Friday, April 12, 2013

Which Witch Is Which?

The Doctor's TARDIS is, of course, a marvellous thing, celebrated by science fiction fans worldwide. But it's not real. It can't really fly. You can't take one for a spin. Well, you will be able to soon, as a toy manufacturer in the US has had the cunning idea of taking the iconic police box and strapping two helicopter blades to the top, turning it into a remote controlled flying TARDIS. Available on pre-order now, for a July release, the Doctor Who RC flying TARDIS does look like it will take a while to master, especially when you consider that conventional remote controlled helicopters are tricky little devils at the best of times. Entertainment Earth is listing the item at $46.99 - that's just over thirty smackers - at present, no UK distributor has revealed plans to bring the TARDIS to the land of its creation. You will be able to have it shipped, but do be aware it could cost anywhere near double considering the postage and packaging rates and potential customs fees.
MasterChef topped Thursday evening's ratings on BBC1. The latest heat of the cooking competition grabbed 4.77 million viewers at 8pm, dropping slightly from last week's equivalent broadcast. Odious, risible, full of her own importance Victoria Wood's second Nice Cup of Twee episode - just as piss poor as the first, frankly - was watched by 3.22m people with nothing better to do with their time at 9pm, while a Baroness Thatcher Question Time special brought in 2.64m punters at 10.45pm. On BBC2, The Hairy Biker's Best of British had an audience of 1.63m at 7pm, followed by James May's Man Lab with 1.18m at 8pm. A Horizon special attracted 1.15m at 10pm. ITV's coverage of Stottingtot Hotshots' heartbreak in the Europa League averaged 3.12m from 7.45pm. ITV4's broadcast of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle's brave but inevitable departure from the competition to a very impressive Benfica side after a 1-1 draw had an audience of six hundred and fifty five thousand punters. Channel Four's latest episode of Secret Eaters attracted 1.28m at 8pm, while The Intern fell to but seven hundred and sixty six thousand at 9pm. Hilary probably wishes she'd stayed where she was on The Dragon's Den where at least some people actually knew who she was. On Channel Five, the new documentary series Trauma Doctors secured 1.63m at 9pm.

Two distinct sides of 'cookery as TV entertainment' were highlighted by moments in two of the BBC's most popular food shows on Thursday. Firstly, there are those moments when the viewer's mouth, literally, starts to salivate as in this week's The Hairy Biker's Best of British when Si and Davey whipped up a simply beautiful looking pork chow mein dish in an episode devoted to 1970s cuisine.
Then, there's the other side of TV cookery, the 'when it all goes tits-up, it can be telly magic' - something that MasterChef does better than almost anyone else. Thursday's episode curiously didn't feature one of the producers beloved tricked of showing someone being highly boastful of their own abilities at the start and then seeing their dreams of a career in big style cheffery come to pieces in their hands like so much wet cardboard this time around. And, indeed, in communications adviser Graeme they seem to have unearthed another contestant with the potential to go a very long way in the competition. But, there was also poor Rachael who had a jolly bad day in the kitchen from the off, deciding not to stick to what she claimed she was good at - bakery - and, instead, trying a pork dish, which neither John or Gregg particularly liked. Then came the palate test and a moment of genuine twenty four carat TV brilliance. Trying to replicate John Tordoe's ravioli of crab and scallop with a spiced prawn sauce had caused most of the contestants a fair few problems (Graeme's dish was - as with the other two rounds - by far the best) but what Rachael made was an extraordinary looking thing. A couple of sad-looking rather rubbery ravioli floating in what appeared to be an ocean of recently regurgitated phlegm. 'That's quite a remarkable and astonishing plate of food,' noted Gregg Wallace. The viewers sensed, however, that this wasn't, necessarily, a compliment. Rachael looked crushed and, briefly turned away as if in the hope that when she turned back it would have, magically, changed into something edible. 'Something was on the plate,' Rachael said, apologetically, in her interview afterwards. Before coming up with what might be the greatest single line in MasterChef's long history: 'It may not have been exactly what was meant to be on there and they didn't choke so it couldn't have been that far off.' What a weird and wonderful world it would be, dear blog reader, if everybody who didn't kill the judges automatically made it through to the next round of this maddeningly brilliant exercise in guilty pleasure TV, don't you think? 'You're still alive, it can't have been that noxious!' Tragically for Rachael, the fact that John and Gregg were still breathing didn't appear to factor into their decision not to put her through to the quarter final. Which was, genuinely, sad.
Netflix has removed the old, pre-2005 Doctor Who episodes from its UK streaming platform. Members of the online streaming service, which hit one million subscribers in Britain and Ireland last year, took to the comments page to vent their impotent frustrations. Ooo, fair mad as a bunch of angry badgers, so they were. It was a sight too see, frankly. The UK version of Netflix used to host a number of episodes of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama starring the likes of William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, the crap one, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann but the episodes are now, seemingly, no longer available to stream. The post-2005 Doctor Who series one to five remains available. However, Netflix US currently has several episodes from the original series ready to stream across eighteen collections as well as series one to six of the current version - a whole series more than are available in the UK - where, let us remember, the programme is made. One user wrote: 'What happened to the Classic Doctor Who episodes? I was SO enjoying seeing the early days of The Doctor! Please bring it back.' They also said they wanted a pony and they wanted it now, now, now, now, now! Try buying some DVDs like the rest of us, y'cheapskate.

Huge demand for archive footage of the late Baroness Thatcher has exposed problems with plans to make the BBC's New Broadcasting House 'tapeless'. BBC News staff are reported to be having to ferry tapes across London in taxis or pay thousands of pounds to get outside companies to get videos converted to digital. According to the Gruniad Morning Star quoting alleged - and, of course, anonymous - BBC 'sources', footage for Tuesday's TV news bulletins had to be physically brought from the corporation's archive storage in Perivale in North-West London to New Broadcasting House by a member of staff on the tube. So, that's not going to have cost 'thousands of pounds' or anything even remotely like it, just four quid fifty for one day all-zones travel pass. Still, why let a little fact like that get in the way of another change for those hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad to cause trouble. The issue, they claim, is 'understood to be affecting every area of output which uses archive' including Newsnight, BBC1's news bulletins and the BBC News Channel. They go on to alleged that there has 'been some concern' among staff since the last journalists moved from Television Centre into the state-of-the-art headquarters for BBC News last month that the lack of facilities to transfer tape and film material to the site's digital content management system might cause problems. According to one alleged BBC 'insider', after the death of Baroness Thatcher on Monday at one point there were four producers in the bulletins area queuing up to use the one tape machine which had been provided and in Newsnight's area 'there are tapes all over the place.' Another - alleged - BBC current affairs 'source' allegedly said: 'We have a multimillion-pound digital archive and we are delivering tapes on the tube.' But, since this is in the Gruniad, I'd believe that spit is the currency of Suriname before I'd believe anything they say regarding the goings on within the BBC. Staff, the newspaper claims, said that they are 'having to take material' that needs to be converted to digital to outside post-production houses because of the corporation's plan to make NBH a 'tapeless environment.' Rate cards for two post production companies show the BBC is being charged between one hundred and three hundred knicker an hour to get material transferred to a format that can be viewed. One alleged BBC staff 'source' allegedly said that even when the film or tape has been converted it still needed to be fed into the BBC's centralised digital CMS for news – called Jupiter – so it can be edited for transmission, and claimed there are 'queues' because there are 'not enough facilities to do this.' And, of course, the Gruniad lice just loved that the mostest, so they did. Coming in their strides, so they were. 'The problem', they claim, is that although anything shot over the past few months is in a digital format, footage shot before 2012 and right back to the beginning of TV broadcasting is usually held on tape or film. The BBC is converting its archive into digital but it is not due to be completed for another couple of years. BBC News's old home in Television Centre did have what is called a 'media transfer area' called Media Exchange to convert material on tape or film to digital formats. But the corporation said it does not want to install expensive equipment that it claims would be rarely used as in the future all programmes shot on digital will be stored on computers. However, some of the tape conversion machines that were used in Television Centre are being stored in the engineers' area of NBH and could, allegedly, be easily converted, according to the alleged BBC 'insiders'. Allegedly. A BBC spokeswoman wearily said: 'Programme makers in [NBH] are being encouraged to work in a different way on new digital equipment. In the vast majority of cases this means transferring material acquired in the field into our content management system where it can be edited. Sometimes we still have to work from tapes. We have facilities to manage this in house but it can be cheaper to use local production houses for less common formats. A new media support centre is also currently being built to provide more in-house resource.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping found his very self an - extremely minor, and somewhat unwilling - part of the ongoing 'Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead' fiasco when he was asked to appear on his local BBC radio station, BBC Newcastle, on Friday morning as part of a general discussion on the subject of censorship. For those who haven't been following this - fascinatingly stupid - story, after the death of Baroness Thatcher earlier in the week, a Facebook campaign began to get those people who were happy about this situation to buy a copy of the famous song from the film The Wizard of Oz. So far, many thousands of punters have done so and the song is, seemingly, likely to feature in Sunday's official download chart, possibly as high as number one. This, obviously, means that the BBC have something of a dilemma as to whether to play the song - a completely inoffensive little ditty stripped of its current context and, even in its current context surely an example of free speech (albeit, depending on your political learnings not, perhaps, the most tasteful of examples) - or not. They will, inevitably, be criticised by one side or the other whichever decision they take. By the Daily Torygraph, the Daily Scum Mail and the Sun if they do play the song and by everybody else on the entire planet, if they show cowardice and bow to political and media pressure and don't. Unfortunately, in the process, they've - not for the first time - also made something of a rod for their own back. Because, the most ludicrous aspect of the entire story is the, seemingly serious, suggestion that if they do play the song, they are considering having a Newsbeat reporter appear on The Chart Show to explain why a song from the 1930s is charting to Radio 1's target audience of sixteen to twenty four-year-olds. As if they don't know. Most of them can read, you know? This blogger, in his contribution to the debate, merely pointed out that such an idea is an extremely dangerous precedent to set and wondered, briefly, where such a policy could, in theory end. Will we have someone on The Chart Show explaining the phenomena of Justin Bieber for those baffled by it? The Daily Scum Mail, of course, has been leading the charge against the Facebook campaigner trying to push the song, which has become the anthem of some anti-Thatcher protesters. Far more, of course, are content to dig out their battered old vinyl copies of 'Stand Down Margaret', 'Tramp The Dirty Down' and Margaret on a Guillotine' than bother with nonsense like this. According to the Gruniad Morning Star Radio 1 'insiders' - anonymous, of course, and therefore likely to be fictitious - said that if the song does make it to the top five, there would be no reason not to play it. The BBC does not always play every song in the top ten, but it seldom shies away from playing a song which has just charted as such a high new entry, even if it is effectively a novelty song. During a visit to Oxfordshire on Friday, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that he did not feel the online campaign was 'in very good taste' - which it probably isn't - but that it was not for politicians 'to start telling the BBC what songs they broadcast.' Despite several of them trying to do exactly that. Trevor Dann, the BBC's former head of music entertainment, said he could not see 'any reason' why the song should not be played. 'The chart is almost like a news programme; it's a programme of record,' he said. 'It's not for the BBC to judge if it's an appropriate record for people to buy and therefore for them to play.' 'I feel utterly sorry for all the chart shows,' added the odious Vivienne Pattison of risible right-wing pressure group Mediawatch UK. 'It's put them in a really invidious position. But chart shows exist to play the most bought or downloaded songs, and to change that is to interfere with a democratic process.' And, that's probably going to be the only time in his entire life that yer actual Keith Telly Topping agrees with something odious Vivienne Pattison of risible right-wing pressure group Mediawatch UK has had to say. About anything. Greg Dyke, a former director general of the BBC, said Baroness Thatcher herself would have found the idea of the BBC not playing the song 'ridiculous. If they don't play it they are making a political statement,' he told Newsbeat's Chi Chi Izundu. A decision about what will be played on Sunday's Radio 1 chart show will not be made until Sunday morning when the final sales data comes in. Anyway, if you want to check out this blogger's - probably only semi-coherent - thoughts on this, frankly, silliest of silly season stories it's available here for the next seven days. It can be heard approximately three hours nine minutes and forty seconds into the show for about six minutes. Oh, and I think yer actual Keith Telly Topping might well be the first person to reference 'Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)' on BBC radio in at least three decades, during the course of it. So, for that reason alone, I reckon it's worth a few minutes of your time, dear blog reader.

And, speaking of ridiculous political relics from a long bygone age, risible bitter whinging old Red, Tony Garnett has got a massive chimney on again. Dear blog readers may remember that in 2009, risible bitter whinging old Red Garnett launched a - ludicrous - attack on the BBC and, specifically, its head of drama Ben Stephenson for ... well, basically, not employing him to make their entire drama output. It was a hell of a laugh and for a couple of days it was big news in the industry, not least because Garnett chose to belittle the work of many other writers whilst puffing himself up as some kind of 'last honest bloke in town'. Which he isn't or anything even remotely like it. Well, now the risible bitter whinging old Red is at it again, this time using the pre-publicity for a forthcoming retrospective of his work at the BFI (Christ, I'll bet that'll be a total laugh-a-thon, attended by all of six people with beards wearing Che Guevara T-shirts) to have a good old bitter whinge about what a right shite state of affairs everything is to his mates at the Gruniad Morning Star. Have a read of it, dear blog reader, it's thigh-slappingly hilarious so it is.
A former winner of TV's The Apprentice has lost her claim of constructive dismissal against Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie. Stella English, who earned a hundred grand a year, claimed that she had 'no real role' at Lord Sugar-Sweetie's IT firm, Viglen. Lord Sugar-Sweetie told the employment tribunal at the East London Tribunal Centre he had 'no case to answer.' And, seemingly, they've now agreed with him. He claimed that English was 'effectively blackmailing' him and was trying to 'damage his reputation.' Nah. I think making crappy Hi-Fi systems that kept breaking and the second best satellite dish on the market when there were only two on the market and then buying Sottingtot Hotshots when they were rubbish already did that years ago, yer very Lordship. Commenting on the ruling on Twitter, Lord Sugar-Sweetie crowed: 'The Tribunal case brought by Stella English against me and my company has been dismissed. A victory for the law against the claim culture.' The tribunal panel ruled unanimously in the businessman's favour. English, thirty four, from Whitstable, told the tribunal that she was given a desk and a phone but no specific duties during a four-month probationary period. When, just to repeat, she was earning one hundred grand a year. So what, exactly, is the problem? Most people dream of having an extremely well-paid job where they don't have to do much to justify their existence. She claimed that her boss, Bordan Tkachuk, looked at her with 'contempt' on her first day and said: 'There is no job.' English also claimed that she carried out 'basic administrative tasks' but did not say anything directly to Lord Sugar-Sweetie because she 'did not want to be a troublemaker.' And, again, it would appear that ship's now long since sailed. The 2010 Apprentice winner resigned from Viglen in May 2011 and then 'felt pressurised' into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar-Sweetie's Internet set-top box company YouView, she told the hearing. Lord Sugar-Sweetie said that he was 'trying to help her out' by offering her a new position because she had complained of being 'desperate for money.' He told the hearing there was no full-time position available at YouView and it had been explained that contractual work might be possible instead. A witness statement from Lord Sugar-Sweetie, read to the hearing, claimed: '[Lord Sugar-Sweetie] said he found Ms English an "untrusting and suspicious person" who was full of conspiracy theories.' Sugar-Sweetie's statement continued: 'I believe this claim, together with its publication in the media, is simply an attempt to extract money from me.'

An actress who sued after her real date of birth was posted on its Internet Movie Database has had her claims for compensation rejected by a jury in Seattle. Huong Hoang, who goes by the stage name Junie Hoang, alleged that 'offers dried up' after the database revealed her true age. IMDb argued it had the right to publish accurate data which is in the public record and that Hoang could not prove she had lost employment because of it. According to the website, Hoang's credits include the 2011 title Gingerdead Man Three: Saturday Night Cleaver. And plenty of other movies, TV series and video shorts but that's the only one with a funny name so it's the one most media outlets are quoting. The site, which was launched in 1990 and purchased by Amazon in 1998, continues to post Hoang's date of birth on her profile page. In court documents filed anonymously in 2011, Amazon and its movie database subsidiary were accused of 'breach of contract, fraud, violation of privacy and consumer protection laws'. Parent company Amazon was dismissed as a defendant before the two-day trial, which concluded on Thursday. The database's stance drew criticism in 2011 from two acting unions, who accused the site of 'facilitating age discrimination.' During the trial, though, the site's attorneys said IMDb was not responsible for the actions taken by people who read their profiles. Hoang, who had been seeking one million dollars in damages, had initially provided the site with a false birth year that reduced her stated age by seven years. When she asked for that information to be removed, the site used a public records search to discover her true date of birth and published it against her objections. Speaking after the trial, Hoang said she had hoped to make the database change its policy. 'I knew it was a problem not just for me but for anyone else who had their age on their profile,' she told the Associated Press. This, incidentally, is yer actual Keith Telly Topping's IMDb page. Which as far as he can see is totally accurate, although they haven't, actually, got my date of birth up. But, all they have to do is ask!

Jodie Whittaker has been cast in Sky1's upcoming drama The Smoke. The actress will play Trish, the girlfriend of firefighter Kev, who is returning to work after an injury. Her character is described as 'gutsy', reports the Radio Times. The thirty-year-old will star alongside Jamie Bamber - who earlier this week was announced as having joined the cast as the lead in the drama, which follows the lives of a crew based at a London fire station. The eight-part series was created by Skins writer Lucy Kirkwood and is expected to be broadcast in early 2014. Whittaker currently stars as Beth Latimer, the mother of eleven-year-old murder victim Danny, in ITV's crime drama Broadchurch.

Keeley Hawes has spoken to the Digital Spy website about her role in Sky Atlantic's remake of The Bridge. Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy will play the leads in the UK version of the Scandinavian crime drama, retitled The Tunnel. So, no obvious Freudian symbolism there then. 'Some characters have been taken literally and placed into the British version, and some are amalgamations of various characters,' Hawes explained. 'My character was in the original, but is slightly different [in the remake] - she's drawn in a different way. I play the sister of a suspect in this murder case, and she's a bit of a mess and addicted to prescription medication.' Hawes also revealed that she has not watched the original The Bridge but has plans to view the series in the near future. 'I just didn't want to be influenced by anything,' she said. 'I hear it's very good - no pressure!' The former Ashes To Ashes star was promoting her work with Internet safety charity Childnet International, which has launched an online guide designed to help parents and their children more easily identify naughty websites. 'It's to help support parents and also teachers in taking their children and talking to them about what they're doing online, and using the Internet safely and legally,' said the actress. She also hinted that she 'may' play a part in the rumoured film version for [spooks], if it ever happens. Peter Firth recently claimed that a movie script based on the BBC's popular espionage series is 'in development.' Asked if there would be a role for her character, Zoe, in the film, Keeley added: 'There may be. Nostalgically it would be very nice, but they better do it soon or there'll be a lot of old spooks running around!'

ITV has ordered a sixth - and seventh - series of Benidorm. The comedy's sixth run is currently shooting on location, with stars Steve Pemberton, Siobhan Finneran, Sherrie Hewson and Tim Healy all confirmed to return. The new series will also introduce a new family - the Dykes, composed of Clive (Perry Benson), Tonya (Hannah Waddingham) and their children Bianca (Bel Powley) and Tiger (Danny Walters). The character of Martin Weedon (Nicholas Burns) - last seen in Benidorm's third series - will also return for the new run. Coronation Street's Ken Morley and former Brookside actor Philip Olivier have signed up for guest roles, with Matthew Kelly confirmed to return as Cyril Babcock. Show creator Derren Litten - who has written all seven episodes of the new series - said: 'I'm so excited about series six of Benidorm, probably more excited than all previous series. Apart from Dynasty series five of course - what could possibly top the Moldavian Massacre?'

Phillip Schofield has defended his This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby over an article questioning her presenting capabilities, or indeed lack on them. Responding to news that Willoughby has earned an estimated ten million quid from her TV appearances and endorsement deals, television agent Jon Roseman wrote in the Daily Scum Mail that Willoughby doesn't have 'a single flicker of talent.' Well, I think that's a little harsh. I mean, she can walk in a straight line and read an autocue at the same time, that's surely worth taking into consideration? Roseman suggested that Willoughby is 'a bimbo' hired as 'eye-candy' so that broadcasters can appeal to advertisers. He also stated that she lacks 'the depth' shown by presenters he has represented in the past, such as Anne Diamond and Fern Britton. 'Just in case you ever wondered what was so wrong with television today, you need look no further than presenter Holly Willoughby and the news that she is on her way to amassing a ten million pound fortune,' Roseman wrote. 'How has she done it? Not by showing a single flicker of talent, that's for sure. Can she ask a searching question? Can she empathise without blubbing? Is she capable of mastering any of the skills we traditionally expect from our TV presenters? Absolutely not. Every word that drops from Holly's finely formed lips proves just how ill-equipped she is to be a television frontwoman. Indeed, the fact she's got the job at all, let alone that she's so well-paid, shows just how far female presenters have sunk today. I should point out that Holly is an underwear model turned children's TV presenter.' Schofield has since criticised the piece, describing Roseman as 'a bitter has-been with wildly incorrect information.' So, break out the popcorn and let the mud wrestling commence.
Malawi's President Joyce Banda did not know about a statement from her office labelling American singer Madonna 'a bully', the BBC has been told. The president was said to be 'furious' over the harshly-critical statement that was issued following Madonna's recent visit to the country, alleged 'sources' allegedly said. The statement accused Madonna of 'exaggerating' her contribution to the country and 'demanding VIP treatment.' Madonna, who was visiting her charity in Malawi, hit back at the criticisms. She described them as 'lies' and said that she began her involvement in Malawi seven years ago 'with honourable intentions.' Emily Banda, head of Malawi's NGO board, told the BBC that President Banda 'did not approve' or indeed know about the statement purportedly put out by her office on Wednesday. In it, the statement accused the singer of wanting Malawi 'to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude.' It claimed Madonna believed the government should have 'rolled out a red carpet and blast the twenty one-gun salute' upon her arrival in Malawi. It also accused her telling 'the whole world that she is building schools in Malawi when she has actually only contributed to the construction of classrooms.' In response, Madonna's charity Raising Malawi said in a statement that Madonna 'did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere' during her visit and would not 'be distracted or discouraged by other people's political agendas.' Madonna said in the statement that she saw 'with my own eyes the ten new primary schools in Kasungu province that Raising Malawi completed this year,' during her recent visit.

And so to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's a record the BBC's will probably be thinking twice about playing in the current climate. And, rightly so. Because it's terrible!