Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Could Go On For Hours (And I Probably Will)

MasterChef proper got underway on Wednesday evening after last week's audition malarkey as the final twenty contestants were, over the course on an hour, whittled down to a final twelve. Some front runners quickly emerged. Jackie, who was so impressive in the last round, and despite dropping her pan all over the floor, served an effective pad Thai with prawns. She was joined in the next round by the American Tim who cooked a sort of grilled fish on a potato salad thing which was 'food from outer space' according to Gregg Wallace and 'astonishing' according to a - clearly astonished - John Tordoe. Also straight through were Peter with his steak and Hollandaise sauce, Annie who cooked salmon and poached egg Hollandaise, Tom who cooked a curious, but great looking, mushroom pasta dish, Claudia and her gnocchi, cellist Kennedy whose charizo pasta appeared to be one of the best dishes on show and cockney-geezer James, whom yer Keith Telly Topping has taken a real shine to in the episodes so far, with his excellent-looking prawns with potato and garlic mayonnaise. Also, Alice who cooked steak on truffle mash and Big Madly-enthusiastic Polly, the only contestant to try and appeal to Gregg Wallace's stomach rather than his head and come up with a desert (meringues floating in custard). 'Little mistake, but good,' noted John. Gregg, needless to say, simply loved it. Eliminated were Annalisa whose griddled squid wasn't ready in time and didn't even make it onto the plate, Nicky whose pepper mayonnaise with tempura prawns were, sadly, a disaster (pity, as she was a very engaging contestant), Serena whose under seasoned fish cakes 'missed the mark' and Neil who made some basic errors with a watery sauce in his fish-on-noodles. And, lastly, slightly scary Ondine whose potatoes in her tortilla garlic potatoes were undercooked and too hard to eat. Which prompted an overt display of weeping that even melted the usually glacial arctic heart of John Tordoe. For a moment, I thought to was going to ask her to marry him. Five other contestants divided opinions and so were given a further chance for the final two places. For this John and Gregg were joined by a guest judge - snotty, horsey Amy Willcox from the WI, whom dear blog readers may remember from last year. She has a face, sadly for her, which looks so utterly smug that one wishes to, perhaps, see her slip on a stray piece of butter left on the floor by a messy contestant. And fall, really hard, on her arse. Well, yer Keith Telly Topping does, anyway. He's like that, dear blog reader, you might've noticed. Actually, I'm probably being very unkind to a perfectly nice lady and all that but, sadly, like the footballer Thierry Henry, Amy seems to be one of those people who go through life with a slightly disdainful and disapproving look permanently etched on their faces. Like she's just smelled some shit nearby, basically. See right. Anyway, in what was, almost certainly MasterChef's first ever case of boorish cultural imperialism Wilcox, effectively, talked John and Gregg out of putting Singapore-born Elizabeth, who had cooked a very interesting looking oriental roast duck with spicy plum sauce, through. Inevitably, there were more tears. And, I would imagine, a complaint to Ofcom from Liz once she sees the transmitted episode and realises she maybe - possibly - have been the victim of a bit of borderline discrimination for being pretty. Or, maybe not. However, horsey Amy and her scowling, sour boat-race made it perfectly clear that really did not like Liz's food at all. Sara who cooked egg pasta in the first round (which was 'lovely' despite the 'sticky' pasta according to Gregg) was the big surprise in the cook-off, especially after she'd produced the episode's first flood of tears earlier when Gregg mentioned the fact that her pasta was sticky. Her roasted grouse with Italian potatoes and game jus (as usual, deliciously - almost pornographically - over pronounced by the Goddess of the voice-over that is India Fisher) got the nod for the final place. Earlier, there was the curious case of Fiona, who narrowly scraped through the last round and failed to impress, at first, in this one. Like Jackie, she attempted a pad Thai though John preferred to describe it as 'a prawn noddle dish with egg' since it had none of the traditional flavours one would normally associate with Thai food. Given a second (or, actually third) chance in the last chance saloon cook-off she then produced an tasty-looking fillet of beef with Yorkshire pudding and roast tetties. Wonderful stuff and well worthy of a place in the next round (and, indeed, in this blogger's belly). But, she then went and ruined it and put yer actual Keith Telly Toping right off her by spending the second half of the episode snivelling on and on and on about her dead father. Like that had anything to do with the matter in hand. What was that Gregg Wallace was assuring us a few weeks ago about 'sob stories cutting no ice' with the judges? Oh, do you think so, Gregg? I'm sure Fiona is also a nice lady and a very good cook but, from now on, I've taken a massive dislike to her continued presence in the show. On general principle! Sorry, like, but that's just my prejudice and I'll have to deal with it in my own fashion. My own father, who's been dead nearly twenty years by the way, like me absolutely hated cry-babies. The other two contestants to be eliminated were Matthew whose very traditional English roast beef dish was rather at odds with the Middle Eastern style grub he'd cooked earlier and can probably consider himself a bit unlucky to have missed out on the last place and poor Paul. Who was lucky to survive into the cook-off after he served his odd cling-film wrapped poached egg dish with the cling film still attached. 'I don't quite get this' noted Gregg. 'Weird!' added John, helpfully. The pair, however, had clearly seen some potential in Paul but his cook-off dish of loin of lamb with a red wine reduction was 'full of issues.' So, with the final twelve now decided, we got a 'forthcoming attractions' taster reel at the end which looks very impressive, starting with the task of cooking for all of the previous MasterChef winners in the next episode. Despite a suspiciously concerted, cowardly and rather sickening campaign of whispers being carried out against it by several national newspapers, the episode showed how well the new format of MasterChef can work when they simply get on with the cooking. The episode, incidentally, had an overnight audience of 4.93m on BBC1, half-a-million viewers up on the last episode, just a few thousand down on the opening episode's five million audience and eight hundred thousand up on the corresponding episode last year. Not bad for a show which, if you believe certain organs of the press, or certain other organs of the press, is seeing its 'fans' deserting it in droves. As previously noted on this blog, anyone who attempts to draw wide-ranging trends from the whingings of a few dozen mouthy malcontents is usually on very shaky ground.

As reported on yesterday's blog Wednesday night's episode of The ONE Show was disrupted when a fire alarm sounded in the BBC's White City media centre. The alarm first went off while hosts Alex Jones and Matt Baker were in the middle of interviewing the actress Tamsin Greig. Jones warned viewers that they were preparing to show a film report in case of an evacuation. When the alarm sounded for a second time shortly afterwards, Jones said: 'We're going to pop out, you're watching a VT.' The show then ended early and BBC1 filled the remaining time with a short clip of Nigel Slater's cookery show Simple Suppers. A BBC spokesperson said: 'The ONE Show went off air tonight due to a fire alarm. We apologise to viewers for the interruption and normal service was resumed on BBC1 as soon as possible.' That's all right, mate. These kind of things happen although I'm sure that won't stop some glake somewhere from complaining to the Daily Scum Mail about how their TV licence entitles them to overpaid BBC presenters staying at their post even if a raging inferno is nipping at their buttocks. The spokeswoman confirmed that there was no fire at White City and that only a small number of staff had to be evacuated. Jones later revealed on Twitter that the alarm was apparently activated when somebody tried to warm up a baked potato in a microwave. She added: 'That's live telly for you!' Actually, what she realy said 'that's-a lyyyyve telllleeee fer yewwww,' but, I'm translating to the best of my - somewhat limited - abilities, dear blog reader.

Deadliest Catch cast member Justin Tennison has reportedly been found dead. Police discovered Tennison's body in a hotel room at the Best Western Bidarka Inn on Tuesday after receiving a report about a deceased male in the room, reports TMZ. Authorities also found a small amount of marijuana and bottles of alcohol in the refrigerator, apparently left over from a party the night before. The cause of death has yet to be released. An autopsy has been scheduled.

Lauren Graham has said that she sometimes struggles with feeling confident. Speaking to Health, the actress revealed that she sometimes feels down about her appearance. 'Part of my job is pretending. And I've honestly never led with my looks. I've always thought my strengths were I'm smart, and I have a good sense of humour,' she said when asked about her appearance. The forty three-year-old added: 'I definitely struggle with feeling confident. We went to a party last night, and I always still feel like I'm in high school - "Did I wear the right thing? Do I look okay? Did I walk funny?" Like, I never feel comfortable, but I've done this for so long that I just know I'm not going to feel comfortable. That's not the real me, you know?'

The BBC college of production website went live this week. It provides free practical advice on all aspects of TV, radio and online production. Part of the BBC Academy, it is hoped that the site will be used not only for training BBC staff, but as a resource for the wider broadcasting industry along with those people seeking to break into the industry. Launch editor Amanda Lyon says: 'The premise behind the site's creation is "the best made easy." Through filmed talks, short radio programmes and videos, broadcasting innovators, creatives and experts will freely share their experience with the production community in a distilled and focused form.' Several top names in broadcasting have contributed to the site. Among them are Gary Lineker - talking about the Match of the Day production team - Chris Evans enthusing about his relationship with executive producer Helen Thomas - while Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie share their hottest tip: 'Never look puzzled through the glass!' Each video or short radio programme aims to answer a single question, providing practical advice on a vast array of subjects from health and safety to self-shooting, editing and interviewing. Short radio programmes feature experts in conversation on single topics, such as how blogs can be used to add value to programme content. There are currently around one hundred clips on the site and, throughout the coming year, Lyon and her team will continue to grow the website, hoping to expand it to about three hundred items by December. 'There is huge demand across the industry for this kind of innovative training resource', says Anne Morrison, director of the BBC Academy. We are taking a lead in this area to help reach as wide an audience as possible. The BBC relies on an increasingly mobile workforce, with many freelancers or people working on short term contracts. We aim to share as much of our training as possible with the wider UK broadcasting industry, for free, equipping people with skills they need for a lifetime of employability in an ever-changing media landscape.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. 'They were our Elvis, our Beatles,' said a letter printed in the NME a week after Paul Weller announced in late 1982 his decision to break up The Jam. 'Thank God they're not going to become our Rolling Stones.' When yer Keith Telly Topping was seventeen there was plenty of great music around but there were only two bands that actually mattered. Paul, Bruce and Rick were one of them. Because, they made records like this.Now, here's a bit of a rarity for you. A US import of one of Setting Sons finest moments, a song that - with a jaw-dropping clarity - detailed our lives. What we did, how we felt. 'Saturday's kids live in council houses/wear v-necked shirts and baggy trousers.' And, I reckon, we can have one from the trumpet years! Nice video too, something they often had a bit of trouble faking much interest in. I've always thought this one was rather underrated.And, finally, for many (now, sadly not so) young men in this country of a certain age, please be upstanding and salute for the Mod National Anthem.
And, as a somewhat dubious special bonus, here they are miming in front of what looks like the cast of The Kids From Fame on Top of the Pops. And a hundred lonely housewives really did clutch milk bottles to their hearts. Course, twenty four years and several haircuts later, the goddamn Modfather sounds like this!

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