Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Know How Lucky You Are

Doctor Who's executive producer and showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has dropped a further couple of minor hints about the show's 2013 run. Moff told the Radio Times that 'the Doctor's greatest secret is in jeopardy' in the eight upcoming episodes. 'We'll be up in the air, we're under the water, we're on a fantastic alien planet, we're back in time [and] we're forward in time,' he said. 'The Doctor's greatest secret is in jeopardy.' Casting was recently announced for Doctor Who anniversary biopic An Adventure in Space and Time - written by Mark Gatiss his very self - but Moffat explained that he is 'wary' about confirming any further plans for the popular long-running family SF drama drama's fiftieth. 'I don't want people to get bored just yet,' he said. 'So, let's just wait and get our next eight episodes out of the way before we start talking about it. I'm mostly excited [about the anniversary], a little bit nervous and aware of trying not to let people down.'

Just a day after rumours were circulating that it wouldn't be seen again until late 2014, it was confirmed that Mrs Brown's Boys will return to BBC1 with two Christmas specials later this year. The hit sitcom's third series draws to a close next week, but two new festive specials are to be produced. The comedy series previously broadcast two one-off episodes on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day 2012, both pulling in massive audiences. Show creator and star Brendan O'Carroll said: 'I'm thrilled that the BBC has asked us to be part of its Christmas again this year. It's a great privilege to be invited into people's homes at such a magical time of year.' The BBC's Head of Comedy Mark Freeland added: 'Last Christmas, Agnes Brown was stuck halfway up the Christmas tree - this year in every way she will be the star at the very top. I can't wait.'

Channel Four has confirmed the broadcast date for the second series of Black Mirror. Charlie Brooker's dark drama anthology will return to the channel on Monday 11 February at 10pm. The dystopian drama will feature three episodes titled Be Right Back, The Waldo Moment and White Bear, starring the likes of Hayley Atwell, Jason Flemyng and Lenora Crichlow. Be Right Back involves a scary take on social media, with Martha (played by Atwell) using a new online service to make contact with her dead boyfriend Ash (Domhnall Gleeson). The Waldo Moment stars Daniel Rigby as Jamie Salter, a failed comedian who becomes the voice of Waldo - an anarchic animated character on a late-night topical comedy show.

Yer actual David Tennant has been confirmed to star in new BBC1 drama The Escape Artist. The three-part legal thriller has been written by [spooks] co-creator David Wolstencroft. Former Doctor Who star Tennant will play Will Burton, a talented junior barrister who has earned the nickname 'The Escape Artist' for his skill in getting his clients out of tight legal corners. But when Burton acquits the prime suspect in a horrific murder trial, he finds that his brilliance comes back to haunt him with unexpected and chilling results. Toby Kebbell, Sophie Okonedo and Ashley Jensen will also star in the new drama, directed by Brian Welsh. Producer Hilary Bevan Jones said: 'The outstanding cast we have assembled, which is headed by David Tennant, is a testament to David's breathtaking and original script. Directed by Brian Welsh and produced by Paul Frift, I believe The Escape Artist will be one of the most anticipated TV drama events of 2013.' Wolstencroft added that The Escape Artist will get into the 'blood and guts' of the legal system. 'I wanted to write a thriller set in the legal world that's as much about those primal feelings as it is about the twists and turns of the case,' he explained. 'David Tennant is one of the most accomplished and iconic actors of his generation. I cannot wait to see him in Will's shoes.'

Sir David Attenborough has described the BBC's favourite particle physicist, yer actual Professor Brian Cox, as his approved successor to take over fronting the corporation's landmark natural history documentaries. Attenborough, who has just celebrated sixty years in broadcasting, offered a glimpse into his vision of the future after Cox paid tribute to him at an event hosted by the Radio Times on Tuesday night, said: 'If I had a torch I would hand it to Brian Cox.' Foxy Coxy, the former pop star who has become a household name on the back of his acclaimed BBC2 series Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of the Universe and Stargazing Live, said Attenborough had 'genuinely made a difference to the world in which we live.' Speaking afterwards, Cox told the listings magazine that he had not expected Attenborough's comment. 'Obviously I couldn't have expected that. David is not ready to pass on the torch yet, that's the first thing to say,' he noted. 'I'm sure he's got many more series he's going to make. But it's an honour. I'm actually lost for words.' Which, in the nicest possible way, is probably a first! There has been no shortage of speculation about when Attenborough his very self will retire, stretching back at least a decade. But predictions of imminent retirement have proved premature for the eighty six-year-old who is currently busier than ever, appearing on three different television channels. As well as his landmark BBC series, the latest of which is BBC1's Africa, he has become the face of Sky's 3D natural history programmes including his most recent, Galapagos 3D. Attenborough also has a series on digital channel Eden, part of the UKTV network, called David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities. Speaking earlier this month, Attenborough said: 'I'm eighty six now and I've been broadcasting for sixty years. I don't want to slow down. Retirement would be so boring.' Cox, appearing at the Radio Times Covers Party at Claridge's hotel in London, said Attenborough was 'an inspiration. There are many, many scientists across the world who cite David's programmes as being the original inspiration that got them into science,' said Cox. 'He's contributed to science, and thereby contributed to society, to Britain and indeed the world. That's what great science communicators can do. It's very important for us in our industry to recognise that when you do great things as Sir David has done continually for sixty years, they genuinely make a difference to the world in which we live. Sir David, thank you for inspiring me.' Cox, the one-time keyboard player with D:Ream, things could only get better and, indeed, did when he found fame on the small screen presenting BBC2's Wonders of the Solar System. His most recent series, Wonders of Life, began with more than three million viewers on BBC2 on Sunday. Cox has also recently featured in the same channel's Stargazing Live. Cox's previous BBC series have seen him look to the heavens, but he came back down to earth with Wonders of Life swapping physics for biology as he explored evolution. Cox, who had not studied biology since the 1980s, asked two professor friends to teach him 'everything that's happened in biology since 1986.' The new series expands Cox's track record beyond astronomy, putting him in pole position to follow Attenborough's broader TV remit.

Meanwhile, Coxy's Stargazing Live oppo Dara O Briain spent more than an hour clinging to a tree above the rapids of the Zambezi River after being knocked out of his raft. He and Olympic triple jumper Phillips Idowu took a wrong turn during the Comic Relief Hell And High Water excursion earlier this week, and were swept down the fast-moving river. As they careered past dense overgrowth, they were knocked into the water. But O Briain managed to cling on to branches sticking out of the water until help came. 'It became a calculation of "I can hold myself up against this,"' he said, visibly troubled after his ordeal. 'There were two-and-a-half, three knots of rapids, which is like standing in a ninety mph gale. So you can do it, but it's eventually going to make you tired, so you're weighing up whether to go while you are still able to swim at the other end. Eventually rescuers realised the pair had gone missing and found them. Dara then jumped from his perch towards their moving boat, and was dragged up inside. Fellow adventurers Jack Dee and Spice Girl Mel C both also fell into the water on the same day, but were quickly hauled to safety. Radio One DJ Greg James, who is also part of the team embarking on the sixty eight-hour trek, told the BBC: 'Things got really serious. We had the rapids to contend with. They were the back boat, and they got too behind the pack then lost the direction - it was pretty much a left or right choice – we went left, they chose right. It was a simple as that. It sounds funny now, but in all honesty there was about an hour, an hour an a half, when even the guides and the people who are helping us out here were very worried.'

CBS has handed a final season order to its long-running comedy series How I Met Your Mother with all the regular cast, which includes Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan, signing up to return.

Asda's Christmas 2012 advertising campaign has been cleared by the UK advertising watchdog after various politically correct thugs whinged that it was 'sexist and offensive.' If they'd complained that it was twee, nasty and whoever came up with it should've been hit, hard, in the mush, with a wet haddock, covered in shite, then this blogger would've agreed with every word. However, that would've been far too sensible for the utter glakes involved in this particular whinge. The advert, broadcast on television as well as widely online, featured a mother carrying out various tasks in preparation for Christmas, such as buying a tree, purchasing groceries, wrapping presents and cooking the Christmas meal. The voiceover at the end of the advert stated: 'It doesn't just happen by magic. Behind every great Christmas, there's mum, and behind mum there's Asda.' The Advertising Standards Authority received 'a number' (so, that'll be, like, four) of complaints - seemingly from people with nothing better to do with their sodding time than whinged about nonsense like this - that the advert was offensive and sexist, because 'it reinforced outdated stereotypes of men and women in the home.' Some complainants felt that the advert would cause 'serious offence' to single fathers or to men who played the primary domestic role, while others felt it would be offensive and distressing to children or families who had lost mothers. And, once again, let us take a moment to reflect on the utter bollocks that some people chose to care about, dear blog reader. The situation in Mali is offensive. So is the fact that Jim Davidson is alive and breathing the same air as me. This crap, really isn't. In response, Asda, wearily, said that the advert focused on the 'role of the mother at Christmas,' rather than reflected the 'universal experience' of the festive season. The supermarket chain said that it had surveyed eighteen hundred and ninety six mothers who shopped at Asda and eight out of ten said that they were responsible for doing the shopping and wrapping the presents. Because of this, Asda felt that the advert 'reflected common experience, rather than outdated stereotypes.' It also noted that the father was shown in the advert assisting the mother in many of the Christmas preparations. In its ruling, the ASA said that 'most viewers' - ie. anyone with half a brain in their skull - were 'likely to understand' that the advert was not intended to portray everybody's experience of Christmas. 'We considered viewers were likely to understand the ad was not prescriptive of the experience of all at Christmas; rather it reflected Asda's view of the Christmas experience for a significant number of their customers,' said the ASA. 'We therefore considered the ad was not likely to be seen as condoning or encouraging harmful discriminatory behaviour, or reinforcing negative stereotypes of men or women in general, and, for those reasons, considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.' Sadly, they didn't add that those who had whinged about this trifle show 'go, quickly, away and grow the frig up.' But they should have. The ASA also dismissed suggestions that the advert could have 'caused offence' to single fathers or men who play the primary domestic role, or viewers who had lost their mothers. They stopped short of telling those who'd complained to, for Christ's sake, get a new mind because the one you've got in narrow and full of diarrhoea. At Christmas 2011, the ASA cleared a previous advertising campaign by Littlewoods, after scores of stupid effing morons complained that it 'upset their children' by suggesting that Santa Claus does not exist. Which, as a matter of fact, he doesn't, except as a construct to makes shops (like Littlwwoods and Asda) lots of money. Once again, celebrate the nonsense some people chose to care about.

The independence of Welsh language broadcaster S4C has been safeguarded in an agreement outlining its relationship with the BBC, it has been claimed. The new partnership was agreed following public consultation over plans to fund most of S4C's activities from the BBC licence fee from April. S4C will remain independent, also receiving UK government funding and generating its own revenue. The S4C Authority called it 'a historic development for Welsh broadcasting.' The BBC will contribute £76.3m from the licence fee in 2013-14 falling to £74.5m by 2017. Although quite why licence fee payers outside Wales should contribute one single penny to a service which brings them no benefit and which the BBC did not want but had foisted upon it as part of the - now, wholly devalued - 2010 licence fee agreement, is beyond this blooger's understanding. Both broadcasters said the agreement would ensure 'the editorial, managerial and operational independence of S4C.' Huw Jones, chairman of the S4C Authority said: 'This is an historic development for Welsh broadcasting which provides clarity for the new relationship between S4C and the BBC, while safeguarding S4C's independence. This operating agreement is the culmination of extensive discussions between the S4C Authority, the BBC Trust and numerous stakeholders and secures the major part of S4C's funding until 2017.' Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust - the broadcaster's governing body - said: 'I believe that through this agreement both organisations will be able to further develop Welsh-language broadcast media to provide a service that truly meets the changing needs and expectations of the audience.' The new funding arrangements were announced in 2010 by the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the then lack of culture secretary. Plaid Cymru spokesperson for broadcasting Alun Ffred Jones whinged that the UK government had 'betrayed the people of Wales in changing the funding mechanism for S4C' but he still welcomed the agreement. 'A strong relationship between both broadcasters is extremely important and I am glad that there appears to be a consensus,' he said. Not if I ever get myself in charge of the BBC, matey. That'll be the first thing to go on day one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's reign of terror (shortly before item two 'the complete and total banning of Jack Whitehall and James Corden from any BBC programme and/or building'). 'I hope that the BBC will respect S4C's autonomy and its important role as the only dedicated Welsh language broadcaster,' he continued. I hope the BBC tell Plaid Cymru to find an alternative revenue source for S4C at the earliest opportunity so that they can rid themselves of something they never wanted in the first place. The Conservative heritage spokesperson Suzy Davies said S4C had 'a unique place' in Wales' economy and culture, and its continued independence was 'absolutely paramount.' Iestyn Garlick, chair of the Welsh independent TV producers' organisation TAC, said they 'welcomed' changes to the proposed agreement, including an assurance over the importance of the independent sector in making programmes for the channel. But, he said that 'concerns' remained, including the prospect of further budget cuts by S4C. The new partnership is separate from the agreement between BBC Cymru Wales and S4C last November which guaranteed the BBC's production of programmes for the Welsh language broadcaster over the next four years. It safeguarded the statutory minimum five hundred and twenty hours of programmes supplied by BBC Cymru Wales to S4C each year.

A Chinese version of James Joyce's novel Finnegan's Wake, which took eight years to translate, has become a surprising hit in the country. Mind you, it probably makes as much sense in Chinese as it does in English, to be honest. Publishers said that a modest initial run of eight thousand copies of the notoriously illegible book sold out a little over a month after going on sale. The book was promoted on a series of billboards across Shanghai and Beijing, reportedly a first for China. A second edition is being printed to meet the demand. Translator Dai Congrong, who grappled with the text for eight years to produce the Chinese version, told a literary forum that she had tried to keep her version as complex as the original. 'I would not be faithful to the original intent of the novel if my translation made it easy to comprehend,' she said, according to the Associated Press. The Shanghai News and Publishing Bureau said the novel's sales in Shanghai last week were second only to a new biography of Deng Xiaoping in the category of 'good books,' a term reserved for more serious reads. During the 1980s and 1990s the demand for translations of foreign-language novels exploded though it has since cooled. Joyce's equally impenetrable Ulysses was warmly received when it was first translated into Chinese in the mid-1990s. Some critics say the translation has pandered to a superficial demand among some Chinese for high-brow imports. 'Pushed by a current of unprecedented vanity,' is how Shanghai native and New York-based writer Li Jie described the Finnegans Wake phenomenon in a post on his blog.

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk to you, too, matey.

On Thursday evening yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be attending Uncle Scunthorpe's latest Record Player fest at the Tyneside. This week, the featured LP is The Beatles (1968) by some band from Liverpool. Which is nice. The story: Coming back an ill-fated sojourn searching for gurus in India in April 1968 with more songs than they knew what to do with, Paul, George, Ringo and the alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie hit upon a rather smart idea for the first LP on their own Apple label. Let's make it a double and include everything. And so, from 30 May to 17 October 1968, the quartet virtually lived in the studio (mainly Abbey Road but with some work at Trident because they had eight-track recording facilities by this time). And, Yoko Ono lived there with them. Geoff Emerick – their engineer since Revolver – quit because the atmosphere between them got so bad. George Martin was frequently bored and sometimes left sessions in the hands of his assistant, Chris Thomas. A depressed Ringo felt he wasn't being loved enough and departed for a fortnight whilst the band carried on without him (Paul plays drums on both 'Back in the USSR' and 'Dear Prudence'). And, a thoroughly pissed-off George Harrison managed to place three of his best songs (plus 'Savoy Truffle') on to the LP but then tried over one hundred takes to get a fifth - the bitter, angry, resentful 'Not Guilty' - to work, felt it still wasn't happening to his satisfaction and promptly buggered-off to Greece for a fortnight in a right huff to cool his jets. Yet amid all these grumpy shenanigans, bitchy malarkey and general  discombobulation The Beatles, almost despite themselves, were creating a masterpiece. A massively flawed, hugely self-indulgent and bitterly personal masterpiece, admittedly. One that includes 'Rocky Raccoon.' And 'Don't Pass Me By.' And 'Wild Honey Pie.' I mentioned the word flawed, yes? But, really, that's all staggeringly incidental. Where The White Album is good, it's absolutely brilliant and where it's bad, it's still utterly fascinating. This is the Beatles LP that you would take with you to a desert island because of the variety and the strangeness of the moods it creates – alternatively bright and sunny and yet also often dark, sinister, tense and shadowy. What McCartney's biographer Barry Miles calls the LP's 'sprawling chaos.' Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head suggests: 'There is a secret unease in this music. Shadows lengthen as the album progresses [on] the slow afternoon of The Beatles' career. Certainly no other product of the noon-bright idiom of sixties pop music offers as many associations of guarded privacy and locked rooms, or concludes in such disturbing, dreamlike darkness.' Thirty four songs were recorded, thirty made the record ('Not Guilty' and 'What's the New Mary Jane' stayed in the archives for three decades whilst 'Hey Jude' and the fast version of 'Revolution' became the biggest selling Beatles single). Many of those that did make the double LP could, probably, have done with some further group input but, by this stage, except on special occasions (like the recording of 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' on which they worked like they used to) they were acting virtually as each other's session-men, if that. A fact evidenced by Paul recording 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' (a song which Lennon admired greatly) without bothering to ask for Lennon's help even though he was in the studio next door at the time. (Paul later suggested this was, effectively, tit-for-tat for his not having been asked to participate in the sonic assault of 'Revolution 9'.) The session which produced 'I Will' went on all night (and didn't include any contributions from Harrison) although, even here, The Beatles could still throw off a little gem like the medley of McCartney's 'Step Inside Love' and the make-it-up-as-we-go-along and subtextually fascinating 'Los Paranoias' between takes. What we were left with after a six month gestation period was a lucky-dip into a Pandora's box of different shades: 'Dear Prudence', 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', 'Happiness is a Warm Gun', 'I'm So Tired', 'Blackbird', 'I Will', 'Julia', 'Mother Nature's Son', 'Sexy Sadie', 'Helter Skelter', 'Long Long Long' - this blogger's  own favourite Beatles song of them all - and, yes, even 'Revolution 9.' When The Beatles first appeared, most of the million people who – according to the Guinness Book of Records - bought copies on the day of release reached side four and, when they listened the second-to-last track, assumed that they'd bought a faulty record. What, you mean it's supposed to sound like that? Opinion quickly divided into two camps and, pretty much, that's still the situation with regard to 'Revolution 9' – the oddest thing The Beatles ever recorded. There's no such thing as a neutral option: You either love it (which a few people do) or you hate it and everything it stands for (that would be everyone else on planet Earth). 'Revolution 9' was a John Lennon-produced sound-collage, an example of avant-garde sonic experimentation which, actually, wasn't a million miles removed from some things The Beatles had tried earlier in their careers. After all, 'Tomorrow Never Knows' also had tape-loops too. Admittedly, it also had a tune. This form - musique concrète - wasn't new either; John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen had been composing such left-field modernist pieces for twenty years. The difference, of course, was that The Beatles was a mainstream pop record, bought by millions of people who'd never heard Imaginary Landscapes or Gesang Der Jünglinge. The biggest influence on Lennon's decision to make 'Revolution 9' was Yoko Ono who appears on it with her sensual exhortation to listeners to 'become naked.' Having compiled the collage over several weeks – initially as part of an extended piece that included 'Revolution 1' - Lennon put it together on 20 June 1968, mixing in backward tapes, orchestral surges, fragments of studio chatter and various sound effects. Then, along with George and Yoko, he recorded hours of prose, poetry and vocal nonsense which were mixed in-and-out of the finished piece to give the impression of half-heard whispers, a badly-tuned radio or voices from the beyond. It's a sinister and disturbing thing to listen to – Lennon said that he wanted to capture 'the sound of a revolution.' Actually, it's a much less literal experience than that. As some critics have noted, the final three pieces on The Beatles – 'Cry Baby Cry', 'Revolution 9' and 'Good Night' – provide a very interesting psychological profile of their author. A chilling little nursery rhyme, the sound of a nightmare and a nostalgic lullaby. There's a distinct element of childhood in the mood and texture of 'Revolution 9', something that the McCartney song-fragment ('Can you take me back where I've been') that prefigures the piece greatly enhances. Take this, brother, may it serve you well. Paul, reported, hated 'Revolution 9' and tried everything he could to get it removed from the LP, although he's never publicly talked about it – it's a significant omission from his official biography, Many Years From Now, for example. In fact, speculation now exists that Paul's main complaint wasn't so much concerning the track itself (which, as noted, wasn't all that different from some of the things he'd been experimenting with himself in private) as the fact that he hadn't been asked to participate. The lyrics on the LP remain some of the band's best and most surreal. Even as they were slipping, quietly, out the back door to Pepperland, they were still writing songs with elaborate and witty metaphors, iconic characters (the man with multicoloured mirrors on his hobnail boots) and genuinely sinister wordplay. The White Album is a strange, baffling trip. It's challenging, as all great music should be. It's often unnerving. But it's also – far more often than you may have been led to believe - staggeringly brilliant. Would it have been better as a single LP as George Martin wanted? Who cares, frankly, it wasn't. History will judge what we got rather than what we might have had. This author is with yer actual Sir McCartney his very self all the way on that score. 'It was the bloody Beatles White Album. Shut up!' So, dear blog reader, have a guess as to what today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day is, then?!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm Flat Broke But I Don't Care, I Strut Right By With My Tail In The Air

That superb character actor David Bradley will play the first Doctor, William Hartnell, in a BBC drama about Doctor Who's creation to mark its fiftieth anniversary. An Adventure in Space and Time will tell the story of the genesis of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama in the early 1960s. Bradley, probably best known for his role as Filch in the Harry Potter series, said he was 'absolutely thrilled' to be cast. He'll also be very familiar to fans of Our Friends In The North, Waking The Dead, the sitcoms Ideal and Benidorm, and movies like Hot Fuzz and The Colour of Magic. Call The Midwife actress Jessica Raine and Brian Cox will also appear in the BBC2 commission. Cox will play Sydney Newman, the charismatic Canadian head of drama at the BBC credited with the creation of the show, while Raine will play the show's first producer, the legendary Verity Lambert. Filming will begin in February at BBC Television Centre, then move to Wimbledon Studios. The script has been written by Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss, a regular Doctor Who writer who, like Bradley, Cox and Raine has been seen in the show since its 2005 revival. Gatiss will act as executive producer of the one-off ninety-minute drama, alongside Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner. 'I first heard about this role from Mark while watching the Diamond Jubilee flotilla from the roof of the National Theatre,' said Bradley, who played the character of Solomon in 2012 episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. 'When he asked if I would interested, I almost bit his hand off! Mark has written such a wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television's history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time and as a fan I want to make sure that I do him justice. I'm so looking forward to getting started.' Doctor Who was first broadcast on 23 November 1963 with a four-part adventure known to all but pedants as An Unearthly Child. Sacha Dhawan, seen recently in Last Tango In Halifax, will play Waris Hussein, the director of those initial episodes. An Adventure in Space and Time is one of a number of programmes which will mark Doctor Who's half-centenary later this year. Hartnell, who died in 1975, was better known for playing 'hard man' roles and gruff sergeant major-types prior to being cast as The Doctor, a role he filled from 1963 to 1966.

BBC1 has ordered a second series of Ripper Street, the gritty Sunday night drama starring Matthew Macfadyen. The BBC confirmed that a second, eight-part series was due for broadcast in 2014. Ripper Street's first series, set in London's East End in the year immediately after the hunt for Jack the Ripper was called off, has averaged 7.1 million viewers and a twenty three per cent audience share so far, according to consolidated final ratings including seven-day catch-up viewing. Its overnight audiences have been solidly in the five to six million viewer range. Macfadyen features as a police inspector, with Jerome Flynn as his sergeant and Adam Rothenberg an American surgeon and former Pinkerton detective. The first episode resulted in more than ninety knobcheese glakes with no bastard gumption whatsoever and who clearly had nothing better to do with their time than whinge about alleged 'insensitive scheduling,' because of the combination of sex and violence so close to (but, after) the 9pm watershed. Elsewhere, thankfully, many critics have praised the production, by Tiger Aspect and Look Out Point, for its 'authentic depiction' of Victorian London, and 'gritty contrast' to traditional costume drama mores. Ripper Street is a BBC Worldwide co-production which broadcasts on BBC America, where it has been the US cable channel's most successful drama apart, obviously, from Doctor Who. The second series was ordered by the BBC drama commissioning controller, Ben Stephenson. 'Quality and ambition run through Ripper Street, from Richard Warlow's original scripts, the incredible cast and the captivating direction,' said Stephenson. 'All combine to create a period series with a modern and gripping edge that will return for a second series in 2014.'

Homeland star Damian Lewis broke an embarrassing record in this week's episode of Top Gear, recording the slowest ever lap in the show's 'Star In A Reasonably Priced Car' feature. Lewis was hampered on his lap by virtual blizzard conditions and considerable snow and ice on the track. The Homeland actor, yer actual Jeremy Clarkson and studio audience all laughed until they pissed themselves as Lewis's attempt to navigate the icy circuit was replayed for viewers. Lewis's final time of two minutes, nine seconds was thirteen seconds slower than the previous poorest performer in the current reasonably priced car the Kia Cee'd, ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and three seconds slower than the time set by the late Richard Whiteley in the original reasonably priced car, the Suzuki Liana. Yer man Clarkson said: 'I have to say actually that is the slowest lap we have ever had on the Top Gear test track, but - and I'm sure everyone will agree with me on this - by far and away the most entertaining.' The presenter then awarded Lewis the title of the fastest driver to ever take on the course in the snow. Next week's episode will feature Jezza, James May and Richard Hammond heading on a road trip in supercars from Las Vegas to Palm Springs, via Los Angeles.

The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie has been found guilty of her murder and told he will serve at least twenty years in pris. Tony McCluskie, thirty five, of Shoreditch, admitted manslaughter at the Old Bailey but denied his sister's murder. Gemma's headless torso was found in Regent's Canal in Hackney, last March. Other body parts were found later. The twenty nine-year-old actress played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel, in the BBC soap in 2001. McCluskie was found guilty by an eleven-to-one majority verdict. Gemma was killed by being hit over the head at least twice and her body was subsequently hacked into six pieces using a cleaver and a knife before being disposed of. McCluskie, a window cleaner and - it was alleged - skunk cannabis smoker, claimed to have 'lost control' after 'a tirade of abuse' from his sister.

Dallas returned to Channel Five with fewer than eight hundred thousand viewers on Tuesday, a fraction of the nearly three million punters who watched its comeback after two decades away last year. The second series of the drama – which features the final TV appearance by the late Larry Hagman – was watched by seven hundred and ninety three thousand viewers between 9pm and 10pm. The episode was twenty five per cent down on Channel Five's slot average over the past three months. Meanwhile, BBC2 cooked up something of a ratings storm with the first part of The Mary Berry Story, a two-part biography of The Great British Bake Off judge which attracted three million viewers including ninety eight thousand on the BBC HD channel. It beat ITV's celebrity couples edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which could only manage a risible 2.7 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm. It was a tough night all round for ITV, with only Emmerdale, with 6.9 million viewers between 7pm and 7.30pm, peaking through the peaktime gloom. Their Poncing Around Great Houses with Lord Snooty very satisfyingly sank (and stank) with 1.8 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. It had its ass well and truly beaten beaten by BBC1's popular Caribbean drama Death In Paradise, which had an overnight audience of 6.5 million viewers in the same slot. The Lord Snooty slavver-a-thon also lost out to Channel Four's The Undateables, with three million punters, and stayed only narrowly ahead of BBC2's Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways, which was watched by 1.7 million viewers including forty six thousand on BBC HD. ITV had a peaktime share of but fourteen per cent, against BBC1's twenty six per cent between 6pm and 10.30pm.

Prince Harry's BBC3 Afghanistan documentary was the most-watched multichannel offering on Monday night. One-off show Frontline Afghanistan, broadcast in the 9pm hour, averaged a decent eight hundred and eighty three thousand punters. This helped BBC3 to beat Channel Five in the slot, as the new, thoroughly wretched, Rory Bremner and Will Mellor format Champions of the World could only muster a pathetic five hundred and ninety seven thousand for Five. BBC1's popular comedy double act of Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys dominated the hour, pulling in respective audiences of 7.01m and 7.09m. Meanwhile, Lewis climbed to 6.1m for ITV and BBC2's Winter Viruses and How to Beat Them was watched by 1.57m. Earlier University Challenge managed 3.01m for BBC2.

Mrs Brown's Boys may not return to BBC1 until late 2014, a report suggests. The sitcom has proved to be a huge ratings hit for BBC1, but viewers may have to wait almost two years for a fourth series due to creator and star Brendan O'Carroll's busy schedule, Broadcast magazine claims. O'Carroll is said to be focusing on a Mrs Brown's Boys live tour, as well as a planned movie based on the series. The show recently triumphed at the National Television Awards, beating Absolutely Fabulous, Benidorm and The Big Bang Theory to win the best situation comedy prize. After winning the award, O'Carroll claimed that he writes Mrs Brown's Boys 'for the audience' and that he doesn't care about the sitcom's mixed critical reception. From morons.

ITV has picked up the rights to new US drama The Americans. The Cold War spy thriller - which will début on FX in the US on 30 January - stars Brothers & Sisters actor Matthew Rhys and Felicity's Keri Russell as two KGB spies. Posing as a married couple, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings must maintain their cover in Washington DC, while also dealing with the emotional complexities of their sham marriage, which grows more real and passionate each day. Noah Emmerich will also appear as Stan, the couple's new neighbour who is in fact an undercover FBI operative. ITV has made a two-year commitment to The Americans - which has been created by Joe Weisberg and will premiere in the UK in the coming months. Angela Jain - Director of Digital Channels and Acquisitions at ITV - said: 'We are delighted that a series of such high quality with really fantastic lead performances from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys will be on ITV later this year. This drama about KGB spies posing as a suburban American couple is tense, taut and exciting to watch - we hope viewers will enjoy the ride.'

Martin Freeman has claimed that he is 'in the dark' about a third series of Sherlock. The actor told the Radio Times that he is yet to see any scripts for the hit BBC drama's next run. 'Mark and Steven play their cards very close to their chests,' said Freeman. 'I've not even seen a script. I texted Mark the other day saying, "Can I see one?" and he said "not yet!" I'm as in the dark as you lot are.' Freeman also insisted that he does not know how Sherlock survived his much-debated fall in the show's series two finale. 'Honest to God, I don't know how it happened,' said the actor. 'They probably don't tell us because they don't trust we won't blab it!' Sherlock producer Sue Vertue confirmed last year that shooting on series three would begin in March due to 'availability reasons' but insisted that the delay was 'not expected to affect any likely TX dates.'

Yer actual Johnny Vegas might not be the first person one would think of when it comes to daytime TV – but the Ideal star and stand-up has directed a host of familiar comedy faces in a new afternoon drama. The cast of the Moving On TV play That's Amore is led by Jason Manford, whose plays a husband whose wife suddenly announces that she wants to end their stuck-in-a-rut marriage. Rebekah Staton, from Spy and Pulling, plays the wife, while the forty five-minute drama also features Emma Fryer, who co-starred with Vegas in Ideal, Sharon Gavin, from sketch duo Gavin & Gavin, and another Ideal cast member Peter Slater, who made the 2008 Channel Four Comedy Lab pilot Slaterwood. The play, which will be broadcast on BBC1 at 2.15pm this Friday, is the latest in a series of acting roles for Manford, who made his own Little Cracker for Sky1 at Christmas, and last year appeared in the West End production of Sweeney Todd. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Johnny said: 'We wanted someone who could play the comic touches but bring out the dramatic elements when needed. He absolutely shines in it. It's going to be a really surprising performance for people who think of him from the entertainment side. But I love bringing in people like that, and you find out that there's a lot of comedians who are really good actors but never get the opportunity.' Johnny is increasingly turning his hand to directing. He made a Little Cracker in 2011, and is behind the forthcoming Sky Arts short Ragged. The film, part of the Playhouse Presents strand, is based on Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson's life-changing encounter with the book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists after he was controversially convicted for conspiracy to intimidate while on a picket line in the Seventies.

The funniest single moment in the history of From The North, ever, bar none, occurred early this morning when this blog received its first ever visitor from the Holy See of the Vatican City. Which was nice. But, what, you may well be wondering, had brought an individual from such an august and holy realm as that to this here humble blog? Was it, dear blog reader? to seek this blogger's considered and - hopefully - charitable views on the papacy? Was it to discover how this blogger reconciles the tricky problem of explaining the holy trinity? No, sadly, it was, it would seem, after someone did a google search using the phrase 'Anna Meares bum.' True story. Poor Anna, it seems that even the Pope's boys are keeping an eye on her shapely and ample rear.
Jonathan Ross has reportedly signed up to star in a new quiz show for ITV. The programme will be 'a weekly showbiz quiz,' based on the style of the BBC's long-running show Have I Got News For You, according to the Sun. So, in no way another cheap ITV knock-off of an already successful BBC format, then. Good. Glad we established that up front. Jo Brand will host Oh What a Week (oh, Jesus!) with a pilot episode being filmed at ITV studios on Thursday on this week. Ross and yer actual Jason Manford will serve as team captains each week, should the programme's pilot prove to be successful. An alleged 'source' allegedly said: 'The plan is for Jonathan and Jason to have a celebrity guest on each week and they will cast their eye over the week's showbusiness news. Like Have I Got News For You, it will look back at stories from the past week. But instead of being about things like politics and normal news, this will be showbiz-focused. The idea is that plenty of jokes will be made – and it won't matter which team wins.' Sounds ghastly. And I say that as someone who is a great admirer of both Manford and Jo Brand and broadly enjoy Ross in small doses as well. Sorry guys, but I hope it falls flat on its face. A full series will be produced later this year, depending on the reaction to the pilot episode.

Anthea Turner has claimed that Twatting About On Ice helped to save her marriage. Might've been easier for everyone concerned if she and her husband had just gone to a marriage counsellor instead like normal people.

A remake of The Tomorrow People has been picked up to pilot. The revamp of the camp as a row of tents 1970s UK SF series - ITV's cheap and nasty knock-off of Doctor Who which, despite that, is still fondly remembered by a generation of proto-hooligans, this blogger included - is currently in the works at CW. It was first announced back in November last year. The US network has now officially ordered a pilot episode from executive producers Greg Berlanti and the fantastically-named Julie Plec, according to TVLine. Like the original Tomorrow People series, which was broadcast on ITV between 1973 and 1979, the new show will focus on a team of young people who have evolved into 'homo superior' - the next stage of human evolution - and developed extraordinary new abilities as a result. ITV previously produced its own The Tomorrow People revamp in the early 1990s, which ran for three series. But then cancelled it. Because it was crap.
A fifty two-year-old man has been arrested by police investigating computer-hacking linked to suspected business espionage. The man was arrested at his home in Oxfordshire on Tuesday morning by Metropolitan police detectives on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act. He was held under Operation Kalmyk, the Met police computer-hacking investigation launched under the auspices of Operation Tuleta, the inquiry into criminal breaches of privacy by journalists. Scotland Yard said that the man, who is not a journalist, will be interviewed at an Oxfordshire police station and his property searched. He is believed to be the fourth arrest under Operation Kalmyk. The former Scum of the World journalist, Alex Marunchak, and the private investigator, Jonathan Rees, were held and bailed under the inquiry in October last year. Operations Kalmyk and Tuleta are investigations running in parallel to Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting inquiry into phone-hacking and Operation Elveden into bad and naughty illicit payments by journalists to police and public officials. Sue Akers, the former head of the investigations, told The Leveson Inquiry in February last year that Operation Kalmyk is investigating' material that was the subject of a BBC Panorama programme.' She added: 'This relates to illegal accessing of computers belonging to others for financial gain and this is the one of them that has been a full investigation as a result of the scoping exercise that Tuleta has undertaken.'

Sweeping away the early evening shows across thirty nine BBC local radio stations was never going to be straightforward. Nor was it particularly wanted by many listeners of the service. But the job was made more difficult by a BBC presenter branding listeners who complained as 'dullard regulars' and by concerns about the way staff were treated and cuts in local news and information. The Mark Forrest Show began broadcasting across all of the BBC's local radio stations on weekdays between 7pm and 10pm on 7 January. It replaced stations' individual local evening shows as part of the BBC's Delivering Quality First cost-cutting programme, which included axing eight million quid from the one hundred and fifteen million smackers local radio budget. A petition on a BBC local radio forum has so far collected nearly three thousand five hundred signatures in protest at the change. However, the cuts could have been much worse, with local afternoon shows also in the firing line until a U-turn enforced by the BBC Trust after over twenty thousand people had written to them telling them that their ideas were rubbish. One of the presenters affected, BBC Radio Kent's Roger Day, told the new issue of Radio Times: 'I'm sad for the listeners, who've been let down again. Commercial radio isn't doing [local news and information] any more either. In the south-east, the M25 is a permanent traffic jam – they're doing the odd bit of traffic news, but nothing to help people deal with that. I was originally told while I was on holiday in Portugal and then couldn't talk about it for a year until I announced I was leaving. Some listeners who wrote in to complain were told they should have written before the end of the year – well, no one told them it was happening.' The Mark Forrest Show, made by former Radio 1 controller Matthew Bannister's Wire Free Productions, aims to use the 'best of' local radio's output as the basis for its three-hour running time. Axing individual local shows spelled the end of many specialist music programmes (my own beloved BBC Newcastle's The Evening Show and More Than Soul, for instance, though thankfully the presenter - Nick Roberts- survived the cull and still presents shows at the weekend including the award-winning Beat Surrender). Stations do have free rein to opt out for sport – midweek football is particularly popular – and any breaking news stories. BBC Radio Shropshire presenter Jim Hawkins was 'reminded of his responsibilities' by corporation management after he tweeted about the changes: 'If it means the dullard regulars go elsewhere, then yay!' Nice. Hawkins was responding earlier this month to a discussion on the BBC Radio forum website about the changes. The BBC said the comment was made in the 'heat of the moment' and was 'unacceptable. He has been reminded of his responsibilities when using social media.' Hawkins later tweeted: 'I'd like to say sorry for any offence caused by my recent tweets that haven't shown people the respect they deserve.' Alleged BBC 'insiders' allegedly said that the new Forrest show was 'not without its teething problems' but that 'given all the predictions of dire consequences it has worked out all right.' 'Mark is a good performer, the thing sounds slick and they are picking good stuff from around the country to talk about,' said one alleged corporation 'source.' Allegedly. The new show will be on the agenda at a meeting of the BBC's local radio controllers next month. 'What we are hearing on-air now is not what we are going to be hearing in a few months' time,' said another alleged 'source' quoted by the Gruniad Morning Star in one of their usual trouble-making pieces. One issue is thought to be the number of mentions of different BBC stations in the programme which is 'not a great way of making people feel a local connection. It is always going to be a challenge making it feel local when you are making a programme serving all those stations,' the alleged 'source' allegedly added. 'You have to choose stories that travel. The general feeling is that Mark Forrest is pretty good; you will never get a presenter that every BBC local radio editor agrees on.' Bannister said: 'We have got off to a really strong start. Mark has established himself as a welcoming presence on-air and listeners are reacting incredibly well to him. Clearly there are some people who are upset that it's not the local programme they used to have but we can't do anything about that. That's a matter for the BBC.' Bannister added: 'Some stories travel because they are funny. There was the extraordinary story about the Guernsey man who had entered an angling competition with a very large fish and someone in the audience recognised it because it had been stolen from a local aquarium. We had it before it got into the national papers. What we seem to be finding is a kind of broadcasting that exists between local and national, it's about community and human experiences, people are happy to share their pride.' The Observer's radio critic, sour-faced Miranda Sawyer, said Forrest, a former Classic FM and Virgin Radio DJ, was 'clearly lovely' but described the show as 'a bore-fest.' Which is certainly something sour-faced Miranda Sawyer would know all about. Tamsin Vincent, co-founder of the BBC Radio forum, said: 'Our argument was that even if it was absolutely brilliant, it was still going to be a national show on local radio. People are not happy about it, it is not igniting any local spirit for me at all.' She added: 'There is a feeling it was slipped under the radar, people have switched on expecting to hear what they normally hear. There was no real pre-publicity about it. But a huge amount of these listeners are not on the Internet or social media, so there is not going to be a 6Music-type reaction. It has been quite a shock.' The BBC's controller of English regions, David Holdsworth, told Vincent in an e-mail that there had been fewer than fifty listener complaints 'received centrally.' He added: 'But as you might expect I would rather we didn't make any listeners unhappy and we are doing our best to make the new programme as attractive as possible to all local radio listeners.'

Conrad Black is to become a TV talk show co-host. The disgraced media tycoon - and former jail-wallah - has been signed up as one of the presenters of a weekly Canadian television show. Black, publisher of the Torygraph titles and a host of newspapers across the States until he was convicted of fraud and thrown in the pokey, will begin his new media role in the spring. The live hour-long magazine-style show is aimed at people over fifty and is called The Zoomer - Television for Boomers With Zip. It will be broadcast on Vision TV, a multi-faith, multi-cultural cable channel owned by Moses Znaimer. Black's co-host will be Denise Donlon, a former head of Sony Music in Canada and a CBC Radio executive. Black is quoted in the Globe & Mail as saying: 'I give an editorial opinion and interview somebody and there are going to be a couple of panels. I will have a lot of people that I know in this and other countries who are fairly prominent who will be happy to be interviewed. We should make it moderately interesting.' He also said former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger would 'be happy to be our foreign-policy commentator.' In a pilot episode, which Znaimer is showing to international programmers in order to sell the show elsewhere, Black interviewed Donald Trump via Skype. According to the promotional blurb, the show will feature some of Black's 'favourite hobby-horses' such as 'the US justice system, prison reform, gun control and the world's financial crisis.' At least two of which he knows lots about. The Globe & Mail quotes Znaimer as saying: 'He's the best dinner guest you might ever imagine – learned, witty, clever, engaging, knowledgeable – and opinionated.' Doubtless, Black will draw on his recent experiences in Britain as a TV interviewee last October when he called Sky's Adam Boulton 'a jackass' and BBC's Jeremy Paxman 'a priggish, gullible British fool.' But he sounded emollient by saying: 'I'm certainly not entering into this with any thought of settling scores with anyone.' In 2007, Black was found extremely guilty and sentenced to six-and-half years in stir by a US court. He eventually served two periods in jail, a total of twenty nine months and thirteen months. After his release in May last year, he was immediately deported to Canada. He was granted a one-year residency permit, having renounced his citizenship in 2001. He and his wife, Barbara Amiel, have since been living in Toronto.

The holding company for Teletubbies and In the Night Garden producer Ragdoll has reported 'a significant increase' in losses to almost four million smackers in its latest financial results and has put its sales joint venture with BBC Worldwide up for sale. Ragdoll Ltd, which owns independent producer Ragdoll, was 'severely affected' by a major slump in the performance of its joint venture with BBC Worldwide, Ragdoll Worldwide, which sells and licences its children's programmes outside the UK. Ragdoll Worldwide is now up for sale, according to documents filed at Companies House earlier this month. Ragdoll Ltd, which owns a fifty per cent stake in Ragdoll Worldwide, reported a pre-tax loss of £3.7m in the year to the twelve months to the end of March 2012. This is up from a four hundred and ninety two thousand eighty hundred and twenty three quid loss posted the previous year. Turnover dropped by twenty seven per cent year on year from £8.1m to £5.9m. Ragdoll Worldwide reported a pre-tax loss of almost three and a half million wonga in the year to the end of March 2012 – a slump of almost eight million notes from the profit level it achieved the year before. In 2011, the joint venture paid out an interim dividend of three million knicker to its owners on the way to making a healthy pre-tax profit of £4.4m. Turnover at the joint venture plunged forty three per cent year-on-year from £11.8m to £6.66m last year. Ragdoll suffered from the loss of its creative executive, Andrew Davenport, said alleged 'industry sources' according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Davenport, credited with company founder, Anne Wood, as co-creator of Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, joined Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine in March 2012, which is understood to have left a gap in the development of new programmes. Wood, Ragdoll founder and creative director, said the company had recently 'restructured' and expected to return to profitability. 'Ragdoll has recently reorganised its production and distribution business – the joint venture with BBC Worldwide – and this, together with new programme plans will return the company to profitability,' she said. Wood added that the creative team have 'started production' of a major pre-school animation series, for delivery at the end of 2014, but declined to name the broadcaster. 'We are also working on the final stages of development of an exciting series for older children.' Earlier this month, Wood told the Radio Times: 'I'm working on a new pre-schooler show. Because it's stop-frame animation, we are struggling to make ends meet.' She said that the forthcoming April tax breaks for animation, agreed by the treasury, 'should really help our cash flow.' In order to address the ailing Ragdoll Worldwide operation, which took a three million quid impairment charge following a review of the value of investment in programme rights, a restructure was undertaken in September. Ragdoll Worldwide hired a new commercial director, Stephen Gould, based at Pinewood, to exploit In the Night Garden, Teletubbies and two more recent BBC shows Dipdap and The Adventures of Abney & Teal. Gould was previously a brand and licensing consultant at RDF Media Group. The company also acquired production and distribution rights 'relating to brands that had previously been exploited by its shareholders. Whilst it is considered that underlying value remains in back catalogue rights, the timing of when this will be realised is not considered sufficiently certain,' the company admitted in its Companies House filing. 'The directors consider this reorganisation, together with two exciting new properties in development and significant cost savings, will better position the company for future growth and a return to profitability,' the company added. Ragdoll Productions improved its financial position in the year to the end of March 2012. The production business reduced its pre-tax loss from £2.7m to £1.9m in 2012. Turnover rose slightly year on year, from £2.25m to £2.59m. Ragdoll Productions has not made a pre-tax profit since being registered at Companies House in 2006, according to annual financial filings. Ragdoll Limited's three directors – Wood, her son Christopher and chief executive Mark Hollingsworth – were paid four hundred and seventy nine grand during the twelve-month period. This is down on the five hundred and fifty two thousand nine hundred and twelve notes paid to the trio the previous year. The highest paid director, who is unnamed in the filing, was paid two hundred and eight thousand smackers in 2012. Staff numbers at Ragdoll Ltd grew from an average of forty seven to sixty, with almost £3.2m for salaries, social security and pensions, including the amount paid to directors. Ragdoll was founded by Wood in 1984 and is responsible for shows including Rosie and Jim and Tots TV. But it was yer actual Teletubbies, launched on the BBC in 1997, which transformed the company's fortunes, generating a reported two hundred million quid in revenue and selling fifty million merchandising products. In the Night Garden, launched in 2007, was another lucrative global hit.

Britain's glorious summer of sport did wonders for the profile of presenter Clare Balding, reports the Torygraph. And six months after the final medal ceremony at London 2012 the multi-talented host is still attracting the plaudits. Though, not so much for Britain's Brightest, admittedly. Balding has been named the 'most fascinating person' in Britain, according to Tatler magazine. She beat her partner, former Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold (fourteenth), the Duchess of Cambridge's dog (fiftieth), and the Queen in the 'fascinating' stakes.
Billy Connolly has been criticised by animal rights campaigners - who, seemingly, have nothing more important or productive to do with their time - after acquiring a pair of shoes made from the skin of a stingray. The comic and actor had the footwear – which can cost more a grand – made up by the crew on The Hobbit movie, in which he plays Dáin Ironfoot. But activists at PETA - who, sadly, have no human friends - 'slammed' (that's tabloidese for 'criticised' only with less syllables) the move, saying: 'Stingrays are fascinating, gentle sea animals, and they don't deserve to be slaughtered for a pair of jokes shoes that will likely never even be worn.' How, exactly, they know this, they don't say. Connolly revealed the unusual gift in a forthcoming BBC interview, saying: 'I like hanging out with the crew on these films. They build great things and they make things and you can always get things from them. They make belts and shoes and I've got a great pair of shoes from The Hobbit made of stingray. They're brilliant, and they put frog inserts in my cowboy boots. If you hunt them down they can get things for you. I'm sure it's terribly illegal.' The Big Yen added that no Stingray's were hurt during the making of these shoes. Because, they were dead. Which sounds fair enough. This weekend, Bill's wife Pamela described the beauty of the stingray, writing in a newspaper travel article about diving in Mauritius and witnessing 'flocks of enormous spotted eagle stingrays flying majestically in formation over my head.' During his 2011 Route 66 road trip, Connolly came across a Harley-Davidson with a seat covered in stingray leather. At the time he said: 'It was beautiful but not really to my taste. I usually prefer bikes that are stripped down rather than tarted up.' Stingray provide one of the world's most expensive leathers, but the material is difficult to work with because of the shape of the animal's scales. PETA have previously criticised The Hobbit, claiming that twenty seven animals, including sheep, goats and chickens, died during production. As thought anybody actually cares about nonsense like that. Producers have strongly denied any mistreatment, but accepted that the death of two horses 'could have been avoided.' By them not dying, presumably.
Comux UK, the not-for-profit co-op of local TV licence holders led by Canis Media, has this week been named as the new local TV multiplex operator on digital terrestrial television. Ofcom has selected Comux to be responsible for building and operating a technical platform for broadcasting TV services targeting specific UK towns and cities on Freeview. The 'MuxCo' licence has been awarded for a twelve-year period and Ofcom now expects Comux to set up the required infrastructure so that the first local TV channels can come on-air before the end of 2013. A multiplex represents a certain amount of broadcasting capacity on Freeview. In May 2012, Ofcom invited applications to run TV services in twenty one local areas using a dedicated local TV mux. In total, fifty seven applications were submitted to run local TV in nineteen areas. Ofcom has already awarded fourteen local licences, including for Brighton, Sheffield, Scotland and Grimsby. It will make further announcements 'in the coming months,' including the hotly contested London licence. MuxCo will manage the way local TV stations use the Freeview architecture to reach their specific intended audience. All the channels will operate using the same Freeview channel, but viewers in Sheffield will only get the Sheffield station, for example. Comux UK is a co-operative not-for-profit organisation, owned in equal measure by the local television licensees and managed by Canis Media for an initial period of three years. It will be based at Birmingham Science Park in Aston, and harness the expertise of a consortium of technical partners led by Canis, the digital media organisation which brokers the sale and trade of channel slots on Sky's electronic programme guide. Comux UK said that all profits will be channelled back into local TV, including a portion going to a charitable trust with a remit to provide funding for projects 'close to the heart of local communities.' The charity will be headed up by Canis's head of local TV Clare Bramley. Canis Media's chief executive Ed Hall, who founded Comux, said he was 'delighted' to be playing a role in 'one of the most exciting changes to the UK's TV landscape for many years. I believe that we won because our innovative cooperative structure maximises the chance of success for each and every local TV franchise holder,' Hall said. 'I'm now looking forward to building the infrastructure and particularly excited to see the first local TV services on-air. This really is a step-change; previously local TV has been limited to a handful of cities but soon there will be up to sixty towns and cities with their own local channel. This revolutionises how the UK's local communities are served by TV.' Alongside operating the initial local TV licences, Comux has proposed to expand coverage to a further twenty eight locations. These include Aberdeen, Ayr, Bangor, Barnstaple, Basingstoke, Bedford, Bromsgrove, Cambridge, Carlisle, Derry, Dundee, Guildford, Hereford, Inverness, Kidderminster, Limvady, Maidstone, Malvern, Middlesborough, Mold, Reading, Salisbury, Scarborough, Stoke-on-Trent, Stratford-upon-Avon and Tonbridge. Ofcom will now seek expressions of interest in those areas from potential operators wanting to run a local TV service. It is also asking for bidders in Swansea and Plymouth neither of which have attracted a bid so far. As well as broadcasting the local channels, Comux will launch two additional video streams that can be leased to other organisations on a 'quasi-national commercial basis.' Originally conceived by former lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the local TV scheme aims to create 'a vibrant network of stations' which can serve local communities, improve local democracy and provide an alternative to the BBC's services. Digital UK has allocated prominent channel numbers for local TV, including position eight on the Freeview TV guide in England and Northern Ireland, and position forty five in Wales and Scotland. Alongside broadcasting on Freeview, the local TV channels are expected to go live on satellite and cable TV, and online. They will be supported by advertising, but the BBC has also pledged twenty five million quid of funding to local TV up to 2017. Quite why the felt the need to when neither they nor their licence fee payers are getting any benefit from it, is another matter entirely.

Mad Men will return to UK screens in April. The 1960s period drama's sixth season will début on Sky Atlantic on Wednesday 10 April at 10pm. The confirmed broadcast-date means that British viewers will get to see new Mad Men episodes just three days after initial US transmission. It was confirmed last week that Matthew Weiner's Emmy-winning series will return to AMC on Sunday 7 April at 9pm. The season six premiere has been written by creator/executive producer Weiner and will be directed by fellow executive Scott Hornbacher. Weiner has confirmed that there will be 'a significant time jump' between the show's fifth and sixth seasons, with future episodes of Mad Men exploring the late 1960s. All of the show's central cast are expected to return, with January Jones - who appeared in just four episodes last year due to her real-life pregnancy - revealing that she will play 'a larger role' in the new season.
Former Men Behaving Badly actor Martin Clunes has labelled Churchill Insurance 'neurotic and very heavy-handed' after it dropped him as the star of its TV adverts. Churchill parted company with Clunes when a court banned him from driving last year. Oh yes. It was always going to be problematic, you might think, having a chap banned from driving advertising car insurance. But Clunes, star of ITV's Doc Martin, is not happy. 'I was very surprised by their reaction,' he told the new issue of Radio Times. 'It was neurotic and very heavy-handed. Quite rude, actually, They never said goodbye. They never said thanks. They washed their hands of me completely.' Of course, Churchill (the company as opposed to the dog) do have some previous over this sort of thing with the advert series original voice-over man, Vic Reeves, reportedly having a similar experience some years ago. Clunes, meanwhile, is back filming a new series of Doc Martin, which he does every other year and helps subsidise his one hundred and thirty five-acre farm in Dorset, complete with fifteen horses, ninety sheep, ten chickens and seven cows, among other animals. Including a nodding dog. 'I imagine there will come a time when television withdraws itself from me,' Clunes told the magazine. 'I'd really like the farm to wash its face. That's still a way off. I do quite like the ewes, especially when they're pregnant, and when you get that first bleat from the newborn lamb, it's pretty good.' Clunes said that he would like to see the working horse – the subject of his new documentary on ITV – make a comeback in British farming.

It will be twenty five years since the first Red Nose Day on 5 February. There have been twelve since, with the thirteen due to occur on 15 March (the official single will be by One Direction, a cover of Blondie's 'One Way Or Another' for which they should be publicly hanged at Tyburn, frankly charity or no charity). But, back in 1988 – when none of One Direction were even born – people weren't quite sure how to approach it. According to Emma Freud, writer, broadcaster, and partner of the driving force behind Comic Relief, Richard Curtis: 'In the early days it was utter chaos,' Freud told the new issue of Radio Times. 'When Rik Mayall went on Wogan to publicise the first Comic Relief single ('Living Doll' by Cliff Richard and The Young Ones) just before going on he rushed over to Richard Curtis and whispered in a panic, 'Quick, remind me, which is the country where they're starving?'

Goals from yer actual Papiss Demba Cissé and Yohan Cabaye his very self gave a new-look Les Newcastle United their first away win of the season (at last!) at Aston Villains and left the home side stranded in the bottom three. Cissé scored his seventh of the season, after he was played through by débutant, the impressive Moussa Sissoko. Cabaye doubled the lead with a glorious long-range effort before the break. Christian Benteke gave the home side hope from the penalty spot after Gabriel Agbonlahor was tripped by Mathieu Debuchy. Three of Alan Pardew's new signings made an appearance with Yoan Gouffran and Sissoko starting and acquitting themselves well. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa replaced Sissoko near the end and fought with the rest of his side to ensure Les Magpies left with three precious Premier League points. In the end, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Les Toon held on to take all three points - their first win since mid December - and leave the Villains without a win in their last seven matches, and having recently been dumped out of both cups by lower league opposition. it's a game of two-halves, Brian and, at the end of ninety minutes the team which scores the most goals will emerge victorious.
One of Britain's greatest character actors, Bernard Horsfall, has died at the age of eighty two. The actor starred in numerous movie and TV roles, including multiple appearances in Doctor Who serials directed by David Maloney. Horsfall is reported to have died on Tuesday morning. And imposing six feet three inches, he was perhaps best known for playing The Master's acolyte, Chancellor Goth, opposite Tom Baker in the 1976 four-part story The Deadly Assassin. His most famous scene involved a battle with The Doctor inside The Matrix with the climax of one episode showing The Doctor being held underwater by Goth. The sequence prompted complaints from the notoriously prissy and up-her-own-arse clean-up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse and was edited from repeat showings. Bernard had previously appeared as the heroic Gulliver opposite Patrick Troughton in The Mind Robber (1968), in the small - but crucial - role of one of the tribunal of Time Lords in The War Games (1969) and as the Thal Taron in Planet Of The Daleks (1973) opposite Jon Pertwee. Born on 20 November 1930 in Bishops Stortford, Bernard had a long and distinguished career in film and television in the UK. He had roles in the feature films Shout At The Devil, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Gandhi, The Angry Silence, Guns At Batasi and Braveheart. Like most jobbing actors of the 1960s and 70s he appeared in guest roles in many classic television dramas including Casualty, Agatha Christie's Poirot, The Bill, The Jewel in the Crown, Juliet Bravo, Minder, When the Boat Comes In, Within These Walls, Jackanory, Elizabeth R, Doomwatch, Out of the Unknown, Harriet's Back in Town, Softly Softly, Dr Finlay's Casebook, Between The Lines, The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders!, Freewheelers, Crown Court and Z Cars. Other parts include portraying the barrister Melford Stevenson in a 1980 Granada TV dramatisation of the case of Ruth Ellis in the series Lady Killers. He also played Philip Martel in the Channel Islands wartime drama Enemy at the Door, which ran for two series between 1978 and 1980. Bernard returned to Doctor Who in 2003 in the audio production Davros. Author and Big Finish writer, director and actor Nicholas Pegg wrote on Twitter: 'Raising a glass to Bernard Horsfall: a fine actor, an imposing Time Lord, a wonderful Player King in the 1984 RSC Hamlet and a super chap.'

Cats are one of the top threats to US wildlife, killing billions of animals each year, a study suggests. The authors estimate that this wicked unholy army of the night are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between six and twenty billion mammals annually. Writing in Nature Communications, the scientists said that stray and feral cats were the worst offenders. However, they added that pet cats also played a role and that owners should 'do more' to 'reduce their impact.' Dunno how, exactly. Cut their knackers off, possibly. The authors - who sound like a right bunch of numskulls - concluded that more animals are dying at the claws of cats in the United States than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisonings. The domestic cat's killer instinct of has been well documented on many islands around the world. Felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to decimate local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of thirty three species. But their impact on the mainland has been harder to chart. To find out more, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service carried out a review of studies that had previously looked at the predatory prowess of cats. Their analysis revealed that the cat killings were much higher than previous studies had suggested: they found that they had killed more than four times as many birds as has been previously estimated. Birds native to the US, such as the American Robin, were most at risk, and mice, shrews, voles, squirrels and rabbits were the mammals most likely to be killed. Doctor Pete Marra from the SCBI said: 'Our study suggests that they are the top threat to US wildlife.' The team said that 'un-owned' cats, which they classified as strays, feral cats and farm cats, were killing about three times as many animals as pet cats, but that their owners could do more to limit the impact. Marra said: 'We hope that the large amount of wildlife mortality indicated by our research convinces some cat owners to keep their cats indoors and that it alerts policymakers, wildlife managers and scientists to the large magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cat predation.' A spokeswoman for the UK's animal welfare charity the RSPCA said that a properly fitted collar and bell could reduce a cat's success when hunting by at least a third.

Which, of course, means that there could on be one Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And it's this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Don't Care How Much I Pay

A peak audience of more than five million punters got oot of their stinking pits early on Sunday morning to watch dour Scotsman Andy Murray suffer an agonising defeat in his bid to win a second grand slam in the Australian Open tennis final on BBC1. BBC1's live coverage of Murray's four-set defeat to Novak Djokovic averaged 4.1 million viewers, a thirty eight per cent audience share, between 8.15am and 12.45pm, with a fifteen-minute peak of 5.1 million between midday and 12.15pm. This was up to four times the size of BBC1's typical audience on a Sunday morning. In the evening, BBC2's Top Gear returned for its nineteenth series on BBC2 - much the obvious chagrin of various disgusting hippie-louse-Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star and some jack-booted thug bullyboys of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail - with 5.3 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm, including nine hundred and twenty nine thousand viewers watching on BBC HD. Remarkably, the motoring magazine show managed to beat vile, odious Twatting About On Ice's 'Skate Off' show which could only muster 5.16m for Anthea Turner's departure between 8.30pm and 9pm on ITV. Which, somewhat, restores one's faith in the viewing public actually having a braincell between them. Earlier, the main Twatting About On Ice show was watched by seven million crushed victims of society between 6.15pm and 7.45pm. Top Gear may have also given a leg-up to BBC2's latest series with Professor Brian Cox, Wonders of Life, which followed it at 9pm, although they would appear to have rather different audiences. (Albeit, yer actual Keith Telly Topping very much enjoys both so that proves they're not mutually exclusive.) The first of a five-part series, Wonders of Life had 3.1 million viewers, including four hundred and twenty two thousand viewers on BBC HD. At the same time on 9pm, ITV's Mr Selfridge continued to hold a - marginal - whip hand over BBC1's Ripper Street in the battle of the Sunday night dramas. Mr Selfridge, the fourth of a ten-part run, had six million viewers, ahead of Ripper Street's steady 5.2 million. Later, and rather gratifyingly, BBC1's Holocaust Memorial Day documentary Prisoner Number A26188: Henia Bryer was watched by 1.9 million viewers between 10.25pm and 11.05pm. Channel Four's terrestrial movie premiere The Fighter, with yer actual Christian Bale, was watched by 1.2 million viewers between 9pm and 11.20pm. Earlier, ITV's live coverage of Oldham Athletic's 3-2 fourth round FA Cup giant-killing over Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws proved a ratings winner with a fifteen-minute teatime peak of nearly seven million viewers. FA Cup Live had an average of 4.5 million viewers between 3.30pm and 6.05pm. Live coverage of the match itself, which kicked off at 4pm, averaged 5.2 million with a peak of 6.8 million for its climax between 5.45pm and 6pm. BBC1's Call the Midwife was the most watched programme of the day across all channels, with 8.7 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm, down from last week's series opener (and all-time high) of 9.3 million. Blandings (3.71m) and Countryfile (6.24m) also pulled in decent figures for BBC1. Overall, BBC1 led primetime with 23.9 per cent of the audience share versus ITV's 19.9 per cent. BBC2 took a creditable third place with 10.5 per cent, its highest audience share of the year so far.

Meanwhile, here's the consolidated and final ratings figures for the Top Twenty Two programmes week-ending 20 January 2013:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.79m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 10.42m
3 Mrs Brown's Boys - Mon BBC1 - 9.66m
4 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 9.64m
5 Miranda - Mon BBC1 - 8.88m
6 Africa - Wed BBC1 - 7.97m
7 Death In Paradise - Tues BBC1 - 7.84m
8 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 7.81m
9 Lewis - Mon ITV - 7.58m
10 Silent Witness - Thurs BBC1 - 7.44m
11 Mr Selfridge - Sun ITV - 6.98m
12 Ripper Street - Sun BBC1 - 6.95m
13 Twatting About On Ice - Sun ITV - 6.88m
14 Six O Clock News - Fri BBC1 - 6.73m
15 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.69m
16 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 6.34m
17 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 6.25m
18 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.07m
19 The ONE Show - Fri BBC1 - 5.83m
20 Blandings - Sun BBC1 - 5.66m
21 The National Lottery: In It To Win It - Sat BBC1 - 5.48m
22 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.15m

'This isn't fighting talk,' insisted Sky's director of entertainment channels Stuart Murphy as he listed all the on-screen talent currently working for the broadcaster – Steve Coogan, Julia Davis, Emily Mortimer et al – at a Sky Living launch last week. Was there a 'but' coming on? Of course there was. There's always a 'but' coming. 'But five years ago if you saw all those names you would have assumed it was another broadcaster – the terrestrial that used to take big creative risks.' Murphy crowed, though he preferred not to say which one. Was there, however, a clue in his later statement that 'if Channel Four had that line-up it would be really proud of it'? Very possibly. And not a subliminal one. This is, after all, same C4 that Murphy is hotly tipped to one day head.

ITV has purchased its headquarters and studios on London's South Bank for fifty six million quid. The broadcaster has purchased the two and a half-acre site from retail letting firm Coal Pension Properties, ITV announced on Monday. ITV will pay fifty six million smackers to buy out the fifty six-year lease, plus a further six and a half million notes if there is substantial redevelopment of the site in the next ten years. The broadcaster said in a stock market announcement that the purchase would give it 'flexibility' in in its property strategy as it continues to 'transform and rebalance' the company. This follows ITV's move to overhaul its offices and studios in Leeds, and to relocate its Manchester operation to the new MediaCity complex in Salford. The TV company has had an association with London Television Centre – formerly known as London Studios – for more than forty years. The twenty two-storey tower and studio complex, overlooking the Thames, was purpose built for ITV company London Weekend Television in the early 1970s. ITV's corporate HQ and network commissioning operation was for many years based in offices on Gray's Inn Road north of the Thames, with the South Bank site mainly a production centre. The broadcaster's commissioning teams under director of programmes Peter Fincham relocated to London Television Centre from Gray's Inn Road in early 2009, with chief executive Adam Crozier setting up shop there when he joined ITV the following year. Programmes currently produced at the London Television Centre include breakfast flop Daybreak, This Morning, Loose Women, The Jonathan Ross Show, All Star Family Fortunes and Alan Carr: Chatty Man. A load of old risible, lowest-common-denominator shite in other words. Although, to be fair, they do also make The Graham Norton Show and Qi for the BBC so it's not all rubbish.

When news that the utterly wretched and worthless Colin Murray was going to be - satisfyingly - replaced as Match Of The Day 2 host recently, the Torygraph's Jonathan Liew showed little mercy for the Irish broadcaster in a column headlined Good riddance to a man who talks a lot but does not listen. But then, it's difficult to feel even a smidgen of sympathy for someone who once threatened to take you to court for merely expressing a negative opinion. It seems, according toe the Gruniad Morning Star, Liew claimed that after an earlier piece about Murray, he received a five-page letter from celebrity lawyers Schillings the highlight of which was an objection to Liew calling Murray's DJ sets 'pedestrian' ('Our client takes great exception to this. Our client is very proud of his DJ sets and goes to great lengths to ensure that his sets are lively, imaginative and distinct from other performances' they whinged.) The Torygraph rebutted 'every one of its points in some detail,' including the musical moan. Liew, it seems, had experienced one of Murray's DJ sets in Edinburgh four years before which, he stated, was 'indie disco by numbers' and ended in 'the most clichéd way' possible with The Proclaimers' 'Five Hundred Miles.' Which is about how far from the Match Of The Day studio Murray may find himself once the current season is over. Personally, this blogger thinks that Murray is one of the worst sports programme presenters he's ever had the misfortune to watched and/or listen to. Hopefully Schillings won't have any issue with that assessment, especially when they consider that this blogger is voicing this opinion not as a professional broadcaster himself but, rather, as 'a licence fee payer.' You know, one of those 'annoying little people' who pay Mr Murray's no doubt no inconsiderable wages. Still, it would seem it's an opinion that the BBC currently shares.

ITV has ordered two more series of the daytime game show The Chase and a run of celebrity specials. The Bradley Walsh quiz series has been commissioned to film three hundred further standard episodes (two series of one hundred and fifty shows) and twenty four 'celebrity episodes.' Or, episodes featuring some people you've never heard of, more likely. The Chase places contestants in a quiz race with 'The Chaser', a general knowledge and quiz expert who wants to beat the contestants at all costs. Although, sadly, not with an actual beating implement. The contestants must stay ahead of The Chaser by answering questions to win a share of the final prize pot. The show, which is broadcast daily at 5pm, has pulled very decent ratings over recent weeks with a peak audience of just over five million on Monday 21 January when most of the country was snowed in their gaffs. ITV's 5pm slot ratings average has been boosted heavily by the show, which has recorded a thirty nine per cent rise year-on-year. Director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman said: 'The Chase has been a consistent star performer for ITV Daytime. Now in its sixth series it continues to grow in popularity and we are thrilled to secure it into 2014 for our ITV Daytime viewers.' Michael Kelpie, creative director of ITV Studios and executive producer of The Chase, added: 'The Chase continues to go from strength to strength. I am thrilled that our success has been reflected in such a confident commission for ITV. For the next two years, The Chase is most definitely on!'

Big, cuddly Dawn French is to play odious talentless lard bucket (and drag) James Corden's mother in his new comedy-thriller. So, that should be well worth avoiding, then. The Vicar Of Dibley actress has been added to the cast of BBC2’s The Wrong Mans, which Corden co-wrote with friend Mathew Baynton. The plot involves two office workers – Corden and Horrible Histories star Baynton – who become unwittingly caught up in a conspiracy. It also stars Dan Renton Skinner, temporarily ditching his Angelos Epithemiou character, Rebecca Front as the head of MI5 and Sarah Solemani from BBC3's Him And Her. Meanwhile, Silent Witness's Emilia Fox and Nick Moran will play the mysterious duo on the trail of the hapless duo. Executive producer Mark Freeland said: 'We are trying to do a comedy with explosions, a lot of running about, murder, extortion, friendship and love.' yeah. But, it's got Corden in it, so it'll be lousy.

Tim Vine, Nina Conti and John Culshaw are to take part in the next series of Let's Dance for Comic Relief. The high-profile series will run over three Saturday night heats from 16 February, followed by a final on 9 March. Although the full line-up has yet to be revealed, it has also been announced that former boxer Ricky Hatton will be among the contestants while judges will include Frank Skinner and Jo Brand. Alex Jones, who hosts the show with Steve Jones (no relation), said: 'I'm ridiculously excited to be back on Let's Dance. We have some of our best comedians as panellists, and an unbelievable line-up of brave celebrities who are all prepared to don their dancing shoes to raise lots of money for this year’s Red Nose Day.' At least, we think that's what she said, with her it's difficult to tell. Last year's competition was won by Roland Rivron, with his interpretation of Fatboy Slim's 'Weapon of Choice'. The show has previously helped boost the profiles of the likes of Rufus Hound and Robert Webb, while raising money for Comic Relief.

Film 2012 was already looking bad, and now Film 2013's condition appears terminal. The Gruniad Morning Star claims that Danny Cohen has 'plainly lost patience with the Claudia Winkleman vehicle.' Relatively lenient December start-times have degenerated to two 11.50pm starts in January, including (especially insultingly) last week's show, which had two Best Picture Oscar nominees to cover, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, but had to wait for League Cup highlights to finish first. Will Cohen kill off the long-running movie review show before its exiled ex-presenter Jonathan Ross starts his ITV film show in April?

Viewers of a newly restored silent film showing London in the 1920s are to be given the opportunity to create their own bespoke soundtrack. Flowers of London contrasts footage of the city's dirty streets with pictures of flowers, designed to signify hope. It will be made available on The Space website, a collaboration between Arts Council England and the BBC. The BBC's New Radiophonic Workshop will invite site users to choose their own combinations of sound effects. Flowers of London is one of six films in the Wonderful London series, all from the 1920s, that have been restored by the BFI National Archive. The Radiophonic Workshop, which made theme tunes and soundtracks for the likes of Doctor Who and Blake's Seven, reopened last September after fourteen years. 'What initially appeared to be a straightforward commission ended up being one of our most challenging projects,' said composer Matthew Herbert, leader of the workshop. 'We were keen to allow the viewers the chance to customise their listen, and so they are able to choose what kind of soundtrack they think the film should have.' 'We believe that sound is as important as the image,' said Peter Maniura, curator of The Space. 'Flowers of London is particularly special as it allows the audience to control their listening experience - tailoring music, narrative and effects to build their own soundtrack.' Flowers of London will be made available on The Space from 7 February.

Channel Four has announced details of a new documentary about the recent increase in fried chicken shops in the UK. Developed with the working title The Fried Chicken Shop (imaginative), the show will be filmed in a single shop in South London. The show will be shot from fixed cameras, which will capture interviews with customers and staff. Channel Four wants the one-off documentary to be 'surprising and celebratory' and is examining the 'cultural and economic urban landscape of modern Britain.' Emma Cooper, commissioning editor at Channel Four, said: 'The Fried Chicken Shop will explore the scale of the nation's obsession and increasing love of fried chicken. Filmed in one of the UK's popular fried chicken shops and serving the diverse community of London, it has produced a surprising yet exciting and genuinely illuminating film and tells us the story of Britain today through our voracious appetite for chicken wings.' The Fried Chicken Shop is being produced by Mentorn Media for Channel Four's flagship documentary brand Cutting Edge.

Andrew Scott, best known for playing Jim Moriarty in Sherlock, has been named best actor at a ceremony honouring the best of BBC radio drama. Scott picked up the prize at the BBC Audio Drama Awards for his role in Harold Pinter's Betrayal on Radio 4. Scott won the best supporting actor prize at last year's awards. At this year's event, hosted by yer actual David Tennant, Michelle Fairley was named best actress for her part in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. This Is England star Vicky McClure picked up the award for best supporting actress for Radio 4's Kicking the Air. David Troughton was named best supporting actor for Singles and Doublets, broadcast on Radio 3. 'Acting on the radio is challenging, inspiring, delicate and always a privilege,' said former Doctor Who star Tennant, who won best actor at last year's inaugural ceremony. 'Radio drama is often overlooked and undervalued next to its showier younger siblings on the television and in the cinema. Yet it is on the wireless that so many important and brilliant talents have been discovered and nurtured.' The award for best single drama went to On It, Tony Pitts' play about a heroin addict. The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, adapted from the novel by German author Heinrich Boll, took best series or serial.

Plans for a TV version of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue were dropped – because executives thought the teams were too old. The show is currently celebrating its fortieth year on radio, but has never transferred to the small screen. And speaking at the Slapstick Festival in Bristol, regular panellist Tim Brooke-Taylor revealed why. The seventy two-year-old told an audience at the Old Vic theatre: 'We did a pilot for ITV, and they said "Yes, we'd like to go along with it, but can we have some younger people doing it?" I think they missed the point somewhat.' Thec same oculd, of course, also be said for Lord Timbo his very self whose latest TV venture, Animal Antics is so much of a dog it's in danger of shedding. It's certainly shed much of its audience. Even the pilot of the radio show got off to an inauspicious start, according to legend. Graeme Garden created the improvised format as an outlet for the team behind sketch show I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again – who were finding it increasingly difficult to work on scripts as their TV work began to take off. He called in jazz star Humphrey Lyttelton to host but, he told the festival: 'We said "never again" at the end of the pilot. We all had a terrible time.' At the time, producer David Hatch said he might be able to sell it to the BBC as a one-off – but it turned into one of the corporation's most enduring shows. Garden, sixty nine, added: 'Humph always used to say he liked pilots as you turned up, got paid, and nothing ever came of it. Not only did he say "never again" after the pilot, he said it after the end of the first series, and every subsequent series. I never quite know if he enjoyed doing the show or not.' The first series also starred John Cleese and Bill Oddie (when he used to be funny), but both quickly dropped out. 'John liked to be in control of everything, and do eight rewrites every time,' Garden said. 'He hated doing it on the hoof. He got so fed up with one round that he took his glass of water and poured it over the microphone. And Bill Oddie was terrified of the show. He used to throw up before going on. And we couldn't have that.' Barry Cryer and Willy Rushton then took over as regulars, and the team shared memories of Rushton, who died in 1996. Cryer seventy seven, recalls them both checking into Belfast's Europa hotel at the height of The Troubles, when it had the dubious honour of being Europe’s most-bombed building. On the check-in form, where it asked, 'Where did you hear about it?' Rushton allegedly wrote: 'News At Ten.' He also recalled Rushton telling a blind piano tuner at the theatre in Andover becoming something of an irritation as he kept chatting to them as they were preparing for a show. As the man finally left them alone, disappearing out of their dressing room with his guide dog, Rushton cried out: 'How cruel of them to give you a cat!' Pianist Colin Sell recalled him opening a show in the Isle of Man with the line: 'As Oscar Wilde said, "It's great to be in Douglas."' The team also recalled how Jack Dee was not accepted by all fans when he took over hosting duties after Lyttelton died in 2008. At one recording at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, a voice rang out from the stalls: 'It's not the same without Humph, is it?' – causing the atmosphere to sour. But Dee replied: 'Aaah, dear Humph, I wonder where he is now?' Adding, after a pause: 'I envy him!' However the team refused to be drawn too deeply into the controversy surrounding their running jokes about Lionel Blair. Producers have recently dropped the gags, amid reports that Blair was angry at how he was portrayed as an insatiable homosexual. 'That's a tricky question,' Brooke-Taylor said, when one audience member asked about the Blair situation. He revealed that Blair had been approached to appear on their last Christmas show – but turned them down. 'He initially said he would be very happy to be on it,' Brooke-Taylor said. 'But his wife said no.' Their comments came at a session at the Slapstick Festival, after they recreated some of the best gags from the show's forty-year history. And the irony of a radio show being part of a silent comedy festival did not pass unnoticed.

BSkyB suffered a rare defeat in a sports rights battle last week, losing out to News International – owned, of course, by the pay-TV broadcaster's controlling shareholder News Corporation – in the battle for the exclusive rights to Internet and mobile highlights for Premier League matches. Moreover, News International's winning bid was led by a former senior Sky man – Mike Darcey, who after six years as chief operating officer joined the newspaper publisher as chief executive at the start of the month. Darcey is a veteran of as many as five Premier League TV auctions, including last year's successful but eye-watering £2.3bn Sky bid tabled in the face of a challenge from BT. The satellite broadcaster was one of at least four companies, which are understood to have included existing rights holder Yahoo, mobile operator O2 and Leonard Blavatnik's Perform Group, to have submitted sealed bids in the Premier League's digital rights auction held last week. Sky has been aggressively developing a mobile content strategy, launching Sky Go and Sky Now services in the last year, and was understood to be keen on the digital rights, but nevertheless failed to top the offer submitted to the Premier League by News International. News International's bid is thought to be worth about thirty million quid over three years to use Premier League clips on the websites and apps for the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. This is close to double the seventeen million notes the last three year deal is thought to have been worth, according to alleged sources. Under the previous deal the rights were split between Yahoo, which had Internet clips, and mobile, which was controlled by ESPN. The split of the seventeen million knicker total value of the deal is not known. 'We were informed that the Premier League has not accepted Yahoo's bid for the award of the Near Live Clips Package for the 2013-2016 seasons,' said a spokesman for Yahoo. 'However, mobile, video and sports will continue to be a focus of ours as we continue to inspire and entertain our millions of UK users in their daily habits.' ESPN, which was shut out of the Premier League live TV rights deal following a seven hundred and thirty eight million smackers bid by newcomer BT, is not thought to have submitted a bid for the digital rights. 'We're very proud of the success that we have had with ESPN Goals mobile app this season and the past two seasons,' said a spokesman for ESPN, who huffily declined to comment on whether the company bid. 'Fans can enjoy ESPN Goals for the rest of this season and though we will not continue with these rights, we will continue our extensive online and mobile coverage of the Premier League and the wide array of UK football across our digital platforms.' Indeed. Or, they can watch the matches of Sky and the highlights on the BBC like normal people. It's all about choice, apparently. It is thought that BT did not submit a bid, although this has also not been confirmed. Under the current deal for Internet video rights Yahoo has syndicated highlights to third parties including the Daily Scum Mail, the Gruniad Morning Star, the Sun, The Times, the Daily Torygraph, the Evening Standard and the Independent. News International has said that it has no intention at this stage of offering the clips to third parties. The Premier League combined the Internet and mobile rights for the latest deal, the first time it has done so. Mobile is regarded as having the most revenue potential. This is due to factors including the huge growth of smartphone and tablet sales, which has fuelled the rise of paid app usage. The mobile rights package also gives News International the opportunity to offer up to eight thirty-second highlights clips during all live Premier League matches. The Internet highlights offer longer clips, but cannot be shown online until the Monday after matches have been broadcast, making them less valuable. In 2007 BSkyB and News International launched Twenty Four-Seven Football, an on-demand football clips service for mobile users. For five quid a month, or fifty pence per video clip, users bought access to goal highlights. This summer News International will become part of billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's new demerged publishing venture, which will retain the name News Corporation and run by former Times editor Robert Thomson. It is understood that Thomson is 'keen to assess the strategic merits of buying other valuable digital rights, most likely outside the UK, that can help drive the publishing operation's strategic shift to digital.' Late last year News Corp made a filing to the Securities & Exchange Commission in the US which showed that if the publishing company was split off it would have had $1.1bn in cash on its balance sheet at 30 June last year.

The family of a big fast food fan arranged a unique journey for his funeral procession. The friends and relatives of World War II veteran David Kime arranged a trip for his funeral hearse to make a stop at a Burger King restaurant drive-thru in Pennsylvania. Each passenger in the hearse picked up a Whopper Jr burger at the drive-thru, according to The AP. Kime also received his own favourite Whopper meal, which was placed on his coffin in the cemetery. His daughter, Linda Phiel, said: 'He lived a wonderful life and on his own terms.' She explained that her father - who died on 20 January, aged eighty eight - had eaten whatever he fancied after his wife Grace died twenty five years ago. 'My mother kind of kept him in check. When she died, for a while, he would eat with us. But he considered us health freaks because we ate things that were green, like broccoli.' Phiel continued that her father refused to alter his diet despite being a diabetic and having a pacemaker fitted. She said her father told her: 'I won't live longer, it will just seem like it because I'll be more miserable faster.' The manager of the Pennsylvania Burger King said she was happy to have Kime as a loyal customer. 'It's nice to know he was a loyal customer up until the end - the very end,' Margaret Hess said.

The Who (well, the two of them that are still alive, plus Kid Ringo, and various other people) have announced details of a UK arena tour for later in the year. And, the really sad thing is, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will, almost certainly go even though he probably can't afford to. Because I've seen them on every tour they'd done since 1979 working - each time - on the assumption that this might be the last one! The band will play ten dates across the country in June this year, performing their iconic 1973 work Quadrophenia in its entirety as well as a selection of their other hits. The Quadrophenia Tour has been personally directed by yer actual Roger Daltrey and focuses on the original rock opera, replacing the narrative used in previous stage versions with imagery projected on screens. The shows follow their North American tour, which kicked off in November 2012 and wraps up in Rhode Island in February. Quadrophenia peaked at number two on the UK chart upon its initial release and is often cited as one of the greatest rock and roll LPs ever made. By anyone. Bar none. A film - somewhat loosely - based on the LP was released in 1979, directed by Franc Roddam and starring Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone, Phil Davis and Lesley Ash. And Sting. But, thankfully, he didn't ruin it. Tickets for the gigs go on sale February 1 at 9am. As to how much the tickets will cost ...

Which, of course, brings us nicely to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. How much? Too much.