Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Machine That We Built Would Never Save Us

In case you didn't notice, dear blog reader, the very Interweb itself var nigh exploded around lunch time on Thursday with the release onto the official BBC Doctor Who website of The Night Of The Doctor: A Mini Episode a Moffat-written The Day Of The Doctor prequel (and a sequel to The Brain of Morbius to boot). 'Will it hurt?' 'Yes.' 'Good!' Oh dear, I believe this blogger - for the first time since he was about nine - actually squee'd, dear blog reader. Sorry about that. Although, I have to be honest, there's a Charlie Higson quote from The Fast Show that's probably even more applicable at this precise moment. There are spoilers ahead, if you're bothered about that sort of thing.
So, that increases yer actual Paul McGann's on-screen time as The Doctor by about twenty per cent, I reckon! The mini-episode - which runs about seven minutes - finally reveals how McGann's Doctor met his end and regenerated and also confirms that John Hurt's, if you will, 'War Doctor' follows directly on from McGann's (and thus, presumably, regenerated into a large Northern skinhead with sizeable ears once he was done). Making John Hurt, effectively, Doctor Eight and a Half, if you like. Glad we got that matter sorted.
And, still it comes. A series of pure dead exciting new pictures from Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary episode have emerged online. The BBC and BBC America unveiled twelve new images from this month's landmark episode, The Day Of The Doctor. Here's four of them.
William Hartnell's granddaughter has described the forthcoming drama about the origins and early years of Doctor Who as 'a wonderful tribute' to her late grandfather. Written by Mark Gatiss, An Adventure In Space And Time features David Bradley as Hartnell, the first actor to play The Doctor between 1963 and 1966. Jessica Carney, who was six when her grandfather first took the role, said that he would have been 'thrilled' by the biopic. Some fans had queued up for hours for return tickets to the preview, held at BFI Southbank on Tuesday, which was attended by a number of former Doctor Who cast and crew. Afterwards, Carney thanked Bradley 'for playing my grandfather so wonderfully.' The ninety-minute film will be shown on BBC2 on 21 November. An Adventure In Space And Time is set in the first half of the 1960s and focuses on the people who created the popular long-running family SFF drama, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary next week. It was the last TV show to be filmed at the BBC's Television Centre in West London before the building closed earlier this year. The drama's cast includes Jessica Raine as Doctor Who's first producer, Verity Lambert, Sacha Dhawan as the director Waris Hussein, Lesley Manville as Hartnell's wife, Heather and Brian Cox as the BBC's colourful head of drama, Sydney Newman who also first came up with the concept of the show. Waris Hussein, who directed that first four-part story, An Unearthly Child, said it was 'very surreal' to see his pioneering time on the programme recreated. 'It was seminal in my career and it led to bigger things, and now it's come full circle back to square one.' Among the celebrity guests at Tuesday's screening were original companion Carole Ann Ford, who played The Doctor's on-screen granddaughter Susan Foreman. Others included Anneke Wills, Louise Jameson, and Sophie Aldred. Gatiss his very self described the drama as his own personal 'love letter' to Doctor Who. Speaking to the BBC News website, yer man Mark said the film was aimed at a general audience. 'Obviously if I was writing a film about Z Cars, I would feel a bit more dispassionate, so I had to put my anorak away and treat it very straight.' Hartnell, who died in 1975, was better known for playing Sergeant Major-type roles prior to being cast as The Doctor. He was in charge of the TARDIS until 1966, when he left the part and Patrick Troughton took over. Gatiss said: 'Anyone could watch this and hopefully be very moved by it because it's a universal story in that we all discover we are replaceable.' Speaking to the BBC, Jessica Carney recalled visiting the Doctor Who set as a little girl in 1964 during the filming of The Web Planet. 'I sat in the dressing room with my grandfather, and it was fascinating to watch the wig and make-up being put on. On the main set there were actors wandering around in very odd costumes. The cameras were so cumbersome and there were loads of huge cables everywhere.' She added: 'Because there were so few TV channels the numbers of people watching were huge. On Monday in the school playground everyone would be talking about the programme. All my early memories of my grandfather are muddled up with Doctor Who and I watched him every Saturday on the television.'
So, An Adventure In Space And Time was screened at London's BFI Southbank on Tuesday evening and the ninety-minute period piece received a rapturous reception - not to mention a standing ovation - from an appreciative audience of fans and journalists. Once the lights came up, yer actual Mark Gatiss - the man for whom An Adventure has been a long-held passion project - was one of several guests to take to the BFI's stage and discussed how he approached adapting a slice of television history into a human drama. 'The strange thing is, because I'm a Jon Pertwee child, this was before my time,' Mark acknowledged. 'But I grew up with the story - almost like a bedtime story - of how the show came together. These very unlikely people coming together. Nobody liking the Daleks. All these little stories that were like holy writ. I always thought it would just be a fantastic story to tell and it's just come together at the right time.' As he began writing his first draft, Gatiss his very self quickly found that his role as lifelong fan of Doctor Who was proving to be both a boon and a burden. 'Stepping onto designer Dave Arrowsmith's amazing reproduction of the TARDIS for the first time, I actually had to stuff my scarf into my mouth - I was that excited.' But there were also difficult decisions to be made, as Mark found it was necessary to cut many important events - and key figures from Doctor Who's early history - in order to transform real events into television drama. 'That was genuinely the biggest challenge - taking off my anorak, which is almost impossible, and narrowing it down. There was a draft where Sydney Newman was walking down the corridors of Television Centre and there were about one hundred people behind him with names bobbing above them - it was like Sherlock - and there was Bunny Webber and Donald Wilson and David Whitaker ... It just didn't work and eventually you've got to go for it and say, "You can't have everyone" - but that's why we've got a website going live with the show which has a massive timeline, really to say thank you to all those amazing people.' At its heart, Mark suggests, An Adventure In Space And Time is a story about change and how 'we're all replaceable' - something that William Hartnell learned the hard way. 'We think of it going on with Patrick Troughton, the whole thing carrying on, but that for him was the moment where it all stopped. Doctor Who came about because of change at the BBC, but then actually it was change that did for Bill. That, to me, was fascinating.' Despite the tragedy of Hartnell's plight, Mark insists that viewers will also find the acclaimed character actor's life story 'very uplifting. I wanted it to be a celebration - not any kind of hatchet job. It's born of love and I think it shows in every frame.' But now that he's brought the story of Doctor Who's early days to the screen, does Mark have any plans for another dip into the show's history? '1989 to 1995 is fascinating!' he jokes, but warns fans not to expect a sequel to An Adventure In Space And Time any time soon. 'To do The Patrick Troughton Story or something like that, you could do it. There are obviously fascinating, sometimes turbulent periods in Doctor Who's history. But there's just something very special about the beginning and accidentally creating something magical - that to me is the story.'
Luther creator Neil Cross seems rather keen on the idea of being Doctor Who's next showrunner. Neil, who wrote last season's The Rings of Akhaten and Hide from his Wellington home, was recently asked by Doctor Who Magazine if he'd like to run the show when Steven Moffat steps down. 'Well, that's such a complicated question because I've got two contradictory and equally powerful responses. The nine-year-old in me thinks, "God, yeah." On the other hand, the pressure of it and the sheer visibility of it ... So the child in me absolutely says "yes." The adult in me wonders how on earth you deal with the pressure of a show that's that visible. It's not hard to imagine, though, that the child would eventually win. That child's been winning my entire life. I sat down with Caro and Marcus and said: "How do we make this big without any extra money? Do you have unused monster costumes? A library of CGI spaceships which were never really used?" So the story developed that way. It had a much more mixed response than Hide did. I had the ultimate writer's nightmare. DWM hated it. The Sun hated it. But the good reviews were really good. And I had so many e-mails and letters and Facebook messages from kids between nine and fifteen who had experienced bullying. The episode had affected them massively. I had one message from a girl telling me it had changed her mind about suicide.'

The final Agatha Christie's Poirot episode attracted 4.86 million on Wednesday evening, according to overnight figures. David Suchet's last appearance as Hercule Poirot gained back over six hundred thousand viewers from the previous week on ITV at 9pm. On BBC1, DIY SOS interested 4.60m at 8pm, followed by Britain On The Fiddle with 4.04m at 9pm. BBC2's MasterChef: The Professionals gathered 2.80m at 8pm, while Tudor Monastery Farm appealed to 1.56m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Grand Designs was seen by 1.44m at 8pm, followed by the return of Twenty Four Hours in A&E with 2.06m at 9pm. Gogglebox had an audience of 1.54m at 10pm. Channel Five's Animal Clinic With Ben Fogle brought in seven hundred and nineteen thousand punters at 8pm. JFK's Secret Killer intrigued 1.33m at 9pm.

BBC1's The Escape Artist climbed back up the overnight ratings for its final episode on Tuesday night. David Tennant's drama gained around four hundred thousand viewers week-on-week, rising to 4.55 million at 9pm. On BBC2, MasterChef: The Professionals was watched by a properly impressive 3.37m at 8pm. Strange Days: Cold War Britain presented by yer actual Dominic Sandbrook interested 1.26m at 9pm. The return of Jason Cook's superb comedy Hebburn brought in a more than decent overnight of 1.09m at 10pm. ITV's Martin Lewis Money Show appealed to 2.79m at 8pm, while Missing: Without A Trace brought in 2.55m at 9pm on a generally under-par evening for the commercial broadcaster. On Channel Four, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners attracted 1.70m at 8pm. New series The Sound of Musicals was seen by 1.24m at 9pm. Masters of Sex continued with five hundred and ninety five thousand punters at 10pm. Channel Five's latest episode of The Mentalist was watched by 1.21m at 9pm, while Castle gathered seven hundred and twenty nine thousand at 10pm. On BBC4, Lost Cities Of The Ancients had an audience of seven hundred and eighty seven thousand viewers at 8pm.

Former Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter will receive BAFTA's Special Award at its Children's Awards later this month. Baxter, who will be honoured for her outstanding contribution to the industry, has been called a 'veritable national institution' by BAFTA. She helped devise the famous Blue Peter badge during her twenty six years at the helm of the hit children's show. She also instigated the annual Blue Peter Appeals, which have since raised millions of pounds for charity. Baxter's friend, Sir David Attenborough his very self, will present her with the honour at the British Academy Children's Awards ceremony in London on 24 November. 'Biddy's impact on children's media and entertainment is undeniable,' said Harvey Elliott, chairman of BAFTA's Children's Committee. 'She is a veritable national institution and we are delighted to honour her contribution.' Biddy first joined the BBC in 1955 as a radio studio manager. She later became the producer of Listen With Mother before moving into television. During her time at the helm of Blue Peter, Baxter won two BAFTA awards and received twelve BAFTA nominations. 'I've been incredibly lucky to have had such a long and rewarding broadcasting career, and to have worked with such talented and creative colleagues and so many outstanding presenters,' said Baxter. 'Thank you, BAFTA, so very much for this unexpected and greatly prized award.' Born Joan Maureen Baxter in 1933, Baxter came up with the idea for the coveted Blue Peter badge with Edward Barnes and Rosemary Gill. She was awarded the programme's highest honour - a gold Blue Peter badge - when she left the show in7 June 1988. Baxter, who was made an MBE in 1981, founded the John Hosier Music Trust in 2003 in memory of her late husband. With Sir Simon Rattle as patron, the trust provides scholarships to talented music students to enable them to take postgraduate studies. Her 2008 book, Dear Blue Peter, contained fifty years of letters and e-mails from viewers and raised twenty thousand quid for the Trust.

For the latest Examples of things that are, like, totally geet cush, and make the world a better place by their very existence, number twenty six: One to give all those petrolhead chaps out there on the Interweb a quite staggering chimney on. The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.
Well, I dunno about you, dear blog reader, but this blogger has certainly got The Horn after that.

Followed, as usual, by Great Daft Moments From TV History. Today, number nineteen: Fred removes Angel's soul - with the help of Bear - in Angel.
Comedy line of the week, this week, came from the unchallenged master of pith, yer actual Jack Dee, in the opening episode of Dave's Crackanory: 'They used to say that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. That was until someone invented Twitter.' Class.
The undoubted highlight of Wednesday night's TV - at least, if you enjoy watching someone squirming with embarrassment on national telly - was poor hapless pastry chef Sean's efforts in the latest episode of MasterChef: The Professionals. For someone whose stated ambition is to open the world's first Michelin-starred cafe, Sean's disastrous and sad looking plate of stodgy gnocchi was deemed to be so vile and awful that it had the usually sour-faced Monica Galetti even more sour-faced than normal. And that takes some doing, dear blog reader. She looked especially sour-faced just at the point where she felt it necessary to hockle it into the bin. Needless to say, he didn't make it through to the next round.
Borgen creator Adam Price has confirmed that an American remake remains in development. In 2011, NBC acquired the rights to rework the Danish political drama - presumably, badly - though Price told the Digital Spy website that the project has since landed at HBO. 'It's in consideration at HBO and it's actually BBC Worldwide who's going to [produce] it,' Price revealed. 'I've heard that HBO want to do it and they're currently looking into who's going to be the showrunner.' Price explained that he would probably act as a 'consultant' on the cable series, advising the US showrunner to 'turn it into his or her project. Definitely they should drag it into American politics and really make it their own, instead of trying to "keep a little Danish" because that would seem phoney,' he said. Of finding an actress to fill Sidse Babett Knudsen's role as Borgen's female lead, Price added: 'They should find their way into the material and I'm sure they have wonderful actresses. They will find her.'

Viewers of Countdown were 'left gasping' (it says here) when it hit a peak with a near-the-knuckle answer. Letters chosen during one round of the long-running word quiz were capable of spelling the word 'orgasmed', with the eight-letter contribution then displayed by Rachel Riley. Well, smack her bottom for such an outrage. Contestants had to find the longest word possible from the selection of nine letters which had been chosen - E, A, S, R, P, G, O, M and D. The best efforts by the players were the six-letter 'grapes' and seven-letter 'grasped'. But the team in Dictionary Corner - lexicographer Susie Dent and very unfunny impressionist Alistair McGowan - were able to come up with something better. McGowan suggested: 'There's a seven in "dampers", another one and Susie, "orgasmed."' Show host Nick Hewer responded: 'Oh, well done. Very good.' Riley - recently a contestant on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing - then arranged the letters on the board to spell it out for all the world to see and for some Daily Scum Mail reader's heads to explode. Which was nice.
Twatting About On Ice will be ending - hurrah! - with an 'All Stars' series next year. It will, as previously announced - to national joy - be the final series of the skating show. Those appearing will include past winners and favourites from the eight previous series. Plus The Curiously Orange greed bucket (and drag) Christine Bleakley. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
The racing pundit - and diarrhoea-spouting waste of space - John McCririck has extremely lost his age discrimination employment tribunal case against Channel Four. A Central London Employment Tribunal panel unanimously ruled against the seventy three-year-old who had claimed he was dropped from his role on Channel Four Racing after twenty nine years because of his age rather than because of the fact that pretty much nobody liked him or his presentation style very much and thought that he was an anachronistic dullard who needed putting out to pasture. The panel accepted the broadcaster's argument that its aim was to bring horse racing to a wider audience. And into the Twenty First Century, as opposed to the Eighteenth. McCririck alleged that it was a 'historic setback' for all employees over thirty although, this particular employee (who is quite a bit over the age of thirty) merely considers it to be really very funny indeed. McCririck had taken the broadcaster and the TV production company IMG Media Limited to the tribunal. Both firms - who have not yet commented on the ruling - had denied any discrimination. BBC News correspondent Jane Peel reported that the forty four-page tribunal judgement said the three members of the panel were unanimous that Channel Four did not break the Equality Act. She added that they had all accepted Channel Four's aim was to bring racing to a wider audience and that McCririck's 'pantomime persona' was 'clearly unpalatable' to them. After the hearing, McCririck whinged: 'After such a landmark judicial verdict, my failed legal action ensures that anonymous suits and skirts, who control the media, numerous other businesses and the public sector, will now enjoy complete freedom to replace older employees whatever their unimpaired ability and merit,' McCririck whinged. 'I have let them all down along with my wife, the Booby, my legal team, friends, colleagues and countless members of the public who supported me throughout. My grateful thanks and apologies to every one of them.' During the tribunal, McCririck claimed that he played 'a pantomime villain' during appearances on reality TV programmes such as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap. Most people watching them, however, considered that, actually, he played 'a really annoying arsehole.' A subtle difference perhaps, but a necessary one. 'This is a different persona,' he said of his bombastic and 'domineering' image, adding: 'You are putting on a performance, a pantomime act.' But Jamie Aitchison, the Channel Four's commissioning editor for sport, said McCririck was axed because he was 'unappealing and irritating to many current and potential viewers.' In March 2012, Channel Four secured the rights to broadcast all UK horse racing events for the following year, including 'crown jewel' events such as Royal Ascot and the Grand National. A new-look team, fronted by Clare Balding, took over last year.
McFly and Sir Terry Wogan are among the people lined-up to take part in a Pointless special for Children In Need. And, never has a programme been more aptly named, dear blog reader.

The BBC has confirmed that it is paying the legal fees of departing HR boss Lucy Adams, who is suing the National Union of Journalists for alleged defamation. A spokesperson for the BBC said that an NUJ statement published in August 'made serious and damaging allegations against Lucy Adams in her role as the BBC's Director of Human Resources. The BBC has agreed to fund the reasonable costs of Ms Adams seeking external legal advice.' Adams is leaving the BBC next year. In August, Adams - who is paid three hundred and twenty thousand smackers a year - announced that she would leave the corporation in March 2014 without any severance pay. A day after her departure was announced, the National Union of Journalists published a statement about an alleged campaign by the BBC human resources department of 'hacking staff e-mails and bullying employees into spying on colleagues.' The NUJ's claims were instantly dismissed by the BBC as 'false and without foundation.' Adams later announced that she was taking legal action against the NUJ and, specifically, its general secretary, red Michelle Stanistreet, over 'an unwarranted and very personal attack.' Personally, this blogger thinks Lucy and Michelle should settle it in a one to one manner. Adams faced tough questioning from MPs in July about why some severance packages awarded to senior BBC managers involved the corporation paying them more than it was contractually bound to. In September she admitted a mistake in her previous evidence to MPs, after it became apparent that an e-mail to the Trust about pay-offs about which she initially claimed to be 'not aware' was actually co-authored by Adams herself.

Stand-up and Hebburn actor Chris Ramsey has claimed that the fallout from the Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross 'Sachsgate' incident is still being felt, arguing that comedians are still 'scared' and 'terrified' when they're on television. The annoyingly talented, funny and good-looking Chris is currently touring the UK with his show The Most Dangerous Man On Saturday Morning Television, which is based around an incident when he was thrown off Sky's Soccer AM for using the, relatively mild, term 'bumming' twice live on air. Which was obviously a bit of a bugger. Sorry. Anyway, when asked by the Digital Spy website why more people don't misbehave on television, the comic said: 'People are terrified, what with the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand thing. People are so scared. Also there's a line of talentless idiots ready to go on telly at the drop of the hat now. So you know you'd better be good, or else there's another five idiots behind, carbon copies, ready to come on.' Referring to Channel Four's recent Up All Night: The Nightclub Toilet documentary, he joked: 'They'll even stick a camera in a nightclub toilets now. Oh, he was in the toilet, but he shit himself, how ironic. Get him on the telly. Unbelievable.'

Newsnight has lured ITV's business editor Laura Kuenssberg back to the BBC in a new role as the BBC2 programme's chief correspondent and presenter, as Gavin Esler leaves the show. The BBC said that Kuenssberg would 'regularly' take the presenter's chair on the show, joining an on-air team which includes yer actual Jezza Paxman, Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis. The BBC said that Esler will leave the show in January, with Kuenssberg due to arrive the following month. Esler has been a presenter on Newsnight since 2003 and was previously one of the faces of the BBC News channel. The BBC could not confirm what he will do next. Kuenssberg is expected to anchor Newsnight roughly once a week. This marks the first major shake-up of the Newsnight presenting line-up under recently arrived editor, Ian Katz. On Monday Katz, the former Gruniad Morning Star deputy editor who took over at Newsnight in September, also hired Chris Cook, currently executive comment editor at the Financial Times, as policy editor. The BBC also announced on Monday that Newsnight's political correspondent, David Grossman, is becoming the programme's technology editor. Kuenssberg was previously chief political correspondent of the BBC News channel before switching to ITV in 2011. Katz said: '[Laura is] widely admired as one of the most authoritative and accessible broadcasters in the country and has a brilliant nose for a story, as well as a wealth of experience across a range of different areas. She'll add real fire-power to Newsnight's reporting team as well as a fresh and compelling voice to the show's presenter line-up.' Kuenssberg said: 'Working with the team at ITV News to cover the intense challenges faced by business, families and the wider economy has been a real privilege and I've really enjoyed the last couple of years. But I'm truly delighted to be joining a reinvigorated Newsnight both to present and report at such an exciting time. It's been a long held ambition of mine to work full time on the programme and I can't wait to get started.' In an e-mail to staff, ITV News editor Geoff Hill said: 'I'm sorry to tell you all that Laura Kuenssberg is leaving ITV News. She will be taking up an exciting new role at BBC Newsnight as chief correspondent and regular presenter, keeping Paxman on his toes. I know you'll all agree that Laura has produced some outstanding business coverage in her time here, including recent reports from Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza collapse and her exclusive on zero hours contracts, to name a few. I'm sure you will join me in thanking her for all of her hard work at ITV News and wishing her the very best for the future. Laura will be with us until the end of January and we'll be advertising for her replacement shortly.' Kuenssberg joined the BBC in 2000, beginning on the BBC's North-East and Cumbria programmes and won a Royal Television Society award as home affairs correspondent. She later joined The Daily Politics as a reporter in 2003 and has also worked on Radio 4's Today programme, BBC1's Breakfast, of course, and Newsnight itself.

Sharon Osbourne and Jezza Clarkson are among the guests confirmed to appear on an upcoming episode of The Graham Norton Show. The X Factor judge and the Top Gear presenter will feature on the edition of the BBC1 chat show airing on Friday 29 November.

ITV News London presenter Charlene White has reportedly received sick and ignorant racist and sexist abuse - from, no doubt, some absolutely perfect specimens of humanity - after choosing not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy when she was on air. Which is, of course, her right in a free and democratic society - you know, the very things that we were supposed to be fighting for in most of the wars of the last century the fallen of whom, the poppy commemorates. Irony, you say? Some people think it's something their mums do with their shirts. The newsreader wrote a blog on the ITV site revealing the extent of the sick and agenda-soaked abuse which she had received and explaining her decision not to wear a poppy on-screen, despite donating to the Poppy Appeal every year. Not that she needed to, of course. White said: 'I support and am patron of a number of charities and I am uncomfortable with giving one of those charities more on-screen time than others. I prefer to be neutral and impartial on-screen so that one of those charities doesn't feel less favoured than another.' White, whose father and uncle served in the RAF and army respectively, explained that off-screen she wears a red ribbon for World AIDS Day, a pink ribbon for breast cancer, a badge for bowel cancer awareness and a poppy on Armistice Day. She continued: 'The messages of "go back to where you came from" have been interesting to read, as have the "fat slag" comments and the repeated use of the phrase "black cunt."' Jesus, some people are just scum, dear blog reader. 'Mostly because it flies in the face of everything that millions of British men and women and those in the Commonwealth have fought for for generations, and continue to fight for: the right to choose, and the right of freedom of speech and expression.' Exactly. You tell 'em, girl. 'I respect and hold in high esteem those in the armed forces, both my father and my uncle have served in the RAF and the army. Every year I donate to the Poppy Appeal because above all else it is a charity that needs donations, so that it can continue to help support serving and ex-service men and women and their families.' The abuse directed at her on Twitter included racist jibes that her family would not have been able to settle in Britain but for the deaths of soldiers. 'Without all those fallen soldiers, Hitler would've taken over Britain and your family would never have been allowed here,' one user - @alhaurincraig - wrote. Another crudely superimposed a picture of a poppy on to an image of the presenter with a banner saying 'Sack the Slag'. White said that the racist and sexist abuse acted against all of the goals that the fallen soldiers had fought for. Don't let the ignorant pond-scum get you down, Charlene, just be secure in the knowledge that you're better than them.
Charlie Higson has suggested that The Fast Show could return in 2014. The classic BBC sketch series marks its twentieth anniversary next year and co-creator Higson hopes that the BBC may bring it back for a one-off special. 'It's also the fiftieth anniversary of BBC2, so they're going to be doing a lot of stuff looking at the history of the channel and comedy,' Higson is quoted as saying in the Sun. 'We will be doing something around The Fast Show - probably using the stuff we did for Foster's.' He added: 'I doubt I will ever do anything else in comedy that would have quite the impact that The Fast Show has. You only really get one chance of that in your lifetime.' Paul Whitehouse, Mark Williams, Simon Day, Caroline Aherne, Arabella Weir and John Thomson also starred in the original series which ran from 1994 to 1997 which a one-off special in 2000, before returning for an online series with Foster's in 2011. Yer actual Keith telly Topping his very self was a huge fan and, like many people of a certain age, can - and frequently does - quote whole sketches ver batum. Last year, Thomson and Day both expressed their hope that the programme will return following its brief online comeback. So, that's good news isn't it, dear blog reader. Or, as Louis Balfour would say on Jazz Club ...
ITV has announced the launch of a new international subscription service which will allow ex-pats and holidaymakers to watch Coronation Street and Emmerdale while abroad. Which, trust me dear blog reader, is as horrifying a concept to this blogger as it probably is to you. The new project, titled ITV Essentials, is now available in twelve European territories for a monthly subscription cost of €5.49. ITV Essentials will have a thirty-day catch-up window, streaming all episodes of Coronation Street and Emmerdale without advertisements. The broadcaster has teamed up with Saffron Digital for the project, which will initially be available via wifi only. ITV's controller of pay and distribution Neale Dennett commented: 'This is a landmark deal for ITV. We are thrilled that we can now deliver the UK's favourite soaps to the millions of British fans living and visiting abroad. In Saffron Digital we have found the perfect partner to bring these ambitions to life.' Saffron Digital's president Jason Keane added: 'This is an elegant solution to finding ways to reach more soap fans across Europe. ITV have really raised the bar with this initiative and we are thrilled to be the launch partner on this unique service.' ITV Essentials is currently available to soap fans in Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Gibraltar, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain. So, if you're looking for somewhere to go on holiday in Europe, dear blog treader, try Liechtenstein. Or San Marino.

TV audiences have been invited to air their views on BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 as the BBC Trust announces its largest review into the channels. The Trust's 'most ambitious' review will combine all four BBC channels for the first time, including a three-month public consultation. As the BBC's governing body, the Trust's role is to ensure licence fee payers get the best value for money. Allegedly. it actually seems to many as though their real job is to provide a staggering lack of anything approaching backbone when the BBC is being attacked by those with a sick agenda and to lie whimpering in the corner saying 'please don't hurt me'. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not a big fan of the BBC Trust as you can probably tell, dear blog reader. He thinks they're shit, frankly. The public consultation will close in February 2014. The Trust will also carry out audience research over the following months. Due in summer 2014, the review will assess whether each channel fulfils its licence agreement, which sets out what the public can expect of each BBC service. The review will also look at what the channels' future direction should be. The Trust will answer whether the channels are delivering quality content across a range of genres, and how each demographic is being catered for. 'The licence fee places a great obligation on the BBC to be bolder than other broadcasters in delivering ambitious and distinctive programmes for its audiences,' said BBC Trustee David Liddiment. The review will also explore how each channel is responding to changes in audience expectations and the way they view programmes, in response to new technology. 'In this fully digital age the television landscape is changing dramatically and BBC television can be viewed any time, anywhere, on pretty much any device and our viewers have never been more discerning,' said BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne. 'We want to make sure the BBC is delivering the highest quality content to all audiences; however they choose to access it,' she added. 'We'd encourage those who watch BBC television to get in touch through our consultation to tell us how they think these four channels are doing.' This is the Trust's second review of BBC Television but the first to look at these four channels together. BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4 were reviewed in 2010 and BBC3 in 2009 as part of the Trust's review into younger audiences. A separate review of BBC network news and current affairs was launched in September 2013, so it will not be considered in this review.
A Scum of the World landline was used for hacking as the paper tried to discover what a rival Sunday title knew about John Prescott's affair with a secretary, a jury at the Old Bailey has heard. The jury were told about the 'frequent' use of a landline at the paper while at the same time the paper's private investigator was also hacking using his own phone. It was alleged that at one point in what was previously described to the jury as the 'dog-eat-dog frenzy' to break the story about Lord Prescott and Tracey Temple, someone on a private number at the Scum of the World was hacking one journalist on the Scum Mail on Sunday while private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was simultaneously hacking another. The two journalists, Dennis Rice and Sebastian Hamilton, were named in Mulcaire's notes along with various associates of Lord Prescott. The court heard that there were also 'frequent' calls between Ian Edmondson, a Scum of the World newsdesk executive and Mulcaire as the paper was planning a 'spoiler' to detract from what they believed would be a Scum Mail on Sunday 'exclusive' on Prescott's private life. The court was shown e-mails discussing an offer to Temple of one hundred thousand smackers for her story to spoil the exclusive being lined up by the Scum Mail on Sunday on 30 April 2006. On 28 April, phone records show where were 'twenty eight calls between Glenn Mulcaire and Ian Edmondson both ways.' This included six calls from a News International landline described as a 'private wire', said Mark Bryant-Heron, for the prosecution. This was two days before the paper was due to come out and at times the hacking of Rice and Hamilton were just minutes apart, the court heard. In a detailed timeline of the day, the jury heard that at 6.05pm Mulcaire called Edmondson. Bryant-Heron told the jury: 'Two minutes after that Edmondson calls Mulcaire. Two minutes after that Mulcaire hacks Dennis Rice's phone for six minutes and ten seconds. At 6.14pm Edmondson calls Mulcaire. At 6.15pm call from private wire News of the World number ending in 312 which is a hack to Dennis Rice's telephone,' Bryant-Heron told the jury. The hacking of the phones of Rice and Hamilton carried on up to 9.06pm, the crown alleged. 'At the time the private wire line was hacking Dennis Rice, Glenn Mulcaire was simultaneously hacking Sebastian Hamilton,' Bryant-Heron said. The following day, 29 April, Edmondson wrote an e-mail to executives on the paper detailed the planned 'spoiler' he had lined-up. 'Prezza's diary secretary, how she lusted for Johnnie Two Shags,' he wrote, sneeringly, adding 'more salacious' detail about what the paper had on Prescott's affair. Hacking of the phones of Rice and Hamilton carried on until July, the jury was told. The court was told that tapes of their voice messages were recovered from the home of Mulcaire in 2006. The jury was also told that Prescott's special adviser, Joan Hammell, was hacked. At one point there was a hack that lasted sixteen-and-a-half minutes. There were forty five messages on her phone at the time. Lord Freddie Windsor, son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, had his mobile voicemails hacked on thirteen occasions by Mulcaire, and on four occasions from a fixed-line phone at the Scum of the World between April and May 2006 it was also alleged. An e-mail on 27 April 2006 from Mulcaire to Edmondson contained details of Windsor's mobile phone, pin number and instructions to 'Press * pin.' The prosecution maintain this was Mulcaire instructing Edmondson how to hack Windsor's phone. Twenty-five minutes after the e-mail was sent there was 'a phone call from News International to the UVM [unique voicemail number] for Fred Windsor, that lasted three minutes twenty five seconds,' said Bryant-Heron. Another call was made to the UVM from the same phone half-an-hour later. This e-mail was one of three messages, supplied to the police by News International, that prompted the 2011 police investigation into phone-hacking, the jury has been told. One message, 'Hi Frog' was found written in Mulcaire's notebook and was from a friend using Windsor's nickname, the court heard. In his notes on Windsor, Mulcaire had written 'friend of Prince Harry.' Windsor's friends Lily Balfour and Ben Goldsmith later identified messages they had left on his phone as among eight found on a tape recording seized by police from Mulcaire's home address. The court was told Mulcaire made several calls to the mobile phone of another friend, Mary Charteris. The trial continues.

Odious, smug Alan Titchmarsh is stepping down from the BBC's Chelsea Flower Show coverage, after thirty years as its host. He will not feature in BBC1 and 2's broadcasts from the event, which will undergo a revamp for 2014. BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth will join the new-look presenting team, along with Gardeners' World host Monty Don. The horticultural show had been Titchmarsh's last major BBC commitment, after many years fronting Gardeners' World from his own garden. He quit the BBC2 show in 2002 and currently hosts a risibly twee and dreadful afternoon chat show on ITV. Badly.

Sir Tony Robinson his very self says that Prince William has agreed to a cameo role in Blackadder if there is ever another series of the hit BBC comedy. Which there probably won't be so, this is a bit of a non-story really. The sixty seven-year-old comedian, actor and presenter said that the 'casting' took place as he was being knighted by the Duke of Cambridge earlier this week. Prince William told Sir Tony, who played Edmund Blackadder's long-suffering manservant Baldrick, that he was a big Blackadder fan. 'I said to him "would you be prepared to be in it?" He said "yes" like a shot,' Tony added. 'I managed to do a bit of casting while he was awarding my knighthood. I think that is probably a first.' Sir Tony starred in the historical comedy, first broadcast thirty years ago, alongside Rowan Atkinson and a host of other stars including Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Asked by the prince about plans for a possible fifth series, Sir Tony joked: 'I don't know if we can afford Hugh Laurie.' To be honest, the way the BBC;;s finances are these days, I'm not sure they could afford Tony Robinson, but that's another matter entirely. As to who William would play, Sir Tony said: 'I think he would have to play himself.' Yeah. He could probably manage that. Just about. Of the investiture ceremony, Sir Tony said 'a little bit of Baldrick crept over me. I messed it up completely - I forgot that you were supposed to bow at the beginning, I was just stood there and I was looking at HRH and he was looking at me. I stepped forward and knelt. Then I went the wrong way.' His knighthood, announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours, recognises his 'lifetime of public and political service with a career as an actor, theatre director, children's author and television presenter.' Although best known for his portrayal of Baldrick, Sir Tony has performed in the West End, at Chichester Festival Theatre and the National Theatre as well as with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His television credits include nearly twenty years fronting the Channel Four archaeology series Time Team as well as being one of the presenters of the BBC's millennium celebrations 2000 Today. Last month, it was announced Sir Tony will make his first theatre appearance in sixteen years as the narrator, Kenneth Grahame, in the Royal Opera House's production of The Wind in the Willows. His Blackadder co-star Atkinson was also recognised with a CBE for services to drama and charity.

Yer Jezza Paxman has 'paid tribute' to David Dimbleby's recent - highly public - tattoo with a surprise ending to Newsnight. On Tuesday night's edition of the BBC2 programme, Paxo closed with tattoos on each finger spelling 'Good nite'. Paxman's fake tattoos follow the real tattoo inked on seventy five-year-old Dimbleby which have, seemingly, so obsessed the media over the last few days since Dimbles announced he'd got one. The current affairs and political presenter fulfilled his 'life-long dream' of getting a tattoo, choosing the image of a scorpion on his shoulder. Dimbles had the tattoo done during the filming of his new maritime TV series Britain and the Sea for an episode focused on how body art was brought to the UK via Captain Cook's trips on the South Sea.
New York's highest court will decide whether state law protects a FOX News reporter from revealing confidential sources from a story about James Holmes, who is accused of extremely killing twelve people in a suburban Denver movie theatre last year. Holmes' lawyers want Jana Winter, who works at New York-based FOX News, dragged to a Colorado courtroom in chains to name the two law officers who, allegedly, told her that Holmes had mailed a notebook depicting violence to a psychiatrist. They argue the 'sources' violated a gagging order, may have subsequently lied under oath about that and won't be credible as trial witnesses. Holmes' attorneys argue that New York journalists, as a group, are not immune from being subpoenaed to testify in other states. The Court of Appeals will hear arguments this week. Its ruling is expected in December. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His murder trial is scheduled for February. New York has a strong so-called 'shield law' protecting professional journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources and preventing courts from finding them in contempt if they don't disclose. Colorado has a similar law, but with an exception to subpoena information 'directly relevant to a substantial issue' which cannot be obtained elsewhere. Winter reported that the notebook, mailed to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the mass shooting, had drawings of 'gun-wielding stick figures blowing away other stick figures.' She cited two - unnamed - law enforcement sources. 'In cases of confidential source information, the privilege is absolute,' Winter's attorney, Dori Hanswirth, said of New York's law. 'It was designed to be very strong. Essentially what we're arguing is that the public policy in New York that's embodied in the shield law should have prevented the judge from signing off on this particular subpoena,' Hanswirth said Monday. Winter has 'never wavered' on the alleged 'accuracy' of her report. New York's shield law was first enacted in 1970. Governor Nelson Rockefeller said at the time that it would make New York, as the nation's principal centre for news gathering and dissemination, 'the only state that clearly protects the public's right to know and the First Amendment rights of all legitimate newspapermen.' Daniel Arshack, an attorney for Holmes, said this case isn't about the shield law at all – just about issuing a subpoena to a witness. 'The issue of what the Colorado court is going to do is for the Colorado court to decide,' Arshack said. 'The only issue before the court in New York is whether there is a singular class of citizens who are immune to subpoenas.' A Manhattan judge granted the subpoena for Winter to testify, rejecting the claim she is protected from going by New York's shield law. Justice Larry Stephen concluded that whether Winter's information is needed and should be disclosed was an issue for the Colorado court to decide. A mid-level court agreed. The majority wrote that compelling her to testify was 'not the same' as compelling her to disclose sources. The three justices also concluded the issue of admissible evidence and journalist privilege 'remain within the purview of the demanding state rather than the sending state,' in this case Colorado. The two dissenters countered that the majority 'fails to acknowledge the near certainty' that the Colorado court will 'compel' her to either identify her confidential sources or go directly to jail for contempt, contrary to New York's public policy. They said she could suffer 'undue hardship' in damage to her career.

CBS News is facing mounting calls for an investigation into how its flagship programme Sixty Minutes was duped into running a fantasy eyewitness account of the 2012 attack on the US compound in Benghazi in which four Americans, including the ambassador, Chris Stevens, were killed. Despite having broadcast two on-air apologies over the story – one on Friday and the second on Sunday night at the end of the weekly Sixty Minutes slot – CBS has refused to order an investigation under the apparent belief that, having apologised, the furore would now die down. But the opposite seems to be happening: criticism of the network is growing daily in an echo of the disastrous events of 2004 when CBS reacted defensively to the Dan Rather controversy over mistaken reporting of George W Bush's Viet'nam record. The rising temperature of the controversy was underlined by prominent CBS alumni wading into the dispute. Former CBS news correspondent Marvin Kalb, writing in Politico, called for a 'wide-ranging, no-holds-barred self-analysis of its reporting standards' following what he called a 'humiliating moment.' Paul Friedman, a senior news executive at CBS until 2011, told the New York Times that the long-term credibility of his old network depended on 'how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.' In a statement, Sixty Minutes maintained its defensive tone. A spokesman said: 'As soon as we had confirmation of a problem with this report on Thursday, we issued a statement to that effect; we then went on the air Friday morning to address it, correct it and apologise, spoke at length to media outlets about the matter and now have explained it to our audience in a correction on our broadcast.' The Gruniad Morning Star asked CBS whether it intended to mount a full investigation into the debacle, but the spokesman declined to go further than the statement. The offending report, by Lara Logan, was broadcast on 27 October. It was focused around the account of 'Morgan Jones' – real name Dylan Davies – a security guard with the British firm the Blue Mountain Group who claimed to have been present at the Benghazi attack and gave lurid descriptions to Sixty Minutes of climbing up a twelve foot wall, entering into combat with an assailant and later seeing Stevens' blood-soaked body in the hospital. Four days later, Davies's story began to unravel when the Washington Post revealed that he had previously told his employer in an official incident report that he had been nowhere near the compound on the night of the attacks. The chairman of CBS News, Jeff Fager, stood by the Sixty Minutes story even after it became public that Davies had given two conflicting accounts of the night. The network only abandoned its bullish position after the New York Times disclosed that Davies had also told the FBI that he had not been present at the Benghazi attack. In her first apology last Friday, Logan admitted that she had known before the broadcast that Davies had lied about part of his story. Speaking on CBS This Morning, Logan said Davies did so in order to protect himself – as to have been at the Benghazi compound would have been to have disregarded orders. Logan said that she had decided to go ahead with the report because she believed Davies had 'acted out of an altruistic desire to help other guards in danger.' The chorus of complaint over CBS's handling of the affair includes experts in journalism ethics and media watchdog groups. Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University and has been writing about the CBS controversy on his Press Think blog, said that CBS's responses had been 'inexplicable.' Having been through the trauma of 2004, the network was making the same mistakes by refusing to answer basic questions on what had happened. 'What's the big deal about saying you are investigating the matter? I don't understand what's so hard about that: it should be routine,' Rosen said. Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard university, told the Gruniad that the Sunday-night apology was 'the least of mea culpas for what was a real reporting debacle. Sixty Minutes is very high-profile and it gave the Benghazi report a lot of attention - so I think they have more of a problem than just saying sorry.' Media Matters, a left-of-centre media watchdog which has pursued the Benghazi story doggedly, has demanded an independent investigation into the Sixty Minutes report along the same lines of the investigation into Dan Rather's reporting of Bush's National Guard record. On that occasion, a former governor of Pennsylvania and a retired CEO of the Associated Press were given the job of looking into the flawed report for which Rather lost his show and eventually departed CBS in 2006. Further controversy surrounds the role of Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster which is also owned by CBS that published Davies' account of Benghazi two days after the Sixty Minutes segment broadcast. The book has now been recalled, but questions remain about which outlet – the publisher or Sixty Minutes – made contact with Davies first, and whether there was any financial incentive within CBS to go ahead with the broadcast in order to advance the book.

Sir John Tavener, one of the leading British composers of the Twentieth Century, has died at the age of sixty nine. Sir John was known for music that drew on his deep spirituality. In 1992, The Protecting Veil topped the classical charts for several months and in 1997 his Song For Athene was played at the funeral of Princess Diana. He had suffered ill health for much of his life, culminating in a heart attack in 2007 which led him to spend six months in intensive care. Previously, he had suffered a stroke in 1979, and in 1990 was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a hereditary condition which can cause heart defects. His other well-known works included A New Beginning, which was chosen to see in the new century at the end of 1999 in the Millennium Dome in London. James Rushton, managing director of Sir John's publisher Chester Music, described him as 'one of the unique and most inspired voices in music of the last fifty years. His large body of work is one of the most significant contributions to classical music in our times,' he said. 'For all of those fortunate enough to have known him, John was a man of strong beliefs, huge personal warmth, loyalty and humour. He will be much missed.' A statement said he died peacefully at home in Child Okeford, Dorset, on Tuesday. Sir John began his career on The Beatles' Apple label in the 1960s. Tavener first came to prominence in 1968 with his dramatic cantata The Whale, based on the Old Testament story of Jonah. It was premièred at the London Sinfonietta's début concert, which was also the opening concert of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.John's younger brother, Roger, was then doing some building work on Ringo Starr's home, and gaining the musician's interest persuaded The Beatles to have The Whale recorded by Apple Records and released in 1970. The following year Tavener began teaching at Trinity College of Music. Tavener was deeply affected by his brief marriage, lasting only a few months in 1974, to the Greek dancer Victoria Maragopoulou. His chamber opera A Gentle Spirit (1977), with a libretto by playwright and regular collaborator Gerard McLarnon based on a story by Dostoyevsky, concerns a pawnbroker whose marriage fails to the extent that his wife commits suicide. It has been deemed 'far superior to Thérèse, with the internal drama more suited to the stage.' Significantly, it also touched on Russian orthodoxy, to which McLarnon had been a convert for several years and which Taverner himself would eventually become a convert to. He was one of the few contemporary composers to find wide acclaim beyond the classical world. He was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize twice - in 1992 and 1997 - and was knighted in 2000. Having converted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977, he once said that 'my way towards God has been to write music.' Fellow composer John Rutter told BBC Radio 3 that Sir John was 'a composer who was absolutely touched by genius at every point. He could bring an audience to a deep silence which is a very rare gift,' Rutter said. 'You could also sense something very special even in his miniature pieces. He believed that music was for everybody and was a prayer. We can only lament the loss of the music still to come and the seventieth birthday celebrations next year.' Others paying tribute included his friend and actress Mia Farrow. Sir John was heard on BBC Radio 4's Start The Week on Monday in an interview recorded on 31 October. He recounted how his 2007 heart attack left him unable to 'sense the idea of God any more, I couldn't sense any music. Everything vanished,' he said. 'I was so physically weak and I'd spent six months in intensive care and the heart had stopped four times. It was only after being nursed by my wife back into some state of health that the music and a different kind of faith started to come back.' Despite being told by doctors that he would not be able to work after his heart attack, he did resume composing and premiered three works at the Manchester International Festival this summer. The premiere of his latest work, Three Shakespeare Sonnets, is scheduled to take place at Southwark Cathedral on Friday. He is survived by Maryanna, his wife of twenty two years, and their three children, Theodora, Sofia and Orlando.

On Thursday evening, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping his very self will be, as usual, attending yer actual Uncle Scunthorpe's latest Record Player event at the Tyneside. This week, it's a bit of a special one; it's only yer actual Jimi Hendrix and his Experience their very selves and the seminal Electric Ladyland, a record which has many claims to being, if you will, ground zero for a good seventy per cent of all music which came after it, across numerous genres. This is especially true of side three which managed, in just eighteen minutes and three tunes, to pretty much invent - deep breath - world music, ambient, trance, trip-hop, fusion, sampling and possibly even rap (although, admittedly, James Brown might have something to say about the latter). It's a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping and, thus, it's also Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Dig the music, kids.