Friday, December 25, 2009


Keith Telly Topping would like to extend to all From The North's dear blog readers, his genuinely sincere hope that they enjoy the next twenty four hours as much as is humanly possible. And, that you don't kill any people who are being annoying by enjoying themselves more than you are. I know it's a tough ask, but please try yer best. And, tragically, that's about as close as you'll ever get to a Christmas Greeting from me! Also, I'd like to apologise - even though it wasn't my fault - for the non-appearance of Keith Telly Topping's Christmas Top Telly Tips on this morning's Alfie Joey Breakfast Show, as had been the intention. The reason for this was simple. Wee Alfie Joey, the Housewives' Choice, World-Class stand-up comedian (and Sunderland supporter) managed to 'lose' the pre-recorded item in question. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the BBC are still doing that. And you thought the mass junking of 'items of historic importance' ended in the 1970s when Ian Levine saved The Daleks. Seemingly not. The air didn't so much turn blue when yer Keith Telly Topping was told of this occurrence as ... sort of indigo. So, anyway, I'd particularly like to wish The Alfster himself - The Man Who Ruined Christmas In The Telly Topping Household - all the very best for the season. And, I hope that he's as guilty as hell whilst tucking into his turkey and all the trimmings this lunchtime. I'm actually on The Breakfast Show on Monday coming, reading the papers (from around 8am). I imagine I'll manage to worm the conversation around to the cultural desecration of his losing a Top Telly Tips. So, anyway, for those who'd got out of their pits at 7am and tuned their radios to 95.4 specially to hear me wibble on drunkenly about Doctor Who for four minutes, here's what you didn't hear!

Christmas Day
As usual at Chrimbo, it's all about match-ups. For the fourth year running Doctor Who is on opposite Emmerdale at 6:00. The good Time Lord has won the ratings battle on each occasion thus far (spectacularly so for the last two years notwithstanding the deaths of various members of the King family on Emmers) and, what with this being David Tennant's second-to-last episode (and the return of John Simm as a completely off-his-trolley Master), I'm expecting that trend to continue tonight. At 7:00 the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special goes up against Corrie on ITV and James May's Toy Stories on BBC2 - that one could be quite a close-run thing. Remember, last year Strictly won this battle - and not by a little bit either. Then, at 8:00 it's EastEnders vs All Star Mr & Mrs. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that Phil and Fern are likely to be the big losers in that particular tussle. Then, a combination of a new Royle Family special and Gavin & Stacey form a more deadly opponent for Agatha Christie's Poirot than most murderers he's faced. The BBC have, of course, done exceptionally well on Christmas Day over the last couple of years (nine out of the top ten rated shows last time out). And, to be honest, I'd be somewhat surprised if that sort of ratio changes too much this time around.

Saturday 26 December
The telly highlights of Boxing Day include David Tennant cropping up yet again (what's that, fourth time this week?) on BBC2 in an adaptation of his acclaimed stage performance of Hamlet (5:05). Looks brilliant. Patrick Stewart's in it, too although, it is on for three hours and, if you're not familiar with the plot, just about everybody dies - horribly - by the end. So, if you're looking for a good relaxing switch-your-mind-off laugh for Boxing Day, you might want to stick with the 1973 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special at 9:00 on BBC2 instead. Also there's Ant & Dec's Christmas Show and a rather good looking Lynda La Plante drama, Above Suspicion, over on ITV and a whole night of selected CSI episodes on Five. The BBC's big film is the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie (7:30).

Sunday 27 December
Sunday's big hitters are the much-anticipated Top Gear Bolivia Special (7:45 BBC2) which looks fantastic, another particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping the Outnumbered Christmas Special (10:30 BBC1), a Christmas flavoured Midsomer Murders on ITV (7:00 - Mama Telly Topping will be delighted by that) and yet another one of them interminable clip-shows The Greatest TV Shows of the Naughties (9:00 Channel 4).

'The most wonderful time of the year' my arse.

Right, let's get on with The News ...

Wasn't that a great Qi Christmas special, last night? I shall never be able to hear 'Crazy Horses' in quite the same way again! I'm really looking forward to the extended XL version of that which I think is on next Tuesday. Or possibly Wednesday.

They have both helped to revive Saturday night TV but, on the face of it, Pop Idol and Doctor Who would appear to have little in common. But as fans of the SF drama prepare to witness the regeneration of David Tennant's Doctor this New Year, it has emerged that the talent show forerunner of The X Factor was a key inspiration for the Timelord's creative rebirth. 'It was the biggest Saturday night show then,' said executive producer, Russell Davies. 'We used to gather around at a friend's house to watch the final and vote, and I wanted to do that with drama. If we could have the voice at the beginning of The X Factor introducing each episode I would do it.' The Christmas specials will feature old favourites Donna and her grandfather, Wilf, played by Catherine Tate and the great Bernard Cribbins, along with cameos from TV legend June Whitfield and former James Bond Timothy Dalton. The BBC will be hoping for an audience similar to last year's fourteen million and the Radio Times' TV editor has warned fans they will 'cry their eyes out' at the departure of Tennant, now one of the biggest stars on British television. One episode will be broadcast on Christmas Day, with the concluding half on New Year's Day. It is not just Tennant who makes his last appearance. Davies and his executive team are also leaving, paving the way for a total revamp of the show next year. In the course of the two-part special, Tennant's Doctor will come to grief after battling his arch-foe the Master, played by John Simm. But as Tom Baker's fourth Doctor said when he plunged off a radio telescope in 1981's Logopolis, also during a battle with the Master: 'It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for.' And then, he turned into Peter Davison and everything was all right again. This time, the Doctor will regenerate into young Matt Smith. The plot device of regeneration – a casting manoeuvre to prolong the series beyond the retirement of its first lead actor, William Hartnell – has enabled Doctor Who to constantly reinvent itself over five decades. Without it, the programme would have lasted for just three years in the 1960s. Given how popular the show has become since it relaunched in 2005, it's surprising to recall that its revival was considered a huge gamble at the time. The original BBC series had ended in 1989 as 'a bit of a joke' and a US telemovie in 1996 was, generally, not well received. Davies, who made up his own episodes as a child, said the programme simply 'wandered off the path' owing to lack of BBC support. 'It just got tired and unloved and the best thing that could have happened was for it to take a long break,' he told an audience at BAFTA this month. The relaunch, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, was an immediate success, with around ten million viewers tuning in for the first episode. Tennant, whose acclaimed rendition of Hamlet is to be shown on BBC2 on Boxing Day, is now looking to build a career in the US and has landed the main role in an NBC pilot, Rex is Not Your Lawyer. Davies and his fellow executive producer Julie Gardner are also hoping to build on Doctor Who's success and are working on TV pilots in Los Angeles, but they know from their experience on the show how precarious success in TV can be. 'We never once felt smug … we were in a state of constant terror,' Gardner said. When the programme returns next year with the new executive producer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat at the helm, everything will be changed: there will be a new Doctor, companion and logo. Even the TARDIS will undergo a makeover. But, at the end of the day it will still be Doctor Who and the legacy - of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, David Whittaker, William Hartnell and many others - that stretches all the way back to 1963 will continue.

Strictly Come Dancing is reportedly getting a higher budget in 2010 to attract 'bigger' celebrities, according to reports. What, taller? The dance contest, which has a smaller budget than its main television rival The X Factor, saw a drop in its audience figures this year. A source told the Sun: 'It didn't take a genius to see the show had a rather C-list line up this year. We wanted bigger names but our hands were tied because of the cash. At the start of the process, there is always a wish list. If we get more cash next year - and it looks a distinct possibility - then we can get better names.'

Meanwhile, one of those alleged C-listers, Ricky Whittle, has been charged with dangerous driving after reportedly being involved in an incident with a photographer in Liverpool last month. The Strictly runner-up was originally arrested on suspicion of assault after an alleged collision with a member of the paparazzi in the city centre in the early hours of 27 November.

Patrick Kielty is to make his first guest appearance on satirical impressionist quiz Mock the Week when the series returns early in the new year. The Irish comic will join show-regulars Hugh Dennis, Andy Parsons and Russell Howard, and host Dara O Briain in the eighth series of the topical BBC2 show. Other newcomers taking part in the forthcoming batch of episodes include John Bishop, Chris Addison (ah, excellent), Andrew Maxwell, Kevin Bridges and Andi Osho. They will join familiar guests such Ed Byrne, Stewart Francis and the wonderful Sarah Millican, whose reappearance is most welcome. Jack Whitehall and Mark Watson, who are okay. And Holly Walsh, who's about as funny as as kick in the teeth off Victoria Wood on her best day, ever. I think I'll give that episode a miss for a kick-off.

EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer has laughed off rumours that cast members are leaving because of the soap's forthcoming regime change. Santer announced last month that he was to bow out as the show's producer after its forthcoming Twenty Fifth anniversary week. He will be replaced in the role by former Hollyoaks producer Bryan Kirkwood. Shortly before the changes were officially confirmed, Barbara Windsor went public with plans to leave her much-loved role of Peggy Mitchell. Her final scenes will be broadcast next year. Meanwhile, Charlie Clements (Bradley Branning) and Josie Lawrence (Manda Best) have also since announced that they are to leave the show. Speaking to Digital Spy website about talk of a so-called 'cast exodus,' Santer commented: 'The thought that they're going because I'm going is flattering but I'm not sure there's exactly an exodus, any long running show will have a constantly evolving cast. It's a delightful thought for my ego, but it's not true.' He added: 'Barbara will be an enormous loss to the show, but it's not so surprising when a lady of seventy two says that she's thinking of taking her life a little easier. I've known about Barbara's plans since well before my announcement, so these things are definitely all independent. Charlie and Josie all have their own reasons for moving on, as they've described in their statements.'

Heather Mills has rubbished claims that she will be 'at war' with Sir Paul McCartney's cousin on Dancing On Ice. Both Mills and Emily Atack have been named as contestants for the new series of the ITV skating show, sparking tabloid frenzy concerning a family feud. Earlier this week, a press report suggested that Atack regarded Mills as a 'heartless gold-digger' and hoped to 'humiliate' her on the ice. However, responding to the rumours on Twitter, Mills insisted: 'Before the papers write any more BS, Emily Atack, Paul's distant cousin and I get on great.' Not the use of the word 'distant' there. Pointed, is it not? Mind you, if I was Emily, I'd be worried. She must be just about the only person that Ms Mills does 'get on great' with. Apart from her bank manager, of course. And, of course, she might like to remember the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding malarkey and watch her back. And her knees.

Catherine Tate has confirmed that she currently has no plans for a fourth series of her BBC comedy sketch show. The comedienne will be seen returning to the role of foul-mouthed Nan Taylor for a festive special on Christmas Day. The one-off episode is a spoof of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and shows Nan's many past misdeeds coming back to haunt her. Speaking on whether her other characters will be back on screen in the future, Tate told the Press Association: 'I don't have any plans for a next series, I don't really plan far in advance.' She continued: 'I didn't even think of doing this Christmas special until September, so I honestly don't know what I'm going to do next.' Now, as previously noted, yer Keith Telly Topping is a huge fan of Cat as an actress but I've never been that sold on her comedy show (I find it a bit crude, to be honest). So, here's hoping she develops a project that'll really show off her qualities in 2010 and leave the shock-tactics of Nan and 'Am I bovvered' behind.

From one very funny lady to one who thinks she's funny, but actually isn't. Victoria Wood is reported to be 'furious' with the BBC after her seasonal special was relegated from a 'promised' prime-time Christmas Day slot on BBC1, according to the Daily Telegraph. The alleged comedienne had been expecting Victoria Wood's Midlife Christmas to be shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day. Instead, viewers will see a special edition of the Caroline Aherne sitcom The Royle Family, sandwiched between an hour-long EastEnders and an episode of Gavin & Stacey. Personally, Keith Telly Topping is furious beyond words that he had to sit through an hour of the singular most unfunny garbage in the history of the world before Qi last night. What sort of civilised society are we when Victoria Wood can be given an hour of prime time, much less on Christmas Eve, dear blog reader? As the Daily Mail would say, Ban this woman, instantly.

The BBC3 comedy How Not To Live Your Life is to get a second crack at a US remake after NBC ordered a pilot script. Creator Dan Clark is to co-write the script for the network early next year, with the UK show's producer, Brown Eyed Boy, expected to take a co-producing role. Two years ago, US network ABC gave studio Touchstone the go-ahead to produce a pilot of the show, written by US writers, but it failed to developed into a series. The sitcom, which stars Clark as Don, a neurotic single thirtysomething failing to navigate his way through life and acting out the things he shouldn't do or say, was born out of a series of shorts made for Paramount Comedy. BBC3 recently ordered a third series for broadcast in September 2010.

ITN has secured the backing of Melvyn Bragg for its bid to run the regional news pilot in the Border and Tyne Tees region. The news provider has joined forces with newspaper groups Johnston Press and Newsquest, Bauer Radio and ITV's staff in the region to pitch for cash from the government's Independently Funded News Consortium scheme. Lord Bragg, the presenter of the recently axed ITV arts strand The South Bank Show – who hails from Cumbria, part of the Border region – is acting as a special adviser to the bid. 'I'm delighted to be part of this group,' he said. 'It will offer a new voice and new opportunities for regional commercial television in areas I've known and worked in for almost fifty years. This could not be better news and I'm pleased to help the consortium in every way I can.' The bid brings together partners including the Northern Echo and Durham Advertiser newspapers, Newcastle's Metro Radio and two other stations and the University of Sunderland.

Paul O'Grady's production company is to create a new show for Channel 4's teatime slot, it has been announced. According to the Sun, Olga TV has been recruited to make a programme named The Five O'Clock Show, which is expected to launch in the summer and feature a series of guest hosts. O'Grady will reportedly be listed as an executive producer on the project and has also been tipped to 'pop on from time to time.' Channel 4's head of daytime TV Helen Warner said: 'I'm so pleased we will be able to continue our great relationship with Olga through this new show. It'll be similar in format to The Paul O'Grady Show, so viewers will still get their hit of top guests and entertainment. Having a different celebrity host each week will keep the show fresh.'

First the BBC had to apologise for Rage Against the Machine's four-letter outburst on BBC Radio 5Live. Now, it has had to defend itself again after listeners complained that 5Live breakfast presenter Shelagh Fogarty endorsed the band's chart rival, Joe McElderry. Fogarty made the comment after the US band, who appeared on the breakfast show on Friday during the battle for the Christmas number one, turned the airwaves ultraviolet with a live version of their song 'Killing in The Name.' The performance was cut short by Fogarty after the group launched into the celebrated 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me,' chorus despite having previous 'given assurances' that they would not sing the lyric. More fool the idiot at 5Live who actually believed them! 'Sorry, we needed to get rid of that because that suddenly turned into something we weren't expecting,' Fogarty told listeners. 'Well, we were expecting it and we asked them not to do it and they did it anyway ... So buy Joe's records.' The BBC's complaints website said it had 'received complaints from people who felt that Shelagh Fogarty urged listeners to buy Joe McElderry's song.' The corporation, under pressure to show it was suitably even-handed over the chart battle – won by Rage Against the Machine – responded on Thursday. Richard Jackson, editor of 5Live Breakfast, said it was a "'ight-hearted spontaneous comment and ... should not be construed as a serious recommendation to buy a particular record.' He added: 'This year, in a light-hearted way in keeping with the tone of 5Live Breakfast, Nicky said he was backing Rage Against the Machine and Shelagh said she was backing Joe. This was in no way a serious endorsement and was never intended to influence anyone's buying habits.'

It appears as thought The Kinks might provide the big music reunion of 2010. Excellent. Ray Davies has confirmed to Sky News that he has set the wheels in motion to get back with the group he split from thirteen years ago. 'I've done some demos with the original rhythm line up,' says Davies, 'and it's good.' Ray's brother Dave suffered a stroke five years ago, but now he has recovered sufficiently to play some solo gigs next year. Ray says the success of them will decide the fate of the reunion shows. 'The important thing for me is whether or not my brother comes on board,' Ray says, 'but if it does happen it's got to have new material. I don't just want to do the oldies because that would not be interesting to me. You've got to feel you can make new product and new music.' Davies has filmed two episodes of the Sky Arts music show Songbook, where he explains the genesis of some of his classic songs, and performs them acoustically. He's also backed by the choir that appears on his latest album, Kinks Choral Collection. 'With this record I've moved forward and backwards at the same time,' he notes. 'What's surprised me is the impact the choir has made on a lot of these songs. I didn't want it to be just simply a remake of the records so I had to re-examine them.' Davies also has some advice for the more recent set of famously bickering brothers, the Gallaghers. 'It's inevitable that sibling rivalry emerges and people fall out,' says Ray. 'I've been falling out with Dave for years, and since we haven't been playing together we haven't fallen out at all, which is a good sign! Records like 'All Day and All Of The Night' couldn't have been made without an element of tension. I think it'll be sad if Oasis don't get back together, I only know the guys roughly, but we've met, and I get the feeling they will realise it'll be worth doing some more stuff together.'

Alyson Hannigan has revealed that her nine-month-old daughter plays tricks on her. The Buffy, The Vampire Slayer actress, who gave birth to Satyana Marie with husband Alexis Denisof in March, said that her baby will do anything it takes to avoid going to sleep. Hannigan told Working Mother magazine: 'She plays jokes on me when I try to put her to bed. This one time, I told her that "It's time for bed" and she has to go to sleep. She put her head down when I said the word "sleep" and as soon as I got to the door, she would prop herself up and start laughing. She did this at least twelve times.' Ah, she'll have got that from her dad, he's a terrific actor as well! 'There's so much that happens the first year. I could watch her all day long, just to see her discovering new things... I'm so fascinated by her. It's just the most rewarding aspect of my life so far. All the cliches are so true. I just love her so much.'

Former EastEnders actors Kara Tointon and Joe Swash had a series of heated arguments at a pantomime production, reports say. The real-life couple, who played Dawn Swann and Mickey Miller in the BBC soap, clashed after Tointon found something on Swash's mobile phone, according to the Sun. A source said: 'Halfway through the first act Kara was walking around backstage looking for Joe with his BlackBerry in her hand. She'd obviously found something on it and she confronted him. They ended up in a quick-change dressing room next to the stage having an argument. You couldn't hear what was being said, but arms were being waved and he was trying to get his BlackBerry off her.' The source added that things remained 'icy' and Swash later told his girlfriend that the relationship was over. However, Tointon seemed to confirm otherwise, saying: 'We were having a little mess around, but everything is fine.'

Hollyoaks actor Stephen Beard has become embroiled in a row with a Liverpool shop over a Nazi costume. The twenty-year-old actor, who plays Archie Carpenter in the Channel 4 soap, hired a replica SS uniform from fancy dress store, Lili Bizarre, three months ago for a 'non-politically correct party' in Leeds. Beard then reportedly failed to return the outfit on time and is believed to be refusing to pay an extra one hundred and eighty pounds charge which the shop claims he owes. Store co-owner, Gary Wakefield, told the Liverpool Echo: 'He hired the costume from us on 22 September and it was due back the next day. He did not bring it back so I made numerous phone calls. He said he did not have the boots but agreed to return the uniform. Then he stopped taking our calls. It is really popular and we needed it back for Halloween. I could hire it out another ten or twenty times.' Confirming that he eventually contacted Hollyoaks' production company Lime Pictures over the dispute, Wakefield continued: 'I warned them I was going to take legal action against him if I did not get my costume back. He contacted me straight away and agreed to bring it the next day. But he came in with a letter which said he was not prepared to pay the full one hundred and eighty pounds charge, which was the extra hire at five pounds per day.' Defending his conduct, Beard insisted: 'It was below the belt to get me into trouble at work, it was a personal matter. I forgot to return the outfit for the first few days, like a lot of people do. The boots were in Leeds and I was working in Liverpool. His response was if he didn't get the boots back I would lose my one hundred pounds deposit, which was fair enough. I handed him the letter last month, which said I would return the outfit but I was not going to pay the outstanding fine, and I said I would await his response. I would like him to call me again so we can talk about this matter.'

And, finally - in keeping with my general feelings on this season of rank good cheer, here's another piece from Keith Telly Topping's easel of melodramatic nightmares. This one is called, inevitably, Humanity (2009). Happy ... you know, thing, everyone.