Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week Forty Nine: You Can't Come In Here Looking Like That

Wasn't the first episode of the new series of Qi simply wonderful, dear blog reader? I mean, sticking Stephen, Alan, Dara, Rob Brydon and Davey Mitchell together you'd usually be guaranteed something a bit special. But that was, genuinely, excellent. I also understand that we might not have seen the last of the Qi: XL repeats and that they may return later in the series. What with the recently completed series of Armstrong & Miller and the little cult hit of Miranda on their hands, it's been a good few weeks for BBC comedy.

And, with that in mind, let's have the next batch of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 4 December
Given that it's the final of I'm a Celebrity ... tonight, yer Keith Telly Topping would look, frankly, a bit stupid if he recommended anything that's on on opposite it. So ... Waking the Baby Mammoth - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a documentary all about the discovery of an almost perfectly-preserved infant woolly mammoth in a remote Siberian river, thirty seven thousand years after she died there. Shedding new light on life in The Ice Age, this investigation combines cutting-edge science with intrepid Arctic adventure to explain how and why the mammoths became extinct. Or, you could watch what remains of Ant and Dec's credibility rapidly becoming extinct on ITV instead as they try to convince us that the non-entities in the jungle this year are worthy of our time. Swings and roundabouts, innit?

Saturday 5 December
On a similar theme, Saturday night sees the semi-finals of both The X Factor and Strictly. Once again, therefore, only a brain-damaged moron (or, the victim of a cruel medical experiment) would be crassly idiotic enough to propose that you, dear blog reader, watch anything on opposite. But, yer Keith Telly Topping could never resist a challenge. Thus, in Casualty - 8:20 - Ruth (the excellent Georgia Taylor) gets a shock when a face from her shady past turns up at the emergency department of Holby General. Meanwhile, Adam's suspicions are raised when Sean tries to play happy families and Polly struggles to come to terms with recent events.

Sunday 6 December
Small Island - 9:00 BBC1 - is an adaptation of Andrea Levy's award-winning story of Jamaicans and Londoners involved in the Second World War. It's London, 1948: Hortense joins Gilbert, her new husband, in England where he is lodging with Queenie Bligh. The women have both married in unpromising circumstances. As Hortense remembers her life in Jamaica and the love she had for Michael and his betrayal of her, Queenie also remembers her night of passion with the same Michael when her husband was away at war. Will they uncover the secret they share? Fine cast in this and it's a important historical document of a time when many British people were happy to have West Indies fight a war for them, but wouldn't have them as a lodger in their home. It's on opposite Top Gear and The X Factor, though, which may limit its audience, somewhat. One for iPlayer, perhaps.

Monday 7 December
Man on Earth - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a documentary series in which Tony Robinson examines how our ancestors have handled violent climate change over the past two hundred thousand years and asks what we can learn from them. In the first episode, Tony explains how a small group of our earliest African ancestors were rescued from extinction by global warming one hundred and thirty thousand years ago, as their barren habitat was transformed into a lush forest. Meanwhile, in the Russian steppes, Joy Singarayer discusses how European Homo sapiens adapted to the Ice Age. I do like the way that Tony Robinson has become Channel 4's 'go-to-guy' for much of their historical documentary output (in much the same way as Michael Palin's become the BBC's travel guru almost by default). A necessary lesson to all comedians, this; develop for yourself a hobby which you can turn into a job for your declining years when you stop being funny.

In The Gadget Show: Christmas Special - 8:00 Five - the consumer technology show presented by Jason Bradbury, Jon Bentley and the goddess-like vision of saucy minxiness that is Suzi Perry get all festive on our asses. Jason and Suze compete to see who can find the best gadget gift available to buy this Yuletide season. Elsewhere, Jon teams up with Robert Llewelyn to examine Internet-enabled TVs and Ortis provides some money-saving tips for the forthcoming season of goodwill to all men and some dogs. And, just in case you were wondering there are still seventeen shoplifting days to Christmas.

Meanwhile over in Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Will Ken risk Deirdre's job in order to stop Peter's bar plan? Also, Kevin sweats as Molly makes a decision and Becky and Claire fast-track the Rovers panto.

Tuesday 8 December
In Coastline Cops - 8:00 ITV - cameras follow the men and women who look after the ten thousands and fifty miles of Britain's coastline. With the stunning scenery, rolling beaches and the whiff of the sea, however, comes a special responsibility from dealing with just about everything from sea-borne terrorist threats to drunken sailors causing chaos (err-lie in the mornin') during Cowes week. In this week's programme, a badly injured man is rescued from a beach in Cumbria and a little girl goes missing in Scarborough.

Now, last year everyone on the Top Telly Tips slot had a reet good laugh at Extreme Fishing With Robson Green for having such a silly title. And then, of course, somewhat typically, it turned out to be an absolutely terrific little show (and very popular too). With this in mind, Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure - 9:00 ITV - is a two-part show in which Wor Robson embraces the pursuit of outdoor swimming, visiting the country's lidos, lakes, rivers and seas and meeting some fellow-bathers along the way. In the first episode, Robson returns to the freezing Tyne, in which he swam as a child. (I'm guessing this is upstream, somewhere.) Later, he moves on to more clement waters in the South West including Tinside Lido and Porthowan Tidal Pool. But nothing prepares him for Snowdon's Llyn Llydaw where he teams up with extreme swimmer Lewis Pugh for a truly chilling experience.

Christmas Tales: The Story of the Tree - 10:35 ITV - is a three-part series in which Fiona Phillips examines the phenomenon of various festive icons. Here, she looks at the long and fascinating history of the Christmas tree. Although used as a Christian symbol for hundreds of years, it was not until the Nineteenth Century that Britons began putting them in their sitting rooms. The practice was popularised by Victoria and Albert, who first brought the German custom to Britain. When the craze crossed the Atlantic, retailer Frank Woolworth introduced the concept of decorating trees. Does anybody remember a time, and not that long ago either, when Christmas telly used to start on, like, 21 December or something? Just me then?

Wednesday 9 December
Sad to report that it's a bit of a rubbish night on telly, tonight so I'm starting off with good old reliable [Spooks] - 9:00 BBC1. With Britain on the verge of financial meltdown, Section D must recover over a billion pounds from one of the world's most impenetrable banks or the country will slide into depression. If it's that easy why aren't MI5 doing that shit every week? Anyway, they need vital account information from one of the bank's employees, but have no idea where he is and a team of assassins is out to silence him before Lucas, Ros, Ruth and co can get their grubby mitts on him. Will they find to their asset in time to pull Britain back from the brink? Or, before that naughty CIA madam whom Lucas is knocking off gets the chance to double-cross them. Again.

If you don't fancy that, then you're mad, frankly. But, nevertheless, in the interests of balance in a Horizon special - 9:00 BBC2 - naturalist Sir David Attenborough investigates whether the world faces a population crisis. He reflects upon the impact of a doubling in world population during his lifetime. While much of the projected population growth is in the developing world, it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the West that has the most impact on the planet. Sir David examines whether it is the duty of individuals to commit to smaller families and change the way they live for the sake of humanity. Well, that's simple. Kill them. Kill them all. Too extreme, you reckon? Okay, back to the drawing board.

Kirstie's Homemade Christmas - 8:00 Channel 4 - is a series in which the sometimes fluffy and lovely but more-often fire-breathing bitch-queen of Location, Location, Location Kirstie Allsopp shares her tips for a magical hand-crafted Christmas. Again, it's December 9 for God's sake. Couldn't this have waited a couple of weeks? Kirstie prepares presents for her family and friends, enlisting the help of some of the UK's most talented crafts people to prove that a visit to the High Street can be avoided when looking for stocking-fillers. Not if you want it to be a Terry's Chocolate Orange it can't. I don't think that you can knock one of them up using sticky-backed plastic, actually. Which proves that this is, essentially, Blue Peter for grown-ups. Kirstie also flexes her negotiating muscles by taking a trip to Goldbourne Road market in London to look for the best second-hand gifts.

Thursday 10 December
In deepest Borneo, a remarkable young Frenchman called Chanee is combining his love of music and his passion for gibbons. Which Keith Telly Topping isn't sure is entirely legal but, never mind. These magical singing apes of the rainforest are in danger of extinction and to help save them, Chanee has set up a rescue centre, and become the world expert at matchmaking gibbons, a story told in Natural World - 9:00 BBC2. Only when a pair has successfully bonded can they be released back into the wild. To increase awareness of the gibbons' plight, Chanee has created his own radio station, Radio Kalaweit.

Dermot Murnaghan hosts a celebrity special of the show where a new team of challengers take on probably the greatest (and certainly the smuggest) quiz team in Britain in Celebrity Eggheads - 6:00 BBC2. The Eggheads are made up of the country's top quiz champions, including Are You an Egghead? winner Pat Gibson. Can a team of Antiques Roadshow experts featuring Hilary Kay, Paul Atterbury, Eric Knowles, Mark Allum and Lars Tharp triumph over the general knowledge Goliaths and win the cash prize for their charity, or will it roll over to the next show?

In EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Tony's trial descends into chaos. Bradley makes a huge admission to Stacey, and Max's world begins to crumble. And, finally, there's always good old reliable Qi - 9:30 BBC1 - where Stephen Fry guides guests Liza Tarbuck, Phill Jupitus, Sean Lock and Alan Davies through the world of games.

And, so we come to the weekend's Top Telly News: David Tennant's final two episodes of Doctor Who - featuring John Simm and former James Bond Timothy Dalton in a cast of thousands - will air on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, the BBC has confirmed. Provisional schedules for the Christmas period released on Friday suggest that The End Of Time, Part One will broadcast at 7.30 on BBC1 on Christmas Day, sandwiched between the two episodes of EastEnders. Part Two, in which Tennant's Doctor will regenerate into Matt Smith, will air on New Year's Day. The hour-long episode will also go out at 7.30, following that day's episode of EastEnders and, also, ahead of the last ever episode of Gavin & Stacey. So, a day of celebration all round, then?

Tennant's predecessor in the role, Christopher Eccleston, has signed up to play John Lennon in a new BBC drama. The one-off BBC4 production, titled Lennon Naked reportedly will chronicle the life of the former Beatle - and junkie Scouse wife-beater - between 1967 and 1971. Christopher Fairbank, Naoko Mori, Claudie Blakley, Rory Kinnear, Michael Colgan, Andrew Scott and Allan Corduner will also feature in the biopic. 'Securing Christopher Eccleston to play John Lennon is further testament to the calibre of drama on BBC4,' said BBC drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson. 'The Women We Loved season currently on air is attracting record audiences and the channel is steadily building a reputation for portraying some of this country's best loved icons.' BBC4 controller Richard Klein added: 'BBC4 is the place where dramas look to explore that space between artists' public works and private lives, shedding light on the artistic process while offering intelligent entertainment.' When The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein died unexpectedly in 1967, it was a turning point in John Lennon's life. The film focuses on the turbulent and intense period of change that followed, and how John was haunted by his troubled childhood. The film also reveals the impact of re-establishing contact with his long lost father, Freddie, and the events that led John to shed everything both personally and creatively – from divorcing his long-suffering wife Cynthia, to changing his name and ultimately calling time on The Beatles. Meeting Yoko Ono was the catalyst for this new era and the film explores the development of their extraordinary relationship. Together they experimented with both the musical and artistic avant garde - which, remember, the man himself had described just a year earlier as 'French for bullshit' - but in doing so become outsiders.

Meanwhile, Lennon's old oppo, Paul McCartney has confirmed reports that he is 'in talks' to appear on this year's X Factor. The ex-Beatle is rumoured to be performing in the reality show's final episode, with the remaining contestants performing songs by his former group. McCartney told the Sun: 'It's something we are talking about. Dermot [O'Dreary] is a lovely man who I know very well. He's full of energy and keen for me to do it. We're seeing if we can make it work. I've been watching on and off with my family. Sometimes it throws up someone brilliant like Leona Lewis. Other years have not been so good.' Regarding the recently-eliminated John and Edward, Macca added: 'It's impossible not to like them. They're a great couple of lads. But let's be honest, they were never going to last much longer in the show. They had to go.' Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the man who wrote 'Hey Jude' speaking.

As you may have heard - because there seemed to be little else in the news for about twenty four hours - Ricky Whittle was arrested on suspicion of assault. The Holloyaks actor and Strictly Come Dancing competitor was reportedly involved in an incident in Liverpool, the Daily Mail alleged. A Merseyside police spokesperson said: 'A twenty nine-year-old man from Billinge, Lancashire, was arrested on suspicion of assault. He remains in custody where he will be questioned by officers later today. The arrest follows an incident in which took place in Duke Street, Liverpool City Centre, in the early hours of Friday morning. The incident involved a collision with a male pedestrian.' It is believed that the other party involved was thirty four-year-old photographer Steve Farrell. Whittle was subsequently released and seemed unaffected by the palavar in last night's episode in which Natalie Cassidy and Vincent Simone became the latest couple to be voted off. The ex-EastEnders actress found herself in the bottom two after only scoring a combined total of thirty three points for her rock 'n' roll routine and Viennese waltz. Whittle, and his partner Natalie, joined her in the dance-off after they only earned forty points for the same routines. Laila Rouass and Anton Du Beke scored fewer points than Whittle, but fared better in the public vote. Meanwhile, Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna topped the judges' leaderboard with a score of forty one points for their Charleston and group dance. After Cassidy and Whittle performed for a second time, all four judges chose to save Whittle. 'I will miss my little Natalie so much,' added head judge Len Goodman afterwards. Cassidy thanked the judges and hosts, Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly, commenting: 'I have had such an amazing time. It was a dream come true.' The actress and Simone both cried after the audience and judges gave them a standing ovation for their farewell dance.

Johnny Vegas has revealed that he turned down the chance to compete in Strictly Come Dancing because he was too busy. The thirty eight-year-old comedian was originally tipped to take part in the BBC1 celebrity series, but was absent from the line-up when it was announced. Speaking to Digital Spy website, Johnny confirmed that the BBC had contacted him about taking part and that he was quite keen, but that he had other projects which took precedence. 'They made some enquiries but to be honest, it's such a big commitment to do the show and I really was just so busy with other things and I just know health-wise... Well, would it be good for ratings - me keeling over?!' He added: 'I know how tiring it is and it's not something I have time to do at the moment, but it's nice to be asked! I think they were looking for this season's John Sergeant and I think they thought they'd found that in me!' Johnny went on to say that he would turn down any offers to appear on ITV's I'm A Celebrity...: 'No! No, no, no! The idea of being on TV twenty four hours a day and people seeing the real me... No!'

Matt Smith unsuccessfully auditioned for The Inbetweeners prior to landing his forthcoming Doctor Who role. The show's chief writer, Iain Morris, has revealed this week that Smith made it down to the final two in the audition process for the part of Will, but that he was turned down because of his good looks. Simon Bird subsequently got the part. Who is, it has to be said, hardly an 'Ug' himself! 'We auditioned literally a thousand people - including Matt Smith,' Morris told Digital Spy. 'And, I'm sure Dominic Cooper at one point too! [Matt] was brilliant - down to the last two for Will, I think. I thought he was a bit too dashing! That's why he'll be brilliant in Doctor Who - he's got something sort of heroic about him.'

Jeremy Clarkson has admitted that he was recently breathalysed by police following 'a small car crash.' However, Jeeza claimed that the incident, which apparently happened while he was filming scenes for a forthcoming Top Gear episode, was not a result of him being under the influence. Speaking on this week's episode of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, he said: 'We were filming last week, I had a small car crash, the police said, "We have to breathalyse you." The cameras were on; I thought, "What if..." [But] I was completely fine.' The Top Gear presenter, who was cleared of a motoring charge in 2007, added that he is, contrary to perception, actually quite a cautious driver: 'I'm a dawdler, I haven't been stopped for years.'

The shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, this week ruled out ripping up the BBC's royal charter and licence fee agreement, saying that this could threaten the corporation's impartiality and ability to hold politicians to account. Pretty much what this blog has been saying vfor the last six months, in other word. In an apparent u-turn on earlier - outrageous - comments by Hunt and his Conservative colleagues about their plans for the BBC when the party wins next year's general election, he said that a future Tory government would not impose a freeze on the licence fee before it is due to be reviewed in 2012. He added that it was important the BBC should not operate under the threat of its funding level being reviewed on a year-by-year basis which, he said, would threaten its impartiality. 'We will respect the principle of multi-year [funding] settlements,' Hunt told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London. 'That's not to say when there has been a sudden deterioration in the economy the BBC should not do the decent thing and waive the rise in the licence fee.' Earlier this year Labour and Lib Dem MPs voted against a Tory motion in the House of Commons to reject this year's three pound annual increase in the licence fee, freezing the charge at £139.50. Hunt said that he still thought it was wrong that the BBC should get an inflationary rise in the licence fee at a time when there was no inflation. Asked what sort of funding settlement the BBC could expect under a Tory government in 2012, Hunt said: 'It would be wrong for an opposition party to go into any sort of detail.' Well, that hasn't stopped you making your mouth go before, sir - why the sudden change? 'I haven't had any representations from the BBC or any discussions about what level the next licence fee should be. All we have said is that in the current climate we think it would be very difficult to ask for an increase in the licence fee. The reason for that is partly the economic situation… and partly there is a growing imbalance between the income going into the commercial sector and the BBC.' Hunt said the Conservative party still had 'serious reservations' about the BBC's governance and regulatory body, the BBC Trust, but added he had 'no plans to tear up the BBC charter.' The shadow culture secretary had said in an interview last month that he was 'looking into whether it would be appropriate to rip up the charter in the middle of it or whether one should wait.' The BBC's current royal charter, the ten-year agreement with the government that sets out the corporation's public service remit and the scope of its activities, is not due to expire until the end of 2016. 'We have no plans to tear up the BBC charter. We do have some serious reservations about the way the BBC Trust operates. We did look at the BBC charter but we concluded we can achieve some of the things we want to achieve under the existing charter structure. Others will have to wait until it comes up for renewal. We have no plans to touch the BBC's charter,' he said. He said the BBC Trust, which replaced the board of governors in 2007, had not worked because of confusion over its regulatory role and as the corporation's sovereign body. 'If fails from the BBC's point of view. If you are running an organisation of twenty three thousand people you need a board that you can turn to for advice when you go through a difficult patch,' Hunt added. 'I think [BBC director general Mark Thompson] would find his job a lot easier if he had a non-executive chair that was on his side. That [change] could be done without a change in the BBC's charter.'

Chris Evans will return to our TV screens as holiday relief for Adrian Chiles on The ONE Show. 'In 2008 Chris Evans was contracted to fill in for Adrian when he was on holiday,' a BBC spokesman said. 'His move to host the Radio2 Breakfast Show... means he will now be able to fulfil that commitment,' he added. A well-known TV personality, Evans' previous return to ITV in 2005 with magazine show OFI Sunday proved to be short-lived, lasting just six episodes. 'People ask me if I want to go back to TV and I'm not sure it's there to go back to,' Evans told the most recent issue of The Word magazine. 'TV is just an invention, and all inventions eventually become obsolete.'

Actress Joanna Lumley is to join the cast of the final series of the BBC drama Mistresses, it has been announced. The sixty three-year-old will play Katie's bossy mother in the series, about the lives of four female friends. Lumley, who spearheaded the Gurkha's campaign for the right to live in the UK earlier this year, said she was 'thrilled' to be a part of the show.

Michael McIntyre has defended his fellow stand-ups Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle after both were recently criticised for aspects of their material. Boyle was rebuked by the BBC Trust last month for 'humiliating' jokes about the swimmer Rebecca Adlington whilst Carr was attacked for a one-liner about amputee soldiers. McIntyre told BBC News: 'They're telling jokes to their audience. It's the media that's transporting the joke to people who get upset. [They are both] great comics, who have their audience who go for those kinds of jokes. There's got to be room for everybody. Everyone's got to do their own thing. You need all sorts of different styles of comedy, people like different things.' On the subject of the 'charming and lovely' Jon Culshuw's impression of him, McIntyre added: 'I haven't seen it, I can't bear to do it. People keep telling me it's an honour, but is it? Do you remember when you were at school when people would take the mickey and mimic you. Well, people didn't think it was an honour then, so why is it an honour now? I suppose it is kind of cool. My Mum thinks he's brilliant, but then again she is getting on, and I think she thinks it's me.'

The UK's export of TV programmes made nine hundred and eighty million pounds in 2008, an increase of twenty five per cent on the previous year, new figures have revealed. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Midsomer Murders and other established formats including Strictly Come Dancing fared well, according to industry body PACT. Asia and Australasia's uptake of UK programmes increased, with Eastern Europe and France also areas of growth. However, co-productions between UK companies and foreign counterparts suffered in 2008, falling by twenty eight per cent. PACT council member Chris Bonney said the overall success was due to the UK continuing to produce 'innovative and entertaining shows that are loved across the world.' Bonney acknowledged that programme makers find themselves in 'a challenging economic situation' and international business is vital to their survival. Sales of original episodes of UK TV programmes went up by twenty per cent during last year, while sales of merchandising leapt by sixty six per cent. The adaptability of UK formats around the world and the growth of digital platforms in the last year were also identified as 'opportunities for increased sales.' The US, meanwhile, remains the most lucrative market for UK programming. In recent years, UK TV exports have enjoyed increased business, with other notable successes during this time including Shaun The Sheep and Dancing On Ice.

Ant and Dec have claimed that Peter Stringfellow would be their dream contestant on I'm A Celebrity... The duo said that the sixty nine-year-old club owner had been on the top of their wish list for the jungle reality show for a number of years. Would they let him in if he was wearing trainers, however? it's a question worth asking. Ant told the Sun: 'Towards the end of a series we go out for a few beers and, literally, write our wish list on a beer-mat. We often can't read it in the morning, but George Takei was one of our beer-mat suggestions. So was Biggins, and Jimmy White.' He added: 'We've got a new wish list already, Sally Morgan Star Psychic, Mr T, Gary Coleman. The name that tops it every year though is Peter Stringfellow and we think we're very close to getting him.'

Katie Price has reportedly told her ex-boyfriend, Alex Reid, to leave her alone in a face-to-face exchange in Australia. Price previously split from Reid on the phone hours after leaving the I'm A Celebrity ... jungle on Monday morning. According to the Mirror, Price later told Reid: 'It's fucking over, Alex. Once I make up my mind I stick to it. There is no way back. What the fuck are you doing here anyway? You've had a wasted trip. Just fucking leave me alone. You totally ignored my feelings and I cannot forgive you for that.' Katrina Edwards, a friend of fellow I'm A Celebrity ... contestent Sabrina Washington gleefully told the paper: 'When she was told Alex was here, let's just say Katie was not happy. The poor woman.' A source close to Price added: 'Katie felt she owed it to Alex to hear his side of the story. She let him talk but nothing he said changed her feelings. I'm A Celebrity ... cleared her head and made her realise that the relationship wasn't what she needed. It's tough for Alex to take, but the relationship seems to be over.'

And finally, Laila Rouass has revealed that she is inspired by The Muppet Show. Metro reports that the Strictly Come Dancing contestant particularly likes Miss Piggy. 'My inspiration is coming from Miss Piggy, actually,' she told the newspaper. 'She's one of my heroes. I love her.' So, especially for Laila, the Muppets have redone Bohemian Rhapsody. And, they've done it so much better than the original!

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