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.