Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Week Seven: Crime, Corrie, Cookery, Canada and Macaroongate

Here's a jolly good question to tax the best and brightest of minds out there. If you, dear blog reader, were to be captured whilst in the act of perpetrating some naughty-badness - banged to rights, as it were, "it's a fair cop, guv" and all that - and you were to, as requested, "come quietly" and be taken dahn the station in the old Black Maria and thence to be interrogated, harshly-but-fairly of course, by a selected member of law enforcement and your choices of nemesis were a) CTU agent and certified psychopathic nutter Jack Bauer or, b) unreconstituted 1970s knuckle-scraping throwback DCI Gene Hunt, which one would you sooner have the safety of your 'nads in the hands of? Possibly, quite literally. It's a toughie, isn't it...? An equally difficult question, of course, is "Who's the hardest a'tween the pair"? I think Jack could (probably) take Gene in a tasty barney-rubble-style scenario but not before he'd've suffered some considerable shellacking, and more than a drop of raspberry, to his pretty-boy dish. That's what I think, anyway. Others may have a differing opinion.

Y'see these, ladies and gentlemen of this blog, are the kind of questions that more than occasionally keep yer Lord Keith Telly Topping, Guv'nor of the Gogglebox, awake at night and turning (not to mention tossing, of course) in his pit. It's a dirty, thankless task but, you know what they say, someone's got to do it.

Friday 13 February:
It’s Friday the thirteenth and we haven’t mentioned Corrie for a few weeks. Is this significant, you ask? You decide. In that time, Big Eyed-Tony has cracked-up with guilt over his having done a bit of murdering to love-rival Liam, Ken Barlow’s got himself a shoulder-padded girlfriend straight out of Dracula AD 1972 and that sultry little minx Becky’s stirred up a right load of testosterone in among the Weatherfield hard-lads. And, much more seriously, we’ve also had the serious discombobulations of what shall, hereafter, always be known as Macaroongate which, seemingly, had the whole country talking. Or, at least, the entire listenership of Radio Newcastle's Afternoon Show, anyway. For anyone who missed it, what happened was that Lloyd bet Steve five pounds on whether a macaroon is a biscuit or a cake, thus sparking a major debate between several other characters. Mary, rightly, pointed out that cakes go hard when they go stale, whereas biscuits go soft - she referenced the VAT exemption case that McVitie's successfully fought concerning Jaffa Cakes a few years ago as mentioned recently in an episode of Qi. However, nobody present could determine what state macaroons reach when they go stale. Later on, however, Lloyd apparently got confirmation from ex-baker Eddie that cakes rise when baked, unlike biscuits, or apparently macaroons, thereby winning his bet. The jury, however, remains out on whether this is remotely true or not. Personally, I think they're cakes myself. Anyway, after all that excitement, in tonight's episode, both Jason and Steve make proposals to Becky, but which one of them will, perhaps quite literally, sweep her off her feet? Will Steve lose the girl as well as his bet? Tune-in at 7:30 to find out.

Saturday 14 February:
This next one is specifically for Wor Alfie Joey, a huge fan of the legendary crooner Tony Bennett. Tony reflects on his life in music with his old friend and jazz enthusiast Clint Eastwood in an Arena documentary at 8:00 on BBC2. Bennett proves that he didn't, in fact, leave his heart in San Francisco - or anywhere else for that matter - as it is still, quite clearly, in perfect working order as he traces his musical lineage through a wealth of jazz archive footage and some much-loved favourite musicals, highlighted with footage on Tony's memorable 2005 performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Niiiiiiice.

Also on Saturday, I have to report that Total Wipeout is now a genuine hit for the BBC (over seven million viewers last week) which, fun as it is, I never expected for what is, basically, it's a Knockout: The Next Generation. Also, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway is back at 8:00 on ITV with "extra special guest" (it says here) Paris Hilton. I wonder if the lads are planning on taking Paris doon the Bigg Market after the show. It might be right up her street, you know.

Sunday 15 February:
Tonight sees the return of Damages (10:20 BBC1), the classy US legal drama starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson. The series received critical acclaim and won numerous awards, including three Emmy's, during its first year. It become highly regarded for a complex non-linear narrative, frequent use of clever and unexpected plot-twists, season-long storylines and the superb acting of its cast. As Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) struggles to deal with her fiance's murder, an old acquaintance (William Hurt) reappears seeking Patty Hewes's protection.

Monday 16 February:
With two European countries having already banned mercury amalgam fillings for teeth and America's health regulator recently issuing new advice about how they may harm pregnant women and developing children, why do British officials seem so unconcerned? Morland Sanders investigates in What’s in Your Mouth? ITV at 8:00. Good title!

Another good title is The Gangster And The Pervert Peer, 9:00 on Channel 4. This is the second in a series of documentaries exploring the relationships between the upper echelons of society and the criminal underclass – the excellently named "Toffs and Crims season." It looks at how political influence was at the very heart of the notorious Kray twins' extortion empire. They rose from small-time racketeers in their native East End, doling out the odd punishment spankin' to anyone that got a bit previous with the firm to become the most powerful criminal organisation that London had ever seen. Though, in their favour it should be noted that they really did love their mum. While fear, violence and more than a couple of murders in The Blind Beggar played a major part in their power base, another secret behind their rapid rise was the relationship that Reggie shared with a prominent Tory peer with an - alleged - passion for kinky gay sex, Lord Boothby. Sadly, this excellent-looking documentary is on opposite the final parts of the dramas Whitechapel and Moses Jones - both of which I've been raving about for the last couple of weeks (not to mention another episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on the beeb - this one featuring the celebrity chef Rick Stein). So I reckon that’s likely to limit the potential audience a bit. Therefore, if you miss this, keep an eye open for any repeat showing because it looks fascinating.

Lastly at 10:35 on BBC1 we’ve got Bobsleigh Challenge. This follows the thrilling, white-knuckle journey as amateur apline sportists Dean Macey, Dan Luger, Jason Gardener and Craig MacLean attempt to enter the British Bobsleigh Championships in the Italian Alps, with only ten days' training to get it right. Rather them than me. I tried the luge once, I can't tell you how much fun sliding down the side of a mountain on nothing more than a tea-tray was.

Tuesday 17 February:
Nine o’clock sees the return for a second season of the BBC’s Sex and the City knock-off Mistresses which was generally considered to have gotten itself filed under the "brave attempt but, ultimately, bit of a failure" category last time around. Over a year has passed since the troubled love lives of Katie, Trudi, Siobhan and Jessica left them heartbroken, but they have all successfully moved on. Katie has started a new job, having sworn off men, but trouble looms when her new boss turns out to be an old flame. Meanwhile, Trudi tries to earn some extra cash baking cakes, Siobhan keeps up appearances while hiding a dark secret, and Jessica is swept off her feet by playboy Mark. Stars, of course, the excellent Sarah Parish ... and some other people you won’t have heard of. Not bad, it has its moments, but still nothing like the essential viewing that its US counterpart was.

Or, you may prefer In the Line of Fire (9:00 ITV). Ken Stott narrates the conclusion of this two-part documentary which follows CO19, the firearms division of the Metropolitan Police charged with tackling London's gun criminals. Offering a rare and compelling insight into one of the most dangerous jobs in Britain, where split second decisions can mean the difference between life and death, the film asks officers how they approach a task which increasingly pits them against armed teenagers from communities which resent the police.

Mr and Mrs Wolf – 8:00, on Five – is another two-part documentary this one following the work of 'wolfman' Shaun Ellis as he continues his unique experiment with a pack of captive wolves in Devon. Shaun has been living with the pack for over seven years (although not in the biblical sense, obviously), but his work is about to enter its most dangerous phase as he attempts to introduce his girlfriend, Helen, into the wolf society. It seems to be something of a running theme with TV documentaries this week - sitting there and muttering “rather her than me!”

Wednesday 18 February:
Trouble in Amish Paradise – 9:00 BBC2 – features an extraordinary insight into the secretive - and rather misunderstood - world of the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. When two radical brothers, Ephraim and Jesse Stoltzfus, start to question some of the most fundamental aspects of their culture, they face excommunication from their church and total rejection by their friends and family.

Nature’s Great Events (9:00 BBc1) got off to a dazzling start last week and, even if you missed that, you can't possibly have missed the trailers for it ("Edge of your seat drama on the BBC"). Every year, the survival of grizzly bears in North America depends on a spectacular natural event - the return of hundreds of millions of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the mountain streams where they were born. This great return provides food not only for bears, but also for whales, wolves and eagles. Will the salmon return in time this year to keep the hungry bears alive?

The property series Grand Designs (9:00 Channel 4) follows householders as they build their own homes whilst the doomy-voiced host Kevin McCloud provides a suitably ominous running commentary to their plights. In tonight's episode, architect Richard and his wife, Sophie, attempt to build a sustainable house with its own fruit and vegetable garden in the Kent countryside. Again, I'm sorry to keep on banging on about this but can someone at Channel 4 please explain to me why it’s never a terraced house in Gateshead owned by sheet-metal worker Kev and his wife, Tracey? Life does exist North of Watford, guys. Honest.

Thursday 19 February:
Billy Connolly goes on what looks to be an entertaining journey through some of the more remote regions of Canada, travelling from Atlantic to Pacific via the fabled North West Passage in Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World (9:00 ITV). Oh, they should have called it Billy Connolly's North West Passage, there'd be so much comedy potential. You know the kind of thing I mean: "Stephen Fry does it in a taxi, Billy does it the hard way." On the first leg of his voyage, Bill discovers some surprising Old World traditions in the New Worlds of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It’s odd, isn’t it – like Michael Palin, there's now a whole generation out there who only know Bill through these travel shows he makes (and, the odd wretched Hollywood film he gets involved in, admitted) rather than his - still World Class - stand-up.

It’s the final episode of Media Revolution (7:30 on BBC2), which looks at something very important to this particular slot, the British TV industry. Max Flint charts the extraordinary rise of the UK's global tele-industry but also learns that, like print, British TV's existence is threatened by plummeting advertising revenues and the Internet. What will it take to keep one of Britain's chief creative industries alive? Good programmes might help. Or is that too radical a suggestion?

I must admit, one of my shameful little indulgencies for the last couple of weeks has been Masterchief (8:00 on BBC2) which I’ve been really enjoying, almost in spite of myself. We’re at the smei-final stage now and the last four contestants are each sent to different restaurants to fine-tune their newly learned skills. Then, they have to cook a meal for three of the country's harshest restaurant critics. There's everything to play for because at the end one contestant will be sent packing. I never thought I’d say this but I’ve really quite warmed to Gregg and John the hosts – last year they seemed like rejects from The Dragon’s Den, needlessly spiteful about people’s abilities but now, they’re actually quite likeable in a sort of strict Victorian dad way.

1 comment:

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