Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week Thirty Nine: More TV Shows About Food Than You Can Possibly Deep-Fry And Serve On A Bed Of Rice

Apologies for the lateness of this bloggerisation, dear blog reader. Sad to report that yer Keith Telly Topping spent most of last night stuck on the lavatory. That's the last time he watches Derren Brown on the portable in the bathroom.

Anyway ...

Friday 25 September
In good old reliably tedious and miserable EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - Jane has an announcement to make which will change the Beale family forever. What, she's finally discovered that Ian is a miserable toerag? Let's call that an epiphany. It's taken you long enough, dear. Meanwhile, Whitney finds herself in the middle of the Mitchell feud. Which is never a good place for anyone who isn't a Mitchell to find themselves. And, Bradley comes to a big decision. Which was a That Petrol Emotion song, for anybody that remembers it. Great riff. Also tonight, The Tudors ends its current series with divorce in the offing for Jonathan Rhys Myers (he's Henery VIII he is, he is). That's novel - he usually just cut their heads off and had done with it. And Dazzling Dezza Brown is trying an ambitious remote viewing experiment that could be his most spectacular yet (although, let's face it, he says that every week!)

Saturday 26 September
Merlin - 6:40 BBC1 - kicked-off its second series last week. To no great fanfare. In tonight's episode, Merlin helps Arthur disguise his identity to enter a jousting tournament, little knowing that a deadly assassin has arrived in Camelot to kill the Prince. A deadly assassin, eh? Is there any other sort of assassin? A couple-of-days-in-bed-and-you'll-be-fine assassin, perhaps? Silly young Arthur, of course, is determined to win Camelot's jousting tournament on his own merit, so with Merlin and Gwen's help he goes under cover as 'an ordinary man.' Oh, that's gonna end well. But Arthur's in for a shock when Gwen challenges him to give up his spoilt, lofty ways. Will Arthur be able to shake the habits of a lifetime as easily as he did his princely robes? I have to be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of this one - it's got some very good actors in it (Tony Head and Richard Wilson notwithstanding) but I think it takes itself that bit too seriously - something Robin Hood seldom did, for instance. However, I do know it's very popular. That's on opposite my beloved (if still seemingly unsellable) Magpies taking on the Ipswich at Portman Road. Both sides were among the bookies' favourites for promotion at the start of the season but have experienced contrasting fortunes so far. United have made apparent light of their off-the-field one-crisis-after-another plight with a six wins and a draw out of their first eight games. Although, as ever, Keith Telly Topping's first realistic priority it for them to get to forty points as quickly as possible so that they can't be relegated again. If they do that by the end of November, then we can start worrying about other stuff! Ipswich, by contrast, have rather struggled in their first full season under the leadership Mad Roy Keane, with the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-lookalike's new signings yet to gel for the Town. Forget Merlin, watch this instead, it's bound to have far more drama. And, again, we've got Strictly versus X Factor on later if you want some real stroppy drama queens to watch.

Sunday 27 September
It's the usual Sunday night catalogue again, I'm afraid. Last Chance To See, Waking The Dead and ... some other stuff. If you're into your cookery on TV however, then do Keith Telly Topping a favour and avoid the wretched Celebrity Come Dine With Me on Channel 4 and stick, instead, to a repeated episode of A Feast of Floyd on BBC2. In this, the much missed Keith Floyd visits Provence. His journey begins at Sault where he has breakfast with Christian Dova who grows and makes nearly all his own food. Floyd then travels to L'Isle sur la Sorgue where he visits the market. He cooks a lunch of fish soup, chicken in garlic, ratatouille, salad and goats cheese with mint. The final cooking sequence is a barbecue in the garden of Albert Gassier where he does bass flamed in brandy, quail, two types of sausage, sardines and lamb kebabs. And he does it all, as ever, with a glass of wine in his hand and slight slurring of the words. Excellent. Top man, Keith Floyd. We shall not see his like again. More's the pity.

Monday 28 September
FlashForward - 9:00 Five - is a new US drama with science fiction overtones (but, don't let that put you off) about a mysterious event that causes the population of the entire world to black out simultaneously. During two minutes of unconsciousness, everyone sees a glimpse of their lives six months into the future. FBI agent Mark Benford investigates the incident as the extent of the aftermath slowly becomes clear. Pre-series hype suggests this series could well be this year's X Files/Lost/Heroes style genuine crossover hit, popular not only with us geeks but, also, relatively 'normal' people too. It's got a very good cast including Joseph Fiennes and Jack Davenport. And good on Five for showing it, literally, within a few days of its initial US broadcast. Sky have started doing that as well with Lost and 24 and it really does make a difference when you don't have to wait six months for new episodes to show up but, rather, six days.

In tonight's Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Fiz drops a bombshell on John. Not literally, we hope. Although, you know, that'd certainly liven up things in Weatherfield. Meanwhile, Rosie plots her revenge on Luke. Which will be slow, devious, complex and very painful, Keith Telly Topping imagines. Poor old Dev, meanwhile, is furious to see Amber reunited with Darryl. Sounds like there's a good old fashioned bit of barney rubble going down in The Street, then.

Designing the Decades - 8:00 BBC4 - is a series which celebrates forty years of great British designs. The first programme looks at the 1960s, one of the most visually exciting periods of the last century, when British pop culture and design exploded internationally. The mini-skirt, the Mini Cooper, stacking chairs, the Post Office Tower, the title sequence of The Avengers and the sleeve of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are some of the enduring and iconic images which are examined. Includes interviews with the late Adam Faith, Terence Coran, Mary Quant, Tony Benn, Molly Parkin, Peter Blake and others. Course, sixties modernism - and modernist design in general - has got a bit of a bad name since ... well, since the seventies, basically. The plastic, artificial, throwaway nature of many - supposedly durable - household items and some of the bent-out-of-shape rocket-concrete monstrosities that still blight a lot of Britain's cities and town have a lot to answer for. But, there was a lot of good stuff too amid the tat and the kitsch and some of it is now regarded as genuinely innovative.

Tuesday 29 September
The makeover series How to Look Good Naked - 8:00 Channel 4 returns. Camp-as-a-row-of-tents stylist Gok Wan transforms a mother and daughter for the first time. Margaret and Maria from Derbyshire are aged sixty two and thirty nine. I'm presuming, therefore, that the former is the mother cos, the other way around wouldn't make much sense, frankly. Although, there's some funny things they get up to in them country villagers round that area. Or so I'm told. Anyway, both of them have such dreadful body confidence they fear they are passing their negative body issues on to Maria's two young daughters. Can Gok build up their confidence so much that mother and daughter are willing to bear all in the glamorous photo shoot? How utterly pointless. As pointless as Portmsouth. (Let's see how long it takes before that joke becomes, itself, an historical artefact!)

Keith Telly Topping mentioned The Big Food Fight - 10:00 Channel 4 - last week and it's just getting better and better. This is a food quiz - an a very funny one, at that - hosted by every red-blooded male's Sapphic fave-rave the lovely Sue Perkins and in which team captain (the suddenly 'you know, he actually seems quite a good bloke for a change') Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is challenged to defend his cooking credentials by a different rival each week. Hugh teams up with Sophie Dahl to take on Big Fat Clarissa Dickson-Wright (and, that's about the only time you'll be able to get away with that description of the TV personality on the grounds of factual accuracy ... except in the case of Big fat Pat Butcher on Easties) and Sue's Supersizer chum Giles Coren.

Much earlier on the evening, Sue is also a guest on The Paul O'Grady Show - 5:00 Channel 4. Now, if you're a fan of this one, make the most of it whilst you can because, if the rumours are true, Paul's off to Sky as soon as his current contract expires in December. Money squabbles, inevitably. Terry Wogan is his rumoured replacement although, as ever, treat that simply as a rumour until it's confirmed or denied. And, Keith Telly Topping would like to confirm one of his original pre-series impressions. Yes, Live at Studio Five really is 'that bad.'

Wednesday 30 September
In Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue - 8:00 Channel 4 - hotelier and food writer Ruth Watson attempts to assist couples who are starting out in hotel ownership. The first benefactors of Ruth's expertise and bossiness are Diana Graham and Steve Fernie from Suffolk, who want to transform their Grade II listed family home into a bed and breakfast. Errr... there's a recession on, guys. Don't know if you'd spotted that but this is a really bad time to be starting up a business.

Dying to Be Treated? - 8:00 BBC1 - is a Panorama special which investigates a key Labour health policy that slashed waiting lists by using the private sector to treat NHS patients. Six years on, was it worth the price? Thousands benefited from being fast-into track operations, but bereaved families and senior surgeons say that risks were taken with patient safety and millions of pounds were wasted. So, we complain when the waiting lists are too long and we complain again when they get cut. Okay. Seems ... you know ... can't do right for doing wrong but, never mind. Panorama's always on the case when there's some complaining being done. By anyone.

We talked, at length, about Farmer Wants a Wife - 9:00 Five - the week it started. You remember this one, surely? Happy Harry's daughter-in-law Louise Redknapp sets out to help Britain's most eligible farmers to meet the women of their dreams. Tonight, thirty-year-old Jim is a rugby-loving arable farmer from the Yorkshire Dales. Arable? That's a bit harsh, he looks quite nice from the publicity photo. But, anyway, despite having the looks of a rock star, this handsome bachelor has yet to find Mrs Right. Probably, because most Ms Rights' consider an isolated location, long hours, back-breaking work and little financial reward something of a drawback when they can nab a real rock star and avoid most of the pitfalls. (Albeit, they do have to take likely heroin addiction into consideration in the second scenario.) Can Louise help sow the seeds of love? Like Tears For Fears. Only, less Magical Mystery Tour parodying in the video. If Louise turns up looking like she does in our photo then I'm guessing she might get a bit of the old 'ooo, arr. D'y fancy a quick go on moi tractor?' herself.

Thursday 1 October
The anarchic, award-winning pop quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks - 9:30 BBC2 - returns with new team captain the depressingly unfunny Noel Fielding opposite regular Phill Jupitus and guest host James Corden. So, to sum up, this is a show that's now missing both Bill Bailey and Simon Anstell - the only two reasons there's ever been to watch it. Hmm ... Good luck with that.

We've got an hour and a half of Masterchef The Professionals tonight on BBC2 starting at 8:00. It is the quarter finals, and the four winning chefs have to cook three courses of their own design for three restaurant critics. Only two can go through to the finals. As ever, Monica Galetti - who's got a real Deborah Meaden/Ms Whiplash thing going for her on this show - will get all feisty, Gregg Wallace will frown a lot and say 'I don't know if he's got what it takes' and Michel Roux will say 'Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble.' No, sorry, that's 'Michelle.' Anyway, somebody will burn their scallops, somebody else will make a mess of the Boeuf Bourgignon and the Lemon Tarts will all collapse like a flan in a microwave. And it will all be ridiculously entertaining!

In Electric Dreams - 8:00 BBC4 - a family and their home are stripped of all modern technology to live a life of decades past. The family must live through the digital wilderness of the 1970s, with a technical support team to source and supply them with the vintage technology of the time. They endure a spell without central heating and get to grips with the 'state-of-the-art' teasmade, see the effects of seventies industrial unrest on their home when they experience a power cut and then their newly-arrived colour television breaks down. As the Topping household's did shortly after we got it in 1972. They had to send it back to the manufacturer and it took six weeks before we got it back. We ended up renting back our old black and white one for the duration. So this is kind of Supersizers meets The Victorian Farm but with a bit of The Gadget Show thrown in. What a great idea. I think this sounds terrific. I might even give a bit of Masterchef a miss for this! Get out yer Hai Karate aftershave and clack yer clackers with pride, the seventies are back. I think I'll go on strike.

And, finally, a few bits and pieces of Top Telly News that arrived too late for yesterday's edition.

The world's longest running soap opera has been screened for the last time, having been on air in the US for more than seventy years. Guiding Light first appeared on NBC radio before moving to television in the 1950s, but viewing figures have declined in recent years. It featured many actors who went on to be major stars, including Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart and James Earl Jones. The final episode ended on an upbeat note before the screen faded to black. All the characters were gathered together in a park for a picnic before the show's long-running on-off couple, Josh and Reva, finally declared their undying love and drove off in a pick-up truck. The actors playing the characters - Kim Zimmer and Robert Newman - had both been in the show for more than twenty five years. Guiding Light began life as a fifteen-minute daily drama on NBC radio in 1937 before moving to television in 1952. It initially focused on Rev John Ruthledge and the community in a fictional suburb of Chicago called Five Points, but the recent show revolved around the lives and loves of three families in the fictional mid-western town of Springfield (not The Simpsons' one).

EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook is to bow out of the soap at the end of the year according to Digital Spy. The thirty five-year-old, however, has not been 'axed' from the programme as a weekend tabloid newspaper had suggested - she has simply fulfilled her original three-month contract which ties in with the close of her character's story. In April, it was announced that Westbrook - who plays Sam Mitchell - was to return to the show after a nine-year absence. Last week, she made her screen comeback, much to the shock of her family. As she was still on the run from the police for perverting the course of justice, the Mitchells attempted to hide her in The Vic. However, Bianca (Patsy Palmer) informed the police of Sam's presence on the Square, which promptly resulted in her arrest. Sam's storyline reaches a dramatic climax at the end of the year, resulting in her departure from the soap.

Eurovision Song Contest organisers say they may ban countries from the competition if broadcasters disclose information about voters' identities. It comes after a number of people in Azerbaijan were questioned by police after voting for a song by neighbouring Armenia in this year's contest. Phone companies had been responsible for protecting voters' details, but now broadcasters will shoulder the burden. Sanctions against offending countries could be a ban of up to three years. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said the rule change was to ensure the protection of voters' privacy. Last month, an Azerbaijani man told the BBC he had been accused of being unpatriotic and a 'potential security threat,' after he sent a text backing Armenia's song, 'Jan Jan.' The country's authorities said people had merely been invited to explain why they voted for Armenia. The two states fought over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the 1990s. The EBU's director general, Jean Reveillon, said violating the privacy of voters 'or interrogation of individuals is totally unacceptable.'

Chris Hollins has joked that his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing might ruin his relationship. Speaking to the Sun, the television presenter explained that he was worried his wife would be jealous when she watched him dance with partner Ola Jordan. 'I'm in the doghouse over Strictly,' he said. 'I had to leave our holiday early to take part in the show and Sarah's last words to me were, "Your dance partner best not be fit." Then I got Ola, who is absolutely stunning. We're still on speaking terms, but I don't want to see her face when I do the rumba on Saturday night - it's quite passionate. There's one moment when I stand over her [Ola] dominantly.' He added that he had been nervous about dancing in front of Ola's husband James. 'It is very embarrassing when you are grabbing someone else's wife in front of them,' he said. 'But he didn't mind at all - in fact he told me to grab her and be a bit more raunchy!'

The upcoming third series of Sarah Jane Interferes will air twice-a-week on BBC1. The move means that stories will start and conclude in the same week. 'We've been planning this for a very long time now,' executive producer Russell Davies told Doctor Who Magazine. 'The whole of Children's BBC is excited by this transmission pattern. It feels like the old days, when Doctor Who would transmit twice a week!' The third series, which was shot in HD, will begin on BBC1 on Thursday 15 October. New episodes will air Thursdays and Fridays thereafter.

Katie Price has reportedly admitted that she is 'hugely relieved' that police are not going to investigate her widely reported rape claim. It was previously reported that police contacted the glamour model after she alleged that she had been raped by a celebrity. However, Surrey Police confirmed yesterday that no allegation of rape had been made by the glamour model and that they hadn't spoken to her about the alleged incident. According to the Mirror, Price has now told friends: 'I never expected it to blow up like this. I want it to go away.' Yeah, that's going to happen, isn't it?

Michael Jackson reportedly kept a list of 'enemies' - one of whom was his supposed former friend Uri Geller, according to a new claim. Who else do we reckon was on it, dear blog reader? Martin Bashir? Leigh Francis? Mad Frankie Boyle? Guess he really was bad. Perhaps we'll never care.