Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Stupidest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)

And so, dear blog reader, we ask once again 'has everyone in the world taken The Bloody Stupid Pill this week, or what?' To sum up a very sad situation, former Doctor Who actor Peter Davison - someone whom this blogger knows and spent quite a bit of time with during a couple of weeks in 2003 when we were both guests at two back-to-back Doctor Who events - gave his thoughts on the recent casting of Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor at the Comic-Con event in San Diego last weekend. Thoughts which were soon reported - by lots of people you've never heard of - on Twitter. At this point, you just know this is not going to end well, don't you? It was the 'T' word that gave it away, wasn't it? As with most things in life 'context' is key but Twitter, due to its very nature, allows no room - nor, seemingly, has any need - for such a nuanced conceit as 'context.' Peter, as you would expect, because he's a thoroughly nice guy, was broadly supportive of Jodie Whittaker's casting although he did say in passing that, as the father of two young boys, he rather regretted the fact that, for the next few years, young male Doctor Who fans will not have a positive male role model - who, generally speaking, does not resort to guns or violence - to identify with. That is a valid argument although, personally, it's not one that this blogger entirely agrees with. But, nevertheless, Peter did qualify this with a comment that we should all be supportive of Jodie and that he believes she will be very good in the role.
Okay, so what's the problem, you may ask? Well the 'problem,' of course, is that this was promptly reported on Twitter which, as we know, is occupied mainly - if not exclusively - by arseholes. 'Twitter: ramming a rusty bucket of wasps on your head because road rage is for snowflakes since 2006,' as the very wonderful Reverend Richard Coles recently noted after he had his own run-in with the more insane end of the Twitterati over some minor nothing-or-other. Peter was, instantly, inundated with abuse - a lot of it really vicious and personal - and charges of sexism. Among those having a go at him (with both boots on) were Peter's successor in the TARDIS, Colin Baker (who was also at Comic-Con and was sharing a panel with Peter along with Sophie Aldred at the time). At which point every tabloid newspaper began instantly rubbing their collective hands together as, now, they had a Doctors At War story to run in what was an almost textbook example of the Twenty First Century staple of the media turning a non-story into a story, pouring lots of fuel on it and then standing well back, gleefully and watching the flames burn with an innocent look of their collective mush of 'what, guv, me? Cause all this malarkey, guv? Not me, guv!'
Peter was accused (again, by some people you've never heard of ... and probably don't want to) of sexism - which this blogger does not believe is true at all - and of being 'a dinosaur', which Peter said could be true in a light-hearted and self-deprecating way in an attempt to defuse a situation which was now rapidly spiralling out of control. Sadly, that 'admission' was also then used against him. Peter calmly issued a, lengthy, clarification of what he actually did say - and more importantly, what he meant by it. It did no good. And so, as we've seen happen in the past with others, he found himself forced to leave Twitter due to the 'toxic' atmosphere that had been created. Because, as we all know, Twitter is now The Sole Arbiter Of The Worth Of All Things. The Gruniad Morning Star says so (and, sadly, the BBC News website seems to also accept this nonsense), so it must be true. And, this gave the media - both social and print - another story to go with the earlier one that they had helped to create and then spread in the first place.
This, dear blog reader, is why yer actual Keith Telly Topping has steadfastly refused and continues to refuse to have anything to do with Twitter. This blogger has never liked Twitter and has never been on it, despite a few friends saying 'oh, you must, all the cool kids are doing it.' Yes, and how many of the coolest of 'the cool kids' have since quit Twitter in disgust after one shitehawk media-created 'Twitter backlash' non-story too many? Twitter always did seem specifically designed to create problems where none needed to exist, especially as - seemingly - a majority of those people on it appear determined to find offence in the most innocuous of places. Mind you, a lot of Twitterers don't exactly help themselves. There was a trend a few years ago of Premier League footballers posting pictures of their naked maleness on Twitter and then acting all surprised when anyone complained. There have also been a fair few comedians who've painted themselves into corners by saying something 'wackily controversial' which has then blown up in their faces. So, this blogger steers well clear of the Twitter gaff. At least on Facebook you can limit to whom you're talking thanks to their excellent 'block' facility and with blogs ... well, nobody reads From The North anyway so, no danger here! Going on Twitter, sad to report, is a bit like playing with a lighted flamethrower and a can of petrol next to a box of really big fireworks; it creates exactly this kind of nonsense, sees utterly 'nothing' comments become manna-from-heaven for professional offence takers and it usually all ends up in a Big Fight with someone who has done nothing more sinister than, perhaps, awkwardly word a perfectly straightforward bit of comment (sometimes not even that) appear, in the eyes of some no-doubt perfect specimen of humanity, like a Nazi. Avoid Twitter like the plague, dear blog reader. It's really bad for your health.
Although, once in a Blue Moon, something on Twitter does, just about, justify its existence.
This blogger will only add this to the debate; he believes Peter was wrong in the assessment that young boys cannot or will not be able to identify with a female role model (although, to be fair to Peter, that's not exactly what he said and almost certainly not what he meant) but, this was, nevertheless, qualified with supportive comments about Jodie Whittaker's casting. Ultimately, it was just nothing. A minor, throwaway line at a convention. If Peter had, for example, said 'they should not have cast a woman in the role, she will be crap,' this blogger would have been joining in with the ritual crucifixion and holding the nails for the chap with the hammer. But, he didn't says that, or anything even remotely like it. And, anybody who thinks that he did, needs to grow up. And stop taking The Stupid Pill.
'Has everyone taken The Stupid Pill this week, or what?' part the second. This blogger, personally, is quite delighted with the casting of Jodie Whittaker and has said so, both here on From The North - in the last three blog updates - and elsewhere. On Facebook, because he is surrounded by, broadly speaking, like-minded individuals, this blogger has seen a large outpouring of goodwill on the matter. Which, coming from part of a frequent cesspool of puss as Doctor Who fandom can sometimes appear, is rather refreshing. But, you just knew it was going to end sooner or later, didn't you? One of the things this blogger has enjoyed over the last few days is a particular Facebook page - created by one 'John Smith' - which has been posting lots of, on the whole really rather good, fan artwork featuring ideas for Jodie-in-costume as The Doctor. One such example was included - with due acknowledgement of the source - on From The North's last update. A later example, was a painting of Jodie wearing a rather stylish - Ruby In The Smoke-style - Victorian dress. This blogger thought it was a really good effort and so he put up a link to it on his own Facebook page.
A lengthy thread followed, as sometimes happens on Keith Telly Topping's Facebook page when it's a wet Monday night and there's not much of the telly. And, for the most part, it was quite a humorous one too - lots of Keith Telly Topping's Facebook fiends liked the art, though a fair number noted the seeming lack of pockets in the costume for Jodie's Doctor to, for instance, keep her sonic screwdriver in! There is, of course, no suggestion whatsoever that Jodie's final costume will be anything like this, Keith Telly Topping just enjoyed this particular piece of artwork, that's all. I dare say, there are dozens of this kind of thing currently on The Interweb somewhere. Hundreds possibly. Anyway, in the middle of lots of quite cheerful comments about the impracticality of dresses without pockets(!), however, there was a snarling mono-brow'd bit of pure rancid spiteful malice from some individual whom this blogger, to the best of his knowledge, does not know. Keith Telly Topping must have, at some stage, clicked 'accept' to a Facebook fiend request from this person but otherwise, again to the best of this blogger's recollection, myself and this individual haven't interacted much, if at all. Until Monday. 'Do you have some kind of weird crush on her or something?' snarled this person - on, let's remember, Keith Telly Topping's own Facebook page where, for better or worse, Keith Telly Topping gets to set the rules. 'Its [sic] creepy.' Nice, eh? Well, no sir, this blogger does not have some kind of 'crush' - 'weird' or otherwise - on Jodie Whittaker although he does admire her greatly as an actress and very much looks forward to her forthcoming role as The Doctor in Doctor Who. He also, he freely admits, does find Jodie quite aesthetically pleasing which is a minor bonus to her many other admirable qualities. But, as a fifty three year old chap, twenty years older than Jodie herself as it happens, he rather thinks that even if he did have a 'crush' on her, Jodie might be a bit out of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's league. As in the difference between Premier League and Evo-Stik League Second Division (North), for example. Anyway, this exceptionally rude numbskull is now, very much, a former Facebook fiend of this blogger, a fate which awaits all of those who take it upon themselves to spew bile and invective on this blogger's own little Fortress of Solitude (with his two thousand five hundred Facebook fiends, obviously).
Quite why this individual felt it necessary to react so aggressively to someone merely posting a link to a bit of fan art is a question probably best left to the wilder imaginings of the darker corners of The Interweb. Keith Telly Topping, frankly, isn't interested. This blogger's life is too full already for him to have any time for this sort of crass bollocks, dear blog reader. But, like the Peter Davison malarkey mentioned above, it is a jolly useful reminder of two important things. That Facebook has a very excellent 'block' facility which means if someone posts something offensive (personal, or otherwise) one simply does not have to listen with them. There is an alternative - blissful silence. And, secondly, a very tragic truism: There are some good people in the world, dear blog reader. There are also some bad people. The vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle shuttling between the two on occasions but usually just trying to get through life as quietly as possibly without interacting with anyone with a nasty scowl on their face. And then, dear blog reader, there are some people who are, simply, scum. And, this blogger shall not be doing with them.
As mentioned, in a brief update to the last From The North blog update, details of Peter Capaldi's final outing in Doctor Who have been revealed as the first trailer for the Christmas special was released online after it had been shown at Comic-Con. And, jolly marvellous it looks too. The one-minute clip for the episode - which we now know is entitled Twice Upon A Time - sees Capaldi and the First Doctor (played by the very excellent David Bradley) team up.
It features the return of Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts, who had seemingly left the show at the end of the recently completed series ten.
The clip also showed a guest appearance from yer actual Mark Gatiss, who plays a World War One soldier called, simply, The Captain. Fan speculation has already gone into overdrive that The Captain may, in fact, be a relative (possibly the father) of the much-loved Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, The Doctor's friend from UNIT played by the late Nicholas Courtney. The release of the trailer coincided with the cast appearing at Comic-Con in San Diego on Sunday, where they talked about the upcoming episode, the last series and looked back at Capaldi's time on the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama.
Mark Gatiss described the Christmas special as being 'a Christmas episode without being overtly Christmassy - it's very happy-sad.' He added: '[It's] a fantastic episode and we had a great time doing it. It was a lovely way out.' It will be the fourth time that the Sherlock co-creator and actor Gatiss has appeared on Doctor Who in addition to the ten episodes of the series he has written. Mackie also confirmed the festive episode will be her last appearance on the show. Comic-Con fans were also shown a three-minute 'goodbye video' for Capaldi, thanking him for his time on the show, which led to a standing ovation. The actor praised writer and executive producer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE), saying: 'Every shot you saw there came through his gentleman's mind. The message of the show comes from his heart.' The team also addressed the casting of Jodie Whittaker her very self as the next Doctor. Capaldi called her 'a great choice,' adding: 'I think Jodie's going to be amazing and she's so full of excitement and full of passion about the show. It's really thrilling to know it's in the hands of somebody who cares for it so deeply and is going to do exciting things with it.' On Saturday, Capaldi told Empire magazine he was both sad to be leaving the series and excited for its future. '[The Christmas special] is a wonderful episode and I couldn't have wanted for any more. It's an emotional and moving end to my time as Doctor Who.'
Meanwhile, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) also used the Comic-Con panel to criticise the 'imaginary backlash' which the media appear to have taken some delight in reporting on the issue of Jodie Whittaker's casting. And, it was about bloody time that somebody - other than this blogger - did so, frankly. 'There's so many press articles about a "backlash" among Doctor Who fandom against the casting of a female Doctor. There has been no backlash at all,' said Steven. Which is, broadly true. There have been some negative voice (one or two of them quite loud, let it be noted) but most of the reaction from Doctor Who fandom - which as Steven himself notes, does have a reputation for conservatism and resistance to change - has been very positive. This was something that this blogger noted when he appeared on local radio last week. 'Actor cast in TV show, more news at Ten.' It was a theme Steven picked up on during his Comic-Con appearance: 'The story of the moment is that the notionally conservative fandom has utterly embraced that change completely - eighty percent approval on social media, not that I check these things obsessively. And yet so many people wanted to pretend there's a problem. There isn't.'
The Moffinator continued: 'Doctor Who fans are more excited by the fact that there's going to be a brilliant actress playing the part than the fact that she's a woman. It's been incredibly progressive and enlightened and that's what really happened. I wish every single journalist who is writing the alternative would shut the hell up - it's not true.' But, of course, they won't do that because that's not 'news', is it? 'Vast majority of people happy about change.' You'll never see that as a headline in the Daily Scum Mail. The executive producer also 'cleared up' (or, to be more accurate, had a reet good laugh at) the issue of whether the character's name is Doctor Who or The Doctor. It's the latter by the way, just in case anyone was really wondering. 'There isn't any doubt about it, I'm sorry,' The Moff claimed. 'It was established in The War Machines [1966] that his name is Doctor Who.' He provided further evidence to back up his point, including signing letters 'Doctor W' [in The Underwater Menace] and the third Doctor having a 'Who 1' licence plate. 'He doesn't often call himself Doctor Who because it's a bloody stupid name,' Steven added, helpfully. But, he handed an excuse to those fans like this blogger who wish to go on insisting the contrary, noting that this 'could be equally true' because 'what would Doctor Who continuity be without blatant and unresolvable contradiction?' He's a sarky sod at times, that Moff!
As a final word on this subject, when this blogger joked on Facebook that 'According to yer actual Steven Moffat (OBE) [The Doctor's] name is, indeed, Doctor Who. But, this is quite clearly wrong. He is established as a citizen of the universe and a gentleman to boot. It must, therefore, be Doctor Whom, surely?' Steven was in like a shot, posting the sort of slap-down response that he often gives Keith Telly Topping when he's talking off the top of his skull about malarkey like this. (It was okay, dear blog reader, we had tided up the crisp packets and the cans of pop before Steven arrived, the gaff like reasonably presentable.) 'If Doctor Who is a question then how do we explain the frequent construction "Doctor Who and the XXXXXX', which appears on many books and the show itself?' he asked. '2. If Doctor Who is a question, why is it sometimes written Dr Who? It would be odd to use the contraction in a normal sentence, unless it was a title, and if it's a title, what follows is a name. 3. Why does he sign himself "Dr W"? 4. Is it a coincidence that his licence plate is Who 1?' Steve asked, before adding: 'Correct answer to all of this: Doctor Who is his name in some episodes and not in others, just as he is human in some episodes and a Time Lord in others and has one heart for the first six years of the show and two thereafter. Two possible ways of reconciling the name problem. 1. Doctor Who is a fiction made up by lots of different people, most of whom never met each other. 2. Everything Missy said in World Enough & Time about The Doctor's name is entirely true and this thorny issue has finally been resolved by yours truly. You're very welcome!' So, there you go, dear blog reader. As clear as mud, yes? Of course, as we all know, The Doctor is half-Whoman (on his mother's side). This blogger's thanks to his very excellent Facebook fiend Paul Driscoll for that comment, which wins The Internet.
According to Radio Times, i'f being able to keep a secret makes for a good Time Lord then Jodie Whittaker 'has passed the first test.' Alleged - though anonymous and, therefore, probably fictitious - 'sources' allegedly 'close' to the performer allegedly say that Jodie - allegedly - knew 'for months' that she was getting the role of The Doctor. The magazine claims that Jodie was given the job 'at least five months ago' by Chris Chibnall, the incoming Doctor Who showrunner with whom Jodie worked on the ITV drama Broadchurch. Jodie appeared at a press launch earlier this summer for her new drama, Trust Me where she plays a nurse who poses as a doctor, and managed to keep a poker face for that. However the alleged 'sources' allegedly said that Jodie did tell one person: her husband, Christian Contreras. Jodie is expected to start filming for the role early next year for a likely broadcast in autumn 2018, with the role of her companion (or companions) still undecided according to alleged 'sources.' It has been claimed - albeit, not anywhere even remotely credible - that former Death In Paradise and My Family actor Kris Marshall has been chosen to accompany Jodie's Doctor in the TARDIS but alleged BBC 'sources' allegedly say that a decision has still not been made on the casting. Allegedly. Jodie said of her new role: 'I am beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet.' On, no, not the 'W' word. Jodie, love. Trust this blogger - no Doctor Who fan with an ounce of dignity or self-respect (admittedly, not words one normally associates with Doctor Who fans) uses 'Whovian'. We'd sooner be called 'anoraks' than that. 'It's more than an honour to play The Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything The Doctor stands for: hope. I can't wait.' Chris Chibnall, the Radio Times claims, is 'understood' to have been committed to casting a woman in the role ever since he landed the job last year. His statement said: 'I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The Thirteenth Doctor is on her way.'
There is yet another superb article about Jodie's casting, this one from Robert Fairclough at the very excellent We Are Cult website. Check it out, here: 'With my fanboy head on, I'm the kind of guy who, once a new Doctor's casting is announced, has scrutinised everything from All Creatures Great & Small, Withnail & I and Our Friends In The North, for possible hints about the direction of the new Doctor's character. I've spent an enjoyable weekend going through the second series of Chris Chibnall's Broadchurch, an experience that's made me more excited than I was at the initial announcement of Jodie's casting. In short, if Broadchurch was Jodie's unwitting audition for The Doctor – just like Casanova was for David Tennant under Russell T Davies – her performance is such a tour de force that I don't think we have anything to worry about. Of all the actors to be cast as The Doctor, Jodie is, in my opinion, the most emotionally honest, brave, natural and expressive. And that may be because she is, y'know, a woman.' Great stuff, Robert.
Before she takes over the lead role in Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker will be appearing on our screens as a very different doctor. And, a fake one at that. In the BBC thriller Trust Me, Whittaker plays Cath Hardacre, a nurse who loses her job after she turns whistle-blower. Wanting to provide a better life for her young daughter, she steals her best friend's identity as a senior doctor and lands a job in an Edinburgh hospital (a colleague, amusingly, describes the A&E department as 'like Braveheart with bad-tempered pensioners.') Armed with her nursing knowledge and some medical textbooks, Cath sets out to bluff her way as an experienced emergency medic. Of course, it doesn't all go smoothly. An early encounter sees her straighten a man's broken foot having forgotten to give him an anaesthetic. Then there's a heart-stopping sequence involving the victims of a car crash. 'There was blood squirting everywhere,' said Jodie, at a press screening which, as noted, was held before the recent announcement that she was to replace yer actual Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who. Like her character in Trust Me, the blood is of course fake, but that doesn't make it any less excruciating to watch. 'The prosthetics were amazing,' Jodie added. 'And, there were phenomenal actors coming in and committing to the sound of pain.' Trust Me has been written by Dan Sefton, a real-life A&E doctor, whose other TV writing includes Good Karma Hospital and Mr Selfridge. 'I think there are loads of people who aren't real doctors,' Sefton suggests. 'It's not that hard to fake it if you have some qualifications. Part of this thing is that people don't ask too many questions. We set this deliberately in a place that was on the periphery and struggling to recruit.' Sefton also revealed that there had once been a case of a bogus doctor working in his own hospital. 'He only got found out through some administrative thing, because he was actually pretty competent,' he recalled. 'Often these doctors are very professional and get along very well with their colleagues. The only flaw is that they aren't real doctors.' As well as writing the tense hospital scenes, Sefton also helped give the actors some basic medical training. That included teaching Jodie how to insert a needle into his own arm. 'I got it in your vein first time,' the actress notes proudly. 'But, I forgot to put the cap on and you started bleeding, which was a bit of a panic!' Jodie says that she was 'fine' with the 'physical and emotional stuff' that the script demanded. 'The thing I struggled most with - and that comes from failing over half my GCSEs - was the pronunciation of medicines.' The rest of the cast includes Emun Elliott as an A&E doctor, Sharon Small as the consultant in charge, and Blake Harrison as Cath's ex-boyfriend and father of their daughter. Jodie describes herself as 'a big fan' of the NHS. 'You don't have to be rich to be poorly,' she says. 'There are obviously problems - we all read the news - but I feel that the thing you want to celebrate is the day-to-day people: The doctors and nurses.' Sefton admits that what fascinates him is why people pretend to be doctors. 'Men almost always do it for egotistical reasons,' he says. 'They are often fantasists. They want to be somebody who is impressive. Women tend to do it more much more practical, interesting reasons. That's one of the reasons I chose a female protagonist for this drama. I was much more interested in looking at how the act of lying changes someone who is an essentially honest person.'
Series seven of Game Of Thrones is hugely upon us, dear blog reader. You might have noticed. Especially as the second episode saw red-hot lesbian action as Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) began kissing. According to the actors, the intimate moment between the two (which featured the line 'a foreign invasion is under way') was completely improvised by the actors. 'It wasn't directed that we would kiss,' Whelan told Entertainment Weekly. 'It just seemed like something we should do. We led it, very much so. It was meant to be a suggestion [of flirting] and then it became more sexual than we expected because it seemed right. There was only a skeleton crew working because the rig could only take so much weight, so we were left very much on our own. And who wouldn't want to kiss Indira? I mean, come on!' There was, however, one person a little reluctant to kiss Varma: Whelan's stunt-double. 'Gemma had hurt her back so there were some stunts she couldn't do,' Varma told the publication. 'So, I had to start kissing this poor stunt double and she was so terrified! That was quite funny, bless her. I don't think she'd ever been put in that situation before. She's used to falling over and being attacked and all the stunts, but to be kissed by an actress was a bit beyond her.' Whelan added: 'I think it's a wonderful scene and amusing as well - like that look from Yara to Theon that says "a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do."'
There's a great piece in Vanity Fair on the latest episode of Twin Peaks: The Return here, and in particular on the journey that the character of Bobby Briggs has been on in the twenty five years since the original series ended.
Esquire, meanwhile, rightly draws attention to the fact that David Lynch has managed to get possibly the best performance of a career - certainly the best in very long time - out of Jim Belushi.
And, the Gruniad's reviewer enjoyed the Big Black Whirly Thing In The Sky (as did this blogger).
Cos y'just can't go wrong with a Big Black Whirly Thing In The Sky, dear blog reader. Next ...

One of this blogger's favourite actors, as he's probably mentioned more than a few times before on From The North, is the very excellent David Warner. He's been interviewed at great length by the AV Club website about his extraordinary career - everything from Star Trek, Doctor Who and The Omen to Madhouse On Castle Street, Time After Time, Twin Peaks and Cross of Iron. Check it out here, dear blog reader. David comes over, as you'd expect, as a thorough gentleman. This blogger's only regret is that in mentioning just about every single part he's ever played, one of the few that the website missed out was one of Keith Telly Topping's favourites; 1969's classic heist movie Perfect Friday in which David was outstanding. But, that aside, what a great interview - the anecdote about David meeting Bob Dylan for the first time in fifteen years in the late 1970s in LA and Bob saying 'Hey, you played me,' is terrific.
Months after quitting The Great British Bake-Off ahead of its switch to Channel Four, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins have been rewarded for their loyalty to the BBC with co-hosting roles on the revamp of the classic Saturday night game show The Generation Game. The show has been commissioned for a four-episode run, though a broadcast date is yet to be set. The reboot will 'combine classic aspects' of the series with new games. A new version of The Generation Game has, reportedly, been in the works at the BBC since 2014. Originally Miranda Hart was slated to host it. She is said to have filmed a pilot shortly after Miranda came to an end, but she appears to have chosen to shift her focus towards writing and acting instead. This has left the door open for Mel and Sue, who had been looking for a new TV project to work on together since the end of Bake-Off. 'I'm very hopeful Mel and I will do some pratting about, but I couldn't tell you exactly what yet. Possibly some prime-time pratting,' Perkins told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs earlier this month. The Generation Game for those of you who aren't over the age of thirty, ran from 1971 to 2002 on the BBC, with Sir Bruce Forsyth serving as host between 1971 and 1977 and 1990 to 1994. The show pits pairs of inter-generational family members against one another, as they face-off in performance and task-based games, before heading to the iconic conveyor belt where they watch a parade of - very cheap - prizes whizz by and attempt to remember as many as they can. One change from the established format is that a panel of - presumably z-list - celebrity judges 'will be on hand to decide who gets to move on to the decisive conveyor belt stage.' Quite why something so wholly at odds with the original concept of The Generation Game - which, let's remember focused on ordinary members of the public not 'celebrities' - is not known.
The Great British Bake Off has found its final ingredients, with the kitchen cupboard staple Lyle's golden syrup and Doktor Oetker, the baking product maker, signing multi-million pound deals to be the first sponsors of what was the biggest show on British television when it was shown on the BBC. The hunt for a sponsor has been one of the biggest-ever charm offensives undertaken by Channel Four – which included presenters Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith appearing at an event designed to 'woo' some of the UK's biggest-spending brands – but it did not cook up an X-Factor-sized deal on its first outing. Given that the show was a national favourite, with fourteen million viewers watching the final last year, there was expected to be an advertising bun-fight following its move from the commercial-free environs of the BBC. Yet, while both sponsors are a perfect brand fit, they are not known as major TV advertisers. The famous green-and-gold cans of Lyle's only returned to TV advertising for the first time in a quarter of a century last year. Doktor Oetker, the German baking ingredients maker, has never sponsored a prime-time TV show. They are thought to have jointly paid about four million knicker to sponsor the first series, this year's Christmas specials and the Jo Brand-fronted spin-off Bake Off: An Extra Slice. Paul Hollywood's spin-off, A Baker's Life, is not part of the sponsorship deal. Channel Four had originally pitched opening bids at the eight million smackers mark for what was expected to be a sole brand, although that was originally for a bigger package that included the second series. ITV's entertainment big hitters The X Factor and Britain's Got Toilets struck sponsorship deals earlier this year worth ten million and six million notes per year respectively. However, Channel Four has been faced with 'a significant downturn' in the TV advertising market since the Brexit referendum, which has seen advertisers tighten the purse strings. Food brands – the third-biggest TV spending sector – are down more than fourteen per cent in TV advertising spend for the year to the end of March. Channel Four's relaunch of Bake Off, which also includes newly arrived hosts Sandi Toksvig and That bloody Weirdo Noel Fielding, has to prove it retains the recipe for success with viewers for budget-watching advertisers to come out in force next year. Jonathan Lewis, head of digital and partnership innovation at Channel Four, said that bringing on-board two brands has been 'common' in the past, such as with the channel's hugely successful coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics. 'With big-ticket, highly demanded shows, it makes sense to look at dual sponsorship strategies,' he claimed. 'From a viewer perspective, it is a natural fit and from a TV perspective, it's great to encourage brands like Doktor Oetker and Lyle's golden syrup, which haven't been sponsoring shows or running ads for some time, to bring them back to TV.' Last week, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, 'signs emerged that Britain's home-baking boom may be running out of steam' as the amount of staple baking ingredients sold by supermarkets fell 3.8 per cent in the year to the end of March. Of the major brands, only Doktor Oetker increased sales volumes. After paying seventy five million quid to poach Bake Off from the BBC, Channel Four needs to make at least twenty five million knicker over its three-year deal with Greed Productions, the maker of the show, to avoid the equivalent of a commercial soggy bottom. Most revenues will come from selling TV advertising and packages, at premium prices of as much as two hundred thousand smackers for a thirty-second slot. 'In the last week, there has been a significant step change in sales,' Lewis said. 'We have already fully sold out the first show. We are now close to starting to fill up the whole series.'
The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening has a new adult animated comedy fantasy series heading to Netflix next year. Disenchantment is set in 'the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland' and according to Groening, is about 'life and death, love and sex.' It will be released ten episodes at a time. Groening is also an executive producer on the show. 'Matt's brilliant work has resonated with generations round the world,' said Netflix vice-president Cindy Holland. 'We couldn't be happier to work with him on Disenchantment. The series will bear his trademark animation style and biting wit and we think it's a perfect fit for our many Netflix animation fans.' Among the characters in the new series are hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion, Elfo and her personal demon, Luci. Groening said: 'It is also about how to keep laughing in a world full of suffering and idiots, despite what the elders and wizards and other jerks tell you.' There have been more than six hundred episodes of The Simpsons, which was first broadcast in December 1989.
Tom Hardy, Arthur Darvill and Tim Vine are among the stars of the BBC's twelve new comedy pilots. The pilots are split across three strands: the revived Comedy Playhouse on BBC1, BBC2's New On Two and BBC3's Comedy Slices. Hardy will star in Comedy Slices' animated sitcom Sticky, alongside Javone Prince, Kayvan Novak and Charlotte Riley, which follows four best friends who attend a college located in London's mythical borough of Shatford. Sticky also features Murder In Successville's Tom Davis and former Doctor Who actor Arthur Darvill and is created by Fonejacker's Ed Tracy. The Comedy Playhouse strand features Tim Vine Travels Through Time, which Vine describes as 'Doctor Who with puns,' Mister Winner starring Upstart Crow's Spencer Jones and Static with Rob Beckett. The New On Two season includes a sketch show Famalam, The Other One written by Holly Walsh (so, that'll be worth avoiding) and The Pact starring Sarah Solemani. Whether any of these will actually be funny or not, we'll have to wait and see.

Margo Chase – the graphic designer behind the iconic logo for Buffy The Vampire Slayer – has died in a plane crash. The renowned graphic artist died following the incident last Saturday in Apple Valley, California, Deadline reports. Margo also created the logos for Angel and Charmed and worked as a typography designer for major pop stars including Madonna, Prince, Cher and Selena Gomez. The fifty nine-year-old reportedly had a passion for flying and was practising a sequence in an aircraft when she crashed, according to the International Aerobatic Club. She founded the Chase Design Group in 1986, with the award-winning brand going on to work with clients including PepsiCo, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup Co, Microsoft and ESPN.
Over the weekend, a clip went viral showing a man furiously shouting at a family and trying to place them under citizen's arrest. The man in question has now been identified as Fergus Beeley, an former TV producer who worked on David Attenborough's documentaries. In the video, Beeley is seen threatening the family after he claims they were involved in a 'nearly fatal car accident' off the M27 in Hampshire. Beeley can be seen trying to force the family's car door open and trying to grab the arms of a man in an effort to place him under citizen's arrest. He tells the family that he intends to arrest all of them, including the son who was sat in the back seat, claiming the family were dangerous driving, abusive and that one of the family members had tried to punch him. The family can be heard saying that Beeley said he was an undercover police officer, which he denies. BBC News reports that when the police arrived no arrests were made, but two allegations of common assault were made. They also state - with some considerable relief, seemingly - that Fergus Beeley is not a current BBC employee and, indeed, has not worked for the BBC for 'over ten years.' During his time with the corporation he worked on The Life Of Birds, Planet Earth and Natural World.
Astronauts may not need to go far to find water outside Earth. As CNN reports, Brown University scientists Ralph E Milliken and Shuai Li suspect there are significant amounts of water churning within the Moon's interior. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, lean on the discovery of glass beads encased in the Moon's volcanic rock deposits. As recently as one hundred million years ago, the Earth's moon was a hotbed of volcanic activity. Evidence of that volatile time can still be found in the ancient ash and volcanic rock which is scattered across the surface. Using satellite imagery, the researchers identified tiny water droplets preserved inside glass beads that formed in the volcanic deposits. While water makes up a small fraction of each bead, its presence suggests there's significantly more of it making up the Moon's mantle. Milliken and Li aren't the first scientists to notice water in lunar rocks. In 2008, volcanic materials collected from the Moon during the Apollo missions of 1971 and 1972 were revealed to contain the same water-flecked glass beads that the Brown scientists made the basis of their recent study. They took their research further by analyzing images captured across the face of the Moon and quickly saw the Apollo rocks represented a larger trend. 'The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing,' Milliken said in a press statement. 'They're spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn't a one-off. Lunar pyroclastics seem to be universally water-rich, which suggests the same may be true of the mantle.'
This blogger has recently seen the trailer for Christopher Nolan's movie Dunkirk, dear blog reader. Keith Telly Topping really must go to see this at the earliest opportunity, despite it getting a right slagging from some total cock-splash of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star. That just made me more determined to see it. Anything the Gruniad disapproves of has to be worthy of your time.
This blogger's father was at Dunkirk, as it happens - that was his entire war; he was twenty one and was indescribably brave in a way that Keith Telly Topping knows he could never be in similar circumstances. My dad could have got out of it too, he was a riveter in the ship building industry and, therefore, was in what was at the time a protected job. In 1939, ships were far more important to Britain than men and skilled tradesmen like my father were being actively encouraged not to join up but to stay where they were. My father, like many others, said 'to Hell with it, I'm going' and, as TA reservist, he volunteered a couple of days before war actually broke out (his younger brother, my Uncle Les, also joined up at the same time having lied about his age; he was only seventeen.) My dad was part of the British Expeditionary Force arriving, according to his service record, in France in late January 1940. He was a bombardier in the Royal Artillery and was firing a thirty two pounder down the road at the advancing Germans from the outskirts of the town of Dunkirk for about four or five days during the retreat before he finally got onto - and then, after a day, off - the beach on 31 May on one of the troop carriers. He was one of the lucky ones. He always said that although they, undeniably, did a great job - and it was fantastic feel-good propaganda at the time- the contributions of the so-called 'little ships' was somewhat overplayed and that ninety five per cent of those soldiers that got away and back to Britain did so on the far bigger troop carriers. But, unfortunately, that meant all the soldiers had to wade out from the beach about a mile off-shore to get to the ships and, in the event, my dad saw one of his best friends, who couldn't swim, carried away by a sudden wave and drown. He also told me an incredible story about the first night they were on the gun crew on the main Dunkirk road. It was complete chaos, the sudden German advance had caught everyone on the hop and what had, until that point, been a rather uneventful couple of months in Northern France for a large chunk of the BEF had, suddenly, become horribly real. Many of these young men - my father included - believed that they were going to die. It was an entirely reasonable assumption to make, the Wehrmacht were coming their way and they, you know, rock hard.
My dad, as noted, was twenty one and a bombardier (the equivalent of a corporal), his two - gunner - colleagues were twenty and nineteen respectively and they had a French corporal with them who was about twenty three. So, the French guy brought out a bottle of wine and, as it was quiet at the time, they drank it. All of it. Just at that point, the Captain walked in on them. Now, technically speaking they had just committed what amounted to an executable crime during wartime - drunk at ones post - and he would have been within his rights to just shoot them there and then, without the need for a court martial. Instead he said, calmly, 'I shall be back in an hour, I expect you all to be sober.' And, of course, they made damned sure that they were and nothing further was ever said about the incident. A moment of humanity in the middle of a horror movie. About a decade later, my father - by now having had to give up his previous job due to an infection of the mastoid bone which affected his balance and meant that he couldn't work at heights any more - was selected for jury duty and his captain was ... I can never remember whether he was the judge or one of the barristers but, in some way, he was involved in the court case, anyway. He recognised my father and they spoke fondly of their shared time in France. Then, after my dad had done his four days jury duty or whatever it was, his ex-Captain took him out for a meal. It was only when he was in his sixties and seventies that my father - who died in 1991 - ever really talked about any of this. Like a lot of people who had seen warfare at close quarters, he just didn't want to dwell on it. For him, war wasn't a glorious escapade; it was a rather mundane affair except for about five days in late May 1940 when it was, quite literally, Hell.
There was some considerable excitement and kerfufflement round our way on Saturday, dear blog reader: A house more or less directly opposite Stately Telly Topping Manor had a fire. At first, this blogger simply thought it was something like a chip-pan fire ir a garden bonfire that had got out of control since there was a lot of smoke but no obvious evidence of flames. So, this blogger did what anyone would do in the circumstances, he took a few photographs of what was occurring out of the window of Stately Telly Topping Manor and posted them up on Facebook with a brief running commentary. Fire appliances quickly attended and it appeared as though it wasn't much to get concerned about. 'Excitement over; everything seems to be under control,' this blogger posted to his Facebook fiends. However, sadly it subsequently transpired that the incident was lot more serious than this blogger thought, at least according to a piece which appeared a few hours later in the local press. A pretty accurate piece of reportage it was too, although this blogger does question the suggestion that fire officers 'fought the blaze for two hours.' Yer actual was watching it live, dear blog reader, it was more like, thirty minutes (after which they did hang around for a while, presumably having a jolly well deserve cuppa). Then, even more excitement; on Tuesday, this blogger drew a visit from a - very nice, let it be noted - police officer who was interested in having a gander at the photos yer actual had taken of the incident in progress, as it were. I don't think they were too much specific help with the case since all this blogger caught was the aftermath, really. But it is quite a novel experience to be, what's the phrase, 'helping police with their enquiries'!
Now, dear blog reader, this blogger was utterly startled when he noticed this on his good mate the legend that is James Gent's Facebook page on Thursday morning.
Keith Telly Topping had heard this claim made before but always thought that particular rumour was an urban myth. For the uninitiated (or, for our American dear blog readers anyway), Derek Griffiths is a bit of British TV legend, a long-time and much-loved presenter of the BBC children's programme Play School among many other credits. He's now in his seventies but is still acting, as recently as March this year he finished a sixteenth month run on Coronation Street. He is a singer as well being as an actor and comedian and his age was about right, he was born in 1946 so he'd've been twenty one in the late-summer of 1967 when The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) recorded 'I Am The Walrus'. We already knew, from Mark Lewisohn's exhaustive and scholarly book on The Be-Atles studio work, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (published in 1988) that one of The Mike Sammes Singers who provided the memorable choruses on 'I Am The Walrus' was a 'D Griffiths' too. But, I dunno, it just always seemed a bit of a stretch from that to the idea that it was the Derek Griffiths, particularly as there appeared to be no biographical info on the Interweb to suggest that Derek was ever a member of The Mike Sammes Singers during his early career. So, this blogger always put that suggestion into the same category as the rumours that Carl Perkins played guitar on The Be-Atles cover of his song 'Matchbox' or that Mick Jagger sang the backing vocals on 'Baby, You're A Rich Man'. Possible, but unlikely. Now, however, someone has actually asked Derek, on Twitter the burning question. And, received an affirmative answer from Derek. So, there you go dear blog reader, Play School legend Derek Griffiths, according to the man his very self, was indeed one of the backing singers on The Be-Atles' 'I Am The Walrus'. The only downside to this revelation, of course, is that this blogger now cannot get the image of Derek Griffiths in a episode of Play School bellowing 'Oompah, oompah, stick it up yer jumper' at the nation's five-year-olds out of his head. Damn, that's gonna be stuck there all day.
And, finally dear blog reader, some may consider this harsh but, probably, fair.