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.