Friday, December 24, 2010

When The Snowman Brings The Snow

Matt Smith has suggested that he believes his character The Doctor is 'particularly fond of Christmas.' The actor told USA Today that he enjoyed channelling the Time Lord's love of the festive season whilst filming the one-off episode A Christmas Carol. 'He loves Christmas,' Matt said. I'm starting to get a bit worried about Matt's habit of referring to The Doctor as though he's a real person, though! Matt, trust me, it's made it. I've met Steven Moffat, it all comes out of his head. Honest! 'It's showcasing humans at their most open and giving and kind. It's everything The Doctor's about.' In previous holiday specials, The Doctor has fended off an invasion of earth by the menacing Sycorax ('It! Is! Defended!'), prevented a space replica of the Titanic from crashing into Buckingham Palace (and watched poor old Kylie die in the process) and battled the Cybermen in the snow-covered streets of Victorian London. As he approaches the first anniversary of his initial on-screen appearance as The Doctor, Matt suggested that he is beginning to understand the way that the alien's mind works. He explained: 'I love his madness. I love his brain. I love that he's completely silly. I love how lonely he is. I love his bravery. I love the fact that he's clumsy.' Yes Matt. He is. He's also fictional! If you're not sure how it works, get Steven to explain it to you.

The comedy highlight of Christmas Eve telly occurred, of course, on Qi - you expected something else, dear blog reader? A magician appeared to perform the 'oldest trick in the book' and pull the head off a dove. Bet that gets some complaints. From glakes. Please note however, dear - squeamish - blog reader, that no doves were actually hurt during the making of this show. Nor indeed were any Daniel Radcliffes. At least, as far as we know. The episode also saw the second coolest 'wearing of a Fez' on British television this year, by Mr Fry. Not a bad episode, as far as it went, although there were rather too many Harry Potter-related questions for this particular blogger's liking. It might shock some people to learn this, I know, but not everybody is bloody obsessed with a bunch - admittedly pretty well-written - children's books. At least Lee Mack managed to send the whole thing up rather nicely with his 'it's-Rowling-as-in-bowling' riff! And, the two tricks at the end were a nice touch.

Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, has accused the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt of being 'knee deep in News Corp.' I'd've gone for tongue deep myself but, you know, any part of the body will do. In a letter sent to cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, Watson said that Hunt should not be allowed to rule on News Corp's bid to take full control of Sky. He was specifically referring to revelations that the lack of culture secretary held un-minuted meetings with executives from Rupert Murdoch's media giant shortly after the firm launched its takeover bid in June. James Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corp in Asia and Europe, was also understood to be present at some of the meetings, according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Hunt was handed the power to arbitrate over the takeover after business secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the decision for saying that he had 'declared war' on Murdoch's media empire. In his letter, Watson called on O'Donnell to disclose whether he was aware of Hunt's meetings with News Corp, before giving his backing for the lack of culture secretary to make the final decision on the takeover. The MP also claimed that Hunt is 'knee deep in News Corp. [Hunt] had had several un-minuted, private, secret, "informal" meetings with News Corp, the existence of which DCMS ministers have then denied in written answers to parliament,' claimed Watson. 'As no civil servants were present at the meeting can you be entirely satisfied that this meeting will not prejudice Mr Hunt's judgment when acting in this quasi-judicial role?' Media regulator Ofcom will deliver its investigation report into the takeover by 31 December and Hunt is expected to make his decision after parliament returns on 10 January. Which will be 'let Rupert do whatever he wants.'

Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will be in for an extra special treat on Christmas Day as they finally have the chance to see this year's festive episode. No, not because they'll also have the opportunity of seeing Vince Cable (Lib Dem. Allegedly) making an arse of himself all over again - that's something of a given. But, rather because John Barrowman is one of the five celebrities taking part in the Yuletide dance-off. Big gay John is being hotly tipped to take the Christmas trophy with his partner, Kristina Rihanoff. The Torchwood and Doctor Who actor - who, of course, has plenty of experience of performing in musical theatre - has previously admitted that he is excited about taking part in the show. John - who was born in Glasgow but spent much of his childhood in the US - has also said that he would be keen to host the show if Bruce Forsyth decided to retire. In one of the most unsubtle 'gizza job' pleas since Yozza Hughes told that groundsman 'I could do dat, I could walk in a straight line' Barrowman confessed: 'Brucie is a TV icon, we all know him and I grew up with him before I went to the States. If he were to offer those dancing shoes to me, I would gladly take them. It would be an incredible gig.'

Miranda Hart says that she has to blank out any possible humiliation to herself before shooting some of the scenes for her BBC2 sitcom. 'I only appear without a skirt or dance in my knickers because I hope it will get a big laugh,' she says. 'I don't think about it when I'm doing it. If I started thinking: "Here I am showing my fat, horrible body" I wouldn't do it. [So] I don't think about it. I just think about the comedy.' In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Miranda also noted that: 'I hate being called "a woman in comedy." I understand that men may possibly only watch it because they're persuaded to do so by their partners but I want to make sure it's for everyone. I don't want to write a show for women. Everyone feels they've been a bit of an idiot in social situations but no one likes to admit to it. No one goes, "You won't believe what I did yesterday" but I think that happens to everyone. I see my role as being the friend you can laugh at and think, "Well, at least I’m not as bad as her!"'

Vic Reeves has revealed that it was he who made the balsa-wood guitar on the cover of Jeff Beck's 2003 CD Jeff. The comic explained: 'It was Jeff's birthday and I made a hillbilly guitar for him out of a bit of balsa wood and a broomstick, and it said, "If this guitar gets lost and you find it, bring it back to Jeff," and it had a bit of string to hang around his neck. It wasn't a real guitar, it had one string.' Beck was so touched that he hung the gift on his wall. Some time later when the photographer came round to take a photo for the CD cover, he spotted the homemade gift and said: 'No, I don't want you – I want that.' So the CD has Vic's guitar as the sleeve. 'I don't get any credit on it,' Reeves told Rolling Stone-turned-DJ Ronnie Wood on Absolute Radio this week. The Shooting Stars host also revealed how at his friend Beck's 2005 wedding, many of the guests got up on stage to join the boogie-woogie band hired for the occasion – and that's how Vic ended up on stage with Jimmy Page and Paul McCartney, singing 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts.' I don't know about anybody else but I reckon that would've been one gig worth seeing. 'That's a one-in-a-lifetime isn't it?' Vic said. 'Macca knew all the words, did the whole lot. I just stood there like a plonker.' At fifty one, the comedian may technically be a child of the golden age of TV, but as he told the Scotsman, as a child he was far from in thrall to the idiot-lantern. 'We didn't watch much at all. My parents limited how much – they'd grown up without TV, of course – but we always had something better to do.' A randomly chosen chapter heading from Reeves' recent memoirs, I Become the Sherpa Tenzing of Darlington's Outlying Fields, confirms this. 'Commandos, swimming in the Tees after accessing it by rope-swing, semi-controlled explosions.' Reeves is recalling his childhood but it's as if he's reciting the index from The Dangerous Book For Boys. 'I grew up in the country but for most kids of the 1970s, I think, the question most asked in the playground was "What did you do last night?" rather than "What did you watch on TV?" When you were outside you went searching for ghosts and whatnot; there was no hanging about bus shelters. Or you dug a "space pit" in the ground and lay in it and just stared at the sky.' When Reeves did reluctantly return indoors, it would be to build a Messerschmitt from an Airfix kit. Knowing this about him, it's easy to see why the drama Eric And Ernie appealed to him. Early on there are scenes of the short-trousered Eric catapulting sunbathers on Morecambe sands and pinging a Hitler target with his air-rifle while his mother Sadie (played by Victoria Wood) despairs: 'You can't play cowboys and indians all your life.' But Reeves doesn't play his hero Morecambe for the story of Eric and Ernie's formative years; rather he plays Eric's father George. 'I loved George on paper,' Vic says concerning Peter Bowker's script, 'and I loved him even more when I got to put on his clobber and speak his words.' A fan of Victoriana, and of tweed suits, Vic was required to gently dispense wisdom while reading the paper by the fire and smoking his pipe – and Reeves loved this aspect, too, as increasingly he finds himself stopping at home with his second wife, Nancy Sorrell, and their twin daughters, Elizabeth and Nell. 'I'll think about going out, to a rock concert, say, but can never be bothered. Spoiled by Stacia, I suppose. She was Hawkwind's nude dancer and when you experience that at seventeen no other gig can be quite as memorable!'

Lauren Graham has revealed that she would love to guest star in an episode of Glee. The Gilmore Girls actress told E! Online that while her own show's cast usually see no need to bring in outside actors, she feels that she could bring a lot to Glee's musical approach. 'I don't know [if we'll have guest stars next season]. I think we have such a big cast, and there's so much story left to tell with us,' she explained. 'Glee can do that fun thing of bringing someone in to do a number. I'd like to be on Glee, singing and dancing, maybe we'll work it that way.' But, it seems that not everyone is such a fan of the show. Full-of-his-own-importance overgrown art school wanker Damon Albarn, has 'warned' the Glee producers not to contact him about using his songs on the TV show - because he can't forgive them for beating The Beatles' US pop chart record. Not that the producers of Glee were planning on contacting him, of course. I somehow can't see the kids from Glee tackling 'Parklife' somehow. But, you know, you've just got to love the arrogance of this chap. 'You can't use my music.' 'We didn't want to.' 'Well ... you can't anyway.' Is it any wonder Liam Gallagher wanted to punch him in the snitch?

Lee Mack used to get a bottle of Lucozade off his mum every Christmas – and loved it. He said: 'It was actually seen as a luxury item in the days when you could only buy it in chemists and it came in a glass bottle with gold shiny foil. It genuinely was my best present. But it was probably my worst present too, because one year it smashed and leaked all over my Stretch Armstrong.'

The Coronation Street memorial service for the victims of the Weatherfield tram disaster contained a poem penned by the Poet Laureate, it has been revealed. This week viewers saw Ken Barlow (Bill Roache) recite a touching tribute to former neighbours Ashley Peacock (Steven Arnold), Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) and Charlotte Hoyle (Becky Hindley), all of whom perished during the soap's catastrophic fiftieth anniversary storyline earlier this month. According to the Sun, show producers initially asked Carol Ann Duffy if she could publish a piece to commemorate the milestone, but then found the words so moving that they decided it would perfect for the Christmas Eve vigil. Duffy, a Coronation Street fan, said: 'If there was anyone deciding what poem was to be read at a community event it would be Ken. I went along to the filming with my daughter and it was magical. There we were stood in the fake snow and it felt like a real street, like a Charles Dickens novel come to life. It was magical, an electrifying experience.' Duffy also called for her friend then Coronation Street creator Tony Warren to be named in the Queen's New Year Honours List. 'I was so proud to be asked and so proud to know my poem, would be on the show. If there is one thing this country should do, it is to knight Tony Warren for creating Coronation Street,' she said.

Camera manufacturer Nikon has agreed a seven-figure deal to sponsor Channel Four's Hollyoaks, replacing mobile phone retailer Phones 4 U. From New Year's Day, sponsorship for Nikon's Coolpix compact camera range will appear with the soap opera on Channel Four and E4, running for twelve months. Nikon previously sponsored Hollyoaks from May to September 2010, before Phones 4 U took over to the end of December. The new sponsorship campaign will run on weekday editions of the soap, along with the Saturday omnibus. It will consist of a range of ten-second idents conveying 'the emotions and fun of taking pictures with the Coolpix cameras.' Jeremy Gilbert, group marketing manager at Nikon UK, said: 'Nikon's sponsorship of Hollyoaks in 2010 proved to be very successful and undoubtedly contributed to a significant rise in market share for our Coolpix products. Hollyoaks continues to provide Nikon with access to a young, trendy audience to whom we are able to communicate the strengths of the Coolpix range. We look forward to promoting our key Coolpix products throughout the campaign.'

There's an impassioned article by Tom Ewing calling for the revival of Top of the Pops in the Gruniad using the central idea that if Doctor Who can be brought back as a huge success, why not TOTP? It's a reasonable argument although, again, it is always worth people remembering the reasons why Top of the Pops was cancelled in the first place. It had experienced the best part of a decade of gradually declining audiences as music fans tended to gravitate towards MTV, VH-1 and other specialist video channels. Also, the nature of Top of the Pops - bands or solo singers appearing live in the studio before an audience - was seen to be terrifically old hat by 2006 as artists concentrated more on making videos rather than actually appearing live. And, although many fortysomethings - yer Keith Telly Topping very much included - might quite like the idea of a modern equivalent of Legs & Co or Pans People dancing to the music of latest X Factor winner who couldn't be bothered to come into TV Centre and mime their latest single each week, it's probably fair to say that such an idea would be considered ludicrous by many of today's teenage pop consumers. Additionally, of course, since 2006 when Top of the Pops ended, the whole nature of the singles chart has changed radically, as has the business of actually buying music. Don't get me wrong, yer Keith Telly Topping loved Top of the Pops and would very much like to see it back, and a hit. I just think it would need to be such a different show to succeed in 2011 that they might as well call it something else.

Bill Bailey said he encountered some right old musical divas during his time on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and it tended to be the less successful who were actually the most awkward. 'The people who'd had one hit in 1984 tended to be the most demanding,' he said. 'They'd demand sushi and be told they had to have a cheese and pickle sandwich like everyone else.'

CSI actor Eric Szmanda has revealed his fondness for his guest co-star Dita Von Teese. Teese, who appears in upcoming episode A Kiss Before Frying, plays a love interest for Szmanda's character, Sanders. Speaking about working with Teese, Szmanda said: 'I was in love with her the minute I met her.' He then joked: 'We're going to try shooting a kiss, and we'll see if it makes the cut. But there is an intimate encounter. I'm excited fans will finally delve into Greg's mysterious private world. This is by far the biggest episode I've ever had.'

You know that you're in trouble when the bookies start offering odds that you're going to be sacked. Ladbrokes has five-to-one on that Channel Four will fire Frankie Boyle. Meanwhile, the Mirror published an interesting piece in which they reveal that advertisers were pulling their adverts from the show online. 'L'Oreal and Nestlé are appalled by the comic's sick jokes on Tramadol Nights.' said the paper. This, presumably, would be the same L'Oreal, which sells a cream in India to make women's skin whiter. Which was last year found guilty of racism in a French court and has faced calls for boycotts for both its animal testing policy and operations in the Occupied Territories. As, Nestlé, which has long been criticised - mainly by Gruniad readers, it should be admitted in the interests of balance! - for it policies of promoting powdered baby milk in developing countries. In a statement released to the Gruniad, Channel Four's head of comedy Shane Allen said: 'Channel Four strongly refutes any suggestion we are endorsing or condoning racist language by our broadcast of Frankie's Boyle's Tramadol Nights. This cutting edge comedy is clearly intended to ridicule and satirise the use of these words – Frankie Boyle was not endorsing them. Channel Four would not have broadcast these words had they been used in a racist way. All the jokes highlight the unacceptable nature of this language. We are aware that Frankie Boyle's comedy can offend which is why we have been careful to scrutinise the material editorially, schedule the series appropriately and give clear and strong warning into each programme.' Media regulator Ofcom and Channel Four are understood to have cumulatively received a handful of complaints about the broadcast. Ofcom has received about six hundred complaints about the past five episodes of the comic's Tramadol Nights series. Ofcom said it was not investigating Boyle's Tuesday night show, but had not ruled out launching an inquiry at a later date. Depending, presumably, upon how much of a fuss the tabloids kick up about it.

And, as if to rub it in for Mad Frankie, one of his regular targets when he was on Mock The Week, Kerry Katona, is having a much better time of it than he by the sound of things. Katon's manager has claimed that the reality TV star has signed a three-year deal with ITV.

Plug time again now, I'm afraid. If you're in the vague North Tyneside area next week and you're looking for an excuse to get out of the house and have a good laugh then I draw your attention to The Victorian Winter Wonderland Variety Performance - an evening of song, laughter and good old fashioned entertainment - which will take place at the Blackfrairs Ballroom in Byker's St Dominics on New Bridge Street on Wednesday 29 December. The evening kicks off at 7pm ('till late') and the tickets are eight quid in advance or a tenner on the door. You can get your tickets online from here or direct from the venue. The blurb notes: 'Gully has some amazing performances lined up for your delectation including Burlesque, Storytelling, Comedy and some rocking local bands. Come and be tantalised by the wonderful Dee La Beau, Constance Peach, Daisy Chainsaw, Stephy Suicide and Marissa Rosaria as they fluff and feather their way into your hearts. Listen in awe as Jez Hunt takes you right back to Victorian Newcastle. Hold your sides to stop them from splitting at the comic stylings of Radio Newcastle's Breakfast Show host Alfie Joey, experience the art of "boylesque" as international burlesque artist Warren Speed shows the guys how it's done (and sets the ladies hearts a flutter!) and dance the night away with two fantastic local bands, The Stillwells and The Vaudeville Class. You can even come in period costume and win a prize or have your photo taken with a dancer!' Sounds like a bit of a post-Christmas cracker, that. And the presence of the legend that is Wor Alfie is, of course, an added bonus. He might even crack one of the several jokes I've given him lately. Or, maybe not. Actually, come to think of it, definitely not. So, if you're despairing at the thought of an enforced five days in the hoose with your family with no escape and you know for a fact that by next Wednesday your mum's will have gotten right on your nerves, you know what to do.

Authorities are ramping up their effort to solve a genuine Manhattan Christmas mystery: Who drilled a hole into the home of a beef fortune heir and stole a collection of iconic artworks by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol? Yes, I know it sounds like the plot of George Clooney caper movie but, no, this is real. The culprits also made off with surveillance video footage that might have caught them in the act. The New York Police Department released images of the art on Thursday, hoping someone might help solve last month's crime in the trendy Meatpacking District by recognizing works like a well-known Lichtenstein print called Thinking Nude. The Press Assocation states that: 'Authorities estimate the five-story apartment was burglarised sometime during Thanksgiving week, when owner and art collector Robert Romanoff was away.' Is 'burglarised' an actual word? Anyway, also taken from the building was another Lichtenstein print called Moonscape, the Carl Fudge oil painting Live Cat, the Andy Warhol prints The Truck and Superman, and a set of eight signed Warhol prints from 1986 called Camouflage. They're among the artist's last works before his death the following year. Authorities estimate the artworks, plus stolen Cartier and Rolex watches and other jewelry, are worth about seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The Romanoff home is in a neighborhood filled with old warehouses and meatpacking companies now turned into retail and living space, restaurants and boutiques. Police say the thief drilled a hole through the wall of a hallway sometime between 24 and 28 November. Lichtenstein, who died in 1997, created Thinking Nude in 1994 — one of forty limited-edition works that are part of his Nudes series based on comic-book illustrations. A similar print recently sold for about eighty five thousand dollars at Christie's, according to the auction house's website. Warhol's Superman print is part of his 1980s Myths series featuring fictional characters with mass-cultural appeal, including Mickey Mouse and Uncle Sam. Romanoff is heir to a beef company fortune that started as a New York City meat store opened by his immigrant relatives in 1905.

An author has scoured the globe to write a guide of the most spectacular views - from the toilet. Luke Barclay, thirty three, compiled a comprehensive list of netties with a view, chronicling the best places to spend a penny, reports Metro. He travelled to some of the remotest locations in the world to record restrooms in the most stunning surroundings for his book, Good Loo Hunting. Top lavatory locations listed include the plains of Africa, Mount Sinai in Egypt and Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia. 'The toilet can't just be in a great location, you actually have to have a window so that you can see the view while doing your business, as it were,' said Barclay. The researcher, who bills himself 'chief loo hunter,' picked up the trail of the world's best toilets after writing an earlier book, Loos With Views, two years ago. Armed with fresh information, and plenty of bog-roll, he travelled around the world to exotic locations in hot pursuit of the perfect privy. He captured loos around Europe, South America and even spotted elephants crossing the Zambezi River in Africa from one loo. Other spectacular snaps include toilets on snow-topped mountains and sun-drenched national parks.

And, speaking of things that are usually full of diarrhoea, Nick Clegg's aides say that he the deputy prime minister is becoming 'increasingly irritated' at the way Liberal Democrat ministers have been found complaining about aspects of coalition policy. Not half as irritated, one could perhaps suggest, as loyal Lib Dem voters who see their party being used to prop up the very people they've spent their entire political lives fighting against. And, one could argue that they, possibly, have a bit more cause and right to be irritated, Nicholas. You whinging little tit.

Two men are reported to have robbed a Berlin supermarket at gunpoint while dressed as Santa Claus. One of the men drew a pistol when he was asked by a sales clerk to remove the outfit, Reuters claims. Police confirmed yesterday that the men made off with an undisclosed amount of money from the robbery on Monday night. Presumably, inside their sack. 'They didn't look like they were going to be passing out any presents when they came in,' a police statement read. The police also asked the public to be on the lookerout for two fat men driving a getaway sleigh laden with dosh pulled by six reindeer, one of which has a red nose. Neither the thirty eight-year-old sales clerk nor her twenty two-year-old colleague was hurt in the incident. Though, it's a fair bet that neither were saying 'ho-ho-ho' after what they'd been through.

Which, of course, brings us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Festival 45(s) of the Day. Did you really think it was going to be anything else? Oh, dear blog reader, denial is such harsh mistress. So, without further ado, here's yer actual Roy Wood and all his little Wizzards on Top of the Pops in 1973. Nice wig you got there, Roy! And, very good to see you roping in Frank Zappa on the drums, too. Now, put that small child down, that might be considered inappropriate. After that, of course, where else can one go - given that it's Christmas Day and there's no public transport - but across Birmingham to Slade's gaff? Where, apparently, Jimmy Saville is Santa Claus. That's really disturbing. Anyway, as Nod, Dave, Jim and Don so rightly note, IIIIIIIT'S CHRISTMAS! And yer actual Keith Telly Topping wishes all of his dear blog readers a moderately tolerable and salmonella free festive period and I hope that you're not ready to throttle members of your close family by Boxing Day as I am most years. I also hope you don't end up with a headache from a combination of watching too much telly and overdoing it on the Bailey's Irish Cream to the extent that you spend most of Boxing Day evening bowking rich brown phlegm deep into the wee small hours. So, have a bah-humbug of your choice, dear blog reader. And may all of your hangovers and indigestion over the next few days be small ones.