Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Weeks One & Two: The Way She Looked Was Way Beyond Compare

So, dear blog reader, that was 2012 then. Hmm. A fair bit of good telly, admittedly - as previously detailed here - which is, after all, what this blog is largely all about. On a personal level, though, 2012 has been a year that yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self would rather forget. And, quite quickly at that. It began with his services being 'no longer required' for a job which he adored and was good at (and for reasons never fully, or satisfactorily, explained at that). It also included a long period of relatively poor health and ended with him in the not particularly happy position of caring for a terminally ill parent. To be fair, I'm sure many other people have a far worse life, of course. But, there've been times this year when it's been difficult to maintain that sort of balanced outlook for which yer actual Keith Telly Topping has, in the past, been known for. Still, there have been the odd good moments. If you looked really hard. Anyway, that's quite enough of that sort of self-indulgence for one lifetime, let alone one year. And now for something completely different. Ratings.

Let's end one year and start a new one with a right barrel-load of ratings, dear blog reader. The opening episode of the BBC's new Victorian chiller Ripper Street pulled in a more than decent overnight audience of 6.1m on BBC1, besting the 5.63m figure for the last episode of ITV's once-massively-popular-but-now-cancelled-due-to-declining-interest Wild At Heart. It was another strong night for BBC1 with Celebrity Mastermind pulling in 4.94m from 6.30pm, followed by Countryfile (6.29m) and Antiques Roadshow (5.43m). ITV's utterly miserable Christmas period continued. Apart from Wild At Heart getting a truncheon up the jacksie from Ripper Street, Super Famous Animals could only manage 2.41m whilst most viewers preferred not to bother with A Night with Beyonce (a risible nine hundred and thirteen thousand). BBC2's night was steady rather than spectacular with a repeat of James May's Toy Stories being watched by 1.02m, the last Dara O'Brien's Science Club (which also featured a guest appearance from old Cap'n Slow) having an audience of 1.04m followed by 1.07m for Neil Armstrong: First Man On The Moon and 1.02m for the terrestrial premiere of Duncan Jones's Moon. Channel Four's highlight of the night was Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2012 watched by an impressive 2.51m.

Although the final, consolidated ratings figures for Christmas week (24 to 30 December) won't be available for another few days yet, some interim figures have been released and they make for fascinating reading. Remember, dear blog reader, these are not final figures. But they do give an indication of the type of timeshifts which some programmes are currently getting:-
Christmas Eve:
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - 11.59m
EastEnders - 9.61m
Outnumbered Christmas Special - 9.40m
Coronation Street - 9.20m
Merlin - 7.71m
Emmerdale - 7.39m
The Snowman & The Snowdog 6.30m
Some properly astounding timeshift figures here for, in particular Mrs Brown's Boys (almost three million) and The Snowman & The Snowdog (near enough two million). And, here's possibly the single most remarkable audience figure of the entire week, the Christmas Eve episode of Mrs Brown's Boys is, currently, the twelfth most watched TV programme in 2012. As things stand, it's already ahead of, for example, the Wimbledon Final, the finals of I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) and The X Factor, all episode of Call The Midwife, EastEndersSherlock, Emmerdale and Doctor Who and The Sports Personality of the Year Show. Bloody remarkable.
Christmas Day:
EastEnders - 11.16m
Call The Midwife - 10.04m
The Royle Family Christmas Special - 9.78m
Doctor Who - 9.72m
Coronation Street - 9.62m
Downton Abbey - 9.52m
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special - 9.08m
Emmerdale - 6.11m
Room On The Broom - 5.90m
So, that's another near-three million timeshift for Call The Midwife. Additionally, 2.07m watched the repeat of the episode the following Sunday afternoon. Surely, if it had been shown on any other night it would have topped Christmas week ratings by miles? Perhaps these figures will give both the BBC and ITV a bit of pause for thought about what is, and isn't, family viewing on Christmas Day. Just because something is popular elsewhere in the year (I'm looking at you, Downton Abbey) doesn't, necessarily, mean that viewers will come flocking to it when it's shown immediately after the turkey and stuffing. Now, here's a very interesting little side issue; the live numbers for Doctor Who on Christmas afternoon was 5.75m. With timeshifting later on the day of transmission adding a further 1.84m viewers that took its initial overnight figure to 7.59m. It's now had a further timeshift of over two million punters taking it to 9.72m (so far). So, the total timeshift for The Snowmen - to date - is almost exactly four million punters; it only needs a tiny bit more in the next couple of days to beat the all-time record for any programme. Doctor Who, it would seem, remains king of the timeshifts! It's also number two on the BBC iPlayer list for the Christmas period (behind Miranda).
Boxing Day:
Miranda - 11.24m
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - 10.52m
EastEnders - 9.40m
Coronation Street - 8.76m
Emmerdale - 7.45m
Match Of The Day - 4.59m
The BBC (and ITV for that matter) must be wondering what would have happened if they'd put Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys on Christmas Day and Call The Midwife on Boxing Day. Miranda's provisional figure places it as the seventeenth most watched programme of the year so far.

Here, meanwhile, are the Final, consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Two programmes for weekend ending 23 December 2012:-
1 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 13.37m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 9.46m
3 EastEnders - Thurs BBC1 - 9.23m
4 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 8.64m
5 Merlin - Sat BBC1 - 8.45m
6 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 7.82m
7 Last Tango In Halifax - Tues BBC1 - 7.49m
8 Mr Stink - Sun BBC1 - 7.08m
9 The National Lottery Saturday Draws - Sat BBC1 - 6.32m
10 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.98m
11 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 5.59m
12 Six O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 5.05m
13 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.02m
14 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 5.00m
15 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 4.92m
16 Text Santa - Fri ITV - 4.82m*
17 Inside Claridge's - Mon BBC2/BBC HD - 4.81m
18 Snow Babies - Wed BBC1 - 4.75m
19 Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow - Thurs BBC1 - 4.64m
20 Young Apprentice - Thurs BBC1 - 4.58m
21 Loving Miss Hatto - Sun BBC1 - 4.55m
22 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 4.42m
* Laughably wretched horrorshow (and drag) Text Santa's audience does not include ITV HD figures which were unavailable from BARB. Aside from the remarkable figures for Inside Claridge's, BBC2 also had a good week pulling in sizeable audiences for The Great British Bake Off Christmas (3.80m including BBC HD viewers), Qi (2.69m also including BBC HD), Christmas University Challenge (2.63m) and The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show (2.54m). Channel Four's top performer was Homeland (2.8m). E4 topped the multi-channel's list with an audience of 2.24m for an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

And, speaking of yer actual ratings figures, the Daily Scum Mail their very selves have done a rather straight - and, whisper it, pretty accurate - summation of the Christmas period's overnights here. Good God, a British tabloid in 'getting ratings figures, and analysis of them, more or less spot-on and in context, shock.' Whatever next? If they start telling their readers to vote Labour, you really do know you're living through the End of Days. Amusingly, they really put the boot into ITV in the article rather than the Beeb. Which, makes a refreshing change. I give you the following example, dear blog reader: 'ITV's miserable Christmas in the ratings has continued after a news bulletin was its most watched show on Saturday and a repeat of Dad's Army on BBC2 beat one of its shows. The broadcaster has been hit by poor-performing shows over the festive period and managed only three out of the top ten on Christmas Day. Among these, Downton Abbey recorded its lowest ever viewing figures and was beaten by five programmes: EastEnders, Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing, The Royle Family and Doctor Who. The broadcaster managed about eight per cent share of the prime time [sic] audience on Saturday night with a number of shows struggling, or failing, to break the two million audience mark. A new game show fronted by Dale Winton, Dale's Great Getaway, which sees families competing to win a holiday, got fewer than 1.5million viewers. This was followed by a repeat of the Hugh Grant film Love Actually, with 1.6million viewers before the nightly news and 1.8million afterwards. BBC1's prime-time [sic] share of audience on the same night was 20.5 per cent, with Superstars getting almost six million viewers. BBC2 also beat ITV on audience share. The commercial broadcaster's top show was its evening news and weather bulletin at about 2.5million viewers, followed by I Love You've Been Framed with 2.4million. An episode of Dad's Army on BBC2 at 6.45pm on Saturday, which got 2.4million viewers, beat a show on the thirtieth anniversary of CITV, the broadcaster's children’s service. [Just for accuracy's sake it wasn't, actually, an episode of Dad's Army, it was the 1971 movie adaptation of the popular sitcom.] A programme about the making of The Sound of Music on BBC2 also beat an ITV show on at the same time. The figures confirm the BBC's dominance over the festive period. On Christmas Eve, apart from Coronation Street, Emmerdale and its evening news bulletin, BBC1 beat ITV shows all nightMerlin, EastEnders, Outnumbered, Mrs Brown’s Boys and a repeat of The Vicar of Dibley easily beating, by millions, the commercial broadcaster's offerings which included The Spice Girls Story and Christmas Carols on ITV. On the same night, BBC2 got more viewers for some of its shows than ITV, including Open All Hours and Porridge. ITV was also beaten on Christmas Day throughout peak viewing hours, with Doctor Who beating Emmerdale, Strictly Come Dancing easily conquering a Paul O'Grady show about dogs and EastEnders and The Royle Family victorious over Downton Abbey. Only Coronation Street beat its head-to-head rival Call The Midwife. On Boxing Day, BBC1 had huge ratings for sitcom Miranda, watched by a peak of ten million, trouncing a Stephen Fry drama on ITV [Doors Open] by about seven million viewers. It also got a massive audience for the second festive episode of Mrs Brown's Boys, which averaged almost nine million viewers. ITV can console itself that its soap operas continued to attract high ratings. The commercial broadcaster has always faced a dilemma at Christmas over whether to take on the might of the BBC or to keep back big projects for the new year.' The Scum Mail, of course, put an awful lot of time and effort into bigging up the the second and third series of Downton (and its associated Christmas specials). Now, apparently, it's seeing a weakness and doing the rather typical and scummishly British tabloid thing of 'turning on the thing we once told you to love' malarkey. Although, given that this is Lord Snooty we're talking about, that's actually really funny when coming from a stridently right-wing rag like the Scum Mail. Almost everything which has been written about the Downton Christmas special in the press generally - but, in the Scum Mail in particular - has been a negative. The accepted Downton Abbey narrative now seems to be 'where did it all go wrong?' rather than 'how wonderful it is to see Lord Snooty's idea of a bygone era when everyone knew their place.'

And so to Weeks One and Two of 2013's Top Telly Tips:-
Tuesday 1 January
As series three of Miranda Hart's espresso-and-choc-ice-fuelled sitcom Miranda continues - 9:00 BBC1 - mum Penny (the wonderfully over-the-top Patricia Hodge) humiliates her daughter by standing for a post in local government. And to compound the misery, unrequited-lover-that-got-away Gary now has a perky new girlfriend, so Miranda goes clubbing, together with Stevie and Tilly. The friends' competitive dating, and Miranda's inability to stop singing aloud, provide plenty of laughs, but her moustache-wearing at an inappropriate moment is the highlight of the episode. Some purists claim there's no place for slapstick in situation comedy. Well, knickers to that rubbish. Miranda herself is delightfully funny and her legions of fans are right to ignore the snootier critics, because they're talking drivel. In this episode, Gary decides to put himself on the dating scene so that he can bring someone along to Stevie's birthday party, prompting Miranda to do the same thing. Will the pair find romance in the arms of a pair of strangers - or each other? Starring, of course, Miranda Hart, Tom Ellis and Sarah Hadland.

A hypnotist is booked to provide the entertainment at the triplets' baptism - and Agnes soon finds herself under his spell in the latest episode of now proper crossover populist hit Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:30 BBC1. Meanwhile, the matriarch's kitchen is falling apart - but that turns out to be the least of her problems when her son, Mark, delivers some heartbreaking news. Deserved hit comedy, starring Brendan O'Carroll as the foul-mouthed mother-of-six. Can it really only be a little over a year ago that the Daily Scum Express was trying to stir up trouble with an article complaining about a new BBC comedy having 'swear words' in it? How times change.

They say that soap operas have bleak storylines at this time of year to make us feel better about our own miserable holiday period. Queen Victoria's Children - 9:00 BBC2 - a wonderfully frank and open look at Victoria’s family life, may have the same effect. It's a gloriously detailed account of her stormy relationship with Prince Albert – the blazing rows and fierce rivalry – as well as the couple's absolutely dire parenting skills. Victoria believed that children should be thrashed and not heard, as it were. 'As a rule, children are a bitter disappointment,' is typical of her sour pronouncements on her offspring. It's not a bit of wonder poor old Edward VII ended up as a drunken womaniser with a mum like that. Because, when you have nine children, that’s an awful lot of potential disappointment to be expecting. The irony was that she and Albert presented a wholesome image to the nation which helped shore up the monarchy. But behind the scenes, the Queen's egotism and filthy temper wreaked havoc. At times it sounds more like Big Brother than a royal household. This engrossing documentary exploring the reign of the monarch through her relationships with her husband and their children, using letters, diaries, memoirs and journals to bring the subject and characters to life. The first episode focuses on Victoria and Prince Albert's tempestuous marriage, their attempts to engineer the upbringing of their children and their efforts to project a modern image of the royal family.

The Great Escape with its jaunty theme music may have become an instantly recognisable war film, but journalist Simon Heffer does a worthy job reminding us of our own war film heritage in Fifties British War Films: Days of Glory - 9:00 BBC4. From the daring raids of The Dam Busters to the jocular bullishness of the PoWs in The Colditz Story and the ice cold Atlantic horror of The Cruel Sea, 1950s British classics have shaped the way many of us see our wartime record, and it's not all cosy folklore and singing in the bomb shelter during the air raids. Many of the actors in these films had served in the war and their portrayal of understated heroism cuts through our modern predilection for cynicism.

Wednesday 2 January
David Attenborough explores a vast and diverse continent, aiming to show its landscapes and wildlife as they have never been seen before in Africa - 9:00 BBC1. He begins in the Kalahari desert, Africa's south-west corner, where clever meerkats are outsmarted by a wily bird's use of mimicry, a solitary rhino is seen to exhibit previously unknown sociable behaviours, terrifying insects prey on baby birds and the rarest fish in the world is filmed for the first time. In the neighbouring Namib desert, which receives almost no rain, the competition for scant resources can be fierce, as proven by a ferocious fight for supremacy between two giraffes. A young leopard dangles from a tree in an ungainly fashion, a flock of unbearably cute baby ostriches nervously trot behind their mother on a trip to the overcrowded waterhole, and a female rhino that's totally fed up with her suitor's inept attempts to mate shoves him off and lies down, feigning a headache. This lavish film about African wildlife, presented by broadcasting legend Attenborough, has some delightfully humorous moments tucked in among the more serious – and occasionally nightmarish – scenes. There's nothing remotely amusing about the giant armoured crickets which prey on defenceless, new-born chicks, but Kalahari meerkats are always good value and you may smile at the two male giraffes squaring up to each other to the strains of spaghetti western music. That is until they viciously lash one another in a sequence of ferocious fighting which takes your breath away.

Echoes of Theatre of Blood, the gloriously over-the-top 1970s horror film starring Vincent Price, reverberate through the latest episode of Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV - which starts with the killing of a local author in Midsomer Langley. She was writing a biography of sisters Stella and Diana (Sinead Cusack and Harriet Walter), British B-movie stars in the 1960s. One lives in the village while the other returns on the night of the murder after forty years in Hollywood. The dead author has two puncture marks in her neck – like a vampire's bite. They can probably discount suicide in that case. Thereafter every murder is reminiscent of a horror movie plot (mummification and burial alive included) although this doesn't help pin down a suspect. 'In the film the killer was a three hundred-year-old nobleman who could only drink the blood of female virgins,' offers Barnaby, a horror film buff, of course. Midsomer Murders never takes itself even remotely seriously which is one of the main reasons why it's so popular, but here it's got its tongue so far into its cheek, it's in danger of poking out through its ear. And that, dear blog readers, is a good thing.

The documentary series One Born Every Minute returns - 9:00 Channel Four - with cameras now recording life on two busy maternity wards in Leeds. Stacey is expecting her second child, but every time she thinks she is in labour, it turns out to be a false alarm and the staff send her home. Meanwhile Ramona wants to give birth naturally with husband Marvin by her side, having had an emergency C-section in the past. Elsewhere, the hospital is promoting 'active birth' and trainee yoga instructor Sara wholeheartedly embraces the idea. It might look like the makings of a kids' adventure playground, but everything is designed to help women to give birth either squatting or kneeling. 'We were never meant to be on our backs,' says a cheery midwife.

Thursday 3 January
Trouble Abroad - 9:00 ITV - is the first of two programmes telling the stories of some of the estimated five million Britons who have left the UK in search of a better life abroad, only for their plans to go badly awry. In France, a woman is forced to survive on charity food parcels after losing everything and a homesick former rock star living in Spain desperately tries to sell his villa after suffering a stroke. Narrated by Sarah Lancashire.

Brian Dowling invites a fresh group of allegedly famous faces to move in together and have their every word and move recorded for the dubious enjoyment of the sick and voyeuristic section of the viewing public in yet another series of Celebrity Big Brother - 9:00 Channel Five. Will this torture never cease? The Big Brother house has been redesigned and revamped in preparation and is claimed to be the most luxurious ever - though the format remains reliably consistent, naff and pointless. As usual, there will be nowhere to hide as they attempt to take Julian Clary's title.

John Humphrys asks the questions in the latest Celebrity Mastermind - 7:00 BBC1 - as BBC weather forecaster John Hammond, comedian Steve Punt, actor Michael Obiora and Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton-Hill all face the black chair. Their specialist subjects are Status Quo, the life and career of Tony Hancock, Arsenal from 2000 to the present and Lord Snooty's Downton Abbey. Y'see, dear blog reader, this is the necessary difference between the BBC and Channel Five. When the Beeb do a show with the word 'celebrity' in it, they stick four moderately well-known people in a black chair and ask them properly hard questions. When Channel Five do a 'celebrity' special, it usual involves people (many of whom you'll probably never have heard of) being made to eat their own (or, indeed, someone else's) faeces. I know which I'd sooner watch on an empty stomach.

Friday 4 January
Frank Skinner returns with the light-hearted panel show Room 101 - BBC1 8:30 - which sees comedy actress Miranda Hart (on telly more often than The News at the moment), radio DJ and actor Reggie Yates and Countryfile presenter John Craven compete to have their pet hates banished to the infamous room for ever. Their gripes include stuffed marrows, spitting, yoghurt drinks, the hip-hop handshake, smartphones and Miranda's breasts.
Top of the Pops: 1978 - 9:00 BBC4 - is, as you might expect from the title, a documentary about TOTP's changing musical direction in 1978, when pop singles were slowly ousted by a glorious mixture disco, reggae, punk and new wave artists. In other words, the year when the programme got really good. This show features contributions by members of The Boomtown Rats, Squeeze, Boney M and Sham 69 - among others - and archive performances by the likes of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Blondie, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Undertones, Buzzcocks, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and The Jam. But, not The clash cos they refused to go near the gaff. And, absolutely no Jimmy Savile or Dave Lee Travis what-so-bloomin'-ever. For reasons which may, or may not, be related to various alleged naughty shenanigans and malarkey. Or, perhaps not. Oh no, very hot water.

Tonight also sees the second of two Qi compilations - 10:40 BBC2 - of highlights from the tenth series of the sharp and witty quiz with a difference, hosted by national treasure Stephen Fry. Guests including Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Shappi Khorsandi, Jason Manford, Cal Wilson, Julia Zemiro and regular panellist Alan Davies answer questions based on subjects beginning with the letter J. Or, in Alan Davies's case, doesn't answer questions based on subjects beginning with the letter J but clowns around and then whinges a lot about type-casting. The answer's in your own hands, pal.

Saturday 5 January
Following her Olympic and Paralympic broadcasting triumphs, the nation's current sweetheart yer actual Clare Balding hosts Britain's Brightest - 7:00 BBC1 - a search to find the most intelligent individual in the country - based not on questions, but on everything from emotional intelligence to processing speed. The knock-out tournament sees twenty four 'ordinary people' with extraordinary minds completing a series of aptitude tests, challenges and puzzles, before one is crowned champion.

A year after her separation from her husband, Philip, Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg visits the country's troops in Afghanistan in the opening episode of the second series of Borgen - 9:00 BBC4 - the best drama series in the world at the moment. (Well ... that does have the words 'Doctor' or 'Sherlock' in the title, anyway.) However, Birgitte has to be evacuated when the Taliban launch an offensive against several Danish camps - killing the highest number of soldiers so far in the war. Meanwhile, with her private life in absolute turmoil, she continues to put off signing her divorce papers. Genuinely stunning Danish political drama, starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and and Pilou Asbaek. That's immediately followed by episode two in which the prime minister is looking to appoint a new EU commissioner and her old mentor Bent Sejro (the terrific Lars Knutzon, probably the best actor on the show) whom she so callously discarded to save her own skin at the end of the last series is an obvious candidate. Meanwhile, spin-doctor Kasper prepares to move into a designer apartment with girlfriend Lotte. And, Katrine and Hanne Holm have become good colleagues at the newspaper, after realising they are united in their journalistic principles. It's great to have a drama of such maturity, intelligence and quality back. Proper grown-up telly.

In David Attenborough's Galapagos - 8:00 Sky1 - the broadcasting legend is on the telly for the second time this week, this time to reveal how life has learned to adapt quickly in the ever-changing volcanic landscape, resulting in species which exist nowhere else in the world. David investigates the driving forces behind their evolution, exploring the appearance and behaviour of remarkable creatures and vegetation including giant whale sharks, marine iguanas and seemingly normal dandelion seeds that grow into plants the size of trees.

Sunday 6 January
Back for its twentieth - and, sadly, final - series is a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, Time Team - 5:25 Channel Four. Tony Robinson his very self and the team explore a site at Brancaster in Norfolk that is believed to have been a Roman 'shore fort', and possibly a key military outpost. They amass two thousand five hundred finds - their biggest-ever number - which provide information on contemporary decorative arts, sport and much more, and also undertake a high-definition geophysics survey which generates enough data to crash the computers. The biggest surprise reveals evidence of a high level of trade with the local population, and clues as to how Britons living near the site benefited financially from the Roman presence.

A toy-maker is beaten to death for a mysterious brass box and a few pennies, with the finger of suspicion pointing to a fourteen-year-old boy who refuses to deny the charge in the second episode of Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1. However, orphanage governess Deborah Goren convinces Reid of the boy's innocence and he begins to dig deeper, bringing him face to face with a vicious child gang and its brutal master. Meanwhile, Jackson's gambling has led to the loss of the pendant which ties him to his American past - a past he and Long Susan now fear will be exposed by this turn of events. On the evidence of the opening episode, rather decent Victorian crime thriller, guest starring Joseph Gilgun, with regulars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Lucy Cohu and Myanna Buring.

ITV are also getting in on the Victorian drama scene. Mr Selfridge - 9:00 - is an Andrew Davies-scripted drama based on the life of American retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly (formerly Coronation Street's Becky McDonald). Harry arrives in London in 1908 with a grand plan - to open the biggest and finest department store in the world, and to do it within the year. With a frosty reception from the British press, the last-minute departure of a business partner and an ever-growing staff already on the payroll, not to mention his wife and family arriving from the US, the pressure is on for Harry to complete the project on time. As opening day approaches, he pulls out all the stops to achieve his dream - whatever the cost. With Frances O'Connor, Trystan Gravelle, Aisling Loftus and Ideal's Tom Goodman-Hill.

Oh crap, just when you though it was safe to come out from behind the sofa, Twatting About On Ice is back - 8:30 ITV. Run for the hills. The alleged 'celebrities' taking part this year have done all they can to show viewers they deserve to remain in the competition, and now the two who gained the least support have to skate again. For their lives. Or something. Phillip Schofield and that witless and Curiously Orange Bleakley woman then reveal who has made it through - and which contestant has fallen at the first hurdle and will be eaten by a polar bear. As if anybody with half a frigging brain in their skulls actually gives a stuff about tedious, wretched lowest-common-denominator crap like this. Beth Tweddle is, apparently, the early favourite to win the series, Mainly because she's one of the few 'celebrities' taking part who most people have actually heard of.

Monday 7 January
Cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to document the lives of a polar bear and her two cubs over the course of three seasons in The Polar Bear Family and Me - 9:30 BBC2. In spring, he and a team of arctic survival experts manage to find a birth den and meet mother Lyra and offspring Miki and Luca as they emerge from it. Gordon then helps scientists fit the adult with a tracking collar and tests a bear-proof filming hide as he takes on the mission of living with the family.

The long-running detective drama Lewis returns for its final season - 9:00 ITV. Lewis and Hathaway struggle to unravel psychologist Reuben Beatty's baffling double life after he is murdered while moonlighting as a psychic. Sanjeev Bhaskar guest stars in the first of a two-part episode, with Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox.

To mark fifty years since the pre-eminent current affairs programme was first broadcast, and as a reminder that ITV used to make worthwhile, relevant, cutting-edge current affairs programmes instead of stinking steam of witless talent shows and crass, lowest-common-denominator celebrity tripe that passes for their output these days, The World in Action Years - 10:35 - is a tribute which looks back on its most memorable moments and investigations.
From Mick Jagger discussing his 1967 drug conviction to the long - and, eventually successful - campaign to free the Birmingham Six. Contributors include film directors Michael Apted and Paul Greengrass, who began their careers at World in Action, Matthew Parris and Adam Holloway MP, who both worked as special reporters, ex-joint editor, later BBC director general John Birt and the series' longest-serving editor, Ray Fitzwalter. Narrated by John Hurt. Top theme tune, too.

Tuesday 8 January
There's a real battle of hearts and minds going on tonight. On BBC1 at 9:00 there's the return of Death in Paradise, the witty drama about a fish-out-of-water British detective working on a Caribbean island. When the owner of a sugar plantation is discovered dead with a machete in his back, DI Poole and his team have a seemingly impossible case to solve. There are numerous suspects, including the victim's alcoholic ex-wife and much younger widow, but they all have seemingly cast-iron alibis - and many were with one another when the murder took place. There's also the annual voodoo festival going on, much to Richard's alarm. Picturesque crime drama, starring the excellent Ben Miller, along with Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules and Gary Carr and with guest appearances by Stephanie Beacham, James Cosmo and Silent Witness's Tom Ward.

Yer actual Dara O Briain and Professor Brian Cox his very self return for further exploration of the night sky in the third series of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. They begin with the search for evidence of life on Mars and ask viewers to help investigate an uncharted area of the planet's surface. Liz Bonnin reports live from NASA mission control to reveal the latest findings of the Curiosity rover. Mark Thompson offers tips on how to observe the moons of Jupiter. Followed immediately by Stargazing Live: Back To Earth - 9:00 - in which Coxy, Dara, Thommo and their guests return for an extra half-hour of chat, debate and audience participation celebrating all things astronomical from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.

Yer actual Richard E Grant follows the footsteps of artists who lived and painted on France's Côte d'Azur, renowned for its sunny climate in The Riviera: A History in Pictures - 9:00 BBC4. The first edition focuses on the relationship between modern art and the location's development as an international tourist haven. Cezanne, Monet and Renoir were captivated by the light and colour of the landscape in the Nineteenth Century and their resultant work advertised the region's beauty. Meanwhile, the area's vivid hues inspired Henri Matisse to adopt a new palette that set modern art on the route to abstraction.
Don't Blame Facebook - 10:00 Channel Four - is a documentary tracking down people across the UK who have made extraordinary blunders on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, revealing the potential dangers of sharing too much information online. Stories include the friends arrested on terror charges at a US airport after a 'joke' tweet, the McDonald's employee who went to jail after hacking an international superstar's Facebook page and the model arrested in her pyjamas after police burst into her home investigating claims she was harassing a celebrity.

Wednesday 9 January
Cox and Dara explain how it is possible to chart the history of the universe by looking millions of light years out into the depths of space, while Mark Thompson reveals what can be learned from the colours of the stars in the second episode of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. At NASA, meanwhile, yer actual Liz Bonnin her very self meets the team building the largest space telescope in the world, an instrument that will be one hundred times more powerful than the Hubble.

Comedians Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke - one of whom is far funnier than the other - head to Bolivia for a high-altitude trip, first driving along the infamous 'Road of Death' (you know, the one Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slow went - very slowly - along in that Top Gear Bolivia special last year), only to find themselves deep in bandit country in World's Most Dangerous Roads - 9:30 BBC2. Disorientation takes them by surprise as they have to navigate Salar de Uyuni - a salt lake so vast that Buzz Aldrin could see it from space. Their goal is the ancient mountain city of Potosi, whose silver mines financed the Spanish empire in the Sixteenth Century and which is almost five thousand metres above sea level. Last in the current series.

Spies of Warsaw - 9:00 BBC4 - is Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' much-anticipated two-part adaptation of Alan Furst's spy novel set in Poland, Paris, London and Berlin in the years leading up to the Second World War. It is 1937 and at the French embassy in Warsaw, new military attaché Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier is drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of the city. At the same time, the handsome aristocrat finds himself in a passionate love affair with Anna, a Parisian lawyer for the League of Nations. Their complicated liaison intensifies as German tanks drive through the Black Forest. Starring former national heartthrob David Tennant (and, given that Dan Stevens' star is currently buried under the tears of several million quiche-eating middle-class wankers, the situation might be vacant once again, Dave) and Janet Montgomery.

In On the Verge of a Midlife Crisis with Sharon Horgan - 10:00 Channel Four - the actress and comedy writer meets six women who have gone through midlife crises to find out what happened and how they coped. Among them are Gaynor, whose husband left her for the woman next door; businesswoman Nicky, who experienced several tragedies but managed to reinvent herself as she approached forty and divorcee Leila, whose desire to have a child has led her to undergo artificial insemination using sperm donors.

Thursday 10 January The hugely popular crime drama Silent Witness returns - 9:00 BBC1 - with five two-part stories, and with a new member of the team as pathologists Leo Dalton and Nikki Alexander are joined by forensic scientist Jack Hodgson. An ageing confectionery company owner is found dead in his London hotel suite, and while Nikki tries to convince the sceptical DS Gold he was murdered, several businessmen begin to circle as it turns out the dead man was losing a desperate fight to prevent the sale of his company to investors. Emilia Fox, William Gaminara and David Caves star, with guest appearances by Tim Pigott-Smith, Sharon Small and Priyanga Burford. Continues tomorrow.

On the final night of their astronomical adventure, Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain discuss meteors, comets and asteroids, and examine what the study of them reveals about the origins of life in the last of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. Liz Bonnin meets the NASA team tasked with tracking any space objects on a collision course with Earth, and Brian and Dara announce the results of the experiment carried out by viewers to explore an uncharted area on the surface of Mars.

Once essential viewing but now, sadly, jaded, washed-up and a right load of old frigging toot and as dreary as a fart in a spacesuit, Location, Location, Location is back - 8:00 Channel Four. Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer help find a property for first-time buyers Mike Richie and girlfriend Katy Roberts, who have recently returned from a ten-month period of globetrotting and want to settle down in Leeds. Meanwhile, Ann-Marie McCullough and partner Lee Connolly hope to swap life in the city for a three-bedroom period home, so the experts take them to nearby Ilkley and Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

Friday 11 January
The Culture Show's Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli go on a tour of the country in Italy Unpacked - 9:00 BBC2 - the sequel to last year's popular Sicily Unpacked. The begin in Emilia-Romagna - one of the richest and most fertile regions in Italy. The pair start in Bologna, visiting the oldest university in the world, the still-thriving traditional shops and the town's art institutions. Nice work if you can get it! They see the legacy of the House of Este dynasty in Ferrara and then head to Modena, home of a famous balsamic vinegar and Ferrari cars. In Parma, Giorgio admires an original manuscript of a best-selling cook book first published in 1891, while Andrew admires an innovative fresco in the cathedral dome.

Great Night Out - 9:00 ITV - is a comedy about four thirtysomething men who gather for a weekly night on the tiles in Stockport, as they try to help each other solve problems surrounding work, romance and family. Would-be alpha male Hodge narrowly dodges wife Kath's fury after botching the plans for their wedding anniversary party - and then he and the other lads get waylaid on the way to the venue after stopping to help a worse-for-wear companion. Starring Lee Boardman, William Ash, Craig Parkinson and Stephen Walters.

And, finally, Stephen Fry has a 'jolly' good time in the company of Julia Zemiro, Tim Vine, Rob Brydon and Alan Davies in the second to last episode of the current series of Qi - 10:00 BBC2.

So to the news: The broadcaster Michael Buerk has criticised the BBC's coverage of the Queen's diamond jubilee, saying it was 'cringingly inept' and had left him ashamed. Yep. Sounds about right. The former BBC foreign correspondent and newsreader said what should have been 'a celebration' instead became an event in which 'the one enduring British institution was mocked by another that had shamefully lost its way.' Probably also true. In an end-of-year commentary for the Scum Mail on Sunday, Buerk, sixty six, singled out the corporation's coverage of the Thames river pageant for particular ire, and was scathing about the BBC presenters' performances. 'Out on the water, a tribute to the Monarch that resonated back to the Middle Ages, rich in historical continuities, a floating salute to past glory and present fortitude. On the screen, a succession of daytime airheads preened themselves, or gossiped with even more vacuous D-list "celebrities,"' he wrote. 'With barely an exception, they were cringingly inept. Nobody knew anything and nobody cared. The main presenter couldn't even work out what to call the Queen.' He continued: 'The Dunkirk Little Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country's bravest hour, were ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could talk to transvestites in Battersea Park. I was so ashamed of the BBC I would have wept if I hadn't been so angry,' said Buerk, who now presents BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze. Although, for how much longer after getting into bed with the enemy in such a way is probably a question worth asking. This celebration of 'what the country was' had been 'betrayed' by 'what it is now,' he said. In an attack on George Entwistle – then head of BBC Vision, who resigned as director-general after fifty four days – he said the worst thing was the coverage was 'deliberate,' designed to be 'light' and 'inclusive. The BBC actually congratulated itself, and the executive ultimately responsible was promptly promoted to become the most disastrous director-general in the corporation's history.' Buerk, whose harrowing reports of the Ethiopian famine in 1984 prompted Saint Bob Geldof to launch Band Aid, also expressed dismay and disdain at the state of Britain in general in a typically Daily Scum Mail 'the world was better when we were running things' rant. It was, he said, a society 'becoming more divided' with each passing year; a lonelier and more unequal society where social mobility 'hasn't just seized up' but in 2012 had actually gone 'into reverse.' More people were financially squeezed, while 'senior executives pay soars and, even at the top of public service organisation such as the BBC, fortunes are flung at failures.' A 'cultural elite' was at odds with the 'values of those outside its own self-referential inner circle.' While the celebrity culture 'may make a few talentless yobs famous,' the privately educated were 'still commanding the heights of British life. A third of the House of Commons went to public schools. So did nine out of ten judges and one in three medical students. The arts, low and high, are dominated by them. The BBC is a private-school old boys' and girls' association. They edit most newspapers, even the Leftish Daily Mirror and the Guardian,' he wrote. He condemned a widening of the North-South divide. Of London, he wrote, 'you feel the only way to hear English spoken is to hail a taxi. The property is being bought up by Russian crooks, Greek tax-dodgers and Arabs escaping their summer or, more likely their spring. This year, I don't think I met a single English person serving in a West End pub, restaurant or sandwich bar.' He was not complaining, he wrote - although it very much sounded as though he was - because they were cheerful, hard-working and ambitious, 'everything many of their British counterparts are not.' The truth was that the summer was an illusion. 'We are not a united kingdom, we are not "all in this together."' Crikey. There's a message of cheer and goodwill for all the land. The former 999 presenter is well known for his outspoken comments. In 2005, he hit the headlines when he complained that the 'shift in the balance of power between the sexes' had gone too far, and, in a Radio Times interview, he once said men had been reduced to 'sperm donors.' Turning to 2013, Buerk said it was 'not just seasonally appropriate but wonderfully paradoxical' that 'redemption' from the pervasive gloom would come in the form of a royal baby. 'What the Olympics was to 2012, the royal heir will be to 2013,' he wrote. 'Maybe the BBC will even get its title right.' So ... not a particularly happy chap is yer man Buerk, by the sound of things.

A rare copy of the first Beatles LP signed by all four members of the Top Beat Combo has finally been sold - for the sum rejected at auction in Sussex a few weeks earlier. And, it was only in mono. Chris Collins, from Eastbourne, and his sister, Liz Chambers, from Worthing, initially turned down a twelve grand bid for a copy of the LP, Please Please Me. They had hoped, greedily, to get fifteen thousand smackers for the LP, which was given to their late father but, amusingly, didn't. However, the siblings have now accepted twelve thousand notes from a private buyer. With more money than sense, by the sound of things. The LP was signed by alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon, Paul McCartney (the talented one), the late George Harrison (the other talented one) and so-called Ringo Starr after they used it as a drinks coaster during a card game in 1963 with fellow Merseybeat band Freddie & The Dreamers. Arthur Collins ran the Normandie Hotel in London, where the two groups were staying and was given the LP when they left as a memento. Collins had played the record repeatedly - as you're meant to do with a record, y'berks - until 'an expert' revealed that because of its provenance - and the fact that it had the rarer black-and-gold label - it was worth 'a substantial amount.' The LP promptly went into Collins's sock drawer until his children finally put it up for sale, at Campbell's auction house in Worthing, just before Christmas. It was withdrawn from sale after failing to reach its fifteen thousand knicker reserve price, but a spokesman for Campbell's said: 'The record has now sold for a hammer price of twelve thousand pounds, to a private buyer.' Please Please Me was The Beatles' first LP, released in March 1963 and was a massive seller. The earliest copies had black with gold lettering Parlophone labels and are now considerably more valuable than the subsequent versions, featuring yellow or silver lettering. Early - 1963 vintage - stereo copies of the LP with the black and gold label are particularly sought after by collectors. One of those probably would have got the sought-after fifteen grand. And more.

And, on that bombshell, here's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. The really rare one.

No comments: