Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Words Were Short And So Sincere

The new BBC SF drama Outcasts shed more than one million viewers on Monday evening and - most shamefully of all - lost out to ITV's The Biggest Loser in prime time, overnight audience data has revealed. Outcasts, about a group of pioneers attempting to build a new life on another planet, averaged 2.95m for BBC1 from 9pm, down over a million and a half viewers on last Monday's debut episode. Yeah. That's not getting a second series, is it? That overnight rating for Outcasts, incidentally, is the lowest for any 9pm drama on BBC1 since the second episode of the soon-cancelled-and-now-virtually-forgotten Paradox also got 2.9 million in December 2009.

Louis Walsh has revealed that he is expecting two new X Factor judges on the UK show later this year. The Irish music mogul, who has been on every series of the ITV talent contest, said that, contrary to newspaper reports, nobody has been hired yet for the next run. Walsh added that he did expect to return for the eighth series, but said that he didn't think Simon Cowell or Cheryl Cole would have time for the UK programme in 2011. 'No-one has been hired for it yet. I've had an off-the-record chat with Simon. I think I am on the show but nothing has been confirmed,' he told OK! TV. 'I think that there will be two new judges and I think Simon and Cheryl will be in America during the next UK series. I think Dannii will be back with me on the UK show.' Speaking about his ideal replacement for Cowell, Walsh suggested his friend and former judge Sharon Osbourne. Listing his dream X Factor panellists, he added: 'Someone like David Bowie, Paul McCartney or Lenny Kravitz.'

And, speaking of OK! TV ... what are we to make of it, dear blog reader? Not a lot, frankly. There are launches, there are soft launches and there are deliberately comprehensive exercises in expectation-lowering. Monday night's launch of Channel Five's OK! TV fell into the last category. The show it had replaced, the entirely justifiably maligned Live From Studio Five, was a wholly inept mishmash that seemed to prove conclusively Channel Five could not be trusted with another daily light entertainment show. To make matters worse, the original host of the replacement chose to extract herself from the show last week: Denise van Outen – narrator of The Only Way Is Essex – apparently decided that OK! TV would be an unconscionable blot on her CV. There may have been worse portents of quality than this in the history of television, but not all that many dear blog reader. The show itself appears to exists to answer a question that nobody has ever bothered to asked: what would OK! magazine be like if it was a Channel Five television programme? It turns out that the answer is a remedial-level ONE Show or, to be more precise, Live From Studio Five. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are a few differences between the old show and the new – the set is a different colour, for one. But it even has the same host as its predecessor, Kate Walsh. Walsh got the job only three days ago, but she did the best with what she was given. This is either because she's a consummate professional, or because she's basically hosting the exact same show as she was a fortnight ago. It's hard to tell. OK! TV technically counts towards Channel Five's 'news' quota, so episode one was loaded with plenty of current affairs. This included the news that Helena Bonham Carter wore matching shoes to the BAFTAs and that Kate Middleton apparently might want to buy a new dress quite soon. Bet you're really glad you tuned-in as I'd hate to think who you'd have got through the next day without knowledge of such things. Elsewhere Louis Walsh got to talk about his holiday (Miami, where he read lots of books, apparently) and Jenson Button presented a report about Valentine's Day while doing a fairly convincing impression of a man awaiting the sweet oblivion of death. Obviously a teatime television show based on a celebrity magazine will never be Newsnight, but even judged against its peers, OK! TV is colossally vapid - a description that kept running through my mind was 'Newsround for people who think they've grown up but, actually, haven't.' Frankly, it is hard to know who it is actually aimed at. Normal people don't really seem 'lowest common denominator' enough for this abomination. It makes Daybreak look like a cultural masterpiece by comparison. Anyway, it doesn't bode well for Richard Desmond's next attempt to 'synergise his properties.' Whatever the hell that means. Things might improve with time. They certainly can't get much worse. If they don't, Channel Five should consider a name change for the show. It might be called OK! TV, but right now it barely qualifies as either. The opening episode was watched by four hundred and fifty thousand viewers. One wonders how many of those will stick around for episode two.

It's been three days since the last episode of Top Gear was broadcast dear blog reader. And, remarkably, for the first time in four weeks the Gruniad Morning Star has completely failed to find anything in it to whinge about. Has the Gruniad jumped the shark many Internet fans are wondering?

Stage actress Margaret Tyzack has joined the cast of EastEnders, taking on the role of Janine Malloy's maternal grandmother Lydia Simmonds. The seventy nine-year-old actress will appear on the soap for the first time in April, when Lydia comes face-to-face with Janine following years of estrangement. Tension within the family dates back to when Janine's mother June embarked on a relationship with Frank Butcher, angering Lydia - who believed that 'common as muck' Frank was not good enough for her daughter. Lydia was 'a lady of class and dignity' at the time of the family feud, but she now has a reputation for nasty behaviour in her neighbourhood which makes people do their best to avoid her. As Janine and Lydia become part of each other's lives, viewers will be left to wonder whether a happy family reunion is on the cards or whether Lydia has more sinister motives. EastEnders' executive producer Bryan Kirkwood added: 'What a coup to have Margaret Tyzack starring in EastEnders. She is an actress of incredible class and talent. Lydia has endless possibilities as a character and I can't wait to see Janine meet her match.' Tyzack has an extensive stage background, having joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962. She has since received two Olivier Awards, a Tony award and numerous other accolades. The actress's notable roles away from the stage include appearances in 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Forsyte Saga, I, Claudius and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

This interview with Rupert Penry-Jones appears to suggest that Whitechapel has been recommissioned for a third series.

Ben Elton has defended his struggling Australian sketch show. Live From Planet Earth made one of the worst ratings debuts in Australian TV history last week, averaging four hundred and forty thousand viewers and being slated both online and in print. Although over six hundred thousand viewers tuned-in to the start of the show, by the end fewer than half that number were still watching. However Elton said that ratings 'weren't everything.' Well, sorry mate but, in commercial TV, they pretty much are. He noted: 'If numbers are what matter and first-time knee-jerk reactions are what matters, then Hitler stands vindicated.' Oh well, there goes Godwin's Law in the opening line. Elton added: 'I do think this idea that something has to be judged instantly sort of gladiatorial thumb up or thumb down is astonishing. You couldn't do that to a good album, you couldn't do that to a good film. And you can't do that to comedy. Nothing is any good after two weeks … from Little Britain to Fawlty Towers, they've all taken time.' Both of which, of course, were made for the BBC which has less commercial pressure on it and, as a consequence, can afford to take more risks, Benjamin. Elton insisted that he was proud of the show, saying: 'I did some quite good political gags last week, I think. I hope all my gags are clever, whether they are in the trouser department or in the cerebral department and sometimes those things can be the same thing – there are clever knob gags.' However, he admitted there may have been a 'preponderance of rudeness – and that's an editorial mistake for which I genuinely do think I made a mistake and I'm sorry about that.' Not half as sorry as the viewers, it would seem.

ITV is launching a new stand-up comedy series aimed at giving new comedians their big break. In each episode of Show Me The Funny, as the programme is provisionally called, ten unknown comics will travel to different parts of Britain to join a group of people, then perform a set based on their experiences. Groups are likely include rugby players and hen nights, producers say. By the end of the seven-part series one comedian will be crowned the Next Big Stand-up and win a 'career changing' prize – including an unspecified cash prize, tour promotion and DVD deal. Freddie Foss-Smith from producers Big Talk – whose credits include Rev and the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film Paul – said: 'I'm looking for unknown and relatively new comedians that might not necessarily have even done a gig before but might just have what it takes. We're not at all picky in terms of age, sex, location etc. and would love for anyone that's interested to apply. We are presuming that if someone is a massive fan of stand up and goes to gigs regularly then they may have an interest in the prospect of writing and performing.' For those dear blog readers with longer memories, the format has some echoes of ITV's 2007 format Tough Gig, where big-name comedians such as Frank Skinner and Dara O'Briain had to immerse themselves in a community before performing a set tailored to that audience.

Channel Four on Monday denied accusations that it 'unfairly targeted' an Islamic school in Birmingham with 'surreptitious' recording for a Dispatches documentary. The Darul Uloom Islamic High School was one of the educational establishments to feature in Monday night's Dispatches investigation into allegations of assault at Islamic schools across the UK. The school said that it was 'concerned that the truth has been distorted completely' in some of the allegations made by Dispatches. Channel Four responded that its investigation is 'clearly in the public interest' and 'shows secret footage of numerous adults on different occasions teaching pupils as young as eleven years of age contempt for other religions and wider society. We stand by our investigation and think the programme speaks for itself,' the broadcaster said. Lessons in Hate and Violence, made by independent producer Hardcash, investigates allegations that some teachers in Islamic schools regularly assault young children and teach a message of hatred and intolerance. West Yorkshire police earlier on Monday arrested one man in Keighley in connection with footage obtained by Channel Four. A statement released by the school on Monday said: 'We feel that a certain media channel has targeted us unfairly by surreptitiously recording inside our school for a period longer than six months. Over that period of time they have selectively gathered a handful of quotes and comments allegedly from some teachers, which they are using to attempt to portray our school in a light completely contrary to its ethos.' The school, which is funded in part by charitable donations, added that its official policy was to 'promote tolerance and appreciation of other religions' and that the majority of its students go on to become 'upright citizens. No school can claim to be immune from incidents that require remedial action,' the school said. 'What we have demonstrated repeatedly, is that our procedures have dealt with contraventions in the past, and will continue to do so. These actions have included expulsions of students, and dismissals of teachers, as long as six months prior to us having knowledge of the surreptitious recording. Darul Uloom added that it would close early for half-term because of concern for the safety of pupils travelling to and from its site in the Small Heath area of Birmingham. Hardcash also made the controversial Dispatches documentary Undercover Mosque, which aired in 2007 and led to a high-profile legal battle with West Midlands police. Channel Four and Hardcash won libel damages from West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service in May 2008 for false claims made about Undercover Mosque.

And, on a marginally related subject Irish Travellers living in Britain have also attacked Channel Four over the Dispatches series' My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, claiming it fuels hatred and suspicion of Traveller communities. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain called on Channel Four to give Britain's Gypsies and Travellers air time for a right of reply. It described the documentary series as leaving its community 'extremely disappointed and angry' over what it said was the narrow portrayal of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. 'We are hearing every day distressing accounts from parents whose children are being bullied and called names. Venue bookings are being cancelled. We are hearing about the deep sense of embarrassment and shame many have been left with by such a narrow, misrepresentative and unjust portrayal of their community and culture,' the organisation said. The Traveller movement said it believed the selective examples used in the series needed to be contextualised and Britain's Gypsy and Traveller communities given the opportunity to describe their diverse cultures and beliefs. A recent research report commissioned by the movement on economic and social inclusion highlighted the diverse range of work and life experiences and practices within its communities. Such diversity was sadly not captured in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, the organisation added. The programme has been one of Channel Four's biggest success stories in years, drawing audiences of up to 8.7 million viewers. Romany Gypsies have also complained that the programme creates the impression that the only Gypsies in Britain are Irish Travellers. The Travellers Times website points out that Irish Travellers make up only ten per cent of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK. Travellers' Times has reported the programme to the broadcast watchdog Ofcom. The website has argued that the portrayal of the Gypsy community is not only inaccurate but also 'misleads the audience and leads to harm and offence.' One of the most controversial parts of the series is the concept of 'grabbing,' where young men physically grab young women in a dating-ritual at weddings. The programme does have celebrity fans, including Shayne Ward who won The X Factor in 2005 . The twenty six-year-old was born into a large Irish Traveller family. He said: 'The moment the word "Traveller" comes up is the moment people start saying horrible names. I'm glad this show paints the travelling community in a better light.'' The singer said the programme has given the public a more positive image of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. Channel Four has defended itself against the criticism. In a statement, it said: 'The series features a mix of Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies and the programme makes a clear distinction between these different groups. Whenever a person is introduced, we are careful to identify who they are and what community they come from. The series is an observational documentary and made predominantly from the perspective of Gypsies and Travellers talking about their own experiences. We have intentionally avoided many commonly held stereotypes and attempted to provide a balanced view.'

Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1, was on Radio 5Live on Tuesday afternoon, speaking about various things regarding BBC1, his plans, what he hopes to achieve, competition from other channels, etc. It was a rather good interview, actually. You can listen to him here.

Gregg Wallace and John Torode have admitted that they are very proud of all the MasterChef winners' ongoing success. Torode said that the BBC1 cookery show had a greater hit rate than programmes such as X Factor because there was no element of 'celebrity' involved in the series. Except in Celebrity MasterChef, of course. 'One thing that is very different about MasterChef is that winning the show is not about becoming a celebrity,' he told the Digital Spy website. 'The end of MasterChef is about living the dream that you have dreamt.' Dreamed, John, the word is dreamed. 'We don't dictate what you have to do. You do something on X Factor, you have to become a popstar. You do Big Brother people say that you should become a celebrity. That doesn't happen on MasterChef. He added: 'I'm really proud of all of the winners. I'm really proud that they have all kept their heads and that they have all gone on to do what they want to do. If you come in this competition and cook from your heart, you will go a long way.' His co-star Wallace added: 'I am really proud of the legacy of all our winners and finalists. I'm also really proud of the show's reputation in the industry. It's not that easy to get access to the world's greatest chefs and restaurants. It's an incredible testament to MasterChef. That respect we get in the trade gives the show credibility and is why people are enjoying it at home.' Torode also rubbished the suggestion that they would ever put through a contestant on the show because they might make good TV. 'Can you imagine if we took someone to cook for the Maharaja in India for a joke, somebody who couldn't cook. Are you having a laugh?' he said. 'Here you go Mr and Mrs Maharaja, enjoy this jelly beans on toast. You've got to be joking!'

Veteran actor Tom Selleck has reportedly been banned from shaving off his famous moustache after he accepted the role of a police chief in new cop drama Blue Bloods after consulting TV bosses about his plans to get rid of the facial hair. The former Magnum P.I. star admits he wanted to change his look last year, before filming began on the series, in which he features as Police Commissioner Frank Reagan. He told New York Post columnist Cindy Adams, 'I've had it off periodically.' Yes, but what about the moustache? 'When the series started I suggested doing without it. So I said, "First, better check with (TV network bosses at) CBS. And the moustache stayed.' However Selleck admits taking care of his facial hair is a time consuming chore, because he has to constantly dye his moustache. He explains, 'It needs trimming a bit more for this character. I trim it myself. And tint it myself. My father and grandfather were gray, I'm not. I have to do the opposite. To lighten it. Gray it up a bit, which takes twenty minutes a day, otherwise the thing comes out on camera as black.'

Company executive behind controversial TV advertisements featuring actors Timothy Hutton, Cuba Gooding, Jr and Elizabeth Hurley have pulled their new commercials after coming under attack for mocking environmental and political issues. Online discount firm Groupon debuted the public service announcement-style spots during the US broadcast of the Super Bowl last weekend, when viewers saw Hutton make light of the plight of people in Tibet, Gooding, Jr spoofing an appeal for help with endangered whales, and Bedazzled star Hurley comparing the loss of rainforests to a Brazilian bikini wax. In Hutton's commercial, he said: 'The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since two hundred of us brought a Groupon.com, we got thirty dollars of Tibetan food for fifteen dollars at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago.' Groupon executives were criticised for greenlighting the adverts, which were branded insensitive, and they decided to pull the campaign in a bid to put a stop to the complaints. Company founder Andrew Mason apologised for causing offence in a blog post to customers, writing: 'We hate that we offended people and we're very sorry that we did. We don't see the point in continuing to anger people.'

Actress Maxine Peake, who starred in Channel Four's Shameless, has hit out at the class snobbery she claims affects women in her profession. The thirty six-year-old told the Radio Times that she struggled to name more than one leading British working-class actress. 'There's only Samantha Morton really,' said the Dinnerladies actress. 'All the others - Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Emily Blunt, Rebecca Hall - they're all brilliant, but there's no female working class.' Peake will be seen next week as an aspiring barrister in BBC1 drama Silk and claims she was told to tone down her Lancashire accent for the part. 'We're still obsessed with accent and class in this country,' she told the magazine. Bolton-born Peake was brought up on a council estate and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. 'I remember feeling, at drama school, that if you were male and working class you were a bit of a poet, a working class hero,' she said. 'But if you were female, you were just a bit gobby and a bit brassy and common.' Peake's other roles include playing Moors murderer Myra Hindley in 2005 drama See No Evil - a role which Morton has also played, in 2006's Longford. She also appeared in the BBC's Criminal Justice and played opposite Ken Stott in 2008's Hancock and Joan.

The Shield creator Shawn Ryan has admitted that plans for a feature film version of the FX drama are 'up in the air.' The series starred Michael Chiklis as corrupt cop Vic Mackey and ran for seven seasons between 2002 and 2008. In a recent interview, Ryan told the New York Times: 'Obviously [Michael and I are] both doing other stuff at the moment. I wouldn't say that I'm overly pessimistic, but some things have to fall in place for it to happen. We've all seen how difficult it's been to launch an Arrested Development movie and a 24 movie,' he continued. 'These things take a little time and a little finessing.' The Chicago Code creator also cited the recent departure of FOX executive Alex Young as a reason for the project's long gestation. '[He] was really behind the idea [and] has since left,' he said. 'So we'd have to start over in terms of pitching it, and I don't think Michael or I have had the time. I certainly don't want to say it's never going to happen, but I also don't want to give fans false hope that it's right around the corner.' During its run, The Shield - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping - won a Golden Globe for Best Drama Series and Chiklis was awarded both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his staggering central performance.

KCBS-TV Los Angeles says reporter Serene Branson is fine after a brief lapse into incomprehensible speech during a live report outside the Grammys. Branson was doing a piece from outside the Staples Center during the 11pm newscast on Sunday night when she suddenly had difficulty speaking. A video clip shows her broad smile turning into an expression of consternation as she struggled to make sense. After about ten seconds, the station cut away to performance footage. The station subsequently said in a statement on Monday that Branson was examined by paramedics on scene immediately after her broadcast and her vital signs were normal. She was not hospitalised. KCBS added that as a precautionary measure, a colleague gave Bransonr a ride home and she says she was feeling fine on Monday morning.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been indicted to stand trial on charges of paying for sex with an under-age girl and abuse of power. Examining judge Cristina Di Censo said the process would start on 6 April, after prosecutors in Milan asked for an immediate trial. Berlusconi denies paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug when she was seventeen. He also rejects claims that he abused his power by seeking her release when she was detained by police in another case. He has called the accusations 'groundless' and dismissed the case as a farce. Berlusconi does, however, acknowledge that he called the police while Mahroug was being held on suspicion of theft. He said he was doing so as a favour for the then-Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, because Berlusconi was told the girl was Mubarak's granddaughter. Which she isn't. As though that, in and of itself is any excuse. Mahroug, widely known as Ruby and now aged eighteen, has denied sleeping with the minister but said she received seven thousand euros from him as a gift after one of his notorious parties. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Italian women held nationwide protests against their embattled prime minister in more than sixty towns and cities across Italy and overseas. Berlusconi's fast-track trial in front of three female judges will start at a court in Milan at 9:30am on Wednesday 6 April, the judge announced. If convicted, the prime minister could face up to fifteen years in prison. These are some of the most serious allegations Berlusconi has faced during his long career. He faces three other court cases, but this is the first time he will face trial over his personal conduct. The billionaire tycoon's lawyers have argued that the judge does not have the power to order the trial. Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, having sex with one under the age of eighteen is an offence which commands a lengthy prison sentence. The prosecutors had submitted two sets of documents detailing the evidence against Berlusconi. They allegedly include proof that payments were made by his aides to 'a significant number' of young women, including Mahroug. Last month, Italy's Constitutional Court amended a law granting members of the government temporary immunity from prosecution. The court decided that individual judges should be allowed to decide whether ministers should be tried while in office. Sunday's protests had a title - Se non ora, quando? - designed to express the frustration of those Italian women who are asking what it will take for Berlusconi to resign. Some women carried banners reading 'Italy is not a brothel,' and said that Berlusconi had demeaned women with his recent sex scandals. Rome's Piazza del Popolo was crammed with tens of thousands of women and some men in an act of solidarity. Despite all the recent negative publicity, Berlusconi's opinion poll ratings are still at around thirty five per cent.

Channel Six, the company bidding to run the proposed national TV network which underpins the vile and odious Hunt's plan to deliver local news, claims it will have a bigger annual programming budget than Channel Five. Run by former Trinity Mirror chief executive Richard Horwood, Channel Six is so far the only confirmed bidder to run the Freeview channel ahead of the vile and odious Hunt's deadline for expressions of interest on 1 March. Horwood said that Channel Six's bid, the full details of which will not be revealed until 'early next year,' would 'have a bigger programme budget than Channel Five and we will be spending roughly the same amount per viewer as BBC2.' Channel Five's budget was cut from just over two hundred million pounds at the start of 2009 to about one hundred and thirty five million pounds last year by former owner RTL. New owner Richard Desmond has promised to invest more in programming, but no specific details have been made public. BBC2's budget was four hundred and fifty million pounds in the twelve months to the end of March 2010, at a cost per viewer hour of between seven and eight pence, according to last year's BBC annual report. Channel Six, the national network set up to deliver local TV across the UK, today outlined what it claims will be the biggest boost to the independent TV production sector in thirty years. Horwood promised that Channel Six would not be a 'mishmash' of old US series and claimed that if the station gets the national contract it will deliver 'the biggest boost to the UK's independent production sector since the launch of Channel Four a generation ago. The key to making local TV attractive to both viewers and advertisers is programming of as high a quality and broad a range as we are used to on the other public service channels,' said Horwood. 'Over isxty per cent of our programme budget is for original production, and of this we expect the bulk to be commissioned from independent producers. Channel Six won't be yet another mishmash of old US series and programmes you saw last week on our sister channel. And because of our local focus, one of the main beneficiaries will be creative talent in the regions and nations.'

The BBC has announced a restructure of its current affairs department aimed at keeping pace with the 'fast changing media environment,' resulting in the loss of over thirty jobs. In the latest round of cuts at the corporation, BBC Current Affairs will shed thirty one posts in reporting, production and support based in London and Manchester. The BBC insisted, though, that the department would 'continue to offer high quality documentaries and high-impact investigative journalism.' The restructure is aimed at increasing flexibility by allowing programme makers to vary staff levels according to the peaks and troughs in the production cycle, using a mix of full-time employees and contractors. According to the BBC, the new staff mix will still mean broadly the same number of people working on current affairs programming, but the use of short term contracts will increase the overall range of skills available to producers and cut costs. The cuts at Current Affairs follow announcements of the loss of up to three hundred and sixty posts at BBC Online and the planned reduction of BBC World Service headcount by around six hundred and fifty posts. Clive Edwards, commissioning editor of BBC TV current affairs, said: 'For the brilliant staff in Current Affairs this is going to be a very tough time and I want to emphasise that the work they have been doing has been outstanding. We are committed to keeping on producing the very best programmes but to do that it's crucial we implement this restructure. Because rates of production fluctuate it has become uneconomic to keep the current number of staff on full-time payroll and so the restructure will change our staffing mix. Although this has been a very hard decision to come to I am confident that it will mean we can continue to produce programmes of the very highest quality and impact.' The BBC remains the single biggest UK broadcaster of current affairs programming, with one hundred and thirty nine hours of content planned for 2011-12 and around three hundred hours of current affairs on radio.

Aaron Sorkin is to make an appearance on NBC comedy 30 Rock. The West Wing creator will play himself in an upcoming episode, according to Entertainment Weekly. Sorkin, who recently won a BAFTA for his work on The Social Network, previously appeared as himself in two episodes of HBO's Entourage and also played small acting roles in The West Wing and A Few Good Men. He is also currently developing a new pilot for HBO focusing on the employees at a nightly cable news show.

Jason Gardiner has insisted that his vote for Kerry Katona on Dancing On Ice was based on her skating skills rather than publicity. Fans of the show have criticised Emma Bunton and Gardiner for saving Katona over Comedy Dave Vitty, claiming that Katona had been kept on the show because she generates interest from the tabloid press. However, Gardiner dismissed the remarks, describing them as 'laughable. I judge on the skate-off and only that. She was better than Dave on the night,' he told the Sun. Speaking about Vitty, he added: 'I'm not denying he's a better skater than Kerry, but he messed up the choreography when it counted. People were just looking for that jump. But for me it's about the overall routine.'

Glenn Hoddle has apologised for an inappropriate joke he made live on-air during Monday night's Sky Sports coverage of Chelsea's Premier League match against Fulham. During the scoreless draw, Hoddle likened Chelsea's new fifty million pound striker Fernando Torres to an imaginary Chinese player named Knee Shin Toe. After Torres miscontrolled a ball lobbed over Fulham's defence, Hoddle remarked: 'When it's not going for you, it's not going for you. It's come off his chest, his knee and his toe. It's almost like the Chinese player Knee Shin Toe.' I would laugh, Glenn but, I fear, if I started my sides would, actually, slipt. Or not. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Hoddle grovelling said: 'I can only apologise to those who took offence. There's no excuse. It's an old football expression and I understand I can't say things like that.' The incident is yet another embarrassment for Sky Sports, after the broadcaster recently parted company with Richard Keys and Andy Gray following their off-air comments about women in football. Hoddle was infamously dismissed as England manager in 1999 for disparaging comments he made about disabled people in a newspaper interview. He also, along with Chris Waddle, inflicted 'Diamond Lights' on the unsuspecting public which is a pretty nasty thing in and of itself, frankly.

US actor Kenneth Mars, best known for his appearances in the Mel Brooks films The Producers and Young Frankenstein, has died of pancreatic cancer. His family said the seventy five-year-old died at his California home on Saturday. In the anarchic comedy The Producers, Mars played a Nazi enthusiast whose play, Springtime for Hitler, is turned into a tasteless Broadway musical by two Jewish producers who hope it will flop so that they can collect the insurance money. Needless to say, it's a surprise comedy hit. Brooks also cast Mars as an earnest police inspector with a malfunctioning artificial arm in Young Frankenstein. Born in Chicago in 1935, Mars began his five-decade career on TV with roles in such shows as Get Smart and Car 54, Where are You? After The Producers, his first film role, he went on to appear in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Parallax View, What's Up, Doc? and Woody Allen's Radio Days. In later years he worked mainly in TV, appearing in such series as LA Law, Diagnosis Murder and Malcolm in the Middle. He also provided voices for cartoons and animated films, among them The Land Before Time and Disney's The Little Mermaid. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and two children.

And, further sad news, the great Irish actor, TP McKenna, who starred in numerous films and TV dramas in a career spanning over five decades, has died at the age of eighty one. Thomas Patrick McKenna, played everything from a grocer's assistant to The Voice of God and this versatility was to be the hallmark of his career. He was born in Mullagh, County Cavan, in 1929 and began performing at St Patrick's College, where he displayed his talents in a number of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. McKenna joined the Ulster Bank in Granard, after leaving school in the 1940s, but despite six years in finance including a switch to Dublin, he was unmoved in his determination to be a full-time actor. Indeed, it was when he was offered a transfer back to Killeshandra in Cavan that he decided to leave the bank and join the renowned Abbey Theatre. McKenna undertook more than seventy stage roles at the Dublin theatre between 1953 and 1962 and was made a life member in 1968. He also performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company among others. Film was a natural home for his talents and he played alongside some of the most famous actors of the Twentieth Century on the big screen including Dustin Hoffman, Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. But he was equally adept at captivating audiences on the small screen, with roles in such acclaimed series as The Saint, Jason King, Callan, Man In A Suitcase, The Sweeney, Strangers, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Manhunt, Beasts, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Duichess of Duke Street, Doctor Who, The Chief and Minder. McKenna starred in The Avengers on three different occasions, opposite Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson. He also featured promimently in other television dramas including The Duchess of Malfi (1972), The Changeling (1974), Napoleon and Love (1974), Holocaust (1978), The Manions of America (1981), To The Lighthouse (1982), Bleak House (1985), Strong Medicine (1986), Jack the Ripper (1988), the final episode of Inspector Morse (2000) and Waking the Dead in 2004. He was also a staple of Irish domestic dramas, featuring in the likes of Fair City and Ballykissangel in his latter years. He also directed theatre productions of The Playboy of the Western World, Shadow of a Gunman and The Death and Resurrection of Mr Roche. However, it is as an actor that he will be remembered, his longevity shown by the fact that he was being chosen for a film role alongside Johnny Depp in The Libertine in his 70s. His other movies include Johnny Nobody, Ferry Cross the Mersey, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Anne of a Thousand Days, Straw Dogs, The Beast in the Cellar, Villain, Ulysses and Britannia Hospital. McKenna, who died on Sunday following a long illness, is to be buried in Mullagh. He is survived by four sons and a daughter.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has chosen a cat to move into 10 Downing Street, according to reports. The Evening Standard said that Cameron and his family have chosen Larry, a four-year-old tabby cat from Battersea Dogs and Cats' Home. A spokesman for Number 10 told the Press Association: 'I can confirm that we are getting a cat.' If he's even mildly proficient at his job there are strong rumours he might be asked to replaced Eric Pickles in the cabinet. Larry is thought to be moving into his new home later this week. The news follows recent sightings of rats outside Number 10 on live BBC and ITV news broadcasts. Several cats have served as the unofficial 'Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office' over the years. Wilberforce, a black and white cat, has the longest tenure, serving four British Prime Ministers between 1973 and 1987. Until today, there hadn't been a cat in Downing Street since Tony Blair's time. Presumably something to do with the fact that he abolished Claws Four? (Thank you, thank you, but yer Keith Telly Topping simply cannot take credit where it's not due. That's one of my mate Danny Blythe's efforts.)

And, then there's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Today, it's this one. Almost certainly the only Top Twenty hit ever for a band whose name was a euphemism for oral sex. Unless, of course, you know different, dear blog reader.