Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week Fourteen: What To Be Done With Her?

Thousands of Doctor Who fans have met their heroes - and villains - at the first official convention in the series' long history. This weekend's event at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff has attracted aficionados from as far away as the US, Australia and New Zealand. It included the chance to meet Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. Producer Steven Moffat and production staff were also on hand. It was a celebration of creativity, of the script-to-screen process, from the concept and how that gets made in to a script. Billed as the 'ultimate Doctor Who fan event', the convention was limited to fifteen hundred people each day but promised those who have spent up to ninety nine smackers for tickets would have 'access to the people behind the BBC show.' Hosted panel sessions included discussions with the key cast members as well as members of the creative team such as directors, scriptwriters and special effects experts. These include Doctor Who special FX supervisor Danny Hargreaves and his team recreating a battle scene each day with live pyrotechnics, explosions and laser effects. A prosthetics demonstration took those present through the process of transforming a person in to an alien while a props and costume display includes some from the early years of Doctor Who. The convention, ran from 09:00 - 18:00 GMT on Saturday and Sunday, and was staged by BBC Worldwide. A spokesperson said: 'It's a celebration of creativity, of the script-to-screen process, from the concept and how that gets made in to a script. It follows the casting, and the creation of the visual effects and how you get the image the writer had in his head to the episode you see on the TV screen.' The convention has also attracted people from Canada, Norway, France, the Netherlands and Ireland. The Wales Millennium Centre itself has starred in several episodes, standing in as a hospital in series two episode New Earth, and the building featured in the recent The Girl Who Waited. Some of those attending the convention have already had a tour of the former TARDIS set at Upper Boat, near Pontypridd. The programme is moving to new purpose-built studios at Roath Lock, only yards from the Wales Millennium Centre. The Doctor Who Experience, which closed in London last month is set to open in Cardiff Bay later this year, featuring sets, props and memorabilia from the series. It is expected to attract up to a quarter of a million visitors a year.

The final Doctor Who episode featuring Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will be filmed in New York. The shooting location was confirmed at the official Doctor Who convention by executive producer Caroline Skinner. The fifth episode of the seventh series will be the last to feature the characters of Amy and Rory. It will also mark the return of the Weeping Angels, with showrunner Steven Moffat teasing: 'Not everybody gets out alive - and I mean it this time!' Jenna-Louise Coleman was unveiled as the new Doctor Who companion earlier this week, with her debut scheduled for Christmas.

New BBC talent show The Voice launched with pretty impressive ratings on Saturday night. BBC1's new singing contest averaged 8.43m between 7pm and 8.20pm, peaking with around 9.6m at 7.45pm. Noticeably, The Voice premiered with a much higher audience than The X Factor in 2004 and Britain's Got Talent in 2007. Britain's Got Talent itself kicked off its sixth series with an average of 9.43m from 8pm. The ITV talent show peaked with 10.93m as the first auditions show came to a close. During the pair's much-anticipated twenty-minute clash between 8pm and 8.20pm, The Voice easily came out on top with 8.9m viewers against Got Talent's 6.71m. Moved to a later slot to make way for Cowell and co, odious risible horrorshow Take Me Out was watched by 4.48m crushed victims of society at 9.20pm, then The Jonathan Ross Show ended its series with a a really poor and disappointing 2.75m. Harry Hill's TV Burp went out with a whimper rather than a bang, drawing 3.37m for its last ever edition at 7.30pm. Meanwhile, BBC1's Total Wipeout returned with 3.13m at 6pm. In It To Win It (4.2m) and Casualty (4.71m) were broadcast later. In an extremely close race, BBC1 unexpectedly got the upper hand in primetime with 25.9 per cent audience share over ITV's 25.8 per cent. So, the BBC will be more than happy with The Voice's audience and Simon Cowell's twisty face will, presumably, have been somewhat straighted by BGT's figures. It's nice when everyone's happy, is it not?

And so, on that example of thoroughly sickening ebony and ivory, dear blog reader, to the next batch of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Top TV Tips. Baby.

Saturday 31 March
Tonight's Arena film - BBC2 9:30 - is a profile of Jonathan Miller - doctor, humorist and too clever for his own good - who is equally at home directing operas, presenting TV shows or making sculptures. Miller is often described as a 'polymath' or 'a Renaissance man' (or, indeed, 'a complete wanker' depending on if it's Peter Cook who was being asked the question!). Two of these labels Miller personally dislikes. (One imagines, actually, that he's probably not keen on the third, either.) But no-one quite like him has made such an impact on British culture through the mediums of television, radio, theatre and opera. Miller has straddled the great divide between the arts and the sciences, while being a sometimes brilliant humorist, a qualified doctor, and even a practising artist. And, allegedly, the inspiration for know-all Jeremy in Yellow Submarine. With interviews with the man himself and a host of distinguished collaborators, including Oliver Sacks, Eric Idle, Kevin Spacey (who owes his first break to Miller) and Penelope Wilton, this Arena profile explores Miller's rich life and examines through amazing television archive - mostly from the BBC - how he makes these connections between the worlds of the imagination and scientific fact.

It's all 'culture for the masses' tonight, I'm afraid. well, unless you want to watch The Voice or Britain's Got Talent or odious, risible, Take Me Out. I think I'll stick with culture for the masses, personally. Lost Cities of the Ancients - BBC4 7:00 - profiled of the ancient Hittite civilisation, looking at what archaeologists found when they uncovered its lost capital of Hattusha in modern-day Turkey. More than three thousand years ago a mysterious and ruthless civilisation rose from nothing, created a brutal and unstoppable army and built an empire that rivalled Egypt and Babylon. Yet, just as it was at the height of its powers, the great empire suddenly vanished from history. This is the story of the formidable Hittites, a civilisation bent on world domination. Their long-lost capital, Hattusha, which disappeared a thousand years ago, was recently rediscovered, and archaeologists have unearthed one of the most astonishing and ingenious cities of the ancient world, featuring rings of impenetrable walls, secret tunnels, temples, palaces and a vast pyramid-like structure facing Egypt. Buried in this lost city is one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world. All the secrets of the mysterious Hittite empire were written in two codes - one a unique form of hieroglyphs. Using these deciphered texts, this film recreates the ancient world of the Hittites, telling the story of what happened to them, and what caused an empire built to last forever to vanish so completely from history. Narrated by Mark Halliley. Last in the series.

Sunday 1 April
Tony Robinson and the Time Team head to Somerset - Channel Four 4:35 - where a family of farmers hopes to unearth evidence of a Norman castle that once stood on top of what is known locally as Castle Hill. Records show there was a Norman castle in the area, but they are not clear about exactly where and there are several likely locations. The only answer is for Tony and his mates to dig the scene - once all the kit has been hauled up the steep slopes. The geophysics looks exciting (which puts a smile on John Gater's usually scowling boat-race for once), throwing up almost immediately what looks like the outline of a perfect castle keep. But as the three days progress everything is far from clear. Finally the pieces of the jigsaw do join up, but only in a very unexpected way. Do the farmers have their castle? Most listing magazines (including Radio Times) suggest this is the last in the current series but, in fact, it's only the tenth of eleven episodes. One more (King John's lost palace) is, according to Wikipedia (so, that's almost certainly wrong!) due to be shown next Sunday with two clip shows - Time Team's Guide To Burials and Time Team's Greatest Discoveries - on the following two weeks. Interestingly, however, the official Time Time website doesn't contain any details of these. So, more news on that when we get it.

'We're on the march we're Maggie's army, we're all going to The Argentine/And we'll really shake 'em up, when we beat the bastards up, cos we're all fightin' for The Queen.' 1982, and all that. The journalist, military historian and general right-wing louse Max Hastings explores the legacy of The Falklands War over the past thirty years in the very literally titled documentary think-piece The Falklands Legacy with Max Hastings - 9:00 BBC2. Hastings, of course, infamously reported from the conflict his very self for the Evening Standard. He boastfully traded on his reputation as 'the first journalist to enter Port Stanley after it was liberated' for years. He did, however, along with Simon Jenkins, write one of the best overall accounts of the conflict, The Battle for the Falklands. Anyway, in this, Max reveals how the conflict - allegedly - 'revived the reputation of the armed forces' and 'renewed Britain's sense of pride.' That's what the pre-publicity blurb says anyway. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not sure he agrees with either of those statements, personally. I think the British armed forces didn't need their reputation reviving in 1982 and the 'renewed British sense of pride' over the defeat of a conscript army of teenage South American and the sinking of a leaky old aircraft carrier that was doing a Monty Python and 'running away' at the time might've won the Tories a couple of general elections but it really wasn't anything to boast too loudly about. Nevertheless, Hastings also compares The Falklands to the later campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have arguably left the public broadly sceptical about sending troops abroad to fight in large numbers. He is a very good writer, is Hastings - his two books on the closing months of World War II (Armageddon and Nemesis are highly recommended to anyone with an ounce of interest in military history). But, I don't like revisionism at the best of times.

The Five-0 team investigates the smuggling of chips used in the making of passports and Chin Ho shares some shocking news with McGarrett about Joe in the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1. Meanwhile, Danno helps deliver his ex-wife's baby when she goes into labour early. Crime drama, starring Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.

Or, you could stick with Homeland - 9:00 Channel Four. I suspect yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be.

Monday 2 April
Harry persuades DI Connie James to disobey orders and test DNA evidence from the original investigation, and Janet is called in to help build the personality of female serial killer The Wraith in the second part of the Silent Witness story Death Has No Dominion - 9:00 BBC1. Leo is still troubled by the suicide of his friend Lizzie Frazer, prompting Nikki to dig deeper into the murder of the woman's sister ten years before. William Gaminara, Emilia Fox and Tom Ward star in the conclusion of a two-part story, with Vincent Regan, Shelley Conn, Kirsty Bushell, Victoria Wicks and Jaye Griffiths.

In Sally Wainwright's Scott & Bailey - 9:00 ITV - Jane and Rachel look into the murder of an eight-year-old boy, coming up against a paedophile who cruelly deceives his victim's family. Dom's HIV test comes back negative, so he sets out to celebrate - only to endanger his own life and jeopardise Rachel's sergeant's exam in the process. Janet tells Andy she is having second thoughts about their brief liaison, but he finds her decision hard to accept. Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp star, with Amelia Bullmore, Liam Boyle, Nicholas Gleaves and Joe Duttine.

The fantasy drama based on George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels returns in the second series of the massive cult drama Game of Thrones - 9:00 Sky Atlantic. The seven kingdoms of Westeros prepare for all-out war as newly crowned King in the North Robb Stark marches south to avenge his father's death. Tyrion Lannister arrives in King's Landing to curb the excesses of teenage tyrant Joffrey, and Stannis Baratheon, brother of the late King Robert, sets his sights on the Iron Throne. Starring Stephen Dillane, Richard Madden, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Malahide, Sean Bean, Natalie Dormer and Jack Gleeson. And a cast of thousands including several of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors - Iain Glen, Ben Crompton, Robert Pugh, etc. A bit difficult to get into if you're not a close follower of Martin's novels but, give it a go if you're in an adventurous mood - the acting is great and it looks spectacular.

Tuesday 3 April
'The people's mathematician' Marcus du Sautoy finds out how close man is to creating artificial intelligence in the latest episode of Horizon - The Hunt For AI - 9:00 BBC2. He tries to communicate with two robots that are developing their own private language, and reveals how a supercomputer beat two men at Jeopardy, the notoriously tricky American TV quiz. He finds out whether these machines can have creativity and intuition, then considers the obvious question - if machines can think like humans, what is to stop them putting humans out of business?

Filmed over two years, Smugglers - 9:00 ITV - is a documentary which follows detectives including Sergeant Dave Clark from the City of London Police as they track and arrest a gang of extremely naughty chaps smuggling counterfeit trainers worth millions of knicker into Britain. Bad men. Taking all OF that money which rightly belongs in the pockets of Nike and Adidas and Puma. Clearly, they must be hanged from the nearest lamp post for their crimes of such wicked bad naughtiness. In the film, officers receive intelligence about a shipment of hokey gear arriving at Felixstowe, and begin an investigation that leads to dramatic dawn raids across London, with batons deployed liberally, and the seizure of almost half a million quid in cash. Narrated by Samuel West.

Comedian Rory McGrath - whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping does rather like in small doses, smart-alec though he be - and archaeologist Paul Blinkhorn (whom you'll probably know from Time Team) explore the history of some of Britain's oldest public houses. They do so by rooting around in the grounds to see what they can turn up - and, of course, enjoying a pint or two along the way in Rory McGrath's Pub Dig - 8:00 Channel Five. Archaeology and beer, they go together like a horse and carriage, dear blog reader. So, this is two fat blokes on the piss basically, isn't it? Nice. I'll be watching! They begin at the Command House pub in Chatham, digging through four hundred years of naval history and discovering relics from the time of Nelson and the British Empire's seafaring supremacy. But their ultimate aim is to find a lost Tudor dockyard where the fleet that destroyed the Spanish Armada was based.

Wednesday 4 April
In Our Food - 8:00 BBC2 - sarky but usually entertaining Giles Coren forgets for a moment that he's about to become David Mitchell's brother-in-law and journeys around Britain to reveal how its history, landscape and climate have shaped what is grown and where it is produced. And, presumably, to eat lots of it as well. Sounds like this blogger's kind of show. In the first episode, Giles reveals that local and seasonal foods are as important as the harvests from large-scale farming in Norfolk, and experiences life as a Cromer fisherman. Meanwhile, posh totty Lucy Worsley, with her curiously endearing little lisp, explores the Mexican connection to the traditional Christmas turkey, and the team learns how the turnip transformed the way people farm. James Wong and the really very annoying indeed Alex Langlands also present.

Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie mixes the boys and girls up - for a laugh? We can only but speculate - and then challenges the collective business brains to produce and sell their own flavours of condiments, in the latest sour and rotten doings at The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. One team decides on a Mediterranean-style ketchup, while the other opts for a chilli chutney - but when the time comes to show off their products to a high-end deli, a mistake with the recipe sees the latter team pitching to the bemused buyers without any samples. And, it all ends up back in the broadroom where odious bully boy His Very Lordship makes the losers feel about an inch tall, watches as they all blame each other and beg not to be caned and then, in a moment dripping with sadistic cruelty, sends one of them packing, their dreams of untold riches shattered to fragments in their hands. Which can be jolly entertaining as it happens, that's probably why millions of punters watch every week. me, I've got a shade more dignity than that.

The safe house is attacked, leaving Vance in hospital and Eli missing, with his bodyguard Amit Hadar dead in NCIS - 9:00 Channel Five. The movements of all the Palestinians are accounted for at the time of the attack, making it unclear who was responsible, and Ziva suspects her Mossad replacement Liat is hiding something. Drama, starring Michael Nouri, Cote de Pablo, Rocky Carroll and Mark Harmon.

Brian Hill's documentary Kids In The Middle - 9:00 BBC4 - follows a father who can only meet his children at a designated child contact centre after a highly acrimonious divorce. The programme explores the role of such organisations in the lives of divorced and separated families, examines how the strained situation affects children and their parents, and discovers why relationships can deteriorate to the extent that some couples see these arrangements as their only option for keeping in touch with their children.

Thursday 5 April
Between 1948 and 1960, governments around the world invested in electric tracks and diesel, but in Britain hundreds of steam-powered trains were built as detailed in Timeshift: Last Days of Steam - 8:00 BBC4.
This film looks at the reasons behind their re-emergence, and what happened to these last-ever steam locomotives.

Gordon Buchanan presents a two-part programme documenting the return of a wolf pack to the snowy peaks of Washington's Cascade Mountains - the first specimens to return to the American Northwest in seventy years in Land of the Lost Wolves - 9:00 BBC1. The creatures were all but wiped out on the continent when European settlers arrived and killed an estimated one million wolves, but with the animals making a comeback, clashes with the local communities are also likely. Concludes tomorrow.

Slovakia, Hungary and Romania mark the halfway point in Si King and Dave Myers' baking odyssey in The Hairy Bikers' Bakeation - 8:00 BBC2. They begin in a cafe in Bratislava, where they are served three cakes inspired by British TV cookery shows, then taste kremesh - the Hungarian version of a vanilla slice. Hmmm. Nice. It's a dirty rotten job but somebody's got to do it, haven't they? They also try a roadside snack of deep-fried pastry with sour cream and cheese, an Eastern European take on bread-and-butter pudding, and cheese and bacon savoury scones, before ending this leg of their journey with a family party thrown by Davie's Romanian wife Lil.

In The Sarah Millican Television Programme - 10:00 BBC2 - the South Shields comedienne presents another mix of TV-inspired stand-up and chat, turning her attention to sport and entertainment programmes. Joining her on the sofa are dancer, talent show judge and really very annoying man indeed Louie Spence, jockey-turned-presenter Clare Balding and Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle. And her amazing teeth.

Friday 6 April
In Brick by Brick: Rebuilding Our Past - 9:00 BBC2 - the Historian Dan Cruickshank and architectural designer Charlie Luxton explore the stories behind historic buildings as they are dismantled and reconstructed in a new location. They also offer an insight into the traditional crafts used to make the properties. In the first edition, they focus on one of Britain's earliest aviation buildings - Claude Grahame-White's Watch Tower - which is moved to the RAF Museum in Hendon and was originally the nerve centre of an aircraft factory that supplied warplanes during the First World War.

Joyce is convinced that new guest Mrs Simmonds is the hotel inspector, and is determined nothing will go wrong in the last episode of the current series of Benidorm - 9:00 ITV. But when she argues with Kenneth over non-payment of rent, the pair end up fighting and fall into the pool - a farce witnessed by the mystery guest. Meanwhile, a pair of shady-looking characters come looking for Donald, and Michael tries to reunite the Garveys after a bitter argument. Kate O'Mara guest stars.

To the news now: Over fifty million quid has been raised for this year's Sport Relief so far. On Friday night the telethon closed with a grand total of fifty million four hundred and forty seven thousand one hundred and ninety seven smackers of donated coin, smashing the last total of just over twenty nine thousand. And you thought there was a recession on, dear blog reader? David Walliams's 'Big Swim' and John Bishop's marathon have attracted increased awareness, with Bishop's triumph raising three and a half million wonga from the Liverpool area alone. Fearne Cotton squealed after the announcement: 'What an amazing, stunning total. We always hope to beat the previous amount, but to do it so spectacularly is just incredible. Huge thanks to the British public who, once again, have shown enormous generosity to help those in need.' At least, I think that's what she said, she's virtually hyperventilating at the time so it was difficult to make out. Friday night's BBC1 show featured special mini-episodes of Miranda and Outnumbered, as well as a Benidorm-Britain's Got Talent crossover starring Simon Cowell.

Russell Davies' forthcoming new CBBC drama Wizards vs Aliens isn't going to be called that now after being 'forced' to change its name according to the writer. The BBC announced earlier this year it had ordered a new CBBC drama series from Russell Davies under the title Wizards vs Aliens. It was widely reported by the press as the BBC's attempt to cash in on the success of the Harry Potter franchise. In a new interview on BBC Radio Wales, Rusty has revealed the name of the project has now changed. 'Coming up now we've got a children's drama that we're making out these new Roath Lock Studios called Wizards vs Aliens. It was called Aliens vs Wizards until a lawyer stepped in, but there we go. By Easter it will probably be called Chickens vs Rabbits or something. It's a great big, fun series for Children's BBC that will be out in the Autumn', Russell to BBC Radio Wales' Roy Noble. The children's drama is the writer's first since creating Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures which starred the late Elisabeth Sladen and lasted for five seasons. The new project will reunite Davies with many of those who worked on the spin-off. The writer's other children drama's credits include Children's Ward, Dark Season and Century Falls.

It's the story that just won't die. ITV has still not given up home of persuading Harry Hill to continue his TV Burp series, an alleged 'insider' has claimed. Fans who watched the live recording for Saturday's episode suggested it would definitely be the show's final edition. However, according to the Mirra, the commercial broadcaster plans 'many more discussions' with the comic over the next month. An alleged ITV 'source' allegedly claimed: 'Harry has been a hugely popular part of the ITV schedule for many years, and the management would undoubtedly prefer him to stay here. There will be many more discussions with Harry over the coming weeks, and we are hopeful a deal can yet be reached.' The forty seven-year-old is apparently working on a new ITV sports panel game with Alistair McGowan. Meanwhile, last month a report alleged that Hill was on the verge of signing a two million smackers deal with Channel Four to front two major projects.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso held off Sauber's Sergio Perez to take a sensational victory in a thrilling, rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix. The Ferrari is uncompetitive in the dry, but Alonso built a lead when the race resumed on a wet track after an early stoppage following heavy rain. Perez caught him in the closing stages but ran wide two laps from the end and had to settle for second. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton took third ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso built a seven-second lead after the race resumed following a stoppage after just six laps caused by a torrential downpour. But, as the track dried, Perez closed the Spaniard's lead to virtually nothing. Alonso gained some respite when he switched to dry-weather slick tyres a lap before Perez, which took his lead back up to seven seconds. After fitting the 'hard' tyres while Alonso chose the 'medium', Perez closed the gap to under a second in ten laps and was on Alonso's tail at the start of lap fifty, with seven to go. But no sooner had Perez caught the Ferrari than he made a mistake. He got on to the kerb at turn fourteen and ran wide, and suddenly Alonso's lead was back up to five seconds. Although Perez closed in again, Alonso now had enough of a cushion to take a twenty eighth career victory - behind only Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell in the all-time list. Alonso, who is now leading the world championship by five points from Hamilton, said the victory was 'a big surprise. We were not competitive in Australia or here,' he added. 'Our goal was to score as many points as possible and we did the job. It is an unbelievable result, a great job from the team.' In a chaotic race, following heavy rain and the use of the safety car, it was a frustrating day for the McLarens and the Red Bulls. Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole and got away well, had to be content with third place for the second week in a row. Jenson Button's race was over once he collided with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan. Forced into a number of unscheduled stops, he could only finish thirteenth. Sebastian Vettel suffered a rear left puncture just when he was starting to put pressure on Hamilton for third place, again in a collision with the hapless Karthikeyan. Mark Webber missed the podium again, finishing in fourth.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. I think it's time for another Smiths b-side frankly, dear blog reader. One of the really obscure ones as well. Calling 1983, come in Stephen, Johnny, Andy and Mike.

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