Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm Startin' To Sweat You Know My Shirt's All Wet, What A Feeling!

In the second audition show for the new series of MasterChef we got another batch of desperate wannabes trying to cook up a storm. Or, you know, at least something vaguely edible. Nine of them managed to do so. Silly Hat Mark's 'experimental vegetarian fish and chips' would, he promised, be 'a taste sensation.' But it wasn't. Not for John Torode, anyway. Meanwhile, Big Sweaty Tearful Tana tried the very cunning ruse of 'almost cutting her own finger off' but didn't make it through to the final stages. Dan the Boxer said that he'd rather step into the ring than face John and Gregg. 'You just have' replied yer man Wallace with comedy timing that Eric Morecambe would've been proud of. Dan then promptly managed to pretty much talk himself out of place in the final twenty by going on and on about how much he 'really wanted it.' The judges, sadly for him, weren't especially bothered about that so much as what he'd put on the plate. As Wallace noted earlier this week, sob stories are for X Factor, MasterChef, when all is said and done is about picking the best cooks. Eamonn, for example, seemed to impress his own kids more than he impressed Mr Torode. You can't just be 'decent' to make the grade in this thing, you need to be something special. That's why it's the final twenty and not the final three hundred. Of the success stories of those who were deemed to be - potentially - something special, Jackie sailed through with what Gregg described as 'one of the best rice dishes I've ever tasted,' a paneer shashlik. Tom's saddle of hare also won praise from both. 'He rocks!' Miss Swansea Alice also got a place in the final twenty with her roast duck, as did Nicky (and her nameless mascot) with her 'boozy chocolate orange profiteroles.' Which did look bloody tempting, it has to be said. In a cook-off, Fiona nabbed the last place with a flawed-but-interesting series of deserts, tart au citron, white chocolate mousse and chocolate brownie. Mother-of-two Annie was the first contestant to get Gregg and John's approval after serving up a dish of sea bream. Other success stories included Serena, who cooked herb-crusted lamb, Neil who offered a mackerel dish and Annalisa, who got the nod for her entremeses.

The lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious Hunt, has interviewed candidates for the job of BBC Trust chair and is understood to have submitted the name of his preferred candidate to the prime minister, as right-wing Conservative backbenchers mount a rearguard action to stop Lord Patten from getting the job. Sources said that 'No 10 is now deliberating' on the successor to Sir Michael Lyons and an announcement as to who will fill the one hundred and ten thousand pounds-a-year role is expected next week – with Patten, the former Conservative cabinet minister, still considered to be the favourite. David Cameron will have to decide who takes the position in the coming days, with former CBI director general Sir Richard Lambert also in the running, while Dame Patricia Hodgson, the principal of Newham College, is hoping that Conservative backbench support could yet propel her into the role. The Conservative party's traditional Eurosceptic lobby, which includes John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, who challenged John Major for leadership of the party in 1995, is unhappy with the selection of an old-style Tory 'wet' and Europe enthusiast. One senior Conservative MP, who asked not to be named told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'If the BBC post goes to another pro-European then there is little chance of him curbing the BBC's own bias in approach towards Europe.' They are also concerned at the selection of a 'one nation'-style Conservative, with whom moderate Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs feel relatively comfortable. Although Labour is not delighted with the prospect of a Conservative getting the job, senior party sources believe Patten is a big figure who would be able to stand up for the BBC when the government next decide it's time to give the corporation a punishment kicking for some perceived crime. John Whittingdale, Tory MP and chair of the Commons culture media and sport select committee, is also said to be privately questioning whether Patten is the right person to act a an effective regulator of the BBC, and handle its governance issues. He is thought to favour the appointment of Lambert. However, Whittingdale is avoiding making public comments, as his committee will hold a 'pre-appointment hearing' for Cameron's chosen candidate on 10 March. The committee will issue a report saying whether it supports the appointment or not. Patten was in New Delhi on Thursday, in his role as chancellor of Oxford University, promoting the institution's humanities courses in India. A spokeswoman for the vile and odious Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport would not comment on the precise status of the race for the job, saying only that the process was ongoing.

Watching his appearance on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, does anybody else reckon that Brian May out of Queen is starting to look more and more like Charles II these days? In so much as that perm was last fashionable in 1680.

The BBC has launched a new service on iPlayer providing links to other on-demand platforms such as ITV Player and SeeSaw, as part of its commitment to share web traffic with the industry. After being first unveiled last May, the new Partner Linking facility has now gone live on iPlayer, featuring links to the on-demand services offered by six other broadcaster/operators - ITV, Channel Four, Channel Five, SeeSaw, S4C and MSN Video Player. The metadata sharing service essentially turns iPlayer into a catch-up TV aggregator, offering a place to access programming from other content providers. For example, anyone who missed Coronation Street will be able to link through directly from iPlayer to ITV Player to watch the soap opera. In a blog posting, iPlayer executive producer Paul Clark said that a search function will enable users to locate non-BBC content from within iPlayer, and then link to the third-party playback site. He explained that the iPlayer team will take feeds periodically from the partner websites, including all programme information and scheduling. 'It's been a while in the making, but this has been an extremely ambitious and technically complicated project, and we wanted to get to a user-experience that feels intuitive and not "bolted on," even though the experience is as much reliant on the data feeds from our partners as our own engineering,' said Clark. 'We've worked hard with our partners to make sure that we're getting the right data and images for programmes when available, however you may find from time to time there's no images. This is down to technical limitations and we're working with all partners to rectify this as soon as we can.' Clark said that the BBC is 'really pleased' with the six partners to accompany the launch, but confirmed that other partners will come on board in the future. He said that any Ofcom-regulated provider of on-demand content can apply to join the Partner Linking programme on iPlayer. 'We hope to see more partners' programmes appear in BBC iPlayer over time. More broadly, we think BBC Online should serve as a hub to support other UK sites and want to double the traffic we send externally,' said Clark. 'Already the BBC News product is one of the top five sites driving referrals to UK newspapers, adding value to the UK online economy and our audiences: this partnership is a good example of how the BBC iPlayer can follow in those footsteps.' He added: 'Given the popularity of BBC iPlayer, we hope this feature will support fellow broadcasters and boost the overall uptake of video on demand. Most importantly, by helping audiences uncover great digital services that exist elsewhere on the web, we're performing an important public service.' However, Sky - as is their way - criticised the Partner Links facility when it was announced last May, claiming that the service effectively makes iPlayer an online aggregator without a market impact review.

Nathan Fillion has admitted that he would be keen to appear in a revival of Firefly. The actor, who currently stars in ABC crime drama Castle, played Mal Reynolds in Joss Whedon's SF drama, which was cancelled by FOX after just fourteen episodes. 'It was my favourite job ever,' Fillion told Entertainment Weekly. 'What wasn't great about it? I got to wear a low-slung holster. I got to ride horses. I got to have a spaceship. I got to act mean and curmudgeonly. Joss is really good at kicking characters in the nuts so the other characters would have laughs at my expense and that was great too.' Fillion suggested that he would have to 'examine very closely FOX's reasoning' if the network ever suggested a Firefly revival. 'I'm a little gun-shy,' he confessed. '[But] if I got three hundred million dollars from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own and distribute it on the Internet.' Oh, for God's sake don't give the Browncoats ideas, Nath, they'll be organised as 'let's get Captain Reynolds his three hundred million' charity auctions as we speak.

Bones producer Stephen Nathan has revealed details about this week's episode. He told TV Line that the installment will see a heartbroken Booth and Brennan eschew the usual Valentine's Day traditions. 'It's about two people, both of whom have no romance in their lives, turning their backs on Valentine's Day one hundred per cent,' he said. 'Everybody else around them is making plans and going off to have great evenings [but they] are left alone, which of course is weighted in its own way.' He explained that Booth (David Boreanaz) will begin to get over his recent rejection by girlfriend Hannah (Katheryn Winnick). '[This is an episode] that kind of gets them over the hump of Hannah,' he insisted.

Gwyneth Paltrow has reportedly facilitated a truce between Glee creator Ryan Murphy and the Kings of Leon. Murphy previously criticised the band for refusing to allow their songs to be used in an episode of Glee, prompting the group to fire back with what Murphy later deemed to be homophobic comments. However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Paltrow - who will soon reprise her guest role on the FOX musical series - played peacemaker between the two sides, encouraging them to end the feud. 'It's all good now,' said a 'source.' Next, Ms Paltrow will be sorting out the Middle East and then turning her attention to getting Oasis back together. Is there anything she can't do?

Yvie Burnett could probably use a touch of the Paltrow magic after reportedly being dropped from the new series of Britain's Got Talent. According to the Sun, the voice coach has been 'axed' as 'part of a backstage overhaul' of the series. The paper quotes a 'friend' of Burnett as allegedly saying 'Yvie is not happy. There doesn't seem to be a concrete reason. Hopefully they'll keep her for The X Factor as she loves working with Simon Cowell.' A spokeswoman for the show told the paper: 'The 2011 series sees a new panel line-up and many new faces behind the scenes.' Burnett was reinstated on The X Factor last year after Cowell was reportedly unhappy with her replacement, Ali Tennant.

Tim Vine is working on a pilot for BBC1 described as 'Mr Benn meets Robin Hood.' So, that'll be Mr Hood, then? The pun-loving comedian has written a pilot script of Tim Vine Travels In Time, and will be doing a run-through in front of a small audience in a London pub theatre on Monday to hone the gags. The idea is that the Not Going Out star Vine travels back to medieval times, with the job of matching up Robin Hood and Maid Marion. Producers say that the show will deliver comedy featuring 'Tim's usual gag-packed style.'

Former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips is reportedly in the running to fill in for Holly Willoughby on This Morning when she takes maternity leave. The presenter is due to give birth to a baby girl in May. The Mirra claims that Phillips and former GMTV newsreader Helen Fospero have both held talks with show bosses about standing in for Willoughby alongside Phillip Schofield. Ruth Langsford, who presents the Friday edition of the ITV magazine show with her husband Eamonn Holmes, is also believed to have discussed filling the role. 'There is a desire to play safe and recruit someone well-liked by viewers,' an insider told the paper. 'Holly intends to return to work later and so they don't want to try someone "edgy" who might end up alienating the audience. The women being talked about all have vast ­experience and are seen as safe pairs of hands.' It was recently claimed that Daybreak host Christine Bleakley was being lined-up to cover for Willoughby on both This Morning and Dancing On Ice. But, as with much else published by the tabloids that was probably a load of old cock and bull.

UK advertisers and broadcasters including BSkyB, Discovery and MTV have 'railed' against proposals by a House of Lords committee to cut back on TV advertising, arguing that programme investment will come under threat as a result of a drop in advertising revenue levels. The Lords communications committee also tabled a proposal on Thursday that ITV should be freed from current restrictions on what it can charge for advertising airtime, in return for a promise to spend up to fifty five million pounds more on UK-originated output. Channel Four argued that a knock-on effect of removing the mechanism governing ITV airtime sales, called CRR, is that it will actually result in a decrease in programming investment in the wider industry as ITV increases its share of TV advertising. 'Channel Four is concerned that removal of the CRR undertakings, even under the conditions proposed by the committee, would have the opposite effect, decreasing the amount of money invested in UK content across the industry as a whole,' the broadcaster said. UK advertisers body ISBA went further, arguing that the Lords committee report 'undoes several years' rigorous review by no less than three dedicated statutory regulators, each charged with upholding the public interest.' Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at ISBA, said removing CRR could well 'serve to improve this single medium-sized FTSE 250 company's fortunes at the expense of many others.' Under current regulations commercial public service broadcasters ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five are permitted to broadcast an average of seven minutes of adverts an hour, and up to eight minutes during peak time, between 6pm and 10.30pm. Other commercial channels – including ITV2, E4 and Sky1 – are allowed an average of nine minutes of adverts an hour and a maximum of twelve minutes in peak. The Satellite and Cable Broadcasters Group, representing the position of companies including BSkyB, NBC Universal and Discovery Networks, said that cutting the minutes would have 'the perverse effect' of penalising non-public service broadcasters that have invested in UK content. SCBG reckons that last year its members invested three hundred and forty million pounds in original UK content. 'The proposed changes would mean that all commercial broadcasters other than ITV would have less incentive to invest in UK content,' said David Lynn, managing director of MTV UK and chair of SCBG. 'The proposals run the risk of reducing viewer choice by seeking to favour commercial PSB broadcasters who already enjoy a position of dominance.' However, not all broadcasters were unhappy with the proposals. Channel Four said it 'welcomed' the prospect of advertising minutes being cut.

Kiefer Sutherland is considering a return to prime time television, according to reports. Deadline says that the 24 star is in early talks for the lead role in FOX pilot Touch, conceived by Heroes creator Tim Kring. The show features a father who discovers that his mute, autistic son can predict things before they happen. Show bosses are reportedly keen for Sutherland to play the father.

The Metropolitan police have been accused of misleading behaviour in the phone-hacking scandal after handing over evidence which they had twice claimed did not exist. The latest embarrassment for Scotland Yard was disclosed in the high court in the case of Sienna Miller's stepmother, Kelly Hoppen, who claims that a News of the World journalist, Dan Evans, attempted to hack into her voicemail. The court heard that she was a tabloid target because of her friendships with the former England footballer Sol Campbell and with Madonna's former husband, the film director Guy Ritchie. The case also threatens to embarrass the NotW because the alleged hacking occurred in June 2009 – three years after the arrest of its then royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, who was jailed with the paper's private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, on the basis that he was the only journalist involved in intercepting mobile phone messages. News International, which owns the paper, has repeatedly said that it does not allow illegal news gathering. Hoppen's barrister, David Sherbourne, told the court: 'This case is enormously important because it drives a coach and horses through the claim that has been persisted in by News International and its executives, that the criminal activities of Goodman and Mulcaire were purely historic, the isolated actions of one rogue journalist and his private investigator associate.' The court heard that Hoppen suspected her voicemail was being intercepted in 2009 because private information was being published while some phone messages were recorded as 'old' even though she had not listened to them. After the Guardian disclosed the scale of hacking at the NotW in July 2009, her lawyer, Mark Thomson of Atkins Thomson, wrote to Scotland Yard to ask if the evidence which they had gathered from Goodman and Mulcaire included any sign that Hoppen had been the object of unlawful interception. After three months, the Yard replied that they held no such evidence. In April 2010, after receiving several alerts from Vodafone about unsuccessful attempts to access her messages, Hoppen's lawyer wrote again to Scotland Yard asking if Mulcaire had held her phone number or other personal details. After a delay of more than eight months, they finally replied in January of this year, once again claiming that they held no such evidence. But last week, Sherbourne told the court, deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading a new investigation into the hacking, had contacted Hoppen to disclose that, in reality, the Metropolitan police had found hand-written notes which were kept by Muclaire detailing her phone numbers and two addresses, her mobile phone account number and the four-digit PIN code which was needed to access her voicemail. 'This is the work of a professional hacker,' said Sherbourne. Police had now handed over six different pages of Mulcaire's notes about Hoppen which they had been holding since they raided Mulcaire in August 2006. Sherbourne said it was 'regrettable, to put it mildly' that the police had twice lied that this material did not exist. 'It could and should have been provided earlier,' he said. 'The simple and unavoidable fact is that they misled Ms Hoppen.' Edwin Buckett, representing the Metropolitan police, told the court that police had acted in good faith. He said the material taken from Mulcaire was in a chaotic state and some of it was indecipherable. In March 2010, her lawyers also had obtained a court order requiring Vodafone to hand over material relating to unsuccessful attempts to access her voicemail. This disclosed that on 22 June 2009 – the day after the Scum Mail on Sunday claimed she was having a relationship with Guy Ritchie – her mobile had been called twice by a caller who witheld their own number; hung up the first call when Hoppen answered; then called back, got no answer and dialled into her voicemail for twenty five seconds. Vodafone disclosed that the calls were made from a mobile phone registered to News International in the name of Dan Evans, a feature writer. Sherbourne told the court that in the summer of 2009, past and present News International executives had told a House of Commons select committee that they knew nothing about illegal activity by their reporters. He added: 'It was at the very time that News International executives were giving this evidence to the select committee that Mr Evans made his attempts to access Ms Hoppen's voicemail using a News International telephone.' Michael Silverleaf QC, representing Dan Evans, said the evidence clearly showed that Dan Evans had dialled Hoppen accidentally. Evans, he claims, remembers nothing of the calls. The keys on his phone were inclined to stick and to dial numbers accidentally. The use of his own phone to do something which he knew to be illegal would have been 'quite unbelievably stupid.' A search of his office and home computers had yielded no sign that he was interested in Hoppen until he was told of the allegation against him. The one occasion on which he appeared to have dialled into her voicemail was 'one rogue call which nobody has yet explained,' Silverdale told the court. Mr Justice Eady made an order for Scotland Yard to disclose to Hoppen all relevant material, redacting only the detail of PIN codes. Hoppen has also applied for disclosure orders against Dan Evans and the NotW.

Kerry Katona has revealed that she intends to pay off her debts in the next two years. Which will, no doubt be of great interest to her creditors. Nobody else much gives a stuff.

The Daily Lies' flirtation with the English Defence League appears to be over. A Jewish Chronicle story, Star No Longer Shines On The EDL, quotes a spokesman for the paper as saying: 'The Daily Star will - clearly - not be endorsing EDL in the future.' On 9 February, the Lies ran a splash and a (seemingly sympathetic) leading article, Don't dare ignore the EDL (which now appears to have been mysteriously removed from its website). As reported at the time, the Lies claimed that ninety eight per cent of its readers supported the EDL's anti-Muslim agenda. Which probably says more about the kind of people who read the Lies than it does about anything else. The paper's owner, Richard Desmond, later said via a spokesman, that he was unaware in advance of the Lies' tacit endorsement for the EDL. The newspaper has since run a series of stories which appear to place the EDL in a far more negative light. The Lies' editor, Dawn Neesom, has refused requests to reveal whether the new approach amounted to a deliberate shift in editorial stance or if she was told by her boss to stop being such a glake and remember what the Daily Scum Mail's public support of Oswald Mosley's madcap malarkey did for its readership once we went to war with fascists.

Alfred Burke that great British character actor best known for his portrayal of down on his luck private detective Frank Marker in the ITV drama series Public Eye has died at the age of ninety two. Alfie was born in Peckham, London, the son of Sarah Ann O'Leary and William Burke. He was educated at Leo Street Boy's School and Waltham Central School and started work as a fourteen year old office boy, working for a railway repair firm after which was worked as a club steward (left after an uncharacteristic dispute with a barmaid which ended with her squirting a soda siphon in his face) and in a silk warehouse. Later, between acting jobs he was also employed as a kitchen porter. He joined a local amateur dramatics group before moving to Morley College and winning a scholarship to RADA in 1937. His acting career started two years later at the Barn Theatre in Shere. His London debut came at the Watergate Theatre and he sbsequently appeared at both the Old and the Young Vic. Alfie was registered as a conscientious objector during the war, and was directed to work on the land. After the war, he went back to theatre work at Farnham, where he met Barbara Bonelle, a stage manager, who became his wife. He also became heavily involved in the Arts Council touring productions. 'In weekly rep of course you had to learn a new act every day, every night, after the show,' he noted. 'You'd go home and you'd go to bed and start learning your lines for the following day so you'd rehearse an act a day and you had to learn all the lines for one act in one fell swoop. That really was hard work but somehow everybody did it. I don't think people would do it now.' In films since the mid-1950s, Alfie built a solid reputation across a wide range of character roles and genres, prominently in television. His tall, angular frame and by turns intense or benevolent demeanour enabled him to slip easily into a variety of different characterisations. His movie career included appearances in: The Angry Silence, Touch and Go, Bitter Victory, Yangtse Incident, Interpol, Children of the Damned, The Nanny and The Night Caller. Alfred's most famous role was the enquiry agent Frank Marker, in the ABC/Thames television series Public Eye, which ran from 1965 to 1975. His low-key, understated, but always compelling portrayal of the down-at-heel private eye made the series one of the most popular and highly-rated detective dramas on television. Although often cast as policemen, Alfred also appeared in a wide variety of character roles from Long John Silver in Treasure Island to Pope John Paul II's father and a Nazi officer in Enemy at the Door. He was also the formidable headmaster Thrasher Harris in the sitcom Home To Roost. His other TV appearances included: Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, The Saint, The Human Jungle, On the Knocker, The Borgias, Longitude, The Glory Boys, The Avengers, Z Cars, No Hiding Place, The Tip, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Bergerac, Minder, The Birthday Party, Sophia and Constance and Shades of Darkness. In 1964 his own script, Where Are They Now?, written under the pen name of Frank Hanna, was produced as a Play of the Week. More recently he was been seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Armando Dippet. On stage, he has appeared in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Zucco, The Tempest, Peer Gynt, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and Antony and Cleopatra. In 2008 he appeared at the National Theatre as the Shepherd in a new version of Sophocles' Oedipus. Alfred lived in Barnes and listed his hobbies as football and music. He died peacefully in Kings College hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning after suffering from a severe chest infection. He would have been ninety three on 28 February 2011. He is survived by his wife, Barbara and four children, Jacob, Harriet, Kelly and Louisa. A fabulous actor, he will be greatly missed.

And finally, for the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Kick out the jams, motherfuckers, it's the MC5! Sonic! (And, here's another great version, from Beat Club with Mad Rob going off-it and, at one point, Fred and Wayne playing the duel guitar solos whilst lying on their backs. Hell, it was the 70s, what'ya gonna do?!)