Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week Thirty Five: They're Making Gold Out Of The Good Girls

Billy Connolly - once memorably described as 'a well-known Scottish comedian' (by his future wife) - has received the Freedom of the City of Glasgow. Connolly was given the honour at the city chambers on Friday evening. Known affectionately as The Big Yin (or, as he said in his own words, 'the man that put the cunt into country music!'), Connolly's career in comedy, films and TV, spans almost forty years. Lord Provost Bob Winter led calls for the city to recognise the performer for his contribution to comedy, film, music and for his charity work. Winter said: 'Billy Connolly is arguably the world's best-known Glaswegian and is truly deserving of the Freedom of the City. He has presented himself as a proud citizen of the City of Glasgow. In doing so he has shown the world the unique humour, generosity and resilience of Glaswegians.' Congratulatory messages from past recipients including Nelson Mandela, Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish were read out at the ceremony. Broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson - 'close personal friend' an all that - also sent along his best wishes. The comedian's numerous appearances on the presenter's prime time chat show in the 1970s sent his popularity soaring. The Freedom of the City is an honour which can be given to 'persons of distinction or persons who have rendered eminent service to the city.' Connolly joked that the best perk of his new station in life was that, in the event of him being sent to jail in the city, he's apparently entitled to his own cell!

Lovely drama queen (and, that's her husband, Chris's description of her, rather than something from a press release for Holby City) Lisa Faulkner won Celebrity MasterChef with three faultless dishes in last night's final, narrowly beating yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite Dick Strawbridge and Christine Hamilton in a final that veered from the sublime to the hilarious, often with little stopover in-between. Much like a lot of this never-less-than-entertaining series. Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace awarded the former Holby and [Spooks] actress the title after battling through two weeks of semi-finals and finals against Strawbridge and Hamilton. 'I've never won anything and now I've won this! I'm really proud of myself. Honestly, not in my wildest dreams did I think this was possible!' said Faulkner who, for just about the first time in the series, didn't burst into tears during an episode. 'I've loved learning so much about food and I just want to learn more.' Torode said that he was proud of the actress and praised her 'natural touch' in the kitchen. Wallace added: 'You can't want for anything else from food other than to put it in your mouth and go, "Oh my word" - Lisa elevates humble food into something beautiful. She's a brilliant champion and possibly the best Celebrity MasterChef winner we have ever had.' The challenges during the final week included cooking for the principle dancers at the Moulin Rouge, catering for the Champagne masters of France, serving elegant food for diners on board the Orient Express and preparing a three-course Michelin standard meal at the L'Autre Pied for five of the best chefs in the country, including Wallace's MasterChef: The Professionals co-host Michel Roux. In her final task for Torode and Wallace, she served a three-course meal, which started with a plate of goats cheese and red onion tart with thyme pastry, served with red onion marmalade and a rocket salad. She followed that with a main course of pan fried monkfish with a butternut squash fondant, French beans wrapped in pancetta and a sauce vierge jeux and finished with a dessert of almond panna cotta with poached tamarillos and berries. Speaking after filming, Faulkner said: 'John Torode says MasterChef will completely change your life - he is completely right, because it has totally changed my life. I now cook all the time, I cook every day. If I'm stressed I go cook, I try things I've never tried before and I absolutely love it. It's just opened up a whole new world to me and I can tell you I just want to learn more - I've just become obsessed with it.' Faulkner will now appear as a special guest at the BBC Good Food Show in Scotland later this year and will also visit MasterChef Live, which takes place at Olympia for three days in November. Self-proclaimed 'telly-tart,' former Lt. Col. Strawbridge, MBE, said that MasterChef was one of his 'toughest challenges ever' and because his confidence built during his time on the show he now thought about food in a new way. He acknowledged that his twenty year army career had prepared him to handle the high-stress kitchen scenarios which he faced and said that he was proud to be the last man standing in the competition. Torode described Dick's menu had been 'absolutely elegant, perfectly cooked food.' Wallace added his food was: 'Always about flavour. For Dick, flavour is king.'

Karen Gillan has admitted that she did not exactly enjoy her much discussed on-screen kiss with her Doctor Who co-star Matt Smith. The actress, who plays Amy Pond, revealed on The ONE Show that the pair had to just get on with their embrace. When asked how they went about the scene, Smith replied: 'We just said let's go for it.' Gillan added: 'I sort of planted one on him.' Presenter Alex Jones then asked Gillan if she'd enjoyed it, to which the actress replied: 'Not initially, no!' Matt subsequently became the first Doctor ever to run across a tank full of pancake batter at the climax of the programme. Unless, of course, you know different, dear blog reader. Karen also had a go at the stunt, and managed it, albeit slipping at the far side and falling, heavily, on her bum. It looked really painful! Earlier, Evans was introduced to The ONE Show viewers as Alex Jones' 'new bit on the side' when he joined the popular magazine programme. Matt described his first meeting with Evans some years ago after they were introduced by 'Bills' at a village fete. When the actor explained 'Bills' was actress Billie Piper, Evans added 'ex-wife of mine by the way.' Aye, emphasis on the 'ex', mate. All in all it was quite an impressive beginning for the production's new Friday night show. It's not TFI Friday by any stretch of the imagination, but Evans seemed to fit into the format quite well. Time will tell, it usually does.

And so to the next batch of yer Top Telly Tips:

Friday 27 August
EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - has been getting a lot of attention and publicity of late thanks to the crack addiction storyline. Just an everyday tale of helpless junkies, fun for all the family. In tonight's dramatic installment, Jane confronts Peter about Lucy's abortion and he reveals that he and Ian both knew the truth. Meanwhile, Stacey backs out of the Brannings' trip to scatter Bradley's ashes, while Tamwar remains loyal to Syed despite Zainab's reluctance to include him in their family activities. And, Heather is still angry with Shirley, this time for interfering in her relationship with Minty. Does anybody ever have a happy day in Walford? Nah, stupid question. Ignore that and move on.

The Reading Festival 2010 starts today and, as usual, BBC3 are covering the highlights of it, starting at 9:00. Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates present coverage of the rock festival's first day. Hosting from the treehouse in the heart of the site, they introduce a performance by folk rock act Mumford & Sons, as well as gossip from other artists at the event and clips of acoustic sets. The programme also features highlights of bands including Biffy Clyro and Phoenix. It's been many, many years since yer Keith Telly Topping went to Reading, dear blog reader. 1978, I think was the last time, when it was still, predominantly, a heavy rock event but they were trying to move with the time by having a 'punk and new wave' day. I went to see The Jam but, ended up missing most of their set as a bunch of us were on the run from a crew of really angry London skinhead numskulls who'd taken a dislike to our accents, or something. Ah, them were the days.

Saturday 28 August
In The X Factor - 7:30 ITV - the auditions for the annual musical contest continue in Birmingham as the many genuinely talented vocalists attempt to be heard above the hilarious din of the delusional caterwaulers who are convinced that it's time their untapped genius was heard by a wider public. Faced with any tuneless wannabes who haven't been auto-tuned to adequateness, regular panellists Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole will no doubt have their shocked, but (sometimes) supportive, expressions at the ready, while guest judge Natalie Imbruglia may struggle to keep a straight face. Dermot O'Dreary presents. The Xtra Factor follows on ITV2, if you can stomach it. Bear baiting used to be really popular in the Eighteenth Century, I understand.

Sunday 29 August
The Very Last of the Summer Wine - 8:00 BBC1 - is the very final episode of the long-running alleged comedy. At least twenty five years too late, in my opinion but, there you go, I know it does have an audience. I just question their critical faculties, that's all. Anyway, in this, everyone is getting ready for the wedding - prompting Howard and Pearl to look back at their relationship. Meanwhile, Alvin flirts with Stella, Toby tries to smarten himself up in a bid to win back Monica, and Clegg worries that he has forgotten something important. Just to repeat, the BBC have promised that this is the last in the series. Hopefully, like it's modern successor, Gavin & Stacey, it will stay in the grave.

Stephen Tompkinson's Australian Balloon Adventure - 6:30 ITV - sees the actor taking part in a mock balloon competition. He then heads to Sydney, where he helps to judge a drag contest and explores the city's cosmopolitan cuisine. Nice work if you can get it. He receives backing from Britain's High Commissioner Valerie Amos in her office overlooking the harbour - and hears a surprising confession from his co-pilot, Robin - before heading two hundred miles west to take on Australia's best balloon pilots in the skies above Canowindra. Last in the series. Next time you see Stephen, he'll probably be wishing he had a balloon with him as he's up to his neck in giraffe poo in Wild At Heart.

Monday 30 August
Tonight's Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - sees the actor and singer (I suppose, if we really stretch a point) Jason Donovan investigating his mother's family line. He does this in the hope of finding out about his Australian heritage and understanding the reason why she went missing from his life as a child. Starting in Melbourne, Jason discovers that the showbusiness roots in his family go far deeper than he previously believed. As his journey continues, he uncovers a possible convict connection in his ancestry. (In an Australian? Surely not?) And, he sets off to Tasmania to investigate how his ancestors ended up there, before ending his quest in Sydney, where he traces his family back to one of the earliest Australian settlers.

The latest episode of the curiously addictive Dragons' Den - 9:00 BBC2 - includes a man asking for investment in his website which values collectibles. There's also a duo who are seeking backing for their device which eliminates bathroom odours (what, a window?) and an experienced inventor pitching his power tool which combines drilling and sawing functions. A draw? If you use that name, pal, I've copywrited it and I was five per cent of all profits! Another feature is a proposal for a range of books to encourage children to eat healthily. Jesus, even on Dragon's Den you can't get away from fat fascism. Theo Paphitis, James Caan, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne assess the proposals with the sort of look in their eye that sharks normally have shortly before they bite people in two. Cross-eyed, big-eared Evan Davis presents.

Julia MacKenzie (my mother's second favourite actress in the role, dear blog reader, and she's the aficionado in the Telly Topping family) returns in Agatha Christie's Marple - 9:00 ITV. When Jane Marple's old friend Father Gorman is found brutally murdered, she travels to London to investigate his grizzly death. Gorman had just paid a visit to a dying Mrs Davis and sent Miss Marple a mysterious list of names through the post shortly before he, himself, died. When the amateur sleuth visits Mrs Davis's lodgings she finds an identical list on a piece of paper headed The Pale Horse Inn. After meeting the establishment's watchful proprietor Thyrza Grey, plus her strange assistant and cleaner, Miss Marple begins to fear the tavern is at the heart of something sinister. Her concerns are realised when a guest is then found dead in his bedroom. Guest stars in a mostly impressive cast include Nicolas Parsons, Neil Pearson, Nigel Planer, Pauline Collins and Holly Willoughby. And Holly Valance. Whom, you may well be wondering? Ask the Daily Star, they're big fans.

Great TV Mistakes - 8:30 BBC3 - is a rundown of some of the most memorable mishaps and blunders that have happened in TV programmes including Fawlty Towers, Friends, EastEnders, Doctor Who and Gavin & Stacey. The mistake in the case of the latter being that they made it at all, I suppose. So, this is, essentially, It'll Be All Right On The Night or Auntie's Bloomers but with a different title. How seriously, mind-numbingly original. Presented by Robert Webb who, at least, had a nicely deadpan - almost cynical - script to work with.

Tuesday 31 August
Just when you thought the humble octopus has had its rather squirmy reputation rescued by Paul the Psychic Octopus and his football prediction malarkey along comes Nature Shock: Killer Squid - 8:00 Channel Five - to scare the bejesus out of you all over again. This documentary explores the spread of the Humboldt squid, giant predators which are said to be 'swarming' across the Pacific Ocean, consuming everything in their path. Yer Keith Telly Topping's a bit like that when he's clammin' for his bait, dear blog reader. Former US Special Forces diver Scott Cassell uses hi-tech gadgets to determine whether the creatures are working together to colonise new territory, while marine scientists William Gilly and Danna Staaf detail the Humboldt's remarkable reproductive capabilities.

We've talked about Help! My House Is Falling Down - 8:00 Channel 4 - on the Top Telly Tips slot before. Last time, it was brick-eating bees, I seem to recall. Anyway, tonight Dave and Sharon have spent six months decorating their new five-bedroom Victorian property in Hull to the highest standard. But then, massive cracks began spreading across the walls and windows started popping out. That sounds even more serious than brick-eating bees, frankly. The family have been forced to move out for fear that the house will collapsed on top of them. Which would be good telly but, probably, not very pleasant for them. Sarah Beeny is convinced that tree roots are causing the destruction, but the local council won't hear of the nearby trees being cut down. Can Sarah win a battle with the council and get the family back in their home? If she does it'll be about the first time she's ever convinced anybody to take her advice in any of the show's she does.

The other day, it was Last Of The Summer Wine. Tonight, it's the end of another TV institution. The Bill - 9:00 ITV - concludes the two-part series finale, bringing to an end Britain's longest-running police procedural drama, which has been broadcast in fifty five countries. The show, which began life as one-off drama Woodentop in 1984 and began as a series in the following year, broke new ground (or, at least, rediscovered the new ground that Z Cars had broken two decades earlier) by exploring the lives of the ordinary officers of the fictional London station of Sun Hill. In its heyday in the late 1980s and early 90s it was, genuinely, unmissable. But, sadly, those days are long gone. In this last episode, Callum finally proves himself to Smithy as they hunt the members of the Parkway Crew responsible for the death of Liam Martin and Mickey goes all-out to get justice for his informant Jasmine Harris following the gang rape. A documentary on the making of the final episode, Farewell The Bill follows at 10.35pm.

Wednesday 1 September
Over the last few years, the school drama Waterloo Road has become something of a genuine cult hit for BBC1. It's back for a new series tonight - 8:00 BBC1 - and the arrival of a dynamic new head teacher, Karen Fisher (played by Amanda Burton) heralds a fresh start for the trouble school. Determined and ambitious, she is keen to meet new challenges, such as teenage brother and sister Johan and Ruth, who are experiencing mainstream education for the first time following years of home-schooling by their father. But when Ruth runs away and a search party is formed to find her, it is a painful reminder to Karen of a recent tragedy in her own family. The second episode of this two-parter in shown tomorrow also at eight.

Coast - 8:00 BBC2 - ends its fifth series on England's east coast, travelling from the Humber to the Thames. Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) visits Nelson's birthplace and the classic Anglo-Saxon archaeological site at Sutton Hoo. At Orford Ness, the Goddess that is Alice Roberts leads a team trying to re-create the war-winning experiment which proved that radar could work, whilst off the Norfolk coast Nick Crane explores an early Briton settlement lost to the sea some ten thousand years ago. The deadly killer Miranda Krestovnikoff wades out into the Wash to learn how migrating birds exploit its feeding grounds and Mark Horton meets the enthusiasts who restore old fishing boats in the Thames Estuary. News on the commissioning of a sixth series is eagerly awaited by the show's many fans and, as always, From The North will be scanning the industry wires to bring you the news as soon as it's announced.

There are a fair number of X Factor wannabes around at the moment. Five's dreadful Don't Stop Believing is, swiftly, sinking in the quicksand - and, the sooner the better, frankly. However, Must Be the Music - 9:00 Sky1 - is really rather surprisingly decent in a way that yer Keith Telly Topping certainly never expected. Fearne Cotton presents the first semi-final as five acts take to the stage to perform an original song or a cover version. I mean, that's different from The X Factor for a kick-off. They wouldn't know an original if it gave them a haircut. They will all be hoping to impress there judges, the rapper Dizzee Rascal (who is very good, clearly knows his stuff and is, frankly, the best reason for watching the thing), singer-songwriter Sharleen Spiteri and jazz musician Jamie Cullum as well as the public who vote to put their favourites through to the final at Wembley Arena.

Thursday 2 September
Not that many great pops bands have had TV series. The Monkees did, of course. So did The Jackson Five. Plenty of average ones have, though, particularly on ITV2 a channel that seems entirely designed for bright-eyed young things that strut around like they own the place. The Saturdays: 24/7 - 9:00 - is a case in point. In this episode of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, the girls have to shoot a TV advert for their new CD in a sweltering studio on the hottest day of the year. Will that entail them taking most of their clothes off, one wonders? Their hectic schedule continues with an appearance on Alan Carr's chat show, after which the girls are delighted to be able to let their hair down on a night out in the West End. Plus, Vanessa White and Rochelle Wiseman visit a psychic and the group give a performance of their latest single 'Higher.' 'Hey! Hey! We're The Monkees,' it isn't.

Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - has been rather good the last couple of weeks. Perticularly the Lewis-Audrey storyline. Tonight's episode sees an awkward Sophie opens up to Kevin about her relationship with Sian, but Kevin's struggle to deal with the stunning news leaves the girls planning to run away. After discovering that Susan had a son, Ken wonders if he could be the father. What, at his age? And Fiz demands answers when she catches Natasha with her scan. Elsewhere, Liz accuses Kylie of stealing Steve's motorbike. Bit of a nothing wekk then but, don't worry, they've got this huge tram crash plotline coming up real soon.

Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live - 9:00 BBC3 - sees Kevin Bridges (who is, at least, Scottish) hosting the first of two stand-up comedy sessions recorded at the Festival Theatre during the Edinburgh Fringe. The first features some of the best talent from around the world, including performances by John Bishop, Stephen K Amos, Andi Osho and Tom Stade. Sounds good, I find all of those chaps amusing. Also, however, there's Mark Watson who's about as funny as a dose of testicular inflamation, frankly.

And so to probably the worst idea for a TV show ever. Yes, including Big Top. The King Is Dead - 10:30 BBC3 - has Simon Bird chairing a spoof comedy panel show, in which a well-known public figure hypothetically dies, leaving three celebrities competing for their hypothetical job. Nick Mohammed and Katy Wix join the host to set each of the candidates a variety of challenges to prove their worth. In the first episode guests James Corden, Sarah Beeny and Peaches Geldof vie to take over the role of the President of the USA. With that cast it sounds like, quite possibly, the single crappest TV show in the history of the medium. So, I'll leave it up to you, dear blog reader, as to whether this is something you want to sulley your intellect and your dignity by watching. Me, I'll be doing something else. Reading a book or listening to some nice music or watching a repeat of Alan Carr Chatty Man on E4. Anything, in fact, other than allow myself to be polluted by any more James Corden than is absolutely necessary.

The news, now: Shock, horror, stop the world I want to get off - Dannii Minogue has reportedly been 'axed' from the next series of The X Factor. The singer, and least famous and talented of the Minogue sisters, who missed the first stages of this year's competition whilst on maternity leave, reportedly upset show bosses by refusing to let a guest judge replace her for the whole series. At least this is according to the Sun. A 'source', they claim, told them: 'It's no secret that her determination to do this year's show annoyed people. Some very senior figures hoped she would step aside so they could find a new judge and keep some degree of continuity between the auditions and the live shows.' Nicole Scherzinger is allegedly being lined-up as Minogue's replacement, although she is also said to be in the running for a role on the US version of the talent show. It is also claimed that Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole will not be axed from the judging panel because Cowell believes that they attract viewers. Hmm. Fasicnating. Put me in the 'who bastard well cares' column.

Bones lead David Boreanaz has suggested that his character will try to make Brennan chase him in the new season. Last month, it emerged that Katheryn Winnick has joined the show as a new love interest for Booth. Boreanaz has now told Give Me My Remote that his character may use the relationship to make Emily Deschanel's character jealous. '[With] his interactions with Bones, he's going to be like, "Hey, look how great my life is, I'm going to try and make you jealous, look who I have,"' he said. '[He's going to] try and turn the tables around a little bit, cause that conflict. You want her to chase me this season a little bit.' Boreanaz added that the relationship with Winnick's character, Hannah, isn't too serious, explaining: 'We shot that scene [where Hannah arrives] and it's like, "There you are, there it is," that whole awkwardness. But yet, "Hey, I'm going to try to make [Brennan] a little jealous here." It's tit-for-tat there. You've got to be able to look at it for what it's worth and see how both relationships work with each other.' Boreanaz also revealed that he is enjoying the storyline, saying: 'I love the interaction between me and Winnick so far. It's fun to see how [Brennan] reacts to it.'

Michael J Fox has signed up to guest star in an episode of The Good Wife. TV Guide reports that the actor, who is best known for his role in Back To The Future, will play a lawyer called Simon Canning. His character will battle with Alicia (Julianna Margulies) in a large class action case. According to CBS, Simon is 'willing to use anything in court, including symptoms of his neurological condition, to create sympathy for his otherwise unsympathetic client - a giant pharmaceutical company.' The Good Wife's executive producers Robert and Michelle King said: 'We're absolutely thrilled that Michael has agreed to play this role. His intelligence as an actor, combined with his incredible comic timing, will really bring this smart, cynical lawyer to life.'

Matthew Perry has revealed that his new show Mr Sunshine was influenced by his failed pilot The End of Steve. The actor told the Los Angeles Times that he had learned an important lesson while filming the pilot, which was rejected by Showtime. 'That [show] was a much darker version of what we're doing here,' he explained. 'So dark that it didn't get picked up!' He continued: 'My endeavour was to make a lighter version of that [pilot], that would have more commercial [appeal].' The former Friends star also admitted that he had partly based his new character Ben Donovan on himself. 'I like to say that this character is me five years ago,' he confessed. Perry previously said that he enjoyed exploring the selfish side of Donovan.

Katee Sackhoff is to make a special appearance on Futurama next week. Co-creators Matt Groening and David X Cohen will also appear in the episode, along with cartoonist Sergio Aragones. Sackhoff is best known for her role as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. She will next be seen in the ABC police drama pilot Boston's Finest. Aragones is known for his contributions as an illustrator and writer for Mad magazine.

The lead singer of a British pop group has died during a music festival in Belgium, the Foreign Office confirmed. Charles Haddon, frontman of electro-pop trio Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, leapt to his death from a telecommunications mast behind the main stage at the Pukkelpop festival, police in Belgium said. The twenty two-year-old fell to the car park below and was pronounced dead late on Friday night. The band, based in Camden, had performed at the three-day festival in Hasselt, eastern Belgium, shortly before Haddon climbed up the mast. Police are treating the death as suicide, district attorney Marc Rubens said. Festival organisers said Haddon's family had been informed. In a statement posted on their website, they said: 'After performing with his band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, singer Charles Haddon decided to take his own life. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his family and friends.' A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm the death of a British national on 20 August in Hasselt, Belgium. Consular assistance has been offered.' Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were due to perform at the Frequency Festival in Austria tonight and were to start a UK headline tour in Cambridge in October. The band had supported La Roux on tour last year, which Haddon described in a blog as being a personal highlight. They also played at Glastonbury and Bestival festivals last year, and were due to make a second appearance at Bestival, on the Isle of Wight, on 10 September. Their third single, 'Jackson's Last Stand', was released in July. On Thursday, Michael Been, the sixty-year-old frontman of American band The Call, died of an apparent heart attack at the same festival while working as a soundman for his son's band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

There's some real twenty four-carat drivel in the Express today about their new favouritest TV show in all the land, Don't Stop Believing. From which, I quote the following: 'For the past five weeks Channel Five's hit summer talent show Don't Stop Believing has had audiences gripped. Emma Bunton says: "Like millions of others I'm currently obsessed with musical performance groups so I am beyond excited. Don't Stop Believing has been an unmissable, all-singing, all-dancing spectacle."' I mean, that would be quite laughable nonsense if it wasn't for the slightly sinister fact that the Express's owner now also owns Channel Five as well. In actual fact the vast majority of the show's initial - not particularly big to begin with - audience seems to find it entirely missable and the show has been such a 'hit' that Five moved it out of prime time after just a couple of weeks because of its miserably low viewing figures. The last episode was watched by just under one million viewers. And that was actually an improvement on the previous episode! So, this is obviously some new use of the word 'hit' that I hadn't previously come across. Whilst all of the other tabloids TV supplements this weekend have, rightly, concentrated on the return of The X-Factor, the Express actually has the crass cheek to give Don't Stop Believing joint billing: 'REALITY WEEKEND: SIXTEEN MILLION TO WATCH TV BATTLES TO FIND THE NATION'S NEW STARS.' Quite possibly true. Although, presumably that's likely to be about fifteen and a half million watching The X-Factor and the rest watching Channel Five?