Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chiles & Pepper-Sprays: Do You Want To Make Tea At The BBC?

Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch has been rather busy lately, thanks to the Hollywood awards season and, you know, impregnating his woman and all that. But, he has taken some time off from his red carpet responsibilities as he went back to the day job, shooting scenes for this year's Christmas special of the hit BBC drama series Sherlock with co-stars Martin Freeman his very self and Amanda Abbington. The actors were seen filming at Gloucester Cathedral on Thursday. Also present at the shoot was co-creator Mark Gatiss wearing a pair of perfectly darza boots.
National heartthrob David Tennant was the recipient of an award for Special Recognition at the National Television Awards ceremony which took place this week in London. The very emotional actor thanked the many people he had worked with, including his agents, and summed up with: 'Anyone who's ever given me a shot, thank you very much, and anyone who's ever let me into their living room on the telly, it's a real honour and a privilege to get to do that, so thank you.' He also thanked his family and in particular his father, to whom he then dedicated his award.
Broadchurch dipped by a further four hundred thousand overnight viewers on Monday evening. The ITV crime drama brought in a series low of 5.15 million overnight viewers from 9pm. Earlier, Richard Wilson's On The Road was seen by 3.21m at 8pm. BBC1's Silent Witness after two weeks of edging closer and closer finally overtook Broadchurch as the night's highest-rated show outside soaps with 5.87m at 9pm. Earlier, Inside Out appealed to 3.85m at 7.30pm, while the latest Panorama interested 3.50m at 8.30pm. BBC2's University Challenge was watched by 2.84m at 8pm, followed by Only Connect with 2.17m at 8.30pm. The opening episode of Winterwatch attracted 1.71m at 9pm, whilst odious, unfunny lanky streak of stinking piss Jack Whitehall's worthless Backchat as usual failed to amuse anyone but was, nevertheless, watched by eight hundred and twenty two thousand sad, crushed victims of society at 10pm. On Channel Four, Dispatches drew 1.37m at 8pm, followed by Food Unwrapped with 1.34m at 8.30pm. The Undateables had an audience of 1.47m at 9pm, while new - alleged - comedy Catastrophe was watched by six hundred and eighty three thousand punters at 10pm. Channel Five's Storage: Flog The Lot! had six hundred and one thousand at 8pm. Celebrity Big Brother continued with 2.11m at 9pm and NHS Crisis: The Live Debate gathered five hundred and three thousand at 10pm.

Silent Witness remained on top of the ratings on Tuesday evening, overnight data reveals. The BBC1 drama attracted 6.16 million viewers on average at 9pm. Later, Count Arthur Strong was watched by 1.66m at 10.35pm. BBC2's Winterwatch appealed to 2.45m at 8pm, followed by the - genuinely - excellent Martin Freeman and Anthony LaPaglia drama The Eichmann Show with 1.20m at 9pm. ITV had yet another rotten night, soaps aside. Britain's Best Back Gardens interested but two million viewers at 8pm. Paul O'Grady's Animal Orphans brought in 2.60m at 9pm. Channel Four's Weighing Up The Enemy was seen by eight hundred and twenty seven thousand at 8pm, followed by Twenty Four Hours In Police Custody with 1.20m at 9pm. Gordon Ramsay's Hotel Hell was seen by eight hundred and eighty three thousand at 10pm. On Channel Five, Cats Do the Funniest Things attracted 1.67m at 8pm. The live Celebrity Big Brother non-eviction drew 2.66m at 9pm. Later, Suspects continued with six hundred and sixty nine thousand at 10pm. BBC3's Excluded: Kicked Out Of School was seen by four hundred and twenty four thousand at 9pm. On BBC4, Hidden Killers Of The Tudor Home fascinated six hundred and five thousand at 9pm.
The National Television Awards achieved its best overnight ratings in four years. The event attracted an average audience of 6.30 million from 7.30pm. This is up by around four hundred thousand viewers from last year's ceremony and is the NTA's best overnight rating since 2011's 6.5 million. On BBC1, Pets - Wild At Heart gathered 3.49m at 8pm, followed by yer actual Crimewatch with 2.42m at 9pm. BBC2's Winterwatch appealed to 2.09m at 8pm, while the alleged comedy Up The Women was seen by 1.22m at 10pm. And, was every single bit as rotten as the trailer had suggested it would be. The opening episode of the much-anticipated drama adaptation Wolf Hall was BBC2's biggest overnight drama launch since 2005, bringing in 3.89m at 9pm. And, very good it was too. On Channel Four, Restoration Man interested 1.36m at 8pm, while Twenty Four Hours In A&E brought in 1.34m at 9pm. Bodyshockers had an audience of 1.12m at 10pm. Channel Five's Celebrity Big Brother continued to shed viewers, the latest episode of the sick Victorian freak show being watched by 1.82m at 9pm, followed by Suspects with five hundred and eleven thousand at 10pm.

Critics - proving that even a broken clock is right twice a day - have described the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker-winning novels, Wolf Hall, as 'close to perfect television.' The six-part adaptation combines both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Fleet Street's telly critics were almost unanimous in their view the much-anticipated BBC2 series was 'event television' of the highest calibre. There was praise for leading cast members, particularly Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsley and Mark Rylance as the series' protagonist Thomas Cromwell. 'This is event television, sumptuous, intelligent, and serious, meticulous in detail but not humourless or po-face,' wrote Sam Wollaston in the Gruniad Morning Star. Pryce was described as 'marvellously humane' and 'smoothly acidic', while Damian Lewis - as Henry VIII - was admired for his 'heaps of kingly swagger' and 'fearsome' portrayal of 'a man with no doubt about his divine right to rule.' But, the highest praise was reserved for Rylance, as the enigmatic Cromwell - who goes from blacksmith's son to the king's right-hand man. 'For those not blessed enough to have caught Mark Rylance on stage - he's been absent from British theatre since 2013 - this was a rare(ish) chance to catch one of Britain's finest actors on the screen,' wrote Will Dean in the Independent. 'Mark Rylance's eyes glistening with sadness and acuity produce a BAFTA-winning performance by themselves,' wrote The Times's Andrew Billen. Wollaston echoed that 'behind the steel the sadness in his eyes is almost unbearable to watch.' There was praise, too, for the studious attention to period detail, though some whinged about the decision to shoot by authentic candlelight. 'Some crucial scenes were lit by guttering logs in the hearth, or bedside candles,' whinged Christopher Stevens in the Daily Scum Mail. 'The only light in Norfolk's hall came from a brazier. It was enough to make you shout: "For pity's sake, forget about the authenticity - switch a flipping light on!"' Well, enough to make you shout that if you're a Daily Scum Mail telly critic (and drag) who knows bog all about anything, that is. But, the critics' overall surmise was that Peter Straughan had faithfully and lucidly adapted the two weighty novels, condensing over eleven hundred pages into six hours of television. 'This account, directed by Peter Kominsky, feels as real and as visceral as if the wolves of Henry's court were panting down our necks,' wrote Billen. 'As a means of setting the scene, drawing us deep into the Tudor world and presenting us with a winningly ambiguous central character, it's hard to see how this one could have been done much better,' agreed James Walton, in his five-star Torygraph review. Mantel, who is currently writing the third part of the trilogy - The Mirror & The Light - has given the television adaptation, made in conjunction with US broadcaster PBS, her blessing. 'It's illuminating, exciting, yet also curious, to see how my imagination matched theirs,' she said, following a preview screening in December. The Sunday Mirra's odious little shit Kevin O'Sullivan told BBC Radio 4's Today that Wolf Hall was 'a masterpiece' with the markings of 'an all-time classic. It's close to perfect television,' he concluded. 'I can't recommend it highly enough.' Which is good although, the fact that the vile and nasty O'Sullivan is usually recommending The X Factor instead suggests that one should take every single thing he says with a vat of salt.

Cucumber launched with under a million viewers on Thursday evening, overnight figures reveal. Russell Davies's much-talked about new Channel Four series brought in an average nine hundred and seventy three overnight viewers at 9pm. Companion show Banana opened to three hundred and forty one thousand viewers on E4 at 10pm. Earlier on Channel Four, Location, Location, Location appealed to 1.49m at 8pm, while Josie Cunningham: The Most Hated Woman In Britain? was watched by 1.08m at 10pm. Although Christ alone knows why. BBC1's latest Death In Paradise easily topped the night with 6.50m at 9pm. Room 101 had an audience of 3.91m in its new Thursday slot at 8pm, while Question Time was seen by 2.36m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Winterwatch gathered 2.62m at 8pm, followed by Winterwatch Unsprung with 1.47m at 9pm. Surviving The Holocaust was seen by 1.24m at 9.30pm. ITV's pepper-spray edition of The Kyle Files - see below - could still attract but 2.69m at 7.30pm despite the promise of seeing odious, nasty Jeremy Kyle getting a face full of misery. Horrible, unfunny Birds Of A Feather continued to shed viewers faster than a cannonball, the latest episode being watch by but 2.95m at 8.30pm, which in and of itself is far funnier than anything in the actual show itself. Bring Back Borstal brought in a staggeringly low 1.54m at 9pm. Chances of a second series of that one would appear to be somewhat remote. On Channel Five, Benefits: Can't Work, Won't Work had 1.22m at 8pm. Celebrity Big Brother continued with 2.32m at 9pm, followed by Botched Up Bodies with seven hundred and forty two thousand at 10pm. E4's The Big Bang Theory tickled 1.36m at 8.30pm, followed by Brooklyn Nine-Nine with five hundred and ninety five thousand at 9pm. Ross Kemp's Extreme World returned with three hundred and eighty three thousand at 9pm on Sky1.

With an average audience of 5.82 million, BBC1's live coverage of the FA Cup fourth-round goalless draw between Cambridge and The Scum was Friday evening's highest-rated overnight show outside of soaps. It was preceded by The ONE Show, which - on the day that its former presenter Adrian Chiles got told to never darken ITV's door again - was watched by 4.5 million at 7pm. Roughly the same sort of audience that it was getting when Chiles got his greed on and left for pastures new. Odd that. With guests including Gary Lineker, Jessica Chastain and McBusted - they are a popular beat combo, apparently - The Graham Norton Show rounded the evening off with 3.42 million at 10.35pm. On ITV, Benidorm had an audience of 4.03 million at 9pm, while The Martin Lewis Money Show was seen by 3.99 million at 8pm. BBC2's evening kicked off with 1.26 million for The Antiques Road Trip at 7pm, followed by 1.85 million for Mastermind at 8pm. Food and Drink was watched by 1.33 million at 8.30pm, while The Big Allotment Challenge and Qi picked up respective audiences of 1.37 million and 1.44 million. Celebrity Big Brother: Live Eviction was seen by an average audience of 2.29 million on Channel Five. That was down by more than six hundred thousand sad, crushed victims of society on the previous Friday's live show. Channel Five also secured three hundred and thirty six thousand for Race To The Pole at 7pm, followed by eight hundred and seventy nine thousand for Ice Road Truckers at 8pm. Channel Four's evening peaked with 1.37 million for Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown. It was sandwiched between Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feast and The Last Leg, which picked up 1.17 million and nine hundred and ninety thousand punters.

The Voice once again attracted more than eight million overnight viewers on Saturday evening. BBC1's singing competition drew an average audience of 8.08m from 7pm, slightly down on the previous week's audience of 8.4 million. It was, again, a very good night for BBC1 with Now You See It continuing to pull in decent early evening figures, with 4.59m. After The Voice, The National Lottery: Win Your Wist List took 4.90m, before Casualty was watched by 4.99m from 9.15pm. The channel's evening ended with a bumper 4.28m audience for Match Of The Day on a day of several shocks in the FA Cup Fourth round, which included Bradford City's 4-2 victory at Torpedo Stamford Bridge against Moscow Chelski FC and the Middlesbrough Smog Monster's 2-0 win at Sheikh Yer Man City. So, the BBC appear to have found a really impressive Saturday schedule at the moment, although they have undeniably, been helped out in this regard by ITV's continuing woes. It was another truly disastrous Saturday night on ITV, Harry Hill's Virtually Unwatchable Stars In Their Eyes continued with a risible, laughably piss-poor 2.04m from 7pm. Afterwards, the rotten Take Me Out and the way past its sell-by date Jonathan Ross Show averaged 3.01m and 2.09m punters respectively. BBC2's The Culture Show managed nine hundred and thirty five thousand in the 9pm hour. Meanwhile, Channel Four broadcast the Holocaust documentary Night Will Fall to 1.49m. On Channel Five, the latest episode of Celebrity Big Brother secured 1.88m from 9.15pm. Elsewhere, ITV3's Foyle's War repeat topped the multichannels, drawing nine hundred and eleven thousand from 8pm.

'You've become a feared judge. Congratulations.' Spiral's interweaving stories of hard-bitten police detectives, shady criminals, morally compromised lawyers and the realpolitik of the French justice system reached new levels of abstract brilliance on Saturday evening with episode six of the the current - fifth - series climaxing with the death of the popular character of Pierre Clément. As Joséphine sat crumpled in a weeping Laure's arms in the entrance of a Parisian A&E department, her handsome and likable partner lay dead in the emergency room thanks to a bullet to the stomach from a trigger happy prison guard. When it comes to apportioning blame for the situation, however, it is surely Judge Roban who was the most at fault. Those viewers who are new to the drama - and, if you are, where the hell have you been for the last five years? - might well be wondering why they should care about the judge who, this series, has been presented as downright nasty bastard. Self-obsessed and intolerant of the opinions of others, he has grown harsh, narrow-minded and bitter, determined to be proved right regardless of the consequences or, indeed, the truth. Roban wasn't always this way, in fact for most of Spiral's first four seasons Roban was the lone sane and honest man in a system which seemed to almost encourage corruption and short-cut taking to achieve a means to and end. Along with Pierre, Roban has been Spiral's moral compass for so long that it is truly shocking to, in the space of just a few episodes, find both men seduced by different forms of crass ambition. Perhaps the judge has an excuse for his very out-of-character actions this year, for surely those nosebleeds he's getting are indicative of something considerably more serious than mere stress. As ever with Spiral, there is little that is wholly straightforward within the complex and dangerous world the characters occupy; a suspect on the edge of a mental breakdown, a judge determined to send a suicidal man back to prison regardless of the doubts of others as to his guilt, a prison guard who entirely misjudged the situation unfolding before him and a victim who, on the night when he should have been out celebrating his greatest triumph with his lover, ends up losing both her and, ultimately, his own life. Joséphine will, on suspects, now have to live with the jealousy and spite that drove her away from Pierre at his celebration party. It's odd that this series, whilst Spiral's writers have been hardening Roban and, to an extent, Pierre, they've also been softening Joséphine Karlsson's rough, unappealing edges, finding room in her 'skeleton covered by a skin of ambition' frame to discover that she can be concerned about people beyond herself. Will that survive the death of the man who always believed there was more to her than simply stunning looks and quality backstabbing? Time will tell, but one wouldn't put money on it. Already, even before Pierre's death, there was the implication that she was in danger of being cajoled back to the dark half of the sky by the loathsome Eric Edelman: 'Joséphine, you are going against your true nature.' How clever it was, too, to see the series linking Joséphine's court victory for the hapless Laetitia with Laure's murder case and Pierre's suspect client. And also, the deliberately political point being made in the script concerning Laetitia's release with, seemingly, every intention of not returning to a life of crime. The state's inability to find her a bed for the first night out of the nick saw her relapse in a most dramatic way. In terms of the double murder case, it would appear that is not Stéphane Jaulin who has the links to the bank raiders but, rather, his dead wife. Sandrine knew Zach, it seems, and had turned a blind eye to his forged papers when renting him a flat in Asnières. Blanco, with whom we spent a lot of time during these two episodes, was useful as a plot device only in terms of leading Laure's team to Zacharai Gabbai, the ATM-raiders' violent ringleader now escaped, but with his methods revealed. A trail of traumatised and dead people that Zach has left behind him – the hospitalised Blanco, Frank the ATM guy, violated Laetitia and murdered Sandrine and child – presumably means it won't be impossible for Laure's team to catch him. But one feels that Laure, Gilou and Tintin might have their work cut out to do so quickly and before more tragedy can unfold. Their waste-of-space boss Herville, still desperately trying to claw his way back into favour with the the brass, was even more annoying than usual in these episodes. 'Is he having his period?' asks Gilou at one point as Herville's arm flapping threatens to levitate him off the ground. Equally, Tintin shooting the dog during the - thankfully otherwise successful raid to recover the stolen gold - gave viewers one of those wonderfully dismissive Gallic shrugs that Fremontin does every couple of episodes. Gilou being the office peacemaker didn't last very long either, the episode climaxing with Laure having to pull he and Tintin apart from a, frankly rather girly, punch-up over nothing. Laure also appears to be having second thoughts about having an abortion, after another man (the third this series) counselled her against the idea - this time it was her pathologist friend, who clearly saw through her somewhat obvious 'I have a friend who is pregnant' conceit. Additionally, there is still no match for the fingerprint on the slipper. So, there's still plenty to play for the six remaining episodes. But, sadly it will be without the terrific Grégory Fitoussi.

Call The Midwife comfortably topped the overnight ratings charts on Sunday. The BBC1 period drama attracted an average audience of 9.04 million viewers at 8pm, adding around seven hundred thousand viewers on last week's premiere overnight figure. Earlier, Countryfile drew a whopping 7.62m at 6.30pm, while Still Open All Hours had an audience of 7.85m at 7.30pm. Last Tango In Halifax continued with 6.32m at 9pm, while Match Of The Day 2's FA Cup round-up ended an exceptionally strong night for the channel with 2.43m at 10.30pm. On BBC2, Hugh Jackman's Real Steel appealed to 1.35m at 6pm, before a new series of Top Gear opened with 5.28m at 8pm, to the obvious huge disappointment of lots of pond-scum Middle Class hippy Communist tree-hugging Gruniad Morning Star readers. So, that was funny. Except the usual professional offence takers to be whinging about some aspect of the episode or other as soon as they can find a newspaper to whinge to. This shall be the whole of The Law. The new series of Dragon's Den averaged 2.35m at 9pm. ITV's Get Your Act Together - never was a title more apt - dipped to 2.49m at 7pm, before All Star Family Fortunes failed to entertain 2.58m at 8.15pm. The third series of Mr Selfridge opened to unexpectedly low ratings in comparison to previous years. The first episode of the period drama's new series was watched by a mere 3.35m at 9pm, considerably down from last year's overnight for the opening episode of series two - 4.85m and 2013's debut episode which had 6.9 million. Channel Four's Secret Agent With Phil Spencer interested 1.03m at 7pm, followed by The Hotel with 1.17m at 8pm and Walking The Nile with 1.93m at 9pm. On Channel Five, Seann William Scott's Bulletproof Monk drew seven hundred and seventy five thousand punters at 7pm. Celebrity Big Brother continued with 2.37m at 9pm, before the science fiction thriller The Darkest Hour averaged seven hundred and twenty six thousand at 10pm.
Meanwhile, Top Gear fans have helped to send Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel up the iTunes downloads chart. On Sunday's episode, Jezza Clarkson urged fans to download their classic single 'Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)'. The Make Me Smile Foundation was launched by yer men Clarkson, Hammond and May after it was revealed that Harley had been pinched speeding on the M25 in an area where the speed limit had been temporarily reduced to forty mph. He was, reportedly, fined a grand for the offence. Clarkson said: 'He's [making] a meagre living out of, let's be honest, one hit single. Everybody loves that song - you can't trust someone who doesn't like that song.' Which is true. Although, to be fair, in addition to 'Come Up And See Me', Steve probably has a tidy retirement fund accruing from royalties from his other 1970s hits like the excellent 'Judy Teen' and 'Mister Soft' (especially when the latter as used in a Trebor Mints advert in the 1980s and was a hit all over again). Richard Hammond added: 'Imagine if everybody did it - he would wake up tomorrow and think, "I'm number one, where did that come from?" It would cheer him up.' The song had reached as high as number twenty five on iTunes on Monday. Steve later tweeted a message of thanks to Top Gear and to fans who had downloaded the song as part of the Make Me Smile Foundation campaign. The single originally reached number one back in 1975. It was subsequently covered by Duran Duran. Really, really badly.
And then, dear blog reader, here's the consolidated ratings for the Top Twenty One programmes for the week-ending Sunday 18 January 2015:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.15m
2 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 9.47m
3 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.73m
4 Broadchurch - Mon ITV - 8.64m
5 Silent Witness - Tues BBC1 - 8.56m
6 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 8.51m
7 EastEnders - Tues BBC1 - 8.43m
8 Still Open All Hours - Sun BBC1 - 7.62m
9 Emmerdale - Tues ITV - 7.11m
10 Last Tango In Halifax - Sun BBC1 - 7.10m
11 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.10m
12 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 6.03m
13 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.00m
14 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.98m
15 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 5.38m
16 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.09m
17 The National Lottery: Win Your Wish List - Sat BBC1 - 4.95m
18 Now You See It - Sat BBC1 - 4.89m
19 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.75m
20 Benidorm - Fri ITV - 4.68m*
21 Foyle's War - Sun ITV - 4.59m*
These figures do not include iPlayer or ITV Player viewers. ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. Aside from Broadchurch, Corrie, Emmerdale, Foyle's War and Benidorm, the only ITV programme across the entire week to pull in a consolidated audience of more than four million punters was the crappy and disgraceful Birds Of A Feather (4.43m). For those who wish to have a damned good laugh, Saturday night flop Harry Hill's Star In Their Eyes drew consolidated audiences of less than 2.38 million viewers (it didn't even make ITV's top thirty for the week). Take Me Out and Get Your Act Together didn't fare all that much better drawing audiences of three million and 2.49 million respectively. BBC2's highest-rated programme of the week was University Challenge with 3.27 million. Next came Only Connect with 2.64 million and Nature's Weirdest Events with 2.60 million. Following those, What's The Right Diet For You? A Horizon Special attracted 2.49m, Dad's Army drew 2.17 million, followed by Mastermind (2.15m), The Super Rich & Us (2.04m), and Qi (1.97m). Twenty Four Hours In A&E was Channel Four's most watched broadcast with 2.46m, followed by Walking The Nile (2.30m) and Restoration Man (2.17m). Channel Five's top-rated broadcasts were dominated by Celebrity Big Brother the most watched episode being Sunday - 3.21m. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's most-watched programme with 1.33m viewers. Life On A Mountain: A Year On Scafell Pike drew BBC4's largest audience of the week (nine hundred and fifty one thousand) whilst the third and fourth episodes of Spiral's fifth series drew had eight hundred and seventy four thousand and eight hundred and fifty seven thousand respectively. The Inca: Masters Of The Clouds was watched by five hundred and eighty three thousand. A Mock The Week repeat on Dave was seen by four hundred and three thousand. The FOX Channel's broadcast of series twelve of NCIS continued to attract decent figures - eight hundred and thirty two thousand. BBC3's weekly best-of list was topped by Waterloo Road (seven hundred and fifty seven thousand). The start of the latest series of Bones was Sky Living's highest-rated show with eight hundred and fifty six thousand. Girls on Sky Atlantic drew one hundred and ninety two thousand. Sky 1's Ascension was watched by seven hundred and thirty five thousand.

The return of yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in BBC1's Sherlock was the most popular programme on iPlayer last year. Broadcast in January 2014, The Empty Hearse, the first episode of the third series - which saw Sherlock Holmes apparently return from the dead - was requested 4.2 million times. All three episodes in the 2014 Sherlock series were included in the top ten most requested iPlayer features. The second most-watched programme on the catch-up service was the opening episode of 2014's series of Top Gear, which took four of the top ten slots. Which will, no doubt, be a considerable disappointed to a lot of Middle Class hippy Communist Gruniad Morning Star-reading, Green Party voting frackers. So, that's good. The Top Gear Burma special, which was later found to have breached broadcasting rules after Jezza Clarkson described a bridge as being a bit uneven, was the fourth most watched show on iPlayer last year. The Top Gear special in Argentina - over which, some people of absolutely no consequence whatsoever got their knickers in a right old twist regarding some number plates - was the most popular iPlayer show over the UK's Christmas period - and fifteenth in the overall chart for most requested programmes across 2014. Only the BBC3 documentary Murdered By My Boyfriend, the final episode of the comedy Outnumbered and Peter Capaldi's debut in Doctor Who succeeded in breaking Sherlock and Top Gear's stranglehold on the top ten. 'Really thrilling to see Sherlock at the very top of the iPlayer ratings,' said Sherlock co-creators yer actual Mark Gatiss and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat his very self. 'We always knew he'd survive jumping off that building, but we never thought he'd fly so high.' Moffat's other major series - Doctor Who - made tenth place in the list. Deep Breath, which introduced new Doctor Capaldi, was requested 2.8 million times. Among shows which aired only on the iPlayer, Frankie Boyle's Referendum Autopsy - which looked at the outcome of the Scottish independence poll - was among the most popular online-only shows with seven hundred and fifteen thousand requests. BBC figures releases earlier this month showed a twenty five per cent rise in demand for its iPlayer catch-up service, year-on-year. Overall, the iPlayer had its biggest year yet with 3.5 billion requests for TV and radio programmes, up from 3.1 billion in 2013.

TV comedy moment of the week - if not indeed, of all time - occurred on Thursday when fans of that odious, disgraceful twat Jeremy Kyle - for, unbelievable there are some people who fall into this category - were be able to watch the moment when the full of his own importance presenter was pepper-sprayed in the face in Magaluf. If you didn't catch it, dear blog reader, here it is. Trust me, it's a sight to see. The horrible Kyle was sprayed whilst filming an episode of his thoroughly rotten series The Kyle Files in Majorca last summer, looking at 'the impact heavy drinking was having on the lives of young people.' Except it was the impact that pepper spray had on Kyle's mush that made headlines at the time, with Kyle bundled away by his security team after the mystery assailant struck. 'Nothing could prepare me for what happened next,' Kyle recalled. 'My eyes were stinging, I can't see properly, my throat is burning and I feel disorientated and scared.' Yeah. Well, now he knows how we all feel when watching his effing wretched programmes. Kyle added: 'We came here to talk about a drinking culture - lots of kids seemingly having fun. You get pepper spray sprayed in your face, just walking down the street. Okay, is that the camera? Is that because we're trying to find out what its really like or does that happen every night If you get into an argument?' Gogglebox's Scarlett Moffatt put it rather more succinctly, describing the talk show host's presence at the holiday venue as 'as unwelcome as a fart in a lift.' The man reportedly responsible for the spraying, a Romanian bouncer - whom about three quarters of the population of Western Europe now probably want to buy a drink for - later said that he did it because Kyle was making the town 'look shit.'
And, speaking of hilariously, thigh-slappingly funny things happening to people who really deserve it, odious nasty greedy greed-bucket, breakfast TV flop, horrorshow (and drag) Adrian Chiles's time presenting football as the anchor for ITV Sport is thoroughly over. And, lo, there was true rejoicing and proper laughter throughout the land. ITV have not actually used the word 'sacked' to describe Chiles's sudden and unexpected - if, long overdue - departure, indeed they appear to have refused point blank to discuss the reasons behind Chiles leaving whilst, reportedly, mid-way through a million pound-per-year contract. But, the Daily Scum Mail have used that exact word. And, so have Metro. And The Huffington Post. The Daily Mirra, by contrast, went with 'axed'. The Birmingham Mail, on the other hand, went with 'dumped'. However one describes the termination of his most recent employment, Chiles, who has been the main - and much mocked - football presenter for ITV since his sickeningly greed-induced switch from the BBC in 2010 to front ITV's breakfast fiasco Daybreak for mucho disgusting wonga, is to be replaced immediately. The forty seven-year-old greed-bucket (and drag) is to be succeeded by BBC radio presenter Mark Pougatch, who will work on England internationals and European football on ITV from February. Reports suggest that Pougatch will continue with his BBC commitments in addition to his new job at ITV, something Chiles seemingly, never thought of when he flounced out of the Beeb in a right old stroppy huff in 2010, having got his sickening greed right-on by the promise of riches beyond the dreams of avarice. ITV, as noted, would not comment on the reasons for Chiles's sudden departure, which brought as much glee throughout the land as did the recent announcement that his equally inept and pointless oppo Andy Townsend was also getting the push from the broadcaster, but Chiles's exit is said to be 'with immediate effect.' Forthwith, if not sooner, one could note. Couldn't get him out of the building quick enough, it would seem. ITV's Director of Sport, Niall Sloane, said: 'Mark is a highly-respected sports journalist and an outstanding broadcaster. We’re delighted to welcome Mark to the ITV Sport team.' On the departing Chiles, he was, as noted, curiously silent. ITV has extremely lost the rights to Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League games to other channels over the last eighteen months. Live FA Cup rights are currently shared between the BBC and BT Sport, while BT Sport has bought the rights to live Champions League and Europa League games for three years from the 2015-2016 season.
And from that, to this ...
Ray Mears has been dropped as a speaker at a caravan event after insulting the vehicles on an episode of Room 101. As if anybody actually cared about such nonsense. During the wildcard round on the episode broadcast on 17 January, Mears nominated caravans to be eliminated from the world, prompting the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2015 - for there is such a thing, apparently - to remove him from its February event. 'We enlisted him as a credible ambassador because of his love of the great outdoors, something which our industry and community share,' a rather terse and po-faced statement read. 'Therefore we were disappointed to hear his comments on TV, which were made and pre-recorded before we entered into discussion with Ray's agent. We feel his agent should have made us aware of this pre-recording the moment we began communicating.' It continued: 'Knowing that these comments would come to light and then agreeing to work with one of Europe's largest shows of its kind, with tens of thousands attending, we feel he has acted in a less than professional manner. We're sure that if Ray spent a weekend away in a caravan or motorhome he would very much enjoy himself and realise what a fantastic enabler it is to getting outside.' Or, maybe not. Mears had described caravans as 'mobile breadbins', adding: 'I get stuck behind them and I think they're hideous. Swathes of our coastline are just covered in these things. I wouldn't mind so much if they could be painted green, but they have to be painted white. Gleaming white. You go down to Devon and all you can see are cities of these displaced urban people in their ghastly white caravans.' The carvaneers had reportedly invited Mears to attend 'in a personal capacity' to talk to visitors about caravanning and added that Matt Baker, Sally Gunnell and Melodie King would still be in attendance. Unless they say anything nasty about caravans between now and then, of course. If they're looking for a replacement for Mears, though, this blogger suggests Jezza Clarkson might be available that week.
The BBC has struck a deal with American public service broadcaster PBS to develop up to ten factual shows a year, with Sir David Attenborough's Waking Giants one of the first to broadcast. The partnership, struck between the BBC, their commercial arm BBC Worldwide and PBS, will see between eight and ten specials created per year, with around twenty hours of programming content. Programme commissions already agreed include the BBC1 natural history series Earth's Natural Wonders. 'Our organisations have a long-standing relationship in bringing the best of British content to American audiences, with critically acclaimed titles like Sherlock and Call The Midwife and this is the perfect foundation on which to extend this partnership into the factual space,' said Matt Forde, the executive vice president of TV sales and co-productions for BBC Worldwide in North America. Which you might think it the longest job title in the TV industry but, trust me dear blog reader, it's not even close. Under the deal a range of factual shows will be created across genres including natural history, science, religion, the arts and history. 'PBS and the BBC share similar public service missions and the same commitment to producing entertaining and educational programming of the highest quality,' said Beth Hoppe, the chief programming executive and general manager for audience programming at PBS. See what I mean. The deal marks the beginning of a plugging of the hole left by the termination of a one hundred and fifty million smackers co-production deal for factual programming that the BBC had with Discovery Communications. The deal, which produced landmark shows including Frozen Planet, began in 1998 and was terminated in 2013 by 'mutual agreement.'

The Great British Bake Off has signed up sixteen more celebrities to take part in a series of Comic Relief specials. The four episodes of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off - which will be broadcast in February - will be shown on BBC1 over four weeks for the first time.

Earlier in the week it was reported that leading production companies Avalon and Hat Trick were in the process of approaching the BBC Trust with a proposal that they buy BBC3 from the corporation. Their alleged proposal came in the wake of the BBC's plans to move the channel online. In a statement, the makers of Harry Hill's TV Burp and Have I Got News For You pledged to increase the channel's budget to one hundred million smackers per year. A BBC Trust spokeswoman confirmed that a letter had been received and said that it would be responded to in due course. With a 'thanks, but no thanks.' Avalon chief Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville, the co-founder of Hat Trick, declared the channel would continue to broadcast on all digital platforms if they were to take over. But, they're not going to. 'All current contracts would be honoured and the channel's programme budget would be increased from eighty one million to one hundred million pounds a year.' They also pledged that 'all original commissions would be made by UK companies', and that BBC3 'would continue to be aimed at a young and ethnically diverse audience' were they to become its owners. But within hours of the announcement of this proposal having some Gruniad Morning Star readers and a lot of piss-poor alleged comedians creaming in their collective shorts, the BBC's head of press, Sam Hodges, tweeted: 'Hate to kill a good PR stunt but BBC3 isn't for sale.' The channel's controller also shot down the plan, saying: 'BBC3 is not closing and BBC3 is not for sale.' Writing in a blog titled Ten Things You Should Know About The New BBC3, Damian Kavanagh added: 'We'd be kidding ourselves if we ignored the fact the BBC3 audience is online and increasingly so. They just are.' Suggestions that Mulville had a so-called "rescue plan" for the channel were first mooted by the Gruniad Morning Star last September. BBC Director Tony Hall announced plans last March for the closure of BBC3 as a broadcast channel in the autumn of 2015 and for it to operate solely online. The plans, which are intended to save fifty million much-needed smackers a year, are subject to the approval of the BBC Trust, which has just begun a public consultation on the proposals. There is little appetite among viewers for the BBC's proposal to close its BBC3 TV channel, the corporation has admitted, but there is excitement at the prospect of it being replaced by BBC1+1. The new timeshifted channel is part of a package of proposals that was submitted to the BBC Trust on Tuesday as the corporation outlined its case for making BBC3 online-only as the 'least worst option.'
Meanwhile, odious unfunny tub-of-lard waste of space plank James Corden has claimed that he 'wouldn't have a career' if it wasn't for BBC3. Which, frankly, is the single best reason yet that yer actual Keith Telly Topping has heard for shovelling the channel into an online ghetto along with all the other shit where it belongs.
MPs - scum, the lot of them - on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee are expected to join the chorus calling for the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governance and regulatory body chaired by the recently arrived Rona Fairhead, to be shovelled into the gutter along with all the other turds. The committee, chaired by Tory MP John Whittingdale, is expected to recommend that the Trust be abolished in its upcoming report on the future of the BBC. It is understood that committee members have mostly been receptive to an idea for the BBC to be governed instead by a unitary board – a single board of directors comprising executive and non-executive directors, overseen by a single chairman. The committee took evidence from a wide range of witnesses, including BBC Director General Tony Hall, from across the media over several months last year. Other suggestions understood to have been considered by the committee include the Trust's powers being transferred to media regulator Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - or some kind of BBC commission type affair. However, there is good news for the corporation as it is thought that the report will, broadly, give its backing to the continuation of the licence fee. Although the concept of a licence fee is backed by the majority of the committee, they have also been considering Germany's public service broadcasting funding model. This involves a household broadcasting levy, which is specific to a home, rather than a device such as a television set. The idea could be attractive to the government as it has cut evasion in Germany, so may also address the thorny issue of parliamentary backing for decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee. The BBC Trust, which was conceived a decade ago, came under fire during evidence given to the committee late last year. When the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Javid appeared before the committee in October, he said that there are 'issues' around governance, 'particularly around accountability' and he was not sure if the changes in governance made to date would prove effective. The Trust launched in 2007, a timely compromise to the tricky situation the BBC found itself in following The Hutton Inquiry, when its predecessor, the board of governors, came under fire for being both the corporation's cheerleader and regulator (a criticism that the Trust has also subsequently faced). The committee's report is due out within the next couple of weeks. A BBC Trust spokeswoman said: 'We aren't going to speculate about the contents of a future committee report. Governance will be debated at the time of charter review, along with a whole range of other issues and we will want to participate in that discussion. We have been clear both that the BBC's independence needs to be protected and that there must be strong oversight and regulation of the corporation in the interests of licence fee payers.'

Atlantis will not return to BBC1 for a third series. The fantasy drama will not be re-commissioned once the current run has finished airing, the Digital Spy website has reported. A BBC spokesperson is quoted as saying: 'The final seven episodes of Atlantis will transmit on BBC1 in spring. We would like to thank Urban Myth Films and all the cast and crew but the series will not be re-commissioned. We are very proud of both series but to keep increasing the range of BBC One drama we have to make difficult decisions to bring new shows through.'

The cast of ITV's The Frankenstein Chronicles has been announced. Yer actual Sean Bean will lead the drama as Inspector John Marlott, who will pursue a terrifying foe through 1827 London, in what is described as 'a mix of the investigative and horror genres.' Joining Bean is his Game of Thrones colleague Kate Dickie, who played Lysa Arryn on the HBO show. The six-part period drama sees Marlott recruited by the Home Secretary Robert Peel after an assembly of body parts is discovered, arranged in a bizarre attempt at a human form. Marlott soon finds himself tracking down an unhinged killer through the fog-board streets of Old London Town, and that. Also appearing in the series will be Robbie Gee, Ed Stoppard, Anna Maxwell Martin, Charlie Creed-Miles, Elliot Cowan, Hugh O'Conor, Joe Tucker, Lalor Roddy, Patrick Fitzsymons, Richie Campbell, Ryan Sampson, Samuel West, Shaun Mason, Steve Wilson, Steven Berkoff, Stuart Graham, Tom Ward and Vanessa Kirby. Quality cast. ITV's director of drama, Steve November, said about the show: 'The Frankenstein Chronicles is an epic reworking of one of literature and cinema's most iconic stories. We're delighted to be working with Benjamin Ross, Barry Langford and the team at Rainmark Films with the vision to bring Mary Shelley's Frankenstein back to life.' EMMy-nominated director and writer Ross, who created the series along with Langford, said: 'Marlott's investigation takes him into the dark corners of Regency London. He discovers an underworld of prostitution, drug smuggling, bodysnatching and murder for profit. The rational evidence points first one way and then another as he contemplates a frightening alternate scenario.' Filming on the series is due to begin in Northern Ireland this month, with further casting information due to be announced soon.

Kelly Hoppen has left The Dragons' Den. The interior designer will bow out of the BBC2 show at the end of the upcoming series, which began broadcasting this weekend. She joined the programme back in 2013 as a replacement for Hilary Devey. Hoppen said: 'After two great years as an investor on Dragons' Den, I have decided the current series will be my last. I have had a brilliant time and made several successful investments. It has been a privilege to be part of a programme which champions entrepreneurs. However, due to a packed schedule and international commitments, including a new venture designing film sets, I sadly cannot commit to the filming schedule. I will continue to work and invest in young entrepreneurs. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on Dragons' Den and met many inspiring entrepreneurs along my journey. I will miss my fellow judges and I'm sure someone amazing will fill my seat. I wish everyone on the show the best luck. What's left to say but, "I'm out."'

Rob Lowe and Jenna Fischer have been cast in Apocalypse Slough. Sky1 and NBC's upcoming comedy-drama series follows a group of seemingly unconnected characters, as their lives start to intersect when it is reported that a large comet will collide with Earth. Lowe is playing Father Jude, a rebellious priest at the Vatican. He is described as a man with 'profound and passionate faith', but that faith is shaken when he learns of the impending ka-splatty apocalypse-type situation. Meanwhile, Fischer will appear as 'mild-mannered Rhonda', extremely sent to prison in New Mexico for a crime that she did not commit. Her wish is to be reunited with her family. Others appearing in the drama include Megan Mullally, Pauline Quirke, Mathew Baynton, Paterson Joseph and Joel Fry. Mullally plays Leanne, a white supremacist who takes Rhonda under her wing. Baynton will feature as bank manager Jamie, inspired by the impending apocalypse to find his wife - who disappeared in mysterious circumstances seven years ago. Quirke will play Jamie's mother Paula and Fry is confirmed as Jamie's hedonistic best friend, Dave. Joseph is cast as General Gaines, who briefs the President on high-level military matters. Apocalypse Slough is produced by Working Title and Bigballs Films. Lowe said: 'I've always been a fan of the kind of smart, ambitious and challenging film-making that comes from Sky and Working Title. This script and my character in particular blew me away.' Sky1 director Adam MacDonald added: 'Apocalypse Slough is a world-class, high-concept new drama for Sky1. The show has bundles of energy, vibrancy and laughter, as well as delivering an exuberant heart-working story on an epic scale.'
You've probably seen this clip by now, dear blog reader but, if not, here's the moment when ITV News reporter Ria Chatterjee was talking about delays on the Eurostar, live, when, behind her, an accident occurred. Ouch. Bet that hurt. Ria herself has written a blog piece on the incident. 'I was about thirty seconds into my live about the Eurostar and Eurotunnel chaos when I heard a loud bang. I felt my heart leap. Any reporter knows that a sudden distraction in the middle of a live monologue can end in a jumbled mess of words and a sheepish throw back to the studio. However, I knew I didn't have much left to say so I persisted and calmly threw back to the presenter.'
Next up, on ITV’s Thursday lunchtime news bulletin, a chap was seen walking behind Romilly Weeks during her live broadcast from Westminster. Nothing unusual in that, except he was rather proudly holding up a dead squirrel. As you do. And, finally, there was Richard Edgar's report from Davos on Friday, where a chap greedily chomping down his lunch like a geet starver, with all the dignity of Ed Milimolimandi consuming a bacon sandwich, proved an unwelcome distraction.
Brendan O'Carroll has confirmed that he is working on a new comedy for BBC1. The Mrs Brown's Boys creator also revealed that there is 'other stuff' the BBC are keen for him to do. Speaking to the Radio Times, O'Carroll said: 'We are working on a pilot of my very first play, called The Course. The story's about a man who gives a positive mental attitude course to complete losers in the effort to try and get them to sell insurance door to door. It should be fun!' He added: 'I have to say there's other stuff I want to do, and there's other stuff the BBC want me to do. Maybe we'll try something. If it doesn't work we'll go back to Mrs Brown!' In December, the BBC confirmed that although there would be no new series of Mrs Brown's Boys in the foreseeable future, Christmas specials were still going to be made for the next few years. 'The nice thing about the series is that we can drop in and out any time we like because we keep Mrs Brown kind of warm with the Christmas specials,' O'Carroll added.
Bill Bailey will star in a spoof music video with Emma Thompson in one of a number of 'funny Valentines' to be made on-demand first on the BBC's iPlayer. As part of a season of Valentine's Day programming, Bill will re-imagine one of his most popular songs, 'Love Song', with a new video in which an obsessive loner's life is turned upside down by a mysterious beauty, played by Thompson. Other funny Valentines in the iPlayer series feature Matt Berry, Russ Abbot and the creators of Modern Toss.

Cricket fans were treated to something approaching the miracle of the resurrection this week when a seagull appeared to rise, Lazarus-like, from the dead after being clonked with a ball. Perth Scorchers batsman Adam Voges smashed the ball right into the path of the bird with somewhat ka-splatty style results, only for it to suddenly spring back to life moments later. Which, you can see here. The first bit you might want to avoid if you're of a somewhat squeamish disposition. During the Big Bash Twenty20 clash between the Scorchers and the Melbourne Stars, fielder Rob Quiney carried the seemingly deceased bird's body to the boundary. Seconds later, however, the bird re-emerged triumphantly, much to the relief of some of the thirty thousand spectators (there were others who, admittedly, couldn't give a stuff it being, after all, just a seagull). The incident prompted the Network Ten commentators to suggest 'that's a bigger recovery since Rick McCosker in the Centenary Test here at the MCG', a reference to the Australian cricketer who batted in the second innings of the 1977 test against England with a broken jaw. However, the drama was far from over, as the bird then attempted to pick a fight with the ball, flying straight towards it before being pipped by another fielder. 'The bird was taken outside into Yarra Park at the change of innings and released into the park when it was clear that the bird's health was okay,' MCG Media and Publicity Adviser Sarah Gordon told the Big Bash website.
Wor geet canny Robson Green has talked about the final series of Strike Back, which will be broadcast later this year. The actor, presenter, Newcastle United fan and pro-celebrity fisherman stars as Colonel Philip Locke in the Sky1 and Cinemax action series, which returns after a two-year gap due to an injury to Wor geet canny Robson's co-star Sullivan Stapleton. 'It's the best yet,' he told the Digital Spy website. 'Michael Bassett directs an absolutely thrilling end to what has been an incredible action series for television. What an experience, hitting fifty and taking on North Korea and saving the Western world from a missile attack.' Wor geet canny Robson said that he continues to enjoy filming action scenes, despite hitting the age milestone last year. 'The action scenes are fine - [with] any series you've got to look after yourself,' he explained. 'There's this wonderful guy I've trained with forever called Adam Shepherd. He actually just texted me five minutes ago saying, "Are you ready for a good workout tomorrow?" At least four times a week I'll train with him, just keeping in shape for those things. So when it says on paper "Locke takes out four Yakuza unharmed and then runs two hundred metres at high speed firing as he goes and takes out another seventeen of the enemy, jumps into a helicopter that then explodes in air but lands in a jungle and still lives to tell the tale" it's great fun to do. There's great stuntmen but, usually, it's us doing them.' Wor geet canny Robson also spoke about his ITV series Grantchester, which achieved more than respectable ratings for its debut series in 2014. 'It got great figures, James Norton is an absolute darling to work with and it's probably one of the happiest drama shoots I've ever been on,' he said. 'It was such a wonderful and professional shoot and, socially, I get on with James wonderfully. I think that shows on the lens. That relationship really works. He just finished Lady Chatterley's Lover and he's now doing War & Peace, so he sends me pictures of him in a wheelchair playing Lady Chatterley's husband and I'm sending him pictures of me holding a Golden Dorado in Bolivia [for Ultimate Catch]! I think I win in that imagery. "I'm always superseding his pictures. He'd send me one of a film set and then I'd send him one of me with the Guarani tribe in the Bolivian jungle with a jaguar in the background!'

FOX has ordered four new pilots, including a remake of the BBC's Luther. The acclaimed thriller - which starred Idris Elba in the lead role - was given a pilot commitment by the network last year. Elba is not expected to reprise his role in the one-hour pilot (especially as he's likely to be a bit busy filming a recent confirmed two-part Luther special for the BBC), but he will serve as executive producer alongside the series creator Neil Cross. Frankenstein has also received a one-hour pilot order, which chronicles the story of a morally corrupt retired cop, who is given a chance to change his ways when he is brought back from the dead. Ray Pritchard will be forced to choose between a new perspective on life or falling back into his old habits. Rand Ravich is writing the pilot and executive producing with Howard Gordon. A third drama, Rosewood, is an investigative series which follows a Miami-based private pathologist Doctor Beaumont Rosewood, who is able to unearth secrets in bodies using his state-of-the-art lab. Todd Harthan is writing the pilot and will also executive produce. The final pilot is a single camera comedy entitled Forty Eight Hours 'Til Monday about 'one husband's desperate struggle to not let every weekend go completely to hell.' Charlie Grandy is writing the pilot alongside Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan, who are executive producing. FOX recently ordered a remake of the movie Minority Report, while also renewing Empire, Gotham and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The BBC is launching an award in honour of its presenter, Komla Dumor, a year after his unexpected death aged forty one. Komla Dumor was an exceptional Ghanaian broadcaster who in his short life made an extraordinary impact - in Ghana, in Africa and around the world. He represented a confident, savvy and entrepreneurial side of Africa. Through his tenacious journalism and compelling storytelling, Komla worked tirelessly to bring a more nuanced African narrative to the world. The BBC is committed to continuing Komla's legacy and have announced the launch of the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. The award will be given to an outstanding individual living and working in Africa, who combines strong journalism skills and an exceptional talent in telling African stories, with the ambition and potential to become a star of the future. Through the award, the BBC say they will 'invest in the future of African journalism' by offering the winner the chance to come to the BBC and share Africa's stories with the rest of the world. The winner will be given an opportunity to gain recognition and experience, working with teams across BBC News during a three month placement in London.

It is not all glitz and glamour being a BBC presenter, it would seem. Historian Suzannah Lipscomb suffered for her art whilst filming her - excellent - BBC4 programme Hidden Killers Of The Tudor Home. In previous Hidden Killers conceits, Suze has had to run up and downstairs in a corset until she thought she was going to faint, knelt in the footwell of a car with her head stuck out of the window as the two-foot Marie Antoinette wig she was wearing wouldn't fit in the car and learned how to joust in chain-mail. In the new Tudor Hidden Killers episode, broadcast on Tuesday of this week, viewers saw Suzannah plunge into a freezing cold pond in woollen Tudor attire to demonstrate how easy it was to drown in the highly-absorbent clothing worn during days of yore. As Suzannah told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'TV gives me a fascinating opportunity to learn about the past by experiencing the physical reality of the age, but I admit I never quite envisaged – back when I was slogging for my doctorate in Oxford – some of the more bizarre activities I would engage in for the sake of history.'

The mayor of Paris has said that the city intends to sue FOX News for its inaccurate reporting about the city following the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The US network, infamously and entirely incorrectly, claimed that there were 'no-go areas' in the French capital where police and non-Muslims refused to go before apologising for such nonsense. Anne Hidalgo said that the people of Paris had been 'insulted' and the city's image had been 'damaged'. Yes, but only to Americans - and to FOX News viewers at that. And, since most of those will never travel more than twenty five miles from their farmstead in Alabama where the cowshit lies thick, much less come to Europe, this blogger doesn't really think that this image damage was with anyone that actually matters. The network has since grovellingly apologised for making 'regrettable errors' on-air regarding the Muslim population. And, for 'talking shite', basically. Hidalgo told CNN: 'When we're insulted and when we've had an image, then I think we'll have to sue.' Well, that's certainly the way they usually do things in America. 'I think we'll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed. The image of Paris has been prejudiced and the honour of Paris has been prejudiced.' In response, FOX News executive vice president Michael Clemente said: 'We empathise with the citizens of France as they go through a healing process and return to everyday life. However, we find the Mayor's comments regarding a lawsuit misplaced.' FOX has also apologised for comments by terror expert Steven Emerson, who claimed Birmingham was 'totally Muslim' and ruled by Sharia law. FOX News host Jeanine Pirro subsequently said Emerson had 'made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected.' Whether any Brummies fancy suing FOX News as well is not, at this time, known. Though the thought of any Aston Villa fans attempting to prove that the visiting penalty area at Villa Park is anything but a 'no-go zone' should be interesting.
Brian Blessed collapsed on stage with an apparent heart problem while playing the lead in King Lear - but, thankfully, later returned to the stage to finish the performance. The seventy eight-year-old had just started the play at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford, on Monday, when he appeared to faint and fall off a raised platform. His co-star, Noel White, playing the Earl of Kent, said: 'This is not part of the play,' and asked if there was a doctor in the house. After being assessed by a surgeon, Brian completed the show. Walking back on stage after twenty minutes - and, reportedly, a nice cup of sweet milky tea - Blessed said: 'I feel such an idiot and am not in the habit of doing this, but I have a little fibrillation.' Tragically, he didn't follow this with a bellow of 'Blessed's alive!' Though it would have been ruddy funny if he had. Daily Scum Mail theatre critic Quentin Letts was at the performance, and said it was 'far from clear [Blessed] would be able to continue and his fellow actors looked terribly worried about him. But there was no stopping him. "Let's keep going!" I heard him whisper as he made his first exit after the resumed start.' Guildford Shakespeare Company director Caroline Devlin said: 'Brian was an inspirational wonder. He had a small heart operation three years ago. We are not entirely sure why he became so dizzy but he is a twenty year old in a seventy eight year old's body. There was no stopping him.' The actor returned to the stage without problem for Tuesday night's performance and will appear for the rest of the show's sold-out run. Speaking to What's On Stage before the production began, Brian had stressed that the role required 'colossal energy levels. I think a big mistake with playing King Lear is to make him too senile,' he said. 'Mine is much more powerful, I hope, even a touch of Genghis Khan. The man is a majestic, powerful creature with great energy. He has a slight heart problem, I think, and is prone to mental storms. But the main thing is that it must gallop apace; I've been to productions that last five and half hours, and that is not on.' Known for his booming voice and gregarious manner, Brian found fame in BBC series Z-Cars and later went on to star in Flash Gordon and Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. And, courtesy of the excellent Vada magazine, here's seven reasons why Brian Blessed is one of the greatest human beings currently - and thankfully - alive.

Lara Pulver and Peter Davison have joined the cast of Gypsy. The pair will join Imelda Staunton in the Chichester Festival Theatre production, which will transfer to London's West End in March. Pulver will reprise the role of Louise, while Davison joins the cast to play Herbie. The production returns to London for the first time in forty years for a limited run at the Savoy Theatre from 15 April, with previews from 28 March. Gypsy tells the true story of Momma Rose who travelled across the US with her daughters Baby June and Louise in search of vaudeville success in a changing age of entertainment. Gypsy is a musical fable with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. the current production is choreographed by Stephen Mear.

Simon Pegg his very self will,reportedly, co-write the script for the next Star Trek movie, after the original screenwriter left the project. Roberto Orci, who was also slated to direct Star Trek 3, pulled out last month allegedly after disagreements over the script. Orci, who co-wrote the last two films in the series, has been replaced in the director's chair by Justin Lin, best known for the Fast and Furious movies. Pegg has taken over scripting with the help of TV writer Doug Jung. Simon will also, of course, reprise his role as Scotty in the franchise, which was successfully relaunched by JJ Abrams in 2009. Paramount still hopes to meet the scheduled release date of July 2016. Pegg rose to fame in British TV comedies Big Train and Spaced, before being cast as Benji Dunn in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible films. He has previously scripted box office hits Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End - the so-called 'cornetto trilogy"'of British comedies with director Edgar Wright. His role on the as-yet-titled Star Trek film was confirmed by Harmony Carrigan, who runs Pegg's Twitter account earlier this week.

A famous house inspired by the cult TV show Thunderbirds has finally sold ten years after it went on the market - for a knocked down 1.9 million smackers. Property developer Eddie Mitchell built the lavish home based on Tracy Island, the fictional headquarters of the International Rescue organisation, in 2005. The futuristic home, in the millionaire's enclave of Sandbanks, Dorset, first went on the market for four million notes, with a queue of about one hundred people waiting to see it during an open day. Despite the level of early interest and rumours that Oasis singer Liam Gallagher his very self was keen to buy it, Thunderbird failed to sell. In between being rented out for six grand a month, the property has been re-listed several times since, but with no buyers. It went back on the market last April for three million knicker and has now finally sold for £1.1m less than that figure to one Julian Jones, the chief executive of an international oil drilling consultancy. Property experts have described the deal as 'a snip.' The sale would appear to represent a loss for Thunderbirds fan Mitchell, who paid nine hundred grand for the land in 2000 and is believed to have spent between one and two million smackers on building the house. itself Last week, it emerged that receivers had been called in to seize two flats near to Poole Harbour which are owned by his development company, according to the Torygraph. Mitchell designed Thunderbird to look like the base for the International Rescue team, complete with a massive wing-shaped roof made of copper. The building has five en-suite bedrooms, another three bathrooms, cinema room, luxury fitted kitchen and one hundred feet living space spanning the ground floor. Sounds like a tasty gaff, not unlike Stately Telly Topping Manor. However, the four-storey property has been nicknamed by locals as The Marmite House, because people either love it or hate it. In 2006, Poole council gave it a 'Pride of Place' award for its 'innovative design' that made a positive contribution to the area. It has now been sold through estate agents Key Drummond. A spokesman said: 'Over the years there has been a lot of interest in it, but for one reason or another it hasn't sold. It was rented out for a number of years so there wasn't much of an opportunity to buy it.'
Cilla Black is among a number of celebrities to have settled phone-hacking claims for 'substantial' damages, the High Court has been told. Her son, Robert Willis, the actor Darren Day, EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace and z-list reality TV regular Peter Andre also settled claims, all against Mirra Group Newspapers. Their barrister, David Sherborne, said that their privacy was 'grossly violated' by the odious newspapers, 'solely for profit'. MGN counsel Matthew Nicklin QC offered 'sincere apologies' on its behalf. Sadly, he didn't offer any apologies for the Mirra Group denying for several years that they'd done it until the weight of evidence against them became overwhelming. That, as they say, was an opportunity missed. The hacking was alleged to have taken place between 2000 and 2006. Sherborne read out statements on behalf of Cilla and her son, Andre, Day and Wallace as well as for a further five people whose settlements have previously been reported. They are the former head coach of the England football team, Sven-Goran Eriksson, ex-Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston, David and Victoria Beckham's former nanny Abbie Gibson, the actor Shane Richie's wife Christie Roche and his friend and agent Phil Dale. He said: 'In summary, these ten individuals all bring claims that cover unlawful activity by each of the three newspaper titles [the Daily Mirra, the Sunday Mirra and the Sunday People] over a lengthy period. They have all expressed their feelings of distress and anger that their private information has been treated in this way and their privacy has been so grossly violated by these newspapers solely for profit.' Nicklin said, grovellingly, that MGN 'accepts that the methods which were used to obtain private information about these ten individuals through the unlawful accessing of their voicemails and the obtaining of their personal information should never have been employed' - which is big of them - and that there was 'no legitimate justification' for them doing so in the first place. No shit? He added: 'MGN is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to these claimants for the damage and distress caused to them by hacking into their voicemail messages and by obtaining private information about them, including the use of blagging.' Nicklin said that MGN was paying 'substantial sums by way of damages and their reasonable costs.' No damages figures were announced as part of the statements read to the court. Other celebrities have previously taken action against MGN, which is a subsidiary of Trinity Mirra, and filed claims over alleged hacking. They include Shane Richie his very self, the soap actresses Shobna Gulati and Lucy Benjamin and the BBC creative director Alan Yentob. In September last year Trinity Mirra finally admitted for the first time that some of its journalists had been involved in phone-hacking and said that it would pay compensation to four people. This, please remember, after years of denials that it or any of its employees had ever, not never, done any of that there phone-hacking malarkey, no-siree, Bob. At the time the company was thought to have set aside between eight and nine million smackers to settle phone-hacking claims and legal costs. Whether that'll be enough before this thing is over is another matter entirely. Scores of people have also reached similar settlements with the publisher of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum Of The World after extremely taking legal action against the former tabloid, shut in shame and ignominy in 2011.

Four Sun journalists accused of making corrupt and naughty payments to public officials face a retrial after a jury failed to reach verdicts on any of the defendants. After nine days of deliberations the jury at Kingston crown court was unable to reach verdicts on charges against Chris Pharo, the paper’s head of news, Ben O’Driscoll, the former deputy news editor, Jamie Pyatt, the Thames Valley district reporter and Graham Dudman, the paper’s former managing editor. The jury were immediately discharged by judge Richard Marks. Oliver Glasgow QC, for the prosecution, said that the crown would seek a retrial with a date to be set at the Old Bailey on 6 February. The jury was discharged after forty eight hours and fifty five minutes. Marks said: 'The defendants have had this hanging over them for some considerable amount of time. I know that in some cases they have been suspended from work and the matter must really be resolved one way or another sooner or later. Certainly the trial must take place this year.' Thanking the jury, he told them that jurors sometimes faced difficult cases and 'this was clearly one such case.' He thanked the counsel and then, turning to the public gallery, paid tribute to the conduct of 'the defendants and their families; they have behaved with great dignity throughout. I recognise it is an unfortunate ending from their point of view, but these things can happen.' The public gallery was overflowing for the verdict, with family, friends and about fifteen Sun journalists there to show their support, many of whom were forced to sit in the barristers' benches for the jury decision. The mood was sombre and subdued as they left the court. Outside, the defendants expressed a mixture of relief that the three-month ordeal was over but apprehension about what was to come. 'It could have been worse,' remarked one. Indeed. You could have been spending the night in the cells instead of your own bed. Nice to see a bit of the old glass-half-full attitude, is it not? The defendants had been extremely accused of conspiring with a series of public officials to leak sick and intrusive stories about celebrities, criminals and victims of crime – including the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall and the investigation into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. They denied all of the charges. Among those who appeared in court in a show of solidarity were former co-defendants John Edwards, the Sun's picture editor and John Troup, the paper's former East Anglia correspondent, both of whom were cleared of related charges on Friday of last week. Trevor Kavanagh, the paper's associate editor, was also in the gallery. 'I think the defendants have gone through purgatory,' he whinged. 'Their lives and the lives of their families have been damaged. It's hard to know what now could compensate them for that, even in the circumstances of an acquittal.' Or, indeed, in the circumstances of an extremely guilty verdict which the retrial may result in. Again, it's a swings and roundabouts thing, innit? It is the third case the crown has brought against journalists in relation to alleged corrupt payments that has resulted in a hung jury. Last year, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of the Sun reporter Vince Soodin while former Scum of the World editor - and the Prime Minister's former, if you will' chum', Andy Coulson is to face a retrial along with the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman on 29 June. Two further Sun journalists already acquitted of offences linked to alleged payments to public officials are the Whitehall editor, Clodagh Hartley and chief foreign correspondent, Nick Parker. The jury sat for sixty four days over three months with several dramatic twists and turns over the last few days. The trial was thrown into disarray on Wednesday afternoon when one member of the jury complained that he could no longer cope with 'the pressure' of the deliberations, telling the judge in a note that he was 'on the verge of a panic attack.' The juror was discharged and the remaining eleven were told to find verdicts on the basis of an eleven-to-zero vote or ten-to-one. After just under two and a half hours of deliberations on Thursday, they revealed they were still deadlocked and there was no prospect of reaching even a majority verdict. Pyatt had faced two charges of paying an alleged backhanders to a Surrey police officer, Simon Quinn, and to a Broadmoor orderly, Robert Neave, for stories. Pharo, who faced three charges, was accused of knowing about both sources and a third source, a Chelsea police officer who was said to have been leaking information to another Sun journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons. O'Driscoll was cleared of knowing about Quinn, but faced two other charges – that he was part of the Chelsea policeman conspiracy and the alleged conspiracy to pay Neave for information on high profiles prisoners such Peter Sutcliffe. Dudman faced three charges - one that he was involved in the Neave plot and another separate charge that he paid an unnamed police officer for a 'seismic' tip about a family liaison officer in the Soham murder investigation being arrested over indecent images of children. He was cleared of the third count along with Troup, that he had plotted to pay an unknown prison officer for a story about the suicide of career criminal.

Former Scum of the World editor and the Prime Minister's former, if you will, 'chum' Andy Coulson is to face a retrial in June over allegations he paid for confidential royal phone directories from corrupt police officers. Coulson, who left the paper in 2007 after a phone-hacking scandal and went on to become David Cameron's head of communications, is extremely accused of approving payments for the phone books in 2003 and 2005. The books contained details of the royal household and were allegedly sold to the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman in 2003 and 2005. Goodman is also facing a retrial. Coulson, who edited the Scum of the World from 2003 to 2006, was very jailed for eighteen months last July for 'overseeing a culture of phone-hacking' at the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid. The jury in the marathon hacking trial could not agree a verdict on the separate charges about corrupt payments and they were discharged. Mr Justice Saunders, who presided over the hacking trial, said that Coulson and Goodman would stand trial again on 29 June on two charges of misconduct in public office. Coulson was released from prison in November last year after serving a mere two months of his term. Charges that Coulson and Goodman had allegedly purchased royal phone books from police officers were brought after Scotland Yard was handed e-mails from their former employer, News International, in which the royal reporter requested payment for 'a rare and just printed palace staff phone book' from 'a palace cop'. He and Goodman were very accused of paying a grand to a police officer at St James's Palace for a copy of the royal directory known as The Green Book. It was alleged that Goodman organised the deal in January 2003 and Coulson approved payment by e-mail. They face a similar claim from June 2005, of paying another thousand knicker for another internal royal directory. Coulson and Goodman deny two counts of misconduct in a public office. A case management hearing will be held in April, with a trial set to begin on 29 June.

According to Metro, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's bottom tattoo has been 'voted the worst ever.' And this constituted 'news', apparently. This blgoger does not, necessarily, disagree with the results of this poll - which was carried out by Premier Laser Clinic, it would seem. He merely wonders a) why anyone would carry out such a poll in the first place and b) who the fuck voted in it?

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a High Court battle over being held personally liable for the rent on a London pub he bought. The pub deal took place when Ramsay's father-in-law, Christopher Hutcheson, was working with him to build his restaurant empire. The chef claimed that his signature had been forged on a document which made him the personal guarantor for the pub's rent. He had accused Hutcheson of using 'a ghost writer machine' to do this. The machines are frequently used by authors to sign books and photographs automatically. Ramsay said the document made him liable for six hundred and forty thousand knicker annual rent for the York & Albany pub near Regent's Park. However, Mr Justice Morgan dismissed as 'entirely implausible' Ramsay's claim that he did not know the full extent of the use of the ghost machine. The judge said: 'Accordingly, I find that Mr Ramsay knew, long before the entry into the agreement for lease and the lease of the premises, that the machine was routinely used to place his signature on legal documents. I do not accept his evidence to the contrary.' He refused to grant a declaration that the rental guarantee was 'not binding' because Ramsay's signature 'was not lawfully authorised' when the twenty five year lease was signed in 2007. 'I find that when Mr Hutcheson committed Mr Ramsay to the guarantee in the lease of the premises, Mr Hutcheson was acting within the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay at all times until Mr Hutcheson's dismissal in October 2010,' the judge added. Ramsay, the star of several food programmes including Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, had told the judge that he felt 'like a performing monkey' while building his multimillion-pound culinary empire, with Hutcheson managing his business. Ramsay's wife, Tana, said what had happened had been 'extremely distressing.' The couple married in 1996 and have four children. Hutcheson acted as business manager for the Ramsay group of companies until he was sacked in 2010.

The Sun has published a picture of a topless woman on Page Three and mocked a number of media outlets that said the long-running feature had been dropped. On Tuesday, the Sun's sister paper, The Times claimed that the tabloid would no longer feature Page Three girls - but one appeared in the Sun's Thursday edition. The supposed ending of Page Three was widely reported, despite the Sun neither confirming or denying it. On the page, the Sun 'apologises' on behalf of all those who ran the story. The Sun announced Page Three's continuation with a trail on the front page that reads: 'We've had a mammary lapse.' It heads the image of the woman - with massive knockers - who is seen winking into the camera, A caption under the photograph reads: 'Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page Three' and this was a picture of Sexy Stunna Naughty Nicole, twenty two, from Bournemouth. Whom, one supposes, her parents are very proud of. 'We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us,' they continued in a thoroughly obnoxious sneering tone. Page Three has been a feature of the Sun for forty four years but has been widely criticised for being sexist and outdated. The Sun does not always have Page Three pictures - they purposefully do not appear in the paper's weekend editions and, in recent years, there have been many weekdays where the paper did not feature a topless lady on the page.The absence of a Page Three girl on Monday and Tuesday of this week coincided with the report in Tuesday's Times, which is a fellow News UK title, that the Sun had decided to quietly drop the feature. The Times said it 'understood' that News Corp executive chairman, the billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch had 'signed off' the decision. In its latest edition, The Times put the record straight, saying its sister paper had 'made a clean breast of it and admitted there's still some nudes to report.' The Sun's topless images have long drawn protests from campaigners, with an online petition against their use attracting more than two hundred thousand signatures. Campaign group No More Page Three was founded in 2012 and has since gained support from a number of MPs and anti-sexism charities. The Irish edition of the Sun stopped topless pictures two years ago. Media commentator Steve Hewlett told the BBC's Newsnight programme that he believed Page Three still did not have a future. He said: '[The Sun] has always had a sense of mischief about it and, I might be wrong, but this smells to me very much like the Sun trying to say 'don't write us off yet, we still have a sense of mischief." Is Page Three on its way back full time? Personally, I very much doubt it.' Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that editors were free to publish 'what they like.' But, he added, Page Three was not 'in keeping with the way in which women both want to be and should be represented.' Page Three of Monday's Sun had featured model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in lingerie, while Hollyoaks actresses Jennifer Metcalfe and Gemma Merna were photographed in bikinis on a beach on Tuesday.

Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride, who played the character of Deirdre Barlow in the long-running television soap, died earlier this week aged sixty after a short illness. ITV said that the actress, who was in the show for forty two years, died peacefully in a Manchester hospital. Her husband, David Beckett and the programme's cast and crew were said to be 'heartbroken and deeply saddened.' Co-star William Roache, who played her on-screen husband Ken Barlow for many years, said that she would be 'greatly missed.' Roache added: 'I feel Anne's loss so personally having worked closely with her for over forty years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away. She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed.' She was married four times in the programme, twice to Ken. The popularity of her character was demonstrated when a real-life campaign was launched to free Deirdre when a storyline saw the character jailed in 1998 after being duped into a mortgage fraud by fiancé Jon Lindsay. The campaign was even backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Who, seemingly, didn't have anything better to do with his time like, you know, invade a small country in search of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Or something. Born in Oldham in 1954, Anne was noticed by casting directors for Coronation Street when she acted in a Jack Rosenthal Granada play, Another Sunday and Sweet FA and she first appeared Coronation Street in November 1972 as Deirdre Hunt. Over the years became known for her character's large glasses and husky voice. Notoriously shy of publicity off-screen, in 1998, Anne refused to appear on This Is Your Life during a period where, she later revealed, she was battling severe depression. She married former actor David Beckett in 1992. They met on the set of Coronation Street, when Beckett joined the cast another of Deirdre's boyfriends. In 1993, Kirkbride was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She spoke to the British press about her bout of depression following the diagnosis. She was in remission from the disease within a year of being diagnosed. Deirdre Barlow had been off-screen recently after Kirkbride was give a three-month break by the show's producers. Coronation Street's creator Tony Warren said: 'Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street.' Kate Ford, who plays Deirdre's daughter Tracy Barlow, tweeted: 'Heartbroken at the loss of my friend and beautiful on-screen mummy. The most crazy, funny one hundred per cent human. My life was enriched by her.' Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts said: 'There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne's passing. We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow. She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her. We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family.'

Barrie Ingham, the distinguished Shakespearean actor whose career took him from London's West End to Broadway and Disney's animated screen, died on Friday at his home in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. Another of that generation of great British character actors, Barrie was a leading man of many stage production and voiced the Basil of Baker Street character in Disney's 1986 animated movie The Great Mouse Detective. He died after a brief illness just weeks before his eighty third birthday. Born in Halifax, in West Yorkshire, Barrie featured in over two hundred British and American films and TV productions. Barrie made his acting début in Manchester with the Library Theatre Company and then he moved to London's Old Vic. He also performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (where he regularly acted opposite his contemporary Judi Dench), the Mermaid Theatre Company and the Royal National Theatre. After playing Sejanus in Granada TV's The Caesars (1968), he had a spell as an ambitious government minister in The Power Game in 1969. In 1971 took the leading role in the series Hine, as the titular unscrupulous arms dealer. Sir John Gielgud gave him his Broadway début and he subsequently played in many Broadway musicals, including Copperfield On Broadway and opposite Angela Lansbury in the London production of Gypsy: A Musical Fable in 1973. He also appeared as King Pellinore in the 1981 revival of Camelot to critical acclaim. He was also one of only a handful of actors to appear in both the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises. He played Paris in the 1965 Doctor Who Trojan four-parter The Myth Makers and also appeared - in a memorable blond wig - as the Thal Alydon in the movie Dr Who & The Daleks in the same year. Many years later, having relocated to the US, he was Danilo O'Dell in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Up The Long Ladder. He also played Major Muncaster in the 1965 SF film Invasion, based on a story by Robert Holmes and appeared in both The Avengers and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). One of his last roles was in the 2005 mini-series, The Triangle as well as appearing in the Josh Kirby Time Warrior! series. His CV also includes appearances in The Victorians, The Scales Of Justice, Blackmail, Thirty Minute Theatre, The Sweeney, Keen and Funny Man. For a number of years, as one of the few British actors working in US television, he became much in demand playing villains in series like Tales Of The Gold Monkey, Hart To Hart, The A-Team and The Fall Guy. he was also in Bergerac (in the well remembered Christmas ghost-story episode Fires In The Fall) and movies including A Challenge For Robin Hood (in the title role) and The Day Of The Jackal. Barrie is survived by his wife of over fifty years, Tarne, their daughters Catrin, Liane, Francesca and Mali and eight grandchildren.

Edgar Froese, the founding member of the German electronic group Tangerine Dream, has died in Vienna, aged seventy. Edgar died unexpectedly on Friday after a pulmonary embolism, his son, Jerome, said. Tangerine Dream's psychedelic and ambient trance-like use of synthesiser sound was a significant influence on the development of electronic music. Edgar once said that 'there is no death, there is just a change of our cosmic address.' Tangerine Dream released more than one hundred LPs since the group was formed. Their early 'Pink Years' music had a pivotal role in the development of Krautrock. Their work with Virgin in the mid to late 1970s helped define what became known as the Berlin School of electronic music. These and later LPs were influential in the development of electronic dance music and also the genre known as new-age music, although the band themselves reportedly disliked the term. From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Tangerine Dream also explored some styles of electronica. Edgar was born on D-Day - 6 June, 1944 - in Tilsit in East Prussia, which is now the Russian city of Sovetsk. Froese's father and other relatives were killed by the Nazis and the family lost all their belongings during the war. His mother and the rest of his family settled in West Berlin, where Edgar grew up and later studied art. His first band, the psychedelic rock-styled The Ones, was gradually dismantled after releasing only one single and Froese turned to experimentation, playing gigs with a variety of musicians. Most of these were in the infamous Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin. The music was mixed with literature, painting and early forms of multimedia. Froese formed Tangerine Dream in Berlin in September 1967 with a group of fellow students including Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler. The band - with a constantly changing line-up focused around Froese's tape loops and synthesizer, was known for its uncompromising anti-pop performances and played at the villa of surrealist artist Salvador Dali in Spain. Their early LPs - Electronic Meditation, Alpha Centauri, Zeit and Atem - brought them a small but dedicated following in their homeland. The group later signed to Virgin after Froese had undertaken 'several bouts of chess on Richard Branson's houseboat on the Thames.' Their first LP for Virgin, Phaedra, in 1974 was considered a key work in the early electronic genre, with its sequencer-driven sound. It reached number fifteen in the UK charts although it sold only a few thousand copies in Germany. Froese was married to artist and photographer Monique Froese from 1974 until her death in 2000. Their son, Jerome, was a member of Tangerine Dream from 1990 to 2006. Edgar later remarried to the artist and musician Bianca Acquaye. Edgar was also a prolific artist, and from 2003 onwards created solo work under the name Edgar W Froese.

A NASA probe is to start photographing the icy world of Pluto, after travelling three billion miles and nine years to get near the dwarf planet. The mission to Pluto is being billed as the last great encounter in planetary exploration. It is one of the first opportunities to study a dwarf planet up close. The pictures are critical to enable the New Horizons probe to position itself for a closer fly-by later this year. As the probe is still two hundred million kilometres away, Pluto will be hardly discernable in the images - just a speck of light against the stars. But the mission team says this view is needed to help line up the spacecraft correctly for its fly-by on 14 July. 'Optical navigation is one of those techniques where we image Pluto repetitively on approach to determine the position of the spacecraft relative to Pluto,' explained Mark Holdridge, from the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore. 'We then perform a number of correction manoeuvres to realign our trajectory with the reference trajectory, thus ensuring we hit our aim point to travel through the Pluto system.' Any initial correction is likely to be made in March. When New Horizons arrives at Pluto it will be moving so fast - at almost fourteen kilometres a second - that going into orbit around the distant world is impossible; it must barrel straight through instead. One complication is that the seven different instruments aboard the spacecraft need to work at different distances to get their data so the team has constructed a very elaborate observation schedule for them all. But what this means is that very precise timing will be required to make sure the flyby runs smoothly. The closest approach to Pluto is set for around noon on 14 July - at a miss distance of roughly thirteen thousand six hundred and ninety five kilometres from the surface. Mission planners want the exact timings nailed to within one hundred seconds. New Horizons will know then where and when to point the instruments. For people like this blogger who grew up with the idea that there were nine planets, this is the moment they get to complete the set.Robotic probes have been to all the others, even the distant Uranus and Neptune. Pluto is the last of the 'classical nine' to receive a visit. Of course, this two thousand three hundred kilometre wide ice-covered rock was demoted in 2006 to the status of mere 'dwarf planet' - by pedants who believe that size is important, which it isn't - but scientists say that should not dull our enthusiasm. The dwarfs are the most numerous planetary class in the Solar System and NASA's New Horizons probe is one of the first opportunities to study an example up close. The first set of navigation pictures may not be anything special, but by May, the probe will be returning views of Pluto that are better anything from Hubble. Come July, the view should be spectacular, said Andy Cheng, the principal investigator on the probe's main camera, which is called LORRI. 'The most recent surprise we had was with the Rosetta mission. Hubble had made a "shape model" of Comet 67P but no-one expected it to look like a rubber duckie,' he told the BBC News website. 'I am more than hopeful that we will get similar surprises with New Horizons - it's what we should expect.' Those surprises could include yet more moons (five - Charon, Hydra, Styx, Nix and Kerberos - are currently known) and possibly even rings like those seen around some of the bigger planets. Pluto is currently five billion kilometres from Earth. It has taken New Horizons more than nine years to get to the dwarf's doorstep. Once the flyby is complete, the probe will be targeted at an even more distant object in the Kuiper Belt - the name given to the icy domain beyond the main planets. Scientists think this region of space may contain many thousands of Pluto-like objects, some of which may even rival Mars and the Earth in size. The first optical navigation images should be back on Earth by Tuesday at the latest. They will show Pluto with its largest moon, Charon.

This very week, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had his first dips back in the local pool in about six weeks. And, inevitably, it was jolly hard work. He did manage eighteen lengths on Monday and, gradually increased that to twenty lengths by Friday, though it'll probably be a while before he's pulling in the sort of numbers he was managing with relative ease back in late 2014.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, this one's for odious greed bucket, horrorshow (and drag) Adrian Chiles. See you at the Job Centre on Monday.