Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week Thirty Two: The World Looks True Through Our Clean Eyes

The Olympics opening ceremony on BBC1 was watched by a peak audience of twenty seven million viewers in the UK, overnight figures show. I'll just repeat that in the way that they used to on the Grandstand vidiprinter when some fourth division promotion chasers had stuck in seven (SEVEN) goals past poor old hapless Hartlepool ... or someone. So, ahem, if you will ... The Olympics opening ceremony on BBC1 was watched by a peak audience of twenty seven million viewers (TWENTY SEVEN MILLION) in the UK, overnight figures show. Not bad, eh? The star-studded - and, to be fair, really rather decent - event, which featured appearances from Rowan Atkinson, Danny Craig, Sir Paul McCartney and the Queen, had an astronomical audience high at 9.50pm on BBC1 of 26.9m, with a further one hundred thousand punters watching in 3D on BBC HD according to the industry magazine Broadcast. Nearly ninety per cent of the viewing audience stuck with the ceremony as it reached its closing stages after midnight, signalling a record audience for any TV programme at that time of night. Danny Boyle's live spectacular averaged an 23.02m between 9pm and 12.50am. It's worth noting, too, that those figures also do not account for those who watched online, on Eurosport, Sky Sports or on big screens. All this suggest that the opening ceremony may become one of the UK's most-watched broadcasts of all-time when the official BARB data - including timeshifts - is released in about a week's time. The Olympics Countdown programme immediately before the opening ceremony itself had an impressive audience 10.08m on BBC1 between 7pm and 9pm, while Olympic Breakfast had an impressive 1.71m between 6am and 9.15am. BBC1 was rewarded with a huge all-day share of 52.7 per cent - five times more than its closest competitor ITV - as well as a primetime average share of almost eighty per cent, a virtually unprecedented figure in this multi-channel age. The five-minute Weatherview straight after the opening ceremony ended at shortly before 1am averaged an insane 9.05m viewers, almost certainly the highest audience for a weather forecast since Michael Fish retired. Predictably, ratings on other channels suffered, with Big Brother falling to an all-time low of six hundred and fourteen thousand sad, crushed victims of society on Channel Five.

The US broadcaster NBC is facing growing criticism after editing their delayed coverage of the London 2012 opening ceremony to replace the 'memorial wall' tribute section with a Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps. Thus making themselves, collectively, the second least popular American in the UK after Mitt Romney. Jeez, I mean, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch can only make third on that list. NBC, exclusive holders of the US rights to the games, chose to broadcast the entire ceremony on a time-delay to maximise primetime advertising revenue, and were further criticised for refusing to provide a live online stream. NBC's broadcast, which began as the live ceremony was finishing in London, left out sections including the reflective moment when the Scottish singer Emeli Sandé sang 'Abide with Me'. The section included images of loved ones lost by those in the stadium, and was also widely interpreted as a tribute to the fifty two victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London in 2005 the day after London was awarded the ceremony. On the BBC's coverage, commentator Hazel Irvine said: 'The excitement of that moment in Singapore seven years ago when London won the Games was tempered with great sorrow the very next day, with the events on 7 July.' However NBC instead cut away in order to show Seacrest, the host of American Idol, interview swimmer Phelps. Criticism of NBC's handling of the broadcast rights comes after it revealed its advertising income from the event has passed one billion dollars. It earned eight hundred and fifty million from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In reaction to complaints over the lack of a live stream from the ceremony, NBC said: 'We are live streaming every sporting event, all thirty two sports and all three hundred and two medals. The opening and closing ceremonies, however, are entertainment spectacles. Our award-winning production team will present them on a medium that best demonstrates their grandeur and majesty, and at a time when friends and family are able to gather together to watch, which is in primetime.' Odious scum.

A quintessentially British spectacle that was witty, in places rather profound, in others delightfully bonkers: the foreign media appear to have given the London 2012 opening ceremony an overwhelming thumbs up – even if they did have a bit of trouble keeping up with what 'sometimes seemed like the world's biggest inside joke,' as the Washington Post put it. Christ only knows what would've happened if Danny had included a reference to Clangers as he wanted to! For Le Parisien it was 'magnificent, inventive and offbeat' – even 'majestic.' For the Süddeutsche Zeitung it was simply 'a superb British production that [paid] homage to London.' But, for the New York Times's correspondent Sarah Lyall, the spectacle was even more than that: the 'noisy, busy, witty, dizzying production' gave Britain nothing less, she wrote, than a sense of its modern self. Yeah. I kind of go along with that, I know what she means. Although, I could've probably done with a bit less JK Rowling personally. 'The most successful British author of all time,' according to Hazel Irving. I think Shakespeare might have something to say about that, Haze. And, actually, come to think about it, I could have done with a lot less Trevor Nelson and his 'Ladybird Book Of Facts' commentary. But, these are minor quibbles. Quibblettes, almost. 'With its hilariously quirky Olympic opening ceremony, a wild jumble of the celebratory and the fanciful; the conventional and the eccentric; and the frankly off-the-wall, Britain presented itself to the world Friday night as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is,' said Lyall in her piece. She added: 'It was neither a nostalgic sweep through the past nor a bold vision of a brave new future. Rather, it was a sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim post-war summer of 1948. The country has always eagerly celebrated its past: its military victories, its kings and queens, its glorious cultural and intellectual achievements. But it has a harder time celebrating its present.' Of course, the Queen was very much part of Danny Boyle's extravaganza – and her appearance delighted many commentators. Writing for the New Yorker under a headline awarding Danny Boyle a gold medal for his work, Lauren Collins remarked that the monarch's turn was 'almost too outrageous to mention. Suffice it to say, for now, that it involved James Bond (played by Daniel Craig), the Queen (the actual Queen, as everyone kept saying), and a helicopter,' she wrote. 'If there was to be a moment of corporate bombast, it was now. And corgis,' Tim Noakes wrote on Twitter. 'I had the window open. The entire neighbourhood erupted in cheers.' But, for Collins at least, the moment was not the best. 'The Queen was the big event, but it wasn't my favourite part of the ceremony. You got the feeling that maybe it wasn't Boyle's, either, as he followed up her cameo with a sequence so wonderfully self-lacerating that you just wondered how he managed to get it past the Jacques Rogge. Rowan Atkinson – Mr Bean – sat behind a keyboard and, pecking away with one finger, mangled the theme from Chariots of Fire. Exiting the stage, he (actually, what is probably the world's most advanced whoopie cushion) made, as the British put it, "a rude noise." The trick of this was that, by deflating the national myth of stoic heroism, Boyle bolstered the national myth of the British sense of humour.' For many commentators, it was, indeed, the jokes what won it. Although the Süddeutsche also delighted in its little-noticed 'special statement' – the inclusion of Brookside's landmark lesbian kiss. Writing in Australian newspaper The Age, Greg Baum remarked: 'It was not that Boyle was taking the piss, though that is like much else he brought to life this night, a time-honoured past-time in England. It was that he got the balance and tone just right; he was able somehow always to see the wood while watching ten thousand trees. His show did not take itself too seriously, but was never trivial. It was irreverent, but never disrespectful. It was clever, but did not outsmart itself. It was at once subversive and sublime. This is a country of royals and aristocrats, but Boyle's show rejoiced in the commoner.' The Australian praised a 'glorious pandemonium devoted to London's thriving, chaotic energy, that celebrated everything from punk music to social media and the Internet, deliberately revelling in the chaos of Britain's free society and popular culture in an obvious retort to the breathtaking order and intimidating precision and scale of Beijing's ceremony in 2008.' France's Le Figaro said the display 'reminded a billion viewers of the best contributions that Britain has given to the world for over a century: its sense of humour, its music, and of course sport.' The German papers also enthused over Boyle's extravaganza. 'Fire in these Games' and 'Wow, what a show!' said headlines in Bild, while Die Welt said the evening party was 'brought alive by lighting technology, fireworks and simple British coolness.' Amid all the quirk and craziness, the politics did not go unnoticed. French news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur declared the ceremony to be 'defined by the economic crisis,' while the New York Times remarked, rather sniffily, that the show reflected the 'deeply left-leaning sensibilities' of its director. Scum. It added: 'That the Olympics come at a time of deep economic malaise, with Britain teetering on the edge of a double-dip recession, the government cutting billions of dollars from public spending, and Europe lurching from crisis to crisis, made the scene a bit surreal, even defiant in the face of so much adversity.' It was the NHS moment that the Grey Lady, in a separate TV review, decided was perhaps 'oddest of all' the night's quirks – and the Washington Post's Anthony Faiola, too, drew attention to the 'obscure references to the National Health Service and English club music' which led some, he said, to accuse the ceremony of being 'simply too British.' What, in the same way that the Beijing opening ceremony was 'too Chinese?' I thought that was the whole point of opening ceremonies. But, to be fair to this clown, he did add: 'If [the ceremony] sometimes seemed like the world's biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: we may not always be your cup of tea, but you know – and so often love – our culture nonetheless.' The Times of India called the ceremony 'dazzling.' It said: 'London presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture as a colourful opening ceremony marked the inauguration of the thirtieth Olympic Games.' 'Kaleidoscopic pageant sets London Games rolling,' said the headline in the China Daily. 'Britain's Queen Elizabeth declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a dizzying ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur.' Touching, thoughtful, weird, quirky, baffling were just some of the words used to describe London's show. 'I think I've seen the most chaotic - but possibly greatest - entertainment event of my generation' said the Toronto Sun's correspondent, Thane Burnett. Perhaps the most accurate bit of analysis comes from Robert Lloyd in the LA Times who said the ceremony 'had at times a quality of seeming completely random. If there is a through-line to be untangled it might be something like, "Sorry for the unintended consequences, but we did give you steam engines, great pop music and comedy and the roots of social networking. It was ugly there for a while, but we're all right - and everybody dance now."' Aye, that's about right too.

Even the British media, God helps us, seemed to have parked its trademark nasty cynicism up for the night and tried to get into the swing of things. Newspapers and commentators have been giving their reaction to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Times described director Danny Boyle's creation as 'a masterpiece. Adventurous, self-confident, playful, entertaining, and all with a sense of history,' it said. Columnist Simon Barnes said 'London turned down the option to celebrate giants and supermen and power and might and chose instead to celebrate people.' 'Brilliant, breathtaking, bonkers and utterly British,' said the Torygraph. 'Danny Boyle captured the spirit, history, humour and patriotism of an expectant nation last night as he pulled off an Olympic opening ceremony like no other.' Historian Tim Stanley also writing in the Torygraph said it 'told many stories about British history.' He said: 'The show was as complex (or confused) as British identity itself. But it was also spectacular, beautiful and funny.' The Gruniad Morning Star reckoned the film with James Bond and the Queen 'formed one of the highlights of Danny Boyle's tumultuously inventive opening ceremony to the 2012 Games.' It continued: 'Now, thanks to Boyle, we really have seen everything.' The Daily Scum Mail said the lighting of the Olympic flame by seven unheralded young athletes was 'the coolest moment of an amazing show.' The Sun in its editorial described it as a 'magic night. Master film director Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony last night truly did our nation proud,' it said. 'For thrills, imagination, surprises and sheer joy it was unbeatable.' This opening ceremony best moments were some of the most surprisingly unexpected, not least when David Beckham arrived by speedboat (managing not to crash it, remarkably) to hand the flame to Sir Steve Redgrave, who with other great British Olympians came good on London 2012's promise to hand on the baton to the next generation. Nothing adorned the evening like the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, composed of individual petal-shaped torches ascending to meet in the night sky. There was no chance of even Sir Paul McCartney and a sodding hour of 'Hey Jude' topping that. It should be recorded that the most spontaneous cheers of the night, apart from for the British team entering the arena to Bowie's "Heroes" in their gold epaulets designed by Macca's daughter, Stella, was the one for the volunteers who made this happen. Hats off to all seven and a half thousand of them. And to yer actual Danny Boyle. Top geezer.

And so, on that Olympic bombshell, to your next batch of Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 4 August
Gary Lineker introduces a busy evening of events at the Olympic Stadium on BBC where the second night of the athletics takes place featuring two of the leading lights in the British squad aiming to win gold. Jessica Ennis is expected to challenge for heptathlon gold and her performance in the eight hundred metres will help to decide her fate, while Mo Farah competes in the final of the men's ten thousand metres, as he looks to build on last year's silver medal in the world championships. Dai Greene will expect to book his place in the men's four hundred metres hurdles final, and the fastest woman will be decided in the one hundred metres sprint. The full schedule also features the women's discus final, the men's long jump final, the women's four hundred metres semi-finals and, earlier, the heats of the men's one hundred metres. With commentary, as usual, from Mackem Steve Cram, Paul Dickenson, Jonathan Edwards and Wor Brendan Foster, analysis by John Inverdale, Michael Johnson, Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis, and trackside reports by Phil Jones. Plus, there'll be updates from the concluding evening of swimming at the Aquatics Centre, where the remaining four finals take place. Although, to be honest, now the athletics has started, nobody much interested in the swimming anymore. And, there's the fourth men's football quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. On BBC3, Jake Humphrey introduces this evening's coverage, which features swimming, men's football and men's basketball. Clare Balding is at the Aquatics Centre, where the swimmers gather for the concluding four finals, in the women's fifty metre freestyle (that one's thankfully short), the men's fifteen hundred metres freestyle (that one, isn't!) and both the women's and men's four by one hundred metres medley relay. The concluding race is likely to be a chance to see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the USA squad together, after the pair dominated the build-up to the swimming events, and Fran Halsall will hope to be in the fifty metre freestyle. With swimming commentary by Andy Jameson and Adrian Moorhouse, analysis by Mark Foster, and poolside reports by Sharron Davies, and Mike Carlson and John Amaechi at the basketball. Earlier in the day, you can also catch up on the cycling - the women's team pursuit finals with Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott riding for Britian. There's also rowing (the men's coxless fours final), plus more obscure stuff like trampolining the twenty kilometre walk, fencing and the triathlon women's final. If you're up at 9:20am and have access to BBC Olympic channel fifteen, check out Team GB taking on Tunisia in the handball.

Or if you're, you know, sick, you might prefer The Million Pound Drop Live - 7:20 Channel Four. And, let's face it you'd have to be to enjoy tonight's line-up. Made in Chelsea's Hugo Taylor and Alexandra Binky Felstead (no, me neither, I'm afraid) continue from last night, followed by jockey Frankie Dettori and racing pundit and annoying loud-mouthed prat John McCririck, who get to see the categories and must decide which celebrity pair they want to answer it. As always, the contestants are trying to raise as much money as possible for Paralympic and disability-related charities, which is - to be fair - a very good cause. But they face losing piles of cash if they get a question wrong. Hosted by Davina McCall. Who ought to be ashamed of herself.

Sunday 5 August
Coverage of this evening's athletics at the Olympic Stadium, BBC1, has a definite highlight in the final race of the day, possibly the most anticipated nine and bit seconds of the entire event, the men's one hundred metres final at 9.50. The race is always one of the iconic moments of any games, and this one promises to be no exception, as world record holder and defending champion the Godlike Usain Bolt looks to retain the title under expected stiff competition from his compatriot Yohan Blake, who defeated Bolt in both the one and two hundred metres at the Jamaican trials. There's a couple of very good Americans likely to be in the final too, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin. Chances of British success this evening could come in the women's four hundred metres, where Christine Ohuruogu is the reigning champion, and in the women's triple jump courtesy of world indoor champion Yamile Aldama. The full schedule also features the women's four hundred metres hurdles heats, the men's high jump qualification, the women's triple jump final, the men's fifteen hundred metres semi-finals, the men's hammer final, and the men's three thousand metres steeplechase at 9.25. Meanwhile, Jake Humphrey and Ore Oduba present this evening's coverage on day nine on BBc3, featuring men's hockey and boxing, and women's basketball. The hockey at the Riverbank Arena at 7.00 is the first action of the night as Great Britain and Australia clash in their penultimate Pool A fixture, with the top two of six sides progressing to the quarter-finals. The boxing bouts follow at the ExCeL London, featuring the quarter-finals of the bantamweight division from 8.30, which may include Britain's Luke Campbell, and the heavyweight class from 9.30, and the opening stages of Great Britain versus Brazil in the final match of the women's basketball group phase is at 10.15. The commentary teams include Barry Davies, Jim Neilly and Mike Carlson. Also today, there's sailing - Ben Ainslie sailing in the Finn class and Iain Percy and Andrew Simspon in the Star, women's boxing, the women's marathon, diving, tennis, badminton and shooting. Although, obviously, not all on the same piece of land. Although, the thought of a new shooting class 'get the rich bastard in the the tennis gear right up the bum' does, undeniably, have some viewer potential. I'd watch it. Oh, and there's the synchronised drowning as well, that's usually good for a laugh.

In The Dark: Nature's Nighttime World - 9:00 BBC2 - biologists and camera crews travel to a flooded Amazon forest to film wildlife at night. James Bryson Voirin comes face to face with a curious sloth, Sophie Darlington perches high in the stormy jungle canopy hoping to see the world's only nocturnal monkey and bug expert George McGavin abseils deep into a giant cave system where he and his team discover a species new to science. Gordon Buchanan goes in search of giant anteaters and enters a strange, deserted house that has been taken over by vampire bats.

Meanwhille ITV continue their baffling strategy of appearing to be trying to appeal to the old-age-pensioners-who-don't-like-sport demographic with their scheduling opposite the Olympics. Last night it was Agatha Christie's Marple and Midsomner Murder, tonight a creaking old episode of A Touch of Frost is dragged out for a repeat - 8:00. Stick with the Olympics, dear blog reader, that's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's advice. There's marginally less chance of dying from boredom and something quite funny usually tends to happen about once a night. That's more than you'll get with ITV.

On the other hand, if you are looking for something other than sport - then, what's wrong with you? - and you missed it first time around, you could do a lot worse than check out The Road To Coronation Street - 9:00 BBC4. A joyful and loving study of the creation of a TV institution, this is a stunningly evocative dramatisation of the true story of Tony Warren's fight to get the programme he created made in the first place, against major opposition from within Granada. To cast it and to bring Warren's vision to life and to the nation. In short, Daran Little's play was a thing of beauty. The dialogue simply sang: 'I don't care what they do in St Helens, no one puts soap next to bacon in Salford,' Warren tells the director, Derek Bennett, as they race towards the set of the first episode. Even better: 'This is a woman who's buried children, watched her man beg for work and still gets down on her knees every night to pray,' Lynda Baron's Violet Carson says about the character she is to play on the show, Ena Sharples. 'There's no powder or rouge touching this face. If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for Granada.' The Road To Coronation Street was a warm and insightful piece of work. A little nostalgic masterpiece in its own right, and a worthy celebration of what, fifty years after it began, remains a British television icon and the recurring drama by which all others will ultimately be judged. With great performances from the entire cast - but, a special mention should be made for David Dawson as a camp, prissy, but highly principled Warren and Jessie Wallace as an extraordinarily good-natured Pat Phoenix - this was, like Corrie itself in those ground-breaking early days, something very special indeed. 'Edna in wardrobe thinks this could run as long as The Archers,' Carson tells Doris Speed (Celia Imrie) as they prepare for their first scene in the live opening episode. 'Ye Gods, I hope not!' Thankfully, Edna in wardrobe was right.

Monday 6 August
This evening's athletics finals at the Olympic Stadium include the men's four hundred metres hurdles and the four hundred metres. Hopes of British success are high in the hurdles, with world champion Dai Greene a major contender for gold, having also triumphed at the last Commonwealth Games. There will be focus on the field events this evening as well as on the track, especially in the women's pole vault final, for which rising star Holly Bleasdale will expect to have qualified (you know, in the same way that Mark Cavendish was 'expected' to win that bike race the other day). Having developed into a world-class athlete in the past year, Holly is the British record holder and won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships. The full schedule also features the women's shot put final, the early rounds of the women's two hundred metres, the women's four hundred metres hurdles semi-finals and the women's steeplechase final. Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Dickenson and Brendan Foster, as usual, talk a lot. Phil Jones gets the job in interviewing various out-of-breath Brits and asking either 'how did you do that?' or, more often, 'so, what's the excuse for that fiasco, then?' and hoping for a coherent answer. Olympics coverage also continues on BBC3. Jake Humphrey presents the second women's football semi-final at Old Trafford, (kick-off 7.45pm), and the women's hockey Pool A match between Great Britain and the Netherlands at the Riverbank Arena. The hockey gets under way at 7.00, with both sides playing their final pool fixture and aiming to reach the semi-finals, followed by the football last-four encounter between the winners of the second and fourth quarter-finals. Plus, action from this evening's men's boxing bouts at the ExCeL Arena, featuring the lightweight, middleweight and super heavyweight quarter-finals. Other daily highlights include the women's uneven bars final in the gymnastics (will be see a medal for Tweddle?), various dumb animals with big teeth (and, their horses, obviously) in the equestrian team jumping finals, Paul Goodison sailing in the Men's Laser, Jason Kenny going in the track cycling sprint, plus - always the bridesmaid - Greco-Roman wrestling, canoeing, volleyball (both varieties) and water polo.

In Horizon: Eat, Fast And Live Longer - 8:00 BBC2 - Michael Mosley sets himself something of an ambitious goal. He wants to live longer, stay younger and lose weight all whilst making as few changes to his life as possible. Is such a thing doable? And, if it is, can we all try? Michael explores new research which sheds light on the benefits of fasting and believes he has found a way of doing it that still allows him to enjoy his food. He then tests the science on himself - with life-changing results.

The Hit Factory: The Stock Aitken & Waterman Story - 9:00 ITV - is, as you might except from such a title, a documentary charting the success of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. If you don't remember them - and you should really think yourselves lucky (lucky, lucky) if you don't - they were, effectively, the collective Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef(s) off Crossroads of their day. A songwriting and record-producing trio who scored more than one hundred top forty hits in the 1980s and 1990s - most of which were absolute arse - including a string of number ones, with acts including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Rick Astley. Featuring contributions by Waterman, the actual Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, Sinitta, Pete Burns, Sonia, Steps and many more. But not Kylie. Bigger fish to fry these days, y'see. Jason Donovan hasn't. Hence his appearances in risible ITV flop Superstar, one imagines. Suranne Jones narrates. Come on, Suranne, love. You're a great actress, you can do better than this.

Tuesday 7 August
The finals of the women's one hundred metres hurdles and men's fifteen hundred metres are among the highlights in the Olympic Stadium tonight. The hurdles represent a chance for Tiffany Porter to shine, as the American-born sprinter, now representing Britain, looks to build on her silver medal in this year's World Indoor Championships sixty metre hurdles. Ah, but this is forty metres further. And, there's also the little matter of Aussie Sally Pearson standing in her way. The metric mile final may feature another of Britain's track hopefuls in Andy Baddeley and the high jump could offer hope of home success through the fast-improving Robbie Grabarz, who won the gold medal at the recent European Championships in Helsinki. Colin Jackson, Michael Johnson and Denise Lewis sit about in the gantry trying to look interested in, and have some knowledge of, the men's discuss final. Plus, there's updates on the second men's football semi-final at Old Trafford and the men's boxing flyweight quarter-finals, which may feature Andrew Selby. The foobtall's covered on BBC3. This encounter features the winners of the third and fourth quarter-finals, as the quest to succeed Argentina as champions continues. Plus, there's action from the Riverbank Arena from 7.00, where Great Britain's men's hockey team play their final Pool A match against Spain, with places in the semi-finals at stake. With hockey commentary by Barry Davies and Sean Kerly. Later, Gabby Logan and guests look back on day eleven and present live coverage of the sports still taking place, which are the men's and women's beach volleyball semi-finals, and women's basketball quarter-final. Today's events also include the concluding races in the track cycling competition, then men's triathlon (with the Brownlee brothers genuine medal hopes), canoeing and the semi-final of the beach volleyball.

Twenty-one-year-old Gemma Barker is currently serving thirty months in pris for fraud and sexual assault. Over the course of several months Gemma invented and impersonated three different boys - Aaron, Luke and Connor - each of whom had their own mobile number, e-mail address and social network page. Under these three separate - and, seemingly, highly convincing - guises Barker went on to seduce two teenage girls, a story told in The Girl Who Became Three Boys - 9:00 Channel Four. This film tells the extraordinary story through the personal accounts of Gemma's victims, who speak frankly about the experience, and explores Gemma's possible motivations for such bizarre criminal behaviour.

Red Dwarf's Robert Llewellyn investigates the appeal of films set on board submarines, travelling along the River Medway to find a beached Cold War Russian nuclear vessel, and visiting abandoned Second World War German U-boat pens on the French coast in Dive, Dive, Dive! - 11:00 BBC4. He recalls the events that inspired movies including The Hunt for Red October, and reveals the role played by Walt Disney in promoting atomic submarines.

Wednesday 8 August
Life is full of hurdles, dear blog reader. And, as if to prove it on Day Twelve of the Thirtieth Olympiad, Gary Lineker introduces this evening's athletics on BBC1, which includes the finals of the women's four hundred metres hurdles and men's one hundred and ten metres hurdles. See. Told ya. Perri Shakes-Drayton was born in East London and will be a popular competitor in the women's race hurdles if she has made it through the heats and semi-finals, having been part of the winning four by four hundred metres relay squad at this year's World Indoor Championships. Britain entered three athletes in the men's high hurdles - Andy Turner, Andrew Pozzi and Lawrence Clarke - and Turner, the 2010 European and Commonwealth champion, was expected to have the best chance of being involved in the final. There's also the women's fifteen hundred metres semi-finals, the women's long jump final, the men's two hundred metres semi-finals and the women's two hundred metres final at 9.00. On BBC3, there's the bronze-medal match and final of the women's beach volleyball - always highly watchable - and the second women's hockey semi-final. The beach volleyball fixtures at Horse Guards Parade can be seen at 7.00 and 9.30 respectively, with the pairings aiming to succeed American duo Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor (no, seriously, I'm not making this up!) as champions. The hockey begins at 8.00 at the Riverbank Arena, where the second place in Friday's final is at stake. With beach volleyball commentary by Matt Chilton, and Barry Davies and Mel Clewlow at the hockey. You can also see gold medals handed out in the canoeing, the equestrian individual jumping, the sailing (49ers class), table tennis and taekwondo.

The squabbling detective duo head to a university campus to investigate the death of a student, but get sidetracked by arguments about gender politics and affairs of the heart in Vexed - 9:00 BBc2. Jack is delighted that his new girlfriend Danielle seems to share a surprising amount of interests with him, while Georgina is convinced she has finally met her perfect man. Comedy drama, starring the oddly watchable duo Toby Stephens and Miranda Raison.
A repeat, but a very worthy one is Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails - 8:00 BBC4 - in which yer man Hizza (maker of some genuinely fine, thoughtful social history documentaries) tells the story behind the 1963 Beeching Report, commissioned under Harold Macmillan's government, which led to the closure of a third of Britain's rail network. With contributions from experts, campaigners, railwaymen and passengers, Private Eye editor and Have I Got News For You regular Ian outlines the historical background to the proposals, along with the social and economic impact that followed their implementation. If you're bored with the Olympics, check this out, you might just learn something from it.
Thursday 9 August
The Olympic highlight today may well be the women's ten kilometre swimming with stone cold fox Keri-Anne Payne going for Britain. Swim, Keri, swim like a tidal wave. Later, Gary Lineker presents BBC coverage of this evening's athletics at the Olympic Stadium, which includes the finals of the men's two hundred metres and triple jump. Usain Bolt will almost certainly be the main draw in tonight's schedule as he aims to retain the two hundred metre title he won four years ago, at a canter, in Beijing. The Jamaican broke Michael Johnson's long-standing world record at the 2008 Games, and has since lowered that time even further, but could face stiff opposition from compatriot Yohan Blake, who beat Bolt in both the one and two hundred metres at the national Olympic trials. Phillips Idowu has long been tipped to win Olympic gold, and the Belgrave Harrier should be among the favourites in the triple jump final. That's if this mystery injury of his has cleared up by that time. Look on the bright side, Phil, like Paula Radcliffe if you were a race horse, you'd probably have been shot by now. There's also the dressage. Be still, my beating heart. Tonight also sees the men's eight hundred metres final, the women's four by one hundred metres relay round one, the women's javelin and the final of the decathlon to round off the night. The women's football final (kick-off 7.45pm) dominated BBC3's coverage. Plus, from 10.00, there's action from the women's ten metre platform diving final at the Aquatics Centre and men's beach volleyball final at Horse Guards Parade. With commentary by Bob Ballard, Leon Taylor and Matt Chilton. Also, basketball, hockey, cycling (the BMX competition), the bronze medal match in the women's water-polo and not forgetting, as if we could, more synchronised drowning.

In The Hotel Inspector - 9:00 Channel Five - boosy-boots, full-of-her-own-importance Alex Polizzi travels to the Meudon Hotel in Falmouth, which was once a jewel of the Cornish coast but has failed to move with the times, leading to a lack of guests and low profits. Alex soon gets to the root of the family business's problem - eighty six-year-old Harry Pilgrim's refusal to let go of the reins has left son Mark frustrated in his role as general manager. Alex also believes the old-fashioned decor and unimaginative menu only attracts elderly clientele, so she sets about bringing the hotel into the Twenty First Century. But can she persuade Mark to be more forceful as a leader and give his old man a right good slap if he won't comply? We can only pray, dear blog reader.

Si King and Dave Myers continue their dietary challenge by reinventing favourite family meals in Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight - 8:00 BBC2. They come up with a cooked breakfast that delivers all the excitement of a fry-up without adding to the waistline, and a calorie-conscious roast chicken dinner. They also rework French classic the cassoulet and set it before a couple of famished rugby teams, and make the ultimate sacrifice in a bid to help shift the pounds - give up their beloved motorbikes in favour of bicycles.

Friday 10 August
Olympic highlights today include the women's takwondo, the women's BMX final (will Shanze Reade manage to stay on her bike this time round?), Oscar Pistorius running in the four by four hundred metres relay, hockey, the men's pole vault, basketball and handball semi-finals, rhythmic gymnastics and volleyball. Just two more days to go, dear blog reader, and then you can go back to living your lives normally.
And, so to the news: A new teaser trailer for forthcoming Bond movie Skyfall was broadcast on Friday night on NBC. The TV spot was shown during US coverage of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and featured James Bond riding a motorcycle through the streets of Turkey. Rather than, as at least one confused Internet report suggested, riding a turkey through Street in Somerset. Which, to be honest, this blogger would've paid to see. The action-heavy clip contains much footage that has already hit the web and features only one line of dialogue, with Daniel Craig uttering the words '007, reporting for duty.' Directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall also stars Ben Whishaw, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Albert Finney. The twenty third Bond film is released in the UK on 26 October and in the US on 9 November.
Some sad news to end, Geoffrey Hughes has died aged sixty eight, it has been confirmed. The actor, who was well known for his roles in a number of British dramas, lost his long battle with cancer on Friday night. Geoff, of course, played the great Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street and went on to star as Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances, Twiggy in The Royle Family, Uncle Keith in the teen drama Skins and Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat. Born in Wallasey in 1944, he worked as a car salesman and he performed with Merseyside Unity theatre company, where he was spotted by the actor Tom Bell, who introduced him to an agent. Geoff begun his career in repertory at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent. This was followed by his West End debut, the Lionel Bart and Alun Owen Liverpool musical, Maggie May. His other West End productions include the stage version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Say Goodnight to Grandma and several seasons of Run for your Wife. In 1966, Hughes made his screen debut in an episode of The Likely Lads and was soon working regularly on television. His first appearance in Coronation Street was in 1967, playing a character called Phil Ferguson, a thug who beat up Albert Tatlock. Geoff's big break came as a twenty three year old when he was cast to voice the Paul McCartney character in The Beatles cartoon Yellow Submarine. Among his many other appearances on television were An Arrow for Little Audrey, The Saint, Shadows of Fear, Z-Cars, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Making Out, Doctor Who, Spender and Boon. He played Trinculo in a filmed version of The Tempest for the BBC and Squire Clodpoll in Good Friday 1663, one of Channel Four's avant-garde operas. His comedy appearances on TV included Please Sir!, Dad's Army, Curry and Chips and The Upper Hand. In The Bright Side (1985) he played the mild-mannered prison warden Mr Lithgow, constantly being wound up by an inmate's wife played by Paula Wilcox. Geoffrey's film credits included Smashing Time, Till Death Us Do Part, The Bofors Gun, The Virgin Soldiers, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall and Carry On at Your Convenience. In 1974 he was cast as the ex-convict Eddie Yeats in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street. Over the next nine years he became a hugely popular cult character, with his best mate Stan Ogden (Bernard Youens), a constant foil to Stan's long-suffering wife Hilda (Jean Alexander) with whom Eddie lodged. Hughes contributed enormously to the comedy that Youens and Alexander brought to Corrie. His character, a former Walton Prison inmate, the cell-mate of the legendary Jed Stone (Kenneth Cope), he helped Stan on his window-cleaning round and was forever involved in money-making schemes – hiring out a timid guard dog and selling Albert Tatlock's allotment vegetables, dodgy watches and curtains run up by Hilda – before finding work as a refuse collector. 'He was always a softy,' Hughes told the writer Daran Little in 1995. 'His villainy had been opportunist nicking, or thinking of a good idea. It didn't matter if it was actually legal or not.' Eddie was also responsible for the mountain mural in the Ogdens' living room – at one time graced with three ornamental flying ducks. He left Corrie in 1983 after one of the show's most memorable storylines, his whirlwind CB radio romance with and marriage to Marion (Veronica Doran). The couple were subsequently said to have moved to Bury. Geoff made a brief return four years later for a hospital visit by Eddie to Hilda as part of Jean Alexander's departure from the series. In recent years he was reportedly offered a return to the show but declined. His friend and colleague Ricky Tomlinson told ITV: 'Geoff wasn't just an actor. He was my mate. I used to call him every few weeks but hadn't spoken to him in about a fortnight. It's such a loss.' A Coronation Street spokesperson added: 'We are very sad to hear of the death of Geoffrey Hughes. He created a legendary and iconic character in Eddie Yates who will always be part of Coronation Street. Everyone connected with the programme sends our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.' Geoffrey had radiotherapy in August 2010 after collapsing at his home on the Isle of Wight where he had lived for many years. In 2009, he was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the island. He is survived by his wife, Sue.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, I decide not to go with Spandau Ballet's 'Gold'. Because it's shit, basically. I have no problem with coming second, however. Second is good. It comes right after first. Just ask Buzz Aldrin. Tell 'em all about it, Mac.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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