Sunday, May 24, 2009

Week Twenty Two: Big Brother Is Watching You Even If You're Not Watching Big Brother

Before we start the latest bloggerisationisms dredged from the darkest corners of the shattered mind of yer actual Keith Telly Topping on this beautiful sunny Sunday morning, dear blog reader, I thought it might be a nice present to you all to highlight this photograph. Lovely, is it not? It's Little Boots, playing her organ, on her bed, in her pants. And, why not? There really is nothing quite like that for kicking the day off in a splendid fashion. I know dear blog reader, I've done it myself. Often. I usually follow it with breakfast and a prayer for world peace. Good on yersel, Victoria. You go, girl and write us another little pop classic.
On with the Top Telly News: Qi are currently filming episodes for their – very much-anticipated - sixth season which will be broadcast either later this year or early next (sources vary). Guest panelist on those shows taped so far include welcome returns for Bill Bailey, dear old Danny Baker (first time back since season one for Dan) and Jezza Clarkson, regular visitors like Sean Lock, Andy Hamilton, Phill Jupitas, Rich Hall and Clive Anderson and a selection of interesting first-timers including Sue Perkins, Jack Dee, Barry Humphreys and Sandi Toksvig. Plus, sadly, Jimmy Carr. Ah well, we can't have everything I suppose.

Tonight's the Night finished its six week run yesterday evening (and moderately entertaining it was too even if it didn't, as pre-publicity promised, 'set the world alight'). It finished with an episode that included a specially written (and, actually, rather funny) sketch by Russell Davies starring John Barrowman, David Tennant and competition winner Tim Ingham. Expect fights to go on in Doctor Who fandom for about the next twenty years as to whether or not this is canonical in the same way that In A Fix With Sontarans and Dimensions of Time may, or may not, be. And, if you don't know what I'm dribbling on about, dear blog reader, trust me that's a good thing. An in-depth knowledge of this sort of inane trivia can utterly ruin your life. It certainly has mine.

Speaking of last night's telly, I'm very sad that Robin Hood is getting virtually no audience these days (just over three million for yesterday's episode). If for no other reason than because those who aren't watching it are - genuinely - missing out on a comedy treat. The show's always been camply amusing, of course (particularly Keith Allen's great over-the-top performance), but it's become riotous since former Bond villain Toby Stephens climbed on board as Bad Prince John. His is a deliciously eye-rolling turn that goes so far over-the-top it's actually down the other side. What a pity hardly anybody's watching it. Rumours continue that At Home With The Braithwaite's Sally Wainwright has been sounded out about coming up with a new format for Robin and co. should the BBC decided they want to do a fourth series. But, with Jonas Armstrong having already announced that he's leaving at the end of the current run and with the poor ratings it's been getting, another season is looking an increasingly unlikely proposition. What a shame because, like it's opposition, Primeval (which is doing marginally better and looks to be back in ITV's good books again) this show really does have a lot to offer.

In one of the most completely unexpected Transatlantic transfers in TV history, Ideal has finally made it to the US! Who would have ever thought that would happen. The Independent Film Channel will start showing the darkly strange - but very funny - BBC3 sitcom about a small-time drug dealer in Manchester and his odd collection of acquaintences with the first episode, 'The Rat' from 7 June. God only knows what the Americans are going to make of Big Johnny, Wor Alfie, Cartoon Head and co. Particularly as the US has a perceived somewhat puritanical attitude towards any hint of showing drug-taking in an even remotely positive - or even neutral - light. (Much of the mainstream US media's accusations in the 1990s that Trainspotting 'glamourised' heroin addiction, for example.) I hope Ideal gets a following, over there. And, to be honest, it might just be weird enough to do exactly that.

In a similarly wholly unexpected development, Variety magazine are reporting from the Cannes film festival that legendary movie producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Love Story, Chinatown and Marathon Man among many others) is to team with ITV Global on a feature film based on the 1970s series UFO. Ryan Gaudet and Joseph Kanarek are writing the script. The series, debuted in 1970 was, of course, created by Gerry Anderson and was set in 1980 revolving around S.H.A.D.O., a covert military organisation which thwarts an alien race that has been kidnapping humans for decades to steal body parts. S.H.A.D.O. headquarters was hidden beneath a film studio. The movie will feature the same basic premise but will be set in the year 2020. The Robert Evans Co. has a first-look deal with Paramount, which will clearly be the first stop for the project. 'We know the importance of the UFO series brand to ITV Global and we will work closely with them to build this into a franchise,' Evans said. Sounds wonderful - always a particular favourite of mine, UFO - but I'm just wondering why now, why not twenty or thirty years ago?

24 ended its seventh season earlier in the week and there was plenty of good old fashioned tool-stiffening violence on display - as per usual with 24 season finales. I think, ultimately, they pretty much made up for a few (not insignificant) holes in the plot big enough to fire missiles armed with nerve gas through them with a dramatic tension and pace that the series hasn't really had since Bad President Logan got his just desserts at the end of season five. There were no exploding helicopters this time though and that's always a disappointment. And, is it just me or did anybody else want to resurrect the 'points at which Kim Bauer needs A SLAP' drinking game from seasons one and two? Going chasing after armed terrorists through the corridors of LAX? Listen, leave it to the professionals, love (you know, like yer dad). You just find yourself a nice mountain lion to be menaced by, there's a good girl ... (Just to fit in with the apparent semi-pronographic start to this week's Top Telly Tips, here's a nice photo of Elisha Cuthbert. Also in her pants. Is this some new fashion thing? Cos, I have to say you really don't want to see me in my pants, dear blog reader. it's not a pretty sight.) For next year, the excellently-named Chris Diamantopoulos - best known as Debra Messing's gay friend in the mini-series The Starter Wife - has been signed up to play the regular role of Rob Weiss, an argumentative and tough new Chief of Staff to President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). He replaces Ethan Kanin (the excellent Bob Gunton), who dramatically snatched his job back in last Monday's finale after the President's naughty daughter, Olivia, was taken into federal custody for a good harsh spell in pokey. As previously reported, season eight's action will switch from Washington DC to New York and centre on an assassination plot against a visiting foreign leader (Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor, the new season's first major piece of casting news). Apart from Kiefer, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Cherry Jones it has yet to be confirmed whether any other regular or semi-regular cast members will be returning (though, if they don't bring back Janeane Garofalo, I may well cry). Entertainment Weekly reports that Jack and Chloe will be working at a reconstituted CTU.

Following her quite literal 'nuclear solution' at the end of the season finale, most of us didn't expect to be seeing much (if anything) of Duplicitous-Bitch-turned-Sawyer-love-cutie Juliet in next season's Lost. Particularly after the excellent Elizabeth Mitchell landed herself a starring role in ABC's forthcoming remake of the cult 1980s alien-invasion Sci-Fi series V. The trailer for the show's pilot episode (which you can see here looks terrific. As an added bonus, V also features two members of the Firefly cast – Alan Tudyk (fresh from his mad-as-a-bunch-of-bananas two-episode guest slot on Dollhouse) and the utterly divine Morena Baccarin. The latter - with her new short haircut - is pictured to the left looking horn-givingly beautiful. Even if she is ultimately playing a big lizard. Ooo … what a giveaway. V is, apparently, being lined-up as a mid-season replacement in ABC's schedules. However, TV Guide's Michael Ausiello suggests that whilst Mitchell is unlikely to be returning as a regular on Lost next year, we haven't seen the last of her character by any means. ('Multiple sources confirm that the actress is expected to appear in an unspecified number of episodes next season, so it's entirely possible that Juliet survived Jughead and her absense will be explained in another way.') Well, hurrah for that. I'm still worried about a distinct lack of Dessie and Penny, though.

Friday 29 May
Tonight's Friday Night With Jonathan Ross – 10:35 BBC1 - includes one of this year's most unlikely musical phenomenon The Singing Priests. But not, sadly, the previously announced appearance of Hugh Laurie. He's far too busy doing something around the house, apparently. Do you see ... Oh, never mind. Plus, there's a performance by one of the biggest bands on the planet, The Killers. Err … 'I've got ham but I'm not a hamster,' is that them?

Saturday 30 May
After weeks of highs and lows (but, mostly lows), Ant and Dec present the final of this year's Britain's Got Talent – 6:45 ITV. The ten acts who have made it through the auditions (or, the nine acts who've made it through the auditions and Susan Boyle) compete for 'the ultimate prize' of one hundred thousand pounds and the chance to perform at this year's Royal Variety Performance in front of Her Majesty the Queen. Yeah, I have to say I think the money'll be of marginally more importance to those competing than getting to sing 'afore Her Royal Highness. Could be wrong, of course, but I'm willing to bet a few pennies on that. Anyway, the finalists have one more opportunity to impress the judges before the public vote. And, then - mercifully - it'll be over for another year. What a relief for everyone.

It's Motown night on BBC4. Tremendous. Legends: The Motown Invasion - 7:00 BBC2 - is a terrifc documentary (previously shown on BBC2 a couple of months ago and highlighted on this very blog) about two decisive moments in 1965 - the Motown Revue UK tour and the Ready Steady Go!: Sound of Motown TV special. Arriving in London in March, The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, The Miracles, The Temptations and (then 'Little') Stevie Wonder were bussed across Britain on a package tour. It's hard to remember now but at the time Motown was very much a niché sound in this country. It was the TV special that really kicked open the door, thrusting their slick dance routines and stomping backbeat into the nation's front rooms. The bit at the end where they all surround Smokey as he sings 'Mickey's Monkey' is just magical. If you watch nothing else I recommend this week, watch this. If you don't, YOU HAVE NO SOUL - and, I mean quite literally.

Sunday 31 May
As you may have noticed from just about every billboard currently on display in the UK, Sky have managed to half-inch House from Five. Thus, the first episode of the fifth series of this impressive US medical drama about a maverick, anti-social New Jersey doctor starts tonight at 9:00 on Sky1. Still in mourning after the death of his beloved-if-bitchy Amber, Wilson (the excellent Robert Sean Leonard) resigns from his job at Princeton-Plainsboro while House (Hugh Laurie on tip-top form, as usual) is trying to determine whether he, himself, was responsible for the death of his best friend's girl. Discerning viewers are also advised to keep an eye on Lisa Edelstein, the actress who plays House's boss Cuddy (you'll know her by sight, she used to be Sam's Prostitute Girlfriend in The West Wing). She's just about the best thing in a show that has lots of very good elements in its dramatic arsenal. And she gets a lot more to do this year than in previous seasons.

There's a one-off special of the popular sitcom Benidorm - 9:00 ITV - set in the titular Spanish resort. In the aftermath of her ruined wedding, unlucky bride Madge and pal Janice cadge a lift with a mysterious man who turns out to be eccentric Spanish criminal Enrique. He holds them hostage at the Solana, but Mick and Mel are determined to effect a rescue.

Meanwhile, Empire of Cricket - 10:30 BBC2 – is, as the title suggests, the first of new series telling the story of spread of the game. The English invented cricket, created its rules and a whole moral code and exported this elegant sport to the wider British Empire. Where, inevitably, they all became better at it than we are. However, the English game was always divided by class and often held back by its own traditions and backward looking establishment. The programme explores the careers of great cricketers from WG Grace to Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton to Ray Illingworth, Ian Botham to Kevin Pietersen and shows how cricket in England has always been influenced by historical and cultural factors. Sounds excellent - looking forward to that one.

Monday 1 June
The Secrets of Stonehenge: A Time Team Special - 9:00 Channel 4 – is a feature-length episode of the popular archeology show in which Tony Robinson reports on a historic venture to present the definitive account of a legendary monument. Over the last six years, a huge team of archaeologists have been digging at Stonehenge and the surrounding prehistoric landscape to uncover the site's many ancient secrets. During their excavations the team found the biggest Neolithic settlement in Northern Europe. Top stuff, as always from this delightfully eccentric and educational series. More please.

Dating the Enemy – 10:35 ITV – the 'dating show with a difference' begins its second series, the first having gone out last year to no great accliam whatsoever. Feminist Laurie and self-confessed male chauvinist oinker Leon have absolutely nothing in common apart from both being single. Leon 'likes to be controversial' (for which, read, he thinks he's, like, 'the funniest guy in the whole world, bar none') with his extremely sexist opinions and general gittery of the first order whilst Laurie is a Labour party researcher and is studying for an MA in gender relations. Sounds like my type of girl, actually. I wonder if she's available. Anyway, this unlikely couple have agreed to spend four days dating to see if they can find any common ground. Is it an impossible match or can opposites attract? Okay, as a social experiment I can see a vague value in TV shows like this. But, as entertainment…? I wonder how it was sold to the participants (and, whether it was sold in the same way to both - I'm thinking probably not). Car crash telly by the looks of it. Which, of course, can work under certain circumstances. I guess this is a case of watch it and see if it's as bad as you might expect.

Now, despite my producer's considered opinion that it's been rubbish this year, Ashes to Ashes - 9:00 BBC1 – continues to impress the hell out of me. Particularly the soundtrack. And since I am Keith Telly Topping and these are my Top Telly Tips, you are all instructed to carry on watching this show until I give you leave to do otherwise. It's for your own good, dear blog reader, trust me on this. In tonight's episode, what looks to be a simple drugs-drop at a building site turns into a murder case when CID find a body buried in concrete. Is the site's owner, Michael Lafferty, crooked? Gene certainly thinks so. Meanwhile, Alex is convinced that, in 2008, she's recovering in the hospital and will wake up soon. However, the case begins to clash with her desire to get home and she becomes haunted by thoughts of her parents' death and whether she could have prevented it. What, again? That was the plotline of last season, wasn't it? Come on lads and lasses, move the plot forward, we need to get to 1983 as soon as possible so you can include some Smiths songs. You know you want to.

Tuesday 2 June
In Nature's Fury: Tornado - 8:00 ITV - Chris Terrill goes in search of some of the world's biggest storms. His mission is to get as close as possible and find out why people continue to live in their deadly path. In this episode, he travels thirty thousand miles back and forth across the American Midwest during one of the most active tornado seasons for fifty years. After eight weeks of chasing savage twisters and meeting some of their victims, he gets within touching distance of a vicious tornado in Nebraska. Then a second one heads straight for him. Tornados, eh? Like London buses you wait for ages and then two turn up at once.

Ladette to Lady - 9:00 ITV – is, of course, a (thoroughly wretched and, in many ways quite disgracefully spiteful) reality series that attempts to transforms a range of uncouth, boorish young women into refined, cultured ladies of class and breeding. It was crap, frankly and was very publicly cancelled last year because of a combination of dreadful ratings and even worse critique. You may have read about it. But then, a few months later, it was surprisingly revived - with one crucial difference. You see, this series features the novelty of taking on a group of raucous Australian sheilas and giving them a jolly good makeover. Or, at least, trying to - Australian sheilas being, of course, notoriously difficult to train to act like civilised human beings. Apparently. That's what ITV reckon, anyway. As the over-refreshed recruits arrive at Eggleston Hall, the teachers immediately fear the worst when they receive news that the police have been called to the local airport following complaints of disruptive behaviour. The stage is set for an epic battle of wills, as the staff get to work. And, with lessons beginning in earnest, it soon becomes clear that the girls are up against formidable opposition. But before long, rebellion gives way to something approaching co-operation. What a huge disappointment. And, what an appallingly exploitative, crass and culturally patronising concept that, frankly, borders of racism. Listen, if you have the slightest bit of decency and respect about yourself and the world you live in, avoid this abomination like The Black Death and, if you should ever see any of the people involved in its production (or commissioning) crossing the road whilst you're driving along it, don't step on the breaks too hard.

I'm Running Sainsburys - 9:00 Channel 4 – sees Sainsburys chief executive Justin King exploring new business ideas which have been suggested by employees of the retail giant. In this installment, pushy twenty one year-old Becky Craze (what a fantastic name) wants to design a revolutionary new product that could change the way people shop forever. Is it anything to do with the ritual and very bloody disembowelment of Jamie Oliver by any chance? Because, if it isn't, then I'm not really interested to be honest. I shop at Morrison's myself. It's far cheaper, the quality's just as good and they can afford Alan Hansen and Richard Hammond to do their adverts. That's entertainment.

Wednesday 3 June
We're heading - not swifitly enough for my liking, it should be noted - towards the climax in The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. The five remaining candidates must face a gruelling interview process and, there's no hiding place for them as each are grilled in turn by four of Sir Alan B'stard's most trusted 'business colleagues' (for which, read 'the guys who break people's knuckles for him when B'stard needs a good spankin' handing out for gross disrespect on his Manor), with every aspect of their personal and professional lives placed under the intense glare of the microscope. And, broadcast to millions of gawking voyeurs on TV just as a matter of pure disinterest. Sir Alan's advisors will report their findings to him in the boardroom - like the bunch of disgraceful brown-tongued sycophants they clearly are - and the candidates will then jockey for a place in the final as they meet the most rigorous interviewer of all: Sir Alan B'stard himself. Who, in the name of Christ Almighty would willing put themselves through all this malarkey simply to get a job that entails this sort of ritual humiliation on a daily basis? Have they the slightest ounce of self-respect between them? Will just one of them, ever, stand up and tell the puffed-up ludicrous little Mussolini to go screw himself and the horse he rode in on? It's a sick, sad world we live in, dear blog reader and we are all responsible for it. Think about that when you watch The Apprentice tonight.

It's something of a red letter day on Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - by the sounds of it. Will Audrey become Psycho David Platt's next victim? Oh, let's certainly hope so - I mean, I think we could all do with a right good laugh on Corrie at the moment. Meanwhile, in other news, a weakened Peter turns to his dad, Ken, for help and Joe reaches breaking point. Don't worry mate, it'll all be over in half-an-hour and you can go and watch something else.

The Conservative party's favourite dartboard target Kate Adie returns to the scene of one of her most memorable, and horrific, assignments, but no, it's not hosting The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Sunderland all those many years ago. Rather, it was reporting on the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Beijing during two shattering days in June, 1989. In Kate Adie Returns to Tiananmen Square - 9:00 BBC2 - we recall that Wor Katey was one of the very few Western reporters out on the streets during the events and witnessed the killings at close quarters. To make this follow-up documentary she had to travel undercover to meet other eyewitnesses and victims' families and hear their moving and shocking testimonies of just what a bunch of bloodthirsty oppressive twats the Chinese government were. But not now, of course. I mean, we've let them hold the Olympics since then and, as a consequence, readmitted them into the human race with open arms and, now, we consider them fluffy and lovely and our friends... It's a sick, sad world we live in dear blog reader and we are all responsible for it. Think about that when you watch Kate Adie Returns to Tiananmen Square tonight. Or, The Apprentice for that matter.

Thursday 4 June
Calendar Girls: Ten Years On - 9:00 BBC1 - is a documentary which focuses on one of the genuine news phenomena of the last decade. Ten years after they first removed their clothes and 'took the world by storm', it says here, six of the original Women's Institute Calendar Girls are preparing to strip off for the final time. This film tells is the inside story of the real Calendar Girls, from their first shoot to their last.

I mentioned Lie to Me – 10:00 Sky1 – the new Tim Roth vehicle from the US last week. Since then I've had the chance to catch up with the whole of the first series (thirteen episodes, in all). And, I have to say it's really very good indeed. As mentioned last time, it's a little bit like The Mentalist - with a wee smidgen of Medium thrown in - a drama series about a scientist who uses his Derren Brown-like ability to read facial expressions and body language to solve crimes. In tonight's episode, The Lightman Group try to protect the South Korean ambassador to the US from an possible assassination attempt at his son's wedding. It's not the best episode of the show - which really does get better and better as it goes along - but it's a decent enough starting point if you've missed out on it thus far.

I'm afraid it's that time of the year again when TV gets all nosy and intrusive into people's lives. Oh no hang on, that's ALL THE YEAR ROUND these days, isn't it? On The Big Brother Launch Show - 9:00 Channel 4 - Davina McCall introduces this year's lucky victims, sorry volunteers, the housemates direct from the Big Brother complex. 'The Big Brother Complex' - that sounds like either a mental disorder that one suffers after watching too much of it or some kind of sinister place of interrogation just outside Dresden to which the Stasi would take people during the 1970s and, from where, they would never be heard from again. Anyway, viewers are also promised 'an exclusive tour of the house itself' haven't they seen enough of it over the last nine seasons?) and a preview of things to come over the next few months. Which will, in all likelihood, include much rank nastiness, bullying, squabbling, tears and possibly a wee bit of racism too. Or, is this year going to be different? We shall see. It's a sick, sad world we live in dear blog reader and we are all responsible for it. Which is another way of saying, I'll see you next week for more Top Telly Tips.

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