Sunday, April 26, 2009

Week Eighteen: To Whom Does One Have To Be Related To Get A Job On Robin Hood?

Here's the arrival of yet another week of Top Telly Tips from yer Top Telly Tipster, Keith Telly Topping. Who has got sciatica at the moment, dear blog reader, and is thus in considerable pain and discomfort this weekend. All expressions of sympathy will be gratefully received. Though, to be honest, boxes of Ibuprofen would be even better...

Friday 1 May
Boy Meets Girl – 9:00 – is a new body-swap comedy from ITV. So, the words "Comedy" and "ITV" appearing in the same sentence? No, new one on me too, dear blog reader. But anyway… struggling DIY man Danny (played by one of my favourite comedy actors, The Office's Martin Freeman) wakes up to find himself trapped in the body of female fashion journalist, Veronica Burton. Who said that ITV weren't interested in producing Sci-Fi these days? There's no trace of Danny's own body anywhere and he is desperate to find out what has happened. But first, he must negotiate life as a glamorous thirtysomething woman. Can he fend off the attentions of Veronica's pushy boyfriend? And is anyone missing the real Danny? Yeah … sounds rather intriguing this one, albeit not the most original idea in the world (it's the film All Of Me, basically, isn't it?) It's also got Survivors' Paterson Joseph in it and Marshall Lancaster from Ashes to Ashes along - with a name for the nostalgia market, here - one of my first TV crushes Gabrielle Drake (UFO, The Brothers, Crossroads). This sounds like a cracking good little idea. Watch, after all that build up now it'll turn out to be rubbish like most comedy on ITV!

Saturday 2 May
In Robin Hood – 6:20 BBC1 - Prince John pays a long-awaited visit to Nottingham and he is out to make trouble for someone (and, since he's played in best cat-stroking fashion by ex-Bond villain Toby Stephens, that's kind of understandable). With Gisborne and the Sheriff assigned to look after the royal mission, it surely spells the end of the road for one of them. Meanwhile, Robin is up to some mischief of his own, the knavish prankster, he. I do like Robin Hood, I know I've said this before. They've got some really good actors in this show – especially Joe Armstrong (Alun Armstrong's son) and Sam Troughton (David Troughton's son and Patrick Troughton's grandson). And Joanne Froggett ... who was Sam Tyler's mom in Life on Mars but, otherwise, shares no obvious family connections with anyone other than Mr and Mrs Froggett, seemingly. Just to prove that there's a little bit more going on here than mere TV nepotism for the theatrical classes. Not that there is anything whatsoever wrong with being either Alun Armstrong's son, Patrick Troughton's grandson or, indeed, Mr and Mrs Froggett's daughter, Keith Telly Topping notes quickly wondering if there is any way he can get out of the hole that this preview is rapidly turning into with some vague shred of dignity still in tact? No, thought not. Anyway, somewhat dwindling viewing figures notwithstanding, I remain a cautious fan of the Merry Men (and lady).

If you're looking for something else to watch instead of Susan's new hairstyle on Britain's Got Talent then, frankly you're a going to be a bit snookered on Saturday night. I mean, quite literally. Dave are having a Qi marathon (six episodes from nine o'clock onwards) which I'll probably be watching but, otherwise, it's something of a dead loss. Unless, of course, you're gripped by the sight of grown men in bow ties putting their balls on the table in the World Snooker which reaches the semi-final stages on BBC2.

Sunday 3 May
Tonight sees the return of (the slightly renamed) Inspector George Gently – 8:30 – BBC1's attempt to muscle in on the traditional ITV Sunday night Morse/Lewis-type slot written by Our Friends in the North author Peter Flannery. During their investigation into the ghastly murder of a lonely old man in his dilapidated mansion, Gently and Bacchus (the very good Lee Ingleby) stumble upon a world which is beyond their comprehension. Well, it was the 1960s, there was a lot of that sort of thing going on. There's a good cast joining Martin Shaw in this one - as usual - including Jill Halfpenny. As an alternative to this, ITV begins a three-part series which follows the currently very busy Martin Clunes as he explores some of the one thousand miles of islands that surround the coast of Great Britain (the imaginatively titled Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain). Along the way, Martin meets some of the extraordinary characters who live in these remote spots. In the first episode, Martin travels north to the most secluded islands of Scotland, including a hazardous trip to Muckle Flugga, the last outpost of the British Isles. He meets a Viking called Derek, some refugees from city life seeking paradise and gets his passport stamped by the sole inhabitant of a remote rock. So, this is a knock-off of Coast, essentially. Only, replacing a softly-spoken Scottish Man with lovely hair with a tall cheerful Englishman with big ears. Hey, it could work.

Monday 4 May
Johnny Cash: The Last Great American – 7:00 BBC2 – is a repeated documentary profiling the life of the legendary country star Johnny Cash, who died in 2003 shortly after completing American Recordings, the five-CD work which resurrected his career in the last decade of his life. Featuring contributions from his daughter Rosanne (whose comment '"Johnny Cash" is the two-word answer for why it's still all right to be an American!' is the best line on TV this year!) and son John Carter Cash, manager Lou Robin and fellow musicians including Little Richard, Elvis Costello and Kris Kristofferson. In my opinion, the greatest single moment in musical history occurred in early 1968 when Johnny performed live at Folsom Prison in California and opened his set with 'Folsom Prison Blues', the song that made his name on Sun Records twenty years earlier. He got to the third line ('I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die') and 4,000 murderers, rapists and … you know, people who got slung in pokey for nicking stuff from the local 7-11, holler their bone-chilling approval of the sentiment. Beat that for menace, Johnny Rotten at the 100 Club.

Bear Grylls: Mission Everest – 7:30 Channel 4 – follows the popular adventurer Bear and his mate Gilo Cardozo as they attempt to fly motorised paragliders above the height of Mount Everest. That's over twenty nine thousand feet or, about six miles high in case you were wondering. You know, the height that jumbo jets fly at. These blokes are off their bloody rocker! So, I'm definitely going to be watching this just to see if they, you know, die. Before tackling Everest, however, Gilo must design a powerful and lightweight machine that can fly where no other has gone before and the pair must also convince their wives to let them undertake a dangerous mission which has no guarantee of success or, indeed, survival. After troubles in testing, the day of the flight approaches and the reality of the challenge ahead becomes apparent.

Lastly, on Ashes to Ashes – 9:00 on BBC1 - when animal rights activists threaten a series of attacks in London, placing the daughter of a laboratory owner in hospital, Gene Hunt orders his team not to rest until those responsible are caught, kicked-in until they confess and then jailed for a long time to contemplate the error of their ways. Their investigations subsequent brings Alex face to face with a man whose eerily prescient knowledge of the future makes her think he could be involved with her own fate. What, another one? That's two in two weeks. Meanwhile, Gene skirts close to a dangerous conflict with his boss, Supermac (played by the excellent Roger Allam), who warns Gene to do as he's told or face the consequences. Whatever they are. Gene, of course, does nothing of the sort. Cos he's the Gene Genie and he knows where it's at. Unless you were watching the American version of Life on Mars, of course, in which case he's an astronaut in the 2030s. No, I didn't understand that bit either… Fabulous soundtrack too - note when the first episode of the new season was previewed, I made a sarcastic comment about them mentioning Duran Duran and ABC being in the charts in the press pack but ignored some more left-field chart stuff from the eighties. I specifically mentioned Echo & The Bunnymen and, lo and behold, the next episode opens with 'The Back of Love.' If they did that just for me then thank you boys and girls, it was truly appreciated. As was the inclusion of 'Town Called Malice' about twenty minutes later! I love this show.

Tuesday 5 May
Six Degrees of Separation – 7:00 BBC2 – is a rather neat looking film exploring the science behind the popular theory that Kevin Bacon is, actually, God. Originally thought to be an urban myth, it now appears that virtually everyone on the planet can be connected by just a few steps of association to anyone else on the planet. But, more seriously six degrees of separation is also at the heart of a major scientific breakthrough; that there might be a physical law that nature uses to organise itself and which now promises to solve some of its deepest mysteries.

How Britain Got the Gardening Bug – 8:30 BBC2 - looks at the extraordinary changes that have happened to British gardening since the Second World War, from gnomes and crazy paving to Leylandii and decking. As recently as the 1960s Garden Centres simply didn't exist and most gardening was strictly a hobby for old boys in sheds or on allotments. Yet today it has become the height of cool. At least, according to Radio Times anyway. I remain to be convinced, myself, being a confirmed non-gardener who pays the local Job Allowance Scheme boys to strim his overgrown garden once every few months. Contributors to the documentary include Penelope Keith, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, Germaine Greer and Carol Klein. Sounds suitably different. Might get my fingers dirty with this one.

The One Show – 7:00 BBC1 – is back to its traditional half-hour slot this week having briefly experimented with a longer format for a few days. I'm not sure whether it worked, really. The ratings stayed pretty much the same as normal but the beauty of this show remains that it is something which works, excellently, in little bite-sized chunks of quality infotainment. I think half-an-hour is the perfect length for it personally. Save the hour-long episodes for really special occasions and when they've got a guest who can get Chiles to shut up for five minutes like Michael Caine managed.

Wednesday 6 May
On Coronation Street – 7:30 ITV – the question is asked 'Has Ken Barlow chosen the right woman?' Well, there's been no evidence of him having done so at any stage in his life since poor Anne Reid got electrocuted with that dodgy hairdryer in 1971. So, I'm going to mark that one down as a cautious 'no.' Meanwhile, in other news Tara comforts Amber when she has a row with Darryl. Big fight, little people.

Midsomer Murders – 8:00 ITV – continues in its weekly quest to scare pensioners to apoplexy. In tonight's episode a glassware factory in Midsomer Magna faces ruin after the death of its co-owner Alan King. His widow, Hilary, angers her son by marrying Alan's brother Charles and rumours begin to circulate in the little Somerset village with a murder rate higher than Baltimore that Charles and accountant Peter Baxter have embezzled funds. When Peter is found stabbed to death with a ceremonial masonic dagger, Barnaby is called in to investigate. A new amateur production of Hamlet seems to contain a message - but can Barnaby pick up the trail of clues? And, how many more of the village's rapidly dwindling inhabitants must die, horribly, before he does?

On The Apprentice – 9:00 BBC1 - with only nine candidates remaining in the battle to become thuggish bullyboy businessman Sir Alan Sugar's apprentice, he sends them off to the North of England. For punishment, you may well ask? No, actually, the idea is that they must select two new innovative products to sell to trade. Determined that everyone should sell, Sugar gives each candidate their own individual order books with strict instructions to notch up as many sales as possible. But in these tough economic times, can everyone live up to his expectations? Or will one of the apprentices hit the smug, arrogant sod, hard, in the mush on the general principle and flounce out of the room to the massed applause of a grateful population? … It's going to be the former, isn't it? What a very great pity.

Thursday 7 May
Madeleine Was Here – 9:00 Channel 4 – looks at possibly the most tragically over-reported crime of the last decade. Exactly two years after the disappearance of young Madeleine McCann from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, this documentary follows her parents Kate and Gerry in their continued attempt to piece together what happened on the day of her disappearance, whilst maintaining a normal life for their two other children. Can't be easy, what with them having spent most of their time suing just about every newspaper and media organisation on the planet. There's an inherent tragedy about this case that has screwed up the lives of just about everybody involved in it. I'm actually rather loathed to recommend this film on the off-chance that this is going to add further controversy to what was once a massive bonfire. But, you know, if Channel 4 have their Cutting Edge or Dispatches head on rather than their populist Who Pig Is This Anyway? production team at work then it could be thought-provoking, moving and watchable. I hope it is, really I do. Because, frankly, it's about time this story had a trace of humanity and decency attached to it.

In EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1 - Dot comes to the rescue at Amy's christening and it is decision time for Jack and Ronnie. Heather fears for her future and Zainab's plans backfire disastrously. Both Corrie and Easties have been quite watchable of late, which is unusual. (Normally when one's on form, the other tends to be in a bit of a slump.)

Lastly, in Keep It in the Family – 9:00 BBC2 – we meet Gary Doneghue who has dedicated his life to the auction house that he inherited from his father and grandfather. But, with no-one to take over the business when he retires it faces an uncertain future. He has persuaded his son Jamie, a music video director, to give the family firm one last go - Jamie has spent a lifetime avoiding antiques and has never even thought about taking on the family business but if he doesn't, then Leeds' last auction house could be gone forever.

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