Saturday, January 12, 2013

Week Four: And The Rubbers You Hide, In Your Top Left Pocket

The TV comedy moment of the week for this week, dear blog reader, was a toss-up between Victoria Coren's shrill (but hilarious) example of what Frank Skinner described as 'tea fascism' on an - unusually amusing - episode of BBC1's Room 101 on Friday. She really can scowl for England, that lass. (Very nice suede boots, too.)
Or, almost as good as that, the King of the Pun yer actual Tim Vine's Qi début culminating in several glorious examples of his oeuvre. Notably, when asked the question by Stephen Fry his very self 'what would be the most dangerous filling for a sandwich?', replying 'cheese and ham-grenade!'
A good episode all round, as it happens - Jolly by name and jolly by nature. Rob Brydon was also on particularly good form, Julia Zemiro provided some funny tales about eyebrow shaving (it's an Australian thing, seemingly) and Alan Davies, for once, won an episode (and came up with a couple of quality limericks into the bargain!)
The final episode of the current series of Qi (Just The Job, featuring Jason Manford, yer actual Jezza Clarkson and Sandi Toksvig, several clips of which have already featured on the two series ten compilation episodes shown earlier in the year) has, according to Wikipedia, anyway, been scheduled for transmission on BBC2 on 1 February with the XL edition a day later.
Wimbledon Studios in Deer Park Road, London, is currently being used to film the much-anticipated Doctor Who docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time, it has been revealed. Written by Mark Gatiss his very self for BBC2, the ninety-minute programme will detail the genesis of Doctor Who as part of the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the series in much the same way that The Road To Coronation Street did for Corrie's sixtieth birthday in 2010. The casting for An Adventure In Space And Time, which will be shown in November, is still to be announced. Also in the capital, it has been reported that 'a wooden police telephone box' is to be built at Kensington Palace 'to bolster the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's security.' The box, measuring 1.6 metres square, will be painted dark blue and will have a glazed door. Just like a TARDIS in other words. It will stand on the lawn on the south side, between the Grade I-listed building's high perimeter brick wall and iron railings.

Ruth Wilson will apparently reprise her role of Alice Morgan in the forthcoming series of Luther. A publicity shot from the hit BBC thriller's third series appears to reveal that Wilson's glamorous psycho killer will reappear in the new episodes. Alice killed her parents in the opening series of Luther and crossed paths with Idris Elba's title character, though the maverick cop was unable to prove her guilt. Their twisted relationship appeared to come to an end in series two, when Luther broke his psychopathic ally out of a mental institute but refused to flee the country along with her. A video announcing the start of filming on the third, four-part series of Luther previously hinted at the character's return, claiming that 'only Alice knows' if she will reappear in John Luther's life. Luther creator Neil Cross previously revealed that he is hoping to get an Alice Morgan spin-off into production, claiming that the BBC is 'very interested' in a mini-series featuring the character.

Location, Location, Location showed its continued popularity on Thursday night by getting slightly more overnight viewers than BBC2's popular Stargazing Live. Presented by Phil, Phil, Phil Spencer and Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie Allsopp, the thirteen-year-old property programme (once considered by this blogger to be genuine cult viewing but now seemingly rather tired and long-in-the-tooth) still did the business with 2.48m for Channel Four at 8pm, edging Stargazing Live's 2.43m for BBC2. Location was - by a distance - Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast of the day, and added one hundred and seventy eight thousand additional viewers on the broadcaster's C4+1 service. The Restoration Man followed with 1.58m at 9pm, losing out to Celebrity Big Brother, which was watched by 1.97m sad, lonely and crushed victims of society. The Polar Bear Family and Me continued to pull in more than decent numbers for BBC2 - 2.23m from 9:30pm. Over on BBC1, Silent Witness returned for its thirteenth series with 6.09m at 9pm, easily outperforming ITV's Trouble Abroad, which had 2.53m. BBC1 also got the better of its main rival between 8.30pm and 9pm as Waterloo Road, which averaged 3.69m over the 8pm hour, beat ITV's 8.30pm offering of Nursing the Nation, which mustered but 3.2m. Overall, BBC1 dominated primetime with 22.7 per cent of the audience share versus ITV's 16.1 per cent.

The BBC has rebuilt a twenty foot telescope designed by pioneering astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822), one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's astronomical heroes, the man who discovered Uranus in 1781. It was the first planet to be discovered with a telescope and led to two hundred years of hilarity over the pronunciation. The ambitious project was a collaboration between BBC Learning and the Stargazing Live team, who revealed the telescope on the programme on Thursday evening, in a live link-up from Derby. Series producer Krisztina Katona, who was in charge of getting the telescope made, likened it to building an extension on ones house. She said that she had even more appreciation for Herschel's achievements as a result of her recent experiences, adding that what he accomplished with crude materials was 'absolutely extraordinary. The telescope was the Hubble of its time,' she told Ariel. The build started in December, with planning commencing in November. Karen Gregory, an executive producer in BBC Learning, said that the project was full of risk. 'We really didn't know at the beginning of the project whether we would be able to pull it off or not.' Herschel, who was born in 1738 in Hanover and was also a accomplished composer, theologian and man of letters, catalogued two thousand five hundred nebulae and also discovered two of Uranus' major moons (Titania and Oberon) and two of the smaller moons of Saturn. In addition, he was the first person to discover the existence of infrared radiation. He did this by building his own reflecting telescopes using a speculum metal mirror. These mirrors usually contain two parts copper to one part tin, along with a small amount of arsenic. It proved impossible to recreate this mirror as Herschel made it, Katona explained, because it would have taken the team a year to make. The mirror was also impractical - it had to be polished sixteen hours a day to make it viable. The BBC telescope - made from Herschel's drawings and to his specifications - instead used modern optics and metal scaffolding. It may not be an exact replica but was a very close modern approximation. The tube through which one can view the sky is actually a sewage pipe and the concrete slab on which it sits has a mural designed by local schoolchildren. Gregory said her team wanted to make sure there was a lasting legacy to the project, so they enlisted the University of Derby to host the telescope on their art, design and technology campus. 'The university could see that there would be ways that they could use it with students to explain some of the mechanics and techniques and the design of it, so there's a really nice legacy there.' It will stay on the campus long after the television crews have departed.

Long-serving Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh is leaving the soap after fifteen years playing Hayley Cropper. The actress said she has had 'the most wonderful time' playing the soap's first transgender character but wanted to pursue new projects. 'The decision to hang up Hayley's red anorak was a tough one,' she said. 'But doing the play at the Royal Exchange last year made me realise that there's life in the old dog yet,' joked the forty two-year-old. Hesmondhalgh won glowing reviews for her role in Black Roses: The Killing Of Sophie Lancaster at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester last year. Based on a radio play, Black Roses is described as 'an elegy' for Sophie, a twenty-year-old girl who was kicked to death by a group of teenagers in Lancashire in 2007. Hesmondhalgh played Sophie's mother. Hesmondhalgh joined Coronation Street in 1998 and rapidly became one of the ITV show's most lovable - and quirky - characters. 'Whatever happens next I'll always be proudest of lovely Mrs Cropper,' said Hesmondhalgh. 'In particular what we achieved in changing attitudes to transgender, and in portraying possibly the most loving, faithful and steadfast couple in soap history,' she added, referring to Hayley's happy marriage to cafe, owner Roy. 'We'll be sorry to say farewell to Hayley - and to Julie,' said Coronation Street's executive producer, Kieran Roberts, 'but we're planning a screen exit worthy of one of Coronation Street's best-loved characters.' In 1999 and 2004, Hesmondhalgh shared a British soap award for best on-screen partnership with her screen husband, played by David Nielson. The actress, who is married to writer and actor Ian Kershaw, took time off in 2001 to give birth to her daughter Martha Mo, and had a year's break in 2007 to spend more time with her family. She will leave the show at the end of this year. 'I'll always be the show's biggest fan,' said Hesmondhalgh, thanking the 'special team' for a 'life-changing' fifteen years.

John Bishop's children don't think their father is funny. Clearly, some discerning and article kids, it would appear. 'They just look at me as if to say, "What are you doing?" the cheeky big-toothed Scouse funster told reporters at the launch of his new Sky1 show Only Joking. 'My eldest came up to me over Christmas and said, "Dad, I think you should use this bit of time off to rethink your material." I couldn't believe it.' This blogger can.

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 19 January
Kasper persuades Birgitte to use under-hand tactics as the government prepares to negotiate the environmental element of the new reform package, and Katrine receives a job offer which goes against her personal beliefs in the first of tonight's two episodes of Borgen - 9:00 BBC4. Meanwhile, the prime minister's children are affected by their mother's increasing work-related stress. Then, in the following episode, The right wing submits a bill which seeks to lower the age of criminal responsibility from fourteen to twelve, heightening the internal strife among the coalition partners. Several of the Labour Party members support the proposal, leaving Birgitte in the minority in parliament. At home, she struggles to deal with her daughter's illness and, in particular, the treatment being recommended by her doctors. Acclaimed political drama, starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Pilou Asbæk. In Danish. And, probably the best television show in the world.

An accountant from Suffolk, a Reading mixologist, a Newcastle sales assistant and a historian from Windsor enter The Love Lift in the hope of impressing thirty single women and completely prostitute themselves by appearing in the single most loathsome and undignified format on TV today, Take Me Out - 8:30 ITV. All four hopefuls will be attempting to turn on the charm in a bid to land a date on the Isle of Fernandos with one of the shrieking, attention-junkie women on the show. However, to have any chance of succeeding, they must ensure the female participants keep their lights on as a sign of approval. Plus, last week's couples go on their dates, discovering whether they are a match made in heaven or damned to hell. Gormless professional Northern buffoon Paddy McGuinness presents with all of the tact and warmth of Larry Grayson at a rugby club dinner. If you even consider for a second watching this complete and utter tripe, you're beyond hope and should seriously consider seeking medical help.

Six new contestants enter the competition, aiming to prove they have 'the brain power' to claim the ultimate prize of fifty thousand smackers in Britain's Brightest - 6:45 BBC1. But, standing between them and the prize are several tests, which tonight include a challenge in which two players are locked in identical rooms and have to solve several puzzles to blow the bloody doors off. Presented by the nation's sweetheart, Clare Balding. On the evidence of the first two episodes, this one's ... decent enough Saturday night 'switch off your brain'-style entertainment with, at least, a modicum of wit an intelligence to it. It's not reinventing the wheel, admittedly, but it's about a million times better than the utter diarrhoea which is on over on ITV at the same time, Z-List Celebrity Drowning.

Sunday 20 January
Call The Midwife is back tonight - 8:00 BBC1. This is, of course, return of the massively popular drama about a team of nuns and midwives bringing babies into the world in 1950s East London. In this episode, it's 1958 and Jenny is concerned about a mum-to-be involved in an abusive marriage, while Trixie and Sister Evangelina find themselves in unusual circumstances on board a Swedish cargo ship looking after the captain's daughter, who is about to have her first child. Jessica Raine, Helen George, Pam Ferris and Miranda Hart star.

The clearing of a slum for a new railway reveals the scene of a gruesome murder, and the H division detectives only hope is a disturbed young woman who holds the key to a web of conspiracy which seems to involve an ambitious local councillor, Long Susan and a benevolent doctor from the Lark Rise asylum in the latest Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1. But can the witness be trusted? Crime drama, starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg, with appearances from the great Paul McGann and Emma Rigby.

It seems as though someone at BBC4 is becoming increasingly nostalgic for postwar British manufacturing. After excellent documentaries on the UK's jet aerospace industry, now Magnificent Machines: The Golden Age of the British Sports Car - 7:00 - is a rather fun film which shines a light on the success stories of the humble sports car firms that carved a niche export market with small, exciting two-seaters. Packed with evocative archive and men rhapsodising over the thrill of driving Healeys, Triumphs, MGs and Jaguars – 'as much fun as you could have in those days with your trousers on' notes one chap – the testosterone is tempered by the tale of the great rallyist Pat Moss (the sister of Stirling), and by Tamsin Greig's cheekily sardonic narration. A look at how iconic manufacturers prospered during the austerity of the post-war years. The programme explores how Britain briefly became the home of the two-seater vehicle and features memorable motors from the era, including the MG Midget, the Sprite and the Jaguar E-Type. With contributions by Stirling Moss and Quentin Willson. Definitely one for Sunday night in the normal Top Gear slot, this.

Harry comes up with yet another new project to give the store a boost in Mr Selfridge - 9:00 ITV. He wants to set up a beauty counter near the front entrance to sell perfume and make-up - but some of the staff are not convinced this is such a good idea. Meanwhile, Victor is still trying to woo Agnes, but she appears to be more interested in Henri, and Lady Mae tells Rose the truth about Selfridge's partnership with Ellen, which spurs Rose to do something for herself. If Ripper Street isn't your particular straße, this isn't a bad alternative, particularly if you liked The Paradise last year. But, make sure you don't tune in early or you'll be catching the last few minutes of Twatting About On Ice. And, let's face it dear blog reader, no one wants that.

Tony Robinson and a team of specialist historians help Hektor Rous, the son of 'Aussie Earl' Keith Rous, piece together the mysterious history of the family's Tudor country home in Suffolk in the latest Time Team - 5:25 Channel Four. In 2004, Keith moved back to the UK moved Melbourne, hoping to rebuild the estate's fortunes, and established events such as the Latitude Festival in its three thousand five hundred-acre grounds. The estate has belonged to the Rous family since the 1500s and now Hektor is desperate to find out all he can about his illustrious ancestors and the houses they once occupied. In 1773 a drunken butler supposedly set fire to Henham Hall's wine cellar, sending the whole gaff up in flames. Can the team piece together the family home's history, and find out if, ahem, the butler really did do it? There's nothing visible where the house used to stand, and there's almost nothing left of the huge Georgian mansion which replaced it. Geophysics shows up the clear outline of a Tudor house, but can the team work out what it looked like, whether it was one of the finest houses in the land, as some claimed and the truth about its demise?

Monday 21 January
In Miranda - 9:00 BBC1 - Gary is preparing for the grand reopening of the restaurant and the sight of him in his chef whites has Miranda all hot and sweaty in a special little girl's place. He has never looked so handsome, she decides. Stevie's advice is, therefore, simple - Miranda has to tell him how she feels before it's too late. Again. But, can the clumsy shopkeeper bring herself to utter those three little words? Or will her mother interrupt her attempts as she excitedly stalks her poster boy, Raymond Blanc?

Over the next four nights sixteen celebrities (and, for once, most of these actually are people you might just have heard of) enter The Great British Bake Off tent, with four of them battling to be crowned as Comic Relief Star Baker in each programme of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off - 8:30 BBC2. Stand-up comedians Jo Brand and Stephen K Amos (one of whom is funny and the other one isn't) and comedy duo Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver are the first to compete and must prepare shortbread as their signature bake, tackle a technical challenge of custard slices and finish with a show-stopping portrait cake. Mel Giedroyc presents (sans Sue Perkins, who clearly has bigger cakes to bake, as it were), with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood resuming their roles as judges. Plus, Lorraine Pascale reports from Ghana on how the money raised really can change lives.

In the latest episode of Lewis - 9:00 ITV - Chief Superintendent Jack Cornish goes missing and a recently embalmed body is discovered near an isolated farm track. Could there be a link? Go on, guess. As Hathaway goes on sabbatical in Kosovo, Robbie Lewis takes an awkward young constable under his wing to investigate the case. Guest starring Lucy Speed and Peter Davison, with Kevin Whately and Babou Ceesay.

Tuesday 22 January
A body is discovered floating in the pool of a luxury cosmetic clinic and several clues point to suicide in Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. The victim, it appears, was going through a messy divorce and there is an empty pill box in her room. Case closed, then. But, inevitably, Richard Poole (Ben Miller) has several reasons to believe Valerie Dupree was, actually, murdered - not least the fact that she poured herself a cup of the world's most expensive tea but only drank half of it before she died. The pressure is, therefore, on to find the culprit as the clinic is highly respected on the island and the chief surgeon is an old friend of Commissioner Patterson (the excellent Don Warrington) who gives Richard just a limited time to prove his theories. As the detectives begin to dig, however, they discover many sordid secrets among the guests and staff. Cherie Lunghi, James Fleet and Emma Pierson guest star in this likeable Caribbean detective drama.

In Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways - 9:00 BBC2 - the historian and broadcaster examines how in the late 1830s the railway arrived in London and linked it to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. This was the start of a truly national network and one of the greatest civil engineering projects in history, while tycoons including Samuel Morton Peto and George Hudson made fortunes as the stock markets boomed. However, the bubble burst in 1847 and shares plummeted, leaving thousands of people facing bankruptcy courts. Serves the greedy capitalist bastards right, I hope they suffered. Anyway ...

Possibly the single most nastily pointless format to crawl from under a stone this week is Great Houses with Lord Snooty - 9:00 ITV. In which, the Downton Abbey creator presents a disgusting two-part documentary exploring the history of stately homes Burghley House and Goodwood House through the lives of those who owned them - the right and fatuous - and their poor and exploited servants. Just so that all of you worthless plebs sitting at home in your council houses know your effing place and tug your forelock when required by The Big Nobs. To sum up, then, it's a Lord Snooty programme about class. Wow, what are the chances of that? Does this joker actually do anything else to justify his existence or is it all 'rub-somebody's-nose-in-the-shit' type conceits? Sorry, what a stupid question. Beginning with the story of Burghley House in Lincolnshire, for five hundred years the residence of the descendants of William Cecil, chief adviser to Elizabeth I, Lord Snooty learns about the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the romantic tale of the Cottage Countess - a farmer's daughter who married the Tenth Earl of Exeter - and traces the fate of a cook tragically framed to protect his master's reputation. Sick, dear blog readers. Rancid, odious, vile horrorshow (and drag).

Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary exploring how man's struggle with the annual onslaught of winter has been depicted by Western painters across the centuries. One of the works featured is Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Hunters in the Snow from 1565 - one of the first paintings to sum up the season as a vision of harsh and terrible beauty. With contributions by Grayson Perry, Will Self and Don McCullin, among others. Much better than that odious Lord Snooty tripe on the other side.

Wednesday 23 January
Tonight sees transmission of The National Television Awards 2013 - 7:30 ITV. Dermot O'Dreary returns to the O2 in London to mark the annual ceremony's eighteenth birthday as the biggest names on the small screen (it says here) gather to hear the results of a nationwide poll across fourteen categories. Ratings rivals Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor feature in the line-up for Britain's favourite talent show, while Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin and Lord Snooty's Downton Abbey battle it out to be named best drama. Yer actual Matt Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch his very self and Colin Morgan are in the running for the most popular male performance, against Daniel Mays from ITV's utterly rubbish Mrs Biggs. Sheridan Smith, Miranda Hart, Karen Gillan and Suranne Jones are among the actresses who could be honoured. O'Dreary himself might also be taking home a trophy, but faces strong competition from fellow entertainment presenters Ant and/or Dec, Leigh Francis (for his Keith Lemon persona) and Alan Carr. There's also the presentation of The Landmark Award in recognition of all involved in the London 2012 Olympic Games. A bit slavverish and back-slapping but it's usually entertainment enough in patches.

Eddie Izzard, David Baddiel, Rhod Gilbert and Jo Brand talk about the business side of stand-up comedy in the second episode of Funny Business - 9:00 BBC2, focusing on the managers and agents who help stars earn millions. The programme reveals the behind-the-scenes deals which can prove the difference between success and failure and unearths documents in the BBC archives relating to Morecambe and Wise's pay negotiations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Big quiffed Marky Kermode meets the film director Kathryn Bigelow to talk about the controversy surrounding her Oscar-nominated movie Zero Dark Thirty, which is based on the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Liner in the latest episode of The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon examines the art of French impressionist Edouard Manet as the Royal Academy of Arts prepares for a major retrospective of his portraiture. And, author Margaret Drabble chats to the novelist Bernardine Bishop, whose latest book Unexpected Lessons in Love explores friendship and loss. Professor John Mullan marks the forthcoming two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by looking at the ways adaptations of the book have exploited the original to their own ends. Terrific, as always and, if you watch it, you - dangerously - might just learn something.

Thursday 24 January
A pub landlady is stabbed to death and has her little finger cut off in the latest Silent Witness - 9:00 BBC1. While Leo and Jack collect mounting evidence that her husband was responsible for this shocking crime, Nikki remains convinced of the man's innocence. When the husband is charged with murder, she must convince her colleagues that the woman was the latest victim of a psychopathic serial killer, resulting in a deadly game of cat and mouse as they seek out the culprit. Christine Bottomley, Penny Downie and Christopher Fulford guest star.

Michael Mosley is joined by academics Mark Miodownik and Cassie Newland to examine the chain of events that leads to innovations which make everyday life easier for all of us in The Genius of Invention - 9:00 BBC2. The first programme comes from Drax power station in North Yorkshire and focuses on the British inventors who helped build the modern world by understanding, harnessing and using power - looking in detail at the steam engine, the electrical generator and the steam turbine.

In The Restoration Man - 9:00 Channel Four - David and Judith Ward want to 'downsize' from their large family home and be nearer to their grandchildren, so they have taken on the restoration of a dilapidated pig barn across the road from their daughter's farmhouse, using money borrowed from a friend. Instead of, you know, selling their gaff and buying a smaller house instead. If there's an easy way and a hard way, some people will always chose the hard way. David is a charismatic preacher and has faith in The Lord that even in this challenging market, they will manage to sell their old house, pay back the loan and raise the funds to finish the build. Architect George Clarke follows their progress. And shakes his head sadly when they fail, miserably.

Steve McGarrett and Danno Williams take time out with a fishing trip on the open sea in Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1. But, of course, their hopes of a nice relaxing break are thwarted when they spot a man in distress on a life raft. They drive over to help the man out, but their good deed spectacularly backfires spectacularly when he pulls a gun, hijacks their boat and leaves them stranded in the shark-infested ocean on his leaking dinghy. Don't you just hate it when that happens. Where are Chin Ho and Kono when you need them?

And so to the news: Big cuddly Sarah Millican says that she's getting her fair share of admirers now she's a regular on TV. Although they tend to be slightly coy about the attraction. 'I get people saying I'm "weirdly sexy,"' she notes. 'Or: "You're my secret crush." Why secret?!' Err ... shame? Just guessing. 'Though it's nice when blokes fancy me,' she adds. 'It means they actually fancy a normal-looking woman. I look a similar shape to somebody you'd bump into in Asda.' Or meet working on the tills, for that matter.

Homebase, one of the UK's 'home enhancement retailer' (didn't they used to be a DIY store?) are to sponsor Channel Four's Food on Four strand across the main channel and More4, along with programming on UKTV channel Good Food from January 2013. This nineteen month, seven figure deal, negotiated by Ross Minton, Business Director at Mindshare Invention and Nick Scott, Partnerships Manager at Channel Four, will allow Homebase to showcase a range of 'home enhancement products' (you know, hammers, nails, that sort of thing) from its 'exclusive range' of kitchens, to dining furniture, cookware ranges and Grow Your Own. Grow your own what, they don't say. I'm hoping whatever it is, it's not illegal. The sponsorship bumpers will be visible around name TV chef fronted food programming across Channel Four and More4 including shows such as Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, Simon Hopkinson Cooks, Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast and The Fabulous Baker Boys – as well as programmes such as Nigella Bites, Jamie's Kitchen Australia and Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers on Good Food.

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch his very self is at a point in his career where he needn't say "yes" to any project if he doesn't fancy it. The star of one of the biggest dramas on British TV, Sherlock, he's proved himself on stage in Danny Boyle's innovative, award-sweeping reinvention of Frankenstein, and will become a proper Hollywood star this summer thanks to a major role in feverishly anticipated Star Trek Into Darkness – a casting which the movie's director JJ Abrams says was 'a formality' after one viewing of a Sherlock DVD. At this rate, by 2014 Cumberbatch will simultaneously be playing Batman, The Doctor and James Bond – but even if that happens, on present form you can bet he'll still be a regular presence on BBC radio. Christmas Day on Radio 4, just before The Queen's Speech, there he was as the young Rumpole in an adaptation of Rumpole of the Bailey. Then on Wednesday, the Radio 4 sitcom Cabin Pressure came back for series four with Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch all returning as the staff of a tiny airline. Now he's on the wireless again, playing German nuclear scientist Werner Heisenberg in a new version of Michael Frayn's modern classic play Copenhagen (Sunday 8.30pm Radio 3). The three-hander has a stunning cast: Simon Russell Beale is Heisenberg's Danish former mentor Niels Bohr, while Greta Scacchi takes the ultimately crucial role of Bohr's wife Margrethe. Exalted company, but yer actual Cumberbatch is the big name. The play premiered in 1998 and is a famously knotty beast, concerned with the details of atomic physics and the insoluble question of whether, when Heisenberg visited Bohr in 1941, he was trying to glean information which might help the Nazis get the bomb, or warning Bohr that Hitler wanted it. The three protagonists discuss this meeting after their deaths. 'I never saw a production of it,' Cumberbatch told Radio Times. 'So I'm probably going to piss a lot of people off who want to hear it the way they last heard it. There's no way I can impersonate that. These are such extraordinary people with so much on their shoulders. So much of what they did affected so many people. It's a ripe topic for drama and he's just a master, Crazy Phrasey Frayn. He's brilliant.' 'Greta and I both saw it at the National,' recalls Simon Russell Beale. 'It was a brain-stretching evening at the theatre. It's the most extraordinary piece of multi-layered writing. It's like a piece of origami.' 'In the theatre,' adds Scacchi, 'it was a very stark set. No furniture or dressing that I can remember. It was an abstract space. You tried to follow the words. To lie on your sofa, shut your eyes and listen to it, just the words, is probably one of the best ways to receive this story.' So Copenhagen isn't the sort of radio play you can half-listen to while cooking the supper. 'Put those tax returns down and listen!'says Benny. It's the latest in a series of roles where he's played someone very, very clever: Stephen Hawking, Christopher Tietjens and, of course, Sherlock Holmes all had brains to spare. 'You can't betray the intelligence of the characters for the sake of simplifying the story; at the same time, you can't completely leave them in the dust,' he explains. 'I've struggled with science in things I've played before, and it's important to understand what's in front of you, given the speed at which [Bohr and Heisenberg] deliver it, because they are that smart.' So how can the audience possibly keep up? 'Frayn relies on rhythms and repetitions and patterns within the structure of the language.' The hard science is there, which means plenty of tricky lines and a lot of names of German and Danish scientists, and their principles, to learn. 'I'm really bad at pronouncing names, I have to have them drummed in. I've got better at remembering people's names.' Cumberbatch says the trio have 'laughed a lot' as they've struggled to make sense of Frayn's layers of meaning. 'You hear stories of people doing the gravest of subjects, laughing,' he says. 'Gallows humour. Not that this is quite gallows humour. But these are two very wonderful people, it's fun to have a giggle with them.' Later on, when Beale mentions that 'for a large portion of the play, we're actually dead. And then talking,' Cumberbatch adds: 'So we can dooooo thooooose type of voices.' Much camaraderie seems to revolve around the simple problem of not rustling one's script when the green light is on. 'I'm hopeless at the page-turning,' says Beale. 'I had a sleepless night, the night before we started, I'm not joking, about the fucking pages. The speeches here are twenty pages long. So I knew that I'd have to turn over.' Copenhagen is really about mankind's constant, hopeless quest for understanding, of the universe and of each other. Another person's motivations and feelings can't ever be nailed down. 'The fundamental bass note of it is human puzzlement at the world,' Beale agrees. 'The blackness of not knowing. Inside the human brain, inside the human soul, is the dark.' Cumberbatch takes up the theme. 'The way atomic physics works is a metaphor for these three people trying to understand their motivations looking through the mists of time,' he says. 'That's what Michael's done so beautifully, because it's not a patronising way to represent the arguments: it is what science is. Science has come from the human, not the other way round. Our idea and understanding of it is through our sensory filter. Whether that be a process of mental theory or observable, experimental, tenable science, it's a beautiful metaphor for these three people trying to understand each other - and then you've got war splitting everything apart.' Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that, for someone at the level of fame Benny enjoys/suffers, there's special resonance in the idea of piecing together an image of a person that can never be correct. Cumberbatch's every move is now monitored, but do any of his fans really know him? 'They know you from the trail you leave with your work,' he replies. 'They assume things about you because of who you play and how you play them, and the other scraps floating around in the ether. People try to sew together a narrative out of scant fact.' Beale adds: 'Some of it's harmless. There are funny things. I recently broke my finger on stage, and apparently I struggled on through great pain. I know that's going to reappear: my bravery. Actually I wasn't in any pain at all because that's not what you do when you break your finger: some adrenaline kicks in and it just feels odd. But I love the idea that I struggled on. That's fine.' Not that Cumberbatch would, in any case, ever be so blithe or inelegant as to carp about the attention he gets. 'I have been around for ten years. I don't want to complain or explain. It's a thing that will pass. It's part of a predictable pattern.' Does he worry about portraying real people and events? 'Not when you're in Michael Frayn's hands, no. You have a responsibility. It's an examination of various interpretations of what happened and why, rather than definite statements or a political axe to grind. He takes care of that.' A radio studio is sanctuary from the crazy world outside, but what makes Benny a particularly good fit for the medium is his deep, commanding voice, which incidentally has given him a busy sideline in narrating adverts. Listen the next time you have to sit through a commercial break. Insurance, dog food, digital cameras: Cumberbatch's brushed-suede vocals will be there somewhere. Radio's focus on the pure power of the human voice is something that genuinely excites him. 'I love Radio 3. I'm Radio 3 in the car as well. And Radio 4: I change between the two, I'm not religious about it. Radio's something I go back to if I've been out of the country for any length of time. I still find the magical art [when acting on radio] of what effect you are having, how the space is constructed, what the mic's doing, is a mystery. It's nice to really intensely concentrate on and listen to the word and the sense of the word. Radio's a joy. It's just a joy.'

Renowned author and broadcaster Robert Kee has died at the age of ninety three. Best known for his seminal series on the history of Ireland, he went into journalism after serving in the RAF during World War II. Born in Calcutta in 1919, Robert was educated at Stowe School and then read history at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a pupil, then a friend, of the acclaimed historian AJP Taylor. During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force as a bomber pilot. His Hampden was shot down by flak one night while on a mine-laying operation off the coast of German-occupied Holland. He was imprisoned and spent three years in a German POW camp. Post-war, he worked as a correspondent for The Sunday Times and the Observer, before moving into television in 1958. He was also literary editor of The Spectator. In 1949 Kee was a witness at the marriage of his friend George Orwell to Sonia Brownell. At the BBC he became a regular correspondent and presenter on Panorama and in 1983 he joined David Frost for the launch of TV-am. However the station was criticised for being too erudite for thick-as-pig's-shit breakfast-time viewers, and struggled to find its foothold with the audience until it crawled down-market. The company eventually lost the franchise in 1992. Kee became an established figure in current affairs journalism, reporting for ITV's First Report and Channel 4's Seven Days. His success saw him awarded BAFTA's Richard Dimbleby Award in 1976. However, it was Kee's lifelong interest in Ireland which made him his name and his extraordinary knowledge was reflected in his book The Green Flag, published in 1972, in three volumes. It was adapted for television under the title Ireland - A Television History almost a decade later, and fronted by Kee. The acclaimed thirteen-part series was broadcast in both the UK and Ireland as well as the US. A committed libertarian, Robert joined the campaign for the release of the wrongly imprisoned Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, who had been convicted of taking part in pub bombings in 1974, and wrote a pivotal book Trial & Error about the case in 1986. He continued to write novels, often based on his own wartime experiences throughout his life - perhaps most poignantly in his first book A Crowd Is Not Company, which took its lead from his experience as a German prisoner of war during World War II. 1939: The Year We Left Behind and 1945: The World We Fought For came out over consecutive years in 1984 and 1985, while Munich: The Eleventh Hour was based on a commemorative documentary made fifty years after the events of the Munich agreement of 1938. He was also a prolific translator of the works of German literature. He leaves a wife and three children.

The White House has reportedly rejected a petition to build a Death Star - a huge battle-station armed with a superlaser as seen in the Star Wars films. In an encouragingly playful response, a senior US government official said that the Obama administration 'does not support blowing up planets.' What, not even a little one? Well, that's just mean. The official also said that the cost - about eight hundred quadrillion dollars - was 'too high.' More than thirty four thousand people (or cretins as they're also known) had signed the petition, saying that the project 'would spur job creation and strengthen national and international defence.' They also wanted the government to begin construction by 2016. The White House is obliged to respond to all petitions which gain more than twenty five thousand signatures - no matter how stupid. This, dear blog readers, is democracy for you. Responding to the petition, Paul Shawcross, head of the administration's budget office on science and space, admitted in a blog that 'a Death Star isn't on the horizon. However, look carefully and you'll notice something already floating in the sky - that's no Moon, it's a Space Station!' He ended his blog with an appeal to the signatories of the petition: 'If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, The Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of The Force.' Mister Jeff Vader was, apparently, unavailable for comment.

The work of electronica pioneer Delia Derbyshire is being celebrated in Manchester on Saturday. As part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop team, Delia most famously realised the Doctor Who theme music, composed by Ron Grainer, and her work creating sounds strongly influenced the world of pop and electronic music to this day. After her death in 2001, her collection of two hundred and sixty seven tapes was entrusted to Mark Ayres and then loaned permanently by Ayres and the Delia Derbyshire estate to the University of Manchester, where they were digitised. Band On The Wall, a non-profit venue in Swan Street, Manchester, will be hosting the first Delia Derbyshire Day with performances, screenings, and talks in honour of the composer and arranger. Among the events, the daytime 'mini-symposium' - from 3pm to 6pm - will include a screening of the documentary The Delian Mode as well as a listening session of a number of rare Derbyshire instrumentals, while the evening session - from 8pm to 10.30pm - will include the première of new commissions by Ailís Ní Ríain, Caro C, and Naomi Kashiwagi, who together comprise the event organisers Delia Darlings, inspired by their time spent with the Delia Derbyshire archives.

The moron who threw a plastic beer bottle on to the track at the start of the men's Olympic one hundred metres final has been found guilty of public order offences. And of being a dickhead. Ashley Gill-Webb, of South Milford, was arrested at the Olympic Stadium on 5 August. Gill-Webb, who also shouted at athletes including Usain Bolt, was found guilty of two public order offences at Stratford Magistrates' Court. His lawyers had said that he was suffering from a 'manic episode' at the time. Gill-Webb was found guilty of intending to cause the one hundred metres finalists harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or disorderly behaviour, contrary to Section four of the Public Order Act as well as an alternative charge contrary to Section five of the act. The court heard that the man, who has bipolar affective disorder, managed to get into the Olympic Park and the stadium using an old ticket. He pushed his way through the crowd in the exclusive seating area close to the starting line from where he lobbed the bottle. He was then confronted by Dutch judo champion Edith Bosch after he threw the bottle. She heard him say 'Bolt, I want you to lose,' the court heard. Other witnesses said he also shouted at other finalists. The prosecution told the court it accepted Gill-Webb was 'unwell' but dismissed the argument about intention. He did not give evidence at the trial.

Two major US adult entertainment companies have taken legal action to try to overturn a law requiring porn actors in Los Angeles County to wear condoms whilst, you know, 'performing.' Vivid Entertainment and Califa Productions say that the measure violates 'the guarantee of free speech' in the US constitution's First Amendment. The law, known as Measure B, was approved by voters in November. The measure was supported by the AIDs Healthcare Foundation, which said it would 'shield' actors from HIV. 'Overturning this law is something I feel very passionate about,' Steven Hirsch, founder of the Vivid Entertainment, told AFP news agency. 'I believe the industry's current testing system works well,' he added. Porn actors Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce are standing up for themselves, as it were, and joining the challenge against the law. Measure B expanded to county level an ordinance which had already been passed in the city of Los Angeles, requiring condom use as a condition of receiving a filming permit there. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed that measure into law in January 2012. Adult production companies have threatened to move out of California because of the requirement, but face legal difficulties. A 1988 ruling by the California Supreme Court prevented producers from being prosecuted under anti-prostitution laws, and only one other state - New Hampshire - has a similar ruling. And, it's a bit colder in New Hampshire than it is in California. Adult film productions in the LA area have been suspended in the past because of HIV scares. Critics of the condom requirement say actors are regularly tested, and such a requirement would 'hurt business' and push production studios underground. 'We found that a lot of viewers at home don't want to see condom porn,' Keiran Lee, a British porn actor in Los Angeles, told BBC's Newsbeat in January last year.

Which brings us nicely to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Not one, not two, not three but it's only The Gang of Four, isn't it?