Saturday, January 07, 2012

Week Three: Time You Straightened Right Out

More than two and a half million viewers used the iPlayer video-on-demand service to catch the BBC's Christmas Day line-up over the festive week, with the corporation claiming shows such as Absolutely Fabulous enjoyed a seventy five per cent boost in audience from viewing beyond those who caught it on TV on the day. The BBC has released figures which reveal that the total viewing of its Christmas Day shows – including those that tuned on the day, watched repeats, viewed on Sky+ and other recording devices or used the iPlayer – over the course of the following week. These figures show that overall there were almost 2.6m views of the BBC's Christmas Day programmes on the iPlayer in the following seven days, with four shows – Doctor Who, EastEnders, Absolutely Fabulous and Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow – accounting for about three quarters of this total. EastEnders was the most popular BBC Christmas Day show on the iPlayer, with thirty thousand viewers watching live as it was broadcast on TV from 9pm and a further four hundred and ninety two thousand catching up over the next seven days. The BBC believes that when all forms of viewing beyond watching on TV on Christmas Day are factored in – including repeats, catchup TV and timeshift viewing on Sky+ and other devices – EastEnders' audience grew by thirty per cent. EastEnders, which was the most popular show broadcast on Christmas Day with 9.9 million viewers according to official BARB overnight figures, rises to 12.8 million according to the BBC's reckoning. The biggest beneficiary of additional viewing after the day of broadcast was Absolutely Fabulous, which the BBC suggests saw a seventy five per cent increase in total audience over the course of the next seven days. Absolutely Fabulous attracted sixteen thousand live and four hundred and thirty six thousand catch-up views on the iPlayer, making it the third most popular BBC Christmas day show on the VOD service. Doctor Who received a total viewing boost of forty five thousand in the week post-broadcast, and notched up four hundred and thirty four views on the iPlayer. Doctor Who's total +7 audience, 12.88 million (made up on 10.8 million viewers for the first transmission, two repeats and the iPlayer audience) make it the most watched BBC programme of the Christmas Day line-up. Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow attracted a total viewing boost of sixty per cent, taking all viewing beyond traditional TV into account over the week after broadcast, with a healthy five hundred and six thousand viewers catching it on the iPlayer. It was the second most popular Christmas Day show on the iPlayer. The Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special – the fifth most popular Christmas day show according to BARB's initial official overnight figures – barely registered by comparison on the iPlayer. The show notched up eight thousand live and seventy three thousand catch-up views on the iPlayer.

Celebrity Big Brother 2012's series made a modest start on Thursday night, the latest overnight data indicates. Almost three and a half million viewers watched the likes of Frankie Cocozza, Natalie Cassidy and Kirk Norcross enter the house from 9pm, a significant fall of 1.7m on last summer's series opener. However, viewers stuck around for Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side presented by Emma Willis, which won its 11pm timeslot with 1.07m. ITV's new drama Eternal Law edged BBC1's Public Enemies in the 9pm drama battle with 4.32m against the latter's 4.14m. Eternal Law also pulled in an additional three hundred and sixty thousand punters on ITV+1. Over on BBC2, Meet Britain's Chinese Tiger Mums interested 1.06m, while The Restoration Man had 2.06m for Channel Four (plus two hundred thousand on +1). During the 8pm hour, BBC1's nature series Earthflight continued with 4.63m, holding up well against ITV's soap double of Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Here's yer next Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 14 January
In Ken Russell: A Bit of a Devil - 9:00 BBC2 - Alan Yentob reflects on the career of Mad as Toast Ken Russell, who died on November 27 2011. The directing credits of the pioneering film-maker include Women in Love, The Devils, Tommy and The Music Lovers. Featuring contributions from, among others, Glenda Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Twiggy, Melvyn Bragg, Robert Powell and Roger Daltrey.

Harry Hill's TV Burp - 6:45 ITV - this week features 'highlights of Burps past.' Or, a clipshow in other words. These include Harry judging more X Factor hopefuls, the cockney craze of bush pushing, the funnyman's battle with a Viennetta and a visit to Louie Spence's showbiz world. Yeah. Here's a format that's got rather old rather quickly, possibly Harry's rumoured departure from ITV has been timed just right, before the novelty starts to wear off.

Sunday 15 January
Call the Midwife - 8:00 BBC1 - is a historical new drama series, written and produced by Heidi Thomas, which the BBC have been really pushing in trailers over the last few weeks. Newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee prepares to begin her career and is posted to Nonnatus House in London, but what she assumed was a small private hospital turns out to be a nursing convent in the East End. Initially daunted by her new colleagues and surroundings, she slowly finds her feet and is given her first case - the care of a woman pregnant for the twenty fifth time. Jessica Raine stars in this 1950s-set drama based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, along with a stellar cast that includes Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Judy Parfitt. Look out later in the series for an extremely specky Miranda Hart turning up as well in a dramatic role for the first time. One rather hopes this will be a success and, given the quality of those involved, both behind the camera and in front, it might just find a Sunday night audience in the way that, say, Lark Rise To Candleford did.
All too quickly, we reach the third and final episode of Sherlock's second series - 8:30 BBC1. And, since it involves a date at The Reichenbach Fall, we all know what that means. That this could be the last episode ever. Although, given the ratings it's been getting, I imagine the BBC will be pushing Moffat, Gatiss, Benny and Martin for more. Much more. The plot: The Tower of London, Pentonville Prison and the Bank of England are all broken into on the same day - and yet nothing is stolen. Holmes is convinced it is the work of his old nemesis, Jim Moriarty, and as the masterminds lock horns in one final battle that tests loyalty and courage to the limits, the detective finds himself fighting for his reputation, his sanity and his life. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman star in the award-winning crime drama, with Andrew Scott and Katherine Parkinson. Adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle's first 'last Sherlock Holmes story', The Final Problem.

In the risible Twatting About On Ice - 6:30 ITV - the various 'celebrities' (and, I use that word quite wrongly) who did not perform last week take their chance to impress the public and the judges - Robin Cousins, Louie Spence and Katarina Witt - putting weeks of training with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean into practice on the ice. And, hopefully, falling over on their bum and looking like a plank which, let's face it, is just about the only reason to watch this fiasco of a programme. At the end of the show, phone lines open and viewers vote for their favourite contestant - and one of them faces elimination. Phillip Schofield and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley present the competition. It will be interesting to see if Bleakley's current toxic reputation amongst TV viewers on just about everything she's been involved in since leaving the BBC in her greed will carry over into this. The results can be seen at 9.30pm. Sebastien Foucan has reportedly said 'I don't want to look stupid.' Bit of a mistake going on Twatting About On Ice in that case, I'd wager.

Monday 16 January
The One Griff Rhys Jones - 8:30 BBC1 - sees the writer, presenter and occasionally really annoying Griff Rhys Jones going back to his comedy roots with a half-hour of sketches. Joining him are his old partner Mel Smith for a revival of their legendary head-to-head routines from Alas Smith & Jones, as well as some of the biggest names in TV and film, including Rev's Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville, Larry Lamb and Kevin McNally. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has got a bit of a soft spot for Griff, despite his occasional tendency to chew the scenery (even when he's doing voice-overs on documentaries!) so I really hope this works for him.

The Daily Scum Express might hate it on general principle but Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:30 BBC1 - is now a genuine bona-fide hit. In tonight's episode, Agnes looks after a robotic baby that has been given to Dermot and Maria to help them prepare for their new arrival, but uses unorthodox methods to stop the fake infant from crying. Meanwhile, Cathy develops a crush on her psychology lecturer. Surreal, break-the-fourth-wall comedy, written by and starring Brendan O'Carroll.

Brian Cox's continuing mission to bring science to the masses (and, take over telly at the same time) continues with the return of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. For the next three nights Professor Foxy Coxy is accompanied on an exploration of the night skies by comedian (and amateur astronomer) Dara O Briain, who is shown how to spot and take pictures of celestial marvels. The team meets Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 17, while Liz Bonnin reports from South Africa on the differences between the constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres. Plus, Mark Thompson recommends the best equipment for prospective stargazers. Remember, check out the website for a variety of events in your local area.

A repeat, but a worthy one, Richard Wilson On Hold - 8:00 Channel Four - sees the actor exploring the rise of automated services in Britain, assessing their impact on companies, consumers and job prospects. He struggles with self-service check-out machines, takes fifteen minutes to pay for parking by phone, and fails to get an automated cinema ticket line to understand him. And, inevitably, doesn't belieeeeeeeve it. The former One Foot in the Grave actor also puts some of the country's biggest companies to the test by creating his own call centre in his apparent attempt to become the Esther Rantzen of the Twenty First Century. Good luck with that, Richard.

Tuesday 17 January
Having had its best ever year as a format, despite the Celebrity MasterChef scheduling fiasco, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef returns for a new seres - 9:00 BBC1. John Torode and Gregg Wallace are back to put yet more amateur chefs to the test, scare the living bejesus out of them and, yet, somehow, uncover a new batch of culinary stars. There's been further format changes from last year and, it appears, they've got rid of the X Factor-style audition process which some viewers rather liked but which went down like a brick in a swimming pool with others. In the first heat, eight cooks undergo the Invention Test, where they are given seventy five minutes to create a dish to impress the judges - a challenge that will see two hopefuls eliminated. The remaining six must then prove they can handle the pressure of a professional kitchen by working a lunch service at London restaurants the Living Room and Gilgamesh, before preparing one more dish for John and Gregg - who will then decide which contestants make it through to the main competition. it's great to have it back. Continues tomorrow.

In the latest episode of Horizon - 9:30 BBC2 - Adam Rutherford explores synthetic biology, a branch of science that researchers hope will enable them to break nature down into spare parts so they can rebuild it as they please. He learns about the spider-goat, a creature bred by American scientists, whose milk can be used to artificially create the material for spiderwebs, and investigates how the science behind it could be applied to other areas of the natural world - including the human brain.

On the great Muhammad Ali's seventieth birthday, Des Lynam and Barry McGuigan look at the early stages of his professional boxing career in Ali: Still the Greatest - 9:00 ITV4. This was, of course, a period which saw the teenage Louisville Lip Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr win an Olympic gold medal and then sweep all before him during the following three years before he claimed the World Heavyweight title by defeating Sonny Liston. Then, with the world at his feet, he found Islam, changed his name and made a controversial defence against Liston the following year.

In the latest episode of Shameless - 10:00 Channel Four - Mimi fears she cannot give Billy everything he needs, and suggests they enter into an open marriage, while Marty worries Kelly is hurting herself by refusing to grieve for the baby she lost. Elsewhere, Patty gets unwanted attention at a funeral from a man who is convinced she knew his mother better than he did.

Wednesday 18 January
Hairy Bikers' Best of British - 7:00 BBC2 - sees Si King and Dave Myers continue their celebration of British food. The culinary duo share fascinating stories as they explore the festivals and occasions on the calendar that allow the nation to put on a spread and indulge.

Crusades - 9:30 BBC2 - is a new series in which Dr Thomas Asbridge uses fresh research, eyewitness testimony and contemporary accounts to examine the two hundred-year (allegedly) Holy war between Christians and Muslims in the name of God. Doctor Tom begins by his study of the subject by tracing the epic journey of the first Crusaders as they marched (and then trudged, and then limped) three thousand miles from Europe to recapture the city of Jerusalem from Islam, enduring starvation, disease and bloodthirsty battle to reach their goal against the Saracen hordes.

Channel Five, as we know, seem to specialise in screamed tabloidesque titles for their programmes. Something which, no matter how worthy the shows themselves are, automatically puts the back up of a portion of viewers. Kate Thornton - Anorexic: My Secret Teens - 10:00 - appears to be just one such conceit. TV presenter Kate Thornton comes to terms with a secret from her teenage years - from the age of eleven to fifteen she suffered from the eating disorder anorexia, a condition which continues to affect many youngsters today. She recalls what triggered off her obsessive dieting and talks to those closest to her at the time, who recall what they remember of her lies and her skeletal figure. Twenty-five years since she beat anorexia, she also meets other sufferers, hoping her experiences can help them in their fight against the illness. Important subject matter, interesting host, probably, dear blog reader, worthy of an hour of your time. But, horribly let down by the crass and inelegant title.

One Born Every Minute - 9:00 Channel Four - tonight sees a teenage mother supported by her best friend in person and many online acquaintances as she goes through labour. An Indian couple who dated secretly when they were younger continue to break with tradition by having the father present at the birth, and a mother-to-be discusses being happily married to her childhood sweetheart.

Thursday 19 January
Mad Dogs returns for a second series - 9:00 Sky1. The story picks up where series one ended with Woody, Baxter and Rick driving away from the villa as Quinn has chosen to stay and make a new life in Majorca. In the opening scenes viewers will see Woody, Baxter and Rick have a change of heart and turn back - and from there it just gets crazier. The four life-long friends continue their holiday from hell, when a sighting of Dominic heading towards the villa stops them in their tracks. Psychological thriller sequel, starring Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren. Series one proved a big success with viewers last year gaining a loyal weekly audience and a BAFTA nomination for Drama Serial.

In Top of the Pops: 1977 - 7:30 BBC4 - Diddy David Hamilton presents an edition from 13 January 1977, a week in which Starsky and Hutch actor David Soul topped the chart with 'Don't Give Up On Us Baby' - his first UK number one. The show also features performances by David Parton (massacring Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't She Lovely' in a way that, frankly, shouldn't have been legal), Status Quo (then just one decade into their forty years of imaginative use of denim), Pussycat, Gallagher and Lyle, Barry Biggs and The Liverpool Express, as well as dance troupe Legs and Co.

Earthflight - 8:00 BBC1 - continues its bird's-eye view of the world. This week, we reach South America, following the journeys of condors as they soar over the Andes mountain range searching for food amid fighting guanacos, and scarlet macaws seeking medicinal clay in the Amazon rainforest. In Patagonia, giant petrels shadow killer whales hunting seals, and black vultures prey on turtle eggs in Costa Rica. Narrated by yer actual David Tennant.

In Eternal Law - 9:00 ITV - Zak and Tom defend an eighty two-year-old man accused of poisoning the owner of his care home and end up taking him to stay at the Belfry while the trial is on. Zak continues to be tormented by his feelings for Hannah, while Tom has a night on the town - much to Mrs Sheringham's disapproval. Fantasy drama, guest starring the great David Bradley and the equally great James Ellis, with Samuel West and Ukweli Roach.

Following last week's excellent two part George V documentary, BBC2 now tackles his infamous dad. Edward VII: Prince of Pleasure - 9:00 BBC2 - is a documentary drawing on research to unravel the mystery of a monarch who has been described as a dynasty builder, a sex addict, an astute political operator ('the peacemaker') and a boorish philistine, as well as demonstrating how his legacy still has relevance today.

Friday 20 January
Delayed by a week due to circumstances beyond its control, Hustle - 9:00 BBC1 - features an episode which gives Ash (Robert Glenister) the chance to have his moment in the sun. He does so with a rousing speech about honour as he confronts a couple of gang bosses, including a sharp-suited Martin Kemp channelling elements of his two villainous roles, Reggie Kray in The Krays and Steve Owen from EastEnders. Central to the story are a stolen Picasso drawing and a fake Picasso drawing. Both pass through the hands of various London underworld figures and the real one has to be secured by the Hustlers, otherwise a nasty man will kill Mickey, who spends almost the entire episode in the boot of a car. There's a reason for that: Adrian Lester directed the episode.

Room 101 returns to television - 8:30 BBC1 - with Frank Skinner hosting a revamped version of the original show, each week welcoming three celebrities to compete for the chance of getting their pet hates banished to Room 101. In the first edition, TV presenter Fern Britton, comic actor Robert Webb and broadcaster and national treasure Danny Baker discuss their annoyances and pet peeves.

In the latest episode of Safari Vet School - 8:00 ITV - the students help capture white rhinos as part of a move to relocate the creatures from a nature reserve to traditional habitats in South Africa. Microchips are also inserted into the horns of a mother and baby to help anti-poaching investigators in the event of the animals' prized features being removed - an occurrence that is all too common in the country. Steve Leonard presents.

And so to the news: LoveFilm has stepped up its TV rights war with Netflix, signing output deals with the BBC and ITV for new and archive shows including Doctor Who, [spooks], Life on Mars, Prime Suspect and Above Suspicion. The deals come as the Amazon-owned online video-rental service moves to bolster its library of TV shows and films ahead of the UK and Ireland launch of US video-on-demand subscription company Netflix in the first quarter of 2012. LoveFilm signed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for films including The Social Network and Salt last month, while Netflix added BBC Worldwide to its catalogue. Now LoveFilm has also signed up BBC Worldwide, getting access to shows including Whitechapel, Life on Mars and Planet Earth. The Amazon subsidiary said the deal would make ITV content available to subscribers of its LoveFilm Instant service on the PC, Apple iPad, Xbox 360, Internet-connected TVs and on the Sony PlayStation 3. The subscription VoD agreement will include recent shows, such as Marchlands, as well as ITV's archive, including Inspector Morse, Cold Feet and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. 'We've had a content partnership with LoveFilm for several years now and it's great to see this evolve digitally,' said Lisa Rousseau, head of UK and Ireland sales and distribution at BBC Worldwide. 'We are delighted to be working with LoveFilm to bring a wide range of ITV's best-loved programmes to their subscribers,' said Martin Goswami, ITV's director of pay and distribution. 'Partnering with LoveFilm's Instant service is a great example of how ITV is starting to drive new revenue streams by distributing its content across multiple platforms.' Simon Calver, chief executive of LoveFilm, said the ITV deal was the 'icing on the cake' of its Instant service, which gives members immediate access to TV and film content. ITV is also understood to be in negotiations with Netflix over a similar deal. LoveFilm has embarked on a large-scale marketing campaign featuring TV and billboard adverts since Netflix announced its UK and Ireland ambitions late last year. The Amazon-owned company has been keen to stress its 'low monthly fee', ranging from £5.99 to £14.99 a month, in anticipation that its new competitor might offer cut-price deals to coax away its members. Netflix announced a slew of new deals in November, signing up BBC Worldwide, and the film studios Lionsgate UK, Miramax and MGM.

Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group has acquired ChannelFlip, the maker of Internet TV shows starring the likes of Harry Hill, David Mitchell and Richard Hammond. Shine, which was acquired by News Corporation for four hundred and fifteen million smackers last year, has bought the London-based ChannelFlip for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition follows Shine's purchase of social gaming firm Bossa Studios, maker of the Monstermind Facebook game, in September last year. ChannelFlip will be incorporated into Shine Digital, and support the MasterChef and Ashes to Ashes maker's growing multi-platform business. Co-founded by former Qi producer Justin Gayner and Wil Harris, ChannelFlip started by making predominantly online comedies featuring famous faces. The business has recently expanded, including a deal with Studio Canal to access short-form clips of movies such as Rambo, This Is Spinal Tap and Terminator 2. With a staff of sixteen, ChannelFlip claims to be Europe's largest premium network on YouTube, with more than one million subscribers generating three hundred and twenty million video views, and boasting a combined monthly reach of over 4.4m viewers. Elisabeth Murdoch said: 'Wil and Justin are true like-minded creative entrepreneurs and we welcome them and their team to Shine Group. They have built ChannelFlip into its leadership position through creative and commercial excellence, producing compelling and innovative online productions whilst persuading advertisers of the deeper relationships they can play within these.' She added: 'Following our entry into social gaming with Bossa Studios, this acquisition further underlines Shine Group's relentless commitment to delivering excellence across all platforms and our determination to develop powerful direct to consumer models and connections to audiences, wherever they may be.' In joint statement, Gayner and Harris said: 'From our first conversations with Shine, we knew we had found our new home with a company that shared our creative, commercial and technological ambitions for ChannelFlip. The opportunities in our market are currently limitless, with audiences rapidly changing their viewing habits to the web, the increased penetration of Internet enabled smartphone and TVs, and online video now the fastest growing advertising market globally.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's Dandy Livingstone and a ska masterpiece.

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