Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day Of The Moon: Neil Armstorng, Astronaut, He Had Balls Bigger Than King Kong

'I put everything back as I found it. Except this. There's always a bit left over, isn't there?' Previously on Doctor Who Amy told the Doctor that she was pregnant. Store that little titbit of information away in the back of your head because it might come in useful one day. A bit like remembering where you were on 20 July 1969 when Buzz Aldrin said 'Tranqulity Base, the Eagle has landed,' and Neil Armstrong cocked up his lines for Houston and the world. (Me, what can I tell you, dear blog reader? I was in bed, as it happens. It was 4am UK time and I was five!) 'Apollo 11's your secret weapon?' River Song asks the Doctor early in the episode. It isn't, replies the Time Lord. Rather, Neil Armstrong's foot is. That's one giant bit of podiatry for mankind, that is. So whilst The Doctor finds a way to aid in the space program we're left with all of the questions that we asked last week about the opening episode. To wit, 'is it any good and does it all make any sort of sense?' And, to be honest, the answer isn't all that much clearer at the end of Day of the Moon as it was at the end of The Impossible Astronaut. Yes, we get the basic idea. The Silence have been on Earth for millennia, letting humanity get on with all of the boring malarkey like existing, developing, creating, procreating et cetera. And they've just sat there watching. Like voyeuristic parasites. Invisible. Intangible. Just beyond the corner of your eye, as it were. 'They edit themselves out of your memory,' notes Rory. 'This world is ours,' one of their number tells Canton. 'We have ruled it since the wheel and the fire. We have no need of weapons.' That's all the splendid Canton - Mark Sheppard on top form again - needs to hear. 'Welcome to America,' he says, shooting the alien in the knackers. Manifest destiny, that.

But, hang on, before the spine chilling Silence has been heard in all its cold war glory first we've had a whistle stop tour across the US - to Utah, Nevada, New York (so good they named it twice) and Arizona. All right, it's not quite as geographically accurate as '(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66' but give them a bit of credit for trying. Let's remember a recent American vice presidential candidate wasn't even aware that Africa is a continent rather than a country. We had stunning set pieces, a bearded caged Doctor in chains, strange facial markings, apparent executions, apparent suicides, lines of dialogue like 'they're everywhere!' and 'there's always a way out!' There was scope, depth, pace, excitement, frivolity and metaphor. And that's just in the pre-title sequence. If there's one thing that you have to admit, even if you're the bigger, loudest voiced naysayer on the planet, it's that Day of the Moon starts with a bloody great bang. But then, so - admittedly - does a puncture. Thus, any review of the episode must focus, primarily, on what happens later. And what happens later is ... Doctor Who, yet again, bites off almost more than it can comfortably chew, does a tightrope walk along the edge of abject chaos, almost falls flat on its face two or three times and then gets to end, gives a little bow, blows the audience a kiss and performs a triple salko-with-pike for a dismount. Yes, it was that good. It almost wasn't, I'll feely confess. There's a point mid-episode when I genuinely didn't think they were going to pull it off. Everything was moving just that bit too quickly, there were things that still hadn't quite made sense. Then it clicked. This happened around the time that Rory had his glorious moment of bravery and anguish and he and The Doctor had their first, proper, heart-to-heart since Cold Blood. 'This is their empire. This is kicking the Romans out of Rome.' 'Rome fell.' 'I know, I was there.' 'So was I.' Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill are brilliant in this sequence and, from that point onwards, the episode couldnt' - and didn't - fail.

'We're not fighting an alien invasion, we're starting a revolution,' The Doctor tells his friends near the start of the episode. It's the kind of thing that Patrick Troughton's Doctor might well have said (and Sylvester McCoy's actually did). This is, it would seem, the only way to stop an enemy which has been, in Rory's words, 'ruling the world with post-hypnotic suggestion.' There are a series of fabulous scenes as Amy goes undercover as Canton's FBI partner (Agent Scully to his Fox Mulder, complete with the suit and the red hair). The sequences of Amy wandering around a run down orphanage are like a little horror movie all on their own, with surreal elements that make the audience question exactly what is real and what isn't. The terrifying imagery which accompanies Amy's 'behind that locked door' scene in the little girl's bedroom includes some of the scariest, darkest and - in one sense, most shocking - concepts that Doctor Who has ever (and possibly will ever) do. A nightmare of cracked mirrors and broken symbolism. Huge and overwhelming. Potentially game-changing. Karen Gillan is great here, giving whole and satisfying lie to all those who find niggling fault in her performance.

In the middle of such a dark, claustrophobic, womblike atmosphere it's extraordinary that the episode could find moments of humour. 'What about Doctor Song? She dove off a rooftop,' Canoton informs The Doctor. 'Don't worry,' he replies, 'she does that!' Actually, River gets many of the funniest lines in the epiosde, notably 'my old fellah didn't see that, did he? He gets so cross.' It's impossible - unless you're a professional misanthrope, of course - not to love Rory's bumbling, Sam Seaborn-style breaking of NASA's lunar module model when he's accompanying the president on his unexpected - TARDIS - trip to Houston. (Since we're doing oblique West Wing crossover points here, River as CJ was a pretty big turn-on too. I'm sure there'll be fan-fiction being written as we speak.) There's something wonderfully witty about the way in which The Doctor uses television as his method to save the humanity from having their brains interfered with. That's two fingers up to those who accused television of being the destroyer of intellect rather than one of the saviours of it. A message that being an iconoclast isn't, automatically, a bad thing. Nigel Kneale would be very proud. River's annoyed response to the Doctor stating the obvious when they're in a room full of angry Silence is - deliciously - 'there's a reason why I'm shooting!' 'This is my naughty friend River,' says The Doctor. 'Nice hair, clever, own gun!' 'What kind of Doctor are you, exactly?' asks an impressed Rory. 'Archaeology,' she replies. 'I love a tomb!' And, best of all, there's The Doctor's assurance to President Nixon that no one will, ever, forget Tricky Dicky. 'Say "Hi!" to David Frost for me!'

'I'm waiting for you to run. It'll look better if I shoot you while you're running. But then, looks aren't everything.' The episode is also, implausibly, a love story. A deep and torrid love story. And a beautiful one at that. 'I love you. I know you think it's him, you think it ought to be him, but it's not. It's you!' Rory, wavering between desperately concerned and admirably stoic and Amy, managing to make the word 'stupid' into a term of genuine, emotional endearment. 'It's a figure of speech, moron!' Rory remains the most likeable character in the show in many ways because of his unyielding conviction that his only reason for accompanying The Doctor on his travels is to make sure that Amy is not put into the way of danger. Well, not much anyway. Nothing that she doesn't, willingly, throw herself into. The moment when Rory tells The Doctor 'She can always hear me. Wherever she is she always knows that I am coming for her, do you understand me? Always' is almost too powerful. Too emotionally draining to an audience not really that used to such naked displays of devotion. It's heroic and selfless but it's also intimate. Things that should, probably, be said in private spilling into the public domain. By contrast, The Doctor seems to be a bit confused by becoming exposed of such romantic notions. His awkwardness when being kissed, hard, on the lips, by River is a reminder that whatever else The Doctor might be, he is not human. He has a perspective which exists in a realm far beyond mortal comprehension. He is, like the chap once said, like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe. And ... he's wonderful.

'I! See! You!' Silence will fall, we were promised what seems like a lifetime ago. And, in this episode, we see it happen. Both literally, and in a quite literal sense, metaphorically too. In a pyrotechnic overload, the 'super parasites' are vanquished by the hubris of their own words. Although, not before The Doctor has the opportunity to deliver another like atom bomb of wisdom. 'What's the point in two hearts if you can't be a bit forgiving every now and then?' And a precise little essay to the President on the dangers that still lie out in the vastness of the universe. How long have they been here, asks Canton? The Doctor's reply is chillingly opaque. 'As long as there's been something in the corner of your eye, or creaking in your house, or breathing under your bed, or voices through a wall.' The direct references to The Eleventh Hour may, or may not, be deliberate but there's certainly a vaguely circular feeling to this two parter which recalls Matt Smith's debut story. The point at which reality and illusion do battle. All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.

There will be those, of course, who will complain that the episode was too densely plotted. Too 'complicated.' I get that. Some of those might even use the standard 'classic Who was never this confusing' argument - presumably ignoring The Celestial Toymaker, The Mind Robber, Inferno, The Deadly Assassin, Kinda, Castrovalva, The Curse of Fenric and all of those other memorable examples of previous production teams going for something a bit more adventurous and outré. Ultimately, the only real answer to such charges is to note that, if you want your TV spoon-fed to you, then there are less challenging alternatives. Perhaps you'd like to tune in forty five minutes earlier and check out Don't Scare The Hare instead, for instance. That might be more to your tastes. There remain questions to be answered, it's true. Quite a few questions as it happens. More than, perhaps, the average viewer might have expected: What is really going on with Amy? Is she pregnant or not? What was that whole 'No, I think she's just dreaming' non-sequitur about and who was the face of the woman in the door? Is the Doctor still destined to die? If he is then who is in the Impossible Astronaut spacesuit? What's the deal with River Song? Who is the 'good' man she's going to kill? What part does she play in the Doctor's future? Is it her in the suit? Is it Amy? Why does the little girl have a photo of Amy in her bedroom holding a baby? Is she Amy's daughter? Is she The Doctor's? Is she Amy and The Doctor's? Then, there's the biggest unanswered question of all? Why is she, apparently, regenerating at the end of the episode? 'Incredibly strong and running away, I like her,' The Doctor notes. Before adding 'I have the strangest feeling she's going to find us.' Stick that away in the back of your mind too, dear blog reader. But remember, the obvious conclusions to some or all of these questions might not, necessarily be the truth. And, to be honest, one would expect at least some of them not to be. Since if there's one thing that Steven Moffat seldom indulges in it's writing The Bleeding Obvious. 'Anyone in the mood for adventure?' The Doctor asks Amy and Rory at the climax. I think, after such a grippingly complex first couple of weeks we could all do with a bit of buckle and swash to get our collective breath back. As it happens ...

Which leaves us with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Where's it coming from, Black Grape?

Week Nineteen: It's Time To Taste What You Most Fear

Doctor Who executive producer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has suggested that he hopes John Barrowman's popular character Jack Harkness will return to the popular SF family drama series. The showrunner first introduced Captain Jack in the series one two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances for a stint with the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper). The rogue Time Agent proved to be such a hit that Barrowman was eventually granted his own spin-off series, Torchwood and has returned to Doctor Who on three occasions since. In an interview with The Gothamist, Moffat responded to a questioner's suggestion that he has resisted using any characters that originated from what the Digital Spy website describes as 'former executive producer Russell Davies's reign.' I'm not sure that's, actually, the right word to use since Russell wasn't, actually effing king. Anyway, 'there's no rule against that,' the Moffster asserted. 'People talk as if somewhere there's been some schism.' He added: 'I mean, Jack, who I wrote in the show, I'd love to have him back. I was thinking he should really be here recently but he's busy [filming Torchwood: Miracle Day]. And there are references to Davies's characters - we just had a reference to Rose, in fact. In my head there is a continuing story. There's no idea that we're abandoning anything. There is an element that The Doctor moves on from people in a rather scary but inevitable way. He won't be nearby forever.'

Meanwhile, John Simm has confirmed that he would 'definitely consider' reprising the role of The Master on Doctor Who. The forty-year-old actor took on the mantle of the villainous Time Lord for three episodes in 2007. Simm later returned to Doctor Who for David Tennant's farewell The End of Time two years later, where The Master appeared to sacrifice his own life to save The Doctor from facing the wrath of the vengeful Time Lord President, Rassilon. During an appearance on The ONE Show, Simm was questioned by Matt Baker as to whether he's open to rejoining Doctor Who so The Master can appear opposite Matt Smith's Doctor. 'I'd certainly consider [returning],' the actor said. 'There seems to be a lot of talk about it recently.' John was quick to point out, however, that he's yet to be approached by anyone on the Doctor Who production team regarding The Master's re-emergence. 'I haven't spoke to anyone about it, but I would definitely consider it,' he noted. 'It was such fun to do.' Earlier this month, Doctor Who executive producer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat hinted that Simm could reappear as The Master in a future episode.

Tim Anderson has 'blasted' Gordon Ramsay. Or 'criticised' as normal people who use words that contain more than two syllables might say. The American-born winner of MasterChef earlier this week, said that he is very relieved he didn't go on the US version of the hit cookery show because Gordon Ramsay humiliates the contestants by refusing to eat their food. Anderson told the Sun: '[US MasterChef] is shit. It's an abomination. It's Gordon Ramsay spitting out food and being a dick. Sorry, American MasterChef is appalling. The British series is very cool. It's all about the cooking. American MasterChef is about Gordon Ramsay being Gordon Ramsay and tearing people down and about a quarter of a million dollar cash prize. My prize is the opportunity.' Despite his comments, Anderson did admit that Ramsay is 'a great chef' and said that he would 'love' to work in one of his restaurants, just 'not for him directly.' After winning the show, Anderson told the Digital Spy website that he was 'thrilled' and 'touched' that he has inspired people to cook.

Cat Deeley, the presenter of So You Think You Can Dance, told the Gruniad that she believes she has been the victim of phone hacking by tabloid newspapers. Deeley – better known in the US than the UK these days – said that she believed that she had been targeted 'at some point' based on the belief that 'certain phone conversations I've had have been repeated back to me, almost word-for-word.' However, Deeley said that she had not chosen to take the matter further saying that, as far as she was aware, 'it never went in the press' – because she chose not to respond to information she believes was gleaned via hacking. In an interview with G2, published this week, Deeley said: 'It was more like someone would call, either an agent or publicist, and say: "What's all this about, a 'source' has said this or 'a pal' has said this." And when it's happened it's almost verbatim a message that's been on a phone. They were after my reaction to get a story out of that, but I'd just not say anything.' She added 'only ever five people' who would have known some of the information that was put to advisers by journalists. 'I just know there is no way any of them would have said anything.' Earlier on Thursday it emerged that Wayne Rooney is considering taking legal action against the News of the World after being told by police that he may have been targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the newspaper.

A Gypsy Weddings special for the royal wedding beat the third BBC Rock & Chips special on Thursday night, overnight audience data has revealed. On a very uninspiring night for just about all of the channels, My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding averaged 3.95m for Channel Four in the 9pm hour, peaking at 4.34m in the final fifteen minutes. A further six hundred and fifty thousand viewers watched the show on Channel 4+1. The reality programme proved too strong for the Only Fools And Horses spin-off Rock & Chips, which was watched by just 3.37m on BBC1 from 9pm. However, both shows ultimately lost out to Long Lost Family, the tripe Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell-hosted reunion show, which reunited 4.01m on ITV.

And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader, here's yer next lot of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 6 May
In Petworth House: The Big Spring Clean - 8:00 BBC2 - The Culture Show's arty Andrew Graham-Dixon goes behind the scenes of Petworth House, spending a winter working with the National Trust's conservation team at the stately home in West Sussex. The six-part TV series, produced by Wall to Wall, follows the art historian and writer as he assists the staff in putting the National Trust property 'to bed' for the winter. Andrew gets up close and personal with a Turner painting, vacuums a rare rug and learns the secrets of a book that predates the invention of printing. The series was previously shown on BBC4. Petworth House has some of the finest collections of treasures to be found in any stately home in Britain. Visited by more than a hundred thousand people each year, the property boasts some of the country's best paintings, carvings, furniture and sculpture. A hub of activity between March and November when it is open to visitors, the series will show how the property is equally busy in the winter months when it closes its doors to enable a select band of staff and volunteers to clean and care for its collections. The film crew visited the house more than fifty times during the winter shutdown in preparation for the series.

Classic Albums - 9:00 BBC4 - this week looks at the making of Primal Scream's seminal 1991 LP Screamadelica. The LP was released to widespread critical acclaim and is frequently acknowledged as one of the best - most important and influential LPs of the 1990s. Screamadelica also won the first Mercury Music Prize in 1992. It was a massive departure from the band's early indie-rock sound, drawing inspiration from the popularity of the house music scene. The band enlisted DJs Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley on producing duties, although the LP also contained a wide range of other influences including rock, gospel and dub. It's four hit singles - 'Loaded', 'Higher Than The Sun', 'Come Together' and 'Movin' On Up' - remain some of Primal Scream's best known songs. The band members - including singer and lyricist Bobby Gillespie - explain its inception, and the programme features rare archive performances, with contributions by Weatherall and Creation Records founder Alan McGee.

In the latest episode of the popular topical news quiz Have I Got News for You - 9:00 BBC1 - the actor and presenter Alexander Armstrong takes his turn as guest host, which is usually one of the highlights of the each series. He might, admittedly, be a bit wooden on Pointless, but Xander's terrifically dry delivery of autocue lines in this make him probably the series best presenter since Angus Deayton got the old tin tack. Regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are joined by the North East's own king of comedy Ross Noble and the journalist, presenter, wit and stone dead fox Victoria Coren. Tasty.

Saturday 7 May
In 1966, just a few weeks before William Hartnell left production of the show he's starred in since it began, the Doctor Who production team took one of their very few trips away from their usual stock location of a gravel pit in Gerrard's Cross down to Cornwell. There, they filmed The Smugglers a rip-roaring rollercoaster of bodice-ripping, thigh-slapping, swashbuckling, heavy-ho me hearties adventure. Sadly, a few years later, tapes of the four-parter were junked by some glake at the BBC along with many other fine examples of early Doctor Who. But, from the tiny clips that have survived, audio recordings of the four episodes and the scripts, it appears to have been one of programmes lost gems. Forty five years on, they've - essentially - pulled the same trick. Sandwiched in between two of the most desperate, vacuous and banal television shows the BBC has ever disgraced itself by commissioning, Don't Scare the Hare and So You Think You Can Dance we find the BBC's flagship popular family drama Doctor Who - 6:15 BBC1. And an episode called The Curse of the Black Spot. Yar. The TARDIS lands on board a Seventeenth Century pirate ship stranded in the middle of the ocean, full of rough-tough sailors tossing about at sea. The Doctor discovers members of the crew are being attacked by a mysterious and beautiful creature known as The Siren. As more buccaneers fall under the seductress's spell, the Time Lord struggles to gain the trust of the vessel's implacable captain, Avery, and find a way to bring his troubles to an end. Guest starring the very excellent Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and model-turned-actress Lily Cole.

And so we come to the end of the outstanding French crime drama Spiral - 9:00 BBC4 which has been such a massive hit in the Telly Topping household these last few weeks. The police strive to pinpoint the connection between Vlad, the elusive leader of Niko's prostitution ring and the Butcher of La Villette. Tension mounts between Laure and Gilou as he prepares to the leave the team and Judge Roban uncovers proof of Arnaud's naughty betrayal. Needless to say, le renard argenté's reaction towards the little shit is somewhat unforgiving. But the killer evades custody leaving Laure in a race to get to him first. Roban discovers that the moral high ground comes at a price, while Pierre finds that bad, duplicitous Joséphine has made a deal with Szabo to save him. Last in the current series. Hopefully once series four is made we won't have to wait nearly a year for it to show up on BBC4.

If you fancy something on a slightly bigger scale, there's The Simpsons Movie - 7:15 Film4. Twenty years after their first appearance on The Tracey Ullman Show, America's favourite dysfunctional yellow cartoon family finally made it on to the big screen. Cheekily described by creator Matt Groening as Homer's Odyssey, this is certainly epic, with eleven writers, a team of South Korean animators and a plot that follows Homer from Springfield to Alaska and back again after he accidentally causes a colossal environmental disaster in his home town (D'oh!). The script is glorious in its ambition, tackling everything from lowbrow slapstick to inventive visual gags (Bart's naked skateboarding is a particular highlight), barbed political comment (an ill-informed President Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring 'I was elected to lead, not to read') and irreverent swipes at its competitors (Walt Disney gets a very thorough bashing). The rich relentlessness of the jokes demands at least two viewings and, while some fans will undoubtedly be upset that a few of their favourite characters are sidelined (including villainous Mr Burns), this re-establishes The Simpsons as the jewel in the crown of American animation. Plus, if you watch it, trust me, you'll be singing the 'Spider Pig' song for the next month. I mean, be fair, what other movie can you ever aspire to watch in which the band Green Day drown whilst playing 'Nearer my God To Thee'?

Sunday 8 May
There'll be some Turkish Delight in Istanbul not Constantinople this morning as Formula 1: The Turkish Grand Prix Live - 12:10 BBC1 - revs up and burns rubber. Jake Humphrey is joined by Eddie Jordan for the fourth race of the season, which comes from Istanbul Park. (The race's start-time is 1.00pm but get there early because the build up is usually as interesting as the first few laps.) Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix last time out to end Sebastian Vettel's dominance, and the McLaren driver was also successful here last year, finishing over two seconds ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, with Mark Webber in third. Commentary by Martin Brundle and David Coulthard. A very pleasant way to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon, frankly.

In the second of the two end-of-series clip shows for Time Team - 5:30 Channel Four - Tony Robinson and his old mate Mick Aston look back at highlights from the eighteen series of the popular archaeology programme. And, they discuss how their discoveries have helped to build a picture of the development of human life in Britain during the past ten thousand years. They explain how early Britons learned to control the land they lived on, and explore how the evolution of house-building helped change the way people lived. Last in the current series. It'll be back in the New Year and will, as ever, be a very welcome addition to a TV landscape too often devoid a programmes in which viewers are encouraged to actually use their brains.

Speaking of which there's Lord Sugar-Sweetie Tackles Football - 9:00 BBC2. In which the businessman and former Tottenham Hotspur chairman investigates the financial problems affecting English football, talking to leading figures within the game including Harry Redknapp, Alan Shearer, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, UEFA president and oily little twat Michel Platini, West Ham United vice chairman Karren Brady and Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan. He also presents his own five-point plan to help resolve the difficulties in which many clubs find themselves. Now, hang on - let's just get this prefect straight. Alan Sugar-Sweetie presents himself these days as the epitome of a hard-bitten, straight-talking successful and driven business entrepreneur. Some of us, however, actually have longer memories than seven seasons of The Apprentice and can remember when Sugar-Sweetie was the owner of a company which made the ninth best Midi Hi-Fi system you could buy. And the second best satellite receiver. When there were only two satellite receivers on the market. But, worst of all, is this idea that he was some kind of visionary genius when he was running Stottingtot Hotshots back in the 1990s. No he was not. The club were crap back then and won nowt. The photo of the left clearly demonstrates what many Spurs Ultra thought about Sugar-Sweetie and the job he did at their club. It's only since Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy took over the club from him and put some real money in that Tottenham have started to get a sniff of success. So, frankly, let's have a bit less of all this nonsense - almost Stalinist - revisionism. The idea of Sugar-Sweetie's 'five point plan to save football' is about as interesting to me as a similar plan devised by Barry Chuckle. God save us all from people with 'five point plans.'

It's the second episode of Vera - 8:00 ITV. Following the suicide of Jeanie Long, the woman convicted of the murder of teenager Abigail Mantel eleven years earlier, new evidence comes to light exonerating her of the dreadful and naughty crime. DCI Vera Stanhope reinvestigates the case, but to find out who really killed Abigail, the detective must uncover the secrets of a close-knit North country community that is still coming to terms with the incident. Detective drama, adapted from Ann Cleeves' novel Telling Tales, guest starring Hugo Speer alongside Brenda Blethyn, David Leon, Wunmi Mosaku and Paul Ritter.

The best film of the night is How to Lose Friends And Alienate People - 9:00 Channel Four. British journalist Toby Young found success when he wrote a best-selling book about his failed stint at a New York magazine. This loose adaptation stars Simon Pegg as Sidney Young, who, unlike his real-life counterpart, has a charming silly streak that keeps you grinning even as he snipes at and isolates himself from the American showbiz glitterati. It helps, too, that the stars and their PR wranglers are even bigger egomaniacs than he is. That's in stark contrast to Jeff Bridges, who twinkles quietly in the background as the irascible editor of the magazine (based, loosely, on Vanity Fair), and Kirsten Dunst, who makes a blandly inoffensive love interest. Despite this tacked-on romance, Pegg and director Robert B Weide (who cut his teeth on Curb Your Enthusiasm) deliver a wickedly funny mix of social and literal slip-ups, which is bound to win over and amuse most people. Point of interest - there's also a minor character in the movie based on Young's old flatmate Sophie Dahl. But, don't let that put you off. The fact that James Corden has a small role, however, might just be the tipping point for many dear blog readers.

Monday 9 May
Business Nightmares with Evan Davis - 8:00 BBC2 - is a new series uncovering the inside stories of how some successful businesses have committed monumental mistakes. With the help of leading experts and entrepreneurs, the economist and Dragons' Den presenter (and, as Harry & Paul portray him, big-eared cross-eyed freak) reveals remarkable design and manufacture blunders made by some of the world's biggest brands. These include a soft-drink company which decided to change its most popular flavour for no obvious reason, a washing powder that dissolved clothes and a car manufacturer which priced its products too cheaply.

Strangeways - 9:00 ITV - as the title suggests is a documentary following day-to-day life at Her Majesty's Prison Manchester, which was opened in 1868 and is currently the largest high-security prison in the UK, housing more than twelve hundred very naughty inmates. In the first episode, a new arrival enters the Category A unit on remand due to his alleged involvement in a multimillion-pound drugs conspiracy, which he claims to know nothing about. And armed blagger Adrian Fielding marries his fiancée Kelly Hansen. Ah, bless. Wonder if it was a shotgun wedding? No, cos y'see ... oh, suit yerselves.

In the latest two episodes of Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Becky plays second fiddle (again) as Steve and Tracy dash to A&E with Amy. Claudia launches a scathing attack on Audrey when she sees her with Marc at the bistro, and Chesney warns Fiz that John is too unstable to look after Hope alone. Meanwhile, Tina cannot hide her jealousy from Xin, and David makes a connection with Max. Fiz dismisses Chesney's concerns about John (which, one imagines, she's going to regret in days to come) and Marc finally opens up to Claudia. And, finally, a drunken Tommy bets Jason that he can woo Sian, and Tina gets a shock. All of human life is here, dear blog reader. Some of it is interesting.

However, if you prefer wallowing in the shameless self-promotion of shallow absolute non-entities them, There's Something About Josie - 10:00 Channel Five - might just be the very programme for you, dear blog reader. This is a reality series following the life of Big Brother winner Josie Gibson as she 'copes with the pressures of photo shoots, red-carpet events and magazine interviews.' Pity for her. So, in other words, this is a reality TV show about someone who is 'famous' if that's the right word, for appearing on a reality TV show. Yet another example of the way in which TV feeds on itself. In this episode, Josie puts everything on hold as she focuses on arrangements for her Big Fat Gypsy Wedding-themed birthday party. This is no dignity left in the world, dear blog reader. Only wretched self-aggrandisement regardless of actual worth.

Tuesday 10 May
As if we didn't have enough of him the other night when he was, allegedly, putting the football world to rights, Lord Sugar-Sweetie is back to infect my TV screen again in the latest series of The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. The stakes are raised even higher than usual as this year's hopeful entrepreneurs compete for a quarter of a million investment to start their own company - with Alan Sugar-Sweetie as their business partner. The sixteen contestants get off to a flying start when they are sent to New Covent Garden Market, where they are given two hundred and fifty smackers to invest in fresh fruit and vegetables. The teams race to secure the best produce at the lowest price, before using their ingredients to make tempting juices, fruit salads and pasta meals to cater for London's mad-hungry workforce. Continues tomorrow. Followed, of course, by the addictively entertaining Apprentice: You're Fired! at 10:00 on BBC2, presented by Dara O'Briain. A word of warning, however. Tonight's episode features well known sour faceache (and drag) Kate Spicer. So that's one definite reason not to watch.

Explorer Paul Rose teams up with biologist Tooni Mahto and underwater archaeologist Frank Pope to explore the secrets of the waters surrounding Britain in Britain's Secret Seas - 7:00 BBC2. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own particular favourite sea is the North Sea, dear blog reader. Because like a woman it will beguile you with its salty aroma, it's seductive sounds and its picturesque vistas. And then, when you dip your big toe in, it will give you sodding hypothermia. Also like a woman. Anyway, the trio begin by highlighting marine life in and around the western seas, including basking sharks off the Cornish shore and spider crabs in the shallows of South Wales, as well as creatures in a protected area around Lundy Island off the Devon coast.

Just when we thought that TV has lost its fascination with life-swap conceits the day that the Duchess of York got caught selling favours to arms dealers, what's this coming over the hill, is it a monster? Yes indeed, dear blog reader, not another example of 'rich people pretending to be poor for a few days to show how wid-it they are' but, rather, the opposite. Home Is Where the Heart Is - 9:00 ITV - sees four homeless people taken off the streets and invited to live for a fortnight with Blur bassist and, these days, really annoying reality TV show regular Alex James, former Treasure Hunt presenter Anneka Rice, chef Aldo Zilli and camp interior designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, who hope to address the problems their guests are battling. Oh, bloody hell. Not Justin and Colin again? Do those guys do nothing individually? Are they conjoined at the hip? So, in other words, a few desperate individuals who haven't been on TV in a couple of weeks (or, in Anneka Rice's case, a couple of decades) engage in a game of 'adopt a Harry Ramp.' The homeless people begin by moving into the celebrities' homes, where the - surprisingly photogenic - Jim faces the prospect of spending the night in a bed after eighteen years on the streets. And then, a fortnight later, poor old Jim will no doubt be kicked back into the gutter where they found him in the first place. Sick, ladies and gentlemen. Vile rotten and thoroughly sick.

In The Viking Sagas - 9:00 BBC4 - Doctor Janina Ramirez examines the narratives, suggesting they tell the stories of real people and events in the Viking world. She travels across glaciers and through the lava fields of Iceland to investigate the historical documents and to find out more about the famous Laxdaela Saga. Part of the Wonders of Iceland season.

Wednesday 11 May
The National Movie Awards - 8:00 ITV - comes this year from Wembley Arena. The world's least convincing 'woman of the people' the vision of orange that is Christine Bleakley hosts the awards ceremony celebrating the most successful films of the past year, in which the winners are decided by public voting. And, no doubt, will titter gormlessly throughout the entire event since - from the evidence of ITV's notorious flop breakfast show Daybreak that seems to be her entire act. Among the nominees for Movie of the Year are Black Swan, The Social Network, and The King's Speech, which won four Oscars in February, including Best Actor for Colin Firth. And will, almost certainly, win just about everything it's up for tonight. Inevitable box-office hits Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, X-Men: First Class and The Hangover Part II battle it out for the prize of Must See Movie, while boy band JLS are promising a TV first ahead of the release of their debut 3D film Eyes Wide Open. Just kill me now.

24 Hours in A&E - 9:00 Channel Five - is a new fly-on-the-wall series. Filmed over twenty eight days, this documentary provides access to one of Britain's busiest A&E departments at King's College Hospital in London. The series begins with the stories of a thirty three-year-old Greek student in a critical condition after being run over by a bus, seventy eight-year-old Tom, who fell head-first off a ladder while painting his daughter's landing, and a cyclist with a severe head injury. Harsh.

And so to what appears to be the very worst TV programme dreamed up this year. Well, no, there's Don't Scare The Hare obviously. And Sing If You Can. In fact, to be honest, after Home Is Where The Heart Is yesterday, I doubt that Poms in Paradise - 7:30 ITV - will even be the worst programme on TV this week. But, that really isn't saying much. Of the estimated six million Britons who live abroad, almost a quarter settle in Australia. This documentary follows those who have made their home in the popular tourist destination of Gold Coast in Queensland, beginning with a champion lifesaver, a plant specialist and a woman seeking a holiday lifestyle. A perfect example of everything that is wrong with the concept behind this show is illustrated in the opening line of the pre-publicity: 'For many disillusioned Brits, migrating down under represents the perfect escape from their humdrum lives in the UK. Why struggle through another freezing cold winter, stuck in the same boring old job, when you could be on the other side of the world living the dream lifestyle.' Have we become a nation of numskulls who only understand words with one syllable? Why 'Brits'? What's wrong with the word 'Britons'? Stupid question, really, the obvious answer is it will have people who read the Sun scratching their heads because it's too long for them to memorise.

Thursday 12 May
Extreme Fishing: Ends of the Earth - 9:00 Channel Five - sees good old Robson Green embarking on yet another journey profiling fishing destinations around the world. Wor affable, blokey Robson has seen, and fished, most of the world in previous series of Extreme Fishing. But whilst Florida was fun, and Costa Rica was cool, Robson wants more. More fish. In more extreme places. He wants to go fishing in places where fishermen fear to tread. Actually, fisherman don't really tread anywhere since most of their destinations are water-heavy. Robson, apparently, wants to go to places so cold that the water is deadly to everything except that which dangles on the end of his line. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, where it's so hot the fish are cooking before they are even out of the water. Places where the air is thin, the fish are prehistoric, and where the sun don't shine. And, at all of them, to say things like 'Wey, y'bugger!' and 'Eeee, it's a whoppa!' in that very endearing and entertaining way of his. This will be Robson's ultimate fishing challenge. An epic six part adventure taking him from the edges of the oceans to the rim of the Arctic Circle; from the Caspian Sea to the mighty Congo River. Along the way he will pit himself against some of the rarest and most remarkable fish in the sea and, as always - meet people whose passion for fishing matches his own. This will be his most extreme journey yet and, if he can pull it off, it will be his greatest triumph. In the opening episode, he begins by visiting Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - the most remote place he has ever fished.

In the latest episode of EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - the party comes to a disastrous end, much to Phil's amusement. Actually, come to think about it, that could be a concise little microcosm for EastEnders entire worldview. Anyway, his attitude enrages Ben, and his attempt to make amends only fuels the youngster's white hot anger. Zainab visits the imam to discuss her problems and breaks down as she wrestles with her conflicted emotions. Denise steps up her efforts to seduce Yusef, while Fat Boy and Mercy rehearse for their court appearance - with unexpected (and, no doubt, hilarious) consequences.

Over on BBC4 in the latest archive offering from Top of the Pops: 1976 - the Beard of Despair Noel Edmonds presents an edition originally broadcast on 6 May 1976 - the week in which Abba's 'Fernando' finally reached the top of the chart, after spending three weeks at number two. And Brotherhood of Man finally buggered off back to plan their next assault on the nation's earlobes. (If you're wondering, it'll be another fourteen months before 'Angelo' hits the top so there's plenty of time to get annoyed by other crap bands in the mean time.) Meanwhile, Cliff Richard performs his future top ten single and the record which, effectively, kick-started the second half of his career, 'Devil Woman'. And Robin Sarstedt sings 'My Resistance Is Low' - a song which would prove to be his only UK hit. Thankfully, he's nowhere near as smug and oily as his brother, Peter, and the record's actually quite good. Ruby Flipper, who replaced Pan's People as the show's in-house dancers, make their debut, and the programme also features performances by Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, The Rolling Stones, Frankie Valli, Mud and Barry Manilow. Meanwhile, in a warehouse at Butler's Wharf in London, the Sex Pistols are rehearsing.

The Chicago Code - 9:00 Sky1 - is a new crime drama series. Teresa Colvin, the first female superintendent in the Chicago police department, makes it her personal mission to stamp out corruption in the city's corridors of power. However, with only her brutish former partner Jarek Wysocki and an eager rookie cop for support, she finds that taking on the city's power-brokers is an uphill battle. In the first episode, Colvin lobbies for a city corruption task force to investigate a politician, and Wysocki attends the scene of a murder with his new partner Caleb Evers. Rather decent looking drama from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, starring Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke and Delroy Lindo.

And so to the news, dear blog reader: CBS correspondent Lara Logan felt sure that she would die while being sexually assaulted by a mob when covering the jubilation in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, she says in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday. 'There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying,' she confessed in a transcript released by CBS's 60 Minutes programme. 'I thought not only am I going to die, but it's going to be just a torturous death that's going to go on forever.' Logan, a thirty nine-year-old South Africa native and long time war correspondent, was flown back to the US and hospitalised for four days. She was covering the celebrations for 60 Minutes on 11 February when she and her camera team were surrounded by a mob of hundreds whipped into a toxic frenzy. Logan lost contact with her colleagues for about twenty five minutes and endured a sexual assault and beating that she feared she would not survive, she said in the interview. She said thoughts of her two young children helped her get through the attack, which ended when she was rescued by a group of Egyptian women and soldiers who drove her to her hotel. Logan said when she eventually saw her children, 'I felt like I had been given a second chance that I didn't deserve because I did that to them. I came so close to leaving them, to abandoning them.' Logan, who returned to work this week, said that she chose to speak out about her ordeal to give courage to other women who have suffered sexual assault, especially female reporters who fear such admissions may affect their work. Logan made her name as a war correspondent for GMTV during the US-led Afghanistan war in 2001 and subsequently reported on the war in Iraq and its violent aftermath. She joined CBS News in 2002. it's nice to see the Sun begin so thoughtful and not in any way sensationalist in their coverage of her ordeal.

Ray Winstone has revealed that he declined a part in The Wire. He told the Daily Mirra that he was reluctant to spend time away from his family. 'Maybe if I was a young man, I'd think about moving to America. I was offered a part in The Wire years ago, and it's probably a good thing I never did it because it turned out to be a fantastic series and I probably would have ruined it,' Winstone conceded. 'The reason for that was my [daughters] were a certain age and at school and I'd have had to be in Baltimore for seven months. There's nothing wrong with Baltimore but I wouldn't see my kids and it was the wrong time for me. I've no regrets at all,' the actor added.

Royal Wedding apparently caused the fourth highest ever surge in electricity demand due to a television programme - there was a two thousand four hundred Megawatt surge as television coverage passes back to studios as Kate and William reach Buckingham Palace. Which is, according toe press reports, equivalent to nearly a million kettles being boiled at once. Engineers in National Grid's control room expertly managed a series of surges and drops in electricity demand as much of the nation sat glued to Friday's Royal Wedding. Like crushed victims of society lost in a helpless fog of delusion the a faded grandeur of bygone days. The surge of two thousand four hundred MW when television coverage passed back to the studio is said to be the fourth highest ever surge in demand due to a television programme. In case you're interested, the top three surges in demand were: The record of two thousand eight hundred MW set at the end of the nail-biting penalty shoot-out after England's World Cup semi-final against West Germany in 1990. Secondly, the two thousand six hundred MW surge in demand after a 1984 episode of The Thornbirds and, finally, The two thousand five hundred and seventy MW surge at half-time during England’s quarter-final against Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. Just after Seaman had left Ronaldinho's cross float in over his head. I'm sure you remember it like it was only yesterday. Demand fell when people stop what they're doing to watch television and then surges again at natural breaks in the proceedings when everyone does things they have been putting off, such as boiling the kettle or switching on their computer, at once.

Microphones and equipment from John Lennon's home studio, in which he recorded his early solo LPs, are to be sold at auction. The former Beatle and alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie had the equipment installed at his Georgian manor house estate at Tittenhurst Park, near Ascot, in 1970. The house became the recording venue for the Plastic Ono Band and Imagine LPs over the next two years. The microphones are expected to fetch at least five thousand smackers each. Lennon was joined by his wife, Yoko Ono, producer Phil Spector and fellow ex-Beatles' Ringo Starr and George Harrison in using the microphones during sessions. Recording equipment specialist seller MJQ Ltd, which is handling the sale, is also selling a mixing console from EMI's Abbey Road studios, which has been used for recordings for the past eighteen years. An acetate disc used for mastering recordings, in which all four Beatles have etched their names, is expected to sell for tens of thousands of pounds. A coffee percolator once owned by Starr - who later acquired Lennon's home - will also be offered up for sale. That's going to a tenner, apparently.

Cheryl Cole is reportedly 'devastated' after reading 'negative comments' about herself online. A magazine article claims that the singer, who may become a judge on The X Factor USA, 'became upset' after reading American websites which labelled her as 'a no-mark Brit.' Thank Christ the Heaton Horror never reads this one, that's all I can say. According to 'sources', the twenty seven-year-old has also recently begun a new workout regime with 'celeb fitness guru' Tracy Anderson. An 'insider' allegedly told that bastion of truth and honesty Now: 'Cheryl's finding it really tough to work out to Tracy's standards. She's also facing leaving everything she knows behind, including ex-hubby Ashley. She's going from a big fish in a small pond to a tadpole in the ocean.' It has also been claimed that Cole will not change her Newcastle accent for the American version of the show.

The body of a girl thought to have been murdered by Roman soldiers has been discovered in North Kent. Archaeologists working on the site of a Roman settlement near the A2 uncovered the girl who died almost two thousand years ago. 'She was killed by a Roman sword stabbing her in the back of the head,' said Paul Wilkinson, director of the excavation. 'By the position of the entry wound she would have been kneeling at the time.' The Roman conquest of Britain began in AD43, and the construction of Watling Street started soon afterwards linking Canterbury to St Albans. A small Roman town was built on the route, near present-day Faversham. Wilkinson is the director of SWAT Archaeology - a company which carries out digs before major building work takes place on sites which may hold historical interest. He was in charge of a training dig excavating Roman ditches when they made the shocking find. Wilkinson said that the girl had been between sixteen and twenty years old when she was killed, and her bones suggested that she had been in generally good health. He also believes that the body had then been dumped in what looked like a hastily dug grave. 'She was lying face down and her body was twisted with one arm underneath her body. One of her feet was even left outside the grave,' he said. The burial site was just outside the Roman town, with cemeteries close by. Wilkinson said that the body was found with some fragments of iron age pottery which would date the grave to about AD50, and suggest that she was part of the indigenous population at the time of the invasion. Another indication of her origin, according to Wilkinson, is the orientation of the body. Romans buried their bodies lying east-west, whereas this body was buried north-south, as was the custom for pagan graves. Many people have a romantic view of the Roman invasion, Wilkinson said. 'Now, for the first time, we have an indication of how the Roman armies treated people, and that large numbers of the local populations were killed. It shows how all invading armies act the same throughout history. One can only imagine what trauma this poor girl had to suffer before she was killed.' She will be re-buried at the site.

Michael Barrymore was asked to leave a restaurant after launching a foul-mouthed verbal attack during the filming of Celebrity Coach Trip. According to the Mirra, Barrymore 'squared up to a French waiter' before calling the man 'a cunt.' 'He was necking wine and becoming louder and louder. When a waiter looked at him, Michael lost it and started shouting and swearing, calling the poor chap "a cunt,"' a 'source' allegedly claimed. 'Glasses got smashed. Michael tried to goad him into throwing a punch. It was horrible. Michael is incredibly ­unpopular.' Barrymore also reportedly argued with other contestants including - Alex Best, Lembit Opik and Lizzie Cundy. His spokesman confirmed the allegations, but insisted that his behaviour was a side-effect of the medication he has been prescribed since falling off a horse last week. The spokesman said: 'He has been unsteady and disorientated. A customer took exception as he moved around the tables, they had an altercation.'

ITV football pundit Andy Townsend has revealed how he was threatened by Real Madrid fans after being mistaken for Champions League referee Wolfgang Stark. As opposed to those occasions in the UK where he is threatened by England fans after being mistaken for a proper football commentator. Townsend said that he feared being attacked while having a meal in a Madrid restaurant with anchor Adrian Chiles and ITV bosses following Real's loss to Barcelona on Wednesday evening. Speaking to the Daily Scum Mail, the former footballer said that he soon realised the fans had mistaken him for Stark, who made a number of controversial decisions during the game. 'I went into a restaurant and was eating when I noticed people looking at me. Some of them started taking pictures and then someone came and gave me a pot plant, saying, "This is for you," with a funny look on his face,' said Townsend. 'There were ten of us around the table thinking, "What is going on here?" When I stood up I got booed and when I went to the loo I got followed there and back. A waiter escorted me to my seat. I didn't know why!' Maybe he wanted to say he'd been in the presence of the worst football analyst in British TV history? Just a thought. Townsend added: 'Then people came up to me, talking aggressively in Spanish and there was a man shouting at me from the other side of the restaurant. It was all getting out of control. Then it dawned on me. Because I still had my UEFA accreditation around my neck they thought I was the referee. To them I was Wolfgang Stark! So I had to turn around and tell them I was from English television.' Chiles saw the lighter side of the incident, which given how bad things are going for him on Daybreak at the moment is understandable (although, to be fair, I'd be pretty amused by the potential for Andy Townsend to get a good thumping myself) but Townsend blamed Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho for whipping the fans up into 'a frenzy. Adrian's started calling me Wolfie, but actually there's a sinister edge to it. The crowd were baying for the referee's blood. They totally saw the referee as the villain of the piece. That's how Mourinho whips up a frenzy,' he said. 'As ITV were going off air there was actually a fight going on in front of me in the stadium - two men were exchanging blows. And these were the decent seats. I witnessed first-hand the effect Mourinho has on fans. I wouldn't want to see him back in England.' Last week, it emerged that Townsend was alleged to have been lined-up by BBC bosses to join BBC Breakfast as a replacement for the outgoing Chris Hollins.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is Jello Biafra's howl against totalitarianism, complacency and self-righteousness and seems horrible appropriate this week of all weeks.

Friday, April 29, 2011

There's No Point In Asking You'll Get No Reply

Gosh it was busy in yer actual From The North yesterday, dear blog reader. One of our busiest days ever, in actual fact. And we've had lots of busy days, recently. God bless whosoever it was that invented superinjunctions and all of those who take 'em out. You're an inspiration to all of us. So, anyway, it's another Bank Holiday Friday making this, in Britain, our first three day week since, ooh, 1973 I reckon. All we need now are some candles and a few power cuts and the illusion will be var nigh complete. Friday is also, of course, the occasion of the latest royal wedding. I don't know about anybody else, but I'm really not looking forward to today's fourteen hour-hour brown-tongue-a-thon on the BBC. Still, it could be worse. And, ITV's coverage - presented by Phillip Schofield - will be. Let's get on with the news.

One man who is not unfamiliar with the workings of the legal system is Wayne Rooney who is reported by the Gruniad (and several other newspapers) to be considering taking legal action against the News of the World for breach of privacy. This came after Scotland Yard detectives warned him he may have been targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was on the paper's books. And told him that elbow on James McCarthy was a bit risky. Probably. Detectives visited the England footballer in Manchester last week. The striker was reportedly shown pages from Mulcaire's notebooks, which listed his mobile phone number and those of his associates. The Metropolitan police are in the process of contacting everyone whose name appears in Mulcaire's paperwork, which was seized by Scotland Yard in a 2006 raid on his home, as part of its new investigation into allegations of widespread phone hacking at the title. Rooney was the subject of several high-profile News of the World exclusives in 2005 and 2006 and is thought to be angry his phone was allegedly targeted. And, trust me, you really don't want to see Wayne Rooney angry. Although, if you watch Sky Sports chances are you'll see it such an occurrence about once a week. There is, the newspaper stresses, 'no suggestion the stories in question [concerning Rooney] were obtained by hacking into Rooney's phone, however.' The Gruniad revealed a fortnight ago that Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, had also met with Scotland Yard detectives, who told him he may also have been targeted by Muclaire. Stretford is also considering taking legal action against the newspaper. Several high-profile individuals from the world of football were targeted by Mulcaire in 2005 and 2006, the period covered by the paperwork seized by police. The Gruniad also revealed in July 2009 that the News of the World's owner, News Group, had reached a secret out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, after he sued in the high court claiming Mulcaire had colluded with the paper's journalists to hack into messages left on his mobile phone. The paper reached a similar settlement with Jo Armstrong, a legal official at the PFA. Mick McGuire, a former deputy chief executive at the organisation, has since launched legal proceedings. Sky Andrew, a prominent football agent whose clients include former England defender Sol Campbell, is also suing the company for breach of privacy. Andrew's case is well advanced and is one of three test cases due to go to trial later this year or early in 2012. He is one of eight public figures who received a public apology from News Corp earlier this month along with an offer of compensation. Former footballer Andy Gray is also suing News Group, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire News Corp. Gray was employed as a commentator at Sky Sports, which is part-owned by the media giant, until he was sacked in January. A total of twenty four public figures have so far issued proceedings against News Group but lawyers acting for alleged victims claim that many more are set to follow. They include actors Sienna Miller and Steve Coogan, former lack of culture secretary Tessa Jowell and publicist Nicola Phillips. News Group has written to Miller saying it is prepared to pay her one hundred thousand pounds to settle but she has not accepted the offer.

Rupert Murdoch has a 'close-to-zero' chance of buying Formula One and talk of a takeover is being 'driven by the media and advisers seeking to make money,' the sport's supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, has said. Reports this month suggested that Murdoch's News Corp was in the early stages of talks to form a consortium to acquire control of Formula One motor racing. Formula One is currently owned by the private equity firm CVC and managed by Ecclestone. News Corp was said to have held preliminary talks with at least one big car manufacturer, thought to be Ferrari, and with the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who already has links to the sport. 'It's media driven,' Ecclestone told Reuters in a telephone interview. 'It looks very much like someone who is trying to see if they can make [money]. All of these people that get involved with these things, they get some victims and say: "We can make this happen, I'm sure we can do this," and then all they do is keep pumping fees in.' Analysts have also pointed out that the big manufacturers and advertisers traditionally want the sport to be shown on free-to-air channels as they draw the biggest possible audience, as opposed to Murdoch's paid-for TV channels such as BSkyB in Britain or Sky Italia. Asked if coverage on free-to-air TV was still an issue, Ecclestone replied: 'Definitely, one hundred per cent. If, and I think the chances are close-to-zero, but if Murdoch was to buy certainly he'd have to broadcast some free-to-air like it is now.' Murdoch has made sport a cornerstone of his pay-TV operations and it has also been a prime motivation for many of his deals, and analysts see a logic to his involvement in F1. Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of the world's largest advertising group, WPP, and a director of Formula One, told Reuters he had no problems with a media company owning the rights to the sport. 'I see no harm whatsoever in a pay-TV company investing in or owning Formula One,' said Sorrell, who has clashed with Ecclestone in the past. 'From what I've seen, I don't think CVC have indicated that they want to sell the business. I'm sure there would be interest because Formula One is a very strong property. But [I make] those comments as a WPP employee and not as a Formula One director.'

BBC1's controller Danny Cohen has said that he is not worried about the effect losing presenter Sian Williams will have on BBC Breakfast. Williams, who co-hosts the show with Bill Turnbull, confirmed earlier this month that she is quitting the programme ahead of its move North to Manchester. The BBC revealed that the host and sports presenter Chris Hollins are among fifty four per cent of the morning show's team who have declined to relocate to Salford next year. However, according to the Mirra, Cohen remains confident that the programme will retain its viewing figures and lead over ITV rival the flop Daybreak. 'I'm not massively scared,' he said. 'The show and format is always more important.' Director of BBC News Helen Broaden previously insisted that the show will continue to go 'from strength to strength' in its new home.

A baker and cake-maker from Sunderland credits the BBC's MasterChef with launching her career. Stacie Stewart made it to the semi-finals of last year's series and told BBC Newcastle that her business is now 'flourishing.' She said: 'The encouragement John and Gregg gave me through the competition was fantastic. When I ended the competition I thought I can change my life if I want to and everything's there for the taking.' As the current season of MasterChef reached its finale - won on Wednesday by American chef Tim Anderson - presenter and judge, Gregg Wallace admitted it was disappointing when those with potential are knocked out of the competition. He said: 'You can't help but start to fall in love with them because we've worked together with them for so long.' Co-presenter John Torode said: 'As every year comes around there are people out there who say to themselves: "Right, this is it, I can actually do it." If you win MasterChef it does change your life. You go on to do something quite incredible.' Stacie, twenty nine, now has her own business - The Beehive Bakery - which offers catering at private parties, a cookery school and supplies local cafes with cakes and puddings. She also appears on television, most recently on This Morning, and is currently writing a cookery book. She said: 'At first people were coming to me because I'd been on MasterChef and they'd seen me on the telly. But I think now, I mean I've been going over a year, so I think I'm trading now on my reputation.' Although she thrives on pressure and soon forgot about the cameras, Stacie fell at a familiar MasterChef hurdle - trying something a little too clever. She admitted: 'I messed my dessert up, which is ironic considering now I'm a dessert maker. I did a dessert with a load of different techniques in and everything just went wrong. Everybody else's dishes were spot on, I messed up, I went home, it was fair enough.'

Gordon Brown 'reacted furiously' when Andrew Marr asked him personal questions after taking out an injunction to protect his own private life, according to the Daily Mirra. The newspaper claims that then Prime Minister was 'aware of the court order' when he was interviewed by Marr in 2009 and asked about rumours that he was taking prescription drugs. In the interview, Marr asked him: 'A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of them?' Brown tersely replied: 'No. I think this is the sort of questioning which is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics.' The Mirra states that the BBC had already been 'told the claim was untrue.' The implication being that a flat statement of denial should prevent any further questioning on a matter. let's all remember this the next time the Daily Mirra prints a story about someone having been caught lying in public life. They go on to report, rather gloatingly, that the BBC subsequently received 'more than one hundred complaints.' But then, they received six thousand complaints when a trail for Over The Rainbow was played over the end of an episode of Doctor Who last year so, frankly, one hundred is really nothing to trumpet.

The good old Current Bun has claimed that 'BBC1 is set to rip up its schedules for next year's Olympics - with even EastEnders under threat. All prime-time drama and daytime shows will be affected during the three-week event, controller Danny Cohen said. The wall-to-wall coverage will be welcomed by sports fans but risks upsetting viewers used to watching their favourite shows at certain times. Cohen said: "We are the host broadcaster. We want to broadcast all of the Olympics. It won't be twenty four hours a day, but the events start early and go on past midnight. We will have a radically different schedule for that period. It has to be. It is a massive moment for Britain and we are the channel that brings people together. It is right that it is on BBC1." Cohen also said the BBC was close to confirming who would be the main anchorman or woman for the Games which last from 27 July to 12 August. He added it would "most likely" be one of the Beeb's current main presenters.'

The BBC Trust has approved a new strategy for BBC Worldwide that will see it focus its attention more firmly overseas. The strategy published on Thursday follows an eighteen-month review of the BBC's commercial activity which concluded in November 2009. It includes three 'fundamental principles' governing the way BBC Worldwide operates, exploiting value on licence fee payers' behalf and ensuring that it undertakes 'no commercial activity [that] damages the core brand and reputation of the BBC either at home or abroad.' BBC Worldwide will become a 'more internationally-facing business' and has declared an end to mergers and acquisitions – such as its controversial Lonely Planet deal – outside of exceptional circumstances. It will also divest stakes in non-BBC-branded international channels 'where it makes commercial sense' and exit any activity that is 'not in keeping with the BBC brand.' BBC Worldwide sold its fifty per cent take in its global TV channels joint venture with Discovery in November last year. The business reported record profits of £145.2m in the year to the end of March 2010, on the back of its biggest-ever revenue of £1.07bn. Huge overseas sellers for the BBC include Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who, Top Gear, Sherlock, [spooks] and Wonders of the Universe. BBC Worldwide is still in the process of selling its magazine division and is understood to be 'getting close' to a preferred bidder. The new strategy was approved by the trust in March. A BBC Worldwide spokesperson said: 'Our strategy for continued growth will bring an even stronger focus on international markets and taking high-quality British content to the world.'

Boyband Blue have 'hit out' at television presenter Phillip Schofield again, insisting that he shouldn't have criticised their Eurovision song so publicly. Schofield previously posted a message on Twitter describing the song as 'shocking.' Speaking to the Digital Spy website, Blue singer Antony Costa said: 'The man is a national treasure on TV, and for him to say what he did about our song, obviously he's entitled to his opinion, but he should have pulled us aside. To say it to seven hundred thousand followers on his Twitter wasn't cool. If we performed it on his show, he'd stand there and give us a clap, and he would say well done.' Lee Ryan said: 'He'd be like, "Let's wish our boys luck," and we'd be thinking, "You two-faced Gordon the Gopher!"' Simon Webbe added: 'It's not a farce anymore - Germany won it last year! He needs to do his homework before he jumps in with those sort of comments.' Duncan James also said: 'It's backfired on him anyway because it's given the song lots of press attention. It's made us determined to get this song into the top five and come back, sit on his sofa and have smug grins on our faces.' So, that's all of Blue on the subject of 'national treasure' Phillip Schofield. Aren't you just beyond glad you weren't born in the Eighteenth Century, dear blog reader? If you had, you'd've missed out on stimulating intellectual moments such as this.

Top Gear star Richard Hammond was, according to press reports, 'left red-faced' as his Total Wipeout co-host Amanda Byram 'teased' his friend and Top Gear colleague Jeremy Clarkson at a recent awards ceremony. Byram, thirty seven, who co-hosts Total Wipeout with Hammond, said on stage at the - obviously hugely prestigious - Carphone Warehouse Appy Awards: 'Maybe next year we'll be presenting the Marriage Saver app to Richard's friend Jeremy Clarkson.' Err ... that's not, actually 'teasing' that's a bit more 'sticking the knife in and twisting it.' It's also nice to see that the Hamster will still turn up to the opening of an envelope. According to the Daily Lies, Hammond 'buried his head in his hands' as the audience laughed at Clarkson's expense. Personally, I wouldn't like to be in the Hamster's shoes when Jezza gets back for the next series of The Gear. I heard Jezza once killed a chap with his bare hands for 'looking at me in a funny way.' Sadly, it wasn't Piers Morgan. Next ...

Hugh Bonneville has been talking about his forthcoming appearance in Doctor Who. The actor, most recently seen on screen as the Earl of Grantham in ITV's period drama Downton Abbey, will feature in the third episode of the new series of Doctor Who, a week on Saturday. Bonneville will play a rough, tough pirate me hearties - and his unusually hirsute appearance at the recent Radio Times covers party suggests he's already getting into character. Speaking about the role, Bonneville said that he was a childhood fan of Doctor Who. 'When I was a boy, the music and Jon Pertwee's Doctor had me peeking out from behind the sofa every Saturday. I am thrilled to be appearing in the new series.' And, he warned that fans should be prepared for a thrill ride. 'Although the pirate's demons are different to those of the young lad who watched through his fingers, they are no less terrifying - this new adventure is not for the faint-hearted.'

Shelagh Fogarty's last day on the BBC Radio 5Live breakfast show appeared to be going swimmingly until she encountered a nightmare guest by the name of Anthony Grierson the supposed emeritus professor of political philosophy at Syracuse University. 'Is this the BBC or some two-bit news organisation?' he asked her in a discussion about, well, to be honest I'm not quite sure what it was about but it had something to do with the US presidential system and the royal family. 'You ask me a decent question and I'll tell you how I see it.' Not only was the chap rude, he then started talking nonsense. 'He who wanders lonely as a cloud, ends up evaporating' and 'The man who thinks he can never can, the man who knows he can sometimes can, but the man who really can doesn't need to prove anything.' Then, of course, it turned out that he wasn't a professor at all but rather Fogarty's co-presenter of the past six years, Nicky Campbell. Fortunately Fogarty's four-letter reaction was not broadcast on air. She will next be heard on the station's lunchtime show, replacing Gabby Logan. Campbell, meanwhile, will have a new co-host, Rachel Burden. Logan is leaving due to 'other BBC work and family commitments.'

Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has praised the work of Sir Bobby Robson's legacy, after the former Ipswich, newcastle, Bracelona and England manager's charity passed the two and half million pound mark on it's third birthday. 'The amount of money raised by the foundation is phenomenal,' Shearer said. 'Big events and donations are great but as well as that it is the small donations from ordinary people that are making the difference too. We are always hearing about people who have raised a few hundred pounds from a coffee morning or suchlike. Sir Bobby once told me about how a man had stopped him on the street and given him ten pounds. People have really taken the charity to their hearts. It shows the regard Sir Bobby was held in and how successful the charity has been.' Shearer also insists he has no problem with Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton after their infamous bust-up. Then temporary Magpies boss Shearer told Barton in 2009 exactly what he thought of his petulance after he had been sent off during his side's 3-0 Premier League defeat at Liverpool as the club slid towards the relegation trapdoor two seasons ago. Both men reportedly had their say in the Anfield dressing room after the game, and it became apparent that had the former England and Newcastle skipper been given the job on a long-term basis, the midfielder would have been heading for the exit door at St James' Park. However, Shearer has revealed that they have met since and the matter is 'over and done with.' He told the Evening Chronicle: 'I have absolutely no problem with Barton. We have had a pint since and everything was fine. Our horses have even been in the same race - we were both there to see them and we had a chat. Joey let me down, let the club down and let himself down, there's no getting away from that and I would tell him the same again. But that's the end of it. He has had an outstanding season, just as he had in the Championship last year, and he deserves great credit for that. Joey has played under real pressure because of his problems off the field as well as on it, but he seems to have overcome them, which is a massive plus.'

Ryan Giggs says that he never had any doubt that his club-mate, Wayne Rooney, would return to his scintillating best. The Welsh winger, who has belied his advancing years with a string of stunning performances for The Scum this season, said he was not at all surprised by Rooney's recent excellent form after what had begun as a difficult year. An unhappy World Cup for Rooney with the national team was followed by problems at his club, as the England striker made the sensational announcement that he wanted to leave Old Trafford last October. While eventually backing down on his desire to leave - and his claims that the current squad simply wasn't good enough to challenge for honours - Rooney found himself on the wrong end of hostility from some fans and endured a difficult spell at the club. However, recent games have seen Rooney reach familiar heights, with his second goal in the 2-0 win over Schalke 04 on Tuesday night the latest in a series of important strikes. Giggs, who also netted in the, frankly one-sided, match said: 'I am not surprised at what Wayne is doing. The top players perform when the trophies are about to be handed out. They produce moments of inspiration when it matters. Wayne has done that time and time again over the years, so it was hardly a shock he was superb against Schalke.'

And, to show that yer actual Keith Telly Topping doesn't just throw these things together, dear blog reader, we end pretty much where we began. Giggs and Rooney's former team-mate David Beckham has given his considered and worthwhile opinion that 'Our country needs the royal wedding.' On the contrary, Mr Beckham, sir. What our country really needs is a kick up the arse for, yet again, paying for a royal wedding.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day we've got another one of those different songs/same riff things. Starting off with this
Followed, of course, by thisYou don't have to take my word for it, dear blog reader, Glen Matlock freely admits it!