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Saturday Night Live: festive episode mocks men on Santa's naughty list

11 hours ago

In a week that saw Al Franken resign and Republicans rally behind Roy Moore, sexual harassment took the spotlight – but Michael Che’s undercover ‘liberal white woman’ stole the show

It’s Christmas at a suburban mall, and Santa (Kenan Thompson) and his helper elf (Kate McKinnon) are taking requests from a queue of kids.

“Can you tell me,” says little Tyler, “what Al Franken did?”

Related: SNL’s Kate McKinnon on playing Theresa May: ‘There are lots of things about her I find endearing’

Related: A battle for public opinion: Trump goes to war over Mueller and Russia

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- Jean Hannah Edelstein

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Blue Planet II: from octopus v shark to fish that crawl, the series’s biggest discoveries

16 hours ago

The documentary’s marvels are not just new to television – many are new to science as well. From hyper-intelligent fish to the origin of life itself, we round up the series’s breakthrough moments

It is testament to the number of spectacles packed into Blue Planet II that a giant wrasse’s strategetic change of gender is – scientifically speaking, at least – one of the least remarkable. Changing gender, or sequential hermaphroditism, is a fact of life for more than 400 species of fish, and has already been widely studied.

But many of the programme’s marvels are new not just to television but to science itself. Some have only been published within the past half-decade; others existed only anecdotally until now. Here we track some of the most astonishing findings of the series.

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- Elle Hunt

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Jodie Foster: ‘I make movies to figure out who I am’

19 hours ago

Directing a new Black Mirror film gives Jodie Foster the chance to look back at her own upbringing. The Hollywood titan talks to Tim Adams

Last week Charlie Brooker was recalling for me the moment he learned Jodie Foster would direct an episode of Black Mirror, his inspired series of one-off dramas about the ways our gadgets are colonising the idea of “human”. Brooker had written a script for the new series in which a neurotic single mother uses technology to spy on her young daughter and keep her safe from the world. The Netflix people suggested they tried the script out on the two-time Oscar-winning actor.

Brooker has had considerable global success with Black Mirror but still, the thought of working with Foster, “an actual icon”, made him come over, he says, “all British and starstruck”. He turned to his co-showrunner for the series, Annabel Jones. “We were like: ‘You’re kidding, »

- Tim Adams

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Euan Ferguson’s best television of 2017

20 hours ago

Alias Grace, Peaky Blinders and Broken shone out in a bumper year as terrestrial and online channels upped their game in the battle for viewers

• Observer critics’ reviews of the year in full

It was a year in which Netflix strode out, re-emboldened, on its quest for global if not interplanetary domination, abetted by doughty lieutenants Amazon and Sky, and yet something odd and oddly likable may be happening. The terrestrials are fighting back.

I wonder if there’s a peak penetration level to those inclined to binge-watch, and whether we might just have hit it. Here on old Bakelite analogue, many people were still just sitting down at the same time each week, watching the telly… Blue Planet II (BBC One), the triumphantly reworked Great British Bake Off (C4), Thandie Newton’s standout Line of Duty (BBC One), the farewell (and back on form) Broadchurch (ITV1). I also grew, »

- Euan Ferguson

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The week in TV: The Crown; Invasion! With Sam Willis; Peaky Blinders; The A-Word

21 hours ago

Claire Foy excels in the Netflix drama’s second series, Cillian Murphy’s gang are back in force, and BBC1’s autism drama is superbly smart

We still have a little time to wait for Olivia Colman’s much-heralded appearance as the middle-aged Queen in The Crown, though it’s hard to see how even she could match Claire Foy’s perfectly pitched performances so far. In the meantime, the second 10-part season was released on Friday, and… could it match season the first, which bestrode the world? I am here to happily report that, if anything, it’s better.

As ever, creator Peter Morgan’s trademark mix of scrupulous research, informed speculation and a 10% seasoning of wholly unverifiable scuttlebutt leads to immense events being dramatised in very human form. As ever, it’s not all about pomp, pageantry and deference – though we get our little gullet-load of that – but about history, »

- Euan Ferguson

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Catalonia’s media drop impartiality for independence

21 hours ago

The starkly divergent news agendas promoted in Madrid and Barcelona expose the crisis that state-funded journalism can face when the political stakes rise

Some fundamental media questions can never be definitively answered. One is: who should be allowed to own a newspaper or news organisation? Another – a core problem as those crucial Catalonian regional elections near – is who controls the public service apparatus that supposedly delivers independent but state-sanctified journalism?

Hollow laugh. You might have hoped that the high-profile role of Catalan-language, regionally subsidised TV and radio would be muted during a campaign that will help decide Catalonia’s future. No such luck. TV3 and the radio channels are as independence-enthused as ever – and in frequent debate with the electoral commission. Is Carles Puigdemont a president or an ex-president? Are those nationalist leaders still in jail political prisoners?

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- Peter Preston

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Who’d want to be the big man or woman at the ‘behemoth’ BBC?

21 hours ago

In the face of relentless pressure from the right and disgruntlement from the left, it’s no wonder some of the corporation’s senior staff are restless

Ah! Forget goodwill and Mrs M’s supposed triumphs in Brussels. It’s almost Christmas – almost time for another ritual onslaught on that “statist behemoth” we call the BBC as it drones along oozing “monotonous soft-left bias”. That was the Daily Mail in the summer, but the Sun and Telegraph do their Little Sir Echoes pat on cue. No one on the Brexit right loves the Beeb these days.

But the funny thing, after a double dose of Farage and Mogg on Marr last week, is that nobody on the Remaining left loves much Broadcasting House either. And this time around, the ancient mantras of fairness and balance provide no defence.

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- Peter Preston

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Agyness Deyn’s first TV drama is an end of the world, buddy police drama

9 December 2017 4:04 PM, PST

The model turned actor reveals why she was drawn to play a cop with a cause in Hard Sun, the BBC’s new dystopian series

She has won rave reviews for her intense performances in independent films such as Electricity and Sunset Song. Now model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn is to star in her first television role playing Elaine Renko, an enigmatic cop with a damaged past in the pre-apocalyptic drama Hard Sun, a new thriller from Luther creator Neil Cross.

“One of the things that really drew me to the part was the chance to play a woman who is enigmatic and strong-willed but without the sexual projections that such roles usually have,” Deyn told the Observer. “Renko is driven by the need to do what she knows is right. She’d probably rather have a fight than an intimate conversation. She’s doing everything for a cause.”

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- Sarah Hughes

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From The Crown to Misery: the best of film and TV streaming in Australia in December

9 December 2017 3:09 PM, PST

This month, the Windsors struggle with modernity, a filmmaker seeks out an extinct bird, and Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart host a bizarre dinner party

TV: She’s Gotta Have It season one (Us, 2017) by Spike Lee – out now

Related: In the wake of Milo Yiannopoulos' tour, do we really need another Romper Stomper?

Related: Nakkiah Lui on gender, race and her new comedy show: ‘What if your vagina came to life?’

Related: No Activity review – Will Ferrell and Bob Odenkirk join faithful Us reboot of Aussie cop comedy

Related: Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare review – surprisingly delightful gore-fest doco

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- Lauren Carroll Harris

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Detectorists: a rich portrait of unremarkable lives gone slightly awry

9 December 2017 3:00 AM, PST

Testament to the mood-altering powers of television, Mackenzie Crook’s Bafta-winning comedy-drama allows us to tune out our grimly fractious world

‘Metal detecting is the closest you’ll get to time travel,” reflects Lance in the final episode of Detectorists (13 December, 10pm, BBC4). “See, archaeologists, they gather up the facts, piece the jigsaw together, work out how we lived and find the buildings we lived in. But what we do … that’s different. We unearth the scattered memories. Mine for stories. Fill in the personality … We’re time travellers.”

It’s hard to think of a more exquisite TV creation than Mackenzie Crook’s Bafta-winning comedy-drama following the fortunes of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Crook), dedicated treasure hunters, crumpled nearly men and members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. If their gentle exploits haven’t made your heart sing and your stomach go fuzzy then, well, we can never be friends. »

- Fiona Sturges

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Girls, Insecure and Stranger Things: how bathrooms became TV’s safe space

9 December 2017 2:00 AM, PST

Kitchens and living rooms were once the heart of drama and comedy, but in an era of messy protagonists the bathroom has taken over

Bullshit! Bull! Shit! No you! You’re … Bullshit.” Episode two of Stranger Things 2, and Nancy has found herself a new story arc: drunk at a party, she has spilled blood-red punch down her top, and she’s trying in vain to sponge out the spot. The previous episode ended with Nancy eyeballing the mirror, paralysed with guilt at having kept quiet about her friend Barb’s disappearance into a reality-fracturing netherworld. Now she’s ditching her boyfriend Steve and resolving to avenge her pal’s sticky, cobwebbed demise.

Both of these scenes in Netflix’s creature feature share a noticeable trope in modern TV storytelling; mostly practised by a new wave of American shows that unsparingly portray their characters’ inner lives. As emotional turning points happen, »

- Jack Seale

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Big Little Lies season two confirmed with Andrea Arnold directing

8 December 2017 12:20 PM, PST

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman to return as stars of the Emmy-winning HBO mystery, with the British director of American Honey at the helm

HBO has announced a second season of Big Little Lies, with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman returning.

After months of speculation, the network confirmed that the Emmy-winning mystery would return for a seven-episode limited series, with the British director Andrea Arnold to direct.

Related: The mothers grim: why Big Little Lies is the bleakest of fairytales

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- Benjamin Lee

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Late-night hosts on Republicans: 'Sexual harassment should be non-partisan'

8 December 2017 8:40 AM, PST

Comics, including Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah, discussed the hypocritical response to Al Franken and further news on Donald Trump Jr’s Russian meetings

Late-night hosts discussed the Republican hypocrisy around sexual harassment allegations and the investigation into Donald Trump Jr’s meetings with Russian officials.

Related: Late-night hosts on Trump's Israel decision: 'Peace talks roasting on an open fire'

Atlanta news anchor Sharon Reed claps back at a racist viewer. https://t.co/DvqyYMfRJs pic.twitter.com/12cNm7IQ1c

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- Guardian staff

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The Crown: season two review – the one with all the shagging … and Suez

8 December 2017 7:27 AM, PST

Attagirl, Lilibet! From the Kennedy assassination to the Profumo affair, Netflix goes bigger and better as it kicks off a truly historic second series

When the dusty scrolls of television history are unfurled by future generations and all 60 episodes of The Crown promised to us are found to lie therein, this one shall be known down the ages as The One With All the Shagging – and Suez.

We start this second series of creator and writer Peter Morgan’s masterpiece in 1956. Continuing the first series’ delicate blending of complementary private and public events, we find both the royal couple and Britain descending into war. The Queen has found a photograph of a young female dancer in the luggage Prince Philip is taking on his five-month tour of the Commonwealth and is alternately grief-stricken and incandescent with fury. (Claire Foy is brilliantly subtle at conveying the thoughts behind the monarchical mask »

- Lucy Mangan

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Alexander Armstrong: ‘At home, I’m just the bumbling old fool in the corner’

8 December 2017 4:59 AM, PST

The actor and comedian on why his children take priority over his career, and being preachy about them watching too much TV

I’m the youngest of three children. We lived beside a big beech wood, on the edge of the moors, in Northumberland, which was enormously good fun. I was the baby and my brother and sister, who were four-and-a-half and three years older than me respectively, were always allowed to go off and play on their own. By the time I was old enough to join them in their adventures, we had moved house.

My father is a retired Gp. There was something very exciting about being a son of the doctor because you were known to everyone. In our village, Rothbury, everyone would stop and talk to you. In those days, when you were a Gp on call and the surgery was closed, then our house essentially became the surgery. »

- Interview by Nick McGrath

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Original script of Two Ronnies' 'fork handles' sketch to be auctioned

8 December 2017 4:44 AM, PST

Penned by Ronnie Barker, the single sheet – handwritten in red ink – is expected to fetch up to £40,000 at auction

A rare slice of British comedy history is up for grabs with The Two Ronnies’ original “fork handles” script due to go under the hammer.

Penned by Ronnie Barker, the single sheet – handwritten in red ink – is expected to fetch up to £40,000 at auction. The famous sketch employs wordplay to comic effect when Barker’s character goes into a hardware store, run by Ronnie Corbett, with a seemingly simple request for “fork handles”, and ends up with four candles instead.

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- Press Association

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Total recall: performers on learning their parts – and the perils of 'brain farts'

8 December 2017 4:22 AM, PST

Tanya Moodie attacks the script with her highlighters, Pétur Jónasson starts at the end of a score and Sarah Lamb gets a good sleep. They explain how to avoid the moment all performers dread – forgetting what comes next

How do actors learn all those lines? How can dancers reproduce all those steps? These can seem like hackneyed questions so it’s refreshing to realise that actors and dancers are fascinated by them too. I can barely get a question in when I meet Tanya Moodie and Sarah Lamb as they’re busy quizzing each other about the friable business of memory and performance.

Lamb is a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and has performed this season in works by Twyla Tharp and Kenneth MacMillan, as well as resuming her part as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Moodie’s successes include playing Gertrude in the RSC’s Hamlet »

- David Jays

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The best TV this week: Brexit, refugees and terrorism – The Tunnel returns

8 December 2017 3:59 AM, PST

Sky Atlantic’s cross-channel crime drama is back with a vengeance, while Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek spoof, The Orville, launches on Fox

For one last time – and now with added Brexit – ill-matched, cross-Channel detective couple Karl (Stephen Dillane) and Elise (Clémence Poésy) return. This time, they’re investigating a burning fishing boat. Has it been set on fire by rabid leave voters after straying too close to the White Cliffs of Dover? Time will tell

14 December, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

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- The Guide

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Loss leader: can a TV show continue without its main character?

8 December 2017 1:00 AM, PST

Jeffrey Tambor’s future on Transparent is in doubt after sexual assault allegations, but history proves it’s possible to live on beyond an original lead

Transparent and House of Cards are both noteworthy shows. They are both prestigious. They both helped to prove that streaming services were capable of competing with traditional television. And they both hinged on award-winning turns by big stars, who are now unlikely to feature in any more episodes thanks to stories of their sexual impropriety. The question is, with Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor potentially out of the picture, can House of Cards and Transparent survive? Can any show, in fact, if the lead character suddenly drops out?

Related: House of Cards to resume production in 2018 with Robin Wright as lead

Related: What next for the TV shows caught in the post-Weinstein crossfire?

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- Stuart Heritage

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Friday’s best TV: The Year in Music 2017; The Graham Norton Show

7 December 2017 10:20 PM, PST

Interviews with Stormzy and and Nile Rodgers in a look back at the year’s musical highlights, while Jessica Chastain and Rebel Wilson are on the sofa and will no doubt have strong opinions on the film industry’s ingrained misogyny

Mentioned in the same breath as Neil Young’s Harvest and Carole King’s Tapestry, Don McLean’s American Pie actually has more in common with delivery pizza: sugary, and dominated by cheese. More interesting is the decades-long rancour to which McLean clings. Beneath his palatial hairstyle, he still fumes that producer Ed Freeman insufficiently flattered his guitar playing. So no matey recollections over the mixing desk here. Julia Raeside

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- Julia Raeside, Ben Arnold, David Stubbs, Ali Catterall, Jack Seale, Phil Harrison, Hannah Verdier and Paul Howlett

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