Saturday, December 31, 2011

Waiting For Today To Happen

The BBC has released a rather sexy new trailer featuring a range of forthcoming dramas such as Upstairs Downstairs, Sherlock and Call the Midwife. The trailer highlights forthcoming dramas on the BBC which will include the second series of Sherlock - which begins on New Year's Day. The trailer also offers Upstairs Downstairs fans their first glimpse of the second series. The BBC's revival of the classic period drama continues the story of 165 Eaton Place and its residents in the years leading up to the Second World War. Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard and Anne Reid return for the second series while Alex Kingston joins the cast as Blanche Mottershead, the sister of Lady Holland. The trailer also features footage from other forthcoming dramas such as 1950s based Call the Midwife, recently announced Prisoners Wives and the adaptation of Birdsong.

Gillian Anderson has confessed that she did not study previous incarnations of Miss Havisham for the BBC's latest adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. The actress insisted that she did not want to copy other actresses' portrayals of the tortured spinster and had her own ideas about how the character should come to life. 'My fear is always I've been taking on something else that already exists. So I deliberately haven't gone through other versions or even old line drawings. I'm fascinated by the previous incarnations but will try not to compare. My intention is to be as close to my first impression of her,' Anderson explained to BBC News. 'I had an idea for a grey which I didn't think existed,' said Anderson of her contribution to the character's look. 'There was a specific grey I felt her hair should be, which they were able to find. It's kind of opaque and translucent but at the same time holds light. It's not white, it's not too grey, it's just this middle non-colour.' Anderson, forty three, also defended the fact that she is the youngest actress to have portrayed Miss Havisham on screen, adding: 'Dickens doesn't qualify Miss Havisham's age specifically. If you add up the numbers at the time, it makes sense she would have been about thirty seven. This is me, at this age, this actress being hired for a particular reason and honouring that. I'm not going to say, "I'm not doing this because you should have hired an older actress."'

If you missed Qi XL on Friday evening because you'd seen the standard Qi episode the night before, dear blog reader, then you missed a particular treat. The extended edition of the BBC's popular intelligence quiz, in addition to Big, Shouty, Mad-as-Toast Brian Blessed's hilarious antics also included a wonderful (if downright bizarre) little anti-Showjumping rant from Sean Lock. It was, frankly, worth next year's licence fee all on its own.
The transformation of Stratford in East London, ready for the 2012 Olympics, has been recognised in the opening titles of the BBC drama EastEnders. The new graphics, which show the Olympic Park, including the stadium, will be first broadcast on New Year's Day.
This will also be the final episode for long-serving cast member Pam St Clement, who plays Pat Evans. An EastEnders spokesperson said that the new titles would welcome in what will be a 'truly remarkable New Year in E20. As we say farewell to a legend of over twenty six years we welcome in what will be a truly remarkable New Year in E20 by adding the Olympic Village into the opening title sequence.' St Clement has played Big Fat Cuddly Pat, formerly Butcher, since 1986, a year after the BBC1 soap launched.

Big Justin Moorhouse - whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping met at this year's Edinburgh Festival (he's a friend of a friend) - was the latest winner of BBC1's Celebrity Mastermind on Friday evening. Answering questions on his comedy hero, Les Dawson, Justin (seen to the right with question master John Humphreys) also proved a big hit in the general knowledge round ending up with twenty eight points, ahead of rivals Escape To The Country presenter Jules Hudson, former Test cricketer Matthew Hoggard and Coronation Street actor Ray Fearon.

Eddie Izzard has admitted to finding the filming of Treasure Island 'very hard.' The comedian, who plays John Silver in the much-anticipated Sky1 drama, said that the entire team struggled to cope with the extreme conditions they experienced while shooting. 'We filmed it in Dublin this time last year. It was absolutely freezing and snow was coming down,' he told the Sun. 'Then we went over to Puerto Rico which was lots of winter sun. We had been freezing, then we went there and just moaned about being too hot. The humidity there was unbelievable. And trying to have a sword fight on soft sand is very hard.' Eddie recently told the Digital Spy website that he was pleased the new Treasure Island had snubbed the 'clichéd' representation of pirates. 'I agreed to do it because it is a Goodfellas-style kick-ass version,' he said. 'We want to keep everyone watching it, but we also want to add a real edge to it.'

Fatima Whitbread has reportedly been hired as This Morning's new fitness expert. Must avoid obvious punchline ...

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and diminutive veteran comedian Ronnie Corbett are among the stars of stage and screen to be recognised in the New Year Honours. They both become CBEs. Bonham Carter said that she was thrilled 'though not sure that I deserve it.' Something which could be said about others receiving official recognition for what they do. Whatever that is. TV mogul Peter Bazalgette, Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano and poet Geoffrey Hill become knights. Author Penelope Lively is made a dame. Clive James, Lorraine Kelly and Stuart Hall are also honoured. Clive James? What the hell was his gong for? Services to being odiously smug? Bonham Carter, forty five, who won a best supporting actress BAFTA and an Oscar nomination this year for playing Queen Elizabeth in The King's Speech, said: 'I always thought my father deserved a medal for facing twenty five years of chronic disability with quiet daily heroism, so I am delighted to accept such a wonderful honour in his memory.' She added: 'I am wondering does it mean I get to command? Because, at the moment, it's my four-year-old daughter who does the commanding in our household. Must inform her of the change in situation.' Poet Dannie Abse, Royal Court Theatre chairman Anthony Burton and Scottish National Portrait Gallery director James Holloway are also among those who are appointed CBEs. Writer and broadcaster James is also becomes a CBE, for 'services to literature and the media' apparently. So, not for being odiously smug, then? Okay. Glad we cleared that one up so quickly. Music producer Steve Lillywhite, who has worked with acts including The U2 Grup (featuring Mr Bonio), Morrissey and Peter Gabriel, is made a CBE for services to music. Sports reporter Stuart Hall, eighty two, who joined the BBC in 1959 and who also presented It's a Knockoutand its international spin-off Jeux Sans Frontières between 1972 and 1982 is appointed OBE alongside Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford. Presenter Lorraine Kelly, a patron of the Association for International Cancer Research (and surrogate mum to a generation of students), becomes an OBE for services to charity and the armed forces. Marcus Davey - artistic director at London's The Roundhouse - novelist Maggie Gee, and Frieze Art Fair founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover are also among those receiving OBEs. Actor David Harewood, whose roles include Nelson Mandela in BBC drama Mrs Mandela, becomes an OBE, as does illustrator Alex Brychta, best known for his work with author Roderick Hunt on The Magic Key series of educational books.

The Football League reportedly 'remains hopeful' that a new deal can be agreed with the BBC over match highlights, despite the corporation angering fans by scaling back its coverage over the festive period. Football fans were 'shocked' (according to a bunch of national newspapers although they provide no actual evidence of this) at the decision by the BBC not to air a highlights package of the Boxing Day games this week. They face further disappointment as the broadcaster will not air a show on News Year's Eve either. This means that the next scheduled Football League Show will not be broadcast until 14 January, despite a full schedule of fixtures on Bank Holiday Monday. After a handful of fans showed their frustration at the move on Twitter, Football League Show presenter Manish Bhasin tweeted: 'I understand your frustration.' The BBC said that the decision was made because its deal with the FA only covers highlights of Saturday games, meaning any other fixtures are outside its 'contractual obligations.' It added that the lack of a programme tomorrow, despite it being a Saturday, was due to the 'packed BBC1 schedule' for the end of year celebrations. The BBC has rights to broadcast ten live matches from the Football League under its current deal, but Sky will be the sole broadcaster of live games from next season. Sky is understood to have agreed to pay one hundred and ninety five million smackers for a new three-year deal - around sixty million quid less than its current joint deal with the BBC, which expires this year. The corporation is facing tough budget constraints and has already announced plans to scale back its sport coverage, including a fifteen per cent reduction in expenditure on sports rights. The Football League is understood to be in negotiations with the BBC over a new deal which would result in The Football League Show continuing on BBC1 on Saturday nights. However, BBC head of sport Barbara Slater told the Daily Torygraph last week that bidding for live football rights may be out of the BBC's reach in the future. She said: 'The truth is that some live football rights have got out of reach in terms of their value.' The BBC's current Premier League highlights deal - enabling it to screen Match of the Day on Saturday nights - expires in 2013. The rights will be put out to tender in the New Year.
News International has allegedly set aside a one hundred million wonga legal fund to serve as settlements for the victims of phone-hacking. Rupert Murdoch's company, currently facing civil litigation actions involving about fifty five people, is believed to have added to the initial twenty million quid it invested in the fund upon its creation in April. The newspaper group's legal team are in the final stages of negotiation in several of the cases and, according to the Independent, settlements for those involved are to be announced imminently. News International will see several test cases - including actions from Jude Law and Paul Gascoigne - go to trial in February, prompting a senior lawyer to comment that its eighty million knicker cash injection 'indicates they are serious to avoid further damage in court.' Metropolitan Police have claimed that at least around eight hundred people were hacked by News International, meaning that the company could still face many more claims for damages. News International has so far settled thirteen cases and is believed to have paid out between seven and ten million quid in total. Alleged 'sources' at the company allegedly say it is allegedly 'committed' to reaching speedy resolutions 'with those who have been affected.' Or, in other words, with those who have been criminally wronged by the organisation.

The lack of culture secretary has rejected claims that the London 2012 Games should be an 'austerity' Olympics. The vile and odious rascal Hunt told the Daily Torygraph that rather than cutting its budget, the economic downturn meant the event's opportunities must be 'harnessed.' What a pity he didn't use the same rationale with regard to the BBC, eh? The vile and odious rascal Hunt said voters would not forgive the government if it failed to make the most of the Games. The government has provided over nine billion smackers for the Games - up from an estimate of two and a half billion at the time of the bid in 2005. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'You can take two attitudes to the Olympics. You can say: "These are times of austerity and therefore we should pare them down as much as possible." Or, you can say: "Because these are times of austerity we need to do everything we possibly can to harness the opportunity of the Olympics."' The minister said that hosting the Olympics would have 'a massively positive impact' on economic confidence. 'We're going to be the centre of global attention and it will be the first time that we've had a major sporting event that's watched live by half the world's population. People would not forgive us if we didn't make the absolute most of this moment. This is going to be an incredible expression of Britain's culture, Britain's history and Britain's creativity. So, we decided that the sensible thing to do is to make sure that we finance it properly.'

Sacked breakfast TV flop Adrian Chiles has 'opened up' about his axing from Daybreak, admitting that he has to take 'a lot of blame' for the show's failure. Yes, we'd noticed, mate. Chiles moved to the ITV breakfast programme along with his former ONE Show colleague Christine Bleakley last September in an outburst of sheer greed, but the pair were ignominiously fired just fifteen months later following consistently low ratings and a public reputation somewhat lower than rattlesnakes piss. Speaking after he and Bleakley hosted their final Daybreak episode earlier this month, Chiles confessed to being 'dead wrong' for a daytime audience and noted that viewers had started to pick up on the 'doubt' that he harboured. Yes, we know. 'Looking back on it, am I right for breakfast TV? I thought I was dead right for it, and now I think I was probably dead wrong,' he told the Daily Scum Mail. 'What housewife wants to look at me in the mornings? A lot of blame has to come to my door. At the end, we felt as if we were getting somewhere. That's the frustration of it. It did start to gnaw away. The game's up when you start to doubt yourself - and sometimes I did. I'm generally not happy in my skin. Everyone would say I didn't look comfortable, and the more they said it, the more uncomfortable and grumpy I got.' Chiles also addressed his somewhat fiery comments about ITV's handling of is Daybreak departure last month, explaining that he had 'lashed out' because he felt 'humiliated' that the news of his being tin-tacked had leaked. 'It got a bit messy in the end, as these things always do,' he said. 'Maybe if I'd gone in on all fours and begged, it might have made a difference. But probably not - the decision had been made at a high corporate level. Perhaps there was a conspiracy. I don't know. I was a bit humiliated. But it wasn't as if they'd leaked that I had six nipples - it was something that was true.' Yes, we know. The forty four-year-old added that still he does not regret his decision to defect from the BBC. One imagines that his bank manager doesn't either. 'I've learned so much about television in the last eighteen months. I'm a better and much more experienced broadcaster than if I'd stayed at the BBC. With ITV you live and die by the sword, but I haven't got a problem with that. I'm battered, but not broken, and, ultimately, I still feel very lucky.' And very rich too, he forgot to add that.

Revellers around the world are celebrating the end of 2011 and starting to see in 2012. Bad weather prompted some New Zealand planners to cancel outdoor events, but a fireworks display off Auckland's Sky Tower started at midnight (11:00 GMT). Sydney is set to kick off New Year's Eve celebrations with a multi-million dollar fireworks display later. They usually do that kind of thing very well, the Aussies, to be fair. Samoa and Tokelau were first to toast in 2012 after skipping a day by jumping west across the international dateline. As the clock struck midnight as 29 December ended, the two South Pacific island nations fast-forwarded to 31 December, missing out on 30 December entirely. Samoa announced the decision in May in a bid to improve ties with major trade partners Australia and New Zealand, and neighbouring Tokelau decided to follow suit in October. Tourists and locals partied throughout Saturday as Samoa revelled in being the first country to ring in the new year, rather than the last as it always has been in the past. Now it's in line with other Pacific island groups like Kiribati, Tonga, Nauru, Tuvalu and Fiji. In New Zealand, heavy rain meant celebrations in Palmerston North, Mount Maunganui, Rotorua and on Wellington's waterfront were called off, the New Zealand Herald reported. Paris, Rome, Athens and other major European cities will likely be glad to see the back of a year that has seen the continent embroiled in economic woes. For the UK, meanwhile, New Year's Eve is just the start of a year of festivities that will include the Queen's diamond jubilee and the London Olympics. In Brazil, revellers are set to enjoy a fireworks display on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. And hundreds of thousands will pack into New York's Times Square later for the ceremonial ball-dropping at midnight. New year celebrations will continue well into Sunday morning UK time with the Mariana Islands Eniwetok and Kwaialein, American Samoa and the tiny island of Niue having to wait until twenty three hours after Samoa to celebrate the arrival of 2012.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of Day, as we reach the end of another long, difficult and at times frustrating year, it's important at times like there to remember the words of Half Man Half Biscuit. 'The light at the end of the tunnel, is the light of an oncoming train.' Here's The Lightning Seeds with their thoughts on the matter.

Friday, December 30, 2011

This May All End Tomorrow. Or It Could Go On Forever

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch has expressed frustration at being 'too posh.' The Sherlock actor claimed that having 'grown up with money' has affected his career negatively as it means he is typecast into a very particular type of role, which he finds one-dimensional and not as interesting to play. 'I was brought up in a world of privilege. It can ostracise you from normal codes of conduct in society,' Cumberbatch said in an interview with the Radio Times. 'Being a posh actor in England, you can't escape class-typing, from whatever side you look at it. I realised quite early on that, although I wasn't trying to make a career speciality of it, I was playing slightly asexual, sociopathic intellectuals.' All of which is probably true but the same, surely, applies the other way around? When was the last time you saw Ray Winstone playing a Big Nob, eh? Okay, Henry VIII, I'll give you that one. Bad example. Anyway, poor put-upon Benny continued: 'We all want to escape our circumstances, don't we? Especially if you are an actor. It's the imaginative process that gets my juices going. The further away you can get from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is such great fun.' Cumberbatch - who recently appeared as Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - has previously said that he found it 'thrilling' to receive such a positive reaction on the heels of Sherlock's first series.

BBC1 enjoyed a solid performance in primetime on Thursday, according to the latest overnight data. The channel was helped to victory by the extraordinary new nature documentary series Earthflight, which opened with 5.12m at 8pm, and Great Expectations' finale audience of 5.92m in the 9pm hour, as well as yet another bumper audience for EastEnders. Despite airing ninety minutes of soaps, ITV lagged well behind with Paddy McGuinness review show Paddy's 2011 Show and Telly completely failing to entertain its pitifully small audience of 3.76m at 9pm. (To be fair, an additional one hundred and sixty three thousand miserable punters start through it on ITV+1.) A result which made yer actual Keith Telly Topping howl with laughter far more than anything in the actual show. Elsewhere, The Dragons' Den special The Hilary Devey Story pulled in one and a half million punters for BBC2 at 8pm, then in the nine o'clock hour double act Qi - with Big, Shouty, Mad-as-Toast Brian Blessed - and Never Mind the Buzzcocks achieved respective audiences of 2.13m and 1.53m. Channel Four's latest Living with the Amish interested nine hundred and ninety two thousand viewers from 8pm. On Channel Five, very satisfyingly, the risible Amy Childs documentary series It's All About Amy continued to struggle with just three hundred and ninety thousand viewers from 10pm . So, it would seem that it's, actually, not all about Amy at all. Or anything even remotely like it. Welcome to the cold hard world of reality - as opposed to reality television - young lady. Pull up a chair and sing us a song.

Now, here's something to put a very nasty dose of the dribbling shits up any passing Grunaid Morning Star reader, some late breaking news. Apparently, this country's in such a weird and feeble state that it's been decided by those who decide such things to do away with the present regime and appoint 'a government of national consencus' (somebody who can piss off both the Gruniad and the Daily Scum Mail at the same time). Here's a picture of the new prime minister and his cabinet reading their manifesto. 'Item number one, from henceforth Bill Oddie is outlawed ...'
As it happens, the Gruniad can hardly get its collective trousers on this morning, having got the biggest stiffy imaginable at the news - as predictable as cold weather in the winter - that twenty three people (and I use that word quite wrongly) have complained to the BBC about 'Eat English Muff' in Top Gear. You really couldn't make it up, could you?
Joan Collins is reportedly being lined up for a role in the next series of Downton Abbey. The Daily Scum Express - for the first time in a decade printing a story that has nothing whatsoever to do with Princess Diana - claims that the actress is 'in line for a cameo role' in the third series of the hit ITV drama. According to the tabloid scum newspaper producers are hoping to secure Collins for a role as the cousin of Violet, the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith). 'A number of cameos are being planned for the next series and Joan's name is top of the list. It's hoped she can be persuaded to appear in at least one episode' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Daily Scum Express. Downton Abbey's recent festive outing proved a hit for ITV with 8.6 million viewers tuning in for the two-hour special. The episode saw Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) convicted of murdering his vicious ex-wife Vera (Maria Doyle Kennedy) while Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) finally proposed (again) to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).

Ricky Gervais has confirmed that Life's Too Short will return for a second series. Why? Why, for the love of god, why?

Big husky-voiced Georgie Thompson presented her final shift on Sky Sports News on Thursday. The thirty four-year-old hosted Afternoon Report and Evening Update from 3-7pm with Julian Warren. Georgie is now moving over to Sky Sports' dedicated Formula 1 channel, where she will present a magazine show with pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz. She first appeared on Sky Sports News in June 2001 and in her time at Sky has hosted the A1GP Series, US Open tennis coverage and the Speedway World Cup. She has fronted other live broadcasts, including the The Goodwood Festival of Speed, Superset Tennis and The Race of Champions at Wembley and also voices Sky Sports' Premier League Years series.
Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, Party girls thumped for having lesbo sex, Hooked on hookers, Six footballers jailed over gang rape of twelve-year-old girls in midnight park orgy. These are all recent headlines – some in the tabloid press, others in broadsheets - according to a major coalition of key women's groups who claim that such headlines add to an often degrading and dangerous portrayal of women in the British media. Four groups – End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and rape charity Eaves – are calling on the Leveson inquiry to move away from addressing the concerns of celebrities and other victims of alleged phone-hacking by News International and look at the daily treatment of women, which they say contributes to a society where rape can 'only be committed by evil strangers down darkened alleyways' and where a woman is valued only because of her body. In four detailed submissions the groups lay out the worst culprits over dozens of damning pages. The organisations say they took a 'small sample' of sexist – and often highly misleading – articles from a vast number of offensive reports. In a twenty seven-page document the End Violence Against Women coalition, a campaigning group which calls for action to end violence against women and girls, highlighted ten examples which they say provides 'a snapshot' of 'poor reporting of violence against women stories which were either intrusive, inaccurate, which misrepresented or were misogynistic, victim-blaming or condoning violence against women and girls.' The portrayal of prostitutes in the media was 'also damaging', according to the EVAW submission. 'It feeds into myths about prostitution, which at worse lead to attitudes that tolerate violence against women in prostitution or regard it as inevitable,' it said. It also criticised the Torygraph, and others, for a story with the headline: Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, which carried the appallingly offensive line 'women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped, claim scientists at the University of Leicester.' The MSC student, from whose unfinished and unpublished dissertation project the story had emerged, later said that each of the first four statements made by the Torygraph was 'an unambiguous, incorrect, misrepresentation of her findings.' But it is tabloid newspapers which are most fiercely criticised. The Sun and the Sunday Sport - a newspaper which, to be honest, yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought had long since gone the way of the Dodo, such is the impact that it usually has on him - are condemned for 'counting down' to the sixteenth birthdays of teenage celebrities including actor Emma Watson and singer Charlotte Church. 'The implication is shocking – that millions of readers should share a joke about the sexual desirability of underage girls,' according to the submission. 'Both young women have since reported that they found this editorial upsetting,' it added. A joint submission from anti-sexualisation campaign group Object and Turn Your Back on Page Three charted 'a week in the life of the Sun, the Daily Star and the Sport.' It highlighted an article on 14 November when the Sun trialled 'invisible shaping bum boosters' by testing men's reactions when a woman bent over at work, and, according to the groups, 'eroticises a form of sexual harassment making it appear that it is what women should, and do, seek from men.' It criticised the same newspaper for presenting itself as a family product, offering a free toy on its front page while 'containing adverts for XXX DVDs and Page Three imagery,' and highlighted a article the day earlier which provided tips for women on 'how to stop your man having affairs' which included the advice: 'Men have three basic instincts – food, shelter and sex. If you nail that as a woman, there's no need for him to look elsewhere.' Object said: 'The gender stereotypes promoted in this article are reminiscent of the 1950s – pre equalities legislation.' In another example from the Sport – sold unrestricted alongside national newspapers – two topless glamour models are shown among a group of cheering men in order to 'brighten up their day.' One man is quoted saying: 'It was a really cold day, so the girls' nips were standing to attention!' Object responded: 'This is deeply worrying as it is reminiscent of a gang/pack mentality sexualising two women who are overwhelmingly outnumbered by fully clothed men.' The organisation's campaigns manager Anna van Heeswijk said: 'Sexualised images such as "Page Three" are banned from the workplace due to the intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment that these images can create. Yet, in a situation unusual to the UK, these images saturate national tabloids which are sold without age-restriction in newsagents and supermarkets and which are read and left lying around in the public domain.' She added: 'This "sexualisation" process objectifies women and girls, and grooms boys and men into thinking it is acceptable to view and treat women and girls as sex objects. This portrayal of women is incompatible with a socially responsible press.' Hard to argue with that.

The then-head of the BBC personally intervened to censor a 1981 Panorama programme on Britain's intelligence agencies, official papers reveal. Documents from the National Archives show the then director general, the cowardly, spineless traitor Sir Ian Trethowan (1922-1990), was 'put under pressure' amid 'concern' over the planned documentary. The papers show The Coward Trethowan had claimed to the press that no-one from the government had seen the film or put pressure on the BBC. The documents, however, reveal this to have been a lie. The Coward Trethowen had, in fact, met the heads of MI5 and MI6. He also asked for a video cassette of the original one hundred-minute programme and showed it to Bernard Sheldon, then the legal adviser to MI5, who suggested that a large number of cuts to be made. The director general then went to the BBC's head of news and current affairs and asked him to reduce the programme by half, including making the cuts suggested by MI5. 'Mr Sheldon has in my judgement done a very good job with Sir Ian Trethowan,' one document for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, marked 'secret and personal,' stated. In another note to the prime minister, Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong said that 'it looks as if Sir Ian Trethowan has not managed to clean the programme up to the extent we might have hoped.' The actual content now looks relatively tame compared to the kind of press coverage given to MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in the modern era but at the time the institutions were barely acknowledged to exist and shied away from anything about them being brought into the public domain. As soon as word emerged that Panorama was planning this particular programme, concerns were raised at the highest levels of government. There were fears the programme would be 'unbalanced' and would 'damage the morale and effectiveness' of British intelligence. Mrs Thatcher was 'personally opposed' to any such programme - even one which simply looked at the question of accountability. In a letter marked 'top secret and personal', the cabinet secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power. His typed note said: 'The government has the power to ban any programme.' The veto had been used to prevent political programmes in the two-week period before an election but never deployed to 'ban a particular programme.' Its use, Armstrong added, 'would produce a tremendous hoo-ha, inside the BBC, the press and in parliament, about censorship. But if we were convinced that the programme was likely to cause grave damage to the intelligence services, it might be right to risk the hoo-ha and use the power.' Thatcher wrote on the note: 'I would be prepared to use the veto.' The government considered - but rejected - the idea of using the veto which it then had in the BBC charter to ban any programme from being broadcast, recognising that such a move would be highly controversial and that the contents would almost certainly be leaked anyway. One note indicates that The Coward Trethowen was considered 'weak' by Downing Street, while at the same time the programme-makers at the BBC felt that he was 'simply doing the government's bidding' for them. Which, it appears, he was. A close friend of the former Tory Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, and an exponent of the same kind of one-nation Conservatism, The Coward Trethowan has been criticised in recent years by many on the Left, especially for his support for the MI5 'vetting' of certain BBC employees.

Margaret Thatcher was urged to abandon Liverpool to 'managed decline' by her chancellor, newly-released National Archives files have also revealed. The confidential government documents, which are made available under the thirty-year rule, reveal the discussions in cabinet following the 1981 Toxteth Riots in Liverpool. The riots erupted on 3 July 1981, following the arrest of Leroy Alphonse Cooper on Selborne Street. The eight days of disturbance that followed left four hundred and sixty officers injured and more than seventy buildings demolished or burned down as tensions boiled over between the police and the district's Afro-Carribean community. While ministers such as the then Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine, were arguing for regeneration funding to rebuild the riot-hit communities, Sir Geoffrey Howe, thought it would be a waste of money. He warned Thatcher 'not to overcommit scarce resources to Liverpool. I fear that Merseyside is going to be much the hardest nut to crack,' he said. 'We do not want to find ourselves concentrating all the limited cash that may have to be made available into Liverpool and having nothing left for possibly more promising areas such as the West Midlands or, even, the North East. It would be even more regrettable if some of the brighter ideas for renewing economic activity were to be sown only on relatively stony ground on the banks of the Mersey. I cannot help feeling that the option of managed decline is one which we should not forget altogether. We must not expend all our limited resources in trying to make water flow uphill.' Howe acknowledged the suggestion that the city could be left to a 'managed decline' was potentially explosive. 'This is not a term for use, even privately,' he warned Thatcher. 'It is much too negative.' As the Thatcher government sought to respond, Heseltine was despatched to Liverpool in the wake of the riots. The cabinet papers reveal that he was horrified by the way Merseyside Police operated in Toxteth, saying they were not racist as they treated all suspects brutally. He was reporting back by phone to Thatcher on 25 July, three weeks after the riots broke out in Liverpool. The cabinet papers note: 'Mr Heseltine considered the behaviour of the police in Liverpool to be quite horrifying. They were not acting in a racialist fashion. They treated all suspects in a brutal and arrogant manner.' Heseltine also said there were too many young recruits in the area and the local commander had a 'fortress mentality.' Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Heseltine said the idea of abandoning Liverpool was never really an option. He said: 'It never really got any traction for the simplest reason that the cabinet minister responsible for so much of the policy that affected the city was me. I simply wouldn't countenance that you could say that one of England's great cities, a world city, was going into managed decline here. That would simply be unthinkable to the approach that I believed to be necessary to a very important part of our history.' The cabinet documents also reveal the confidential meetings the prime minister had with civic, community and church leaders, on 13 July, ten days after rioting started. In a meeting with church leaders she said she was 'amazed' at the hatred for the police in Liverpool. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Derek Worlock said although there was a 'profound mistrust' of the police this was not the cause of the rioting. Instead he told her there was a 'silent colour bar' in a city where there were no black councillors and just eight black policemen. He warned that people felt alienated from society and regarded the police to be part of the establishment, adding that community groups had to be part of the rebuilding of Toxteth. The archbishop, who died in 1996, also urged the prime minister to create a minister for Merseyside.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, ooo, innee bold? It's Morrissey.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turning Back She Just Laughs, The Boulevard Is Not That Bad

TV Comedy moment of, quite possibly, the decade (any decade). Big Shouty Mad-As-Toast Brian Blessed on Qi trying to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull. 'I think you're likely to set it off again,' noted Stephen Fry with something approaching alarm.
Ross Noble was, again, on particularly fine form - particularly his running joke about Iceland Prawn Rings.

There was an excellent episode of Celebrity Mastermind on BBc1 on Thursday evening, dear blog reader. Cor blimey, Springwatch's Chris Packham doesn't half know his stuff about Rorke's Drift. He wasn't too shabby on the general knowledge round either - although not knowing the name of David Bowie's kids for a tuned-in rocky-type chap as he is, frankly, unforgivable. Graeme Hawley would've probably got a lot more points if the questions on his specialist subject, Blackadder, hadn't caused John Humphrys to continually burst out laughing! 'A small trumpet!'
Alleged 'public outrage' at Jeremy Clarkson's appearance on The ONE Show a few weeks ago wholly failed to translate into a boycott of his show, with BBC2's Top Gear Christmas special pulling in five million overnight viewers. Much to the scowling disappointment of all the nasty little Communist hippies at the Gruniad Morning Star . Which seemed to have had its 'punters desert Top Gear' story all ready to rock and then had to amend it at the last moment. What a shame. There really is nothing finer in the world, dear blog reader, than watching professional offence takers gurning in frustration as their carefully laid plans to cause trouble have little or no effect whatsoever. BBC2 had a strong night all round with Top Gear's ninety-minute India special drawing 4.4 million viewers in the 8pm slot, with a further six hundred thousand tuning in to watch it simulcast on BBC HD. Once timeshift and iPlayer figures get added to that, expect five million to become nearer to seven. Three Men Go To New England was watched by 1.93m afterwards. BBC1's Great Expectations, starring Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson, lost approximately ten per cent of its audiences - six hundred thousand viewers - on its second outing. But its audience on Wednesday still managed to average six million. In a competitive 9pm slot, ITV's blooper show It'll Be Alright on the Night attracted an average of 4.7 million viewers, with a further four hundred and seventy thousand on ITV+1. On Channel Four, Jon Snow's round-up of news stories of the year managed just half a million viewers in the 8pm slot. Yet another reason for all Gruniad readers to be weeping into their Frappucinos.

Benedict Cumberbatch has reminisced fondly over the initial success of Sherlock. Benny, who debuted on screen as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC drama in July 2010, recalls watching the first episode as it went out with writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. 'All the Twittery stuff started to happen,' he told Metro. 'We were trending, which is apparently brilliant.' well, the Gruniad Morning Star seem to think it's the most important thing in the world since it's where they pinch the majority of their reaction-stories from these days. 'And by the end of it I thought there would be people abseiling into the garden just to have a peek at us because this thing had exploded that night. It was thrilling.' The actor added: 'There was an amazing feeling of love for it. Of course, it had its detractors and it would be weird if it didn't, but the feeling was one of great goodwill.' The drama's opening three episodes - A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker and The Great Game - received a positive reaction from critics and high audience figures.

Stand down comedy meerkats. A sour-faced pensioner who declares that she prefers gin to a nice cup of tea has topped a survey of the UK's most popular television adverts of 2011. The campaign for cut-price supermarket Aldi featured a woman talking about her husband's penchant for a cup of rosie before declaring: 'I don't like tea. I like gin.' It beat an advert featuring last year's number one,'s meerkats, into second place and a Volkswagen advert with a little boy dressed as Darth Vader into third in the poll carried out by research company Nielsen. Gary Lineker's Walkers Crisps advert promoting its Red Nose Day tie-up was fifth, behind the much-talked-about John Lewis Christmas campaign featuring that silly bird massacring 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.' A crime for which the sentence should be 'no trial, just straight to execution.' The top ten adverts were based on scores for 'likeability and recall' compiled by Nielsen. While four of last year's list featured celebrities, only two – Lineker and Johnny Vegas – make it this time round. Also in the top ten were the Foster's lager spoof phone-in advice service ('My girlfriend's new haircut just does not suit her') and Johnny Vegas and the PG Tips (formerly ITV Digital) Monkey. Darren Moore, vice-president for advertiser solutions at Nielsen, said: 'This is the year that relatable characters – people like you and me – replaced celebrities in the list of most-liked ads. Sarah Roberts in the comparethemarket ad, Warren from Halifax in the Foster's ad, and everyday people in the Aldi ads, are now the central characters in the TV ads we love the most. Even the meerkats have proved to be more resilient than celebrities this year. Having starred in last year's number one liked ad, they've maintained a top-two place this year – proof that by regularly changing the narrative of their ads, brands can keep existing characters fresh and popular.' He added: 'The 2011 list also suggests that children (VW and John Lewis) and animals (comparethemarket, PG Tips, Dreamies) are triggering a more positive response for advertisers. Humour, too, is a big theme in this year's list. Nine of the top ten most-liked ads are funny or comedic in tone. Only the John Lewis ad, which instead uses pathos and an emotive pull, takes a different route to engage viewers.' The likeability index is a measure of the number of TV viewers who like an advert they saw, and whose brand they can remember, during the normal course of their TV viewing.

The BBC's Football League Show could face the axe after two Christmas editions were dropped as part of a 'budget decision', fuelling speculation the contract for the programme will not be renewed beyond this season. The corporation has dropped the Football League Show from BBC1's schedule for Boxing Day and 2 January and the programme will not return until the middle of the month. Supporters complained about the axing of the two shows, fuelling speculation that the BBC plans to scrap the programme altogether when the current season draws to a close in May. The BBC is currently in negotiations over whether to recommission the Football League Show, which is in the final year of a three-year contract. A spokeswoman for BBC Sport said the two shows were dropped due to scheduling issues, but refused to categorically rule out that the future of the programme has been safeguarded. 'We never comment on contract negotiations,' she said. She said that the 'shortfall' at Christmas would be balanced by an extra programme later in the year. 'The Boxing Day and 2 January fixtures are outside our contractual obligations,' she said. 'Many factors come into play when planning the busy Christmas schedules and we were unable to schedule a programme for New Year's Eve. To address the shortfall, we will be doing an additional programme later in the season.' However Manish Bhasin, the presenter of the BBC Football League Show, had a somewhat different spin on why the shows were cut. He responded on Twitter saying that it was a 'budget decision I'm afraid. But all the goals will be online on the BBC Football website.' As the rumours about the show being axed gathered pace he moved to scotch speculation saying that: 'The FLS has not been scrapped!' However he followed this with a tweet indicating he was far from sure about the show's future: 'It's on till May and who knows maybe even longer.' A Carling Cup edition of the show will return on 10 January with the next regular edition scheduled for 14 January. The extra show will be broadcast on Easter Monday, according to Bhasin, but that has not been confirmed by the BBC. Bhasin has been lined up to be one of the anchors of the BBC's Olympic Games coverage. He will be part of the team delivering BBC3's daily coverage alongside Rishi Persad and Sonali Shah, with Jake Humphrey taking over from 7pm.

It's been an interesting year for chimpanzees at the movies. It kicked off with the James Marsh documentary Project NIM debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, continued with the surprisingly awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes and we even saw the first trailer for the Disney Nature film Chimpanzee. Sadly the year of primates in 2011 got sadder this week when it was announced that Cheetah, the chimpanzee in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and 40s, had died. But is that the real story? According to the Associated Press it may not be. Following the reports of Cheetah's death, the news agency uncovered evidence and testimonials suggesting that the original story could be an elaborate hoax. For starters, chimps tend to live between forty and sixty years, meaning that if Cheetah was actually in the Tarzan movies, that would have made it potentially the oldest chimpanzee ever known. Furthermore, as you could have probably assumed, multiple apes were used in those movies and, possibly more importantly, 'Hollywood accounts' say that the original chimpanzee from the Tarzan movies was named Jiggs or Mr Jiggs and died in 1938. Outreach Director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Debbie Cobb said that her family got Cheetah from Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in the 1960s and he told them that the ape had appeared in the films Tarzan the Ape Man and Tarzan and His Mate. Cobb said that documentation proving this was lost in a fire in 1995. Making this story even stranger is that this wouldn't even be the first time somebody lied about a chimp from the Tarzan films. There was a similar report in 2008 which was debunked by the Washington Post when it was discovered that the ape which had died that year was only born in 1960. The author of that debunk, RD Rosen, doesn't have much faith in this new story either, saying: 'I'm afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O'Sullivan is long gone.'

The New York Times offered 8.6 million of its readers a half-price discount for sixteen weeks in an e-mail gaffe earlier this week. The newspaper had intended to make the offer to around three hundred people who had recently cancelled their subscriptions, but instead it sent out the message to the much larger list, according to reports. When the error was discovered, a message was posted on the New York Times Twitter feed which read: 'If you received an e-mail today about cancelling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It's not from us.' However, that wasn't even remotely true and spokeswoman Eileen Murphy later revealed that the original e-mail was genuine and sent out in error. 'This e-mail should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their e-mail address to the New York Times,' she admitted. 'The initial tweet was in error and we regret the mistake.' One imagines you do, particularly if, in a notoriously litigious country like America, a few people start demanding their First Amendment rights to sue your ass off. The New York Times initially honoured the fifty per cent off deal but stopped the discounts by early on Wednesday afternoon. The person responsible for using the wrong list has, reportedly, been kicked, repeated, in the knackers until he squeals for mercy. Well, it's the only language these people understand, isn't it?

Two French art experts have quit The Louvre's advisory committee in a row over the restoration of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, according to reports. Segolene Bergeon Langle and Jean-Pierre Cuzin resigned in protest over the cleaning of La Vierge, l'Enfant Jésus et sainte Anne (The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne), the Gruniad claimed. Adding that the pair flounced out of the gaff like a pair of auld stroppy queens. No, actually, they didn't say that or anything even remotely like it. But, it would've been geet dead funny if they had. The pair claim that the Paris gallery has 'over cleaned' the five hundred-year-old masterpiece. They argue it has left the work with a brightness the artist never intended. Bergeon Langle, who is regarded as the country's leading authority on restoring paintings, was once director of conservation for all of France's national museums. She told the Gruniad: 'I can confirm that I have resigned from the international consultative committee, but my reasons I am reserving for a meeting with the president-director of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette.' Cuzin, the Louvre's former head of paintings, declined to comment beyond confirming his resignation. It is understood the restoration of the Da Vinci painting has divided the gallery's international advisory committee between those who believe the painting is now 'too bright' and those who regard the cleaning as 'moderate.' The Louvre defended its cleaning process, telling the Gruniad: 'Rarely has a restoration been as well prepared, discussed and effected, and never will it have benefited from such effective techniques.'

A fish and chip shop owner in Bury reportedly threw tins of mushy peas at robbers who threatened him on Tuesday. The proprietor of The Little Chippy in Killon Street was set upon by two men wearing hooded tops as he opened the back door to them on hearing a knock at 11.25am. The men forced their way into the store and threatened the owner with a craft knife, the Bury Times reports. He responded by punching one of the assailants reet in the kisser and then chucking four tins of mushy peas at the other, really hard. The forty two-year-old was then punched back by one of the men and had the knife held to his throat. The men eventually stole a laptop, four thousand smackers and a machine for slicing doner kebab meat. Police are now investigating the incident. Hopefully having kept well away from the kebab slicing machine otherwise they might have received a tip-off. What? What?!

Samoa and its neighbour Tokelau in the South Pacific will skip 30 December this year, moving straight from 29 December to 31 December. The nations will change their position relative to the international date line later tonight to better align themselves with their regional trading partners, The Associated Press reports. Samoa had been convinced to initially match its date with the USA and US-controlled American Samoa in 1982 to help its trading with California. Then, the country celebrated two 4 Julys in recognition of US Independence Day. The international date runs roughly along 180° longitude, opposite the Prime Meridian, but it is not straight, instead moving in and around various Pacific islands depending on their date preference. Samoa is currently a full day behind Australia and New Zealand, who have become increasingly important in trading terms over the years. Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi previously said: 'In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week. While it's Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand, and when we're at church on Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.' He added: 'Today we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China and Pacific Rim countries such as Singapore.' A law passed in June moves Samoa west of the international date line tonight (29 December). Tokelau's parliament also voted to join Samoa in the change. Workers missing the day will be given a full day's pay, while the move over the date line will be marked by the ringing of church bells.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day crops up entirely because yer actual Keith Telly Topping happened to be watching Almost Famous over the weekend and had quite forgotten how much he loves this particular song. Play yer Joanna for the people, Reg.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keep It Light Enough To Travel

It was the perfect Proper Chap's Night In on Wednesday evening. Top Gear and Three Men Go To New England on Beeb2 followed by Simon Nye's Armstrong and Miller vehicle Felix and Murdo on Channel Four. That, in anyone's language dear blog reader, added up to a pretty sharp trio of yer actual quality British entertainment. Add in a nice bowl of spicy oxtail soup (yer actual Keith Telly Topping is having some minor dental issues at the moment, the details of which, trust me, you don't need to know) and a couple of glasses of Bailey's with ice and you have a very civilised night at yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor. So, let's start off with something which is guaranteed to put a scowl on every hippy Communist Gruniad reader's miserable, sour boat-race. Cos, let's face it, that's always a good thing. Some say that he's a scourge of political correctness (and some, far more accurately, say that he plays a character who is and loads of Gruniad readers can't tell the sodding difference). Some say he's a tormentor of Mexicans, cyclists, lorry drivers, striking public sector workers and Germans. Some - arsehole louse-scum from the Gruniad and the Daily Scum Mail, mainly - reckon he's a danger to Western Civilisation, responsible for all the evils in the world and should be jailed, deported, shot in front of his family or have his pubic hair pulled out - one at a time - by tweezers. All we know is that now, apparently, he's a God. Last month, in India, it was widely reported - by various scum tabloid lice - that Jeremy Clarkson had been 'mistaken for an incarnation of the divine.' Mistaken, by whom, they didn't say.
'Yes, and these are the same reports that claim I've had Botox,' noted Jezza's co-presenter Richard Hammond (the short one). 'I have to say I can't possibly look upon Jeremy as a God.' No. Too much nasal hair, surely? Nevertheless in India, where Jezza, The Hamster and James May ventured to film Top Gear's 2011 Christmas special, they were the subject of genuine Beatlemania-style fan worship. Top Gear is broadcast into more than twenty five million homes across the subcontinent. That's a lot of viewers: 'And, most of them turned out to greet us,' Hammond told the Radio Times. As ever, the trio were up to mischief. 'We wanted to do our bit to strengthen trade relations between Britain and India,' Hammond claims, despite the Prime Minister's pleading that they not go. 'So we took it upon ourselves to demonstrate what a powerful nation Great Britain is by showcasing famous British brands.' With Jezza at the wheel of a Jaguar XJS, Captain Slow driving a beautiful Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and The Hamster in a Mini Cooper, the most unconventional trade delegation in British economic history took two weeks to drive thirteen hundred miles, visiting some of India's major cities and most majestic scenery. 'The people everywhere were incredibly warm, but the roads are unbelievably dangerous,' says Hammond. 'It appears you can drive on either side of the road, regardless of what direction you're going in. It's absolutely terrifying.' More dangerous than the roads is the standard of Indian driving. 'People in India are extremely knowledgeable about cars. The problem is when they get in them they become lunatic. There's plenty of overtaking, often with two cars overtaking at the same time. But Mumbai was the worst. The traffic jams during the day were crazy. So we couldn't work out why we were told not to drive at night. But it transpires it's because nobody bothers to use their lights. So there are lorries hurtling towards you on your side of the road without lights.' Hammond also revealed that this year's special contained a new ingredient – emotion. 'We experienced some powerful moments,' he says. 'At one point we were playing cricket with the locals and were bringing the cars into it. It started off as a joke but then the whole thing became moving because the locals are so endearing. India gets to you. It's why we left thinking it was the most bonkers yet wonderful place we'd ever been to.'
The episode itself was, as usual with the Top Gear specials, beautifully shot and directed, featuring staggering travelogue imagery. Plus a fantastic sitar, sarod, tambura and tabla-based rāga soundtrack (and a really spectacularly awful cover of 'Hey Jude' from the reformed Top Gear Band). And lots of smutty schoolboy jokes. I mean, lots of them. Enough to keep yer average Gruniad Morning Star louse happily whinging to their hearts content for days afterwards. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping loved The Hill Climb Challenge. ('And then, the police arrived ... But, only so that they could have a go!') And, the train journey to Jaipur. And the Mexican flag joke. And, the cooking for the ambassadorial trade reception, the Genesis jokes and, especially, the drive through the Himalayas. 'That's going to stay with me forever,' noted Hammond at the sight of one breathtaking view. Plus, the motorsport cricket match with the local kids which was, genuinely, moving. But, most of all, yer actual Keith Telly Topping loved this.
Yes, it is puerile, but what the hell? It's also funny. Top Gear in a nutshell. Something which scowling, sour-faced Rachel Tarley in the Daily Scum Mail's sister paper, the Metro, completely failed to acknowledge in her po-faced and wholly worthless review of the episode. One imagines the Gruniad will probably find something else to whinge about. After all, there's a 'y' in the day. That's if they're not too busy wittering on about pandas. See below.
Then there was the second part of the latest Rhys-Jones, McGrath and Ó Briain 'messing about in boats' malarkey, Three Men Go To New England.
Funnier - and also, rather more touching - than the opening episode the highlight was, undoubtedly, Dara's gridiron kicking exploits. Or, you know, lack of them. And the final ten minutes and the entry into New York harbour was, as with the end of Top Gear, really rather moving.
Finally, Felix and Murdo. In which Ben and Xander, as if any proof were actually needed, reminded us that they're not just very good comedy actors (we knew that already from The Armstrong & Miller Show, Primeval, Death in Paradise, Skellig, Doctor Who et al) but also the heirs to Fry and Laurie's crown as the best comedy double act this country has produced in years. Mitchell and Webb? Mention them not.
Dumbing down on TV, dear blog reader? It's a vexed subject but yer actual Keith Telly Topping usually poo-pahs such rank nonsense and concludes that claims about this are nine-times-out-of-ten nought but the fevered imaginings of a variety of snooty sods trying to show how clever they are by suggesting that other people, you know, aren't. However, it needs to be said, whoever's bright idea it was to have Stacey Solomon on Celebrity Mastermind was, basically, asking for trouble.
For everyone that missed Stephen Fry's appearance on I've Never Watched Star Wars on Tuesday, night here's proof that - for a couple of days, at least - 'the much-loved actor, screenwriter, author, presenter, comedian, scholar and sage' (according to the Radio Times anyway) did, actually, get himself an ear-stud for the Jo Brand-presented programme! Tragically, it didn't last due to some reshoots on the second Sherlock Holmes movie (in which Stephen plays Mycroft). But, it was fun while it lasted. And also, painful, I imagine.
Speaking of which, don't forget ... He is coming.
Author, wit and social commentator Will Self has said that we all must take the blame for phone-hacking and other unsavoury practices by the media. In a column written for BBC News, the novelist claimed that there are larger concerns raised by the Leveson Inquiry than 'ostensible issue of privacy. It is these wider waves of amoral sepsis pulsing through the body politic that should concern us more, these and the still more fulminating malignancy of our own appetite for scandals of all sorts, but the more lurid the better,' Self argued. 'When it comes to the phone-hacking disease and its hysterical sequelae we are, indeed, all to blame.' He continued: 'This is Andy Warhol's future, where, courtesy of reality television and talent competitions, everyone can be famous for fifteen minutes because the idea that renown should follow from substantive achievement has been completely abandoned. The trouble is that we are no longer a free people. Instead, addicted to prurient titillation and apathetic to the point of nihilism, the entire sweep of our recent history proclaims us to be a nation that knows the price of everything - especially our houses - and the value of nothing.' Yeah. That sounds about right.

So, according to some utter berk at the Gruniad Morning Star the BBC has 'caused outrage' by choosing a panda as one of its twelve women of 2011. 'Caused outrage' with whom, Shiv Malik - the author of this disgraceful piece of odious nonsense - doesn't actually make clear at first. He leaves his readers with the assumption that it's somebody who actually matters until several paragraphs into his ridiculous non-story when the truth suddenly becomes apparent. The selection of Tian Tian was made by the BBC magazine for its Faces of the Year 2011 and published on Wednesday. It included a page for both a dozen female and male personalities for each month. The men's page included the likes of actor Colin Firth, prospective Republic presidential nominee Herman Cain and Scum of the World journalist spotty Paul McMullan for his whistleblowing role in the phone-hacking scandal. Then we get to the crux of the matter as Malik finally coughs up the phlegm behind this piece of rubbish. 'Twitter users also complained that rather than being selected for their achievements one in four selected women included those involved in marriages, such as Pippa Middleton, Charlene Wittstock who married Prince Albert of Monaco, and the Spanish billionaire the Duchess of Alba.' Ah. Yes. So, it turns out this 'outrage' which, it is being claimed, the BBC has caused is something on Twitter. Twitter of course, as previously discussed on this blog, appears to be the only thing that matters to lazy wanker Gruniad journalists like Malik who, apparently, can't be bothered to get off their arses and find quotes from real people whilst they're sipping their Frappucinos. Instead, they just go on Twitter and steal some reactions from there to justify the tone of a particular agenda-driven article. As though, again, Twitter is now The Sole Arbiter of All Things In Life. Freelance journalist Bob Chaundy, whose name appears at the bottom of the BBC's webpage, agreed it was 'an odd choice' but denied that he had made the selection. He told the Gruniad Morning Star, a sick anti-BBC agenda painted an inch thick all over this ludicrous excuse from an article, that the selection was 'put together by BBC editors' and that he only 'wrote up their choices.' Speaking from home, Chaundy added that the choice was supposed to be eclectic and light-hearted. 'When you do faces of the year it's not like Time faces of the year. They've picked slightly offbeat people. It's not David Attenborough or Barack Obama,' he explained. Responding to the 'debacle' - again, Malik's words, not anybody that actually matters - Chaundy tweeted: 'I didn't choose the BBC women faces of the year subjects, just wrote them. Two black eyes from wife though. Pandamonium! [sic]' Somehow, this odious piece of nothing then attempted to fold in the 'BBC's failure to nominate a woman for the Sports Personality of the Year award.' Which, of course, wasn't 'the BBC's failure' at all since that particular list was compiled for the BBC by editors and journalists at a variety of national newspapers and magazines. So, not only is this article outrageously tawdry and based on less than nothing it's although more than a touch mendacious as well. Speaking about the BBC's faces of the year, the Labour MP Stella Creasy said that the broadcaster had a long way to go when it comes to representing women. 'Whilst we all love a good panda story, in a year when Christine Lagarde became head of the IMF, or Helle Thorning-Schmidt became prime minister of Denmark or even the sad death of Amy Winehouse, its frustrating the BBC couldn't think of twelve human female faces who have made the news this year.' What's even more frustrating, this blogger would suggest - particularly for the voters of Walthamstow who put Stella into parliament - is that, seemingly, she hasn't got anything better to do with her time than to waste it on nonsense like this. In response, the BBC - rather wearily, one suspects - said that it was not the first time that animals (or, indeed, their cartoon representations) had been chosen for the women's or men's pages. 'Including Sweetie as one for the annual headline-makers was a light-hearted addition to the list, and this isn't the first time it has featured a non-human. In 2009, Benson the Carp, a much-caught giant fish, was August's entry on the male list and last year Peppa the Pig was on the female list for April [2010],' the BBC said. Sadly, the BBC didn't go on to ask Malik, 'why don't you make your New Year's resolution for 2012 to try and become a real journalist?' They didn't say that, dear blog reader, because the BBC is, collectively, far too polite to respond to such arrant and rank stupidity in the manner which it thoroughly deserves. But I'm not. Just as a matter of pure disinterest, Mr Malik's two stories prior to this disgrace were, as it happens, a couple of pieces of real honest-to-God reportage on the subject of the dreadful murder of the young Indian student Anuj Bidve in Salford on Boxing Day. Well-researched, sympatheticly phrased and containing enough evidence to suggest that when he puts his mind to it, this bloke can really write. And, not a single quote solicited from Twitter in the entire thing. From that, to this piece of faeces about pandas and feigned 'outrage' in less than twenty four hours. You should be sodding-well ashamed of yourself Shiv.

A jumbo shrimp is causing big worries about the future of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem. The Asian tiger prawn, a foot-long crustacean with a voracious appetite and a proclivity for disease, has invaded the Northern Gulf, threatening prized native species, from crabs and oysters to smaller brown and white shrimp reports suggest. Though no one is quite sure what the ecological impact will be, that hasn't stopped scientists from speculating that 'a tiger prawn takeover' could ruin nature's balance and turn a healthy, diverse marine habitat into one dominated by a single invasive species. Of course, that's not certain but, why be balanced when you can pitch a desperate worst-case-scenario to scare the buggering bejesus out of people? 'It has the potential to be real ugly,' said Leslie Hartman, Matagorda Bay ecoystem leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 'But we just don't know.' The tiger prawns from the western Pacific - which can grow up to thirteen inches long - have been spreading along the Gulf Coast since 2006, but their numbers really took off this year. Shrimpers pulled one from Texas waters for the first time in June. In all, three tiger prawns have been found in Aransas Bay, one in Sabine Lake near the Louisiana border and one in Gulf waters about seventy miles from Freeport, according to the Texas Sea Grant program. Marine scientists will conduct genetic studies on the shrimp to determine their origin. Hartman said they will need at least sixty prawns for an accurate analysis. Some speculate that the Gulf invasion began with an accidental release of farmed prawns in South Carolina in 1988. Another theory is that the prawns may have escaped from flooded industrial shrimp ponds in the Caribbean Sea during recent hurricanes. The threat underscores concerns about large-scale fish farming, also known as aquaculture, in the Gulf. The federal government opened the waters to fish farms in 2009 despite fears from environmental and fishing interests over how to protect wild stocks. Disease normally would exist in relatively low levels in fish around the Gulf but can run rampant in densely packed fish farms. Tiger prawns are a known carrier of at least sixteen viruses, such as white spot, which can be lethal to shrimp. The Gulf policy calls for only native species to be farmed, but it does not have the force of law, said George Leonard, who leads the Ocean Conservancy's aquaculture program. 'We need to be really, really cautious,' Leonard said. 'There has to be rules and regulations.' Texas allows industrial-scale shrimp ponds, but requires permits for the cultivation of non-native species. No one in the state is farming tiger prawns, said Tony Reisinger, a marine and coastal resources expert for the Texas Sea Grant program. Marine scientists have yet to find any juvenile tiger prawns in Texas waters, a sign that the species is breeding. It is a difficult assignment because they look similar to native white shrimp at a young age. Tiger prawns weigh more than a half-pound and have distinctive black and white stripes on the tail. They eat the same types of food as native shrimp species, but also prey on their smaller cousins, as well as crabs and young oysters. 'It's a large, competitive species,' Reisinger said. They're also really, really tasty.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day a little masterpiece from The Be Good Tanyas, specifically for all the chaps that want to go a-travellin'.