Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turning Back She Just Laughs, The Boulevard Is Not That Bad

TV Comedy moment of, quite possibly, the decade (any decade). Big Shouty Mad-As-Toast Brian Blessed on Qi trying to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull. 'I think you're likely to set it off again,' noted Stephen Fry with something approaching alarm.
Ross Noble was, again, on particularly fine form - particularly his running joke about Iceland Prawn Rings.

There was an excellent episode of Celebrity Mastermind on BBc1 on Thursday evening, dear blog reader. Cor blimey, Springwatch's Chris Packham doesn't half know his stuff about Rorke's Drift. He wasn't too shabby on the general knowledge round either - although not knowing the name of David Bowie's kids for a tuned-in rocky-type chap as he is, frankly, unforgivable. Graeme Hawley would've probably got a lot more points if the questions on his specialist subject, Blackadder, hadn't caused John Humphrys to continually burst out laughing! 'A small trumpet!'
Alleged 'public outrage' at Jeremy Clarkson's appearance on The ONE Show a few weeks ago wholly failed to translate into a boycott of his show, with BBC2's Top Gear Christmas special pulling in five million overnight viewers. Much to the scowling disappointment of all the nasty little Communist hippies at the Gruniad Morning Star . Which seemed to have had its 'punters desert Top Gear' story all ready to rock and then had to amend it at the last moment. What a shame. There really is nothing finer in the world, dear blog reader, than watching professional offence takers gurning in frustration as their carefully laid plans to cause trouble have little or no effect whatsoever. BBC2 had a strong night all round with Top Gear's ninety-minute India special drawing 4.4 million viewers in the 8pm slot, with a further six hundred thousand tuning in to watch it simulcast on BBC HD. Once timeshift and iPlayer figures get added to that, expect five million to become nearer to seven. Three Men Go To New England was watched by 1.93m afterwards. BBC1's Great Expectations, starring Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson, lost approximately ten per cent of its audiences - six hundred thousand viewers - on its second outing. But its audience on Wednesday still managed to average six million. In a competitive 9pm slot, ITV's blooper show It'll Be Alright on the Night attracted an average of 4.7 million viewers, with a further four hundred and seventy thousand on ITV+1. On Channel Four, Jon Snow's round-up of news stories of the year managed just half a million viewers in the 8pm slot. Yet another reason for all Gruniad readers to be weeping into their Frappucinos.

Benedict Cumberbatch has reminisced fondly over the initial success of Sherlock. Benny, who debuted on screen as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC drama in July 2010, recalls watching the first episode as it went out with writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. 'All the Twittery stuff started to happen,' he told Metro. 'We were trending, which is apparently brilliant.' well, the Gruniad Morning Star seem to think it's the most important thing in the world since it's where they pinch the majority of their reaction-stories from these days. 'And by the end of it I thought there would be people abseiling into the garden just to have a peek at us because this thing had exploded that night. It was thrilling.' The actor added: 'There was an amazing feeling of love for it. Of course, it had its detractors and it would be weird if it didn't, but the feeling was one of great goodwill.' The drama's opening three episodes - A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker and The Great Game - received a positive reaction from critics and high audience figures.

Stand down comedy meerkats. A sour-faced pensioner who declares that she prefers gin to a nice cup of tea has topped a survey of the UK's most popular television adverts of 2011. The campaign for cut-price supermarket Aldi featured a woman talking about her husband's penchant for a cup of rosie before declaring: 'I don't like tea. I like gin.' It beat an advert featuring last year's number one,'s meerkats, into second place and a Volkswagen advert with a little boy dressed as Darth Vader into third in the poll carried out by research company Nielsen. Gary Lineker's Walkers Crisps advert promoting its Red Nose Day tie-up was fifth, behind the much-talked-about John Lewis Christmas campaign featuring that silly bird massacring 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.' A crime for which the sentence should be 'no trial, just straight to execution.' The top ten adverts were based on scores for 'likeability and recall' compiled by Nielsen. While four of last year's list featured celebrities, only two – Lineker and Johnny Vegas – make it this time round. Also in the top ten were the Foster's lager spoof phone-in advice service ('My girlfriend's new haircut just does not suit her') and Johnny Vegas and the PG Tips (formerly ITV Digital) Monkey. Darren Moore, vice-president for advertiser solutions at Nielsen, said: 'This is the year that relatable characters – people like you and me – replaced celebrities in the list of most-liked ads. Sarah Roberts in the comparethemarket ad, Warren from Halifax in the Foster's ad, and everyday people in the Aldi ads, are now the central characters in the TV ads we love the most. Even the meerkats have proved to be more resilient than celebrities this year. Having starred in last year's number one liked ad, they've maintained a top-two place this year – proof that by regularly changing the narrative of their ads, brands can keep existing characters fresh and popular.' He added: 'The 2011 list also suggests that children (VW and John Lewis) and animals (comparethemarket, PG Tips, Dreamies) are triggering a more positive response for advertisers. Humour, too, is a big theme in this year's list. Nine of the top ten most-liked ads are funny or comedic in tone. Only the John Lewis ad, which instead uses pathos and an emotive pull, takes a different route to engage viewers.' The likeability index is a measure of the number of TV viewers who like an advert they saw, and whose brand they can remember, during the normal course of their TV viewing.

The BBC's Football League Show could face the axe after two Christmas editions were dropped as part of a 'budget decision', fuelling speculation the contract for the programme will not be renewed beyond this season. The corporation has dropped the Football League Show from BBC1's schedule for Boxing Day and 2 January and the programme will not return until the middle of the month. Supporters complained about the axing of the two shows, fuelling speculation that the BBC plans to scrap the programme altogether when the current season draws to a close in May. The BBC is currently in negotiations over whether to recommission the Football League Show, which is in the final year of a three-year contract. A spokeswoman for BBC Sport said the two shows were dropped due to scheduling issues, but refused to categorically rule out that the future of the programme has been safeguarded. 'We never comment on contract negotiations,' she said. She said that the 'shortfall' at Christmas would be balanced by an extra programme later in the year. 'The Boxing Day and 2 January fixtures are outside our contractual obligations,' she said. 'Many factors come into play when planning the busy Christmas schedules and we were unable to schedule a programme for New Year's Eve. To address the shortfall, we will be doing an additional programme later in the season.' However Manish Bhasin, the presenter of the BBC Football League Show, had a somewhat different spin on why the shows were cut. He responded on Twitter saying that it was a 'budget decision I'm afraid. But all the goals will be online on the BBC Football website.' As the rumours about the show being axed gathered pace he moved to scotch speculation saying that: 'The FLS has not been scrapped!' However he followed this with a tweet indicating he was far from sure about the show's future: 'It's on till May and who knows maybe even longer.' A Carling Cup edition of the show will return on 10 January with the next regular edition scheduled for 14 January. The extra show will be broadcast on Easter Monday, according to Bhasin, but that has not been confirmed by the BBC. Bhasin has been lined up to be one of the anchors of the BBC's Olympic Games coverage. He will be part of the team delivering BBC3's daily coverage alongside Rishi Persad and Sonali Shah, with Jake Humphrey taking over from 7pm.

It's been an interesting year for chimpanzees at the movies. It kicked off with the James Marsh documentary Project NIM debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, continued with the surprisingly awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes and we even saw the first trailer for the Disney Nature film Chimpanzee. Sadly the year of primates in 2011 got sadder this week when it was announced that Cheetah, the chimpanzee in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and 40s, had died. But is that the real story? According to the Associated Press it may not be. Following the reports of Cheetah's death, the news agency uncovered evidence and testimonials suggesting that the original story could be an elaborate hoax. For starters, chimps tend to live between forty and sixty years, meaning that if Cheetah was actually in the Tarzan movies, that would have made it potentially the oldest chimpanzee ever known. Furthermore, as you could have probably assumed, multiple apes were used in those movies and, possibly more importantly, 'Hollywood accounts' say that the original chimpanzee from the Tarzan movies was named Jiggs or Mr Jiggs and died in 1938. Outreach Director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Debbie Cobb said that her family got Cheetah from Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in the 1960s and he told them that the ape had appeared in the films Tarzan the Ape Man and Tarzan and His Mate. Cobb said that documentation proving this was lost in a fire in 1995. Making this story even stranger is that this wouldn't even be the first time somebody lied about a chimp from the Tarzan films. There was a similar report in 2008 which was debunked by the Washington Post when it was discovered that the ape which had died that year was only born in 1960. The author of that debunk, RD Rosen, doesn't have much faith in this new story either, saying: 'I'm afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O'Sullivan is long gone.'

The New York Times offered 8.6 million of its readers a half-price discount for sixteen weeks in an e-mail gaffe earlier this week. The newspaper had intended to make the offer to around three hundred people who had recently cancelled their subscriptions, but instead it sent out the message to the much larger list, according to reports. When the error was discovered, a message was posted on the New York Times Twitter feed which read: 'If you received an e-mail today about cancelling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It's not from us.' However, that wasn't even remotely true and spokeswoman Eileen Murphy later revealed that the original e-mail was genuine and sent out in error. 'This e-mail should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their e-mail address to the New York Times,' she admitted. 'The initial tweet was in error and we regret the mistake.' One imagines you do, particularly if, in a notoriously litigious country like America, a few people start demanding their First Amendment rights to sue your ass off. The New York Times initially honoured the fifty per cent off deal but stopped the discounts by early on Wednesday afternoon. The person responsible for using the wrong list has, reportedly, been kicked, repeated, in the knackers until he squeals for mercy. Well, it's the only language these people understand, isn't it?

Two French art experts have quit The Louvre's advisory committee in a row over the restoration of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, according to reports. Segolene Bergeon Langle and Jean-Pierre Cuzin resigned in protest over the cleaning of La Vierge, l'Enfant Jésus et sainte Anne (The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne), the Gruniad claimed. Adding that the pair flounced out of the gaff like a pair of auld stroppy queens. No, actually, they didn't say that or anything even remotely like it. But, it would've been geet dead funny if they had. The pair claim that the Paris gallery has 'over cleaned' the five hundred-year-old masterpiece. They argue it has left the work with a brightness the artist never intended. Bergeon Langle, who is regarded as the country's leading authority on restoring paintings, was once director of conservation for all of France's national museums. She told the Gruniad: 'I can confirm that I have resigned from the international consultative committee, but my reasons I am reserving for a meeting with the president-director of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette.' Cuzin, the Louvre's former head of paintings, declined to comment beyond confirming his resignation. It is understood the restoration of the Da Vinci painting has divided the gallery's international advisory committee between those who believe the painting is now 'too bright' and those who regard the cleaning as 'moderate.' The Louvre defended its cleaning process, telling the Gruniad: 'Rarely has a restoration been as well prepared, discussed and effected, and never will it have benefited from such effective techniques.'

A fish and chip shop owner in Bury reportedly threw tins of mushy peas at robbers who threatened him on Tuesday. The proprietor of The Little Chippy in Killon Street was set upon by two men wearing hooded tops as he opened the back door to them on hearing a knock at 11.25am. The men forced their way into the store and threatened the owner with a craft knife, the Bury Times reports. He responded by punching one of the assailants reet in the kisser and then chucking four tins of mushy peas at the other, really hard. The forty two-year-old was then punched back by one of the men and had the knife held to his throat. The men eventually stole a laptop, four thousand smackers and a machine for slicing doner kebab meat. Police are now investigating the incident. Hopefully having kept well away from the kebab slicing machine otherwise they might have received a tip-off. What? What?!

Samoa and its neighbour Tokelau in the South Pacific will skip 30 December this year, moving straight from 29 December to 31 December. The nations will change their position relative to the international date line later tonight to better align themselves with their regional trading partners, The Associated Press reports. Samoa had been convinced to initially match its date with the USA and US-controlled American Samoa in 1982 to help its trading with California. Then, the country celebrated two 4 Julys in recognition of US Independence Day. The international date runs roughly along 180° longitude, opposite the Prime Meridian, but it is not straight, instead moving in and around various Pacific islands depending on their date preference. Samoa is currently a full day behind Australia and New Zealand, who have become increasingly important in trading terms over the years. Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi previously said: 'In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week. While it's Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand, and when we're at church on Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.' He added: 'Today we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China and Pacific Rim countries such as Singapore.' A law passed in June moves Samoa west of the international date line tonight (29 December). Tokelau's parliament also voted to join Samoa in the change. Workers missing the day will be given a full day's pay, while the move over the date line will be marked by the ringing of church bells.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day crops up entirely because yer actual Keith Telly Topping happened to be watching Almost Famous over the weekend and had quite forgotten how much he loves this particular song. Play yer Joanna for the people, Reg.