Monday, November 22, 2010

How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth It Is To Have A Thankless Child

Jason Manford turned his recent Internet sex scandal into part of his act during a gig this week. The comedian, who quit The ONE Show on Thursday following newspaper allegations, joked about the situation with the audience at a sell-out show in Newcastle on Friday. According to the Sun, he asked the audience if they'd had a good day, before adding: 'I'm glad someone has!' he continued: 'Nothing is going to embarrass me now. Basically, seven million people caught me wanking. It's bad enough when your mother catches you!' Good one. It is interesting how the Sun in their moral crusade on this subject seem to have completely missed the point regarding Manford's audience. All that 'disgraced former ONE Show presenter' nonsense might play well with a few Home Counties ONE Show viewers, but the vast majority of people who attend Jason's stand-up shows could not give a flying monkey's chuff about any of that malarkey. Quite the opposite, in fact, they probably find the whole thing hilariously funny. Just as Russell Brand's career wasn't, exactly, harmed in any way by the Daily Scum Mail's inherently ludicrous shock! horror! pictures! 'exclusives' following Manuelgate. He just went back on tour, sold out every gig, released a DVD off the back of it and made thousands. Afterwards, Jason told the crowd: 'My gran rang me today, crying. How heartbreaking is that? [My wife is] all right about it. She's fine. She just said, "You dick." But we're all right.' Which, ultimately, is probably the only important thing in this whole sorry affair. Meanwhile, the newspaper claims, Manford has annoyed his former producers at The ONE Show by revealing what the newspaper describes as 'backstage secrets' at gigs. Speaking on the subject of Mary Bale, the woman who was infamously caught putting a cat in a wheelie bin, Jason allegedly told the audience: 'I said, "I've seen the YouTube footage. It's awful. But I showed the dog and he thought it was hilarious." We got fifteen complaints because of that. I can tell you that story now!' Again, good one. And, not really a 'secret' either as complaints the BBC receives are a matter of public record - all you have to do is ring the BBC press office and ask. A BBC 'insider' is alleged to have told the newspaper: 'Just because he's a comic doesn't mean he can divulge everything that happened on The ONE Show in a jokey way.' Err... well, I think he can, actually, pal. 'It's classified information.' Not now it isn't. He's not under contract with you any more, he can say whatever the hell he likes and there is not a damn thing you, or anyone else, can do to stop him. That ship's sailed. That is, of course, if anyone did give out this quote to the Sun. Which, personally, I find dubious to say the least.

TV comedy moment of the week was the excellent Kevin Bridges on Have I Got News For You on the subject of the Royal Wedding: 'I don't think this is going to cheer the country up. Just in case unemployed life wasn't difficult enough, there's gonna be six months where the TV's shite!' Followed by: 'It must be pretty surreal being William and Harry on a stag night. Just you and your mates stuffing pictures of your gran into a lap dancer's bra!' For all this and ten minutes more on the subject check it out; Kevin, Paul Merton, Ian Hislop, Clive Anderson and guest host Damien Lewis all on particularly fine form! I really enjoyed the bit about Davina McCall's Twitter response to the news. And also, 'I'm willing to give you eighty million pounds if we can move on to the next subject!' Would that someone could actually achieve that.

Pamela Stephenson has credited Strictly Come Dancing with saving her from an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle. The sixty-year-old psychologist, who is partnered with professional dancer James Jordan, spoke of her delight at having undergone 'a miraculous transformation' on the show. 'How on earth did I get lucky enough to be catapulted into the glittery world of Strictly Come Dancing?' she asked aloud in an self-penned Daily Scum Mail article. Err, because they asked you to - and offered you lots of money? I mean I don't mind, don't get me wrong (although, many reading the Daily Scum Mail probably do), but it's a bit of silly question to ask when the answer is so bleedin' obvious. 'A world where youth's last gasp can be realised within the twinkling of one's tired old toes. A world where excess body fat drops off faster than a crystal bead from a whirling bodice. And a world that has totally reignited my self-confidence and put the spring back in my step. [Before Strictly] disgusting, unhealthy gobs of fat were clustered around my thighs, bottom, tummy and even arms. I was upset with my body and knew this put me at risk of serious illnesses such as cancers and heart disease. So Strictly saved me. Dancing is a physical expression of our emotional selves and something inside me is being miraculously unlocked. Quite simply, in dancing I've found joy again. It has lifted my mood, made me feel optimistic and wonderfully happy. I have been reconnected with my body and have made peace with it.' Last month, sacked former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips described Stephenson's performances as 'the sexiest things I've seen on TV.'

Meanwhile, Len Goodman has compared Ann Widdecombe's dancing to a dose of the piles following her latest performance on the dance floor on Saturday night. The ex-Conservative MP picked up only thirteen points for her samba which, essentially, involved her being dragged around the floor by her professional partner, an embarrassed-looking Anton Du Beke. It was one of the lowest ever scores on the programme, with only Widdecombe's alleged salsa earlier in the series, and dances from Quentin Wilson and Fiona Phillips from previous years, scoring lower marks. Craig Revel Horwood gave the lowest possible mark - one - and described the routine as 'overwhelmingly awful.' Goodman was more generous, giving her a score of six, but joked: 'You're like haemorrhoids, Ann. You go away, come back and each week is more painful than the last.' But, still she didn't get voted out by the public. Felicity Kendall did.

Meanwhile, Horwood has criticised the BBC for their cheap treatment of the show's judges and celebrity contestants. This, bear in mind, at a time when the BBC is having to justify near enough every penny it spends to knobcheese scum in the press and parliament. Just, you know, something for you to think about Craig as you ponder potential unemployment next year if you make your mouth go with crass nonsense like this again. Or, possibly not. The Australian dancer bemoaned the corporation's choice of transportation and accommodation for Saturday's live show from the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, arguing that the participants in American counterpart Dancing With The Stars receive far superior care. That's because CBS have more money and aren't accountable to licence fee payers. Jesus, has everybody taken the Stupid Pill today, or what? 'Bruno and Len have already been complaining,' he told the Mirror. 'Everyone drops gold at their feet when they're in LA. Here they get shoved on a bus, sent up to Blackpool and forced to stay in a B&B and then shoved back down. But that's the BBC. I could travel on a bus with the celebs but I choose not to. That would be heinous.'

Perhaps Craig should remember what happened to Arlene Phillips when she started to get ideas above her station. Phillips has confessed that her life 'fell apart' following her axe from the Strictly judging panel two years ago. The sixty seven-year-old explained that although she had been inundated with work since leaving the BBC competition, including securing roles on another BBC format So You Think You Can Dance and Loose Women, her hectic workload had forced a dramatic reassessment of her character. She told the Daily Scum Mail: 'It's extraordinary because, since Strictly, I've always been busy. But suddenly becoming this figure women look to, has it made me happier? No. I'm busier and excited by it and thrilled by it but it doesn't buy happiness. I knew what my life was. Now it's exploding in front of me. I was just the Queen of Mean and I never thought about who I was. I felt like I was one persona, but now, after all this adulation, I sometimes wonder who I am. I suppose I've lost my identity.' Despite looking back fondly on her time on Strictly, Phillips added that she was glad to put the controversy surrounding her departure from the show behind her. 'That was forever ago. Strictly's the last thing on my mind. It doesn't feel like it is a part of me any more. It's so tiresome. I'm bigger than Strictly.' Which is why, presumably, every single sodding week, almost without exception, Arlene will be in a newspaper somewhere, talking about Strictly Come Dancing? Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Bruce Forsyth is likely to continue presenting Strictly, it has been reported. The presenter had been rumoured to be stepping down when the current series finishes, but producers are said to be confident that he will stick with the show after enjoying himself so much this year. A 'source' allegedly told the Daily Star Sunday: 'When this series started we all thought it would be Bruce's last. But as the series has gone on he seems sprightlier than ever. He really seems to be enjoying himself and we're hoping he'll be back next year. We've got everything crossed that he does a U-turn. It's like he's fallen in love with the show all over again.'

And, it seems he's not the only one either - Saturday night's episode of Strictly was watched by 11.35m (45.3 per cent audience share) on BBC1 and BBC HD with a peak audience of 12.8m just after half-past-seven. That's the highest ever audience for an episode of Strictly that wasn't a final. Subsequently, Merlin continued its impressive third series with 6.33m viewers. On ITV, Harry Hill's TV Burp was watched by a very good 7.1m, The X Factor topped the night with 13.2m (that's a forty nine per cent share) with its peak hitting 14.4m shortly before the end of the show. I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! was slightly down on earlier in the week with 9.2m, but, let's face it, who doesn't enjoy seeing Gillian McKeith scrabbling around in the much squealing like a piglet. However, Piers Morgan will be - tremendously - disappointed that Life Stories, with such a vastly impressive pair of lead-in shows could only manage an audience of 3.6m for his interview with Kelly Osbourne. That was exactly the sort of figure that the vile Morgan so crowed about when Jonathan Ross's show was getting it opposite Life Stories a couple of years ago and it was getting five million or more. Which it still gets every now and then, but it would appear from the evidence of the last few weeks that, basically, if he hasn't got somebody directly connected to The X Factor on his show, Morgan's audience collapses. Just something for CNN to think about when he turns up on their doorstep next year.

Gillian McKeith has angered her fellow I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! contestants by refusing to participate in her sixth Bush Tucker trial. The Scottish dietitian had been selected by viewers to operate the Dreaded Digger and attempt to uncover a number of buried stars while coming face to face with a series of gruesome finds. Having originally told the camp that she felt particularly low, McKeith decided to practice maneuvering the piece of machinery, but became more and more agitated after failing to get to grips with the complicated controls. 'I'm sorry I can't do this today,' she whined. 'I'm not in the right shape. I’m too tired.' McKeith then stepped out of the digger and confirmed to Ant and Dec that she would not be taking on the trial, the first time that this has occurred in ten series of the reality show. 'It's just too much having things all over my head and my body and trying to move the thing all at the same time. I feel exhausted, just mental exhaustion. It's a definite no. One thing lands on me, I'm finished. It's a waste of time.' McKeith then returned to camp, but decided to hide away in the netty before any of her fellow celebrities could confront her about the task. Eventually she was discovered by Sheryl Gascoigne, who was 'horrified' that McKeith felt too embarrassed to inform the contestants of her failure. After Gascoigne notified the camp of the result, McKeith eventually rejoined them and explained why she had opted to walk away from the trial. 'The trial was cancelled, that's the end of it,' she revealed. 'I realised I can't work the digger, so I start crying. It's quite amazing TV once again. I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown.' Although most of the castaways appeared supportive of McKeith's ordeal, Dom Joly later took to the Bush Telegraph to bemoan her lack of resilience. 'We got nothing for dinner because Dr Gillian McKeith couldn't operate a digger. I think it sounds like she didn't even try the trial, do the trial, which sounds a bit disappointing. I've given up, whatever, she shouldn't be here.'

And, speaking of whinging drama queens, Christine Bleakley has stated that she was personally hurt by the criticism levelled at Daybreak. Well, think yerself lucky, darlin', we've got to watch the effing thing - you don't. And now you're expecting, what? People to feel sorry for you? Remember, it was your greed and rank disloyalty to the BBC that got you onto Daybreak in the first place. I will be buggered in a ditch, on fire, before I shed a single tear for somebody getting paid what you're reported to be for so little obvious talent. Not a single tear. Your show's not much good and not many people like it and quite enjoy saying so, particularly because you're paid more money than the vast majority of your audience will ever see in their entire lives to sit on your arse talking rubbish for two hours a day. Deal with it. The thirty one-year-old reiterated her belief that the ITV breakfast show had begun to improve - which it hasn't - and confessed to taking initial criticism of the format to heart. She wailed to Buzz magazine: 'People say they have a thick skin but we're all human. You do get upset. There are things that don't work, and we'll change them. We have the most magnificent view, but at 6am it's pitch black.' I don't think, to be perfectly honest, that people are going to get out of their beds at that time of the morning to look at the sodding view, Christine, even if it's the middle of summer. The only people watching TV before 8am are those, like me, who are on their way out to work and therefore want a quick news update by professionals. So, that's why we watch the BBC instead of you and the glummy Brummy instead. 'We're learning as we go. We have to earn our right to be the choice in the mornings. The last week has been great and I'm excited about the future.' Former GMTV regulars Lorraine Kelly and Fiona Phillips are amongst those to have spoken out against the replacement show, whose audience has risen to eight hundred thousand viewers in the last week but it still half of the BBC's Breakfast are getting. Daybreak's audience appreciation index scores, however, remain rooted in the 'well below average' basement.

The stars of EastEnders are reportedly being offered counselling after breaking down while filming scenes for an upcoming cot death storyline. Filming of the plot, which sees Ronnie Mitchell steal Kat Moon's newborn baby after her own child dies, apparently had to be paused as the actors and crew struggled to deal with the emotional scenes. A source told the Sun: 'Most of the crew have never shot anything quite so sensitive. Filming stopped for over an hour as people found it hard to continue without breaking down. It will certainly be very strong viewing.' The tragedy will unfold during a New Year's Eve party at the Queen Vic, when Ronnie, played by Samantha Womack, swaps the babies.

A member of staff received an electric shock while working on the set of Coronation Street, it has been revealed. According to the Sunday Mirror, art director Leesa Mae was decorating the set with Christmas lights when the incident happened. She was taken to a nearby hospital in Manchester after being flung from her ladder by the force of the shock. She told the paper: 'I'm shook up - the doctor said I was lucky.' Hopefully, that particular episode won't include an Injury Lawyers 4U adverts during the break.

Did you know, dear blog reader, that Miranda Hart's father, David Hart-Dyke, was the commander of HMS Coventry, which was sunk by an Exocet during the Falklands war. Luckily, for all fans of Miranda's excellent sitcom, he survived.

And, speaking of the military, the head of the British army has complained to the BBC about a drama showing bullying among troops in Afghanistan, calling it 'deeply offensive to all those serving.' General Sir Peter Wall has written to BBC director general Mark Thompson about the programme, Accused. The episode features a corporal who bullies two friends who join the Army, one of whom goes on to commit suicide. Ordinarily, this blogger would - I think quite rightly - be telling General Sir Peter to take a hike, mind his own business in matters of artistic concern and, if he doesn't like it (or doesn't think he will like it, since it hasn't been shown yet), to watch something on the other side instead. But, after the way that the play's author, Jimmy McGovern, made his mouth go a few weeks, criticising the work of other people, frankly, I reckon this is payback time. What goes around comes around. So, I suggest the soldier get some of his chaps to 'round 'im up, put 'im in an a field and bomb the bastard.' Whaddya reckon, too harsh? Yeah, probably. The BBC said it was in no way an attempt to denigrate the Army. McGovern has said that Accused is a work of fiction and claimed that he has the greatest respect for British soldiers. The writer, who also created Cracker and The Street, said: 'As a dramatist, I was interested in exploring how soldiers have to be at a certain mindset to kill. It is not my intention to slur British soldiers, for whom I have the greatest respect. At the heart of the drama is my belief in the sanctity of life.' The episode is one of a six-part series following different people accused of crimes as they await the verdict of their trials. It stars Mackenzie Crook as a bullying corporal. The Ministry of Defence said General Sir Peter, the Chief of the General Staff, believed the episode was offensive to both troops and their families. Without, seemingly, having seen it yet. A spokesman said: 'There are fears that those watching it will believe this is what is really happening to their loved ones. We have asked the BBC to make it clear that this is a fictitious programme, is not accurate and that the Army has nothing to do with making it.' Well, that's kind of implicit in the fact that it's a sodding drama. Just to clue you in, spokesman, EastEnders isn't real either. And, Matt Smith hasn't really got two hearts and travels around in time and space in a dimensionally transcendent police telephone box. Hope that doesn't come as too much of a shock to you. A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that Thompson had received a critical letter from General Sir Peter and had responded, but would not release the director general's reply. Which is fair enough, I think we can all guess the general gist of its contents. Something along the lines of 'don't you have anything more important to do with your time than to try out for a new job as a TV critic? Haven't you got a war to fight, or something?' She said: 'In the promotion of this new drama series it has been made clear that Accused is a work of fiction.' Yes. That's because, it's a drama. With actors in it, and a script and everything. 'It is in no way an attempt to denigrate the servicemen and women of the British Army.' Last week, the prominent 2003 Iraq war veteran Colonel Tim Collins - someone never short of an opinion on pretty much any subject - said that the drama 'fails the soldiers on the front line' and 'abjectly fails the responsibility test.' The decorated soldier, who retired from the Army in 2004, attacked the episode for its 'gratuitous violence' and use of 'foul and abusive language. There is no point to Accused except to try to shock,' he told the Radio Times. Which may well be true but, that is 'a point,' in and of itself. I think it was Kingsley Amis who said that there's little point in writing anything if you can't annoy someone with it. And George Braque added 'The function of art is to disturb.' Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping thinks that Jimmy McGovern is a ghastly, embittered old red with a very annoying habit of talking bollocks about a lot of TV shows that I like. But, I'll defend to my last breath his right to say whatever the hell he likes in his drama. That's his job. Your job, Tim Collins, was to kill people. I'm sure you did it very well and I'm sure many of them thoroughly deserved all they got, but kindly don't try to tell anybody else how to do their job since you seem to have such an aversion to being told how to do yours.

Downton Abbey writer, posh Julian Fellowes is among the fifty four public figures to have been made working peers in the House of Lords. Which is odd because, frankly, I thought he was already. The actor, director and Oscar-winning screenwriter has become a Conservative peer in recognition of his long and distinguished career in TV and film. So, now he'll be able to attack left-wingers without having to resort to doing so under the pretence of 'defending his work.' Rumours that he is to take the title Lord Snotty cannot, at this time, be entirely discounted. And, now I'm having a vision of him and Lord Sugar-Sweetie having a blazing row in the Lords' lavvies. It's really disturbing, dear blog reader, trust me.

Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher is planning to quit the show, a report has claimed. The actress, who plays Susan Mayer in the ABC series, has apparently told colleagues that the next season will be her last as she prepares to take on other projects. Her decision is said to have put the future of the show in doubt. A source told the Scum Mail On Sunday: 'Teri has given in her notice and is making active preparations to move on. She has another production deal in the pipeline and she is in the early stages of developing a sitcom that she wants to start work on immediately after she finishes Desperate Housewives - she wants a new show in time for the mid-January pilot season.' Felicity Huffman is also alleged to be considering leaving the show. The 'source' allegedly added: 'ABC hasn't announced its schedule yet because the future of the series is up in the air. Desperate Housewives can't really continue without Teri or Felicity because they need the original stars to pull in the ratings.' A spokesperson for ABC said: 'We are working on the next season at the moment and we haven't got anything to say about the one after.' In July, show creator Marc Cherry revealed that the drama could end after its ninth season.

He has solved endless grisly murders over twenty years but Hercule Poirot finally looked certain to be killed off himself. At the last moment, however, the moustachioed TV sleuth has been saved. Producers have confirmed they have been asked to start writing a thirteenth series to be shown next year. It seems Agatha Christie's Belgian sleuth has been saved by the huge ratings success of ITV's period drama Downton Abbey. Executives believe that the public appetite for costume drama has been revived in the months since they first decided to drop Poirot back in January. Screenwriter Nigel Dear is busy drafting the new scripts, which again star David Suchet. It will be the final outing for the show, however. Suchet, sixty four, said that he plans to hang up his spats once he has finished filming the final six stories in three years time. He joked: 'I don't really have much choice, after all in The Curtain Falls, the final Poirot, he dies.' And he is adamant that he will never film a Poirot tale which was not originally written by Agatha Christie. He said: 'When I took on the role I promised I would be true to the Christie stories and character – and that's not for negotiation. I will say goodbye with a heavy heart but I will say goodbye.' Suchet has become synonymous with the character since taking on the role in 1989. He believes the future could lie in a younger actor portraying the detective's earlier life in a modern-day story, just as BBC1 has done so successfully with Sherlock. He added: 'You could give the character a whole new life by exploring his early years.' Poirot fans will see a return to the scene of his most famous case for a feature-length special over Christmas. Murder On The Orient Express, previously filmed in 1974 with Albert Finney as Poirot, has been remade at a cost of three million pounds, using stunning CGI technology. Suchet stars alongside Hugh Bonneville, Dame Eileen Atkins and David Morrissey. Looks good. But, if you don't want to bother watching it, they all did it.

Gordon Ramsay has reignited his feud with Jamie Oliver during a public appearance in Canada. The Kitchen Nightmares culinary star, who is in the country promoting a new line of cookware, continued the long-standing rivalry between the pair by describing the vile Oliver as 'a mere cook.' The Daily Scum Mail claims that the forty four-year-old Ramsey also poked fun at Oliver's weight, stating that he could afford to 'lose a few pounds.' Oliver has in the past complained that 'Gordon Ramsay does not like me [and] constantly slags me off on the TV.' Same here. So, I'm Ramsey on this one, pal.

According to the comedy website Chortle, Jo Brand once hosted a charity gig in Bradford, in a theatre that was hosting The Sooty Show for the rest of the week. As the main dressing room was full of all the puppet’s accoutrements, the comic had to use another one a long way from the stage. The show was opened by a Zimbabwean singer, and when he had finished his set, Brand had to dash through several backstage corridors to arrive on stage, rather breathless. Feeling she had to explain her state to the audience, she said: 'I'm really sorry I'm out of breath because that fucking Sooty has got the best dressing room.' Instead of the expected laugh, she was met with a wall of shocked silence, as the audience thought she'd been referring to the - black - opening act. The story, apparently, has a postscript. About a week later, Jo encountered Roy Chubby Brown on the set of Top Of The Pops. He had heard the story and told her: 'What a fucking great joke that was…'

Matt Horne has claimed that negative publicity is finally behind him. The Gavin & Stacey actor and his long time collaborator James Cordon faced a massive - and totally predictable - public backlash in 2009 in the wake of their critically reviled BBC3 sketch show Horne & Corden. Later that year, the duo also starred in the box office disaster, Lesbian Vampire Killers, following which it was claimed that the pair had become overexposed. 'The recovery time for something like that was always going to be quite lengthy,' Horne admitted to the Gruniad Morning Star. Which, sadly, doesn't explain why his gurning mate's smug, unfunny face remains a permanent fixture on my TV screen. 'I've made choices this year to distance myself from the events of eighteen months ago, I hope that's recognised.' The article claims that Horne refers to his apparent fall from grace as 'the negativity.' The actor made his return to television earlier this year playing Culture Club drummer Jon Moss in the BBC drama Worried About The Boy. And, was actually very good in it. But, I'm afraid, until A League Of Their Own is but a dim and distant memory in the hollow nightmares of viewers, it's guilt-by-association for Horne as far as this licence fee payer is concerned.

Repulsive, odious megalomaniac and tycoon Rupert Murdoch was criticised this week for his 'thoroughly corrosive role' in UK politics in one of the first Ofcom submissions on News Corporation's proposed eight billion pounds takeover of BSkyB to be made public. The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom the membership-funded non-profit organisation, said that the scale and value of the merger would represent 'a transformative shift' in UK media ownership which would have 'considerable negative impact on media plurality.' Ofcom is expected to receive a considerable number of submissions for its review of News Corp's bid to take control of the sixty one per cent of the satellite broadcaster that it does not already own, with more expected to be published in the coming days and weeks.

And, speaking of vulgar media tycoons who get The Horn at the thought of more power the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been criticised for ordering a new penis to be attached to a Roman statue of the god Mars. According to La Repubblica, the Second Century figure of god of war - and another of the goddess of love and beauty Venus - was repaired at a cost of seventy thousand Euros. In addition to the marble todger, a new hand was added to Mars and one to Venus. (A hand, that is, not a todger.) It is claimed that the work was done 'on the express orders of the prime minister' without taking traditional restoration techniques into account. The piece - the statue, that is, not the todger - is currently on loan to Berlusconi from Terme di Diocleziano. Berlusconi's architect Mario Catalano claimed that the restoration was authorised and that the additions were 'fully removable.' Handy. However, opposition Democratic Party leader Manuela Ghizzoni criticised the decision to repair the statue while cuts are being made in public spending, adding: 'This is real aesthetic surgery carried out on the personal whim of the prime minister.'

Finally for the next Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we have what is, quite simply, a three minute slab of rock-and-roll Braggadocio and outrageous groin-thrusting from Phil The Bassman his very self. 'I'm a roller too, baby!'