Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week Fifty One: Christmas is Coming, Everybody's Getting Fat (Except Alesha Dixon)

Welcome back my friends to the Top Telly Tips that never end. And here, dear blog reader, we reach the penultimate week of the year. How was it for you?

Friday 18 December
Oh, crap, not another bleeding Christmas cookery show? What's that, the fifth this week? Anyway, Heston's Christmas Feast - 9:00 Channel 4 - sees Heston Blumenthal attempts to re-create and redesign 'the greatest festive feasts from history.' These include a lavish appetiser beloved by King Charles II and a particular favourite snack of the Roman emperors. A host of celebrity diners - including Charlie Higson, Mariella Frostrup, Arabella Weir, Matt Dawson, James Purefoy and Kate Spicer - will be on hand to sample Heston's extravagant delicacies. Recession? What recession?

Saturday 19 December
After months of dancing delights and disasters, controversies and bad jokes only two couples remain and everything rests on the final performances in Strictly Come Dancing - 6:35 BBC1. Both finalists - Tricky Ricky Whitttle and Chris Hollins - will battle it out on the dance floor in a bid to win the title of Strictly Champion 2009. Who will step up to the challenge and whose dancing dreams will turn to dust? Judges Len Goodman, Alesha Dixon, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Darcey Bussell cast their critical eye over the celebrities' dances. Keith Telly Topping himself now has no interest in Strictly whatsoever after poor old Ali Bastian got the heave-ho last week despite getting a perfect score from the judges. Craig Revel Horwood described their waltz as 'Fab-u-lous,' while Bruno Toniolo proclaimed: 'The ballroom dazzler is back.' Tragically, the public were less impressed.

Sunday 20 December
Miss Matty's house is full of life and bustle in Cranford - 9:00 BBC1. Her dream of having a child in the house has been realised with the birth of Tilly, daughter of her maid Martha and carpenter Jem. Elsewhere, the shadow of the railway still looms, but the line has been halted five miles outside Cranford - a disaster for the town, in Captain Brown's view. And as Lady Ludlow waits for her son, Septimus, to return from Italy, Harry Gregson is sent away to school.

This is the one we've all been waiting for. James May continues his quest to show what's possible with old-fashioned toys by using them on a grand scale never seen before in the first of two Christmas James May's Toy Stories - 7:00 BBC2. With thousands of people and over three million Lego bricks, James attempts to do what no-one has ever managed - to build a two-storey house out of this colourful toy. Or, indeed, to live in such a construction for two days. So, that's what James (and about a thousand volunteers) set out to accomplish. The recent series of Toy Stories (and, in particular, the Scalextric episode) were among the TV highlights of the year. This one looks like being the best of the lot.

Monday 21 December
Cult culinary queen Nigella Lawson - who has her knockers, of course - enjoys the run-up to Christmas. And she prepares her own seasonal larder well in advance in Nigella's Christmas Kitchen - 7:30 BBC1. Inspired by a trip to the chocolate haven of Paris, she demonstrates a few richly sweet recipes including a chocolate rocky road and her favourite finger-licking Christmas pavlova. This isn't cookery, it's pornography. Nigella also has a series of short cuts and culinary tips that will transform the familiar Sunday rib of beef to become a Christmas treat with her port and Stilton sauce. Also on the menu is a Thai beef salad and a poinsettia cocktail. Recession? What recession?

In Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Tina is suspicious and unsure whether Jason's love is genuine. It is Tina, chuck. Just so you're warned in advance. Meanwhile, a demanding Molly pushes Kevin for answers and the Rovers panto has a vacancy for a Prince Charming. Now, there's a job David Platt could do.

And finally tonight, in Victoria Wood: Seen on TV - 8:30 BBC2 - the hugely unfunny alleged comedienne, Victoria Wood, looks back at her very successful - if, again, remarkably unfunny - television career. This by-and-large unfunny compilation show featuring unfunny sketches, very unfunny stand-up and extraordinarily unfunny songs from her incredibly unfunny repertoire. As well as exclusive unfunny interviews with Victoria and her - mostly - unfunny friends and fans, including another very unfunny woman Dawn French, the marginally more funny Julie Walters and the totally thigh-slapping Sir Roger Moore.

Tuesday 22 December
Tonight's must-see telly kick-offs with a much-anticipated Mock the Week Christmas special at 9:00 on BBC2. Of course, it's - at least, in part - a compilation clip-show along with some previously unseen footage, so let's not get too carried away. But, remember this is your last chance to see Mad Frankie Boyle on the show that he both graced and, often amusingly, disgraced over the last six years. This festive edition (filmed in August, apparently!) of the topical show is, as usual, hosted by the great Dara Ó Briain also features his little helpers - Hugh Dennis, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons. Often imitated, seldom (if ever) equalled.

Oliver Postgate: A Life in Small Films - 8:00 BBC4 - is a genuinely heart-warming celebration of the life and work of Oliver Postgate, the man responsible for some of Britain's best-loved and most charming children's TV programmes, including Bagpuss, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Pogles and Noggin the Nog. Oliver's family and his co-creator, Peter Firmin, help to reveal the story behind his most celebrated characters, including some rarely-seen archive footage. The documentary also describes how Postgate's life was shaped by radical left-wing politics - which, in turn, influenced his classic creations adn the generations of tiny people who watched them in sheer wonder, this blogger included. My own dealings with Oliver were rather limited when, after I'd co-written The Guinness Book of Classic British TV in the early-90s, he wrote myself and my co-authors a lengthy, and rather amusingly annoyed, letter pointing out, not only the numerous unforgiveable mistakes in our entry on his work but, also, several nitpicks concerning our articles on other series as well! It was impossible not to love a man who sternly told us off for describing 'that bloody elephant on Blue Peter' as such and pointing out, not unreasonably, that we should really have called it 'that pissy elephant.' Dear old Oliver, we all miss him dreadfully and the world is far worse place without him and delightful Small Films that he and Firman made.

Tonight's episode of Holby City - 8:00 BBC1 - sees Linden and Holly preparing for Christmas when an old friend arrives, forcing Linden to face his long-standing feelings of guilt over the death of his wife. Also, Donna proves her worth by reuniting a dying woman with her daughter, and Michael tries to clear the wards of all the patients so that the staff can have a quiet Christmas for once.

Wednesday 23 December
Only two days to go now, dear blog reader. And it's a bit of a Blue Christmas tonight on TV. we start, with a useful reminder tonight that Christmas simply wouldn't be Christmas without a good old-fashioned three hour compilation of clips from various Christmas specials from days of yore. Greatest Christmas Comedy Moments - 9:00 Five - features a rundown of all of them classic clips from rib-tickling sketches and farcical sitcoms that you would expect in this sort of thing and, that you'll have seen in last year's similar show. And the year before. And the year before that. Highlights include scenes from Eric and Ernie, Only Fools and Horses, Dad's Army and The Office. Yer Keith Telly Topping is, of course, a huge fan of television history and of many of the fine shows that will be featured in this. But, when all is said and done, he's seen it all before so he'll be watching the season finale of [Spooks] on BBC1 instead.

On a similar theme, Top Of The Pop2: Christmas Special 2009 - 7:30 BBC2 - takes a seasonal look back at some of the nation's favourite festive songs. Mark Radcliffe presents Christmas classics from Slade, Wizzard, Wham!, Tom Jones, Mariah Carey and many more. Although it will, hopefully, be a Greg Lake free zone. Is anybody broadcasting any new stuff tonight? Still, at least they'll have The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl on. Although I'm betting my own second favourite Christmas song, 'Israel' by Siouxsie and the Banshees will be curiously absent. And, just a quick word if they're planning on featuring that flaming John Lennon song. Don't. Just don't. Or I may have to do onto you what Mark Chapman did onto its author. It's a horrible, trite song full of obvious cliches and, just when you think it can't get any worse, Yoko Ono starts singing.

Now, I think, given those last comments The Grumpy Guide to Christmas - 9:00 BBC2 - might be more my scene. Viewers are invited to meet the new breed of grumpies: a bit younger that the previous batch, perhaps, but no less embittered, with festive humbug and tales of seasonal Tourette's, inappropriate present-buying and the eating of reindeer. Ozzy Osbourne considers himself lucky to have missed Christmas a few years ago following a quad bike injury. Huey Morgan would rather throw burning conifers off the roof. John Thomson confuses his parents by sending them anonymous cards. And Ronni Ancona thinks that sprouts are the grapes of the devil. With you all the way, Ronni. Have a very singularly grumpy Christmas dear blog reader, as please do everything you can to be a miserable pain in the arse this Christmas. You know it makes sense.

Thursday 24 December
Celebrity Shock List 2009 - 9:00 Five - sounds like just what you want to send you to sleep before Santa arrives in the wee-small hours. Over two hours of self-congratulatory exploration of the fifty most outrageous occurrences in the world of the rich and famous in 2009. Sometimes, there just aren't enough sick bags in the world, ladies and gentlemen. Among the bombshells examined are Madonna's repeated attempts to adopt Malawian children, Susan Boyle's overnight launch onto the world stage, the BBC's - wholly manufactured - ageism row and the separation of Katie Price and Peter Andre. Whatever happened to peace and goodwill to all men and some dogs?

Christmas Eve also sees the one hundredth episode of Taggart - 9:00 ITV - the Glasgow based detective drama. When a debut crime novel includes the detailed description of a murder identical to an unsolved case, the team begin to suspect that the novelist may have been involved in the real-life crime. As the investigation continues, Burke becomes increasingly convinced that the writer is indeed the killer, but finding any actual evidence seems always to be just beyond his grasp. A cat-and-mouse game ensues, with Burke determined to ensure that his suspect does not get away with murder. Sounds rather good, actually, as Taggart often is. Although it's on opposite the Qi Christmas special, so use your recording devices wisely.

And, speaking of Qi - 10:00 BBC1 - Christmas really wouldn't be Christmas without David Tennant becoming quasi-omnipresent on BBC1. Therefore, dear blog reader, you really need to tune-in to this episode of the popular comedy intelligence quiz as Stephen Fry gently guarantees that you're all in for a totally groovy Christmas. Tennant is one of Stephen's guests, alongside Bill Bailey, Lee Mack and Alan Davies. And, if you want to see some more of 'this exciting young Scottish actor' it might be an idea to keep your Radio Times handy for tomorrow. Because, apparently, he's in something or other.

The stars of Coronation Street have reportedly opened a total of forty eight Poundland stores. According to the News of the World, the actors receive a three thousand pounds fee and travel expenses each time they open a shop. Wouldn't it be brilliant is they got a pound? Anyway, Antony Cotton and Andy Whyment have reportedly opened sixteen stores each, earning over forty eight thousand pounds. Recession? What recession? Oh, that recession. Meanwhile, Katherine Kelly and Jennie McAlpine have also had the dubious honour of opening some of the bargain-basement chain's branches. However, a Poundland spokesperson claimed that the actors are well worth the money. She explained: 'Our decision to use the celebrities has proved a huge success, resulting in a significant rise in footfall figures.' That, presumably, means that the largely skint people who frequent Poundland are, also, big Corrie fans. Yeah, actually. That sounds about right.

And, in other Corrie news, Ryan Thomas has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of assault following a heated row with his ex-girlfriend Tina O'Brien. The Coronation Street actor was released without charge in the early hours of Saturday morning after an eight-hour quizzing by police. They were probably just asking whether he had receipts for all of the Poundlands that he's been spotted opening. Officers were called to Thomas's house in Cheadle Heath, after neighbours reported hearing 'a heated row.' Thomas and O'Brien, split last month and the News of the World claims that the argument was over access to their fourteen-month-old daughter, Scarlett. Thomas, who plays Jason Grimshaw in the ITV soap, said: 'I would like to make it clear that I have not assaulted and would never assault Tina. The police were satisfied this was the case and I was released without any action being taken.' Police confirmed that a twenty five-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and released without charge.

Rachel Uchitel has asked for a live apology after comments were made about her on The View. Uchitel has recently been named as one of Tiger Woods's alleged 'girlfriends,' although she has strenuously denied having an affair with the golfer. Unlike the excellently named Jamie Jungers, apparently. However, E! News reports that Uchitel is seeking a live apology after Joy Behar said on the show: 'Uchitel, she's a hooker.' Uchitel's lawyer Gloria Allred explained that she appreciated the programme's subsequent apology, but added that a live statement would be more appropriate and denied that her client had ever played rugby in her entire life. Keith Telly Topping would like to suggest that, actually, she looks far more like a wing three-qaurter. 'We appreciate their prompt response and apology to Rachel,' said Allred. 'The apology sends an important message to others who would dare to characterise her in that way. It is a significant step forward in this matter. However, we still think it is important that the apology to Rachel be broadcast on the air on Monday's show. Rachel values her reputation and we look forward to ABC's broadcasting their apology to all those who heard it on their show. Because the statement was made on The View, the apology must be broadcast on that show as well.' Woods recently announced that he is taking an 'indefinite' break from golf after the allegations about his infidelity. Jungers, meanwhile, has revealed in a News of the World interview that she had a lengthy affair with the golfer which only ended 'when Jamie asked her lover for financial aid.' She said: 'He's a cheap fucker and he just didn't want to help me.'

Boris Johnson's cameo on EastEnders reportedly had to be toned down because of the flirty chemistry between the London Mayor and Barbara Windsor. The original scripts saw Windsor, who plays Peggy Mitchell, claiming to fancy Johnson and admitting that she would happily become 'the next Mrs Johnson.' The News of the World reports that writers later watered down the exchange, during which Mitchell would have told a friend: 'You think you're joking - but if I was fifteen years younger...' The politicians, who is married with four children, made his cameo on the soap in September, defending crticism of the appearance as a good opportunity to promote arts and culture in the capital.

Alesha Dixon has reportedly threatened to quit Strictly Come Dancing. The singer is said to be unhappy that she has not been given the same opportunity to promote her music on the show as her counterpart Cheryl Cole is on The X Factor, the News of the World reports. 'Alesha's right on the edge at the moment,' a source said. 'She feels like the BBC haven't backed her at all this year and she's ready to quit after just one series. When Cheryl started on X Factor she was given a massive fanfare by Simon and the ITV producers. Alesha doesn't believe she's had any of that.' The insider claimed that the main reason Dixon is unhappy is because she wasn't allowed to perform her single 'To Love Again' on the programme. 'The one thing she was really excited about was performing her single on the show,' the source explained. 'But they refused point blank. She thought being on the show could catapult her into the top ten. Just look what that sort of exposure did for Cheryl. But Alesha really struggled in the charts because there wasn't even a mention of her single on Strictly. She's started to wonder if it was all worth it.' The insider added that Dixon is planning to launch her music career in America and is considering leaving the programme. 'Unless she's given cast iron guarantees for 2010 it's highly unlikely she'll sign up for another series,' the source explained. Oh dear. How sad. never mind. 'Strictly was never meant as a long-term deal for Alesha. It's been a tough year but she's done a good job and can walk away with her head held high.' Or, at least, with a hell of a lot of licence fee payers money, anyway. Recession? What recession?

And, speaking of Cheryl Cole, the Heaton horror has revealed that both she and her husband Ashley are huge fans of Coronation Street. I'll bet they never shop at Poundland, though. Although, mind you, old habits do die hard, they reckon. The singer and X Factor judge reportedly said that the storyline involving Kevin Webster's affair with Molly Dobbs has them both gripped. 'I'm a massive soap girl, and like nothing better than watching the soaps with a cup of tea and a Hobnob,' Cole said. That's the first time I've heard Ashley Cole called that. 'A nasty little cheat', yes, but never a Hobnob. 'Kevin and Molly are so going to get caught out on Coronation Street. Ashley likes the soaps too. He pretends he doesn't like them.' What, like the time he pretended he'd been hit in the face to get Craig Bellamy sent off, you mean? Or the time he pretended he'd been poleaxed by that lad from Birmingham when, in reality, he hadn't been touched? I have several dozen other examples if anyone's interested...? Okay, then, back to Cheryl. Cole, who recently said that she will only return to The X Factor if Simon Cowell is 'nice,' revealed that he recently phoned her to criticise her appearance and performance. Cowell told her: 'I don't know what you were wearing but you looked terrible, and your personality was like a snail.' Never mind, Chezza, ducks. Have a Hobnob.

Alyssa Milano has reportedly criticised new US reality television show Jersey Shore. The MTV programme has attracted controversy recently for its portrayal of Italian-Americans, with some groups claiming that it relies on stereotypes. 'My husband actually showed me the trailer on YouTube last night and I got upset,' Milano told Us Weekly. 'It upset me. I was like, "Turn that off!" So no, I don't think I'll be watching that.' Yeah. There's a lot of people used to say exactly that about Charmed as well, I seem to remember. MTV's president of programming Tony DiSanto recently defended the show, adding that people would grow to love it.