Sunday, December 26, 2010

As I Walk Through This Wicked World Searching For Light In The Darkness of Insanity

It was pretty much business as usual for BBC1 taking, eight out of the Top Ten overnight ratings placings on Christmas Day. EastEnders led the way, as usual, with an average audience of 11.4m watching Stacey Slater leave Albert Square for the final time and various other Walford-based criminal shenanigans and naughty malarkey, innit. This was followed closely by the excellent Doctor Who Christmas special which had an overnight average audience of 10.3m, slightly higher than the ten million achieved by David Tennant's equivalent Christmas Day episode last year on BBC1. Matt Lucas and David Walliams new - alleged - comedy, Come Fly With Me also had 10.3m viewers. Although how many of them will hang around for the next episode remains to be seen. The seasonal Royal Family episode was fourth scoring a smidgen under ten million. In possibly the biggest surprise of the day, Strictly Come Dancing won its head-to-head with ITV's best-rated show of the day, Coronation Street at seven o'clock. In a reversal of last year's result, Strictly had 9.4m viewers to Corrie's nine million. In seventh place was the - surprisingly decent - Ronnie Corbett comedy vehicle The One Ronnie with 7.9m. The Top Ten was completed by the BBC1 premiere of Shrek The Third, the BBC News and Emmerdale. Although the latter was comprehensively walloped by Doctor Who at six o'clock (for the fifth year running, let it be noted) ITV could, at least, console themselves with the thought that for the past four years BBC1 have occupied nine of the Top Ten highest rated shows on Christmas Day. This year, it was only eight. However, there was a disappointingly small audience of just over four million for ITV's big drama of the night, Poirot's - really rather good - adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express. Total TV viewing for the night was slightly up on 2009, with the total TV audience across all channels peaking during the seven o'clock hour at just under twenty eight million viewers.
1 - 11.4 (43.2%) - EastEnders 20:00 BBC1
2 - 10.3 (39.8%) - Doctor Who 18:00 BBC1
3 - 10.3 (41.1%) - Come Fly with Me 22:00 BBC1
4 - 9.9 (38.6%) - The Royle Family 21:00 BBC1
5 - 9.4 (34.4%) - Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 19:00 BBC1
6 - 9.0 (33.1%) - Coronation Street 19:00 ITV
7 - 7.9 (37.3%) - The One Ronnie 17:15 BBC1
8 - 7.2 (41.9%) - Shrek the Third 15:15 BBC1
9 - 7.2 (31.3%) - BBC News 22:30 BBC1
10 - 7.2 (27.9%) - Emmerdale 18:00 ITV
11 - 5.8 (31.7%) - The Gruffalo 16:30 BBC1
12 - 4.7 (17.8%) - All Star Family Fortunes 20:00 ITV
13 - 4.4 (20.6%) - You've Been Framed at Christmas! 17:15 ITV
14 - 4.2 (17.3%) - Agatha Christie's Poirot 21:00 ITV
15 - 4.0 (27.8%) - Top of the Pops Christmas 2010 14:00 BBC1

Speaking of ratings, Qi's Christmas Eve episode - in which Harry Potter was decapitated - had an overnight audience of 5.59m, the second highest overnight rating that the show has ever achieved. (Last year's Christmas Eve Qi episode - the one featuring David Tennant - had an overnight figure of 5.72m.) if you missed it, dear blog reader, you really need to have a gander at the XL edition on Tuesday next. On a set bedecked with ivy and gargolyles, Stephen Fry had his fez on - never a bad thing - and his four guests wore hooded capes. H is for hocus-pocus, of course, and a magic-themed Christmas special followed with the most famous wizard of them all, Daniel Radcliffe, joining the ranks of naughty pupils trying to second guess Professor Fry's fascinating facts. The show almost came off the rails when Lee Mack - on brilliant form for the second Christmas edition running - had a spelling-related set-to with the host. 'Are you incapable of rational thought?' bemoaned Stephen, before adding 'You can't be that stupid!' Lee's punishment was to end the show being sawn in half by Alan Davies (who fabulously noted, 'I used to be a Magician's Assistant, you know!') That was followed on BBC1 by an even more remarkable audience for the Have I Got News For You 2010 clip-show - 6.17m, the topical news quiz's highest episode rating in two years.

John Barrowman has been crowned champion of this year's Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing. The Torchwood and Doctor Who actor and his professional partner, Kristina Rihanoff earned praise from the judging panel for their Quickstep, with Len Goodman telling Barrowman: 'You jingled my bells.' Steady, Len, you'll only give 'im notions! Bruno Toniolo added: 'Dazzlers don’t come more dazzling than John Barrowman. Is there anything you can't do, or you haven’t done, by the way?' Well, a successful Saturday night light entertainment format, for one. Although to be scrupulously fair to Tonight's The Night it's nowhere near the worst thing the BBC have tried in that particular slot. After his victory, John said that his performance had been 'a dream come true,' adding: 'If I had time I'd love to do the entire series - that would be brilliant.' Other competitors in the festive special included Fern Britton, Ronni Ancona, June Brown and the business secretary Vince Cable. (Lib Dem. Allegedly.) Who seemingly didn't have anything better to do with his time.

2011 gets off to a bad start for Coronation Street's Becky McDonald as she finds herself arrested for the shocking New Year's Eve attack on Tracy Barlow. Meanwhile, over in Albert Square tonight's episode of EastEnders will see Janine fighting for her life in hospital bed after stabbing herself in a bid to frame Stacey on Christmas Day. There you have it, dear blog reader, Christmas was this year cancelled on Britain's soap operas and replaced with 'violent crime week.'

The National Union of Journalists has said that the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt is unsuitable to arbitrate on News Corporation's takeover bid for Sky and has called for a full Competition Commission probe to be launched. The vile and odious Hunt was handed the power to rule on the proposed takeover after pro-celebrity hoofer Vince Cable was stripped of the decision for saying that he had 'declared war' on Rupert Murdoch's media empire. In a statement, the NUJ said that if Cable is deemed inappropriate to make the quasi-judicial decision on the takeover, then 'so is Jeremy Hunt.' The union said that it 'does not adhere to the spirit of impartiality to transfer the decision from one politician who has expressed an opinion, to another who has simply expressed the opposite opinion.' The NUJ was referring to Hunt's comments in a June interview with the Financial Times, in which he 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, but I don't want to second-guess what regulators might decide.' Also in the interview, Hunt praised Murdoch for taking 'a commercial risk' in setting up the Sky business and said that the government 'must encourage that kind of investment.' The NUJ believes that because of this, the vile and odious Hunt is unsuitable to make the decision on whether the takeover represents a clear threat to media plurality in the UK. 'We are therefore calling on the government to acknowledge the widespread support amongst the public to limit the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and to agree to a full-scale Competition Commission investigation into News Corporation's proposal to take total control of Sky,' said the NUJ.

It's been announced that Peter Davison and Dominic Rowan will join the cast of ITV's crime and legal drama Law and Order UK. The two actors will join the cast in the next series with filming on the new thirteen episodes already underway. Davison joins the cast as Henry Sharpe, the new head of the CSP who takes over from George Castle (Bill Paterson) - although Paterson is due to appear in future episodes of Law and Order UK. Rowan will play Jacob Thorne, a Senior Crown Prosecutor. Davison and Rowan join Law and Order regulars Freema Agyeman, Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber in the new series. Previously announced guest-stars for the thirteen new episodes include Juliet Stevenson, Nicola Walker and Tobias Menzies.

The policeman blinded by killer Raoul Moat has accused the alleged comedian Peter Kay of 'going back on a promise' to back his charity. PC David Rathband said that the comic agreed to become patron of his Blue Lamp Foundation when they met backstage at Kay's gig in Newcastle last month. But, he said that this week, he was told Kay will not be putting his name to the charity, which helps emergency services staff injured in the line of duty, due 'to other commitments.' A statement posted on the foundation's website on Christmas Eve said: 'It is with much sadness that we inform our supporters that Peter Kay has reneged on his commitment to PC David Rathband's Blue Lamp Foundation, and will therefore no longer be supporting us. A spokeswoman for Mr Kay told us that "because of Peter's commitments with other organisations, he does not feel he can do your charity any benefit or justice."' PC Rathband, of Cramlington, told the Newcastle Journal he was 'really disappointed' with Kay. He added: 'It was the way we were told which was particularly annoying. He said he would [become a patron] and then we were told by e-mail that he wasn't. We are just so pleased that other TV personalities are backing the foundation and are willing to do so much for us.' Carol Vorderman and Gok Wan have agreed to help PC's campaign by appearing on Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to help raise funds. When contacted by the Chortle website for their side of the story, no one from Kay's agent, Phil McIntyre Entertainment, was available for comment.

Elisabeth Beresford, the creator of The Wombles, has died, her family have announced. She died in the Mongot Memorial Hospital, in Alderney in the Channel Islands on Christmas Eve, according to her son. Born in 1926, her creations featured in a series of books as well as a TV series. Many of the characters in the stories stemmed from her own family. In 1998 she was made an MBE, remarking: 'The Queen's a mad Womble fan.' Beresford served as a Wren during World War II before finding work as a writer on BBC Radio's Woman's Hour. In her spare time she wrote fiction, starting with romantic stories for women's magazines. The Wombles books were inspired by a comment made by her daughter during a Boxing Day walk on Wimbledon Common. In a November 2010 interview with BBC Guernsey, she described the moment: 'Over Christmas I had to keep the children quiet as their grandparents were visiting, so on Boxing Day, after the grandparents left, we got in my car and went to Wimbledon Common. The three of us ran backwards and forwards screaming at the top of our voices and it was my daughter who said to me "Oh ma, isn't it great on Wombledon Common?" and I said "That's where the Wombles live."' This idea led to a series of books. Elisabeth's association with the BBC led to Woman's Hour producer Monica Simms suggesting she take her idea to television company FilmFair who produced television for the BBC and, with the help of Ivor Wood puppet versions of the Wombles were made and Film Fair produced the series with Bernard Cribbins providing the voices. The theme tune for the show was written by Mike Batt and Elisabeth said 'it was Mike Batt who invented recycling [for the Wombles],' but she added: 'I'm all for recycling.' Many of the characters in the stories stemmed from Elisabeth's family: 'Great Uncle Bulgaria was my father-in-law, Madame Cholet was from my daughter Kate. My brother had two children and John was a very clever boy who went to Wellington College, which is where Wellington came from. Orinoco I just picked off a map.' Elizabeth's father was the writer JD Beresford, a successful novelist who also worked as a book reviewer for many newspapers. Her parents' circle of friends included HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy and Somerset Maugham. After eighteen months as a Wren, Elisabeth started work as a ghost writer, specialising in writing speeches, including for Conservative MPs, and met Sir Winston Churchill. She began training as a journalist and wrote radio, film and television columns and worked for the BBC as a radio reporter. Visiting Australia, South Africa and the West Indies with her sports commentator husband Max Robertson led to children's books and two TV series - Seven Days To Sydney and Come To The Caribbean. The first Wombles book was published in 1968 and, after a reading of it was broadcast on Jackanory, the BBC decided to make an animated series. Beresford wrote over twenty Wombles books within a decade, which were translated into more than forty languages. She also wrote a Wombles stage show, one version of which ran in the West End.

For Boxing Day's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day we've got two alternative versions of the same Christmas messages. Which shall, from henceforth, be known as 'the original' and 'the one that everybody knows.'And, as a special Boxing Day treat, here's Elv and Nick signing it together. With James Burton on guitar. Does it get any better than that?