Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week Thirty Four: Too Many Cooks

New Norwich City director Stephen Fry has confirmed a one-man show at the Royal Albert Hall next month. The actor and presenter will perform a 'part-confessional, part-observational, part-inspirational and part-anecdotal' show at the London venue on 20 September, the Gruniad Morning Star reports. Fry said: 'It is sort of stand-up, yes. I mean it's not a lecture or a revivalist meeting, nor will it be me leaning on a microphone stand going, "What is it about Belgians?"' Pity, I'd rather enjoy seeing that! 'I just want to make it fun, and one has to assume that people coming to see the show like me. If it goes well then I may well do a tour. People are already tweeting me about the fact it is just London, so it could be whole new chapter in my life.' Talking about his previous live dates in Australia, Fry added: 'It's only a slight exaggeration to say that as I was standing in the wings of the Sydney Opera House, I thought, "I don't actually have a show." It was so exciting. They say that when you're freezing to death you feel warmth before you die, as if your body is rewarding you, and I suppose it's a bit like that.'

Neil Stuke was the, perhaps somewhat surprising, first faller at the semi-final stage in Celebrity MasterChef last night. Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping thought he was a likely winner of the competition - despite occasional outbreaks of nerves - and was absolutely certain that either Lisa or Dick would be the one to go. Just shows why John Tordoe and Gregg Wallace are the judges on this thing and I'm not, I suppose.

The trailer for the forthcoming sixth series of Ideal is already up on the BBC website. Weird shit. I particularly like the where Our Alfie gets stabbed with his own pitchfork! For the uninitiated, there's also a really helpful "Ideal-Series-One-to-Five-in-Two-Minutes" trailer which should explain where we're up to. Sharp!

Mouth-on-legs Ian Wright has accused his former Live From Studio Five executive producer, Chris Shaw, of being 'power mad.' Oh, I imagine that's going to go down really well, not only in Desmond Towers but, right across the broadcasting industry. Because, let's face it, there's nothing that TV people like more than a whinger, is there? Speaking to Absolute Radio, the ex-footballer - and, now, very satisfyingly, ex-TV presenter - revealed that 'arguments' have pervaded the atmosphere at the show's studios since the introduction of the new half-hour format. He said: 'It's just been arguments for the last couple of weeks, and I said to the people up there "I'm not feeling good about the future with Chris Shaw now."' Wright claimed that Shaw was the main reason his contract was not renewed, saying: 'He just turned kind of like power mad, you know, and we came to the decision yesterday that its not going to go any further. Instead of renewing, I just said "Well, let's just leave it."' He continued: 'What's happened is that Richard Desmond's come in and, through Chris Shaw, they've just literally cut the show in half, there's no banter, there's no talk, and for the last couple of weeks where they've been trying it out I've been saying "This is pointless, this is not what I'm doing it for."' Is now the time, I wonder, to point out that, clearly, millions of viewers have been saying 'this is pointless' about Live From Studio Five since it began? Anyway, 'they stopped doing e-mails, no interaction with the public hardly now because there’s no time,' bewailed the ex-Arse. I do love the way that, even outside of a football studio, Wrighty still manages to talk in that strange mixed-tenses style which is so popular in after-match interviews: 'What's happened is ...' No Ian, it's either 'what happened was' or 'what is happening is' you cannot mix the two unless you're watching an action reply of a fifty ninth minute goalmouth incident.

ABC is reportedly planning to remake spy drama [Spooks] for US television. Hang on, haven't they done that already? It was called 24. Anyway, Deadline reports that ABC Studios has finalised a deal for the rights to the show with production company Kudos. The reboot has received a script order from the network, with Michael Seitzman being hired to write and executive produce a pilot. The AV Club website comments, rather cynically, but not entirely without foundation that they're looking forward to this project 'because we need more spy dramas and we really enjoy taking beloved UK shows and making them over with American actors, as this truly incenses British people and British people sound hilarious when they're angry.' Yeah, we're good at that. Particularly members of the Monty Python team. Incidentally, America, it's pronounced 'pyth-on' not 'pieeee-thon.' Just thought I'd mention that. 'For those who have missed the show’s various runs on PBS, A&E, or BBC America, or who have yet to check out the DVDs,' continues AV Club's apoplectic report MI-5 (as [Spooks] is known in the US) 'follows a group of security and intelligence officers operating out of London's Thames House. It's still being decided whether the show will continue to focus on British agents, which raises the question of why we'd even bother remaking it, or will transpose the setting to something more comfortingly American like the CIA. Of course, then it would just be a show along the lines of The Agency or Covert Affairs or 24, which again raises the question of why we'd even bother remaking it. Oh, right: Pissing off the British.' Word, my brother. Two countries separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Thank God.

And, on that bombshell, here's yer next lot of Top Telly Tips.

Friday 20 August
In the one-hour Celebrity MasterChef: The Final - 9:00 BBC1 - the three successful amateur chefs (Christine Hamilton, Dick Strawbridge and Lisa Faulkner) are challenged to prepare their best meals in the hope of impressing judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace, who will decide which of the well-known faces will be crowned Celebrity MasterChef champion. Last in a series that has veered from the sublime to the ridiculous, often with very little stopover in between but which has always been vastly entertaining. It has its knockers but I think it's brilliant and long may it continue to give sarky Gregg and even more sarky John paid employment.

Saturday 21 August
Series seven of The X Factor kicks off at 7:30 on ITV. Dermot O'Dreary presents the opening round of auditions as solo singers and groups compete to win a lucrative recording contract with Simon Cowell's record label. Simon, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh are joined on the panel by a series of guests - beginning with Geri Halliwell - in the early parts of the competition, before new mum Dannii Minogue returns for the judges' houses stage. By which stage, Cheryl will have disappeared due to illness. You've been following all of this in the papers, surely? Once again each of the four categories - Boys, Girls, Groups and Overs, which this year is twenty eight plus, will be mentored throughout the competition, with Cheryl no doubt hoping to secure a hat-trick as the winning judge after previously taking Little Joe McElderry and Alexandra Burke to victory. The Xtra Factor follows on ITV2. Millions will watch.

Sunday 22 August
Mountain Gorilla - 8:00 BBC2 - is a documentary, narrated by auld Cap'n Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, following the last remaining members of the species as they fight for survival on the slopes of central Africa. Dominant silverback Cantsbee protects those close to him as they make a perilous descent to feed on bamboo. On the other side of the Rwandan volcanoes, a young female gorilla looks to her father for guidance after being deserted by her mother, and a teenage silverback tries to strike out on his own in Uganda.

It's all celebrity animal shows tonight as, at 9:00 on ITV we've got Martin Clunes: Horsepower. The Doc Martin actor - who did a similar show about dogs last year - explores the huge part that horses have played in human history all over the globe, in warfare, farming, sport and transport, and why they still mean so much to us today. His journey takes him to Mongolia where he meets the only remaining horse breed not to be tamed, the Przewalski, and to Dubai where jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer Luca Cumani provide an insight into how horse psychology has allowed us to harness their instincts. However, a fourteen thousand-year-old cave painting in the Pyrenees reveals that before we rode horses, we ate them! And, in that part of the world they sometimes still do.

Monday 23 August
The comedian Alexander Armstrong - a particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping - thinks that he comes from a rather privileged background, hence those Pimm's adverts, I guess. But is keen to find out exactly how special it is. In Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - Xander's journey begins with Burke's Irish Landed Gentry, where he finds his name listed under his mother's family name, McCausland. Moving up the family tree he finds a relative with an honoured position in the royal household. His aristocratic roots are confirmed when he comes across a letter from a direct ancestor over two hundred years ago and, searching even further back, he finds a fascinating trail of documents linking him to even more titled relatives, a military leader and high treason.

The Adventures of Daniel - 9:30 BBC3 - is a comedy starring nineteen-year-old Daniel Sloss from Kirkcaldy, who plays himself alongside a fictional family, friends and girlfriend. Narrative, sketches and stand-up are all combined to offer an insight into the life of a - somewhat more articulate than usual - teenager. With Imogen Stubbs and Jenny Hulse, and featuring a cameo appearance by comedian Ed Byrne. Sounds rather good, actually, although I must say the trailer didn't fill me with a great deal of confidence.

And, speaking of family-based sitcoms, there's Grandma's House - 10:00 BBC2. Now, I must admit, I thought the first episode was dreadful - a middle-class version of The Royal Family but without a catch-phrase to its name. However, it does seem to have gone down rather well, not just with many of the critics but, also, with the punters, judging by the better-than-average ratings and the general word of mouth on the street. Or, the Internet anyway. So, I'm going to give it another chance and see if it was just me in a bad mood last week. Anyway, tonight's episode is called The Day Simon Announced That He Was in Control of the Universe - ah, y'see, it's all going to Amstell's head now. Simon reads a book that leads him to believe he might be able to control the universe and Grandma is displeased to discover that Grandpa has invited a woman she does not like to their home. Meanwhile, Liz takes extreme measures to get Adam into a new school. The late Geoffrey Hutchings and Rebecca Front are in it, of course, and this episode also features a guest appearance by Pam Ferris (Rosemary & Thyme).

Tuesday 24 August
I'm not sure if any of you are still watching Big Brother which reaches the final episode of its final series tonight - 8:00 Channel 4. I must admit, i gave up after about two episodes of the current series. What began as a genuinely interesting, if occasionally mean and somewhat troubling, social experiment has, by the end of its decade-long existence, gone out with a whimper rather than a bang. In its time it made 'celebrities' of people who scarcely deserved it, caused controversy by exposing just how scummy some people are when exposed to a relentless spotlight and, ultimately, became a victim of its own, early, success. The finale of the reality contest arrives, and the housemates who have endured the eleven-week exclusion wait with bated breath, it says here, as Davina McCall reveals the results of the viewers' votes. One by one, the also-rans are evicted and interviewed by the presenter, leaving the victorious resident alone in the house. However, instead of walking away with the one hundred thousand pound prize, the last contestant faces one more challenge in Ultimate Big Brother, in which this year's winner will be joined for a further two weeks in front of the cameras by some of the most famous personalities to have occupied the compound. So, just when you thought it was all over, it isn't.

The Boss Is Coming to Dinner - 6:00 Channel Five - sounds like a pitch for a really bad middle-class sitcom. Estate agency director Derek Richardson continues his hunt for a new sales and lettings negotiator, discovering whether youth and academic qualifications hold up against age and experience. He does this by, essentially, going round to their house and having them cook for him. Which is a bit of a cheek to be honest. Who the hell does he think he is, Michael Winner? Tonight, he meets a bubbly grandmother who invites him to a barbecue, before visiting a nervous graduate who has never cooked or entertained before.

It's all cookery shows tonight, not that such a thing is unusual on British telly these days. The Great British Bake Off - 8:00 BBC2 - sees the eight surviving bakers whisked off to Scone Palace, near Perth where, over two days, they must produce their signature biscuits, scones and petits fours, with judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood sending another two hopefuls packing. Meanwhile presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins learn how the digestive became Britain's favourite nibble, ask what's so Scottish about shortbread, and reveal how Sir Ranulph Fiennes came to be the owner of the world's most expensive biscuit. As noted previously, a straight combination of MasterChef and Light Lunch. Not original, perhaps, but certainly not unattractive.

Wednesday 25 August
In the latest episode of Coast - 8:00 BBC2 - the team visits Denmark where Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) learns about the unique concept of 'Hygge,' a description for being in a state of bliss which is almost impossible to translate into any other language. Nick Crane explains why Britain imports so much Danish bacon (err ... cos it's nice?), Alice Roberts sails aboard a full-scale replica of a Viking longship, the deadly killer Miranda Krestovnikoff encounters some red deer, and Mark Horton reveals the story of Heligoland, the tiny island that used to be British, but which was also used by the Royal Navy in 1947 for one of the largest non-nuclear explosive detonations in history. Plus, Dick Strawbridge - his cookery duties now cast aside - examines the construction of one of the world's largest offshore wind farms.

And, still the cookery shows continue! Great British Waste Menu - 8:30 BBC1 - sees four of the country's top chefs (Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer) source unwanted food from every point on the food chain to highlight the huge amount of perfectly edible produce that is thrown away every day. We wasted an incredible amount of food - it's estimated that up to a third of all the food we buy in the West we end up not using and, simply, throwing away. It's the same when we go out for a meal. It's remarkable how few British people feel comfortable asking for the leftover food which, remember, they've already paid for, to take home. So, in this programme, items found in supermarkets, farms and ordinary homes together with leftovers from restaurants will be used to create mouthwatering dishes to be judged by food critics Matthew Fort, Prue Leith, Oliver Peyton and Jay Rayner, with the winning menu re-created in a lavish banquet designed to prove that we should all be saving our scraps.

My New Brain - 9:00 Channel 4 - has an intriguing premise. Each year in Britain one hundred and thirty five thousand people visit hospital with traumatic brain injury. Zac Beattie's compassionate documentary for Cutting Edge follows twenty-year-old Simon Hales as he and his family try to cope with the consequences of his twenty feet fall during a night out while an undergraduate at Newcastle University. After waking from a five week long coma Simon is walking and talking but suffers from memory loss and violent mood swings. The film records his struggles with an uncertain future as he attends brain injury rehabilitation and makes his first visits home.

First shown almost a decade ago, Arena: The Brian Epstein Story - 9:00 BBC4 - is an award-winning two-part profile of the Beatles' manager, who died of an accidental drug overdose in August 1967. Interviews with family, friends and musicians who worked with Brian - including Paul McCartney - piece together his complex life and career. This programme focuses on the early years of Eppy's relationship with the Liverpool beat-boom and the birth of the Mersey Sound.

Thursday 26 August
Blighted with a notorious reputation, E numbers are often considered to be one of the demons of modern food production. In the three-part E Numbers: An Edible Adventure - 8:00 BBC2 - food writer Stefan Gates sets out to separate the facts about these food additives from the fiction, beginning with colours. He discovers why these chemicals don't just affect the look of our food but its taste as well, reveals why eating monosodium glutamate could be no worse for us than eating cheese or mushrooms, and demonstrates how judicious use of E numbers can even get veg-hating kids to eat their brussels sprouts.

Hurricane Katrina: Caught on Camera - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a documentary telling the horrific story of the storm that brought flooding and disaster of an almost biblical scale to the Gulf Coast of America in August 2005. A storm which left more than eighteen hundred people dead in Louisiana and Mississippi. Using more than one hundred sources, including footage by amateur cameramen, news crews, government agencies and storm chasers, the programme reconstructs events as they happened through the eyes of the people who experienced them at the heart of the storm.

In tonight's Lie to Me - 9:00 Sky1 - Cal finds himself entangled in a web of deceit when he decides to spy on Gillian's latest love interest, a man who claims to be an undercover DEA agent. Lightman witnesses him being bundled into a van by three men and sets out to ensure he is returned alive.

And, so to the news: ITV is a 'fairly dysfunctional organisation' and 'there is a lot that needs fixing,' its boss has warned. Adam Crozier, the broadcaster's chief executive, admitted that ITV had failed to keep up with the changes in the 'media landscape.' He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that ITV needed to move more into pay-per-view broadcasting and the Internet. But he said he 'can't envisage a situation' where viewers would have to pay to watch its main channel. Crozier, who took up the top job at ITV in April after leaving Royal Mail, said that he had spent his first months at the company trying to make sure he had 'a very clear view' of the issues that the broadcaster faced. 'ITV has great programmes and a great brand, the key is rebalancing the business to be much less reliant upon free-to-air advertising,' he said. 'What we need to do is turn the organisation around to get it fit for purpose and start competing in these new markets [of pay-per-view and online].' ITV has already started efforts to move into pay-per-view, announcing earlier this month that it will launch three new high definition channels via Sky in the autumn. At present its single high definition channel, ITV HD, is available for free via Freesat, Freeview, Sky and Virgin. ITV also reported earlier this month that it had returned to profit, announcing a pre-tax profit of ninety seven million pounds for the first half of the year thanks to higher advertising revenues. In the same period last year it had reported a loss of one hundred and five million.

Ben Shephard and Myleene Klass will team up to co-present This Morning next week, it has been announced. Shephard, who left GMTV last month to front Sky Sports football coverage, will return to ITV to host the flagship daytime show. According to the Sun, the producers are interested in testing different partnerships and presenters during the summer. 'Viewers adore Ben and producers are convinced that he and Myleene will be a winning combination that could work in the future,' said a source. Why they believe this, yer Keith Telly Topping has no idea. Klass, a well known drag, is pretty and can read an autocue but she has the personality of a whelk.

ITV has confirmed that Warren Clarke has joined the cast of Wild At Heart, as production on the sixth series got under way this week. Stephen Tompkinson and Dawn Steele will return for ten new episodes of the South Africa-based drama, which will begin its new run with the couple on honeymoon in London. However, with the trip cut short, Tompkinson's Danny Travanion is reunited with his estranged father - played by Clarke - who then travels back to meet the extended family in Leopard's den. Speaking of the former Dalziel and Pascoe star's casting, Tompkinson said in a statement: 'I first worked with Warren on The Manageress in 1988; he was the club chairman and I was a footballer - and now I very much look forward to showing him Africa!' Danny's new wife Alice (Steele) has been unsettled by the London trip and she, along with daughter Charlotte, realise throughout the series just how much they miss life in the UK.

Jeremy Davidson will appear in the new season of ABC drama Brothers & Sisters. Entertainment Weekly reports that the actor will play a recurring role, with his character acting as a love interest for Kitty (Calista Flockhart). The new season will pick up a year on from the fourth season finale, in which Kitty's husband Robert (Rob Lowe) was killed in a car crash. 'He's very different than Robert and a very different guy than the kind of men Kitty's been with her whole life,' explained producer David Marshall Grant. The pair will meet in Ojai, where Kitty has been living since her husband's death.

Bones producer Stephen Nathan has confirmed that Mike Sorrentino will not be making a guest appearance on the show. It was previously reported that the Jersey Shore star, also known as The Situation, was in talks to appear as a murder victim. However, Nathan told Entertainment Weekly: 'The Situation is not going to work out. There were so many contractual difficulties with MTV that it just became an impossibility.' He explained that the forthcoming episode of the crime drama 'will still be our little tribute to Jersey Shore.' He joked: 'It will do what many people in America would like to see themselves, which is one of [the Jersey Shore cast] dead.'

Patrick Stewart has admitted that he thought he was miscast in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The actor played Cap'n Jean-Luc Picard on the series between 1987 and 1994 and later reprised the role in several spin-off movie. He told Deadline: 'Why would they cast a middle-aged bald English Shakespearean actor in this iconic role as captain of the Enterprise? It made no sense.' Stewart explained that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had insisted that he take the role. 'I guess Gene had some sort of instinct for it, and his producer Rick Berman was a champion of mine,' he said. 'Even so, it all felt borderline lunatic back then. It took me a good while to grow comfortable in that role.'

Phil Collinson has praised Coronation Street for 'never shying away from gay issues.' The soap's producer told the Manchester Evening News that Corrie has a 'good sort of gay sensibility' and that the ongoing Sophie Webster (Brooke Vincent) and Sian Powers (Sacha Parkinson) storyline will continue this. 'We're going to go a long way with this storyline,' he told the paper. 'We'll look at sexuality in a much more hard-hitting way, what parents think about it, what the church thinks about it. Life is not going to be as easy as it might have been for Sophie, but it's important to look at prejudice. There are lots of parents out there who have gone through this, and they all deal with it in different ways.' Collinson also lauded the character of Sean Tully - played by Antony Cotton - and hit back at criticism of the factory worker. 'I think what the show has done with the character of Sean Tully is brilliant,' he said. 'I know Antony gets criticised because people think he's a stereotype of camp, but I think showing a gay man living in Coronation Street and being loved and accepted for who he is, is the most important thing you can do, rather than trying to represent big gay issues, which the show has also done.' The former Doctor Who producer who, himself, came out in his late twenties, further revealed that he felt 'incredibly lucky' to have never 'experienced homophobia personally. I feel very fortunate that I'm in an industry that is accepting. I always say to younger gay people, "You have got to stand up and be yourself,"' he said. 'It wasn't until I did that the last piece of the jigsaw fell into place for me.' He added: 'That's why I hope with characters like Sophie and Sian and the careful way we handle this storyline, I hope it's going to help people out there and show that it's better to be honest.'

The Living TV Group's Bravo channel is to broadcast a Karate Kid-style television series in which a Shaolin monk mentors troubled British youngsters. The factual entertainment programme, which is currently under the working title Kung Fu Street Fighters, aims to take a 'risky and controversial approach to combating the UK's rising hoodie culture and anti-social behaviour,' reports the Gruniad Morning Star. In the six-episode series, British Shaolin monk and martial arts expert Matthew Ahmet will mentor a group of troubled young people from inner-city estates in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Ahmet will use martial arts principles in a bid to teach the youngsters 'self-control, respect and restraint,' while also presenting an 'alternative life far removed from violence, crime, drugs and underachievement.' The show, which has echoes of 1984 film The Karate Kid and its 2010 remake starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, is expected to premiere on Bravo in the first quarter of next year. 'This commission demonstrates our ongoing commitment to risky, ambitious and eye catching factual content tackling crime and social issues in a uniquely Bravo way,' said the Living TV Group head of commissioning Mark Sammon. Kung Fu Street Fighters - catchy title - is being produced by The F Word maker Optomen Television, which is currently the subject of a takeover bid from All3Media.