Saturday, June 19, 2010

Week Twenty Six: Can Anyone Tell Me Where The Revolution Is?

A huge press pack from the BBC about their forthcoming history programming in the next year has been released this week - which can be read here. And, jolly fascinating stuff it is too. Key BBC1 programmes include an extended run for Who Do You Think You Are? of nine episodes which will feature the likes of Bruce Forsyth, Rupert Everett, Alexander Armstrong (see right), Alan Cumming, Jason Donovan, Monty Don, Hugh Quarshie, Rupert Penry-Jones and Dervla Kirwan. As the intro page, written by Martin Davidson, notes: 'There is Authored History – this tackles subjects that demand significance and interpretation and looks to experts with the depth of knowledge necessary to communicate their passion and to put their chosen area in a meaningful historical context for the audience. I'm delighted to be able to bring some new faces to the screen in the next six months or so, including Amanda Vickery, Mary Beard, Lucy Worsley and Richard Miles, all pre-eminent historians, as well as welcoming back some more familiar faces like Robert Bartlett in The Normans, Ian Hislop in The Do-Gooders and Neil Oliver in his epic History Of Ancient Britain.' Yeah. Good stuff. I'm up for all of that.

Alan Titchmarsh should be history. Yet, he is set to present a 'special' ITV documentary from the gardens and grounds of Windsor Castle as The Queen's residence hosts the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo. Oh Christ, is that simpering gobshite on my television again? (Titchmarsh, this is, not Her Majesty. Obviously.) At least when John Barrowman was virtually omnipresent it was funny. In a one-off hour long film All The Queen's Men, produced by Spun Gold, will offer viewers 'a unique insight into this breathtaking event.' And Titchmarsh a less than unique opportunity to be obsequious and bland without even calling on the help of Mylene Klass to do so. Now in its third year, this military spectacular sees over six hundred soldiers, sailors and airmen performing across four nights in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Titchmarsh will be experiencing at first hand just how tough some of the military routines are. He will discover what it's like to be part of a team of six horses pulling a heavy gun carriage and learn to land a helicopter under adverse conditions in the RAF Benson simulator. Following on from the success of All The Queen's Horses, also produced by Spun Gold, Titchmarsh will be revisiting some of the people featured in that programme and meeting many new characters including members of the Royal Household as they prepare for the Royal Tattoo. Alan, himself one of the comperes of the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo, will bring his natural enthusiasm all aspects of this quintessentially British event. And some choice oily smarm, too. Lovely. All The Queen's Men was commissioned by Alison Sharman, ITV Director of Factual and Daytime and Jo Clinton-Davis, Controller of Popular Factual. Alison said: 'This programme offers a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the scenes at Windsor Castle in the lead up to the Royal Tattoo. And Alan is the perfect guide to this unique event.'

And, with that horrorshow in the back of your mind, dear blog reader, let's have the next lot of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 25 June
The first round at the World Cup thing finishes to night with either Chile v Spain or Switzerland v Honduras being tonight's Big Game on ITV (7:00). Probably the former although, after Spain's amusing capitulation to Switzerland earlier on, you can never be too sure. And, Glastonbury also starts today so there's lots of coverage that on BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4. For all those, like yer Keith Telly Topping, who can't make it due to a lack of finance and an almost pathological hatred of hippie students. I hope it bastard well rains!

In Are You Having a Laugh? TV and Disability - 9:00 BBC2 - David Walliams narrates a funny but sometimes cringe-inducing look at how people with disabilities have been portrayed on television over the years. The first shock is seeing black-and-white clips from the 1960s of people whose lives were undoubtedly improved by help given by a body called, completely straight-faced, the Central Council for the Care of Cripples or who were allowed, as the plummy newsreel voice over man puts it, to work in a factory 'alongside normal people.' This is only forty years ago, it's like something from the Dark Ages! Ironically, if anything it's recent footage that makes you wince even more. We should know better and yet you'll see things like a shot of Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson winning a Sports Personality Award in 2000 - on a set with a podium that was inaccessible to her in her wheelchair. She, along with an excellent selection of disabled actors, writers and producers reflect on the progress that we've made. I really do like the sound of that.

We tend to associate Unreported World - 7:30 Channel 4 - with sort of gritty dispatches from poor countries riven by conflict and famine, not cities like Chicago, Nashville and Los Angeles. But that's where it takes us for tonight's episode, as Ramita Navai reports on homelessness in America. We're not talking about people who are down-and-out here: Navai mostly interviews respectable-looking folk who have jobs, some of them with degrees or qualifications, but who have ended up homeless in the wave of repossessions since the financial crisis. 'I don't understand why America is the way it is today,' says one man who lives in a 'tent city' in Nashville. I'm serious, I know this sounds like something from the Depression, but it's happening today in the richest country in the world. The programme has no answers, either, other than to point out the way in which various social programmes have been cut because of state and federal debts. As Navai becomes saucer-eyed at the human tragedy of it all, you may be as shocked as she is.

Saturday 26 June
Tonight sees the season finale of Doctor Who - 6:05 BBC1. The Big Bang it's called though I doubt it'll feature any hanky-panky in the TARDIS, personally. Lots of Daleks and Cybermen, though. The last hope for all of reality from the cracks in the universe is a little girl called Amelia who still believes in the stars. Not Matt Smith. Well, yes, Matt Smith actually, but not ... Simon Cowell. For instance. Will the Doctor get it all sorted? Of course he will, they're filming the Christmas episode in a few weeks time! Inevitably, however, with the World Cup (the second round games start today and may feature England, or may not given how badly they played against Algeria) and Wimbledon, late changes of programme timing are entirely possible. If not certain. So you're advised to treat your TV guides with caution and use your recording devices wherever appropriate.

Sunday 27 June
Hippies, Communists and Daily Scum Mail readers quiver in your beds, Top Gear returns- 8:00 BBC2. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig are back for a brand-new seven part series. In the opening episode, Jeremy asks why there aren't more three-wheeled cars in the world? (Err ... because they're crap?) James attempts to drive a Toyota Hilux up an active volcano in Iceland. (Oh, so that was what caused all the kerfuffle earlier in the year with the no-fly-zone and the kicking-off big style in airports?) And The Stig rips up the track in the new Bentley Continental Supersports. Petrol! Plus Richard takes time off from laughing at overweight scum from the council estates on Total Wipeout to give the old Chevrolet Lacetti a dignified send-off (well, an explosive send-off, anyway) before he and Clarkson host a star-studded tea party to welcome in a shiny new Reasonably Priced Car for celebs to 'star' in. Some people, of course, don't like Top Gear. And all of them are wrong.

Monday 28 June
The Untold Battle of Trafalgar - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a drama-documentary revealing the story of the non-British sailors who helped Nelson to victory over the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. The records of the warship HMS Bellerophon show that for hundreds of men from all over the world, some of them ex-slaves from the West Indies and America, Nelson's navy was the world's first equal opportunities employer, offering freedom, equal pay and the chance for life-changing promotion. Strange chap, Nelson. as viewers of Qi will know, he famous last words were not 'Kiss me, Hardy' or, indeed, 'thank God I have done my duty,' although he did say both of those. It was 'drink, drink, fan, fan, rub, rub.' I think, if I'd been taught that at school I might not have been such a fan of him! Although, if it had been 'I don't wanna die!' I'd've been in awe of him!

In Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - can Graeme and Tina cope with the repercussions of their romantic liaison? Do bears shit in the woods? Is Liz the 'Fairest Barmaid in Weatherfield'? I think Betty might have something to say about that. Meanwhile, Mary cunningly involves herself in Hayley's wedding plans. The naughty knavesss.

Rev - 10:00 BBC2 - is a very odd-looking sitcom about a vicar running an inner-city church. Reverend Adam is feeling the pressure of trying to fill a rundown London church - until his congregation quadruples overnight. But the sudden influx of worshippers isn't down to word getting out about his wonderful sermons; there's a rumour going round that the local church school is about to get a great Ofsted report and so lots of pushy parents want to ensure places from their brats. Stars two particular favourite actors of yer Keith Telly Topping, the great Tom Hollander from Pirates of the Caribbean and Hot Fuzz's Olivia Colman so this certainly has something going for it. You're never too sure what you're going to get with ecumenical comedy - it can be anything from Derek Nimmo to Father Ted with every station of the cross in between. I guess the best bet is to watch one and you'll sharp find out if it's your thing or not.

Tuesday 29 June
In the always-excellent Time Shift - 9:00 BBC4 - Andrew Martin investigates the curious case of absent fathers in fiction. Far from being a repository of paternal role models, English literature has often preferred to do away with dads - if they survive the first chapter, their idea of quality time often seems to be going off to kill foreigners or sailing round the world. Surveying fathers in fiction from Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons, Martin finds that literature says a great deal about the history of fatherhood in the past two hundred years. Part of the channel's ongoing Fatherhood season.

Tonight's Imagine - 10:35 BBC1 - is called Growing Old Disgracefully. In this, Alan Yentob meets the ninety two-year-old Diana Athill, who is suddenly a celebrity. Her frank and entertaining memoirs, mainly written after the age at which most people retire, chart a life very much less ordinary. She's had a string of love affairs; enjoyed fifty years of success as an editor, worked with writers from Jean Rhys and Norman Mailer to VS Naipaul and led a privileged childhood in a Norfolk mansion. Recently, she chose to go into an old people's home, where they take specifically people 'who have had interesting lives.' Nice to see television, for once, actually featuring someone over the age of forty. Doesn't often happen. Which is ironic when you think about how much of the TV audience is actually made up of the demographic. I must admit, it does somewhat piss me off that, as I approach fifty (three years yet, kids, don't start digging my grave just for the moment), I've suddenly gone from being 'a vital customer' of 'an important TV demographic' to 'some old git nobody's bothered about.' When did that happen? Did I miss that memo?

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 9:00 Five - is, of course, the Las Vegas-based forensic drama that hugely popular with many of our readers. And with me. Tonight, a mother reports her son missing and the investigation quickly focuses on a suspicious man seen in the park - but does the mother know more than she is letting on?

Wednesday 30 June
In The Golden Age of Liners - 8:00 BBC4 - Paul Atterbury, not unreasonably - embarks on a journey into the golden age of ocean liners, finding out how these great ships made such a mark on the popular imagination. And why they continue to enchant and delight even decades after more of them were turned into dry-dock floating hotels. Paul's voyage takes him around Britain and reveals a story of design, politics, propaganda, Hollywood glamour and tragedy. He uncovers amazing survivals from the liners of the past - a cinema in Scotland built from the interiors of the SS Homeric - as well as the design inspiration behind the first great liners. Yer Keith Telly Topping once visited the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Quite stunning. A relic from a different age and one with, still, the power to astonish.

The latest in Five's imported US crime drama shows is K-Ville - 10:00 - a series about the New Orleans Police Department two years on from Hurricane Katrina. An investigation into the case of three prison escapees brings back painful memories for Cobb. As the officers track the missing prisoners, they uncover a web of corruption and rampant greed that poses a risk to the entire population of their devastated city.

If it survives World Cup scheduling, Reunited - 9:00 BBC1 - is a one-off pilot of a brand-new comedy drama from Mike Bullen, the acclaimed writer of Cold Feet and Life Begins. It follows a group of six people who once shared a house together in London during their early twenties. Martin and Hannah were a couple who seemed destined to end up together until Hannah, in a moment of madness, slept with Martin's best friend, Rob. The other occupants, Belinda, Danny and Sarah, watched in dismay as acrimony and recrimination tore the close-knit group apart. Eight years on, following another failed relationship, Hannah discovers her old flame, Martin, is engaged to be married and returns to London. With differing degrees of enthusiasm, the friends gather again and realise the distant past may not be as distant as they had imagined. Reunited has a strong ensemble cast with Zoe Tapper (Survivors, Desperate Romantics) as Hannah and Joseph Millson (Campus, Enid) as Martin. They are joined by Sarah Jane Potts (Waterloo Road, Sugar Rush), Navin Chowdhry (Teachers), Emma Stansfield (The Tudors), Jemima Rooper (Hex, Lost In Austen), comedian Ed Byrne and Jan Francis (Just Good Friends, Collision). I have to say, if I didn't already know it had been written by the person behind Cold Feet, I might have suspected this anyway by the pre-publicity blurb.

And, of course, as mentioned last time around, Mock the Week is back - 10:00 BBC2. Hurrah. Let there be merriment, japery and knocking of knees in equal measure across the land. Dara O Briain and regulars Hugh Dennis, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons (seen left, seemingly about to fist somebody) dissect another week with guests Jack Whitehall (oh crap, not that arsehole again?), Nik Rabinowitz and Jarred Christmas. Blimey, is it Christmas time already? Thank you, thank you. My mother in law, ladies and gentlemen ...

Thursday 1 July
Congratulations to Five on being ever-topical. Oil Disaster: The Rig That Blew Up - 8:00 Five - is, as you might expect, a documentary exploring what really happened in the first thirty six hours of the biggest environmental disaster in US history - the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This features exclusive access - obtained, how? - and footage, the film follows the salvage team called in to save the burning oil rig Deepwater Horizon, and unravels the desperate story of the men tasked with preventing a catastrophe. I'm sure Barack Obama will be watching this one, closely.

It's all documentaries tonight, so it would seem. Shanghai Tales - 9:00 BBC4 - looks at Shanghai Circus school, where the gruelling training regimes result in some of the best acrobats and circus performers in the world. Children as young as eight have their unformed bodies stretched and tested to breaking point as they learn to master the most taxing feats of acrobatic grace and daring. Harsh demands are also made of teachers and parents as their proteges strive to be Number One in the circus - the Chinese way. So, the obvious question is, is it exploitation or is it art?

And, finally for this week, Superhuman - 11:05 ITV - is an insight into the lives of some of the strongest people on the planet, discovering the extreme lifestyles they follow in their pursuit of raw power, and examining how nature and nurture and the importance of the mind feature in the strength equation. Includes the world's strongest couple awaiting the birth of their baby - will it follow in its parents footsteps? Plus the easygoing man who transforms himself into his alter ego to smash through nine layers of concrete, and the world's strongest teen.

The French president and the Prince of Wales laid wreaths at the statue of Charles de Gaulle in London on Friday to mark the seventieth anniversary of the general's radio appeal to German-occupied France. Nicolas Sarkozy and the prince also laid a wreath at a statue of George VI. Earlier, Mr Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, visited the BBC radio studio at Broadcasting House where the general famously urged his compatriots to resist Nazi occupation. The president and David Cameron also met two hundred veterans. During a ceremony at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Sarkozy awarded the Legion d'Honneur to six World War II veterans - three of them British - who took part in the Operation Dragoon landings in Provence in August 1944. Addressing the guests, Mr Sarkozy said he brought the 'brotherly greetings and eternal gratitude of the French people' who remembered what Britain had 'accomplished for our freedom.' In a short speech, Cameron said the anniversary was a 'reminder that Britain and France are not just neighbours in the geographical sense but also in the emotional sense.' He said he was committed to working with France to face 'huge challenges. Just as our two great countries stood together in the past, so we must stand shoulder to shoulder today,' he said. A student from the Charles de Gaulle school in London read the general's speech to Mr Sarkozy; the full text is inscribed on a bronze plaque at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Cameron is also holding an hour of talks with the French president at Downing Street, focused on efforts to boost growth in Europe, the military situation in Afghanistan and other foreign policy matters. The visit is the first by a French president to mark de Gaulle's broadcast on 18 June 1940. The general had fled his country the day before as a new administration, headed by Philippe Petain, sought an armistice with Hitler. In the stirring radio appeal de Gaulle declared himself leader of the 'Free French,' spawning the French Resistance, which went on to play a crucial role in defeating the Germans from within. He told his nation that 'the flame of the French resistance must not and will not be extinguished.' Posters displaying his words were put up all over London in the days that followed the broadcast, to galvanise French exiles. About eight hundred people from the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, the Free French Foundation and other groups had been invited to London to join events. Many travelled across the Channel on a specially chartered Eurostar. During their visit to Broadcasting House, Sarkozy and his wife unveiled a plaque and viewed a tapestry presented in thanks to the BBC by France after World War II.

Meanwhile, France's World Cup loss to Mexico on Thursday night was watched by just over 6.3 million viewers on BBC1, according to the latest viewing figures. The exciting match, which Mexico won with two second-half goals, averaged 6.37m for BBC1 between 7pm and 10pm. A further four hundred and seventy thousand viewers watched the game on the BBC HD channel. That total audience was, astonishingly, than the 6.6 million who watched that night's episode of Coronation Street on ITV.

Steven Moffat has suggested that Doctor Who was 'badly treated' before its relaunch in 2005. The showrunner made the comments at the BAFTA screening of The Pandorica Opens, which airs tonight on BBC1 at 6.40pm. When it was noted that the show would not have had such a prestigious airing in the past, Moffat said: 'And that's shameful actually. It should have had that attention. There's absolutely brilliant stuff. I hate this orthodoxy that Doctor Who suddenly became good in 2005 - that's not true. I didn't fall in love with that show because it was rubbish - it was because it was brilliant.' He then drew the audience's attention to Waris Hussein, the director of the first ever Doctor Who episode An Unearthly Child, which aired on 23 November 1963. Moffat added: 'A lot of people here will have seen that, but if you haven't and you entertain the idea that Doctor Who was ever anything but brilliant, go and watch it. It's absolutely astonishing - twenty five minutes of magical television.' Asked what had changed to alter the perception of the show, he quipped: 'All of us who grew up watching nothing but Doctor Who all day long took over television! Those of us who grew up venerating it and loving and not regarding it as a silly thing, we became middle-aged and we put our love into this show.' All of us. Steven, you da man!

Gabrielle Union has revealed that her storyline on FlashForward changed. Union, who played Zoey, explained that her character's fiancé Demetri (John Cho) was originally going to die as suggested by his flashforward. 'Then I was supposed to avenge his death in season two by representing defendants against the FBI whom I blamed for his death,' Union explained. However, the writers allegedly decided to change the plot because of Cho's popularity and falling ratings. 'Certain storylines got shortchanged,' Union said, adding that the show struggled because it is hard 'to sell quantum physics when you have the Olympics going on.' However, Union also revealed that she is excited about her role as police officer Gina on the upcoming Army Wives spin-off. She said: 'All the butts I wanted to kick on FlashForward and all of the bad guys I wanted to bring to justice, I'll now get to do as this new character, but with a sense of humour.'

Ben Miller has joked that he had 'a comedy affair' with Alexander Armstrong. The duo appear together in The Armstrong and Miller Show but Miller has now revealed that his partner was involved in another double act when they met. 'It was kind of love at first sight,' Miller told the Press Association. 'This is a terrible thing to admit, but I went to see him in a double act that he was actually already in and I just thought he was the funniest person I'd ever seen in my life.' Miller explained that he tried to persuade Armstrong to team up with him instead. 'I was trying to encourage him to have an affair really, I suppose,' he said. 'Meeting in bars and showing him a sketch and him saying, "I can't look at it, I'm in a double act already."' Miller added that he felt like he was having an affair when he met Armstrong's former comedy partner. 'We did start having a comedy affair and at one point we decided we should make a go of it maybe, but he still hadn't told his double act partner,' he explained. 'And we were walking down the street with comedy props we'd bought for our show and bumped into his partner on the street. It's like being caught in bed with somebody by their husband. And sometimes the mistress doesn't get to stay with the unfaithful partner, but in this case it worked out.'

No comments: