Friday, December 11, 2015


Further images have been released this week by the BBC of the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, The Husbands Of River Song. This is one of them. Good, innit?
Meanwhile, the Christmas double edition of the Radio Times is now available, containing all the programming details of the main UK channels for the entire festive period - including, of course, the première of The Husbands Of River Song on Christmas Day at 5:15pm. The magazine also features a two-page interview with yer actual Peter Capaldi, during which he talks about the departure of Jenna Coleman this year: 'I found it really sad, as Jen's a great girl an a great actress. I used to love being in the TARDIS with her, we'd just have a laugh. And that's all I want out of work, I'm afraid, to go along and have a nice time. While playing the most iconic character in the history of British television!' As well as this Christmas's new episode, Doctor Who continues to be available to watch on a variety of other digital channels. After a short break, Watch returns with a daily dose of the tenth Doctor from the 20 December leading up to a double dose of Christmas specials on the day itself, The Next Doctor through to The End Of Time; post-Christmas it's the turn of the eleventh Doctor to dominate the afternoon schedules. Meanwhile, Horror Channel continue their latest run though the pre-1989 era, with Christmas Day seeing the fourth Doctor four-parter The Horror Of Fang Rock. And, there's more Tom Baker action on BBC4 on the 28-29 December as the channel broadcasts The Face Of Evil.

British viewers are more likely than those in other developed nations to watch on-demand TV this Christmas, the UK's telecoms regulator Ofcom is predicting. Its survey indicates seventy per cent of UK adults, thirty one million punters, watched some TV via free catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub in September and October. Meanwhile, sixteen per cent of web-connected adults viewed catch-up TV on a tablet. Traditional live TV remained the most popular way of tuning in, however. Of the nine thousand individuals surveyed, more used these tech-savvy television services in the UK than in the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia, Spain or Sweden. 'UK viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas,' Ofcom director of research James Thickett (no, really!) said. 'More than anywhere else, we're watching TV and films at a time that suits us, on a range of devices, in and out of the home. So this year, more people can fit their festive TV viewing around opening presents and carving the turkey.'

Peter Capaldi his very self has visited a sick Doctor Who fan who was too ill to attend the show's official festival. The fan, fourteen-year-old Daniel, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Postural tachycardia syndrome, and is currently bed-bound. Peter's visit came about following a campaign by the fan websites Bad Wilf and Geek Syndicate. Daniel's wish to meet an actor from Doctor Who - especially an actor who'd played The Doctor - came true when Peter arrived at his ward. The actress Frances Barber, also visited Daniel, while The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) sent a video message to wish Daniel a merry Christmas.
Channel Five has secured the UK rights to broadcast the new series of The X-Files. In March, US broadcaster FOX confirmed the drama was set to return to TV for the first time in thirteen years, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson resuming their roles as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Channel Five has won the bidding war for the new six-part mini-series and will broadcast them early next year. 'Securing the UK première of the hugely anticipated return of The X-Files is a major coup for the channel and will create one of the television events of 2016,' said Ben Frow, the director of programmes at Channel Five. 'This acquisition underlines our ambition to deliver a diverse slate of brilliant, must-see programming on Channel Five.' The deal also includes The X-Files Essential Collection, twenty episodes selected by the show’s creator, Chris Carter, which promises to 'take viewers through the gripping story of the original series.' The six-episode run, shorter than most US TV series, has been described by FOX as 'an event.' The deal was struck by Katie Keenan, head of acquisitions for Channel Five and Viacom UK, and Twentieth Century FOX Television Distribution UK. 'We're delighted to be partnering with Channel Five as we bring the next chapter of one of our most celebrated series to fans around the world,' said Steve Cornish, of FOX Distribution. The original series premièred in 1993, ran for nine series and was cancelled in 2002 after just over two hundred episodes and a, rather decent, big screen spin-off. Duchovny and Anderson returned for a feature film, X-Files: I Want To Believe, in 2008. Which was ruddy awful. Rumours of the show's return have swirled around the Internet for years and in 2013 Anderson and Duchovny generated much excitement when they hinted during an online discussion that another X-Files movie might be in the works. Since the last X-Files series, From The North favourite Anderson has starred in a string of literary adaptations – as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House, Lily Bart in The House Of Mirth, Miss Havisham in the BBC's Great Expectations and Mrs Castaway in The Crimson Petal & The White – as well as a critically acclaimed semi-regular role on Hannibal and her award-winning role as Stella Gibson in the BBC2 murder drama The Fall, which has been recommissioned for a third series. Anderson also received warm reviews for her performance as Blanche in a fated Young Vic revival of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Duchovny found further success in the US with Californication, which finished a seven-season run last year. This year he published his début novel, Holy Cow, in which a cow called Elsie, a pig called Shalom and a turkey called Tom escape a farm in upstate New York in search of a better life.

London Spy concluded with over 1.5 million overnight viewers on Monday. 1.56m tuned in to BBC2 at 9pm to see the espionage drama's conclusion - up slightly on last week's figure of 1.3m. Earlier on the channel, 1.73m watched Only Connect at 7.30pm, followed by 2.86m for University Challenge at 8pm and the very impressive (and, by the look of 'em, very young!) Peterhouse College Cambridge's victory over St Geroge's, London. You know you're getting old when teams on University Challenge, like policemen, start reminding you of your age. Also, whilst we're about it, got five of the first six questions on Only Connect right, one of them by just the second clue. That's never happened before. Either yer actual Keith Telly Topping is getting smarter or the questions are getting easier ... I'm favouring the latter, frankly. Simply Nigella continued with 2.39m at 8.30pm. Filth, dear blog reader, total filth! On BBC1, in a last minute change the the schedule, Panorama's special on the controversy around FIFA and Sepp Blatter (who is, obviously, not a complete crook) attracted 2.09m to the channel at 8.30pm, while 3.53m watched Fake Britain at 7.30pm. Las Vegas With Trevor McDonald had an audience of 3.74m on ITV at 9pm for the veteran broadcaster's special, which featured an appearance from Mike Tyson. The Martin Lewis Money Programme was seen by 3.18m at 8pm. Channel Four's highest-rated show of the evening was Hunting The Paedophiles: Inside The National Crime Agency, which was seen by a million punters at 9pm. Fargo continued with four hundred and fifty three thousand at 10pm. Earlier in the evening, coverage of the Liverpool architecture and design collective Assemble's Turner Prize victory brought in three hundred and fifty nine thousand at 7.30pm. Meanwhile on Channel Five, On Benefits: Benefit Beauty Queens attracted an audience of eight hundred and fifty four thousand at 9pm, followed by five hundred and thirty seven thousand for Danger: Teen Bingers at 10pm. BBC3 had an audience of five hundred and fifteen thousand for Reggie Yates' Extreme UK, the first in a three-part series on 'the dark side of masculinity' in contemporary Britain.
Viewers are steadily switching off The Royal Variety Performance year-on-year if the overnight audience for 2015's alleged 'showcase of entertainment' is anything to go by. Mind you, the fact that it was presented by that Odious Risible Lanky Streak Of Worthless Piss Jack Whitehall probably didn't help matters. No, let's qualify that, the fact that it was presented by that Odious Risible Lanky Streak Of Worthless Piss Jack Whitehall definitely didn't help matters. This year's performance attracted an average overnight audience of 5.31 million at 7.30pm on ITV. This is down around 1.3m punters from last year's event and around two million overnight viewers from the 2013 broadcast. On BBC1, the rather underwhelming Capital​ bowed out with 3.35m at 9pm, staying more or less level with last week's overnight audience. BBC2's MasterChef: The Professionals​ continued with 2.62m at 8pm, followed by the finale of The Great Pottery Throwdown​ with 2.11m at 9pm and Mock The Week​ with 1.10m. On Channel Four, Kirstie's Handmade Christmas​ appealed to 1.05m at 8pm, while Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown​ was watched by an audience of 1.11m at 9pm.
Once again, MasterChef: The Professionals provided life lessons and comedy in equal measure on Tuesday as, yet another of this year's contestants ignored the old 'never, not never, big yourself up on camera, you'll only end up looking like a plank in the end' thing. Big beardy Josh (and his many tats) had reached the final twelve despite a few downright queer offerings in his previous episodes (a dish of honeycomb and lamb on one, infamous, occasion). When the producers chose to include a clip of him saying 'I think all the other chefs should be concerned about me cos I'm wacky, I'm raw, I've got fire in my belly, I'm young and I want to push these limits and show that I'm the one to worry about,' most of the audience just knew his bacon was well and truly cooked. And, so it proved. Sadly, also eliminated on the night was young Joey who had so lit up the competition in her earlier appearances. The new front runners at that point seemed to include Bobby - whose every dish so far had blown the judges away and who also came up with a nice line in pithy humour saying that he thought Monica should smile a bit more! - Mark, Nick and Danilo. Although, by Thursday, Bobby was gone as well.
The Apprentice​ was beaten in Wednesday's overnight ratings by ITV's 'special' (and, one uses that word quite wrongly) I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) ​episode. I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want): Coming Out ​reunited the various z-list-and-below 'celebs' after their jungle shenanigans,​ attracted an average overnight audience of 6.01 million at 8pm. Shocking, isn't it? Returning crime drama Prey​ launched its second series with an overnight of 3.16m at 9pm. On BBC1, The Apprentice​ was watched by 5.32m at 9pm. Earlier, Cuffs ​continued with a disappointing 2.84m at 8pm. On BBC2, MasterChef: The Professionals had an audience of 2.9m viewers for an episode in which all five of the contestants proved worthy and progressed to next week's semi-finals. After that, Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon's excellent documentary Secrets Of The Mona Lisa was watched by a fraction under one million punters. And jolly fascinating it was too. The Apprentice: You're Fired!​ brought in 1.93m at 10pm. On Channel Four, Twenty Four Hours In A&E​ interested 1.43m at 9pm, followed by Peep Show​ with six hundred and sixteen thousand at 10pm. Sky 1's Arrow​ thrilled four hundred and thirty eight thousand at 8pm. On Channel Five, Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away​ was seen by 1.12m at 9pm.
The second BBC Music Awards didn't set the overnight ratings alight on Thursday, losing around 1.4 million from last year. Adele's big night was watched by an average overnight audience of 2.53m at 8pm on BBC1. On BBC2, MasterChef: The Professionals​ brought in 2.74m at 8pm, followed by The Last Kingdom​ with 1.65m at 9pm. ITV's For the Love of Dogs​ With Paul O'Grady topped the night overall outside soaps with 4.22m at 8.30pm. On Channel Four, The Secret Life Of Six-Year-Olds​ drew an audience of 1.31m at 8pm, followed by Eighteen Kids & Counting​ with 1.71m at 9pm. E4's latest episode of The Big Bang Theory​ was watched by 1.24m at 8.30pm, while Sky 1's Supergirl​ attracted two hundred and seventy five thousand viewers at 8pm.

Have I got News For You topped Friday night television with over four million overnight viewers watching the BBC1 satirical news quiz. With David Mitchell in the host's chair, an average audience of 4.7 million viewers tuned in at 9pm. Earlier, The ONE Show attracted 3.50m at 7pm, A Question Of Sport had 2.92m at 7.30pm and Citizen Khan drew 2.34m viewers at 8.30pm. The evening ended with 3.05m or The Graham Norton Show. On BBC2, Celebrity Antiques had an audience of 1.26m at 7pm, Mastermind was watched by 1.81m at 8pm and An Island Parish: Falklands drew 1.60m at 8.30pm. Qi had 1.25m at 10pm. Gogglebox, as usual, topped Channel Four's Friday night with 3.41m. TFI Friday was seen by 1.29m at 8pm and 1.70m watched Alan Carr: Chatty Man at 10pm. Piers Morgan's Life Stories was seen by 2.17m at 9pm, while Gino's Italian Escape was ITV's highest-rated show outside of soaps, with 2.41m at 8pm. Channel Five saw The World's Ultimate Strongest Man attract two hundred and fifty nine thousand at 7pm and Ice Road Truckers had seven hundred and forty two thousand at 8pm. The Definitive History Of Star Wars attracted five hundred and eighty one thousand at 9pm followed by How Star Wars Changed The World was watched by five hundred and twenty six thousand at 10pm. On BBC3 the latest Sherlock repeat was watched by three hundred and forty three thousand.

Comedy line of the week came, as usual from Friday's episode of Qi. In answer to Stephen Fry's question 'still on the subject of medieval match-ups, what brilliant new strategy was employed by the England team in the European Championships of 1176', the débutant Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy, whose work I must admit this blogger wasn't overly familiar with previously, came up with a gloriously daft answer: 'Did they just do what they always do, get a really easy qualifying group? Scotland got The Holy Roman Empire, The Knights Templar and Spain and England get Lindisfarne!' Brilliant.
Amazon is seeking to get as much mileage as possible out of new star-signing Jeremy Clarkson, with the former Top Gear presenter fronting an advert unveiling a new hybrid drone that could see deliveries made to customers' backyards. The two-minute advert is targeting an international market with Jezza playing on the cultural differences between Britons and Americans. 'This is a story form the not too distant future,' opens Clarkson. 'It's the day of your daughter Millie's big football match. And to be clear it is the sort of football you play with your feet …'
David Mitchell - you know, Victoria's husband - and Ben Elton are helping the BBC to celebrate the life of William Shakespeare with a new six-part sitcom. So, that should be a smug-off of utterly gynormous proportions. The duo are joining forces for Upstart Crow, in which Mitchell will portray Shakespeare in the early days of his career. Upstart Crow follows Shakespeare's exploits as he finds the inspiration for Romeo, crosses paths with three witches with an intriguing prophecy and generally manages to embarrass himself constantly. Mitchell is starring opposite Harry Enfield, Gemma Whelan, Dominic Coleman, Paula Wilcox and Steve Speirs. Big cuddly Liza Tarbuck takes on the role of Shakespeare's wife, Anne, that had been played by Mel Giedroyc in a pilot version of the first episode recorded earlier in the year. Shakespeare's chief rival Sir Robert Greene will be played by Mark Heap. 'I have tried very hard to think myself into Shakespeare's creative world, writing only with a small chicken feather and not changing my underpants for a year,' said Elton - who co-wrote two of the greatest sitcoms of all time, The Young Ones, and series two to four of Blackadder, and has spent the three decades since totally failing to live up to that early promise. In that regard, his career can probably best be compared to Mick Hucknell out of Simply Red. Anyway, Mitchell added: 'I'm delighted to be playing England's greatest bard at this difficult time for bards everywhere. You just try getting work as a bard these days. It's virtually impossible.' Upstart Crow will go into production for BBC2 in the coming weeks as part of the BBC's Shakespeare Season, which begins on 23 April. The BBC's commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death also includes projects in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and more of The Hollow Crown. Russell Davies is also working on a new adaptation of Midsummer Night's Dream starring Elaine Paige, Matt Lucas and Bernard Cribbins.

The BBC has revealed it has commissioned a sixth series of Call The Midwife, more than a month before the fifth series starts on 24 January. The announcement was made by BBC Director General Tony Hall at a surprise appearance at the London launch of series five of the BBC1 drama, which deals with the heart-rending story of thalidomide. Set in 1961, the latest series deals with the shock caused by the births of babies with deformities, which are eventually linked by midwives and doctors to the drug, which was mainly prescribed to pregnant mothers for morning sickness. 'That sense of what is good and what is popular in BBC drama is so important. It is a wonderful piece of work, we are so proud of it,' said Hall, underlining the show's ability to handle gritty social issues while bringing in large audiences. The show attracts audiences of over ten million in the UK and is sold to over one hundred countries worldwide. Since series two, the BBC has waited until the final episode has aired to evaluate audience reactions, causing uncertainty and delaying production for the maker, Neal Street. The writer and creator Heidi Thomas said: 'No other channel would make this show, have encouraged us to be so diverse, urged us to be so ambitious, allowed us to be so bold. In the middle of the cake, the nuns, we tell some quite hard stories. In series five we go brave.' Previous storylines have included the rise of the National Health Service, still births, deaf mothers, poverty, and immature teenager mothers. Thomas added: 'I was born in 1961, I am of the same generation. It is the biggest historical story we have told of medical childbirth. It is so important, people are still fighting for proper compensation, but it became obvious that a younger generation didn't know what had happened.' Separately, BBC2 is ordering a second series of critically acclaimed The Last Kingdom, based on the novels by Bernard Cornwell, about the creation of England under King Alfred, the spread of Christianity, and battles by the Saxons against the Danes and Vikings. It stars Alexander Dreyman as Uhtred, the Northumbrian Saxon warrior, raised by Danes, whose tumultuous life forms the narrative thread. It has attracted around two-and-a-half million mainly male viewers, including a significant number watching it on iPlayer after it is first broadcast.
The BBC is to extend its 10pm news programme by ten minutes, beginning in January, in a move which will increase regional and national news in its flagship bulletin. The longer bulletin, which will run from Monday to Thursday, comes after a five-month trial in the run-up to the General Erection which proved popular with viewers, according to the BBC. The move to end the main bulletin at 10.45pm will increase the overlap with Newsnight, BBC2's current affairs programme, which normally starts at 10.30pm. The BBC had considered a more radical plan to introduce a full news hour lasting until 11pm for at least one night a week but decided against it. Competition between the BBC and ITV news operations has intensified in recent months, with the BBC's economics editor Robert Pestinfestation leaving to become ITV politics editor and Newsnight's political editor, Allegra Stratton, becoming the commercial broadcaster's national editor. The BBC bulletin continues as the most popular news show in the UK with an average audience of four million per night, typically between twenty two and twenty five per cent of the available viewing public at that time. Viewing figures for Newsnight were heavily hit by the earlier trial, but the BBC2 show has staged something of a fightback in the past month with a notable successes for its Paris attack special, which attracted an audience of 1.4 million. The average Newsnight audience currently is around six hundred and thirty thousand per episode, compared with about five hundred and fifty thousand in November 2014.
​Martin Freeman reckons that actors should be careful about speaking their political views publicly, because it can come across as 'pompous'. However, he added that it's good to be 'aware' of what is going on in the world and to have an opinion on it. He told the Radio Times: 'Some people think celebrities pontificating is great. Others say, "Are you serious? Shut up and get back to work." I used to be very political and still am to an extent. Actors can be pompous and we can overestimate our importance, but it's not a mistake to have a social conscience.' The actor publicly backed Labour in the last General Erection and appeared in an advert supporting the party, but he believes that's as political as he will ever get. 'I won't overdo it, go on Newsnight or Question Time and become a 'pundit for hire.' He said that he feels 'it is deeply annoying' to hear an actor like himself talk about things like politics and he does have to be careful with some of his opinions. 'The trouble is, I'm gobby and my life would be over in five minutes if I went on Twitter or Facebook because there's no nuance,' he added. 'They'll say, "If you believe this, you must hate that." No. There are grey areas.'
Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch his very self has written a letter to Santa Claus asking him for 'a little more time for children to be children.' A bit pointless,really, since Santa is a fictional construct. Like God only, you know, a bit jollier. Benny was writing to promote the Letters Live event next March, which celebrates the power of literary correspondence to non-fictional constructs. The Sherlock star wrote: 'This is what I'd like to ask you to help with. A little more time for children to be children. Stretch the moment of magic and playfulness. Distract them from the realities of a world gone mad so that they can laugh with their breath rather than sob with their tears. Especially those caring for family members, or suffering illness, hunger or poverty. Especially those hiding in buildings as bombs rain down, or being handed shaking with fear or cold into a boat to escape environmental disaster or war. Please help to light up their worlds with a moment of joy and hope. Spare a thought too for those millions who want to write to you but through illiteracy can't. Hear their words and help to give them the time and chance to learn how to read and write so they can better their lives and escape their impoverished beginnings.' Yes, I see what Benny's mate Martin Freeman means about actors being in danger of sounding a bit pompous. Benny signed off promising to leave some extra port and mince pies for the fictional construct, and also asked for a lightsaber. Ooo, quality choice for a present.
A BBC presenter used the word 'dickhead' to describe the boxer Tyson Fury during a live TV newspaper review. Clive Myrie was hosting the late-night paper review on Monday on the BBC News Channel and discussing with journalists the selection of Fury – the new heavyweight world champion who has previously caused outrage over his comments about homosexuality, women and religion – as a Sports Personality Of The Year nominee. Myrie, after glancing at his wristwatch and telling viewers 'it's after the watershed', asked whether it was unreasonable that Fury: 'Cannot be a dickhead and win the Sports Personality Of The Year?' Miranda Green, a journalist, responded: 'Thank you, Clive. That is exactly the view I was struggling towards.' A BBC spokeswoman said: “We apologise to any viewers who were offended by the language Clive Myrie used during a discussion on the late-night paper review on the News Channel.' Quite why she felt the need to apologise - and to whom, exactly - this blogger doesn't know. But, if anyone was offended by that, seriously, they need to grow-the-fek-up.
If you're still missing The Great British Bake Off, then you probably also need to grow-the-fek-up but, nevertheless, the line-up has been announced for the charity special for Sport Relief. Prime Minister David Cameron's wife, Samantha, will join Kimberly Walsh and Will Young, Ade Edmondson, Alison Steadman, and Jason Manford. Geri Horner will also be getting out her wooden spoon, along with former footballers David James and Chris Kamara - 'Kammy, why you do this?!' - and veteran BBC News reporter John Simpson, among others. There will be different hosts for the four episodes, including Bake Off's regular host Mel Giedroyc, Edmondson's wife Jennifer Saunders and comics Ed Byrne and Sarah Millican. The series will be broadcast early next year, ahead of Sport Relief in March. So, you've had plenty of warning if you want to avoid it.

The Blacklist will be back on NBC next season. The creator of the US thriller Jon Bokenkamp announced that a fourth season had, officially, occurred during an interview on The Blacklist Exposed podcast. 'We knew about that a while ago. It's one of those things that's hard to keep quiet,' the writer admitted. 'Yes, we're renewed through the fourth season. Hopefully we don't tank that out. We've got a lot of story to tell.' The Blacklist's renewal by NBC comes even as the series has taken something of a ratings hit since moving from Mondays to Thursdays earlier this year. Bokenkamp's programme remains a critical success, with two Golden Globe Award nominations under its belt. Also renewed by NBC are freshman thriller Blindspot and the interconnected procedural shows Chicago Fire and Chicago PD.
Homeland and The Affair have both been handed renewals by Showtime. The channel picked up a sixth season of terrorism-themed drama Homeland, while The Affair will also be back next year for a third run. ​Homeland​ relocated this year from the Middle East to Berlin, where ex-CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) began work for a private security firm.​ The Affair is a two-time Golden Globe winner for its tale of seduction, deception and tragedy in a sleepy Long Island community. Both shows will end their current runs in the US this week.
Nikita's Melinda Clarke has joined the cast of Gotham as Grace Van Dahl, a character created specifically for the show. E!Online describes the character as 'desperate for money and power.' Melinda will début in series' fifteenth episode of its current second season. In addition to her memorable role on Nikita, Clarke - one of this blogge'rs favourite actresses - has appeared as a regular or semi-regular on dramas like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Entourage and The O.C. (in which she starred opposite Gotham's lead, Ben MacKenzie). She is also no stranger to comic book adaptations; she played Jessica Priest in Spawn, the film based on Todd McFarlane's comic series of the same name. Gotham returns Monday 29 February on FOX and sometime thereafter in the UK on Channel Five.
Russell Kane (very popular with students) and 'some of the Internet's biggest stars' (whatever the fek that means) will 'be Googling their way to survival in a new BBC3 reality series.' So, that should be well worth avoiding, then. Stupid Man, Smart Phone - 'a sort of half-travel, half-reality competition', apparently - will put the alleged comedian's survival skills to the test as he and his friends (Russell Kane has friends, who knew?) are 'dropped into remote locations with only their mobile devices.' With any luck, they might not find their way out again. BBC3, you may remember, is about to be booted into an online ghetto along with all the other turds. Although, not quickly enough by the look on things. Next ...
The BBC has hit back at claims by ITV that its output is 'derivative and indistinct', claiming that the rival broadcaster has 'misrepresented' the facts in a bid to 'further its own interests' in the run-up to charter renewal. No shit? In a document released on Tuesday, the BBC's head of policy James Heath argued that proposals to tightly regulate and restrict the content the BBC commissions and buys would lead to 'less creativity and more generic output' across UK broadcasting. ITV's submission to the government's review of the BBC argued that during the last charter renewal period in 2005, the corporation had pledged to deliver distinctiveness but had, in fact, produced 'derivative programming' in a bid to compete with ITV and other broadcasters for viewers. Which appears to suggest that ITV is acknowledging its own output is neither distinct nor, indeed, any good at all. Something which this blogger wholly agrees with. The ITV submission suggested 'tighter controls' on what the BBC was able to broadcast and when, including banning the corporation from buying in big budget shows from abroad or competing with commercial rivals for formats and programmes that had already been made. ITV recently beat the BBC to the rights to broadcast The Voice from 2017, after the corporation decided it was not prepared to enter a bidding war with its commercial rival. The BBC document includes a number of claims it says contradict ITV's snivelling submission to the government, including: The BBC is not aping ITV, with a different mix of shows during peaktime schedules and a huge reduction in acquired programming compared to thirty years ago; that it is ITV rather than the BBC which is responsible for many big-budget popular shows being scheduled at the same time as others; that BBC1 shows 'a much broader range and depth of content than ITV', with double the number of hours of factual programming in peaktime and half the amount of entertainment; that if the BBC were to stop making programmes similar to those made by rivals, commercial broadcasters would reduce their investment in content. Heath said that ITV's proposals for restricting the BBC's scheduling and programme buying powers, 'demonstrate why the next charter must be designed by the public interest, not lobbying interests.' He said: 'Regulation of the BBC must be effective but not prescriptive and paralysing. Having cut the BBC's funding, if you then freeze the BBC in aspic with very detailed regulations, there is a real danger that you end up with a diminished BBC. While a BBC that paints by numbers and ticks any number of boxes may be good news for commercial competitors, it would not deliver the genuine creativity and innovation valued by licence fee payers.'

Sir David Attenborough has spoken out about the horrors of war at Christmas, urging people to think about 'refugees and migrants' and describing the currently UK bombing campaign in Syria as 'dreadful' in an interview. Asked about his forthcoming Christmas television special in an interview in the Radio Times, the BBC presenter, who turns ninety next year, said: 'At Christmas we're under the impression we have it all: we have turkey and brandy butter and Christmas pudding and the family and we have a great time, by and large. But think of those poor refugees and migrants. My God, the state of the world. Madmen dropping bombs in places, as if that solves anything. And poor people being bombed by us. It's dreadful.' Attenborough, who joined the BBC after his national service, told the Radio Times that he was 'very concerned' about the future of the corporation and that it is in 'real danger' from the current government. Speaking a few weeks after the BBC announced one hundred and fifty million smacker- worth of cuts following a financial settlement with the government, Attenborough said: 'The BBC is an extraordinary organisation and it's got enough problems trying to keep up with changing social demands, let alone what the politicians want to do with it, so I am very concerned about the future of the BBC.' As controller of BBC2 in the 1960s, Attenborough helped to introduce colour television to the UK in 1967, saying that he was motivated to 'beat the Germans' after hearing that their national broadcaster was ahead of the game. 'When I heard that the Germans were going to introduce colour television, I said: "Hang on, we can't have that." And we got on the air three weeks before them. It was fairly childish, but it made me laugh.' Attenborough also talks about the dangers of climate change ahead of a new documentary to be shown over the festive period, sixty years after he first scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef in 1957. 'The natural world simply can't accommodate these sudden changes we inflict on it,' he said.

Jon Snow has said he would 'defend the BBC to the death', describing the corporation as 'pretty good' amid a broader decline in British media. In a question-and-answer thread as part of Reddit's Ask Me Anything series on Thursday, Snow said that Channel Four was also 'holding its own' and had improved, but that some media owners had 'a negative effect' on the industry. Naming no names, obviously. 'I think there has been a negative pull on the British media and I blame some of the proprietors for that. I still think the BBC is pretty good and I would defend it to the death, even though I have never worked for it.' The Channel Four News anchor ruled out going into politics, describing it as 'a pretty depressing scene right now' and saying he would 'prefer to die broadcasting.' Asked about press coverage of Jeremy Corbyn, he said that some of those writing about the Labour leader were 'experiencing some kind of fear', adding: 'I think they may need to see a psychiatrist.' He said the biggest issues facing the UK were housing and inequality between the very rich and very poor, adding: 'I don't think there will be a revolution, but it has all the characteristics of what has led to revolution in the past.' Snow has come under fire for making emotional appeals, such as his a video posted on YouTube describing his experience covering last year's war in Gaza. He said that while he tries to remain objective, 'sometimes when powerful emotions are in play, this can be very, very hard.' He revealed that he had found covering the attacks in Paris last month 'particularly hard' and had, at one point, cried whilst interviewing a doctor who was caught up in the events and had treated the injured and dying. Snow repeated his opposition to the proposals to privatise Channel Four being considered by the government, urging Reddit readers to lobby their MPs. 'If [the government] sold it off, they wouldn't give you the money, and whatever followed afterwards would not be able to afford Channel Four News,' he said.
Former Radio 1 DJ, self-confessed hairy cornflake and convicted sex offender Dave Lee Travis has extremely lost an appeal against his indecent assault conviction. The seventy-year-old was found very guilty last year of assaulting a researcher who was working on TV's Mrs Merton Show in 1995 and given a suspended sentence. A judge at the Court of Appeal in London said that there were 'no arguable grounds of appeal.' Speaking outside court, Travis whinged that he was 'disappointed' and that he had 'lost a lot of respect for the law.' At his trial, Southwark Crown Court heard that Travis 'cornered' the woman in the corridor of a television studio, where she was smoking, and commented on her 'poor little lungs' before 'squeezing her breasts for ten to fifteen seconds.' Quack, quack and indeed, oops. In a statement, his victim, now a major TV star, said that she had been 'subjected to an unprovoked and terrifying physical assault' at her place of work. After being given a three-month sentence, suspended for two years, Travis claimed that he was 'mortified' and 'really disappointed' over his conviction. Travis was in court for the hearing before Lady Justice Hallett, Mrs Justice McGowan and Mrs Justice May. Lady Justice Hallett said: 'We are driven to the conclusion that there are no arguable grounds of appeal and accordingly the application for leave to appeal must be refused.' After the hearing, Travis whinged: 'Obviously I am really, really disappointed - which is probably the understatement of the year.' He claimed that the litigation had cost him his living, his house and his wife's health. 'I agree with the law, but I have lost a lot of respect for the law now,' he added. Travis, of Aylesbury, was first arrested in October 2012 under Operation Yewtree, which was set up after abuse allegations against filthy old scallywag and right rotten rotter Jimmy Savile emerged. Stephen Vullo QC had told the appeal judges that events after the arrest had 'devastated [Travis's] career, ruined his reputation and damaged his finances beyond repair.' And, we're supposed to, what, feel sorry for him? Two trials lasting 'many weeks', and involving two separate juries, 'resulted in a single conviction', he added. Yes, a single conviction. For groping a girl's tits. Travis had been cleared of twelve further indecent assault allegations at his first trial, but the jury was unable to reach verdicts on two other charges - an indecent assault and a sexual assault. At the subsequent trial, he was found not guilty of the indecent assault, alleged to have taken place when he was appearing in a production of Aladdin and cleared of the charge of sexually assaulting a journalist after the jury failed to reach a verdict. But the jury found him extremely guilty of the 1995 indecent assault for which he received the suspended sentence.

The Australian actor Maggie Kirkpatrick, best known for the TV drama Prisoner Call Block H, has been cleared of sexually abusing a girl. In August, a Melbourne court had ruled that she had abused the fourteen-year-girl at her home in 1984. She was given community service, placed on a sex offenders' register and ordered to undergo a rehabilitation assessment. Kirkpatrick, seventy four, had consistently denied the charges of assault and gross indecency with a person under sixteen. Judge Geoffrey Chettle said on Tuesday that the accusations 'could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.' The unnamed victim had told the court that she had organised a meeting with Kirkpatrick through a TV producer while she was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. The woman said that she had not reported the alleged abuse before because she feared people would call her 'crazy.' Judge Chettle said that Kirkpatrick's reason for inviting the girl for dinner at her home unchaperoned was 'in line with evidence' the actress was a caring person who had helped other young people in the past. Kirkpatrick broke into tears after the decision was handed down. Speaking outside court, she thanked her legal team, family and 'the hundreds of fans and members of the acting fraternity who have stood by me for the last two years. It's been rather difficult, but I am very happy with the result.' Kirkpatrick played the warden Joan, nicknamed The Freak, in Prisoner, a popular series set in a women's prison. She later appeared in a host of other Australian TV shows and in 1991 played Marilyn's aunt Jean Chambers in Home & Away. Her most recent role was in a stage production of the musical Wicked.

Nicholas Smith, the actor who played store manager Mister Rumbold in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?, has died aged eighty one. He had been the last surviving member of the original cast of the popular comedy. 'It is with great sadness we can confirm that our client passed away yesterday,' his agents at Michelle Braidman Associates said. 'He was a lovely man and a terrific actor. He will be much missed by all who knew him.' They added that their thoughts were with his family. Nicholas's daughter is the actress Catherine Russell, who plays Serena Campbell in Holby City. She tweeted some recent footage of her father on YouTube playing his own composition at the piano called 'The Music Lesson'. She said: 'My dad died. But before he did we got this gem. One of his own compositions.' Nicholas, who died on Sunday, had been in hospital for seven weeks following a fall at home. Are You Being Served? was set in fictitious department store Grace Brothers - you knew that, right? - and ran from 1972 to 1985, often attracting audiences of more than fifteen million punters. Smith was picked for the role by David Croft, with whom he had worked on an episode of Up Pompeii! with Frankie Howerd. For a time, however, it seemed unlikely that the show, would be screened. 'The pilot was only given its chance because of the 1972 Munich Olympics tragedy. With the games cancelled, the BBC had hours of blank screens to fill. So the pilot was plucked from the shelf,' he recalled. As the dim-witted but self-important store manager, Nicholas was a fixture on the show from its inception until the final series. He took the same role in a film adaptation and in a spin-off, Grace & Favour (1992-93), in which five members of the original cast reunited to manage a country hotel. Born in 1934 in Banstead the son of a chartered surveyor, Nicholas attended St John's School, Leatherhead. Determined to be an actor from an early age, Nicholas took leading roles in school plays and, after National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps in Aldershot ('A miserable time, the worst I've had'), he trained at RADA, alongside contemporaries Albert Finney and Richard Briers. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he started off his career in stage musicals and alongside his television career, spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appeared regularly in rep, on the West End stage, at the Bristol Old Vic and on Broadway, in everything from classical productions to pantomime. His earliest TV roles were mostly as non-speaking extras in a variety of ITV dramas like Pathfinders To Mars and The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre. He had his first speaking role in the 1964 Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion Of Earth. Nicholas claimed that he persuaded the director, Richard Martin, to expand the role so that his character, the resistance fighter Wells, appeared in three of the six episodes instead of only one as originally scripted. This was followed by small roles in many other adventure series, such as The Saint, The Avengers, The Champions, Ace Of Wands, Danger Island, Freewheelers, The Flaxton Boys, Harriet's Back In Town and The Sweeney. He also had a semi-regular role as PC Jeff Yates in Z-Cars in the early 1970s. His film work included appearances in Salt & Pepper (1968), A Walk With Love & Death (1969), The Twelve Chairs (1970), dubbed in an Italian version of The Canterbury Tales (1972) directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hammer's Frankenstein & The Monster from Hell (1973) and The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) as Hunkston, Sigerson Holmes' manservant. In 1979, he appeared in Worzel Gummidge as Mister Foster, the headmaster of the school. In 1986 he played Sir John Treymayne in the British tour of Me & My Girl, a role played in the West End by his Are You Being Served? co-star Frank Thornton. The following year he joined the cast on And There's More and was paired up with Joan Sims for a number of sketches for each episodes as an old couple. He appeared in the TV mini-series Martin Chuzzlewit and featured in a supporting role as Vicar Clement Hedges in the Academy Award-winning film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. In 2008, he appeared as a vicar in Last of the Summer Wine and, his last television appearance was in 2010 as Professor Quakermass in the children's series, MI High. In 1959, Nicholas married Mary Wall. She died in 2008. He is survived by their daughter, Catherine.

Emmerdale actress Shirley Stelfox has died following a short illness. The seventy four-year-old was best known for her role as Edna Birch in the ITV soap, which she played for the last fifteen years. In a statement, her agent said that she had been diagnosed with cancer and died on Monday. ITV executive producer, John Whiston paid tribute, saying: 'The family here at Emmerdale are deeply saddened by Shirley's passing, it is hard to imagine Emmerdale without her.' He added: 'We offer our condolences to Shirley's family and share our feeling of loss with the millions of viewers who will miss Edna enormously.' Shirley trained at RADA, and went on to star in numerous well-known TV shows. She was Rose in Keeping Up Appearances and also starred in EastEnders, The Bill, Budgie, Bergerac, Coronation Street, The Chinese Detective, Knights Of God, Three Seven Eleven, Common As Much and Crossroads. Her film credits included a role opposite John Hurt in the movie adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 and alongside Julie Walters in Personal Services. She also had a successful career in the theatre, with her stage work including Not Now, Darling, Toad Of Toad Hall and Cavalcade at the Chichester Festival Theatre. She was twice married, the second to the actor Don Henderson from 1979 until he died in 1997. She is survived by her three children Helena, Mimi and John.

The 1987 movie Dirty Dancing is to be remade for TV, by US network ABC. Oscar-nominated actress Abigail Breslin, who found fame in Little Miss Sunshine and currently stars in horror-comedy Scream Queens, will play the lead role of Baby Houseman. The three-hour adaptation will be directed by Wayne Blair, the Australian behind 2012 film The Sapphires. A broadcast date has not been specified and no other cast members have been announced. Set in the summer of 1963, Dirty Dancing is the song-and-dance love story about seventeen-year-old Baby, originally played in the movie by Jennifer Grey, who falls for her working-class dance instructor, Johnny Castle - played by Patrick Swayze. Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the screenplay for the movie and was also behind the successful Dirty Dancing musical, is reported to be on-board for the small screen adaptation which will be produced by Lionsgate TV. Previously in 2011, Lionsgate announced plans to remake the film for the big screen, with Kenny Ortega - who choreographed the original and directed High School Musical - at the helm but nothing came of those plans.

Two Maasai herdsmen have been charged after allegedly poisoning a famous pride of lions in Narok, South-West Kenya, a wildlife official said. Simindei Naururi and Kulangash Toposat reportedly doused a cow carcass with poison at the Maasai Mara Game reserve. Eight lions are being treated for poisoning. Two others were killed but at least one was not from the pride. The lions are thought to have killed three of the herdsmen's cows when they entered the reserve. The Kenyan Wildlife Service warned that other animals might have been affected. The lions, from the famous Marsh pride, were featured on BBC wildlife programme Big Cat Diary. One of the two lions killed was Bibi, a seventeen-year-old female lion. A BBC wildlife crew member at the scene said that she was found 'foaming at the mouth, fitting and panting.' The other was disfigured beyond recognition after being eaten by hyenas, said KWS Corporate Communications Manager Paul Udoto. Another lioness, Sienna, is currently missing, according to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Her two-year-old cub is reportedly being treated by vets. The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Nairobi says that there is conflict between the big cats and Maasai herdsmen. Local cattle herders have poisoned lions in the past to stop them eating their cattle.
An abandoned spiritual retreat in the Indian town of Rishikesh where The Be-Atles learned to meditate has been opened to the public. The Be-Atles, a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them, spent time at the eighteen-acre ashram, meditating and writing songs in 1968. Many of the songs subsequently made it onto the band's White Album. The ashram was run by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a flamboyant self-styled Indian guru, who died in 2008. It was abandoned by the guru and his followers in the 1970s. But the retreat, which was taken over by the local forestry department in 2003, remained a big draw with Be-Atles fans from all over the world. They would usually sneak in by climbing the walls or paying a bribe to a gatekeeper. And then stand around like planks wondering exactly where alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon was when he wrote 'The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill'. Or, in which of the chalets, according to Magic Alex, the Maharishi tried to get very spiritually aware with Mia Farrow. Allegedly. The derelict ashram is located on the fringes of a tiger reserve. A meditation hall with colourful graffiti on the walls is the main attraction. Authorities opened the ashram to visitors on Tuesday of this week and are charging Indian and foreign tourists one hundred and fifty and seven hundred rupees respectively. 'We have cleaned up the place and lined the pathways with flowers. We are making some gardens and putting some benches for visitors,' senior forestry official Rajendra Nautiyal told the BBC. 'We are introducing a nature trail and bird walk. We also plan to set up a cafeteria and a souvenir shop at some point. We want to retain the place's rustic look.' However visitors will not be allowed to draw on the walls on the ashram without permission from the authorities, he said. Quite right, too. Like Slade Prison, there are only two rules at Rishikesh: One do not write on the walls. Two, obey all the rules. The Be-Atles - along with a variety of other celebrity hippies and hangers-on including Donovan and Mike Love - had planned a three-month retreat at the estate in 1968, but, according to some accounts, it descended into fiasco and malarkey. Ringo Starr went home after ten days complaining about the spicy food and infamously describing the gaff as 'just like Butlins.' Paul McCartney stayed for five weeks (and wrote 'I Will'), while alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon and George Harrison left abruptly after nine weeks due to unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct. Have a listen to 'Sexy Sadie' and see what you think, dear  blog reader.

Olivier award-winning musical Sunny Afternoon is going on national tour. The critically acclaimed musical - now in its second year in the West End - tells the story of Ray Davies and The Kinks rise to stardom. The production - which features many of the Kinks' best-loved hits - won best new musical at this year's Olivier Awards, as well as the award for outstanding achievement in music for Ray his very self. The tour will open at Manchester Opera House on 19 August next year and will continue to cities including Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool and Brighton.
The Cassini probe has made many great discoveries at Saturn, but none top its extraordinary revelations at Enceladus. What the plutonium-powered satellite has seen at this five hundred kilometre-wide, ice-crusted moon is simply astounding. Cassini has pictured huge jets of water vapour and other materials spewing from cracks at its south pole. It's quite a spectacle, and it's unique in the Solar System, according to Carolyn Porco, who runs the camera system on the spacecraft. 'It became a joke on our team that we had found the Enceladus Interplanetary Geyser Park, and that future generations may go there just for vacation,' she told the BBC this week. But researchers are not laughing when they say this little world is among the best places to search for life beyond Earth. The plumbing for the jets leads to a vast body of water that may be thirty to forty kilometres deep in places. And Cassini's instruments have been able to show, by flying through and sampling the emissions, that the conditions and - importantly - the chemistry in this subterranean ocean could support microbial life. There are strong indications that the water is interacting with rock at the ocean bed, to produce the sort of nutrient cocktail on which simple bugs could dine.

A pop group has flown back to South Korea after officials in Los Angeles thought they might be sex workers. The eight members were travelling to America for a CD cover-shoot but were detained for fifteen hours in customs. A statement from the group's record company, WM Entertainment, said that authorities held them after going through their costumes and props. 'They seem to have mistaken them as sex workers,' said a spokesman. Oh My Girl, who formed in March, are thought to be back Seoul after being released by officials at Los Angeles International Airport. WM Entertainment says it is taking legal advice in the US to find out whether the band's detention was legal. The record company also said there might have been an issue with the type of visa the band members presented. They had also been booked to perform at a gala event in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Kylie Minogue has come face-to-face with herself at Madame Tussauds in London. Or, actually, face-to-shoulder in this particular photograph. The diminutive Aussie pop singer and actress reportedly said: 'Oh my God' when she saw the waxwork before asking: 'Wait a second, I need to have a look at her. Can I touch her?' Which, oddly enough, is what most visitors to the attraction also say, specifically regarding wax-Kylie's bum.
The U2 Group have written a song in tribute to Paris after the recent attacks that left one hundred and thirty people dead. As if those poor people of Paris haven't suffered enough already. The U2 Group - featuring Mr Bonio out of the U2 Group, Mr The Edge out of The U2 Group and ... the other two out of The U2 Group - were due to play in the French capital in the days after the attacks, but the gigs were cancelled. So, there was some silver lining for Parisians, then.
Surgeons are set to carry out the first penis transplant in the United States, in a bid to help wounded war veterans. The twelve-hour operation will involve stitching key nerves and blood vessels to restore urinary - and ultimately - sexual function. It follows the world's first successful penis transplant, carried out in South Africa last year.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, this wins the Internet.
Or, possibly this does.
Or, this.
Taylor Swift - who is a pop singer, apparently - is reported to be seeking to trademark the word 'Swiftmas' and '1989', the name of her CD. It is the twenty five-year-old's latest attempt to stop others from using phrases. This blogger wasn't aware that one could trademark a year but, if that is the case then Keith Telly Topping wishes to trademark 1682. Just because ...

And so, dear blog reader, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Looking back through much of this blogger's more recent 45s of the Day, Keith Telly Topping has noticed that, with the exception of a couple of quality slabs of Motown, it's mainly been 'white boys with guitars.' Nowt wrong with that, of course but, every so often, it is necessary to, as it were 'dance my way out of my constrictions.' Let former President George Clinton explain. Feet don't fail me now...
Still, after a couple of days, Stately Telly Topping's playlist was back to white boys with guitars, I'm afraid!
Cool story about this one as it happens; this blooger was never really too bothered with Cream - despite Mick Jones being a huge, and very vocal, fan of them - until one day in 1989 when all that changed. It was at Martin and Helen Day's wedding. The reception was held at this beautiful pub out in the middle of nowhere, near Heathrow. There were a handful of us fandom types there (this blogger even had a job at the wedding, as an usher. Probably the worst usher in ushering history, let it be noted. But still ...) Anyway, it was lovely summer's day which turned into a lovely summer's evening and, come the time to leave about 9pm, we were milling around wondering if we should ring for a taxi when one of Marty's flatmates, who had driven the wedding car, kindly said that he'd happily give a lift to the nearest tube station. (Hatton Cross, about ten or twelve miles away.) So, me and Cornell and a couple of other poured ourselves into this gorgeous Daimler with all the wedding bunting still on it, and off we go, snotting down the twisting back roads of greenbelt Middlesex feeling like we were in an episode of The Avengers and with The Best Of Cream blasting away on the CD. (Or, actually, as this was 1989, it was probably a tape!) Twenty minutes of 'I Feel Free', 'Strange Brew', 'Tales Of Brave Ulysses' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love' later we arrived at virtual warp speed, the car screeches up outside the station and we all fall out giggling like The cartoon Be-Atles. One of the best twenty minutes drives of this blooger's life, that, and one during which, suddenly, Cream made perfect sense. This blooger has been a fan ever since.

And, finally, the first in a new From The North series, Dave Begs To Differ. Number one ...