Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week Nine: To Be In England In The Summer Time With My Love, Close To The Edge

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has but one thing to say about the climax to the second of Saturday night's two episodes of the superb Spiral - BBC4 - dear blog reader. Which is, basically: Tintin! Nooooooooooooooooooo! Lieutenant Fromentin is very definitely down, if not necessarily out, caught by a stray bullet in a shoot-out with a pair of trigger-happy Dutch jewel thieves. The good news is he was, at least, seen to be wearing a bulletproof vest, which presumably means he'll be all right. The bad news, however, is that there was a hell of a lot of blood on the floor, which rather suggests that he might, you know, not be all right. Laure's reaction at the end suggests this may not end well. For anyone. Least of all poor old Tintin himself. Will Laure get the blame for the fiasco if it doesn't? Since she's already got a pants down hiding for something that, very definitely, wasn't her fault last week, that's probably a yes. Is her slimy new boss Herville a misogynist, or using the old divide and conquer method, muses Laure at one point? It's possible that he's both, of course. He's certainly been like a kind of anti-Tears For Fears in sowing the seeds of discontent between Gilou and Laure – seeds which Capitaine Berthaud seems determined to cultivate despite Gilou's loyal defence of his boss. It was, however, impossible not to have a brief, unfair smirk at Herville throwing about a reference to 'les hormones.' What a total git! Presumably Tintin's shooting will also have an impact here, either pushing Laure and Escoffier together or tearing their friendship and camaraderie apart completely. Gilou could, possibly, get used to being 'someone special' to Herville (we all like a bit of ego stroking every now and then), not least while Amina is busy praising him so determinedly. That, despite Gilou using a numskull criminal with an electronic tag to illegally plant a tracker on a suspect's car. And, of course, having got into bed with the dodgy as hell Sarahouis, who are now going to expect Gilou to make good on his end of the deal. Which, it would seem from a conversation in one of last week's episodes, is going to be rather difficult. Elsewhere, les blunders were also very much in evidence and from several different angles this week. Let's face it Spiral wouldn't be Spiral without 'em, would it. ('So, you have a man who hopefully won't change his jacket. What is this, The Keystone Cops?') Laure and her gang managed to start a entire bloody riot outside the detention centre by pursuing Sophie through a crowd of motley anarchist scum looking for a fight with anyone in authority. Then there was their losing Riffault with a rucksack full of incriminating evidence and losing Sophie and Riffault as they busted out of Police HQ and, of course, stomping all over counterterrorism's ongoing operation. Though the spooks seemingly knew nothing about the incriminating lock-up, or indeed the target for the bombing, so they can't have been all that Le James Bond. On the upside, Amina didn't come face-to-face with Riffault and that very nasty-looking iron crow bar which, for a few seconds, seemed destined to be embedded in her skull. And we have the first bit of evidence concerning the late and crispy Erkan. He drank his last café at Café Soliman, where Tintin and Amina spy Umit Çetin, a known Kurdish people smuggler. Then, there's the anarchists (or 'our gang of leftist toerags,' as Gilou, rather accurately, describes them). One isn't sure that Thomas's psycho-nutter status could be more thoroughly underlined, even with his own people – although just to make sure we all got the message, he greeted Joséphine naked and later launched himself at a departing Christophe, who had selflessly covered for the gang to the police, with some gusto and loads of stamping. Could a terrorist cell this dysfunctional, and led by some a complete fruitcake, manage to stage the fire at the Prefécture, not least with Patty Hearst-clone Sophie acting in such a ludicrously suspicious manner. And, just as a matter of pure disinterest shouldn't there be some back-ups for all these destroyed files somewhere? If only for forgetful civil servants to leave on trains or in pubs. Or, is it only in Britain where that happens? I also loved the conceit of these violent anarchists all lining up politely to buy their Metro tickets for the riot. With the squat presumably gone, and Christophe unlikely to align himself with breakaway cell, Thomas, Sophie and their mostly silent friends are, one would imagine, likely to step things up a level. Will Laure and her team be allowed to get involved now that counterterrorism is on the case? Do bears shit in the woods?

Meanwhile, both Pierre and Joséphine got the opportunity to say no to respective clients on matters of yer actual principle. Yes, Joséphine. I know, this blogger had difficultly believing that bit of the plot too. Although, to be fair, Karlsson finds herself persuaded to break the rules for honourable reasons, for once. These were an interesting two episodes for the partners and – if Joséphine's sister wasn't jumping the gun – potential engaged couple. Karlsson also got the best line in either episode: 'I have a sister, a family even!' One imagines much of the audience had simply presumed Joséphine had neither - she seems to be an almost textbook example of a spoiled only child! In the event, we discover that her spiky worldview has a different, and far more sinister cause. Of course, there are viewers who find the way the barrister is portrayed - as a super-sexy, evil bitch queen - a bit over-the-top. Personally, I love the way the production sent the whole thing up by having her turn up to her sister's wedding basically in exactly that sort of Cruella Deville-style costume with evil earrings to match. But this week we saw a bit more of her: a few extra glimpses of her being thrown by situations and then regaining her hardened exterior; that argument with her estranged father, a judge, over his violent treatment of her mother and then that urgent, tense, very unerotic sexual encounter with Pierre afterwards. This blogger had always really enjoyed Audrey Fleurot's deliciously nuanced performance, and I love seeing more of her character's back-story. However, I'm not sure that I want to see Joséphine Karlsson 'healed' by the love of a good man and, as a consequence, made into a nicer woman. She's fine as the seriously fucked-up über-bitch she is, thank you very much. 'I don't forget a thing. And I don't forgive, either. Everyday you're alive makes me sick,' she tells the father she hates before asking her step-mother, 'Madam? Does he beat you too? I defend battered women, you know.' Wow. Powerful stuff. Indeed, it's possible that more of Joséphine is rubbing off on Pierre than the other way around. Laure notes, following Clément's really stunning performance before that weasel Wagner in getting her off the hook for shooting Ronaldo: 'You're starting to think like her.' Is it really so wrong that one rather hopes that continues? I love the way that Laure deliberately avoids answering his question about what really happened in the incident even though he assures her that it doesn't matter to him. 'You used to see our side. And you didn't ask stupid questions!' It makes a nice change to see a smile on her face, though. Earlier, when things were at their bleakest, Vincent asks Laure to move in with him: 'This would be a good time to look delighted. Even a polite smile would be nice!' Judge Roban's return to the series after a two episode break gave the whole double-bill yet another huge lift. It's been observed, and it bears repeating, the way in which the wonderful Philippe Duclos uses his thin, wiry physique as François Roban is quite brilliant: long bony fingers gently prising the truth from those who come before him, sharp features twitching at a half-truth like Arsene Wenger wincing as another defensive calamity sees The Arse out of yet another competition. His slight frame belies the heavyweight intellect and nose for a fight. Of course, within a few minutes of being back in the office he's both outwitted and pissed-off his bosses and their powerful friends. The first of which concerns Raulic, a burglar accused of three rapes and currently on hunger strike. Despite his brilliantly cutting line: 'Tell him to eat. It's irritating when rapists play the martyr card,' Roban has his doubts. Suspiciously, there are large holes in the case file against Raulic – an unrecorded alibi appears to hold up, for instance – and one suspects (as with series three) we will find political reasons behind Raulic's possible framing. Certainly, if there's anything to uncover Roban will unearth it. Although, the scene with one of the rape victims does seem to balance his zest of justice, if only momentarily.

Anyway, dear blog reader, here's yer next batch of Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 23 February
Zoe returns from sick leave and ends up in a confrontation with Ash over his decision to keep the overstretched ED open during the influenza crisis in the latest episode of Casualty - 8:40 BBC1. Will she see him as too reckless to offer a permanent position? Meanwhile, Jeff must persuade a man to act in his son's best interests, and Fletch is determined to help an elderly gentleman in love. Sunetra Sarker, Patrick Robinson and Alex Walkinshaw star.

Although it feels like you’re only ever five minutes away from an Ant and/or Dec show on TV, it's nearly four years since their massively successful 'grab the ads' series Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway - 7:00 ITV - was last on. Of course, in the interim the cheeky chappies doon the Bigg Market have kept themselves busy with Britain's Got Toilets, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), and two massive - and very satisfying - flops, Push The Button and Red Or Black? But, Saturday Takeaway remains their most watchable conceit. The entertainment format returns for the first time since 2009, featuring undercover pranks, sketches, famous guests and competitions. Robbie Williams takes part in an end-of-show performance and Danny DeVito steps into the voice-over booth in the first episode. The Geordie duo (Ant and/or Dec this is, not Robbie Williams and Danny DeVito) take on their most terrifying challenge to date, are reunited with Little Ant and/or Dec, and spring surprises on viewers, who have the chance to win a holiday. Plus, as usual, one lucky member of the audience will be given the opportunity to play for the contents of a commercial break in Win The Ads.
In the first of tonight's two episodes of Spiral - 9:00 BBC4 - the threads of the French legal system continue to unwind as investigating magistrate François Roban makes a cause célèbre of the rape case he's (re)investigating. He orders the release of the man he is convinced is innocent of a series of sex attacks, a petty burglar whom he believes has been set up by prosecutors. But Roban's actions come back to haunt him in the worst possible way. The autopsy of the crsipy Kurd reveals a hidden clue and leads slimy odious sexist git Herville to upgrade the case to the highest priority. And, shout angrily at Laure a lot. So, no change there, then. Joséphine receives a visit from the Special Branch, who attempt to blackmail her into giving them information. Heh. Counterterrorism think they can mess with Joséphine Karlsson. Stick to al-Qaeda guys, they're novices compared to her. The cops, led by perpetually furious Laure Berthaud, are chasing gun-runners, while Pierre and Joséphine become involved with some unpleasant people on both sides of the law. In the night's second episode, at a police meeting called when a youth is shot dead in a drive-by killing, Herville boasts that his unit is already investigating a gun-running case and will have arrests within twenty four hours, while Clément is called to a judicial review with Jorkal. Elsewhere, Joséphine visits Riffaut's new hideout and overhears the gang planning a kidnapping.

Sunday 24 February
Tony Robinson and the team search for the remains of a Norman castle in County Down, one of Northern Ireland's most picturesque counties, exploring a territory established by renegade knight John de Courcy in the Twelfth Century against the orders of King John in Time Team - 4:20 Channel 4. The castle was later rebuilt, and much of its replacement is still standing, but the experts are convinced that some of what remains dates from de Courcy's time - and discover that it may go back even further.

Yer actual Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond his very self try to solve the problems increasingly complex cars pose to an ageing population, designing 'a vehicle for elderly people' and putting it to the test in Dorset with help from three pensioners in Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2. What could possibly go wrong? Meanwhile, James May gets acquainted with the latest Range Rover in London before pitting the luxurious off-roader against an autonomous military machine in Nevada. Full-of-his-own importance alleged comedian and mouth on leg Stewart Lee tackles the test track as this week's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Actually, he doesn't, that's a complete lie, James McAvoy does. But, it would've been a reet good laugh if he had.

'We return to our past,' says implacable Detective Inspector Edmund Reid as he and his loyal sidekick Sergeant Drake dig out their old Jack the Ripper files in the final episode of Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1. There's been more ghastly doings, namely yet another Ripper-type murder on Whitechapel and the sordid ex-Pinkerton man and Reid's friend Captain Jackson appears to be in the frame for the grisly deed. Though we, of course, know that he never done it. With Inspector Abberline convinced that Jackson is the Ripper, the captain is in custody and facing the rope for his saucy ways. However, the suspected kidnapping of Rose offers Reid the chance to assemble his men and crack the slavery ring they find operating in their midst. But, as the clues accumulate, the inspector is gripped by a growing conviction that the man he is hunting may have personal knowledge of Jackson's terrible secret. Though it's notionally a crime drama, Ripper Street is really an old-fashioned revenge western, where an honest lawman and his loyal men try to establish law and order in a rough tough frontier town full of liars, thieves and murdering backshooting scum. That's, perhaps, why it's found an audience. Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jermone Flynn and Adam Rothenberg. Last in the current series but, fret ye not dear blog reader, it's been recommissioned.

Each week yer actual Brian Cox has pursued his argument across a different part of the world in Wonders of Life - 9:00 BBC2 - and, for his finale, the backdrop is Mexico. Except it's more than a backdrop because Foxy Coxy adapts his story – about what ingredients make our world the only habitable planet we know of – to fit the places he visits. The connections sometimes feel stretched (it's, basically, James Burke's Connections for the Twenty First Century, isn't it?) but the exotic locations add a sense of poetry. And the millions of monarch butterflies at their breeding grounds (rapidly becoming a natural history staple) are always an amazing sight. Brian considers what it is about Earth that makes it a home for life and asks what ingredients were necessary to transform this once barren planet into the world as it is today. He reveals that a rare chain of events combined with the power of life itself have made it unique in the cosmos. Beautiful.

Monday 25 February
In the final episode of Penguins: Spy in the Huddle - 9:00 BBC1 - the emperor penguins are swamped by hungry imposters as they try to feed their chicks, the humboldts are left in their burrows as the adults head for a beach swarming with cormorants, and the rockhopper youngsters practise their jumping skills. Eventually, having grown up and become independent, all of the penguins leave for the sea, tackling the same hazards as their parents before them. Last week, we watched baby penguins, little more than tumbling bundles of fluff, take their first unsteady steps towards independent lives. Here we see them growing ever more confident as they begin to totter away from their parents. There is much to learn and the birds are becoming bolder. But the dangers are omnipresent, such as the hungry vampire bats which target the humboldts. Still, life has to be tackled head-on as we watch emperor chicks skate and rockhopper chicks perfect their crucial jumping skills. Penguin life proper starts at sea, and the chicks head out to the water. It will be many years before they return to breed. Former Doctor Who actor and national treasure David Tennant narrates.
You’d think that, growing up in a Michelin-starred household, Michel Roux Jr his very self would pick something geet posh and dead fancy – such as Chateaubriand or lobster thermidor – as his favourite childhood comfort food. Not even close. For Michel chooses his mum's shepherd's pie recipe as we discover in tonight's Food & Drink - 8:30 BBC2. Not only that, but he also uses tomato ketchup (or 'Tommy K', as wine expert Kate Goodman calls it) to perk it up. Meanwhile, William Sitwell argues that our obsession with foodie nostalgia is misplaced because contemporary factory-produced 'traditional' dishes – whether a Cornish pasty or a cupcake – never taste as good as you remember. However, Michel's final example of comfort food isn't a staple in British households: îles flottantes. Michel's sous chef and MasterChef: The Professionals colleague sour-faced Monica Galetti with all her finest scowlingness joins her boss and his friends to help him prepare his perfect comfort meal.
The delightful Janina Ramirez has her work cut out sustaining our interest for the final leg of the story in Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War - 9:00 BBC4. But, she manages it. Covering the period post-Agincourt, 1415 to 1453, she charts Henry V's progress across France, seizing provinces and eventually the capital, before his death from dysentery at thirty five. His pious young heir, Henry VI, would be happier building his chapel at King's College, Cambridge. Janina rattles through six hundred-year-old contracts, pores over stained glass and, just as the story threatens to flag, the crafty Dauphin produces his secret weapon, a figurehead sent by God – yer actual Joan of Arc her very self. OMD wrote a couple of songs about her. Last in this really fascinating, charming series. More from Janina please, BBC4, the camera loves her.
On a marginally related subject, around the start of The Hundred Years’ War which Janina has been educating us about for the last three weeks, Edward III's gunsmiths created a new weapon, an extraordinary nine-barrelled cannon. It was called, rather wonderfully, a ribauldequin and - in theory at least - it could lay waste to dozens of charging French knights with a single volley of lead shot. In Beat The Ancestors - 7:00 Channel Five - Coast's Dick Strawbridge challenges a team of engineers to re-create some of history's most impressive devices, using Twenty First-Century knowledge and techniques to improve them. The opening test is to build the medieval machine gun, which was one of the first multi-barrelled firearms and shot balls of white-hot lead that could pierce armour and chainmaille. At the end of three days, the fruit of the experts' labour is put through a series of exacting tests. Will they have been able to match their forefathers' skill?

It's a good night all round for Channel Five. Wor Robson Green returns to face more expert fishermen from around the world in Robson's Extreme Fishing Challenge - 9:00 Channel Five. His first task sees him visit Tasmania, where he goes up against a legendary islander in a hunt for the terrifying mako shark. He then challenges a fanatical angler to catch the elusive and curious-looking elephant fish, before embarking on a search for bream with a champion who currently holds eight titles. The host concludes his trip by taking on a man who can trace his ancestry back to Tasmania's first settlers, and they compete to see who can land the most brown trout. And, as usual, Robson will be pure dead affable and blokey in his Geordie way and will say things like 'whey, y'bugger!' and 'eeee, it's a whopper!' a lot.

Tuesday 26 February
In the final episode of Death In Paradise's second series - 9:00 BBC1 - when a shot is fired at a charity fundraiser, host Malcolm Powell is found dead in his study. The victim's Personal Assistant is certain that she knows who the naughty culprit is - a mystery man named Jack Roberts who had an appointment with her boss and was seen fleeing from the scene of the crime. Richard and his team find the suspect's abandoned car nearby but with no clues as to his whereabouts or any apparent motive for the killing. However, a background check on the dead man reveals that he and his wife defrauded investors out of millions of pounds back in England. The mystery-of-the-week in the final episode is, perhaps, a bit perfunctory because (as with the first season finale) the real meat of the story is in the last fifteen minutes and it has nothing to do with murder. After the puzzle is solved and Richard Poole assembles a clutch of British character actors in a single room (including Sean Pertwee, Julie Graham and Lucy Davis) to unmask the killer, the chief of police (Don Warrington) wants a word. The boss's presence in Honoré is seldom a good sign, although he brings mixed blessings when he springs a surprise on Richard (the terrific Ben Miller). The romantics among you will be reading the faces of Richard and Camille (Sara Martins) for signs of affection. Happily, Death In Paradise has, of course, been recommissioned so they'll be returning for a third series of this amiable, lightweight but rather fun detective drama.

The last series of CSI - 9:00 Channel Five - ended (as usual) with raging melodrama and a flurry of suspenseful cliffhangers including a very big one: DB Russell (the excellent Ted Danson) learning that his granddaughter had been kidnapped. Yes, the writers were clearly raising the emotional stakes, though Danson tries his best to keep it real. The abduction is tied up with dastardly undersheriff McKeen and his ring of corrupt cops, which means that Russell doesn't know who he can trust and starts going rogue, shouting at everyone even when they're trying to help. Meanwhile, Finn (Elisabeth Shue) is flirting with someone very dangerous and Nick (George Eads) is extremely drunk – has he really quit the gig? With Morgan's father also fighting for his life after the shooting in the previous episode, Russell leads the team on a mission to rescue his kidnapped granddaughter, the really annoying Kaitlyn. What is it about child actors in US drama that so sets the teeth on edge - thankfully, she's nowhere near as self-harm inducingly dreadful as the girl who plays Danno's daughter in Hawaii Five-0. The man who has engineered her disappearance, Jeffrey McKeen, keeps up the pressure from his prison cell, and the youngster's fate is ultimately decided when the CSIs are led to a remote home in the desert.

Paul Abbott's Shameless - 10:00 Channel Four - felt like a breath of fresh air when it first burst onto our screens in 2004, but as it shuffles up to the plate for a final hurrah, the rambunctious drama these days feels as stale as Frank Gallagher's rasping breath after a heavy night on the lash. Thus, the eleventh - and final - series of the popular comedy drama begins as the Maguires toast the expansion of their empire - Mimi has hijacked control of the local school via the PTA and Shane is setting up a new business venture. But just as things are going well, Jamie makes a shocking discovery and withdraws from the family firm. Meanwhile, Frank climbs the employment ladder as a caretaker, conveniently funding his latest leisure activity - a prostitute double act.

Wednesday 27 February
MasterChef: The Professionals - 9:00 BBC2 - features a look behind the scenes of the culinary challenge that invites experienced chefs to demonstrate they have the skill and ambition to reach Michelin-star standard. Judges Michel Roux Jr, Gregg Wallace and the terrifying Monica Galetti share their memories of the very best and - magnificently - worst dishes they have been presented with during the programme's five series, as well as revealing the best ways to make a good impression on the show. Well, cook nice grub I'd've said - or, is that too simple?

Lightfields - 9:00 ITV - is the sequel to the supernatural drama Marchlands, focusing on three families living in the same farmhouse in different decades and connected by the mysterious death of a young girl. The story opens in 1944 with the aftermath of a fire that devastates Lightfields' hay barn. In 1975, a woman is forced to confront repressed childhood memories of her time as an evacuee in the area, and in 2012 a couple who have moved into the property are haunted by a restless spirit. Starring Jill Halfpenny, Sam Hazeldine, Dakota Blue Richards, Lucy Cohu, Karla Crome, Danny Miller and Kris Marshall.

The murder of a stand-up comedian results in Booth taking to the stage to find the killer in Bones - 9:00 Sky Living. Meanwhile, Angela uncovers the identity of a covert, Banksy-style street artist, and lets admiration cloud her judgement as she tries to prevent the public from finding out who he is.
Alan Yentob talks to South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone about their satirical musical The Book of Mormon, which is a hit on Broadway and opened in London this week in the latest The Culture Show - 10:00 BBC2. Alan reflects on the duo's career and reveals how music has always played a crucial role in their creative output - from early student films through to Team America: World Police. He visits South Park Studios in Los Angeles, encounters Mormon missionaries in San Diego, and catches up with Matt and Trey in London as they oversee final rehearsals for the musical's West End run.

Thursday 28 February
The Sea King: Britain's Flying Past - 9:00 BBC2 - tells the history of the Sikorsky Sea King helicopter, an aircraft in action since 1969, which was piloted by Prince Andrew during the Falklands conflict and more recently by Prince William. John Sergeant meets some normal, non-royal people whose lives have been changed by the iconic helicopter's search-and-rescue capacity and salutes its service to the nation.
In the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1 - a man's body is found burned in a sugar cane field. Phone records lead the team to his psychiatrist, the smart and seductive Dr Olivia Victor. Steve McGarrett is convinced that the woman is somehow responsible for her patient's demise, but she proves to be more than a match for the determined detective and his team. Meanwhile, Catherine crosses paths with disgraced witness protection agent Chris Channing, who has information which spells real and present danger for Doris.
Friday 1 March
Mary and Martha - 8:30 BBC1 - is a one-off drama by Richard Curtis, starring Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn. American Mary and Englishwoman Martha have little in common apart from the tragedy which unexpectedly brings them together - they have both lost sons to malaria. Empowered by their friendship, they form a partnership and dedicate themselves to helping eradicate the disease. It's a mission that takes the pair from their first meeting in a remote part of Mozambique all the way to Washington. With James Woods, Ian Redford and Stephanie Faracy.

Definitely Dusty - 10:00 BBC4 - is, as you might expect from the title, a documentary revisiting the career of Dusty Springfield, the renowned pop diva famous for producing blue-eyed soul classics 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me', 'The Look of Love' and 'Son of a Preacher Man'. Archive footage shot in both the UK and the US provides an illuminating insight into her glamorous but intensely private personal life, and contributions from her protective inner circle of friends highlight the Dusty behind the panda eyes, blonde beehive and voice that could shake walls. Includes interviews with Tom Jones, Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Lulu and Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys.

Exploring the mountains of Dhofar in Oman, where the annual Indian Ocean monsoon has helped create a lost world of waterfalls and cloud forests filled with fascinating wildlife, is the story told in this week's Wild Arabia - 9:00 BBC2. The programme shows green sea turtles coming ashore in their thousands, shadowed by egg-stealing foxes, as well as rare footage of striped hyenas doing battle with Arabian wolves. Plus, a glimpse into the lives of chameleons, honey badgers and the elusive Arabian leopard.

And so to the news: Alexander Armstrong could be fronting a new ITV game show based on fake literary first lines. He has recorded a pilot episode of of You Couldn't Make It Up – in which panelists have to imagine the start of books - and is now waiting to see if the broadcaster will commission it. In an interview with the Independent On Sunday, Armstrong says that the show is based on his 'all-time favourite game. It's the synopsis game, where you read out the back cover of the book and everyone has to write the first line,' he said. 'It''s based on that, but you have to spot the real first lines.' The panelists in the pilot, recorded earlier this month, were Stephen Mangan, Mel Giedroyc and Russell Kane. Very popular with students, is Russell. Armstrong already hosts the daily BBC1 quiz show Pointless, while the new series of his Big Ask panel show starts on Dave at the end of the month. He also revealed that he is planning a reunion with his double-act partner Ben Miller, for a new comedy-drama once Ben's finished with his Death In Paradise duties. The pair were developing an idea for BBC1, and without giving away any details, Armstrong said: 'They get the script next month and I'd be thrilled if they gave it the thumbs up.' Fo' sure, blood.

Odious, risible bag of rancid phlegm Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the Sun, faces being sued for malfeasance - and for lots and lots and lots of wonga - over his newspaper's sick and evil coverage of the Hillsborough football disaster. Lawyers have indicated that they will issue a civil claim against the sixty six-year-old louse whose notorious front-page story, headlined The Truth, gave credence to a sick smear campaign and cover-up orchestrated by police in the wake of the tragedy, in which ninety six people died. Although MacKenzie - eventually, after twenty odd years of denial, bluster and self-promotion - offered 'profuse apologies' last September after the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel exposed the article's allegations as wholly unfounded, lawyers for the families also accuse him of adopting a different approach privately. One lawyer for the Hillsborough Families Support Group said that despite public displays of contrition by the individuals and groups implicated in the 1989 disaster, the reaction to the panel's damning report was 'disappointing.' He said: 'We have written to all these people asking what their proposals are, and none of them, none of them, have said: "Look, can we talk in order to find out how we can take responsibility for what we did?" It's not just Kelvin MacKenzie – the South Yorkshire police should be coming forward to take responsibility, so should the FA, so should Sheffield Wednesday. It's not enough just to say we paid damages, all of which were tiny amounts, and not to take responsibility now.' Families received payouts as low as three and half grand for the deaths of loved ones, sums later dwarfed by settlements to various policemen, who were awarded up to three hundred and thirty thousand smackers after suffering post-traumatic stress from witnessing the crush on the stadium terracing. A meeting at Liverpool's Anfield Road ground last Sunday, attended by many families of the victims, heard details of the civil claims which will be levelled at individuals and organisations involved in the cover-up. One of the main targets is MacKenzie, whose newspaper falsely alleged that drunken fans urinated on police who were resuscitating the dying and picked the pockets of the dead. MacKenzie did not issue an unequivocal apology in the twenty thee years until the panel report prompted David Cameron to condemn the 'despicable untruths' in the Sun story. Lawyers – who will meet this week to discuss their next steps – believe MacKenzie is guilty of malfeasance, which is legally defined as 'intentional conduct that is wrongful.' They say they do not have to prove he knew the material was not true, simply that 'he was recklessly indifferent as to whether it was true or not.' The families are said to be 'very keen' to press ahead with civil claims, even before fresh inquests into the deaths begin. The original accidental death verdicts were quashed by the high court in December. Part of their action will include damages claims against South Yorkshire police following the emergence of new medical evidence that shows that most of those who died suffered and did not die quickly, as had been initially contested. Trevor Hicks, the chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost two teenage daughters in the disaster, launched a legal action in 1992 to determine whether compensation was payable for the pain and suffering of those who died. At the time, South Yorkshire police argued that there was no pre-death suffering because the then available medical evidence indicated that victims would have lost consciousness within seconds before they died. It is now established that the courts' decision to agree with South Yorkshire police was based on inaccurate information, and that fifty eight of the dead might have been saved had the authorities reacted differently. Meanwhile, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun recruiting a team of up to one hundred to work on the criminal inquiry into police corruption surrounding Hillsborough. It is also setting up an independent 'challenge panel' which will advise the investigations and the Crown Prosecution Service as it weighs evidence against individual officers. An alleged 'source' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star that the panel had 'yet to encounter any obstruction' in its search for the disclosure of fresh evidence, adding: 'So far, everybody has been helpful.'

Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove's Department for Education has 'taken steps' to stop the Twitter feed Tory Education – to which some of rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove's own advisers have contributed – from issuing any more abuse against political opponents, critics and journalists. Senior government 'sources' allegedly said that the department had 'acted to ensure those contributing to the feed' will now put out information 'in a neutral way' and free of its previously abusive tone. The move amounts to an admission that people within government have been involved in operating a propaganda feed which promotes rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove and Tory policy in clear breach of civil service codes of behaviour. Two weeks ago, the Observer named two of rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant and George Formby lookalike Gove's special advisers, Dominic Cummings and Henry De Zoete, as contributors to the anonymous account. Dissemination of party political material and personal attacks are both sackable offences under the code for special advisers. Cummings and De Zoete have 'refused to deny' that they have contributed to the feed, saying merely that they are 'not Tory Education.' Yesterday, Cummings sent out a long e-mail addressed to the editor of the Observer and copied to more than a dozen political journalists across of variety of media. In it, he said that he had been 'cleared' of bullying and intimidation in a grievance brought against him and others by a civil servant. According to the Gruniad Morning Star the civil servant in question got a twenty five thousand smackers pay-off from public funds shortly before a public tribunal hearing. But Cummings again failed to deny the central accusation made against him by the Observer – that he had been a regular contributor to Tory Education. News that the department is taking action suggests that it has now identified those responsible beyond doubt. It will raise questions about what disciplinary action should now be taken. Last week Tory Education launched an attack on the author and former children's laureate Michael Rosen, accusing him of being a member of the Socialist Workers Party. 'Just another unscientific SWP relic who longs for total state control of schools and angry cos losin,' it said. Looks like a few members of Tory Education could use a bit of education  in the spelling department themselves. A furious Rosen asked Tory Education to withdraw the 'untruth.' Instead, it countered by linking to a Gruniad Morning Star obituary of prominent SWP figure Chris Harman, written by Rosen, and a recording of the writer speaking at a Marxism event last year. Rosen replied: 'I speak at all sorts of meetings. They are accusing someone of something that is not true, and from a position of anonymity. Pure McCarthyism.' He has complained to Twitter about Tory Education. Two weeks ago the Conservative party disowned the account. This is despite the fact that it was listed as an official party account on Twitter until the day after the Observer first reported who was behind it, two weeks ago. Then it was suddenly delisted.

An American mother has been arrested after stripping during a school assembly. Aydrea Meaders, twenty four, apparently got on stage at North Albany Academy on Friday morning and began dancing and taking her clothes off. Bet that livened up the Pledge of Allegiance. The assembly was immediately halted as staff cleared the cafeteria and contacted local police, according to The Associated Press. Meaders was arrested and charged with seven counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of public lewdness. She appeared before Albany City Court on Friday afternoon and was held on three thousand dollars bail. Meaders, whose son reportedly attends the school, doesn't have a lawyer yet.
North Carolina state representatives have proposed a new law to prohibit public exposure of women's nipples. House Bill thirty four seeks to 'clarify' state law by making it a Class H felony to expose 'the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.' But not a male breast, seemingly. Isn't that against the 1972 equal rights amendment, or something? Republican representative Rayne Brown co-sponsored the bill, explaining that 'there are communities across this state, there's local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.' Oh, i think it very much is, on the contrary, m'love. Effing hilarious, in fact. Brown said that the second annual topless protest for women's equality which took place in the city of Asheville in August 2012 is 'partly responsible' for her proposal, according to The Huffington Post. What's also 'partly responsible' is that she's a prude. And, a Republican which, effectively, amounts to the same thing. The proposed law aims to clear up confusion from a 1970 state Court of Appeals ruling, which stated that the term 'private parts' referred to in state law does not include breasts. Women who expose their nipples would face up to six months in prison (or, three months for a single nipple), depending on the 'intent of the exposure.' There is an exemption for breastfeeding. North Carolina House Judiciary Subcommittee Democrat member Annie Mobley said she worries the law could 'penalise' women for wearing 'questionable fashions.'

Which brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping 45 of the Day. Here's Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley and an Art of Noise cast of thousands (but, not Paul Morley). Start the car!