Monday, December 26, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Hangover

Not that you'd have known it from the suspiciously concerted bleating of a couple of hundred time bound malcontents on the Internet but, the Doctor Who Christmas special did get plenty of highly positive previews for The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe, not just the one on this blog. In the Gruniad Morning Star, Dan Martin wrote: 'Putting aside the now-mandatory doomed spaceship that now must surely always feature, this was the smallest – yet perhaps the most enchanting – Christmas special we've had to date. A story where the threat is not to the universe but to the happiness of one family, and the only real enemy are some misguided and underdeveloped polluters. Any other time of year I would gnaw holes all over this, but it's Christmas, and today it felt perfect.' The Independent's Neela Debnath added: 'Every year the Christmas special comes back with something vastly different to the previous year and usually it proves to be on par if not stronger than the one before. The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe had the perfect recipe for a Christmas special. A simple story that could be easily understood without too much concentration and as specials go, it avoided being sickly sweet. By the end audiences were likely to be left with a warm glow created by the mixture of comedy, tragedy and general festive cheer that never became overly sentimental.' The Torygraph's Michael Hogan said: 'This was packed full of festive magic, with ingenious use of Christmas trees, angels, stars, baubles, even woolly winter cardigans. The only problem? It was too busy being cute and clever to create a sufficiently memorable monster. The wooden Pagan king and queen weren't quite hide-behind-the-sofa scary, more the sort of thing you'd see down the garden centre. Still, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe succeeded in being the kind of broad fairytale fun that unites the generations. "A brilliant idea for a Christmas trip," as The Doctor himself said.'
In the Mirra, even notoriously hard to please sourpuss and grumpy-face Jim Shelley for once had a smile on his boat: 'This year's was not a classic Doctor Who, but a good one and a perfect piece of Christmas English whimsy. "Crying when you're happy!" The Doctor puzzled. "That's so human!" - this is Doctor Who at its best, tapping into/manipulating our emotions.' The Metro's Rachel Tarley also seemed to enjoy it: 'Whether we were born before the war, or decades after it, we all feel like we know what it's like to have survived on rations and be evacuated to the countryside - romantic dramatisation of the war is part of our national common experience, even if actual wartime isn't. Moffat captured this perfectly as he took us back to war-torn Britain, where we met eponymous widow Madge and her children Lily and Cyril, whose escape from Blitzkrieged London to rural Dorset paved the way for a suitably Christmassy tale. By virtue of there being so many of them, Doctor Who Christmas specials have some stiff competition when it comes to deciding which is the most gripping festive Timelord adventure of them all. However, fans of the series will probably agree that The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is up there with the best of them.' Well, some of them do, anyway. Not The Special Ones, though.
The Daily Record's Brian McIver gave the episode perhaps the best review of all: 'Unashamedly emotional, but always just cynical enough to keep it away from stale Stilton, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe is the riskiest story Moffat has created – he referenced Star Wars, the Battle of Britain and Narnia in the first five minutes! But The Doctor once again delivered. This episode didn't just have a great ending, it had two weepy finales – even the Doctor was teary. And Matt Smith continues to make it seem like he has played the part for forty nine years. Doctor one, Downton nil.' Sorted.

Y'see, there is magic in the world after all

Matt Smith, meanwhile, has sparked rumours of a reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend Daisy Lowe, after being spotted leaving her London home. Not that it's anyone else's frigging business, of course, but since everybody else is reporting this yer actual Keith Telly Topping feels duty-bound to do the same. Sometimes, I need a shower after doing this job, dear blog reader. The couple reportedly ended their eighteen-month relationship in November as their busy work schedules meant they rarely found time to see each other. However, the pair were spotted leaving the model's home on Friday morning, before going for breakfast in a café and driving off together in Daisy's Range Rover. According to nudge-nudge, wink-wink style tabloid reported they 'gave the impression they were a couple.' One alleged 'onlooker' allegedly told the Sun: 'They were not exactly all over each other but they're obviously patching things up to a certain extent.' Obviously. Although the pressure of work was blamed for their break-up, it was rumoured Matt, twenty nine, was also concerned that twenty two-year-old Daisy may have expected a long-term commitment. 'Whenever engagement and marriage was mentioned he was uncomfortable. He's still a young man and the thought of being tied down was a lot to digest,' an alleged 'friend' allegedly said.

Several years ago, when Doctor Who was just a memory (and a series of rather fine books) for a few die-hard fans, The Fast Show's Arabella Weir was asked to play a female incarnation of the Time Lord for a Big Finish audio play. Which she did. She wasn't going to do it initially until her Doctor Who-mad flatmate convinced her that it would be a bit of a giggle. When he had moved in with her some time earlier, he'd brought with him a boxful of Doctor Who action figures and a collection of the Doctor Who Magazine, which were kept in strict chronological order. There is some grainy footage from the 'Making Of' video of the play in question - Exile - showing Arabella proclaiming: 'I'm only really doing this because my best friend David Tennant loves Doctor Who and he got a part in it. He's the sixth alien.' Eight years later and David Tennant is now regarded by many fans as the most loved Doctor of all. During his tenure on the show (between 2005 and 2010), Arabella was a frequent visitor to its Cardiff studios and begged the producers for a part alongside her friend. David's gone now, of course, and Matt Smith has taken over, but the story finally came full circle as Arabella was back in Doctor Who for its Christmas special. And with whom will she be watching her appearance on Christmas Day? David, of course, his fiancée Georgia Moffett — daughter of a previous Time Lord, Peter Davison — and their seven-month-old daughter, Olive. Arabella claims that she was promised a role in Doctor Who during Tennant's time on the show. 'And even when he left they said they would find one. But I was rather bitter and said: "It's too late." But now, I'm rather excited, because it gets to be my thing rather than my mate's. David and his family will be at my house on Christmas Day and we had better be watching it. I'm sure he'll want to; he is still a Doctor Who geek.' Arabella and David have been friends for nearly twenty years after meeting on the BBC drama Takin' Over the Asylum. There are ten years between them and, on the surface, they don't appear to have much in common. He's the son of a Church of Scotland minister and, apart from Doctor Who, is famous for his serious stage and TV acting. She grew up in North London, the daughter of former British Ambassador Sir Michael Weir, and is probably best known for her catchphrase 'Does my bum look big in this?' from The Fast Show. Tennant admits that when they met he was overawed by her apparent confidence. But they bonded over their Scottish Presbyterian upbringings. 'We just hit it off in that way that very occasionally in your life you do,' Arabella says. 'There were a lot of similarities in the way we were brought up. My parents were Scottish and had that whole stern "Och, don't get ahead of yourself" attitude. There was never any sexual spark between David and I, but we became great pals. At that time I lived in a big house I couldn't afford. He said he wanted to move to London, so he became my lodger. He ended up staying for six years.' Like all flatmates, they had their differences. 'David is a total geek,' Arabella notes. 'He alphabetises his CD collection and I really did take the mick out of him for his Doctor Who memorabilia — I told him that no one in their twenties still collected Doctor Who magazines. But we've always been there for each other and he’s godfather to my children.' Arabella was one of the first people David called when he got the role of The Doctor. 'He rang me up and said: "I've just got the best job in the world." His name had come up as a possible James Bond, so I asked if it was that. "No, better," he said. I was head of my school's parent-teacher association at the time he told me about the role, so the first thing I said was: "Can you open my summer fair?" He asked: "Could you not be a bit more excited for me?" I said: "Yes, I know it;s your lifetime dream and all of that, but if you do my summer fair we will be quids in." He did, and there was a queue for more than a mile around the block.' Arabella recalls a time when she had been given a 'big, big money offer' to do Celebrity Big Brother when her career was going through a quiet time. David warned her not to do it. 'He told me: "Arri, it is the death of hope!" I had to admit, he was right. It's where you've gone when it's all over for you, so I turned it down.' Similarly, she was there for David when he was considering leaving Doctor Who. 'He agonised over it, but how long do you stay at the party? He knew he had to do other stuff as he is an actor first and foremost.' Arabella is strict about what her children can watch on TV. No reality talent shows are allowed and they also could not see her in the controversial Channel Four drama Skins. So another pleasure of taking the Doctor Who part, is that she can watch it with her children. 'I think this may be the last Christmas where I don't have to pin them down to watch Doctor Who with me,' she says. 'But they still think it's a bit cool. It's thrilling to do something that people love this much. Even adults — when I tell them I am in the Doctor Who Christmas special they ask: "Are you really? Good God." It's like I've slept with someone out of Take That. Which I haven't done, by the way. I wouldn't have minded Robbie Williams, but the rest of them look like estate agents.'
Gillian Anderson says she is happy to keep working in the UK, as she doesn't see herself as 'a typical Hollywood star.' Whatever that means. Presumably, somebody employable in America. The actress is about to hit our screens in a BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, playing the abandoned bride Miss Havisham. Explaining why she keeps getting offered roles on this side of the Atlantic, she said: 'People tend to take risks with me more over here than they do in the States. I'm not sure they know what to do with me over there, although there are two films I'm interested in at the moment which would take me back there soon.' But if she's craving shoots where she gets to wear nice dresses rather than the rotting lace she's forced to don for her Dickens role, she's not showing it. 'I don't think of myself as a "glamorous Hollywood actress" at all. If I look at my roles, the majority have less to do with glamour and have more to do with some kind of human condition, a lot of sorrow and pain. I keep on getting cast as sad women looking out of windows.' Ah well, it's a living. Gillian is well aware of how fans of the novel might respond to a TV version of Great Expectations, especially as it is the third big British literary adaptation she has starred in over the past fourteen months (she played Wallis Simpson in an adaptation of William Boyd's Any Human Heart and Mrs Castaway in Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal And The White). She says: 'Everybody who loves a book has an idea of how they see it. There's a book I quite like which has been made into a film. I keep seeing the trailer and I have such a negative feeling towards it just based on the trailer, so I get it, I understand. But you just have to jump in with both feet and hope people like it.'

The last time we saw Sherlock Holmes and his friend John Watson on TV, they had been cornered by the evil Jim Moriarty in a deserted swimming pool. Several guns were pointing at them, while the detective was aiming his own firearm at a bomb which could blow them all to smithereens. It's been a long eighteen-month wait to find out what happens to Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional creation. But the wait is almost over as Sherlock returns to BBc1 on New Year's Day. The character of Sherlock Holmes is clearly back in fashion again. At the cinema you can see Robert Downey Jr in a Hollywood sequel of the famous sleuth. And on the small screen you can catch Benedict Cumberbatch. Both versions have been huge hits, with the BBC's modern adaptation winning nine million viewers in the UK and being sold to one hundred and eighty countries worldwide. The actors admit they were surprised at its success. 'We were confident about making it as it was so clever,' says Cumberbatch. 'But it was brilliant how big a deal it was. The other day a group of girls fell over each other because they were so busy pointing at me.' Martin Freeman, so good as John Watson, adds: 'The popularity was beyond all of our wildest dreams but I wasn't surprised that people liked it — I knew it was quality and had great writing.' The problem over the second series has been pinning down the successful team behind it. Writers and creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss also work so hard on Doctor Who. Then there is Benedict, star of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the forthcoming War Horse. And finally Martin, who nearly turned down the starring role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's new movie franchise The Hobbit because it coincided with filming for Sherlock. Fortunately, Jackson was a Sherlock fan and restructured the filming in New Zealand for four months to allow Martin (and Benedict, who also has a role in the film) to return to Britain for the series. 'Everyone did juggling on my behalf to make it happen,' says Martin. 'I have always loved this shambling, slightly chaotic room,' he says about the set of 221B Baker Street. 'There is a mish-mash of designs, but it's believable.' This Sherlock version is, of course, set in the present day. The detective uses forensic science and the Internet as much as his more famous methods of deduction. There was some controversy at the idea of it, though many traditionalist Holmes fans have taken the series to their hearts and are among its biggest supporters. That is partly because despite all of the technology it retains a Victorian feel. 'People wanted to hate it, but couldn't because it was so true to the Sherlock ethos,' says Mark Gatiss who, as well as co-writing the show, plays the detective's older, smarter brother Mycroft. 'Sherlock has always been at the cutting edge of technology. This time there will be stuff about the Olympics and Twitter because he is set in the modern world.' Holmes has some pretty big brains to compete against. First, there is Moriarty played, brilliant, by Irish actor Andrew Scott. And [spooks] star Lara Pulver is cast as the seductress Irene Adler. 'We've played on the presumption of the gay thing, but Sherlock and Watson are not gay,' says Benedict. 'Irene is beautiful and smart. He is sexually unattainable so they have a merry dance with each other .  And there's an amazing seduction scene.' Despite the villains, at the heart of the drama is the friendship between Sherlock and John — but producers struggled to cast the role of Watson until Martin read with Benedict. Offscreen they are good friends. But just like their TV characters, they could not be more different, with Benedict admitting he has some sympathy for Sherlock's detachment. Martin, the Surrey comprehensive boy, is just as you would imagine; delightfully down-to-earth, his comments littered with jokes and fruity language. Benedict, who went to Harrow school, is more reserved and several octaves quieter. The three most famous Holmes stories feature in the latest series, including The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Final Problem, where Sherlock has his big battle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Sherlock realises his arch-enemy is not all bad. 'He knows he doesn't have a total disregard for human life,' says Benedict. Despite the popularity of the last series, the cast know they can't take anything for granted. 'We always knew we must not get complacent,' says Martin. 'After something has been a success it is easy to pat yourself on the back and think, "yeah, we've done it." You have to treat it as if it was not a big show last time — you have to play it the way you first played it and not think about people's perceptions.'

Stacey Solomon's Iceland adverts have been criticised for 'glamorising' the area of Dagenham. Which, I must admit, yer actual Keith Telly Topping didn't think was possible. Residents have reportedly complained that the festive campaign, which sees the I'm a Z-List Former Celebrity ... winner Solomon travel to her local mansion, gives viewers 'an unrealistic expectation' of the arse-end-of-the-world East London suburb. 'Iceland is trying to paint this angelic picture because it looks better than a two-bed semi,' Labour council leader Darren Rodwell told the Sun. 'There isn't a house like it in Dagenham.' So, basically, what he appears to be saying is if the advertisement had shown the area which he's supposed to represent as a shithole, he'd've had no problem with it. That's got to be a first. Even for Dagenham.
A representative for the supermarket chain responded: 'The sentiment is intended to convey that at Christmas many people travel back to their home towns.' The Advertising Standards Agency said that the campaign has not broken any rules. And, even if it has, 'making somewhere look nicer than it actually is,' isn't one of them.

Christmas might be the season of goodwill for most of us, but poor old beleaguered and consistent ratings flop Christine Bleakley has been dragged into an unpleasant Twitter spat with her boyfriend Frank Lampard's ex Elen Rivas. The former Daybreak presenter appeared to tahe the bait after Rivas claimed on Twitter that Bleakley and Lampard had tried to stop her talking to her children at Christmas. Rivas tweeted: 'Sad a father would deliberately stop his children from speaking to their mother over Christmas. You would have thought the girlfriend would have a little maternal understanding.' Bleakley responded with more passion than she showed in fourteen months on Daybreak by re-tweeting a friend's comment saying: 'Looks like someone is up to their old tricks again, telling lies!' She also responded to another comment which said: 'What mother would leave her kids at Christmas in the first instance?' Rivas appears to have been spending Christmas in New Delhi, while Lampard and Bleakley were in the UK with his children Luna, six, and Isla, four.

Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton - seen right looking really quite a lot like Nanook of the North - spent Christmas Day in Antarctica in her bid to be the first person to cycle to the South Pole. The twenty eight-year-old will begin her gruelling five hundred-mile ski, kite and ice bike journey for Sport Relief on 1 January. Helen's previous exploits have included high-wire walking between the chimneys of Battersea Power Station in London and becoming the first person to kayak the length of the Amazon solo. Now she is aiming for a world record for the longest bicycle journey on snow. Yesterday, she trained in sub-zero temperatures with just dehydrated rations for dinner. Helen woke up to minus twenty degree temperatures, with her stocking containing just a piece of Christmas cake and a letter from her family wishing her luck. She said: 'Still, I can't complain – this is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Happy Christmas!' Helen will travel for up to fourteen hours a day, battling eighty mph winds as well as up to minus fifty degree temperatures. Possible dangers include dehydration, frostbite and sun blindness. Helen's Polar Challenge For Sport Relief will be shown in a special nine-week series on Blue Peter from the end of January to March.

Playboy playmates Kristina Shannon and Karissa Shannon have reportedly signed up for Celebrity Big Brother. The twenty two-year-old large-chested twins have reportedly been approached by Channel Five to 'sex up' the house and serve as 'a romantic interest' for fellow rumoured contestant Kirk Norcross of The Only Way Is Essex. According to the ever-reliable Sun. 'The girls have pledged to really sex up the Big Brother house,' an alleged 'source' allegedly commented in a way that real people, you know, don't. 'Kirk won't know what has hit him. But with his ladies' man reputation, he is sure to be tempted by our Playmates.' Then, presumably he came all down he legs whilst guffawing like Finbar Saunders. Sometimes, dear blog reader, there's just no punchline necessary. Although 'this isn't the first time there's been a load of tits in the Big Brother house' does, kind of sit up and beg to be used.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though, still unsellable) Magpies scored twice in two second-half minutes to condemn Notlob Wanderings to their eighth home defeat of the season. Home keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen saved Ryan Taylor's twenty five-yard free-kick, while Newcastle's Tim Krul kept out Martin Petrov's effort in a generally dull first half. But Hatem Ben Arfa swept in Taylor's cross from twelve yards before Demba Ba bundled in Gabriel Obertain's cross in quick succession to snatch the victory. Petrov fired wide for Notlob who remain second-bottom of the table. Newcastle stay seventh on thirty points after they ended a run of six games without a win with what eventually turned out to be a comfortable victory against very poor opposition. The game turned on its head around the seventy-minute mark when an unmarked Ben Arfa ghosted into the box and score with a low first-time effort from Taylor's left-wing centre. It was the first goal scored by a United player other than Ba in five games, but the Senegal striker was soon on the score sheet with his fourteenth goal of the season. Obertan jinked towards the penalty area on the right and delivered an inviting centre that Ba beat Cahill to and the ball ballooned into the top corner. The only positive news for Trotters fans was Maxi Rodriguez's equaliser for The Thieving Scouse Schleps, which meant local rivals Blackburn Vindaloos remained bottom of the Premier League. Elsewhere, The Scum gave Wigan Not Very Athletic a reet trousers-down hiding at Old Trafford after Conor Sammon was somewhat harshly sent off for catching Michael Carrick in the face. After all, punching a Scummer should be something rewarded with a medal, not a red card. The Scum's 5-0 win combined with Sheikh Yer Man City's inability to break down a stubborn West Bromwich Albinos at The Hawthorns gave the top of the table a very different look with both the Manchester clubs now of forty five points. And, thus, presumably, safe from relegation. Moscow Chelski FC were unable to take advantage and close the gap, drawing 1-1 with Fulham in the day's early kick-off. Elsewhere, Bunderland and Everton also drew 1-1.

And so, dear blog reader, to the final Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas record. Which seems thoroughly fitting for the how many people will be feeling round about now after three days of incessant food, booze and lethargy.
This concludes yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas. Which may, or may not, be back sometime around 6 December 2012. It depends on how I'm feeling. or, indeed, on Mayan prophecies which may, or may not, mean something or other. Don't come to me looking for a quick answer on that one. It's been emotional.