Friday, December 23, 2011

2012, Week One: Balls To You Daddy, She Ain't Never Comin' Back

Mark Cavendish has been crowned 2011's BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The cyclist beat golfer Darren Clarke and athlete Mo Farah into second and third place respectively. Upon receiving the award from Sir Bobby Charlton, he said: 'I'm absolutely speechless, without my team, this wouldn't be close to possible. I'd like to thank everyone that supports me, and obviously well done to all the other people who were nominated. Just to be nominated this year in such an incredible year in UK sport, I'm lost for words.' Whether that was a pointed barbed aimed at a few shrill voice who had questioned whether Cavendish, or several of the other nominees should not have been replaced by someone more female is, at this time, unknown. But it'd be pretty funny if it was. Yer, Harriet Harman, I'm looking squarely at you, since you seem to be the big-brained sodding expert in this area all of a sudden. Gobshite. He added: 'I want to thank everyone at home who's voted. For me it's a landmark in cycling, for cycling to be recognised in a non-Olympic year is unheard of, and it's incredible to see.' Earlier in the evening, the England Test Cricket Team won the Team of the Year award. Captain Andrew Strauss said: 'This is a very special award for us to win. There are so many great teams who have won this in the past. The team is more important than the individual and we've all bought into that.' Sir Steve Redgrave was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition for his huge success during his rowing career.

Dana Delany's series Body of Proof has been acquired by Channel Five. The medical drama, which stars Delany as medical examiner Megan Hunt, will make its terrestrial debut sometime in January, 2012. Body of Proof is currently broadcasting its second season on the ABC network in America. The show is also broadcast on Alibi, and has become the pay-to-view digital channel's most-watched show. Paul Fagan, head of acquisitions at Channel Five, said in a statement: 'We are delighted to have Body of Proof on Channel Five. With its talented cast and dramatic storytelling this powerful series will greatly enhance Channel Five's traditional commitment to presenting quality American drama to UK audiences.' Body of Proof joins the likes of CSI and The Mentalist in Channel Five's slate of US drama imports.

Steve Jones has 'opened up' in a really jolly funny self-pitying way about his 'experience' hosting the first season of The X Factor USA. The television presenter revealed that he found the job of hosting the competition to be more difficult than he initially thought. 'I was overwhelmed with excitement about doing the job,' Jones told New York Magazine. 'But I'll be honest, I've been taken aback. It's been a lot more pressure than I expected, a lot more emotional.' Yeah, whatever.

And so to the final Top Telly Tips of 2011 and the first of 2012:

Saturday 31 December
What better way to see out the old than with Motown at the BBC - 9:00 BBC4? A repeat it might be but, if you can find anything more worthy on TV tonight, dear blog reader, then you're a better man than yer actual Keith Telly Topping. Or, indeed, woman for that matter. A compilation of studio performances by some of Motown's greatest artists, marking the record label's fiftieth anniversary. Featuring Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Jackson Five, The Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. Tasty.

Michael Parkinson's legendary interview with Eric and Ernie from 1972 features on Parkinson, Morecambe & Wise - 10:30 BBC2 - part of the channel's night-long tribute to the comedy duo. The interview, first broadcast on Christmas Day forty years ago is warm-heated, funny, but also revealing and touching (often, all at once, especially when Eric is talking about his first heart-attack which moved from tragi-comic to thigh-slappingly funny in the blink of an eye). The interview, which Parky himself has cites as just about the wittiest he ever conducted, sees Morecambe and Wise at their absolute best, speaking about their pasts, their heroes, and their long-lasting friendship. TV history in the making.

In Alan Carr's New Year Specstacular [sic] - 11:35 Channel Four - the comedian takes over the Channel Four basement to throw a (probably debauched) New Year's Eve party to remember. He passes the drinks round to guests including Jonathan Ross, Micky Flanagan, Gok Wan, Olly Murs, Bruno Tonioli and Alesha Dixon - who proved herself fond of a glass or two when she appeared on Chatty Man just a few weeks ago. The show promises a mixture of chat, games, music - by JLS and the Ting Tings - and sketches, including parodies of The King's Speech, Made in Chelsea and a spoof of the royals with the host and David Walliams as William and Kate. Other guests helping the festivities go with a swing are Heston Blumenthal, Kirstie Allsopp, Melanie Sykes, Paddy McGuinness and Rachel Riley, while famed astrologer Shelley von Strunckel will be looking ahead to 2012.

In the Telly Topping household, however, there's usually only one thing that yer actual Keith Telly Topping watches to see in the New Year. And that is, of course, Jools' Annual Hootenanny - 11:15 BBC2. Jools Holland hosts his nineteenth annual special. Cyndi Lauper performs a couple of her most famous songs, along with something from her recent CD Memphis Blues, accompanied by legendary electric blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Jessie J sings the chart-topping (and vastly annoying) 'Price Tag', Sandie Shaw reprises two of her number-one singles, including 1964's masterpiece '(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me', and soul star Aloe Blacc returns to the studio with material from Good Times, including smash-hit single 'I Need a Dollar'. Singer-songwriter James Morrison performs a tune by Stevie Wonder, and there are also appearances by indie band the Vaccines, soul singer Betty Wright, Dutch jazz star Caro Emerald, pianist Buddy Greco, Dublin songstress Imelda May, blues group Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, Hootenanny regular Ruby Turner and Jools' own Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. As always, the New Year is rung in by the Pipes and Drums of the First Battalion Scots Guards. And, like as not, Paul Weller and Tom Jones will turn up, as usual! Get out the Bailey's and lets do the show right here!

Sunday 1 January
And so, just twenty hours into the New Year, what is likely to be one of the TV events of 2012, the much-anticipated return of Sherlock - 8:00. Eighteen months after it, quite unexpectedly, took the country by storm, Moffat and Gatiss's cunning reimagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories in a contemporary setting returns to BBC1 for the first of three more ninety minute mini-movies. In A Scandal in Belgravia, Holmes and Watson investigate a tricky case of blackmail threatening to topple the monarchy and uncover links with international terrorism, rogue CIA agents and a conspiracy at the heart of government. However, the Baker Street sleuth finds himself involved on a more personal level - to the point of distraction - when he becomes locked in a battle of wits with Irene Adler, a woman who is as cold, ruthless and brilliant as himself. 'To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.' Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman return in the award-winning drama, as Sherlock and John with [spooks]'s Lara Pulver as the wicked dominatrix who steals Sherlock's heart (and, briefly, his wits). Mark Gatiss return as a splendidly dry and sinister Mycroft, Una Stubbs as the permanently bewildered Mrs Hudson, Rupert Graves as a wonderfully understated Lestrade and Andrew Scott as the magnificently so-far-over-the-top-he's-down-the-other-side Jim Moriarty. Written with style, panache and total respect for the source material by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (though shalt worship no other Gods before he). Directed with movie-like flair and imagination by Paul McGuigan. Oh, it's so good to have it back.

Also much-anticipated Hacks - 10:00 Channel Four - is Guy Jenkin's satire inspired by the phone-hacking scandal, set at a fictional newspaper, the Sunday Comet, with a 'by any means necessary' philosophy. Phone hacking, blagging, pinging ... the staff here do it all. But it's all about to unravel, and in a big way. Tabloid editor Kate Loy (Claire Foy) takes no prisoners ('he texts it to everyone. I've seen more of Ashley's cock than Cheryl has!') and proprietor Stanhope Feast (Michael Kitchen based, very obviously on no particular Australian multi-billionaire media tycoon that you can think of) demands that she always gets the biggest stories first. But Kate's moral compass went awry many editions ago - something which is about to cause major problems for herself, her boss and her colleagues. With Kayvan Novak, Nigel Planer, Alexander Armstrong, Russ Abbot and Celia Imrie in an impressive cast. I think pretty much everyone from Lord Levenson on down is looking forward to this one.

Sky 1's much-anticipated two-part adaptation of Treasure Island begins at 7:00 tonight. With a yo-ho-ho and, indeed, a bottle of rum, y'scurvy dogs. Teenage adventurer Jim Hawkins (Toby Regbo), Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney and Dr Livesey prepare to set sail on board the Hispaniola in search of an elusive hoard of gold, following the discovery of a treasure map that once belonged to a notorious pirate, Cap'n Flint. With them are a gang of rough-tough salty old sea dogs. Unfortunately, peg-legged ship's cook John Silver wants the riches for himself, and persuades his fellow black-hearted rapscallions in the crew to back him in a mutiny. Shiver me timbers, an'all that. Proper swashbuckling adventure starring Eddie Izzard as Silver, Elijah Wood as Ben Gunn, Donald Sutherland as Captain Flint, Philip Glenister as Captain Smollett, Rupert Penry-Jones as Squire Trelawney, Daniel Mays as Dr Livesey, Keith Allen as Blind Pew and David Harewood as Billy Bones. Best cast ever, frankly. And, from the evidence of the trailers it looks great. The second part is on tomorrow and, if you miss this because you're watching Sherlock then, remember, it is repeated on 2 January at 5pm on Sky2.

Monday 2 January
Satirist and lifelong Charles Dickens fan Armando Iannucci, worried that endless adaptations of the novelist's work have led his skills to go unappreciated, sets out to prove why he still matters as a writer in the Twenty First Century in Armando's Tale of Charles Dickens - 9:00 BBC2. Using David Copperfield as a starting point, he unpicks the language and the revolution of a master storyteller, and with the help of comedy writer Barry Cryer, and comedians Kevin Eldon and Phill Jupitus, he gets beneath the skin of some of the more outlandish characters. Armando argues that Dickens's remarkable use of language and his extraordinary gift for creating characters make him a startlingly experimental and psychologically penetrating writer who demands not just to be adapted for television but to be read and read again. Finally, through encounters with the types of people Dickens wrote about, including lawyers and a debtor, Iannucci claims that his stories are just as relevant today as they ever were in the Victorian era.

Much-anticipated drama is, it would seem, all the rage this week on several different channels. Take Endeavour - 9:00 ITV. Shaun Evans steps into the pretty big shoes of John Thaw in this 1965-set prequel to Inspector Morse, playing a younger version of the cerebral detective involved in the hunt for a missing schoolgirl. Soon deep in a full-blown murder investigation, Endeavour Morse is sidelined, discredited and at a dead end - so he risks all to begin his own quest for justice. Roger Allam and Charlie Creed-Miles co-star in the mystery - which is being shown twenty years after the start of the original series - with an appearance by Abigail Thaw, the daughter of John. From the bits I've seen of it, it looks like an Oxford-set version of Inspector George Gently, to be honest. Not there's anything wrong with such a conceit, of course. Far from it. Rumour has it that if they ratings are even remotely decent, a series will follow.

The Bank Job - 10:00 Channel Four - is a live game show based in the vault of a London bank, in which four contestants are tested on their knowledge, judgement and luck in the hope of leaving with a briefcase full of cash. The week-long show culminates in Saturday's final, when one contender will win what is described as 'a life-changing sum of money.' Another example, it would seem, of the sick get-rich-quick greed that appears to be at the beating heart of so much TV these days. The competitors have been chosen based on their performance in a series of online tournaments held on the Channel Four website. Presented by George Lamb.

A repeat, but a very worthy one if you missed it first time around is Mad and Bad: Sixty Years of Science on TV - 9:00 BBC4. Narrated by Robert Webb, this documentary takes a fantastic, incisive and funny voyage through the rich heritage of science TV in the UK, from real science programmes (including The Sky At Night, Horizon, Tomorrow's World and The Ascent of Man) to science-fiction (from The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Blake's 7 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), to find out what it tells us about Britain over the last sixty years. Important figures in science and TV science, including Sir David Attenborough, Robert Winston, Dr Tim Hunt, Professor Colin Blakemore, Tony Robinson, Sir Patrick Moore and Johnny Ball, comment on growing up with TV science and on how it has reflected - or led - our collective image of science and the scientist. Gasp with abject horror as Lisa Bonin admits that she's never watched a single episode Doctor Who. Then throw things at her and boycott Bang Goes The Theory forever more!

Tuesday 3 January
Another proper decent looking drama starts on BBc1 tonight at 9:00. Public Enemies begins when Eddie Mottram (the great Daniel Mays finally getting himself a leading role worthy of the name) is released from pokey after serving a ten stretch for murder and tries to settle back into his old community with help from probation officer Paula Radnor (the nation's total sweetheart, Anna Friel). But she has a chequered history of her own, having recently returned to work after a high-profile suspension, and faces the daunting task of proving herself while overseeing his rehabilitation. She and Eddie make for an odd couple as she tries to help him cope with the effects of his terrible crime whilst6, simultaneously, trying to cope with her own. Tony Marchant's three-part drama has been strip-scheduled over three nights and continues tomorrow.

King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy - 9:00 BBC2 - is the first of two documentaries providing an insight into the lives of George V and Queen Mary, revealing their lasting influence on Britain's monarchy. The opening film focuses on King George, highlighting how a Victorian-age conservative ended up becoming an unlikely moderniser. The outbreak of the First World War prompted George to reconsider the solidarity of Europe's royal families, leading him to create the House of Windsor and embrace democratic reform. The programme also explores his strained relationship with his children, and the contrasting kinship he found with his granddaughter Princess Elizabeth.

In the latest episode of Celebrity Mastermind - 7:00 BBC1 - John Humphrys asks the questions as chef Michel Roux Jr, actress and writer Jessica Hynes, The Politics Show presenter Jon Sopel and The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon all face the black chair. Their specialist subjects are Auguste Escoffier's Guide to Modern Cookery (one imagines that's Michel's specialist subject ... unless John Sopel's got some hidden hobbies we never knew about), poet and broadcaster Pam Ayres, former prime minister Tony Blair and US sitcom Frasier.

Accused: The Seventy Four Stone Babysitter - 9:00 Channel Four - is the rather screamed and tabloidesque title for what's described as 'an insight' into a high-profile American murder trial in which Mayra Rosales, a seventy four stone Texan woman, confessed to beating her two-year-old nephew to death. As the only person in the company of the youngster when he died, Mayra became the prime suspect, and the programme follows the twists and turns of the trial, discovering how a bed-ridden, immobile woman appeared to be admitting to a crime it seemed unlikely she was able to commit. Includes testimonies from Mayra, her family and friends, and the doctors, lawyers and investigators involved in the case.

Wednesday 4 January
In Nature's Weirdest Events - 8:00 BBC2 - Chris Packham investigates the cause behind thousands of birds falling from the sky in the south of America, resulting in panic among residents and predictions of the apocalypse. He also explores the sea foam that gives parts of the Australian coast the appearance of a bubble bath, fish falling from the sky in south London, the car cocooned by caterpillars in Holland, the baffling case of the exploding toads in Germany, holes that open in the Earth's crust large enough to swallow buildings and in Florida even made a lake disappear.

Jaws: The True Story - 8:00 Channel Five - is, as you might expect from the title, a documentary examining a series of suspected shark attacks in New Jersey in 1916. This is sometimes said to have influenced Peter Benchley's novel Jaws, which was adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg in 1975.

The history of tobacco smoking in Britain is explored in a rather amusing documentary Timeshift: The Smoking Years - 9:00 BBC4. This looks at how the habit came to the country and why it became so popular. Featuring contributions by Barry Cryer and Stuart Maconie, the programme asks whether there really was a time when people everywhere could be found shrouded in a thick blue cloud, and explores how the practice is now under threat.

If you missed it when it was first shown (27 December), BBC2 are repeating the latest Three Men ... adventure Three Men Go to New England - 11:20 tonight. Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys Jones and Dara O Briain embark on their seventh boat-based voyage, taking in some of America's most historic locations as they travel from New England to New York in time to take part in festivities celebrating the Statue of Liberty's 125th birthday. They begin by visiting the country's oldest continually operating boat shop, before moving on to a living museum that recreates the 1620s in minute detail.

Thursday 5 January
Eternal Law - 9:00 ITV - is a new drama series. Angels Zak and Tom are sent to Earth to work as lawyers in York - with a mission to right wrongs and help the community. They are immediately plunged into a court case involving an estranged family and a newlywed, bringing Zak into contact with not only an old flame, but also his arch-enemy. Fantasy drama, created by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham (the co-creators of Life on Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes) and starring Samuel West, Ukweli Roach, Hattie Morahan and Tobias Menzies.

Just three months after Paddy Doherty was crowned the winner of Channel Five's debut Celebrity Big Brother, Brian Dowling invites another group of famous faces to shack up together for the next few weeks for the enjoyment of the viewing public - 9:00 Channel Five. And, already the format is looking more tired than the three year old after a day at the fair. Highlights - and I use that work quite wrongly - last season included paparazzo Darryn Lyons' off-the-shelf six-pack, The Only Way Is Essex's Amy Childs' showing that she isn't quite the bimbo people assumed, the unlikely friendship between Commons Speaker's wife Sally Bercow and Big Fat Gypsy Weddings' Paddy Doherty, and pop dynamos Jedward proving that they really are just a pair of big kids.

If it's a new year, it must mean a new series of the once unmissable but now decidedly missable Location, Location, Location - 8:00 Channel Four. Two pairs of buyers enlist the help of horsey-faced Tory mummy Kirstie Allsopp and her slaphead chum Phil Spencer to find their ideal properties in south-east London. Cruise ship workers Peter and Jason are looking forward to setting up home together in the popular suburb of Beckenham, while designers Nadine and Toby want a house in need of refurbishment within their three hundred and fifty thousand budget. For which, in that area, they'll just about be able to afford a half-share on a shoebox. Jesus, don't these people have any frigging common sense whatsoever? Don't you know there's a recession on?

Another repeat of a show you might have missed over Christmas is Top Gear - 7:30 BBC2. In this year's Top Gear special (first shown on 28 December), Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May set out to boost the British economy by embarking on a trade mission to India. Equipped with three old British cars and a range of uniquely British products, they set off on an epic road trip across one of the world's most fascinating and challenging countries, devotedly promoting Britain with distinctly mixed results. Some people, of course, don't like Top Gear for a variety of different reasons - mostly involving an agenda of some description. And they are all wrong. Next ...

Friday 6 January
The eighth - and sadly final - series of Hustle begins at 9:00 BBC1. The Hustle team is back, and making more money than ever now that the Olympics are in town, but a moment of random kindness from Albert draws them into an altogether darker con. The mark is Dexter Gold, a fast-talking, smooth-dressing wide boy who runs a cash for gold exchange designed to part the old and vulnerable from their precious treasures in return for a pittance. That is only half the story, though, and Dexter's cheeky chappie persona is really a front for his role as a middle-man for stolen gold bullion. He is a great mark, but Mickey has a warning; Dexter is ruthless, and they must be certain to come out of the con with no reprisals. Meanwhile, Eddie finally has enough of the gang's childish behaviour when he finds that someone has defaced his precious photo of Liverpool legend Ian Rush. Failing to see the funny side, and certain that the culprit is West Ham supporter Ash, Eddie bans the team from the bar until he owns up. But for once Ash is innocent and, though the absence of Eddie's breakfasts is taking its toll, there's no way he'll own up to something he didn't do. It's stalemate. In order to part Dexter from his money, Ash and Mickey plan to pose as members of a renegade army unit and convince Dexter that they have a large stash of Colonel Gadaffi's stolen gold for sale. With balaclavas and firearms at the ready, Ash puts on an impressive display to hook Dexter. But when Dexter suddenly introduces his buyer into the equation, the team look wrong-footed; can they convince Dexter and his buyer their gold is the real deal and, crucially, finish the con with Dexter unaware of their involvement? And perhaps most pressing of all - will Eddie ever let them back into his bar? With Adrian Lester, Robert Vaughn, Robert Glenister, Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams and featuring a guest appearance by Paterson Joseph.

Being a lover of all things Italian, yer actual Keith Telly Topping really likes the look of Sicily Unpacked - 9:00 BBC2. In the first episode, The Culture Show's arty Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli take viewers on a journey into the heart of Sicily and introduce one another to the things they love about the island. Their first stop takes them to Giorgio's friend Vittorio and his restaurant near the seaside village of Porto Paolo. There is no menu, you are served whatever is best that day. Sicily may be less famous for art than its northern neighbours, but Andrew wants to change that. He takes Giorgio to see one of his favourite works of art in the capital Palermo, a typically Sicilian chapel hidden away down one of the city's many narrow streets. Created by the Palermitan sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, for Andrew it is a stunning example of the Sicilian approach to art and architecture. They also travel back to the Twelfth Century and enter the Arab world while visiting the Zisa palace, and explore some of Palermo's more surprising attractions, such as the UNESCO protected Cuticchio Puppet Theatre.

Following BBC4's Top of the Pops 1976, the next stop is 1977 - in some ways a year zero for Britain's most iconic music programme. As the country veered between strikes and street parties, pop bastion Top of the Pops was stormed by punk and new wave acts such as the Stranglers and the Jam. Yet Top of the Pops at first seemed unaware of the changes afoot and the way in which the show is made was beset by working practices that are perhaps symptoms of the way in which Britain could be said 'not to be working'. This is all looked at in the documentary Top of the Pops: The Story of 1977 - 9:00 BBC4. Jeans were getting tighter, hair shorter and the tunes louder, but it was an incredibly diverse year. Disco was also a dominant force with Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love', alongside the reggae of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the pub rock of Eddie and the Hot Rods and the plastic pop of Boney M. British pop that year was in a state of flux - unpredictable and exciting. What it was like to appear on Top of the Pops in 1977 is explored in this documentary by artists such as the Adverts, John Otway, members of Darts, JJ Burnel from The Stranglers and Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols, with insights from the Top of the Pops production team. Followed at 10 o'clock by the episode from 6 January 1977.

There's only One Lenny Henry according to the title of a three-part show beginning on BBC1 and 8:30. To which, one can only respond 'thank God there's not two of them, one's one too many, frankly.'

And from that, to the greatest bit of sporting action ever captured by cameras. AZ Alkmaar's Costa Rican keeper Esteban Alvarado retaliating against a man who pitch invaded during the Dutch Cup match against Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena. And getting sent off for it. Never, I'd've said, had a red card been more deserved. Cos, he's clearly not playing the ball, there.

We take a brief break from yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas (it'll be back tomorrow, never fear dear blog reader- we haven't had The Pogues and Kirsty yet!) to return to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. And, today's two seven inch pieces of black vinyl with a hole in the middle form a very special compare-and-contrast exercise on two of the greatest performances in the history of British rock and roll. The fact that they both happen to be versions of the same song is, I assure you, entirely co-incidental. So, first up here's good old Mad As Toast Vince and His Playboys.
If yer actual Keith Telly Topping ever succeeds in getting his own radio show, dear blog reader (unlikely but, never say never) then he intends to do everything in his power to make this the first record he ever plays. Tell 'em all about it, Joe Public.

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