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BBC3 sketch show Boom Town follows in The Only Way is Essex's footsteps
13 April 2012 8:21 AM, PDT
Newly commissioned comedy show will use 'structured reality' format of real people in a fictional town
A new BBC3 sketch show will attempt to repeat the "structured reality" trick of The Only Way is Essex – but this time with laughs.
Boom Town will feature a cast made up entirely of real people with their "own catchphrases, eccentricities and larger than life personalities".
None of the jokes will be scripted – all of the cast, who will be transferred to a fictional "town" complete with made-up road signs and locations, will be playing themselves.
"Some of the characters we've already met are laugh out loud funny and would sit well in any scripted comedy."
Boom Town, a working title, will feature all the conventions »
- John Plunkett
What makes the perfect Have I Got News For You host?
13 April 2012 6:47 AM, PDT
After 10 years of guest hosts, the format is showing signs of wear and tear. How can proceedings be livened up?
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Angus Deayton's departure from Have I Got News For You; a move that prompted the show's guest host format – an experiment widely praised for reviving the show a decade ago, but which is now undeniably starting to show signs of wear and tear.
This new series, for example, will see Damian Lewis appearing for the fourth time, Jo Brand appearing for the eighth time, Jeremy Clarkson appearing for the ninth time and Alexander Armstrong presenting his 20th episode. Apart from Armstrong, who remains under contract to appear on terrestrial television at least six times a day regardless of the programme, these people are chosen because they're a safe pair of hands.
They can all deliver jokes with the same slightly detached I'm-just-reading-this-off-the-autocue air of golden-era Deayton and, »
- Stuart Heritage
TV's current obsession with the Titanic is too much
13 April 2012 5:06 AM, PDT
Taken collectively, this mania for all things Titanic feels less like a respectful commemoration and more like a smash-and-grab job
Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic anniversary – a fact you might somehow have missed, because it's not like television is making much fuss about the occasion. There's only been that Julian Fellowes mini-series, the Len Goodman series, a flurry of documentaries about every conceivable variation on the Titanic theme, and constant, unrelenting trails and promos for this weekend's programming.
This includes, but is not limited to: an ITV show where Richard E Grant reads letters from Titanic passengers; a Channel 4 drama documentary told from the perspective of the Titanic's boiler room staff; a BBC2 commemorative Titanic concert featuring Joss Stone and Bryan Ferry; and, on The History Channel, a programme called Nazi Titanic that I'm too weary to even think about. So, really, there's hardly been »
- Stuart Heritage
Your next box set: Prison Break
13 April 2012 3:20 AM, PDT
Plots don't come any dafter than this – but Prison Break is trash genius and the tension leaves me literally squawking with stress
They say you only need one good idea in this life. Facebook. Tetrapaks. Self-seal envelopes. Vajazzling. For Paul Scheuring, it was Prison Break. Now, I hope you grew up in the 80s, otherwise you're about to fall off the highest, daftest concept you ever heard.
Michael Schofield's brother Lincoln is in Fox River prison for a murder he (it will eventually B-plottily transpire) did not commit. Lincoln is dumb with a capital Duh, but Michael is a structural engineer and smart with a capital Smuh. He has himself tattooed with disguised blueprints of the jail and commits armed robbery so that he joins big bro in Fox River.
If you are finding yourself already looking left and right, mouthing "Hang on …", "But how – ?", "But what i– ?" or "How »
- Lucy Mangan
David Cameron: Yes Minister is true to life
13 April 2012 3:10 AM, PDT
As Malaysian Pm reveals he loved show, Cameron says he has changed his mind on whether it is accurate since taking office
The Malaysian prime minister has admitted he is a fan of wry English humour in general – and Yes Minister in particular – eliciting a telling anecdote from David Cameron.
"You'll be amazed to know that [when] I was a student in the 1980s, a student of economics and politics, I once had to write an essay on 'How true to life is Yes Minister'," he told Najib Razak and a group of students at Nottingham University's Malaysian campus.
"I think I wrote in the essay that it wasn't that true to life. I can tell you, as prime minister, it is true to life."
Tantalisingly, the Pm gave no clue as to what had caused the scales to fall from his eyes between graduating from Oxford and taking office almost two years ago. »
- Sam Jones, Nicholas Watt
Will James May fall at the first during the Grand National? | Media Monkey
13 April 2012 3:06 AM, PDT
Move over Jim McGrath. Step aside Sir Peter O'Sullevan. For the BBC's final Grand National before the race moves to pastures new at Channel 4, Top Gear top boy James May is providing an alternative commentary, which will be available via the TV remote control red button. The stunt is part of a challenge he has undertaken for the new series of James May's Man Lab. In the show he attempts to encourage people to brush up on old skills. For the challenge James has been given tips on how to memorise the horses and jockeys using word association and other memory tricks. Monkey is sure, with all those Top Gear run-ins with editorial policy over situations such as drinking gin and tonics while driving to the magnetic north pole, James will have no trouble remembering the name of Irish 12-year-old In Compliance – something the Top Gear production team is rather familiar with. »
TV highlights 13/04/2012
13 April 2012 3:00 AM, PDT
Unreported World: Terror In Sudan
7.30pm, Channel 4
What the world's media saw: photos of George Clooney in handcuffs outside the Sudan embassy. What Unreported World saw: caves in the Nuba Mountains teeming with thousands of black African Christians, made homeless by constant aerial bombardments from Omar al-Bashir's forces, during a civil war stretching back to the 1980s. In the first of a new series, reporter Aidan Hartley and director Daniel Bogado place themselves squarely in the war zone, among doctors working without anaesthetic, and civilians facing yet another man-made famine. Ali Catterall
BBC Young Musician 2012: Keyboard Category Final
The posh Britain's Got Talent reaches the category finals. Of the 404 precocious piano-ticklers, violin-scrapers, oboe-blowers and timpani-thwackers who auditioned, »
- Ali Catterall, Andrew Mueller, Julia Raeside, David Stubbs, Phelim O'Neill, Hannah Verdier
Can Noel Edmonds make a deal with the internet trolls?
13 April 2012 2:45 AM, PDT
I had the pleasure of meeting 'Nolly' a few years back – but it seems his encounter with his Facebook tormenter was more fruitful
Yet more proof that my cosmic ordering is working, as Broken Britain demagogue Nolly Edmonds hits the headlines again. Noel has met a troll – or, in the preferred parlance of Lost in Showbiz, Nolly has met a trolly. There seems to be quite a vogue for tracking down one's online tormentors in order to explain to them what arses they are in a more patient, less homicidal way than they explained it to you, and on to this bandwagon has leapt the spry former squire of Crinkly Bottom, arranging a rendez-vous with the creator of a Facebook page entitled: Somebody Please Kill Noel Edmonds.
"We shook hands," says Nolly of the detente. "It was very much a student prank in its origins, no doubt alcohol was involved »
- Marina Hyde
Julian Assange's TV chatshow to air on 17 April
13 April 2012 2:36 AM, PDT
WikiLeaks founder has completed filming 12 episodes of the Russia Today show which will also be broadcast online
According to a statement issued by WikiLeaks on Friday, Assange has completed filming 12 episodes of the chatshow, which will be broadcast online and by the Russian broadcaster.
Russia Today said the "notorious" identity of the show's first guest would be revealed at a later date. The first episode will coincide with the 500th day of the financial blockade of WikiLeaks.
Although guests have not been named, WikiLeaks said Assange has interviewed an "eclectic" selection, including politicians, revolutionaries, artists and intellectuals.
In a separate pre-show interview on the Russia Today website, Assange took aim at those who questioned the independence of his ambitious chatshow over its links to the state-controlled broadcaster.
- Josh Halliday
Us drama Awake to air on Sky Atlantic
12 April 2012 11:30 PM, PDT
NBC series featuring Jason Isaacs to be broadcast this spring
Awake features Isaacs, who has appeared in films including Harry Potter and The Patriot, as a detective who survives a serious car accident only to then find he is living simultaneously in two parallel worlds.
In one world his wife dies and son lives, in the other it is his wife who lives and son who dies.
Awake launched on Us network NBC at the beginning of March and will air on Sky Atlantic later in the spring.
The BSkyB-owned pay-tv channel has acquired the drama from 20th Century Fox Television Distribution.
• 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, »
- Mark Sweney
TV review: Derek; Long Lost Family
12 April 2012 4:07 PM, PDT
I really wanted Derek to be good, to silence the Gervais bashers – but it just doesn't work
So I suppose we'd better get Derek (Channel 4), Ricky Gervais's little (comedy?) drama set in an old peeps' home, out of the way first. To begin with, I can't see what all the fuss is about. Ok, so the title character isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but is that really mocking disabled and mentally ill people? Can you ban simpletons, even ones who are bathed in a warm light? Baldrick, Bean, Bottom, all cancelled, by PC plod?
I think the columnists and critics who have been sharpening their pencils to stick into Ricky's eyes are doing so because of previous lapses in judgment. I mean Mong-gate of course. But Derek isn't controversial.
Trouble is, nor is it very good. The whole mockumentary thing feels tired now (and what are these films being made, »
- Sam Wollaston
Ricky Gervais attacks journalists who predict the end of his TV comedy career
12 April 2012 9:24 AM, PDT
Ricky Gervais has criticised the "six or seven journalists" who have been predicting the end of his career and launched an unlikely attack on horse-racing, which he said involved the animals being "slaughtered for fun".
Derek, an autograph hunter who works in a care home, a character Gervais first performed a decade ago, has been criticised ahead of its broadcast for mocking people with learning disabilities.
Gervais said he "never considered him disabled", describing him as a "funny little nerd". The creator of Extras and The Office added that he was "bored" by the controversy which has been generated by his latest project. »
- John Plunkett
Have you been watching … Homeland?
12 April 2012 6:37 AM, PDT
We've been hijacked by the twists, turns and plot shocks of Channel 4's explosive terrorism drama. Have you?
Spoiler Alert: This blog assumes readers have seen the first eight episodes of Homeland – and includes references to last Sunday's Channel 4 broadcast. Do not read on if you are not up to date with the show – and please do not post spoilers if you've seen later episodes.
Are you suspicious of everyone you know? Have you set up webcams in every room of your house? Do you worry that everyone you previously thought good and moral may have a sinister hidden agenda? Are you suddenly enamoured with difficult jazz? Then you are likely to be watching Homeland.
- Rebecca Nicholson
Britney Spears set to join Us X Factor
12 April 2012 4:31 AM, PDT
Singer has agreed terms with Simon Cowell to appear as a judge on the talent show, according to reports
Britney Spears is likely to become a judge on the next series of the Us X Factor, according to reports. While there has been no official announcement, multiple sources report that Spears has accepted Simon Cowell's terms for joining the show.
The singer will become the highest-paid judge in reality TV, according to E Online, earning $15m (£9.4m) a year, $3m more than American Idol's Jennifer Lopez. "[Money] was the big sticking point and now, thankfully, it's been sorted," a source told E. "All they need to do now is work out the smaller points."
Rumours have been circulating for more than a month that Cowell was pursuing Spears for the show. The series struggled in its debut season, leading Cowell to sack judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. "If she was available, »
- Sean Michaels
The Apprentice upcycles to 7 million viewers | TV ratings - 11 April
12 April 2012 3:59 AM, PDT
Episode featuring candidates running secondhand shops draws biggest audience of the series so far
A challenge to find out who could make more money from a secondhand shop in London's Brick Lane helped BBC1's The Apprentice to 7 million viewers on Wednesday night – its biggest audience of the current series so far.
Lord Sugar's business reality show had a 28.6% share of the audience between 9pm and 10pm on Wednesday and predictably had the better of a Foyle's War repeat on ITV1, which had 3.3 million viewers (14.2%) between 8pm and 10pm.
The Apprentice was up on the 6.5 million viewers who watched last week's show – when it was up against coverage of Chelsea's Uefa Champions League quarter final on ITV1 – and 6.3 million for the week before that.
On 21 March the eighth series of The Apprentice launched with 6.4 million viewers – its lowest-rating opening night since 2008.
Elsewhere at 9pm, Channel 4's The Sinking of the Concordia, »
- John Plunkett
Horrible Histories is one of the smartest comedies on TV
12 April 2012 3:38 AM, PDT
Often described as being 'funny ... for a kids' show', few comedies can touch Horrible Histories for original ideas
Cbbc's Horrible Histories is a wonderfully curious thing: wildly praised, yet woefully undersold as really funny … for a kids' show. But Horrible Histories isn't just the best show on children's television – it's one of the smartest comedies on TV.
That's a bold claim, admittedly. But with the fourth series – broadcasting every afternoon this week – it's time to stop patting Horrible Histories on the head for not being rubbish, and accept that it's a genuinely brilliant comedy in its own right. There are few British comedies that can touch it for ideas, writing and performance – especially with shows such as Shooting Stars and Harry Hill's TV Burp leaving a huge hole where the silly and surreal should be.
Horrible Histories real talent, though, is just how good it is at lampooning popular culture. »
- Stephen Kelly
TV highlights 12/04/2012
12 April 2012 1:55 AM, PDT
7.30pm, Nat Geo Wild
This show looks at mankind's often unreasonable and unfair relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. From the economical (eating roadkill) to the barbaric (a farm where bile is harvested from living bears). There are some things here that are hard to watch, so it's comforting to have the wise and tough Henry Rollins as host; he toured with Black Flag, so seeing snakes milked for venom shouldn't faze him too much. But he's also one to stand up for the underdog, so just how much of this mistreatment of animals will he take? Phelim O'Neill
Ivory Wars: Out Of Africa
- Phelim O'Neill, Andrew Mueller, Jonathan Wright, Ali Catterall, Julia Raeside, David Stubbs
Rob Brydon and Eddie Marsan to star in Paralympics drama
11 April 2012 4:33 PM, PDT
The Best of Men, about a German neurologist whose work led to the creation of the Paralympic Games, is to run on BBC2
Eddie Marsan and Rob Brydon will co-star in a BBC2 drama to coincide with this autumn's London Paralympic Games, about a neurological doctor whose work with disabled second world war soldiers led to the first such games held in Rome in 1960.
Best of Men tells the story of "Poppa" Ludwig Guttmann, a Jew who left Germany in 1939. His treatments at the Stoke Mandeville spinal injuries unit used sport as a therapy to rebuild strength and self-respect.
The first ever games for disabled people opened at Stoke Mandeville on the same day as the 1948 Olympics in London.
Best of Men writer Lucy Gannon told the Guardian: "It is very appropriate that this story is marked because the Olympics are coming back to the UK for the first time since 1948 – but now, »
- Ben Dowell
The Apprentice 2012 episode four: live blog
11 April 2012 4:06 PM, PDT
The Apprentice candidates set up second-hand shops in London's Brick Lane
Good evening, and welcome to The Apprentice Week 4 liveblog! Tonight is going to be a totally Rubbish task, full of Wasters and…oh, I haven't got the heart for it. I think I may have over-punned last week.
Tonight our teams are trying to make a profit out of second hand rubbish. We know this is possible, because 84% of daytime television is dedicated to this very pursuit. Whether our intrepid would-be entrepreneurs are any good at it, however, is an entirely different matter. Bear in mind they can't even get ketchup into a bottle.
Essentially the teams have to buy a load of tat from auctions, junk shops and car boot sales, then have a one-day sale at a second-hand shop in the trendy bit of the East End – and whoever makes the most profit wins. This is easy, »
- Heidi Stephens
Notes and queries: Why has Britain never had a revolution?
11 April 2012 4:05 PM, PDT
Plus: Zaleski – the greatest fictional detective? Why don't the French like vegetables?
A Danish colleague asks me why, given the evident inequalities in Britain, has there never been a revolution? Mention of the civil war was clearly unsatisfactory.
There have been lots of revolutions in Britain (the peasants' revolt, the glorious revolution, the Jacobite rebellion …). The reason why your colleague has never heard of them is that they all failed. In the one case where the rebels won – the civil war – we tried it out for a generation, decided it had been a bad idea and reinstalled the status quo, with minor amendments; which is probably why your colleague won't accept it as a proper revolution.
The longer answer may be based on the fact that, regardless of how it looks, England (and later the UK) has been a relatively democratic place compared to many of its neighbours, where people »