Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do After All The Changes You Put Me Through

Comedy line of the week - by quite a distance, as it happened: Stephen Fry on the latest episode of Qi hosted a round concerning the utter crap which manifests itself via those people who set up companies that offer to tell people how to run their business more efficiently. By, you know, getting the staff to go to a hotel for three days and draw pictures of the 'issues' surrounding their jobs. Stephen signalled his zero-tolerance for such practices: 'It's just becoming rapidly more clear that there are many people on earth who need to be killed. And, nearly all of them are management consultants.'
God wasn't the latest episode of [spooks] really good, dear blog reader? Always assuming, of course, that you were not one of the ninety seven million people watching Downton Abbey instead on the other side. Though someone was trying to convince yer actual Keith Telly Topping that it's not impossible these days to watch both. Apparently, they have devices which can recorded television programmes so you can watch them later. No, I was surprised as well. What will they think of next, eh? Anyway, this blogger is constantly impressed by the divine Nicola Walker's ability to act her little cotton socks off even in scenes in which she has virtually no dialogue.
Give that woman her own Body Farm-style spin-off when this series is finished.

And lastly for the introductory remarks. You want a screengrab from the trailer for the Doctor Who season finale? You got it.

The touchy subject of ratings rears its ugly head at this juncture. Now, you might have noticed, dear blog reader, that over the weekend something an Internet spatatte arose (on Twitter, predictably) between a particular gobshite columnist from one of the tabloids and the readers (and, indeed, the assistant editor) of the Doctor Who Magazine over the reporting of Doctor Who's 'rating figures.' From The North is, you'll be happy to know, staying well out of this one. Firstly because the journalist (and I do use that word with considerable ironic detachment) in question is a notorious shit-stirring trouble-maker whose factual accuracy or lack of it was highlighted by this blog as long ago as 2008. And, secondly, because I don't want to make the mistake which I think Tom - a good pal of this blogger, let it be said - and the DWM guys did of giving this wanker the oxygen of publicity. This is the sort of confrontation he thrives on, saying stuff which is, quite simply, not true (or, at least, true only in a specific context) and then sitting back and waiting for a reaction from someone. Cheap, petty, manufactured and, sadly, quite clever. Exactly the sort of thing the tabloids do for a living. However, there is a small postscript to all of this. You may recall last week that on Saturday evening ITV's All Star Family Fortunes got a (slightly) higher overnight audience figure than Doctor Who (5.3m versus 5.2m if you're taking notes). Which Vernon Kay - quite rightly - had a bit of a Twitter celebration over and which was then picked up by a couple of newspapers (the Sun and the Gruniad being just two and proof that this wasn't confined to merely the tabloids) who ran stories about Doctor Who's 'declining ratings.' I don't blame Vernon for that; he was happy his show was doing well and had every right to shout it from the rooftops. But it did, rather, open up the gates for a lot of very bad - and, in one or two cases, deliberately provocative and spiteful - reporting. Of course, as many people both within and outside the TV industry could have told them, overnight ratings only tell a part of the story. The way in which people consume TV is changing - rapidly. Seemingly too rapidly for many newspapers to keep up with. The advance of technology and of timeshifting - that is people watching TV shows not 'live', per se, but at a time of their choosing via TV on demand devices such as Sky+ or iPlayer - is now a reality. See above (and below) on the question of Downton Abbey and [spooks] (and, now, Fry's Planet Word) all being on at the same time - another tabloid obsession over the last couple of weeks. Once upon a time such a bit of scheduling would have meant a choice to be made. Now it doesn't have to. You can catch up on what you want, when you want and not miss out on anything. Indeed, several TV shows (Doctor Who is one, Top Gear is another classic example) are now finding that as much as half of their audiences come from people other than those who sit down to watch the thing when it's actually broadcast, live. So, yeah - Doctor Who's getting an overnight audience at the moment in the five to six million range. That's a very decent figure for most dramas but, unquestionably, it's less than the popular family SF drama was getting on overnights this time last year. On overnights. That's the important quantifier. However, it's still timeshifting between one and a half and two million viewers every week, not even counting iPlayer audiences (which, again, are usually in the million plus range). So, the long and the short of it is that the number of people watching Doctor Who each week this year is, pretty much, the same as the number that were watching it each week last year. It's just that a lot of them aren't watching it at seven o'clock on a Saturday night as they used to, they're watching it later in the evening. Or the next day. Or on Monday. Or whenever. But, of course, that's not a story the tabloids (or the Gruniad for that matter) are going to be interested in. TV Show Still As Popular As Last Year doesn't really have much news appeal, even I can see that! Thus, as noted, reporting overnights as 'ratings' isn't the whole story and it's becoming less and less of the whole story with each passing year. Newspapers, as with many aspects of life, are simply behind the times on this. By the time they catch up, like as not, we'll all be watching our TV on hand-held iPad-type malarkey. Oh for the good old days!

The reason I mention all of this is because, as it happens, today BARB have released the final, consolidated ratings for week-ending 18 October. And they make for jolly interesting reading. Or, at least, they would do if, for the second week running ITV's figures weren't conspicuous by their absence. That's a real shame - I'm sure we were all so looking forward to finding how many All Star Family Fortunes had timeshifted. So, in their absence, here is BBC1's top twenty shows for the week:-
1 EastEnders - Thurs - 8.92m
2 Doctor Who - Sat - 6.77m
3 Countryfile - Sun - 6.44m
4 The Body Farm - Tues - 6.31m
5 [spooks] - Sun - 5.63m
6 Antiques Roadshow - Sin - 5.60m
7 Who Do You Think You Are? - Wed - 5.59m
8 Outnumbered - Fri - 5.45m
9 Casualty - Sat - 5.40m
10 Waterloo Road - Wed - 5.35m
11 Torchwood: Miracle Day - Thurs - 5.13m
12 Holby City - Tues - 4.98m
13 Six O'Clock News - Mon - 4.78m
14 Planet Dinosaur - Wed - 4.74m
15 Ten O'Clock News - Tues - 4.63m
16 The ONE Show - Mon - 4.48m
17 The Queen's Palaces - Mon - 4.46m
18 Watchdog - Thurs - 4.27m
19 Match of the Day - Sat - 4.04m
20 BBC News - Sat - 3.99m
BBC2's five highest rated shows were:
1 The Great British Bake Off - Tues - 3.83m
2 Match of the Day 2 - Sun - 3.36m
3 Qi - Fri - 2.98m
4 University Challenge - Mon - 2.97m
5 Hairy Bikers' Meal On Wheels - Tues - 2.35m
Channel Four broke three million with Grand Designs (3.26m), whilst Sky Sports 1's coverage of The Scum's match against Moscow Chelski FC had an audience of 2.37m, the highest multi-channel of the week and higher than anything Channel Five could offer (Big Brother's Friday eviction episode got 1.93m). So, 6.77m - beat that Vern!

Speaking of TV reviewers - albeit, slightly less smug, cynical and often mendacious ones than the chap alluded to above - yer actual Keith Telly Topping finds himself continual drawn (not for the first time, as long term dear blog readers will know) to the warmth of the reviews that the Metro's Keith Watson produces. And, specifically, to his excellent - and highly positive - review of the opening episode of Fry's Planet Word. Negativity is so easy in the modern world, dear blog reader. So, let's give a bit of honest praise where it's due - and a jolly good pat on the back - to people like yer man Keith who actually find something to enjoy in the efforts of others: 'It's a curious dilemma, feeling stuck for words to describe a show about words. But – as is his wont – in Fry's Planet Word, Stephen Fry pretty much said it all. As he strapped on his crampons (lovely word, crampons) for an attempt at ascending a slippery and treacherous Tower of Babel, no adjective was left unturned in an unfettered celebration of the joy and diversity of human speech. It was easy to get swept out on Fry's sea of articulacy. Investigating how, in a mere fifty thousand years, humans have progressed from ugs and growls to the flowering of hundreds of languages, he hopped from monkeys to Klingons, psycholinguists to simultaneous translators, as he indulged a lifelong passion for the endless inventiveness of language. "It's what I treasure above all else," declared the grown-up Fry, echoing his rather more excitable self, glimpsed in a clip from sketch show A Bit Of Fry & Laurie. "Language is my whore, my mistress. Language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square" babbled Fry Junior. A thousand and one further definitions bubbled and erupted from a geyser in the full throes of self-gratification. There was a scientific side to all this wordplay, with a look at the development of speech skills in young children providing a thread of continuity. Hearing a lot of language when you are young and engaging in different kinds of linguistic experiences is crucial for the rest of your life, asserted one expert, which made you shudder for a generation being raised in front of the PlayStation. And who knows what the long-term reductive impact of one hundred and forty-character tweeting will be? Such ruminations have to wait for later in this diverting five-part series, though. For now, Fry had us in thrall to his ability to communicate how words have the ability to amuse, beguile and delight. Language is a gift that is integral to the very nature of being human, so we should take the time to stop and celebrate it. Go on, treat yourself to something polysyllabic.' Keith Watson, dear blog reader, consistently the best TV reviewer in the British press.

Strictly Come Dancing is reportedly 'at the centre of a betting scandal.' Mind you, this is all according to the Daily Lies so, it's probably not true. Alesha Dixon, who won the show in 2007, allegedly revealed that a producer working on the series won a four-figure sum by betting on her to win. BBC guidelines forbid employees to gamble in such a way and Section Forty Two of the 2005 Gambling Act makes it illegal to bet on an event that you can influence the outcome of - although it's unclear how senior the producer was or exactly how he could 'influence' a public vote. Dixon told the Daily Lies Sunday: 'I was twenty five to one when it started and at the end of the series one of the producers came up to me and thanked me for just winning him eight thousand pounds.' She was unaware that it was wrong, but TV watchdog Mediawatch immediately got its snout in the trough and demanded - demanded, I say - that the BBC launch a full investigation. I'm not sure that Mediawatch are actually in a position to demand that the BBC so much as acknowledge their frigging existence but, bless 'em for trying. Mediawatch director Vivienne Pattison - a dreadful fraction of a woman who always seemingly manages to elbow he worthless views into the public arena whenever the mood appears to take her - said: 'Viewers don't want to feel like they are being hard done by or taken advantage of.' Well, thank you for speaking on behalf of all viewers Vivienne. I take it that you did contact all of us and ask our views before you elected yourself our spokesperson? I mean, I'm sure I got the memo and have just forgotten about it. 'I would hope the BBC launches a full investigation into this as it has a duty to us the licence payer.' I'm a licence fee payer, Ms Pattison and I'd just like to let you know that you do not speak for me - or, indeed, for anyone I know - on any subject. I can do that for myself without your help, thank you very much. A Metropolitan Police spokesman added that any complaint regarding cheating in relation to gambling would be 'stringently investigated to the full extent of the law.' What, you mean just like you stringently investigated the phone-hacking scandal in 2008 and 2009, you mean? Oh, that'll be good. A BBC spokesperson insisted that all staff are expected to comply with the corporation's standards on fairness and impartiality. The producer could potentially face a prison sentence of up to two years if charged and found guilty. The Daily Lies then quote an alleged 'source' who, they claim, said: 'This is a disaster for show bosses. It's an embarrassment for everyone involved. There are strict guidelines forbidding staff on the show from voting during the competition or placing bets on it. The incident happened a while ago and the production team has changed significantly since then. But the claims are still damaging and heads could roll.' Presumably, this is a one of those nameless 'sources' that the Daily Lies regularly claim to have. Like the one who, for instance, in 2003 suggested that Holly Valance was in discussions to take over as the lead on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Or the 'BBC insider' they claimed gave them some juicy quotes when they managed to misunderstand a Gareth Roberts joke and suggest that Lady GaGa was being lined-up to appear in Doctor Who? One of those sorts of 'sources', was it?

The mother of X Factor contestant Kitty Brucknell has threatened to pull her daughter from the show. Mary Edwards claims that the singer, who clashed with Honey Shazab on this week's show, has been 'misrepresented' during the competition and fears that she is being turned into 'panto villain.' Oh no she isn't. Sorry. I could never resist the obvious. Anyway: 'It's very distressing to see Kitty being put under so much pressure and getting upset,' Edwards told the Sunday Mirra. Well, you know, I'm sure your daughter knew exactly what she was letting herself in for when she signed up for the show in the hope of riches beyond the dreams of avarice, Mary? And, if she didn't, then you've got to wonder what she's been watching for the last six or seven years. 'If something happens and it looks like it's getting too much for her I will not hesitate to tell her enough is enough because it's unfair to let her keep suffering. I am really ­worried that the show is ­sensationalising things and it's getting out of hand. On the show she has been made to look something she's not. Kitty's being turned into a pantomime villain. She's being portrayed as a monster and it's not fair. If she does get to the live shows no-one will vote for her at this rate. Some acts were very nasty to Kitty and picked on her from day one at Boot Camp. She'd call me up in tears saying she wanted to come home. It was schoolyard bullying and other contestants kept making jokes about her being a diva and being fame-hungry.' Oh dear. How sad. Brucknell's rivals apparently compared her to last year's X Factor contestant Katie Waissel and she, allegedly, later threatened to 'throw herself off a cliff' at the hotel. In scenes cut from this weekend's show, Brucknell is said to have cried shortly before her final Boot Camp performance after discovering the flashing lights on her two thousand pound outfit had run out of batteries. Which, I'm sure all dear blog readers will agree is both tragic and, at the same time, pee-in-yer-own-pants funny. Often at the same time. Fellow contestant Shazad also accused Kitty of 'flashing her breasts.' One imagines they won't be showing that on Saturday primetime either.

Good old mad-as-effing-toast Boris Johnson has waded into a row over a BBC move to use 'religiously neutral' terms instead of BC or AD to avoid offending non-Christians, arguing that this represents the 'advance of pointless political correctness.' Writing in the Daily Torygraph, the mayor of London - who, let's remember, has plenty to thank the BBC for as his regular appearances on Have I Got News For You demonstrate - 'hit out' at the BBC's 'puerile and absurd' decision to use modern phrases 'Common Era' and 'Before Common Era' rather than 'Anno Domini' and 'Before Christ.' Johnson said that the BBC's position as a state-funded broadcaster means that the public should be consulted before it 'makes a decision of immense cultural importance, a decision that affects the way we will ask our children to think about the history of our civilisation.' He is, of course, always assuming that the vast majority of the public actually give a shit one way or the other since it's not something that's likely to crop up as an issue on X Factor any time soon. He accepted that there is 'perplexity' around the actual date of Christ's birth, while 'there will always be some who doubt that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed.' However, Johnson added: 'It now turns out that some BBC committee or hierarch has decided that this nativity – notional or otherwise - can no longer be referred to by our state-funded broadcaster, in identifying whether a year is before or after the, ahem, cough, event in question. We are asked to call the years-before-the-event-we-cannot-mention BCE, or Before Common Era, and the years-after-the-event-we-cannot-mention Common Era, or CE. You should not underestimate the influence of this verdict. What the BBC decides, all kinds of other publishers and broadcasters will decide to follow. Schools will snap into line, and if people protest they will be told that they are following best practice - it's what the BBC does, after all.' I think you might, actually, be giving the BBC far too much persuasion power there Boris. After all, if they could do that then I'm pretty sure they could've got the voters of London not to elect an old Etonian plonker with the oratory skills of a confused sloth. The beginning of the so-called 'Common Era' is dated from the same point as the Gregorian Christian calendar, but removes any mention of the birth of Jesus. BC and BCE have already gained acceptance within the BBC, with shows such as University Challenge and Radio 4's In Our Time among those to have used the terms. Johnson, who fronted also a programme on the Roman Empire for the broadcaster, said: 'The BBC needs to stop spending time and money on this sort of footling political correctness. Someone needs to get out down the corridor and find the individual who passed this edict and give him or her a figurative kick in the pants. I know it sounds like a trivial thing to get worked up about, but one trivial thing leads to another. I urge all readers to get out their Basildon Bond and hit the e-mails - to Mark Thompson and Lord Patten. Let's fight this Beeb drivel now.' I love the mixed-metaphor of anyone trying to write e-mails on Basilon Bond. That's classic Boris. Utter drivel. The BBC's religious and ethics department said in a statement: 'As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians. In line with modern practice, BCE/CE are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD.' It's also worth remembering that the BBC as a body which is funded by every tax payer in this country has a duty to at least attempt to represent all of those. Not just the Tory ones. A spokeswoman for the corporation added that individual BBC programmes are free to choose which terms are used. Andrew Marr said on his BBC1 show yesterday that he will continue to use the traditional date descriptions.
News International is facing fresh phone-hacking controversies after a series of claims and counter-claims involving half-a-dozen figures including the late Jade Goody, Alastair Campbell and two of the most senior former staff of the Scum of the World surfaced at the end of last week. In just a few hours on Friday, it emerged the media group was facing five court actions including a possible hearing in the US targeting Rupert Murdoch and his son James, plus allegations that the Sunday tabloid may have hacked Goody's phone while she was dying of cancer. One of the most damaging revelations was a claim that the former deputy editor of the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful tabloid had secretly received twenty five thousand smackers from News International for 'crime exclusives' while working as a PR consultant for Scotland Yard. The details of the payments emerged in billing records obtained by detectives investigating the phone-hacking scandal at the Scum of the World. The former newspaper executive Neil Wallis received the money in 2009 and 2010 when his PR firm - Chamy Media - had a two-day-a-month contract to work as consultants for Scotland Yard, according to an investigation by the Daily Torygraph. One story reputedly earned him a single payment of ten grand. One of the stories he was paid for was about a suspected assassination attempt on the Pope during his visit to the UK last year, according to the Torygraph. A spokesman for Scotland Yard declined to comment, other than to say that its contract with Chamy Media 'had a confidentiality clause, a data protection act clause and a conflict of interest clause within it.' A spokesman added that Wallis did 'not have access' to the Met's IT systems. The revelations will raise new questions about conflicts of interest in public office. Last month, it emerged that Andy Coulson, the former editor of the Scum of the World, continued to receive payments from News International as part of a severance deal after he was employed by the Tory party as its director of communications. Coulson, who quit the Scum of the World in 2007 after the paper's then royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for phone-hacking offences, on Friday launched his own legal action against his former employer. He is suing for 'breach of contract' after the company notified his solicitors that it was no longer going to fund his legal defence. It is believed this was communicated to Coulson's law firm as recently as August. That Coulson's fees were being paid four years after he quit as editor will surprise many. He resigned as David Cameron's press chief in January and was arrested in July as the phone-hacking scandal deepened, with allegations that the Scum of the World had hacked into murder victim Milly Dowler's phone. Pressure on News International continued to pile up on Friday as it emerged that the Met is to be asked to investigate allegations that reality TV regular Jade Goody's phone was hacked while she was dying of cancer. It is understood Charlotte Harris, the Mishcon de Reya lawyer representing several phone-hacking claimants, has been asked to represent Goody's family and to go to the Met with the allegations made by Goody's mother, Jackiey Budden. Budden believes both her own phone and her daughter's were hacked, but did nothing about it until July this year when she read about murder victim Milly Dowler's phone messages being intercepted by the Scum of the World. She claims that she could not understand how journalists were getting information and, when she read the Dowler story, believed it could have been through phone-hacking. 'She will be going to the police. She believes her phone was hacked by the News of the World, and Jade's. Jade told me, "I'm convinced my phone is being hacked,"' said Max Clifford, who handled Goody's PR after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008. The solicitor who represented the Dowlers in their phone-hacking claims upped the ante significantly on Friday when he announced that he had teamed with US lawyers with a view to initiating proceedings targeting Rupert Murdoch and his son James. Mark Lewis of Taylor Hampton has instructed Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents twenty 9/11 families, to seek witness statements from News Corp and its directors, including Rupert and James Murdoch, in relation to allegations that Scum of the World staff may have bribed police. 'The allegations of phone hacking and bribery against News Corporation are serious and substantial, and we will approach this initial exploration with that same seriousness,' Siegel said. The legal action was just one of five that have piled up against the Murdoch operation in the past few days. Also suing News International is Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell, who is alleging his phone was hacked by the Scum of the World. His solicitor, Gerald Shamash, confirmed that he had just begun legal proceedings on behalf of Campbell and two others – the agent of George Best, the football superstar who died in 2005, and Elliot Morley, the former Labour MP jailed for expenses fraud. News International refused to comment on any of the developments, but said that it was 'co-operating fully' with all police investigations.

Katie Holmes is, reportedly, to have a cameo in the Halloween special of the US sitcom How I Met Your Mother as a 'slutty pumpkin.' The mind positively boggles.

Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael has described the BBC as 'mad' for scheduling [spooks] against the ITV hit. Oh, for Christ's sake, not another amateur who reckons they'd make a great scheduler? The actress, who plays Lady Edith Crawley in the period drama, admitted that she is a fan of the long-running spy show, which was switched from Mondays to Sundays for the latest series. The clash saw Downton Abbey return for its second series with nearly nine million viewers last Sunday, while [spooks] was watched by 4.62m on BBC2. Carmichael told the Sun: 'I've always loved [spooks] - I think they're mad to put the shows on at the same time.' So, actually this is all self-interest and nothing whatsoever to do with how the Great Unwashed might be affected. And, once again, we must remind a TV professional (I'm assuming Laura does get paid for her acting) of how television actually works. Everything has to have something scheduled against it, Laura m'love. Unless you were expecting the BBC to shut down the network for the hour that Downton Abbey is on. (Not an entirely ridiculous notion since, it seems, that was what Simon Cowell - in all seriousness - wanted them to do whenever X Factor and Britain's Got Talent were on.) It just so happens that what they've chosen to put on opposite your show is something you like. Tough. Nine million people watch Downton Abbey each week. That's a great figure and it's a great show but it does mean that fifty two million people don't watch it. What the BBC have chosen to do is put on something that some of those fifty two million might prefer instead of a costume drama. It's a calculated risk - all TV scheduling is that - but it's also something they'd be, in your words 'mad' not to at least try. As noted above, you might not know this but, these days they actually have bits of technology that can record TV programmes whilst you watch another one so that you can watch both. I know, it's a miracle, isn't it? Or, there's also a way you can watch TV programmes on your computer. Although if you're thinking of doing this, dear blog reader, then it might be an idea to watch ITV and catch up with the BBC show later as ITV's computer-based video on demand system seems to be having a few problems of late. God save us all from armchair TV schedulers. Speaking of Downton's success, she added: 'I'm lucky to be part of it. I think it's great to have a period drama with original storylines as opposed to a book that everyone knows. That has intrigued people.' The show won four Emmy Awards at this year's ceremony and the cast is currently filming a Christmas special. A BBC spokesperson recently played down the clash, saying: 'Downton and [spooks] are very different shows and offer a real alternative for audiences. This is the last ever series of [spooks] and we wanted to celebrate this and make it a special event for viewers in the Sunday 9pm slot.'

The great Alex Kingston is to join the cast of Upstairs Downstairs when the BBC costume drama returns next year. The former ER star, recently seen in the BBC's Doctor Who, will play Blanche Mottershead, the younger sister of Dame Eileen Atkins' character Lady Holland. 'I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to get inside the iconic 165 Eaton Place,' said Kingston. Her casting follows Dame Eileen's announcement that she would not be returning for the next series. The seventy seven-year-old conceived the idea for the original 1970s series with fellow actress Jean Marsh but did not appear in it prior to its revival last year. The new series, which begins shooting in October, will begin in 1938 and span the months leading up to the outbreak of World War II. 'Outside 165 Eaton Place, London and Europe are poised on the knife-edge of calamity,' said writer Heidi Thomas. 'Inside, there's a whole world of dark and dangerous emotions to explore. Heidi really has created a wonderfully, intriguing character in Blanche who will over time reveal some secrets of her own,' said Kingston. Veteran actor Kenneth Cranham - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping over many years - will also join the cast of the BBC1 drama.

Channel Four's Mary Portas: Secret Shopper has been criticised by media regulator Ofcom for its 'unfair treatment' of a sofa store chain. Broadcast on 26 January, an episode of the show featured the alleged 'retail guru' Portas working with sofa chain CSL supposedly to 'improve' its customer service. Portas claimed that she had contacted six retailers but only CSL 'had the balls' to respond. The programme featured secretly filmed footage of other sofa stores, including A Share & Sons, which has ninety seven outlets across the UK. Portas said that she was given 'poor advice' by the store's staff, but also suggested that she was encouraged to lie in order to make an insurance claim. After expressing an interest in a sofa supposedly for her son's accommodation at university and inquiring about insurance cover, Portas asked: 'Every week you can drop a stain on it, and it's covered?' An ScS sales assistant: 'Yeah, they'll come out and clean it.' Portas: 'Even if he's been negligent, a bit of a twit drinking away?' The Sales assistant replied 'All he's got to say is, it was an accident, but I never told you that, though.' Marie Matheson, a director at SCS, complained to Ofcom that her company was treated unfairly by the programme and that its privacy had been 'unwarrantably infringed.' She was also concerned over the use of unobscured footage of store manager Neil Heffernan in the sequence. Channel Four defended its right to use secretly filmed footage as 'poor customer service' was 'in the public interest.' The broadcaster also said that 'nothing in the programme suggested that ScS, as a company, encouraged insurance fraud.' However, Ofcom opted to uphold the complaint in part after finding that ScS had been the victim of unfair treatment in the show. Ofcom said that it was not fair to say ScS did not have 'the balls' to participate in the programme, as there was 'no evidence' to suggest that it had been offered such an opportunity. The regulator said that the use of secretly filmed footage to suggest that the company encouraged insurance fraud was 'not fair or justified, as the sales assistant was accurate in his description of the insurance cover offered.' It also criticised the programme's decision not to give an 'appropriate and timely opportunity' for ScS to respond to the allegation about insurance fraud. However, Ofcom said that there was justification to use secret filming to expose poor levels of customer service as ScS, while it was also fair to show unobscured footage of Heffernan.

'Red-faced television bosses' are 'in talks' after both the BBC and ITV commissioned separate romantic dramas with the same title - Love Life. The BBC show, which has a cast including former Doctor Who David Tennant, Billie Piper and David Morrissey is billed as 'five original, provocative love stories.' The ITV Love Life is set in Manchester and described by the channel as a 'three-part drama about love, romance, family and babies.' It is understood that BBC and ITV are in talks to resolve the problem with one possibility being that one of the shows is renamed. The cast for the ITV version has not been announced yet but it is written by Bill Gallagher who wrote the hit series Lark Rise to Candleford and will start filming in October. ITV's director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie said: 'Love Life is a tender and funny story about grown-ups who refuse to grow up. We're delighted with Bill's scripts as they are warm, romantic and comic as he analyses how good people come to terms with the trials of love. We're delighted to commission Love Life for ITV viewers.' The writer of the BBC show, Dominic Savage, said the five linked episodes were 'a modern view on the age old mystery of love.'

Daybreak host Christine Bleakley has reportedly signed up to front new ITV series Guess the Star. So, that'll be worth avoiding then.

Comedian Rory McGrath is to reveal 'what makes Britain tick' by digging up pub gardens across the country. Pub Dig will excavate historic alehouses for Channel Five and the History channel. The four part series will be produced by Oxford Scientific Films. McGrath will feature alongside archaeologist and Time Team pottery expert Paul Blinkhorn who will oversee the searches beneath various British pubs to uncover what the producers claim makes Britain tick. 'With their team of experts and noisy excavator machines, they will dig up our favorite beer gardens and pub car parks to reveal the juiciest stories from our past,' said a statement from the producers. Scheduled for transmission on History in November 2011, Pub Dig will subsequently be rebroadcast on Channel Five in April 2012. The first programme begins at the Six Bells pub in St Albans where the team will be seen unearthing a Roman building under the pub's foundations. Rachel Job, head of acquisitions and commissioning at the History and Military History channels, said: 'We're always on the look out for slightly unconventional ways to attack history and when Oxford Scientific Films came to us with this first-rate accessible archaeology format we couldn't wait to get digging.'

Among those touched by the death of Red Rum trainer Ginger McCain last week was comedian Lee Mack – as his first job after being kicked out of college was at McCain's stables. 'I wanted to be a jockey,' Lee said. 'I knew Ginger McCain worked in Southport, so I rang him and I told him that I wanted to race horses. He told me to come down and it went from there. I was basically the YTS boy – cleaning up Red Rum's mess. I couldn't have been any further down the hierarchy. It was just great to be in his presence.'

Starring Robert Lindsay, Darren Boyd and Pulling's Rebekah Staton, Sky's latest original comedy, Spy, launches next month. 'Thirty-something Tim (played by Boyd) has reached a crossroads,' notes the pre-publciity blurb. 'Not only is he stuck in a dead-end job at Computer Universe, but he’s locked in a custody battle with nice-as-nettles ex-wife Judith (Dolly Wells) over son Marcus (Jude Wright), an utterly precocious nine-year-old who is as happy spending time with his dad as a PETA member would be modeling fur coats. Tim's world is shaken, and most definitely stirred, however, when he's accidentally recruited as a trainee spy for MI5, going from zero to hero. Well, sort of.' Created and written by Simeon Goulden (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Spy begins at 8.30 on Friday 14 October on Sky One.

Terry O'Quinn has said that he is always looking for an opportunity to reunite on screen with his fellow Lost star Michael Emerson. The two actors were due to work together on a new project called Odd Jobs for NBC about two retired Black Ops agents, but the series has yet to materialise. 'I was actually looking to do a series after Lost,' O'Quinn explained to Entertainment Weekly. 'Michael and I fiddled around with one and we sort of got through the process of generating some interest in it, and we just didn't come up with a script that everyone agreed on.' Despite work on Odd Jobs being halted at present, O'Quinn added that he is always looking for opportunities to work with the former Lost villain. 'Michael and I stay in touch, we still talk about that,' he revealed. 'Maybe we'll make it happen before we get too creaky. I would love to have at least one more good experience like Lost.' O'Quinn recently signed on for a recurring role on CBS crime drama Hawaii Five-0 as a Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander alongside another ex-Lost castmate, Daniel Dae Kim.

A huge steel mural of Billy Connolly is being created at a housing development in Glasgow. Acclaimed artist Andy Scott is moulding the twenty feet by sixteen feet structure which will hang from a wall at the Sanctuary Scotland development in Anderston. The housing association decided to honour the comedian as he was born in Anderston. The Billy mural will overlook the expressway and the shipyards where the comic once worked as a welder. The mural is going on the gable end of Phase One of Sanctuary Scotland's fifty million quid regeneration of Anderston. Scott's work includes the heavy horse sculpture on the M8 and the thirty three feet mermaid on the A80 at Cumbernauld. To date, the artist has created more than seventy public sculpture and architectural commissions. His work is also on display in Belfast, Spain and Australia. The mural is due to be erected by the end of the year.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's one of the great live performances ever captured on celluloid. A potent mixture of Talking Heads, Jonathan Demme and the Reverend Al Green. Tell 'em all about, David.