Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whose Side Are You?

The Gruniad's Sarah Dempster has done a rather cynical (if, in places very amusing) piece of the highlights of the current series of MasterChef. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's particular favourite bit of the article is Sarah's spectacularly vicious character assassination of hapless Jackie under the heading The Vegetarian Meltdown: '"I should absolutely shine today," honked Jackie of the vegetarian round, convinced her expert non-carnivorousness would propel her to victory on jetpacks of dehulled soybean meal. Cut to the insufferable research analyst sombrely scraping lagoons of her "special" spicy yoghurt curry from disgusted diners' plates before shouting something about her children "being BROUGHT UP vegetarian," then running outside and boo-hooing all over the grass.' Sarah also reminds us of the moment in episode one when we knew that, despite all the format changes, MasterChef was still going to be as brilliantly, addictively, watchable as ever: 'Behold MasterChef's most extravagant disaster to date – a stupefying brouhaha of liquid custard, raspberry mucus and self-delusion. "It's quite fun," hooted creator Charity. It wasn't. It looked like something a clown with repressed memory syndrome might paint during a group therapy session as a means of exploring his low self-esteem.' The Gruinad, dear blog reader; it's not just for the nasty things in life. But, mostly it is.

The penultimate episode of the current series of MasterChef was watched by over five million on Tuesday evening, trouncing the return of Channel Four's The Secret Millionaire and a royal wedding documentary on ITV, overnight audience data has revealed. MasterChef: The Final Three averaged 5.05m for BBC1 from 9pm, peaking at 5.61m for the final fifteen minutes. So far this series MasterChef has regularly pulled in audiences around the five million mark and all bar one of its episodes have scored a higher overnight ratings than the corresponding episode from last year. Not that you'd've believe this, of course from the avalanche of ill-informed articles in various scum tabloids earlier in the series. Also in the 9pm hour, The Secret Millionaire, featuring IT recruitment entrepreneur Sean Gallagher helping needy people in Middlesbrough, was watched by 2.2m on Channel Four and a further four hundred and sixty four thousand on +1. MasterChef also massively outperformed the vomit-inducing documentary When Kate Met William: A Tale of Two Lives, which had 2.53m sad crushed victims of society watching it on ITV and a further one hundred and ninety three thousand glakes who managed to miss the damn thing but then went and watched it later on timeshift. Some people just don't deserve the brains that God put in their heads, dear blog reader. Earlier, another exercise in crass, banal TV-by-numbers Military Driving School, presented by Jeremy Vile, had an audience of 2.32m on ITV from 7.30pm. BBC1's Holby City proved to be popular with 5.58m viewers in the 8pm hour, beating Countrywise's 2.47m on ITV.

Big thanks to my old buddy, pal and chum Martin Day for alerting me to the following gem: 'Catching up with an episode of Doctors from a few weeks back. 'Ha-Ha I'm Drowning' by The Teardrop Explodes [was] on in the bar.' That'll be another fifty quid towards Copey's retirement fund, no doubt.

Andrew Marr, the BBC presenter, said he 'hated' being in the position of using an injunction to keep an extramarital affair a secret. The sense of frustration with which Marr has spoken about the 'gagging order' he obtained to keep secret an extramarital affair is nothing if not heartfelt. 'I hate this situation,' the BBC presenter told the Torygraph. 'I feel trapped. I wanted to do what was best for the baby and the mother of the child, and also to protect my own family. I was pursued with ferocity by the other party's lawyers and agreed to make financial provision for the baby. It was a one-night stand, no more than that, but it hadn't occurred to me not to take this woman at her word. A DNA test has shown that the baby is not mine. Maybe I should ask for my money back.' Maybe? I wouldn't have said there was any maybe about it, personally. Marr, who is married to Jackie Ashley, a journalist on the Gruniad Morning Star, by whom he has three children. A DNA test proved that he was not the father of a baby girl that his former lover, a newspaper journalist, had led him to believe was his. The baby, new Torygraph states, 'is believed to have been conceived during the Labour conference six years ago, which had led to speculation that a senior figure in the party was the real father.' Marr's disclosure that he is dropping an injunction to prevent the media reporting the affair prompts fresh comment about the balance between privacy and free speech in most of Wednesday's papers. For the Daily Mirra, the public's right to know should win every time. The Torygraph complains that the courts are making up the law as they go along, with some judges pushing the boundaries much further than others. In the Sun, a lawyer asks Parliament to consider where to draw the line.

Challenging the super injunction obtained by Andrew Marr to suppress reports of his extramarital affair cost 'tens of thousands of pounds' and took several years, the editor of Private Eye has said. Ian Hislop was celebrating a legal victory after the easing of the restrictive terms of 'a Kafkaesque' injunction taken out by Marr, one that prevented even the mention of any legal proceedings. But Hislop said that he deplored the expense of fighting to have it done. The decision by Marr to allow the terms of the gagging order to be relaxed, which came after the threat of legal action by Hislop, is the latest twist in the row over the proliferation of so-called 'super injunctions' and anonymised court orders. The development of privacy protection through successive celebrity cases has provoked anxiety about the powers wielded by courts to prevent claimants being identified. 'The Marr case was the most absurd possible,' Hislop told the Gruniad. 'The story [about allegedly fathering a child during an affair] wasn't even true. It headed into Kafkaesque territory. Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent [challenging] this order. We went to his lawyers and said we were going to court and, after a lot of bargaining, he said we could vary it again. How are we meant to know about these super injunctions if we don't even get sent them? It's bonkers. Our problem [in challenging them] is that we need to concentrate the few resources we have on the cases we think might be important.' On Tuesday's BBC Today programme, Hislop accused Marr of hypocrisy. 'As a leading BBC interviewer who is asking politicians about failures in judgment, failures in their private lives, inconsistencies, it was pretty rank of him to have an injunction while working as an active journalist,' Hislop said. All of which means that this week's Have I Got News For You should be pretty tasty. And, probably well worth watching. Unless you're a member of the Marr family, that is. This time, there'll be no 'allegedly' about it.

CSI's executive producer Carol Mendelsohn has confirmed that Marg Helgenberger will be returning to the show next season. Helgenberger announced last July that she had decided to leave the series, but in March she revealed that she may recur in the next season. Mendelsohn has now told TV Guide that Helgenberger will be a part of the new episodes. 'We expect to see Catherine back next season,' she said. 'She will be the supervisor of the graveyard shift. Fans don't have to say goodbye quite yet.' She added: 'I would say that Marg will be a big presence in a lot of the season.'

For a man who uses Twitter to broadcast his every thought, deed, and minor foray into the public eye, Piers Morgan has been surprisingly slow to update followers about the smattering of fresh headlines that pertain to the performance of his nightly talk show on CNN. Given that a few years ago he would be quoted, almost daily, in newspapers boasting about how many more viewers Life Stories was getting compared to Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, he suddenly seems to have gone rather quiet on the subject of TV ratings. Fortunately, others have not joined him in his new found silence. Figures released by the Nielsen agency, and eagerly digested by the US press corps this week, have given Morgan's - many - detractors plenty of ammunition. They suggest that the former (sacked in disgrace) tabloid editor and crass self-publicist's reign as an American anchorman is leaving locals as cold as his occasional references to an organisation called Arsenal which plays a foreign sport known as 'soc-her.' On Friday, Piers Morgan Tonight drew just two hundred and sixty five thousand viewers to his 9pm slot, a new all-time low that was roughly a quarter of the figure achieved by his rival Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. On FOX News, Sean Hannity was eating them both for breakfast, attracting a loyal army of 1.4 million viewers. Admittedly, Morgan's episode was a repeat of an old interview with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore but, still, even for a repeat it's still a very low figure. On Tuesday, his one-hour programme hit another record low, with just seventy seven thousand people tuning in from the vastly important twenty five to fifty four demographic considered to be by far the most attractive to advertisers. The Drudge Report, an influential news aggregation website summed up that performance in just three letters: 'SOS.' Average viewership over the entire three months that Morgan has been on the air is a more respectable eight hundred and fifty six thousand, an increase of around thirty per cent over his octogenarian predecessor, Larry King. And the show's audience average age is creeping downwards. Recent criticism 'lacks perspective,' Morgan - someone who'd never shown much interest in such a concept previously - claims and is, additionally, partly the result of 'jingoistic US commentators' put out at a British 'impostor' taking over one of CNN's most prestigious slots. 'This is a long-term game, and CNN looks at the big picture,' said Morgan. 'Larry King lost half of his audience last year, and nearly as much the year before. The fact that we are now taking numbers up at all is a major success. And I’ve always said: judge me by how we settle down in between six months to a year.' Morgan's stock has certainly had ups and downs. After a buoyant start, which saw his heavily-advertised January debut reach 2.2 million, recent weeks have been underwhelming. Four of his last six outings pulled fewer than five hundred thousand viewers, and he's broken a million just once in the past month. 'Piers Morgan clearly has no base,' says Robert Thompson, the professor of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. 'Some nights he does okay, but on others he's in fourth place. That suggests people are watching his show for guests and not for him, and that's a problem. I don't think CNN will get rid of him – they don't exactly have a deep bench in terms of potential replacements – but they need the figures to improve.' Among critics, the knives have been sharpened ever since Morgan's debut in January, when a nationwide advertising campaign touted the 'fearless' interviewing technique that supposedly justified his reputed six million dollars CNN salary. Early write-ups branded Morgan's treatment of Oprah Winfrey, his first guest, as 'obsequious' – though tete-a-tetes with Howard Stern and Ricky Gervais were better-received. His studio manner occasionally recalled Alan Partridge. He once asked former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: 'If I was going to woo you, how would I do that?' The New York Times devoted a stern op-ed piece to his treatment of Charlie Sheen last month when, after asking the troubled actor if he had ever hit a woman (and being met with a negative response), Morgan failed to raise Sheen's well-publicised conviction for spousal abuse last year. Vanity Fair, for its part, recently carried an opinion piece devoted to Morgan's 'suffocating smugness.' Hey, guys, we did try to warn you. It asked: 'How did we get stuck with Piers Morgan? Who is he, why is he here, is he returnable?' Sod that, you wanted him, you're stuck with him. The answer to the latter question may come after this week, when Morgan is in London fronting CNN's royal wedding coverage. 'CNN will use this wedding to introduce Piers Morgan to people who otherwise don't see him,' Thompson believes. 'That could help. After all, they wouldn't need to get many new viewers to double his ratings.' Ouch.

Matt Smith, as reported yesterday, has made history by becoming the first-ever Doctor Who actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for their performance on the series. The popular family SF drama, produced by BBC Wales, is among a raft of Welsh talent to receive nominations at this year's TV BAFTAs, there's lovely isn't it? The twenty eight-year-old actor was an unknown quantity when he was chosen in January 2009 to become the eleventh Doctor, taking over from David Tennant. He is the youngest ever actor to play the role.

The BBC is to repeat a story from the classic series of Doctor Who in tribute to the actress Elisabeth Sladen. Lis died last week at the age of sixty three from cancer. A special fifteen minute tribute, My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, was broadcast on CBBC on Saturday following the season six premier of Doctor Who. The tribute featured contributions from David Tennant, Katy Manning and Sladen's co-stars in The Sarah Jane Adventures and was seen by over seven hundred thousand viewers. According to the Radio Times the 1976 Doctor Who four parter The Hand of Fear is to be repeated on BBC4, spilt across two days, on Monday 9 May and Tuesday 10 May. The story was Sladen's last regular appearance in the series as Sarah Jane Smith opposite Tom Baker as The Doctor. To be honest, it's not the greatest set of episodes available although, undeniably, the final scene - in which Sarah Jane departs the TARDIS - will emotionally destroy viewers unfamiliar with it.

Filming has begun on ITV's Eternal Law, a new drama series about two angels on Earth, from Life On Mars co-creators Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham. The cast includes Samuel West, Ukweli Roach, Hattie Morahan, Tobias Menzies and Orla Brady. Set in York, the show focuses on two central characters, Zak and Tom, who are angels sent to earth to both help a community and try to understand the human condition. Produced by Kudos (who made Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes as well as [spooks] and Hustle), all six episodes will be written by Ashley and Matthew. West stars as Zak Gist, an 'intelligent yet cynical angel sent to earth to help a community.' Roach will play Tom Greening, an 'eager newcomer who is on earth for the first time.' Morahan will play Hannah, a 'beautiful barrister who tempts Zak to stray from the right path.'

John Simm has revealed that he found Ashes To Ashes 'very difficult to watch' following his departure from Life On Mars. Ashes To Ashes launched in February 2008, starring Philip Glenister, Dean Andrews and Marshall Lancaster as their previous Life On Mars characters, alongside Keeley Hawes as Alex Drake. Speaking to the Life Of Wylie website to promote his new BBC1 drama Exile, Simm discussed his reaction to the spin-off: 'It was very strange. I watched the first episode and it was so weird watching those characters without me stood next to them. Because they were all in my head.' He continued: 'I couldn’t deal with it. I found it very difficult to watch. But I loved playing Sam Tyler and I loved working with Phil. But, you know, I work with Phil every ten minutes, so I’m not going to miss that.' Discussing whether a return as Sam Tyler for the finale of Ashes To Ashes was ever possible, John explained: 'No. That was never going to happen. It was a totally different show. I didn't want to and they didn't ask me.' John has revealed that he is 'up for' a second series of Sky1's thriller Mad Dogs. The four-part mini-series was broadcast on Sky1 earlier this year, starring Simm alongside Glenister, Max Beesley and Marc Warren. Commenting on the rumoured return of Mad Dogs, he said: 'We’re up for it. Why not? It was such fun to film. And I think it's pretty good as well.'

Mark Thompson has given an impassioned defence of the BBC's compliance system to the House of Lords communications committee. At the session, held on 26 April as part of a review of the BBC Trust, the Director General described complaints made by a number of high-profile producers, such as David Henshaw and Brian Woods, as 'an understandable view that almost any interference or discussion of their programme making is a creative infringement.' But he stressed that the BBC had to 'meet certain standards' and said that feedback from the public suggested there was not a problem. 'Across many tens of thousands of hours, there is no evidence that there has been any loss of creative energy,' he said. The committee referenced a recent report by the International Broadcasting Trust as proof of a problem, but Thompson would only acknowledge 'there is a debate about this. I would love to hear a specific example,' he said 'If you tell me about a specific programme, I will explore that.' Thompson claimed most producers would have just an initial discussion with an executive producer about compliance and a 'relatively simple form' filled out on delivery. 'That's it,' he stressed.

Lee Mack has landed his very own BBC1 primetime show called Lee Mack's All Star Cast, it has been revealed. The show, which will be broadcast on Saturday nights later this year, will see members of a studio audience create a show involving everything from jokes to musical numbers. Punters will join Lee and his guests for the week on stage to take part in comedy sketches and interviews. 'Blimey, Mr Saturday Night. I'm going to need a new suit,' the forty two-year-old joked with the Sun about the new show. 'The one I've got still smells of a burning mattress. Long story.' The news comes after the BBC also greenlit a new - sixth - series of Mack's sitcom Not Going Out due for transmission next year. Mack is already hard at work writing what will be the fifth series of the show. The sitcom stars Mack alongside long-time collaborator, comedian Tim Vine. Sally Bretton and Katy Wix also star in the comedy series, which has been broadcast since 2006. The sitcom, which was initially dropped by the BBC after its third series, has become a consistent ratings success for the broadcaster, picking up nearly five million viewers earlier this year. Online fan petitions helped to save the Avalon Television show from the axe in 2009. Lee added: 'It's great news. I can finally get that extension finished!'

ITV's television advertising revenue is expected to fall for the first time in eighteen months as the broadcaster braces itself for a tough summer without any major sporting event. Senior media buying agencies forecast that ITV's continuous run of month-on-month advertising revenue increases since 2009 will come to a halt in May, according to a report in the Gruniad. Revenues at ITV are expected to be down seven per cent year-on-year, but could be down by as much as fifteen per cent in June, with some sources even expecting a twenty five per cent drop. If that situation transpires, May would be the first month since November 2009 that ITV has endured a year-on-year fall in revenue. Some media buyers believe that the market will not pick up again until after September. The data also reflects forecasts from ITV licence holder STV, which expects the TV advertising market to be up seven per cent year-on-year in April due to the royal wedding, but fall by an equal amount in May, 'reflecting the pre-World Cup effect on May last year.' The lack of a major sporting tournament is the primary reason why the market is expected to struggle, with last year's World Cup boosting ITV's income by twenty per cent and forty per cent respectively in May and June. However, ITV is expected to see a recovery in revenue from September, when it will have exclusive UK rights to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Also later in the year, corporate companies such as McDonald's are expected to launch their advertising campaigns for next summer's London Olympic Games. One media buying industry executive said: 'As we get to the back end of 2011 and into 2012 things are looking fairly positive with big advertiser events in the London Olympics and Euro 2012 football championships.'

Scottish broadcaster STV has reached an eighteen million pound settlement with ITV to end a long-running string of legal disputes. STV, which owns the STV and Grampian ITV licences, has been locked in a legal battle with ITV since filing a thirty five million pound action in November 2009. The broadcaster also raised grievances over TV advertising sales and video-on-demand rights, and was preparing to launch a third claim in relation to 'significant prejudicial behaviour' by ITV. In return, ITV launched a thirty eight million pound counter-claim for alleged unpaid network programme budget contributions. At the time, ITV said it was owed a net debt of between fifteen and twenty million pounds. The remainder of the claim related to payments withheld to STV. In a deal that shows a significant thawing of the, at times bitter, relationship STV has had with previous ITV management, the Scottish broadcaster will nominally be liable for eighteen million pounds. STV has agreed to pay £7.2m in cash this year and a further £10.8m in either programme rights or cash in December, depending on further discussions with ITV. However, STV will in return receive £2.4m of credit for programmes it opts not to take from the ITV network schedule, which means that the cash impact on the Scottish broadcaster will work out to just £4.8m. STV said that it expects to book an exceptional charge of about nine million pounds in its first half results, on top of provisions already made, to reflect the dispute. STV's share price rose 10.7p as the market responded to positive analyst notes which were cheered by the lower-than-expected payout to resolve the issue. In February, STV said that if it lost all three legal claims with ITV it could cost as much as £21.1m. The two sides have agreed to cease all action and said that going forward they have 'agreed the basis of a much more collaborative relationship for the future which will avoid a reoccurrence of the issues which resulted in legal action. I am pleased that we have reached a wide ranging settlement with ITV and that our two organisations can work collaboratively in future for the benefit of the Channel Three Network,' said STV chief executive Rob Woodward. Adam Crozier, ITV chief executive, said: 'We are very pleased that this long running legal dispute with STV has been settled by way of an eighteen million pound payment to ITV. We look forward to working closely with STV in the future.' On Taggart, because that's about the only thing STV make that ITV has ever given a stuff about.

Former Blackadder star Tony Robinson is to marry his long-term girlfriend next week, according to press reportsThe sixty four-year-old actor-turned-TV-presenter on Time Team proposed to Louise Hobbs, thirty, during a vacation in Malaysia in late 2008 after three years of dating. . Robinson previously vowed to never walk down the aisle again following his divorce from first wife Mary Shepherd in 1992, but he is now reportedly set to marry in Italy at the end of the month. The couple will wed on the Amalfi Coast next weekend, according to the Daily Scum Mail. Everyone at From The North wishes to send Tony and Louise our best wishes for a happy future.

The Metropolitan police has admitted that during the first four years of the phone-hacking affair it warned only thirty six people they may have been targeted by the News of the World's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Scotland Yard's latest inquiry, which was launched in January, is believed to be contacting up to four thousand people whose names and personal details were found in Mulcaire's possession during the original police investigation in 2006. The disclosure of the number – which Scotland Yard had previously insisted on keeping secret – exposes the Met to the (probably justifiable) complaint that it breached an agreement with the director of public prosecutions that it would warn 'all potential victims' in the scandal. It will also revive criticism that it has consistently played down the scale of criminal activity commissioned by the News of the World. Scotland Yard has previously repeatedly refused to disclose the number of victims it had warned, rejecting applications under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that releasing it would necessarily disclose the identities of those warned, and that this would breach their privacy. However, in a sharp change of policy, the Met's acting deputy commissioner, John Yates, volunteered that during the 2006 inquiry police had warned twenty eight people they may have been victims; and that after the Gruniad revived the affair in July 2009 they warned eight more. In a letter to John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, Yates – who was responsible for dealing with the hacking affair for nearly twenty months – gave no explanation for the failure to inform more than thirty six potential victims. He said: 'I have accepted that more could and should have been done in relation to those who may have been potential victims.' The new inquiry, which is not being overseen by Yates, is known to have approached scores of politicians, police officers, actors, sports personalities and others who had previously been unaware that the Met held evidence to suggest their voicemail messages may have been intercepted by Mulcaire. Many are now suing News International, which owns the News of the World. Some are also seeking a judicial review of the Met's actions. Yates's disclosure appears to contradict evidence he gave to the media select committee in February last year. On that occasion he said that where there was evidence that 'interception was or may have been attempted by Mulcaire, the Met police has been diligent and taken all proper steps to ensure those individuals have been informed.' In September he told the home affairs select committee that Met policy was 'out of a spirit of abundance of caution to make sure that we were ensuring that those who may have been hacked were contacted by us.' In his letter to Whittingdale, Yates also confirmed that during a brief investigation last autumn, police interviewed a total of four people under caution. Yates did not name them, but they are believed to included Sean Hoare, the former News of the World journalist who told the New York Times that he had been actively encouraged to hack voicemail by his editor, Andy Coulson, who went on to become the prime minister's media adviser and who has always denied all knowledge of illegal activity. The Gruniad states that 'when Yates's officers cautioned Hoare that anything he said might be used in evidence against him, he declined to answer questions.' The Yates letter also disclosed more details of his social contacts with senior editors from News International. He acknowledges that he had dinner with the News of the World editor Colin Myler at the Ivy, one of London's most exclusive restaurants; that he had two dinners with the editor of The Sunday Times and a further dinner with the editor and crime editor of the News of the World four months after he had decided in July 2009 that there was no basis to reopen an investigation into the paper. Yates reveals in his letter that he failed to disclose a meeting with Neil Wallis, who was deputy editor at the paper at the time of the original hacking inquiry and left in August 2009 after six years in the job. He described a meeting with Wallis earlier this year as 'a private engagement' and said that 'relevant senior officers' at Scotland Yard 'have been made aware that Mr Wallis and I know each other.' Whittingdale has now written to Yates again asking him who at the Met was informed about his relationship with Wallis and when. The investigation into phone-hacking, which is being led by the deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, has resulted in the arrest of three News of the World executives, including two who are still employed by the paper, this month. All of them were released without charge. Separately, the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told MPs on the Home Affairs select committee on Tuesday that the law on phone-hacking is confusing and in urgent need of clarification.

George Entwistle has been appointed director of BBC Vision, the division of the corporation that is responsible for commissioning, producing, scheduling and broadcasting all of its TV content. His appointment follows the departure in January of Jana Bennett, who held the post since its creation in 2006. Entwistle, who joined the corporation in 1989, has been acting director of BBC Vision for the last three months. The former Newsnight editor said that he was 'genuinely honoured' by his new role. 'The BBC's television portfolio is of enormous importance to the creative and cultural life of the UK,' he continued. 'At the heart of its success, BBC Vision Productions is responsible for some of the best television programmes we broadcast.' The Director of BBC Vision is responsible for BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, and BBC4 along with BBC1 HD, BBC HD and BBC Films. Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director General, said he was 'looking forward to working closely' with Entwistle 'to ensure the BBC's television portfolio remains the envy of the broadcasting world.' Well, you might want to start by cancelling Don't Scare The Hare pretty damn sharpish in that case.

Simon Cowell has claimed that FOX executives have 'always' been 'desperate' to have Cheryl Cole on The X Factor USA. Cole has long been linked with a spot on the US version of Cowell's talent competition, although there was believed to be some concern from network bosses over Cole's lack of profile in America. Speaking to Deadline, Cowell denied reports that the twenty seven-year-old Heaton Horror was thought to be an 'unwise' choice for a place on the judging panel. 'No, absolute opposite,' he claimed. 'Mike Darnell and Peter Rice will tell you they wanted her all the time. I showed a tape to Mike Darnell two years ago of a clip I'd shot in England of Cheryl and he said there and then, "I'd hire her now for Idol." They absolutely fell in love with her. In a way, the deal, it was almost conditional on Cheryl having the gig. They were desperate for her.' Although Cowell has appeared to say that Cole will be offered a place on the show's judging panel, there has still been no official confirmation. Earlier this week, Cowell backed former American Idol judge Paula Abdul to join the rival format, which has started hosting auditions for this fall's season.

Expat Britons in Australia are to be the focus of an observational documentary for ITV. As, once again, the network that once produced The Avengers and The World In Action sinks further into the sludgy horrorshow of banal 'common people do the funniest things' TV conceits. The commercial broadcaster has commissioned Century Films to produce the eight part Poms In Paradise - even the title is effing repulsive - which will 'examine how a number of Brits have made a life for themselves on the Gold Coast in Queensland, which is renowned for its sweeping sandy beaches and surfing conditions.' Note the use of 'Brits' in this description because, clearly, they believe that most of those likely to read it will not be able to understand a word with two whole syllables in it. The early evening show will 'feature Brits who emigrated to Australia as much as sixty years ago, as well as more recent movers.' They include a female paramedic, often called out to treat people who have had accidents on the beach, and a life-saving champion. The series also features a woman wrestling with the news that her mother is seriously ill back in the UK. Poms In Paradise was commissioned by ITV controller of popular factual Jo Clinton-Davis and Alison Sharman, director of factual and daytime. who should both, frankly, have rotten vegetables thrown at them in the streets for such a move. It will be executive produced by Century's Liesel Evans, and Bruce Fletcher is series producer. 'We're looking to get beyond the paradise lifestyle and find out whether it was worth the move for these Britons,' said Fletcher. Clinton-Davis said: 'The series captures the essence of the down under dream: the lifestyle, lush landscapes and a varied cast who are drawn to it. It also allows us to feel the swirl of the undercurrent lapping at the idyllic shore.' But, it probably won't.

A West Yorkshire bridge which featured in the 1970 film The Railway Children has been saved amid fears over its future. Frost had damaged the bridge at Mytholmes near Haworth on which Jenny Agutter was filmed waving her petticoat to stop a train from hitting a landslide. If the deterioration had continued, trains would not have been able to run along the full length of the historic Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Repair work can now go ahead after grants and donations of one hundred thousand knicker. The damage to Bridge Eighteen was the result of severe winter frosts. A grant of twenty five grand was awarded to the railway by the South Pennines Leader Fund. A further award of twenty thousand quid was given by tourist organisation Welcome to Yorkshire. The remaining cash, amounting to over fifty thousand pounds, came from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Charitable Trust and what is described as 'a huge response from the general public' via an ongoing appeal. Notice, dear blog reader, that the government - your government - gave not a single solitary penny. Philistines. Matt Stroh, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway chairman, said he was delighted the repairs could now go ahead. 'We can get the work done and see the railway running for many years to come,' he said. Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: 'This is an historic railway, steeped in history and the home of The Railway Children - an iconic film which is famous worldwide. It is a key visitor attraction, which is why it was important we lent a helping hand.' The railway's appeal for funds continues, with around one hundred and fifty smackers still needed to repair a nearby bridge. The chances of David Cameron getting his hand in the pocket of the trousers he's going to the royal wedding in and dolling over some cash remain, comfortingly, zero.

Director Ken Loach was hospitalised in Scotland on Monday following a freak fall on the set of his new film. The seventy four year old is currently shooting The Angel's Share. He took a tumble on the steps of Glasgow's Sheriff Court and sought medical attention at the city's Royal Infirmary, reports the Daily Record. A 'source' allegedly told the publication: 'Lots of the crew were rushing around in a huge panic. Ken slipped on a step coming up from the canteen and cracked his head.'

The original cast of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy are to reunite for a tour of the SF comedy. Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent in the original radio series and the 1981 TV version, broke the news on Radio 3 earlier this week. He told presenter Rob Cowan: 'The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is going on the road next year, with all the original principal members of the cast. We're going to make stops in various cities around the country as ourselves reconstructing and reimagining a recording with live sound and live music.' Although he did not specify who was taking part or where the tour would visit, he said: 'Watch this space because we'll soon have where to book and where to go.' The tour would follow the success of other radio recreations for the stage, such as Round The Horne Revisited, but with the added attraction of the original cast.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams criticised library closures during his Easter Sermon, delivered at the weekend. Speaking on the wider topic of happiness — which is to be the subject of the first 'happiness index,' conducted by the Office for National Statistics — the Archbishop reflected on a recent stop-off at a local library on a 'rather devastated' Manchester council estate. Williams said that his visit had 'revealed a lively group of teenagers who were regular users, welcomed by staff, glad of a place to do homework, gossip and feel secure.' The Archbishop continued: 'Space, opportunity, the time to discover a larger world to live in—where are the clearly articulated priorities in public discussion that would spotlight all this, so as to make us think twice before dismantling what's already there and disappointing more hopes for the future?' He concluded: 'Talk about the happiness of the nation isn't going to mean much unless we listen to some of these simple aspirations — aspirations, essentially, for places, provisions or situations which help you lay aside anxiety and discover dimensions of yourself otherwise hidden or buried.' Wise words, Bish. So, how about making some of the public happy by selling off some church land and giving the money away to the poor? That might make a lot of people very happy.

Budget airline Ryanair has been criticised over an advertising campaign featuring a bikini-clad woman sunbathing, as most of the spring destinations being promoted by the company would be to places that were still cold. The airline launched a national press advertising campaign for cheap flights in February and March, encouraging consumers to 'book to the sun now!' The advert featured a woman in a bikini basking in the sun and drinking a cocktail. However, one complainant challenged whether the claim Book to the sun was misleading because none of the eleven flight destinations on offer - including Rimini, Derry, Glasgow and Oslo - would be 'warm' in February and March. Ryanair attempted to argue that the destinations had 'significant daytime sunshine' during the two months, estimated at between three to six hours. In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority noted that the maximum temperatures for seven of the destinations were between six and nine degrees (Celsius). The warmest three averaged eleven and fourteen degrees, but Oslo, the coldest, managed only between zero and four degrees. 'We considered that the average consumer would infer from the claim Book to the sun now and the image of the woman sunbathing, in a bikini, with a cocktail, that the promotion included fares to destinations warm enough to sunbathe in swimwear during the promotional period,' said the ASA. Not places like Oslo were, if you wore a bikini in February you'd be more likely to freeze your extremities off. 'Because we understood this was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.' The ASA told Ryanair that the advert must not appear again in its current form.

MTV has revealed the cast and further details about Newcastle-upon-Tyne based reality show Geordie Shore. The fly-on-the-wall spin-off series from the US hit Jersey Shore will feature eight housemates living together and partying in the North East of England for six weeks. Sophie, Jay, Vicky, James, Holly, Gaz, Charlotte and Greg will be filmed sharing a five-star house with a shag-pile outhouse and hot tub. They will also be followed when they visit the city's most renowned nightspots on 'the Diamond Strip.' Or, Collingwood Street and Moseley Street as, you know, 'normal' people call them. The show has already released a Talking Geordie guide for the cast's colloquialisms, such as 'swilling', 'purely belter', 'palatick' and 'tash on.' They haven't yet got around to explaining 'charvas, radjys and glakes' which is, tragically, a pretty useful description of anyone taking part in this fiasco. You bring shame to your city, young people. More shame than Mike Ashley and Cheryl Cole between them. Hang your heads.

Gwyneth Paltrow has 'stunned fans' by aiming a 'foul-mouthed rant' at her late grandmother during a TV interview. The actress recently made an appearance on Chelsea Handler's talk show and opened up about her strained relationship with her maternal grandma, calling her 'a real cunt' and 'mean as hell.' During the interview, they both discovered they had German grandmothers they called 'mutti' and Handler branded her own relative 'a real bitch,' while Paltrow replied, 'Mine was a real cunt!' The word was, helpfully, bleeped out for viewers in case their heads exploded at the hearing of it. Paltrow went on to explain, 'She just hated my guts and she tried to poison my mother against me. She must not have been very happy and must have had a lot of pain because she was as mean as hell.'

An unattended supermarket in New Zealand opened on Good Friday due to a computer glitch. According to, the store was scheduled to open at 1pm, but at 8am the doors unlocked and the lights turned on automatically with no staff present. Twenty four people entered and did their shopping over the next hour, with around half of them paying with the self-scan service. The others left without paying, some with 'truckloads of groceries' according to witnesses. Local police were alerted at 9.20am and stopped the situation from escalating. Store owner Glenn Miller was appreciative of some people's honesty, saying: 'We have already heard from some just wanting to confirm that they had been into the store and paid through the self-service terminals. I can certainly see the funny side of it,' he continued. 'But I'd rather not have the publicity to be honest. It makes me look a bit of a dickhead.' Yeah. Pity 'bout that. Miller went on to note that he would not pursue any legal action, hoping that those who stole would 'cough up' out of guilt.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day take us back to a time when the charts was full of - pretty decent - cod white-reggae. Mostly from bands who had one hit and then were never heard of again. Whatever happened to The Planets anyway?