Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The BBC have issued a new image promoting the return of Doctor Who on Sunday 7 October. And, episode two of the new series has been confirmed as being titled The Ghost Monument. Guest stars for the episode will be the very excellent Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch and the veteran actor Art Malik. The series showrunner, Chris Chibnall, said: 'Finally – Jodie Whittaker's Doctor is about to crash land onto the nation's screens. It's thrilling to think, in the next few weeks and months, there will be children encountering Jodie's Doctor in the next few weeks who've never seen the show before. She will be forever their Doctor: you never forget your first. Alongside Jodie, we have a delightful ensemble of new characters for the audience to fall in love with, led by the incomparable Bradley Walsh. So break out the popcorn and hunker down for Sunday night adventures in space and time, with The Doctor and her new best friends. The journey is about to begin.' Episode one, of course, we already know is called The Woman Who Fell To Earth. The episode synopsis reads: '"We don't get aliens in Sheffield." In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O'Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And, can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city?' The episode's guest cast includes Sharon D Clarke, Johnny Dixon and Samuel Oatley, it is written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs. The Ghost Monument's plot synopsis is as follows: 'Still reeling from their first encounter, can The Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough, in a hostile alien environment, to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?'
BBC America have also this week released yet another - longer, and even more impressive - trailer for the new series. Which is Goddamn sexy in this blogger's sight! 'Why you asking her?' 'Cos, she's in charge, bro!' 'Sez who?' 'Sez us!' Subtext rapidly becoming the text! Dunno 'bout you, dear blog reader, but yer actual Keith Telly Topping is dead-excited.
Jodie Whittaker's casting in Doctor Who - which has delighted millions, including this blogger, but also pissed-off some sour, pinch-faced whinging malcontents ... most of whom are exactly the sort of people that appear to enjoy being pissed-off about something on a daily basis - was kept so hush-hush by Chris Chibnall and the BBC that even the popular long-running family SF drama's writers didn't find out until the rest of the world did. Chibnall confirmed in the latest issue of SFX that series eleven's writers - Malorie Blackman, Ed Hime, Pete McTighe, Vinay Patel and Joy Wilkinson - turned in initial scripts with The Doctor written as a male in order to keep the secret of Whittaker's hiring under wraps for as long as possible. And, the most surprising thing here is ... SFX is still going? Who knew? 'A lot of drafts of scripts have got "he" in,' Chibnall said. 'The writers didn't know - nobody knew - until that reveal video went out.' For some shows, this might cause some major re-thinking when your writers find out that their lead character has switched sexes, but Chibnall insists that The Doctor has never been defined by being male or female. 'It's very hard for me to think of a decision that The Doctor has taken in fifty five years that is a gender-based decision or action,' he argued. 'I'd really struggle to think of one.' Chibnall conceded that the only situation where gender politics could come into play in series eleven is if The Doctor and her companions travelled to real-life historical periods. 'I think particularly in the historicals – if we're doing historicals, which I'm sure we are – obviously that then affects what happens to all these characters when you go to certain periods of history,' he hinted.
After revealing earlier this week that she is 'not being paid less than any other Doctor,' Jodie Whittaker has said that she 'can't even begin to debate' with sexist Doctor Who critics. Speaking about anyone criticising a female doctor - there aren't many of them, dear blog reader, but they are all quite loud - Jodie told the New York Times: 'It's not a fact, it's an opinion. I have no issue with someone having a different opinion from me. I don't necessarily want to have my last meal with them. I know I got the role on the merits,' she added. 'I didn't get handed it. I don't play a gender.' She further discussed her predecessor, yer actual Peter Capaldi, explaining: 'I'm in Peter's costume. I'm literally in his shoes. If someone is devastated at the loss of him, that's brilliant, because it just means the show is loved. If the fact that I'm a woman is an issue, that's their issue. I can't even begin to debate that.' And, to be fair, she doesn't need to do so when she can simply - and brilliantly - take the raging piss (with truly withering sarcasm) out of such Twitterati gobshite moron-scum. As an interview with Stylist magazine this week gave her the, delicious, opportunity to do. And lo, they were put down in the gutter along with all the other shite. It was a joy to behold.
That There Bradley Walsh has revealed he was 'persuaded' to take a part in Doctor Who by his 'pal' Ray Winstone. At least this is according to the Sun, the only organ of the media that still uses the word 'pal' in anything other than an ironic sense (as in, you know, 'you lookin' at me, pal?') Bradley said that Ray told him to 'get back to acting' over a drink at a charity football match. Bradley explained that Ray told him: 'Enough of the quiz shows. Why don't you do more acting? You are a good actor.' Which, indeed, he is. As well as Coronation Street, Bradley has also previously appeared in Law & Order UK, Torn (in which he was superb), Night & Day and The Old Curiosity Shop among many others. Mind you, he was also in an episode of Bobby Davro's Rock With Laughter so, you know, it's not an entirely perfect CV! He is now playing The Doctor's new companion, Graham, opposite Jodie Whittaker and he is full of praise for the first lady Time Lord. Speaking ahead of the first episode, the host of The Chase told People: 'If there are any Doctor Who fans out there, Jodie is magnificent.' This blogger can confirm to Bradley that there, are, indeed, plenty of Doctor Who fans out here. Most of them are quite nice but there are a handful or arseholes. 'It was unbelievable,' he added. 'It is really big stuff and they have gone for it.'
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, here's a message for the UK authorities from some foreign visitors.
Those dear blog readers living in the US - and, those of us lucky enough to have gotten a preview disc sent over a couple of months ago - will already be well aware of just how good new From The North fave Killing Eve is. And now, UK viewers have finally got to see what the fuss is about. The drama, made by BBC America, is a spy thriller written by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It's exciting, witty (often very funny) and just a bit dangerous. Its first episode was broadcast on Saturday, whilst the whole series is available for binge-watching on the iPlayer. And, reportedly, more than a few viewers watched the first episode and we so taken with it that they then spent the rest of Saturday night and Sunday morning valiantly battling sleep-deprivation to watched episodes two to eight. Reviews for the show have been almost entirely positive - with critics praising the scripting and casting. And, seemingly, the public are also rather taken with it. The Gruniad Morning Star's Lucy Mangan gave the show five stars and referred to 'the snapping, crackling script' which she called 'the perfect command of comedy and tragedy. [The show] wears its feminist credentials so lightly. Eve doesn't have to fight any overt sexism. Her boss and husband are good, supportive guys. Villanelle only uses her femaleness to get physically close enough to slice, stab or shoot her victims, not seduce them. This isn't a retrograde step. This is progress.' The Independent's Ed Cumming also gave the show five stars and pointed to leads Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. 'Killing Eve's triumph is to give full throat to each of its many voices. It's the chemistry between the two compelling leads, however, that gives Killing Eve its particular fizz. Even as they are cast as cat and mouse, the two women are fascinated by each other, respectful of the other's skills but determined to win.' Another five star review was handed out by the Torygraph's Jacob Rees - who called the drama 'an absolute peach. With style and verve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has adapted Luke Jennings' Codename Villanelle novellas about the co-dependent joust between a spook and an assassin. Killing Eve looks fabulous in the manner of a glossy cartoon bloodbath, while the multilingual dialogue fizzes and sizzles. And, blissfully, each episode is only forty five minutes. Please can BBC Drama now cool it for a bit? It has successfully reminded us Netflix is not the only game in town.' The Digital Spy website's Jo Berry was also a fan and credited 'Waller-Bridge's skill at mixing drama with wry humour. Villanelle is dangerous, strange, funny and sly and one of the true pleasures of Killing Eve is sitting back and watching Comer's expressive face while wondering what the hell this mad assassin is going to do next. Waller-Bridge subtly makes such observations in her enjoyably snarky script, and also skilfully turns the good-guy-chases-the-villain formula on its head. Killing Eve is a suspenseful, brilliantly played slice of must-see TV and it's an absolute blast.' Carol Midgley, writing in The Times, wrote that 'this is a totally different kind of black comedy, ably assisted by the deadpan delivery of Sandra Oh as Eve' and described Jodie Comer as 'beguiling.' The Financial Times' Suzi Feay credited Waller-Bridge for putting 'a distinctive spin on the spy genre. The interchangeability of the hunter and the hunted is a well-worn trope, but it's given a distinctive spin in Killing Eve by scriptwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose trademark humour has turned even darker and meaner than it was in Fleabag. "This doesn't have a great deal of charm or believability, but it is immensely stylish.' However, not everyone is a fan. Keith Watson at the Metro - whose views this blogger always used to rather respect but who is now dead to me - gave it a measly two stars. Hey, Keith mate, get a job at a real newspaper, mate and stop talking shit about the best new drama Britain has produced since The Night Manager.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the latest - fifth - episode of Bodyguard but one minor detail had some viewers reaching for their mobile phones. At one point, Richard Madden's character, David Budd, gave out his mobile number to another character. It was too tempting for a number of viewers, who seemingly couldn't resist calling it. If they were hoping to speak to the anguished police protection officer, however, they were left disappointed and there are twenty thousand reasons why. That's the amount of fake telephone numbers set aside by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, for use in TV, radio and film. These include numbers for different geographic areas around the UK as well as mobile phone numbers. Harry Rippon, the communications manager for Ofcom, says that this is to save anyone from having their phone number accidentally or deliberately featured on TV - because usually, the first thing some idiots do is call it. 'I think it happens quite a lot - if a number is onscreen, there's always the chance someone could call it,' he told BBC Newsbeat. 'There's always someone who thinks: "What if I call this number?"' Yes, mate. They're called glakes. 'As far as I'm aware, we've always had these numbers for this very reason.' Occasionally, real-life numbers have made it onscreen - creating havoc for the people who own them. In 2003's Bruce Almighty, Morgan Freeman's God repeatedly contacted Jim Carrey's character using a real phone number rather than a fictional one usually used in American films (you can aways recognise them, they have a five-five-five area code). It turned out that the number belonged to different people in various area codes, including one poor chap in Manchester who, reportedly, kept getting phone calls asking to speak to God. Eventually, after the issue was highlighted, the number was changed for the home video and television versions for the movie.
The latest batch of From The North Comedy Line(s) of the Week came from Monday's - terrific - second episode of Qi's P series, Peril. In which Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies and guests Lee Mack, Jason Manford and Aisling Bea engaged in thirty minutes of delicious one-liners and witty comebacks. So, dear blog reader, take your pick from any of the following: On the revelation that the most dangerous job in the world, statistically, is President of the United States (eight out of forty four Presidents have died in office, which is a fatality-rate roughly twenty seven times that of a lumberjack): 'Luckily, the present one is really likable!'; 'Trust you? The legendary liar from Would I Lie To You?'; 'Can anyone think of an example of certain doom?' 'Saturday night, Glasgow Jongleurs!'; 'When I was sixteen you could get a motorbike, get on it and just go ... You could only go at thirty but if you knew a bloke with a garage full of parts you could get a big-bore cylinder and a larger piston, bigger sprockets and a racing exhaust and ... [then] you could do forty!' Alan's wonderful story about doing a tandem sky-dive ('I absolutely shat myself!') and Lee's story of watching a friend bungee-jumping; 'My poppet does not want to be down there!'; 'One series of Bake Off and now, she's an expert!'; 'I remember the old system, U, A, Double-A and X, what was wrong with that? X was very scary or very sexy. So, now, if I get to the letter "X" just looking at the alphabet, I get aroused. The X Factor, I can't watch it!'; 'I'm not even a cat, leave me alone!'; 'Never approach a hamster from behind!' And, possibly the best of the lot, 'where's the bad language in Paddington? Well, there was one bit where he said "where's my marmalade sandwich you c-!"' Sixteen years in, dear blog reader and Qi remains, by a distance, the funniest show on British TV.
The official Qi Twitter account has also confirmed this week that the current series of Qi XL will begin on BBC2 at 10pm on Saturday 6 October with the episode Panimals.
Claire Foy, Thandie Newton and Charlie Brooker were among the British winners at the seventieth Primetime EMMY Awards ceremony. Foy won the best actress in a drama series for her role as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's The Crown. Matthew Rhys also took one of the night's big prizes - best leading actor in a drama series. Game Of Thrones won two prizes - best drama series and supporting actor for Peter Dinklage - while The Marvellous Mrs Maisel scooped five comedy awards. However, two hotly-tipped shows - Atlanta and The Handmaid's Tale - failed to replicate their successes from last year and went home empty-handed. Elisabeth Moss had been the pre-show favourite to win best drama actress for the second series of The Handmaid's Tale, but lost out to Foy. In her acceptance speech, Foy described her time on The Crown as 'the most extraordinary two-and-a-half years of my life.' And, she never whinged about getting paid less than Matt Smith once. Which was almost certainly a first. She added: 'I was given a role I never thought I would ever get a chance to play, and I met people who I will love for ever and ever. And the show goes on, which makes me so proud. So I dedicate this to the next cast, the next generation and I also dedicate this to Matt Smith.' Olivia Colman is due to take over the role from Foy as the drama enters its third series. Stephen Daldry won best directing for a drama series for The Crown. Newton was awarded best supporting actress in a drama series for her role in another From The North favourite, Westworld. 'I don't even believe in God but I'm going to thank her tonight,' the actress said as she took to the stage to collect her trophy. Rhys picked up best leading actor in a drama series for his role in The Americans. 'Parts like these come along so rarely. I will forever be in your debt,' he said. Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror and his co-writer William Bridges won best writing for a limited series. John Oliver added to the British success at the ceremony, picking up the award for best variety talk series for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel was one of the night's biggest winners - adding five trophies to the four it won last week at the Creative Arts EMMYs. The series took home best writing, directing, lead actress and supporting actress in the comedy categories, as well as one of the night's big awards - best comedy series. The Assassination Of Gianni Versace was also one of Monday's big winners - landing best limited series, best directing for a limited series and best lead actor in a limited series for Darren Criss. Henry Winkler won his first EMMY - best supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in Barry - forty two years after he was first nominated for playing The Fonz in Happy Days. 'Skip Brittenham said to me a long time ago, "If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you" and, tonight, I got to clear the table,' he said in his speech. Jeff Daniels took home the award for best supporting actor in a limited series or a television movie for his role in Netflix's Godless - described as a feminist western. In addition to his family and co-workers, Daniels thanked the streaming service for 'letting artists be artists.' He added: 'Little tip for you young actors - when they call and say "Can you ride a horse?" don't lie. You will find on day one that you're in the Kentucky Derby.' Together with the Creative Arts EMMYs handed out last week, this year's awards tally saw Netflix and HBO tied with twenty three awards each. The ceremony took place at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
Yer actual Jenna Coleman has revealed that she thought she had been 'completely miscast' in her new BBC drama The Cry. In the upcoming series – which recently unveiled its trailer – the Victoria and Doctor Who actress plays a young mother struggling to deal with the demands of her newly born child. Coleman also has to pretend to give birth, screaming in agony while mercilessly squeezing the side of the hospital bed and aggressively grinding her teeth. But, having never had any children of her own – and therefore had no logical reason for going into the labour either – Coleman initially worried that she might not have been right for the part. 'I spent a good first chunk of it just thinking they'd completely miscast – and why on Earth me?' she told the Grunaid Morning Star. 'I'm not a mother! I really kind of hit myself over the head with it. I felt there was obviously something I wouldn't be able to capture. It was something so primal that I haven't literally experienced. And I've really struggled with that.' Though, it's probably worth pointing out at this juncture that - so far as this blogger is aware - Jenna has never been Queen either, or, for that matter, time-travelled yet such lack-of-life-experience didn't seem to impinge upon either of her best known previous roles. It's called acting, love. She did, however, once go to school so that helped when preparing for her stint on Waterloo Road. She revealed that she 'got in touch with her friends' who have had babies and asked them for their insight. In return, she claims, she learned 'a great deal' about 'the day-to-day realities of what it is being a new mum.' And, how to grind her teeth in agony. Probably.
Also, Jenna Coleman will star in a new production of All My Sons at the Old Vic, the theatre announced this week as it unveiled its line-up for next year. Merlin actor Colin Morgan will appear alongside Jenna. Sally Field and Bill Pullman had already been announced for the show, which will run from April. The season is Matthew Warchus's fourth as artistic director. Highlights of the Old Vic's new season include: Rachel Chavkin's Old Vic debut directing Arthur Miller's The American Clock; a performance to mark one hundred years since the Armistice, curated by Arinzé Kene and directed by Annabel Bolton. The show, part of the One Voice series, will be made of of five specially-commissioned monologues; Jack Thorne's version of A Christmas Carol, starring Stephen Tompkinson as Scrooge and a new play by Lucy Prebble based on A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding to close the season.
Rules controlling UK media need to change if British TV is to compete with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, according to the BBC Director General, Tony Hall. At a speech on Tuesday, Lord Hall said that there may be more content but 'it won't necessarily be British content' unless the BBC can meet the challenge. Netflix and Amazon alone are spending thirteen billion knicker a year on programmes. Hall said that only around one hundred and fifty million smackers of the tech giants' output is spent on new UK programmes. All this comes at a time that spending by the UK's main broadcasters has dropped by around a billion notes to two-and-a-half billion quid since 2004. And, the new digital giants are not bound by the regulations which control British TV companies. In his speech to the Royal Television Society, Lord Hall said that he has seen 'a big shift' in how global media works and that British media companies need a fairer system of regulation if they are going to compete against the American giants. 'It cannot be right that the UK's media industry is competing against global giants with one hand tied behind its back. In so many ways - prominence, competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade, production quotas - one set of rules applies to UK companies and barely any apply to the new giants. That needs rebalancing, too.' Lord Hall also said that UK viewers 'want content that is relevant to their lives and they want to see people like them on screen. We all know this instinctively but if we didn't, Ofcom data shows it clearly.' But, Britain's main TV broadcasters are losing younger viewers. Consumption of BBC output by younger audiences has dropped by more than a third from eleven-and-a-half hours a week to seven-and-a-half - that's less than Spotify and YouTube, which together occupy young people for around eight hours a week. The BBC says that Netflix's younger audience is 'about the same size' as BBC television and iPlayer combined. 'This isn't just an issue for us economically, commercially or as institutions,' Lord Hall said. 'There is an impact on society. The content we produce is not an ordinary consumer good. It helps shape our society. It brings people together, it helps us understand each other and share a common national story.' The BBC is, Lord Hall says, going to respond to the challenge of the new 'tech giants' by making the iPlayer more of a 'destination' than a catch-up service, spending more on youth programming and the highest quality output and shifting more production out of London to the rest of the UK. The Director General said: 'We need to move faster on our plans for iPlayer, for BBC Sounds and for young audiences. I have challenged the organisation to find one hundred million pounds a year from our current budgets to invest in these priorities from next April.'
The BBC and the US pay-TV company Discovery are 'understood' - by the Gruniad Morning Star if not anyone more reliable - to be 'in the final stages' of agreeing a one billion knicker break-up of the Gold and Dave broadcaster, UKTV, in a deal which will accelerate plans to build a British streaming rival to Netflix. UKTV, which has a mix of ten free-to-air and pay-TV channels, is jointly owned by the Eurosport owner Discovery and BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC. The BBC has long sought to take full control of UKTV - which made more than ninety million knicker in profits last year and pays fifty four million quid annually for rights to BBC shows ranging from Top Gear to Dad's Army, Qi to New Tricks and Would I Lie To You? to Porridge. Earlier this year, the BBC reportedly explored a buyout after a change of ownership clause in the joint venture contract was triggered by Discovery's takeover of Scripps, the corporation's previous partner in UKTV. The BBC, which does not have the financial flexibility to stage a buy-out on its own, held talks with ITV and Channel Four, but the ninety-day window to make a bid expired in June with no partner on board. It is understood, the Gruniad claim, that the BBC and Discovery have 'all but agreed' a deal to instead break up UKTV, which has operated since the early 1990s, splitting the channels between them. It is not clear how the mix of channels will be divided but those most filled with BBC archive content - such as Drama, Dave and Gold - would be the obvious candidates to remain with the corporation. If a final agreement can be reached, a BBC board meeting later in September is thought to be when the plan would need final approval. In addition, talks between the BBC, Channel Four and ITV about joining forces to create a British streaming service to combat the increasing power of Netflix and Amazon in the UK have been hampered in part by the uncertainty surrounding UKTV. Much of the blame for the delay has centred on the BBC splitting the video-on-demand rights to its programmes, with the corporation packaging up different deals for UKTV and other broadcasters such as Netflix. Earlier this year, Virgin Media took UKTV's channels off-air, accusing the BBC of being 'a linear dinosaur in an on-demand world' for holding back and splitting digital rights. Digital rights to programmes which it made and the commercial exploitation of which is its right. Just sayin'. A break-up of UKTV would have major ramifications for Channel Four, which handles the broadcaster's two hundred and fifty million smackers-per-year TV advertising sales contract. Channel Four stands to lose, potentially, tens of millions of wonga in revenues, depending on what channels are secured by Discovery, which has its TV advertising sales contract with Sky. Channel Four and the BBC have been in talks for months about a potential partnership, including video-on-demand rights, which would be able to be hammered out after the fate of UKTV is known. The BBC's talks with ITV about UKTV are also, the Gruniad claim, 'understood to have stalled in part over issues relating to video-on-demand rights.' The established British broadcasters held similar talks two years ago but in the end only the BBC and ITV managed to hook up to launch a Netflix-style service in the US called Britbox. It was hoped that partners including Channel Four would come on-board for a UK service, but a British launch did not take place. Meanwhile, the Gruniad also claimed that the recently cancelled Big Brother 'could return on ITV' after the broadcaster reportedly entered the bidding for the show's production company, Endemol Shine. The Dutch firm, which also makes The Fall, MasterChef, Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, is being sold by the private equity house Apollo and billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's Twenty First Century FOX in a three billion smackers auction. Endemol is loss-making and received a blow last week when Channel Five said that it would axe Big Brother after the current series, almost two decades after the show first appeared on British television (see below). Other bidders reportedly include All3Media, backed by Liberty Global, which owns a stake in ITV and Banijay Group, a French production company backed by Vivendi. At ITV's half-year results in July, its chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall, who joined from the budget airline EasyJet in January and was previously chief executive of the Gruniad Morning Star Media Group, said she wanted the broadcaster to do 'more than TV.'
So, as previously mentioned - and, as speculated widely over the last few months - the makers of Big Brother and Z-List Celebrity Big Brother have announced that the show is being extremely axed at the end of the current series. Big Brother's Twitter account shared the news that the nineteenth series of the sick Victorian freak sow, launching on Friday night, would be the last. Channel Five confirmed that Z-List Celebrity Big Brother was also ending. The show first appeared in 2000 and used to be extremely popular, but viewing figures have dwindled away to almost nothing in recent years. A spokesperson told the BBC: "The forthcoming series of Big Brother will be the last - of either celebrity or civilian versions - on Channel Five. We'd like to thank Endemol and all of the production team who have worked tirelessly to make the show a success.' And, you know, failed. Endemol released a statement shortly after Channel Five's announcement to say that they were 'disappointed not to reach an agreement with Channel Five' over the future of the show. The production company did hint that it might not be the end of the show as they added 'the decision opens up a new chapter and we are excited about future possibilities for Big Brother in the UK.' During the launch of the recent series of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother, Channel Five controller Ben Frow hinted that the franchise would be ending as 'the contract runs out at Christmas.' It was revealed recently by Deadline that Channel Five was set to bring popular US TV show The Bachelor to a British audience, as a rival to ITV2's Love Island. The dating show failed to captivate viewers when the channel first attempted a British version in 2012, but the current appetite for dating shows could help revive its popularity. Big Brother was billed as a social experiment on Channel Four, eighteen years ago and involved putting ordinary people in a house over a series of weeks with no contact to the outside world. Davina McCall presented the first incarnation of the show, stepping down in 2010 when it moved to Channel Five. It was then hosted by former winner Brian Dowling before Emma Willis took over in 2013 and been narrated by Marcus Bentley for the whole eighteen years the show has been on-air. The final Z-List Celebrity Big Brother series was won by Ryan Thomas, but was entirely overshadowed by the hysterical drama queen antics of Roxanne Pallett, who quit the Big Brother house in a geet stroppy huff after accusing Thomas of punching her. The incident attracted more than eleven thousand whinges to Ofcom - from people with nothing better to do with their time - and overshadowed the show's other storylines for the rest of the series. Pallett later grovellingly apologised to Thomas, saying that she had 'over-reacted.' In July, Endemol Shine UK applied to Hertsmere Borough Council to keep the Big Brother house at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, for the next three years. The house's current permission was due to expire on 30 September, just sixteen days after the new series begins. The council's planning committee approved the application at a meeting on Thursday, after discussing conditions to restrict noise.
How To Get Away With Murder and Harry Potter actor Alfred Enoch is to star in the second series of BBC thriller Trust Me following Jodie Whittaker's exit. Whether the news of this will see Twitter filled with dozens of whinging malcontents, horrified about the regeneration and claiming tat Enoch is 'not my Doctor' remains to be seen. In the first series, Whittaker played a fake doctor, but won't return because she is about to be seen as a very real one in Doctor Who. The new cast will also include John Hannah, Archie Watson and Ashley Jensen as hospital staff. Enoch, who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films, will play a paralysed soldier in Trust Me: Glasgow Hospital. His character, Corporal Jamie McCain, will be seen searching for the truth when fellow patients on the ward die unexpectedly. Enoch said: 'It's great to be on board, it's a cracking cast and Dan [Sefton, writer] has done a great job crafting something that's really invested in the characters. It has a psychological concern that is dark and thrilling.' The original four-part drama, Trust Me, was screened in August 2017 and was watched by an average of six million viewers - boosted by the fact that it was the broadcast just days after Whittaker's announcement as the new Doctor. And, it was quite good, to be fair. The new series will be shown on BBC1 next year.
Former Never Mind The Buzzcocks host and Shooting Stars regular fifties throwback Mark Lamarr has been charged with common assault and false imprisonment, the Metropolitan Police has said. The TV personality and comedian, born Mark Jones, was charged on 1 September in London. The fifty one-year-old will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on 2 October to answer for his alleged crimes. Lamarr became famous in the 1990s for presenting shows such as Channel Four's The Big Breakfast and The Word. He presented Never Mind The Buzzcocks between 1996 and 2005. Lamarr also presented a weekly Radio 2 late-night show and specialist music series Shake, Rattle & Roll for twelve years, leaving in 2010.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? will return for a new series in 2019 with comfortable hate-figure for Middle Class hippy Communist Gruniad Morning Star readers everywhere yer actual Jezza Clarkson back in the host's seat, ITV has confirmed. The show was revived for a week of specials earlier this year to celebrate its twentieth birthday. 'I absolutely loved hosting the anniversary shows,' Clarkson said in a statement. 'And, I cannot wait to spend a few precious hours away from James May and Richard Hammond, making the new ones.' Also returning to Millionaire is the 'ask the host' lifeline, which, despite its somewhat limited success for those asking Jezza for help, provided some of the most entertaining moments of the recent run. Matthew Worthy, joint managing director of production company Stellify Media, referred to the new lifeline in a statement on Friday. 'Ask The Host is back! And a quick tip for future contestants: don't use it on questions about fine art, haute cuisine or the scouting association,' he said. Millionaire's revival in May proved popular with viewers - the launch and final episodes both attracted overnight audiences of more than five million. Clarkson took over the presenting role from Chris Tarrant, who fronted the show from 1998 to 2014.
The head teacher of the school which featured in the TV series Educating Greater Manchester has resigned after claiming his suspension felt like 'a personal vendetta.' Drew Povey, head at Harrop Fold School in Little Hulton, Salford, was suspended in July. The BBC claimed that the suspension 'relates to school record-keeping.' Salford City Council denied the allegation that it was a personal vendetta against Povey. Three other members of staff were also suspended as part of the investigation. In a tweet, Povey said that he 'could no longer sit quietly' under the 'threat' of not being able to comment. He said that he understood his suspension related to administrative errors involving 'a very small number of pupils' about how attendance, exclusions and home schooling were recorded. Povey said he 'took full responsibility' for the errors, but did not believe they 'constitute grounds for me to be pursued in the way that I have been. This feels very much like a personal vendetta and I hope that by removing myself from the situation, that some semblance of normality will return to the school, for the benefit of all,' he said. He added that the 'protracted investigation' had 'created uncertainty' and had 'a detrimental impact' on the school. Lisa Stone, the council's lead member for children's and young people's services, said that she was 'disappointed' Povey had made some details of the investigation public. 'In my experience governors do not launch investigations and suspend senior members of staff for mere administrative errors,' she said. 'This is an in-depth and wide-ranging investigation into many serious allegations and it will continue in the interests of the school, pupils, parents and the members of staff who remain suspended. The governing body is trying to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible. It is in no-one's interests to rush through something so serious.' Hundreds of people had signed a petition calling for Povey to be reinstated. Channel Four has been filming a second series of the show at the school. The award-winning documentaries, which have previously focused on Yorkshire, Cardiff and Essex, have won praise for their coverage of the lives of teenagers and teachers.
A man who shot dead a planning officer in view of TV cameras to protect an illegally built bungalow has died in a care home a year after being freed from The Big House. Albert Dryden gunned down Derwentside Council officer Harry Collinson in Butsfield, County Durham, in June 1991 which, this blogger believes may well have been the first occasion on which an act of murder was ever broadcast on British TV. Dryden was convicted of murder and the attempted murder of a solicitor. He was released from prison last year after suffering a stroke and died, aged seventy eight, at the weekend. He was also convicted of wounding the BBC Look North journalist Tony Belmont and shooting a police officer in the arse. Alex Watson, leader at the time of the - since abolished - Derwentside Council, was a lifelong friend of Dryden. Now an independent Durham County Councillor, he said that the case was 'tragic' especially as Dryden and Collinson also knew each other well. He said: 'I'd known Albert all my life - he was well known in the area and was very private. He loved the countryside like Harry Collinson did. They had interests that they shared and it went on for years. Albert would come in and have a cup of tea with Harry and they would talk about the situation. But, Harry was quite adamant that what Albert was doing [building the bungalow without permission] was wrong.' Dryden opened fire on Collinson and a solicitor, Michael Dunstan, as they led a council operation to demolish the bungalow he had built on a smallholding down a country lane. Several other bystanders were hurt in the ensuing shooting. When Collinson, a forty six-year-old father of two, fell wounded into a ditch, Dryden hit him with two further shots. Collinson's brother, Roy, has dismissed claims that Dryden had recently shown remorse for the murder. Collinson said that he had received four letters written by his brother's murderer from his prison cell, but described them all as 'the ravings of a madman. Not once did he show any remorse, culpability, or regret for what he had done,' he said. 'He looked to blame everyone but himself. At one stage he even tried to blame the vehicles that were going to knock down his house, claiming they were not taxed or something ridiculous like that. I get so annoyed when people try to rewrite history, and look at things from a different angle. No excuses can be made for what Albert Dryden did. Good riddance to the man.' Watson, who had visited Dryden a few weeks before his death, said: 'It was quite tragic - devastating for Harry's family because this was a killing that should never have happened. It should have been prevented - the media and the police were there. The police were well warned about the situation because Albert had this passion for collecting weapons.'
FIFA president Gianni Infantino says that a home match should 'not be played in a foreign country,' as he addressed La Liga's plans to stage a game in the US. Spain's top-flight has asked permission from the Spanish Football Federation to relocate Girona's 'home' match against Barcelona to the US. The game would be played at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium on 26 January. 'I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the US rather than La Liga being in the US,' said Infantino. 'In football, the general principle is that you play a "home" match at "home" and not in a foreign country.' La Liga president Javier Tebas responded to Infantino on Twitter, he said: 'I will remind the president of FIFA that in the MLS, three teams of Canada participate and Toronto is the current champion and also in Canada there is another professional league.' Canadian teams Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all compete in the MLS but play home games in their own cities. RFEF, the US Soccer Federation, European governing body UEFA and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football all need to give permission for the game to go ahead. Infantino added: 'There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. Such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.' Luis Rubiales, the president of the RFEF, has previously spoken out against the US game. The Spanish players' union has also opposed the match and following a meeting with La Liga last week, it said the players would 'have the final say.' La Liga, Spain's top flight, has agreed to play one game a season in the US as part of a fifteen-year greed deal with the media company Relevent. Girona is in Catalonia, about sixty miles North of Barcelona. The club say the match represents 'a chance for expansion and growth,' both for the club and the region. Plus, obviously, they'll get a shit-load of money for it and, in the end, that seems to be all they're really bothered about. On line which, basically, sums up everything that it wrong with football and has been for at least the last thirty years.
One of the top shareholders in Unilever has said that it will vote against the firm's plan to move its headquarters to the Netherlands, amid growing investor concern about the plan. Aviva Investors told the BBC that the move could force UK shareholders to sell their shares and offered 'no upside.' However, other shareholdrrs are believed to be in favour of the move. So, in other words, some like it and some don't - pretty much par for the course for Marmite. Unilever, which makes Marmite - and Dove soap - is relocating to 'simplify its corporate structure.' And, to make more money, obviously. It needs seventy five per cent of shareholder votes to get the plan through. Unilever has headquarters in both London and Rotterdam, but announced in March that it planned to have just one HQ located in the Dutch city.
What was described as 'a sinister recording of a children's nursery rhyme' being played repetitively late at night tormented a woman for over a year before investigators solved the mystery. Alice Randle was one of several residents who heard the creepy rendition of 'It's Raining, It's Pouring' coming from somewhere outside their homes on the outskirts of Ipswich. Sometimes the tune played just once at 2am or 4am, but on other occasions it repeated over and over again for several hours. The rhyme, which relates the story of an old man who bumped his head and couldn't wake up, left Randle 'frightened' and questioning whether she was imagining things. 'It's sung by what sounds like a very young child,' she told the Independent. 'It's very haunting, people have said it's like something out of Freddie Krueger.' Randle, who has two children, first heard the tune in September last year and 'initially tried to ignore it' before finally calling Ipswich Borough Council in desperation two months ago. 'The last couple of months I've been quite committed to finding out what it was,' she said. 'I've been out with a friend of mine, we went on a mission, calling local businesses.' The council's rapid response team drove out to the scene several times in an attempt to track down the noise only for it to fall silent before they got there. So, clearly the rapid response unit was rapid enough on those occasions. They finally tracked it down when Randle called after being woken up by the same recording at 11.15pm on 10 September. 'It was only in the last couple of weeks that it started to play over and over again,' said Randle. 'I told them they would definitely hear it if they came this time.' The team arrived at her home in Bramford Road fifteen minutes later. 'We did hear the nursery rhyme playing and it sounded very eerie at that time of night,' a spokesperson for the council said. The child’s voice was being played through a loudspeaker on a warehouse a few hundred yards away on an industrial estate. 'We don't know at this stage why it is playing - it might be simply an alarm that is being triggered - but we will be visiting the operators to find out more,' the spokesperson added. 'We appreciate that people living nearby would find it quite spooky.' Randle said that the owners of the site had told her that the nursery rhyme was being 'triggered by spiders.' Which, sounds like an entirely plausible excuse. 'When they examined the motion sensors there were spiders and webs across it, so that's how they know,' she added. A spokesperson for the site told the Ipswich Star newspaper: 'The sound is only supposed to act as a deterrent for opportunistic thieves that come onto our property and it is designed only to be heard by people on our private land. We are now aware of the problem - the motion sensors were being triggered by spiders crawling across the lenses of our cameras and it looks like we've had it turned up too loudly. We've spoken to the resident who brought it to our attention and adjusted it so this should not happen again.' Ipswich council said it believed this was the first time a nursery rhyme was the source of a noise complaint. 'This is unique in our experience - it was difficult to believe a nursery rhyme would be playing in the middle of the night. But we do take all complaints extremely seriously and asked the residents who contacted us to let us know when it was actually playing so we could investigate properly. Our environmental health team does respond very quickly whenever we can – we do have an out-of-hours service – and we urge people to get in touch if they are troubled by any noise nuisance. It is usually loud music or shouting from neighbours.'
Australia has ordered an investigation into the discovery of sewing needles hidden in strawberries, amid 'growing alarm over scares across the country.' Contaminated punnets have now been reported in six states and territories. A minister called it 'a vicious crime.' One man was taken to hospital after eating a strawberry that held such a needle. Several brands have been recalled, while New Zealand's biggest grocers have stopped selling Australian strawberries 'as a precaution.' Although, you do get the feeling that, with regard to New Zealand selling anything Australian it's simply a case of 'any excuse'. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt ordered the Food Safety Authority of Australia and New Zealand to investigate the scare. 'This is a very vicious crime and it's a general attack on the public,' he said. Local authorities are also investigating, but no suspects have been identified. Cases of fruit tampering were first reported in Queensland last week, before spreading to New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. Growers and police have suggested that some cases may be copycat incidents. The Queensland state government has offered a one hundred thousand dollar reward for information. 'How could any right-minded person want to put a baby or a child or anybody's health at risk by doing such a dreadful act?' Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Saturday. On Thursday, the Queensland Strawberry Growers' Association said that the needles 'may' have been placed by 'a disgruntled employee.' However, police said that it was 'too early to speculate.' At least six brands have been caught up in the scare: Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis. Health officials have advised Australians to cut up strawberries before eating them. Growers have expressed concerns that the scare, which has come during the peak of production, could have a negative effect on sales for an industry worth about one hundred and thirty million dollars a year. Strawberry prices have already dropped around the country, with prices in Western Australia now below the cost of production, ABC News reported over the weekend. On Monday, New Zealand's two largest food distributors - Countdown and Foodstuffs - said they had stopped importing Australian strawberries due to the scare.
A teenager has been 'quizzed by police' after a 'stupid' YouTube stunt in which a boy was spun at high speed on a park roundabout using the wheel of a moped went disastrously wrong. Tyler Broome was left 'with horrific injuries' similar to those inflicted by high levels of g-force, his mother said she was told by doctors. The eleven-year-old passed out and was 'abandoned by those involved,' she said. Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that a sixteen-year-old was interviewed under caution and 'a moped has been seized.' The teenager was 'questioned about his involvement' over what happened at Ashvale Park, in Tuxford on Wednesday. Dawn Hollingworth released a video of Tyler, which shows him spread-eagled across the top of the roundabout as it spins around. At the end of the recording, Tyler appears to fall down, his head flopping forward as it comes to a stop. Blood rushed to his head, causing swelling and bruising to his face, she said. Dawn said that doctors told her Tyler's injuries were 'usually seen in fighter pilots' suffering the effects of g-force. Chief Inspector Andy Rooke said: 'What may have seemed like "a bit of fun" at the time has turned into an incident where an eleven-year old boy has received horrific injuries. We hope that this incident and the severity of the boy's injuries serve as a strong warning to anyone thinking about recreating something they have seen online.' He said Tyler seemed to be 'recovering well under the circumstances' and an investigation continues.
The actress Zienia Merton, who has died aged seventy two, appeared regularly on British television in a fifty-year career during which she found fame as one of the regular cast of the Gerry Anderson science fiction series Space: 1999. Set on the moon – which has been propelled through space owing to a thermonuclear explosion – Space: 1999 was filmed at Pinewood and starred the US actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Merton played the data analyst Sandra Benes, one of only two of the show's regular supporting cast to be brought back for the second series. She left the series at one point but was lured back with the promise that the character would play a more prominent role in later stories and appeared in thirty seven of the drama's forty eight episodes. Merton was born in Burma, the youngest daughter of Minny and Cecil Burton. Her mother was Burmese and her father, a merchant, was half-English and half-French. Zienia had a peripatetic upbringing which took her via Singapore and Portugal (where she began her education) and, eventually, to the UK. A shy and artistic youngster, she was sent to the Arts Educational school (now Tring Park School for the Performing Arts) in Hertfordshire after it was decided that this would benefit her more than a traditional boarding school. The school was able to secure professional bookings for its pupils and so she made her debut as a dancer in the Royal Festival Ballet's Christmas production of The Nutcracker (1957), playing a rat. She repeated this engagement the following year, this time promoted to kitchen maid. Her first screen role was an early brush with science fiction, playing a Venusian in the Children's Film Foundation series Masters Of Venus (1962). Having played a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park open air theatre and various animals in Toad Of Toad Hall at The Comedy Theatre (1962, directed by David William), she got her big television break in 1964 in the epic seven-part Doctor Who adventure Marco Polo. Merton was selected by the director, Waris Hussein, to play the prominent role of Ping-Cho, a young Chinese girl in Marco Polo's retinue who befriends the time traveller (then played by William Hartnell). One episode required Merton to perform a lengthy set-piece of storytelling, recounting the history of the Hashshashins to an assembled audience. The round of applause the cast gave her on-screen was, apparently, a genuine response to how well she had handled the poetic monologue which, as was customary at the time, was recorded 'as live' in one take. She also featured in two controversial BBC productions, playing a prominent role as the forthright Cristina in Dennis Potter's Casanova (1971, opposite Frank Finlay) and as Miss Ho in the 1981 adaptation of Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man (1981, starring Antony Sher). She was one of the terrorists in Hijack To Mogadishu (1980) based on the real-life 1977 militant attack on a Lufthansa plane. Her other television work consisted of guest spots in popular series such as Catch Us If You Can (1966), The Troubleshooters (1967), Jason King (1972), Return Of The Saint (1978), Bergerac (1983), Peak Practice (1998), Wire In The Blood (2008), The Sarah-Jane Adventures (2009, the Doctor Who spin-off created by Russell Davies) and Wizards Vs Aliens (2013 also by Davies). In later years she was often cast as doctors and receptionists, playing the former in Family Affairs (2000), The Bill (2001), Doctors (2001), Judge John Deed (2006) and Coronation Street (2008) and the latter in the woeful Crime Traveller (1997) – and one of each in EastEnders (1998 and 2002) and Casualty (1986 and 1991). Her CV also included appearances in Thirty Minute Theatre, Strange Report, Wilde Alliance, Hammer House Of Mystery & Suspense, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Grange Hill, Angels, Tenko, Dempsey & Makepeace and Lovejoy. Feature film work was less prolific but included Dick lester's Help! (1965), The Adventurers (1970, directed by Lewis Gilbert) and Wen Du Bei Mir Bist (1970, in which she was second billed after the star, the German singer Roy Black). A career highlight was sharing romantic scenes with Gregory Peck in The Chairman (1969). She was touched when, after Peck's death, she was given a handwritten note he had sent to a director recommending her for a role (which she had been unaware of). A few months ago she was thrilled to be asked to read the BBC audiobook of her Doctor Who story Marco Polo but, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer just over a year earlier, was unsure whether she would have the strength to do it. With typical determination, because she considered the original production to have been a big break and because starting and ending her career with the same project would lend it a pleasing symmetry, she gathered her strength and saw it through. The finished result, recorded in just two days, will be released posthumously.
One of this blogger's favourite actors, the terrific Dudley Sutton was also died this week, aged eighty five, was an actor who epitomised the Elizabethan view of thespians as rogues and vagabonds, 'cony-catchers and bawdy-baskets.' His face provided theatre critics with years of poetic inspiration. They described him as 'a debauched cherub' and 'a fallen angel'; the Gruniad Morning Star's Michael Billington admired his 'baby-face battered with experience' in a production of Strindberg's After The Fire at The Gate Theatre in 1997, while another said of Sutton in Sam Shepard's Curse Of The Starving Class at The Royal Court twenty years earlier that he was 'the only actor who can upstage a baby lamb,' spluttering insults from the side of his mouth 'like a rustic WC Fields.' Dudley was powered by stern beliefs and a desire to upset the applecart, traits that produced well-observed turns in a vast rogues' gallery of colourful supporting roles. His most famous television part was in the BBC's Lovejoy (1986 to 1994), which starred Ian McShane as a scallywag East Anglian antiques dealer and Sutton as his friend and fellow rogue, Tinker. Dudley originally turned down the role of Tinker Dill as he was written as a slovenly, dirty old scruff. Living opposite the antiques market in Chelsea, Sutton knew how antiques dealers really dressed and so sported a three-piece tweed suit, silk hanky and beret, making the part his own and the character a huge hit with audiences.
Dudley was born into a working-class family in Kingston upon Thames; his father was a slot-machine manufacturer. Dudley won a place at Moffats, a Hertfordshire boarding school, which relocated to Devon at the outbreak of the second world war. He was impressed with the wealth of culture the school offered him, but his social background made him feel at odds with his fellow pupils. His embarrassment at being chosen to play a girl in the school play (thanks to his blond hair and blue eyes) quickly turned to excitement, however, as he fell in love with performing. After school, he joined the RAF for five years, working as a mechanic and starring in amateur productions. He was encouraged by an education officer to apply to RADA and enrolled in 1955, but he quickly grew bored and dispirited with the hierarchical atmosphere and plays reinforcing class stereotypes. He preferred to spend his days reading Camus and Sartre in Soho coffee bars, frustrated that the world seemed to be bursting with new ideas everywhere except at his drama school. He visited Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in East London and as he stepped off the tube found himself in a land 'full of pollution, with railway yards and a Yardley's perfume factory and these little half-doored two-up two-down workers' cottages and I thought "this is brilliant." I went to this really beat-up, scruffy theatre and I loved it. It was everything my father hated.' He took to working in a coffee bar, fraternising with 'teddy boys, hookers and these amazing West Indians who were selling spliffs,' was dismissed from RADA and joined Theatre Workshop, appearing in productions including the original version of Lionel Bart's Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. Littlewood believed not in stars but in collective genius, an ideology that Sutton stood by for the rest of his life. His political education, however, came more from his friendship with the Irish writer Brendan Behan, which flourished when Sutton appeared in a production of Behan's play The Hostage in 1959, than it did from company members: he disliked Littlewood's sentimentality about the working class and she criticised him for being 'middle-class, arty and public school.' It was an exciting, fractious company and Sutton appeared alongside such distinctive actors as Brian Murphy, Yootha Joyce, Barbara Windsor and Richard Harris. He was Malcolm in a 1957 production of Macbeth with Harris that travelled to the Moscow Art theatre and he adored Harris as much for his unruly behaviour as his theatrical force. His most significant role on stage was heading the original cast of Entertaining Mister Sloane at The New Arts Theatre, then Wyndham's, in 1964. He found a kindred spirit in the playwright, Joe Orton: 'To fight the demon of homophobia with a West End comedy was brilliant,' Sutton thought. Dudley was vehemently committed to the legalisation of homosexuality, having seen gay friends hounded and humiliated. Two of his earliest roles in the cinema, in The Boys (1962) and The Leather Boys (1964), both directed by Sidney J Furie, allowed him to act on his beliefs. While filming the latter, in which he played a gay biker, he threw the producer off the set after being told he was 'not being camp enough.'
In his first television appearances he found he was 'giving away the family secrets' with over-expression, so instead he grew skilled at closing down his emotions, which led to a decade playing unnervingly cold fish in a variety of series. After he gave an intense performance as Eddy Black in The Saint in 1964, Roger Moore described him as his personal favourite villain, but Dudley eventually tired of working on seemingly interchangeable crime series – while making a 1970 episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), he even tore up a scene and rewrote it with his co-star, Norman Eshley. His other TV appearances included the 1976 Christmas episode of the BBC sitcom Porridge, in which he played hostage-taker Reg Urwin, and terrific performance in an early episode of The Sweeney as well as Coronation Street, Dixon Of Dock Green, Softly Softly, The Baron, The Avengers, Department S, Z Cars, Strangers, Shine On Harvey Moon, Strangers, Bergerac, The Gentle Touch, The Beiderbecke Affair and its sequels, Boon and Hemmingway. In his later career he had a recurring role as conman Wilfred Atkins in EastEnders, as well as smaller parts in Holby City, Emmerdale and Channel Four's teen drama Skins. He also appeared in films such as The Devils, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Rotten To The Core, Crossplot, A Town Called Bastard, Mister Forbush & The Penguins, The Football Factory and Derek Jarman's Edward II. He ducked in and out of the theatre in later years, returning triumphantly alongside Albert Finney in Ronald Eyre's production of Ronald Harwood's JJ Farr at The Phoenix in 1987 and with one-man shows at The Edinburgh Fringe, Pandora's Lunch Box in 2003 and Killing Kittens in 2006. He was also an entertaining poet, his work ranging from a Molière-inspired verse play to a eulogy on the glory days of London's public conveniences. Dudley was married four times and is survived by his three children, Peter, Barnaby and Fanny.
TV host and comedy writer Denis Norden has died aged ninety six, his family has said. The It'll Be Alright On The Night host died on Wednesday after spending 'many weeks' at the Royal Free Hospital in London, a statement said. Norden wrote his first script for the BBC - Let's Go To The Holborn - in 1941 at the age of nineteen. He teamed up with the comic Frank Muir between 1947 and the early 1960s, writing comedies including BBC radio's hugely popular Take It From Here. In 1977, Norden became the host of the ITV clip show It'll Be Alright On The Night and he presented it until his retirement aged eighty four in 2006. Norden's children Nick and Maggie said that they wanted to thank 'all the dedicated staff and doctors who have looked after him with much devotion.' The statement added: 'A wonderful dad, a loving grandfather and great great-grandfather - he gave his laughter-mongering to so many.' Yet, behind the comedy there was a much darker story. One day during the closing days of the second world war, three young comics went to find some lights for a show they were doing. They were entertaining the RAF in Northern Germany and had been told they would find what they needed at a nearby camp which had recently been liberated. The camp was Bergen-Belsen. None of them knew what evil had happened there. 'We didn't know what to expect,' recalled Norden half-a-century later. 'We had not heard a word about it.' Norden and his two friends - Ron Rich and Eric Sykes - dumped the lights. They went straight back to their own camp and picked up whatever spare food they could find. 'Appalled, aghast, repelled - it is difficult to find words to express how we felt as we looked upon the degradation of some of the inmates not yet repatriated,' he said. Seventy thousand people had died in Bergen-Belsen, most of them by starvation. 'As far as I could see, all these pitiable wrecks had one thing in common. None of them was standing.' Norden was deeply moved by what he had just seen. Nor could he bear the sight of hungry German children hanging round outside the RAF base. 'After seeing the camp, you could in theory hold it against the Germans, but you couldn't hold it against these German kids,' he told the BBC. They handed out their own rations to dozens of small, eager hands. It was a shattering experience for the young Denis Norden, who then had the near impossible task of putting it all out of his mind, walking on stage and making men laugh.
Denis Mostyn Norden was born into a Jewish family in Hackney in February 1922. He was academic and bookish, winning a scholarship to the City of London School. The novelist Kingsley Amis was a fellow pupil. 'I was very tall, very skinny and always had my nose in a book,' Dennis remembered. He also had a burning desire for adventure. He wrote to the Daily Express at the age of sixteen and asked if he could accompany the foreign correspondent to the civil war in Spain. To his amazement the journalist agreed, but his parents put their foot down. So he turned his mind to another ambition. 'I'd seen a photo in Life magazine of two Hollywood screenwriters beside a swimming pool being served drinks by two blondes and I couldn't imagine a better life than that,' he recalled. To find out what audiences wanted, he left school and - at the age of eighteen - became Britain's youngest cinema manager. When the war intervened, he became an RAF wireless operator, teamed up with Sykes and branched out into performing for the troops. Demobbed, he started writing for radio and found himself teamed up with fellow aspiring comic, Frank Muir. The man who brought them together was Ted Kavanagh, producer of Tommy Handley's wartime radio hit It's That Man Again. Kavanagh asked if they would be averse to writing together. 'Not a whit averse,' they replied simultaneously. The fact that they spontaneously used the same arcane phrase showed how their minds could work as one. They would become one of the most successful comedy writing partnerships in British history starting on television in 1947 with a drama, Gerry's Inn. And, one of its most influential - Danny Baker, for example, has based an entire career on the sort of quick-witted wordplay of Denis and Frank's best work. Between them the pair wrote three hundred episodes of Take It From Here with Jimmy Edwards and, later, June Whitfield. The series lasted eleven years and created such memorable characters as The Glums. Their catchphrases like 'Trouble at t'mill' and 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' are still part of the language. There were collaborations with Peter Sellers and other hits including Bedtime With Braden and the television series Whack-O! and Faces Of Jim, both starring their old colleague Jimmy Edwards. They also wrote the satirical sketch Balham, Gateway To The South for the BBC Third Programme. The sketch, which had originally been broadcast in 1948 as part of a comedy series called The Third Division and which featured actor Robert Beatty, was later performed by Peter Sellers for his LP, The Best Of Sellers (1959). Muir and Norden were also responsible for some of the most memorable Carry On lines - most notably Carry On Cleo's legendary 'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me' - which Talot Rohwell borrowed, with Denis and Frank's permission, from a joke they had once written for Take It From Here. In the early 1960s, Norden and Muir came up with the television legal comedy Brothers In Law, starring Richard Briers and, subsequently, a spin-off, Mister Justice Duncannon. They were given a three-year contract as BBC consultants and scriptwriters. Muir loved it but Norden found the corporation stifling. 'I wasn't much good at it and didn't like it,' Norden said. 'At the end, I just wanted to leave and be independent again.' The partnership ended amicably when Muir opted to stay with the BBC full time. They did work together after that - frequently appearing on quiz programmes like My Word! and My Music. But, for the first time in twenty years, Norden was without a full-time writing partner. 'When you're on your own, there is that terrifying possibility that you may be the only person on the planet who thinks it's funny - and you have no way of finding out,' he said. So great was Norden's need for reassurance that he would hand the pages of his scripts to a secretary in another office and then creep back and listen outside her door hoping to hear chuckles. 'Then, after that came word processors and it's hard to make them laugh,' he noted. Norden hadn't forgotten his childhood ambition to write for Hollywood. He co-scripted an Oscar-nominated screenplay for Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell starring Gina Lollobrigida, but it was as a performer that he became better known.
        In 1977, he was chatting to Paul Smith, the future producer of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, in the canteen at London Weekend Television. Over lunch, they were giggling about the infamous Blue Peter clip where an elephant proved the old adage about never working with children or animals, particularly on live television. One of their wondered aloud if you could do a whole show based on hilarious outtakes. They rang Michael Grade, LWT's director of programmes and, within half-an-hour they had a commission, a budget and even a title - It'll Be Alright On The Night. The show ran for twenty nine years. 'Well, it's not the best title,' Norden recalled thinking as they left Michael Grade's office. 'But we'd better go with it.' At first, news programmes refused to release their howlers - but eventually relented. Actors and producers were also wary, but discovered that - with repeat fees - they could often get paid more for getting it wrong than getting it right. Norden masterminded the whole production, choosing the clips, writing the scripts and delivering them, clipboard in hand, in his inimitable, avuncular slightly self-mocking style. 'It's like running a farm where the manure is worth more than the cattle,' he would joke. The show was copied around the world and spawned many a clone, even before YouTube made comic pratfalls a cottage industry. 'One of the necessities for a good clip is that you can't second-guess it. The trouble with a lot of blooper shows nowadays is that you can see what's coming,' he would lament. His favourite clip was of a hapless regional TV reporter offering a tray of delicacies to the great British public out shopping. 'Are you feeling peckish?' asked the journalist. 'No, I'm Turkish,' came the confused reply. A spin-off, Laughter File, first broadcast in 1991, showed spoof adverts, real foreign adverts, practical jokes, live television mistakes and other various 'oddities', which Norden said, 'tickled our fancies, just when they needed tickling.'
A little uncomfortably for someone whose main role at ITV was to poke fun at television going wrong, Norden was tangentially involved in a prime example of it. In 1978, he and Muir wrote (based on an earlier radio version) The Glums, a half-hour domestic sitcom that was one of the segments of Bruce's Big Night, a catastrophically-received attempt to base the entire ITV peak-time Saturday schedule around Bruce Forsyth. Norden was still working into his eighties until failing eyesight forced him to retire in 2006. A haemorrhage at the back of his eye meant that he could no longer see the clips. Naturally rather shy, Denis Norden never saw himself as a performer. A marvellous wit and raconteur, in his own mind he was simply a 'writer who keeps getting wheeled out.' In truth, he was far happier at home than on stage - with his two children and his wife Avril, whom he married in 1943 and who died earlier this year. For years, he resisted writing an autobiography, claiming that Frank Muir had pretty much covered everything in his own memoir, A Kentish Lad. A book called The Bits Frank Left Out would be 'disappointingly brief,' he said. But, in his eighties and by now partially sighted, he changed his mind. He used a special computer which read back what he had typed, although it was a long and painful process. Clips From A Life was published in 2008. What shines through is his love of working with other comedians and the challenge of making other people funny. And, looking back over more than seventy years in comedy, he counted himself 'supremely fortunate' to have worked at the time that he did. 'We not only lived through the golden age of so many forms of popular entertainment,' he wrote. 'We were present at the birth of them, enjoyed their heyday and were there to mourn their passing.' Although absent from TV in the last decade of his life, Norden retained a legacy and presence through reboots. Just three weeks before his death, David Walliams became the second successor to Norden (following Griff Rhys Jones) in another peak-time ITV revival of It'll Be Alright On The Night. Fittingly, the edition of Private Eye published on the day of Norden's death included a punchline punning on the 'infamy!' line. Denis Norden, funny to - and beyond - the last.
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