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?!