- The Legacy: Danish treat for BBC viewers to get teeth into post-Borgen
Drama about an artist's family has yet to premiere in Denmark, but is expected to be another overseas hit for Danish TV Just when you thought it was safe to donate your Sarah Lund jumper to the charity shop and stop dreaming of becoming Staatsminister like Birgitte Nyborg, along comes another TV drama to reignite British viewers' love affair with Denmark. The 10-part series The Legacy – Arvingerne in Danish – was launched in Copenhagen this week, and will arrive in Britain next year. The channel is as yet unconfirmed but BBC4's 9pm Saturday night slot has become the home of Scandinavian dramas including Wallander, The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen. It is typical of the high international regard with which the output of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation is held overseas that The Legacy was sold to the UK, Benelux countries and Australia before it even premieres next month in Denmark. The Killing was screened worldwide making an international star of Sofie Gråbøl who played the Faroe Isle-jumper-wearing homicide detective Lund, while Borgen has been shown in 75 countries and won several awards, plus an Emmy nomination for its lead Sidse Babeett Knudsen who plays the politician Nyborg. Whether The Legacy eclipses these cross-cultural export successes remains to be seen, but Swedish actor-turned-director Pernilla August (who won best actress award at Cannes in 1992 for her part in Ingmar Bergman and Bille August's film The Best Intentions) and writer Maya Ilsøe's have created a densely woven family drama. The makers of The Legacy cite Downton Abbey and The Ice Storm, Ang Lee's 1997 film about a dysfunctional American family, as influences. The Legacy is set in and around the country mansion of the an artist, Veronika Grønnegaard, who in the drama's first episode emerges from a hospital's oncology department grimly lighting up a cigarette and sporting a wretched look – one that surely betokens she has just received her death sentence from cancer. The story then traces how her four adult children's lives have been affected in different ways by her eccentric counter-cultural child-raising philosophy. Or as the press pack puts it: "The series is a modern family portrait – a depiction of the 68 generation and their children … that examines what it means to be a family in a time when traditional patterns of family life have undergone radical change." The drama recalls one of the great modern Danish films, Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 film Festen (The Celebration), in which a patriarch's 60th birthday bash are ruined by familial revelations from the past. Trine Dyholm, who plays one of the siblings in The Legacy, also had a leading role in Festen. But while Festen was a product of the Danish Dogme95 movement which advocated the use of simple equipment, natural lighting and sound, no props and no makeup, and was largely confined to the arthouse cinema circuit, The Legacy is the product of a national TV broadcaster at the height of its international cachet. Before her death, Grønnegaard bequeaths the house to her daughter Signe, whom she gave up for adoption decades earlier. "This is to have fatal consequences," the broadcaster said. "What for the four siblings should have been a quick and painless division of Veronika's estate marks the beginning of a journey into secrets and lies which turns their lives upside down and forces them to look at both themselves and each other with new eyes." Whatever we can expect from this Danish drama, there is one legacy it won't have. British audiences may adore watching Danes but so far they have remained heroically immune to learning their language. Borgen creator Adam Price told the Guardian recently that Britons only seem to know two Danish words– Tag (thanks) and Skål (cheers). But, he added, as you can get quite a long way in Copenhagen with just those two. Drama Denmark Television BBC Borgen Europe The Killing Crime drama Stuart Jeffries theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Members of the Grønnegaard clan in a scene from the The Legacy, or Arvingerne as it is called in Danish. Photograph: DRMembers of the Grønnegaard clan in a scene from the The Legacy, or Arvingerne as it is called in Danish. Photograph: DR
- Derren Brown's Great Art Robbery: making embezzlers out of our elders
No trickery, no mind control – this time Derren's just schooling a group of pensioners in the art of grand larceny He's the UK's mindbender-in-chief, a seer of the realm whose status as national treasure was rubber-stamped after being namedropped in The Day Of The Doctor. "What's our cover story for this?" wondered UNIT boss Kate Stewart as the Tardis was airlifted into Trafalgar Square. "Um, Derren Brown," replied her scarf-rockin' sidekick. "Again?" sighed Stewart. And therein lies the rub. Beloved mesmerist or not, Brown needs to keep turning tricks to remain on the telly, and while everyone enjoys being bamboozled once in a while, getting hornswoggled repeatedly by the same impish know-it-all can get a little wearying. So in Derren Brown: The Great Art Robbery ( Friday, Channel 4, 9pm ), the magus of meticulously staged outrageousness parks his uncanny abilities and puts the spotlight on four lovely pensioners he intends to remould into cold-blooded professional crooks. There's no hypnotism, no enchantments, no brainwashing – just three weeks of hard graft to transform Rachel, Tony, Pauline and Joe from harmless members of ITV3's core demographic into slippery grifters capable of heisting a painting worth a cool £100k. It's Ocean's 11 meets Cocoon, a Hustle/New Tricks crossover episode, a Steradent-flavoured Thomas Crown Affair. Brown bets art dealer Ivan Massow – a moneybags philanthropist who looks a bit like George Clooney, or at least his Nespresso ad stunt double – that his creaky crew can lift a painting from under his nose. Massow is told the exact time of the robbery, receives a mugshot of the superannuated tea leaf and, vitally, knows the exact painting being targeted, one of Jake & Dinos Chapman's hellishly touched-up oil portraits. After finessing Massow, Brown then switches into full-on Fagin mode, giving his slightly bumbling squad their first addictive taste of skullduggery by forcing them to steal chips from unsuspecting al fresco diners in Brighton. They also make a cute little maquette of the target location, and rehearse Brown's diabolical plan in a full-size version of the gallery constructed in a draughty warehouse. Witnessing these conscientious would-be crims apply themselves to the clockwork plan, shuffling toward their marks in patient synchronicity, is surprisingly entertaining, like watching a more larcenous Strictly Come Dancing training reel. There is a point here about how pensioners are considered invisible in modern society, although once the actual con is on, the social outreach angle is ditched in favour of staging an above-average heist thriller. But the most affecting moments don't have a frazzled funk soundtrack. They come when Brown is still getting to know his proteges. His interest in how getting older has affected their lives isn't just misdirection while he pickpockets their winter fuel allowance; he seems genuinely absorbed. Possibly due to Derren's sustained popularity, the BBC and ITV both bet heavily a few years ago that magic was poised for a primetime comeback, launching The Magicians and Penn & Teller: Fool Us in a glitterstorm of publicity that presumably blinded the public, since so few of us subsequently watched. Perhaps that general disinterest was all to the good, since it allows Barry and Stuart – one of the featured acts in The Magicians – to go undercover convincingly in their new series The Happenings ( Monday, Watch, 9pm ). In the wake of staged reality shows, this is staged unreality, with the canny Scots duo attempting mass hoodwinks, like convincing the people of Stamford in Lincolnshire that their picturesque town has been observed by aliens for years, and now the greys want to make contact. After starting strong with an amazing crop circle reveal, the first episode struggles to find a groove. There's a reason stage hypnotists ask for one volunteer rather than 19,000. But after planting seeds of susceptibility in locals with a series of small-scale tricks, Barry and Stuart escalate to a tremendous climax, a "gotcha!" moment worth seeing with your own eyes. Television Derren Brown Sarah Dempster Graeme Virtue theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds No oil painting? Derren Brown: The Great Art Heist. Photograph: Seamus RyanNo oil painting? Derren Brown: The Great Art Heist. Photograph: Seamus Ryan
- Breaking Bad – box set review
Like a Dostoevsky in the desert, this great series charts a decent, slightly pathetic man's tragic descent into moral depravity When I reviewed the first series of Breaking Bad for this slot back in 2010 , the show was almost unheard of: a little tale of a high-school chemistry teacher in a dusty corner of America, toiling away in a life of quiet desperation, only to be told he's dying of cancer. So he teams up with a wayward former pupil, Jesse, to make and sell crystal meth, to earn big bucks fast and thereby provide security for his family after his demise. At the time, it felt like a poignant Chekhovian story about a decent, if slightly pathetic man trying to shore up a failed life. The only reason I bothered watching it at all it was because I'd studied chemistry at university. How wrong I was. This wasn't suburban Chekhov. This was, as the four subsequent, explosive seasons showed, Dostoevsky in the desert – an epic tragedy that now, appropriately, arrives in a box set thick and heavy enough to compare with anything any Russian writer ever produced. And just in time for Christmas, too. It's a portrait of one man's simultaneous ascent (to drug lord) and descent (into moral depravity). In an extraordinary performance, Bryan Cranston, playing Walter White, takes us with him every step of the way. To get a sense of the scale of his achievement, just compare the first and final season covers: in the former, a mildly quizzical-looking man in white Y-fronts holds a gun in a way that suggests he doesn't know how to use it. In the latter, a monster looks out, a barely discernible snarling shadow . It's a different man and the same man. It's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Breaking Bad is great. But it's not perfect. Early on, we get intriguing flashbacks to Walter's early life, hinting at some mysterious backstory, but that fizzles out. And do crystal meth kingpins really care so much about the quality of their product (98% proof and a lovely shade of blue!) that they will pay our two master cooks millions? It's not like they're making sofas for John Lewis. What's more, as has been said before , this is a show about guys. The women are passive observers, carried along by the increasingly deranged actions of the men. (You should cut the slightly stuttering first season some slack, though – it was hit by the 2007 Hollywood writers' strike. And anyway, Dostoevsky could be a bit slapdash himself.) Breaking Bad has been called the future of television, and rightly so: it allows a superb actor time and space to fully develop a character. And the bizarre trajectory of his teacher-pupil relationship with Jesse – the best sidekick in the history of television? – is at the heart of the show. And right from the start, the New Mexico desert is a constant presence, making this an epic perfect for widescreen TV. It showed, too, how today's audiences will seek out great television: the show was almost canned after its first two seasons failed to really take off, but – thanks largely to word of mouth and of course my review – people tracked it down on Netflix and DVD. This complete box set, meanwhile, has the usual making-of featurettes and commentaries, which largely focus on the dull mechanics of making the key episodes, rather than providing any insight, as well as the slightly irritating and widely leaked "alternative ending" , suggesting it was all a bad dream by Cranston's Malcolm in the Middle character, Hal. When I reviewed the first series, I asked: What is Walt up to? Is this some desperate, incoherent scream of rage in the face of the approaching blackness? In the end, we do learn the rather simpler answer because, well, Walt tells us. And it really does make sense of everything. Almost. Breaking Bad Television Maxton Walker theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Jekyll and Hyde … Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Photograph: Frank Ockenfels 3/Sony Pictures Television/AMCJekyll and Hyde … Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Photograph: Frank Ockenfels 3/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
- Soul Music: Strange Fruit – radio review
This study of Billie Holiday's famous song and its legacy was a salutary reminder of horrors committed in living memory • Soul Music "Mrs Bryant came out, and she was headed towards her car and for some unknown reason … Emmett whistled at Carolyn Bryant. And it scared us so bad, we just couldn't get in our car fast enough to get out of town because in Mississippi, you don't whistle at a white woman. That was suicide. Instant death. But Emmett didn't know that." Simeon Wright's frightening account of the last days of Emmett Till , his 14-year-old cousin visiting the family from Chicago, could stand alone as a must-hear documentary. The year 1955 isn't long enough ago to believe that the torture and lynching of a boy, eyes gouged out and his body thrown into a river, was the expected response to a wolf whistle. It's too bleak to endure. Which is why Maggie Ayre's Strange Fruit , about Billie Holiday's most famous song and its legacy, isn't just gripping – it's significant and necessary. A reminder that those horrors have been committed in living memory. Had this opening episode of Radio 4's Soul Music been a straight biography of the song, it would still have been worth tuning in for: Holiday's signature set-closer was the first protest song to sell a million copies; she had to fight to record and release it. But instead, Ayre sensitively pulls together the stories connected to Strange Fruit – the smell of magnolia and burning flesh that sparked the American civil rights movement after Till's murder. Holiday and her well-documented pain become a footnote. Abel Meeropol, the schoolteacher who wrote Strange Fruit after being horrified by pictures of people picnicking by trees with bodies swinging from them, is remembered by his son. One voice, Sylvia Wong Lewis, talks about the bitter irony of Strange Fruit and its unpopularity with black audiences. "It was familiar and we knew it … but it was such a sad song." Another, April Shipp, explains her handmade quilt, bearing the names of 5,000 lynched men, women and children. "I cried every day I worked on it … I still cry when I touch it. If no one else remembers their names, I remember them," she says. "I stand for these people." Radio Race issues Nosheen Iqbal theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Voice of protest … Billie Holiday. Photograph: Library Of CongressVoice of protest … Billie Holiday. Photograph: Library Of Congress
- From Liberty of London to Greggs, why is TV obsessed with shops?
Inside Claridge's inspired a wave of workplace documentaries, with even KFC now getting in on the act. But what's the secret of a good shop show? It might not have seemed that way at the time, but BBC2's Inside Claridge's has arguably become the most influential television programme of recent times. The proof is there for all to see, in the heap of copycat workplace documentaries jamming up the TV landscape. On Channel 4, there is Liberty of London . Sky has a series about Greggs. And even the BBC is bolstering its quota with a programme about Iceland , and another recently announced series about KFC . Now, I can understand the appeal of Claridge's. That show was a peek behind the curtain of an institution. As a documentary about a hotel of such heritage and repute, which the vast majority of people will never set foot in, it was wish fulfilment. A glimpse of how the other half live for those of us who make do with a Travelodge. A reassurance that, while we might not have the money to ever spend a night there, at least we know that its alarm clocks are a little bit crap. On top of this, it made Claridge's look like a fairly decent place to work. But this wave of new shop shows might be missing the point. Liberty of London, for example, wants to be Inside Claridge's so much that it almost popped a blood vessel this week. And it still fell short; partly because the programme as a whole was so airless and stilted, but mainly because Liberty looks like such a relentlessly terrible work environment that you spent the hour wanting to kick open a fire escape to let the staff scatter free into the night. At least in this respect, Liberty reflects my experience. I spent my teens and early twenties in a succession of shops and food outlets, and my overwhelming memory of that period is one of boredom. We'd stand around in our lanyards and hairnets, and wait until we could go home. That was it. We'd invariably hate our manager, they in turn would hate their area manager and everyone would be united in their hatred of the customers, who at least deserved it. A documentary set in the Ashford branch of the Three Cooks bakery in the late 1990s would be like watching the first cut of an especially bleak Ingmar Bergman film about sausage rolls. Perhaps the secret to making one of these workplace shows fly is choosing the right staff to focus on. Three Cooks was a sort of hideous proto-Greggs, but Sky1's Greggs: More Than Meats the Pie makes its subject look like Disneyland. That's all down to the people on screen. Watching prepacked sandwiches being sold isn't particularly thrilling in itself, but it's hard not to be charmed when a no-nonsense figure such as Claudette loses her temper about doughnuts . Similarly, look at the spectrum of Eddie Stobart programmes that Channel 5 airs. It is bizarre that an entire television series can revolve around the premise that sometimes lorries get stuck in traffic, but, among a certain community, the cast have become megastars. The audience for these shows can be ferociously loyal, too. Question the point of a TV show about haulage, and the Stobart mob will immediately transform into a wave of red-faced, spittle-flecked vigilantes. If Stobart fans had their way, everything on TV would be lorry-related. Top Gear would be exclusively about HGVs. Downton Abbey would be set inside some sort of badly lit depot. Jeremy Paxman would present Newsnight topless in the cab of a Volvo FH with a copy of Nuts balanced on his lap. This, then, might be the true appeal of the workplace documentary. It doesn't matter how mundane the premise is – so long as people enjoy hanging out with the characters, audiences will happily tune in. And that's great for Greggs. For Liberty, not so much. Documentary Factual TV Television Greggs Retail industry Stuart Heritage theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Liberty of London. Photograph: Channel 4acheLiberty of London: 'You spend the hour wanting to kick open a fire escape to let the staff scatter free.' Photograph: Channel 4ache
- Superhero TV: Agents of SHIELD could learn a lot from Arrow
DC Comics' vigilante superhero Arrow is succeeding where Marvel's Agents of SHIELD falls down. But what could Coulson and co take away from the billionaire archer? In Arrow (Mondays, Sky1, 8pm), a wayward playboy returns to his benighted home city after being thought dead for years. Operating as a deep-voiced, dark-clothed vigilante, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) sets about cleaning up the streets although, in lieu of any superpowers, this square-jawed billionaire must rely only on expensive gadgets and an insane workout regime to prevail. It's Batman Begins with a compound bow, and 30 episodes in, Arrow – based on the long-standing DC Comics character Green Arrow – has found an enjoyable, if trifling, groove. Compare that to Agents of SHIELD, the much-hyped TV spin-off from Marvel's insanely successful movie universe, a show that has achieved impressive ratings but received underwhelming reviews. (Full disclosure: I like it more than most. ) Though they both have their roots in comics, it's a little unfair to compare the two series directly. Arrow may not have the high budget of Agents of SHIELD, but it debuted to far lower audience expectations, and has had an entire first season to work out any kinks (or insert some). Agents of SHIELD – on a scheduled production break this week – is still finding its footing, but could potentially learn from its scrappy rival. With that in mind, here are seven things Arrow does better than Agents of SHIELD. Unadulterated action When he's not firing arrows at bad guys with machine guns, Oliver Queen is wrecking henchmen with the mixed martial arts he learned while stranded on a remote island for five years. From Adam West's Batman to Xena: Warrior Princess , there's just something cathartic about a good brawl. Agents of SHIELD, though, seems unwilling to commit to fisticuffs, preferring to try to subvert the form. When Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) recently took on an entire pagan hate cult baying for his blood, he drifted off into a flashback mid-melee and snapped out of it amid a pile of duffed-up bodies. Poetic, maybe, but it would be nice to see him kick at least one person in the face every episode. Soapiness There is an undercurrent of angst in Agents of SHIELD, with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) occasionally gazing out of a tiny aeroplane window pondering his mysterious death and resurrection. But since every single SHIELD character is primed to communicate in quips and pop-culture references, it can be hard to downshift into non-snarky melodrama. Every single Arrow character feels guilty about forbidden love or killing someone or being an alcoholic, and they're happy to talk about it at great length without cracking wise. Weirdly, these Sunset Beach excursions make Arrow feel more like an old-fashioned comic book. Canny casting In season one, Arrow staged its own mini Doctor Who convention by casting John Barrowman and Alex Kingston . For season two, it has signed up the striking Summer Glau, former female Terminator on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but also a veteran of Joss Whedon productions Firefly , Serenity and Dollhouse , and someone you could reasonably have expected would turn up in a SHIELD uniform sooner rather than later. Biff, bang, gazump! Fan service Ironically, being so directly linked to the Marvel movie universe means Agents of SHIELD can't use comic characters earmarked for potential big-screen outings. In contrast, Arrow has gone berserk, raking up (admittedly second-tier) DC Comics characters and getting them on screen as fast as possible. Deadshot, China White, Deathstroke, Bronze Tiger, Amanda Waller from Suicide Squad ... these are all characters familiar to fans that pop up in the flesh rather than just being listed on a computer database as an in-joke. This Monday's episode goes even further, with the introduction of mild-mannered CSI guy Barry Allen (Grant Gustin). Bazza is destined to become The Flash, arguably a more recognisable character than Green Arrow, and now gearing up for his own TV spin-off . Clever use of resources Despite a healthy budget, Agents of SHIELD can't help but look a little cheap compared to its expensive movie siblings. Arrow is funded by the less flush CW network, yet manages to look more visually coherent, with Vancouver standing in for Starling City. Arrow is also unafraid to recycle, shooting on dark alleyway sets originally built for Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie. The show also gets the most out of another nearby resource: Stephen Amell's torso. Oliver Queen does a lot of one-armed push-ups, and has an impressive workout trick called the "salmon ladder" . Focus and momentum SHIELD is an international agency with a broad remit and the word "logistics" in its title. This involves the team bouncing around the globe on various missions. Arrow is about Oliver Queen trying to save Starling City, which gives the show an enviable focus. But the real master stroke is the constant use of flashbacks to Oliver's lost years on Lian Yu, a remote – if not deserted – island. If the present-day plot is threatening to get a bit dull, the action cuts back to the island, where Oliver talks in a slightly more high-pitched voice and sports a Dawson from Dawson's Creek haircut . If the island storyline flags, the show jumps back to the present day. It's a cross-cutting technique that comic books use all the time, and it keeps things rattling along in a way that SHIELD just can't match. Ninjas. Ninjas! Arrow has no shortage of ninjas. As Marvel Comics godhead Stan Lee might put it: 'nuff said. What do you think? Is Arrow better than Agents of SHIELD? Let us know in the comments below. Fantasy Marvel Comics and graphic novels Graeme Virtue theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds SHIELD should use those fancy guns more often. Photograph: ABCSHIELD should use those fancy guns more often. Photograph: ABC
- Have you been watching ... The Tunnel?
This British-French remake of cult Scandi noir hit The Bridge is as dark as the original, but what's really selling it is the humour Sky Atlantic's The Tunnel is a British-French co-production and a pretty faithful remake of cult Scandi hit The Bridge , only here the first episode's corpse is found midway between France and Britain in the Eurotunnel instead of on the Øresund bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. I am in the fortunate position of having nothing to compare it with, because The Bridge remains on my list of "must get around to watching" shows. My only expectations were, "It'll be a bit dark", and that Stephen Dillane (who plays Karl Roebuck, the British investigating officer) would be brilliant because he has never turned in a bad performance. Likewise, Cleménce Poésy, who plays his socially impeded French counterpart Elise Wasserman. I wasn't sure about them as a pairing but was immediately convinced by their uncomfortable chemistry. Despite the usual TV habit of pairing a Brucie with a Tess (older man, young slender blonde), they are much more like father and daughter than a will-they-won't-they partnership, which is refreshing. He's an animate East Island statue in action slacks and beat-up Belstaff and she's a brain in a jar with an endless supply of grey and black Gap separates. The killer they are chasing leaves two halves of two women (an English prostitute and a French politician) in the service tunnel under the channel and uses live-streaming video to update both police forces on his next dastardly move as he dishes out lessons on veracity. To date, the Truth Terrorist (as tabloid toerag Danny dubbed him) has made a journalist soil himself in a Range Rover, cut a politician and prostitute in half, knocked off 14 old people in a care home, torched a woman in a silver tracksuit, persuaded a paranoid schizophrenic to go postal with a sword, kidnapped a class of seven-year-olds and murdered their teacher and then set up the same journalist in exactly the same way twice, choosing to blow him up the second time. The suspects are, to someone who hasn't watched The Bridge, a nice collection of uneasy but not obviously guilty people. The obvious target for Elise and Karl is, at first, Stephen Beaumont, the man who runs the hostel for illegal immigrants, because he has strange eyes and is "a bit of a loner". Played by dramatic pressure cooker Joseph Mawle, he lurks in doorways saying little and clearly feeling much. If Mawle isn't crowned the king of all acting by the time he's 50 I'll be very surprised. It's almost impossible to look away when he's on screen. But is Stephen the killer? Unlikely. What eventually drove me away from The Killing, for example, was the almost total lack of variation in tone, whereas what's really selling The Tunnel for me is the humour, particularly between Karl and Elise. Karl is a wry character who, when we meet him, has just had a vasectomy. For the rest of this series he keeps getting into situations that put his balls in peril. The TT thumps him right in the gooleys after they almost catch him in a warehouse. Then he hops over a tall, spiky fence in pursuit of the kidnapped school kids. How he managed to recover enough to entertain that French widow I don't know. Balls of steel. And Elise (who, like her Swedish counterpart, appears to be on the autistic spectrum) is constantly saying the wrong thing and misunderstanding the importance of white lies, which gives her a childlike quality that could become annoying, but doesn't. She plays it perfectly. Best of all, it's a British adaptation of a subtitled drama that still manages to have subtitles (when the French characters talk to each other). So it still has that slightly inaccessible feel that leads to greater satisfaction when you manage to keep on top of plot and character through the dialogue. You've had to work a little harder. Television Crime drama Sky Atlantic Julia Raeside theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds The Tunnel: there is convincing chemistry between Stephen Dillane, who plays British officer Karl Roebuck, and Cleménce Poésy, who plays his French counterpart Elise Wasserman. Photograph: Jessica FordeThe Tunnel: there is convincing chemistry between Stephen Dillane, who plays British officer Karl Roebuck, and Cleménce Poésy, who plays his French counterpart Elise Wasserman. Photograph: Jessica Forde
- I hate Christmas specials. Who's with me?
From the Great British Bake Off to Downton Abbey to The Call Centre, no show is safe from the Santa-hat black hole In early December, when the big fat Radio Times arrives in the shops and Twitter is taken over by festive hysteria, I start to worry about the ensuing two weeks of bad television, and begin hoarding box sets to see me through until January. I hate TV Christmas specials. Yes, that's right, call me the Grinch and hide all the red Starbucks cups: I hate them all. Even Downton Abbey, Top of the Pops, and "classics" such as The Vicar of Dibley and Only Fools and Horses. And don't try to plead with me by shoving a DVD of that final episode of The Office in my face. I hate that too. As anyone who has ever found themselves away from home on 25 December knows, other people's Christmases are boring. They are someone else's in-jokes and another family doing the day in the wrong order. So why would I want to watch Zoë Wanamaker having a festive meltdown on the My Family Christmas special when I can see my sister's hungover boyfriend being sick on the kitchen floor just as my mum's putting the turkey in the oven? Reading this on mobile? Click here to watch . There's no lazier plot device than Christmas. It's an excuse to give any real storylines a week off. Community's two festive specials are prime examples – one was based entirely in Shirley's garage and another in Abed's imagination, and never really referred to again. The same goes for the Keeping Up With the Kardashians Christmas episode, normally filmed in October. Every year, they don't really do anything apart from showing us old photos of them as kids, although strangely, old family friend OJ Simpson never seems to pop up. Reading this on mobile? Click here to watch . No show is safe from the Santa-hat black hole. Bad Education, The Call Centre and University Challenge have lined up totally unnecessary Christmas editions. I can imagine that working in a call centre in December is miserable, and nobody needs to see already awkward students in Christmas jumpers. The Great British Bake Off Christmas special is especially pointless, because it doesn't seem to involve any sort of competitive element, and there is no way I'm going to suggest my mum tries a different mince pie recipe. She's been making them exactly the same way since 1983, and not even Mary Berry will make her do them differently. Festive TV makes me feel claustrophobic. Christmas is already the same every year without fail. The same food, the same jokes, the same fights, the same passive-aggressive asides. Or is that just my family? The last thing I want is old shows dragged into the mix – both Birds of a Feather and Open All Hours (now Still Open All Hours) are back on the box. It's as if we are stuck in a timewarp and we will never get out. It's Groundhog Day, but this time the singer from Busted has moved to Essex to live with three screeching idiots. And, of course, we'll have to watch that Only Fools and Horses episode where Del and Rodney, dressed as Batman and Robin, surprise a mugger, and a Vicar of Dibley episode, and probably The Office, and the inevitable Top of the Pops, where Fearne Cotton will hysterically call all of the most overplayed songs of the year "amazing" until you're regurgitating turkey sandwiches in disgust. Reading this on mobile? Click here to watch . You would think I'd be happier that Downton Abbey's Christmas special isn't even set during the Christmas period. I'm not. Because what's the point? Why are you taking up precious TV hours with what seems like an extra episode tacked on the end of the series? Remember when Top Gear's Christmas special went to Bolivia in 2009? I enjoy a wander through my tie-dyed gap-year memories as much as anyone, but let's face it: it was in no way festive. In fact, having non-Christmassy Christmas specials is even worse, because it just seems like a trick to make us watch a normal episode, while we're trapped in front of the TV because we're too full of food to move. Reading this on mobile? Click here to watch . All I'm saying is, tensions will already be high on Christmas Day, due to cabin fever, daytime drinking and that weird Sheridan's liqueur that only comes out in December. The last thing you want is a Christmas-themed episode of Mrs Brown's Boys. Which is on BBC1 at 9.30pm on Christmas Day, if you really hate yourself. The five worst Christmas specials The Office (2003) Has anyone ever chosen to buy "meaningful" over "comedy gift" in the office secret Santa? No. Unrealistic. Only Fools and Horses (1996) If someone turned up to a wake in fancy dress, you'd probably be quite upset at the intrusion. You definitely would not laugh. Ridiculous. The Vicar of Dibley (2004) Why does this regularly pop up in Christmas TV schedules when the topical jokes are now nine years old? Community (2010) I only made it two minutes into the one-off, stop-motion animated episode before switching off in a rage brought on by the Christmas version of the show's theme tune. A Very Glee Christmas (2010) The final insult: there's a whole ALBUM of songs to go with this atrocity. Drama Comedy Comedy Television Christmas Issy Sampson theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds The Call Centre Christmas special 2013: 'A totally unnecessary edition.' Photograph: Betina Skovbro/BBC WalesThe Call Centre Christmas special 2013: 'A totally unnecessary edition.' Photograph: Betina Skovbro/BBC Wales
- Has the internet killed Have I Got News For You?
It used to be the go-to show for forensic news satire. But thanks to Twitter and co, it's up against far faster – and often just as sharp – competition. Is it time for the final edition? To paraphrase Jimmy Nail: if you love something, set it free. I'm starting to suspect this might be the case with Have I Got News For You. The show used to be fresh and vital, razor sharp and gleeful in its dismantling of the news. But it's a shadow of its former self now. It lumbers along, as best it can, taking easily telegraphed potshots at targets that are already dead. It wrings out titters where there should be guffaws. It used to be Lenny Bruce, now it's Bruce Forsyth. I say this with a heavy heart, but I think it might be time for a dignified retirement. It's not hard to see where the show went wrong. The internet killed Have I Got News For You, plain and simple. Back in the show's heyday, you could rely on it to deliver the definitive satirical reaction to the news. But now it's competing with The Daily Show , humour sites such as The Poke and millions of would-be wags on Twitter who fall over themselves to mine every last microLOL from every single news story a nanosecond after it breaks in a rabid bid for retweets. By the time Friday night rolls around, all Have I Got News For You has left to work with is the chaff. Worse yet, the show doesn't feel like a unit any more. At its best, the show is a well-oiled machine – two team captains, one silly and one sensible, working with a like-minded host to bring either the best or worst out of their guests. When Have I Got News For You is firing on all cylinders, the interplay between Ian Hislop and Paul Merton is hard to beat. But such moments are now rare. Merton used to liven up the show with dazzling flights of fancy , but he now spends about three quarters of every episode looking impossibly bored on the right of the screen, raising his head only to say the word "sparrow" or to do another exaggerated double take. And this effectively means that the show is Hislop's now. And while his political point-scoring shtick is fine – brilliant, even – in small doses, 30 minutes of it each week can get a bit wearying. Perhaps that's unfair. Have I Got News For You isn't just half an hour of Hislop. It's 22 minutes of Ian Hislop, plus four YouTube videos that you've already seen 10 times and an uncomfortable bit where everyone acknowledges a story too serious to be joked about and the audience responds with an awkward mixture of clapping, groaning and silence. In fact, this last point is my biggest problem with Have I Got News For You. Ever since the Jimmy Savile scandal came to light, and the BBC bodged its response, Have I Got News For You has become uncomfortably moral. With Savile, it had to acknowledge the story, react to the BBC's fumbling and – in Merton's case – deny the existence of a supposed incident on the show in 1999 where, according to a transcript circulating on the internet, he accused Savile of paedophilia . None of which was very funny, and being funny is the point of the show. Since then, these uncomfortable moments have happened time and time again. Last week, it came during a discussion of Nigella Lawson, although the whole episode seemed to have a general air of discomfort . Maybe Have I Got News For You was just having an off week. But what an off week it was. The team captains looked bored, the guests contributed nothing; and in Robert Lindsay, it found perhaps its worst-ever host. Vast tracts of the episode seemed to go by without anyone so much as smiling, let alone laughing. This week has to be a step up. The host will be Kathy Burke, who always brings a dynamic to proceedings. And the inclusion of Miles Jupp as a panellist is never a bad thing, especially since Hislop is never anything less than fully delighted by his presence. But the fact remains that Have I Got News For You is a show on the slide. Could it be time to quietly put it out to pasture? Entertainment Television Stuart Heritage theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Ian Hislop and Paul Merton … time to call it a day? Photograph: BBC/Hat Trick Productions/Richard KendallIan Hislop and Paul Merton … time to call it a day? Photograph: BBC/Hat Trick Productions/Richard Kendall
- The Good Wife is the best drama on TV right now
CBS's legal and political saga reached its 100th episode this week with a typically outstanding hour of television. So why isn't it considered one of the greats? What does quality US television look like? Typically, any list would include at least one of the following shows: Mad Men , Breaking Bad , The Walking Dead, Homeland , Boardwalk Empire . Before these shows become box-set fodder, or become available for streaming on Netflix and iTunes, they are broadcast on premium cable channels. The idea of paying for "quality" television is entrenched (HBO itself means "Home Box Office", after all) and these shows, with their high production values and often slow-moving plots given space and time to breathe, are the best examples of it. But for the last four years – and five seasons – one of the best dramas on television has been on CBS, a basic network channel with an average viewer age of 57 . The show is The Good Wife . In the States last weekend, The Good Wife reached its 100th episode (this will air in the UK in spring), and delivered an almost perfect hour of television to mark the achievement. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles), who is getting her life back together following a sex scandal involving her philandering politician husband Peter (Chris Noth). Amid his downfall and her humiliation-by-association, Alicia returns to work as a lawyer after more than a decade away, reconnects with an old law school flame and comes into her own, professionally and personally. If this sounds like a Shirley Valentine-style tale of rediscovered autonomy, well, sometimes it is. It is also, thanks to showrunners Michelle and Robert King, a towering example of what network television can achieve when it comes to quality, character-driven drama. The writing on the show is often very, very good. It tackles small-fry issues: problems at school, feeling under pressure at work and so on. It tackles big, intricate ones: the negotiation that goes on in a marriage, Chicago politics, race and equality. Its big prize is technology and the ways it will continue to change us and the laws that govern us. The show has tackled Bitcoin, Anonymous, privacy, algorithms and social media, with storylines involving "ChumHum" and "Scabbit", proxies for Facebook and Reddit. If it shows off a little in these episodes, it has a right to – it is one of the few shows on television that seems to cover things right when it rips stories from the headlines. The performances, too, are outstanding. Marguiles spends a lot of time looking steadily into the eyes of clients and adversaries alike, giving them a glimpse of the steel that runs through her. The ensemble around her is staggering: Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, the aforementioned Noth and British actor Archie Panjabi all deliver performances that dazzle without being needlessly showy. The Kings also excel at casting excellent guest stars, from Dreama Walker (of the now-cancelled Don't Trust The B— in Apt 23) and Anika Noni Rose, to Michael J Fox and John Noble (with his native Aussie accent for a change). For a show that is so consistently excellent, I wonder why The Good Wife is rarely mentioned in the same breath as its cable counterparts. For one thing, it airs on More4 in the UK, on a weeknight. It isn't a primetime slot. In the US, it may be that it's slightly hobbled by its home on network television. For better or worse, CBS (home of mid-market shows such as CSI, The Mentalist and NCIS) is no HBO, nor has it the cachet of AMC (The Walking Dead, Mad Men) or Showtime (Homeland). In a world where we equate "cable channel" with "great television", The Good Wife misses out by slipping through a curious gap. And that's an attitude television award voters have internalised as well: The Good Wife is constantly a bridesmaid at ceremonies where it should be winning the main prize. A Peabody aside, the only cast members to win acting gongs have been Marguiles and Panjabi, despite the excellence of the ensemble. But as the 100th episode – part of a near-flawless season five – shows, The Good Wife is uncommonly good. If you're looking for a quality drama box set to escape the family this Christmas, look no further. It has no smoking, brooding male anti-hero, and it's not a period piece, but The Good Wife is exciting and smart and underrated. In fact, it's much like its protagonist, whose son murmurs in the latest episode: "Sometimes I think of you as Mum and other times, just as this interesting person who lives in our house." That's the allure of The Good Wife. It is both of those things, and it's juggling them marvellously. US television Television Bim Adewunmi theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds A NY law degree doesn't open the door to the sort of job enjoyed by Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in Ridley and Tony Scott's TV series The Good Wife. Photograph: Contract Number (Programme)/Channel 4Strong cast ... The Good Wife. Photograph: Justin Stephens/CBS Entertainment
- Kangaroo Dundee – TV review
Back for another season, Chris Barnes maintains his charm and appeal even as he toilet-trains a couple of kangaroo orphans It seems that Chris Barnes – Brolga – is a bit of a hit with the pom ladies after the first series of Kangaroo Dundee (BBC2). It's not hard to see why, frankly. A gentle, handsome, rugged giant of a man, he lives a simple life in the outback, nursing baby kangaroo orphans. Their mummies have generally been run over, by road trains, or by speeding Aussies so overladen with Fosters they were unable to stop (if they even tried to). The joeys in the pouch often survive, cushioned inside their maternal airbags. Imagine the trauma, though. Brolga is their mum now. He sleeps with them, bottle-feeds them throughout the night, teaches them to somersault into pillowcase pouches. Now we've reached the second episode of series two. Series two! But it is oddly compelling television, and charming, too, and not only for Brolga fanciers. Anyway, he's toilet-training little Rex and Ruby, tickling their bits until they widdle. "Kangaroo wee cuts through all the grease and grime on the floor," he says. "It's the cleanest part of the shack." Who needs Flash? This is what worries me about all these English women who have apparently fallen for Brolga, may even be racing down under to steal his heart and live out their days under the stars with him. Have they thought about the wee on the floor, the stench, the heat, the five-foot brown snakes and clouds of flies? It's the flies that would do it for me – not that I'm thinking of moving in myself. "The girls would probably think: where do I plug my hairdryer in?" Brolga tells a local DJ who's quizzing him about his new celebrity status. "Or where's the loo? Basically you take your shovel and a dunny roll, hide behind the termite mound round the back, and that's it, you know." To be honest, I'm quite surprised he even has dunny roll. "I'd give it a week," he says, about how long any potential Mrs Brolga would last. Maybe he's just better suited to living with kangaroos. And some things – Brolga included – are best appreciated on television. Science and nature TV Documentary Factual TV Sam Wollaston theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds The outback's yummy mummy: Brolga and an orphan kangaroo joey on Kangaroo Dundee. Photograph: Joyce Van Dijk/BBC/AGB Films/Joyce van DijkThe outback's yummy mummy: Brolga and an orphan kangaroo joey on Kangaroo Dundee. Photograph: Joyce Van Dijk/BBC/AGB Films/Joyce van Dijk
- Catch-up TV guide: from Blues America to Misfits
Blues America | Bunheads | Charlie Brooker's How Videogames Changed The World | Yonderland | Misfits Blues America With extensive seasons on the Sound Of Cinema and World Music in recent months, BBC4 remains the go-to channel for genre hoppers. Most recently the channel has immersed itself in the grubby, boozy and ultimately fascinating history of the blues, with two-part series Blues America, as well as documentaries on renowned guitarists Big Bill Broonzy and John Fahey, all of which can be found on the iPlayer. And if that doesn't sate your 12-bar lust, the BBC4 website has a dedicated Blues Collection, including vintage editions of Arena and episodes from landmark 1979 series The Devil's Music. BBC iPlayer Bunheads Gilmore Girls fans still mourning that show's demise would do well to check out this series from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Following a former Vegas showgirl as she moves into the high-pressure world of ballet tuition, Bunheads contains the same whip-smart dialogue and understated warmth as its predecessor. Sadly, the show has already been cancelled in the States, but series one is available to buy on iTunes Charlie Brooker's How Videogames Changed The World Yes, it featured several curious omissions (Final Fantasy, Civilisation), and yes, it relied a little too heavily on talking heads – particularly strange given Brooker's frequent lampooning of the format in his various Wipe series - but otherwise How Videogames Changed The World was a detailed and fast-paced stomp through the annals of gaming history, with just enough snark to prevent the thing from feeling too fawning. Catch it over on 4OD . Yonderland A joyful collision of Python, Boosh and The Princess Bride, Yonderland has proved immensely enjoyable teatime viewing over the past six weeks; not that anyone should really be surprised by its quality, what with the Horrible Histories lot, masters of cross-generational comedy, behind the wheel. Debbie's attempts to thwart incompetent evildoer Negatus continue this Sunday, while the series so far is available to Sky viewers through its On Demand service. Only three episodes left, though you'd expect a second run to be a near-certainty. Sky On Demand Misfits The superhero delinquents have finally completed community service and are hanging up their jumpsuits for good this Wednesday. Happily, for those who missed Misfits first time round, or who just fancy re-watching, a whole six series of sex, swearing and sudden cast changes awaits on 4OD . Television Charlie Brooker Misfits Gwilym Mumford theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Bunheads.Bunheads.
- Next weeks's radio: from Bryan Ferry's Jazz Age to Truman Capote
David Hepworth on Bryan Ferry's jazz age, panning for gold and the real history of the Christmas carol With the fine disregard for cash register appeal which has endeared him to record company executives over the last twenty years, Bryan Ferry decided that 2012 was the perfect year to assemble a group to play old Roxy Music songs in the style of the Duke Ellington band of the 30s. Commercially the record "The Jazz Age" died like a louse in a Russian's beard but among its handful of admirers was Baz Luhrmann, who commissioned Ferry to provide similar music for the soundtrack of his version of The Great Gatsby. All of which leads us to Bryan Ferry's Jazz Age ( Monday 4:00pm R4 ) a programme that explores the pre-rock and roll days when British students in duffel coats gathered in basements to listen to jazz music rooted in the idioms of black America. Ferry, slightly too young to catch this tide at the flood, reminiscences about those years in the foggy tone of a retired spy. More animated is the great Chris Barber, who is still rattling up and down the motorways at the age of 83, and the redoubtable journalist and photographer Val Wilmer, who remembers it as a time when the musicians smelt of sweat and the country felt like a cheese roll that had been left out too long. Somebody give this woman a series. Every time I pass the Bank of England I find myself wondering what they can possibly keep inside there these days. There's no such uncertainty in the USA. Apparently a significant proportion of the world's gold is still kept Inside The Fed ( Tuesday 8:00pm R4 ). Most of it isn't Uncle Sam's. Following major transactions between nations somebody nips down there and simply moves a few bricks off one pile and puts them on another, which is somehow reassuring. Simon Jack's programme talks to the people who worked there during the post-Lehman days of 2008 when, according to one, "it went from being very stressful to being terrifying at times" and, according to another, "I didn't sleep all night for eighteen months". A longer view of some of the same issues is provided in the Book of the week Matthew Hart's Gold: The Race For The World's Most Seductive Metal ( Weekdays 9:45am R4 ) which covers the whole story from the Inca Gold of the 16th century to the ghost miners of modern South Africa. A Cause For Caroling ( Weekdays 1:45pm R4 ) is Jeremy Summerly's account of how the music we like to feel is a sacred component of a quintessentially home-grown Christmas is actually a tribute to the British genius for assimilation and straight-faced pretence that anything we happen to like has been going on for for, oh, ages. From this I learned many things, including the fact that the refrain used to be referred to as "the burden". This I feel would have been recognised by Hank Williams, who died in the back of a car sixty years ago this New Year and is remembered in Great Lives ( Tuesday 4:40pm R4 ) with Ricky Ross as the sponsor and Nick Barraclough as the reassuring authority. There is no better nightcap than Kerry Shale reading Truman Capote short stories in the Book At Bedtime slot ( Weekdays 10:45pm R4 ). These tales, all set in the author's peripatetic Southern childhood, explore the idea that through a child eyes Christmas means comfort and security and in this particular version demonstrate that it's never too early in life to develop a really eccentric voice. Radio David Hepworth theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music performs live on the main stage during day two of the Love Box Weekender 2010 at Victoria Park on July 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images) Music gig outdoor Photograph: Simone Joyner/Getty ImagesBryan Ferry.
- Blowing apart the Battlefield 4 advert
'Fronted by some yankee dweeb in an unbuttoned denim blouson and T-shirt combination' Reading this on mobile? Click here to view As videogames head further towards the immersive, the interactive and the incontinent (you haven't tried Pooblaster 2? You haven't lived), so their adverts place greater emphasis on experience. It's about being online, sharing the moment with your friends/family/random adolescents from Idaho. It's the closest thing to being there. In fact, if you believe some of the more excitable blurbage it's like actually being there, particularly like actually being at war. Battlefield 4 isn't the first gaming ad to punt this line – see pretty much every Call Of Duty spot ever – but it certainly has made an inglorious late entry into the market. Fronted by some yankee dweeb in an unbuttoned denim blouson and T-shirt combination, it suggests Battlefield is the game for you if you're the type of person who enjoys a series of increasingly destructive military maneouvres (eg "sending enemies sky high with C4"). They're increasingly destructive because they're building to a rhetorical climax, one which, you have to say, takes your absolute breath away. The camera switches to a close-up so you can, for the first time, see the narrator's weasely features in full. He stares you right in the eyes, then invites you to experience, "the glorious, mind-blowing freedom of all-out war". I'm sorry. You said what? You, whose biggest challenge has most likely been deciding which flavour of Doritos to go with your jalapeno cheese melt, have the temerity to make a claim on what war feels like? And to declare that feeling to be "glorious"? Wow, wow and thrice wow. Get out of my face, please, before I kick your Siegfried Sassoon. Advertising Television Television industry Paul MacInnes theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Battlefield 4.
- Strictly's Aljaž Skorjanec on Slovenia
The Strictly Come Dancing star on sausages, stalactites and why everyone's a dancer in his homeland, Slovenia I used to think Slovenska Bistrica, the town close to Maribor, where I grew up, was massive. Now that I have travelled, it seems very small. It's not really touristy but it does have a beautiful castle. My favourite bar there is Dolce Vita on the corner of Copova Ulica, but that's because there's not really anywhere else to go! People always get a good vibe from the Adriatic. The Slovenian coast is absolutely beautiful (see slovenia.info ). It's really, really small but has three pretty historic cities: Piran, Portorož and Izola. I always take people there, as it's not the kind of thing you're used to if you're from Australia or the US, which have long, sandy beaches. We have many beautiful caves. There are so many caves in Slovenia. I always take people to see them as you can just walk right in and look at stalagmites and stalactites. The most famous are the ones in the south-western Kras region ( slovenia-tourist-guide.com/caves-in-slovenia ). Slovenia has plenty of traditional dishes . Sausages are especially popular. Kranjska klobasa is the best – it must be the spices. You can buy them in the shops but the ones my father makes are my favourite. I don't really eat out much when I'm home – not because it's bad, but because my mum's cooking is so good. Slovenian people say it how it is. We are very honest. Because Slovenia came from the former Yugoslavia, we can be strict. But people are very nice. If there are tourists asking for directions or information, everyone wants to help. Lake Bled is a popular, touristy spot but people always love to see it. My friends tend to stay with me if they come but there's a nice classic old hotel there, the Grand Hotel Toplice . Na Golici by the Avsenik Brothers is one of the most played songs in the world. It's a very famous Slovenian tune and has been covered more than 600 times. I heard it in a German bar in Japan last year and almost started crying. It always reminds me of home. There are only two million Slovenians. There are so few of us that we need to be proud of our nation, whether it's for our football, our dancing, or our music. We have to be passionate. Slovenian architecture is very colourful and it differs from town to town. I like the farms the best – the ones that are high up in the mountains, with wooden Alp houses. The Slovenes are a dancing nation and everyone knows how to do at least a little bit of polka. You may not notice it while you are there but they are especially good at ballroom and Latin. There are so many great competitive couples from Slovenia it's unbelievable. Kranjska Gora in the Julian Alps is a brilliant ski resort. It's popular and really convenient, as it's close to Ljubljana, so it's good if you want to visit the city one day and go skiing the next. Aljaž Skorjanec appears in the Strictly Come Dancing quarter-final on 7 December at 7.10pm on BBC1 Slovenia Strictly Come Dancing Television Emily Mathieson theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Aljaz Skorjanec, right, with his Strictly Come Dancing partner Abbey Clancy. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBCAljaz Skorjanec, right, with his Strictly Come Dancing partner Abbey Clancy. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBCLake Bled
- TV presenter Angela Rippon wins lifetime honour at Sky Women awards
Classics professor Mary Beard also honoured at 23rd Women in Film and TV Awards event at Hilton hotel, London Angela Rippon has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award at an event recognising women in broadcasting. The 69-year-old, who also presents BBC1's Rip-Off Britain, collected her prize from the BBC director-general, Tony Hall, at the Sky Women in Film and TV (WFTV) Awards in London. Others feted at the event included the actor Sheridan Smith, who took the best performance award for her portrayal of great train robber Ronnie Biggs's wife Charmian in the ITV drama Mrs Biggs. The academic Mary Beard, who has worked on many historical documentary series, took the best presenter award at the 23rd annual awards event, staged at the Park Lane Hilton hotel. Rippon was the first regular female newsreader on national television in Britain, beginning her journalism career more than half a century ago and becoming a recognisable figure in the 1970s. She showed her lighter side by dancing on the Morecambe And Wise Christmas special in 1976. Other winners included screenwriter Kelly Marcel, who is working on the Fifty Shades Of Grey script, and the ITV News presenter Ronke Phillips, who was recognised for her work on the "torso in the Thames" story. Winners line-up Business award - Danielle Lux New talent - Kelly Marcel Craft - Julie Ritson News and factual - Anna Hall Project management - Rosa Romero Presenter - Mary Beard Director - Clio Barnard Inspirational woman - Ronke Phillips Writing - Sally Wainwright Producer - Pippa Harris Best performance - Sheridan Smith Achievement of the year - Penny Woolcock Contribution to the medium - Penny Eyles Lifetime achievement - Angela Rippon Television BBC TV news Sky News Television industry Mary Beard Women theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Angela Rippon, Britain's first regular female newsreader on national TV, at the 2013 Women in Film and TV Awards. Photograph: David Fisher/Rex FeaturesAngela Rippon, Britain's first regular female newsreader on national TV, at the 2013 Women in Film and TV Awards. Photograph: David Fisher/Rex Features
- Martin Freeman: from Slough to Smaug – then back to Sherlock
The actor is about to appear in the return of BBC1's Sherlock and Peter Jackson's blockbuster sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug There was a scene in The Office in which Tim Canterbury, the benign sales rep played by Martin Freeman, compared his life to a roll of the dice. "My situation now may only be a three. If I jack that in, go for something bigger and better, I could easily roll a six," he told the programme's faux documentary maker. "I could also roll a one. OK? So I think … just leave the dice alone." Freeman, who will star alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in the eagerly awaited return on New Year's Day of BBC1's Sherlock, and as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's blockbuster sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug next week, has just rolled a double six. It has been an extraordinary rise for the 42-year-old actor, who first sprang to fame in BBC2's The Office in 2001 as one half of the nation's favourite sweethearts, Tim and Dawn (Lucy Davis). "There's a brilliant ordinariness to Martin's character, an endearing low-level grumpiness, and he was able to tap into that [in The Office]," says the show's producer, Ash Atalla. "He is a very charming, slightly grouchy man-next-door who has become a superstar." Freeman loathes the "everyman" label but it is a description that has stuck: an ability, as someone once described it, to present himself as the only normal bloke in a crazy, dangerous world. The BBC's former head of comedy Jon Plowman, who executive-produced The Office, says: "He's great at playing the everyman, which is why he is so good as Watson and in The Hobbit. "He's got a wonderful ordinariness which you'd think most actors would have but curiously they don't. That's not an insult – it's the absolute opposite – and if you've got it as an actor you bloody well hang on to it. Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, we like them because they are a bit ordinary and he has that quality. Tom Hanks has it in spades." Proud of The Office, Freeman was also aware that the award-winning sitcom could be a curse. When he starred as Lord Shaftesbury in the BBC1 drama Charles II: The Power and the Passion in 2003 – the same year The Office ended – one newspaper featured a picture of him with the headline, "Tim in a wig". Two years later, when he starred as Arthur Dent in the long-awaited big-screen adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it was hard not to see him as Tim in space. "It would be a shame for me if I were to become Mr half-hour sitcom," he has said. "I would not like to be Tim from The Office when I'm 50." But then came Sherlock. When Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were casting Sherlock, their contemporary updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, they alighted immediately on Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes. His sidekick, Dr John Watson, proved harder to find, remembers Moffat. "We had seen a lot of very good people, but when we paired Martin with Benedict it was stellar instantly, you could see the show," says Moffat. "Martin is very responsive to the performances around him and once they started bouncing off each other, I said to Mark: 'That's the show right there.'" (Moffat is also the showrunner of Doctor Who, and among the others who auditioned was the then unknown Matt Smith. Moffat would cast him as the Time Lord a few days later.) The pair work, says Moffat, because Freeman is the flipside to Cumberbatch's "exotic-looking creature". "Martin is rather handsome but there is something about him which suggests he is just a bloke you might meet. If you are Sherlock or the Doctor you are being flamboyant and you are doing a turn; you have got a lot of space to manoeuvre in," adds Moffat. "John Watson isn't trying to attract attention, he's just doing what we all do – observe people." Sherlock went on to win huge critical acclaim, in the UK and US, and its return on 1 January, when viewers will finally find out how Holmes managed to fake his own death, is one of the most keenly anticipated dramas of recent years. But it nearly cost Freeman an even bigger role, as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings director knew Freeman from The Office and The Hitchhiker's Guide and was the "only person that we wanted for that role", even before he met him. But delays to The Hobbit meant Freeman had already committed to Sherlock by the time Jackson could offer him a contract. With Freeman unwilling to turn his back on Sherlock, Jackson took the unprecedented decision of delaying shooting for two months so Freeman could make Sherlock before returning to New Zealand for The Hobbit. "We just felt he had qualities that would be perfect for Bilbo," Jackson said. "The stuffy, repressed English quality. He's a dramatic actor, not a comedian, but he has a talent for comedy." Although the first instalment of The Hobbit failed to win the plaudits of The Lord of the Rings, it was a huge commercial hit, making more than $1bn worldwide. Charles Gant, film editor of Heat magazine, says: "He is brilliant [in The Desolation of Smaug] and I was reminded how perfect he is in this part, a small, rather meek person who goes on this incredible expedition. "There is nothing particularly new about the film's fish-out-of-water scenario, but he does it with such incredible charm and is so naturally sympathetic that he captures your empathy and makes you believe in this character." The role made Freeman a global household name. Not bad for an actor who, as a youngster, wanted to be a professional squash player. He made the British national squad but fell out of love with the game and joined a theatre group in Teddington, Middlesex, inspired by Michael Caine's in the 1972 film Sleuth, which he used to watch every day. The youngest of five, Freeman's parents split up when he was young and his father, a naval officer, died when he was 10. As a child he had asthma, fainting during performances – which his family initially mistook for part of his act. After training at Central School of Speech and Drama in London, he made cameo appearances in Casualty, The Bill and Amy Jenkins's This Life – "I mainly got cast as little toerags" – and was in Channel 4's brutal gang rape drama, Men Only. Everything changed with The Office, leading to big-screen outings in Richard Curtis's Love, Actually and with Sacha Baron Cohen in Ali G Indahouse. "I see very little of his performance from The Office in Sherlock," says Sue Vertue, the producer of Sherlock, which is made by Hartswood Films. "He is just the most incredible actor. Sometimes he will say, you know this line here, I think I can do that with a look. The writers, knowing what acting chops both these boys have, have given them lines they know they are going to have fun with." Fiercely protective of his private life, Freeman once said he was "pathological about privacy … There are about 20 people in my life that I want to love me, and none of them are the Daily Mail." He lives in Hertfordshire with his partner, the actor Amanda Abbington, whom he met 13 years ago on the set of Men Only. The pair, who have two children, appeared in several productions together and will do so again in the next series of Sherlock, with Abbington playing Watson's love interest. A self-described "mod with a small m" and a "huge soul boy", Freeman is a vinyl junkie, presenting his own show on Radio 6 Music and a Culture Show special on BBC2 celebrating 50 years of Motown. Preferring to listen to a record than see someone play live, he once declared: "My idea of a good night out is staying in." With the third instalment of The Hobbit, There and Back Again, already in the can (Cumberbatch, by coincidence, voices Smaug the dragon) Freeman is next off to the US, where he will star alongside Billy Bob Thornton in the TV version of the Coen brothers' Fargo for the cable channel FX. He will play Lester Nygaard, the henpecked insurance salesman portrayed by William H Macy in the 1996 film. "He will only do things that he thinks are great," says Moffat. "He is incredibly serious about acting, concentrating fiercely to the point where he can give himself a bad day. He can be a borderline grump if he feels he is having trouble, grumpy in the way that someone doing difficult sums is grumpy. "He would turn down a major movie if it was really going to screw up his homelife. What he really wants is to go home and be with his kids and wife, and sometimes that's a rare quality to find in a film star." Potted profile Born 8 September 1971 in Aldershot, Hampshire. Education Attended Salesian School, a Catholic comprehensive in Surrey, and later studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London. Career Big break came as Tim Canterbury, in The Office, later starring in Sherlock. Films have included Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering, Jake Paltrow's The Good Night, an appearance as Rembrandt in Peter Greenaway's Nightwatching and with Simon Pegg in The World's End and as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit High Winning a Bafta TV award for best supporting actor for his role as John Watson in Sherlock. Low Having (initially) to turn down the Baggins role because of his Sherlock commitments. "I didn't want to miss that boat. It was awful" What he says "I'm not particularly affable in real life, I have to tell you ... I have played nasty people" What they say "If you were planning a remake of North by Northwest, he'd be your man." Jon Plowman, former head of BBC comedy Martin Freeman Sherlock Television Crime drama BBC1 BBC Television industry John Plunkett theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Martin Freeman, star of The Office, Sherlock and The Hobbit. Photograph: Andy Hall for the GuardianMartin Freeman, star of The Office, Sherlock and The Hobbit. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Guardian
- Demon Dentist by David Walliams - review
'Full of made up words and hilarious jokes, it is definitely the book for you!' David Walliams has hit the spot once again, with another thriller! Full of made up words, MAD characters and hilarious jokes, it is definitely the book for you! Alfred, the main character, lives with his Dad, at home. Alfred's dad is left in a wheel hair after a mining accident, but that doesn't bring him down. Alfred is left with one option, look after him himself or send him to a home. Together, they tell the story of their lives together, along with some help from Alfred's friend Gabz and his wacky social worker Winnie. One of the bad things about Alfred is that he hates going to the dentist; and his teeth are a wreck! When a new evil looking dentist comes to town, he is unfortunate enough to have an appointment with her. But the real horror of her has only just began... Want to tell the world about a book you've read? Join the site and send us your review! Children's books: 8-12 years Funny books (children and teens) Children and teenagers David Walliams theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds David Walliams, Demon Dentist
- Comedy gold: David Cross
In The Pride is Back, the hectoring American standup proves that snideness and sarcasm are often the highest forms of wit Reading on mobile? Click here to view video Title: The Pride is Back Year: 1999 The set-up: There is a vicious bitterness to David Cross's standup that by rights should not be funny – and perhaps isn't. Two thirds of the way through this show, having expertly hectored the audience on religion, airports and some dumb guide to dating he's come across, Cross announces he is going to do some impressions. The audience cheers. "Yeah, right!" he replies wearily. "Get to the fucking comedy! Enough of the, 'Ooh, I don't like Jesus.' Make us laugh!" Then he prepares his first impression: a crack baby. And this is not a play on words, perhaps about a baby getting stuck in a crack. It is not a cartoonish vision of an infant having a tantrum because its lighter has run out of gas. This is a grown man gasping and spluttering into the microphone in the sincerest imitation he can manage of a weak and suffering child. There are no knowing glances or aren't-I-naughty grins. He double-bluffs you, daring to do something sicker than you expected. This was his first full-length HBO special, and there has not yet been a second. There have been successful CDs, successful sketch shows like Mr Show , and a popular sitcom, Arrested Development , in which Cross memorably played Tobias Fünke . All that anger, though. It can't be good for business. Reading on mobile? Click here to view video Funny, how? Cross came up through the standup scene of the 1980s, and watching him there is that same feeling you get with Bill Hicks of a man who, in fact, sees very little that is funny in the world. Instead he can only laugh sardonically about having noticed, and being stuck in it. There is also the same technical brilliance that Hicks gave us. In some ways, Cross is even more brilliant. Less of a speechifier, he puts the emphasis on acting – which he derides as "the easiest job in the world", and no doubt it is for him. He hectors the audience, yes, but this is hectoring illustrated with speculative playlets about following, for instance, the dating guide's advice by encouraging your date to play along to MTV videos on a kazoo. Or about being raped by the Virgin Mary. ("The cops were jerks.") You can see why he is also drawn to sketch comedy. The show starts with, I think, my favourite-ever beginning to a standup movie, which in a single shot (I won't spoil it) takes us from Cross's life into his show. The two are always merged to some extent, of course, but here it feels especially fitting. Like Britain's Stewart Lee, American-born Cross is fond of bringing books, scraps of paper or quotations from the things he's observed in his daily life on stage, in order to eviscerate them. You get that sense of authenticity from him, the feeling that he has a deep need to say these things in front of people, for his own sanity, if not for a living. When he makes light of the Columbine massacre , still fresh in the memory when he filmed this, and denounces the hypocritical reaction to it, you feel that you're not watching comedy at all. But it passes. Don't believe everything you hear. Snideness and sarcasm can sometimes be the highest forms of wit. Comic cousins: Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Izzard, Stewart Lee, Bill Hicks, Doug Stanhope Steal this: [on marrying a religious woman] "I want to respect her superstitions." Television United States Comedy Comedy Leo Benedictus theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Comedian David Cross performs during day two of FYF Fest in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Karl Walter/Getty Images
- David Jason | My family values
The actor talks about his stillborn twin brother, life in London during the Blitz and how his elder brother got him his first break I was born five months after the outbreak of war, and though the conflict clearly had nothing to do with me, the Luftwaffe pursued me with impressive enthusiasm. I vividly remember feeling the house shake and fearfully asking my mother what was happening. Holding me close, she would say: "It's just God moving his furniture around." My elder brother, Arthur, was evacuated to the countryside, but I was too young so my infancy was spent in war-torn north London. We kept my infant gas mask in the house for years afterwards and I'd always get an eerie feeling just looking at it. I'm a twin but only I emerged live from the womb. The fact that I was originally one half of a duo gave rise to a theory, much propounded in newspaper profiles, that my life has been one desperate effort to compensate for that stillborn brother. I fear the truth may be more prosaic. The incident, sad as it was, dated back to the day I was born. It was hard to feel it as a loss. My mum, Olwen, was a bright and talkative woman who loved a gossip and a story, and was given slightly to malapropisms. And she was Welsh so, of course, she sang. I remember being cuddled up with her on the sofa on a dark winter afternoon, just the two of us, the fire lit, her singing me Christmas songs as snow fell into the yard. Physical affection was rare. But that wasn't just my parents – that was how people were. We knew we were loved. My father, Arthur, was a fishmonger, first at Billingsgate market and later in Camden Town and Golders Green. He was something of a showman in the workplace – probably his way of making the job tolerable. But at home he was a forbidding presence, whom you did your best not to cross. Mind you, he adored and respected my mother, entirely aware that she was the brains that made the family work. My brother, also called Arthur, was the first in the family to take up acting. Returning home from National Service, he declared that he fancied being a thespian and duly won a scholarship to Rada. I can remember the family crowding round excitedly at home to listen to his debut appearance in the long-running BBC radio drama serial Mrs Dale's Diary . It was Arthur who helped secure my first big break in the theatre and life came full circle when I recommended him for a part in [A Touch of] Frost – and he went on to appear in 27 episodes. It was great having him around. In 1977, while I was performing in a play in Cardiff, a friend introduced me to a striking redhead called Myfanwy Talog, famed for her appearances on Welsh television with the comedy duo, Rees and Ronnie. We were instantly smitten and eventually moved in together, sharing 18 happy years. But our lives changed when Myfanwy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite intensive treatment, she eventually went into a hospice and often when I visited she was barely aware I was there. Amazingly, just hours before she died she asked for a pen and paper, and wrote down a list of gifts she wished dispersed to relatives after her death. She had woken up to do that. It was as if she knew it was on its way. I drew comfort from that – perhaps not then. But since. I first set eyes on Gill, a floor assistant at Yorkshire Television [now ITV Yorkshire] in Leeds, when she was sent to meet me in the studio car park. Later, she told me she had felt an almost physical jolt and a voice in her head said, "This man is going to affect your life." Her other immediate thought was that I looked lonely, which was true. At that time, the idea that we would start a relationship would have struck us both as unlikely. She was 20 years younger, we were living in different parts of the country, and I was still numb with grief. Yet work kept bringing us together and fondness turned to love. Our daughter, Sophie Mae, was born in March 2001. When she was handed to me, the room seemed suddenly very still. Gill and I were married at the Dorchester Hotel in 2005 on the eve of my knighthood. We'd often spoken about it, but could never come up with a plan that wouldn't create a fuss. The investiture solved our problem and obliged us to act because Gill wasn't keen on going to the palace as an unmarried mother. It was the happiest time. Next morning, I arose a married man and went straight off to become a bachelor. Or, at any rate, a knight bachelor. Amazing. A married man, a Sir, and all inside 24 blissful hours. Family Comedy Television Comedy Angela Wintle theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds David Jason: 'The fact that I was originally one half of a duo gave rise to a theory … that my life has been one desperate effort to compensate for that stillborn brother. I fear the truth may be a lot more prosaic.' Photograph: David Fisher/REXDavid Jason: 'The fact that I was originally one half of a duo gave rise to a theory … that my life has been one desperate effort to compensate for that stillborn brother. I fear the truth may be a lot more prosaic.' Photograph: David Fisher/REX
- BBC's Gary Barlow day scaled back after complaints from radio rivals
Radio 2 drops X Factor judge's appearance on Steve Wright show, live Q&A and online claim that star is a 'national treasure' The BBC has scaled back a day dedicated to Gary Barlow after radio rivals voiced concerns about over-promotion. Earlier this week the BBC website featured details of the day of coverage, which featured appearances on Ken Bruce and Steve Wright's shows, an "Ask Gary" Q&A on the Radio 2 site, and the live broadcast of a concert from the BBC Radio Theatre. The broadcasts tied in with the launch of the The X Factor judge's solo album Since I Saw You Last. "This is no ordinary performance – throughout the day, you can listen, watch and interact with a bona fide national treasure – before seeing him perform in concert," the BBC website stated. However, following criticism from commercial radio industry trade body Radio Centre and others, the website has been edited and some of the Barlow coverage scrapped. References to "no ordinary performance" and Barlow being a "bona fide national treasure" have been removed and replaced with more neutral language : "You can listen and watch Gary performing In Concert, live from the BBC Radio Theatre." Radio 2 has also dropped Barlow's appearance on Wright's show and the live website Q&A. A spokeswoman for the BBC said that the "In Concert" format involves artists "dropping into other Radio 2 shows and our broadcast plans are always being fine-tuned and are often subject to change in advance of a live transmission". However, Matt Payton, RadioCentre head of external affairs, argued that the BBC over-stepped its remit by giving such blanket coverage to a single artist. "We wouldn't say that a station like Radio 2 and across the BBC we wouldn't expect a big star like Gary Barlow to appear," he said, speaking in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Media Show . "But for us it is a question of degree. The issue we are raising is whether this sort of extensive coverage across TV, radio and online is potentially the BBC straying from its remit. If you look at the scale and the reach of the BBC if it starts to offer things akin to free advertising that potentially has an impact on our revenue." Payton pointed out that BBC Radio 2 has been given a "very clear remit to offer something distinctive and different to the commercial sector". The BBC spokeswoman said that an artist with broad appeal such as Barlow would be covered by a wide range of services, and that the corporation did not expect to be judged for it decisions "before it has broadcast". "It is not unusual for an artist of broad appeal to appear on a range of programmes that reach different audiences, this is entirely in keeping with our editorial guidelines," she said. "We expect to be judged on content we have actually broadcast, rather than in advance of broadcast. However, we are careful to make sure the amount of coverage given to any artist is appropriate and we will always monitor our plans to ensure this remains the case." The corporation has got into hot water for over-zealous promotion and tie-ups with big film and music events in the past. In 2010 the BBC Trust ruled that a Harry Potter-themed day on BBC Radio 1 gave undue prominence to the film and broke editorial guidelines . In the same year the BBC admitted that it had breached guidelines in promoting U2's album No Line on the Horizon , which included altering its logo to "U2=BBC" and holding a concert on the roof of Broadcasting House. A year earlier BBC Radio 1 was criticised by the BBC Trust for overly endorsing Coldplay's Viva la Vida tour , following a complaint from the RadioCentre. • To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email email@example.com or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication". • To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook . Radio 2 BBC Commercial radio Radio industry Radio Gary Barlow The X Factor Mark Sweney theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Gary Barlow: BBC Radio 2 has dropped the claim the X Factor star is a 'national treasure'. Photograph: McPix/Rex FeaturesGary Barlow: BBC Radio 2 has dropped the claim the X Factor star is a 'national treasure'. Photograph: McPix/Rex Features
- Toast of London gets second series
Channel 4 comedy starring Matt Berry recommissioned after averaging around 400,000 viewers in first run Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews' Channel 4 comedy Toast of London is coming back for a second series. Toast of London was critically lauded but little watched – averaging about 400,000 viewers in its 10.40pm Sunday slot. Channel 4 is understood to have ordered a second series partly because of the show's older, upmarket ABC1 audience demographic. The show stars Berry as a jobbing actor with vaunting ambition who gets into surreal scrapes, with a supporting cast including Doon Mackichan as his agent and Robert Bathurst as his housemate. Andrew Newman, chief executive of Toast producer Objective, said: "I am totally chuffed they are doing another series, because it has a brilliantly strong flavour and has established a proper cult following. I hope the current fans will enjoy more madness from Toast, and hopefully more will do." The comedy grew from a one-off pilot in Channel 4's 2012 Funny Fortnight series, and included such details as recreating the 1950-1990s bohemian drinking club, The Colony Rooms, as a setting for some louche scenes. "The great thing about Channel 4 comedy is that they back things they believe in editorially," added Newman. Phil Clarke, Channel 4 head of comedy, said: "I'm delighted that Toast of London is returning for a second series. It is everything a Channel 4 comedy should be. Unapologetically original funny writing, driven by bold and hilarious performances from Matt Berry and the cast. It's a unique comedy show, there's nothing else like it." • To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication". • To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook . Channel 4 Television industry Independent production companies Comedy Television Comedy Maggie Brown theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Matt Berry, centre, as Steven Toast in Toast of London, which has been commissioned for a second series by Channel 4. Photograph: Kuba WieczorekMatt Berry, centre, as Steven Toast in Toast of London, which has been commissioned for a second series by Channel 4. Photograph: Kuba Wieczorek
- Original Observer photography: November
Naomie Harris, Ellie Goulding, Richard Osman and the great Harry Dean Stanton all feature this month in our showcase of the best photography commissioned by the Observer Greg Whitmore Daphne Guinness shot in the Blue Room at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, for This Much I Know in the Observer MagazineBritish adventurer Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes photographed at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, London, to accompany a Q&A in the New Review. Antonio Olmos: '"I had to photograph him in a boring hotel conference room. I also knew he was reluctant to show his frostbite damaged hands. So I told him he was in great shape for his age (better shape than me for sure) and it would be nice to do something that showed how rugged he was. I suggested no shirt (he was wearing a terrible jumper ) and he agreed to a few photos . He is an incredibly brave man but very self-conscious about his body, which shows how human he is despite his accomplishments'Actor Jenna Coleman photographed for the Observer Magazine in east London to accompany an interview in Observer Magazine. You can see more from Lara Jade's gorgeous shoot here Geese on Seldom Seen Farm , Billesdon, Leicestershire, photographed for a feature on where to buy the best christmas food in Observer Food MonthlyJazz musician Courtney Pine photographed on the Southbank, London, for This Much I Know in the Observer Magazine'Life? It's one big phantasmagoria,' says veteran Hollwood Harry Dean Stanton. Harry was shot in New York to accompany an interview in the Observer MagazineActor and director Ruth Wilson photographed at the Dorchester Hotel, London, for a Q&A in the New ReviewNew Zealand's Dan Carter kicks a conversion against England during the autumn international rugby union match at Twickenham in London. You can see a gallery of Tom's images from the match here Musician Ellie Goulding photographed at her home in west London to accompany an interview in the New ReviewThe Observer fashion desk travelled to Belgium to bring us this season's pleated skirts and kilts. Here's some advice: try wool or cashmere, suede and vinyl, cut high at the waist for the most flattering silhouette. Style them with a simple knit and you're good to go. For more from the shoot, click here Freda Norris, the Beatles' secretary, told her story to the New Review. Here she is pictured outside Ringo Starr's pink-and-white childhood home in LiverpoolActor and former model Marine Vacth photographed in Paris to accompany an interview in the New Review about her role as a teenage prostitute in François Ozon's new film, Young & BeautifulMusician Goldie shot at his home for a piece on comfort eating in the Observer MagazineStar dancer Alina Cojocaru spoke to the New Review about leaving the Royal Ballet for English National BalletClimber Leo Houlding, photographed near Kendal in Cumbria, with the apparel and technology he used during his trek to Antarctica. Leo shared his expertise in Observer Tech Monthly's expert's gadget guide Polymath Jonathan Meades photographed at his home, Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse, in Marseille for an interview in the New ReviewNaomie Harris photographed for the Observer New Review in London. Read her interview with Kate Kellaway here . Suki Dhanda: 'I was so glad I took a background with me as a backup. I was initially really struggling with the interior of the hotel room! Naomie looked beautifully groomed, so all worked well in the end'Carl Froch is caught badly during his bruising victory over George Groves in their world super-middleweight title fight at the Phones4U arena in Manchester. You can see a gallery of Tom's images from the fight here London Grammar shot on the roof of 42 The Calls hotel in Leeds to accompany an interview in the Observer MagazineChef Ferran Adria photographed in his workshop in Barcelona where he and his team are working on La Bullipedia, their online food mapping project. See the full story from Observer Tech Monthly here Actors Charlotte Spencer and Charlotte Blackledge photographed at the Jerwood Space at Bankside, south London, where they are rehearsing their roles as Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies in the forthcoming Stephen Ward musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. They were shot for a piece in the New Review Journalist Leah Harper wears a floral print shirt that she designed herself and was printed in-store at Liberty in London, using new print technology by Yr. Read about it here A view across the trackside slums in central Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the buildings of the city's business district in the background. David Levene was covering the story of the lives of garment workers since the collapse, in April, of several factories highlighted the harsh conditions they endureTV presenter, producer and all-round top man Richard Osman gave advice to Observer Magazine readers on how to thrash their families at Trivial Pursuit this Christmas. Thank you to all the photographers who have contributed this year, and Merry Christmas to all our viewers, from the Observer Picture Desk
- Benedict Cumberbatch recites lyrics to R Kelly's Genius
The actor has followed Gary Oldman in reciting R Kelly's wisdom on Jimmy Kimmel's US talk show – so who else should get on the mic? • R Kelly: 'Weak people are the haters' Reading on mobile? Click here to watch On last night's edition of Jimmy Kimmel's US talk show, Benedict Cumberbatch lent his gravelly, ever-so-English baritone to the work of R Kelly, whose latest opus Black Panties is released next week. He recited the lyrics of the song Genius, to the whooping delight of the audience, and the hilarity of the internet. Kimmel has form in this regard, having previously employed Gary Oldman to recite a passage from Kelly's autobiography Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, in which Kells meets 2Pac and the pair talk of a collaborative album (in the video below). It's turning into a bona fide meme, what with these two old chaps re-enacting the pyroclastic Twitter beefs of One Direction fans. And all very amusing it is too – the juxtaposition of cut-glass Britishness (and all the psychosexual repression that voice suggests) with the openness of R Kelly or Twitter's emotional book is a joke that still hasn't got old. Reading on mobile? Click here to watch So why is this style of parody funny, and not just some pompous white people laughing at R&B? Kelly is so entertaining because he is relentlessly sincere, whether it's talking about sex, heartbreak or flying. As today's Guardian interview shows, his libido is so malleable he can find eroticism in Oreo cookies and the zoo, while his outsider opera Trapped In The Closet is a masterclass in being deadpan – he outstrips punk for staying true to himself. This triumphant selfhood and lack of irony means that any attempt at mockery is doomed to bounce off Kelly, because he looks you in the eye and dares you to guess when he's being serious and when he's being playful. And so in reciting his lyrics, the joke is really on Cumberbatch as he skewers his own limey stiltedness. So with that in mind, who should next step up to the lecturn of love, and perhaps lend the words to Marry The Pussy a silly Shakesperian majesty? Answers below please. R Kelly Benedict Cumberbatch Television Talk shows Ben Beaumont-Thomas theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Benedict Cumberbatch: Simon Pegg star trick? Photograph: Fred Thornhill/Reuters
- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – the quiz show that said no to Simon Cowell
From underwhelming pilot to 19 million viewers at its peak, the show hosted by Chris Tarrant has given away £60m in prizes It was the quiz show that was twice turned down by ITV – and pretty much everyone else in broadcasting – and boasts the unusual distinction of saying no to Simon Cowell. When Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? comes to an end on ITV next year it will be 15 years since it first appeared on UK screens. Millionaire attracted 19 million viewers at the height of its popularity in 1999, inflicting "Black Wednesday" on BBC1 in September that year, when the channel recorded its lowest ratings in more than half a century. The show went on to conquer the globe, leading the way for a wave of hit British entertainment exports including American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Except the pilot edition recorded just two weeks before it debuted on ITV on 4 September, 1999, looked anything but a world beater, the man behind the show, Paul Smith, remembered at a Royal Television Society lunch on Monday. The atmosphere was wrong, the lighting was wrong, and the music was wrong. "Terrifying," said Smith, who had such faith in the show that he had bankrolled it with his own cash and put his stake in the production company that he founded, Celador, on the line. Had it failed, he told his family, he would have to sell the house. Except he didn't, with then ITV director of programmes David Liddiment's belief in the format ("It seemed to be it was a pretty sexy idea," he told the RTS) royally repaid over the subsequent decade and a half. Liddiment's predecessor Marcus Plantin had said no, reflecting a school of thought that said the £1m prize might be a bit OTT for British tastes. "I believed passionately that it would work but it took me a long time to convince anybody," said Smith. Perhaps a change of name helped as well; the show was originally called Cash Mountain. "We started at ITV and it was turned down." Smith got into bed with ITV company LWT, in the hope that might make it more attractive to the network's commissioning team; it was still turned down. "We pitched it to every network," said Smith. "Including the BBC." The underwhelming pilot suggested Plantin might have been right. A brightly lit affair complete with jaunty theme music, a jaunty little number called Cloud 9 courtesy of BMG – where Cowell was the head of A&R at the time. It looked, said Smith, a bit like "Seaside Special from 1976", the BBC's little lamented Saturday night light entertainment show. Smith had approached Cowell in the hope a hit song could generate a bit of advance publicity for the show. "I believed that we should have a hit record that would be released, six weeks or two months before the show, and it would get in the charts and the DJs would say, this is the music from the forthcoming ITV show," Smith told the RTS. "We went to Simon Cowell who was running BMG at the time and persuaded him it would be a good idea. He said let's get Pete Waterman in, and we recorded and produced all the music. "It was self evident from the pilot that the music definitely did not work, but irrespective of that BMG pulled out and said we are not going to release it in advance of the show, we will wait until the show airs. That wasn't the deal we had." Ditched after the pilot, it left the production team only two weeks to come up with the (now instantly familiar) replacement. It took just one. So concerned was Liddiment that there were a string of millionaire winners in its first few weeks on air – and the financial implications posed for ITV – that Smith agreed to split the risk 50/50. As the thousands of calls came in to the premium rate phone line to take part, the pair needn't have worried, and in the course of the 600 shows that followed on ITV it has given away more than £60m in prize money. Presenter Chris Tarrant remembered walking to the Fountain Studios in Wembley, where it was filmed, the day after the first programme had gone out (watched by a 46% share of the audience). "A lorry driver wound down his window and shouted, 'phone a friend!'" he told the RTS. " That's happened every day for the last 15 years." • To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email email@example.com or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication". • To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook . ITV channel Simon Cowell David Liddiment ITV plc Television industry BBC Entertainment Independent production companies John Plunkett theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Not a sure-fire winner … Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was twice turned down by ITV.
- Getting Rich in the Recession: The Man Who Buys Anything – TV review
If you want to buy a rusty old fire engine or a bedspread that leaks dye, I know just the man … Anyone who read this column on Tuesday will remember I was planning on doing my Christmas shopping at posh London department store Liberty after seeing all the lovely things they've got there on that new fly-on-the-mock-Tudor-wall series. I was especially taken with a big bear (£1,995), just right for my little boy. A quick balance inquiry put an end to that little dream, though. And having also seen the BBC3 documentary about 27,000% APR payday loans, I decided not to go down that path. So now I'm looking at the website of a company called Virrgo, based outside Grimsby. They've certainly got an interesting and eclectic range of stuff for sale – arts and crafts packs, goose fat, medical supplies, frozen trout chunks, adult incontinence nappies, ball bags (!), "highly fashionable women's shoes", agricultural equipment, and much, much more. I honestly think I could get something appropriate for everyone I need to get something for. Trouble is, most of it is only available in bulk, by the pallet, and I just don't need that kind of scale. Hang on though, this classic fire engine – an actual fire engine – seems to be a single item. Wollaston Junior would love it. I've made an inquiry by email; I'll let you know what comes back. Virrgo is the company of wheeler dealer Steve Elwis, subject of Getting Rich in the Recession: The Man Who Buys Anything (Channel 4). He sees himself as a kind of emergency service, a man to call for help in a difficult situation. He also compares himself to a doctor. Others might see him as more of a vulture in a BMW, circling dying businesses, ready to come in for a feed, profiting from the misfortune and misery of others. People like Nikki, whose Ripon outdoor clothing store can no longer compete with the internet. Or Zahoor, who's lost not just his arts and craft business, but also his house. AND his wife, though he admits there were other factors in that. Basically, Steve buys stock from businesses that have gone bust, at around 10% of retail value or less, "and then we bosh it to earn a profit". Bosh it seems to mean sell it on. An Apprentice task in other words, for ever. He doesn't always get it right: £800 for a bunch of dated wedding dresses, with armpit stains, doesn't look so clever. Then his 2,000 bedspreads aren't fast-dyed (go to bed, you end up red). Plus the warehouse is full to bursting. He gets names wrong too. "Mr Kwong," he says on the hands-free, to a man he's about to relieve of half a ton of live crabs. "Oh sorry, I do apologise, Mr Chong. Chang! Sorry Mr Chang." But, driven by a morbid terror of being broke himself (he was once), Steve does continue to make money. He also makes great television. Programmes like this don't just need stories (this one's underlying story is a sad one about bankruptcy and Britain in recession), they need big characters. And Steve's fills an hour of television like his boxes fill his warehouse, to the rafters. He's brilliant and appalling. He dances with his dog. He introduces his staff like they're his band: "We have Maddy on keyboard" (she is, and on mouse). He raps at the wheel ( In recession do you care/A lot of people think it's fair/I'm not sure/If I agree/I like a pound/that's just for me ). To be honest, I don't think 50 Cent has much to worry about, apart from maybe being beaten down on price. Actually, you can imagine it. "I think, Faddy, Fuddy, Fiddy! Sorry Mr Fiddy," says hypothetical Steve. "I'd make an offer – I've got to be straightforward, hip-hop's hard to shift at the moment – my opening bid would be around about Three Cent …" He – Steve, not Fidddy, who's now in tears and bankrupt – also breaks the law, on camera. Look, he's given up with the (admittedly useless) hands-free in the BMW, and he's using his phone, while driving – one of my bugbears as it happens, it drives me mad. Officers of Humberside police, I know you read this column, even if you pretend you don't, get him, will you? If you missed the show you'll find all the evidence on 4oD. And anyone else who missed it should catch up too, it was dead good. An email arrives, from Virrgo, from the man himself! "Hi Sam. We would accept £1,700 for the fire engine. Regards, Steve Elwis." Seventeen hundred, for that old rusty piece of crap! That's not much less than the Liberty bear. The search for Christmas presents continues. • TV highlights • Full TV listings Television Austerity Economics Sam Wollaston theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Brilliant and appalling … Steve Elwis, The Man Who Buys AnythingBrilliant and appalling … Steve Elwis, The Man Who Buys Anything
- TV highlights 06/12/2013
Football: World Cup 2014 Draw | Robbie Williams: One Night At The Palladium | Kangaroo Dundee | Wild Burma: Nature's Lost Kingdom | Blues America | Clear History | The Walking Dead Football: World Cup 2014 Draw 4.30pm, BBC2 Gary Lineker presents live coverage of the draw for Brazil 2014, held at the swanky Costa do Sauípe in the state of Bahia. If previous Fifa-affiliated events in the country are any guide, widespread protests are likely to provide the backdrop, as Brazilian citizens make their ire known over political corruption and excessive spending on the tournament. Conversation around the draw itself is likely to focus on unseeded England's potential opponents: could a Group of Death be on the cards? Gwilym Mumford Robbie Williams: One Night At The Palladium 8pm, BBC1 "A little bit tubby, a little bit cokey!" Yes, it's him again. And as evinced by those lyrical alterations to Minnie The Moocher, the former Catholic schoolboy still seems cheerfully incarcerated in a spangly confessional box of his own construction. Here he marks his new album release with a BBC concert special: a campy cabaret of fat suits, monkey costumes and Rufus Wainwright serenading him with the words, "Robbie, you're a little bit gay." Oh, and a duet with Miss Piggy. Ali Catterall Kangaroo Dundee 8.30pm, BBC2 Kangaroo man Brolga can't personally care for all the orphaned joeys he rescues, so in this episode we meet his fellow foster mums in nearby Alice Springs. Meanwhile, Brolga toilet-trains Rex and Ruby, a complicated process seeing as baby kangaroos normally urinate in their mothers' mouths. Thankfully things don't go that far, but it's still fascinating to see the kangaroo's complex reproductive conditions artificially recreated; the sweetest example being Ruby and Rex somersaulting into a pillowcase in the absence of their mother's pouch. Rachel Aroesti Wild Burma: Nature's Lost Kingdom 9pm, BBC2 In this second episode, the team surveying Burma's wildlife head into the wilderness of the mountains around Salu. Travelling by foot they hope to find the elusive sun bear and two rare cats – the Asian golden cat and clouded leopard – as well as cataloguing as many species as possible. But they soon discover the forest is under threat from poachers: a visit to a border-town market reveals depressing evidence of a systematic and cruel trade in wild creatures. Martin Skegg Blues America 9pm, BBC4 Second of a two-part series anchoring a fine BBC4 season on the blues. This episode surveys postwar blues hotbeds Detroit, Memphis and Chicago where, thanks to artists such as Muddy Waters, the genre emerged from the black neighbourhoods to become the Rosetta Stone of rock'n'roll, and therefore arguably the most important art form of the 20th century. Keith Richards, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt lend their insight. Followed at 11pm by In Search Of Blind Joe Death, which profiles maverick guitarist and label boss John Fahey. Andrew Mueller Clear History 9pm, Sky Atlantic Larry David plays Nathan Flomm, a marketing man who walks away from an electric car project that promptly turns hyper-profitable. Relocating to Martha's Vineyard to avoid the mountain of abuse he receives for his cock-up, Flomm's idyllic life is ruined when his ex-boss Will (Jon Hamm) moves in round the corner. Cue a plan to blow up Will's house and steal his wife. With turns from Michael Keaton, Kate Hudson and Danny McBride, it's essentially Curb Your Enthusiasm with wigs and a season's worth of guest appearances, which is no bad thing. Lanre Bakare The Walking Dead 10pm, FOX The apocalyptic zombie-fest is taking a mid-season break, so presumably it will end with a cliffhanger to keep fans expectant for the return of the show, which is scheduled to air in February 2014. As a season it has struggled with momentum – the introduction of a mystery virus felt like a dramatic dead end – and how it plays out may have a lot to do with what The Governor, previously the show's dastardly villain, does now that he has apparently mellowed and even become a new man. MS Television Gwilym Mumford Ali Catterall Rachel Aroesti Martin Skegg Andrew Mueller Lanre Bakare theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Wild Burma: Nature's Lost Kingdom. Photograph: Justine Evans/BBCWild Burma: Nature's Lost Kingdom. Photograph: Justine Evans/BBC
- Klown – review | Peter Bradshaw
This feature-length spinoff from a Danish TV show made by Zentropa offers some badass bad taste to match Borat Klown is making an appearance in the UK three years after it was made. It's a feature-length spinoff from a cult Danish TV comedy and effectively an attempt from Denmark's legendary Zentropa studios to offer us some badass bad taste to match Borat, The Hangover, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the like. In its cheerfully offensive and bizarre way, Klown is often funny. Frank Hvam plays the hapless Frank, a guy trying to convince his girlfriend he could be a responsible father: so he agrees (resentfully) to take his shy nephew on a canoeing holiday being organised by his dissolute buddy Casper (Casper Christensen). The problem is that Casper secretly wants to stop off at a surreally lavish and entirely preposterous riverside brothel owned by a rich friend, whom Frank has already Larry-David-ishly offended by attending his men-only book group and failing to read the novel under discussion: Conrad's Heart of Darkness. There are some very immature and incorrect laughs as Frank and Casper journey upriver into their own awful heart of darkness in a ridiculous canoe. PB Rating: 3/5 Comedy Comedy Peter Bradshaw theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Cheerfully offensive … Klown.Cheerfully offensive … Klown.
- Downton Abbey and Broadchurch help revive ITV1 fortunes
Channel achieves first audience share increase in 23 years, with I'm a Celebrity launch show leading the ratings The main ITV channel is set to increase its audience share for the first time since 1990, on the back of successful shows including Downton Abbey, Broadchurch and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Figures published on Thursday show ITV is on course to be the only one of the five terrestrial channels to record an increase in audience share during 2013, with Channel 4's figures slumping the hardest after the ratings success of its London Paralympics coverage in the previous year. The last time ITV's annual share of viewing grew, John Major was prime minister and the broadcaster dominated British television. At the time there still just four terrestrial channels and BSkyB's satellite service was in its infancy. In 1990, ITV had a 44% audience share and Coronation Street was the most popular show on TV, with its highest rating episode attracting nearly 20 million viewers. ITV, which now faces competition from hundreds of digital channels, also has the most-watched programme of 2013 to date, last month's I'm a Celebrity launch show, with a consolidated audience (including recorded viewing for the seven days after first transmission) of 13.5 million. According to the Barb figures, ITV1 had an audience share of 16.5% (including timeshift service ITV1+1) for the year to 22 November, compared with 15.7% in 2012. The broadcaster's ratings suffered during 2012 as viewers switched to the BBC's coverage of the London Olympics and Queen's diamond jubilee but bigger audiences for ITV's stable of reliable ratings bankers including I'm a Celebrity and Britain's Got Talent, plus new dramas such as Broadchurch and Mr Selfridge, are also credited with helping deliver the broadcaster's improved performance. "We needed to bounce back and we have," said Peter Fincham, ITV director of television. "We've had a very good year ... That's due to a range of different things. We're coming good on drama, we've got good entertainment and more new entertainment shows that will return." Fincham highlighted programmes including the Tom Daley diving show Splash!, soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and entertainment series including Catchphrase. However, he said it would "be foolish to think 'stability at last'", as ITV still faces a "competitive and challenging world". Industry analyst Tim Westcott said ITV's audience share had inevitably fallen since 1990 due to the explosion in digital television, cable and satellite channels and other competition from the likes of Netflix and YouTube. Westcott added that the challenge now for mainstream broadcasters such as ITV, in the face of digital competition, is to "hold onto shows and big events that do well". He highlighted ITV's success in regenerating I'm A Celebrity each year. ITV also appears to have been a beneficiary of BBC2 replacing original programming with repeats in its afternoon schedule as part of the corporation's ongoing cost-cutting measures. BBC2's audience share for the year to date is 5.7%, compared with 6.1% in 2012. BBC1 slipped back slightly this year, from 21.3% to 21.1%, but remains the UK's most popular channel. The channel's recent Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, is the third most watched show of the year, with 12.8 million viewers, after I'm a Celebrity and Britain's Got Talent. Channel 4 has suffered a decline in its audience share from 6.5% in 2012 to 5.8%, including Channel 4+1. ITV channel ITV plc Television industry ITV Television TV ratings I'm a Celebrity ... Downton Abbey Broadchurch Tara Conlan theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds Downton Abbey is among the programmes which have given ITV1 a larger audience share in 2013. Photograph: Nick BriggsDownton Abbey is among the programmes which have given ITV1 a larger audience share in 2013. Photograph: Nick Briggs
- Autumn statement: tax breaks for regional theatres
Consultation launched on extending tax credits to theatre, while threshold for tax relief on films is reduced from 25% to 10% The film tax credits that have attracted blockbuster productions Game of Thrones and Iron Man to Britain are to be extended to theatres under Treasury proposals. A consultation will be launched next year on tax breaks for Britain's theatres, with relief for commercial productions, including those touring to often cash- strapped regional playhouses, and theatres investing in new writing. Creative industry leaders welcomed the latest round of incentives for their sector in the autumn statement, which include more generous tax breaks for films and a £5m investment for the National Film and Television School. West End impresario Rupert Gavin, who is a shareholder in the Ambassador Theatre Group and whose productions of West Side Story and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are currently touring the regions, welcomed the consultation. Also chairman of the Odeon cinema chain, Gavin has lobbied for tax breaks for the stage. He recently escorted George Osborne, an avid theatre-goer, to the opening night of his revival of Jez Butterworth's Mojo. "Regional theatres are having a tougher time of it and are a very important part of the cultural structure of the country," said Gavin."What this potentially does is stimulate a greater supply of good quality productions being originated in the regions, which is often the only place new talent is developed, and that will help create jobs." The chancellor said: "We're making our successful film tax relief even more generous, and look to extend the principle, including to regional theatre." Tax relief for UK films is also being boosted. Under the new spending plans, the threshold for the minimum budget that must be spent in Britain to qualify for relief will be lowered from 25% to 10%. The lower threshold would benefit the computer-generated animation and special effects studios that may previously have missed out on income from overseas productions. "The UK is a centre of excellence for special effects and this will make it easier for international productions to come here," said Will Cohen, chief executive of visual effects company Milk, which has credits including Doctor Who and Snow White and the Huntsman. "If a studio had a $100m budget, they would now only have to look to spend $10m and not $25m to qualify for tax relief. The lower level will mean a big boost in the number of projects for UK plc, which will benefit all digital content production here and keep talent." Since film tax was reformed in 2007, relief has been claimed by a total of 1,110 productions , with budgets of £5.5bn, 73% of which was spent in the UK. Film Tax breaks are already contributing £1.4bn a year to GDP, according to the British Film Institute, and £430m a year to the Treasury. In a move designed to lure more blockbuster films to Britain, both big- and small-budget productions will be able to claim back more of the money spent in the UK. Under previous rules, films with budgets of over £20m could only claim back 20% of UK costs, while smaller films could claim back 25%. From April 2014, the first £20m of any film, no matter what size its budget, will get 25% of costs back, and credits will be at 20% after that threshold. The government is asking Europe for permission to offer 25% relief on all money spent in Britain, and to extend credits to the makers of videogames. Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of Pinewood Shepperton studios, said: "In a week where the prime minister promoted the UK's creative industries in China, today's announcement by the chancellor provides a further boost for UK film. The government continues to demonstrate its clear, consistent and ongoing support for this important industry and these new measures will build on the current successful system of film fiscal incentives, which create real value for the UK." Autumn statement 2013 Theatre Game of Thrones Economics Budget Juliette Garside Mark Sweney theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds The film tax credits scheme attracted the makers of Game of Thrones to British shores. Photograph: HBO/Everett/Rex FeaturesThe film tax credits scheme attracted the makers of Game of Thrones to British shores. Photograph: HBO/Everett/Rex Features