Sunday, December 04, 2016

Somewhere Between Catastrophe & Armageddon

The BBC have confirmed that this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return Of Doctor Mysterio will be broadcast on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 5:45pm. And, they have released both a new - well sexy - trailer and a plot synopsis for the episode: 'This Christmas sees The Doctor join forces with a masked Superhero for an epic New York adventure. With brain-swapping aliens poised to attack, The Doctor and Nardole link up with an investigative reporter and a mysterious figure known only as The Ghost. Can The Doctor save Manhattan? And what will be revealed when we see behind the mask?' The sixty-minute special is, of course, written by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE), produced by Brian Minchin and Peter Bennett and directed by Ed Bazalgette. It was shot in Cardiff at BBC Wales Roath Lock Studios.
And, on a somewhat related theme, there's a new Sherlock trailer, It's No Game Anymore. That's quite sexy too.
Radio Times certainly had a lot of fun searching that one for clues!
      And finally, there's also the BBC's general Christmas trailer which includes both Doctor Who and Sherlock clips along with the likes of Bake Off, Call The Midwife et cetera. Which you can see here.
Monty Python's Flying Circus member Michael Palin and Doctor Who and Sherlock writer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) are to be inducted into the Radio Times Hall of Fame. The pair will be honoured at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival in April. Actress Julie Walters will also take to the stage as part of the three-day event. She will share memories in a tribute to comedian Victoria Wood, who died in April. The festival will begin with Palin's induction into the Hall of Fame, followed by a screening of BBC drama East Of Ipswich, which he wrote in 1987. Moffat will be inducted after a conversation on stage with comedian Frank Skinner about the writer's career and his work on Doctor Who and Sherlock. Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto will attend the premiere of her new series Guerilla, which also stars Idris Elba and was created by Twelve Years A Slave writer John Ridley. Keeley Hawes will also attend the premiere of the new series of The Durrells. The Archers: The Trial Of Helen Titchener will feature appearances from Louiza Patikas and Tim Watson, who played Rob and Helen Titchener and Sean O'Connor, the former editor of the popular radio drama. They will discuss the show's domestic violence storyline, while the cast and creators of Call The Midwife will also appear on a panel. Authors Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo and Judith Kerr, who have all had work adapted for the small screen, will also appear at the festival. It will take place from 7 April at BFI Southbank in London.
The late Delia Derbyshire is -finally - to be honoured in her hometown of Coventry by having a road named after her. The creation of Derbyshire Way will pay tribute to the musician and arranger, who will forever be associated with her work in realising the original Doctor Who theme music, written by Ron Grainer. Delia Derbyshire is considered one of the most important and influential pioneers of electronic music in the UK, who inspired acts from The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) to The Chemical Brothers and Orbital. Her contribution to Doctor Who came when she was working for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and was asked to turn Grainer's score into an electronic theme for the new family SF drama series. Aided by Dick Mills, Derbyshire created the iconic theme music, producing each note separately by cutting, splicing, speeding up and slowing down recordings of a single plucked string, whilst also making use of white noise and the output of test-tone oscillators. The notes were then edited together on quarter-inch tape. Mixing was done by starting several tape machines simultaneously and mixing the outputs together. Derbyshire, who died in 2001, will now give her name to Derbyshire Way, part of a new housing estate in the city of her birth. The recognition follows a campaign led by the Coventry Music Museum, which features a permanent display dedicated to her work. Museum Director Pete Chambers spoke about her legacy: 'It's fitting as we bid for the City Of Culture 2021, that the bid does not ignore our music heritage and that people from around the world know Delia was a Coventry legend, a woman who influenced The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers and even Pink Floyd, indeed, she is considered by many to be the Mother of Progressive Rock. I firmly believe that if she were alive today, Delia would have triple "D" status – she would be Dame Delia Derbyshire. Sadly that will never happen, so it's wonderfully fitting that there is something in her native Coventry dedicated to this very special lady. Originally it was to be named Derbyshire Road, but I suggested "Way" instead to give it a double meaning, as Delia was a genius and strong personality and really did do things in her own way.'
Benedict Cumberbatch has given Sherlock producer Beryl Vertue a lifetime achievement prize at the Women In Film & TV Awards. Beryl, who is executive producer of the hugely successful drama, was honoured for her contribution to television, in which she has worked for more than fifty years. Her other shows including Up Pompeii, Steptoe & Son and Men Behaving Badly. Benny said it was 'an absolute honour' to give the prize. 'We have known each other a long time and not only have I had the pleasure of working with her, but I'm very lucky to know her and call such a brilliant woman my friend,' he said at the London ceremony. Beryl said she felt 'rather proud,' adding that the awards were 'wonderful because there a lot of clever women and a lot of them are behind-the-scenes people and this is their way of being recognised. I like that and they've been chosen by their peers.' A former school friend of comedy writer Alan Simpson, Beryl joined Associated London Scripts initially as a secretary and, later, became an agent representing Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes, Johnny Speight, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and Terry Nation as well as Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd. In 1967 she joined the Stigwood Organisation specialising in selling British television formats to America. These successes included Sanford & Son and All In The Family. She was a co-executive producer of Mad Ken Russell's big-screen version of Tommy. In the 1980s, Beryl formed Hartswood Films, which has produced many comedies including Is It Legal? and Coupling. The latter was produced by her daughter, Sue and written by son-in-law Steven Moffat. The awards' chief executive, Kate Kinninmont, said that Beryl is 'a true legend,' adding: 'We have seen some fantastic women achieving great things this year and the diverse range of winners is testament to that.' The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg was given the news and factual award by former shadow chancellor and Strictly Come Dancing competitor Ed Balls. Gabby Logan won the UK presenter award, while Sarah Lancashire won the best performance award for her role in Happy Valley.
TV Comedy Line Of The Week came, as usual, from Friday's episode of Qi and Sandi Toksvig's closing comments: 'That's all from this quite interesting night apart from this Neolithic newspaper nugget from the Western Daily Press. "A student who woke up after a drunken night out with the words Barry Is A Twat tattooed on his arm says that he has not idea who Barry is!"'
Comedy Line Of The Week, number two, was from Have I Got News For You and Ian Hislop's precise and perceptive assessment of the career of the late Fidel Castro following some less than flattering comments about the former Cuban dictator from UKiP's Suzanne Evans: 'He did replace Battista who was a very very bad dictator, who turned Cuba into an enormous brothel run entirely by American mafiosi. So, the start was quite good. Then there was the summary executions and mass murders and then it got less good. But, you know, everything goes off. All political parties start with good ideas, don't they Suzanne?!' Ms Evans, needless to say, reacted to that suggestion with a face that could curdle milk at one hundred paces. 'Give them a little power ... Well, that may not happen to you lot,' Ian concluded.
Yer actual Jezza Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond say that they have not been told how many people are watching The Grand Tour. The new show from the former Top Gear trio debuted on 18 November and Amazon, which has extended its streaming service to two hundred countries, has said only that 'millions' of people streamed the first episode. Speaking at the launch of their new social media project for petrolheads, DriveTribe, Clarkson said that Amazon was keeping The Grand Tour numbers even from its hosts. 'I don't know. You just don't know,' he said. 'They did say "millions."' May added: 'They won't tell us. That's the rules.' Two episodes of The Grand Tour have been released and filming for the first series is almost complete, with only three more 'studio' segments – each filmed in a tent at a different location – to be recorded. Reports have suggested that Amazon paid one hundred and sixty million dollars for three series, but Clarkson said the numbers being 'bandied about' were over-inflated. 'Nobody has got it even remotely close,' he said. 'There's a figure of one hundred and sixty million dollars invented by the Daily Mail and now two hundred and fifty million dollars from Netflix and they are just nonsense.' Hammond said that working with Amazon on The Grand Tour had helped inspire them to start DriveTribe. 'We were moving into new ways of putting content in front of people,' he said. 'And, as we got more and more into it, and spoke to more people, we realised that there was a bigger and bigger opportunity, [where] people who have a declared interest in cars, which is a very broad spectrum, could come and find other like-minded people.' The site, which claims to have attracted fifteen hundred contributors in its pre-launch phase, encourages users to set up their own 'tribes' around different topics and follow users including Clarkson, May and Hammond. Its launch came on the same day that some of the world's largest football clubs announced their own foray into social networking with and Clarkson said that there were similarities in the way football fans and car enthusiasts approached their obsessions online. 'A Chelsea site, if somebody comes along and says "I like football I support Arsenal," [the response is:] "Get out!" There's that sort of mentality,' he said. 'But now, we have this thing, everybody can come. Some tribes will overlap, some won't, some will be sort of competing, all of which is good and healthy and exactly what we want to try and create.' The three had invested heavily in DriveTribe with their own money, he said. 'I've had to explain to the children we are selling them for medical experiments,' he joked. 'We are heavily invested. Properly heavily invested.' This month Clarkson was involved in an argument with a Stuttgart airport worker whom he claimed had said 'Fuck you, I'm Argentinian!' during a row over why the three presenters were not being allowed on to a flight to London. Asked what he thought of the airport's claim that the worker was Spanish and suggestions that Clarkson's account of what occurred was incorrect, he said: 'We were there, [Hammond] and I heard it. You want to call us liars, we're not, move on. Not just he and I, quite a few people heard it. I know what he said.'
Yer actual Jezza Clarkson his very self may have made plenty of enemies over the years - mainly risible louse-shits who write for the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Scum Mail, admittedly, rather than anyone that actually matters - but the person he holds the biggest grudge against (Piers Morgan excepted) is the late BBC 'talking animal' legend. Asked - by a nosey journalist - whom he would most like to kill, Clarkson said: 'I wanted to kill Johnny Morris the old animal man, but he's died anyway. He told me to "bugger off" when I was four and I asked for his autograph. He's an unusual person to not like because everyone else really liked him but I hated him. I always think that there are going to be kids I've knocked back for an autograph who are going to grow up with a deep-seated hatred of me. And when it's announced on the radio that I've died, they're going to Whoop! There will be a collective cheer around the country when I drop dead.'
The final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Five programmes, week-ending Sunday 27 November 2016 are as follows:-
1 Planet Earth II - Sun BBC1 - 11.88m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 11.65m
3 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) - Sun ITV - 10.34m
4 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.46m
5 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.30m
6= EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.11m
6= The Missing - Wed BBC1 - 7.11m
8 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.09m
9 The X Factor - Sat ITV - 6.48m
10 The Apprentice - Thurs BBC1 - 6.40m
11 Michael McIntyre's Not Very Funny Show - Sat BBC1 - 6.31m
12 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.74m
13 Who Do You Think You Are? - Thurs BBC1 - 5.45m
14 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.44m
15 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 4.79m
16 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.73m
17 Pointless Z-List Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 4.61m
18 Watchdog - Wed BBC1 - 4.38m
19 My Mother & Other Strangers - Sun BBC1 - 4.35m
20 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.31m
21 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.20m
22= Ordinary Lies - Tues BBC1 - 3.81m
22= Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 3.76m
24 The Chase - Tues ITV - 3.72m
25 Match Of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 3.70m
These consolidated figures include all viewers who watched programmes live and on catch-up during the seven days after initial broadcast, but do not include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. Don't blame this blogger, he doesn't make the rules. Strictly Come Dancing's Sunday night episode attracted 11.11 million punters. The X Factor's results programme on Sunday had 6.37 million. Once again, the top seven programmes on ITV's weekly top thirty list were episodes of 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). Shame on you, Great Britain; first Brexit, now this nonsense malarkey. Come on, we're better than this. On BBC2, the top-rated programme was Tuesday's episode of MasterChef: The Professionals with 3.57 million punters. The other two nightly episodes of the popular cookery competition attracted 3.05 million and 2.95 million. University Challenge was watched by 3.02 million, Only Connect by 2.60 million and Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two by 2.20 million. The Choir: Gareth's Best In Britain attracted 2.03 million viewers followed by the third episode of Close To The Enemy (1.92 million), Coastal Path (also 1.92 million), Mastermind (1.91 million), Z-List Celebrity Antiques Road Tripe (1.88 million), Rugby Union coverage (1.86 million), The Apprentice: You're Fired! (1.76 million), Qi (1.54 million) and Two Doors Down (1.49 million). As usual, Gogglebox was Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast of the week (3.17 million), follow by F1: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Live coverage (2.40 million), Our Guy In China (2.33 million) and The Supervet (2.12 million). Twenty Four Hours In A&E was seen by 1.93 million viewers, whilst Grand Designs: House Of The Year had 1.84 million as did First Dates. The latest episode of Human drew 1.83 million whilst The Secret Life Of The Zoo, was watched by 1.71 million. Escape To The Chateau attracted 1.70 million and The Last Leg With Adam Hills had 1.66 million. Channel Five's top performer was, The Yorkshire Vet with 1.84 million, ahead of Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! (1.39 million), All New Traffic Cops (1.38 million), Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild (1.26 million) and Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways (1.24 million). A broadcast of the movie Annie Claus Is Coming To Town was watched by 1.28 million viewers. In effing November. Coverage of the Premier League action between Southampton and Burnley on Sky Sports 1 was seen by 1.04 million punters. Sunday's match a'tween The Arse and Bournemouth drew nine hundred and forty six thousand and the same day's game in which Watford faced Dirty Stoke had four hundred and fifty three thousand. Sky Sports 2's coverage of Live Test Rugby: England Versus Argentina drew four hundred and forty one thousand. England's appallingly poor capitulation in Live Test Cricket and the third test in India was seen by one hundred and ninety seven thousand presumably severely pissed-off punters. Live coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was Sky Sports F1's most-watched broadcast with six hundred and eighteen thousand, whilst the simultcast on Sky Sports 2 added a further two hundred and nineteen thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was - as usual - top of the pile on Sky Sports News HQ with three hundred and sixty one thousand punters and an additional three hundred and twenty one thousand watching on Sky Sports 1. Lewis was ITV3's top-rated drama (seven hundred and ninety one thousand viewers). Midsomer Murders was seen by seven hundred and fifty seven thousand and Endeavour by seven hundred and fourteen thousand. Darts: Players Championship Live headed ITV4's weekly list with four hundred and thirty two thousand. No, this blogger had no idea why either. The movies The Book Of Eli and Eraser drew three hundred and seven thousand viewers and two hundred and seventy thousand respectively. ITV2's most-watched broadcast was Family Guy (nine hundred and thirty nine thousand), followed by 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): Extra Camp (seven hundred and sixty two thousand viewers). For shame Great Britain, for shame. Scorpion attracted five hundred and seventy five thousand. DCI Banks headed ITV Encore's top ten with seventy four thousand viewers, ahead of Downton Abbey (sixty thousand) and Vera (forty six thousand). BBC4's list was topped by the opening two episodes of imported drama Modus (1.01 million and nine hundred and thirty seven thousand respectively), followed by Treasure Of Ancient Greece (five hundred and thirty three thousand), Dangerous Earth (four hundred and fifty one thousand), Russia: A Century Of Suspicion (four hundred and forty thousand) and Top Of The Pops 1982 (three hundred and sixty nine thousand). Britain's Lost Waterlands: Escape To Swallows & Amazons drew three hundred and sixty two thousand and Black Nurses: The Women Who Saved The NHS, also three hundred and sixty two thousand. The Good Old Days was watched by three hundred and fifty nine thousand and Classic Albums: Graceland, three hundred and twenty six thousand. Sky1's weekly top-ten was headed by The Flash (nine hundred and fifty five thousand). Arrow was seen by six hundred and eighty thousand, DC's Legends Of Tomorrow by six hundred and fifty nine thousand and Supergirl by five hundred and sixty six thousand. Unfunny spew Trollied drew four hundred and seventy four thousand. Sky Atlantic's list was topped by Westworld (1.13 million). The much-trailed The Affair attracted two hundred and sixty seven thousand whilst Divorce was watched by two hundred and five thousand. The Young Pope was seen by one hundred and fifty thousand. On Sky Living, the latest episode of From The North favourite The Blacklist attracted eight hundred and eighty eight thousand as did Criminal Minds. Blindspot had seven hundred and forty three thousand viewers and Greys Anatomy, five hundred and sixty one thousand. Conviction attracted four hundred and ninety thousand and Nashville, two hundred and forty one thousand viewers. Sky Arts' Landscape Artist Of The Year was watched by one hundred and eighty four thousand viewers. 5USA's Castle was seen by four hundred and sixty six thousand viewers. NCIS: Los Angeles attracted four hundred and fifty six thousand, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour, four hundred and seven thousand and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, three hundred and sixty eight thousand. NCIS topped CBS Action's list (one hundred and one thousand). FOX's most watched programmes were The Walking Dead (1.49 million), American Dad! (two hundred and ninety one thousand) and Talking Dead (two hundred and thirty eight thousand). The Universal Channel's weekly list was headed by Chicago Med (three hundred and thirty thousand), Pure Genius (two hundred and ninety five thousand), Major Crimes (two hundred and ninety one thousand) and Private Eyes (two hundred and seven thousand). On Dave, Dave Gorman: Modern Life Is Goodish was the highest-rated programme with seven hundred and fifty five thousand punters, followed Jay Leno's Garage (three hundred and thirty eight thousand), Have I Got A Bit More News For You (three hundred and thirty four thousand), Not Going Out (also three hundred and thirty four thousand) and Qi XL (two hundred and ninety thousand). The latest episode of Drama's repeat run of Death In Paradise was watched by five hundred and fifty three thousand viewers. New Tricks had three hundred and ninety four thousand, followed by Rebus: The Naming Of The Dead (three hundred and eighty eight thousand), Murdoch Mysteries (three hundred and eighty five thousand) and Dalziel & Pascoe (three hundred and eighty two thousand). Alibi's highest-rated programmes were Rosewood (two hundred and seventy nine thousand), Crossing Lines (two hundred and forty eight thousand), The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ninety two thousand) and Rizzoli & Isles (also ninety two thousand). On The Sony Channel, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist was watched by fifty five thousand, [spooks] by fifty two thousand, Saving Hope by fifty one thousand and Hustle by thirty seven thousand. Yesterday's Porridge repeat run attracted two hundred and seventy three thousand. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush's latest series continued with five hundred and fifty eight thousand viewers. From The North favourite Wheeler Dealers drew three hundred and fifteen thousand whilst Alaska: The Last Frontier was seen by one hundred and thirty three thousand, Tanked by one hundred and thirty one thousand and Moonshiners by sixty two thousand punters. Discovery History's Hitler's Generals topped the weekly-list with thirty four thousand. Battlefield had thirty thousand and both Hitler's Children and Time Team both attracted twenty seven thousand. On Discovery Science, Mountain Monsters was seen by forty three thousand viewers. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme was Wheeler Dealers On The Road with thirty six thousand. National Geographic's list was headed by Mars which had two hundred and fifteen thousand viewers and Antarctica (eighty thousand). Highway Thru Hell was watched by seventy seven thousand. The History Channel's top-ten list was topped by The Curse Of Oak Island (one hundred and seventy one thousand). Pawn Stars and American Pickers both attracted an audience of eighty thousand. On Military History, True Monsters was watched by thirty seven thousand, as was Cities Of The Underworld. A Crime To Remember, Dateline With Tamzin Outhwaite and Swamp Murders were ID's top-rated programmes of the week (with sixty eight thousand viewers, fifty three thousand and forty nine thousand murder-lovers respectively). Robbie Coltrane's Critical Evidence, Homicide Hunters and The Killing Season headed CI's list (one hundred and seven thousand, one hundred thousand and fifty nine thousand). GOLD's latest series of wretchedly unamusing alleged 'sitcom' Marley's Ghosts attracted two hundred and ten thousand, whilst one of several Only Fools & Horses Christmas specials broadcast during the week had one hundred and eighty two thousand. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (three hundred and six thousand). Your TV's Murder U was seen by sixty nine thousand. On More4, Car SOS was the highest-rated programme with four hundred and twenty one thousand. Eight Out Of Ten Cats attracted three hundred and ninety thousand punters. E4's latest episode of the massively popular The Big Bang Theory drew 2.28 million viewers, by a distance the largest multi-channels audience of the week. Hollyoaks had nine hundred and eighty eight thousand. The Horror Channel's broadcast of Book Of Blood attracted one hundred and eighteen thousand. The Librarians, headed Syfy's top-ten with three hundred and forty eight thousand whilst The Exorcist had two hundred and thirty six thousand. Walking With Beasts and Wonders Of The Monsoon were watched by fifty nine thousand and forty one thousand respectively on Eden. Bad Dog was the Animal Planet's most-watched programme with fifty eight thousand. On W, MasterChef: Australia attracted two hundred and seventy two thousand punters. Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! was watched by one hundred and forty three thousand and The X-Files drew one hundred and ten thousand on Spike. Cake Boss was seen by one hundred and eleven thousand people on TLC. The Vault's Saved By The Bell drew nine thousand punters. Ireland's Country attracted an audience of three thousand on Irish TV.

Millions of people are tuning into the BBC's nature series Planet Earth II because they 'crave a respite from their concerns' about the future of the planet, Sir David Attenborough has claimed. The documentary series, which is narrated by the veteran broadcaster, has attracted over eleven million viewers on BBC1, rivalling the numbers tuning in to watch blockbuster hits Strictly Come Dancing and 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). In a piece for this week's Radio Times, Attenborough writes that the programme's viewers 'are reconnecting with a planet whose beauty is blemished, whose health is failing, because they understand that our own well-being is inextricably linked to that of the planet's.' The relationship, he says, is a form of 'two-way therapy.' The presenter compares the enormous audience figures to those of the previous BBC nature series Blue Planet, which premiered in September 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Its audiences far exceeded expectations, Attenborough writes, because 'as a nation we craved refuge from the horror and uncertainty.' He believes that Planet Earth II is 'tapping into a similar sentiment. Of course, there is no single appalling catalyst as there was in 2001, but our concerns for the world, the confusion we have about its direction of travel, are every bit as great.' He notes that the original Planet Earth series, broadcast in 2006, is estimated to have been watched by half-a-billion people worldwide. 'We are hopeful that this series will be seen by as many, if not more.' Attenborough acknowledges that other factors have contributed to the series' popularity, including advances in filming technology which have allowed 'unprecedented access' to wildlife. The broadcaster also credits the series score, written by the Oscar-winning movie composer Hans Zimmer, for attracting more viewers aged between sixteen and thirty five than the current series of The X Factor. 'That pleases me enormously,' writes Attenborough. Zimmer, who composed the soundtracks for Gladiator, The Lion King, the Dark Knight trilogy and many other films, has said of Planet Earth II: 'What the series does so extraordinarily and importantly is to draw us humans into this world which we must comprehend. What [David Attenborough] has been doing has now more relevance than ever before. The truly remarkable thing is that all fiction pales in comparison to the reality [he has] shown us.'
Terry Jones's dementia has not got to the stage where he has become unhappy and unaware of who he is, his Monty Python's Flying Circus co-star Eric Idle has said. 'It doesn't seem to me that he's unhappy,' Idle told the Radio Times. 'He hasn't forgotten who he is, yet. Terry's still here. He's not gone.' Earlier this year it was announced that the seventy three-year-old has primary progressive aphasia, a severe variant of dementia. 'It's been coming on for about five or six years,' Idle revealed. 'We've all known about it. I was only happy that we managed to do the Monty Python shows at the O2 while we could still get him through it. We said, "Look, Terry, don't worry, we're going to get you through this,"' said Idle. '"We're all in this together."' Idle went on to say that Jones's condition was 'becoming noticeable' last year and that he was 'glad' Terry's condition had been made public. Idle will be seen on BBC2 this Christmas in The Entire Universe, a comedy special co-starring Professor Brian Cox (no, the other one).
The BBC is to 'play hardball' over terms in its The Great British Bake Off contract which would prevent Channel Four from broadcasting a full series next year, the Radio Times has claimed. 'Senior' - though nameless and, therefore, possibly fictitious - Corporation 'insiders' are alleged to have 'indicated' that the BBC is 'unlikely to waive its rights' to hold producers, Greed Productions, to a clause in its contract preventing a full run in 2017. The holdback or 'cooling off' clause stipulates that if the show moves to another broadcaster it cannot be broadcast until the following year. 'We're going to play hardball on this,' said an - alleged - Corporation 'source' allegedly told the magazine. Channel Four is to broadcast a celebrity Bake Off episode in aid of Stand Up To Cancer in the autumn of next year, featuring Paul Hollywood who is the only one of the original presenters who have stayed with the show. But, at the moment, the channel is still reported to be unsure of 'where it stands' in terms of a series for 2017 as Greed Productions are 'understood' not to have been notified by the BBC about its position on the clause.
Channel Four announced this week that it has begun the search for new bakers. The hopefuls, Radio Times claims, have been told that the broadcaster 'does not yet know' which year they will appear if they are successful. Or, indeed, how many people will be watching them because, if they think it's going to be the fifteen million that watched this year's final, or anything even remotely like it, they're insane. The BBC is 'believed' to be 'keen' to launch a new cookery-style competition show of its own next year, though it has not yet confirmed any details and the absence of Bake Off on C4 could prove a bonus to any new format it develops. BBC director of content Charlotte Moore unveiled the BBC's Christmas schedule on Thursday and said: 'The Voice and Bake Off might be going but this presents us all with a fantastic creative opportunity to invest in more home grown ideas and discover the next generation of hits. We're going to play with formats, create new slots across the week and on Saturdays, we're already piloting some exciting shows.' When asked at the launch event whether the BBC would be holding Greed Productions to its contract or whether it would be launching a new baking show next year, Moore would not comment. However, according to Radio Times an alleged senior 'source' allegedly said: 'We are planning something – but it won't necessarily be a baking show.' Channel Four declined to comment on the 'speculation' and said: 'We have not announced the scheduling dates for The Great British Bake Off.' A spokesman for Greed Productions said: 'We will not be commenting on rumours.' Despite the wall of silence, the BBC's position is 'understood' to have divided opinion in the TV industry according to Radio Times. While many believe that the BBC is perfectly within its rights to uphold the clause, others suggest that viewers 'may object' to the Corporation preventing a fellow public service broadcaster from broadcasting a much-loved show for a year. An alleged Bake Off production 'source' allegedly said: 'We can't understand why the BBC would want to delay this programme for a variety of reasons.' You can't? Then, you're as thick as pig's shit, mate. They want to do it because you did the dirty on them, for greed. And, you did it with a smile on your face. So, you know, very little or no sympathy. Other alleged 'sources' allegedly point to the fact that The Great British Bake Off is distributed globally by the BBC's commercial arm BBC Worldwide, meaning that the BBC would. theoretically, be out of pocket if the show is not broadcast for a year on Channel Four.
The playwright James Graham has revealed that he is writing a TV drama about the EU referendum campaign. The writer's political play This House has just transferred to London's West End, four years after it premiered at The National Theatre. Asked what his next project will be, Graham said: 'I'm working on a TV drama about the referendum campaign. I think [Brexit] is going to be the main occupying idea in all writers' heads for the next five or ten years.' He told BBC News: 'That doesn't mean necessarily writing a dramatic re-enactment of referendum night, I think it just means the new mood we're living in, which is very different, a bit scary, very divisive, very angry, very confused.' But, Graham confirmed that his TV drama will 'specifically tackle what happened' in the run-up to the EU referendum on 23 June. The playwright has previously written a short play about Brexit for the Gruniad Morning Star as well as The Vote, a play set in a polling station, which was televised on More4 on the night of the 2015 general erection. His other credits include musical Finding Neverland - for which Graham wrote the script and Gary Barlow the music and lyrics - and Privacy, which made its debut on Broadway earlier this year starring Daniel Radcliffe. This House deals with the struggles of the Labour government between 1974 and 1979. It debuted at the National Theatre in 2012 and recently had a run at the Chichester Theatre before transferring to the West End. The play's director, Jeremy Herrin, said that he was 'delighted' by the reaction the play has had. 'We haven't really changed much of it, James has kept the same script,' he told the BBC. 'When we first did it, the audience's obsession was much more about the coalition government in 2010 and how that was working out, and now it's much more about what's happening in the Labour Party.' He added: 'It's much more about dignity and honour in politics, and whether the procedure can reflect our natures. Particularly post-Trump, it feels like that's the big question in the production - is it possible to be a decent human being in a parliamentary framework? So the play starts to answer that question.'
The wife of Vladimir Putin's spokesman has drawn criticism by performing a 'Holocaust-themed' ice skating routine on Russian television. Tasteful. Tatiana Navka, a professional skater on the reality show Ice Age, was partnered by the actor Andrei Burkovsky. The couple performed their routine in the striped uniform of concentration camp victims. Navka called the dance 'a favourite,' saying it was 'inspired' by the film La Vita E Bella (Life Is Beautiful), which is set in a Nazi camp. In a post on Instagram, she added: 'Our children need to remember that terrible time, which I hope, God willing, they will never know.' Ice Age is a pro-celebrity skating contest similar to the extremely cancelled UK series Twatting About On Ice. It is broadcast on Russia's Channel One, which is owned and controlled by The Kremlin. Navka and Burkovsky performed to the song 'Beautiful That Way', the theme from Life Is Beautiful. The 1997 film is a comedy drama about an Italian bookshop owner who creates an imaginary world to shield his young son from the agony of life in a concentration camp. The high-energy routine saw the skating partners pretend to shoot each other. Their black and white uniforms included the yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jewish Death Camp prisoners to wear. The Jerusalem Post reports that Russian TV broadcast a different 'Nazi-inspired' dance number in April. The country's version of Dancing With The Stars is reported to have featured a 'performance' where a Nazi officer finds a Jewish woman hiding behind a piano. He decides not to shoot her and the two start dancing to 'Fly Me To The Moon' by Frank Sinatra instead. But in the end she is killed by a stray bullet, leaving him screaming. That's Russian light entertainment for you, dear blog reader.
Good news for fans of Supergirl, The Flash and DC's roster of dramas in the UK - they will be staying on Sky1 for the foreseeable future. Speaking to the Digital Spy website, Sky1 director Adam MacDonald insisted that while the channel is planning to 'expand its original programming,' it will not be cutting back on its current US imports. 'If anything, quite the opposite,' he said. 'We see Sky1 as being a channel for the whole family, that mixes the best of American family adventure and high-action drama with the British stuff. So we're increasing investment in British content, but we absolutely keep faith with the best of that action-based, family-friendly American dramas. So we've got plans afoot for next year to increase those as well. We'll always have an appetite for those big, thrilling American pieces.' Sky1 has been ordering more original British programming, launching the action-adventure series Hooten & The Lady this year and bringing back Stan Lee's Lucky Man for a second run in 2017.
Filming for series two of Victoria is due to start early next year. In an interview with the Metro, Jenna Coleman confirmed that filming for the show's latest series will begin in February. 'It's really exciting,' she added. 'There's so much story. It's a case of pacing it and working out where to go with it.'
The BBC is reported to be 'struggling' to put together a shortlist of people who could be the next chair of the corporation, as it emerged that two high-profile potential candidates had ruled themselves out. Mind you, this is all according to the Gruniad Morning Star who, obviously, have no sick agenda in place when making these claims. Alleged BBC 'insiders' have allegedly said that without a shortlist it 'could' allegedly be difficult for ministers to allegedly appoint 'someone' to lead the corporation's new unitary board in time for the proposed April start date, because 'top-flight candidates' who are interested are left with 'increasingly tight timelines' to resign, or give up, other roles. Allegedly. The government is also 'facing a potential dearth of candidates of the calibre desired for the role' of running the new fourteen-strong board, which will replace the BBC Trust. Howard Stringer, the former Sony and CBS executive who currently sits on the BBC board, is - the Gruniad claim - understood to be 'one of those who have ruled out applying' for the role. Stringer, who had previously been widely considered as a prime candidate for the BBC Trust chair role, is 'understood' to have been 'lobbied' to enter the process despite the fact he will be seventy five in February. And, Helen Alexander, the former president of the Confederation of British Industry, chairman of UBM and senior adviser to Bain Capital, said that she was 'not interested in applying.' Alexander, who had also been previously considered to be 'ideal' for the BBC Trust chair role, said the BBC chair position did not 'hold an allure' for her. 'I'm concentrating on things that are more commercial at the moment,' she said. At one hundred thousand knicker-a-year – ten grand less than the BBC Trust chair role which is being scrapped – it is a relatively low-paid role but comes with heavy time demands and a high level of media attention. 'The role is a double-edged sword but it is also a much bigger role than the BBC Trust chair,' one alleged BBC 'insider' allegedly told the Gruniad. 'It will in reality need to take up about fifty per cent of the portfolio of whoever does it. It is going to be quite heavy work.' Others who have ruled themselves out include Archie Norman, the former chairman of ITV, who is reportedly 'very unlikely' to take part and Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems and vice-chair of the BBC Trust.
Names linked with the role include Gail Rebuck, a Labour peer who chairs the UK arm of Penguin Random House and the Tory peer and former senior BBC executive Tina Stowell. 'It is understood,' the Gruniad claim, that Rebuck 'has not applied for the position.' BBC trustee Nick Prettejohn, a City grandee who previously ran Prudential UK, lost out to Rona Fairhead in the last recruitment process for the BBC Trust chair and 'may well consider himself a contender.' The alleged BBC 'source' allegedly said that there was 'not yet any sort of runners and riders list' and that while 'lots want to do it, the tricky bit is finding the right person in time for [an] April [start].' The new board, part of the corporation's new charter agreement with the government, is expected to be up and running by April. The government, which wants to conclude interviews for the chairman's role by 14 December, said it still hoped to make an appointment in early 2017. Michael Lyons, the former BBC Trust chairman, said that despite the huge demands of the role, which would take up a minimum of two to three days a week, it was 'one of the most exciting' in the media industry. 'This can be a challenging role, but now more than ever the British public needs someone who will speak for them in ensuring the BBC remains trustworthy, efficient and courageous,' he said. 'That's an exciting opportunity for someone.' Whoever takes on the role will face big budget cuts, with the BBC committed to finding eight hundred million smackers in savings per year to fund free licences for the over-seventy fives. And, they will have to deal with a new over-arching regulator, Ofcom, which is chaired by Patricia Hodgson, who left the BBC in 2011 after missing out on the chairman and vice-chairman’s roles at the BBC Trust. 'Anyone who has been successful [in the business world] and made a lot of money doesn't need the hassle that comes with that job,' one - suspiciously anonymous and, therefore, probably fictitious - 'senior media industry executive' who has, allegedly, 'been involved with the BBC in the past' allegedly told the Gruniad. 'It comes with a lot of collateral damage. You've got to really want it [and] have the hide of a rhino.' Fairhead, the outgoing chairman of the BBC Trust, was appointed by David Cameron in May to head the unitary board. In September she said that she would not be taking up the role after Theresa May asked her to reapply for it.
Netflix is allowing some of its shows and films to be downloaded and watched offline, the company has announced. It had previously said letting people download shows added too much 'complexity' to its experience. Other video apps such as BBC iPlayer, All4 and Amazon Prime Video already let viewers watch content when offline. Netflix said that 'some' of its original programmes were 'already available' to download and more would be made available in the future. 'It's surprising because just weeks ago they said it wasn't going to happen,' Tom Harrington from the consultancy Enders Analysis told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'You can understand why they wouldn't want to do it because it opens up a whole pot of rights issues. Offering a download service will cost Netflix more. But everyone else is already doing it. Amazon is doing it, Sky has been doing something similar with Sky Q. Netflix doesn't want to be left behind, or compared unfavourably to rivals.'
Thousands of British archive TV programmes are to be digitised before they are lost forever, the British Film Institute says. Anarchic children's show Tiswas and The Basil Brush Show are among the programmes in line for preservation. The initiative was announced as part of the BFI's five-year strategy for 2017 to 2022. 'Material from the 1970s and early 1980s is at risk,' said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director. 'It has a five or six-year shelf-life and if we don't do something about it [they] will just go, no matter how great the environment is we keep it in. Our job is make sure that things are there in two hundred years' time.' The BFI has budgeted £13.5m of Lottery funding towards its goal of making the UK's entire screen heritage digitally accessible. This includes an estimated one hundred thousand of the 'most at-risk' British TV episodes and clips held on what are rapidly becoming obsolete video formats. The list includes 'early children's programming, little-seen dramas, regional programmes and the beginnings of breakfast television.' Tiswas became a cult favourite after it began on ITV station ATV in 1974. Its presenters included Chris Tarrant, Sally James, a very young Lenny Henry, Bob Carolgees and Spit The dog - plus regular appearances from The Phantom Flan Flinger. Basil Brush, the fox puppet invented by Ivan Owen, attracted audiences of up to thirteen million during his 1970s heyday on BBC1. Other TV shows on the preservation list include: How (1966-1981, Southern Television), Vision On (1964-1976, BBC), Shang-A-Lang (1975, Granada), Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69, ITV), At Last the 1948 Show (1967-68 ITV), Second City Firsts (1973-78, BBC), Rainbow City (1967, BBC), The Bandung File (1985-1991, Channel Four), Eastern Eye (1982-1985, Channel Four) and Nationwide (1969-1983, BBC), most recordings of which are said to be held on 'exceptionally rare' video formats. Stewart said that one of the biggest problems was the shortage of equipment to play the outdated tapes. 'The whole infrastructure in relation to video is just disappearing,' she said. 'There are technicians who want to retire. We can't let them go until we've got this stuff off these two-inch and one-inch formats. There's a limited pool of people who know how to do it. There's a limited pool of machines. The guy who runs the archive is collecting the stuff from car boot sales.' Many of the titles are kept at the BFI's National Archive in Berkhamsted. The issue for the BFI, Stewart added, was also to do with freeing up storage space. 'We have a whole vault which is wall-to-wall video. If we digitised it, it would be in a robot about the size of a wardrobe,' she said. She revealed that the digitisation of BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-1970) had already been completed. Border Television's bafflingly popular marriage quiz show Mr & Mrs, which Derek Batey began hosting in late 1960s, is also in-line for preservation. Stewart said: 'In two hundred years, Mr & Mrs needs to be there so audiences of the future can enjoy it.' The BFI's five-year 'strategic plan,' announced on Tuesday, will see the investment of almost five hundred million knicker for UK film. Its plans include funding for films not aimed for cinema release, devolving more decision making outside London and promoting greater diversity within the industry.
And now, dear blog reader ...
The former US radio DJ David Mueller has denied claims made by Taylor Swift that he allegedly 'assaulted' her during a meet-and-greet with fans. It is the first time that Mueller has spoken about what allegedly happened backstage at a Detroit concert in 2013. Taylor is currently suing Mueller for 'assault and battery' over the incident which, she claims, left her 'shocked and withdrawn.' He has denies the claim that he 'grabbed her bare bottom under her skirt.' The ex-DJ was extremely fired from his job at a Colorado country music station soon after the encounter and he has now spoken about the legal case with Detroit radio show, Mojo In The Morning. The US website TMZ has shared a photo from the meet-and-greet, which Mueller says does not show him groping Taylor. 'I'm trying to get my right hand behind Taylor because [his girlfriend] Shannon was on the other side of Taylor,' be claimed, discussing the photo. 'My other hand was just on my belt or on my pocket. So my right hand, I've got my hand closed and my palm down and I reach behind toward Taylor. Our hands touched and our arms crossed, that's all I remember. It went behind her and her hand went behind me.' Legal documents were shared online in early November which reportedly show a transcript of a court interview between Mueller's lawyers and Swift, where she made her accusations. 'He put his hand under my dress and grabbed my bare ass,' Swift said in them. 'I became shocked and withdrawn and was barely able to say "Thanks for coming," which is what I say to everybody. I was barely able to get the words out. It was like somebody switched the lights off in my personality.' She added that there were four members of her team in the photo booth during the meet-and-greet session and she continued to meet every fan waiting before reporting the incident. Swift's security guard, Greg Dent, claims that he witnessed the assault, shortly before the photo was taken. 'Before the photo was taken is when I saw him go to put his arm around her and him lift up her skirt,' he said during his deposition. 'She reacted, pushed her skirt down and jumped to the side and went closer to the girl that was with him.' 'My hand was never under her skirt, I never grabbed her,' Mueller told Mojo In The Morning. 'My hand was not open. What I was told that night and what I was told the next day were different. What I am hearing now is that I stuck my hand under her skirt and grabbed her bare bottom.' Mueller and his girlfriend were asked to leave the venue after Taylor made a complaint about them, prompting Mueller to pre-emptively contact his lawyers. 'We got in my car and started driving home. I contacted a criminal attorney, I thought for sure I was going to get arrested, I thought for sure I was going to get charges.' After the alleged assault, Mueller lost his job at 98.5 KYGO when the station was 'presented with evidence against him' two days later. An original statement from Taylor Swift's spokeswoman says that his sacking was an 'independent decision' made by his employers after they were presented with evidence against him. Mueller initially sued Swift for slander, leading her to counter sue.
The UK's new fiver has won many fans since it was launched in September. It's pure dead nails, so it is, it doesn't tear no matter how hard you try, you can spill beer on it or put it through the washing machine and it will survive to buy stuff with. But, one thing it turns out it's not, is fat-free. Because the plastic polymer it's made from contains small amounts of tallow, derived from animal waste products - and some vegetarians are not happy about this. Oh dear, pure dead stroppy and aaal discombobulated, so they are. Angry vegetarians. There's a collective sure to have Those In Power shatting in their own keks. Familiar to previous generations as the base for everyday staples such as soap and candles, tallow is traditionally derived from beef or mutton (though, sometimes pork) at the slaughterhouse or later in the food production process. Vegans and vegetarians faced with this revelation have now taken to social media to 'voice their concern' (or, slightly more accurately, some people whom you've never heard of have been whinging about this on Twitter) and over forty thousand people (or, stupid bloody arseholes if you want the technical term) have signed a petition calling for the contents of the notes to be changed. Which they're not going to be so those forty thousand people have just wasted their time and, indeed, everyone elses. But, to be fair, watching their red-faced apoplexy was quite funny to watch. 'We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use,' the petition demands, demandingly. Which will, of course, be totally ignored just as all Internet petition are.
However others have responded with rather more tongue-in-cheek approach, suggesting an 'essence of bacon' is desirable in the UK's currency, speculating how many calories a fiver now contains and offering to 'relieve' any affronted vegetarians of their, now-seemingly unwanted, notes. Some British Hindu leaders said that they would 'discuss' a possible ban on five pound notes from temples. Hindus advocate the practice of ahiṃsā (non-violence) and respect for all life because divinity is believed to permeate all beings. Jewish leaders, whose religion also embraces restrictions on the use of animal products, are 'less concerned' about the new banknotes. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Simon Round, told the BBC: 'The five pound notes wouldn't cause any problem to Jews unless they try to eat them.' Which isn't recommended, incidentally. 'Jews are not allowed to consume tallow but are permitted to handle it.' The Bank of England so far has adopted a somewhat sanguine approach to the furore, in so much as they have, publicly, avoided laughing at the stupid arseholes making so much fuss over such a blindingly unimportant thing as this nonsense: 'We can confirm that the polymer pellet from which the base substrate is made contains a trace of a substance known as tallow,' it said in a statement. So far, it has no plans to draw up a new recipe. So, if there's any mad vegetarians out there who are offended by the very thought of touching a fiver, this blogger will be delighted to take them off your hands.
Radio Caroline has applied for its first permanent AM waveband licence. Peter Moore, who runs the ship-based broadcaster wants to broadcast from its ship MV Ross Revenge on the River Blackwater in Essex. The application, to Ofcom, coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the law which made the 'pirate' station illegal. Radio Caroline was founded in 1964 to play pop music and continued to broadcast until it was shipwrecked off the Kent coast in 1991. The proposed AM signal would serve Essex and Suffolk, an area catered for by the station in its early years. The 1967 Marine Broadcasting Offences Act rendered Radio Caroline, which broadcast from international waters, illegal. Moore said that he hoped to hear the outcome of the application next year, which will be the fiftieth anniversary of the act. Radio Caroline currently operates as an Internet and digital radio station. An Ofcom spokesman confirmed an application from Radio Caroline was 'being reviewed.'
Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, has been evacuated from the South Pole after falling ill. The eighty six-year-old former astronaut was visiting Antarctica in a tourist group and was evacuated to the US Antarctic Programme's research centre. The White Desert tour company said that Buzz was 'stable under the care of a doctor.' The evacuation flight was provided by the National Science Foundation who said Buzz was 'ailing.' In a statement on their website, White Desert said Buzz's condition had 'deteriorated.' They said Buzz was evacuated 'as a precaution' and had been 'accompanied by a member of his team.'
The Cassini spacecraft is beginning the end phases of its mission to Saturn. Having spent twelve years flying around the ringed planet and its many moons at a relatively safe distance, the probe is now about to undertake a series of daredevil manoeuvres. These will see the satellite repeatedly dive extremely close to - and, indeed, through - the ring system over the next nine months. The manoeuvres will culminate in Cassini dumping itself in the atmosphere of the giant planet and being destroyed. This ending is necessary because the spacecraft is running low on fuel. NASA, which leads the Cassini mission, needs to make sure that an out-of-control probe cannot, at some future date, crash into any of Saturn's moons - in particular, Enceladus and Titan. There is a chance these moons may harbour life and, however remote the possibility, a colliding satellite could introduce contamination from Earth. This, of course, must not be allowed to happen. But in the lead up to its safe disposal - set for 15 September next year - Cassini should gather some more remarkable data. Starting on Wednesday, Cassini will repeatedly climb high above Saturn's North pole before then plunging to a point just outside the F ring (the outer boundary of the main ring system). The probe will do twenty such orbits, even sampling some of the particles and gasses associated with the F ring. Starting on 22 April next year, Cassini will then initiate a series of dives that take it in between the inner edge of the rings and the planet's atmosphere. On occasion, it could pass less than two thousand kilometres above Saturn's clouds. As well as returning some spectacular imagery of the rings and moonlets previously seen only from a distance, these upcoming manoeuvres are designed to permit close-up investigation of Saturn's interior. 'One of the big outstanding questions at Saturn, for example, is: we don't know how long a day is. We have a large error. It's 10.7 hours plus or minus 0.2 hours,' said magnetic field instrument principal investigator, Professor Michele Dougherty. 'Come and ask me afterwards but I think what we learn about the internal structure of the planet could be among the great discoveries of mission,' the Imperial College scientist told BBC News. Interestingly, many of the unknowns at Saturn are similar to the ones also now being pursued by NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter - fascinating mysteries such as whether there is a solid core at the planet's centre. 'It's as if we're about to do a whole new mission at Saturn - a Juno-type mission at Saturn,' said Dougherty. Cassini is a cooperative venture between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency. The probe launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in July 2004. Key discoveries have included the determination that Enceladus is spewing water into space from a sub-surface ocean and that Titan is a strange Earth-like world where lakes and seas are fed by rivers and rain - except that all the liquid is made up of hydrocarbons such as methane.
Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021. Research ministers meeting in Lucerne this week have agreed to stump up the outstanding four hundred and thirty six million Euros needed to take the project through to completion. The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it. But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it. They have also said that European participation in the International Space Station should run until at least 2024, bringing ESA into line with its partners on the orbiting laboratory - the US, Russia, Japan and Canada. This will open new opportunities for European astronauts to visit the station and it was announced here that Italian Luca Parmitano has been proposed to take up a tour in 2019. The Ministerial Council was convened to set the policies, programmes and funding for ESA over the next three to five years. Officials at the agency had put a menu before member state delegations valued at some eleven billion Euros, covering all manner of activities ranging from rockets and Earth observation to big data management and satellite navigation. At the end of one and a half days of deliberations, the twenty two governments agreed to fund €10.3bn. 'This is a big amount of money that really allows us to go forward,' said Professor Jan Woerner, the director general of ESA. 'We need inspiration for the future. Inspiration is a driver, and from inspiration and fascination come motivation. And for me, it's very clear we are responsible for the motivation of the next generation to create the future.' The rover is the second part in a two-step programme known as ExoMars, which is being run jointly with the Russians to explore the possibility of life on the Red Planet. The first part has just seen a satellite arrive at Mars to investigate trace gases in the atmosphere that may be coming from microbes somewhere on the world. In the second phase, a robotic rover would follow up these studies by drilling below Mars' dusty surface to try to detect the organisms directly. But repeated delays in the vehicle's development have increased costs and undermined confidence in the whole endeavour. Ministers were asked here to 'reassert their faith' in the mission and close the sizeable financial shortfall that has built up. This they did, committing three hundred and thirty nine million Euros to cover industry costs on the rover and its associated hardware (ESA is finding another ninety seven million Euros internally). Italy and the UK, which are the lead nations on ExoMars, offered the most - one hundred and seventy one million Euros and eighty two million Euros respectively. 'Completion of ExoMars was probably the most challenging of our discussions because of the size of the additional resources that have been put on the table,' said Professor Roberto Battiston, the president of the Italian space agency. 'But this was justified by the detailed analysis presented by ESA. We are covering about forty five per cent of the total cost of the mission, which makes us the country that is particularly sensitive to the cost of it.' Doctor David Parker, ESA's director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said that member states stepped up because they continued to view the rover's science as being compelling. 'Nobody else is doing the science that is planned for ExoMars, drilling below the surface of the planet for the first time, below the soil that is irradiated, with a suite of instruments that is actually directly looking for signs of past or present life,' he told BBC News. Britain came to the meeting looking to invest heavily in those areas that feed back into its industrial interests. This meant making big commitments in satellite telecommunications, in commercial services that involve space data and applications, in Earth observation satellites, and in navigation. In telecoms and navigation, the UK is the number one nation in ESA. But Britain also put the most into the environmental sciences, which means it now leads ESA in Earth observation as well. 'It's a story about recognising where the new market opportunities are,' said Doctor Alice Bunn, the UK Space Agency's director of policy. 'We've seen it in telecommunications, but we're seeing it now also in navigation where there is potentially a thirty billion Euros market out there in new types of services. And hot on the heels of navigation are opportunities in Earth observation, and we want to position ourselves on the front foot for that.' And to underline the five year €1.4bn total commitment that the UK gave to ESA in Lucerne, science minister Jo Johnson signed an agreement with Woerner to expand activities at ESA's European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, based in Oxfordshire.
A proposed 'private' space mission is planning to visit Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon. A German team wants to land a pair of rovers on the lunar surface to inspect the buggy left behind in 1972 on the last crewed mission to the Moon. Which, if nothing else, should put an end to those tiresome 'NASA hoaxed it' conspiracy theories. Should, but probably won't. The group, called PT Scientists, is one of sixteen teams vying for the thirty million dollars Google Lunar X-Prize. It has signed a deal with launch broker Spaceflight Inc to secure a ride on a commercial launcher. The XPrize will award the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the Moon that travels more than five hundred metres and transmits back high-definition images and video. Spaceflight Inc will place the mission with a commercial launcher, but it is not yet known which one. The PT Scientists team has been working with German car manufacturer Audi on the solar-powered rovers, which will be capable of sending back high-definition video. The rovers are expected to touch down three to five kilometres from the Apollo 17 landing site in the Moon's Taurus-Littrow valley. It will then drive to within two hundred metres of the lunar rover and 'inspect it remotely.' NASA guidelines stipulate that missions should land at least two kilometres away from 'US space agency heritage sites' and not approach closer than two hundred metres in order to 'avoid the risk of damage to these historic locations.' The rover's cameras should be able to assess the condition of the Apollo buggy and how it has fared in the Moon's harsh environment - including damage from micro-meteorites.
Bletchley Park, the site of secret code-deciphering projects during World War Two, could become the centre for a new generation of codemakers and codebreakers. There are plans for a training college to teach cybersecurity skills to sixteen to nineteen year olds at the Buckinghamshire site. Former home secretary Lord Reid said that it had become vital to build up the 'talent pool' for cyber-defence. The college, in a wartime building at Bletchley, is intended to open in 2018. Developed by a non-profit group from the cybersecurity industry, it would open as a boarding college, with around ten per cent of places for day students. The National College of Cybersecurity would be free to all students, who would be selected as 'gifted and talented.' The BBC reports that candidates would not need to meet specific academic qualifications, but would be 'selected through aptitude tests, or on the basis of exceptional technology skills' - such as self-taught coders or students who dabble in making their own websites. The students would work towards a potential variety of qualifications including A levels or Extended Project Qualification. Around forty per cent of the curriculum would be devoted to cybersecurity - with extra focus on maths, physics, computer science or economics. There have been repeated warnings about the lack of a skilled workforce for cybersecurity in the UK, despite a rising number of sophisticated cyber-attacks. A spokesperson for the GCHQ intelligence agency welcomed such 'initiatives that promote and develop skills in cybersecurity.' 'The concept of a sixth-form college is interesting, especially if it can provide a pathway for talented students from schools that are not able to provide the support they need,' the spokesperson added. The project plans to use G-Block, built in 1943, on the Bletchley Park site as the base for the college, with a five million smackers restoration project for the building. Bletchley House was Britain's best kept secret for decades. No one was allowed to talk about the work that was carried out there during World War Two - and it was not until a veteran intelligence officer, Fred Winterbotham, went public in 1974 with his book The Ultra Secret that its existence became more widely known. During the war, it housed the Government Code and Cypher School which worked on cracking the military codes that secured German, Japanese and other enemy nation's communications. The work of the wartime team, which included the computer scientist Alan Turing, heralded the dawn of the information age - creating the world's first computer, Colossus - and was famed for breaking the German Enigma and Lorenz encryption systems. After the war, some of the staff stayed on in a new organisation, Government Communications Headquarters. Now one of three UK intelligence and security agencies, along with MI5 and MI6, GCHQ works to keep the UK safe. GCHQ credits its 'particularly strong' relationship with its US equivalent, the National Security Agency, to the collaboration it began at Bletchley Park and agreements it signed at the end of World War Two. Bletchley Park was decommissioned in 1987 after a fifty year association with British Intelligence, which relocated GCHQ to Cheltenham. There are also smaller sites in Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Manchester. In 1991, moves to demolish the site sparked an eight year battle to save Bletchley Park and keep its wartime story alive. The Bletchley Park Trust is now working on a ten-year plan to transform the site into a world-class museum and education centre. The plan for training a new generation of codebreakers at Bletchley comes from a group called Qufaro, set up by cybersecurity representatives, including from Cyber Security Challenge UK, The National Museum of Computing and BT Security. Funding and development comes from Qufaro in collaboration with the Cyber Security Challenge UK - a government and industry backed-competition that seeks people with the the skills needed to help the UK beat back cyber criminals, hacktivists and terrorists. It also has the backing of City and Guilds, which provides vocational qualifications.
Duran Duran - remember them? - have said that they are 'shocked, outraged and saddened' at losing a High Court fight to reclaim US rights to some of their most famous songs. 'We are shocked, outraged and saddened that English contract law is being used to overturn artists' rights in another territory,' said Nick Rhodes. He's the keyboard player, not one of the famous ones. The group had sought to terminate the grant to Gloucester Place Music Ltd, part of EMI Music Publishing, of US copyrights in their first three LPs. Duran Duran, Rio and Seven & The Ragged Tiger - contained some of the band's biggest hits. 'A View To A Kill', the theme song to the 1985 James Bond film of the same name, was among other songs that the band had sought to reclaim. But, lawyers for Gloucester Place Music Ltd successfully argued that English laws of contract stopped them from doing so. Leaving Duran Duran 'shocked, outraged and saddened.' Which is sad. Probably.

The long and varied career of Andrew Sachs whose death was announced this week at the age of eighty six was ultimately defined by Fawlty Towers. His performance as the well-meaning but inept Spanish waiter, Manuel, was one of the highlights of the series. In a state of constant confusion - and with a tenuous grasp of English syntax - he was invariably the convenient target of Basil Fawlty's incandescent fury at everybody and everything. John Cleese led tributes to his late co-star, describing Andrew as 'a brilliant farceur' and 'a sweet, sweet man.' But, that was just one role in seven decades of acting which spanned comedy, classical and dramatic roles. He was born Andreas Siegfried Sachs in April 1930 in Berlin. His insurance broker father was Jewish while his mother, who worked as a librarian, was a Catholic of part-Austrian ancestry. Nazism was already on the rise in Germany and Andrew's father was arrested by the authorities in 1938, although he was later released after an intervention by a family friend in the police. The incident was enough to persuade the Sachs family to flee Germany and move to North London. They lived in Kilburn, for a while acting as caretakers in the house of the noted anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowski. Sachs later recalled being fascinated, at the age of ten, by piles of images of naked women which he came across while exploring the house. Andrew was a keen cinema-goer in his teens and auditioned for RADA but only had enough money to complete two terms. By the time he had left school he had already appeared in a bit part in the Ealing Comedy Hue & Cry. But National Service in a tank regiment and shilly-shallying by RADA meant that his formal training was limited. He eventually secured an assistant stage manager's job at a theatre in Bexhill-on-Sea. He then endured the gruelling routine of rep, performing a play one week while, at the same time, learning lines and rehearsing for a completely different production the next. Eventually he secured a job as stage manager at the Liverpool Playhouse. A move to the Globe in London followed, where he was spotted by the producer and actor Brian Rix, who signed Andrew to appear in his noted Whitehall Farces. This gave Sachs more stable employment and a base to map out his future career. A tenacious individual, Andrew bombarded the BBC with material and requests for auditions. He was eventually hired by the Corporation where he wrote scripts, appeared in a number of radio productions - including Private Dreams & Public Nightmares by Frederick Bradnum, an early experimental programme made by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - and, on occasion, worked for the BBC German Service. His film debut - in a speaking role - came in the 1959 comedy, The Night They Dropped A Clanger, which also starred his mentor Brian Rix and William Hartnell. He followed this with a minor part in another Rix film, Nothing Barred. But despite a steady stream of work his profile remained relatively low. He had a leading role in a 1962 BBC drama, The Six Proud Walkers and there there were appearances in a number of 1960s TV series, including The Saint, Legend Of Death, Fraud Squad, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Callan. He appeared in the 1973 film, Hitler: The Last Ten Days, featuring Alec Guinness as the dictator shut up in his bunker. Andrew didn't miss the irony of a half-Jewish actor playing Walter Wagner, the Nazi lawyer who married Hitler to his mistress, Eva Braun, shortly before the pair committed suicide. Andrew encountered John Cleese around the same time when both men were working on a series of training films. When Cleese finally managed to persuade the BBC to make Fawlty Towers, Sachs got the part that catapulted him into the public eye. It wasn't an easy role. He twice suffered injuries, once when Basil attacked him with a metal saucepan - Cleese wanted to use a rubber one but was overruled by the producer, John Howard Davies - and once during the kitchen fire episode in The Germans. A chemical on Andrew's costume, designed to emit smoke, proved to be corrosive and ate its way into his skin as he suffered second degree burns. Andrew revealed: 'They took the jacket off and my shoulders, arms and back were plum-coloured due to acid burns from the chemicals. I was taken to first aid and then sent to a burns specialist in Harley Street. The scars were there for five years. I did get seven hundred and fifty pounds compensation. That's why I'm so rich!' Much of the comedy in Fawlty Towers revolved around Manuel's shaky grasp of English - 'I learn eet from a boooook' - which made him incapable of understanding the simplest of instructions from his ever-irritated employer. Cleese's break-up with his then-wife, Connie Booth, who co-wrote the scripts, meant that only twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers were made over two series. They have become comedy classics and are regularly repeated four decades after they first appeared. Sachs also reprised his role of Manuel in one of the early episodes of Not The Nine O'Clock News, taking virtually the entire episode to get the opening joke concerning Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens. Andrew also recorded four singles in character as Manuel: 'Adios Espana', 'Manuel's Good Food Guide', 'O Cheryl' and a cover version of Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap You Face'. None of them charted. In 1978 Sachs, inspired by a meeting with the playwright Tom Stoppard, wrote an experimental drama - The Revenge - in which all the action was conveyed by sound effects rather than dialogue. It was first broadcast on Radio 3 with Andrew in the leading role. It puzzled many critics, one of whom opined that it stood for 'all that was wrong in contemporary radio drama.' Although there were further TV appearances, notably as the title character in the BBC adaptation of HG Wells's The History Of Mr Polly and in Rising Damp, Dead Ernest, Bergerac, Minder, Every Silver Lining, The Mushroom Picker and the sitcom There Comes A Time, Andrew's distinctive voice made him a natural for radio and TV voiceovers. He played Father Brown in a Radio 4 adaptation of GK Chesterton's detective priest stories, as well as radio versions of Sherlock Holmes (as Doctor Watson) and PG Wodehouse's The Code Of The Woosters (as Jeeves). On TV he did voice-work on the cult Japanese import Monkey. He was also much in demand for narration, notably all five series of The Troubleshooter, which featured John Harvey-Jones as the businessman aiding struggling companies and ITV's ... From Hell series. Andrew's voice has also appeared on a number of audio books, including some Thomas The Tank Engine stories. In 1996, Sachs portrayed Albert Einstein in an episode of the American PBS series NOVA. A year later, he appeared opposite Shane Richie in Chris Barfoot's movie Dead Clean, a tale of mistaken identity in which Andrew played an airport window cleaner hired to assassinate a businessman by his greedy partner. In 2000, Sachs narrated the spoof documentary series That Peter Kay Thing. Andrew had several roles in Doctor Who-related productions. He played Skagra in the webcast and audio version of the infamous, 'lost' Tom Baker story Shada and in 2008 he played the elderly version of The Doctor's former companion Adric, in another Big Finish audio, The Boy That Time Forgot. (Rumour has it that during the 1980s, Sachs had submitted his name to be considered for the part of the Seventh Doctor but, like Ken Campbell and Tony Robinson - among others - he lost out on the part to Sylvester McCoy.) In October 2008, Andrew found himself, unwillingly, back in the news when he discovered obscene messages on his phone from the presenter Jonathan Ross and the comedian Russell Brand. The messages referred to Sachs's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie (a member of a burlesque dance group called Satanic Sluts Extreme), with whom Brand claimed to have had a relationship. It came at a difficult time for Andrew, whose wife, Melody, had just been taken to hospital with a broken hip. When the Scum Mail on Sunday decided to stir up trouble and published the story in typically over-the-top 'shock! horror! pictures!'-style article there was an avalanche of complaints - mostly from people who hadn't even heard the original radio show on which the prank call had been made - which ultimately led to the suspension of Ross and Brand and the resignation of the controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas. The BBC later issued an unreserved apology to Sachs and his family. In 2009 Sachs made his debut on Coronation Street, as Ramsay Clegg. With the Australian pianist Victor Sangiorgio, Andrew toured with a two-man show called Life After Fawlty, which included Richard Strauss's voice and piano setting of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden. 2012 saw his last major role, as Bobby Swanson in the movie Quartet. He continued to work on TV and radio well into his eighties. 'Oh yes, I just like it,' he said. 'And because I've done quite well in the business, I don't want to give it up.' Sachs was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2012, which eventually left him unable to speak and forced him to use a wheelchair. His autobiography, I Know Nothing! was published in 2015. In 1960, Andrew married Melody Lang, herself an actress who appeared in one episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil The Rat. He adopted her two sons from a previous marriage, John and William and they have a daughter, Kate.

As the country mourns the death of Andrew Sachs, some people have - rightly - drawn attention to the astonishingly ignorant story placement on the front page of Friday's Daily Scum Mail. The Scum Mail, you see, placed the 'exclusive' story of Andrew's death in a box on their front page with the headline: Farewell Manuel, king of crackpot comedy. But many have suggested that there was not a tiny bit of irony in the placement of the story there next to the front page splash, with a headline proclaiming Migrant numbers hit new records and a sub-headline which read: Official figures reveal more arrive from across Europe than ever before. Because, of course, Andrew himself was a refugee from Europe. And, so was the most famous character he played. Hateful, sick hypocrisy? From the Daily Scum Mail? Surely not?
The actor Keo Woolford, best known for appearing in the Hawaii Five-0 remake as Detective James Chang, has died at the age of forty nine. He died on Monday at a hospital in Hawaii, three days after suffering a stroke, his publicist said. On stage, Woolford played the King of Siam in The King & I opposite Elaine Paige in London's West End in 2001 and 2002. He also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning 2013 independent film The Haumana. Woolford received a special jury prize at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival for best first feature for the movie. He had just completed the script for a sequel and auditions were set to begin in January, his publicist Tracy Larrua said. He also had small roles in films including Falling For Grace, the 2014 remake of Godzilla and Happy, Texas.
The director Ken Grieve has died at the age of seventy four. For Doctor Who Ken Grieve directed the first story of series seventeen, Destiny Of The Daleks, which saw the reintroduction of The Daleks and Davros to the series, after a gap of four years. It was the last script written for the series by The Daleks creator, Terry Nation, although the story was heavily rewritten by the series' Script Editor, Douglas Adams. Ken Grieve was born in Edinburgh in 1942. After training as a cameraman, he moved into directing, working on episodes of the soap opera Coronation Street, with over forty episodes to his credit. He directed the location film footage of Manchester used in the Coronation Street opening titles used between 1976 and 1990, which famously included the first 'Corrie cat.' As well as Doctor Who his credits also included The XYY Man, Strangers, The Omega Factor, Send In The Girls, Buccaneer, Crown Court, Game, Set, and Match, Bergerac, Bugs, Peak Practice, Bulman, Moon & Son, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, The Bill and Casualty. He taught at the National Film School and the Manchester Film School. Ken died peacefully, on Tuesday 15 November after a long illness. He is survived by his long-term partner Jane, his four children and three grandchildren.
The man who invented the McDonald's Big Mac burger has died, aged ninety eight. In 1967, Michael Delligatti, known to his friends as Jim, came up with the formula of having two lots of everything - beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and special sauce - in one burger. So, if you're a big fat bastard like this blogger dear blog reader, chances are, it was Delligatti's fault. Or your own, one or the other. He was one of the company's first franchisees, running stores in the US in the 1950s. McDonald's has described him as 'a legendary person,' who 'made a lasting impression on our brand.' The Big Mac had seven ingredients and was much more elaborate than the other dishes the franchise was serving at the time. As well as its size, the burger is also famed for its so-called 'secret sauce.' This sauce is known to contain ingredients such as salted egg yolks, mustard, onion, garlic and relish, but recreating the exact mix is a challenge. A bottle of it was auctioned last year, attracting bids of more than twelve thousand knicker from somebody with more money than sense. Probably. Fast food isn't traditionally associated with healthy eating though. The Big Mac as a whole contains five hundred and eight of yer actual Earth calories in the UK and is now sold in more than one hundred countries around the world.
Having sexual contact with an animal is a step closer to becoming illegal in Ohio after the state Senate voted on Wednesday to strengthen Ohio law. Ohio is one of just a handful of states that doesn’t have an actual law outlawing bestiality on the books.