Friday, March 02, 2012

A Man Out Of Time

Rushing back home from Thursday night's thoroughly excellent The Record Player event, and pausing only to shave his moustache off, yer actual Keith Telly Topping arrived at Stately Telly Topping Manor just in time to catch the majority of the latest episode of his beloved TV guilty pleasure, MasterChef. In which, with a husky breathlessness that beat all previous examples of husky breathlessness, India Fisher informed us that 'the heat is on' - in more ways than one - for the final four. It's, ahem, if you will, 'on the streets' too as judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace took the contestants to yer actual Thailand for the masterclass of a lifetime in Thai cuisine. Fortunately, nobody got arrested whilst navigating through Bangkok airport and banged up for a twenty stretch in the Hilton for having a packet of cardamom in their luggage. Which was a relief. The four - Jay, Andrew, Tom and Shelina - were to be pushed to the limit as they we're set an 'incredible series of challenges' (it says here - or, more accurately 'the usual kind of thing MasterChef comes up with at this stage in the competition every year'), beginning in the country's gastronomic capital, Chang Mai, amidst the bustling street food markets. In the sort of heat that one would think twice about sunbathing in, let alone working like a navvy for six hours, the cooks were thrown in at the deep end for their first challenge - each was given a market stall to run and a popular local dish to prepare, incorporating traditional Thai ingredients and cooking techniques, which they then had to sell to the hungry - and very gastronomically demanding - locals. With David Thompson - the pleasantly affable Aussie Thai food guru and Executive Chef of Europe's first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Nahm - on hand to guide them through the basics, the contestants had to deal with unfamiliar ingredients and processes to get the food cooked and out to the punters in time. Would they manage to complete the dishes and impress the discerning locals enough to get them to part with their cash? Yeah, actually, they did pretty much. There were a few panics along the way (particularly over timings) and Shelina had to get 'big strong' Jay to do her mashing up of the spices in a pestle and mortar thing. But, overall, they could all be well-satisfied with their efforts and, particularly, that they didn't bankrupt the stalls they were on. Jay even sold out of his curry. Next, they travelled into the Northern Mountains region of the country, to an ancient region of Thailand heavily influenced by Burmese and Chinese cultures, where the food is unlike anything else found in Thailand. Or, any Thai restaurant you've been in for that matter. The contestants faced an incredibly difficult challenge: to create a traditional ceremonial banquet for fifty specially invited guests at the Thai Royal Projects - an initiative set up by the King (of Thailand, that is, not Elvis) to encourage the local hill tribe farmers to grow fruit and veg instead of, you know, opium. The underlying message to the four here was crystal clear - make your grub proper good or, next year, we could have a new narcotics epidemic on our hands. Having been co-opted into The War on Drugs, therefore, they again mostly succeeded and received nothing but praise for their efforts. The cooks' Thailand adventure then culminated in their most daunting challenge to date - the cooking of a fine four-course dining dinner for one of the most revered Thai princes (a ninety-two year old who, fatally, reminded one of the little bald man that Benny Hill used to slap on the head every week) and his close family. With John and Gregg bellowing orders in best 'You! Build! Bridge! Now!' fashion, Andrew got landed the trio of starters - Arhan Wang - Ma hor, kanom guay chai, miang kome, loosely translated as 'Galloping Horses, Chive Dumpling and Leaf Snack.' It was a delicate and deeply savoury starter which looked beautiful one the plate. I mean, proper pretty. And, didn't get him hanged, which in Thailand - a deeply repressive alleged 'constitutional monrachy' that's actually anything but - that's a good thing trust me. Jay's fish course was deep-fried red snapper with aubergines and a green curry sauce which appeared to be the one dish that got the most 'ho-hum' reaction from their royal knobnesses and the other assorted riff-raff. Ironically, it was the one which this blogger would have eaten, licked the plate, then asked for a doggy bag to take more home with him. Tom's meat course was spicy tomato pork with mango and wing-bean salad, a 'spicy and succulent dish' containing cooling mango sorbet to cut through the richness of the pork belly. Yeah, actually, come to think of it, I'd've probably licked the plate on that one as well despite Tom spilling his mango sorbet all over the floor at one point. Finally, there was Shelina, under pressure and looking like she was about to burst into tears on several occasions, who cooked steamed rainbow cake with mango tart and lychee boba tea. This provided the episodes' big It's A Knockout-style malarkey with her having to be transported on a golf cart halfway across the royal palace grounds to the kitchen with the blast freezer in it.
'When are you coming again?' asked Benny Hill's mate after wolfing down his freebie meal on the British licence fee payer's coin. Cheeky chappie. The answer is probably next series, mate. By which time, one of these four will have won the MasterChef crown.

Sherlock co-creator The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has revealed that the show will introduce new villains in the next series. The writer insisted that Jim Moriarty (played, wonderfully, by Andrew Scott) is 'unlikely' to return following his apparent death at the end of The Reichenbach Fall, reports Radio Times. 'We need to find new villains, we need to find new ideas, otherwise the show doesn't keep growing,' said Moffat. 'Moriarty's a one-shot deal in the original [books]. I don't want Sherlock to turn into a show that's about one villain and one hero. Moriarty was great because he was a surprise. Every time you bring him back he won't be as big a surprise.' Moffat hinted that the third series, which was confirmed by the BBC in January (although, it was actually commissioned the previous year), will introduce 'other great villains' from Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. 'We have to keep the show growing otherwise it won't surprise you,' he suggested. 'Once you get the measure of it you'll just get critical - if we keep surprising you and keeping you off balance, you won't.' No broadcast date has been announced for the third series of Sherlock, though executive producer Sue Vertue recently claimed that the detective drama is unlikely to return before early 2013.

The production company behind The Muppet Show is developing a family teatime chat show for BBC1. Plans for the show, which has the working title No Strings Attached, are for a puppet presenter interviewing real life celebrities. The Jim Henson Company, the US producer responsible for The Muppet Show, is creating the puppets for the show which would be made by the BBC's in-house entertainment department. Another new Muppets TV series is currently being made for the US broadcaster NBC by the Henson Company, and a new Muppets film – the first for a decade – opened in the UK in January. The BBC's executive editor for entertainment, Karl Warner, told Broadcast: 'It's a really early doors development but we have high hopes. The idea is that it would be very firmly anchored in the world of the chat show, but based around a new character created by the Henson Company. The Muppets were a massive phenomenon and nobody seems to have been developing anything in this area for a long time. The Henson Company has shown us some puppets, and their versatility is very exciting, but we are still only in talks at the moment.'

The Prime Minister Old Etonian Rifle David Cameron has revealed that he is 'a huge fan' of the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey, after meeting one of the show's stars, Joanna Page, at Downing Street. As we suspected, no bloody taste whatsoever.

Phillip Schofield - tragically without Gordon the Gopher - and Julie Etchingham have reportedly been lined up to front ITV's coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. This Morning's Schofield and News at Ten anchor Etchingham, who co-hosted last spring's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, apparently impressed channel bosses by their partnership. 'They may not have won the ratings that day,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Daily Scum Mail - which is true, they didn't. They got absolutely crushed by the BBC. 'But Julie and Phillip got critical acclaim for their unstuffy coverage.' Which, hardly anybody watched. 'They had a more upbeat tone than some of the other networks, slightly less funereal. Julie is a terrific broadcaster and we think she and Phillip will be a great combination.' Schofield had previously admitted that he was 'nervous' about presenting the event.

24 producer Howard Gordon has given an update on the proposed film version of the show. Kiefer Sutherland, who played Jack Bauer on the FOX drama, announced in January that a movie spin-off would begin filming in April or May. 'I'm involved intimately with all of the drafts and with all of the people,' Gordon told Deadline. 'Including Mark Bomback on the rewrites and with Kiefer. There are a lot of people involved from [production company] Imagine and 20th.' He continued: 'I've kind of been enlisted as the keeper of the flame from the TV show and representing it in its next iteration. I'm not sure what kind of credit I'll be having on it yet.' Gordon also insisted that there is still an audience for the 24 movie, even two years after the show ended. 'You know, [FOX Filmed Entertainment executive] Tom Rothman is a very smart guy,' he said. 'He wouldn't do a 24 movie just to do it but only if he honestly believed it could stand on its own.' Gordon confirmed to the Digital Spy website in November 2010 that Mary Lynn Rajskub will reprise her role as Chloe O'Brian in the film.
A thirty two-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of making corrupt payments to public officials, by detectives from the Metropolitan police's Operation Elveden. It is understood that the person arrested is Virginia Wheeler, the defence editor of the Sun. Wheeler has been abroad on 'extended leave', but police had wanted to question her for some time. The Gruniad claims that she returned to the country and was arrested by appointment on Thursday morning. She is the twenty third person to be arrested by officers working on Operation Elveden. She was questioned at a south London police station and later released on bail until May. She becomes the eleventh Sun current or former journalist to be arrested since last November. According to her profile on the Sun's website, Wheeler is the Sun's first female defence editor. Thursday's arrest was made under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and 'aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office (contrary to common law)' and 'conspiracy in relation to both offences.' In a statement, the Met Police said that: 'The operation is the result of information provided to police by News Corporation's management standards committee.' Scotland Yard also added that their work is focusing on investigating suspected payments to police officers and public officials and is not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Downing Street has admitted that David Cameron 'could' have ridden on well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks's ex-police horse. An 'aide', allegedly 'close to the Prime Minister' confirmed for the first time that Cameron had gone riding with Mrs Brooks' husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer and an old friend from his Eton schooldays. The alleged 'source;' allegedly said that it was 'possible' that one of the horses 'could have been' Raisa, the retired police horse loaned to Brooks and at the centre of Horsegate. This was because Brooks had 'lent a number of horses to Mr Cameron over the years.' The aide added: 'It is possible. He used a number of Charlie's horses.' Cameron said he had 'no recollection' of ever going riding with well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike, Brooks, however. The aide added: 'He never rode with Rebekah Brooks. He has no recollection of ever going riding with Rebekah Brooks.'

British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck is to represent the UK at this year's Eurovision Song Contest. The seventy five-year-old, dubbed the King of Romance, is best known for his 1967 single 'Release Me', which - infamously - kept The Beatles' double A-side 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' off the number one spot in the UK. The singer said it was 'an absolute honour' to be taking part and was 'excited and raring to go.' This year's competition will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. The song Humperdinck will perform has yet to be announced but the BBC said it would be recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nashville. It will be written by Grammy award-winning producer Martin Terefe and Ivor Novello winner Sacha Skarbek, who co-wrote James Blunt hit 'You're Beautiful.' Humperdinck - real name is Arnold Dorsey - has sold more than one hundred and fifty million records worldwide during his forty five year career. Born in Chennai to a British army officer, he took his stage name from a minor German composer best known for his opera Hansel and Gretel. Although, as Eddie Izzard famously noted, the actual process of getting the new name must've been a torturous one. 'Slut-bun wallah!' Anyway, Bert scored a UK number one with 'The Last Waltz' and had several other hits including 'There Goes My Everything', 'A Man Without Love' and 'Quando Quando'. His last UK top twenty single was forty years ago with 'Too Beautiful To Last'. The singer has received four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe for Entertainer of the Year and is one of only a handful of artists with a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Las Vegas Walk of Fame. 'It's an absolute honour to be representing my country for this year's Eurovision Song Contest,' the singer said. 'When the BBC approached me, it just felt right for me to be a part of an institution like Eurovision. I'm excited and raring to go and want the nation to get behind me!' Humperdinck is the oldest ever Eurovision contestant and if he wins, will be the UK's first victor since Katrina and the Waves fifteen years ago. 'Engelbert's age isn't the reason why we chose him to represent the nation for Eurovision, but it's nice to break a few records along the way,' a BBC spokeswoman said. Katie Taylor, BBC head of entertainment and events said: 'Not since the 1970s have we had such an established international musical legend represent the nation. We couldn't be more delighted. Engelbert's experience leaves us in no doubt that he will be able to deliver a standout performance in front of one hundred and twenty million viewers worldwide.'

The great Richard Carpenter, the creator of cult children's TV series Catweazle among many others, has died at the age of seventy eight. Carpenter wrote all twenty six episodes of the 1970s show - about an eccentric, dishevelled time-travelling alchemist and wizard, played by the great Geoffrey Bayldon - which won Carpenter international recognition and a Writers Guild award. He later wrote the 1980s cult ITV show Robin of Sherwood, firstly starring Michael Praed and then Jason Connery. Author Anthony Horowitz, who worked with Carpenter, called him 'a mentor.' Speaking in the Gruniad last year, Horowitz recalled how Carpenter gave him his first job in television. 'I had absolutely no experience, had never written for TV, and really had no inclination to be a television writer. But Richard took me on. I was an apprentice to him really; he was my mentor. Working with Kip on Robin of Sherwood was the high point of my career, in terms of the fun and sheer energy,' said Horowitz. Born in King's Lynn, Richard attended the Old Vic Theatre School before starting an acting career by working in rep. He appeared in occasional films, but was mostly active on British TV in the 1960s as a character actor, on one occasion opposite Tony Hancock in one of his last Hancock shows for the BBC, The Bowmans. Turning to writing, Carpenter later established production company Gatetarn, along with the producers Paul Knight and Sydney Cole, co-creating series including Dick Turpin (1979-982, with Richard O'Sullivan in the title role), and its New Zealand-based follow-up The Adventurer. He also wrote Cloudburst, The Boy from Space and The King's Dragon as part of BBC's Look and Read (1967–2004) programme for schools as well as The Winjin Pom, Stanley's Dragon and Out of Sight. He also adapted many classic novels for TV including True Tilda, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Philip Pullman's I Was a Rat, which won Best Children's Drama at the Banff Television Festival. With a portfolio of work which included many episodes of The Adventures of Black Beauty, Enid Blyton's Famous Five and a TV adaptation of The Borrowers, he was honoured with a Children's BAFTA lifetime achievement award in 2000. Plans for a big screen adaptation of Catweazle are understood to be under way. Carpenter also wrote novelisations of his many TV series including The Ghosts of Motley Hall and Smuggler. He is survived by his wife, Annabelle, two children - Harriet and Tom - and two grandchildren.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, this one's for Richard Carpenter. Thanks for the first forty eight years of my life, Kip.

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