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Islam TV show triggers deluge of Ofcom complaints

2 September 2012 4:27 PM, PDT

Channel 4 history programme about Islam leads to hundreds of complaints of 'distortion' to broadcaster and regulator

The British historian behind a Channel 4 history of Islam has defended the programme after it triggered hundreds of complaints to the broadcaster and the television regulator Ofcom, which led to him being accused of distorting the history of the religion.

Islam: The Untold Story was billed by the channel as "an extraordinary detective story" in which historian Tom Holland found himself embroiled in "an underground but seismic debate: the issue of whether, as Muslims have always believed, Islam was born fully formed in all its fundamentals, or else evolved gradually, over many years".

But after it was broadcast on 28 July, Holland found himself on the receiving end of a torrent of criticism on Twitter and a lengthy critique by the Islam Research and Education Academy (Irea), which accused him of making "baseless »

- Ben Quinn

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ITV's Jeff Pope: 'Crime was my entree into drama'

2 September 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

The executive producer of Mrs Biggs reveals the inspiration behind TV drama hits such as Mo and Appropriate Adult

Jeff Pope, the writer of Mrs Biggs, the Ronnie Biggs drama that starts on ITV on Wednesday, is clear about what gets him up in the morning. "My thrill comes from a true story. That is my drug."

As the head of ITV factual drama, Pope has overseen a string of outstanding shows: most recently Appropriate Adult, about Fred West and his manipulative relationship with the prison visitor Janet Leach, which won Bafta and Royal Television Society acting awards this year for Dominic West, Emily Watson and Monica Dolan.

He was also the executive producer of Mo, a docudrama about Mo Mowlam from 1997 to her early death from cancer in 2005, which was made for Channel 4 in 2010 after ITV turned it down. Yet although he's among television's most respected and successful writer/producers, »

- Maggie Brown

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The best autumn 2012 TV shows

2 September 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

Girls, HBO's raucous comedy-drama is just one upcoming highlight. Also watch out for Jon Hamm in an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's short stories and Toby Jones as Hitchcock

Mrs Biggs

ITV looks at the Great Train Robbery from the point of view of Ronnie Biggs' then wife, Charmian. The underrated Sheridan Smith plays the titular role with great style, while Danny Mays is excellent as her infamous husband. ITV, September


It looks like Spooks, sounds like Spooks, and is even made by the same company. But BBC1's new international spy drama starring Melissa George – a co-production with HBO's Cinemax – is altogether more high-end, with MI5 ditched in favour of spying for paying clients. It is, possibly, even more ludicrous. BBC1, October

Hotel Gb

Either a brilliant idea or a hideous one: let viewers check in to a hotel run by C4 stars including Gordon Ramsay and »

- Vicky Frost

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TV review: Doctor Who; Richard Hammond's Crash Course

2 September 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

Alongside Amy Pond, the Doctor takes on a million mad Daleks for another classic episode – scary, loopy and fizzing with wit

Oh I see, that's the secret. There was a warning on the BBC previews website where I watch programmes in advance: keep the Doctor Who (BBC1, Saturday) secret until transmission or suffer the consequences (extermination by Dalek, I imagine). It's the Doctor's new companion. We totally knew it was her, though, nice Jenna-Louise Coleman off Emmerdale, didn't we? But we weren't expecting her arrival until Christmas. Steven Moffat, who wrote this episode himself, has pulled a fast one, sprung Christmas – well, her – on us early.

Crucially, there's an overlap. Naughty Doctor. Remember when you were still in the dating game and the next one was already lined up before the last one was completely over? (I was always the last one, if I'm honest.) Well, Amy Pond – Karen Gillan – is still very much around. »

- Sam Wollaston

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TV highlights 03/09/12

2 September 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

Horizon | A Mother's Son | Citizen Khan | The Treasures Of Ancient Rome | Ross Kemp: Extreme World | Stalked

Horizon: How Small Is the Universe?

9pm, BBC2

Following on from last week's How Big Is The Universe?, tonight's Horizon documents the quest to discover the most minuscule objects lurking in the infinite wilderness. The programme hears from scientists looking to uncover multiple dimensions and evidence of parallel universes. Novelist Peter De Vries once suggested that the universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked in the safe. Lucky for us, then, that cosmologists are so determined to crack the cosmic strongbox. Mark Jones

A Mother's Son

9pm, ITV1

Struggling through reed beds, and bleeding from a fatal wound, a teenager is in distress. "I'm sorry," she says. Curious last words. So begins a psychological drama that, initially at least, spins around the issue of whether »

- Mark Jones, Jonathan Wright, Ali Catterall, David Stubbs, Martin Skegg

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Max Bygraves obituary

2 September 2012 9:24 AM, PDT

Sentimental singer and cheery comedian who became a star at the London Palladium

Max Bygraves, who has died aged 89 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was an all-round entertainer: a mischievously smiling raconteur, a full-throated and sentimental singer, a television host and a reluctant gameshow compere (his two years with Family Fortunes in the mid-1980s convinced him it was not his medium).

He always kept the persona of a cheerful cockney stevedore, smart-alecky but good-natured, with a reassuringly imposing presence and the sort of innocent bawdiness that would not upset anyone. The persona was entirely suited to the voice suggesting syrup-soaked gravel, the expansive arm gestures and the chummily unemphatic manner that absolved jokes that in another mouth might have been offensive.

He was born Walter William Bygraves into a large family in Rotherhithe, south-east London, to Henry Bygraves, a prizefighter who became a docker, and his wife, Lilian. The »

- Dennis Barker

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Letter: Lord Morris of Manchester commanded instant respect

2 September 2012 7:49 AM, PDT

In March 1978, Lord Morris of Manchester appeared on the BBC1 series for pensioners, The 607080 Show, which I directed. When he began talking about the roots of his campaigning on behalf of disabled people, it was immediately clear he was one of those rare characters who commands instant respect, even among the seen-it-all technicians of a TV studio crew. Interviewed by the comedian Roy Hudd, Alf spoke about his father's war wounds and early death, and explained his notion of "the disabled family", when any one member has a disability. There always seemed to be a worried frown on his rumpled face, but it was also clear that Alf was a tough old "Manc", as confirmed by his unparalelled parliamentary achievements on behalf of sick, disabled and otherwise vulnerable people.

DisabilityTelevisionGiles Oakley

guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content »

- Giles Oakley

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Armando Iannucci turns satirical eye on Silicon Valley

1 September 2012 4:16 PM, PDT

Armando Iannucci targets twentysomething titans of the internet with a pilot TV episode for the American cable company HBO

The author of The Thick of It has written a pilot episode about the world of social media for an American television company. Armando Iannucci is in discussions with HBO, the cable company that made The Wire and The Sopranos.

He tells Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer's chief political commentator, in the New Review that he is unlikely to write another series of The Thick of It and plans to focus his attention on the new centre of power in California's Silicon Valley.

The last series of The Thick of It begins on British TV this week, featuring a Conservative minister and his Liberal Democrat junior in charge of the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, while the Malcolm Tucker character, allegedly based on Alastair Campbell, aids the opposition.

The series has infuriated some in government, »

- Conal Urquhart

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Max Bygraves, crooner, comedian and variety performer, dies at 89

1 September 2012 4:16 PM, PDT

Jimmy Tarbuck among those to pay tribute to entertainer whose catchphrase 'I wanna tell you a story' was known by millions

The veteran entertainer Max Bygraves, whose catchphrase "I wanna tell you a story" endured for more than six decades, has died at his home in Australia. He was 89.

As a crooner, comedian and variety performer, he often appeared at the London Palladium and became one of the first entertainers to gain a mass audience through regular appearances on television. His long career brought him riches but also attracted critics who ridiculed his distinctive style as dated.

Johnny Mans, his agent, said: "We have lost one of the best entertainers that Britain has ever produced. He was a friend to everyone – there were no airs and graces."

He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and had been cared for by his daughter Christine in Queensland since the death of his wife, »

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Sports jocks are so half-baked | Victoria Coren

1 September 2012 4:14 PM, PDT

The Great British Bake Off isn't alone in proving that brains are more alluring than brawn

He wears a tank top and glasses. He's studying for a medical degree at Glasgow University. He cares about creme patissiere. And he is the nation's latest heart-throb. This is all excellent news.

Contestant James Morton from The Great British Bake Off has triggered a tsunami of internet love, with national newspaper headlines calling him "the hunk in a tank top", thanks to an irresistible combination of treacle tart and doctor's bag. Who wouldn't love a man with a pastry brush in one hand and a scalpel in the other? He could whip out your appendix while making you a perfect baked Alaska at the same time. Take that, Fifty Shades.

James Morton's geek chic is tremendously timely, in television terms. On BBC4, there's a new series of Only Connect, TV's toughest quiz, »

- Victoria Coren

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Rewind TV: Doctor Who; Citizen Khan; Murder: Joint Enterprise; Bad Sugar – review

1 September 2012 4:06 PM, PDT

There was more wit in five minutes of Doctor Who than the whole of Citizen Khan, and the sci-fi serial pulled off another extraordinary trick – making the Daleks scary again

Dr Who (BBC1) | iPlayer

Citizen Khan (BBC1) | iPlayer

Murder: Joint Enterprise (BBC2) | iPlayer

Bad Sugar (C4) | 4Od

It's remarkably seldom that a pocket cartoon can change any aspect of your life. But many years ago a man called Peter Birkett drew, for Punch, a simple cartoon featuring two Daleks confronted with a staircase. The caption was simple. "Well, this certainly buggers our plan to conquer the universe."

From that moment I was not only unafraid of Daleks but found them actively absurd. As all good gags do, this one took a while to filter into the wider world, but within a couple of years it was the wisecrack of choice in those sophisticated circles wherein Daleks were deemed worthy »

- Euan Ferguson

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Armando Iannucci v Andrew Rawnsley

1 September 2012 4:06 PM, PDT

As The Thick of It returns to TV for what may be the last time, its creator, satirist Armando Iannucci, is challenged by Observer chief political commentator Andrew Rawnsley to get serious about politics…

Armando Iannucci has a confession to make. "The thing is, I don't despise them," he says. "I've always been fascinated by politics. Read up on political history. Love all the election shows. I am a political geek."

At the age of 14 or 15, he would take himself off to a public library in Glasgow to read Hansard. I remark that William Hague is the only other person who has ever been heard admitting to the nerdish compulsion to read the parliamentary record as a teenager. "Yeah," he nods, wincing slightly. "I know."

We have met for lunch in a break between final edits of the new series of The Thick of It. The hugely acclaimed comedy has »

- Andrew Rawnsley

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Breaking Bad for beginners

1 September 2012 4:06 PM, PDT

Catch up on the best American drama series you've never seen

It has netted numerous awards and nearly 3 million viewers tuned in to the first episode of series five when it aired in the Us in July, but until yesterday, box sets or piracy were your only options if you live in the UK and wanted to keep up with this underviewed gem of a show. Series four is now available on streaming service Netflix, bypassing traditional broadcasting entirely. This may be no bad thing. The first series was aired on FX, where it managed consolidated ratings of a mere 120,000 viewers, and was dropped. Series two was aired in a dead-of-night time-slot on 5Usa over Christmas in 2009, and with no warning – they could not have buried it in a deeper hole. Series three and four have never been shown by a UK broadcaster. Here's why this is wrong.


Ok, »

- Kathy Sweeney

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Why we're watching: Adelaide Clemens

1 September 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

The 22-year-old Australian actor currently starring in Parade's End has a bright future ahead

Hello, you. You don't know her.

But I feel like I should. Of course you do. She looks like Carey Mulligan.

With a dash of Kirsten Dunst? Actually, Michelle Williams, according to Clemens herself. "She's like a cross between the two, it's fantastic!" she says, knowingly impersonating the casting directors…

And what of her talent? After three years' auditioning in Los Angeles (Clemens relocated from Sydney aged 19) the roles are coming thick and fast. She's currently making her mark in the BBC/HBO adaptation of Parade's End, and there's a part in Baz Luhrmann's star-spangled The Great Gatsby next year.

Whee! Yes, wheeeee! She'll play Myrtle's sister, Catherine, the redhead who spends her time "guzzling champagne on the coffee table, mostly".

Real champagne? No, fizzy apple juice. Bit disappointing.

Will we see more of her in Hollywood? »

- Megan Conner

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Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks - series 33, episode one

1 September 2012 12:10 PM, PDT

A new series needs to open with a bang, and Steven Moffat's first Daleks episode is a zappy, curveball riot

Spoiler Alert: This weekly blog is for those who have been watching the new series of Doctor Who. Don't read ahead if you haven't seen episode one – Asylum of the Daleks

"At first there were the Daleks, and then there was a man who fought them. And then in time, he died. There are a few, of course, who believe this man survived, and that one day he will return."

The beginning of a new series demands a certain sense of occasion – and Asylum Of The Daleks certainly provided that. This was a brash and bruising riot of all of the show's best aspects that once more raises the bar for a Doctor Who opening episode.

Truth is I'd been a little nervous of all this talk of movie »

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Max Bygraves dies at Australian home aged 89

1 September 2012 9:40 AM, PDT

Comedian, TV host and singer released Singalongamax records, and had great success presenting Family Fortunes

Max Bygraves, the English comedian, presenter and variety performer, has died at his home in Australia at the age of 89.

The veteran entertainer died peacefully in his sleep at home in Hope Island, Queensland, on Friday night, his agent said.

"His death is a great loss to the entertainment profession and a great loss to all of his friends in the industry," said Johnny Mans.

Bygraves emigrated to Australia with his wife, Blossom, who died last year. His family said this year that Bygraves was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Mans said Bygraves had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago. "He had become confused and often wasn't sure where he was. He was in good health otherwise but would have turned 90 on October 16 so was pretty ancient. We were hoping to »

- Conal Urquhart

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Parade's End – review

31 August 2012 11:00 PM, PDT

Sex and suffragette troubles have Sam Wollaston hooked on Parade's End

Oh, Tietjens, you are a damned fool. First, in last week's opener of Parade's End (BBC2), you refused to kiss the beautiful suffragette Valentine Wannop in the fog when it was plain you wanted to. And now, when your undeniably impossible – but undeniably beautiful – wife Sylvia comes back, you won't go to her room, even though, in spite of her impossibleness, she's clearly soppy about you. You won't even look at her when she stands up from the bath. "Go away if you can't bear to look," she sighs, exasperated. "Higher than the beasts, lower than the angels: stuck between the two in our idiots' Eden. God, I'm so bored of it all, guarding or granting permission to a temple no decent butcher would give room to on his offal tray. I'd rather be a cow in a field »

- Sam Wollaston

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Us Paralympics TV coverage disappointing, says chef de mission

31 August 2012 4:42 PM, PDT

Former Paralympian Aimee Mullins says NBC's lack of live coverage doesn't line up with Us leadership on disability issues

The chef de mission of the Us Paralympic team has added her voice to the row over the lack of TV coverage in the Us, saying it was disappointing that American viewers were not able to see more live broadcasts of the Games.

Aimee Mullins, a retired Paralympian, said: "I don't know what the rationale was behind the decision, but we have a way to go. That disconnect between the Us being a world leader in disability issues and the broadcast coverage in real time of the Games is disappointing." Her comments follow criticism of the decision by the Us host broadcaster, NBC, to only show four hour-long highlights packages of the Paralympics on its sports channel.

Mullins said she was confident Us broadcasters would not be able to neglect the Games in the future. »

- Amelia Gentleman

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Doctor Who takes on Daleks, blockbuster style

31 August 2012 4:08 PM, PDT

New five-episode series aired in UK and Us will begin with Doctor's most feared foe and feature 'big movie-style stories'

Ex-ter-min-ate! Ex-ter-min-nate! They have terrified children for nearly 50 years, and on Saturday evening Daleks from all eras will be back on screen as the much anticipated new series of Doctor Who launches on both sides of the Atlantic.

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan will lead viewers on a series of blockbuster adventures, as the Doctor and Amy Pond travel through time and space for another set of mindbending escapades.

The series will mark a move away from the complicated story arcs that dominated its predecessor. "We're going for big standalone stories; big movie-style stories," said Steven Moffat, the drama's showrunner. "Let's go for one blockbuster a week."

This weekly blockbuster approach – the BBC has produced zmovie-style posters for each of the first five adventures – with the all imagined on a grand scale, »

- Vicky Frost

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The Dallas relaunch shows how it changed British TV viewers | Joe Moran

31 August 2012 4:08 PM, PDT

Dallas may have been a secret vice, but it inspired our modern love of kitsch and ability to read shows against the grain

According to Michael Palin's diary for Saturday 9 January 1982, he rang his friend George Harrison at 9pm. After a few monosyllabic responses, Harrison said pointedly: "You're obviously not a Dallas fan, then." Thirty years ago, in a country with only three TV channels, everyone except Palin seemed to be watching Dallas. Ed Miliband has said that it was his "secret vice", which alarmed his father, the Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, who worried he might be "planning a future in Big Oil". David Cameron, probably without generating similar parental alarm, watched Dallas while at Eton.

In 1978, when the series started, America was a long way away. Freddie Laker's transatlantic Skytrain had been offering cheap, no-frills flights since 1977, but went into liquidation five years later. The Atlantic really was an ocean, »

- Joe Moran

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