Saturday, February 27, 2010

Week Ten: Oh Dear, What A Calamity

The new series of Doctor Who will feature a 'pregnancy storyline,' according to tabloid reports. The Sun claims that Karen Gillan's character, Amy Pond, will be seen sporting something of a bump during episode seven of the new series. However, the sequence, written by Men Behaving Badly author Simon Nye, is merely part of a dream that the Doctor's new companion has. 'Amy is pregnant but it's all part of a strange dream she's having,' a Doctor Who 'insider' is quoted by the newspaper as saying. 'She can't work out what is real and what's not.' There are days, dear blog reader, when yer Keith Telly Topping has exactly the self-same problem.

And, it seems that he is not alone in such outrageous discombobulationism. With regard to The Bubble, I just knew it'd only be a matter of time before one of the contestants used the fact that BBC News are being such utter arseholes over the use of any mocked-up clips as a rational for something being, or not being, real. Fortunately, in this particular case, the excellent Ed Byrne's lack of any intimate knowledge of Newsround post-John Craven let him down! I love the way that Beat The Monkey is becoming a running joke on the show. Next week, Sue Perkins and Sarah Milligan will be trapped together for four days in a house. Perhaps the heating will go off and they'll be forced to huddle together in the same bed for warmth and comfort. You see, in my head, that sounds not only entirely plausible but entirely innocent too ... Honest.

Speaking of which, it's time for some Top Telly Tips:

Friday 5 March
We talked about The Bubble - 10:00 BBC2 - at some length a couple of weeks ago. Clever idea for a series; each week three celebrity contestants are locked away in a media-free zone for four days. When they're brought out they're taken straight to a television studio and, in front of a live audience, are shown a series of media stories. All they have to do is identify the true ones from the fakes. And, you know, be funny as well. The two episodes so far, particularly the first, have been very good and Davey Mitchell is a really sharp and witty host. The guests on tonight's third episode are Sue Perkins, Clive Anderson and the North East's own queen of comedy Sarah Millican. Must-see-telly, dear blog readers.

Meanwhile, after a week off because a load of hairy-arsed Frenchmen were throwing a mis-shaped ball around in Cardiff, Qi returns at 8:30 on BBC1. In this episode, Stephen Fry gets to grips with the Greeks - which I'm sure he'll thoroughly enjoy - with the help of guests Clive Anderson (that bugger gets everywhere!), Phill Jupitus, lovely dry witty Rich Hall and regular Alan Davies. Who does a pretty mean Greek accent I seem to remember from a previous episode. Sort of generic Southern Mediterranean via-a Stoke Newington kebab shop, so it is!

Saturday 6 March
Just how good is Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:30 ITV? Well, to be blunt it's just about the only thing on ITV worth making the time and effort to watch, religiously, week-in week-out. Effortlessly mental and with a really clever layer of self-deprecating humour just beneath the surface. The man is a legend.

Sunday 7 March
24 - 9:00 Sky1 - sees day eight of the real-time drama continue. Big Hard Mental Jack Bauer makes a breakthrough by closing in on a significant person of interest to CTU and ends the episode, effectively, getting his old job back. Meanwhile, a tense meeting between President Taylor and Hassan (you know, him out of Slumdog Millionaire) yields some surprising results. It's not - by a stretch - the best series of the show, but it's far from being the worst. (Season six has that title sewn up for all time.)

In Wonders of the Solar System - 9:00 BBC2 - Professor Brian Cox visits some of the most stunning locations on Earth to describe how the laws of nature have carved natural wonders across the entire solar system. In this first episode, Professor Brian explores the powerhouse of them all, our star, the Sun. In India he witnesses a total solar eclipse, and in Norway he gets to watch the beautiful results of the eternal celestial battle between the sun's wind and Earth's atmosphere, as the night sky glows with the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Yer Keith Telly Topping loves this sort of thing - bringing the sheer majesty and spectacular of space to life. So, dear blog reader, whether your interest lies in the canals of Mars, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter's big ugly spot, what sort of aikido they do on Venus or, indeed, the shape of Uranus this is the very place for you. And, by the way, Pluto is a planet, whatever anybody says.

Monday 8 March
A Band for Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - series following presenter Sue Perkins (second Top Telly Tip of the week for everyone's favourite Supersizer) as she attempts to breathe new life into Dinnington Colliery Brass Band in Yorkshire; once, brass band music was a proud symbol of a quintessentially British form of music but, due in no small part of the virtual decimation of the traditional industries which supported the communities in which brass bands flourished, is now on the verge of extinction. As, of course, beautifully detailed in the movie Brassed Off. Sue, the winner of last year's Maestro in which she learned the discipline of conducting an orchestra, leads the Dinningon die-hards on a dramatic crusade, hunting down new players, whipping them into shape, and dragging a new-look band back to the concert stage. Excellent stuff. Scum - usually Daily Mail readers, admittedly - will try to convince you that television is an ephemeral, throwaway medium with no right to be considered in the same breath as art or music. Programmes like this prove them to be the empty-headed numbskulls that they are. You know where to stick the baton if you encounter them, Suzy.

Lambing Live - 8:00 BBC2 - is a damned curious conceit form the Beeb. Kate Humble and Adam Henson bring viewers the very latest - live - from the lambing sheds in Wales. With three hundred expectant ewes, they've got their work cut out. Katie discovers that pregnant sheep get ultrasounds just like pregnant ladygirls do, whilst Adam looks at the history of sheep farming, from our most ancient breeds to the modern cross bred 'mule.' Plus, there's news on all our lambs (I love the way the BBC have got their audience claiming partial ownership of these poor animals ... I think the farmer might have something to say about that, personally), as well as the possibility of an actual live birth. With the blood and bah-ing. Kate will also have to test her shepherding skills first hand. Will she be mauled to death by a savage, rabid sheep? One can but dream, dear blog reader. Dreaming, as Blondie once said, is free.

Meanwhile, over in EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - after their Lamb was murdered on Christmas Day (hey, I don't just throw these things together, you know) tonight Carol is forced to take control as a grief-stricken Max begins to fall apart. But, will Becca's scheming throw a spanner in the works? Ian is horrified when Jane and Lucy break their baby news. But, Ian's always horrified about something so, don't let that worry you, dear blog reader. And, Roxy is put out when an iconic figure returns to the Vic. Who will it be? Well, I know, and you can probably guess (if you've read the Radio Times). So, we shall speculate no further.

Tuesday 9 March
Famous Rich and Jobless - 9:00 BBC1 - I'm sad to report, appears to be yet another one of those dreadful 'life-swap' shows so beloved by TV executives who seem to believe that viewers are positively fascinated by seeing a bunch of rich people pretending to be poor for a week. So, in this, we are solemnly informed, for four celebrities unemployment is about to become a chilling reality, as they start on their emotional journey to become Famous, Rich and Jobless. Actor Larry Lamb (remember him? How quickly we forget), television gardener Diarmuid Gavin interior designer Meg Matthews and model-turned-mechanic Emma Parker Bowles put unemployment in the spotlight by agreeing to swap their fame and fortune for a world of joblessness, job-hunting and surviving on the poverty line and benefits. And, yer Keith Telly Topping asks again as I asked with regard to The Duchess on the Estate and Seven Days on the Breadline, what's it for? What are we, the viewers, expected to actually learn from this horrorshow that will either inform us, educate us or, God help us, entertain us? Because, those three things, dear blog reader are what television is supposed to be all about. Some wanker, ladies and gentlemen, got paid to come up with this idea. Ah, whatever, life's too short for this bollocks - watch it if you want.

If you're looking for an alternative to the former - and therefore have a soul - Sidekick Stories - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather fun-looking celebration of the TV sidekick. Narrated by Catherine Tate (a never less than brilliant sidekick herself on Doctor Who), Sidekick Stories looks at the role of the assistant/companion on television, from drama to sitcom and light entertainment to children's programmes. What are the literary antecedents of the sidekick - and who is the greatest of them all? What's the dramatic function of the game show hostess? Did the That's Life reporters feel emasculated sitting next to Horrible Esther and her nasty frocks? How do you create a memorable robot? And what's it like playing straight man to a puppet? A question for Simon Cowell, that one, I think.

We haven't covered Shameless - 10:00 Channel 4 - the gritty comedy drama series set on a Manchester estate for a while. So, to catch you all up: Frank's love, Libby, returns and is determined to rekindle their romance despite her mother's attempts at sabotage. Meanwhile, Lillian invests in a new HD television set to keep the customers happy but realises she has purchased a conduit to the afterlife. Just another tale of everyday folk!

Wednesday 10 March
Inside John Lewis - 9:00 BBC2 - is a new documentary series. Not unexpectedly, it goes behind the scenes of John Lewis Ltd - one of Britain's biggest and best known department stores (other department stores are available) - as it tackles changing tastes, tougher competition and the worst recession for eighty years. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you? In this episode, the half-yearly results 'send shockwaves throughout the entire company.' Well, when we say that, actually if truth be told they send shockwaves through the entire senior and middle management who, as usual with senior and middle management in most professions, when something bad happens, shite in their own pants and run around like headless chickens doing jazz-hands and saying 'whadd're we gonna do?' Most of the rest of the staff, frankly, couldn't give a flying monkey's chuff about any of that bollocks. Anyway, the pressure is on for the second half of the year form, you know, sell stuff.

Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience - 10:00 BBC2 - sees the Welsh stand-up comedian Rhod Gilbert (whom you may know from a few appearances on Mock The Week) finally gets a proper job. Tonight, he tries out refuse collecting on the streets of Barry. Can he learn the tricks of the binman's trade, or will he just be rubbish? Heh. Rubbish! Y'see, it's a ... Oh, never mind.

Meanwhile, Keith Telly Topping's favourite show of the moment, MasterChef - 8:00 BBC1 - continues. John Torode and Gregg Wallace continue their search for the country's best amateur cook. The contestants face three high-pressure tests to see who has the passion, skill and creativity to make it to the quarter finals. In the first heat the contestants face the pressure of the professional kitchen at Le Pont De La Tour, and in the second they must master Indian tapas at Imli. Only the best will make it through, taking them one step closer to becoming the next MasterChef. One of the highlights of the series so far was the prat who produced an awful concoction with a raw Bramley apple. It was brilliant. And, what made it funnier was his full-of-himself 'I deserve to be here' patter as his carefully-laid plans for a new career were dissolving around him like a flan in a cupboard. Gregg and John were just trying hard not to laugh. See, it's easy for viewers to take an instant dislike to contestants whose inflated sense of their own abilities isn't matched by anything approaching reality. Mind you, confession time, yer Keith Telly Topping took something of an instant dislike to Sunderland Stacey simply on the grounds of her silly hair and yet, remarkably, they seem to have uncovered a bit of real talent, there. But, I think when all is said an done, it was the woman who burst into tears when telling them how desperate she was to change her life through her cooking and then proceeded to make a soufflé that collapsed - just like her dreams. That beats any crap sob story your get on X Factor any day.

Thursday 11 March
On this week's Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - how far will George go to keep Simon? Can Tina and Gail hold it together for Joe? And, will Kelly help Nick and get her own back on Carla?

Food writer and critic William Sitwell investigates the passions, pressures and obsessions behind that apparently all-important description, 'Michelin-starred chef' in Michelin Stars - The Madness of Perfection - 9:00 BBC2. In the lead-up to the 2010 Guide's publication, Sitwell goes behind the scenes within the restaurant industry to hear contrasting views on the Michelin phenomenon, from Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White to chefs dreaming of stars and restaurateurs dismissive of them. Largely because they've never got one!

Sometimes, a TV previewer hears about a new show and thinks, 'you know, this could be really, really good.' And then, there are other times where they're told about a show and the first words mentioned are 'James Corden' and they just think, 'right, where's my flamethrower?' A League of Their Own - 9:00 Sky1 - is a new (alleged) comedy sports quiz show which, appears to be a straight mix between A Question of Sport and They Think It's All Over. So, it's unoriginal, for one. Corden, his smug-face positively challenging the viewer to switch over and be damned hosts the show. A second point not, wholly, in its favour I'd've said. Then, there's the team captains: Firstly, Jamie Redknapp - a footballer whom, we were solemnly informed on so many occasions by John Motson, could have played one hundred times for England ... if only he'd managed to get himself off the treatment table for long enough to manage, you know, two games in a row for Tottenham. His opposite number is Freddie Flintoff, a genuinely world-class cricketer, to be fair. But again, somebody who, if he was a race horse, he'd've been put out of his misery by now. The panelists in this episode are John Bishop, David Haye, Neil Morrissey and, to provide a bit of husky-voiced glamour, Georgie Thompson. You know, dear blog reader, if it had seen anybody other than Corden presenting it I might have given the show a chance. But Horne & Corden used up any residual tolerance I had for this unfunny clown and his blank-faced pal. So, no mercy.

And, finally, Too Poor for Posh School - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a documentary following the journey of three boys as they undergo a relentless day of tests and interviews for a scholarship to London's Harrow School, which normally charges twenty eight thousand pounds a year in fees.

And, so to the news: It sounds as though the producers of the remake of Hawaii Five-O are packing the cast with former cult TV actors. Ex-Battlestar Galactica cast member Grace Park has reportedly joined the production. The thirty four-year-old will play Kono Kalakaulau, niece to police squad member Chin Ho Kelly (played by the already-announced Daniel Dae Kim), according to The Hollywood Reporter. The pilot will find Kono, a surfing champ, about to graduate from the police academy. Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) recruits her to join an elite branch of the Hawaii State Police. Michael Shanks has reportedly screen-tested for the role of Danno and rumours are currently buzzing around the industry that at least one other, spiky, former cult favourite has also auditioned for a part in the show. More news on that if and when to turns out to be true. Or otherwise. The CBS pilot is being penned and produced by Star Trek writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Adrian Chiles fears that planned changes to The ONE Show could 'ruin' the early evening programme, a report has claimed. In recent weeks, it has been alleged that Chiles is threatening to quit the magazine show over plans to replace him with Chris Evans on Friday's editions. However, according to the Mirror, the host is also concerned that proposals to save big-name celebrity interviews for Fridays could destroy the 'balance' of the programme. A source told the newspaper: 'The BBC have made it very clear by leaking information that they want Adrian to just do four shows a week. But what they haven't said is how they are risking ruining a massive hit show by changing the whole format. Big entertainment interviews and segments will be scrapped from Monday to Thursday editions and saved up for Fridays.' Chiles is said to be facing pressure to sign a new four-nights-per-week contract, but another insider added: 'He has brought The ONE Show from a small thing to getting up to seven million viewers with Christine [Bleakley].' Well, if we're going to be strictly, you know, accurate here it usually gets about five million. It got seven million a couple of times where there was a lot of snow about and people were stuck in their homes. 'Now they are making changes and originally gave him forty eight hours to sign a contract. It is not the way he should be treated given the amount of work he does at the Beeb. It was like a kick in the teeth and he deserves better.' So, I'm guessing that this 'insider' is, you know, a member of Adrian's family, perhaps? Just a wild stab in the dark. A spokesman for Chiles insisted that he is 'totally committed' to The ONE Show. Meanwhile, a BBC representative said: 'The ONE Show is a tremendous success and we will not be changing the format of the show. Last month the show received its highest ever ratings which demonstrates how well the format is working.'

EastEnders actress Barbara Windsor has admitted that she still cannot believe the soap's cast managed to get through last week's live episode. The BBC drama marked its twenty fifth anniversary last Friday with the special installment, which featured the death of fan favourite Bradley Branning (Charlie Clements) and the twist that his wife Stacey (Lacey Turner) killed Archie Mitchell on Christmas Day. Speaking about the challenging episode, Windsor joked: 'Don't talk to me about that!' Speaking to the Press Association, she added: 'I can't believe it, that we did it - well by the skin of our teeth. But it was good to get it under our belt.'

Meanwhile, over one hundred EastEnders viewers are alleged to have complained to the BBC over an implication that one of the show's characters killed a dog. That's one hundred more than complained over the storyline in which Stacey Branning killed Archie Mitchell, incidentally. Some people just have really odd priorities, it would appear. This week's final two episodes of the Walford soap saw Lucas Johnson - played by the excellent Don Gilet - begin to panic about his murderous ways being uncovered when Sugar the collie continued to dig in the soil around Trina's tree. With Owen Turner's body buried beneath, Sugar could still smell her previous owner's scent and with no-one else knowing Owen's whereabouts - or even that he's dead - Lucas decided to deal with Sugar in his own, deranged, way. Taking the dog for a walk, Lucas stopped on the canal bank and eerily looked at Sugar, before glancing out over the water. When Lucas returned home, he held only Sugar's lead and insisted that she had ran away. A statement on the BBC Complaints website read: 'Regular viewers of EastEnders will know that Lucas has already killed two people in order to protect his reputation. Although it is never explicit that Sugar dies, the story does indeed suggest that Lucas has killed her. This behaviour is completely in keeping with his character.' It went on: 'EastEnders does not condone the killing of dogs, just as it does not condone killing people. No animals were harmed in the making of this story.' And, apparently, Larry Lamb wasn't really clobbered over the head till his brains leaked out his ears either. It was 'fiction.'

Tracy Barlow's return to Coronation Street will cause havoc for Peter and Leanne's romance, press reports have claimed. It has been announced that Kate Ford will reprise her role as the murderous daughter of Deidre and Ken, coming out of prison in time for the Manchester soap's fiftieth anniversary at the end of the year. Chris Gascoyne, who plays Peter, told the TV Times: 'Whenever Kate is around, things go wrong - Tracy comes in with a huge wooden spoon and stirs everything up. You know, Peter's just troubled, he's got demons but she's actually murdered someone.'

The BBC reportedly plans to axe digital stations BBC 6Music and the Asian network, as well as shut half of its website as part of a major service overhaul to be announced next month. According to The Times, BBC director general Mark Thompson will admit that the corporation has become too big and must give more room for commercial players to operate. Following his strategic review of the whole BBC operation, Thompson will signal an end to 6Music and the Asian Network, while also placing a cap on sports rights spending at eight and a half per cent of the licence fee, around three hundred million pounds. The review will further recommend the closure of youth-orientated services BBC Switch and Blast!, but digital channel BBC3 will remain in operation. Thompson's planned changes are currently being reviewed by the BBC Trust, but will be made public in March. BBC director of policy and strategy John Tate, a former head of the Conservative policy unit, has produced the strategic review, which aims to show that the BBC is sensitive to the needs of commercial rivals. Under the plans, around six hundred million in cost savings would be re-directed towards producing high-quality programming as part of a new focus on content. Thompson wants to inject a further twenty five million into the BBC2 budget and also give the channel a new remit to pursue more upmarket programming. However, the one hundred million budget on foreign acquisitions of shows such as Mad Men and The Wire would be cut by twenty five per cent, although the Trust would actually prefer a thirty three per cent cut on import costs. The BBC website will be halved and its staff numbers trimmed by a quarter as part of a twenty five per cent cut in its one hundred and twelve million pounds budget. The site will also have to work harder to drive traffic to rival news providers. BBC Worldwide will be told to focus on its overseas activity, potentially requiring the sale of its British magazines division, which includes tiles such as Top Gear and Radio Times.

ITV chairman Archie Norman will use the company's annual report to underline the broadcaster's shortcomings, say press reports. The former Asda chief will attack his predecessor Michael Grade for failing to move the broadcaster into the digital era and will emphasise the importance of the Internet VOD market, according to the Daily Mail. The new chairman may also recommend that more productions are moved inhouse and that some content is made pay-only when the 2009 results are published on Wednesday. However, no decisions will be acted upon until new chief executive Adam Crozier steps into his position in the spring.

Stephanie Waring has admitted that the Hollyoaks cast are 'unsettled' by the arrival of a new producer. Paul Marquess joined the show last month and has already axed three characters. Waring, who plays Cindy Hutchinson in the soap, signed an eighteen-month contract in September but revealed that the cast are unsure what will happen next. 'Things are changing as we speak,' she told the Press Association. 'We are unsettled - you can't say we're not because we don't know what's going to happen yet. We've not had the meetings yet so we don't know what's going on.'

Kate Garraway has revealed her fear of performing on Lets Dance for Sports Relief. According to the Sun, the full-of-her-own-self-importance GMTV presenter is 'scared' that her breasts will 'pop out of her dress' because of the dance's intensity. Oh, if only wishing made it so. She said: 'The dance I am doing is so bouncy and I am breastfeeding at the moment, so everything is quite inflated. But I am up for making a fool of myself.' Well, yeah. Why break the habit of a lifetime, Katie? 'If you look me up in the dictionary, it says, "Glutton for punishment."' Actually, I think it says 'Copper's Nark who tells lies about guests on her show in her crappy little magazine column' if we're being strictly factual. The forty two-year-old added: 'It's hard to imagine being worse. But I am worried that I'll forget everything and Richard will have to elbow me in the ribs.' Again, one can only hope ...

And, on a related theme. Ant and Dec were hit by a fan's bra-padding whilst filming new TV show, Push The Button. The cheeky-chappie Northern duo, whose new series started tonight, visited the Greenwood family to reveal that they would be taking part in their Saturday night gameshow. When twenty two-year-old Danielle Greenwood found out about the news, she jumped up and down so much that her chicken fillets 'flew into their faces.' A source told the Daily Star: 'Ant and Dec thought it was hilarious. But poor Danielle went bright red.' Ah, well y'see, Danielle, they're both Bigg Market veterans, that sort of thing's an occupational hazard in Newcastle. Ant said: 'We've met our first two families. It was hysterical and we couldn't have planned a funnier reaction - absolutely brilliant. The [families] are both great fun and willing to do whatever it takes to win the cash.'

However, the lads themselves have reportedly confessed that they are too nervous to watch their new gameshow. The duo have revealed that they will be watching their - and, indeed, yer Keith Telly Topping's - favourite football team the (unsellable) Magpies playing at Vicarage Road instead. Dec said: 'We won't sit down to watch it. We'll be watching Newcastle take on Watford instead.' Well, at least a 2-1 win and Andy Carroll's near-post header will have given the lads some entertainment this weekend. Unlike anybody who watched Push The Button.

A fan of Girls Aloud and X-Factor star Cheryl Cole is to be evicted from his Nottinghamshire flat for playing her music loudly through the night. Mansfield County Court heard Martin Bramwell, twenty two, played music in his first floor council flat in Ladybrook Lane until four am and also slammed doors. At Wednesday's hearing, the court was told one neighbour had gone to stay with friends to escape the noise. Bramwell has been ordered to leave the flat before 4 March. Aw, come on guys. The poor chap obviously needs medical help.

At the same time, it's being reported that Cheryl estranged bloke, Ashley, has allegedly claimed that he 'doesn't give a fuck' about the end of his marriage according to the Daily Star. What a nasty little swine that bloke is. A cheat as a footballer, a cheat as a husband - he's the ultimate role-model for young people. How to get ahead in life by being as obnoxious, deceitful and ignorant as possible. You're a goddamn inspiration to us all, Ash.

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