Monday, December 20, 2010

Some Well Respected Men

Brian Hanrahan, the long-serving BBC foreign correspondent best known for his coverage of the Falklands war, has died after a short illness. Hanrahan, sixty one, the former BBC world diplomatic editor, also witnessed first hand the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China and the fall of the Berlin Wall the same year. However, he will probably be best remembered for the line: 'I counted them all out and I counted them all back,' from one of his reports from the South Atlantic during the Falklands conflict in 1982. Hanrahan was referring to Harrier jets returning to one of the Royal Navy's carriers after completing their first combat mission over Port Stanley without loss. He used that form of words specifically to get round military censorship of media reports – and it subsequently became the title of his book about the conflict, co-written with fellow correspondent Robert Fox. Brian's BBC career spanned nearly forty years, beginning in 1971 after graduating from Essex University. He was on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes during the Falklands war when the first air strikes started taking place in May 1982. Naval officials placed severe restrictions on what he could and couldn't tell viewers, particularly in respect of the numbers of sorties flown by the Harriers. Ironically, his death comes in the very week that the last of Britain's Harriers are being phased out of service. Fox told the BBC that in order to get round the restrictions, Hanrahan colluded with the 'raffish Old Etonian intelligence officer' Rupert Nichol, who told him that they had both seen the same number of planes going in and coming back, and 'that was the way he should go.' Hanrahan turned the idea into the line he used on his broadcast. The BBC's world news editor, Jon Williams, said Brian 'would always be remembered for an extraordinary story and an extraordinary turn of phrase.' Williams added that it was Hanrahan's longevity and his 'tone' which marked him out. 'He could always be relied on to find the right word at the right moment.' As well as the Falklands, Brian covered many of the biggest foreign stories of the past thirty years as a correspondent on location and latterly, as diplomatic editor, interpreting international affairs from London and travelling widely to provide expert analysis. From 1983 he covered Asia, based in Hong Kong, observing the reforms of Deng Xioping in China, the assassination of Mrs Ghandi and the succession of her son as Indian prime minister. He moved to Moscow in 1986 and reported on Mikhail Gorbachev's Perestroika reforms in the Soviet Union. In 1989 Brian became diplomatic correspondent during a momentous year, covering Tiananmen Square and the collapse of various communist regimes in eastern Europe. He was present in Poland for the arrival of the first non-communist government in eastern Europe. He was also at the fall of the Berlin Wall and in Bucharest during the Romanian revolution and the fall of Nicolae Ceauşescu. As diplomatic editor from 1997 Brian provided live studio analysis of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and he went to New York shortly afterwards to report on the immediate aftermath. More recently filed for BBC Radio 4 current affairs programmes including The World At One and The World Tonight, as well as contributing to TV programmes on major international and historical events. Hanrahan was also part of the BBC commentary team for major ceremonial and state occasions including the funerals of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother, the millennium celebrations, the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor. Another in that great line of BBC foreign correspondents like the late Brian Barron, Martin Bell and John Simpson, Brian will be greatly missed. At a time when the Daily Scum Mail, on an almost hourly basis, questions the BBC's impartiality and integrity, Brian Hanrahan possessed more in his little finger than the entire editorial staff of that shameful excuse for a rag have in all of their hollow, worthless souls.

And, in further sad news, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have both paid tribute to the political journalist and broadcaster Anthony Howard, who died over the weekend following surgery for a ruptured aneurysm. The seventy six-year-old former editor of the New Statesman worked for newspapers including the Guardian and The Times, and often appeared on TV as an affable, witty and informed Westminster pundit. In the 1960s, he was the deputy editor of the Observer. David Cameron said: 'British politics has lost one of its best informed and talented commentators.' Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, described Howard as 'a distinguished political commentator' who had a talent for seeing 'round the next political corner.' Peter Kellner in the Evening Standard described Tony as 'the people's spy in the corridors of power for fifty years.' Although Howard had retired from full-time journalism, he was still a regular guest on political television programmes, with broadcasters often calling on his knowledge during the general election campaign of 2010. He became well known to viewers of the BBC's Panorama and Newsnight, and presented Face the Press on Channel Four, The Editors on Sky News, as well as many political programmes for BBC radio. He was also keen to nurture new talent - Martin Amis, James Fenton, Robert Harris and Julian Barnes all began the careers in journalism under his guidance. Reflecting on his career in an interview two years ago, Howard said: 'It's jolly nearly fifty years, which is a terribly long time. I started off in journalism in 1958. I still wake up wanting to know what happened next. It's the curiosity that keeps you going. There's never a morning I don't get up intrigued by turning on the radio or padding downstairs to pick up the papers. As you get old, you become less news-conscious and more commentary-conscious. I look back with pride on a piece I wrote for the Observer in 1983 warning readers of the self-indulgence of voting for the SDP, which would divert the cause of the underprivileged.' The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown described Howard as 'a unique commentator and historian whose eloquence, wit and beliefs straddled fifty years of our history.' Miliband added: 'Anthony was someone who conveyed the excitement and importance of the events on which he was commenting. He knew the trivial from the important, the dramatic from the humdrum and could see round the next political corner. His raised eyebrow at the twists and turns of politics and the depth and rigour of his analysis will be sorely missed.' Labour MP John McDonnell lamented the loss of 'a vastly knowledgeable, gifted journalist, who provided an objective critique of New Labour.' Despite being an acknowledged expert in Labour politics, Howard also had many friends from the other side of the House. He had been close to the former Conservative deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine since they attended Oxford University together in the mid-1950s. Heseltine said: 'It is a terrible shock. Tony was one of my oldest friends. He was a very kind and warm-hearted person with a deep, deep compassion. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of contemporary British politics and the personalities that made it up and he had a very distinguished journalistic career.' Donald Trelford, the former Observer editor, who worked with Howard in the 1980s, said: 'Tony had a prodigious memory for political anecdotes, which stood him in good stead in later years as a book reviewer. He was an excellent editor of the New Statesman and the Listener and, if the timing of his career had been more fortunate, he should have edited a national newspaper.' A proper, old school political reporter, who moved effectively within the circles of intrigue, Howard started his media journalistic career after initially training to be a barrister. As a junior officer in the British Army during the Suez debacle in 1956, he was appalled by the madness of the venture and the lies told by politicians to defend it. His account, which appeared in the New Statesman and kick-started his journalistic career, caused a sensation at the time and very nearly led to his prosecution under the official secrets act. In the mid-Sixties the Sunday Times appointed him Britain's first 'Whitehall Correspondent,' with a brief to uncover what the Civil Service was up to. The appointment did not last long because Whitehall closed ranks against him. Thirty years later, when the official records were released, Tony was thrilled to discover how much time, and with what venom, Harold Wilson, the then prime minister, had devoted to killing Tony's mission. Tony, rightly, regarded Wilson's animosity as a badge of honour. He worked for a variety of newspapers during that period, serving as the Observer's chief American correspondent during the late 1960s. He returned to London to edit the New Statesman, from 1972 to 1978 and edited the diaries of Dick Crossman, the former Labour cabinet minister, which were highly regarded as a significant departure in the arena of political memoirs, particularly in terms of their sheer candour. Tony ended his full-time career in newspaper journalism as the obituaries editor on the Times during the 1990s. His own obituary in the newspaper described him as 'one of the most professional journalists of his generation. No one in journalism was less likely to back away from the truth.'

During January 2011 why not take a look at the skies as part of the BBC's Stargazing Live. Professor Brian Cox (yes, 'him out of D-Ream!') will explore the heavens live on air in a three part TV series on BBC2. A number of events will also be taking place throughout the country organised by local astronomical societies. The skies of January 2011 will feature the opportunities to see, among others, Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn and the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Brian and Dara O'Briain are preparing to bring the wonders of the stars to BBC2. Stargazing Live will reveal images from the most powerful telescopes on Earth, and beyond, during three nights of astronomical events between Monday 3 January and Wednesday 5 January 2011. The programme will be presented from Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. Brian will take Dara - a trained physicist and frustrated astronomer - on a crash course in our skies' marvels. Meanwhile, Big Bang Theory's Liz Bonnin (and her annoying voice) will be broadcasting live in Hawaii to explain how the stars affect us even during daytime and The ONE Show's resident astronomer, Mark Thompson, will offer tips on finding your way around the night sky and will show Jonathan Ross a few tricks of trade on how best to spot the brightest stars in the firmament. And, firmament is the term I meant. Yeah, yeah, old joke. Anyway, Brian is asking astronomers of all levels to share their best 'astro photos' in the Stargazing Live photo group. Some of the most outstanding will be shownon the programmes. There are numerous events taking place in the North East of England which yer Keith Telly Topping's colleagues at BBC Newcastle (particularly lovely Lynn from BBC Learning) are heavily involved in. Full details can be found here. I might even pop along to that event at the Centre For Life myself, if I can blag some tickets! For readers in other areas of Britain you can also check out your local events here. Sounds great. As a committed wannabe spaceman since childhood, I applaud the BBC's initiative and vision here.

TV viewers often prefer to see repeats of classics rather than new seasonal shows as they sink into the sofa for Christmas, a new survey suggests. Which should be one in the eye for all those national newspapers that carry a story every year whinging about how many repeats are on at Christmas. It's, seemingly, what the public want, chaps. Which is, after all, supposed to be all of our raison d'être. Keeping the customer satisfied. Rather than carping about the number of recycled shows over the festive period, the study - commissioned by the digital TV provider Freeview - shows that three-fifths of those who expressed a preference enjoy tried and trusted oldies. Criticism of the number of repeats at Christmas has become an annual sport for many newspapers - particularly the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Torygraph. Classic reruns on the BBC during the holidays this year include Porridge (see right), Dad's Army, The Good Life and The Morecambe & Wise Show - mainly on BBC2. But the survey - and, indeed, the ratings figures that such repeats regularly pull in - show that such repeats are welcomed by many viewers. In the survey of two thousand adult viewers, sixty per cent claimed to prefer watching classic Christmas TV to new specials with contemporary stars of drama and comedy. More than half said that they found older comedies funnier than contemporary comedy shows. Rather than feeling short-changed by repeats, two-fifths of those who took part said they would like to see even more classic reruns at Christmas. The study emphasises how important TV is to families over the festive period, often on in the background all day on 25 December. Three-fifths of those in the study said the TV would be on for fourteen hours, with many viewers turning on from 10am onwards. The study also found that the average Britons will watch seventy hours of live TV over the Christmas period and record a further fifteen hours on their recording devices for later viewing.

The European Commission is expected to clear News Corporation's planned twelve billion pound buyout of BSkyB later this week. The Commission, which is studying potential competition issues, rather than plurality, is due to hand down its ruling by Wednesday at the latest. The decision is expected to be favourable for the Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp, which already owns The Times, The Sunday Times, the News of the World and the Sun through its News International unit. In the UK, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable (Lib Dem. Allegedly) has asked Ofcom to investigate the proposal's impact on media plurality. The watchdog is due to report back at the end of this month, at which point Cable will have to take a few minutes off shaking his boogie shoes on Strictly Come Dancing and decide whether or not to refer the matter to the UK's Competition Commission. But, since like most British politicians Cable seems to have a backbone the consistency of jelly when it comes to standing up to crass, ignorant bullies like Murdoch, I think we all know in advance how little chance there is of that happening.

The Simpsons producer James L Brooks has claimed that the show has a good relationship with Rupert Murdoch. The long-running animated series has regularly poked fun at both the media tycoon himself and the corporation's news channel FOX News. However, Brooks told The Hollywood Reporter: '[Murdoch] came in... to record a part once. He gave us permission and actually participated in it.' When asked about his personal relationship with Murdoch, the producer joked: 'I try to get along with anybody who has over nine hundred million dollar!' Brooks also confirmed that another film spin-off from the series was 'a possibility. We always say television [comes] first,' he explained. 'We love the season we are having right now and we feel really good about it. But we're open to [another film] and we sort of have half a notion.' However, he denied that a film script was currently in development. 'When we say we'll do it, we commit,' he said. 'We go all the way, and that's why it took two years the last time. We have not decided to do it, but we keep on looking at each other and talking about it a little bit.'

Stella English has been named the winner of The Apprentice, beating Chris Bates in the final. English was told 'you're hired' by Lord Sugar-Sweetie after a task in which she and Bates created and marketed a new brand of alcoholic drink. 'I'm on cloud nine and my feet haven't really touched the ground,' she said. The pair led teams made up of former contestants, among them Joanna Riley and Jamie Lester - both of whom viewers saw 'fired' earlier this week. The finalists were asked to choose flavours, design a bottle and film an advert before pitching their product to industry experts. English, head of business management at a Japanese bank, said of the competition: 'There were times that I felt very tired and it was much harder than I ever thought it would be. But in terms of quitting, there was absolutely no way.' She said that she hoped to provide 'a better quality of life' for her two young sons. During the task, English, who grew up on the Thamesmead estate in London, complained that she faced strong opinions from her team. 'Everyone likes to have their opinion and make themselves heard,' she said. 'That's what my team like doing.' Lord Sugar-Sweetie said choosing between the finalists had been 'a tough decision.' English will be employed at one of his companies, Viglen, which provides IT services. 'It's a very, very important job where you need a very, very good organiser and someone who's very, very switched on. She's got the brain to do it,' Lord Sugar-Sweetie said. He said he would be happy to discuss potential employment with Bates. Very, very happy, perhaps. 'He's young, he's got no real experience but he's a very quick learner and I think he would be useful,' he said. During the final task, investment banker Bates became angry when team members defied his wishes to make the drink pink rather than clear-coloured. 'I don't mind winning or losing by the decisions I make,' he was seen fuming. 'But when they decide to take it upon themselves to make decisions that I didn't tell them to make, I do find it quite irritating.' The sixth series of the popular BBC show began in October this year, making a tabloid star of garrulous, full-of-himself runner-up Stuart Baggs. It had been filmed almost a year ago but was postponed from its customary spring slot after concerns were raised over Lord Sugar=Sweetie's role as a government advisor at the time of May's general election.

EastEnders fans can gain an extra insight into the soap's Christmas storyline this week as three special scenes have been filmed showing bonus bits from the dramatic festive plot. The extra scenes will air exclusively on the red button and the show's official website from today, further exploring the relationships between the characters at the heart of the Christmas drama. Later this week, viewers will see Walford favourite Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner) bow out from Albert Square after a shocking announcement in the Queen Vic forces her to make a life-changing decision. Stacey's exit will take centre stage on the soap over the Christmas period as her ongoing love triangle plot with Ryan and Janine Malloy (Neil McDermott and Charlie Brooks) reaches its climax. Show bosses have confirmed that the red button scenes will feature 'revelations and admissions' from Stacey, Janine, Ryan, Max and Lauren, providing an added insight into their thoughts and feelings as Christmas Day approaches. The scenes will be made available on the red button and online directly after the EastEnders episodes which be broadcast tonight, on Thursday and on Friday.

Kara Tointon has revealed that she begged her father to take her to casualty, hours after winning Strictly Come Dancing. The former EastEnders actress, who triumphed in the BBC dance competition on Saturday night, received hospital treatment after injuring herself during a routine when she attempted to do a backflip. 'It was so painful,' she told the Sun. 'I was gutted. As it was the last night I really wanted to enjoy it, but after that it all went a bit wrong. I am just glad I made it all the way to the end.' Tointon told the paper that painkillers she was given 'by show bosses' wore off during the night after she returned to her parents' house. I'm not surprised. I normally take painkillers given to me by a doctor or a chemist rather than TV producers. Unable to move her arm, Tointon had to call on her father, Ken, to bring her A&E at 5am. 'My dad took me to hospital and they were really great. They X-rayed it. I have torn a ligament.'

Sour-faced Arlene Phillips has claimed that Matt Baker's professional partner Aliona Vilani was to blame for the pair missing out on the Strictly Come Dancing crown. But, as usually, no one's really all that bothered about what the embittered old hag has to say on the subject of anything related to Stricty. Except, seemingly, her. Baker and Vilani finished as runners-up on Saturday night's grand final, as Kara Tointon and her partner Artem Chigvintsev emerged victorious. Phillips said that Vilani's choreography during the couple's show dance was a key factor in Baker missing out on the top spot. Well, that and the fact that more people voted for the other couple, of course. 'She sabotaged Matt's chances,' Phillips told the Sun. 'The dance had no flow, no connection. I thought he was going to do something we'd never seen before. Well, we'd never seen that before and we'd never want to see it again. Aliona in flat boots looked horrendous. Don't do hip-hop unless you are phenomenal at it.' Do you remember, dear blog reader, just a few weeks ago when Phillips was claiming that 'Strictly's the last thing on my mind. It doesn't feel like it is a part of me any more. It's so tiresome. I'm bigger than Strictly'? Which, presumably, explains why every single week she seems to be in one newspaper or another - usually, though not exclusively, the Current Bun - giving her thoughts on the subject of ... wait for it, Strictly. The tiresome former judge, faceache and well known drag went on to suggest that Tointon and Chigvintsev's sexual chemistry set them apart from the rest of the couples. 'Everything about Kara and Artem's relationship was very sexy. It was tantalising,' Phillips added. 'That's what Matt and Aliona never had. They looked like just friends dancing together. I never felt Aliona ever looked at Matt like she'd got cheesecake with lots of whipped cream thrown on top of it. They tackled so many of the sexy dances so well but never ever taking you to that point of "will they, won't they?" And that is what needs to happen.'

Cheryl Cole has revealed that she is yet to sign a deal to appear as a judge on Simon Cowell's US version of The X Factor. The singer's comments have cast doubt on claims that she will be on the show's judging panel, after Cowell said earlier this month that the line-up was already confirmed. 'There have been conversations but who knows what will happen?' Cole told Alan Carr during his Channel Four show Chatty Man. 'I had such a mind full of stuff to deal with before last Sunday's final,' Cole continued. 'I have had no time to get my head round anything.' The Girls Aloud singer admitted that the idea of moving stateside was a big decision and said that she needs time to consider her options.

Ofcom has confirmed that it will launch an investigation after more than four thousand X Factor viewers complained about 'racy performances' on last weekend's final. The media regulator has now received two thousand seven hundred and fifty complaints about performances by Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on the Saturday night show. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that a further fifteen hundred have contacted ITV directly. The paper claims that the number of complaints has doubled since the Daily Scum Mail ran a double-page spread featuring numerous stills from the two singers' performances. The implication being that many of those who have complained may not even have watched the show at all and were merely complaining based on what they had read in the newspaper. Which would, of course, be shocking if true. The images were published alongside a headline reading: We apologise to readers but you have to see these pictures to understand the fury they've stirred last Tuesday. 'Insiders' at the show, the Gruniad claims, were said to be 'frustrated' that the paper had published still images from the routines. The Gruniad also noted that the Scum Mail appeared to turn the show into something of a crusade, with their columnist Jan Moir - you remember her, surely? - complaining about 'sex-crazed nymphs before the watershed.' The Scum Mail also took Ofcom itself to task in a leader column last week for 'dragging its feet' over whether to investigate the 'deeply louché and decadent very adult dance routines,' which were watched by more than fourteen million people and which, it considered, 'should be considered without delay.' All of which probably tells us more about the Daily Scum Mail than it does about The X Factor.

Dannii Minogue, meanwhile, has been named the Celeb of the Year by the Metro newspaper. Because, obviously, they didn't have any real news to report that day.

Southland actor Michael Cudlitz has hinted that his character John Cooper may struggle with drug addiction in the upcoming third season. The actor told Entertainment Weekly that the police officer's back problem will worsen as his pain medication begins to lose its effectiveness. 'What's going to happen over the course of the season is that the bad days are going start outweighing the good days, and there will be fewer good days in between,' he explained. 'So I think we're all going to be left with the question of, "Does John have a back issue or does John have a drug issue?"' However, Cudlitz also suggested that Cooper's relationship with his partner Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) will improve in future episodes. 'Cooper needs him so much on so many different levels,' he added.

A documentary about the Wikileaks scandal is to be distributed by Zodiak Rights, following a deal with Premières Lignes. Wikileaks: War, Lies and Videotape is the latest production by award winning investigative reporters Luc Hermann and Paul Moreira. The film follows enigmatic Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, including his recent arrest in London, and takes a behind-the-scenes look at his website, which has given rise to one of the greatest controversies of the last decade. Journalists and hackers from Wikileaks have gathered and published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents in their fight for transparency and challenge to the rules of military secrecy. French press agency Premières Lignes is known for its contentious programmes. Among its recent shock investigations is Hunting Down Paedophiles: Citizens on the Watch, which was also distributed by Zodiak Rights.

The eminent movie reviewer Roger Ebert is to return to US TV screens more than four years after a battle with cancer forced him to quit broadcasting. Ebert left his long-running series At the Movies in 2006 after thyroid cancer in his throat left him unable to speak. He is now able to communicate via a specially designed computer program and will begin airing the syndicated new show, Roger Ebert presents At the Movies, in the New Year. 'After a long journey, our new programme is poised for its debut,' Ebert wrote on his Chicago Sun-Times blog. 'The show will play in prime time or prime access in many major markets.' Ebert also confirmed that his signature method of reviewing films – a thumbs up or a thumbs down – will be a part of the new show, which will feature contributions from a number of guest reviewers as well as himself. He said: 'I will be involved in all aspects, and will contribute regular segments of my own.'

Joel David Moore is to make a guest appearance in a forthcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0. Movieline reports that the Avatar actor will play the deputy director of a tsunami tracking office in the first season's fifteenth episode. When his boss mysteriously vanishes, Moore's character will assist Steve McGarrett and his team as a giant wave heads towards Honolulu. The actor previously played Colin Fisher on FOX's Bones and has also featured in a recurring role on Medium. His television guest appearances include roles in Chuck, House and My Name Is Earl.

Heather Morris has revealed that she believes she is being considered to play the lead in the upcoming remake of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You know, the one that's being produced without Joss Whedon's involvement. So, that'll be good, then. Morris, who currently appears on Glee as the empty-headed cheerleader Brittany, told Access Hollywood that she is a contender for the role of Buffy Summers. 'They're considering me!' Morris said, suggesting that her Glee character isn't, actually, a million miles away from her own real-life personality. 'I found out and I almost peed my pants because I was so excited!' Urgh. Too much information, Heather, m'love. Morris also stated that she is 'such a fan' of the original series, which ended in 2003, that she does not care what her role is as long as she gets a chance to appear on the forthcoming movie. Personally, I reckon that any actor who claims to be 'a fan' of Buffy should be refusing, on a point of principle, to have anything to do with a version of it which doesn't include the man who created the damn thing in the first place. That's what a real fan would do. But then, maybe that's just me. Morris also seems to be under the misapprehension that the remake will be a TV series and not a movie: 'If they make Buffy when Glee is on hiatus, I don't even care what I do,' Morris declared. 'I can just run through the shot and do nothing, even if I'm not Buffy!'

Artist Jamie Smart has revealed that he is working on a new magazine for Doctor Who. The BBC has commissioned the Ubu Bubu cartoonist to produce the magazine series after he produced a sample issue featuring material from the forthcoming television series earlier in the year. 'Word came in a little while ago that it had gone well, they were to roll the magazine out across the UK, and would I consider carrying on?' wrote Smart on his blog. 'A long-term contract like this, to produce weekly work for over a year, is usually a dream to freelancers, but I did have concerns. There are already a handful of other projects I need to be working on next year, and I've been real worried that I'm trying to take too much on. But then the sense of reason kicks in - it's Dr Sodding Who. What an opportunity.' The magazine will be launched in the spring of 2011.

UKTV channel Yesterday has ordered an hour-long documentary about Bert Trautmann, the German Luftwaffe paratrooper who came to Britain as a prisoner of war and played for Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup, ending the match with a broken neck. It will be the first time he has spoken about his experiences on British TV, interspersed with archive footage and contributions from various football legends, friends and family. The documentary, with the working title Bert Trautmann, forms part of Yesterday's Spirit Of 1940s season and will be broadcast in the first quarter next year. Steve Humphries, Testimony Films' managing director said it was a coup to cover the story with personal involvement from the main protagonist. 'This is one of the great untold stories from the Second World War, and is all the more special because it features Bert Trautmann himself,' he said. The programme, produced by Testimony, has been ordered by UKTV commissioning editor Catherine Whelton with programme director Nick Maddocks.

Paul McCartney is glad that the Beatles' back catalogue is finally available online - because 'a whole new generation' can now find inspiration in their music. The Beatles were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. The Fab Four's LPs and singles were made available on the iTunes Internet store last month after years of negotiations between bosses at record label EMI and computer giant Apple. McCartney has always been eager for the material to be available digitally so younger music fans can have access to the songs - and he's delighted with the deal. He told the Liverpool Echo, 'I think people thought it was us holding it up, but that was just the record companies. We've always wanted it to go onto iTunes. If that's the way people are listening now, then that's great. That's the amazing thing about the Beatles' stuff. When we were in the Beatles we thought our popularity might last ten years, if that. It lasted even longer, and now it's just gone mad. There's a whole new generation out there listening to those songs. The other day I was trying to think what it must be like to be a teenager now who likes the Beatles. I suppose it's like me listening to Nat King Cole when I was a kid.' Ah, but you did, Macca, you did!

Pop maverick Mark E Smith has claimed that he turned down the chance to enter I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The Fall front man and lyricist told The Quietus that he was asked if he wanted to replaced John Lydon in 2004 when the Public Image Ltd singer walked out of the jungle. Asked about fellow Manchester musician Shaun Ryder's recent stint on the show, Smith told The Quietus: 'I was asked years ago when Johnny Lydon was on it. I was doing this daft pilot show which was something to do with [publisher] James Brown. Halfway through filming the bloke from the jungle comes in and says, "Johnny Lydon's just left the Jungle do you want to replace him?." But I said no. I don't know what the point of that story is but there you go.' He added: 'I like the TV but it's just not a path I want to pursue. You know, you feel a bit like a part of your soul's gone even after doing two days of it. Not to be insulting to Shaun, but that's the way I see it.' Smith, it should be remembered, was quite brilliant as God in an episode of Ideal around the same time!

Former Horizon series producer Kate Townsend has been appointed as the new executive producer for BBC4's flagship documentary strand Storyville. Townsend, who starts her new job in January, will be responsible for developing and delivering commissions for the strand from UK and international producers, reporting to Storyville editor Nick Fraser. She takes on the role vacated by Greg Sanderson, who was recently appointed executive producer for The Review Show. Fraser said: 'Kate has an impressive record of producing, directing and supervising the making of documentaries. She will be a terrific Executive Producer. She is also a free spirit, and that appeals to us at Storyville.' More than three hundred and forty films, from seventy different countries, have been transmitted as part of the strand since it launched a decade ago. It has also picked up a range of awards including five Oscars, fifteen Griersons, three Peabodys and two International Emmys. Townsend has directed and produced a number of factual programmes, including Paddington Green, Louis Theroux's Weird Weekend and films in the This World and Cutting Edge strands. She said: 'I have always been a huge admirer of the quality and distinctiveness of the Storyville strand. I'm delighted to be given the chance to work on such a broad slate of documentaries and am very excited about joining the team in January and working closely with filmmakers throughout the industry.' A new Storyville run begins on BBC4 in early January, with six brand new films including Out Of The Ashes - following the Afghan cricket team in their bid to win - and Pablo's Hippos, the story of drugs baron Pablo Escobar told from the perspective of one of the hippos living in his zoo.

Actress Amy Adams was forced to shed her insecurities for her role in new movie The Fighter after director David O Russell banned her from hitting the gym before donning lingerie to film sex scenes with Mark Wahlberg. The Oscar nominee admits she was self-conscious about how she would look on camera in just her underwear and wanted to tone up before she had to shed her clothes. But Russell stopped her from doing so - because he wanted to ensure her portrayal of Charlene, a working-class barmaid, was as realistic as possible. Adams told Parade magazine, 'David said, "This is kind of how we see her dressing (in lingerie)." And I said, "I'm getting in a gym, 'cause there's no way I'm going to end up not looking my best." He said, "I want you to look like a girl who drinks beer!"'

Former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones has reportedly been sacked from a panto due to his drinking. The actor, who was also sacked from the soap opera and his role as Les Battersby in 2007, admitted that he had an alcohol problem earlier this year when he appeared in court on a drink driving charge. The Sun reports that Jones had been starring in Cinderella, but was 'let go' yesterday when he failed to turn up for a performance. 'Bruce hasn't fallen off the wagon because he's never been on it,' the panto's producer Michael Hizer told the newspaper. 'When we hired him, his agent said he was clean but he regularly sits in the pub until closing time and comes in the next day stinking of booze. Bruce kept forgetting his lines and was unprofessional. I'll never work with him again.' Jones's co-star Casey-Lee Jolleys - who played Fred Elliot's mail-order bride Orchid in the ITV soap - told the paper that children in the audience had complained that the actor smelled of alcohol. 'Bruce's drinking has been a problem and him denying it is part of the problem,' she admitted. 'It's sad.' Both Jones and his agent denied that he had been sacked. 'This is really very upsetting,' the fifty seven-year-old said. 'I've put my heart and soul into this panto and I just hope the lovely mums, dads and children will understand my predicament. In the last weeks the people of Hyde have been great to me.' His agent Tony Nyland added: 'Any suggestion that Bruce is back drinking is totally wrong and an absolute lie. Bruce has walked out because they haven't paid him a penny since the show started. He's owed thousands.' So, whom do you believe, dear blog reader?

Kerry Katona has revealed that she is taking part in Dancing On Ice 'to make her children proud.' And, for the reported sixty grand she's getting for appearing. Don't forget that.

For those in a festive musical mood, check out the surf-styled arrangement of the Vince Guaraldi classic theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, 'Linus and Lucy' performed by yer Keith Telly Topping's quite disgracefully talented pal Jeff Hart which you can watch and hear, here.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day are all in tribute of the great Ray Davies, a profile of whose work features on Tuesday evening's excellent-looking episode of the BBC1 arts documentary series Imagine (10:55 BBC1). I'd advise you all to watch, because Ray was (and, indeed, remains) quite simply the greatest lyricist for the common man that England has produced since Charles Dickens. And, someone without whom many of yer Keith Telly Topping's other songwriting heroes (Pete Townshend, Paul Weller and Joe Strummer among 'em) would never have got out of their guitars and twanged. So, here are five little slices of daily life which should be sung by the nation's children in school assemblies instead of hymns and should replace the turgid nonsense that we already have for our national anthem. I mean, I'd certainly stand up and salute if Tom Daley wins a gold medal at the next Olympics and as they're raising the flag, the opening line is 'The taxman's taken all my dough/And left me in my stately home.' So, we'll start our little - if you will - Ray of Light with what is, I reckon, the greatest song ever written. Ever. By anyone. And, here's Ray, Dave, Pete and Mick performing it, in stereo(!), on Beat Club in 1967. 'Dirty old river/Must you keep rolling?'A few months before that, who else but Ray would have celebrated the bone-chilling winter of 1966 - whilst just about everybody else in Swinging London was getting all wistfully nostalgic about post-war Liverpool back streets - with an almost Dickensian portrayal of urban poverty?! Not for nothing has Paul Weller often described 'And my feet are nearly frozen/Pour the tea and put the toast on,' as the greatest single line of poetry ever put to paper. Fantastically morbid promotional film for it too (which, not unexpectedly, was banned by the BBC!)This, remember ladies and gentlemen, was a band who could produce songs as extraordinary as this one, and then stick them on the b-side of a single! Or, indeed, this one as well! A song that could almost be described as Ray's personal manifesto for an entire career. One which, certainly, hasn't been like everybody else. I mean, who else by Ray Davies would write an outrageous homoerotic paean to the school bully and make it sound as downright fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-faking dangerous at this? Damon Albarn, eat yer bloody heart out and get back to the drawing board!Right, that's it for today, kids. If anybody wants yer Keith Telly Topping for the next couple of hours, he'll be sittin' on the sofa, playing The Village Green Preservation Society at positively obscene volume. 'God save the little shops/China cups and virginity.' Thank you for the days, Ray. And thanks, also, for the first forty seven years of my life. I'd probably never have made it without you!