Sunday, April 12, 2009

Week Sixteen: They Do It Over There But They Don't Do It Here!

Keith Telly Topping welcomes you, dear blog reader, to his latest gaze into the phantasmogorical black splendour of what's going down in Tellytown. This is my world, ladies and gentlemen, and you are all invited to come and play with joyous abandon in my lovely garden of Top Tellytastic delights. And, remember, as the great Scroobius Pip once noted 'Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of thirty who plays with a child that is not their own is a peadophile. Some people are just nice.' Sensible advice, I reckon.
Let's start this week in Hollywood - and why not? It's a very nice place. Sometimes. Like, 'when seen at night, and from a distance,' as Roman Polanski once noted. Anyway, it's been a tremendous, if a bit disconcerting, few days for US TV drama generally. This is, I know, a crass oversimplification to make but American shows - by and large - aren't traditionally disposed to the trick of pulling the rug from under the viewers feet and leaving them all open mouthed and discombobulated. Certainly they're not as fond of doing this as we can be in the UK. (I mean, we do it 'for a laugh,' you know.) But, just occasionally, this does happens - Buffy's The Body or some of the more extreme moments in The Sopranos for instance - and this week it's been happening quite a lot. We'll start off, however, with one show that seldom seems to have either the inclination or, indeed, the need to pull stunts like that. 24 continues on its good old thuggishly right-wing way towards Jack Bauer saving the planet yet again ('the world's deadliest bio-weapon has been released. A new 24 is next on FOX!'). The writers are, however, keeping up their impressive average of murdering one semi-regular character per episode. This week it occurred when Bad Jon Voight pushed Hank Jennings from Twin Peaks from a third story balcony onto a tiled map of the world below (nice bit of cultural imperialist symbolism there, I thought) in a scene redolent with Shakespearean revenge tragedy. I was somewhat less impressed, however, with the wholly unconvincing 'here's one real easy way we can get Elisha Cuthbert back in the show' scene. Jack, of course, was having absolutely none of it. If he's gonna die, Jack's gonna die like a man, it would seem - dribbling, shaking and pooping diarrohea in his own pants. Good on yer bad self, Jack. Like Elvis, dying on the potty full of cheeseburgers and pills. You're an goddamn inspiration to us all.

Now, I watched this week's House episode - Simple Explanation - without any prior knowledge of Kal Penn's decision to suddenly leave the production in order to take up a job in President Obama's administration. And thus, what happened to Kutner (and I deliberately include no spoilers here, please note) was as much of a surprise to me as it seemed to be to House and the team. I was sorry to see both the actor and the character go, of course, albeit if any show can stand the loss of one of its secondary characters at the moment - given how little at least three of them usually get to do - then it's definitely House. On the plus side, however, there was a wonderfully spiteful little dig in the script at the wretched CSI: Miami. If you missed it, watch the bit where Cameron tells House that she's already worked something out and he replies "Did you deduce that by taking off your sunglasses to the strains of a Who song?" I liked that. I liked that a lot! (Speaking of CSI: Shades, David Caruso's ex-girlfriend is reportedly suing the actor for more than $1.2m and a house which she says he promised her. Who will get ultimate custody of the sunglasses has yet to be revealled.)

More of Ben Linus's complicated backstory was told in Lost, in particular details of his thirty year association with Charles Widmore. We may now, finally, be getting close the crux of the series' raison d'être. And it's only taken us four and a half seasons to get there! It was, genuinely, thrilling stuff. I must record, yet again my appreciation for Michael Emerson's performance in Lost. It's one of the single best things about this show. (And, in a series which can call upon the talents of the likes of Naveen Andrews, Daniel Dae Kim, Josh Holloway, Terry O'Quinn, Evangeline Lily, Henry Ian Cusack et al, that really is saying something.) Michael's effortless performance as a character who is not so much two-faced and fifty-faced, his ability throw atom-bombs of caustic acid-wit in from the sidelines and the fact that he can play lots of different aspects of the same man in the course of a single episode mark him out as something very special indeed. The bit where he's haunted by the ghost of his dead daguther (or, is he?) is one of the single best bits of sustained menace I've seen on TV in months.

This was also a week when two of the finest US procedural crime dramas, simultaneously, decided to have a bit of fun with their format and produce one of their occasional "funny" episodes. Both 'hah-hah' and 'peculiar', before you ask. CSI did one of them mad, three-stories-with-interlocking-plots which usually crop up on the show about twice a season. This particular episode mixed assassination-by-insecticide, a parachute sabotage and an unexplained ecclesiastical death in the desert which turned out to be a, quite literal, Greek tragedy. Most of the cast can do dry comedy very well - in particular George Eads and, my own favourite, Paul Guilfoyle who are past masters at blank, almost po-faced responses to the inane dialogue of suspects - and it was nice to see Larry Fishburne being given a few more funny lines than usual just to prove that he's not all large, glowery enuui and simmering sexual tension. All this, and a guest appearance by the divine Charisma Carpenter and her lovely bosoms. The viewer really can't ask for more than that. Well, they can - the greedy ones.

Meanwhile, over on Bones, Charisma's former Angel co-star - you know 'The Big Hunky One Who Can't Act' - was proving, yet again, that he actually can act (and very nicely, thank-you-very-much), putting in another great straight-man performance in a hilarious tale of high-achievement versus good old common sense. I've highlighted the effectiveness of most of the cast of late but I really should also note how extraordinarily good Emily Deschanel is in the, sometimes very unsympathetic, title role. She's often easy to miss along aside all of the other impressive things going on in Bones but her deadpan delivery and cracking timing of an apparently unintentionally hilarious one-liner is a gift that's reminiscent of Alyson Hannigan at her best. Gosh, aren't lots of Buffy alumni getting name-checked this week? And, I suppose, whilst we're on the subject I should also offer this blog's collective and sincere congratulations to Alyson and her husband, Alexis Denisof - see, there's another one - on the recent birth of their first child. It's to be hoped that a TV producer somewhere spots this item in the papers and thinks 'Ah, Alexis Denisof. He was pure-dead brilliant in Angel. Why isn't he on TV more often? I think I'll hire him.' It could happen.

And so, I guess, it's time for the next batch of Top Telly Tips.

Friday 17 April
Tonight's episode of Pushing Daisies - 10:35 ITV - is the first of three shows which haven't, as yet, been broadcast in the US to conclude this silly and charming little show. David Arquette shows up as a taxidermist called Randy (inevitably) who's smitten with Olive. I wrote, extensively, of the devastating crime committed by ABC in cancelling this series earlier in the year so there's no point in going over the same ground again and crying over spilled milk. But, if you're one of the million or so regular viewer in the UK and you've stuck with Pushing Daisies through thin and thin then I'm sure you will be as disappointed as I am that the end is on the horizon of Ned, Chuck, Emerson and co. We're probably never going to see anything quite like it again, I'm afraid, and in a TV world of compromise, dumbing-down and a crucial lack of creativity, that's little short of a tragedy.

Saturday 18 April
It's a thoroughly crazy night on TV this evening. We've got a choice between the World Snooker Championship (BBC2, which I know at least one viewer, in Gateshead, will be glued to) opposite Britain's Got Talent (ITV). Pot black versus pot of gold, one could suggest. Hah, do you see? Oh, suit yerself. Also of marginal interest is the start of Tonight's the Night (BBC1 at 7:00) in which John Barrowman presents a combination of 'show-stopping acts, wish-fulfillment, celebrity and once-in a lifetime performances, in an unmissable package of glitzy entertainment.' Or, at least, that's what it says in the press pack. No, I find it hard to believe too, frankly. To sum up my position with regard to John Barrowman: I really do like him a lot in Doctor Who and Torchwood - Captain Jack is one of my favourite characters in British drama and John plays the part with a terrific combination of manic energy, charm and wit. But his constant appearances on any and every TV show you can possibly imagine - he's been featured on I'd Do Anything, The Kids Are All Right, Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women, Ready Steady Cook, Celebrity Ding Dong, The Xtra Factor and Al Murray's Personality Disorder in 2008 alone - threaten serious overkill. I mean, one can't really complain about Horne and Corden becoming over-exposed - as I have done on this blog - and then let Big John off the hook in the same breath. Rumours that the BBC now stands for 'Barrowman Broadcasting Corporation' cannot, entirely, be discounted. Come on, John, you're a fine lookin' lad and a really very decent actor indeed and the public, by and large, seem to like you. Don't ruin it by becoming the Bobby Davro of your generation. Anyway, if you really want to know what's on offer in Tonight's The Night, ladies and gentlemen, we are promised that each week 'John makes dreams come true for members of the public as he unleashes a series of spectacular surprises.' This week, Katherine Jenkins, McFly and the cast of West End hit Hairspray are on hand to help fulfil the wishes of unsuspecting dreamers. And John dons a football kit as he attempts some freestyle skills in a celebrity head-to-head challenge. John Barrowman doing 'headers' - this, I cannot wait to see!

Timewatch tells the remarkable story of how an unassuming little girl rose to be the most powerful woman in the world for well over sixty years in Young Victoria - 8:35 BBC2. At her birth, in 1819, few believed that Princess Victoria of Kent would become queen, but a number of untimely deaths and the failure of her boozy and degenerate uncles George and William to father any children meant that Victoria, at the age of eighteen, became heiress to the throne of Great Britain, Ireland, India and the Dominions Beyond the Sea. Not to mention Berwick-upon-Tweed, of course. The battle between Victoria and her domineering mother the Duchess of Kent, however, was to become particularly fierce before Victoria was crowned. Like all good episodes of Timewatch this one uses a combination of dramatic reconstruction and expert analysis to produce something impressively watchable. And, unlike Tonight's The Night or Britain's Got Talent you might actually learn something you didn't know from this. A ludicrous suggestion that one should watch TV to enhance ones mind, I know, but I'm afraid that's me - full of nonsense suggestions like that.

Sunday 19 April
Vernon Kaye - a TV presenter who is, I believe, about as funny as a nasty dose of tuberculosis - returns as the host for a second series of the allegedly 'unpredictable' gameshow Beat the Star - 6:45 ITV. In this format, a plucky (for which, read 'ruddy stupid') member of the public goes head-to-head with a celebrity in a bid to win fifty thousand smackers. And then, ITV wonder why they're going broke. In tonight's episode a super-fit factory manager from London tackles England rugby legend Austin Healey in a series of punishing games. Would one of them be 'scrumming down with Big Vern' by any chance? Because, honestly, I'd pay good money to see that.

Monday 20 April
Tonight sees the very welcome return of Ashes to Ashes - 9:00 BBC1. You've probably seen the stunning trailer featuring 'Chant No. 1' as the soundtrack. It's 1982 and Adam Ant and Duran Duran are in the charts. (I mean, so are Echo and the Bunnymen, P.I.L. and Shriekback but those don't look quite as good on a press release, I'm thinking). (Can I just add that Chris Skelton looks exactly like I did in 1982 - only shorter and thinner! Especially the bad dye-job on his hair.) When a man is found dead in a Soho strip club, it looks as though he's a vicitm of some deviant sex game gone wrong. But, when the deceased is discovered to be an off duty police officer, Gene and Alex are ordered by their superiors to keep the case under wraps. Then, the pathologist uncovers signs that the officer was actually murdered and Gene's team must venture into some dangerous territory as Alex finds herself kidnapped by a man whose words threaten her whole perspective. Is it possible that someone has found her in the future? Now, I really liked last year's first season - I realise that I seem to be in a minority of, well, about two there. (Phil Glenister liked it as well and, frankly, if it's good enough for the Gene Genie, then it's good enough for me.) I, genuinely, couldn't see what the problems were that, seemingly, made so many people get a big hate-on for the show. I think, ultimately, it came down to the fact that almost anything which followed Life on Mars was going to get the big-stick-treatment no matter how good, bad or indifferent it actually was. The main problem that some, very vocal, commentators seemed to have with Ashes to Ashes was, essentially, 'it's not Life On Mars Series 3.' Well, no it wasn't but then whose fault, exactly, was it for expecting that? You can criticise a show for being what it is, it's a bit harsh to criticise one for what it's not. I have to say I thought some of the critique - professional, as well a amateur - that Keeley Hawes suffered was, quite frankly, vile and sick. One critic claimed that she 'did emotion by breathing hard,' whilst another stated she 'disappeared completely' when she shared screen time with Gene Hunt. Phil says he was 'utterly appalled' by some of the criticism levelled at Keeley and he's absolutely right to be so dismayed. Much of it had the stinking whiff of sexism smeared all over it an inch thick. TV critics, eh? Bunch of effing sods, the lots of them - this one thoroughly included by the way. Seven words to the not-very-wise, 'She's not John Simm, get over it!'

EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - has been on genuinely terrific form over the last few weeks. There's been a bunch of plotlines all happening at the same time which, at any other time would be the sole focus of everyone's attention. There's been, for instance, the Peggy/Archie on-off-wedding shenanigans (with both Babs Windsor and Larry Lamb acting their little cotton socks off). There's also been the revelation about Danielle being Roxy's daughter and then, just as everybody was getting over the shock of that, Danielle's subsequent - very unexpected - death (with Samantha Janus, in particular, acting her little cotton socks off!). And, then Lauren's trial. (I don't really need to inform you about the dancing activities of Madelaine Duggan's little cotton socks, do I?) Anyway, after all that tonight's episode sees Masood panics when Zainab wonders about his relationship with Jane and Roxy struggles to deal with a grieving Ronnie as Jack continues to pile on the pressure. Meanwhile, Big Heather receives an unexpected call. I'm guessing it not going to be from Gary Bushell apologising for calling her 'Heffer.' Gosh, you're a really funny guy, Gazza. I see what you did there - you made an amusing little play on the character's name and the similarity it shares with a breed of Big Fat Cow. Cor, what a genuinely tragic loss you were to music publishing when Sounds had to let you go because they already had their union quota of obnoxious, barely-literate skinhead knobcheeses. And your review of London Calling in 1979 was a bit of a lemon too. Anyway ... gosh hasn't the weather been terrible of late?

Snow - 9:00 BBC4 - is, the first episode of a new documentary series looking at that very subject - one which, it is alleged, British people spend most of their time discussing. The opening episode - as the title suggests - deals with snow, that most fleeting and beautiful of elements which endlessly fascinates us. It's true, you know; that week we had in February where it snowed all over the country it was startling to see relatively sensible people suddenly turning into six year olds and deciding to build a snowman in their garden. I think it's probably because, unlike twenty or thirty years ago, snow just isn't as prevalent as it once was. That's global warming for you, I guess. Anyway, using rare footage we journey into the microscopically small world of the snow crystal, finding out how a snowflake forms and why it is always six-sided. The science of snow tests British Rail's claim that the snow which crippled their rolling stock in 1991 really was the 'wrong type' and explains how a British company is the world's biggest producer of snow. So remember, next time you're in a pub and somebody asks you if you 'want to buy some snow, man' just ignore the grammatical error and take his or her custom like a shot - you're seemingly helping to support a vital British success story.

Tuesday 21 April
Cops with Cameras - ITV 8:00 - has footage of the UK's police forces from the heart of the aggro. Metropolitan Police officers Stefan Rule and Lee Lane go on the trail of car thieves. The Manchester tactical aid group have their work cut out to get into the flat of suspected drug dealers. Sergeant Mike Peake and his team chase a haul of counterfeit cash in Oldham. Grampian Police prepare for trouble as Aberdeen play Celtic (yeah, always a bit of needle simmering under the surface at that one). And a vicious attempted armed robbery takes place in south London. Now, I'm all for the police using media techniques to improve their public image (and, let's face it, after that malarkey at the G20 summit, it could certainly do with a bit of improving) and producing dramatic and relevant social TV. Yeah, I can handle that. But, don't they actually catch criminal any more? Is that a 'last Century' thing these days?

Baboon Woman - 8:00 C4 - apart from being the best title for any TV show this week is a documentary about a South African woman who looks after baboons. Fiarly obviously. Karin Sachs has devoted ten years of her life to living and working with baboon troops (or is it baboon flanges? I'm never too sure about that) and has even learned how to talk to them. When a sick baby baboon is left in her care, can Karin re-introduce him into the wild? So, this is Born Free with primates, by the sound of it. Bet it hasn't got as a good a theme song, though.

Drinking with the Girls - 9:00 BBC3 - finds the delightfully named Cherry Chadwyck-Healey exploring women's attitudes to alcohol in the 21st Century. Cherry drinks with women across the country and tries to find out what girls drink, where they drink and how their tastes change throughout their lives. Hey - it’s a dirty job, right, but - hic - somebozza's gorra do ... sorry, what was the question again? From teenagers drinking in their bedrooms to grannies on a boozy trip oot on the lash, Cherry hears ladies' describing their most embarrassing drunken secrets (as you do, with a camera rolling) and sees how some women want to grow old disgracefully, as well as looking at why drunken women get such bad press. A cutting-edge exposé into Bad-Girl Britain, or an exploitative and banal exercise in Shock! Horror! (Pictures!) TV of the very worst kind? You be the judge, ladies and gentlemen.

Wednesday 22 April
A few weeks ago I was saying how I felt Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - was on its worst run in years. Well, it's back on form, it seems (just as EastEnders is having its most consistent period in ages). Tonight, Maria receives important news about her baby. Raising Amy causes a division between Becky and Steve and Tara (the excellent Ayesha Dharker) confesses her plans to Poppy. Uh-huh, trouble ahead there, it would appear.

Restoration made a quite an impact five years ago focusing attention on how the nation thought about its deteriorating historic buildings and monuments. It visited crumbling castles and jewels of the industrial age, all with compelling cases and all in danger of being lost and all needing help. In Restoration Revisited - 9:00 BBC2 - a one-hour special, the verbose but usually quite entertaining Griff Rhys Jones revisits some of the buildings featured in the series and talks to the campaigners, some of whom captured the nation's heart. He discovers what has happened since and to find out what their future now holds. I did quite like Restoration when it was on - although I was rather uncomfortable with the voting aspect of it. Surely all of the buildings featured were deserving cases, so why make a 'game' out of which ones gets the cash and which ones don't. Having said that, if its biggest contribution to popular culture was giving Channel 4 the idea for their 'answer' show, Demolition, then frankly we'd have probably been better off without it.

I'll finish off this evening's previews with two - vastly different - American productions. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - 8:30 on More4 - is a particular favourite of all of us on the Top Telly Tips slot. We worried, slightly, that they might not find as much comedy potential without Bush and Chaney to kick around as they've had for the last eight years but, whaddya know, they've pretty much managed it. By, daily, laughing at FOX News' hysterical Obama-baiting for a kick-off ('You guys LOST, deal with it'). The episode featuring Michael J Fox as a guest a couple of weeks ago was heart-warming but, for me, the highlight of this show comes once every couple of days when they give John Oliver the freedom on some topic and he creates blizzarding landscapes of outré comedy brilliance. His horror that Michelle Obama dared to 'touch' the queen, followed by a lengthy description of how Her Majesty has been know to eat a Guardsman, whole, if she so desires was just one recent example of surreal steam-of-consciousness comedy. Another was Oliver's shockingly confrontational description of the Mumbai terrorist atrocities as 'the work of a group of unbelievable motherfuckers working in tandem with giant arseholes.' The lad's got a point. Quite how a dryly ironic British comedian works so astonshingly well in an American political comedy show - where, if you believe fifty years of snotty propoganda, irony is an undiscovered country [*] - is an oddity, I'll admit. But he and Stewart are one of the sharpest double-acts around and their comedy is, genuinely, world class.

[*]See, for example, one of my journalistic heroes, the late Ian MacDonald's rather haughty and spiteful dismissal of American humour in Revolution In The Head ('Audiences are clearly cued, in inferior TV sitcoms, by a ponderous archness guaranteed to set English teeth on edge'). Which would be a whole hell of a lot more convincing if Britain had ever produced a political comedy series a tenth as groundbreaking as The Daily Show. Or, The Simpsons for that matter. That Was The Week That Was, let's remember, was forty five years ago. This Anglophobia may, partly, be explained by a deeply-rooted inferiority complex in the British psyche fuelled by the US having once been, you know, ours! Either that or we are, as some Americans (and most Frenchmen and Germans) have been saying for a long time, merely a nation of snobs.

And lastly, on Desperate Housewives - 10:00 Channel 4 - Gaby and Carlos clash when Lynette feels threatened by her new boss. Bree wonders which to put first - her marriage or her business. Katherine is surprised by events and Edie's worst nightmare comes true. I think we're starting to see the first stages of a show in decline, here - it's nowhere near as 'must-see-TV' as it once was. But, hey, it's had a very good run and, even on a bad day, it's still got a - metaphorical - right hook that our own pale immitator, Mistresses, would kill for.

Thursday 23 April
Very occasionally, I'll find myself recommending a repeat - if it's a particularly good one and that's certainly the case with Coast - 8:00 BBC2. This is a such a warm, sometimes moving and often feel-good show with magnificent cinematography and gentle presentation that you simply can't help sinking into your comfy armchair for sixty minutes whilst it's on. The TV equivalent of a nice cup of milky cocoa, in fact. This is the last episode of series three and from the Channel Islands, the team make their way back to Dover where their adventure began. Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) retells the tragic story of the first channel swimmer, Captain Webb. The divine Alice Roberts explores Jersey's remarkable postwar transformation. The 'Deadly Killer Miranda Krestovnikoff' visits the Gouliot caves on Sark. Nicholas Crane traces the story of The Indestructible Highway. And good old Mark Horton brilliantly recovers from the trauma of being Bonekickers' archaeological advisor (true story!) to reveals how the forts on Guernsey explain why the islanders are still loyal to the Queen, even though they remain proudly outside the United Kingdom. I am delighted to be able to tell you that a new, fourth, series is currently in production and will be broadcast, hopefully, during the summer. Hurrah.

With an affliction dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder wiping out millions of bees worldwide, a story so bizarre that it turned up as plotline in Doctor Who last year, Martha Kearney explores the terrifying implications in Who Killed the Honey Bee? - 9:00 BBC4. The possible extinction of bees would lead to the loss of their most vital service to nature, pollination, without which global food production would pretty much collapse very quickly indeed. The threat to keepers, farmers and our food supply is acute and growing and yet the cause of this 'Marie Celeste syndrome' that causes bees to flee their hives remains a mystery.

Kimberley: Young Mum Ten Years On - 9:00 C4 - is the sequel to the award-winning documentary Fifteen, which was an unflinching look at teenage motherhood. Ten years ago, Kimberley was determined not to get pregnant young like her mum and sister. Now a 24-year-old single mother, she has had one child removed from her by social services, and is in danger of losing the other. Intercut with archive footage from her teens, this film follows Kimberley's attempts to understand how her upbringing has shaped her life, and to create a better future for herself.

We'll finish off this round-up with some odds and ends of TV news starting in America. Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the greatest TV series ever made (without the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title) The West Wing, and a writer who has already created two television series set behind the scenes of television series', is reportedly mulling a third, according to Entertainment Weekly. Aaron, baby, you've got a fascination for the media that almost rivals my own! Sorkin's Sports Night parodied ESPN's Sports Center and the tragically under-rated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip fictionalised Saturday Night Live. The new show is reported to present a version of a political debate show along the lines of MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Sounds brilliant, if it comes off. One always has to be careful about getting too excited about "stuff in development" - particularly "Aaron Sorkin stuff in development" - as it can, very easily, either disappear completely or, if it doesn't, still take years to come to fruition.

From the potentially sublime to the grossly hideous. Simon Cowell says he will take a pay cut and is more interested in making quality TV. Hang on ... Britain's Got Talent and The X-Factor are Quality TV? Interesting new use of the word 'quality' that I hadn't previously come across there... Meanwhile, according to this report Robbie Coltrane is set to return to ITV in a new thriller series called Murderland. The 59-year-old, who played criminal psychologist Fitz in ITV's acclaimed Cracker from 1993 to 1996 (and with a one-off revival in 2006), has landed the new role of detective Gordon Hain. Some of us, of course, still reckon his finest TV work was in Laugh? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee as The Master of Dundreech.

ITV is also about to launch a wide-ranging advertising campaign for its ailing flagship channel ITV1 with the strapline The Brighter Side. I'll bet, however, that there wasn't all that much 'brighter side' being discussed around the offices of Fearne Cotton's The Truth about Online Anorexia. This wretched abomination of a programme tanked with just 1.9m viewers in a 9pm on ITV, a failure which saw the channel coming bottom of the five terrestrial networks during the hour something that ITV never did before about a year ago. Not even on its worst night ever.

The Champions League quarter-final between Liverpool and Chelsea was a popular choice with the viewers. During the time Sky Sports's coverage was on, between 7pm and 10.30pm, the digital subscription channel had a larger audience than either BBC2 or Five (the match itself achieved 2.3m and an eleven per cent audience share) as well as dominating multichannel viewing.

And speaking of truly astonishing multi-channel figures, Dave's broadcast of the first new Red Dwarf episode - Back to Earth - since 1999 on Good Friday achieved an audience of over three million - easily the popular freeview channel's highest ever viewed show. I only caught part of it and I didn't think what I saw was much cop to be honest but, as a big fan of the show at its peak (in the late 80s and early 90s) it's still nice to have Listy, Rimmer and the chaps back. Two further episodes are scheduled over the weekend (plus a behind-the-scenes documetnary on the making of the show).

Writer/director Armando Iannucci says he is in the process of writing a new series of the award-winning The Thick of It. It had previously been reported that someone under Iannucci's name claimed online that he was penning new episodes of the political satire. Speaking during press interviews for his forthcoming film In The Loop, a big screen version of the series, Iannucci said: 'That was me. The only reason I joined Twitter was because there was someone else claiming to be me so I managed to take over him - I inhabited his body - but now anything I say is not taken seriously because people seem to think that I don't exist.'

The Apprentice's final episode is scheduled to clash with an England World Cup qualifying football match on ITV on 10 June. Two weeks beforehand it will also clash with the Champions League final on 27 May. Mind you, given that the final is likely this year to be between Porto and Barcelona most of the fairweather viewers in this country (ie Manchester United and Chelsea supporters) will be avoiding it like the plague.

A week wouldn't be a week without a decent bit of Ofcom baiting from this blog. Those interfering unelected nobodies are reported to be considering whether to 'investigate' (for which, read 'stomp around like the Gestapo messing in matters that are none of their bloody business') a BBC presenter's jibe about the teeth of the Grand National-winning jockey Liam Treadwell. The BBC received one thousand nine hundred and sixty two complaints about the remark, made by Clare Balding during a post-race interview on Saturday. In front of a TV audience of eight million, Clare ordered the one hundred-to-one winning jockey to open his mouth and reveal his gappy teeth. The absolute and total frivolous crap that some people chose to care about...

According to the Daily Mirror, ITV have decided that the solution to their many woes is, wait for it ... Horne & Corden. No, really. With instincts like that it's no wonder they're going down the tube.

And finally Broadcast magazine have announced that viewers are bucking the trend of spending more time in front of the television during a recession. Conventional TV wisdom has it that when economic circumstances bites, consumers eschew going out for the evenings in favour of staying in and watching the box, with TV viewing hours increasing as a result. However, so far this year, overall TV viewing is slightly down year-on-year with previous figures.

During the first three months of 2009, for example, the average person watched a total of two hundred and twenty four minutes of TV per day, compared with two hundred and twenty nine minutes for the same three-month period last year and two hundred and twenty six in March 2007.

Two hundred and twenty four minutes a day - I'm sure you're all doing the maths. That's still almost four hours of telly. I'm fairly certain that many blog readers will be incandescent with rage, noting 'I watch much more than that.' As, indeed, do I. (What can I say? It's ma job!) But, it's also worth remembering that we are all, unquestionably, sad, crushed victims of society's depresonalisation and the crass and ephemeral nature of modern existence... You know, just for a bit of perspective.

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