Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week Six: Silence In Your Eyes

Excellent episode of Hustle on Friday night yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought if you missed it, dear blog reader. Particularly a dryly sinister little turn by the great Denis Lawson. This week has also seen the beginning of Bones' so-called 'sniper-arc' storyline with one of the best episodes the series has done in some considerable time, The Bullet in the Brain. Directed by old David Boreanaz his very self, this featured the welcome return of Ryan O'Neill and a highly effective performance by John Francis Daley as one part of the plot focused on a real crisis of confidence for Sweets. The week's House episode - Carrot and Stick - also had a couple of intriguing little subplots; House trying to help Cuddy's daughter Rachel get into a prestigious preschool by, basically, cheating and Chase facing some personal troubles after a less-than-appropriate photo of him is posted on a social networking website. Meanwhile, Lie To Me had its biggest audience for an episode of the current series (in fact, its highest since early in season two) in a story about a dysfunctional family's reactions to the kidnap of their youngest member. And, speaking a high ratings, the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0 was watched by the show's highest audience to date, over nineteen million. Just in time for its UK debut next week (see below). Decent - albeit, logically insane - episode as well.

The BBC is to make an official protest to the Egyptian authorities after one of its journalists was assaulted by police in Cairo on Friday. Assad Sawey, the BBC's Cairo correspondent, was said to 'deliberately assaulted' by police while reporting on a baton charge during the street protests. When surrounded by men who appeared to be plain clothes security men, he identified himself as a BBC journalist. He was then repeatedly hit, taking blows to the head. He reported that they beat him with steel bars, 'the ones used here for slaughtering animals.' His camera was confiscated and he was arrested. After being released without charge, he received medical attention for a head wound, and then continued reporting. The BBC's global news director Peter Horrocks said: 'The BBC condemns this assault on one of our correspondents by the authorities. We shall be forcefully protesting this brutal action directly to the Egyptian authorities. It is vital that all journalists, whether from the BBC or elsewhere, are allowed to do their job of bringing accurate, impartial eye witness reports to audiences around the world without fear.'

Which brings us nicely to yer next actual batch of Top Telly Tips.
Friday 4 February
Tonight see the beginning of this year's Six Nations Rugby Union - 7:30 BBC1 - and John Inverdale introduces coverage of the opening match of the championship, as Wales meet England at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, isn't it? England's last success on this ground came eight years ago, when current coach Martin Johnson captained the team to a crushing 43-9 victory. Since then, Wales have won three games in a row in Cardiff between the nations, including two years ago when Stephen Jones kicked fifteen points in a 23-15 triumph. With commentary by Eddie Butler and Brian Moore, and analysis by Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies.

The Lock Up - 8:30 BBC3 - is a new documentary series following the work of officers in the custody suite of a police station in Hull, East Yorkshire, meeting some of the two thousand young offenders they deal with annually. In the first episode, Sgt Jane Biglin - acting turn-key - encounters a selection of regular clients, including a prostitute who finds refuge in the cells and a heroin-addicted thief. Just an everyday story of simple folk, then.

Welcome to Romford - 7:30 Channel 4 - is Simon Smith's documentary which provides an insight into the inner-workings of a Romford minicab firm. Because, of course, we never see any examples of fly on the wall documentaries comes from Essex, do we? However, this one looks a bit different, at least. Using a split-screen technique, the film shows the drivers' reactions toward the passengers they pick up on a Friday night, including a man found lying in the middle of the road in a pool of his own vomit and a couple who have just met on the Internet. Part of the First Cut strand.

Saturday 5 February
It doesn't seem like five minutes since the last series of Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:00 ITV - ended. But, already, it's back of a new run. In which, as usual, the big-collared comedian looks back at the week's small-screen highlights, subjecting the latest soaps, reality shows and documentaries to his unique brand of scrutiny.

Author Sebastian Faulks examines the British novel and how it shaped the national identity through some of its best-known characters in Faulks on Fiction - 9:00 BBC2. In the first episode, he looks at heroes and how the idea of heroism in books has evolved in the past three hundred years, from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to Martin Amis's John Self. Featuring contributions from Simon Armitage, Brian Keenan, Boris Johnson and Ruth Rendell.

In the latest episode of The Million Pound Drop Live - 8:50 Channel Four - Davina McCall takes a bit of time out from disgracefully patronising fatties on The Biggest Loser, and presents the quiz show in which contestants can win a million pounds - all they have to do is hold onto it until the end of the programme. They are challenged to place large quantities of the cash over trapdoors and face a series of questions, the wrong answers to which will lose them money every time they slip up. For 'entertainment' allegedly, dear blog reader.

Sunday 6 February
Sunday is rapidly turning into a best telly night of the week: The People's Supermarket - 8:00 Channel Four - is a new series starting tonight in which restaurant owner Arthur Potts Dawson tries to create a new type of supermarket. One in which members of the public choose what goes on the shelves, work in the premises and own the store itself. In the first episode, he tries to put his idea into action, but fears that one of the established names will compete to secure the lease of the central London building he has identified as an ideal location.

Also new is The Promise - 9:00 Channel Four. This is a drama which follows the parallel stories of an eighteen-year-old Londoner on a visit to present-day Israel and her grandfather, a soldier in the British peace-keeping force in 1940s Palestine. Erin sets off to spend the summer with a Jewish friend, and takes her grandfather Len's diary with her to learn more about his life. Intrigued by his tale, which begins in the final days of the Second World War, she retraces his steps in a bid to fulfil a promise he made more than sixty years previously. Starring Claire Foy, Christian Cooke and Holly Aird.

Meanwhile, good old reliable Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - will be upsetting those looking to be upset in the first place for another hour of peerless comedy. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May visit Albania to test three luxurious vehicles - the Rolls-Royce Ghost, Bentley Mulsanne and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. For a laugh. Jezza also drives three high-performance hatchbacks in the form of the limited-edition Ford Focus RS500, Prodrive-developed Cosworth Impreza STi CS400 and one-off Volvo C30 PPC. Jonathan Ross is the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car. Again.

Currently the best drama series on the box, by a distance, tonight's episode of Being Human - 9:00 BBC3 - sees Annie followed home by a drunk girl while out on her regular midnight walk, but the housemates soon realise Sasha is no ordinary human being. In this series, that's kind of a given. She's actually a zombie but is in denial about her condition. Amusing, she also starts flirting with Mitchell, but he is too preoccupied with his suspicion that his ghost friend fancies him. Which, of course, she does, that's been building since the middle of series two. You'd think a perceptive hundred and fifty year old chap like Mitchell would've sussed that by now. Meanwhile, the vampire also attracts the attention of a super-fan, who starts to show signs of being a stalker. Mad as toast and, as not, comfortably, the most interesting, well written and beautifully acted piece of drama being shown on British TV. Telefantasy or otherwise.

Four months after yer actual Keith Telly Topping started banging on about what a great little series it was, the remake of Hawaii Five-O finally arrives in the UK - 9:00 Sky1. Opposite Being Human. Nice timing, guys. However, it is repeated on Tuesday so, if you miss it, don't worry. This is, of course, a remake of the popular US crime drama on the 1970s, starring Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. When former Navy Seal Steve McGarret returns to his native Hawaii to investigate his father's murder, the island's governor enlists him to lead an elite branch of the state's police force, pairing him with a reluctant New Jersey detective Danny Williams. Whenever you're remaking a classic TV show, either as remake or as a movie, there is one golden rule you should always follow, unless you're doing a complete Battlestar Galactica style 'reimagining.' Remind yourself of all of the things that made the original so memorable and then, for God's sake, do not, do not, do not mess with them. Say the words 'Hawaii', 'Five' and 'Oh' to most people over a certain age and they will remember three things about the long-running Jack Lord series, apart from the locations and memorable characters. Great theme tune, stunning title sequence and one iconic catchphrase ('book 'em, Danno'). I'm delighted to report that all three are present and correct in the remake (though the latter is usually sent up something rotten). It's fast, it's slick and it's well worth watching, a few bits of hilarious over-the-top mom's apple pieisms aside. Oh, and James Marsters is the guest villain in the opening episode. Sold.

Monday 7 February
It's something of good week for drama new to British telly. Outcasts - 9:00 BBC1 - is a major new futuristic series about a diverse group of individuals led by President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) forging a new beginning for mankind on another planet. But, of course, the pioneers struggle to escape the human pitfalls of love, greed, lust and loss. So, basically, it's Coronation Street on Mars. The arrival of the last known transporter from Earth signals fresh hope for the residents of Carpathia, and loyalties are tested as the head of Forthaven's expeditionaries tries to break away from the settlement. A superb cast includes Hermione Norris from [spooks], Daniel Mays from Ashes to Ashes, Law & Order: UK's Jamie Bamber and Jessica Haines. Looks great.

The opening episode of Royal Navy Caribbean Patrol - 9:00 Channel Five - is called Bad Guys Dead Ahead. Which, frankly, is reason enough to watch the thing in and of itself. This is, as you might have guessed, a documentary following HMS Manchester on her final deployment - a seven-month tour of duty hunting drug smugglers in the Caribbean. Tough job, nice climate. The Royal Navy destroyer responds to intelligence sent from undercover agents, but finding the suspect vessels proves a difficult task, until the crew's luck changes dramatically just off the volcanic island of Montserrat.

In tonight's episode of Glee - 9:00 E4 - Will decides to have the glee club perform The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the annual school musical after learning of Emma's new-found love for the cult classic. But, he has to put up with Sue's usual scheming along the way. Meanwhile, Finn worries about his body during rehearsals. Meat Loaf and Barry Bostwick make guest appearances.

Tuesday 8 February
Lion Country - 8:00 ITV - returns for a new series. Zulu and his pride move one step closer to release when they are sedated and rehomed, but the operation is potentially dangerous for conservationist David Youldon and the team because the lions could have an adverse reaction to the drugs at any time. The stakes are then raised when the males start to wake up during the journey.

Having been parodied to the point of ludicrousness by Come Fly With Me, you'd've thought TV documentary filmmakers would have given airports a miss for a while. Sadly not, it would appear. Stansted: The Inside Story - 8:00 Channel Five - is a documentary highlighting the work of baggage handlers, rangers and air operations teams who help to maintain order and efficiency behind the scenes at UK airports. Staff at Stansted Airport in Essex struggle to cope with the face of extreme wintry conditions, check-in employees deal with disgruntled customers, and a sick baby gives airport police cause for concern.

The Chinese Are Coming - 9:00 BBC2 - is the first of a two-part documentary in which Justin Rowlatt travels across three continents to investigate the spread of China's influence around the world, examining the validity of claims that the country might soon overtake America as the world's economic superpower. He begins by revealing how some Chinese entrepreneurs see Africa as a place of near-limitless business opportunities, setting up enterprises from Angola to Tanzania.

Wednesday 9 February
Coast's Neil Oliver and his lovely hair returns to our screens in the first of the four-part series A History of Ancient Britain - 9:00 BBC2. In this, Neil (and his lovely hair) explores how Britain and its people came to be, a story forged over thousands of years looking, specifically at the last ice age. Which might seem like ancient history to some but, given the cold snaps we've had to put up with the last three winters, it might be worth watching to see if you can pick up some useful tips for the next we get snowed in and the country grinds to a standstill. In South Wales, he joins a team of archaeologists to examine eight thousand-year-old footprints revealed beneath tidal mud banks, and in West Wales he abseils into a cave dating back thirty three thousand years. The historian also reveals how, as the last ice age receded some eleven thousand years ago, Britain became an island, a fate that was sealed following a cataclysmic tsunami around six thousand BC.

Madagascar - 8:00 BBC2 - sees David Attenborough narrating the story of the island in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa, an ecosystem that has stood in isolation for millions of years, and produced an array of wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. He begins by observing lemurs in their habitat, male red giraffe-necked weevils fighting each other, the courting rituals of chameleons, and the antics of spiders and fossas.

Tonight sees the latest episode of Waterloo Road - or, as it shall henceforth be known award-winning Waterloo Road - 8:00 BBC1. A year ten pupil is convinced that her mother is trying to steal her newborn daughter from her, so Janeece becomes involved - with dramatic consequences. Grantly's colleagues are concerned about his wellbeing and decide he needs more assistance at home, and an attraction develops between Jonah and Francesca during their one-to-one Spanish lessons. Drama, starring Chelsee Healey, Nadine Mulkerrin and Philip Martin Brown.

Thursday 10 February
Yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved The Culture Show returns - 7:00 BBC2 - bringing a bit of yer actual proper culutre to the brain-dead crushed victims of X-Factor to enhance their miserable and worthless lives with a smidgen of grace and class. Or something. Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon takes a tour of Westminster Abbey, which is currently undergoing restoration in preparation for this year's royal wedding. Alain de Botton delivers his philosophy on contemporary romance in the run-up to Valentine's Day and Miranda Sawyer meets Polly Harvey to discuss her new CD Let England Shake. Plus, Alastair Sooke talks to Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling about his latest exhibition at Tate St Ives.

There's also a new series of The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best - 8:00 BBC2. Wor Si King and Davey Myers celebrate comfort food as they travel around West Yorkshire and Lancashire. To yer actual Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, all food is comfort food. They sample a meat and potato pie made from a family recipe, a ginger sponge and custard prepared by a mother and daughter, and a curry recipe taken from a homemade cookbook. The pair also create their own comforting meals, including oxtail stew and creamy tomato soup with rouille.

Much trailed and much anticipated for everybody who was a fan of State of Play, Life on Mars, Hustle and, err, Survivors, there Mad Dogs - 9:00 Sky1. This is a four-part psychological thriller, starring Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren. Okay, I'm watching it. I don't care what it's about or anything, with that cast, it's got to have something to recommend it. Woody (Beesley), Quinn (Glenister), Baxter (Simm) and Rick (Warren) have been friends since sixth form. The fifth member of their gang is Alvo (played by Ben Chaplin), a risk-taking opportunist who, having made his fortune in property, leads a luxurious lifestyle in Majorca. Now in their forties, they've all taken different paths in life with varying degrees of success and have somewhat drifted apart. When Alvo flies them to his extravagant villa to celebrate his early retirement, they enjoy a trip down memory lane. However, all does not go to plan and they find themselves entangled in a web of deception and murder involving beautiful police women, large yachts, Speedos and a rather short assassin in a Tony Blair mask.

And so to the news: The BBC Red Button video service has launched on Freesat, bringing a range of video content to the platform. BBC Red Button was part of the Freesat launch in 2008, but the service lacked the video and rich media available on Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview. From Friday, Freesat viewers using both broadcast and IP-connected set top boxes will be able to enjoy video content via the Red Button, as well as access the Sport Multiscreen service that accompanied the initial launch. The move brings Freesat viewers a wide range of the BBC's video-based content, starting with the new Being Human spin-off, Becoming Human, on 30 January. There will also be exclusive content from new BBC Two comedy Episodes. Writing on the BBC Internet Blog, BBC Red Button service delivery manager Ronald Bullen said: 'We are aware that still not all services offered on our legacy platforms are available on Freesat; however, this is an exciting development for the BBC Red Button team and one we hope to build on in the future.' Last November, the BBC Trust called on the corporation to reduce the cost of running BBC Red Button and improve audience appreciation of the interactive TV service.

The executive producers of Lie To Me have claimed that viewers will not be disappointed by the third season finale. Alex Cary told TV Line that the events of next week's episode will 'make the fans only more hungry for a season four. This episode goes right to the heart [of] Lightman and Foster,' he said. 'We make absolutely clear the emotional involvement between these two and how strong that bond is. That's what the episode is about.' Fellow showrunner David Graziano also insisted that he and Cary are keen to avoid any speculation surrounding the show's future. 'You can't look over your shoulder like that,' he said. 'You can only keep your head down and do the work.' Cary added: 'We work on a great show, and we've learned how to run a show. If this one doesn't go [on], we'll do something else which will be as good, if not better.' However, Graziano admitted that a recent rise in the show's ratings have been 'like oxygen. FOX has been very clear with us,' agreed Cary. 'They know what the show is [and] they know what it can do. [The ratings bump] shows that people will come watch the show.'

The BBC has revealed details of a new talent format hosted by comedian Jason Byrne. The programme - titled Epic Win - will see 'Britain's funniest, weirdest, most amazing and unique talents' face the panel of judges including ex-EastEnders actor Joe Swash, who will sit alongside comedians Roisin Conaty and Micky Flanagan. Each judge will award the hopefuls a 'performance fee' of a cash amount between nothing and three thousand pounds - depending on how they rate their respective acts. Teasing the show while offering audience tickets, the broadcaster added: 'Epic Win shines a light on Britain's most eccentric characters and awards them money for the things they can do that nobody else can. You will be amazed.' So, it's a freak show in orther words. The programme will begin recording at BBC Television Centre on 8 February. Further details relating to the channel and date the show will be broadcast on were not confirmed.

Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights was the most complained-about programme on Channel Four last month, the broadcaster has revealed to no great surprise from anyone. The series – which was heavily criticised in the tabloid press for jokes about Katie Price’s disabled son, among others – attracted six hundred and eighty nine complaints. Which, given the wax that was exploding in the ears of the Daily Scum Mail, for instance, is actually a surprisingly small number. Typical was the viewer who said: 'I was offended by this programme. The commentary and sketches seemed to want to shock rather than provide entertainment. Very disappointing as I am normally a huge fan of this comedian.' Tragically, yer Keith Telly Topping agrees with every single word of that assessment. Another seven hundred and thirty five complaints have been received by regulator the Ofcom – including one from Price herself – which is now investigating whether the show breached the broadcasting code or not. However, the late-night comedy was also the third most praised show of December – after two Channel Four News reports. However, fans were much less vociferous than critics, with the broadcaster receiving just fifty three items of praise. One viewer said: 'Hilarious, dark and cutting. And best of all he has a pop at everyone and everything. Nothing is sacred. Thanks Channel Four for not censoring this TV gold.' More4's decision not to show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart every day received the second highest number of complaints, from five hundred and nineteen disgruntled viewers. Although critically praised, the show only attracted modest audiences of between sixty and ninety thousand viewers in Britain. The third most unpopular programme was also a comedy, The Morgana Show, which attracted forty five comments. One viewer summed up the complaints by saying: 'Most of this broadcast I found completely boring and a poor attempt at comedy, but let's leave that to taste. Amongst that which I found boring, one sketch stood out as down right distasteful.'

It has been announced that Jacqui Smith is making a documentary about pornography for BBC Radio 5Live. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the former MP for Redditch will interview porn actors, filmmakers, politicians and feminist academics for Porn Again, a one-hour show. Smith said: 'As I know from my personal experience, porn fascinates us – media and public alike. But we actually know very little about what it's like to work in the industry and what porn is doing to our society, our children and our relationships. In making this programme, I've been able to challenge my own views and attitudes and I want others to have the chance to join the debate too.' The former Home Secretary resigned from the Cabinet in 2009 after a newspaper revealed that two pay-per-view adult films were submitted as part of her expenses claim. Smith was not at the family home on the two nights the films were viewed and her husband Richard Timney said that he had ordered them.

Colin Firth has explained that he has 'a problem' with the UK's unelected monarchy. During an appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight, the actor initially tried to dodge a question about his personal feelings towards the royal family, saying: 'I think they seem very nice.' However, Firth later admitted that he has trouble supporting any institution that isn't brought to power by direct election. 'I really like voting. It's one of my favourite things,' he remarked. 'It (an unelected institution) is a problem for me.' Firth was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award earlier this week for his performance as King George VI in The King's Speech.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we have a potted history of yer actual sex. As it were. Firstly, of course, there's an unlimited supply. (And, get your hair cut, Tony Wilson!)Babies of Woodstock, get off your arses. Then, by order of Her Majesty, one you can't get for love or money. Then, because no bastard will actually let them play anywhere under the own moniker, how about a cheap holiday in other people's misery. Nice riff, Steve. 'In The City', isn't it?So, you've bought the singles (though not at WH Smiths where they've been banned) and now, it's November 1977 and you've managed to purchase your bollocks (in a brown paper bag, admittedly). And, you get it home to discover an added bonus. Kiss this. It all ended, of course, on a San Francisco stage and with massive recriminations. And then a couple of revival tours, but we tend to try and ignore those. But, the immediate aftermath was - if nothing else - at least effing funny. 'Elvis Presley died in 1959.' Go on, Tenpole, give it some mental. 'Elton John! Hair transplant!''Sid Vicious, rock and roll cliche.' Perhaps the ultimate in rock and roll swindles - kill yer idols. Meanwhile, yer actual Johnny abandoned the shitty ship MacLaren, got himself together with Keith Levene and Jah Wobble (and Richard Branson!) and released one of the best singles of the late seventies.Followed by another of the best singles of the late seventies! And, undoubtedly, the best three-twelve-inch-singles-in-a-metal-box package in the history of rock and roll. What a bunch of rotters!