Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Christmas Mourning

Well that was, it has to be said, one of the most boring, dog-dangling Christmas Eve's that yer actual Keith Telly Topping can remember, dear blog reader. And he can remember some really boring, dog-dangling Christmas Eve's in his forty eight woe-begotten years on the planet, trust me. Not even the excitement of the Duke of Edinburgh's hospitalisation could alleviate the dullness of it all. Yet, somewhere between lots of beef and onion sandwiches, Red Leicester nibbles and chocolate, an old Miss Marple on Alibi, two proper decent episodes of The Sweeney on ITV4 and a DVD of most of the second series of A Bit of Fry & Laurie yer actual Keith Telly Topping remembered just how much he adores The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. It was a story that was first read to him as an eight year old in Ms Nichol's class at Wharrier Street junior school around this time in 1971, dear blog reader. I didn't know then, of course, that it was all a Christian metaphor, that CS Lewis was mixing Norse and Greek mythology, Biblical allusions and fairy-tale tradition to produce a modern masterpiece. I just knew that it was a story which I enjoyed listening to my teacher reading and which has stayed with me for the next forty years. It was the 2005, Andrew Adamson Hollywood version that the BBC were showing on Christmas Eve afternoon (with Tilda Swinton on particularly fine, eye-rolling form). But it could, just as easily, have been the BBC's own magical 1988 adaptation, or somebody reading extracts from the book itself on Radio 4. A little bit of proof that there's still some magic attached to Christmas from a time before cynicism, before financial meltdown, bigotry and rotten and sour doings. Follow that, Doctor Who. Oh, I know you will.

Speaking of which, Matt Smith appeared on The Graham Norton Show on Friday evening, during which he chatted - very engagingly - about his Christmas plans, his various brushes with fandom (mostly, seemingly, pleasant, thank God) and, of course, about the Christmas Day Doctor Who episode, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe. When asked about the recent announcement regarding Karen Gillan's forthcoming departure from the show, he said: 'I've known a while, actually, because we've known for a couple of months. It's by mutual consent - I think really those stories just come to a point where it reaches its conclusion, and the very essence of the show is that it constantly re-invents itself.' On the subject of whether he'd go at the same time, Matt denied having any such intention or anything even remotely like it, noting: 'I'm very happy to stay. I love it. I love making the show, but I'll miss Karen because she's a good mate, one of my best mates. She's a cracker - mad as a box of cats - but she's a firecracker, she really is.' Talking about fandom generally, both Matt and his fellow guest, Gillian Anderson - plugging her forthcoming appearance in Great Expectations - discussed attending Comic-Con. Matt mentioned how he met up with all the other 'Doctors', and when he and co-star Karen Gillan last attended a US convention. And, here they all are.
I think it's rather charming to discover that Matt carries a copy of that photo around with him on his phone!

The overnight ratings for Friday 23 December provided the BBC with a generally decent set of figures right across the night and ITV - their soaps aside - somewhat trailing behind. The ONE Show kicked off the night for the BBC pulling in 4.81m from 7:00, followed by EastEnders with 8.26m, the night's highest audience on any channel. ITV's two episodes of Coronation Street couldn't quite match that with 7.95m and 8.14m respectively. In between on ITV The Lakes at Christmas had a slightly below slot-average 3.18m. In the 9:00 hour, both the Have I Got News For You Christmas Special (5.81m) and a repeat of last year's Miranda Christmas episode (4.47m) comprehensively twanked The Jonathan Ross Show which, despite all of the pre-publicity about Tom Cruise's appearance only managed a rather disappointing 3.15m. Later in the evening, the BBC's own chat show of the night, The Graham Norton Show, was watched by 4.39m viewers in the 10:35 slot. I wonder why/ (See above!) On BBC2, Amanda Vickery's documentary The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen, which yer actual Keith Telly Topping rather enjoyed the bit he caught of, had eight hundred and ninety one thousand viewers (catch it on iPlayer if you missed it dear blog reader. Seriously, it's highly recommended). Then, the latest Qi clip-show episode had an audience of 2.23m and the TV premier of the excellent Tamara Drewe was watched by just under a million punters.

Incidentally, did anyone notice that the Qi compilation episode this week included clips from two of the three 'I series' episodes which still haven't been shown yet; next week's Christmas special with Brian Blessed and the 'Shakespeare' episode with Bill Bailey, Sue Perkins and David Mitchell which will be shown next year during the BBC's Olympic Shakespeare season of programmes.
Is it worth reading anything into the complete absence of anything from the third yet to be seen (unless you were quick and caught it on You Tube) episode - the one featuring Jezza Clarkson? Probably not and once next Wednesday's Top Gear Christmas special has been shown, I expect the Qi episode to turn up not long afterwards. But, you can probably bet that some hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star or some jackbooted bullyboy thug at the Daily Scum Mail will try stirring up some crass shite related to it. Because they like doing that, dear blog reader. You might've noticed.

And, still on the subject of ratings, Death in Paradise's series finale was watched by a consolidated final rating of 6.29m after timeshifts were added. The series finished with a consolidated series average of 5.89 million across its eight episodes, and an average timeshift of 0.98 million per episode. Which is pretty damned impressive for any drama these days and I'd definitely expect to see a second series of Death in Paradise sometime either late next year or early in 2013.

Meanwhile, some news just in; Arthur pulled the sword out of the stone in Merlin. Yeah, yeah, call me a sentimental old sod if you like (particularly after that little emotional outburst over The Chronicles of Narnia at the top of the page), but yer actual Keith Telly Topping really rather enjoyed that. And, I say that as somebody who's previously had a pretty dismissive and underwhelmed reaction to Merlin. What can I say, dear blog reader? It's actually got better of late. Matured like, if not a fine wine exactly, then a more than drinkable table plonk. Who'd've thought it?
Mind you, did anybody else notice the sudden, unexpected interjection of one of the BBC continuity announcers about twenty five minutes into the episode for no obvious reason for about three seconds? Just me then?

The Only Way Is Essex's Sam Faiers has confirmed that she will not be taking part in Celebrity Big Brother. Faiers allegedly recently met with Channel Five 'bosses' to, it was rumoured, try and negotiate a deal. Rumours had also circulated that she was planning to quit the ITV2 reality programme soon. Now, it appears, neither of these things are going to happen. Christ almighty, that must be one hell of a blow to Channel Five, when they can't even get a desperate TV wannabe like one of The Only Way Is Essex crowd to go in the Big Brother house!

The Times columnist and one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite writers Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman has won the Galaxy book of the year award. A public vote crowned the journalist's semi-autobiographical work the winner ahead of titles by Dawn French, Claire Tomalin and seven others. Moran's title was named most popular non-fiction book at the National Book Awards last month. The journalist said that it was 'a total honour and thrill' for her book to be named overall book of the year ahead of the other ten category winners. 'Obviously Rear of the Year is the one I've always been gunning for,' she said. 'But since I found out it's judged on "form" rather than "sheer volume", then Book of the Year enables me to chow down on a hog roast over Christmas without worrying about fitting into my jeggings.' How To Be A Woman takes a humorous look at the way feminism and women have changed over the years. Its success came at the expense of such other titles as French's A Tiny Bit Marvellous, winner of the fiction book of the year prize, and Emma Donoghue's Room, winner in the best paperback category.

A few little bits and pieces of general media round-up before Christmas now. Firstly, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's good mate Malcolm Holt has written a superb review (albeit, forty one years after the event) of The Who Live at Hull, a gig he actually attended back in 1970 as a startled sixteen year old.

Some really properly good news for Christmas now. It is being reported in the US that the proposed Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which was to have been produced without the involvement of Joss Whedon, has been scrapped. Blastr reports that the film project will not go ahead. The proposed movie, developed by FOX, would have been a reboot of the franchise and would not have been based on the television series which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar in the lead role and, about which, yer actual Keith Telly Topping wrote a book or two once upon a time. Nor would the movie have had the involvement of the series creator, showrunner and main writer Joss Whedon - something which attracted widespread criticism from fans and actors of the television series alike. And, you know, me. Whilst some fans welcomed the prospect of a Buffy movie they were opposed to the idea it wouldn't be based on the television series, star any of the actors from it. Although Whedon created the franchise he does not hold the rights to Buffy which meant any movie could be developed without his involvement. The television series, which itself was a remake of an earlier - not particularly good - 1992 film by Whedon, ran from 1997 to 2003 and also starred, Anthony Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nick Brendon and Seth Green. It spawned spin-off series Angel which itself ran for five seasons and starred David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof and James Marsters all of whom were previously cast members on Buffy. So, that's a good thing.

Next, further wonderful news; the BBC Studios and Post Production have digitally restored all thirty nine episodes of Gordon Murray's legendary Trumptonshire Trilogy - Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley. The BBC's first - and still one of the best - children's animated colour television series.
In a far-sighted and ambitious move, Murray with the help of his son-in-law William Mollett, decided to locate, restore and future-proof the trilogy. 'We had no great expectations when we started out the process,' said Mollett. 'Even if we did manage to find the original footage, we weren't holding out much hope for the state it would be in after nearly fifty years.' But after finding some footage buried deep in his father-in-law's attic, he then approached the BBC to see if they could track down the missing fifty-year-old original footage. They eventually traced it to a BBC vault in Perivale, West London, but it soon became very clear that the age of it meant that the restoration would be a painstaking task. Gordon and William enlisted the expertise of BBC Studios and Post Production who took the footage and frame by frame meticulously cleaned, scanned and digitally restored it. 'My mission was to preserve and future‐proof the trilogy for new generations to enjoy,' said Murray. 'I'd love to see the people who first watched it back in the 1960s to enjoy it again in pristine digital quality with their grandchildren. I'm so delighted it's been so lovingly brought back to life. I was really worried it had been lost forever, and I can’t imagine a world without Trumptonshire,' he added.

Ambulance bosses are condemning a man who rang 999 to say that he had run out of toilet paper. Well, you know, when you've gotta go, you've gotta go. The call was released by South West Ambulance in an attempt to make people realise that pranks and hoaxes can stop genuine calls from getting through. A spokesman said it treated all 999 calls as potentially life-threatening. 'Our call takers go through the process with callers and that will take time and they could be missing a call that's a genuine emergency,' he added. South Western Ambulance Service provides emergency and urgent care and non-urgent patient transport services for the Isles of Scilly, Devon, part of Somerset and Cornwall. Include Looe. And Dorset. Including Shitterton. Hey, I work with the material I'm given, all right.

And so we come, by process of elimination, to the twentieth of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas. A special treat for 25 December and a little undiscovered gem from The Arch Drude His Very Self. Speak ye, Mister Julian, unto the assembled multitude hereabouts and let them know of the signs and wonders to come.