Friday, December 31, 2010

It's The Same Old Song (But A Different Meaning Since You've Been Gone)

As this is going to be, almost certainly, the last that From The North has to say for itself before this year is through, yer Keith Telly Topping would like to wish all of his dear blog readers a very safe and healthy New Year. And to note that it's genuinely nice to see 2010 is ending with a few of life's remaining certainties still in place. One of which is that nations may rise and nations may fall but Daybreak is back on its knees once again. The average overnight audience for the last four episodes of ITV's disastrous breakfast show - up to 29 December - have been five hundred and eighty seven thousand, four hundred and eighty eight thousand, four hundred and twenty thousand and a new all time low figure of four hundred and five thousand on Wednesday. Yes, it is a holiday week admittedly and it is likely that a fair number of people who would normally watch television between seven and eight in the morning - when they're on their way out to work, for instance - will instead be tucked up snugly in bed sleeping off a hangover. But, just for comparison during the same period, the BBC's Breakfast on opposite Daybreak had still been pulling in audience figures of around 1.2 to 1.3 million. The odds on Adrian and Christine not lasting very long into 2011 just took a bit of a tumble.

Now, perhaps, we're starting to see why the BBC's Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock & Chips was initially announced as getting a series on the back of its - very successful - pilot but then that order was reduced to just two 'special' episodes. The first of these, broadcast on Wednesday night, pulled in an audience of just over five million, a whopping 2.3m less viewers than the pilot achieved earlier in the year. Astonishingly, it was even beaten by the latest Agatha Christie's Marple, which achieved its own highest ratings for nearly two years for the episode The Blue Geranium, 5.19m. One supposes that an episode starting at 8pm and finishing at 10pm, as this Marple did, would tend to get a better audience than something starting at 9pm and finishing at 11pm, as most of the last half-dozen episodes have. Still, not even an all-star cast that included Toby Stephens and Donald Sinden could beat BBC1's Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice, which averaged 5.4 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm. Once again it was a particularly a poor evening for Channel Four with nothing they broadcast achieving an audience of over one million viewers. They've actually had a terrible Christmas period (even worse than usual), with Channel Five often outperforming them. On Wednesday, for instance, Most Shocking Celebrity Moments picked up Five's best prime time ratings, averaging one and a half million, which was more than Peep Show and Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights got on Channel Four put together! BBC2, by contrast, had rather a decent night with the Springwatch Christmas Special (1.8m), Les Mis at Twenty Five: Matt Lucas Dreams The Dream (1.5m), Arena's Rolf Harris documentary (1.6m) and the extended Qi: XL Christmas Special (1.7m) all performing at or above the average for their respective slots.

James Buckley has insisted that he is 'originally presenting' Del Boy Trotter in Rock & Chips. The actor dismissed suggestions made in several reviews that he copies Sir David Jason's portrayal of the wheeler and dealer in later life. Although to be honest, there's wouldn't be anything wrong with that if he did. Robert DeNiro copied Marlon Brando's mannerisms as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather II and it's one of the greatest performances in the history of film. Although, it should be noted that Buckley isn't DeNiro. Not even close. Buckley told the Press Association: 'I wasn't trying to do a David Jason impression, but there are very small traits of Del Boy that I tried to put in the part.' Buckley, twenty three, also said that, while Jason's support is appreciated, he hopes Rock & Chips establishes itself as more than a mere spin-off. Although, given the ratings for last night's episode, Jimmy, I wouldn't hold your breath on that score. The actor continued: 'It's lovely to have a bit of support from someone like David Jason but this is something we're doing now and it's our own thing. We're making it for the British public, for fans of Only Fools And Horses and for new fans of Rock & Chips.' Of whom there are, it would seem, not as many as you might think.

Kylie Minogue has claimed that she prefers 'complex' men. Yer Keith Telly Topping wishes it to be known that he's always considered himself rather complex. Anyway ...

The media regulator Ofcom is this week expected to recommend that Rupert Murdoch's eight billion pound plan to buy out BSkyB should be subject to a further six-month long inquiry – and in so doing will hand the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt the toughest political decision in his time in office. On Friday, Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards will send over the conclusions of 'a public interest' inquiry into whether News Corporation's buyout of Sky will damage media plurality in the UK – and while the document will initially remain confidential most expect the regulator to demand a further investigation by the Competition Commission. That leaves Hunt – the cabinet minister suddenly brought into the inquiry after Vince Cable's much publicised 'war on Murdoch' comments – with about ten working days to decide whether to follow Ofcom's advice or not. Although his discretion is free, it will be a major surprise if he deviates from the interim verdict. At issue is whether, by controlling one hundred per cent of BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch (seen, left, in a classic 'Smithers, have Ofcom killed' pose) will have a disproportionate influence over the British media – in which News Corp has unprecedented cross-media power with titles accounting for thirty seven per cent of the newspaper sales and control of the biggest broadcaster by turnover in the UK. Critics – an unlikely alliance of normally competing Fleet Street owners, including the companies behind the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Torygraph, the Daily Mirror and the Grunaid Morning Star along with the BBC - argue that the power and influence of a company with at least seven a half billion pounds of UK turnover will inevitably lead to the diminution of rivals. Contact between the owner of the Times and the Sun and Ofcom in the run-up to Christmas left insiders at News Corp's Wapping headquarters braced for a referral. But that has not stopped sniping between the two with News Corp complaining that Richards did not attend any pre-Christmas case conferences between the two sides according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Even Vince Cable's spectacular fall from grace just before Christmas, when the Liberal Democrat business secretary was stripped of his responsibilities for media regulation after he was secretly recorded saying: 'I have declared war on Rupert Murdoch and I think I am going to win,' is not expected to have changed that outcome because of the quasi-judicial nature of the Ofcom examination. So sensitive is Ofcom's work on the Murdoch enquiry that Richards has had to take personal responsibility for it. The regulator only took Christmas Day and Boxing Day off to conclude an inquiry that has taken two months to tackle issues of Murdoch power over the British media that have been rumbling on for years. Ofcom has only to meet a fairly low threshold to conclude that the Murdoch merger needs to be examined further. A lawyer advising one of the newspaper groups opposing the deal said: 'All the regulator has to prove is that there is a potential for a reduction in plurality in the UK. If there is such a potential then it has to recommend that it be referred to the Competition Commission.' The regulator's conclusion passes to the vile and odious Hunt and he then has about ten working days to decide what to do – a decision that in law he must take alone, and not in consultation with David Cameron or other members of the cabinet. James Murdoch, who runs News Corp's operations in Europe and Asia, and his team are hoping they will be given the chance to 'make representations' to Hunt. Before Christmas Labour queried whether the vile and odious Hunt was 'a fit and proper person' to adjudicate, given that he has said: 'It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn't clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change.' However, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, said he was satisfied that the vile and odious Hunt had not pre-judged the issue. If held, a Competition Commission inquiry would amount to a more exacting test of the issues. The second regulator would not necessarily follow the judgment of Ofcom. As in Ofcom's case, the commission's verdict is not binding on the vile and odious Hunt.

Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs may compete with each other for ratings in 2011, a source claims. The Daily Torygraph reports that the two period dramas, which both launched this year, could be broadcast in conjunction with each other next autumn. 'The BBC and ITV would never schedule Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs against each other on the same day at the same time - that would be suicidal for both of them,' an 'industry source' allegedly claimed. Although, seemingly, it's an industry source without an acutal name. 'The next series of both could well end up going out very near to each other in next autumn's schedules. And people will certainly be comparing the ratings.'

Bookmakers odds on Simon Cowell's being award a knighthood in the New Year's honours list have, apparently, been slashed. For services to his own ego, no doubt. Of course, whether he gets one or not, he's still likely to be hearing the words 'A rise, sir Simon?' shortly from Dannii Minogue anyway.

Hustle actor Matt Di Angelo has admitted that he is still impressed by his co-stars in the BBC con-men drama. Although, it's noticable that this isn't something Robert Vaughan, Robert Glenister or Adrian Lester ever seem to say about him. Despite him giving them every opportunity to. The actor told TV Choice that working on the series has been 'like a crash course in acting. I've been quite lucky in what I've done,' he said. 'I haven't done masses of work but I always get paired with a really impressive actor.' He added: 'Robert Vaughn is stupidly famous. He tells anecdotes [about] Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. Robert will quite happily sit there and talk, and Kelly Adams and I just bug him with questions, to the point where he just gave us two autobiographies!' Di Angelo also revealed that he has become 'paranoid' about being scammed since joining the cast as conman Sean Kennedy. 'I know if someone's trying to pull a fast one, but I've had watches taken off my wrist without realising it before,' he confessed. 'I'm quite paranoid and I keep my eyes open, so I haven't been done too badly. But it does make you think.'

Victoria Wood has praised the stars of new BBC2 drama Eric and Ernie. The one-off special will focus on the early friendship between famous comedy double-act Eric Morecambe (played by Daniel Rigby) and Ernie Wise (Bryan Dick). 'I helped with the casting of this drama,' Wood told What's On TV. 'Daniel and Bryan are amazingly good. Looks-wise, we've tried to match three boys for each characters. But we did it on ability too. Bryan's a brilliant dancer and Daniel has Eric to a tee.' Wood, who plays Morecambe's mother Sadie and serves as executive producer, revealed that she was keen to focus on the early days of the comic duo. 'It was my idea to do this story,' she said. So, this then would be a play wot you wrote, would it, Victoria? That's casting and the script you were responsible for. Anything else? Did you make the tea as well? 'It's a story that nobody knows,' she continued. 'It's fascinating because you think of Morecambe and Wise as these middle-aged men skipping and hopping in suits, but they were friends from when they were kids.' She added that the special will be 'a very celebratory story. They didn't fall out,' she claimed. 'It's not one of those terrible stories where there's a horrible thing to uncover. There is no dark side.'

People watching television over the Internet without a valid TV licence have been prosecuted for the first time, the BBC has revealed. According to the Daily Torygraph, the BBC told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee that it has already secured prosecutions for viewers accessing web-TV services. In a written response to questions from MPs, the corporation said: 'There have been successful prosecutions of people watching online without a licence.' Current TV licensing rules stipulate that a licence is required to watch television content 'as it is being broadcast,' whether that is on the TV set, online or via mobile platforms. However, there is a grey area around whether people need a licence to access catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, offering on-demand access to shows that have already aired. In June, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt said that the changing way people are watching TV, particularly in terms of online viewing, could soon make the annual licence fee obsolete. He added: 'We support the principle of the licence fee and always have done. But we also recognise, as technology changes, we may need to adapt the way it's collected. It is not going to be possible to have a tax every time anyone buys a computer.' However, the BBC told the committee that the currently low proportion of online viewing means the licence fee is a long way off from being under threat. 'The question of whether such viewing should result in a licence being levied on devices other than TV sets is a matter for the government,' said the corporation. 'Given that only 0.3 per cent of people consume TV only via the Internet in a week, and across a year that number is virtually zero, we think it unlikely that online and mobile television viewing is a significant threat to the licence fee at present.'

Davina McCall has stated that she does not plan on presenting any new series of Big Brother if the long-running reality show returns on either Five or Sky. According to The Press Association, McCall said: 'It would be very difficult for me to step back in time. I spent a year saying goodbye and I feel like I've emotionally said goodbye.' The presenter added that she plans on working to take her mind off the reality show, which would normally be taking place in the summer, with the Celebrity edition usually commencing in January. 'In January I'll be absolutely manic with Got To Dance. And as for May, we're going away for the whole of the summer holidays with the kids.'

Stargate producer Joseph Mallozzi has ruled out the possibility of producing a fourth series in the franchise. Writing on his official blog, he dismissed speculation that a new spin-off was being developed to replace the recently axed Stargate Universe. 'A new Stargate series isn't even being considered,' he claimed. 'There are no plans to create or move forward on a new series. We love the one we have now.' He added that the sets for SGU will remain standing while the possibility of a renewal is explored. 'All options are being considered at this point, but a third season would be ideal,' he said. 'We're investigating all possible avenues.' Mallozzi revealed confirmed that the show's cancellation had led to a Stargate Atlantis straight-to-DVD film being 'indefinitely' shelved.

In Thursday's Gruniad, critic Stuart Heritage names his five TV turkeys of the year. Not a bad selection, actually, although yer Keith Telly Topping personally felt that Stuart could've been far harsher on The Ludicrous Ms Dahl. But, this blogger feels compelled to quote, in full, his bit on the subject of Piers Morgan's Life Stories: 'It may have already been a year-old at the start of 2010, but that didn't make Piers Morgan's Life Stories any less painful to watch this time around. A chat show where all form of wit and insight was jettisoned in favour of a blisteringly concentrated effort to make the interviewee burst into tears at the earliest opportunity – which they obviously would, because being trapped in such an enclosed space with Morgan's braying spacehopper of a head will do that to you. Watching an entire episode was more an unnecessary test of endurance than anything else. The low point was the episode where Cheryl Cole cried for an hour to promote her new album. The highpoint was the knowledge that Piers has now upped sticks to CNN to see if he can make Afghan president Hamid Karzai weep as easily as, say, Ulrika Jonsson.' What he said, dear blog reader!

The new series of Shameless reportedly will feature a number of Doctor Who dream sequences, with Frank Gallagher imagining himself as The Doctor. The comedy will see Frank (David Threlfall) make-do with a grimy portaloo as his makeshift TARDIS, according to the Sun. It will also feature Frank's estranged wife Monica (Annabelle Apsion) as his assistant. The new series further sees Monica attempt to wrestle her husband and family back from librarian Libby Croker (Pauline McLynn).

Matt Smith has reportedly said that he would be happy for singer Florence Welch to appear in an episode of Doctor Who. According to Now magazine, Welch - who performs as Florence and the Machine - has told Smith that she would like to guest star on the show. Smith reportedly said: 'We'd have some fun and games - me and Karen [Gillan] are like naughty children as it is.' Asked if he would ever quit the show out of fear of being typecast, Smith said: 'Playing the Doctor hasn't prevented Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant from taking on other parts.' Expect the Daily Lies to suddenly produce some quotes from a - nameless, of course - BBC 'insider' when they run a story that Florence will be appearing in the next series of Doctor Who just like they did when Matt casually mentioned in an interview earlier in the year that he'd like to see Eric Cantona turn up in an episode. Go on, Daily Lies, I dare ya. I double dare ya!

Big Fat Cuddly Clare Balding has revealed that she is looking forward to working alongside Chris Evans on new Channel Four show Famous and Fearless. The duo will present the show, which sees celebrities compete in a variety of extreme sports to win money for their chosen charities, live from Liverpool's Echo Arena. 'It's a great concept and it will be very exciting,' Balding told the Mirror. 'I have done a lot of live TV in the past but I haven't done the big arena thing before.' She continued: 'Working with Chris will be mad too. We worked together when I used to do the sport on his Radio1 show and we all know how off-the-cuff he is.'

Holly Willoughby has said that she plans to wear clothing that covers her 'up to [the] neck' on the new series of Dancing On Ice. The presenter caused controversy in the past by wearing low-cut dresses that some viewers deemed inappropriate. And that others thought were really rather nice. However, when asked what she would be wearing when the show returns in the New Year, Willoughby vowed: 'Something baggy and up to my neck to cover myself up. A smock with a rollneck probably.' The twenty nine-year-old - five months pregnant with her second child - also told the Mirror that she is looking forward to reuniting with judge Emma Bunton, who is also expecting. 'Each week we can have a little update on how we're getting on,' Willoughby added.

Lawyers for Michael Jackson's estate have expressed their outrage at an upcoming Discovery Channel show, which will feature a re-enactment of the late star's autopsy. TMZ website reports that co-executors John Branca and John McClain have written to the network's president regarding the programme, which is due to be broadcast in the UK next month. The letter accuses the channel of 'shockingly bad taste motivated solely by your blind desire to exploit Michael's death, while cynically attempting to dupe the public into believing this show will have serious medical value.' In particular, a print advertisement, which shows a sheet-covered body wearing a rhinestone-jewelled glove, has prompted criticism. Although Branca and McClain have reportedly accepted that there is no legal precedent to stop the show, they are appealing that Discovery voluntarily withdraw the programme.

Coronation Street's Sally Webster is reportedly set to imitate Hilda Ogden in a plot to put off potential buyers for her home. Sally resorts to desperate measures when her estranged husband, Kevin, decides that he is selling their home. The Sun claims that Sally, played by Sally Dynevor, will be seen donning a hair scarf and rollers and pretending to be dating her scruffy neighbour Eddie Windass. 'These scenes will provide the comedy Corrie is famous for and make a great change from the tragic scenes concerning the tram crash,' an alleged 'insider' told the paper in that way that normal people don't. 'To see Sally in her normally pristine home surrounded by household rubbish, dressed like Hilda Ogden, draped round the unkempt Eddie and talking like a dirty-mouthed trollop will be absolutely fantastic.'

Joe McElderry has admitted that he will not be get drunk at any New Year's celebrations. Although, next year, once his next couple of singles have flopped, he's been dropped by his record label and he's back stacking shelves at Morrison's, it might be a different story.

Television doctor Chris Steele will not face possible prosecution over claims that he drove away from the scene of a road accident, it has been confirmed. Steele, the resident medic on ITV's This Morning, was accused of a number of driving offences following an incident in July in the Burnage area of Greater Manchester. He strongly denied all of the charges, which included allegations of failing to stop at the scene of an accident, failing to report the incident to police and driving without due care and attention. The doctor was initially scheduled to appear in front of Manchester magistrates next year, but the Crown Prosecution Service has now decided to drop all the charges against him after reviewing the evidence put forward by police. Alan Richardson, the CPS reviewing lawyer, said: 'With regards to the case involving Dr Steele, I have reviewed the file of evidence passed to me by Greater Manchester Police and have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. I have therefore decided to discontinue the case and I have notified Dr Steele in writing via his solicitor.' Discussing the CPS's decision, Steele told the Manchester Evening News: 'It's great news. The whole thing has been a real worry and I'm relieved the charges have been dropped.' Steele first appeared on daytime magazine programme This Morning more than twenty years ago, and has remained a regular contributor ever since.

US Sitcom producer Aron Abrams, whose credits include Everybody Hates Chris and Third Rock From The Sun, has been found dead in a hotel room. Police discovered the body of the fifty-year-old in the Fairmont Orchid hotel in Hawaii on Christmas morning. He had been on holiday with his wife, and police do not suspect foul play. A post-mortem will be conducted tomorrow. Abrams also wrote for the animated series King Of The Hill, on which he was a consulting producer, and worked as a producer on the family sitcom Grounded For Life.

A hunger strike threatened by Gwynfor Evans was a major factor in the decision to establish Welsh-language channel S4C, secret government papers have revealed. Evans, the former leader of Plaid Cymru, declared in 1980 that he would starve himself to death unless the government agreed to provide a dedicated TV channel for Welsh speakers. According to BBC News, newly-released minutes of cabinet meetings reveal that Margaret Thatcher's government was concerned about the MP's protest. The previously-unseen documents show that the then home secretary William Whitelaw felt that the creation of S4C would 'have the advantages of persuading Mr Gwynfor Evans, the leader of Plaid Cymru, to withdraw his threat to fast to death.' However, the then Secretary of State for Wales Nicholas Edwards was keen to outwardly stress that the change in government policy had been 'made in response not to violence but to moderate opinion following very wide consultations in Wales.' Before the 1979 general election, both the Conservative and Labour parties pledged to introduce a Welsh-language channel, but the Tories changed their position after securing power, instead arguing that content should be split between two existing channels. Following protests from Evans and others, Whitelaw announced on 17 September 1980 that the government would establish a single channel for Welsh speakers. The secret records - released for public viewing at the National Archives - reveal that Whitelaw warned of 'a difficult and emotionally-heightened atmosphere if Mr Gwynfor Evans the leader of Plaid Cymru, died or became seriously ill as a result of his proposed hunger strike in protest against the decision not to allocate a television channel exclusively to Welsh-language broadcasting.' However, even after the announcement was made the documents indicate that Whitelaw still maintained to his cabinet colleagues that 'the previous plans were preferable.'

Ricky Gervais has claimed that he is now in the 'privileged' position of 'being an artist.' Speaking to the Sun, the stand-up comedian - with far too high an opinion of himself, seemingly - compared his 'reputation and expertise' to that of 'a master craftsman.' He explained: 'For the first years of being famous I was scared of using the word "art" because I thought it was pretentious. But now I think it's my responsibility to consider myself an artist because that's why I'm doing it and it's being honest. I can't apologise for that.' Gervais continued: 'Art, TV, furniture making. Most tables are rubbish. But when you see a really brilliant table that the guy spent four years making and he was a master craftsman and it's lasted seven hyundred years, you want to cry.' Gervais concluded: 'It brings a lump to your throat, and yes, I want to bring a lump to your throat.' What a tool.

An Australian man claims to have spotted his missing wife on BBC1's Antiques Roadshow, almost thirty years after she mysteriously disappeared. Mother-of-two Lynette Dawson vanished from Sydney in 1982 and was presumed dead by authorities, despite her body never being found. Her ex-husband Chris Dawson now claims that a woman seen on an edition of Antiques Roadshow filmed in Padstow, Cornwall in 2006 was his former wife. Dawson, who has since remarried, saw the mysterious woman after a friend recorded the programme for him, reports the Cornish Guardian. In an e-mail to his daughter, Dawson said: 'The show was filmed in Padstow, Cornwall, in England, and the likeness to your mum is uncanny. It has given us a strong sense of hope that at last her whereabouts may be known.' However, Lynette's sister Patricia Jenkins does not believe that the woman is her sibling. She said: 'There is no way this is Lyn. Just the clothes tell me it's not her. She would never wear anything frilly or lacy. I have compared the jaw line and nose. Lyn came from a loving family and her disappearance left her adored daughters, who were two and four at the time, to grow up never knowing their mother or their mother's love.' Jenkins is calling on anyone in the Padstow area who may know the mystery woman to come forward with information. 'We want to put this desperate claim to rest. Any information would help. How long have you known her? Do you know her family?' she said. 'Does she have an Australian accent? All this would be such a help to us. Everyone in the family believes she is dead, it's just a horrible reality.'

Some sad news to end the year. Bobby Farrell's agent has said the frontman of seventies chart-toppers Boney M has died while on tour in Russia at the age of sixty one. John Seine said Bobby was found dead in his hotel room in St Petersburg by hotel staff after he failed to respond to a wake-up call. He said Farrell had performed as scheduled on Wednesday night, but complained of breathing problems before and after his show. Boney M, based in Germany, broke into the charts with a couple of classic slabs of Eurodisco 'Daddy Cool' and 'Sunny' in 1976 and then had a string of massive hits across Europe over the following three or four years including 'Ma Baker', 'Belfast', 'Rasputin', 'Rivers of Babylon' (and its b-side 'Brown Girl In The Ring') and 'Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holi-Holiday.' The brainchild of producer Frank Farian who was repsonsible for most of the vocals which Farrell subsequently sang when the group toured, the original Boney M disbanded in 1986. In 1978 Boney M became the first Western music group invited by a Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, to perform in the Soviet Union. A Soviet military plane flew the performers from London to Moscow, where they sang for an audience of two thousand seven hundred Russians in Red Square (although they were, apparently, instructed not to sing 'Rasputin' under any circumstances). Born Roberto Alfonso Farrell in Aruba in the Netherland Antilles in October 1949, Bobby left Aruba at the age age fifteen to become a sailor. He lived in Norway and the Netherlands before moving to Germany in the early seventies. There, he worked mostly as a DJ until producer Farian spotted him - according to legend dancing in a nightclub - and thought Bobby was the ideal frontman for live performances for the new studio group that he was putting together. Ironically, Bobby died in St Petersburg on 29 December just as Grigori Rasputin - that infamous 'lover of the Russian queen' - did ninety four years earlier to the day. Bobby Farrell - there was a cat that really was gone. And now, sadly, he is.

Which brings us - for the final time in 2010 - to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. And, I've been planning this one for a while, dear blog reader. After the success - well, three appreciative e-mails, anyway - of this slot's previous Motown Special yer Keith Telly Topping thought he'd give you a soultastic soundtrack for all that ringin' out of the old and ringin' in of the new. From Detroit to your heart, ladies and gentlemen, let's get this party started, Martha.Keepin' the groove steady, Eddie. Tired yet, dear blog reader? No. Thought not. Here's The Marvelettes. And, we can but follow that up with Levi and the boys doin' their moves. And a genuine twenty-four carat masterpiece.Then, we need Brenda to tell us what actually does become of the broken hearted with a song that's been covered by just about every band I've ever admired! (Well, The Clash and The Jam both did it, anyway!)Motown lovers will know, of course, that Carolyn Crawford was something of a one hit wonder. But, what a hit it was. Smokey at his finest. Still not flagging? Okay, have a bit of The Elgins. Righteous. As, indeed, is the next one. Tell 'em all about it, Diana.Course, there's also this daft idea that Motown didn't have any white artists on their various labels. Nonsense, they had plenty. Chris Clark, for one. Dorsey Burnette for another. Then there was Bruce Channel, The Underdogs, Wes Henderson of The Vancouvers, several members of the Funk Brothers and, of course, yer Keith Telly Topping's particular favourite R Dean Taylor. Right, well yer Keith Telly Topping could go on with this all night, frankly - I haven't got to 'Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)', or 'Nowhere To Run', or 'This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)', or 'Love is Like An Itching In My Heart' or 'Get Ready' or 'Mickey's Monkey' or any other of a couple of hundred others I could have chosen yet. But, it's nearly 2011 so let us conclude 2010 with a happy memory of little chap we sadly lost this year. Incidentally, he was ten when he record that! I hope to see you all in 2011, dear blog reader. Thanks for your continued support.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Faith, Hope & Charity

Fans of Top Gear can now see the three new cars from the Middle East Christmas Special, in the World of Top Gear exhibition at Beaulieu. During the 2010 Top Gear Christmas Special, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May went on their most dangerous challenge to date: driving from Iraq to Israel through Turkey, Syria and Jordan. That's Jordan the country, incidentally, not Jordan the former model with the plastic knockers. Just in case there's any misunderstanding here. Jezza chose a Mazda MX-5 and fitted it with two extra wheels and tyres on the back axle, along with spotlights and a striped paint job. Meanwhile, James drove a malfunctioning BMW Z3 with a Luftwaffe camouflage paint scheme. The Hamster surprisingly had the most reliable car of all - a Fiat Barchetta - and liberally covered the car in glue and Syrian sand while also building a Bedouin tent on the back. Stephen Munn, commercial director at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, said of the cars: 'We like to keep the exhibition as up to date as we possibly can and what could be better for fans than to see the show on TV and then the cars just a few days later.' The World of Top Gear feature at the museum also stars the motorhome cars built for the show earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, as predicted on From The North last week, Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slow have been criticised once more for their 'antics' on Top Gear - this time relating to their Christmas special. The presenters' task was to drive three convertibles from Iraq to Israel and then present the 'Baby Jeebus' with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh in their role as surrogate Three (Less Than) Wise Men. However, after donning niqabs while making the journey across the desert, which had apparently, upset some Muslims, they arrived in Bethlehem. Only to find that the Baby Jeebus wasn't, actually, there - in fact, the baby in question was wearing overalls and a helmet, exactly like a miniature version of The Stig. Failing to see the funny side of this conceit, a few (and it was, literally, a handful) of more serious believers in religion - or, you know, 'nutters' as relatively 'normal' people, including, it should be noted, many Christians themselves, call them - took to some Internet forum to voice their ire. Because, of course, God checks the Internet on a daily basis to make sure his work is being done, his wonders to perform. And this, it would seem, now constitutes 'news.' Well, at least the Daily Lies believe that it does. Which, in and of itself, says something about something. The tabloid reported, excitedly, the view of one Tony Stephens, whoever the hell he is, who said: 'I can see Muslims have a right to complain about the light-hearted treatment of burkas, but what about Jeremy Clarkson pretending to be Jesus Christ and having a nativity scene with The Stig as the baby Jesus? No-one has mentioned the insults to Christianity. Is that fun? I don't think so.' Pretending to be Jesus Christ? Surely, Jesus Christ was the one in the manger, Tony? That is, after all, what it claims in Luke 2:16. You appear to be somewhat confused. Anyway, John 8:7, Mr Stephens. John 8:7. And, Matthew 7:12. That's a good 'un as well. Try reading those. And practicing them as well. Meanwhile, Mary Westcott - no, me neither - added: 'Why didn't they appreciate that if you're planning jokes and statements about religion and Middle East politics you have to carefully consider each one to see whether it is or isn't overstepping the mark?' Blessed shall be the laughter-makers, Mary. For it is written that unto them shall be delivered many chicks and lots of wonga. Despite the whining of such tight-arsed bigots with a clear agenda and - manifestly - unchristian attitudes, the show still managed to be a ratings smash with over six million viewers overnight (and that's before we get the iPlayer figures in next week). So, the moral of this story would appear to be ... Genesis 1:28.

Hugh Laurie has confessed his surprise at the enduring popularity of House and the extent to which its success has affected his life. The fifty one-year-old actor, who recently achieved a sixth consecutive Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of the titular doctor, confessed that he had not anticipated how much of a commitment his role in the FOX medical drama would require. Laurie reportedly told Closer: 'You have to go where the work is and sacrifice time with your friends and family. I never thought this would last seven years, just two weeks I thought. I get tired of getting up at four in the morning. Some days are harder than others.' However, Laurie insisted that he had 'always liked' his 'dark and bitter' character and admitted to being genuinely involved with the show's latest developments. 'House's capacity for emotional closeness is very limited. But he's trying. He's fifty one and thinking of becoming a father to his girlfriend Lisa's adopted daughter. That's a big deal for someone who's set in his ways like House. I've always liked him. I know he's not a good man all the time, but I find him immensely funny. He's dark and bitter, just like myself.'

Ron Howard has explained his mounting excitement about his Dark Tower adaptation plans. The Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code is working on a run of movies and television series based on Stephen King's epic series of novels. 'I really can't stop thinking about it,' Howard told the Washington Post. 'We've been meeting and talking, and I've been reading and researching and just kind of living with it. I've been constantly going through stuff and we've been sending e-mails back and forth: "What about this approach? What do you think of this idea?" We're finding the shape of it. We're moving quickly now - as quickly as we can - and I feel challenged in the most exciting ways.' The adaptation is yet to receive the greenlight, but detailed plans have continued to emerge over the year. The series has been the subject of various spin-off and adaptation mini-series by Marvel Comics in recent years.

Facebook groups have reportedly been set-up in protest at EastEnders upcoming cot death plot. The tragic storyline will see Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack) suffer more heartbreak on New Year's Eve when she discovers that her newborn son James has died. However, in a twist she will be seen swapping the child with Kat Moon's (Jessie Wallace) baby son, Tommy. According to the Sun, 'furious mothers' have 'blasted' the idea as 'hurtful' and 'ridiculous.' This is another one of those Sun stories like Al-Qaeda Target Corrie Live Special, isn't it? 'This "twist" is ludicrous - and hurtful,' Alisa Hichens, who lost her nine-month old daughter last New Year's Eve said. Well, I'm sure I speak for everyone with a heart beating in their chest when I said that I'm genuinely sorry to hear of your tragic loss, Alisa. But surely, by the very definition of what the words actually mean, something can't be ludicrous and hurtful. It can be either/or. 'People who watch it could look at mothers who have lost a child and think that they would snatch their baby. It's distressing.' They could, yes. And, it's possible that a few might. But, most won't. Because they know it's fiction. You know, 'made up stuff'? On one Facebook group page, Julie Ann Harris wrote that the BBC soap will 'undoubtedly upset parents and families who have suffered this loss.' Nice to see you've actually bothered to wait to see what the episode contains before prejudging it there, Jules. It was recently confirmed that several small edits had been made to the episode, including the toning down of James's crying which attracts Ronnie's attention to the Queen Vic. 'Bosses are keen to assure viewers that they're not portraying Ronnie's behaviour as typical of bereaved mothers,' an Albert Square insider told the paper. As if they actually needed to stress that, or anything even remotely like it. 'Regular viewers know she's lost two children before this tragedy with James. She acts in a state of grief and shock.'

Parliament should have a say on the next chair of the BBC Trust due to the Conservative party's 'ideological contempt' for the BBC, the shadow culture secretary has said. In a letter sent to lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt, Labour MP Ivan Lewis said that the Tory party's hostility to the BBC meant that the appointment of a new BBC chairman should be handled independently. Yeah. But he (or she) won't be. Lewis called for the all-party Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to publicly interview the final shortlist of two candidates in February as a way to depoliticise the recruitment process, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Former Conservative party chairman Lord Patten of Barnes heads a six-strong shortlist vying to replace Sir Michael Lyons as chairman of the Trust next spring. However, opponents are concerned that Patten is 'too political' a candidate to take on the role of providing a voice for the licence fee payer, while also protecting the BBC's independence. Interviews are scheduled to take place on 28 and 31 January in front of a panel including Department for Culture, Media and Sport permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens, former BP chief Lord Browne and Stewart Purvis, editor-in-chief of ITN. The panel will reduce the shortlist to two names to be recommended to Hunt, who has the power to select either candidate or opt for a different person entirely. Which would, of course, render the entire interview process as utterly pointless. Under Lewis's proposal, the Commons' select committee - chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale - would make a recommendation as to which of the two candidates they prefer. In his letter to the vile and odious Hunt, Lewis said that the approach would 'demonstrate you are serious about a new style of politics and committed to ensuring this appointment is made on merit, free of political bias.' Despite expressing his support for the idea, Whittingdale said: 'This is something I have been arguing for some while, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I know that Jeremy Hunt is sympathetic, but he told me that it was a decision that had to be taken by the prime minister.'

Rihanna has sparked rumours of a role on The X Factor USA judging panel after a Christmas meeting with Simon Cowell. Contactmusic website reports that the singer was spotted dining with the show producer and British businessman Philip Green in her home country of Barbados last Monday. After the meal at the Sandy Lane hotel, the twenty two-year-old singer wrote on Twitter: 'Just had dinner [with] Simon Cowell Philip Green, and Lucian G., and Ashley. Sandy Lane! Great night!' Rihanna made several appearances on the latest UK series of the talent competition - including a duet with eventual winner Matt Cardle. She also sparked complaints - from the Daily Scum Mail, mainly - with her allegedly sexualised performances during the final. Cowell is due to make a 'surprise' announcement about the US version of the show, most likely regarding the much-discussed judging panel, around the beginning of the New Year.

ITV's hopes of earning an end to the contract rights renewal mechanism governing advertising airtime have reportedly been dashed by the government. Ministers in the coalition are understood to have informed ITV that competition law leaves them with little room to manoeuvre on the CRR, reports the Financial Times. New figures obtained by industry sources indicate that ITV's spot advertising revenue for the whole of 2010 has increased by around fifteen and a half per cent, from £1.34bn to £1.55bn, thanks to ratings hits such as The X Factor and I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The broadcaster has been waging a concerted campaign to persuade the government to reopen the investigation into scrapping the CRR, which was introduced - at ITV's own request - in 2003 to protect market competition when Carlton and Granada merged to form ITVplc. Based on a complex formula, the CRR stipulates the amount ITV can charge advertisers, meaning that the broadcaster can only increase its rates for extremely popular shows. ITV claims that scrapping the CRR would bring increased revenues to free it up from chasing programmes aimed at 'the lowest common denominator.' However, the government appears to have ruled out the move. A senior - if nameless - person 'involved in making policy' told the newspaper: 'There isn't going to be any change in CRR. Ministers are just boxed in by competition law.' A Lords select committee is currently running a major review of advertising airtime regulations in the UK, but the chances of the CRR being removed appear to be slim. In May, the Competition Commission ruled that the CRR should be kept in operation, after concluding its full investigation into the system. Analysts claim that ditching the mechanism would boost ITV's revenues by up to ten per cent, but the commission said the firm has 'overstated the cost and distortions imposed by CRR.' ITV's chief executive Adam Crozier said that he was not concerned by the comments made by the government source, and started his belief that the CRR will eventually be scrapped. He said: 'We know that it will take two to three years before there is any change, but this government is in favour of deregulation and I'm confident things are going in the right direction.' Next February, ITV and the other commercial broadcasters will benefit from Ofcom's relaxation of the rules governing product placement on British television, which is expected to bring in around twenty five million pounds in additional revenue.

Daniel Roche, the young star of Outnumbered and Just William, doesn't want to become a full-time actor. The eleven-year-old has won plaudits for his role as Ben Brockman, a pathological liar, in improvisational BBC1 comedy Outnumbered, and is currently starring as mischievous William in the TV adaptation of the Richmal Crompton books. But he told the Daily Mirror: 'I never really thought about being an actor. It just sort of happened and it's good fun. So I might keep acting but probably not as my main job when I'm older. What I'd really love to do is write fantasy novels, like the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett - proper adventures.' The young actor revealed that he is no longer daunted by the TV world, saying: 'I don't even find being on set all that intimidating any more - I'm usually enjoying myself too much to notice.'

The Royal Mail has announced plans to honour Gerry Anderson, creator of television shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and UFO, with a new set of stamps. In January, the Genius of Gerry Anderson collection will mark the fiftieth anniversary of his TV work, which also includes Stingray and Joe 90. Other collections planned for next year include a set of stamps celebrating the best of musical theatre in February, followed by a tales of King Arthur batch in March. The fiftieth anniversary of environmental group WWF will also be marked in March with portraits of ten animals, including the African elephant and the Siberian tiger. ''This is by far the most exciting start to a year for Royal Mail stamps,' said Philip Parker, a spokesman for the Royal Mail. 'The year blasts off with Thunderbirds, Stingray and the amazing TV series of Gerry Anderson, and the excitement doesn't stop there. There's something for everyone in the first half of 2011, with musicals, magical realms and WWF just some of the themes dropping on the doormats across millions of homes in the UK and across the world.''

The BBC’s flagship News at Six featured a right-wing fundamentalist Christian who has previously supported the execution of gay people to comment on the birth of a surrogate son to Sir Elton John and his civil partner David Furnish according to PinkNews website. They not that the BBC appear not to have realised the same preacher had previously faced bankruptcy after losing an attempted private prosecution for blasphemy against the director general of the BBC after the character of Jesus described himself as 'a little bit gay' in Jerry Springer: The Opera. On the 28 December, Sir Elton and his partner, the film-maker David Furnish, announced the birth of their son, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, to an unnamed surrogate mother in the US. The same night, the BBC broadcast a report by entertainment editor Lizo Mzimba on the story. With the introduction 'not everyone is pleased to see such a high profile same sex couple start to raise a surrogate child,' as part of the piece Mzimba - whom yer keith Telly Topping has always thought was a rather sound bloke, to be honest - interviewed one Stephen Green, of ultra right-wing group Christian Voice, without any warning to viewers that Green is someone who has, in the past, supported the death penalty for gay men. In the interview Green told the BBC: 'This isn't just a designer baby for Sir Elton John, this is a designer accessory. Now it seems like money can buy him anything, and so he has entered into this peculiar arrangement. The baby is a product of it. A baby needs a mother and it seems an act of pure selfishness to deprive a baby of a mother.' Which is, of course, utter crap. A child - any child - growing up needs a stable, loving, caring home environment, the sex of its parent or parents is entirely immaterial. In 2009, Green supported a proposed death penalty for gay men in Uganda saying: 'The contrast between our politicians and those of Uganda could not be more stark. A Parliamentarian in Uganda is trying to protect his nation's children. The House of Commons of the United Kingdom is trying to corrupt ours. Which country is the more civilised, I wonder, in the eyes of Almighty God?' Earlier this year, Green criticised Gareth Thomas, the former Welsh rugby captain, for becoming patron of LGBT History Month, saying: 'Gareth Thomas is urging such children to identify themselves as homosexual, and to inhibit their normal development into heterosexuality. That is a wicked thing to do to impressionable young people. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke about millstones being tied around the necks of those who lead children astray.' Yeah. He also said 'judge not, lest ye be judged,' didn't he? Matthew 7:1 if I remember my RE lessons correctly. In 2008, Green compared Ian Watkins, the openly gay former member of the pop group Steps, to the mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer. Which sounds to me just a shade like 'judging' to this blogger. Jesus wouldn't like that, I'm guessing. Earlier this month, as reported on this blog, Green had been making his mouth go on the subject of the BBC's adaptation of The Nativity. In relation to his views on Elton and David's new child, I can only say to Green now exactly what I said to him then. Have a quick look at my own favourite biblical passage, John 8:7, and then shut the hell up about stuff that is absolutely none of your concern. Thanks in advance, mate.

Now, here's a story that Mr Green will probably enjoy. Underwear maker Gossard has seen sales of the sexy lingerie products increase by sixty five per cent during 2010 and attributes the rise to the new found popularity of burlesque. Von Teese is now one of the most recognisable faces in the entertainment industry and although her burlesque speciality was little known just a few years ago, she is now imitated all over the world. And the art form's popularity received a major boost this year, when Aguilera starred alongside Cher in the hit movie Burlesque. That has, apparently, all been great news for underwear companies, as it has inspired a comeback for vintage-style lingerie. Gossard's managing director Tony Jarvis explained: 'There is most definitely a rise in interest in old-school glamour in lingerie, with a modern twist which is encapsulated in this revival. Suspenders have always sold well both on the website and in the shops for years, but the recent demand from women of all ages has been phenomenal.' However, it seems that some people still disapprove of stockings and suspenders, as the raunchy performance of Aguilera and her lingerie-clad dancers on The X Factor final prompted more than two thousand complaints to Ofcom. They've obviously never had a look at Matthew 7:1.

Former ITV chairman Michael Green is reportedly undergoing training as a psychotherapist at Regent's College in London. Green was famously ousted from his post as ITV's chairman-elect in 2003 after Carlton and Granada merged to form a new powerhouse in commercial broadcasting. The Carlton Communications founder, who once employed a young David Cameron as his PR, was forced out of ITV following a shareholder revolt, but received a generous pay-off from the firm. He now has an estimated personal fortune of eighty three million pounds. Green has already completed a psychotherapy course at the world-renowned Tavistock Institute, including clinical training on various NHS wards in 2007, reports the Independent. The multi-millionaire was not available to confirm his enrolment on the Regent's College course, and the institution has not yet commented on the matter either. However, fellow students on the course said that Green occasionally turns up for seminars in his Rolls Royce, and sometimes gives lifts to other trainees. Green follows various other successful people who have moved into psychotherapy as a new career, including former England cricket team captain Mike Brearley and former Not the Nine O'Clock News comedian and Strctly Come Dancing contestant Pamela Connolly. Psychoanalytic psychotherapist Elizabeth Meakins told the newspaper that clinical psychotherapy was often a natural path for people to follow in later life. 'Jung said that for the first half of life the ego needs to thrust itself forward often in a very self-centred way. When you reach early middle age it starts to change,' she said. 'Young people need to be egotistical, but come the second half of your life you need to get rid of that ego and tend to a certain compassion and sensitivity to others.' She added: 'You should be at least thirty five before you train and preferably older. It is like going into the monastery at fifteen - people have not had any life experience.'

Shaun Ryder is up for more telly projects following his success on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The Happy Mondays frontman was crowned runner-up in the jungle, behind Stacey Solomon. He told the Sun: 'I might have to dabble. That's part of the game now. Apparently if I want to make records then I've got to do that.' The singer said he would like to take former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, actor Danny Dyer and The Rolling Stone Keith Richards into the jungle if he ever returned. He also dismissed the current crop of music stars as 'a bunch of fairies' for not comparing to his legendary hell-raising ways. Shaun, who releases a solo record next year, said: 'There's no real caners out there now. I couldn't name any - where are they all?'

UEFA has reportedly apologised to FC Bayern Munich after banning a Life Of Brian-inspired banner from a Champions League match in September. According to The Local, the footballing body interpreted the Romani ite domum poster as a race-based taunt directed at fans of AS Roma. However, Bayern fans had intended the poster to be a reference to Monty Python's Life Of Brian, wherein a bullying guard - played by John Cleese - corrects the title character's Latin grammar after he paints the slogan on a wall, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. In a statement given to the paper, UEFA said: 'We acknowledge the motto was unfortunately misinterpreted by UEFA. We belatedly congratulate you on your humorous creation that unfortunately was never shown and we apologise for the ban.' It's nice to know that UEFA does have a collective sense of humour, although we probably should've guessed by the fact that they voted oily little waste-of-space Michel Platini in as their president.

For the next batch of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, I've decided by indulge in a bit of glam racket. What happened in the early 1970s when fifties rock and roll threw some glitter in its hair and went all camp. Firstly we've got Stephen Green's chum, Sir Elt and his finest three minutes and fifty five seconds.And here he is, a Knight of Realm please remember, looking like a stolen car and doing his stuff on The Muppet Show! Next, dear old Mad Marc mixes The Lord of The Rings with Chuck Berry and comes up with one of the most influential records ever made.As seen on Top of The Pops at Christmas 1972, introudced by the vileness that is Noel Edmonds. Looking like a total tit. As usual. Still does, actually. Next, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite record of 1974. Seriously. I continue to stand by this one!From the German TV show Disco. Spanking Dan Dares, lads! Mind you, a few of the girls in the audience look a bit bored. And, finally ... ... the eight-legged groove-machine that was, Mud. I went for this one over the more famous clip of 'Tiger Feet' because, well actually, I always preferred it to be honest! Love Rob Davis living out his Hendrix fantasies by playing his guitar behind his head.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't Interrupt While I'm Talking Or I'll Confiscate All Your Guitars!

Many apologies, dear non-cricket loving blog reader, but From The North has, by one of those 'twenty four years of hurt'-type necessities, to start off today's special day (and that pun will, I know, come back to haunt me at some stage) by turning, briefly, into yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Cricket Trivia Page. Firstly, the absolute highlight of yesterday's Test Match Special coverage - or, should I say, 'the wee-small hours of this morning's coverage': Geoffrey Boycott - in a great mood since England were actually winning for once - regaled listeners with a tale about how young Alastair Cook had asked the former England opener, and the Channel Nine commentator and ex-England captain Tony Greig, whether the great Mikey Holding really was as quick as those who faced him suggest. Jonathan Agnew noted, as Boycott chuckled wryly about some of his own terrifying brushes with the man known as Whispering Death - that he'd had a similar conversation with Alastair at Perth. And that he had had suggested the England opener should use the Internet to search for just three words 'Holding', 'Close' and '1976'! I mean, check this out, Alastair! There's fast, there's really fast, and then there's Michael Holding at his peak. As, indeed, should any younger dear blog readers who only know Mikey these days as that nice, articulate, passionate chap in the Sky commentary box. Tell 'em all about that heavy heavy bowlin', Prince Far-I!

Australia's media has been wallowing in their team's abject failure to retake the Ashes from England. Or, indeed, put up much of a fight. The Adelaide Now website described England's retaking of the Ashes as 'a total disaster' while The Australian newspaper titled its coverage Ashes Horribilis. Australia's Daily Telegraph - which, let us remember on 8 November 2002 featured the sickeningly gloating headline Is There ANYBODY In England Who Can Play Cricket? something that English cricket fans in 2005, 2009 and 2010 weren't slow in reminding them about - was equally despairing. They describing the latest test as 'Aussie cricket's darkest hour.' I think you forgot to add 'yet' there, mate. It called Wednesday's defeat in the fourth test 'Ash Wednesday.' England dances on Australia's Ashes grave was the headline in The Age. 'Acoustically, this was The Barmy Army's finest hour. Its anthems to England's triumphant cricket team, amplified by the MCG's towering parapets, filled the ground until even the few Australian loyalists present could not help but tap their feet to the rhythms,' they wrote, rather poetically. The Sydney Morning Herald said that an overhaul of the Australian cricket team was needed if the country was to stop its recent slide in the sport. Jesse Hogan, writing in the paper urged selectors to turn their focus to next summer's Border-Gavaskar Trophy series against India - currently by a distance the best side in the world - and make wholesale changes to the team. 'By keeping faith with the majority of the squad which lost the Ashes in 2009, the selectors effectively declared the loss to England an aberration, one that the same players could overturn during the return series in Australia,' he wrote. 'Results this series have proved them wrong. So be it. Rather than apportion blame, it is more constructive to identify where mistakes were made and ensure they are not made again. After two Ashes series losses within fifteen months, changes must be made. Now, not just on the eve of or midway through the India series.' However, Shane Warne, writing in the Herald Sun disagreed. The former spin legend, currently working for Sky, said that Australia's selectors should not panic into making rash changes. 'It would be easy to make wholesale changes and look to the future, but you really have to sit down, study it and ask, "Who do we identify in first-class cricket who could have a long career for Australia?,"' he wrote. 'Do we really want to chop and change radically? We still want to win the Test match and hopefully level the series.' He added: 'Let's go away and think about things, rather than rush into any silly decisions. Let the guys who have fought this series try and level it in Sydney. You have to feel for the Australian team, it's tough to accept, but England deserved their series win.' Australia's captain. Not-So-Tricky Ricky Punter paid generous tribute to England after his side fell to an innings and one hundred and fifty seven-run defeat in Melbourne. Ponting, so badly out of form with the bat in this series, has become the first Australia captain since the Nineteenth Century to lose The Ashes three times, and is likely to face calls for his resignation at the age of thirty six from many quarters. 'We've learnt a lot about how to play very good Test cricket from some of the cricket that the English team have played over the last few weeks,' said Ponting. 'I'm disappointed with the way this series has gone for us so far, really disappointed at the way this week has turned out for us after having such a good week last week. But I think the really important thing we need to do is pay credit to England and the way they played for the whole tour.' Punter, who has had a second X-ray on the little finger he broke in his team's win at the WACA ten days ago, will doubtless face many awkward questions from the press, public and selectors before the final Test. He will try to answer them but he made sure that he gave England due praise first. 'Apart from the third Test, they've played a really high level of cricket the whole way through - not only this series, but the tour games as well,' he added. 'Credit to them for the way they prepared.' Writing in The Australian, Malcolm Conn effectively wrote an epitaph to Ponting's career in an article entitled A master and commander no more as old guard is spent and the recruits are raw. England legend Sir Ian Botham - like Boycs, always in a great mood when England play well - hailed England's cricketers after they became the first England side to retain the Ashes on Australian soil since a team he played in, Mike Gatting's 1986-87 squad. 'We've been out here and failed for far too long,' he said in the Mirror. 'Finally there is an England team capable of not just holding on to the Ashes but winning them outright in the Aussie backyard and that is worth celebrating.' Another former England skipper and Botham's Sky colleague, Nasser Hussain, was delighted with the manner of the crushing victory in Melbourne. 'If we thought that Adelaide was the perfect Test performance from England then we have had to think again,' he wrote in the Daily Scum Mail. 'This has been better.' England's Graeme Swann is clearly determined to win the series outright with victory in Sydney, but for now, the spinner is happy to reflect on a job well done: 'Let's not be modest, we have absolutely thrashed Australia in this fourth Test and outplayed them in every department,' he told the Sun. 'Our success is a reward for all the hard work and planning we have put into this tour.' The post-match celebrations by Swann, whose two wickets helped to bring down the Australian second innings, and his team mates seemed to be well under way in the early hours of Wednesday, UK time. 'I'm already a trifle tipsy,' Swann revealed on his Twitter account. Earlier, he and the rest of the England players had performed their notorious version of the Sprinkler Dance on the MCG outfield to the delight of the travelling Barmy Army whose support for the team not just on this tour but over the last decade and a half, sometimes in the most obscure of places, has been little short of remarkable. The Age, needless to say, was not amused. One Australian, however, had nothing but praise for England. 'To my English friends well done and congrats on the cricket u played. Thanks for all the humble messages to [sic] Enjoy moment u deserve it,' said Shane Warne on Twitter. Warney however did hit back that not everything in England is better than what Australian can offer. 'I still think vegemite is better than marmite,' Warne wrote. Yeah actually, come to think about it, we'll gladly give you that one, Shane. Nice beer too, to be fair. Prime Minister David Cameron, of course, immediately leaped on the bandwagon, and offered his congratulations to the England team on 'a brilliant performance' in Australia. 'Retaining the Ashes for the first time in almost a quarter of a century marks a very special end to the year for sports fans and a great late Christmas present for the country,' he told the BBC. 'I look forward to welcoming them to Downing Street when they return.' Aye. Don't you have anything, you know, more important to do, chum?

The Sun has - belatedly - owned up to what many readers realised the moment they saw it; that its 'exclusive' about the pre-Christmas live episode Coronation Street being 'targeted by al-Qaeda' was, entirely, false. On 9 December, you may remember, the tabloid well known for its accuracy and diligence, carried this extraordinary front page story in which it claimed that 'cops' were 'throwing a ring of steel' around the studios in Manchester after being 'tipped off' that the show 'could be hit by a terror strike.' This was, of course, immediately denied by Greater Manchester Police. Because it was a load of utter bollocks. The story had that familiar Daily Lies-ish ring of complete nonsense, something From The North noted at the time it being full of unattributed 'quotes' from nameless 'sources.' And, so it turns out, as Tuesday's page two 'correction' now admits: 'Further to our article about increased security at Coronation Street's studios for their live Fiftieth anniversary episode. We would like to make clear that while cast and crew were subject to full body searches, there was no specific threat from Al-Qaeda as we reported. We apologise for the misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.' Fine. Now, how about your story from 3 August 2006 that Zoe Lucker was 'being lined up to play Doctor Who's evil arch-enemy The Rani'? Any admissions to make there?

Matt Smith has said that he sees nothing wrong with his Doctor Who co-star Karen Gillan's short skirts. Gillan was criticised - mainly by half-a-dozen glakes on the Daily Scum Mail website, admittedly - for supposedly being 'too sexy' in the role of Amy Pond. She reprised her kissogram policewoman outfit in this year's Christmas special. Dear blog readers may, of course, remember this spectacularly amusing piece of numskull glakery and nonsense by the ludicrous Allison Pearson. Or, indeed, From The North's hilarity at its lack of anything even remotely resembling basic journalistic research into the subject! Speaking to Now magazine, Smith said: 'I know those short skirts caused a furore but I say bring them on. I see nothing wrong with celebrating women and their sexiness. There's absolutely nothing exploitative or demeaning about it.' Oh I dunno. I think there quite probably is something (marginally) exploitative, at least, about it. But, frankly, I couldn't give frigging toss about that and neither, I suspect, could the vast majority of other viewers - of both sexes - either!

Hannah Spearritt has claimed that the new series of Primeval is 'more intricate' than its predecessors. The actress, who plays Abby Maitland in the ITV drama, admitted that she is pleased that the show has been given a reprieve following its cancellation last year. 'I thought it was a shame, especially for storyline purposes,' she told What's On TV. 'Connor and Abby where literally trapped up a tree in the Cretaceous period!' Speaking about returning to the role, she commented: 'It's been lovely, both for personal reasons and for the fans. In a way, Primeval feels like a new show. Having a year away has given it a new lease of life and energy. There are lots of new characters. The only other familiar face apart from Abby and Connor is Lester, played by Ben Miller. Although a couple of other familiar faces make an appearance as the series progresses.' She added: 'I think there's something for old fans and a new audience. The show's more intricate and could stand alone as a drama this time round.'

Matt LeBlanc has admitted that he is against the idea of a Friends TV reunion. The actor - who played Joey Tribbiani on the popular US sitcom - said that he is still friends with all of his former cast mates but that resurrecting the show would be 'almost sad.' LeBlanc told WENN: 'Friends was this magical, cool thing, like lightning in a bottle, and I feel super fortunate to have been part of it.' On the idea of a reunion, he said: 'What would the story be? We all get together and what? Have coffee? It would be almost sad. It's better to just imagine what those characters are doing now.'

Hollyoaks actress Jennifer Metcalf has admitted that she hopes taking part in Dancing On Ice will help her develop 'a skater's bum.' The actress, who will skate with Sylvain Longchambon when the ITV show returns next month, told the Daily Lies that her busy schedule means she had not trained as much as some of her competitors. 'I've been incredibly busy with Hollyoaks so haven't done half the amount of training the other girls have,' she said. 'They all say they've lost weight but I've actually added a few pounds! I'm hoping that once the show gets under way and I am on the ice a lot more I'll start toning up. I can't wait to get a skater's bum.' And so do most of the viewers, Jennifer.

After something of a dip for episode two, the overnight ratings for Upstairs Downstairs were back up for its third and final episode on Tuesday evening at just a touch under seven million. The mini-series, therefore, averaged 7.03 million across its three episodes, which - in terms of drama - is third only Rock & Chips and Sherlock on BBC1 this year.

The BBC has confirmed details of a one-off programme to show how funds raised through Sport Relief are being spent. Sport Relief: The Final Score airs on 30 December at 10.55pm on BBC1 and is repeated on Sunday 2 January at 11.20am. On the show, Let's Dance for Sport Relief presenter Steve Jones and Blue Peter presenter and Sport Relief kayak record-breaker Helen Skelton will travel to Uganda and will explore how some of the forty four million pounds million raised by the charity telethon is being used to help families there. Comedian and John O'Groats-to-Land's End cyclist David Walliams will be seen visiting a London project to see how some of the money is being spent in Britain to help inner-city children. Walliams said: 'When we embarked on the cycle challenge, we had no idea just how difficult it would be. The hardest thing was the cold - it was awful. At one point I remember not being able to feel my hands! Despite all that, coming to see Sport Relief cash in action at the Kids Company project has made it all worth it. It's just amazing to see what a difference the money raised by the general public can make.' That'll be worth watching - if for no other reason than the chance to see the world's best known orange, Christine Bleakley (see left) falling in the water a great deal in the name of charideee.

Phil 'The Power' Taylor has slammed (that tabloid-speak for 'criticised') the Sky Sports darts commentators for their 'very hurtful' criticism of his match at the World Championships recently. Taylor, who came second in the BBC's Sports Personality Of The Year award, was criticised by commentators Sid Waddell and Stuart Pyke for his below-par performance in the first round match against Gary Mawson. The darts legend said that the subdued style of his three-nil victory in the match should have been balanced against the fact that it took place four days after his grandson Jack was born nine weeks premature. 'They were going on about my darts, my flights, something else. They should do their homework a bit, not jump on me straight away,' Taylor told reporters. 'I probably had about two hours sleep in four days. It was a very worrying time for us. My daughter's very fragile as it is, without them saying things. They really don't know what they are talking about at times. I didn't watch the match back on TV, I got feedback from my family and friends. It was very upsetting for the family. What do they think of them? They hate them. Not so much Sid Waddell, mostly Stuart Pyke. I'm telling the truth. I didn't like the things they came out with, it was very hurtful. At times they say things they shouldn't.' Taylor, whose grandson is now out of intensive care, added: 'I love Sid to bits but I'll give credit where credit's due and where it's deserved. If he says the wrong thing, I'll tell him. He does it with me as well. Not only has he been one of my biggest fans over the years but also one of my biggest critics. I don't mind that. It's fine and I agree with it. But they should have wound their necks in a bit and gave us a fair shot.' According to the Daily Express, Waddell said that he was surprised by Taylor's reaction, whilst Pyke believes that his commentary was fair and balanced.

Ofcom has said that it expects to licence Britain's one thousandth TV channel in the New Year, marking the world's highest number of networks outside of the US. According to figures released by the media watchdog, nine hundred and forty eight channels currently have permission to broadcast in the UK on terrestrial, cable and satellite platforms. However, the regulator believes that the one thousandth broadcast licence will be granted in early 2011. Mark Lawson, the presenter of BBC Radio 4's arts programme Front Row, told the Sunday Times that the one thousand channel figure has 'a big symbolic significance.' He said: 'It wasn't really that long ago that we saw the launch of Channel Four (1982) and then Channel Five (1997), so the one thousandth licence will be a landmark. But the danger, as most people will probably acknowledge, is that the opening up of television was never about quality - it was mainly about quantity.' Britain now has firty five licensed home shopping channels, fifty four dedicated movies channels - including at least two Bollywood networks - and forty five music channels. The increase in the number of channels has partially been attributed to the low start-up costs, standing at two thousand five hundred pounds to bid for a licence and a one thousand pounds annual cost. However, a report in August indicated that the number of new channels being launched on Sky has fallen by seventy per cent this year, as independent broadcasters struggle to establish themselves on the platform.

Advertisers are combating the increasing use of digital video recorders with 'fast-forward' TV commercials, designed to be viewed at twelve-times normal speed. According to the Daily Telegraph, the new type of advertising is intended to ensure viewers get the gist of commercial messages even when flicking through recordings at high-speed on timeshift services such as Sky+. Paul Lee, director of technology, media and telecoms at Deloitte, told the newspaper that the adverts feature prolonged shots of brands, logos and well-known advertising 'characters.' He said that people actually pay more attention to commercial messages in fast-forward compared with viewing at normal speeds. 'When people are fast forwarding, they are actually paying closer attention because they want to ensure they do not miss the resumption of the TV show,' said Lee. 'All adverts have a certain style and it is very easy to guess what an advert is for without actually watching it properly.' Lee added that the increase of DVR viewing has also meant that the slots at the end of each advertising break are selling at a premium, because 'recall for such slots is likely to be highest.' He revealed that 'a well-known perfume brand' recently bought up the final advertising slot of almost every commercial break during musical comedy show Glee on Channel Four. The growth of DVR viewing was expected to severely impact the advertising revenues gained from linear TV, but recent figures suggest the opposite is actually occurring. According to a report by TV marketing body Thinkbox, eighty nine per cent of people said that they used on-demand services such as ITV Player and BBC iPlayer to catch up on linear TV. The Tellyport study, conducted by strategy and research company Decipher, also found that the amount of on-demand TV viewing conducted to discover new content has halved since 2008, falling from twenty two per cent to eleven per cent. Lee said that the increase of people using social networking sites while watching TV has meant that viewers don't want to 'lose out on the collective experience' of seeing live events such as The X Factor final.

The funeral of Brian Hanrahan, the BBC correspondent who recently died of cancer, has been taking place in North London. Hanrahan, who was best known for his coverage of the Falklands War, died at the age of sixty one after a short illness. Senior BBC reporters including Nicholas Witchell were among mourners at Saint Monica's Catholic Church in Enfield. Hanrahan's coffin was carried into the church under a bouquet of yellow roses amid foggy weather. Former BBC colleagues who gathered at the church also included Jeremy Bowen and James Naughtie. Hanrahan's reporting spanned the reshaping of NATO and the EU, as well as conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. As the BBC's Far East, and then Moscow correspondent, he watched dramatic changes unfolding in China and Russia. He covered Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it was the Falkands War in 1982 that made his reputation. Hanrahan famously counted the returning Harrier jets to ensure he could report the story and get round MoD restrictions. He said: 'I'm not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back. Their pilots were unhurt, cheerful and jubilant, giving thumbs-up signs.' Speaking after his death on 20 December, former war reporter Martin Bell paid tribute to 'a quiet, decent man' who was 'very thorough and very good at his job. I never heard an ill word said about Brian Hanrahan,' he added. Former BBC overseas correspondent Kate Adie described him as an 'extremely dogged and factual and intelligent reporter who saw things in front of him and described them graphically. He was one of those voices you could rely on,' she added. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Secretary William Hague also paid tribute to Hanrahan.

Richard Herring has said that Channel Four must take responsibility for the controversy surrounding Frankie Boyle's jokes about Katie Price's disabled son. The stand-up comedian told the Digital Spy website that it is the broadcaster rather than the comedian which has to make the final decisions on what is inappropriate to broadcast and what isn't. Herring said: 'I blame Channel Four for allowing it to go out. There's a lot of stuff on TV at the moment where it seems absolutely fine to mock disabled people for no reason. I find it pointless and embarrassing. I think people think they're being edgy but they're just being pricks. I think for a grown man to start taking the piss out of an actual eight-year-old boy, even if he wasn't disabled, on national TV - that's slightly weird. Unless you've got something amazing to say about that subject, I think you've crossed a line there.' He added: 'I can completely understand what he's doing, I've seen it. He's saying the most outrageous thing he can. He doesn't mean it. We all do it with our friends. I think there's a difference when it goes on TV. I'm a massive advocate of free speech, and I also think you have a responsibility as a comedian and a broadcaster to think about those things. I do work with Scope and I think if I was going to joke about disability I'd want to be on the side of the disabled. I'd want to be making some point about the unfairness of society, rather than just getting a cheap laugh out of one child. I'm all for freedom of expression, so I absolutely blame Channel Four for putting it out.'

And, finally, dear blog reader, for today's - special - day, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day are special ones. I mean, quite literally. Come on all you rude boys and rude girls, get on your feet ...And here's Jerry Dammers, Terry Hall, Neville Staple, Sir Horace Gentleman, Roddy Radiation, Lynval Golding and John Bradbury introducing the Americans to skanking on Saturday Night Live.Here they are nearly thirty years later (minus Jerry, sadly) at the 100 Club trashing the joint with their second best ever b-side! (For those taking notes.) 'I won't dance, in a klub like this/All the girls are slags and the beer tastes just like piss!' Work that vest, Nev! And finally six minutes of Coventry sweat, 'The Skinhead Symphony':And here's most of it from the BBC's long-forgotten Rock Goes To The College in 1979. Why don't we have stage invasions like this on TV every day? Note, also, the normally quiet as a lamb Terry getting all discombobulated and chucking his tambourine at somebody in the crowd! And as Mark Ellen once memorably said, keep your eye on Horace Painter doing all these really complicated ska basslines whilst never having more than one foot on the ground at any one time. 'Klub of the year/Specials!' And, if only they'd released 'Do The Dog' as a single, I'd've had that one up as well!