Monday, July 27, 2009

Week Thirty One: Why Do TV Weddings Never Go Smoothly?

It is time, Keith Telly Topping believes dear blog reader, for yet another round of Top Telly Tips in the area. One time. Word.

Friday 31 July
Doc Martin - 9:00 ITV - the popular, mid-paced drama starring Martin Clunes as a doctor who moves from the big city to a small Cornish town reaches the end of its current seven episode run tonight. Martin and Louisa's wedding day arrives (and Caroline Catz does, undeniably, look quite stunning in white), but the day is plagued by unexpected disasters, as most TV weddings tend to be, you may have noticed. Can the couple make it through the chaos and finally become husband and wife? Go on, have a guess. I do rather like Doc Martin, it's a gentle and unassuming little thing and fits in that particular slot extremely well - let's be honest about this it's just about the only returning drama series that ITV produce that has much of an audience. Given its popularity I would expect news on a recommission to be forthcoming very soon.

Saturday 1 August
Speaking of long-running medical dramas, Saturday's Casualty - 8:55 BBC1 - is the second of a two-part story in which carnage strikes the emergency department following a devastating coach crash. The team are brought together to deal with the influx of casualties, with even Jordan putting aside his own troubles to help treat the victims. Meanwhile, Alice and Curtis are faced with a terrible choice and Cathy's loyalty is pushed to the limit when her son brings his crew into the ED, resulting in a life-or-death situation for one member of staff.

Sunday 2 August
Single-Handed - 9:00 ITV - is a new police drama set and filmed on the west coast of Ireland and starring Owen McDonnell and Ian McElhinney. Sergeant Jack Driscoll arrives to take up his post in the area where he was born and raised. But being familiar with the place does not mean that his job will be any easier - he is taking over from his father Gerry, whose reputation still casts a long shadow. And Jack and Gerry's relationship gets more complicated when Jack's investigation of the death of a young immigrant raises long-buried secrets and puts some of his father's influential friends under the microscope. This sounds rather like a kind of Irish version of Hamish MacBeth and it's from the same production team that made The Vice a couple of years back which I thought was a very solid bit of work. So, some decent expectations for this one.

In Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - Jeremy and James are set the task of creating a memorable TV advert for Volkswagen. Despite vowing to work together to deliver a classic piece of advertising, they quickly fall out on-set. Meanwhile, Richard looks for an alternative to boring Germanic sports saloons and ends up going mostly sideways in the new Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst. Plus, the Cool Wall returns and American chat-show legend Jay Leno is the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Last in the current series - expect the next one to start around November(ish) running up to Christmas.

Man on Wire - 9:00 BBC2 - is a fascinating-looking documentary about one man's determination to walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Obviously, before they collapsed. Bit pointless doing it afterwards, really. This jaw-dropping blend of traditional talking-head interviews, archive footage and meticulous period re-creation has, as its subject, a charismatic French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, an ebullient mixture of Jean Blondin-style athletic and elegant showmanship, mime artist Marcel Marceau and the cartoon Road Runner. The film offers a deceptively sturdy sounding board for his often insane ideas. This is not so much a documentary as a true-life heist movie in which the 'crime' was a death-defying conceptual art event: Petit and his accomplices spent months planning their coup and his boyhood dream finally came true over thirteen hundred feet above the streets of Manhattan in 1974. Sadly, no video footage exists of Petit's staggering forty five-minute walk between the towers, but director James Marsh expertly manages to captures the vertiginous thrills of the day, leaving one not just with a sense of wonder but a profound feeling of admiration for the rigorous preparation and heady commitment that made it all possible.

Monday 3 August
The Trouble With Girls - 9:00 BBC2 - is an observational documentary looking at twenty-year-old Shona and seventeen-year-old Abbie, two young women stuck in the criminal justice system. Both want to go straight and sort their lives out, but over the that the film follows them months it becomes clear that binge-drinking and drug-taking, trips to court and packing for prison have become a normal way of life for both the girls. Will they take a second chance to turn things around, or is life in prison preferable to the difficulties they face on the outside?

There's a new series of The Gadget Show - 8:00 Five - the consumer technology series presented by Jason Bradbury, the Goddess that is Suzi Perry, Jon Bentley and Ortis Deley. In tonight's episode Jason and Suzi build a remote-controlled car, Jon takes a trip to New York to test out the brand new iPhone and Ortis travels to Germany to swim with a colony of robotic penguins. What I really like about The Gadget Show, and I think I might've said this before during one of its previous series, is that the presenters don't take either themselves or the products they're pushing particularly seriously which, combined with a cheeky sense of fun helps to turn a potentially dryly dull show about geeky boys-toys into, in effect, the Top Gear of consumer affairs. Plus, as mentioned, there's Suzi Perry. Nice.

It's all malarkey, shenanigans and discombobulation going down on Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - as Fiz's engagement ring somehow ends up on Sally's finger, Joe causes a scene in the medical centre and Becky and Hayley encounter problems on a shopping expedition. With hilarious consequences, no doubt. What a right how do you do. How will they resolve all that? Perhaps we'll never care.

Tuesday 4 August
The Coast team follow the southern shoreline of Ireland, from Cork Harbour round to Dublin Bay tonight at 8:00 on BBC2. In Cork, lovely Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) explores the Titanic's last port of call and tells the tale of the Irish priest who disembarked the doomed vessel at the very last minute. The divine messiah of punk archaeology Alice Roberts tries to decipher some of the earliest writing in the British Isles as she encounters the curious carvings on one of the mysterious Ogham Stones. Miranda Krestovnikoff goes in search of the rare white-fronted geese, which every year make an epic migration from Greenland to Ireland. Dick Strawbridge takes a ride on 'Brunel's Folly', the dramatic coastal railway that the great engineer constructed to cling to the cliff face at Bray Head and Hermione Cockburn creates an earthquake on Killiney beach to discover how one hundred and sixty years ago a local man, Robert Mallet, invented seismology. Never less than fascinating, always beautiful to look at and you might just learn something. What television was invented for, basically.

You Have Been Watching - 10:00 Channel 4 - is, as mentioned a few weeks ago, a comedy panel show looking at the week's television and hosted by the fearsome Charles Charlie Charles Brooker. And, it's been rather good in small doses so far although, to be honest, mostly you wish the guests would just shut the hell up and let Charlie get on with his latest furious rant about the terrible state of the medium. But, tonight's guests include one of my favourite actors, Martin Freeman and one of my favourite satirical commentators, Reginald D Hunter, so that sounds promising at the very least.

Keith Telly Topping also tipped Desperate Romantics - 9:00 BBC2 - when it started a couple of weeks back and he's pleased to report that it's really rather good so far; especially once they got the great Phil Davis into the cast. Aiden Turner's been the biggest revelation in the opening two episodes - I never thought he was much of an actor, to be honest, but his Dante Rossetti is a magnetic, towering performance. Tonight, the youngest and most talented member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Millais, played by the excellent Sam Barnett, delights in having landed the influential John Ruskin (Tom Hollander) as his patron. His friends and fellow artists, Hunt and Rossetti, watch on enviously as Millais begins his rise to fame and fortune. Ruskin insists on Millais painting his beautiful, young wife Effie (Zoe Tapper, a whirlwind of repressed sexuality), but Millais is horrified when he realises that he is expected to sleep with her as well. Rossetti immediately seizes on the benefits of his friend's predicament. As you would. Good stuff this - a clever and funny script by the great Peter Bowker, gorgeous period details and a rollicking romp for anybody that enjoys seeing mutton-chop sideburns in all their effulgent glory.

Wednesday 5 August
In tonight's episode of the always reliable Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - Davey Mitchell goes in search of his Scottish genealogy. David, a history professor himself, of course, quite apart from being one of this country's most brilliant and inventive comedy voices knows that the Mitchells were wealthy sheep farmers in Sutherland, but mysteriously gave up the lease to their farm in 1933. He wants to know why they abandoned a tradition going back so many generations. He also tries to find out whether his family were involved in the notorious Highland Clearances and discovers how one ancestor became something of a local hero.

One of the genuine cult shows of the last decade, Location, Location, Location is back, back, back at 8:00 on Channel 4. Phil, Phil, Phil Spencer and Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie Allsopp host the property series and try to help two young couples have fallen for Hertfordshire's charms. As you do. It's a right heartbreaker, that Hertfordshire. 7/7 survivor Martine Wright and Nick Wiltshire first met in 2003 and are about to get married so they're looking for a nice place in the country to move into. Meanwhile, Dina Mistry and Pradeep Patel have viewed nearly fifty properties so far but none of them have been what they're looking for. Can Phil and Kirstie help the over-picky and hard to please couple with their self-created dilemma?

Top chefs Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett demonstrate ways to slash food bills and improve our diets in the stupidly named Economy Gastronomy - 8:00 BBC2. The England family spend a fortune at their local takeaways, but they really want to eat better for less - as a family. After attempting to stick to the Economy Gastronomy plan, reducing their food bills and cooking every meal from scratch for a week, can they successfully use the same principles when challenged to cook a three-course meal for six people against the clock?

Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen - 9:00 BBC4 - is a beautiful looking drama illuminating one doctor's pioneering efforts to protect the people of Manchester from the 1918 influenza pandemic. Set against the background of the Armistice in November of that year, as millions of exhausted soldiers return home from the Great War, the film tells the little-known story of Dr James Niven, Manchester's medical health officer for thirty years, and his heroic efforts to combat a second wave of fatal influenza as it spreads across the city. Like Breaking the Mould last week, this drama - part of BBC4's Biology season - features a quality cast that includes Bill Paterson, Mark Gatiss and two of the cast of Hot Fuzz, Paul Freeman and Kenneth Cranham. This one should be well-worth ninety minutes of your time.

Thursday 6 August
I mentioned New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1 a couple of weeks back; always reliable and watchable but I never expected it to produce an episode like last week's extraordinary UFO/CIA one featuring both Dempsey and Makepeace. That might just be the best single bit of continuing drama the BBC have made since Torchwood finished. And totally unexpected too. We can but hope that tonight's episode will be even half as good. When clips of actress Eva Roderick being assaulted in the 1990 film-noir Shadow Show are mysteriously posted on the Internet, UCOS are asked to re-open the investigation into producer Max Stone's death and Eva's subsequent disappearance. I do like New Tricks when they get experimental and a bit off-beat (there was that terrific episode last year about the hippie rock band). They're very clever at playing cunning little intertextual games with the audience. If only somebody could do something about that piss-poor theme tune ...

In The Funny Side of TV Talent - 9:30 BBC2 - Clive Anderson guides us through the history of television's talent shows. Where did they come from? How have they evolved? And why do we so frequently end up laughing at them? Now, Keith Telly Topping has a confession to make dear blog reader. He used to find Clive Anderson insufferably smug and pretentious and would rather like to have kicked his gormless-looking face right in. But a succession of brilliant appearances of Qi have cured Keith Telly Topping of such daft-glakishness! I still have slight problems with him as a presenter, however. A bit like Griff-Rhys Jones, he has a rather awkward habit of talking a touch too fast and then, seemingly, realising he's doing it so deliberately slowing down with an exaggerated 'stretching a one-syllable-word-out-to-five-or-six.' But, a funny and bright man nonetheless who usually makes very good TV shows. Let hope this is one of them.

Real Crime: The Tesco Bomber - 10:35 ITV - presents exclusive archive footage, police and witness testimony and reconstructions of key events tell the story of the hunt for the Tesco Bomber, Robert Dyer, who attempted to extort millions of pounds from the UK's biggest retailer through a campaign of bombings in autumn 2000. In a quiet suburban area of Bournemouth, fifty-year old father-of-two Dyer began his six-month extortion campaign against Tesco, targeting the supermarket's customers with a wave of letter bombs and threats. Dyer, who had money problems, got the idea for the 'perfect crime' after reading a Reader's Digest article called How To Catch a Blackmailer in a doctor's waiting room. The Tesco Bomber tells the story of this perfect crime that went wrong and the police operation that ultimately foiled it. From its copycat inspiration and flawed execution to the final trial that fully exposed the blackmailer's amusing ineptitude (like leaving a copy of one of his blackmail letters in a newsagents by mistake), it's a gripping insight into a remarkable story. Mark Austin presents.

And lastly, a very quick reminder to you all, dear blog reader, just in case you'd forgotten: Mock the Week is currently in the middle of its seventh series and is as take-no-prisoners as it's ever been. It's also still, comfortably, the most provocative, most cutting, most vicious and, perhaps more importantly, most ambitious comedy show on telly. And, easily the funniest too. And it will remain so until Qi comes back in a few months time unless something extraordinary emerges in the meanwhile. Which it won't. Last week's episode, in particular, was an outstanding example of all Mock The Week's many strengths coming together; there's Russell Howard's cheeky insolence mixing with some charming and witty Lucy Porter interjections and Dara's razor-sharp tongue. And then, there's Mad Frankie, off for his weekly apocalyptic howl of disgust and rage at the state of the world today. There's something hard and brutal at the core of Frankie Boyle's humour that goes far beyond crass and inelegent cliches about his Glasgow background. Give this man his own - post-watershed - vehicle. I adore this show because, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, they just do not seem to give a bleeding stuff what anybody thinks about them or their humour. Indeed, they seem to revel in such an outsider status. The Daily Mail and their scum ilk hate them and would love to see Mock the Week banned on general principle. That fact, alone, justifies the show's continued existence. I find that genuinely refreshing in this opaque, synthetic, plastic modern media world where the vast majority of TV comedy shows these days are so absolutely terrified of upsetting anyone that they've forgotten how to tell a joke. We need Mock The Week. Whether we want, or even deserve it, or not.

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