Friday, May 06, 2011

A Nagging Irritation Causing My Heart Complications

Doctor Who is - once again - dominating the BBC's iPlayer downloads with episode one of the new series, The Impossible Astronaut, being accessed over one and a half million times in the twelve days following initial transmission. The figure is nearly than three times higher than any other programme available on the iPlayer over the same period. In the first week after transmission 1.38 million accessed the programme, this compares with the 1.27 million who accessed last year's series opener, The Eleventh Hour, over the same period. The Eleventh Hour went on to become the most downloaded iPlayer programme ever, a title that it still holds, but one which may be under threat if The Impossible Astronaut continues to attract such attention. The second episode of the series, Day of the Moon, has been accessed over one million times in the first four days it was available. It has eclipsed The Royal Wedding Service which has been downloaded 0.62 million times since Friday. One rather looks forward, of course, to the Daily Scum Mail reporting - in some considerable detail - what a great success episode two's timeshift audience was in big bold headlines and given equal prominence to their coverage of the overnights. Although, to be fair, if they did run a positive story about Doctor Who's viewing figures, it would mean they would only have to bump a far more important story. You know, like how EU-funded Muslim Gypsy immigrants give us cancer. Or something. And let's face it, we really need to know about that.

One of the actors in BBC3's appallingly banal sitcom Coming Of Age, Joe Tracini, has tweeted that the show has been cancelled. 'Sad news tweeps, I'm sorry to say Coming of Age will not be returning for another series. Thanks so much for supporting us with the show!' Personally, this blogger would like to meet whomsoever it was that cancelled it and shake him, warmly, by the hand as this is a great day for British TV and I mean, a great day. Mind you, it's also worth considering that someone, somewhere, commissioned this turkey in the first place so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

Good news for all Christopher Eccleston fans - and, there's plenty of those around - the former Doctor Who and Our Friends in the North actor, currently appearing in the BBC's excellent (if very complex) The Shadow Line has been announced as the lead of new BBC1 drama for 2012, The Fuse.

And, speaking of The Shadow Line you know, it's a age-old truism dear blog reader, that television critics are a bloody contrary lot and are only happy when they're pulling something to bits. Most of the time we tend to whinge on and on and on about how the 'people in suits' fail to give creative types their freedom to express themselves. Yes, you Alison Graham of the Radio Times with your mush like a bag full of spanners. Thus, when the BBC give Hugo Blick (whose work has ranged from the brilliant - Marion & Geoff and Sensitive Skin, to the miserably lightweight - Roger & Val Have Just Got In) the chance to write, produce and direct a seven-part conspiracy thriller, that idea seems to fell flatter than Peaches Geldof's marriage. At least, that was the theory. Thursday night's opening episode of the drama began with the discovery of a body by two policemen wearing hairnets over their caps. Just like Nicholas and Danny in Hot Fuzz when it starts raining. The more senior of the pair was played by the thoroughly excellent David Schofield (one of Waking The Dead's best ever examples of nutter-serial-killer-with-an-overcomplicated-plan a few years ago) and was, it subsequently transpired, as bent as a shipment of bananas. A convicted drugs smuggler called Harvey Wratten had, it seemed, been shot - hard - in the face on the very day that he and his nephew, Crazy Jay, had been released from prison. This had occurred after they'd both received a mysterious - and extremely rare - Royal Pardon. So, the obvious question (for the criminal fraternity, the press and, indeed, the bobbies) was had Harvey been both released and murdered for grassing up his drug baron rivals right good a proper like a dirty stinking squealing Copper's Nark? Or otherwise? The job of finding out why he'd been and gone and got himself topped fell to intense Inspector Jonah Gabriel (the great Chiwetel Ejiofor), a man soon faced with two more classic problems for yer average TV cop. On the one hand, he's got a thoroughly slimy and ambitious boss (played by Heartbeat's Richard Lintern) who thinks that life would be much easier for everyone concerned if Gabriel would play the game and not make the naïve mistake of actually solving the crime. On the other hand, being shot in the head himself a few months ago has left Gabriel with a nasty dose of amnesia, meaning that he can't quite remember if he used to be one of good guys or not. Gabriel visits the grieving parents of the copper who was killed with him during the incident in which he, himself, got shot. We discover that it resulted in a bullet being lodged in Gabriel's brain and that he woke up three months later with no idea how it got there. All in all, he's in something of a fog. And, his shocking discovery of a briefcase full of used, untraceable, bank notes in a hidden compartment in his wardrobe does little to help the situation. Not that the drug-smuggling community is having a straightforward and stress-free day of it either. In Harvey's absence, his firm has been run by his partner, the mysterious Mr Glickman who has now, it would seem, been and gone and done a runner. This leaves essentially clean front man Joseph Bede (Christopher Eccleston) to persuade the firm's various creditors - including not-so-whispering Bob Harris (the fantastic-as-always Robert Pugh) - that everything is fine and dandy and under control. Joseph is running the firm's fruit wholesale business and describes himself to Harvey's softly-spoken enforcer, Maurice (Jekyll's Malcolm Storry) as 'just the flower man.' But, Joseph and Maurice also have the tricky task of managing mad-as-toast out of control Jay (a superbly so-far-over-the-top-he's-down-the-other-side performance by one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Rafe Spall), whose fondness for psychopathic manic ultraviolence could jeopardise the outward appearance of business-like calm. Not only that, but Jospeh has domestic problems to deal with. His wife, Julie (Lesley Sharp) is suffering from rapidly advancing early-onset Alzheimer's. This all sounds like the makings of a promisingly deep and complex thriller. To Blick, it would appear, it represents something more significant – which is presumably why the writing is so laden with a overwhelming portentousness that walks a fine line between intriguing and irritating and doesn't always stay on the right side of the line. Almost all of the characters speak to each other in solemn little aphorisms in exactly the sort of way that real people don't. 'Truth is like lightning,' says the Schofield character to his young colleague at the start. 'It always finds the line of least resistance.' What?! Again, in English, please? 'Even if you drew your last breath on the Titanic,' Gabriel's boss tells a rather baffled press conference, 'you still woke up that morning to a beautiful day.' Eh? Mind you, there's a thoroughly smarmy but, you suspect, impressively dogged reporter - played by The Deep's Tobias Menzies - straight out of State of Play in the room at the time so maybe the policeman is just showing off to get a juicy line on page one tomorrow. There's a sparse, sinister score which appears in some scenes, but overall, it's remarkably quiet for a BBC drama. Until, of course, the discovery of the briefcase, which is brilliantly climactic and operatic. As for the direction, that tends to emphasise the apparent importance of what the audience is seeing by providing telling close-ups of, say, people's feet coming out of car doors – as if nobody had ever thought of doing that before. Or simply by making things ... Happen. Very. Very. Very. Slowly. Not that this blogger has any problem with slow moving, or 'you're going to have to use your brain for this' type TV drama - perish the very thought. In the last fortnight we've seen Exile, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Vera providing that you don't have to be rushing around like a blue-arsed fly to get your point across. And, we've also seen and suspiciously concerted campaign of whispers against the latest series of Doctor Who for daring to remind us that complexity is not a dirty word and that some TV viewers, as difficult as it may be for some in the media to grasp the fact, do have an attention span of longer than the average goldfish. Admittedly, the opening episode of The Shadow Line took things to extremes at times which suggested a mixture of the self-indulgent and the just plain weird battling for prominence – as if Silent Witness were being directed by someone from the German Expressionist school. But given the hugely impressive cast list - and, we haven't even seen Stephen Rea or Antony Sher crop up yet - means that the whole thing is strangely, compellingly, watchable. Kierston Wareing is almost unrecognisable here as DCI Honey and has a lot of fun with the first syllable of the words 'country' and 'constable', when dressing down the ID-checking plod on duty at the murder scene. 'As a rule, you know you're in trouble when the most restrained performer on display is Eccleston,' noted the Torygraph's reviewer of the episode, clumsily paraphrasing Leonard Maltin's review of the film True Romance when he noted that 'you know a film is in trouble when Dennis Hopper plays the most "normal" character in it!' 'In particular, the normally reliable Spall soars well over the line dividing the intense from the positively hammy, as he depicts a psycho by the traditional methods of speaking right into people's faces, suddenly smiling for no reason and talking in a funny strangulated voice,' yer man at the Torygraph continues. Well ... maybe. I thought Rafe was magnetic in a rather difficult role. He doesn't get much to say and what he does get is mostly monosyllabic non-sequitars. But, what he does with a few positively psychotic glances is more than most actors could manage with enough lines for Hamlet. Fiendishly complex and morally ambiguous, The Shadow Line aims to bring HBO-style drama to the BBC. The Shadow Line is, as all of the pre-publicity had warned us, 'a conspiracy thriller which delves into the heart of human morality.' You didn't expect it to be anything other than a long and winding road. And, if you did, once again, I suggest you tune in to the BBC on Saturday afternoon and try Don't Scare The Hare which may be less demanding for you.

ITV have confirmed this week that Wild At Heart will return for its seventh series later in the year.

Gabby Logan has 'hit out' at 'fake rumours on the 'net' that she had an affair with ex-footballer Alan Shearer according to the Mirra. BBC sports presenter Logan said claims that she hid the non-existent relationship by taking out an injunction were 'devastating.' Gabby, who had been married to Scotland rugby international Kenny Logan nearly a decade ago, said: 'I'm a happily married and faithful wife. It's devastating and hurtful that malicious lies can be circulated on the Internet without control when people who genuinely have something to hide can be protected by court rulings.' Gabby added on Twitter: 'I have never had need or desire to use one. I think it's potentially damaging for free speech and would appear to be a tool for the rich.' Logan claims that she fell victim to the accusations on Twitter after a judge granted a banning order to someone described as 'a married male TV star.' Former England centre forward Shearer is a BBC football pundit on Match of the Day. Big Al's thoughts on the matter have yet to be heard. Nor, indeed, are any ideas as to what he might do if he catches hold of anyone who's been spreading such salacious malarkey around. Although, of course, we can speculate.

Horrible Heather Mills is reported to be 'considering' suing the News of the World for breach of privacy over alleged phone hacking, joining the dozens of other public figures who have either started legal proceedings against the paper or are considering doing so. The former model, best known for her four-year marriage to Sir Paul McCartney - and for her very public meltdowns whenever she fancied trying to cop a bit of sympathy from the public - has, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, met with the Metropolitan police, who have shown her evidence seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire which could form the basis of a claim. Detectives are in the process of contacting hundreds of potential phone-hacking victims, most of whom are listed in Mulcaire's notebooks, which cover his activities in 2005 and 2006. He was working exclusively for the News of the World at the time. It is understood that Mills's name and mobile phone number are listed in Mulcaire's notes along with those of her friends and associates. Mills and her younger sister, Fiona, are both considering filing writs in the high court against News Group, the News International subsidiary that publishes the News of the World. Mills's solicitor, Mark Thomson of Atkins Thomson, declined to comment when asked by the Gruniad. In recent weeks, the Gruniad has revealed that several 'high profile figures' have threatened to sue the paper following meetings with Scotland Yard. They include the footballer Wayne Rooney and his agent Paul Stretford. It was reported on Thursday that Chelsea and England defender Ashley Cole has also issued proceedings, as have actor Jude Law and a solicitor who has represented him. Law had already attached his name to a high court action brought by his former partner Sienna Miller, but has now issued separate proceedings, according to the Independent. The paper quoted Graham Shear, a solicitor at Berwin Leighton, Paisner: 'The police came to see me and alerted me that I was the subject of, or appeared to be the subject of, phone hacking relating to a client or clients during 2004 and 2005. We are currently awaiting additional disclosure from the police and from News Group and cross-referencing with other victims of phone hacking.' Mills has been the subject of intense tabloid interest since she began a relationship with McCartney in 1999 after meeting him at the Daily Mirra's Pride of Britain Awards. Six years ago, at the time Mulcaire was allegedly taking notes of her mobile phone number, her marriage to McCartney was breaking up. The News of the World revealed in May 2006 that Mills had moved out of McCartney's home. That followed months of frenzied tabloid speculation about the state of the couple's relationship. The couple divorced in February 2008 following a high court hearing at which Mills represented herself. News International has tried to bring an end to the hacking saga by offering to settle with a number of the claimants who are pursuing civil cases. So far, none of them have chosen to do so. The high court has heard evidence from solicitors acting for Andy Gray and football agent Sky Andrew, two of at least twenty people who have started legal proceedings against News Group and Mulcaire, about the way the investigator allegedly targeted their clients. He had a habit of listing people of interest, along with other information including their mobile phone voicemail number and passwords, in his notes, often alongside the first name of the News of the World journalist who commissioned him.

The opening night of John Cleese's first UK tour has been met with lukewarm reviews by critics. The seventy one-year-old's show was 'perfectly pleasant,' according to The Times' reviewer, but was 'not full of the sort of comic vitality with which he made his name.' The Daily Scum Mail said that the ex-Monty Python's Flying Circus member had become 'rueful - even, in the true sense of the word, pathetic.' The Alimony Tour - so-called because Cleese says it is funding his divorce - opened in Cambridge on Tuesday. Comedy website Chortle that said Cleese was 'pleading penury' and had been 'forced out on the road to scrape together a living when he'd rather be at home with a good book.' As such, it continued, there was 'a slight feeling that with the flagrantly money-making Alimony Tour that he's done just enough to get by.' It described the Corn Exchange gig as a straightforward re-telling of his rise to fame, full of anecdotes he had polished in interviews over the years. 'He hasn't even bothered to learn the script, reading his lines from a none-too-discreet autocue,' its correspondent claimed. The Independent's Julian Hall gave the show three stars out of five, saying fans of his classic sitcom Fawlty Towers were 'in for a treat' because of clips that feature during the show. Yet The Times' Dominic Maxwell argued there were too many such clips, and 'too little of Cleese developing intriguing ideas about craft.' He gave the show two stars out of five, describing it as 'a lecture tour more than comedy tour' that was more 'intelligent' than 'wildly funny.' His sentiments were echoed by Quentin Letts in the Scum Mail, who said his routine was 'initially funny' but peaked after twenty minutes. 'The audience tries to jolly him along, but the fizz has evaporated,' he wrote. 'Topical satire has yielded to autobiographical dribble.' After his last Cambridge date on Saturday, Cleese will perform his show in several cities across the UK before closing the tour in Bath on 2 July. Speaking to the BBC in January, the Somerset-born comedian said that the show would be 'a fan show' that would steer clear of London's West End.

A teenager from Sydney has been arrested and charged after allegedly pelting Justin Bieber with eggs during a gig. The singer was performing at the city's Acer Arena on Friday night when an unknown assailant threw a number of eggs at him from the roof during a dance routine. Bieber narrowly avoided being hit as two missiles smashed as his feet, while another four splattered across the front of the stage. On Thursday morning, a seventeen year old was arrested at his home in Sydney after allegedly clambering onto the roof of the venue and dropping the eggs on to the stage. He was taken to Waverley Police Station, where he was charged with breaking and entering, trespass and malicious damage. Rumours that Bieber himself had also been arrested and charged with crimes against music cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a twenty four carat Motown masterpiece from the pen(s) of Messrs Holland, Holland and Dozier and the throat(s) of Ms Ross, Ms Wilson and Ms Ballard. Let us have bass, Mr Jamerson.


Anonymous said...

Good blog as always.

Personally I don't mind the Mail that much and get frustrated how it's referred to as "Scum" when others not known for their incisive journalism (Like the Daily M) are lovingly referred to as "The Mirra", but each to their own. It won't stop me reading the Blog by any means!!!

The Mail does friustrate me when it bangs on about another pet hate, social network sites. It alweays sites Facebook when, in fact it's rarely, if ever, the site that's the root of the (perceived) problem.

That and Who's ratings. That really does piss me off.

Good work, Big Man!


Mike Sutton said...

Great stuff as always. I bloody hate Alison Graham with her constant whinging.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping said...

There is nothing - even remotely - 'loving' about the term' The Mirra', trust me on this one.

fatoldtart said...

Bugger, just been unpleasant to you about your pain and now I have to say that this blog is the best you've written, which means I agree with you completely. Well said mate

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping said...

Oh, people are unpleasant about my pain frequently, Jeff, you've got no need to feel left out!!!