Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Weeks One & Two: The Way She Looked Was Way Beyond Compare

So, dear blog reader, that was 2012 then. Hmm. A fair bit of good telly, admittedly - as previously detailed here - which is, after all, what this blog is largely all about. On a personal level, though, 2012 has been a year that yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self would rather forget. And, quite quickly at that. It began with his services being 'no longer required' for a job which he adored and was good at (and for reasons never fully, or satisfactorily, explained at that). It also included a long period of relatively poor health and ended with him in the not particularly happy position of caring for a terminally ill parent. To be fair, I'm sure many other people have a far worse life, of course. But, there've been times this year when it's been difficult to maintain that sort of balanced outlook for which yer actual Keith Telly Topping has, in the past, been known for. Still, there have been the odd good moments. If you looked really hard. Anyway, that's quite enough of that sort of self-indulgence for one lifetime, let alone one year. And now for something completely different. Ratings.

Let's end one year and start a new one with a right barrel-load of ratings, dear blog reader. The opening episode of the BBC's new Victorian chiller Ripper Street pulled in a more than decent overnight audience of 6.1m on BBC1, besting the 5.63m figure for the last episode of ITV's once-massively-popular-but-now-cancelled-due-to-declining-interest Wild At Heart. It was another strong night for BBC1 with Celebrity Mastermind pulling in 4.94m from 6.30pm, followed by Countryfile (6.29m) and Antiques Roadshow (5.43m). ITV's utterly miserable Christmas period continued. Apart from Wild At Heart getting a truncheon up the jacksie from Ripper Street, Super Famous Animals could only manage 2.41m whilst most viewers preferred not to bother with A Night with Beyonce (a risible nine hundred and thirteen thousand). BBC2's night was steady rather than spectacular with a repeat of James May's Toy Stories being watched by 1.02m, the last Dara O'Brien's Science Club (which also featured a guest appearance from old Cap'n Slow) having an audience of 1.04m followed by 1.07m for Neil Armstrong: First Man On The Moon and 1.02m for the terrestrial premiere of Duncan Jones's Moon. Channel Four's highlight of the night was Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2012 watched by an impressive 2.51m.

Although the final, consolidated ratings figures for Christmas week (24 to 30 December) won't be available for another few days yet, some interim figures have been released and they make for fascinating reading. Remember, dear blog reader, these are not final figures. But they do give an indication of the type of timeshifts which some programmes are currently getting:-
Christmas Eve:
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - 11.59m
EastEnders - 9.61m
Outnumbered Christmas Special - 9.40m
Coronation Street - 9.20m
Merlin - 7.71m
Emmerdale - 7.39m
The Snowman & The Snowdog 6.30m
Some properly astounding timeshift figures here for, in particular Mrs Brown's Boys (almost three million) and The Snowman & The Snowdog (near enough two million). And, here's possibly the single most remarkable audience figure of the entire week, the Christmas Eve episode of Mrs Brown's Boys is, currently, the twelfth most watched TV programme in 2012. As things stand, it's already ahead of, for example, the Wimbledon Final, the finals of I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) and The X Factor, all episode of Call The Midwife, EastEndersSherlock, Emmerdale and Doctor Who and The Sports Personality of the Year Show. Bloody remarkable.
Christmas Day:
EastEnders - 11.16m
Call The Midwife - 10.04m
The Royle Family Christmas Special - 9.78m
Doctor Who - 9.72m
Coronation Street - 9.62m
Downton Abbey - 9.52m
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special - 9.08m
Emmerdale - 6.11m
Room On The Broom - 5.90m
So, that's another near-three million timeshift for Call The Midwife. Additionally, 2.07m watched the repeat of the episode the following Sunday afternoon. Surely, if it had been shown on any other night it would have topped Christmas week ratings by miles? Perhaps these figures will give both the BBC and ITV a bit of pause for thought about what is, and isn't, family viewing on Christmas Day. Just because something is popular elsewhere in the year (I'm looking at you, Downton Abbey) doesn't, necessarily, mean that viewers will come flocking to it when it's shown immediately after the turkey and stuffing. Now, here's a very interesting little side issue; the live numbers for Doctor Who on Christmas afternoon was 5.75m. With timeshifting later on the day of transmission adding a further 1.84m viewers that took its initial overnight figure to 7.59m. It's now had a further timeshift of over two million punters taking it to 9.72m (so far). So, the total timeshift for The Snowmen - to date - is almost exactly four million punters; it only needs a tiny bit more in the next couple of days to beat the all-time record for any programme. Doctor Who, it would seem, remains king of the timeshifts! It's also number two on the BBC iPlayer list for the Christmas period (behind Miranda).
Boxing Day:
Miranda - 11.24m
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - 10.52m
EastEnders - 9.40m
Coronation Street - 8.76m
Emmerdale - 7.45m
Match Of The Day - 4.59m
The BBC (and ITV for that matter) must be wondering what would have happened if they'd put Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys on Christmas Day and Call The Midwife on Boxing Day. Miranda's provisional figure places it as the seventeenth most watched programme of the year so far.

Here, meanwhile, are the Final, consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Two programmes for weekend ending 23 December 2012:-
1 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 13.37m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 9.46m
3 EastEnders - Thurs BBC1 - 9.23m
4 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 8.64m
5 Merlin - Sat BBC1 - 8.45m
6 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 7.82m
7 Last Tango In Halifax - Tues BBC1 - 7.49m
8 Mr Stink - Sun BBC1 - 7.08m
9 The National Lottery Saturday Draws - Sat BBC1 - 6.32m
10 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.98m
11 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 5.59m
12 Six O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 5.05m
13 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.02m
14 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 5.00m
15 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 4.92m
16 Text Santa - Fri ITV - 4.82m*
17 Inside Claridge's - Mon BBC2/BBC HD - 4.81m
18 Snow Babies - Wed BBC1 - 4.75m
19 Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow - Thurs BBC1 - 4.64m
20 Young Apprentice - Thurs BBC1 - 4.58m
21 Loving Miss Hatto - Sun BBC1 - 4.55m
22 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 4.42m
* Laughably wretched horrorshow (and drag) Text Santa's audience does not include ITV HD figures which were unavailable from BARB. Aside from the remarkable figures for Inside Claridge's, BBC2 also had a good week pulling in sizeable audiences for The Great British Bake Off Christmas (3.80m including BBC HD viewers), Qi (2.69m also including BBC HD), Christmas University Challenge (2.63m) and The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show (2.54m). Channel Four's top performer was Homeland (2.8m). E4 topped the multi-channel's list with an audience of 2.24m for an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

And, speaking of yer actual ratings figures, the Daily Scum Mail their very selves have done a rather straight - and, whisper it, pretty accurate - summation of the Christmas period's overnights here. Good God, a British tabloid in 'getting ratings figures, and analysis of them, more or less spot-on and in context, shock.' Whatever next? If they start telling their readers to vote Labour, you really do know you're living through the End of Days. Amusingly, they really put the boot into ITV in the article rather than the Beeb. Which, makes a refreshing change. I give you the following example, dear blog reader: 'ITV's miserable Christmas in the ratings has continued after a news bulletin was its most watched show on Saturday and a repeat of Dad's Army on BBC2 beat one of its shows. The broadcaster has been hit by poor-performing shows over the festive period and managed only three out of the top ten on Christmas Day. Among these, Downton Abbey recorded its lowest ever viewing figures and was beaten by five programmes: EastEnders, Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing, The Royle Family and Doctor Who. The broadcaster managed about eight per cent share of the prime time [sic] audience on Saturday night with a number of shows struggling, or failing, to break the two million audience mark. A new game show fronted by Dale Winton, Dale's Great Getaway, which sees families competing to win a holiday, got fewer than 1.5million viewers. This was followed by a repeat of the Hugh Grant film Love Actually, with 1.6million viewers before the nightly news and 1.8million afterwards. BBC1's prime-time [sic] share of audience on the same night was 20.5 per cent, with Superstars getting almost six million viewers. BBC2 also beat ITV on audience share. The commercial broadcaster's top show was its evening news and weather bulletin at about 2.5million viewers, followed by I Love You've Been Framed with 2.4million. An episode of Dad's Army on BBC2 at 6.45pm on Saturday, which got 2.4million viewers, beat a show on the thirtieth anniversary of CITV, the broadcaster's children’s service. [Just for accuracy's sake it wasn't, actually, an episode of Dad's Army, it was the 1971 movie adaptation of the popular sitcom.] A programme about the making of The Sound of Music on BBC2 also beat an ITV show on at the same time. The figures confirm the BBC's dominance over the festive period. On Christmas Eve, apart from Coronation Street, Emmerdale and its evening news bulletin, BBC1 beat ITV shows all nightMerlin, EastEnders, Outnumbered, Mrs Brown’s Boys and a repeat of The Vicar of Dibley easily beating, by millions, the commercial broadcaster's offerings which included The Spice Girls Story and Christmas Carols on ITV. On the same night, BBC2 got more viewers for some of its shows than ITV, including Open All Hours and Porridge. ITV was also beaten on Christmas Day throughout peak viewing hours, with Doctor Who beating Emmerdale, Strictly Come Dancing easily conquering a Paul O'Grady show about dogs and EastEnders and The Royle Family victorious over Downton Abbey. Only Coronation Street beat its head-to-head rival Call The Midwife. On Boxing Day, BBC1 had huge ratings for sitcom Miranda, watched by a peak of ten million, trouncing a Stephen Fry drama on ITV [Doors Open] by about seven million viewers. It also got a massive audience for the second festive episode of Mrs Brown's Boys, which averaged almost nine million viewers. ITV can console itself that its soap operas continued to attract high ratings. The commercial broadcaster has always faced a dilemma at Christmas over whether to take on the might of the BBC or to keep back big projects for the new year.' The Scum Mail, of course, put an awful lot of time and effort into bigging up the the second and third series of Downton (and its associated Christmas specials). Now, apparently, it's seeing a weakness and doing the rather typical and scummishly British tabloid thing of 'turning on the thing we once told you to love' malarkey. Although, given that this is Lord Snooty we're talking about, that's actually really funny when coming from a stridently right-wing rag like the Scum Mail. Almost everything which has been written about the Downton Christmas special in the press generally - but, in the Scum Mail in particular - has been a negative. The accepted Downton Abbey narrative now seems to be 'where did it all go wrong?' rather than 'how wonderful it is to see Lord Snooty's idea of a bygone era when everyone knew their place.'

And so to Weeks One and Two of 2013's Top Telly Tips:-
Tuesday 1 January
As series three of Miranda Hart's espresso-and-choc-ice-fuelled sitcom Miranda continues - 9:00 BBC1 - mum Penny (the wonderfully over-the-top Patricia Hodge) humiliates her daughter by standing for a post in local government. And to compound the misery, unrequited-lover-that-got-away Gary now has a perky new girlfriend, so Miranda goes clubbing, together with Stevie and Tilly. The friends' competitive dating, and Miranda's inability to stop singing aloud, provide plenty of laughs, but her moustache-wearing at an inappropriate moment is the highlight of the episode. Some purists claim there's no place for slapstick in situation comedy. Well, knickers to that rubbish. Miranda herself is delightfully funny and her legions of fans are right to ignore the snootier critics, because they're talking drivel. In this episode, Gary decides to put himself on the dating scene so that he can bring someone along to Stevie's birthday party, prompting Miranda to do the same thing. Will the pair find romance in the arms of a pair of strangers - or each other? Starring, of course, Miranda Hart, Tom Ellis and Sarah Hadland.

A hypnotist is booked to provide the entertainment at the triplets' baptism - and Agnes soon finds herself under his spell in the latest episode of now proper crossover populist hit Mrs Brown's Boys - 9:30 BBC1. Meanwhile, the matriarch's kitchen is falling apart - but that turns out to be the least of her problems when her son, Mark, delivers some heartbreaking news. Deserved hit comedy, starring Brendan O'Carroll as the foul-mouthed mother-of-six. Can it really only be a little over a year ago that the Daily Scum Express was trying to stir up trouble with an article complaining about a new BBC comedy having 'swear words' in it? How times change.

They say that soap operas have bleak storylines at this time of year to make us feel better about our own miserable holiday period. Queen Victoria's Children - 9:00 BBC2 - a wonderfully frank and open look at Victoria’s family life, may have the same effect. It's a gloriously detailed account of her stormy relationship with Prince Albert – the blazing rows and fierce rivalry – as well as the couple's absolutely dire parenting skills. Victoria believed that children should be thrashed and not heard, as it were. 'As a rule, children are a bitter disappointment,' is typical of her sour pronouncements on her offspring. It's not a bit of wonder poor old Edward VII ended up as a drunken womaniser with a mum like that. Because, when you have nine children, that’s an awful lot of potential disappointment to be expecting. The irony was that she and Albert presented a wholesome image to the nation which helped shore up the monarchy. But behind the scenes, the Queen's egotism and filthy temper wreaked havoc. At times it sounds more like Big Brother than a royal household. This engrossing documentary exploring the reign of the monarch through her relationships with her husband and their children, using letters, diaries, memoirs and journals to bring the subject and characters to life. The first episode focuses on Victoria and Prince Albert's tempestuous marriage, their attempts to engineer the upbringing of their children and their efforts to project a modern image of the royal family.

The Great Escape with its jaunty theme music may have become an instantly recognisable war film, but journalist Simon Heffer does a worthy job reminding us of our own war film heritage in Fifties British War Films: Days of Glory - 9:00 BBC4. From the daring raids of The Dam Busters to the jocular bullishness of the PoWs in The Colditz Story and the ice cold Atlantic horror of The Cruel Sea, 1950s British classics have shaped the way many of us see our wartime record, and it's not all cosy folklore and singing in the bomb shelter during the air raids. Many of the actors in these films had served in the war and their portrayal of understated heroism cuts through our modern predilection for cynicism.

Wednesday 2 January
David Attenborough explores a vast and diverse continent, aiming to show its landscapes and wildlife as they have never been seen before in Africa - 9:00 BBC1. He begins in the Kalahari desert, Africa's south-west corner, where clever meerkats are outsmarted by a wily bird's use of mimicry, a solitary rhino is seen to exhibit previously unknown sociable behaviours, terrifying insects prey on baby birds and the rarest fish in the world is filmed for the first time. In the neighbouring Namib desert, which receives almost no rain, the competition for scant resources can be fierce, as proven by a ferocious fight for supremacy between two giraffes. A young leopard dangles from a tree in an ungainly fashion, a flock of unbearably cute baby ostriches nervously trot behind their mother on a trip to the overcrowded waterhole, and a female rhino that's totally fed up with her suitor's inept attempts to mate shoves him off and lies down, feigning a headache. This lavish film about African wildlife, presented by broadcasting legend Attenborough, has some delightfully humorous moments tucked in among the more serious – and occasionally nightmarish – scenes. There's nothing remotely amusing about the giant armoured crickets which prey on defenceless, new-born chicks, but Kalahari meerkats are always good value and you may smile at the two male giraffes squaring up to each other to the strains of spaghetti western music. That is until they viciously lash one another in a sequence of ferocious fighting which takes your breath away.

Echoes of Theatre of Blood, the gloriously over-the-top 1970s horror film starring Vincent Price, reverberate through the latest episode of Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV - which starts with the killing of a local author in Midsomer Langley. She was writing a biography of sisters Stella and Diana (Sinead Cusack and Harriet Walter), British B-movie stars in the 1960s. One lives in the village while the other returns on the night of the murder after forty years in Hollywood. The dead author has two puncture marks in her neck – like a vampire's bite. They can probably discount suicide in that case. Thereafter every murder is reminiscent of a horror movie plot (mummification and burial alive included) although this doesn't help pin down a suspect. 'In the film the killer was a three hundred-year-old nobleman who could only drink the blood of female virgins,' offers Barnaby, a horror film buff, of course. Midsomer Murders never takes itself even remotely seriously which is one of the main reasons why it's so popular, but here it's got its tongue so far into its cheek, it's in danger of poking out through its ear. And that, dear blog readers, is a good thing.

The documentary series One Born Every Minute returns - 9:00 Channel Four - with cameras now recording life on two busy maternity wards in Leeds. Stacey is expecting her second child, but every time she thinks she is in labour, it turns out to be a false alarm and the staff send her home. Meanwhile Ramona wants to give birth naturally with husband Marvin by her side, having had an emergency C-section in the past. Elsewhere, the hospital is promoting 'active birth' and trainee yoga instructor Sara wholeheartedly embraces the idea. It might look like the makings of a kids' adventure playground, but everything is designed to help women to give birth either squatting or kneeling. 'We were never meant to be on our backs,' says a cheery midwife.

Thursday 3 January
Trouble Abroad - 9:00 ITV - is the first of two programmes telling the stories of some of the estimated five million Britons who have left the UK in search of a better life abroad, only for their plans to go badly awry. In France, a woman is forced to survive on charity food parcels after losing everything and a homesick former rock star living in Spain desperately tries to sell his villa after suffering a stroke. Narrated by Sarah Lancashire.

Brian Dowling invites a fresh group of allegedly famous faces to move in together and have their every word and move recorded for the dubious enjoyment of the sick and voyeuristic section of the viewing public in yet another series of Celebrity Big Brother - 9:00 Channel Five. Will this torture never cease? The Big Brother house has been redesigned and revamped in preparation and is claimed to be the most luxurious ever - though the format remains reliably consistent, naff and pointless. As usual, there will be nowhere to hide as they attempt to take Julian Clary's title.

John Humphrys asks the questions in the latest Celebrity Mastermind - 7:00 BBC1 - as BBC weather forecaster John Hammond, comedian Steve Punt, actor Michael Obiora and Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton-Hill all face the black chair. Their specialist subjects are Status Quo, the life and career of Tony Hancock, Arsenal from 2000 to the present and Lord Snooty's Downton Abbey. Y'see, dear blog reader, this is the necessary difference between the BBC and Channel Five. When the Beeb do a show with the word 'celebrity' in it, they stick four moderately well-known people in a black chair and ask them properly hard questions. When Channel Five do a 'celebrity' special, it usual involves people (many of whom you'll probably never have heard of) being made to eat their own (or, indeed, someone else's) faeces. I know which I'd sooner watch on an empty stomach.

Friday 4 January
Frank Skinner returns with the light-hearted panel show Room 101 - BBC1 8:30 - which sees comedy actress Miranda Hart (on telly more often than The News at the moment), radio DJ and actor Reggie Yates and Countryfile presenter John Craven compete to have their pet hates banished to the infamous room for ever. Their gripes include stuffed marrows, spitting, yoghurt drinks, the hip-hop handshake, smartphones and Miranda's breasts.
Top of the Pops: 1978 - 9:00 BBC4 - is, as you might expect from the title, a documentary about TOTP's changing musical direction in 1978, when pop singles were slowly ousted by a glorious mixture disco, reggae, punk and new wave artists. In other words, the year when the programme got really good. This show features contributions by members of The Boomtown Rats, Squeeze, Boney M and Sham 69 - among others - and archive performances by the likes of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Blondie, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Undertones, Buzzcocks, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and The Jam. But, not The clash cos they refused to go near the gaff. And, absolutely no Jimmy Savile or Dave Lee Travis what-so-bloomin'-ever. For reasons which may, or may not, be related to various alleged naughty shenanigans and malarkey. Or, perhaps not. Oh no, very hot water.

Tonight also sees the second of two Qi compilations - 10:40 BBC2 - of highlights from the tenth series of the sharp and witty quiz with a difference, hosted by national treasure Stephen Fry. Guests including Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Shappi Khorsandi, Jason Manford, Cal Wilson, Julia Zemiro and regular panellist Alan Davies answer questions based on subjects beginning with the letter J. Or, in Alan Davies's case, doesn't answer questions based on subjects beginning with the letter J but clowns around and then whinges a lot about type-casting. The answer's in your own hands, pal.

Saturday 5 January
Following her Olympic and Paralympic broadcasting triumphs, the nation's current sweetheart yer actual Clare Balding hosts Britain's Brightest - 7:00 BBC1 - a search to find the most intelligent individual in the country - based not on questions, but on everything from emotional intelligence to processing speed. The knock-out tournament sees twenty four 'ordinary people' with extraordinary minds completing a series of aptitude tests, challenges and puzzles, before one is crowned champion.

A year after her separation from her husband, Philip, Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg visits the country's troops in Afghanistan in the opening episode of the second series of Borgen - 9:00 BBC4 - the best drama series in the world at the moment. (Well ... that does have the words 'Doctor' or 'Sherlock' in the title, anyway.) However, Birgitte has to be evacuated when the Taliban launch an offensive against several Danish camps - killing the highest number of soldiers so far in the war. Meanwhile, with her private life in absolute turmoil, she continues to put off signing her divorce papers. Genuinely stunning Danish political drama, starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and and Pilou Asbaek. That's immediately followed by episode two in which the prime minister is looking to appoint a new EU commissioner and her old mentor Bent Sejro (the terrific Lars Knutzon, probably the best actor on the show) whom she so callously discarded to save her own skin at the end of the last series is an obvious candidate. Meanwhile, spin-doctor Kasper prepares to move into a designer apartment with girlfriend Lotte. And, Katrine and Hanne Holm have become good colleagues at the newspaper, after realising they are united in their journalistic principles. It's great to have a drama of such maturity, intelligence and quality back. Proper grown-up telly.

In David Attenborough's Galapagos - 8:00 Sky1 - the broadcasting legend is on the telly for the second time this week, this time to reveal how life has learned to adapt quickly in the ever-changing volcanic landscape, resulting in species which exist nowhere else in the world. David investigates the driving forces behind their evolution, exploring the appearance and behaviour of remarkable creatures and vegetation including giant whale sharks, marine iguanas and seemingly normal dandelion seeds that grow into plants the size of trees.

Sunday 6 January
Back for its twentieth - and, sadly, final - series is a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, Time Team - 5:25 Channel Four. Tony Robinson his very self and the team explore a site at Brancaster in Norfolk that is believed to have been a Roman 'shore fort', and possibly a key military outpost. They amass two thousand five hundred finds - their biggest-ever number - which provide information on contemporary decorative arts, sport and much more, and also undertake a high-definition geophysics survey which generates enough data to crash the computers. The biggest surprise reveals evidence of a high level of trade with the local population, and clues as to how Britons living near the site benefited financially from the Roman presence.

A toy-maker is beaten to death for a mysterious brass box and a few pennies, with the finger of suspicion pointing to a fourteen-year-old boy who refuses to deny the charge in the second episode of Ripper Street - 9:00 BBC1. However, orphanage governess Deborah Goren convinces Reid of the boy's innocence and he begins to dig deeper, bringing him face to face with a vicious child gang and its brutal master. Meanwhile, Jackson's gambling has led to the loss of the pendant which ties him to his American past - a past he and Long Susan now fear will be exposed by this turn of events. On the evidence of the opening episode, rather decent Victorian crime thriller, guest starring Joseph Gilgun, with regulars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Lucy Cohu and Myanna Buring.

ITV are also getting in on the Victorian drama scene. Mr Selfridge - 9:00 - is an Andrew Davies-scripted drama based on the life of American retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly (formerly Coronation Street's Becky McDonald). Harry arrives in London in 1908 with a grand plan - to open the biggest and finest department store in the world, and to do it within the year. With a frosty reception from the British press, the last-minute departure of a business partner and an ever-growing staff already on the payroll, not to mention his wife and family arriving from the US, the pressure is on for Harry to complete the project on time. As opening day approaches, he pulls out all the stops to achieve his dream - whatever the cost. With Frances O'Connor, Trystan Gravelle, Aisling Loftus and Ideal's Tom Goodman-Hill.

Oh crap, just when you though it was safe to come out from behind the sofa, Twatting About On Ice is back - 8:30 ITV. Run for the hills. The alleged 'celebrities' taking part this year have done all they can to show viewers they deserve to remain in the competition, and now the two who gained the least support have to skate again. For their lives. Or something. Phillip Schofield and that witless and Curiously Orange Bleakley woman then reveal who has made it through - and which contestant has fallen at the first hurdle and will be eaten by a polar bear. As if anybody with half a frigging brain in their skulls actually gives a stuff about tedious, wretched lowest-common-denominator crap like this. Beth Tweddle is, apparently, the early favourite to win the series, Mainly because she's one of the few 'celebrities' taking part who most people have actually heard of.

Monday 7 January
Cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to document the lives of a polar bear and her two cubs over the course of three seasons in The Polar Bear Family and Me - 9:30 BBC2. In spring, he and a team of arctic survival experts manage to find a birth den and meet mother Lyra and offspring Miki and Luca as they emerge from it. Gordon then helps scientists fit the adult with a tracking collar and tests a bear-proof filming hide as he takes on the mission of living with the family.

The long-running detective drama Lewis returns for its final season - 9:00 ITV. Lewis and Hathaway struggle to unravel psychologist Reuben Beatty's baffling double life after he is murdered while moonlighting as a psychic. Sanjeev Bhaskar guest stars in the first of a two-part episode, with Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox.

To mark fifty years since the pre-eminent current affairs programme was first broadcast, and as a reminder that ITV used to make worthwhile, relevant, cutting-edge current affairs programmes instead of stinking steam of witless talent shows and crass, lowest-common-denominator celebrity tripe that passes for their output these days, The World in Action Years - 10:35 - is a tribute which looks back on its most memorable moments and investigations.
From Mick Jagger discussing his 1967 drug conviction to the long - and, eventually successful - campaign to free the Birmingham Six. Contributors include film directors Michael Apted and Paul Greengrass, who began their careers at World in Action, Matthew Parris and Adam Holloway MP, who both worked as special reporters, ex-joint editor, later BBC director general John Birt and the series' longest-serving editor, Ray Fitzwalter. Narrated by John Hurt. Top theme tune, too.

Tuesday 8 January
There's a real battle of hearts and minds going on tonight. On BBC1 at 9:00 there's the return of Death in Paradise, the witty drama about a fish-out-of-water British detective working on a Caribbean island. When the owner of a sugar plantation is discovered dead with a machete in his back, DI Poole and his team have a seemingly impossible case to solve. There are numerous suspects, including the victim's alcoholic ex-wife and much younger widow, but they all have seemingly cast-iron alibis - and many were with one another when the murder took place. There's also the annual voodoo festival going on, much to Richard's alarm. Picturesque crime drama, starring the excellent Ben Miller, along with Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules and Gary Carr and with guest appearances by Stephanie Beacham, James Cosmo and Silent Witness's Tom Ward.

Yer actual Dara O Briain and Professor Brian Cox his very self return for further exploration of the night sky in the third series of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. They begin with the search for evidence of life on Mars and ask viewers to help investigate an uncharted area of the planet's surface. Liz Bonnin reports live from NASA mission control to reveal the latest findings of the Curiosity rover. Mark Thompson offers tips on how to observe the moons of Jupiter. Followed immediately by Stargazing Live: Back To Earth - 9:00 - in which Coxy, Dara, Thommo and their guests return for an extra half-hour of chat, debate and audience participation celebrating all things astronomical from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.

Yer actual Richard E Grant follows the footsteps of artists who lived and painted on France's Côte d'Azur, renowned for its sunny climate in The Riviera: A History in Pictures - 9:00 BBC4. The first edition focuses on the relationship between modern art and the location's development as an international tourist haven. Cezanne, Monet and Renoir were captivated by the light and colour of the landscape in the Nineteenth Century and their resultant work advertised the region's beauty. Meanwhile, the area's vivid hues inspired Henri Matisse to adopt a new palette that set modern art on the route to abstraction.
Don't Blame Facebook - 10:00 Channel Four - is a documentary tracking down people across the UK who have made extraordinary blunders on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, revealing the potential dangers of sharing too much information online. Stories include the friends arrested on terror charges at a US airport after a 'joke' tweet, the McDonald's employee who went to jail after hacking an international superstar's Facebook page and the model arrested in her pyjamas after police burst into her home investigating claims she was harassing a celebrity.

Wednesday 9 January
Cox and Dara explain how it is possible to chart the history of the universe by looking millions of light years out into the depths of space, while Mark Thompson reveals what can be learned from the colours of the stars in the second episode of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. At NASA, meanwhile, yer actual Liz Bonnin her very self meets the team building the largest space telescope in the world, an instrument that will be one hundred times more powerful than the Hubble.

Comedians Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke - one of whom is far funnier than the other - head to Bolivia for a high-altitude trip, first driving along the infamous 'Road of Death' (you know, the one Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slow went - very slowly - along in that Top Gear Bolivia special last year), only to find themselves deep in bandit country in World's Most Dangerous Roads - 9:30 BBC2. Disorientation takes them by surprise as they have to navigate Salar de Uyuni - a salt lake so vast that Buzz Aldrin could see it from space. Their goal is the ancient mountain city of Potosi, whose silver mines financed the Spanish empire in the Sixteenth Century and which is almost five thousand metres above sea level. Last in the current series.

Spies of Warsaw - 9:00 BBC4 - is Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' much-anticipated two-part adaptation of Alan Furst's spy novel set in Poland, Paris, London and Berlin in the years leading up to the Second World War. It is 1937 and at the French embassy in Warsaw, new military attaché Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier is drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of the city. At the same time, the handsome aristocrat finds himself in a passionate love affair with Anna, a Parisian lawyer for the League of Nations. Their complicated liaison intensifies as German tanks drive through the Black Forest. Starring former national heartthrob David Tennant (and, given that Dan Stevens' star is currently buried under the tears of several million quiche-eating middle-class wankers, the situation might be vacant once again, Dave) and Janet Montgomery.

In On the Verge of a Midlife Crisis with Sharon Horgan - 10:00 Channel Four - the actress and comedy writer meets six women who have gone through midlife crises to find out what happened and how they coped. Among them are Gaynor, whose husband left her for the woman next door; businesswoman Nicky, who experienced several tragedies but managed to reinvent herself as she approached forty and divorcee Leila, whose desire to have a child has led her to undergo artificial insemination using sperm donors.

Thursday 10 January The hugely popular crime drama Silent Witness returns - 9:00 BBC1 - with five two-part stories, and with a new member of the team as pathologists Leo Dalton and Nikki Alexander are joined by forensic scientist Jack Hodgson. An ageing confectionery company owner is found dead in his London hotel suite, and while Nikki tries to convince the sceptical DS Gold he was murdered, several businessmen begin to circle as it turns out the dead man was losing a desperate fight to prevent the sale of his company to investors. Emilia Fox, William Gaminara and David Caves star, with guest appearances by Tim Pigott-Smith, Sharon Small and Priyanga Burford. Continues tomorrow.

On the final night of their astronomical adventure, Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain discuss meteors, comets and asteroids, and examine what the study of them reveals about the origins of life in the last of Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. Liz Bonnin meets the NASA team tasked with tracking any space objects on a collision course with Earth, and Brian and Dara announce the results of the experiment carried out by viewers to explore an uncharted area on the surface of Mars.

Once essential viewing but now, sadly, jaded, washed-up and a right load of old frigging toot and as dreary as a fart in a spacesuit, Location, Location, Location is back - 8:00 Channel Four. Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer help find a property for first-time buyers Mike Richie and girlfriend Katy Roberts, who have recently returned from a ten-month period of globetrotting and want to settle down in Leeds. Meanwhile, Ann-Marie McCullough and partner Lee Connolly hope to swap life in the city for a three-bedroom period home, so the experts take them to nearby Ilkley and Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

Friday 11 January
The Culture Show's Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli go on a tour of the country in Italy Unpacked - 9:00 BBC2 - the sequel to last year's popular Sicily Unpacked. The begin in Emilia-Romagna - one of the richest and most fertile regions in Italy. The pair start in Bologna, visiting the oldest university in the world, the still-thriving traditional shops and the town's art institutions. Nice work if you can get it! They see the legacy of the House of Este dynasty in Ferrara and then head to Modena, home of a famous balsamic vinegar and Ferrari cars. In Parma, Giorgio admires an original manuscript of a best-selling cook book first published in 1891, while Andrew admires an innovative fresco in the cathedral dome.

Great Night Out - 9:00 ITV - is a comedy about four thirtysomething men who gather for a weekly night on the tiles in Stockport, as they try to help each other solve problems surrounding work, romance and family. Would-be alpha male Hodge narrowly dodges wife Kath's fury after botching the plans for their wedding anniversary party - and then he and the other lads get waylaid on the way to the venue after stopping to help a worse-for-wear companion. Starring Lee Boardman, William Ash, Craig Parkinson and Stephen Walters.

And, finally, Stephen Fry has a 'jolly' good time in the company of Julia Zemiro, Tim Vine, Rob Brydon and Alan Davies in the second to last episode of the current series of Qi - 10:00 BBC2.

So to the news: The broadcaster Michael Buerk has criticised the BBC's coverage of the Queen's diamond jubilee, saying it was 'cringingly inept' and had left him ashamed. Yep. Sounds about right. The former BBC foreign correspondent and newsreader said what should have been 'a celebration' instead became an event in which 'the one enduring British institution was mocked by another that had shamefully lost its way.' Probably also true. In an end-of-year commentary for the Scum Mail on Sunday, Buerk, sixty six, singled out the corporation's coverage of the Thames river pageant for particular ire, and was scathing about the BBC presenters' performances. 'Out on the water, a tribute to the Monarch that resonated back to the Middle Ages, rich in historical continuities, a floating salute to past glory and present fortitude. On the screen, a succession of daytime airheads preened themselves, or gossiped with even more vacuous D-list "celebrities,"' he wrote. 'With barely an exception, they were cringingly inept. Nobody knew anything and nobody cared. The main presenter couldn't even work out what to call the Queen.' He continued: 'The Dunkirk Little Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country's bravest hour, were ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could talk to transvestites in Battersea Park. I was so ashamed of the BBC I would have wept if I hadn't been so angry,' said Buerk, who now presents BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze. Although, for how much longer after getting into bed with the enemy in such a way is probably a question worth asking. This celebration of 'what the country was' had been 'betrayed' by 'what it is now,' he said. In an attack on George Entwistle – then head of BBC Vision, who resigned as director-general after fifty four days – he said the worst thing was the coverage was 'deliberate,' designed to be 'light' and 'inclusive. The BBC actually congratulated itself, and the executive ultimately responsible was promptly promoted to become the most disastrous director-general in the corporation's history.' Buerk, whose harrowing reports of the Ethiopian famine in 1984 prompted Saint Bob Geldof to launch Band Aid, also expressed dismay and disdain at the state of Britain in general in a typically Daily Scum Mail 'the world was better when we were running things' rant. It was, he said, a society 'becoming more divided' with each passing year; a lonelier and more unequal society where social mobility 'hasn't just seized up' but in 2012 had actually gone 'into reverse.' More people were financially squeezed, while 'senior executives pay soars and, even at the top of public service organisation such as the BBC, fortunes are flung at failures.' A 'cultural elite' was at odds with the 'values of those outside its own self-referential inner circle.' While the celebrity culture 'may make a few talentless yobs famous,' the privately educated were 'still commanding the heights of British life. A third of the House of Commons went to public schools. So did nine out of ten judges and one in three medical students. The arts, low and high, are dominated by them. The BBC is a private-school old boys' and girls' association. They edit most newspapers, even the Leftish Daily Mirror and the Guardian,' he wrote. He condemned a widening of the North-South divide. Of London, he wrote, 'you feel the only way to hear English spoken is to hail a taxi. The property is being bought up by Russian crooks, Greek tax-dodgers and Arabs escaping their summer or, more likely their spring. This year, I don't think I met a single English person serving in a West End pub, restaurant or sandwich bar.' He was not complaining, he wrote - although it very much sounded as though he was - because they were cheerful, hard-working and ambitious, 'everything many of their British counterparts are not.' The truth was that the summer was an illusion. 'We are not a united kingdom, we are not "all in this together."' Crikey. There's a message of cheer and goodwill for all the land. The former 999 presenter is well known for his outspoken comments. In 2005, he hit the headlines when he complained that the 'shift in the balance of power between the sexes' had gone too far, and, in a Radio Times interview, he once said men had been reduced to 'sperm donors.' Turning to 2013, Buerk said it was 'not just seasonally appropriate but wonderfully paradoxical' that 'redemption' from the pervasive gloom would come in the form of a royal baby. 'What the Olympics was to 2012, the royal heir will be to 2013,' he wrote. 'Maybe the BBC will even get its title right.' So ... not a particularly happy chap is yer man Buerk, by the sound of things.

A rare copy of the first Beatles LP signed by all four members of the Top Beat Combo has finally been sold - for the sum rejected at auction in Sussex a few weeks earlier. And, it was only in mono. Chris Collins, from Eastbourne, and his sister, Liz Chambers, from Worthing, initially turned down a twelve grand bid for a copy of the LP, Please Please Me. They had hoped, greedily, to get fifteen thousand smackers for the LP, which was given to their late father but, amusingly, didn't. However, the siblings have now accepted twelve thousand notes from a private buyer. With more money than sense, by the sound of things. The LP was signed by alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon, Paul McCartney (the talented one), the late George Harrison (the other talented one) and so-called Ringo Starr after they used it as a drinks coaster during a card game in 1963 with fellow Merseybeat band Freddie & The Dreamers. Arthur Collins ran the Normandie Hotel in London, where the two groups were staying and was given the LP when they left as a memento. Collins had played the record repeatedly - as you're meant to do with a record, y'berks - until 'an expert' revealed that because of its provenance - and the fact that it had the rarer black-and-gold label - it was worth 'a substantial amount.' The LP promptly went into Collins's sock drawer until his children finally put it up for sale, at Campbell's auction house in Worthing, just before Christmas. It was withdrawn from sale after failing to reach its fifteen thousand knicker reserve price, but a spokesman for Campbell's said: 'The record has now sold for a hammer price of twelve thousand pounds, to a private buyer.' Please Please Me was The Beatles' first LP, released in March 1963 and was a massive seller. The earliest copies had black with gold lettering Parlophone labels and are now considerably more valuable than the subsequent versions, featuring yellow or silver lettering. Early - 1963 vintage - stereo copies of the LP with the black and gold label are particularly sought after by collectors. One of those probably would have got the sought-after fifteen grand. And more.

And, on that bombshell, here's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. The really rare one.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Woke Up Sweating To This Modern Nightmare

A promotional trailer featuring forthcoming BBC1 programmes has been unveiled. The two-minute clip, entitled Love 2013, includes snippets of anticipated series and specials such as Doctor Who, Call The Midwife, Miranda, Natural World, Luther, Ripper Street, Death In Paradise and the second series of The Voice. Tom Odell provides the soundtrack to the video. The mood of the footage has, reportedly, been carefully synchronised to match the lyrics to his single 'Another Love', and concludes with the tagline: 'There's more to love in 2013.'
Saturday's overnight ratings brought a truly calamitous set of result for ITV, with only one of their shows managing to scrap above two million viewers in primetime and being beaten for the majority of the night, not only by BBC1 but, also, by both BBC2 and Channel Four as well. As Nelson Muntz might say, 'ha, ha.' BBC1's night was anchored by their revival of 70s staple yer actual Superstars, in which sixteen Olympians competed against each other in a variety of sporting challenges. Come on, you all know the rules of Superstars by now even if it hasn't been on telly for a few years. An average of 5.78m punters (with a peak of 6.5m) watched the programme from 6.45pm to 8.15pm. They saw superheavyweight boxer, the very impressive Anthony Joshua win the men's competition with some ease and rower Helen Glover narrowly pip Taekwando ace Jade Jones to the ladies title. All in all, it was really rather good fun. Especially the bit when Mo Farah capsized his canoe, which was almost reminiscent of the time Kevin Keegan fell off his bike in the original series. It was also a happy reminder of a golden age of endearingly naff, gloriously British television as the return of this Seventies classic saw some of Britain's finest medallists, lining-up to make chumps of themselves (or, in several cases, otherwise) in a mildly more sophisticated version of a school sports day, performed before small, but enthusiastic crowds in cold, wet, thoroughly miserable weather. Glover, a former junior international cross-country champions, hence her brilliance in the eight hundred metres, is the well-spoken ponytailed epitome of the sporting Englishwoman. Joshua, by contrast, is the Watford-born son of Nigerian immigrants. And, as both were crowned champion so Superstars, like the Olympics themselves during the summer, gave every race, class and gender in the country something to be proud of. Terrific. Thereafter, Lottery: Secret Fortune pulled in 4.30m, repeats of the two Christmas episodes of Mrs Brown's Boys maintained the momentum with 3.26m and 3.18m respectively and a goal-packed Match of the Day ended BBC1's night with a well-above-slot-average 3.96m (a peak of 4.68m at 22:40). By contrast it was a thoroughly rotten night for ITV. It started badly with Thirty Years of CITV's 1.96m and I Love You've Been Framed! getting a mere 2.43m, both of which were completely thrashed by Superstars. But then it got even worse. Dale's Great Getaway in which Dale Winton minced about in a format so lightweight as to be in danger of floating away completely was watched by a risibly small audience of 1.46m from 8.30pm whilst the film Love Actually could only manage 1.64m from 9.35pm. The majority of BBC2's schedule matched or bettered ITV's efforts, the Dad's Army movie pulling in 2.4m from 6.45pm (it was preceded by repeats of John Le Mesurier: It's All Been Rather Lovely - 1.65m - and Clive Dunn: A Tribute - 1.59m). Then, from 8.20pm Sue Perkins' delightful documentary Climbed Every Mountain: The Story Behind the Sound of Music topped the night with 2.46m, an audience higher than anything ITV managed all day.
Even in its unaccustomedly late slot of 11pm, Qi XL still managed to attract 1.04m for the extended repeat of its Christmas episode, keeping it within a couple of hundred thousand of what ITV was managing at the same time. Channel Four also got in on the act, with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (1.86m) out-performing ITV for most of the three hour period that it was on. The whole evening was a real omnishambles for ITV. And, to be honest, it serves them damn well right for offering such a wretched schedule. But it's also a useful reminder that without its soaps and talent shows, ITV is up, as broadcaster, currently right up a creek and without any obvious paddles to hand.

Twenty four hours earlier, the overnight audiences for Friday continued to see the BBC - in this case, slightly - ahead of ITV in primetime. Pointless Celebrities (5.17m), the BBC News (7.10m), Celebrity Mastermind (4.08m), Holby City (4.74m) and the second episode of Restless (4.89m) anchored a generally decent night for BBC1 with only a piss poor showing for The ONE Show on Ice (2.57m) letting the side down. Their two ratings Juggernaut soaps aside - Emmerdale (6.83m) and Coronation Street (8.13m) - it was a rank arse night for ITV with You've Been Framed! posting a forgettable 3.77m, The Corrie Years being watched by but 2.47m and All New It'll Be Alright On The Night also failing to break the four million barrier (3.74m). Overall, BBC1 led primetime with 19.1 per cent of the audience share, ahead of ITV's eighteen per cent.

Speaking of Celebrity Mastermind, gosh wasn't the Goddess of Punk Archaeology Professor Alice Roberts looking particularly fine on Friday night's episode whilst answering questions on the Moomin books of Tove Jansson. Didn't win, but that didn't really matter. Well, except to her chosen charity, one imagines.
The weekend also saw a clutch of clip-shows from the BBC's premier comedy quizzes for Christmas. The first of two Qi compilations included several clips from one of the two episodes yet to be shown (which will, hopefully, appear early in the New Year) featuring Jezza Clarkson, Jason Manford and Sandi Toksvig. Looking forward to that one.
Of course, usually some of the most memorable bits of Qi are included in the end-of-year compilations (who can forget 'they say of the acropolis where the Parthenon is'?) The same isn't, always, true of the topical news quizzes. In an extended one-hour Mock The Week Christmas special there was, at least, plenty of previously unbroadcast material, including a funny bit with Dara O Briain wearing a very small hat. You probably had to be there.
And, in Have I Got News For You, once again, Bill Shatner commented on the shocking levels of prostitution in that sink of Bohemian depravity, Ilfracombe. And that's always good for a laugh.
Speaking of Qi, the XL edition of the Christmas episode was broadcast on Saturday night at some Christawfully obscure hour of the night featuring Danny Baker, Sarah Millican and Phill Jupitas being very amusing just in case you missed it, dear blog reader. The highlight was, possibly, Jupitas's allegation that Bob Marley could walk on water: 'Rita, me goin' for a run, 'pon de layke!'
Also, the bit when Phill and Danny started to riff - delightfully - on obscure 1970s pop music, Stephen Fry noting, wisely: 'It's like being in the room with Max Planck and Einstein when they're discussing physics!' Sarky bleeder!
Clare Balding has admitted that she is nervous about hosting a new Saturday night BBC1 show. The presenter, who was widely praised for her coverage of the Olympics on the BBC and the Paralympics on Channel Four during the summer, will front Britain's Brightest from January in a bid to find the most intelligent individual in the country. Well, that's Stephen Fry or, at a pinch, Professor Brian Cox, you don't need a TV show to work that out! 'I'm putting myself into a different genre - I'm therefore saying to the public, "Can you accept me in a completely different format?" and that is risky,' national treasure Clare told the Radio Times. 'And obviously because it's Saturday night, I've got to glam up a bit - there will be a few people who go, "Oh, I don't like what she's wearing."' Speaking of her successful year, she added: 'I think "ambitious" is one of those adjectives used for women in a derogatory way. Yet, I think ambition is crucial in life - you have to know what you might be capable of and push yourself slightly beyond it.'

The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat talked about his rituals over Christmas (as well as watching Doctor Who of course) to the Standard. For example, on the subject of the inevitable requirements to put things together: 'Sue will tell me to assemble something. Maybe just put batteries into some toys. And I'll sit on the floor with a screwdriver, and do my daddy-thing.' One imagines that's not a euphemism for something. 'Slowly, by degrees, it becomes a compulsion. I find more and more things to assemble. And then I need more and more! I'm rummaging in the bins, trying to find the instruction manuals among all the scarves and Sue's new jewellery. They start calling me for Christmas lunch, but "No!" I cry. "Just one more thing. I need to assemble just one more thing." Then I'm breaking into the boys' Lego®™ kits and putting them together like a crazed junkie, destroying weeks of fun at a stroke. Somehow, though, before I can make it to Ikea to demand flatpacks at gunpoint, Sue will manage to get me to the dinner table to eat with the family.'

It was, of course, Gruniad Morning Star reader yer actual Karl Marx who said that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. Could the same be true of primetime period drama? The hit Downton Abbey has taken something of a battering, following poor reviews of the drama's Christmas Day special in which the nation's heartthrob Matthew Crawley met a grim and splatty end in a car crash. But as the impeccably mannered stars of Lord Snooty's Downton begin, perhaps, to lose their allure, those in search of an aristocratic fix may find themselves turning to the comic and oversized figure of Lord Emsworth, one of the greatest humorous creations of the novelist PG Wodehouse. A six-part BBC run of Blandings, based on Wodehouse's much-loved accounts of the fictional life and times of Blanding Castle's Ninth earl, is designed to introduce a new family audience to his work. Set in 1929, with a starry cast, Blandings will follow the fortunes of the amiable, befuddled Emsworth, played by Timothy Spall, and his beloved pig, Empress. The series, occupying a BBC1 Sunday evening slot from January, represents the biggest commitment to adapting Wodehouse's work for television since ITV's twenty three-episode Jeeves and Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, in the early 1990s. It also takes the public obsession with the pre-war and the posh into entirely new terrain. Forever in search of peace and quiet, Lord Emsworth spends most of his life under siege from members of his unlovable household, who will be played by an all-star cast including Jennifer Saunders, Jack Farthing and David Walliams. And in an echo of Downton Abbey, which is filmed at Highclere Castle, the Berkshire home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, the show was filmed at the four hundred-year-old Crom Castle, near Newtownbutler in Northern Ireland, home of Lord Erne. Walliams started reading PG Wodehouse, whom he describes as 'a comic master,' when the Fry and Laurie series was running. He said: 'Unlike some of the things I have done, this was not rude. It is family oriented. It's come at the right time. There is a big renaissance in costume drama, but there hasn't yet been a comic one.' According to Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1: 'The British public have always adored PG Wodehouse's eccentric, imaginative world. It provides a form of sunshine when you read it and I think it can have the same effect on viewers via TV. There is a joyfulness I hope people will take to their hearts.' He added that period drama is liked because 'much of the interest stems from the production values' – from costumes to carriages. 'There is a lot of social satire. Class still dictates a lot of things in this country. Above all, these stories are very funny. Good humour lasts.' Blandings will only be one element in what promises to be a golden year for Wodehouse-lovers. A darker side of the Wodehouse legacy is also to be explored in a drama in March which will re-examine the controversial period that the author spent in Nazi Germany. Wodehouse was never publicly cleared of the taint of treason following his decision to accept Nazi requests to make wartime broadcasts to America from Berlin in 1941. The row which followed led to the writer moving to America in 1947. An Innocent Abroad will be broadcast in March. Producer Kate Triggs said: 'The film is all about a writer's life, the imaginative world of a writer. Wodehouse is a great example of that, he worked all the time, he was happiest writing.' But, she said: 'The man came crashing up against a massive European crisis which he was incapable of handling,' adding that actor Tim Pigott-Smith depicts Wodehouse 'with all the nuances, as a naive in the genuine sense of the word.' According to Richard Klein, the controller of BBC4: 'The film slowly explores, with tension and psychological insight, how PG Wodehouse got himself into a Woosterish mess and allowed himself to be used by an evil regime.' Wodehouse, successful in Britain and the US, aged fifty nine, was trapped in Le Touquet, the Normandy resort, when the Germans occupied France in 1940. With his wife, Ethel, he made two attempts to flee but left it too late, partly because they did not want to put Wodehouse's pekinese, Wonder, into quarantine. He was interned for nine months, mainly in Germany, at Tost in Upper Silesia. The offending broadcasts appear to be have been sparked by an enterprising American journalist, Angus Thuermer, who tracked the writer down for an interview. This alerted the German foreign ministry to their important internee, and started a political game. The allegation made by his critics was that Wodehouse bought his release by agreeing to broadcast on German radio. Triggs gives a different account: 'The American element was very important. He got a lot of letters from the US after the Thuermer interview. In his life he had always written back, now he couldn't. He saw the broadcast as a way of doing that.' Wodehouse was released from the internment camp in June 1941 and was put up in the Adlon hotel, Berlin, close to the Reich Chancellery. The film shows Wodehouse being persuaded to write and record five broadcasts for his American fans. They adopted the light-hearted tone of a diary he had kept at Tost, which he read out to patriotic Englishmen with him. But they were made at a critical point in the war, when Hitler's generals were preparing the invasion of the Soviet Union and discussions were under way about America coming into the war. The coup involving the author was taken up by Joseph Goebbels's propaganda ministry, and Wodehouse was vilified by the British government and the press. Triggs believes that elements of the British establishment regretted their pre-war strategy of appeasement of Nazi Germany and took out their feelings of guilt on Wodehouse. 'One of the questions the film raises is whether or not an artist has a responsibility to reflect what is going on around him. I think he had every right to live in the world he lived in, the past.'

King of the Mods yer actual Sir Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour De France and an Olympic gold and, deliciously, pissed off some lice of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail in the process, has been knighted in a New Year Honours list dominated by London 2012 medallists. The cyclist appears on a special list drawn up to recognise seventy eight Games heroes. Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey becomes a dame after taking four golds while the most decorated sailor since Nelson, Ben Ainslie, is also knighted. Katherine Grainger, Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and David Weir become CBEs, and Andy Murray is one of a whole host of an OBE. The men behind Britain's cycling and rowing successes, performance directors Dave Brailsford and David Tanner, were also knighted. Away from the games, there are OBEs for the actor Ewan McGregor and fashion designer Stella McCartney, while illustrator Quentin Blake was knighted on the list for those not involved in London 2012. There is also a knighthood for the industrial designer, Kenneth Grange, the man behind the UK's first parking meter, the InterCity 125 train and the Kodak Instamatic camera. Singer Kate Bush and artist Tracey Emin are made CBEs, an honour also bestowed on former Strictly Come Dancing judge, faceache (and drag) Arlene Phillips, for her 'services to dance and to charity.' But, not television. Comedy writer Jeremy Lloyd, eighty two, who co-wrote TV shows including 'Allo 'Allo and Are You Being Served is among the OBEs. Sarah Storey, who is expecting her first child, is honoured for services to para-cycling after her London medal haul took her gold medal total to eleven, which equals Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts as one of the country's most successful Paralympians. The thirty five-year-old from Disley in Cheshire said: 'I am speechless but incredibly honoured and extremely proud.' Some of the biggest names of London 2012 received CBEs - the UK's most successful female rower, Katherine Grainger, the poster girl of the games, Jessica Ennis, and wheelchair athlete David Weir. He won four gold medals in the eight hundred, fifteen hundred and five thousand metres and the marathon at the Paralympics. Joining their ranks with his first honour is athlete Magic Mo Farah, who lifted the nation with his double gold in the five and ten thousand metres. His first came during a pulsating forty seven minutes in the Olympic Stadium on Super Saturday, 4 August, when Britain picked up three gold medals - Farah in the ten thousand metres, Ennis in the heptathlete and Greg Rutherford in the long jump, an achievement that earned him an MBE. Andy Murray was made an OBE in a year which saw him win Olympic gold and become the first British man to win a grand slam singles title for seventy six years when he triumphed in the US Open. Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, eighteen, now has an OBE to add to the MBE she won in 2009, the youngest person to do so aged fourteen. Some of the people who helped to make the games such a success were recognised, including Lord Coe, who becomes a Companion of Honour, a special honour given for 'service of conspicuous national importance' and limited to sixty five people at any one time. It is an exclusive club and now also includes Professor Peter Higgs, who predicted a new particle, the Higgs-Boson, in the 1960s, and this year the particle was proved to exist. But one name conspicuously missing from the list is film and theatre director Danny Boyle, whose artistic vision was so spectacularly realised in the Olympic opening ceremony but who is believed to have turned a knighthood down. A Cabinet Office spokesman said that an unprecedented number of sportspeople had received honours, with one hundred and twenty three awards compared to forty four in the last list. Of these, seventy eight were related to the Olympics or Paralympics. He added that there were four criteria in deciding which athletes should be awarded including longevity in the sport, general performance and how much they give back to the sporting community. The sporting honours committee also assesses what stage the individual is in their career in terms of whether they are likely to be competing for a further number of years. He added that seventy two per cent of the recipients are people who have undertaken 'outstanding work in their communities' either in a voluntary or paid capacity.

Caprice Bourret has reportedly joined the line-up of Tom Daley's ITV series Splash! Which, from the pre-publicity, sounds a completely and utter pile of shat. The American model is the latest alleged 'celebrity' to sign up for what has been described as a 'diving reality series', according to the Sun. However, Bourret is, allegedly, concerned that her whopping fun bags may make diving difficult. 'She is concerned hitting the water during a dive will hurt, as if you do have large boobs it can be quite painful,' an alleged 'source' allegedly said. In that way that normal people don't. 'The coaches have promised to teach her the right techniques to make sure she experiences as little discomfort as possible.' Olympic bronze medallist Daley will train a number of alleged 'celebrities' to dive efficiently in the programme, to be hosted by Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay. Which, at least means Caprice's chest won't be the only tits on display.

One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's earliest sporting heroes the former England cricket captain Tony Greig has died aged sixty six after suffering a heart attack in Sydney. The South Africa-born Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer two months ago. Six feet six inches tall and a genuine all-rounder, he played fifty eight Tests for England from 1972 until 1977, including fourteen as skipper, before giving up the captaincy in controversial circumstances to join Australian media magnate Kerry Packer's breakaway World Series. He later became a popular television commentator in Australia and back in the UK with Channel Four. 'He was a massive character,' said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew. 'Whatever he did, Tony was huge - as a character, as a man, as a cricketer.' Another former England captain, yer actual Ian Botham - who played his first two tests alongside Greigy - described Tony as 'an amazing guy, full of energy. He revolutionised the game and it had to be done,' he added. Greig's first inkling of illness had occurred earlier in the year when a bout of bronchitis showed unusual stubbornness. While commentating in the UAE and then at the World Twenty20 competition in Sri Lanka he underwent tests which uncovered a cancerous lesion in his right lung. Subsequent examinations and operations revealed the extent of the cancer and he was unable to fulfil his usual duties for Channel Nine in the Brisbane test against South Africa early this month. Channel Nine said that Tony had died on Saturday, after being rushed from his home to St Vincent's Hospital. Tony scored three thousand five hundred and ninety nine test runs at an average of 40.43 and took one hundred and forty one wickets with his tricky off-spin and medium pace at 32.20 apiece. He was named one of Wisden's five Cricketers of the Year in 1975. Greig had arrived in Britian in 1965 and played county cricket for Sussex between 1966 and 1978 after having a trial with them at the age of nineteen and scoring one hundred and fifty six on his début against Lancashire. He captained the side from 1973 to 1977 and his first class career ended with over sixteen thousand runs and eight hundred and fifty wickets. He qualified for England in 1970 due to his father's Scottish heritage. Tony's brother, Ian, subsequently followed him to the Uk and, also, played - briefly - for England. Greig's father had helped him decide between university study or pursuit of the Sussex offer. 'He used to slam into me for not reading enough, for being generally immature,' Tony recalled. 'He would look at me sometimes and say "when I was your age I was fighting a war." But in the end he grinned and said: "Go over to England for one year and see what you can do."' Tony told Channel Nine colleagues before having surgery last month: 'It's not good. The truth is I've got lung cancer. Now it's a case of what they can do.' He tweeted on Christmas Day: 'Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all. Would love to be at test but son Tom and I will be tuned-in.' Tony provoked controversy in 1976 when, as England captain, he said that he and his team intended to try and make the touring West Indies side 'grovel' in that year's Test series. In the event England were soundly beaten three-nil by Clive Lloyd's emergent world-beaters but the following winter Greig led England to their first series victory in India since the Second World War (a feat that has only been equalled twice since, once by Alistair Cook's side earlier this year). After presiding over three wins, six draws (including three in his first series after inheriting the captaincy from Mike Denness, against Australia in 1975) and five defeats he relinquished the job to Mike Brearley in 1977 although Tony did play in all five tests during that summer's triumphant three-nil Ashes victory over Australia. Having been one of Englad's few successes during the calamitous 1974-75 series down under when Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson wrecked havoc with a generation of England batsmen, the latter victory was especially sweet for Tony. He'd always been a rather controversial figure; in the 1974 tour of the West Indies his attempt to run out Alvin Kallicharran after the final ball of the day had been bowled almost caused a minor diplomatic incident. Nevertheless, that tour was also memorable for Tony's performance in the final test in Trinidad, taking thirteen wickets in the match to help England to victory. He was a central figure in recruiting several England players for the controversial World Series, which ran in opposition to test cricket from 1977 to 1979 and featured international stars earning much higher salaries. Although several players were banned from representing their country as a result (bans which were subsequently declared illegal), World Series Cricket helped to revolutionise the sport with increased player wages and presentational changes such as the introduction of coloured clothing and the white ball for one day matches. Tony lived in Sydney from the late 1970s until his death and became a popular voice around the world with his enthusiastic and opinionated commentary style for Channel Nine, often wearing a large panama hat and inserting his car keys into playing surfaces as part of his legendary pitch reports. These lectures' insights contrasted somewhat with the nature of his commentary, which carried both the entertainment value of the showman and the agitator's spice he had employed so often as a bowler, aggressive batsman, outspoken captain and pioneering silly point fielder. His description of moments such as Sachin Tendulkar's twin centuries against Australia in Sharjah in 1998 and Sri Lanka's World Cup victory in 1996 have stayed with all who heard them. 'He changed cricket in the way we know it now,' said Ian Botham. 'The players of today have a lot to thank Tony Greig - and Kerry Packer - for. Flamboyant is the word - he was larger than life and very much an extrovert. He made things happen.' England & Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke said: 'Tony Greig was a magnificent and fearless cricketer capable of changing games with ball or bat. He was a determined supporter of players' rights in his later years.' Former Australia captain Bill Lawry, a long-time colleague in the commentary box, said: 'He's been a great friend of mine for thirty three years. He's well-known right throughout the world, well loved and respected. World cricket has lost one of its great ambassadors.' Australian captain Michael Clarke said: 'I was only speaking with Tony a couple of days ago so news of his passing is absolutely devastating. He has been a great mentor for me. Cricket will be much poorer for his loss. We will never forget the lasting legacy Tony leaves us with.' The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described Greig as 'a wonderful example of someone who came to Australia from somewhere else in the world and embraced his adopted country as his own.' International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson said: 'Tony played a significant part in shaping modern cricket as a player in the 1970s and then provided millions of cricket lovers with a unique insight as a thoughtful and knowledgeable commentator.' Current England Test and Sussex wicket-keeper Matt Prior tweeted: 'Can't believe one of my heroes Tony Greig has passed away. One of the greatest voices in cricket and will be sorely missed.' Tony's long-time commentary partner, Richie Benuad noted: 'I first saw him playing when I was commentating in England with the BBC. When [Ian] Chappell took the Australian side over in 1972, I saw Tony play up at Old Trafford. He top scored in both innings of a game that England won. They wouldn't have won it without his contribution. In that game I was very impressed with this guy. I thought "there's a good player." He was also forthright in the commentary team. He did a variety of things. He was also doing the pitch reports. I don't know if you become completely famous for pitch reports, but he did, he got as close to it as anyone could possibly have done. The work he did there and the research he put into it by talking to people who knew about soil and weather and talking to curators, in particular John Maley, the curator who first invented drop-in pitches for World Series Cricket.' At the time of his death, Greig was with his family, including his second wife Vivian, his daughter Beau, his son Tom, and two adult children from his previous marriage - Samantha and Mark. Vivian offered thanks for the support and condolences offered by friends and well-wishers around the world, all of whom had been witness to Tony's influence as a cricketer and broadcaster.

Over half of Britons will shun New Year's Eve celebrations this year, according to research. Post Office Home Insurance found that around fifty six per cent of people will be abandoning the traditional night out in favour of settling down at home alone or with loved ones. A further sixteen per cent will throw a party at home or go to one at a friend's house rather than spend a night on the razzle. For those who are staying indoors, fifteen per cent say it is to save money. However, studies have shown that a party at home could be more costly than a night out. Those who plan to go out on the town typically aim to spend seventy six quid, while those hosting a house party expect to spend more - around one hundred smackers. More than two thousand adults took part in the survey across the UK. Post Office head of insurance Paul Havenhand said: 'The traditional big night out steps aside for a quiet night in, with many people opting to stay indoors to avoid the crowds, the cold weather and save a bit of money on New Year's Eve. However, if you are hosting a party at home, our research shows it can be a slightly more costly way of bringing in the new year, with bills mounting up for food, drink and entertainment.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day it is, I'm afraid, yet another case of Jam today and Jam tomorrow. Harsh.