Thursday, March 24, 2011

She's A Dream, She Is Real, Can't Explain, How I Feel

It was time for 'our magnificent seven' to get reduced to a magnificent (ish) six on Wednesday night's episode of yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef. (You know? The show that, according to several national newspapers was 'a ratings disaster' just a few weeks ago when, actually, it wasn't that or anything even remotely like it.) The seven surviving contestants were given the task of preparing a fine dining experience ('ninety minutes, for one extraordinary plate of food' as Gregg Wallace helpfully noted). Giving John and Gregg a hand was a guest judge Bertie de Rougement one of the world's top caterers. Annie was first on the hot plate cooking partridge with Savoy cabbage and celeriac purée. Tom's dish was rabbit nose-to-tail ballotine with sausages, offal toast and a mustard cream sauce. Tim, 'on the edge of lunacy' as usual, came up with yet another dish from outer space, marshmallow smores with forest fruit coulis. Yummy mummy Alice also went down the pudding route with a trio of classic deserts - bitter chocolate tart, white chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis and profiteroles. Sara's effort was a red deer fillet with potato fricassee, mushrooms, panchetta and lentil salad. Jackie - who is fast starting to annoy the blinking buggery out of this blogger with just about everything she says and does - mouthed some platitudes about how staying too long in this competition could 'make you a bit bonkers.' I think that ship might've already sailed, sweetheart. She then cooked up an - admittedly very nice looking - Indonesian smokey tempeh satay sticks with spicy peanut sauce and chili cashew nuts. Having presented it, however, she then got herself all stroppy and bad tempered when Bertie dared to make the 'insulting' suggestion that it looked rather 'home cooked.' Ooo, get her! Fair in reet old temper with her stroppiness, so she was. Next up was yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite the Gospel According to St James the Carpenter, who also did a desert, marble cake with rose sorbet and sable biscuits which were, individually very good but didn't really work well together (John was particularly aghast at the thought of eating a nice bit of cake followed by a mouthful of icy sorbet). James' chances weren't looking good but then, neither were those of Alice who, in John's words, 'played with fire and got burned,' by taking on too much. Whilst the judges conferred, yet again mouthy Jackie had plenty to say for herself whilst Alice had another good cry (see the last two episodes). In the end, it came down to a straight fight between James and Alice and Alice lost. Next, the remaining six were driven to South Wales to prepare a buffet for the sixty cast and crew of Merlin. 'Right here, magic happens. Literally,' claimed Gregg. No it really doesn't, mate, it's all done with special effects and imaginative camerawork! The six were split into two teams, each of whom had to produce six dishes. On the first, Sara stuck with what she knew best, Italian cuisine and whipped up a seafood risotto and potato cheese ravioli, despite losing her temper several times, burning herself at least once and getting into a right old state on half-a-dozen occasions. As did Tom who gave himself far too much to do with his two dishes, Venison Wellington with potatoes and encrusted rack of lamb. Lots of faffing about and making a hell of a mess in the kitchen later, his two dishes just about made it out of the oven, and then proved to be among the buffet's highlights, being wolfed down by a number of appreciative actors. Meanwhile, mad professor Tim went all experimental again with yellow-tailed tuna with parsnip dauphinoise and a far less out-there seafood salad. Halfway through their various manic discombobulations, Richard Wilson turned up to see what was going on but was clearly made to feel about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit and buggered off next door muttering 'I don't belieeeeve it.' In the other kitchen, James was making duck breast ballotine and lion's main pork balls with sweet chilli dip. Annie was in charge of the puddings with salted chocolate tart with caramelised pecans and spiced custard pots with raspberry and a cardamom shortbread. Stroppy Jackie was handling the two veggie courses of vegan sushi and stuffed date filo, and was busy snapping at everyone in sight. The look on yer man John Tordoe's face when she even gave him a mouthful of rank impertinence was a sight to see, ladies and gentlemen. I mean, a sight to see. That was probably worth the TV licence of the year on its own. It was all something of a near disaster, the deserts were out before the main course, James didn't cook enough of either of his two dishes, even the vegetarians didn't seem that impressed with Jackie's nosh and Sara was, clearly, in complete denial at the end saying how relieved she was that she'd managed to 'stay calm.' Not from where I was sitting, chuck. In the trailer for next week, Jackie managed to out-do all of her drama queen antics this time around, pulling a face of astonishment when told that Michel Roux will be judging the next round. Because, of course, that's never happened before.

Fern Britton has revealed that the Queen is on her dream guest list for her new chat show. Her majesty's thoughts on the likelihood of this happening are, at this time, not known.

A BBC News report produced by school children will today become the first ever live television broadcast from the corporation's new studio complex at Salford Quays. More than one hundred school children from across the North West and Yorkshire will attend the new BBC North production studios at the MediaCityUK complex to produce the live bulletin. The BBC News School Report works with schools across the UK to help pupils aged eleven to fourteen to make their own news reports and broadcast them to real audiences. The report will see the school children investigating various issues, including the government spending cuts and new technology developments. The report will be broadcast live from Salford Quays at 2pm on the BBC Red Button and online. Parts of the report will also later be aired on other BBC programmes. Due to the landmark nature of the occasion, Radio 5Live, Radio Manchester, North West Tonight and Newsround will all report from MediaCityUK. Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, said: 'It will be a very exciting moment at 2pm on 24 March when BBC School Report broadcasts the first live television from the amazing new studios at MediaCityUK. It is wonderful that local children from Salford and across the North West and Yorkshire will be the ones producing the news reports that will make history on Thursday.' The new BBC studios, operated by MediaCityUK owner Peel Media and technology firm SIS, have already hosted recordings of A Question of Sport and Don't Scare The Hare, a new - rubbish sounding - light entertainment show made by Endemol for BBC1. Last Friday, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour became the first live radio broadcast from MediaCityUK when presenter Jenni Murray presented a Comic Relief special edition of the programme from the new radio studios.

Anthony Head has joined the cast of NBC comedy pilot Free Agents. The project, which is based on the original UK series, will focus on quirky PR executives Alex (Hank Azaria) and Helen (Kathryn Hahn). Deadline reports that former Buffy the Vampire Slayer regular Tone will reprise his role of sleazy boss Stephen Caudwell from the original series. The actor currently stars as Uther on the BBC drama Merlin and has also played lead roles in The Invisibles and Sold. Al Madrigal and Joe Lo Truglio have also signed up for roles in the pilot. Madrigal previously played Dennis Lopez on CBS sitcom Gary Unmarried and has also appeared on Wizards of Waverly Place, while Lo Truglio has starred in Reno 911! and recently featured in an episode of Mad Love.

Ofcom has cleared Iran's English-language Press TV network for showing an interview in which an Iranian woman allegedly confessed to playing a part in her husband's murder. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani appeared on camera for the state-run Press TV channel to participate in a reconstruction of her alleged role in the murder of her husband. Press TV, which has its main overseas office and production base in London, depicted Ashtiani rendering her husband unconscious before electrocuting him. The reconstruction, which was broadcast in the UK, featured Ashtiani's twenty two-year-old son, Sajad Ghaderzadeh, playing the part of her husband. Campaigners argued that the broadcast was a forced confession aimed at gathering more evidence against Sakineh Ashtiani. Fazel Hawramy, an Iranian human rights campaigner, also complained to Ofcom that it was not right to make the imprisoned woman's son play his murdered father. Ofcom responded to Hawramy in a letter which said that Press TV had not breached the Broadcasting Code with the reconstruction. 'Given the broadcaster's assurances that both Sakineh Ashtiani and her son willingly participated in this programme, we considered that the context was not materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence,' the regulator said. Ofcom also noted that neither Sakineh Ashtiani nor her son appeared to 'be in any obvious distress in their appearances on screen.' The regulator accepted that the content was 'potentially offensive to some,' but ruled that it 'could be justified by the context.' According to Ofcom's letter, Press TV responded to the complaints by arguing that both Sakineh Ashtiani and her son 'participated willingly' in the programme. 'The complaints are based on the complainants' assumptions that Ms Ashtiani and her son were forced to appear in the programme and the reconstruction scene. Being that this assumption is false, there is no validity to the complaints,' said the broadcaster. 'Press TV did not "make" or "force" Ms Ashtiani and her son to do anything they were uncomfortable with. Both participated willingly, and gave no indication that they felt humiliation, distress or violation of their human dignity at any time prior to, during, or subsequent to the filming and broadcast of the programme.' According to Amnesty International, Sakineh Ashtiani was initially sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, but was given a ten-year prison term in 2006 for the murder of her husband. This was later reduced to five years for 'complicity' in the crime.

You remember, of course, that uniquely American political phenomenon Sarah Palin, dear blog reader? You might have noticed - or, indeed, not noticed - that we've been hearing and seeing much less of her lately. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll a week ago, Mrs Palin's approval ratings among Republicans had plunged since they were previously measured last October. The numbers of Republicans who are 'strongly unfavourable' towards her have risen dramatically, prompting commentators to write of her presidential bid 'imploding.' John Doyle, the TV reviewer at Canada's Globe and Mail, has a theory as to why: 'It was television that destroyed Sarah Palin, just as it made her. The arrival of Palin as a major political figure in 2008 was an emanation of the reality-TV culture, anchored in the belief that ordinary or "everyday" people, inarticulate though they may be, and with all the baggage of messy personal lives, are truly compelling public figures. Palin was the political equivalent. A figure who refracts national identity as it is shaped by the culture's most powerful medium. Authentic, populist and dismissive of sophistication in thought and action. Then, television duly destroyed the Palin authenticity. The arc of her national political career began with a defining speech at the Republican National Convention in September, 2008, and ended in November 2010, a few episodes into Sarah Palin's Alaska. The show, a cringingly inevitable reality-TV series, gave her a huge platform and she blew it. If her exposure on TV in 2008 brought out the authenticity, the show brought out Palin's inner princess.' Doyle goes on to suggest that amid 'a river of platitudes and patently insincere assertions' she 'made dubious attempts to make political parables linking her family, the outdoors and wildlife. It was ego unbounded.' He argues that the scenes showing she had access to riches undermined her claim to be an average mother with an average family. He writes: 'Television is not kind to blatant hubris and hypocrisy and the series amounted to an epic failure to enhance Palin's status as the genuine voice of authentic America.' And he concludes by boldly predicting: 'Never mind the primaries and US presidential election in 2012. The political obituary can be written now.'

TV Producers and post production houses are reportedly 'facing a tape crisis' as Japan-based manufacturers struggle to resume operations in the earthquake and tsunami-hit country. Broadcast reports that Sony's HDCam SR format, the common delivery format for HD programmes for the BBC, BSkyB, Channel Four, Channel Five, ITV and S4C, is at the heart of the problem. Sony's Tagajyo plant, where the tape is made, will remain shut while damaged buildings and manufacturing equipment are inspected and repaired. The impact has seen companies attempt to stockpile tape, and could see broadcasters accelerate plans for file-based delivery of programmes. Geoff Dance, managing director of PMD Magnetics, one of three official Sony professional media distributors in the UK, described the situation as 'severe.' He said: 'Everybody we are talking to is worried or seeking stock. Sony is easing out stock, but the problem is whether it will be able to recommence production to fill the void. There is probably two month's supply of product at sea, so the worst situation will be in six to eight weeks' time.' He claimed that a major - unnamed - UK broadcaster had contacted PMD to secure enough HDCam SR tapes for a year - a request which was turned down. Another authorised Sony distributor, who asked not to be named, said that the manufacturer was rationing tape stock. 'Sony probably holds seventy per cent of the HDCam marketplace and one hundred per cent of the market for SR, and it has cut our supply by fifty to sixty per cent.' Production Managers Association chairman Donall McCusker said: 'I wouldn't like to say people are panic buying, but there is a certain amount of planning taking place and people are putting in coping strategies. Other means have to be found. It’s a problem.' The Digital Production Partnership Technical Standards Working Group introduced its cross-broadcaster delivery guidelines this month. Chair Kevin Burrows said the situation in Japan raised the prospect of early implementation of file-based delivery. He added that broadcasters would first recycle HDCam SR tapes and pass them to production companies and that shows without 5.1 audio could potentially be delivered on HDCam, as opposed to HDCam SR. Hire companies and producers are also concerned. Alias Hire managing director Mike Smith said: 'It's not just media - we have ordered extra stock of parts for VTRs and cameras. Once parts in [the distribution centre in] Belgium dry up, we don't know what will happen. Manufacturers' new kit releases may start to slow down as stock becomes limited, so the trusted older kit may be with us for a bit longer than perhaps the likes of Sony and Panasonic would want it to be.' The Garden managing director Scarlett Ewens said: 'Some stock - particularly HDCam SR - is in short supply, and we believe we secured some of the last tapes at one of our suppliers. People are also being cagey about Mini DV tapes.'

Debbie Harry has claimed that singers who come from reality TV programmes are 'too controlled.' The Blondie icon praised shows such as The X Factor and American Idol for giving artists like Leona Lewis and JLS their big break, but said that she would not have liked to have been under the same level of control. 'In those talent shows, they get a break and are given exposure, which is wonderful,' she told Sky News. 'But the artistry is too controlled. Maybe they don't want to explore more about themselves, maybe they're happy with that, but I don't think that I would have liked to be so controlled.' She added: 'Everything controlled and ordered isn't necessarily good for producing interesting music.' On the other hand, the sixty five-year-old praised Lady GaGa for being inventive, commenting: 'She's exciting and greatly talented. She's got a great team around her doing exciting images - it's very smart.'

The Rugby Football Union has expressed its 'dismay' that an advertisement celebrating England winning the grand slam has been leaked. The video, produced by their official kit supplier Nike, shows several players, among them Toby Flood, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden, in a series of action clips. Signing off the advert that has been widely circulated on the Internet is an image of England's red rose emblem on top of a caption reading 'Grand slam champions 2011.' The video's release is highly embarrassing for the RFU after Martin Johnson's side were demolished 24-8 by Ireland on Saturday, ending their hopes of completing a first championship clean sweep since 2003. The photo shoot for the footage took place midway through the Six Nations, which England did win despite their defeat in Dublin. The RFU explained that filming the advert in advance was necessary for commercial reasons and has denied Ireland were taken too lightly. A statement read: 'The RFU works with all its commercial partners on their sponsorship activation. Forward planning is a crucial part of all commercial partnerships and all contingencies, winning or losing, have to be considered. It is disappointing that details of Nike's internal planning has got into the public domain. In no way did the RFU or the England team underestimate the challenge that the Ireland team would pose. We were well beaten by a team who played better and we have the utmost respect for [the Ireland coach] Declan Kidney and the Irish players.'

In a strongly worded piece - Pissing off hundreds of thousands of licence payers is not a good idea BBC News journalist Raymond Snoddy has his say on some of the proposed cuts in BBC services. And, it's incendiary stuff: 'Blank screens late at night would not be a good idea. You have to show something. The last person who tried blank screens was Prime Minister Ted Heath during the miner's strike and it didn't get him very far.' Rite on, brother. You tell 'em, Ray mate.

Starz has confirmed that the fourth series of Torchwood will premiere in the US on 8 July. The new ten-part run, subtitled Miracle Day, will focus on a global conspiracy in which no-one on the planet is able to die. Series creator Russell Davies previously revealed that the mysterious occurrence will lead to 'a crisis [that is] affecting everyone on the planet. Not a single person on Earth dies,' he explained. 'The old stay old. It's great news for some people, but globally it's an instant population boom. Earth relies on people dying. Suddenly you're affecting everyone on the planet. That's where the Torchwood team comes in.' John Barrowman and Eve Myles will return for the new season also with Kai Owen and Tom Price, and appearing alongside new cast additions Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose and Alexa Havins. A UK transmission date for Torchwood: Miracle Day has yet to be confirmed by the BBC.

Comedy Rocks is confirmed as returning to ITV later this year. Jason Manford revealed the news during an interview with Richard Bacon on 5Live on Wednesday. With a new slot as well, presumably.

Meanwhile, noted horrorshow and drag Vanessa Feltz's Channel Five chat show reportedly faces the axe after just three months on air. The Vanessa Show, has averaged a pathetic one hundred thosuand viewers since its launch in January. Earlier this month, the channel moved the show from its 11am slot to 2.15pm - stating that 'audience research' had shown that it could work better at the later time. The Mirra claims that it could now be dumped by the broadcaster, who is said to be unhappy with the viewing figures. 'The management had hoped Vanessa would be a familiar face who would instantly attract fans,' an 'insider' allegedly told the paper. 'In fact, viewers have started switching off. This is a real embarrassment for the channel and a real kick for Vanessa.' However, a Channel Five spokesperson dismissed the suggestion, saying: 'There are absolutely no plans to bring The Vanessa Show to an early conclusion.'

A bid by the BBC World Service Trust to secure US government funding to help fight censorship in countries such as China and Iran has been criticised from within America. On Monday, it emerged that the World Service Trust was close to receiving 'a six-figure sum' from the US government for teaching people how to get around the state blocking of TV and Internet services. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, some rival broadcasters in the US, including the Voice Of America, are said to be 'deeply angry' at the move, despite the fact that World Service is bidding for a relatively low sum. One source claimed that the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US government agency that distributes seven hundred and sixty million dollars every year to the five main US international broadcasters, should receive the money instead of World Service. 'We are deeply angry here in the States. The Voice of America is the US government's international broadcaster and needs support,' the 'source' is quoted as allegedly saying. 'This is coming at a time when the US government is cutting funding for the BBG as well as National Public Radio and people are angry that money is going to the BBC World Service Trust. The sums which the Trust is now seeking are puny but it's the symbolism that's important. Americans are trying to conserve resources and our money is going to something which supports the work of a foreign broadcaster - it's infuriating.' Who says the Ameircans don't do irony? Courtney Austrian, office director for policy planning and public diplomacy at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, said that no decision has yet been made on the World Service funding application. 'To clarify the situation, earlier this month the BBC World Service Trust, along with many other organisations, was invited to submit a proposal for funding in the area of Internet freedom to the state department,' said Austrian. 'This invitation was extended based upon a statement of interest the World Service Trust had previously submitted. We have not yet received a full proposal from any organisation and no funding decisions have yet been made.' If successful, it is thought that the World Service Trust would use some of the US government money to invest in anti-jamming technology, after the BBC claimed last month that its Persian TV service was being jammed from within Iran during the revolution in Egypt.

Eliza Dushku has confirmed that she has signed up for a role in a CBS comedy pilot. The actress will appear alongside Damon Wayans in the as-yet-untitled project, which will focus on 'a popular, quick-witted sports radio host.' In a recent post on her official Facebook page, Eliza wrote: 'It is with insanest excitement & awesomeness I get to finally fill you guys in: I've JUST landed a new CBS comedy pilot w/ my comic idol Mr. Damon Wayans [sic].' The former Buffy and Dollhouse actress is expected to play Casey, the on-air sidekick of Wayans's character. Eliza's past television credits also include the lead role the appallingly rubbish Tru Calling. She has also made guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory and Ugly Betty. The premise for the CBS pilot is believed to have been inspired by ESPN host Colin Cowherd and his sports talkshow The Herd. Urban Legend actor Danny Comden will also appear in the project as the radio show's producer.

Armando Iannucci has confirmed that a new series of The Thick Of It is in the works. The show stars Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison and focuses on the people working behind the scenes of government. Iannucci, who created the show, has now written on his Twitter page that the BBC has ordered more episodes. 'In answer to all those who've been asking, a new series of The Thick Of It is commissioned,' he said. 'Work begins on scripts next month.' Iannucci has previously suggested that the new series of The Thick Of It will include storylines about a coalition government and budget cuts. Iannucci is also currently working on Veep, a pilot for HBO about a female vice-president.

Some of Britain’s top comedians are joining forces to raise money for the man prosecuted for joking on Twitter. Stephen Fry, Al Murray and David Schneider are among those appearing at a benefit gig in London next week to help cover the legal fees of Paul Chambers. In January last year, the accountant was arrested under terror laws for tweeting: 'Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, or I'm blowing the airport sky high!' He was detained, questioned and later charged with sending 'a menacing message.' He lost two jobs and gained a criminal conviction. Chambers is now appealing the case in the High Court, with the case expected to be heard this spring or summer. The benefit at London's Bloomsbury Theatre will raise funds to cover his barristers' fees. The gig was the idea of Father Ted and IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan – who will also be on the bill – who approached promoters with the idea. Organiser Jon Petrie said: 'Comedy and Twitter go hand in hand and if Paul was to lose this case it would affect everyone wishing to make a joke when using social media. His tweet was so clearly meant as a joke, that there has been a serious sense of humour failure on the part of the British law system. All the comedians to be involved on the night said yes in an instant and there were many others keen to be involved but away on tour etc. We are still sorting out other exiting names to make an appearance on the night.'

Cheryl Cole has reportedly 'fallen out of love with the world of showbiz' amid uncertainty over her future X Factor role. Ah, what a shame. Still ...

Adam Crozier, the ITV chief executive, has revealed that ITV2 reality show The Only Way Is Essex gets as many viewers online as it does for its TV broadcast. Crozier said that almost half of those watching the show on TV are also using Facebook or Twitter at the same time. The Only Way Is Essex began its second ITV2 series on Sunday night with an average of nine hundred thousand viewers over an hour. However, Crozier used the show as an example of how some programmes perform better than others online in what was otherwise a defence of traditional TV viewing. Speaking at the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit in London, he said the 'more telling' industry change last year was TV viewing rising to record levels. Crozier pointed out that online catch-up viewing, spearheaded in the UK by the BBC's iPlayer, accounts for just six per cent of all TV viewing, while on-demand equates to just one per cent. He outlined a future for ITV of collaboration with media rivals to transform the broadcaster into one of Britain's 'most powerful marketing platforms.' Crozier said ITV would begin to serve viewers in a 'platform neutral' way and invest in online video. ITV's long-awaited micropayments platform will be unveiled later this year, he added. 'Content producers are going to open up a direct conversation with us and viewers. Platforms [such as on-demand joint venture YouView] can help deliver a managing environment for that. For many companies in this space collaboration and partnership will be the key,' he said. Crozier added that ITV wants to look at commercial opportunities around 'non-linear viewing,' including social media such as Twitter and Facebook, mobile viewing and the rise in online viewing. ITV tripled its pre-tax profit last year to three hundred and rtwenty one million thanks to a market-beating sixteen per cent surge in TV advertising revenues. But Crozier warned that the broadcaster could not afford to rely on one 'volatile' revenue stream.'s revenues rose seventeen per cent year on year in 2010, but still only accounted for twenty eight mil;lion smackers out of ITV's total turnover of £2.06bn. 'In this new world, every part of the traditional TV value chain is being transformed. The unpredictable advertising market may have bounced back but we're not fooled by that,' he said. 'We have to make sure we embrace the digital revolution. We've made a start on that but still have a long long way to go. If we're going to operate in a platform neutral way then we have to operate in a different way.' The broadcaster's five-year plan was 'on track,' Crozier said, adding that ITV should now aim to broadcast TV-quality footage over the Internet and on smartphones. A micropayments platform will be unveiled 'later this year,' Crozier confirmed, but said the company was still testing what people are willing to pay for 'because I'm not sure anyone has the answers.' He added: 'ITV has lagged behind for far too long but this is now changing. Now ITV has the potential to become one of most powerful marketing platforms in the UK.'

Channel Four has greenlit two series of daytime programme Celebrity Five To Go. The Apprentice contestant Stuart Baggs, model Paula Hamilton, Christopher Biggins, former singer Sheila Ferguson and ex-cricketer Ed Giddens will all star in the first run. Produced by RDF Television, the show follows a group of alleged 'celebrities' who must compete for the title of best holiday-maker. One-by-one the celebrities are voted off and shipped home until the winner is announced by the locals who have had to put up with them. South Africa is the destination for the first five 'celebrities.' And, just when you think lowest common demoniator television has reached the tenth circle of hell, somebody at Channel Four gets their shovel out and, hey presto, we've at a lower place.

A customer at a Taco Bell/KFC drive-thru in Texas reportedly shot at a restaurant worker on Sunday afternoon after discovering that the price of a burrito had risen. Well, yeah. Yer Keith Telly Topping can, likely, get a bit tetchy if he finds out his grub's costing him more. On hearing that the Beefy Crunch Burrito now costs $1.49 instead of the previous ninety nine cents, Ricardo Jones, thirty seven, became so enraged that he shot an air gun before brandishing a pistol and assault rifle in the car park, My San Antonio reports. Restaurant manager Brian Tillerson said: 'He pointed a gun at me, and he fired it. I leaned to the side and there was a pop but nothing happened.' Oh, it was a pop-gun? Of the price change of the burrito, he explained: 'They did used to be ninety nine cents, but that was just a promotion.' After SWAT negotiators ended a three-hour stand-off by using tear gas at the Rodeway Inn where the man fled to, all three weapons were found to be air-powered. Jones was charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault against a public servant. He was admitted to Bexar County Jail on bail of fifty thousand dollars. Wouldn't it have been more jovial if they'd set the bail at $1.49? The American legal system, ladies and gentlemen, equally as humourless as the British one. Last year, a woman smashed the window of a McDonald's drive-thru after being told that they did not have any Chicken McNuggets. Now, running out of McNuggets - that is a crime.

A ferret has been found at a station in Edinburgh after potentially travelling there on a train from London. According to BBC News, the animal was found on platform four at Haymarket on Monday while the GNER train from London was in the station. Inspector Jenny Scott of the Scottish SPCA said: 'We're not sure if he has escaped from someone's house nearby or if he has ventured further and travelled all the way from England on the train. He's very friendly so he is obviously someone's pet. We'd love to return him to his owner as I'm sure they'll be missing him a lot.' The ferret, named Mickey by animal welfare officers, is being taken care of at a centre in Balerno. Last year, South East England was named the ferret-owning capital of the UK, despite the animal's traditional northern image.

British observational documentary maker Richard Leacock, who filmed John F Kennedy on his 1960 presidential campaign, has died at the age of eighty nine. Leacock, a pioneer of unobtrusive camera technique Cinema Verite, died at his home in Paris on Wednesday. He solved the puzzle of how to synchronise speech and video by inventing a system using US-made Bulova watches. His work on films like the 1960 Kennedy film Primary paved the way for new wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and the Maysles brothers. Al Maysles, who also shot the Robert Drew-produced Primary, paid tribute to his colleague's 'poetic eye behind the camera' which, he said, 'gave him access to anybody because they sensed they could trust him. I could see his hands on the camera, cradling it in such a way that he could take good care of the people he was filming,' Maysles added. Interviewed about the making of the film, Leacock once said the film-makers were 'enormously excited' to have come close to producing 'the feeling of being there. On the first day Bob Drew, Al Maysles and I walked into the photo studio where Kennedy was having his portrait taken and just shot what happened - they ignored us,' he said. Leacock also worked on other notable documentaries including 1966 film A Stravinsky Portrait and Monterey Pop, about the legendary 1967 festival which featured performances from acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Animals and The Who. Leacock, whose memoir will be published this summer, is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Ex-England spin bowler Fred Titmus has died aged seventy eight following a long illness, his former county Middlesex have announced. Born in November 1932, Titmus was given his first-class debut in 1949 aged sixteen years and two hundred and thirteen days - the youngest ever Middlesex player at that time. He played in four Ashes series against Australia, the last of them in 1974-75 after six years out of Test cricket. Titmus ended with a first-class record of over twenty one thousand five hundred runs at an average of 23.11, and two thousand eight hundred and thirty wickets at 22.37 in just under eight hundred games. He returned Test-best figures of 7-79 against Australia in Sydney in 1962-63 and his highest score of eighty four not out came in 1964 against India in Mumbai in a test career that spanned almost twenty years. London-born Titmus, who was also on the books of Watford Football Club and had played junior football at Chelsea, was involved in a horrific accident shortly before the 1967-68 tour of the West Indies, when swimming off the coast of Barbados he caught his foot in the propeller of a boat and lost four toes. However, he returned to action for Middlesex in May 1968 and dispelled doubts about his fitness by finishing the season with one hundred and eleven wickets, as well as leading the county's batting averages. His final appearance for the county came in 1982, when he was attending a match against Sussex as a spectator. Middlesex captain Mike Brearley called up Titmus on a pitch conducive to spin, and the gamble paid off as he took 3-43 to set up a fifty eight-run victory. Former Test umpire Dickie Bird said: 'I was at a lunch at Lord's last week for former Test players. I asked about Fred and they told me he wasn't very well. It's very sad news. I played against him in county cricket and umpired when he was playing for Middlesex and England. I found him very difficult to get away, his line and length was immaculate - and he still had it at fifty. Fred was a fine cricketer, a fine off-spin bowler and a very useful batsman. In that era there were so many off-spinners around in the world and he was up there with the best of them.' Bird added: 'He was a tremendous character and he'd come out with some very funny stuff. He was a little deaf and once, after the wicketkeeper had put down a catch, he asked me as he walked past: "Did he nick that one?" I said "yes" and he said: "I thought he did."' A Middlesex statement added: 'Fred will be deeply missed by all those who played with him and by all those who were fortunate enough to have seen him performing for Middlesex and England. All of our thoughts and best wishes are with his wife Stephanie and family.' Former Australia captain Ian Chappell, who played against Titmus in the 1974-75 Ashes series, revealed he was given the nickname 'Leo' by the Australians after an incident during the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 'He padded up to, I think it was Jeff Thomson, and the ball cut back off the pitch and missed the pad and hit him on the inside of the knee bone,' Chappell told BBC Radio 5Live. 'He dropped his bat and just took off and he sort of did a half circuit of the MCG, which is a pretty decent run. All the guys in our side started singing a Leo Sayer song, "You know I can't dance, you know I can't dance." He was a good opponent.' Titmus - seen on the right opening the batting for England against Australia in 1964 with a very young bespectacled and studious-looking Geoffrey Boycott - twice served on the MCC Committee, firstly from 1968-69, when he was still a player, and then from 1981-2000. He was also awarded an Honorary Life Membership of the club in 1981. 'Fred Titmus was a cricketing legend and a tremendous man,' said MCC head of cricket John Stephenson. 'I first came into contact with Fred when I was on the fringes of the England squad, when he was a national selector. He'd had a hugely distinguished playing career but had then moved on to become an excellent coach. He was always very supportive and on hand to suggest useful tips. Following his election as an Honorary Life Member in 1981, he was an influential member of the MCC Cricket Committee for nineteen years, so his passing is a sad day for us all at MCC.' Fred was a quiet man. He declared that, despite all his high moments in cricket, his most memorable experience in sport was playing golf with Gary Player and roaring around Brands Hatch with Graham Hill. Not that his cricket career wasn't enormously satisfying. 'I loved being a cricketer,' he once said. 'There was no other way I would have wanted to live. Even if I'd been a millionaire I couldn't have bought that sort of life. It was absolute bliss. I had a great time.' In 1985 the Birkenhead post-punk band Half Man Half Biscuit paid homage to Fred with the song 'Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus.' The model and notorious self-publicist Abi Titmuss once, infamously, claimed to be related to Fred despite the fact that their surnames are spelled differently. The veracity of her claim is yet to be proven. His first marriage, to Jean, ended in divorce. They had a daughter, Dawn. He is survived by his second wife, Stephanie, with whom he had a son and a daughter, Mark and Tandy.

And, finally, today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a celebration of the Godlike genius of Neil Innes. Queue the Rickenbackers.