Sunday, February 06, 2011

Victoria's Gem Found In Somebody's Hell

A quick question for you all, dear blog reader. When, exactly, did everyone in this country turn into such a loathsome bunch of miserable ruddy killjoys? When was all of the fun in life sucked out of Britain? When did the po-faced inherit the earth? And, probably most importantly, whose fault was it, or indeed is it, that greyness and misery and banality have become the prevailing default mode of temperament? Still ... you've got to laugh, haven't you? And, bright side, at least the football was good yesterday (see below). A case in point, though. Sincere congratulations from everyone here at From The North to some spackhead at ITV for editing out (with a hacksaw) the single best line from Hot Fuzz which they broadcast late on Saturday night. They did this, I'm presuming, in case anyone watching at ten to Midnight found out just what a total cult Uncle Derek was. It really does take a special degree of tosserishness to believe one is actually performing a public service by committing such crass vandalism. Though, to be fair, they did leave 'Cocks!' in unmolested.

Channel 4 was ahead of ITV in two major prime time slots last night, according to the latest overnight ratings data. In the 9pm hour, Embarrassing Bodies was watched by 3.6m and a further five hundred and eighty thousand on Channel Four+1, while Comedy Rocks with Jason Manford fell further to a really poor 2.41m. At 10pm, The Million Pound Drop Live had an audience of 2.69m, averaging over a million more than ITV's news bulletin. Over on BBC1, the Six Nations Rugby kicked off with an impressive 6.61m watching England beat Wales in Cardiff between 7.30pm and 10pm. Either side of the rugby, The ONE Show and The Graham Norton Show were watched by 4.68m and 2.96m respectively.

A Coronation Street extra has reportedly been fired for describing some of the actors in the soap as 'rubbish' in a radio interview. Spencer May's contract was terminated after he called into Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show hours before the live anniversary episode in December and said that some of the actors had been 'rubbish' during rehearsal. 'I was on my way to appear in the live episode to play a tram crash survivor,' he told the Manchester Evening News. 'I heard Coronation Street was being discussed on Jeremy Vine. I just picked up the phone and got straight through. It was a bit stupid really. But when you are on the phone with millions of people listening, you feel the pressure to say something interesting. I just blurted out that some of the actors were quite good but others were rubbish. I realise now it was a bit cheeky. I just got carried away. However, it is true to say that some of the cast members are more popular than others. People like William Roache are proper gentlemen and treat extras and crew equally, whereas others aren't quite as good.' A Granada spokesman said: 'Mr May was in breach of contract. It is an unfortunate situation.'

Former ER regular Alex Kingston is heading to fellow medical drama Private Practice later this year. According to EW, Kingston will appear in a number of episodes of the Grey's Anatomy spin-off as a therapist who works alongside lead character Violet Turner. Kingston is best known in the US for playing Elizabeth Corday on ER for the majority of the NBC series' fifteen season run, but is probably better known in the UK for playing the mysterious River Song on Doctor Who.

Blue Peter is to relocate its famous garden from BBC Television Centre in London to a rooftop in Salford. After two years of debate, a new home for the garden has been agreed – on the top of the BBC's new northern headquarters, a stone's throw from Manchester United's Old Trafford, and with views over the water to Salford Quays. Fans may soon be able to visit the original London garden. The site is due to be sold in the next few years but, as part of the plan to make the BBC more accessible to local children, the corporation is discussing opening the London garden by removing the wall that separates it from a park. The new home will make it more difficult for there to be a repeat of the notorious 1983 incident when vandals caused serious damage to the garden. Viewers were shocked after plants were trampled, flagstones and pieces of stonework smashed. Oil was also poured into the pond, killing the fish. The show's gardener, the late Percy Thrower, said people who could do such a thing must have been 'mentally ill.' The vandalism recently featured in a tongue-in-cheek episode of BBC drama Ashes to Ashes, where it was revealed that DCI Gene Hunt had destroyed the garden whilst chasing a suspect. The BBC is still deciding whether the new site will feature the sunken garden or if it will move some of the garden's other features to Salford. They include plaques, a time capsule and sculptures of the programme's logo, the Blue Peter ship, and of Petra, the show's first pet dog. The BBC's children's programmes, sport, future media, learning, BBC Breakfast and parts of 5Live are due to leave Television Centre for Salford over the next year as part of a plan to make the corporation less London-centric.

Laila Rouass has revealed that her Holby City character will receive a frosty greeting from Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel). The actress joins the show later this month as surgeon Sahira Shah after signing a year-long contract with the hospital drama. 'She is met with animosity from Jac Naylor, played by Rosie Marcel,' Rouass told the Mirra. 'Theirs is a tense relationship, although over work rather than men, so there are lots of one liners. And there's plenty of chemistry with registrar Greg Douglas which I'm looking forward to - he's played by Ed McLiam, a handsome young Irish man and I have a soft spot for the Celts!' Rouass added that losing several close friends recently has made her reassess her future. 'You know, every year you celebrate your birthday you moan because you're getting older,' she said. 'But now I'm really thankful, really proud I got this far. I'm over trying to be younger or look younger.'

Simon Pegg says that he's done with TV – in case it damages his movie career. The creator of Channel Four's cult classic Spaced said: 'TV is amazing, but I don't think I'll go back to it. If you are on TV, why bother paying to see the same person at the cinema? The only time I'd go back to TV would be when I'm older and do a Michael Palin-style travel documentary.'

Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell has reportedly restarted talks with Sky over the provision of Channel Five's news service, after seemingly being prepared to stop working with the satellite broadcaster. In November last year, Desmond indicated his intention to axe Sky's five-year contract to supply Channel Five's news bulletins before it is due to expire in 2012. The billionaire wants to usher in a more entertainment and showbiz-focused news service for Channel Five, and has asked other providers to submit proposals. It is thought that ITV News producer ITN, Question Time maker Mentorn, and US networks NBC and CNN were all asked to tender bids before Christmas. However, Sky News is understood to have been offered an opportunity to submit a proposal to retain the Channel Five News contract, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Another bidder is believed to have significantly undercut Sky News - whose contract with Channel Five is worth around nine million pounds a year - and Northern & Shell intends to use the bid as a bargaining tool with Sky. However, the company may have to take into account the potentially heavy cost of exiting the Sky News contract early to go with another provider.

Andy Coulson was aware that phone hacking was taking place at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire and 'told others to do it,' a former executive at the News of the World told MPs. In written evidence given to the home affairs select committee and published for the first time, Paul McMullan, a former features executive and investigative journalist at the title, said that former editor Coulson 'knew a lot of people' used the technique when Coulson worked at sister paper the Sun. He joined the News of the World in 2003, where he worked alongside McMullan for eighteen months. McMullan said: 'As he sat a few feet from me in the newsroom he probably heard me doing it, laughing about it and told others to do it.' Coulson, who last month quit as David Cameron's director of communications, worked at the Sun for more than a decade before joining the News of the World. 'Andy Coulson knew a lot of people did it at the Sun on his Bizarre column and after that at the NOTW,' McMullan claimed. McMullan, who is now a pub landlord, also described a flourishing trade in private information at the News of the World, which he said was regularly supplied with details of celebrities' medical records and mobile phone pin numbers. 'People who worked for Vodaphone [sic], etc. would sometimes ring up the news desk offering to sell numbers and codes of stars' phones,' he alleged, 'as indeed people at the tax office, people in doctors' receptions.' In separate evidence, Vodafone told the committee: 'A small minority of customers were targeted by unscrupulous individuals.' The company said it had passed all evidence to the police during their 2006 investigation into phone hacking carried out by former News of the World journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. McMullan told the Gruniad Morning Star last year that Coulson must have been well aware the practice was 'pretty widespread.' Coulson has continued to deny this. The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, also confirmed in written evidence to MPs he has instructed the Crown Prosecution Service to adopt a far broader definition of what constitutes illegal phone hacking. This decision makes fresh prosecutions more likely. The CPS announced a new investigation into phone hacking last month. News International says McMullan's evidence is unreliable and will demand evidence is withdrawn or corrected. The home affairs committee will publish its report into unauthorised phone hacking in the spring. David Cameron was, meanwhile, accused of 'breathtaking arrogance' for refusing to answer questions about his links to Murdoch's media empire, which owns the Sun and News of the World.

Some scheduling news: Waking The Dead will probably return to BBC1 on Monday 7 March for its ninth (and final) series as the DVD is due out on 14 April. A new BBC1 sitcom, Mrs Brown's Boys, is set for a 10:35pm slot according to BBC's comedy controller. The schedules for week commencing 19 February have Mrs Brown's Boys, South Riding and Silk all starting during the week. The next series of Law & Order UK and new medical drama, Monroe, are both set to air on ITV in March according to cast members.

An executive producer on David Letterman's Late Show has denied that the host plans to retire. Rob Burnett spoke to Entertainment Weekly after Letterman implied on-air on Thursday that he saw himself continuing to host the show for 'a couple of years.' Burnett said: 'It was kind of a tossed-off response. I think it's a response he's given multiple times. In no way was last night's show any kind of actual announcement. I think when a guy ends a thirty-plus [year] career on television, it's not going to be guessing about whether he's leaving or not. It won't be ambiguous.'

Charlie Sheen has reportedly spent around one million dollars on prostitutes in the past year. According to the Mirra, adult entertainment production manager Rita Hernandez would arrange for porn actresses to visit the Two and a Half Men star's home every weekend, costing five thousand dollars per girl. She said: 'I've known Charlie for years and I arranged girls for him as a favour. He was obsessed with young, new porn stars and they had to be aged eighteen to twenty four, no older. Charlie really upped the ante in the last twelve months. He seemed to order many more girls because he had split with his wife. In the end he was so jacked up on cocaine, pills and alcohol that he couldn't even have sex. What he was doing to himself was quite sad. What was most astonishing was that one minute he'd be partying hard with these girls and the next he was off filming his show. I can't believe how well he could ­function when in private he was self-destructing. He had a ­beautiful house. It was huge. But the place was filthy. He didn't have a cleaner. There were stains on the carpets and a funny odour. The furniture was sticky, it was nasty. There was trash and empty vodka bottles everywhere.' Sounds just like yer actual Keith Telly Topping's gaff after a particular good night in with a curry and a bottle on wine, dear blog reader.

Surrey Police have sparked widespread outrage after reportedly escorting Katie Price on a trip along the A3. Commuters were forced back by a rolling road block that surrounded the glamour model as her Range Rover turned off the M25, allowing her to race off ahead while members of the public behind were bound to an emergency fifty mph speed limit. When questioned about the incident, a police spokesperson told the Daily Scum Mail: 'We are aware that a complaint has been made and the matter is currently under investigation.' Price, who was being driven around by her sister due to a six-month driving ban, is believed to have requested police protection after spotting several photographers pursuing the vehicle. The thirty two-year-old has previously shared her fear that over-ambitious press could cause a fatal accident on the roads, although local photographers apparently told the Scum Mail that Price will 'happily stop and pose for pictures' on occasion. Weighing in on the incident, Surrey resident Ian Whittaker slammed (err ... that's 'criticised' to normal people) 'star-struck' local authorities for rolling out a service normally reserved for heads of state and royalty to aid a 'minor celebrity.' He said: 'As a Surrey taxpayer, I am concerned that limited police resources are being abused in this manner. If any of the press or other road users were driving above the speed limit, they should have been prosecuted. This looks like star-struck Surrey Police officers pandering to the ego of a minor celebrity.' Ian Whittaker there, dear blog reader. Not a fan of Jordan, apparently.

On a quite remarkable day in the Premier League, forty one goals were scored in eight games. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle United produced a quite stunning comeback from 4-0 down at half-time to earn a draw which shocked title hopefuls Arsenal to their very core. Theo Walcott, with a smug grin on his face that was jolly satisfying to see wiped off come the final whistle, had scored after just forty four seconds before a Johan Djourou header and a shot from Robin van Persie put Arsenal 3-0 ahead inside ten minutes. Van Persie headed his second and Arsenal's fourth before half-time as Arsenal threatened to treat the whole thing like a training ground match. Most of the crowd and, apparently, most of the United players were simply hoping it wasn't going to end in a cricket score. However, Abou Diaby was given a straight red card after the break for pushing both Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan. Barton, having a superb game in midfield for United, then scored two penalties either side of a strike from Leon Best (who also had another, seemingly legitimate, goal disallowed). Finally, the best player on the pitch, Côte d'Ivoire international Cheik Tioté score his first Premier League goal when he hit a stunning long-range equaliser for the Magpies with three minutes left. Deep into injury time, United even had the chance to win the game but Kevin Nolan's shot from the edge of the box from Nile Ranger's knock-down rolled agonisingly inches wide of the post. To be fair, the second penalty, when Mike Williamson found himself sort-of sandwiched between Koscielny and Rosicky, did appear to be more than a bit soft but, other than that, this genuinely seemed to be a case of one team simply wanting it more in the second half than the other. Needless to say, well-known faceache (and drag) Arsène Wenger didn't see it that way - in an interview with BBC 5Live he managed to blame pretty much everyone and everything apart from his own defence for Arsenal being the first Premiership side ever to surrender a four goal lead. He also broke his usual habit of 'not actually seeing' incidents in which his players are sent off to suggest that, yes, Diaby has been 'a bit rash' but then, quite disgracefully, implied that Barton should have also been dismissed for the initial - robust but perfectly fair - challenge. Which wasn't even a foul, let alone something warranting dismissal as Match of the Day footage subsequently proved. That's Arsenal and their manager down to the ground, I'm afraid. Let them play football against you and they'll tear you to bits with a smile on their face but stand up to them and show them a bit of fight and they do not like it. It was noticeable that after the sending off Febregas, basically, man-marked the referee for the rest of the match instead of, you know, getting stuck in and trying to win the ball and do something with it. It had been a miserable week for Newcastle up to that point following the departure of Andy Carroll to Liverpool on Monday and then a serious facial injury to Shola Ameobi during Wednesday's defeat at Fulham. Magpies manager Alan Pardew had his arms crossed and a curious look of 'Oh no! Here we go again!' on his face for long periods of the opening half as he watched in horror from his technical area. Pardew later suggested that his side had, perhaps, not been mentally right before the game and were, like some of the fans, feeling a bit sorry for themselves after a few days of adversity. His team were seemingly blown away during the opening half hour, but they won a most unlikely point - which must feel like a victory - after playing with incredible drive, pace and determination after the interval. All the while roared on by a passionate and fifty one thousand crowd at St James' Park. As the website put it, this was 'One hundred and thirty years of Newcastle United's history encapsulated in ninety five minutes. Unbelievable and difficult to digest at the same time. Just when you thought things couldn't get any dafter...' As previously noted, there's one thing about being Newcastle fan, it's never, ever dull. Arsenal could have kept the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester United, at least temporarily reducing the deficit at the top to just two points, but they crumbled following the dismissal of Diaby. The confidence and attacking flair which had characterised their play in the opening half totally vanished, replaced by a shaky and unsure side prone to panic which could not defend a handsome lead and often struggled for long periods to get the ball off a team which had not won in their previous four games. As it happened, two hours later, Arsenal were probably looking at it more as a point gained rather than two dropped as Manchester United, improbably, lost their first game of the season, 2-1 at bottom club Wolves. The Scum had led after three minutes when Nani drilled home inside the near post after turning George Olokobi. But Olokobi made amends by heading in an equaliser soon after with United's defence sleeping as Matt Jarvis executed a short-corner routine. Kevin Doyle then glanced the winner just before the break, after which the visitors failed to carve out any clear chances. Elsewhere, there was also a remarkable game at Goodison Park where Louis Saha grabbed four goals as Everton broke Blackpool's spirited resistance. The hosts dominated before the break and Saha stroked them ahead but Alex Baptiste's six-yard shot levelled it. A neat near-post Saha effort made it 2-1 but Jason Puncheon's sidefooted finish and Charlie Adam's measured header put the Tangerines ahead. Saha headed home to level at 3-3 and he added his fourth on the break after substitute Jermaine Beckford's fizzing volley. James McCarthy struck twice as Wigan clawed their way out of the relegation zone with a thrilling win over Blackburn Rovers at the DW Stadium by the odd goal in seven. Jason Roberts put the visitors ahead, only for Wigan to race into a 3-1 lead through McCarthy's double and an opportunistic goal by Hugo Rodallega. Chris Samba made it 3-2, before Ben Watson's penalty made the game safe for the Latics. Blackburn's David Dunn scored a late penalty but Wigan held on for the win. Carlos Tevez's first-half hat-trick helped Manchester City see off West Bromwich and end a three-game winless run. The Argentine had already hit the post from Aleksandar Kolarov's cross when he slotted home from the spot after Steven Reid hauled Kolarov down in the box. David Silva set Tevez up to make it 2-0 and he celebrated his twenty seventh birthday with a third goal, converting another penalty after Jerome Thomas handled. Marc-Antoine Fortune wasted Albion's best chance when he fired wide. City could have been further ahead at the break but for Baggies keeper Boaz Myhill tipping a Kolarov thunderbolt on to the bar and also denying Silva when he was clean through. Clint Dempsey headed a late equaliser at Villa Park to earn stubborn Fulham a draw against the Villains. John Pantsil had gifted the home side the lead when he nodded a Stewart Downing cross into his own net. The visitors hauled themselves level when Andrew Johnson headed in after Steve Sidwell's strike was parried by Villa keeper Brad Friedel. Kyle Walker's stunning thirty-yard drive restored Villa's lead only for Dempsey to equalise in the seventy eighth minute. It was Dempsey's tenth goal of the season and, although both teams had to settle for a point apiece from a finely balanced game, they provided an entertaining spectacle. Substitute Niko Kranjcar's injury-time blockbuster gave Tottenham Hotshots a dramatic win over Bolton. Rafael van der Vaart put the hosts ahead from the the penalty spot after a Kevin Davies handball. The Dutchman then missed a retaken second spot-kick, before the Notlob Trotters hit back when Daniel Sturridge's shot squirmed under Heurelho Gomes. Jermaine Jenas's free-kick hit the post as Spurs pressed and Kranjcar sealed the win with a fearsome twenty five-yard strike. It was a vital and timely contribution from the Croatian midfielder, who struck just as the game, and with it Tottenham's Champions League aspirations, seemed to be slipping from their grasp. In the day's early kick-off, Robert Huth scored two late goals as Stoke fought back to stun Sunderland. Kieran Richardson rifled in Phil Bardsley's low cross for the visitors on two minutes, only for John Carew to score from a possible offside position. Sunderland edged ahead when Asamoah Gyan fired in after the break but the match turned on its head on eighty three minutes. Two Jermaine Pennant free-kicks caused the damage, first swinging in for Huth to bundle home and then teeing up the German to stab in the winner in injury time. It was an astonishing conclusion to a match which had ugly goals, controversial goals and a beautifully created goal. That will be no consolation for Sunderland boss miserable faceache Steve Bruce who will be furious after his sloppy team gave leads away twice having dominated the game, and seeing the officials fail to flag offside for the first equaliser. So, that'll be funny if nothing else.

And, speaking of Blunderland, Niall Quinn has said that he 'despises' fans who choose to watch Sunderland's 3pm Saturday kick-offs in pubs, while listening to 'some overseas commentator.' Sunderland's chairman was reacting to a legal opinion that was delivered by an advocate of the European court of justice yesterday. By concluding that the sale of exclusive rights to televise football on a country-by-country basis was contrary to the principle of the European single market, Juliane Kokott suggested that a Portsmouth landlady, Karen Murphy, should not have to pay a fine and costs totalling eight thousand pounds, after the Premier League took her to court for using a Greek decoder to show Premier League games in her pub, the Red White and Blue. Although Kokott's opinion is not yet binding, it could be made so by European judges. Pubs in the North‑East often show what have been regarded as illegal foreign broadcasts – usually from the Middle East, southern Europe or Scandinavia – of 3pm Saturday Premier League games which are not transmitted by British broadcasters. Quinn feels this is an 'easy option' which is reducing crowds at the Stadium of Light. Well, you could try lowing your prices a bit, mate. The Sunderland chairman said: 'Contrary to the opinion of the advocate general, the illegal showing of Saturday 3pm fixtures involving Sunderland has an extremely detrimental effect on our attendances. I can point to the evidence uncovered by an agency who covertly visited pubs and clubs in our catchment area and witnessed thousands watching the illegal broadcasts. My belief is a significant number of these people are taking the easy option of spending their money in the pub, watching their team, as opposed to supporting their team and helping to create a better atmosphere at the stadium. Our attendances are down for a couple of reasons and I would never criticise anyone who doesn't come to the stadium because of financial constraints but I despise those who spend far more than the price of a ticket watching some overseas commentator describing the action. All clubs thrive on full stadiums. Loud, passionate support is the backbone of football and when our stadium is full we are a force to be reckoned with. I know this first hand – when I was a player we could beat teams from the second they walked out of the tunnel, the atmosphere was so intimidating. To anyone watching the game illegally in the pub I will continue to say: "By doing so you're not supporting your team, you're actually damaging the progress of the club." We have a real chance here to make this club feel great again but to do it we need everyone behind us. I would urge these people in the pubs and clubs to come back to the Stadium of Light. And I reiterate, despite this opinion yesterday, it is still illegal to show games in this fashion.' It is. But, probably not for too much longer. Thanks for your contribution to the debate, Niall.

For this special Sunday edition of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, were off to Swindon with Andy, Colin and the boys for two of the very finest singles of the 1980s. Firstly, a rare live outing for the 'Strawberry Fields Forever'-influenced 'Towers of London' from German telly in 1982. Within a few months of this performance XTC, one the finest live bands yer actual Keith Telly Topping ever saw with his own eyes, would have given up touring entirely due to Mr Partridge's fragile health. So, instead, they went back into the studio and made stuff like this. Please be upstanding.
And, indeed, this one. Every home should have a copy of Fossil Fuel and, if yours doesn't, then I'm afraid you're simply nowhere, baby.