Saturday, August 30, 2014

Into The Dalek: Outside Looking In

'So, what do we do with the moral Dalek, then?' 'Get into its head.'
'You asked me if you were a good man. The answer is, I don't know. But I think you try to be. And I think that's, probably, the point.' Almost without exception in Doctor Who's history, each new Doctor had not had to wait very long before facing-off against his oldest and most persistent enemies. True, Mister Pertwee was two years into his tenure before he got a whiff of the pepperpots in The Day Of The Daleks - though that was more to do with certain contractual malarkey which existed at the time rather than any specific decision (or lack of it) on the part of the then production team. Similarly, Peter Davison also had two Dalek-less seasons before the unholy bloody carnage that was Resurrection Of The Daleks  - though, on that occasion, but for a BBC strike, that particular story would have been filmed a year earlier, in 1983, as part of season twenty. But, the third and fifth Doctors aside, every other new regeneration has managed to find The Daleks crowbarred into one of their first handful of adventures. Or, in Paul McGann's case, crowbarred into the opening scene of the 1996 TV movie for no obvious reason that made any sense to anyone. Some of these stories have been significantly better than others, it must be admitted - compare, for instance, the genuinely ground-breaking Genesis Of The Daleks, one of the highlights of the Sylvester McCoy's era Remembrance Of The Daleks or, indeed, the wonderfully thought-provoking 2005 Christopher Eccleston vehicle Dalek with the over-confusing, shoot 'em up mess of Resurrection or the sadly 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing' Victory Of The Daleks. Terry Nation's bug-eyed monsters have, for better or worse, been a unifying presence in Doctor Who since December 1963 and it's only right and proper that each, successive, lead actor gets his own chance to run up some stairs away from them. (Technically, not applicable since 1989, but still they try.)
'Welcome to the most dangerous place in the universe.' Into The Dalek - the second episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who - was written by Phil Ford and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat, the second of a two-episode block directed by Ben Wheatley. It entered production at the end of January 2014 (it was mostly completed by the third week of February allowing Ford the opportunity to attend the annual Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles). Ford had written previously for the popular family SF drama, co-authoring with Russell Davies 2009's genuinely disturbing The Waters Of Mars. Luckily for Phil, he had a bit of guidance from co-writer Moffat in terms of what kind of chap the twelfth Doctor is: 'He's like a raging Billy Connolly.' With the exception of the announcement of the introduction of a recurring character Danny Pink, a Coal Hill School colleague of (and, potential boyfriend for) Clara played by Samual Anderson, most of the guest cast for the episode was not revealed until the early summer. Which was something of a pisser for yer actual Keith Telly Topping as, for once, this blogger had a genuine twenty four carat casting scoop dumped in his lap and for reasons of self-preservation to his knackers, he didn't dare to use it. The major guest roles in the episode were occupied by Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat, she also played Sally Donovan in Sherlock's unaired pilot) and two actors with whom Ben Wheatley had a long association, Michael Smiley and Ben Crompton. The former is one of the most in-demand character actors on UK television, a regular face on series as diverse as Spaced (as the memorably foul-mouthed raver Tyres O'Flaherty), Bleak House, Wire In The Blood, Luther, Good Cop, Ripper Street and The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern and in movies like Shaun of the Dead, The Other Boleyn Girl, Burke & Hare and The World's End along with Wheatley's Kill List and A Field In England. Crompton also worked with Wheatley on Kill List and on the much-lamented BBC3 sitcom Ideal, as well as appearing in Clocking Off, Housewife Forty Nine, Collision, Pramface, The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher and Game Of Thrones (as Dolorous Edd). As it happens he's also a really good mate of one of Keith Telly Topping's writing partners so this blogger knew Ben had been cast in the episode last October. Dutifully (and, completely terrified of any potential wrath from high a-top the thing from The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat should he spill the beans), this blogger kept totally schtum until the BBC themselves announced the cast.
'I don't trust him.' 'We're not supposed to trust him, we're supposed to keep an eye on him.' 'Quicker just to shoot him.' 'Always quicker. Never smarter.'

'You'll probably feel a bit sick. Please don't be.' The plot synopsis was publicly revealed in early August though it didn't tell fans anything that they wouldn't have known from the trailer: 'A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship and only the Doctor can help them now ... with The Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side. Confronted with a decision that could change The Daleks forever, he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, "am I a good man?"' Of course, by the time the synopsis emerged, like four other episodes from early in the season both Into The Dalek's script and, indeed, a rough cut of the episode itself had been leaked to various dark corners of the Interweb by very naughty people.
It can, perhaps, seem to be something of unwanted necessity to have a Dalek episode cropping up most years in Doctor Who, given that - as Steven Moffat has previously pointed out - they're so regularly, and easily, beaten by The Doctor. Yes, they are very popular and iconic and all that but for all their universe conquering intentions, The Daleks tend be the very definition of an alien race with jolly big ideas but, metaphorically, very small dicks. Which, you know, might explain the sink plunger. All talk, not a lot of action. To be blunt, they're a bit crap a lot of time. Yes, technically, they can blow up your entire world but, more often than not, they don't and instead fall victim to some convenient plot device. It's a valid question to wonder how you can keep on finding fresh angles on a monster which has featured on the show since its very beginnings fifty years ago? Plus, of course, there's the knotty fact that they're post-apocalyptically shit-scared of The Doctor his very self, even having their own secret name for their tormentor, The Oncoming Storm. Not, exactly, what you'd except from the most fearsome race in the cosmos. So, has Into The Dalek anything to add to the legend? Not 'af. After their last appearance in Asylum Of The Daleks effectively rewrote The Doctor and The Daleks' perceptions of each other, here was have the most intriguing of ideas, taking elements from Rob Shearman's Dalek to give the audience another curve-ball about the nature of what lies inside those knobbly metal casings. Literally, as The Doctor, Clara and a galactic resistance squad are miniaturised and venture into a 'defective', moral Dalek. In Remembrance Of The Daleks, The Doctor is asked by Group Captain Gilmore: 'What am I dealing with? Little green men?' No, he replies: 'Little green blobs in bonded-polycarbite armour.' But there is, and always has been, so much more to The Daleks than simply that. Between them, Phil and Steven have come up with a clever and a properly fresh perspective on The Daleks. Into The Dalek is about more than simply knowing your enemy. It's about recognising that their greatest strength might, just, be your own greatest weakness.
'Dalek mutants are born hating. This is what stokes the fire. Extinguishes even the tiniest glimmer of kindness or compassion. Imagine the worst possible thing in the universe and then don't bother - because you're looking at it right now. Evil refined as engineering.' Capaldi's take on The Doctor in this episode is, in places, surprisingly alien and - more than once - harshly indifferent to how that looks to others. Working more on ice cold logic than with the heat of emotion as most of his predecessors did, it would be accurate to say that whilst Deep Breath gave us a Doctor in embryo, here we have the true birth of the twelfth-that's-really-fourteenth Doctor. In effect, the episode isn't so much about The Daleks and their vast, over-complicated schemes to enslave the universe, it's more of a psychological exploration of one specific Dalek and of The Doctor, both of them physically and mentally wounded by the universe(s) they inhabit. Early in the episode Capaldi asks Clara 'Am I a good man?' It's a scene which you'll probably be familiar to viewers with from the various series trailers and it becomes the central theme for the episode as it progresses. As in Dalek, there is the question of what, conceptually, separates The Doctor from a Dalek? Remember when Chris Eccleston's Doctor was told, chillingly: 'You would make a good Dalek'? The difference might not be as pronounced as you'd think and as The Doctor would hope. Seemingly, The Doctor wasn't lying when he spoke in the last episode about making some changes after two thousand years. Capaldi continues to shape his Doctor's performance in broad strokes. Any thoughts that he might mellow after fetching the coffee at the conclusion of last week's episode is quickly shoved to one side. It could still happen of course. But, not yet. Arguably, he is more cold and clinical here than in the opener, his unsympathetic attitude often crassly conflicting with Clara's more empathic world-view. It leads to some witty exchanges and even her giving him a long-overdue slap across the chops. There's also one particular 'did he just do what I think he just did?'moment from The Doctor seemingly at odds with his established central morality which is already under question after the death of The Half-Face Man last week. Or, more charitably, pushing at the very boundaries of what is acceptable in the 'ends justify the means' column in the universe where things like Daleks exist. 'Daleks don't turn good - it was just radiation, affecting its brain chemistry, nothing more than that. No miracle.' Clara's life outside the TARDIS is glimpsed and the episode introduces the new recurring character of Danny Pink. A former soldier Danny, like Clara, is a teacher at Coal Hill School. He only gets a couple of scenes bookending the story so it's different to know exactly what to make of him as yet, other than, you know, the surface impression of 'Mickey-lite'. But, his scenes with Clara are flirty and quite fun, even if they feel,  tonally, out of place with the rest of the episode.
Continuity: Visually, and conceptually, there are strong links to Dalek, Let's Kill Hitler, Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS, The Girl In The Fireplace, Bad Wolf and Earthshock. There are references to The Snowmen ('it's smaller on the outside' and: 'It's a bit narrow, isn't it?' 'Any remarks about my hips will not be appreciated'), The Invisible Enemy ('Do you shrink the surgeons so they can climb inside the patients? Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist'), Deep Breath ('Did they tell about the "holding your breath" thing?'), The Beast Below ('Behold, the belly of the beast'), Remembrance Of The Daleks ('how are Daleks pure?'), Castrovalva and Rose ('follow me. And run!'), Asylum Of The Daleks (the 'harvesting' of victims; the Daleks having a concept of beauty), Revelation Of The Daleks ('Mortuaries and larders - always the easiest to break out of. Oh, I've lived a life!'), Time Of The Doctor ('In the silence and the cold. I saw worlds burning'), The Tenth Planet ('resistance is futile!'), The Daleks Invasion of Earth (Dalekanium), The Age Of Steel (Gretchen's self-sacrifice to save the future), Death To The Daleks and The Daleks ('All those years ago, when I began, I was just running. I called myself The Doctor, but it was just a name. And then I went to Skaro and I met you lot. And I understood who I was. Who I had to be. I was not you.')
Once again, the dialogue is cracking: 'I materialised a time capsule exactly round you and saved your life one second before your ship exploded but do, please, keep crying.' And: 'I wish I could have done more.' 'Then you should have.' And: 'The security on this base is absolute, so we're still going to kill you.' 'Oh, it's a rollercoaster with you, isn't it?!' And: 'Is the wooden sound you or the desk?' And: 'You didn't realise there was a living creature inside?' 'Not until it started screaming.' And: 'This is gun girl. She's got a gun and she's a girl. And this is a sort of boss one ... I think he's probably her uncle but I may have made that up to pass the time while they were talking.' And: 'We're here to shoot you dead, if you turn out to be a Dalek spy.' 'Well, that's a relief. I hate baby-sitters.' And: 'He'll get us out of here. The difficult part is not killing him before he can.' And: 'There never was a good Dalek. There was a broken Dalek and we repaired it'. And: 'How do I look?' 'Sort of short and roundish, but with a good personality, which is the main thing.' The script offers moments of sharp, sarky wit: 'Don't like soldiers much, do you?' 'You don't need to be liked. You have all the guns.' And: 'We're going to die in here and there's a tiny piece of you that's pleased!' There are moments of profundity: 'There's a bit more to modern soldiering than just shooting people. I like to think there's a moral dimension.' 'What, you shoot people and cry about it afterwards?' And: 'I thought you were saving him.' 'He was dead already - I was saving us!' And: 'Life returns. Life prevails. Resistance is futile.' Moments of passion: 'You're not my boss, you're one of my hobbies!' And: 'Who makes you smile? Or is no-one up to the job?' 'My brother, but he burned to death a couple of hours ago, so he's really letting me down today.' And: 'You saw a star born and you learned something? Oh, Dalek, do not be lying to me!' Of grace: 'Where are we going?' 'Into Darkness.' The Doctor and Clara 's back-and-forths are getting better all the time: 'Where the hell have you been?' 'You sent me for coffee.' 'Three weeks ago. In Glasgow.' 'Three weeks - that's a long time.' 'In Glasgow - that's dead in a ditch.' 'It's not my fault, I got distracted.' And: 'I'm his carer.' 'Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don't have to.' And: 'How do you get into a Dalek's head?' 'That wasn't a metaphor.' And: 'Ever microwaved a lasagne without pricking the film on top?' 'It explodes.' 'Don't be lasagne!' The script sparkles with cunning uses of pithy syntax ('An anti-climax once in a while, is good for my hearts') and humour ('Clara Oswald, do I really not pay you?' 'You couldn't afford me!') And when it reaches a peak like 'Is he mad or is he right?' 'Hand on my heart? Most days he's both!' you want to run around the living room and kiss the goldfish. 'If there's a pack of spare bulbs, break it to me gently.' And, very once in a while, there were moments of magnificence: 'Daleks do not have souls.' 'Oh no? Well imagine if you did.'
'You looked inside me and you saw hatred. That's not a victory. Victory would've been a good Dalek.' 'I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek.' A smashing script, then; not, possibly, the most original of ideas but splendidly directly by Ben Wheatley - particularly The Doctor and co's splendidly trippy entry into the Dalek - and with a quality cast, Into The Dalek manages to make The Daleks (or, one Dalek, at least), intriguing again. That, in and of itself, is worthy of considerable praise. 'Endless divine perfection'? Not quite, but a damned good effort although The Doctor's new-found wariness around soldiers is jolly curious given that one of his best friends - The Brigadier - was one. And, Captain Jack was another. Also, as one of this blogger's friends pointed out Into The Dalek was good, as was Deep Breath, but one of the things that yer actual Keith Telly Topping loves most, and has always loved most, about Doctor Who is that it is not a butch, shouty, gun-heavy-SF drama with rock hard Aliens-style Space Marines and big fek-off explosions every week. In fact it only ever has been those things a handful of times across fifty years. It was gratifying to see many online fans celebrating, loudly, Capaldi's brilliant in these opening two episodes but it was also noticeable that some of these comments chose to focus on the new Doctor's supposed 'darkness' as contrasted with his immediate predecessors (something Peter himself has been trying to play down in several recent interviews, notably his pre-series appearance on The ONE Show). In a way, it's also slightly worrying that there are people who seem to wish the series was butch and shouty and gun-heavy every week, because they want a 'grim and gritty' Doctor Who which, they believe, gives the show added gravitas. It looks as if next week's Robin Hood-themed episode, written by Mark Gatiss, is more cheeky and irreverent and eccentric - and, with Ben Miller playing The Sheriff Of Nottingham, hopefully, funny too. Which is what you'd want from a show that once had Pat Troughton and Tom Baker as its lead. One does, rather wonder if the gravitas-wishers will be out in force on Gallifrey Base and Twitter whinging like a Radiohead song about the lack of darkness. Time will tell. It usually does. I'm still not sure about the new music, though. And is anyone else utterly horrified that Clara is, seemingly, a Gruniad Morning Star reader? Talk about the ultimate evil.
And so, to the news: The - allegedly - controversial 'lesbian-lizard kiss' in last Saturday's Doctor Who episode will not be investigated by the media regulator, which said it 'did not discriminate between scenes involving opposite sex and same-sex couples.' Or, in other words, it is not Ofcom's job to promote homophobia. Which is jolly ice to know. Six homophobic louse-scumbags had complained to Ofcom after Peter Capaldi's first episode, Deep Breath, in which The Doctor's Silurian friend Madame Vastra kissed her human wife, Jenny. On the mouth. Hard. The pair, played by Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart, shared a kiss as they were forced to hold their breath as they hid from killer 'droids, prompting complaints from 'some viewers' (for which read six homophobic louse-scumbags) that it was 'gratuitous' and 'unnecessary'. A, frankly rather appalled-sounding, spokesperson for Ofcom said: 'Ofcom can confirm it received six complaints [from six homophobic louse-scumbags] about a kiss broadcast in an episode of Doctor Who on Saturday 23 August. Having assessed the complaints, we can confirm that they do not raise issues warranting further investigation. Our rules do not discriminate between scenes involving opposite sex and same-sex couples.' 'Discriminate.' What a very appropriate word. Sadly, Ofcom did not chose to publicly name and shame the six homophobic louse-scumbags in question although it is to be hoped that, in private, their names have been passed to the Metropolitan Police's hate crimes unit for further investigation.
For those interested in such things, Deep Breath after five days had already timeshfited approximately two million punters over its initial 'live' audience on Saturday. As of first thing on Friday morning, the consolidated audience figure for the episode was 8.89m. At the current rate it should just about get to nine million by Saturday for the final 'plus seven' figure (which would be a total timeshift of approximately 2.2 million viewers and would make it the second most-watched programme of the week after The Great British Bake Off). Those final numbers will be released by BARB early next week. No news yet on the iPlayer figures although the episode was, by a distance, the most downloaded programme of Saturday and Sunday.

Martin Freeman his very self has revealed that he found out about his EMMY win while he was in bed. With his wife, presumably. So, Amanda would have found out about it at the same time. Which is nice. The actor won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for his role of John Watson in Sherlock, but was unable to attend the ceremony on Monday due to his appearance in Richard III in the West End. Sherlock also won the prize for Outstanding Writing, while yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch won the award for Best Lead Actor. Martin told BBC Radio Wales: 'I got a text from my American agent and she said, "You've just won" and I thought, "Ah, very, very nice." And then I went to sleep. I woke up to find that Ben had won and that Steven had won and that Fargo had also done really well, both shows that I was in that had been nominated did really well so I was very pleased about that.' He added: 'I'm delighted. Really pleased. Whenever you're nominated for an award you know you've got a chance but I certainly wasn't banking on it, put it that way.'
So, Monday was a night of outstanding success for Sherlock - and, by extension, for British television in general, something that no one could argue with, right? Err ... well, enter, stage right, Daily Scum Mail who somehow managed to manufacture a BBC-bashing piece out of Sherlock's EMMY triumph: This is a golden age for TV: Shame the best shows are American and the BBC’s struggling to keep pace, claims the Scum Mail's television critic. While Christopher Stevens' thesis that most of the best TV in this widely-hailed golden age is coming out of the States may have some merit too it, using Monday's EMMYs to back up his argument is properly perverse, to say the least. 'Once, Britannia ruled the airwaves, with dramas that were the envy of the world's broadcasters,' Stevens dribbles. 'But that’s ancient history and this week the EMMY awards in Los Angeles delivered fresh humiliation. American television shows swept the board.' These being, of course, the same awards at which Sherlock won a total of seven EMMYs, when the four from the Creative Arts awards earlier this month are included, topping the six that Downton Abbey's first series picked up in 2011 (although Downton did get four of the more prestigious Primetime awards to Sherlock's three). This level of success at the Primetime EMMYs is pretty much unprecedented for British shows in the event's sixty five-year history. 'American television shows swept the board,' claims Stevens. Which, Sherlock aside is true. But, they've always swept the board until Downton and Sherlock. It is, after all, an American TV awards event – British shows such as Downton and Sherlock only qualify in the first place because they're co-productions with American broadcasters. Just as British shows tend to sweep the boards at the BAFTAs. Because they're BritishDownton won eleven EMMYs across its first three series, before missing out this year as Sherlock picked up the baton. Both are massive ratings hits for public service broadcaster PBS, which also airs Call The Midwife while shows including Doctor Who, Broadchurch and Luther, broadcast on cable channel BBC America, are critically lauded and commercial hits relative to the size of the broadcaster. So, well done the Scum Mail for yet another agenda-soaked piece of rancid phlegm so inaccurate and badly written it's almost funny. Almost, dear blog reader, but not quite.
In The Club remained on top of Tuesday's ratings outside soaps, according to overnight data. The BBC1 drama brought in a more than 4.45 million viewers on average, slightly down from last week's 4.49m. On BBC2, Young Vets was seen by 1.29m at 7pm, followed by Russia's Lost Princesses with 1.51m at 8pm and Super Senses with 1.37m at 9pm. ITV's repeat of Ade At Sea appealed to but 2.41m at 7.30pm, while a Midsomer Murders repeat was seen by 2.55m at 8pm. On Channel Four, Dogs: Their Secret Lives attracted 1.63m at 8pm. The Worst Place To Be A Pilot interested 1.17m at 9pm and Gordon Ramsay's Hotel Hell gathered seven hundred and seventy one thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Cowboy Builders interested seven hundred and eighty three thousand at 8pm, followed by the latest episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with 1.13m at 9pm and Celebrity Big Brother with 1.58m at 10pm.

The Great British Bake Off climbed to new heights for its latest episode on Wednesday. The BBC1 series - which featured a particularly controversial moment (see below) - rose to an overnight audience of 8.10 million viewers at 8pm, rising by around seven hundred thousand viewers from the previous week. Later, Last Chance Academy interested 2.45m at 9pm, while A Question Of Sport was watched by two million viewers at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Young Vets appealed to 1.16m at 7pm, followed by Hotel India with 2.03m at 8pm. Horizon gathered 1.55m at 9pm. ITV's Secret Life Of Cats attracted 1.87m at 8pm, followed by Secrets From The Asylum with 1.82m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Double Your House For Half The Money was seen by eight hundred and eighty three thousand at 8pm, while Star Paws brought in nine hundred and sixty three thousand at 9pm. Channel Five's Emergency Bikers continued with six hundred and thirteen thousand at 8pm, followed by the latest Celebrity Big Brother with 1.74m at 9pm. Suspects had an audience of six hundred and thirty thousand at 10pm. BBC3 topped the multichannels with yet another showing of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull with 1.19m at 9pm.

The Great British Bake Off contestant blamed by 'some people' (that's a euphemism for Twitterers, incidentally) for another contestant's exit has claimed to have been 'stitched up' by the way the programme was edited. Diana Beard said that she had been made 'a scapegoat' after being shown to play a part in Iain Watters' elimination. Watters exited the show after throwing his melted Baked Alaska in the bin. Yet some viewers (who, seemingly, didn't have anything better to do with their time) have since called for his reinstatement - regardless of the fact that the show was filmed three months ago - suggesting that Beard 'engineered' his dismissal by taking his ice cream out of the freezer. This has become known as 'bin-gate.' Apparently. Honest, dear blog reader, I'm not making this up. I know, I know, 'the crap that some people chose to care about' and all that. Speaking on BBC Radio Shropshire, Beard - the oldest contestant to have appeared on the BBC ratings winner - criticised how Wednesday's episode was edited. 'I'm disappointed with the way it's been portrayed,' she said. 'I've been stitched up, haven't I? We were twelve amateur bakers, [there's] no prize money involved. Why would I sabotage Iain's Baked Alaska? This has made it look like some cut-throat competition,' she continued. 'I think someone's culpable for the editing, really.' Beard claimed that Watters' ice cream had been out of the freezer for 'no more than forty seconds' - a claim which Watters' later cast doubt upon in an appearance on Newsnight - and that her 'conscience was intact.' Celebrities involved in the show immediately leaped to her defence after Wednesday's broadcast prompted 'a furore' on social media. Co-host Sue Perkins insisted that there had been 'no sabotage' and that the situation was 'getting a little inflamed for my liking. This is a show about cakes,' the comedienne and broadcaster continued on Twitter. 'Please, let's save the ire for real stuff.' 'Real stuff'? On Twitter? Are you taking the piss, Sue? A BBC spokesperson said: 'As shown in the episode, Iain became the fourth baker to leave the tent because he didn't present Mary and Paul with anything to judge in the showstopper challenge and both judges were very clear about the reasoning behind the decision. Due to the extreme temperature in the tent that day, many of the bakers struggled to get their ice cream to set as seen in the episode. Diana removing Iain's ice cream from the freezer for less than a minute was in no way responsible for Iain's departure.' Subsequently it was announced that Beard had left the show. The BBC said that her exit was due to illness and nothing to do with 'Bin-gate'.

Meanwhile, communications watchdog Ofcom will not be investigating The Great British Bake Off's 'Bin-gate' row - because, they got better things to do with their time, obviously - despite complaints about the alleged sabotage. Thirteen viewers, who seem not to have anything better to do with their time, whinged to Ofcom, twelve of them concerned at the apparent 'sabotage' of Watters' dessert. Eight hundred and eleven numskulls have also complained directly to the BBC. After receiving the whinges, Ofcom has decided the incident does not appear to have breached its broadcasting code. An Ofcom spokesman said: 'Having assessed viewers' complaints received to date, they do not raise issues warranting further investigation under Ofcom's rules.' Watters was voted off the show after presenting judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood with a bin when they asked to see his dessert and his departure sparked a Twitter campaign calling for him to make a return. Despite, once again, the fact that the series has already been filmed to its conclusion months ago. Speaking on BBC2's Newsnight, Watters said that he had spoken to Beard since and had 'no hard feelings.' He said: 'I knew it was going to be quite a big thing as it was a big thing that happened on the show. The reaction has been crazy, there were a lot of comments on Twitter. It's been really nice support and really built up overnight. I was more frustrated and it was just the heat of the moment. In the last half-hour of the show it got very tense. I've spoken to [Diana] and she's fine.' On Thursday, Paul Hollywood responded to the Twitter storm by saying: 'Ice cream being left out of fridge last night for forty seconds did not destroy Iain's chances in the bake off, what did was his decision [to] bin.' Beard revealed that she had left the show just before filming began on episode five after a fall severed her olfactory nerve, robbing her of her sense of smell. After she complained that the show had been edited to make it look as though she sabotaged her rival's chances, the BBC then announced that Beard would not be appearing in episode five, explaining that she 'fell ill' ahead of filming. But, she has since clarified that she 'fainted' and banged her head during supper with the other contestants just before production of the episode was due to start. Beard, who lives near Whitchurch in Shropshire, said: 'I fainted – which I have never done – and bashed my head, severing my olfactory nerve. So I have now lost my sense of smell and most of my taste.' She added that she has some sensation of foods which are very salty or vinegary, but has been told by a specialist that nothing medically can be done to repair the damage and she may never fully recover her senses. 'It could have been worse and I am counting my blessings,' said Beard, who used to run an upholstery business. She said that the announcement that she would not be returning for episode five had been brought forward by the BBC following the furore in which some members of the public branded her 'evil'. 'At least people will know I haven't wimped out,' she said. 'It's a relief, as people now know the truth.'
Brendan O'Carroll's appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? topped the overnight ratings on Thursday. The Mrs Brown's Boys star's episode of the BBC1 ancestry series brought in 5.30 million viewers 9pm. Earlier, DIY SOS: The Big Build returned with 4.48m at 8pm, while Motorway Cops brought in 2.34m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, live athletics coverage interested 1.32m at 7pm, followed by Natural World with 1.28m at 9pm. ITV's Tonight: The Food We Eat attracted 2.51m at 7.30pm, while Harbour Lives appealed to 2.16m at 8.30pm. Prom Crazy drew 1.51m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Location, Location, Location continued with 1.12m at 8pm, followed by Stammer School with eight hundred and twenty four thousand at 9pm and First Time Farmers with five hundred and twenty five thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Burned Alive: Anatomy Of A Murder intrigued six hundred and sixty three thousand at 8pm, followed by the latest Celebrity Big Brother with 1.70m at 9pm. Suspects concluded with six hundred and ninety seven thousand at 10pm. On BBC3, Cuckoo was watched by five hundred and thirty two thousand at 10pm.

BBC1's Boomers was Friday's highest-rated overnight show outside of soaps, attracting 3.01 million at 9pm. It was sandwiched between 2.45 million for Scrappers at 8.30pm and a very satisfying 2.85 million for the rubbish that is Big School at 9.30pm. The ONE Show and A Question Of Sport kicked things off with viewing figures of 3.33 million and 2.48 million. On ITV, Harbour Lives entertained 2.68 million at 8pm, while a Doc Martin repeat was seen by 2.5 million at 9pm. Young Vets started the night for BBC2 with 1.12 million at 7pm. It was followed by 1.76 million for Mastermind and 1.55 million for Sweets Made Simple. BBC2's evening peaked with 2.52 million for The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice, while Gardener's World attracted 1.9 million immediately after. Micky Flanagan: Back In The Game was Channel Four's highest-rated show with 1.18 million at 9pm, narrowly beating The Last Leg which had 1.12 million at 10pm. The latest episode of Million Pound Drop picked up seven hundred and sixty thousand at 8pm. Celebrity Big Brother's latest live eviction was seen by 1.81 million on Channel Five.

The BBC has defended its decision to schedule the Strictly Come Dancing launch show directly against an episode of The X Factor. It was confirmed this week that the BBC1 dance competition will kick off its new series on September 7 at 8pm, the same time that the fourth episode of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' series will be shown on ITV. The BBC has now explained that it made the scheduling decision when a double episode of ITV soap Coronation Street was moved to Sunday night, due to football the following night. 'We always try to avoid direct clashes but it's important that Strictly launches in primetime and with the extra episode of Coronation Street coming in, it's unfortunately left us with very little room to move on this occasion,' a BBC spokesperson said. The Strictly Come Dancing launch show will see the fifteen celebrities introduced to their professional partners.

Of course, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, was pure-dead vexed by all this malarkey and immediately accused the BBC of trying to 'sabotage' the return The X Factor by daring to, you know, scheduled anything against it and not having two hours of the Test Card and sombre music on opposite instead. This week, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads - who really needs to grow the fek up, frankly - returns to The X Factor for the first time in four years in a bid to reverse the show's falling ratings. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is part of a new look judging line-up featuring The Heaton Horror Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, who has, reportedly 'buried the hatchet' with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads after she was ignominiously dumped from the US version of the show. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads criticised the corporation and claimed the BBC wanted to 'damage' his show and 'should be grown up about it and admit it. I always think that when people do that the people they are pissing off are the viewers,' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads ranted at the programme's launch this week. Could somebody lend him a fiver so he can buy a box of hankies? Anyone? 'And they say this isn't a ratings battle, it is, that's why they did it. They didn't have to put it on at the same time as us, they did and it means that people then have to make the choice where before I think it was more of a gentleman's type agreement. It just shows the producers of the show for what they are. They don't want this show to do well, they don't want people to watch it, and our job is to do the best job we can so people prefer X Factor to them. They are two of the most popular shows of the year, it doesn't make sense to make viewers choose.' The X Factor's ratings have been in decline ever since Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads last appeared as a judge in 2010 and it has lost out in the ratings wars to its BBC1 rival for the last two years. The US edition fared even worse and has since been axed. Although sadly, not with an actual axe. Despite the decline last year's final, won by Sam Bailey, had an overnight audience of just fewer than ten million viewers, making it one of ITV's biggest shows of the year. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, who signed a one hundred and fifty million smackers deal with ITV last year, admitted that he had been 'arrogant' about the show in the past and said he would be 'disappointed' if this year's series did not do better and beat Strictly Come Dancing. 'The expectations on us are huge,' he admitted. 'I think that when we have been arrogant in the past, when we were winning, you kind of get complacent, that's when we lost out,' he added. 'When we were on the back foot and had to really concentrate on the show, that's when we did better. I feel we are in that position at the moment. We are not necessarily expecting to win although we would like to; we are going all out to make a better show.'
The complete line-up for this year's Strictly Come Dancing series has been revealed ahead of the BBC1 talent show's launch night on 6 September. And, whilst it's not - quite - as desperately z-list as earlier suggested, it's still hard to muster a great deal of enthusiasm for the 'talent' involved. MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace, Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott and Mrs Brown's Boys actress Jennifer Gibney - who, at least, most viewers will have heard of - join twelve other alleged 'celebrities.' These include pop stars Pixie Lott and Frankie Bridge (no, me neither), BBC DJ Scott Mills and Judy Murray, the mother of tennis player Andy. So, she's a 'celebrity' how, exactly? Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will co-host the ballroom competition. The pair were confirmed as the show's new full-time hosts following Sir Bruce Forsyth's decision to step down as presenter. Naturalist Steve Backshall, EastEnders actor Jake Wood, reality TV type person Mark Wright, ex-rugby player Thom Evans and Blue's Simon Webbe round out this year's male contingent. They will be joined by Casualty actress Sunetra Sarker, Big Brother contestant 'turned broadcaster' Alison Hammond and TV presenter Caroline Flack. Gibney, who plays Mrs Brown's daughter in the popular sitcom and is the wife of Brendan O'Carroll said she was 'excited' to be taking part in the show. Yer man Wallace said he 'could not wait' to 'live in a Strictly bubble', while former auctioneer Wonnacott said that he had signed on so he could take his wife dancing on their thirtieth wedding anniversary.
Paddy Considine has said that he doesn't understand why some actors prefer to stay away from TV. The actor and director - who will soon to return to ITV's The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher - told the Digital Spy website that he has learned not to be too picky when choosing roles. He said: 'For some reason there's a really strange thing around some actors about mainstream television. Look at the great actors that have come through television in this current generation, Benedict Cumberbatch [for example], what's the big fear with everybody? You're an actor, a job's a job. Believe me, years ago, I had this thing where I'd just done In America and I was at that period where I was like, "Right, I'm not doing anything unless I'm in love with it. I'm waiting for the right project to come along." I didn't work for nearly two years. I had to do some music videos because, guess what, the right project didn't come along. What was I even looking for in the first place? And it taught me I'd love to hop from one movie to the next, with one great director to the next, like some of my friends can do, but that's not my path, it hasn't happened, and it's fine, but I'll just look at the circumstances around me, and I'll take what comes.' Paddy also explained that he would rather star in a leading television role than a short appearance in a Hollywood film. 'I was asked earlier, "Why haven't you gone and pursued Hollywood films?" Well I've been in a couple, and I could do Hollywood films, I could be in one in the next few weeks because I got offered it, but I'm in it for, like, five minutes. Do you want to be in that for five minutes or in Whicher for the whole thing and you're the lead in it? It comes to a point where you go, "What does it mean to do those things?" I don't give a shit if people have seen my face or not, quite frankly. I don't have a career path, I just do what I do. And in the past year I've been fortunate enough to have a diverse load of things, and you can't really be any more grateful than that.' The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher will return for two new two-hour films titled Beyond The Pale and The Ties That Bind. The first will be broadcast on Sunday 7 September on ITV. The new specials, which follow two earlier acclaimed TV movies will see Jack Whicher working as a private inquiry agent in Victorian England.

Claims that a film about actress Linda Lovelace bore 'striking similarities' to the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat have been dismissed by a US judge. New York District Judge Thomas Griesa concluded that last year's biopic of Lovelace did not copy the core of the original film, in which she starred. He said that Deep Throat focused on one sex act but the 2013 film, Lovelace, did not feature any explicit material. The owners of the original movie's rights said that they would lodge an appeal. And, hold their breath and stamp their foot until they got their own way. Probably. Arrow Productions sued the makers of Lovelace last year in a bid to block its distribution, but their legal move was rejected by the judge and thrown out of court. They also claimed that the title Lovelace was used 'without licence or permission' and sought damages of 'at least' ten million dollars. In his decision, the judge described Deep Throat as 'a famous pornographic film replete with explicit sexual scenes and sophomoric humour', while Lovelace was a critical, biographical film documenting the life of the actress. He commented on the use of three scenes from the 1970s release in the later film, saying they added 'a new, critical perspective on the life of Linda Lovelace and the production of Deep Throat.' Under US copyright law, a certain amount of footage from Deep Throat could be, ahem, inserted under the auspices of 'fair usage.' Lovelace chronicled the porn star's abusive marriage to Chuck Traynor, played by Peter Sarsgaard, and how she came to work on Deep Throat. The lead role was played by actress Amanda Seyfried. It also explored her relationship with her mother, Dorothy, played by Sharon Stone. Deep Throat, the first porn movies to be widely seen in cinemas, made an estimated six hundred million bucks. The film drew middle class audiences to the cinema and helped lay the foundations of today's hardcore adult entertainment industry. Born Linda Boreman, Lovelace became an anti-pornography campaigner in later life. She died in a car accident in 2002 at the age of fifty three,

A man who claims that he was sexually abused by Bryan Singer has dropped his legal action against the film-maker. A judge in Honolulu granted Michael Egan's petition to have the case dismissed without prejudice, allowing him to refile at a later date. Singer's request to have the case dismissed with prejudice and to make Egan pay his legal costs was rejected. 'We're pleased that it's over,' said Singer's lawyer Marty Singer, who is not related to his client. 'Although we would have liked the case dismissed on merits, the fact that now it's dropped is satisfactory.' Egan, a former child model who is now thirty one, has accused the forty eight-year-old director of abusing him in Hawaii when Egan was seventeen. Egan previously filed three similar legal actions against other Hollywood figures, all of which were later dismissed. US district judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled that 'any alleged damage to [Singer's] reputation may well be ameliorated by plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of the action.'

The Australian actor Bill Kerr - 'the boy from Wagga Wagga' - who became one of Tony Hancock's radio sidekicks in the 1950s, has died in Perth aged ninety two. Born in Cape Town, South Africa in June 1922, Bill was raised in Australia and became a radio and vaudeville star before moving to the UK in 1947 to further his career. Appearances in Hancock's Half Hour, The Dam Busters and Doctor Who followed, as did a role in 1960s TV soap Compact. Returning to Australia in 1979, Bill had a key role in 1981 film Gallipoli. His voice is the first to be heard in Peter Weir's World War I epic, exhorting its young sprinter hero - Mel Gibson - to run 'as fast as a leopard.' Bill went on to be seen in another Weir movie, The Year Of Living Dangerously, the TV mini-series Anzacs, the horror film Razorback and the 2003 version of Peter Pan. According to family members, Bill was watching television at his home in Western Australia when he died. 'Mum said she could hear him laughing to Seinfeld,' his son Wilton told ABC News. 'That was one of his favourite shows.' He was 'the most generous, happy, loving man. Different to the gruff-voiced man you'll find in the roles that he would play,' Wilton added. 'Generous with his affection, just his life, general positivity, if I could be half the man he is, I'd be a very happy guy.' Known for his catchphrase 'I'm only here for four minutes', Bill was born into a theatrical family and made his stage debut in a touring production when he was still toddler. 'I was such a hit, I retired in 1922 and made a comeback at seven,' he later recalled. A 'Huckleberry Finn life' in New South Wales followed for a child star who was once described as 'the Jackie Coogan of Australian vaudeville.' He made his first film appearance in 1933's Harmony Row, in which he was billed as Willie Kerr. He saw service in the Australian army during the Second World War, and performed in theatrical shows at home and abroad and toured with his friend, the actor Peter Finch. Bill enjoyed his greatest success in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing alongside such comedy greats as Sid James, Spike Milligan, Kenneth Williams and Peter Sellers. His laconic Australian drawl saw him often cast as a slow-witted simpleton who could serve as the butt of his co-stars' jokes. His role as Giles Kent in the 1967 Doctor Who adventure The Enemy Of The World saw him sharing the screen with Patrick Troughton. Believed to be mostly missing for many years, a complete version of the six-part story was found last year at a TV station in Nigeria. Bill had much theatrical success in Britain, appearing in Spike Milligan and John Antrobus' satirical The Bed-Sitting Room, which was first produced in 1962, as well as in the 1963 film The Wrong Arm Of The Law alongside Peter Sellers and Bernard Cribbins. He was also a character actor of some distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death Is A Mockery (1952) and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port Of Escape (1956). His other films included Appointment In London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954), The Night My Number Came Up (1955), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966), and in two of the 'Doctor' films, Doctor In Distress (1963) and Doctor In Clover (1966). He is survived by his third wife, Sandra, and four children.

Fifteen, dear blog reader. The position in the UK charts that 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' reached in 1978. The age that William Miller is when he goes on tour with Stillwater in Almost Famous. The smallest natural number with seven letters in it. The first point in a game of tennis. The age of a quinceañera in Spanish culture. The square root of two hundred and twenty five (I think). The classification given by the BBFC to The Complete West Wing DVD box-set. The number of players in a rugby union team. The age in Britain at which a minor may be sent to jail to await trial for his or her naughty teenage crimes. The number of days in each of the twenty four cycles of the Chinese calendar. The number of function keys on most Mac keyboards. The number of minutes in a quarter of an hour. The number corresponding to The Devil in a Tarot deck. And, also, the number of lengths of the local swimming pool wot yer actual Keith Tekky Topping only went and done on Thursday morning before breakfast (and, repeated it on Saturday to boot). Well, I was impressed. Suit yerselves.

And, finally ...
... we end the latest From The North bloggerisationisms update with a couple of items related to yer actual Kate Bush's first gigs in thirty five years earlier this week. Now, as you probably know, dear blog reader, there is nothing - nothing in the world - that righteously pisses off this blogger big-style(e) than criminally lazy journalism and we had one of the classic examples of such nonsense in the Metro on Thursday. Whilst most of the media in this country actually bothered to send one of their reporters out at the Hammersmith Apollo to gauge a few opinions from the punters on whether the attendees had enjoyed themselves at Kate's first show - and the general consensus was that pretty much everyone hadMetro's 'showbiz editor', one Andrei Harmsworth, instead sat on his arse in the office and scanned social media for dissent. Until he found a couple of people (neither of whom state that they'd actually attended the shows in question) whinging about aspects of the set-list. Leading Harmsworth to claim that 'hit-starved fans are demanding refunds.'
Are they? 'Demanding' refunds? You got proof of that, have you mate? Actual people who've actually complained to the actual venue demanding an actual refund? Anyone? No, thought not. 'They waited thirty five years to hear her sing live,' Harmsworth writes, 'but Kate Bush fans were left demanding their money back after the eccentric star refused to perform her two most famous hits at her comeback gig.' And, again the proof of this? Well, naturally, it comes from Twitter. Which, as you know (or, as the Gruniad Morning Star always tell us), is The Sole Arbiter Of The Worth Of All Things. 'British electronic duo Mint Royale led the complaints online,' continues Harmsworth. '"Hi BBC Watchdog, Kate Bush is not performing her hit single 'Wuthering Heights' on her current "tour". Am I entitled to a full refund?" the group tweeted.' I've no idea who Mint Royale are, incidentally, which probably makes this blogger desperately 'not with-it'. Or something. 'Bush left the stage at London's Hammersmith Apollo on Tuesday without singing 'Babooshka' or 'Wuthering Heights' or any tracks from her first four albums.' Okay, well, firstly they're called songs not tracks and they're LPs not albums. Only hateful, stinking, lice-ridden worthless old hippies call them the former. Just thought I'd mentioned it. Secondly, anybody who thinks that 'Babooshka' is one of Kate Bush's two 'most famous hits' obviously hasn't done any necessary research since 'Running Up That Hill' - which Katie is playing - outsold it massively and was her first big hit in America. And thirdly ... Again, I've just got to ask who the frig are Mint Royale when they're a home? 'The omissions from her three-hour, twenty nine-song set angered fans, some of whom had paid fifteen hundred pounds,' Harmsworth claims. 'Some fans' seemingly, being two blokes in Mint Royale. Whoever they are. Oh, and this numskull whom Harmsworth also found during his extensive trawl through the detritus of the Interweb: 'Why is no-one annoyed that Kate Bush didn't sing 'Wuthering Heights' or 'Babooshka'? I'd be fuming,' tweeted one Antony Bushfield. 'I'd be' rather than 'I was' suggesting that Antony his very self hadn't been at the gig either. And all of this is 'news', apparently. How, you might wonder dear blog reader, does this Harmsworth bloke - who has something of a history of writing  mind-numbingly trivial shock! horror! pictures! bollocks of exactly this kind - manage to hold down a job with a leading newspaper (well, with the Metro, anyway) whilst displaying such shockingly lazy tendencies, poor grasp of the concept of 'research' and wretched tabloidese prose? The fact that he's a member of the Harmsworth family which, of course, contained Viscount Rothermere (1868-1940) the Hitler-supporting owner of the Daily Scum Mail probably doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with it. Nepotism? In Associated Newspapers? Surely not? Total post-apocalyptic zombie nightmare and that.
Meanwhile, if you think that was a whinge over nowt, dear blog reader, that's nothing. No, this - printed in the Gruniad Morning Star on Friday - is a whinge.
That was Bill Hawkes of Canterbury there, dear blog reader. Possibly the most churlish, ungallant and just plain rude session musician in the world. He 'played viola on Kate Bush's last LP,' apparently. But not her next one, I'd wager. Check out, also, the excellent Andrew Collins's appalled blog posting on the same subject.

Which brings us nicely to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. Featuring a song that Katie her very self is playing on her current series of live Shows.
And one that, tragically, she isn't. Though, it'd be pure dead funny if she did!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week Thirty Six: How Was It For You?

Critics have hailed yer actual Peter Capaldi's feature-length début as The Doctor, as the eighth series of Doctor Who premièred on BBC1 on Saturday. You might have noticed. The Torygraph's Michael Hogan said the actor 'crackled with fierce intelligence and nervous energy.' Some middle-class hippy Communist tool at the Gruniad Morning Star, called Peter's performance 'wise and thoughtful', though decried the plot as 'demented.' The programme was watched by an overnight peak of 7.26 million people around 9pm (with an average of 6.8 million across the entire eighty minutes), according to initial overnight viewing figures. More than decent on a Saturday night in August under any circumstances, of course. If the last series is anything to go by then added timshifts should take that figure up to somewhere around nine million or so although it's getting harder to speculate on an exact final figure - even for a seasoned ratings watcher like yer actual Keith Telly Topping - as timeshifting is becoming so much more prevalent with each passing year. Those final, consolidated figures will be released by BARB in about a week's time. And, of course, none of this takes account either iPlayer viewers or those who were watching the episode at four hundred and forty cinemas around the country. The BBC said that Deep Breath was the most watched opening episode of a Doctor Who series on overnights since Matt Smith's début episode, The Eleventh Hour, in 2010. Richard Beech, in the Mirra, said that Capaldi had 'all the hallmarks of a great Doctor.' He called the eighty-minute episode, Deep Breath, 'an impeccable début. If you watched Deep Breath and you don't want to watch the rest of series eight, then there truly is something wrong with you,' he added. The surprise reappearance of Capaldi's predecessor, Matt Smith his very self in the closing moments of the show was greeted with joy by many fans, though the Mirra's critic called Smudger's phone call from the past 'divisive. For some, it will have been a genuine treat to see Matt Smith as The Doctor for one last time - but many didn't need the closure, and didn't need telling to get behind a man they already firmly believe in.' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has described Smudger's appearance as 'the fastest return ever on Doctor Who. It just felt utterly right for what we were planning for Peter's Doctor, and right for Matt's Doctor, that he would think of that as he was just about to go out the door,' he told the Digital Spy website. 'In some ways, this episode resembled Moffat's other show, Sherlock, with its twisting plot, cryptic newspaper ads and London landmarks. Although the pace sagged in places, as a debut for a new Doctor it worked well with some old-style behind-the-sofa scares and sly humour,' noted the Torygraph's reviewer. 'There was even an oblique dig at ITV ("so many advertisements, a distressing modern trend") and a nod to the upcoming Scottish referendum, with Capaldi declaring: "My eyebrows want to cede from my face and set up their own independent state." This Doctor might be darker but he's not without wit.' 'This was a wise and thoughtful opening gambit from Moffat, and from the wonderful Capaldi - if you can utterly disregard the demented plot. Granted, this might be like saying "apart from that, 6 August was a typically pleasant day in Hiroshima", but the underlying, and cleverer, theme was of age, and ageing, and looks, and perception, very nicely summed up when Clara (Jenna Colman, in a performance of great nuance if you can forget that last faux-Scots diphthong) asks the pretty lesbian lizard-lady, "When did you suddenly stop wearing that veil?" "When you stopped seeing it," comes the reply,' wrote the Observer's reviewer. AA Gill, The Sunday Times's TV critic, said Capaldi's version of The Doctor was 'not unlike Richard Dawkins, madly science-fictive and theophobic, with selective amnesia and vague formless feelings of charity.' In the Daily Scum Express, David Stephenson added: 'Capaldi plays the tartan time traveller as a serious thinker, an almost troubled being, with a burden. An independent soul, he is not finding his way in the world – he has already been there. In short, the new Doctor is one of us; older, kindly, grumpy at times, and with regrets. "I've made mistakes," he says solemnly. Once he gets over his post-traumatic regeneration disorder, this worldly Doctor could become a classic but do not expect the scarf to make a return. He may be an avuncular Doctor in a frock coat but he will not be reaching for the pipe and slippers.' 'Deep Breath is simultaneously familiar and yet unfamiliar. It's a familiar "new Doctor" episode which touches on the after-effects of regeneration,' added the Metro's Tim Liew. 'Steven Moffat's clockwork droids from The Girl In The Fireplace return. And we’re reunited with the Paternoster Gang of Vastra, Jenny and Strax, who help uncover the droids’ murderous attempts to repair their spacecraft and reach the promised land. At the same time, however, everything is different. The Doctor himself certainly is, with both he and Clara struggling to come to terms with his new appearance and personality.' 'The story took second place to a delightful play on the babble surrounding casting an older actor as The Doctor and not another boy wonder,' added Liew's Metro colleague, the excellent Keith Watson. 'Capaldi was in his element, brilliant at bafflement as he came to terms with his new identity. "Don't look in that mirror, it's furious", he cried, not recognising himself. "Why did I choose this face? It's like I'm trying to make a point." A point, indeed, and one neatly made by writer Steven Moffat, railing at ageism. Jenna Coleman's Clara was having a hard time swapping a potential boyfriend for a bloke who could be her dad and, in a cheeky take on Who legend, we had (spoiler) two Doctors for the price of one in a scene with Matt Smith popping up to help her move on.' Even the Daily Scum Mail's notoriously hard-to-please grumpy-faced whinger Jim Shelley seemed to quite enjoy Capaldi's performance, although not without a thoroughly spiteful, cowardly and, it would seem, sinisterly agenda-soaked dig at Peter's immediate two predecessors Matt Smith and David Tennant that we could have well done without. Then again, this is the Daily Scum Mail we're talking about , dear blog reader, and nobody with half-a-brain in their head or an ounce of conscience in their heart reads that odious full-of-it's-own-importance right-wing spew. The critics were also united in their praise for yer actual Jenna Coleman, returning as the Doctor's companion Clara. Her character drove much of the action in the episode which opened with a dinosaur stranded in Victorian London and encompassed spontaneous combustion and robots harvesting human body parts. 'The plot runs secondary to the emotional throughline here,' wrote the US critic Geoff Berkshire in Variety. But he added: 'What Capaldi lacks in youthful energy, he more than makes up for in gravitas and wry eccentricity, whether marvelling at his "independently cross" eyebrows or gleefully embracing his Scottish accent as a license to complain.' 'Behind his furrowed brow and tendency to complain, roil new and exciting storms, which may tilt the tale away from love and longing and back to adventure,' noted the Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara. 'Either way, this Doctor is truly something else again.' Certainly good old Mad Tom Baker seemed to enjoy the episode, posting on Facebook: 'Bravo, Peter Capaldi! Wonderful actor in a wonderful series off to a great new start!' Of course, when reporting all this, the BBC News website couldn't resist finding a handful of whinging fekkers of no importance whatsoever on Twitter who disagreed and wanted to tell everyone that would listen (and, indeed, everyone that wouldn't) all about it. And, once again, we have an example of the naive media assumption that Twitter is The Sole Arbiter Of The Worth Of All Things. Which is isn't. Not even close. 'Seriously disappointed with Doctor Who. Bored, angry, frustrated, irritated, offended and let down,' whinged some arsewipe whom you've never heard of with a username like Numskull473. Or something. So, presumably he or she will be watching Tipping Point on ITV next week instead? Good. See, everybody's happy.
And, from that, to this year's best silly season story. According to the Independent, Ofcom has received six complaints after a lesbian kiss featured in Saturday night's Doctor Who. Exactly where they got that figure from is not, at this time, known but let's assume for the moment that it's true (always a jolly dangerous assumption where the Indi is concerned) and, as a consequence, let us, once again, simply marvel at the utter trival bollocks that some right-wing bags of loathsome scummery choose to care about. The BBC's popular family SF drama 'came under fire' from some viewers (I'm certainly not going to use the word 'fans' here, unlike the Indi, because, well, they're not) for the allegedly 'inappropriate' moment between the Silurian Madame Vastra and her human wife Jenny Flint. Although the Victorian couple - portrayed, excellently, by Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart - have appeared as lovers for three years in the series, their first on-screen kiss sparked some ... people (and I use that word very loosely) to attack what they saw as 'a blatant gay agenda.' Ah, how marvellous it is to see sick, vile and open homophobia alive and kicking in the Twenty First Century? The moment came when Jenny was holding her breath to escape the clockwork droids who can sense humans by their breathing (hence, the episode's title). As she struggles to breathe, Madame Vastra helps to keep her alive with her own oxygen. A kiss of life, if you like - so, one imagines, Casualty might be getting some complaints as well. But, while the scene received a broadly positive reaction from most viewers, others - well, six anyway - claimed it was 'unnecessary' and 'gratuitous', with one 'reviewer' accusing the BBC of 'wanting to become a porn channel.' Yes. Yes, it does. It's what I pay my licence fee for, I dunno about anybody else. 'It just seems [Steven Moffat] is on some weird, lizard-lesbian perv trip,' wrote someone else, according to the gay news site, Pink News. Where these couple of jokers actually wrote these things isn't made entirely clear although, chances are it's bloody Twitter. In which case who, actually, gives a frig?

So, as noted, the return of Doctor Who was seen by an initial overnight audience of nearly seven million people on BBC1. Series eight opener Deep Breath was watched by an average overnight audience of 6.8 million in its 7.50pm timeslot. The feature-length episode, which marked the full début of yer actual Peter Capaldi, peaked with an audience of just over seven million around 8.45pm as the episode drew towards its conclusion. With a thirty two per cent audience share, it was watched by nearly a third of all TV viewers on Saturday evening. The episode had an Audience Appreciation Index score of eighty two. Still firmly in the 'good' category, if you were wondering. Elsewhere, the wretched Tumble was seen by an average audience of 3.31 million. The BBC's truly horrific gymnastics show narrowly improved its audience on the previous week's average of 3.30 million. Doctor Who was followed by 4.2 million for Casualty at 9.10pm, while Match Of The Day rounded off the evening with 3.47 million. Tipping Point was seen by 3.12 million on ITV, while All Star Family Fortune played to 2.81 million. Celebrity Big Brother continued on Channel Five with 1.43 million tuning in to the latest episode. Channel Five's evening began with seven hundred and ninety one thousand for The ABBA Years at 7.10pm, followed by ABBA @ Forty: Live At Wembley with 1.07 million. Channel Four's movie, Red Lights, was its biggest draw of the night with an audience of seven hundred and seventy thousand at 9pm. The Restoration Man and Grand Design were viewed by five hundred and fifty thousand and six hundred and sixty thousand punters respectively. On BBC2, Ancient Egypt: Life And Death In The Valley Of The Kings was seen by nine hundred and sixty thousand at 8.15pm, while seven hundred and eighty thousand watched Andrew Marr's Great Scots: The Writers Who Shaped A Nation immediately afterwards. With 1.31 million viewers, an episode of Dad's Army was BBC2's highest-rated show of the evening at 7.45pm. ITV3 dramas Lewis and Foyle's War performed well, entertaining respective audiences of seven hundred and twenty thousand and eight hundred and forty thousand.

Overnight ratings on Sunday were incredibly low right across the board - hardly surprisingly for a Bank Holiday weekend in August, one could suggest. BBC1's Countryfile once again scored the night's largest overnight audience attracting 4.71 million at 8pm. It was sandwiched between Nature's Miracle Orphans and The Village, which were watched by 3.73 million and 3.52 million, respectively. With highlights of the games between Stottingtot Hotshots and Queens Park Strangers, as well as The Scum versus The Mackem Filth, Match Of The Day 2 bucked the day's downward trend and was actually seen by a marginally increased audience week-on-week of 2.56 million. Celebrity Big Brother was another show that seemed to be unaffected by the Bank Holiday, being watched by 1.7 million sad, crushed victims of society at 9pm. Channel Five's evening movie Legally Blonde was viewed by nine hundred and ninety five thousand punters at 7pm. Come On Down! The Game Show Story was ITV's highest-rated show of the evening, playing to but 2.27 million at 7pm. It was followed, on what was little short of a horrorshow of a night for the commercial channel by 2.07 million for The Zoo at 8pm and a mere 1.3 million for The Great War: The People's Story at 9pm. It's been a long, tough summer for ITV and how they must be counting the days until The X Factor's return next week. BBC's evening began with eight hundred and sixty thousand viewers for highlights of the Belgian Grand Prix at 7pm, followed by 1.99 million for Dragons' Den at 8pm. BBC2's evening peaked with 2.16 million for James May's Cars Of The People - which provided the BBC's second channel with a rare victory over ITV in a 9pm slot - while a repeat of the Mark Gatiss-penned Doctor Who biopic An Adventure In Space And Time was seen by six hundred and forty thousand at 10pm. On Channel Four, How Britain Worked attracted an average audience of six hundred and twenty thousand while The Mill concluded with 1.2 million. The channel's première of 2012's The Cold Light Of Day was seen by 1.37 million at 9pm.

Deep Breath averaged 1.187 million national viewers in Australia. It was the highest rating drama of the day and the eighth highest rated programme overall. Excluding regional and rural viewers, yer actual Peter Capaldi's début averaged seven hundred and ten thousand viewers in the five major Australian capital cities and was the ninth highest rating show of the day overall (the second highest rating drama after ANZAC Girls). The 4.50am broadcast, simulcast with the UK, also averaged a highly impressive two hundred and sixty thousand national viewers (presumably, very sleepy ones at that). As with Britain, these rating do not include timeshifted viewers. Meanwhile The Doctor's latest incarnation delivered the popular family SF drama's biggest American première audience yet. BBC America's broadcast of Deep Breath puled in an initial US audience of 2.6 million viewers, a record-setting opener for the series in the States. During its 8 to 10pm slot on Saturday night, Doctor Who was the most-watched show on cable.

The BBC drama Sherlock has won a hat-trick of awards at the US Primetime Emmys in Los Angeles. Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman his very self won best actor and best supporting actor in a miniseries, although neither was present to collect their awards. In Benny's case, he was probably still doing his ice-bucket challenge. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat also won best writing in a miniseries for the final episode of Sherlock's third season, His Last Vow. Breaking Bad was the big winner on the night, winning five awards including best drama series. It was the second consecutive year the show picked up the awards' highest honour, after ending in September last year after five seasons. Its star, Bryan Cranston, was named best actor in a drama series for a fourth time as the teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White. He beat a host of Hollywood heavyweights including Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson for their roles in the acclaimed crime drama True Detective. 'I have gratitude for everything that has happened,' Cranston said. His co-stars, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn, were also honoured for best supporting actor and supporting actress in a drama series. Collecting the award for best drama series, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan said: 'Holy cow! This is indeed a wonderful time to be working in television. Thank you for this wonderful farewell to our show.' Julianna Margulies, star of The Good Wife, won the Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series for her part as lawyer Alicia Florrick. 'I feel like this is the golden age of television, but it's also the time for women in television,' said Margulies. 'I feel very grateful to be here.' Modern Family was named best comedy series for a fifth consecutive year, equalling the record set by 1990s show Frasier for most comedy wins. Ty Burrell, also walked away with best supporting actor in a comedy, for his role on the show. The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons won best actor in a comedy series, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, winning her third consecutive Emmy for her role as the foul-mouthed US Vice President Selina Meyer in political satire Veep. Allison Janney won the best supporting actress in a comedy series for Mom. She also collected a second prize during the ceremony for best guest actress in a drama for her role in Masters Of Sex. The ceremony also paid a traditional tribute to industry members who died in the past year. They included James Garner, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Carmen Zapata, Elaine Stritch.It concluded with a special tribute to Robin Williams by his friend Billy Crystal who remembered the actor as 'the brightest star in a comedy galaxy. It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in our lives,' Crystal said. 'While some of the brightest of our celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since cool, but miraculously, because they float in the heavens so far away from the sound, their beautiful life will continue to shine on us forever. And the glow will be so bright, it will warm your heart, it will make your eyes glisten, and you'll think to yourself, Robin Williams - what a concept.'

Speaking at the Emmy, yer actual Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) claimed that he has a 'devastating' plan for when Sherlock returns for its one-off special (likely to be next Christmas) and new three-part run (likely to be in early 2016). He went on to say: 'We practically reduced our cast to tears by telling them the plan. Mark [Gatiss] and myself are so excited with what we've got coming up, probably more excited than we've ever been about Sherlock. Honestly, I think we can [top the last season].'On the subject of the awards, Moffat said: 'We were just starting to think that that phase of our lives was dying down, because as shows get older they don't win as often - just like people. We're delighted that we've made it here and hopefully this gets more people watching. That'd be great.' Seemingly Steven wasn't even upset that the BBC News website managaed, yet again, to misspell his name ('Stephen'). It put it right. Eventually.

Back to the ratings and New Tricks rose slightly from the previous week's series opener to win the overnight ratings outside soaps on Bank Holiday Monday. The popular, long-running BBC1 crime drama climbed by around fifty thousand punters to an average audience of 5.84 million at 9pm. Earlier, a different slot for Countryfile appealed to 4.30m at 6pm, followed by coverage of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2014 with 4.53m at 7pm. A repeat of Miranda was watched by 3.33m at 8.30pm, while a look back on the career of the late Lord Attenborough was seen by 2.26m at 10.35pm. BBC2's University Challenge was watched by 2.65m at 8pm. Including this blogger's old mate Danny who noted: 'I may need to brush up on my thermodynamics and asexual reproduction of fungi, but I know The Pixies, Ian Dury and Pulp when I hear them. Honestly, bloody students.' And, so say all of us. He added that the episode also featured an example of what is fast becoming one of UC's most endearing features: 'Paxo gazes dewy-eyed at yet another charming lady captain!' The Scotland Decides debate between Alex Salmond (who, probably won) and Alistair Darling (who, you know, didn't) had an audience of 1.66m at 9pm. Most of whom would've been bored utterly titless by the end. On ITV, Countrywise gathered 2.49m at 8pm, followed by the latest Long Lost Family with 3.28m at 9pm. Channel Four's Food Unwrapped was seen by seven hundred and seventy seven thousand at 7.30pm, while Richard Ayoade's Gadget Man returned with nine hundred and ninety five thousand at 8.30pm. Royal Marines Commando School brought in 1.34m at 9pm. On Channel Five, Police Interceptors attracted nine hundred and thirty one thousand at 8pm, followed by the latest Celebrity Big Brother nonsense with 1.41m at 9pm. Under The Dome returned for its second season with eight hundred and seven thousand at 10pm.

Here's the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty programmes, week-ending Sunday 17 August 2014:-
1 The Great British Bake Off - Wed BBC1 - 8.79m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.08m
3 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 6.73m
4 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 6.49m
5 Boomers - Fri BBC1 - 5.32m
6 Who Do You Think You Are? - Thurs BBC1 - 5.31m
7 In The Club - Tues BBC1 - 5.30m
8 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 5.24m
9 Mrs Brown's Boys - Sat BBC1 - 5.04m
10 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.03m
11 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.71m
12 Long Lost Family - Mon ITV - 4.54m*
13 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 4.40m
14 The Village - Sun BBC1 - 4.39m
15 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.37m
16 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 4.27m
17 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.04m
18 Match of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 4.00m
19 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 3.56m
20 Tumble - Sat BBC1 - 3.54m
ITV Programmes marked '*' do include include HD figures. BBC2's highest rated programmes of the week was James May's Cars Of The People (3.06m), followed by and Dragons' Den (2.91m), The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice (2.65m) and University Challenge (2.50m). With the exception of five episode of Corrie, six episode of Emmerdale and Long Lost Family only one ITV show in the entire week managed to top three million viewers: One Hundred Year Old Drivers which had an audience of 3.29m. The fourteenth most watched programme on what is supposed to be Britain's second most popular channel was Tipping Point: Lucky Stars with a mere 2.93 million punters. I'd love to tell you how many the abysmal Love Your Garden got, dear blog reader, but I'm still too busy laughing. Okay, it was 2.46m. Channel Four's highest-rated show was Royal Marines Commando School with 2.52m followed by One Born Every Minutes (1.86m) and Dispatches (1.85m). The film Safe was Channel Five's best performer with two million viewers, followed by CSI with 1.90. On BBC4, Inspector Montalbano led the way with seven hundred and eighty eight thousand viewers. Lewis was ITV3's best performer with nine hundred and thirty nine thousand. Family Guy on BBC3 was the most watched show on multchannels with 1.42m.

The BBC is reportedly developing a drama based on Shannon Matthews, the Yorkshire child who endured a hoax kidnapping ordeal organised by her own scumbag of a mother. Sheridan Smith, the award-winning actress who is about to be seen in the lead role in ITV's Cilla Black biopic, may play the part of Karen Matthews, extremely jailed for the abduction and drugging of her then nine-year-old daughter in February 2008, a crime described as "despicable and inconceivable" by the judge. Shannon endured a twenty four-day ordeal before West Yorkshire police discovered her hiding under a bed with her mother's boyfriend's uncle, Michael Donovan, in a flat a mile and a half from her home in Dewsbury. It later emerged that her mother, who had made several tearful television appeals for Shannon's return, staged her daughter's disappearance and kept her captive in a ruse to collect fifty grand reward money offered by the Sun after the girl was 'found.' Matthews and Donovan were both very jailed for eight years, although it emerged in 2012 that Matthews had been released on licence after serving half of her sentence. Police said that it was possible the pair had been influenced by the international coverage of Madeleine McCann's disappearance in 2007. Award-winning writer Jeff Pope and the BBC are in talks to make the programme. Pope has previously worked on docu-dramas about the Moors murders, the Great Train Robbery, Lord Lucan and the series killers Fred and Rose West. Pope and Smith appeared together on Friday at the Edinburgh International Television Festival where he said the project would be 'extremely complex.' He was asked if Smith might be involved in the Matthews drama and said: 'Maybe, yes.' When asked if she might play Shannon Matthews' mother, Pope replied: 'Yes.' The pair worked together on the Great Train Robbery drama Mrs Biggs and on The Widower, based on the crimes of the convicted murderer Malcolm Webster, as well as the forthcoming Cilla. The drama would be made for the BBC by ITV Studios, where Pope is Head of Factual Drama as well as a writer. Pope said: 'It's very early stages; it's not been commissioned yet and the casting process hasn't even begun.' Pope also revealed in Edinburgh that he wanted to write a drama about dirty old scallywag and right rotten rotter Jimmy Savile. Pope said that he had 'not quite got the way in' yet to writing about the DJ and TV presenter who was revealed as a serial sex abuser after his death, but did not think the drama would focus on 'the man in Bacofoil' that people know from the years when the star ran marathons for charity.

A TARDIS has appeared alongside a café on the Bristol to Bath cycle path - with a Victorian-style bathroom inside. The replica of The Doctor's time machine was bought by the owners of Warmley's Waiting Room Café. They have spent the past few months turning it into the, ahem, 'Who loo', complete with flashing light and TARDIS sound effects. Owner Justin Hoggans said: 'It's got everything you need; a toilet, sink, hot and cold water and a hand dryer.' He added that he was 'a big fan' of the television show; so much so, in fact, that he seemingly liked the idea of people shitting on an aspect of it. Fandom comes in many forms, dear blog reader. Some odder than others. Hoggans said: 'This is a replica [TARDIS], made by a carpenter in York. We've got a doorbell we can press in the café that makes the sound go off, so we do it when someone's having their photograph taken outside - which is quite often. The light is operated off a motion sensor so as someone goes into the toilet, the lights inside and on top of the box go on to indicate the toilet's in use.' Is there any better way to let the world know that you're taking a dump, one wonders? He added: 'We needed a toilet to operate. We've got public toilets just opposite us, but they were shut down for about three weeks last summer. We thought, if we're going to have it let's make a feature of it.'

And, on that bombshell, here's yer actual Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 30 August
'The answer to my next question must be honest and cold considered, without kindness or restraint. Clara, be my pal, tell me ... am I a good man?' A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship in the latest episode of Doctor Who - 7:30 BBC1 - Phil Ford's Into The Dalek. Looking, it must be said, pure dead hard. The Doctor is the only person who can help the ship's crew, but he needs Clara by his side as he, once again, faces his arch-enemies. The Doctor is confronted with a decision that could change The Daleks forever, being forced to examine his conscience as he tries to find the answer to the question 'Am I a good man?' Popular family SF adventure, starring yer actual Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman her very self. The episode also features the début of Sam Anderson as Danny Pink and guest appearances from the great Michael Smiley (Spaced, Wire In The Blood, Luther), Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton and Ben Crompton (Ideal, Games Of Thrones).

The talent extravaganza The X Factor returns for its eleventh series - 8:00 ITV - with some important changes. For a kick-off Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crosssroads is back on the judging panel for the first time since 2010, former guest judge Mel B takes a permanent role on the show and The Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole has also signed up for a return. But, she's now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini following her whirlwind wedding to some bloke you've never heard of in July. Or, just plain Cheryl. Possibly. Who, in all honesty, gives a toss about absolute bollocks like that? Show stalwart Louis Walsh completes the line-up as the experts search for the nation's next singing sensation. In the nastiest and most humiliating fashion possible. For the 'entertainment' of gawking voyeurs across the land. As with last year, there's an X Factor double bill every week from the beginning, kicking off with the 'popular' closed-room auditions. The minimum age for acts has now also been lowered to fourteen, creating more opportunities for all the budding Justin Biebers out there. Dermot O'Dreary hosts.

You've probably seen the Victoria Coren Mitchell-voiced trailers for BBC4's latest Scandinavian import, Crimes Of Passion which starts tonight at 9:00 and concerns a trio of Swedes who wear nice clothes and solve crime. In Bergslagen in the 1950s, amateur sleuth Puck Ekstedt, her student boyfriend Einar Bure and their police superintendent friend Christer Wijk set out to solve a series of murders. In the first episode, a female guest is killed at a university tutor's summer house on a secluded island during a weekend party. Looks rather good in a kind of Marple type way (a character even says at one point 'what is this? Ten Little Indians?' Albeit, they say it in Swedish, obviously). Scandi-noir crime drama with English subtitles, starring Tuva Novotny, Linus Wahlgren and Ola Rapace. Ecellent jazz soundtrack too.

This penultimate episode of True Detective - 9:00 Sky Living - is famous for the scene where Marty (Woody Harrelson) is convinced to re-open a murder case that was closed seventeen years previously. His former partner Rust (Matthew McConaughey) plays him a crackly videotape of ritual child abuse – of course the audience doesn't actually see that horror, but Harrelson's outraged, primal reaction and the terrible tension as we wait for it, make the idea properly indelible. Just as important to the narrative is the moment when these two ageing men, their families and careers gone through their own flaws, assure each other that they're happy and carefree; a quick montage of TV dinners and bin bags full of bottles suggests otherwise. So it is that the ex-cops go back to the first leads in the Dora Lange case, back to hard investigative work, back to the start of this misty, circular story. Delving deep into pure horror is all they have left.

Sunday 31 August
Former The Fast Show colleagues John Thomson and Simon Day head off to Argentina to learn the ways of the country's rugged cowboys and national icons ahead of them participating in a cattle drive in the foothills of the Andes in the first of the two part The Two Amigos: A Gaucho Adventure - 9:00 BBC2. After a hair-raising, pot-hole dodging drive, they arrive at La Pelada Estancia near the small town of Esquina, Simon and John's home for a week of intense training. Head honcho Dario Gallardo soon has the pair bedecked in traditional ponchos and riding on two of the ranch's sturdiest horses, preparing them for their three-day ride in the wilds of Patagonia.
Yer actual Sir Tony of Robinson his very self uncovers the shocking truth behind some of the most gruesome events of the Nineteenth century, when criminals would steal corpses from graves to sell on to surgeons who were desperate for bodies to examine in a Time Team special Secrets Of The Bodysnatchers at 8:00 on Channel Four. Recent research shows that the horror continued long after The Anatomy Act was introduced in 1832. The new law was supposed to put a stop to the trade by allowing workhouses and poor hospitals to sell cadavers for dissection. They were only allowed to deal in those unclaimed by families, but over a period of one hundred years, about one hundred and twenty five thousand bodies were traded without the prior permission of the deceased.

The locals are in a celebratory mood as Edmund and Harriet prepare for their wedding, and despite Norma's opposition, Gilbert and Agnes get married in the chapel in the latest episode of The Village - 9:00 BBC1. The land debate continues as Bert and Phoebe are caught trespassing on the Allinghams' estate, and Grace defies John despite his best efforts to make things right between them. Her decision to join Robin and the villagers in a protest over access rights at the Big House has dramatic consequences when Bill Gibby returns in time for the supposedly peaceful walk. Classy period drama, starring Maxine Peake, John Simm and Rupert Evans.

First shown in 2008, one of the victims in scriptwriter Alan Plater's genteel puzzle And The Moonbeams Kiss The Sea, tonight's episode of Lewis - 8:00 ITV - is a self-consciously 'quirky' and very annoying female student. Which, frankly, is more than enough motive to bump her off. She runs bogus heritage tours of Oxford and is found extremely dead with a snippet of a Shelley poem in her pocket. 'I met murder on the way', indeed. What can I say, dear blog reader? This blogger did English A level. I didn't say I passed, mind. Nevertheless, a major fan of Percy Bysshe his very self is yer actual Keith Telly Topping. Anyway, back to Lewis. Another victim is soon discovered in the Bodleian Library ('you know what this is?', notes Hathaway fractiously. 'The body in the library'). If you're gonna get done-in, it might as well be in world-renowned academic surroundings, rather than out the back by the bins. The suspects in both cases are a pair of supercilious university professors. Cue wry and discontented looks from Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway (the always excellent Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox). They find themselves investigating the death of a maintenance engineer found very shot in the head in the basement of the Bodleian. A search of the man's house reveals a stash of valuable volumes and a connection to the local Gamblers Anonymous group, and the detectives go on to expose a scam involving two Oxford academics. Drama, guest starring former Drop The Dead Donkey co-stars Neil Pearson and Haydn Gwynne, with Clare Holman and Rebecca Front.

Monday 1 September
In this week's episode of New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1 - the UCoS team looks into the death of a terrorist thirty years previously after his daughter receives an anonymous note claiming that he was extremely murdered. It's an investigation which takes them back to the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests. Which is, of course, a damned good excuse for Gerry Standing to orate a whole series of atypical rants about 'loony leftie' and all that. Some things, it would seem, never change. Meanwhile, Sasha agrees to go for dinner with her ex-husband Ned, which he is hoping will lead to a reconciliation. Tamzin Outhwaite, Dennis Waterman, Denis Lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst star, with guest appearances from Barnaby Kay, Charlotte Cornwell and Patricia Potter.

Return To Betjemanland - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather classy-looking documentary focusing on the life and work of John Betjeman, the writer and broadcaster who was Poet Laureate from 1972 until his death in 1984. Betjeman's biographer, AN Wilson, visits places of significance to the poet, travelling through the so-called 'Betjemanland' - which consists of areas in London, Oxford, Cornwall, Somerset and Berkshire. In doing so, the presenter paints a portrait of his subject's complexity, and reveals how he adopted a somewhat contradictory approach to social class and religion. That's followed at 10pm by a welcome repeat of Metroland, Betjeman's memorable 1973 BBC documentary in which he took a nostalgic look at the branch lines of the London Underground's Metropolitan Line and their meanderings through suburban Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Yer actual Victoria Coren Mitchell her very self returns with the cult quiz show Only Connect as it moves from BBC4 to BBC2 - 8:30, straight after University Challenge. Another batch of contestants using patience, lateral thinking and sheer inspiration try to make connections between four things which may appear, at first, not to be linked in the slightest. The opening edition of the tenth series features a trio of 'political enthusiasts' (who in the name of all that's holy can be enthusiastic about politics or politicians? That's a complete contradiction in terms). They're taking on three cat lovers, with one set of clues consisting of a theatre on Londons' Argyll Street, a golf club, a UK policeman and the US five-cent coin.
In Fifty Ways To Kill Your Mammy - 9:00 Sky1 - Irish 'daredevil presenter' Baz Ashmawy and his seventy one-year-old mother, Nancy, embark on the trip of a lifetime and attempt to complete every item on an extreme bucket list which Baz has created for her. Their second stop is Morocco, where Nance learns how to charm snakes, before Baz persuades her to take part in an off-road race, the International Rally. Later, Nancy treks across the desert for a more comfortable ride on a camel, before performing a Berber dance routine. The presenter then tests his mother's head for heights as the duo take a hot-air balloon ride across the Sahara.

Tuesday 2 September
The work of Steve and Sarah Bennett, who run a jewellery shopping channel broadcasting to Europe and North America twenty four hours a day is the subject of Gems TV - 9:00 ITV. With a turnover of around one hundred million smackers a year, part of the family's success lies in their business method - purchasing direct from the mines and keeping costs low - but there are problems on the horizon. There's an urgent need for new on-screen presenting talent in the run-up to Christmas and supplies of the best-selling gemstone - Tanzanite - are fast running out. Narrated by Liza Tarbuck.

Businessman Gabriel Ortiz is suspicious of the verdict that the death of his eighteen-year-old daughter Ana in Mexico was drug-related and calls on Doc Robbins, who he is friends with through their charity work to help him find some answers in the latest episode of CSI - 9:00 Channel Five. The medical examiner agrees to look into the case and heads south of the border accompanied by Nick Stokes, who acts as translator. Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Sara and Greg investigate two concrete-covered bodies found buried in a garage, and uncover an unlikely connection between this case and the death of Ana Ortiz.

The search for Danny intensifies as Charlie and her friends close in on Neville and his men in Revolution - 10:00 on Pick. However, the militia leader is not willing to give up his hostage without a fight and has resurrected a forgotten technology to help him stay one step ahead of the rebels. Drama taking place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, starring Giancarlo Esposito and Tracy Spiridakos.
The final part of Super Senses: The Secret Power of Animals - 9:00 BBC2 - explores the world of scent and examines the animals that have pushed their sense of smell far beyond human capabilities. In the Bahamas, physicist Helen Czerski dives into shark-infested waters with only a small pouch of liquid as her defence against them, while biologist Patrick Aryee controls the behaviour of a swarm of bees by using tiny traces of scent, and gets uncomfortably close to a skunk.

Wednesday 3 September
Our Zoo is a gentle-looking period drama based on the true story of the Mottershead family, who made a huge personal sacrifice to establish Chester Zoo in the 1930s - despite staunch opposition from the locals. George Gently's Lee Ingleby heads a fine cast as the ex-serviceman George, still haunted by memories of the trenches of the First World War and frustrated that he and his family have to live with his parents. An animal lover, he is unable to stand by while an unwanted monkey and camel are put down in the quarantine bay at the docks, so he houses the animals in his mum and dad's backyard. The family think he is losing his mind - but, for George it's the spark of an idea. Liz White from Life On Mars, Anne Reid, Ralf Little and Sophia Myles co-star.

Twenty-five years after the World Wide Web was created, the issue of surveillance has become the greatest controversy of its existence. With many concerned that governments and corporations can monitor people's every move, the Horizon documentary Inside The Dark Web - 9:00 BBC2 - meets hackers and scientists who are using technology to fight back, as well as the law enforcement officers who believe it's leading to opportunities for risk-free crimes. With contributors including World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and WikiLeaks co-founder - and international fugitive from justice - Julian Assange.

The events that led Lorraine Thorpe to become Britain's youngest female double murderer at the age of fifteen are covered in Countdown To Murder: Killer Schoolgirl - 8:00 Channel Five. She and forty one-year-old Paul Clarke tortured and killed their friend Rosalyn Hunt in a sick orgy of horrific violence, before smothering Thorpe's own father, Desmond, to death with a cushion after he threatened to go to the police and reveal the details of their dreadful, hellish crimes. The programme features interviews with Rosalyn's brother as well as detectives from the joint Norfolk and Suffolk investigation team.

There's live international football on ITV (so, there coverage will be apocalyptically piss-poor, as usual). England play Norway (kick-off 8.00pm) in a friendly match at Wembley as England play their first fixture since their hugely disappointing World Cup campaign. Roy Hodgson's young men returned from their brief trip to Brazil without a victory from their fixtures against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, and are also now without their captain for that tournament, Steven Gerrard, who has since announced his retirement from international football. Which might come as a considerable surprise to many England viewers who assumed he'd retired years ago. Hodgson may be tempted to add more new faces to his line-up this evening depending on performances in the opening weeks of the Premier League season, as he aims to find a winning formula ahead of Monday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland. Presented by odious, worthless breakfast TV flop, horrorshow (and drag) Adrian Chiles, with commentary by Clive Tyldesley and Andy 'you know nothing' Townsend, and a singular lack of analysis by Lee Dixon and Glenn Hoddle.

Thursday 4 September
Saucy Sheridan Smith, who went from singing with her parents in the working men's clubs near their North Lincolnshire home to successful stage performances in Little Shop of Horrors and Legally Blonde - not to mention her countless TV appearances - embarks on a journey to find out where her family's musical talents come from in the latest Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1. Shezza is soon hot on the trail of her great-great-grandfather Benjamin Doubleday, a world-class banjo player and musical impresario - but she is surprised by his change in fortunes.
Castles In The Sky - 9:00 BBC2 - is a fine-looking fact-based drama about the development of Britain's radar system during the 1930s by Robert Watson-Watt and his team of relatively unproven and unknown scientists, an invention which was to prove decisive during the Battle of Britain and the subsequent air war. Watson-Watt's ambition was initially dismissed by the Oxbridge-dominated establishment - including Winston Churchill - while he and his colleagues were disregarded as a bunch of 'weathermen' from provincial universities. They continued to strive to achieve their dreams against all odds, to the detriment of their personal lives and at the cost of some of their marriages. An excellent cast is led by Eddie Izzard, Laura Fraser, Tim McInnerny and Julian Rhind-Tutt. Highly recommended.
You're a bit spoiled for choice for new drama tonight, dear blog reader. Chasing Shadows - 9:00 ITV - follows a missing-persons unit on the hunt for serial killers. After he criticises police procedure in the aftermath of a murderer's capture, Detective Sergeant Sean Stone's superiors want him out of the way, so they assign him to a new unit at the MPB with analyst Ruth Hattersley. However, the case of a vanished sixteen-year-old girl soon has the unorthodox detective back out in the field with his new partner. Looking into a spate of teen suicides, he believes he has discovered a killer preying on vulnerable youngsters. Starring Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke. This one looks quite promising as well.
The updated version of the classic 1980s soap Dallas returns - 10:00 Channel Five - with the Ewings united after having vanquished old enemy Cliff Barnes. Sue Ellen is busy planning John Ross and Pamela's wedding, but the groom clashes with Bobby over their joint ownership of Southfork Ranch - and also begins an affair with Emma. Elena's return makes it clear her relationship with Christopher is irreparably damaged, and the arrival of a mysterious stranger puts everyone's plans at risk. Starring Patrick Duffy, Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe.

Friday 5 September
In tonight's Mastermind - 8:00 BBC2 - John Humphrys invites four more contestants to take their place in the famous black chair, where they answer questions on the specialist subjects of champagne, the Manhattan Project, Italian photographer Tina Modotti and cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner. They then have a chance to demonstrate their general knowledge in the final round.

Chef Gino D'Acampo sets off on another tour of his home country, this time exploring the North of Italy in the second series of Gino's Italian Escape - 7:30 ITV. In the first edition he examines the food that has shaped the city of Florence, beginning by tackling the bistecca alla Fiorentina - a thick and juicy steak - before preparing sliced T-bone with a colourful courgette ribbon and goat's cheese salad. He then heads to the town of Prato, sampling a pastry chef's speciality brioche buns with an aromatic, creamy filling, and conjuring up his own dessert of apple poached in red wine with amaretti biscuit cream.

The friends gather for Joyce's retirement party, where John has made a tribute video - but forgotten to ask Trevor for his contribution - and Maureen latches onto a trendy young couple in Boomers - 9:00 BBC1. Alan also has bad news that might ruin proceedings - unless the guest of honour spoils it first by confronting her neighbour about her kids' unruly behaviour. Alison Steadman and Philip Jackson star in the sitcom, with Russ Abbot, Stephanie Beacham, Paula Wilcox and James Smith.

To the news now: Allowing sectors of the UK TV industry to be bought up by US media companies poses a risk to the UK's tradition of innovation and risk-taking, the head of Channel Four has suggested. 'Our free-to-air channels have become must-have accessories,' David Abraham told an audience in Edinburgh. Independent production firms, he said, had been 'snapped up almost wholesale.' He called on politicians and regulators to act 'decisively' to safeguard public service broadcasting in the UK. MTV Viacom's recent four hundred and fifty million smackers acquisition of Channel Five and the purchase of All3Media, producer of shows including Skins and Midsomer Murders, by Discovery Communications and Liberty Global showed the UK's television industry 'risks becoming a victim of its own success', Channel Four's chief executive continued. Abraham, who has been with the channel since 2010, made his remarks while delivering this year's James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Last year's MacTaggart lecture was given by Kevin Spacey, who used his speech to champion streaming services like Netflix, the producer of his acclaimed House Of Cards series. According to Abraham, Spacey's show, along with many others, owed its success to a creative gambit taken initially by a British public service broadcaster. 'Would Netflix have bought a show about a murderous politician who broke the "fourth wall" of drama if the BBC hadn't taken that risky decision, decades before?' he asked. 'This special landscape of ours did not happen by accident. So we should not assume that, left purely to the market, it will continue to thrive.' Abraham's speech included a plea to Ofcom and the government to 'update and strengthen the PSB system, the system that has delivered so spectacularly for UK viewers and for UK PLC.' His call for increased protection of Channel Four and other public service broadcasters prompted a robust response from the Commercial Broadcasters Association, the UK industry body for digital, cable and satellite broadcasters. The UK broadcasting sector, it said in a statement, 'benefits hugely from an increasingly mixed ecology, with a wide range of players, both PSB and non-PSB, investing in different forms of domestic production. Intervention that damages one part of this sector in favour of another risks undermining this success and putting at risk the UK's status as a global television hub.' Coba's members include FOX, NBC Universal and other US broadcasters which operate in the UK. BSkyB also rejected Abraham's suggestion that PSB broadcasters should be financially recompensed for allowing their stations to be viewed via Pay-TV platforms. The proposal, said Graham McWilliam, Sky's group director of corporate affairs 'amounts to a discriminatory tax on millions of licence fee-paying viewers to watch public service content that is supposed to be free.' Channel Four, he added, 'should not be allowed to walk away from the obligations of universally free access which come with the very significant benefits of public service status.' The BBC used to pay Sky four and a half million quid a year to transmit on its platforms. The two broadcasters reached an agreement in February to drop the fee completely. Though largely spared criticism in Abraham's wide-ranging address, the BBC did not wholly escape some crass, agenda-soaked whigning. The corporation 'should be taking more risks', he said, going to suggest that shifting BBC3's output onto the iPlayer would see the service 'buried [more] thoroughly [than] radioactive waste. Subject to approval from the BBC Trust, we hope our exciting plans for BBC3 will set a new bar in engagement with young audiences,' the BBC responded.
Sir Cliff Richard has been formally interviewed under caution in connection with an alleged historical sexual offence, South Yorkshire Police has said. Sir Cliff met officers by appointment and was not arrested or charged. It comes after police searched his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 14 August as part of their investigation. The veteran singer strongly denies the alleged offence, saying that the claim of an assault at a religious event in Sheffield in 1985 is 'completely false.' South Yorkshire Police confirmed that it had 'spoken' to 'a seventy three-year-old man.' A police spokesman said: 'The man was interviewed under caution but was not arrested. He entered South Yorkshire Police premises by arrangement.' A spokesman for Cliff his very self said: 'Today Sir Cliff Richard voluntarily met with and was interviewed by members of South Yorkshire Police. He was not arrested or charged. He co-operated fully with officers and answered the questions put to him. Other than restating that this allegation is completely false and that he will continue to co-operate fully with the police, it would not be appropriate for Sir Cliff to say anything further at this time.' The BBC has been criticised for its coverage of the search after it found out about the operation in advance and sent cameras to Sir Cliff's home when officers arrived. The BBC has previously confirmed that its 'source' relating to the police investigation was not the South Yorkshire force itself. The BBC says that its journalists 'acted appropriately' in its coverage but the police - scrambling to cover their own back, it would seem - have accused the corporation of a 'cover-up' afterwards over what it had known. The bosses of both the BBC and the South Yorkshire Police have been summoned to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain how the broadcaster knew of the search in advance. South Yorkshire's police chief has attacked the BBC's 'disproportionate' coverage of the search, accusing the corporation of making the raid look 'heavy-handed and intrusive.' Although, given that they were raiding the bloke's gaff, it's difficult to fathom how they reckon it wasn't intrusive. Crompton's letter accused the corporation of attempting to 'distance itself' from the force's handling of the search with a heavily critical piece by a BBC journalist who described the house search as 'a deliberate attempt by the police to ensure maximum coverage.' This criticism was made even though the journalist was 'aware' that South Yorkshire police was not the original source of the leak, Crompton said. He added: 'This appeared to be an attempt by the BBC to distance itself from what had taken place and cover up the fact that it had initiated contact with the force about the story. This was misleading and was known by the BBC to be inaccurate.' The use of the horribly loaded phrase 'cover up' - designed, one imagines, to provide maximum headlines from the Daily Scum Mail and its ilk - is particularly interesting in this case since, of course, South Yorkshire police know all about cover-ups.

Meanwhile, a Tory MP has criticised government interference in the search for the next chair of the BBC Trust. Conor Burns, a member of John Whittingdale's House of Commons lack of culture select committee, was also critical of the government's 'enthusiasm' to appoint a woman to the job 'simply because it's a woman rather than go out and find the best person to do that job.' Burns, who described the BBC as 'a brilliant advertisement to the world', said the corporation had been 'wrong' to broadcast live pictures from the police search of Cliff Richard's home but said it was 'premature' to call Director General Tony Hall to give evidence before MPs. Hall will appear before the home affairs select committee, chaired by full-of-his-own-importance Keith Vaz. Burns told the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Saturday: 'What I hope doesn't happen, and I know some in my party will want to see it happen, I hope the BBC doesn't become a political football.' Asked by BBC broadcaster Kirsty Wark whether the Trust chair appointment had been massively interfered with by the government, Burns said: 'Yes it is and I regret that. I do regret that the government seems to have decided to appoint a woman simply because it's a woman rather than go out and find the best person in the marketplace to do that job. I regret that enormously. I also think the structure of the Trust should be changed. The chairman should be brought back inside the building and much more closely aligned to the Director General.' Speaking afterwards, Burns said of the corporation's coverage of the raid on Richard's home: 'For the first time in broadcasting history the major news channel carried a raid of someone who had not been arrested or charged. I think it was extraordinary editorially to take a decision to broadcast a raid on a man's house when he had not been charged or arrested. We haven't asked the Director General to appear before the culture, media and sport select committee. I think it is probably premature. I would like to wait until the end of the process and see what happens before we do anything like that.'

A former psychologist for the TV show Big Brother was sacked unfairly by the University of Manchester, an employment tribunal has ruled. Professor Geoff Beattie was sacked for not disclosing the full extent of his media and broadcasting work. But the tribunal said that although Professor Beattie had 'breached' university policies, it was unfair to sack him for his first disciplinary offence. A future hearing will decided the remedy for his dismissal. During his time as professor of psychology at the University between 1994 and 2012, Professor Beattie had a high media profile as a commentator and academic. He acted as the 'resident psychologist' throughout ten series of the (then) Channel Four show Big Brother. The tribunal heard that the University encouraged outside work from academic staff and used Professor Beattie's media profile as a way to attract potential students. However he was disciplined in 2012 for 'failing to disclose the full extent of his outside work, with some going beyond broadcasting related activities and into private consultancy.' It was alleged that he had 'failed to account' to the university for the 'resources' he had used during this work, particularly the time spent by his research assistants. He was sacked for gross misconduct in November 2012 as a result. The panel said: 'Whilst it was reasonable to conclude that his actions had been in breach of the relevant policies, it was unfair to dismiss him for what was a first disciplinary offence. He had not acted dishonestly or deliberately breached the policies and his long service and excellent record with the university should have been given greater weight.' The University said that it would be 'considering its position in due course.'

Oscar-winning British film director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of ninety, his son has confirmed. Lord Attenborough was one of Britain's leading actors, before becoming a highly successful director and prodcuer. In a career which spanned seven decades, he appeared in numerous films including Brighton Rock, The Great Escape and, later, in the dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park. As a director he was perhaps best known for Gandhi, which won him two Oscars. Sir Ben Kingsley, who played the title role, said he would 'miss him dearly. Richard Attenborough trusted me with the crucial and central task of bringing to life a dream it took him twenty years to bring to fruition. When he gave me the part of Gandhi it was with great grace and joy. He placed in me an absolute trust and in turn I placed an absolute trust in him and grew to love him.' Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg said Lord Attenborough was passionate about everything in his life. He made a gift to the world with his emotional epic Gandhi and he was the perfect ringmaster to bring the dinosaurs back to life as John Hammond in Jurassic Park,' Spielberg said. 'He was a dear friend and I am standing in an endless line of those who completely adored him.' Attenborough had been in a nursing home with his wife for a number of years. His son told the BBC that Lord Attenborough died at lunchtime on Sunday. During a career spanning almost seventy years, the irrepressible Dickie Attenborough became one of Britain's best-known actors and directors: a man of charm, talent and old-fashioned liberal principles. What one writer described as 'an apparently unquenchable appetite for doing good', Dickie himself attributed to his upbringing in Leicester. Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on 29 August 1923 in Cambridge. He and his two younger brothers - David, the TV naturalist (b 1926) and John (1928-2012) - were brought up by fervently do-gooding parents. Both were Labour Party activists whose commitment extended to adopting two Jewish refugee girls from Germany when World War II broke out. From his parents, Richard inherited a belief in the importance of community and society. Apart from a brief flirtation with the Social Democrats in the 1980s, he was a lifelong member of the Labour Party, and much of his work reflected his political beliefs. Richard was born in Cambridge, the eldest of three sons of Mary Attenborough, a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council and Frederick Levi Attenborough, a scholar and academic administrator who was a fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law. Richard was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester where his father became principal of University College. He later studied at RADA. Richard made his film début while he was still a drama student in 1942, playing a memorable cameo role as a stoker on a naval destroyer in Noel Coward's In Which We Serve, a role which would help to type-cast Richard for several years afterwards as spivs or cowards in films like London Belongs To Me (1948) and Morning Departure (1950). Over the next thirty years - interrupted by three years' service in the RAF where, following initial pilot training he was seconded to the newly formed RAF Film Unit at Pinewood Studios, under the command of Flight Lieutenant John Boulting before a spell with Bomber Command - he became one of Britain's most reliable character actors. Another notable early appearance was a small role in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1946 masterpiece A Matter Of Life And Death. Arguably, Richard's most astonishing performance was his chilling portrayal, in 1947, of the teenage hoodlum and murderer Pinky Brown in Brighton Rock. On stage, he was part of the original cast of Agatha Christie's long-running whodunnit, The Mousetrap. Richard worked prolifically in British films for the next thirty years, including appearing in several successful comedies for John and Roy Boulting, such as Private's Progress (1956) and, with Peter Sellers, in I'm All Right Jack (1959). He later became a fixture of British television Christmases as the doomed Roger Bartlett in the 1963 prison camp drama The Great Escape. In 1964 he won a best actor BAFTA for his portrayal of the downtrodden husband of a deranged spiritualist in Seance On A Wet Afternoon. The award also recognised his performance as a martinet sergeant major facing a native uprising in Guns At Batasi. He also won two Golden Globes for his performances in The Sand Pebbles and Doctor Doolittle. His greatest skill as an actor was the sympathetic embodiment of ordinary though never mundane men in extraordinary circumstances. It served him especially well in 1971 when he played the serial killer John Christie - outwardly normal, in reality a chilling psychopath - in Ten Rillington Place. But he had become frustrated with acting, in which he only interpreted other people's work. He began producing films in the 1960s - The League of Gentlemen, The Angry Silence, Whistle Down The Wind, The L-Shaped Room - before turning to directing. 'Becoming a director enabled me to do things I couldn't do as an actor,' he said. He was a film-maker with a mission, believing popular cinema had a capacity to make the world a better place. His greatest achievement was his 1982 epic Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley as the outsider hero whose moral courage and sense of purpose enabled him to change the world. Gandhi won eight Oscars, including best actor and best director. But it took Attenborough twenty years to raise the money to make it. He mortgaged his house, sold possessions and took roles in films he described as 'terrible crap' to help pay for what became an obsession. Along the way he directed other films. There was a version of Joan Littlewood's anti-war musical satire Oh! What A Lovely War. There was Young Winston, about Churchill's early years, and the war epic A Bridge Too Far. After Gandhi came his adaptation of the musical A Chorus Line. That was followed by Cry Freedom, the story of the murdered South African activist Steve Biko and Donald Woods, the journalist who took up his cause. Like Gandhi, Cry Freedom was both a box office and a critical success. Like Gandhi, it was anti-racist, anti-imperialist and impeccably liberal, as well as a strong, eminently watchable drama. Both films were a perfect mirror of their creator, wearing their political hearts defiantly on their sleeves. And both were criticised for being overblown, overlong, sentimental and even patronising, largely by scumbag glakes of no importance. Some of Richard's films were flops. His 1992 biopic of Charlie Chaplin failed to make money, while Grey Owl, about a pioneering Canadian Indian environmentalist who turned out to have been born in Hastings, went straight to video in the US. His final film, 2007's Closing The Ring, was judged to be a muted finale to a distinguished directorial career. But Shadowlands, released fourteen years earlier with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, was a commercial and critical success. The story of children's writer CS Lewis and his late love affair with American poet Joy Gresham was an unashamed and astonishingly effective tear-jerker. It befitted a film by a man who was himself famous, even notorious, for weeping in public. Late in life Richard resumed his own acting career in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park in 1993. He also starred as Kris Kringle in Miracle On Thirty Fourth Street and was terrific as William Cecil in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth (1998). As well as being one of Britain's foremost actors and directors, Lord Attenborough was also one of its most active public figures. His patronage extended to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the British Film Institute, Capital Radio, Channel Four, the Tate Gallery, the Muscular Dystrophy Group and his beloved Moscow Chelski Football Club. He put down his - much parodied - habit of addressing everyone as 'darling' to serving on so many committees with so many people that he was never able to remember everyone's name. Reportedly at a Downing Street seminar in the early 1980s on the parlous state of the British film industry, the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, expressed deep concern. 'Why wasn't I told?' she asked. 'Darling, you never asked,' Attenborough is said to have replied. His personal life was apparently irreproachable. His marriage to the actress Sheila Sim was one of the longest-running in showbusiness. They married in 1945 and had three children, including the theatre director Michael Attenborough. Tragedy struck the family in 2004 when the Asian tsunami killed Richard's fourteen-year-old granddaughter Lucy Holland, as well as his daughter, Jane and her mother-in-law. Richard went on to channel his energies into supporting the Khao Lak Appeal, in aid of a Thai village struck by the tsunami. The appeal raised more than a million quid. His vast entry in Who's Who listed more than thirty organisations of which he was or had been a director, trustee, fellow, chairman or president. He was appointed a CBE in 1967 and knighted nine years later in 1976, before being made a life peer in 1993. Lord Attenborough was life president of Moscow Chelski FC, which said it was 'deeply saddened' to learn of his death. 'He led a long and successful life and always found time for the things in life he loved most, one of which was Chelsea,' the club said. 'His personality was woven into the tapestry of the club over seven decades. He was a consistent force for good at the club, even in dark times. He will be greatly missed, and the thoughts of everyone at Chelsea FC are with his family and friends at this sad time.' Richard was the subject of This Is Your Life in December 1962 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Savoy Hotel, during a dinner held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of The Mousetrap, in which he had been an original cast member. In 1973 he was mercilessly spoofed in the British Showbiz Awards sketch during the third series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Attenborough was portrayed by Eric Idle as effusive and simpering and constantly bursting into tears, a parody which, though perhaps a shade cruel, Richard himself reportedly found 'hilarious'. In 2012 Attenborough was portrayed by Simon Callow in the BBC4 Kenny Everett biopic The Best Possible Taste. In October 2012, it was announced that Richard was putting the family home, Old Friars, with its attached offices, Beaver Lodge on the market for £11.5 million. His brother David stated: 'He and his wife both loved the house, but they now need full-time care. It simply isn't practical to keep the house on any more.' Richard had great charm and immense energy and knew how to use both. The public saw a gregarious theatrical extrovert, but beneath the gush there was a determined and decisive man. Throughout an extraordinarily busy life he remained passionately committed to his chosen craft of film-making. And he always believed films should be more than merely entertainment - while never forgetting that before they could do anything else, they had to entertain. He is survived by his wife, Shiela, his surviving children, Michael and Charlotte, seven grandchildren and his brother David.

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