Saturday, December 15, 2012

Week Fifty Two (And A Bit): Christmas Is Coming, The Geese Are Getting Fat

BBC America have released a new trailer for The Snowmen, featuring a number of different clips to the trailer which aired on BBC1 this week.
And, on that tasty bombshell, here's yer actual Crimbo Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 22 December
Yer actual Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly her very self present the eagerly anticipated final of Strictly Come Dancing - 6:30 BBC1, the climax of a series that has seen slips, trips, a flying bicycle and even a smidgen of dancing on the judges' table. There has also been plenty of bickering between the fearsome foursome, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Darcey Bussell, while the celebrities have faced their demons on the dance floor to tackle a range of ballroom and Latin routines. Tonight will be no less daunting, with the show dance offering each of the four remaining couples the chance to include lifts, tricks and signature moves in a bid to win over the voting public, while the judges are on hand to give their verdicts on the performances. The results can be seen at 8.50pm. The standard of dancing in this series has been pretty good, even if Jerry Hall did only ponce about like she owned the place with a look on her face like she'd just smelled some shit nearby and Victoria Pendleton, bless 'er, spent all eight weeks on the show looking desperate to get on her bike before she tripped over her own feet. So those hoping for allegedly 'entertaining' Ann Widdecombe-style 'elephantine galumphing', Russell Grant panto-caper stomping or John Sergeant dragging poor Kristina around the dace floor like a sack of potatoes will have been disappointed. And some of the dancing has been exquisite. Denise Van Outen, Kimberley Walsh, Louis Smith and Dani Harmer have consistently given us marvellous performances. And Big Fat Cuddly Lisa Whatsherface off Emmerdale was, at least, moderately entertaining. For the first time in Strictly's history there will be four couples, not three, competing tonight. As always with the final, the judges can say whatever they like, it doesn't matter. Their votes count for nothing, so it's down to viewers to decide who will be waltzing off with the title.
Fantasy fans, prepare yourselves for some tear-shedding, for 'the destiny of a great kingdom' is about to be decided in Merlin - 7:55. Just as the closing chapters of Harry Potter signalled that playtime was, very much, over, so this fifth and final series of Merlin has darkened its approach. And now things get really serious. In the penultimate episode of the magical adventure series, Morgana prepares to wage war on Camelot with Mordred at her side, while Merlin finds the burden of his destiny weighing heavily as the ancient prophecies play out with unnerving accuracy. It soon becomes clear that the young wizard must find a way to save himself before he can help his allies bring about the salvation of his beloved kingdom and Arthur. High in the mountains, meanwhile, Morgana musters her war-hungry hordes. At her side is her new ally but Camelot is not her only target. She also means to do away with Emrys the sorcerer, Merlin's peevish but powerful counterpart. It should be a spellbinding climax on Christmas Eve.

Mark Radcliffe digs deep, deep, deep into the BBC archives to select ninety minutes of festive treats in Top of the Pops 2: Christmas 2012 - 8:00 BBC2. Although something of a comedown from last year's special which had that exclusive decently recovered clip of Bowie and the Spiders playing 'The Jean Genie' live, this episode still includes numerous perennial Christmas favourites from Slade (cos, let's face it, it's wouldn't be 'iiiiiiiit's Christmas!' without yer actual Noddy's top hat, massive sideburns and gurning boat-race on yer telly, would it?), Wizzard, Shakin' Stevens, Wham!, Paul McCartney, Jona Lewie and The Wombles. Most with Marky's trademark pithy sarcasm drizzled all over them like gravy on the turkey. There are also songs by The Ramones and almost-supergroup The Greedy Bastards, which featured Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott and Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols. They wished as a merry Christmas. And a happy new year. There's also as a song by French chanteuse Francoise Hardy, and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's performance of 'Silent Night' from 1964. And a spot of - desperately forced - yuletide 'fun' (it says here) with thoroughly worthless hits by The Snowmen and The Barron Knights. Last, but by no means least, Mikey Dread wishes everyone a Reggae Reggae Christmas. Irie.

Gurning professional Northern buffoon Paddy McGuinness - what the hell does he actually do to justify his existence? - hosts an utterly pointless celebrity quiz Paddy's 2012 Show and Telly - 8:00 ITV - in which three pairs of, allegedly, 'familiar faces' answer questions about the past year's dramas, documentaries, sporting moments, comedies and game shows. Strictly Come Dancing's Denise Van Outen and Nicky Byrne, TV presenter horrible Kate Garraway and newsreader Nicholas Owen and Coronation Street's Antony Cotton and Chris Fountain face a series of elimination rounds as they battle to win up to twenty thousand notes for charrridddeee. But, they don't like to talk about it. Come on, guys, you're all stinking rich couldn't you just get together and give twenty grand out of your own pockets so we, the viewers, don't have to sit through a pile of wretched banal horseshit like this? An utter pox on this tripe and every single person involved in it.

Arena: Screen Goddesses - 9:00 BBC4 - charts the Hollywood studio era from its beginning through to its collapse in the early 1960s, and through the meteoric rise and fall of the screen goddesses that made it. With the beginning of Hollywood around 1910, the star system was born, with an archetypal bad girl - the vampish Theda Bara - and the good girl – the blazingly sincere Lillian Gish. From the 1920s, the female stars most remembered today are the vivacious 'It' Girl Clara Bow and the seductive siren Louise Brooks; but none made the impact of German born, Marlene Dietrich, an icon of mystery or The Great Garbo with perfect features and gloomy introspection. From the power of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to the beauty and seductiveness of Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, Hollywood studios produced their own brand of beautiful, sassy and confident women. But it wasn't to last. The programme uses film extracts and archive footage to chronicle an era that drew to a close with the supreme fame of Elizabeth Taylor and the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe. It will chart those final days of the reign of the goddess on the big screen - screen queens whose images will last forever. Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern.

Sunday 23 December
Loving Miss Hatto - 8:30 BBC1 - Drama about classical pianist Joyce Hatto, written by odious, full-of-her-own-nasty-importance Victoria Wood (so, that's one very good reason for not watching it). The story begins in early-1950s London, when Joyce met her future husband William Barrington-Coupe, and traces their love story through the next fifty years. With his wife stricken by cancer, record producer William released other musicians' work under her name, actions which resulted in one of the biggest music frauds ever perpetuated. Loving Miss Hatto is a story of devotion and tenderness between, when we first see them, the young Joyce (Maimie McCoy), a hard-working concert pianist, and William (the excellent Rory Kinnear), a charmer and well-meaning wide boy who gets into 'muddles', one of which even leads to a spell in prison. After a disastrous Royal Festival Hall appearance, we leap forward to 2002 when the older Joyce (Francesca Annis) and Wiliam (Alfred Molina) live a quiet suburban life of natural history documentaries, macaroni cheese and cakes as special treats. But William changes their lives dramatically with a wheeze that gets Joyce the worldwide recognition they both think she has always deserved.

There’s something irresistible about yer actual James May. You sense that he's never anything other than utterly devoted to whichever bonkers project is next on his multi-to-do list. Witness this 'flight club' special of the excellent James May's Toy Stories - 9:00 BBC2 - in which he helps build a toy glider to fly the twenty two miles across the channel to France. The necessary ingredients for compelling Boys' Own TV are all balsa wood — more than a thousand pieces of it — glue and the chance to have a a bit of a pop at the French. Well, it's a national pass time, isn't it? And, if that doesn't sound sexy enough, there's a helicopter pilot called Tom who enjoys a passing resemblance to Top Gun's Mr Cruise. The Top Gear presenter investigates the enduring appeal of the model aeroplane and sets out with the intention of achieving the first powered flight across the English Channel by an engineless, home-made supersized toy - breaking the British distance record in the process. During his quest, James turns Indiana Jones to unearth surprising new evidence identifying children as the true pioneers of flight and wrestles with an underperforming craft which threatens to barely leave the ground. James's cheery enthusiasm, the soaring beauty of his glider and a script that utilises every comedic opportunity — 'more craftwork than a German night club' is a particular favourite of this blogger — prove to be a charming combination. A bit like James himself, really. A lovely antidote to the earnest (albeit, well-acted) bollocks Victoria Wood is serving up on the other side.

Whether she's marvelling at the Northern Lights (eventually) or perspiring gently as she sails along the River Nile, Joanna Lumley is always a pleasant travelling companion, charming everyone she meets with her easy-going, posh-bird antics. And, Joanna Lumley: The Search for Noah's Ark - 9:00 ITV - sees her meeting lots of people. For centuries, the possible (historical, as opposed to mythical) existence of Noah's Ark has fascinated many, from the explorer Marco Polo to the oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic. In this documentary, Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna takes a journey from the British Museum into the heart of India, Turkey and Oman as she tries to uncover the truth behind the myths and track down what is thought to be the biblical vessel's final resting place. Along the way, she investigates claims that it has already been found, tells the story of the flood and asks why the Ark is so important, not only to people of faith, but also to respected scientists and archaeologists. She's exploring the origins of the ancient tale about Noah and the Ark, a story which unites people and religions all over the world. It involves an epic journey from the slopes of Mount Ararat in Turkey to India and finally Oman as she unearths a significant number of scientific facts to back up what some dismiss as a fairy story. Not just a physical search for the ship, it's more about the symbolism of the story and our need to believe in it.

As Homeland hurtles towards its conclusion - 9:00 Channel Four - it's time to forget the niggles from the naysayers and focus. Yes, there may have been odd moments when a plotline derailed or the emotional clockwork lost a cog. But Homeland's writers set the bar very high. They respect the conventions of TV storytelling about as much as Carrie does the CIA rulebook. And when, occasionally, they leave the actors stranded (Brody risibly trying to stifle the bomb-maker in the woods whilst on the phone to his wife? The baffling stab-in-the-hand scene?), the cast is so good they carry us through. Particularly Mandy Patinkin, the best actor in a terrific ensemble cast. For tonight's finale everyone’s got their work cut out. Could it be the end of the line for Brody? And has Carrie finally come face-to-face with her undoing? A feature-length conclusion of the second series of the EMMy award-winning thriller. Carrie thinks about returning to the CIA, but wonders if a career in the intelligence service is really for her, and Brody meets with Faber and considers his family's future. Meanwhile, Saul is ordered to undertake a secret mission and Quinn makes a momentous decision.

A stellar cast of Hugh Bonneville, David Walliams, Sheridan Smith, Johnny Vegas and Pudsey the dog, star in Mr Stink - 6:30 BBC1 - a magical, heart-warming and funny tale, adapted from Walliams' bestselling children's book. Written by Walliams himself with Simon Nye, this sixty-minute family comedy tells the story of lonely twelve-year-old Chloe (Nell Tiger Free), who invites local tramp Mr Stink (Bonneville) and his dog Duchess to shelter in her family's garden shed. Chloe also has to cope with an overbearing mum (Smith) who is more interested in her own political ambitions and her infatuation with the Prime Minister (Walliams), than her daughter. 'Perfect' younger sister Annabelle (Isabella Blake-Thomas) and nasty girls at school also make Chloe's life miserable. Chloe's only allies are her put-upon dad (Vegas) who is harbouring a secret of his own, and newsagent Raj (Harish Patel). But Chloe soon discovers she is not the only one harbouring a secret and there is certainly more to Mr Stink than meets the eye. Or nose, for that matter.

Monday 24 December
The Brockman family have decided to foster a sense of community by throwing a Christmas party for their neighbours in the Christmas special of Outnumbered - 9:35 BBC1. However, as expected, festivities do not go as smoothly as planned. They are visited by some colourful guests, including, among others, an opinionated neighbour, a traumatised ex-weatherman and that most unwelcome of guests, a seasonal gastric virus.
It may be a time for peace and goodwill, but there is trouble brewing in the Brown household this Christmas as we discover in Mrs Brown's Boys - 10:15 BBC1. With the festive season fast approaching, Agnes finds herself facing her busiest Christmas yet. Spiritual son Trevor is visiting from the missions, grandson Bono is sleeping over on Christmas Eve, and there are three new faces to feed on Christmas Day now that Agnes's youngest son Dermot is the father of triplets. But first things first – Agnes must finish the simple task of decorating the tree. And it seems as though Christmas in the Brown household is only going to get busier. When visiting, priest Father Damien announces that the Finglas Nativity play has been cancelled. Agnes vows to stage a Nativity play of her own in the local community centre. However, she meets stiff resistance from Father Damien, who is wary of meddling mothers like Agnes and refuses to ask permission from the Bishop. But nobody says 'no' to the formidable Agnes Brown. Cathy is furious when she discovers that Agnes has been reading her mail and decides to play a prank on her interfering mother. Convinced that she has been entered into a 'Best Christmas Mother' competition, Agnes starts being unusually nice to everyone – even Granddad! And Cathy isn't the only one playing tricks. Agnes gets her hilarious revenge on Dermot's snooty mother-in-law Hillary Nicholson after she scoffs at the idea of Agnes playing the Virgin Mary. Plus there are plenty of other Christmas crises for the Brown family. Who will Buster and Dermot get to play Santa in their Christmas Grotto? Will Rory take Dino to the hairdressing award ceremony? But most importantly - will Agnes ever get to play the Virgin Mary?

The Snowman and the Snowdog - 8:00 Channel Four - is the much-anticipated animated sequel to Raymond Briggs' classic festive tale The Snowman, telling the story of another youngster's magical Christmas. A boy's snowman and snowdog come to life at the stroke of midnight and take him on an adventure to the North Pole, where he and his new companions meet an assortment of colourful characters, including Santa himself, before returning home - where a wonderful surprise awaits.

In the final episode of Stephen Fry: Gadget Man - 8:30 Channel Four - the actor and broadcaster explores links between the festive season and technology, delving into the archives to find must-have products from past Christmases. After taking a wry look at toys and decorations, he also finds time to review a selection of the latest gadgets and draw up a wish list for Santa.
And, it simply wouldn't be Christmas without a decent slice of Eric and Ernie. In Morecambe & Wise: Song and Dance - 7:30 BBC2 - yer actual Penelope Keith presents a look through the archives (or, you know, 'a clip show' in other words) at the music routines from the comedy duo's programmes, showcasing the best ones and revealing the stories behind them. Memorable productions from their shows included a parody of Singin' in the Rain, a chorus line of male BBC presenters taking on 'There Is Nothing Like a Dame' from the musical South Pacific and newsreader Angela Rippon famously stepping out from behind her desk to perform a high-kicking dance. What do you think of it so far?

Tuesday 25 December
Christmas Eve 1892, and the falling snow is the stuff of fairytales. But when the fairytale suddenly becomes a nightmare and a chilling menace threatens Earth, an unorthodox young governess, Clara, calls on The Doctor for help in the annual festive episode of Doctor Who - The Snowmen - at the earlier than usual time of 5:15 BBC1. Unfortunately, The Doctor is walking around with a face like a smacked-arse, in mourning for friends lost, reclusive and determined not to engage in the problems of the universe any more since it's too much like hard work. As old friends return, will The Doctor really abandon humanity, or will he fight to save the world and Christmas from the icy clutches of this mysterious menace?
Yer actual Steven Moffat his very self writes the script, Jenna Louise-Coleman makes her (second) debut in the series, Richard E Grant curls his top lip with the best of them and, of course, Matt Smith saves Christmas. Some things never change. On opposite You've Been Framed!, Emmerdale and Paul O'Grady: For The Love of Dogs. No contest.

Before that, there's the premier of the half-hour animated film Room On The Broom - 4:35 BBC1 - based on the magical children's picture book written by Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Room On The Broom is an enchanting tale about friendship and family from Magic Light Pictures, the producers of the hugely successful The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child. It tells the story about a witch who invites a surprising collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat. The gang ultimately saves the witch from a fearsome dragon, and in gratitude she rewards them with a magnificent new broom which has room for everyone. The film is narrated by Simon Pegg and the six characters are voiced by stellar acting talent - Gillian Anderson as The Witch, Rob Brydon as The Cat, Martin Clunes as The Dog, Sally Hawkins as The Bird, David Walliams as The Frog and Timothy Spall as The dastardly Dragon.

The rest of the BBC1 Christmas Day line-up is pretty much what you'd expect, the Strictly Christmas extravaganza (6:15), a Call The Midwife special (7:30), EastEnders (8:45) and the, much-anticipated Royle Family special (9:45). In the latter, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Royle's and Barbara has gone overboard with the presents. 'If you can't spoil your family at Christmas, when can you?' she asks, having spent a whole two hours in Poundland! A new neighbour moves onto the street with an impressive cleavage, but will she be welcome on the sofa? In a flash of seasonal entrepreneurial spirit, Dave reveals the idea he intends to pitch to Dragons' Den. Will it take off and make them rich? Or is Jim's scratch card more likely to bring in the Christmas cheer? Joe next door is looking for love, and places an advert in the Lonely Hearts column, 'Vacant Lady Wanted.' Who could possibly resist? Tonight's Qi XL is the extended version of the Christmas episode first shown on 21 December and featuring Sarah Millican, Phill Jupitus and the legend that is Danny Baker. The BBC1's entire schedule appears to have been driven by the wish to avoid a direct clash between Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey - 8:45 ITV - hence Doctor Who and Strictly's ridiculously early start times, all to accommodate Lord Snooty's massively over-rated costume drama. Robert and his family make their annual summer visit to his Scottish cousins at Duneagle Castle, leaving most of their servants at home. Edith discovers newspaper editor Michael Gregson is also on holiday in the area and may not be there just for the sketching and fishing, while personal servant O'Brien finds a kindred spirit below stairs in the form of her opposite number. Meanwhile, at Downton, Carson faces the task of keeping the staff focused on their work polishing the silverware and cleaning, but with the Granthams hundreds of miles away, minds begin to wander to other things, including the forthcoming Thirsk Country Fair. Yeah. Sounds effing riveting.

For the cultured among you, Darcey Bussell presents a production of the classic ballet Swan Lake by The Kirov Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, conducted by Russian maestro Valery Gergiev - 8:00 BBC4. Ulyana Lopatkina takes the demanding dual role of Odette the enchanted swan maiden and Odile, her black-clad rival.
BBC2's Christmas Day is mostly repeats of classic comedy (Dad's Army, Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Qi XL) and the recent Richard Hammond-fronted Top Gear Bond Cars special. However, there is one unexpected treat (albeit, it's on opposite Doctor Who so it'll probably have an audience of about six). The arresting sight of art critic Sister Wendy Beckett - all teeth and glasses - burst on to our screens in the 1990's. An instant TV star, she glided around the world in her habit telling us the story of painting. But she revealed nothing of her own, extraordinary story. Was she in fact a real nun? How did she know so much about art? And how could this consecrated virgin and hermit justify appearing on television and keep her rule of silence? Arena goes in search of the real Wendy, who, at eighty two, talks frankly and humorously about her life – and death ('not too long now, I hope!') for the first time in Sister Wendy And The Art Of The Gospel - 5:25 BBC2. The film's director, Randall Wright, met Wendy over twenty years ago, living in a caravan in the middle of a wood, abiding by a strict timetable of nightly prayer. That meeting led to her hugely popular TV art programmes, but while they told us a great deal about art they told us little about her. Now Wright revisits Sister Wendy to offer her the chance to make a film on her own terms. Her Carmelite monastery gave Arena unprecedented access to their grounds in Quidenham, Norfolk, where Sister Wendy still follows her strict and eccentric regime: praying every night for six hours from midnight, then joining the other Sisters for mass via electric scooter. Sister Rachael is the former prioress at the monastery: 'I would say if you expressed it in the old jargon, she could read souls.' Typically, Sister Wendy set her own unusual ground rules for the programme: she would – albeit reluctantly - talk about her own life, but also wanted to share with us a carefully chosen selection of paintings by the greatest old masters – mostly in the National Gallery and the Louvre – in an attempt to connect us to the big emotional insights in the Gospel stories they depict. These are the stories that are at the core of her faith and have formed her unique rebellious spirit. Yet these same stories - that were once universally familiar - and formed the moral template of Western civilisation – are now largely forgotten. 'I have noticed it in museums,' she says: 'People looking at the kind of Christian stories that they would have been told in Sunday school in the past. Now they just don't know.' As we rediscover both the stories and the paintings, we also discover how Wendy found God, aged four, sitting under a table. How she left her parents aged sixteen – without a backward glance - to become a nun. She tells us she has never experienced sexual feelings, and so felt being a nun was no real sacrifice. She reveals how her first job, as a teaching nun, led to a physical and nervous breakdown. And how living as a hermit ironically gave her the strength to face the outside world again, and encourage people towards the beauty of art.

Wednesday 26 December
Toby Jones and Sienna Miller star in the much-trailed The Girl - 9:00 BBC2 - a one-off drama based on the story of director Alfred Hitchcock's obsession with Tippi Hedren, leading lady of his 1963 thriller The Birds and the following year's Marnie. The film-maker, off the back of his cause célèbre Psycho, was at the height of his fame when he chose the fashion model to star in his latest production, but as he sculpted Hedren into the perfect Hitchcock blonde of his imagination, he became obsessed with the impossible dream of winning the real woman's love. His failure pitched them both into an emotional nightmare and damaged both of their careers. Screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes has interviewed Hedren and surviving members of Hitchcock's crew. Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton co-star.

Bored millionaire Mike Mackenzie is a man with a broken heart and too much time on his hands, as we discover in the initial scenes of the drama Doors Open - 9:00 ITV. Incensed by wealthy patrons hiding works of art away in private collections, he and two close friends - a professor and a banker - devise a plot to swap priceless masterpieces stored in a gallery's warehouse with near-perfect forgeries. If successful, Mike will save the paintings and might just win back the love of his life, auctioneer Laura Stanton, who left him five years earlier. Thriller based on the book by Ian Rankin, starring Douglas Henshall, Stephen Fry, Kenneth Collard, Lenora Crichlow and Brian McCardie.
Most Shocking Celebrity Moments 2012 - 10:00 Channel Five - is, as you might expect from the title, yet another one of those risible, turgid, shamefully cheap-and-nasty 'list TV' compilations thrown together by some cretin of no importance with the imagination of a frigging mollusc. Anyway, in this might-see moment of TV brilliance, we are promised a 'countdown of the year's biggest showbiz stories,' including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's divorce - which is none of anyone's business except, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would suggest, Mr Cruise and Ms Holmes their very selves. Also, Kristen Stewart's apology to Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson over her affair with director Rupert Sanders (err ... ditto). From the Olympics to The X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother (and, in those last two we get an idea of exactly the shrivelled brain-capacity of the intended audience this horrorshow - and drag - is very much aimed at), the programme features 'all the scandal and gossip on the biggest celebrity moments of the past twelve months.' Sometimes, there simply aren't enough sick bags in the world. With contributions from Jedward(!), Kerry Katona (oh, good Christ almighty, is there any TV show that laughable woman won't appear on to talk about anything and everything but, mostly, herself), Brian Dowling, Christopher Biggins and Olympic long-jump champion Greg Rutherford. Hateful in every way, shape and form. If you even think about the merest possibility of watching this ... things, please do me, and yourself, a favour, and leave this blog never to return. Because, I don't want you.

Penny is threatening to cancel Miranda's Christmas if she does not sort her life out in the start of the long-awaited third series of Miranda - 9:00 BBC1. Amongst other things, Penny forces her daughter on a detox course. Meanwhile, Stevie has a new executive job and Miranda tries to follow her in to an office position but it all proves too much. Meanwhile, are Gary and Miranda able to just be friends? Starring Miranda Hart, Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and Tom Ellis.

Thursday 27 December
Dara O Briain hosts the comedy show Mock The Week - 10:00 BBC2 - in which panellists including Andy Parsons, Hugh Dennis and Chris Addison and some other people 'take a romp through world events' by way of stand-up spots and improvised games. This edition features festive treats, out-takes and ghosts of Christmas specials past. So it's basically just a highlights show - but with added glitter.
The pantomime world comes under the spotlight in Panto! - 9:00 ITV - a festive comedy drama co-written by and starring cheeky chappie gap-toothed Scouser chancer John Bishop. He plays Lewis Loud, Morecambe FM's resident comedy DJ, who is about to make his stage debut as Jack the Lad in Dick Whittington, alongside token soap star Tamsin (Sheridan Smith), whom he has fallen for during rehearsals. But when Lewis's ex-wife delivers his son to the stage door, he realises that he must take his fatherly duties very seriously - which is easier said than done when you're surrounded by chaos and ego, in the shape of veteran actor Johnny, ambitious actress-producer Di and accident-prone 1990s one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes, keen to prove there is more to him than 'The One and Only'. With Samantha Spiro, Mark Benton, Kaye Wragg, Michael Cochrane and Ami Metcalf and co-scripted by Jonathan Harvey.

Len Goodman explores ballroom dancing in the early Twentieth Century, a time when it was considered a radical and trendy form of entertainment in Len Goodman's Dancing Feet: The British Ballroom Story - 9:00 BBC4. The Strictly Come Dancing judge visits Blackpool and joins professional dancer Erin Boag to practise some classic moves, before heading to London where he revisits the Rivoli, his favourite venue from his youth. The presenter also meets singers and musicians who still remember the golden era of ballroom and discovers why rules were introduced to govern steps, movements and music.
What becomes of your life when everything you thought was solid and certain about it turns out to be a fantastically complicated lie? This happens to Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) when, one day in 1976, her mother Sally (Charlotte Rampling) suddenly tells her that she has been living a double life. She is not respectable Sally Gilmartin but in fact Eva Delectorskaya, a spy for the British Secret Service who has been on the run for thirty years in the first of William Boyd's two-part drama Restless - 9:00 BBC1. Eva's story begins in Paris in 1939. The young Eva (played by Hayley Attwell), a beautiful Russian émigrée, is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell), a mysteriously alluring Englishman. As Romer trains Eva to become the perfect spy their love affair begins. When a crucial mission collapses in America and Eva finds herself in terrible, fatal jeopardy she knows that she has no option but to run and hide. But now Sally Gilmartin yearns to end her years of restless watching and waiting. Thirty years on, the only man who can bring this about is her former lover and spymaster, Lucas, now Baron Mansfield of Hampton Cleeve (Michael Gambon), and the only person she can call on for help is her daughter. The final chapter of this epic story of love, duplicity and betrayal is about to end – and who will pay the greatest price remains to be discovered. Looks terrific from the trailer. Concludes tomorrow at 9pm.

Friday 28 December
Tonight's Qi - 10:00 BBC2 - is the first of two compilation episodes of some of the best bits from the most recent series. Another compilation is due next week but there are two further episodes of the series - Just The Job and Jolly - to be scheduled sometime in early 2013.

In All New It'll Be Alright On The Night - 9:00 ITV - Griff Rhys Jones presents another ;'hilarious' (it says here) collection of embarrassing mistakes by some of the biggest names in entertainment including Ant and Dec, Holly Willoughby, Phillip Schofield, Bradley Walsh and Gino D'Acampo. I'm not sure which is the more scary, the thought of Griff gurning his way through an hour of this cock and bull nonsense which was last funny about thirty years ago or the fact that someone considers Gino D'Acampo, fer Christ's sake, to be one of the 'biggest names in entertainment.' Because, whoever that is needs to be kicked, hard, in the knackers until they scream, and they bubble and they beg - beg! - for mercy and promise never to be such an effing stupid glake again. So, yet again here we've got a collection of people in television shows getting their lines wrong or forgetting what they're supposed to say and then exploding in laughter because that's, like, the funniest thing in the whole world that ever there was, isn't it? And, of course, Griff will be pulling his usual schtick of talking incredibly quickly but in that curiously stilted (though not entirely unattractive) way of his and then, seemingly, suddenly realising that he's doing it and slowing ... right ... down ... to ... a ... snail's ... pace. Come on, mate, you're a funny man and a more than decent TV presenter, you're capable of far better than rubbish like this. Another cheapskate pile of utter diarrhoea that, these days, passes for 'entertainment' from the channel that once brought you The Avengers and World In Action. Obscene, so it is.

A Vegas-bound Ric swings by Holby and reveals he has a new job in the Pharma-industry in Holby City - 8:00 BBC1. But, when his expertise is needed on an emergency patient, Ric is drawn in. Can he really leave the hospital behind, and with Imelda on his case, is it too late anyway? As Jac finds herself embroiled in a family crisis, Jonny desperately wants to appeal to her better nature. Is Jac's Christmas spirit sprouting or is it just the same old Naylor? Ma Levy is in town and Chrissie is doing her best to stay sane amid the chaos of Luc's cooking and Daniel's piano playing, while Sacha tries his hardest to delay joining her. With Hugh Quarshie, Tessa Peake-Jones, Rosie Marcel, Michael Thomson, Tina Hobley, Joseph Millson and Bob Barrett.

And if you're looking for yet another one of those shitty 'list TV' fiascos (see above), then The Fifty Funniest Moments of 2012 - 9:00 Channel Four - might well be right up your street. This is, by the look of things, some moron's idea of a good time. An array of - not very funny - comedians and risible z-list celebrities desperate to get their boat race on TV 'look back over 2012' and 'share their favourite moments' of comedy and bizarre moments - everything from Boris Johnson dangling from a zip wire to the phenomenon of the hit single 'Gangnam Style'. Ludicrous X Factor also-ran Stacey Solomon, Russell Kane (very popular with students), Rob Beckett (no, me neither), Katherine Ryan (ditto) and a sackful of other people you've never heard of look back at what are alleged to be 'the funniest and most outrageous moments' of 2012. Loathsome. I mean, Utterly fekking bottom-rung-of-the-ladder for people who have, literally, got their brains dribbling out of their ear into a pool on the floor. Did we really evolve opposable thumbs, come out of the cave, conquer fire, map the heavens, cross the oceans, create flight, the internal combustion engine, telecommunications, The Beatles, Bobby Charlton and Coronation Street for this? Incidentally, dear blog reader, the last time this blogger dared to, very mildly criticise a programme featuring Russell Kane, he got a telling off in no uncertain terms on Facebook from the man himself for such manifest and rank naughtiness. So, this time I'm expect, ooo, a jihad on my house at the very least.

Saturday 29 December
Gabby Logan hosts this special revival of the popular sporting entertainment show Superstars - 6:45 BBC1 - as sixteen of Britain's medal-winning athletes from London 2012 compete for this legendary sporting accolade. With the great theme tune. The Olympic heroes taking part are Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, Mo Farah, Robbie Grabarz, Michael Jamieson, Anthony Joshua, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Wilson, Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armitstead, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Gemma Gibbons, Helen Glover, Katherine Grainger, Jade Jones and Christine Ohuruogu. The athletes' versatility and determination will be pushed to the max as they participate in eight different disciplines: on the track in the one hundred metres and eight hundred metres, on the field in the javelin, in the pool in a fifty-metre swim, and with a bow to test their archery skills. The sporting contestants will tackle a kayak race and use their cycling skills in a hill climb. Their efforts will culminate in a grand finale featuring the classic Superstars event – the gym tests. Gabby will be joined by former Olympians Denise Lewis and Iwan Thomas as pundits, and Rebecca Adlington - one of the British swimming team which was such a sodding overpaid disgrace at London 2012 - at the will act as a mentor to athletes in the swimming event. Don't take any notice of anything she tells you, guys, she got out-swum by a fifteen year old.

In Climbed Every Mountain: The Story Behind The Sound of Music - 8:15 BBC2 - yer actual Sue Perkins her very self tells 'the astonishing true story' behind the real Von Trapp family, portrayed almost fifty years ago in one of the most popular films ever made. The 1965 blockbuster starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer has been seen by over a billion people and continues to captivate generation after generation with its unique message of love and innocence. Plus, it's got Nazis in it. And goats. However, Salzburg, where the story began, has only now hosted its first ever performance of the musical. The documentary follows Perkins to Austria to discover why the city seems to resent the film that put it on the map. She meets locals with memories of Maria Von Trapp and discovers her astonishing determination which drove the family to become a travelling singing troop living on a tour bus for twenty two weeks of the year. She meets Nicholas Hammond who played Friedrich whose life has continued to be defined by the movie, and she travels to New York and to Stowe in Vermont where the family settled to recreate a little bit of Austria of their own at the Trapp Family Lodge and is privileged to meet ninety eight year old Maria who is the last surviving member of the original seven children. The film includes rare and unseen footage from the 1950s, as well as beautiful home movies shot during the filming of the film itself.

A repeat, but a very worthwhile one is John Le Mesurier: It's All Been Rather Lovely - 5:05 BBC2 - in which Michael Palin, Clive Dunn and Ian Lavender were among those who contributed to this candid portrait of the actor John Le Mesurier, from his turbulent marriage to Hattie Jacques to his life-changing role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army. That's followed by another repeat of the BBC's recent tribute to Clive Dunn who died earlier this year.
Sunday 30 December
April 1889 - six months since the last of Jack the Ripper's murders. East London is emerging into a fragile peace, hopeful that this savage killer's reign of terror might at last have run its course. Nowhere is this truer than in the corridors of H Division, the police precinct charged with keeping order in the chaos of Whitechapel. Its men hunted this maniac - and failed to find him. Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1 - is their story. A police procedural drama set in the teeming streets of the East End as it moves into the last decade of the Nineteenth Century. H Division was responsible for policing a relatively small area of just one-and-a-quarter square miles, yet into that space were packed some sixty seven thousand people: a seething, bustling mass of the poor and the dispossessed. Between the factories, rookeries, chop shops and pubs which mark out this maelstrom moves Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) – a forward thinking detective haunted by a tragic past mistake. Accompanied by the ever loyal local brawn of Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn) and the mercurial brilliance of the US Army surgeon and one-time Pinkerton detective, Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), Reid seeks to bring justice to a world that is forever on the brink of mayhem. Ripper Street is a fictionalised trek into the heart of a London borough living in the blood soaked aftermath of that forever anonymous killer. It is about dedicated policemen for whom life – and crime – go on. In the first episode, a young woman is found brutally murdered, the hallmark signs of the Ripper upon her. One time H Division boss, Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, believes it to be Saucy Jack's up to his old malarkey, but Reid – the precinct's new guv'nor – suspects a different evil at work.

Neil Armstrong: First Man On The Moon - 9:00 BBC2 - is the story of the astronaut (he had 'balls bigger than King Kong', according to Black Grape) who moonwalked straight into the history books, told by his family and closest friends. The film examines Armstrong's childhood during the Great Depression, his induction into America's space programme and his mission as commander of Apollo 11 in July 1969. There is also a look at how he coped with life after NASA and the relentless demands of fame which continued until his death in August this year. Including interviews with Neil's widow, Carol, his first wife, Janet and their songs Rick and Mark, his siblings Dean and June and best friend Kotcho Solacoff, as well as fellow astronauts Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke and Dave Scott.

In the very last ever episode of Wild At Heart - 8:00 ITV - Alice has returned and there are tensions between her and Danny. When Cassidy the three-legged cheetah and his new mate are stolen by poachers, Du Plessis tries to persuade the family to go in search of the animals, hoping their return will pull everyone together - but a trip to the doctor brings him devastating news. Amid all this kerfuffle, Rosie is keen to marry her fiancé Dylan. And, as usual, Stephen Tompkinson, Dawn Steele and Hyaley Mills get acted off screen by various giraffes.

Monday 31 December
This New Year's Eve sees the return of Top Of The Pops for 'a special hour-long celebration of all things pop' - 7:00 BBC1. Hosts Reggie Yates and thin-skinned scourge of the bullies Fearne Cotton will review the year in pop, taking in 2012's greatest hits and brightest chart stars. The show will feature special performances from some of the year's biggest acts including the final number one of 2012.

Joining Jools Holland or his twentieth annual Hootenanny and the last to be filmed at BBC Television Centre - 11:10 BBC2 - will be a host of stars from all walks of British life and a variety of guest singers sitting in with Jools' Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and some of the star turns over the decades and the last twelve months. British musical icon and recording artist for over fifty years Petula Clark performs two of her biggest songs along with a surprising cover of Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy' from her upcoming CD. The biggest selling act of 2012, singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé will perform numbers from her million-selling Our Version Of Events, including her single 'Read All About It', where she will be joined by Professor Green. Also in the studio will be Soul legend Bobby Womack with a song from his recent CD The Bravest Man In The Universe along with a number or two from his vast back catalogue. One of the UK breakout stars of the year Lianne La Havas will perform her ode to going out with an older man, 'Age' plus an Ella Fitzgerald number. King of the charts in the early Eighties, yer actual Adam Ant will perform some of his classic tunes along with a number from his current CD with his new group The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse. East London's Paloma Faith will perform an Etta James number along with 'Just Be' from her big-selling 2012 CD. Scandinavian smart dressers The Hives will be dropping in to dazzle the audience with their rock and roll tunes including crowd favourite 'Hate To Say I Told You So'. From Detroit, soul singer Bettye Lavette will be performing her 1965 tune 'Let Me Down Easy' along with her take on The Black Keys 'I'm Not The One'. Frontman of Dexys Midnight Runners, the great Kevin Rowland, will be reprising a couple of their classic Eighties tunes along with a number from their - quite brilliant - 2012 CD One Day I'm Going To Soar. Holding court in the 'middle of the floor' will be Nottingham's newest star, singer-songwriter Jake Bugg who had huge success in 2012, reaching the very toppermost of the poppermost with his début CD and also sharing the space will be legendary Irish folk group The Dubliners, who are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary and will be performing a couple of their classic tunes, including the barnstorming 'The Irish Rover'. Concluding the line-up are Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift and UK soul singer Ruby Turner. Add in the reflections and musings of a room full of talent of all descriptions on the departing year, and their predictions for 2013, plus the Pipes & Drums of the First Battalion Scots Guards taking us into the New Year the traditional way.

And so to the news: The Danish broadcaster behind the thriller The Killing has bought a detective drama being shot in Aberystwyth in Welsh and English. Commissioners at DR Denmark reportedly believe the Welsh landscape will appeal to its viewers familiar with the Copenhagen-set series. It is the first drama series to be made in both languages for the Welsh language broadcaster S4C and BBC Wales. It will be shown on S4C next year and on BBC Wales and BBC4. The drama, which will be called Hinterland on the BBC and Mathias on S4C after the lead character, opens with the discovery of a body. It is set against a backdrop of mountainous land, isolated farms and a close-knit village. It stars Richard Harrington as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias, and is being shot at the same time in Welsh and English. Harrington is best known to viewers of the BBC's Lark Rise to Candleford. His character comes to Aberystwyth in search of a new beginning. Despite being tortured by guilt about his past, Mathias is an intuitive and passionate detective, compelled to find justice and succeeds despite his unorthodox methods, says S4C. Filming for the four two-hour episodes has taken place in Aberystwyth and nearby Devil's Bridge and Borth so far, and will continue in the area until May 2013. On Aberystwyth sea front, the town's former magistrates' court doubles as the outside of Mathias's police station, while out of town Aberystwyth University's Plas Gogerddan building is being used for internal shots of the fictional police station. University students are also being offered work experience on the production. Gwawr Martha Lloyd, S4C programme commissioner, said: 'The detective drama is a popular genre internationally and this thrilling, inventive and chilling series which appeal to viewers in Wales and foreign audiences. The purchase by DR is proof of this and I'm confident the Danish audiences will enjoy it as much as they did The Killing.' Reaching the climax of its third series on BBC3 on Saturday night, the hit Danish crime drama follows the police investigation of a specific case, day by day, with each hour-long episode covering twenty four hours of the investigation.

A Panorama investigation about the owners of the Daily Torygraph, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, that had been deferred by former BBC director general the spineless George Entwistle, is expected to be broadcast on Monday, according to BBC sources, following a decision by the acting director general, Tim Davie, for it to go ahead. The programme, fronted by journalist John Sweeney, is expected to deal with the offshore tax status of the Barclay brothers and their companies, which include the Bermuda-based entity that ultimately owns their newspapers. It will also cover allegations that the Barclays, who have built a castle on the Channel Isles tax haven of Sark, are trying to take over control of the island and its six hundred inhabitants. Davie's decision to broadcast an investigative programme about the controversial and frequently litigious Barclay twins comes at a fraught time for BBC executives. His Panorama's filming attracted denunciation and complaints from the Barclays' estate manager on Sark, who some islanders suggest is 'a spokesma'n for the brothers. Kevin Delaney, apparently getting his retaliation in first, wrote a lengthy article in October criticising the BBC in his Sark Newsletter. Referring to the Jimmy Savile case, he said the BBC was 'a deeply flawed and dysfunctional organisation that has failed miserably in its self-regulation.' Sweeney had visited Sark on three occasions in the autumn, he said, accusing the journalist of 'unbecoming drunken antics at the pub,' including falling off his bicycle. 'Empowered by the might of the BBC, Mr Sweeney filmed people without their consent. He aggressively invaded my offices and harassed and intimidated my staff in his concerted efforts at staging a hostile confrontation with me on camera - despite being made aware, in writing, that I did not want to be interviewed by him.' Sweeney has previously been sued by the Barclays in the 1990s after he was filmed landing on their island of Brecqhou, next to Sark. Both the journalist and John Birt, the then director general, were sued by the twins in France, and after a lengthy legal action Sweeney was ordered to pay twenty thousand francs in damages by a court in Rennes.

Kerry Katona, Daniella Westbrook and Alex Reid are all set to appear in festive specials of The Jeremy Kyle Show. And there, in one sentence, dear blog reader, we have an accurate summation of everything that is wrong with television in the Twenty First Century.

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