Sunday, May 09, 2010

Week Twenty: Cheer Up, It Might Never Happen

Let's kick-off this Sunday Top Telly round-up with some positivity for once. There's far too much negative crap around these days, we need to lighten the mood the bit with some merriment and japery. And, as Jo Brand wisely noted when reading the autocue on this week's Have I Got News For You Election Special, just for a few days at least, Britain and its political system are the envy of the entire civilised world. Because ... we have no government! Great, innit? Meanwhile, the man who should be Prime Minister (if not El Presidente) Stephen Fry has joined yer Keith Telly Topping in his appreciation of The Vampires of Venice. Stephen told his twatter followers (or, whatever they're called) that it was 'Far and away Matt Smith's best performance so far. When he's serious, grave, dignified and not being silly he is simply superb.' Damn straight he was, baby. So, there you go, dear blog reader. No one is running the country and yet we're all still alive it would seem. Doctor Who's on the telly and is looking jolly good. England are winning cricket matches, my beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies are back at the top table and the World Cup starts in three weeks. See, when you put it like that, it doesn't seem to bad, does it?

Carol Smillie became the fourth celebrity to be voted off Marco's Kitchen Burnout earlier this week. She, along with Alex Ferns and Russell Grant, attempted to cook a set menu for twenty five paying customers as part of the programme's culinary challenge. Each contestant then faced a score out of one hundred, which was decided by both the diners and the host, Marco Pierre White. Ferns won the night with sixty two points, ahead of Smillie's forty and Grant's forty one. From the bottom two, White chose Smillie to go home. 'To be honest I'm a bit gutted. I hate to be the first out of anything,' she said following her exit. Meanwhile, in news that some people are actually interested in ... here's you're next batch of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 14 May
In Ashes to Ashes - 9:00 BBC1 - having almost finished his report into Gene Hunt and his team, evil git DCI Keats continues to push Alex to find out what really happened to Sam Tyler. Meanwhile, a disturbance at an ANC drinking den prompts a murder investigation, which leads Gene and Alex into a world of illegal immigration and terrorism.

The Genius of Design - 7:00 BBC2 - tonight looks at the crisis-stricken decades of the 1920s and 1930s, when the world at the tipping point between two global wars. Designs of the era suggested dramatically different ideas about the shape of things to come, from the radical futurism of the Bauhaus movement and Art Deco to the British love affair with mock-Tudor architecture and the three-piece suite. In Europe, the 'modern movement' promoted the virtues of the machine and the machine-made. Meanwhile, the fitted-kitchen and tubular steel furniture became a reality, whilst in the US designers like Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss explored and exploited the dreams of American consumers through post-modernism.

And, there's a potentially extraordinary episode of Lost - 9:00 Sky One - guest-starring The West Wing's Allison Janney which focuses on the back story of Jacob and Not-Locke.

Saturday 15 May
Tonight's (really scary-looking) episode of Doctor Who - 6:25 BBC1 - is called Amy's Choice. Five years have passed since Amy and Rory last saw the Doctor. But when one day he reappears in their life, she faces a terrible decision. The Doctor must lock horns with a man called The Dream Lord, played by Toby Jones (Dobby The House Elf from the Harry Potter films). The Dream Lord has trapped the Doctor, Amy and Rory in a dream world and tries to make them choose which of their potential escape routes is reality. By dying. If they die in the dream, they wake up in reality and are freed. But if they die in reality, then 'You die, stupid. That's why it's called reality.'

There's stand-up comedy from the world-famous Hammersmith Apollo in Live at the Apollo - 9:50 BBC1. Isn't it the HMV Hammersmith Apollo, now? Mind you, it could be worse. Just down the road the Hammersmith Labatts Carling God of Popcorn Odeon's been having a terrible time. This episode's a repeat, but it features some top quality acts: BAFTA-nominated actor and comedian from the Valleys, there's lovely, Rob Brydon hosts the show. Special guests are the North East's very own Queen of Comedy, the truly gifted Sarah Millican and Ireland's Jason Byrne.

Sunday 16 May
There's what appears to be another fine episode of Lewis on tonight - 8:00 ITV. Over an August Bank Holiday, an empty Oxford college is the venue for a weekend attended by professional quiz contestants. Lewis and Hathaway are called in when outstanding competitor, Ethan Croft, is found floating dead in the college fountain. Don't you just hate it when that happens? They learn that Croft was an outrageous flirt with a number of guilty secrets and the pair race to uncover the killer before the gathering breaks up. Meanwhile, Hathaway discovers that Lewis was planning a romantic weekend at Glyndebourne with a mystery date.

Today's Time Team - 5:30 Channel 4 - comes from Shropshire. Tony Robinson and his mates visit the remains of Hopton Castle and attempt to put together a piece-by-piece reconstruction of the battle which took place there during the English Civil War. You remember that. Roundheads, Cavaliers. The Clash sang about it. Sort of. I think it was Jeremy Hardy who once noted the utter tragedy of the English Civil war - the conflict in which the greatest percentage of Britons died. It was a really important, almost pivotal moment in our country's history and most of our current system of government owes its origins to the period. And yet, all anybody knows about it are the haircuts of the participants. 'One lot looked like The Grumbleweeds, the other lot looked like Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen so it all kick off!'

On a similar olde-worldy theme, Halcyon River Diaries - 6:10 BBC1 - is described as 'an intimate look at the wildlife of a typical English river, as seen through the eyes of a family who live beside it and love it.' Sounds suitably tranquil. Wildlife cameraman Charlie and his family discover the secret life of the nocturnal otter on British rivers, and film unique behaviour of a river otter hunting at night. Plus the boys recreate the riverbed in an old tank to investigate the family life of the stickleback.

And finally for the weekend, Boy George has made more than a few headlines in his time, but the years before his Top of the Pops debut in 1982 are less well-known as we discover in the biopic drama Worried About the Boy - 9:00 BBC2. Growing up as a teenager, George O'Dowd realises he was not like other boys. He was sharp-witted, independent-minded and had a passion for clothes and make-up. Leaving the London suburbs for the smoke of the city he soon became a fixture at the infamous Blitz Club – the favourite haunt of those at the forefront of the New Romantic movement. Living in a squat and falling in and out of love - this is described as 'a compassionate portrait of a much-loved icon.' The cast is quite extraordinary. Douglas Booth is in the title role. Then we've got Mathew Horne (as Jon Moss!), Mark Gatiss (as Malcolm McLaren!!) and Marc Warren (as Steve Strange!!!) Set at the heart of the changing music scene in the Eighties, Worried About The Boy is as much about Boy George's emotional development and constant search for love as it is about his ambition and career.

Monday 17 May
The BBC's planned Eighties drama season ended up being cut to just three - very impressive looking - plays. Worried About The Boy was the first. The second is Royal Wedding - 9:00 BBC2. It's 1981, Charles loves Di (although, if you check out the body language in that famous publicity photo you'll clearly see the feeling's not, entirely, mutual), Toxteth and Brixton are revolting, 'Ghost Town' is at number one and 'all the clubs are being closed down ... too much fighting on the dance-floor' and Margaret Thatcher is trying to reform the economy and destroy the working classes at the same time. She would succeed in both regards before she was done. In a small Welsh village which is beginning to feel the negative effects of Thatcher's free market policies, the royal wedding of Charles and Di gives the community and the Caddock family a chance to forget their problems and unite. Idealistic fifteen year-old Tammy Caddock has organised a royal wedding street party, but during the course of the celebrations, events unfold which change the lives of her family and the community for ever. The cast includes Jodie Whittaker, Kevin Bishop and Sarah Hadland.

The actor Timothy Spall and his wife, Shane, sail from Cornwall to south Wales in their Dutch barge in the final part of Timothy Spall: Somewhere at Sea - 8:30 BBC4 - which sounds like quite a fun idea. Of course, this kind of thing can go two ways - the Three Men In A Boat shows work very well (mainly because people quite like Dara, Rory and Gryff and enjoy watching them making tits of themselves). By contrast, ITV's current All At Sea looks truly dreadful. Despite the fact that watching Richard Madeley vomiting his guts up is one of life's few genuine pleasures that we have left. Anyway, in a state of some anxiety, Timothy manoeuvres the Princess Matilda around the infamous Lizard Point before mooring in Newlyn, a focus of the Cornish fishing industry. But tying up for the night is never straightforward. The Spalls get advice from the crew of the Penlee Lifeboat on how to tackle Land's End, another tough test lying in wait, and Timothy marvels at their seafaring skills and bravery.

Springwatch is var nigh up us and this week sees a series of films made by the various contributors to get us ready for the main event. In Signs of Change - 8:00 BBC2 - Chris Packham shows us how changes in the nature around us provide solid proof that climate change is already happening. Some of the most powerful data has come from amateur naturalists and recorders. Chris investigates what climate change means for UK plants and animals and predicts the winners and the losers.

And, lastly for tonight in Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Becky agrees to visit Tracy in jail. But is she walking into a trap? Lloyd gets closer to lap-dancing Cheryl and Carla's whining workforce drives her up the wall. Let's hope she stays there, eh.

Tuesday 18 May
Meanwhile, over in Walford, in EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Phil takes his anger out on an unsuspecting Jordan. No, not Katie price, the character of Jordan. Meanwhile, Roxy stumbles on Danny's mysterious plot, but has she got the wrong idea? Zainab brings Syed home to bitter tension and Janine has a plan to persuade Ryan she knows what is best for him.

Yer Keith Telly Topping has been rather enjoying The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion - 9:00 BBC2 - thus far this series. In tonight's film, Michael Mosley - in his best James Burke Connections-style - tells the story of how mankind has harnessed power from wind, steam and from inside the atom. In the early years the drive for new sources of power was led by practical men who wanted to make money. Their inventions and ideas created fortunes and changed the course of history. It took centuries for science to catch up, to explain what power is, rather than simply what it does. This search revealed fundamental laws of nature, which apply across the universe.

Our Daughter, The Mermaid - 10:00 Channel 4 - is one a series of documentaries looking at extreme cases in human science. This tells the story of Shiloh Pepin, from Maine, who was born with Sirenomelia or 'mermaid syndrome', an extremely rare congenital disease meaning her legs were fused together below the hips. She was born without a rectum or genitals, almost no large intestine and just a small piece of her kidney. Against all odds, in 2009 she celebrated her tenth birthday, a milestone doctors predicted she would never reach.

Wednesday 19 May
The Twelfth Annual British Soap Awards 2010 - 7:30 ITV - are presented by Phillip Schofield. Tragically minus Gordon the Gopher. With awards voted for by the public, this is the biggest night in the soap calendar and celebrates achievement in the UK's top five soaps - Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Doctors. The seventeen Soapies will be given out by a star-studded (or, should that be 'sudded') line-up of guest presenters and the ceremony promises to be a terrific night of drama, murder, fights, weddings, funerals, unlikely comebacks and much more. Just kill me now.

There's another Springwatch special City Living - 8:00 BBC2 - in which Simon King is out on safari again. Only, this time he's in the urban jungle. Our cities can be great places for wildlife - home to otters, peregrine falcons, badgers, foxes, bats and more. To really appreciate our natural neighbours and the extraordinary ways they've adapted to city living, you need to re-tune your senses and enter their world. Super-sleuth Simon shows where and how to find our wildest city dwellers. Sounds really good although, I suspect Simon himself would rather be halfway up a cliff on the Farne Islands in the middle of howling gale protected only by his flimsy BBC cagoule. he always seems happy in such circumstances, somehow.

Chris Ryan's Strike Back - 9:00 Sky1 - is an action drama about two former soldiers, Hugh Collinson and John Porter, whose lives collide many years after they shared a disastrous and life-changing experience in Iraq. Porter is assigned to track down Gerald Baxter, a British hacker whose actions cost US troops their lives in Afghanistan. Kidnapped and brought to Baxter at a Taliban camp, Porter discovers that Baxter is working with Zahir Sharq - the man he claims is the future of Afghanistan. It's not bad - a bit like [Spooks] on steroids - and it's got a fabulous cast which includes smouldering, hunky Richard Armitage, Andrew Lincoln, Ewen Bremner, Alexander Siddig and Toby Stephens.

Thursday 20 May
How the Other Half Live - 9:00 Channel 4 - claims to explore 'the harsh reality of poverty in Twenty First Century Britain' in this fly-on-the-wall documentary series from the team behind the Secret Millionaire. The wealthy Denby family, who run a successful hotel business, try to assist the Isaac Welcomes, who live on a violent estate in London.

The Grumpy Guide to... The Eighties - 10:00 BBC2 - looks at the decade that taste forgot, along with any form of decency or compassion. From Thatcher's Britain to the New Romantics and the ubiquitous filofax there's much about this decade to be thoroughly grumpy about. Ronnie Ancona used to get an adverse physical reaction to seeing a mullet and Shappi Khorsandi does a spookily good impression of those horrendous Cabbage Patch Dolls. This is look back at one of history's most embarrassing decades is a hopefully amusing way.

You Have Been Watching - 10:00 Channel 4 - is, just in case you've been ignoring yer Keith Telly Topping for the last few weeks and not catching it, naughty blog reader, a comedy panel show looking at the weird world of TV. That's the 'twenty-words-or-less' description so beloved by TV listings magazines. What is important to remember is that it's also a comedy panel show looking at the weird world of TV and hosted by Charlie Brooker. Which is a necessary difference, I feel. Tonight's episode features guests the excellent Reginald D Hunter, the divine Sarah Millican - whose been on TV more often than The News this week - and David O'Doherty.

In tonight's episode of Bones - 10:00 Sky1 - as the Grave Digger finally stands trial, the Jeffersonian team try to uncover enough forensic evidence to make her pay for her naughty crimes.

And now, the news: ITV chairman Archie Norman has again pledged to transform the commercial broadcaster to ease its dependency on the 'declining' free-to-air advertising model. In its results statement for the first quarter of 2010, ITV posted a six per cent year-on-year increase in group revenue and an eight per cent year-on-year growth in television advertising revenue. However, Norman warned that the recent market upturn, which is predicted to increase even further in the second quarter around the World Cup, could go into reverse by early 2011, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Speaking to ITV shareholders at today's annual meeting on Thursday, he said: 'It is a good outlook for the next quarter but these figures have to be seen against last year's record decline in advertising. The effect on the economy [of the public sector deficit] could mean we slip back into no growth or even negative growth in the early part of 2011.' Norman claimed that advertising revenue is 'like a faulty shower' as it either 'blows too hot or too cold and it's very rarely somewhere in between.' He therefore wants to usher in a 'transformation' of the ITV business model to ensure that it can draw on a variety of additional revenue streams. 'The board fully recognises that ITV is a challenged business. Gone are the days when we can take for granted the steady growth in advertising,' he said. 'Free-to-air advertising is probably in long-term decline and yet we as a business remain substantially dependent on it. For us, no change is not an option. We have to find different ways of monetising and making value from our products on the Internet and internationally and so on. We cannot sit where we are no matter how much we want to do so.' However, Norman warned that transforming ITV will involve a 'five-year journey' to genuinely build a long-term model of stability. 'It's not that we are not interested in this year's profits and the next - we are very interested - we will make the right decisions to create shareholder value over three to five years,' he said. 'Where that involves investing a bit more money today even though that may not help next year's results but will benefit in three years' time, we will do that. Instant change is really no change. This isn't superficial. It's fundamental.' Discussing possible options for expansion, Norman pinpointed online, video on-demand and mobile platforms as representing important growth areas. 'We need as a company to be on all these platforms and at the forefront of exploiting this new technology,' he said. 'At the moment we are, if anything, slightly lagging.'

New Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has said that a team of senior figures will handle all responsibilities of the outgoing director of television and content Kevin Lygo until a replacement can be hired. It was announced last week that Lygo has been appointed to lead the ITV Studios production business by new ITV chief executive Adam Crozier. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, Abraham said in an email to staff that even though a leaving date for Lygo has not yet been agreed, it would be inappropriate for 'ultimate commissioning and budgetary responsibility to reside with him during this transitional period.' As an alternative arrangement, Abraham will put together an interim commissioning team to handle his duties, consisting of controller of broadcasting Rosemary Newell, head of Channel 4 Julian Bellamy and controller of film and drama Tessa Ross. 'Kevin and I are still discussing the final details of his departure, but the aim is for him to remain at Channel 4 long enough to lend his invaluable experience and insight to this review process,' said Abraham, who started at Channel 4 on Tuesday. 'For obvious reasons however, it isn't appropriate for ultimate commissioning and budgetary responsibility to reside with him during this transitional period.' The new interim management team will meet weekly and have 'ultimate sign-off of all commissioning decisions.' Abraham said that the interim group will stay in operation until he completes a full strategic review of the commercial public service broadcaster.

ITV has announced that its head of news output Ian Rumsey will become the new editor of GMTV. Rumsey will replace GMTV's long-serving editor Martin Frizell, who left the post in December under a management restructure following ITV's full takeover of the breakfast broadcaster. Rumsey will start his new position in June, the same month that Paul Connolly becomes GMTV's new deputy editor after joining from The ONE Show. Malcolm Douglas will remain with GMTV and report to Rumsey as head of news output. 'This is another crucial step in our ambition to create a groundbreaking ITV breakfast programme,' said ITV's director of daytime and factual Alison Sharman. 'This is an incredibly exciting time for GMTV. Adrian Chiles is joining the team, we're investing in fantastic new facilities by moving to a brand new HD studio and I'm thrilled that Ian Rumsey is to become editor.'

But, there's an additional angle to this story. Rumsey is Kate Garraway's former husband. According to the Mirror, the appointment has 'come as a blow' to Garraway, who left Rumsey in 2003 amid allegations that he twice cheated on her. Rumsey, who strenuously denied the allegations at the time and blamed the split on Garraway's unsociable working hours, is set to join the show next month. A source said the appointment had 'raised a few eyebrows,' adding: 'It's a bit embarrassing for Kate to be reporting to someone she was involved in a messy split with.' Rumsey, meanwhile praised Garraway as 'enormously experienced and talented' before pledging to steer GMTV 'back to the top.' Oh, that's gonna get messy, real quickly.

And, speaking of over-the-top drama queens, Kay Burley was heckled by a political activist while presenting live on Sky News this afternoon. And, very funny it was too. The news anchor was fronting continuous coverage of the general election fallout on location in Westminster, when she has become the target of an angry viewer. The man disrupted Burley's live links with repeated chants of: 'Sack Kay Burley. Watch the BBC. Sky News is shit.' Funny and good advice. That chap should have his own widely-read TV blog, clearly. Burley initally responded to the heckling with a smile, telling viewers: 'Democracy in action right behind me.' Aye. That's the whole trouble with democracy, isn't it, Kay? It can be rather unpredictable. The protestor progressively became more enraged, however, and began shouting anti-Murdoch sentiments. 'They don't like the Sun, they don't like us, they don't like Rupert,' Burley observed. She was then forced to abandon an interview and cut to a commercial break. There's a very good piece on the conforontation and its aftermath by Matt Wells in the Gruniad Morning Star which you can read here. 'Many newsreaders have that annoying habit of declaiming sentences without verbs – but Burley has it particularly bad. She can go for hours without the slightest hint of a doing word.' Heh!

Meanwhile, Eamonn Holmes was reportedly 'furious' with a sports reporter after the location of his home was revealed live on air. And, if you've never seen Eamonn Holmes furious, it's quite a sight, trust me. He looks like a tomato-faced Pillsbury Dough-Boy. According to the Daily Record, the broadcaster had an on-screen disagreement with his Sky News colleague Jacquie Beltrao. Holmes apparently made a joke about the 'paparazzi and helicopters' flying around Tiger Woods' house, to which Beltrao replied: 'Well, how would you like it - a helicopter over your house in Weybridge.' Holmes was reportedly visibly stunned by the reference to his Surrey home. A source claimed: 'It caused a bit of mirth afterwards - although not particularly for Eamonn, who wasn't overly impressed. He played it down in his usual professional manner - but you could still tell he was a bit irked by what she'd said.'

EastEnders actor Laurie Brett has predicted that fans will be shocked by what is in store for Jane Beale and Masood Ahmed in the coming weeks. The attraction between the pair will bubble to the surface again in next week's episodes as Masood (Nitin Ganatra) has a heart-to-heart with Jane and reminds her about the kiss they shared last year. Masood's chat with Jane comes following the recent problems he has faced at home with wife Zainab (Nina Wadia) and troubled son Syed (Marc Elliott). Speaking on This Morning, Brett teased: 'The Masoods get about, you know? And Masood and Jane, the spark rekindles for the next few weeks and there's a possible very shocking outcome at the end of it.' The actress also confirmed that her character will eventually discover the truth about stepdaughter Lucy's (Melissa Suffield) abortion. She said: 'Jane thinks it was a miscarriage but it's not and it's going to cook and cook and come out.'

Lie To Me showrunner Shawn Ryan has confirmed his departure from the show. The executive producer, who has also previously worked on The Shield, Angel and The Unit, explained his decision to leave the crime drama, which stars Tim Roth and Kelli Williams. Ryan tweeted: 'I had a great year working on the show and helped develop a team that's ready for more responsibility. Time for me to go. When I took [the] gig, I had things in development, nothing in production. Now with Terriers and possibly Ride-Along, too much work.'

Danny Dyer's column has been dropped by lads' magazine Zoo after it advised a heartbroken boyfriend to consider 'cut[ting] his ex's face, so no one will want her.' 'As an immediate result of an ongoing internal inquiry following an indefensible comment published in this week's issue, Zoo has decided to bring the Danny Dyer column to an end,' said a spokeswoman for the magazine. In response to a letter about getting over a split from a girlfriend, the Football Factory actor and TV presenter's column said: 'You've got nothing to worry about, son. I'd suggest going out on a rampage with the boys, getting on the booze and smashing anything that moves. Then, when some bird falls for you, you can turn the tables and break her heart. Of course, the other option is to cut your ex's face, and then no one will want her.' It is understood that Dyer's weekly advice column is dictated over the phone to a member of the magazine's staff, a common - and rather tawdry - practice within the magazine industry. Dyer has, apparently claimed to have been 'misquoted,' something the magazine's publishers have furiously denied.

Liam Gallagher is reportedly developing a Beatles biopic. According to the Daily Mail, the former Oasis frontman has optioned a book about the break-up of the Beatles. British production label Revolution Films, run by filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, is behind the project, based on Richard DiLello's memoir of his years at the headquarters of the Beatles' record company Apple. DiLello's book, The Longest Cocktail Party, first published in 1973 chronicles the band's career at the end of the 1960s. No casting announcements have been made for the project and no production start date has been revealed.

No comments: