Sunday, January 09, 2011

Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Some Day

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping may have mentioned during the dying days of last December just how much he enjoyed the majority of Sky's Little Crackers series. In fact, he did. To the point of being almost evangelical about a couple of them. In particular, I have to say I was utterly blown-away by Kathy Burke's wonderfully evocative homage of all things 1980, Better Than Christmas. As Kath and her friend Mary celebrate their freedom after their last day at school, they're stopped in their tracks by an almost unbelievable vision. There, in front of them, are The Clash. Whilst an awestruck Kathy clutches her now-autographed NME, her hero, Joe Strummer, offers her some life-changing advice. It was lovely. Well, it would seem that I'm not alone in this appreciation. Which is great. And if you haven't seen it yet, dear blog reader, trust me You Tube would seem to be your obvious next port of call. Now! Nice naturalistic performances by the two girls playing teenage Kath and Mary. The latter, Aimee-Ffion Edwards you might know from Skins (and a cameo in Being Human) whilst the former, Ami Metcalf, has already demonstrated she's got a big future ahead of her with an award-winning run on the BBC's Doctors. And, there's a terrific interview with Kath herself about the making of the episode here. Respect.

Right, that's my public service announcement (with guitars) for the whole year done and, indeed, dusted. Back to basics, now. Both Hawaii Five-0 and CSI returned from their Christmas breaks in the US this last week. The former with another episode in the on-going back-story arc about the murder of Mrs McGarrett (snr), who-dunnit and why they did dunnit. It wasn't bad, actually and - neatly - it didn't tie up all the loose ends before episode ended suggesting that it'll be a while yet before we find out what Wo Fat is up to. On the other hand, CSI's returning episode - Man Up - was mainly concerned with a rather soulless story of a silly Vegas prank gone too far. Although it did give Nicky and Greg a chance to work together for once. The fact that Jorja Fox was missing entirely and Laurence Fishburne only cropped up in two scenes, suggests this one was turned out quickly as something of a gap-filler. But ... the b-story, amazingly, was a lovely little piece giving about Hodges' vintage motorbike turning out to be a fake. It gave Wallace Langham his first big episode of the season and including a lively cameo by the great Amy Acker. For an episode that didn't seem very promising to start off with, it ended rather touchingly.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate are to appear together on stage in a new West End production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The actors will portray the reluctant lovers and constant sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick in the comedy. It will be Tate and Tennant's first appearance together since starring in Doctor Who. The play, directed by Josie Rourke, will open at Wyndham's Theatre on 1 June and run until 3 September. Producers said further casting would be announced shortly. Tennant is no stranger to the Bard's works, having worked extensively for the Royal Shakespeare Company with appearances in As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He most recently appeared in Love Labour's Lost and Hamlet in 2008 and his portrayal of the tragic Prince of Denmark saw him win the Critics' Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance of the Year. Tate is currently appearing in Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings at the National Theatre and was last in the West End in David Eldridge's Under the Blue Sky. She is also currently seen on the big screen in Jack Black film Gulliver's Travels.

Primeval underperformed for ITV on Saturday night for the third episode running, according to overnight audience data. The SF drama, axed last year before being revived only months later as part of a major co-production deal, pulled in just 3.74m in the 7pm hour, nearly half a million viewers down of last week's opening two episodes. It was a horroshow of a evening all round for ITV on Saturday which has had a very poor start to the new year - the audiences for its big-hitting soaps aside. A compilation edition of Harry Hill's TV Burp was watched by 3.96m at 6.30pm, Paddy McGuinness' crass dating game show Take Me Out got even less, 3.86m, at 8pm, and a mere 1.87m caught the repeat of Cheryl Cole's appearance on Life Stories. By contrast over on BBC1, they were having a decent - if unspectacular - night. 5.18m watched Total Wipeout at 6pm, then The Magicians took 5.4m. The National Lottery: In It To Win It and Casualty followed with identical audiences of 6.09m. Despite being critically savaged last week, The Magicians held up rather well - only 0.2m down from its first episode. Viewers appear rather more forgiving of Lenny Henry's lack of ability to say anything even remotely funny these days than the critics were. Or, indeed, are. But, overall, it was a very good set of ratings all night for BBC1 with all of their new shows around the twenty five per cent audience share. ITV's night, by contrast, was an unmitigated disaster, those are the sorts of ratings that one usually sees in the June, not in January.

With its lurid tales of petty crime, sexual deviance and a local pub that sells ecstasy over the counter, Shameless is among the cult hits of modern British television. But before the Channel Four drama begins what is, for the broadcaster, an unprecedented eighth run tomorrow, the question of whether an American audience can make sense of this peculiarly British show will be answered with Sunday night's debut of the US remake – also called Shameless – on the cable channel Showtime. Developed under the guidance of Paul Abbott, who created the original based on his own upbringing in Manchester, the remarkably faithful new version transplants the action to a downtrodden Chicago suburb, but changes little else. Eldest sister Fiona still acts as mother to her siblings, brother Lip still trades homework sessions for sexual favours, Ian is still engaged in a gay relationship with his married employer and little sister Debbie still enacts charity scams to pay the family bills. William H Macy takes the lead as the alcoholic patriarch Frank Gallagher, the role made famous in Britain by David Threlfall. The invasion of the British formats is fast becoming one of the great TV traditions of our age. Reality shows such as Dancing With The Stars and American Idol have their roots in their British counterparts, and it was the soaraway success of The Office that encouraged US networks to take the risk on remaking more expensive drama and comedy formats. This year will also see US versions of the teen drama Skins and the supernatural comedy drama Being Human, and the cross-pollination does not end there. Shameless will debut alongside Episodes, a co-production between Showtime and the BBC starring Matt LeBlanc and Tamsin Greig. The fourth series of the hit Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood will be a three-way production between BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide and the US channel Starz, and will take the action global. Still, Shameless remains something of a special case. As a premium-cable channel, Showtime can take more risks than a mainstream network, and has already successfully adapted another controversial Manchester drama, Russell Davies' Queer As Folk. Macy believes that the timing is critical. 'It is to a certain extent groundbreaking material, and I can understand the networks would have some trepidation about doing something like this,' he told the Los Angeles Times. 'But this seems perfect now with the economic meltdown. It seems completely timely. And it's not, by any stretch of the imagination, traditional television.' Early reviews suggest producers have got it right – for the most part. Previewing the pilot episode in the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley concluded that the remake was only able to be as faithful as convention allowed. 'One reason British scripts stand out is that they are brutally candid and callous about sex, race and class,' she wrote. 'American television is more squeamish about stereotypes – the Chicago Gallaghers are blind to prejudice as opposed to inured, and the Showtime version, while raunchy and impious even by premium-cable standards, is still less cruel than the original.' It has become a January tradition for TV critics to bemoan that the UK's Shameless has become tired, but audience figures remain high and for Channel Four it remains a priority, screening every night next week. A successful Stateside reboot would give the show another shot in the arm.

Gwyneth Paltrow will reprise her role as Hollie Holiday on Glee for two episodes later this season, according to reports. Hooray. It was claimed late last year that series creator Ryan Murphy was keen for Paltrow to return to the series, following the success of her first appearance in the episode The Substitute. 'Gwyneth is coming back for two episodes,' Murphy confirmed via Entertainment Weekly. 'She's coming back specifically to date Will [Matthew Morrison]! Those two have become really good friends in real life and have really good chemistry,' he added. Murphy also confirmed that Broadway actress and former West Wing and Pushing Daisies star Kristin Chenoweth will reprise her role as April Rhodes for a number of episodes towards the end of the current season.

The BBC's Director General Mark Thompson has spoken out about the recent controversy surrounding the baby swap storyline on EastEnders. The plot has attracted a record number of complaints after Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) switched her dead son with Kat Moon's (Jessie Wallace) healthy newborn child. Speaking to the Daily Scum Mail, Thompson said: 'We are aware that in this instance there has been a strong reaction to this aspect of the storyline. We have listened to the audience and that will influence how the story plays out. While the audience expects challenging and engrossing storylines, we take very careful advice when dealing with real-life issues such as this one. I want to be clear the show is absolutely not ­suggesting that this behaviour is typical of a mother who has suffered the loss of a child through Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.' He added that the character's decision was 'one moment of madness that had been provoked by a series of events that have befallen the character over the past eighteen months.' Well the hell he felt the need to justify himself or the product to the goose-stepping feckless thugs at the Scum Mail or any of the disgraceful pond scum that read it in the first place is a question only he can answer.

Nick Lachey will reportedly guest star in an upcoming episode of CBS drama series Hawaii Five-0. According to People, the former boyband singer will appear in the series alongside his new fiancée Vanessa Minnillo. True Beauty host Minnillo will play a character called Susan, who works on a cruise ship, while Lachey will play her husband Tyler. The couple met while working together on Lachey's music video for 'What's Left of Me', after which they began dating, before announcing their engagement in late 2010.

Chloe Madeley has claimed that people often think she is 'a spoilt brat.' Err ... yeah, that sounds about right.

Truly earth-shattering news now. It would seem that Mel B has fallen out with fellow Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. Oh, no! Can nothing be done to repair this? The pair apparently haven't spoken for months after Beckham 'couldn't accommodate' Mel's request to wear her designer dresses in reality show It's A Scary World, the Sunday Mirror reports. How beastly of her. A 'source' allegedly told the tabloid: 'Victoria would have lent her outfits if she could have done but she just didn't have anything. The samples were not the right size for Mel's curves and the sizes she needed were not in stock.' Loaned, dear, not lent. 'Lent' is the kind of thing you'd hear coming from the pure dead common mouth of some slapper from a Leeds Council Est ... oh. 'Mel seemed to take offence that she didn't pull strings and she was fuming. The trouble is even if Victoria had sent her dresses the likelihood is she wouldn't have got them back. That's what Mel is known for. Although that thought didn't even come into the equation, Victoria got it in the neck from her. They've not spoken for months. Mel was clearly very angry. She explodes and goes mental and takes a while for her anger to simmer down. Posh is not too worried - it's Mel who's holding a grudge.'

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband has pitched some TV programme ideas to the BBC, it has emerged. Milimolimandiband, a long-time favourite to become Labour leader, returned to the backbenches after narrowly losing the contest to his younger brother, Ed. Miliband the Younger had said that the door is open for his big brother to return to Labour's front bench if he wishes, but David says he has no plans to do so 'at the moment.' Miliband the Elder's spokesman said he was 'talking to a range of organisations' about his interests in foreign affairs. Miliband was foreign secretary under the previous Labour government and the favourite to take over from Gordon Brown, who stepped down after Labour lost power in the general erection. But although he won a higher percentage of votes from Labour MPs, MEPs and party members in Labour's leadership contest in September - his brother's success with trade union members and affiliated societies pushed him, narrowly, into first place. David then took the hump and decided against standing for elections to his brother's shadow cabinet and there has been much speculation about his future plans. And about who stole whose Action Man in 1984. Last month Miliband rejected rumours that he might become the UK ambassador to Washington when Sir Nigel Sheinwald retires, writing on the micro-blogging site Twitter: 'Seen the UK ambassador to US rumours. I am not in for it and wouldn't take it.' He also told his local paper, the Journal, he had 'no plans to return to front line politics - at the moment, that is.' On Sunday the Observer reported that he was considering a role in television and compared it with former Tory leadership hopeful Michael Portillo's move into documentaries after leaving the Commons. It said that Miliband intended to remain MP for South Shields. The BBC said that they had been approached 'with some programme ideas. The BBC receives suggestions from a wide variety of sources and these will be considered in the same way as any others,' it said, adding 'no substantive discussions' had taken place. A spokesman for Miliband said: 'David is talking to a range of organisations about his interest in foreign and environmental policy.'

Sarah Palin's Alaska has reportedly been axed after just one season. Entertainment Weekly states that the Mark Burnett-produced show, which follows the former vice presidential candidate's adventures in her home state, will not be returning to TLC following this week's finale. Insiders have noted that the decision serves as the strongest indicator yet that Palin is planning on running for office in 2012, as a second series would land the network with the unfeasible task of dedicating an equal amount of airtime to her fellow candidates.

The Liverpool defender Glen Johnson has launched an outspoken attack on Paul Merson after the former Arsenal midfielder criticised Johnson's attitude this season. Merson, a pundit on Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday programme - who, mostly, talks utter bollocks (although, he's not alone there - Christ, have you heard Phil Thompson lately?) was discussing the departure of Liverpool's manager Roy Hodgson when he called Johnson's performances into question. The right-back was obviously watching the programme. And he chose to respond via his Twitter page. 'Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not really gonna upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players, he was average at the best of times,' Johnson wrote. 'The only reason he's on that show is coz he gambled all his money away. The clown!' Burn. A number of people seemingly complained that Johnson had brought up Merson's former - much publicised - drug problems from which Merson has been in recovery for some time - and the comments were soon deleted.

And, finally, here's today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Twenty-four carat pop classic.'Back in my room, I wonder then I/Sit on my bed and look at the sky/Up in the sky, clouds rearrange/Like the Talk of the Town.' Ah, Chrissie. I'd've run head-first into a withering hail of gunfire for you once upon a time. And, to be perfectly honest, if you asked really nicely, I probably would still! And, sweet James Honeyman-Scott's guitars. What a loss to the world.