Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week Six: What Are They Saying In The Public Bazaars?

The fiftieth anniversary season of classic Doctor Who stories on the UKTV Channel in Australia and New Zealand continues this week with the 1966 four-parter The War Machines. 'Dok-tor Who is required!' and all that. Terrific stuff. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping once pitched a sort-of novel sequel to that story - to have been called 1966, And All That (or, possibly, Extra Time) to BBC books. But, as fans of the PDAs will know, it never got commissioned. Oi! Stop cheering at the back! Anyway, the four-part story featuring yer actual William Hartnell his very self pitting his wits against WOTAN and the (then) Post Office Tower is broadcast on Sunday 27 January at 4:15pm (in New Zealand) and 4:30pm (in Australia). The story was first broadcast in Australia in 1967 whilst New Zealand viewers first saw it in 1969. This is the fourth story to be broadcast as part of the channel's celebration of the First Doctor this month. It follows earlier screenings of An Unearthly Child, The Aztecs and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. UKTV is showing stories every Sunday throughout the year in the lead-up to the actual anniversary in November. From next week the focus shifts to the Second Doctor, with The Tomb of the Cybermen scheduled for 3 February, followed by The Dominators, The Mind Robber, and The Seeds of Death.

Casualty topped a generally quiet night as all of the terrestrial channels lost viewers compared to the previous Saturday. The latest Casualty episode Broken Heart Syndrome averaged 5.11m viewers from 8.50pm, representing a slight drop on last week's audience figure. Other shows tumbled further as ITV's crass and risible pile of excrement Z-List Celebrity Drowning was watched by 4.84m in its usual 7pm slot. Odious, nasty Take Me Out and The Jonathan Ross Show followed with respective audiences of 3.96m and 2.49m respectively. Over on BBC1, Richard Hammond's Secret Service (1.96m) from 6pm and Britain's Brightest (3.81m) at 6.45pm sank to new series lows, after which 8pm's In It To Win It was watched by a more substantial 4.69m. Only Mrs Brown's Boys (4.62m) and ITV's You've Been Framed managed to increase their audiences week-on-week, the latter being watched by 4.67m. Dad's Army was BBC2's most-watched broadcast with two million punters at 8pm. BBC3 managed to usurp soft-core pornographer Richard Desmond's Channel Five thanks to its screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which attracted 1.18m from 8.30pm. Overall, BBC1 had the highest figures in primetime with 19.7 per cent of the audience share, ahead of ITV's 17.7 per cent.

This year's Celebrity Big Brother final set record ratings for the show on Channel Five. Some 3.25 million sad, crushed victims of society saw X Factor finalist Rylan Clark beat Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag to win the reality show on Friday night, according to overnight figures. This year's final was significantly up on the 2.1m who saw Julian Clary win the previous series in the summer of 2012.
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch invited Boris Johnson to a private dinner at his Mayfair home on a recent visit by the odious tycoon to London, the latest apparent sign of what the Gruniad Morning Star describes as 'a growing intimacy' between the media mogul recovering from the phone-hacking storm and the mayor of London (and hairdo), seen as a long-term rival to David Cameron. Damian Lewis, the star of Homeland made by Murdoch's FOX productions, was also present at the dinner which is said to have taken place on Tuesday night. An Old Etonian like Johnson (and Cameron), the actor added the allure of Hollywood to the proceedings, which were also attended by London-based Murdoch editors and executives. It is at least the second time in six months that billionaire tyrant Murdoch has met the mayor (and hairdo) and indicates that the mogul is as keen as ever on nurturing his political contacts in the UK, despite heavy criticism during the Leveson inquiry over his close relations with a succession of prime ministers and back-door visits to Downing Street. Well, he's a back-door man, apparently. The men don't know but the little girls understand. News International said it would not comment on who Murdoch had or had not met, but the Gruniad claimed that 'informed sources' (whatever the hell that means) confirmed that the dinner took place, and who was present. A spokesman for the mayor said he 'could not confirm' the dinner meeting as it was 'not policy to comment' on his 'private arrangements.' Johnson also has ultimate, but not operational, responsibility for the Metropolitan Police, the force investigating phone-hacking by billionaire tyrant Murdoch's Scum of the World and alleged extremely corrupt payments made by Sun journalists to the police and other public employees. Last week, the paper's defence editor, Virginia Wheeler, was charged with causing misconduct in public office, with prosecutors claiming she paid a Met police officer over six grand for 'sensitive information.' The mayor's choice of supper partners was criticised by Labour. Len Duvall, leader of the Labour group at the London Assembly, said: 'This isn't the first time Boris has met privately with Rupert Murdoch and tried to keep it secret. There are still unanswered questions over his meetings with Murdoch at the time of the police investigations around the phone-hacking scandal. It is ludicrous for him to say he was meeting him in a private capacity. He is the mayor of London and has a duty to uphold the highest standards. Does he really think meeting for a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch is a normal meeting? What planet does he live on?' Last August, Johnson, a former journalist who still writes a column for the rival Daily Torygraph, invited billionaire tyrant Murdoch and his wife ass-kicking kung-fu ninja Wendi Deng as his personal guests to the Olympics to watch Rebecca Adlington spectacularly fail to defend her eight hundred metres gold as part of Johnson's 'schmoozathon' to promote London. Friends of billionaire tyrant Murdoch, who is said to have 'gone cold' on yer man Cameron, said that he was 'impressed' by Johnson's ability to put London on the map. And his hair. In the past year the Sun, which Murdoch told Leveson 'reflects' his thinking on politics in Britain, had been giving Johnson extremely enthusiastic backing, celebrating his 'maverick style' and 'game for a laugh' attitude and, generally licking the brown stuff from his crack. Johnson was also one of a number of politicians who wrote for the Sun following the Leveson report, to urge the government against any statutory control of the press, something billionaire tyrant Murdoch vehemently opposes. Despite Cameron's attempts to rein in the maverick mayor, Johnson remains an ever-present threat. His - somewhat baffling - popularity last year had increased to a point where Johnson was greeted with the kind of attention normally reserved for a rock star when he arrived at the Conservative party conference, with crowds chanting his name. On Friday, the mayor strayed into government territory yet again, calling on the chancellor, George Osborne, to drop his 'hairshirt, Stafford Cripps agenda' as he outlined a seven-point growth plan for London involving thousands of new homes and investment in major infrastructure projects. Cripps, of course, was the chancellor between 1947 and 1950 and used taxes and rationing to limit consumption as the UK tried to rebuild its postwar economy. Duvall called for 'full transparency' and said London deserved to know what newspaper proprietors Johnson was meeting. 'If there's nothing to hide why won't he tell us?' he said. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who has pursued News International in the Commons and through the courts, said: 'There is something decidedly unseemly about Boris Johnson's relationship with the Murdoch empire. He did their bidding by trying to have the new police investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World suspended by calling it "politically motivated codswallop." Now he is attempting to win their support for when his leadership bid commences.'

And so to yer latest Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 2 February
As her daughter's health deteriorates, Birgitte admits Laura to a private psychiatric hospital - only for the press to find out, and as a violent media storm erupts, the prime minister decides to take an indefinite leave of absence in the latest episode of the final two episodes of the current series of Borgan - 9:00 BBC4. Meanwhile, Kasper and Katrine tell their - respective - bosses about their relationship. Here, it would seem, are two thoughtful, gripping episodes to end the current series of Borgen, which ask tough questions about what is expected of high-achieving women both personally and professionally. Prime Minister Birgitte (the wonderful Sidse Babett Knudsen) has been pole-axed by the mental illness of her teenage daughter. As Birgitte and her ex-husband Phillip unite to do what is best for a clearly troubled young woman, politics have to take a back seat. Which is where Birgitte’s problems really begin, as she is attacked by the Opposition and that odious newspaper editor, Laugensen. Soon, fragile Laura becomes a news story. Meanwhile Borgen's 'shipper couple, Kasper and Katrine, tell the world about their relationship, which prompts an astonishingly sexist and intrusive outburst from Katrine's usually supine news editor, Torben. Where is TV1's HR department? But as the final episode closes, it's all about Birgitte. She's calm, confident and ready to make a bold move. In the second episode, while Birgitte has been on leave, Hans-Christian Thorsen, chairman of the Labour Party, has deputised and positioned himself to be a possible successor. Kasper and Bent Sejro try to persuade Birgitte to come back, forcing her to decide whether to stay at home until her daughter is well, or return before the election.

If you missed it last Sunday, there's a repeat of the opening episode of the latest series of Top Gear - 7:00 BBC2. The motoring show returns as yer actual Jezza Clarkson his very self attempts to build a car which is even smaller than the Peel P50 and then test it out on the actual streets of London before pitching his concept in The Dragons' Den. What could possibly go wrong? James May, meanwhile, puts the Bentley Continental GT Speed through its paces by taking it on a rally stage, whilst Richard Hammond shakers off the disaster that is Secret Service and drives the new Pagani Huayra hypercar before handing it over to The Stig. Golden Globe-winning actor and Boris and Rupert chum, Damian Lewis goes for a spin in the Reasonably Priced Car. Or, you could watch the final of Z-List Celebrity Drowning on ITV at the same time if you have the mental capacity of a mollusc. But, I wouldn't recommend it, personally.

In Howard Goodall's Story of Music - 9:00 BBC2 - the composer examines the extraordinarily fertile musical period between 1650 and 1750, which saw innovations including the orchestra, the overture, modern tuning, the oratorio and the piano. Vivaldi developed a form of concerto where a charismatic solo violin was pitted against the rest of the orchestra, Bach wrote complex and heartfelt music in his mission to glorify God, and Handel brought all the techniques of the preceding one hundred years to his oratorio Messiah.

Sunday 3 February
Tony Robinson and the team head to the Lake District to look for copper, a forgotten piece of the nation's industrial heritage in the latest Time Team - 4:25 Channel Four. There are nearly two dozen old mines across the mountains, some thought to have been established four hundred years ago when the valleys would have been studded with workshops, scaffolding and water-powered machines, home to a brave band of Tudor miners. The team battles the rain, wind and dangerously unstable trackways, but the combination of sheer effort and hi-tech kit enables them to access the heart of an old mine.

If you watched the Top Gear repeat last night then, chances are, you'll want to catch up with the latest episode - 8:00 BBC2. In which Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slow embark on another epic road trip, this time across Western America in front-engined supercars. Tasty. Clarkson pilots the Lexus LFA, which has a spectacularly high-revving V10 powerplant, Richard Hammond gets behind the wheel of the muscular Dodge Viper, and James May opts for the latest incarnation of Aston Martin's Vanquish. On their journey from Las Vegas to Palm Springs via Los Angeles, the presenters tackle racing circuits and find themselves in a race against the police, before rushing to the Mexican border (but, presumably, not over it) - and there's a terrifying penalty for the last man to arrive. Meanwhile, balding, lanky Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood rolls up his sleeves to thrash the Reasonably Priced Car.

Yer actual Professor Brian Cox his very self also travels across America this week in Wonders of Life - 9:00 BBC2 - though, presumably various lice of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star will whinge far less about his travels than those of yer man Clarkson and co. Brian encountering a diverse range of creatures that reveal how the senses evolved. In Kentucky, he explains how microscopic single-celled organism the paramecium can orientate itself through touch alone, and that catfish build a picture of their murky river environment through the taste buds that cover their bodies. Investigating the eyes of octopuses, Brian finds a link between the ability to process sensory data and intelligence, which may be evidence that humans evolved large brains in order to make sense of what they could see.

In this week's episode of Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1 - Reid senses something amiss when a Jewish anarchist is found dead, particularly when Deborah Goren appears at the station vouching for the dead man's character. The case leads the team into the murky world of the British government's fight against international terrorism, while Jackson is sent undercover as the dock strikes take hold. Crime drama, starring Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rothenberg.

Jenny is seconded to a short-staffed hospital in London in Call The Midwife - 8:00 BBC1 - but grows increasingly reluctant to carry out her duties when she finds out she is working under intimidating surgeon Mr Tracey. Back in Poplar, meanwhile, the midwives are introduced to newcomer Jane and outspoken twins Meg and Mave Carter. The sisters are identical in every way, except one of them is now pregnant - forcing them to come to terms with the impact a baby will have on them. Jessica Raine and Bryony Hannah star.

Monday 4 February
The Browns are excited as preparations for Rory and Dino's big day are in full swing in the last episode of the current series of Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:00 BBC1. Agnes's mood is dampened when she meets flamboyant celebrity wedding planner La La Doggy. The foul-mouthed matriarch also clashes with Father Damien when he raises some religious concerns about the ceremony - and to top it all off, she gets more than she bargained for when she invites Cathy's boyfriend's parents over for the evening. Hit comedy, starring Brendan O'Carroll, with Jennifer Gibney, Rory Cowan and Conor Moloney.

Dancing on the Edge - 9:00 BBC1 - is a new drama by Stephen Poliakoff following the fortunes of a black jazz band in early-1930s London. Music journalist Stanley Mitchell decides to take a gamble and signs Louis Lester and his group, booking them to play at the Imperial Hotel in front of a mainly elderly audience who have never seen black musicians before, and many of whom depart in outrage. However, they do intrigue and impress a group of socialites and are invited to play at a private party - where Prince George flirts with singers Jessie and Carla - and catch the attention of wealthy businessman Mister Masterson. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode and John Goodman.

The first of a two-part finale to Lewis begins tonight - 9:00 ITV. After seven years of ducking the issue, Lewis and Hobson are embarking on a relationship, but the detective also has a new case to solve. Elderly don Richard Seager is murdered on the night of his release from prison, having served a sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. Crushed by a classic car, Seager mysteriously scratched the number 500 into its paintwork before his demise, and the academic's wife suspects a member of his victim's family is responsible for the killing. With Stephen Churchett, Alison Steadman and Edward Fox.

When a skeleton was reported found under a Leicester council car park in September 2012, the news broke around the world. Could it be the remains, lost for five hundred years, of one of England's most infamous king? The story is told in Richard III: The King in the Car Park - 9:00 Channel Four. The tests to prove this theory have been carried out in secrecy but, in this programme, a team allowed to follow the scientists tells the story of the hunt for Richard III, unveils a new facial reconstruction made from the skull and reveals the results of the final tests that should establish the body's true identity.

Tuesday 5 February
Camille's best friend, a singer on a Caribbean party boat, collapses on stage during a night of music and cocktails in Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. After she dies in the policewoman's arms, the officers question the vessel's staff and on-board tourists in an effort to get to the bottom of her mysterious demise. Photographs taken on the evening offer a fuller picture of what took place, but could the answer lie in the vocalist's pre-show routine? Meanwhile, Richard Poole comforts a grieving Camille, but it soon becomes clear that sensitivity is not his strong suit. Ben Miller and Sara Martins star, with guest appearances from singer Jamelia, Dexter Fletcher and Amanda Mealing.

Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown - 9:00 BBC4 - looks rather good. In a celebration of the analogue vinyl LP, the presenter and contributors including Martin Freeman and Boy George choose their favourite records of yesteryear from different genres, beginning with yer actual rawk. In the first edition, Danny is joined by yer actual Jezza Clarkson his very self (on telly more often than The News this week), former Smiths producer Stephen Street and writer Kate Mossman. As well as selecting their most-loved LPs of the 1960s and 70s, they discuss how the LPs of those years were produced and enjoyed in comparison to their modern equivalents.

In the latest episode of Utopia - 10:00 Channel Four - hidden away in a derelict manor house, the group attempts to decipher the secret meaning of the manuscript. But will uncovering the identity of Mr Rabbit allow them to return to their former lives? Thriller, starring Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins and Geraldine James.

Wednesday 6 February
Si King and Dave Myers demonstrate how to create a dinner for two that is fit for a king, but doesn't cost the earth in The Hairy Bikers' Everyday Gourmets - 8:00 BBC2. They receive presentation tips from Michelin-starred chef Olivier Limousin and delve back into Britain's rich history for cut-price culinary inspiration. Everything they learn is put to the test when they help single mother Paula say a big thank you to her supportive parents.

In Bones - 9:00 Sky Living - The team investigates the murder of a local artisan whose skin was stripped from her body. The cold precision executed by the killer indicates a suspect with training in anatomy, but when new information comes to light about the victim's secret activities, Fisher thinks they are dealing with a modern-day Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Booth invites Sweets to stay at the family home. With hilarious consequences.

David Attenborough describes some of the present and future challenges faced by the continent's wildlife, including the realities of rhino poaching and the impact of human encroachment on elephants' natural habitat in Africa - 9:00 BBC1. In Kenya, he meets a young rhinoceros named Elvis, who has had his horn removed to ward off the threat of hunters, while in Mozambique, cameras capture the efforts of an ambitious team of scientists trying to determine whether the Gorongosa National Park can, once again, become a haven for wild animals after the ravages of civil war. Cameras also observe the Maasai warriors, who have become lion guardians, and witness the efforts of conservationists on the tropical east coast. Last in the series.

Andrew Graham-Dixon explores the work of Seventeenth-Century Spanish baroque painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo as an exhibition of his work opens at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. Alan Yentob meets Jonathan Miller, who talks about his return to British theatre after a six-year break to direct Northern Broadsides' production of Rutherford & Son. Tom Dyckhoff travels to Switzerland to talk to architect Peter Zumthor about his quiet approach to design and big quiffed Marky Kermode chats to Bill Murray about his role as Franklin D Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Plus, a performance by electronic music duo AlunaGeorge recorded at The Hayward Gallery, ahead of the opening of Light Show, which features the art of James Turrell and Dan Flavin among others.

Thursday 7 February
Hallow'een presents the Five-0 team with a typically gory crime to solve - that of a nursing student who was kidnapped and cut to pieces while still alive in the latest Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1. Initial evidence points to the black market in human organs, suggesting the killer wanted to sell hers to the highest bidder - but the autopsy reveals something much more sinister is afoot.
From the BT National Network Control Centre in Shropshire, Michael Mosley, Mark Miodownik and Cassie Newland celebrate the work of inventors who harnessed electricity and electromagnetism to enable instant messages to be sent across vast distances in The Genius Of Invention - 9:00 BBC2. They focus on three inventions - the electric telegraph, the telephone and wireless communication - revealing how they came about by sparks of genius and incremental improvements.

From prosthetic arms and legs to artificial organs, science is beginning to catch up with science fiction in the race to replace body parts with man-made alternatives, as told in How to Build a Bionic Man - 9:00 Channel Four. Psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who has a bionic hand himself, meets scientists working at the cutting-edge of research to find out just how far this new technology can go, while a team creates a complete `bionic man' for the first time, using state-of-the-art limbs and organs borrowed from some of the world's leading laboratories and manufacturers.

Comedian Bob Mortimer, American stand-up Doug Stanhope and poet Tim Key are among the guests joining Charlie Brooker for a satirical look at the latest news in Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe - 10:00 BBC2. Together, they cast a critical eye over trends in television, cinema, computer games and social media.

The Sky At Night returns - 7:30 BBC4 - for its first episode since the death of Sir Patrick Moore. Chris Lintott presents from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, to see how the sun affects Earth. Solar physicist Dr Lucie Green joins the team to peer through the location's historic telescopes, and there is news on the progress of the Voyager spacecraft, which are having a turbulent time as they leave the sun's realm.

Friday 8 February
The basic forensic facilities and paucity of skeletal remains hinder the team's work, but its members come to believe Lambert must have been captured and killed by the Taliban in Silent Witness - 9:00 BBC1. However, while Leo grows closer to charity worker Fawzia, Nikki and Jack find further fragments of skull and make an unnerving discovery about what really happened - triggering a chain of events that leaves everyone in danger. Last in the current series.

When Albums Ruled the World - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary exploring the heyday of LPs from the mid-1960s to the lat-1970s, as artists embraced the creative opportunities they offered for music and artwork. The programme also examines how the arrival of new formats spelt the end of the LP's golden era. With contributions from Queen's Roger Taylor, Noel Gallagher, risible old hippie Mike Oldfield, The Doors' Ray Manzarek, Slash and Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick. Part of The Golden Age of the Album season.

In Monty Don's French Gardens - 9:00 BBC2 - the horticulturist examines how the national love of food has influenced gardens in France. He visits a number of 'potagers', in which vegetables and flowers are planted together in elaborate and beautiful displays, and talks to gardeners about this style of planting, revealing how it has been copied the world over. He also spends time in allotments, learns to pick asparagus, enjoys some of the best produce from the land and explores the importance the French attach to the soil.

Which brings us to the news: Nigella Lawson is 'sexing up' the new TV cookery competition she is joining as a judge in the USA, reports the Daily Scum Mail. 'Think The Voice, with cooking,' she says, drawing a tenuous link between the backward-chair gimmick of the BBC's talent show and the 'blind' tasting the celebrity chefs will undertake to assess the meals made by amateur 'kitchenistas.' Lawson, who of course, has her knockers, proved that she is not shy of her curves infamously donning a 'burkini' at Bondi beach in 2011. She has also refused to have her 'tummy' digitally altered in promotion for the show, Taste. 'I was very strict and English and told them they weren't allowed to airbrush my tummy out. That tum is the truth and is come by honestly, as my granny would have said.'

The first British-Asian soap Cloud Nine has launched in the UK. Marketed as the 'first of its kind' weekday drama series, the series is aimed at engaging a second and third generation British-Asian audience. Producer-Director Gunjan Hazarika told the Digital Spy website: 'Being in production over the last several years, I sensed a void within the South Asian entertainment space, which I can say today is being filled by Cloud Nine. Existing offerings across channels and the production standards have not been on par with mainstream, which always challenged my own talent. Zing has provided me with a platform to showcase this today. If you're a person that loves life, the ups, the downs, the people you meet and your surroundings, then you will absolutely love Cloud Nine.' Composer Rishi Rich, who has produced music for Bollywood films including Hum Tum and Boom, has worked on the score of the series. 'When I was approached to work on the music score and theme tune for Cloud Nine, I was very excited because finally there was going to be a UK soap on TV for British Asians,' he said. 'When I actually sat down to compose the theme tune, I really enjoyed working on it as well as singing it. It was a great opportunity to showcase myself as a musician.' The marketing campaign for the series has seen the branding of a Cloud Nine London tube station and advertising of the show across four hundred petrol stations pumps. Cloud Nine is broadcast on Zing, Sky channel 789 and Freesat 509. The programme screens weekdays at 6.30pm with repeats at 10.30pm and an omnibus showing on Saturdays at 5.30pm.

Risible, odious right-wing horrorshow (and drag) Sarah Palin may still be a heroine to many numskull conservative Americans who think the world begins at the Golden Gate Bridge and ends at the Statue of Liberty, but she is parting ways with their favourite TV station after FOX News confirmed her that contract with the News Corp-owned channel was over and would not be renewed. The former Alaska governor and one-time running mate of 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain has seen a dip in her own personal political clout of late, having no power base which an elected office provides, though she is still popular with many right-wingers. Which is a bit like saying Jim Davidson is very popular with ... yeah, right-wingers. Sorry, that similae didn't really work. Anyway, Palin's media visibility has now taken a blow with the loss of her FOX contract, which had run out this month. It was not immediately clear if the decision was ultimately FOX's or Palin's, but executives at the channel claimed that they wished her well. 'We have thoroughly enjoyed our association with Governor Palin. We wish her the best in her future endeavors,' said Bill Shine, FOX News' executive vice-president of programming in a statement. The news was first broken by the conservative-leaning website Real Clear Politics which reported that Palin was offered a contract renewal but declined to take it. Palin had been a regular guest on FOX for the past three years, joining a coterie of other Republican stars on the channel and usually spouting a load of sick, agenda-based drivel that evaporated on contact with the ear. She had been such a valuable presence on the channel that FOX even built her a small studio at her house in Wasilla so that she could appear live on programmes from her home. On her Facebook page, Palin, who is an avid user of social media to release statements and opinions, did not address the issue. Instead she had posted a link to a FOX story about US soldiers being asked to take down a cross from an army chapel in Afghanistan. In a typical Palin move, she described the act as 'nonsensical political correctness. What are we succumbing to, America?' she asked, before bewailing 'won't someone think of the children?' When McCain picked Palin as his vice presidential choice in 2008 the combative right-winger electrified the race and excited a hitherto moribund Republican base, whilst her utter cluelessness about foreign policy (and, indeed, most other things), was truly hilarious. She maintained that popularity despite McCain's loss that year and a series of spectacular gaffes which seemed to confirm critics' opinions that she was a political lightweight wholly unprepared for such a high-profile and high-octane political campaign. But since then she has resigned her post as governor of Alaska and relied on books and TV appearances, including a reality show, to spread her influence. Such as it is. That has opened up a rift with the party's leaders and cast her increasingly as an outsider. Last year Palin did not speak at the Republican party's national convention in Tampa that nominated Mitt Romney for the presidency. The move also comes as FOX News, which remains a highly successful and profitable media operation in America, adjusts to the prospect of a second term for President Barack Obama. It recently hired far-left former congressman Dennis Kucinich as a contributor, and has also created headlines by cutting back the airtime of Republican commentators Karl Rove and Dick Morris after the pair made high-profile - and spectacularly wrong - calls about the certainty of a Romney election victory.

What happens when you give an Olympic ski racer, an Olympic skeleton champion and a former professional snowboarder a shove at the top of a bobsleigh track? Sore bums, shredded nerves and bruised egos, as Ski Sunday discovered when it set its presenters the terrifying challenge for the current season of BBC2's winter sports magazine. Regular front men Graham Bell, who represented Great Britain at five Winter Olympics and Ed Leigh, who plied his trade as a snowboarder for five years, met up with Amy Williams at the Olympic bobsleigh track in St Moritz in Switzerland earlier this month. Williams, who won gold in skeleton at the 2010 winter games but retired from the sport last year, appears as a guest presenter during the series. 'Amy had never done bobsleighing before and, surprisingly, was very nervous,' Leigh told Ariel. 'It was so alien to her.' Where skeleton is face-first tobogganing down ice tracks at breakneck speeds, bobsleighing is done in a seated position. 'I've done skeleton before,' says Leigh. 'It's a lie-down sledge, with a low centre of gravity, and it feels like it fits in the track. The bobsleigh weighs so much more and doesn't feel like it fits in the track. My head was just two or three inches from the wall.' The trio was first taken down the course together in a taxi bob, with an experienced driver. Bell - the biggest of the three - was positioned behind the driver, Leigh behind him and Williams in the brake position. 'Amy was the fourth man, because of her experience,' explains Leigh. 'You experience the most g-force the further back in the sled you go.' So where Bell reached the bottom with a whoop and a 'that was good fun', Williams, who already suffers from a bad back, was less enthusiastic. 'She is the slightest of the three and yet was exposed to the most g-force - around five times her body weight,' says a sympathetic Leigh. 'She couldn't lift her head and went down with her head between her knees.' This was the warm-up. After a five-minute brief, the presenters were put in mono bobs and invited to descend alone from three quarters of the way up. 'I couldn't believe they'd left us in control that soon,' admits Leigh. 'We were told that the sledge knows the way. You steer via two handles at the front, but steering is very delicate - if you oversteer you roll the bob.' They travelled at speeds of around one hundred and fifteen kilometres an hour. 'Graham bumped into the walls all the way down. I had a go at steering out of turns, but then decided to let the sled take over,' says Leigh, who clocked the fastest time. 'I'm not massively competitive, unless it's against Graham. He had the weight advantage so it must have been down to my superior skill.' He praises the show's newcomer Williams, who also attempted speed skating and learnt to ski for the show. 'Graham took her up the hill and within two hours she'd gone from total beginner to doing parallel turns,' he marvels. 'It was one of the most impressive things I've seen. She's done such a good job on the programme - I think she'll be back next year.' Meanwhile, he has mixed feelings about the bob. 'It was like being shot out of a really long cannon,' Leigh reflects. 'There was disbelief that anyone would let you go that fast in that dangerous a piece of equipment on your own at the first attempt. At the same time, it was the most exhilarating thing I've ever done.'

A couple have resigned from their jobs at an Aberdeen-based oil company after an intimate e-mail exchange was accidentally forwarded to all staff. Integrated Subsea Services receptionist Melanie Anderson had been e-mailing her fiancé Eric Knisz when she sent a short note to colleagues to inform them that the sandwich van had arrived, the Daily Torygraph reports. However, the messages she had previously exchanged with Knisz, which made explicit reference to their sex life, were also forwarded to the office. The e-mail chain quickly went viral, leading to a series of jokes posted on Twitter. Integrated Subsea Services human resources director Bruce Webster referred to the incident as 'a silly mistake' and said that the pair were 'absolutely mortified. While the couple involved made a silly mistake, they did not do anything malicious or unlawful and have therefore not been disciplined. Regrettably they have chosen to resign,' he explained. Webster added: 'We are, however, dealing seriously with the issue of the e-mail going outwith our organisation and reinforcing our policies in relation to this.'

An eleven-year-old schoolboy is in big trouble after faking his own kidnapping to avoid a parents' evening. The son of a Spanish police officer lives in Xinzo de Limia and sparked a nationwide search with the hoax. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that the unnamed boy texted his father to claim that he had been snatched off the street while putting out rubbish, and later phoned to say he was locked in the boot of a blue Seat car. The father alerted his commanders, and roadblocks were set up around the province. A nationwide alert was also released, police in neighbouring Portugal were informed, and local newspapers posted notices on their websites. Two hours later, the father noticed keys to a spare flat owned by the family were missing. The boy was then discovered hiding there, and explained that he had been scared by the prospect of his parents meeting with his teachers and discovering his poor performance in school. The Voz de Galicia newspaper said: 'The child's poor school scores in recent weeks appear to explain a form of behaviour that no one in Xinzo could understand. He and his parents were due to meet his class tutor that afternoon.'

On Sunday evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping popped up to the very excellent Star and Shadow Cinema in Byker for their showing of Pip Piper's extraordinary documentary about the death of the record outlet, Last Shop Standing. Thanks, wholly, to his good mate Geoff Bell who happened to have a spare ticket. I like it when that happens.
Which brings us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Here's The Clash.