Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Don't Even Know What I'm Singing About

Teams of comedians are to take part in a special edition of BBC1's baffling popular day time quiz Celebrity Pointless for charriddee. Among them are Ben Miller – host Alexander Armstrong's long-time comic partner – who will be paired with Red Dwarf star and his own Death In Paradise cast-mate Danny John-Jules for the test of obscure knowledge. The other comics taking part are reported to be Ed Byrne with Shappi Khorsandi, Paul Whitehouse with his writing partner Charlie Higson and Andi Osho with David Schneider. The Comic Relief special has been elevated to a prime-time slot, and will be broadcast at 6pm on Saturday 2 March. All the cash won will go to a good cause.

Speaking of Death in Paradise as mentioned in the last blog update, the popular Caribbean crime drama held solid against ITV's Champions League coverage on Tuesday night, overnight figures show. The BBC1 drama's penultimate episode of its second series pulled in a strong 6.1 million - only one hundred thousand punters less than the previous week when it faced a less popular football tie. Recommissioned earlier this month, the eight-episode second run of Death In Paradise has achieved record-breaking ratings this year. Meanwhile, ITV's coverage of The Arse's 3-1 hiding by yer actual Bayern Munich averaged 4.9m between 7.30pm and 10pm, peaking with just over six million at 9pm at more or less the very moment that Death In Paradise came on air. On BBC2, Alex Polizzi: The Fixer continued with a decent 2.28m from 8pm, then the audience dipped slightly for docusoap The Railway which attracted 1.79m an hour later. Channel Four's Fried Chicken Shop was watched by 1.72m in the 9pm slot. Supersize v Superskinny maintained a steady 1.53m at 8pm. BBC3 beat Channel Five in the 9pm slot as Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents had an audience of nine hundred and twenty seven thousand punters compared to eight hundred and eighty one thousand viewers for CSI. Brain Hospital: Saving Lives was Five's most-watched show with nine hundred and eighty one thousand viewers in the 10pm slot, outperforming struggling Channel Four drama Utopia, which had a mere five hundred and thirty thousand, but losing out to Sarah Millican's BBC2 chat show with its audience of 1.49m. Overall, BBC1 dominated primetime with 23.9 per cent of the audience share, ahead of ITV's 19.1 per cent.
David Tennant and Olivia Colman's highly-anticipated new drama series Broadchurch will premiere next month, ITV has confirmed. Broadchurch, which also features Arthur Darvill, Vicky McClure, Pauline Quirke, David Bradley and Will Mellor is a powerful new series about the sudden and tragic death of Danny, an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a small coastal community in Dorset. It will start on Monday 4 March. Here's the trailer. Looks rather good.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is currently reading Danny Baker's excellent autobiography Going To Sea In A Sieve . If you haven't really read it, dear blog reader, then it's thoroughly recommended. Some of the stories - well, indeed, many of the stories - will be familiar if you're a regular listener to Danny's wonderful Saturday morning 5Live radio show but, nevertheless, the cunning wit and sense of sheer energy that leaps off the page will leave you breathless. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is currently up to about 1974, Dan has left school, is working in a record shop in Soho, hanging out with Marc Bolan and Elton John and convincing all of his girlfriends that he's David Essex's brother! Seriously, if you've got a tenner spare, buy a copy. If you haven't, go to your local library (if it hasn't been closed down due to funding cuts, that is) and borrow it. You won't regret it.

And, speaking of 'funny stuff,' because a piece on this blog earlier this week listing some of what yer actual Keith Telly Topping considers to be the funniest comedy clips on The Interweb proved to be so popular with dear blog readers, here's a further selection. Firstly The Big Yen and a suggestion for the new national anthem
Secondly, the tenner-stuck-under-a-car-wheel sketch from Dave Allen at Large.
Then there's Pete and Dud's finest five minutes from Not Only ... But Also.
Then, we've got Hugh and Stephen - when they, and indeed the world, were very very very young - and the magnificent Peter and Jaaaaahn and the best Goddamn Health Club in Uttoxeter.
And, finally yer actual Eddie Izzard's strange fascination with the name Jeff.
Right, that's enough laughter for one day, settle down, here comes the serious stuff.
A former senior Metropolitan police officer - with no agenda whatsoever, clearly - has warned that Scotland Yard's investigation into police and public officials leaking stories to newspapers, combined with calls for tougher regulation of the press is creating a 'climate of fear' which could stop injustices being exposed. Good. This blogger sincerely hopes they're all sweating buckets if they've done any such thing which, let's remember before we start getting too sympathetic, is illegal. Every police officer, just as every civil servant, signs a bit of paper when they start the job which says they will not reveal classified information to anyone - it's called The Official Secrets Act (1906) and if you break it, you lose you job and, likely, go to pris. That's the way it is. if you don't like it, don't join to the fuzz. Kevin Hurley, a former detective chief superintendent, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday morning that he feared 'genuine whistleblowers' in the police and other areas of the public sector such as the NHS could now be 'too scared' to go to the media for fear of arrest. Today's report followed up on last week's announcement by Scotland Yard that they had detained a senior police officer for allegedly leaking information to a journalist from News International, saying his arrest did not involve any allegation that he received money for his leakage. That arrest - of chief superintendent Andy Rowell, the borough commander in Ealing - has, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, 'raised concerns' that the Met's Operation Elveden inquiry into alleged illegal payments by journalists to public officials has now been widened to include any instance of police officers talking to the press. Not 'concerns' by anybody whose concern actually matters, you understand. Hurley told Today: 'How did we find out about the MPs' expenses and fiddling going on there? How did we find out about military kit not being up to scratch for Iraq and Afghanistan? How did find out patient care and the NHS failings? The media find out about [scandals] very often because public officials come forward and tell them about it because they don't have confidence in their own organisations.' He claimed that he was concerned a 'culture' was being created across the public sector where people are afraid to talk to the media. 'We are all going to be less safe for it. We have to be careful what we wish for when we talk about press regulation and press control,' Hurley added. 'We are a liberal democracy and the press should be able to build relations and people should be able to speak to the press and expose wrong doing if they see it.' Yes, they should. So long as it is not illegal. Hurley, who was recently elected Surrey police and crime commissioner, told the Gruniad that the recent arrest of an officer for allegedly leaking information to the press even though no money had allegedly been involved combined with an alleged drive to allegedly tighten up press regulation could be dangerous for democracy. Allegedly. 'There is another message that may being transmitted as a result of the Elveden inquiry which may be an unforeseen or unfortunate consequence that will cause people in the public sector to ask whether or not they dare speak to a journalist about wrongdoing lest they are arrested,' he said. Hurley added as a result there was a danger that 'atrocious examples of wrongdoing' would remain secret. Scotland Yard has arrested one hundred and seven people, including fifty seven journalists, since the phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011, through interlinked investigations Operating Weeting (phone-hacking), Operation Elveden (payments to public officials) and Operation Tuleta (criminal breaches of privacy and other nefarious skulduggery) and Operation Kalmyk (computer hacking). Of the one hundred and seven arrested, seventy three remain on bail, which in some cases has lasted almost two years. Since Operation Elveden was launched in June 2011, sixty one people have been arrested, including twenty four current and former Sun journalists. On Tuesday the Crown Prosecution Service announced a former prison officer has been charged with misconduct in public office after allegedly receiving three thousand three hundred and fifty smackers from the Sun for information about 'a high-profile prisoner.'
An ex-policeman is reportedly being investigated over claims that he 'acted on behalf' of naughty old scallywag and terrible man Jimmy Savile before the TV presenter was interviewed by officers. The former police inspector is accused of contacting Surrey Police in 2009 during an inquiry into historical sex abuse allegations against Savile. He has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission by West Yorkshire Police. Savile allegedly abused hundreds of people during sixty years in showbusiness. In 2009, Savile was interviewed under caution by Surrey Police about alleged historic sexual offences involving teenage girls in the 1970s, but no further action was taken against him at that time. During the inquiry a police inspector from West Yorkshire reportedly contacted Surrey to say that he was 'known personally' to Savile and passed on the late presenter's phone number. 'During the police interview, Savile named an inspector and said police had been to his home for tea. The IPCC is examining whether the actions of the police inspector who contacted Surrey amounted to misconduct,' he said. 'Seven forces are also being asked to consider if any other officers should be investigated over the way they handled complaints against Jimmy Savile.' The other forces are Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley, Greater Manchester, the Metropolitan Police and Lancashire. The decision follows the IPCC's review of recently published reports - Operation Yewtree, a Scotland Yard inquiry established in the wake of the Savile scandal, the Crown Prosecution Service report by Alison Levitt QC and Operation Ornament by Surrey Police. Operation Ornament was an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by Savile on teenage girls in the late 1970s. The investigation began on 13 May 2007 and concluded on 30 October 2009 with no further action. In addition, the IPCC also reviewed information supplied by West Yorkshire Police, Sussex Police and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. The inspectorate is preparing a report for the home secretary on information known to the police and the response to historical allegations of criminal conduct in relation to Savile. IPCC commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: 'Having had the opportunity to assess all the information that is available to us, I directed West Yorkshire Police to record and refer the conduct of a former inspector. Furthermore, I believe that all the forces that may have had intelligence concerning the late Jimmy Savile should now go back and consider all the relevant information and materials they possess that may highlight any recordable conduct issues for the IPCC to assess.' Mark Burns-Williamson, police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire, welcomed the IPCC's involvement. 'It is vitally important that the people of West Yorkshire and elsewhere understand what happened and the role that the police played during the many years that Savile lived in West Yorkshire and committed such shocking crimes here and throughout the UK,' he said.

ITV's expose of the Savile fiasco has been named 'scoop of the year' at the Royal Television Society's Journalism Awards. The channel's coverage of the story also earned it the home news coverage and home current affairs prizes. ITV broke the story after the BBC's Newsnight dropped its investigation, leading to a bitter and calamitous fallout at the BBC. The BBC themselves won six awards from the RTS, as did Channel Four News, which won news programme of the year. In that category, it beat rival evening bulletins the BBC News at Ten and ITV News at Ten. Channel Four News host Jon Snow was named national presenter of the year, beating the BBC's Jon Sopel and Sky's Jeremy Thompson. Channel Four's Alex Thomson won television journalist of the year. BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was named specialist journalist of the year, while the corporation's coverage of the Syrian uprising earned the international news coverage award. CNN International beat both BBC News Channel and Sky News to the title of news channel of the year. Newsnight won news programme of the year last year, but it was not nominated this time.

The jury trying Chris Huhne's former wife Vicky Pryce has spectacularly failed to reach a verdict on a charge relating to the speeding points she took for the ex-minister ten years ago. Pryce, of Clapham, faces a retrial before a new jury starting on Monday. She denied perverting the course of justice, claiming that Huhne, who pleaded guilty, had coerced her into doing the naughty deed in 2003. The judge said that some of the questions from the jury had shown a 'fundamental deficit in understanding' of its role. Certainly, none of them showed this sort of conviction. Assessing the questions he had been asked before discharging the Southwark Crown Court jury, Mr Justice Sweeney said: 'In thirty years of criminal trials I have never come across this at this stage, never.' Earlier this month, Huhne had admitted perverting the course of justice and resigned as Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire after almost ten years of denials. He and Pryce, an economist, were charged over an incident in March 2003 when his car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 between Stansted Airport, in Essex, and London. It is alleged that between 12 March and 21 May 2003, Pryce falsely informed police that she had been the driver of the car so that Huhne, then an MEP with hopes of becoming an MP, could avoid a driving ban. During her trial, Pryce accepted that she had taken Huhne's points, but she adopted a defence of 'marital coercion,' claiming tha Huhne had made her sign a form he had already completed in her name. On Tuesday the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney told the court some of the questions being asked by the jury demonstrated a 'fundamental deficit in understanding' of the trial process and its role. It had asked ten questions about jurors' basic duties after fourteen hours of deliberations and lengthy advice from the judge about how to assess the evidence. The questions included seeking a definition of reaching a verdict 'beyond reasonable doubt' - something the judge had given them in writing. Mr Justice Sweeney said: 'A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable. These are ordinary English words that the law doesn't allow me to help you with beyond the written directions that I have already given.' In another question, the jury asked if one of them could come to a verdict based on reasons that were not presented in court or supported by the evidence. A third question asked about Pryce's religious convictions, even though this was not a matter in the trial. On Wednesday, Mr Justice Sweeney gave them a majority direction, saying that he would accept a verdict on which at least ten of the twelve jurors agreed. But later he received a note from them saying it was 'highly unlikely' they would be able to reach a majority verdict. He then told the jury: 'Against the background of the length of time that you have been in retirement already, I have decided therefore, and it is my decision one way or the other, that I must discharge you from any further deliberations.' BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said that it was unusual for a jury to ask so many questions. He suspected that the sentencing of Huhne would 'probably have to wait until after the retrial.' Huhne could face a lengthy prison sentence. A by-election is being held in Eastleigh on 28 February to find a replacement for Huhne.

Media group STV has increased its profits by three per cent and cut its debt and said it has 'moved on' from its childish dispute with ITV. The company made pre-tax profits of £14.4m in 2012, while debt fell by seventeen per cent to £45.3m. STV chief executive Rob Woodward said that the figures confirmed 'the continued positive momentum of the business.' However, advertising revenue is expected to be down in Scotland for the first three months of 2013. Woodward said there were two different trends in advertising. He added: 'In the UK market it looks reasonably positive - we're likely to be up seven per cent in the first quarter of 2013. In the Scottish market we're likely to be down about sixteen per cent in the same period which just shows the volatility in the local market, but if you put those two together we're expecting about three per cent growth in the first quarter.' The broadcaster also confirmed it had won a commission of a third series of Celebrity Antiques Road Trip for the BBC. It follows the announcement last week that it had secured a commission for celebrity quiz show Catchphrase. At the beginning of this year, STV won local TV licences to provide evening broadcasting for Edinburgh and Glasgow. It was initially thought the services would be up and running by the end of this year, but the company has now said they should start by about February 2014. Woodward said that the group had 'put its differences with ITV behind it.' It had led to the Scottish broadcaster dropping several ITV drama series, including episodes of Midsomer Murders and the first series of Downton Abbey. Woodward added: 'We've both moved on, we've had our differences, we've settled our differences and now we're both working hard together to build value in both our companies.'

An advertisement for penis-enhancement treatment has been banned after a man was left feeling 'inadequate' (and, indeed, small) by being bombarded with the material, reports the Daily Torygraph. One of the ads told him: 'Any partner you have is simply turned off by your small size and the chances of attracting someone else are zero – you're just too scared to reveal what little you have.' The man, who had not even requested the mailshots, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA ruled that 'the personal nature of the suggestions about the recipient, particularly when coupled with the more general graphic and sexually explicit sexual references, were likely to cause serious offence,' and banned Life Healthcare from sending him the ads.

The cult US comedy Parks and Recreation will finally arrive on UK TV next month. The show's first season will begin on BBC4 on Wednesday 6 March t 10pm. The broadcaster will launch the show with a double bill of episodes.

The actress and charity campaigner Elspet Gray, who appeared in TV shows including Catweazle and The Black Adder, has died aged eighty three, a spokeswoman for Mencap has confirmed. Elspet appeared in numerous shows including Fawlty Towers, Solo, Doctor Who and Tenko as well as films including Four Weddings And A Funeral. In more recent years she appeared in dramas such as Poirot, Casualty, Inspector Morse and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. She was formally known as Lady Rix after her husband Brian was made a life peer. The birth of their daughter, Shelley, who had Down's Syndrome, in 1951 led the couple into charity work, with Lord Rix becoming chairman of the learning disability charity Mencap. Shelley died in 2005. Mencap's chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: 'It is so sad to hear of Lady Rix's death. Lord and Lady Rix made a formidable team in their determination to change the lives of people with learning disabilities. She was, in her own way, just as involved with Mencap and the wider issues of learning disability as Brian and was a powerful advocate and campaigner. Elspet made a real difference, in a world where few people really do. We will work hard to ensure that her legacy of campaigning and care will continue. Our thoughts go out to Lord Rix and the rest of the family at this very difficult time.' She served on the Council of the Actors' Charitable Trust for many years, particularly giving her time to the management committee of the actors' care home, Denville Hall. Elspet, who was born in Inverness in 1929 and grew up in India, is survived by her husband, two sons - Jamie and Jonathan - a daughter -Louisa - and grandchildren.

Kevin Ayers, the founding member of 1960s psychedelic group Soft Machine, has died aged sixty nine. A pioneer of the genre, he subsequently worked with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Nico and Robert Wyatt during his career. Bernard MacMahon, director of his last UK label Lo-Max Records, confirmed to the BBC that Kevin died in his sleep at his home in Montolieu, France. 'He was the moving embodiment of that sixties ideal of creativity, freedom of speech and free love,' MacMahon said. The late John Peel wrote in his autobiography that Ayers's talent was 'so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.' Kevin was born in Kent in 1944 the son of the BBC producer Rowan Ayers. Following his parents' split and his mother's subsequent marriage to a British civil servant, Kevin spent most of his childhood in Malaysia. The tropical atmosphere and relaxed lifestyle had an impact on him, and it has often been noted that one of the more frustrating (albeit, in many ways endearing) aspects of Kevin's career was that every time he seemed to be on the verge of major success, he would often take off for some sunny spot where good wine and food were to be found. Kevin returned to England at the age of twelve, and in his early college years took up with the burgeoning musicians' scene in the Canterbury area. He was quickly drafted into The Wilde Flowers, which featured Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper, as well as future members of Caravan. Kevin stated in interviews that the primary reason he was asked to join was that he probably had the longest hair. However, this prompted him to start writing songs. The Wilde Flowers morphed into Soft Machine with the addition of keyboardist Mike Ratledge and guitarist Daevid Allen. Kevin played bass (and later guitar following Allen's departure) and shared vocals with the drummer, Wyatt. The contrast between Kevin's rich baritone and Robert's reedy tenor, plus the freewheeling mixture of rock and jazz influences, made for a memorable sound. The band often shared stages (particularly at the UFO Club) with Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd. Soft Machine released their first single 'Love Makes Sweet Music' in February 1967, making it one of the first recordings from the new British psychedelic movement. Their eponymous début LP, was recorded in the USA for ABC/Probe and released in 1968. After a tour of the United States opening for Jimi Hendrix, a weary Kevin sold his Fender Jazz bass to Noel Redding and retreated to Ibiza with Daevid Allen to recuperate. While there, Kevin went on a songwriting binge which resulted in the songs that would make up his first solo LP, Joy of a Toy. One of the first releases on the fledgling Harvest label, Joy of a Toy established Kevin as a unique talent with music that varied from the circus march of the title song to the pastoral 'Girl on a Swing', and the ominous 'Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong', based on a Malaysian folksong. Kevin's former colleagues from Soft Machine backed him. One product of the sessions was the single, 'Religious Experience (Singing a Song in the Morning)', early recordings of which featured Syd Barrett on guitar and backing vocals. A second LP, Shooting at the Moon, soon followed. For this, Kevin assembled a band which he called The Whole World, including Mike Oldfield on bass, avant-garde composer David Bedford on keyboards and saxophonist, Lol Coxhill. Again Kevin came up with a batch of engaging songs interspersed with avant-garde instrumentals. The Whole World broke up after a short tour, though most of the musicians guested on Ayers' next LP, Whatevershebringswesing, which is regarded by many fans as one of his best, featuring the mellifluous eight-minute title song that would became Kevin's signature sound. In June 1974, Kevin headlined a heavily publicised concert at The Rainbow, accompanied by John Cale, Nico, Brian Eno and Mike Oldfield. The performance was released as a live LP by Island Records just weeks. Tensions were somewhat fraught at the event as the night before the gig Cale had reportedly caught Kevin sleeping with his wife prompting him to write the bile-soaked 'Guts' which would appear on Cale's 1975 LP Slow Dazzle. The late 1970s and 1980s saw Kevin in a self-imposed exile in warmer climes, a fugitive from changing musical fashions, and a hostage to a variety of chemical addictions. 1983's Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain was, perhaps, a low-point for Kevin. He was quoted in a 1992 Radio 1 interview as saying that he had 'virtually no recollection of making those records.' The road back was marked with 1988's prophetically titled Falling Up, which received his first unanimously positive press notices in many years. In the late 1990s, Kevin was living in the South of France when he met the American artist Timothy Shepard. The two became friends leading to a collaboration on 2007's well-regarded The Unfairground which also featured contributions from members of Ladybug Transistor, Teenage Fanclub, Neutral Milk Hotel, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Roxy Music. Kevin stated in a 2007 Sunday Times interview that it is 'very much a reflective album: lost love, lost feelings, lost sensibilities. I had to include some of my blood, sweat and tears – if you are going to be honest, it can't be avoided.'

Which brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, of course, it's this.