Monday, April 11, 2011

Liberation For Women (That's What I Preach)

'Nine bloody years, and we end up homeless under Waterloo Bridge!' Monday night saw, as you probably know dear blog reader, the end of Waking The Dead. Over the past decade it's been one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite drama series - in the UK or anywhere else for that matter - for its tense, exciting mixture of densely (if occasionally ludicrously) plotted stories and fine acting. The show reached its peak around seasons three and four with episodes like The Final Cut, False Flag, Fugue States, Anger Management and Shadowplay but, every series - both before and after that zenith - had at least a couple of stories in it that have been involving, dramatic and made the audience do some work. A welcome change in a TV landscape far too often littered with programmes designed for people with a seven second attention-span. In the final two-parter, Waterloo, Peter Boyd is about to get kicked off the team he's run for a decade and decides, before he goes - not very silently - into that good night, to try and solve the first case he worked on; the unsolved mystery of sixteen homeless boys who disappeared in the 1980s. The Cold Case team's investigation unearths the grimmest find of their careers and leads them into the sordid world of vengeance and horror. The episode featured a quite astonishing performance of controlled malevolence by the great Paul McGann before his character, in the final quarter of an hour, went so far over-the-top he was down the other side. Elsewhere, all of the regulars had their moments to shine (I particularly enjoyed the scene when, for once, Grace lost her cool in the interview room). And, it was nice to see another of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Ideal's David Bradley putting in a grand, cold, ruthless little turn as an aged gangster with a terrible family secret. In one, quite brilliantly directed (and almost dialogue-free), sequence towards the end - we got a hint that maybe, just maybe, all of that money the BBC splashed out on Trevor Eve over the years has been pretty much worth it. So, the series ended in a reasonably straightforward fashion; not particularly well for Sarah Cavendish, admittedly, but with the other four regular characters alive and, seemingly, with a future, of one sort or another. One of them, we'll even be able to spend more time with in the not too distant future.

Waking the Dead may have come to a close but fans of the award-winning cold case drama can, at least, take some comfort in the fact that a new spin-off series has already gone into production - as a thirty second trailer at the end of the final Waking The Dead episode demonstrated. The Body Farm, a six-part series, will centre on the character of Eve Lockhart, played by Tara Fitzgerald, and her work at a private forensics facility. Keith Allen - a fine actor but who is, we'll have to presume, considerably cheaper than Trevor Eve - will star alongside Fitzgerald as Detective Inspector Hale, who recruits Lockhart and her team to help him solve crime. Allen said: 'I'm delighted that the BBC has given me the chance to delve into the murky world of The Body Farm.' Joining Fitzgerald and Allen in the series will be Wunmi Mosaku, Mark Bazeley and Finlay Robertson, who will comprise Lockhart's team. Trevor Eve will not appear on-screen in the new show - because the BBC may, or may not, be able to afford him. Sources vary. But he will co-produce the drama through his company, Projector Pictures, in association with the BBC. Kate Harwood, the Head of Drama Series and Serials, said: 'We are tremendously excited to have such a wonderful cast line-up and to be following the character of Eve Lockhart into a new job as she leads her pioneering forensic team out to fight crime; Eve will face her challenges in the same way that she did in Waking The Dead, with cool professionalism and quiet compassion.' And a husky voice, which is always a good thing.

Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman has expressed his belief that Matt Smith is the first actor to seem authentic as a nine hundred-year-old Time Lord. In an interview with InnerSPACE, Gaiman insisted that he never doubts Smith's portrayal of The Doctor's wisdom and world-weariness. 'I think Matt does something that nobody else has ever done in that his Doctor feels old,' the author explained. Gaiman, who is perhaps most widely known for writing The Sandman comic series, further asserted that the actor's portrayal is even more impressive given that he is the youngest actor to ever take on the iconic role. He continued: 'I love the fact that you [can] look at the press that came out when Matt took over the role and people were saying, "Matt's going to be too young." Actually he plays [it so it's] the first time you're always aware that this is a nine hundred-year-old Time Lord. This is somebody who is really, really old and he's been [travelling] for a long time. He's not thinking quite like we think and, yes, he's alien, but more than that he's old.' Before Smith made his screen debut as The Doctor at age twenty seven last year in The End of Time, Peter Davison had held the record for the youngest actor to take on the role when he joined Doctor Who in 1981 at the age of twenty nine. Gaiman recently revealed that writing the upcoming episode, The Doctor's Wife, made him feel 'the nearest to being God that [he has] ever been or will ever get.'

Press reports in the US have suggested that House may not be broadcast on FOX in the future. According to Variety, the network and the show's production company NBC Universal are struggling to come to a deal for an eighth season next year. NBC Universal is now thought to be planning to offer the show to other broadcasters if an agreement cannot be made by 15 April. One of the possible new homes for House is thought to be the NBC network itself. However, House's executive producer David Shore told reporters that he is not worried about the show's future. 'I would be absolutely astounded if there wasn't [an eighth season],' he said. 'FOX wants to have a season eight, and NBC Universal wants them to have a season eight. I fully expect there to be a season eight and we're proceeding on that basis.'

If you believe you can dream up the next EastEnders' crisis or hook Holby fans with the twists and turns of your imagination, then the BBC's Drama Writers Academy may be the very place for you. It is looking for the next generation of TV writers to work on prime time continuing dramas. Successful applicants - who must be passionate storytellers with at least one professional commission in TV, theatre, radio or film - will learn from the best. Richard Curtis, Russell Davies, Tony Jordan, bitter nasty old Red Jimmy McGovern, Waking The Dead creator Barbara Machin, Peter Bowker as well as from leading directors like Dearbhla Walsh will give master classes in their craft, with students also being trained in all aspects of drama production. They will also get direct writing experience on popular dramas such as EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty and Doctors and the chance of commissions on the shows following the course. The scheme, which started six years ago, has helped set up thirty five of its first forty eight graduates as full time TV writers, with fourteen of them now core writers on continuing drama shows. They include Mark Catley, who completed the 2005 course and is now consultant producer and lead writer on Casualty and Justin Young who is consultant producer on Holby City. 'There is now a real career structure for writers coming into BBC Drama with the Academy launching successful writers' careers,' said John Yorke, controller of Drama Production and course tutor. 'It's fantastic that in the current climate the BBC is still able to make such a major investment in new talent.' Applications are open until May 5.

However, if you fancy a go at that then you may wish to consider the following; don't become a writer unless you 'have something to say,' one of Britain’s top comedy producers has warned. Jon Plowman, whose long list of credits include Absolutely Fabulous and The Office, said that sitting for hours staring at a blank piece of paper could be a sign something was seriously wrong. 'You should really want to get to that blank piece of paper and make it not blank as quickly as you can,' he told the London Comedy Writers' Festival this weekend. Despite banning video cameras and urging the audience to be discreet in discussing the event afterwards, his conversation with fellow TV comedy giant Paul Jackson proved disappointingly lacking in any hot gossip, instead sticking to a mainly scholastic agenda to the craft. Plowman went on to highlight the importance of a simple premise and strong characters in creating a sitcom. While shows such as Fawlty Towers was, in essence, about very little (an angry man who runs a hotel), audiences were fascinated by the characters and what they are going to do next: 'You should be able to take your characters, plonk them anywhere and know how they would react,' Plowman told the audience. Both men warned of overwriting: 'People don't often talk in paragraphs, so don't write dialogue like that' and, in a recurring theme of the festival, they told writers to think carefully before sending off a script. 'Put it in the fridge and three months later, read it again. If it's still good, great. If there's anything that could be better, make it better.'

On Thursday 7 April, a Party Election Broadcast by the Liberal Democrats achieved an audience appreciation index score of fifty two. On the same day, interestingly, Daybreak's AI score was a not all that much better sixty six. Which would suggest that Daybreak is nearly as unpopular with the British public as the Liberal Democrats are. How long, one wonders, will it be before one of this bizarre and unworkable coalition decides to abandon ship. Personally, my money would be on Adrian rather than Christine but, hey, whatever.

Top Twenty rated shows for week ending 3 April 2011:-
1 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 9.81
2 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 9.64
3 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 7.47
4 Waking The Dead - Sun BBC1 - 7.20
5 Lewis - Sun ITV - 6.63
6 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.42
7 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.29
8 Benidorm - Fri ITV - 6.16
9 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 6.12
10 Midsomer Murder - Wed ITV - 5.92
11 Silk - Tues BBC1 - 5.72
12 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.49
13 MasterChef - Wed BBC1 - 5.32
14 Waterloo Road - Wed BBC1 - 5.21
15 International Football: England v Ghana - Tues ITV - 5.20
16 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.17
17 Monroe - Thurs ITV - 5.05
18 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 - 5.03
19 Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - Sat ITV - 4.89
20 DIY SOS: The Big Build - Thurs BBC1 - 4.68
Two major points of interest here, the timeshift audiences for Waking the Dead (1.8m) and MasterChef (six hundred thousand) as compared to their overnight figures. Anyone who tries to tell you that the way in which audiences consume TV these days isn't changing, rapidly, is wrong.

The 2011 Grand National was watched by its biggest TV audience since 2008 with two thirds of the viewing public on Saturday afternoon tuned in to watch the race. The Aintree event, the showpiece of the racing calendar, averaged 8.8 million viewers between 4.15pm and 4.30pm, a sixty five per cent share of the audience. The race, which was won by Ballabriggs, drew protests from animal rights groups after the death of two of the horses. And, a rather thoughtful and balanced piece by the vet Pete Wedderburn in the Torygraph. And, a load of rank, stinking horseshit from the Daily Scum Mail. BBC1's coverage spanned more than four hours between 1pm and 5.15pm, and averaged 3.2 million viewers. The audience for the race itself was up on the 7.6 million who watched the event live last year, and the eight and a half million viewers who saw it in 2009. But it could not match the 2008 peak audience of just over ten million. However Saturday's share of the audience was still up on 2008.

There's a very good piece in the Gruniad by Maggie Brown on the subject of the BBC's lack of focus on older viewers. 'Currently, there is a growing acceptance among senior BBC executives that BBC2 daytime programmes could be replaced to help reach director general Mark Thompson's target of twenty per cent budget cuts, and to shave a quarter off the eighty million pound annual daytime TV budget. This acceptance is assisted by a tide of commentary bemoaning the undeniably repetitive fare which has colonised the BBC daytime schedule: Flog It!, Cash in the Attic, To Buy or Not To Buy. The commentators who are denigrating daytime programmes as junk are the very people – active, young, working – who never deliberately choose, or are around to watch, in real time. If they did they would also notice that older people have settled lives, in homes they may have lived in for decades, and that these are often stuffed to the eaves with items they might like to have valued, get rid of, or pass on. So some of these themed programmes are not as out of kilter with the tastes and interests of pensioners as you might think, even if the formula has been grossly over-used.'

The Gruniad Morning Star has claimed that Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, blocked an attempt by Gordon Brown before the general election to hold a judicial inquiry into allegations that the News of the World had hacked into the phones of cabinet ministers and other high-profile figures. As News International prepares to pay massive wedges of compensation to victims of the illegal practice, the Gruniad says that it 'understands' Britain's most senior civil servant took steps to prevent an inquiry on the grounds that it would be 'too sensitive' before last year's general election. The then prime minister, who warned Peter Mandelson in 2009 that his phone had been hacked on behalf of the News of the World, wanted a judicial inquiry after new evidence of the illegal practice emerged that summer. The Gruniad 'revealed in July 2009 that Rupert Murdoch's News Group newspapers had paid more than one million pounds to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal illegal phone hacking by private investigators on behalf of News of the World.' The revelations were of acute political sensitivity because Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World between 2003 and 2007, was by then David Cameron's communications director. Coulson was asked to appear before the Commons culture select committee after the publication of the Gruniad disclosures. O'Donnell told Brown, who lost the support of the News of the World and its sister paper, the Sun, in the autumn of 2009, that it would be 'inappropriate' to hold a judicial inquiry so soon before the election. Coulson was, by then, one of the most senior members of Cameron's inner circle and was appointed as the Downing Street director of communications after the election. He has consistently denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, yet resigned from No 10 in January saying coverage of phone hacking had made his job 'impossible.' The disclosure that O'Donnell blocked an inquiry came as Boris Johnson called for a 'truth and reconciliation' commission to establish the full facts about phone hacking. In an interview on Sky News, the mayor of London said: 'Plainly the police need to get on with it. But I would like to see the entire newspaper industry, what we used to call Fleet Street and indeed the media generally, have a general truth and reconciliation commission about all this. I think all the editors and all the proprietors should come forward, put their hands up, say whether they know of any of their reporters or employees who may or may not have been engaged in these practices which have now been exposed at the News of the World. I think that would be a very healthy development.' Johnson spoke after News International issued a public apology on Friday to eight victims of phone hacking. These included the actress Sienna Miller, the former Labour lack of culture secretary Tessa Jowell, the football agent Sky Andrew and the publicist Nicola Phillips. Charlotte Harris of Mishcon de Reya, which represents Andrew, said that she was advising her client not to accept compensation until he sees all the documentation in the possession of News International. Harris told Radio 4's The World This Weekend: 'Sky Andrew has been finally offered an apology and we are thinking about what to do. There isn't actually a particular figure they have offered us for anything. The position Sky is taking is not dissimilar to that of Sienna Miller and Nicola Phillips. It is: isn't this a bit early, we are just about to have disclosure of the documents, we need to have a look and see what has happened and get to the bottom of it and then we'll see where it goes from there?' Asked if she would advise her clients not to settle without disclosure of notes and e-mails, Harris said: 'Yes. What we have at the moment is an apology and an admission, having been working on this for a very long time. We haven't even got near the truth yet. We have got orders that mean we are now going to be able to have a chance at getting to the bottom of it, so we need to find out. How are we meant to know what to accept if we don't know the full extent of what has happened?' Harris added that thousands of phones could have been monitored. 'If you consider that if you hack into one person's phone, you have access to everyone who has left a message for them. And then, if you go into the person who has left a message, you get all of theirs. You have got to be running into several thousand, just from that methodology. To put a figure on it, it is certainly not a handful - maybe four thousand, six thousand, seven thousand - a huge amount of people.' The Grunaid says that it 'understands' Gordon Brown was so concerned that the News of the World was targeting Labour figures that he warned Peter Mandelson his phone had been hacked. Mandelson approached the information commissioner, but he did not confirm that his phone had been hacked. Critics of Murdoch have urged the government not to decide on his bid to take control of BSkyB until the allegations have been fully investigated. But advisers to the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, say that he is prevented by law from taking the scandal into account when he considers whether it is appropriate for News Corporation to be allowed to buy all of BSkyB. The merger, which the minister has already said he is 'minded' to approve, is being examined on its impact on 'media plurality.' However, according to the newspaper, Hunt's lawyers say that phone hacking cannot be considered in an inquiry as regards plurality. They say it could only form part of 'a suitability of persons' test into whether Murdoch and the bosses of News Corporation were appropriate individuals to own BSkyB. That test was designed to prevent pornographers, for example, becoming media owners - but it cannot now be invoked in the case of the Murdoch merger. The Enterprise Act which covers the UK's merger rules only allows one referral on one set of grounds, which means that the eight billion pound deal could only ever have been referred for political approval on either media plurality or suitability of persons grounds, but not both. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: 'We never comment about any advice from a cabinet secretary to a prime minister on any issue.'

Mark Lewis, the lawyer who was paid twenty thousand pounds in libel damages last year by the Press Complaints Commission chairman, Baroness Buscombe, has written her what the Gruniad describe as 'a stinging letter' on Monday. In the letter, he reportedly demanded that she makes a public statement condemning the News of the World for the phone-hacking which it has now admitted. He also demanded that she withdraw previous PCC criticism of the Gruniad Morning Star and apologise to the paper and to its reporter, Nick Davies. Lewis further alleges that Buscombe has 'repudiated' her high court 'statement of regret' to him in November last year. Lewis's London company, Taylor Hampton Solicitors, is representing several people who believe they have been the victims of voicemail interception. His criticism centres on a report issued by the PCC in November 2009 in which the commission stated that it had not been 'materially misled' by the News of the World. That was its reaction to the News of the World's denials of reports in the Gruniad that voicemail interceptions were not confined to the News of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Lewis writes: 'When the Guardian broke this story, you found against that newspaper and backed the News of the World, absurdly declaring that the Guardian's story did "not live up to its billing." It did." On Friday, News International issued a statement saying that the News of the World's past behaviour in relation to voicemail interception was 'a matter of genuine regret.' The paper also published an apology on Sunday. 'Yet,' writes Lewis to Buscombe, 'your silence has been breathtaking.' Lewis added: 'I am not going to call for you to resign as that seems to have little effect on you, but I do invite you to be explicit in your condemnation of the News of the World and to withdraw your report on 7 November 2009.' The letter also touched on Buscombe's interview on Radio 4's The Media Show on 2 February this year in which she sought to defend the PCC's response to hacking revelations. Lewis argues that one statement she made 'completely undid your "statement of regret" to the court about me.' He adds that he reserves his position and intends to send a letter to the commission's lawyers about the matter. Buscombe has, so far, refused to comment on the Lewis letter. However, a PCC spokesman pointed out to the paper that the commission did respond to News International's apology on Friday. It issued a statement from the PCC's 'Phone hacking review committee' which said: 'The newspaper has now admitted its own internal investigations have not been sufficiently robust. This raises serious questions about its previous conduct in regard to this issue. Our committee will need a detailed explanation for this, along with other answers we will be seeking from executives. We have already made clear that we require and expect full co-operation from News International.' The committee, formed in January this year, is comprised of two lay commissioners - Professor Ian Walden of London's Queen Mary University and Julie Spence, former Cambridgeshire chief constable - and one editorial member, John McLellan, editor of The Scotsman. In its statement, the review committee said it is committed to holding the News of the World properly to account, adding: 'Phone hacking among journalists, even in the past, raises clear issues about journalistic ethics. The PCC will play its part in acting vigorously to deal with it, in regard to both the News of the World and the industry as a whole. The Committee is conscious that there is an ongoing police investigation, as well as active legal proceedings. Its own review process must not interfere with them. It will not be commenting further at this stage.'

The former Sun editor, and Crystal Tipps from Crystal Tipps & Alistair look-alike Rebekah Brooks, told a powerful group of MPs on Monday that she has 'no knowledge' of any 'actual payments' the paper may or may not have made to police offers (who may, or may not exist) in exchange for information. Or not. In a letter to the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, Brooks, who is now chief executive of the paper's parent company News International, said that she had 'no knowledge of any specific cases' in which payments to police might have been made. Brooks was responding to a request from the committee made last month to detail how many police officers received money from the Sun, which she edited from 2003 to 2009, and when the practice ceased. Brooks, who edited the Sun's sister title the News of the World before moving to the daily in early 2003, told MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee eight years ago: 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' In her letter to the home affairs select committee chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, Brooks said she was 'grateful for the opportunity to clarify the evidence' she gave in March 2003. She added that she was talking in general terms about the newspaper industry and its relationship with the police, rather than the paper she edited specifically, when she appeared before the culture media and sport committee in 2003. 'As can be seen from the transcript, I was responding to a specific line of questioning on how newspapers get information,' Brooks wrote. 'My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely-held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers. If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.' According to the transcript of 11 March 2003 on the culture select committee website, Labour MP Chris Bryant asked both Brooks and Andy Coulson, then editor of the News of the World, whether 'either of your newspapers ever use private detectives, ever bug or pay the police?' A long answer from Brooks followed about the use of private detectives and listening devices in the public interest, in which she gave a specific example of where a News of the World reporter recorded a conversation to establish that a woman was 'selling her daughters to local paedophiles,' but which did not address the question of whether the police had been paid for news stories. Which is, of course, illegal. Bryant then followed up, asking specifically: 'And on the element of whether you ever pay the police for information?' Brooks replied: 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' Bryant then asked her 'will you do it in the future?,' to which she answered: 'It depends.' At that point Coulson cut in, saying: 'We operate within the code and within the law and if there is a clear public interest then we will. The same holds for private detectives, subterfuge, a video bag – whatever you want to talk about.' Vaz wrote to Brooks at the end of last month following evidence given to the home affairs select committee in March by John Yates, the acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, in which he said Scotland Yard was undertaking 'research' on whether any police officers had received payments from newspapers. The Labour MP for Leicester East also wrote to Yates in March on behalf of the home affairs select committee asking for more details about this research. In the same evidence session Yates reiterated his claim that the Crown Prosecution Service had initially advised the Met to adopt a 'narrow' interpretation of the law relating to phone hacking during its initial investigation into allegations of widespread hacking at the News of the World. He said that advice 'permeated the whole investigation/inquiry' and helped explain why the police had only identified a small number of victims. The committee has asked Yates to supply a copy of the legal advice the Met received from the CPS when Yates reviewed the hacking evidence last autumn. Yates said its advice changed after a case conference held in October 2010, during which the CPS made it clear that a wider definition of what constitutes a hacking offence should be adopted. MPs have asked for copies of the legal advice supplied before and after that October meeting. A spokeswoman for Vaz said he had received a reply from Yates and the committee is likely to make it public in due course. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, contradicted Yates's claims about the CPS advice when he appeared before the home affairs committee earlier this month.

UK broadcasters including ITV have started their fight back against plans by Internet groups and other companies to persuade the government to relax copyright legislation. Ministers are currently considering the introduction of so-called 'fair use' principles, meaning websites such as Google's YouTube would be able to show clips of popular TV shows. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said that the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Hunt and the business secretary the clueless Lib Dem (allegedly) Vince Cable were told at a recent meeting of the creative industries that broadcasters and producers are vigorously opposed to the move. Speaking to the Financial Times, Crozier said that the government must protect intellectual property if it genuinely wants to support the creative industries and make Britain a world leader in TV production. 'If the government really sees creative Britain as being a growth story, the surest way to pull the rug out from under it would be to weaken the IP rules,' said Crozier. 'And I think what happened is that [the TV industry] hasn't been joined-up enough to focus on this.' The ITV chief executive does not believe there can be a compromise on fair use policies, as hit shows such as Downton Abbey rely on secondary rights such as online to make money. 'This is the absolute underpinning that allows this industry to work.' Crozier, who guided ITV to a pre-tax profit of three hundred and twenty one million smackers last year, expressed his fear that 'a number of companies had done a potentially better job at influencing around "fair use" and those tended to be the companies that weren't investing in creating content.' He also called on the government to prioritise firms 'paying British taxes, creating British jobs, creating an export market and ancillary markets that come from that.' Professor Ian Hargreaves has been appointed by the government to review IP laws, with the 'fair use' rules a key component of his investigation. Last month, Crozier confirmed that ITV is considering a major acquisition of an independent production company to boost the fortunes of ITV Studios.

Paddy Considine has talked about being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's is a form of autism which causes difficulties in social interaction. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has a touch of it. And he’s fine with it. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the actor explained that knowing he has the syndrome has helped him to understand himself much better. 'For a few weeks after the diagnosis, I was wandering around thinking, "Who the hell am I?" But naming my problem has helped me a lot,' he said. 'It's allowed me to make sense of so many things I didn't understand before - and is allowing me to move forward with my life.' The actor and director credited his wife Shelley with being the 'conduit' for his diagnosis, saying: 'She could see I was getting to a real low point in my life where the strategies I was using to cope were just hurting me.' Considine also explained that working on the Victorian detective drama The Suspicions of Mr Whicher has allowed him to try a new approach which has helped him to become more confident and less anxious. He added: 'I'd been working with an acting coach who has now become a good friend. We'd been trying lots of improvisational techniques to help me with some of the problems I experience. But it's a very slow process. Working on Mr Whicher, I realised that the techniques were working. I don't mean every scene was perfect. But overall, I felt so much more comfortable and confident and in control. It was as if all the hard work was finally starting to pay off.' The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which also stars Peter Capaldi, Ben Miles and newcomer Alexandra Roach, is due for broadcast on ITV later this month.

Chris Evans has apologised after arriving almost half an hour late for his US Masters Golf show on Radio 5Live this weekend. Evans was due to present live coverage of the third round of the prestigious golf tournament from 9pm on Saturday. However, the show had to start without the presenter after he turned up twenty five minutes late. After apologising 'profusely' for the tardiness, Evans said that he had forgotten what time the programme was due to start. 'I ran in from where I was - well, I did the Augusta shuffle,' he said, referring to the venue of the Masters. Asked by his co-presenters where he had been, Evans replied: 'I've been watching the golf. That's what we came to do. I had no idea we started at 9pm. I was in the foyer having a water and a chat.' The breathless presenter had to run up the stairs to the 5Live studio after being told that he was due to be on-air. He added: 'How's it going anyway? I had such a great introduction written and everything. Oh well. I'm here now.' A BBC spokesperson said that Evans's late arrival was down to 'a pure misunderstanding' over the scheduled start time of the show. During his two-year stint as Radio 1's breakfast show host in the mid-1990s, Evans became known for his occasionally erratic time-keeping.

Amber Tamblyn has reportedly been attached to a new FOX project. Tamblyn has been starring in the current season of House as Martha Masters. TV Line reports that Tamblyn is now working on a potential drama series with House's executive producer Katie Jacobs. The show, which is being written by The Wire's Ed Burns, would star Tamblyn as a teacher working in public education. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has appeared in episodes of House, The Sopranos and Modern Family, is also thought to be involved in the show. The project has received a script commitment from FOX.

The Daily Lies claims that Cheryl Cole is 'worried that the US won't like her.' To be honest, given that nobody in her home town likes her very much I'd've said that America is the least of her worries.

Lotte Verbeek has claimed that her Borgias character, Giulia, is 'more than a mistress.' Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Verbeek explained that she likes the fact that Giulia does not have a lot of sex scenes with her lover Rodrigo (Jeremy Irons) in the drama. 'Knowing that she is a mistress, the most uninteresting thing would be to have a lot of sex scenes,' she said. 'You know that that's happening. I think the stuff around it is far more interesting to portray. That's where you start to wonder, "So what else happens? And why? What's with the age difference?"' Verbeek continued: 'I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much value she even has to his life, and the fact that she's eventually much more than a mistress. You'll see that later on. She's far from a cliché. She's talking about not only to use your beauty as a woman, but also your wit and your intelligence. And I think that's exactly what she's doing.' Verbeek also revealed that she loves the way the show's writer Neil Jordan has dealt with the drama. 'That's the fun part about this series,' she said. 'Even though it's strong and it speaks about very powerful human forces, desires, dark sides of people, it's still done very poetic, and very subtle, and very intelligent.'

Lucy Mecklenburgh has claimed that she has been 'set up' to be a victim on The Only Way Is Essex. The nineteen-year-old said that it wasn't fair that she was called 'a slag' by Maria Fowler for going on a date with Lauren Pope's ex-boyfriend Kirk Norcross. Yer Keith Telly Topping doesn't, actually, know who any of these people are. Or, much care, for that matter. But, I realise that somebody out there in Interwebland might, so I'm doing a public service here by bringing you this staggering interesting news. Mecklenburgh told Reveal: 'I'm being victimised. I didn't deserve Maria calling me a slag. Kirk and I were both single so I didn't think there was anything wrong with going for a drink.' Mecklenburgh explained: 'I've never stolen another girl's boyfriend and never will. I have been cheated on and it wasn't nice. Everyone I've been with has been single.' Mecklenburgh also insisted that she slept with Mark Wright a fortnight before he proposed to Lauren Goodger, although Wright (whoever he is) has, apparently, has denied it. She added: 'Lauren and I just keep away from each other. She's brave taking on someone like Mark - there's no way I'd ever put up with him.' Fascinating, yes? Next ...

Dame Shirley Bassey and Rumer are among the performers who will remember James Bond composer John Barry at a memorial concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Tributes at the 20 June concert will come from Sir George Martin and Sir Michael Caine, among others. Money raised will help fund a film composition scholarship set up in his name at the Royal College of Music. Barry, who won five Oscars for his work, died of a heart attack in New York in January at the age of seventy seven. He composed scores for eleven Bond films, including Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, as well as for such movies as Born Free and Out of Africa. Tenor Alfie Boe will also perform at the event, which will feature contributions from Barry's long-time collaborator the lyricist Don Black, former Bond Timothy Dalton and broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson. The York-born composer's music will be played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme to be produced by Barry's widow Laurie and current Bond composer David Arnold.

A number of women visited Lakeside Shopping Centre in their underwear this weekend. And, because nobody had anything better to talk about, most of the national newspapers covered this earth-shattering event in some detail. So, From The North doesn't want to feel left out and, thus, we will too. Particularly as one of the young ladies involved appears to be about twelve foot tall from this photographic evidence. Rather than just saving themselves bag space for their purchases by wearing home their new clothes, they were also taking part in a promotion for the Essex centre's spring collection. The first one hundred to arrive at Lakeside in just their bras and knickers received a one hundred pound gift card to spend on the new season's fashions. And, a dose of pneumonia because it's the first week of April.

Amanda Holden has said that she is relieved to no longer be working with 'egos' on Britain's Got Talent. This is the same Amanda - Big Top flop - Holden who was, just twenty four hours earlier telling the Sunday Mirra: 'Simon will return for part of the live finals but we're getting on fine without him. Piers is old hat. I'm top dog now. Like God.' So, no obvious ego there then.

A video has surfaced of a police officer from Texas pepper spraying a baby squirrel. According to FOX News, the incident took place last Wednesday at Kimbrough Middle School in Mesquite, after animal control were alerted about the squirrel. The animal was described as behaving 'erratically,' chasing people around the school. However, a number of students have insisted that the squirrel was harmless, with an eighth grader claiming: '[It] didn't do anything at all. It didn't try to attack us or anything.' Well, it wouldn't, mate, it's an effing squirrel! All they do is eat nuts and climb trees. They're not rabid dangers to society. Usually. Although, I suppose, if you get one a bit riled ... Anyway, the students also claimed that at one point a school administrator kicked the squirrel out of the way, though the school district has denied this happened. Police officer Davis was then called in to protect everyone from being bitten by the squirrel until animal control arrived, but unable to keep the mammal away, he resorted to using pepper spray on it, which disgusted watching students.

For yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we've got a double dose of strangulation. Because, frankly, it's shocking that I've managed to get over six months into this 45 of the Day exercise and not featured anything by Hughie and his men in black. So, let's start with the only top ten single in UK chart history to feature that word. And not 'bummer' either. And one of the best cover versions of a Burt Bacharach song every made by anyone. I think it won't be too long before we have another few tasty slices of Guildford sleaze!