Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting Moose'd Up (Telly IS My Middle Name)

This blogger is off to Canada for a few days shortly -  he's going to be a guest at the Manitoba Science Fiction and Comic Con, which should be interesting - so, in lieu of this, here's some further Top Telly Tips for the next week or two.

Tues 23 October:
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they reckon and in tonight’s Emmerdale Val (played by the excellent - Newcastle United-supporting - Charlie Hardwicke) sets out to lure that lying scumbag Eric Pollard into the countryside to extract some significant revenge. Somebody’s got a brand new combine harvester for their birthday, it would seem.

I’ve really been quite enjoying Holby City over the last few weeks. It’s completely mad-bonkers, of course, full of stories about over-the-top affairs and doctors and nurses with addiction problems, but it’s got some really good actors in it – like Robert Powell and Peter Wingfield. And, is it just me or is there something disturbingly disturbing about Patsy Kensit in a nurses uniform? Just me, Liam Gallagher and Jim Kerr, then?

[Spooks] was back with a bang last week and tonight concludes the opening story about an Iranian-American-made plague loose on the streets of London. A worried Harry takes drastic measures and rounds up some highly unusual suspects whilst an infected Adam goes out searching for the antidote before he starts bleeding from his nipples. Oh, and I like Miranda Raison’s new haircut – very 1977.

In Brat Camp: Mums & Daughters, implausibly glamorous housewife Montana Whitlock and her spoiled, rude and sulky daughter Natasha are dropped into the Arizona desert for some much needed therapy. Two points here. Firstly, who in the name of Christ gets given a forename like Montana? And, secondly, spoiled, rude and sulky, eh? I think I went out her once…

Wed 24 October:
In Rogue Traders Matt and Dan are off on the trail of dodgy emergency call out companies, a dangerous rip-off electrician and a locksmith who’s just drilling to make a killing. Do you get it? Drilling to ... oh, never mind. Anyway, then presumably when they’ve sorted that lot out, they’re off to solve the Middle East crisis, world hunger aned climate change and still be home in time for tea.

Hot on the heels of the BBC's recently highly successful modernisation of Jekyll, ITV using the old “everything the Beeb do, we’ll do just as well two months later” principle come up with a lavish modern spin on Mary Shelley’s novel of Promethean conceit, Frankenstein. And it looks great. Not very original, admittedly, but still great. Helen McCrory, James Purefoy and Neil Pearson star.

Two years ago, pop icon Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges but he has since disappeared from his home to travel the globe. Channel 4 asks Michael Jackson: What Really Happened? The question is, though, do we really want to know?

Thurs 25th October:
In March this year, the BBC's Gaza correspondant Alan Johnston was kidnapped by an Islamic group and held for over three months before being released. Tonight, in Kidnapped, he tells his story to Jeremy Vine – which is an ordeal in and of itself. What emerges is the story of a really brave man who kept his head in circumstances that would probably have seen most of us crack after a coupel of hours. Must-see-TV.

I’ve never been a big fan of Richard and Judy but their recent conversation to the nations favourite book critics is a wlecome one – anyone who encourages greater literacy, particularly amongst teenagers, is to be applauded. For that reason alone, I’m recommending Richard & Judy’s Best Kids’ Books on Channel 4 tonight. The fact that new authors are also a feature is an added bonus.

The BBC’s Electric Proms has its big night tonight with Paul McCartney’s performance from the Roundhouse. Except a few numbers from the new LP, plenty of oldies but probably suprisingly few dedications to Beatrice’s mom.

Friday 26th October:
The Armstrong and Miller Show - 9:30 BBC1
Two Spitfire pilots sit puffing pipes but talking in modern teen-speak. A man returns home to find his wife in bondage gear with his best friend, but is somehow persuaded that this is a surprise Happy Easter party. A foulmouthed Gordon Ramsay-style chef finally gets his comeuppance. These are the kind of no-frills sketches with which Ben Miller and Alexander Armstrong return to being a double act after going their separate ways for far too long - and yes, they are funny. I mean Morecambe and Wise, funny. Series like this tend to pack their best jokes into the first show, in which case the rest of the run may be a bit of a let-down; but all the more reason not to miss tonight's opener, which also includes a brilliant parody of Who Do You Think You Are? and a perfectly filthy Jane Austen spoof.

Saturday 27th October:
All Star Family Fortunes - 7:45 ITV1
Vernon Kay returns with a brand-new series of what’s alleged to be “the nation's favourite game show” All Star Family Fortunes. Two star guests and their families compete in a bid to see who can give the stupidest answer that totally fails to agree with a survey audience and, of course, win up to 30 grand for a charity of their choice. Tonight's competitive celebrities are Corrie actress Kym Ryder and reality TV regular Brian Dowling. Therefore, don’t miss this or it’ll be, what, at least another week before he crops up on TV again.

TOTP2 Halloween Special - 10:50 BBC2
To get you in the mood for Hallowe'en, Steve Wright pops out from behind the cellar door to introduce an hour of the spookiest Top of the Pops clips ever in a Top of the Pops 2 Special. Enjoy the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Ray Parker Jr & that Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Crypt Kickers hit being danced to by Pan’s People. Hot’diggerdy. If you're of a nervous disposition, you'll probably end up hiding behind the sofa from all the witches, monsters and most frightening of all - Michael Jackson.

Sunday 28th October:
The Royal - 8:00 ITV1
Still comfortably ITV’s most reliably Sunday night slot, The Royal rolls ever onward with no end in sight. Just like life, really. On Sunday, Ormerod's father-in-law makes a special bequest to the family, while Ken has a confession to make when the hospital pools syndicate celebrate their win. And Matron discovers that Carnegie's fundraising efforts aren't exactly going to plan.

Monday 29th October:
David's sense of exclusion leads him to take desperate measures in Corrie. Sean puts Jamie in an awkward position. Maria's gift hampers Liam's social life but the poor lass is worried when Sarah ignores David's letter. Meanwhile, Roger gets more than he bargained for at the pizzeria. Last time I went to one I ordered a Calzone. The waiter asked what so I explained it was one of them foldy-over things. So, he brought me an ironing board.

The arrival of Max's charismatic younger brother, Jack, has unexpected consequences for Ronnie in EastEnders. And for Max, presumably, in displaying the fallacy that there’s no one in that family with any charisma. Damian is rocked by a discovery about Roxy whilst Jase is torn over loyalties between his old gang and his responsibilities for Jay.

On Channel 4, Britain’s Deadliest Addictions follows three addicts - one to alcohol, one to class A and one to prescription drugs - as they attempt to break their habits under medical supervision. In this, the first of four shows, the participants are introduced and admitted to a detox clinic. Presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and psychologist Dr John Marsden. Words fail me.
Tuesday 30th October:
According to Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing, television is the 20th Century's only genuine art form. I'll have to remember that the next time I'm watching Celebrity Who's Pig Is It Anyway? on ITV3

Series offering advice to amateur property developers keen to dabble in the housing market are all the rage at the moment. Sarah Beeny and Property Ladder heads to Wysall, outside Nottingham, to meet stubborn Yorkshireman Steve who is attempting to convert a Methodist chapel into a three-bedroom family house. As y’do. Sarah also travels to Elm, Cambridgeshire, to advise a couple who are failing to capitalise on the potential of a former country pub. Customers usually help, I’ve found. At least in most of the bars I’ve been in.

For thirteen years Roger Cook's investigations exposed scandals and villains all over the world. In the process, he was roughed up, threatened with guns and attacked with iron bars while his team's cameras kept rolling. But what happened next? In Roger Cook’s Greatest Hits Roger travels the world again to find out what has changed since his original series came to an end and the next generation of concerned citizens took over from him. His journey takes him from organised crime in Spain to illegal lion hunting in South Africa and the trade of young women sold by sex traffickers in Asia. And, presumably, just like the old days, he’ll end up getting punched a lot. Always entertaining. Roger, that is, not the punching. Although…

The Grumpy Guide.. this week is especially grumpy as it has a good old grumpy look at the usually grumpy-free zone that is romance. For those newly in love, of course, the dating game may be a wonderful thing. But for the rest of us jaded, irritable and tetchy old cynics just the word romance itself is likely to set us off on a rant about the essentially hopelessness of existence. Life, don’t talk to me about life… Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, romance… Not a lot can come between two people when they are attracted to each other. Sounds like a line I used in a bar once. True story.

Brat Camp: Mums and Daughters provided much hilarity in the Telly Topping household last week so I’m recommending you give it another go. Four mothers and their out-of-control brat daughters are dropped in the Arizona desert, with the objective of getting the daughters back on the straight and narrow. This week, the Pears. Foul-mouthed Nicole Pear and her exasperated mother Jackie try to repair their damaged relationship. Sound like a right pair. Actually, I think that was a line I used in a bar once as well…

Wednesday 31st October:
Dr Samina Showghi, nutritionist Pam Stepney and chiropractor Dr Ben King come to the aid of members of the public with unhealthy eating and lifestyle regimes in Diet Doctors: Inside & Out. In 12 weeks, the trio oversee some amazing medical makeovers as they show what can be achieved, by ditching the bad diet and taking on a healthy lifestyle. But, are they happy, that’s the question you have to ask yourself. When was the last time you saw a thin person say something funny. I’m just sayin’…

In aid of Children In Need, a team of celebrities including Ben Nicholas, Javine, Lil' Chris and Tamara Beckwith are trained by top hairdresser Lee Stafford to become hairdressers and beauty experts in just three short weeks in Celebrity Scissorhands on BBC3. Today, more brave viewers volunteer to be clients and put their hair in the hands of the rookie celebrities under the watchful eye of Lee and his assistant manager Steve Strange. Who, let’s remember, used to have one of the weirdest haircuts in the history of pop music.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks - 10:00 BBC2
Host Simon Amstell and team captains Bill Bailey and Phill Jupitus combine on what is, on a good day, still one of the wittiest, most inventive and most controversial shows on TV. I mean, if only they could have Preston staging a stroppy walk-off every week they’d been laughing. Well, he wouldn't, but they would. Guests tonight include Torchwood star John Barrowman – who seems to be just about everywhere on TV at the moment - and comedian Robin Ince.

Thursday 1 November:
Zoo Days is a rather charming little documentary series on Five from Chester Zoo, narrated by Jane Horrocks. Tonight, fighting breaks out on Lemur Island as the mating season approaches. Yeah, that tends to happen with humans too, guys. You need to put something in their tea.

In How To Be A Property Developer, also on Five, Gary McCausland follows two teams who have each been given 300,000 pounds and 12 months to make big money in real estate. I wonder if it’s occurred to any of them to just stick the three hundred grand in a high interest account then come back a year later and say, “sorry, I couldn’t sell anything, here’s your money back.”

Holly Willoughby travels around the UK and Ireland, aiming to find dream dates for the single people she meets on her travels in ITV2’s Streetmate. I like Holly although, like Nigella Lawson she has her knockers. This week she hits the streets of Cambridge and Belfast. Presumably, the streets eventually recover. Perhaps we’ll never care.

I’m not normally a big fan of The Graham Norton Show but it’s been pretty good over the last few weeks. If you’ve never seen it, it features a fast-paced mixture of celebrities doing silly things, live music and fabulous weirdness of the Great British public. Joining Graham tonight will be maverick director John Waters and author Jackie Collins. That’s gotta be the campest hour of TV in history in the offing. Definitely worth a look, then.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yer Top Telly Tips

It's been a while since this blogger has updated From The North dear blog reader so, this seems like an ideal opportunity to post up the highlights of the last couple of months worth of Keith Telly Topping & His Top TV Tips. Remember, you can catch these slots five-days-a-week, Monday to Friday, at approximately 3:40pm to 3:45pm on The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Newcastle (and for twenty four hours immediately afterwards on Listen Again). They're occasionally mildly amusing:

Monday 30 July:
Monday night is soap night, as usual. In Emmerdale, Rosemary (Linda Thorson, who used to be an actress many years ago) steps up her plot against Perdy by dabbling in the dark arts. Well, those former Avengers girls always did have it in for each other. Also, Carrie perfects her scowl over the amount of time that Scarlet is spending with Kelly. It's all Sean (Antony Cotton) on Corrie. Firstly, moping without Michelle, he reads Pat's text message, then – in the second episode of the night – he and Eileen decide a change of scene is required and book a holiday to Malta. Watch out later in the week for an appearance by 1970s Confessions star Robin Askwith. Meanwhile, back in Weatherfield, Ashley is becoming increasingly irked at Claire’s distance from everyone but Freddie. Tanya receives a blast from the past in the shape of her troubled sister, Rainie, in EastEnders. Max connives to split up Bradley and Stacey. And the newly arrived Ronnie and Roxy are left in the lurch at The Queen Vic.

Tuesday 31 July
Waking The Dead BBC1
A repeat of the best episode from last year's series – a new bunch of episodes is due next month if, like this blogger you're eagerly looking forward to the return of Peter Boyd and his team of social misfits – which focuses on the early career of Grace (the fabulous Sue Johnston) in a case which she profiled thirty years ago. One which, incidentally, bears more than a few uncanny similarities to the Yorkshire Ripper case. Terrific cast - including a great guest appearance in this one by Paul Freeman - always well-written and beautifully made. If you like an hour-long puzzle and putting together something in your head, you'll love this. Also tonight, a brief plug for the excellent Cape Wrath on Channel Four which is proving one of the surprise drama hits of the year.

Wednesday 1 August
Heroes BBC2
It's American drama night on British TV. Despite the counter-attractions of the second-part of Waking The Dead and Wor Geet Canny Robson Green in Wire In The Blood, the third episode of this attractive, glossy, testosterone-snorting US import is the clear highlight of the night. Claire attempts to maintain a normal life despite her recently discovered indestructibility. Meanwhile the best two characters in the show, Hiro and Ando – the Japanese Star Trek nerds – travel to America. They're lovely, they just wander around smiling at people and working out how to save the world. Mad as toast but thoroughly addictive. Think Lost-meets-Buffy-meets-Superman and you'll have a vague idea.

Brothers & Sisters Channel Four
This one is proving very popular too – good cast, awesome locations, everybody's got nice teeth. Tonight, the first of a two part story, Justin gets a letter that threatens to throw his life into turmoil. So, of you like superhero fantasy or Californian soap they're Keith Telly Topping's two tips for tonight.

Thursday 2 August:
Still Game BBC2
Scottish comedy series about ageing somewhat disgracefully written by and starring the excellent Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan. Tonight Boabby the Barman and Stevie via for the attentions of a new pizza girl. Guest starring Michelle McManus and former world boxing champion Jim Watt.

Drop Dead Gorgeous BBC1
Four part drama series first shown on BBC3 earlier in the year about an awkward teenage schoolgirl (the astonishingly good Sinead Moynihan) who becomes a model. Funny in places but, actually, quite disturbing in its portrayal of parental pressure and the dirty secrets of the modelling industry.

Friday 3 August
Grumpy Old Women BBC2
My radio oppo, Julia, will probably appreciate this one – Eve Pollard, Linda Robson, Janet Street-Porter and Sheila Hancock are amongst the ladies finding something to moan about in life. Men, probably. And buses. And shoes. And cleaning ...

Saturday 4 August:
Empathy is a new supernatural drama series on BBC1 about an ex-con who begins to experience visions – so, it's Sea Of Souls, meets Cold Blood, meets Afterlife. Et cetera. The drama department running short of ideas, anyone think? It's got a very good actor in the lead, Stephen Moyer, so it should be worth a look if you like being scared.

Alternatively there's the second episode of the excellent British Film Forever on BBC4 at the same time if you fancy wallowing in a bit of nostalgia. Last week was gangsters, this week looks at the story of British romance from Brief Encounter to Notting Hill via one of this blogger's favourites Gregory’s Girl which immediately follows the documentary at half-past ten. Good one to set the video for that.

Monday 6 August:
It's soap night, again. The Rosemary/Perdy/Matthew storyline continues to get more and more queer as Linda Thorson camps it up for all she's worth and Perdy – the terrific Georgia Slowe – seems set for a lengthy stay in a home for the terminally bewildered. Lexi and Chas, meanwhile, are spooked by the appearance of Colin’s widow. All we need now is a proper ghost story and Emmerdale could actually qualify as Telefantasy.

Steve and Eileen’s holiday in Malta comes to an end. Last week saw Steve wearing beer goggles most of the time, wonder if life back in Manchester will bring him back down to earth. Michelle’s back in town too – the excuse is she’s there to console Carla but, really, you suspect she wants to see Steve again.

Lucy irks Ian, with pleasing results. Actually, come to think about it, anybody irking Ian is to be congratulated. It’s most Sean this week though (Robert Kazinsky whom all the girls seem to like a lot). He, surely, can’t have been responsible for a brutal attack on dear old Patrick? Certainly Stacey and Mo don't believe so.

Tuesday 7 August:
The Cosmos: A Beginners Guide BBC2
Have you ever wondered how the universe works? If so, you've probably got far too much time on your hands but this six-part documentary series by - the occasionally very irritating - Adam Hart-Davis attempts to explain things in layman's terms. Now, given that he's the scientist who advertises you on taxation, you might be wondering 'what's in it for me?' Well, you're probably going to come out of each episode knowing a bit more than you did when it started and, additionally, Adam starts with a trip to California. Beautiful locations. Any excuse.

Jamie At Home Channel Four
Maybe next, Adam could do a series that explains why Jamie Oliver keeps on getting TV shows. In this – twelve-part – series, the odious, full-of-his-own-importance Oliver presents a guide to getting the best from stuff you can grow in your garden. Wonderful, if you've got a palatial mansion on the outskirts of North London. If you've got a window-box in Benwell, however, it's going to have to be nettle soup for you for the next twelve weeks. To be honest, this blogger prefers a nice curry from the local takeaway.

Wednesday 8 August:
Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escape BBC2
More cooking – after the vile and odious Oliver, yesterday. If you're a closet superchef, this is clearly the TV week for you. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping does like Rick Stein, though, he had a very pleasing and relaxed TV manner and this show, in which he cruises around the Med sampling Italian, Greek and French food, should at least be glorious to look at.

It’s a pretty dreadful night on TV, frankly – there's Heroes of course, but aside from that, the only other 'must see' thing is a movie, High Fidelity – John Cusack's bittersweet adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel about rock and roll and relationships. It's on very late so it might be any idea to set the video – if only because any movie in which Jack Black and Catherine Zeta-Jones are both genuinely not annoying has to be worth a couple of hours of your life.

Thursday 9 August:
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries BBC1
Do you like a good mystery with lashing of foreign locations and a bit of righteous angst? Are you still mourning the passing of Inspector Morse? In that case, this two-part star-vehicle for Nathaniel Parker will be right up your strasse. Full of good actors – Nicholas Farrell, Samantha Bond – in supporting roles. It’s a bit slow for my tastes but, this one's partially set in Rome so, again, the locations at least should be terrific.

Benidorm ITV
Towels on deck chairs? Paella and chips? It must Benidorm. If you enjoy 1970s-style sitcoms full of stereotypes, coarse language and 'hilarious consequences' (and, let's face it, who doesn't?), this timely repeat of the Johnny Vegas-led comedy brightens up yet another dull night. It's got all the clichés that anybody who's ever been on a package holiday in Spain will recognise, of course, and therein lies much of the fun. Can we have a new series please?

Friday 10 August:
If you ever wondered what happened to David McCallum after he stopped being The Man From U.N.C.L.E’s good-looking Russian sidekick, you can find out in NCIS at 9:00 on Channel Five. He's made something of a career of playing boffins in the US. Alongside him is the excellent Mark Harmon, once of Moonlighting and The West Wing and now the star of this attractive and well-made military crime series. It's a bit like the CSI franchise only with navy uniforms and it has something of a following. Formulaic, but jolly good fun and very popular. Just, don't think about the plots too much.

Saturday 11 August:
Sorry girls, but the football season has started again today and, with it, comes Match Of The Day (BBC1 10:15). Although, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is assured that Mssrs Linaker, Hansen and Shearer all have a decent-sized following among the ladies. Personally, this blogger be following the depressing fortunes of his own set of disappointing overpaid layabouts and hoping for a better season than the last, ooo, fifty or so. Howay the lads.

Sunday 12 August:
This blogger hasn't covered BBC1's The Chase (8:00) yet this season, largely because he was so put off by those sneeringly awful trailers when the season began in which everybody seemed to be having an affair. 'With the nurse.' But, actually, it's not a bad drama a lot of the time - well-acted and with some pretty locations. As there's not much else on tonight, you may want to give this a try.

Monday 13 August:
Have you ever really regretted doing something on holiday? In Corrie (7:30 and 8:30 on ITV) Steve's compromising Maltese snaps with the pretty (if, you know, male) Shania threaten to put a spoke in the wheels of his rekindled relationship with Michelle.

Meanwhile, on EastEnders (BBC1 8:00) poor old Patrick's been mugged in the square and Sean Slater is, ahem, 'helping the police with their enquiries.' Expect 'Sean is Innocent' graffiti to be appeared on a wall near you any day soon.

Is that there Wor Geet Canny Robson Green never off my telly? Certainly seems that way – Wire In The Blood’s just about ended its latest (really very good indeed) series – and now his new three-part drama, Little Devil, starts tonight on ITV (9:00). It's another romantic comedy – let’s hope it's a bit more funny (and a bit more romantic) than Wor Geet Canny Robson's last step into that field, the very patchy Rocket Man.

Tuesday 14 August:
If, like this blogger, you fell madly in love with the gorgeous British landscape that Nick Crane and his mates travelled around in Coast, then you’ll be delighted to know that Nick's got a new solo series, Great British Journeys, on BBC2 at 8:00. It's more of the same, really, as Nick follows in the footsteps of some of the great explorers of our hidden landscape. Tonight, he's in The Highlands. If you need something to help you relax after a stressful day at work, an hour of this should be for you.

Odious shower of worthless shat Piers Morgan's You Can’t Fire Me, I'm Famous (BBC1, 10:35) usually veers between objectionably sycophantic and horribly fascinating (sometimes with very little stop-over in-between). Tonight's interview is with Richard Bacon, ex-of Blue Peter who scandalised Children's TV when he got caught snorting blow. So, here's one we knocked up earlier.

Wednesday 15 August:
Grace Barraclough (played by - the still lovely - Glynis Barber) has been putting her job at risk by carrying on an affair with the hunky Carl King on Emmerdale (ITV, 7:00) Tonight, she has to make the big decision to either go with it, or finish it. So, is it employment or is it nookie? I know which I'd go for.

It’s been far too long since we've seen anything new from Robbie Coltrane on TV. Tonight sees the beginning of a new three-part show B-Road Britain in which Robbie takes his vintage E-type Jag to some of the more off-the-beaten-track locations between London and Glasgow. Lovely car. Lovely guy. Not to sure about the format, though. I mean, it smacks a bit of the Youth Hostelling With Chas & Dave strand of celebrity-fronted vehicles, doesn't it?

Thursday 16 August:
There’s a lot of cookery shows knocking around these days which, for a confirmed non-cooker like me, can be something of a drag. Kitchen Criminals (BBC2 at 6:30) is, at least, different in that it sets out to find the nation’s worst cooks. That’ll be this blogger, then. Chefs Angela Hartnett and John Burton Race obviously think there's someone even worse than yer actual Keith Telly Topping out there and set out to find them. Good luck with that,guys.

It’s thirty years to the day since Elvis Presley died. Do you remember a time when Elvis was a young, slim and attractive Sex God? Nah, me neither, I’m only forty three but, apparently, he was and ITV’s Young Elvis In Colour (9:00) provides evidence in the shape of never-seen-before home movie footage of The King at rest and in performance. Britain’s own premier Elvis-clone, Cliff Richard, is on hand to provide some hip-swivelling of his own. Careful Cliff, you've got a bus pass these days.

Friday 17 August:
Ever since David Attenborough got up-close-and-personal with a bunch of gorillas on The Natural World thirty years ago it seems that every naturalist wants to do the same. On Secret Gorillas Of Mondika (BBC2, 7:00) primatologist Charlotte Uhlenbroek travels to the heart of the Congo (where, they drink Umbongo, apparently) to meet the family of silverback Kingo, who soon come to accept her as one of the family. They're not choosy about house-guests, seemingly.

Saturday 18 August:
The best of bullyboy-TV can sometimes be worthwhile and The X-Factor returns at 7:40 on ITV with a new panellist – Dannii Minogue, the least famous of the Minogue sisters – joining that awful Cowell man and his friends. No, actually, he hasn't got any friends, just people he pays to sit beside him and look vaguely interested in what he's got to say. Tonight, it's the auditions stage which can sometimes be embarrassingly awful and sometimes so-bad-it's-brilliant.

British Film Forever (BBC2, 9:00) continues with a look at British film’s continual obsession with costume drama. Austen, Shakespeare and Dickens all feature along with the thoughts of Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet and Lord Attenborough. Among the hidden gems are a clip from Charles Laughton’s abandoned 1930s adaptation of I, Claudius.

Sunday 19 August:
It’s rare that a spin-off proves to be as good as the series it came from but Lewis (ITV, 9:00) has managed to maintain the Inspector Morse audience. When a middle-aged Oxford graduate is found murdered, Lewis and Hathaway - the terrific double act of Whately and Fox - launch an investigation and discover that the victim was a member of a hedonistic undergraduate group. Slow, easy on the eye, cleverly put together and always well-acted. That's this blogger's big Sunday night tip.

Monday 20 August:
On Coronation Street (ITV, 7:30 and 8:30) that lying little toerag David Platt tells Jason that he wants to kill his mother, Gill. And the rest of us, chuck…

Corrie's just been on holiday to Malta so, where does EastEnders (BBC, 8:00) go for its week of fun and frolics? Yep … Brighton. A necessary difference, one feels. Whilst there, Big Fat Cuddly Pat has a mysterious meeting with a tall dark stranger (played by The Bill’s Christopher Ellison). There’s also an interesting little side story about Shirley and Heather going all Themla & Louise. Let’s hope in doesn't end in a messy car crash, like the movie.

Away from soaps, India With Sanjeev Bhaskar (BBC2, 9:00) comes to an end tonight. This has been a delightful, fascinating, funny and affectionate travelogue and, if you've missed it so far, you owe it to yourself to catch the finale as Sanjeev finds out how traditional India is coping with the modern world.

Tuesday 21 August:
ITV seems to have discovered the children's food debate about six months after everyone else. In Undercover Mum (8:00) Ex-policewoman - and mum - Nina Hobson goes undercover with her own children to find out the truth about the children's food industry. Do we really know what's in the food our kids eat - do we want to? - and can we trust all the advice we are given by the experts? Jesus, when TV gets 'concerned', it's usually a good idea to run. Or switch over.

On BBC at 10:00 there’s a terrestrial repeat of the hit BBC3 comedy Gavin & Stacey. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s a bit like The Royle Family or Marion & Geoff (only far less funny that either). An alleged 'comedy' of observation on the minutia and mundanity of life. It’s got a decent cast including Alison Steadman, Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones who also co-wrote the show. It’s dry humour and it might take you and episode or two to fully get it but stick. Personally, this blogger can't stand it but, he seems to be in a minority of one, there.

Wednesday 22 August:
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not going to be daft enough to start anywhere other than Match Of The Day Live (7:30 BBC1). It’s a 'friendly' (it says here) between England and Germany … hang on, that’s a contradiction in terms, surely? Certainly, that's what I’ll be watching and, I suspect, three quarters of anyone tuning into TV tonight. However, there’s plenty of other stuff on elsewhere including another excellent episode of Heroes (9:00, BBC2), the cult US superhero show that’s getting a dedicated following. Tonight’s episode again focuses on Hiro and Ando and their charming misadventures in Las Vegas. If you're looking for something completely different to avoid the football, you might like to try Legally Blonde 2 (8:00 Five) the Reese Witherspoon comedy vehicle. It’s not as good as the first film, but there’s still plenty of good jokes amid a curiously unfunny plot about the US cosmetic industry's use of animals in product testing.

Thursday 23 August:
Julia will be in floods of tears today as we get the final two episodes of this season of House (9:00 & 10:00, Five). As ever, Huge Laurie and his caustic comments are the main focus of attention, but there’s a really good running subplot about whether one of his assistants, the excellent Foreman (Omar Epps) will quit the job or not. There’s a surprise ending so stick with it. Plus, how can anybody fail to love a show that features Lisa Edelstein's breasts so prominently in both its visuals and its humour?

Alternatively, on BBC2 at 9:00 there’s a return of the Steve Coogan sitcom Saxondale about an ex-roadie-turned-pest-controller. I really quite liked the first series of this, it was funny in unexpected places, the choice of guest stars is usually clever and, aside from Coogan himself, Ruth Jones is brilliant as Tommy Saxondale’s girlfriend, Magz.

Friday 24 August to Sunday 26 August:
Returning for a well-deserved second series is Graham Linehan’s BAFTA-nominated office sitcom The IT Crowd – Channel Four, 9:30. If you didn’t catch it last year, this was exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from one of the writers of Father Ted, a lovely mix of laddish humour and plain daftness in an office setting. It's everything Ricky Gervais would like to be but isn't.

Saturday sees the final of Dance X – BBC1, 8:30 – and you do wonder if this occasion will see an outbreak of niceness between Bruno and Arlene. Sadly, the chances of that happening are about the same as those of Michael Owen playing two games in a row for Newcastle without snapping a bootlace and being out for six week.

This blogger makes no apologies for, once again, highlighting British Film Forever – BBC2, 9:15 – as this weekend's episode features one of this blogger's favourite genres, the horror movies made by Hammer, Amicus and Tigon in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. So, look forward to lots of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and, if you’re really in the mood, leave the tape running for Vincent Price in the classic Matthew Hopkins - Witchfinder General immediately afterwards. That's at 10:45.

On Sunday Martin Clunes is back in a strangely compelling looking drama called The Man Who Lost His Head – ITV, 9:00. It’s about museum curator who travels to New Zealand to sort out a disagreement with a Maori village over a missing artefact and ends, quite literally, going native. It sounds a bit like a cross between Local Hero and The Wicker Man. Should be good then.

Monday 27 August:
We’ve got a major source of potential conflict coming up on Coronation Street – ITV 7:30 and 8:30 – as Casey spends the night with Ashley. Claire is not going to like that. Lucky Ashley, I say.

Over on EastEnders – BBC1 8:00 – Ronnie wants to go back to her sunshine lifestyle in Ibiza. But Roxy has rather taken to Walford and has other ideas. Meanwhile, a fight breaks out at Albert Square’s “fun day” ... if ever one sentence could be said to sum an entire TV show, it’s that one.

Away from soaps, there's a Time Team Special on Channel Four at 9:00 in which Tony Robinson and the gang follow an ambitious garden restoration project near Bath over several months. As ever with this gorgeous show, invest an hour of your life in it and you’re be rewarding with stuff you never knew and a warm, relaxed presentation style. Highly recommended.

Tuesday 28 August:
Silent Witness returns on BBC 1 at 9:00 for a ten part series starring Emilia Fox and Tom Ward. This one looks quite topical as it involves an investigation into a helicopter crash. However, the MoD don’t seem to be too keen on helping the investigators.

Outnumbered – BBC1 10:35 – is a new sitcom from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin the writers who created the much-missed Drop The Dead Donkey a decade ago. It looks quite fun – a sort of slightly downmarket version of My Family starring Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner. Nice to see reports of the death of the British sitcom have been, perhaps, slightly exaggerated.

Wednesday 29 August:
There’s a straight choice of viewing tonight. And it’s all happening at 9:00 whilst I, personally, will be watching Heroes. On ITV there’s Crash Scene Investigators - a kind of real-life version of the this week’s Silent Witness story – which follows the Devon and Cornwall police as they try to piece together why a multiple-car–pile-up happened. Serious subject but I often find these things fascinating, particularly as you learn something new about forensics, for example. But, it’s not to all tastes so you may prefer the start of a new series of Supernanny over on Channel Four. Stern Jo Frost returns for nine more weeks of her no-nonsense parenting advice and lots of scowling. Not this blogger's cup of tea at all but I know it has a following. It’d be awful to think that everyone watching has troublesome kids themselves, however, I genuinely hope that’s not the case.

Thursday 30 August:
This week saw the start of Raymond Blanc’s much-trailed The Restaurant – BBC 2, 8:00 – and you can continue to follow the adventures of the nine couples who dream of opening their own restaurants. We’re promised a move away from the in-yer-face telly of Hell’s Kitchen and the like but the format remains such that, tonight, somebody’s going to get fired.

It’s a good night for BBC2 after Saxondale, at 10:00 there’s the start of a new series of That Mitchell & Webb Look. If you haven’t seen this before it’s a rather smart little sketch-based comedy show. There’s a really good running sketch on it about a snooker commentator who can’t keep his mind on the game he’s supposed to be watching that should have you chuckling. Albeit, Robert Webb - the lanky, balding one - remains about as funny as a kick in the knackers. David Mitchell - the short, very smug one - however, is a real talent.

Friday 31 August:
If you’ve ever watched, for example, Big Brother and wondered why none of the housemates have ever ended up killing each other, tonight’s Judge John Dee – BBC1, 9:00 – will be right up your street as, essentially, that’s the plot. Sounds a bit like wish-fulfillment to me. Martin Shaw is truly extraordinary in this. It’s the most mannered performance of his career, and when you think about The Professionals, that really is saying something.

Saturday 1 September:
It’s impossible to avoid The X-Factor – ITV, 7:50 – at the moment. After the Welsh lass with crazy eyes made such a name for herself on last week's show, there’s more auditions on offer. It’s cruel, it’s often embarrassing but it is, genuinely, riveting telly.

One wishes the same could be said for the once-very watchable Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? – ITV, 8:50 which is in something a slump at the moment. It happens to a lot of shows that just get that bit too comfortable after a while. Let’s see if horrific Sky pair Eamonn Holmes and Kay Burley, who are playing for aproperly worthwhile cause, the MacMillan Cancer Trust, can liven matters up this week.

Sunday 2 September:
ITV’s big event of the weekend is the terrestrial TV première of The Queen – 9:00. It’s a darkly funny – but also rather moving – movie with stand-out performances by Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen. If you haven’t seen it, you should do. If you’re out, record it. If you’re in, there’s nothing else remotely worth missing this for on the other sides.

Monday 3 September:
All of the shenanigans involving the most poisonous ménage a trois on TV - Ashley, Casey and Claire - reaches a dramatic climax in Corrie tonight at 7:30 and 8:30 on ITV. It involves, apparently, a kidnapping, a threatened (and rather messy) suicide and lots of other clichés straight out of Fatal Attraction. Maybe Casey should be getting some tips from that nasty little sod David on how you do a real reign of terror.

Over on EastEnders – BBC1 8:00 – Ronnie still wants to go back to her sunshine lifestyle in Ibiza. But Roxy has rather taken to Walford and has other ideas. Peggy’s not going to be pleased about that. Meanwhile, we’ve got all the fall out the deal with over the fight that broke out at the Square’s “fun day” last week.

Fans of the outrageous Kath & Kim will be delighted to know that it’s back for third series – BBC2, 10:00. If you've never seen this rather crude but often hilariously funny Australian sit-soap about a pretentious mother and daughter and their family, it’s a bit difficult to explain the attraction to be honest. It’s just funny – and I don’t just mean the accents.

Tuesday 4 September:
Can there be anyone more hot-tempered than Gordon Ramsey? We can find out on Hell’s Kitchen – ITV, 9:00 – where the show’s new host is hot-tempered Latin maestro Marco Pierre White. It’s on every night for the next fortnight and you’re not going to be able to avoid it so, basically, just watch it from the start, you’ll save yourself a lot of catching up when you find out all your friends are watching it.

It’s a good night for ITV with the start of a new quiz show, Don’t Call Me Stupid at 10:00. This looks like a sort of down-market version of Qi meeting Mr & Mrs for a pint down the pub. It’s presented by the usually appealing Alexander Armstrong and the idea is that two celebrities will be locked in a room and given a certain amount of time to find out as much as they can about each other’s personal passions. Then, they’ll be quizzed. The opening episode features royal journalist James Whittaker and former Happy Monday and Black Grape dancer Bez. If I didn’t know this was serious, I’d swear that was a late April Fool.

Wednesday 5 September:
The feuding brothers Marlon and Eli Dingle are making Emmerdale – ITV, 7:00 - curiously watchable again at the moment. Meanwhile, their sister Debbie is up to her neck in this vainglorious stolen necklace scam. What is it about that family? They’ve got the collective brain power of the Royles. On a really bad day when there’s nowt on telly.

We’re promised a “behind the scenes look at the extravagant world of celebrity weddings” at 8:00 on Channel Five. Celebrity Wedding Frock-Ups (great title) sees tips from the stars on hair, make-up, cakes and photographers to make your wedding just as spectacular as Posh and Becks. A five hundred thousand pound cheque from Hello magazine would probably help, I’m guessing.

Lastly a quick mention for Tittytittybangbang: The Best Bits on BBC2 at 10:00. Not sure what, exactly, they’re going to fill the other twenty nine minutes of that half-hour slot with but, I’m sure they'll come up with something.

Thursday 6 September:
Having been spanked all around the park for the last few days by ITV, BBC1 comes roaring back tonight with the return of two of its big hitters. What Not To Wear returns at 8:00 with Mica Paris and Lisa Butcher tonight helping a couple of teenagers make the most of their wardrobe. I'm always a bit in two minds about these kind of shows which, occasionally, veer perilously close to style-fascism. However, I'm told that a focus of this year will be a genuine attempt to address problems like eating disorders among teenagers.Which is potentially admirable.

Another returning show is Who Do You Think You Are? at 9:00 for it's fourth series. This is, when the subject is interesting, one of the most consistently brilliant shows that British TV has come up with in the last decade. Genuine social history, often moving and always intelligent. Tonight, newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky traces her family history back to Belarus and Poland and, like Stephen Fry before, finds herself closer to the Holocaust then she ever thought possible. There are few shows these days I’d describe as genuine TV History in the making, but this is one of them.

Friday 7 to Sunday 9 September:
Friday night is comedy night on BBC1. Lee Mack's Not Going Out - 9:30 – returns for a second series. This is a flat-sharing comedy in the grand traditions of The Liver Birds, Men Behaving Badly and Game On. And its not bad at all. Mack and Tim Vine now have a new co-hab in The Green Wing's Sally Bretton. It's gently laddish but pretty witty and certainly worth a second shot at finding - and maintaining - an audience.

The cheeky lads from doon th' Bigg Market are back over the weekend. Ant & Dec's Saturday Takeaway – ITV, 8:25 - returns. Most of your favourite segments are back although apparently Little Ant and Little Dec have grown too big for their boots. The Sugarbabes perform their new single. So, that'll be worth avoiding.

There's two episodes to kick off the new season of Casualty on BBC1 at 8:00 on Saturday and Sunday. A bus bomb provides Holby with a horribly topical emergency. It’s a big episode for Charlie – Derek Thompson – who is feeling somewhat under appreciated as he struggles to cope with the crisis. There are days when this blogger know how he feels.

The Dinner Party – BBC1 9:00 – is a witty and acerbic comedy of middle-class suburbia starring Alun Armstrong and Alison Steadman. The presence of the latter, of course, immediately brings to mind the classic Abigal's Party from a period when TV plays could command huge audiences. I hope this one gets people watching.

Monday 10 September:
If you’ve been watching Corrie recently, you’ll know that Hayley’s hired a private detective to find her missing son, Christian. Well, tonight, she finds him but gets more than she bargained for when she decides to tell Roy what's been going on.

Over on the unremittingly miserable EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 – the big news is that Sean Slater’s finally been released from custody and he’s got just one thing on his mind. Which isn’t good news for Deano. Now, Sean's been punched in the face recently. And Deano's been punched in the face recently. So, have they just let him out to do a bit more face-punching, we wonder?

Dispatches: The Olympic Cash Machine - 8:00 Channel Four – looks into the likely cost of the 2012 Olympics and at who are the likely winners and losers. And, they’re not talking about gold, silver and bronze medals. I expect several more of these kind of troubling-making 'finger on the pulse exposé's over the next five years till the damn thing actually starts.

Tuesday 11 September:
The delightful Northern Skies – ITV, 7:30 – is back on ITV. If you’ve missed any of the episodes so far, you really have missed a treat. Aerial footage of North East landscapes are really pleasing on the eye and nice relaxing way to unwind after a day at work. Last week was the Tyne Valley, this week it's the area from Bishop Auckland to Whitby.

Silent Witness - 9:00 BBC1 – has been really rather good this year with the excellent teaming of Tom Ward and Emilia Fox giving a long-running show a bit of a boost after something of a fallow period. Tonight’s episode is the second of a two-parter about a paediatrician with a suspiciously high mortality rate.

Wednesday 12 September
Once again, I’d be stupid to start anywhere other than Match Of The Day Live – BBC1, 7:30. It’s England versus Russia in a vital Euro 2008 qualifier. Will Ian Wright be able to go more than a minute without giggling inanely? Can Alan Hansen survive a half without using the word 'unbelievable'? Who does Shearer's eyebrows these days? Perhaps we’ll never care.

There’s a choice of viewing at 9:00. Heroes, on BBC2, just gets better and better and tonight is a majorly important episode for several characters, including perky indestructible Claire and cute-but-a-bit-wet Peter.

Over on Channel Four there’s another Time Team special – this one celebrating the sixty fifth anniversary of VE Day called Buried By The Blitz. As ever with this gorgeous show, invest an hour of your life in it and you’re be rewarding with stuff you never knew and a warm, relaxed presentation style. Again, highly recommended.

Thursday 13 September:
Emmerdale had been just plain barmy of late, mainly thanks to one of the great eye-rolling over-the-top performances of recent TV history. Linda Thorson’s Rosemary strutting around the Yorkshire Dales like a character who got lost on the way to the nearest episode of Dynasty, complete with shoulder pads and vicious glances to camera. Tonight, with her daughter-in-law Perdy returning to the village after a spell in hospital, Rosemary decides murder might be a viable present.

There looks to be another great episode of Who Do You Think You Are? – BBC1, 9:00. Actor John Hurt, with his brother, sets out to discover if an old family story – about their grandmother being the illegitimate daughter of an Irish aristocrat – is true or not. The best non-fiction show on British TV delivers another winner. If you only watch one thing on TV tonight, make it this.

Friday 14 September:
After You've Gone - BBC1 8:30.
Viewers may be mistaken for thinking they've entered the TARDIS and gone back to 1973 for most of this weekend's tip. So, for the purposes of today's broadcast, I shall be wearing massive lambchop sideburns, huge Dan Dares, a kipper tie (milk, two-sugars) and I have splashed on much Hai Karate®™ aftershave. This blogger finds himself somewhat out of step with the rest of the country in not being able to stand this twee example of every sitcom cliché we thought had died two decades ago. It’s always nice to see actors of the quality Nick Lyndhurst and Celia Imrie in gainful employment of course but, seriously, it’s 2007 and we still doing mother-in-law jokes? What next, an ethnic couple moving in next door and playing their bongo-bongo music all night?

Saturday 15th Sept:
All New You’ve Been Framed - ITV 5:50.
At the risk of sounding like a right old moaner, here’s another very tired TV format – people do the craziest things, especially if there's a handy camcorder pointing at them - trotted out for what seems the millionth time. And, you’ve really got to wonder what on Earth a genuinely inventive comedian like Harry Hill is doing providing the (admittedly quite funny) narration. Hope the money was good, Harry.

Parkinson - ITV 10:35.
In what’s promised to be his final series - haven't we heard that before? - Michael Parkinson kicks off by bring out the big guns – Sir David Frost, Michael Palin and Dame Diana Rigg. There’s a sad irony in the fact that such a line-up wouldn't have looked out of place in 1973 when Parky was at his height on the BBC. In Radio Times this week, Michael describes himself as 'last of a dying breed' and that all other chat shows these days are 'more like comedy shows.' Seemingly that’s what people want.

Sunday 16 September:
BBC1 9:00 Michael Palin’s New Europe
Michael Palin returns on Sunday in his latest travel show – a six-part journey around Eastern Europe and the emergent nations in the Balkans and the old Soviet bloc. As someone who adored Michael’s early ventures into this style of TV, I hate to say this is starting to look like diminishing returns in terms of where next but, at least we’ve always got the ex-Python’s warm, friendly and relaxed presentation style. So, if you've ever wanted to see Michael Palin caught in the Balkans - steady - here's your chance.

Monday 17th Sept:
It’s drug-coma week on Corrie. You’ve seriously got to wonder whose bright idea it was to leave Bethany being babysat by David Platt. I mean, that’s like putting an arsonist in charge on a firework shop. Over at the Duckworths that nasty little tea-leaf Paul’s up to no good but Jack and Vera are, seemingly blind to his naughty way. It'll all end in tears.

BBC1 8:00 EastEnders
There’s a plotline brewing in Albert Square that night just give Corrie a run for their money over the next week. Seemingly, someone’s got it in for Ian Beale and playing with his mind. That's gonna take all of two minutes. And, that’s gonna be a pretty short list – people who don’t like Ian. Let’s start with the A's and by the end of the week we should have reached … C, maybe. Possibly D...

BBC2 8:30 Nigella Express
Is it just me who finds Nigella Express to be pompous, pretentious and rather insulting to millions of housewives who’ve been providing quick and tasty food for their families for decades? Just me, then? Nigella has her knockers, of course (oh, yes), though it must be said the girl cooks a tasty bit of mushroom tagliatella when the pressure is on. As previously noted, this blogger likes a good curry himself.

Tuesday 18th Sept:
Nick Crane’s delightful Great British Journeys follows in the footsteps of one of the nations greatest authors, Daniel Defoe who was a noted traveller from a Suffolk base in the latter part of the 18th Century. It was, apparently, during this journey that he met Alexander Selkirk, then living in Gateshead, and the idea for a novel loosely based on Selkirk’s real-life abandonment of a desert island first arrived.

Five 8:00 The Great Olympic Drug Scandal: Revealed
In the 1970s it never seemed particularly strange when East German athletes developed muscles on their muscles (and that was just the girls) and broke dozens of world records in times that, even now, seem ludicrous. Two decades after the Berlin Wall came down and it’s only now that team doctors are beginning to talk openly about what was, in effect, state sponsored cheating.

You Can’t Fire Me, I’m Famous isn’t a show I watch regularly (I can only take so much Piers Morgan before I want to start smashing my head off a brick wall) but tonight features Freddie Flintoff talking, for the first time about his pedalo experiences.

Wed 19th Sept:
BBC1 8:30 Rogue Traders
Matt Allwright and Dan Penteado return for a new series in which they use cunning disguises and hidden cameras to expose fly-tippers and other assorted scum of humanity. Seriously, I’m all for a bit of investigative journalism of TV, but fly-tippers? Haven't you guys got some real criminals to chase?

ITV 9:00 Torn
New three-part psychological thriller which features two of my favourite actresses Holly Aird (formerly of Waking the Dead) and Nicola Walker (ex of Spooks). This looks rather good – a thriller about a couple whose daughter dissappeared some years ago are unnerved when a teenage girl turns up claiming to be her. Bradley Walsh is also in it. Looks terrific.

Thurs 20th Sept:
All you ladies are spoiled for choice at eight o'clock tonight. On What Not to Wear on BBC 1 Mica and Linda meet "cardigan-loving Stuart" who is" despondent after being single for ten years." Meanwhile, on Channel 4's Ten Years Younger "with his lank hair and receding gums, 35 year old DJ Simon often gets mistaken for a 49 year old." Can Nicky Hambleton-Jones rewind the years? Bet you can all hardly wait to find out... ?

ITV 9:00 Commando: On the Front Line
A sort of X-Factor for army cadets, this eight-part documentary series follows 50 young men as they undergo months of demanding physical and mental training in order to join the elite Royal Marine commandos.

C4 10:00 Without a Trace
Return for a fifth season of the excellent US drama series about the FBI missing persons unit. It's got the same sort of audience as CSI which I know is very popular with many listeners so if you haven't seen this one yet, give it a go.

Friday 21st Sept:
BBC 2 10:00 Qi
Friday night sees the return of one of the most entertaining shows on TV. This Stephen Fry-fronted intelligence quiz tries to teach viewers that “everything you know is wrong” with a cunning mix of laddish humour and some genuine revelation. Comedians like Alan Davies, Phill Jupitas and Bill Bailey add to the fun. It’s witty, it’s charming, it’s enthusiastic and you just might learn something from it.

Saturday 22nd Sept:
BBC1 6:55 The World’s Greatest Elvis
If comedy is the new rock n roll then it’s difficult to work out what rock n roll is these days? The new light entertainment, perhaps. In The World’s Greatest Elvis Vernon Kay hosts a competition in which thirty – of what are alleged to be – the world’s best Elvis impersonators compete with each other. To see which of them will end up bloated on a Vegas stage singing 'American Trilogy'. Or something.

ITV 9:40 Elton John: Me, Myself & IA decade ago the infamous Tantrums & Tiaras set a new standard for fly-on-the-wall (if you will) rockumentaries and revealed what a hard-working, fun-loving individual that Elton John is. Some of the time. It’s taken Sir Elt a decade to let cameras anywhere near him again. Elton John: Me, Myself & I appears to be “officially endorsed product” however, so were unlikely to see too many stroppy prima-donna moments. Shame, those were make highly entertaining viewing.

Sunday 23rd Sept:
ITV 9:00 Agatha Christie’s Marple
ITV’s classic Sunday night drama staple these days was the BBC’s classic Sunday night drama staple twenty years ago. Whether Geraldine McEwan is a better Miss Marple than Joan Hickson, I’ll leave to the cognoscenti but in At Bertam’s Hotel, the Octeganaian detective finds herself with an entire hotel full of suspects to a gruesome murder – including Martine McCutcheon, Peter Davison, Francesca Annis and Mica Paris. I'll bet they all did it. You know, for a laugh.

Monday 24th Sept:
The big Hayley and Christian storyline reaches a climax tonight on Corrie. Whilst Roy’s doing plenty of grimacing behind the deep fat fryer Hayley prepares herself for one of the weirdest conversations of her life: “Son, I’m your dad.” “You mean my mum?” “Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you but …”

8:00 BBC1 EastEnders
Over in Albert Square Stacey Slater’s wedding plans are going horribly wrong. So horribly, in fact, that Bradley chooses Max to be the best man. That’s got to hurt. Meanwhile, Ian’s gone missing and a shadowy figure is seen loitering around Jane’s flat. So who could it be? Dirty Den? Nick Cotton? Ethal and Little Willy? Harold Bishop? Elvis? Nah, he's dead... Pete Doherty?

9:00 ITV Doc Martin
Martin Clunes returns for another series of Doc Martin, the maverick doctor in a rural community with a complicated home life. I like this show – it’s Heartbeat: The Next Generation, of course, but the Cornish locations and Martin’s comedy timing make it undemanding and occasionally very rewarding.

Tuesday 25th sept:
C4 9:00 Bringing Up BabyHave you noticed how good television has got at telling viewers that how they're conducting their lives is all wrong? You’re eating the wrong things. You’re wearing the wrong clothes. Your house is horrible. Bringing Up Baby is the latest in a new trend of “… and, the way you’re raising your kids is a disgrace” TV. In this show, three childcare experts attempt to prove that their way is best. I don’t suppose there’ll be any conclusions at the end because, in this kind of thing, there seldom are. Just a lot of loud voices. The question is, what to do with TV Executives who commission this kind of show? Send them to bed without any supper I reckon, though others may disagree.

ITV 10:00 Don’t Call Me Stupid
The Alexander Armstrong job-swap quiz Don’t Call Me Stupid has, sadly, been wretched for the four episodes so far. So listeners may be surprised that I’m urging them to give it another go. However, tonight’s episode features Germaine Greer trying to get to grips with car mechanics whilst former Boyzone singer Shane Lynch has to increase his knowledge on the wild flowers of Essex. Come on, seriously, you couldn’t write comedy like that.

Wednesday 26th Sept:
I recommended Torn last week and the opening episode was a classic of tense, dramatic and emotional interplay so today I’m recommending you stick with it. Obviously the main focus is on Holly Aird, Nicola Walker and Bradley Walsh but a word of praise, too for the young girl who plays Alice – Jo Woodcock. She’s a real star find and a name to look out for in the future.

I missed the first episode of Benidorm Unpacked, a documentary series about British ex-pats in the Costa Del Sol but the description of tonight’s makes it Must-See-Telly. “One-armed, one-legged Meat Loaf impersonator Neil St John wonders where his next gig is coming from.” I wonder why? I’m certainly going to be watching to find out.

Lastly, a quick mention for the popular Californian soap Brothers & Sisters on Channel 4. There’s two episodes on tonight – in the week that Sally Field won an Emma for her performance - both featuring guest appearances by Rob Lowe. Sunshine, big houses and nice teeth, it’s the American dream, isn’t it?

Thurs 27th Sept:
I mentioned Mock the Week – the Dara O’Brien topical news quiz – at the start of the season and it’s been pootling along nicely. The thing about this show is, like Have I Got News for You?, it lives or dies by it’s guest stars. Thus, tonight’s episode – featuring the divine Lauren Laverne and the really funny David Mitchell – looks to be well worth half an hour of your time.

Alternatively, on ITV at the same time there’s the first of a six-part drama series called The Whistleblowers with a highly improbable storyline about a couple who set up a group aimed at encouraging people to blow the whistle on conspiracies. Sound like a pair of interfering busy-bodies to me. But it’s written by Tony Marchant and it’s got a couple of really good actors – Coupling’s Richard Coyle and Torchwood’s Indira Varma – in it so it could turn out to be a surprise hit.

Billie Piper’s career has certainly hit terminal velocity since she left the TARDIS and tonight sees her much anticipated appearance in The Secret Diary of a Call Girl on ITV2. If you haven’t got freeview, however, don’t worry as I expect this to be turning up on ITV very soon. It looks great.

Friday 28th Sept:
Stephen Fry once noted that being a TV Critic was the most pointless occupation in the world. Quite right. So, welcome to two more minutes of pointlessness. Up Close and Dangerous on Channel 4 sees Wildlife documentary filmmakers telling tales of brushes with death in the course of their job. Reminds me of the story of the cameraman and soundman who are filming a lion which is starting to get a bit too close for comfort. The cameraman starts to slip on pair of trainers. “You’ll never outrun that thing” says his mate. “No, but I’ll outrun you.”

Sat 29th Sept:
Speaking of Stephen Fry, it was his 50th birthday about six weeks ago and BBC 2 dedicate most of tonight’s schedule to examples of his oeuvre. The highlight is a repeat of his 2005 episode of Who Do You Think You Are? One of the most moving and impressive hours of television ever made. There's also episodes of Blackadder, Qi, Room 101 etc. Sounds like a night worth staying in for.

ITV’s big event of the night is The National Movie Awards. Expect Casino Royale, Harry Potter and Borat to feature strongly. Alexander Armstrong is the presenter … hopefully trying to forget all about what a dog his Don’t Call Me Stupid has turned into.

Sun 30th Sept:
Just when you think TV has scraped the bottom of the barrel and can get no lower along comes good old Channel 4 to surprise you. In Celebrity Wife Swap recently married big-lipped singer Pete Burns and his partner, Michael Simpson swap places with the former hard man of Liverpool and Spurs Razor Ruddock and his partner, ex-Page Three girl Leah Newman. What makes this worse is that somebody actually GOT PAID for coming up with this idea. No justice.

Monday 1st Oct:
It’s all Liam and Carla on Corrie tonight. After accusing his sister-in-law of sleeping with that oily smoothy Tony, there’s a heated row with a surprising end. Weatherfield may never be the same again.

Meanwhile, in Walford, Stacey’s still on her mission to stop Max from being Bradley’s best man. Strange girl that Stacey. Tough, stubborn and bitchy, but her inside you sense may hide a lonely, desperate girl reaching out for the love of a good man. Or, you know, Bradley anyway…

One of my favourite drama show, Murphy’s Law is back for the first of three episodes tonight. I know that James Nesbitt somewhat divides opinion but I thought he was great in Jekyll and he’s great in this. It appears that, in general, that darker the material, the more magnetic he is. Be warned, however, as with previous stories this show can be VERY violent at time so if you’re of a nervous disposition, you might want to stick with the gentler Doc Martin on ITV at the same time.

Tues 2nd Oct:
In Jamie at Home, Jamie Oliver is horrified to discover that his lovely garden is bereft of mushrooms. So, he trots off into the local forest to hunt for ingredients for his perfect risotto. Careful for the special herbal ones Jamie. Some people had a omelette of those in 1967 and haven’t come back from Venus yet. You tend not to have those sort of problems with the tinned ones you get from Morrisons.

The big Champions League game on ITV tonight is Manchester United verses Roma. I know it’s traditional to want to see English teams do well but … it is Manchester United after all. So, Forza Italia.

The Grumpy Guide to… a spin-off from Grumpy Old Men, returns from a new series tonight with an episode that promises to lift the lid of the complicated subject of class system – from toffs who’ve got the breeding but have run out of money to nouveau rich vulgarian premier league footballers with the social graces of a mollusc but plenty of cash. So, this was today’s Top Telly Tips presented to you by Keith Telly Topping, working class, poor and proud of it.

Wednesday 3rd Oct:
I love “interfering busybody” TV. Shows which provide a service to the public by exposing all that nefarious skulduggery going on in the building game or the motor trade. Tonight, the BBC’s got not one but two of them, Watchdog followed immediately by Rogue Traders. The former’s always worth watching for Nicky Campbell’s “I could’ve been the next Paxman, me” grilling of some hapless trader who’s charge five quid too much for a installing some patio doors. I wouldn’t cross him.

It’s a terrific night for all us Sci-Fi nerds as Heroes features not only a terrific cameo by Star Trek’s Mr Sulu (as Hiro’s dad) but also the a scene-stealing turn by Christopher Eccleston. He plays the Invisible Man but you do get to see him occasionally.

In ONE Life, the schoolchildren who all bellowed “Hey, teacher. Leave them kids alone” on ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ nearly thirty years ago tell the story of what impact the song had on their lives. Spending a day in the studio with Pink Floyd, you’ve thought at least one of them could’ve told Roger Waters a joke and, like, cheered him up a bit.

Thurs 4th Oct:
Two good looking new comedy shows on BBC2 tonight. The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle is Jennifer Saunders latest character vehicle. In this she stars as a ruthlessly ambition Oprah Winfrey-style chat show hostess. With support from Miranda Richardson and Fern Brittan it’s to be hoped this is more Absolutely Fabulous and less Jam and Jerusalem.

Immediately afterwards is The Peter Serafinowicz Show, a sketch show from the actor and impressionist whom listeners may remember from comedy series like Spaced, Black Books and Look Around You. I’m not normally a great fan of that Dead Ringers school of comedy but the one clip I’ve seen - a painfully accurate take on The X-Factor - suggests this could become something of cult hit.

Friday 5th Oct:
Television is the drug of the nation according to the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy. Therefore, he is listeners weekend fix. I mentioned The Tudors when it began in the US and BBC2 have picked up the rights to it – you’ve probably seen the trailers (they've been hard to avoid). It stars Jonathan Rhys Myers – he’s Henery the eighth he is, he is. It’s also got some good actors in it – Sam Neill is Cardinal Wolsey, for example. Perhaps inevitably, it’s historically ludicrous, like most US takes on British history coming over like some kind of 15th Century Dallas. So if you like your doublet with big shoulder pads, you'd walk a mile for a canny bag of The Tudors.

Saturday 6th Oct:
An equally ridiculous look at a British historical icon comes from the Beeb themselves as Robin Hood returns for its second season on Saturday. The first year divided opinion and wasn’t’ quite the hit the BBC thought it was going to be but it’s got enough of an audience to win another series. And, let’s face it there are few sights in life funnier than Keith Allen camping it up as the most eye-rolling Sheriff of Nottingham since Alan Rickman. Of course, legend has it that as Robin lay dying he said "I will fire this arrow in the air and wherever it lands you may bury my body." And that's where you'll still find him today - on top of the wardrobe...

The always-worthwhile Arena, also on Saturday, focuses on the very 1990s phenomena of tribute bands many of whom strut their funky stuff at the excellently named Limelight Club in Crewe. Looks entertaining.

Sunday 7th Oct:
Guess who just got back today, them wild eyed boys that’ve been way. BBC2’s biggest hit, Top Gear returns and, for the next ten weeks, lots of fortysomething blokes with spreading waistlines – like me – will be stopping in on Sunday night's to watch Jezza, Hamster and Cap’n Slow shouting “power” a lot. It has it’s critics, of course, and all of them are wrong. How can anybody not admire something that upsets both those wretched cock-sucking scum at the Daily Mail and all these filthy communist troublemakers at the Guardian - that really does take some doing.

Monday 8th Oct:
With the charm of a dose of the shingles, the manners of a spoiled brat and a ruthless streak that would shame a piranha fish, Cilla Battersby has managed the almost impossible – making viewers feel sorry for Les. In tonight’s Corrie she discovers how much Frank, the sweet old man who took a shine to her, has left her in his will. This has got “he who laugh’s last laughs longest” written all over it.

In EastEnders, meanwhile, Chelsea and Deano have their day in court up a’fore the beak. But the big news is the arrival of Vince, a shady Alfie Moon-style character played by Bobby Davro. Yes, THE Bobby Davro, he of a thousand Filthy, Rich and Catflap jokes about celebrity golf. Interesting career move for the Bobster, this.

On BBC2 there’s something completely different. Windscale: Britain’s Biggest Nuclear Disaster tells the hitherto an "official secret" story of a day in 1957 when a fire in the reactor core threatened a meltdown that could have been Britain’s own Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. This fascinating documentary talks to many of those who fought the fire and reveals a cover-up that made the staff themselves scapegoats for safety failings. Of course, if we ever had a repeat, it's estimated that three pounds and twenty seven pence of damage would be done to Barrow-in-Furness.

Tuesday 9th Oct:
On Emmerdale, after accidentally answering Debbie’s phone, Scarlett discovers the compromising photos of Eli and Kelly. Of course, this would have to happen on Kelly and Jim’s wedding day, wouldn’t it. Soap weddings are usually pretty much like normal people’s funerals: Bitchy, full of bitter rivalry and usually ending in a huge drunken fight. This looks like it might be another in a grand and noble tradition.

Tonight sees the last two episodes of Channel 4’s occasionally funny Skins which, if you’ve never seen it before is a comedy-drama about teenagers. Sort of Hollyoaks meets Shameless but with a few laughs, occasionally. Tonight features a guest appearance by Harry Enfield.

Wednesday 10th Oct:
Alan Titchmarsh, the thinking pensioner’s sex-stud, returns to our screens in The Nature of Britain an eight part series about the wonder, spectacle and surprise of the British Isles. This is one of those shows that looks desperately twee and dated and yet, when you watch ten minutes of it, you get suckered by nice shots of tree and flowers and, by episode three, you’re hooked. Plus, it’s something of a dead night on TV anyway so I’m tempted to give this one a go.

I haven’t covered Strictly Come Dancing’s new series yet, although I will get to it eventually, but tonight’s episode of the spin-off Strictly Come Dancing – It Takes Two follows the – hopefully not too fumbling – steps the contestants. Dead Ringers’ star Jan Ravens gives her impression of the contestants. Impression see, it’s a … oh, never mind.

Lastly tonight, Five’s controversial new series How to Have Sex After Marriage in which three “sexperts” teach couples how to put the passion back into their bedroom. Seriously, if you were in a stable but not particularly potent marriage, would you want to go on television to talk about it to millions of viewers? Or, given that it’s Five, several viewers, anyway.

Thursday 11th October:
The BBC’s school drama Waterloo Road returns for a new series tonight and joining Denise Walsh, Jason Merrells and co is a new deputy headmaster played by Neil Morrisey. Hang on, Neil Morrisey? Would you want your child to go to a school in which “him out of Men Behaving Badly” had any sort of position of responsibility? I dunno, Martin Clunes is diagnosing people’s illnesses and Neil Morrisey’s education the next generation. We’re doomed.

Big night for Five tonight as they’ve got two new US imports. Californication, as the title might suggest, is about a libido driven Hollywood writer whose got a broken marriage and a teenage girlfriend only a few years older than his daughter. It’s rude, it’s dirty and it’s comfortably the best thing David Duchovny has been in in YEARS. Not to all tastes but, if you liked Sex in the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm, you might get a kick out of this.

Straight afterwards is 30 Rock a sitcom about life behind the scenes at a US comedy show, based not very loosely at all on Saturday Night Live. So, it’s essentially, the same set up as Studio 60 only without the classy writing. And yet, amazingly, this was the show that won Emmys and got renewed. The star is Tina Fey who’s very good but watch out for a scene-stealing performance by Alec Baldwin, the best reason for watching.

Friday 12th October:
According to the US series Angel there are only three reasons that mankind was able to raise himself above the animals. Opposable thumbs, fire and television. Here’s your weekend TV tips.

Have I Got News For You is starting to show its age a bit. The format still works but it depends, hugely, on Ian Hislop and Paul Merton being on good form. When they are, and it’s a good news week, and they’ve got an amusing guest or two, it can still punch with the heavyweights. So, this week what with all of the news about an election that we’re not going to have, and the presence of Ross Noble, it should be a classic.

Sat 13th Oct:
The new season of Strictly Come Dancing began last week with one of the funniest one-liners on TV in months. A sweating and clearly somewhat less than fit John Barnes had just completed his moves. Arlene Phillips eyes narrowed. “It would help”, she said, “if your partner could see your feet.” They don’t call her the Bitch Queen of TV centre for nothing.

Over on BBC2 there’s the welcome return of The Culture Show in which Lauren Laverne and Mark Kermode gently guide us through the best movies releases, TV shows, books and music around. Just highbrow enough to make you feel a bit of an intellectual when you watch it but not so much as to be exclusive.

Sun 14th Oct:
On Sunday, and in a similar vein, there’s The South Bank Show, given a graveyard slot by ITV but still, determinedly bringing culture to the masses. Given that it’s sandwiched between a rugby match and a documentary about drugs amongst teenagers, ITV could probably use a bit of that. Tonight’s episode is a special on the brilliant double act of John Bird and John Fortune who can also be seen earlier in the evening on Channel 4 in their regular show with Rory Bremner on Channel 4.

Monday 15th Oct:
Monday night is soap night - tonight’s double bill of Corrie mainly centres around Jason’s stag do, Todd’s return from London and Sarah’s general unhappiness. So, expect Jason to wake up on York railway station wearing nothing but his underpants and a pair of fishing waders and Todd to be discovered stabbed in the back with Gail’s knitting needle.

In EastEnders there’s trouble a-brewin’ – inevitably - in the aftermath of Jane getting shot. A scruffy bearded tramp stands by her bedside at Walford general … but no it’s not that oily little Communist Bill Oddie, it’s just Ian, released from his dingy imprisonment in The Tower of Doom, like some sort of Cockney Rapunzel… Only with a chip shop. So, that’s another fun-filled half hour of your lives that you’ll never get back.

If you prefer gentler, less vicious and hard-faced telly then you’re really in for a disappointment tonight because Dragons Den is back. Professional David Beckham lookalike Andy Harmer presents the business gurus with plans for a £100,000 celebrity doubles experience, bringing along his friends Will Smith and Johnny Deep for support. Presumably, the Dragons have hired a professional Simon Cowell lookalike to tell them not to bother taking their coats off and getting comfortable.

Tuesday 16th October:
One of last years surprise hits was BBC2’s Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure in which Oz Clarke and James May, essentially, wandered on a road trip around France drinking lots of wine. It was lovely to look at and the odd couple partnership of the two had a genuine matey charm to it. This year, they’ve repeated the formula but, this time, in California, starting off at the acclaimed pinot noir town of Santa Barbara. Careful, lads the drink-driving laws in the US are savage.

It seems like forever since the last series of Spooks ended with Adam and Ros escaping from a flooded tunnel just as their air was about to run out. I love this show, it’s action packed, testosterone fuelled, mind-numbingly violent and yet, at it’s core, it’s a very human story about civil servants who are just as comfortable packing as gun as using a mouse. Like 24, but with a budget account that has to be filled in, in triplicate.

Alternatively, ITV’s Britain’s Biggest Storm is a documentary about the hurricane which, twenty years ago tonight, ravaged southern England killed 19 people and causing millions of pounds worth of damage. Of course it’s also remembered for Michael Fish poopahing a viewers suggestion that a significant burst of bad weather was on the way. One of the few occasions that a weatherman hasn’t talked a lot of wind.

Wednesday 17th October:
It's all go on the telly tonight. In My Body Hell Jude Legge, who is four inches taller than her husband, discusses how it feels to tower above her man. I once went out with a tall woman. Very useful when it started raining, I always found.

In Location, Location, Location Phil, Phil, Phil and Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie’s countdown of the best, best, best and worst, worst, worst places to live in the UK goes live, live, live. Last year, you may remember, Winchester, Winchester, Winchester won and Hackney, Hackney, Hackney came last. This year, expect Hull, Hull, Hull, which apparently has more fish and chips shops per head of population than anywhere else in the world, to feature strongly. Errr nerrr

Channel 4 have finally scheduled the excellent Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on terrestrial TV after it’s proved a minor, but welcome, hit on More4. Of course, they’ve stuck it on at quarter to midnight so we should now expect them to act all surprised when it gets an audience of about three. A TV show about behind the scenes at a TV show, it starts Matt Perry out of Friends and Brad Whitford from The West Wing. It’s funny and it’s clever and, if you’re an insomniac, you’ll think Christmas has come early.

Thursday 18th October:
In The Truth about Property business and finance expert Andrew Verity explores just how far homebuyers are prepared to stretch themselves to get on the property ladder. So, if you’re in the position of walking past a neighbour’s garden shed and thinking “a lick of paint and I could do something with that” this is the show for you.

Who Do You Think You Are? Comes to the end of it’s fourth series tonight. The quality of this patch of episodes has fluctuated, somewhat particularly Natasha Kaplinsky bursting into tears about every ten seconds on the opening night. Tonight, Olympic champion Matthew Pinsent researches his grandfather’s first world war experiences. So, if there's any of Natasha's river of tears still floating around, Matthew can, at least, row away.

Lastly, another quick mention for The Peter Serrafinowicz Show which is becoming a little bit of must-see-telly on Thursday nights. In this episode, Darth Vadar meets his ideal woman, hopeless chancer Brian Butterworth unveils his latest business venture and we get an acting masterclass from Kevin Spacey. Cruel, but unusually funny.

Friday 19th Oct:
Bob Ferris once noted that, in the chocolate box on life, the top layer’s already gone and somebody’s nicked the orange crème from the bottom. And on that cheery note, here’s your weekend telly tips. Five week into the current season and Qi remains, easily, the most effortlessly amusing and witty show on TV. Tonight’s episode focuses on common misconceptions about Europe with Phill Jupitas (and, of course, Stephen Fry) being on particularly good form.

Saturday 20th October:
Fifteen men chasing on egg-shaped bit of leather around a field for 80 minutes might be many listeners idea of fun but, since It’s a Knockout’s no longer with us, you’ll have to make do with the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday instead. I thought England were supposed to be also-rans in this tournament but, seemingly, two decent performances and we’re suddenly world beaters. Sounds about right.

Casualty’s been terrific so far this year – lots of new characters and a real sense of freshness and innovation. Tonight’s episode involves a case of food poisoning at a wedding. Bet it was the chicken drumsticks. It’s always the chicken drumsticks. Except when it’s the sausage rolls. Or them little sausage-and-cheese-and-pickled-onions-on-sticks thing that everyone eats too many of.

Sun 21st Oct:
Sunday night’s big drama on ITV is Catwalk Dogs a romantic comedy from Simon Nye which stars Kris Marshall (he of those really annoying BT adverts) and Georgina MacKenzie as a couple suffering from a lull in their relationship who decide to get a pedigree puppy. And that’s when the fun really begins in a tale of infidelity and dogshows. Looks rather interesting.

Monday 22nd Oct:
Isn’t it interesting that a malevolent little recidivist like David Platt can become something close to a national icon. Only in soapland, ladies and gentlemen. In Corrie tonight he sets about a violent bit of sabotage with Jason as his intended victim. Whilst, presumably, Gail looks on thinking “that’sa ma boy.” The Queen Vic is a national institution but the smoking ban and Phil’s recent wet spell has suggested hard times on the horizon for Peggy. So, have we heard her plaintive cry of “Gerr-orf out my pub” for the last time? Not if Ronnie and Roxy have anything to do about it.

There’s a major TV event on BBC4 tonight with the adaptation of John Cleland’s erotic Eighteenth Century soap-opera Fanny Hill. If you think The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl but with a much better script (written by the great Andrew Davies who was responsible for Bleak House and Pride & Prejudice). Rebecca Night plays the titular character alongside a cast of thousands. Ruder than Californication but, you know, far classier.

Current viewing:
Pushing Daisies - best new US show since The West Wing (which will now, almost certainly, mean it'll get cancelled after about eight episodes).
Without A Trace
Top Gear
The Simpsons - back to its very best.

Current Reading:
Richard Holmes - The World At War (Ebury)
Ian Botham - Head On: The Autobiography (Ebury)
Richard Hammond - On The Edge (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Charlotte Mosley - The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (Fourth Estate)
Sid Waddell - Bellies & Bullseyes (Ebury)
Paolo Hewitt - Paul Weller: The Changing Man (Bantam Press)

Currently Listening:
Working Week - Venceremos
Kev Hopper & Walter Ego - The Sound Of Gyroscopes
Vicki Leandros - L'Amour Est Bleu
The Nails - Eighty Eight Lines About Forty Four Women
Schneider TM - The Light Three Thousand
White Town - Your Woman
Johnny Foreigner - Champagne Girls I Have Known
Stump - Charlton Heston
Happy Mondays - Mad Cyril (Hello Girls)
Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know
Gang of Four - At Home He's A Tourist
Dr Feelgood - Roxette
Roy Harper - When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease
Blow Monkeys - Digging Your Scene
The Smiths - Rubber Ring
Underworld - Bruce Lee

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The C To F Of Groovy Movies

Part two of a series of ... however many this blogger decides to post ...
Canterbury Tale, A (1949): Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's allegorical fable of modern day Chaucer-like pilgrimage, as three very different people (Sheila Sim, Dennis Price, John Sweet) walk the quiet parochial back roads of post-war Kent in search of a sense of belonging. Like all of Powell and Pressburger's movies, the women characters are strong and intelligent, the men noble and caring and the dialogue breathtaking ('There is more that one way of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the Old Road and as you do, think of them; they climbed Chillingbourne Hill just as you did'). Sweet-natured, gentle and unique. There is, quite simply, no other film like this.
Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1972): Colourful, exciting and full of action and symbolism, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter has a dreamy, acquiescent, fairy-tale quality to it. Kronos, like a king in exile, rides through the frightened countryside, with his loyal friend and a beautiful girl, doing a bit of righteous ethnic cleansing on any vampires he meets. It's every schoolboy's dream, isn't it? Horst Janson is perfectly cast as the pot-smoking superhero swordsman, whilst the rest of the cast (particularly Caroline Munro, John Cater and John Carson) give some great support. A series of sequels, each set in different time periods, was planned by Brian Clemens but, sadly, this never happened. Indeed, Captain Kronos only emerged in 1974, two years after it was made, for a brief run as a support feature to a kung-fu movie called The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick. As has been noted elsewhere, the concept would have made a fabulous TV series.
Captain Clegg (1962): Released as Night Creatures in the US, this remake of Dr Syn marks the high point of Hammer's brief - and only occasionally successful - foray into the world of pirate adventure. Cushing and Lee are at their swaggering, swashbuckling best in a tale of Cornish smugglers and dark secrets and there's a terrific role in it for a very young and very pretty Ollie Reed.
Carry On Cleo (1964): Probably the best known, and certainly the most quoted of the Carry On films ("Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!") A madcap round-the-houses adaptation of Julius Caeser with Kenny Williams and Charles Hawtrey at their campest, Sid James's laugh at its dirtiest, Joan Sims's cleavage at its largest and Old Pertwee going so far over the top he's down the other side. Amanda Barrie is a disturbingly sexy schoolgirlish Cleopatra. Full of groan-inducing jokes ('I'm Spencerus. That's my brother, Marcus. We're in partnership now!') and silly characters and totally lovable for it. "Saluté!"
Carry On Screaming (1966): Easily the best of the Carry On movies as the usual suspects take apart the Hammer success story in search for laughs. You get what you usually get - every mad-scientist joke imaginable (and a few that aren't), Kenny Williams, Charlie Hawtrey and Pertwee overacting disgracefully and Jim Dale doing "bewildered" better than any else in screen history. A touch of class in this one, however, is provided by Harry H Corbett. And, it's worth it for the "foul feet smell something horrible" joke alone. "Frying tonight!"
Casablanca (1942): "Round up the usual suspects." Peerless, legendary war-time melodrama. Once-in-a-lifetime cast, a script that most movie buffs can recite word-for-word, that song. Memorable for all the right reasons - including the curious ambiguity of some of the character motivations. And, the bit when Bogie stands on the balcony and nods and all the French start singing 'La Marseilles' remains one of cinema's finest moments.
Charge Of The Light Brigade, The (1968): A challenging violently anti-war movie and with one of the best scripts of Charles Wood's career (the writer noted that, since he didn't know how people talked in the 1850s, he made up his own syntax which then sounded so authentic that just about every period movie and TV show since has ripped it off). Stunning battle sequences and a genuine sense of the confusion and madness of war - look into David Hemmings' eyes as he leads the six hundred into battle and you can see the naked bloodlust. Natasha and Joely Richardson's film debuts (as children in their mother's wedding party).
Clockwork Orange, A (1972): Hugely controversial Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Anthony Burgess's classic futurist nightmare. Not as violent (or, actually, as disturbing) as its droogy reputation suggested during the twenty five years when you couldn't see the damn thing (unless you lived in France). Horrorshow. The satire of the original has also lessened through time, although the acting (Malcolm McDowell and Warren Clarke, especially) is never less that brilliant. Memorable script - 'show us yer yarbles if, indeed, y'have any yarbles to show!' - and redolent with Wendy Carlos's influential electronic score. Now you can get it on DVD, viddy well my brothers.
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The (1977): Steven Spielberg's huge, epic, humanist evocation of mankind's first contact with extra terrestrial life. if any movie could be said to justify the term iconic, this is it. A template for every SF movie made since (those that look nothing like it are a reaction to it). Watch the skies, we are not alone.
Club, The (1980): Hilarious, pointedly personal Bruce Beresford movie about the behind the scenes politics and personal strife affecting an Australian Rules football club. Stars nobody you'd have ever heard of but the cast are quite brilliant in this naturalistic and absorbing social drama. Plenty of laughs too.
Comfort and Joy (1984): Off-beat Bill Forsyth movie about warring Glasgow families in the ice cream industry - based on a true story - in which a local radio presenter (Bill Paterson) becomes involved. Like all of Forsyth's movies (Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero), a mixture of eccentricity, charm and wry humour. All this, plus Clare Grogan. "What's your great contribution to society, then?!"
Corpse, The (1969): This ambitious, multi-layered little British chiller with a script by actor Olaf Pooley had absolutely zero budget, but what it lacked in that department it more than made up for in terms of striking atmosphere and conceptual depth. The Corpse is not based upon the most original of concepts but it is extraordinarily well-written and superbly acted. Has there ever been a more believable screen villain than Michael Gough's performance here? A character of malevolence and mediocrity far removed for supernatural monsters. An inscrutable parody of domestic banality, The Corpse reveals the tensions and sordid details beneath the surface of traditional English middle-class family values. And it does so with a sense of righteous outrage at the rampant hypocrisy that it finds squatting in the darkness. US Title: Crucible of Horror.
Cruel Sea, The (1953): Realistic, tense and admirably balanced view of the pressures of Royal Navy life during WWII based on the classic Nicholas Monsarrat novel. Steller performances (Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Deholm Elliott, Stanley Baker).
Cul-De-Sac (1966): Repulsion made his reputation in the West, but Roman Polanski really only came of age with this, his second England-language movie. Filmed on the windswept Northumberland coast and featuring an intriguingly ambiguous plot, the movie depends for much of its atmosphere on Donald Pleasance and Jack MacGowan's effortless mastery of a macabre script.
Curse Of Frankenstein, The (1956): A colour zeitgeist smashes its way into the previously formulaic and monochrome world of the English gothic cinema. After this, things would never be the same again - for Hammer, or for anyone else working within the genre. Considering how spat-upon it was at the time of release, The Curse of Frankenstein seems quite tame by today's standards. There's remarkably little gore in the film and rather too much talk, although Terence Fisher's experimental use of vivid reds and garish greens was revolutionary for its time. The first half of the narrative, for all the melodramatic dialogue and stilted romantic subplot, is brilliantly carried by Cushing's impressively foppish, Byronesque Victor. From the point where the creature is raised, however (a breathtaking sequence), Lee takes over. His shambling, pathetic monster is a cunning mixture of pathos and naked aggression and is utterly riveting to watch. Curse - whether it realised it or not - was part of a cultural movement that helped to shake Britain from its dreary post-war lethargy and push it, perhaps unwillingly, towards a bright new era. It is not, entirely, without foundation to suggest that the 1960s, in all of its varied forms, started here.
Curse Of The Werewolf, The (1960): Weeping eyes fill the screen at the beginning of Terence Fisher's beautifully designed film and set the visual agenda for what follows dramatically. A huge influence on future Lycanthrope movies, The Curse of the Werewolf's cluttered script, sexually aggressive conceits and, occasionally, inelegant stubs at outré visual forms conspire to exact a heavy price. These, and other aesthetic drawbacks, render the film somewhat gauche beside The Mummy's groundbreaking and urbane recontextualisation of Hammer's basic monster-movie format, and positively anaemic compared to the sophisticated metaphors and depth of Dracula. Nevertheless, there is much to admire in Curse's doomed romance subplot and, best of all, Oliver Reed's tortured central performance. The plot includes much subtle socio-political observation, via the cruel oppression of the peasantry (note, also, that only men seem to have been invited to the Marques' wedding celebrations - so it's a patriarchal world as well as a capitalist one). The movie is also immeasurably aided by Roy Ashton's fabulous make-up job on Reed. One of Hammer's finest.
Dam Busters, The (1955): Almost documentary-like movie about the development and subsequent deployment of the "bouncing bomb" used by the RAF in a spectacular and hugely successful raid on the Ruhr valley. Michael Redgrave is brilliant as Barnes Wallis, Richard Todd even better as Guy Gibson. Considering it was made a mere 10 years after the war ended, there's a surprisingly heartfelt anti-war feel to it. " If I'd known it was going to be like this, I'd never have started." Watch out for Patrick McGoohan in a tiny walk-on role.
Devil Rides Out, The (1967): Hammer's sumptuous adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's text benefits from two magnificent performances - Christopher Lee and Charles Gray - and from some of Terence Fisher's most memorable set-pieces. Highlights include a lengthy car chase through the twisting greenbelt Hertfordshire lanes involving beautiful vintage motors like an episode of The Avengers. The Devil Rides Out remains one of the most intelligent, ruminative and elegant horror movies ever made - in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter - and is still both an unnerving and riveting experience for the viewer.
Dial 'M' For Murder (1954): Hitchcock at his most playful and entertaining. A slick, if slightly stagy adaptation of Frederick Knott's suspense thriller featuring terrific performances by Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and especially the excellent John Williams.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Despite the fact that it features a different Bond, Diamonds and Live and Let Die feel like part one and two of the same movie (same director and writer - Guy Hamilton and Tom Mankiewicz - and, for a certain age group giving Europeans their first image of America as a giant sleazy funfair full of supervillains, hip jive-talkin' afro-wearing black gangsters and beautiful women). Connery is terrific in his final two hours in the role and Charles Gray is a dryly wondrous Blofeld. "I'm Plenty." "Of course you are!" Dirty. And funny. And the car chases are epic.
Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, The (1972): Luis Buñuel's complex, virtually plotless web of dreams within dreams, centered around a group of six middle class people and their frequently thwarted attempts to have a good meal. A pointed allegory of Western Capitalism, wonderfully cast (Fernando Rey, Stéphane Audran) and bitingly funny - if majorly weird in parts.
Dracula AD '72 (1972): One of the most hilariously dated movies of any era - by having a specific date as part of the film's title, it is forever trapped within a time capsule. Yet, perhaps because of this, A.D. 1972 has aged so utterly terribly that it has transcended its humble origins to become little short of a comedy masterpiece. Exploitation cinema is always at its finest when polemic and dogma meet head-on and, instead of producing the expected gestalt of social-comment, ends up with a mélange of clashing and fractious statements. You can tell that Don Houghton's script so desperately wants to be a serious, po-faced observation on important youth culture issues. Instead, by the sheer banality of its construction, the film comes over as full of unexpected laughs at, literally, every turn. However, that said, a word of genuine praise: Dick Bush's cinematography, particularly during the title sequence with zoom-lens shots of the concrete jungle that London had become, is just gorgeous. Watch this one with a few friends, a bottle of wine and a Chinese takeaway on a Friday night and thank God that you weren't born in the 1870s and, thus, never got the chance to see incompetent genius like this. If life was a party, then I'd rather like it to be the one at the beginning of Dracula AD 1972 - with top beat combo Stoneground playing 'Alligator Man' in my front room. 'Dig the music, kids!'
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968): From the epic blood-soaked titles, through some memorable set-pieces, to a gruesome climax, Freddie Francis brings change to Terence Fisher's established Transylvannian world. Such sacrilege horrified many admirers of the earlier Dracula movies but Risen is a film for a different audience and a different age. Some of Francis's experiments work better than others - the incessant use of amber camera-filters distracts the viewers after a while. Nevertheless remains a handsomely assembled example of the company working -close to their artistic peak.
Dr. No (1962): The film that launched the longest-running movie franchise of all time. Connery is brilliant and Ursula coming out of the sea is one of cinema's most iconic moments. if you didn't want to carry a Walther PPK and drink vodka martinis after watching this there was, frankly, something wrong with you.
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1964): An endearingly brilliant time-capsule and a prototype for the next decade of Amicus's contribution to the genre. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors remains, not only the best title for just about any horror film ever made, but also the king of anthology movies. Not that it doesn't have some weak elements within its arsenal of strengths. Undeniably, Milton Subostky's script sometimes goes for belly-laughs when Freddie Francis was attempting to create a mood of minimalist suspense. But the most frequently criticised segment - Voodoo - is actually one of the best and not in an ironic or post-modern way, either. With its, truly, once-in-a-lifetime cast (Cushing, Lee plus Roy Castle, Fluff Freeman and Donald Sutherland!), and a tongue-in-cheek approach to many horror sacred cows, it is all the more surprisingly that the movie's ending is so very downbeat. 'Have you not guessed?' says Schreck when asked who he is. An occasionally a glib and whimsical piece but, overall, never-less-than wholly entertaining and as an example of a curiously British mixture of horror and wry humour, it's an almost definitive text. 'Aw, man, y'don't wanna mess around with dat voodoo!'
Eagle Has Landed, The (1976): Ambitious adaptation of the Frederick Forsyth novel about a German plot to kidnap Churchill. Directed by John Sturges and with a stellar cast (Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Jenny Agutter, Donald Pleasence, Jean Marsh, Larry Hagman). Told with a balance often missing in war movies. A humane and intelligent action movie would appear to be something of a contradiction but it's what we've got here. Sutherland is particularly brilliant.
Easy Rider (1969): Hip, insightful, influential road movie about hippies in search of America and made at a time when such a concept seemed not only valid but necessary. Those who got it, loved it, those who didn’t weren’t so much a square as a rhombus. Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson are great, the acid trip sequence still has the power to really disturb and the soundtrack remains a classic. Time has dimmed its relevance but the ending remains truly shocking to first-time viewers.
Elephant Man, The (1980): David Lynch's stylish monochrome recreation of a Victorian Gothic in this story of disfigured circus freak John Merrick (John Hurt). Tony Hopkins and Freddie Jones are superb in supporting roles. Marvel at Freddie Francis' award-winning cinematography. "People are frightened by what they don't understand."
Excalibur (1981): As close to being the definitive movie version of Arthurian legend as anyone as yet managed. John Boorman's fine, often enchanting film features the one thing normally missing from such a serious text - humour. Nicol Williamson is spectacularly good as a wild-eyed, "God-I-never-expected-that-to-work!" Merlin. Cherlie Lunghi is gorgeous as Guenevere.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966): Excellent Francoise Truffaut reworking of Ray Bradbury's authoritarian nightmare. Told in a quiet, somewhat unemotional style than some critics loathe but which, actually, works hugely in favour of the opaque, soulless world that Julie Christie and Oskar Werner are a part of. The sequence in the field where character declare themselves to be the books that the authorities have tried to ban and burn is truly life-affirming.
F For Fake (1974): Amazingly watchable - and often hilarious - quasi-documentary from Orson Welles, supposedly about master forger Elmyr de Hory but, actually, about the process of fakery itself. The amiable narrator wanders around the best restaurants of Europe with his young friends weaving in and out of the stories of Hory and Clifford Irving (the Howard Hughes hoaxster). And remember, for sixty minutes he's telling the truth but the movie is 85 minutes long! Original French title: Vérités et mensonges.
First Great Train Robbery, The (1979): Witty Victorian heist saga in which Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne Down conspire to pull off the titular caper with Avengers-like wit and charm. Gorgeous location filming in Ireland (doubling for the Home Counties). Lots of well known faces in the cast (Pamela Salem, Michael Elphick). Connery - showing the first signed on oncoming baldness! - is *terrific* ('I've just returned from America, a country of many prominent erections!').
Fish Called Wanda, A (1988): Amusing if, perhaps, slightly over-rated comedy about a botched bank job. Charles Crichton directs with patience and flair and, whilst Cleese is by turns funny and irritating, Michael Palin steals the movie as the hapless animal loving bank robber who seems fated to spend the entire moving accidentally killing animals.
Fisher King, The (1991): One from the heart from Terry Gilliam. A beautiful movie about regret and redemption in which Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams act their little cotton socks off to a wonderful soundtrack. Mercedes Ruehl picked up a supporting Oscar for her sweet performance. Often described as a modern day fairy tale but it isn't, really. Rather it's about the depth of human compassion. Recommended to everyone with an intact soul.
Fistful Of Dynamite, A (1972): The fifth, and least well known of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns, which is a tragedy, frankly as this brilliantly comedic Mexican Revolution saga makes the most of it's epic scope and stunning direction. But, the casting of Rod Steiger as a Zapata-style revolutionary and James Coburn as an IRA-man whom he befriends is genius. Terrific Ennio Moricone score. Also known as Duck, You Sucker!
Four Musketeers, The (1974): The second of Dick Lester's Musketeer trilogy is possibly an even better film than The Three Musketeers despite on-set disagreements and subsequent court cases! There, genuinely, are few things in life more entertaining than watching Ollie Reed trying to fence (except, possibly, watching Ollie Reed try to sing - see Tommy).
From Here to Eternity (1953): Tough, resonant and very popular movie set on the eve of Pearl Harbour. Most remembered these days for the infamous and influential "beach scene" with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr frolicking in the surf. Great support cast - Frank Sinatra is particularly impressive (how he got the part is the subject of legends and plotlines in The Godfather!); Monty Clift is terrific too.
Groovy Movies will return in The G to ... whatever of Groovy Movies.