Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week Twenty One: Good Morning Mister Sunshine, You Brighten Up My Day

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is still utterly blown away by just how good Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode was last night, dear blog reader. But, life goes on and we, however reluctantly, must go on with it. But, not before we have one more look at the divine Suranne Jones. Talented lass, that.
Saturday night's overnight ratings were jolly interesting. Doctor Who had an average of just over six million (6.09m) with a peak of 6.31m on BBC1, roughly in line with last week's performance. That'll obviously go up to near eight million once timeshifts are taken into consideration. Following that, Doctor Who Confidential was watched by six hundred and seventy nine thousand viewers, BBC3's best audience of the day. The big ratings news, however, was Britain's Got Talent's overnights falling to 8.4m. Now, let's get that in context, it's still a very good figure by anyone's standards. But it is, undeniably, a loss of nearly two million viewers compared to last week's overnight figure. This blog has very much poo-pah'd a few tabloid newspapers' - seeming agenda-based - doom-and-gloom analysis of BGT's audience over the last few week. For the first time last night, however, there did appear to be some evidence of at least a portion of the show's audience drifting away. I'm sure ITV are not exactly worried about the situation, though and I still wouldn't mind betting that the final will be one of the top two or three rated productions of the year. However, for the first time in a very long time indeed, Britain's Got Talent didn't win a Saturday night. The BBC's presentation of The Eurovision Song Contest had a whopping average overnight of 9.5m with a peak 12.7m at eleven o'clock (and a sixty two per cent audience share). That's the long-running contest's best audience in the UK since 1999. Last year it was watched by a mere five and a half million viewers. BBC1's strong evening sent ITV's audience sinking, as Piers Morgan's Life Stories plummeted to a laughably dismal 2.19m at 9pm. Oh, but if you fancy a really good laugh can I direct you to the 0.9m audience for Don't Scare The Hare. Which was beaten by Come Dine With Me on Channel Four. If whomsoever commissioned that turkey (or, that hare, if you prefer) isn't clearing out their desks at Television Centre tomorrow morning then there seriously is something very wrong with the world. ITV's coverage of the FA Cup final between Sheik Yer Man City FC and Stoke City achieved a relatively disappointing 4.3m average although the match itself had a peak of eight million during the last fifteen minutes. On Friday night, BBC1's John Sullivan tribute pulled in almost three and a half million viewers. The Comedy Genius of John Sullivan, featuring contributions from Only Fools and Horses stars David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst among others, was watched by 3.45m at 8.30pm. At 9pm, Have I Got News For You achieved 5.17m then a repeated episode of Outnumbered took 4.05m at 9.30pm. Once again, the BBC's Friday night comedy double bill got the better of ITV's Paul O'Grady Live, which had an audience of but 3.15m and a further one hundred and forty thousand viewers on +1.

Incidentally, last week's Doctor Who episode - The Curse of the Black Spot - had a final consolidated rating of 7.85m after a 1.6m timeshift announced by BARB today. Britain's Got Talent's final rating was 11.21m.

The intriguing idea of having MasterChef's resident double act John Torode and Gregg Wallace co-host this week's Have I Got News For You proved that some experiments, despite the best intentions of all involved, just don't work. They're both very funny men, of course - one of the reasons why MasterChef has become such a cult over the last few years - but they seemed rather nervous and out of place on the popular satirical news quiz and Gregg stumbled over his autocue at least twice. Although the guy walking in and giving him a pudding between rounds was funny, admittedly. In the end, the episode was rescued by Paul Merton's surreal flights of fancy (as usual), two terrific guests (Richard Herring and Samira Ahmed) and a whole avalanche of Max Mosley spanking jokes. However, despite some great moments the episode fell somewhat short of the dazzling heights of the previous week's Alexander Armstrong/Ross Noble/Victoria Coren match-up.

The third episode of the new Qi series to be recorded has the theme of Illumination and will feature Jack Dee, Chris Addison and Rich Hall.

In case you hadn't heard Blue became the latest self-inflated bunch of total has-beens to Fail For Britain with their Eurovision song 'I Can.' That well-known Eddie Izzard punchline Azerbaijan won, apparently. Good for them. That means next year's final will be held in Baku. Look it up on a map, all right. As it happens yer actual Keith Telly Topping switched on to The Eurovision Song Contest very briefly last night only to find a bunch of Moldavians in purple pants wearing really silly hats and rapping along whilst supported by a girl on a unicycle playing the trumpet. I think, on reflection, I probably did the right thing watching Doctor Who Confidential on BBC3 instead.

Dannii Minogue, the least famous of the Minogue sisters, is standing down as a judge on The X Factor. The thirty nine-year-old Australian singer quit the ITV talent contest just days before the new series is due to launch. She put the decision down to a clash with her commitments as a judge on Australia's Got Talent. Her departure from X Factor fuels more speculation about the make-up of the panel, after the decision by Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole to appear as judges on the US version of the show. Minogue joined the show in 2007 and mentored two winners, Matt Cardle and Leon Jackson. She confirmed her decision to leave by posting a link through to the website, for which she is a contributing editor, via her Twitter page. She said: 'I am so disappointed that I can't be a part of The X Factor this year. I'm going to miss the show and the amazing team who work so incredibly hard on it.' She added: 'During discussions for me to return [to The X Factor] it became clear that unfortunately, this year, The X Factor audition dates in the UK clash with the live shows of Australia's Got Talent during June and July. For this reason I am unable to return.' And a nation weeps. Still, that's what they get for giving us Home & Away in the first place ...

As previously noted, it was excellent to see the great Danny Baker looking fit and healthy again on Friday's extended edition of The ONE Show. Especially the news that he's in the process of writing his autobiography, to be called Going To Sea In A Sieve. Dan the Man has also spoken publicly this week for the first time about his battle with mouth and throat cancer. The fifty three-year-old presenter, who made his comeback when he took home the speech radio personality of the year prize at the Sony Radio Academy Awards this week, has lost two-and-a-half stone since contracting the illness. But Danny joked he has no plans to release a fitness DVD chronicling his weight loss. Baker said: 'I've had a horrible time. I can’t eat at the moment at all. I've got a tube I put formula through. I've got no taste buds, no saliva glands, I've got chronic pins and needles in my hands and feet, but I'm all right. I've lost two-and-a-half stone but I won't be bringing out a DVD on how I did it. I've had a horrible time - it's been awful.' Baker was diagnosed with cancer in November. He stepped down from his radio shows on BBC London 94.9 and Radio 5Live to undertake six months of radiotherapy, but has yet to be given the all-clear despite returning to his shows last month. Baker added he is finding it difficult to get his life back on track after returning to work, but is doing his best to stay positive. Dan said: 'This is the first time I've been out this late in eight months, maybe nine. I'm extraordinarily tired. Perhaps I went back to work too early but it's a terrific thing that I came back. I'm so much better than six weeks ago. My job isn't exactly digging coal out of the ground and fortunately they let me in minutes before broadcast and they trust me on the air. 'So I can do that and feel normal after months and months and months of being bed-bound.'

And, on that positive notes, here's the next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 20 May
It's all repeats tonight, I'm afraid dear blog reader. First shown on BBC4, Dirk Gently - 9:00 BBC2 - is, of course, a wryly amusing comedy drama, starring Stephen Mangan as Douglas Adams' holistic detective, who focuses on the interconnectedness of all things. An investigation into the case of a missing cat is found to be linked to a chance encounter with an old friend, an explosion in a warehouse, a plate of biscuits and a billionaire who has disappeared. With Darren Boyd, Helen Baxendale and Jason Watkins. If you missed it first time around, I heartily recommend you catch it tonight.

Similarly, Arena: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan - 9:00 BBC4 - is Martin Scorsese's two-part profile of the singer/songwriter, featuring rare interviews and archive footage. The first half examines Dylan's formative years, with contributions by childhood friends and teachers on his earliest musical efforts. It also explores his arrival on New York's thriving early 1960s folk scene and the artists who influenced his work. And, the bit where the late Liam Clancy sings 'The Girl From The North Country' will, trust me, melt the most icy hearts to slush.

Saturday 21 May
With Don't Scare the Hare now - very satisfyingly - relegated to a 4:35pm start (and, soon 4:35am in the hope that everyone will just forget all about it), tonight's Doctor Who starts at 6:45 on BBC1 in an episode called The Rebel Flesh. It's written by Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes creator Matty Graham whose only previous Doctor Who - Fear Her - really wasn't very good at all - albeit, it was a last minute replacement for a episode that has fallen through. So, things can only get better as Brian Cox's old group once said. In this opening part of a two-part story, a solar tsunami causes the TARDIS to land at a futuristic factory on Earth, where humans are making use of a mysterious pool to create drone-like doppelgangers of themselves. The clones are directed by their masters to mine dangerous acids, but when a second wave hits, they begin to develop ideas of their own. Guest starring Marshall Lancaster (Ashes to Ashes), Sarah Smart (At Home with the Braithwaites) and Raquel Cassidy (Lead Balloon), alongside Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.

Our 'Enry: A Tribute to Sir Henry Cooper - 9:45 BBC2 - is, as the title suggests, a profile of the late Henry Cooper, who claimed the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles during his illustrious boxing career, and who fought Muhammad Ali on two occasions - the first when he was still known as Cassius Clay. There's also a look at his tough wartime upbringing, his screen appearances, as well as contributions from his two sons Henry and Jack, Barry McGuigan, Frank Bruno and Michael Parkinson.

Sunday 22 May
The odious Alan Titchmarsh and Joe Swift provide a preview of The Royal Horticultural Society's Eighty Ninth Chelsea Flower Show - 6:15 BBC1. The pair are joined by Andy Sturgeon, Nicki Chapman and Christine Walkden for a look at this year's exhibits, and highlight the efforts of the designers, landscapers and nursery staff who work behind the scenes to make sure the event is a success.

Meanwhile, tonight sees the annual British Academy Television Awards - 8:00 BBC1 - live from the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, beginning as guests and nominees arrive on the red carpet. Graham Norton hosts the event, with stars Dawn French, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Wallace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Miranda Hart and Matt Smith all competing for honours. Shows up for recognition include Downton Abbey, Being Human, Sherlock, Misfits, The X Factor and Harry Hill's TV Burp.

In the first of a two-part documentary Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail - 9:00 BBC2 - Theroux examines life in Miami County Jail, where most of the inmates are awaiting trial. He begins by exploring the large cage-like dwellings on the fifth and sixth floor, which are home to many of the most volatile prisoners. The inmates' lives are governed by a gladiatorial code, leading to fights for food and status - a situation the guards say they are powerless to address. The concluding part will be shown on next Sunday.

Monday 23 May
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace - 9:00 BBC2 - is a new three-part series in which Adam Curtis explores the influence of computers on human life, discussing how they promised global stability and a new kind of democracy in the 1990s. The first programme compares digital entrepreneurs with disciples of novelist Ayn Rand in the 1950s, who saw themselves as a prototype for a future society, and considers how both groups were affected by the love and power of people. Charles Babbage, you've got a lot to answer for!

In Dispatches: The Truth About Your Dentist - 8:00 Channel Four - Sam Lister investigates how some practitioners are allegedly misleading patients about their rights to NHS treatment, and looks at the potential neglect of children's teeth as lab work is outsourced to countries such as China, where there are few or no checks on safety or quality.

Tonight's two episodes of Coronation Street - 7:30 and 8:30 on ITV - features Kylie insisting on a meeting with Becky, who suspects that Tracy could be behind Amy's prolonged illness. Meanwhile, Kevin looks for evidence of sabotage at the garage and spots Tommy trying to fix the lift, while Carla confronts Owen about the factory's overflowing drains. Hope undergoes tests on her heart, and Jeff is shocked to find Sally living back with her estranged husband.

Tuesday 24 May
Four Rooms - 8:00 Channel Four - sees members of the public hoping to sell their prized possessions to arts dealers, and are forced to gamble their offers in an effort to make sure they receive the best value. Just what British TV needs, frankly, another antiques show. Seriously, you've got to wonder just how many old plates there are in the country? The first would-be sellers bring with them a collection of Christmas cards from Lady Diana, an original 1960s Dalek, a cigar once owned by Winston Churchill and a Francis Bacon portrait that was nearly destroyed by the artist. Channel Four is hoping to reinvent the antiques genre with this conceit in which four dealers offer their own cash for items brought in by members of the public. Part Antiques Roadshow, part Dragons' Den and part major-league Dickinson's Real Deal, the show brings four new antiques dealers to television and then pits them against each other – and a bunch of sellers determined to get the best price for treasures that include a Banksy (wall included), a mummified mermaid, a polar bear and an enormous Hitler bust.

It might be a repeat but the best thing on TV tonight, by a distance, is Imagine - 9:00 BBC4 - and the documentary Dame Shirley Bassey: The Girl from Tiger Bay. In this, Alan Yentob marked the completion of Shirley Bassey's CD The Performance, the David Arnold-produced record that was her first studio release in two decades, by examining a selection of her greatest archive performances. He also meets songwriters who contributed to the album, including Gary Barlow, The Pet Shop Boys, The Manic Street Preachers, KT Tunstall and frequent James Bond composer the late John Barry.

Speaking of National Treasures, The Duke of Edinburgh probably qualifies. In so much as having him stuffed and mounted and put in a museum isn't, perhaps, the worst of ideas. Prince Philip at Ninety - 8:00 ITV - is the sort of brown-tongued slavver-fest you'd expect from British TV where royalty is concerned. The odious Alan Titchmarsh - second time this week for him - presents a profile of the Duke of Edinburgh (see left during his 'crusty old sea dog' phase), who celebrates his ninetieth birthday in June. Prince Philip, the longest-serving royal consort in British history, talks candidly about his life, and archive clips give an illuminating insight into the story of the young Greek prince who captured the heart of the world's most eligible princess, who later became the Queen.

Wednesday 25 May
Diagnosis Live from the Clinic - 8:00 Channel Four - is a new health programme in which viewers can call in for an appointment with Dr Christian Jessen and Dr Dawn Harper, as they diagnose cases from the studio live on air. Members of the public receive medical advice and health tips from professionals, while there are also reviews on over-the-counter medicines and insight into popular procedures.

The ever-reliable BBC4 come up with what looks to be another fascinating biographical documentary tonight in Heath v Wilson: The Ten-Year Duel - 9:00 BBC4. This, as the title suggests, charts the story of the personal rivalry between former prime ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath in the 1960s and 70s, the two men who - effectively - shape Britain's politics throughout the 1960s and 70s. Darling Harold and Teddy Teeth. I mean, the pair of them got namechecked in a Beatles song ('Taxman') what more fame do you need other than that? The programme features interviews with their colleagues in the cabinet and government to explore the differences between the two politicians, as well as their similarities.

Pawn Stars - 7:30 Channel Five - great title notwithstanding is a new series which opens with an episode called Knights in Fake Armour?  This documentary series chronicles the work of Richard Harrison, his son Rick and his grandson Corey at their pawn shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, as they interact with their staff and assess the true value of the items that are brought in to their store by customers, including a vintage rifle and a knight's jousting helmet.

Thursday 26 May
In the latest EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Dot feels betrayed when she overhears Carol, Max and Jack discussing Jim's future, Rainie has a confession for Ronnie that could make or break her marriage, and Jodie arranges a party ahead of Fat Boy and Mercy's wedding. Elsewhere, Masood is livid to learn Syed is babysitting Kamil.

The latest episode of the ITV documentary strand Tonight is called Too Old to Be a Mum? - 7:30. Jonathan Maitland investigates the trend of women in their forties having babies, with the number doubling in the past decade. He hears from fertility experts who warn that choosing career first and starting a family later puts the health of mothers and their children at risk.

Also, great news in so much as yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved Ideal returns - 10:30 BBC3 - for a new six-part series of Graham Duff's superb sitcom about a low-scale drug dealer in Manchester. Moz (Johnny Vegas) plots to win back the heart of his true love Jenny (Sinead Matthews), but when he discovers that she has joined the police force, his plans are thrown into disarray. Guest starring the Goddamn Modfather his very self Paul Weller and Kara Tointon (EastEnders' Dawn), with Ben Crompton, Tom Goodman-Hill, Janeane Garofalo, Mick miller, Ryan Pope, Alfie Joey et al. And Cartoon Head's baby.

In the latest episode of Top of the Pops: 1976 - 7:30 BBC4 - Diddy David Hamilton presents an edition of the pop show from May 1976, featuring performances by Showaddywaddy, Marmalade, Tina Charles, Robin Sarstedt, Mud, Cliff Richard, The Four Seasons, The Rolling Stones and Peter Frampton.

And so to the news: Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen in the hit CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, Warner Bros Television has announced. Kutcher, who is married to actress Demi Moore, has hosted the prank show Punk'd and is probably best known as Michael Kelso on FOX's sitcom That 70s Show. 'I can't replace Charlie Sheen but I'm going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people,' Kutcher said. Warners cut the last series of the show and fired Sheen two months ago amid public outbursts and reported problems with drink and drugs. Kutcher is a prolific tweeter and had earlier hinted on Twitter that he had the role, when he said: 'What's the square root of 6.25?" (answer: 2.5).' 'We are so lucky to have someone as talented, joyful and just plain remarkable as Ashton joining our family,' said Chuck Lorre, the show's creator and executive producer. 'Added to that is the deep sigh of relief knowing that our family stays together. If I was any happier, it'd be illegal.' Sheen, who played hedonistic jingle writer Charlie Harper, was involved in a series of incidents that suggested he had personal problems. Despite that, Two and a Half Men had continued its ratings success on the CBS network until Sheen's abrupt departure cut short the eighth series. CBS said production on the ninth series of the comedy would start in the summer for broadcast in the autumn.

AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson has expressed his belief that reality shows often hinder the careers of aspiring musicians. After more than thirty years as the hard rock band's lead singer, Johnson said that competing on reality series such as American Idol only serves to give artists a false sense of acclaim. 'There's only one way to do it,' The Associated Press quotes him as saying 'You get on the stage, you learn your trade and you get out and play in front of people. You serve your apprenticeship just like anybody else. The shortcut ways leads to tears at the end of the day. It's all hype. And it's not fair on the kids to make them famous one week and then nobodies the next. It's just not right.' Johnson previously revealed that AC/DC, who have amassed nearly two dozen US platinum-selling LPs, are working on a follow-up to their 2008 release Black Ice and have no plans to retire any time soon.

Two peers who are members of police watchdogs warned that the independence of the Metropolitan police was under threat after the prime minister brought in Scotland Yard to review the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Insiders at The Yard played down any suggestions that their role could quickly lead to any breakthrough in the case, saying that the review, which will cost taxpayers millions of pounds, could take months or even years. Labour's Lord Harris, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, accused David Cameron of bowing to Rupert Murdoch's empire, referring to Cameron's decision to call in Scotland Yard after Kate McCann wrote an open letter in the Sun asking for his help. Lord Bradshaw, the Liberal Democrat peer and vice-chairman of Thames Valley Police Authority, added his voice to the criticism, describing the prime minister's intervention as a PR exercise. 'I am mightily worried about the politicisation of the police force. What appears on the face of it to be fairly innocuous orders – it's a fairly short step from there to telling the police they have got to investigate this rather than that,' Bradshaw said. Harris said: 'This is entirely predictable in terms of the "pulling power" of News International on Government policy. However, his intervention drives a coach and horses through the draft protocol issued by the Home Office designed to preserve the operational independence of the police.' Writing on his blog, the peer added: 'I can imagine that the senior leadership of the Metropolitan police are not exactly happy about this. It again embroils their officers in a high-profile investigation, where the chances of success are unclear, and which will divert limited investigative resources away from other matters.' In a statement Scotland Yard denied it had been ordered to review the abduction. It said that the commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, received a request which he considered and decided on balance that it was the best course to take. Kerry Needham, the mother of Ben Needham, the British toddler who was abducted on Crete twenty years ago, said: 'I am pleased for the McCann family and look forward to the government offering the same support to all the families with children missing abroad.' If The Yard is given access to all the Portuguese documentation the first task will be to have it translated. As part of the review the Met's team – likely to be led by a detective chief inspector within the homicide command – will also examine files held by Leicestershire police, the McCanns' home force, who gave some help to the Portuguese officers. There is also documentation from a number of private investigators hired by the McCanns over the last four years. Although the Gruniad claims that there was 'irritation among senior figures at Scotland Yard at being bounced into an inquiry,' one 'source' allegedly predicted that it would be quickly overtaken by a desire to do the best job possible. 'It was political. But at the end of the day a child is missing.' The Met has a copy of a review into Madeleine's disappearance completed by Jim Gamble, when he was head of Ceop, the child exploitation and online protection centre. It is understood to recommend that Scotland Yard be brought in to work with the Portuguese police on a review, but his report has been sitting on the home secretary's desk for more than a year until this week with no action taken. Scotland Yard released the letter to Sir Paul from Theresa May on Thursday. In it the home secretary says diplomatic contact has been made with the Portuguese police, who have indicated they would co-operate with Scotland Yard. But she made clear it would be down to the Yard to negotiate the details.

EastEnders actor Jody Latham, twenty nine, has been arrested by police on suspicion of drugs offences. Latham, who played Rob Grayson in the BBC soap, was detained at his home in Bacup, Lancashire, on suspicion of growing and supplying cannabis. He was also questioned in connection with an assault and possession of an offensive weapon. The actor, who also starred in TV's Shameless, was later released on bail pending further inquiries. A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm a twenty nine-year-old man was arrested at an address in Bacup on suspicion of the production and supply of a class B drug. He was also questioned in connection with a Section Thirty Nine assault and possession of an offensive weapon.' Latham has since been bailed pending further police inquiries. The Burnley-born actor's career took off when he was spotted, aged twelve, at Burnley Youth Theatre. He played Phillip Gallagher, the intelligent and outspoken eldest son of Frank Gallagher, in Channel Four's acclaimed drama Shameless, between 2004 and 2008. Latham went on to appear as Grayson in EastEnders, between February and March. He also appeared in an earlier Paul Abbott creation, Clocking Off, and in the Jimmy McGovern drama The Street.

A man has completed the London Marathon in twenty six days by crawling. Instead of running the 26.2-mile course, Lloyd Scott, forty nine, moved on his hands and knees dressed as Brian the Snail in the children's television series The Magic Roundabout. He was supporting Action for Kids, a charity which helps children with mobility issues. 'I have chosen to make this difficult for myself, but these kids don't have that choice,' he said. 'Every day they're confronted with mobility issues.' According to Sky News, the runner suffered a series of problems, including crawling over broken glass and nails, and vomiting after failing to digest food properly. Scott even had to visit the hospital so his nosebleeds could be cauterised. He added: 'That is not an experience I want to repeat.' It was not the first time Scott had finished a marathon. He completed the London Marathon for the first time in 1990, and has run the course in a diving suit.

Nicky Campbell has revealed that he chased an intruder away from his home whilst naked on Friday. The presenter, host of ITV's Long Lost Family, announced that his dog initially alerted him to the problem by barking at around 5am. He went to investigate the disturbance. 'I went and had a look and I got up on the loo and looked out of the window, and there was a bloke in the garden trying to steal my bike,' he told the BBC. 'So I bashed on the window - I was stark naked. He looked up - he was a white guy mid twenties - and I raced downstairs and adrenaline completely took over. I would have gone into that garden and jumped on top of him stark naked. He would have needed trauma counselling for a long time. I ran into the garden and he just disappeared over the fence with the dog following me. I was so pumped up. It just took over me, I just wanted to get him.' Campbell, who won a Sony Radio Academy Award earlier this week, presented his Radio 5Live breakfast show less than two hours later. Police confirmed that officers were investigating an attempted theft. Campbell added on Twitter: 'Just had excellent police and forensics round after my intruder incident.'

And so to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which comes from the pens of Barry, Robin and Maurice.

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