Friday, September 30, 2011

Week Forty One: Live A Lifetime In Each Minute

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has described this week's finale as 'the maddest episode ever.' Moffat told TV Choice that The Wedding of River Song is 'a big roller coaster ride of Doctor Who madness. It's pretty much all the answers in terms of what you saw at Lake Silencio and in The Impossible Astronaut,' he explained. 'We also truly find out about River Song (Alex Kingston) - who she is to the Doctor. There have been a whole lot of hints about a good man that she kills, and the reason why she's in prison. She certainly seems to behave like a lover or a wife to him, and this is where we say what that's all about.' Moffat admitted that he is looking forward to unravelling many of Doctor Who's recent mysteries. 'We've always talked about our plot arcs on Doctor Who, but, as you know, in the past they've been very slight,' he said. 'This has been a real ongoing story and it's nice to think everyone's now going to get answers to all their questions. Well, all except one, because that's the way I am!' it's whether Hitler ever got out of the cupboard, isn't it?
'And then, I turned around and they were all wearing eye-patches...'

The wretched Sophie Dahl returns to BBC2 last night with a thoroughly woeful 1.4m overnight audience for her new series The Marvellous Mrs Beeton. Which from the five minutes yer actual Keith Telly Topping saw of it looks to be just as smug and full-of-its-own-importance as her last series. And with an equally rubbish audience too. It was outperformed not only by Educating Essex on Channel Four but also the Europa League football on Channel Five. There's nothing like a good cookery programme. And everything Smug Sophie touches is, indeed, nothing like a good cookery programme.

BBC Scotland has refuted rumours that drama River City is being cancelled. Director Ken MacQuarrie promised that the Glasgow-set soap would continue during a question and answer session involving BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten. 'We have no plans to cut River City, I can make that absolutely clear,' BBC News quotes MacQuarrie as saying. Meanwhile, Lord Patten branded the River City speculation as 'far-fetched.' He declared: 'I very much hope that we'll see more dramas being made in Scotland. I couldn't have spent any time looking at the papers without realising that River City is extremely popular and the BBC should be very pleased it makes programmes as popular as that. I am sure people will have noticed the reaction to some of the slightly far-fetched suggestions about what might happen to it.'
One of the two journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal has said that he was 'struck by the parallels' between the Scum of the World phone-hacking affair and the saga that brought down Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Carl Bernstein said that the two events were 'shattering cultural moments of huge consequence that are going to be with us for generations' and that both were 'about corruption at the highest levels, about the corruption of the process of a free society.' The American reporter - you know, the one Dustin Hoffman played in the movie! - speaking at an event in London organised by the Gruniad Morning Star, specifically likened Rupert Murdoch, the Scum of the World's proprietor, to the ousted US president in his relation to criminal acts and alleged criminal acts conducted by their respective employees and subordinates. Bernstein said that the important thing was not whether there was 'a smoking gun' which could link Murdoch directly to 'knowledge of phone-hacking on a specific date' – just as it was not important whether Nixon knew that 'the Watergate break-in would happen on a specific date.' Instead, he added, both events were 'about a sensibility that corrupted a free institution' whose consequences in the case of phone-hacking helped 'drive the ever descending lowest common denominator of journalism that resulted in a diminution of reporting standards' across the British press. The event, After Hacking: How Can The Press Restore Trust?, brought together Bernstein with George Eustice, David Cameron's former press spokesman, in a public meeting that saw the Conservative MP argue that the British press needed tighter regulation in order to prevent a repeat of the phone-hacking scandal and raise standards generally. Eustice, complaining that journalists frequently wrote news items to the dictates of news desks, editors or owners, said that there was 'not much wrong' with the existing Press Complaints Commission code apart from the fact that it is not really enforced. The former spin doctor – who was replaced by Andy Coulson, the former editor of the Scum of the World in 2007 – added that a reformed PCC should be strengthened with 'proper sanctions' that are 'enforced independently' of government. Eustice also complained that in the early stage of Cameron's leadership, the Conservative party tried to adopt a distant relationship with print media. Hinting at a change of approach that began when Coulson arrived at Conservative party headquarters, he said: 'It was our analysis [that under Tony Blair] there was too much emphasis on getting the headlines right. It was our position that if we were invited to News International's worldwide conference we'd have politely declined. Our position was not to respond to page one headlines … but it was very hard to sustain that and abandoned in 2007.' However, Bernstein responded by saying that he was horrified by the idea of introducing stiffer press regulation, arguing that the press needed to be regulated in the same way as every other person's speech is, through general law rather than a specific code. Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Gruniad, said that PCC had run into trouble because its 'mistake was to call itself a regulator. It is not a regulator.' Rather, he continued, the body was best described as 'a mediator' handling complaints from the subjects of news articles. He said he liked the idea of continuing with two systems of regulation for press and broadcasting but even that distinction would become 'tremendously complicated,' as newspapers developed their websites and started appearing on electronic TV programme guides. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Bernstein along with his partner Bob Woodward played a leading part in exposing the Watergate scandal which rocked US politics during the 1970s and ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The Washington Post reporters unraveled a system of political corruption which stemmed from an investigation into a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in June 1972. Their stories exposed a link between the burglary and the campaign to re-elect Nixon and suggested that attempts had been made by the president's closest advisers to cover up the break-in which led to numerous high-profile government investigations into the scandal and the resignation of Nixon two years later. And a rather good book and movie, All The President's Men.

And, on that Oscar-winning bombshell, here's yer next batch of actual Top Telly Tips in the area:

Thursday 6 October
The BBC seem to be really pushing Hidden - 9:00 BBC1 - their new drama starring the great Philip Glenister judging by the trailers. Small-time solicitor Harry Venn (played by the Gene Genie his very self) is asked for the whereabouts of a criminal acquaintance, reminding him of his own murky past as a getaway driver in a botched robbery that ended with the deaths of his brother and another associate. Driven by guilt, he begins to uncover why such a seemingly simple operation went so wrong - but the policeman who led the investigation all those years ago is soon back on Harry's case. Conspiracy thriller, also starring Anna Chancellor from [spooks] and The Hour and Thekla Reuten. Looks proper decent.

Mixed Britannia - 9:00 BBC2 - is a great idea for a TV show. George Alagiah explores the history of Britain's mixed-race communities, with archive material helping to chart events from the turn of the Twentieth Century. He begins with the romances between women workers and foreign seamen during the First World War, and the street riots they caused in port cities as soldiers returned to find local girls in relationship with non-white men. He also reveals how Britain narrowly escaped laws preventing interracial marriages.

In Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity - 9:00 BBC4 - Jim Al-Khalili charts the history of mankind's attempt to understand and harness the power of electricity. He begins by exploring the writings and theories of scientific innovators including Humphrey Davy and Stephen Gray, and examines the methods they used to create and control electrical forces. He also tells the story of the battery, the first major breakthrough in mankind's battle to use electricity for its own ends.

And, it's the final part of Billy Connolly's Route 66 - 9:00 ITV - as the well known Scottish comedian completes the last leg of his motor-trike journey along the world-famous Route 66. Billy visits a massive meteorite crater in Arizona, before heading to the Grand Canyon. He meets a campaigner trying to keep the historic route alive, and bottle-feeds a lion cub in a sanctuary for unwanted exotic pets. Finally he reflects on his three thousand-mile ride when he ends his travels in Santa Monica right next to the Pacific. Been there. It's very nice.

Friday 7 October
Autumnwatch Live returns tonight - 8:30 BBC2 - but without Katie Humble. That's a blow. Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games present the nature programme from the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, studying wildlife through the season and tracking the changes as winter approaches. In the first edition, they examine wild boars and bats in the Wye Valley, while naturalist Roy Dennis follows the migration of osprey chicks as they head for Africa.

The popular Outnumbered reaches the end of its fourth series tonight - 9:00 BBC1. Another guest arrives to stay as the family tries to get rid of Auntie Angela, and Sue has to make a decision about Jake's girlfriend. Elsewhere, Ben and Karen discuss dreams, the Mafia and trampolining bears. Comedy, starring Hugh Dennis, Claire Skinner, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez.

In the latest episode of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's well-beloved Qi - 10:00 BBC2 - it's all about 'invertebrates.' And, Jimmy Carr's on the panel. Is this a coincidence, we ask ourselves‽ (Note the entirely valid use of the interrobang there, dear blog reader. Hey, I don't just throw these things together you know‼) Stephen Fry, as usual, does the hosting, Alan Davies comes last and they're joined by first time guest the Queen of South Shields herself Sarah Millican and good old mad-as-toast Johnny Vegas. Who always seems to provoke something of a negative reaction in some of the more mouthy Qi fans but, personally, I think he's great. And so, seemingly, do Stephen, Alan and the producers otherwise they wouldn't keep inviting him back! Stephen asks the questions about insects and other invertebrates, and awards points for the most interesting answers. You know the score by now. The extended XL edition is on tomorrow night at 9:00.

Saturday 8 October
In the very week that it was announced he might be about to quite the show, Harry Hill's TV Burp returns for a new series - 7:00 ITV. Old Big Collared Harry is back with his regular review of the week's small-screen highlights, promising soap spoofs, reality show send-ups and the odd fight or two - and with Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor back on the box, he will have plenty of prime-time material to work with one imagines.

Speaking of the latter, tonight's episode of The X Factor is a mind-numbing (and bum aching) two and a half hours long. I'm serious. That's longer than the average Oliver Stone movie.

Series two of Boardwalk Empire starts tonight - 9:00 Sky Atlantic.
Nucky's control over Atlantic City is threatened when Jimmy forms an alliance with the Commodore and Eli - and the politician also comes under scrutiny from federal agents investigating the election results. Chalky's old enemies return to haunt him, Margaret tries to discipline her son, and Angela fears Gillian is squeezing her out of Jimmy's life. Prohibition-era drama, starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Kenneth Williams.

Sunday 9 October
In the latest episode of [spooks] - 9:00 BBC1 - an imprisoned religious extremist leader has his appeal for parole rejected, so he sends two recently released inmates on a suicide revenge mission, unaware one of the men is an MI5 spy. Section D needs him to gather intelligence - but things go disastrously wrong when his daughter is kidnapped by the bombers and used as collateral. Meanwhile, an attempt is made on Elena's life, strengthening Harry's suspicions about CIA deputy-director Jim Coaver.

Fry's Planet Word continues merrily - 9:00 BBC2. Stephen Fry explores how language is often abused, arguing that swearing plays an important part in human communication. Sodding well right it does. Y'bugger. He meets a Tourette's sufferer and a stroke patient who cannot help using the F-word, and finds out from Brian Blessed how swearing can help relieve pain. He is joined by Armando Iannucci, Omid Djalili and Stephen K Amos to discuss the power of four-letter words in comedy, and considers how the texture of language has been made richer by double entendre, euphemism, slang and jargon. There you go kids, next time you get told off by a parent or teacher for using profane language just tell 'em Stephen Fry said it was all right!

A very welcome repeat, if you missed it when it was first shown last year is Rich Hall's The Dirty South - 9:00 BBC4. In this, the dry-as-a-desert-road American comedian sets his keen eye and acerbic wit on his homeland, as he unpicks the truth from the fiction in Hollywood's version of the southern states of the US. Featuring specially shot interviews and archive footage of classic films including Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire and Deliverance.

Monday 10 October
Twincredibles - 9:00 BBC2 - sounds fascinating. The genetic phenomenon of black and white parents who have twins of differing skin colour, meeting five pairs of siblings to see how they are affected and how the world views them. They include James and Daniel, who grew up in south-east London, where it was the whiter-looking Daniel who suffered racial abuse, and eleven-year-old Glaswegian sisters Ebony and Moesha, who have proved to be very different in character.

The latest episode of the BBC's Panorama is called BNP: The Fraud Exposed - 8:30 BBC1. In this, investigative reporter Darragh MacIntyre uncovers evidence that the British National Party has falsified and fabricated financial documents to deceive the Electoral Commission and failed to declare major donations to the party. Yet as Panorama claims to reveal, its published accounts show the BNP is insolvent and apparently unable to pay its creditors. Oh, what a shame that is.

On a similar theme we've got Dispatches: Britain's Rubbish - 8:00 Channel Four. Reporter Morland Sanders travels the UK in the wake of the Government's Waste Policy Review to find out about bin collections, litter, excessive packaging and refuse habits. He hears from householders angry about their waste not being collected every week, and challenges a family to live without a bin for a fortnight - recycling everything instead. Sounds like a trivial subject but it is something which, of course, affects all of us.

Tuesday 11 October
High Stakes - 8:00 ITV - is yet another rubbish game show format from a network that seems to specialise in them. Odious, wretched Jeremy Kyle hosts 'a big-money game show' in which the players 'use clues to guide them' across a grid containing cash prizes ranging from one thousand quid to half a million smackers. But if they stand on a trap, the whole grid descends and the game is over for them. And they're killed. No, not really. Although if they were I might just watch.

It's the last in the current series of Holby City - 8:00 BBC1. But, don't fret dear blog reader, they take a break of exactly seven days and then they're back with the start of the next batch of episodes. In tonight's drama, Hanssen tries to contain the plastics scandal, while Sahira realises how much she will miss Greg, as he and Elliot work their final shift. Chrissie's delay in telling Sacha she's engaged to Dan has repercussions, and her dreams of an idyllic life with the consultant are threatened by a patient's intrusive questions. Meanwhile, snowboarder Josh prepares to face the outside world.

In The Body Farm - 9:00 BBC1 - the team is called in to examine the body of a human rights lawyer, burnt to death at his home. The victim's son is convinced his father was murdered by an asylum seeker who he failed to acquit on an assault charge, although there is no proof the fire was started deliberately. But a reconstruction back at the lab, burning one of the farm's bodies, soon brings fresh evidence to light. And then at the end, Tara Fitzgerald gets to stand around in a muddied field looking wistfully into the distance and getting all philosophical in voice-over. Which worked really well in the first week but do we have to have that as the episode's finale every single time, it's becoming a bit of a drag. Every time people see Tara walking down the High Street they duck into shops to avoid her in case she starts doing the 'staring wistfully into the distance and getting all philosophical in voice-over' thing. Jonas Armstrong (from Robin Hood), the great Tim McInnerny and The Office's Ralph Ineson guest star.

Wednesday 12 October
The latest episode of Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV - is called The Night of the Stag. A tax inspector goes missing as he tries to track down the maker of an illicit, potent cider popular among the residents of Midsomer Abbas. Barnaby and Jones have a murder investigation on their hands when the man's body is found floating in a vat at the village's spring fair, where the duo are sampling the local brew. Guest starring Warren Clarke and Corrie's Denise Black.

Soho Blues - 9:00 Channel Five - features 'an insight' into a night's patrol with the jokingly nicknamed 'booze bus', a London ambulance dealing exclusively with alcohol-related incidents. Meanwhile, police set out on the trail of drug-users, a car is involved in a serious collision, and a bystander expresses his opinion of paramedics.

Getting near the end of its eighth series Shameless - 10:50 Channel Four - has never been more popular. In tonight's instalment, Marty turns to crime to tide him over until he finds a job, but using items borrowed from the Maguires could land him in trouble. Billy stands up for his rights as a father when he demands to be allowed to give Cilla a second name, but Mimi is reluctant and delivers her own ultimatum, and Micky's flat is raided by police.

Thursday 13 October
Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey - 9:00 ITV - sees the actress and Britain's favourite posh-bird exploring the history of Greece, visiting some of the most significant sites of the ancient empire and meeting people who carry on the old traditions. Nice work if you can get it! She begins in Athens with a trip to the Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena built nearly two thousand five hundred years ago. And, where they say of the Acropolis that there are no straight lines. Apparently. I learned that off Qi. As with most of my knowledge. From there, Joanna travels around the southern part of the country, encountering modern Greeks still influenced by this ancient era - including marble cutters who continue to use the same tools as their ancestors.

It's the last in the current series of Mock the Week - 10:00 BBC2 - which was really hampered this year by being off-air when just about all of the major news stories broke (Hackgate, the Eurozone Crisis, superinjunctions and Cherylgate). The marvellous Milton Jones, Miles Jupp and Andi Osho join host Dara O Briain and regular panellists Hugh Dennis, Andy Parsons and Chris Addison for another round of the satirical news quiz. And now watch, you can absolutely guarantee that as soon as they're off air next week something massively important (and with tons of comedy potential) will occur and Dara and co will be sitting in their cupboard at the BBC gnashing their teeth in fury because they had a really good joke lined up about just such an occurrence. Them's the break in comedy, guys.

And so we come full circle. Having recommended it earlier in this blog, it seems pointless not to note that the second episode of Hidden is on tonight - 9:00 BBC1. With his office blown to pieces, Harry becomes determined to find out who tried to kill him and begins by finding out more about the elusive Gina Hawkes. However, breaking into her doctor's office, questioning her barrister and visiting the imprisoned Stevie Quirke only serve to prove how deep the mystery really is. In one last desperate bid, the lawyer tracks his quarry down to Paris - only to be confronted by a past he thought he had long since left behind. David Suchet crops up in this episode.

And, so to the news: Legendary crooner Tony Bennett has become the oldest living performer to score a US number one CD, hitting the top spot at the age of eighty five. Duets II, which features Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and kd lang, is also the first US number one of the singer's sixty-year career. Bennet, who has won fourteen Grammy Awards, first rose to fame in the late 1950s. The chart news comes after Bennett caused controversy by suggesting that US action prompted the 9/11 attacks. In an interview with shock-jock radio host Howard Stern last week, Bennett said: 'Who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don't make a right. They flew the plane in, but we caused it. We were bombing them and they told us to stop.' He later issued an apology, saying that as a World War II veteran, he was 'proud to fight to protect our values.' He added that he believed that 'violence begets violence and that war is the lowest form of human behaviour.' Quite right too. You tell 'em, Tony. 'I am sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of my love for my country, my hope for humanity and my desire for peace throughout the world,' he added. Duets II sold over one hundred and seventy thousand copies in its first week, according to Billboard magazine. Which kind of proves the old adage that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.' It includes Amy Winehouse's last recording, on the song 'Body And Soul'. Which is really rather good. Last week's number one CD, Lady Antebellum's Own the Night, fell to number two, while Adele's Twenty One dropped to third place.

Dannii Minogue has said that both she and Cheryl Cole were 'eaten up and spat out' by The X Factor. The Australia's Got Talent judge and least famous of the Minogue sisters, who quit the ITV talent show in May, sympathised with the Girls Aloud singer over her 'big year.' Speaking on Heart FM, Minogue divulged: 'It's been a big year that she's been through with the American X Factor. She's been incredible to work with. She was always there as a support for me when I had tough days because it is a tough show. It does eat all of us up and spit us out at the end.' Clarifying why she stepped down from the format, she continued: 'The dates of the filming got put back twice and I'd already started Australia's Got Talent by the time they said, "Okay, here it is - let's do the show."' Minogue added: 'It would've meant me flying back and forth from Australia once a week for ten weeks with a one-year-old child. I'd just got out of hospital three days before having my appendix out and I was like, "I'm sorry but it's not possible." Until they can clone me!'

Polly Harvey will return as a guest on The Andrew Marr Show next month. The singer will perform on the topical programme on the 2 October edition, which will also feature Prime Minister David Cameron. Presumably Dave won't be jammin' with Pol, however. Which is, of course, tragic. Harvey previously appeared on the show in April 2010, alongside then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. On that occasion she debuted the title song for her CD Let England Shake. The work won the Mercury Music Prize last month. Polly revealed that she was 'surprised' to win the award for a second time.

The financial trader who caused an Internet storm after claiming in a BBC interview that he was 'dreaming of another recession' has admitted that he is 'an attention seeker,' but added that he 'meant every word' he said. The BBC was this week forced to deny that Alessio Rastani was a hoaxer after Twitter users and some trouble-makers at the Gruniad doubted his credentials as 'an expert on financial markets' when he made some alarming comments. In a live interview, broadcast on the BBC News Channel on Monday, Rastani said: 'For most traders, we don't really care that much how they're going to fix the economy, how they're going to fix the whole situation - our job is to make money from it. Personally I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I have a confession, which is I go to bed every night, I dream of another recession.' According to the Daily Torygraph, Rastani is an independent trader and 'investment speaker' who operates from a two hundred thousand smackers property in Bexleyheath, which is owned by his wife. He is a ninety nine per cent shareholder in public speaking venture Santoro Projects. But the fact that he has never been authorised by the Financial Services Authority and has no clear history of working in a City institution has led to questions over how he ended being interviewed by the BBC. Speaking to the newspaper, Rastani said that he was 'approached' by the corporation to appear on the BBC News Channel report, and admitted that trading is just a 'hobby' of his. 'I'm an attention seeker. That is the main reason I speak. That is the reason I agreed to go on the BBC,' he said. 'Trading is a like a hobby. It is not a business. I am a talker. I talk a lot. I love the whole idea of public speaking.' He added: 'I agreed to go on because I'm attention seeker. But I meant every word I said.' Challenged over Rastani's credentials, the BBC said: 'We've carried out detailed investigations and can't find any evidence to suggest that the interview with Alessio Rastani was a hoax.'

A woman in Brazil aged sixty one has announced her pregnancy. The mother-to-be, who has requested her identity to remain anonymous to the press, used a donor egg to be pregnant with her thirty eight-year-old husband. 'My husband wanted to be a father,' she told O Globo. 'I wanted to be a mother, too. I am in great health and I have undergone a very thorough medical clearance.' The woman is due in November. Earlier this month, another woman, aged fifty two, gave birth to twins, while her husband is eighty eight years old.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's a little near-forgotten pop classic from Cupid's Inspiration. The clip comes from Beat Club and, unfortunately, there's an introduction from the Hairy Cornflake himself.