The Secret Policeman’s Ball’s Greatest Hits

Tonight Channel 4 shows the 50th Anniversary Secret Policeman’s Ball, recorded at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The show features the likes of Russell Brand, Jimmy Carr, Noel Fielding, Micky Flanagan, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart and Jack Whitehall, but can it stand up to some the great ball’s of the past?

Here are a few clips from yester-balls to help you decide:


Rowan Atkinson gives a masterful performance by simply reading the register.



Natalie Imbruglia shows she’s a game gal when she encounters a mime.



Classic slapstick Monty Python.



Tim Minchin stands up for his race.



Peter Cook plays E.L. Wisty and bores the pants off John Cleese.



Russell Brand in typically reserved form.



Considered by many to be the Secret Policeman’s Ball’s greatest ever sketch (but unfathomable to anyone under 40), the judge sums up in the Jeremy Thorpe murder case.

Mountford and Hewer’s Countdown reunion: Who else should team back up?

With new Countdown host Nick Hewer set to shoot a week of shows next week with former Apprentice counterpart Margaret Mountford in dictionary corner, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back at some of TV’s most popular double acts and see if there’s any chance of them getting back together for one last job.

Newman & Baddiel

Who? – 1990’s ‘Comedy is the new rock n roll’ arena filling pairing. Started on the Mary Whitehouse Experience, ended up arguing about dressing room size.

Chances of a reunion? – Apparently they still don’t get on, so not great.

Fry & Laurie

Who? – Cambridge educated brain box pairing who made several critically successful series in the 80’s and 90’s. Since gone onto become (respectively) the Greatest Living Englishman and a massive worldwide TV star in a show hardly watched in the UK.

Chances of a reunion? – They’re still best mates (Fry is godfather to Laurie’s kids) so you never know.

Adrian Chiles & Christine Bleakley

Who? – ITV’s one-time breakfast golden couple were poached form the Beeb in a mind-bogglingly expensive deal only to find themselves kicked off their flagship show after only a few months of bad ratings. Not been seen together in public since.

Chances of a reunion? – Do they need it? Chiles is doing his footie and chat show, Bleakley is presenting Dancing On Ice with serial co-presenter Pip Schofield. Can’t see them teaming up again soon.

French & Saunders

Who? – Comic Strip alumni who have had innumerable sketch show and sitcom successes.

Chances of a reunion? – Virtually guaranteed, just wait until next Xmas.

Reeves & Mortimer

Who? – Surrealist mirth mongers recently dropped by the BBC for still unexplained reasons.

Chances of a reunion? – Vic and Bob are the best of friends and neither has flourished in solo projects. Expect more daftness from them soon.

Noel Fielding & Julian Barratt

Who? – Mighty Boosh team who haven’t worked together since the last series ended 5 years ago.

Chances of a reunion? – Fielding’s recent Luxury Comedy show sunk during its first episode and Barratt has only taken a few acting roles of late. Might be high time for them to get back to booshing.

Steptoe and Son

Who? – Odd couple father and son rag-and-bone men who both died many years ago.

Chances of a reunion? – Slim at best.


W****r wins Countdown conundrum

A Countdown contestant prompted guffaws among Countdown’s mostly elderly crowd when he used the word “w***er” to win a round. IT consultant Mark Murphy left new host Nick Hewer red-faced when he submitted the slang word for someone who masturbates after being presented with the letters R,A,E,P,K,W,A, E, N.

Nick quickly asked competitor Nick Evans for his word – Weakener – which was then rejected because he had mistakenly used an extra E. So Hewer turned to dictionary corner and quipped: “Where does Mark stand on this?”, prompting words expert Susie Dent to reply: “He stands absolutely fine, it’s in the dictionary.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson said they tried not to cause any offense in the afternoon slot by bleeping out the profanity and not having Rachel Riley present it after the round as is normally done.

They said: A Channel 4 spokesman said: “The word was bleeped out and not shown on the board to ensure the programme is suitable for its daytime audience.”

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition of the word as: “British vulgar slang. A contemptible person (used as a generalised term of abuse).”

It is not the first time the word has been submitted as an answer on the show. Two contestants both submitted “w***ers” as their answer in a 1981 episode, while it featured again in 2008.

In 2003, dictionary corner guest also offered it as an alternative to the answers given by contestants.

She joked: “I wouldn’t have thought it was in the dictionary but it is in there and we all know what it means so I think we better move on.”

In November 2010, Channel 4 ordered a round to be filmed again after a contestant tried to submit the word “s**tface”. And in December 2010 a contestant submitted ‘Large Baps’ – see here.

Ricky Gervais to sign Channel 4 deal after Life’s Too Short ratings flop

The 50-year-old comic has filmed a pilot for a new sitcom for the network and is said to be “very pleased” with the show, which has a working title of Derek.Ricky Gervais is set to sign a deal with Channel 4. 

Channel 4 chief Jay hunt is reportedly “thrilled” with the show, which is set in an old people’s home and features Ricky as elderly and confused resident Derek Noakes. The show features the comic’s sidekick Karl Pilkington in his debut acting role and is expected to feature a series of guest stars, including the likes of Sir Sean Connery.

The proposed move to Channel 4 comes after Ricky’s last series, Life’s Too Short – which starred Warwick Davies – was a ratings flop for the BBC in comparison to the funnyman’s previous shows The Office and Extras.

A source told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “There have been many meetings in a bid to discover why it missed the mark. No one really knows. Some you win, some you lose.”

Despite recording the pilot, Channel 4 executives insist they have not yet commissioned Derek for a full series.

A spokesperson said: “This is a continuation of our relationship with Ricky Gervais.”

Skins series 6 promises ‘high drama’

Skins: Series 6 promises high drama

The sixth series of Skins will feature “moral ambiguity, high drama and comedy.”

The E4 teen drama – which begins filming today (21.07.11) – will be written by a team of young British writers and teen contributors including Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless), Jack Lothian (Ashes to Ashes), Skins novelist Jess Brittain and new young writer Laura Hunter.

Camilla Campbell, Channel 4 Head of Drama, said: “I am delighted that the sixth series of Skins is now underway. Having set up this new set of characters in the previous series, we can now go into more depth as to where their stories take us.

“With moral ambiguity, high drama, as well as a strong dose of comedy, Skins six will not disappoint.”

John Griffin, executive producer, added: “We’re hugely excited about the fantastic mix of writers we have for Skins this year, some of whom are first time screen writers.

“They’ve spent the past few months developing exciting and challenging stories for our characters and as filming gets underway we’re all very excited to see them realised onto to the screen.”

Directors for the series include Jack Clough and Oscar-nominated Ian Barns, while Skins is being produced by Toby Welsh and Neil Duncan with Charlie Pattinson, George Faber and Bryan Elsley joining John as executive producers.

Skins will air on E4 in early 2012.

Chat show hosts Alan Carr and Graham Norton bag new £4 million contracts

Chat show kings Alan Carr and Graham Norton have been handed new £4 million deals. The stars, who currently go head to head on Friday nights with their Alan Carr: Chatty Man and The Graham Norton Show programmes on Channel 4 and BBC One respectively, have signed new two-year contracts.

Alan, who has agreed to front a further four series of his programme, is said to have impressed Channel 4 bosses with his ability to attract high-profile names like Jennifer Lopez to his show. An insider explained:

“We took a risk and it’s paid off. People love coming on his show and we get top-flight guests. We’ve tied him down for two more years to stop anyone else getting him.”

Meanwhile, Graham, who has been a main feature of the BBC One line-up since 2005 when he moved to the broadcaster from Channel 5, is in the process of finalising a new deal, which will see him front 34 editions of The Graham Norton Show each year.

A BBC insider told The Sun newspaper: “Graham’s been having a blast and he can’t see himself going anywhere else.”

The Comic Strip returns to TV with original stars

With lashings of ginger beer no doubt, The Comic Strip is set to return to our screens.

The classic series – which helped launch the careers of Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith Allen, Alexei Sayle and Adrian Edmondson – has been re-commissioned by Channel 4 for a one-off special.

The special will see former Prime Minister Tony Blair on the run after committing a murder.  A source said: “Tony Blair vows to clear his name no matter what.”

Original stars Jennifer Saunders, Nigel Planer, Robbie Coltrane, and Rik Mayall will appear alongside newcomers James Buckley, John Sessions, Ross Noble, Catherine Shepherd, Ford Kiernan and Morgana Robinson.

Channel 4 comedy boss Shane Allen told The Sun newspaper: “It’s an irresistibly hilarious script from the Godfathers of modern comedy. There are so many juicy parts for the big comedy hitters of the Comic Strip team alongside newer talents.”

The Comic Strip was first devised by Peter Richardson in 1982 to showcase emerging talents, before going off the air in 1993.

The show then returned for three specials in 1998, 20000 and 2005.

You can see the first ever Comic Strip, the Enid Blyton spoof, Five Go Mad in Dorset, below:

The Comic Strip Presents… Five Go Mad In… by deathbyplastic


Will Hollyoaks’ Father Francis succumb to temptation from nun Carmel

Richard Winsor: Hollyoaks’ Father Francis

Richard Winsor is unsure whether the potential romance between his Hollyoaks’ character Father Francis and Carmel Valentine will “explode”.

The actor is looking forward to exploring his alter ego’s conflict with his faith and attraction to the budding nun, played by Gemma Merna, but has no idea whether producers are planning for the pair to get together or respect the constraints of their religion.

He  said:  “Basically they’re tempting each other, more and more and more, there’s a lot of sexual tension which could just suddenly erupt. So we don’t know if they’re going so leave that place behind and just suddenly jump on each other, or just hold onto it. I can’t really let too much go!

“It’s quite a nice, budding, ‘Will-they-won’t-they?’ kind of relationship – obviously they have constraints so they can’t just jump in despite their attraction so they’re just working through that.”

To add to the pair’s problems, Father Francis also becomes a target for manipulative man-eater Cindy Longford (Stephanie Waring) and Richard thinks Carmel would be heartbroken if the priest went on to fall for someone else.

He added: “I think Father Francis would break Carmel’s heart if he suddenly just upped off and got interested in someone else – so we’ll just have to see! Though I think Cindy has a bit of a crush on him, regardless of whether anything will happen!”

Pregnant Winkleman panicked by penguin

Claudia Winkleman: panicked by penguin

Claudia Winkleman was chased by a penguin on the set of her new TV show. The pregnant TV host was shooting her new programme ‘King Of’ and arranged to have the aquatic bird come in the studio as she discussed with guests what was the King Of Jobs, which included a bird carer at a zoo.

However, the penguin decided to waddle into the studio audience and set off after Claudia, which resulted in filming being delayed.

A Channel 4 source told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “The penguin held up filming for ages. It was funny at first when it waddled on to the stage but then it started going into the audience and chasing Claudia around the studio.

“She is almost ready to give birth so she was scared to run too much but she didn’t want to step on the bird either. It was chaos for a while but everyone in the audience thought it was hilarious.”

Claudia – who is expecting her third child this summer – added: “I can’t believe how much we overran but it was partly the bird’s fault. I didn’t know what to do for a while. It was madness.”

King Of starts this Friday (17.06.11) on Channel 4 at 9.30pm.

Channel 4 has recomissioned ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’

Channel 4 has recomissioned ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’.

The station were thrilled with the response to the first series of the programme – which averaged 9.1 million viewers over five episodes – and Firecracker Films executives have already begun meeting members of travelling communities ahead of filming the six-episode series, which will air early in 2012.

Jes Wilkins, the show’s executive producer, said: “We are excited about the creative challenge of how to follow up such a successful series.

“We are extremely grateful to all the gypsies and travellers who have opened up their lives to us over the last two years and we look forward to cultivating more relationships going forward.”

The new series will explore similar rituals to the first – including lavish weddings and confirmation ceremonies – while also exploring life on the road, health, family, prejudice, cultural differences and relationships in different travelling communities, as well as work and finance issues.

Tina Flintoff, Channel 4 factual entertainment commissioning editor said:”‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ was a phenomenon.

“It would have been very easy for us to just commission more of the same but we wanted to enhance the series by adding more journalism and offering an even deeper insight into the gypsy and traveller way of life without losing what makes the show accessible – the weddings, christenings and spectacular celebrations.”

As well as introducing new families, the second series will also feature popular stars of the first series, including some of the brides, Irish traveller Paddy Doherty and dressmaker Thelma Madine.