Saturday, September 27, 2008

Top Telly Tips - September (Part The Second)

Lord Keith Telly Topping
Guv'nor of the Googlebox
Relax, Don't Do It.

So anyway, the 2008-09 television season has kicked-off in the US over the last few weeks and it's been quite a positive beginning so far - apart, obviously, from the staggering lack of many decent stand-out new shows, of course. For the second year running. In particular there have been terrific starts to the new season for Bones (see below), what I believe is intended to be the - apocalyptic - final season of The Shield, House (quite how they're going to resolve the Wilson-House storyline should be very interesting) and, quite astonishingly because I was all ready to give up on it, Smallville (yeah, trust me, I was as surprised the first episode was a twenty four-carat cracker as anyone). Although, to be fair, the latter desperately needs a change of title. I suggest The New New Adventures of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures: The Next Generation.

Pushing Daisies starts again next week, CSI the week after. Alert your local postal services wherever you may be and have them standing by for delivery. You know it makes sense.

And, speaking of House, you know how last year I begged the producers on this blog to, for the love of God, "give Lisa Edelstein something to do..."?

I genuinely didn't expect that they'd actually listen to me much less do anything about my request but, hey guys, I gotta tell ya, NICE ONE! I mean that most sincerely.

Now, if any other TV producers are taking note, I'd quite like the forthcoming Dollhouse to be both, you know, good and, also, home to several tasteful lesbian shower scenes, per episode please.

Thanks Joss, you're always such a good listener to your fans.

Now, importantly, here is a rare snapshot of the very historic exact moment when TV's Lisa Rogers was startled by a crazed hamster running up her skirt.

And, on that Top Telly Tips bombshell I think it's jolly high time for some Top TV Tips, don't you?

Not 'alf.

Friday 19 September:
You really have to hand it to the makers of Wire in the Blood – ITV 9:00 - just when you think the series can't possibly get any more disturbing and nasty they conspire to do a story that, by some miracle, actually IS. In the concluding part of this opening horror of the current series forensic psychologist Dr Tony Hill (Robson Green) and his colleagues continue the hunt for yet another of a serial killer. And, why not? It’s much more healthy that going Extreme Fishing, isn’t it Robson?

We talked about Strictly Come Dancing last week ... and we’re gonna talk about it again cos, frankly, anything that stops people from watching X-Factor is thoroughly okay with me. So, who didn’t we mention last week? Andrew Castle (flash smoothy), Mark Foster (better at drowning than dancing, I’d’ve said) and Don Warrington (aw YEAH, now you’re talkin’) dance either a cha-cha-cha or a waltz and face the judges and the voting public for the first time. Cherie Lunghi, Lisa Snowdon, Rachel Stevens and Gillian Taylforth are among the female celebrities taking part.

Merlin – 7:30 BBC1 – is a new fantasy drama series for the Doctor Who/Robin Hood slot based on Arthurian legend. Merlin, a young wizard on the cusp of adulthood, is told by The Great Dragon (John Hurt) that his destiny is to use his skills to keep the arrogant and unlikeable Prince Arthur Pendragon safe. Yeah, I’ve had nights like that before too, pal. Cos apparently, Arthur is destined – get this - to be The Once and Future King blah, blah, sword, blah, blah, stone, blah, blah Holy Hand Grenade of Antiochet cetera. Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. Anyway, when an evil witch threatens Arthur's life, Merlin finds himself tested - will he face up to his destiny to protect Arthur? So this is, basically, Excalibur: The Early Years with a bit of Harry Potter thrown in, isn’t it? The cast, though, makes yer mouth water like a packet of Jungle Juice Fruities; let me highlight Richard Wilson - so, not so much One Foot in the Grave as One Sword in the Stone, then? - and Anthony Head looking increasingly like Elvis in his Vegas Period with each passing day (careful Tone mate, it’ll be Big White Suits, squirrel burgers, an addiction to pain-killers and GLORY GLORY HALLELUUUUUUUUUJAH!!!! next) for a start. Eve Myles out of Torchwood is cast against type as a naughty knavess and her out of Bionic Woman's due to turn up in a couple of weeks. Oh yeah, I’ll be havin’ some of this, for sure.

In The Mona Lisa Curse – 6:30 Channel 4 - art historian Robert Hughes examines how the world's most famous painting came to be so influential, looks at changes to the production and exhibition of art over the last fifty years and also examines the power of museum trustees, forced to compete for major art works with billionaire private collectors. Sounds rather interesting and informative to me but if that all appears a bit highbrow for readers then I suggest you keep watching Channel 4 because, in Wife Swap immediately afterwards at 8:00 a traditional mum from Gloucestershire trades lives with a fashionista single-mom living in Brighton who doesn't believe in rules or discipline for her children. That’ll have hilarious consequences for everyone, no doubt. I’d give the little twats a damned good hiding, personally. Though, apparently, that’s considered rather passe these days.

Monday 22 September:
Here on Top Telly Tips we continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, Mister Arsene Wenger, why did the chicken cross the road?
“Well, I did not see the incident myself but I do think that the chicken gets picked on by opposition players and fans who are clearly poultyphobic...”

On Corrie – 7:30 on ITV - Will Spineless Harry take Liz or Clarissa to the ball? Do people actually go to ‘balls’ in Coronation Street or does it, actually, mean will Spineless Harry take Liz or Clarissa to some Christawful Manc house-party? I’m thinking probably the latter. Anyway, Kevin contemplates the garage's future. Meanwhile grasping Janice and greedy Leanne plot to have it away with the factory workers’ lottery win and will stoop to any means necessary to get their mitts on the money.

Rather good looking thriller on ITV at 9:00 – like Wire in the Blood it’s based on a Val McDermid novel (the show is also made by Robson Green’s production company … the irony of which will probably not be lost on Wor Robson as it has been scheduled opposite the last episode of his Extreme Fishing). In Place of Execution a journalist making a documentary about a schoolgirl who vanished from a remote Northumberland village in 1963 is devastated when the investigating police officer withdraws his co-operation from the project at the last minute. In search of an explanation she sets off to visit him with her truculent teenage daughter, but is shocked by the hostility she encounters from the tight-knit community, as well as the unexpected discoveries further digging uncovers. Stars the wonderful Juliet Stevenson – first thing I’ve seen her in for a bit. Three part serial, looks proper sharp, this.

Amazon with Bruce Perry – 9:00 BBC2 – sees Bruce continue his Amazon adventure, travelling through the jungles of Peru to visit the Achuar people, a remote tribe who are fighting to keep oil companies off their land. He undergoes a profound shamanic ritual in an effort to find his vision and takes part in a very unusual game of football. So, that’s oil and drugs and the offside trap basically.

Tuesday 23 September:
We continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, why is it if you send a package by ship it is called a cargo, and if you send it by car it is called a shipment?

Griff Rhys Jones - now there’s an angry man. You can just tell that beneath the cheery surface lies a bubble cauldron of Celtic passion waiting to burst forth like a ruddy great volcano. In Losing It – 9:00 BBC2 – Griff takes a candid look at why we are becoming an increasing angry world. I must admit, I’m getting worse at this myself – little trivial things that once I would’ve just shrugged off are starting to make me as cross as a very cross thing and two or three of them happening in rapid succession can turn me into Michael Douglas in Falling Down! It happened just the other day in a popular newsagent shop which I'd better not name for legal reasons (but it rhymes with WH Hiths). I’m sure that myself and Griff are not alone in this. Why does everybody have to be so mean these days?

In 2002 Men Behaving Badly star Leslie Ash was the victim of a botched surgical procedure on her lip which has left her, sadly, looking not unlike one of the weirder marine creatures in Yellow Submarine. In Leslie Ash: Face to Face the actress investigates how the cosmetic beauty industry works and highlights a lack of regulation that, too often, leads to dangerous lack of proper research by customers like herself. Interesting subject and, in some ways a rather sad little modern fable about the pressures that some women put themselves under to continue looking good at almost any cost.

Freaky Eaters - 10:35 BBC1 – talks to Dave Nunley who would like nothing better than to share a normal meal with his kids. But hot food, literally, makes Dave sick and all he can seem to keep down is grated cheese. Can Natalie and Benjamin get Dave over his aversion in just four weeks? Now, I like a bit of cheese myself…

Wednesday 24 September:
We continue to ask all the questions that no one else dares to.
Today, what level of importance must a person reach before they are considered to have been assassinated instead of just, you know, murdered?

Parenting guru Jo Frost - she of the cruel glasses, bitter demeanor and inventor of The Naughty Step - returns for a new series of Supernanny – 8:00 C4 – and her first port of call is Liverpool. Anfield or Goodison, you might ask? Perhaps we’ll never bother caring. What a right load of old effing toot this nonsense is. If you watch this crap then you're an absolute lost cause and should, frankly, sod off and die. In a ditch. On fire.

Nothing personal, y'understand.

On Inside Out – BBC1 7:30 – one of my favourite actresses, the glamorous Cherie Lunghi, takes time out from Strictly Come Dancing to explore Whitley Bay which she first visited with her mother as a five year old. Cherie fondly remembers the Spanish City. Ah, don’t we all? Let this recommendation act as a general "thumbs-up" for 95% of all regional telly especially as it's being broadcast in the week that those wretched spineless knob-ends at OFCOM have effectively allowed the beginning of the end of ITV's commitment to locally produced television.

With generation after generation of women giving birth in their mid-to-late teens, Britain is witnessing the emergence of a new kind of grandmother – sex, glamorous and in their thirties. But, is it a nightmare for a women seeing their teenage daughters become mothers just like they were? Britain’s Youngest Grannies – 9:00 BBC2 – asks can they have it all, a beautiful new baby in the family whilst you’ve still got the youth and energy to enjoy life?

Thursday 25 September:
We continue to ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today, how is it that we managed to put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on a suitcases?

That hard-hearted vicious slimebag Archie asks Big Fat Cuddly Quaver-lovin’ Pat to move out in EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1 – whilst Whitney discovers the full extent of Tony’s jealousy and Suzy tries out her matchmaking skills on poor old bitter, loveless Max and Denise. It’ll all end in tears. As is usual on EastEnders.

There’s a new series of Bones kicking off at 9:00 on Sky – it’s a special in which the lead cast of this fast-paced US cop show come to England. However, unlike most of these kind of things this one was, actually, filmed over here (mostly in London and Oxford) and with proper British actors albeit still forced to adopt accents just the right side of Dick Van Dyke. Based on the popular Kathy Reich novels about a forensic anthropologist (played rather sweetly with a nice Asperger’s-like quality by Emily Deschanel) it also stars David Boreanaz who used to be in Buffy and Angel. Now, I never thought David could act – good lookin’ lad, of course, and quite good at “Big-and-Broody” but not much else in the way of actual acting chops - but, it turns out that he actually can and, in one of the hardest roles to pull off, that comedy straight man. Because when you’re doing that you’ve got to be not only the po-faced butt of all the jokes but, also, you have to retain at least a modicum of audience sympathy too otherwise the audience won’t feel any empathy. Bones itself is really rather good – Stephen Fry turned up in three episodes as a psychologist, Ryan O’Neal plays the father of one of the characters– it’s that sort of show, surprising in places that you wouldn’t expect it to be surprising. Particularly at the end of last year where they turned loveable lab geek Zak into a psycho-killer. Like all the best US shows it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Lastly, tonight it’s the final episodes of both Mock the Week and The Cup both of which I’ve been very much enjoying on BBC2. More of both please.

Friday 26 September:
We ask all the questions no one else dare to.
Today what’s another word for “thesaurus”?

Now, call me a stuck-in-the-mud if you like but aren’t sitcoms meant to make you laugh now and again? Unless we’re talking about anything written by Carla Lane, of course. Ugly Betty – C4 8:00 - just seems relentlessly miserable at the moment and it used to be such a warm-hearted show. Tonight, it's Betty's birthday and she lines up a sexy weekend with Henry to celebrate, but the arrival of a heavily pregnant Charlie ruins that. This was the first episode made after the writers' strike last year, so one can only assume the writers temporarily forgot to bring the funny. Let’s hope – for everyone’s sake - they find it soon.

Around two years ago Timewatch (BBC2 8:05) set out to investigate a radical theory that Stonehenge, far from being a place of burial was in fact a place of healing - a kind of Bronze Age Lourdes if you like. The journey took in forensic testing of bones and hard-won permission from English Heritage for the first dig at the site in over fifty years (something that I imagine will have pissed off Time Team no end!), watched live online by millions of viewers. So, does the theory of the healing stones bear up to modern-day forensic science? Well, if you’ve been reading the news over the last week then you’ll probably know the answer already. If not, watch Timewatch to find out.

James May travels the globe in James May’s Big Ideas – 9:00 BBC2, a series about flight. The show he made last year on great inventions of the twentieth century was little cracker and proved that Cap'n Slow can genuinely cut it as a presenter even when removed from the orbits of Jezza and The Hamster. In this show he travels to the frozen wastes of Russia to pilot one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War and then to the US to fly the world's only surviving flying car (how very Jetsons) before returning to the suburban gardens of Sussex where he turns himself into a human jet pack. I like the sound of this.

It’s the last episode of the current (seventeenth) season of Heartbeat – ITV 8:00. Ah, Mr Derek did you really spent all those years with your hand up a fox’s bottom just to end up on Heartbeat? Tragedy.

Monday 29 September:
We ask all the questions no one else dares to.
Today can you actually cry underwater?

It’s all kicking off big-style of Corrie at 7:30 ITV when Sally and Kevin discover that Rosie is missing. Meanwhile, the Mortons leave for Spain, jealous Tony spies Carla giving Liam a kiss and Becky and Jason prepare their love nest. Or “flat” as we normal people call one…

Secret Millionaire - 9:00 C4 – sees one of the richest men in Scotland (curry house king Charan Gill) heading for Thetford in Norfolk, to join the thousands of local unskilled agricultural workers surviving on the minimum wage. With only ten pounds in his pocket, Charan has to find work, pay his own rent and find a worthy beneficiary of his cash.

I had an e-mail from Bill this week, suggesting that I mention Only Connect on BBC4 at 8:30 for the listeners who might be unaware of it. This is a show presented by the lovely, pouting vision of minxy Godessness that is The Divine Victoria Coren who was so brilliant in Balderdash & Piffle last year. It’s a quiz with a difference, as knowledge will only take you so far, lateral thinking is also vital. It is all about making connections between things which may appear, at first glance, not to be connected at all. It’s Qi for REAL intellectuals, but it’s got a nice sense of humour that keeps it just the right side of becoming the Ask the Family for the 21st Century.

Lastly a very quick mention for the show with the best title of the week - Ross Kemp Meets the Glue Kids of Kenya(!) – 10:00 Sky One. Ross is clearly in a sticky situation once again. I wonder if one of the Glue Kids will be brave enough to ask Ross if it’s true ITV cancelled Ultimate Force because of its disastrous poor ratings and not because “it had reached the end of its run”?

Tuesday 30 September:
Welcome to my glorious world of knowing where we ask the questions no one else dares to. Today if electricity comes from electrons then does morality come from morons?

In Emmerdale – 7:00 ITV - Shane discovers Danielle’s stash of drugs when he searches Zak and Eli’s van and the Dingles are shocked when Danielle is arrested. Nobody else is that surprised, though. Again, didn’t Emmerdale used to be “a simple tale of t’country folk”?

Anna Richardson hosts The Sex Education Show – 8:00 C4 - which aims to tackle the nation's sexual ignorance. Anna takes a fertility test to see whether, at the age of 37, she has left it too late to have a baby. She meets the couple who have spent £60,000 and made fifteen IVF attempts over nine years in a desperate bid to have a child. Plus, former pop star Sinitta reveals how the heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility eventually led to a happy ending. So, I wonder if it was her Toy Boy or that fellah who was So Macho who did the successful deed? Or were they, actually, the very same chap all the time? It must've been one of them cos she didn't believe in miracles...

My mother always used to say to me if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. So, Jamie Oliver’s new show, Jamie’s Ministry of Food is on Channel 4 at 9:00. Moving swiftly on, Freaky Eaters – 10:35 BBC1 – concerns a man who is addicted to crisps. Yeah, me too. Anybody know a cure? Kevin Johnson is an international businessman who survives on a diet that consists mainly of salt and vinegar crisps and cheese and tomato pizza. If Kevin tries anything new he is physically sick, but unless he changes his ways he risks serious health problems. That’s what they’ve been telling me for the last forty odd years, anyway.

Lastly a quick mention for tonight’s CSI: Miami which includes the best one-line Radio Times description ever: “Calleigh finds herself in deep water after shooting a man on her day off.” Well, we’ve all done it, be fair.

Food, sex, drugs and crime - it's all just in a week's work for Lord Keith Telly Topping, Guv'nor of the Gogglebox.

Wednesday 1 October:
We ask all the questions no one else dares to.
Today why do banks charge a fee when one has "insufficient funds" when they already know there’s not enough in the account to pay it?

Now, Alfie's been in the US recently and came back extolling the virtues of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart which, if you’ve got freeview, you can see over here on More4 at 8:30. Of course, it’s been in the news a lot recently after Tony Blair appeared on it a couple of weeks ago - the equivalent, I guess of George Bush turning up as a panellist on Mock the Week. Which, to be fair, would probably be worth watching.

Silent Witness – BBC1 9:00 – is still going strong into a twelfth year of production. Leo does community service on a rough estate after being done for drink driving. Gang violence among the kids there is rife – obviously, they need Ross Kemp in there sharpish - and Leo gets involved when one of them is stabbed. The lovely Emilia Fox stars.

Heores returns - at 9:00 on BBC2 - after a, frankly, disappointing second season. Hopefully, post-wrtiers strike it’ll be back on track. Moments after shots rang out, the identity of Nathan's assassin and the reasons why the Texas press conference had to be cut short are revealed. Peter and Matt are thrown into unexpected territory. With his powers partially restored, Sylar decides a visit to Claire could give him a boost (it’d give most of us a boost, frankly). Meanwhile, in Tokyo, my two favourite characters Hiro and Ando are charged with safeguarding a family secret in a continuation of the best TV comedy double act since Steven Tompkinson and Neil Pearson fifteen years ago in Drop The Dead Donkey. It's good to have them back.

Thursday 2 October:
We ask the questions no one else dares to.
Today whose daft idea was it to put an S in the word "lisp"?

In EastEnders – 7:30 BBC1 - Bradley faces up to the truth about his relationship with Stacey, and confronts his dad – two miseries for the price of one. Knockout. Christian escorts Ronnie to her school reunion, but will she find what she's looking for from her past?

Natural Born Sellers – ITV 9:00 – is a series in which eight salespeople battle it out to earn as much commission as possible while working for different companies over six weeks. Everything earned goes into a central prize fund which could reach a six figure sum - but only one person will walk away with the cash. The first assignment is in Derby, where the hopefuls replace the sales team in the busy retail outlet Ideal Home. Whoever comes out as Top Dog earns the right to eliminate one of the bottom two sellers from the competition. So, Pro-Celebrity Bear Baiting anyone? Typical for ITV, I'm afraid.

Has anybody else noticed there seem to be two Ian Hislops? There’s the smug (albeit very funny) one who does Have I Got News For You and edits Private Eye and there’s a bloke who does wonderfully evocative and thoughtful documentaries for BBC4 on subjects like the first world war and the scouting movement. It looks like the latter is in charge of Ian Hislop Goes Off the Rails – 9:00 BBC4 – which takes a look at the notorious Beeching Report of 1963, which led to the closure of a third of the nation's railway lines and stations and forced tens of thousands of people into the car and onto the road. He investigates the fallout from the plan, discovering what was lost to the British landscape, to communities and to ways of life when the railway map shrank. Ian travels from Cornwall to the Scottish borders meeting those responsible and those affected. Terrific, proper relevent social history this. And another example of one of my comedy heroes developing a retirement plan - find something else you can do before you stop being funny!