Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: It Came From The South

Four became three on the first of the final four episodes of this year's MasterChef: The Professionals. Oli Farrer, one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's initial tips for the title, was the unlucky chap to go out, meaning that Ash Mair, Claire Hutchings and Steve Barringer progressed into the last three episodes. Which begin tomorrow night - much to Aussie Ash's obvious delight - with a trip to Spain to fight the fascists. Or, cook some food. Whichever. The week started with Michel and Gregg asking the four finalists to show off some creativity, skill and ambition. They were given a range of great cuts of meat as inspiration - beef cuts including fillet, sirloin, bavette, rump, rib eye and fore rib, as well as a whole chicken and giblets. They had just one hour and forty-five minutes to prepare a stand out starter and main. Ash was the obvious star of the round with two virtually faultless dishes, with Steve not far behind. In the end it came down to a straight choice between Claire and Oli - both of whom had made a few errors - and those staggeringly blue eyes might've just helped swing the verdict in Claire's favour.
Critics of The X Factor have blamed the slump of millions of viewers switching off to a case of 'finals fatigue' according to the Gruniad Morning Star. They went on to accuse ITV of stretching the shows to four hours to 'milk audiences' by cramming in adverts. The X Factor finals weekend slumped to its worst audience figures for several – the first leg on Saturday hit its lowest level since 2006 and the Sunday final fell to levels not seen since 2007 – as millions of previoously regular viewers appeared to became somewhat bored with Simon Cowell's ITV talent show. 'I hope ITV listen to viewers, two hours on Saturday and Sunday was a marathon,' said one, nameless, senior executive at a TV production company. 'It did feel over-stretched, particularly the Sunday show. Viewers already knew the journey of the contestants, knew their parents were proud and knew over and over from the judges that they need votes.' All of which is true but would have seemed a hell of a lot more credible if the person making these comments had actually had the courage to put his or her name to them. 'One view,' the Gruniad state, 'is that after a decade of reality and event television audiences are becoming frustrated with being used as bait' for advertisers to feed ITV's coffers. 'Viewers are cottoning onto TV producers tricks and they feel they are being ripped off,' said a senior executive at a media agency. Again, anonymously. 'They are aware they are being used as vehicles to be advertised to rather than as TV viewers to engage with.' This may be, but the X Factor finals in 2009 and 2010 also ran to four hours over consecutive nights. Last year's final attracted record viewing figures for the eight-year-old franchise, and neither attracted the levels of criticism this year's X Factor has. Some critics, the Gruniad state, have suggested that the fall in TV and online audiences – The X Factor website has seen a slump in visitors of almost forty per cent – has been caused by a less than inspiring new judging panel and crop of wannabe stars. 'I do think they had an unlucky year with talent,' said a second, nameless, TV industry executive. 'And as for the judges, well whenever there is a cast change it takes time to meld and blend. Look at Alesha Dixon on Strictly Come Dancing, she got criticised after she replaced Arlene Phillips but given time she has worked out better and better.' The executive argues that TV shows tend to be cyclical in their popularity, pointing out that a resurgent Strictly Come Dancing has not only hurt ITV this year, from a ratings point of view, but is a case in point of a revival. 'A few years ago it looked like Strictly was on life support, now it is on fire again,' said the TV production executive. A spokesman for ITV argues that the performance of X Factor needs to be put in perspective. Only the Royal Wedding has rated higher on TV this year, he says, and 2011 marks the third most successful in the show's eight year history. 'With a series average of over eleven million viewers across seventeen weeks, The X Factor also continues to be the UK's most popular entertainment show by some distance,' he said. Adrian English, head of broadcast at media agency Carat, argues that The X Factor is suffering from fatigue. 'Two hours on each night is just too much, I found myself losing interest,' he said. 'The X Factor is a cash cow, and ITV needs it to deliver ratings in the most-highly demanded week of the year. The challenge for ITV is to make the content of the finals more compelling. The franchise isn't dying, but it is suffering from fatigue.'
Former Scum of the World 'investigations editor', or odious wretch dealing in other people's misery (take your pick) Mazher Mahmood has claimed that he was 'not aware' of any phone-hacking at the paper until the arrest of a journalist. Mahmood said that 'all the fingers were pointing towards the newsdesk' after the Scum of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman was arrested in 2006. Former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck also appeared at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and standards. He defended some of his stories, claiming that they were 'in the public interest.' Mahmood, who now works for The Sunday Times, is known for his 'fake sheikh' disguise while reporting undercover and gave his evidence to the inquiry off-camera, allegedly to 'protect his identity as an undercover reporter.' He was behind the Scum of the World story which resulted in three Pakistan Test cricketers and a corrupt sports agent being jailed in November for spot-fixing. Giving evidence at the inquiry, Mahmood claimed that his work had led to more than two hundred and sixty 'successful criminal prosecutions.' And Christ alone knows how many innocent lives being ruined by innuendo and nonsense into the bargain. Because, of course, everybody knows the Scum of the World was a completely trustworthy paper that never did anything wrong. That's why it closed in disgrace, you might recall. Describing the process of getting his undercover investigations commissioned at The Sunday Times and the Scum of the World, Mahmood said that there was a 'regulated' process at both papers. In essence 'they had to fulfil the same criteria' - making sure the source was credible, ensuring the story was in the public interest, and that subterfuge was 'justified.' But Mahmood said that at The Sunday Times the process was 'a lot more stringent and more formalised.' He said there would be three main reasons which would justify doing a story - 'if criminality was a factor, there was moral wrongdoing, or hypocrisy,' but each case was assessed on its own merit. He also, spectacularly failed to describe whose morality, exactly, such alleged wrongdoing was exposed for the benefit of. The journalist said that he had written about five hundred stories for the Scum of the World and 'a small fraction' involved celebrities, but they 'never entrapped people.' Mahmood claimed that he had never paid or commissioned a private investigator, although Derek Webb - who has carried out 'surveillance work' for the Scum of the World - had been assigned to some of his stories by the newsdesk. The first time Mahmood claims that he was aware of phone-hacking at the Scum of the World was after the arrest of Clive Goodman. He went on to claim that it had then become 'the talk of the office,' and 'all the fingers were pointing towards the newsdesk.' Mahmood told the inquiry that he was 'proud' he had jailed paedophiles and drug dealers. 'We risk our lives on a daily basis. I live under a constant death threat. That's what motivates me.' He claimed that on one occasion he had purchased child pornography, which had subsequently led to a conviction and it was 'ethical.' He added that he took the Press Complaints Commission 'very seriously' and no PCC complaint had been upheld against him in the last twenty years. He discussed two stings involving model Sophie Anderton and an unnamed American model called Miss X, both cases involving drugs and prostitution. Asked about the alleged 'public interest' in the Anderton case, Mahmood said: 'She was not just taking drugs, she was selling drugs and she was involved in prostitution. There was clear criminality.' He said that the Scum of the World spent 'a fortune' on the story. Both situations involved using escort agencies, including the Miss X case involving a reported sixty thousand dollars fee, and so Mahmood, claimed, he did not 'entrap' the women with offers of cash, he merely responded to prices set by the agency. 'It's quite annoying this myth of entrapment,' he suggested the inquiry. 'We never entrap people and frankly I don't think you can entrap people in the way they suggest.' Pressed on the public interest in cases such as Anderton and Miss X, Mahmood said it was about exposing double standards in the public image. 'If they are posing in Hello magazine playing happy families, but then working as a prostitute, there is a clear moral ground in exposing them. In my view,' he said. Thurlbeck was sacked by News International after being arrested on suspicion of hacking phones while at the paper, something which he denies. He is currently on police bail. Lord Leveson said no questions about phone-hacking would be asked: 'I am determined not to prejudice any criminal inquiry,' he said. Talking about 'kiss and tell' stories, Thurlbeck said that a person selling a front page story would normally get fifteen thousand smackers. But, he claimed, journalists have to go to 'enormous lengths' to satisfy lawyers that stories are true and for every kiss and tell story that makes the paper, ten do not. He said that he had lengthy conversations with the paper's former editor Colin Myler about whether stories were 'in the public interest,' and that Myler was 'fastidious.' He claimed that when the paper wrote about footballer David Beckham's alleged extramarital affair, it was decided there was huge public interest because 'the Beckhams had been using their marriage to endorse products.' Thurlbeck said that he had spent five months working on the story - including six weeks in Australia, and five or six weeks in Spain. Nice work if you can get it. Asked by Justice Leveson about how much Beckham's former personal assistant Rebecca Loos was paid for her story, Thurlbeck said that it was 'a six figure sum. Just.' Talking about a Scum of the World article which, falsely, claimed that an orgy ex-motorsport head Max Mosley attended was 'Nazi-themed', Thurlbeck said it was the supposed Nazi connotations which initially persuaded the paper it was in the public interest. He denied that he ever encouraged the girls involved in the orgy to 'goad' Mosley into performing a Nazi salute for the hidden camera. He also said he had 'nothing to do' with the decision to upload video footage of the incident onto the Scum of the World website, claiming that was the editor's decision. Mosley won sixty thousand quid in damages from the Scum of the World in 2008 after a judge ruled that its story alleging he had a 'sick Nazi orgy' had invaded his right to privacy. Thurlbeck has been in the spotlight since details emerged of a June 2005 e-mail headed 'for Neville.' The e-mail, which surfaced in April 2008, contained transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemail messages. It appeared to contradict News International's previous stance that phone hacking at the Scum of the World was confined to a single 'rogue reporter' - Mr Goodman. Despite the fact that the e-mail's existence was known about in 2008, News International publicly stuck to their single 'rogue reporter' defence until January of 2011 when they finally came clean. Thurlbeck has insisted he played 'no part' in the matter that led to his dismissal and has lodged employment tribunal papers against News International. Also giving evidence on Monday, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, were Neil Wallis, the Scum of the World's former executive editor. He was arrested in July by the Metropolitan Police's phone-hacking investigation team, known as Operation Weeting. It later emerged that Wallis had been paid twenty four thousand knicker by Scotland Yard to work as a two-day-a-month public relations consultant. His contract was cancelled less than six months before Operation Weeting launched. Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry is looking at the 'culture, practices and ethics of the media,' and whether self-regulation works. It was set up in the wake of the closure of the Scum of the World in July, after it had emerged that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked by the paper while she was still missing. A second phase of the inquiry will commence after the conclusion of a police investigation into the Scum of the World phone-hacking and any resultant prosecutions. It will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press and look at the police's initial hacking investigation.

The former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell has accepted a two hundred thousand quid settlement from Rupert Murdoch's News International over the hacking of her phone. Jowell's lawyers, Bindmans, confirmed on Monday that the News International subsidiary News Group, which used to publish the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, had agreed to two hundred grand in damages for breach of privacy and harassment. Of this, one hundred thousand notes will be paid to a charity of her choice, with which she has worked closely and which will benefit young people in her south London constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood. Another condition agreed with NI is that Jowell will be given all of the documents relating to the phone-hacking accusations, Bindmans said. Jowell is also thought to have insisted that she would disclose full details of the settlement. Jowell has been told by police that her mobile phone was hacked 'wholesale' by the Scum of the World with officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting telling her that her phone was targeted 'very extensively' during the time that her estranged husband, David Mills, was being investigated for his links to the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Jowell's claim was issued in March, the agreement was finalised with News International last week and will be formalised by the court shortly, according to Bindmans. 'News Group has agreed to pay damages in the sum of two hundred thousand pounds, one hundred thousand of which will be paid directly to a charity which she has supported for some time. The payment will be registered with the appropriate parliamentary authorities on receipt,' the law firm said in a statement. 'She will continue to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan police investigation and as a core participant in the Leveson inquiry. Her concern has always been to ensure a transparent investigation so that the truth about phone-hacking should emerge in full and she is confident that will now happen.' Over the weekend, it emerged that her cabinet colleague David Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, has also accepted a settlement from News International for an undisclosed. 'but substantial' sum following the hacking of his phone. Blunkett declined to comment on the settlement. A spokeswoman said: 'Protecting his private life involves not answering questions which are entirely his business.'

And so, to the consolidated ratings, here's the Top Twenty programmes week ending 4 December 2012:-
1 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 12.46m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 Sat - 11.42m
3 I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! - ITV Sat - 10.80m
4 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.45m*
5 EastEnders - BBC1 Tues - 9.40m
6 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 7.76m
7 Emmerdale - ITV Fri - 7.68m*
8 Merlin - BBC1 Sat - 6.90m
9 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 6.71m
10 Frozen Planet - BBC1 Wed - 6.64m
11 Have I Got News For You - BBC1 Fri -5.33m
12 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.32m
13 Death In Paradise - BBC1 Tues - 5.29m
14 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 5.25m
15 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 5.20m
16 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.01m
17 Super Tiny Animals - ITV Wed - 4.84m*
18 Garrow's Law - BBC1 Sun - 4.80m
19 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 4.71m
20 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 4.66m
* = not including HD
BBC2's highest rated shows were University Challenge (3.44m) and the Wednesday episode of MasterChef: The Professionals (3.34m). Garrow's Law finished its second series with a consolidated series average of 5.02m and an average weekly timeshift of 0.57m.

Here's a tiny nugget from Sunday's overnight ratings to make you all chuckle warmly, dear blog reader. Chalk up another notch on Christine Bleakley's now, frankly, toxic CV as the former ITV breakfast flop Daybreak presenter's latest wretched horrorshow, Text Santa notched up a mere 3.88m viewers in the 9:30 hour. This, despite the show having inherited an audience of 12.87m from the preceding show, The X Factor final. Isn't it about time ITV realised this woman is now box-office poison to pretty much everything she touches? Text Santa - a thoroughly wretched conceit, presented by the thoroughly wretched Bleakley, alongside Phillip Schofield - was even beaten by BBC1's repeat of an episode of Inspector George Gently which pulled in an overnight average of 3.89m over its two hours.

Sir David Attenborough has vigorously defended Frozen Planet over the outrageous slurs that it 'misled' viewers. The Mirra recently 'revealed' that footage showing the birth of a polar bear cub had been filmed in a man-made den in an animal park in Germany. A revelation that would have been a lot more stunning had the BBC themselves not revealed exactly the same thing with a documentary on the filming of the segment which appeared on the Frozen Planet website a fortnight before the episode was broadcast. The BBC - having seemingly had just about enough to this constant bollocks for one year - today hit back angrily at the suggestions, with a spokesperson stating: 'The commentary accompanying the sequence is carefully worded so it doesn't mislead the audience and the way the footage was captured is clearly explained on the programme website.' And it's about time somebody at the BBC decided to show a bit of sodding backbone when it faced with lice-scum bullies with their sick agenda treating them like a punchbag. More please. Much more. Speaking on ITV's This Morning, Attenborough explained the decision, telling hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that it was for the 'safety of the animal. And safety of the cameraman,' Attenborough added. 'If you had tried to put a camera in the wild of a polar bear den, mother den, she would have either have killed the cub, or she would have killed the cameraman. One or the other.' Asked by Schofield if it was 'fakery', a frankly stupid question from a rather stupid man, Attenborough responded: 'No, what we are saying is, we're trying to describe the biology of a polar bear and the crucial element to it is that in the middle of the winter they produce this tiny baby - if you tried to tell about the polar bear without mentioning that or without illustrating it you'll have an incomplete picture. So the question is, in the middle of this scene when you're trying to paint what it's like in the middle of winter, to say that "Oh, by the way, this was filmed in a zoo" - it would completely ruin the atmosphere and destroy the pleasure of the viewers. It's not falsehood, and we don't keep it secret either.' The eighty five-year-old national treasure added: 'How far do you take this? You say, "Well this is a penguin but, actually, it was a different penguin colony that we did in this one, and that one is a different one, and actually we did it last year." You know, come on, we're making movies.' Odious and disgraceful Tory gobshite John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, decided to get his big fat snout right into to the story, telling the Mirra: 'If this was not filmed in the wild it would have been much better to have made that clear in the commentary. It's questionable how many people would visit the website and find the video clip which explained the circumstances of the filming.' What the hell any of this has to do with him, he didn't make clear.

ITV will screen England's opening and final matches in the pool stage of Euro 2012 football championship, against France and Ukraine respectively, with the BBC bagging England's first two knockout matches – should they make it that far. The BBC will also show England's second group game, against Sweden, as part of a deal which will split coverage of the thirty one matches at the tournament next June between the two broadcasters. The division of games is similar to the agreement reached for the World Cup in 2010 with ITV aiming to cash in on guaranteed audiences for England at the group stage rather than gambling on the team qualifying for the knockout stages. The BBC has opted for the right to choose the first and fourth quarter-finals, meaning it will broadcast England's tie if the team make it that far, while ITV will get to choose the second and third quarter-final matches. The BBC has also secured the right to broadcast both semi-finals exclusively. ITV and the BBC will jointly broadcast the final, which will be played on 1 July. 'We are very happy with the live matches on BBC1, as they give us a strong climax to the event, with both semi-finals, as well as England's quarter-final if they progress,' said Philip Bernie, BBC head of TV sport. Big "if", Phil! The BBC is also covering some damned tasty looking games including Ireland's group match against Italy, Holland versus Germany and Germany versus Portugal. ITV has bolstered its coverage by securing non-England matches that are likely to pull in big audiences such as Spain versus Italy, Holland against Portugal and two Ireland fixtures against Spain and Croatia. 'I'm delighted that ITV has secured an outstanding selection of games through the tournament, which includes England's opening game against France as well as a potential peak time group decider against hosts Ukraine,' said Niall Sloane, ITV controller of sport. 'Potential' - good word that, matey. 'Major events such as the Euro 2012 Championships have huge significance for our viewers and attract some of the biggest audiences on television.'

Tom Jones has reportedly landed a role in a new Sky Arts comedy. The show, currently called King of Neds, will see Jones playing a man who is fought over by a number of women, the Sun claims. Shouldn't require much acting from Tom per se! Others who have allegedly landed roles in the series include Brenda Blethyn and Alison Steadman. 'It's very top secret but Tom has agreed to do it, which is pretty exciting as he doesn't really do acting,' an alleged 'source' allegedly said. 'He won't be playing himself but his character isn't a million miles away from his own. Essentially it's a very British love story. Tom's character is the subject of attention from hordes of women but his heart is not in the sleeping around game. He ends up getting together with a childhood sweetheart, played by Alison, and the show is all about how sweet that kind of love is.'

ITV has ordered another eleven episodes of entertainment archive show The Unforgettables. North One Television will again produce the series, which celebrates the lives and careers of some of Britain’s best-loved entertainment icons. The first two shows will focus on Ernie Wise, including unseen footage, and actor John Thaw. The latter is set to feature contributions from the likes of Sheila Hancock and Kevin Whately. Other shows will celebrate names including Sir Norman Wisdom, Dudley Moore, Leslie Crowther, Gordon Jackson, Rod Hull and Hughie Green.

Time Warner has submitted a second takeover bid for Endemol, the debt-laden producer of Big Brother and Deal Or No Deal, with a sweetened offer of one billion Euros - in cash. In November, Time Warner tabled a speculative one billion Euro offer with elements of cash and debt, which was rebuffed by the company which is in the final stages of agreeing a protracted restructuring of €2.8bn debt. Endemol has a deadline of Tuesday to hammer out an agreement before it has to roll over its agreement with creditors on Tuesday. Its lenders have all but rejected the latest offer. 'Endemol has received a revised offer from Time Warner,' said a spokesman. 'The company has passed it on to the lenders. We remain focused on our discussions with lenders and these have entered the final stages. We are confident that a solution that puts the company on a firm financial footing for the future is now imminent.' The spokesman said Endemol was 'confident" of reaching an imminent agreement with lenders – which include Apollo Management, Centrebridge, Providence Equity Partners, Barclays, RBS and the Lehman Brothers estate – and that it has a bright future as an independent production company. Endemol – which is owned by Goldman Sachs, Mediaset and founder John de Mol's boutique investment firm Cyrte – is understood to be on track to make earnings before, interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about one hundred and fifty million Euros this year. Last month Mediaset, which is owned by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also made an unsolicited bid for Endemol in partnership with private equity firm Clessidra. RTL, which owns X Factor co-producer FremantleMedia, is understood to be interested in a potential deal to buy Endemol, but not unless an official sale process is initiated after the debt restructure. Last August, Time Warner took a controlling stake in Shed Media, maker of shows including Supernanny and Waterloo Road, in a deal valuing the company at one hundred million quid The US company had been considered a potential suitor for another UK independent, All3Media, the maker of shows including Midsomer Murders, but the sale was called off after a lack of interest from bidders in the seven hundred and fifty million smackers-plus price tag. Time Warner was never confirmed as a bidder.

Miranda Hart could repeat her triumph of last year after being nominated in four categories at the British Comedy Awards. Hart, who picked up three awards last year, is in the running for best female television comic and best TV comedy actress. Her hit show, Miranda, is nominated for best sitcom - despite the fact that not a single new episode of Miranda has been produced during 2011 - and she is again in the running for the People's Choice Award. All of which probably says more about the paucity of genuine quality in TV comedy at the moment than it does about Miranda Hart herself.

A teenage girl who was jailed for taking part in the August 2011 riots in the Midlands has told BBC Inside Out that she 'did not deserve' to go to prison. Well, you know, if you can't do the time, chuck, don't do the crime. And all that. Last month Danielle Corns was sentenced to ten months in a young offenders' institution for stealing two left-footed trainers from a shop in Wolverhampton. Why she stole two left foot, dear blog reader, nobody knows. Corns said that while she should be punished she did not deserve to go to prison. The judge, it would seem, disagreed. Her solicitor Shabeer Qureshi says he has been 'shocked' by the sentences handed out to those involved in the riots. Yeah. Cos heaven forbid that people who break the law end up doing time for it. That would never do. Some commentators including Wolverhampton's Conservative MP Paul Uppal - who sounds a right barrel of laughs, frankly - believe the sentences for rioters have been fair. BBC Inside Out West Midlands filmed Danielle preparing for her court appearance on the day she was jailed.

More than one billion BBC radio programmes have been downloaded since the launch of the corporation's podcast service in 2007, it has been announced. News leads the way for daily podcasts with Global News notching up eighty nine million downloads since 2007. The top daily programme is The Archers, with thirty five million total downloads. Scott Mills' Radio 1 show has thirty one million. BBC presenters have chosen their favourite podcast moments for a special download to mark the milestone. Contributors include 6Music's Lauren Laverne and Stuart Maconie, Radio 1's Matt Edmondson and 5Live's Richard Bacon. The one billion total is made up of monthly, daily and weekly downloads from the BBC's library of more than three hundred titles. World service news programming features heavily in the list. Radio 4's A History Of The World In One Hundred Objects has also been downloaded twenty five million times since it was first broadcast in 2010. The weekly Top Ten is dominated by Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4 on forty seven million with Radio 1's Best Of Chris Moyles on twenty nine million. Hang on, isn't that a misnomer? There's no such thing as a 'best' of Chris Moyles, surely? Radio 2 breakfast host Chris Evans is also included on sixteen million. BBC Audio and Music spokesman Mark Friend said: 'BBC Radio's one billionth download shows how audiences value being able to listen to audio when and where they want. Downloadable content draws in new listeners to a wide range of content with nearly a third of people who download podcasts listening to radio programmes they hadn't previously listened to.' Figures from RAJAR, which provides the official breakdown of the the listening habits, show that eight and a half million adults in the UK have downloaded a podcast this year.

A lemur has been found six thousand miles away from its native Madagascar on Tooting Common. The exotic primate was rushed to an animal hospital with hypothermia after spending an unknown period of time in the South West London suburb. Staff at the Blue Cross animal hospital in Victoria battled for three days to save the lemur, which was close to death. The animal survived and vets have nicknamed him King Julien after the lemur in the animated movie Madagascar. Chief vet Mark Bossley told The Sun: 'King Julien was very cold, scared and didn't want to eat. Our nurses managed to coax him into taking some drops of honey from a syringe. Then he gradually started eating bits of banana and grapes. It's the most unusual animal we've ever taken in. How a ring-tailed lemur turned up on Tooting Common, I'll never know.' It remains a big mystery how the lemur ended up on Tooting Common since they can only be kept with a special licence. Although it's probably a fair guess that it didn't walk all the way from Africa.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas, here's a bit of Carla Thomas.