Monday, March 28, 2011

They Don't Want Your Name, Just Your Number

'You don't have to be Oliver Stone to find those two statements hilarious!' With that brilliant one-liner the third-to-last Waking the Dead story kicked off big-style and dived head-first into the murky world of conspiracy theory on Sunday night with the first in the two-part Solidarity. A fantastic guest cast included Jack Shepherd, Anna Chancellor from [spooks], John McArdle and the great Penny Downie whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping once saw as a brilliantly angry Portia in a weird modernist RSC production of The Merchant of Venice some years ago and whose career he's followed ever since. The cold case team are called upon to investigate the murder of a notorious Falklands' veteran-turned-peace activist, Piers Kennedy, rumoured by conspiracy theorists to have been killed by the state - a theory that appears to be far from outlandish when his corpse is discovered in tunnels directly under the MoD having been kneecapped. Mix in some dodgy MI5 shenanigans and more shady relationships from Grace's past (this one, sadly, not as convincing or as well-acted as the episode Straw Dog a few years ago, admittedly) and you've got something rather special bubbling away on the cauldron. 'I wrote a few articles, but that was enough to get on Maggie's shit-list!' Grace tells Boyd during a fascinating discussion on party politics (probably the that first time the characters have ever actually discussed politics other than the purely personal in ten years). 'For your information MI5 think I'm a fashionable Liberal revisionist!' replies Boyd. All this and The Clash on the soundtrack. Terrific stuff.

Sunday's episode of Time Team saw Tony and his intrepid archaeologist mates out in Jersey investigating one of King John's castles. It was a bit of an odd episode since the majority of the castle is still standing and, therefore, you kind of got the impression that when Tony said, to camera, 'were here looking for Mont Orgueil Castle,' some bright spark in the crew was keen to point to the great big edifice on top of the hill and say 'Oh, there it is!' As ever, of course, there was a bit more to it than that. Their excavation was complicated by the fact that a newer castle had been built on top of the old foundations in Tudor times - and the entire site was located on a rocky outcrop with sides so steep that they can only be scaled by mountaineers. Or, Phil Harding and Stewart Ainsworth in this particular case. Eventually a story emerged of how Mont Orgueil came to symbolise Jersey and the Channel Islands' peculiar relationship with Britain and France. It was fought over, lost and won back again for centuries, but the massive stone walls that the team uncover ultimately proved futile against the might of gunpowder. The episode was one of two filmed on Jersey during spring of last year (the other one, looking at the island's second world war defences was broadcast earlier in the series). There's a very good piece on the background to the episode by Professor Warwick Rodwell on the Channel Four website and, also you can check out the impressive 3D laser scan that was completed in the episode here.

Philip Glenister will return to BBC1 in a new prime time drama, it has been announced. The Scotsman reports that the actor, most famous for his role as Gene Hunt in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, will play solicitor Harry Venn in Undisclosed. He said: 'I am looking forward to shooting Undisclosed, which I feel is a bold, innovative, complex piece of drama.' The plot sees Venn preparing a case which draws him into the story of his brother's death two decades previously. Glenister will play opposite Poirot actor David Suchet, who has been cast as barrister Sir Nigel Fountain. The American star Thekla Reuten will play another lawyer, Gina Hawkes.The four-part series, which is written by Public Enemies screenwriter Ronan Bennett, will begin shooting soon in Belfast. Glenister has previously revealed that he is 'a big fan of the BBC' and of public service broadcasting, encouraging the corporation to be 'bold' with its drama choices.

So You Think You Can Dance returned to BBC1 on Saturday night with significantly lower numbers than last year's first series premiere. That's, of course, because nobody can stand well known horroshow, faceache and drag Arlene Phillips are her opinionated twisty sour mush. Replacing the successful Let's Dance at 7.15pm, the talent show's second run - which once again sees Phillips and 'Nasty' Nigel Lythgoe sitting on the judging panel - pulled in 4.87m, down over one and a half million viewers compared to last year's opener. Prior to that, the final Total Wipeout entertained 4.43m viewers, while The National Lottery: Secret Fortune had an audience of 4.88m at 8.15pm, before an episode of Casualty titled Secret and Lies was the night's most-watched broadcast with 5.42m. Elsewhere, Harry Hill's TV Burp held a reasonable 5.15m at 7.10pm adding two hundred and fifty thousand on ITV +1, then 4.52m tuned in for the penultimate Ant & Dec's Push The Button until 9pm, at which point the terrestrial premiere of James Bond film A Quantum of Solace was seen by 4.73m and a further three hundred thousand on +1.

Professor Brian Cox has tweeted that he starts filming his third Wonders series, Wonders of Life in September for an autumn 2012 broadcast.

With a quarter of the year gone, here are the official 2011 averages of the three main soaps so far this year. These figures include timeshifts and HD but do not include ITV+1/BBC3 or iPlayer, just the original airings: Coronation Street has an average audience of 10.44m per episode (down one hundred and seventy five thousand viewers on the same period last year), EastEnders 9.85m (down eight hundred and fifty nine thousand) and Emmerdale 8.34m (up one hundred and fifty nine thousand). Out of the three soaps, only Emmerdale is up year-on-year. It's two per cent rise in average audiences is highly impressive particularly as its gains are over already strong numbers from last year. EastEnders has experienced the biggest decline, down a whopping eight per cent versus last year. Although it should be stressed that last year's comparable numbers at this stage were extremely high anyway due to the live episode and surrounding highly-rated Twenty Fifth anniversary episodes which were always going to be difficult to match. Last year during the second quarter, EastEnders didn't rate as (unusually) highly as quarter one, so the next few months of EastEnders shouldn't experience the same sort of ratings drop.

The details of Coronation Street character Dennis Tanner's comeback have reportedly emerged. It was revealed earlier this year that seventy four-year-old Philip Lowrie is returning to his role as Dennis after forty three years. He will apparently arrive in Weatherfield as a homeless drunk and attempt to sleep on the doorstep of his old rival Ken Barlow (William Roache). 'He will lock horns with Ken, who will not be pleased to see him,' a 'source' allegedly told the Sunday Mirra. Dennis, the son of street legend Elsie Tanner, will also beg Rita Sullivan and Audrey Roberts for a place to stay. Lowrie appeared in the first episode of the show, but was written out eight years later. The actor, who has also appeared in The Liver Birds and Doctors, is thought to have signed a six-month contract and will begin filming in May.

Mary Byrne has claimed that she has only earned seven thousand pounds since The X Factor finished last year. The singer, whose debut CD Mine & Yours is released this week, admitted that she is using her savings to 'get by.' And, we're supposed to what? Feel sorry for her? 'I did two gigs in England and I think I got seven grand for it but I haven't received anything so far,' she told the Scum Mail On Sunday. 'There will be an advance from the album but I haven't seen any of that. And then I have the X Factor tour but I won't get that until the tour is finished. I haven't actually got anything. I'm the still the same as before, except with the extra seven grand from the two gigs. I haven't got a steady income at the moment. I had a few bob saved and the daughter had a few bob saved so she's been paying the rent, and gas and electricity bills. When I get sorted we'll work it out. We know where we stand, no debts - thank God.' Aye well, there you go. It's probably not a good idea to try and use a TV talent show as a shortcut to riches beyond the dreams of avarice, in that case.

Twatting About On Ice judge Jason Gardiner has allegedly threatened to quit the ITV show unless his one hundred thousand pound salary is doubled. The Australian choreographer, who caused controversy during this year's series by clashing with head coach Karen Barber and contestant Denise Welch's husband Tim Healy, is reportedly planning to 'cash in' on his notoriety ahead of the 2012 edition. The People quotes Gardiner as taunting: 'I am that show. Without me it is dull. I know they want me on the next series but they are going to have to pay what I'm worth.' A 'source' at ITV allegedly agreed with Gardiner's self-assessment, arguing: 'His run-ins with Karen Barber and Tim Healy have been the most talked about episodes. Viewers may not ­always like what he says, but they also want to hear his opinions. The top brass realise they need to start talking about Jason's future here. Money will be an issue. It now all depends on whether there is enough dough in the budget to complete the sort of deal we know Jason is after.' And, as we noted yesterday in relation to Cheryl Cole dear blog reader, the sense of entitlement and of sheer bloody ignorance to anything other than themselves and their own shallow little world from these people continues to stagger and, frankly, infuriate. 'Why isn't everybody talking about me, me, me, me, me?!' Ruddy sickening, so it is. In the final of the current series of the show, incidentally, if anybody's in the slightest bit bothered, some bloke who used to be in EastEnders won beating a children's TV presenters and Chloe Madeley. Stop the press.

Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day this time around is a Tony Mansfield song which features a particularly nice Ovation twelve-sting. (And, the video for which includes some very of-the-era effects).