Sunday, March 13, 2011

All I Get Is Bitter And A Nasty Little Rash

A last minute decision by Channel Four to extend Sunday evening's Channel Four News due to extended coverage of the devastation in Japan - and start it at 6:00pm instead of 6:30pm - meant that earlier programmes ended up getting shuffled to earlier start times too. With the consequence that yer actual Keith Telly Topping just happened to switch over to C4 shortly after five o'clock (once the rugby had finished) to find that, instead of having to suffer an overdose of the Beard of Despair on Deal on No Deal, his beloved Time Team had already started. Thank God for C4+1, frankly (channel thirteen on Freeview should you ever need it, dear blog reader) so that I could record Tony, Phil, Mick and team an hour later. It's not that yer Keith Telly Topping is blind to the occasional need to change programme schedules at the last moment due to major events, dear blog reader - and if the current situation in Japan isn't a major event then nothing is - but there's nowt like actually letting people know about such changes, is there? The first, seemingly, that anybody who hadn't been glued to Channel Four all day knew about this situation was, apparently, when Jon Snow announced the changes on Twitter mid-afternoon. Sky and Freeview electronic planners were still insisting that Deal or No Deal would be broadcast from 4:30 to 5:30 and Time Team from 5:30 TO 6:30 as late as, well, about half way through Time Team, basically! Rank thoughtless glakery like that is something which makes yer actual Keith Telly Topping near-homicidal, with the blood and the horror and the screaming! Still, at least Tony and his crew found the Roman remains that they were looking for in Cambridgeshire. Filmed in the historic grounds of St Kyneburgha Church, the team made great strides in uncovering the mysterious past of the site. Guided by previous excavations carried out by Nineteenth Century archaeologist Edmund Artis, who is buried in the nearby church, the team were delighted to discover the remains of what could be a huge Roman praetoria - and official building or town hall - dating back to the second or third century. The biggest discovery occurred late on when a mosaic floor was discovered beneath some Seventeenth Century graves by Phil and Jackie. The discovery certainly pleased Tony, who told the local press: 'I was initially surprised at how little we were finding, given the history of the site, but it was just a case of digging a little deeper. The mosaic does seem to back up previous suggestions that there was a grand Roman building or set of buildings. The problem with Castor is that a lot of its history is a bit foggy and nobody knows the complete picture, but we're hoping we will be able to contribute to a greater understanding about its past.' Among the discoveries made were several walls which suggest that the area was used as a private complex by a wealthy Roman citizen, complete with Roman baths near Peterborough Road. Phil Harding was working on unearthing the mosaic flooring in the graveyard and said there was evidence previous gravediggers could not find their way through. He noted: 'We've been finding a lot of bones in the trench and it seems like gravediggers were finding it impossible to dig past the mosaic and so were just burying people three feet deep.'

Some of the biggest names in British film, television and theatre are warning that government that funding cuts pose a serious threat to the arts in the UK. In a letter to the Observer, Dame Helen Mirren, David Tennant and others say that public investment in the arts brings in a 'staggering' return for the country. 'Culture cannot and should not be an easy target for cuts,' they add. The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt said that cuts to the arts were less deep than those to many other areas such as the police. But, that was a load of old crap and everybody knew it. Including the vile and odious rascal Hunt himself. In October, the government announced that Arts Council England - which distributes money to hundreds of arts venues, theatre groups and galleries - would have its budget cut by almost thirty per cent. Since then a number of local councils have announced plans to slash their arts provision. The moves follow the scrapping of the UK Film Council, which counts Oscar-winning film The King's Speech among its projects. Among the signatories to the letter are comedians Miranda Hart, Rory Bremner and Jo Brand, and actors Simon Callow, Kenneth Branagh and Jeremy Irons. It states: 'Before the last election the government promised to usher in "a golden age" for the arts. The reality couldn't be further from this. We are currently facing the biggest threat to funding the arts and culture have experienced in decades.' The signatories said public money was 'critical for the UK's creative industries' and in return, the sector contributed more than seven billion pounds a year to the economy. In a further statement, the actress Julie Walters said: 'Cutting off funding at a local level deprives a community of its cultural focus and future audiences from a generation of talent.' Victoria Wood added: 'Of course there have to be financial constraints, but let's not smack new writers in the face with the bill before they've got their feet under the table.' The president of Equity, Malcolm Sinclair, said that he believes that the vile and odious rascal Hunt, and his arts minister, Ed Vaizey, already understand the economic importance of the entertainment industry. They're just not doing anything about it. 'It can't be contradicted. So, if they accept the rationale that this is an industry that brings in much more than the value of its subsidy, why are they cutting? It must be ideological.' Sinclair suspects that attempts to run British theatre as an entirely commercial operation will backfire. 'In America, where there is no subsidy, there are hardly any plays on Broadway, and most of the ones that are on are British.' Patrick Malahide, who is appearing on tour with Rory Kinnear in the National Theatre's production of Hamlet, said he believes government is 'in grave danger of cutting off its nose to spite its face.' Well, it's cutting everything else so, you know, why not? 'The arts in this country are a glorious garden,' Malahide said. 'When William Rees-Mogg was chair of the Arts Council, he wrote of "the glory of the garden." This government plans to save money by turning off the water. The amount of money they will save by doing this is minuscule, but the effect will be huge. Things are going to wither and die.' The lack of culture secretary said those who sent the letter were 'right to have concerns about what is happening in some local areas. I would urge local councils to recognise the huge economic importance of the arts, as well as the cultural and social importance,' he said. 'But, at a national level the actual net cut in arts funding is only eleven per cent and that is a lot better than, for example, the police, or the Foreign Office, or many others areas. So we are doing everything we can, precisely because we understand the economic importance of the arts and what they do for our national way of life.' So, there you have it, dear blog reader - this is somebody else's problem and nothing whatsoever to do with the lack of culture secretary. The vile and odious rascal Hunt was also asked about the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Committee's decision to approve the appointment of Lord Patten as the new chairman of the BBC Trust. The committee said in its report the former Conservative Party chairman was a 'suitable candidate,' but it was 'surprised' that his 'knowledge of the BBC's output on television and radio is limited.' The vile and odious lack of culture secretary said that he did not think Lord Patten's particular tastes should cause concern. 'The BBC's historic role is to be the quality benchmark in British broadcasting and I'm sure what he wants to make sure is that the BBC isn't involved in some sort of race to the bottom,' he said. Ivan Lewis, the shadow arts minister, has backed the Equity campaign. 'It is for all those who care about the arts, irrespective of their own organisation's status, to speak out against the scale and impact of the cuts on both access and excellence. Despite his pre-election promises, Jeremy Hunt has turned out to be the keenest cutter in the cabinet.'

Stephen Mangan's Twitrelief auction offers entrants the chance 'to be an extra in Dirk Gently.' Which suggests that it's been recommissioned.

Executives at News International have been alerted to three instances where journalists are alleged to have paid for information, including e-mails and documents, stolen from individuals' computers. The allegations are potentially far more serious than the existing phone hacking cases. Computer hacking is covered by the Computer Misuse Act, which bans any unauthorised access of data and carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail. Several named journalists, including news executives on the paper, are said to have paid specialist investigators, at least one of whom is a former Army intelligence officer, for their expertise. The hackers are alleged to have used so-called 'Trojan' viruses, sent in a disguised e-mail, to break into the systems of individuals in whom they were interested. It is understood that the BBC Panorama programme has been investigating the computer hacking claims and that the allegations centre on at least three separate stories that were being pursued by the News of the World over a long period. One case is said to relate to football transfer dealings and allegations against well known Premiership managers. A second case focused on the search for an alleged spy who infiltrated the IRA at a high level who was secretly working for the controversial Army Force Research Unit. A spokesman for the paper said: 'Panorama has put vague and unsubstantiated allegations to us but despite several requests, they have yet to provide any evidence to back up these claims. If and when they do so, we can investigate and respond.' Dear blog readers may remember that the News of the World also insisted that there had been no voicemail hacking going on at the paper except in the case of one 'rogue journalist' who got caught doing so. They stuck to that story for three years until presented with evidence that the hacking was more wide scale. On wonders exactly how they'll phrase their - hopefully grovelling - apology to the BBC should these allegations, also, subsequently turn out to be true.

We're all now used to the Charlie Sheens of this world partying hard with the white stuff up their hooter but we never had Stephen Fry down as the druggie type, even if the second volume of autobiography, published last year, did end with the promise that the third edition might well be subtitled The Charlie Years. According to the Telegraph, the Qi presenter has admitted to 'fifteen years of pretty chronic cocaine taking.' But, while most showbiz party animals engage in crazed, coke-fuelled antics and malarkey, Stephen, as one would perhaps expect, put his cocaine highs to far better and more thoughtful use. His somewhat surprising confession came during an interview with Sky Arts TV show In Confidence, due to be broadcast later in the year. 'In my most hyper frames of mind, I found it was a wonderful drug to take to calm me down,' he explained. 'I tended to take it alone at home and play word games, mind-spinning. I'd do very difficult crosswords, I would spend hours on these.' He added: 'I found it extremely easy to stop, but it took me a very long time to get to a position where I was ready to.'

Sunday's News of the World states that Vernon Kay's US show Skating With The Stars has been cancelled. What a tragedy. That'll presumably mean he'll be back on British TV soon. What an even greater tragedy.

As thousands of angry protesters jeered Nick Clegg outside the party's annual spring conference in Sheffield, some Liberal Democrat sources apparently have told Channel Four News that many of the delegates inside the hall agree with the protesters. It must take some getting used to for Liberal Democrats who've always thought of themselves as the 'nice' party. In government, their spring conference is now surrounded by a steel fence - literal, as well as metaphorical - so hated are they by many of the electorate. The protesters turned out in Sheffield in number to - as one put it 'make life hell for the Liberal Democrats' - but they were kept some distance away from the conference venue. Inside there was protest too, of a different, kind. Delegates overwhelmingly rejecting the coalition's plans to put GPs in charge of NHS budgets. That message was delivered, loud and clear, by delegates but the upset apparently left their leader unphased; Nick Clegg telling his party that he didn't support privatisation in the NHS anyway. Not that anybody really believed him, of course. Any more than they believed him when he said that the Lib Dems would not support plans to raise student fees. How's that going for ya, by the way, Nicky? The leadership says that Lib Dems are having a positive influence on government - in much the same way, presumably, as a pet dog has a positive influence on a skinhead. Clegg was in an outwardly jovial mood as he faced his party - despite the fact that a steel fence has had to be erected to keep his own constituents away from him and that the phrase 'yes, I voted Liberal Democrat and I'm proud of it' is, these days, heard less often than the phrase 'yes, I am a serial sex offender and I'm proud of it.' It's a bit tough to work out which is the most shameful admission, to be honest. Outside the hall, one lone delegate, Karen Wilkinson, braved the protesters and she told them that many Lib Dems believe in the same things that they do. The protesters, in turn, told her that her party clearly wasn't listening to its rank and file. Clegg has repeatedly told the Liberal Democrats that they will 'never lose their soul' despite the compromises of coalition. Bit late for that, I reckon, matey. You know what Nietzsche said about gazing ye into the abyss, don't you?

Matt Smith came face to face with a life-size replica of himself a couple of weeks ago. The Doctor Who actor met his double as he attended the launch of a new exhibition dedicated to the popular BBC1 family drama. As well as confronting himself, the actor encountered dozens of past foes at Olympia 2 in Kensington. They included the many incarnations of Daleks and Cybermen from throughout the ages. More modern foes include Judoon and Weeping Angels, while Ice Warriors from Patrick Troughton's era and the Giant Robot from Tom Baker's also feature. Matty had a cast made of his entire face, to allow model makers to put together his double over a two month period, which stands guard outside the TARDIS. The actor - dressed in a tasteful denim shirt and black frock coat - straightened his model's bow-tie as they met. Because, bow-ties are cool. Smith said: 'I think he's sort of a bit musclier than I am! It's a surreal experience to have an image of yourself in 3D. So weird but one of the wonderful privileges of this particular job - you get rather mad experiences.' The actor had his face coated in a plaster of Paris-type substance to create the head. He said: 'It was quite a harrowing experience. My face was completely covered and I had just like a couple of straws for my nostrils. It was pretty grim.' The interactive walk-through exhibition also includes an interior of the TARDIS, the Pandorica which featured in the most recent series, and specially filmed sequences featuring Matt himself.

The Queen Mother was a big fan of Tony Hancock, it has been revealed. A newly published catalogue of the record collection which she kept in her Castle of Mey holiday home in the North of Scotland reveals that the royal matriarch enjoyed listening to Hancock's Half Hour LPs. Also in the collection were LPs of sketches by Peter Sellers, as well as the rest of The Goon Show. Of course her grandson, Charles, was famously a fan of The Goons. Seemingly, even after Spike Milligan called him a 'little grovelling bastard!' Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's biographer, William Shawcross, told the Scum Mail on Sunday: ''She and Prince Charles shared a love of quirky humour and greatly enjoyed The Goons.' Other titles in the royal collection include Winston Churchill speeches, Paul Simon's Graceland, Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose, Canadian yodeller Montana Slim and Closer by Joy Division. Although the latter, admittedly, might possibly be made up by this blogger.

Greg James is reportedly being lined-up to replace Chris Moyles on the Radio 1 breakfast show. The News of the World reports that the DJ, who currently hosts the station's early afternoon slot, is considered to be 'the future of the station' by 'BBC bosses' and will take on the role once Moyles has served out another contract. The news is said to be 'devastating' for fellow DJ Scott Mills, who has apparently wanted the breakfast job for years. 'Greg is the future of Radio 1,' a 'source' allegedly said. 'He's in his twenties, cool and a star on the rise. Unfortunately for Scott, he's just too old to get the breakfast gig now because the station is meant to be targeting teenagers and people under twenty four. Greg is the obvious choice for the job, but we have to be sure that he is ready. He is most definitely the heir apparent and it means we will soon have to have a discussion with Chris about how long he will be willing to stay on for. We are going to be careful not to force Chris out before Greg is ready. We're well aware Chris is a huge star, but we have to look to the future because someone who's nearly forty can't really be hosting a show aimed at teenagers.'

TV duo Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan have ruled out returning to television. Which is, of course, great news. The husband and wife presenting team's most recent TV project ended last year after just eleven thousand viewers saw their show on digital channel Watch. Speaking of the programme, Madeley said: 'I've got more people following me on Twitter than watched us on Watch.' Mate, I've got more people reading this blog than you had watching you on Watch. No, not really, but I'll bet for a second you were impressed? Finnigan added: 'At the moment I wouldn't remotely want to do television again. But if somebody suggested I work with somebody else, I'd say no, ­definitely not. We do it so well together.' Speaking of his daughter, Twatting About On Ice contestant Chloe, being pictured smoking cannabis in 2009, Madeley added: 'I was door-stepped about it and I told them, "I really couldn't give tuppence!"' Cost a bit more than that, Rich, gotta clue you up on that one.

Jeremy Clarkson was reportedly involved in 'an angry restaurant stand-off' with someone who tried to take his photo in a restaurant on Saturday night. According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, 'heated words' were exchanged (like 'gosh' and 'bother' one imagines) before Jeremy snatched the man's phone from him. Clarkson and a number of work colleagues, including co-host James May and Top Gear Australia host Shane Jacobson, were having dinner at Crown's Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons when a fellow diner decided it would be a right ripping wheeze to try and take some photographs of the group. One onlooker - or dirty Copper's Narking grass, whichever you prefer - told the newspaper that a 'furious' Jezza 'grabbed the man's phone' and 'slammed it on to the table.' "It was pretty loud. The whole restaurant heard the whole scene," she snitched. Another witness added Clarkson appeared to be annoyed that the photographer hadn't asked before taking the photos. It's understood that Clarkson had asked, several times, for the man to stop. When he didn't, the argument broke out. Personally, per Keith Telly Topping would've lamped the bastard into a parallel universe if he'd done that sort of thing whilst he was about his nosh. But then, it is highly unlikely that yer actual Keith Telly Topping would ever have to suffer the irritation on someone trying to take photos of him whilst eating. Restaurant staff intervened and, the paper suggests, 'Jacobson stepped in to help calm the situation.' A Top Gear spokeswoman said the crew was having a private dinner and their privacy was invaded. She also said the situation was 'amicably resolved.' Clarkson and May are currently in Australia for a Top Gear Live tour. They arrived in Melbourne on Thursday and had dinner that night at Crown's Breezes restaurant with their friend the cricketer Shane Warne.

Speaking of Warney, it looks like Shane might have a rival on his hands when it comes to the affections of the lovely Liz Hurley. This cheeky young scamp was snapped by a tabloid stringer making a rather suggestive gesture behind Liz's back as she was walking along the street in London on Friday looking all glam and phwoar. The chap's probably lucky that Warnie wasn't in the country to witness it or he might have stuck one on him. He could just be 'gesticulating wildy' of course. Or maybe he's trying to perfect his juggling-with-invisible-basketballs pub routine. From The North couldn't possibly speculate.

And, speaking of glorious looking women whom men just can't help themselves falling madly in lust with (I know I do), Keira Knightley reportedly felt like she was 'playing a superwoman' when she took part in a photoshoot on a motorbike for an advertisement for the fashion brand Chanel. The twenty five-year-old - the face of Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle fragrance - has talked about her experience in a teaser of the advert to be released later this week. 'Nobody said exactly what it was going to be like. I knew that it was something about a motorbike, and I knew that it was going to be beige. They said, "Sort of catsuit," and I said, "OK." It was completely unexpected. It's a Chanel superwoman, I think,' the divine Keira said in the voiceover of the teaser video. The Pirates of the Carribbean actress is shown in a beige catsuit standing next to a vintage motorbike. Is it time, yer actual Keith Telly Topping wonders, for a 'Keira is pictured here with something hot and throbbing between her thighs' comment? No, you're right, it's probably not time for that. Indeed, it might never be time for that.

A warrant has reportedly been issued for the arrest of Kill Bill and Resevoir Dogs actor Michael Madsen over child and spousal support debts allegedly totalling five hundred and seventy thousand dollars. Court documents obtained by TMZ state that the fifty three-year-old was found to be in contempt after failing to show up to a hearing relating to his support case last week. The website further claims that Madsen's bail has been set at twenty six thousand dollars. Madsen has been married three times - to the actress Georganne LaPiere, Jeannine Bisignano and his current wife Deanna Morgan. His debts are thought to relate to his two sons with Bisignano, Christian and Max.

Kerry Katona has reportedly started comfort eating to deal with her axe from Twatting About On Ice. The Daily Lies Sunday reports that she is 'back on the beef curries.' Yer Keith Telly Topping would like to reassure his own dear blog readers that he, personally, was never off them.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. With a massviely talented songwriting duo who modeled their acerbic, insightful, witty tales of South London working class life on the Ray Davies and Lennon and McCartney songbooks and a showman of a keyboard player who was obviously destined for a TV career, Squeeze brought an authentic sense of craft and artistry to the charts in the late 70s and early 80s. What follows are four of their finest slicest of Deptford soul. Starting with this one. By the way, that's one dar-za pair of garish lime green strides you're wearing there, Mr Tilbrook! Next up, probably their most famous work, and a truly great performance on The Kenny Everett Video Show. Ah, dear old Ken. Mad as effing toast! Personally, this one has always been actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite Squeeze single; it's really dirty and brings back lots of memories of holidays at Butlin's around 1979. Not always good ones, either. Even after Jools left and Paul Carrick replaced him, they still produced some great records. Particularly this one.