Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week Five: They Said We'd Be Aristically Free, But It's Just A Bit Of Paper

Former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Hayley Newton - voted off the competition last night - has revealed that she taught Pixie Lott how to dance. Uh-oh, uh-oh. What have we here? It would appear to be an example of the 'I'm a mate of a mate of the bloke who sets up the PA' syndrome. How frightfully gauche. Newton told the Sun - who pretended to be, like, interested - that she was a teacher at her family's performing arts school Italia Conti when Lott studied there. 'I taught Pixie for two years when she was fifteen or sixteen, a few years ago,' Newton explained. 'I mainly showed her the ropes in jazz moves and show numbers. Even back then she was amazing - very professional and easy to work with. I'm not at all surprised she's made it now.' And, you yourself haven't. Such is life, Hayley. It's a bee-atch and no mistake. Newton added that Lott has been urging her friends to vote for her and said: 'It's lovely to have her support and know she's backing me.' However, she admitted that she was nervous about performing a hip-hop routine on last night's show. And, as it turned out, she had every right to be so. 'Every day this week I've been petrified just thinking about it,' she said. 'It's so out of my comfort zone, I feel like I'm being fed to the lions.' And, as it turned out, that's exactly what happened. That's showbusiness for ya, love, it chews 'em up and it spits 'em out. Let's have the next one ...

Or, instead, let's have some Top Telly Tips.

Friday 29 January
Many viewers will be utterly glad to see the back of Big Brother when its Borehamwood complex shuts its doors for the last time this summer and Davina McCall finds herself some gainful employment elsewhere. But, there have been the odd reason to recommend the last series of its more controversial cousin, Celebrity Big Brother which reaches its final episode at 8:30 on Channel 4 tonight. In previous years, the show has - more than once - paid the price for pandering to the crasser end of the cult of celebrity: Witness, for example, the unholy bloody mess that resulted from introducing former Big Brother contestant - and complete racist numbskull non-entity - Jade Goody, plus assorted ignorant, foul-mouthed Wags to the nation's living rooms, in 2007. Whatever you think of this year's crop of housemates, most of them at least have some genuine claim to fame. We've seen British institutions ranging from Stephanie Beacham to Big Hard Vinnie Jones sharing a bedroom with American imports like the movie-star-turned-good-ol'-boy-Southern-preacher Stephen Baldwin and former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. And even the lesser celebrities - like Jonas Altburg - have proved good value for the most part. Whoever wins, it's perhaps fair to say that the show is going out on a minor high that even its biggest fan probably didn't expect this time last year - even if the cacophony of pantomime boos we may hear tonight suggests otherwise. Place your bets now. If you're still watching. And, if you are, hello Mr Johnson.

Saturday 30 January
Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:00 ITV - returns with a new series. Quite possibly Happy Harry's last on ITV. And, as ever, he's here to deliver his trademark take on the week's TV, offering viewers the usual impressive mix of genuinely sharp postmodern gags, rib-ticklingly silly clips and daft sketches as he sends up soaps, reality shows, documentaries and dramas alike. And just where has the knitted character been since the last series ended? I think I spotted it acting in EastEnders. Or was that Patsy Palmer? It's so easy to get those two mixed up.

Sunday 31 January
In Seven Ages of Britain - 9:00 BBC1 - David Dimbleby tells, not unexpectedly, the story of Britain through its art and treasure. This, the first episode, begins with the Roman invasion in 43AD and ends with the Norman Conquest one thousand and twenty three years later. David travels throughout Britain in search of the greatest works of art from the time: the mosaics of Bignor Roman Villa, the Dark Ages burial treasure of Sutton Hoo, Anglo-Saxon poetry and Alfred the Great's Jewel. He also goes abroad, throughout Europe, to find objects either made in Britain, or which tell us something about our hidden past.

Mo - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a revealing drama about the life and death of the politician Mo Mowlam, starring Julie Walters and David Haig. Arguably the most popular, albeit controversial, Labour MP of a generation, Mo's charisma and frank approach as Secretary of State for Ireland helped achieve the landmark Good Friday Agreement and her warmth, passion and unorthodox style were loved by many on all sides of the political divide. Yet just months after the 1997 landslide election, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Defying medics, she carried out her brave battle with illness on the public stage.

Monday 1 February
After last night's drama about a politicians who was genuinely admired by many people comes a necessary bit of balancing. Because, in the decade since Mo Mowlam, the majority of the rest of them have spent much of their time and energy reminding us all why we're so mistrustful of politicians in the first place. Because, by and large, they're a bunch of corrupt, sleazy scum. Well, Tower Block of Commons - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a four-part series which follows a group of MPs as they spend eight days and nights living in council estate tower blocks across the country, and come face-to-face with 'the issues that affect the lives of people in some of Britain's most deprived neighbourhoods.' It says here. Oh God, this would appear to be another one of those horribly trite and banal life-swap The Duchess On The Estate/7 Days On The Breadline conceits so beloved by programme-makers but, seemingly, not by anybody that actually matters. Like, you know, the viewers/voters. I don't know about anybody else but, I'm really not sure I need a well-paid politician roughing it for a week in some council house then coming out to mouth crass platitudes about what a new perspective this has given them. Before they're whisked off back to Westminster by helicopter to forget all about the experience. If any politician needs to 'see how the other half lives' then they clearly have no business being an MP in the first place. Anyway, Mark Oaten (who, I think is a Liberal) experiences the dire housing conditions of Goresbrook Village in Dorking, while Tim Loughton (Conservative) learns what some of the residents in Birmingham's gang-divided Newton estate think of politicians. That you're all scum, Tim. You really don't need to make the trip - and waste money - to know that.

The Gadget Show - 8:00 Five - returns for a new series. Hurrah. Always glad to have it back. The consumer technology show - presented by Jason Bradbury, Suzi Perry, Jon Bentley and Ortis Deley - kicks off as the divine Suzi and Jason head to the Liwa desert to test a range of survival tools. Elsewhere, Jon examines the new generation of e-readers and Ortis looks ahead to a new year of gadgets and what the future might have in store for the dedicated techno-head.

In 2006, intruders killed filmmaker-turned-conservationist Joan Root in Kenya. Was it a revenge attack by poachers, a murder by a disgruntled former employee or something even more bizarre? In telling Root's story in Murder on the Lake - 9:00 BBC4 - Henry Singer doesn't just profile a fearless environmentalist and her battle to save one of Kenya's environmental jewels. He also opens a window on the uneasy balance between the developed world's wish to preserve Africa's environment and the continent's own need to develop at its own pace. Looks really good this one.

Tuesday 2 February
In EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - as the new Mitchell brother causes tension in the Vic, Ronnie is horrified by the discover of Jack's deception. Elsewhere, Amira struggles to cope with her guilt, and Bianca receives a lifeline from an unexpected source. And, after that's all finished, if you're a fan you can pop over to BBC3 at 8:00 for EastEnders: The Greatest Cliffhangers sand what your favourite 'douf-doufs' as voted for by you, the public.

Fifteen-year-old Danielle has spent much of the last decade in silence. Ten-year-old Megan's failure to talk to anyone at school is threatening her future whilst eight-year-old Red's grandfather has never even heard his only grandchild say a single word. All three of these young girls suffer from a strange and isolating condition called 'selective mutism.' At home they are as noisy as you'd expect any normal child to be but, with other people, their seemingly anxiety about talking leaves them, quite literally, speechless. How will they overcome their problem and break their silence? My Child Won't Speak - 10:35 BBC1 - tells their fascinating story. Overly literal title, admittedly, but sounds to be an interesting subject matter.

In Billie And The Real Belle Bare All - 11:35 ITV - TV's best-known - and most glamorous - prostitute, Billie Piper, meets the real thing, Belle de Jour, Dr Brooke Magnanti, in an intimate and revealing conversation about Brooke's time spent as a high class call girl. In her first full-length television interview, Brooke shares her reasons for becoming a prostitute, bizarre client requests and why she revealed her identity after six years of anonymity. The show also gives viewers a chance to see footage from the third series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, the drama starring Piper which was inspired by her story and her online blog. On late, obviously, due to the subject matter. And, consequently, probably not to all tastes.

Wednesday 3 February
Horizon - 9:00 BBC2 - is, of course, a series exploring topical scientific issues and a particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader. In tonight's film for centuries scientists have been attempting to come up with an elixir of youth. Now remarkable discoveries are suggesting that ageing is something which is flexible and that can perhaps ultimately be manipulated. Horizon meets the scientists who are attempting to piece together why we age and - more vitally for all of us - what we can actually do to prevent it. But which theory will prevail? And, do we want to live forever? it's a question worth asking.

Emmerdale - 7:00 ITV - hasn't been covered on Top Telly Tips for a bit. So it's clearly about time we dropped in on the various goings on in Beckingdale to see what nefarious skulduggery everyone's been up to. Tonight, Maisie's brittle front begins to crack, Victoria faces the consequences of bullying Hannah and Zak tries to relieve the pressure on Lisa.

Tonight's Natural World - 8:00 BBC2 - is a rather offbeat little film - narrated by Rob Brydon - which takes viewers to the Wild West where many prairie dogs live in huge colonies known as 'towns.' Like meerkats, they can be comical to watch, but there is a whole lot more to prairie dogs than just being cute. For a start, they can talk. For thirty years Professor Con Slobodchikoff - and let's face it, with a name like that, he couldn't have been anything other than a professor - has been recording prairie dog calls in response to predators and he believes that he has actually discovered a 'language' second only to humans in its diversity and complexity. It's a bold claim but is he right? I'm certainly going to watch to find out.

Thursday 4 February
Cheryl Cole might get a prime time slot on ITV but the best that her poor band-mate Nicola Roberts (she's the ginger one) can manage is BBC3 for The Truth About Tanning at 8:00. In this Nicola goes on what is described as 'a personal journey' to explore the culture of tanning among young women and men in the UK. She meets those whose love of tanning is, clearly, an addiction, who use sunbeds five or six times a week and who inject untested tanning-aid drugs into their own systems, as well as dermatologists and cancer experts who explain the risks addicts are exposing themselves to. Nicola's journey also takes her to Westminster, where she helps to rally support for a bill that would protect under-eighteens from the dangers of sunbeds. Not, perhaps, as mindlessly entertaining as the shows that Cheryl's involved in. But, one could suggest, far more worthy. And, probably, better TV too.

For Simon King - wildlife cameraman, Springwatch presenter and cult TV figure - a 'good night out' is being stuck halfway up a cliff in the mid-Atlantic, in the middle of a sodding blizzard. What a lunatic! And, that's why we love him, of course. Simon King's Shetland Diaries - 8:00 BBC2 - follows Simon as he sets off on an adventure to the Shetlands to live, through the changing seasons, with his family. Simon, his wife Marguerite and their two-year-old daughter Savannah, settle into a wild remote cottage, but the winter weather and winds of over one hundred miles per hour make life pretty tough for them. To celebrate winter, Simon joins the local Shetlanders in their Viking Up-Helly-Aa Festivals, but there's a surprise for him, he is asked to come in drag. Yeah, I've been to fair few parties like that in my time, too. Never ends well.

Mock the Week - 9:00 BBC2 - miraculously, seems to have survived the exit of mad Frankie Boyle not only in tact but actually, if anything, a slightly more diverse and witty show. True, we're not going to get any more jokes about Kerry Katona's sexual activities - which is always to be regretted - or Stephen Hawkins' athletic prowess. But now, there seems to be a bit more room to breathe for some of the guests who, perhaps in the past have been somewhat intimidated by Mad Frankie's glowering, over-the-top presence. Anyway, looking good so far. Tonight, Dara O Briain and regulars Hugh Dennis, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons frisk another suspicious looking week and uncover guests the excellently dry Stewart Francis, Andrew Maxwell and Andi Osho. There's not too much wrong with British telly when Mock The Week's on a Thursday and Qi on a Friday.

In Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - Peter is quite clearly in denial but will he admit his problem to Leanne? Is Betty's birthday bash at the Rovers going be ruined by a gatecrasher? And Janice's hunky new lodger Trevor causes quite a stir. Meanwhile, in yer actual Corrie news, John Thomson has used Twitter to tell his fans that he is still a member of the show's cast. The actor, who plays Jesse Chadwick, reportedly felt compelled to discuss his career on the blogging site amid unsubstantiated rumours that he had been sacked. The Daily Star Sunday claims that the comic tweeted: 'Still in Corrie in case you wondered, no idea what's going to happen. All I know is I am there for light relief.'

And, so to the rest of the news. Ricky Whittle - remember him? - has reportedly 'hit out' at Hollyoaks bosses for refusing to give him extra time off for 'new projects.' No reason why they should, of course, he's under contract until they tell him otherwise, that's the way it works in acting. The twenty eight-year-old, whose character - Calvin Valentine - was shot dead at the end of the soap's 'flashforward' episode, said he has been inundated with offers of work since his 'life-changing' Strictly Come Dancing stint. When he came second. Whittle told the Mirror: 'I've had so many offers to do other shows. I even got a part in a film. But they wouldn't give me the time off. As soon as my contract is up, I'm off.' Ooo, unwise words, pal. You develop a reputation for being a stroppy drama queen at your peril. Whittle has already reportedly ruled out joining another soap when his Hollyoaks contract concludes in May. See, ideas above his station, it would seem. So, you planning on joining the Morrison's shelf-stackers squad along with Olly Murs then, Rick? Remember him? He came second too. You know, second? It comes right after first. Ask Buzz Aldrin about it.

Executives at the BBC are reportedly in no rush to replace Jonathan Ross's Friday night chat show. Insiders claim that the corporation will wait until January 2011 at the very earliest before a new programme is launched in the slot. According to the Sun, chiefs believe that 'space' is required to avoid constant comparisons between Ross and his successor. 'Executives aren't planning to rush to fill Jonathan Ross's chat show as soon as he leaves. They want some time to pass between the end of his show and the launch of a new series,' a source said. 'If you move too quickly, Ross's successor would continually be compared to Jonathan. Things need to settle down first. They are not planning another chat show until at least the New Year.' Ross, forty nine, will leave when his current contract comes to an end in June. It is thought that the BBC1 10.35pm slot will be filled with Rob Brydon's panel show Would I Lie to You? and the stand-up series Live From The Apollo.

EastEnders actress Preeya Kalidas is reported to have quit the soap after nearly a year in order to pursue her pop music career. The twenty nine-year-old - who first appeared on screen in May 2009 as glamorous beautician-turned-caterer Amira Shah - will reportedly bow out of the show in the summer to release her first single which is currently being recorded. On New Year's Day, eleven and a half million viewers tuned in to see her character marry husband Syed (Marc Elliott) in a traditional Muslim ceremony, completely unaware of his sordid, sick and wrong gay affair with Christian Clarke (John Partridge). At least, according to the Daily Mail.

Ross Kemp has signed a new publishing deal which will see him release his debut novel. The former EastEnders actor will use knowledge gained from his military and gang culture documentaries for his first work of fiction Devil To Pay. The Mirror reports that former soldier Nick Kane is the central figure in the book, which is set in Afghanistan and London and is due to be published in July. Under Kemp's deal with Random House, a non-fiction project will see publication in October and a further fiction novel will be released in 2011. That's if the Taliban don't catch up with him first, of course. Which would be sad.

Gordon Ramsay reportedly missed the National Television Awards last week after being held up on London's congested roads. The celebrity chef was due to present a prize at the event but texted organisers to say that he was 'caught in traffic.' A source told the Mirror: 'No one was impressed.' Which, when you think about it, pretty much sums up Golden Gordon's TV career of late.

Cheryl Cole is reportedly close to signing a one and a half million pound X Factor deal which will see her leave the show after the next series. Oh dear. How sad.

Anyway, life goes on ... Simon Cowell reportedly banned John and Edward Grimes from becoming Celebrity Big Brother housemates in the current series of the reality series. According to the Mirror, the duo were lined-up to appear on the show and had the support of their manager, Louis Walsh. However, Cowell reportedly stepped in and stopped the pair from appearing on the Channel 4 programme. 'We were going to have them in the house for the first week, because they had other commitments,' a source claimed. 'The boys were keen and so was Louis, but Cowell put his foot down. He may have berated them for weeks on The X Factor but when it came to them appearing on Channel 4, he said, "They belong to us."' Ah, the iron fist of contractural imperialism inside the velvet glove of reality television. It's the law of the jungle out there.

Sharron Davies has claimed that frosty Dancing On Ice judge Jason Gardiner will never upset her. Davies, who found herself in the bottom two in the first week of the competition, criticised Gardiner's comments about her height. 'I'm not ashamed of what I am and who I am,' she told the Daily Record. 'I am tall. I'm not the right shape to skate. Skaters are small petite girls. They are all five foot two or five foot three with tiny little feet and I'm five foot eleven with size eight feet. I'm designed to swim and that's what I do. I'm proud of being athletic.' Davies explained that she tries to avoid taking Gardiner's remarks too seriously. 'It's sometimes difficult not to take it to heart because some of his comments are quite personal, but you have to understand that it's a TV programme and it's his job,' she said. 'He's never around backstage though. The skaters and the judges all go to the bar afterwards but he tends to stay away because he insults everybody. People have stopped me in the street and said how horrible they think he is, but he's not going to reduce me to tears.' Davies added that she doesn't think Gardiner's comments are worth as much as those of some of the other judges. 'I pay more attention to what Karen Barber, Robin Cousins and Nicky Slater say,' she explained. 'I try to impress them because I see them as skating judges while Jason is a dance choreographer or whatever he is and Emma Bunton is a pop singer.'

Lady Sovereign vanished from a television studio just minutes before she was due to appear on a BBC debate show, it has been claimed. The rapper, who was evicted after sixteen days in the Celebrity Big Brother house, was scheduled to appear as a guest on BBC1's This Week, according to the Daily Star. However the twenty four-year-old singer reportedly disappeared from the studio shortly before she was scheduled to join into a conversation with host Andrew Neil and regular contributors Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. Neil said: 'I got a message in my ear while I was on air saying, "Keep talking because your next guest has gone missing." I am told she got incredibly nervous about being on the show and bottled it.' A spokesman for Lady Sovereign explained: 'She had a panic attack. It took her a few hours to get over it.' Yeah. Old Portaloo has that effect on a lot of people. Although, he's got a lot nicer since he left politics and starting making documentaries about the railway, it must be said.

Hulk Hogan has revealed that his luck has changed after a judge reportedly ruled that his ex-wife must return his favourite toilet seat to him. The wrestler filed a lawsuit in December which claimed that his former spouse, Linda Bollea, unlawfully removed various items from their family home including chandeliers, a tanning bed and sundry fixtures and fittings. Amongst the items that Hogan particularly wanted returned was the 'wooden antique toilet seat from the guest house.' According to the Daily Star Sunday, Hogan, who split up with Boella in 2007 after twenty years of marriage, announced: 'The judge says she has to return the toilet seat, a chandelier and everything else,' said a releaved Hogan who had, apparently, been busting to use the netty since the seat disappeared.

Kerry Katona has reportedly spent her mortgage money on clothes, alcohol and trips to the spa. The former Atomic Kitten managed to get through one hundred and forty thousand pounds in just one month, the News Of The World claimed. Katona, who faces eviction after failing to keep up with her mortgage commitments, went to court this week to fight a repossession order and promised to meet the two thousand four hundred and fifty pounds monthly repayments on her Cheshire house. Accountants dealing with her bankruptcy have been providing the twenty nine-year-old former reality TV regular with eight thousand pounds a month living expenses. A source said: 'The one hundred and forty thousand pounds was a final lump sum from the accountants and that is her pot of money completely gone now. She hasn't earned much for months but in court on Wednesday she promised to start paying her mortgage. Kerry has had months to sort this out but instead she has stuck her head in the sand and refused to pay. Now she actually hasn't got the money to pay it and if she doesn't find it from somewhere the mortgage company will send in the bailiffs.' Deloitte, the firm dealing with her bankruptcy, said: 'Whether somebody is bankrupt or not they must pay their mortgage or face losing their home.'