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September 2009 Archives

Primeval Saved from Extinction

It was a drama that seemed dead in the water, leaving its cast stranded up a tree in prehistory with no chance of getting home. Fans gnashed their teeth at the injustice of it all, but all ITV could do was pat its pockets for money, shrug and say sorry.

But yesterday was a happy day for fans of Primeval (aka Dinosaur Chasey-Chase) as the news broke that the adventure drama will return in 2011 for 13 new episodes, split over two series, after a ground-breaking deal was brokered with cable channel Watch to come onboard as a co-producer of the series.

ITV will premiere a block of new episodes of the series early in 2011, with Watch getting second dibs on this run. Later in the year, Watch will first run the remaining new episodes, which ITV will then broadcast at a later date.

Is BBC Drama Really Dumbing Down?

Preditably, Andrew Davies’s words in the latest issue of the Radio Times on the current fortunes of the classics on television have been reported out of context by much of the press, where an overtly negative spin has been placed on the fairly small piece in the magazine. Another day, another chance to bash Auntie. But within what Davies is saying, there’s some things I take issue with. He told the magazine:

“I think, in terms of doing the classics, [the BBC’s] position is somewhere near what ITV’s was ten years ago. Which is, ‘Yes, we’ll do them, but only if they’re big, popular warhorses.’ So it’s going downmarket, I guess.”

which does smack a little of that elitist snobbery you get from some noted writers, the notion that because something is popular, it is somehow less worthy of attention. That use of the word ‘downmarket’ is very telling here. Bleak House and Little Dorrit were hardly downmarket, both from the pen of the feted adapter. Similarly, Cranford was rather wonderful, I’m looking forward immensely to this Sunday’s first episode of Emma and am all of a quiver about the Christmas outing for The Turn of the Screw.

And if there is a tendency for the BBC to slip towards the more well-known texts, then at some level, Davies himself is culpable. If he wasn’t so good at performing adaptation alchemy and transforming Austen and Dickens into television gold, then the trend, if indeed there is one, might be towards something different.

Square Eyes, September 28-October 1

Dancing with the Stars Watch, Monday 9pm
Now that Strictly Come Dancing has given up its introductory Friday evening show, the way is clear for even more besequinned frivolity, as UKTV bring over the US version of Strictly that started last week. If anything, DWTS is camper than its UK forebear, and the range of celbrity contestants even more diverse. Highlight of this first week is a raunchy cha-cha-cha by disgraced politician Tom DeLay which, some dodgy hand gestures aside, is not too bad for a first week. Below, analysis from news channel MSNBC, with VT of the performance:

The Choir - Boys Don’t Sing Revisited BBC2, Tuesday 9pm
As uplifting and heartwarming as it was, the South Oxhey-based last series of The Choir didn’t quite manage to scale the heights of feelgoodiness that 2008’s Bafta-winning, school-set tale did. This programme collects the highlights of that series, along with catch-up interviews with some of the boys who took part. It’s touching to see that, once the cameras leave, the impact of their experience still resonates with the boys themselves. And, as another YouTube treat, here’s the Royal Albert Hall performance of Stand By Me/Beautiful Girls:

Electric Dreams BBC4, Tuesday 9pm
We’ve seen the format before, with Channel 4’s many variations on The 1900 House, but this series brings things much closer to home, as a family’s home is painstakingly converted into one that epitomises the 1970s (next week, they get upgraded to the 1980s, the following week the 1990s). Stripped of modern technology, they will explore how technology changed household lives.


Just in case you haven’t seen all the adverts and the great big text boxes that appear every time you change channel on your Freeview box, after Wednesday lunchtime you will need to retune your Freeview, BT Vision or Top-Up TV set-top box. Satellite, cable and analogue viewers will not be affected. For more information, see the Freeview website.


Mark Lawson talks to Richard Wilson BBC4, Wednesday 10pm
With Richard Wilson’s long career on television sometimes overshadowing an equally lengthy career as a theatre actor and director, hopefully Lawson’s lugubrious interviewing style won’t get too hung up on the Victor Meldrew portion of Wilson’s CV.

EastEnders BBC1, Thursday 7.30pm
Albert Square’s long tradition of giving unlikely roles to comedians continues with Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and professional buffoon.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks BBC2, Thursday 9.30pm
With Simon Amstell off to concentrate on his stand-up career, Buzzcocks is back to having a guest host, starting off with Gavin & Stacey co-writer and co-star James Corden. In order to accommodate the revolving central chair, the team captain’s chair previously vacated by Bill Bailey is now permanently occupied by Noel Fielding.

School of Comedy E4, Thursday 10pm
The USP of this new sketch show is that the main stars are all under 18, led by Will Poulter who was superb in the movie Son of Rambow. After a pilot in 2008, we now have a full series of kids pretending to be adults, and mining that comedy seam for all it’s worth. Whether that joke is strong enough to be the backbone for an entire series? We can but hope.

Square Eyes 25-27 September

The Tudors (Friday 9pm, BBC2)

Closing episode of what has been a terrific third season of royal shenanigans from the olden days. Henry’s having a bit of trouble getting it on with new bride Anne of Cleves, which has deeper ramifications for Cromwell. His head has been looking very loose on those shoulders for much of this series, so we won’t be looking for James Frain’s name in the titles for season four. Always great fun, The Tudors even has time to shock in places.

Rebus (Friday 9pm, ITV1)

A repeat for Ken Stott as Ian Rankin’s celebrated Edinburgh detective. This episode is of note as it features Karen Gillan, shortly to take up residence in the Tardis as Amy Pond to Matt Smith’s Doctor Who.

Peep Show (Friday 10pm, C4/C4 HD)

Mark and Jeremy are playing the field tonight as they attempt (and generally fail) to romance the ladies. Mark, predictably, is gravitating towards IT geek Dobby, and Jez is throwing himself at the Russian beauty who lives in the same block. And then Sophie turns up to reveal who the father of the baby is. Effortlessly funny.

Hole in the Wall (Saturday 6.10pm, BBC1/BBC HD)

If you’ve never seen Hole in the Wall, it has to be seen to be believed. Be prepared for your jaw to hit the floor.

Merlin (Saturday 6.40pm, BBC1)

My main problem with Merlin is the central relationship between Arthur and Merlin. I simply don’t believe it. Arthur is so horrible to the humble magician that it makes it very hard to actually engage with the relationship. Similarly, Uther is always miserable and Morgana needs to get over herself. It’s a bunch of characters I don’t really want to spend time with, which is never a good thing. So it just leaves Merlin, Gaius and Guinevere (that’s Guinevere, okay, not Gwen) to be the show’s likable characters. Tonight, Adrian Lester guests as a slinky assassin who is out to off Arthur. I hope he succeeds. Thank God for Colin Morgan, working his socks off big time to make this work, which he does brilliantly.

Strictly Come Dancing/The X Factor (Saturday 7.25pm BBC1/8pm, ITV1)

All right kids, play nicely.

Waking the Dead (Sunday 9pm, BBC1)

Closing story for what has been an excellent series of Waking the Dead. Linda Cummings, a serial killer Boyd put away is back. This time she’s after the shouty detective’s help when she thinks murders have been committed at the psychiatric hospital where she is a long-term resident. But is she genuine, and how will Boyd cope without confidante Grace to assist in the case? Ruth Gemmell is wonderfully scenery-chewing as Linda, which even seems to put the normally ostentatious Trevor Eve in the shade.

Charley Boorman: Sydney to Tokyo, by Any Means (Sunday 9pm, BBC2)

A word of advice for Charley Boorman: book a business class ticket from Sydney to Tokyo next time and stop wasting my licence fee with nonsense like this.

Trinity (Sunday 10pm, ITV2)

I pass Dulwich College, where parts of Trinity were filmed, on my way to work. Sadly, that’s the most interesting thing I can tell you about this “drama”. Bless them for trying, though.

Turn off the TV: radio picks, September 26-October 2

Opera on 3: Let ’Em Eat Cake
Radio 3, Saturday 6pm
Although I’m a self-confessed Gershwin fan, I must admit that I know little about Let ‘Em Eat Cake, a 1933 sequel by George and Ira to their 1931 hit Of Thee I Sing. Running for just 89 performances on its original Broadway run, it included many musical themes from its predecessor. This Radio 3 broadcast is of Opera North’s recent revival, which Stage reviewer George Hall described in glowing terms:

Ira Gershwin’s lyrics offer a light-hearted and even light-headed view of politics and politicians, though brother George’s score is several cuts above the thirties Broadway average in ambition and sheer ingenuity… Well worth catching.

The Wire: Side Effects
Radio 3, Saturday 8.50pm
A new play by Scottish writer Morna Pearson, starring Ashley Smith and Gary Collins as young cousins who are also lovers. When Rachel swallows an apple pip, she begins to transform into a tree…

Michael Ball Radio 2, Sunday 11am
Elaine Paige on Sunday Radio 2, Sunday 1pm
Ball’s guests this week are actor Mark Moraghan and radio and TV presenter Nicky Campbell, who have collaborated on a album of swing songs. Later, EP plays host to Paul Kerryson, artistic director of Leicester’s Curve theatre. Nice to see regional theatres getting a bit of a look-in.

Afternoon Play: Hoffnung - Drawn to Music
Radio 4, Monday 2.15pm
Matt Lucas stars in a freewheeling romp through the world of the musical humorist Gerard Hoffnung, in a delightful confection also starring Gina McKee, Hugh Bonneville, Felicity Montagu and Stephen Boswell.

A History of Private Life
Radio 4, Monday-Friday 3.45pm
A 30-part, six week social history of home life, compiled by Amanda Vickery and with readings by Deborah Findlay, John Sessions, Madeleine Brolly and Simon Tcherniak. Preceded by a discussion at 9am on Monday.

Dick Emery: The Comedy of Errors?
Radio 2, Tuesday 10.30pm
Exaggerated caricature comedy, often expressed in cross-dressing outfits. And that’s just the presenter of this retrospective, as Little Britain star David Walliams fronts this look at the life and work of a comedian whose influence is still felt today.

Encore!
Radio 4, Thursday 11.30am
if you’re anything like me (which in many ways I sincerely hope you’re not) you’ll find the fake conclusion to a musical concert, only for the act to return to belt out a couple of extra numbers, intensely annoying. If musical performances were a physical product you bought off the shelf, such mis-selling would have everyone up in arms. Elbow’s lead singer Guy Garvey traces the origins of the encore, from a genuine spontaneous extra performance in the 17th and 18th centuries to the stage-managed versions of today.

Afternoon Play: Love in a Glass Jar
Radio 4, 2.15pm
Niamh Cusack and Lorcan Cranitch star as Eve and Patrick, a pair of strangers who have been chatting on a dating website. Eve wants children but not a man in her life, and while Patrick has agreed to donate his sperm, he can’t help but let emotion get in the way… Frankly, the whole premise had me at “Niamh Cusack and Lorcan Cranitch”, but the BBC press info. assures me this is a funny and perceptive production.

Question of the Day

What is the point of Bang Goes the Theory? I would just really like to know having given this some thought and realising I can’t find one.

Answers on a postcard, please.

Tomorrow: What is the point of Live From Studio Five?

Keep Dancing...

Seriously, just keep dancing. We’ve only had one weekend of Strictly, and the media has gone crazy with the news stories. Alesha’s rubbish, bring back Arlene! How dare the BBC put Strictly up against The X Factor! They’ve broken television!!!!!

Really, is this all we have to worry about in the world? Jordan’s latest exploits, whether Simon Cowell would have hired The Beatles, and Strictly Come Dancing versus The X Factor? That’s what it seems like to me…

First off, the brouhaha over Alesha Dixon. Okay, she didn’t have the best start - her comments were on the whole limp and a bit inane in places - “He’s wearing pink!”. But please, let’s cut the girl some slack and see how she pans out. She was nervous, as were the dancers, it was first week out after all. She’s got the opener under her belt and will be able to build on that. Hopefully.

In audio: a tribute to Troy Kennedy Martin

Mark articulated last week how sad the TV Today desk was to hear about the passing of TV and film screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin.

We weren’t the only ones: over on the UK DVD Review podcast, William Gallagher devoted this week’s edition to remembering one of the greats. William has kindly allowed us to include the episode below:

To subscribe to the UK DVD Review, you can go to William’s website or the podcast entry in iTunes.

Square Eyes, September 21-24

Planet Ajay CBBC, Monday 5.45pm
A new light entertainment variety show for children with a highly Bollywood feel. Ajay Chhabra presents and, while the level never quite rises above the level of fart jokes and gunge, it should still raise a smile among the audience it’s aimed at.

Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two BBC2, daily from Monday 6.30pm
Quite frankly, one of the principal reasons why Strictly Come Dancing needs to exist at weekends is so that the gloriously barking mad Claudia Winkleman can preside over this accompanying magazine show. Of course, if you watch ITT every day, you’ll also save yourself the need to read any Strictly coverage in the tabloids, since all they do is regurgitate comments on the show. But it’ll be interesting to see how fan reaction to Alesha Dixon’s judging is treated.

The Choir: Unsung Town BBC2, Tuesday 9pm
It’s the final episode of the series, and the size and scale of Gareth Malone’s South Oxhey project grows once more, as he prepares to stage a whole choral festival.

Demetri Martin: Person E4, Wednesday 11.05pm
One of America’s most original young comics, best known to UK audiences either through his appearances on the Edinburgh Fringe or his occasional slots on More4’s The Daily Show with John Stewart, here gets a stand-up show in advance of a new series, Important Things with Demetri Martin, which starts on E4 on Thursday.

Knight Rider Fiver, Thursday 8pm
Since the iconic 1980s series finished there have been several attempts to revive the tale of a crime fighter-talking car combo (cf. Knight Rider 2000 and Team Knight Rider). This attempt is marginally more successful, although it has since been cancelled in the US. The new-look KITT is a dreadful-looking beast of a car, miles away from the sleek lines of Hasselhof’s original model. For all its faults this series is worth a look, if only for a few episodes’ time when we get an arbitrary and completely ridiculous Doctor Who/Torchwood reference on what was US prime time telly.

Watching the Dead BBC4, Thursday 9pm
With the success of three different CSI series and, in the UK, Silent Witness and Waking the Dead, forensic policework has never been more popular as the precinct for crime drama. Dramatists’ obsession with the profession has been ongoing for years, though, with shows such as Quincy ME and The Expert kicking off the genre. This documentary looks at how advances in technology have led to new environments ripe for dramatists to exploit.

Cha’Mone — Mo Fo Selecta! A Michael Jackson Tribute E4, Thursday 10pm
Leigh Francis’s rubber-faced Bo Selecta! impersonation of Michael Jackson was as hilarious as it was grotesque. With the self-styled “King of Pop“‘s passing, this is one last chance for Francis to eke every bad taste laugh from one of his better caricatures.

Internet vs linear television - Dr Horrible has it taped

The ongoing debate about how (or indeed, if) internet viewing will overtake that of TV has been superbly ilustrated by archvillain Dr. Horrible, whose Singalong Blog — a long time favourite of TV Today — was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Special Class - Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs category (yes, the Emmys are the sort of awards where the category titles are longer than the shortlists).

Last night’s award ceremony, presented by Dr Horrible’s real-life alter ego Neil Patrick Harris, featured this video footage:

EXCLUSIVE: Barrowman - meeting Smith felt like "cheating" on Tennant

John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness

Next week, The Stage will be interviewing John Barrowman, known of course as Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood and Doctor Who but who is donning a very different kind of costume to play the role of Albin/Zaza in LA Cage aux Folles in the West End.

The interview will appear in print, as well as the latest in our successful range of podcasts — but we thought we’d share a snippet of Who-related chat for you as a teaser.

As Captain Jack, Barrowman has played opposite Christopher Eccleston and, most recently, David Tennant in the role of The Doctor. With Tennant’s grip on the Tardis key loosening and That Face/Moses Jones actor Matt Smith about to take up the role, Stage interview Alistair Smith asked him about the transition.

According to Barrowman:

I have met Matt. I was doing my publicity for Tonight’s the Night and Matt came in to meet the whole publicity department at the BBC. He walked over to me and went, “Captain Jack!” and we shook hands.

He actually said, “I’d love for our characters to cross paths,” and I said, “That’s really nice to hear. I’m really chuffed that you would say that.”

We sat down and talked for about 15 minutes and then he had to go off and do his thing. I turned to the publicist I work with at the BBC and I said, “I just feel like I’ve had an affair — I feel like I’ve just cheated on David behind his back!”

Then I told David and he was like, “You turncoat.” But Matt will be brilliant. Like anything, it’s different, it’s a new energy, he’s younger, he’ll bring a new twist to it.

Also in the interview, John talks about Torchwood series 4 and future appearances of Captain Jack in Doctor Who as well as revealing more about his role in Desperate Housewives. And, of course, he’ll be discussing his long overdue return to the West End.

The print version of the interview will appear in next week’s issue of The Stage, cover date October 1. A longer audio interview will be online at the same time on The Stage Podcast. To ensure you receive an audio copy automatically, you can subscribe in iTunes for free and all future podcast episodes will download automatically as soon as they are available.

Square Eyes 18-20 September

Strictly Come Dancing (Friday 8.30pm/BBC HD)

Not quite show what this show is about, haven’t really heard much about it. Something about dancing? Yes, Strictly is back, and it’s bigger and more controversial than ever, even before it’s been on air. There are two new judges - Aleesha Dixon and Darcy Bussell, replacing Arlene Phillips. I must be the only person who thinks this is a good idea - Phillips’s views on the John Sergeant situation last year made her too much of a loose cannon, it had NOTHING to do with age. For better or worse, there is a public vote and therefore popularity is an undeniable element to the show. It’s too early to talk about winners and losers, but I’ve got Laila Rouass in the office sweepstake, so that’s where I’m rooting. Welcome back, Strictly, we’ve missed you!

The Tudors (Friday 9pm, BBC2)

More fun and frolics from Olden Times as Henry is getting a bit antsy for some bedroom action, which has been sorely lacking for some time. And when he comes face to face with Anne of Cleves (crikey, it’s Joss Stone!) for the first time he isn’t too impressed. Cromwell should probably check his head is still attached to his shoulders.

Peep Show (Friday 10pm, C4/C4 HD)

The return of one of the finest ever sitcoms in the history of the world ever - fact! Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s darkly comical flat share work of genius starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb is on tip top form as ever. Considering it’s on its sixth series, that’s no mean feat. Brilliant, inspired stuff!

Merlin (Saturday 6.40pm, BBC1)

I hope Merlin is treated with a bit more respect on its second run than the last series of Robin Hood (it went before its time!). The first series of this magical adventure didn’t do a great deal for me, if I’m honest (too much pootling around talking about magic but not actually doing a great deal of it), but everything deserves a second chance, and I have high hopes for this new run. Colin Morgan as Merlin is the key to the series, his turn is bright and sensitive, and it makes all the difference when everybody is stomping about being grumpy. More laughs please!

Strictly Come Dancing (Saturday 7.25pm, BBC1/BBC HD)

What’s this? Another helping of Strictly? And ooops, it clashes with The X Factor for 40 minutes. Contenders, ready!

Red Riding (Saturday 10.15pm, C4)

First of a nightly repeat for the three feature-length episodes of Red Riding, a powerful drama based on David Peace’s novels set in the mid-70s against a stark backdrop of police brutality and corruption in Yorkshire. Well worth revisiting.

Waking the Dead (Sunday 9pm, BBC1)

When the new boyfriend of Eve has DNA that matches that taken from a rape case, Boyd puts his pathologist in the tricky situation of going undercover to see what her new bloke is about. Joseph Mawle as the fella in question is brilliant, as you’d expect, and this series of the perennial crime drama is as entertaining and chilling as it ever was.

Doc Martin (Sunday 9pm, ITV1/ITV HD)

ITV must be cock-a-hoop to see one of their sure-fire ratings bankers return for a new series of eight episodes. Martin Clunes is back as irascible and blood-fearing GP Martin Ellingham, tending to the ills of the populace of Cornish fishing village Portwenn. At the end of the last series, fans were aghast when the wedding of Ellingham and his on-off love Louisa (the fabulous Caroline Katz) didn’t go ahead. Louisa is still around, but our favourite GP bumping into an old flame from medical school isn’t going to make things any easier. Good, honest fun.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, September 19-25

The Saturday Play: Choice of Straws
Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
An adaptation of the 1960s novel set in London’s East End by ER Braithwaite, who also wrote To Sir, With Love and Paid Servant. White identical twins Jack and Dave are a happy-go-lucky pair, who regard beating up black men as a bit of a game. But when one of their targets pulls a knife and one twin is stabbed, things take a much more serious turn. Adapted by Roy Williams, with Harry Hepple and Luke Norris playing Jack and Dave, and also starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ellie Haddington, David Hargreaves and Alex Lanipekun.

The Wire: People Snogging in Public Places
Radio 3, Saturday 9.30pm
Adrian Scarborough and Lindsey Coulson star in a frank and dunny story of a man with learning disabilities who moves in with his nephew’s family. Examining the consequences of disabilities on family members, Jack Thorne’s play also introduces young actor Rupert Simonian who, judging by the credits on his Spotlight CV, will soon be a household name.

Classic Serial: The Complete Smiley - The Looking Glass War
Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Radio 4’s ongoing series of Le CarrĂ© adaptations continues with a two-part dramatisation by Shaun McKenna. When word reaches The Department that Soviet missiles are being installed close to the West German border, they seize the opportunity to relive former glories. Simon Russell Beale is Smiley once again, with Ian McDiarmid as Leclerc and also starring Patrick Kennedy, David Hargreaves, and Fenella Woolgar.

Drama on 3: Slaughterhouse-Five
Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Forty years since its first publication, this is the first ever radio adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic anti-war science fiction novel. Andrew Scott plays Billy Pilgrim, a time traveller who experiences past and future events out of sequence.

Monday to Friday choices after the jump.

Something's wrong...

…there’s a new Masterchef series on, and I’m not watching it. Yes, I know! Regular TV Today readers will know we are very firmly a pro-Masterchef blog, but for some reason, the lure of Gregg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr on Masterchef: the Professionals just isn’t enough for me this time round.

But I can’t quite put my finger on why. It could be to do with the bizarrely hap-hazard scheduling, where we have two-thirds of a heat on a Monday night in a half hour show, with the final third bolted onto to an hour-long edition on Tuesday night. Then last night we had 90 minutes of Masterchef action, with a single 45 minutes to round off the week’s heats tonight.

Eh? Talk about an uneven viewing experience, and therein lies the problem. One of the virtues of the retooled Masterchef in the early days was the bite size nature of it. A half hour show every night was a very palatable way of doing it, and easy to fit into a busy schedule with the use of that magic Series Link button. But the scheduling of Professionals feels like an unlimited number of monkeys with an unlimited number of calendars were running the scheduling department that week.

Troy Kennedy Martin 1932-2009

After yesterday’s tribute to the late Larry Gelbart, it was no fun to learn of the death of another giant of television writing. Troy Kennedy Martin passed away yesterday after suffering from liver cancer, at the age of 77. His prolific career, like Gelbart’s, influenced British television far beyond the series he created and wrote.

Troy Kennedy Martin (brother of fellow writer Ian Kennedy Martin, creator of The Sweeney and Juliet Bravo) will be best remembered for two very different television greats. He created the long-running police series Z Cars, noted for its social realism in depicting the work of the police in a northern seaside town. It would run from 1962 to 1978 in various formats, and would spawn several spin-offs. And it had one of the best theme tunes on British television ever. Fact!

Larry Gelbart 1928 - 2009

In what is turning out to be sad week for deaths of noteworthy personalities, it is the death of writer Larry Gelbart last Friday that has struck the most resonant chord with me.

Gelbart was a hero of mine, deserving of a place in the Television Hall of Fame as the man who developed the legendary MASH for television, arguably one of the most successful television dramas in the world. True, the series was a direct riff on the Robert Altman movie, in turn based on the novel by Richard Hooker. But Gelbart laid much of the groundwork for how MASH would be shaped as a television series in his four years as producer and writer, a template that would take the show to the top of the ratings and the awards pile.

Prior to MASH, Gelbart cut his comedy teeth writing for Sid Caesar throughout the 1950s, and then collaborating with Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove on the comedy musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. The show, which enjoyed successful runs on Broadway and in the West End, was turned into a movie in 1966.

Strictly Come Dancing: the contestants speak [video]

Well, we’re only a few days away from the start of the Strictly Come Dancing 2009 series. And if the anticipation wasn’t enough for you already, above we have a great promo clip, supplied by our lovely friends at the BBC, showing some of the celebrities in rehearsal and excerpts from their initial interviews.

As usual, we’ll be keeping an eye on the entire series here on TV Today — and this year our content will be even easier to find - just go to thestage.co.uk/strictly!

Strictly Come Dancing video placeholder

(If you read TV Today using an RSS feed reader, you may need to click through to the original article to see the video)

As we report in our news section, the BBC has announced it is to produce a UK version of dance talent show So You Think You Can Dance, with a panel of judges including Arlene Phillips and Nigel Lythgoe, series creator and a resident judge on Fox’s original US version of the show.

Below, Nigel exclusively shares with Stage readers his thoughts on returning to the UK to head this new search for dance talent.


I began my career as a dancer on the BBC in the Sixties. Now, I’m back as a judge of dancers — I believe I’ve made a full circle back to television’s home of dance here at the BBC.

When Simon Fuller and I created So You Think You Can Dance in the US five years ago, we never could have prepared ourselves for the brilliant talent that we’ve been so fortunate in discovering, both in dancing and choreography, so many of whom have now moved on to become movie stars. Much less could I have imagined that dance would become a global phenomenon that would ultimately be responsible for this, my very special homecoming.

So You Think You Can Dance now runs in over 72 countries including Japan, Canada and Australia — and now, finally, the UK will be joining this global movement.

Having worked for over twenty years as a dancer and choreographer in the UK, I know how strong our talent is. We may not be as large a country as the US and our “talent pool” is obviously smaller but I know the actual talent is there, just waiting to be given the opportunity.

For too long, dancers have been in the background, underpaid, under-appreciated and overworked. I intend to put them into the spotlight. But they will have to start earning that privilege from the moment they meet me. I’m just as tough, just as honest and just as ‘Nasty’ if needs be. I may have a lack of patience but I have never been short on passion. If our dancers want to be successful they need to match that passion and then bring their own special gifts.

When we bring their talent together with that of some of the greatest choreographers in the World you will have the ingredients for a very special television show. An ‘honest’ show. You won’t be diverted by flashy fireworks, you’ll witness no set-up arguments or made-up stories: just real jeopardy, real people with real talent, spurred on by an overwhelming passion to work hard and fight, in order to be recognised for doing something they’ve probably fought to do all their lives — DANCE.

It’s good to be home.


  • Auditions for So You Think You Can Dance will be taking place throughout October, with the series starting on BBC1 in January 2010.

Square Eyes, September 14-17

Masterchef: the Professionals from Monday, BBC2 8.30pm
Young chefs who all work in professional kitchens are the contestants in the latest cooking-doesn’t-get-any-tougher-than-this series. Michel Roux Jr and his sous chef, Monica Geletti, join regular judge Gregg Wallace to bellow at, berate and every so often bestow praise upon the candidates.

Home Time Monday, BBC2 10pm
A new six-part sitcom from Baby Cow, the production company behind Marion & Geoff, Sensitive Skin and Gavin & Stacey. Emma Fryer plays Gaynor, a 29-year-old who left her parents’ home aged 17 to move to London and make her way in the world. After 12 years of trying and failing, she returns home to a bedroom, and a life, which seems preserved in aspic. How will she face up to the school friends she left behind?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from Tuesday, More 4 8.30pm
After a three-week break, the best satirical show on television returns to give US politicians and newscasters the lack of respect they deserve.

Later Live… with Jools Holland Tuesday, BBC2 10pm
A new series of the music show returns with its now-standard format of a half-hour live show on Tuesday, with an extended repeat on Fridays. Guests on the first show of te series include Muse, Gossip, Florence and the Machine, singer/songwriter Alela Diane and Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving jazz musician to have performed on Miles Davis’s A Kind of Blue album.

How a Choir Works Tuesday, BBC4 10pm
To complement his series of The Choir: Unsung Town on BBC2 immediately preceding this, Gareth Malone works with the BBC Singers to explore the different styles and techniques that make up the sound of a choir.

How Not to Live Your Life Tuesday, BBC3 10.30pm
Dan Clark’s sitcom about 20-something Don, the man with bizarre friends, a weird homelife and even stranger imagination returns for a second series. This week’s episode includes a visited to a 1980s-themed restaurant, and the rather disconcerting appearance in the credits of former Kajagoogoo star Limahl…

Scotland on Screen Thursday, BBC4 9pm
Alan Cumming heads a fascinating documentary about the portrayal of Scotland, its scenery and people, in film. A tour of memorable locations is interspersed with archive footage as well as interviews with some of the country’s finest acting, writing and directing talents, including Peter Mullen, David Hayman and Bill Forsyth.

Square Eyes 11-13 September

The One Show (Friday 7pm, BBC1)

The One Show extends to a regular hour-long episode from tonight, giving us more Christine for our licence fee.

The Tudors (Friday 9pm, BBC2/BBC HD)

Tonight’s episode of The Tudors is a bit like Blind Date, as Thomas Cromwell plays Cilla Black and tries to find Henry a bride from the pretty women of Europe. Only problem is, the fact that all Henry’s wives have a habit of dying, nobody wants to touch him with a jousting lance. And Henry is becoming increasingly bad tempered and shouty thanks to his old jousting wound. Just wait until Joss Stone turns up next week. No, really…

Derren Brown: the Events (Friday 9pm, C4)

Of course most of you will be aware of Derren Brown’s latest slice of audacity on Wednesday night as he apparently successfully predicted that evening’s lottery draw. As with everything Derren Brown does, there will be some rational explanation, and in the first of this new series, he will lift the lid on exactly how he did it. Brown is quite clearly a genius of mis-direction and psychology, and any new series from him is always cause for celebration.

ER (Saturday 7.25pm, C4)

We covered the end of the finest medical drama ever on its More 4 run, but it doesn’t harm to draw attention to the terrestrial broadcast of the feature-length finale to ER. There are some old faces popping in along the way for one last hurrah, but the underlying message to take away here is that life in the ER goes on. The documentary Previously on ER… precedes this episode at 6pm, also on Channel 4.

Casualty (Saturday 8.15pm, BBC1)

A new series of the perennial BBC drama sees Adam taking over as clinical lead, and on top of the usual hassles of the A&E, he has a gaggle of new trainee docs to look after. Ooh, it’s just like ER. The story concludes tomorrow in the midst of lots of action and serious looks to camera - will the trainees get through their baptism of fire in one piece?

Last Night of the Proms (Saturday 9.05pm, BBC1/BBC HD)

The usual rousing finale to the greatest celebration of classical music on the planet.

Last Chance to See (Sunday 8pm, BBC2)

Stephen Fry and his zoologist companion Mark Carwardine are in Africa on the trail of the white rhino this week in their quest to glimpse the world’s most threatened animals. There are said to only be four white rhino remaining in the world, which gives a chilling demonstration of just how great the spectre of extinction is here.

Waking the Dead (Sunday 9pm, BBC1)

A particularly gruesome Waking the Dead story this week with some quite shocking stuff, as Boyd and the team reopen a case of murder and rape after the rape victim attempts to kill herself 12 years after the fact. Cue the usual scenery chewing from Trevor Eve as Boyd badgers witnesses and suspects in equal measure and Grace tells him to calm down. It’s all part of the fun of what makes Waking the Dead so much fun - if such a tag can be attached such a dark show.

Spiral (Sunday 10pm, BBC4)

The return of the excellent French crime drama that is long overdue in receiving an airing over here. Prosecutor Francois Roban and Chief Inspector Laure Berthaud are teamed once again, this time investigating a crime that starts with the charred remains of a drug dealer. As with the first series, how far the crime links to the world of politics and law enforcement is all part of the fun of Spiral.

Turn off the TV: radio choices September 12-18

Saturday Play: The Conflict is Over Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
We seem to have had a spate of political dramatic reconstructions on Radio 4 recently. The trend continues with this piece by Michael Eaton, exploring the events around the creation of the Downing Street Declaration of 1993, which helped bring an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and paved the way for political reconciliation. Michael Maloney plays John Major, with Dermot Crowley as Irish premier Albert Reynolds and Matthew marsh as Bill Clinton.

Last Night of the Proms Radio 3, Saturday 7.30pm
Proms in the Park Radio 2, Saturday 7.30pm
The BBC’s season of live music draws to its traditional close with a programme in the Albert Hall that reflects the eclecticism of the Proms as a whole. Luminaries including Sir David Attenborough will play musical instruments inspired by Gerard Hoffnung’s cartoons, while the more traditional numbers include works by Purcell, Mahler and Gershwin. A series of Fireworks Fanfares by winners of the BBC Proms Inspire composition competition will also get their premiere.

Across the road in Hyde Park, Sir Terry Wogan hosts a lighter festival of music, with appearances from Katherine Jenkins and Barry Manilow, among others, before joining the celebrations inside for the traditional closing performances. Similar Proms in the Park events in Manchester, Swansea, Glasgow and Hillsborough will be available on the BBC red button.

Archive on 4: Agatha Christie’s Life in Her Words Radio 4, Saturday 8pm
Previously unbroadcast recordings of Christie, found by her grandson, shed new light on her working methods, the origins of her most popular detectives and the way they have been dramatised. Crime write Val McDermid hosts a panel to discuss the tapes, with input from dramatists Kevin Elyot and Michael Blakewell, biographer Laura Thompson and archivist John Curran.

Elaine Paige on Sunday Radio 2, Sunday 1pm
This week’s guest is composer Mavin Hamlisch.

Thank You for the Music: a Celebration of the Music of Abba Radio 2, Sunday 6.30pm
Back to Hyde Park for a fantastic live concert showcasing the songwriting talents of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Performers including Chaka Khan, Kylie Minogue, The Feeling, Sharleen Spiteri and the West End cast of Mamma Mia!. For an interview with Andersson, see this week’s print issue of The Stage.

You’re Entering the Twilight Zone Radio 4, Tuesday 11.30am
Rod Serling’s fantasy anthology series The Twilight Zone, which celebrates its fiftieh anniversary this year, remains one of the most iconic TV programmes of all time. Alan Dein explores Serling’s life.

Titter Ye Not: The Frankie Howerd Story Radio 2, Tuesday 10.30pm
Clive Anderson hosts a new hour-long documentary about the much-loved Frankie Howerd.

Chain Reaction Radio 4, Wednesday 6.30pm
Last week’s subject, Frank Skinner, picks the brilliant Eddie Izzard as his interviewee.

Back to Whitechapel

I was very pleased to hear the news that ITV1 has recommissioned crime drama Whitechapel for a second run of three episodes, which will commence pre-production later in the autumn. The first run, starring ex-Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davies and Steve Pemberton in a Jack the Ripper inspired tale, was well received and lots fun (despite the subject matter). Most crucially for ITV, it was a big ratings success on transmission in February, so for a commercial broadcaster it seems like a no-brainer to go for another run.

But it does seem to have taken a bizarrely long time to greenlight another series. Of course, we’re not party to the processes behind the scenes in what decisions needed to be made - cast availability, budget and the rest, but six months does seem rather a long time to issue a confirmation.

Is this perhaps an indication of the caution that prevails behind closed doors at ITV in these days of financial uncertainty, when a ratings hit isn’t an automatic shoo-in for a recommission? Has advertising revenue fallen off so steeply that a show that pulled in 7.6 Million for its final episode can’t be guaranteed of securing top dollar ads?

A quick roll of the eyes...

Just a quick posting today to allow me a few seconds to roll my eyes at a couple of stories from within the world of telly…

I see the BBC Trust is to launch a further review into the so-called Sachsgate/Manuelgate incident almost a year after the brouhaha first kicked off. Of course we all know what happened - Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross phoned up Andrew Sachs, left some inappropriate messages that everybody generally agrees weren’t very nice, knuckles were rapped, wings were clipped and resignations made. The result is a BBC too scared to say boo to a goose and be even a little bit edgy, and the corporation is still insisting on keeping this now-tedious story in the public image.

Farewell to a Radio Legend

Veering away today for a touch of Turn off the TV, most of you will no doubt be aware that yesterday marked the day that legendary broadcaster Terry Wogan announced his departure as host of the Radio 2 breakfast show. This is clearly a big moment at the heart of British broadcasting, with Sir Terry pulling in ratings that the majority of TV shows would kill for.

It was clearly an emotionally charged moment for Wogan as he told his millions (around 8 of them) of fans of his decision to depart the slot he has held for 16 years. And then, as the story hit the press, there was much gnashing of teeth as Wogan’s successor was announced as former enfant terrible Chris Evans, who has been doing a sterling job as the host of Radio 2’s drivetime slot for a couple of years now.

Terry is a radio genius without peer. Cheeky and charming, there remains a quiet irreverence about Wogan’s breakfast show that is unique. As a knight of the realm, he is truly a national treasure and is going to be sadly missed. But there will be plenty of time for the heartfelt tributes to the great man when he steps away from the show at the end of the year.

But what of his successor?

Square Eyes, September 7-10

Land Girls BBC1, Monday-Friday 5.15pm (repeated on BBC HD at 7.15pm)
As we highlighted recently, this latest drama commission from BBC Daytime finally puts drama back in the pre-News at 6 slot for the first time since BBC1 lost Neighbours to Five. Summer Strallen, Jo Woodcock, Becci Gemmell and Christine Bottomley are four young recruits to the Woman’s Land Army, sent to keep the farms producing food while the men go to war. With a cast that also includes Nathaniel Parker and Mark Benton, it’s solid family fare that kicks off the BBC’s season of programmes marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.

Blue Murder
ITV1, Monday 9pm
If it’s a returning ITV1 drama, then it must be a cops’n’crime show… Caroline Quentin returns with her what-supposedly-passes-for-gruff-Northerner accent as DI Janine Lewis, assisted by Ian Kelsey as she juggles solving murder cases with a hectic home life.

The Choir: Unsung Town
BBC2, Tuesday 9pm
In this week’s instalment, Gareth Malone takes the South Oxhey Community Choir to their first off-estate performance at the nearby Watford Colosseum. And as if managing one of the country’s largest choirs wasn’t enough of a challenge, he tries to get a children’s choir going too. One of the most uplifting hours of telly this week.

Warehouse 13
Sci-Fi, Tuesday 9pm
The latest US SF import kicks off with a feature-length first episode introducing the eponymous top secret building and the bizarre collection of alien artefacts it houses. Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly are the Secret Service agents assigned to retrieve missing artefacts and locate new ones. Played as much for laughs as for thrills, the combination promises to make for a watchable series.

The Big Food Fight
Channel 4, Tuesday 10pm
Hopefully recovered from her culinary time travelling experiences in The Supersizers Eat…, Sue Perkins hosts a food-related quiz. Team captains Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal are joined this week by actors Ben Miller and Patsy Kensit Healy.

No Holds Bard
BBC4, Tuesday 10pm
A spoof documentary following five people who are each taking part in a Robert Burns poetry recital competition. Ashley Jensen, Denis Lawon and Bill Paterson star in a comedy that went down a storm when first shown on BBC Scotland earlier this year.

The Last Days of Lehman Brothers
BBC2, Wednesday 9pm
A skilful dramatic replay of the events of last year, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank resulted in the biggest bankruptcy in history and a global panic. James Bolam, Ben Daniels and James Cromwell lead an impressive cast.

Derren Brown: The Event Live
Channel 4, Wednesday 10.35pm
A 10-minute prelude to the series of live illusions that start on Friday, followed by a repeat showing of Derren Brown: The Gathering.

The Crow Road
BBC4, Wednesday 10pm
Another chance to see of the BBC’s best adaptations of a contemporary novel with this repeat showing of 1996’s adaptation (by Bryan Elsley, who would go on to create Skins) of Iain Banks’ novel.

Watchdog
BBC1, Thursday 8pm
Anne Robinson returns to the helm of the BBC’s consumer affairs show, now extended to an hour and with a studio audience. Well, it’s cheaper than spending money on high quality drama…

Square Eyes 4-6 September

How I Met Your Mother (Friday 7.30pm, E4)

After being bunged in dreadful slots on BBC2 for a while, E4 has bought this cruelly underrated US sitcom and tonight begins running it from the top. The show follows the exploits of Ted and his attempts to find a soulmate in New York City, with the usual array of close friends along for the ride. It’s a good show, more Coupling then Friends (as Scott so rightly says), told from the perspective of Ted in 20 years time telling the kids how he met their mother (you see?). Worth it for Neil Patrick Harris, banishing the spirit of Doogie Houser in every scene he’s in.

EastEnders (Friday 8.00pm, BBC1)

Somebody’s coming back to Walford - and Bianca isn’t happy going by the slapped-bottom look on her face.

The Tudors (Friday 9pm, BBC2/BBC HD)

Poor old Henry! His Madge seems to be genuinely cut up about the death of third wife Jane Seymour - perhaps he’s just upset that there’ll be no more reruns of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. So he goes off and shuts himself away to have a bit of a whinge for a bit, leaving Cromwell coping with a string of mysterious deaths. And of course, Sir Francis Bryan will no doubt pop in to completely destroy any scene by acting like he’s in an episode of Rentaghost.

True Blood (Friday 10pm, FX)

The other great US drama doing the rounds on British TV at the moment. Bill turns out not to be as crisped as Sookie first thought, and then he does a very bad thing to her. Is it all over for love’s young dream?

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (Friday, 10.35pm, BBC1)

Jonathan Ross ‘interviewing’ Ricky Gervais and Jamie Oliver, with Mika providing music on the first edition of the new series? Please, just shoot me now!

The X Factor (Saturday 7.35pm, ITV1)

Yeah, whatever. Over it.

The Beatles: on Record (Saturday 8.35pm, BBC2)

I’ve heard of these Beatles guys, they’re supposed to be good, aren’t they? As the remastered editions of the Fab Four’s back catalogue hit the streets next week, the BBC goes Beatles mad with a week’s worth of programmes across BBC2 and BBC4. This documentary attempts to open the lid on the evolution of the world’s greatest beat combo from the first single, to the last album. It’s told through behind the scenes pictures and interview material with John, Paul, George and the drummer, along with their feted producer, Sir George Martin. Following this at 9.35pm is The Beatles: the First US Visit, and then the film Help! at 10.45pm. Just brilliant!

Last Chance to See (Sunday 8pm, BBC2)

Stephen Fry follows in the footsteps of his late, very great friend Douglas Adams, whose book (and radio series) had the novelist travelling the world in search of endangered species. Fry is accompanied on his adventure by zoologist Mark Carwardine, who was Adams’s collaborator on the original project. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Agatha Christie’s Marple (Sunday 8pm, ITV1/ITV HD)

I still object to the titling of this take on Agatha Christie’s other most famous sleuth (it’s all about the brand), but this is a very welcome return for Miss Marple, and a new one at that. Julia McKenzie steps into the shoes vacated by Geraldine McEwan and a very fine job she does too in this adaptation of A Pocket Full of Rye. On guest star duties are Matthew Macfadyen, Kenneth Cranham, Helen Baxendale and a final appearance from the late Wendy Richard.

Waking the Dead (Sunday 9pm, BBC1)

Sharon Maughan (aka Mrs Trevor Eve) guest stars in this series opener of the still wonderfully bonkers Waking the Dead. She plays a woman who is found running naked through woodland, with no memory of who she is or what happened to her. But when her DNA matches that taken from crime scene in the 1960s, Boyd finds his current cold case might just be a hot current one.

Harper’s Island (Sunday 9pm, BBC3/BBC HD)

A much-hyped (but already cancelled) drama from the States, set around a wedding on an island near Seattle. There’s a healthy dose of teen slasher in the mix here as the young and beautiful guests start to get bumped off one by one. And there’s 13 episodes of killings to get through.

How I Met Your Mother is SO not "Friends without boring Ross"

If you’ve watched any of Channel 4’s stable of channels recently, chances are you may have come across a trailer announcing digital channel E4’s “brand spanking new” sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.

So new, indeed, that it first appeared in the UK on BBC2, erm, three years ago. Still, E4 will be running episodes each weekday at 7.30pm Monday to Friday. Quite why they’ve chosen to start the run on a Friday is something that Angela Jain, E4’s controller, will understand more than I do. But the daily stripping should mean that we fair race through episodes of the comedy that is already on to a fifth season in the US.

One quibble I have, though, is the trailer itself (which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t exist in any online form I can link to). In essence, it draws comparisons between each of the five characters of HIMYM and five of the six regulars in that other classic New York-based twentysomething sitcom, Friends — and concludes that the channel’s latest acquisition is just “New episodes of Friends without boring bloody Ross”.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, September 5-11

The Lost Noggins
Radio 7, Saturday 9am (repeated 7pm)
First broadcast in 2002, this documentary centres on the quest to make new episodes of The Saga of Noggin the Nog, the classic Norse-style mythological animation series from the Smallfilms duo of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate (who died last year). Animator Nick Park also contributes.

Saturday Play: Phone
Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
When pizza delivery boy Eliot (Freddy White) looks after his drug-dealing friend’s mobile phone, he finds himself thrust into an underworld life which leads him to an old flame, a new girlfriend and eventually to Spain. What he doesn’t know is the phone has been bugged by the police. Jemima Rooper and Jimmy Akingbola also star.

Drama on 3: The Adding Machine
Radio 3, Saturday 9.15pm
Generally considered to be the first American Expressionist play, Elmer Rice’s 1923 work focuses on accountant Mr. Zero, who has worked at a large, faceless company for 25 years but discovers he is due to be replaced by an adding machine.

Classic Serial: Boswell’s Life of Johnson
Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Johnson, Robin Brooks dramatises Boswell’s classic biography, with Paul Higgins as Boswell and Kenneth Cranham as Johnson. Part of Radio 4’s ongoing A to Z of Dr Johnson season.

Chris Moyles
Radio 1, Monday 6.30am
A sad day for lovers of music radio, as Chris Moyles becomes the longest serving Radio 1 breakfast show DJ of all time.

Woman’s Hour Drama: Au Pairs
Radio 4, Monday-Friday 10.45am & 7.45pm
Ana Maxwell Martin and Sharon Gavin play two au pairs who bond after meeting every day at a drop-in mother-and-child centre. Irish Alvy (Gavin) steers Hungarian Dorika (Martin) off the rails — but it is Dorika’s illegal immigrant brother, hiding out in her employers’ shed, who causes major disruption. By David and Caroline Stafford.

Graham Norton
Radio 2, Monday-Friday 2pm
Accusations that Radio 2 has been too busy courting TV names for its DJ slots are unlikely to be assuaged by Norton’s week-long run as a stand-in for Steve Wright.

Afternoon Play: Best Friends
Radio 4, Monday 2.15pm
A cheery tale by Clara Glynn about baby murder. Just what you need at the start of the week. Shonagh Price plays Sam, who is determined to correct what she sees as a massive miscarriage of justice when her best friend Charlotte is arrested for the suspected murder of her baby daughter. Setting up a PR campaign, she organises a second forensic report which she hopes will clear her friend’s name — but when the report removes any doubt that the baby was smothered, what should Sam do next?

Twenty Minutes: Sherlock Holmes
Radio 3, Monday 7.55pm
As part of Radio 3’s Proms interval discussions, Matthew Sweet looks at why a certain pipe-smoking fictional Victorian detective has remained in the public affections over 120 years after he first appeared in print. Joining in the discussion are AN Wilson, author of The Victorians, and new Doctor Who producer Steven Moffat, co-creator (with Mark Gatiss) of a new modern-day TV adaptation of Sherlock Holmes due for broadcast next year.

Afternoon Play: Meryl the Mounted
Radio 4, Tuesday 2.15pm
Meryl (Rosalin Sydney) is a mounted policewoman who is a little too attached to her horse. Aidan (Scott Fletcher) is a stable boy who is a little too enamoured of Meryl. When their sergeant is murdered, what are the pair to do but investigate the crime? A black comedy by Colin Hough.

Mercury Prize 2009 Live
BBC 6music, Tuesday 9pm
Steve Lamacq introduces coverage from the Grosvenor House Hotel of this year’s Mercury Prize, including live performances and discussions about the relative merits of this year’s nominees and the eventual winner.

Chain Reaction
Radio 4, Wednesday 6.30pm
Last week’s interviewee Dave Gorman becomes the host, interviewing stand up comedian Frank Skinner.

Ena
Radio 4, Thursday 11.30am
The title of this biographical documentary betrays how one role can overshadow an actor’s entire career. Violet Carson became a household name playing the hairnet-clad battleaxe Ena Sharples, who dominated Coronation Street from its first episodes. Prior to that, she had been an established BBC radio star, a classical pianist and Shakespearean actress. The programme includes contributions from Corrie creator Tony Warren, as well as archive recording of Carson reflecting on the mixed blessing that Ena became in her life.

Afternoon Play: The Second Best Bed
Radio 4, Friday 2.15pm
Caroline Quentin delivers a comic monologue, written by Christopher Green, about a 39-year-old woman who moves into the dingy spare room, and decides to stay there — especially when her hsuband doesn’t even notice that she’s gone.

Desmond Carrington - After Seven
Radio 2, Friday 7pm
A new series in which Radio 2’s veteran broadcaster reviews the careers of light entertainers who rewrote the rule book, starting with bus driver-turned-singer Matt Monro.

Friday Night Rediscovers the Planets
Radio 2, Friday 7.30pm
A couple of weeks ago I touched upon how light entertainment has been creeping into the Proms, with the glorious MGM concert and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. As a counterweight to that, Radio 2 gets slightly more classical with Charles Hazlewood conducting his orchestra, Excellent Device!, in a rendition of Gustv Holst’s The Planets. After each of the planet concertos has been played, an improvised electronic “response”, featuring samples from the material just played by the orchestra, will be performed by the All Star band, featuring Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Ardia Utley from Portishead.

It's All About the Brand...

Probably the biggest story in the entertainment world this week is the news that Disney has stumped up a big wedge of cash to buy Marvel Entertainment - a reported $4 billion worth of wedge. This would give the House of Mouse ownership of a wealth of superhero properties that have a heritage going back almost as far as Disney’s own stable of famous characters.

Of course, Disney and Marvel deal in movies at the top end of the scale, but Disney and Marvel’s interests in television are far reaching in themselves. Disney owns the ABC television network in America, the entire portfolio of The Disney Channel’s worldwide outlets, and an 80 percent stake in sports cable channel ESPN, not to mention interests in Jetix Europe. Disney was also the first company to offer downloads of TV show episodes via iTunes, so clearly television is a highly important element of the Disney strategy. While Marvel hasn’t been a player in the same league as Disney, Marvel brands have always played out on TV across Saturday morning cartoons and live-action TV shows - The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby was a staple of Friday nights in the YTV region.

The Duf Dufs Get a Spring Clean

For the first time since 1999 when the Millennium Dome was added into the familiar landscape, the EastEnders title sequence has had something of a refurbishment for the HD age. And for anybody with memories of Simon May’s jazzed-up version of his own iconic theme in 1994, you can rest safe in the knowledge that they haven’t really monkeyed around with the music this time.

Of course, change is something that we routinely greet with suspicion - or if you’re on a fan forum, there’s often a great deal of outrage and cries of “How dare they!”. As an audience, we feel a kind of misguided ownership of certain properties, and if it isn’t something that clicks with us, we’ll say so.

A Quick Interlude...

As we all mull over the events from Edinburgh this weekend - alarmingly, I find myself agreeing with a smidgen of what James Murdoch had to say (a very tiny smidgen) - here’s something to raise a smile after the Bank Holiday. It’s not entirely TV related, but it does relate to a couple of our biggest telly names…

There but for the grace of God goes anybody who works with words for a living at any level, but it certainly raised a chuckle here at TV Today towers. Not quite the raucous guffaws that Sir Francis Bryan is still providing in The Tudors, but it was still a good chuckle

Our normal, measured and intelligent service will be resumed tomorrow…

Square Eyes, September 1-3

The Choir: Unsung Town
BBC2, Tuesday 9pm
I don’t know how Gareth Malone does it, but he seems to get younger with each series. After The Choir and The Choir: Boys Don’t Sing, Malone (who now looks about twelve) takes on the whole of South Oxhey, a town-sized estate outside Watford, in an attempt to turn the residents into a fully-fledged professional choir. So far, so The Singing Estate, which ran on Five a couple of years ago — but Malone’s enthusiasm makes this three-part series unmissable.

The Fixer
ITV1, Tuesday 9pm
The words “ITV1 primetime drama” and “second series” rarely fit into the same sentence these days — but Kudos’ tale of a mercenary in the employ of a top-secret government agency got the recommissioning green light after an entertaining first series.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Channel 4, Tuesday 10.35pm
Following five housewives from the same region sounds like it could be a cross between Wife Swap and The Family. And it is — but in the state that was the home of the Sopranos, “family” has more than one meaning. This series has been going down a storm in the US, and looks like it could be the must-watch reality event of the next few weeks.

EastEnders
BBC1, Thursday 7.30pm
There’s a much-trumpeted return on its way on Friday - you can hardly have missed the trailer in recent weeks. On the principle of “one out, one in”, another character makes a dramatic exit this week, as Lucas and Trina have a dramatic confrontation in, er, Charlie’s allotment shed. The unlikely location leads to one of the least-likely exits in soap history.

Justin Lee Collins: Ballroom Dancer
Sky 1, Thursday 10pm
In this week’s ‘in at the deep end’ task, in which he has to take on the role of a professional ballroom dancer, JLC does have a (tiny) spot of previous. Way back in the first series of Strictly Come Dancing, he hosted the accompanying magazine show on BBC3, the imaginatively titled Strictly Come Dancing on Three — and his samba with Paul Killick remains a comedy highlight. As we recently reported, Justin recently signed a two-year exclusive deal with Five — let’s hope he’ll continue to make shows as entertaining as this.

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