Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dance Stance!

Regular listeners to yer Keith Telly Topping's Top TV Tips slot on t'radio might just have noticed earlier this week that yer Keith Telly Topping's lovely oppo - the broadcasting legend that is Si Logan - came up with a statement to the effect that when yer Keith Telly Topping gets enthusiastic about a television show, he is sometimes in danger of 'forcing people to like what he likes.' That's actually very true. Guilty as charged. I did, however, have to remind Si yesterday morning that, effectively, he'd just given out a pretty perfect job description for the occupation of TV reviewer! So this, dear blog reader, is one occasion where I can - with complete honesty - say to you all, hand on heart, 'Hey man, it's ma job!'

On Monday evening, the regular [spooks]-versus-Whitechapel ratings battle finally reached its climax with the BBC's espionage thriller series overtaking ITV's - by now rather tired-looking - three-part crime drama serial by around three hundred thousand viewers according to overnight figures. [spooks] had an audience of 5.1m. Whitechapel, meanwhile, achieved 4.8m. Given that Whitechapel's average audience last year was over seven-and-a-half million and [spooks] was getting audiences of under five million, that turn around has to be seen as one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus. The fact that [spooks] has been really very good indeed this year, and Whitechapel a bit more ... 'meh' isn't, entirely, unrelated to these overnights. Some of the acting in the latter - from really rather decent actors, an'all, like Peter Serafinowicz and Steve Pemberton - has, at times, verged on the scenery-chewing. Maybe Phil Davis was right, the only reason last year's trilogy got such huge rating figures was because it had a captive audience because it coincided with that really cold spell when most of the country was under a foot of snow. Albeit, it should be noted that Whitechapel has been scoring quite well this year on consolidated ratings figures which also take into account people who have recorded TV shows to watch later (an average of a million plus per episode for the first two). Which suggests that, seemingly, a chunk of the audience is watching [spooks] live at the same time as recording Whitechapel. Certainly they would appear to be two dramas with a, broadly, similar audience. So, a third series for Chandler, Miles and their boys is not, entirely, out of the question if they can come up with another crime associated with East London. The invention of jellied eels, possibly? Or, as the last scene between Chandler and Anderson suggested, perhaps further afield. Monday was a good night, also, for BBC2 - particularly the 8pm to 9pm hour where both University Challenge and MasterChef: The Professionals topped three million viewers. However, Monday also saw a new audience low for Daybreak of, get this, just five hundred and ninety thousand. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

Whilst [spooks] and Whitechapel were going toe-to-toe on Monday night, over on BBC4, the final part of Mark Gatiss's excellent A History of Horror maintained its audience with four hundred and fifty eighty thousand viewers at 9pm. A further one hundred and forty thousand viewers - including this blogger as it happens - watched the midnight repeat. Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping thought Monday night's episode, focusing on a number of disparate American movies that Mark admired starting with Psycho and ending with Halloween - was the weakest of the three. It had less of an obvious central theme than the previous two and seems more scatter gun in its approach. But, for all that it was still a highly watchable, authoritative and genuinely enthusiastic look at a subject Mark clearly has a deep affection for. Impressive stuff all round. The guy's a star and it's lovely to see the BBC seeming to have realised that all of a sudden, if they didn't already.

And, speaking of consolidated ratings figures, dear blog reader, because I know how much you love those, here's the Top Twenty programmes for week ending 17 October 2010:
1 The X Factor - ITV - 14.32 million*
2 EastEnders - BBC1 - 10.35 million
3 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 - 10.13 million*
4 Coronation Street - ITV - 9.97 million*
5 Downton Abbey - ITV - 9.70 million*
6 The Apprentice - BBC1 - 8.63 million*
7 New Tricks - BBC1 - 7.67 million
8 Emmerdale - ITV - 7.32 million
9 Countryfile - BBC1 - 6.92 million*
10 Whitechapel - ITV - 6.71 million
11 Merlin - BBC1 - 6.40 million
12 [spooks] - BBC1 - 6.37 million
13 International Football: England vs Montenegro - ITV - 6.20 million*
14 Holby City - BBC1 - 5.77 million
15 Have I Got News For You - BBC1 - 5.70 million
16 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 - 5.64 million*
17 Single Father - BBC1 - 5.51 million*
18 Midsomer Murders - ITV - 5.45 million
19 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV - 5.42 million
20 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 - 5.34 million
Those programmes marked with an asterisk include HD figures. Main thing to draw your attention to here, look at Merlin! Given the opposition, that's an extraordinary figure.

Just occasionally you can get pointed in the direction of something really rather wonderful on the Internet. Something that isn't spurious rumours or pornography, that is. And so it was for yer Keith Telly Topping this week when his good friend Cameron provided him with this link. A fifteen minute segment from the CBS nightly show 60 Minutes in which their reporter, Steve Kroft introduces, mainstream America to Top Gear via interviews with Jezza, Hamster, Cap'n Slow and Andy Wilman. And, they get it, that's the brilliant thing. The Americans actually understand what the show is about, something which the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Scum Mail between them have never managed. As Kroft notes: 'Part reality show, part buddy movie, part Monty Python.' My God, an America who understands irony. Whatever next?

And then, there's this. My thanks to Ian Robinson for pointing me in the direction of it, the clearly disgustingly talented Darren Dutton for making it, Stephen Fry for simply existing and Wagner. For ... you know, stuff.

And, still on the subject of the Gruniad Morning Star and really fast cars, according to a rather sickeningly gleeful report from one of the paper's many Communist wretches two hundred and seventy three people complained to BBC after Sunday's delayed Korean Grand Prix was moved, mid-race, from BBC1 to BBC2. And, of course, the Gruniad Morning Star just loved that, so they did. Pure gave them a collective Raging Horn of massive proportions. Many of those contacting the BBC said that they had recorded the race to watch later and the move of channel meant they had only recorded half of the race. The delay in the availability of the second half of the race on iPlayer also prompted some complaints. Eleven further comments - as distinct from complaints - had been received by the corporation as From The North discovered when we contacted the BBC press office for confirmation of the accuracy of these figures. And, much as it hurts me to say it, they are accurate. It does make you wonder, rather, what anybody could possibly 'comment' about when contacting the BBC on this subject if it wasn't to complain. 'I note the BBC switched the motor racing from BBC1 to BBC2 mid-race. Jolly well done'? The BBC responded by arguing that the race was repeated 'as live' on BBC1 at 2pm on Sunday, while a highlights programmed aired on BBC3 at 7pm. The corporation further argued that the delay was beyond its control, as torrential rain had held the race's start time back by nearly an hour. When it did start, the safety car had to run on the track until the end of lap seventeen putting events behind schedule still further. In a statement issued to the Gruniad Morning Star, a BBC spokesman stopped just short of asking the impertinent Marxist berks what the hell it had to do with them anyway, but - in a temper that yer Keith Telly Topping certainly wouldn't have managed when speaking to insolent dogs like they - merely said: 'Sunday's Korean Grand Prix was delayed due to extreme weather. The subsequent disruption to the schedule was flagged up to the audience throughout via the commentary and was also made clear again just prior to switching the coverage to BBC2. The race was re-run in full on BBC1 at 2pm and was available on-demand via BBC iPlayer. There was also an hour-long highlights show transmitted at 7pm on BBC3. The BBC is committed to showing all nineteen Grand Prix live and as our flagship channel BBC1 is the natural home for Formula 1. However, the BBC also has a responsibility to reflect a wide range of interests and therefore the decision was taken to switch the F1 coverage to BBC2 until its conclusion.' Oh, but for a final flourish of 'now sod off, you Stalinist!' at the end of that statement. I'd've kissed the spokesman on the mouth, personally, if he had. Live coverage of the race attracted an average of 1.3 million viewers on BBC1 between 6am and 9.30am with a peak of 2.6m at 9:00, while an average of 1.6m tuned-in for the extra hour on BBC2 from 9.30am, peaking at 9:45 with just a fraction under two million viewers. Both of which figures, incidentally, are considerably more than the number of copies the Gruniad Morning Star sells on an average day. A small coincidental detail to consider whenever you read anything that the Gruniad Morning Star has to say on pretty much any subject, dear blog reader.

Christine Bleakley has reportedly been left 'shocked' and 'devastated' after discovering that her face has, apparently, been used in dozens of photoshopped pornographic images. The Daybreak host was alerted to the faked images which, according to the Daily Lies, include the thirty one-year-old naked, dressed in leather and 'having sex' with her co-host, Big Sweaty Adrian Chiles. I have to confess that this blogger did, actually, seek out some of the, ahem, offending items using Google Image. And ... well, let's put it this way, they're certainly more entertaining than the average episode of Daybreak, and that's a fact. A spokesperson for the presenter said: 'We will be looking to try to get these obviously fake images removed as soon as possible.' A 'friend' allegedly added: 'This is a horrible situation for Christine. Things aren't going well for her with Daybreak and then she was alerted to this. At first, she thought it was just a bit of fun but after having a look at what was out there, she was really disgusted. Some of the images are really graphic and what worries her the most is that people actually think this is her.' They continued: 'Christine has never, ever been involved in porn, she is just not that sort of girl.'

Strictly Come Dancing producers apparently want Ann Widdecombe to begin her next performance by entering on a horse. Personally, I don't think that's any way to describe Anton Du Beke, but I seem to be in a minority of one there so I'll drop the objection. This is all according to the Sun however. So, you know, caution. The tabloid alleges that the opening is being planned to top last week's escapade, which saw the former Conservative MP making her entrance on a high-wire. The paper suggests that 'bosses' (or, producers as normal people who can use words of more than two syllables call them) initially wanted to use an elephant but had to change their plans due to health and safety concerns. If the sixty three-year-old is unhappy with the suggestion, she may be carried onto the dance floor on a throne by several semi-clad male dancers wearing only thongs instead. No, not the thong bit - yer Keith Telly Topping just made that up, dear blog reader. You know, for a laugh. Unlike the rest of the story, which the Sun just made up. Allegedly. The tabloid claims that a 'source' told them: 'It would be great for her to ride in. It depends what she is up for doing. Ann is very strong-minded.' Widdecombe, meanwhile, is said to have insisted that she will not quit the BBC programme as John Sergeant did in 2008. 'I will not be doing a John,' she is reported to have said. 'I think what he did was rude, to be honest,' she said. 'I will be there until people want to see the back of me.' Actually, I think you'll find that John wasn't 'being rude' when he left the competition. Exactly the opposite, in fact. Rather he was being honest enough to know that viewers were voting for him for completely the wrong reason. To know that this was, after all, a dancing competition and that there was a very real danger of much better dancers than he being eliminated because the public were doing anything they could just to piss off the judges. I can see how you, a former Tory minister, might have a bit of difficulty understanding concepts like honesty and integrity, of course. Fully understand. I'm also indebted to my friend Tom for the following words of wisdom on the subject of Ms Widdecombe and her contributions to this year's Strictly: 'It seems that Widdecombe has reversed the trend of these reality shows. Whilst yer standard BGT-spotlight-machines magnifies and distorts its dumb, dull, but essentially harmless, contestant into becoming monsters, Strictly has taken a monster and distorted her into a human being.' Interesting theory. Completely wrong, of course, but interesting none the less!

Belle Amie have 'rubbished' tabloid reports that they rowed backstage over who got to wear the sexiest outfit on last weekend's X Factor. The girl band, who were in the bottom three acts in week two, were accused of squabbling backstage over lines in their song and about who got to wear which costume. A 'source' allegedly told the Mirror that Sophia Wardman had been heard saying, 'I don't want people to say, "Oh, she's pretty, don't make her sing, let's just look at her."' Speaking about the reports on Twitter, Wardman said: 'Ha, ha, love the papers saying we're fighting over the sexiest outfit? I suggested going out in flat shoes!' Geneva Lane, Rebecca Creighton, Esther Campbell and Wardman - at least one of whom yer Keith Telly Topping is pretty sure is a bloke - took control of their song choice last week, opting to sing 'I'll Stand By You' and work without the help of their supposed mentor Simon Cowell.

Meanwhile Professor David Wilson has attacked Simon Cowell and The X Factor, describing it as 'a circus.' Criminologist, author and broadcaster Wilson was a former advisor on Big Brother so, he's got sod-all right to criticise anybody over pretty much anything. Although to be fair to the lad he does hate Trinny and Susannah. So, you know, more power to his elbow, frankly. As well as being an award winning criminologist and media commentator, Wilson has frequently spoken out against reality TV in the past and has now branded the ITV series 'cynically manipulated.' Which, hell yes it is. I think, David, that's the main reason why so many people watch the damn thing in this first. Your stance is that, if I understand you correctly, that's not a very healthy thing. And, I kind of agree with you, and I'm sure lots of other people do too. But that isn't going to stop thirteen million people - not all of whom, I can assure you, are dribbling, numskull scum from the council estates - from tuning in next Saturday. So, you know, why worry? Writing in the Daily Scum Mail, Wilson said: 'Everything now seems utterly contrived: from the countless sob stories of the contestants to the phoney feuds between the judges; from the overtly sexual dancing we saw on Saturday to the fact that judge Cheryl Cole mimed at least parts of the song she sang on Sunday. The programme has descended into a grotesque puppet show, with Cowell acting as the cynical puppeteer, pulling the strings of the contestants and the heartstrings of the viewers.' It's descending into that? It's always been exactly that, pal. Again, that's largely why people watch it. Where the hell have you been for that last seven years? Oh yes, I forgot, 'advising' Big Brother. How very arch. He continued: 'In its decline in integrity, The X Factor is all too reminiscent of Big Brother, the smash-hit reality TV show which has finally been taken off the air after its slide into self-parody. Any pretence of "reality" in Big Brother soon evaporated as the show became little more than a parade of shallow, celebrity-fixated exhibitionists.' Yeah. And? 'What began [on X Factor] as an uplifting search for genuine talent has been turned into a gigantic exercise in deceit and exploitation.' Suggesting that the programme was having a negative effect on society, he added: 'There is also an absurd amount of histrionic self-regard among contestants, such as when we hear some seventeen-year-old proclaiming: "I've been fighting for this all my life," as if preparing for the D-Day landings.' I'm sure there's a point to all of this stating-the-bleeding-obvious somewhere but, I fell asleep long before I got to the end of the article. Dear blog readers are advised to give it a go themselves and see if they get any further. Personally, I think it's an exercise in David Wilson himself feeling morally superior to everyone involved in the production and viewing of The X Factor. Which, again, may well be true but is it, in and of itself, healthy?

A collection of Ivor the Engine episodes which have not been seen since the 1960s have been unearthed in Kent. The twenty four reels were found at the back of the converted pigshed in Blean, where Peter Firmin and the late Oliver Postgate created their much-loved childrens films for television. Postgate and Firmin were also behind other favourites including Bagpuss, Clangers and Pogles' Wood. Postgate's son, Dan, said the episodes could be released on DVD once they had been converted into a digital format. He said the black and white episodes were discovered by an agency which was digitising his father's old films. He added: 'My dad stored some of the old 16mm film in cans in an outbuilding on Peter Firmin's farm. They were stacked at the back of the shed in a store area. 'Kaleidoscope took away the cans and reported back that there were a lot of old black and white Ivor the Engine episodes. They haven't been seen since 1969. Most were remade in colour later but these are the raw originals.' He said: 'They will be of interest to a certain number of people as they have a particular wistful quality to them.' The last full length story of the little Welsh engine and his driver, Jones The Steam, was made in 1977. The cartoon and its tales of characters like Dai Station, Owen The Signal, Evans The Song and Idris The Dragon first appeared on television in 1959 and was then revamped for the BBC in the mid-1970s. Ivor reappeared on Welsh TV screens in 2004 to promote the former BBC Wales digital channel 2W. In December 2009 Dan Postgate announced that he planned to write a new Ivor the Engine story to raise money for charity.

A TV series based on the classic gangster movie Goodfellas has been confirmed after months of rumours. Nicholas Pileggi - author of Wiseguy, the original book on which Goodfellas is based - and director Martin Scorsese are said to be involved in planning the TV series, which will be a prequel to the movie. The series is likely to be based on the early life of Henry Hill, the character played by Ray Liotta in the original film. Pileggi told Culture magazine: 'I want to do it, Marty wants to do it, Warner Bros wants to do it. Of course, you can't pick up from Goodfellas, since we murdered everybody, or rather, everybody was murdered! There's nobody left. But I think we're going to figure out a way to do the early years - sort of a prequel.' One which will, hopefully, if you will, 'amuuuuse you!' Heh. Thang you, thang you, I'm here all week.

James Marsters has signed up to return to Hawaii Five-0. The actor appeared in the show's pilot as Victor Hesse, the man who murdered Steve McGarrett's father. Hawaii Five-0's executive producer Peter Lenkov has now told TV Guide that Hesse will return in the show's Christmas episode. He added that Hesse will have links to the notorious villain Wo Fat, who appeared in the original Hawaii Five-O series. 'There's buzz about Tia Carrere being Wo Fat,' Lenkov said. 'But we do have a man in mind.' And, just that one mention of James Marsters should ensure that From The North gets a couple of hundred more hits than usual today. That boy's certainly got an active fanbase. Hi, girls! Meanwhile the latest episode of the series - Ko'olauloa - played some cunning intertextual games in an episode full of old movie references in a story about the assassination of a surfer. You just kind-of knew it was going to be a fun episode when McGarrett told a minor character 'Danno don't surf!'

Al Murray might have spent much of his career reinforcing German stereotypes – actually, come to think, there's no might about it! - but now the man behind the Pub Landlord is to take a look at the real Germany in a two-part BBC4 documentary, Al Murray's German Adventure. The programme will look at the influence of the nation on arts, culture and thinking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Bach, Bauhaus and the Brothers Grimm. Murray – an Oxford history graduate, of course, before turning to comedy – said: 'I've gone far back in history and discovered a nation of dreamers whose golden age struck Europe like a beam of light. But we give Germany no credit for this because of what happened afterwards, when the dreams changed to dreams of conquest and German culture, as well as and our view of it, was hijacked by the Nazis. Now more than sixty years later it's time to return this culture back to Germany and look at the country afresh.'

ITV is reportedly close to following the BBC by moving its North West operations to the new MediaCity:UK complex at Salford Quays. Over the weekend, a report in the Independent claimed that the broadcaster was coming to the end of protracted negotiations with MediaCity developer Peel Holdings about the move. It is understood that the deal, which is being negotiated personally by ITV chief executive Adam Crozier, will involve ITV getting a purpose-built studio facility to produce its shows. That will include flagship soap opera Coronation Street making the move from its long-running outdoor set at Quay Studios in central Manchester. At MediaCity: UK, ITV will also share some production space with the BBC and other broadcasters that are gathering at the emerging media hub. In June, it was reported that ITV was still undecided about the move to MediaCity, despite widespread calls for it to do so from the industry. However, the broadcaster is understood to have now been persuaded by the prospect of state-of-the-art production facilities at Salford Quays. ITV is also thought to be interested in cutting its operational costs by consolidating back-office operations in the North West, while also bringing together its technology and studio facilities. Sources close to the deal claim that talks have gathered pace since Crozier and John Whittaker, the founder of Peel Holdings, got involved in the process. It is thought that an agreement could now be just weeks away from completion. Should ITV make the move to MediaCity, it is expected that the broadcaster will retain its Quay Street studio facilities for the medium-term, but it could sell them at a later date. A spokesman for ITV said: 'We are examining a number of options regarding ITV's Manchester base to ensure that we have a fit-for-purpose production complex in the North West.'

The BBC has reportedly cancelled 101 Ways To Leave A Gameshow. Or, as it'll now perhaps be known, 102, If You Just Bugger Off And Don't Come Back. The series saw all of the unsuccessful contestants eliminated in a variety of different ways and yet was still about as entertaining a good hard kick in a knackers on a bone-chilling day. The Sun claims that BBC executives decided to knife the show in the bladder because they were unhappy with the pathetic ratings that it attracted. The show began its six week run with an audience of over four million and ended it with less than two and a half million. However, television producers are reportedly still hoping to work with the programme's presenter, Steve Jones. 'The show was Steve's first major prime time Saturday night outing by himself and it hasn't worked out,' a 'source' allegedly explained. 'But executives still rate him.'

The successor to the outgoing BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons will have to accept a pay cut of twenty one thousand smackers as part of the government's cost-saving drive, it has emerged. Lack of culture secretary, the vile Jeremy Hunt has now started the search for a new chairman for the BBC's governing body, with adverts placed in selected national newspapers. I'll do it, Jezza. The post is being advertised at one hundred and ten thousand pounds for a three-to-four day working week, sixteen per cent less than the one hundred and thirty one thousand pounds currently earned by Lyons, who steps down next May. I'll do it, Jezza. I'll do it for ninety grand a year and a British Rail season ticket. I'm a licence fee payer, I'm just what you need. Honest. The job advert, posted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, places a closing date of 12 November for applications with interviews scheduled for 27 and 28 January. I'll do it, Jeremy. Keith Telly Topping's yer man. Straight up. The advert calls for 'excellent leadership skills and ability to chair effectively at senior board level.' Yeah, I can do that. 'Shut the hell up and listen to me!' See. Dead easy. It also required 'a commitment to effective financial stewardship and ability to ensure value for money is achieved.' Err... sure. Why not. I could do that. According to reports, candidates in the running include Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy, former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose and YouGov chairman Roger Parry. I'd be better at the job than any of them, Jeremy. And certainly cheaper. Come and get me. Mine would be a glorious - and only marginally unbenevolent, harsh and cruel - leadership.

Mark Gatiss has confirmed that Martin Freeman's role in The Hobbit will not affect the production of Sherlock. It was previously widely reported - seemingly by people who didn't know what they were talking about - that Freeman had initially turned down the part of Bilbo Baggins in order to film a second series of the detective drama. However, it was later announced that the actor would, indeed, star in the Tolkien adaptation. Gatiss wrote on his Twitter account: 'Huge congratulations to the brilliant Martin Freeman on becoming Bilbo Baggins! No change to Sherlock schedule, I'm glad to say.' It was rumoured last month that New Line and MGM had revised the filming schedule for The Hobbit to allow Freeman to participate in both projects although this has yet to be confirmed by anybody who does know what they're talking about.

Channel 4's documentary Britain's Islamic Republic, which attracted more than one thousand complaints and was described as 'a dirty little programme' by former MP and mouthy gobshite George Galloway - seen left, during the highlight of his career - has been cleared by Ofcom. Steve Boulton Productions made the Dispatches investigation into 'a fundamentalist Muslim group,' which attracted two hundred and five complaints to the regulator and more than eight hundred to the broadcaster. It was fronted by investigative reporter Andrew Gilligan and claimed that the Islamic Forum of Europe had infiltrated the Labour party and the Respect party and was exerting influence over Tower Hamlets Council in London. It also probed Galloway's relationship with the IFE and included secretly filmed footage taken in the East London Mosque, the London Muslim Centre and the studios of IFE radio show Easy Talk. The documentary was broadcast in March and was described by Galloway as 'another camera-up-the-jumper film' from 'the tiresome and fevered' current affairs strand. Ofcom investigated the film against four criteria of its Broadcasting Code, but found it had not broken any of the rules. It said the documentary was 'clearly part of Channel 4's distinct public service remit' and that it made clear its allegations related to the IFE only and were not representative of all Muslims. The programme also represented the views of the IFE in response to the allegations, Ofcom said, and there was no evidence that its audience was materially misled.

ABC has reportedly cancelled its freshman drama The Whole Truth. The legal series starred Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow. Entertainment Weekly says that the show has been axed following poor initial ratings. The programme's co-executive producer Kristie Anne Reed reportedly confirmed the news on Twitter, saying: 'ABC gave us the word. We will only make thirteen episodes of The Whole Truth.' She added: 'We're still filming and will be until mid-December. Thanks for your support.' The Whole Truth is the fourth new series to be cancelled this season. ABC has also cancelled My Generation, while NBC dropped Outlaw and FOX decided to punish the failure of Lone Star.

Living is to be renamed Sky Living and will be positioned next to Sky1 and forthcoming HBO channel Sky Atlantic on the satellite broadcaster's EPG. Sky's two new channels will go out on slots one hundred and seven and one hundred and eight, adjacent to Sky1's existing one hundred and six position as the broadcaster pushes its profile as an entertainment provider. The two slots are currently occupied by Sky2 and Sky3. Living is pushed up the EPG from its current position at one hundred and twelve, following Sky's go-ahead to purchase the Virgin Media channels from the Office of Fair Trading in September. In October, Sky announced the exclusive HBO shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones will be aired via a dedicated channel, Sky Atlantic, from early 2011. All three are available as part of Sky's basic entertainment package. Sky managing director of entertainment, news and broadcast operations Sophie Turner Laing said that she wanted to place stand-out content at the heart of the broadcaster's strategy. 'Taken together, these channels will have real cut through,' she said. I'm not, enitrely, sure what that means or if it even qualifies as English, dear blog reader but, never mind. 'Quite simply, they will be channels worth paying for and will give even more customers reasons to choose pay TV,' she added.

A BBC programme has been censured after a report about music file-sharing was found to contain inaccuracies. UK Music, which represents the music industry, complained about a segment on BBC2's The Culture Show looking at a new law intended to tackle piracy. The report was fronted by the comedian Mark Thomas and broadcast in February. The BBC Trust agreed that two points were factually wrong and has upheld part of the complaint. But it rejected a claim that the report was biased. The ten-minute report examined the powers the Digital Economy Bill would give authorities to crack down on unauthorised file-sharing. The Bill was going through Parliament at the time. UK Music chief executive Feargal Sharkey - former lead singer of The Undertones - said the show's interpretation was 'grossly misleading and inaccurate' as well as being biased. In the BBC Trust's findings, the corporation's governing body agreed that one section about how perpetrators could have their Internet accounts cut off 'had not been sufficiently precise and had been inaccurate.' It also ruled that a claim about the Secretary of State's powers to amend the law without proper scrutiny 'had not retained a respect for factual accuracy.' But, the Trust found that the show had not knowingly misled the audience and decided that two further claims of inaccuracy were, in themselves, not inaccurate. It also accepted that Thomas had 'expressed strong personal opinions,' but ruled that views from all sides of the debate had been reflected and 'bias on a controversial subject had been avoided.' Responding to the ruling, Sharkey said he was 'hugely disappointing' that the statements were broadcast by 'such a trusted voice as the BBC. Although pleased to have our complaint upheld in part we feel that the Editorial Standards Committee should have gone further,' he added. A BBC statement said: 'This report was an attempt to interpret highly complex legislation going through Parliament at that time and it is important for us that the Trust deemed the report to be impartial.'

Paul the Psychic Octopus has reportedly died at the age of two. The cephalopod mollusc gained international fame for supposedly predicting the winner in Germany's seven matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Sky News confirmed his passing on Twitter on Tuesday morning: 'Paul the World Cup "psychic" octopus who shot to fame after correctly predicting the outcome of games has died, says his aquarium in Germany.' Paul also correctly 'forecast' that Spain would beat the Netherlands in the tournament's final. Paul made his guesses by choosing a mussel from one of two boxes marked with a flag of the competing nations before each game. Paul was reportedly born in Weymouth in January 2008, but lived in a tank at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. He first attracted the public's attention by correctly 'predicting' the winner of twelve out of fourteen games at the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. However, it was suggested by some that Paul was not the same octopus as the 2008 creature. It was also widely claimed in the media that some German football fans wanted to kill and eat Paul after he correctly 'forecast' the team's defeat to Spain in the 2010 semi-final. Paul retired from predicting football matches in July.

British comic The Dandy is to feature a strip cartoon based on the antics of the comedian Harry Hill. According to writer and artist Nigel Parkinson, the strip is based on a concept by the TV Burp host, who also contributed jokes and oversaw its development. Hill's writing team - led by David Quantick - will script the cartoon in future issues. Also joining perennial favourites such as Desperate Dan and Bananaman are new strips include including characters like Pepperoni Pig, Postman Prat and The Y-Factor. The comic's editor Craig Graham said: 'The Dandy has constantly evolved over its seventy three-year history, but the brand new Dandy is the best and funniest it's ever been. We're providing something quite different to our competitors.'

And, finally, Robbie Williams is to tour with Take That for the first time in sixteen years when the reunited group go on a stadium tour next summer. They have announced initial dates in Sunderland, Manchester, Cardiff, Dublin, Glasgow, Birmingham and London in May, June and July. The opening date will be at Sunderland's Stadium of Light. And, just think, Gary Barlow is going to go on stage and try to keep a straight face whilst singing 'Tonight/could be/the greatest night of our lives.' In Sunderland? I very much effing doubt it, Gazza. You remember what the former Sunderland manager Alan Durban once famously said about entertainment in football grounds, dear blog reader? 'If you want to be entertained, go to the circus and watch the clowns.'