Monday, April 18, 2011

Love Ain't Something Riding On A Motorbike, And I Stopped Loving You Since The Miners Strike

So, almost two years to the day since it was filmed, the great mythical 'lost' thirteenth episode of Time Team's seventeenth series finally turned up. As episode eleven of their eighteenth series. Rooting For The Romans was, as it turned out, well worth waiting for, indeed it was something of a cracker. Firstly, it really nice to see Britain's leading Romanist, Guy de la Bédoyère, turning up for the first time in a while. Also, Tony Robinson's use of the phrase 'bizarre sheep-handling devices' really makes me wish that we had far more sheep-handling devices on telly. Bizarre, or indeed, otherwise. Some years ago an eagle-eyed forest ranger spotted bits of Roman building materials poking out from the forest floor in Cambridgeshire's Bedford Purlieus Wood. Well, he didn't realise they were Roman at the time, of course, but they were. Later, cutting-edge aerial visualisations revealed evidence of what appeared to be a complex of building foundations hidden in the woods. Called in by local archaeologist and Time Team regular Ben Robinson, Tony, Mick, Phil and the team investigate what these buildings might have been and why they were in this, apparently out of the way location. A couple of reasonably straightforward questions you might've though, but the dig turned out to be one of the most challenging of the series: Firstly it was almost impossible for geophysics to operate in the cramped woodland environment (much to John Gater's obvious chagrin). Also, the diggers could hardly see each other's trenches for the trees and a thick layer of autumn leaves added to the general disorientation. But the team managed, over the course of three days, to uncover substantial buildings, intricate finds and what looks suspiciously like a statue. Over the course of the dig they pieced together a tale of Roman industry and trade, and what may be the key to understanding the site: the presence of a fancy bath-house.

An MP who is launching an inquiry into excessive - and possibly unlawful - court secrecy says that a new type of gagging order is 'hampering the work of investigative journalists.' John Hemming said that the new breed of injunction, which was used in relation to a case in the high court in London last week, meant journalists could face jail simply for asking questions. 'This goes a step further than preventing people speaking out against injustice,' said Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley and a longtime campaigner against secrecy. 'It has the effect of preventing journalists from speaking to people subject to this injunction without a risk of the journalist going to jail. That is a recipe for hiding miscarriages of justice.' Hemming has labelled the new gagging order the 'quaero injunction' after the Latin word to seek. 'It puts any investigative journalist at risk if they ask any questions of a victim of a potential miscarriage of justice. I don't think this should be allowed in English courts.' There has been growing concern over the use of gagging orders in UK courts. It is not known precisely how many superinjunctions have been issued so far, but an informed legal estimate is that as many as twenty have been granted in the UK over the last eighteen months. In the most notorious case, the oil trader Trafigura last year briefly obtained a superinjunction against the Gruniad to suppress a leaked report on its toxic waste dumping, which even prevented reporting proceedings in parliament when the case had been mentioned. Earlier this month, Hemming highlighted a new type of 'hyperinjunction' which forbids the recipient talking to their MP. He says he is now launching an inquiry in parliament into excess court secrecy and is planning to collect a range of gagging orders that he will then analyse and present to the justice select committee in a number of 'parliamentary petitions' later this year. 'What is clear is that almost all of the superinjunctions and hyperinjunctions have no public judgment,' Hemming said. 'That means that they are not compliant with the rules for a fair trial. There is also the question as to whether there should be an automatic time limit on an interim order. Many cases have an interim order and no final hearing. This is clearly wrong. We also need to know what the costs are both for the applicant and for the media in defending these orders. It is wrong to have a system whereby people can buy the sort of justice they want. That is a contravention of clause twenty nine of Magna Carta 1297, which is still in force.' Hemming is asking anyone who is subject to a gagging injunction that they would like to be included in the review to forward the information to him at the House of Commons.

And, from that very serious subject, to a bunch of frivolous tripe about non-entities. Kimberley Walsh is on the verge of signing a contract to host this year's Xtra Factor, a - nameless, of course - 'insider' has allegedly claimed. According to the Sunday Mirra, the twenty nine-year-old - who has been the tabloid frontrunner for the role for some time - has been backed by fellow Girls Aloud singer, the Heaton Horror. Over the weekend, a supposed ITV 'insider' said: 'Kimberley is the girl X Factor bosses want for the job. She has all the right ingredients - she looks great, she's feisty, can hold her own and, most ?importantly, has been a success in the music industry. Cheryl gave producers a glowing reference telling them she would be brilliant for the show. Kimberley is the frontrunner and is in final talks. It is virtually a done-deal.' However, an ITV spokesperson said: 'No decision has been made. Several names are in the hat.' According to a variety of tabloid speculation over the last few months, those names could include Jeff Brazier, Georgie Thompson, Stacey Solomon and most recently Laura Hamilton. But, probably don't.

Katherine Kelly is to leave Coronation Street at the end of this year, ITV has announced. The actress has decided to leave her role as fan-favourite Becky McDonald after five years in Weatherfield. Becky is to remain on screen until early 2012 and 'show bosses' (pr, producers as normal people call them) have promised that she will feature in dramatic storylines for the remainder of her time on the soap.

A contestant who auditioned for this year's Britain's Got Talent has 'hit out' at Amanda Holden, claiming that she's trying to act like former judge Simon Cowell. 'Hit out' in this case being a tabloid euphemism for 'whinged about because they didn't get the gig.' Only using less syllables. Glasgow drag-act Barbie Buckfast - real name George Lyall - said that the flop sitcom actress Holden 'thinks she can rule the panel' since being joined by new judges David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre. 'She's there trying to be Simon Cowell, sitting in the middle and saying, "I rule the panel,"' Lyall told the Daily Record. 'She was clearly just trying to bait us like Simon always used to. The Scots crowd were soon booing her decisions and she was nearly run out of Scotland that night. None of them got Scottish humour. They couldn't understand what we were saying. I couldn't believe when afterwards The Hoff said that Glasgow had no talent. Britain may have talent but Scotland has balls.' Holden pressed both her and McIntyre's buzzers during Lyall's routine. He added: 'I'd only created Barbie Buckfast last year and said we all had to start somewhere and reminded her she was a contestant on Blind Date. Well, she didn't like that and got really uppity saying she'd gone to drama school.' Tragically, George, you mistake us all for people who, you know, give a shit.

And, so to another vacuous waste of space woman. Cheryl Cole was reportedly 'bottom of the list' to become a judge on The X Factor USA. Oh God, not this story again? For Christ sake, people, there's stuff going on in the world that actually, you know, matters. Japan, Libya, the erosion of personal freedoms in this country, the AV debate, the Portugal bail-out, even the bloody Manchester derby, they're all far more important than whether some spoiled little rich girl (and convicted hooligan) gets a job on a TV show, or doesn't. The Girls Aloud singer, whose contract was allegedly being drawn up last week, is said to have finally been chosen, but only after Katy Perry, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj all turned the role down. 'The powers-that-be originally wanted Rihanna. But she's touring and refused to cancel,' a 'source' allegedly told Now magazine. Who feigned like they were interested. 'Then they moved on to Katy Perry, but she's also busy touring and had to say no. They also wanted Mariah Carey, but she's planning to take it easy after she gives birth to her twins, who are due any day now. Simon met with Nicki two weeks ago. He said she was "the one they wanted." She adores Simon and was flattered, but she turned him down flat.' FOX executives apparently then agreed to give Cole the job, but only on a trial basis only. Meanwhile, Cole is said to be 'worried that America will not like her.' Don't, love. As already noted, nobody in your home town likes you all that much so the yanks will be in good company.

The American version of The Thick Of It has been given the green light. HBO has picked up a full series of Veep, starring Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vice-president, following a successful pilot. Armando Iannucci created the series, and directed the pilot, which he also co-wrote with Simon Blackwell, who worked on the BBC original. Both are executive producers on the new series. Hollywood website Deadline, which broke the news, also reported that the cast includes Anna Chlumsky as the VP's chief of staff, Tony Hale as her deputy and Sufe Bradshaw as her assistant.

All My Children survived Viet'nam, abortion, teen prostitutes, murder and cocaine addiction. Erica Kane, the soap's biggest star, has seen off ten husbands - that's two more than Liz Taylor - and once took on a grizzly bear while dressed as a nun. Now the forty one-year-old US daily soap opera has finally met its match – reality TV. ABC is to abandon All My Children and its rival daytime soap One Life To Live, two shows that have been running for a combined eighty three years, this summer. They will be replaced by 'lifestyle' programmes starring hosts made famous in reality TV shows. Only four daytime soaps will remain, down from two in the genre's heyday, the 1980s. The remaining programmes – General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives – are all lashing costs as audiences desert them for increasingly popular reality shows such as Jersey Shore. Lynn Leahey, the editor of Soap Opera Digest, said the news was 'very painful,' adding that changing demographics were partly to blame. 'Women are not at home in the same numbers they used to be. Mothers used to pass the soap-watching bug on to their daughters – that just doesn't happen now. Facebook is the new soap. It gives you that same sense of intimacy, of catching up with people's lives, seeing their weddings, their children being born and growing up, that people got from soaps.' Kelly Ripa, one of the biggest US television stars, got her break in All My Children. She said she felt 'heartsick' at the news. 'All My Children was more than a job,' she said. 'It was my family. It was there that I met my husband, it was there when my first two children were born, it was there where I met many of my lifelong friends.' Other stars showed their anger after they were reportedly told the news via texts and calls from journalists. 'If you're not an over-tanned guido who gets drunk and punches someone in the face where do you fit into television any more?' one actor said on FOX News in reference to Jersey Shore. Soap operas began on radio in the 1930s and move to television in the 1950s as vehicles for advertisers, including soap companies, to pitch their wares to stay-at-home mothers. They had their heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when their stars were some of the biggest names in the US, inspiring night-time successes like Dallas and Dynasty. When General Hospital's 'supercouple,' Luke and Laura Spencer, got married in 1981, fourteen million people tuned in to watch in the middle of a work-day afternoon. Hollywood heartthrob James Franco recently did an eccentric stint on GH, but even his presence couldn't drag the show out of the emergency room. It now averages between two and a half and three million viewers, while the latest season of Jersey Shore debuted with over eight million.

David Attenborough has said that he is 'thrilled' at the effect his TV programmes have had on education. Speaking to the Sunday Torygraph, the conservationist and broadcaster said that such complements had a positive effect on him. 'The most touching thing is that people say to me that I have had an effect on their lives,' he said. 'You would be surprised at the number of academics who say things like, "I didn't realise what a sponge was until I saw a programme of yours."' Attenborough, who joined the BBC in 1952, added that he was 'very relieved' that the broadcasting landscape still offered 'room for the sort of television I make.' However, he also voiced concern about how much today's children know about wildlife. He said: 'Talking to teenagers and so on, I am amazed that they don't know things about natural history that I knew. I'm sure they are equally amazed that I don't know as much about Twitter, communications, computers and nanotechnology as they do.'

Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson is to make his debut on Broadway this autumn, playing Martin Luther King in a play first staged in London in 2009. Written by Katori Hall, The Mountaintop depicts the civil rights leader on the night before his 1968 assassination. When he made that speech which seemed to chillingly predict his own demise. Producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman said they were 'thrilled' and 'honoured' that the sixty two-year-old Pulp Fiction star had agreed to appear. Performances will begin on 22 September at New York's Bernard B Jacobs Theatre. It had been reported that Halle Berry would co-star in the production as a maid at the Memphis hotel where Dr King stayed prior to his death at the age of thirty nine. But producers said that the actress would not be appearing 'due to child custody issues.' The Oscar-winning actress is currently involved in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry. David Harewood played the lead role in the acclaimed London production of The Mountaintop, which was named best new play at last year's Laurence Olivier awards. Jackson was Oscar nominated for his role as the bible-quoting hitman Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction and will shortly be seen in a cameo role in comic book fantasy Thor.

The Digital Spy website has managed to come up with what I think might be the most ridiculous headline of the year, and possibly the decade. Patrick Stewart 'supports the right to die'. This blogger wasn't aware anyone was seriously suggesting that death itself wasn't a right. And, if anyone does, I'll be interested to see how they go about enforcing such a claim.

John Cleese was offered a seat in the House of Lords – but turned it down because he didn't want to live in Britain all the year round. He has revealed that former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown made the offer in 1999, following the comedian's high-profile support for the party over the years. Cleese was a substantial donor and appeared in several party political broadcasts. In an interview with the Sunday Torygraph, the seventy one-year-old said: 'I turned down a peerage actually. Paddy was going to offer me one when he ceased to be leader of the Lib Dems, for political services - not because I was such a wonderful human being, and because I'd helped them [Lib Dems] a lot. But I realised this involved being in England in the winter and I thought that was too much of a price to pay.' Cleese – who spends much of his time in California – also said that he previously turned down a CBE in 1996 'because I think they are silly.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we're off to Soho. Nice riff, girls. Where'd you acquire it?