attracts the rest. The question is what happens when they disappear, as all entertainment shows eventually do? In the end the format and the hosts get boring and the audience gradually stops watching. TV controllers all want a new format involving new talent, but so far nothing has emerged that doesn't look like one of the shows it's replacing. For producers the financial rewards for creating the next big show are enormous. The BBC has made millions from Strictly and has produced it in many countries around the world.'
Future contestants on the BBC quiz show Mastermind will no longer be allowed to pick Fawlty Towers, The Black Adder or Roald Dahl as their specialist subjects as the producers have, they claim, run out of questions on those subjects. Mark Helsby, Mastermind's producer, has revealed that some subjects are so popular they have been 'exhausted' for new questions. Father Ted and The Chronicles Of Narnia have also been removed from consideration. Since Mastermind and its famous black chair was launched in 1972, it has become renowned as one of the toughest quiz shows in Britain, with contenders answering questions on a chosen subject before a general knowledge round. The programme was initially hosted by Magnus Magnusson but the questions are now asked by John Humphrys. In a rare insight into the workings of the programme, Helsby revealed that the Harry Potter novels was the most requested specialist subject last year – with two hundred and sixty two people wanting to answer questions about the series when only one of them could – and that there must be 'at least two good quality books' on any biographical or historical subject, while a specialist subject covering just a single book or film is not allowed. 'Thirty-two people wanted to do Fawlty Towers last year,' Helsby told the Radio Times, explaining why some subjects would no longer be an option. 'Nineteen wanted Blackadder and twenty two wanted Father Ted. Some of the very popular literary subjects such as The Chronicles Of Narnia or Roald Dahl probably wouldn't be agreed to for the same reason.' Helsby said that some topics were 'too narrow,' such as Romeo & Juliet, or 'too broad,' such as the entire works of Shakespeare and that Mastermind does not repeat subjects from one series to the next. 'You can do any subject you want – within reason. They have to be suitable for broadcast on BBC2 on a Friday night, but pretty much everything is doable, provided there's sufficient source material to refer to,' he said. The producer also addressed criticism - from snobs - that Mastermind is allegedly 'dumbing down' by allowing contestants to answer questions about modern television series when a rival is addressing a historical or literary subject. 'People have been accused of taking the easy option by choosing a comedy like Friends or Frasier but they have over two hundred episodes each, so that's still a lot of research,' Helsby said. 'There's sometimes a debate on Twitter about whether it is fair to have a "classic" Mastermind specialist subject in the same programme as someone doing a sitcom, but we treat equally and it's the skill of the question writers, verifiers and the team putting the questions together in the office to make sure that they are comparable tests of knowledge.'
One of the cast of The Wonder Years has alleged that the show's run was cut short due to a sexual harassment suit filed against Fred Savage. The EMMY-winning American family comedy drama was a firm favourite in the 1990s, setting the life of precocious high-schooler, Kevin Arnold (played Savage) against the turbulence of the mid-to-late-1960s. However, the show's costume designer, Monique Long, infamously filed a sexual harassment claim against then-sixteen-year-old Savage and his on-screen brother, Jason Hervey, during The Wonder Years' sixth series, over her alleged mistreatment on-set. The case was ultimately settle out of court, with Savage later telling the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996 that he had been 'completely exonerated.' The Wonder Years did not return for a seventh series following the lawsuit was filed and, more than twenty five years later, Savage's on-screen mother, Alley Mills, has laid all of the blame on the show's demise on the harassment controversy. 'When we shot the series finale, which was in Whittier [California], nobody knew whether or not The Wonder Years was going to be renewed and that's because of a completely ridiculous sexual harassment suit that was going on against Fred Savage - who is, like, the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the Earth,' she told Yahoo News. 'So, I just thought it was a big joke and it was going to blow over. But, it's a little bit like what's happening now. Some innocent people can get caught up in this stuff. It's very tricky. It was so not true. It was my [costumer] and I don't care if she's listening. I probably shouldn't be telling this, but I don't care because it's so long ago and it's gotta be over now.' Mills also claimed that the cast were held under a 'gag-order' by the network at the time, so she has waited until now to speak out. '[The Wonder Years] would have gone as long as the ratings kept the show going [without the suit],' she said.
The ending of the cult crime series Castle was a little confusing – not least for one of its leads, Stana Katic, who is still unsure about what actually happened and why. Katic was 'let go' from Castle after its eighth series in 2016 while there were still initial plans for a ninth. That never materialised, however, as the show was unceremoniously cancelled by the ABC network. Speaking about her controversial exit from the series ahead of her latest project, Absentia, Stana told Entertainment Weekly that she was 'hurt' by what happened. 'I'm actually still not clear on the thought-process behind the way that it went down. It hurt and it was a harsh ending,' she admitted. Despite its acrimonious ending, Stana conceded that she can't be 'anything but grateful' to have worked on the show. 'I met so many beautiful people on that project and we collaborated on something really unique in that it's not every day that you get a show, or a series, that has eight seasons and that it was a hit for the network,' she said. 'It would be a disservice to those people, to the work that we did together, and to my work, which I feel contributed, in part, to the success of the show, to be anything but grateful because, at the end of the day, that was a fantastic platform.'
Giles Coren has extremely resigned as presenter of the BBC's flagship arts programme mere months after he admitted that he rarely went to the theatre as he found it 'stressful.' Coren's feelings about theatre prompted scorn from critics and the sort of people who talk loudly in restaurants and questions about his 'suitability' for his role as one of the new television presenters of Front Row as it switched from BBC Radio 4 to BBC2 last September. At least, all of this is according to some snob of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star so, you know, make of it what you will dear blog reader. In an interview marking his appointment, Coren, who has reputation as an acerbic restaurant critic, told the Radio Times that he found the theatre 'stressful' because he 'worried' about actors forgetting their lines and found the seats 'uncomfortable.' He said that he had 'not been to the theatre much in the past six or seven years' partly because he was 'too busy' looking after his young children, making it difficult for him to make curtain up at 7.30pm. Now, just over four months later, Coren has said that his 'bursting diary' has forced him to stand down from the role. Referring to his detractors in a tweet, he said: 'The arts (and especially theatre) world will be wearing black armbands today.' Alistair Smith, the editor of The Stage, was one of those who expressed reservations about Coren's appointment. But he said that he been 'won over' by his brief stint as presenter and was 'sorry' that Coren would be leaving the programme. Smith told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'Some of the stuff Giles said in the run-up to the airing of the series was silly - and he did antagonise a few people within the theatre world. But he is a talented broadcaster and someone who has shown that he can engage a mass audience.' He added: 'Theatre and the arts more generally, needs talented communicators to help it speak to as broad a cross-section of people as possible and I think that as part of a broader mix of presenters he could have played a really valuable role in this. And he makes good telly.'
Going on the US TV show The Bachelor requires disappearing from your regular life. Contestants leave behind their jobs, pets, family, friends and social media accounts for days or weeks or even months to compete for true love. But one contestant did it so completely that she was reported as missing to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, when in fact she was competing on the reality show. On Thursday, a story in the North Coast Journal on thirty five people currently listed as missing in Humboldt County, California, included Rebekah Martinez. The newspaper asked readers if they recognised anyone in their collection of missing people and Martinez was quickly recognised ... as a contestant on The Bachelor, one of the most widely-viewed programmes on American telly. She's doing quite well on the show, as it happens. According to the North Coast Journal, Martinez's mother had reported her missing on 18 November after not hearing from her since 12 November, a time-frame which aligns with The Bachelor's typical filming schedule. The newspaper noted that after a reader pointed out that Martinez was on The Bachelor, a public information officer in Humboldt County spoke to Martinez and confirmed that she had been removed from the missing and unidentified persons unit. On Friday, Martinez addressed the mix-up on Twitter. Bachelor contestants no doubt have a lot to do before uprooting their lives for what could be weeks to months. There's a packing list that includes everything from athleisure to ballgowns to 'clothes for all types of weather - snow, rain, sun and wind.' If you're Martinez, that list might include and telling your mother you'll be incommunicado for a while.
Frozen food giant Birds Eye has pulled a fish fingers advert over 'concerns' raised by County Durham safety campaigners. The TV advert featured a man and boy jumping into the sea with a voiceover declaring: 'Captain Birds Eye loves the simple things, like jumping into cold water on a hot day with his grandson.' A campaign group set up after the death of a fourteen-year-old boy from 'cold water shock' called the advert 'inappropriate.' And the firm - showing the sort of lack of backbone one normally associates with BBC management - have agreed to amend it. Cameron Gosling, from Crook, died after going swimming with friends in the River Wear in July 2015. It later emerged that he had not acclimatised to the cold temperature of the water. The teenager's family and Durham County Council subsequently launched the Dying to be Cool campaign to 'raise awareness' of the dangers of swimming in cold water. Cameron's mother Fiona contacted the company to say that she was 'shocked' when she saw the advert. She added: 'There are so many families and organisations that work so hard on water safety education. It seemed as though Birds Eye hadn't done its research before making it.' No. But, they do make very nice cod rissoles. So, you know, swings and roundabouts, innit? The council wrote to Birds Eye 'expressing concern' that the advert suggested jumping into cold water on a hot day was 'safe.' A spokesman for Birds Eye said: 'We take our advertising responsibilities very seriously and we were grateful to be made aware of this issue. We have taken the current advert off-air. We are now amending the voiceover to remove references to the temperature of the water and weather. As a family brand, we decided to take swift action and wish campaigners every success in highlighting this important issue.'
Two men who thought they had unearthed a stash of Roman gold coins had their dreams of wealth beyond avarice dashed when they discovered that the coins were, in fact, a prop for a TV sitcom. Andy Sampson and Paul Adams had been metal detecting in a field on the Suffolk/Essex border when they found more than fifty allegedly 'gold' coins with some pottery. Sampson said that his friend started 'shouting and jumping around and dancing' after he found the 'treasure.' However, it emerged that the coins were a prop for the BBC show Detectorists. And, if you look up the phrase 'oh, the irony' on Google, you'll find this story pretty near the top of the list. Sampson said the pair, who have only been metal detecting for a year, had spotted the farmer ploughing the field last summer and got his permission to go out one evening to check it out. 'Paul kept running at me shouting, "Roman gold!" and I thought, "he's winding me up,"' Sampson said. 'He was floating across the top of the field rather than running through it. I wish I'd had a camera.' The pair went back to the furrow and found more than fifty coins with pottery, which they believed at the time could have been worth up to a quarter of a million knicker. But, it wasn't. Sampson said that he immediately began working out how he was going to spend the vast amounts of wonga he was expecting, with plans including paying off the mortgage, buying a new car and going on 'the trip of a lifetime.' However, he took the find back home and showed it to his neighbour, who was less enthusiastic about it. Sampson said that his neighbour picked up the coins and immediately said 'they're not real - there's something wrong with them.' The pair 'made some inquiries' and soon found out the farm had been used as a filming location during the summer for the BBC4 comedy Detectorists, which stars Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones. It emerged that the production crew had filmed a tractor pulling a plough through the ground, unearthing the coins as it went. However, Sampson said, 'it had buried some as well' and they were the ones they found. The men said they had finally 'got over' their huge disappointment and it had not been put them off the hobby. One or two people even believed them.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies loan signing of Islam Slimani from Leicester City on transfer deadline day means Th' Toon now have Islam, Mohamed (Diame), Jesus (Games) and a Christian (Clark) currently on their books. As their supporters look for some sort of divine intervention to keep us up, no doubt. (This blogger is indebted to the lads over at the always excellent website for that joke!)
West Hamsters United have extremely sacked their director of player recruitment, Tony Henry, over claims that he said the club would not sign any more African players. The decision follows a report by the Daily Scum Mail which carried alleged quotes allegedly from Henry stating that African players 'cause mayhem' when they are not in the team. The club said that his alleged comments were 'unacceptable,' adding that they had conducted 'a full and thorough investigation.' West Hamsters United said that they will not tolerate any type of discrimination and have 'therefore, acted swiftly due to the serious nature of these claims.' A statement continued: 'The West Ham United family is an inclusive one where, regardless of gender, age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation, everybody feels welcome and included.' The Professional Footballers' Association said that it was 'shocked'and 'stunned' by the reported comments and was 'encouraged' by West Ham's response. 'The PFA strongly condemn any such views and there is no place for them in football,' it said. West Hamsters United currently have six first-team squad members of African descent: Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang, Joao Mario, Angelo Ogbonna, Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes. Senegal striker Diafra Sakho left the club in the January transfer window to join Rennes, with Ghana international Andre Ayew heading to Swansea. Henry, who has previously worked for Everton, Blunderland and Moscow Chelski FC, joined West Hamsters United in 2014. He played professionally for several clubs, including Sheikh Yer Man City, Notlob and Oldham Not Very Athletic.
A footballer has described being 'taunted' by fellow players and opposition fans after he spoke out publicly about his mental health struggles. David Cox, who plays for Scottish League Two side Cowdenbeath, said that he had been called 'a psycho' and mocked about 'slitting his wrists.' The twenty eight-year-old has called for the game's authorities to act on the abuse in the same way they do against racism. Speaking to Radio Scotland's John Beattie, Cox claimed that he had been abused by football fans and colleagues alike since revealing that he had self-harmed and attempted suicide. He said: 'I had fans shouting on the pitch to me shortly after I did my story, "go and hang yourself and do it right this time." I've had other players mentioning me slitting my wrists and stuff. You get the fans that come in and pay their money, they say what they want and then they go home and forget about it and I'm the one that it affects. It bothers me for the rest of the weekend. It gets me in a bad place again.' The former Forfar Athletic striker claimed that on the pitch, opponents had used his depression to 'undermine his efforts' during games. He said: 'Maybe after a bad tackle, or if it's been rough and stuff like that, [they'd say] "watch your wrists wee man, oh, I better not wind you up cos you're a psycho."' He added: 'I've had them apologising and messaging me after games and stuff. What makes it even worse is that they will say things like "I'm really sorry, I had a mate who killed himself through mental health" and I'm like "why would you even mention that?." It's all good and fine saying you're sorry, but to have that bit in you to mention it in the first place, when you know you've seen someone deal with that situation or you've seen people go through that kind of thing. Why does it make it okay for you to say it to someone else just because you don't like the way they're playing against you? It's a game of football.' Cox said that attempts to deal with the stigma surrounding mental health had to be matched with efforts to challenge other social issues, such as racism and bigotry. He said: 'It's just as bad as being racist for me. If you were racist on the pitch, if a fan was racist at football games, you'd get done for it. People don't see mental health as an illness, you can't physically see it, it doesn't mean it's not there. It's got to the point that if somebody shouts it to me again in a park, I will walk off.' He said that unless clubs and the authorities were willing to take the taunts seriously, his abusers would continue to feel they could behave as they pleased. 'I'm not saying what I've been through is the worst thing that anybody could ever go through, because there's people out there that are worse off than me. But for me, I've been through the worst period of my life ever and to have people mocking you about it and making fun, and to think that it's okay and just shake hands with you after the game and it's forgotten about, it's not on.' A Scottish government spokeswoman said: 'One of our priorities is to work on achieving parity between mental and physical health. Already work is being carried out by the players' union, PFA Scotland and the Sports Chaplaincy Network, which provides support and advice to players and staff. The SPFL Trust has also undertaken mental health first aid training for club staff, which players will benefit from.'
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Chad O England was travelling on I-Eighty One North through Sullivan County when he was arrested after flipping his truck five times because, in his words, 'Jesus was calling him and advised him to let go of the wheel.' Which, sounds entirely reasonable. On 20 January Sullivan County deputies were dispatched to 'a single car accident.' According to the incident report, the driver of the vehicle had gotten out and 'began to run away,' carrying a jar and 'speaking gibberish,' when deputies secured him in the backseat of a patrol car. As deputies searched the vehicle, they found six grams of marijuana, just under a gram of cocaine, a pipe, rolling papers, a three-quarters empty bottle of Crown Royal, a small empty bottle of Crown Royal and several cans used for 'huffing.' Two witnesses said that they saw England speeding down the highway, when, for no apparent reason, he left the roadway on the right side. The Huffington Post reported England said that he did not take off running, he was 'being called and was travelling to bow before someone.' He also stated that he was not driving, but he was behind the wheel. He denied a blood draw, but was 'obviously under the influence of drugs,' according to the incident report. England was very arrested and charged with DUI first offence, felony possession of schedule two drugs for resale, possession of schedule four drugs and possession of paraphernalia, open container, no driver's license in possession, failure to exercise due care, no registration in possession, violation of implied consent and no insurance in possession.
An 'eye-watering video' showing the moment when a woman performing an 'infamous dance move' ended up with a hugely embarrassing injury (but still managed to go clubbing afterwards) has been posted on the Sun's website. Because, clearly, they believes that's the sort of thing their readers enjoy. And, they might be right. Bonnie-Lee Brown was, the newspapers says, 'getting ready for a night out with pals when she tried a "slut drop"' a dance move which, apparently, was 'made popular by the TV show Geordie Shore.' Enough said, really. 'Disastrously, she didn't realise a pointed shoe rack was behind as she nudged a friend before dropping down to a squatting position. Footage shows her spring up in agony after the collision which ripped her dress. She was left needing three stitches for a painful wound in her buttock and an injection to prevent infection.' However, the papers adds, Bonnie-Lee 'saw the funny side when she uploaded the video to Twitter with the caption: "So I ended up with a pole up my bum on Saturday night and had to have three stitches on my arse cheek and a tetanus jab, how was your weekend?" In the comments, she added: 'Don't ask me why I was slut-dropping to this song because I don't know. It didn't go up my arse, it went into my arse cheek which is why I had to have stitches. You should see my bum, it's so bruised it's unreal.'
A woman has been arrested on suspicion of arson over the huge fire that closed Nottingham railway station. British Transport Police said that the thirty three-year-old from Derby was arrested earlier and is being questioned by officers. Ten fire crews were needed to bring the fire under control after it broke out on 12 January. East Midlands Trains confirmed the fire caused 'significant damage' to the station, part of which remains closed. Prior to the fire, which started in a set of women's toilets on the new side of the station, the main entrance to the station had recently been refurbished in a multi-million pound project between Network Rail, Nottingham City Council, East Midlands Trains and the Rail Heritage Trust. Last month, Bryn Coleman, an incident commander with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, said that the fire could have been contained more easily had sprinklers been fitted. He told the BBC the damage 'would have been less' and could have avoided the closure of the railway station had they been in place. All trains going in and out of Nottingham were cancelled on the day of the fire, but the station reopened on 13 January and was running 'a near to normal service' by the following day.
A shooting by a twelve-year-old girl at a Californian school is thought to be 'unintentional,' Los Angeles police say. The girl has been charged with 'negligent discharge of a firearm' after the incident left five injured. A fifteen-year-old boy, who was shot in the head and a fifteen-year-old girl, who was shot in the wrist, are both in a stable condition and are expected to make a full recovery. A semi-automatic handgun was recovered at the scene. It happened on Thursday at Salvador Castro Middle School in the Westlake district. An eleven-year-old boy, a twelve-year-old girl and a thirty-year-old woman sustained minor injuries but were not shot directly. A student who was at the classroom at the time told ABC News that he believed the girl thought the weapon was a toy gun and "didn't mean to" shoot anyone. According to a website tracking US Gun Violence Archive, there were over two thousand allegedly 'unintentional' shootings in the country in 2017. This incident is the one hundred and sixty sixth accidental shooting so far this year. It is also one of at least three shooting incidents at US schools in recent weeks.
A teenager involved in an attempted murder to 'honour' a fictitious online horror character has been sentenced to forty years in a mental hospital. Morgan Geyser, along with Anissa Weier, lured the victim into the woods and stabbed her nineteen times. The victim was found crawling away by a cyclist but she survived the attack. All three were twelve years old at the time. Weier was sentenced to twenty five years in an institution in December. Both girls admitted their part in the terrible crime as part of a plea bargain deal, which took into account their age and mental health. Geyser's lawyers said that she suffers from schizophrenia and psychotic spectrum disorder, which make her 'prone to delusions.' She had previously told psychiatrists she could communicate telepathically with other fictional characters, including Harry Potter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Investigators said Geyser stabbed the victim, while Weier urged her on. The girls said they committed their crime in dedication to Slender Man, a fictional horror character, who 'told them to do it.' The judge gave Geyser the full sentence prosecutors sought, arguing that she 'remains a risk to herself and others.' Geyser, now fifteen, broke down in court on Thursday while apologising to the victim and her family. 'I never meant this to happen. And I hope that she's doing well,' she said. Doctors at the sentencing hearing gave conflicting opinions on the severity of Geyster's current mental health and the treatment that so clearly she needs. Members of her defence team had sought to have her moved to an adolescent health facility, but Judge Michael Bohren discounted her youth in the sentencing. 'What we can't forget is this was an attempted murder,' Bohren said.
A Wallasey woman has described how an old hot water bottle 'exploded' putting her in A&E covered in clingfilm and wearing a Star Wars dressing gown. Rebecca Koncienzcy says that she was badly burned on her bottom, back and hands after 'ignoring manufacturer's warnings' about using her hot water bottle. Which, to be fair, was probably a ruddy stupid thing to do. The journalist was, the Liverpool Echo reports, 'settling down for bed on 18 January, when the rubber on the device burst open - covering her in boiling water and leaving her sobbing in pain.' Now, Rebecca has 'spoken out' to 'warn others to obey official instructions when using hot water bottles' to 'avoid similar situations.' She said: 'I got into my pyjamas and I always put the hot water bottle in the small of my back. I always sit down all day and I find the heat relieves the pressure and pain. I hadn't even lent [sic] on it at this point, but it just burst open. The hoodie I was wearing spared most of my back, but my bottom was covered in boiling hot water. I screamed out twice, the first time from the water and the second time because I accidentally put my hands on it. One of the only other pains as painful I've felt was probably child birth. It was like there was a fire on my back and on my bottom. My husband put me in a bath of cold water and he had to kept pouring it on my back while he called NHS 111.' Paramedics arrived at the family home in shortly after and advised her to wrap the wound in clingfilm before taking her to hospital.
When Natalie Wood drowned in November 1981, one of Hollywood's biggest mysteries started to form – what was the actress doing in a dinghy alone, dressed only in her nightwear, with the key to the boat's ignition turned to the off position and the oars tied down? Nearly forty years later, Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators have this week declared Robert Wagner, her widower, 'a person of interest' in the case. 'As we've investigated the case over the last six years, I think he's more of a person of interest now,' said Lieutenant John Corina. 'We know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.' The investigation was reopened six years ago, but Wagner has always refused to speak with officials regarding the subject of his wife's death. Family members have previously asked for authorities to re-examine the findings of the original investigation. At the time of Wood's death, Wagner claimed that she had 'disappeared without his knowledge' and he had assumed she had gone out in the boat alone (something which, he claimed, she frequently did), radioing for help after enough time passed to make him realise that she was missing. Complicating matters, Wagner and Wood's friend, Christopher Walken, was also on the yacht at the time of the incident. In his memoir, Pieces Of My Heart, Wagner explains how he had been on his boat, the Splendour, with Natalie and Walken, when an argument broke out. Wagner wrote: 'Chris [Walken] began talking about his "total pursuit of a career," which he admitted was more important to him than his personal life. He clearly thought Natalie should live like that, too. I got angry. "Why don't you stay out of her career?" I said. "She's got enough people telling her what to do without you."' As the argument escalated, Natalie left for bed. 'The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris,' he said. 'I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed.' Wagner described how he and Walken moved up to the deck as 'things were threatening to get physical' and that they were then calmed by the fresh sea air. But police now say that two new witnesses have corroborated accounts of a fight between Wagner and Wood on the night that she disappeared. They say it 'appears' the actress was 'the victim of an assault.' The post-mortem report said Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as a facial abrasion on her left cheek. The captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told NBC News in 2011 that he 'lied' to police during the initial investigation and that 'a fight' between Wood and Wagner had 'led to her death.' In 2012, Wood's death certificate was amended to reflect the uncertainty surrounding her death. It now says that she died as a result of 'drowning and other undetermined factors' and the circumstances of how she ended up in the water are 'not clearly established.'
And now, a brief (extremely self-promoting) note that From The North appears to have a jolly successfully last few days. These sort of sudden spurts of traffic happen occasionally, dear blog reader, it's nothing to get too excited over. But, nevertheless, allow yer actual Keith Telly Topping a brief moment of reflected glory, if you will. And, now we're done.
Police are reported to be investigating the death of Maid Marian & Her Merry Men and The Black Adder actor Howard Lew Lewis. Lewis died on 20 January at a community hospital in Edinburgh. He was being treated for dementia. However his daughter, Debora Milazzo, claims that he had been placed on a regime of high-dose sedatives and maximum-strength opiate painkillers. Milazzo told the BBC: 'I'm trying to get justice for my dad. I want Police Scotland to investigate my dad's case.' She claims that her father had been unnecessarily placed on a treatment plan that would be used for the terminal phase of a malignant disease, even though he had not received a terminal diagnosis. 'My father didn't have cancer, he didn't have heart disease,' Milazzo added. 'They suddenly just changed his medication and it was the new medication that killed him.' Police Scotland confirmed that it was investigating the complaint. A spokesperson said: 'Police in Edinburgh are investigating following the death of a seventy six-year-old man in the Carnbee Avenue area on Saturday 20 January. The death is being treated as unexplained, but not suspicious. A report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.' Doctor Tracey Gillies, medical director of NHS Lothian Trust, said: 'It would not be appropriate to discuss any details from his medical record. If the family have concerns or questions, they should contact us.' Lewis' other credits include the movies Brazil and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and, on TV, Brush Strokes, C.A.T.S Eyes, Minder, Pulaski, The Corner House, Chelmsford 123 and My Family.
Dennis Edwards, the Detroit singer whose gritty, powerful vocals led The Temptations into a new phase of their career, died this week in a Chicago hospital. He was seventy four. Edwards, who joined the iconic Motown group in 1968 in the wake of David Ruffin's departure, was the prominent voice on enduring Temptations hits such as 'Cloud Nine', 'Psychedelic Shack', 'Papa Was A Rollin' Stone' and 'Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)'. He remained a staple of the group through the 1980s and in the 1990s before forming a splinter act that eventually toured as The Temptations Review Featuring Dennis Edwards. In later years, Edwards said he was appreciative of the audiences that kept him performing regularly and he looked back fondly on his glory years with The Temptations. 'All of a sudden, here you're a guy on the block and you're singing with these legends,' he told the Detroit Free Press in 2016 about joining the group. 'You had to bring your game up. I was just so proud.' Dennis was born in Fairfield, Alabama, the - literal - son of a preacher man, the Reverend Dennis Edwards Senior. He began singing as a toddler in his father's church. The Edwards family moved to Detroit when Dennis was about ten years old and he would continue to sing in the church pastored by his father, eventually becoming choir director. As a teenager, Edwards joined a gospel vocal group called The Mighty Clouds Of Joy and studied music at the Detroit Conservatory of Music. He was not allowed to sing or listen to secular music at home and his mother disapproved when he began pursuit of a career singing rhythm and blues music. In 1961 he organised his own soul/jazz group, Dennis Edwards & The Fireballs. The same year, he recorded a single for the obscure Detroit label, International Soulville Records, 'I Didn't Have To (But I Did)'. Following time served in the US military, in 1966 Edwards auditioned for Motown, where he was placed on retainer. Later that year, he joined The Contours after their lead singer, Billy Gordon, fell ill. In 1967, The Contours were the opening act for several Temptations concerts and Eddie Kendricks and Otis Williams - who were considering replacing David Ruffin, took notice of Edwards and made his acquaintance. Edwards attempted to get a release from his Motown contract, as the recently departed Holland, Dozier and Holland had promised to sign him to their new Invictus Records, but he was asked in late June 1968 to join The Temptations after Ruffin was finally dismissed. Ruffin - who was friend of Dennis - had tipped Edwards off that he was being drafted as a replacement, which eased Edwards' conscience. The Temptations officially introduced Edwards on 9 July 1968 on stage in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. However, Ruffin, who was attempting to make his way back into the group, infamously crashed the stage during Edwards' lead vocal on 'Ain't Too Proud To Beg' to significant applause. Similar gatecrashing stunts continued for about a month until, according to Edwards, the group decided to lay-off Edwards - with the promise of a solo deal from Motown - and rehire Ruffin. When Ruffin failed to show for his return engagement in Gaithersburg, Maryland the next night, Edwards was back in. Working with progressive-minded producer Norman Whitfield - and taking advantage of the rougher textures offered by Edwards' baritone voice - the group expanded into edgier, psychedelic-tinged territory. 'They were trying to figure out what kind of songs to give me that would suit my voice. We cut a couple of songs, but they wanted something in another vein,' Edwards said. 'So they came up with 'Cloud Nine'. It was different for The Temptations. It was like a real soul (song), with the multi leads. That won the very first Grammy Award for Motown, believe it or not.' With his gospel-hewn vocals, Edwards led the group through its glorious psychedelic-soul period, singing on Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong-written hits such as 'Cloud Nine', 'I Can't Get Next To You', 'Superstar', 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)', 'Ball Of Confusion' and 'Papa Was A Rollin' Stone' and LPs including Puzzle People, Solid Rock and Masterpiece. Edwards remained in the Temptations until being fired by Otis Williams in 1977 just before the group's departure from Motown to Atlantic Records. After a failed attempt at a Motown solo career, Edwards rejoined The Temptations in 1980, when they returned to the label from Atlantic Records. In 1982, Edwards got the chance to sing with Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks as part of the Reunion LP and tour. He was particularly memorable during the 1983 Motown Twenty Five TV special when The Temptations and The Four Tops shared a spot (Dennis and his friend Levi Stubbs briefly swapped bands!) Motown re-launched Dennis's solo career, in 1984 with the hit single 'Don't Look Any Further,' a duet with Siedah Garrett. The LP of the same name reached number two on the R&B charts and included the radio singles '(You're My) Aphrodisiac' and 'Just Like You.' A Motown Museum representative and others close to Edwards confirmed his death. Edwards most recently lived in the St Louis area and the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he died of complications from meningitis, for which he was initially hospitalised last spring. 'My heart is very heavy,' Martha Reeves told the Free Press. 'I feel like I've been hit by a sledgehammer.' Reeves said that she and fellow Motown alumni such as The Supremes' Mary Wilson had heard that Edwards was hospitalised, but that details had been hard to come by. 'We've been praying that he made a recovery,' Reeves said. 'We should all be in better communication with each other, because we're a family.' Former Motown songwriter and A&R chief Mickey Stevenson recently saw Edwards during an LA visit. The Temptations singer 'was getting a cold,' but otherwise appeared normal, Stevenson said. Through the years, Edwards was defined by his boundless energy onstage and off, Stevenson said. 'Here's a guy who could jump up, sing and dance at any given moment, like there was no end,' Stevenson said. 'Which was a good thing. He was always trying to keep things on the up. He was energised and kept a smile on his face.' Motown founder Berry Gordy extended condolences to Edwards' family in a statement Friday evening. 'I am saddened about the passing of the one and only, Dennis Edwards. Another bright light from our Motown family is gone,' he said. 'Dennis was the perfect artist to join The Temptations at a critical time in the group's rise. He epitomised their style - tall, dark, handsome — and a voice like no other. Whenever we would greet each other, it was bear hugs and warm smiles.'
The death of the actor Jeremy Wilkin at the age of eighty seven in December of last year has been announced. Jeremy played Professor Kellman in the 1975 Doctor Who four-part story Revenge Of The Cybermen. He was best known for his extensive work with Gerry Anderson, providing the voices for many characters, including Virgil Tracy in Thunderbirds, Captain Ochre and Captain Black in Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and various characters in the series Joe 90 and The Secret Service. He was also a recurring cast member in Anderson's live-action series UFO - a particular favourite of this blogger - playing the Skydiver Navigator Gordon Maxwell. Jeremy was born in Byfleet and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He lived in Canada for many years establishing a career as a television actor appearing in series such as Encounter, Cannonball and Folio. He returned to the UK in the mid-sixties appearing the series Undermind as Drew Heriot, a personnel manager inadvertently drawn into a sinister plot to control human minds and sow discord in society. After coming to the attention of Gerry Anderson, he was engaged to take over the role of Virgil Tracy for the second series of Thunderbirds following the departure of the character's original voice actor, David Holliday. It was the start of a long relationship with the studios. Later, Wilkin made a brief cameo as Captain Forsyth in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. As well as his appearance in Doctor Who, he also had a memorable appearance in the first episode of Blake's 7 playing Dev Tarrant, the man who first betrayed Blake. In the 1980's Jeremy appeared as Nat Kinsley in the BBC series County Hall as well as having roles in Reilly: Ace Of Spies, the Secret Army spin-off Kessler and in the Yorkshire TV series Number Ten. Wilkin's other TV credits include Dixon Of Dock Green, Man In A Suitcase, New Scotland Yard, Softly, Softly: Taskforce, The New Avengers, Festival, The Troubleshooters, Eyeless In Gaza, The Hanged Man and Just Cause.
Hannah Hauxwell, who died this week aged ninety one, was living a harsh existence as a hill farmer in the Yorkshire Dales when the 1973 documentary Too Long A Winter turned her, overnight, into a national celebrity. Hannah was living alone at Low Birk Hatt Farm in an isolated part of the North Riding when she came to public attention, firstly in a Yorkshire Post article published in April 1970 entitled How To Be Happy On One Hundred & Seventy Pounds A Year and then, two years later, in the documentary made by Yorkshire Television and produced by Barry Cockcroft, which chronicled the almost unendurable conditions faced by farmers in The High Pennines during winter. She was first seen leading one of her cows into its shed as a blizzard raged across the farm, one thousand feet up in Baldersdale. Two members of the film crew shielded the camera from the pelting snow with their sheepskin coats whilst another held the tripod steady by lying flat in the drift. Hannah had lived in this remote spot next to The Pennine Way from the age of three and had farmed the eighty acre farm alone since the death of her uncle in 1961.
She often saw no one for weeks at a time and lived on an income of roughly five pounds a week. Once a month she collected a parcel of food basics from the nearest road, one-and-a-half miles across fields and, because the farm had no running water, she had to carry buckets down the hill to a stream which, during winter, was often frozen. On the farm she had just the one milking cow and two calves. Although she was then only forty six at the time, her hair was already white. Following the screening of Too Long A Winter, ITV companies across Britain received hundreds of phone-calls and sacks of mail many containing gifts for 'the old lady in the Yorkshire Dales.' The serene dignity with which she conducted her life, reconnected viewers - especially older ones - with a Britain that they thought had been lost. Too Long A Winter - part of Yorkshire's Real Lives strand - was a cinema verite masterpiece, shot on sixteen millimetre, an intimate-yet-unintrusive portrait of a handful of Dales characters whom time, it seemed, had entirely forgotten. Inside the tumbledown farmhouse in the Baldersdale valley, Hannah sipped tea and, in her softly Teesdale tones, spoke of the simple joy of walking the lanes around the farm. 'If I haven't money in my pocket it's one thing no-one can rob me of,' she said. Hannah was one of several Dales farmers featured in the programme, but she was the one who caught viewers' imaginations, with her gift for articulating her simple life in an almost poetic manner. A local factory raised money to fund getting electricity to Low Birk Hatt Farm and some of the gifts she received enabled her to have running water installed and invest in a few more cows. She continued to receive hundred of letters and generous donations from well-wishers around the world. Coach trips and autograph hunters began to descend and the local branch of Woolworths even started selling postcards with Hannah's picture on them. As a result of her new-found fame, Cockcroft took Hannah on her first trip to London for another documentary, Hannah Goes To Town (1977), to attend a Women Of The Year Gala at the Savoy Hotel as a guest of honour and meet the Duchess of Gloucester. When, a decade later, Cockcroft – who made many other documentary films about people enduring harsh existences – heard that Hannah was considering leaving Low Birk Hatt, he made a new documentary, A Winter Too Many (1989). It was harrowing stuff. Hannah's health was declining and the task of running an isolated farm, particularly in sub-zero temperatures, was becoming too much for her. The farmhouse itself was dilapidated and piled to the rafters with belongings hoarded over six decades. 'In summer I live and in winter I exist,' she reflected in the film, which showed her emotional departure just before Christmas 1988. 'A big part of me, wherever I am, will be left here.' The documentary ended with Hannah setting off in a removal lorry, towed from the farm by a tractor as the snows came again.
She moved into a cottage in the nearby village of Cotherstone, leaving behind the pasture which was later designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and named Hannah's Meadow. It is now a nature reserve. In her new home, Hannah enjoyed a much more comfortable life, with a mod-con luxuries including a bathroom and central heating. Living on the village's main street, she enjoyed seeing life pass by her front window, but reflected: 'I miss a bit of ground of my own.' Hannah was an only child, born in Sleetburn, where her parents, William and Lydia, rented a farm. Three years later, they bought Low Birk Hatt. The family suffered hard times during the Depression. When Hannah was six, her father died and her Uncle Tommy took over the running of the farm. She attended Baldersdale school up to the age of fourteen and then worked on the farm. When her uncle died – three years after the death of her mother – she was left to farm alone. She remained forever grateful for the improvements in her life that came after she was discovered by Barry Cockcroft, who saw the potential for more television programmes featuring Hannah and who became a close and lasting friend to his death in 2001. He took her on a grand tour of Europe for Hannah Hauxwell: Innocent Abroad (1992), during which she met The Pope and visited France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Capri and across the Atlantic for Hannah: USA (1994). 'I thought they would be more civilised and know how to make tea properly,' she reflected on visiting New York. The royalties from the books written with Cockcroft – Seasons Of My Life (1989), Daughter Of The Dales (1990), Innocent Abroad (1991), Hannah In America and Hannah's North Country (both 1993) – left Hannah comfortably off in later life, but her habits of hoarding remained. She reflected that she was from a 'make do and mend' generation and that one never threw anything away which might be useful one day. After settling in Cotherstone, she became a part of the local community, attending the Methodist chapel and joining an over-sixties club as well as being an avid radio listener. A further documentary, Hannah Hauxwell: Thirty Years On was broadcast in 2008. She moved to a care home in Barnard Castle in 2016 and to a nursing home in West Auckland last year. A clear sign of the impressive impact that Hannah had on the popular consciousness of a generation of TV viewers is that over the course of the last decade, this blogger has received on average two or three e-mails a year from dear blog readers enquiring about Hannah and whether she was still with us (the most recent, in September of last year). She was a remarkable woman and world is a colder and less welcoming place without her.