Monday, December 19, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: The Three Ronnies

According to Brian Cox on BBC2's wonderful alternative Royal Institute lecture on the vexed subject of quantum mechanics A Night With The Stars, all matter in the universe is made up of atoms. Which, at a sub-atomic level, are 99.9999999999999 per cent nothing. 'We are all, therefore, vast and empty. Basically, nothing,' The People's Scientist told a celebrity audience the like of which hasn't been seen on telly since An Audience With Billy Connolly. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping would like to assure you, dear blog reader, that he's full of a bit more nothing than most of you. Just wanted to make that clear.
An exercise in producing entertainment from the abstract and a beautiful summation of John Reith's public service broadcasting mission statement, Brian got Sarah Millican messing about with a bucket of sand to demonstrate the structure of an atom; he managed to get Simon Pegg and Jim Al-Khalili to illustrate wave formation with a spring; he set fire to James May to prove Pauli exclusion principle; he got Jonny Ross to 'do some sums' (just, you know, Feynman's principle); and, he stated that anybody who doesn't like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is 'a mischievous hippy.' Sounds about right. 'I hope he's going to unveil a death ray,' said a far more cheerful than usual Charlie Brooker. Mind you, he was sitting next to his missus - who wouldn't look cheerful in such an eventuality?
Almost two and a half million viewers were educated, informed or entertained (hopefully all three) by The People's Scientist. Which is good. Other overnight ratings for Sunday included six million for Young James Herriot, 4.6m (not including HD) for ITV's Michael Buble thing, 4.2m for Just Henry and 3.8m for the beautiful Lost Christmas.

And, speaking of ratings, to BARB's consolidated figures. Here's the Top Twenty programmes for week ending 11 December:-
1 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 12.09m (+1.36m ITV HD)
2 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 Sat - 12.04m
3 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 9.33m
4 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.24m*
5 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 8.47m*
6 Frozen Planet - BBC1 Wed - 8.07m
7 Merlin - BBC1 Sat - 7.12m
8 Without You - ITV Thurs - 6.93m
9 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.79m
10 I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get me Out Of Here! - ITV Mon - 6.35m*
11 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 6.15m
12 Have I Got News For You - BBC1 Fri - 5.85m
13 Death In Paradise - BBC1 Tues - 5.66m
14 Holby City - BBc1 Tues - 5.41m
15 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Thurs - 5.37m
16 Casualty - BBc1 Sat - 5.31m
17 Ten O'Clock News - BBc1 Wed - 5.22m
18 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 5.07m
19 My Family - BBC1 Sat - 5.01m
20 Panorama - BBC1 Mon - 5.00m
*All of the ITV shows (except The X Factor) do not include ITV HD figures, which ITV count seperately. BBC2's highest rated shows of the week were Tuesday's episode of MasterChef: The Professionals (3.37m) and University Challenge (3.30m). Channel Four's best performer was the movie Elf (3.83m)

There's an interview with The Moffster, Mark Gatiss and Benny and Martin in the Gruniad Morning Star to promote the forthcoming second series of Sherlock. Followed, as usual, by much crass and pointless wank from a bunch of gobby, ill-informed, know-nothing morons in the comment section. Take my advice, dear blog reader, avoid all comments sections - particularly those in the Gruniad Morning Star - if you want your blood pressure to remain at a medically safe level.
Matt Smith was interviewed by the Standard this week and talked about a recent, ahem, 'incident' with the police: 'I was running for a train, on my way to film in Bristol, when I was stopped by anti-terrorist police for a routine check. I ended up missing my train and being late for my call. I must have been looking particularly dodgy.' It's the bow-tie, mate. They're not cool. Matt also claimed that his best present at Christmas was: 'A snooker table - although my SEGA Mega Drive comes close. I also used to love getting pyjamas and wearing them all day.' What's that, dear blog reader? You'd like to see yet another publicity photo from the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe? How could yer actual Keith Telly Topping refuse such a request?
Ronnie Wolfe, the co-created of the 1970s television sitcom On The Buses, has died after hitting his head in a fall, his son-in-law said. Wolfe, eighty nine, died on Sunday, three days after he fell down the stairs at a respite home in London. The comedy show was broadcast from 1969 to 1973 on LWT and ran for four series. It also spawned three spin-off movies. Arif Hussein, the husband of Wolfe's daughter Kathryn, said his father-in-law was 'absolutely wonderful. He was the kind of father-in-law most people dream about, absolutely. Most people talk about their in-laws as people who are interfering, but to me my in-laws were a dream. Ronnie was from day one, he was absolutely wonderful.' On the Buses was set in a bus depot, and was initially rejected by the BBC before finding a home at LWT and becoming hugely popular. It featured Reg Varney, who played driver Stan Butler, Bob Grant as his clippy, Jack and Stephen Lewis as Blakey, the miserable Inspector with the Hitler moustache whose catch phrase 'I'll get you, Butler' became something of a national obsession for about five minutes in 1972. Wolfe created dozens of comedies with his writing partner, Ronald Chesney - the pair were known as The Other Two Ronnies. Their work included the BBC hit The Rag Trade, which also starred Varney. Chesney said: 'We were together fifty years - it's like losing my brother.' His wife Rose said it had been a sad end. 'It has been a really, really sad last few days and a quite horrendous and totally unexpectedly sad end for a guy who was so funny in life,' she said. 'He was the most incredible husband and we had fifty eight years of superb marriage harmony.' The couple have two daughters. The eldest, Kathryn, said she could not have wished for a better father: 'He was funny in public with the huge legacy left behind and funny in private.' Wolfe was born in London and during World War II he worked as a radio engineer at Marconi. In the early 1950s he began to contribute to radio scripts and his long and fruitful partnership with Chesney began. Wolfe was the first cousin of the actor Warren Mitchell. The first major success for Chesney and Wolfe was BBC radio's Educating Archie, in 1958. This featured ventriloquist Peter Brough and his puppet Archie Andrews and emerged from a one-off special they had written in 1956 for the BBC entitled Here's Archie, which also featured Brough, his dummy, and Irene Handl. In 1961 the duo created The Rag Trade, starring Peter Jones, Miriam Karlin and Reg Varney. Written for the BBC, this comedy was set in a working class environment and featured strong roles for the female actors, which was highly unusual for a sitcom of the time. Set in a fabric workshop - Fenner Fashions - it centred on the battles and conflicts between the bosses and the workers, and contained a degree of social commentary. Sheila Hancock, Esma Cannon and Barbara Windsor also appeared. It ran for three very successful series in the early 1960s and was, subsequently revived a decade later at LWT for a further two years. In 1963 Chesney and Wolfe repeated their success with the BBC sitcom Meet The Wife starring Dame Thora Hird and Freddie Frinton. It was originally a one-off Comedy Playhouse pilot called The Bed. Again, this featured working class characters and humour. Although not as well remembered as The Rag Trade in and of itself, it gained a kind of immortality by being mentioned mentioned in the lyrics of The Beatles' 'Good Morning Good Morning' ('It's time for tea and Meet The Wife'). In 1964 the pair wrote a thirteen episode comedy series for Australian TV, Barley Charlie, which revolved around two sisters, Sheila Bradley as Joan Muggleton and Robina Beard as Shirley Muggleton, who inherit a run down garage complete with its one bone-idle employee, Edward Hepple as the eponymous Charlie, it was produced by Rod Kinnear for the Nine Network. In 1965-66 they wrote The Bed-Sit Girl starring Sheila Hancock, and in 1967 Sorry I'm Single with Derek Nimmo, Gwendolyn Watts and Elizabeth Knight. In 1968 they created Wild, Wild Women starring Barbara Windsor, a kind of period-piece variation on The Rag Trade. After the success of On The Buses, in 1972, Wolfe and Chesney created another ITV sitcom Romany Jones starring Dad's Army actor James Beck and featuring Jo Rowbottom and Arthur English. It lasted four series, but was not as popular as some of their previous projects. Beck died after the second series necessitating some recasting. Romany Jones led to a sequel featuring the characters played by Arthur Mullard and Queenie Watts, Yus, My Dear (1976). Their last series as a comedy scriptwriting partnership were Watch This Space (BBC 1980), starring Christopher Biggins as the boss of an advertising agency, and Take a Letter Mr Jones (Southern 1981), a vehicle for John Inman. Wolfe also wrote solo scripts of 'Allo 'Allo and for a Norwegian remake of The Rag Trade, Fredrikssons Fabrikk. Wolfe is survived by his wife, Rose, and their two daughters Debbie and Kathryn.

'The showbiz world was reeling last night after kids' favourites The Krankies revealed they used to be secret swingers,' according to the Sun. Insert your own punchline here.
Sky Sports golf presenter Diana Dougherty has left the broadcaster. Diana, who joined Sky as a runner in 2003, left after she hosted the final round coverage of the Chevron World Challenge on Sky Sports 2 in early December. In July 2004 she became a presenter on Sky Sports News after a period working on the programmes production team. From 2007 Diana presented a golf show alongside Rob Lee called Golf Night, which ended when Sky won the PGA Tour contract to show US golf on Sky Sports. Today she hosts some PGA and European tour golf events and acts as a reporter during the Majors. In October 2010 Diana presented the Ryder Cup Opening and Closing Ceremonies at Celtic Manor, Wales.
And, staying with Sky Sports, eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that Soccer Saturday began broadcasting from a new studio two weeks ago. Jeff Stelling called the new set The Vic Wakeling Studio after the former Sky Sports managing director.
New studio, perhaps, but that didn't mean that Paul Merson and Phil Thompson weren't talking the same old bollocks they always spew out. God bless Stelling, Charlie and Le Tiss for providing a touch of class to proceedings. Interesting - and possibly not entirely co-incidentally - that change happened just a week before Soccer Saturday's main opposition, Final Score, the BBC's Saturday afternoon football results show, also begun broadcasting from a new studio. This one in Salford.
The studio is also used for various BBC football programmes, including Football Focus and Match of the Day.

And, finally, this might be getting a little incestuous, it's true, but nevertheless ... yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has to say that he's truly indebted - and somewhat touched - to his old Abie, whose excellent Spacerock Reviews blog included the following crassly sycophantic (but, lovely all the same) mentionette of From The North in his recent feature, Six 'Out Shouts' For Friends: 'A quick mention for a blog that I read religiously, Keith Topping's From The North, which isn't music-related per se, though Keith does include a judicious choice of 45rpm vinyl in each posting; what it actually is, it's principally a television news and criticism blog that focuses on UK and US television with an eye on the politics of broadcasting and a withering take on where Keith sees the medium falling short (for the key joke in his coverage on Dancing on Ice under the title of Twatting About on Ice he does owe me a fiver ... though for his editing skills on Sonic Assassins I owe him so much more). In-depth, regularly updated, always informative, sometimes infuriating but always a must in the RSS feed of anyone who loves television. Keith is doing a "Twenty Two Days of Christmas" sequence!' Do you know, I'm gonna nick that description and claim it for my own! Merry Christmas, Ian, to you Janet, Lucas, Morgan and Niall and all the very best for 2012, my son.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas, well, there are some Christmas traditions that you simply can't ignore. Letting Phil Spector into your home when, otherwise, you might think twice for a kick-off. Sing, Ronnie.