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America's Poor Kids; Parks and Recreation; Anna and Katy – TV review
7 March 2013 6:33 AM, PST
This was a haunting film about child poverty in the richest nation on earth. Thank God for some lighter fare, too
• America's poor kids on iPlayer
• Parks and Recreation on iPlayer
• Anna and Katy on 4oD
Jezza Neumann's documentary America's Poor Kids (BBC2) followed just three of the record 16 million children in the Us now living below the poverty line: 10-year-old Kaylie, whose family is on the brink of homelessness after her mother lost her job; 14-year-old Johnny, who is living in a homeless shelter after his parents' home-improvement business went bust in the wake of the financial crisis; and Sera, a ferociously intelligent and clear-eyed 11-year-old who is living with her mother and sister in a mildewed studio apartment that she says is better than where they were before. "I can go to the bathroom by myself!" At the shelter it's not safe to go without a parent. »
- Lucy Mangan
BBC has 'Downton Abbey ratings mentality', says National Theatre chief
7 March 2013 6:01 AM, PST
Artistic director Sir Nicholas Hytner criticises corporation, saying it is not doing enough to put arts on television
The National Theatre's artistic director Sir Nicholas Hytner has criticised the BBC for a "Downton ratings mentality" and said it is not doing enough to put the arts on television.
Hytner said the BBC, about to welcome a new director general in Lord (Tony) Hall, the outgoing chief executive of the Royal Opera House, should work more closely with arts bodies such as his own in an interview with Thursday's Times.
He added that the corporation should broadcast big set-piece performances from the likes of the Royal Ballet and the Royal Exchange – which he described as "low hanging fruit, there for the taking" – possibly on a weekly basis.
He said it would open up plays previously watched by tens of thousands of people to an audience in the millions.
Asked in the »
- John Plunkett
TV highlights 07/03/2013
6 March 2013 11:00 PM, PST
Comic Relief's Big Chat With Graham Norton
Sponsored innuendo, anyone? Graham Norton hosts seven hours of celebrity chat to raise money for Comic Relief. He's gunning for the Guinness world record for most questions asked on a TV chatshow, and Keith Lemon, Sarah Millican and Russell Tovey are among the stars queuing up to answer them. Terry Wogan and Nick Grimshaw are ready to take the hot seat once Norton runs out of chat (unlikely) and to give viewers a break from his lovable face. With music from Example, Hurts and Laura Mvula. Hannah Verdier
What Destroyed The Hindenburg?
9pm, Channel 4
In 1937, the massive German airship Hindenburg went up in flames in New Jersey, killing 35 people. What caused the disaster is still a mystery, »
- Hannah Verdier, Martin Skegg, Mark Jones, Ben Arnold, David Stubbs, Jonathan Wright
Jon Stewart takes break from The Daily Show to make directorial debut
6 March 2013 5:09 PM, PST
Us presenter is to make Rosewater, an adaptation of BBC reporter's memoir about being tortured in Iran
Stewart has also written the screenplay for the project, an adaptation of BBC reporter Maziar Bahari's New York Times bestselling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival. It is based on Bahari's experiences at the hands of the Iranian government in 2009 while covering an election protest.
The Iranian-Canadian journalist was interrogated and tortured for 118 days before eventually being released on the condition he spied and reported on Iran's enemies for the Revolutionary Guard. Instead, Bahari fled the country and returned to his home in London. He has not been back to Iran, »
- Ben Child
Alan Sugar only does Apprentice for PR, Stella English tells tribunal
6 March 2013 4:41 PM, PST
Winner of BBC1 show in 2010, who is suing Sugar for constructive dismissal, claims he told her 'I don't give a shit'
Stella English, 34, the winner of season six of the hit BBC1 show in 2010, told an employment tribunal that Sugar said to her that he would not be renewing her contract with his firm Viglen in an unscheduled meeting on 28 September 2011.
During cross-examination English, who is suing Sugar for constructive dismissal, said: "He said to me: 'Look, if you think Lord Sugar is shitting himself and that's why you're here, that's where you're mistaken – I don't give a shit. I've met my obligations to you.
"I only do it for the PR and I don't give a shit. I did it for the »
- David Batty
Apprentice winner tells employment tribunal she thought of quitting show
6 March 2013 4:05 PM, PST
Stella English, 34, also gave up a high-flying career in the City when she was named as a semi-finalist on series six of the hit BBC1 show.
English, who is suing Sugar for constructive dismissal, had to carry out a four-month probationary period before she was eventually named the winner in December 2010.
She has told an employment tribunal that despite being paid £100,000 she had no clear role and only had basic administrative tasks to do when she worked in Sugar's Viglen division.
English, of Whitstable, Kent, told the hearing at the east London employment tribunal service on »
Lord Sugar is accused of constructive dismissal, but why?
6 March 2013 4:05 PM, PST
He's fresh from a boardroom bust-up with Richard Desmond, but now the Viglen boss is facing legal action from Apprentice winner Stella English
Who's he? You can't not know who Alan Sugar is. Look above. Don't you recognise him?
Him? He's a person? He looks like that furry egg puppet who presents that daft comedy show full of people who should be banished to an unnamed island for the good of humanity. Called The Tool, I believe. Or presume. Ah. Through a welter of misunderstandings, I perceive that we are talking about the same person. That furry egg is Sir-Alan-now-Lord-Sugar and he presents what is in fact a non-comedy show called The Apprentice, wherein people compete for a chance to win a £100,000-a-year job at his company, Viglen.
People who should be banished to unnamed islands? That part was correct, yes.
Has someone banished them? Is that why he's in the news? »
Parks and Recreation: meet the characters
6 March 2013 10:32 AM, PST
The warmhearted Us sitcom finally hits British screens tonight. For those who are new to the series, here's who's who
We've waited more than three years since it first aired in the Us – but tonight Parks and Recreation, the warm-hearted sitcom starring Saturday Night Live alumna Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a small-town local government employee finally hits British screens. The fifth season of the Emmy-award winning show, which comes from team also behind The Office: An American Workplace, is currently airing in the Us – how did it take this long to find a British broadcaster? – but BBC4 viewers have the joy of the first two seasons to look forward to. And to get you in the mood, here's our guide to the characters who make up the local council department in Pawnee ahead of tonight's first episode (10pm, BBC4).
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)
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- David Renshaw
BBC assigns 99% of available drama hours to independent producers
6 March 2013 9:49 AM, PST
Trust review of window of creative competition shows that indies also do well in entertainment and children's genres
• Read the full BBC Trust review of the WoCC
The success of independent producers in securing BBC commissions has been highlighted by figures showing that outside suppliers secured 99% of available drama hours in the year to the end of March 2012.
However, the BBC has been told there is still room for improvement in its relationship with outside programme suppliers. It has been asked to look at its seating arrangements to ensure in-house programme makers are not being given an unfair advantage over independent producers.
This recommendation was included in a report by the BBC Trust which said the corporation should do more to build confidence among independent producers about the openness of its commissioning process.
The latest trust review of the BBC's "window of creative competition" or WoCC, published on Wednesday, concluded »
- John Plunkett
Gogglebox: Channel 4's real-life Royle Family
6 March 2013 8:16 AM, PST
The new documentary series aims to reveal how we watch television – and what we think of it. But is that likely to produce a compelling programme?
Television is literally a reflective medium: most viewers have had the experience of switching off a programme and seeing their own sofa-slumped image in the empty screen. But, over the decades, TV has tussled with the extent to which schedules should reflect the audience. Gogglebox, a four-part series starting on Thursday night at 10pm on Channel 4, is the latest attempt to incorporate criticism of the programmes within the programming.
Mirroring, deliberately or not, a number of experiments in the 70s and 80s, in which cameras were secretly placed inside sets – revealing, among other things, that viewers are prone to skip the adverts and to have settee sex during boring programmes – Gogglebox films various sets of relatives and friends as they watch the box. »
- Mark Lawson
Bluestone 42; The Crash – TV review
6 March 2013 3:37 AM, PST
This military comedy set in Afghanistan – and written by the Miranda team – is funny but it gets nowhere near the bone
• Bluestone 42 on iPlayer
• The Crash on iPlayer
It takes a special sort of show to make a comedy out of a bomb disposal unit in contemporary Afghanistan; a show that dives into the dark, dank hollows of a man's heart, then drags its way painfully out, up the ridges of thwarted hope and bitter laughter. Or else, you could do it Dad's Army-style, using the war mainly for uniforms and comedic scenarios, making sure the only people who die are idiots or invisible insurgents in far-off sheds. That's what BBC3's Bluestone 42 (pronounced four-two, if you want to pretend you watched it, and not watch it) has done: it's very broad and kind, and I was impressed by it. It was confident and deft, and brooked no squeamishness, »
- Zoe Williams
Roy Hudd: TV is a dying business
6 March 2013 2:21 AM, PST
Spare a thought for Roy Hudd, erstwhile star of Radio 2's News Huddlines – those were the days – who is dying for a decent role on TV. "Last year, I thought I'd cracked it when I had a terrific part in Call the Midwife,' he tells the Telegraph. "Sadly, my character died before the titles went up. I also died in the next four TV parts that I was offered. A fifth offer came in ... I asked, 'Do I die in this one?'" Yes, it turned out, so Hudd turned that one down too. Later it transpired in fact his character didn't expire, but the role had already gone to someone else. Better luck next time, Roy.
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Martin Compston to play great train robber in BBC1 drama | Media Monkey
6 March 2013 2:06 AM, PST
Line of Duty star Martin Compston will play one of the great train robbers in a BBC1 drama marking the 50th anniversary of the Royal Mail heist. Compston will star as getaway driver Roy James alongside Luke Evans (Tamara Drewe, The Three Musketeers) who will play Bruce Reynolds, who died last week. Neil Maskell, who recently appeared in Channel 4's Utopia, will play Ronald "Buster" Edwards. The 1963 robbery will be told in two 90-minute parts, beginning with the "robber's tale" and the "copper's tale". Also starring in the World Productions drama will be Jack Roth – son of Tim – Del Synnott, Paul Anderson and Jack Gordon. The two-part take on the robbery will also serve to further differentiate it from ITV's Mrs Biggs, which left the platform last year and told the story from the perspective of Biggs' relationship with his then wife, Charmian, played by Sheridan Smith.
Why Detective David Tennant is a prime-time suspect
6 March 2013 1:49 AM, PST
Who wants to think about murdered children on a weekday evening? A fair few of us, if the ratings are anything to go by. This week BBC1 and ITV have gone head to head with new crime dramas Mayday and Broadchurch: both with decorated casts and nuanced scripts that lift them above the standard police procedural; both previewed as the kind of event television that can seem antediluvian in an age of download and bargain box sets.
Mayday, which tracks the disappearance of 14-year-old Hattie as she is about to take the part of May Queen in her village's annual parade, stars Sophie Okonedo, Aidan Gillen and a fabulously overwrought Lesley Manville. It launched on Sunday – the first of five consecutive nights – with 6.2 million viewers and a 25% audience share; but lost out the following »
- Libby Brooks
Egypt's Jon Stewart? Al Bernameg is a political satire to rival The Daily Show
6 March 2013 12:00 AM, PST
Early last month, a heart surgeon gave a talk at Egypt's American University in Cairo. As talks by cardiac specialists go, it was very well received. At the end, the students mobbed him – turning what should have been a brisk stroll to the car park into a snail-paced plod.
Then again, Dr Bassem Youssef is not just a heart surgeon. He doubles as a superstar satirist, the most popular – and most unlikely – presenter on Egyptian television. On Friday nights across the country, millions sit down to watch Youssef's piss-take of Egyptian politics: Al Bernameg, or The Programme. Find a cafe at 11pm, and chances are they'll be screening it. Crash a dinner party, and they'll probably be talking about it. One well-known Cairo »
- Patrick Kingsley
Alan Sugar shunned Apprentice winner, tribunal told
5 March 2013 11:12 PM, PST
Stella English, who beat 15 others to win series six of reality show, is claiming for constructive dismissal
A winner of TV show The Apprentice claimed Lord Sugar told her he did not "give a shit" when she resigned from the £100,000-a-year job he gave her when she came face to face with him at an employment tribunal.
Stella English, 34, beat 15 other potential apprentices to win series six of the hit BBC1 show in 2010.
She was rewarded with a role in Sugar's Viglen division, supplying It equipment to academy schools, but said that when the millionaire business mogul told her he would not be renewing her contract she was given no choice but to resign.
She is claiming constructive dismissal against Sugar, describing the £100,000-a-year role she was given as that of an "overpaid lackey".
English told the hearing at East London Employment Tribunal Service that on her first day at Viglen its chief executive, »
TV highlights 06/03/2013
5 March 2013 11:00 PM, PST
America's Poor Kids | Michael Grade And The World's Oldest Joke | Show Dogs: The Road To Crufts | Russell Brand's Give It Up For Comic Relief | Parks And Recreation | First Among Equals: The Laurie Cunningham Story | Anna & Katy
America's Poor Kids
This documentary opens with a statistic that feels scandalous, recession or no recession: 16 million American children live within the technical definition of poverty. Jezza Neumann's affecting but unsentimental film is a companion to a study he made of poor British children in 2011. He meets young Americans doomed, through no fault of their own, to lives of struggle. In no case is the American dream entirely extinguished, but it's horrible to listen to children being so grimly pragmatic about their prospects. Andrew Mueller
Michael Grade And The World's Oldest Joke
The former chief exec of Channel 4 goes in search of the origins of the »
- Andrew Mueller, Julia Raeside, Hannah Verdier, Martin Skegg, Rebecca Nicholson, Gwilym Mumford, Ben Arnold
In praise of … Tamsin Greig | Editorial
5 March 2013 5:44 PM, PST
She is a rarity: a successful 46-year-old woman in a field that often fails to provide decent parts for middle-aged females
Before she was Fran Katzenjammer in Black Books or Dr Todd in Green Wing, Tamsin Greig was Debbie Aldridge in the Archers. Indeed, she still is ("a woman who likes to get what she wants", as the show's website puts it), although these days her character's based more in Hungary than on Home Farm. Such variety, and willingness to move between TV and film as well as the stage (her latest production opens at the Hampstead Theatre this week), is testimony to the actor's range. True, there was a stint in the noughties when sitcom viewers could count on her to pop up as a thirtysomething singleton; but Greig broke that typecasting hump around the time of her star turn as a Labour minister in David Hare's Gethsemane. »
Top Gear row: Tesla loses appeal over Jeremy Clarkson review
5 March 2013 4:35 PM, PST
Appeal court dismisses claim that show damaged car's sales, after manufacturer gets into online spat with New York Times
But that December 2008 episode of the BBC2 show has been examined repeatedly by some of Britain's most senior media judges in an three-year libel battle brought by the Us car maker, Tesla.
The court of appeal signalled the end of the road for Tesla's legal claim on Tuesday, rejecting the company's complaint that its reputation was damaged by Clarkson's typically provocative review of the Tesla Roadster car.
The lengthy legal affair is likely to have proved expensive for Tesla, which hired London libel specialists Carter-Ruck and a top QC to fight its case from 2011. In the past year alone, Tesla »
- Josh Halliday
Samantha Cameron turns red for Comic Relief cake bake
5 March 2013 11:27 AM, PST
Pm's wife donned pinny and scarlet wig in Downing Street kitchen as part of Red Nose Day charity fundraising effort
When David Cameron tweeted a picture of his wife baking in the kitchen it probably wasn't an attempt to appeal to traditional Conservative voters in the wake of the party's bloody nose in Eastleigh.
Samantha Cameron was donning her pinny in aid of Red Nose Day, a fact advertised by her shocking, and very un-Conservative, scarlet wig. The resulting moonrocks, flapjacks and tiffin were sold to Downing Street staff at tea time, with the money raised going to the Comic Relief charity.
Pictures released by No 10 showed the Pm's wife being ably assisted by her children Elwen (seven) and Nancy (nine), and gave homeware fetishists another chance to gawp at the Camerons' fully-equipped contemporary kitchen, reported to have cost £25,000. Seasoned appliance-spotters will have noticed a Magimix blender (£299), as well as a £895 dishwasher and a £130 toaster. »
- Mark Smith