Thursday, August 28, 2008

Top Telly Tips - August 2008

Now, we're more or less up to date.

1 August 2008:
Friday:
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 - American take on British medieval history. Jonathan Rhys Myers – he’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 decent actor they did have – the great 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:
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:
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.

4 August 2008:
Corrie - 7:30 ITV
Dev is feeling on top of the world but will it last? On Corrie, 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.

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.

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.

7th 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?

8th 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:
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.

11 August 2008:
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 I, personally, consider 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.

12 August 2008:
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.

13 August 2008:
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.

14 August 2008:
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.

15 August 2008:
Friday:
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:
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:
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.

18 August 2008:
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.

19 August 2008:
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.

20 August 2008
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…

21 August 2008
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.

22 August 2008
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.


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.

24 August 2008
Olympics Closing Ceremony is on at 12:00 on BBC1 on Sunday. 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cat's Tales

Occasionally, if I've got nothing better to do with my time (and that's more often than I care to admit these days), I might do a bit of 'net surfing and have a gander at the blog sites of some other professional writers, which can be fascinating and revealing. See, for example, the blogs of some of my mates - James Moran, Paul Cornell, Danny Blythe, Jim Swallow, Ian Abrahams or Martin Day all of which you can visit via the links section below. Tell 'em all I sent you. They'll probably deny knowing me. They're always doing that.

But other writers' blogs can be very different and - all too often, I feel - they don't actually tell you anything you really want to know about the writer in question.

Essentially, I think it's fair to say that the reason most people visits any writers' blog in the first place is, probably, because they've read (or watched) - and enjoyed - the bloggers work and want to tell them that. That is - at least I like to think - why you, dearest darling reader, are here reading this. Unless, of course, you've stumbled in here by accident whilst looking for porn. In which case, hey, that's cool too. I'm not here to judge. If you find any, let me know...

What, therefore, I imagine the average blog visitor want to see on the average blog of the writer that they're checking out are some further samples of his or her work. Or, perhaps, they want to gain some insight into how the writer ticks; how, for instance, he or she structures their day; where their ideas come from; how they combat periods of inspirational aridity; what advice they would give to fledging writers about to step out on the road to publishing; how they go about getting their material commissioned; what experiencences they've had with editors ... and so on.

Sadly - and, this is something that my friend Jim Swallow and I both have a particular chip on our shoulders about - more often than not you don't get that or anything even remotely like it. Often you don't even get a selection of the writer's general, free-form and barely literate "thoughts about some stuff I wanna talk about" - a method of blogging that I admire greatly and which I've tried to use in this particular blog since it began. Because, basically, it's a grandiose example of towering, tool-stiffening egomania. And, since it's my blog, I like the fact that I can say whatever the hell I bleeding well like - about anyone or anything - and nobody can stop me.

But some writers' with blogs don't go down that route. Instead, what you actually get (and, this would appear to be especially true of a certain type of American author, usually - though by no means excusively - female) are ... well, let's be honest about this, shrines to their cats.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Indeed, I thought that it was high time I got a piece of that action.

Sadly, my own family pussy died in 1984. And I haven't even got many photos of her, but here is one of the few that I do have. Err... she's the small tortoiseshell one; the larger one in a pink dress is my mother. Who is, actually, not a cat. Believe me, I have checked.

Now, tragically, at this point in the story I have to tell you her name (the cat this is, not my mother ... still with me so far?) It was Kaboobie.

Yes, I fully realise that is, indeed, a bloody stupid name for a cat. Don't blame me, pal, I didn't sodding well name her. My brother was actually responsible for that piece of rank numbskullism (she was, technically, his cat). He named her, get this, after "a magical flying camel" - also called Kaboobie, obviously - which was a character in a popular children's TV cartoon made by the well known Hanna/Barbara company in 1967 and shown in the UK circa 1970-71. It was called Shazzan.

Yes, I am aware that was an era when the streets of Great Britain were positively awash with lots of illegal and mindbending substances but I don't, honestly, believe that was an influence on the final cat-naming decision. It is, however, important for me to tell you at this point in the story that my brother, Terry, wasn't six or seven years of age at the time (though I was). He was, in fact, in his mid-twenties, married and a member of the R.A.F. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was a man to whom our government had entrusted a gun and, during 'The Summer of Love' sent to Aden to shoot some Arabs. And he STILL called the poor effing creature Kaboobie.

It was God-damned embarrassing, so it was. Every time we had a visitor round the house who'd never been there before and they'd asked, innocently, what our pretty little cat was called, we had to go into this lengthy, rambling explanation about some cartoon TV show from years ago that even we could barely remember. And, bear in mind, our Kaboobie lived until she was well into her teens meaning that, by the last few years of her life almost nobody had the faintest, foggiest idea what on Earth we were talking about.

So, for anybody who ever visited the Topping drum and got one of the several versions of this apologetic tale during the 70s or 80s, THIS is the real Kaboobie. Err ... It's the one with the wings. The other two are called Chuck and Nancy. I don't know if they ever had cats named after them by anyone. I wouldn't be surprised if they did, frankly. There was, after all, some funny stuff going in the tea in them days.

Anyway, today being a Bank Holiday, I decided to do what most British people do on such occasions and waste half my day taking my mother to the seaside. It was her idea, honest. Fortunately in this area we do have one of the great undiscovered treasures of the modern world - The Long Sands at Tynemouth, one of the most perfect half-mile stretches of firm, golden, "great to play cricket and/or football on" sands you find this side of the Gold Coast of Australia.
Seriously, all hyperbole aside, it truly is a great bit of beach - if you're ever up this way do check it out. Although I should warn you that The North Sea can be a bit nippy at times - even during the height of summer - although some would argue that merely adds to the fun.

There is a great story - probably apocryphal but, hell I so hope it isn't - that Newcastle United used to bring the players down to Tynemouth for a run along the sands each year during pre-season training. One day in the mid-90s, they told newly arrived French international David Ginola that, tomorrow, they were "going to the beach" and he turned up wearing speedos and not much else. It might've been mid-July but it was still ruddy cold. When they got there and started running at the edge of the breakers in front of a handful of well-wrapped-up hardy souls taking their dogs for a walk, Ginola dipped his big toe in the water, squealed like a girl and then came sprinting back up to where Terry McDermott and King Kev were standing admiring the ferries sailing into North Shields. "When you said we would be running in the sea," he is alleged to have told them, "I did not realise you meant The Arctic Sea!"

Ah, Bank Holidays! Tynemouth! Ice cream! Fish and chips with loads of batter! The bus home! Just like the 70s. Only less bri-nylon, Star Jumpers and Hai Karate aftershave.

And, lastly, here's a list of some of the books that I've recently been reading - some for a second (and one for the third) time.
I'd particularly like to thank Seprant's Tail for very kindly sending me David Peace's complete Red Riding Quartet.
There's, genuinely, nowt like a bit of Apserger's-like behaviour and "making up a list" to round off a good week:
Ian Botham - Head On: The Autobiography (Ebury Press)
Guy Walters - Berlin Games: How Hitler Stole the Olympic Dream (John Murray Publishing)
Alan Bennett - The Uncommon Reader (Faber & Faber)
Stephen Fry - Moab Is My Washpot (Arrow Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Seventy Four (Serpent's Tail)
Michael Simkins - Fatty Batter: How Cricket Saved My Life (Then Ruined It) (Ebury Press)

Peter Clarke - The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire (Allen Lane)
Janie Hampton - The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 (Aurum Press)
Sid Waddell - Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story of Darts (Ebury Press)
Barry Davies - Interesting, Very Interesting: The Voice of British Sport Tells His Own Story (Headline Publishing)
Jonathan Powell - Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (The Bodley Head)
David Peace - Nineteen Seventy Seven (Serpent's Tail)
Charlotte Mosley (Ed.) - The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (Fourth Estate)
Ronnie Wood - Ronnie (MacMillan)
Travis Elborough - The Long Player Goodbye: The Album From Vinyl to iPod and Back Again (Spectre)
Martyn Hindley - Crash! Bang! Wallop! Twenty:20 A History of the Brief Game (Know the Score Publishing)
Trevor Baker - Richard Ashcroft: The Verve, Burning Money & The Human Condition (Independent Music Press)
Eric Clapton (with Christopher Simon Sykes) - The Autobiography (Century)
Michael Seth Starr - Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr (Applause Theatre & Cimena Books)
Sanra Koa Wing (Ed.) - Our Longest Days: A people's History of the Second World War by the Writers of Mass Observation (Profile Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Eighty (Serpent's Tail)
Brett Callwood - The Stooges: A Journey Throuygh the Michigan Underworld (Independent Music Press)
Annalia Coppolaro-Nowell - How To Live Like an Italian: A Users' Guide to La Dolce Vita (Portico Books)
Cameron Stewart (Ed.) - A Very Unimportant Officer: Life and Death on the Somme and at Passchendaele (Hooder & Stoughton)
Simon Reeve - One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Isreali Revenge Operation 'Wrath of God' (Faber and Faber Ltd)
James Montague - When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone (Mainstream Publishing)
Lawrence Booth - Cricket, Lovely Cricket?: An Addict's Guide to the World's Most Exasperating Game (Yellow Jersey Press)
Richard Moore - Heores, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution (HarperSport)
Mary Beard - Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (Profile Books)
Alistair Moffat - The Wall: Rome's Greatest Frontier (Birlinn Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Eighty Three (Serpent's Tail)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Oi, There's a Queue Here, Pal

I wish to take away not a single, solitary thing from the highly impressive and dynamic Olympic closing ceremony - including the handover. (Although the thought "My God, isn't Jimmy Page looking OLD these days?" did briefly cross my mind. At least Boris Jonhson didn't, as I feared he would, say anything stupid. Or, indeed, trip over his own feet.) But, did anyone else find a certain - hopefully unintentional - irony in the fact that the entire world's lasting impression for the next four years of what, exactly, London is going to do with the event will be a line of people with umbrellas queued up waiting for a bus and then pushing past each other to get on first - including jumping over a bloke in a wheelchair?

I'm not saying it's not an accurate portrayal of everyday British life...

In fact, come to think of it, it's a HIGHLY accurate one!

It's certainly a novel approach compared to most previous games!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Top Telly Tips - July 2008

July?
I can't really remember all that much about July, to be honest. I was supposed to be away on holiday for a fortnight but that fell through for one reason or another. Saw a couple of half-way decent movies. Read a few good books. Oh yeah, about four days that month were "summer" this year, weren't they?

Anyway, the Top Telly Tips continued which much excitement and celebration among regional radio listeners... I even got a few of them involved in the show by inviting suggestions on stuff we should be featuring (and got some very good and very worthwhile feedback). Here's a selection -

3 July 2008:
The Great British Sunday - BBC4 8:00
That fine comedian Sean Lock looks at what Sundays always meant to him - from hangovers to Jack Hargreaves on Out Of Town!, from Sunday school to stately homes to boredom. For me, it was always going up to Harbottle Park for a game of football, back home in time for Shoot!, mum's massive Sunday dinners and falling asleep watching Jacob Bronowski on The Ascent of Man. Or, in the summer, going up to harbottle Park for a game of cricket, John Player League, mum's massive Sunday dinners and falling asleep watching Jacob Bronowski The Ascent of Man. Oh, and "back to school on Monday."

ABBA: The Mamma Mia! Story -9:00 ITV
After premiering in London's West End in 1999, this popular stage musical has gone on to achieve massive success around the world, having been seen by over 30 million people. Now, as a major - though, apparently, shite - film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters is about to be released, the creative team, ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, talk about how the show has, in under ten years, become a such global musical phenomenon. Well ... good songs, basically.

Fallout - 10:00 C4
Topical drama from award-winning playwright Roy Williams. A policeman returns to the estate he grew up on to investigate the murder of a black teenager, stabbed to death by a local gang. The film tackles the issue of the rise in gun and knife crime on Britain's streets. Relevent and worthy stuff. Good week for drama, what with Criminal Justice and now this.

4 July 2008:
Top Telly Tips is where we ask all of the questions no one else dares to ask.
Today, where have all the Club a Go-Go’s went went?

Friday
Criminal Justice - 9:00 BBC1
Another question worth asking, if you haven't been watching this all week then where the Hell have you been? This is the last episode and if you've missed it so far, it's probably too late to catch up. But do please TRY because it’s been truly outstanding. Proof that we can still make proper, socially aware, relevent, affecting, thought-provoking drama in this country.

Saturday
Doctor Who - 6:40 BBC1
And speaking of proper, socially aware, relevent, affecting, thought-provoking drama, this is the last time I will mention Doctor Who this season, I promise. (... Cos it's the last episode, basically.) With Davros now in control of the 27 planets and the Daleks invading Earth can the Doctor and the assorted “children of time” stop the inevitable carnage. And, if he can, will he be the same man? Well, I know and you don’t. Bet you can guess, though! (Given that they've already filmed the Christmas special with David Tennant, I'm pretty sure my money's safe.) See you all on Christmas Day for the next installment of THE great British TV success story of the naughties.

Last Choir Standing - 7:45 BBC1
Oh great, another music show for Saturday night. This looks as though it will probably be just as wretched as most of the others ... although, that said it cannot, possibly, be any worse than Who Dares, Sings! on the other side. How many more musical competitions will they foist upon on us before we get bored? If we haven't already, that is. Any Bream Will Do wherein Lloyd Weber and Barrowman eats a live bream - chosen by you the public - and a panel gets to vote on which one should come back next week and do it again? What about Fizzy Pop Idol - what's better dandelion & burdock or strawberry lemonade? Do they think that we're all complete and total idiots? Well ... yes, clearly they do ... That's the only thing which explains Britain's Got Talent.

Sunday
Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2
Or, you might prefer three fortysomething men driving very fast and shouting "POWER!" a lot. I know I do. James Corden and Rob Brydon from Gavin and Stacey are the stars in a reasonably priced car this week. Now, Scunthrope Steve the producer has asked me to raise the question of why don't the lads ever look into how much, for instance, the Grand Prix costs the Earth in carbon footprints? Good question. It’s probably cos the answer would scare even The Stig. Although - as they did reveal last year - did you know that a cow actually exhales more methane in a year than a Range Rover produces in carbon fuel emissions? And, methane is far worse for the environment. So, there's an idea for the environmental lobby - let's do away with cows before we have a go at the cars, eh?

7 July 2008:
Chinese Food Made Easy - 8:30 BBC2
Chef Ching-He Hiang embarks on a mission to prove how easy it is to whip up a gosh darn tasty Chinese meal at home with simple and healthy ingrediants. Oh NO! That'll be my local takeaway out of business, for a kick-off. Course, five minutes after watching this you'll want to watch another cookery programme. Thang you, thang you, I'm here all week.

New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1
Return of the gentle crime drama staple starring three of my favourite actors ... and Dennis Waterman as well. It’s Last of the Summer Wine with added crime, basically isn't it? Amanda Redman is the Norah Batty of the detective set with James Bolam the Compo. Always highly watchable, though and very very popular.

8 July 2008:
Sports Mastermind - 8:00 BBC2
One of the chaps, this as smooth old Des Lynam returns to the Beeb and invites four contestants into the black chair to tackle specialist subjects and a general knowledge round – so, Alfie Joey of Peterlee, your specialist subject is World Snooker Finals. I’ve started so I’ll finish. Which event interrupted TV coverage of the Cliff Thorburn/Hurricane Higgins final in 1980. And which TV show immediately followed it?

Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage - 8:30 BBC2
If - like me - you delighted in Francesco de Mosto's beautiful Francesco’s Italy two year ago - with its lingering quasi-pornographic shots of Sorrento, Capri and Roma - you'll be really looking forward to this ten-part maritime adventure around the Mediterranean. Easy on the eye and with a lovely sense of playful adventure.

Bonekickers - 9:00 BBC1
They're archaeologist-detectives. They dig stuff up and they solve crime. So, it's CSI meets Time Team, basically! If this were any more of a *homage* to The Da Vinci Code it would carry its very own Albino killer monk. Stars Hugh Bonneville and Julie Graham and it's from the makers of Life on Mars so it should look good and be quite funny, at the very least. I’m expecting this to be completely bonkers but probably rather engaging and fun. More like a US drama series than a British one. I love Waking the Dead and Spooks for instance but it is nice, once in a while, to get something that you can completely switch your brain off for.

9 July 2008:
Britain's Closest Encounters - Five 8:00
In 1974, locals near the Berwyn mountain range in Wales experienced an earthquake and reported seeing strange green lights in the sky. In an incident that would become known as the 'Welsh Roswell', some theoriest - who are DEFINITELY not nutters or people who'd been drinking the sheep dip again (it says here) - claimed that a UFO had crashed into the mountain and that the government has, yep you guessed it, "covered up the truth." This is the same government that's wholly unable to prevent a massive credit crunch and lets its employees leave laptops and briefcases full of EYES ONLY official secrets on trains and in McDonald's, yes? Yeah, that sounds like JUST the sort of thing they'd be capable of keeping quiet for thirty four years. Tony Head’s narrative voice over make Everything Sound Very Dramatic. Good fun, though. I really do like this sort of thing in medium-sized doses.

Marco's Great British Feast - 9:00 ITV
Marco Pierre White - now, he's a funny guy; he's got an Italian first name, a French middle name and an English surname, what's all that about, eh? Anyway, he travels across the British Isles in search of the nation's finest food, as he attempts to create an all-British menu made completely from local ingredients. Marco begins his journey by making a stockpot using rabbit and vegetables, before travelling 400 miles to a cattle farm in the Scottish Highlands to see one of the nation's oldest breeds of cattle. He had a bit of a go at Gordon Ramsey in the press recently has old Marco, so expect the menu tonite to either include a bit of hot tongue, some cold shoulder or maybe a taste of humble pie. Perhaps we'll never care.

Tribal Wives - 9:00 BBC2
This has proved to be something of a hit so far – particularly with women and especially in middle England where this sort of thing often plays out quite well. Is it, though, as some have claimed nothing but a sad indictment of Britain's casual cultural imperialism when it comes to other cultures? Should the producers make the women go the whole hog and stay there? I find it a rather twee and embarrassingly one-dimensional piece myself - though often worthy - but, it’s clearly got some sort of an audience who enjoy it.

Extraordinary People: Outlaw Births - Five 9:00
After what she comsiders to have been too much intervention in her earlier births, Clare has decided to have her third baby at home without any medical help something which was very common fifty years ago but which, these days, places her squarely in the "hippy nutter" category. Obstetrician Maggie, not without cause, worries about the consequences. I loved the trailer for this, though, with the silly bitch bent double and hollering "DON'T! TOUCH! ME!" "I don't want to be given an epidural when some doctor decides I should have one" bleats Clare at one point. Good, well you just carry on having your child in SCREAMING BLOODY AGONY then. You sodding daft cow.

10 July 2008:
EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1
Ronnie is reeling from the shock arrival of her dad, played by the great 70s hard-man Larry Lamb. Respect. It's a good job they've introduced him frankly because, as I understand it, the next scheduled laugh isn't coming along 27th Nov 2009.

Mock the Week - 9:00 BBC2
Return of the topical news quiz for another series. It's not as adventurous as Have I Got News For You and it's nowhere near as intelligent or dangerous as Qi but it's always worthwhile for Dara Ó Briain's utterly surreal sense of humour and Frankie Boyle's casually filthy gob!

Lab Rats - 9:30 BBC2
New comedy set in a university research laboratory (not, perhaps, the most promising of "sits" for a sitcom although, hey, The IT Crowd and The Office worked with even less promising settings). It's co-written by and starring Chris Addison from The Thick Of It. The clips I’ve seen look really quite good – a nice mix of laddish humour, media referencing and some genuinely daft laugh out loud moments. It's about time the BBC found a new hit sitcom and this could just be it. Hope it gets an audience.

11 July 2008:
Friday:
Where we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

Superstars – 8:00 Five
Der-der-der-derrrrrrr. Der-der-da-da-durrrrrrrrr. Dur-durrrrrr. Der-der-der-der-der-der-derrrrrr. Ah, the 1970s are back. Supermac doing the 100 metres in ten seconds. Brian Jacks and his squat-thrusts. Alan Minter canoeing his way into immortality. Kevin Keegan falling off his bike. His back was redder than his Liverpool shirt. Slight change of format in this very welcome revival of the popular 70s sports show - it’s teams this time rather than an individual competition. Competitors include some genuine Olympic Standard superstars, Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Kelly Holmes and Roger Black (whose only got an OBE!) Best revival of a old TV format since Doctor Who came back. Even if it is presented by Jim "You Know NOTHING" Rosenthal.

Saturday:
Stop messin’ about. It’s Carry On Night on BBC2 which, essentially, means the BBC have got a chance to repeat two of the great bio-pics they’ve made over the last decade – Cor, Blimey! about the lengthy affair between Babs Windsor and Sid James and Fantabulouso! The former, is bright, funny and very well-cast (especially the girl who plays Barbara). The latter, based on the harrowing Kenneth Williams Diaries is even better, but very very dark. Michael Sheen puts in a BAFTA-winning performance as the tortured star. Infamy! Infamy!

Sunday:
George Gently - 8:00 BBC1
We'll try this one again, eh? Postponed from last week, because of the flaming tennis, Peter Flannery’s George Gently stars Martin Shaw as a North Country copper in the 1960s. Tapping the same gentle nostalgia wave as Foyle's War and Heartbeat, just as Rupert Brooks once noted that there will always be a corner of some foreign field that will be forever England, so Keith Telly Topping informs you that there will always be some part of Sunday night Crime Drama that will be, eternally, 1964. By the way - did you know 80% of burglaries go unreported. But, hang on, how do they know that? It’s a well known fact, after all, that 57.3% of all statistic are made up on the spot to prove a point.

Long Way Round – 9:00 BBC2
Following the success of last year’s Long Way Down here’s another - slightly older - Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman travelogue as they journey by motorbike from London to New York. The long way. Great placement of this immediately after Top Gear cos it is quite laddish although, with Ewan on hand, there’s always something for the ladies too.

14 July 2008:
Corrie – ITV 7:30
It’s Steve and Michelle week by the look on things. Tonight, there's a marriage proposal. But when she discovers that it was under somewhat false pretences one has to fear for Steve’s life, Or his goolies at the very least. And, is it just me or is this storyline about Fiz getting crank calls far funnier than it should be? I keep on imagining it’s one of those “Have you been injured at work?” companies on the other end. And some geezer with a really dodgy moustache.

Banged Up – 9:00 Five
This started quite alarmingly badly last week so I’m gonna tune in again just to see if it gets worse. Which I think it might. This is the David Blunkett presented reality show in which a group of young delinquents experience the grim reality of life behind bars. Conceptually horrible but, I will admit, it is rather fascinating, in the same way that watching a car-crash is. Pure total and unadulterated exploitation of the worst possible kind. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is what consistutes entertainment for the 21st Century in the mind of some TV executive. What are they going to come up with next, we wonder? Pro-Celebrity Bear Baiting? International Dwarf Tossing? A pox on it and all involved in it.

Would I Lie to You? – 10:00 BBC2
Comedy panel show hosted by Angus Deayton with team captains Lee Mack and Davie Mitchell. It’s a sort of modern day Call My Bluff in which contestants reveal ridiculous secrets from their past the odd one or two of which may be true. Quite entertaining it is, too, in a kind of sub Qi/Mock the Week kind of way. Easily the best thing that's on tonight - by a street and a half.

15 July 2008:
Voyages of Discovery - 8:00 BBC4
Paul Rose follows in the tailwinds of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespuchi, Vascom de Gama, John Cabot and - my particular hero - Ferdinand Magellan as he traces the origins of the voyages that mapped the face of the world in the late 15th and and early 16th Centuries using a mixture of storytelling and re-enactment. I love this sort of stuff from the always-reliable BBC4.

Jimmy Doherty’s Farming Heroes – 9:00 BBC2
The unlikely star of Jimmy Farm travels around the country to find out how other small farm owners are doing and what sort of innovations they’re using – everything from organics to high-tech argibusiness. Looks highly entertaining and informative.

Olympics Dreams – 10:35 BBC1
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Olympics are almost upon us but this series is looking further ahead than Beijing, to the 2012 games to be held in London with profiles of some of the teenage talent that will, hopefully, be leading Britain’s search for medals in and around Hackney. Tonight, fourteen year old diving prodigy Tom Daley.

16 July 2008:
Timewatch: Hadrian’s Wall – 7:00 BBC2
A welcome repeat of this startlingly fine documentary about our own local contender for the eighth wonder of the world. It's on, I suspect, because of this major Hardrian exhibition that's opening next week at the British Museum. Presented by the occasionally very annoying Julian Richards whose show, Meet the Ancestors - whilst sometimes brilliant - was, nevertheless, an obvious (and bad) BBC attempt to muscle in on Time Team's success.

Emmerdale – 7:00 ITV
Still on a very good run at the moment, is Emmers. Poor old Viv – she’s getting blackmailed by Louise and her search for Freddie could end with her giving his a knee in his manhood again. Does anybody else remember when Emmerdale used to be “a simple tale of country folk”?!

Personal Services Required - C4 9:00
No, it’s not what you think! Four-part reality series in which families seeking domestic help are given the chance to test three candidates to see if they are suitable for the job. Tonight, single mum AJ is looking for an au pair (hey, aren’t we all?) whilst Karen and Joel need someone to help take care of their two year old. Julia, Chloe and Malado think they have what it takes. So, it's The Apprentice for middle-class families with screaming brats that need looking after. Let's get the pizzas in an have a party...

17 July 2008:
Where we continue to ask the questions no one else dare ask.
Today, why is there only one Monopolies Commission?

EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1
Roxy moves in with the Slaters. Now THERE’S a house you’d really want to avoid popping in for a cuppa from now on, I’d suggest. Meanwhile, arachnophobia runs rampant as an eight-legged-menace terrorizes Albert Square. Best! plotline! ever! Is it too much to ask that one of them catches Dot whilst she's on the lavvy? Probably.

Harley Street – 9:00 ITV
You can see ITV’s thinking here – let's take an ex-EastEnder (Paul Nicholls) and an ex-Corrie star (Suranne Jones) and build a medical drama around them, cos they're really popular. I must admit it doesn’t look very promising but it’s a new drama from ITV so, on rarity value alone, it’s probably going to be worth a punt for one episode.

Lab Rats – 9:30 BBC2
Mentioned this last week. Reasonably good first episode, I thought – the quite brilliant lightbulb joke in particular, which was on the funniest things I've seen on TV all year - and a nice mixture of some clever studenty stuff and some plain daft bits. I'm sticking with this one for the time being.

18 July 2008:
We continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, why in ‘Penny Lane’, is it raining and sunny at the same time?
Answer that and stay fashionable.

Friday
BBC2’s a bit of a no-go area tonight unless you happen to be a golfing fan who also likes a bit of classic musical (it’s First Night of the Proms) so, let’s go with Superstars on Five at 8:00 instead. Jim Rosenthal - now there’s a funny man. HE KNOWS NOTHING, of course, we know this to be true. Although I must admit I really did admire the way he was able to say “Welcome to the K2 Sports Arena … in Crawley” last week and give it the sort of gravitas needed to make you, briefly, think you were watching something coming live from the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. And, wasn’t it just fabulous seeing former The Scum star Lee Sharpe being the last one picked for games? I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Until I stopped. And then I laughed some more.

Saturday
Who Downed Douglas Bader? - 7:10 Channel 4
Couple of good documentaries on tonight. There’s another one about Hadrian on BBC2, presented by Dan Shaw – blimey, Hadrian’s getting more media coverage these days than he did when he was emperor. But, the one I’ve gone with is an examination of the mystery surrounding the last flight of Douglas Bader, the RAF hero who claimed he was forced to bail out over France after a collision. Aviation historian Andy Saunders and Bernie Forward, a specialist air crash investigator, go in search of Bader's Spitfire, trawl through records, re-examine the evidence and piece together eyewitness reports in order to present a very different account of Bader's last flight and of the man famous to millions through Kenneth More’s portrayal in Reach for the Sky. Is it possible this was an early example of a friendly fire incident?

Rather odd man, Douglas Bader – supposedly he wasn’t a very nice man, either. And, of course, the great story about him – as told in The Alan Clarke Diaries – concerns a visit he paid to Roedean in the 1970s to give a talk to the girls on his wartime experiences. In the middle of his reminiscences his story began to involve “the Fockers”. “Yes,” he noted as one point. “There I was, in my kite, Fockers to the left of me, Fockers to the right of me, Fockers in front of me. There were Fockers everywhere.” The headmistress, sensing a bit of sniggering going on hurriedly interjected to explain that the Foche-Wulf was, of course, a type of German military aircraft. “Quite correct,” noted Bader. “Mind you, I think these Fockers were Messerschmitts, actually.”

Sunday
Midsomer Murders – 8:00 ITV
Somebody – clearly with far more time on their hands that I have - recently added up all of the murders that have taken place in the quiet Somerset town of Midsomer over the last few years. It’s around one hundred and eighty, apparently. It’s got to the stage now where you can barely pop down to the village shop without tripping over a corpse. Never mind knife crime, Gordon, do something about the goings-on in Midsomer, you could half the UK crime statistics overnight.

21 July 2008:
Corrie – 7:30 ITV
Fiz is still getting bothered by these sinister phone calls. She should do what I do when I get rung up by somebody trying to sell me a mobile phone – tell them this is secure line and ask how they got the number and couple you speak to their supervisor. Anyway, turns out it’s the return of her ex, John Stape, who’s doing a bit of stalking. I'd still have preferred it - plotwise - if it had turned out to be the "have you been injured at work?" bloke off them adverts. Just cos...

Dragon’s Den – 9:00 BBC2
New series and they're using 'Kashmir' as their trailer music. How bleedin' original, lads and lasses. 'Fuckin' in the Bushes' might've been more appropriate. Tonight the Dragons are shown a product that promises to end bedroom disputes (pfft ... Yeah. Right) , a machine that turns air into water (hang on, isn't that like alchemy or something? Against all laws of God and Man) and a rock band, Hamfatter, from Cambridge, who are seeking investment to get their career off the ground. Bet that’ll go down well at their first gig at The Marquee. “Hamfatter, brought to you by five fat and balding middle-aged businesspersons…” Although, to be fair, that is a pretty good description of Deep Purple these days.

Can’t Read, Can’t Write – 9:00 C4
Series looking at the worrying phenomena of poor adult literacy level in the UK, this follows nine adults as they enroll in a six-month course to improve their reading and writing skills. Teacher Phil Beadle takes on the challenge of succeeding where the education system failed. Interesting subject and, if handled right, this could be great. I hope it is because it also has the potential to be patronising in the extreme.

22 July 2008:
In 1981 Birmingham reggae band UB40 had a hit with ‘One in Ten’ in which they complained about the hellish misery of being unemployed. A year later, they had another hit with ‘So Here I Am Standing at a Bus Stop Wishing I was Somewhere Else’ in which they complained about the hellish misery of going to work. Hey lads, mek yer minds up, eh?

Something else that really needs to make its mind up (and soon) is Bonekickers – 9:00 BBC1. This show’s major problem is that it can’t seem to decide what it wants to be – it’s far, far too lightweight to be Serious Drama but, by the same token, it’s to desperately po-faced and up its own arse to be the "bonkers-but-fun" show that I hope for and, frankly, expected. It started dreadfully - that first episode is quite possibly the worst thing ever. And not just on TV either. The second episode, though, was MUCH better so I've still got some hope for it. At least the locations are nice. Tonight’s episode is filmed at the Roman baths (in Bath, obviously). Lovely to look at, just don’t think about it too much.

Des Lynam: Sports Mastermind – 8:00 BBC2
Very good so far – enjoyed the kid whose specialist subject was Tommy Simpson in particular. Although, is it just me or does Des looks a bit unwell on this? Must've had flu whilst they were filming it. Anyway, specialist subjects tonight includes Premiership overseas players and Essex cricket club.

The Culture Show – BBC2 10:00
Big Quiffed Marky's reviews this week include the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight, which I've seen today, and which I highly recommend. Meanwhile Wor Lovely Lauren gets a lesson in Afrobeat from Nigerian drummer Tony Allen. G'won, play them crazy bongos, Wor Lovely Lauren, kidda.

23 July 2008:
Where we continue to ask the questions that no one else dares to.
Today, just who did put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomb-she-bomp?
And was it REALLY the same guy who put the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong?
Whoever it was, tell him to cut it out.

Massive Speed – 7:30 Five
One for the chaps, this – Chris Barrie (what’s he been doing since Red Dwarf apart from that appalling Tomb Raider movie?) presents this show about the history of the sports car with the sort of amiable passion and enthusiasm that would probably see him giving Jeeza Clarkson a run for his money in a “Who’s got the biggest gear stick” competition. Tonight, Chris gets a go in the Top Gear boys favourite £850,000 monster, the Bugatti Veyron. POWER!

Burn Up – 9:00 BBC2
Major two-part eco-drama and co-production with US TV. Written by Simon Beaufoy (author of The Full Monty) This is a big conspiracy thriller about global warming – the cast is absolutely fantastic – Rupert Penry-Jones from Spooks, Mark Warren from Hustle, Neve Campbell, the great Bradley Whitford (Josh in The West Wing). And some lass called Tigerlilly Hutchinson. You won’t’ve heard of her but I mention her cos I like her name!

Extraordinary People: The Rainman Twins – 9:00 Five
The story of Flo and Kay, the world’s only autistic savant twins – described as “human computers” – they have an amazing ability to recall facts and data. Good little series, this.

24 July 2008:
EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1
Ian Beale prepares to hold a banquet at the café. Bet that’ll be good – jellied eels en crut, cod and chips ala superbe. And a nice glass of chateux le Whatney’s Red Barrel before they bring out the cheese and biscuits? I like a good curry myself...

Anyway, I’d like to use the rest of today's Top Telly Tips to highlight two locals shows from ITV which you can see tonight if you're in the Tyne Tees region. Northern Skies at 7:30 sees Eric Robson flying in a helicopter across the region taking in lots of lovely ariel views of Northumberland, Durham, the Pennines and North Yorkshire. Lovely to look at even if you do, occasionally, want to turn the commentary off and just let the pictures speak for themselves. Later, at 10:40, there’s a delightful little six-part series called The Wall in which the local historian Alister Moffat - who was responsible for the surprisingly excellent Ant and Dec's History of Tyneside last year - and former Paraolympican Tanni Grey-Thompson journey along the length Hadrian’s Wall. Again, it's a gorgeous travelogue and one presented with real, genuine enthusiasm for the subject which sucks the viewer in. Just the thing for tired eyes if you’re trying to avoid watching the pilot of One Foot in the Grave which the BBC are showing for, seemingly, the four hundredth time. I don't belieeeeeeeeeve it.

25 July 2008:
Where we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, if a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there, does it make a sound?
Yes, of course it does, it's goes "CRRRRRRASH" what a stupid question.
But what if the tree falls in a forest on a squirrel or a rabbit? What happens then?
An ambulance comes from Nutwood and puts a bandage on their heads and then takes them to Animal Hospital where Rolf Harris scares them to death with his diggeridoo.
It's all WRONG, Alfie, wrong I tell ya...
Shall we talk about TV now?

Burn Up – 9:00 BBC2
Second part of this drama about climate change. Great cast as we mentioned last time – Brad Whitford, Rupert Penry-Jones etc. – one guy I didn’t mention before but I'd like to is the great Don S Davis (probably best known for Twin Peaks and Stargate SG-1, he was also Sculley's dad in The X-Files) who died recently, this was his last performance in a small, but very important role. Great actor and a lovely man whom I met once at a convention. He'll be very much missed. The script is a bit preachy in places but, essentially, it’s a bit like if Spooks was always about the oil industry! I’ve been quite impressed with it so far.

Saturday
Krakatoa – 7:00 C4
Not much on tonight so I've highlighted this repeat of the 2005 drama-documentary recalling the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa over 100 years ago which resulted in the destruction of the island, situated off the southern tip of Sumatra. Ash clouds from the eruption affected climate globally, while the tsunami it produced was twice the height of that which struck Asia on Boxing Day 2004.

Comic Connections: Yes Minister – BBC2 11:00
The series charting the history of the best of British comedy looks at Yes, Minister and follow-up Yes, Prime Minister, which charted the rise of Jim Hacker and achieved massive success over five series by poking fun at the inner-workings of government. With contributions from Sir Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn and, of course, Mister Derek.

Sunday
There's a classic choice of viewing here. On BBC2 we've got the last episode of the current season of Top Gear wherein Jeremy, Richard and James take on their rivals from the German equivalent. Achtung, baby! I thought Jezza's race across Japan against Hamster and Cap'n Slow in the bullet train a couple of weeks ago was one of the very best things they’ve ever done - right up their with their mum's driving small cars; the Veyron/Piper Alpha race; the "across London by anything but car" challenge; the African Adventure; James and Richard's Bobsleigh Race; Jezza going to Edinbrugh and Back on a single tank etc. etc. etc. On a good day - and Top Gear has A LOT of good days - this show is touched with genuine, self-aware magnificence which sets it apart from almost everything else on TV. To quote noted petrolhead (and Brit comedy fan) George Harrison, long, long, long many it continue getting up the noses of and causing fury to pinched-faced Communist caravan-owning, sandal-wearing, lentil-eating hippies. Alternatively, you may prefer (if you're sick) Most Shocking Celebrity Moments of the 90s on Five. A countdown of seventy allegedly stunning moments from a decade of frequently outrageous public behaviour. Relive Michael Jackson's wedding to Lisa Marie Presley, Charles and Camilla's secret tape, Glenn Hoddle's sacking as England manager and Madonna's first venture into publishing. Has the potential to be either the best thing on TV this week, or the worst. Or, possibly, both.

28 July 2008:
It's a new week and we at Top Telly Tips continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, just how does someone get those Keep Off The Grass signs onto the grass without going on there in the first place? Eh?
Answer that Mr Park Keeper... if you can.

Corrie – 7:30 ITV
Pam's got her own plans for Molly's wedding. Harry's flirting with Liz winds Clarissa up. Fiz spurns John's attempts at a reconciliation. Well, after all those dodgy phone-calls I’m not surprised. I still wish it had turned out to be the "Have You Been Injured At Work?" fat bloke with the dodgy haircut.

Dispatches: Sandwiches Unwrapped – 8:00 C4
Alex Thompson - he's Channel 4 News' major confrontationalist mischief maker - leads an investigation into the British sandwich industry (I didn’t even know there was one!) revealing what really goes into the nation's most popular lunchtime food. The documentary exposes the nutritional values of sandwiches and undercover filming reveals shocking working conditions in one factory that supplies small shops and garages. Ah well, it's back to sausage rolls and bags of crisps instead then.

New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1
After two episodes away, James Bolam is back and Alun Armstrong’s first words to him are ‘Strawberry mivvi or Orange crush?’ I used to love Strawberry mivvis. In fact, I fancy one right now. But I haven't got any in the freezer so it'll have to make do with a strawberry Cornetto instead. Anyway, tonight the team reinvestigate the death of the guitarist with 70s rock band Bad Faith. Oh dear, this mean Dennis Waterman’s going to be singing in this one, doesn't it? Christ, I hope not... Last week's episode, about a dead DJ was very good though.

29 July 2008:
Dr Alice Roberts: Don’t Die Young – 8:00 BBC2
Lovely Alice is an anatomist, you might know her from Time Team and Coast (she’s the one with the funny hair). In this new series she embarks on a tour of the human body. Tonight, the male reproductive organs. Steady girls. The idea is to highlight any worrying signs you should be looking out for. Public Service Broadcasting at its very best, I'd say. Let's hope that, in the interest of balance, episode two is all about various nasty diseases of the ****.

The Culture Show – 10:00 BBC2
Wor Lovely Lauren in Her Luscious Macken Loveliness talks to one of my heroes, Paul Weller about his new LP, about turning fifty and about his perfectly extraordinary haircut. First time I saw The Jam live he was twenty one and I was sixteen. Time flies, as Paul himself once said ... Big Quffied Marky Kermode looks at the National Theatre and reviews all the latest movies with his usual pithy and sharp wit. Great stuff, as always.

Kingdom – 10:40 ITV
Welcome repeat on the second series of this gentle Stephen Fry comedy drama. It’s a sort of TV version of The Archers, set in a little town in Norfolk full of eccentic characters and odd goings-on. It’s always nice to see actors like Tony Slattery and Celia Imrie on our screens. And, of course, the Frymeister himself is great in this, as he is in everything I’ve ever seen him do. Not the most demanding hour of your life you'll ever be confronted with but, you could do a lot worse than give this some of your time.

30 July 2008:
The House of Saddam – 9:00 BBC2
Igal Naor plays the dictator Saddam Hussein in a gripping four-part drama series which charts the rise and fall of one of the most significant political figures in recent history. Looks like a sort of Iraqi Dynasty from the trailers. A brave and, probably controversial production and one that looks to have some genuine class about it.

Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation – 9:00 ITV
For some women, shopping is a passion and many shopaholics find themselves on the verge of financial ruin. The nation spends thirty billion pounds a year on clothes - of which eighty per cent are never worn (now, again, HOW do they KNOW that? Sounds like a made up figure to me). So how can Britain’s women learn to spend their money more wisely? Trinny and Susannah reckon they have the answer. They open up their first ever shop. Oh, I must go there and abuse the staff. You know, harshly, but fairly.

Dangerous Jobs for Girls – 10:00 C4
Four teams of high-achieving women travel to remote parts of the world to take on demanding physical work, competing against teams of men who believe that women are not up to the job. In this episode, three women head to Brazil to work as cowboys. Shouldn’t that be cowgirls? I massively approve. If I were married and my missus wanted to become, say, an airline pilot, I would titally support her. So long as my tea was on the table at five o'clock, she could fly off anywhere she wanted to ... Incidentally, I understand that a bunch of feminists have formed a football team and they want to get into the Premier League. The stupid bastards. They've already got Aston Villa, what more do they want?

31 July 2008:
We continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, what’s the best stottie sandwich filling?
Beef and onion, I reckon. Nowt better when you're clammin' for yer scran.

EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1
Roxy's big day arrives but there's no sign of Sean. Has he done a runner rather than go up the isle with a Mitchell? Meanwhile, Shirley risks Phil's wrath. Cos, of course, that Phil he's not a man to give forth his wrath wantonly or ill-advisedly, is he?

Colin Jackson: The Making of Me – 9:00 BBC1
Athlete Colin Jackson lets scientists loose on his body (steady, girls) and mind to discover the secrets of his amazing talents. He goes into a brain scanner, under a microscope and even jumps out of plane to answer a question that effects us all. Are people like Colin born with superhuman potential and others - like me, for instance - destined to be couch potatoes? Nature or nurture - what makes us who we are? And this newsflash just in from last week's episode - John Barrowman IS, apparently … (wait for it) GAY. Yeah, I was pure dead surprised as well...

Grey’s Anatomy – 10:00 Five
Izzie's past comes back to haunt her when a daughter she gave up for adpotion eleven year ago falls seriously ill. Now, hang on, given that Katherine Heigl who plays Izzie is what, only about 25 or 26? If her character’s age is supposed to be the roughly same age as she is, if not slightly younger (given that she’s a junior doctor, I’d say that’s more than likely) then … well, you do the sums!