Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm No Clown, I Won't Back Down

The BBC has confirmed that crime drama The Body Farm will not return for a second series. The Waking the Dead spin-off starred Tara Fitzgerald as Eve Lockhart and Keith Allen as her ally DI Craig Hale. The first series was broadcast in September and October last year, but no further episodes will be produced, according to the Radio Times. While the series premiere attracted an audience of 6.3m, viewing figures had dropped to 4.3m by the sixth and final episode. Parent series Waking the Dead - starring Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston - drew to a close in April 2011 after nine series. At the time, Johnston, who played Grace Foley, said that she felt 'robbed' by the BBC's decision although, to be fair, the BBC had already made it clear that the main reason the series being cancelled was due to Trevor Eve's massive salary packet. 'I'm very sad about it,' she admitted in March. 'It was a lovely job. The show gets great audiences, it's sold all over the world and I don't quite get why it's going.' Because yer man Trev was getting a reported million smackers a series and, in case you hadn't noticed, the BBC have hardly got a pot to piss in these days, Sue. The Body Farm was made by BBC Drama Production in association with Eve's company, Projector Productions.

Oscar-winning US actress - and world class fruit-case - Shirley MacLaine is to join the cast of Downton Abbey for its third series as the mother of Lady Grantham. MacLaine - whose character is named Martha Levinson - will begin filming with the rest of the cast next month. 'It is so exciting to have an actress of Shirley MacLaine's stature joining our brilliant Downton Abbey cast,' said Laura Mackie, ITV's director of drama. 'It is a tribute to the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic. Julian [Fellowes] has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson, who will be a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess,' said Gareth Neame of Carnival Films. MacLaine has starred in more than fifty movies during her career which started in 1956 as nineteen year old in Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry. She won an Oscar in 1984 for Terms of Endearment. She has been nominated for a further five Academy Awards - Irma la Douce, Some Came Running, The Apartment et al - appeared in a couple of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite movies, Gambit and Two Mules For Sister Sara, and recently received France's most prestigious cultural award, the Legion of Honour. Her other movie credits include The Children's Hour opposite Audrey Hepburn, Steel Magnolias and Postcards from the Edge. Downton Abbey recently won the National TV Award for best drama and a Golden Globe for best mini-series. MacLaine will play the mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character, the American-born wife of Hugh Bonneville's Earl of Grantham.

It was good to see Whitechapel back on ITV on Monday night with something of a return to form after its hugely disappointing second series. The drama seems to work far better when dealing with Gothic horror as opposed to gangster stories. The episode pulled in an overnight audience of 6.6m viewers (including ITV+1 viewers) on a night in which ITV totally dominated thanks to two episodes of Corrie attracting just under ten million viewers each. The BBC couldn't cope with that with even EastEnders having a lower-than-usual 8.7m. The Royal Bodyguard closed its first - and, presumably, only - series with another lacklustre audience of 2.81m. It won't be missed. This was followed by Mrs Brown's Boys (5.39m).

Radio 5Live should provide more coverage of non-mainstream and minority sports, the BBC Trust has said. The station and its digital offshoot Sports Extra currently offer news and live commentary across twenty sports. However in a review, the Trust found up to two-thirds of 5Live's sport output in 2010-11 was football focused. The report added the station should spend more of its budget on news output in the future, to be representative of its seventy five per cent news output remit. 5Live and Sports Extra currently provides coverage on sports including cricket, golf, athletics, women's football, baseball, swimming and snooker. The Trust said while the current offering was a 'good starting point' it felt the station could 'increase its commitment' with a wider range included during peak listening hours. 'Although football will continue to be the most covered sport, other sports should receive more representation,' the report said. BBC management, in its submission to the trust, said 5Live would 'explore the possibilities' of reporting on swimming, extreme sports and American sports, depending on audience interest. BBC Trustee Alison Hastings, who led the review, told 5Live's Victoria Derbyshire she did not think it was 'sensible' for the Trust to specify which sports the station should be covering. 'But certainly during the Olympics, and perhaps at other times, you will be hearing a wider range of sport,' she said. The BBC Trust carries out an in-depth review of each of the BBC's services at least once every five years. It assesses performance, through public consultation and from responses from the broadcasting industry, against the service's remit and decides whether amendments are necessary. The review found 5Live was 'highly valued' by listeners, with a weekly audience of about 6.7m. It said news coverage on the station had 'breadth, depth, wit and intelligence' but said audiences were more likely to think of it as a sport network. The Trust said the station needed to do more to raise awareness of its news output and re-balance the spending towards news instead of sport. 'We recognise that sports rights and high-quality sports production can be expensive, however we feel that the balance of spend towards sports does not reflect the station's role to provide seventy five per cent news,' the Trust said. The report added a small proportion of the audience felt that, at times, 5Live had too much focus on trivial or less serious issues. The Trust said it would therefore like to see fewer 'non-news' features in news programmes, particularly when there was more important news in the agenda to cover. 'Audiences really value the fact that it's not wall-to-wall hard news all the time,' said Hastings. 'They like the tone. But if you're a programme that, maybe because of the time of day, is less likely to be doing more hard-driven news, you've got to think carefully about some of the regular features. Does that make the whole programme less "newsy" than it's meant to be?' Hastings said. 'It's great to see that 5Live's approach to news coverage and breaking news really stands out for listeners. We've set out ways in which we think 5Live could build on this to ensure that all of its journalism continues to meet the high standards that audiences expect.' A spokesman for 5Live said: 'We are pleased the report concludes the both 5Live and Sports Extra are performing well and are rated highly by our audiences. We will now consider the detailed findings and develop the plans to implement the report's recommendations.' In response to the report, RadioCentre - the self-interest trade body for UK commercial radio - said it welcomed the BBC Trust review, particularly 'measures to prioritise high quality news coverage and feature minority sport more regularly.' However, it added that the 'modest' nature of the changes represented 'a missed opportunity for the BBC.'

Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft concealed his involvement in a business that went bust with debts of around nineteen million quid, the BBC's Panorama has alleged. The programme claims that Lord Ashcroft misled the stock market and the media about his links to a Caribbean-based construction company. Lord Ashcroft has given more than ten million smackers to the Conservative Party. He said he has had no 'economic beneficial or legal interest' in the firm since he sold it in 1999. But the programme has obtained evidence that appears to show Lord Ashcroft continued to secretly control the company, Johnston International, long after that date. Johnston was one of the largest construction companies in the Caribbean, until it closed down without warning in June 2010. Panorama has spoken to fourteen former employees, who all say they were told, long after 1999, that Lord Ashcroft was their boss. One former employee, who did not want to be identified, said that Lord Ashcroft was often mentioned during meetings in the Johnston office. 'They used to refer to him sometimes as Michael Ashcroft and they would also refer to MAA, which are his initials. And they would refer to running things past MAA. No-one was under any illusions as to who that was. It was very clear that that was Lord Ashcroft.' The programme has also obtained dozens of faxes which were sent to Lord Ashcroft by the Johnston chief executive after the 1999 sale. They cover a seven year period and were all addressed to 'MAA.' The faxes update Lord Ashcroft on company business and ask for his instructions on major building projects. Lord Ashcroft then wrote his instructions on some of the faxes and sent them back. Creditors are owed around thirty million dollars following its collapse nineteen months ago. They include many former employees who have been left thousands of dollars out of pocket. George Mason Seymour, who worked for Johnston for thirty years, said the workers had been kept completely in the dark. 'All of us feel the same way right now because we all need money, we all got families, we've got school started a few months ago. We have bills to pay and there's nothing much going on.' At a creditors' meeting last September, Johnston's liquidators warned creditors that there was 'very little cash' left in the company. They also said that two million dollars should have been paid to the workers but had been transferred instead to the British Caribbean Bank, Lord Ashcroft's bank. British Caribbean Bank denies that this money should have gone to the workers. Through its solicitors, the bank says that the transfer of Johnston's assets was 'entirely proper' in 'every respect.' The bank says the assets represented security for loans: 'It is entirely unsurprising that such secured claims would rank in priority to claims by unsecured creditors, including employees.' Lord Ashcroft declined to be interviewed. But in response to Panorama's most recent questions, his lawyers said that he 'stood by every statement he had made' to the programme. They also said that Lord Ashcroft did not have 'any kind of interest' in the ownership of the Johnston group of companies. But Panorama had not asked Lord Ashcroft about the ownership of Johnston. The programme had asked whether he controlled the company - and that is a question he has repeatedly avoided answering.

Sky Sports has today secured four more years of live international and county cricket under a new contract agreed with the England & Wales Cricket Board. The satellite broadcaster's new deal ensures exclusive coverage of first-class cricket will remain on Sky TV, mobile and online. Replacing Sky's existing multi-million pound deal, which was due to expire in 2013, the new agreement runs from 2014 to 2017. Sky Sports will exclusively broadcast coverage of all England Test matches played at home, including the next home Ashes against Australia in 2015, along with series against India (2014), Pakistan (2016) and South Africa (2017). The broadcaster will also cover all England's One-Day Internationals and T20 matches, plus selected fixtures featuring England Lions and the England women's team. At least sixty county matches from domestic cricket will be broadcast on Sky Sports each summer, covering each of the major competitions in each county. 'This is good news for cricket and good news for viewers. Our viewers will enjoy a breadth of live coverage, at domestic and international level, and the ECB extends a partnership that has proved good for the game,' said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis. 'Cricket is flourishing in England and Wales, with increased participation, record attendances and success for England's men and women. Through extending our partnership, the ECB can invest on and off the pitch and the game can continue to grow.' ECB Chairman Giles Clarke added: 'Sky Sports has raised the bar for all live television broadcasters with its innovative, informed and comprehensive coverage of cricket and we are very pleased to renew this agreement for a further four years. No-one should be in any doubt that our partnership with Sky has been of immense benefit to the wider game. World-class support structures for our successful England teams, major ground improvements at county level, a flourishing coach education programme and a 5% increase in participation at our "Focus" clubs are all by-products of this relationship.' The deal will take Sky's partnership with the ECB for live cricket into its twelfth consecutive year, and there is also an option for Sky to extend the deal for an additional two years to cover tours by India in 2018 and Australia in 2019. Last week, it was announced that Test Match Special will remain on the BBC until 2019, after the corporation agreed a new radio rights deal with the ECB to home England Tests.

Mad Frankie Boyle's controversial show Tramadol Nights has reportedly been dropped by Channel Four, according to the Daily Scum Mail. Boyle allegedly said: 'I was really happy with it, but you can see why they didn't want to recommission something that was getting them front page hatred, and I was a bit relieved. A six-week panel show takes six weeks to make. Because I was involved from storyboard to editing, Tramadol took over six months, and loads of that was late nights and six-day weeks.' The reports have also claimed that Boyle's planned chat show, Frankie Boyle's Rehabilitation Programme, will not be made into a series after a pilot was filmed last year. A Channel Four spokesperson allegedly described Tramadol Nights as a 'one-off' and confirmed that no more episodes will be made, adding that there are no plans to turn Rehabilitation Programme's 'non-transmittable pilot' into a series.

Steve Jones has revealed that he will not host The X Factor USA's second season. The thirty four-year-old Welsh presenter announced the news on Twitter, but did not give reasons for his departure from the programme. It was first rumoured that Jones was about to get the tin-tack from The X Factor last December, with alleged 'insiders' claiming that only a 'miracle' would save his job. Jones was said to be 'devastated' at the prospect of moving on from the show.

Channel Four has raided BBC News once again, hiring the deputy editor of Panorama to edit current affairs documentary strand Dispatches. Daniel Pearl will report to Dorothy Byrne, Channel Four head of news and current affair. Pearl is a former deputy editor of Newsnight and the BBC1 10pm news and in 2010 edited the BBC's prime ministerial election debate. Last year Channel Four News hired Newsnight's political editor, Michael Crick, and correspondent Jackie Long, and BBC World News America presenter Matt Frei. ITV News appointed Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News channel chief political correspondent, to be its business editor.

Screenwriter Andrew Davies has criticised BBC1's recent adaptation of Great Expectations. The three-part drama, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, was broadcast over the festive period - to general audience acclaim - and featured an all-star cast including Gillian Anderson, Douglas Booth, Ray Winstone, David Suchet and Vanessa Kirby. However, the Daily Torygraph reports that whinging old gasbag Davies has complained about the adaptation, which was written by Oliver Twist screenwriter Sarah Phelps. Davies, who has previously adapted classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Bleak House, Sense and Sensibility and Little Dorrit for the small screen, complained that the drama 'didn't really feel like Dickens.' Maybe that's why seven million people chose to watch it which is a bigger audience than anything you've written in the last decade, pal. Jesus, why is it in the television industry that everybody seems to think they have a duty to diss the hard work of others? 'With Dickens, you can leave characters out so long as you don't leave too much out,' Davies said. 'That was an adaptation of Great Expectations that left so much out it didn't really feel like Dickens.' Davies added: 'It had the story all right but it left the humour out. Taking the humour out of Dickens, it's not Dickens anymore.'

The coroner at the inquest on Wales manager Gary Speed has said that he cannot be satisfied that Speed intended to kill himself. Nicholas Rheinberg recorded a narrative verdict after hearing details of the ex-Premier League player's final hours. Speed's widow said that his job had strained their marriage and they had 'an exchange of words' the night before he died, which led to her sleeping in her car and later found his body hanging in the garage at their home near Chester. The coroner gave the cause of death as hanging but said 'the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was intentional or accidental.' Louise Speed said she had gone for a drive after they had words when they returned from a dinner party, but she could not get back into the house. Four days earlier Speed sent his wife a text talking 'in terms of taking his life,' but she said that she had 'dismissed' it because of their children. Mrs Speed said he did not leave a note. Detective Inspector Peter Lawless said Speed's computer and phone were checked for a note, and none was found. His friend, the former England captain Alan Shearer, who was with him the day before he was found dead, said that he had become aware there were 'issues' between the couple. Shearer, whose family went on holiday with the Speeds, said that he told Speed such issues were normal in a long-standing relationship. Shearer last saw his former Newcastle teammate at lunchtime on the Saturday before he died, when Speed appeared on the BBC's Football Focus programme. He said that Speed - who played for a number of Premier League clubs, including Leeds United, Newcastle, Everton and Bolton Wanderers - 'seemed fine' and was laughing and joking. He got the call with the news of his death the next day. 'It just didn't and still doesn't make sense to me,' said Shearer's statement. Shearer also said that his friend did not seem worried about anything and told him he would call him the following Monday and that they had been playing to spend the following weekend together playing golf. He also said Speed seemed to be enjoying the Wales manager's job. The hearing was told by the Welsh national team's GP, Dr Mark Ridgewell, that Speed showed no signs of stress and depression. Dr Bob Muggleton, the medical officer at Sheffield United - the club Speed managed before taking on the Wales job - told the inquest in Warrington that he had worked with him until 2010 and no mental health issues were raised during that time. The inquest was told about a dinner party hosted by a friend of Speed the night before he died, when he had appeared 'in good spirits.' Speed had been pushed in the swimming pool with his clothes on, along with other men, in 'scenes of good fun.' He had also been talking of booking a Christmas holiday to Dubai. Robert Bateman, the taxi driver who took the Speeds home, said everything had seemed normal and they were 'as normal as they always are.' The inquest was told Speed had alcohol in his blood, just over the UK drink-drive limit of eighty milligrammes. In a statement, Speed's mother Carol said her son had said that there was 'no greater honour than to manage his country in the game he loved.' She described him as 'a half-empty person' and 'certainly no optimist.' The phone call from her daughter-in-law was the 'worst moment of my life.' Mrs Speed arrived at the inquest in Warrington shortly before it began with a number of family and friends. The League Managers' Association is expected to release a statement on her behalf after the hearing. After news emerged of his death, tributes were paid to Speed from around the UK and the sporting world. Football matches around the country held minute's silences and applause, while fans of his former clubs left scarves, shirts, photos and flags in Speed's memory. Tributes were also left at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff City Stadium and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. The Football Association of Wales announced a memorial international friendly game against Costa Rica in Cardiff, which will be held on 29 February. Gary had earned the first of his eighty five Welsh caps as a twenty-year-old in a friendly against the Central American country in 1990. The former Premier League star, who had two sons, went on to become Wales' most capped outfield player, captaining his country forty four times and scoring seven goals. Earlier this month Speed's friend and former Wales teammate Chris Coleman was unveiled as the new Wales manager.

Nice to see that CNN, that 'internationally renowned newsgathering organisation' has such a great grasp of geography. Err, I think you'll find London's roughly where Norwich is in reality there, lads.
The Stone Roses bassist Mani has confessed that he didn't realise his tour advance payment would be so big. Mani revealed that he went to a cashpoint to withdraw money for food shopping recently only to discover that two million smackers had been deposited into his account, reports the Sun. They claim that Mani told his friends in Stockport: 'It's madness. I only went out to buy milk and things. I went to the cashpoint and someone has stuck nearly two million pounds in while I wasn't looking. The whole world's gone crazy. I could have fallen over backwards when I saw the balance.' Mani confirmed that the band were aware that they would receive an advance from the high sales of their reunion tour and festival dates, but did not know it would be as much as they have been given.

Which means there's only one possible candidate for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And it ain't 'Money For Nothing' either.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What You Get, Is Just What You See

On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch's News International. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the odious, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant. As the Gruniad's Nick Davies notes: 'This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the News of the World finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch's three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.' The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the Scum of the World at all. They come from the Sun, and from the top echelons of its organisation – the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor. No one has been convicted of anything, of course, as Davies is quick to point out. 'The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the twenty five others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.' Under enormous legal and political pressure, Murdoch has ordered that the police be given 'everything they need' Davies claims. Whereas Scotland Yard began their inquiry a year ago with nothing much more than 'the heap of scruffy paperwork' seized from the Scum of the World's sordid private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, Murdoch's Management and Standards Committee has now handed the police what Davies suggests 'may be the largest cache of evidence ever gathered by a police operation in this country, including the material that led to Saturday's arrests.' They have access to a mass of internal paperwork – invoices, reporters' expense claims, accounts, bank records, phone records. And technicians have retrieved an enormous reservoir of material from News International's central computer servers, including one particularly vast collection that, Davies adds, 'may yet prove to be the stick that breaks the media mogul's back.' It is known as Data Pool Three. It contains, Davies claims, 'several hundred million e-mails sent and received over the years' by employees of the Scum of the World – and of the three other Murdoch titles. Data Pool Three is said to be so big that the police are not even attempting to read every message. Instead, there are reportedly two teams searching it for key words: a detective sergeant with five detective constables from Scotland Yard working secretly on criminal leads; and thirty two civilians working for the Management and Standards Committee, providing information for the civil actions brought by public figures and for the Leveson inquiry and passing relevant material to police. For News International, Data Pool Three is 'a nightmare' Davies claims. Firstly, 'no one knows what is in there. All they can do is wait and see how bad it gets.' Secondly, the police clearly believe it may yield new evidence of the crimes they set out to investigate – the 'blagging' of confidential data from phone companies, banks, tax offices and the like, the interception of voicemails and e-mails, the corrupt payment of bribes to police officers. Thirdly – and, Davies adds, 'most nightmarish' from the news International point of view – Data Pool Three could yield 'evidence of attempts to destroy evidence the high court and police were seeking.' Data Pool Three itself, Davies claims, was apparently 'deliberately deleted from News International's servers.' If proved, such conduct would be extremely serious - it could see the courts imposing long prison sentences - specifically because its destruction could, Davies suggests, only 'have been sanctioned by senior employees and directors.' The Gruniad Morning Star revealed in July 2011 that police were 'suspicious' that a huge number of e-mails had been 'deliberately destroyed.' Since then, high court hearings have disclosed more detail. Late in 2009, News International decided to delete old e-mail from their servers. This appears to have been a simple piece of electronic housekeeping. However, the plan was not executed. During the summer of 2010, the actor Sienna Miller decided to sue the Scum of the World for, allegedly, hacking into her voicemail. At the same time, according to evidence in the high court civil claim, internal e-mails were being sent 'urging that the deletion plan be executed.' Still, for some reason, it was not. On 6 September 2010, Sienna Miller's solicitor, Mark Thomson of Atkins Thomson, wrote to News International asking them to 'preserve all the documents in your possession relating to our client's private life.' On 9 September, an internal message pressed for the e-mails to be deleted 'urgently.' As Mr Justice Vos explained in a judgment last month: 'Only three days after the solicitors for Sienna Miller had written their letter before action, asking specifically that the company should retain any e-mails concerned with the claim, what happened was that a previously conceived plan to delete e-mails was put into effect at the behest of senior management.' In December 2010, the Scum of the World's Scottish editor, Bob Bird, told the trial of Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow that the e-mail archive had been 'lost' en-route to Mumbai. Also in December, News International's solicitor, Julian Pike from Farrer and Co, provided the high court with a statement claiming they were 'unable to retrieve' e-mails more than six months old. On 7 January 2011, News International gained access to the evidence that had been assembled by Sienna Miller's lawyers. On 12 January, the company issued detailed instructions for the 'secure retention' of all relevant data. Later that month, News International handed three old e-mails to Scotland Yard, triggering the new police inquiry into phone-hacking. In the same month, Davies claims, a second 'significant' deletion is believed to have happened. By this time, the entire contents of Data Pool Three had been deleted. However, under pressure from the lawyers involved in the high court civil actions, News International were compelled to allow 'technical experts' to examine their servers. On 23 March 2011, Pike formally apologised to the high court and acknowledged that News International could retrieve e-mails as far back as 2005 and that none had been 'lost' en route to Mumbai. He claimed that he had been 'misinformed.' In October, technicians started to restore the millions of deleted e-mails. By December, the entire contents of Data Pool Three had been successfully recovered. The implications, Davies suggests, are considerable. On Saturday, as police searched parts of the Sun office, a press release from News Corp referred discreetly to an 'internal investigation into our three remaining titles.' The Times is already under pressure following an allegation that a reporter hacked into a target's e-mail to obtain a story. In an unexplained line in his statement to the Leveson inquiry, The Sunday Times editor, John Witherow, said 'a freelance journalist/researcher who has done occasional work for the paper was arrested on suspicion of breaching the Fraud Act. The police investigation is still continuing.' Whether more of News International's UK titles are about to be dragged into the police inquiry remains to be seen, Davies says. 'The threat is there: it may or may not materialise. Similarly, it is not yet clear whether police will find evidence that senior employees and directors did order the destruction of evidence.' Equally important, the police may find evidence of more victims who may want to launch more legal actions. 'At the outer reaches of possibility, police may find evidence of illegal activity by other private investigators, which could conceivably lead them to other news organisations who also hired them. Since Saturday morning, nothing is certain.'

So, from disgraceful odious tabloid scum, to Sunday's overnight ratings: It was, once again, BBC's night with Call The Midwife increasing its overnight audience for the second week running to 8.76m. It is now, officially, a monster! Birdsong finished with 5.29m whilst Top Gear returned for a new season on BBC2 with 5.1m (including a whopping eight hundred thousand on BBC HD). Call The Midwife peaked at 9.3m - the highest viewing figure of the day across all channels. Although it should be noted that at least one reader of the Sunday Post complained that it was 'unrealistic' as it looked like the 1930s, not the 1950s and claimed that she 'wouldn't be watching again.' So, that'll be one less viewer next week, presumably. ITV's Twatting About On Ice was soundly beaten for the third week running by its BBC opposition, pulling in 7.55m for the main show and 5.88m for the skate-off. Time for a career rethink, Ms Bleakley? In between, Wild at Heart was watched by 6.21m. Overall, BBC1's average for the night of 24.5 per cent was enough to earn it a primetime victory over ITV, which had 22.7 per cent.

It was a similar story on Saturday. ITV's risible, odious, oafish dating show Take Me Out had an audience of 4.32m viewers, a two hundred and forty thousand viewer decline from the previous week and over five hundred thousand lower than the season premiere. The Paddy McGuinness-fronted tripe pulled in an extra two hundred and twenty five thousand punters on timeshift. Mark Wright's Take Me Out: The Gossip interested a miserable five hundred and five seven thousand lonely souls on ITV2. Elsewhere on ITV, The Talent Show Story had an audience of 2.26m and The Jonathan Ross Show could only manage 2.47m at 9.30pm (with an additional one hundred and eighty thousand on ITV+1). BBC1's The Magicians, meanwhile, was watched by 4.19m at 6.35pm, and The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins followed with 5.12m, easily beating Take Me Out. The latest episode of Casualty was watched by 5.29m at 8.40pm. On BBC2, Keira Knightley film The Duchesss had an audience of 2.24m. On BBC4 the two episodes of Borgen again pulled in strong figures for the channel of six hundred and ten thousand and four hundred and eighty thousand respectively. BBC1 took the primetime honours with a 19.6 per cent average share, with ITV a somewhat distance second on 14.5 per cent.

And, speaking of ratings, here's the Top Twenty shows week-ending 22 January:-
1 Call The Midwife - BBC1 Sun - 10.47m
2 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 9.96m
3 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.63m [+ 638k HD]
4 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 7.76m*
5 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.09m [+ 513k HD]
6 Birdsong - BBC1 Sun - 7.01m
7 Wild At Heart - ITV Sun - 6.68m [+ 537k HD]
8 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 6.61m
9 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.48m
10 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Mon - 6.37m
11 Above Suspicion - ITV Mon - 6.32m [+ 6333k HD]
12 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - BBC1 Sat - 5.92m
13 Hustle - BBC1 Fri - 5.88m
14 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 5.55m
15 DIY SOS: The Big Build _ BBC1 Wed - 5.42m
16 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.38m
16 MasterChef - BBC1 Tues - 5.31m
18 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Tues - 5.16m
19 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.07m
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Tues - 5.02m
* = ITV HD figure not known. BBC2's highest performing shows were, of course, Stargazing Live (which gained audiences of 4.16m, 3.94m and 3.36m for its three episodes, including BBC HD figures) and University Challenge (3m). Channel Four's highest performer was One Born Every Minute (3.80m)

The BBC and Sky this week announced a landmark partnership deal that will bring the BBC's popular video-on-demand service iPlayer to up to five million Sky homes in 2012. The announcement means that later this year BBC iPlayer will be available to Sky subscribers directly on the living room TV. Using iPlayer, audiences will be able to enjoy the full complement of BBC programmes in a familiar, easy-to-use BBC iPlayer experience that helps audiences catch up on what they missed and discover new programmes to enjoy. A core BBC value is to reach all audiences on a universal basis, so Sky's plan to make Anytime+ available to customers regardless of their Internet provider is an important development in helping to bring BBC iPlayer to around five million new homes in 2012 – at no extra charge. BBC iPlayer has proven to be hugely popular with UK audiences since launching in 2007, delivering a record two billion TV and radio programmes in 2011. In addition to enjoying BBC iPlayer on the PC, audiences will soon have total freedom to catch up on BBC programmes on the TV. This deal builds on a substantial history of industry partnerships that have brought BBC iPlayer to platforms like Virgin Media, BT Vision, FreeSat, Freeview, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and hundreds of mobile phones, tablets, and Internet-connected TVs. Launching on Sky Anytime+ completes a picture in which BBC iPlayer is available on every major UK television platform. BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said: 'Having the BBC and Sky work together to further build on the BBC iPlayer success story can only be fantastic news for audiences. Making BBC iPlayer available on all platforms is key to our commitment to universal access and this agreement takes us one step further towards that goal. I'm delighted to take this first step on a story of innovation for both organisations.' Jeremy Darroch, Sky's Chief Executive, added: 'Sky Anytime+ will go from strength to strength in 2012 and we are delighted that the addition of BBC iPlayer will allow Sky customers to enjoy the best of the BBC whenever they want.' Launching on December 2007 as a simple catch-up website, BBC iPlayer has helped pioneer TV on demand by offering audiences the opportunity to watch selected TV programmes for up to seven days after broadcast. BBC iPlayer has since evolved, adding more TV programmes; including entire series and films, radio programmes, live TV channels and radio station, programme downloads for offline viewing and personalisation features such as Favourites and recommendations. Variants of BBC iPlayer optimised for smartphones, tablets and connected TVs are also available, allowing audiences to catch-up or watch live wherever they are and on whatever device – offering access on the move over 3G and WiFi, or simple access via broadband on the living room TV.

At Wednesday's Oxford media convention, the culture minister, Ed Vaizey, promised to 'broker a meeting' between the soon-to-be-outgoing BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, and the maverick Tory MP Nadine Dorries to discuss the issue of gender balance in broadcasting. Two days earlier, he had replied for the government in a debate on this theme, initiated by Dorries, that was not without its bizarre moments. One was Vaizey's response to Dorries' lengthy Commons tirade against Andrew Neil, whom she accused not only of being 'sexist' and 'aggressive' on This Week (which 'almost every week features three ageing men and a token woman'), but also of 'looking peculiar.' Vaizey could not approve of her description of Neil as 'an orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been,' he said, largely because 'almost all those adjectives probably apply to me.'

Top Gear, as Jeremy Clarkson acknowledged in his opening monologue on last night's show, hasn't had a great time recently. There was all of that pointless, Gruniad-generated kerfuffle over Christmas's India special and, before that, another suspiciously concerted media campaign of desperately feigned 'outrage' over some comments Clarkson made on The ONE Show. So, perhaps mindful of causing more alleged offence to professional offence-takers, in this first episode of the new series they kicked off with a witty little 'wrong film' montage of highlights from the forthcoming series featuring a cute bunny rabbit. Then, the boys went to Italy to drive supercars - the closest thing to 'a sure thing' in motoring journalism. The premise was to find the best choice of car if you don't want a Ferrari. Not a question most people will be tossing in their beds over but that shouldn't be seen as a criticism as Top Gear has proved conclusively over the years that testing ridiculously expensive cars is far more entertaining telly than trying to be all sensible and doing 'proper' consumer pieces on Fiestas and Fiat Pandas. You can go to Channel Five for that. Or, actually, now, you can't. James May was in a Maclaren MP4, Jezza in a Lamborghini Aventador, The Hamster in a Noble M600. They learned some obvious lessons. All three cars were very fast. All were rather impractical on Rome's cobbled streets. All were fun to drive. Though one imagines that the Noble PR people will be a bit cheesed off that the model they gave Hammond broke down halfway through and had to be replaced. There were a couple of bright moments – such as when Clarkson was pulled over by the Italian police, not for speeding, but for 'working' on Sunday and he responded that this demonstrated why Italy was nearly bankrupt. One imagines some shit-scum louse in the Gruniad is currently scanning Twitter to see if any Italians were 'offended' by this comment so they can run another one of their shite-scum 'exclusives' on it. The trio ended up at Imola, to test each car against a lap time set by The Stig's Italian cousin in a Ferrari 458. Before the racing, there was a stunning montage of the track's history of horrendous Formula 1 crashes, which reached their tragic nadir with the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. It was well done, and gave a richness to the driving that followed. History, risk, speed, beautiful machinery: all the joys of motoring, and a reminder that Top Gear, when it sticks to its purpose, can do it better than any other series.
Amy Childs has reportedly 'begged' to compete in next year's series of Twatting About on Ice. The former Only Way Is Essex wannabe, whose piteous reality show It's All About Amy has recently been given the boot by Channel Five, was told by producers that the 2013 run has 'yet to be discussed.' So, that'll be a 'no' then.

Alan Davies has announced his first UK tour in twelve years. The Qi regular will take to the road with his Life Is Pain stand-up show this autumn, following a stint at the Edinburgh festival. It follows a series of well-received gigs in Australia, which revived his interest in live performance. He told Graham Norton on his BBC1 show on Friday: 'I'm going on tour later this year. I haven't done a stand-up tour for twelve years. We went out to Australia and we did Qi Live, and while I was there I did a stand-up tour. It was great, I really loved it. I used to tire of touring and all the hotels but, actually, now I've got small children and I'm always exhausted I like being on my own. Plus, they provide half the material for this show.' Davies is playing the EICC while at the Edinburgh Fringe. The venue's programme will also include Jimmy Carr and Jason Byrne. Davies last appeared at the festival in 2005 alongside Bill Bailey in an adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple at The Assembly Hall. He performed stand-up at the festival in 2001, but didn't take that particular show on the road.

Former Doctor Who star and national heart-throb David Tennant has been named best actor at the inaugural BBC Audio Drama Awards. The awards, which were also hosted by Tennant, aim 'to celebrate and recognise the cultural importance of audio drama, on-air and online.' Tennant won for his role as Kafka in Kafka: The Musical. Rosie Cavaliero was named best actress as Ruthie, in Lost Property: A Telegram from the Queen. Lost Property: The Year My Mother Went Missing won best audio drama. It is the second in a trilogy of radio plays from acclaimed writer Katie Hims. The trilogy began with The Wrong Label, spanned sixty years, and charted 'one family's tragi-comic history of heartbreak and redemption.' The series was directed by Jessica Dromgoole. Cavaliero narrated the first two plays, before taking on the role of Ruthie in the final part. All three were originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2011 and will be repeated next week.

Celebrity Big Brother twins Kristina Shannon and Karissa Shannon are reportedly developing their own reality show. The twins, twenty two (and, that appears to be their collective IQ age well as their age), are 'in talks' about filming a fly-on-the-wall series following their day-to-day lives in the UK, according to the Daily Lies. Yeah, why the Hell not? It's not like we don't have enough of our own, odious, pompous, full-of-their-own-importance desperate talentless wannabes swanning around in their own little celebrity-by-non-entity world with cameras trailing behind them like they were actually somebody without importing a few more.

When Harry Redknapp said 'I write like a two-year-old' at his trial for tax evasion last week, the Sun (for which he still, ostensibly, writes a football column) duly made it a page lead, though it adopted a less gleefully mocking tone than some of the other red-tops. Oddly missing from the paper's report, however, was the most telling example the Spurs manager gave of his being 'the most disorganised man in the world.' It was his recollection of a call from his accountant asking 'Harry, where are your payments from the Sun?' Redknapp claimed that he had vaguely assumed the payments had been banked. But, he said, that on contacting the paper he discovered 'they hadn't paid me for eighteen months.'

Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton has reportedly exchanged heated words with two co-stars on Twitter. The Mirra reports the actor, who plays factory worker Sean Tully, exchanged 'words' with co-stars who criticised him for his constant name-dropping. Actors Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt, and Ryan Thomas, who plays Jason Grimshaw, were the other Coronation Street regulars involved. The Mirra reports that Cotton responded by claiming that Shepherd was a 'little irritant' who 'needs the money more than me.' Tweeting about Thomas, Cotton wrote his I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... friend Mark Wright had 'hoovered up' of all of Thomas's personal appearances. Shepherd tweeted, about Cotton's comments: 'That's not banter, it's an insult.' During Cotton's recent stint on I'm A Celebrity Z-List Former ... the actor was criticised, via Twitter, by former co-star John Thomson who described Cotton as 'trouble with a capital T' to work with.

Some nice news now. Frank Skinner has told his radio listeners that is to become a father for the first time at the age of fifty five. On Absolute Radio today, Skinner cleared his throat and said sombrely: 'I have something of an announcement to make. I'm going to be a father.' Co-presenter Alun Cochrane congratulated him, but asked: 'Are you paranoid of any jokes you've made about ageing fathers in the past?' Skinner, who has just became the host of BBC2's Room 101, replied: 'The way I'm seeing it is that I probably won't have to deal with those difficult teenage years.' He added: 'I've already made certain pledges. It means I'll be up for the show a lot earlier and things like that and what I'm saying to the listeners is - get knitting.' Skinner is expecting the child with long-term partner Cath Mason. From The North sends our congratulations to the expectant couple.

If tweets from their former Newsnight colleague Michael Crick are to be believed, then last week's showcasing of Paul Mason's erotic writing led to Jeremy Paxman talking of putting Mason forward for the annual Bad Sex award. In which case, he may need a passage as back-up, as ancient Mongolian-style sex on horseback could well strike the judges as trying too hard. Luckily, Mason provides several similar passages in his raunchy thriller Rare Earth, including one that begins: 'He plunged three rough fingers down the front of her jeans, making her squeak.' Yeah, well, it's happened to us all. I tend to suggest using some form a lubrication, personally. Some time later, after an encounter involving a 'white sheepskin rug', 'two thousand milligrammes of Man's Treasure' and the ecstatic exclamation 'Your chrysanthemum will change shape permanently!' the chapter ends with Chun-li, the female party in this particular knee-trembler, departing after simultaneously seducing, drugging and extracting information from her coital partner. Has anybody told the Leveson inquiry about this? Surely, a public interest defence here would be sketchy at best.

The Happy Mondays will re-form for a month-long tour in May, singer Rowetta Satchell has confirmed. Rave! On! (Err ... I imagine, they'll be opening with that!) Rowetta told BBC Radio Manchester the group had been in talks 'for a long time', but made the final decision to reform last week. Although the Manchester band have reformed previously, this will be the first time that the original line-up has played together since 1992. 'We want to put on a really good show,' Rowetta told Darryl Morris. All seven of the band's classic, late-80s-early-90s line-up met last week to 'see if they could sit in a room together', Rowetta said, referring to several incidents in the band's acrimonious past. She said that the drive to bring the band back together had come from lead singer Shaun Ryder and his manager. Which, one assumed, means that his money from appearing in I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... has finally run out. 'We decided it would only be special and work if it was the total, original line-up,' she said. Which is, of course, ironic as Rowetta wasn't in the original line up, she only joined in 1989! 'We're all really excited. They are my family, these boys; I've really missed them. And I'm sure they've missed each other.' The band, who were at the forefront of the baggy Madchester scene, formed in 1980, with Ryder as their frontman. The original band also included Ryder's brother Paul on bass, guitarist Mark Day, keyboard player Paul Davis and drummer Gary Whelan. They were subsequently joined by dancer Bez Berry and, later, Rowetta. Discovered by music impresario Tony Wilson, they went on to release the CDs Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), Bummed, and their masterpiece Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches, before disbanding after 1992's disastrous Yes Please! They have previously reformed twice, most notably in 1999, but split again in 2001, with Paul Ryder vowing never to perform with his brother again. A further incarnation of the band followed in 2004, but with only Shaun Ryder, Bez and Whelan from the original line-up. Rowetta said the band would be rehearsing throughout April, but denied there were currently any plans for them to support the reunited Stone Roses at Heaton Park. 'It's up to The Roses. As long as we've not killed each other by then, we'd be up for it.'

Which, nicely, brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, on a thoroughly miserable Monday like this one, it's time to get some Happy in the house. Happy Mondays' in the area. One Louder. Yippie, yippie, aye-aye-ay.
Aw, bugger it, let's have 'WFL' as well!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week Six: Stung

Russell Davies has told the Observer that children's programming is an 'endangered species.' He said that he was shocked that ITV no longer makes children's shows and added that writers of hits such as Teletubbies should be ranked alongside acclaimed dramatists such as Tom Stoppard and Samuel Beckett. Davies, who started his TV career working on Granada's Children's Ward for ITV in the 1990s, said: 'I am passionate about children's television, but it is, as ever, an endangered species, under threat. The most shocking thing I have seen is that, apparently unnoticed, five years ago ITV dropped children's programmes. There is now the complete absence of children's programmes made by ITV on CITV. It is amazing to me, when I contrast it with all those people who were furious about cuts to BBC local radio, and they were immediately reversed.' The difference there, Rusty, being that the BBC is accountable to its consumers, commercial television isn't. The Welsh-born writer and producer added: 'I am also amazed that people don't recognise the talent, genius, of children's writers, for example, Andrew Davenport. The creator behind Teletubbies and In the Night Garden is up there, in my opinion, with Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, but no one puts him there. It's the same with Jacqueline Wilson, whose books have led to the wonderful Tracy Beaker dramas.' The failure of society to recognise the talent of children's writers 'allows us to diminish and marginalise their work' and the importance of children's television, he said. An ITV spokesman countered Davies's view, saying: 'We are supportive of the UK children's production industry. We have premiered seven commissions from producers in the past twelve months on the CITV channels, including Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge, Sooty, and the third series of Horrid Henry.' Davies's heart lies with children's television. His latest project, Aliens Vs Wizards, is being talked about as one of the biggest new dramas for children to come out of Britain. It combines medieval wizardry with alien fantasy and will be screened by the BBC this autumn. Davies, who first gained wider recognition writing the Channel Four adult series Queer as Folk, stepped down as executive producer of Doctor Who in 2009 and moved to Los Angeles, where he oversaw production of Doctor Who spin-offs, Torchwood: Miracle Day and The Sarah Jane Adventures. He returned to his Manchester home at the end of last year after his partner was diagnosed with brain cancer. Davies embarked on Aliens Vs Wizards a year ago when it became clear that The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was the most popular show on CBBC last year, would be forced to end with series five following the death of its star, Elisabeth Sladen. Davies arranged to meet one of his collaborators on Doctor Who, the writer Phil Ford, for dinner in a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about new ventures. 'When you try like that, usually you never have an idea,' Davies said. But by the time the two men had finished their main course they both knew they had come up with a 'really geeky idea, the cleverest of the lot,' which taps into the latest film and TV craze, mashing up different genres – as seen in the film Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, released last year. They decided to focus the new drama on two sixteen-year-olds, Tom and Benny, one secretly in possession of magical powers, the other a super-bright scientific brain, who does not believe in magic. They combine their skills to battle a tribe of aliens, called the Nekross, to save the world. From the dark side of the moon, the Nekross set up a base to scan the earth, looking for magical skills to buttress their power and, naturally, destroying anything that stands in their way. The idea was quickly turned into a first script, then an order for twenty six episodes. Davies said: 'Magic and science fiction are never combined. For example, the only thing that could make Harry Potter better, in my view, would be if a big spaceship arrives at the door of Hogwarts, but it never does. It does in ours, in episode one.' At the core is an ideological clash as the two boys argue over the separate worlds of magic and science, such as the existence of spells versus, say, laser technology. Davies added that the trick was to create a drama based on ordinary life, as in The Sarah Jane Adventures, set in Ealing, into which fantasy intrudes. 'Remember, I spent my whole childhood waiting for the Daleks to arrive in my school playground,' said Davies. The wizard teenager is descended from a family of wizards, but he keeps this a secret and attends a comprehensive school. Aliens Vs Wizards will also feature lots of prosthetic monsters, as in Doctor Who, and not just computer generated imagery. The lavish multimillion-pound series, which starts filming in the Cardiff drama studios of BBC Wales in March, is being financially backed by FremantleMedia Enterprises, to supplement CBBC budgets. In return for the investment, Fremantle, not the BBC, has global sales rights, as well as rights to DVDs, merchandising and book publishing. Sander Schwartz, president of Children and Family Entertainment at FME, and based in Hollywood, said: 'It does something which is very hard to do, successfully, mashing together two disparate genres. We have already had great success with My Babysitter's A Vampire [a global hit on the Disney channels], a mix of comedy and horror, because it does something different.' There are dangers in creating mash-ups. Aliens Vs Wizards is expected to receive the close attention of Davies. His current challenge is the stuff of every fan's dreams: he is pondering what colour to make his Nekross aliens.

And so to this week's Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 4 February
In the final two episode of the first series of Borgen- 9:00 BBC4 - Danish defence minister Hans Christian Thorsen arranges a contract for new fighter jets. But controversy erupts when new facts emerge about the deal, leaving members of parliament facing a barrage of media criticism. Though Birgitte is surprised at the defence minister's choice of new planes, she allows him to make public the decision on the government's behalf. When unpleasant surprises surface in the wake of the purchase, the media launch an offensive against members of parliament. Meanwhile, Birgitte becomes more and more controlling both at work and at home. Katrine, meanwhile, runs into problems with her boss when she acts too arbitrarily. Then, Birgitte is put under pressure on the eve of the new parliamentary year, as her ratings in opinion polls decline, the media delves into her private life and the increasingly powerful Labour party demands more influence in government. An over-stretched Kasper reluctantly makes a deal that has far more serious consequences than anticipated, while Katrine is given a chance to return to TV1 News.

Cathy convinces Agnes to build bridges with Dermot's mother-in-law Hillary ahead of the baby's birth, and suggests they go out to dinner together in the last episode of the second series of Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:30 BBC1. However, the evening comes to an abrupt end for the two feuding matriarchs when expectant mum Maria goes into labour, and the Browns are forced to rush her to hospital. Meanwhile, there is bickering aplenty in the Brown household, as Rory and Dino are on the rocks and Agnes and Betty rub each other up the wrong way. Comedy, written by and starring Brendan O'Carroll.

Harry Hill returns for what now appears to be his final series for ITV in Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:15. And, not before time, frankly. The funnyman is back for one the final series of the comedy small-screen review, which frankly seems - to this blogger, anyway - to have been running on empty for two or three series now. Once unmissable television, it's become stale, predictable and, in its choice of targets, establishment. Nevertheless, Harry is promising 'the usual soap spoofs, reality show send-ups, humorous fights and the odd song or two' as he casts his TV net wide for more unmissable Burp moments. 'More of the same' in other words. Yeha, like I say, about two series too many, I reckon. It'll be interesting to see who he signs up for next and whether he comes up with anything original.

Sunday 5 February
Tony Robinson and the team head to Dunwich in Suffolk, which is slowly being eaten away by coastal erosion in the latest episode of Time Team - 4:20 Channel Four. Yes, that's not a misprint, this really does start at twenty past four in the afternoon. So much for Channel Four's 'commitment' to the show. Anyway, this could be a last chance to find out more about the lost origins of this dramatically situated town before it is lost to the sea. Could it even be possible to prove conclusively that it dates from Anglo-Saxon times? But the archaeologists face a huge challenge. And not just from the salty brine lapping around their ankles as they try to dig up the past. Up around the old walls they have to dig one of the deepest trenches they've attempted in recent years. And on a second site by the popular beach cafe, they're searching for an early medieval hospital. But it's not easy to access in the gaps between the fish and chip shop, the crowded car park and the public toilets. In a bid to ascertain whether the town dates back to the Anglo-Saxon, they dig one of the largest trenches they have attempted, while Mick Aston, keen to understand the layout of the vanishing town, uses sophisticated sonar technology to search beneath the waves sets poor old put-upon John and the geophysics experts a Herculean surveying task. They love it, dear blog reader.

Jeremy Clarkson and James May travel to Beijing to learn about China's car industry, which has seen a huge expansion in recent years - but they also have a violent encounter with one of The Stig's overseas cousins in Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2. Meanwhile, Richard Hammond takes time off from laughing at boastful overweight show-offs from the home counties falling flat on their fact in the mud on Total Wipeout to immerses himself in the world of NASCAR at a race in Texas. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is wrestled around the test track, emitting serious amounts of noise and smoke in the process and upsetting environmentalists everywhere. Which is, of course, always good for a laugh. Matt LeBlanc is the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Expect some hippy Communist louse in the Gruniad Morning Star to start scouring the Internet to try and find someone whinging about something related to this episode and how it's 'offensive' about five second after the episode ends.

Actor Ewan McGregor and his pilot brother Colin explore the role RAF Bomber Command played during the Second World War, when it co-ordinated raids against Axis targets in Bomber Boys - 9:00 BBC1. The programme traces the obstacles and challenges that were overcome as the Royal Air Force developed the unit over six years of wartime operations and highlights examples of individual heroism and extraordinary collective spirit. Colin also learns to fly the key aircraft of the campaign, the Lancaster bomber. The film focuses primarily on the men who fought and died in the skies above occupied Europe, with numerous examples of heroism and extraordinary collective spirit. But this is also the story of a controversy that has lasted almost seventy years. The programme covers six years of wartime operations, and traces the problems that were overcome as the RAF developed and deployed the awesome fighting force that was Bomber Command.

The Cricklewood Greats - 9:00 BBC4 - is a spoof documentary, presented by Peter Capaldi, telling the story of Cricklewood Film Studios, a fictional British movie company. Peter charts its contributions to cinematic history, ranging from silent comedies to gory horror films, and recalls the often turbulent lives of some of its biggest stars. Cricklewood Greats takes viewers from the early silent movie experiments of Arthur Sim, through the 1930s comedies of Florrie Fontaine and the glory years of the Thumbs Up movies, to the 1970s exploitation horror movies starring Lionel Crisp, and the ultimate folie de grandeur of Terry Gilliam's Professor Hypochondria's Magical Odyssey which finally destroyed the studios in the early 1980s. The programme also features interviews with the - very real - Terry Gilliam ('the American one') and actress Marcia Warren. Note: Cricklewood Film Studios is entirely fictional, and every frame of footage has been lovingly restored from the vaults of Peter Capaldi's fertile imagination. Sounds worth an hour of anyone's time.

Toby Whithouse's supernatural drama Being Human returns - 9:00 BBC3. Annie, George and Tom go back to their B&B home in Barry Island, but all is not well. John Mitchell is gone, having willingly fallen victim to the wolf-shaped bullet, and the supernatural friends now has to take care of a baby, one whose werewolf heritage appears to have attracted the attention of the vampire overlords known as The Old Ones. It's not easy protecting a newborn child from marauding vampires when you're a ghost and a couple of werewolves, but this is what our heroes must do - whatever the cost. Starring Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey and Michael Socha, and introducing Damien Molony as Hal.

Monday 6 February
In the second episode of the new series of Whitechapel - 9:00 ITV - the case takes on an almost supernatural edge when a second mass murder occurs, with no obvious signs of a break-in, no escape route and no forensics left at the scene. Chandler, Miles and the team unearth more about the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811, hoping to avoid making the same mistakes and solve the case before further lives are lost. But with three hundred years of dark and scary East End history for Buchan to sift through, will the team be able to use the nightmares of the past be to solve the horrors of the present? Crime thriller, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton.

Andrew Marr, obviously on the look out for an OBE in the next new Year's honours list, explores the life and achievements of Elizabeth II, sixty years after she acceded to the throne in Andrew Marr Licks The Diamond Queen - 9:00 BBC1. He begins with a look at the duties she carries out at home and abroad, hearing from other members of the royal family, including Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Edward and Princess Anne, who reveal the remarkable skills she has acquired in decades of walkabouts, state visits and receptions, and the energy she puts into every engagement. What he doesn't discuss is that this is the Twenty First Century and whether a monarchy is either relevant or necessary in today's society. Whether in David Cameron's broken British where we're all supposed to be in it together, the Queen's fourteen houses and massive drain of the taxes of the nation aren't a resource that could be put to more productive use. Because that wouldn't go down well with the Daily Scum Mail. Contributors Cameron his very self, Tony Blair and John Major give an insight into the working relationships she has had with the twelve prime ministers who have held office during her reign. After all that, they'll probably makes Andrew and Earl and an OBE. Then, he'll be an earlobe. Which, in his case, is rather fitting.

Gus Casely-Hayford explores the history of South Africa's Zulu kingdom in the second episode of Lost Kingdoms of Africa - 9:00 BBC4. He examines its Seventeenth Century origins, charts its expansion under notorious military leader King Shaka, and recalls the battles its warriors fought against the Boers and the British. He also tries to define the source of its cultural and military power, and discovers why its influence can still be felt today.

Police describe the pressures of carrying guns on the nation's streets, and defend the use of Tasers as a vital tool on the front line of the fight against crime in Coppers - 9:00 Channel Four - which is rapidly turning into cult viewing. Officers also detain a man accused of threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, arrest a woman for terrifying a former friend with a pistol, and stop a vehicle believed to contain a weapon.
Tuesday 7 February
Model Katie Piper, who was badly disfigured and partially blinded after being attacked with acid in 2008, has been the subject of several -excellent Channel Four documentaries in the past. In the latest one she investigates a new surgical procedure which could potentially restore her sight by transplanting stem cells directly into her left eye in Katie: The Science of Seeing Again - 9:00 Channel Four. She explores the science behind the operation, and investigates the ethical debate surrounding the use of cells extracted from human embryos - a practice that some people argue is morally unjustifiable, but which others believe could revolutionise the world of medicine.

Professor Iain Stewart explores how plants played a major part in changes to Earth throughout history in the first of the three-part How To Grow A Planet - 9:00 BBC2. From caves in Vietnam to African deserts, he reveals how vegetation first harnessed the sun's light to create a life-giving atmosphere, and investigates the battle between dinosaurs and the world's tallest trees. He also uses imagery techniques to show plants breathing and communicating.

Death comes to us all eventually. Yes, even Bruce Forsyth. But if it is unexplained, unexpected or the cause is unknown, it has to be investigated by the Coroner's Court a process described in full in Death Unexplained - 10:35 BBC1. This three-part documentary follows coroner Alison Thompson and her team as they examine mysterious, violent and unnatural deaths in west London. The first episode features a rare case of suspected poisoning, a possible prescription drug overdose and a man whose body lay undiscovered for months, with contributions from the families of the deceased revealing the human story behind the forensic tests.

A repeat, but a good one is tonight's episode of Benidorm - 10:35 ITV. A freak storm delays Pauline's return flight and tempts her to have a drink. Lesley struggles to keep the punters entertained, and Janice is shocked to run into an old flame. Natalie has to juggle the attentions of both Liam and Mateo, who are equally determined to win her affections, and Michael looks set to experience his first holiday romance. Meanwhile, Donald reveals that his health situation may be a little more serious than he originally thought. Comedy, with Tim Healy, Selina Griffiths and Siobhan Finneran.

Wednesday 8 February
It's the last episode of The Fabulous Baker Boys tonight - 8:30 Channel Four. Tom and Henry Herbert tackle dishes people often think are difficult, including beef Wellington and a high-calorie lardy cake. The brothers also demonstrate how to make a smokehouse for flavouring hot dogs, and conclude the pie war by trying to impress the National Association of Master Bakers.

John tells Moira he wants a divorce, but her shock turns to anger when she discovers Chas already knew of his plans. Katie tries to adjust to new surroundings after moving in with Declan, and Amy shares her worries about Eric and Val with David in the latest episode of Emmerdale - 7:00 ITV. Val's alright, love, don't worry. She's currently in a play at Newcastle's Theatre Royal. She'll be back sooner or later.

The eight remaining contestants are split into groups, with each challenged to prepare a dish that captures the heart and philosophy of France, Italy or Spain in MasterChef - 9:00 BBC1. They are given masterclasses in their chosen country's cuisine by Italian Francesco Mazzei, Spanish tapas specialist Ben Tish and French chef Bruno Loubet, before demonstrating to judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace what they have learned.

Writer and gardener Sarah Raven tries to encourage the creation of crucial habitats for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects in Bees, Butterflies and Blooms - 8:00 BBC2. She begins in Northamptonshire by urging a village to choose wildflowers over neat grass lawns, and meets farmer Duncan Farrington, who is considering growing the plants at the edges of his crops. She also demonstrates how flowers helpful to insects can be cultivated at home.

Thursday 9 February
Yesterday, John was a responsible working man; today he is planning an armed robbery at the cash depot where he works with colleagues Chris and Marcus in Inside Men - 9:00 BBC1. First on the trio's list is someone to carry out the heist for them. Marcus has a contact, who can provide guns and muscle - but the businessman in question wants to know they are serious and demands to see some money first, threatening the deal. Meanwhile, John becomes more assertive and takes control of the gang. Drama, starring Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters, Warren Brown and Nicola Walker.

Zak and Tom defend a man accused of murdering his brother and as they strive to uncover what once bound the siblings, they go into battle with Richard - who has significantly raised his game in the final episode of ITV's flop fantasy drama Eternal Law - 9:00. Mrs Sheringham is tempted to leave York by an offer from Carl, while Hannah has a decision to make. Starring Samuel West and Ukweli Roach. It won't be back.

The concluding Winter Road Rescue - 9:00 Channel Five - following snowplough teams and RAC patrols working to ensure Britain's roads are clear during winter. The Scottish town of Lochcarron is cut off by a landslide of rocks and trees during a heavy storm - and with schools and businesses suffering, rescue teams spring into action immediately. Meanwhile, an RAC man is called to a breakdown on the hard shoulder of the M1 in West Yorkshire, where he finds the driver wandering around at the side of the motorway, oblivious to the danger.

The Government plans to have fifteen per cent of the UK's total energy requirements generated by renewable sources by 2020. Jonathan Maitland investigates what impact this target could have on household bills, with the proposals having led to a number of innovative, yet highly subsidised, schemes in the latest episode of ITV's concerned busybody strand Tonight, The Cost of Going Green - 7:30.

Friday 10 February
The con artists target a 1980s game show host-turned-property tycoon whose ruthlessness knows no bounds, having demolished one of Albert's favourite old haunts in Hustle - 9:00 BBC1. To pay him back, the grifters pose as international businessmen and persuade him to buy the TV studios that fired him in his showbiz heyday. But the arrival of Ash's eleven-year-old godson, himself an aspiring hustler, threatens to throw a spanner in the works. The Fast Show's Mark Williams guest stars.

It's the final part of BBC4's How the Brits Rocked America: Go Westat 9:00. The popularity of British acts in 1980s America, explaining why The Sex Pistols' 1978 US tour ended in disaster - but paved the way for others, including The Clash, Squeeze, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Cure, and particularly The Police, who went on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. The programme also explores how the launch of MTV provided a platform for the likes of Duran Duran, Culture Club, Adam & The Ants and A Flock of Seagulls to score major transatlantic hits, and charts how British and American acts found new inspiration in each others work, before explaining why the US charts went on to be dominated by homegrown artists and genres. Featuring contributions by John Lydon and Robert Smith. And, sadly, odious loathsome up-his-own-arsehole would-be world saviour Sting. Thank God The U2 Group are Irish so Mr Bonio won't be joining him otherwise nobody else would get a word in edgeways.

Wild About Pandas - 9:00 BBC2 - Documentary exploring the lives of pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang, and the preparations made for their transfer to Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011. Vet Simon Girling travels to China to find out how the pair fare in their homeland, while keeper Alison Maclean heads to the Wolong reserve to investigate efforts to introduce more of the species into the wild. David Tennant narrates. I know he's got a young family to support and all that but, is that all David Tennant does there days, voice-overs on wildlife shows? Didn't he used to be, you know, an actor?
And so to the news: Desert Island Discs is celebrating its seventieth anniversary with forty four different versions of the radio programme across the BBC's entire UK network. Sir David Attenborough appears on BBC Radio 4's version for a fourth time - a record he shares with Arthur Askey. The special editions will feature the public's favourite tunes and memories. Over the seventy years the great and the good have imagined life on a secluded island; Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been the most popular musical choice. 'Je Ne Regrette Rien' by Edith Piaf has been the most frequently chosen non-classical tune which guests said they would have on the island with them. Amongst the two thousand eight hundred and eighty one luxuries chosen to be taken on the island are one hundred and eighty three pianos, five trombones, the Albert Memorial and a cheeseburger machine. At midday on Sunday all forty local radio stations and Radio Scotland, Radio nan Gaidheal, Radio Wales, Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle will simultaneously broadcast their own Your Desert Island Discs featuring listeners' stories. They will include Chris Seery, who first heard 'Alive' by Pearl Jam when he worked in the US and played it while training for the New York Marathon. The song has since taken on a whole new meaning for the married father-of-two from the Suffolk countryside. In 2010 he was diagnosed with a rare form of bowel cancer and despite operations, many cycles of chemotherapy and an initially positive outlook for recovery he is terminally ill at forty six. 'This time the words have great meaning as I am determined to do everything to beat the odds and stay alive for the sake of my boys and the joy of being alive,' he said.
First broadcast on 29 January 1942, the programme was conceived and presented by playwright and novelist Roy Plomley, who each week asked a guest to choose eight songs, a book and luxury item for their imaginary stay on the island. The 'castaways' are then invited to discuss their lives and reasons for their choices. Kirsty Young, who has been presenting the programme since 2006, told the Radio Times she has 'probably the best job in the world' and would like to be doing it 'until I'm eighty five.' She said of her castaways: 'Although the premise is phoney - sitting in a studio talking to each other - I don't think I'm deluding myself when I say you can establish connections. I'm constantly surprised, and delighted, by their frankness and honesty.'

The actor Colin Tarrant, best known for his role as Inspector Andrew Monroe in ITV's police drama The Bill, has died aged fifty nine, his family has confirmed. No details of the circumstances of his death have been released, but a family statement said he died suddenly at the Bristol Royal Infirmary on Thursday. Tarrant, who lived in Bristol, had been in a number of shows since leaving the series which was cancelled in 2010. The Bill, set in the fictional London area of Sun Hill, ran for twenty six years. Tarrant's family said: 'Colin was best known as Inspector Andrew Monroe in the television series The Bill, a part he played very happily for many years. Since leaving the series he has triumphed on stage as Brian Clough in The Spirit Of The Man and had recently played John in the enormously successful stage production of Calendar Girls, and to which he would have returned this autumn.' Paying tribute, West End theatre producer David Pugh added: 'Colin was a lovely man, he loved the theatre, his politics and his family, our hearts must go out to his son Juma, his partner Sabrina and their baby son Louis.'

Former Leeds United and Stoke City footballer Chris Kamara has turned out for a struggling Welsh side after they were mocked on Sky Sports. Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling ribbed Welshpool Town when they lost to local rivals Waterloo Rovers 10-1. But manager David Jones e-mailed the show explaining how the club nearly folded, and Sky made amends by arranging for Kamara to play for them. Sadly, he did not have much of an impact as Welshpool lost 6-1 in their latest match. The channel's cameras filmed the game against Rhayader, which kicked off at two o'clock. About five hundred fans turned up to see the ex-pro in action, ten times the attendance the club has been attracting of late. The temporary new signing played a full ninety minutes in midfield for the Spar Mid-Wales League outfit. Kamara announced his comeback on Twitter before the match, saying: 'After seventeen years retirement I am back, move over Scholes and Henry.' He said that he was playing for Welshpool Town, adding '[I] must be mad.' Welshpool manager Jones said: 'Chris played really well. He's still very fit.' Town were 2-0 down at half-time, but scored just after the break to put themselves back in the game. 'He gave us a team talk before the game and at half-time and he was talking to the lads throughout the match,' added Jones. 'We got back into it early in the second half, but Rhayader ran away with it in the end. Chris said he enjoyed it, but there are no plans for him to play again for us.' The popular Kamara, fifty four, who played in defence and midfield during a twenty-year playing career, made his league debut in 1975 for Portsmouth. He went on to play for Swindon Town, Brentford, Stoke City, Leeds United, Luton Town, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Bradford City. He became a pitch-side reporter for Sky Sports following his retirement from the game in 1995 and a brief period in management. He has since become well-known for his catchphrase 'Unbelievable, Jeff', his excitable match reports and his presentation skills on Goals on Sunday. Known as The Lilywhites, Welshpool are languishing near the foot of table, with eight points from twenty one games. Two years ago they were in the Welsh Premier League and in 2007 just missed out on qualification for the UEFA Cup. But since then the club, which was founded one hundred and thirty three years ago and is one of Wales' oldest, has fallen on hard times, and had no players or a manager in August. The Boxing Day hammering by Waterloo Rovers was the lowest point of the season so far. It was picked up by Stelling as the result came through. He quipped that Welshpool had met their Waterloo. Unfortunately, the crushing defeat was followed by a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Llansanffraid Village on New Year's Eve, which Stelling then also mentioned on the show. Sky Sports contacted Jones and said it was sending a camera to one of the club's matches and a former football star would play for them. Kamara had to sign for Welshpool until the end of the season, and because his last club was in England he needed international clearance from the Football Association of Wales to play. Reports that the Welsh FA's reaction to Kammy playing for Welshpool was 'unbelievable' cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This one's for Chris Kamara.