Top Gear

July 31, 2007 by  
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Top Gear presentersTop Gear is a long-running motoring programme from the BBC. Starting in 1977 as a regional programme for the English Midlands it grew to a national programme expanding from a half-hour slot to a full hour. After a period of decline it was cancelled in 2001. 

Then, in 2002, came new, improved Top Gear. One of the latter presenters, Jeremy Clarkson was brought back, with two new people, Jason Dawe and Richard Hammond. Hammond stuck but another former presenter, James May, replaced Dawe. This left the trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May, a partnership that remains to the current series. The show changed dramatically as well, with the three presenters in a car-show type studio and new sections, including ‘Star in a Reasonably-priced Car’, lap-times, ‘The Cool Wall’ and ‘News’. Early series of this ‘New’ Top Gear are currently being shown on UK TV Gold but still look current, except for the haircuts. 

The crux of the popularity of current Top Gear is the relationship triangle of the three presenters. Clarkson is the overgrown, schoolboy, attempted authority figure that stamps his authority and says “POWER” a lot; Hammond is the little, impish, enthusiastic schoolboy; and May is the dry, technology-obsessed geek with the schoolboy wit. Yes, they are a bunch of schoolboys and that camaraderie with the obvious friendships between them makes the series so enjoyable. 

Tonight’s episode included a test for all the caravan lovers/haters. Using the caravanners’ friend, an old Volvo estate, Hammond saw over how many caravans it could leap at fifty miles per hour, the speed limit for a Volvo towing a caravan. Surprisingly, it turned out to be two as the car smashed through caravans three, four and five to a soft landing. 

The star in the reasonably-priced car was Stephen Fry, who turned out to be a big car fan and lover of technology. His ambition was to beat fellow QI stalwart Allan Davies. The idea is to do a lap of a made-up racetrack in a Suzuki Liana, having been coached by the tame racing driver, named The Stig. Fry managed to match Davies’s time exactly. 

More seriously the presenters took a look at the BMW ‘M’ series, starting with the original M1, a sports saloon built for racing but out of time for its market. However, it spawned the classic M3 and M5 cars, which exist to this day. 

Always fun to watch it is interesting to see old Top Gears and see that even an old one is great television.


Chanelle walks out of BB after splitting with Ziggy

July 31, 2007 by  
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Big Brother’s Chanelle has followed through with her threats and walked out of the house, becoming the third house mate to do so this series.

The 19-year-old had complained to the show’s producers that she had become increasingly unhappy following her recent spilt with in-house boyfriend Ziggy.

While the pair had split up several times after hooking up just days into this year’s series, the male model finally called it a day for good on Sunday, claiming that being with Chanelle made him feel depressed and anxious.

Despite agreeing to sleep on her decision to leave, the Victoria Beckham look-a-like quietly packed her bags and left without saying good bye to her fellow house mates.

Just before she walked out for good, Chanelle told the show’s diary room: “I’m grateful to have been here for nine weeks but I’m missing my family and friends. I can’t live in the same house as Ziggy and he probably deserves to be here more than I do.

“Thank you for having me. I really appreciate that you’ve let me on to the programme.”

With this latest un-forced departure from the house, bookmakers are divided over who is going to win the show, with Ziggy and Gerry both equally fancied.

India with Sanjeev Bhaskar

July 30, 2007 by  
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Sanjeev BhaskarIndia with Sanheev Bhaskar” is one of a series of programmes to celebrate the fact that it is 60 years since India and Pakistan gained independence from the British Empire. For his series of 4 programmes, he was asked to do something different – so he talks of a programme where an Indian visits India. His first stop is Bombay (now known as Mumbai) where every taxi driver wants to be a film star or actor.

Sanjeev visits the set of the most popular soap opera in India and is offered a part on another programme by the star’s show.

Mumbai is the financial heart of India with lots of investments and developments. Sanjeev meets the manager of the Raymond clothing line, Gautam Singhania who is one of India’s richest men owning many cars and his own private helicopter. This showed that it was possible to make it big. The downside of developments in Mumbai is that shacks are being torn down and the poor are getting poorer.

On his second day in Mumbai, Sanjeev went to the outer suburbs and saw a prospering trade in the recycling business. Householders were paid for their old newspapers, plastics, clothing etc which they then sold on to recycling markets. In the afternoon , Sanjeev was asked to be a judge on a beauty pageant – Mrs India. Unlike more traditional pageants where contestants declare an interest in children, animals and world peace, the potential Mrs. Indias were question about their views on marital rape.

The programme also focussed on Sanjeev’s visit to Infosys, 15km from Bangalore. They employ around 6,500 on their bright and modern campus – like a hi-tech University – all pyramids and glass. The employees spoke of the fact that they were able to afford to have mortgages and buy a house (something their parents had not managed until retirement).

We were then taken to the coastal town of Cochin renowned for its spices particularly cardamom, pepper and cinnamon. This is an area of natural beauty and a popular destination for Indian holiday makers, in stark contrast to the built up cities. This is an interesting series giving an opportunity to view different sides of India.

Chanelle considering leaving BB house after split with Ziggy

July 30, 2007 by  
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Big Brother’s Chanelle has claimed she may leave the show as she is unhappy, though her housemates are keen to persuade her otherwise.

While the atmosphere in the house should have improved dramatically following the eviction of troublesome Charley on Friday, the Victoria Beckham wannabe packed her bags after male model Ziggy finally called an end to their on-off romance. However, after talking to the show’s psychologists, the 19-year old agreed to sleep on her decision and, while she stayed around for breakfast, it still remains unclear whether or not she will go through with her threats.

The 26-year-old former boyband member, Ziggy, accused Chanelle of being an attention seeker and claimed that she made him depressed and that he was unable to cope with her argumentative nature.

“You’re way over the top, a hypochondriac, you crave attention, not just from me, from everyone,” he told her.

However, Chanelle, added: “It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see-you-later,” before leaving him in the caravan.While this may well hint at the possibility of the relationship resuming outside of the pressures of the Big Brother house, it is worth remembering that the last famous couple to emerge from the house, Chantelle and Preston, recently announced that they are to separate after only a brief marriage.

Star Stories

July 27, 2007 by  
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Star Stories - Take ThatStar Stories is a series of spoof programmes based on celebrity life-styles. Each week the team show a celebrity story from the point of view of one of the main protagonists. This point of view is always unashamedly biased yet shows everybody up. There are also a number of other celebrities that are totally unrelated that turn up through some tenuous link.

In the first series we had Catherine Zeta-Jones, George Michael, Posh & Becks, Jennifer Aniston and Sadie Frost. The new series started with Take That shown from the perspective of Gary Barlow. As it claimed to be made by “Gary Barlow Productions” and immediately gave no credit to Robert Williams we could see which way it was going to go.

 Starting off with Gary in a working-men’s club playing to three old men in flat caps before he is picked up by Nigel Martin-Smith. Nigel finds him the little toothy Mark Owen who fails to sing properly. Jason Orange (pronounced “Oar raange”) is portrayed as an upper class fop who can’t sing, whilst Howard Donald is the hairy one whose voice is just a sea lion without any attempt to sound human. The group is decided until Robbie turns up as a Butlins’ impressionist whom Nigel rejects but Gary insists joins as the fifth member, immediately digging into Gary’s cakes.

After initial success, due to Gary’s brilliant song writing and singing, Robbie’s head gets too big. After insulting Lulu and getting too friendly with Oasis, Nigel sacks him, this time Gary will not back him up as he sees too much competition. Eventually he finishes the job and drops the rest of the band to go solo. Robbie has a hit but Gary’s is bigger thrusting Robbie into a depression and rehab with Paul Gascoigne, Russell Brand and Michael Barrymore. However, Robbie meets Guy Chambers and finds success, whilst Gary disappears.

 When Robbie sacks Guy and finds he can’t play piano but has to rely on Stephen “Tin-Tin” Duffy his fortunes fade whilst Gary reforms Take That from a skip. Of course he offers Robbie the chance to rejoin but he refuses and Take That become successful again. Numerous references to both singers’ weight occur culminating in a fight over a stray pork pie. In the end Gary wins, but he would, wouldn’t he?

Star Stories is the brain-child of the people behind ‘The Peep Show’ and you can spot the humour link. This is not as savage, nor funny, as the Matt Lucas and David Walliams show ‘Rock Profiles’ but it is more of a story and works well. Look forward to Tom-Kat, and Britney.

Animal Park – Wild on the West Coast

July 26, 2007 by  
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Elephant sealsProgrammes on animals and wildlife have always been popular and this is a spin-off of “Animal Park”, with the team visiting California and the West Coast of America. It is presented by Ben Fogle (of Castaway and Countryfile) and Kate Humble (Springwatch).

During tonight’s programme of Animal Park – Wild on the West Coast, we saw:

  • Scientists anaesthetising a giant male elephant seal in order to tag it for research. This was quite tricky as the seal was surrounded by a number of aggressive males who were making quite a lot of noise. Once the dart had been fired, the seal was kept under constant surveillance as it was possible for it to die by asphyxiation. The seal had a tag on its tail and an expensive satellite device placed on its head. It will be monitored for about a year and should give useful information about its lifestyle.
  • An orphaned bay sea-otter was introduced to a surrogate mother from the local zoo, with the aim of her being taught “how to be an otter”. The introduction went surprisingly well.
  • Ben Fogle assisted in introducing a sealion back into the ocean. The programme showed how to manouvre the animal using a set of boards and a cage. It was released together with another abandoned sealion and it was an emotional moment.
  • The catching of jelly fish and we learnt that they have no brain but a complex nervous system, stinging tentacles and mouth pieces. Ben was nervous of being stung as they tend to go for soft flesh (and he had smooth presenter’s hands!).
  • An island in the Pacific which is not just home to many varieties of seabird, but is the main stop off point for migratory birds as they travel around the globe. After it had been weighed, measured and tagged, Kate Humble released a sparrow back onto its flight path.

The programme is being aired during the weekdays and Friday’s episode will feature dolphins and the tagging of a blue whale.

Location, Location, Location

July 25, 2007 by  
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Phil and KirstieAmongst the wealth of programmes about buying properties and renovations, Location, Location, Location proves to find properties for people with a range of circumstances.  Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer are both estate agents and make a winning team. Kirstie is keen on knocking down walls and replacing bathrooms and kitchens whilst Phil drives a hard bargain.  Usually the buyers have to make some compromise as they are not able to have the perfect house in the perfect location on a small budget. 

Kirstie and Phil helped two couples in Newcastle. One of  the couples -  Kerry and Michael are wanting to buy their own property for £150,000. Not only were they first time buyers, but also first time viewers. First off, Kirstie and Phil found a 2 bed-roomed ground floor flat for them in South Gosforth. It had a courtyard garden, was £15,000 under budget and in need of some cosmetic work. The next property was in Heaton, for £140,000 with no work required (thus no opportunity to add value). This was a test of their resolve as it was in a student area and against one of their requirements. It showed that you could get a good property, but in the wrong location. The pair were then showed two more houses – one in South Gosforth and another in West Jesmond. The couple fell in love with the latter and purchased it. 

The other couple – Kate and David already owned a large 5 bedroom property with a small garden, but had not yet put it on the market. They had a toddler and another baby on the way so were wanting a family-friendly home with a large garden. They were not really in a position to buy a property, as they would be in a chain, but did manage to find a 4 bedroomed cottage with land and way under budget. Time will tell if they get the house of their dreams.

Goody off to New York acting school before hitting Hollywood

July 25, 2007 by  
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Jade Goody is to head off to the Big Apple to take acting classes at the same school the Hollywood legend Robert De Niro once attended.

The 25-year old has confirmed that she is keen to get her ‘career’ back on track following the public fall-out surrounding the race row of the series of Celebrity Big Brother in which she appeared.

Furthermore, Jade also revealed that her people have already lined up a role for her in Hollywood, leading her to fork out £25,000 on a crash course in method acting at the Lee Strasbourg school, where Paul Newman, Al Pacino and Marilyn Monroe also received coaching.

“I’ve got producers in LA with a role for me,” she told Closer magazine.

Just recently, she enrolled her two sons, four-year old Bobby Jack and Freddy, two, in London’s Sylvia Young Theatre School, which has educated Billie Piper and Denise Van Outen among others.

James May’s 20th Century

July 24, 2007 by  
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James May’s 20th CenturyIn another attempt to make Jeremy Clarkson the least popular member of Top Gear the BBC is showing off James May again. May is the spaniel-haired ‘Captain Slow’ from the motoring programme, the one who comes last in all the challenges and bores them all with long-winded explanations. 

In James May’s 20th Century he takes aspects of Twentieth Century life and shows how they evolved. Two programmes are aired each week with this week’s contributions being Teenagers and Cities. 

It may seem odd to consider teenagers to be a modern phenomenon. Surely, everybody had to get from twelve to twenty in all previous generations, somehow. As James points out, previously times adolescents were just mini adults, looking and acting like their parents. Throughout the twentieth century various inventions helped create the cult of the teenager. These include nylon for tights and coloured clothes, vinyl for records, transistors for radios, the electric guitar and the Yamaha FS1-E; known as the ‘Fizzy’. What he showed was that young adults took anything new and made it their own and fun, and there can’t be anything wrong with that. 

Cities also managed to exist well before the end of Victoria’s reign but the way that they have changed since is astonishing. May points to the skyscraper as his starting point and how steel structures made these possible but how the use of toughened glass made it possible to make them even higher and cheaper. Moving on he looked at the National Grid, neon signs and multi-storey car parks. These combined inventions helped transform our cities from low-level, dark places to high-rise, bright and buzzing metropolises with a 24-hour lifestyle. 

James May’s affable boffin persona helps brings these subjects to life. His ready wit and schoolboy enthusiasm is perfect to showcase the history of technology. This is actually an Open University production and makes a wonderful contrast to the classic image of stilted 70s lecturers in brown suits and wide ties. A genuinely enjoyable piece of historical television.

Charley and Chanelle fall out yet again over pop trivia

July 24, 2007 by  
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Big Brother housemates Chanelle and Charley can never agree to disagree.

The pair’s rows are becoming one of the fixtures of this year’s series, with their fellow housemates already showing signs of exasperation, not least Chanelle’s on-off in-house boyfriend Ziggy.

Their latest row centred on the age of the pop singer Rihanna.

While Charley stated that she is either 19 or 20, the want-to-be footballer’s wife insisted that she is more likely 16 or 17.

“Let’s just leave it, shall we?” Chanelle said after the debate went back and forth a few times.

However, Charley couldn’t leave it, telling her rival: “You’re the most boringest person in the house,” adding: “there’s no excitement in you at all.”

Charley, to be quite honest I’m sick of conversations where everything gets turned around to what you think and it’s about you,” Chanelle replied before Ziggy stepped in to separate the pair.

However, the former male model focused his attention on his dog, Molly, who was brought into the house to help complete an obstacle course as part of a task.

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