Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Recalling Of The Prophecy And That Our Native Stones ... Rebel Against Us"

Big Finish, the company behind the official licenced Doctor Who audio dramas, recently managed a feat which once seemed impossible: convincing Christopher Eccleston to return to Doctor Who following his acrimonious exit in 2005. Big Ecc reprised his role as The Doctor for a new set of stories, to be released in May. Which means that Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi are now the only living former Doctors not to have had their Big Finish debut. To mark the company's Monthly Adventures range earning a Guinness World Record, Big Finish chair Jason Haigh-Ellery and creative director Nicholas Briggs were guests on the Radio Times Doctor Who podcast, where Haigh-Ellery revealed that he had asked 'other Doctors' to come onboard. 'I got [Eccleston] at the right time,' Jason explained. 'He'd just come off stage and he was pumped up and obviously he was open to the idea whereas previously he hadn't been. We had asked before. And we continue to ask [other] Doctors.' When asked specifically about Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith, Haigh Ellery did offer some hope for fans: 'We would love to have Peter and Matt come and join us. We shall see what the future holds.' Other Doctors who have been involved in the long-running series of audio dramas have included Tom Baker, Peter Davison, The Crap One, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, John Hurt, David Tennant and most recently Eccleston. 'It's such an iconic role - it's a part that you never want to leave. And the advantage of audio is that you can grow older and still play the same part,' Haigh-Ellery added. 'It's a part that you will love for the rest of your life and you get that. There's moments when you're talking to the actors and you can see the Doctorishness within them and what they brought to the show. It's fantastic that they've all continued to want to come back and play the part. And it's a delight to work with all of them.'
John Wyndham's acclaimed 1957 SF novel - a particular favourite of this blogger - is getting the small screen treatment. The Midwich Cuckoos will be turned into an eight-part series starring From The North favourite Keeley Hawes and Max Beesley. It was, previously, subject to a, quite superb, 1960 movie adaptation, Village Of The Damned, directed by Wolf Rillaand starring George Sanders and Barbara Shelley. The series will introduce viewers a modern-day version of Midwich, an English commuter town 'populated by nuclear families and affluent high streets,' according Sky's synopsis. The sleepy town is jerked awake, however, when one of its corners experiences a strange incident which sees its inhabitants pass out without warning. When the blackout lifts, every woman of child-bearing age inside the blackout zone finds themselves inexplicably pregnant, leaving psychotherapist Doctor Susannah Zellaby (Hawes) and officer Paul Kirby (Beesley) to solve the mystery behind the phenomenon. Speaking of the casting, Hawes said in one of those statements which sound exactly the way that real people don't talk: 'I'm absolutely delighted to be working with Sky and the brilliant Ruth Kenley-Letts on David Farr's superb adaptation of The Midwich Cuckoos. I'm very much looking forward to working with the hugely talented Max Beesley and the amazing cast and I can't wait to enter the strange and unsettling world of Midwich!' Yeah. That was definitely written by a PR-type individual. Writer and creator David Farr added: 'I first read The Midwich Cuckoos when I was twelve. I was living in a small town in 1980s Britain. Everything about the book rang true to me and terrified me. An invasion of a small community by a hostile and ruthless force. Apparently innocent children as a force of huge malevolent power. It got under my skin. As I've grown older, the story has never ceased to exert a grip. The idea that we may birth our own destruction is so simple and frightening. That as a mother or a father, the being we love most in the world may turn on us. It's the stuff of nightmares.' Set to broadcast on Sky 'sometime in 2022' the series will also feature Aisling Loftus, Ukweli Roach, Synnøve Karlsen, Lara Rossi, Lewis Reeves, Rebekah Staton and Anneika Rose.
The penultimate episode of From The North favourite Line Of Duty was the series most-watched instalment to date, with an average of eleven million overnight viewers tuning in on Sunday. The record overnight ratings came as BBC1 unveiled a trailer for this weekend's series finale which suggested it may be the police drama's last ever episode. 'Every investigation has led to this,' the promo declared. A lingering H in the caption hinted that the mysterious criminal mastermind would be unveiled at last. Line Of Duty returned to TV screens in March with 9.6 million overnight viewers watching the series' first episode - up on the 9.07 million who tuned into the previous series' finale. The opening series six episode's seven day consolidated ratings figures across all devices was thirteen million, three hundred and fifty five thousand two hundred and ninety eight punters whilst the twenty eight day consolidated audience was fifteen million, two hundred and one thousand, seven hundred and forty six according to BARB. Sunday's episode saw Kelly Macdonald's character, Joanne Davidson, subjected to a mammoth grilling which led to numerous secrets about her background being revealed. It commanded over fifty per cent of the UK's live TV audience, according to overnight figures. It was the highest overnight audience for a TV drama since Doctor Who's Christmas Day special in 2008, which was watched by 11.7 million viewers. Macdonald was tight-lipped about the series finale when she appeared on BBC Breakfast on Monday, giving a terse 'no comment' to presenter Dan Walker's demands for plot information. Much as her character did to just about every question put to her, under caution, by Ted Hastings and Steve Arnott. She did reveal, however, that filming one dramatic scene had descended into laughter when one of the cast mispronounced 'racist thugs' and said 'racist slugs' instead. As usual, the Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star (and this blogger) thought it was great whilst that Awful, Odious Singh woman at the Torygraph whinged about it to anyone that would listen (and, indeed, anyone that didn't want to). It really is about time that Awful Odious Singh Woman at the Torygraph fekked off and found something else to do to justify her existence because, as TV reviewer, she's just not cuttin' it. Because she is really starting to grate this blogger's cheese something fierce.
The Game Of Thrones prequel series House Of The Dragon (provisional title) has started production, HBO has confirmed. The network marked the occasion by sharing a photo from a socially-distanced table read, including Paddy Considine and Matt Smith. House Of The Dragon is set three hundred years before the events of From The North favourite Game Of Thrones and will tell the story of the Targaryen family. It is based on author George R R Martin's 2018 novel Fire & Blood. The show, created by Martin along with showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan J Condal, is scheduled for release in 2022 on the HBO Max streaming service. Considine will star as the 'warm, kind and decent' King Viserys Targaryen in the TV adaptation. Smudger, known previously for his lead role in Doctor Who and portrayal of the late Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown (you all knew that, right?), is to play Prince Daemon Targaryen. Emma D'Arcy (Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen), Steve Toussaint (The Sea Snake), Rhys Ifans (Otto Hightower) and Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower) were among the other cast members present at the table read. Fans of the original series, adapted from Martin's A Song Of Ice & Fire fantasy books, will know the Targaryen family are destined to become embroiled in a bitter civil war. One of their descendants, Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, was a major character in the main series that ran for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019. Though she ended up going mad and getting extremely killed. The show was something of a phenomenon, earning fifty nine EMMY Awards across its eight series to become one of the most successful dramas in television history. Although, as just about every journalist who ever writes about the show seems keen to point out (seemingly thinking they're being terrifically original), its final series, written beyond Martin's published source material by David Benioff and DB Weiss, 'divided fans and critics.' Albeit, nobody that actually matters gave then, or gives now a big steaming shat about what those wankers thought about it. This blogger thought it was great.
Sir Steve McQueen's Small Axe leads the field at this year's BAFTA Television Awards, with fifteen nominations. The director's five-film BBC series tells stories about the lives of the West Indian community in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. Netflix's drama The Crown is also one of the leading shows, with ten nomination. From The North favourite I May Destroy You, about a woman coming to terms with an assault, is nominated eight times, including best actress, writer and director for Michaela Coel. 'I am overwhelmed with joy to see so many people and teams that made I May Destroy You nominated this year,' Coel said in a statement. 'I am equally thrilled to see Small Axe, one of my favourite shows of last year, deservedly honoured.' There are five nominations apiece for Channel Four's Adult Material, a drama set in the porn industry and Sky Atlantic's I Hate Suzie, whose star Billie Piper is up for best actress. Like I May Destroy You, the latter featured strongly in From The North's 2020 best of list. BBC3 alleged comedy This Country - which this blogger, frankly, though was a right load of old over-rated toot - is nominated four times, as are Strictly Come Dancing and the acclaimed documentary series Once Upon A Time In Iraq. In the individual categories, John Boyega's performance as police officer Leroy Logan in one of the Small Axe films - Red, White & Blue - sees him up for best actor alongside Shaun Parkes, who was in the Mangrove episode of the same series. Josh O'Connor, who plays the young Prince Charles in The Crown, makes the same list, alongside Paapa Essiedu from I May Destroy You, Waleed Zuaiter from Baghdad Central and Normal People's Paul Mescal. Mescal's co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones is nominated for best actress, next to Piper, Coel and another Small Axe star, Letitia Wright. Killing Eve's Jodie Comer and Adult Material's Hayley Squires also make the shortlist. Friday Night Dinner's Paul Ritter, who died earlier this month, is nominated for best male performance in a comedy. Notably, The Crown's Emma Corrin and From The North favourite yer actual Gillian Anderson, who both won Golden Globe awards in February for playing Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher respectively, have been overlooked by BAFTA. whichhas, obviously, nothing whatsoever to do with a bunch of Tory politicians and right-wing scum newspapers getting their knickers in a twist over The Crown. Oh no, very hot water. There is also no room for Olivia Colman, who plays The Queen, but Tobias Menzies has been nominated for playing the late Duke of Edinburgh. Des, a three-part ITV drama starring national heartthrob David Tennant as the serial killer Dennis Nilsen (another From The North favourite), was left out, as was another ITV true crime drama, White House Farm and BBC lockdown sitcom Staged (also featuring Tennant). In the international category, Netflix hits The Queen's Gambit and Tiger King failed to make the list. 'All those nominations are basically last year in review and BAFTA applauding all the things that we've binge watched - that is everything we did last year apart from one hour of walking a day,' one of the judges, the author, journalist and From The North favourite Caitlin Moran, told BBC Breakfast. 'When I first saw the nominations, I was like, "Where's Tiger King? That was pretty big in my life." But on reflection, that was just a show about a man being horrible to tigers and probably best that it's not been nominated for a BAFTA.' No shit, Cait? Nominees for the BAFTA 'Must-See Moment' Award were announced on Tuesday and included Diversity's dance routine on Britain's Got Talent, which provoked thousands of complaints. From racist scum. Comedian Richard Ayoade will to host the ceremony for the second year in a row. Typically an extravagant event at London's Royal Festival Hall, festivities will be more restrained due to the safeguards in place due to Covid-19 and will take place in a closed studio. The winners of BAFTA's TV Craft Awards, meanwhile, which celebrate behind-the-scenes achievements, will be announced by Famalam actress Gbemisola Ikumelo on 24 May.
The Premier League has held talks with broadcasters about scrapping its next domestic media rights auction. The government is now considering whether to approve a rollover of the current 4.7 billion knicker deal. Secured in 2018, that sale represented a ten per cent drop in value. Clubs are reported to be 'concerned' there could be another fall if the usual open-market auction begins as planned next month for the three-year cycle between 2022 and 2025. Well, of course they are, having got their greed right-on of late and creaming in their own pants over the prospect of European Super-Dupa League and all that. The value of rights for domestic leagues in Europe also appears to have peaked. Which is really bad news for Super-Dupa League instigators Real Madrid and Barcelona and their efforts to wipe out their massive debt by getting their greed spectacularly right-on. So, that's funny. Talks have been held with the existing live rights holders Sky, BT and Amazon about extending their current deals on similar terms. Neither they, nor the Premier League, have commented. But a rollover is now being considered on the basis that it would provide all parties with 'stability amid uncertainties' - and the loss of match day revenue - caused by the pandemic. And, their own greed. However, rival broadcasters may object to being denied the right to bid and such a move would require government approval, given concerns over competition law. Amid continuing anger within football at the failed recent attempt by the so-called 'big six' Premier League clubs to launch the Super-Dupa League and a fan-led review of the sport, ministers (which will, of course, come to absolutely nothing) are understood to 'want assurances' about the redistribution of money throughout the game, if they allow a private sale of media rights. For almost thirty years, the huge increase in the value of its broadcast rights has driven the transfer fees and player wages that have made the Premier League so popular. And, so greedy. But the league has come under mounting pressure from the Football League to redistribute more of its media revenue throughout the pyramid. Last year the Premier League ditched a controversial pay-per-view system for matches amid another fan backlash, reinforcing concerns over viewers' appetite for more live action and for being pissed about and taken for granted by people to whom they pay their season ticket money.
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch has, reportedly, 'drastically scaled backed' plans for a new 'opinionated' television service in the UK, after concluding that it is 'not financially viable' to launch a fully fledged rolling news channel in the style of FAUX News. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of billionaire tyrant Murdoch's News UK company, told staff the enormous cost of getting a television news channel on-air meant it 'did not make business sense' to push ahead. She said that the company would, instead, focus on 'reaching news audiences' via shows on streaming platforms, adding: 'While there is consumer demand for alternative news provision, the costs of running a rolling news channel are considerable and it is our assessment that the payback for our shareholders wouldn't be sufficient. We need to launch the right products for the digital age.' The News UK TV boss, David Rhodes, an American television news executive who moved to London last summer to run the project, will be extremely leaving in June. He will be, in the interim, advising the wider global billionaire tyrant Murdoch business on streaming news media, where he has repeatedly been tipped by insiders for promotion or a possible return to FAUX News. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks' declaration that it would not be possible to make a healthy profit from traditional television news will increase attention on the finances of the forthcoming Andrew Neil-fronted GB News channel. It has raised sixty million smackers from the likes of the US media company Discovery, Dubai investment company Legatum and the Brexit-backing hedge fund boss Paul Marshall to secure slots on traditional television distribution platforms such as Freeview. GB News is building a new right-of-centre twenty four-hour television channel from scratch centred on presenter-led shows. It is hiring dozens of journalists and has signed up presenters such as Sky's Colin Brazier, the BBC's Simon McCoy (whom this blogger actually used to have a bit of respect for) and former ITV presenter Alastair Stewart to host programmes. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks claimed that News UK would still invest in television-style content, with increasingly professional video output produced by its radio stations such as TalkRadio, where presenters have regularly gone viral with clips berating coronavirus lockdowns. The News UK radio boss, Scott Taunton, will take over responsibility for its television output. The decision also leaves a large number of established television producers who were hired by Rhodes asking questions about their future at the company if its focus switches to a handful of streaming shows. Which is, obviously, very sad. Or, perhaps, not. Studios had been built and rehearsals for some programmes were under way. Last year the intention was for News UK TV to launch with about five hours of output every night, including an early-evening politics show, a daily political debate programme and an evening news bulletin. Billionaire tyrant Murdoch has increasingly looked towards charging people to watch opinionated TV news streaming services, launching the likes of FAUX Nation in the US and FAUX News International for global consumers. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Brooks claimed that News UK would still produce standalone shows, with the intention of making money via personalised adverts on smart televisions, adding: 'We have already announced News To Me, an entertainment news show hosted by Gordon Smart, which will drop a new episode each weeknight and will be viewable live or on-demand via streaming. Other shows are planned.'
Channel Five has stopped streaming an episode of its z-list celebrity plastic surgery series after condemnation from one of its subjects, Charlotte Crosby. Last Thursday's episode of Z-List Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face? analysed Crosby's changing appearance. The reality TV-type individual called the show 'immoral', claiming that it had been shown despite her 'team' warning Channel Five of its detrimental mental health implications. In a statement, the broadcaster snivellingly apologised for 'any upset caused.' It added that both the channel and the programme's producers, Crackit Productions, 'take duty of care very seriously.' One or two people even believed them. 'While we acknowledge that the programme was Ofcom compliant, we have taken on board Charlotte's feedback and removed the episode from our streaming platform My5.' Crosby, who rose from obscurity to whatever it is that reality TV-type individuals consider 'fame' on MTV's scripted - and utterly worthless - reality show Geordie Shore and now hosts her own self-titled series, is yet to comment on the removal of the documentary. However, in her original statement, she claimed that it was 'unbelievable' the programme had been made amid an increased focus on mental health within the entertainment industry. 'At a time when the broadcast and media world were backing a policy of "be kind", Channel Five and Crackit decided to commission this one-hour special on "rubber lip Charlotte" (their words not mine),' Crosby wrote, while referring to the kindness campaign that was prompted by the suicide of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack. 'Their "experts" dissected my "plastic face" with disgust, discussing my fluctuating weight (with images) and then decided to flash up the worst troll comments from the past five years.' Crosby's public criticism followed a similar statement from her Geordie Shore-type person, Holly Hagan who, on Thursday evening, urged her Instagram followers to report Channel Five's programme to Ofcom. Crosby, to be fair, has been open about her cosmetic procedures and body image struggles - undergoing her first nose surgery in 2016 after becoming self-conscious over her appearances on TV and later using lip-fillers. She previously told that bastion of kind and considerate reportage Heat magazine: 'It's not like I can hide it. If I'd not been on TV, I'd never have got it done. I do think [my nose] caused a lack of confidence and you always compare yourself to other people who are on TV as well.' Crosby's statement continued: 'Dealing with trolls is one thing, you ignore, you block but where are we as a society, when the trolls are the mainstream TV channels? Will they now take responsibility for my dip in mental health and plummeted self-esteem? Do they take responsibility for the resulting press from the show, again discussing how "shocking" my face is?' she asked.
Former From The North favourite (before he went, you know, mad) Morrissey appears to have taken considerable umbrage at The Simpsons after being sent up right good and proper in the popular US animation's latest episode. In Panic On The Streets Of Springfield, Lisa becomes obsessed with a militantly vegan singer of an obscure 1980s British indie band. But, her dreams are shattered to fragments when it transpires that her idol, voiced by From The North favourite Benedict Cumberbatch, has in fact become a bitter, overweight, anti-immigrant meat-eater. No relation. A statement on Morrissey's Facebook page called the show 'hurtful and racist.' Is anyone else thinking this is the latest episode of Qi's semi-regular slot How Ironic Is That?
'Surprising what a "turn for the worst" the writing for The Simpsons TV show has taken in recent years,' said the whinging statement, which was posted by Mozza's manager, Peter Katsis. 'Poking fun at subjects is one thing,' it continued, 'but when a show stoops so low to use harshly hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his belly hanging out of his shirt (when he has never looked like that at any point in his career) makes you wonder who the real hurtful, racist group is here. Even worse - calling the Morrissey character out for being a racist, without pointing out any specific instances, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist.' Yeah, pretty much. To quote one of the major characters in The Simpsons in one of this blogger's favourite moments from the show's history, 'Your point being ...?' The statement went on to accuse The Simpsons of 'hypocrisy', noting that white actor Hank Azaria had recently bowed to criticism and agreed to stop voicing the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. 'Hank Azaria's recent apology to the whole country of India for his role in upholding "structural racism" says it all,' the message claimed. Prior to the episode being broadcast, Morrissey's official Facebook page had promoted the show by posting an image from the animation. The show said it would not be commenting on Mozza's latest statement. However, the episode's writer previously insisted that the character was not 'solely' based on Morrissey. One or two people even believed him. 'I'm sticking by that,' Tim Long told Variety magazine, adding: 'The character is definitely Morrissey-esque, with maybe a small dash of Robert Smith from The Cure, Ian Curtis from Joy Division and a bunch of other people.' But he looks, most, like Morrissey. And, as far as this blogger is aware, neither Robert Smith nor the late Ian Curits have ever advocated various scummish far-right politicians. Unlike ... some people. Just sayin'. Called Quilloughby, the character was said to be the lead singer of a band called The Snuffs. Again, no relation.
The episode also featured music by Flight Of The Conchords and The Muppets' songwriter, Bret McKenzie and included parodies of The Smiths song titles, such as 'How Late Is Then?', 'Hamburger Is Homicide' and 'Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)'. Long said that the episode had been 'inspired' by his 'love' of British indie bands during the 1980s, recalling how seeing The Smiths on their The Queen Is Dead tour had 'changed my life. I've seen Moz many times since then, most recently at The Hollywood Bowl in 2018,' he explained to Variety. 'Executive producer Matt Selman was also at that show and we got to talking about how much music meant to us as weird, alienated teenagers - and also how being a big fan of someone is like having a lifelong relationship with them, with all the ups and down that implies. This show grew out of that discussion.' In recent years, Morrissey has been widely criticised for his outspoken and controversial views. He has called halal meat 'evil', accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of being 'unable to talk properly' and appeared to defend the actor Kevin Spacey over allegations of sexual abuse. The singer has also expressed support for the far-right For Britain party, wearing a badge with its logo on during a US TV performance. He has, however, consistently denied being a racist. Though, to paraphrase the late Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, he would, wouldn't he?' Panic On The Streets Of Springfield has yet to be broadcast in the UK, but is expected to premiere on Sky next month. And, one imagines, all of the pre-publicity caused by this story is likely to make it the most-watched first-run Simpsons on UK TV in years.
A twenty four-year-old student from Glasgow has been crowned the youngest ever champion of the BBC's Mastermind. And, almost instantly, became subject to the kind of sick Interweb trolling from guffawing, bullying numbskulls who considered he has committed the same dreadful crime of 'being clever in public' that poor Gail Trimble received after her impressive knowledge displays on University Challenge a decade ago. Of course, this kind of horrific, sneering, obnoxious behaviour is nothing new with regard to someone having the nerve to 'show some intelligence on the telly' but when it happened to Gail back in 2009 one could, perhaps, have put it down to the then-prevalent leery laddish culture of Loaded and Nuts magazines. The fact that, in the post me-too world of 2021 this sort of loutish online nonsense is still goes on is genuinely depressing. Sometimes, dear blog reader, this blogger hates this sick, worthless world and everyone in it. Jonathan Gibson won the final by four points - scoring a perfect eleven out of eleven in his specialist subject, the comedy songwriting duo Flanders and Swann. He had specialised in Agatha Christie's Poirot in the heat and William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806) in the semi-final. The new champion said that he was 'overwhelmed' at the response since the programme was broadcast on Monday. The PhD student in Modern History at the University of St Andrews told the BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland how he had to keep the result a secret between filming and broadcast. He said: 'The last four months since filming have just felt like a dream, so it's good to have visual evidence on TV that it actually happened. I told my parents and my sister and that's basically it.' Jonathan said the key to his victory was choosing specialist subjects which he was passionate about. 'They were all things I have really loved since I was young,' he said. 'The heat subject was the TV show Poirot, which I was introduced to by my mum and my grandma so that was really lovely to revisit. For the semi-final I did William Pitt the Younger, the late Eighteenth Century Prime Minister. That was inspired by a book my history teacher gave me in school and was one of the main reasons I decided to be a history student. And for the final I did Flanders and Swann which was a favourite of my dad's. I've known the lyrics of every single song since I was seven or eight so it has been lovely revisiting these things.' Jonathan, who had previously appeared on University Challenge, is now focussing on finishing his PhD studies. And, good on him for that. Heaven forbid that anyone should actually want to learn stuff when they could be doing something else like studying their own lack of a brain. Jonathan said that he only realised he was in the running to be Mastermind's youngest ever winner as the final approached. 'I didn't think about it as a possibility when I applied,' he said. 'Or until after I won the semi-final when the producers told me I would be marginally younger than Gavin Fuller was when he won. It's really incredible to make history in that way and it is beyond anything I could have imagined.' Mastermind has been running on the BBC since 1972. Monday night's final was John Humphrys' last episode after eighteen years as host. The broadcaster has presented seven hundred and thirty five episodes of the quiz show and asked more than eighty thousand questions during that time. The new series, hosted by newsreader Clive Myrie, will be shown later this year.
Steve Coogan has assured fans that he isn't planning to retire Alan Partridge, who return to the BBC One weekend for a second series of This Time. This summer marks thirty years since the character made his debut on BBC Radio 4's satirical news programme On The Hour and in that time some viewers have worried that Coogan could decide to leave the role behind. However, at a virtual event to mark the launch of This Time series two, the star credited his other projects - such as BAFTA nominated film Stan & Ollie - for taking the curse off Alan and reigniting his enthusiasm for the hapless broadcaster. 'If it was all I was doing, I would regard it as an albatross,' he said. 'But because I'm able to do these other things, that has sort of taken the curse off Alan for me. So that means that now I do Alan Partridge because I want to, not because I have to, and that's really important for me.' Coogan had previously taken an extended break from his comedy creation between the second series of acclaimed sitcom I'm Alan Partridge and the launch of Mid-Morning Matters, which saw him team up with writers Neil and Rob Gibbons. Since that collaboration was forged, fans have seen a wealth of Partridge content ranging from 2013's -really rather good - feature film Alpha Papa to Audible podcast From The Oasthouse. 'People used to say, "When are you going to kill off Alan Partridge?" They've just stopped asking that now,' Coogan continued. 'He's sort of like an old friend. I wouldn't like to never do it again because it's enjoyable as part of everything else I do. I love working with Rob and Neil and Susannah [Fielding] and Felicity [Montagu] and Tim [Key] and I wouldn't want to not work with them so that's another important part of it.' This will be music to the ears of Patridge fans, as Coogan revealed there's much more life in his famous alter-ego: 'I would like to keep coming back as long as I think it's funny. The thing about Alan is the world changes and then Alan is a reflection of that changing world, so it can keep going. And you can keep sort of tightening the nut with Alan. It might be that one day he oversteps the mark and implodes, but part of it is finding out – just keep pushing him until he falls off a cliff or something.'
A Russian man who joined a boyband competition show on Chinese TV 'on a whim' but quickly regretted his decision has finally been released from his ordeal after making it all the way to the final. Vladislav Ivanov, a twenty seven-year-old part-time model from Vladivostok, was working on the show Produce Camp 2021 as a translator when producers reportedly 'noticed his good looks' and asked him to sign up as a contestant. Because, previously, he'd been invisible to them, clearly. Ivanov told the programme that he had been asked 'if I'd like to try a new life' and agreed, but he came to regret the decision. Unable to leave on his own without breaching his contract and paying a - presumably eye-wateringly massive - fine he, instead, begged viewers to send him home on a regular basis and deliberately performed poorly in the hope of being voted off. No such luck. The programme concept, which originated in Korea, pits young performers against each other to train and eventually form an eleven-member international boyband, chosen by a voting public. Ivanov and his fellow contestants were sequestered in dorm rooms on Hainan island and had their phones confiscated. Using the stage name Lelush, Ivanov told viewers 'don't love me, you'll get no results' and repeatedly pleaded with people not to vote for him. His first song was a half-hearted Russian rap, in stark contrast to the high-pop of his competitors. 'Please don't make me go to the finals, I'm tired,' he whinged in a later episode. 'I hope the judges won't support me. While the others want to get an A, I want to get an F as it stands for freedom,' the South China Morning Post reported him as saying. The judges - and viewers - clearly though it'd be a right good laugh to keep him there. His, increasingly desperate, pleas went unanswered and he was propelled through three months of competition and ten episodes, plus supplemental digital content. A fanbase which had taken to his grumpy, anti-celebrity persona, or were perhaps driven by schadenfreude, urged each other to vote for him and 'let him nine-nine-six!' in reference to China's digital industry culture of chronic overwork - 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Others called him 'the most miserable wage slave' and celebrated him as an icon of 'Sang culture', a Chinese millennial concept of having a defeatist attitude toward life in general. After making it to the final, Ivanov grumpily ate a lemon on camera and said he hoped people would not support him again. 'I'm not kidding,' he said, deadpan. He was eventually voted out in the final episode, which was broadcast on Saturday. 'I'm finally getting off work,' he posted on his Weibo account the next day his phone having, by now seemingly, been returned to him. A Weibo hashtag related to his departure was viewed more than one hundred and eighty million times, including by the Russian embassy. 'Congrats, have a good rest,' the embassy replied. Russian media reported that Ivanov had been 'mobbed' at Beijing airport as he left the country, defying rumours that he would stay to build a modelling career. Reports of a captive Russian from Vladivostok being held prisoner on a Chinese reality show had led to an online campaign at home for Ivanov to be released from his contract, which bloggers coined 'Free Lelush' or СвободуЛелушу. State media began reporting on Ivanov's sorry predicament about a week ago after popular Russian bloggers posted about the interpreter's unlikely run. 'It's not funny any more, let Vlad go home!' wrote one. 'I am very sad and disturbed. It might have been amusing for some time, but the situation is becoming absurd.' Popular blogger Ruslan Usachev said that Ivanov's high profile, if reticent, participation had boosted Produce Camp's 'aura of an international competition' – no doubt pleasing Tencent, the Chinese tech giant which runs it. 'Suddenly a real live person appeared on this show and people started to vote for him,' Usachev said. 'Partially because he stands out [from the other contestants]. But mainly because it's just kek' - a term, adopted by gamers, which refers to an amusing incident that becomes more and more thigh-slappingly hilarious the longer it goes on. Ivanov's story, which has gained him millions of viewers and fans on social media, has drawn accusations of being a publicity stunt, but his friend, the agency executive Ivan Wang, who had hired him to chaperone and translate for his two Japanese clients on the show, said he 'really disliked' being in front of the camera. 'One time, I got him a modelling job in Hong Kong, he sent me a SOS message saying he couldn't stand it five minutes after arriving on set,' Wang told a Chinese entertainment blog. 'He declined repeated participation requests by the director of Produce Camp 2021. He just said yes after getting bored on the island. He thought joining the show might help his introverted personality.'
An arrest warrant, felony embezzlement charge and twenty years of turned-down jobs - all over a Sabrina the Teenage Witch videotape. Allegedly. The criminal history was slapped on Texas resident, Caron McBride, after she failed to return the VHS copy of the Nineties teen sitcom in 1999. She only found out the truth when she tried to change her name on a driving licence after getting married. She said that she had not watched the tape and it must have been rented in her name. 'Just not my cup of tea,' McBride, claimed to local media. Her name was used to rent the VHS - a black plastic box with spooling magnetic tape in it containing movies or TV programmes for those who are too young to remember them - in a store called Movie Place in Norman, Oklahoma, on Valentine's Day in 1999. It was not returned after the agreed ten-day period. The prosecution in the case said McBride had 'wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously embezzled' a tape, which it valued at $58.59. The store subsequently closed in 2008, part of the countrywide disappearance of the rental video industry which was wiped out by streaming services. McBride's criminal record, however, remained. It was the Texas driving licensing team that told her of the felony embezzlement charge after a recent background check. McBride said she called the Cleveland County District Attorney's office in Oklahoma, where an official told her the charge 'was over the VHS tape. I had to make her repeat it because I thought, this is insane,' she said. 'This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn't kidding.' McBride said she suspects the words 'felony embezzlement' had led to her rejection from at least five jobs without explanation over the past twenty years. 'It's a serious issue. It's caused me and my family a lot of heartache financially because of the positions I've lost because of those two words. Something's got to give,' she told KFOR. The case has now been dropped, but McBride still needs to get the record expunged. She believes a man she was living with at the time may have rented the tape for his young daughters and then neglected to return it. Even the Sabrina team were moved by McBride's plight. Melissa Joan Hart posted a shrugging emoji and another of the show's cast, Caroline Rhea, said: 'Seriously let's all sign a script for her to help her out.' Salem the Cat, on the other hand, did not comment on the matter. Which was odd because he was always so chatty in the show.
The BBC has responded to whinges over its coverage of Prince Philip's funeral by insisting its editorial choices 'reflected the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster in a moment of national significance.' BBC1 devoted nearly four hours to the event on 17 April. Its programming, led by Huw Edwards, was watched by an average of almost seven million people. David Attenborough, Gyles Brandreth and Alan Titchmarsh also shared memories of the Queen's late husband, who died on 9 April at the age of ninety nine. Responding to whinges about the coverage, the BBC said on its website: 'The funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally. We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given and impact this had on the billed BBC1 schedule. We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster, during moments of national significance. We are grateful for all feedback and we always listen to the response from our audiences.' One or two people even believed them. The BBC's latest statement came after its wall-to-wall coverage of the duke's death became the most complained-about moment in British television history. Nearly one hundred and eleven thousand punters contacted the BBC in the following days to whinge about its decision to turn most of its TV channels and radio stations over to rolling tributes. The unprecedented number of complaints led the BBC to set up a dedicated online form for angry viewers within hours of Philip's death in an attempt to streamline the process. The corporation acknowledged the complaints, but in a statement similar to that circulated about the funeral coverage, said that clearing the schedules reflected its role as the nation's main broadcaster. The BBC also broadcast scenes from the funeral service on its news channel, but BBC2 did not broadcast coverage, instead showing the World Snooker Championship. Given the choice between the two, most people with half-a-brain in their head went for the funeral even if they had little or no time for the Royal Family since, you know, snooker fer Christ' sake. ITV gave the event three hours' coverage, anchored by Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham and featuring guests including the duke's goddaughter, India Hicks. Channel Four showed episodes of the reality show Four In A Bed and Channel Five broadcast the film A Knight's Tale, starring Heath Ledger.
A radio station that played a song containing 'prolonged sounds of sexual moaning' at breakfast time breached the broadcasting code, a watchdog ruled. Caroline Community Radio played 'French Kiss by' Lil Louis on 17 December at a 'time when children were particularly likely to be listening,' Ofcom said. Which does, indeed, contain lots of moaning about The Sex. Shocking. And, indeed, stunning. Let us, once again, stand up and salute the Utter Shite that some people chose to care about.
The communications regulator said that the song was 'not appropriately scheduled.' Ofcom's report said the Essex-based station's licensee confirmed it was 'undertaking a review of its database.' To make sure they haven't got any Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, Donna Summer or, indeed, Extreme Noise Terror on their playlist. The regulator said the song, which reached number two in the UK charts in 1989, contained no lyrics but included 'prolonged sounds of sexual moaning lasting two minutes and twenty seconds.' If you're curious, dear blog reader, it starts about five minutes and twenty seconds into the nine minute instrumental. And, quite an earful it is, too. Caroline Community Radio broadcasts on FM to the Maldon area of Essex from studios in Burnham-on-Crouch and is also available online. To an audience of about six. The report said that 'given the radio station's target audience, the likelihood of children listening was low.' No shit? The licensee said it had been in the process of transferring its music library from one computer system to another. They added that 'some scheduling restrictions that it had applied to songs had not been carried across to the new system.' A report claimed the licensee 'did not wish to offend its listeners and confirmed that it was undertaking a review of its database to ensure all song information is correct.' Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - ruled that the broadcast was in breach of rule 1.3 of the Broadcasting Code, which states that 'children must ... be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.' And, anything related to The Sex. Caroline Community Radio is an independent organisation, but its website said it 'had connections' to the famous pirate station of the 1960s Radio Caroline, including use of its name.
At least ten thousand UK nationals have reportedly been approached by fake profiles linked to hostile states, on the professional social network LinkedIn, over the past five years, according to MI5. It warned users who had accepted such connection requests might have then been lured into sharing secrets. That's, obviously, if they have any secrets to share. This blogger, for instance, has only but one secret. Albeit, it involves, a golf course, ten thousand pounds and at least two late night attempts to move a body. But, perhaps he's said too much. 'Malicious profiles' are being used on 'an industrial scale,' the security agency's chief, Ken McCallum, claimed. A campaign has been launched to 'educate' government workers about the threat. Because, let's face it, government workers can always do with all the education they can lay their hands on. The effort - Think Before You Link - warns foreign spies are targeting those with access to sensitive information. One concern is the victims' colleagues, in turn, become more willing to accept follow-up requests - because it looks as if they share a mutual acquaintance. MI5 did not specifically name LinkedIn but BBC News claims to have 'learned' the Microsoft-owned service is, indeed, the platform involved. So that information, seemingly, is not a secret. Or, if it is, you know, schtum. The ten thousand-plus figure includes staff in virtually every government departments as well as key industries, who might be offered speaking or business and travel opportunities that could lead to attempts to recruit them to provide confidential information. And, it is thought a large number of those approached engaged initially with the profiles that contacted them online. 'No-one is immune to being socially manipulated into wrongdoing through these approaches,' the guidance given to government staff says. LinkedIn has said it 'welcomes the initiative.' The campaign, run by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which reports to MI5, asks government staff to focus on 'the four Rs'; recognising malicious profiles, realising the potential threat, reporting suspicious profiles to a security manager and removing the profiles. 'Since the start of the pandemic, many of us have been working remotely and having to spend more time at home on our personal devices,' government chief security officer Dominic Fortescue said. 'As a result, staff have become more vulnerable to malicious approaches from hostile security services and criminal organisations on social media.' The US and other countries have launched similar campaigns. Former CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to twenty years in The Joint, after being extremely convicted of giving secrets to China following an approach on LinkedIn. And the UK's move is also being backed by the other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That, seemingly, is also not a secret. Although it probably should be.
A hospital employee in Italy has been accused of skipping work on full pay for fifteen years. Nice lack-of-work if you can ... not get it. The man is alleged to have stopped turning up to work at the Ciaccio hospital in the Southern city of Catanzaro in 2005. He is now being investigated for fraud, extortion and abuse of office, Italian news agency Ansa reports. He was reportedly paid five hundred and thirty eight thousand Euros in total over the years that he is thought not to have been working. Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism. The arrests are the result of a lengthy police investigation into absenteeism and suspected fraud in the Italian public sector. The employee was a civil servant and was assigned to a job in the hospital in 2005. It was at this point he stopped going into work, the police said. The police have also accused him of threatening his manager to stop her from filing a disciplinary report against him. That manager later retired, police added and his ongoing absence was 'never noticed' by her successor or human resources.
Rolling Stones guitarist Rockin' Ronnie Wood says that he has been given the all-clear after being diagnosed with cancer during the lockdown. The seventy three-year-old had small-cell cancer, which typically affects the lungs. It follows a successful fight against his first lung cancer diagnosis in 2017. Rockin' Ronnie told the Sun: 'I've had cancer two different ways now" and credited a "higher power" for the positive outcome. All I can do is stay positive in my attitude, be strong and fight it and the rest is up to my higher power,' he said. 'I came through with the all-clear.' Rockin' Ronnie's spiritual outlook reflects a concept of control and acceptance encouraged by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Wood, a founding member of The Faces and The Jeff Beck Group, became known for his heavy partying and substance abuse, particularly after joining The Stones in 1975 and becoming Keef Richards wing-man in more senses than one. But, he said that the lessons learned during numerous stints in rehab equipped him to fight the disease. 'I'm going through a lot of problems now, but throughout my recovery, you have to let it go. And when you hand the outcome over to your higher power, that is a magic thing,' the guitarist told the alleged paper. 'That brings you back to the [AA and NA's] Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." That's incredible. What will be will be, it's nothing to do with me.' The musician and broadcaster, a keen painter, said that working on paintings of his wife Sally Humphries and looking after their four-year-old twin daughters Gracie Jane and Alice Rose, also helped to keep him strong. Discussing his 2017 lung cancer diagnosis, Wood previously told the Daily Scum Mail that he had wondered whether it was 'time to say goodbye' to his family. The Rockin' Rocker underwent a week of tests and said if the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes 'it would have been all over for me.' Instead, he needed a five-hour operation to have part of his lung removed before first confirming he was cancer-free in 2018. The small-cell cancer Rockin' Ronnie faced in lockdown commonly forms in the lung and can quickly spread to other areas. But after being given the all-clear once again, he said he feels he's been given 'a second chance' and is now focused on returning to the stage with The Stones. He said: 'I am grateful every day for the continuance of this positive attitude. Everybody gets to fight in their own way, live their lives and survive.'
And from that, dear blog reader, to this ...
First Man.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
The Sopranos.
The Last Movie Star.
The BBC presenter Reeta Chakrabarti has said that presenting a news bulletin is a skilled job, after Jeremy Paxman claimed that 'any fool' could do it. Grumpy old sod Paxo has made a series of criticisms of the BBC and television news since stepping down from Newsnight almost seven years ago, culminating in his recent assertion that 'newsreading is an occupation for an articulated suit.' And, given that he did it himself for so long, one could opine that it takes a fool to know a fool. Chakrabarti, who regularly presents BBC news bulletins, said that she disagreed with this assessment. 'It's his opinion, but I wonder why he says it when he spent quite a few years himself reading an Autocue,' she said. 'And if I'm presenting the One O'Clock News, I've written a lot of what I'm reading out. Those aren't someone else's words.' She told the Radio Times: 'I'm a journalist, I know what the stories are, I discuss them with the editor and the correspondent and I pride myself on being able to write with simplicity and clarity. Maybe "any fool" can do this, but I think it's a skill.'
In what is becoming an annual happenstance, yer actual Keith Telly Topping hopes that all of his dear blog readers enjoyed a happy St George's Day on 23 April. And, also, a happy St Ringo's Day on 24 April.
Last Sunday was the eighth anniversary of this blogger's mother's death. The following day was the thirty first anniversary of this blogger's dad's demise. This blogger wishes it to be known that he still miss both of them every single day.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been making a - very Asperger's-style - list of all of the things that he hasn't done for months (in some cases, for more than a year) which he hope to be doing in a month's time once he has had his second prickage and places are open again. It goes something like this.
1. Getting the Metro down to the coast and having a walk along Tynemouth Long Sands.
2. Going to the cinema and watch a movie on a big screen instead of on the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House tellybox.
3. Visiting a restaurant in Stowell Street and having a meal and a couple of glasses of wine and some civilised conversation with a fiend.
4. Going shopping to buy some new dead choice gear.
5. Sitting in Leazes Park (on a sunny day) with a good book, watching the wildlife.
6. Visiting someone else's gaff for a change instead of just looking at the four walls of the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House.
7. Going to the library.
8. Having a swim in the pool and a half-hour in the steam room.
9. Getting a haircut so that this blogger no longer looks like a member of some filthy, disgusting, earache-inducing Prog Rock combo of the 1970s.
10. Having a coffee with another fiend (this blogger does have more than one).
Ticking all of these off Yer Actual Keith Telly Topping's Stuff He Intends To Do When He Can Without Facng The Probability Of Dying As A Result list is likely to be ... far harder than it may look right about now, dear blog reader. Nevertheless, he's going to have a right good go. Dreaming, as Blondie once noted, is free.
Michael Collins, one of the three crew members of the first manned mission to The Moon, Apollo 11 in 1969, has died aged ninety, his family say. He died on Wednesday after 'a valiant battle with cancer. He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side,' they added. Collins had stayed in lunar orbit as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on The Moon. Aldrin is now the only surviving member of the mission. In a statement, the Collins family said that 'Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility and faced this, his final challenge, the same way. We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honour his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life.' The family also asked for privacy 'during this difficult time.'

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Against Strange Maladies, A Sovereign Cure

Another week, another bloggerisationisms update here at yer actual From The North, dear blog reader. Containing, as it does, all of the usual rubbish for your consideration. But, plus point, at least it's free. Or, if not free, then at least extremely cheap. Onward, ever onward .... 
The BBC has confirmed that it received one hundred and nine thousand, seven hundred and forty one whinges from members the public over its coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh's death. All of whom, seemingly, having nothing better to do with their time or energy. The corporation cleared its schedules to cover the news when Prince Philip died last Friday, at the age of ninety nine. That night's episode of EastEnders and the MasterChef final were replaced by news programmes broadcast simultaneously on both BBC1 and BBC2, while BBC4 was taken off-air completely. For what it's worth, this blogger had no problem whatsoever with the BBC1 coverage - it was a major news event and it needed to be covered, only a brain-damaged moron or the victim of some cruel medical experiments would fail to acknowledge that; and, although he would have preferred BBC2 to have been left to carry any non-royal-death-related programming available, this blogger fully understood the horns of the dilemma the Beeb faced knowing that, whatever they did some abject smears of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Scum Express and the Torygraph were going to criticise them anyway. The one thing he did have a problem with was the closing down of BBC4's schedule for the night and replacing it with a caption informing potential viewers that they should retune to BBC1, immediately. What, exactly, was achieved by that decision is entirely beyond this blogger's comprehension. The BBC said, rightly, that the Duke's death was 'a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally.' It added: 'We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given and impact this had on the billed TV and Radio schedules.' Which is putting it mildly; some viewers (just over one hundred thousand, seemingly) weren't merely upset, they were bleeding apoplectic. 'We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster, during moments of national significance,' the BBC continued. 'We are grateful for all feedback and we always listen to the response from our audiences.' One or two people even believed them. The corporation's fortnightly complaints report was published on Thursday. The figure makes the coverage of Prince Philip's death the most whinged-about piece of programming in BBC history. BBC1 moved the MasterChef final to 14 April, so viewers were - eventually - able to find out who had won the popular amateur cookery series (see below). The BBC was, of course, not alone in adjusting its schedule to reflect Prince Philip's death, with ITV and Channel Four both also broadcasting extended news coverage. However, many viewers turned away from such programming as the day wore on, with ITV's Friday night audience declining by a whopping sixty per cent in comparison to the previous week, according to overnight figures. BBC1's audience also dropped by seven per cent week-on-week during the coverage about Prince Philip, while BBC2, unsurprisingly, lost two-thirds of its audience. The most-watched programme on a single channel that evening was Channel Four's Gogglebox, with 4.2 million overnight viewers. At least a portion of whom, one suspects, were not regular viewers but were, simply, relieved to have something - anything - to watch that wasn't about the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. The BBC put a dedicated form on its website later that evening to allow viewers to whinge about the extent of the TV coverage, in recognition of the volume of complaints which it had already received up to that point. The form was subsequently removed the following afternoon, after the number of whinges began to fall, the corporation claimed. For a not insignificant number of viewers, replacing the final of MasterChef with programming celebrating the life of Prince Philip was the wrong decision. Although, quite how many more would have complained if the BBC had done the opposite is the unanswered question (but, we can probably have a decent guess at the manifest shitstorm that would have caused). What is interesting is how many older viewers were amongst those who complained. Proving that not everyone in this country over the age of fifty has, like the Daily Scum Mail and the Daily Scum Express, their collective tongue rammed so far up royalty's collective chuff that there's no room for anyone else to get in there for a right good lick. And this blogger says that, as previously discussed, as someone with no great love but a reasonable amount of (sometimes grudging) respect for at least some of the royal family (Prince Philip included). Traditional 'linear' TV has been a reliable friend to many during months of lockdown and, whilst younger viewers have embraced streaming services and video on demand around twenty million of us are still watching freeview TV at peak-time each evening. Schedules, even in an age of YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix, still matter to many. It is also worth reflecting that, in these days of online complaints forms, it is easier to register a whinge than it ever was in the era of trying to get through to the BBC switchboard or writing a stern letter of dischuffment over some nonsense or other. Indeed, in a sign that the BBC is destined to be criticised by all sides no matter how hard it tries, one hundred and sixteen people - with, definitely, nothing better to do with their time - reportedly whinged to the corporation that the BBC was making it too easy for whingers to whinge. Not all the whinges were about the extent of the BBC's coverage, let it be noted. Almost four hundred people whinged that Prince Andrew had been featured in programmes surrounding his father's death despite his close association with the late financier - and convicted sex-offender - Jeffrey Epstein and the Prince's stubborn refusal to answer questions posed to him by the FBI about what he may or may not have got up to with underage girls. A further two hundred and thirty three people whinged - ludicrously - that BBC presenters were not wearing 'sufficiently respectful clothes,' with complaints that not all newsreaders were wearing black - an echo of the (wholly media-manufactured) controversy over the burgundy tie worn by Peter Sissons when he announced the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. Plus ça change, dear blog reader, plus c'est la même chose.
A former Nando's worker has become the latest winner of the BBC's popular cookery series MasterChef. Tom Rhodes was crowned champion after cooking a five-course lunch for lockdown heroes and serving up a dish at renowned restaurant Le Gavroche. The thirty one-year-old from Newcastle saw off competition from fellow finalists Mike Tomkins and Alexina Anatole. The final had, as previously noted, been extremely postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. The rescheduled show, broadcast on Wednesday evening, saw the final trio fight to impress hosts Gregg Wallace and John Torode with three signature dishes. But it was Rhodes' Japanese-infused starter, main and dessert which proved victorious, making him the long-running programme's seventeenth winner. Complimented for 'a style bordering on minimalism' by Wallace, Rhodes served a trio of oysters for the starter, including a beer-battered oyster with a Japanese sour plum mayonnaise. For Torode, it was Rhodes' main of reverse-seared ribeye steak topped with beetroot pickled in a Japanese seaweed and a wasabi leaf that was 'modern' and 'really very clever indeed.' His dessert of a lemon tart topped with black olive meringue also received universal praise from the hosts. Cos, let's face it, who doesn't love a nice bit of tart? 'What he's absolutely brilliant at is European-style of cookery, with Japanese flavourings,' Wallace said. Before adding 'cooking doesn't come any tougher than this.' Probably. Speaking after filming ended, Rhodes said that he would one day 'love to write a cookbook and have a cookery school. During the competition, I have realised my love for developing recipes and cooking for other people outside of my friends and family, so would love to do more of this after the show,' he said. First broadcast in 1990, MasterChef is one of the BBC's longest-running factual series and has inspired the popular spin-off MasterChef: The Professionals (and, the somewhat embarrassingly wretched Celebrity MasterChef too). The latest series was produced under coronavirus restrictions, with many of the series' traditional assignments adjusted to allow for social distancing. While viewers found out who won this week, Rhodes himself has had to keep his victory a secret since the end of last year, when filming concluded. He told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that the only other people who knew the result were his parents who were both sworn to secrecy. 'You've seen the clip last night where I rang my mum on screen,' he said. 'They've found it more difficult to keep secret than I have.' Rhodes said taking the trophy (which, presumably, he's also had to hide for the last four months) was 'a dream come true' and confirmed his further ambitions to become a food writer and maybe even open his own restaurant one day. This blogger, who lives in the same city as the winner, would like to see this happenstance if only because he once ate in, he presumes, the same Nandos in which Tom used to work and found the gaff a bit bland. Let's face it, Th' Toon needs all the good restuarants it can lay its hands on right about now. Tom said that he was able to practise his winning dish two or three times before the final, but has not cooked it again at home since. 'I'm waiting until I can cook it for somebody and I've got a lot of requests for that so far,' he said. When possible though, he plans to celebrate with 'a really good pizza' and 'maybe a bottle of red.' 
Large-toothed Scouse funster John Bishop allegedly 'got told off' by 'BBC bosses' (that's 'executives' only with less syllables for those who are hard of thinking) after revealing details about his Doctor Who role. Mind you, this breathlessly exciting 'news' was, admittedly, brought to us by that bastion of truthful, accurate and vitally important reportage Bang Showbiz. So, it's probably an idea to take it with not so much a pinch as a cellar-full of salt. The Liverpudlian actor had taken part in an online workshop for drama students and revealed that his upcoming character was also from the city. Which was so surprisingly, as most viewers probably imagined he was going to be playing a Martian, didn't they? This, the bullshit gossip website claims, 'was enough for producers to call him up.' Appearing on The Graham Norton Show this weekend, John further revealed: 'I'm the new companion to The Doctor. I'm allowed to say that, but that's about it. I did a thing for some drama students in Liverpool, a big Zoom thing and it was a Q&A just talking about acting, how you get into it, how you get into stand-up comedy. One of the questions was, "Can you tell us anything about your character in Doctor Who? Where does he come from?" I went, "Well where do you think he comes from? Have a guess!" I'm not Tom Cruise, I can act as long as the character happens to look and sound a lot like me. So, I just mentioned that the character was from Liverpool which then, somewhere on a Doctor Who website, someone picked it up - "There's a new character and he's from Liverpool, the story's based in Liverpool." Then the BBC phoned me up and said, "You've broken the cardinal sin, you've told them something about Doctor Who." And I went, "I haven't told them anything! Anybody who looks at me knows he's from Liverpool, let's be honest!"' During the same Zoom event An Evening With John Bishop, the actor also revealed that he had to turn down the role originally 'due to scheduling issues,' before the pandemic changed things and he was able to film alongside Jodie Whittaker. He explained: 'I met Chris Chibnall and he had this idea and this character. He'd seen me in a few things and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in Doctor Who. I was flattered but the problem was I was on tour when they were meant to be filming. So although I fancied it, I had to say no. And then the whole COVID thing happened. Lockdown arrived so I made a phone call and fortunately they had moved their filming dates. It now fits in perfectly - I'm doing Doctor Who up until July and then I go on the road again in September.' So, there you go, dear blog reader, John Bishop has also revealed that production on the next series of Doctor Who will be concluding until July. Let's see if he gets into any further bother with 'BBC bosses' over that. Over you, Bang Showbiz.
And, now, dear blog reader ...
Washes Whiter. Nicholas Baker's tremendous 1990 history of advertising on British TV is now available for viewing on both iPlayer (first episode only) and YouTube (episodes two to five). A superb collection of nostalgia (from its delicious pop-art titles to the vintage adverts themselves) and social history (notably its discussion of feminism in advertising which takes up two entire episodes). If you've never seen it before, you should have. Put that right, forthwith, you've no longer go any excuses not to. 
MacBeth (1971). 'Things without all remedy should be without regard. What's done is done.' Roman Polanski's blood-soaked horrorshow has aged remarkably well as an example of how to do Shakespeare as a gore-fest and Ken Tynan's script is genuinely politically subversive. Includes full-frontal nudity too (Hell, it was the Seventies) so, you know, double-delight. A plank of wood in the shape of Jon Finch as the titular character is about as interesting as a geet hard eye-watering smack in the knackers with a wet plimsoll but the rest of the cast (Francesca Annis and Martin Shaw most notably) are great. Even the late Keith Chegwin's Fleance is watchable. The Third Ear Band's score is suitably eerie and the location filming, including much use of Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, St Aidan's Church and North Charlton Moors near Alnwick, has never made Northumberland look ... well, wetter, actually. And bleaker. Polanski, famously, blamed production difficulties and going over budget on the 'lous weather.' You chose to film in the North East, pal, whose fault was that?
MacBeth (2006). 'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.' Geoffrey Wright's Australian adaptation of the same text avoids many of the traditional pitfalls of modernist Shakespeare adaptations as, although it uses a modern-day Melbourne gangster setting it largely maintains the gorgeous language of the original play. And, the casting of The We'yrd sisters as a trio of feral Goth schoolgirls (Miranda Nation, Chloe Armstrong and Kate Bell) is properly strange.
Bad Samaritan. Probably not a line on national heartthrob David Tennant's CV that he brags about over-much. Christ, it's a bad movie.
Prodigal Son. 'I'm going to be killed by a millennial. What a twist!' Back after two months in limbo and with excellent use of 'Ça Plane Pour Moi' in the opening scene. Plus, From The North favourite Alan Cumming going almost as deliciously-over-the-top-and-down-the-other-side as Michael Sheen does on a regular basis in the show. What's not to love?
The Big Short. 'Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.'
Watergate. Paul Mitchell and Norma Percy's superb, enthralling, ground-breaking 1994 five-part BBC series, narrated by Fred Emery and featuring exclusive interviews with many of the key participants including Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean and Jeb Magruder as well as former President Gerald Ford is currently being repeated on BBC4 (and available on iPlayer). Still the most magnetic thing about the documentary remains that crazed loon the late Gordon Liddy, sitting in front of his massive gun collection (reportedly, registered in his wife's name since, as a former felon, he wasn't eligible for a licence) talking with pride and not a small amount of glee about his nefarious skulduggery. All in the name of Richard Nixon, the only bloke involved in the whole malarkey not to end up with a criminal record. As Variety's Jeff Silverman wrote on first broadcast, the mini-series 'brilliantly chronicles the events - and their inevitability - that led to the national nightmare [of] Watergate. Funny, tragic, pathetic and probing, docu-dramatically stares down Watergate's smoking gun and makes its ultimate conclusion perfectly clear: Nixon's the one. Still. Now more than ever.'
Stan & Ollie. 'I'm never getting married again. I'm just going to find a woman I don't like and buy her a house.' A poignant, sweet, respectful and wholly good-hearted biopic of the beloved comedy duo. Great performances from Coogan and John C Reilly and a handsome recreation of 1950s Britain (both the best and the worst, thereof).
The Favourite. 'Must you rub it in? A man's dignity is the one thing that holds him back from running amok.' 'Sometimes, a lady likes to have some fun!'
Tom & Jerry: The Movie. As several movie critics have seemingly taken great delight in sneering to anyone that will listen, no it's not as good as the Fred Quimby/Hanna/Barbera 1950s shorts (nor, indeed, the Chuck Jones animations from a decade later). But it's still got Tom getting hit in the face with a steam iron, when is that ever not funny?
Picnic At Hanging Rock. 'Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place.' Still one of this blogger's desert island DVD choices. And it always will be.
Some desperately sad news, now, the actress Helen McCrory has died at the appallingly young age of fifty two. From The North favourite McCrory was best known for her roles in the films The Queen, The Special Relationship and the Harry Potter franchise and TV series including Peaky Blinders. Her husband, Damian Lewis, confirmed her death via Twitter, saying that McCrory had died 'peacefully at home.' Lewis said: 'I'm heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.' He added that his wife had 'died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly.'
Born in London to a Welsh mother and Scottish father, McCrory spent a year in Italy before studying acting at The Drama Centre. Her film roles included portraying Cherie Blair in Peter Morgan's The Queen and The Special Relationship in 2006 and 2010 respectively. She also played Narcissa Malfoy in the final three films of the Harry Potter franchise and appeared in the James Bond movie Skyfall. On television, she had a leading role as the Shelby matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC's popular period crime drama Peaky Blinders and appeared in series including Doctor Who (magnificent as the villainous Rosanna Calvierri opposite Matt Smith in The Vampires Of Venice), Inside Number Nine, Fearless, MotherFatherSon and His Dark Materials. Her CV also included appearanced in Interview With The Vampire (her screen debut), The James Gang, Charlotte Gray, Does God Play Football, Normal For Norfolk, Fantastic Mister Fox, The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death, Their Finest, The Fragile Heart, Witness Against Hitler, Spoonface, Anna Karenina, In A Land Of Plenty, The Jury, Dickens, Lucky Jim, Life, Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This, Penny Dreadful and Have I Got News For You.
Last year, she appeared in two of From The North's fifty favourite TV productions of the year, the BBC's Hugh Laurie-fronted political drama Roadkill and ITV's Quiz. McCrory was also an accomplished stage actress and was nominated for an Olivier for her stage role as Rosalind in As You Like It at Wyndham's Theatre in 2006. McCrory and Lewis led fundraising efforts to provide hot meals for NHS staff during the Covid pandemic. Their work saw almost one million knicker in donations to the Feed NHS scheme and partnerships with chains including Leon and Wasabi. McCrory served as an honorary patron of the London children's charity Scene & Heard. She was appointed an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for her services to drama. McCrory is survived by Lewis, whom she married in 2007 and their two children Manon and Gulliver.
In 1967 the National Youth Theatre in London performed the first new play it had ever commissioned, with eighty performers arranged on a set depicting a football stand. The play would be revived with new casts eight times over the next twenty years and, again, at Wilton's Music Hall in London in 2017. It was televised twice - in 1967 and 1975 - and entered many a school curriculum. The play was Zigger Zagger and its writer was Peter Terson, who has died aged eighty nine. The story of teenager Harry Philton and his friend the titular character, who draws Harry into a band of rioting football fans, has as its timeless theme the poverty of choices faced by a young, working-class male. Terson continued his exploration of this subject the following year with his next National Youth Theatre play, The Apprentices (starring Barrie Rutter), in which exploited young men turn cruelly and violently on each other. Possibly no writer has done more to democratise drama in Britain. Earlier in his career, as a young resident playwright at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, brought in by its director, Peter Cheeseman, Terson plunged into the theatre's dedication to regionalism, supported by post-war civic investment. Faithful to Cheeseman's commitment to local documentaries about his audiences' working lives, Terson's scripts included The 1861 Whitby Lifeboat Disaster (1970). After the success of Zigger Zagger, he struck a wonderfully rich seam with three plays about a trio of Yorkshire miners at leisure, played by Brian Glover, Ray Mort and Douglas Livingstone. The first of these, commissioned by BBC Radio, was The Fishing Party (1971), in which the trio are bullied and exploited by a ruthless Whitby landlady who assures them they will have 'contact with a lavatory on all floors' at their lodgings. It won a Writers Guild award and was subsequently televised - as were the following two - as part of the BBC's Play For Today strand. The second, Shakespeare Or Bust (1973), centred around a canal trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Antony & Cleopatra which ended up with Antony (Richard Johnson) and Cleopatra (Janet Suzman) coming to their narrowboat to put on a performance after the three are unable to get tickets for the theatre. The third, Three For The Fancy, set at a country livestock fair, followed in 1974 and the trilogy was at the heart of a celebratory retrospective at the British Film Institute in 2012. Peter was born in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne - just a few streets away from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House as it happens - to Peter Patterson, a joiner and his wife, Jane. He left school at fifteen, worked in a drawing office and briefly attended the city's technical college. After national service with the RAF he trained as a teacher at Redland College in Bristol (1952 to 1954) and there met a fellow student Sheila Bailey, whom he married in 1955. He later changed his name, after becoming a professional writer, because he thought Peter Patterson was 'a bit of a mouthful.' Ten years teaching PE and history followed; he later admitted that 'I wasn't very good and the boys saw through me, but were very supportive.' Already writing, he had 'enough rejection slips to paper the walls' until in 1964 Cheeseman read, liked and produced A Night To Make The Angels Weep at the Victoria. Set in the Vale of Evesham, where Terson then lived, the play told dark stories of rustic people whose lives are disoriented by the relentless tide of progress. Unschooled in stagecraft but with a flair for dialogue that combined naturalism with unforced poetry, Terson relished the Vic's theatre-in-the-round set-up, which dispensed with the need for sets to negotiate. His next play, now as resident playwright at the Vic, The Mighty Reservoy (1964), was about a new reservoir built threateningly close to a village, whose keeper believes that an act of sacrifice is necessary to avert a tragedy. In 1965 he adapted the story Jock-At-A-Venture, by Arnold Bennett, into a play, Jock On The Go, which was seen by Michael Croft, founder-director of the National Youth Theatre and that led to Zigger Zagger. Terson continued to write through the 1970s and 1980s and his play Strippers was produced in his home city, Newcastle and in the West End, making the connection between asset-stripping of old industries and the housewives who bared all to make up for the pay packets their men had lost. Always committed to work that was accessible to non-traditional theatre-going audiences, in the 1990s he turned to writing large-scale community plays, working regularly with the director Jon Oram of Claque Theatre, formerly The Colway Theatre Trust and attracted by the instinct that many people with stories to tell had no way of telling them. His plays, of which more than eighty were performed in his lifetime, were, according to Oram, always works in progress right up to opening night and Terson recognised that amateurs took decisions differently from professionals. 'If they said the sense of a line in their words rather than his, then he would shout out "that's better" and keep the words in,' said Oram. 'He'd see something in someone and develop it in the script.' Terson also made sure he knew of what he was writing, on one occasion buying an authentic caravan, learning to harness a horse and setting out on the road, as he prepared to write about Romany life. When a genuine Romany challenged him to a fight, he accepted and reportedly lost two front teeth. The resulting 'documentary play' for BBC Radio, The Romany Trip, was broadcast in 1983. On another occasion he went to Butlin's at Minehead to do karaoke before writing about a holiday camp in Sailor's Horse (1999), a community play involving a cast of hundreds. His final produced play was Campers (2001), written for Edensor School in Stoke, about racist attitudes and two very different campsites - one a luxury French holiday site and the other a refugee camp in the Balkans. His TV work included a couple of Armchair Theatre plays (The Ballad Of The Artificial Mash and The Heroism Of Thomas Chadwick), The Last Train Through Harecastle Tunnel, Mooney & His Caravans and an adaptation of The Apprentices for The Wednesday Play and But Fred, Freud Is Dead for ITV's Sunday Night Theatre. There were also contributions to Sextet (The Gregorian Chant), Full House (The Dividing Fence), Scene (The Ballad Of Ben Bagot), episodes of Village Hall, Crown Court and Sally Ann and the TV movie Atlantis. In Belgium a Flemish adaptation his play The Mighty Reservoir reached more than five hundred performances by the MMT, a theatre in Mechelen and was subject of an adaption by Belgian Television. Terson continued writing until the onset of Parkinson's disease forced him to stop. He is survived by Sheila and their children, Neil and Janie, five grandchildren and a great-grand-daughter.
And finally, dear blog reader, the From The North headline of the week award goes to the BBC News website's 'World's Biggest Rabbit' Stolen From Owner's Garden. Police are reported to be looking for a very strong man dressed as a carrot ...