Friday, September 04, 2009

If You Can Remember The Seventies, Then You're Obviously Not Keef Richards

Life can be positively full of a seemingly endless catalogue of enormous disappointments, dear blog reader. The grinding wheels of unwanted reality binding your very dreams in weighted chains. For example, during 2002 Keith Telly Topping was on a (very nice) holiday in the lovely Atlantic isle of Madeira and got himself chatting to a pleasant local down in Funchal harbour on the subject of 'The Beatles Boat.' This is, as the name might suggest, a large motor yacht on which John and George (or possibly, John and Ringo, sources vary) and their respective wives once took a sailing holiday around 1964 somewhere exotic like the Virgin Islands. Hell, it was 1964, the Isle of Wight was considered exotic by most British holidaymakers in them days. Anyway, the boat is now thoroughly beached in Funchal Marina and has been converted into a plush restaurant which, obviously, plays on its Fab Four connections for most of its business. I'd always been quite intrigued by the concept and was considering popping on-board and booking a table whilst imagining what life must have been like for poor Cynthia, cooped up with that self-confessed alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie for two weeks with no possible escape. Plus, I like a good restaurant experience as much as the next sophisticated, globetrotting Top Telly Tips previewer. 'I'll have to book a table for me and the Duchess,' I duly noted. 'I wouldn't bother' said the local (using far better English than Keith Telly Topping himself has ever managed in his entire career). 'It's expensive and it's the worst food on the island!' To paraphrase the great poet Homer, 'I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another, until you just wish Jamie Oliver was dead.'

And, speaking of dearly departed Saint John of Strawberry Fields, I was recently told a really funny (though, sadly probably apocryphal) story about the occasion when Lennon was filming his legendary sequence for the Christmas 1966 Not Only ... But Also episode by someone who worked, briefly, on the series (in a floor-sweeping capacity). If you've never seen this particular sequence, John played Dan, the doorman of a trendy London nightclub, The Ad-Lav, which was situated in an underground men's lavatory. He was filmed with Peter Cook (playing American TV presenter Hirman J Pipesucker) and lets him into the establishment once the little matter of a 'five pound waiting list' has been satisfactorily dealt with. The location used for the scene was outside the entrance of a genuine Gentlemen's public convenience on Broadwick Street in deepest Soho. One that's still there as it happens and that Keith Telly Topping has been known to frequent on the odd occasions when he's been caught short bustin' for a Jimmy Riddle in Central London. Filming took place early one Sunday Morning in November. Rumour has it that, as the crew were setting up to do the shot and John was standing by the entrance in his full doorman's outfit, some urine-stenched tramp staggered out of a side-street and walked straight towards the lavs, pausing only to give Lennon a sideways glance and mutter, in a broad Glaswegian accent, 'I know you! Y've come doon in the world since y'said y'were bigger than Jesus!'

However, it's not all bad news, seemingly. Men and women with thighs over sixty centimetres in circumference have a lower risk of heart disease and early death, a study of three thousand people has suggested. The relationship remains even when body fat, smoking and blood cholesterol are taken into account, according to a Danish research team. Keith Telly Topping likes this revelation.

Time for some more Top Telly News: Sir David Frost has emerged as a possible host of a televised 2010 election debate featuring the leaders of the three major political parties. Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have held a series of meetings to consider the possibility of a live programme featuring Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The Times reports. Advisers to the parties are said to believe that Frost, who famously interviewed former US President Richard Nixon in 1977, would be a suitably unbiased chair. A Conservative Party spokesman said: 'David Cameron has always called for a television debate; he was the first to do so. He has asked for one at the dispatch box and also in a letter to Gordon Brown.' A Liberal Democrat spokesman added: 'Nick is very eager to take part in this type of debate. But it is all about whether Gordon Brown agrees to appear. We have attended meetings over the recess with broadcasters who are interested. We very much hope that this is something we can make happen.'

Filming is shortly to conclude on Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables, 'an old-school, kick-ass action movie where people are fighting with knives and shooting at each other,' according to its star, Dolph Lundgren. Normally, this wouldn't really be the sort of thing that Keith Telly Topping would show a particular interest in. However, he feels it his quasi-religious-type duty to alert all From the North patrons to the movie's existence for the simple reason that the Divine Goddess of Awesome Wonderfulness that is Charisma Carpenter has a role in it (she plays Jason Statham's character's girlfriend, apparently). I don't care how big her part in the film is, I'll be queuing on its opening day.

Sophie Reade is tipped to win Friday night's Big Brother final, in what some commentators believe will be a poignant show following the announcement that Channel 4 will axe the programme. Couldn't tell you, myself. Along with most of the rest of the British public Keith Telly Topping is no longer in love with Big Brother's caustic blend of sadism, freak show and controversy courting. Anyway, apparently twenty-year-old Sophie is one of five remaining housemates in the final showdown, alongside Siavash Sabbaghpour, Rodrigo Lopes, David Ramsden and Charlie Drummond. William Hill made Sophie the four-to-one-on favourite to win and are also offering eight-to-one odds that the glamour model will pose for Playboy in 2009.

Here's your first look at the final phase of FOX's slithery Snakes on a Cane marketing campaign for House's forthcoming sixth season. The caduceus-inspired image, which will be officially unveiled to the public next Monday, was shot over the summer and, yes, those are indeed real pythons canoodling Hugh Laurie. 'I remember Hugh asking the snake wrangler if the snakes had names,' recalled executive producer Katie Jacobs. 'He replied, "No, because they don't come when you call."' Does the artwork offer any hints about the upcoming season? 'No real clues,' said Jacobs. 'It's irreverent. House is irreverent.'

Hayden Panettiere seems to be over T4 hunk Steve Jones - as she's been snapped looking all loved-up with Lindsay Lohan's ex-boyfriend, Harry Morton. The Heroes star, who plays indestructible teen Claire Bennet in the BBC2 show, was reported to have frolicked on the beach with her new man as they walked his two dogs in Malibu. Nightclub and restaurant owner (and millionaire) Harry had a brief romance with troubled Lindsay, twenty three, in 2006 before she took up with her on-off lesbian lover Samantha Ronson. Morton reportedly dumped Lohan just weeks after they attended the Venice Film Festival together, saying they were taking a 'breather.' Harry, who owns LA's famous Viper Room club and is the son of Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton, was later linked to Rod Stewart's daughter Kimberly.

The Wire star Idris Elba has signed up to feature in BBC1's new series Luther. The thirty six-year-old actor, who played Russell 'Stringer' Bell in the US show, will play a near-genius murder detective in the six-part thriller. 'I'm really excited about playing Luther,' said Elba. 'He's a challenging and exciting character because he's so complex. While he's capable of great kindness and loyalty, sometimes he steps over the edge of madness - simmering with anger and rage.' Filming for the series, which was created by Spooks writer Neil Cross, begins this autumn for transmission in 2010. Further casting is expected to be announced soon.

America Ferrera has been spotted dressed in a hot dog costume for the upcoming season of Ugly Betty. The actress was spotted filming the scene in New York City, while an assistant fed her bananas between takes, Buddy TV reports. Co-star Michael Urie, who plays her Mode magazine colleague Marc St James, was also seen on the lower Manhattan locale sporting an accompanying hot dog bun. It was recently reported that Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Third Rock From The Sun's Kristen Johnston will guest star this season. Meanwhile, former Betty star Ashley Jensen recently hinted that she may return to the show.

For two decades, it was an unassuming and gentle Sunday-morning show with an audience of a couple of hundred thousand. But Countryfile has emerged as an unlikely prime time hit after BBC bosses introduced two younger presenters and gave it a new, early evening time slot. Latest viewing figures reveal that the rural affairs show, co-hosted by glamorous, fell-walking Julia Bradbury, is wiping the floor with rival programmes. Last Sunday, the series, which is shown on BBC1 at 7pm, had more than four and a half million viewers, beating ITV's Inspector Morse spin-off Lewis. Since the move, the show, which first launched in 1988, has more than tripled the ratings it used to get on Sunday mornings. Many commentators are putting the success down to the photogenic qualities of Bradbury and co-host Matt Baker. Others claim it has tapped into a growing interest by urban audiences in countryside issues and the environment. Revamping Countryfile was one of the first moves of new BBC1 controller Jay Hunt - a decision which a few ignorant gnomes managed to fold into the Strictly Come Dancing-ageism row to try and make more trouble for the Beeb. Many of the show's older female faces were, indeed, dropped including Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Miriam O'Reilly, who are all in their forties or fifties. Former presenter John Craven still has a regular slot, but he is no longer a main host. Nevertheless, for once the BBC can point to a successful revamping of an old (and, perhaps, tired) format as wholly justified in dragging Countryfile kicking and screaming into the Twenty First Century.

EastEnders star Steve McFadden has lost two stone after taking up swimming, according to a report. The actor has been relying on the sport for less than a year after deciding that he wanted to slim down, the Sun claims. McFadden, who plays hard-man Phil Mitchell on the soap, will now put his training to good use by taking part in the British Gas Great North Swim on September 13. The challenge will see him swimming in Windermere in order to raise money for the RNLI. 'To take part in the Great North Swim and help the RNLI is a privilege for me,' the fifty-year-old explained. 'I love swimming but to do a mile on Lake Windermere [sic] is not only a challenge but my idea of a great day out.' The event's project manager Colin Hill added: 'Swimming is a weight-bearing exercise - your bulk is supported by the water - so you're not putting excess weight on your joints and bones. And you're working all the major muscles in your body. This makes it an excellent way to lose excess weight.' Just to clue you up on this, Steve, Windermere isn't a lake, it's a mere. Hence the name. Keith Telly Topping learned that from Qi. Much like pretty much everything else he knows.

Samia Smith has been receiving motherhood advice from her Coronation Street co-stars Jane Danson and Alison King. The twenty seven-year-old actress, who plays Maria Connor on the ITV soap, is seven months pregnant with her first child and will soon begin maternity leave. Meanwhile, Danson (Leanne Battersby) and King (Carla Connor) have both recently returned to filming after welcoming babies. Speaking to the Press Association, Danson commented: 'What's quite nice is that Ali King and I had our babies within two weeks of each other and we live about a mile away from each other. Samia is due to have her baby fairly soon and we all live quite close together. It's nice that we're friends inside of work and outside of work as well. Particularly for Samia as it's her first so we're all giving her the gory details!' Asked about her Weatherfield comeback, she added: 'The first week or so I was a bit nervous and it was like being back at school, but within two days I felt like I'd never been away.'

BBC Worldwide has signed a three-year distribution partnership deal with Bob Geldof-owned factual production group Ten Alps. The deal will see programming from the entire Ten Alps' portfolio of companies handled by a single distributor for the first time. This includes documentary production companies Brook Lapping, Blakeway, Below the Radar and Films or Record. Programmes coming out of that stable in 2009 include the excellent Iran and the West (for BBC2), The Future of Food and The Madoff Hustle (both also BBC2), Murder Mansion (Channel 4), China's Capitalist Revolution (BBC2), Mountbatten (UK History and RTE) and several Dispatches features for C4. BBCW's production unit will provide development investment funding and will work closely with Ten Alps to identify potential international opportunities. In return, BBCW will receive an exclusive first-look deal to distribute commissioned Ten Alps' programmes to broadcasters around the work.

The BBC has launched a major review of its approved supplier and online commissioning systems following complaints from angry suppliers that the current processes are 'shrouded in secrecy.' Independents on the approved supplier lists claim that they have not been invited to tender for work, that the BBC does not communicate what it is looking for, and that they cannot get meetings with BBC online commissioners. The issue came to a head at a BBC online open day last month, when George Foster, head of digital at web specialist Zoo Communications and a member of the BBC's Future Media and Technology steering group, challenged Seetha Kumar, controller of He said: 'Everybody has to jump through hoops to actually get onto the ASL but [then] there seems to be no particular way anyone can know how the process takes place, what's coming up for tender and, more importantly, how to get your company seen and asked to pitch for work. You think a tender should be transparent but it seems to be completely swathed in secrecy.'

Britain's oldest original computer, the Harwell, is being put back together using period components at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. Known as The Witch, it will be restored over the coming months. It was designed in 1949, first ran in 1951 and performed mathematical calculations at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire right up until the early 1970s.

Jessie Wallace was a curvier size fourteen when she got the role of weight-obsessed Sylvia in the musical Stepping Out. But after shedding two stone and three dress sizes the ex-EastEnder is now said to be too thin for the part – and must wear a fat suit and fake breasts. Her new slim-line figure stunned co-stars when she turned up for rehearsals last month. Jessie – who played the Square's Kat Slater – revealed: 'When I got the role I was still overweight and the character Sylvia is always going on about her weight. They realised I'd obviously lost quite a bit, so now I'm going to have to wear a padded suit. It'll be funny.'

When the Italian TV networks RAI and Mediaset refused to screen the trailer for Videocracy, they hoped to dampen interest in the film, a documentary feature that accuses their boss, the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, of fermenting a debased and chauvinistic media culture in Italian society. Instead, requests from Italian cinemas to screen the film have doubled, and its director credits the broadcasters' ban for the surge in interest. Videocracy screens today at the Venice film festival, in the independent International Critics' Week strand. It opens with footage from one of the notorious 'stripping housewives' gameshows that first aired on Berlusconi's channels in the 70s – material, the film argues, that set the tone for the culture Berlusconi would dominate and degrade for more than three decades. It is directed by Swedish documentary-maker Erik Gandini, who lived in Italy and whose previous credits include Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers and Gitmo: The New Rules of War. A trailer for Videocracy, showing scantily-clad women and statistics about restrictions on press freedom, was rejected by Mediaset and RAI, which called it offensive to Berlusconi's reputation in a letter to Gandini. Since then, requests for prints of the film from Italian cinemas have leapt from thirty five to seventy. 'The ban indicated the level of tension in Italy regarding everything that goes on TV,' Gandini told the Independent. 'In Italy, what does not exist on TV does not exist. I was scared by the ban and by RAI's Orwellian-style letter, but the day after there was a huge explosion of interest on the Internet.'

British Airways is to launch its first TV advertising campaign in two years, with an ambitious series of ads that feature events including the migration of wildebeest and the El Superclásico football clash between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires. The airline, which last ran TV adverts in August 2007, will launch the first in a series of nine commercials on Monday on ITV. BA is aiming to fight back after an annus horribilis in which it posted a one hundred and forty eight million pound loss in the first quarter, the first since its privatisation in 1987, and grounded twenty two planes as a cost-saving measure.

BBC2 is to launch a cookery entertainment show that will see amateur chefs turn their homes into 'pop-up restaurants' and serve up home-produced food – one of several new BBC daytime commissions for late 2009 and early 2010. The twenty-part Instant Restaurant, which BBC2 hopes will be as successful as Channel 4's home-cooking format Come Dine with Me, will feature two households going head-to-head to see who can make the most profit with a three-course menu to impress their guests. Instant Restaurant will focus on the talents of amateur cooks 'serving up everything from good old-fashioned British grub to more exotic fare, taking us into homes which celebrate the diversity of the UK.' The show, which is being made by the independent producer RDF Television West, will be fronted by the former EastEnders actor Nadia Sawalha. Two new daytime current affairs series on BBC1 will include the five-part Fake Britain, hosted by The ONE Show's resident Gollum-lookalike Dom Littlewood, who will explore the UK's multi-million-pound counterfeiting business. Made by Screenchannel and executive produced by Emma Barker and Gerard Melling, the show will be presented from a house crammed full with counterfeit goods, phony medicines and fake food. The Food Fighters, a ten-part series fronted by Something for the Weekend's Simon Rimmer, will follow government and food agencies set up to monitor Britain's food chain. The show is being made by the independent producer True North. BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan commented of the new programmes: 'Simon Rimmer and Dom Littlewood are the perfect hosts for our brand new consumer series on BBC1, which continue our history of producing strong issues-led programming.'

The team behind BBC2's hit television series Victorian Farm will produce new twenty-episode daytime series Escape in Time. Each episode will see different families given the chance to live on the estate where the Victorian Farm series was filmed in Shropshire, where they will rediscover practical skills and self-sufficiency from the era as well competing against each other mastering tasks and crafts. It will be made by Lion TV. Meanwhile, as mentioned yesterday, the BBC's daytime staple Ready Steady Cook will return for its Twenty First series, making it the longest-running cookery programme on British television. The extremely silly and irritating Ainsley Harriott (seen to the right, seemingly doing jazz-hands for no obvious reason) will again front the new thirty five-part series, which will be filmed in high definition for the first time. Why? Will HD make grilled tomatoes look edible?

Teenage singing sensation Miley Cyrus has reportedly spoken of her bitter disappointment after discovering that her new album had only reached number three in the American charts. Cyrus wrote on her Twitter page: 'Kinda bummed. My E.P. got put on shelves wiff [sic] my clothing line and got released 3 days early on accident [sic].' You've got to just stand up and salute that American educational system, haven't you? Or, should that be 'haffent U'?

Noel Gallagher may have once written the glorious 'Half The World Away', but he hasn't managed to get that far from his feuding brother, Liam. The squabbling siblings have both gone on holiday to get away from the media maelstrom caused by the Oasis split last week. But, it seems that, when it comes to picking vacation destinations the two aren't so very different after all. Noel has taken his life, Sara, and their little son Donovan, to the Italian island of Sardinia for a well-deserved break after a gruelling world tour. Meanwhile, over on the mainland at Lake Como, Liam and his wife Nicole Appleton have been enjoying a few days in the sunshe-yiiiiine. Bassist Andy Bell and his girlfriend appears to have tagged along for the ride too. By the way, if you want some excellent background material on the causes of the split, check out Pete Paphides' piece The End of Oasis: The Truth in The Times; it's a brilliantly-written and quite moving account of the process of a band falling apart. Excellent work, Pete.

Oh dear, what can the matter be? Unlucky Charlotte Taylor got her head stuck down a lavatory at a music festival. The eighteen-year-old gigger became wedged, face-first, in the bowl of the portaloo for a truly stomach-churning twenty minutes before firefighters managed to pull her free at Leeds over the weekend. She told reporters that she had been trying to reach her handbag - containing cash and a mobile phone - after accidentally dropping it in down the netty. Charlotte, from Sunderland, told of her grim ordeal. 'I kept saying to myself, "Oh my God I can't believe this is happening. It can’t be real.' Charlotte faced further embarrassment after the firemen hosed her down in front of hundreds of festival-goers. 'All of my friends were laughing at me when I told them what had happened.' Aw, bless her the poor lass! One day, Keith Telly Topping will tell you, dear blog reader, the 'amusing' story of the time he got exploding diarrhoea at Glastonbury in the middle of a - particularly fine - New Order set. That wasn't pretty either.

According to the Sun, forthcoming Strictly Come Dancing contestant Jo Wood is so desperate to win the show that she's trying to get performance tips from Mick Jagger. The ex-model, fifty three, has been chasing her estranged husband Rockin' Ronnie's flamboyant bandmate for advice on how to shine in the contest. You can imagine the pleading, can't you? 'Come on, Mick, show us yer moves, baby...' Jo is said to be ultra-competitive and wants to gain an advantage over younger rivals such as The Bill's Ali Bastian and ex-EastEnder Natalie Cassidy.

And, in other Rolling Stones-related news, Keef Richards has reportedly revealed that he is finding it 'very difficult' to remember details of his life while writing an upcoming autobiography. Which, considering the fact that he spent most of the 1970s in a heroin-induced coma is, perhaps, understandable. Short term memory - always the first thing to go. As I was telling ... somebody. Sometime. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, dear old Mad Keef confirmed that he is currently working on the book with his friend and writer James Fox. 'I'm trying to remember things, which is very difficult,' he admitted. Now, that's rock and roll. Little, Brown and Co. are due to publish the star's as-yet-untitled (and, presumably, quite short) memoirs in 2010.