Sunday, April 24, 2011

Interplay

So, cher lecteur du blog, yer - very fatigued - actual Keith Telly Topping (tired and emotionally drained after sitting through that gloriously weird Doctor Who then taking fifty minutes to write a review of it for you) spent the rest of Saturday evening slumped, wearily, in his armchair watching Spiral before staggering off, dog-tired, to his pit. (I did watch Match of the Day as well, just to prove I'm not a complete culture snob!) Anyway, here's Il Est Venu Du Nord's review of episodes seven and eight. This week on Engrenages, Le Boucher Vilain is - finally - revealed, although some of us had a fair idea who it was all along; Brémont rumbled Laure's use of sex as a weapon; Elena escaped from Niko's sinister clutches then promptly fell into the hands of Le Shark; Joséphine found an almost Thatcherite way of clearing her debts; Pierre gets himself a bit too close for comfort to a teenage client; Martin sets up le petit merde Arnaud and Madame Courcelles is allowed to walk away from Roban's office in her Prada shoes and her skirt. Eventually. It would appear that Laure Berthaud was right all along. I never doubted her uncanny ability to spot a wrong'un Mexican when she sees one. Ronaldo, it would seem, definitely did kill the first two victims then told Niko what to do with Tatiana and it was Clarence Acuña-look-alike Jésus who was commissioned to perform the grisly post-mortem mutilations. So, that's something of a vindication for our much misunderstood heroine – it's just a bit of a shame that she couldn't take full credit for the collar. Ronaldo's underground lock up certainly made for grim viewing – surgical equipment, blood, body parts in jars and trophies from the victims. Just, in fact, like the discovery of the murderer's underground lair in the last Waking The Dead. (To be fair, they both probably ripped it off from the same source, The Silence of the Lambs.) Currently on the run and hoping to head back to Mexico pursued by both the police and the murderous pimps Niko and Tani, Ronaldo nevertheless gets the episode's most chillingly sinister scene. Arriving on Joséphine's doorstep we says that he likes her. When she asks why, he replies: 'I hate scared women.' Stumbling upon Jésus (he likes to cut up dead bodies, that doesn't make him a bad person, surely?) was certainly fortunate for Laure's squad – if he hadn't chopped up his flatmate then Ronaldo would be safely home in Central America by now. Probably writing letters of complaint about Top Gear. It's too bad for them that before he can identify Niko, Jésus dies from a heart attack in prison. Mind you, after Gilou has told him: 'You know what will happen in prison? You'll get fucked all day long morning, noon and night. And you don't like poufs' it's hardly surprisingly the poor chap's ticker gave out. 'The idiot has gone and died!' Gilou tells Laure, with fantastic sympathy for cardiac victims everywhere. CID and the Crime Squad end the episode under orders to work together and play nice though Brémont harbours doubts about CID's willingness to share information. 'Stop hogging the ball' he tells Berthaud's boss, Aubert. 'I could murder that bastard,' says Aubert, who is clearly not a fan of crass football metaphors. Probably a Paris St Germain fan in that case. You've got to love Joséphine, though. When the bank cancels her debit card she solves the problem simply by stealing forty grand from her drug trafficker client Romain Zeppini (who had the cash confiscated from his underpants, so it's probably classified as 'dirty money'). Zeppini complains that the loss will mean his certain death at the hands of his employees. Joséphine shows her trademark empathy, ushering him out of her chambers with a simple maxim: 'You're a free man – that's the main thing isn't it?' Joséphine is great at keeping her clients out of prison. Keeping them alive on the other hand, nah, not so much. Tintin - depending on your viewpoint either betrays or saves Laure - when he tips off Brémont about the lock-up. Laure can't understand 'the betrayal' so it's easy to see which way she's leaning. Tintin is an honest and loyal colleague to his boss but with two kids and two more on the way this is no time for him to risk his career. His first loyalty, it would seem, is towards his family. Gilou appears - wordlessly - to understand this. But for Laure, it's her CID boys whom she regards as family. She doesn't understand why Tintin can't be another Gilou, bullish and faithful to the end, but she needs to realise that when he says he's protecting her it's not the usual self-serving bullshit – he actually means it. For now, only Tintin knows if he will take up Brémont's job offer. Meanwhile, in the 'God bless their little cotton socks' stakes, le renard argenté and Madame Ledoré are suitably ensconced, despite her blackmailing twat of a son. Marianne and François meet and she tells the judge that wants to keep their relationship going and to hell with Arnaud. 'I have a right to rebuild my life,' she says. 'He'll get over it.' Little does she know that's not all he's 'getting over' this week. His leg, for one. The scene between to the two old lovers is really very well done indeed, as Roban warns her about the storm that's coming once he searches the mayor's apartment. 'I'm scared of losing you,' he tells her, emotionally. 'The people I love all turn their backs on me. I couldn't bear it if you did.' She hugs him. With a son whom he never sees, his mother dead and his brother a criminal, Isabella is all the love that Roban has right now. Course, he does get his kicks in other ways. Like threatening to, literally, strip Mme Courcelles of her assets in his office and make her walk home naked. This show's that he's clearly not afraid to play hardball. But now that his evil brother, Martin, has the cretinous, over-sexed Arnaud over a barrel how long will it be before Madame Ledoré's duplicitous offspring squeals about the staged robbery? Martin Roban sets up a pretty obvious honey trap for Arnaud who, predictably, walks right in and now has a taped sexual encounter with an underage girl hanging over him. The subplot about Niko, the unseen Vlad, Elana, the prostitutes and Le Shark is all a bit meandering in these two episodes, sadly, because it's been really gripping so far. It was the point when the two different stories started to come together by linking Ronaldo, via Jésus, to Niko that suddenly brought home the fact that we're past half-way in the series and it's probably time to begin thinking about how they're gonna wrap this shit up. I wasn't particularly struck by the Pierre and Dylan subplot either, because it's fairly easy to see where that's going. But, overall, yet again, we had two tremendous episodes of what is, frankly, the best drama on TV anywhere in the world at the moment. Well, that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title, anyway.

According to a report of the Gallifrey Base forum, noted Doctor Who fan and former record company boss Ian Levine wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he'd spent all day 'praying for rain' (so that the audience for Doctor Who would be maximised). Then, ten minutes into the episode, his TV signal was knocked out by a lightning storm that hit London. See, there is a God after all. And, he or she has a wicked sense of irony, it would appear. 'Must be careful what you wish for' noted Ian.Easter Saturday's ratings brought an expected nine-and-a-half million overnight audience for Britain's Got Talent (slightly down on last year's corresponding episode but nothing too significant) and an average of six-and-a-half-million for Doctor Who's series opener with a peak of just over seven million in the last fifteen minutes of the episode and a thirty seven per cent audience share. Expect that to significantly increase on timeshifts over the next seven days. The BBC will certainly be more than happy with even that figure although I suspect some of fandom might not be. Never satisfied, them kids! However, those were the only two shows to break the five million barrier with Casualty in third place scoring 4.3m at 9:15 for BBC1. The BBC's early evening schedules, Doctor Who aside, took a real hiding. Don't Scare The Hare (which, sadly, was just as mind-numbingly dreadful was we'd all feared it would be) pulling in just 1.9m viewers and So You Think You Can Dance pissing away three million of its lead-in from Doctor Who with an audience of 3.6m, down one hundred thousand on last week. And sinking faster than the Titanic, frankly. Mind you, if you think that's bad, it was even worse for ITV, Britain's Got Talent aside. Sing If You Can lost nearly two million viewers in a week, down to 3.4m from an overnight of 5.2m for its first episode. Their attempt to draw some of the Doctor Who audience away with the Stephen Fry voiced March of the Dinosaurs fell flat on its face, the two hour animated documentary drawing an audience of just 1.3m. Pity, actually, as it looked rather good from the little bits that yer actual Keith Telly Topping saw of it. In fact despite how badly Don't Scare the Hare and So You Think You Can Dance fared, in the greater scheme of things the BBC topped the ratings between five o'clock right up until Britain's Got Talent started at eight and ITV only led for the next hour whilst their big ratings hitter was on. From nine o'clock onwards BBC1 was back in the lead with Casualty, The Ten O'Clock News and Match of the Day outperforming Piers Morgans Life Stories and subsequent ITV programmes. So, on a not particularly good day for anyone in the TV ratings business, I think the BBC will be by far the less unhappy of the two major channels.

Immediately after Doctor Who, My Sarah Jane - a tribute to the late Elisabeth Sladen - attracted seven hundred and seven thousand viewers to the CBBC Channel. Following that, five hundred and eleven thousand viewers switched over to BBC3 for Doctor Who Confidential at 7pm.

Many tributes have been paid to John Sullivan, the scriptwriter famous for creating Only Fools and Horses. Sullivan, sixty four, who was awarded an OBE in 2005 for his services to drama, died after a short illness, the BBC announced on Saturday. In addition to creating one of Britain's most popular television series, he also created and wrote Citizen Smith, Roger Roger, Dear John and Just Good Friends. The third and final episode of his latest work, Rock & Chips, a comedy drama prequel to Only Fools and Horses, will be shown on BBC1 on Thursday. Sir David Jason, who played Del Boy in the sitcom, said that he was 'devastated' at the loss of his old friend. He added: 'We have lost our country's greatest comedy writer but he leaves us a great legacy, the gift of laughter. My thoughts at this time are with his lovely family.' Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Del's brother Rodney, said he was deeply saddened and described his friend as 'without doubt Britain's finest TV writer. He was a shy and self-effacing man, but had a huge passion for his work and was looking forward to writing more Rock & Chips. I hope the last episode makes him proud.' Sullivan is credited with writing some of the most memorable catchphrases from Only Fools and Horses, including 'lovely jubbly' which made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003. He also wrote the theme tune. Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, said Sullivan had created some of the UK's most-loved comedies. 'He had a unique gift for turning everyday life and characters we all know into unforgettable comedy. His work will live on for years to come. We will miss him and we send our condolences to his family.' John born in 1946 in Balham and always said the secret to his success was that he wrote about what he knew. He revealed that Del Boy was an amalgam of many South London chancers whom he came across in a colourful and well-lived life. He landed his first job at BBC Television Centre as a scene shifter at the age of sixteen. During his spare time he wrote sketches and his break came when he submitted one of his scripts to Dennis Main Wilson, the renowned BBC comedy producer, who commissioned him to work on the series that eventually became Citizen Smith. The sitcom, which ran for four series between 1977 and 1980 made Robert Lindsay a star in the title role of Wolfie Smith. It's actually aged remarkably well, unlike a lot of sitcoms of that era and it remains one of yer actual keith Telly Topping's favourite comedies. Citizen Smith came along just in time to save sitcom from the unstoppable advance of the middle-aged, middle-class blandness of Happy Ever After, Keep It in the Family and The Good Life. It became one of the most talked about series of its era - hated by reformed hippies (who, rightly, saw Wolfie as a wicked parody of themselves), real-life socialists (who couldn't understand what was so funny about someone who saw himself as the Che Guevara of Tooting) and the critics, and loved by almost everyone else. It stuck an irreverent two-fingers in the air at the convention that dictated that comedy and politics couldn't mix. 'Power to the people!' Sullivan had grown up in Balham and Tooting where he remembered 'men selling Soviet Weekly and the Morning Star outside the Wimpy bar. Tooting is just outside the inner-city area which has been turned into one unlovely housing estate. Its streets, plain but solid, were not built for revolutionaries to live in.' He later recalled his first encounter with the original Wolfie Smith in a pub called the Nelson Arms. 'Suddenly from the depths of the bar came the strains of a geriatric guitar accompanied by a voice that sounded not unlike a cow in labour. The sound came from a gangling hippie. He was a Master-Dreamer in an age of fantasy and his outrageous claims became more colourful and absurd as each cadged pint was sunk.' But, it was for Only Fools and Horses, which started in 1981 and followed the ups and downs of slick-talking Cockney wideboy Derek Trotter and his family in Peckham as they tried to make a fortune, that Sullivan will be best remembered. 'I wanted three men of different generations, all without a woman in their lives ... trying to organise themselves,' John noted. Although it took a year to find an audience - and only survived because of the BBC's faith in Sullivan's ability to get it right given time - the sitcom ran for ten years until 1991, with several hugely popular Christmas specials in the decade that followed, and was regularly voted the best British comedy of all time. A 1996 episode called Time On Our Hands, in which the Trotter brothers become wealthy following the discovery and sale of a valuable watch, attracted an audience of over twenty four million viewers and gained the record for the highest UK audience for a sitcom episode. 'The sudden death of John Sullivan has deprived the world of television comedy of its greatest exponent,' said Gareth Gwenlan, the show's producer. Mark Freeland, BBC head of comedy, said: 'No one understood what made us laugh and cry better than John Sullivan. He was the Dickens of our generation.' Comedian Stephen Fry said that he was 'terribly saddened' by the news and described Sullivan on Twitter as 'one of the great comedy writers of our time.' John died at a hospital in Surrey following a battle with viral pneumonia. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, two sons and a daughter and two grandchildren.

Brenda Blethyn has admitted that she studied Cheryl Cole's voice to help perfect her Geordie accent. pet, you could've just asked yer actual Keith Telly Topping. I could've introduced you to some real Novocastrian women, not plastic ones. The actress plays Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope in new ITV crime drama Vera. She revealed that she watched Cole on The X Factor, as well as Denise Welch on Loose Women to prepare for the role. That's marginally more acceptable, I suppose. Speaking on Paul O'Grady Live, she said: 'The X Factor happened to be on the same time we were working so I'd go back and listen to that while I was learning the next day's scenes.' Mimicking the judge, she said: 'You're right up my street pet!' She continued, 'It's a notoriously hard accent to do.' Well, I can manage it. It can't be that hard. 'I listened to Denise Welsh on Loose Women as well because hers isn't that strong and mine didn't need to be that strong.'

To Friday's ratings now. Paul O'Grady's ITV chatshow shed more viewers on Friday night, early viewing figures indicate. Paul O'Grady Live, featuring guests including Coronation Street's Antony Cotton, was watched by 3.07m at 9pm, an overall drop of nearly one million viewers on last week's series opener, and in stark contrast to last year's Christmas special, which averaged five and a half million. Meanwhile, BBC1 led the hour as Rhod Gilbert's hosting of a controversially brilliant episode of Have I Got News For You picked up 4.82m, following which 3.75m watched a Qi repeat at 9.30pm.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day we're off to the Wigan Casino or the Blackpool Mecca for a couple of tasty slices of Northern Soul. Firstly, one from Derek and Ray. Skill.And, secondly, one from - perhaps fittingly on today of all days - the man who wrote the Doctor Who theme tune. Drop-kick them flares, boy, and work that star jumper!

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