Saturday, November 12, 2011

Week Forty Seven: ... As Berlusconi Said To The Actress

There was plenty of material for Have I Got News For You to get their teeth into on Friday night's episode. Poppygate, James Murdoch, Theresa May, Berlusconi and David Mitchell's lack of friends(!) were just some of the subject that Paul and Ian and their guests the great Andy Hamilton and first-timer Roisin Conaty to turn their satirical barbs towards. In additions to some great one-liners ('in our country we've taken the decision not to give Ricky Gervais much fiscal power', 'I'll give you the first half and you try and finish them off ... as Berlusconi said to the actress!', 'James Murdoch's a liar!', 'It's not that much like the mafia because the mafia can keep their shit together!' and, 'Are you suggesting that Sarkosy, Obama and Netanyahu are in a love triangle?') we were also treated to the sight of Mitchell's comedy bread.
'I don't think he's called Brody Whatshisface. That would be an amusing name for a man in charge of passport control!' My favourite moment was Ian Hislop's revelation that he'd had his phone-tapped by the Daily Express and Andy asking: 'Did you think you were involved in the death of Princess Diana?' And as for Paul Merton's completely surreal riff about Theresa May discovering that her husband was a robot ...

Thereafter, Qi was also on fine form. Top moments included Sandi Toksvig revealing that she'd once 'accidentally' bought a racehorse, Dara O Briain's continued anger over that time when they deducted points from him for an answer he'd given in a previous series, Al Murray's confession that he took tax advice from Harry Hill ('he used to be a doctor so I thought he knew what he was talking about') or Alan Davies's rant about narrow Dutch houses. 'Nice buildings, could be a bit wider!'
'Why don't firemen live in bungalows?'

It was, generally, a very good night for BBC comedy. Even in some unexpected places. Case in point - loved the bit in Autumnwatch Unsprung where Chris Peckman, in the middle of a serious discussion about which songbird has the loudest call suddenly went off on one of his semi-regular moments of displaying arcane knowledge of punk rock bands. He noted that a Nightingale will go on for ages whilst other songbirds have equally loud, but short, moments. 'Like The Damned used to do a song in a minute whereas Guns and Roses stretch the same idea out to five minutes and you get bored with it!' I love this man!
Of course, yer man Chris is a well-known lover of Vanian, Captain, Rat and the boys, as this blog posting demonstrates.
Russell Tovey has announced that he is leaving Being Human. Tovey revealed on Twitter that he will no longer play the werewolf George Sands on the BBC3 drama. 'Hey my lovely witty's, you may or may not know by now, but I am leaving Being Human officially,' he wrote. 'Thought you should all know. I'm sorry.' Tovey told the Gruniad Morning Star that members of the Being Human production team have long been aware of his decision. He went on to insist that the series' creator Toby Whithouse would ensure that the supernatural comedy-drama continues to thrive without him. 'With Being Human the story can definitely go on and on,' he said. 'Toby still runs it and they can do all sorts. Add giants and robots.' Aidan Turner left Being Human at the end of this year's series to star in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. Damien Molony joined the cast in October as a vampire named Hal. It is believed that Tovey will appear in at least some of the episodes of the forthcoming fourth series which began filming in July.

The BBC is considering making a full series based on The Borrowers. A single film based on the classic children's novel, starring Christopher Eccleston and Robert Sheehan, will be broadcast on BBC1 this Christmas. However, writer Ben Vanstone told SFX: 'There's always the hope that we can take it on further. We are talking about the possibility of doing it as a series and working up ideas for it. There's so many more things for us to explore.' The new Borrowers translates the book's story to the modern day, with Vanstone suggesting that the initial film takes 'quite a different trajectory' to Mary Norton's original text. 'I came to think about it as what Mary Norton might be interested in if she was writing it now,' he said. 'It's very much bringing it up to date.' Stephen Fry, Sharon Horgan, Victoria Wood and Aisling Loftus will also star in The Borrowers. 'I read the script and thought it was delightful,' Fry explained in June. 'I had a really funny part.' Norton's novel has previously been adapted into both a BBC TV series and a 1997 film starring John Goodman and Jim Broadbent.

And so to yer actual Top Telly Tips, dear blog reader.
Friday 18 November
Tonight, of course, sees the annual Children in Need telethon - 7:30 till late on BBC1. Terry Wogan, Fearne Cotton, Tess Daly and Alesha Dixon present another bumper night of fundraising fun live from BBC Television Centre in London, with a host of celebrities doing their bit to support disadvantaged children across the UK. One Direction kick things off, and the cast of West End smash The Wizard of Oz perform live. Where would Children in Need be without the BBC newsreaders? Sure enough, they're back again, turning their hands - and their feet - to a spot of ballroom dancing in a Strictly Come Dancing stylee, with Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon ready to pass expert judgement. Also, in what has become another regular Children in Need tradition, there's an exclusive sneak peek at this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. Elsewhere, the Outnumbered kids provide a musical surprise, there is a live performance by Susan Boyle and, in one of the evening's most ambitious performances, Gareth Malone leads a ten-strong choir in a song that links up live with three thousand children across the UK. The cast of EastEnders will rock you as the Vic does Queen, so that'll probably be worth avoiding, and the Muppets perform an old favourite joined by an all-star supporting cast including Harry Hill, Davina McCall and the Match of the Day team. Any jokes about Shearer already being a muppet, please leave them at the door, thanks. Alan Sugar risks a grilling in the den in The Dragons' Apprentice. Then, there's music by the Collective, the Gary Barlow-produced 'urban crew' it says here, featuring Tulisa, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk, Ms Dynamite, Wretch Thirty Two, Rizzle Kicks, Mz Bratt, Dot Rotten, Ed Sheeran and Labrinth, with this year's official Children in Need single, 'Teardrop.' JLS perform their new single and style guru Gok Wan gives it the old razzle-dazzle with a song from the musical Chicago. There's comedy from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, a song from the cast of Hollyoaks and live music from Steps. Russell Howard presents his Good Fundraising News followed by a performance by Adele (if her throat's cured itself in time) and a toe-tapping routine by the stars of West End show Crazy for You. Into the wee small hours there's a specially recorded performance by Lady Gaga, and a tribute to the 1980s with Justin Lee Collins and the cast of musical Rock of Ages, featuring Shayne Ward. Will Young sings live and there is a look back at last night's Children in Need Rocks Manchester concert. Following a final round-up of highlights the grand total will be announced. Times may vary. And probably will. Continues on BBC2 when the News is on. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping - as mentioned previously - tends to watch it until the Doctor Who bit's finished and then go to bed with a good book and a nice hot mug of milky cocoa.

In Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - you can tell Chris Gray is a proper soap baddie because he's already mastered the art of the evil smirk. This curling of the lip is used only when someone - usually Cheryl or Lloyd - turns their back on him, so that Chris can privately enjoy another villainous victory. However, the leer could soon be wiped from his mush as Cheryl is set to make a discovery about the true state of her boyfriend's health. Unfortunately, it looks as if Lloyd (Craig Charles) will be forced to set fire to his own furniture in front of the neighbours before she sees the light. As you do.

Saturday 19 November
Qi XL is still scheduled for Saturday night - 9:00 BBC2 - despite the fact that there wasn't an episode of Qi on Friday because of Children in Need. Which, if it turned out to be accurate will be the first time ever than a XL edition had been shown before the standard thirty minute episode. How odd. Stephen Fry, as usual, hosts an extended edition of the quiz with a difference, joined by comics Ronni Ancona, Dave Gorman (rejoining the show for the first time in almost ten years), Lee Mack and regular panellist Alan Davies. He asks questions on the theme of infantile, and awards points for the most interesting answers. However, be on the lookout for last minute changes of episode when somebody at the BBC realises that they're intending to show an extended version of an episode that hasn't, actually, been shown yet. That is all.

Get our your Lurpack™, drink down your Carlsburg™ and eat your bacon sandwiches with pride, Denmark's other great export The Killing returns for a second series - 9:00 BBC4 - after having become a genuine TV cult with its first series last year. Former detective Sarah Lund (the outstanding Sofie Gråbøl) is recalled from her low-key job in the countryside by her ex-boss at Copenhagen police headquarters after a lawyer is found murdered in macabre and puzzling circumstances. Meanwhile, newly appointed Minister for Justice Thomas Buch (Nicolas Bro) oversees intricate negotiations between parliamentary parties concerning the introduction of new anti-terrorism laws.

Sunday 20 November
How to Build a Super Car - 8:00 BBC2 - describes how the McLaren racing team used Formula One technology to design and construct the MP4-12C road car, whose design features include a carbon-fibre safety cell and the first engine the company has ever built. The programme also reveals how the vehicle's sound was perfected in a recording studio, just like a pop song. Featuring contributions by Ron Dennis, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
In the latest episode of Garrow's Law - 9:00 BBC1 - Garrow (Andrew Buchan) is looking for a challenge, so he agrees to defend two Spitalfield weavers accused of destroying silk looms in an act of industrial espionage - a tough case that becomes more difficult when one defendant testifies against his friend, leaving the barrister conflicted. Meanwhile, as Garrow involves himself in the activities of the luddities, Southouse (the never less than excellent Alun Armstrong) is furious with Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) for trying to get custody of Samuel. With Rupert Graves, Aidan McArdle and Michael Culkin.

And, finally, the TV movie of the weekend is, undoubtedly, Quadrophenia - 10:45 ITV. Pete Townshend's My Generation musical tribute to the Modernist movement in mid-1960s England is a near-perfect integration of cinematic story and rousing pop. It specifically focuses on the complex life of Townshend's perfect anti-hero Jimmy (Phil Daniels), whose alienation is fuelled by pill-popping, scooter rave-ups and seaside battles with the rockers in Brighton. Director Franc Roddam evokes the budding Swinging Sixties and the teenage sense of frustration and disillusionment with a lively precision. Sting makes his acting debut - but, seriously, don't let that put you off - in a genuine musical milestone crackling with energy and great performances from a young cast many of whom were destined for greatness in the decades to come - Phil Davis, Leslie Ash, Mark Wingett and Ray Winstone. A genuine, twenty four carat masterpiece and the most exciting, stirring, perceptive, provocative and - in its own way - confused - youth film since Rebel Without A Cause.

Monday 21 November
Hot on the heels of BBC2's wonderful Code-Breakers - Bletchley Park's Lost Heroes a few weeks ago, Channel Four tread along a similar historical path with Britain's Greatest Codebreaker - 9:00. This is a docudrama about Alan Turing, the genius mathematician who was instrumental in the breaking of the German Enigma code at Station X during the Second World War, and was a pioneer of the computer age and of artificial intelligence. Of course, as anyone who's seen any of the - several - previous documentaries of Turing's life will know, he had what was considered at the time to be a terrible secret and his astonishing achievements went largely unrecognised while he was alive. He committed suicide in 1954 taking cyanide two years after being convicted of gross indecency with another man, at a time when homosexuality was considered a crime. Ed Stoppard plays Turing who was driven to a terrible despair and an early death by the nation which he'd done so much to save. In the last eighteen months of his life, Turing visited a psychiatrist, Dr Franz Greenbaum, who tried to help him. This film brings Turing's ideas to life by dramatising this relationship and these sessions, based on historical records, Turing's writings, and accounts of those who knew him. The film also includes the testimony of people who knew and remember Turing plus, contemporary experts from the world of technology and high science, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, bring Turing's exciting impact up to the present day, explaining why, in many ways, modern technology has only just begun to explore the potential of Turing's ideas.

In the latest episode of Young Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1 - the remaining candidates are challenged by Lord Sugar-Sweetie to develop a new brand of deodorant, complete with an eye-catching TV advert. While one team struggles under its dictatorial leader, the other is forced to have a rethink when a focus group is left dissatisfied. The contestants must impress advertising and branding experts before learning who will receive their marching orders in the boardroom.

In University Challenge this week - 8:00 BBC2 - a team from Christ Church, Oxford, faces students from the University of Manchester in a second-round contest, with the winners earning a place in the quarter-finals. Presented, as usual, by the fearsome scowling boat-race of Jeremy Paxman. Who will, hopefully, give those poor students slightly less of a hard time than he regularly gives hapless members of foreign governments on Newsnight.

Or, if you're a thoroughly mindless shit-for-brains-glake with no proper right to walk upon God's Good Earth, then you'll probably prefer I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) - 9:00 ITV. Ant and Dec present the celebrity survival challenge, as the famous faces spend another day in the Australian jungle, struggling to complete tough daily tasks and dreaded Bushtucker Trials.

Tuesday 22 November
The Adventurer's Guide to Britain - 7:30 ITV - sees the naturalist Charlotte Uhlenbroek and TV presenter Gethin Jones undertake 'challenging activities' available to the general public as they explore nature's hidden wonders in stunning locations. That's what it says here, anyway. They begin in Derbyshire's Peak District, where Gethin takes to the skies in a microlight for a bird's-eye view of the landscape, while Charlotte proves her mettle when she descends into a spooky underworld labyrinth.

MasterChef: The Professionals has been jolly good so far this series and it continues tonight at 8:00 on BBC2. Five of the ten chefs from the previous heat return for a skills test under the beady eye of twisty-faced Monica, in which they must pluck and prepare a wood pigeon for roasting. At the end of the challenge, one of the competitors leaves the contest, and the remaining four are then asked to put together squid stuffed with wild rice - as demonstrated to them by the great Michel Roux Jr. The final task sees them creating their own classic dishes to be submitted for the judges' approval - and only three will progress to the quarter-final.

As well as being the wearily cynical one on Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop is also the maker some damned fine, thought-provoking documentaries; usual on some aspect of history that's become easy to mock in our modern society. (Previous subjects, for instance, have included philanthropy, the railways and the scouting movement.) I think he's a national treasure, personally. Tonight, he's back for another go. In Ian Hislop: When Bankers Were Good - 9:00 BBC2 - Hislop reveals how many Victorian financiers were far from comfortable about their new-found riches, prompting them to give much of it away. Among the characters he profiles are self-made millionaire George Peabody, a merchant banker who managed to overturn his Scrooge-like reputation with a surprising donation, and Samuel Gurney, a Quaker whose wealth helped the pioneering work of his sister, Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer immortalised on today's five pound note. Natty Rothschild, meanwhile, tried not just to ensure that his personal wealth did good, but that his bank's did too. Natty hated the idea of the welfare state, believing do-gooding was best left in the hands of the Big Society. A hundred years ago he lost that argument – only for the debate to re-emerge today.

Death in Paradise - 9:00 BBC1 - has a slightly different plot from the usual, this week. Always welcome every now and then. The simple task of transporting a prisoner from a neighbouring island to Saint Marie on the ferry goes disastrously wrong when the man manages to go and get himself stabbed to death. This proves especially embarrassing for Richard Poole (the excellent Ben Miller) as he was handcuffed to the victim at the time of the murder. A convicted fraudster, the dead man had many enemies who had good reason to want him out of the way - but Poole had a hunch suggests his widow holds the key. With guest appearances by Colin Salmon, Sarah Smart and Sophie Winkleman.

Wednesday 23 November
That's Britain! - 8:00 BBC1 - is a new series in which the vile and odious Nick Knowles and Julia Bradbury are joined by guests to 'explore the best and worst of modern Britain.' Whatever the hell that means. Actor Larry Lamb tries to bring back petrol pump attendants and comedian and professional grump Adrian Edmondson follows the journey made by luggage as it travels through the airport baggage system. Sounds utterly poxy (despite the presence of the divine Julia).

Meanwhile, British's telly's current obsession seems to be Frozen Planet - 9:00 BBC1. Which is nice, frankly. In the latest episode, Dangerous Dave Attenborough examines how the arrival of winter, with temperatures plummeting to seventy degrees below zero, winds reaching one hundred and twenty mph and complete darkness, sparks a ruthless battle for survival. As a blizzard rages, a female polar bear treks into the Arctic mountains to give birth, while the entire world's population of spectacled eider ducks braves the weather in a giant ice hole. Wolf and bison engage in battle, but alliances are also made, and beneath the snow, voles try to dodge the attacks of great grey owls and weasels. As Homer Simpson once noted: 'Weasling out of things is good. It's what sets man above the animals. Except the weasels.'
There's a repeat of the excellent documentary Selling the Sixties - 8:00 BBC4 which explores America's immense economic growth in the 1960s. Key to this period were the ad men of New York's Madison Avenue, a semi-mythical place where consumerism flourished, safe from the threats of the Vietnam War and the rise of the counter-cultures.

The Cafe - 9:00 Sky1 - is a new gentle seaside comedy series written and produced by The Royle Family pair Craig Cash and Ralf Little. Little also stars alongside Michelle Terry, June Watson and Ellie Harrington. Budding writer Sarah is forced to return home from London and help run the family business, a cafe in Weston-super-Mare. However, childhood sweetheart Richard has always held a flame for his former girlfriend, and is soon on hand to cheer her up.
Thursday 24 November
In The Manor Reborn - 9:00 BBC1 - Penelope Keith and Paul Martin present as a team of historians, experts, and volunteers set out to renovate five hundred year old Avebury Manor in Wiltshire. Lovely part of the world that, dear blog reader. Visited there several times has yer actual Keith Telly Topping. The project reflects on the story of Britain across five centuries, exploring a wide range of craft and furniture-making skills and the impact on how the way people live has evolved from Elizabethan times.

Living with the Amish - 9:00 Channel Four - is a, and rather intriguing sounding new series. A spoilt eighteen-year-old girl, an Eton College student, a Cambridge University undergraduate, a seventeen-year-old Christian girl, a student of media studies and a boy who lives in a London hostel join a series of Amish communities for six weeks to learn about their way of life. They begin at Middlefield, Ohio, where they meet a family who want to teach them that, despite the lack of material possessions, life can be equally fulfilling.

And finally, there's Rev - 9:00 BBC2. Adam has trouble justifying his belief in the Holy Ghost - but not in spooks - when an elderly parishioner claims her nursing home is haunted. To add to his problems, his own house has been taken over by his visiting god-daughter Enid, who is proving to be a difficult guest.

And so to the news: Details have emerged about the forthcoming new series of Red Dwarf. It was confirmed earlier this year that the SF comedy would film six new episodes, to be broadcast on digital channel Dave. An official publicity release has now been issued on the show's official wesite: 'Red Dwarf returns for its first full series since 1999. Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten face six exciting new adventures from the pen of Doug Naylor. The classic crew, the classic ship with a brand new vision. The universe will never be the same.' The new series will be filmed at Shepperton Studios in front of a live audience. Shooting is expected to take place in December and January. Danny John-Jules recently criticised the BBC for its treatment of Red Dwarf, suggesting that the corporation had 'ignored' the show.

James Murdoch could be questioned by police in their Scum of the World phone-hacking inquiry, it has been reported. The News International chief, who has already been grilled by the Commons Culture Committee twice, may be interviewed following the emergence of 'bombshell' e-mails, according to the Daily Scum Mail. A police 'source', the paper claims, believes that the evidence 'may take the investigation to the next level.' Murdoch, who recently refused to rule out the Sun's potential closure, has also come under increased pressure to quit his position on the board of Sky over his alleged involvement in the scandal. Ex-Sun and Scum of the World editor well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks could also be 'quizzed,' the report claims.

Channel Four has moved quickly to appoint a new documentaries chief following Hamish Mykura's departure, with Ralph Lee promoted to the new role of head of factual. Lee will oversee all factual commissioning for Channel Four in a new department encompassing both the documentary and specialist factual teams. His appointment follows the decision by Mykura, the former head of documentaries and More4, to move on after a decade at Channel Four. Channel Four said that it will now advertise for a deputy head of factual, a new role that will support Lee as head of factual. Channel Four chief creative officer Jay Hunt said: 'We have been working hard to make Channel Four more accessible to suppliers and this new structure will streamline the factual commissioning team and speed up the time it takes to get back to producers. Previously there was considerable overlap between departments with suppliers often pitching the same ideas to a number of teams. The new structure creates a one-stop-shop for factual and ensures there is more co-ordination, as well as cross-fertilisation, between the different genre areas within it.' Lee joined Channel Four in September 2002 as a specialist factual commissioning editor and was responsible for shows such as living history series That'll Teach 'Em and Deep Water, the tragic story of round-the-world yachtsman, Donald Crowhurst. He left Channel Four at the end of 2007 to become head of factual at Channel Five, but returned to the broadcaster as head of specialist factual in May 2008 having got sick of commissioning documentaries about sharks and Nazis. His most recent commissions have included Inside Nature's Giants, Four Rooms and Food Hospital. Hunt added: 'Ralph is a formidable creative leader and a superlative manager. His knowledge and enthusiasm across a wide range of specialisms as well as his substantial track record for bringing fresh approaches to factual television make him the ideal person to take Channel Four factual on to the next level.'

British boxer Amir Khan has signed a new three-fight deal with Sky, after previously falling out with the satellite broadcaster. Sky Sports will screen live coverage of the WBA and IBF light-welterweight champion's next three bouts, starting with his clash against Lamont Peterson in Washington on 10 December. In April, Khan's boxing promoter Oscar De La Hoya criticised Sky for refusing to support the fighter's WBA light-welterweight title defence against Paul McCloskey on Sky Box Office. The fight was instead shown on pay-per-view network Primetime, and De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions said that it would be talking directly to Primetime about future deals. However, WBC world super-middleweight champion Carl Froch warned Khan that he could be in danger of slipping 'under the radar' unless he ended his feud with Sky. After putting aside his differences, Khan said that his 'brilliant deal' would enable him to target bigger fights and 'finish the year with a bang.' Speaking to Sky Sports News, Khan said: 'I'm back on Sky and it will give my fans a chance to see me fight. We all know how good Sky is. Sky's broadcasted the biggest fights around the world including David Haye, Mike Tyson, Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton, so it's great to be back. It's also great for my fans when I'm fighting overseas. There are big fights. I wasn't on Sky for Zab Judah, but the [Marcos] Maidana fight was really exciting and had amazing numbers. Lamont Peterson's a good fighter, but let's hope we can finish the year off with a big bang.' Khan is now targeting a clash against US fighter Floyd Mayweather, the man who is regarded as the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. He added: 'Mayweather's the name I want out there, and once I move up to one hundred and forty seven pounds, I think it will make more sense fighting him. You have to have ambitions in life and I want to fight the best pound-for-pound fighter out there and beat him.'

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's one that's long been a favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping since he was knee-high to a saucepan lid. From the goddamn Godfather or rocking chair rock, Val Doonican.

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