Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Well, Fancy That!

Yer Keith Telly Topping has to confess, dear blog reader, that it's been a very long time since he was rendered quite as impotently angry and appalled by any television programme as The Delicious Miss Dahl on BBC2 last night. It's difficult, exactly, to work out what was the worst aspect of this ... thing. Was it the sickeningly smart-alec title? The thoroughly nauseating full-of-her-own-importance host herself? The quite disgustingly smug and self-congratulatory nature of the programme? It could have been any of those things, frankly. It could also be the fact that it wasn't even a particularly original conceit. As anyone who'd seen the trailer which the BBC have been running, ad nausea, for the past week could've easily worked out, Dahl appears to have based her cookery presentation style wholly on that of Nigella Lawson. Food-as-pornography, basically. Only without Nigella's cheeky wit (and cookery skills for that matter). But, I think what most offended my sensibilities was a question I kept on asking myself over and over as this abomination continued. Who is this for? What is the average, 'normal' (and I do use that word carefully) viewer supposed to gain from this peek into Sophie's posh little world of lah-di-dah? What, in short, is somebody who doesn't live in one of the nicer areas of North London but, rather, on a council estate supposed to make of it all? Sophie spent a good five minutes - of what was, remember, supposed to be a cookery programme - shopping for antiques. Because that's what she does to remember her 'special days' - when her new book deal is signed, and so on. Like you do. Then, she headed home to make a dirty martini. And boy did she get a ton-and-a-half of mileage from the use of the word 'dirty.' It was like she'd found a new toy to play with. The theme of the show was 'being selfish' and Sophie Dahl - and her producers - seemingly would like us to believe that after a hard day's 'work' (which, in Sohpie Dahl's case seems to involve ... getting her book deal. Did she happen to mention that she's got a book deal? Don't worry if you missed it, she'll be mentioning it again in about two minutes. And every two minutes thereafter), cooking something in the kitchen is her idea of the epitome of indulgence. Personally, after a day doing some proper work, this blogger likes to come home, slump on the sofa, ring for a takeaway and watch something on television that makes him feel, slightly, better about himself. This, sad to report, was not it. Sophie's sloane-y witterings however, did have one unexpected beneficial side-effect; a nice soothing somnambulist aura. After about quarter of an hour of listening to her drone on about how 'absolutely lovely' her life is, I was nodding off and ready for a bath and bed. Sophie Dahl, she's better than Horlicks anyday. Oh, and minus several points to the production team for using The Smiths' 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' as background music whilst Sophie prepared her brandy-soaked cherries. People used to get hanged for lesser crimes than that. Just over two million viewers tuned in to the first episode. I wonder how many of them will be back for more next week.

And, speaking of shite cookery shows, Michael Winner's Dining Stars is likely to be axed by ITV after just one series, a press report has claimed. The show, which saw Winner gate-crashing people's houses to judge their home-cooking, failed to find any sort of an audience during its recent run in a prime-time Friday night slot. According to the Sun, ITV executive had told the former movie director that his programme would only be recommissioned if it pulled in an average audience of four and a half million, or more. However, when the final episode aired last week, a mere 1.92m viewers were watching. The newspaper claims that network chiefs now believe Dining Stars would have been better suited to a daytime slot like Channel 4's Come Dine With Me. A source said: 'ITV executives really believed in the show, but it just didn't work out. Programmes can't survive with ratings that low in a 9pm slot. There is a chance it could come back as a daytime show, but it is unlikely.' This is, of course, also a nasty blow for Mr Winner's co-star, his towering ego.

Thankfully, there is some good stuff around on TV these days, if you know where to look. After last week's quite astonishing Sawyer episode comes another piece of Lost's intricate, complex, multi-layered jigsaw. Ab Aeterno told, in far more detail than you might expect - Richard Alpert's lengthy back-story in a swashbuckling tale full of murder, betrayal, Faustian metaphors and clever character shading. In short, it was Paradise Lost for the nineteenth and twenty first centuries with Nestor Carbonell putting in a magnificent performance. Hurley got some stuff to do and Ben had a couple of good one-liners. What more can you ask, really?

Sir David Jason has revealed that he shed tears over the final episode of A Touch of Frost. The detective drama will bow out this April after the seventy-year-old actor and TV legend announced his departure from the title role. 'You'd have needed a heart of stone not to feel emotional,' he told What's on TV. 'On the final day of filming there were moments in the script when I had to find tears and let's just say those tears weren't hard to find.' Jason continued: 'I think everyone on set had the feeling [that] something really special, which had been a big part of all our lives, was finally coming to an end. We thought we've got to draw a line in the sand somewhere and if it's not this year it will be next. So we took the decision that Frost, unfortunately, would be leaving the force.' Jason added: 'Whether he just hangs up his hat or is carried out feet first remains to be seen.'

Radio 1 accidentally broadcast Fearne Cotton swearing during a Cheryl Cole Live Lounge session. A - hugely amusing - 'technical error' meant that listeners to the Radio 1 live feed online heard the voices of Cotton, Cole and producers in the studio rather than the music being broadcast. Radio listeners didn't hear the interchange between the DJ and Girls Aloud singer. Cotton was heard on the live feed telling Cole sternly: 'No swearing - and don't make any wanker gestures or anything because people will see them on the webcam.' Cole replied to the presenter that she would 'never do that.' You're from Heaton, love, of course you would!

Over a million more people will soon be able to receive the BBC's digital radio services under expansion plans to the UK's digital radio network. Following recent criticism of its proposed closure of digital stations 6 Music and the Asian Network, the BBC has moved to demonstrate its commitment to digital radio in the UK. The corporation has pledged to invest in a further sixty digital radio transmitters to fulfil its Royal Charter commitment to reach ninety per cent of the UK population. Currently heading through Parliament, the government's digital economy bill has set the target date of 2015 for the digital radio switchover to begin, but that would only come into force should digital account for fifty per cent of radio listening by 2013. It presently stands at just twenty one per cent, with the vast majority on digital audio broadcasting. Under the BBC's roll out plans, fifteen new digital radio transmitters will be launched in Scotland, bringing improved coverage to Glasgow and Dundee, along with first-time availability in the Shetland and the Western Isles. In Wales, ten transmitters will be introduced to expand digital radio reach in mid-Wales, North Wales and South-West Wales. Northern Ireland will get seven new transmitters, bringing digital radio services to Enniskillen and the North Antrim coast, along with improving coverage in Belfast. In England, three new transmitters will be established in Greater London and the Home Counties to boost reception across the capital and provide coverage to the Kent Weald, High Wycombe, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City. The South West will get nine new transmitters, including digital radio expansion for Newquay, Bodmin, Tiverton and Teignmouth. Derbyshire will get two new transmitters, while Saffron Walden, Shaftesbury, Stroud and Sunderland will also see their digital radio coverage boosted. Following the roll out, listeners in all areas will be able to access the BBC's portfolio of digital-only and national networks, along with other stations available on DAB. The BBC hopes to complete the implementation by 2011, with the first transmitters coming on air in the summer. Commenting on the plans, BBC director of audio and music Tim Davie said: 'The BBC is fully committed to digital radio [and] I'm delighted that we are now in a position to deliver on the BBC Trust's target to bring digital radio to ninety per cent of the UK.'

Comedian Rob Brydon will host his own BBC2 chat show later this year. The Gavin & Stacey actor's programme will mix stand-up comedy with celebrity guests, according to the Sun. 'I don't think I've ever been this excited,' said the forty four-year-old. I've now got Eddie Izzard's voice of Welsh-Pavlov ('verrrrry exciiiiited!') running through my head but, never mind ... At the end of each episode, Brydon will apparently join a pop act and perform a song with them. Aw, cool! The Welsh comic has previously hosted comedy quiz shows Would I Lie To You? and Annually Retentive and is a regular, and much-loved, contributor to Qi. He also presented a spoof chat show as comedy character Keith Barret in 2004.

The thinking Octogenarian's stud, Alan Titchmarsh, has 'hit back' at claims that he was 'too soft' with David Cameron in their recent TV interview. Titchmarsh quizzed the Tory leader for an episode of his afternoon ITV chat show earlier this month, but one critic later described his line of questioning as 'more Paxo than Paxman.' Responding to the criticism, Titchmarsh told the Sun: 'It was never going to be a heavy political interview - there are enough doing that. I wanted to find out more about the man.' Yes, Titch, and that's why Cameron agreed to do the interview with you. Because he knew he'd get an easy time - actually, in this particular case, what was ultimately little short of a sycophantic rimming session - just the same as the Prime Minister knew he'd get an easy time with Piers Morgan. If bell-end amateurs like you stuck to presenting gardening shows and the like and left interviewing politicians to the professionals, the general public might actually see what the sleazy, shifty, oily, lying scum are really like. Defending his more gentle style of rapport, the gardener added: 'I think I get more out of people.' Than whom? Davina McCall? What's that sound I hear? Why, it's Robin Day and Richard Dimbleby turning in their graves. It'll be Peaches Geldof interviewing Harriet Harman about where she buys her shoes next, mark my words. Titchmarsh also confirmed that he thinks the politician is 'likeable' and 'a man on a mission.' So, no need to ask who he'll be voting for in the forthcoming general election, then.

EastEnders actress Lacey Turner has predicted that viewers will see a permanent change in Stacey Branning following the loss of her husband Bradley. The actress's troubled character watched Bradley (Charlie Clements) fall to his death from the roof of the Queen Vic last month while being chased by police who were convinced he was Archie Mitchell's killer. In an interview with the Walford soap's official website, the twenty one-year-old was asked how she expects Stacey to cope with the bereavement in the long-term after already losing best friend Danielle Jones (Lauren Crace) last year. Turner replied: 'She's had quite an unlucky time really, losing so many people. I think Bradley was the love of her life so I don't think she'll ever be the same without Bradley. But I hope that she copes and deals with it as best as she can. I'm sure she will because she's quite a strong character.' Well yeah. She's a murderess for a kick-off.

The Poet Laureate is to write 'something special' to mark Coronation Street's golden anniversary. Carol Ann Duffy - the first woman to hold the ancient office since it was established in medieval times - joined Corrie creator Tony Warren on a tour of the set in Manchester last Friday afternoon, thirty two years after one of her most illustrious predecessors, Sir John Betjeman, did the same. While there, the fifty four-year-old Scottish playwright revealed her intention to create a celebratory piece in time for the soap's fiftieth anniversary on 9 December.

Springwatch, the prime time TV wildlife programme, has confirmed it will return to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in north Norfolk for a third season. Presenters Kate Humble and Chris Packham will be based on the estate near Fakenham, reporting on the latest wildlife drama from around the UK. 'It's absolutely brilliant news. And a great coup for Norfolk,' said Deb Jordan, owner of Pensthorpe. Springwatch 2010 is on air for three weeks from Monday 31 May, on BBC2. 'Springwatch has proved that nature is endlessly fascinating. It doesn't matter if it's really familiar species like blue tits, as the story changes every year,' said Kate Humble, speaking to BBC Norfolk. 'They are incredibly engaging characters and we do get wrapped up in their lives. Obviously we have concerns every year that nothing going to turn up, but that's part of the joy of making Springwatch - the uncertainty. It's totally up to the will of the wildlife as to what's going to be in the programme. It's brilliant to come back to Pensthorpe and this year we hope to broaden our net and explore more of Norfolk. As anyone who lives in Norfolk knows, it's one of the finest wildlife areas in Britain,' she added.

The Life on Mars detective Gene Hunt has become something of a hero to many viewers because the detective 'verbalises' what people are 'too frightened' to say in today's politically correct times. At least, that's what actor Philip Glenister believes. Glenister, who plays Hunt in the BBC police drama Life on Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes, said people identified with the irreverent character and his style of no-nonsense policing. He suggested the character was the antidote to what he describes as Britain's blame culture. 'It took me a while to realise he's my alter ego – he's every man's in some respect,' Glenister told Radio Times. 'We live in a sinister blame culture where victims wait to be offended because there's money to be made. Gene Hunt verbalises what people are frightened to say in case they're labelled misogynistic, racist or homophobic. But I'm not advocating we go around slapping women's arses.' Well, not unless it's between consenting adults as part of some form of role-play scenario, of course. Glenister, forty seven, who has also starred in BBC1 costume drama Cranford, and the political drama State of Play said that when read the script for Life on Mars, he believed it was just another low-rent cop show with an improbable premise. Despite the programme's international success – it scooped several awards, including two International Emmy Awards for Best Drama Series – the American version starring Harvey Keitel playing Hunt was considered a ratings (if not entirely an artistic) failure and it was cancelled after one series. Glenister said this may be in part due to the British having a more developed sense of nostalgia. He said: 'I'm into that. The older you get, the more you embrace it and become an old fart, which I've been all my life. I was a young fart, just a kid in the seventies, watching The Sweeney, and probably see the decade through the rose-tinted spectacles of a ten-year-old. One of the great joys for me with Life on Mars is that I was in a seventies cop show. How great is that in the twenty first century? I'd love to think it could still be made today, but who knows with all this dumbing down. Television executives are so fearful about what others think,' he said.

A TV advert for Premier Inn parodying the horror film The Shining has been banned from children's programming. The Advertising Standards Authority said the scene in which Lenny Henry smashes a door with an axe was likely to frighten young viewers. Henry thrusts his head through the door and says 'Heeeeeeeere's Lenny' in a spoof of the scene starring Jack Nicholson in the movie. The hotel chain argued the scene was 'light-hearted' (first time I've ever heard the words The Shining and 'light-hearted' in the same sentence, it should be noted) and would be considered amusing by most viewers of any age. Henry is later seen calmly declaring: 'A bad night's sleep at some hotels can really make you grumpy.' The ASA ruling follows complaints from eight viewers who saw the advert on children's channel Nick Jr and questioned its suitability. The ASA upheld the complaints, saying Henry's aggressive behaviour and the menacing tone of the music was likely to frighten and distress youngsters. 'We also considered that, because young children would not understand the advert's reference to The Shining, they would be unlikely to appreciate the comic context in which the menacing Lenny appeared, and could find him threatening,' a spokesperson said. It ruled the commercial must not be shown again during or around programmes tailored towards children. Premier Inn said it never intended for the advert to appear on a dedicated children's channel and blamed a technical error. It also denied that the advert would cause most children harm or distress. Clearcast, a body which approves advertising for broadcast, said Henry was a household name and people would be used to seeing him acting out different comedy characters. It also said the reference to the 1980 movie The Shining would be lost on children. Meanwhile, reports that Henry himself has been arrested and charged with 'impersonating a comedian for the last couple of decades' have been dismissed as wishful thinking on behalf of this here blogger. Guilty as charged, guv. I throw myself upon the mercy of this court and ask for Chris Tarrant to be taken into consideration.