Thursday, August 28, 2008

Top Telly Tips - August 2008

Now, we're more or less up to date.
Friday 1 August 2008:
Top Telly Tips is where we continue to ask all the questions that no one else dares to.
Today, why is the capital of Bolivia actually Sucre and not, as most people believe, La Paz?

The Tudors - 9:00 BBC2. When Harry Met Annie returns for a second - and increasingly moronic if maddeningly entertaining - American take on British medieval history. Jonathan Rhys Myers – 'eeee's Henery the Eighth he is, he is' – still isn't any good in the role. Pretty boy, can’t act. However, at least they've replaced the one twenty four carat World Class actor they did have – the always excellent Sam Neill – with someone just as good, if not better: Peter O'Toole as the Pope. Rumours that Anne Boleyn's first line of the season will be is ‘ravish me passionately then dissolve the monasteries' cannot, entirely, be discounted.

Saturday 2 August:
Athletes Do the Funniest Things - 7:20 ITV … Or an excuse for ITV to dig out loads of outtakes of people falling over hurdles in the steeplechase with a bit of synchronized drowning thrown in for sheer entertainment value. They can try all they like but they will never be in the same league as Wor Kev falling off his bike in Superstars in the “ooo, that looked like it REALLY hurt” stakes.

Sunday 3 August:
Agatha Christie's Marple - 8:00 ITV The last time that Geraldine McEwan and Tom Baker worked together it was over forty years ago in the National Threate but they’re both in Marple tonight at 8 o’clock. Geraldine’s about to give up the role with Julia MacKenzie’s taking over. Odd casting that, I've never thought of Julia - good actress tho' she be - as Marple-material. But then, as my mother will be happy to tell anyone who asks her (and, indeed, anyone who doesn’t) neither of them can hold a candle to Joan Hickson who is “just like the character in the novels.” And, whatever you do, just don't get her started on Poirot.

Monday 4 August:
Dev is feeling on top of the world but will it last? On Corrie - 7:30 ITV - I very much doubt it, chuck. Audrey's trip turns to disaster whilst David sneaks a peek at Tina's e-mails. Ah, now you really shouldn’t be doing that, David. I’d hate to think about what anybody would find if they went rummaging around in mine. Although, to be honest, all they'll probably discover is much spam about penis enlargements and fake Rolexes, the same as everyone else.

The Tourist Trap - 8:00 ITV: Ginny Buckley reports on the scratch card scams which are fleecing 400,000 British tourists abroad every year, with slick conmen operations cashing in to the tune of more than one billion pounds. The Scum. The whole lot of them should clearly be horsewhipped to death. British tourists abroad that is not the people who fleece them – they should be given a medal.

The Gadget Show - 8:00 Five: Consumer technology show presented - with much enthusiasm - by Jason Bradbury and Suzi Perry among others. The intrepid presenters test a range of rugged backpacks, some top-of-the-range laptops and a selection of non-motorised vehicles. Last in the series. Good little show, this. If you like your technology and your computer add-ons and the like, this show is full of handy hints and there's always a vauge Tomorrow’s World-style “remember where you were when you first saw this” feel to the show. I'm looking forward to a new season later in the year.

Tuesday 5 August 2008:
Top Telly Tips is where we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today has anyone else noticed that in 'By The Time I Get To Phoneix' Glen Campbell goes West, then East? That’s what happens when you’ve left that girl so many times before – you just don’t know where the hell you wanna go.

Send in the Dogs - 8:00 ITV
This series focuses on the work of the police canine unit in West Yorkshire and features Zeus, the German Shepherd who’s got his photo in this week’s Radio Times. In a picture, he’s got his tongue hanging out and he looks like a big soft cuddly sweetie. Next time you see him, of course, he’ll have hold of someone's arm with his razor-sharp fangs and be growling menacingly whilst his handler, thirty yards away with a loud hailer bellows “STAY! WHERE! YOU! ARE!

Secret Millionaire - 9:00 C4
Return of one of last year’s surprise hits, this is a show in which millionaires give something back to the community that helped to shape them. James Benamor returns to Manchester’s Moss Side where he was once involved in petty crime to help others in a similar situation and give out a share of his £70 million fortune. I was a bit worried at the start that it might have turned out to be somewhat self-serving but, certainly, the first season proved me dead wrong on that. Hopefully this year will be just as good and just as emotionally challenging.

CSI: Miami - 9:00 Five
New series of the second of the CSI franchise shows and the one that I, personally, can’t stand. It’s very well made, of course, and has a fantastic actress in it, Emily Procter who used to be in The West Wing, but the big problem with the series remains the male lead, David Caruso (once of NYPD Blue) as Horatio Crane. He's a actor with the animated facial range of a sour lemon and he frequently gets acted off the screen by his own sunglasses. If you compare him to the leads in the other two shows in the franchise - Bill Petersen and Gary Sinise - it's, actually, embarrassing. But this one remains VERY (bafflingly) popular – in fact, in terms of overseas sales it’s possibly the most watched TV show on the planet - and I know a lot of listeners like it so, for the next twenty weeks or so you’ll be in TV Heaven. Me, I'll be watching something else.

Wednesday 6 August 2008:
We continue to ask the questions that no one else dares to. Today, what’s the point of rhetorical questions?

Lost Land of the Jaguar - 8:00 BBC1 - combines stunning wildlife photography with high-octane adventure as a team of intrepid explorers search the depths of the last great unspoilt jungle on the planet. The team push further into the jungle wilderness, searching for unusual and endangered animals that live there. Base camp is invaded by scorpions and poisonous centipedes, whilst Gordon Buchanan discovers an animal thief helping itself to base-camp supplies. Saw the first episode of this last week and loved it.

Location, Location, Location - 8:00 C4 - reaches the last episode of the current season. Phil, Phil, Phil and Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie try to help, help, help two couples with different budgets search for new homes. This week, Phil, Phil, Phil aids an Internet entrepreneur and his wife find their dream millionaires home, home home. But an exhaustive wish-list proves to be something of a sticking point. See, that’s always the problem with rich men, isn’t it? They want to bloody moon on a stick, stick, stick, so they do. Meanwhile, Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie helps a young family in Chelmsford to find a house on a more modest budget. But, apparently, the dad of the family wants the moon on a stick too. Dad’s being awkward - it’s always the way, way, way, isn’t it?

In Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation - 9:00 ITV - the titular heroes are on a mission to show ladies the true beauty of their buttocks. After speaking to a group of women who hate their bottoms, Trinny and Susannah take eight of them to a life sculpture gallery in Brighton, where their derrieres are cast by award-winning sculptor Jamie McCartney. This is just an excuse to be cheeky, isn’t it? Which is quite fitting, frankly, cos I usually find these two to be a complete pain in the arse.

Thursday 7 August 2008:
On EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Archie, much to his own surprise, becomes the hero of the day – I think Larry Lamb is FANTASTIC in this at the moment. It just reminds you what a very good actor the guy is and makes you somewhat wonder where he’s been for the twenty five years since Triangle finished. Meanwhile, Ronnie discovers Max's dark side. Well yeah, he’s scheming ginger womaniser, the world’s worst father and he’s been buried alive. I’d say all that consistutes a dark side, wouldn’t you? Dot receives some bad news (so, what else is new?) and Ian turns the heat up on Masood. Not literally, we hope cos, you know, the guy does own a chip shop…

Natural World - 8:00 BBC2 - follows a loggerhead turtle's journeys across the Pacific, meeting dolphins and whales, sharks and giant squids (or, is the plural of squid ... squid? I can never remember...) along with various typhoons and fishermen along the way. She swims over deep canyons and uses underwater mountain tops like motorway service stations of the sea. Blue whales thunder by like juggernauts and sharks dance around her (not literally, like, cos that would be just WEIRD). 'Pacific' means peaceful, of course, but it is clearly not most of the time. One minute the little turtle is under fire from marlins, the next swimming she's over a coral reef with crocodiles and sharks for comapny. Sounds epic. The BBC natural history department down in Bristol doing what the BBC natural history department should be doing, bringing the awesome majesty and wonder of nature to the unwashed masses. Him off Holby City narrates.

Vanessa Mae - The Making of Me - 9:00 BBC1 - is the last in the series. Teenage prodigy, violinist Vanessa-Mae follows John Barrowman (who is, get this, GAY apparently) and Colin Jackson through the nature-verses-nurture debate and asks scientists one big question: what made me the way I am? Was Vanessa born as a musical prodigy or did the powerful influence of her (seemingly rather Mommy Dearest-style) mother shape her musical talent? I mean, I played the violin when I was at school. Yeah, true story. It sounded like a cat being strangled, of course, but I did have a go. So, did she get my share of the talent – and that of several hundred other would-be violinists? Or is it all simply down to hard work and, as Roy Castle suggested, dedication?

Friday 8 August 2008:
Friday Top Telly Tips is where we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today who, exactly, designed those cartons of milk that burst whenever you try to open them?

So, it’s the eighth day of the eighth month of the eight year and let’s start off with something which is actually on telly as we speak, The Olympic Opening Ceremony. No, don’t go and watch it now, you’ve already missed most of it anyway but you can catch the highlights again at 7:00 on BBC1. I must admit I really like the opening ceremonies – not so much the tradtional dancers and the men on stilts but rather the march of the athletes – I like all the flags and the colours. I’m a man of simple tastes, clearly. Now, Britain’s done really rather well at the last two Olympics – a medal hauls of thirty last time was our best since 1924. Most of the attention obviously goes on the athletics and, to a lesser extent the swimming, but there’s lots of others sports featured – we’re normally quite good at anything that involves bikes, horses or boats of some description. That’s a challenge for Jacques Rogge and co. for 2012, design a triathlon that involves bikes, horses and boats – Britain’ll win hands down. Course, the only downside of the Olympics is that Chiles is over there as part of the presenting team - hopefully reviving his "ooo, they make a lovely couple" double act with Clare Balding - but that, of course means we (and Christine) are stuck with that sodding dickhead Matthew Wright on The One Show for the next three weeks. Oh, bother...

Sunday 10 August:
Britain From Above - 9:00 BBC1 - is a journey through a day in the life of Britain as seen from the skies and through the all-seeing eyes (not to mention the all-hearing radar-like ears) of the lovely and personable Andrew Marr. I really dig this kind of thing featuring aeriel photography. ITV has Northern Skies on a similar theme, for instance. This is a three-part show and, immediately afterwards there’s also a companion show - called Britain From Above: The City - on BBC2 which looks at the huge changes in Britain’s cities over the last 50 years (so that'll probably have lots of archive aeriel footage mixed with the new stuff). Excellent. There's also a really good looking documentary about the Ugandan hurdler John Akii-Bua and his fractious relationship with dictator Idi Amin on immediately afterwards too. Very good night for BBC2, this.

If you don’t fancy those, on BBC3 there’s Spooks: Code 9 which is a spin-off from the popular Spooks series about MI5 (new series of that starting next month too). I know one of the writers on this, the great James Moran, so I’m hoping it picks up an audience. The idea is slightly futuristic - it's set about five years into the future after there has been some sort of major nuclear attack on Britain. So it’s a bit more sci-fi and post-apocalyptic than Spooks itself (a bit more like 24, perhaps). Looks rather good from the trailers. Features nobody that you'll have ever heard of apart from Georgia Moffat (Peter Davison’s daughter) but is probably worth a shot if the parent show is anything to go by.

Monday 11 August:
Top Telly Tips is where we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, when is the Gay Dad revival due?

On Corrie - 7:30 on ITV - Deirdrie is concerned by alarming similarities between her and a character in Ken’s new novel. Ooo, now I’d really cautious there Ken, as an author myself you’ve got to be very careful with stuff like that. Friendships have been lost and court cases fought over less.

I’ve been hugely enjoying Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy – 8:30 BBC2 – and tonight’s is the last episode of the series. Recipes include five-spice chicken drumsticks and dragon prawn cocktail. I’m hungry now.

Now, personally, this blogger considers Bill Bryson to be a total and utter complete pain in the dangly dong. I really dislike Americans who come over to our "quaint little country" and tell us how we should be running it, whether it’s him or his ruddy President. Panorama, for reasons best known to themselves, have given this jumped up pipsqueak with far too big an opinion of himself half-and-hour of prime-time tonight to talk about the problem of litter. I’m actually offended that my licence fee is being given over to this. Yes, litter is a big problem in this country and yes we should all be doing something about that. But, frankly I don’t think we need a very rich American author to tell us that and, I’m presuming, getting paid quite well to do so.

Tuesday 12 August:
Here at Top Telly Tips we continue to ask all the questions no one else dares to.
Today, why does it always rain on me? Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?

There’s been some very strange trailers for Holby City on BBC1 over the last few weeks – a nice combination of a variety of BDSM nightmares and some damned weird music. The series itself, however, continues to be good old fashioned medical drama full of decent actors (... and Patsy Kensit) giving it the works.

There’s been some strange ideas for new reality series of late but Maestro – 9:00 BBC2 – is one of the queerest yet. Take eight famous amateurs and teach them how to become classical conductors and one of them will be given the opportunity to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in the Proms in the Park. Interesting bunch of volunteers – Peter Snow, David Soul, Jane Asher, Sue Perkins, Bradley Walsh, Katie Derham plus that annoying bassist twat out of Blur and the fellah with dodgy teeth who was in James Bond. No, not Jaws, the other one. Sounds like it could actually work and Clive Anderson presents so that’s another point in its favour. I’m going to give this one a go.

Elsewhere, it’s the last Bonekickers tonight – I don’t expect we’ll be seeing it again, which is a shame in one way as the central idea was quite a good one but they just never quite got the mix of comedy and drama right at all and, over the last few weeks it's become something a national joke ("Have you seen Bonekickers recently?" "No, they didn't come to see me when I was bad."). Although, for all that, it's still getting more viewers than Harley Street! So, instead, check out Secret Millionaire on Channel 4. At least that’s a show with a bit of soul about it. Or, indeed, you could do far worse that try The 1908 Olympics, a docudrama about “the first truly modern Olympics” on BBC4 which looks fabulously lovely and has Wor Big Brenden Foster in it.

Wednesday 13 August:
We continue to ask the questions not one else dares to.
Today, how come David Cameron’s bike was recovered within hours, yet the police have still never found the pair of clackers I had nicked from Walker swimming baths in 1975?

Tonight’s subjects on Des Lynam’s Sports Mastermind – BBC2 7:30 – include Wimbledon singles champions. So, Alfie Joey of Peterlee. I’ve started so I’ll finish. Which Wimbledon men’s singles finalist of the 1970s reach the final without conceding a set and then lost the final?

Some of the best moments of TV of the last decade have been episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? – one thinks of those episodes featuring Stephen Fry, Bill Oddie, Robert Lindsay, David Tennant, Clarkson, Paxman, Vic Reeves and many others who’ve discovered touching and fascinating insight into the lives of their ancestors. Tonight sees the start of a new series – BBC1 9:00 - with Patsy Kensit keen to find out more about her father, Jimmy, something of a notorious villain in 60s London. But, he didn't turn Copper's Nark on Ronnie and Reggie so, you know, that's all right then.

Nearly half of British women are size sixteen or above, a fact revealed on Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation - 9:00 ITV – well, yeah. One of the presenters included. The big fat one. I keep on mentioning these two in the vain hope that they’ll just go away and sod off ... but it never seems to work. So, instead, I shall recommend The Edinburgh Festival Show on BBC2 at 10:00. This is a Culutre Show special in which Wor lovely Lauren and co give you a guide to the best shows and to the gorgeous city of Edinburgh itself.

Tomorrow, I shall be asking "Why was Bonekickers so bad? Why, for the love of God, why??” Albeit, in last night’s episode, finally - ten minutes before the series finished - Hugh Bonnerville got to say the one line I'd been expecting since episode one: "Don't mess with me, I'm an archeologist!" Too little, too late.

Thursday 14 August:
We were asking a couple of weeks ago where Chris Barrie was, and then discovered he’s on FIVE presenting a show about his love of machines. Well, interestingly enough, so is his former Red Dwarf crew-mate Robert Llewelyn who played the robot Kryten. How Do They Do That? - 7:00 - sees him discover how catamarans are built and take a ride in a stunt plane. Nice work if you can get it.

On EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - the end is in sight for poor old Wellard and it mightn’t be too much longer before Archie joins him in the great dog house in the sky if the last row he had with Peggy is anything to go by.

It’s the last episode of Lab Rats – 9:30 BBC2 – which I’ve really liked but I seem to be in a minority of one as just about every other TV critic has lined-up to call it the worst thing they’ve ever seen. And that includes French Fields. And everything from the Patrick Cargill oevure. It’s usually had two or three decent jokes each week and, to be honest, that’s good enough for me. But, I doubt there’ll be another season on the strength of audience feedback so this is your last chance for a gander. Farewell, lads. You had ONE fan, at least.

Friday 15 August:
Top Telly Tips is where we continue to ask all the Olympic questions no one else dares to.
When Aflie said last week there were countries in the Olympic opening ceremony that he'd never heard of and, indeed, that sounded like they were made up names from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Federated States of Micronesia was one of them, wasn’t it?
Bear that in mind for later on.

Also, wasn’t it really good to see the French archers beating the British girls last week. That’s the first time that’s happened since the 14th Century. That’s a small joke for all A level history students celebrating their results, there.

Meanwhile, gyeddip wor cyclists! See what I told ya - bikes, boats and horses...

And now, a special request for a listener who emailed in. The Slammer – BBC2 10:15 on Saturday morning. We don’t often feature CBBC shows on here - mainly cos they often our direct opposition! - but this one is a very good one with a really clever set up and some interesting guests. And, it's presented by Ted Robbins (he’s Paul McCartney’s cousin just in case you didn’t know). It’s a variety show set in a jail, for kids, with a celebrity getting locked up each week. Sounds awful, I know. Surprisingly, it isn’t!

Saturday 16 August:
According to a recent - widely commented upon - survey Britons watch an average of three hours and 46 minutes of TV per day. So, who’s letting the side down? Cos I watch at least fifteen hours day personally. There must be about five of you out there watching virtually nothing for me to be keeping the average up. Get yer fingers out.

Anyway, big night on TV tonight quite aside from the Olympics. It's the return of The X-Factor, of course – that's gonna be a question of how soon it will be before either Dannii or Cheryl (or both) burst into tears during a bitching session.Instead, let’s talk about another returning favourite. Sorry girls, but the football season starts again today and, with it, comes Match of the Day (BBC1 10:30). Although, I am assured that Mssrs Linaker, Hansen and Shearer have a decent-sized following among The Ladies. Unlike, say, Mark Lawrenson who doesn't even have a decent-sized following amongst other boring bastards.

Sunday 17 August:
Rory & Paddy’s Great British Adventure – Five 7:00 – sees two of my favourite TV funny men Rory McGrath and Paddy McGuiness travelling in a camper van to sample British eccentricity by playing odd but quintessentially British sporting events like rolling a cheese down a hill, river football, tiddlywinks and, erm, shin kicking. Ow. So, it’s Three Men in a Boat meets Phoenix Nights basically. Looks like it was thought up in a pub, this! Most of the best series formats are, I've noticed.

Now, The Federated States of Miconesia IS, very definitely, a country – despite it once being a running joke on an episode of The West Wing – it’s actually a series of small (and very beautiful) islands in the Pacific. Katie Humble gets to visit there in Pacific Abyss – 8:00 BBC1 – a three-part series exploring marine biology which, presumably, will be a welcome change for the lass from sitting next to that odious little Communist Bill Oddie for her day job. Remember, also Andrew Marr’s excellent Britain From Above is on immediately afterwards. Good gentle night of TV.

Monday 18 August:
We continue to ask all the Olympic questions no one else dares to.
Today, can anybody honestly say they’ve ever performed the butterfly in a public swimming baths?
You try all that splashing about in there, you’ll get a good chinning in the showers afterwards.

I have to say the big thing for me in Corrie at the moment is the return of Kenneth Cope as Jed Stone, a character he first played back in the 1960s when he was Minnie Caldwell’s lodger and Ray Langton’s dodgy drinking partner in the Rovers. What a great actor - of course all of us of a certain age remember him in the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Also, Sheila from Durham dropped me an e-mail to see if I could find out - discreetly - if the girl who plays Gail has had a face-lift recently. I don't know, Sheila, but I kind-of see what you mean! I'll see if I can discover more. Discreetly or, indeed, indiscreetly.

Chinese Food Made Easy finished last week, sadly, but here’s another one to tickle yer tastebuds in the same slot. The Hairy Bakers – 8:30 BBC2 - sees motorcycle chefs Wor Si King (he's a mate of mate of mine, you know!) and Davey Myers return for another delightful four-part series about the best of British baking. Pies, pastries, cakes … Lovely. Tonight the lads knock up a healthy white roll for the perfect bacon buttie. This just sounds like the greatest TV show ever!

Although parking legislation had reduced clamping and towing away of vehicles, in Carry on Clamping – 8:00 ITV – Ginny Buckley reports on cowboy clampers who are satill on the loose in the private parking sector. So, should that be ‘Carry On Cowboy … Clamping’ then, surely? Don't lose yer head, just tell ‘em to stop messin’ about.

Tuesday 19 August:
We continue to ask the Olympic questions no one else dares to.
Today, has anybody noticed whenever Britain wins an unexpected medal in something, suddenly everybody becomes experts on the sport for the next six months?
It’s happened before with hockey, judo and cycling and it was badminton last time… it’ll be canoeing this year, mark my words.
But, before you get yer kayak’s out for the lads, he’s Tuesday’s Top Telly Tips.

We talked about Maestro – 9:00 BBC2 – last week. The first episode was great – the idea is to take eight amateurs and teach them how to become classical conductors. So far Peter Snow’s out and Sue Perkins and, surprisingly, the rapper Goldie (and his funny teeth) seem to be doing best. Clive Anderson presents so that’s another point in its favour. If you haven’t caught this so far give it a go, it’s really good.

In Jimmy Doherty’s Farming Heroes – BBC2 8:00 – Jimmy meets maverick farmers who are finding ways to make organics cheaper. Now, I’ve got a question here. Recently we’ve seen both Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall starting (and, in the latter case, totally failing) high profile campaigns in which they seek to shock people into pressing for improvements in the conditions in which poultry are kept. I have to say I really don’t follow the logic of their argument at all – if it was “chickens are kept in horrible conditions, we should free them all - despite the fact that, if farming didn't exist then it's unlikely chickens would either - and become vegetarian” then I can understand the logic behind that even if I don’t, necessarily, agree with it. Which I don't and would argue against vociferously, but it makes complete logical sense and is impassioned and moralistic. But that isn’t the argument they're using at all. Rather it’s something far more wishy-washy: “Chickens are kept in horrible conditions we should therefore keep them, instead, in nice fluffy conditions … before we kill and eat them.” Why? Surely, if you’re going on a moral stance then it’s the killing and eating that’s the worst “sin”, per se rather than merely the conditions in which they're kept before the killing and eating takes place? Does letting them run free make them taste any better? There is some - anecdotal - evidence that it perhaps might but there seems to be an equal amount that it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. I’d certainly like to take that taste test. Sorry, but as far as I’m concerned there’s no Geneva Convention for chickens, they’re bred purely as a food source. All organics do, as far as I can see, is put the price of the meat up which means it becomes harder for working families to have a chicken on the table once a week. If keeping chickens in shitty conditions is the price we – as a race – have to pay for making sure that children in poor families get some decent protein inside them instead of a continuous diet of starch and carbs then what, exactly, is the problem, here? All this hippy bullshit hand-wringing nonsense is, basically, an excuse for a lot of middle-class people in Hampstead to feel slightly less guilty about not having the courage to go vegan, isn’t it? I've got a lot of time for vegetarians. By contrast, I have no time at all for carnivores who are squeamish about it.

Wednesday 20 August:
We continue to ask the Olympic questions not one else dares to.
Today, why isn’t handball huge in Britain? It’s a great game.

Tonight’s subjects on the final of Des Lynam’s Sports Mastermind – BBC2 7:30 – include Geoffrey Boycott. So, that’ll consist of one question, presumbly. Which will take the contestent about four hours to answer. I always remember Ian Botham being asked if he’d liked to have played Twenty20. “Yes,” he noted "all the old players would have. Except Boycs. He’d’ve been eight not out. It would’ve been a GOOD eight not out, mind!”

Trawlermen – 8:30 BBC1 – is a new series looking at the Peterhead fishermen and the percaious lives they lead. It’s winter and young skipper John is ready to sail all the way to Norway to prove a point to his father. Bit extreme, wouldn’t you say? There were lots of times when I was growing up that I wanted to prove a point to my father but it usually involved politics or football, not sailing to Norway.

We mentioned Rory & Paddy’s Great British Adventure – Five 9:00 – last week. Tonight’s second episode sees the pair doing a bit of caber tossing in Scotland (careful) then testing their gluttony with an attempt to a pie-eating world record in Wigan. Forty eight they’re going for, apparently. Pfft… Sounds like a light afternoon snack to me, but anyway…

Thursday 21 August
In EastEnders – 8:00 BBC1 – Jane struggles with Ian’s bizarre behaviour. It’s not bizarre love, he’s always got a face like that. And Suzy confronts Phil. After which, presumably, Phil decks Suzy and asks “d’you want some”? He’s not really a very subtle man, is Phil has anyone noticed that?

There looks to be a wonderful new comedy starting on BBC2 at 9:30, The Cup. It’s written by the great Moray Hunter and Jack Doherty - from the maverick and ground-breaking Absolutely team - and it’s a cinema-verite style mockumentary about the fortunes of an under-11 football team complete with a bullyboy coach who thinks he’s Alex Ferguson ("if you lose this match you will spend the rest of your lives .... IN SHAME!") and a bunch of competative, bickering parents. Alfie's mate Steve Edge stars as Terry who, when things go wrong sulks in his garden shed listening to Del Amitri and spends his time desperately trying to get his son a trial for Bolton Wanderers to fulfil his own thwarted ambitions-by-proxy and plotting intricate and complex revenge on his nemesis, fellow competitive dad Kasker (‘I’m an educated man. Terry is more … not!’). Oh, I so hope this is a hit! The trailers looks truly - terrifyingly - funny.

You just can't get away from the Olympics this week even if you want to. On Megastructures – 8:00 Five – they look at the building of the staggering ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium in Beijing. Good little show this, I’ve seen a few of them and they can manage to make construction seem almost poetic.

Friday 22 August:
I have to note that I very much enjoyed the Olympic High Jump final on Tuesday.
I was really hoping the German was going to win. A bloke who looked like a slim dead-ringer for Dara Ó’Briain called Roland Spank. Sadly, he got beat.

Watch Me Disappear – 7:35 C4 - The idea of dying alone and unnoticed isn't something that anyone likes to dwell on but it is the theme of this rather sad – yet beautifully put together - documentary. Around two hundred funerals a month in Britain go completely unattended. In the case of Sandra Drummond, her body lay undiscovered for almost a year in her flat before it was found by a gas man who forced the door. There are no answers as to why Sandra ended up so alone at the age of 44. She had a family but she just lost touch with them. She had a series of temp jobs but she’s never really made any contact with anyone at any of them. She just, like a lot of people do, fell into the cracks of society. The film finds some really poignant ways to explore the idea of loneliness in modern society – a sort of update of “Eleanor Rigby Lived Here.” One shot of a dead man's last supermarket receipt (two sponge cakes and four cans of mushy peas) is perhaps the saddest of the lot. So, not easy viewing in any way, shape or form but truly thought-stuff provoking and the final line - that it is esitmated within a decade close to ten million Britons will be living alone, how many of them will die alone? - it apocalyptically devastating. I must admit this is something that rather haunts me in those 3am-eternal moments of lying awake and staring at the ceiling, the idea of living ones life and then leaving it with no one behind to say “Ah, isn’t it a shame he’s gone." I never thought I’d find profundity in a line of dialogue from Blake’s 7 but I will always remember Cally’s first meeting with Avon. ‘May you die alone. And silent.’ I hope that's a fate no one I know, and no one reading this blog, ever has to suffer.

Saturday 23 August 2008
Anyway, back to a bit of levity after that moment’s seriousness. Pop Britannia – BBC2 10:30 - is a three-part documentary series telling the remarkable story of British popular music and its place within British culture since the 1950s. In the 60s Britain went pop mad, not only in terms of music but also in art, design, fashion and media. The architects were a group of artists and entrepreneurs who would wrestle pop out of the grasp of Tin Pan Alley showbiz interests to create a truly authentic British sound - The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals etc. And, at the same time, prepared the way for a new, more corporate pop business in the decade to come. Featuring interviews with Pete Townsend, Sir George Martin, Sandie Shaw and Lulu. Great stuff - this is what *I* by my licence fee for. Course, there’s a very big 60s revival going on round our way at the moment. Whole familes trying to live on twenty quid a week.

Sunday 24 August 2008
Olympics Closing Ceremony is on at 12:00 on BBC1. It’s been the best Olympics for Britain in about a Century and not only in terms of medals either but through places in finals, personal bests and generally “doing our upmost.” Except for the judo squad, of course. They were a sorry disgrace and should return to Britain with their heads hung low in total shame for letting themselves - and us - down so badly. Anyway, it’s been as hard work for the viewers as for the athletes at times what with the early starts and some of the close finishes. (Nicole Cooke peddling to glory; that comeback by Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson in the badminton; the coxless four winning by inches; Christine Ohuruogo pinching it on the line; some of the sailing – particularly Ben Ainsley’s last race; the heartbreak of Aaron Cooke just missing out on a medal due to dodgy judging in the taekwondo; those relay disasters.) It’s going to be a really tough act for London to follow in four years time. Bring it on.

It’s the last part of Andrew Marr’s Britain’s From Above on BBC1 and you really should be watching that. But, if you fancy something other than a man with very large ears being enthusiastic about one of his favourite subjects, you could go instead for Martin Clunes – One Man and His Dog on ITV at 9:00. Oh hang on, Martin’s pretty well developing in the old lughole department as well, isn’t he? Never mind, Martin explores the ancient ancestry of domestic dogs and why they have worked - and continue to work - so well with humans through the ages. He begins by looking at a variety of different types of dog, including a rat-catcher in Kent, entrants to an Earl's Court dog show and a singing dingo in the Australian outback. Yeah, sounds like a rather fun show, this - and it's a two-parter. But I’ll be watching Andrew Marr personally!

Monday 25 August 2008:
On Coronation Street – 7:30 TV – it’s all a series of questions tonight. Will Molly's wedding plans survive Jackie's troubles? Is Jerry falling for Teresa's lies? And Dev is seduced by Nina's charms. Just another simple tale of Northern folk!

When it comes to afternoon tea we British like nothing more than a sweet treat to go with it. The Hairy Bakers, Davey and Si, set off for the Henley Royal Regatta at 8:30 on BBC2. Along their journey they fill their hampers with cakes and pies which they made on the way. But why do the British have such a long term love affair with their teatime treats? In their quest to find out, the lads stop off at a swanky hotel to examine the history of tea and teatime. But, horror of horrors, they are forced to don suits!

As the credit crunch continues to leave Britain cash-strapped and high street banks report huge losses, Dispatches: How the Banks Never Lose – 8:00 C4 - seeks to find who is responsible for the current crisis. Former investment banker James Max tracks down the banking bosses who have presided over the colossal losses to see if they will be held to account. And, hopefully, stamps on their gonads for all of us. Hard.

Tuesday 26 August 2008:
Tonight’s episode of Emmerdale – 7:00 ITV – is called ‘Unhappy Birthday.’ That was a Smiths song, wasn't it? … I wonder if Morrisey knows he’s being referenced on Emmers? That’ll cheer him right up. Anyway, Anna's plans are thwarted when Donald, furious that she has gone on a date with Matthew, gives Carl the money to buy Mill Cottage. How will she react to her father's betrayal? Laurel is devastated to see Doug crumble after receiving a call from Hilary - telling him that she wants a divorce.

In Thames Shipwrecks: A Race Against Time – 8:00 BBC2 – we are granted access to a major salvage operation. Seven shipwrecks are being raised from the river in one of the biggest marine archaeological operations in the country and in a race against not only time but, also, tide. Frank Pope and Tessa Dunlop unlock the stories behind these remarkable ships, from a 17th century warship to small boats that secured the river during World War Two.

Mutual Friends – 9:00 BBC1 – is a new comedy drama series following the lives of a group of old friends. Following the suicide of his best friend, solicitor Martin's world falls apart when his wife tells him at the funeral that she slept with his late friend - twice. Great cast led by Alun Armstrong, Keeley Hawes, Claire Rushbrooke and Marc Warren (he’s in EVERYTHING at the moment, he’s even doing the voice over on Call The Cops on BBC4!) Though the trailers have rather suggested a somewhat arch and middle-class take on collapsing relationships, I rather like the look of this one.

Wednesday 27 August 2008:
Great choice of viewing at 9 o’clock tonight. On BBC1 there’s Who Do You Think You Are? and, after the really rather surprisingly good Boris Johnson episode last week, Jerry Springer undertakes a painful and disturbing investigation into the fate of his grandmothers, who both died during the Holocaust. If you only know the man through his somewhat tawdry excuse for a chatshow (which, let’s face it, most people will) then I suggest you watch this to discover, rather shockingly, a real and genuine human being.

If you don’t fancy that, then you've probably got No Soul in which case, I suggest you go for ITV’s My Zinc Bed - Uma Thurman, Jonathan Pryce and one of my favourite actors the great Paddy Considine, star in David Hare's adaptation of his acclaimed stage play. It explores the harrowing nature of addiction - whether it’s to drink, to relationships, or to business. Recovering alcoholic poet Paul Peplow is hired by millionaire Victor Quinn as a copywriter for his successful business. Quinn has a young wife, Elsa, who has also been rescued from the horror of drug dependence. Victor lures Paul back into alcoholic degradation to solace his lonely wife and relieve his stagnant marriage. Complex, challenging, powerful, possibly controversial – give it a go.

If you’ve been enjoying the Olympics for the last few weeks - and, let's face it, if you haven't chances are you're a loathesome, wretched, self-important Communist working for the Daily Mirror - then I very much recommend 1968: The Black Power Salute on BBC2 at 11:20. The single most enduring image of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico was when African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved clenched fists in a provocative, moving, dignified – and very misunderstood - protest against the treatment of blacks in American after receiving their gold and bronze medals for the 200 metres. Afterwards, they were banned from the Olympics for life and, on returning home, lost their jobs and received death threats. This excellent documentary looks at the movement to which they belonged - the Olympics Project for Human Rights – which was, in part, inspired by Muhammad Ali’s then-stand against the US government over being drafted (“Why should I go thousands of miles to kill the Viet Cong? They never called me a nigger”). And it also tells the story of the third man on the podium that night in Mexico City, Peter Elliott, a white Australian, who also wore a OPHR badge in support for his black friends and was, similarly, treated dreadfully for his show of defiance afterwards. Previously shown on BBC4 a few weeks ago. Genuinely, the best thing on TV this week. Don’t miss it under any circumstances.

Thursday 28 August 2008:
In EastEnders – 8:00 BBC1 – As things take a dangerous turn between Jase and Terry, a terrified Billy is forced into a moral dilemma. Shirley forces Dawn to hear some unpleasant home truths at her hen night.

Accidental Heroes – BBC1 8:30 - documents real-life stories of bravery and courage. A group of cricketers comes to the aid of a woman trapped under a car after a horrific road accident. They manage to lift the car off the injured girl - but how long can they hold out? A 10-year-old boy helps his best friend after he slashes his neck with broken glass in a freak accident. Plus, the amazing footage of a skydiver's terrifying ordeal as he plunges to earth without a functioning parachute. Worrr! The excellent Julia Bradbury from Five’s The Rough Guide presents.

Hope you’ve been enjoying The Cup – 9:30 BBC2. Tonight, with Mr Blackley in hospital recovering from his seizure, competitive dad Terry reckons he's all but got the job as Ashburn United’s replacement coach. But fitness trainer Kaskar has designs on the big boss’s office too. The wheeling and dealing begins - and Terry and Kaskar begin to resemble Obama and Hilary in their attempts to lobby owner Sandra. Excellent stuff.

And lastly just a quick word about Trinny and Susannah. According to various stories in this week’s media pages, because of the disastrously poor ratings Undress the Nation has been getting, the pair are unlikely to have their contracts renewed by ITV and it is even more unlikely that the BBC will want them back afteer their highly publicised walk-out two years ago. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

Friday 29 August 2008:
A1: The Road Musical – C4 7:30 - documents the stories of lots of people who live and work along the A1, the longest road in Britain. Many are interviewed and their responses adapted into song lyrics, set to music inspired by an eclectic muscial vista inspired by everything from Noel Coward to The Clash, before their performances are choreographed ending up with a tragi-comic tale of love, life and lay-bys in contemporary Britain. How wonderfully, daftly, eccentrically British. This just sounds fantastic and highly recommended.

Sunday 31 August 2008:
Heartbeat – ITV 8:00 - After an explosion in the woods, rumours spread that a meteorite has landed in Aidensfield, but Miller and Rachel have other ideas, and Joe goes undercover to find out more. Meanwhile, Peggy sees commercial possibilities in the sudden interest in outer space.

Fiona's Story – BBC1 9:00 - Gina McKee and Jeremy Northam head the cast in a powerful one-off drama exploring one woman's fight to hold her family together, in a tale of trust, betrayal and the breakdown of a marriage. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen the great Gina McKee on our screens. More please.


Flaming Nora said...

Keith, if you like your Corrie you might like my blog too. A proper Coronation Street fan blog at

chas_m said...

Various thoughts on this incredibly long blog post:

1. I haven't lived in England since 1981, haven't visited since 1996 (thanks entirely to the worthlessness of the US and Canuck dollar!), have only marginally kept up with any British TV not having the words "Doctor Who," anagrams thereof, or "Sarah Jane" in the title, and yet I recognised fully half of the shows you mentioned, either from imports to the US (those two awful women) or the fact that they (or some version thereof) were running when I was last there. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? I'm not sure, but it's damn comforting.

2. "Who is, get this, GAY apparently" made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Any lonely housewives who still hold a liberace-like hope that he's wrong about himself and only needs the right woman to come along should watch the Canadian production of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" which will douse that last spark like a good pee on a campfire.

3. Gratuitous self-plugging: A younger and more handsome me shares a very special moment with Sargent Benton himself over at John Levene's new website. Do have a look in.