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!