Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Thousand Ways To Say "I Love You"

TV comedy line of Christmas week so far (though, it is only the early hours of Wednesday morning, admittedly): James May on the subject of the departed Stig on Tuesday night's US Road Trip episode of Top Gear: 'At least we know his real name now. Judas Iscariot!' Very festive! Good episode, as it happens, best in while from the lads and with some marvellous music used on it - including snatches of Misty In Roots and The Chemical Brothers. Skill. Almost as Jimmy Hill, in fact, as Oz and Hugh Raise The Bar immediately after it using The Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning' as background music. And, speaking of music, yer actual Keith Telly Topping rather enjoyed Mark Radcliffe's deliciously deadpan description of a riotous Wizzard performance of 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' on Top of the Pops 2: 'Ah, now that's what I call a good old family Christmas bash. Tinsel, party hats, a range of snacks, a French horn, a giant panda and a weird old bready uncle from the Midlands wearing eye-shadow!'

Doctor Who showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has revealed that this year's Christmas episode was, in part, inspired by David Tennant's final episodes. He told the New York Times that A Christmas Carol would balance out the dark nature of 2009's The End of Time. 'There had been a feeling that we needed a really, really Christmassy one, because the previous [Christmas special] had been David Tennant's exit from the role,' he explained. 'It had been quite dark and not as Christmassy as normal. We had wanted to reset it and make [this year's episode] a hugely jolly, merry one. Well, jolly, merry and a little bit sad.' Moffat also praised the original Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol, which serves as the festive special's more direct inspiration. 'It's a fantastic story,' he said. 'Time travel at Christmas says A Christmas Carol and it says Doctor Who. The moment you think of it, if you have The Doctor as the Ghost of Christmas Past, it sort of makes sense.' Moffat also said that work on the next series of Sherlock is 'gearing up.' It was confirmed in August that the show will return for three more ninety-minute episodes in autumn 2011. 'We're doing another three films, so the other two writers have started. I won't be able to start for a while, so I'll come skidding in at the last minute and do my bit.' He also admitted that his role as showrunner on Doctor Who often clashes with his commitment to Sherlock. 'The two of them run into each other quite a bit,' he said. 'There's a pretty nightmarish portion of the year where I'm doing both. What can you do?' Moffat previously hinted that elements present in the second series might include Holmes's love interest Irene Adler and the great detective's battle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Moffat, however, has ruled out a crossover between his two series. He said that it would be 'quite hard' for the two shows central characters to collide. 'I think there are problems of doing that,' he admitted. 'Because then you would say that Sherlock Holmes lives in the same world as The Doctor, and there are Daleks and all sorts of things. If a Sherlock Holmes story depends on time travel being impossible, it's quite hard [to do it] if he's a personal friend of The Doctor's.' However, he admitted that fans of both shows have often enquired about the potential crossover. 'I think everyone who's passing me in the street is suggesting that at the moment,' he revealed. Not me, Steve. Keep 'em apart, they're both great enough on their own without muddling things up by mixing them together.

The Nativity's Peter Capaldi has revealed that he almost missed filming on the BBC drama. The actor, who plays the Magi Balthasar, explained in an official BBC interview that his travel to Morocco was disrupted due to the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in April. 'There was a danger that they were going to close down the airports,' he explained. 'If they had we were not going to make it to Morocco and we would not have been able to join the production, which had already started filming.' He added that the travel crisis led to 'a mad dash' from London to Ouarzazate, along with his co-stars Jack Shepherd and Obi Abili. 'When I was a kid, this would be the journey of a lifetime,' he explained. 'But of course, it was all done in pitch darkness and standing anxiously in queues at airports, but it kind of bonded us because we were the three Magi and we had to make it to the stable.'

Miranda's Christmas special proved a huge hit for BBC2 on Monday night, attracting 4.4million viewers. The sitcom has been a strong performer in the ratings averaging around three million an episode – but this week's series finale was almost fifty per cent up on that, and seventy three per cent higher than what BBC2 normally gets in the 8.30pm Monday slot. Overall, the series averaged 3.2million viewers per episode, up more than a quarter on the two and a half million viewers of the first series.

Jimmy Doherty, the Suffolk farmer who has fronted a series of shows for the BBC, has been signed to an exclusive three-year deal by Channel Four.

Pamela Connolly has said that she was surprised by how far she managed to progress on this year's Strictly Come Dancing. Pamela and her partner James Jordan finished third on Saturday night's final of the dance competition. Connolly told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'Personally, I was utterly gobsmacked that I got anywhere near a chance at the trophy, having entered the competition as a chubby, unfit and exhausted psychotherapist in an age bracket that seemed to guarantee early elimination. At that time it was unimaginable that I would end up dancing in a final against two talented and super-athletic young people whose combined age was less than mine. Rather than having regrets at coming third, I think I agree with those who have kindly said they feel I did actually "win" in so many ways.' Just, not the actual one! She added: 'I believe James and I made it to the finals largely on merit, but there is always speculation about the social implications of any TV programme. Much has been made of the age difference between my fellow finalists and me, and that has apparently raised some questions from viewers about the outcome.' Connolly continued: 'Some even suggested that, as a Strictly sexagenarian, I may have represented the older woman's fantasy of fun, passion and apparent youthfulness, and that Kara [Tointon] and Artem [Chigvintsev] trumped that by embodying youth and first-flush romance. It is certainly true that Strictly has never been just about the dancing, but it would be wrong to suggest that they were not worthy winners, or to denigrate their performances - which were absolutely outstanding.'

Merlin actor Bradley James has claimed that the show 'butchered the Arthurian legend.' The actor told SciFiNow that the BBC drama should not be considered 'a definitive telling' of the Camelot myth. 'We're here to provide Saturday night escapism,' he explained. 'People should not take what we've done as a be-all and end-all of the legend, because it's really not the case.' He continued: 'It kind of changes the story because primarily [the show is] about. Merlin. You can chop up other characters' storylines, but as long as you're telling the story of Merlin, it's kind of okay.' He noted that the continued survival of Uther (Anthony Head) marked a large deviation from the original legend. 'We've changed so many aspects and really altered the story,' he claimed. 'Primarily, Uther still being around is a pretty big deal.' However, James insisted that he still enjoys playing Prince Arthur after three series in the role. 'It's still fun,' he said. 'I still tell people that I swing a sword around for a living. There's still many aspects of the role which, as a big kid, I very much enjoy.'

Lee Majors has admitted that he would like to star in an updated version of The Six Million Dollar Man. The actor originally played cyborg astronaut Steve Austin on the ABC drama from 1974 to 1978. Asked if he objected to a proposed remake, he told USA Today: 'Not at all, as long as I'm in it.' Majors revealed that he would be keen to star in a new series as Austin's mentor Oscar Goldman, the role played by Richard Anderson in the original. 'You know what, give me the Oscar Goldman part,' he said. 'Let me send the kid out on all those missions. That was a piece of cake for him!' NBC previously produced a remake of spin-off series The Bionic Woman in 2007, but the show was cancelled after just eight episodes. At the time, Majors criticised the show for being 'too dark and too edgy.' The original Six Million Dollar Man ended in 1978, but returned for three television movies between 1987 and 1994.

Artem Chigvintsev's ex-wife has claimed that he is 'obsessed with fame and money.' The dancer, now dating his Strictly Come Dancing partner Kara Tointon, met Giselle Peacock in Blackpool in 2003 and they married a year later. However, according to the Sun Peacock believes that Chigvintsev only got married so that he could get a green card to stay in America. She claims that the Russian dumped her as soon as he won a place on a television dance show in 2005. 'It was like it instantly went to his head,' she said. 'He disappeared out of my life.'

Summer Glau has revealed that she will play a physical role on NBC's upcoming drama The Cape. The actress told IGN that her character Orwell will face-off against Vince Faraday (David Lyons) in the series premiere. 'She's willing to throw down,' Glau explained. 'This girl has been on her own since she was twelve, so she's incredibly resourceful and she's not afraid of anything. She just makes her own rules.' She added: 'If you watch the next episode, you'll see more and more that she gets out of the lair and onto the scene.' The former Firefly star also confirmed that she had visited 'circus school' to prepare her for a story arc in which Orwell goes undercover at a carnival. 'I was only able to go twice,' she said. 'I thought I was going to hate it [but I had] the time of my life. It was really fun!' She continued: 'There are things that Orwell may have done in her life before [the show] and it's coming out very slowly, because we're on a mission and it's always do-or-die time. So that scene was a moment of reflection that I thought was really beautiful.'

James Corden has reportedly signed a seven-figure deal to write his autobiography. The Sun reports that the thirty two-year-old will release his book with publisher Random House. Although, like everything else he writes, it will probably be about as funny as a dose of piles.

ITV's This Morning has escaped a rebuke from Ofcom over presenter Ruth Langsford swearing while on air. During the programme on 27 October, Langford was heard saying: 'Hang on, we're not there yet, fuck.' The fifty-year-old, who presents the show on Fridays with husband, lardy Eamonn Holmes, was moving to another area of the studio when she tripped over a cable and uttered the expletive. Media regulator Ofcom received sixteen complaints from viewers, who considered the language to be 'unsuitable given the morning scheduling of the programme.' In response, ITV said that it regretted airing the offensive term and stressed that all presenters are made aware of the need to avoid such language in daytime shows. The broadcaster also said that Langford's expletive was 'completely unintentional, unforeseen and inadvertent.' She was off camera when the incident occurred and did not realise that the comment had been heard by viewers. The This Morning team checked whether the word had been broadcast, but confirmation was not received in time to have an on-air apology. However, Langford apologised on Twitter after the broadcast, writing: 'I'm really sorry for that slip this morning - I stubbed my toe and unfortunately my mic was still on. Thanks for understanding.' She also said sorry to viewers on-air at the start of the next day's show and the expletive was removed from the offending programme on catch-up platform ITV Player. In a statement yesterday, the media watchdog said: 'Ofcom recognised that the programme was broadcast live and noted the circumstances of the incident, the various apologies given by the presenter and the action taken to remove the offensive language from on-demand services. Ofcom therefore considers the matter resolved.'

Family Guy showrunner Seth MacFarlane has revealed that the FOX series may produce a series of special episodes spoofing the Star Trek films. The animated show's final Star Wars parody will air in May 2011 and was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. However, MacFarlane told TV Squad: 'These [episodes] are very tiring to do. It's like doing a movie at the same time you're doing a TV series. Particularly with animation, that's a lot of work. We'd like to take a break [before making any more parodies].' The writer also praised Lucasfilm for allowing them to poke fun at the Star Wars film series. 'Doing these movies wasn't something we had planned to do until we started dealing with Lucasfilm,' he explained. 'We found them to be enthusiastic and accommodating. We thought, "Well, if they're this cool, let's see if they'd mind if we just did the whole movie." They were totally game.'

Vince Cable told an undercover reporter he had 'declared war on Rupert Murdoch' and planned to block his efforts to take full control of BSkyB, according to the BBC's resident snitch Robert Peston. The business secretary's admission came in unpublished parts of a Daily Telegraph probe seen by the BBC. News Corporation said it was 'shocked and dismayed' by the comments. Well of course they are. Because, they thought - as, indeed, yer Keith Telly Topping did - that they had Cable comfortably in their pockets along with all of the rest of the current government. Labour called for Cable to be stripped of responsibility for the decision or even his seat in Cabinet. Which proves exactly why they're not in government any longer. Because they're arseholes. According to the transcript 'seen by the BBC's business editor,' Cable said: 'I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen, some of which you may haven't seen. And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win.' Oh, dear. You really shouldn't have said that, Vince. That's like the Daily Scum Mail's current belief that they can take on Simon Cowell and win, Murdoch, is simply going to go 'cock-a-doodle-doo' all over your head for such insolence. He's gonna wait for you in the tall grass, mister and then, when you least expect it, like a ravenous tiger, he'll have ya. Cable ordered Ofcom to investigate the proposal over concerns about press freedom and consumer choice - but he will have the final say and has stressed the need to be politically impartial. The Shadow Business Secretary, John Denham (no, me neither) told the BBC it was difficult to see how David Cameron and Nick Clegg can continue to have confidence in him. Well, I've no doubt neither do. But, as he said the other day, if he leaves the cabinet then, his first decision is likely to be to trigger a leadership election with Nick Clegg within the Liberal Democrat. One which he will almost certainly win. At which point ... well, your guess is as good as mine. So, one imagines, they're sticking to the 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer' dictum at the moment. A spokesman for Murdoch said: 'News Corporation are shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable's comments. They raise serious questions about fairness and due process.' Followed by 'Boo-hoo! It's not fair! Nyyyyer!' Or something. In the transcript, Cable tells the undercover reporter: 'Well I did not politicise it, because it is a legal question. But [Murdoch] is trying to take over BSkyB - you probably know that.' The reporter said: 'I always thought that he had BSkyB with Sky anyway?' Cable answered: 'No, he has minority shares and he wants a majority - and a majority control would give them a massive stake. I have blocked it using the powers that I have got and they are legal powers that I have got. I can't politicise it but from the people that know what is happening this is a big, big thing. His whole empire is now under attack. So there are things like that we do in government. All we can do in opposition is protest.' Robert Peston said that the transcript had been passed to him by a whistleblower who was upset that the Daily Telegraph had not published it in full. In extracts already published by the newspaper, Cable revealed his concerns about the coalition to reporters posing as constituents. Peston said the Telegraph had chosen not to publish the 'most explosive' part of the investigation, he believed, relating to the BSkyB takeover, but a spokesman for the newspaper said: 'We have made clear both in the paper today and in interviews that we will be publishing further comments in the forthcoming days.' Ofcom must decide by 31 December whether to refer the bid to the Competition Commission - but the final decision on blocking it will rest with Cable, who as business secretary has a quasi-judicial role in the process. Writing in his blog, Peston said: 'The Telegraph has been a leading opponent of News Corporation's attempt to acquire the whole of BSkyB.' As, indeed, has the BBC so I imagine Peston himself isn't, exactly, flavour of the month up on the sixth floor of Television Centre near the DG's office. 'In October, the Telegraph's chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, signed a letter - along with senior executives of the BBC, Channel Four, the Daily Mail and Trinity Mirror - asking Mr Cable to consider blocking the takeover. The disclosure of Mr Cable's private views on Mr Murdoch and the proposed takeover of BSkyB makes it extremely difficult for him to fulfil his role as the ultimate arbiter of whether the deal should proceed under the 2002 Enterprise Act.' Yeah, thanks for that info, snitchy. Top bit of Copper's Narking there from the Prestonator. School sneak, was it? 'News Corporation is bound to challenge his impartiality.' Media commentator Steve Hewlett said that Cable's words could have fatally undermined his position in government. 'You cannot really be a minister and behave like that,' he told the BBC News channel. But Lib Dem peer Lord Razzell said that Cable was simply using a 'rather hyperbolic' and 'boastful' way of describing the referral of the takeover to Ofcom and it did not mean he should be sacked. Within hours came the announcement that he would not be, but that he would be stripped of his powers to rule on Murdoch's bid to take control of BSkyB, which would be handed to the lack of culture secretary, the vile Jeremy Hunt. Downing Street said that David Cameron believed Cable's comments about Murdoch were 'totally unacceptable and inappropriate.' Yes, there speaks a Tory, ladies and gentlemen. The BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson said the Downing Street's statement was 'a humiliating slap in the face' for Cable and, although he had kept his job, he was still 'in a very awkward' position, with questions over his judgement after telling 'complete strangers' highly sensitive political information. Meanwhile the likelihood of Murdoch getting just exactly what he wants has just taken a massive step forward. Great. Remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard this news, ladies and gentlemen. The concept of a free British media just died today. The body will be cremated and the ashes flown, first class, to the US where they'll be having a party at FOX HQ.

Julien Temple has paid tribute to The Kinks and their frontman Ray Davies. The director confirmed to the Gruniad that he has finally completed his film about Davies for the BBC just in time for its broadcast as part of the Imagine strand on Tuesday night. Temple said: 'The Kinks are the ultimate underdog band. Songs like 'Waterloo Sunset' exist in the atmosphere, surrounding us, defining who we are. And Davies, the principal songwriter, remains ludicrously undervalued.' Which is you might remember, pretty much, what yer Keith Telly Topping said the other day. Only, Julien was a bit more articulate about it! 'As a Kinks obsessive, I thought I knew all there was to know about him. Yet as we did the interviews, I began to realise how conflicted his relationship with both himself and his own success remains; how fragile the line between him having a good or a bad day has always been. His documentary approach to lyrics might seem to be a distancing device, exploring other people's lives rather than his own - but it became clear that it's therapy. The songs' characters function almost as friends, providing ways of analysing aspects of himself.' He added: 'I used to bunk off school to watch the band drink on a bench outside the Flask pub in Highgate. One day I saw Davies walking along Hampstead High Street with tears streaming down his face. I knew then that this was a pop star unlike any other.'

Veteran broadcaster Barry Norman is to return to the BBC next month to present two cinema history programmes on Radio 4. The former BBC Film host, who quit the corporation in 1998 after twenty six years to work for Sky, will present the shows as part of Radio 4's fortnight-long film season. Norman will host Archive On 4's Going To The Flicks on 15 and 22 January, celebrating a centenary of cinema-going since the establishment of the first Hollywood film studio. The programmes will examine how people often remember the experience of visiting the cinema more strongly than the films they actually saw. They will also explore Saturday morning children's screenings and failed novelty attractions, such as aromatic movie screenings.

A theatre in Chicago has this year staged a Klingon version of Charles Dickens's classic seasonal tale A Christmas Carol. The play is entirely spoken in Klingon language th'Ingan Hol, with English subtitles. Its poster reportedly reads: 'Scrooge has no honour, nor any courage.' After three years of performances in St Paul, Minnesota, the play has been shown at the Greenhouse Theater on Chicago's Lincoln Park. The production, penned by Christopher O Kidder and Sasha Walloch, is set on the Klingon planet of Kronos during The Feast of the Long Night and tells the story of S'Quka (Scrooge), who is visited by three Klingon ghosts. Kidder told the Wall Street Journal: 'It's like an opera. You know what's happening because you already know the story... the more we thought about it, the more it made sense.'

The lengthy delays to air travel caused by arctic weather at Heathrow Airport over the weekend have been 'frustrating,' according to Prime Minister David Cameron. Not half as frustrating for you as for those sitting in the dperture lounge at terminal five for three days, pal.

And finally, as listeners to yer Keith Telly Topping's Two Top TV Tips on BBC Newcastle will know, Wednesday 22 December seems the one thousandth episode of our little slot. Who'd've thought, four years ago when Scunthorpe Steve created the idea of doing a daily TV slot rather than a weekly one that we'd make it this far? Well, me, if truth be told! So, anyway, by way of somewhat pointless celebration of a meaningless milestone, today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day have something of a millennia air to them. In the words of the American novellist Anthony Doerr, 'a thousand choices were implicit in a single moment.'Right, now that's out of the way, yer Keith Telly Topping is off to watch Anne of a Thousand Days. Which seems fitting, somehow. See you all at the start of the next millennium. Which'll be Thursday.