Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week Twenty Nine: Dandies & Dragons

It's the start of another Top Telly Week, dear blog reader. So, without any further ado, procrastination, messing about, larking around, swinging the lead, chewin' a Malteser, rockin' in the free world, jiggering the pokery. Et cetera. Lights! Cameras! Action! Hey ho, let's go -
Friday 17 July
The suddenly 'omni-present on telly these days' Steve Jones (you know, the really annoying Welsh kid on Channel 4) hosts a celebrity television quiz, As Seen on TV - Friday 8:30 BBC1. Which features classic clips, 'hilarious' (it says here) out-takes and 'the best of the best of current television.' So, in that case, if it doesn't include at least one clip of Torchwood then that's, clearly, a lie and all viewers will be, hopefully, allowed to smack somebody connected to this show with a blunt implement of their choice. I suspect that what they actually mean by this is 'the best of the best of the sort of current television that people who are likely to watch this show also watch. You know, like soap operas and reality shows.' Sort of TV Burp-lite, if you will. Very lite. Regular team captains Fern 'see, I have still got a job' Britton and the funny but, 'God-he-gets-some-crap-formats-to-appear-in' Jason Manford are joined this week by Holby City's Tina Hobley, lank-haired design guru Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, 'first time I've seen her in anything for ages' ex-sitcom star Pauline Quirke and Wor Luscious Lovely Lauren Laverne. Okay ... that became a better description quite suddenly, there. The teams will face TV theme tunes performed by a beat-boxer, Steve Jones shedding his clothes to wear a classic TV costume and a blast from the past for one of the panel. So, this sounds very like Telly Addicts: The Next Generation, basically. Just what we need for Friday nights. An excuse to go out and get hammered.

Saturday 18 July
In A Touch of Frost - 8:30 ITV - David Jason investigates whether three male bodies found buried naked in the shape of a triangle are part of some sick satanic ritual or are the work of a member of the percussion section of the local school orchestra. Will closer analysis lead him in a different direction? Bermuda? Suit yerself ... Meanwhile, ruthless millionaire press baron James Callum is determined to make his mark on Denton and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Will Frost be able to stop Callum in his tracks before his actions lead to fatal consequences?

Sunday 19 July
Comfortably the best title for any show on television this week is Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum - 9:00 BBC3 - in which various moddlycoddled seventeen to twenty five-year-olds with no obvious life-skills are fast-tracked into fully functioning, independent adults in just four weeks. Impressive. It's taken me the best part of forty five years to make that grade and I'm still not quite there yet. With the prize of a round-the-world trip on offer, they must give up their parent's home comforts to co-hab a house in London where they will have to fend for themselves. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's the world's first flat-share-sitcom-reality show. No sorry, not first, twenty-ninth. I think the BBC might find that MTV had this idea fifteen years ago, it was called The Real World. And, hilariously, in each episode, the most useless kid will be ejected. Thrown, bodily, out into the gutter along with the other turds, perhaps? It doesn't say in the publicity blurb, but I'm hoping there's going to be at least a bit of that on offer. Things get off to a cold start when a lack of hot water sends the contestants into a stroppy drama-queen tizz and then they must spend the day running a hotel. Again, one can only shake ones heads in utter shame that some TV executive somewhere actually came up with such an unoriginal idea and got paid for it. No justice.

If you prefer something a bit more, I don't know, watchable, entertaining and not conceptually (and morally) arid, then there's always Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2. Jeremy, Richard and James search for petrolhead heaven in the form of three fifteen hundred pound rear-wheel drive coupes and somehow find themselves entered in a terrifying French ice-race. Ah, it's another of their 'funny challenge' episodes. Meanwhile, Hamster tries to speed up summer holiday flights by inventing the sport of airport vehicle racing and Clarkson walks with dinosaurs in the new BMW Z4 (yes, that'll be that SFX clip from the new season trailer that got everybody so excited a few weeks back). Sienna Miller is the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car which will, presumably, see Jezza on his best behaviour and coming over all flirty and obsequious like he did when they had Fiona Bruce on. That, similarly, is always good for a laugh!

Monday 20 July
I've mentioned this one a few weeks back when it was first announced but Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 - 10:50 ITV - despite being on ridiculously late (why?!), looks to be the highlight of the night. This is a docudrama mixing together the story of the men who undertook the historic mission to land on the moon with genuine NASA footage from Apollo 11 itself. Dramatising key moments in the years spent preparing for the mission, the film follows the astronauts as went through NASA's intense selection procedures and reveals the arduous Apollo training programme and its impact on their families and friendships. It stars the great James Marsters from Buffy (as Buzz Aldrin) and Andrew Lincoln from This Life (as Michael Collins). And it looks gorgeous. It's been made in a co-production by the History Channel and there is, apparently, a ninety-minute version that's likely to turn up over there at some stage. But, even this shortened, sixty-nine minute film is highly recommended.

Elswhere, it's a bit of a case of 'tell me why, I don't like mondays,' I guess. The students of the University of Loughborough do battle with UCL for a place in the second round of University Challenge - 8:00 BBC2. Jeremy Paxman asks the questions. And, at the same time, scares the living bejesus out of the poor students with his steel-grey killer's eyes and his frequent irritated cries of 'Come on!' Which is always one good reason for watching. I mentioned the return of Jimmy McGovern's The Street - 9:00 BBC1 - last week. In tonight's installment, the divine and wonderously tremendous Anna Friel (Brookie, Pushing Daisies), Daniel Mays and the great David Bradley (Ideal, Hot Fuzz) star in a new story from the critically-acclaimed anthology drama. Six months ago, Dee moved into the street in a bid to get her sons Jack and Luke into St Peter's School from the rough Denton Green, where Jack is being bullied so badly that he wets the bed. Oh, and the Supersizers - 9:00 BBC2 - were supposed to be doing ancient Rome tonight. But, because of all that stupid malarkey with the tennis, instead it's the episode we should have had two weeks ago - where they're loking at the 1950s. Which I'm happy about in one way (imagining Sue Perkins dressed as Betty Page) but gutted over in another. Sue Perkins, orgies, togas and vomitoria in the same TV show - life just can't get any better than that.

Tuesday 21 July
Some artists want lasting fame. Some want money. Others want sex. And some want all three. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of the 1840 and 50s fell into the latter catagory. They wanted all of it. These ambitious young dandies were out to rock the art world with a style of painting that was - according to them - more real and heartfelt than anything seen for three hundred years. Unfortunately the stuffy old art world wasn't much interested in these Victorian-punk iconoclasts, particularly as one them hadn't even learned to paint yet! Nevertheless, the boys set out to find a muse to inspire their best work as told in Desperate Romantics - 9:00 BBC2. And, before long they were squabbling over her. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Millais declared their irreverent genius to the Victorian artistic establishment as frequently and as loudly as they could. Unfortunately for them, only one man seemed to be listening. Fred Walters, a shy hanger-on who ingratiated himself with the Brotherhood by locating the 'perfect model' for them – flame-haired Lizzie Siddal, a hat-shop assistant. Though none of them quite yet realised it, she would soon become the most famous woman in Britain. Written by Peter Bowker and starring Rafe Spall, Aiden Tunrer and Tom Hollander, among others, this looks from the few pieces I've seen to be a bit of potential camp classic. Check out the trailer, it's fabulous!

It's another turbulant day in the lives of the staff of Holby General in Holby City - 8:00 BBC1. Who'd want to be a patient there, you have to ask? Not me that's for sure. Unwilling to hear the truth about her father, Donna hides his scans until she can get a second opinion. Meanwhile, Chrissie struggles to hide her feelings for Oliver, and Penny tries to impress Connie and Jac on the subject of Darwin.

The canine cops are back for a new series of eight episodes sniffing out drugs, guns, used bank notes or common or garden burglars in Send In the Dogs - 8:00 ITV. I'm suspecting there might also be some crotch-attacking going on too. These Spaniels and German Shepherds are more than a match for the majority of Britain's criminal community. In the first episode, Diesel the Cocker Spaniel and his handler PC Adele Gibson of the Met pay a call to a suspected crack den. Meanwhile, car thieves are the target of Sgt Pete Madden and his German Shepherd Brodie who looks a total softie by the look of him. Remember, dear blog reader, next time you see him, he'll be growling menacingly whilst holding onto the arm of some terrified suspected blagger whilst a constable with a megaphone bellows "STAY! WHERE! YOU! ARE!"

Wednesday 22 July
What a very strange basis for a reality show Wildest Dreams - 7:30 BBC1 - is. Wildlife film-making is one of the hardest jobs on earth - it normally takes years of apprenticeship before you get anywhere near filming in the Masai Mara, for instance. The BBC, therefore, has for reason chosen nine people off the streets with ordinary jobs to see if one of them has what it takes to become a wildlife film-maker. And to win the ultimate prize, a job with the BBC's Natural History Unit down in Bristol. In this episode, the hopefuls face their first challenges in the swamps of Botswana's Okavango Delta where they have to track and film elephants. Judged by experienced wildlife film-maker James Honeyborne, if any of them aren't good enough, they'll be sent straight home. Why must we have the knock-out format in every bloody TV show? Are viewers really so cruel as to be likely to switch off if somebody isn't getting - metaphorically - fed to the lions once per episode? Or, possibly, in the case of this show, literally fed to the lions? Be warned, however - it's presented by that oily bag of diarrhoea Nick Knowles which is a definite excuse not to watch it if you were looking for one before hand.

And, speaking of being fed to the lions ... tonight's visitors to the Dragons' Den - 9:00 BBC2 - will be doing what they usually do, appealing to a group of multimillionaire bully-boys (or, in the case of Deborah Meaden, bully-ladies) to investment in their crummy ideas. All will seem to be going well as one the Dragons, probably Peter Jones, will be cracking a few jokes with them. Then, without warning, Duncan Bannatyne's eyes will narrow and he'll ask some obscure question about budgeting schedules and the previously talkative contestant will suddenly go silent and become frozen stiff, like a terrified deer caught in the headlights of on-coming traffic. And then, Theo Paphitis will pounce, like a hungry velociraptor to tear the flesh from their bones. Which can be quite entertaining to be fair! Have to say, though, I can never take Dragons' Den seriously these days after Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse sent it all up so brilliantly in their last series. In tonight's episode, diving enthusiast Patrick Thirkell has an offshore Scottish mussel farm venture he hopes will be the latest addition to the Dragons' portfolios. Oscar-winning make-up artist Beverley Binda wants to launch a range of cosmetics for darker skin and corporate team-builders Bass, Tone, Slap hope to drum up support for their business by offering up probably the noisiest pitch ever heard in the Den. More a case of Bitch-Slap and Go Away, I'm guessing.

Would you believe it, but in tonight's Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV - the peaceful setting of prestigious Whiteoaks Golf Club is rocked by death and controversy when a golfer is bludgeoned near the notorious thirteenth hole. Because, that's so unusual for this show, isn't it? Normally, it's such a quiet, idyllic place with a murder rate that doesn't - in any way - dwarf South Central LA or Baltimore. Barnaby and Jones discover that gambling is rife at the club - along with illegal money-lending and violent assault. Then, just as the club is considering giving ordinary villagers full membership rights, another golfer is murdered. Can John Nettles put all the links together. Links ... do you see? Oh, never mind.

Thursday 23 July
The anarchic, award-winning pop-quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks - 9:30 BBC2 - returns with host Simon Amstell, team captain Phill Jupitus, guests Harry Judd of McFly, big fat Adele, Ralf Little, Tim Minchin and guest captain Mark Ronson. But, its never been the same since Bill Bailey left, frankly. However, since it's on immediately after Mock the Week and immediately before Pyshcoville, Thursday seems brighter already.

There's another episode of Five's Revealed historical documentary series on at 8:00 concerning Headshrinkers of the Amazon. Recently discovered film from the 1960s appears to show footage of a genuine headshrinking ceremony in the Amazon basin. Piers Gibbon travels to Ecuador in a bid to authenticate the film and discover its location. His journey leads him into the heart of the jungle, where he learns about the headshrinking ceremony and the culture surrounding it.

A programme that I like to mention once every few months just to remind you that it's still on and still take few prisoners is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - 8:30 More4 - the award-winning late-night US chat show. With its satirical reports and sketches on American current affairs The Daily Show remains, comfortably, the best example of how to mix politics and comedy anywhere in the world.

And, lastly, there was a very odd piece in the Sunday Express over the weekend in which they state that Doctor Who writer Russell Davies, 'regarded by many as this country's best TV dramatist, has rocked BBC executives by announcing that he is leaving for the US.' Yeah, he is. He's going to Comic-Con and for a holiday (and, I think, to do a bit of publicity work for Julie Gardner at BBC America). That was announced months ago. The 'move,' the Express continue, is a major blow because, 'as well as revitalising Doctor Who, Davies created Torchwood [which] shifted to BBC1 from BBC2 last week, clocking up huge audiences. But there is now uncertainty over its future with its creator relocating to Hollywood.' Russell is quoted as saying, of his move: 'I haven't planned anything, all my furniture is now there and I'm just going to start writing. It will take years to get anything made out there. It's going to be difficult, so new and so brilliant. I will learn from people and bring it back here one day. It's a big adventure and a lot of fun.' Now, that does, indeed, sound like Russell talking rather than being one of those dreadful "quotes" you often see in newspapers which you just know has been made up by a journalist. But, I have to be honest, although my own dealings with Rusty amounts - and this is beyond-sad, I know - to once passing him a vodka and orange across a bar at a Virgin writers event (true story!) I do know a lot of people close to him. And, I have to say this is, apparently, the first that most of them have heard about this 'move.' So ... watch this space for further developments. The report also says that 'Asked about the future of Torchwood, a BBC spokeswoman said: "It's his show but it's too early to say whether it will return. We will look closely at all of the ratings."' Which, again, we kind of knew anyway. So, that's be another non-story, then? Yesterday's 'news' is tomorrow's fish and chip paper.


Alex W said...

I actually heard Russell T himself interviewed on Front Row a couple of weeks ago, and he spoke about his mmove to America then. I'm suprised it hasn't provoked more comment, actually.

Piers Gibbon said...

thanks for mentioning Headshrinkers of the Amazon (thurs 23rd july 8pm c5)..I really enjoyed making it

if anyone is interested there's more photos..and some instructions on how to shrink a human head here:


Keith Telly Topping said...

Happy to oblige - looks a good one.

Matthew McIntyre said...

I actually heard Russell T himself interviewed on Front Row a couple of weeks ago, and he spoke about his mmove to America then. I'm suprised it hasn't provoked more comment, actually.

Plus he was spotted queuing for a work visa back in May.

The Front Row interview is still available, by the way.

Keith Telly Topping said...

Yeah, I've found out a bit more about the background to all this since writing the piece. Current thinking among those I've spoken to is he's gone out for about six months, mainly to do some work for Julie at BBC America but, also, hopefully, to pitch something to a film company or two.