Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving On

'Everybody dies sometime.' Having had the chance to watch the finale of Lost again, properly, and not whilst suffering from sleep-deprivation, I feel I might have been guilty of damning it with faint praise earlier, which wasn't my intention. I want to stress, I thought it was beautiful. And life-affirming. And ... everything you'd expect from Lost, frankly. What a pity two of the finest, most imaginative shows modern television had ever made ended a mere two days apart. The fact that they used a similar dramatic device to finish is neither here nor there, to be honest. We need more shows like Lost and Ashes To Ashes. In Hamlet Shakespeare has his lead character muse on the nature of drama. 'The purpose,' he says, 'is to hold, as t'were, a mirror up to nature.' Sometimes, we need that mirror very badly. As my mate Jon Arnold noted on the subject of the Lost finale, if you came in with the attitude of 'gimme answers' then, like as not, you'll have gone away marginally disappointed. But, if you were looking for a proper pay-off for a bunch of characters we've come to know very well over the last six seasons, then you'll probably have been content. I know I was. Lost and Ashes To Ashes both showed a fundamental grasp of some universal human truisms. They did it in different ways, admittedly, but they both got to a similar place in the end. To quote Jon, again, 'Lost posits an unambiguously happy ending after death whilst Ashes To Ashes laces a little cyanide round the sugar pill - Gene's "way of the world" when Alex asks about Molly. And, of course, Gene left alone to do it all over again at the end.' To paraphrase another old mate of yer Keith Telly Topping's, Paul Cornell, 'even in paradise someone has to take out the bins.' Some viewers will have been disappointed with Lost's conclusion, I get that. Some will have looked for a more logical, linear, down-to-earth conclusion (although, one has to ask, if they expected that sort of finale then what show, exactly, do they think they've been watching for the last six years?) Some will consider what we got to be a cop-put, or a deus ex machina, or even a cheat. I don't think it was any of those things. I think it, like the series itself, was essentially a parable. An allegory about choice, destiny and causality. The final episode, as much of the series, developed the drama's central thematic core - man of science versus man of faith. It culminated in the scene between Jack (for so often the boring, obvious, churlish stumbling bloke to outre explanations, but not any longer) and Not-Locke in which the pair argue about John Locke. 'You disrespect the man by wearing his face,' Jack says angrily before going on to suggest that Locke was 'right about everything.' 'He was right about nothing,' snarls the monster inhabiting Locke. In a way, both statements are true and in that conundrum you have one of the reasons why Lost worked. It was never about 'how are they going to get off this island,' as most of us thought it was in the first year. Rather, it was about 'why are they on this island and what does that tell us about them?' All drama, all truly great drama, requires two things - conflict and resolution. Lost had plenty of the former and, in its final episode, beautifully, metaphorically as well as literally, more than enough of the latter. In suggesting an, essentially Judeo-Christian, worldview - the name of Jack's father suddenly takes on a whole new meaning in this context - it risked accusations of pomposity or even banality. There will be some viewers, disgruntled or over-zealous to criticise, who will take issue with the episode's fundamental optimism that the afterlife is worth all the crap we take to get there. I can see how that might not go down too well with some. But, for what it's worth, I thought they took something which could, in lesser hands, have turned into Touched By An Angel and, instead, created It's A Wonderful Life. They pulled it off. They got to the end. As legacies go, that's genuinely not a bad one.

Sky has apologised to fans of Lost for technical problems during the series finale. The episode aired at 5am this morning so that viewers could watch the show at the same time as US West Coast residents. Yeah, I know, I was there watching. However, a technical hitch caused a brief blackout during the programme. In an announcement on the Sky Player website, the channel said: 'We'd like to apologise for this morning's blackout during Sky1's live simulcast of the series finale of Lost. We're currently investigating what went wrong, and if it's any consolation we'll have the entire episode available to watch as a catch-up title by lunchtime today. Once again, apologies.' Don't worry, guys, it didn't affect my enjoyment of it in the slightest.

Josh Holloway, meanwhile, has revealed that he, at least, is pleased with the way Lost ended. In the finale, Holloway's character Sawyer reunited with Juliet and the actor explained that he was happy with the outcome. 'Absolutely,' he told Entertainment Weekly. 'And it leaves Jack and Kate to find each other again - as they always should have.' Holloway continued: 'I feel like Kate and Sawyer were not a couple for life. They had an undeniable love. But a life-long thing? I don't think so. I think Sawyer wanted her to be with Jack, anyway. Not to mention the fact that he's in love with Juliet. 'So I liked the way it worked out. I thought it was perfect. Because people were always like, "Who she going to choose?" Well, she's obviously going to choose the doctor in my worldview! Why wouldn't she?'

Ashes to Ashes, incidentally, bowed out with its highest-rated episode of the series on Friday night. The final part of the third and last series was watched by just over six million viewers viewers across BBC1 and BBC HD at 9pm. The show peaked at 9.55pm with 6.17m viewers and it was easily the highest-rated episode in a series.

Derren Brown has revealed that he appears on television 'in character.' Speaking to the Daily Record, the illusionist explained that he is completely different to his TV persona. 'People think I am creepy and weird but I am more like how I am on stage than how I am on television,' he said. 'On TV it's quite controlling, a bit serious, and dark.' He continued: 'I am not like that. I don't play up to that kind of character. I don't walk around reading people's minds or trying to influence them in real life. I can have a normal conversation with somebody. It's definitely something I switch on when I'm performing.' Brown also admitted that he sometimes wishes he could meet his celebrity guests when he is not working on television shows. 'It's always frustrating because I have to be in the zone and be "that guy," this slightly weird, creepy, controlling figure,' he said. 'And then I think, "Damn, that was my chance to meet my hero and I acted like someone I wouldn't want to meet." It feels like a missed opportunity.'

Lisa Edelstein has claimed that the team behind House will manage to keep the show fresh. According to the Mirror, the actress believes that there are so many possible storylines that the series will never get boring. 'I don't think the producers would let the show become stale,' she said. 'They're too clever for that. I don't think they'll run out [of ideas] because sadly, there are an awful lot of things that can go wrong in the human body. It's amazing any of us are walking around!' Edelstein also revealed that she enjoys working with Hugh Laurie. 'I think his character's brilliant,' she added. 'He solves all these problems and saves people from dying, which everybody would like to be able to do. But at the same time he has all this freedom to say whatever he wants to say to people. There's no editing.'

Big buxom wench Lucy Lawless has admitted that filming her sex scenes on Spartacus was awkward. The actress explained that her husband Rob Tapert, who executive produces the show, decided not to come on set when she was working on the scenes. 'Even though theoretically I don't have any issue with it, I like to think I am a modern young woman,' Lawless told the Daily Record. 'It is really uncomfortable. You have to make the unsexy look incredibly sexy.' Lawless also joked that she has already started exercising in preparation for the upcoming Spartacus prequel. 'I am working out,' she said. 'If they shoot the prequel, I'll have to look five years younger.' Mmm... Lucy Lawless working out. Basically, they should just film that and show it every Christmas.

Channel 4 is hunting for a new home for Iron Chef UK after pulling it out of its 5pm slot mid-run due to poor ratings. After launching last month with over one million viewers, audiences for the culinary game show quickly fell and over three weeks, the show averaged just seven hundred thousand. The slot typically attracts a share of around fourteen per cent through popular commissions such as Come Dine With Me and Coach Trip, as well as former hit The Paul O’Grady Show. Last week's episodes of Iron Chef UK were pulled and replaced with repeats of Come Dine With Me, which attracted twice as many viewers. Repeats of the celebrity spin-off are now scheduled for this week as well. C4 commissioned Iron Chef UK as a stripped format that would run for five weeks and still has ten episodes left to place in the schedule. A C4 spokeswoman said: 'Iron Chef is a great show but it hasn't resonated with the 5pm audience. We are therefore currently considering which alternative slot would be most suitable.' I agree with all of that. Except for the part about Iron Chef being a 'great show,' or anything even remotely like it.

Sir David Jason has criticised the BBC for spending too much on wages for administrative roles and said the money could be put to better use on programming. The actor attacked the corporation for employing too many 'bean counters' at the expense of making quality TV shows. He said: 'I just think the BBC has kept growing, and employing people and lost sight of control. You've got hundreds and hundreds of people, all getting paid lots of money. Are all the jobs necessary?' Sir David, best known for playing Del Boy in the BBC comedy Only Fools and Horses and as Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost, which aired its final episode last month on ITV, made the comments as he launched his new Five reality show. The Show Must Go On! will see Sir David take an amateur dramatic group to perform a play in a West End theatre. A BBC spokesman said: 'Sir David Jason is perfectly entitled to his opinion.'

Ofcom has upheld complaints about the use of the word 'retard' in a live edition of Celebrity Big Brother's Little Brother, overturning an earlier judgement. Eight viewers complained over Vinnie Jones' comment that Davina McCall had been 'walking like a retard' in an edition broadcast in January. The offence was compounded by Jones acting out walking with difficulty and comparing McCall's gait to the 'lovely' way in which his fellow housemate, Nicola Tappenden, walked. Furthermore, McCall, as host, chose not to chastise Jones for the use of the word, instead responding: 'I do not walk like a retard.' Ofcom initially told C4 that on balance, there was not enough evidence to conclude that the word was necessarily intended to be offensive to anyone with learning difficulties. At the time, it warned the broadcaster to take greater sensitivity towards the use of such word. Channel 4 apologised and removed the comments from its on-demand service, 4oD.

A technical error during a Nike advertisement could end up costing ITV one an a half million notes, it has been claimed. The three-minute promotion, featuring Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo, was screened in thirty two countries following the conclusion of the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday. But the mix-up meant that the advertisement was cut short - without Nike being mentioned at all. Which, sort of defeats the point, really. Funny, though. That's a big tick for somebody's sense of irony, there, I think. Instead of the final ten seconds of the film, viewers were treated to a static ITV logo. There has since been speculation that the sports giant may withhold a one and a half million payment to the channel. ITV spokesman James Macleod said: 'We are looking into the cause of the issue and are in close dialogue with Nike about it.' A Nike spokeswoman said the glitch was 'disappointing.' The advertisement, Write The Future, was made by director Alejandro G Inarritu and featured a guest appearance from Homer Simpson.

Bloody hell, Blackpool are back in the top flight of English football. What is this, the 1950s or something?

And, finally. The ventriloquist Ray Alan has died suddenly at the age of seventy nine, his agent has announced. Ah, what a shame. Yer Keith Telly Topping always rather enjoyed Ray's act - a reminder of a slightly more innocent time. The showman was known for his upper class puppet Lord Charles, who usually appeared to be drunk. Lord Charles' penchant for calling people 'silly-arse' was really impressive when you heard it as an eight year old. Alan, from Reigate, was a TV regular from the late 1950s to the 1980s, appearing on shows including variety series The Good Old Days. In later years he was an entertainer on QE2 cruises, taking a break from showbusiness in 2008 due to ill health. Old age had also made it increasingly difficult for him to control his puppet. Alan - always accompanied by Lord Charles - was often a guest on TV shows including Celebrity Squares, Give Us A Clue and 3-2-1. They clocked up the most appearances on The Good Old Days, where Alan and Lord Charles made their TV debut. One of the highlights of Alan's career was a performance at the London Palladium for the comic Bob Hope's eighty second birthday. Ray began his showbusiness career as a teenager, with his ventriloquism act developing from pretending there were voices coming from a box on stage. Lord Charles' character was based on a man he saw at a cabaret show, with his face modelled on Stan Laurel. In 1954 he worked with Laurel and Hardy after fellow ventriloquist Harry Worth was forced to pull out of a show. His puppet became famous for his catchphrase 'you silly arse' and having an eye for glamorous women. But he was also famous - with a somewhat different audience for Tich and Quackers, the stars of a children's show about a young boy's ventriloquist dummies. Other characters included Ali Cat who featured in another 1970s children's show, Magic Circle. His agent Peter Pritchard, who worked with him for thirty years, said: 'Technically he was regarded as Britain's top ventriloquist. You couldn't see his mouth moving. He was tremendously well-liked in the business and he had been in the entertainment business all his life,' he added. Speaking to the BBC in 2006, Alan said of his puppet sidekick: 'Oh no, I'm not one of those ventriloquists who thinks he's real. When I finish my work I put it back in the tool box and I don't take it out again until the next job.' Alan also worked as a writer, including the Channel 4 documentary A Gottle Of Geer and the ITV show And There's More, starring comic Jimmy Cricket. Earlier this year Alan - who is survived by his wife Jane - published his third crime novel, A Fear Of Vengeance.

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