Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Great Expectations for, ahem, BBC1's Great Expectations proved more than justified as the impressive and star-studded Dickens drama was watched by more than six million viewers. Proof, perhaps, that TV isn't quite as dumbed down these days as some people (with an agenda) would have you believe. The first of a three-part adaptation starring Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson pulled in 6.6 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm on Tuesday. As the Metro's Rachel Tarley noted: 'The first episode in the BBC's adaptation of Great Expectations not only put the festive season's numerous other Dickensian efforts into the shade, but it also made embarrassments like The Only Way Is EsseXmas seem like a distant memory as it reminded us that the Christmas TV schedules do occasionally throw up a real treat. Managing to be both unnervingly dark and almost deliberately camp in its lavishness, this was a production that ticked nearly all the boxes, from cinematography to dialogue. The performances were a highlight, as Oscar Kennedy and Douglas Booth shone sharing the role of Pip with the help of stellar supporting acts from the likes of Ray Winstone, Vanessa Kirby and David Suchet. Top of the pile, however, was Gillian Anderson's fantastic interpretation of Miss Havisham, who is a gift of a character for any actor, but who can also go horribly wrong if left in the wrong hands. Anderson's Miss Havisham was beautiful yet chilling; youthful yet skeleton-like, exactly as Dickens wanted her to be. In fact, many Dickens fans will have got the distinct impression that this was a production of Great Expectations that would have gone down pretty well with the writer himself.' Great Expectations had the better of ITV's Laurence Fox drama Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me, which drew 3.9 million viewers between 9pm and 10.30pm, rising to 4.1 million with the addition of viewers on ITV+1. In a highly competitive 9pm slot, Channel Four's annual Big Fat Quiz of the Year hosted by Jimmy Carr was watched by 3.1 million viewers between 9pm and 11.05pm, with a further three hundred and thirty thousand punters catching it later on Channel 4+1. The latest in a series of adventures for Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys Jones and Dara O Briain Three Men Go To New England gained an audience of 1.8 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. Meanwhile, BBC2's tribute to a comedy writing great, You Have Been Watching ... David Croft, was watched by two million viewers between 8pm and 9pm. It followed repeats of two of his best-known shows, Hi-De-Hi! at 7pm which was watched by 1.8 million viewers and Dad's Army, with 2.3 million at 8pm. The Croft documentary, very satisfyingly, proved to be just as popular with viewers as ITV's repeat of Susan Boyle: An Unlikely Superstar, which was also watched by two million viewers. One imagines the BBC will be the happier of the two channels in that particular match-up. EastEnders, which was Britain's most-watched programme on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, continued to sweep all before it with 10.4 million viewers, a whopping forty two per cent audience share, between 7.30pm and 8pm. ITV's Adventurer's Guide to Britain predictably wilted in the wake of the latest sour and rotten goings on in Albert Square, with 1.9 million viewers. Emmerdale did better at 7pm with 6.7 million viewers and two hundred and eighty thousand on +1. Earlier, BBC1's movie premiere Shrek the Third did battle with ITV's film sequel, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Shrek attracted 4.8 million viewers between 6.05pm and 7.30pm, overlapping only slightly with The Mummy, which drew 2.9 million viewers between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.

Meanwhile, The Royal Bodyguard had got a right - and not entirely undeserved - hammering from the Daily Mirra this morning. They claim that the David Jason comedy which began on Boxing Day lost more than a million viewers over the episode - which isn't, actually, true, it was more like half-a-million. The Mirra also suggested that it was, basically, rubbish (which, unfortunately, isn't all that far from the truth, and I say that as a big fan of David Jason) and the trotted out the traditional Internet forum people who all hated it. As though, again, Twitter and Facebook now The Arbiter of All Things when it comes to the success of failure of something. Not that yer actual Keith Telly Topping disagrees, necessary, with the comments of one Andy23, whom the Mirra quote as saying: 'If it wasn't for David Jason I'd expect this to be shown on CBBC. Were the Chuckle Brothers busy?' It's just who the hell is Andy23 and why should I care about what he thought of it any more than anyone else? I'm just sayin'. Even the normally pro-BBC magazine Radio Times admitted the six-part series got off to a bad start, saying: 'Oh dear, we are not getting many complimentary tweets about The Royal Bodyguard. Can't remember the last time we had a Twitter reaction like this.' Don't Scare The Hare? Just a guess. The Mirra's reviewer, Jim Shelley, who'd seemingly been taken ill on Christmas Day and replaced by an exact replica who gave Doctor Who a decent review was back to his scowling po-faced best on the subject of The Royal Bodyguard: 'It was blatantly designed to cash in on the appeal of characters like Inspector Clouseau and Johnny English. But the idea that Jason could play a clown as well as Peter Sellers or Rowan Atkinson was the only funny thing about it.' So, not a fan then?

Olly Murs has admitted that he is unsure about returning to present The Xtra Factor next year. And, curiously, no one was in the slightest bit interested.

Hustle's Adrian Lester has said working in Britain can be 'frustrating' for black actors. The forty three-year-old — Mickey Stone in the BBC1 caper drama — said: 'As a black actor you'll only see yourself travelling as far as people like you have travelled. If no one like you is doing what you're doing it's very hard for you to see yourself going further, and you get frustrated.' Adrian told the Radio Times that it was 'a different world' for black actors since he left drama school in 1989. He added: 'We've got a long way to go, but it's getting better.' Inevitably, the Sun picked up on this story and ran it - reasonably straight, to be fair. But, if you want something to make you feel slightly better about yourself, dear blog reader, then have a gander at some of the vile, racist, bigoted, Little Englander nonsense in the comments section of the Sun's piece and then, just be thankful, you're better than them.

Jesse McCartney has signed on to appear in CSI. The singer will play a college graduate named Wes who is involved in a car crash. Wes befriends George Eads's investigator, Nick, and the pair work together to figure out what happened in the crash, according to TV Line. Elizabeth Shue will make her debut as a series regular in the same episode, replacing Marg Helgenberger. The episode is scheduled to be broadcast 15 February next year.

The BBC has been 'slammed' - which is, of course, bollocks-tabloidspeak for 'criticised' - for allegedly filming an obituary for Tony Blair. A Labour Party source claimed that the corporation's tribute to the former Prime Minister was a 'ghoulish' decision due to his age. 'It seems in pretty poor taste that the Beeb is already preparing for Tony's death,' the insider told the Sun. 'He is still a relatively young man who I'm sure has got a lot of years left in him yet.' Now fifty eight, Blair was the youngest Prime Minister in nearly two centuries when he was elected in 1997. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'We don't comment on obituaries.' Except, seemingly, to comment that they don't comment. Which is kind-of a comment, if you think about it. Anyway ...

It began in an age when crafting a special mix-tape was a popular way to impress a loved one. So it seems appropriate that Channel Four is kicking off the celebrations to mark thirty years since its launch by effectively putting together a television mix-tape for its viewers. The Channel Four Mash Up on Monday night will see some of the broadcaster's biggest personalities appear in one another's programmes. The comedian Alan Carr will join Kirstie Allsopp poking around other peoples' houses and being cross with buyers when they don't do exactly as she tells them in Location, Location, Location. The Made in Chelsea cast will attempt Come Dine With Me without caterers, butlers or any of the other ludicrous services they would usually employ. Meanwhile, the teams from Eight out of 10 Cats will swap their comedy answers for nimble letter-arranging and the fiendish number round on Countdown, and the Channel Four News presenters will attempt to give Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a run for his money as they take over the River Cottage kitchen. Yes, even sour-puss grumpy face Jon Snow. Recalling the experience, Snow said: 'I cannot believe I skinned a rabbit.' One imagines the rabbit itself would've been pretty incredulous too. 'I cannot believe I ate that rabbit. I learnt more about foraging from a few hours with Hugh than I have learnt about the euro in a decade. He warned me that the long thorns that surround sloe berries may inflict a wound upon you that will go septic. I have the wounds. I'm still waiting.' Err, Jon. It's learned. Snow is, he claims, actually quite squeamish about blood and guts - although his interview technique has often suggested otherwise -according to fellow newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Another colleague, Cathy Newman, said: 'Turning hunter-gatherer for the weekend must surely come in useful for my day job. Slicing into a rabbit? Skewering a crab? Politicians coming into the studio for interview should know I'm now ready for anything.'

A chimpanzee who apparently starred in several Tarzan films in the 1930s as Cheetah has died at the age of eighty, according to the sanctuary where he lived. The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor said that he died on Saturday from kidney failure. The chimp had acted alongside Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan films from 1932 to 1934, it claimed. The animal loved fingerpainting and watching football, and was 'soothed by Christian music.' Sanctuary spokeswoman Debbie Cobb told the Tampa Tribune that Cheetah came to live at Palm Harbor from Johnny Weissmuller's estate around 1960. Chimpanzees in zoos typically live thirty five to forty five years, she said. It is not clear what lay behind Cheetah's longevity, or what evidence there is for it. A sanctuary volunteer told the paper that fingerpainting was not Cheetah's only talent. 'When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them,' Ron Priest said. 'He could get you at thirty feet with bars in between.' The Florida Cheetah is not the only chimpanzee who has been described as Tarzan's companion. A chimp known as Cheeta who lives in California was, for a long time, claimed to be the chimp in the films, but, following research for a biography on Weissmuller, that claim has now been withdrawn. It is, in fact, possible that several different animals were used while filming the Tarzan movies.

A priest in Southampton has admitted that he feared for the safety of churchgoers when a fight broke out at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Congratulations to the Daily Lies, incidentally, for its spectacularly insensitive and disrespectful (albeit, funny) headline It's A Mass Brawl. Three men aged between twenty four and thirty one were arrested on suspicion of affray after apparently 'causing unrest' and a bit of bovver at St Edmund's church, where three hundred and fifty people had gathered for the festive service. Monsignor Vincent Harvey told BBC News that the disturbance began with loud voices erupting at the back of the building upon the conclusion of his sermon. 'I was aware of an almighty fight going on, and a panic among the congregation,' he said. 'Heavy steel chairs were thrown which was an extremely dangerous situation.' Harvey claimed he went to investigate, but was warned by those gathered that it would be too dangerous. 'My main concern was for the safety of the congregation,' he said. 'Security is not normally an issue, this kind of incident is a very rare occurrence.' The service resumed shortly after the incident, with most of the congregation electing to stay until the end. The alleged perpetrators have been bailed until Friday pending further inquiries.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self is wholly indebted to his good friend Ben Adams for pointing yer actual Keith Telly Topping in the direction of Celebrities and Their Vinyl. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping doesn't care what Marilyn is playing, he wants a copy.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, you thought you'd heard everything, didn't you? Well, you haven't because, like as not, you've never heard Sammy Davis junior singing the Hawaii Five-0 theme. And, if you have, well here it is again.
There, that didn't hurt, did it?