Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Day Long I Hear The Telephone Ring, Friends Calling With Their Advice

We tend to think of Pompeii as a place of death thanks to the cataclysmic eruption which buried the city in 79AD when Vesuvius went 'boom.' Yet it was also a thriving town where, because so much is preserved, you get a perfectly vivid picture of how Roman civilisation actually worked and how the people within it lived. In last night's superb BBC2 documentary Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town - based around the discovery of fifty four skeletons in an ancient cellar in Oplontis, a Pompeii suburb - classicist Mary Beard showed us a vibrant resort that was, as she noted, 'a cross between Las Vegas and Brighton.' Mary also skilfully debunked some long-held myths. Short in the plughole department to let dirty water out, Roman baths really weren't that cleansing. Although their graffiti really was just as filthy as you've always been led to believe. A delightful little programme and it's with great pleasure that I can tell you, dear blog reader, that Pompeii: Life And Death In A Roman Town averaged a whopping 3.15m for BBC2 in the 9pm hour, beating ITV's repeat of A Touch of Frost. An excellent achievement and very well deserved indeed. Actually, on the subject of ratings, last night was the first time that nothing has been above ten million viewers for about two weeks and marked the end of a quite remarkable run of bumper ratings for both of the major channels. (Last night's most watched programme was EastEnders at 9.7m.)

I'm not sure whether the highlight of this week's Hawaii Five-0 episode was Steve McGarrett's ability to get ten million US dollars into a medium-sized holdall or the extraordinary accent adopted by James Marsters. Hang on, Victor Hesse is supposed to the Irish now? Seriously? There didn't appear to be even a hint of that in his first appearance. Going on the name alone, I thought his origins were sort of generic Central European. What with the fact that his brother was called Anton and all that. Now, we're suddenly informed, he's one of the buoys, begorrah, bejesus, where's me shillelagh? Masters is, let it be noted a fantastic actor - one of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourites - who spent seven years of his career pulling off a really half-way decent north London accent in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not at all bad, for a kid from the mean streets of Glendale, California. Sadly, his big paddy bop tones proved to be almost as embarrassingly 'not even close' as his former Angel cast mate David Boreanaz's attempts at the Oirish. Sad but true. The fight with Alex O'Loughlin made up for it, mind!

Doctor Who star Matt Smith has claimed that he is not worried about the ratings for the show's upcoming Christmas special. Try telling that to fandom, matey! Last year, The End of Time - Part One was the third most watched show on Christmas Day, with a final figure of 11.57m viewers whilst the two previous Christmas Day episodes to that, The Next Doctor and Voyage of the Damned, had audiences over fourteen million. Smith told BBC News: 'I hope it continues to do well [this year], I really do. But I can't really feel any pressure for it because I've done it now. I've made it, so c'est la vie, what will be will be. It's out of my control. But I think it's a great episode.' The actor added that his first two years in the role of The Doctor had been a 'wonderful' experience. 'It's whizzed by because we're very busy up in Cardiff,' he admitted. 'It's been a wonderful two years. It's been a privilege to play it, I have to say, and it's been a great experience for me.'

ITV has reportedly warned Simon Cowell to 'cut the sleaze' after a record number of complaints were received about this year's X Factor. It was yesterday revealed that two thousand viewers had complained about raunchy performances by Christina Aguilera and Rihanna on Saturday night's show. According to the Mirror, this brings the total number of complaints received by Ofcom throughout the series to more than five thousand. Scandals during this series have ranged from the auto-tune row to fix claims over various results. 'Bosses are worried about the complaints, which have grown rapidly this series,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'They certainly don't want the trouble they have had in recent weeks, including claims that the show is becoming seedy and oversexed as well as the accusations by contestants that the show is fixed. That tarnishes the image of The X Factor and ITV so things must change. It's our image as a family channel that's at stake. Serious meetings are taking place with Cowell and executives.' ITV boss Peter Fincham allegedly clashed with Cowell when the judge backed an appearance by Chloe Mafia during a performance by rejected auditionees on Sunday night. 'Simon and Peter were rowing over why Chloe was on the show and used so prominently,' the insider said. 'Peter wasn't sure it was appropriate but Simon's attitude was, "Do you want these big ratings or not?" He feels that there needs to be controversy to drive the programme and make sure it is talked-about and watched. But there is a line - especially before the watershed - and there is a feeling by some ITV bosses that he has crossed it during this series on several occasions.' An ITV spokesman added: 'We speak regularly with Simon and his team about the show. The X Factor is the most popular and talked-about show on television and it naturally generates a range of comment and opinion from our audience and we listen carefully to what our viewers say about our programming.' I'll bet there are days when Peter Fincham wishes he was back at the BBC where the only thing he had to worry about was the Daily Scum Mail and their constant attacks on any and everything he touched. Or, maybe not.

ITV have also reportedly warned Simon Cowell - they're doing a lot of this warning, one has to note - that The X Factor must go ahead next year, with or without him. Rumours suggest that Cowell wants the broadcaster to delay the next series until later next year or early in 2012 due to the launch of the US version of the show. However, the Daily Lies alleges that 'bosses at the network' (so, that'd be Peter Fincham again, on supposes) want the show to follow its normal schedule after raking in one hundred and fifty million pounds for the current series which finished last week. The paper claims that Cowell and his fellow judges Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole have been told to clear their diaries from May. Cowell has allegedly claimed that he would fly between the UK and US for the two series. 'Whatever happens, the show goes on in the UK with or without Cowell,' a 'senior source' allegedly told the paper. But, this is the Daily Lies we're talking about so, you know, pinch of salt and all that. 'He has already teased he might not be on the panel. There has been talk of a satellite feed for the live shows if they think he needs to show his face.' Yesterday it was revealed that Cowell will not be on the Britain's Got Talent judging panel during the auditions stage next year. He will return for the live shows. The insider suggested that ITV want to see how ratings for the show turn out without his involvement. 'It may be that the shows can survive without his mug on the box,' the 'source' allegedly added.

And finally on the subject of Mr Cowell and his towering ego, a report alleges that he has 'spoken' with Mick Jagger and Noel Gallagher about serving as judges on the US X Factor. Cowell has, apparently, 'identified the British rockers as ideal candidates' to sit alongside him when the ITV show begins on FOX next year, although 'it is unclear if the talks are in relation to' a permanent position or a guest slot. 'Simon wants to go one better than American Idol, who have Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler, and has set his heart on British rock 'n' roll royalty, with Noel and Mick top of his shopping list,' a 'source' allegedly told the Sun. Speaking, seemingly, in a way that no normal person every would. Seriously. Former Oasis guitarist and songwriter Gallagher was previously touted by Cowell as his possible replacement when he quit Idol earlier this year. 'Noel's manager met up for early talks and there is serious wedge on offer,' the source added. 'Simon is a huge fan of Noel's songwriting and the no-nonsense attitude Oasis brought to Britpop in the '90s. He'd be great to dish out feedback.' Gallagher has previously criticised the UK X Factor for relying too heavily on sob stories and failing to produce artists who achieve long-term careers. Ah, bless the Sun. They never fail to raise a smile in yer Keith Telly Topping with their tall stories.

Bones producer Stephen Nathan has revealed that the show's upcoming sniper arc will have a big impact on Booth (David Boreanaz). It was confirmed in November that The Mummy star Arnold Vosloo will play elite sniper Jacob Ripkin Broadsky in multiple episodes. Nathan told TV Guide: 'Booth is forced to confront the life that he led [as a sniper in the Army] when he sees a guy who's perverted the profession. The need Booth has to bring this guy to justice is going to hang over us for the rest of the year.' He added that the sniper's reign of terror will bring Booth and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) closer together. 'Whatever his relationship with Hannah, Brennan is always the closest person in his life,' Nathan suggested. 'The sniper will affect Booth and Brennan in a very profound way.' Rumours continue to circulate that one of the show's semi-regular characters will be killed by the sniper. Place your bets now. But, let it be known, if they kill Jack or Angela yer Keith Telly Topping shall be madly dischuffed.

Hugh Laurie has said that he is 'thrilled' by his Golden Globe nomination. The actor was recognised in the 'Best Television Actor - Drama' category for his work as Greg House in the FOX medical show. 'I am thrilled and honoured,' he said in a statement, joking: 'I am now going to turn the house upside down looking for that other cufflink.' Actually, if what Stephen Fry suggests in his autobiography about Hugh's general untidiness is true, it might not've been a joke.

The former BBC director general Greg Dyke has said that 2011 is the time to make local TV happen, as it will 'provide a real boost to local economies and local democracy across the UK.' Dyke, who was appointed to chair a local TV committee in October, made the comments in reaction to a major local TV report published yesterday. The report, compiled by an advisory panel led by Lazard investment banker Nicholas Shott, said that around ten to twelve local TV services would be viable to operate in UK conurbations, broadcasting around two hours of 'reasonably low cost but high quality content' every day. Shott's panel also said that there is a 'coherent argument' that local TV would initially be developed for digital terrestrial television, but the long-term aim would be to 'pave the way' for its transition to IPTV, particularly the forthcoming BBC-led joint venture YouView. The lack of culture secretary, the vile Jeremy Hunt wants to create a network of as many as eighty local TV services in the UK, with the first stations due to be awarded licences next summer. In a statement, Dyke welcomed the proposals put forward in the Shott report and stressed that 2011 is the time to 'stop just talking about local TV and start making it happen. Nicholas Shott has called for reserved spectrum and priority on the programme guide to be used to support local TV services and we believe this is the right way forward,' said Dyke. 'We will be responding to some of the questions raised by the Shott report in the new year including the number and diversity of stations to be offered, the regulatory framework in which they will operate and the options to develop a network centre. Most of all we want to ensure that models are developed to enable local TV to provide a real boost to local economies and local democracy across the UK. There's still a lot of detail to be worked through but the time is coming in 2011 to stop just talking about local TV and start making it happen.' Peter Williams, spokesman for trade organisation United for Local Television, added: 'Nicholas Shott has done an enormous amount of work in a short space of time. We believe citizens have a democratic right to see their local representatives on the TV and hold them to account through news and discussion programming. The big question is how it will work and Nicholas Shott has shown there are a number of options for the government to review. The Network Committee, chaired by Greg Dyke, is working hard assessing options for the development of a local TV network and intends to put forward proposals to input into the government's consultation process in the new year.' Last month, Dyke said that the creation of a new regional TV channel for Scotland would be 'of value' to the country as an alternative to BBC Scotland and STV.

Annie Lennox has apologised after missing her cue to sing on a live US talk show. Although not, sadly, for her entire career which would have been just as long overdue. The singer was appearing on Live! with Regis & Kelly to perform her version of 'The Holly and the Ivy' from her A Christmas Cornucopia. Available from some good record shops and plenty of bad ones too. However, Lennox appeared to miss her entry point to the song and had to be tapped on the back by her guitarist. Ah, you should've just let her go, mate, no one would've minded. In fact, many would probably have been grateful. Failing to catch up, the band started the song again as Lennox apologised for the error. Shortly before her performance, Lennox was asked about overcoming her on-stage nerves, to which she replied: 'I used to get really badly nervous, but I've been through so many things now. There's no point. I think there comes a point when you're a performer and you have to get over your stage fright. Why be nervous?'

A man in his thirties was reportedly caught masturbating in a library - while reading Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's autobiography. The Sun reports that the unidentified - although clearly very disturbed - individual was 'observed acting strangely' while 'browsing the business section' of Crawley Library last week. Staff saw him choose What You See Is What You Get before he sat down, covered his lap with his coat and proceeded to 'touch himself' on his naughty bits in a not-entirely convincing 'merely adjusting my underwear, honest guv' type way. 'He spent about twenty minutes looking through the books in the business section before selecting Alan Sugar-Sweetie's autobiography,' a 'source' allegedly told the tabloid. 'He was behaving rather oddly so we kept an eye on him and then he just sat down with his coat over his lap and started pleasuring himself as he looked through the book. It was very bizarre behaviour and our security guys got a hold of him before too many people saw what he was doing.' Security guards 'detained' the man before the police arrived at which point he was, ahem, pinched by the bobbies and 'held' (on suspicion of outraging public decency). Which, presumably, made his eyes water, somewhat. He has since been cautioned and banned from using the library any more. Or, at least, told to wash his hands after he reads any books. It's frankly a good job this didn't happen whilst the chap was on a bus, of course. Otherwise somebody would've had to toss him off. No. Listen. Anyway ... Commenting on Twitter, Lord Sugar-Sweetie his very self told one follower: 'Took me to [sic] seriously when I said cum and get it." Heh! Alan Sugar-Sweetie just told a spunk joke!

Cilla Black said she wants to 'bow out' of life in eight years' time when she gets to the age of seventy five. The singer and presenter said that she was 'at a really good point' in her life but she did not want to go on forever. She told this week's Yours Magazine: 'I was reading about an age pill that's been developed which they claim will make you live longer. That's not for me. I don't want to live beyond the age of seventy five. That would be a good point to bow out.' Cilla - see left, with a couple of friends - said she was influenced by the experience of her mother who survived for several years despite having to be fed through a tube. She said: 'Unfortunately - and I do mean that - her heart was strong. The result was that she lived much longer than she wanted to. I remember asking her doctor if she could do something to relieve my mother's suffering. I'm not talking about euthanasia. I just wanted the pain to stop for her. But the short answer was no.'

Announcement time now: Firstly one for anybody in the vague Teeside area - and, if you are, you have my sincere sympathy. Anyway, this is a quick plug for a stage show that my old mate Mick Snowden is involved in, Sketchmas. It's on at the Arc Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, and costs a fiver. Mick describes Sketchmas as 'an hour(ish) long sketch show, written and performed by the cast, and is a project done as part of the Writers Block NE collective.' Very worthwhile cause. It runs from Thursday 16 December to Saturday 18 December and the performance group will run again in the New Year. Contact The Arc for further information: 01642 525199. Check it out if you're in the area. And, on the same sort of subject, yer Keith Telly Topping's sometime writing partner, the legend and housewives' choice that is Sir Alfie Joey OBE will be doing a reading at St Nicholas Cathedral, on Thursday 16 December as part of that evening's Carol Concert. All proceeds go towards the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at the Great North Childrens' Hospital (RVI), tickets cost £7.50 and the service begins 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale at: Guitar Guitar, 27 Grainger Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 5JE and you can also pay on the door.

Keira Knightley has revealed that she found it difficult to cope with the media attention she received while promoting The Edge of Love in 2008. The Pirates Of The Caribbean actress admitted that her co-star Sienna Miller dealt with the pressure a lot better than she herself did. She explained to Vogue: 'Sienna was better at coping with it. I think it broke something in me. I was told very early on that if I didn't go out to openings and parties and events I would be left alone. I didn't, and they still didn't leave me alone. I knew it was part of the deal in the life I had signed up to, but the fear of it has never left me. I'm still not good at being recognised. I wear scruffy clothes and hats and keep my head well down. I'm sure people must think I'm a complete bitch, but I'm just very shy.' Knightley also said that she believes she 'infuriated' the media because she's never disgraced herself in public. She added: 'I was so young when it started. I was involved in Pirates from the age of seventeen until twenty one. At that time people couldn't get enough of people falling out of nightclubs with their knickers showing and I wasn't giving them that - and I think it infuriated them.'

Which brings us, nicely, to yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Or, in today's particular case, 45s of the Day because I'm having a bit of Tamla afternoon, as it happens. And you simply can't sum up something as groundbreakingly important as Motown with just one record. You need at least six. So, let's kick off with a bit a Kim. (From Ready! Steady! Go!, I think. Classy.)Proof, from no less a source than Diana, that poor old Flo don't know, because the boy she loves is a Romeo. (Has yer Keith Telly Topping ever happened to mention that he met Mary Wilson in, of all places, Gateshead once? One of the great days of my life, that.)The most perfect song about heartache ever written by a lyricist who was, as Bob Dylan once wisely noted, 'the greatest poet of the Twentieth Century.' (Nice threads, by the way!)Some choice hot Lil Stevie. (A legendary performance from Top of the Pops and one that, thankfully, the BBC didn't junk along with three quarters of their pop archive from that era.)And, the second most perfect song about heartache, but this one written by Eddie, Lamont and Brian.So, that gets us to, ooo, 1966 I reckon. Next time I have myself a Tamla afternoon-type moment at this rate we might just about reach What's Goin' On?, dear blog reader. And remember - everything is all right when Smokey sings.