Sunday, December 09, 2012

Quench Me When I'm Thirsty

The 'Ian McKellan doing a voice job on Doctor Who' rumour which From The North reported recently appears to be true according to a Radio Times preview of the episode. (beware, dear blog reader, there are some minor spoilers in Patrick Mulkern's piece if you're bothered about that sort of thing.)
The X Factor kicked off its 2012 final weekend with considerably less fanfare than in previous few years, in terms of the overnight ratings if nothing else. The talent contest's two-hour Saturday show, which culminated in Christopher Maloney's exit from the competition, averaged 9.29m punters between 8pm and 10pm. Although The X Factor made a week-on-week improvement of almost two million viewers, the figure represents a twelve per cent drop on the last Saturday show of last year's series, and an even steeper thirty four per cent decline on the 14.1m audience for Cher Lloyd's departure from the show in 2010. The overnight figure is the lowest for an X Factor Saturday final episode since 2005. Strictly Come Dancing once again topped the Saturday ratings with a huge 10.75m between 6.45pm and 8pm for week ten of the resurgent BBC1 ballroom dancing show, up a million viewers on the previous week's episode. Strictly achieved a series high peak of 12.2m, while The X Factor managed a high of just over ten million at 20:45. Consistent as usual, Merlin pulled in 5.54m in the 8pm slot, but BBC1 lost momentum later in the evening with The National Lottery Awards Show (2.7m) and Casualty (3.81m) down on the usual slot average. Match of the Day scored 3.46m from 10.30pm. Offering The X Factor only a tiny lead-in, a McFly music special, The McFly Show, was watched by a staggeringly poor 1.99m from 7pm. This, after some commentators had predicted a far higher audience using the extremely spurious logic that McFly was 'a trending topic on Twitter.' As though such risible nonsense has any relation to the number of people watching something on TV. Ricky Gervais's The Invention of Lying made its terrestrial premiere with 2.22m from 9pm, concluding with less than a million viewers later on after being split by a news bulletin. Elsewhere, Channel Four's screening of the film Predators pulled in 1.24m and nearly three hours of arse-numbing, pile-inducing snooker averaged but 1.02m over on BBC2. Fortunately Dad's Army (1.71m) and Qi XL (1.28m) salvaged something from the night for the channel. Overall, BBC1 won the primetime battle with 24.9 per cent of the audience share against ITV's 22.91 per cent.

It was a thoroughly excellent episode of Qi XL this week, with Rhys Darby and Jason Manford proving to be impressive first time guests and Brian Cox showing that he's not only a very clever man but also a very funny one too ('is this on BBC3 these days?!') And, apparently, rumours about the size of Alan Davies's penis having been greatly exaggerated.
So, dear blog reader, you might be asking yourself 'who is to blame for The X Factor's current piss-poor showing?' Or, more likely, you don't care. Nevertheless, some people take this sort of thing very seriously, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads for instance has, reportedly, laid the blame squarely at the door of yer man Gary Barlow. The Take That singer, who sits alongside Tulisa Contostavlos, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh on the judging panel is, apparently, being singled out as a reason why the current series has seen the show's worst viewing figures since 2006. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is now reportedly planning on replacing forty one-year-old Barlow for next year's series after deciding that he 'takes his judging role too seriously.' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads has, allegedly, said that he has 'another man in mind' to take Barlow's place. It has also been reported that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads did not want Barlow to return to the show this year, but ITV overturned the decision. Dear blog readers may remember that earlier this year Barlow was given a National Television Award for 'services to broadcast' to the utter bafflement on many commentators on the industry who, rightly, pointed out that Barlow's main service to broadcast was to join The X Factor as a judge at the state of a series which drew an average of about three million viewers per episode fewer than the previous year. And, since then, the situation had got even worse. The Times 'quotes' an alleged 'source' as allegedly saying: 'Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads doesn't think that [Barlow] knows enough about who to choose from the auditions. The one thing he did after the 2010 show was to create One Direction, who are now the biggest pop group in the world.' This year, the ITV show has been consistently - and, very amusingly - beaten by BBC's Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings.

Peter Kay has revealed that he is contemplating writing a new series of Phoenix Nights, and 'can't wait' to play the role of club owner Brian Potter again. In a rare interview with Danny Baker, broadcast on Friday night on Channel Four, the comedian said that he has been writing more TV material. On the subject of reprising the role of wheelchair-bound Potter: 'I'm playing a fifty four-year-old disabled man, I can only become more like him. I love that character and I would love to go back and do him again. I just didn't want the quality to wane and I had done two series back-to-back.' However, Kay admitted that he is 'constantly' coming up with ideas for a new series of Phoenix Nights. 'Over the years, I keep writing things down,' he told Baker. 'I wrote something the other week - Brian books The Drifters, Jerry books The Drifters, someone else books The Drifters. There are twelve Drifters in the club, cos there is always loads of Drifters. And four of them are in turbans.' Sounds thigh-slappingly hilarious.

Richard Herring had an embarrassing moment when his bank asked him to to confirm some of his recent purchases, after his debit-card was targeted by fraudsters. It turned out that Richard's last legitimate purchase was 'a willy brush' – which he claims to have bought because of his penis-related stage-show Talking Cock. Makers hope that the 'personal hygiene device' will one day become as common in the bathroom as the toothbrush. After confirming the purchase 'there was an awkward air of silent judgment on the end of the line,' Herring reveals in his Metro column.

The Radio Times has launched a new campaign to find any of the episodes of Doctor Who which are still missing from the BBC's Archives. At present there are one hundred and six episodes still to be recovered, and though some are unlikely to ever resurface, there is continued hope that at least some of those lost William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton adventures might yet be returned to the BBC's shamefully incomplete archives. The magazine's historian, Ralph Montagu, was involved with the discovery of last year's recoveries, the Galaxy Four episode Air Lock and The Underwater Menace episode two. 'Two years ago, many believed that the chances of finding any more missing episodes had dwindled to almost nothing,' Montagu writes. 'Surely, we thought, after so much publicity, anyone with a missing episode would have come forward. But the discovery I made last year taught us that missing gems from television's past can be found in the collections or even the attics of people who don't understand the significance of what they've got. Keep looking, keep asking, and get in touch with us if you think you have something of interest.'

England wrapped up a seven-wicket victory on day five of the third Test to take a two-one lead and move close to a first series win in India since 1985. James Anderson bowled the last Indian batsman, Pragyan Ojha, with the tenth ball of the day, dismissing India for two hundred and forty seven in Kolkata. Chasing forty one for victory, England lost Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen cheaply as they slipped to eight for three, but were taken home by Nick Compton and Ian Bell. The final Test begins in Nagpur on Thursday. If England avoid defeat, not only will they end their twenty seven-year wait for a series win in India, but also condemn their hosts to a first home loss since Australia won two-one in 2004. Victory in the final match for Cook's men would also see India lose three matches in a home series for the first time since the then all-conquering West Indies side triumphed three-nil in 1983. The win at Eden Gardens, where India were unbeaten in seven games dating back to 1999, completes a remarkable turnaround for the tourists, who were thrashed by nine wickets in the first Test in Ahmedabad. After that defeat they faced criticism for another failure to make first-innings runs in Asia and the decision to omit left-arm spinner Monty Panesar. But, despite India captain Mahendra Dhoni winning the toss in Mumbai and Kolkata on turning wickets that would supposedly favour the hosts, England have outplayed the home side in all departments - batting, bowling and fielding. In a repeat of Mumbai, England's third-Test win came as a result of restricting Dhoni's side on day one, making a huge first-innings total, then taking advantage of India's batting fragility in the second innings. With India's problems exposed, Dhoni was seen in animated discussion with coach Duncan Fletcher and chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil on the outfield before play began on day five. The efforts of Ravichandran Ashwin had at least ensured that the home side dragged the match into a final day. Ashwin was unbeaten on eighty three overnight and, with the help of numbers ten and eleven, Ishant Sharma and Ojha, had saved India from an innings defeat. Chasing a second Test century, Ashwin cracked two boundaries from Steven Finn's first over of the day but could not keep the strike for the second. And, with his fourth delivery of the morning, Anderson got one to move away from Ojha, just making enough contact to persuade the off bail to fall from its groove. Intent on racing after the target, Cook ran past an Ashwin off-break to be stumped off the fifth ball of the run chase, with Trott trapped LBW on the front foot by left-armer Ojha. Pietersen lasted only four balls before he edged Ashwin behind, but Bell, in need of some confidence-boosting runs, showed signs of fluency in his classy, run-a-ball twenty eight. It was Bell that turned Ashwin to square leg to seal England's first win at Eden Gardens since 1977, a victory which ensures Cook's men will not slip behind Australia in the world Test rankings. Earlier in the match Cook had set a record for England Test centuries with his twenty third as the tourists assumed control of the match. The opener passed the mark of twenty two held jointly by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen. Cook also became the youngest batsman to reach seven thousand Test runs. The Essex left-hander reached the milestone at the age of twenty seven years and three hundred and forty seven days, knocking Sachin Tendulkar off top spot. The India great, who has a record fifteen thousand six hundred and thirty eight Test runs, was twenty eight when he passed the seven thousand mark. Cook, whose Test career began with a hundred against India in Nagpur in 2006 as a twenty one year old, has now scored centuries in all five of his Tests as England captain. Cook is still only joint-twentieth in an all-time list of Test centurions headed by Tendulkar with fifty one, but should have many years ahead of him to move further up the table. Cook also surpassed Andrew Strauss, the man he succeeded as England captain before the India tour, to move up to ninth in the list of England's all-time highest run-scorers with seven thousand and forty eight. Graham Gooch holds the record with eight thousand nine hundred.

The astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore has died, aged eighty nine, his friends and colleagues have announced. He 'passed away peacefully at 12:25 this afternoon' at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, a statement said. Sir Patrick presented the monthly BBC programme The Sky At Night for over fifty years, making him the longest-running host of the same television series. He wrote dozens of books on astronomy and his research was used by both NASA and the Russians in their space programmes. Patrick Moore was the monocled surveyor of the sky who awakened in millions of people an interest in galactic goings on. His love of astronomy began at the age of six and that childhood curiosity developed into a lifelong passion. Sir Patrick presented the first edition of The Sky At Night on 24 April 1957. He last appeared in an episode broadcast on Monday of this week. A statement by his friends and staff said: 'After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat, Ptolemy. Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago. He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme The Sky At Night right up until the most recent episode. His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been Patrick's ninetieth birthday in March 2013.' Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 March 1923. Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader from an early age. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers' book, The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy. When the Second World War began he turned down a place at Cambridge and lied about his age to join the RAF, serving as a navigator with Bomber Command and rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant by 1945. But the war brought him a personal tragedy after his fiancée, Lorna, was killed when an ambulance she was driving was hit by a German bomb. He never married. 'That was it,' he said. 'There was no one else for me. Second best is no good. I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be.' His RAF experiences, which included a visit to the Dachau concentration camp, left him a bitter lifelong opponent of conflict in all its forms. After the war he taught for a time at a prep school but his interest in astronomy came to dominate his life. He built his own telescope in the garden of his Sussex home and began to observe the moon. The detailed maps of the moon's surface which he produced during this time were later used by NASA as part of the preparations for the moon landing. A growing interest in extra-terrestrial matters during the mid-1950s persuaded the BBC to launch a new programme explaining the mysteries of space and Moore was chosen to present it. At a time when pulsars, quasars and black holes were unknown, the show, initially called Starmap, was scheduled to run for three episodes every four weeks. The first edition of The Sky At Night was broadcast in April 1957, six months before the launch of Sputnik, the world's first artificial earth orbiting satellite, began the modern space age. 'I thought The Sky At Night would last only a few months,' Patrick once said. 'It's nobody's enemy. It's cheap and non-controversial. It is no skill on my part.' But astronomical developments came thick and fast, The Sky At Night became a television institution and Moore stayed with it for more than five decades. During that time he missed just one episode, when he was struck down by a bout of food poisoning in July 2004, although in later years he shared presenting duties with a number of fellow astronomers, most notably Chris Lintott. According to legend, in one early (live) episode he opened his mouth to speak and a fly flew in. Ever the professional, Moore simply swallowed the fly in front of millions of viewers and carried on with the show. He later told his family of his ordeal, and reportedly got little sympathy from his mother, who told him 'it was worse for the fly!' Many of the world's leading astronomers have appeared on the show through the years, including Harlow Shapley (the first man to measure the size of the Milky Way galaxy), Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Samuel Tolansky, Harold Spencer Jones, Martin Ryle, Carlos Frenk, and Bart Bok. Other guests have included the author Arthur C Clarke, the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, Arnold Wolfendale, Allan Chapman, Sir Bernard Lovell, Michael Bentine, Wernher von Braun, Open University professors John Zarnecki, Monica Grady, Edwin Maher and Colin Pillinger. Many well-known astronauts have also featured on the programme, such as Gene Cernan, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong all of whom Moore counted amongst his personal friends. On 1 April 2007, Sir Patrick presented the fiftieth anniversary edition of the show, a special 'time travel' edition which included the appearance of  the impressionist Jon Culshaw, a keen astronomer, playing Moore's younger self. On 6 March 2011, Sir Patrick presented the seven hundredth episode, another retrospective which included Culshaw once again appearing as the young Moore, as well the first appearance on the show of Professor Brian Cox. In 1959 Patrick became the director of a new planetarium at Armagh, in Northern Ireland, a post he held for nine years. A decade later he was part of the BBC commentary team - along with James Burke, Cliff Michelmore and Michael Charlton - which described the first moon landings. His appearance was as distinctive as his passion for the stars. At six foot three, Moore carried an air of permanent 'donnish dishevelment.' With his raised eyebrow and monocled glare, he could have been mistaken for an uncommunicative academic. But his enthusiasm for his subject was genuinely contagious and unstoppable. Unfathomable images became exciting lunar postcards through Moore's interpretation and at his most fervent, he would speak at up to three hundred words a minute. Despite his expertise on our solar system, Moore never had any formal training and always described himself as 'an amateur astronomer.' Sir Patrick, who had a pacemaker fitted in 2006 and received his knighthood in 2001 (he was also an OBE and a CBE), won a BAFTA for services to television and was a honorary fellow of the Royal Society. Away from his telescope, Moore's great loves included cricket, taking part in television panel games and the xylophone, which he often played in public, despite never taking a lesson. Characteristically, he taught himself to compose music at the age of nine, and wrote a number of pieces over the years, some of which were recorded. He once managed to combine his interest in music with his passion for science. In an historic encounter, he played piano, while his musical partner on the violin was Albert Einstein. He was also great at playing himself in a number of TV dramas and comedies with programmes as diverse as The Morecambe & Wise Show, The Goodies, The Groovy Fellas, Harry Hill's TV Burp and Doctor Who benefiting from a Patrick Moore appearance. His other TV credits include the role of the eponymous Gamesmaster in the 1990s computer games show. He was a noted opponent of fox hunting and had a passion for cats, many of which, over the years sprawled happily across the papers on his desk while he worked. His wartime experiences left him with a strong antipathy to the European ideal and he became an enthusiastic member of the UK Independence party. He was also, briefly, the finance minister for the Monster Raving Loony Party, of whom he said 'They had an advantage over all the other parties, in that they knew they were loonies.' He could be notoriously prickly, memorably voicing the opinion in 2007 that 'the trouble is the BBC now is run by women and it shows soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn't have had that in the golden days. I would like to see two independent wavelengths - one controlled by women, and one for us, controlled by men.' On another occasion he said that he had enjoyed both Doctor Who and Star Trek 'but they went PC - making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching.' His view of soap operas was, similarly, forthright. 'I was in hospital once and I watched a whole episode of EastEnders. I suppose it's true to life. But so is diarrhoea - and I don't want to see that on television!' He wrote more than seventy books during his lifetime, most of the manuscripts banged out on a 1908 manual typewriter. With his boundless energy and many interests, Patrick Moore could have made a fortune if he'd wanted to, but he said that his astronomy would have suffered. He called it his hobby, not his work. But many renowned professionals were first inspired by his infectious enthusiasm. Buzz Aldrin, the pilot on the Apollo 11 Moon landing and a close friend, paid Patrick this tribute in a BBC interview in 2009. 'Astronomy has grown in leaps and bounds and it's people like Patrick who have been able to put it into perspective so that ordinary people understand the enormity of the universe.' Queen guitarist Brian May, who published a book on astronomy written with Sir Patrick, described him as a 'dear friend, and a kind of father figure to me.' He said: 'Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life. Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one.' British space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock said that she was first inspired to 'look at the night sky' through Sir Patrick's television shows. 'Through his regular monthly programmes he was telling us what to look for and what was out there and that was a real inspiration. Why [The Sky At Night] was so successful is because of his passion. He branched an amazing era, he was broadcasting before we actually went into space and so he saw a change in our understanding of the universe and he took us all the way through that, right up to today.' Television presenter and physicist Professor Brian Cox posted a message on Twitter saying: 'Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!' Space scientist Dr David Whitehouse said Sir Patrick was 'the monthly source of information for youngsters interested in astronomy. We relied on Patrick to tell us about the moon landings, the probe to the planets, the developments in astronomy, before the Internet age.' And Dr Marek Kakula, public astronomer at Royal Observatory in Greenwich, described him as a 'very charming and hospitable man. When you came to his home he would always make sure you had enough to eat and drink. He was full of really entertaining and amusing stories. There are many many professional astronomers like me who can actually date their interest in astronomy to watching Patrick on TV, so his impact on the world of professional astronomy as well as amateur is hard to overstate.'

An archaeologist is suing Lucasfilm over their use of the Crystal Skull. The 2008 movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the fourth (and worst) of the Indiana Jones films - saw the legendary archaeologist (Harrison Ford) fight Soviet agents for possession of the artefact. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dr Jamie Awe (no, really), director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, has now launched a lawsuit on behalf of Belize regarding the 'unlawful use' of the Crystal Skull, which he claims 'belongs in Belize.' There are four such skulls currently known in the world, with three on public display at museums around the world. They are hardstone carvings from quartz which resemble human skulls, and are alleged - by glakes - to have magical or supernatural powers. The fourth is alleged to have been taken from Belize in 1920s by an adventurer named FA Mitchell-Hedges, and has remained in the family ever since. However, none of the specimens made available for scientific study have been authenticated as pre-Columbian in origin. The results of these studies demonstrated that those examined were most likely to have been manufactured in the Mid-Nineteenth Century or later, almost certainly in Europe. Despite some claims presented in an assortment of popularising literature, legends of crystal skulls with mystical powers do not figure in genuine Mesoamerican or other Native American mythologies and spiritual accounts. The Steven Spielberg movie is alleged to have modelled its own Crystal Skull closely on the Mitchell-Hedges skull, and Awe is suing producers Lucasfilm for 'unlawful' exhibition of the skull. The lawsuit also alleges that the Mitchell-Hedges family removed the skull from the country and never returning it, that Belize has a 'right, title and interest in and to the Mitchell-Hedges Skull and its likeness,' and that the film companies have participated in a 'civil conspiracy' and interfered with prospective economic advantages. So, not a complete and total nutter, then. Presumably, if this clown wins this case, he'll be going after The Mysterious World of Arthur C Clarke next.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's some more wailing from Bob, Peter and Bunny. As Bob Harris said at the end, 'niiiice!'