Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week Thirty Six: Joanna Gets Catty, Stephen Has His Big Break And Paul, George, Ringo And ... The Other One Make Some Sweet Music

Right. Cack ye not in yer own pants, dear blog reader. Here be your weekly Top Telly Tips in the area one day sooner than usual. In fact, let's make a pact - let there, from this day forth, be no further pant cacking of any description; it's not necessary (or, particularly, pleasant) if truth be told.

Friday 4 September
In Tonight: From Bin to Banquet - 8:00 ITV - Jonathan Maitland highlights Britain's food waste problem as he and that somewhat small chef Antony Worrall Thompson use food thrown away by supermarkets to feed hungry shoppers. That's a wee bit unhygienic, isn't it? Keith Telly Topping would like to assure you, dear blog reader, that he never wastes any of his food. Not even if it's way past its sell-by date. Except, possibly, if said item has started to develop living things growing on it in their green-ness. Then I might consider that the bin's probably the best place for 'em, but not until. Anyway, how many people will they be able to serve from just one evening of bin raiding and will the consumers recoil from their scrummy banquet once they know from whence the feast originated? I should blooming well cocoa. Unless they're tramps, of course, in which case they're probably used to the rank stench of and acrid taste of decay. To the left we can see Anthony in his latest 'I'll do absolutely anything to get my gnomic boat-race on TV,' pose. Yeah, very good. Put them away, Anth, I've just had my breakfast.

Saturday 5 September
The Beatles were 'a popular beat combo' of the 1960s, m'lud. You might've heard of them. As previously announced this is Beatles Weekend on the BBC. In 1962 an unknown four-piece outside of their native Liverpool (and a few disreputable, stinking and whore-infested Hamburg beer kellers) entered EMI's Abbey Road Studios in St John's Wood to record their debut single. During the next eight years they created what is arguably the greatest collection of studio recordings of the Twentieth Century. Certainly one of the biggest selling. The Beatles on Record - 8:35 BBC2 - charts how Paul, George, Ringo and ... the other one (you know, the alcoholic wife-beating junkie) developed as musicians, matured as songwriters and created a body of work that, in many places, still sounds as fresh now as it did at the time it was recorded. This documentary charts The Beatles' extraordinary journey from 'Love Me Do' to Abbey Road. Narrated entirely by Paul, George, Ringo, Sir George Martin and ... the other one, the documentary features extracts from more than sixty classic songs, rare in-studio footage and photos from The Beatles' own archives and previously unheard out-takes of studio chat from the sessions. Also keep your eye open for tomorrow's Storyville: How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin on BBC4 and, indeed, all of this weekend's various shows on the band. They were a bit gear. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all...

Sunday 6 September
When Joanna Lumley: Catwoman - 7:00 ITV - was first announced a few months back, it inevitably led to a whole raft of jokes about 'pussies galore' and all that sort of childish nonsense within the TV industry. Not that Keith Telly Topping didn't snigger, briefly, at one or two of them you understand dear blog reader. He's like that is Keith Telly Topping - usually disapproving, but a right sucker for a decent joke about rude bits. Thus, in this, the first of two programmes, animal - and Gurkha - lover the divine Joanna Lumley travels the globe to learn more about man's love affair with cats. Hang on, that's not natural, is it? Oh, I see what you mean, Joanna. Okay, carry on. As cat ownership outstrips the popularity of dogs in Britain and America, Joanna heads to Egypt - the nation where humans first forged a close relationship with felines almost four thousand years ago - to learn why cats were revered as gods. In Belgium, she enjoys the entertaining spectacle of the world's biggest cat festival and on a trip to Japan she hears the story that spawned the nation's cute-cat craze, as well as superstitions and ghost stories about longtail cats. Finally, she heads to the Mayan jungle to seek out one of the mightiest of the big cats - the jaguar.

There's more animals (although this time of a somewhat less common variety) on display in Last Chance to See - 8:00 BBC2. In this charming looking documentary series, the lovely Stephen Fry and the celebrated zoologist Mark Carwardine head (literally) to the ends of the Earth in search of animals on the edge of extinction. Following the route that Mark took twenty years ago with the late author Douglas Adams when the pair wrote the book on which the series is based, Stephen and Mark set out to discover how the lugubrious Amazonian manatee, a freshwater mammal, has survived the last two decades. But - in the process - clumsy old heffelump Stephen falls and breaks his arm deep in the Amazon rainforest. Across six weeks, Stephen engages in what he calls an 'exhausting, exhilarating and exasperating' journey, but one that he wouldn't have missed for the world, as he tracks the progress of the aye-aye in Madagascar, the blue whale off the coast of Mexico, the kakapo in New Zealand, the northern white rhino in Uganda and the komodo dragon in Indonesia. Stephen admits that while he loves animals, he's not so keen on the fact that to see them in the wild, one needs to spend so much time trekking and camping to wherever they are. But it's a sacrifice that he's prepared to make to share some incredible moments with viewers – his first sight of a blue whale fluking (raising its tail vertically in the air), stirring 'almost unbearable' excitement; meeting the world's smallest primate, Madame Berthe's pygmy mouse lemur – 'sheer, unadulterated cute' - and watching tiny turtle hatchlings rushing across the sand to reach the sea, which Stephen describes as 'one of the great evenings of my life.' Although Last Chance To See introduces some rare and wonderful specimens, as with the original book and radio series, there is a very serious message at its core. Currently almost eight thousand five hundred species are officially recognised as endangered by extinction and it's not getting any easier as habitats continue to be destroyed, sometimes, ironically, so that we in the West can claim we're going green.

In the best bit of TV news of the last couple of months, one of Keith Telly Topping's favourite dramas, the excellent Waking the Dead, returns at 9:00 on BBC1 in a two-part story which concludes on Monday. If you've never seen this one before, then where've you been for the last eight years? It's a crime drama featuring a police department set up to reinvestigate old cases led by the grumpy-yet-brilliant Trevor Eve and eternally patient mother figure Sue Johnston. In tonight's opening episode when a naked woman is found wandering the streets with no memory and her DNA matches that found on a 1966 crime scene, Chief Inspector Boyd finds himself dealing with a hot case as well as his cold one. But how are the two connected? Don't worry, Trev'll find out. He da man. The episode is also notable in that it features a guest appearance by Trevor Eve's wife, Sharon Maughan. This is the first time that the couple, married for over thirty years, have ever worked together on TV. Remarkable. I think what I like most about Waking the Dead - quite apart from the always solid acting and the usually clever and mutli-layered scripts - is that it takes the best aspects of similar US formats like the CSI shows, Cold Case and Without a Trace but its carries them off in a very British way, a much slower pace and with more time to think, to characterise and to play subtle games of misdirection with the audience. I think it's a quite brilliant show and, even into an eighth year of production shows little sign of diminishing returns.

It's an astonishingly fine night for drama as, on opposite Waking the Dead on ITV, we've got Julia McKenzie's debut in Agatha Christie's Marple. This adaptation of A Pocket Full of Rye features Prunella Scales, Matthew Macfadyen, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves, Helen Baxendale, Ken Cranham, Eddie Tudor Pole, and in their final performances, Wendy Richard and Ken Campbell. Magnificent cast, that. And there's also a fine-looking documentary (9/11: Phone Calls from the Towers) on Channel 4 as well as that Beatles documentary on BBC4 which I mentioned in yesterday's tips. Viewers really are spoiled for choice tonight and it's not often you can honestly say that.

Monday 7 September
Waking the Dead concludes tonight but, yet again, it has some genre competition because it's on opposite Blue Murder - 9:00 ITV. This is another - in this particular case, rather laboured - crime drama, this one starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. The show is, essentially, about her constant battle to balance a normal family life with her career. In tonight's opening instalment Janine and her team are brought in to investigate when a cheerleading coach is found dead in her garage. Janine's youngest son, Tom, meanwhile is not reacting well to the recent departure of his dad but can Richard's man-to-man talk with the troubled boy help? For me, there's simply no contest in this one - watch Waking the Dead and catch Blue Murder on repeat if you're a fan of Caroline. Or, indeed, avoid it completely if you're not.

A major TV event this week is Land Girls - 5:15 BBC1 every day. This is a period drama series which is part of the BBC's season of programmes commemorating the Seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. It's 1942 and four young women from very different backgrounds have different reasons for joining the Women's Land Army: patriotic Joyce wants to 'do her bit', argumentative Nancy is there under sufferance and sensible Annie joined so that her younger sister Bea could escape an abusive father. Soon, however, Bea rebels from her sister's control and finds herself enthralled by a charming GI, Cal Gillespie, while at the dance Nancy tries to get closer to Lord Hoxley. Against the backdrop of war-weary Forties Britain, Land Girls is set on the Hoxley Estate, as the girls balance their working lives at the run-down Pasture Farm and the opulent Hoxley Manor. The drama follows the women as they try to live out their lives in very challenging circumstances, and we're promised 'lots of laughter and tears along the way.' Of course, for my generation the war is a somewhat distant event but for a lot of viewers it's a part of their own personal histories. I'm particularly impressed with the strip-scheduling of the show across the entire week. I hope it gets an audience, I really do.

A Garden in Snowdonia - 7:00 BBC2 - presents a year in the life of Bodnant Garden in North Wales. Head gardener Troy Scott Smith struggles to preserve one of the largest collection of rhododendrons in the country. With many rare and ageing plants, and a growing threat from 'sudden oak disease', Bodnant faces some tough challenges. Yeah well, that's kind of an occupational hazard for gardeners, isn't it? If you wanted a quiet life, pal, you should've become a librarian instead.

Tuesday 8 September
Tonight sees a welcome repeat of Among the Apes - 6:30 Five - the natural history series introduced by renowned primatologist Charlotte Uhlenbroek. In this series, Charlotte travels the world on a quest that brings her face-to-face with some of the world's greatest primates. This episode sees Charlotte visit Uganda for a close encounter with a group of wild chimpanzees. Wild, wild, they were absolutely livid when another camera crew turned up following that David Bloody Attenborough ... Sorry. Old joke, that. Loses a lot in translation. As Aristotle once said ... 'Ἐποποιία δὴ καὶ ἡ τῆς τραγῳδίας ποίησις ἔτι δὲ κωμῳδία καὶ ἡ διθυραμβοποιητικὴ καὶ τῆς αὐλητικῆς ἡ πλείστη καὶ κιθαριστικῆς πᾶσαι τυγχάνουσιν οὖσαι μιμήσεις τὸ σύνολον· διαφέρουσι δὲ ἀλλήλων τρισίν, ἢ γὰρ τῷ ἐν ἑτέροις μιμεῖσθαι ἢ τῷ ἕτερα ἢ τῷ ἑτέρως καὶ μὴ τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον. Ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ χρώμασι καὶ σχήμασι πολλὰ μιμοῦνταί τινες.' Don't come looking round here for a translation, it's all Greek to me.

The last time somebody said Trust Me I'm A Dealer to me, I ended up spending the night 'helping the police with their enquiries.' The programmes of the same name - 6:30 BBC2 - however sees antiques expert, the only slightly oily Paul Martin, helping members of the public make a decent return on their savings. In each episode he takes cash off one set of contributors and sets out on a nationwide adventure to buy, restore and sell objects in order to deliver a healthy profit. A sort of Antiques Roadshow for the Arthur Daley generation, as it were. Samantha and Chris Gee from Somerset are hoping Paul will be able to raise some money to improve the quality of life for their daughter, Pippa, who has Down's Syndrome.

In tonight's EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Roxy is left out in the cold as the Mitchells close ranks to protect Sam. But will their lawyer bring good news? Of course not - as previously noted, this is EastEnders, there's never any good news in Albert Square. Elsewhere, Lucas is panicked to discover Trina's bracelet gone and Minty's heart is reignited by an old crush. Meanwhile, Whitney urges Bianca to fight for her man. Two falls and a submission?

Wednesday 9 September
As ever on Top Telly Tips, we seek to bring you three alternatives whenever there's a big match on. As, there is tonight in the case of England v Croatia. Last time these two played at Wembley, somebody ended up losing their job. Will it happen again for Fabby Fabio?

In Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers - 7:30 BBC1 - the popular food writer creates a week's worth of simple yet delicious meals, using everyday ingredients to rustle up sumptuous food that is both inspiring and achievable. To prove that 'making it up' doesn't, necessarily, have to mean, 'making do', Nigel encourages us to experiment in the kitchen and have the confidence to make dishes up as we go along. He also visits local allotment holders and creates a tasty feast from the fruits of their labour. The series is part of the BBC Dig-In campaign.

The much-anticipated drama The Last Days of Lehman Brothers - 9:00 BBC2 is a strong pull away from the footie. This goes behind closed doors to tell the story of three days that, quite literally, shook the world. On 12 September 2008 the heads of Wall Street's three biggest investment banks were summoned to a late afternoon meeting by the US Treasury Secretary to discuss the plight of one of their biggest rivals. After six months of turmoil in the world's financial markets Lehman Brothers, the fourth biggest player on Wall Street, was on life support and the government was about to pull the plug. As The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers begins, confidence in the bank has plunged. Its clearing bank is demanding more collateral, its attempts to raise money from a Korean bank have stalled and credit agencies are warning that if it doesn't raise more capital within the next twenty four hours it will be downgraded. In an incredibly tense atmosphere, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson assembles Wall Street's finance titans at the Federal Reserve Building in downtown Manhattan. All the big executives are present – apart from the CEO of Lehman, Dick Fuld, who remains in his office. Paulson delivers the harsh message that there will be no government bailout and that it is in everybody's interests that a private-sector solution be found in the form of a merger with either Bank of America or Barclays, both of whom are showing interest. Proper big budget drama this, with a genuinely world class cast that includes James Cromwell, Ben Daniels and James Bolam among many others.

Shooting Stars - 10:00 BBC2 - is usually good for a laugh if you're looking for something daft to watch besides England's defence. In tonight's episode of the hit comedy panel show presented by Vic and Bob, on captain Jack Dee's team is the actor Martin Freeman and the divine Julia Bradbury. Oooofahfu. Meanwhile Ulrika-ka-ka Jonsson welcomes Hollywood movie star Paddy Considine and regular guest, burger van owner Angelos Epithemiou. Tonight Vic and Bob present their own special tribute to classical rock act Escala and George Dawes sings a song all about kissing. Bless his little cotton socks.

Thursday 10 September
In Watchdog - 8:00 BBC1 - that sour-faced malcontent Anne Robinson returns to present a new-look, hour-long format alongside Matt Allwright and Anita Rani. Having spent the best part of a decade terrifying hapless quiz contestants on The Weakest Link Ms Whiplash now has her cold, dead eyes set on destroying the reputations of Britain's small businesses, especially any hapless painter and decorator who happens to charge a fiver too much for doing some bloke's kitchen. The programme now also includes the undercover filming series Rogue Traders. Among tonight's reports, EastEnders actress Melissa Suffield discovers an unexpected establishment promoting a dangerous message about sunbeds, Anita helps some angry customers find the best way to send their complaints right to the top and Matt has a showdown with a company he has taken on before. Robinson, meanwhile, has revealed that she is keen for celebrity guests to appear on the new series. The presenter confirmed that the Queen's husband will be at the top of her wishlist. 'I think my Aunt Betty in Birkdale will love it if someone like the Duke of Edinburgh is making the complaint. Apparently he adores the show,' the Daily Express quotes her as saying. Yeah, I'm not surprised by that revelation, personally - it's full of nasty xenophobic Little Englanders complaining about either migrant tradesmen or the common working classes, I'm sure it'll be right up Phil's straße. Much like the average reader of the Express, in fact. 'I'm persuading many well-known names to come and make their complaints personally,' Robinson continued. Dear Anne, here's one for you from a not even remotely well known name (not even in my own house). Why, oh why, oh why...?

Alone in the Wild - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a documentary series following adventurer and cameraman Ed Wardle as he is dropped in Canada's Yukon wilderness with just basic provisions. Ed, who is not a survival expert (but who may be a certified nutter) must struggle to stay alive in one of the world's most inhospitable places. I repeat, why, oh why, oh why? In this opening episode Ed must come to terms with suddenly being alone and starts to build his camp.

Programmes with daft titles aren't always complete and total rubbish, of course. But Clever v Stupid - 8:30 BBC3 - really isn't doing itself any favours with its chosen handle. The format is surprisingly simply, and unsurprisingly cruel and unusual: Matt Edmondson presents a game show using tasks based on psychological research. The show tests two teams' creativity, their emotional intelligence, their physical dexterity and practical skills. In tonight's episode four stunning glamour models, including an ex-Playboy bunny, go up against a team consisting of a Latin master, a literary scholar, an Oxford biologist and a Doctor of Pharmacology. The models are determined to prove that they're smarter than the stereotype and, to be honest, I'm sure they probably are. But the show, seemingly, thinks it's entertaining to put them into a competition with four no doubt extremely bright (but, I'm guessing here, rather socially inept) men from sheltered academic backgrounds. This sounds like freak show telly far worse than anything Channel 4 have ever come up with. So, definitely one to watch with a takeaway, a bottle of wine and a few mates, then. I've a feeling this could become cult viewing over the next few weeks.

Let's finish off todays' bloggerations with some Top Telly News. The ONE Show host and resident mouth Adrian Chiles has said the decision to drop Arlene Phillips as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing was 'absolute bloody nonsense.' The decision to axe the sixty six-year-old to make way for singer Alesha Dixon triggered a lengthy ageism row in which everybody and their dog had their say on a casting decision. Some people more than once. It prompted the Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, for instance, to warn the BBC not to pander to 'the cult of youth.' And it prompted, Keith Telly Topping to warn Ben Bradshaw to mind his own bloody business and stick to doing his own job (whatever the hell that is) badly and leave TV critique to the professionals. The BBC has denied being ageist and says Phillips was dropped as part of an overall refresh for the hit show. Indeed, as many fans of the show will happily tell you, the real reason Arlene has been dropped is that she wasn't very popular with a large part of the audience; being seen as overly bitchy and unnecessarily caustic and - the worst sin of all - the teller of some really bad jokes. Chiles told Broadcast magazine: 'From a personal point of view, it's absolute bloody nonsense. They are dealing with issues I don't understand, but I thought it was nonsense.' Well, thanks for that mega-insightful comment on an issue you don't understand, Chilesy; can you give us your considered - and no-doubt fascinating - thoughts on the Large Hadron Collider next, please?

The cult movie Heathers will be developed as a television series by FOX and Sony Pictures TV. The 1989 black comedy centred on a high school clique all with the titular name, while Winona Ryder portrayed their friend Veronica Sawyer and Christian Slater played rebellious new kid in school Jason Dean. The pair hatch a plot to kill off the members of the popular crowd and pass off the deaths as suicides. Mark Rizzo will produce the update along with Sex And The City executive producer Jenny Bicks and Lakeshore Entertainment, Variety reports. Rizzo, who will also write the script, previously penned the pilot for Zip for NBC. 'We had the title, and talked about doing a film remake at times,' said Lakeshore president Gary Lucchesi. 'But doing it for TV seemed like a fresh and original idea.' Hang on, doing a remake is this chap's idea of 'fresh and original...' You do understand what those two words mean don't you, Gary? Cos, if not, I can loan you my dictionary for the weekend. It's jolly interesting reading.

News Corporation's James Murdoch has said that a dominant BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK. The chairman of the media giant in Europe, which owns The Times and Sun, also blamed the UK government for regulating the media with relish. 'The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision,' Murdoch said. He was giving the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. Murdoch added that organisations like the BBC, funded by the licence fee, as well as Channel 4 and Ofcom made it harder for other broadcasters to survive. Yeah, but you've got a lot of subscription money behind you, young man - including mine - so stop whinging and get on with it. 'The BBC is dominant,' Murdoch said. 'Other organisations might rise and fall but the BBC's income is guaranteed and growing. The scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling.' Indeed. Today television centre, tomorrow ze verld. News Corporation, which owns a majority shareholding of Sky television, lost around two billion pounds in the year to the end of June, which his father, News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, said had been 'the most difficult in recent history.' Other media organisations are also struggling as advertising revenues have dropped during the downturn. Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, told the BBC's World Tonight that Mr Murdoch had underplayed the importance of Sky as a competitor. I don't mind Sky most of the time, and I'll defend it against ill-informed and crass criticism (particularly from the 'get cricket back onto terrestrial' mob who simply don't get that it isn't 1955 any more and the world has changed). But self-interest nonsense like the above really doesn't help matters when you're trying to persuade people that you're not heartless capitalists! I mean, I know you are, but every now and then if you just pretended not to be for a little while, it'd be a PR coup if nothing else.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is said to be fighting to extricate himself from his BBC contract so he can move to ITV before his rights to stage The Wizard of Oz expire in 2010. Lloyd Webber has spoken publicly about his frustration at the 'nonsensical' conditions placed on the proposed show, including a ban on any mention of his forthcoming Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, amid fears it would breach BBC editorial guidelines and attract negative press. Rumours have also been circulating for some time that the musical impresario is in discussions with ITV but well-placed sources claim he on the brink of agreeing a deal following the return of ITV's director of comedy and entertainment Elaine Beddell from a trip to New York to hammer out the details. Both Beddell and ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham, confirmed they are interested in recruiting Lloyd Webber, who was behind the BBC's hit shows How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do and I'd Do Anything. However, Beddell denied the rumours of a New York trip and pointed to Lloyd Webber's existing contract with the BBC. 'If he does get freed up, we'll talk to him,' she told Broadcast. Lloyd Webber is currently under a contract with the BBC, which runs until 2011 - struck whilst Beddell was the corporation's controller of entertainment commissioning and Fincham was the controller of BBC1. Sources claim that BBC is still 'fighting tooth and nail' to keep hold of him. Sources close to Lloyd Webber added that he has always enjoyed working with the BBC and is having 'friendly and constructive' negotiations with BBC1 controller Jay Hunt, although it is not yet clear where these will lead. A BBC spokesman said: 'He is a BBC presenter with more than a year left to run on his contract.' However, insiders have told the magaizne that executives are now at a loss to figure out how the tie-in deal can work. Previously airing his frustration about the BBC's ban on any mention of Love Never Dies, Lloyd Webber told the Daily Express: 'If every paper is mentioning it and there's no mention of it on the programme it looks curious. On ITV, it doesn't matter as it's not using licence payers' money. I just want to enjoy putting the show on at this stage of my career and I don't want the waters muddied by unnecessary negative PR.' Sources close to Lloyd Webber added: 'Apart from anything he doesn't want the hassle [of controversy]. He finds it demeaning and embarrassing.'

And lastly, PG Tips-gate continues to make the headlines in all the red tops and most of the broadsheets too. Kerry Katona's ex-accountant has said that he isn't interested in any reconciliation after he accused his former client of injuring him with a cup of hot tea. David McHugh claimed that Katona's husband Mark Croft had sent him a text after the alleged attack in a bid to make peace between the pair, the Daily Mirror has reported. Of the incident, McHugh is quoted as saying: 'The door slammed open and she said, "David what the fucking hell is this?" She was yelling and yelling. She started getting nasty and went for me. She caught my neck and ear and threw a hot scalding cup of tea over me.' He added: 'I've got black and blue bruises on my neck and side. The police wanted me to go to hospital but I decided not to. I have no intention of sorting this out. I am severing all contact with her. We never really got on very well.' Blimey, the milk of human kindness was certainly absent from that cuppa it would appear.

No comments: