Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Soul Food

There were two genuinely outstanding moments of comedy in the opening semi-final episode of MasterChef: The Professionals on Monday night. Firstly little Allison's reaction when Michel Roux announced that someone was going to be helping he and Gregg do the judging in this episode to whittle the eight semi-finalists down to six and then Monica Galetti walked in the room. It was as though Allison had just been told Lucifer his very self was going to be judging her nosh. A sharp intake of breath followed by a face that simply cried 'help me Jesus!'
The second incident occurred some time later, when the chefs had completed their dishes and were presenting them for comment. Big stony-faced, scary-looking Kim put her plate down in front of the judges and Monica gave it a rather dismissive comment about the presentation. Kim, who looks like the kind of lass you really wouldn't want to cross if you've got any sense about you, gave her a look that just screamed 'I keeeeell you, you beeeetch!'
In the end, Matt and, sadly, Allison went out of the competition whilst Kim survived to menace Monica another day. As did Ash and Oli, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's two outside tips for the title.

Top Twenty TV Programmes, week ending 27 November 2011:-
1 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 12.78m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 Sat - 11.78m
3 I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! - ITV Sun - 10.54m
4 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 10.41m
5 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 9.74m
6 Frozen Planet - BBC1 Wed - 8.29m
7 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.71m
8 Merlin - BBC1 Sat - 7.32 m
9 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.97m
10 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 6.66m
11 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.52m
12 Death In Paradise - BBC1 Tues - 5.46 million
13 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 5.34 million
14 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.18 million
15 The ONE Show - BBC1 Wed - 5.05 million
16 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.04 million
17 Formula 1: Brazilian Grand Prix - BBC1 Sun - 4.93 million
18 Have I Got News For You - BBC1 Fri - 4.78 million
19 Garrow's Law - BBC1 Sun - 4.77 million
20 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 4.67 million

Harry Hill has reportedly sparked a 'broadcaster bidding war' after splitting from his long-term manager Jon Thoday. The comedian is apparently looking for 'a fresh start' after parting ways with the boss of Avalon, which produces his TV Burp programme. Sky and BBC1 are said to have expressed an interest in signing Hill, while ITV is keen to keep him on the channel. 'Harry has got lots of zany and madcap ideas which he is very excited about,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Mirra. 'It's time for a fresh start. There have been some creative differences between him and Avalon so he has left and is shopping around for a new agent. Harry is on the market and everyone wants a piece of the action.' Hill was alleged to have rejected a one million smackers pay rise and quit TV Burp in September, though he later claimed that the show's future had not yet been decided.

The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd is to write and star in a new comedy for Sky1 co-starring Steve Coogan and Johnny Vegas. Moone Boy will be co-produced by Coogan's production company, Baby Cow, and is 'a part autobiographical tale of growing up in Ireland at the end of the 1980s.' The comedy will also feature 'animated elements' as it tells the story of the youngest member of the Moone family, eleven-year-old Martin Moone, in a small town in Ireland. O'Dowd, who also starred in Kristen Wiig's hit Hollywood comedy Bridesmaids, co-wrote Moone Boy with Nick Vincent Murphy and developed it from a comedy short he made for Sky1's annual festive season of programmes, Little Crackers. 'Martin has a unique perspective on life aided by an imaginary friend Sean Murphy [played by O'Dowd],' said Sky. 'Martin's imagination comes into play both in his childish drawings, which come alive through animation, and in the ridiculous schemes he comes up with, against Sean's better judgement. With Sean's help, Martin negotiates life as the youngest in a chaotic, scatter-brained family.' Filming will begin in O'Dowd's hometown of Boyle and Dublin in the new year, for broadcast on Sky1 next summer. Auditions are currently under way to find an actor to play the lead role. The six-part series is a co-production with Sprout Films, Hod Cod Productions and Grand Pictures. O'Dowd said: 'Moone Boy is a fantastic comedy which centres on a ten-year-old boy who has an imaginary friend. It is set in the late eighties/early nineties and all of the experiences are ones that I had. It's a really funny show which has loads of animation and a number of laughs that I hope people will love. It was essential to film in Ireland and what was great about Sky was they wanted us to film here and they were really supportive. That wouldn't have happened at any other channel.'

Richard Desmond's Channel Five will relaunch its news output next year with on-air reporters editing their own footage. Five News is making more than a third of its news staff redundant – including all editors and newsroom staff – in a fresh bid to cut costs at the broadcaster. About sixteen staff are being made redundant as part of changes to the Channel Five news output, which will see on-air presenters edit their own footage and the introduction of 'low-budget' cameras. The cutbacks were announced to staff after ITN won back the contract to produce Five News from Sky News. ITN will take over the daily bulletin, fronted by presenters Matt Barbet and Emma Crosby, in February 2012. ITN said most of the redundant staff would eventually be replaced but in different roles. 'We've always said the majority of Five News staff will be transferring to ITN,' a spokesman for ITN said. 'We are currently in consultation with the workforce as we reconfigure roles on the service. As with any change, ITN does have different working practices to other news producers and we are supporting staff through this process.' Some Five News cameramen are understood to be 'furious' after being told that their job title would be changed to 'video journalist,' which incorporates a broader range of editorial duties, and given what they claim are low-budget cameras. Some on-air reporters will edit their own footage. 'They've been given old [Sony] EX1s,' one Five News 'insider' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'They were told that they're award-winning cameras – but that's only because they're used in war zones.' The Five News budget for international coverage is also understood to have been squeezed, with foreign coverage next year restricted to the US presidential election. Desmond was expected to make sweeping changes to the Five News budget after he bought the terrestrial broadcaster for just over one hundred million snots in August last year. Channel Five and Sky News had held on/off discussions over the past year to cancel the agreement – thought to be worth nine million quid a year – as Desmond sought to cut the cost of Five News. ITN's new deal is thought to be worth about half that figure. A focus on lighter news and the introduction of the entertainment news magazine spin-off OK! TV – which was scrapped last week after just nine months on air – followed eighty redundancies at the network, in a clear out some compared to the brutal aftermath of Desmond's Express Newspapers purchase, which saw one hundred and thirty staff made redundant eleven years ago.

Singers Tony Bennett and Nicole Scherzinger have joined other stars at the Royal Variety Performance in Salford. The show, held in the presence of the dummy Princess Royal, was hosted by wretched, unfunny comedian Peter Kay. Britain's Got Talent winner Jai McDowall and the Dhol Foundation, a team of drummers, also took part. The event at The Lowry Arts Centre was to raise money for the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund. Now in its ninety ninth year, the performance returned to the North West for the third time in four years, having taken place at Liverpool's Empire Theatre in 2007 and the Blackpool Opera House in 2009. Also performing in Salford were singers Cee Lo Green and horrible whiny-voiced Pixie Lott (so, that'd've been well-worth avoiding, then), comedians Greg Davies and Jason Manford, and magicians Penn and Teller. The show was the first for twenty years that was not attended by the Queen or the Prince of Wales, which gives you some idea of what the Royal Family thought of the line-up. They have taken it in turns to watch the annual shows since 1991. The prince attended in London last year. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: 'The Queen receives many invitations and she cannot accept them all, and the Princess Royal is happy to attend this year.' Looks like it from photos taken at the event, it must be said.

Jack's back, everyone! The movie version of 24 is scheduled to begin filming in the spring of 2012, it has been confirmed. The big-screen update of the long-running FOX drama starring Kiefer Sutherland is still in pre-production. Die Hard 4 screenwriter Mark Bomback is said to be completing the latest script draft by the end of the year. Production is now aiming to start in April to coincide with Sutherland's next availability, according to Deadline. Sutherland had said in October that a first script for 24: The Movie was 'nearly complete.' The project has been in development since the end of the - disappointing - eighth and final season last year.

Comic actor Alan Sues, a star of US television series Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In, has died at the age of eighty five. Known for his outrageous, camp persona, Sues had several recurring characters on the comedy series, including Big Al - an effeminate sport reporter and Uncle Al the Kiddie's Pal. His close friend Michael Gregg Michaud told the Associated Press that Sues had died of cardiac arrest on Thursday at his home in West Hollywood. His final role was a 2009 short film, Artificially Speaking premiered at Dances with Films. Born in 1926, Sues served in the army during World War II. After the war, he trained as an actor and made his debut on Broadway in the play Tea and Sympathy, directed by Oscar-winner Elia Kazan. In 1964, Sues appeared in another dramatic role in the classic Twilight Zone episode The Masks. He played a vicious bully who - along with his equally nasty family - was asked to wear a hideous carnival mask by a dying relative. Four years later, Sues joined the cast of comedy sketch show Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In. Hosted by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, the colourful, anarchic TV show was broadcast by NBC. Sues was a hit as Big Al, a fey sport reporter who loved ringing his bell, which he called his 'tinkle.' After leaving the show in 1973, he once again returned to stage playing Professor Moriarty in an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes opposite Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy. He continued to work in TV and commercials throughout the rest of his career. Sues had health problems in his later years but Mr Michaud told AP that his death came as a shock to friends. He said: 'He was sitting in a recliner watching TV with his dachshund Doris, who he loved, in his lap.' Sues leaves a sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew.

Virgin has been forced to withdraw a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf from a recommended reading shelf at one of its Megastores in Qatar. American communications executive Charles Gandelman spotted the gaffe last month in the Virgin outlet in the Landmark Shopping Centre in Qatar. He posted a picture of it on his Twitter account, commenting: 'Mein Kampf's next stop: Oprah's Book Club.' Gandelman said that he was alerted to the recommendation by his friend Anna Peregrini, who lives in Qatar. Speaking to the National newspaper, Gandelman said: 'My friend was very shocked and sent a very passionate e-mail to Virgin but got no response. I have seen this book on sale before but to have it in the recommended section of an international British brand associated with Richard Branson is surprising. After Anna got no response from the company I posted it on Twitter to see where it would go.' And in that one sentence, ladies and gentlemen, we have a microcosm of the problem with Twitter. Mein Kampf was removed from the recommended reading section within a day of his posting on Twitter. Virgin Megastore said in a statement that each store sets its own recommended reading for books, but did not reveal who put up Hitler's tome. 'Recently, one of the region's Virgin Megastores included in its book section the Arabic translation of Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler, a title available worldwide in major bookstores and online,' said the firm. 'For one day, the book was included in the recommended section. The recommended tag was not an endorsement of the book's author or its content. In response to a customer, we removed the title from the display.' Only Germany and Austria prohibit sales of Mein Kampf, the book published in 1925 that charts the Nazi leader's views on Judaism and Communism.

And so, as promised, dear blog reader, today we begin the first day of our festive Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas - a, guaranteed, Greg Lake-free zone - with a truly mighty offering from Hank Ballard And The Midnighters from 1959. Soul Christmas.
Righteous, brothers and sisters, I'm sure you'll agree.