Saturday, January 28, 2017

I'm Afraid Of Americans

Few British actors of recent years have been held in as much affection by the general public as Sir John Hurt, who died this week at the age of seventy seven. That affection was not merely of the 'he was a bit of a character, wasn't he?'-type because of his often unruly lifestyle – John was a hell-raising friend and drinking buddy of the likes of Oliver Reed, Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris and was married four times – or even his string of outstanding performances as damaged, frail or vulnerable characters, though these were certainly a factor. There was something about his innocence, his open-heartedness and his beautiful speaking voice which made him instantly attractive to a broad spectrum of cinema and theatres goers and television viewers. As he aged, his face developed more creases and folds than a crumpled shirt, inviting comparisons with the famous 'lived-in' faces of, for example, WH Auden or Samuel Beckett, in the latter of whose reminiscent Krapp's Last Tape John gave a definitive solo performance towards the end of his career. One critic said that John Hurt could pack 'a whole emotional universe into the twitch of an eyebrow' or 'a sardonic slackening of the mouth.' As John once said of himself: 'What I am now, the man, the actor, is a blend of all that has happened to me.' Sir John's wife, Anwen, led tributes to the veteran actor. She said that he had brought 'joy and magic' to the everyone he met and it would be a 'strange world without him.' He had recently starred as Father Richard McSorley in Jackie, the movie biopic of John Kennedy's wife. Despite being given the all-clear from cancer, last year he pulled out of Sir Kenneth Branagh's stage production of The Entertainer on the advice of his doctors. Lady Hurt confirmed that John had died on Wednesday of this week at the family home in Norfolk.
For theatregoers of a previous generation, his pulverising, hysterically funny performance as Malcolm Scrawdyke, leader of The Party Of Dynamic Erection at a Yorkshire art college, in David Halliwell's Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against The Eunuchs, was a totemic role of the mid-1960s. John also appeared in the 1974 film version of Little Malcolm. The play had lasted only two weeks at The Garrick Theatre on its original run, but John's performance was already a minor cult and was one watched by The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) and Laurence Olivier among others. George Harrison was a particular fan, attending the opening night at The Garrick with Patti Boyd and Brian Epstein and, later, co-producing the 1974 movie adaptation.
     Despite, by then, being a screen veteran of a decade, John became something of an overnight sensation with the public at large as Quentin Crisp – the self-confessed 'stately homo of England' – in the award-winning 1975 television film The Naked Civil Servant, directed by Jack Gold, playing the outrageous, original and defiant aesthete whom Hurt had first encountered as a nude model in his painting classes at St Martin's School of Art, before he trained as an actor. Crisp called John 'my representative here on Earth', ironically claiming a divinity at odds with his low-life louche-ness and abject poverty. But John, a vision of ginger quiffs and curls and with a voice studiously inflected as a deadpan mix of Noël Coward and Julian Clary, in a way propelled Quentin to the stars and certainly to his transatlantic fame A journey which was summarised when Hurt reprised the role portraying Crisp's later life in An Englishman In New York (2009), ten years after Crisp's death.
John said that some of his friends and many industry insiders had advised him that playing Crisp could end his career - homosexuality was, after all, still something of a taboo subject for television in the mid-seventies. Instead, it made everything possible for John afterwards. Within five years he had appeared in four of the most extraordinary movies of the era. There was Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), the brilliantly acted SF horror in which John – from whose stomach the creature exploded – was the initial victim. There was Alan Parker's Midnight Express, for which he won his first BAFTA as a drug-addicted convict in a Hellish Turkish prison. Michael Cimino's Western Heaven's Gate (1980) was a costly White Elephant which, effectively, caused the closure of the studio which produced it (United Artists) but is now, rightly, regarded as something of a cult classic in its fully restored format. And, perhaps most memorably of all, John was breathtaking in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980), with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. In the latter, as Merrick, the deformed circus freak who becomes a celebrity - and moral compass - in Victorian society and medicine, John won a second BAFTA and Lynch's much-quoted opinion that he was 'the greatest actor in the world.' John infused a hideous outer appearance – there were reportedly twenty seven moving pieces in his face mask and he spent nine hours a day in make-up – with a deeply moving, humane quality which made the film's most famous line, 'I am not an animal, I am a human being!' even more affecting. He followed that with a small role – Jesus – in Mel Brooks's History Of The World: Part 1 (1981), the movie where the waiter at The Last Supper says, 'Are you all together, or is it separate cheques?'
John Vincent Hurt was an actor freed of all convention in his choice of roles and he lived his life accordingly. Born in Chesterfield in January 1940, he was the youngest of three children of a Church of England vicar and mathematician, the Reverend Arnould Herbert Hurt and his wife, Phyllis, an engineer with an enthusiasm for amateur dramatics. Hurt's father had been the vicar of St John's parish, Sunderland but, in 1937, he moved his family to Derbyshire, where he became Perpetual Curate of Holy Trinity Church. When John was five, his father became the vicar of St Stephen's Church in Woodville and the family remained there until 1952. John had a strict upbringing; the family lived opposite a cinema, but he was not allowed to see movies there. He was also not permitted to mix with most of the local children because his of parents' class snobbery. 'My parents' lot had literally crawled away from the Second World War, taking with them two vital commodities by way of a survival mechanism: respectability and security,' he later said. 'It was odd, coming from a Christian household, but the big thing was about not being what they called "common". I got all that, "Don't play with him, he's common". I had a friend called Grenville Barker who'd come round sometimes and play football on the lawn, but not very often. And, I wasn't allowed to go to his home very often because they were working class. He was what my mother called "a bad influence." Everything had to do with influence. My mother was desperate that I should be properly influenced, have a proper, received accent, be sent away to school at eight. So all you can do is go into yourself, immerse yourself in your own life.' Much of the details of his early life were revealed in a wonderfully emotional episode of the BBC genealogical series Who Do You Think You Are?, which investigated parts of John's family history. Prior to participating in the programme, John had harboured a great love of Ireland and was enamoured of 'a deeply beguiling' family legend which suggested his great-grandmother, Emma Stafford, had been the illegitimate daughter of a Marquess of Sligo. The genealogical evidence uncovered seemed to contradict the legend and John seemed crushingly disappointed (if, ultimately, philosophical). The search actually revealed that John's great-grandmother had previously lived in Grimsby, at a location within a mile of the art college at which Hurt had himself been a student. The episode also featured John's older brother, Michael, a Roman Catholic monk and author with whom John had a close relationship and to whose written work John made occasional contributed. The pair also had a sister, Monica.
After a miserable schooling at St Michael's Boarding School in Sevenoaks (where John claimed that he was sexually abused) and then Lincoln Grammar School (where he played Lady Bracknell in The Importance Of Being Earnest), John 'rebelled' and became an art student, firstly at Grimsby where, in 1959, he won a scholarship to St Martin's College, before her switched vocation and trained to be an actor at RADA from 1960.' St Michael's was one of those very rarefied, very Anglo-Catholic establishments where they rejoiced in more religious paraphernalia and theatricality than the entire Vatican,' he recalled. 'More incense-swinging, more crucifixes, more gold tassels, more rose petals, more holy mothers, more God-knows-what. Three times a day they played the Angelus. When you heard it, you had to stop whatever you were doing, do the Hail Marys in your head and then return to what you were doing. Like it would come in the middle of a Latin class. I'm just conjugating the love verb, amo, amas, amat and doingggg! you have to stand up, go through the whole Angelus, mother-of-God thing and then crack on with amamus, amatis, amant. Sir! Because, if you didn't, Whack! Cane. Belt. Education by fear. And, the really funny thing was they wouldn't tolerate bullying between peers. Prefects could bash you with a slipper, but you weren't allowed to give each other a rough time. Like who do you think you are? You haven't yet earned the privilege of being violent.' John made his stage debut whilst still at RADA with The Royal Shakespeare Company, playing a psychotic teenage thug in Fred Watson's Infanticide In The House Of Fred Ginger and then joined the cast of Arnold Wesker's national service play, Chips With Everything, at The Vaudeville. Still with the RSC, he was Len in Harold Pinter's The Dwarfs (1963) before playing the title role in John Wilson's Hamp (1964) at the Edinburgh Festival, where the critic Caryl Brahms noted John's 'unusual ability' and 'blessed quality of simplicity.' Hurt recalled rehearsing with Pinter when silver salvers stacked with gins and tonics, ice and lemon, would arrive at 11.30 each morning. Once, upon receiving a rude notice from the Daily Scum Mail's Peter Lewis, John wrote to the critic: 'Dear Mr Lewis, Whooops! Yours sincerely, John Hurt' and received the equally curt reply, 'Dear Mister Hurt, thank you for short-but-tedious letter. Yours sincerely, Peter Lewis.' By this time John had made both small-screen and film debuts. His first movie was The Wild & The Willing (1962), though his first major role was as Richard Rich in A Man For All Seasons (1966). Later, he played Timothy Evans, the innocent man who was wrongly hanged for the serial murders committed by his landlord, John Christie, in the acclaimed Ten Rillington Place (1971), earning John his first BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. On TV, he first appeared in a small but memorable role in a 1962 episode of the BBC's Z Cars and, as a jobbing actor during the following decade, his CV would also include appearances in Probation Officer, One Aboard The Lugger, First Night, Armchair Theatre, Wessex Tales, The Playboy Of The Western World, Shades Of Green, Play For Today and The Sweeney.
After Little Malcolm, he played leading roles with The RSC at The Aldwych – notably in David Mercer's Belcher's Luck (1966) and as the madcap dadaist Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard's Travesties (1974) – as well as Octavius in Shaw's Man & Superman in Dublin in 1969 and a 1972 revival of Pinter's The Caretaker at The Mermaid. But his stage work over the following ten years was virtually non-existent as he followed The Naked Civil Servant with another pyrotechnical television performance as Caligula in I, Claudius, Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment and The Fool to Olivier's King Lear in Michael Elliott's 1983 television adaptation. John's Caligula was a proper tour de force, one of his most memorable performances of a career full of them. A vain, sniggering - if, occasionally terrifyingly lucid - expression of absolute power corrupting absolutely (and insanely), the scene at the end of one episode as Caligula walks out of the room in which he has - off-screen - just cut the unborn foetus from the stomach of his pregnant sister and eaten it, his face smeared in blood and calmly tells his Uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) 'don't go in there,' is as powerful a moment as television drama has ever produced. In a documentary about the series, I Claudius: A Television Epic (2002), John revealed that he had originally declined the role when it was offered to him, but that the director Herbert Wise had invited him to a pre-production party, hoping John would change his mind. John was, he said, so impressed by meeting the rest of the cast and crew that he did reverse his decision.
John claimed to have made one hundred and fifty movies in his career and persisted in playing those he called 'the unloved, people like us, the inside-out people, who live their lives as an experiment, not as a formula.' Even his Ben Gunn-like professor in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008) fitted into this category, though not as resoundingly, perhaps, as his man-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown Winston Smith in Michael Radford's terrific adaptation of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four or as a prissy weak Stephen Ward, in Michael Caton-Jones's under-rated Scandal (1989) about the Profumo affair. Or, as the lonely writer Giles De'Ath in Richard Kwietniowski's Love & Death On Long Island.
Along with fame, of course, came a few misguided ventures generally unworthy of his talent. Such brilliant work as his touching performance as the steeplechase jockey Bob Champion successfully battling cancer in Champions (1984) or as a moralistic kidnapper in The Hit (1984) was occasionally offset by such rank drivel as the comedy misfire Partners (1982) with Ryan O'Neal in which John looked enervated and embarrassed. 'I've done some stinkers in the cinema,' he once noted. 'You can't regret it; there are always reasons for doing something, even if it's just the location.' Among those stinkers was the wretched King Ralph in which even a John Hurt appearance could not quite lift the mood of quiet desperation about the entire project. On another occasion he said, wistfully: '"If" and "only" are the two words in the English language that should never be put together!' His later screen work included, in the Harry Potter franchise, the first, Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (2001) and last two, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two as the kindly wand-maker Mister Ollivander, Roland Joffé's 1960s remake of Brighton Rock (2010) and as Control in Tomas Alfredson's big-screen adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He won himself a whole new generation of fans with a superb performance in the fiftieth anniversary episode Doctor Who in 2013, playing a forgotten incarnation of the title character, The War Doctor. 'I had no idea that Doctor Who had got so huge,' he confessed. 'I just thought, "Brilliant, I'll be a Doctor!" I was suddenly - what do they call it? You start "trending." This is all new to me! Of course you have to remember that The Doctors are all one person, so I'm not outside of that. I will say that I was really impressed when I did it. Both the previous Doctors - Matt Smith and David Tennant - boy, are they good at it. They are so quick and there's a huge amount of learning and no time to learn it in. All that fake scientific nonsense. [It's] terribly difficult to learn.'
His later, sporadic theatre performances included Trigorin in Chekhov's The Seagull at The Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1985 (with Natasha Richardson as Nina), Turgenev's incandescent idler Rakitin in a 1994 West End production by Bill Bryden of A Month In The Country, playing a superb duet with Helen Mirren's Natalya Petrovna and another memorable match with Penelope Wilton in Brian Friel's Afterplay (2002), in which two lonely Chekhov characters – Andrei from Three Sisters and Sonya from Uncle Vanya – find mutual consolation in a Moscow café in the 1920s. Because of his distinctive, virtuosic vocal attributes John was always in demand for voice-over gigs in animated movies: the heroic rabbit leader, Hazel, in Watership Down (1978), Aragorn and Strider in Lord Of The Rings (1978) and The Narrator in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2004). In 2015 he took the Peter O'Toole stage role in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell for BBC Radio 4. He also starred in Disney's The Black Cauldron (1985), voicing the film's main antagonist, The Horned King. John provided the voice-over for AIDS: Iceberg/Tombstone, a chilling and well-remembered 1986 public information film warning of the dangers of AIDS and played the title role, the on-screen narrator, in Jim Henson's television series The Story Teller (1988). He had a supporting role as Bird O'Donnell in Jim Sheridan's film The Field (1990), which garnered him another BAFTA nomination and was cast as the reclusive tycoon Hadden in Contact (1997). In 1999, John provided the majority of the narration on The Art of Noise's beautiful orchestral concept CD The Seduction Of Claude Debussy. Other memorable John Hurt appearances included the title role in BBC4's adaptation of The Alan Clark Diaries (opposite Jenny Agutter), cameos in movies as diverse as V For Vendetta, Shooting Dogs, Only Lovers Left Alive and The Oxford Murders, providing the voice of The Owl in The Gruffalo and its sequel, a terrific world-weary turn as James Parkin in the BBC's 2010 version of Whistle & I'll Come To You, The Chorus in The Hollow Crown's Henry V and the voice of The Dragon in the BBC's popular fantasy series Merlin.
In 2012, he said: 'I certainly wouldn't go as far as saying proud, but I'm absolutely amazed I've lasted that long [fifty years]. I knew I wanted to act from a very young age - from about nine, really - but I didn't know how to go about it. The world was a much bigger place then. Also you didn't have the communications we have today: now we've all got the Internet, we know what's going on everywhere. We didn't then. We'd only just got used to the typewriter.' John was a close friend - and neighbour - of the late John Entwistle, the bass player with The Who. John wrote a moving poem about his friend on hearing of his death in Las Vegas and read it at Entwistle's memorial in October 2002. On his own struggles with alcohol, John once said: 'I wasn't like Oliver Reed. He was a competitive drinker. He'd say, "I can drink you under the fucking table." And I'd say: "I'm sure you could, Ollie. But where's the fun in that?"' He had foresworn alcohol during his later years – not for health reasons, he said, but because he was 'bored with it.' In the 1980s John was also a regular visitor to Richard Burton's villa in Céligny on Lake Geneva and dined with Burton in his regular haunt, the Café de la Gare, on the night before Burton died in August 1984.
John's sister was a teacher in Australia and his brother was a convert to Roman Catholicism. After his first, short, marriage to the actress Annette Robinson (1960, divorced 1962) John lived for fifteen years in County Wicklow with the French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere Pierrot. Tragically, she was killed in a riding accident in 1983. In 1984 he married the Texan, Donna Peacock (they were divorced in 1990), living with her for a time in Nairobi until the relationship came under strain from his drinking and her reported dalliance with a gardener. With his third wife, Jo Dalton (whom married in 1990 after they met on the set of Scandal), he had two sons, Nicolas and Alexander, who survive him, as does his fourth wife, the actress and producer Anwen Rees-Myers, whom he married in 2005 and with whom he lived in Cromer. 'People like us, who turn ourselves inside out for a living, we get into an emotional tussle rather than a marriage,' he reflected. 'It's fire I'm playing with and it isn't surprising I'm not the ideal companion on a daily basis. But it takes two. I mean, Christ, I haven't forced anybody!' John was made CBE in 2004, given a BAFTA lifetime achievement award in 2012 and was knighted in the New Year's honours list of 2015. Since 2003, John was a patron of The Proteus Syndrome Foundation. Proteus Syndrome was the condition which the real-life Joseph Merrick is believed to have suffered from. From 2006, John had been a patron of Project Harar, a UK-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements. He was announced as patron of Norwich Cinema City in March 2013. 'We are all racing towards death,' he said in 2014. 'No matter how many great, intellectual conclusions we draw during our lives, we know they're all only man-made, like God. I begin to wonder where it all leads. What can you do, except do what you can do as best you know how?' In an interview last year he said that he had no fear of death. 'I hope I shall have the courage to say, "Vroom! Here we go! Let's become different molecules!" I can't say I worry about mortality, but it's impossible to get to my age and not have a little contemplation of it. We're all just passing time and [we] occupy our chair very briefly.'
TV comedy line of the week came, as usual, from this week's episode of Qi - Numbers. Sandi Toksvig revealed that the tiny Pacific island of Niue (pronounced 'New-ay' just in case you were wondering) despite having a population of just sixteen hundred people and a mere three hundred and eighty seven telephones used to be the world centre for nuisance calls. It seems that in the early 1990s Niue citizens were constantly woken up by 'heavy breathers' because Niue was also the home to an extremely lucrative sex-line business. But, because all of the country's telephone numbers were only four digits, international callers would often get the number they were ringing wrong. 'Maybe it was just a helpline for people with asthma,' suggested that bloody weirdo Noel Fielding (who, despite this blogger normally finding him about as funny as a good hard eye-watering kick in the Jacob's Cream Crackers was, for his third appearance on Qi running, really rather amusing). Belgium was another country that ran sex-lines for a while, Sandi continued. However, when they were banned, many were replaced by 'cookery lines' with recipes that were 'read in the most sexual way possible.' 'What's a sexy recipe?' asked Wor Geet Canny Sarah Millican. 'Toad in the hole,' suggested Alan Davies. Fielding then suggested that he quite fancied a toad in the hole at that moment. 'Last time I had one of them, I had a football under my arm and a catapult in my back pocket. It was two weeks ago!'
At the end of yet another horrible, scary week it was left to yer actual David Tennant - during an appearance on The Last Leg With Adam Hills - to provide us with some necessary reassurance dear blog reader. Thanks, Dave, we really needed that.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, here are the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Six programmes broadcast during the week-ending Sunday 22 January 2017:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 9.78m
2 Silent Witness - Mon BBC1 - 8.56m
3 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 8.21m
4 Coronation Street - Fri ITV - 7.88m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.42m
6 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.02m
7 Apple Tree Yard - Sun BBC1 - 7.01m
8 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 6.99m
9 Still Open All Hours - Sun BBC1 - 6.45m
10 Six O'Clock News - Fri BBC1 - 6.09m
11 The Voice - Sat ITV - 5.83m
12 Let It Shine - Sat BBC1 - 5.73m
13 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.72m
14 Endeavour - Sun ITV - 5.68m
15 Taboo - Sat BBC1 - 5.57m
16 Unforgotten - Thurs ITV - 5.46m
17 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 5.28
18 Spy In The Wild - Thurs BBC1 - 5.21m
19 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.99m
20 The Halcyon - Mon ITV - 4.93m
21 Pointless Z-List Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 4.88m
22 Tina & Bobby - Fri ITV - 4.77m
23 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.50m
24 Not Going Out - Fri BBC1 - 4.47m
25 Holby City - Wed BBC1 - 4.27m
26 Martin Clunes: Islands Of Australia - Tues ITV - 3.96m
These consolidated figures, published by BARB, include all viewers who watched programmes live and on various forms of catch-up and video on demand during the seven days after initial broadcast, but do not include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. Two much-trailed ITV formats, Dance, Dance, Dance and Sugar Free Farm continue to struggle with final audiences of 3.79 million viewers and 3.52 million respectively. Which does rather restore ones faith in the viewing public to know a turd when they're presented with one. On BBC2, the top-rated programme was, as usual, University Challenge with 3.38 million viewers. Hospital was watched by 2.46 million, Pointless by 2.38 million and The Great Interior Design Challenge by 2.29 million. Rick Stein's Long Weekend attracted 2.11 million viewers, followed by Snooker coverage (2.04 million), The World's Most Extraordinary Homes (1.97 million viewers), Mastermind (1.96 million), Only Connect (1.92 million, rather struggling in its new Friday slot as compared to the audiences it was attracting on Mondays), Qi (1.89 million), Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets Of Orkney With Scottish Neil Oliver & His Lovely Hair (1.84 million), An Island Parish: Anguilla (1.75 million), Horizon (1.68 million) and the latest episode of Mister Portaloo's Great Railway Journeys (1.65 million). Jack Dee's Inauguration Helpdesk was watched by 1.52 million. Twenty Four Hours In A&E was Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast (2.32 million), followed by The Undateables (2.26 million), Location, Location, Location (2.02 million) and the first episode of the new series of Homeland (2.01 million). First Dates Hotel was seen by 1.90 million viewers, whilst No Offence continued with 1.89 million. Walking The Americas was watched by 1.74 million viewers and How To Lose Weight Well by 1.72 million. Meet The Trumps: From Immigrant To President, Bell End & Hairdo was seen bu 1.61 million punters. Channel Five's top performer was, Z-List Celebrity Big Brother with 2.45 million, ahead of Lip Sync Battle (1.40 million viewers), GPs: Behind Closed Doors (1.33 million) and Police Interceptors (1.23 million). Horrifyingly, the channel's eight top-rated broadcasts were, once again, all episodes of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother. And then there's people that will try to convince you there's a God. Coverage of the Premier League action between Moscow Chelski FC and Hull City on Sky Sports 1's Live Nissan Super Sunday was seen by 1.29 million punters. The same' day's action between The Arse and Burnley drew 1.13 million whilst Southampton versus Leicester Nil, also on Sunday, was seen by five hundred and forty five thousand. T'Yorkshire derby between T'Dirty Barnsley and T'Even Dirtier Leeds attracted four hundred and three thousand punters (plus their whippets, obviously). Live ODI Cricket between India and England on Sky Sports 2 drew two hundred and eighty three thousand as England, after a very disappointing tour, finally remembered how to win a game. Real Madrid versus Malaga in La Liga was Sky Sports 3's worst-watched programme with forty seven thousand, a fraction ahead of Live T20 Cricket: South Africa Versus Sri Lanka with forty six thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was top of the pile on Sky Sports News HQ with six hundred and twenty one thousand punters and an additional four hundred and forty eight thousand on the Sky Sports 1 simultcast. Now that is 'unbelievable, Jeff.' Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated drama (1.14 million viewers). Doc Martin was seen by seven hundred and forty nine thousand and Agatha Christie's Marple by five hundred and fifty thousand. River Monsters headed ITV4's weekly list with four hundred and seven thousand punters. Die Another Day - which, despite having a reputation lower than rattlesnakes piss with many James bond fans, this blogger's always had something of a soft-spot for - drew three hundred and sixty three thousand viewers. ITV2's most-watched broadcasts were also for movies The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (nine hundred and sixty seven viewers and six hundred and seventy nine thousand respectively) whilst Nanny McPhee: The Big Bang was watched by five hundred and eighty thousand and Hotel Transylvania by five hundred and seventy six thousand. Vera, as usual, headed ITV Encore's top ten with seventy two thousand viewers, ahead of Downton Abbey (forty six thousand) and Poirot (thirty nine thousand). BBC4's list was topped by Britain Beneath Your Feet (six hundred and seventy three thousand), followed by Timeshift: Sword, Musket & Machine Gun (six hundred and twenty three thousand), The Sound Of Musicals With Neil Brand (five hundred and forty six thousand), The Crusades: A Timewatch Guide (five hundred and thirty four thousand) and Top Of The Pops 1983 (five hundred and twenty three thousand). Horizon drew four hundred and seventy four thousand and James May: The Reassembler, four hundred and forty two thousand. Treasures Of The Indus was seen by four hundred and thirty four thousand and Patagonia With Huw Edwards had four hundred and twenty six thousand. Sky1's weekly top-ten was headed by Delicious (1.51 million viewers). Modern Family was seen by eight hundred and twenty five thousand, Hawaii Five-0 by eight hundred and twenty two thousand and NCIS: Los Angeles by eight hundred and eleven thousand. Sky Atlantic's list was topped by Blue Blood (three hundred and eighty seven thousand). The Affair attracted two hundred and eighty five thousand. Obama: The President Who Hoped To Change America had one hundred and forty three thousand. On Sky Living, the latest episode of Elementary was seen by 1.01 million whilst Bones had eight hundred and fifty two thousand, Blindspot drew seven hundred and forty thousand and Conviction attracted five hundred and twenty six thousand. Sky Arts' The Eighties was seen by one hundred and twenty six thousand viewers whilst the first episode of the new series Urban Myths (the Bob Dylan one) had ninety four. 5USA's NCIS was watched by five hundred and nineteen thousand viewers and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by four hundred and ninety thousand. NCIS also topped the weekly lists of CBS Action (one hundred thousand), The Universal Channel (one hundred and eighty thousand) and FOX (nine hundred and sixty two thousand viewers). The second episode of the new Micheal Weatherly-fronted drama, Bull, the popular actor's first since he left NCIS, drew five hundred and forty nine thousand on FOX, even though it was, frankly, awful. That means it lost approximately a quarter of the punters it had for its opening episode (seven hundred thousand). American Dad! was seen by one hundred and thirty four thousand. The Universal Channel's Pure Genius attracted one hundred and sixty thousand. On Dave, Mock The Week was the highest-rated broadcast with three hundred and forty six thousand punters, followed by the wretchedly unfunny Taskmaster (three hundred and four thousand), Top Gear (two hundred and ninety seven thousand) and Dave Gorman: Modern Life Is Goodish (two hundred and seventy four thousand). The latest episode of Drama's repeat run of Wallander was watched by four hundred and eighty thousand viewers. An episode of Last Of The Summer Wine had four hundred and thirty eight thousand, although Christ only knows why, whilst Jonathan Creek drew four hundred and fifteen thousand and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates had three hundred and ninety four thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programmes were Father Brown (two hundred and nine thousand) and Murdoch Mysteries (one hundred and ninety four thousand). On The Sony Channel, XXX was watched by fifty five thousand, The Last Of The Mohicans by fifty thousand thousand and French Kiss by forty nine thousand. Yesterday's Porridge repeats continued with two hundred and forty nine thousand and The Two Ronnies with two hundred and forty five thousand. Sounds Of The Seventies had two hundred and forty four thousand. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush was seen by four hundred and eighty five thousand viewers. From The North favourite Wheeler Dealers latest series continued with two hundred and fifty four thousand whilst Idris Elba: Fighter was watched by two hundred and twenty three thousand and Tanked by one hundred and fifty three thousand punters. Discovery History's Egypt's New Tomb Revealed topped the weekly-list with thirty two thousand. World War II - The Complete History had twenty six thousand thousand, as did both King Tut's Mystery Tomb Opened and Time Team. On Discovery Science, How It's Made was seen by sixty one thousand viewers. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme was an older episode of Wheeler Dealers with thirty eight thousand. National Geographic's list was headed by Highway Thru Hell which had ninety seven thousand viewers and Air Crash Investigations (ninety thousand). The History Channel's weekly list was topped by The Curse of Oak Island (two hundred and seventy four thousand). On Military History, Ancient Top Ten was watched by seventy two thousand punters. Murder On CCTV, A Crime To Remember and True Nightmares were ID's top-rated programmes with fifty thousand viewers, fifty thousand and forty six thousand crime-lovers respectively. Crimes That Shook Britain, The First Forty Eight and Britain's Darkest Taboos headed CI's list (one hundred and seventeen thousand, fifty eight thousand and fifty five thousand). GOLD's broadcast of Mrs Brown's Boys attracted three hundred and two thousand. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (three hundred and ninety one thousand). Your TV's Princess Diana's Death: Mystery Solved was seen by one hundred and fifty thousand Daily Scum Express readers and Corrupt Crimes by sixty eight thousand. On More4, Eight Out Of Ten Cats was the highest-rated programme with four hundred and nineteen thousand. Car SOS attracted four hundred and eighteen thousand punters and Four In A Bed, three hundred and sixty four thousand. E4's latest episode of Hollyoaks drew 1.15 million viewers. The Horror Channel's broadcast of Out Of The Dark attracted one hundred and twenty thousand. The top-ten list also included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (eighty six thousand), Tornado Warning (seventy one thousand), It Came From Outer Space II (sixty seven thousand) and Frankenhooker (sixty one thousand). The Librarians, headed Syfy's top-ten with three hundred and fifty seven thousand. The Natural World was watched by forty six thousand on Eden whilst both Wonders Of The Solar System and Ganges attracted forty three thousand viewers. Bondi Vet was the Animal Planet's most-watched programme with forty four thousand. MasterChef Junior USA on W drew two hundred and forty four thousand punters. Director's Kitchen topped Venus TV's list with twenty eight thousand viewers whilst The Film Show was Zing's most watched programme (thirty thousand). On the True Crime channel, The Devil You Know, the excellently titled Very Bad Men and Deadly Women were all watched by fifteen thousand punters. Wouldn't it be, like, totally 'mazing if it was the same fifteen thousand punters watching all three? But if it was, that would, surely be a case for Mulder and Scully to try and solve. But, The X-Files wasn't on this week so they're unavailable.

It has been reported that Tom Hardy lost two million smackers making his new BBC1 drama Taboo. Mind you, this is according to Yahoo News quoting an anonymous alleged 'source' from the Sun so this may well be a right load of old diarrhoea. The actor created Taboo Productions Ltd to handle the finances for the eight-part period drama series, which he produced and starred in. But accounts show that Hardy spent as much as £10.4 million on Taboo, while its income to date has reached £8.4 million. The alleged 'source' allegedly said (in that typically tabloidese 'real people don't talk like this' way): 'These new figures will make stark reading for Tom. No matter who you are or how much money you're worth, two million pounds is a lot of money to simply throw away.' In the drama, written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and based on an original idea by Tom himself, Hardy plays the adventurer James Delaney, who after being presumed dead abroad, turns up in London and ruffles the feathers of those set to inherit after his rich father's death. Hardy still hopes to recoup more money through DVD and digital sales, while he can also sell the rights to the series abroad. The alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'Tom will hope to eventually make the money back through DVD sales, downloads, streaming and syndication rights. As well as being broadcast in the UK and in the US, Taboo has already been sold around the world in the likes of Spain, Portugal and Russia.' It is believed Tom came up with the basic idea for Taboo along with his dad Edward Hardy and Sir Ridley Scott agreed to act as executive producer of the project after the BBC purchased the rights. Anders Engstöm and Kristoffer Nyholm directed episodes of the first series. The drama has already been something of a ratings hit and is among the most-watched on the BBC iPlayer and plans are in place to make a second series.
Whoopi Goldberg is reportedly 'desperate' to land a role in Doctor Who. The Oscar-winner has said that she is 'a huge fan' of British television in general and called on BBC 'bosses' for a role in the long-running popular family SF drama. Cos, of course, that's how it works, you just make your mouth go in the tabloids and get what you want. Apparently. Speaking about the UK, she told the Sun: 'You have a different quality now on television. The way you guys have always done shows has always been the smartest and we've finally just figured it out. I like the idea of doing things the way y'all do them. You do some really fun stuff like Black Mirror. I'm still dying to do Doctor Who. I always hope when I come to England the BBC will say, "Hey we want you to do something [on Doctor Who]." I would love that.' Yeah. So would lots of other people, chuck, join the lengthy queue.
Ewan McGregor pulled out of an appearance on ITV's Good Morning Britain as he 'didn't realise' odious oily prick Piers Morgan was the show's host. The actor tweeted: 'Won't go on with him after his comments about Womens [sic] March.' The odious oily prick Morgan had described some of the women who marched as 'rabid feminists.' A GMB spokesman said: 'Ewan came [in] this morning to be interviewed about his new film but decided not to go ahead with it.' In response to McGregor's decision, Morgan tweeted, sneeringly: 'Sorry to hear that Ewan McGregor - you should be big enough to allow people different political opinions. You're just an actor after all.' Which, coming from someone who is just a former tabloid editor, sacked for printing lies, is an interesting use of the word 'just'. On Monday, Morgan debated the issue with his co-presenter, Susanna Reid and three female guests, including Women's Equality Party leader Sophie Walker. The odious oily prick Morgan was also, reportedly, booed when he appeared at an award ceremony this week. So, no change there, then.
The Great British Bake Off will return to television screens this year, after the BBC waived a legal clause preventing Channel Four from showing it until 2018. Channel Four signed a three-year deal with Greed Productions, which makes the hit baking programme, in September last year. A BBC spokesperson wished the programme 'well for the future.' Presumably through gritted teeth, one imagines. One or two people even believed them. An alleged 'insider' allegedly told BBC News (they're not alleged, they definitely exist): 'We don't want to get in the way of them reinventing the programme. In this instance, we believe it would be undignified to have one public service broadcaster in a potential dispute with another and the associated costs for each party would ultimately come out of programming budgets. We don't believe in driving up costs in the public sector.' A BBC spokesperson - also, definitely not 'alleged' - said: 'The BBC is proud of the part it has played in growing and nurturing the programme - doing that is at the core of what the BBC does. We have many exciting projects for the future. Watch this space.'
Mel Giedroyc has revealed that she was once offered the chance to appear as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing - but turned it down. 'I love watching it so much I almost didn't want to spoil the pleasure by being on it,' she told Radio Times. The forty eight-year-old said it was 'tricky' for a woman her age to be on the show. 'You're not the comedy old bag yet, which would be the joy of going on Strictly,' she said. 'If I did it, I'd want to be Ann Widdecombe. I'd want to be out there getting the laughs, being dragged around.' The presenter may not have strutted her stuff in a ball gown, but she can still be seen on a prime time Saturday night show - fronting BBC1's lack-of-talent search Let It Shine. The gig comes after Giedroyc stepped down as co-host of The Great British Bake Off, along with Sue Perkins, when it was announced that the show was moving to Channel Four. Giedroyc said the 'furore' surrounding the move was 'a pretty weird time. The press were camped out on my doorstep. My eldest daughter actually saw a few of them off, which I was very, very proud of,' she said. 'I'm not the kind of person who would court that sort of attention. I have a very private existence and I had to slightly clench my buttocks during that.'
Wor Geet Canny Ant and/or Dec have won the award for Best TV Presenter for the sixteenth year running at The National Television Awards. Accepting the award, Wor Geet Canny Dec - for once speaking on his own as opposed to being part of a gestalt entity - said: 'We are thrilled. If anything we get grateful more and more each year.' The pair also picked up the award for the best entertainment programme for Saturday Night Takeaway, beating The Graham Norton Show and steaming shower of a rotten, stinking diarrhoea Celebrity Juice. Wor Geet Canny Ant added: 'It really is our baby and it's a bit of a shock first award up, but what a thrill.' There was even more success for them 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) named Best Challenge Show. EastEnders's Lacey Turner won the serial drama performance award. The Great British Bake Off's Mary Berry won the award for best judge. It was a reet proper cush week for Wor Geet Canny Ant and/or Dec, totally expected award victories aside, as the cheeky-chappies doon Th' Bigg Market duo followed up their win at the NTAs on Wednesday by being invited round The Queen's gaff the next day for a pair of OBEs. Hopefully, they'll next be made Earls, then, they'll be earlobes. (Yes, that is an old Goodies joke dear blog reader, well spotted. Whaddya want, original material?)
Sky is to make its full TV service of hundreds of channels available without the need for a satellite dish for the first time, as it looks to stem customer defections to rivals such as BT. The pay-TV giant, which had an eighteen per cent plunge in profits at its UK business in the last six months of 2016 thanks to spiralling Premier League rights costs, said that it would launch the broadband-delivered TV service next year. Jeremy Darroch, the Sky chief executive, said it would allow Sky to 'target' up to six million households across Europe who cannot, or will not, have a satellite dish. 'This is the first time we have been able to offer the full Sky TV service without a satellite dish,' he said. 'It is a big moment for the business.' Customers can currently use the Now TV broadband service to watch a limited range of Sky channels without a dish already, but the new offering will allow access to potentially all of its two hundred and seventy channels. The initiative, which could open up about two million homes in the UK for Sky to target, comes as the company revealed that the rate of customers defecting to rivals has 'climbed significantly.' Sky said its 'churn rate', a key metric watched by the City, rose to 11.6 per cent in the last six months of 2016. This is up 'significantly' on the 10.2 per cent in the same period the previous year. Darroch blamed the jump in 'churn' to the 'highly promotional and competitive' UK market with broadband customers proving to be 'deal hunters' more likely to switch to a rival. Sky is also launching a 'loyalty programme' to 'reward and recognise members' based on how long they have been a customer as part of its strategy to 'stem customer churn.' Which is potentially jolly good news for this blogger who had been a Sky customer since 1990. Sky UK, which accounts for more than ninety per cent of the pan-European broadcaster's profits, experienced an eighteen per cent fall in profits to six hundred and twenty million knicker in the second half of last year. Sky, which had a nine per cent fall in total profits across its business to six hundred and seventy nine million smackers, said that it was 'a resilient performance,' despite a three hundred and fourteen million notes rise in Premier League rights costs. Total revenues rose six per cent to £6.4bn. Darroch also said that Sky would 'not back down' in the face of the threat made by Discovery - which operates twelve channels including Eurosport and Animal Planet - to pull its UK programming from the end of this month. Discovery claims that Sky is refusing to pay 'a fair price' to broadcast its channels and that it is using its 'dominant market position' to pay less than it did a decade ago. Given that this blogger watches loads of Discovery, Discovery History and Discovery Turbo, needless to say, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is Goddamn pissed off by this potential malarkey. Darroch claimed that Discovery's move to 'go public' about the negotiations, which will result in the channels coming off Sky from 1 February if an eleventh hour deal cannot be reached, was 'about commercial self-interest.' Which, coming from notorious greed merchants like Sky is, frankly, effing hilarious. Pay-TV rivals have already 'voiced concerns' about Sky's 'potential dominance' of sport, TV and film if FOX's proposed £11.7bn takeover is allowed by competition regulators. 'This is a very real concern about being squeezed out of the market,' Susanna Dinnage, the managing director of Discovery Networks UK & Ireland told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'We have grave concerns about the impact on our business. We are in competition, in areas such as factual programming and sports rights, in the UK and Europe. There are a lot of lone voices out there, from consumers to other smaller broadcasters. We are one of the few people who can stand up and say enough is enough.' Darroch distanced the breakdown in talks from 'a potential link' with 'concerns of market dominance' relating to the FOX/Sky deal. 'I don't think this has got anything to do with the approach by Twenty First Century FOX,' claimed Darroch. 'We have been talking to Discovery since April last year. We have extended deals with a whole range of companies. One thing we will ask for is performance from our partners. The fact is [Discovery's] share of viewing on linear [TV] has been in long-term decline. When you look to the on-demand world, Discovery performs at best a third it does in linear. They are not hitting big shows people pay for.' Darroch said Sky's strategy in the upcoming battle for Champion's League TV rights, currently controlled by BT, would 'not be impacted' by the potential takeover by the deep-pocketed FOX. 'We go into all rights renewals this year in a good place,' he said. 'The FOX approach has no effect at all on that. We have good options. We always look incrementally at where we might seek to invest and get better. We go into Champions League renewal from a position of strength across all our markets. We will bid according to the value we attribute to [those] right[s].' Sky also announced that it has secured the exclusive rights to England international matches in the new UEFA Nations League, including qualifiers for Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.
The former comedian Rory McGrath has been given a suspended sentence after he admitted extremely harassing a married former lover for fourteen months. McGrath was given a ten-week prison sentence suspended for eighteen months after pleading very guilty to harassment at Huntingdon magistrates court in Thursday. McGrath had been charged with following the woman, sending electronic messages and approaching her in the street. In November, McGrath denied a charge of stalking without causing fear, alarm or distress, but then he changed his plea on the first day of his trial. The offences happened in Cambridge over a fourteen-month period between June 2015 and August last year. Prosecutors said that McGrath also sent letters to the woman's husband. His victim cannot be named for legal reasons. McGrath has appeared in programmes including BBC panel show They Think It's All Over and the comedy documentary Three Men In A Boat and its several sequels. Although, how many more TV gigs he will be getting after all this malarkey is a question that will, no doubt, only be answered in the fullness of time.
By the way, dear blog reader, just in case anyone's wondering about the rather curious choice in images to illustrates several of this latest bloggerisationisms stories and, frankly, what aal this queer malarkey is aboot, like, this blogger is merely having something of a cubist phase this week. Don't blame Keith Telly Topping, blame Picasso. For everything. Especially the fact that Only Connect had its broadcast time on Friday shifted to 7pm to make way from, of all things, Eurovision: You Decide. Damn you, Pablo, damn you to Hell!
EMMY-winning actress Mary Tyler Moore has died aged eighty. She was best known for her television roles in the 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show and the eponymous The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. She was also nominated for a best actress Oscar in 1980 for the film Ordinary People. Her publicist Mara Buxbaum said in a statement that Mary died 'in the company of friends and her husband, Doctor S Robert Levine.'
Born in Brooklyn, Mary moved to Los Angeles when she was eight years old and started her career in showbusiness as a dancer aged seventeen. Her first screen appearance was in a Hotpoint advert in the 1950s, when she dressed as an elf. But her parts grew in size during the decade, before she landed the role of Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961. In 2012, Van Dyke said that working with the 'beautiful, bright and talented,' Moore was 'an effortless piece of cake.' Later, she starred as TV producer Mary Richards in her self-titled sitcom. Running for seven seasons from 1970 to 1977, it was named by Time Magazine as one of seventeen shows that had 'changed television.' Moore emerged onscreen at a time when women in leading roles were traditionally housewife characters. But with her modern dress style and Jackie Kennedy-style hair and playing a single woman, living on her own and chasing a TV career in Minneapolis, she challenged that stereotype in front of millions of viewers. Mary and her then-husband Grant Tinker created and produced the show and a number of spin-offs, as well as other hits programmes, including the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-offs Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis as well as hits like Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere, WKRP In Cincinnati, The Bob Newhart Show and Remington Steele. Famously the MTM logo resembled the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo but featured Moore's own kitten, Mimsie, instead of a lion. In May 2002, Mary was present when the City of Minneapolis dedicated a statue of her character, by sculptor Gwendolyn Gillen, which was located in front of the Dayton's department store – now Macy's. It depicts the iconic moment in the show's opening credits where Moore tosses her hat into the air, in freeze-frame. During its seven seasons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show held the record for winning the most EMMYs – twenty nine - a record which remained unbroken until 2002 when it was surpassed by Frasier. Mary appeared in a musical and variety special for CBS titled Mary's Incredible Dream and, in 1978, a second CBS special, How To Survive The Seventies & Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness. The following year the network brought Moore back in a new, retooled show, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour which lasted eleven episodes. Later, in 1985, she returned to CBS in a series titled Mary, which suffered from poor reviews, sagging ratings and internal strife within the production crew. According to Moore, she asked CBS to pull the show as she was unhappy with the direction. She also starred in the short-lived Annie McGuire in 1988. In 1995, after another lengthy break from TV series work, Mary was cast as tough, unsympathetic newspaper owner Louise Felcott on the drama New York News, her third series in which her character worked in the news industry. Mary had a cameo as herself on two episodes of Ellen. In 2006, Moore guest-starred as Christine St George, a high-strung host of a fictional TV show, on three episodes of the FOX sitcom That Seventies Show where her scenes were shot on the same soundstage where The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in the thirty years earlier. Moore made her film debut in 1961's X-15. Following her success on The Dick Van Dyke Show, she appeared in a string of movies in the late 1960s after signing an exclusive contract with Universal Pictures, including the 1967 hit Thoroughly Modern Millie and the follow year's What's So Bad About Feeling Good? and Don't Just Stand There! In 1969, she starred opposite Elvis Presley as a nun in Change Of Habit. TV host Oprah Winfrey described Mary as one of her early inspirations. 'I wanted to be Mary,' she said. 'I wanted to live where Mary lived.'
Moore swapped comedy for drama in Ordinary People, playing an affluent, bitter mother who loses her son in an accident. As well as an Oscar nomination, the role earned her a Golden Globe. Mary, who was married three times, endured great personal tragedy in her life. She grew up with an alcoholic mother and suffered from alcohol problems herself - both women were treated at The Betty Ford Centre. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, died of a drug overdose aged just twenty one and she lost her brother to cancer at forty seven. In her biography, After All, Moore described how she tried to help her terminally-ill brother suicide with drug-laced ice cream, but the attempt failed. Her only child, Richie, born during her first marriage to Richard Meeker, also struggled with drug abuse and accidentally shot himself dead aged just twenty four. Moore was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1970s and later became the international chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, testifying before US Congress to promote stem-cell research. Moore was active in charity work and various political causes, particularly the issues of animal rights and diabetes. In May 2011, Moore underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma.
Gorden Kaye, best known for his role in the long-running BBC sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!, has died aged seventy five. The actor's former agency confirmed to the BBC News website that Gorden died at a care home on Monday morning. Gorden played the cafe owner Rene Artois on the hit sitcom, which centred on the fictional exploits of resistance fighters in World War II in German-occupied France. He appeared in all eighty four episodes of the David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd sitcom, a BBC fixture from 1982 to 1992, as well as a stage version. Born in Huddersfield in 1941, Gorden revealed in his autobiography - 1989's Rene & Me - the unusual spelling of his first name was due to a spelling error by the acting union Equity, which he decided to adopt. 'It was the sign of a mis-spelt youth,' he noted. As a teenager, Gorden played rugby league for Moldgreen and studied at King James's Grammar School in Huddersfield. He worked in hospital radio in his home town (interviewing The Be-Atles, a popular beat combo, in 1963) and was employed in textile mills, a wine factory and a tractor factory at various times. Gorden had appeared in a radio play directed by Alan Ayckbourn who suggested that he audition for the Bolton Octagon Theatre. Gorden made his TV debut as a railway guard in the BBC's Yorkshire mill drama Champion House. Having been seen by Pat Phoenix in Little Malcolm by David Halliwell in Bolton, he was cast as Bernard Butler, the nephew of Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street in 1969. He went on to appear in a number of roles in sitcoms including Till Death Us Do Part, It Ain't Half Hot Mum - where he first worked with David Croft and Are You Being Served? as well as dramas like The Flaxton Boys, Follyfoot, Emmerdale Farm, South Riding, Shoestring and All Creatures Great & Small. He was also a regular in Croft and Lloyd's disastrous SF 'comedy', the Molly Sugden vehicle Come Back Mrs Noah before landing the role of Rene. Kaye also had a small part in Terry Gilliam's film Brazil and appeared in Gilliam's 1977 film Jabberwocky. Gorden's career almost came to an abrupt end in 1990 when he was critically injured in the Burns' Day storm. The high winds sent an advertising board through his car windscreen, leaving him with severe head injuries. Although he could not afterwards remember any details of the incident, Gorden retained a scar on his forehead for the rest of his life. Writing in his memoirs, Jeremy Lloyd said that he visited Kaye in hospital, adding 'I believe part of his recovery was due to his agent getting a video and showing reruns of 'Allo 'Allo! to remind him who he was.' While recovering in hospital from emergency brain surgery, Gorden was photographed by Sunday Sport journalist Roger Ordish. He subsequently sued the newspaper, but the Court of Appeal held, in Kaye Vs Robertson, that there was 'no remedy' in English law for an invasion of privacy. Gorden was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1986 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the curtain call of the West End stage version of 'Allo 'Allo! at The Prince of Wales Theatre. Gorden returned as Rene in a 2007 one-off television revival of 'Allo 'Allo! and in a stage show in Brisbane alongside castmates Sue Hodge and Guy Siner. He also starred in BBC sketch show Revolver in 2004. 'Gorden Kaye was a terrific comic actor whose signature role, Rene Artois, earned his place in the comedy hall of fame,' Shane Allen, the controller of BBC comedy commissioning said. 'He was instrumental in making 'Allo 'Allo! such a long running and well-loved series. His work lives on and thoughts are with friends and loved ones at this sad time.'
The actor Philip Bond has died at the age of eighty two whilst on holiday in Madeira. Philip appeared in five episodes of the second Doctor Who story, The Daleks, first shown in 1963-64. He played the role of Ganatus, a member of the Thal expedition who travelled with Ian and Barbara on their expedition to enter the city via the mountains. Philip was actually second choice for the role, cast when the original choice of Dinsdale Landen became unavailable. He accepted immediately, being good friends with both the BBC's new family SF drama's producer Verity Lambert and fellow actor William Russell. Philip was born in Burton-on-Trent. His first acting experience was at Burton Boys' Grammar School. In 1952 he joined the Central School of Speech and Drama (then based in the Royal Albert Hall), where contemporaries included Delena Kidd, Heather Sears and Ian Hendry. His first television roles were in a 1956 play in the ITV Television Playhouse strand and an adaptation of the musical Zuleika for the series Theatre Night in 1957. Philip had a prolific career in British Television, appearing in over seventy series over a fifty year period. His best-known role was probably playing Albert Frazer in the 1970s BBC drama The Onedin Line, where he appeared in over twenty episodes. Other roles included appearances in, among many others, The Saint, The Voodoo Factor, Walk A Crooked Mile, It Happened Like This, Ann Veronica, Redcap, No Hiding Place, Man In A Suitcase, Theatre 625Sherlock Holmes (the 1968 adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles), The Avengers, Z-Cars, The Champions, Thirty Minute Theatre, Doomwatch, Only Fools & Horses, Casualty, Midsomer Murders, 199 Park Lane, Justice, The Main Chance, Jason King, The Children Of The New Forest, An Englishman's Castle, Shoestring, Late Call, The Man Outside, Warship, The Sandbaggers, Bergerac, Forever Green, The Life & Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, Lovejoy and Our Boy. His film roles include Count Five & Die (1957), Orders To Kill (1958), Foxhole In Cairo (1960), I Want What I Want (1972) and Fever Pitch (1997). He married the television producer Pat Sandys (1926 to 2000) in 1959. He was the father of actresses Abigail and Samantha Bond and the film and TV journalist Matthew Bond. In his later years, he lived in the South Wales village of Abergwynfi. He is survived by his long-standing partner Elizabeth, his children Matthew, Samantha and Abigail and several grandchildren.
Mott The Hoople's founding member Pete Overend Watts has died aged sixty nine from throat cancer. The bassist played on the band's several mid-1970s hit singles including 'Roll Away The Stone', 'All The Way From Memphis', 'The Golden Age Of Rock n Roll' and the group's best known recording, 'All The Young Dudes', written and produced by David Bowie. He died on Sunday of cancer according to Peter Purnell from record label Angel Air Records. He said that Peter was 'a highly intelligent and witty man who throughout his adult life was both an immensely likeable character and an enigma.' Peter's death comes almost exactly a year after that of his Mott The Hoople colleague, the drummer Dale Griffin. Born in Yardley in Birmingham, Watts attended Ross Grammar School where he first met Griffin. They played in local bands such as The Anchors, Wild Dogs Hellhounds and The Silence. The two friends went on to form The Doc Thomas Group with Mick Ralphs and Stan Tippins. The line-up changed in 1968, when keyboard player Verden Allen joined and they changed their name to The Shakedown Sound. Allen posted on Facebook that Watts was 'a warm, funny, intelligent, talented and hugely charismatic person' who 'always had an entertaining story to tell.' In 1969 the musicians moved to London and came to the attention of the record producer Guy Stevens who auditioned the immensely talented Ian Hunter and appointed him as their lead singer and Mott The Hoople was formed. Although as a live act they attracted a dedicated cult following, the band struggled to sell records and were on the verge of splitting up when Bowie offered them first 'Suffragette City'(which they turned down) and then 'All The Young Dudes'. That was the beginning of three years of regular chart success and influence on, for example, The Clash (Mick Jones, in particular, was a besotted Mott worshipper). After the group split in 1976, Watts formed the spin-off bands Mott and British Lions. He also ran a large retro store in Hereford, selling specialist clothing, unusual antiquities, instruments and rare music and wrote a book, The Man Who Hated Walking, which was published in 2013. The classic Mott The Hoople line-up reformed for well-received gigs in 2009 and 2013. In 2009 the American rock music group Mambo Sons released their CD Heavy Days featuring a song in tribute to Peter entitled 'Overend Watts'. Peter, who lived just outside Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, is survived by his sister, Jane. Morgan Fisher, a former Mott The Hoople bandmate, posted a tribute on Facebook to Watts's 'bravery, honesty, generosity, open heart and still-devastatingly witty humour during his last days.' Fisher added that 'he left this world as a total hero, a samurai.'
And, Jaki Liebezeit, the drummer and co-founder of pioneering German band Can, died on Sunday at the age of seventy eight. 'It is with great sadness we have to announce that Jaki passed away this morning from sudden pneumonia,' said a statement on Can's Facebook page. 'He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. We will miss him hugely.' Can were revered as pioneers of the so-called 'Krautrock' movement, which blended rock, electronic and world music and were a particular favourite of this blogger. Liebezeit was credited with inventing the band's name, which stood for 'communism, anarchism, nihilism.' Throughout several line-up changes he was a constant, playing on all of the band's classic LPs, including Soundtracks, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days and Flow Motion. Although they were very prolific, releasing an LP a year during their 1970s peak, they were always destined to be a cult band, although their influence stretched to the likes of David Bowie, Roxy Music, Julian Cope, The Flaming Lips and The Horrors. They scored an unexpected UK hit with the funk-influenced single 'I Want More', which reached the top thirty in 1976 and earned the band their sole appearance on Top Of The Pops. 'We were trying to find our own way,' said Liebezeit of Can and fellow Krautrock bands like Neu!, Ash Ra Temple, Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul and Kraftwerk. 'We thought like artists. Imagine a painter saying I can't suddenly paint like Andy Warhol or like Jackson Pollock, so I have to find something else, something original. It takes a while, but it is possible to find.' A student of the free-jazz scene in Dresden, Liebezeit co-founded Can in 1968 with keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, bassist Holger Czukay and teenage guitar maestro Michael Karoli. Vocalist Malcolm Mooney - an American artist living in Germany - joined later that year. He was later replaced by the legendary Damo Sazuki (a Japanese traveller whom Czukay spotted busking outside a cafe in Munich). Jaki's drumming was prominent in the band's sound, particularly in his much-admired contribution to the side-long 'Halleluhwah' on Tago Mago. Jaki enjoyed a long career behind the kit, working with the likes of Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, Public Image Limited's Jah Wobble and Brian Eno as well as his work with Can. His dynamic drumming style was the metronomic heart of Can's music, tethering their more exploratory compositions with precise, hypnotic pulse. The style was later dubbed 'motorik' - a play on the German word for 'motor skills' - which was meant to evoke the repetitive, relentless experience of driving on a motorway. The musician was set to perform with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, as well as Can bandmates Schmidt and Mooney, for a show at London's Barbican in April, dubbed The Can Project. 'Absolutely gutted to hear my dear friend Jaki Liebezeit has passed,' wrote Jah Wobble after hearing of Liebezeit's death. 'Wonderful person and best European drummer. King of Saxony lebewohl!' Brian Eno responded to the news by posting a series of links to Can's music and interviews with Liebezeit.
The late Margaret Thatcher's closest advisers warned her that odious noxious skinhead Norman Tebbit's 1986 attack on the BBC for its coverage of the US bombing of Libya was 'in danger of turning into another Westland affair,' personal papers of the former Conservative Prime Monster published on Monday reveal. The papers disclose for the first time that the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit's ville, crass and ignorant six-month campaign of sustained hatred against the corporation over its coverage, particularly from its correspondent Kate Adie who highlighted the civilian casualties live from Tripoli, 'alarmed' Downing Street and was regarded as 'so obsessive' that Thatch had to ask her party chairman to call a halt to it and muzzle that odious noxious skinhead Tebbit. The 1986 personal papers released by The Margaret Thatcher Foundation also show that she was left 'almost isolated' within her own cabinet after she agreed to the request from the then US president, Ronald Reagan, to allow the American airstrikes to be launched from US bases in Britain. France, Spain and Italy had all refused even to allow the F-111 bombers to fly through their airspace. Previous accounts have highlighted that Thatcher's decision in April 1986 was greeted with 'anxious criticism' and 'reservations' including from her deputy PM, Willie Whitelaw, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson and, perhaps surprisingly, the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit his very self, who was said to be 'horrified' at the idea of giving Reagan 'a blank cheque.' The newly released papers held at The Churchill Archive Centre, Cambridge, include a letter from Thatcher's Welsh secretary, Nick Edwards, from his hospital bed, telling her that 'many people, particularly young people' - including his own daughter, Sophie - regarded Reagan as 'a dangerous and rather foolish old man.' Edwards told Thatch that it was 'essential' any further decisions on US airstrikes from British bases included full cabinet involvement. 'Without it, your position and the party's in parliament would be too much at risk,' he warned. His own wife, Ann, had also written a much stronger letter to Thatcher criticising her decision to allow US bombers to fly from British bases. The Thatcher papers also show that the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to her backing for the bombing of Tripoli was reflected within the wider Conservative party itself. Her private secretary, Stephen Sherbourne, reported: 'Central Office have received an unusually large number of calls expressing concern about Libya and the use of British bases. It was the biggest reaction since The Falklands.' Sherbourne told her there were Tory party 'worries' that the US president was 'impulsive,' that innocent civilians were casualties and that the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, would order his hitmen to single out British targets for sick and vicious retribution. He said: 'Television pictures of weeping mothers and children are making a big impact.' But Thatcher was unmoved - perhaps unsurprisingly since she seemed to have the heart of a mollusc at the best of times - writing at the bottom of Sherbourne's note: 'Terrorism thrives on appeasement.' The US airstrikes on Libya came three months after The Westland Affair in January 1986, in which two cabinet ministers, Michael Heseltine and Sir Leon Brittan, had resigned and during which Thatcher had come closest to being forced out during her premiership. Until, of course, she eventually was forced out for years later to the celebration of millions. Libya imperilled Thatcher's recovery from that close call and the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit, as party chairman, responded to the political danger by launching a fierce counterattack on the BBC. He accused its news coverage of the bombing raids of being 'subjective and confrontational' - which is wasn't - with its main news on the day after the attack leading with the headline 'Worldwide condemnation of the American airstrike on Libya. Children are casualties – three from Gadhafi's own family.' A detailed dossier drawn up by the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit, comparing BBC and ITN news coverage, claimed the corporation's reporting 'mixed news with views, speculation, error and hostile propaganda and was thus unbalanced, unfair and partial.' The BBC's new chairman, Marmalade Marmaduke Hussey, who had just been personally appointed by Thatcher, responded robustly by publishing a detailed rebuttal and insisting the BBC charter required it 'to resist undue influence from any political party.' But the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit was not satisfied and wouldn't let it lie, starting to campaign for the BBC to 'accept an independent assessment' of his charges. Independent, in this instance, being 'people who agreed with the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit.' The papers reveal that Tebbit's campaign was 'alarming' Downing Street and the then Home Secretary, Douglas Turd, who was responsible for broadcasting. Turd had persuaded Thatcher that the 'proper position was neutrality' and that complaints were 'a matter for the BBC board of governors,' whom the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit was 'trying to bypass.' Nigel Wicks, Thatcher's principal private secretary, told her that the situation was 'risking a direct clash' between the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit and Turd, who had 'every justification' to be indignant. 'At the risk of being alarmist, I see a danger of some elements of this episode repeating the Westland troubles. A colleague with an obsession, doing things difficult to reconcile with collective responsibility. And all this at a time when things are going well for the government.' Sherbourne added in a separate note that both he and Wicks were 'both concerned that this matter does not get out of hand.' He reported that the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit had been 'told' that Thatcher would 'prefer' him to call a halt to his sick and wicked campaign of disinformation. She agreed to 'try' to make time the next day to deliver the message herself to the odious noxious skinhead Tebbit.
The veteran BBC Radio broadcaster Brian Matthew has reportedly 'stepped down' from presenting Radio 2's Sounds of The Sixties due to 'poor health' at the age of eighty eight. The station said it was 'the right time' for Brian to retire after 'an extended bout of ill health.' Up until last November, he had presented the Saturday morning show for more than twenty five years. Station manager Lewis Carnie said: 'Brian is an outstanding presenter and a radio legend.' Matthew's replacement has not been officially announced, although Sir Tim Rice has been standing in for him in recent months. And, as a regular listener, this blogger can confirm Rice has been making a spectacularly sodding bad job of it. In a statement, BBC Radio said that it planned to run 'a series of special programmes' with Matthew, but confirmed a new voice would take over Sounds Of The Sixties. Carnie, said Matthew 'has made the programme his own with his natural ability, passion and warmth and we are incredibly grateful for everything he has done for Sounds Of The Sixties. We're very sorry that Brian is unable to continue presenting every week, but hope to welcome him back to Radio 2 very soon.' Brian also hosted the incredibly popular radio show Saturday Club (later known as Easy Beat), which for several years during the early 1960s was almost the only non-pirate radio show in the country to broadcast pop music. Alongside his radio shows, Matthew appeared on ITV as the host of Thank Your Lucky Stars. The broadcaster attracted the big stars of the 1960s to come on his programmes with bands like The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) making a number of appearances. Matthew's voice features prominently on The Be-Atles' two Live At The BBC CDs.
He is best known for his role as criminal mastermind Walter White in Breaking Bad. Now it's been announced that Bryan Cranston is to make his UK stage debut in an adaptation of the 1970s Oscar-winning film Network. The sixty-year-old actor will play Howard Beale, the TV news anchor who announces that he will kill himself on-air after being told that he is to be sacked for declining ratings. In a famous scene, Beale implores his viewers during an on-air meltdown to shout out of the window: 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!' Adapted by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, Network will open on The National Theatre's Lyttelton stage in November. It will be directed by Ivo van Hove, whose Hedda Gabler at the NT is currently a sell-out hit. Announcing its new season on Friday, National Theatre executive Rufus Norris described Network as 'one of the greatest media satires of all time. It's incredibly prescient in terms of the world today,' he said. 'I think it will stand up in our digital world.' The 1976 movie, directed by Sidney Lumet, won four of its ten Oscar nominations. Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight cleaned up in three of the acting categories while writer Paddy Chayefsky won for best original screenplay. Norris said that van Hove had been talking about the idea with Cranston for 'a couple of years. He's got a fantastic pedigree as a stage actor,' he said. 'It's a part that requires something compelling and special.' Cranston won a TONY award in 2014 for his Broadway debut in Robert Schenkkan's play All The Way. He was Oscar nominated last year for Trumbo.
Nearly one-in-ten British women finds sex 'painful', according to 'a big study.' The survey of nearly seven thousand 'sexually active women' aged sixteen to seventy four, in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suggests that this medical problem - called dyspareunia - is common and affects women of all ages. Women in their late fifties and early sixties are 'most likely' to be affected, followed by women aged sixteen to twenty four. Doctors say that there are treatments which can help if women seek advice. But many still find the subject embarrassing and taboo, the survey results appear to show. Painful sex was strongly linked to other sexual problems, including vaginal dryness, feeling anxious during sex and a lack of enjoyment of sex. However, there can be lots of different physical, psychological and emotional factors causing painful sex, which can be complex to treat. Some women said they avoided intercourse because they were so afraid of the pain. Plus 'I've got a headache,' obviously. The national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London and NatCen Social Research. Of those who reported painful sex (over seven per cent), a quarter had experienced symptoms frequently or every time they had intercourse in the last six months or more. Around a third of these women said that they were 'dissatisfied' with their sex life, compared with one tenth of the women who didn't report painful sex.
Usain Bolt has been stripped of one of his nine Olympic titles after one of his Jamaican four by one hundred metres team-mates, with whom he won gold at the 2008 games, tested positive for a banned substance. The world's greatest track-and-field star can no longer lay claim to the title of 'triple-triple' Olympic champion, after Nesta Carter was caught in a reanalysis of urine and blood samples from the Beijing games. Carter, the sixth fastest one hundred metre runner of all time, ran the opening leg of the Olympic final eight years ago as Jamaica stormed to victory in a then world-record 37.10 seconds, helping Bolt to a clean sweep of sprint titles as he burst onto the global stage at his first games. However, news emerged last summer that Carter was on a 'provisional' list of thirty one athletes who had failed a retest of their doping samples, which took place using the latest scientific techniques in order to weed out drugs cheats ahead of Rio 2016. The Jamaican did not compete in Rio and has been fighting to clear his name, but the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday confirmed that his sample had tested positive for the prohibited substance methylhexaneamine. All four members of the Jamaican relay team – which also included Michael Frater and Asafa Powell – have now been stripped of their medals from Beijing 2008, ruining Bolt's perfect Olympic record of one hundred metres, two hundred metres and four by one hundred metres relay triumphs from three games. Original four by one hundred metres silver medallists Trinidad & Tobago are now likely to be upgraded to gold, with Japan boosted to silver and Brazil, who came fourth, to bronze. Speaking last summer, Bolt described the Carter situation as 'heartbreaking,' but said that he would have 'no problem' giving back his medal if the positive test was confirmed. 'It's heartbreaking because over the years you've worked hard to accumulate gold medals and work hard to be a champion. But it's just one of those things,' he said. 'Things happen in life, so when it's confirmed or whatever, if I need to give back my gold medal I'd have to give it back, it's not a problem for me.' With a one hundred metres personal best of 9.78sec set in 2010, Carter had been a vital member of the all-conquering Jamaican team led by Bolt, which won three Olympic and four world titles over the past nine years. Carter was present for all but two of those gold medal races, while he also won individual one hundred metres bronze at the 2013 World Championships. Carter, who has not run competitively since news of the failed test first emerged last June, had plied his trade at Jamaica's MVP track club alongside double Olympic sprint champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Powell. Bolt, on the other hand, runs at Racers, Jamaica's other leading athletics club and MVP's main rivals, who also boast Yohan Blake and Warren Weir in their ranks. Although Carter also claimed gold medals alongside Bolt at the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Championships and the London 2012 Olympics, there is no suggestion that a doping violation was committed during any of those competitions. Methylhexaneamine, an energy-boosting ingredient used in many dietary supplements, was only added by name to the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited substances list in 2010, although it was indirectly outlawed prior to that date. A number of Jamaican athletes have previously failed tests for the substance, with punishments ranging from a warning to a ban of up to a year. Carter now has twenty one days to appeal the IOC's judgement to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while he is also likely to face a ban from the sport's governing body. Confirmation of his failed test means Carter is the latest in an ignominious list of the fastest men in the world to commit doping offences. Behind 9.58 seconds world record holder Bolt, every other man to run under 9.8 seconds has served a drugs ban at some point in their career with Tyson Gay (9.69sec), Blake (9.69sec), Powell (9.72sec) and Justin Gatlin (9.74sec) all falling foul of anti-doping regulations. In Gatlin's case, twice. The IOC also announced on Wednesday that it had stripped Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva of the triple jump and long jump silver medals she won at Beijing after reanalysis of her anti-doping wee-wee samples tested positive for the steroid turinabol. The winner of seventeen global medals during her career, Lebedeva also claimed Olympic long jump gold at Athens in 2004 and triple jump silver four years earlier in Sydney.
Ooh, look - David Bowie stamps everyone.
Please also note that according to Royal Mail's 'fan sheet', The Buddha Of Suburbia doesn't exist. (To be fair, this also seems to apply to both Tin Machine LPs. Which is an act of mercy, frankly.)
It does rather make one long for the 1970s when bands could get away with producing LP covers which looked like this saucy effort from the Liverpool long-haired rockers Nutz. Bottom marks, lads.
And, finally dear blog reader, on a not even remotely related note, here's a video of a woman getting hit in the face with a fish. And, why not? It's what the Interweb is there for, surely?