Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Recalling Of The Prophecy And That Our Native Stones ... Rebel Against Us"

Big Finish, the company behind the official licenced Doctor Who audio dramas, recently managed a feat which once seemed impossible: convincing Christopher Eccleston to return to Doctor Who following his acrimonious exit in 2005. Big Ecc reprised his role as The Doctor for a new set of stories, to be released in May. Which means that Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi are now the only living former Doctors not to have had their Big Finish debut. To mark the company's Monthly Adventures range earning a Guinness World Record, Big Finish chair Jason Haigh-Ellery and creative director Nicholas Briggs were guests on the Radio Times Doctor Who podcast, where Haigh-Ellery revealed that he had asked 'other Doctors' to come onboard. 'I got [Eccleston] at the right time,' Jason explained. 'He'd just come off stage and he was pumped up and obviously he was open to the idea whereas previously he hadn't been. We had asked before. And we continue to ask [other] Doctors.' When asked specifically about Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith, Haigh Ellery did offer some hope for fans: 'We would love to have Peter and Matt come and join us. We shall see what the future holds.' Other Doctors who have been involved in the long-running series of audio dramas have included Tom Baker, Peter Davison, The Crap One, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, John Hurt, David Tennant and most recently Eccleston. 'It's such an iconic role - it's a part that you never want to leave. And the advantage of audio is that you can grow older and still play the same part,' Haigh-Ellery added. 'It's a part that you will love for the rest of your life and you get that. There's moments when you're talking to the actors and you can see the Doctorishness within them and what they brought to the show. It's fantastic that they've all continued to want to come back and play the part. And it's a delight to work with all of them.'
John Wyndham's acclaimed 1957 SF novel - a particular favourite of this blogger - is getting the small screen treatment. The Midwich Cuckoos will be turned into an eight-part series starring From The North favourite Keeley Hawes and Max Beesley. It was, previously, subject to a, quite superb, 1960 movie adaptation, Village Of The Damned, directed by Wolf Rillaand starring George Sanders and Barbara Shelley. The series will introduce viewers a modern-day version of Midwich, an English commuter town 'populated by nuclear families and affluent high streets,' according Sky's synopsis. The sleepy town is jerked awake, however, when one of its corners experiences a strange incident which sees its inhabitants pass out without warning. When the blackout lifts, every woman of child-bearing age inside the blackout zone finds themselves inexplicably pregnant, leaving psychotherapist Doctor Susannah Zellaby (Hawes) and officer Paul Kirby (Beesley) to solve the mystery behind the phenomenon. Speaking of the casting, Hawes said in one of those statements which sound exactly the way that real people don't talk: 'I'm absolutely delighted to be working with Sky and the brilliant Ruth Kenley-Letts on David Farr's superb adaptation of The Midwich Cuckoos. I'm very much looking forward to working with the hugely talented Max Beesley and the amazing cast and I can't wait to enter the strange and unsettling world of Midwich!' Yeah. That was definitely written by a PR-type individual. Writer and creator David Farr added: 'I first read The Midwich Cuckoos when I was twelve. I was living in a small town in 1980s Britain. Everything about the book rang true to me and terrified me. An invasion of a small community by a hostile and ruthless force. Apparently innocent children as a force of huge malevolent power. It got under my skin. As I've grown older, the story has never ceased to exert a grip. The idea that we may birth our own destruction is so simple and frightening. That as a mother or a father, the being we love most in the world may turn on us. It's the stuff of nightmares.' Set to broadcast on Sky 'sometime in 2022' the series will also feature Aisling Loftus, Ukweli Roach, Synnøve Karlsen, Lara Rossi, Lewis Reeves, Rebekah Staton and Anneika Rose.
The penultimate episode of From The North favourite Line Of Duty was the series most-watched instalment to date, with an average of eleven million overnight viewers tuning in on Sunday. The record overnight ratings came as BBC1 unveiled a trailer for this weekend's series finale which suggested it may be the police drama's last ever episode. 'Every investigation has led to this,' the promo declared. A lingering H in the caption hinted that the mysterious criminal mastermind would be unveiled at last. Line Of Duty returned to TV screens in March with 9.6 million overnight viewers watching the series' first episode - up on the 9.07 million who tuned into the previous series' finale. The opening series six episode's seven day consolidated ratings figures across all devices was thirteen million, three hundred and fifty five thousand two hundred and ninety eight punters whilst the twenty eight day consolidated audience was fifteen million, two hundred and one thousand, seven hundred and forty six according to BARB. Sunday's episode saw Kelly Macdonald's character, Joanne Davidson, subjected to a mammoth grilling which led to numerous secrets about her background being revealed. It commanded over fifty per cent of the UK's live TV audience, according to overnight figures. It was the highest overnight audience for a TV drama since Doctor Who's Christmas Day special in 2008, which was watched by 11.7 million viewers. Macdonald was tight-lipped about the series finale when she appeared on BBC Breakfast on Monday, giving a terse 'no comment' to presenter Dan Walker's demands for plot information. Much as her character did to just about every question put to her, under caution, by Ted Hastings and Steve Arnott. She did reveal, however, that filming one dramatic scene had descended into laughter when one of the cast mispronounced 'racist thugs' and said 'racist slugs' instead. As usual, the Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star (and this blogger) thought it was great whilst that Awful, Odious Singh woman at the Torygraph whinged about it to anyone that would listen (and, indeed, anyone that didn't want to). It really is about time that Awful Odious Singh Woman at the Torygraph fekked off and found something else to do to justify her existence because, as TV reviewer, she's just not cuttin' it. Because she is really starting to grate this blogger's cheese something fierce.
The Game Of Thrones prequel series House Of The Dragon (provisional title) has started production, HBO has confirmed. The network marked the occasion by sharing a photo from a socially-distanced table read, including Paddy Considine and Matt Smith. House Of The Dragon is set three hundred years before the events of From The North favourite Game Of Thrones and will tell the story of the Targaryen family. It is based on author George R R Martin's 2018 novel Fire & Blood. The show, created by Martin along with showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan J Condal, is scheduled for release in 2022 on the HBO Max streaming service. Considine will star as the 'warm, kind and decent' King Viserys Targaryen in the TV adaptation. Smudger, known previously for his lead role in Doctor Who and portrayal of the late Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown (you all knew that, right?), is to play Prince Daemon Targaryen. Emma D'Arcy (Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen), Steve Toussaint (The Sea Snake), Rhys Ifans (Otto Hightower) and Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower) were among the other cast members present at the table read. Fans of the original series, adapted from Martin's A Song Of Ice & Fire fantasy books, will know the Targaryen family are destined to become embroiled in a bitter civil war. One of their descendants, Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, was a major character in the main series that ran for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019. Though she ended up going mad and getting extremely killed. The show was something of a phenomenon, earning fifty nine EMMY Awards across its eight series to become one of the most successful dramas in television history. Although, as just about every journalist who ever writes about the show seems keen to point out (seemingly thinking they're being terrifically original), its final series, written beyond Martin's published source material by David Benioff and DB Weiss, 'divided fans and critics.' Albeit, nobody that actually matters gave then, or gives now a big steaming shat about what those wankers thought about it. This blogger thought it was great.
Sir Steve McQueen's Small Axe leads the field at this year's BAFTA Television Awards, with fifteen nominations. The director's five-film BBC series tells stories about the lives of the West Indian community in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. Netflix's drama The Crown is also one of the leading shows, with ten nomination. From The North favourite I May Destroy You, about a woman coming to terms with an assault, is nominated eight times, including best actress, writer and director for Michaela Coel. 'I am overwhelmed with joy to see so many people and teams that made I May Destroy You nominated this year,' Coel said in a statement. 'I am equally thrilled to see Small Axe, one of my favourite shows of last year, deservedly honoured.' There are five nominations apiece for Channel Four's Adult Material, a drama set in the porn industry and Sky Atlantic's I Hate Suzie, whose star Billie Piper is up for best actress. Like I May Destroy You, the latter featured strongly in From The North's 2020 best of list. BBC3 alleged comedy This Country - which this blogger, frankly, though was a right load of old over-rated toot - is nominated four times, as are Strictly Come Dancing and the acclaimed documentary series Once Upon A Time In Iraq. In the individual categories, John Boyega's performance as police officer Leroy Logan in one of the Small Axe films - Red, White & Blue - sees him up for best actor alongside Shaun Parkes, who was in the Mangrove episode of the same series. Josh O'Connor, who plays the young Prince Charles in The Crown, makes the same list, alongside Paapa Essiedu from I May Destroy You, Waleed Zuaiter from Baghdad Central and Normal People's Paul Mescal. Mescal's co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones is nominated for best actress, next to Piper, Coel and another Small Axe star, Letitia Wright. Killing Eve's Jodie Comer and Adult Material's Hayley Squires also make the shortlist. Friday Night Dinner's Paul Ritter, who died earlier this month, is nominated for best male performance in a comedy. Notably, The Crown's Emma Corrin and From The North favourite yer actual Gillian Anderson, who both won Golden Globe awards in February for playing Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher respectively, have been overlooked by BAFTA. whichhas, obviously, nothing whatsoever to do with a bunch of Tory politicians and right-wing scum newspapers getting their knickers in a twist over The Crown. Oh no, very hot water. There is also no room for Olivia Colman, who plays The Queen, but Tobias Menzies has been nominated for playing the late Duke of Edinburgh. Des, a three-part ITV drama starring national heartthrob David Tennant as the serial killer Dennis Nilsen (another From The North favourite), was left out, as was another ITV true crime drama, White House Farm and BBC lockdown sitcom Staged (also featuring Tennant). In the international category, Netflix hits The Queen's Gambit and Tiger King failed to make the list. 'All those nominations are basically last year in review and BAFTA applauding all the things that we've binge watched - that is everything we did last year apart from one hour of walking a day,' one of the judges, the author, journalist and From The North favourite Caitlin Moran, told BBC Breakfast. 'When I first saw the nominations, I was like, "Where's Tiger King? That was pretty big in my life." But on reflection, that was just a show about a man being horrible to tigers and probably best that it's not been nominated for a BAFTA.' No shit, Cait? Nominees for the BAFTA 'Must-See Moment' Award were announced on Tuesday and included Diversity's dance routine on Britain's Got Talent, which provoked thousands of complaints. From racist scum. Comedian Richard Ayoade will to host the ceremony for the second year in a row. Typically an extravagant event at London's Royal Festival Hall, festivities will be more restrained due to the safeguards in place due to Covid-19 and will take place in a closed studio. The winners of BAFTA's TV Craft Awards, meanwhile, which celebrate behind-the-scenes achievements, will be announced by Famalam actress Gbemisola Ikumelo on 24 May.
The Premier League has held talks with broadcasters about scrapping its next domestic media rights auction. The government is now considering whether to approve a rollover of the current 4.7 billion knicker deal. Secured in 2018, that sale represented a ten per cent drop in value. Clubs are reported to be 'concerned' there could be another fall if the usual open-market auction begins as planned next month for the three-year cycle between 2022 and 2025. Well, of course they are, having got their greed right-on of late and creaming in their own pants over the prospect of European Super-Dupa League and all that. The value of rights for domestic leagues in Europe also appears to have peaked. Which is really bad news for Super-Dupa League instigators Real Madrid and Barcelona and their efforts to wipe out their massive debt by getting their greed spectacularly right-on. So, that's funny. Talks have been held with the existing live rights holders Sky, BT and Amazon about extending their current deals on similar terms. Neither they, nor the Premier League, have commented. But a rollover is now being considered on the basis that it would provide all parties with 'stability amid uncertainties' - and the loss of match day revenue - caused by the pandemic. And, their own greed. However, rival broadcasters may object to being denied the right to bid and such a move would require government approval, given concerns over competition law. Amid continuing anger within football at the failed recent attempt by the so-called 'big six' Premier League clubs to launch the Super-Dupa League and a fan-led review of the sport, ministers (which will, of course, come to absolutely nothing) are understood to 'want assurances' about the redistribution of money throughout the game, if they allow a private sale of media rights. For almost thirty years, the huge increase in the value of its broadcast rights has driven the transfer fees and player wages that have made the Premier League so popular. And, so greedy. But the league has come under mounting pressure from the Football League to redistribute more of its media revenue throughout the pyramid. Last year the Premier League ditched a controversial pay-per-view system for matches amid another fan backlash, reinforcing concerns over viewers' appetite for more live action and for being pissed about and taken for granted by people to whom they pay their season ticket money.
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch has, reportedly, 'drastically scaled backed' plans for a new 'opinionated' television service in the UK, after concluding that it is 'not financially viable' to launch a fully fledged rolling news channel in the style of FAUX News. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of billionaire tyrant Murdoch's News UK company, told staff the enormous cost of getting a television news channel on-air meant it 'did not make business sense' to push ahead. She said that the company would, instead, focus on 'reaching news audiences' via shows on streaming platforms, adding: 'While there is consumer demand for alternative news provision, the costs of running a rolling news channel are considerable and it is our assessment that the payback for our shareholders wouldn't be sufficient. We need to launch the right products for the digital age.' The News UK TV boss, David Rhodes, an American television news executive who moved to London last summer to run the project, will be extremely leaving in June. He will be, in the interim, advising the wider global billionaire tyrant Murdoch business on streaming news media, where he has repeatedly been tipped by insiders for promotion or a possible return to FAUX News. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks' declaration that it would not be possible to make a healthy profit from traditional television news will increase attention on the finances of the forthcoming Andrew Neil-fronted GB News channel. It has raised sixty million smackers from the likes of the US media company Discovery, Dubai investment company Legatum and the Brexit-backing hedge fund boss Paul Marshall to secure slots on traditional television distribution platforms such as Freeview. GB News is building a new right-of-centre twenty four-hour television channel from scratch centred on presenter-led shows. It is hiring dozens of journalists and has signed up presenters such as Sky's Colin Brazier, the BBC's Simon McCoy (whom this blogger actually used to have a bit of respect for) and former ITV presenter Alastair Stewart to host programmes. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks claimed that News UK would still invest in television-style content, with increasingly professional video output produced by its radio stations such as TalkRadio, where presenters have regularly gone viral with clips berating coronavirus lockdowns. The News UK radio boss, Scott Taunton, will take over responsibility for its television output. The decision also leaves a large number of established television producers who were hired by Rhodes asking questions about their future at the company if its focus switches to a handful of streaming shows. Which is, obviously, very sad. Or, perhaps, not. Studios had been built and rehearsals for some programmes were under way. Last year the intention was for News UK TV to launch with about five hours of output every night, including an early-evening politics show, a daily political debate programme and an evening news bulletin. Billionaire tyrant Murdoch has increasingly looked towards charging people to watch opinionated TV news streaming services, launching the likes of FAUX Nation in the US and FAUX News International for global consumers. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks claimed that News UK would still produce standalone shows, with the intention of making money via personalised adverts on smart televisions, adding: 'We have already announced News To Me, an entertainment news show hosted by Gordon Smart, which will drop a new episode each weeknight and will be viewable live or on-demand via streaming. Other shows are planned.'
Channel Five has stopped streaming an episode of its z-list celebrity plastic surgery series after condemnation from one of its subjects, Charlotte Crosby. Last Thursday's episode of Z-List Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face? analysed Crosby's changing appearance. The reality TV-type individual called the show 'immoral', claiming that it had been shown despite her 'team' warning Channel Five of its detrimental mental health implications. In a statement, the broadcaster snivellingly apologised for 'any upset caused.' It added that both the channel and the programme's producers, Crackit Productions, 'take duty of care very seriously.' One or two people even believed them. 'While we acknowledge that the programme was Ofcom compliant, we have taken on board Charlotte's feedback and removed the episode from our streaming platform My5.' Crosby, who rose from obscurity to whatever it is that reality TV-type individuals consider 'fame' on MTV's scripted - and utterly worthless - reality show Geordie Shore and now hosts her own self-titled series, is yet to comment on the removal of the documentary. However, in her original statement, she claimed that it was 'unbelievable' the programme had been made amid an increased focus on mental health within the entertainment industry. 'At a time when the broadcast and media world were backing a policy of "be kind", Channel Five and Crackit decided to commission this one-hour special on "rubber lip Charlotte" (their words not mine),' Crosby wrote, while referring to the kindness campaign that was prompted by the suicide of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack. 'Their "experts" dissected my "plastic face" with disgust, discussing my fluctuating weight (with images) and then decided to flash up the worst troll comments from the past five years.' Crosby's public criticism followed a similar statement from her Geordie Shore-type person, Holly Hagan who, on Thursday evening, urged her Instagram followers to report Channel Five's programme to Ofcom. Crosby, to be fair, has been open about her cosmetic procedures and body image struggles - undergoing her first nose surgery in 2016 after becoming self-conscious over her appearances on TV and later using lip-fillers. She previously told that bastion of kind and considerate reportage Heat magazine: 'It's not like I can hide it. If I'd not been on TV, I'd never have got it done. I do think [my nose] caused a lack of confidence and you always compare yourself to other people who are on TV as well.' Crosby's statement continued: 'Dealing with trolls is one thing, you ignore, you block but where are we as a society, when the trolls are the mainstream TV channels? Will they now take responsibility for my dip in mental health and plummeted self-esteem? Do they take responsibility for the resulting press from the show, again discussing how "shocking" my face is?' she asked.
Former From The North favourite (before he went, you know, mad) Morrissey appears to have taken considerable umbrage at The Simpsons after being sent up right good and proper in the popular US animation's latest episode. In Panic On The Streets Of Springfield, Lisa becomes obsessed with a militantly vegan singer of an obscure 1980s British indie band. But, her dreams are shattered to fragments when it transpires that her idol, voiced by From The North favourite Benedict Cumberbatch, has in fact become a bitter, overweight, anti-immigrant meat-eater. No relation. A statement on Morrissey's Facebook page called the show 'hurtful and racist.' Is anyone else thinking this is the latest episode of Qi's semi-regular slot How Ironic Is That?
'Surprising what a "turn for the worst" the writing for The Simpsons TV show has taken in recent years,' said the whinging statement, which was posted by Mozza's manager, Peter Katsis. 'Poking fun at subjects is one thing,' it continued, 'but when a show stoops so low to use harshly hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his belly hanging out of his shirt (when he has never looked like that at any point in his career) makes you wonder who the real hurtful, racist group is here. Even worse - calling the Morrissey character out for being a racist, without pointing out any specific instances, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist.' Yeah, pretty much. To quote one of the major characters in The Simpsons in one of this blogger's favourite moments from the show's history, 'Your point being ...?' The statement went on to accuse The Simpsons of 'hypocrisy', noting that white actor Hank Azaria had recently bowed to criticism and agreed to stop voicing the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. 'Hank Azaria's recent apology to the whole country of India for his role in upholding "structural racism" says it all,' the message claimed. Prior to the episode being broadcast, Morrissey's official Facebook page had promoted the show by posting an image from the animation. The show said it would not be commenting on Mozza's latest statement. However, the episode's writer previously insisted that the character was not 'solely' based on Morrissey. One or two people even believed him. 'I'm sticking by that,' Tim Long told Variety magazine, adding: 'The character is definitely Morrissey-esque, with maybe a small dash of Robert Smith from The Cure, Ian Curtis from Joy Division and a bunch of other people.' But he looks, most, like Morrissey. And, as far as this blogger is aware, neither Robert Smith nor the late Ian Curits have ever advocated various scummish far-right politicians. Unlike ... some people. Just sayin'. Called Quilloughby, the character was said to be the lead singer of a band called The Snuffs. Again, no relation.
The episode also featured music by Flight Of The Conchords and The Muppets' songwriter, Bret McKenzie and included parodies of The Smiths song titles, such as 'How Late Is Then?', 'Hamburger Is Homicide' and 'Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)'. Long said that the episode had been 'inspired' by his 'love' of British indie bands during the 1980s, recalling how seeing The Smiths on their The Queen Is Dead tour had 'changed my life. I've seen Moz many times since then, most recently at The Hollywood Bowl in 2018,' he explained to Variety. 'Executive producer Matt Selman was also at that show and we got to talking about how much music meant to us as weird, alienated teenagers - and also how being a big fan of someone is like having a lifelong relationship with them, with all the ups and down that implies. This show grew out of that discussion.' In recent years, Morrissey has been widely criticised for his outspoken and controversial views. He has called halal meat 'evil', accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of being 'unable to talk properly' and appeared to defend the actor Kevin Spacey over allegations of sexual abuse. The singer has also expressed support for the far-right For Britain party, wearing a badge with its logo on during a US TV performance. He has, however, consistently denied being a racist. Though, to paraphrase the late Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, he would, wouldn't he?' Panic On The Streets Of Springfield has yet to be broadcast in the UK, but is expected to premiere on Sky next month. And, one imagines, all of the pre-publicity caused by this story is likely to make it the most-watched first-run Simpsons on UK TV in years.
A twenty four-year-old student from Glasgow has been crowned the youngest ever champion of the BBC's Mastermind. And, almost instantly, became subject to the kind of sick Interweb trolling from guffawing, bullying numbskulls who considered he has committed the same dreadful crime of 'being clever in public' that poor Gail Trimble received after her impressive knowledge displays on University Challenge a decade ago. Of course, this kind of horrific, sneering, obnoxious behaviour is nothing new with regard to someone having the nerve to 'show some intelligence on the telly' but when it happened to Gail back in 2009 one could, perhaps, have put it down to the then-prevalent leery laddish culture of Loaded and Nuts magazines. The fact that, in the post me-too world of 2021 this sort of loutish online nonsense is still goes on is genuinely depressing. Sometimes, dear blog reader, this blogger hates this sick, worthless world and everyone in it. Jonathan Gibson won the final by four points - scoring a perfect eleven out of eleven in his specialist subject, the comedy songwriting duo Flanders and Swann. He had specialised in Agatha Christie's Poirot in the heat and William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806) in the semi-final. The new champion said that he was 'overwhelmed' at the response since the programme was broadcast on Monday. The PhD student in Modern History at the University of St Andrews told the BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland how he had to keep the result a secret between filming and broadcast. He said: 'The last four months since filming have just felt like a dream, so it's good to have visual evidence on TV that it actually happened. I told my parents and my sister and that's basically it.' Jonathan said the key to his victory was choosing specialist subjects which he was passionate about. 'They were all things I have really loved since I was young,' he said. 'The heat subject was the TV show Poirot, which I was introduced to by my mum and my grandma so that was really lovely to revisit. For the semi-final I did William Pitt the Younger, the late Eighteenth Century Prime Minister. That was inspired by a book my history teacher gave me in school and was one of the main reasons I decided to be a history student. And for the final I did Flanders and Swann which was a favourite of my dad's. I've known the lyrics of every single song since I was seven or eight so it has been lovely revisiting these things.' Jonathan, who had previously appeared on University Challenge, is now focussing on finishing his PhD studies. And, good on him for that. Heaven forbid that anyone should actually want to learn stuff when they could be doing something else like studying their own lack of a brain. Jonathan said that he only realised he was in the running to be Mastermind's youngest ever winner as the final approached. 'I didn't think about it as a possibility when I applied,' he said. 'Or until after I won the semi-final when the producers told me I would be marginally younger than Gavin Fuller was when he won. It's really incredible to make history in that way and it is beyond anything I could have imagined.' Mastermind has been running on the BBC since 1972. Monday night's final was John Humphrys' last episode after eighteen years as host. The broadcaster has presented seven hundred and thirty five episodes of the quiz show and asked more than eighty thousand questions during that time. The new series, hosted by newsreader Clive Myrie, will be shown later this year.
Steve Coogan has assured fans that he isn't planning to retire Alan Partridge, who return to the BBC One weekend for a second series of This Time. This summer marks thirty years since the character made his debut on BBC Radio 4's satirical news programme On The Hour and in that time some viewers have worried that Coogan could decide to leave the role behind. However, at a virtual event to mark the launch of This Time series two, the star credited his other projects - such as BAFTA nominated film Stan & Ollie - for taking the curse off Alan and reigniting his enthusiasm for the hapless broadcaster. 'If it was all I was doing, I would regard it as an albatross,' he said. 'But because I'm able to do these other things, that has sort of taken the curse off Alan for me. So that means that now I do Alan Partridge because I want to, not because I have to, and that's really important for me.' Coogan had previously taken an extended break from his comedy creation between the second series of acclaimed sitcom I'm Alan Partridge and the launch of Mid-Morning Matters, which saw him team up with writers Neil and Rob Gibbons. Since that collaboration was forged, fans have seen a wealth of Partridge content ranging from 2013's -really rather good - feature film Alpha Papa to Audible podcast From The Oasthouse. 'People used to say, "When are you going to kill off Alan Partridge?" They've just stopped asking that now,' Coogan continued. 'He's sort of like an old friend. I wouldn't like to never do it again because it's enjoyable as part of everything else I do. I love working with Rob and Neil and Susannah [Fielding] and Felicity [Montagu] and Tim [Key] and I wouldn't want to not work with them so that's another important part of it.' This will be music to the ears of Patridge fans, as Coogan revealed there's much more life in his famous alter-ego: 'I would like to keep coming back as long as I think it's funny. The thing about Alan is the world changes and then Alan is a reflection of that changing world, so it can keep going. And you can keep sort of tightening the nut with Alan. It might be that one day he oversteps the mark and implodes, but part of it is finding out – just keep pushing him until he falls off a cliff or something.'
A Russian man who joined a boyband competition show on Chinese TV 'on a whim' but quickly regretted his decision has finally been released from his ordeal after making it all the way to the final. Vladislav Ivanov, a twenty seven-year-old part-time model from Vladivostok, was working on the show Produce Camp 2021 as a translator when producers reportedly 'noticed his good looks' and asked him to sign up as a contestant. Because, previously, he'd been invisible to them, clearly. Ivanov told the programme that he had been asked 'if I'd like to try a new life' and agreed, but he came to regret the decision. Unable to leave on his own without breaching his contract and paying a - presumably eye-wateringly massive - fine he, instead, begged viewers to send him home on a regular basis and deliberately performed poorly in the hope of being voted off. No such luck. The programme concept, which originated in Korea, pits young performers against each other to train and eventually form an eleven-member international boyband, chosen by a voting public. Ivanov and his fellow contestants were sequestered in dorm rooms on Hainan island and had their phones confiscated. Using the stage name Lelush, Ivanov told viewers 'don't love me, you'll get no results' and repeatedly pleaded with people not to vote for him. His first song was a half-hearted Russian rap, in stark contrast to the high-pop of his competitors. 'Please don't make me go to the finals, I'm tired,' he whinged in a later episode. 'I hope the judges won't support me. While the others want to get an A, I want to get an F as it stands for freedom,' the South China Morning Post reported him as saying. The judges - and viewers - clearly though it'd be a right good laugh to keep him there. His, increasingly desperate, pleas went unanswered and he was propelled through three months of competition and ten episodes, plus supplemental digital content. A fanbase which had taken to his grumpy, anti-celebrity persona, or were perhaps driven by schadenfreude, urged each other to vote for him and 'let him nine-nine-six!' in reference to China's digital industry culture of chronic overwork - 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Others called him 'the most miserable wage slave' and celebrated him as an icon of 'Sang culture', a Chinese millennial concept of having a defeatist attitude toward life in general. After making it to the final, Ivanov grumpily ate a lemon on camera and said he hoped people would not support him again. 'I'm not kidding,' he said, deadpan. He was eventually voted out in the final episode, which was broadcast on Saturday. 'I'm finally getting off work,' he posted on his Weibo account the next day his phone having, by now seemingly, been returned to him. A Weibo hashtag related to his departure was viewed more than one hundred and eighty million times, including by the Russian embassy. 'Congrats, have a good rest,' the embassy replied. Russian media reported that Ivanov had been 'mobbed' at Beijing airport as he left the country, defying rumours that he would stay to build a modelling career. Reports of a captive Russian from Vladivostok being held prisoner on a Chinese reality show had led to an online campaign at home for Ivanov to be released from his contract, which bloggers coined 'Free Lelush' or СвободуЛелушу. State media began reporting on Ivanov's sorry predicament about a week ago after popular Russian bloggers posted about the interpreter's unlikely run. 'It's not funny any more, let Vlad go home!' wrote one. 'I am very sad and disturbed. It might have been amusing for some time, but the situation is becoming absurd.' Popular blogger Ruslan Usachev said that Ivanov's high profile, if reticent, participation had boosted Produce Camp's 'aura of an international competition' – no doubt pleasing Tencent, the Chinese tech giant which runs it. 'Suddenly a real live person appeared on this show and people started to vote for him,' Usachev said. 'Partially because he stands out [from the other contestants]. But mainly because it's just kek' - a term, adopted by gamers, which refers to an amusing incident that becomes more and more thigh-slappingly hilarious the longer it goes on. Ivanov's story, which has gained him millions of viewers and fans on social media, has drawn accusations of being a publicity stunt, but his friend, the agency executive Ivan Wang, who had hired him to chaperone and translate for his two Japanese clients on the show, said he 'really disliked' being in front of the camera. 'One time, I got him a modelling job in Hong Kong, he sent me a SOS message saying he couldn't stand it five minutes after arriving on set,' Wang told a Chinese entertainment blog. 'He declined repeated participation requests by the director of Produce Camp 2021. He just said yes after getting bored on the island. He thought joining the show might help his introverted personality.'
An arrest warrant, felony embezzlement charge and twenty years of turned-down jobs - all over a Sabrina the Teenage Witch videotape. Allegedly. The criminal history was slapped on Texas resident, Caron McBride, after she failed to return the VHS copy of the Nineties teen sitcom in 1999. She only found out the truth when she tried to change her name on a driving licence after getting married. She said that she had not watched the tape and it must have been rented in her name. 'Just not my cup of tea,' McBride, claimed to local media. Her name was used to rent the VHS - a black plastic box with spooling magnetic tape in it containing movies or TV programmes for those who are too young to remember them - in a store called Movie Place in Norman, Oklahoma, on Valentine's Day in 1999. It was not returned after the agreed ten-day period. The prosecution in the case said McBride had 'wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously embezzled' a tape, which it valued at $58.59. The store subsequently closed in 2008, part of the countrywide disappearance of the rental video industry which was wiped out by streaming services. McBride's criminal record, however, remained. It was the Texas driving licensing team that told her of the felony embezzlement charge after a recent background check. McBride said she called the Cleveland County District Attorney's office in Oklahoma, where an official told her the charge 'was over the VHS tape. I had to make her repeat it because I thought, this is insane,' she said. 'This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn't kidding.' McBride said she suspects the words 'felony embezzlement' had led to her rejection from at least five jobs without explanation over the past twenty years. 'It's a serious issue. It's caused me and my family a lot of heartache financially because of the positions I've lost because of those two words. Something's got to give,' she told KFOR. The case has now been dropped, but McBride still needs to get the record expunged. She believes a man she was living with at the time may have rented the tape for his young daughters and then neglected to return it. Even the Sabrina team were moved by McBride's plight. Melissa Joan Hart posted a shrugging emoji and another of the show's cast, Caroline Rhea, said: 'Seriously let's all sign a script for her to help her out.' Salem the Cat, on the other hand, did not comment on the matter. Which was odd because he was always so chatty in the show.
The BBC has responded to whinges over its coverage of Prince Philip's funeral by insisting its editorial choices 'reflected the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster in a moment of national significance.' BBC1 devoted nearly four hours to the event on 17 April. Its programming, led by Huw Edwards, was watched by an average of almost seven million people. David Attenborough, Gyles Brandreth and Alan Titchmarsh also shared memories of the Queen's late husband, who died on 9 April at the age of ninety nine. Responding to whinges about the coverage, the BBC said on its website: 'The funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally. We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given and impact this had on the billed BBC1 schedule. We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster, during moments of national significance. We are grateful for all feedback and we always listen to the response from our audiences.' One or two people even believed them. The BBC's latest statement came after its wall-to-wall coverage of the duke's death became the most complained-about moment in British television history. Nearly one hundred and eleven thousand punters contacted the BBC in the following days to whinge about its decision to turn most of its TV channels and radio stations over to rolling tributes. The unprecedented number of complaints led the BBC to set up a dedicated online form for angry viewers within hours of Philip's death in an attempt to streamline the process. The corporation acknowledged the complaints, but in a statement similar to that circulated about the funeral coverage, said that clearing the schedules reflected its role as the nation's main broadcaster. The BBC also broadcast scenes from the funeral service on its news channel, but BBC2 did not broadcast coverage, instead showing the World Snooker Championship. Given the choice between the two, most people with half-a-brain in their head went for the funeral even if they had little or no time for the Royal Family since, you know, snooker fer Christ' sake. ITV gave the event three hours' coverage, anchored by Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham and featuring guests including the duke's goddaughter, India Hicks. Channel Four showed episodes of the reality show Four In A Bed and Channel Five broadcast the film A Knight's Tale, starring Heath Ledger.
A radio station that played a song containing 'prolonged sounds of sexual moaning' at breakfast time breached the broadcasting code, a watchdog ruled. Caroline Community Radio played 'French Kiss by' Lil Louis on 17 December at a 'time when children were particularly likely to be listening,' Ofcom said. Which does, indeed, contain lots of moaning about The Sex. Shocking. And, indeed, stunning. Let us, once again, stand up and salute the Utter Shite that some people chose to care about.
The communications regulator said that the song was 'not appropriately scheduled.' Ofcom's report said the Essex-based station's licensee confirmed it was 'undertaking a review of its database.' To make sure they haven't got any Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, Donna Summer or, indeed, Extreme Noise Terror on their playlist. The regulator said the song, which reached number two in the UK charts in 1989, contained no lyrics but included 'prolonged sounds of sexual moaning lasting two minutes and twenty seconds.' If you're curious, dear blog reader, it starts about five minutes and twenty seconds into the nine minute instrumental. And, quite an earful it is, too. Caroline Community Radio broadcasts on FM to the Maldon area of Essex from studios in Burnham-on-Crouch and is also available online. To an audience of about six. The report said that 'given the radio station's target audience, the likelihood of children listening was low.' No shit? The licensee said it had been in the process of transferring its music library from one computer system to another. They added that 'some scheduling restrictions that it had applied to songs had not been carried across to the new system.' A report claimed the licensee 'did not wish to offend its listeners and confirmed that it was undertaking a review of its database to ensure all song information is correct.' Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - ruled that the broadcast was in breach of rule 1.3 of the Broadcasting Code, which states that 'children must ... be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.' And, anything related to The Sex. Caroline Community Radio is an independent organisation, but its website said it 'had connections' to the famous pirate station of the 1960s Radio Caroline, including use of its name.
At least ten thousand UK nationals have reportedly been approached by fake profiles linked to hostile states, on the professional social network LinkedIn, over the past five years, according to MI5. It warned users who had accepted such connection requests might have then been lured into sharing secrets. That's, obviously, if they have any secrets to share. This blogger, for instance, has only but one secret. Albeit, it involves, a golf course, ten thousand pounds and at least two late night attempts to move a body. But, perhaps he's said too much. 'Malicious profiles' are being used on 'an industrial scale,' the security agency's chief, Ken McCallum, claimed. A campaign has been launched to 'educate' government workers about the threat. Because, let's face it, government workers can always do with all the education they can lay their hands on. The effort - Think Before You Link - warns foreign spies are targeting those with access to sensitive information. One concern is the victims' colleagues, in turn, become more willing to accept follow-up requests - because it looks as if they share a mutual acquaintance. MI5 did not specifically name LinkedIn but BBC News claims to have 'learned' the Microsoft-owned service is, indeed, the platform involved. So that information, seemingly, is not a secret. Or, if it is, you know, schtum. The ten thousand-plus figure includes staff in virtually every government departments as well as key industries, who might be offered speaking or business and travel opportunities that could lead to attempts to recruit them to provide confidential information. And, it is thought a large number of those approached engaged initially with the profiles that contacted them online. 'No-one is immune to being socially manipulated into wrongdoing through these approaches,' the guidance given to government staff says. LinkedIn has said it 'welcomes the initiative.' The campaign, run by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which reports to MI5, asks government staff to focus on 'the four Rs'; recognising malicious profiles, realising the potential threat, reporting suspicious profiles to a security manager and removing the profiles. 'Since the start of the pandemic, many of us have been working remotely and having to spend more time at home on our personal devices,' government chief security officer Dominic Fortescue said. 'As a result, staff have become more vulnerable to malicious approaches from hostile security services and criminal organisations on social media.' The US and other countries have launched similar campaigns. Former CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to twenty years in The Joint, after being extremely convicted of giving secrets to China following an approach on LinkedIn. And the UK's move is also being backed by the other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That, seemingly, is also not a secret. Although it probably should be.
A hospital employee in Italy has been accused of skipping work on full pay for fifteen years. Nice lack-of-work if you can ... not get it. The man is alleged to have stopped turning up to work at the Ciaccio hospital in the Southern city of Catanzaro in 2005. He is now being investigated for fraud, extortion and abuse of office, Italian news agency Ansa reports. He was reportedly paid five hundred and thirty eight thousand Euros in total over the years that he is thought not to have been working. Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism. The arrests are the result of a lengthy police investigation into absenteeism and suspected fraud in the Italian public sector. The employee was a civil servant and was assigned to a job in the hospital in 2005. It was at this point he stopped going into work, the police said. The police have also accused him of threatening his manager to stop her from filing a disciplinary report against him. That manager later retired, police added and his ongoing absence was 'never noticed' by her successor or human resources.
Rolling Stones guitarist Rockin' Ronnie Wood says that he has been given the all-clear after being diagnosed with cancer during the lockdown. The seventy three-year-old had small-cell cancer, which typically affects the lungs. It follows a successful fight against his first lung cancer diagnosis in 2017. Rockin' Ronnie told the Sun: 'I've had cancer two different ways now" and credited a "higher power" for the positive outcome. All I can do is stay positive in my attitude, be strong and fight it and the rest is up to my higher power,' he said. 'I came through with the all-clear.' Rockin' Ronnie's spiritual outlook reflects a concept of control and acceptance encouraged by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Wood, a founding member of The Faces and The Jeff Beck Group, became known for his heavy partying and substance abuse, particularly after joining The Stones in 1975 and becoming Keef Richards wing-man in more senses than one. But, he said that the lessons learned during numerous stints in rehab equipped him to fight the disease. 'I'm going through a lot of problems now, but throughout my recovery, you have to let it go. And when you hand the outcome over to your higher power, that is a magic thing,' the guitarist told the alleged paper. 'That brings you back to the [AA and NA's] Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." That's incredible. What will be will be, it's nothing to do with me.' The musician and broadcaster, a keen painter, said that working on paintings of his wife Sally Humphries and looking after their four-year-old twin daughters Gracie Jane and Alice Rose, also helped to keep him strong. Discussing his 2017 lung cancer diagnosis, Wood previously told the Daily Scum Mail that he had wondered whether it was 'time to say goodbye' to his family. The Rockin' Rocker underwent a week of tests and said if the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes 'it would have been all over for me.' Instead, he needed a five-hour operation to have part of his lung removed before first confirming he was cancer-free in 2018. The small-cell cancer Rockin' Ronnie faced in lockdown commonly forms in the lung and can quickly spread to other areas. But after being given the all-clear once again, he said he feels he's been given 'a second chance' and is now focused on returning to the stage with The Stones. He said: 'I am grateful every day for the continuance of this positive attitude. Everybody gets to fight in their own way, live their lives and survive.'
And from that, dear blog reader, to this ...
First Man.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
The Sopranos.
The Last Movie Star.
The BBC presenter Reeta Chakrabarti has said that presenting a news bulletin is a skilled job, after Jeremy Paxman claimed that 'any fool' could do it. Grumpy old sod Paxo has made a series of criticisms of the BBC and television news since stepping down from Newsnight almost seven years ago, culminating in his recent assertion that 'newsreading is an occupation for an articulated suit.' And, given that he did it himself for so long, one could opine that it takes a fool to know a fool. Chakrabarti, who regularly presents BBC news bulletins, said that she disagreed with this assessment. 'It's his opinion, but I wonder why he says it when he spent quite a few years himself reading an Autocue,' she said. 'And if I'm presenting the One O'Clock News, I've written a lot of what I'm reading out. Those aren't someone else's words.' She told the Radio Times: 'I'm a journalist, I know what the stories are, I discuss them with the editor and the correspondent and I pride myself on being able to write with simplicity and clarity. Maybe "any fool" can do this, but I think it's a skill.'
In what is becoming an annual happenstance, yer actual Keith Telly Topping hopes that all of his dear blog readers enjoyed a happy St George's Day on 23 April. And, also, a happy St Ringo's Day on 24 April.
Last Sunday was the eighth anniversary of this blogger's mother's death. The following day was the thirty first anniversary of this blogger's dad's demise. This blogger wishes it to be known that he still miss both of them every single day.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been making a - very Asperger's-style - list of all of the things that he hasn't done for months (in some cases, for more than a year) which he hope to be doing in a month's time once he has had his second prickage and places are open again. It goes something like this.
1. Getting the Metro down to the coast and having a walk along Tynemouth Long Sands.
2. Going to the cinema and watch a movie on a big screen instead of on the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House tellybox.
3. Visiting a restaurant in Stowell Street and having a meal and a couple of glasses of wine and some civilised conversation with a fiend.
4. Going shopping to buy some new dead choice gear.
5. Sitting in Leazes Park (on a sunny day) with a good book, watching the wildlife.
6. Visiting someone else's gaff for a change instead of just looking at the four walls of the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House.
7. Going to the library.
8. Having a swim in the pool and a half-hour in the steam room.
9. Getting a haircut so that this blogger no longer looks like a member of some filthy, disgusting, earache-inducing Prog Rock combo of the 1970s.
10. Having a coffee with another fiend (this blogger does have more than one).
Ticking all of these off Yer Actual Keith Telly Topping's Stuff He Intends To Do When He Can Without Facng The Probability Of Dying As A Result list is likely to be ... far harder than it may look right about now, dear blog reader. Nevertheless, he's going to have a right good go. Dreaming, as Blondie once noted, is free.
Michael Collins, one of the three crew members of the first manned mission to The Moon, Apollo 11 in 1969, has died aged ninety, his family say. He died on Wednesday after 'a valiant battle with cancer. He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side,' they added. Collins had stayed in lunar orbit as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on The Moon. Aldrin is now the only surviving member of the mission. In a statement, the Collins family said that 'Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility and faced this, his final challenge, the same way. We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honour his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life.' The family also asked for privacy 'during this difficult time.'