Friday, December 30, 2011

This May All End Tomorrow. Or It Could Go On Forever

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch has expressed frustration at being 'too posh.' The Sherlock actor claimed that having 'grown up with money' has affected his career negatively as it means he is typecast into a very particular type of role, which he finds one-dimensional and not as interesting to play. 'I was brought up in a world of privilege. It can ostracise you from normal codes of conduct in society,' Cumberbatch said in an interview with the Radio Times. 'Being a posh actor in England, you can't escape class-typing, from whatever side you look at it. I realised quite early on that, although I wasn't trying to make a career speciality of it, I was playing slightly asexual, sociopathic intellectuals.' All of which is probably true but the same, surely, applies the other way around? When was the last time you saw Ray Winstone playing a Big Nob, eh? Okay, Henry VIII, I'll give you that one. Bad example. Anyway, poor put-upon Benny continued: 'We all want to escape our circumstances, don't we? Especially if you are an actor. It's the imaginative process that gets my juices going. The further away you can get from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is such great fun.' Cumberbatch - who recently appeared as Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - has previously said that he found it 'thrilling' to receive such a positive reaction on the heels of Sherlock's first series.

BBC1 enjoyed a solid performance in primetime on Thursday, according to the latest overnight data. The channel was helped to victory by the extraordinary new nature documentary series Earthflight, which opened with 5.12m at 8pm, and Great Expectations' finale audience of 5.92m in the 9pm hour, as well as yet another bumper audience for EastEnders. Despite airing ninety minutes of soaps, ITV lagged well behind with Paddy McGuinness review show Paddy's 2011 Show and Telly completely failing to entertain its pitifully small audience of 3.76m at 9pm. (To be fair, an additional one hundred and sixty three thousand miserable punters start through it on ITV+1.) A result which made yer actual Keith Telly Topping howl with laughter far more than anything in the actual show. Elsewhere, The Dragons' Den special The Hilary Devey Story pulled in one and a half million punters for BBC2 at 8pm, then in the nine o'clock hour double act Qi - with Big, Shouty, Mad-as-Toast Brian Blessed - and Never Mind the Buzzcocks achieved respective audiences of 2.13m and 1.53m. Channel Four's latest Living with the Amish interested nine hundred and ninety two thousand viewers from 8pm. On Channel Five, very satisfyingly, the risible Amy Childs documentary series It's All About Amy continued to struggle with just three hundred and ninety thousand viewers from 10pm . So, it would seem that it's, actually, not all about Amy at all. Or anything even remotely like it. Welcome to the cold hard world of reality - as opposed to reality television - young lady. Pull up a chair and sing us a song.

Now, here's something to put a very nasty dose of the dribbling shits up any passing Grunaid Morning Star reader, some late breaking news. Apparently, this country's in such a weird and feeble state that it's been decided by those who decide such things to do away with the present regime and appoint 'a government of national consencus' (somebody who can piss off both the Gruniad and the Daily Scum Mail at the same time). Here's a picture of the new prime minister and his cabinet reading their manifesto. 'Item number one, from henceforth Bill Oddie is outlawed ...'
As it happens, the Gruniad can hardly get its collective trousers on this morning, having got the biggest stiffy imaginable at the news - as predictable as cold weather in the winter - that twenty three people (and I use that word quite wrongly) have complained to the BBC about 'Eat English Muff' in Top Gear. You really couldn't make it up, could you?
Joan Collins is reportedly being lined up for a role in the next series of Downton Abbey. The Daily Scum Express - for the first time in a decade printing a story that has nothing whatsoever to do with Princess Diana - claims that the actress is 'in line for a cameo role' in the third series of the hit ITV drama. According to the tabloid scum newspaper producers are hoping to secure Collins for a role as the cousin of Violet, the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith). 'A number of cameos are being planned for the next series and Joan's name is top of the list. It's hoped she can be persuaded to appear in at least one episode' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Daily Scum Express. Downton Abbey's recent festive outing proved a hit for ITV with 8.6 million viewers tuning in for the two-hour special. The episode saw Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) convicted of murdering his vicious ex-wife Vera (Maria Doyle Kennedy) while Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) finally proposed (again) to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).

Ricky Gervais has confirmed that Life's Too Short will return for a second series. Why? Why, for the love of god, why?

Big husky-voiced Georgie Thompson presented her final shift on Sky Sports News on Thursday. The thirty four-year-old hosted Afternoon Report and Evening Update from 3-7pm with Julian Warren. Georgie is now moving over to Sky Sports' dedicated Formula 1 channel, where she will present a magazine show with pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz. She first appeared on Sky Sports News in June 2001 and in her time at Sky has hosted the A1GP Series, US Open tennis coverage and the Speedway World Cup. She has fronted other live broadcasts, including the The Goodwood Festival of Speed, Superset Tennis and The Race of Champions at Wembley and also voices Sky Sports' Premier League Years series.
Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, Party girls thumped for having lesbo sex, Hooked on hookers, Six footballers jailed over gang rape of twelve-year-old girls in midnight park orgy. These are all recent headlines – some in the tabloid press, others in broadsheets - according to a major coalition of key women's groups who claim that such headlines add to an often degrading and dangerous portrayal of women in the British media. Four groups – End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and rape charity Eaves – are calling on the Leveson inquiry to move away from addressing the concerns of celebrities and other victims of alleged phone-hacking by News International and look at the daily treatment of women, which they say contributes to a society where rape can 'only be committed by evil strangers down darkened alleyways' and where a woman is valued only because of her body. In four detailed submissions the groups lay out the worst culprits over dozens of damning pages. The organisations say they took a 'small sample' of sexist – and often highly misleading – articles from a vast number of offensive reports. In a twenty seven-page document the End Violence Against Women coalition, a campaigning group which calls for action to end violence against women and girls, highlighted ten examples which they say provides 'a snapshot' of 'poor reporting of violence against women stories which were either intrusive, inaccurate, which misrepresented or were misogynistic, victim-blaming or condoning violence against women and girls.' The portrayal of prostitutes in the media was 'also damaging', according to the EVAW submission. 'It feeds into myths about prostitution, which at worse lead to attitudes that tolerate violence against women in prostitution or regard it as inevitable,' it said. It also criticised the Torygraph, and others, for a story with the headline: Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, which carried the appallingly offensive line 'women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped, claim scientists at the University of Leicester.' The MSC student, from whose unfinished and unpublished dissertation project the story had emerged, later said that each of the first four statements made by the Torygraph was 'an unambiguous, incorrect, misrepresentation of her findings.' But it is tabloid newspapers which are most fiercely criticised. The Sun and the Sunday Sport - a newspaper which, to be honest, yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought had long since gone the way of the Dodo, such is the impact that it usually has on him - are condemned for 'counting down' to the sixteenth birthdays of teenage celebrities including actor Emma Watson and singer Charlotte Church. 'The implication is shocking – that millions of readers should share a joke about the sexual desirability of underage girls,' according to the submission. 'Both young women have since reported that they found this editorial upsetting,' it added. A joint submission from anti-sexualisation campaign group Object and Turn Your Back on Page Three charted 'a week in the life of the Sun, the Daily Star and the Sport.' It highlighted an article on 14 November when the Sun trialled 'invisible shaping bum boosters' by testing men's reactions when a woman bent over at work, and, according to the groups, 'eroticises a form of sexual harassment making it appear that it is what women should, and do, seek from men.' It criticised the same newspaper for presenting itself as a family product, offering a free toy on its front page while 'containing adverts for XXX DVDs and Page Three imagery,' and highlighted a article the day earlier which provided tips for women on 'how to stop your man having affairs' which included the advice: 'Men have three basic instincts – food, shelter and sex. If you nail that as a woman, there's no need for him to look elsewhere.' Object said: 'The gender stereotypes promoted in this article are reminiscent of the 1950s – pre equalities legislation.' In another example from the Sport – sold unrestricted alongside national newspapers – two topless glamour models are shown among a group of cheering men in order to 'brighten up their day.' One man is quoted saying: 'It was a really cold day, so the girls' nips were standing to attention!' Object responded: 'This is deeply worrying as it is reminiscent of a gang/pack mentality sexualising two women who are overwhelmingly outnumbered by fully clothed men.' The organisation's campaigns manager Anna van Heeswijk said: 'Sexualised images such as "Page Three" are banned from the workplace due to the intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment that these images can create. Yet, in a situation unusual to the UK, these images saturate national tabloids which are sold without age-restriction in newsagents and supermarkets and which are read and left lying around in the public domain.' She added: 'This "sexualisation" process objectifies women and girls, and grooms boys and men into thinking it is acceptable to view and treat women and girls as sex objects. This portrayal of women is incompatible with a socially responsible press.' Hard to argue with that.

The then-head of the BBC personally intervened to censor a 1981 Panorama programme on Britain's intelligence agencies, official papers reveal. Documents from the National Archives show the then director general, the cowardly, spineless traitor Sir Ian Trethowan (1922-1990), was 'put under pressure' amid 'concern' over the planned documentary. The papers show The Coward Trethowan had claimed to the press that no-one from the government had seen the film or put pressure on the BBC. The documents, however, reveal this to have been a lie. The Coward Trethowen had, in fact, met the heads of MI5 and MI6. He also asked for a video cassette of the original one hundred-minute programme and showed it to Bernard Sheldon, then the legal adviser to MI5, who suggested that a large number of cuts to be made. The director general then went to the BBC's head of news and current affairs and asked him to reduce the programme by half, including making the cuts suggested by MI5. 'Mr Sheldon has in my judgement done a very good job with Sir Ian Trethowan,' one document for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, marked 'secret and personal,' stated. In another note to the prime minister, Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong said that 'it looks as if Sir Ian Trethowan has not managed to clean the programme up to the extent we might have hoped.' The actual content now looks relatively tame compared to the kind of press coverage given to MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in the modern era but at the time the institutions were barely acknowledged to exist and shied away from anything about them being brought into the public domain. As soon as word emerged that Panorama was planning this particular programme, concerns were raised at the highest levels of government. There were fears the programme would be 'unbalanced' and would 'damage the morale and effectiveness' of British intelligence. Mrs Thatcher was 'personally opposed' to any such programme - even one which simply looked at the question of accountability. In a letter marked 'top secret and personal', the cabinet secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power. His typed note said: 'The government has the power to ban any programme.' The veto had been used to prevent political programmes in the two-week period before an election but never deployed to 'ban a particular programme.' Its use, Armstrong added, 'would produce a tremendous hoo-ha, inside the BBC, the press and in parliament, about censorship. But if we were convinced that the programme was likely to cause grave damage to the intelligence services, it might be right to risk the hoo-ha and use the power.' Thatcher wrote on the note: 'I would be prepared to use the veto.' The government considered - but rejected - the idea of using the veto which it then had in the BBC charter to ban any programme from being broadcast, recognising that such a move would be highly controversial and that the contents would almost certainly be leaked anyway. One note indicates that The Coward Trethowen was considered 'weak' by Downing Street, while at the same time the programme-makers at the BBC felt that he was 'simply doing the government's bidding' for them. Which, it appears, he was. A close friend of the former Tory Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, and an exponent of the same kind of one-nation Conservatism, The Coward Trethowan has been criticised in recent years by many on the Left, especially for his support for the MI5 'vetting' of certain BBC employees.

Margaret Thatcher was urged to abandon Liverpool to 'managed decline' by her chancellor, newly-released National Archives files have also revealed. The confidential government documents, which are made available under the thirty-year rule, reveal the discussions in cabinet following the 1981 Toxteth Riots in Liverpool. The riots erupted on 3 July 1981, following the arrest of Leroy Alphonse Cooper on Selborne Street. The eight days of disturbance that followed left four hundred and sixty officers injured and more than seventy buildings demolished or burned down as tensions boiled over between the police and the district's Afro-Carribean community. While ministers such as the then Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine, were arguing for regeneration funding to rebuild the riot-hit communities, Sir Geoffrey Howe, thought it would be a waste of money. He warned Thatcher 'not to overcommit scarce resources to Liverpool. I fear that Merseyside is going to be much the hardest nut to crack,' he said. 'We do not want to find ourselves concentrating all the limited cash that may have to be made available into Liverpool and having nothing left for possibly more promising areas such as the West Midlands or, even, the North East. It would be even more regrettable if some of the brighter ideas for renewing economic activity were to be sown only on relatively stony ground on the banks of the Mersey. I cannot help feeling that the option of managed decline is one which we should not forget altogether. We must not expend all our limited resources in trying to make water flow uphill.' Howe acknowledged the suggestion that the city could be left to a 'managed decline' was potentially explosive. 'This is not a term for use, even privately,' he warned Thatcher. 'It is much too negative.' As the Thatcher government sought to respond, Heseltine was despatched to Liverpool in the wake of the riots. The cabinet papers reveal that he was horrified by the way Merseyside Police operated in Toxteth, saying they were not racist as they treated all suspects brutally. He was reporting back by phone to Thatcher on 25 July, three weeks after the riots broke out in Liverpool. The cabinet papers note: 'Mr Heseltine considered the behaviour of the police in Liverpool to be quite horrifying. They were not acting in a racialist fashion. They treated all suspects in a brutal and arrogant manner.' Heseltine also said there were too many young recruits in the area and the local commander had a 'fortress mentality.' Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Heseltine said the idea of abandoning Liverpool was never really an option. He said: 'It never really got any traction for the simplest reason that the cabinet minister responsible for so much of the policy that affected the city was me. I simply wouldn't countenance that you could say that one of England's great cities, a world city, was going into managed decline here. That would simply be unthinkable to the approach that I believed to be necessary to a very important part of our history.' The cabinet documents also reveal the confidential meetings the prime minister had with civic, community and church leaders, on 13 July, ten days after rioting started. In a meeting with church leaders she said she was 'amazed' at the hatred for the police in Liverpool. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Derek Worlock said although there was a 'profound mistrust' of the police this was not the cause of the rioting. Instead he told her there was a 'silent colour bar' in a city where there were no black councillors and just eight black policemen. He warned that people felt alienated from society and regarded the police to be part of the establishment, adding that community groups had to be part of the rebuilding of Toxteth. The archbishop, who died in 1996, also urged the prime minister to create a minister for Merseyside.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, ooo, innee bold? It's Morrissey.