Saturday, December 03, 2011

Week Fifty: Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, Get A Little Action In

What's that, dear blog reader, you want to see a new photo from the Doctor Who Christmas special press pack? Well, you're certainly a confident young sir or madam, aren't you? Nevertheless, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is here for such eventualities.
Comedy highlight of the week - indeed, possibly all television, ever? it had to be Jo Brand dancing with Asimo the robot on Qi. You just don't get comedy like that anywhere else in the world.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping had a kangaroo burger on Friday during a brief visit to the local Christmas Market. And it was really nice. Sadly, I just couldn't stop thinking about Skippy as I ate it. Never eat anything, dear blog reader, that can hatch a fiendish plan. Or, you know, lead Ranger Matt to Clancy Merrick when she's trapped down The Old Mine.
Meanwhile, the Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley has revealed that she has 'no bad feelings' following her exit from Daybreak. Unlike many viewers of the show, who have nothing but bad feelings about the fact that she was employed - on such an obscene salary - in the first place.
Philip Glenister has said that he is about to start filming a third series of Mad Dogs. Speaking at this week's Women in Film and Television Awards, the actor revealed that the cast begin shooting another batch of episodes in January. 'It's a bit of a rollercoaster really,' he divulged. 'We finished the second series in August, and then Sky commissioned a third. So we're going to start shooting that at the end of January for a few months.' Glenister also revealed that the great David Warner has joined the second series of Mad Dogs, which will be broadcast next year. The forty eight-year-old added: 'It sort of becomes a bit of a road movie. There's some new interesting characters. We've got David Warner who's coming in to play a rather sinister chap.' The Sky1 drama, which also stars Glenister's Life on Mars colleague John Simm, as well as Max Beesley and Marc Warren, was a qualified ratings hit for Sky earlier this year.

And so to yer next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 10 December
Where could we start, tonight, but with The X Factor Final - 8:00 ITV - because, like it or not every waste-of-space tosser you encounter around the office on Monday will be talking about it so you might as well watch and pretend you were interested. The three remaining acts arrive at Wembley Arena for the first part of the live final, where they are trying to win public votes as they perform in front of ten thousand screaming fans. And, more than one hyperventilating presenter, one could wager. Will there be a repeat of the Stacey Solomon fiasco from last years ago? Will everyone be 'goin' mentawwwwww'? Does anyone actually give a toss this time around? At the end of the show the least popular singer gets the chop - although sadly not with an actual axe - and then the remaining two go through to the last part of the competition tomorrow. The celebrity guests this weekend include Coldplay and Michael Buble, as well as X Factor success stories Leona Lewis, JLS and One Direction. Dermot O'Dreary presents, with Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh passing judgement as usual. The Xtra Factor follows on ITV2 and the live results show is tomorrow at 7:30. And God help us all.

After ten weeks of magical and amusing moments, wardrobe mishaps and disagreements among the judges, the five remaining couples put their skills to the test in two routines as they compete for a coveted place in next week's final from Blackpool in Strictly Come Dancing - 6:30 BBC1. Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly get the celebrities' reactions as they leave the floor, before Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon reveal their scores.

Fancy something a bit more traditional ... for the 10 December? How about Tommy Cooper's Christmas - 9:00 Channel Five? 'A seasonal special from the archives,' it says here - or, in other words, a 'repeat' - featuring a generous helping of mirth, mayhem and mockery from the fez-wearing master of the mucked-up magic routine. How did he do it, I hear you ask? Just like that. Apparently. Bottle vase, vase bottle. Ha-ha. Still love the bit with the wooden duck picking out a card - blindfolded! Plus guest appearances by Sacha Distel and Clodagh Rodgers, who sing a medley of festive favourites. Do you know, dear blog reader, I'm almost tempted to give The X Factor final a miss to watch that. Almost. But not quite.

Qi XL - 10:00 BBC2 - is all about idleness this week. Stephen Fry hosts an extended edition of the quiz with a difference, joined by comedians Ross Noble and Dara O Briain, Jezza Clarkson and regular panellist Alan Davies. He asks questions on the subject of indolence and idleness, and awards points for the most interesting answers.

Sunday 11 December
Text Santa: The Launch - 9:30 ITV - is on immediately after The X Factor final results show and is, therefore, virtually guaranteed a bumper audience that, on its own, it would not deserve. Phillip Schofield and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley - with her horrible fake smile and her accent that gets on yer tripe after about four seconds - host the first of a two-part 'charity initiative' to raise money for those most vulnerable during the festive period. I'm reminded of a line in one of Russell Davies' Doctor Who episodes. 'That'll never work; he's gay and she's an alien.' No, not really, dear blog reader. But still ... Horrorshow. Good cause and all that, mind, don't get me wrong. The show promises 'a range of entertainment and appearances by stars from the worlds of TV, music and showbiz,' plus surprises and inspiring stories that aim to encourage viewers to help spread good fortune for the holidays. So, in other words, lots of people 'doing work for charidee ... but they don't like to talk about it.' Sounds horrible. Tell you what, dear blog reader, find out who the charities involved are and just give them some money, then that'll save you having to watch crap like this but your conscience will still be in tact. Concludes on Christmas Eve.

An interesting alternative to the schmaltz and Bleakley overload on ITV is the latest Black Mirror, Fifteen Million Merits - 9:30 Channel Four. A dark satire set in a future reality where everyone is confined to a life of physical drudgery - unless they can impress the judges of a popular talent show, Hot Shot. Ho-ho. Social comment that is, dear blog reader - the only means of escape from a life of misery is to go on a reality TV show. How clever of Channel Four to schedule it for the night of The X Factor final, too! And what else would you expect from the pens of Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq? 'Satirising mass-media entertainment and our insatiable thirst for distraction.' Apparently. Yeah, I think we got that from the description, Radio Times. Thanks all the same. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Rupert Everett, Jessica Brown Findlay, Julia Davis and Ashley Thomas.

Elsewhere, it a bit of a turgid night. There's a repeat of a decent Inspector George Gently episode on BBC1 (8:30) - which yer actual Keith Telly Topping will probably end up watching, bloody snooker all night on BBC2 or The Cube. That's yer whack. Take yer actual Keith Telly Topping's advice, dear blog reader, if you were ever looking for a night perfect for going to bed early with a nice steaming hot cup of milky cocoa and a good book, tonight's the night.

Monday 12 December
it's the final of Young Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. The two remaining candidates are challenged to create a downloadable online computer game and a distinctive advert with the potential to go viral on the Internet, receiving assistance from the 10 fired contestants - before Alan Sugar reveals who he has chosen as the winner of a twenty five thousand smackers fund to help kick-start a business career. Last in the series. Possibly for good as this year's series has been a spectacular disappointment ratings-wise.
Countrywise Kitchen: Stocking the Winter Larder - 8:00 ITV - is the first in a series of three programmes in which Paul Heiney and Mike Robinson celebrate winter in the kitchen, from seasonal produce to traditionally preserved foods. Paul goes to London's Borough Market, before learning how cafe owner Maria Moruzzi makes her celebrated bubble and squeak. Plus, Mike visits a farm renowned for its wild boar.

Speaking of cookery, its the start of the final batch of episodes of this year's MasterChef: The Professionals - 8:30 BBC2. Which, after the scheduling disaster of Celebrity MasterChef earlier in the year has, thankfully, got the franchise back on track with a good, solid, entertainment run. The three remaining chefs are asked to prove their creativity, as judges Gregg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr push them to the limits of their ability. The contestants are asked to demonstrate creativity, skill and ambition. They have one hour and forty five minutes to prepare a starter and main, and are given various cuts of beef (fillet, sirloin, bavette, rump and rib-eye), a whole chicken and giblets as inspiration. Stick it all in a curry and serve it with boiled rice and a nice glass of Chardonney, yer actual Keith Telly Topping'll polish it off and tell you what he thought of it, guys.

I Had the X Factor... Twenty Five Years Ago: A Wonderland Special - 9:00 BBC2 - is a rather appealing conceit in which viewers are given the chance to catch up with the six finalists from the 1986 series of talent show New Faces, the Britain's Got Talent of its day. The series, which launched in 1973, launched the careers of, among others, Lenny Henry, Michael Barrymore and Joe Pasquale. So, one the strength of those three alone it should be vilified for all eternity. It also made starts of its judges, who included the squabbling Simon Cowell and Lewis Walsh double-act of the 1970s, record producer Mickey Most and songwriter Tony Hatch. In 1986, the finals were: James Stone, Julie A Scott, Wayne Denton, Garry Lovini, Vinny Cadman and Billy Pearce, variously comedians, singers, a violinist and a club crooner. The programme explores how their brief time in the limelight shaped the next twenty five years of their lives. While some went on to appear on cruise ships and more TV programmes, others were not so fortunate and faced financial turmoil and homelessness. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Tuesday 13 December
This Is England '88 - 10:00 Channel Four - is a new three-part drama reuniting the characters from Shane Meadows' groundbreaking film This Is England and its four-part TV follow-up set in '86. With a third incarnation, set during the 1990 rave scene currently in development, this is one franchise that looks set to keep running. Thank God, perhaps it's bloody brilliant. It's Christmas 1988 and the gang is fragmented. Shaun is at college and Lol is struggling to cope as a single mother, still haunted by the devastating events of eighteen months previously. With her soul mate Woody heartbroken from her betrayal and in a kind-of self-imposed exile from the gang, Lol finds herself increasingly isolated and alone. The wonderful Vicky McClure and Joe Gilgun star. Watch out for a great little comic turn from The Thick Of It's Alex MacQueen. Watch this, dear blog reader, or you're, frankly, a lost cause. Continues tomorrow.

It's a good night for Channel Four what with that and also My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas on immediately beforehand at 9:00. This is, of course, a one-off special following the Irish travelling community during the festive season, featuring their yuletide preparations for 2010, as well as two typically extravagant weddings and a First Communion ceremony. Enough of the community have, seemingly, decided not to sue Channel Four for various perceived sleights and decided to take part to make the whole thing worthwhile. Celebrity Big Brother winner Paddy Doherty and his wife Roseanne also invite the cameras into their Salford home on Christmas Day, and the film introduces new families to the viewers, who reveal how travellers manage to hide presents from their children when they live in a trailer and how many people can fit in a caravan for a sit-down feast.

Tonight sees the final episode of Death in Paradise - 9:00 BBC1. Dwayne is in high spirits after meeting a new woman on a night out, but his joy is cut short when she is found dead the following morning. Poor Dwayne. Always the bridesmaid. It soon transpires that the victim was actually living under a false identity and gathering evidence against a money-laundering ring, but as the police team struggles to piece together the clues, Richard hears the news he has been longing for - his old job back in London is available if he wants it. It looks like the Caribbean cops will be solving this murder without their British DI. The Fast Show's John Thomson guest stars, with Ben Miller, Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules and Gary Carr. The ratings have been solid and the feedback, by and large, positive so I'd expect to see another series of this towards the back end of next year.

Wednesday 14 December
Nowhere-near-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is Peter Kay hosts the annual Royal Variety Performance 2011 - 7:30 ITV- from the Lowry in Salford Quays for the first time. Remember, dear blog reader, a time when The Royal Variety Performance was one of the highlights of the TV year with stars of the calibre of The Beatles topping the bill? No, me neither, I'm only forty eight. Anyway performers from the world of entertainment perform in the presence of the dummy Princess Anne. So, she's got the short straw this year. 'Do I have to go to The Royal Variety Performance mother? Can't I be queen, instead?' Music - if you can call it that - is provided by big honked Barry Manilow, Leona Lewis, Il Divo, Nicole Scherzinger, Cee Lo Green, Pixie Lott, Hayley Westenra, Tony Bennett and Britain's Got Talent winner Jai McDowall. Comedy - if you can call it that - comes from the host himself, as well as Jason Manford, Greg Davies, Tim Minchin and Omid Djalili, and there are also performances by Adam Cooper and the West End cast of Singin' in the Rain, Penn & Teller, Stomp and Rolando Villazon.

In Class Dismissed - 10:00 BBC2 - Frank Skinner is joined by comedians Miles Jupp, Micky Flanagan and Roisin Conaty to ask whether class is still relevant. In the wake of strikes, riots, the royal wedding and old Etonians in government who honestly gives a stuff about class these days? Well, this blogger does, for one. Working class and bloody proud of it, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is. So there. The panellists create their own reports on the issue, with Miles trying to turn himself into a working-class hero, newly bourgeois Micky finding out why he still hates modern art and Roisin searching for love across the class divide. Sounds fun, actually, I might give this one a go.

Christmas is coming, dear blog reader, the geese are getting fat. So please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do. If you haven't got a ha'penny then ... join the club there days it would seem. You might also want to watch A SuperScrimpers Christmas - 8:00 Channel Four. Finance writers Mrs Moneypenny and Merryn Somerset Webb present tips on having a frugal but fun festive holiday, including a masterclass in leftover turkey recipes, advice on claiming back money from energy companies, and a rundown of the best and worst of the high street when it comes to refund policies. A family that overspent last year takes on the challenge of preparing a Christmas dinner for just fifty pounds. Fifty quid?! Yer actual Keith Telly Topping can usually make his for a tenner. And that includes delivery and a small tip for the driver from the local takeaway. Plus, how gifts and decorations do not have to break the bank, and the joy of home-made booze. In all seriousness, is it just me or is there something vaguely sinister about a TV show that makes a virtue of appealing to people's terror of not having any money? And the really worrying thing is, it would appear, there genuinely are people in Channel Four who think that a family spending just fifty quid on their Christmas dinner is hardship. Oh, and if you do watch this, remember to turn over as soon as the credits start to roll. Because, Jamie Oliver's on next and, trust me, dear blog reader, you don't need that. If there's one thing that's absolutely guaranteed to ruin anyone's Christmas it's Jamie Oliver.

Thursday 15 December
In MasterChef: The Professionals - 8:00 BBC2 - the three finalists face their last challenge as they prepare a three-course menu for Gregg and Michel. The judges assess the hopefuls' efforts before deciding who is the winner of the 2011 competition and succeeds past champions Derek Johnstone, Steve Groves and Claire Lara.

Meanwhile, it's a big night for BBC2, it's also the last in the current series of the excellent Rev - 9:30. Ambition is in the air at St Saviour's as Nigel gets the chance to prove he could be a better priest than Adam, who faces a big decision about his own future. The Archdeacon also makes plans for career advancement and even Colin finds a job. Comedy, starring Tom Hollander, Simon McBurney and Miles Jupp, with a guest appearance from James Purefoy.

The story of Maurice Reeves, the eighty-year-old owner of a Croydon furniture store, who saw his premises destroyed during the August riots in London is told in Up In Flames: Mr Reeves and the Riots - 10:45 BBC1. The documentary follows him dealing with the aftermath of the blaze, meeting other victims, disaffected young people and local politicians, as he tries to make sense of the violent outburst that may have brought about a permanent end to a one hundred and forty four-year-old family tenure.

In Kylie Live in 2011 Aphrodite Les Folies - 10:00 Sky1 - the diminutive pop singer's stage show recorded at London's O2 in April is broadcast. One in which she performed songs from her Aphrodite CD alongside favourites such as 'Can't Get You Out of My Head', 'On a Night Like This' and 'Better the Devil You Know'. Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, the show features Kylie, Kylie, sweet and smiley (sing us a song in a rub-a-dub-style-ee) perched on a winged horse, riding a chariot pulled by saucy centurions and soaring over the crowd on a bare-chested angel. It was quite a sight.

Friday 16 December
Yer Keith Telly Topping advises all dear blog readers to avoid tonight's Have I Got News For You - 9:00 BBC1 - like they'd avoid a big lump of dog-turd in the middle of an otherwise unblemished path. Because that arsehole Jack Whitehall is featured. Instead, try Stuffed: The Great British Christmas Dinner - 9:00 BBC2. This documentary - previously shown on BBC4 - asks why the festive meal remains the nation's last great traditional feast, and if it can continue to stand the test of time in an increasingly diverse society. With contributions by actor Simon Callow, food writer Prue Leith, cultural critic Jonathan Meades and historians Kate Colquhoun and Kathryn Hughes.

There's still a Christmas episode of Qi - 10:00 BBC2 - to come (featuring Brian Blessed, so don't miss that one!), and one episode from the current run has been held back until next summer to tie in with the BBC's Olympic Shakespeare season. So, tonight's episode is a compilation of highlights and previously unseen bits from the series just - almost - completed, hosted as ever by Stephen Fry. Guests including Dara O Briain, Jo Brand, David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Johnny Vegas and regular panellist Alan Davies answered questions based on subjects beginning with the letter I, including Indecision, Idleness, Illumination and Intelligence, and were awarded points for the most interesting answers. You know the deal by now!

One of the contestants on tonight's episode of Mastermind - 8:00 BBC2 - is answering questions on The West Wing, the best TV series ever made (that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title). Yer actual Keith Telly Topping confidently predicts that he will give him or her a run for their money in that round but get comprehensively spanked in the general knowledge bit. John Humphrys welcomes four more contestants to the black chair in the specialist and general knowledge quiz, asking questions - in the case of the other three contenders - on the Life and Work of George Orwell, the Valley of the Kings and the Life of Francis Walsingham.

In The Big Quiz: Coronation Street v Emmerdale - 9:00 ITV - Stephen Mulhern hosts a one-off quiz in which cast members from the ITV soaps battle it out to be crowned Soap Champions 2011. What an honour, eh? bet there's one or two Nobel or Oscar winners who'd gladly swap their honours for a sniff at the Soap Champion 2011 trophy. Two teams of four from the Street and the Dales are put to the test answering questions on the big events of the year, as well as some of the funniest and most memorable moments from both shows. Sounds crap. As with just about everything ITV do these days.

And, no that bombshell, so to the news: here's a few updates from the Christmas schedules: Antiques Roadshow on Sunday 18 December is a compilation show. Guests for the Christmas special of A Question Of Sport on Monday 19 December are Alistair McGowan, Jake Humphrey, Tim Lovejoy and Patrick Kielty. Guests for The Comedy Annual on Tuesday 20 December include Alistair McGowan (who's on TV more often than The Great Escape this Christmas it would seem), Jason Manford, Jason Byrne and Patrick Monahan. The Royle Family on Wednesday 21 December is a repeat of last year's episode, Joe's Crackers. Guests for Ruth Jones' Christmas Cracker also on Wednesday are James Corden (big surprise there), Lulu, Micky Flanagan and The Manic Street Preachers. Have I Got News For You's Christmas special on Friday 23 December is guest hosted by Martin Clunes. Guests for the Christmas special of The Graham Norton Show on Friday 23 December are Matt Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Amir Khan and Russell Kane. Very popular with students, is Russell. Shakin' Stevens will be the guest singer for the Christmas special of Strictly Come Dancing on Christmas Day. Guests for the Christmas special of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow on Christmas Day are Jack Dee, Miranda Hart, Sean Lock, James Corden (again!), Rob Brydon, David Mitchell and Rhod Gilbert, with music from Kylie Minogue. Have I Got News For You and The Graham Norton Show on Friday 30 December are both compilations. So there you are, dear blog reader, don't let wretched James Corden and unfunny Alistair McGowan ruin your family's Christmas. Use your remote controls wisely.

Sue Murphy, the Channel Four executive responsible for shows including My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, has become the latest senior commissioning executive to leave the broadcaster. Murphy's departure to become UK creative director of Optomen and One Potato Two Potato, which makes Gordon Ramsay's shows, comes the day after Channel Four head of drama Camilla Campbell and drama commissioning editor Robert Wulff-Cochrane announced they were leaving to set up a new independent production company backed by ITV Studios. The departures come as Jay Hunt, Channel Four chief creative officer, continues with a wide-ranging reorganisation of the broadcaster's commissioning teams. Her latest recruit is Dominic Bird, BBC Entertainment North creative director, who is joining Channel Four in the newly created role of head of formats. Bird will be joining the features and factual entertainment commissioning team headed by Murphy. Channel Four will be advertising for a replacement for Murphy. Other recent changes at Channel Four include the departure of head of documentaries and More4 Hamish Mykura and the promotion of Ralph Lee, head of specialist factual, to head of factual. At Optomen and One Potato Two Potato, a joint venture half owned by Ramsay, Murphy will oversee development of UK shows. Both companies are owned by superindie All3Media and make shows including Kitchen Nightmares, Heston's Feast and Mary Portas: Secret Shopper. Murphy has been at Channel Four since 1998, except for a two-year stint at Channel Five from 2001. Her department is responsible for shows including My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Undercover Boss, Gok's Fashion Fix, Supersize vs Superskinny, Embarrassing Bodies, Grand Designs, River Cottage and the Food Fight seasons. Campbell and Wulff-Cochrane are leaving Channel Four after two years during which time they have overseen dramas including Misfits, Fresh Meat, Any Human Heart, The Promise, Top Boy and This is England '86. They are setting up Noho Film and TV, a joint venture with ITV Studios, which will initially focus on dramas aimed at a young adult audience.

Channel Four is to broadcast a hard-hitting documentary about the uprising in Syria, including graphic mobile phone video footage of civilians allegedly being tortured by the country's military regime. The broadcaster intends to broadcast the investigation, called Syria's Torture Machine, at 11.10pm in light of the extreme nature of some of the footage captured by civilians, activists and even some torturers. The forty five-minute film, which will be broadcast on 19 December, has been made by ITN Productions, which also produced Sri Lanka's Killing Fields for Channel Four. Syria's Torture Machine is presented by the Channel Four News foreign affairs correspondent, Jonathan Miller, who travelled to Syria and Lebanon to hear testimony from victims, refugees and activists. 'What I've heard is testimony from people who tell of systematic abuse and torture so appalling and prevalent it is no surprise that the revolt in Syria is growing day by day,' he said. 'The scale and barbarity of it is overwhelming.' Miller added that testimony includes tales of torture techniques such as confinement in a tyre, electrocution and waterboarding. Channel Four cites UN statistics that more than four thousand people have been killed in Syria since protests began in February. In the film Miller puts allegations of torture and murder to representatives of the Syrian government. Channel Four said that all the footage that has been obtained has been subjected to 'journalistic verification processes. The mobile phone versus the gun may seem an unequal contest but in Libya, Egypt and now Syria people are fighting powerful regimes by documenting torture and detention for a global audience – and our film examines this phenomenon,' said executive producer Chris Shaw. Shaw, the ITN Productions editorial director, was also executive producer on Channel Four's controversial documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, which featured graphic footage of alleged war crimes. The documentary, broadcast in May, was cleared by media regulator Ofcom of breaching its broadcasting code after more than one hundred complaints about issues including impartiality and misleading material.

Play Your Cards Right may be coming back, but the return of another ITV favourite, Give Us a Clue has fallen by the wayside. Despite the wave of nostalgia sweeping television with old favourite such as The Muppets being given a new lease of life, an updated version of 1980s charades game show Give Us a Clue fronted by George Lamb has failed to be picked up by broadcasters. The programme's return to television screens was heralded last year after a pilot was made, which featured comedian Rufus Hound and children's TV presenter Kirsten O'Brien as team captains. Production company Talkback Thames, which makes many of ITV's most popular shows including The X Factor and the soon-to-be broadcast new version of Play Your Cards Right starring Vernon Kay, made the Give Us a Clue pilot after it was successfully revived in the Netherlands. However, a spokesman for the company said of the new Give Us a Clue: 'We did take it to market but as yet no one has picked it up.' Give Us a Clue was a regular fixture in ITV's schedule, running from 1979 until 1992.

Nicolas Roeg is to be awarded with the London Film Critics' Circle's highest honour for his contribution to film-making. The Don't Look Now director will receive the Dilys Powell Award for Excellence at a London ceremony on 19 January. 'This award has truly amazed me and certainly caught me a bit left-footed,' the director said. The Critics' Circle praised Roeg as a 'lasting testament to innovation.' The veteran film-maker won critical acclaim for his first film Performance, which he co-directed with Donald Cammell in 1970 and went on to make cult classics Walkabout and The Man Who Fell to Earth. He also directed a big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches in 1990 starring Angelica Huston and, a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, the Dennis Potter-scripted Track 29. 'I'm sure the critics will understand when I say - on looking through and reading some of my old reviews, I'm torn between thanking you and forgiving you,' the director said. 'But having slept on it, I'll go with the positive and thank you all and hope that in the countdown for the decision of the Critics' Circle to give me a tribute, some old mathematical rule applied where two negatives can sometimes make a positive.' Chairman of The Critics' Circle Film Section, Jason Solomons, added: 'Nic Roeg's films stand out as one of the most distinctive and influential bodies of work of any British film maker. I am thrilled that he can now join the list of illustrious honourees of the Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Cinema. He adds mischief, daring and brilliance to it, as well as the sort of maverick artistic spirit that only cinema can liberate.' Other previous recipients of the honour include Quentin Tarantino, Dirk Bogarde, Richard Attenborough, Julie Walters, Judi Dench and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was rather hoping that Spain, Italy, Greece and Ireland would be drawn together in Euro 2012. Just so that we could call it The Group Of Debt. In the end, Greece escaped and Croatia got their spot. England were drawn against France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine in Group D. In Group A, co-hosts Poland play Greece in the opening game, and also face Russia and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in a rock looking Group B, World Cup runners-up Netherlands take on Denmark, Germany and Portugal. The Euro 2012 tournament will begin on 8 June in Warsaw, with the final being played on 1 July in Kiev. England manager Fabio Capello said he was pleased to have avoided some of the bigger names in the tournament as England return to Europe's top table for the first time in eight years, having failed to qualify for Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria. However, being picked in Group D means they play their opening three games in Ukraine. Having selected Krakow in Poland as their training base, England will face journeys of nine hundred and thirty miles to Donetsk to play France and Ukraine, and five hundred and forty miles to Kiev where they take on Sweden. When asked if he would consider changing the destination of their camp, Capello told BBC Sport: 'Absolutely not. We have found a really good place. I am happy with the facilities and we will stay in the same place in Krakow.' The Italian, who confirmed this week that he would leave his post after the tournament, added: 'Group B is very difficult because Portugal, Germany and Holland is really tough. The best group was Group A, but we are happy with Group D. It's a tough group but it's better than Group B. More difficult will be the first game against France, because of the pressure and the importance of the result.' England will open against France, who they have not beaten in five meetings, in Donetsk on 11 June. The fixture is a repeat of England's first game at Euro 2004, when they lost 2-1 in Lisbon. Despite the recent record between the countries, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes England will be the team to beat. 'England are one of the biggest nations in football,' said the Lyon player. 'They'll start as favourites in the group.' England then play Sweden, who they recently beat for the first time since 1968, in Kiev on 15 June. 'I don't think you saw the real Sweden in the friendly game at Wembley last month, I hope not anyway,' said their coach Erik Hamren. 'I am looking forward to it because its always fantastic to play England, the atmosphere and history is fantastic.' England complete their group fixtures against Ukraine back in Donetsk on 19 June. Ukraine inflicted Capello's first defeat as England coach in a competitive fixture, 1-0 in October 2009, after England had already qualified for the 2010 World Cup. Capello's preparations for the tournament will be helped by the announcement that England will face Netherlands on 29 February, in a re-arranged friendly game at Wembley. Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni said before the draw he wished to avoid Spain and Italy, and the Italian admitted his side had been handed a tough group. 'Yes, I know Italy better [than the others] but every game is different,' he said. 'Spain is the strongest team, but Croatia are not easy.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, I was rather shocked to discover the other day when someone pointed it out that this slot has been going for over a year now and there's been astonishingly little representation for yer actual Sir Elt. (I think we did have 'Crocodile Rock' a while back so it hasn't been an entire arid desert for fans of Wee Reg and his Honky Joanna.) Gonna have to rectify that, obviously. This one's for all the boys in the bar when it's just about to kick-off, big style.

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