Monday, December 01, 2008

December Could Be Magic (Though, I Wouldn't Bank On It)

There genuinely, is nothing better than starting off an Internet blog posting with a picture of Lee Remick. I mean, why not? Is there any law which says that I can't? Do we live in some sort of scum fascist dictatorship that decrees Lee's beautiful boat-race cannot be used to open up the next batch of Keith Telly Topping's Top TV Tips? Did The Go-Betweens ever write a finer song than 'La-la-la-la Lee Remick'? Does not her performance opposite Steve McQueen in the seminal Baby, The Rain Must Fall mean that Lee is the ultimate arbiter of all that is beauty, style and effortless grace in this often sick and ugly world? Well, except possibly Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's ... Yeah, and Grace Kelly in Rear Window. And ... to be continued on page 93.

Let us, therefore, get on with the first bit of December's Top Telly Tops.

Tuesday 2 December:
I was quite worried that the "re-imaginging" of Survivors (9:00 at BBC1) might end up being another Bonekickers-type disaster when it started. But, actually, on the strength of the first couple of episodes it has turned into a rather decent little show – and it's frighteningly plausible. In tonight's episode we get the first significant departure from Terry Nation's original template as the last surviving member of the government, Samantha, has established a community which still has light, food, water and power. But to what lengths will she go to maintain control? Meanwhile, Greg and Tom encounter a family who have successfully sheltered from the virus. But, their presence could prove deadly. And Abby’s search for her missing son goes on. And on. And on. The acting, generally, is very good (Paterson Joseph in particular - I'm starting to see now why so much smart money is going on him as the next Doctor) though … is it just me or does the degeneration in Julie Graham’s performances worry anyone else? She was mad-brilliant in Mobile a couple of years ago but, since then, it’s been one over-the-top nightmare of flapping silliness after another. Come on, Jules, you're better than this.

Gok Wan – he of the "camp as Butlin’s on a wet Wednesday August Bank Holiday in 1973" shenanigans - returns in How to Look Good Naked (8:00 Channel 4) in which women who are unsatisfied with their body shape are offered his health and beauty advice without the aid of cosmetic surgery. Tonight's opening show revisits Helen Thompson. When Gok first met her, Helen was a frumpy mum who had lost all her confidence. Terrified at the thought of a job interview, she longed to be the successful career woman she once was. Has Gok’s gentle prodding on her curvy-bits worked?

Man Hunters: Sex Trips for Girls – 10:00 on Four – is a two-part documentary exploring the growing trend of British women taking holidays purely for the purpose of seeking out either loving or strictly sexual relationships with young local men in far-off locations. In the opening episode, a 67-year-old woman tells of her holiday romance with a 30-year-old Dominican. How very Shirley Valentine.

Meanwhile, today’s Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
Literally, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.'
As in, “Have you seen EastEnders recently? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

Wednesday 3 December:
Dom Littlewood – he's the nasty-looking one that's a dead-ringer for Gollum on The ONE Show if you were wondering - investigates serious problems within the National Health Service in Dom’s on the Case – BBC1 7:30. Glad somebody is. Tonight, he is shocked to discover - about ten years after everyone else was "shocked to discover," to be fair - that almost half of UK residents have not seen an NHS dentist in the last two years. With this mind, he attempts to find one for the townsfolk of Bishops Waltham. But with so many dentists taking private patients only, can he succeed?

It's "interferring busybody TV" night on the BBC, clearly, as Rogue Traders returns at 9:00 with a special episode in which those crusaders without capes Matt and Dan (you've got to ask, which one's The Boy Wonder?) track down the gas fitters, electricians and locksmiths accused of ripping off their customers. Matt confronts the fraudsters who steal identities so they can illegally work on boilers and sparks fly when Matt catches an electrician on the fiddle. Finally, Rogue Traders goes transatlantic to investigate a crooked company of locksmiths who are drilling to make a killing. Do you get it? Drilling to make a ... Oh, never mind. Anyway, it’s to be hoped that Matt and Dan give them a good talking to. Or, failing that, a knee to a nadgers to something equally indicative of our displeasure at their rank naughtiness.

The success of Wor Ant McPartlin and Wor Dec Donnelly is something some of us north of Watford and south of Iceland take a genuine pride in. And, some others couldn’t care less, admittedly. But still, Ant and Dec: Where Did It All Go Right? – Five 10:00 - charts the pair’s rise from child stars to pop stars, from PJ and Duncan to using their real names, from BBC to ITV and all the way from Byker Grove to Saturday Night Takeaway to, ultimately, the jungle. And it asks something along the lines of "is their cheeky-chappy-scamps-doon-the-Bigg-Market act starting to get old or are they still, like the man said, “rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrready to rumble?" Psyche. Valid question. Personally, I’ve still got quite a bit of time for both of them (at least they openly supported The Toon when it wasn’t fashionable to unlike some ear-ache inducing, lute-playing professional Northerners I could name … yes, you Sting). But, hang on, this is the second week in a row that Five have done a documentary about an ITV product (and an ITV product that Ant and Dec are a major part of at that). Is Five turning into ITV5 on the sly? Or, The Ant & Dec Channel, perhaps?

Today's Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day.
"Unilateral."
Having, affecting or occurring on only one side.
As in "Has anyone noticed how many people have taken a unilateral decision to stop watching anything with Trinny and Susannah in it?"

Thursday 4 December:
The Fun Police – 9:00 Channel 4 – is a documentary about the health and safety inspectors, consultants and council officials who have seemingly decided to make it their business to protect the citizens of Britain from any harm. They have helped make the country one of the safest in the world, but are they being unfairly blamed for a growing compensation and victim culture? Or, has their mission to prevent us from accident and injuries gone too far? Are a few broken bones in the name of "larking about" sometimes worthwhile? Should conkers and donkey derbys be banned? Should trees and hanging baskets be identified as a significant threat to human safety? Who the hell are the so-called "fun police" that are, apparently, banishing all risk from our everyday lives?

A Woman in Love: Vera Brittain – BBC2 7:00 - is a dramatisation of the life of a young woman who lived through the First World War, presented by Jo Brand. Through Vera's letters, memoirs and pages from her best-selling autobiography Testament of Youth, Jo retells the story of Vera's war that saw her brother Edward, her fiancé Roland and their friends Victor and Geoffrey all killed. As a volunteer nurse she witnessed horrors that turned her idealistic passion for a 'just war' to dust. Dramatic reconstructions reproduce key moments from this story of the First World War as seen through a woman's eyes. Brilliant, touching, relevent stuff, this.

Now, today is the 90th anniversary of my late father's birth and it's also my brother and sister-in-law’s 37th wedding anniversary. I mention this because a couple of years ago they enjoyed a cruise across a bit of the Indian Ocean and, tonight the Oceans team are doing the same trip (9:00 BBC2). So, I hope Paul Rose and co. have somewhat better weather than Wor Colin and Maureen did. And that Phillipe Cousteau doesn’t do anything daft like bruise his ribs on a beach in Fiji and spend the next week in agony aboard ship. Like ... someone. No names mentioned, all right?

Today’s Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day.
"Torpor."
Intellectual or spiritual lethargy; apathy, listlessness; indifference.
As in “I watched Heartbeat last night. I spent today in bed, with torpor.”

Friday 5 December:
It’s the final episode of Ant and Dec’s high-larious jungle shenanigans in I’m a Celebrity tonight – ITV 8:30 (and for two hours, thereafter). Place your bets now. Come on Mr Sulu!

The excellent Time Shift – BBC2 7:10 – presents Between the Lines: Railway in Fiction and Films, a rather clever looking documentary about the uses of railways in British literature and movies and how they changed from being a tool in high tension drama like The 39 Steps (and, much later, From Russia With Love and Get Carter) to the setting for love stories like Brief Encounter and, after somewhat falling out of favour in the 1950s, finally, how they became a symbol of lost innocence and Englishness in The Railway Children and the BBC Monitor films of John Betjeman. Novelist Andrew Martin tells the story of Britain's - sometimes uncomfortable love affair with the locomotive.

The brightest stars of the comedy firmament (it says here) assemble to hail the funniest moments of 2008 in The British Comedy Awards – 9:15 on ITV on Saturday. And firmament is, indeed, the terms I meant. Nominations include Davie Mitchell, James Corden and Ricky Gervais for best comedy actor (so, basically, we want anyone but Gervais to win that one), whilst Benidorm, Gavin & Stacey and Peep Show compete for best TV comedy. Wot, no Qi? Oi, recount! The ceremony this year is introduced by Angus Deayton. Now, that’s really odd because Jonathan Ross normally does it. I wonder if anything’s happened…?

At 8:00 on Sunday there’s a straight choice between Strictly (featuring Barry Manilow), Top Gear (Jezza and James – wishing to find out if the Communists ever made a decent car! - use Greenham Common as a test track) and the one-off Take That Come to Town on ITV. Given that, I suspect, all three of these will get very strong audiences this is likely to squeeze the potential viewership for Justin Lee Collins homage to his favourite TV show Bring Back … Dallas on Channel 4 at 8:30. Which is a pity, actually, because that looks rather good too. But, I'll be sticking with Top Gear which, despite all the doubters, the "oh, it's not as good as it used to be" nonsense and the brickbats in Radio Times from wretched stinking-beardy-hippy-liberal-Communists remains just about the best show on TV. Just about. When Doctor Who isn't on!

Today’s Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day:
"Floccinaucinihilipilification."
The act of assessing something as inherently worthless.
As in "I was watching that Hole in the Wall with Dale Winton on Saturday. That's my floccinaucinihilipilification done for the week."

Monday 8 December:
We don’t normally cover CBeebies shows on Top Telly Tips – and certainly not if they're as appallingly badly acted as Sarah Jane Investigates (BBC1, 4:35) often is. And, that's not just the kids either. Tragically however, I’m forced to recommend the two-part finale with begins today as it features the long overdue return to the Doctor Who-universe of The Great - and I don't use that handle lightly - Nicholas Courtney as (the now retired) Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. A man who has appeared in more episodes of Doctor Who than several Doctors. It's great to have you back, sir. Ah, damn. Just when you thought it was safe to ignore this show, something comes along and pulls you back in…

Sean Connery is one of those from the movie world whose 1968 interviews with Bernard Braden are disinterred forty years on in Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll: The 60s Revisited at 9:00 on Channel 4. Scho, Mr Joey, d’yeschpect him to talk…? Others featured include Sylvia Syms and Maureen Lipman. They reflect on the cultural changes of the past forty years. Fine stuff.

It’s all happening at 9:00 tonight. BBC1 have the final episode of [Spooks] which has been fantastic this season – particularly last week’s amazingly tense episode which revealed the identity of the mole (in one of the most genuinely scary moments of TV I can remember). Written by my mate James Moran that one, as well. God bless yer, James. All I can tell you about tonight’s season finale is that it’s likely to be the closest British TV will ever get to a Bruce Willis-style action movie as terror with a capital T comes to the streets of London. And it's been recommissioned for an eighth season next year. Hurrah!

Or, alternatively, in Taggart – 9:00 ITV – a Polish security guard is killed on the building site where he worked. Soon afterwards, another Pole working as hotel receptionist is found dead in similarly suspicious circumstances. Is a Xenophoic serial-killer at large? So, the Polish word for today would seem to be morderstwo. That means “murrrrrder.” Which is also today’s Scottish Word of the Day. Two racial stereotypes for the price of one. You get value for money on The Alfie Joey Show ladies and gentleman. And recycled Arnold Brown jokes off The Young Ones too. All part of Keith Telly Topping's Big Pre-Christmas Giveaway of Goodness.

Oh, and today's episode of Doctors (1:45, BBC1) is another one by my old mate Martin Day. Set your videos or use iPlayer if you have a job of work to go to!

Today’s Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day:
"Plangent."
Loud-sounding, striking the ear powerfully; a metallic or loud trilling or plaintive sound.
As in "Was anybody else getting really tired of Timmy Mallett’s plangent bleating last week?"

Tuesday 9 December:
Tonight sees the final episode of the current series of Delia – 7:00 BBC2 – in which the Queen of the Kitchen (accept no alternatives) turns her hand to desserts that are low on fuss but high on taste. Featuring Portuguese custard tarts, a nice cheesecake and a very appertising chocolate ricotta mousse. How do one go about making a Portuguese Tart, I wonder? Stamp on his foot? No, that’s how to do Maltese Cross? I always get them mixed up. Poke his eye out? No, that’s how to make a Ventian Blind? Ten Drachma a week? No, that's what's a Greek urn? ... Carry on talking among yourselves, I'll get there eventually...

Sticking with Portugal (and, hey, why not? It's a very nice place) Monty Don narrates the story of Francisco Garrett, a wildlife enthusiast and cork producer whose ancient cork oaks in Montado provide a suitably harmonious space for some of Europe’s rarest wild flowers and bird-nesting grounds in Natural World: Coke-Forest in a Bottle on BBC2 at 8:00. This idyllic location, however, is under threat as the wine industry is increasingly turning to plastics rather than cork for it’s bottles.

It’s all BBC2 tonight. Horizon at 9:00 observes that the last fifty years have seen an eye-watering rise in the number of British allergy sufferers - from one in thirty in the 1950s to one in three today. Why are so many of us become so allergic to the world around us? Horizon travels to the remotest inhabited island on earth and then to densely populated California to investigate. Because, someone has to.

Today’s Top Telly Tips TV Word of the Day.
"Vainglorious."
Filled with or indulging in vainglory; inordinately boastful or proud of one's own abilities or qualities; excessively and ostentatiously vain.”
As in "I noticed another stream of vainglorious bombast from Simon Cowell the other night. Will he ever shut up?"

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