Saturday, April 03, 2010

Week Fifteen: Send For The Cavalry

Phil Glenister - who was seen roaring back onto out screens in typically abrasive style last night - has claimed that it is the right time for Ashes To Ashes to conclude. Glenister, who plays the legendary Gene Hunt in the show, revealed that more of his character's private life will emerge in the final series. 'I think Gene has to remain an enigma,' he told the Daily Record. 'It was important we didn't know too much about his home life. 'We've had to do some of that in this series, though. In the past I was vehemently against the idea of seeing him at home, but we'll learn more about him, what he stands for, who he is, really.' Glenister also said that fans of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes will receive answers in the show's finale. 'It's come full circle and we learn things about Sam Tyler and his relationship with Gene,' he explained. 'Hopefully it will tie everything up. But there'll probably still be people complaining on message boards online.' Oh, I'd've said that's a given, Phil. He continued: 'It's definitely the right time to end it. It's right to go out at the top, but you know, all good things must come to an end. I've been doing this for five years, the longest I've ever played a character. The last thing we want is, "Series ten, episode nine, and we've run out of stories." I felt instinctively this is enough. We've done five. It'll be hard to leave, of course it will. It's a great show to work on.'

Yer Keith Telly Topping was fair-miffed that Stacie went out of MasterChef last night. Although, to be fair, she did seem to be having a bad day at the office. Not that this was helped, it should be noted, by the perfectly wretched sarky comments given to her food by that sour-faced stick-insect the loathsome Kate Spicer (a woman who looks like she's never smiled, once, and never eaten a decent meal in her life) and miserable fattie Charles Campion (a man who looks like he's eaten more than a few too many ... and has the misfortune to be a dead-ringer for Peter Griffin from Family Guy). For once, Jay Rayner was almost restrained by comparison! That'll be The ONE Show's bland-indifference rubbing of on him, no doubt. Anyway, Dhruv, Tim and Alex are the final three and, next week, we'll see how they get on. For what it's worth, Stace, I thought your pork and black pudding thing looked gorgeous!

According to The British Comedy Guide's twitter feed the BBC have ordered another series of Qi in addition to the already announced 'H' series which is currently being written and will be recorded this year for transmission in the winter (probably beginning shortly before Christmas). Series 'I' will be filmed in the summer of 2011. No news yet on whether that will also be sixteen episodes likes series 'G' and 'H.' The 'G' series ended with a splendid episode which saw Johnny Vegas riffing quite brilliantly on the inherently ephemeral nature of the international date line, a really interesting discussion on the vexed question of onomatopoeia and Alan Davies winning by a veritable street. It's been a while since that happened.

Friday 9 April
In the latest episode of Ashes to Ashes - 9:00 BBC1 - a severed hand arrives in the post at Fenchurch East police station. It's branded with a crescent moon symbol, which leads Gene Hunt and his team to reopen inquiries into the deaths of six women, all brutally murdered and buried in shallow graves. As it turns out, the victims were all on the books of a dating agency run by the elegant and respectable Elaine Downing (played by Glenister's real-life wife, Beth Goddard), so Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) goes under cover as a lonely 'Kate Winslet' to try to trap the killer. She flabbergasts everyone with the suggestion of a speed-dating night; but of course such things were unheard of in 1983 and the squad's reaction to this innovation is as though Alex has just discovered the secret of fire. The central plot is a bit weak but, as ever with Ashes to Ashes, it's the little things that count; the swirling blizzard of tiny details that are gradually building up to complete the final big picture - the increasingly murky mystery surrounding the death of Sam Tyler, Alex's vivid dreams and the looming presence of the dogged, enigmatic, baby-faced DCI Jim Keats. And, of course, the nostalgia of a soundtrack that speaks to those of us of a certain age of teenage parties and cheap lager.

It appears as though Peter and Leanne will be the next couple to walk down Coronation Street's often rubble-strewn metaphorical aisle at 7:30 on ITV. In a Rovers that's still packed out with the guests from Ken and Deirdre's anniversary party, Leanne turns the tables on her boyfriend and a proposal soon follows. After a tumultuous couple of months, this looks like being something of a heartening turn of events. Elsewhere, however, romantic complications are the order of the day as Sophie reveals her news about Ryan to Sian, leading to an almighty bust-up. Poor Sophie - not only is her best friend rejecting her, but she also has to put up with WAG-in-waiting Rosie bringing footballer Kyle home for dinner.

Saturday 10 April
The new series of Doctor Who is back - 6:15 BBC1. You might have just noticed. In the latest installment, The Beast Below, the Doctor takes his new companion, Amy, to the distant future, where she finds all of Britain in a giant spaceship. Yeah, I've had nights like that, chuck. Usually after a couple of glasses of wine and a particularly mind-bending curry, admittedly.

Sunday 11 April
In Foyle's War - 8:00 ITV - it's July 1945 and Britain is settling into peacetime. So when, exactly, is this fine drama going to be renamed Foyle's Peace, then? When Sam's new boss, the renowned artist Sir Leonard Spencer-Jones is found dead in his home, suspicion falls on Niko, a Russian prisoner of war whom the artist had taken under his wing. This is particularly bad news for Sam who now finds herself one of the first victims of post-wear unemployment. When Niko flees Sussex for the sanctuary of the Russian House in London, Foyle is dispatched by the War Office to bring him back. Accompanied by Sam, who believes that Niko is innocent, the pair arrive in London and soon stumble on a massive international conspiracy that could topple the government if it is revealed. Although, to be fair, the unemployment figures could probably do that as well so, you know, double bonus. Vote for the Welfare State, you know it makes sense.

It's a good night for period drama, actually, something that British TV has a worldwide reputation for. A Passionate Woman - 9:00 BBC1 - is a fine looking two-part period drama based on a secret told to writer Kay Mellor by her mother. It is the 1950s and Betty lives in a cold, two-roomed flat in a shabby Victorian house situated in a particularly poor area of Leeds. Her husband, Donald, is focused on saving to improve their lives as they start a family. The only respite Betty gets from the day-to-day drudgery of her gloomy working class home is the flash glamour of the Balula Dance Hall, which she visits once a week. But Betty's world is turned upside down when a handsome Polish man called Craze asks her to dance. Stars Billie Piper, Theo James and Joe Armstrong. The second part - set thirty years later and featuring Sue Johnston and Joe's dad, Alun - as older versions of Betty and Donald, is next Sunday.

Monday 12 April
The patron saint of small Nepalese chaps, Joanna Lumley goes off on the trip of a lifetime - exploring the longest river in the world from sea to source in Joanna Lumley's Nile - 9:00 ITV. Joanna's recent TV documentaries, Northern Lights and Catwoman, have been really rather good - she's obviously got a flair for this kind of thing. In this first programme Joanna follows the Nile through Egypt capturing the spirit of Agatha Christie in Cairo and later on a luxurious Nile cruise. She travels by train, road and Felucca barge, discovering life as it is today along one of the world's greatest rivers. The programme ends in Aswan, a town the Victorians viewed as 'being on the edge of civilisation' which is how Joanna feels as she contemplates the next stage of her journey - the dry, remote deserts of northern Sudan. Still, at the end of the day there's no denying that this appears to be another example of a format which is beloved by television: 'Husky-voiced posh bird goes on very expensive location travelogue with camera crew.' I know that kind of thing puts some people's backs right up. Me, I'm a sucker for husky-voiced posh birds. Except for Sohpie Dahl.

The incredible story behind one the archaeological finds on the millennia is told in Saxon Gold: Finding the Hoard - 9:00 Channel 4. One of the most significant discoveries of recent years was made in 2009 by metal detecting enthusiast Terry Herbert when he found a one thousand six hundred-piece treasure hoard worth over three million pounds. Like most of Channel 4's pop-archeology formats - most obviously Time Team and its various spin-offs - this has the advantage of taking a potentially dry (and rather snooty) subject for television and bringing it to life for the viewers via simple tricks like enthusiastic presentation, social historical context and a vague relevance to the modern day. Love it. More of this, please.

Oh, no, you might well be saying. Not another cookery show, Keith Telly Topping. We're still recovering from all those MasterChef episodes you recommended. Yeah, yeah. Life's a bitch and then you die. Out of the Frying Pan - 9:00 BBC2 - sees The Restaurant contestants James Knight Pacheco and Alasdair Hooper return for a new series. Since 2009, chef James and front-of-house Ali have worked at Raymond Blanc's Michelin-starred restaurant. Now they're testing their skills in the real world, as 'event caterers.' Their first client couldn't be a bigger challenge: Dragon's Den tycoon Duncan Bannatyne wants a dinner party for eight friends and neighbours at his villa in the south of France. Without language skills or local knowledge, can James and Ali deliver? So, I'm guessing the chances of an actual frying pan appearing in this episode - cooking up, perhaps, a nice sizzling side of bacon - are probably quite slim. Pity.

Tuesday 13 April
Spoilt Rotten? - 9:00 BBC1 - is the latest in a particularly Twenty First Century style of TV. Finger-wagging 'lifestyle-awareness-and-correction' conceits from 'those who know better.' They think. With unprecedented access to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, Panorama meets the children suffering from allegedly preventable conditions as a result of their lifestyles, and the paediatricians who are treating them, and then follows them home in an attempt to uncover the root cause of their problems. Reporter Richard Bilton soon discovers that some of the basic health messages from the doctors are not getting through to the parents. Seriously, you have to wonder about the mentality of any parent who would allow themselves and their children to be featured in something as pointedly nasty as this. Leave them alone, you feckless bully, they're not your concern. Anybody else think that it's about time television - and society in general - stopped telling everybody else how to live their lives and got on with living their own? No? Just me then ...

Cowboy Builders - 8:00 Five - sees one of TV's oddest couples, large-chested Melinda Messenger and gnomish Dominic Littlewood 'come to the rescue' of homeowners who have been let down by shoddy builders. In this episode, they meet a family from Sheffield who were left with a derelict house and thousands of pounds' worth of debt after a cowboy builder conned them out of their cash. But, one has to ask - as we have done in the past - when Dom and Mel say they're 'coming to the rescue' of these poor unfortunate people, does that mean that they're going to be turning up in Sheffield with a cement mixer, a load of two-by-four and a construction crew. Because, by the sound of it the family's most urgent need is, you know, a roof over their head, not a couple of well-paid TV personalities doorstepping the dodgy builders who left them destitute in the first place. Revenge can wait, it's some shelter they need.

In Holby City - 8:00 BBC1 - Jac is determined to be unaffected by her mother's situation, but when Paula deteriorates Jac decides to offer her kidney. She tells her it's just to get Paula out of the way. Chrissie goes into early labour and the baby arrives. She finally admits that Sacha is the father and realises he needs to be involved. When Faye is forced to deal with a difficult patient alone, she realises she doesn't need a man in order to stand on her own two feet.

Wednesday 14 April
Waterloo Road, the school-based drama series returned to BBC1 at 8:00 last week. Ruby's stress levels hit boiling point on a disastrous class trip to a farm. There's going to be major changes to the show later in the series with some long-running characters leaving. So, if you've been a fan of it up till now, be prepared.

The Man Who Injects Venom - 8:00 Five - is a documentary exploring the fascinating story of Steve Ludwin, a reptile enthusiast who has been injecting snake venom into himself for the last twenty years. Steve is convinced that the venom has medicinal properties and has been slowly building up his immunity to the deadly toxins. This film follows him to Florida, where he meets two other dedicated 'self-immunisers.' Meanwhile, scientists in London test Steve's blood to see if his controversial theories about snake venom have any merit.

Relocation, Relocation - 8:00 Channel 4 - sees property experts horsey Kirstie Allsopp and balding Phil Spencer help yet more middle-class people change their accommodation and their lives. But, not too much in the case of the latter. Tonight, Phil and Kirstie help John Stevenson and Ingrid Weber find a property in Budapest, where John works as an airline executive, as well as a house in Luton which will serve as both a home for Ingrid and an investment for John. And so, yet again, in a time when most people can't even afford to buy one house, Channel 4 dip into their seemingly bottomless pit of want, want, want young professionals who knit their own yogurt and have 'nothing but total respect' for Annie Lennox who require two. Is there an agency that supplies these people on demand? And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record please note, one thing you'll never see featured on this show is the story of former sheet metal worker unemployed Kev and his heavily pregnant girlfriend Tracey who'd like to move from their one bedroom slum in Gateshead to a similar house three streets away. I wonder why that is?

Thursday 15 April
Welcome to Lagos - 9:00 BBC2 - is a three-part observational documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. Today, more than half of the world's population live in cities, and this eye-opening series shows what life is really like in some of the toughest parts of the world's fastest growing metropolises. The first episode uncovers life in the Olusosun rubbish dump. Here, around one thousand people live, literally, on top of the rubbish in shanty-town houses which they have built from scrap.

One of the surprise TV hits of 2009 was You Have Been Watching - 10:00 Channel 4. This is a comedy panel show looking at the weird world of TV and hosted by the fearsome, vicious, acid-tongued reviewer genius that is King Charlie Brooker. On the face of it, this didn't seem to have a lot going for it when it began - a kind of TV industry version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, you just wished the guests would shut the hell up and leave us with half-an-hour of Charlie being vicious about Come Dine With Me. But, after a coupel of episodes, they started to get the right kind of guests (people like Frankie Boyle and David Mitchell features last time around) and it became unmissable. if you enjoy watching Charlie's other shows - like Screenwipe - then you'll love this.

And finally, in EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - is the writing on the wall for Christian and Syed's secret love? Lots of homophobic right-wing scum in 'media watchdog' organisations will certainly be hoping so. Meanwhile, Ronnie struggles to get through to a suffering Jack, Pat and Peggy are raked over the coals by a charming journalist, and Ben reaches the end of the line with his bullies.

And so, inevitably, to some Top Telly News: Chris Tarrant has admitted that filming new game show The Door was 'deeply unpleasant.' Now that's a ringing endorsement which I'm sure the producers really wanted to hear from their presenter. The programme sees a group of celebrities facing their worst fears in an attempt to win twenty five thousand smackers for charity. Tarrant, who hosts the show alongside Amanda Holden, explained that he struggled just as much as the stars taking part. 'Behind one of the doors was an abattoir filled with rotting sheep and cow heads with flies all over them,' he told the Sun. 'The key they had to find to get out of the room was hidden in one of the sheep's heads. Plus they had released two thousand bluebottles into the studio and of course after the item was over, the flies didn't suddenly disappear. They were still all around.' He continued: 'I never moan but that was the most unpleasant day's filming I've ever had in my life. Someone said, "Oh come on, Chris, you must have had worse on Tiswas." But no, that was all lovely clean custard tipped over your head.' Tarrant added that he would have loved Simon Cowell to appear on the programme. 'I would love to see Simon Cowell naked, covered in honey and dog food, going through the process of The Door,' he said. I'm sure you're not alone there, Chris. There must be some other sick individual who's just been released back into society for whom that's also their own private fantasy website on the Internet. 'Can you imagine the ratings?' I'm trying to, Chris, I'm really trying to.

Charlie Sheen is reportedly quitting the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. A source told People magazine that the actor will not return to the show after recording a final episode on 9 April . The insider claimed that 'Charlie's just done' and that he is 'quietly telling his friends he's not coming back.' The forty four-year-old has apparently decided not to renew his contract with CBS for an eighth season. 'Leaving is one hundred per cent his idea,' the source continued.

Dominic West has revealed that he thinks British actors get cast in the US because they are 'cheaper' than their American counterparts. The forty-year-old actor, famous for playing Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, claimed that casting directors prefer British actors because they do not charge as much money and are less demanding. He told FHM: 'Why are British stars doing so well? I suppose my flippant answer is that we're cheaper and we don't complain as much, but I don't know why, really. One reason might be that American actors may not be so good in an ensemble. They'd be more interested in being a star, whereas The Wire was very much an ensemble piece.' West also stated that his starring role in the renowned TV crime drama - which ran for five seasons until 2008 - is the main focus of people's interest in him. He said: 'It's the only reason most people want to talk to me. It has certainly changed my career, it's brought me a bit of recognition. It's great that a lot of people of all ages and backgrounds are digging it.'

Neal McDonough has reportedly been fired from his latest television show for refusing to film sex scenes. The actor, who previously played Edie's husband in Desperate Housewives, had signed up to star in new ABC series Scoundrels. However, Deadline Hollywood claims that McDonough was replaced by David James Ellicot after just three days when he said that he would not film intimate scenes because of his Catholic faith. ABC is allegedly angry that McDonough was unaware of the scenes before production began as he had been sent the script weeks prior to filming. Meanwhile, one source claimed that he even refused to kiss his co-star Virginia Madsen. 'It wasn't just "heated love scenes,"' the insider explained. 'He wouldn't do any kissing whatsoever, even though those scenes were clearly in the scripts he read before taking the role. He didn't tell the producers that cast him on this show that he had any issues with this until shooting started. So unprofessional, and such a shame because he is a great talent.' Another source said: 'It has cost him jobs, but the man is sticking to his principles.'

EastEnders actress Tiana Benjamin is to leave the BBC soap later this year. The twenty five-year-old - who has played beautician Chelsea Fox since May 2006 - recently decided to leave her Albert Square counterpart behind and pursue other projects. Speaking of her decision, she said: 'I have had an amazing time at EastEnders and this has been a very difficult decision for me to make but now seems like the right time to move on and leave Chelsea behind even through she's been such a fantastic character to play.' Details of Chelsea's exit story have yet to be finalised but Benjamin is expected to film her final scenes within the next few months.

Former Hollyoaks actress Zoë Lister has admitted that she gets annoyed when people make jokes about the soap. Well, I'd start getting used to it if I were you, love, because it's not going to stop anytime soon. Unless the show does, of course. In which case people usually do forget. Eventually.

Noel Fielding has announced that he wants to create a trilogy of The Mighty Boosh films. One of which might even be funny. But, I wouldn't bet on it. The show's co-writer revealed to BBC Newsbeat that the first film, which is set in the Arctic, would be the beginning of a trilogy of road movies set in different locations as long as the comedy duo could secure enough funding. Thankfully, however, there's a recession on so that looks unlikely for the time being. God bless you, Gordon Brown, I knew you'd do something right sooner or later. Fielding said: 'I'm pretty pleased the way it's going. I'm quite excited. Fingers crossed but I don't want to jinx it. It might be awful.' Might it? Oh dear. That's such a surprise. 'In our heads it's like Indiana Jones, it's huge, but obviously it'll probably be more like Moon where we can have an exterior and then lots of models and CGI."'

David Boreanaz has paid a moving tribute to his former Angel co-star Andy Hallett on the anniversary of his death. Hallett died on 29 March last year from congestive heart failure. He played the role of Lorne the Green-Skinned Singing Demon on Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off. Speaking to if magazine, Boreanaz praised Hallett's acting talent and warm personality. 'Andy was a great spirit, a great person who brought a great character to a Joss Whedon universe,' the Bones star said. The actor revealed that he had phoned Hallett's parents when he heard the news to give his condolences. 'It's always a shame when a great talent like that is taken from the world,' he continued. 'Nobody wants to hear that news, and [for those who were] close enough to that person, it was obviously a big shock when it happened.'

The photographer behind Tennis Girl, one of the world's biggest-selling posters, has died at the age of sixty three. Martin Elliott took his most famous shot in 1976 of his then-girlfriend dressed in tennis gear, hitching her skirt to reveal a bare bottom. The image, which originally featured in a calendar, shot to fame and more than two million copies were sold worldwide. Mr Elliott died at his home in Truro, Cornwall, last week following a ten-year battle with cancer. He took his most famous picture, featuring knickerless eighteen-year-old Fiona Butler, on a university tennis court while studying photography in Birmingham. The pair borrowed a white tennis dress, racket and balls for the shot which was taken from behind as Butler raised her dress, showing her left cheek. The picture was sold to poster chain Athena but Elliott retained the copyright. It was first published as part of a calendar for the 1977 Silver Jubilee before being made into the poster that hung on schoolboys' bedroom walls around the world. And, yes Keith Telly Topping did have one of those. It got him through some dark, lonely, winter nights in the late 70sd he can tell you, dear blog reader. The poster was derided by critics at the time as 'a schoolboy's fantasy' but it went on to become one of the most famous pictures in the world. On his own website, Elliott called it 'the most published photograph in the world.'

Katie Price's family and friends have reportedly told her to 'seek professional help.' That's professional medical help, just in case there's any confusion.

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