Thursday, March 25, 2010

Get Into That Kitchen (And Rattle Them Pots And Pans)

Last night's episode of MasterChef was, seemingly, cancelled and replaced with the first of a new series, What Meat is This? Out of six contestants in a palate test, four of them failed to identify the (rather tasty looking) lamb that John Tordoe had cooked; two suggested it was pork, one duck and one - Geordie Graham whom yer Keith Telly Topping was backing on geographical as well as 'seems like a sound bloke' grounds - thought that it was beef. One of the girls made it even worse by daring to suggest that a chef with twenty five years experience and his own upmarket restaurant in Smithfield had simply gone out and bought some curry powder! The look on John's face when she said that was a straight cross between frothing outrage and incandescent outrage. Whilst his oppo Gregg Wallace stood to one side smirking, quietly! Constantly crying student Mitra ultimately triumphed in the episode. The twenty seven-year-old, who missed out in last year's competition, impressed the judges and will now face the winner of tonight's second 'comeback' heat for a spot in the semi-finals. Mitra cooked a spaghetti carbonara in the opening challenge, which won the approval of Torode and Wallace. However, she tripped up in the ingredients challenge, when she identified the lamb dish cooked by John as duck. In the final test, she won over the duo with cauliflower and barberry fritters with a yogurt dip, followed by Iranian lamb stew with apples and sour dried plums. 'The fritters are delicious and if Gregg wasn't there, I'd eat the whole lot. That's the sort of the food that I love,' said Torode. 'It looks like you cooked it at the side of the road, but it tastes lovely,' added Wallace. Monday's episode was also a hilarious one. 'I've cooked that dish hundreds of times,' one lady contestant whinged after she'd cooked Moules Mariniere (that's mussels in white wine to you and me, dear blog reader) to which she had added cream. Well, if you've cooked it 'a hundred times,' love, you've always cooked it wrong, it would appear. But, I was particularly glad she went thereafter because when Gregg asked her the standard 'why do you deserve to stay in?' question she tried the oldest trick in the book of bursting into tears and blubbing 'I need it to change my life' like this was The X Factor. No mercy! God, there's never been a programme that turns one into such a horrible - judgemental - individual for thirty minutes as this! And that, dear blog reader, is why it's currently yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite show on TV. At least until 3 April, anyway.

The Countdown co-presenter Rachel Riley was left cringing with embarrassment on Tuesday's show after the F-word cropped up on the letters board, according to delightfully lurid reports in both the Sun and the Daily Star. The show's host, Jeff Stelling, grinned in that way of his when he noticed that the letters U, D, F, C, K, and E spelling out an anagram of a particularly naughty six-lettered word which, of course, none of the newspapers would actually say out loud. 'Fucked,' I believe was the word you were trying to avoid, guys. The contestants - helpfully - prevented any further embarassment by opting for the five-letter words 'faced' and 'caged' instead. Cowards! Meanwhile, the team in dictionary corner picked the seven-letter 'dockage' and 'dogface.' Reminds me of the best Countdown joke I've heard - from Mock The Week a couple of years ago shortly after Des and Carol had both left the show. Mad Frankie Boyle said that he hoped those in dictionary corner were unionised to which sharp-as-a-tack Andy Parsons replied 'I hope they are too, cos it's a nine letter word!'

The Daily Mail has, seemingly, taken exception to the length of Amy Pond's skirt in the upcoming series of Doctor Who. Because, of course, there isn't any real news to report, is there? I mean, it was only budget day after all. Writing in the Femail section, columnist Allison Pearson displayed an amusingly woeful and spectacular ignorance of the series history (particularly for someone born in the UK in 1960 and who, therefore, grew up during the Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras of the show) when she asks - apparently straightfaced - 'since when was Doctor Who's assistant supposed to be sexy?' Err ... since about 1963, Allison. 1966, at the outside. Next question? As any, even casual, Doctor Who viewer could tell her, the Doctor has a very long tradition of travelling with sexy young female companions in short skirts which dates right back to the likes of Polly and Zoe in the sixties. And, at least one sexy young male companion in a short skirt, too. And, let's not even get into the whole question of the tin dog... 'What's next,' Allison asks, 'Cybermen become Cyberchicks with metal boobs?' Perhaps Allison should avoid checking out the 2007 Torchwood episode Cyberwoman in that case. Pearson is the author of a novel, I Don't Know How She Does It (2002), a chick-lit examination of the pressures of modern motherhood. In May 2008, she angered Sarah Ferguson (so, you know, she's not all bad) by suggesting that the Duchess of York's daughter, Princess Beatrice, was overweight. The following display of public support for the princess included some of those commenting noting, with some glee, about Ms Pearson's own apparent lack of anatomical perfection. Ah, we're all of us flawed, kids. Noel Gallagher has described the moment when he was attacked on stage in Toronto, telling a Canadian court that it was akin to 'being hit by a bus.' The former Oasis guitarist and songwriter (the talented one) said he had been told he may never recover from the rib injuries he sustained during a gig in July 2008. Gallagher's 'victim impact statement' was read out during a sentencing hearing for his attacker, Daniel Sullivan. Sullivan, forty eight, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm last November. His sentencing, due to take place on Tuesday, has been postponed until 21 April. Gallagher, who was not at the hearing, said he was completely taken by surprise when Sullivan ran on stage and pushed him over. 'I ended up in a heap on the floor,' he wrote. 'I had no idea what had happened.' Gallagher, who was performing with his former band Oasis, tried to continue with the show but had to be taken to hospital after experiencing 'acute pain.' A subsequent examination in London revealed that he had sustained three broken ribs in the attack which kept him 'in some degree of pain' for eight months afterwards, he said. Gallagher added that the attack had forced Oasis to cancel a number of gigs and promotional appearances, potentially affecting the sales of their Dig Out Your Soul CD. Sullivan, of Pickering in Ontario, has claimed he was drunk during the incident and has no idea of how he got backstage.

Sky News has issued a call for viewers to submit their own questions for the main political party leaders at the forthcoming TV election debates. I've got one - why are all politicians such lying, cheating, sleazy scum? There you go - answer that and stay fashionable. As announced earlier in the month, Sky, the BBC and ITV have agreed a format with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg for three peak-time televised debates ahead of the general election. Hosted by Sky News political editor, Adam Boulton, Sky's programme will be broadcast from the South West and feature the theme of foreign policy. Under the agreed format, each broadcaster will be able to take their own approach to gathering questions for the debates. Sky News - seemingly unable to think up any questions of their own - have, therefore, issued a request for viewers to submit questions via a dedicated section on its official website. Despite the theme of foreign affairs, viewers can submit questions on any election issues, with all submissions being edited by Boulton. Any viewer whose question is selected will be invited to join the studio audience at the debate and put their question directly to the leaders. Sky News executive editor Chris Birkett said: 'Sky News has campaigned hard for these debates and this is a fantastic chance for members of the public to put the three main party leaders on the spot, and get them to address the issues that matter in this election.' Viewers are also being asked to send in questions for Sky's additional TV debates featuring the main political parties in Scotland and Wales.

The government yesterday put controversial legislation before Parliament to enable product placement on UK television programmes. Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw officially gave product placement the go ahead on 9 February, despite staunch opposition from cabinet colleagues and public health groups, including the British Medical Association. The legislation, which is an amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act, will include a raft of exemptions and conditions, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Bradshaw has maintained the exclusion of all alcohol, junk food, tobacco and gambling products from placement on UK television, along with the national lottery and infant baby milk. Children's shows aimed at under-eighteens, religious programming, news and current affairs will also remain exempt from product placement. Broadcasters will be unable to place commercial products until Ofcom has launched a full public consultation and amended the broadcasting code. However, programme makers will be able to use placement in their current productions on the proviso that they are not screened until the new regulations are agreed, most likely in late autumn. In its consultation, Ofcom will ask viewers whether they want to be notified at the start and end of the each commercial break that product placement has been used. Bradshaw has also said that the use of product placement must not affect the programme's editorial independence or directly encourage viewers into purchases or rentals. Despite previous bullish forecasts, the restrictions are expected to mean that revenue derived from product placement will be relatively modest.

Fiona Phillips has claimed that she would appear 'bitter and twisted' if she complained about ageism in the TV industry. That's always assuming that you don't appear bitter and twisted already, Fi. The forty nine-year-old broadcaster stood down as a GMTV anchor in December 2008 in order to spend more time with her family and pursue new projects. She had been with the programme for fifteen years. Phillips, who is currently appearing as the host of Sky Real Lives show Forces Reunited, confirmed that she has no intention of blaming discrimination if work offers dry up in the future. The Daily Express quotes her as saying: 'I think it's a bandwagon you shouldn't jump on unless you want to end up looking bitter and twisted. I don't want to get up on a soapbox and preach. I much prefer to shut up, keep my head down and get on with it.' The was probably something about Princess Diana in there as well, of course, this being the Express. Phillips, who has two sons, also spoke about how her life has changed since husband Martin Frizell left his role as GMTV's editor. She commented: 'With both of us at home there have been a few rows. He's used to working but he's a grafter. He won't be unemployed for long. He says he'll do whatever it takes - drive cabs, bar work, anything. There are positives to it, too. We often drop the boys at school together and then go and have a relaxing breakfast in a cafe. It's nice to be able to take time out like that, when life is so hectic.'

The iconic Hollywood sign in Beverley Hills is facing demolition unless a conservation group can raise three million dollars in the next three weeks to stop the site from being developed. The sign is still owned by the city, but the property around it belongs to a group of Chicago-based investors. They had planned to sell the land to developers, but agreed to sell it to the trust for twelve and a half million dollars if the money was raised by 14 April. Actor Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg have donated to the campaign which has so far raised three quarters of the total needed. Tim Ahern, from the Trust for Public Land, said: 'We feel good about where we are and we feel good about our chances to do this.' Los Angeles council member Tom LaBonge also remained positive about the situation. 'We're getting closer to our goal and if we continue working hard, I know we'll reach it,' he said. Last month the sign was draped with a banner which read, 'Save the Peak,' to raise awareness of the campaign. The Hollywood sign itself, which is set high up in the hills, was initially created in 1923 as an advert for a real estate development called Hollywoodland.

We end with some particularly sad news. The actor Robert Culp died on Wednesday at the age of seventy nine, according to the The Associated Press. The 1960s and 70s TV and movie star died after collapsing and hitting his head outside of his home in Hollywood. He was taken to hospital and doctors pronounced him dead shortly before noon. Culp's son was apparently told that his father had died of a heart attack, although an official cause of death has yet to be released. The actor co-starred with Bill Cosby as the tennis-playing secret agent Kelly Robinson on the popular NBC series I, Spy and also appeared in the 1980s ABC show The Greatest American Hero as well as making notable guest appearances on many other series. I, Spy greatly advanced the careers of both Culp and Cosby and forged a lifelong friendship between the two men. Cosby said that Culp was 'like an older brother' to him. 'The first born in every family is always dreaming of the older brother or sister he or she doesn't have, to protect, to be the buffer, provide the wisdom, shoulder the blows and make things right,' he said. 'Bob was the answer to my dreams.' Some of Robert's most memorable performances were in three episodes of the classic science-fiction anthology series The Outer Limits (1963-1965), including what is generally considered to be the series' finest ever play, Demon With A Glass Hand, written by Harlan Ellison and the almost-as-good Architects Of Fear. He also played the murderer in three separate Columbo episodes including two of the very best of that fine series - Death Lends A Hand and Double Exposure. Prior to that, he, Peter Falk, Robert Wagner and Darren McGavin each took turns in Anthony Franciosa's rotation of NBC's series The Name Of The Game after Franciosa was fired, alternating a lead role of the lavish ninety-minute show about the magazine business with Gene Barry and Robert Stack. Robert's acting career spanned forty years and included the films Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and The Pelican Brief. He came to national attention early in his career as the star of the 1957 Western television series Trackdown in which he played Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman. Trackdown was a spin-off from Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater and was so popular that it spawned its own spin-off, Wanted: Dead or Alive, which propelled Steve McQueen to stardom. Robert most recently had a recurring role on the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and had been writing screenplays before his death. Born in Oakland in 1930, Robert was five times married and has two daughters and three sons - including Mad Men's Joseph Culp.