Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stop The Year I Want To Get Off

The Return Of Doctor Mysterio achieved an audience Appreciation Index score of eighty two. For the uninitiated (and, that should be no dear blog readers hereabout), the AI is a measure of how much the audience enjoyed a particular television programme. The score, out of one hundred, is compiled by a selected panel of around five thousand viewers - including this blogger as it happens - who go online and rate and comment on particulr programmeswhich they have watched. Any score for a drama above eighty is considered to be 'good'. The score of eighty two is identical to that received by last year's Doctor Who Christmas episode, The Husbands Of River Song.
Without, this blogger hopes, anthropomorphing an artificial man-made construct like a year any more than is absolutely necessary 2016, it seems, has little or no intention of letting up on 'the death thing' right to its very final knockings. From the astonishingly sad demise of David Bowie in early January to the loss of Carrie Fisher on the day after Boxing Day, via Ed Stewart, Alan Rickman, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Harper Lee, Terry Wogan, Umberto Eco, George Kennedy, Dave Swarbrick, Ronnie Corbett, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Adrienne Corri, Johan Cruyff, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Peter Shaffer, Carlos Alberto, Tony Crozier, Dale Griffin, Merle Haggard, Victoria Wood, Prince, Gareth Thomas, Burt Kwouk, Ken Adam, Robert Banks Stewart, Robin Hardy, Guy Hamilton, Jean Alexander, Sylvia Anderson, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Alan Vega, Scotty Moore, Michael Cimino, Frank Finlay, Bernard Gallagher, Frank Kelly, Andrew Sachs, Caroline Aherne, Gordon Murray, Jimmy Perry, Robert Stigwood, Tony Warren, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, Bobby Vee, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Leon Russell, Peter Vaughan, Ron Glass, Rick Parfitt and George Michael among many others, the worlds of entertainment, sport, literature and art have lost some if their most admired figures in 2016. And, here are but the latest to leave us:
The great Liz Smith, who played Nana in The Royle Family and Mrs Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley, has died aged ninety five. A family spokeswoman announced that the BAFTA-winning actress had died on Christmas Eve. Liz first found fame as an actress at an age when most people would be considering retirement. It was a long road to eventual stardom, during which she struggled to raise a young family after a broken marriage. She became best-known for her roles in sitcoms but her talents encompassed serious drama too. And, while she made something of a name for herself playing slightly dotty old ladies, the real Liz Smith was far removed from those on-screen personas. She was born Betty Gleadle in Scunthorpe in December 1921. Her early life was not happy, her mother died in childbirth when Liz was just two years old and her father abandoned her when he remarried. 'My father was a bit of a sod, really,' she noted. 'He just went off with loads of women and then married one who said he had to cut off completely from his prior life. That meant me.' Liz started going to the local cinema with her grandfather when she was four and she quickly gained a fascination for acting. By the age of nine, she was appearing in local dramatic productions, often playing the part of elderly ladies. The war thwarted her immediate plans and she joined the WRNS because, as she later told Desert Island Discs, she loved the naval uniform. She continued appearing in plays and entertainments while serving and met her future husband, Jack Thomas, while she was stationed in India. The couple married at the end of the war. Liz's grandmother had left her enough money to buy a house in London and she later remembered that she had picked it at random from a magazine and bought it without crossing the threshold. But, what had been an idyllic marriage at first failed shortly after the family moved to Epping Forest and she was left to bring up her two children alone. With money tight, she worked in a number of jobs including delivering post and quality control in a plastic bag factory. But her love for acting remained and she began buying the theatrical magazine, The Stage and sending her photo to casting agents. Eventually, she became part of a group studying method acting under a teacher who had come to the UK from America. She performed at The Gate Theatre in West London and spent many years in repertory, as well as spells as an entertainer at Butlins. In 1970, she was selling toys in a store in Regent Street when she got a call from the director Mike Leigh to play the downtrodden mother in his debut film Bleak Moments. Leigh cast her again in Hard Labour, part of the BBC's Play For Today strand, a role which allowed her to shine. She received critical acclaim as the middle-aged housewife who endures a life of domestic drudgery, constantly at the beck and call of her demanding husband and daughter. It was the breakthrough role she had sought for years and, as she later recalled: 'I never went back to grotty jobs again.' Thereafter, she was seldom off the screen over the next thirty years, with appearances in a number of TV series including Last Of The Summer Wine, The Sweeney, The Duchess Of Duke Street, Ripping Yarns and The Gentle Touch. She was superb as the mother in Peter Tinniswood's I Didn't Know You Cared, the sweetly comic story of a working-class family, the Brandons, in South Yorkshire. She was cast as Madame Balls in the 1976 film The Pink Panther Strikes Again, but her scenes were left on the cutting-room floor. However, she did appear in the same role six years later in The Curse Of The Pink Panther. In 1984 she received a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress when she played Maggie Smith's senile mother in the film A Private Function. Two years later she appeared as Patricia Hodge's alcoholic mother in the BBC drama The Life & Loves Of A She Devil. It was a part, she said, that she really enjoyed as it gave her the chance to wear more glamorous outfits than her usual roles required. And, she was able to dress up again for her next film appearance, this time in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. She was still much in demand at the beginning of the 1990s, appearing in the sitcom 2point4 Children and in series like Lovejoy and Bottom. In 1994 she became truly a household name with her portrayal of Letitia Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley. The character was famous for her idiosyncratic recipes such as parsnip brownies and lard and fish-paste pancakes but she was killed off in 1996. Two years later, Liz starred as Nana in The Royle Family. She played the part until 2006 and the episode in which Nana died. Typically, Liz attributed her success to Caroline Aherne's scripts rather than her own talent. 'They were great roles,' she later remembered. 'I was so lucky that things did come my way then.' Unlike some actors, she watched recordings of her own performances looking for ways in which she could improve. She continued to appear in feature films, playing Grandma Georgina in Tim Burton's 2005 version of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and she was the voice of Mrs Mulch in Wallace & Gromit - The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. In 2006 she published her autobiography, Our Betty and moved into a retirement home in North London but continued acting. She appeared in the BBC's Lark Rise To Candleford, finally announcing her retirement in 2008 at the age of eighty seven. It was a belief in her own talent that drove Liz Smith on when her life was at a low ebb. 'All I wanted was a chance,' she told the BBC. 'It was wonderful when it did happen.'

Carrie Fisher has died aged sixty, days after suffering from a cardiac arrest. As mentioned in a previous blog, Carrie was taken ill on-board a flight from London to Los Angeles last Friday and was taken to hospital when the plane landed. But, a family statement said with 'deep sadness' she had died on Tuesday morning. In a statement released on behalf of Carrie's daughter, Billie Lourd, spokesman Simon Halls said: 'Carrie was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.' Carrie Fisher's acting career was dominated by her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise. It was a part that catapulted her into the limelight as one of the most famous faces on the planet. But fame brought a price and her personal life was dogged by failed relationships, mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. She later turned to writing before returning to Star Wars in the 2015 movie, The Force Awakens. Carrie Frances Fisher was born in October 1956, the daughter of Academy Award-nominated actress Debbie Reynolds and the singer Eddie Fisher. Carrie's parents divorced two years later after Fisher had an affair with one of Reynolds' closest friends, Elizabeth Taylor ('you had to keep your husband in the garage if Liz Taylor came to visit' Reynolds once memorably told the Daily Torygraph). He and Taylor later married (then divorced). Carrie was a self-confessed bookworm as a child reading poetry and classical literature. Her high school education was disrupted by the lure of the stage when she appeared in the musical Irene alongside her mother and, as a consequence, she never graduated. As a child, she rarely saw her father; as an adult, they took cocaine together. Her arguments with her mother could be cataclysmic. As a teenager, Carrie once threw milk in Reynolds’s lap; Reynolds responded by dumping baked beans in Carrie's hair, it was that sort of relationship. If anything, Carrie's difficult background made her seem impossibly savvy and whip-smart. 'I was going to be this nonchalant, seemingly tough kid,' she wrote in 1991. 'I was going to handle it. I was going to put my head down and get through it as quickly as possible and get out.' She moved to London as a teenager where she enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama before returning to the US and attending the Sarah Lawrence arts college near New York. Carrie made her screen debut in the 1975 film Shampoo, alongside Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, but it would be another two years until she got her big break in George Lucas's Star Wars. She told the Daily Scum Mail in 2011 that when she got the part in 'a little science-fiction film,' she - like most of the cast - simply thought of it as a bit of fun and a chance to hang out in the UK for three months. 'But, then Star Wars, this goofy, little three-month hang-out with robots did something unexpected,' she said. 'It exploded across the firmament of pop culture, taking all of us along with it. It tricked me into becoming a star all on my own.' Carrie's memoir, The Princess Diarist, released this year, revealed for the first time that the then nineteen-year-old actress had an affair with her co-star Harrison Ford, who was then married to Mary Marquardt. In the memoir, Carrie wrote: 'I don't remember much about things like the order we shot scenes in, or who I got to know well first. Nor did anyone mention that one day I would be called upon to remember any of this long-ago experience.'
      In 1980 she reappeared in The Empire Strikes Back and, three years later in the third Star Wars film, Return Of The Jedi. In the latter, she wore that gold bikini; it was 'the moment when she stopped being a princess and became, you know, a woman,' according to Phoebe in Friends. Carrie herself was less impressed: 'I remember that iron bikini: what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell!' She married the singer Paul Simon in 1983. The pair had been in a relationship for the previous five years, but they divorced just a year later. Carrie had other roles during the decade, including in Woody Allen's Hannah & Her Sisters (1986) and When Harry Met Sally (1989), as well as The Blues Brothers during the filming of which her co-star Dan Ackroyd reportedly saved her life by performing the Heimlich Manoeuvre when she was choking on a Brussels sprout, but none had the same impact as the Star Wars franchise. Having managed to kick drugs and alcohol, she was rushed to hospital in 1985 after accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs and had her stomach pumped to save her life. 'I'm glad they did it,' she said, 'because that was a very powerful piece of evidence that drugs and I had to part ways.' That incident, and a subsequent month-long spell in rehab, formed the basis for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards From The Edge, in which she satirised her own dependence on drugs and the difficult relationship she had with her mother. Three years later Carrie adapted it into a screenplay and it was made into an acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid. There were two further novels, Surrender The Pink and Delusions Of Grandeur. She had a number of minor roles in various films but she found herself unable to recapture the profile that Star Wars had given her. Carrie - who had bipolar disorder - also wrote and frequently talked in public about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. In 2001, she told Psychology Today: 'Drugs made me feel normal. They contained me.' She featured in the Stephen Fry's acclaimed 2006 documentary The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive and spoke widely of her bipolar disorder, declaring herself 'Joan of Narc, patron saint of addicts.' She claimed that therapy had been 'my only serious relationship' and said of actual relationships: 'Sex is out of my element. I'm much more successful during the cigarette.' It was exactly this mix of candour, sweetness and wit that prevented her from appearing bitter. No matter how hard her life was, or how poor some of her personal choices had been, her wry observations always seemed suffused with hope. She was no cynic. By the turn of the century she had made something of a reputation as a script doctor, revising and polishing screenplays by other writers. Among the films she listed as having worked on were Hook, Sister Act and Lethal Weapon 3. She was, however, an outspoken critic of Hollywood's treatment of women and revealed that she had been asked to lose weight to play Leia both in the original Star Wars and, shockingly, in the seventh instalment, The Force Awakens, nearly forty years later. 'They don't want to hire all of me – only about three-quarters! Nothing changes, it's an appearance-driven thing. I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that's how easy it is.' In 2007, she wrote and performed her autobiographical one-woman show Wishful Drinking, which was released as a book the following year. It was confirmed in 2013 that she would reprise her role as Leia in Star Wars VII. She appeared alongside original cast members Harrison Ford and (briefly) Mark Hamill. Billed as a sequel to The Return Of The Jedi, the film became the highest grossing episode of the Star Wars franchise. Her character led the resistance against The First Order, as she continued to seek her missing bother, Luke. Carrie won a Saturn Award in 2016 for Best Supporting Actress. Although she did not shoot any new footage for the Star Wars prequel-cum-spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), she made a surprise appearance at the end of the movie in digitally manipulated footage drawn from her 1977 performance and had recently finished production on Star Wars Episode VIII, due to be released next year. As well as her marriage to Paul Simon, Carrie also had a three-year relationship with the talent agent Bryan Lourd, which resulted in the birth of her daughter, Billie Lourd. Carrie Fisher's fame as an actress rested on just one role, but it was a role in one of the best known and most successful - and well-loved - film franchises in cinema history. She was remarkably frank about the personal difficulties she had fought and overcome. 'There's a part of me that gets surprised when people think I am brave to talk about what I've gone through,' she once said. 'I was brave to last through it.' In her book, Wishful Drinking, Carrie wrote about her eventual obituary: 'I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.' Several obituaries and retrospectives - including this one - featured the quote as a respect to her wishes. At the time of her death she was survived by her daughter, her brother, Todd, two step-sisters and her mother (albeit, tragically not for long, see below).
In a cruel twist of fate, Debbie Reynolds, who once starred opposite Gene Kelly in the 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain, died the day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher. The US actress, eighty four, had been rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke. Her son, Todd Fisher, said that the stress of his sister's death had 'been too much' for Reynolds and that in her last words, she had said she wanted to 'be with Carrie.' Reynolds had been at her son's house in Beverly Hills, apparently discussing the arrangements for Carrie Fisher's funeral, when she was taken ill. She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre suffering from breathing difficulties and her death was confirmed a few hours later. Debbie Reynolds was leading lady in a succession of major Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Tender Trap, This Happy Feeling, It Started With A Kiss, Tammy, Bundle Of Joy, How The West Was Won, The Singing Nun, Divorce, American Style and What's The Matter With Helen?. But, like her daughter, her career was dominated by her first major role; she rose to stardom with Singin' In The Rain, at the age of only nineteen. She also received a best-actress Academy Award nomination for the 1964 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. In what Reynolds once called 'the stupidest mistake of my entire career,' she made headlines in 1970 after instigating a fight with the NBC television network over cigarette advertising on her weekly television sitcom, The Debbie Reynolds Show. Although she was, at the time, television's highest paid female performer, she quit the show for breaking its contract: 'I was shocked to discover that the initial commercial aired during the premiere of my new series was devoted to a nationally advertised brand of cigarette (Pall Mall). I fully outlined my personal feelings concerning cigarette advertising that I will not be a party to such commercials which I consider directly opposed to health and well-being.' When NBC explained to her that banning cigarette commercials from her show would be impossible, she decided to remain. The show drew mixed reviews, but NBC said that it captured about forty two percent of the nation's viewing audience. Reynolds said later that she was 'especially concerned' about the commercials because of the number of children that were watching the show. She continued to make other appearances in film and television. From 1999 to its 2006 series finale, she played Grace Adler's theatrical mother, Bobbi, on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, which earned her an EMMY nomination. She also played a recurring role in the Disney Channel Halloweentown film series as Aggie Cromwell. Reynolds made a guest appearance as a presenter at the Sixty Ninth Academy Awards in 1997 and in 2013 she appeared in Behind The Candelabra, as the mother of Liberace. In 2015, she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Screen Actors Guild. The award was presented to her by her daughter. Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955 and had two children, Carrie and Todd. The couple divorced in 1959 after news emerged of his affair with Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds married twice more, to billionaire businessman Harry Harl (1960 to 1973) and real estate developer Richard Hamlett (1984 to 1996).
The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged ninety six, his daughter has confirmed. The children's classic about a colony of rabbits in search of a new home after the destruction of their warren was first published in 1972. The tale, first told by Adams on a long car journey with his daughters, turned into a best-seller. Yet Adams spent his first fifty two years in relative anonymity. And, when he did complete his book, he struggled at first to find anyone to publish it. Richard George Adams was born in May 1920, in Newbury, the son of a country doctor and was brought up in the rolling countryside with views towards the real Watership Down, on the Hampshire border. One of his earliest memories was seeing a local man pushing a handcart full of dead rabbits down the street. 'It made me realise, in an instant, that rabbits were things and that it was only in a baby's world that they were not.' He suffered the fate of many middle-class boys of the period when he was sent to boarding school at the age of nine, where, by all accounts, he had a thoroughly miserable time. He won a scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, but his education was interrupted by World War Two and he served for five years in the army before returning to his studies. He joined the civil service and spent part of his career managing the clean air programme designed to reduce pollution, especially that caused by the many coal fires still burning in British households. The event that changed his life occurred on a car journey with his family to see Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon. His bored daughters asked for a story and he began telling them about a group of rabbits attempting to escape from their threatened warren. Adams was persuaded to write it down, a process which took him more than two years, but he was, at first, unable to find a publisher. Many of his rejection letters complained that the book was 'too long' and his characters did not fit 'the common perception' of cuddly bunnies. His rabbits were described with biological realism; they defecated, had sex and engaged in violent battles for dominance. Eventually, after fourteen rejections, the publisher Rex Collings saw the potential and agreed to take it on with an initial print run of two thousand five hundred copies in 1972. It was instantly hailed as a children's classic, going on to sell more than fifty million copies, helped by readings on BBC radio and a dramatic performance in London's Regent's Park. Watership Down sold particularly well in the US where canny distributors placed it on the adult publishing list. On his promotional tours across the Atlantic, Adams played to the American idea of the archetypal Englishman, wearing a bowler hat and insisting on English marmalade and mustard wherever he went. The book, and the subsequent animated film in 1978, became synonymous with rabbits and at least one enterprising butcher reportedly advertised: 'You've read the book, you've seen the film, now eat the cast.' Inevitably it attracted criticism from some snooty-arsed highbrow reviewers. 'There is something to be said for myxomatosis,' was one caustic comment by some wanker of no importance whom history has forgotten the name of. The sudden flow of wealth enabled Adams to retire from the civil service and become a full-time writer. It also drove him into tax exile on the Isle of Man, although he later returned to his roots in Southern England. By the time Watership Down was published, he was already writing his second novel Shardik, which he considered his best work. It is an epic tale of a bear who is a God in an imaginary world and who is abused by the humans in the story. Shardik did not find favour among critics with some describing it as 'preachy', a judgement that Adams did not disagree with. His commitment to animal welfare was expressed in his third novel, The Plague Dogs, an outspoken attack on animal experimentation. He admitted that his indignation about vivisection might have got the better of him but the book became another best-seller and another much-admired classic for a generation of readers. He became president of the RSPCA but his attempts to persuade the charity to adopt a more campaigning stance did not find favour with some of the more conservative members of the ruling council. He resigned just ahead of a vote which would have severely curtailed his presidential powers. Despite his campaigning for animals Adams insisted he was not a sentimentalist. He refused to condemn a decision to gas rabbits on the real Watership Down in 1998 after their burrows began undermining the hill. 'If I saw a rabbit in my garden I'd shoot it,' he once said. In all, he wrote more than twenty books, including The Girl In A Swing, a ghostly love story with an undercurrent of eroticism and a prequel to Shardik - entitled Maia - which was again criticised by glakes for its 'sexual and sado-masochistic content.' None of these achieved the success of Watership Down or The Plague Dogs and even a 1997 sequel, Tales From Watership Down, failed to recapture the magic of the original. Richard Adams was essentially a traditional Englishman with a love of the countryside and a belief that, somehow, things were better in the past. It is perhaps surprising that this natural conservative, from a conventional middle-class background, should have written a book which had such a revolutionary impact on children's literature. Adams married Elizabeth Acland in 1949 and they had two daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, all of whom survive him.

Of course, many people have been jolly busy anthropomorphising this current year as 'The Grim Reaper Of Death Its Very Self And That.' Or, rather more amusingly, as a horror movie. Which is a bit ... odd, frankly. Yes we lost a lot of good and some great people in 2016, but it should be noted that we are at a point in the history of our civilisation where the childhood and adolescent heroes of a generation of Baby Boomers (like this blogger) and also a generation of Generation X-ers are all of an age where deaths are more likely than not. Many of those whom we lost in 2016 were, after all, in their seventies, eighties and nineties. It doesn't make the loss of any of these people any less sad of course, this blogger is not minimising that in any way. But, this current year is, to put it simply, 'the two thousand and sixteenth orbit of our planet around the Sun since an arbitrarily-chosen point in time' (Keith Telly Topping's thanks to the author Graeme Burk for that particular description!) A year, after all, is a man-made construct based on a celestial constant, it's not a serial killer.
     One other slight fly in the ointment of the '2016 is a complete and total bastard' thing is that, of course, it's only in Western culture that a year begins on 1 January and ends of 31 December. Islamic, Jewish, Thai and Ethiopian years are all different as is the Chinese year which begins in the third week of January. So, there's something for everyone to consider - according to the Chinese (all 1.3 billion of them) not only did David Bowie actually die in 2015 but, 2016 won't end at midnight on 31 December but will carry on for another three weeks. Just sayin'.
Game Of Thrones was the most pirated show for the fifth year in a row, according to the website TorrentFreak. According to data, traffic was 'similar' to last year with the series finale the most downloaded single episode from the sixth series. Around three hundred and fifty thousand naughty people 'actively shared' The Winds Of Winter after the finale was broadcast earlier this year. The Walking Dead came in second place in the list with Westworld in third spot. TorrentFreak says that it has seen 'a noticeable change' towards higher quality downloads this year with many pirates moving from 480p copies to 720p and 1080p videos.
TV Comedy Line Of The Week: From David Renwick's really rather good one-off revival of Jonathan Creek, Daemon's Roost. Poppy (Sarah Alexander) telling Jonathan (Alan Davies): 'So, it couldn't have worked out better, really, could it? Stalked by a homicidal knife-wielding psychopath plus a nice getaway-for-two on the set of The Amityville Horror!'
Interestingly, in the Qi Christmas episode, broadcast last week, in response to a question about 'top-down processing' (in which the brain uses information which it already has to interpret the world when some element is missing - like filling in the words to a song when hearing an instrumental version, for insatnce), Alan Davies noted that: 'It's the same principle as ghosts,' going on to explain 'you think "there's something there, it's a person." It's not, it's usually just a dressing gown on the back of the door!' Now, we know exactly where he got that idea from, it was a minor plot-point in the episode of Jonathan Creek which, presumably, he'd recently filmed when that Qi episode was recorded!
Five-time Olympic champion and King of the Mods Sir Bradley Wiggins has announced his retirement from cycling aged thirty six. The 2012 Tour De France winner said that he had fulfilled 'a childhood aspiration' of making a career out of the sport. 'I've met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for twenty years,' he said. '2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards. Kids from Kilburn don't win Olympic golds and the Tour De France! They do now.' Wiggo became Britain's most decorated Olympian in August when he won the team pursuit gold on the track in Rio, his fifth gold and eighth Olympic medal. He secured eight world titles on the road and track and set the world record for the furthest distance ridden in one hour at 54.526km. 'What will stick with me forever is the support and love from the public though thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living,' he added. '2012 blew my mind and was a gas. Cycling has given me everything and I couldn't have done it without the support of my wonderful wife Cath and our amazing kids.' Wiggins had already won team pursuit silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games as an eighteen-year-old before he began to seep into the public consciousness with a bronze in the same event at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Sixteen years later, he teamed up with Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Steven Burke to neatly bookend his career with team pursuit gold in Rio. In between, he became the first British athlete since Mary Rand in 1964 to win three medals at one Olympics - claiming three on the track at Athens in 2004. Two more golds followed at the 2008 Beijing Games before he opted to focus more of his attentions to the road, finishing fourth in the 2009 Tour De France - later upped to third following Lance Armstrong's disqualification for doping. Following his sensational 2012, Wiggins was knighted in 2013 and went on to win world time trial gold in 2014 before setting a new hour world record at the London Olympic velodrome in 2015. There were also seven track world titles, including two with his long-time friend Mark Cavendish in 2008 and 2016 in the Madison. Brad's final race was in the town of his birth at the Ghent Six Day event in November, where he claimed victory alongside Cavendish.
The MasterChef judge John Torode has left hospital after 'a lucky escape' in a riding accident. A photo posted on Instagram of Torode in a hospital bed sparked concern for the Australian chef's wellbeing. Lisa Faulkner, his partner, wrote that he was 'very bruised' and thanked the staff of St Mary's hospital in Paddington. On Tuesday evening, after the photo prompted messages of support and concern, Faulkner tweeted that Torode was 'well and happy and sitting on the sofa and all is good.'Torode later tweeted that he 'took a tumble while out riding.' He did not specify what he was riding. The former [spooks] actress Faulkner met Torode when she was the winner of Celebrity MasterChef in 2010.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Return Of Doctor Mysterio: Heroes, Just For One Day

'Of course, you can't just roll up with a team of surgeons to The White House or The Kremlin because they've got big fences. Shouty people. Cross dogs!' 'They will come to us. And they will come running.' 'Oh, I very much doubt it.' 'Who are you?' 'There have been many attempts to conquer The Earth. I've lost count. Not one of them has succeeded, not a single one. They all lost. They burned and ran. That's who I am!'

'Why did they call him Spider-Man, didn't they like him?' 'He was bitten by a radioactive spider and guess what happened ...' 'Radiation poisoning I should think?' 'No, he got special powers.' 'What, vomiting, hair-loss and death?'
'Brains with minds of their own? No one will believe that. This is America.'
'You can't go around swallowing things, what age are you, thirty six?'
'Sorry about that, would you like me to call a glazier?!'
'It's okay, I'm an intruder too. I brought snacks.'
'I certainly hope this unpleasant experience hasn't put you off a career in journalism!'
'Grant, this is insane. Look, I'm me, The Doctor and even I think this is insane!'
'It just won't stop.' 'What?' 'The x-ray vision. I'm in Hell. Naked Hell!'
'It's fine if you want to keep your secrets, I intend to keep mine. But, don't lie to me.' 'Or what?' 'I hurt Mister Huffle!'
'She jealous.' 'I'm jealous.' 'You're jealous of you.' 'Technically she's jealous of her!'
'Are you declaring war on us?' 'I'm drawing a line and I'm suggesting you step back from it at awesome speed.'
'I'm just trying to save a planet.' 'Which is what you always do when the conversation turns serious!'
'You do fly around New York dressed in rubber with a big "G" in your chest.' 'Aren't we very slightly stereotyping here?'
'Her name was River Song. They were together for a while and they were very happy. And then, she died a long time ago, in a library.' 'Are you sure he's going to be all right?' 'He's The Doctor. He's very brave and he's very silly. And, I think, for a time, he's going to be very sad. But I promise, in the end, he'll be all right. I'll make sure of it.'
'You'll be fine. The ship will have blown up long before you'd be strangled to death!'
'Who are you thanking?' 'The universe. Somebody worse at this than me!' Well, dear blog reader, this blogger really doesn't want to shockingly shock anyone to the virry core nor nothing but he, actually, thought that was proper great. And very funny (and, really rather touching in places, too). Big surprise, huh? No, not really. Oh, and the trailer for the next series looked fantastic.
Remember, hurting Mister Huffle is for life, not just for Christmas. 'Life's not a comic book, right Doctor?' 'Possibly. I'm the wrong person to ask.'
And, finally for our Christmas Day Doctor Who malarkey, dear blog reader, there's clearly an old-school fandom-type-individual working for the W channel judging by their 'season THIRTY THREE' descriptor for Smith & Jones. Unless it's just a misprint and it should've been 'series three' instead. I could go either way on this one.
After a record-breaking series during which it won the largest audiences of its fourteen-year history, Strictly Come Dancing triumphed in this year's Christmas Day TV overnight ratings battle. More than 7.2 million overnight punters, almost a third of the available audience at the time, tuned-in to watch the BBC1 dance show's festive special, which was won by Melvin Odoom and his professional partner, Janette Manrara. BBC1 also claimed the second most popular programme of the day as 6.3 million watched The Great Christmas Bake Off, featuring one of the final appearances of Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Eight of the ten most watched programmes on overnights were broadcast on BBC1, giving the channel an overwhelming victory in the annual overnight ratings battle. Mrs Brown’s Boys attracted 6.13 million viewers, Call The Midwife 6.06 million and the festive episode of Doctor Who - The Return of Doctor Mysterio - 5.71 million, almost exactly the same figure as the series pulled in last Christmas Day. ITV also claimed it was 'delighted' with its Christmas audiences, attracting an overall share of just under nineteen per cent, which the broadcaster said was its highest audience share on a Christmas Day since 2013. Coronation Street was the seventh most popular programme screened on Sunday, watched by 5.82 million viewers though it was narrowly beaten by BBC's EastEnders, with 5.9 million. Emmerdale had 4.2 million viewers in tenth place. The Queen's Christmas Message, broadcast simultaneously on BBC1, ITV, Sky 1 and Sky News, attracted 5.2 million viewers on the BBC and 2.9 million on ITV. The animated movie Frozen was watched by 4.66 million people on BBC1, whilst on ITV, The Lion King attracted 3.6 million viewers. The overnight TV ratings, of course, refer only to live television viewing and do not include online or subsequent catch-up audiences; those figures will be available sometime next week. Charlotte Moore, the BBC's director of content, said: 'BBC1 entertained the nation on Christmas Day with a fantastic range of high quality shows, winning eight out of the top ten most popular programmes.'
Lastly, dear blog reader, poor old Sarah Michelle Gellar (remember her?) seemed to have got herself a bit mixed up about which 1980s pop icon died late on Christmas Day (UK time), posting a clearly sincere and heartfelt tribute to the - still thankfully very-much-alive - Boy George rather than the, sadly, late George Michael. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Friday, December 23, 2016


Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch has said that he tries to 'stay clear of fan theories and online conspiracies' concerning yer actual Sherlock. Ahead of the fourth series of the popular BBC drama, the actor admitted that he 'loves how involved' fans get but added that he likes to keep his independence. 'I think I would be pretty affected by what I read or saw, so I stay clear of that,' he said. Benny and his oppo Martin Freeman return for three new episodes, starting on New Year's Day with The Six Thatchers.
There are countless websites devoted to analysing the show's twists, reviewing episodes and predicting outcomes - but the actor said that he does not delve too deep. 'I can't have too many voices and influences. I have to trust my directors and writers and actors to make what we're making. Reaction veers passionately in every direction with this subject and character. Some of that does get back to me - but hopefully that's the nicer stuff.' Benny suggested that the coming episodes are 'darker than the previous three' and that the series 'goes to extremes. It tests the bounds of the relationships you've come to know and it redefines who those characters are. It starts off with a smile and gets dark as oil,' he said. He is also 'fully aware' of 'Setlock' - the Twitter hashtag which fans use to let each other know where the series is currently filming. 'We're just ghosted wherever we go,' he said. 'I think there are just very loud mouths in local councils and they feed back to kids and it grows like wildfire. It's very impressive the amount of people who go there.' He added that he 'fully embraces' the level of fandom which is associated with the show, especially those who indulge in cosplay. 'There's a lot of great cosplay that goes on. There's also a huge amount of admiration and excitement when we film on Upper Gower Street.' Whenever Benedict is interviewed at the moment, there is the realisation that he can tell you a lot - without actually saying anything. Being involved in the Sherlock and the Marvel movie franchise means that his lips are pretty much permanently sealed when it comes to saying anything about his projects. 'It's been this way since the series began. I'm used to giving hollow answers which mean nothing apart from the sound of my voice. It feels like banging an empty drum.' As for the future of Sherlock, he again reiterated he was 'misquoted' earlier in the year when some media outlets claimed that he had implied Sherlock's fourth series would be the last. 'You have to see these three stories [in series four] to understand what I originally said, which was that it feels like something comes to a head in this series. That's not just false advertising. As we have always said, we never say never. Enjoy what's coming now, rather than what may or may not be coming in the future.'
Some very sad news, now. Martin Freeman has revealed that he is no longer with his long-term partner Amanda Abbington, his co-star in Sherlock. 'I'm not with Amanda any more,' he told the Financial Times, describing the split as 'very amicable.' Martin and Amanda, who met on the set of Channel Four's Men Only in 2000, were together for sixteen years and have two children. Freeman told the FT: 'I'll always love Amanda.' Amanda also appeared on Wednesday's edition of Christmas Kitchen, during which she said she would be spending Christmas with her children. 'Martin and I remain best friends and love each other and it was entirely amicable,' Amanda told the Torygraph. 'There was no hostility, we just said that we couldn't live together any more, so we put everything in place, he moved out to a flat in North London, I stayed at home and we've started a new chapter. It is sad and it is upsetting, because you think you're going to be with someone forever, but you either do that or you break up and we both came to the decision that splitting was best for us. We've been really lucky to make it such a clean break, especially for the kids.'

The dog you will have seen in the Sherlock series four preview photos probably hasn't been to a acting school. The bloodhound in the upcoming episodes of the BBC's detective drama reportedly wasn't the easiest to work with. Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch recalled how Amanda Abbington had 'a tricky time' trying to control the beast. 'We had an interesting dog in the first episode. He was very sweet but was a bit afraid of being in the centre of town, afraid of too many people and not great on hard surfaces,' Benny said. 'We were in Borough Market, with lots of people around, on concrete and tarmac. Cut to Amanda literally pulling a bloodhound around London who was supposed to pull her around London. That was fun.' Amanda has also admitted that the dog was so bad they had to use a props boy to pull her along in the scene. Speaking on ITV's This Morning, the actress said: 'We worked with the worst dogs in the history of canine acting. They were truly awful. There were bloodhounds. There's a bloodhound in one of the original Conan Doyle books and Mark Gatiss thought it would be a brilliant idea to get a real bloodhound in. It really, really wasn't. It was terrible. He looks great. He's fantastic to look at,' she said about of the misbehaving hound. 'But you ask him to do anything, he's like "Nope." He sat there. He's supposed to be on the scent of a trail. Sherlock goes "Come on, let's go" and [the dog] just lollops, just sits, just flops. We were filming in Borough Market. All these people were watching. I was holding him. I was literally pulling him and I fell over. One of the props boys decided to stand in and I ended up getting pulled by a props boy. It was the most embarrassing thing.'
It might be the final series (but, it probably won't be). It's almost certainly going to be the final series for a considerable amount of time. The fate of Sherlock has been, it's fair to say, the subject of some discussion. You might have noticed. 'The reason why they're sparse is because, just logistically, that has to be the case,' Martin Freeman told the press this week. 'Getting us all together is hard - not just me and Ben. Everyone is busy, thank God.' So what's the solution? Or, indeed, is there one? Cumberbatch told the assembled hacks that the show's future is 'still to be discussed' - and that another series in 'a few years' time' is possible, as well as future potential 'one-offs' - like this year's The Abominable Bride - and even a film. It was noted by many of those he spoke to, however, that he seemed least keen on the notion of taking Sherlock to the movies: 'In the past when I've done anything that's had a success in its original format, the idea of then transposing it always scares me a little bit,' he admitted. 'It sounds very old-fashioned, but I just think there's something about a family sitting around a television set, on the night it airs, and watching it. I know the volume of people that watch it on iPlayer - or worse download it illegally - but I think as the viewing figures at Christmas show, you can still have this phenomenal event [on television]. So a film's a very different thing.'
You know how, no matter what you look like your mum will tell you that you 'look nice' because, well, she's your mum and that's what mums do? Could someone try explaining that to Benedict Cumberbatch's mother, Wanda Ventham. Because it doesn't look like she got the memo. Wanda reportedly thought her son simply wasn't good-looking enough to play Sherlock in the BBC series. 'Benedict's mum didn't think he was good-looking enough to play Sherlock,' confirmed The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) to Time Out. 'Nobody did. [Benedict] never thought of himself as good-looking and everyone casually agreed with him. He still regards it as preposterous that he's become this sex symbol.'
He might be getting ready to hand over the TARDIS keys to another writer, but The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) has insisted he has no plans to do the same with Sherlock. He and yer actual Mark Gatiss have vowed that their version of Sherlock Holmes will remain their own. 'We've got the keys to Baker Street for a bit and other people will get them, as it should be,' Gatiss said this week. 'But there's a distinction,' Moffat added. 'Of course, loads of other people will do Sherlock Holmes and we'll be the first people to watch those but our version is our version.' But with the likelihood of no new Sherlock for at least two or three tears after the upcoming fourth series, where does that leave yer man Moffat? 'I've spent the last few years with Mark working on things that I didn't make up, so I think I'd like to invent something,' he noted. He is also keen to stretch himself and add a few new strings to his bow, having already tackled everything from sitcom to horror to blockbuster action. 'On Doctor Who, I was starting to write things like Listen and Heaven Sent - where I was trying to prove that I could actually write something that wasn't just like an orchestra going 'RAWR!' all the time. Sometimes out of sheer pathetic vanity, I'll try and prove I can actually write something and I'll write that think-piece that I think's the best thing I've ever done. And everyone will say it's shit. That's my future!'
Like it or not, Doctor Who is a family show and always has been aimed, primarily, at children – and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) says that's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, he has a brilliant analogy as to why it's perfectly okay for grown-ups to enjoy a drama which is, at its core, meant to be for kids. 'I always think Doctor Who is like when you go to a restaurant and you glance longingly at the children's menu,' he said. 'It's always so much better than the risotto I'm going to pretend I want.' The Moff insisted that while the popular long-running BBC family SF drama is 'a children's programme,' that doesn't mean it can't be 'challenging. Doctor Who stories can be complicated and they can be emotional – you're supposed to sit up and damn well watch,' he argued. 'But you have to keep in mind the slightly different, more intense, more emotional way that kids watch television. At its heart, it's a children's programme – one that adults absolutely love, but that's who it belongs to. That's something I feel very strongly about - but that doesn't mean I think it's dumb. Quite the opposite.' Moffat will be departing his current job as showrunner after one final series in 2017 and another Christmas special. He has insisted that his final episodes will be about 'pushing forward' not bringing anything to a close. 'With Doctor Who, you never want to have finished the story – I'm not going to do that,' he insisted. 'I want Chris [Chibnall] to come in and have a brilliant time, so I'm not going to wrap it all up.'
We haven't even had the Christmas episode yet, but already Peter Capaldi has been dropping hints about next year's series of Doctor Who. 'We've got all kinds of things - we've got Romans, we've got robots, we've got serpents,' he told the Gruniad Morning Star. Peter also spoke about the challenges of tackling a third series - and how he never wants his Doctor to be 'bland. The danger of Doctor Who is that the character has to tick boxes, so I try to keep dragging him away from those boxes,' he said. 'He changes all the time.'
Yer actual Peter Capaldi doesn't have any plans to quit Doctor Who any time soon. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the actor said that he hopes he will be The Doctor 'for a long time' when asked by Sophie Raworth when he might be leaving the role. 'I don't want to escape the idea that I'm [The Doctor]. It's finite. I won't be [The Doctor] forever, so there will be a day when people don't come and say hello,' he added. He also took time to reflect on the role: 'It's a really unique position to be in. There are only twelve people to have played this role and you become the focus of the affection for the role. You stand on the shoulders of everybody else who has played it and they've done all the work. I just turn up and look alarmed or be excited or blow up a Dalek here and there.' One fan of the show is the Prime Minister, Theresa May and Capaldi had a message for her. 'I hope she takes this message of tolerance and kindness and compassion to heart,' he noted.
Peter has also taken an inter-dimensional dig at his Marvel rival Doctor Strange. When asked who he thinks The Doctor's favourite superhero would be, Capaldi told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'He'd be a bit uptight about Doctor Strange. I think he'd be a little bit like, "Bitch stole my look." I think he would like Wonder Woman, because Linda Carter is so funny. And I think he'd like Adam West's Batman. He'd find Adam West great company.'
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week: The bit of the Christmas Qi episode where, during a round that included the parlour game Are You There, Moriarty?, Alan Davies decided to bray Josh Widdecombe really hard across the head with his rolled-up newspaper. 'Stephen would never have allowed this,' noted Matt Lucas as he was busy giving Susan Calman a similar good, hard thrashing. Well, why not? It is Christmas after all.
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Part The Second: Sarah Pascoe's claim on Would I Lie To You? that, as a child, one of her Christmas's was cut short when her mum decided to take the decorations down half-way through Christmas Day. It used to happen in Stately Telly Topping Manor just about every year.
Gosh, wasn't From The North favourite Doctor Janina Ramirez rather excitable when appearing for St Anne's College Oxford against Manchester in the opening episode of Christmas University Challenge on Monday? Probably due to her being sat next to the lovely and fragrant Mary Archer.
This blogger is indebted to his good mate Daniel for noting, regarding a question on Monday's episode of Only Connect, 'henceforth we should probably refer to The Sugababes as the "Ship of Theseus of the pop world," rather than the "Trigger's Broom of the pop world."' Thanks Dan, good call.
Glaswegian Gary Maclean was crowned the 2016 winner of MasterChef: The Professionals on Thursday evening. The forty five year old father-of-five beat off strong competition from the two other finalists, Matt Healy and Elly Wentworth in a gruelling final spread over three episodes in which he designed and prepared a dish for twenty eight Michelin-starred chefs and travelled to Oslo to cook at renowned restaurant Maaemo to learn from three Michelin-starred chef Esben Holmboe Bang. The impressive Matt, from Yorkshire, chose a complex beef dish with all the trimmings for his final meal for the judges, whilst the delightful Elly - at twenty four an absolute star in the making - opted for a salmon option followed by lamb cooked three ways. Gary's winning menu was made up of a razor clams starter, a Highland roe deer main course and a chocolate pistachio ganache pudding. Gary, beat forty seven other professional chefs over seven weeks of cooking to be named winner by Marcus Wareing, scowly-faced Monica Galetti and big cuddly Gregg Wallace. After his win, he said: 'What an amazing journey. This is the biggest competition any chef can put themselves through and to be standing here at the end is incredible. 'I've hit emotions that I never knew I had, all in thirty seconds of each other. Words can't describe it. I never thought I would win, ever. My wife and kids are going to go absolutely nuts.' Wareing hailed the starter as 'the best razor clam dish I've ever eaten,' adding that it 'could come from any three Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe.' After Maclean was announced as the winner, Wareing added: 'Gary has soaked up every little bit of this competition. He's lived the MasterChef dream. He's a major talent, he's grown incredibly well and he's a gentleman of the kitchen.' Scowly-faced Monica Galetti added: 'Gary has been such a pleasure to watch rediscover himself as a chef. He's a chef who always cooks from the heart and you can feel the emotion that goes into his cookery.' Gary, who is senior chef lecturer at the City of Glasgow College, said that he decided to enter the competition because of his love for the show. 'The main reason I applied was that every year, my kids and students asked why I haven't done it. Getting to the finals is the hardest test a chef can put themselves through and I don't think people realise how long a journey it is, but my wife and kids have been with me every single step of the way, so it's been brilliant. Winning MasterChef: The Professionals is totally unbelievable. The whole experience was remarkable and enjoyable from start to finish. I have met some amazing people, both in front of and behind the camera. The support I have received from family and friends has been humbling. Hopefully, taking part has shown that if I can still chase my dreams, I can inspire students to start chasing theirs.' Gary still plans to continue teaching, saying: 'Winning MasterChef: The Professionals is going to provide me with a unique platform that hopefully will open the door to some very interesting opportunities. I would love to use my experience in the competition to help enhance the profile of culinary education. If I was to dream the perfect project alongside teaching it would be doing more TV. I loved the environment and the teamwork it takes to pull something like this together. I have so much respect for the people that worked on the show. It's a very similar bond between the team that you would find in a very good kitchen, amazing to be part of.'
One outstanding moment in the MasterChef: The Professionals final was Sean Pertwee's eloquent announcing of one item on Gary's winning main course, 'gooseberry chutney.' Which, couldn't help but bring to mind a never-to-be-forgotten movie that was featured in Peter Capaldi's seminal The Cricklewood Greats from a few years ago. 'The horror within,' indeed.
Nothing says Christmas like a child-punishing demon, it would seem! A point well made by the BBC's promotional poster for the return of Inside Number Nine on 27 December.
Bowie: The Last Five Years has been confirmed for transmission on 7 January at 9pm on BBc2. The film follows the widely acclaimed David Bowie: Five Years, first broadcast in 2013. It takes a detailed look at Bowie's last projects The Next Day and Blackstar and his play Lazarus. 'Through the prism of this last work the film shows how, in his final five years, David not only began producing music again but returned to the core and defining themes of his career. These were artistic rebirth, a shedding of skins, a quest for a different palette to express the same big ideas – dissonance, alienation, otherness – the human condition.' Apparently. The film 'explores how Bowie was a far more consistent artist than many interpretations of his career would have us believe, by tracing the core themes from his final works through his incredible back catalogue.' It features contributions from key members of The Next Day and Blackstar bands, plus old friends and colleagues including Tony Visconti, Gail Ann Dorsey, Tony Basil, Michael Hall, Donny McCaslin and Geoff MacCormack. As in David Bowie: Five Years, there is a wealth of previously unseen and rare archive material.
Is somebody at the BBC taking the piss, or what? On Monday, we were treated to Lenny Henry: A Life On Screen, a 'tribute' to Lenny Henry who was - in this blogger's opinion as a licence fee payer (ie. one of those really annoying 'little people' who pay Len's wages) - last funny, briefly, in about 1983. The night before BBC2's entire evening schedule was taken up with a number of programmes about the late Victoria Wood, who was last funny ... well, never. Presumably, in days to come we can look forward to programmes celebrating the inherent comic genius of the likes of Paddy McGuinness, Jim Davidson, Bobby Davro and Peter Kay ... Oh no, hang on, the latter is Channel Five's job this week, isn't it?
Adverts That Get Right On This Blogger's Tit End, Number Twelve: Every single one of those bloody Tesco adverts with Ben Miller prostituting his - not inconsiderable - talent and that sodding annoying woman off Gavin & Stacey. I hope their turkey is horribly undercooked and they spend Boxing Day with violent exploding diarrhoea through food poisoning.
Adverts That Get Right On This Blogger's Tit End, Number Thirteen: Louise Bloody Redknapp wittering on about her 'lucky pants' to get the nation to go further into debt by playing Mecca Bingo. 'Bet responsibly' my arse.
Len Goodman is expected to cause a 'spike' in electricity demand as viewers bid farewell to the Strictly Come Dancing head judge, according to the National Grid. BBC1 will show a special programme, Strictly Len Goodman, on Friday. The National Grid said that the show would drive the biggest festive 'TV pickup' - a sudden surge in electricity demand. The spike is largely down to viewers turning on lights and boiling their kettles straight after the programme. There is also a surge in the number of people going to the bathroom, which leads to a spike in the use of water companies' pumps, which draw electricity. Because, of course, after an hour of Len Goodman, most of us need to use the bathroom really badly.

The Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing have helped the BBC dominate 2016's TV ratings, with thirty one of the top forty programmes so far this year showing on BBC1. Bake Off episodes occupied all but one of the top eleven slots once catch-up viewing was included, with the final episode attracting an audience of almost sixteen million, making it the most watched programme of the year by a distance. The second episode of Planet Earth II was the only other programme to make it into the top ten, ranking at number eight with more than 13.1 million viewers and a further four episodes of the series were in the top forty. The programme, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, is the most watched natural history programme for at least fifteen years. Strictly appeared in the top forty thirteen times, more than any other programme. The figures from ratings agency BARB will buoy the BBC at the end of a year in which its role as a mass market broadcaster was questioned - albeit not by anyone that actually a) knows what they're talking about and b) matters. However, the reliance on Bake Off for its biggest audiences will create concern now that the BBC has it lost the series to Channel Four, which paid a reported seventy five million smackers for a three-year deal with producers Greed Productions. Charlotte Moore, the BBC's director of content, said: 'I'm proud that BBC1 continues to unite us as a nation with shows that feel modern, fresh and in touch with our audience, entertaining millions every week of the year.' ITV provided a different set of figures showing that audiences for its Euro 2016 coverage were repeatedly among the largest of the year but only if measured from kick-off to final whistle, rather than including pre-and-post-match coverage. Under ITV's measurement, it would have had three further entries in the top forty, including England's calamitous defeat by Iceland, which would have been the second most watched programme of the year with more than fifteen million viewers. Outside the Euros, the largest ITV audiences tuned-in for 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) and Britain's Got Toilets. Not a single episode of The X Factor made the top year's forty for the second year running, having suffered its worst launch ratings in a decade and being comprehensively beaten on a weekly basis by Strictly. The commercial broadcaster recently confirmed a three-year deal with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads to keep showing Britain's Got Toilets and The X Factor and has signed a 'golden handcuffs' deal with 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) and Britain's Got Toilets presenters Ant and/or Dec reportedly worth thirty million notes until 2019. Despite its lack of top-ranking shows, ITV said that its share of total viewing had risen by three per cent over the year, compared with a half-a-per cent rise for BBC1 and two per cent for BBC2. It pointed to the success of Coronation Street, which is the UK's most watched soap and the large audiences pulled in by new dramas including Victoria and the revival of Cold Feet. The only drama to feature in BARB's top forty was BBC1's Sherlock special on New Year’s Day, with 11.6 million viewers, making it the twenty fourth most popular show of the year to date. The BBC will hope to continue its success at Christmas, with special editions of Strictly and Bake Off and a new Agatha Christie adaptation from the writer of last year's ... And Then There Were None.
Z-List Celebrity Big Brother has won the coveted award for the year's most complained-about show racking up a total of three thousand six hundred and forty three whinges to Ofcom. Aside from Christopher Biggins' forcible removal from the house after a series of potentially biphobic comments and an anti-Semitic remark which upset fellow housemate Katie Waissel, viewers were also left unimpressed with Marnie Simpson's breast-baring antics and eventual winner Stephen Bear's breast-licking antics. Number two on the list was Coronation Street, after one thousand one hundred and forty one punters took offence at that 'Kunta Kinte' dialogue exchange. The non z-list celebrity Big Brother came third on the list. Often under fire for its sexual content, this summer's series drew eight hundred and sixty four whinges.
A new Saturday night entertainment show searching for the UK's best singing group will launch in 2017, the BBC has announced. Pitch Battle - a working title - will feature 'all musical styles, including rock, folk, gospel and a cappella.' The show will feature 'riff-offs' (steady) between singing groups - an idea made famous by the popular Pitch Perfect films. The series will consist of six hour-long episodes, the BBC said. Pitch Battle will feature an a capella round as well as a soloists challenge across its five heats, before a winner is crowned in the live final. Kate Phillips, the BBC's controller of entertainment commissioning, said that the new show would have 'shed loads of sass and spirit. There are millions of people in the UK of all ages and backgrounds who sing simply for the love of it, for the joy and sense of community it creates,' she added. The show was commissioned by Phillips and Charlotte Moore. It is the second music-based Saturday night series to be commissioned by BBC1 in recent months. From January the channel will also broadcast the wretched-sounding Let It Shine, a talent contest searching for actors and singers to play Take That in a musical about the band. The announcement of the two new series follow the confirmation that The Voice will move to ITV in the new year. A cappella singing has become increasingly popular since 2012, when the first Pitch Perfect film, starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, became a surprise hit. The success of the movie led to a sequel, which topped the box office both in the US and the UK.
Emmerdale has been praised by fans and dementia charities for its portrayal of the illness. Tuesday's episode was shown from the perspective of long-running character Ashley Thomas, played by John Middleton, who is living with dementia. Cathy Baldwin, organisational development manager at the Alzheimer's Society, described it as 'a realistic portrayal' of the condition. 'I have no doubt it will change people's perspective of dementia,' she said. Emmerdale producers has worked with both the Alzheimer's Society and MHA care homes to devise the storyline. 'When we were working on the story, the producers were very keen it was as true to life as it could be, which is quite difficult for a programme which is essentially a drama,' Baldwin said. 'Emmerdale had been keen to make sure that it reached people and let people affected by dementia know that they weren't alone. I understand there has to be a certain element of dramatic licence, but Emmerdale have been so flexible about getting things like the language right and last night I think they smashed it.' Ashley Thomas, a former vicar, has stroke-related early onset vascular dementia and fans have watched his condition gradually worsen over the last few months. The one-off production saw changes to camerawork and editing to show things from Ashley's confused point-of-view as he left a hospital and made his way out alone. Viewers saw him walking down the street in his pyjamas and struggling to count out change in shops. Baldwin said that she hoped it would help people who care for loved ones to understand things better from their relative's perspective. She said: 'The key thing for me was when people were going on Facebook last night and saying, "I cared for my Mum or my gran or my partner, who had dementia, but for the first time now I understand what it might have been like for them."'
Tina Hobley is 'in shock' that The Jump is returning, less than a year after she was injured while taking part in the Channel Four show. The former Holby City actresses has, she claims, 'only just stopped using crutches' following the accident in which she injured her knee, shoulder and arm. The show features z-list celebrities competing at winter sports, including ski-jumping, bobsleigh and speed skating. And, more often than not, ending up in traction in Innsburk General as a consequence. 'The Jump is behind me and I will never do that show again,' Hobley whinged. 'I'm still in shock that it's going again, but of course they will have learned from all their mishaps and hopefully there won't be any more accidents.' Not than many people felt particularly sorry for Hobley since it was her own bloody stupid fault for signing up to such an insanely dangerous conceit in the first place. And, one presumes, she was paid quite a considerable amount of coin and didn't consider the likelihood of serious injury when she read the original pay cheque. The broadcaster claimed earlier this year that there had been 'a thorough review of safety procedures.' The channel grovellingly apologised to Hobley after the incident in February, blaming 'human error' for the accident ... And, adding that the human who erred had been kicked geet hard in the Jacob's Cream Crackers until their eyes watered as a result. Probably. The accident occurred when Hobley was practising a jump but was 'distracted' by crew members who hadn't left the landing area. 'Tina's fall was caused by simple human error when members of the ground crew failed to clear the outrun,' the producers claimed. 'All those involved have been spoken to and extra procedures have now been put in place by the producers to ensure that this will not happen again.' Hobley was not the only participant to injure herself last year on the show. The former Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle needed surgery on her spine after a particularly horrific crash, while Made In Chelsea-type person Mark-Francis Vandelli fractured his ankle. Rebecca Adlington dislocated her shoulder, Linford Christie pulled a hamstring, ex-EastEnders actor Joe Swash chipped a bone in his shoulder, Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding injured a ligament and Horrible Heather Mills 'hurt her knee and thumb.' And, subsequently, made a right meal of her rather minor injuries into the bargain. The next series of The Jump, hosted by Davina McCall, is set to start early next year. Whether this series will see the show's first on-screen death is a question which only the couple of million voyeuristic ghouls who watch the damn thing will be able to find out.
And now, dear blog reader, a trio of links for your consideration; firstly the blogger's chum James Gent's superbly researched article for the We Are Cult website on the Monty Python's Flying Circus contribution to the BBC's 1969 Christmas Night With The Stars broadcast.
Secondly, another old friend of From The North, Greg Bakun, whose From The Archie website podcast featuring the second part of Greg's interview with Kaleidoscope CEO Chris Perry is extremely downloadable here.
And, finally, there's a really good piece by BBC News's Dave Gilyeat interviewing one hundred and four year old Andy Andrews the last surviving member of John Logie Baird's team of television pioneers.
Kirsty Gallacher had categorically denied allegations from 'some viewers' that she was 'drunk' on Sky Sports News earlier this week. There was, apparently, 'concern' expressed online for the veteran presenter on Tuesday when she seemed to slur her words while promoting an interview with Stotteingtot Hotshots manager Mauricio Pochettino on her newshour with Jim White. According to the Sun, Gallagher was rushed to a local hospital in the middle of the Sky Sports News broadcast due to 'a combination of exhaustion and a virus.' She has been recovering since. However, Gallacher's spokesperson has strongly denied that she was intoxicated on-air: 'She categorically was not drunk. Blood and urine tests at hospital showed no alcohol in her system.'
Michael Barrymore reportedly wants two-and-a-half million knicker in damages from Essex Police for unlawful arrest. But, the force thinks he should get one pound, a court has heard. The former TV presenter is extremely suing the police over his 2007 arrest in connection with the death of a man at his Essex home. In court documents police said that the arrest was unlawful because the officer involved had 'not been fully briefed.' A High Court judge was told Barrymore was claiming the amount 'to compensate him for loss of earnings.' Police argued that he should get a 'nominal' award of but one quid at a hearing on Wednesday. Barrymore was questioned six years after the body of Stuart Lubbock was found in the swimming pool at his home in Roydon. Barrymore was arrested along with two other men. All three were later released without charge. No-one has been ever been charged over the death of Lubbock, who was found to have suffered severe internal injuries indicating a serious sexual assault. A trial has been scheduled to take place next summer at the High Court over the unlawful arrest case. Lawyers said that a judge would be asked to decide whether there had been 'reasonable grounds' for Barrymore's arrest.
An ex-Crimewatch presenter and phone-hacking victim is launching a legal challenge to test the government's commitment on press regulation. Jacqui Hames wants a judicial review of the decision by the lack of culture secretary to consult on whether to go ahead with part two of The Leveson Inquiry. Leveson Two would examine relationships between police and the press. Campaigners say that the consultation has 'no legitimacy' and has been launched merely to delay implementing the measures. Part two had been expected to get under way once all legal proceedings - including criminal investigations - had been completed. But, last month the government launched a consultation on whether going ahead with the second part of the inquiry was 'still in the public interest.' The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Bradley told MPs that she wants to 'seek the views of the public, interested parties and the victims of press abuse' before making a final decision. The ten-week consultation is due to finish on 10 January. The government is also consulting on section forty of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which offers press organisations incentives to join an independent regulator and was one of the key commitments made after the first part of the Leveson Inquiry. Many newspapers are opposed to section forty, because it would force them to pay legal costs in cases brought against them, even when they had not broken the law. Jacqui Hames became a familiar face on TV as a presenter on BBC's Crimewatch after spending thirty years with the Metropolitan Police. Her ex-husband, David Cook, was a detective chief superintendent in the Met who worked on the case of the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan. Morgan, who was found with an axe in his head in a South London pub car park in 1987, was business partner to a man with links to the Scum of the World. Hames alleges that she and Cook were placed under surveillance by the newspaper because of their involvement in investigating Morgan's murder. The judicial review application suggests Hames settled her phone-hacking claim against the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World without insisting on a disclosure process because 'she believed that relevant information would become available to her as a result of part two of the inquiry.' She also claims that she was personally assured by former Prime Minister, Oily David Cameron that a second inquiry would take place. Hames is challenging the process by which the government will decide if an inquiry into the relationships between police and the press happens. She argues that the government's failure to implement section forty or start the second part of the inquiry showed 'a lack of will to carry out Leveson's original recommendations.' In submitting the judicial review application, Hames has been joined by a website called Byline, which allows freelance journalists to publish stories free of editorial interference. Byline has joined Impress, an approved regulator which is partly funded by Max Mosley, the former motor racing boss who was a victim of a newspaper sting. Whereas Hames is hoping to ensure part two of The Leveson Inquiry takes place, Byline is hoping to ensure that section forty of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, from which it would benefit, is not dropped because of lobbying from newspaper groups. A third claimant in the judicial inquiry is anonymous. Known only as HJK, this claimant had previously brought and settled a claim against News Group Newspapers for voicemail interception by the Scum of the World, which was close in shame and ignominy in 2011. The judicial inquiry application was served on 15 December and the government has until 5 January to respond. If a hearing goes ahead, it is likely to take place early in the new year. Many judicial reviews do not end up in court but if this one does, it is likely to frustrate the government's aim to make a clear decision on the next step in the saga of press regulation. Campaigners, including the victims' group Hacked Off, argue that the original recommendations of Lord Leveson's report have not been acted on - or anything even remotely like it - and really ought to be. Evan Harris, from Hacked Off, said that the legal challenge came 'as no surprise' given the government's 'shameless conduct' on the inquiry. Harris spoke of the government 'breaking its promises to victims, intervening to frustrate the will of Parliament and issuing a consultation paper so biased that it could have been written by the Daily Mail or the Sun. Denying victims of press abuse and responsible journalists access to justice in libel and privacy cases, by blocking section forty, is caving in to the press industry corporate lobby,' he added. However, newspaper groups - who, of course, have no agenda in this regard whatsoever, oh no, very hot water - have said their own regulator, the completely knackerless and risible Independent Press Standards Organisation, chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Moses, offers 'a robust system of self-regulation' which retains the independence of a free press. Which, as it happens, it doesn't, or anything even remotely like it. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: 'We can confirm that an application has been made to judicially review the consultation. The government is considering its response.'
The Dynamo Dresden defender Marc Wachs has received emergency surgery after a shooting which killed a family member. The twenty one-year-old German's injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, according to the Bundesliga 2 club. A second family member was also injured and is in hospital after the incident in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt. The German club said that they was 'shocked, stunned and deeply saddened' and would 'be wherever our help and support is needed.' Only, they said it in German, Obviously. Wachs was yet to play for second-tier Dynamo, having signed in the summer from Mainz, where he mainly featured in the reserve team. 'Marc, his family and the process of recovery, both physically and mentally, are now the only priorities,' said Dynamo's sport managing director Ralf Minge. 'Everything else does not matter. I would also like to express our deep compassion to Marc, his family and all his relatives. We specifically ask you to respect the privacy of Marc and his family more than ever.'
Bacon sales have 'plummeted' as shoppers 'choose fish over meat' for their meals, industry data has claimed. Meat sales were down by three hundred million smackers in 2016, a report by The Grocer alleged, while pre-prepared fish sales were up by over thirty million knicker. The article suggested that 'health warnings such as those linking processed meats to cancer' had 'played a part.' Fruit and vegetable sales were also up, driven by the popularity of avocados, blueberries and raspberries. The number of people buying fresh meat in supermarkets has dropped by four per cent throughout the year, according to the report based on data from Nielsen, but no product has been hit as hard as pork. Bacon sales dropped by over one hundred and twenty two million during the twelve months, whilst sausage sales declined by fifty one million quid.
Now, dear blog reader, the first in a new semi-regular From The North series Nude Ladies On Horseback. Number one:
It's true what they sat, you know, dear blog reader. Sometimes, a bargain is simply a bargain.
Too much Facebook browsing at Christmas - and seeing all those allegedly 'perfect' families and their holiday photos - is more likely to make one miserable than festive, research suggests. And, in other news, apparently, research has confirmed that bears do shit in the woods. Jesus, has everyone taken the frigging stupid pill this week, or what? A University of Copenhagen study 'suggests excessive use of social media can create feelings of envy.' It particularly warns about the negative impact of 'lurking' on social media without connecting with anyone. The study suggests taking a break from using social media. The study of more than one thousand participants (or, glakes) - mostly women - says that 'regular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect your emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.' Researchers warn of envy and a 'deterioration of mood' from spending 'too long looking at other people's social media stories,' induced by 'unrealistic social comparisons.' If this suggests that a picture of long irritable hours over a screen, depressed by the boasts and posts of others, then the researchers say that it does not need to be this way. 'Actively engaging in conversation and connecting with people on social media' seems to be 'a much more positive experience,' suggests the study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour & Social Networking. Avoiding reading Cyberpsychology, Behaviour & Social Networking probably helps too. This seems to be much less gloomy than 'passive' users who spend too long 'lurking' on social networking websites without getting involved. Or, indeed, visiting porn sites for any reason other than a good, hard wank. Another approach to improve well-being, claims the study, is to stop using social media altogether for a week. 'That's if you can resist the temptation to look at all those unbearably smug pictures of your skiing holidays,' wrote some unbearably smug fucker of no importance whatsoever at the BBC News website. Oh, hardy-har-har, you Middle Class louse.
Deddie Davies has died aged seventy eight, according to reports. The TV and film actress was known for her role as Nell Perks in the 1970 film The Railway Children and in recent years she played Marj in the alleged comedy series Stella. She was born Gillian Davies in Bridgend in 1938. Her long career in TV covering more than forty years also included roles in Doctors, The Bill, Whitechapel, Upstairs Downstairs, The Forsyte Saga, Land Girls, Vanity Fair, Both Ends Meet, A Pin To See The Peepshow, The Black Arrow, My Old Man, The Phoenix & The Carpet, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, The Invisible Man, C.A.T.S Eyes, Grange Hill and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. Her agents Brown, Simcocks & Andrews, said in a statement that the actress also dedicated her time working with charities safeguarding the elderly and also 'going undercover' to reveal issues in care homes. Kelly Andrews, part of the team who represented Deddie for twenty years, said: 'She was extremely professional, but she was extraordinary fun and joyous to be around. She saw the best in everyone. She wasn't just an actress but an activist - she really cared about it.' Deddie trained at RADA in the late 1950s and was mainly familiar to television viewers for numerous comedy roles in a host of series including The Rag Trade, Get Some In!, That's My Boy, My Husband & I, Y Rang M'Lud, Waiting For God and Chance In A Million. She usually appeared in meek, spinsterish roles although occasionally played against type. In May 2007 she had an unexpected musical success as a member of superannuated pop group The Zimmers. Their cover version of 'My Generation' highlighted the plight of the elderly, and reached number twenty six in the UK Singles Chart.
Carrie Fisher is in intensive care after suffering a heart attack during a flight. Carrie, sixty, reportedly went into cardiac arrest minutes before the end of the London to Los Angeles flight. Passengers attempted to revive her using CPR and she was taken to hospital when the plane landed after midday local time, the TMZ website said. Her brother, Todd, said that Carrie was in intensive care in Los Angeles. 'If everyone could just pray for her that would be good,' he told Entertainment Tonight. 'The doctors are doing their thing and we don't want to bug them. We are waiting by patiently.' Carrie had been on tour promoting her latest book, The Princess Diarist. The heart attack happened about fifteen minutes before the plane landed at LAX, the celebrity news website TMZ reported. A medic who was travelling on the plane administered CPR. Paramedics then spent a further fifteen minutes administering further treatment to Fisher before getting a pulse. The actress was on a ventilator in the UCLA medical centre, the website said. United Airlines issued a statement saying that Flight 935 from London to Los Angeles was 'met on the ground by medical personnel' after the crew reported that a passenger was 'unresponsive.' The LA Fire department said that its paramedics met the plane and 'provided advanced life support and aggressively treated and transported the patient to a local hospital.' A law enforcement official told NBC that Carrie's condition was 'not good.' Her condition was subsequently reported as 'serious but stable' at the time of writing. All of us at From The North, needless to say, send our sincere best wishes to Carrie and her family for a speedy recovery.
Shocking Christmas Discoveries, part the first: The fact that they didn't invite Brains to the party is, clearly, a sign of some disgraceful form of discrimination going down on Tracey Island. Unless he's the one taking the photo, of course, in which case this blogger's bad.
Shocking Christmas Discoveries, part the second: The Co-Op grocery chain has announced a nationwide recall of one hundred and sixty five thousand hollow milk chocolate Santa figures after two alleged 'tampering incidents. ' A spokesperson for the Co-Op said two of the chocolate figures had been found to contain a small button-cell battery. 'The health and safety of our customers is our top priority,' said the spokesperson, adding that the Co-Op was 'investigating' and the police and Food Standards Agency were 'being notified.' No other products are affected. The chocolates that had been subject to tampering were bought at two different locations, one in Suffolk and one in Essex. The Co-Op said customers with one of these products should not eat it, but call the company's customer relations team for a full refund. Anyone who is concerned should call Freephone 0800 0686 727.
And, on that alarmingly unfestive bombshell, dear blog reader, Very Crumble to the lot of you.