Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Week Thirty Two: Louie, Lou-eye, Oh Baby, We Gotta Score...

Yer Keith Telly Topping is fair knackered after his weekend away in White Rose country, dear blog reader. Nevertheless, it is time for some more Top Telly Tips.

Friday 7 August
In You're Nicked - 8:00 Five - heiress, poker presenter and former Queenswood Boarding School pupil Natalie Pinkham reveals the true stories behind various dramatic crimes which are caught on camera. For amusement and japery. Can't we have a show speculatively dramatising some of the jolly hockeysticks-type shenanigans that Natalie and her classmate, luscious pouting Georgie Thompson may have gotten up to in the Queenswood dorms instead of this cheapskate rubbish? No? Pity. Anyway, in this episode, the police chase a suicidal motorist down the M1, Natalie gets a bird's-eye view of London with the Met helicopter team and a drug dealer races through the streets of Carlisle.

First Cut's The Russians Are Coming - 7:30 Channel 4 - looks at the world of wealthy Russians (none of whom appear at least to be former KGB gangsters making a major killing and the odd billion or two in the post-Perestroika world). For some mad reason they all seem to want an English public school education for their children. Dina Karpova, an international property broker whose own son was given an English education, fast-tracks her clients' children through the exclusive world of elite private education and into Britain's high society. Unless, of course, high society says 'nyet' to them and their filthy Ruskie ways (high society being a fertile breeding group for the BNP, of course). Sally Ashby's film includes a brilliant moment where an ex-army chap called Nigel Double-Barrelled Something-Or-Other who is employed by Dina to 'mentor' her clients' kids during 'induction weekends' at a large country house tells a teenage Russians boy that polo is 'a very, very popular game over here.' I think you're mixing polo up with football actually, Nige. As with most First Cut films, this is rather delightfully batty and very watchable.

Saturday 8 August
Nowt much on tonight for the connoisseur, I'm afraid. Except, of course, that it's your chance to watch my beloved, managerless and seemingly unsellable Magpies get a right good twanking off West Brom live on Prime Time BBC1. Can't wait, personally.

Sunday 9 August
There's a very welcome repeat of an episode of my mother's favourite TV show, Agatha Christie's Poirot - 7:00 ITV. At a bridge party the host is murdered. Poirot soon discovers that four of the other - specially invited - guests are known murderers so he must use psychology, his little grey cells and the bridge scores to find the killer amongst killers. Stars the great David Suchet, Zoe Wanamaker, Robert Pugh, Foyle's War's Honeysuckle Weeks and Alexander Siddig from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - now, there's a jolly good actor I haven't seen much of recently.

In Louis Theroux - The City Addicted to Crystal Meth - 9:00 BBC2 - the controversial TV documentary maker visits Fresno in California's Central Valley home to some of the most impoverished rural towns in America, where crystal-meth addiction is among the most prolific in the USA. He's there to take a look at how an epidemic of crystal-meth addiction is affecting the local communities. As he infiltrates the town, Louis experiences the harsh realities of meth abuse, with addicts casually inviting him into their homes to see them take hit after hit of their favourite (and extremely cheap) drug. He talks to the local police and meets a couple who have sustained their marriage despite a twenty five-year meth addiction and losing custody of their five children. He also witnesses arrests of whole families doing meth together and sees the work being done to try and combat the destruction caused by the drug. He's a fascinating, if slightly odd, chap is Louis. Some of his documentaries leave me completely cold - particularly his one on the Hamilitons a few years ago. However, the fact that he treats his subjects with such straight-faced honesty and asks such disarmingly open questions means that, sometimes, one can't help but be swept along by these programmes and their subject matter (that was especially true of When Louis Met Jimmy).

Monday 10 August
On the sixtieth anniversary of the Commonwealth, the actor, playwright and second generation immigrant Kwame Kwei-Armah retraces the Queen's 1953 journey around the Colonies in what is described as 'a global charm offensive' in On Tour With the Queen - 9:00 Channel 4. Lasting for the best part of six months and taking in five continents, the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth's forty five thousand mile Coronation Tour was the most ambitious royal excursion ever undertaken at that time. It was, essentially, a trip designed to persuade Britain's third world colonies that the motherland was a raft worth staying attached to. In its own way, this played a crucial role in shaping today's multicultural Britain as Commonwealth citizens (particularly those in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean) were encourages to come to Britain and help restore the country's fortunes in the aftermath of war. It's also rather charming to see archive newsreel footage of some of the visits in which the Queen is described in quasi-Messianic fashion ('she needs little reservoirs of strength and composure who depths we ordinary mortals never plumb'). Kwame begins his trip by visiting Bermuda, Jamaica and Tonga in the South Pacific, where he meets King George Tupou V (who sounds uncannily like David Cameron, as it happens). Lovely stuff.

In We Are Klang - 9:30 BBC3 - the award-winning comic trio (only one of whom, the very good Greg Davies, appears to be in the least bit amusing) bring their unique talents to the crime-ridden town of Klangbury. In tonight's episode, the town is hit with a crime wave and everything is stolen, including the entire police force and the lady mayor's wig. Will our unlikely hero-councillors be able to juggle their way out of this one and bring justice to their beloved town? With the help of the Department of Audience, it's just possible. Very odd show, this. Occasional moments of quiet brilliance mixed in with a lot of drivel. It's a sort of example of what would happen if The Goodies and The League of Gentlemen produced a (not particularly funny, but very strange looking) ginger-bastard-love-child.

Would I Lie to You? - 10:35 BBC1 - sees host Rob Brydon (who replaces Angus Deayton) join regular team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack in a comedy game show about truths and lies. The panellists - including Carol Vorderman, Larry Lamb, Jo Brand and Mock the Week's Russell Howard - must read out statements about themselves from a card which they have never seen before, some of which are lies and some of which are true. It is up to the other team to cross-question, quiz and scrutinise each claim with the aim of spotting what is true and what is not. Call My Bluff for the Twenty First century, basically. Not the most original idea in TV but one that, more often than not, works. Especially with likeable and genial comedy talent that this show has at its disposal. Watch Davey Mitchell's rant about working at McDonald's and remember why he's the most in-demand comic on British TV at the moment.

Tuesday 11 August
Cowards - 9:30 BBC4 - is a four-man absurdist sketch show starring nobody you'll have ever heard of before (Tim Key, Lloyd Woolf, Tom Basden and Stefan Golaszewski) which, a bit like We Are Klang has its odd moments of quiet brilliance but is patchy elsewhere. Tonight's scenarios include a sketch about disaffected judges, the problems of office bullying via Skype, a new middle-class craze for Russian roulette at the dinner table, a jobseeker aiming valiantly to become Mick Hucknall's PA and a dog with a secret - all delivered with what the press release describes as 'a unique brand of joyful deadpan absurdity.' Having started on BBC Radio (after an acclaimed Edinburgh festival show) the lads clearly have some talent and they've also got top comedy director Steve Bendelack (League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, The Royle Family, Mighty Boosh) at the helm. At its best Cowards is a funny, visually-arresting show performed with skill and subtlety by four of the best young writer-performers around. At its worst, it isn't.

In Car Crime UK - 9:00 ITV - Sir Trevor McDonald follows three police teams across the country as they track down prolific car and motorcycle thieves with a smile for a cameras as they nab the villains, banged to rights, it's a fair cop, guv, and give them 'a jolly good talking to' in the back of the van. In Manchester, the police are involved in a dangerous and snowy high speed pursuit before raiding the house of a serial car thief. In Edinburgh, officers find a stolen car and uncover a suspicious-looking scooter while on patrol. And hiding behind the sofa proves to be the wrong move for a bail-jumper.

Omagh - 10:50 Channel 4 - is a welcome repeat of the astonishing 2004 feature-length drama, written by Guy Hibbert and Paul Greengrass and focusing on the story of Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died as a result of the Real IRA bombing in August 1998. Since then, Gallagher has become a key spokesman for the Omagh Support and Self Help Group working on behalf of the bereaved families and seeking justice and answers to politically sensitive questions surrounding the issue. Stars Gerard McSorley and Brenda Fricker. Hibbert, of course, went on to write Five Minutes of Heaven, another drama that we could well do with a repeat dose of.

Wednesday 12 August
I suppose tonight Keith Telly Topping has best provide some decent alternatives to the Netherlands vs England on ITV - although, to be honest, that's mainly what he'll be watching.

The UK's population is ageing. The fastest-growing age group in the UK is the over-eighties and last year, for the first time, pensioners outnumbered children. As the needs of our increasingly ageing population change, Silverville - 10.45 BBC1 - continues to take a candid look inside one of the UK's new retirement villages. Popularised in America, and becoming increasingly common in the UK, retirement villages are purpose-built communities offering independence, security and, ultimately, a 'home for life.' Throughout this series, co-produced by The Open University, Silverville follows the lives of a number of residents living in Lovat Fields, a new retirement village in Milton Keynes. In tonight's programme, Burt visits his son in France when Rose says the engagement is off, former referee Ken gets back on his feet and Liz and Keith reflect on more than fifty years of married life.

Keith Telly Topping sadly used all of his best jokes about Dragons' Den - 9:00 BBC2 - on the first episode of the new series. So, I guess, this week I'll have to be serious about the show. Which is not only a chore but it, kind of, defeats the object, as well. Another set of businessmen - and women - pitch their (mostly crappy) ideas to the multimillionaire Dragons for that all-important financial backing. Or, at least, the chance to get the a strip of The Flaming Bejesus ripped from them on national TV. Carol Savage (oh dear, what an unfortunate surname for this particular show) is hoping to cook up a frenzy from Hertfordshire with her online-community for food lovers. The Dragons are all no strangers to fine wine, but can serial entrepreneur James Nash entice them to pour investment into his innovative single serve wine containers? Also striving to prove he deserves their investment is Lancashire based Paul Ward with his range of bug-busting cleaning products. Meanwhile, can jewellery and fashion designer Jane Rafter walk away with investment for her range of customisable sandals?

Liverpool-born actress Kim Cattrall is determined to solve a family mystery that has endured for more than seventy years in Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1. When the Sex in the City's mother, Shane, was just eight years old, her father walked out on his wife and three young daughters and they never saw or heard from him again. Now Kim wants to find out what happened to her grandfather and to resolve this mystery for her mother and aunts' sakes, as well as her own. What she learns, however, is both shocking and painful. So, the question has to be asked, will she weep anywhere near as much as Katie Humble did two weeks ago? That's what the kids really want to know. I'm not a callous man, and I totally reject Chris Moyles's unnecessary argument that those taking part in Who Do You Think You Are? somehow use emotional family stories to increase public sympathy for them personally. (Which, of course, in his particular case, didn't work.) But Katie's performance now stands head and shoulders above Natasha Kaplinski's two years ago as a manipulative example of how to blub on-queue for the nice ladies and gentlemen. So Kim, don't cry for goodness sake - you're stronger than that!

Thursday 13 August
In How Clean Is Your House? - 8:00 Channel 4 - interferring busybodies Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie travel the country looking for the dirtiest homes in desperate need of cleaning. Whether the owner wants them cleaned, or not. It's called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, apparently - snapping on the rubber gloves because somebody else's life isn't as ordered as your own. Sinister, that's what I call it. The Queens of Clean pay a visit to forty four-year-old Glaswegian Scott, who runs a miniature racing cars business in the middle of his front room which had now become a home for creepy crawlies. So, the ladies are just going to evict all of the little creatures, are they - that is, the ones they don't exterminate of course. Murderers. See, there's always a victim in OCD and it usually ends in genocide. That's why my gaff is a lice-infested tip and why it's staying a lice-infested tip. Lice have feelings too.

The cult comedy-drama series Being Human - 10:35 BBC1 - first shown on BBC3 earlier in the year finally comes to terrestrial TV. A surprise six-episode hit in Feburary and March, it's written by Torchwood author Toby Whithouse and concerns three dysfunctional twenty-something housemates trying to live normal lives despite struggling with some unusual afflictions. Sounds like yer usual flatshare sitcom set up until you discover that one of them is a werewolf, one is a vampire and the other is a ghost. Because of this, the trio discover that being human is more difficult than they ever imagined when they were one, as Mitchell struggles to resist his blood lust, Annie is confronted by a - literal - ghost from her past and George has nowhere to transform in safety. The three young stars, Lenora Crichlow, Desperate Romantic's Aidan Turner and the excellent Russell Tovey are very good, the effects are surprisingly decent considering that it's a BBC3 production with a budet of less than the average episode of Bargain Hunt and there's a deft and appealing quality to Whithouse's scripts which neatly balance domestic humour and some genuinely scary moments. if you haven't seen this one before, it's time to give it a go - especially as a second series is currently in production.

Tonight sees two shows with, broadly, similar comedic agendas on different networks: Mock the Week - 9:00 BBC2 - and The TNT Show - Channel 4 11:00. Same idea, essentially - a satirisation of the week's current affairs. The only real difference is that the former is very very very good indeed whilst the latter - horribly - isn't. In The TNT Show Jack Whitehall and Holly Walsh present a weekly late-night entertainment show, taking an irreverent look at the week's events. Yeah. I'd leave it to the professionals like Dara and Mad Frankie, kids. They know what they're doing. Please also note, it's pretty much Mad Frankie Boyle Night on TV tonight as he's also on a repeat of last week's Charlie Brooker's You Have Been Watching very late on Channel 4.