Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hillsides Ring With "Free The People"

David Threlfall is to lead the cast of BBC1's new drama What Remains. In his first role since wrapping on Shameless, Threlfall will play Detective Inspector Len Harper in the four-part thriller. Russell Tovey, Steven Mackintosh and David Bamber will also appear in the serial, written by Inside Men's Tony Basgallop. Victoria Hamilton, Luther's Indira Varma and Claudie Blakely make up the rest of the regular cast. Described as a 'thrilling state-of-the-nation whodunnit,' What Remains will see a young couple - played by Tovey and Amber Rose Revah - uncover the corpse of Melissa Young (played by Jessica Gunning) hidden in their new flat. The discovery leads to a murder investigation led by Threlfall's character and has serious ramifications for each of Melissa's neighbours, who each had a connection to the victim. 'The key to writing and casting What Remains has been in ensuring that we had the right chemistry between the characters,' said writer Basgallop. 'Fortunately we've landed a cast with the quality and experience to pull the audience in any direction we choose to take them.' What Remains is currently filming in London.

Matthew Macfadyen has defended BBC1's new drama Ripper Street. The period crime drama drew an unspecified number of viewer complaints for its violence and sexual content, but Macfadyen - who plays Detective Inspector Edmund Reid - told the Sun that 'going back to seedy Whitechapel' is part of the show's appeal. 'People are fascinated by Victorian attitudes towards sex and society,' the actor suggested. 'And back then in the East End there was enormous poverty. Actually, it was the Ripper murders that brought to light the dire poverty in the East End. They showed them up to a greater audience.' The former [spooks] actor went on to praise the scripts for Ripper Street, calling the series 'bombastic, big and colourful, and grimy as well.'
Police investigating inappropriate and naughty payments to police and public officials have arrested three people. The investigation, Operation Elveden, is running alongside Operation Weeting, the phone-hacking inquiry. Two serving police officers and a journalist were arrested at their separate home addresses in Hertfordshire and Surrey in dawn raids early on Thursday morning, Scotland Yard said. The BBC claims that Sun journalist Anthony France is among the arrested. He is the twenty second Sun journalist arrested as part of the probe. France works as a crime reporter for the newspaper. Police said that 'several searches' were being carried out following the arrests, which were made in connection with a number of suspected offences dating from between 2004 and 2011. Police also said a thirty nine-year-old man, a journalist, was arrested in Hertfordshire on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and suspected conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office. He is being interviewed at a police station in North London. A forty seven-year-old man, a police officer in the Metropolitan Police's specialist operations command, was arrested in Surrey over suspected misconduct in a public office and suspected corruption. He will be interviewed at a Surrey police station. And a thirty-year-old man, a police officer serving in the Met's specialist crime and operations command, was arrested in Surrey over suspected misconduct in a public office. He is being interviewed at a South London police station. News International chief executive Mike Darcey said having another journalist from the company arrested was 'particularly disappointing.' In an internal message to staff, Darcey said: 'It is particularly disappointing that these incidents, the first under my watch, and which have recently become less frequent, continue to take place. We will continue to seek further clarity on the state of the police investigations. We have provided our colleague with a lawyer and we are helping him in any way we can. It goes without saying that we will not prejudge the outcome of any investigation. All those who have been arrested have our full support.' The specialist crime and operations command deals with a range of serious offences in London, including murder, rape and organised gangs. It deals with protection of public figures including the Royal Family and government ministers, counter-terrorism and security at the Houses of Parliament as well as at London City and Heathrow airports. These arrests bring the number of Operation Elveden arrests to fifty six. They are a result of information provided to police by News Corporation's management and standards committee, which was set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. Operation Elveden arose out of Operation Weeting, an ongoing investigation into phone-hacking following the allegations made about the Scum of the World. To date, eight serving or retired police officers have been arrested by officers from Operation Elveden. Earlier this month Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn of the Met Police was convicted of trying to sell information on the phone-hacking probe to the Scum of the World in Operation Elveden's first prosecution. She is currently awaiting sentencing. Elveden is looking at documents handed over by News International in June 2011 which are being assessed by police for 'information relating to alleged inappropriate payments to a small number of officers.' The number of arrests made by Scotland Yard following the reopening of the investigation into phone-hacking now stands at one hundred and one. Of these, twenty six have been related as part of the Operation Weeting inquiry into suspected phone-hacking. Nineteen have been related as part of the Operation Tuleta investigation into computer hacking and alleged criminal breaches of privacy.

BBC Breakfast is celebrating thirty years of broadcasting with a trip down memory lane this week. Considered a 'huge risk' when it launched on 17 January 1983, Breakfast Time was the UK's first regular national breakfast show. Famous for its magazine-style approach, it combined news and lighter features. The thirtieth anniversary show - on Thursday - will feature appearances from some of the original team, including self-styled 'The Green Goddess,' fitness guru Diana Moran. Introduced two weeks before rival broadcaster ITV's TV-am with David Frost, Breakfast Time hoped to lure audiences away from radio with a combination of news, travel information and lifestyle segments. Although breakfast TV had been the staple diet in the US for three decades, the British public was wary of the innovation in 1983. 'It was a huge risk,' recalled the programme's editor, Ron Neil. 'So many people were against the notion of breakfast TV and were willing it to fail.' With veteran sports broadcaster Frank Bough, up-her-own-arse former ITV news anchor Selina Scott and documentary presenter Nick Ross at the helm, BBC Breakfast aimed for a relaxed feel with its red sofa and steaming coffee pots. As well as the news, viewers were treated to astrology from big fat Russell Grant and fitness tips from the leotard-clad Moran, who encouraged viewers to 'wake up and stretch up.' An estimated two million people tuned into the first show which received mostly favourable reviews, including The Times which called it 'a bright, bold début.' The Daily Torygraph said the show 'sped along with exemplary smoothness and panache. Except for a picture break-up toward the end, there didn't seem to be a hitch in sight.' Press agency UPI also asked the audience for their views. 'The keep-fit girl is the last thing I remember as I nodded off,' said a taxicab owner, one Keith Naylor. An unnamed viewer in Surrey said that she liked 'the little clock face in the bottom right hand corner of the screen telling you the time all the time,' and 'someone going through all the newspapers for you.' Breakfast Time trumped the rival ITV offering in the early ratings battle, which led to a cull of employees at TV-am including Peter Jay, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon in favour of 'people-next-door' figures like Anne Diamond and Nick Owen. But not everyone was so positive about the BBC's new venture. Bitter, twisted old faceache (and drag) Germaine Greer questioned if there was anything better than 'Assam tea and the radio to get the day going,' while another commentator asked: 'How can you eat a British breakfast with one hand while running from kitchen to living room to watch?' Err ... the invention of trays, possibly? BBC Breakfast has had several re-launches since its inception in 1983, including a move to a more formal, news-focused programme in 1989, when newscasters, including the BBC's former royal correspondent, the ginger ninja Nicholas Witchell, sat soberly behind a desk looking like a hamster had crawled up their arse. But the cosier sofas returned just over a decade later when another re-launch saw the birth of Breakfast in 2000. Counting former Strictly Come Dancing winner Natasha Kaplinsky (and her head full of teeth) and Dermot Murnaghan among its presenters, the programme retained its ability to combine authoritative news and lighter features, appealing to a wide audience. Since then the format has remained largely the same, but the biggest change came last year when, after twenty nine years of broadcasting from London, the flagship programme moved to new studios in Salford Quays. The first edition of the programme, which now has a weekly reach of thirteen million viewers, was broadcast by Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid from its new home on Tuesday 10 April 2012.

Yer actual Kylie Minogue (and her pert, luscious bottom) is to return to television a quarter of a century after she quit Australian soap Neighbours to appear in a forthcoming black comedy drama on Sky. Kylie's appearance in Hey Diddly Dee will be her first screen role since it was revealed at the weekend that she was taking a break from singing to pursue her acting career. The signing is a coup for Sky and its Playhouse Presents strand on digital channel Sky Arts, which has previously featured big name stars such as Jon Hamm, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Thompson. Minogue will appear opposite Homeland's David Harewood in the whodunnit about a group of actors putting on a play about Andy Warhol. Peter Serafinowicz plays the Warhol character, with Minogue starring as the artist's muse, an Edie Sedgwick-style female lead. The one-off comedy drama is made by Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig's production company, Sprout, and written and directed by the actor Marc Warren. Minogue's acting appearances have been few and far between since she left Neighbours in 1988 and went on to sell nearly seventy million records worldwide. Critics have not always been complementary – her role in Street Fighter opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1994 prompted the Washington Post to call her 'the worst actress in the English-speaking world.' A bit harsh, especially whilst Victoria Wood is still alive, frankly. But, hey, it was the chap's opinion, you have to respect that. But Minogue, who made a brief return to television for the Doctor Who Christmas special in 2007 (and was very good in it), earned rave reviews for her most recent role in Leos Carax film, Holy Motors, last year. 'I'd definitely love to do more acting. My heart cries out for it; it's such a deep longing,' she told the Gruniad Morning Star in an interview at the time. 'For years I've been waiting to get back into it and it just hasn't happened. Or, it has happened and it was so disastrous that I thought: "Oh, it's just not for me."' Other actors who will appear in Playhouse Presents strand this year will include Vanessa Redgrave and Anna Friel, with yer actual Matt Smith his very self and Idris Elba to make their directing débuts (along with Warren). Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has also co-created a thirty-minute film, Mr Understood, with Kate Hardie – a 'deeply personal' comic drama about a young transvestite who battles with self-doubt. It is part of seventy hours of new drama commissioned by big-spending Sky across its entertainment channels Sky1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living and Sky Arts, as it looks to take on the BBC, ITV and Channel Four in homegrown entertainment. Its biggest ever drama slate, other new Sky shows include Fleming, starring Dominic Cooper as James Bond creator Ian Fleming (see below), and The Reckless Season, five original dramas about women by some of Britain's most renowned female writers, including Sally Wainwright and Annie Griffin. Sky's head of drama, Anne Mensah, told journalists at a lunch organised by the Broadcasting Press Guild that: 'I think there's a drama renaissance going on at the moment. To add Sky to that mix, anything that Sky does makes the drama community in the UK just richer and more exciting.' Sky has pledged to increase its spending on UK production by fifty per cent to six hundred million smackers by 2014, although its shows attract only a fraction of the audiences of comedy and drama on BBC1 or ITV. It is also developing a new medical drama with the working title Critical, by Jed Mercurio, who wrote the acclaimed but short-lived Bodies for BBC3.

Dominic Cooper has been cast as Ian Fleming in a four-part biopic for Sky Atlantic. The Mamma Mia! and Devil's Double actor will play the James Bond creator and former wartime naval intelligence officer in Fleming, which will be produced by Ecosse Films. 'Stepping into the shoes of the spy who not only created the enigmatic character of 007, but who fantasised about being him, has to be every actor's dream,' said Cooper in a statement. Douglas Rae, executive producer for Ecosse Films, added: 'Ian Fleming's story is as dramatic and entertaining as any of the Bond films.' Cooper was originally linked with the role of Fleming last year, but it was then reported that Duncan Jones (Moon) was in contention to direct the project. The biopic will be filmed in the UK and Budapest, and is set during the Second World War when Fleming was heavily involved in planning naval strategy against the Nazis. Mat Whitecross will direct Fleming from a script by John Brownlow and Don Macpherson. The mini-series will be broadcast on Sky Atlantic later in 2013.

Yer actual Sir Trev McDonald has said that he 'regrets' making a comeback to ITV's News At Tenin 2008. The iconic broadcaster hosted the channel's flagship evening news show from 1992 before retiring in 2005. However, he was invited back to front a relaunched edition of the nightly programme in 2008, before retiring again later that year. McDonald explained that he was 'flattered' to be asked back to the show by ITV, but realises now that he should have stayed away. 'To be honest I was flattered to be asked to return and looking back on it I think probably I shouldn't have,' he told 5Live's Richard Bacon. 'Having had two goes, two bites of the cherry, I know that's my lot. Have a great time the first time then move on.' He added: 'But I enjoyed it and the fact that I was contributing to the rebirth. Michael Grade said to me, "I don't think we can do it without you." You stupidly eat up the flattery and then do it.'

Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads has, reportedly, revealed that he will not be returning to The X Factor in Britain, this year. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind. The talent show judge and sour-faced Scottish chef was rumoured, by no one of any importance, admittedly, to be making a return to the UK edition of the show in 2013, after two years away while he made the American version for FOX's sake. However, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads apparently denied such reports when asked if he was planning a return at this week's Britain's Got Toilets auditions in Cardiff, according to ever reliable the Sun. An alleged 'source' allegedly said: 'Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads shook his head. People weren't happy.' Speak for yourself, alleged 'source.' This blogger, for one, is delighted by this news.
The lack of education secretary, rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove, is accused of running his department in an 'anachronistic, terribly bureaucratic, terribly formal' way, in an extraordinary critique from one of his own former ministers. Tim Loughton, children's and families' minister in the Department for Education until the government reshuffle last year, said the department was run with an 'Upstairs, Downstairs mentality,' in a reference to the TV series about the servants and masters in an Edwardian household. In another popular TV reference (to Are You Being Served?), Lougton told the education select committee: 'Most officials have never met the secretary of state other than when he will troop out a few chosen people for the new year party, Mr Grace-like, from Grace Brothers, and tell us we've "all done terribly well," and then disappear. That is no way to run an important department. It is terribly anachronistic, terribly bureaucratic, terribly formal.' Terribly. Loughton, who had the children's brief for many years in opposition, claimed that children's issues were a 'declining priority,' and that their interests appeared to have been further 'downgraded' since the reshuffle last September, often suffering because of rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove's focus on 'radical' changes to the running of schools. 'There is a particular area around child exploitation where the department seems to have gone on complete radio silence at a time when sexual abuse of children has never had a higher profile in public consciousness and the media, post-Savile,' said the MP. 'That is deeply, deeply worrying, and I hope that doesn't signify any downgrading of the priority that it absolutely is.' Sir Martin Narey, former chief executive of the children's charity Barnado's, who now advises the government on adoption reform, took to Twitter to defend rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove, tweeting: 'Tim Loughton, good Minister as he was, I don't share [your] view. Gove committed to adoption and care reforms. He's given me lots of time.' He later added: 'Time was a great minister and he's a friend. But this doesn't square with adoption being a DfE and No 10 top priority.' But Lisa Nandy, the shadow children's minister, said Loughton's 'insider' allegations were 'incredibly serious.' In a statement, Nandy said: 'Just a few days after the police and NSPCC report into Jimmy Savile, a former minister has lifted the lid on David Cameron and Michael Gove's education department, warning that they are failing to make child protection a high enough priority. Experts are warning that the government is in danger of undermining the guidance on child protection. After their failure to hold a single, overarching inquiry into abuse allegations, ministers must get a grip and focus on this issue. These warnings must not go unheeded.' A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'The accusation that we are sidelining the children's agenda is completely unfounded. The welfare of children is at the heart of this government's wide-ranging reforms. We are making radical changes, which include taking action to better protect children in care, speeding up the adoption process, focusing child protection on the child rather than the process and … [making] childcare more affordable. Children's Minister Edward Timpson is regularly meeting with child protection leaders to ensure momentum is being maintained on the government's child sexual exploitation action plan so we are better able to raise awareness, support victims and put more abusers behind bars.'
Playboy TV has been fined one hundred thousand smackers by Ofcom after two of its porn websites offered 'explicit material' without restricting under-eighteens from viewing it. The Authority for Television On Demand, the body responsible for regulating video on-demand services in the UK, referred the 'Playboy TV' and 'Demand Adult' sites to Ofcom as it does not have the power to levy sanctions. Bit of a pointless body in and of itself, one might therefore suggest but that's, perhaps, a topic for another conversation entirely. The regulator found that both on-demand services offered 'sexually explicit material,' equivalent to an eighteen-rated adult film, without putting in place a system effectively restricting under-eighteens from accessing it. Playboy/Benelux TV has been fined over these 'serious, repeated and reckless' breaches of the video on-demand rules. Demand Adult attracted a fine of sixty five thousand knicker and Playboy TV thirty five thousand notes. ATVOD chief executive Pete Johnson said: 'We have made good progress in ensuring that UK websites comply with rules designed to protect children from such harmful content, and our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-eighteens. Asking visitors to a website to click an "I am eighteen" button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient - if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are eighteen, just as they would in the "offline" world. But we cannot be complacent, and the views of the public can't be ignored.' Playboy TV is no stranger to sanctions from Ofcom. In 2011, the firm and its subsidiary Just4Us TV was fined one hundred and ten grand over 'adult sex' chat advertisements that featured 'sexually provocative footage' before the 9pm watershed.

One of the many, many admirable things about FOX's The Simpsons – broadcast on Sky1 in the UK – is that it has never been afraid to make jokes at the expense of the US channel's owner billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch or FOX News, one episode memorably dubbing it 'not racist, but number one with racists.' Is this insurrection now spreading to Sky Atlantic? One only asks after Monday's UK premiere of the first episode of the second series of Lena Dunham's Girls, in which her character Hannah's gay flatmate Elijah was speaking about his rich boyfriend paying for everything, and declared: 'Maybe I wanna be Wendi Murdoch!'
The actor Conrad Bain, best known for playing a millionaire who adopts two young black boys in the 1980s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, has died aged eighty nine. Bain, who starred opposite the young Gary Coleman in the show, died in California of natural causes, his daughter said. The comedy, which played on the contrasting lifestyles of rich white and poor black communities in the US, was seen as groundbreaking at the time. It ran for eight seasons, over six years, coming to an end in 1986. Its success was largely attributed to the play-off between the mischievous young Arnold (played by Coleman) and Bain's character, Phillip Drummond, a rich, widowed industrialist who takes in the two young sons of his housekeeper after she dies. Coleman's oft-repeated line to his brother, 'What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?' became a catchphrase of the era. The younger stars of the show were later caught up in a series of controversies and tragedies dubbed 'the curse of Diff'rent Strokes.' Coleman died following a brain haemorrhage at the age of forty two, after years of financial and legal woes. Co-star Dana Plato, who played Drummond's daughter in the show, died in 1999 after an apparent drug overdose having previous been reduced to prostitution, while Todd Bridges, who played Willis, revealed that years of childhood abuse had led to a lengthy period of drug addiction. 'It's really painful,' Bain once told a journalist. 'It leaves you with such a helpless feeling. I can't bear the thought. I love them all.' Bridges, who eventually conquered his addiction, told a magazine that Bain had become 'like a real father' to him. Bain would revive his character for a one-off episode of the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Will Smith - whose storyline, about a rapper from Philadelphia who moves into a life of luxury in California, in many ways echoed the earlier show. Success for the Canadian-born actor began on the stage and daytime television - notably in the cult vampire drama Dark Shadows - recently remade as a film by Tim Burton. Bain's first prime-time role was opposite The Golden Girls' Bea Arthur in the popular sitcom Maude (1972-78), playing an uptight physician. The success of that show led to his casting in Diff'rent Strokes. After becoming a household name in the 1980s, Bain starred in the short-lived political comedy Mr President, and returned frequently to the stage throughout his career, last appearing on Broadway in 1992. He is survived by his daughter, Jennifer, and two sons, Mark and Kent. His wife Monica died in 1999.

Tesco spectacularly failed to get the joke when being mocked on Twitter after its budget burgers were found to contain horsemeat. The company's official Customer Care feed was asked if it stocked 'Red Rum', a reference to the thoroughbred racehorse which won a record three Grand Nationals in 1973, 1974 and 1977. They said 'we'll check.' Irish food safety authority FSAI found that Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers contained 21.9 per cent horsemeat. Other brands, including products sold in Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores, were also found to contain 0.1 to 0.3 per cent of horse DNA. 'In Ireland, it is not our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger,' an FSAI spokesman said. The Customer Care account assured consumers on Twitter: 'The safety and quality of our food is of the highest importance to Tesco, we apologise sincerely for any distress caused.' Tesco has withdrawn all 'potentially affected' stock from sale and has confirmed that an investigation is under way. 'We are working with the authorities in Ireland and the UK, and with the supplier concerned, to urgently understand how this has happened and how to ensure it does not happen again,' a spokesman said. He added that Tesco burgers could still be considered a nutritious part of a stable diet, especially as they don't give those eating them the trots and that he would not be commenting further, off the hoof. Neigh, neigh and, indeed, thrice neigh. He did add, however, that whilst their burgers were very low in salt, the way somewhat higher in Shergar content. No. Listen. Yer actual Keith telly Topping is here all week.

Yer actual Lord Joseph Strummer (deceased) is to have a city square named after him in Spain following a Facebook campaign. More than two thousand residents of Granada, where The Clash frontman became a frequent visitor, signed a petition calling for him to be officially honoured by the city. City hall officials agreed to the proposals and a square in the area is to be renamed Plaza de Joe Strummer. Strummer, who name-checked Granada in The Clash's 1979 song 'Spanish Bombs', died in 2002. The singer first went to the city in the 1970s with his Spanish girlfriend Paloma Romero, the original drummer with The Slits. He later became involved with the local band 091 - whom he first heard on a jukebox in a bar - going on to produce an LP for them in Madrid. Daniel Galan from the Granada City Council told the BBC: 'The initiative came from a neighbourhood association, backed by some political parties and was approved. It was a popular movement. It is very well known the connection between Joe and the city and people still remember him. There were some people who were friends with him and came here and [now] live here. Joe Strummer loved Granada, he loved the whole of Spain but he had a very good connection with Granada because he was friends with 091.' The local Spanish Socialist Workers' Party backed the campaign to honour Strummer's name, with a spokesman saying the musician 'embodied the atmosphere of youth, rebellion, night and rock' and had 'carried the name of Granada for the entire world.' All of which is properly lovely. It's nice to have a bit of good news to report for a change.

So, dear blog reader, it's fairly obvious what today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is going to be, isn't it?! One more time, Joe.