Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back-To-Work Tuesday

TV comedy moment of the week: The baffled looks on the faces of Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer when Gary Lineker used the word 'sagatious' to describe Alan Pardrew's after-match comments following yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies Boxing Day victory at Notlob on Match of the Day. It means 'wise', gentlemen.
Boxing Day was another good night for the BBC with EastEnders again the most watched programme with an average of 9.94m and a peak of 10.6m as crazy, twisted firestarter Yusef met a fiery end in a small-scale version of Towering Inferno. BBC3's repeat screening was watched by a further seven hundred thousand punters at 10.30pm. Coronation Street's hour-long episode, meanwhile, attracted 7.94m at 8pm and two hundred and fifty thousand on ITV+1 as Becky tried to fight back against twisted Tracy. Emmerdale had a somewhat below-part 5.57m at 6.30pm as Debbie shared her latest plan with Andy. A further three hundred thousand watched on timeshift. Away from the soaps, The Royal Bodyguard - which yer actual Keith Telly Topping really didn't think was very good at all - opened with 7.1m on BBC1 whilst the Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special averaged a spectacular 6.6m viewers at 10pm. The Borrowers was watched by 5.38m, whilst the latest Poirot had an audience of 4.21m with a further two hundred and eight seven thousand on timeshift. Overall, BBC1's peaktime (18.00 - 22.30) average audience of 6.1m was over a million higher than any other channel. A Springwatch review averaged 1.59m for BBC2 at 7pm. University Challenge was the channel's most-watched programme with 2.08m at 8.30pm.

Some of the final consolidated, timeshift-adjusted ratings have been released by BARB for Saturday 17 December. The two final episodes of Strictly Come Dancing were watched by 13.34m and 13.16m respectively. Merlin, enjoying something of a golden period at the moment, had an audience of 8.39m, followed by BBC News with 7.82m. And, still on the subject of ratings, the Daily Scum Mail arrive, somewhat late to the party, with a simple explanation as to how their beloved Downton Abbey, which they'd confidently expected to get ninety seven billion viewers against nasty old EastEnders, somehow managed only 8.1m on Christmas Day. It was all down to 'too many adverts', apparently.
The Torygraph, the Independent, the Gruniad Morning Star (with its screamed over-the-top EastEnders trounces Downton Abbey in Christmas TV ratings war headline) and even the Yorkshire Post all had their own, variously agenda-soaked, take on the same story. Isn't it just beyond brill when, suddenly, all of the newspapers turn into ratings expects for a day?

The cosy image of life at Downton Abbey is 'completely wrong' and 'infuriating to watch', according to an alleged expert on the period with, seemingly, nothing better to do with her time than contact the Press Association to tell them how much she doesn't like it. Historian Jennifer Newby said that the servants in the hit country house drama, created by Oscar winner Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes, look 'too clean' and were 'too friendly' with their employers. She said: 'I find it infuriating to watch, it sets my teeth on edge. The relationship they have with their employers is totally wrong.' Well, probably the answer would be not to watch it then, Jen. Try EastEnders on the other side. Ten million people did on Christmas Day, you might've noticed. The Daily Scum Mail certainly did. Those viewers that did stick with Downton (and all its adverts) for the Christmas Day special saw members of the aristocratic Crawley family support valet John Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his wife, housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt), during his trial - and eventual conviction - for his first wife's murder. The Crawleys also hosted a dance for the servants. The two-hour episode ended with Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) finally proposing to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). Ms Newby, the editor of Family History magazine and author of a new book called Women's Lives has, she claims, read hundreds of letters and diaries kept by people who worked in service and the families that they worked for. She said: 'There was one butler who said that even if in a moment of weakness an employer could ask for advice they wouldn't give it because it could be held against them. The servants in the programme are far too clean. The reality would have been a lot more grubby, I don't think people realise that the servants stank. I read one story from a woman who worked in a vicarage and she was only allowed to wash when the vicar was out.' Quite how Ms Newby knows that the characters on TV don't ming like Satan's armpits, she doesn't care to explain. Unless, of course, she's one of the few people in the country who have smell-o-vision. In which case, good point Ms Newby, please continue. 'They would have been seen rather like the way we look at our washing machine, just something to give us a clean shirt.' Newby, who lives in London but is originally from Knaresborough, said that the reality for many women who went into service was working for miserly employers from a very young age. She said: 'They were offered not just a regular wage but a warm home as well but they often became institutionalised and could not cope without the routine.' While writing her book, she uncovered letters from a teenage maid who told her mother she started work at 5am and went to bed at midnight and was so tired that 'sometimes I am obliged to have a good cry.' Another, Edith Hall, was forced to use her miserly master's old underwear as dusters, and ate her Christmas dinner 'on the draining board, by the sink (again).' Still, bright side, at least they could write.

Ben Miller and Alexander Armstrong think they were born to play their latest comedy roles. The duo are donning 1900s gear for a 'ridiculously silly' one-off comedy called Felix And Murdo, created by Men Behaving Badly writer Simon Nye. 'If ever there were two people born to play Edwardian throwbacks it's me and Alexander Armstrong,' said Ben. The Death In Paradise actor plays Felix, a man-about-town who finally agrees to settle down and marry his fianceé. Or at least he does until his best friend Murdo (Alexander) points out that the wedding clashes with their planned trip to Paris to see the pair's favourite music hall act. 'It's set in that sort of Downton Abbey period, which I think was an inherently funny time,' said Alexander. 'The Edwardian British must have been insufferable as they really did think they had it all. And just around the corner was the First World War, when it was all about to come crashing down around their shoulders.' Ben added: 'It really was the golden period of England. They had many of the trappings of modern life and devices that we have now - the very first prototypes had just been invented - but they had no idea of the horrors that were just around the corner.' However, as Ben points out, one shouldn't get too carried away looking for striking cultural parallels in their work. 'Downton Abbey is a social document - Felix And Murdo is just stupid,' he claims. Although I can think of at least one person who'd disagree with you on the 'Downton as social document' point. Not smelly enough, apparently. 'What we loved about it was how much fun it was and how suited we were to it,' concluded Miller.

Vinyl is to make a comeback on the radio, but for only one day. BBC Radio 6Music has announced it will be playing only vinyl on New Year's Day. Most BBC stations phased out vinyl in favour of CDs in the 1990s and the majority now use digital versions of songs. Presenters Jarvis Cocker and Elbw's Guy Garvey will be among those dusting off their turntables and Don Letts will be bringing his own seven-inch singles. But 6Music bosses have turned the clock back with an 'All Vinyl' day to round off a month-long celebration of vinyl. Station editor Paul Rodgers said: 'In a world dominated by digital music, vinyl is a format still close to the hearts of many music lovers and increased sales demonstrate its enduring appeal.' A spokeswoman for the station said: 'Listeners can expect rare gems, insights and a few crackles and pops when digital goes analogue for one day only.' Singer-songwriter Richard Hawley will host a show talking to prominent acts such as Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead about the joys and the pitfalls of vinyl. Dance DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall and singer Cerys Matthews will be joining the vinylfest in their shows.

Which brings us nicely to the return of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Because, there are some places where vinyl has never died. I'm not sure whether anybody at 6Music will be playing this little epic by Robert Lloyd and the new Four Seasons but, if you need a copy of the single version, give yer actual Keith Telly Topping a bell, he'll sort you out.

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