This BBC Radio 4 series examines “famous pieces of music and their emotional appeal” and it makes for a compelling listen. Highlights include the healing power of the late Amy Winehouse’s music and memories of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008mj7p/episodes/player
Critic Steven Hyden delves into the world of rock – bagging big-name interviews with the likes of Robert Plant and Courtney Barnett, taking deep dives into albums, and chatting with writers. Storytelling shines on the multi-part series dedicated to Bruce Springsteen. 93x.com/celebration-rock
In this popular US podcast, musicians deconstruct their songs and grant audiences a peek inside their creative process. Interviews are edited into first-person testimonies, creating a warm and inviting experience. Artists detail the inspiration behind lyrics and reasons why certain techniques were used. songexploder.net
Adele, The xx and Sting are some of the British acts who have played acoustic gigs at the US radio station’s Washington DC office. Musicians typically play three-song sets and very often reinterpret and extend songs, including in a glorious episode featuring Roy Ayers. npr.org/podcasts/510306/tiny-desk-concerts-audio
Hip Hop Saved My Life With Romesh Ranganathan
Billed as a “comedy podcast about hip-hop”, the stand-up and presenter invites guests to indulge their passion for the culture, share gig memories and play their favourite tracks. Guests have included Mark Ronson and Mo Gilligan. romeshranganathan.co.uk/podcast
An early reader of Robert Harris’s new novel was quick to complain about historical inaccuracies. “They got to about page 30 and emailed the publisher to say it was a ridiculous book because there was no tobacco available in 15th-century England,” Harris tells me, laughing. I laugh along, albeit awkwardly, as I was confused at first too.
According to the jacket copy, The Second Sleep is set in 1468 – yet Christopher Fairfax, the young priest who travels to a West Country village to investigate the death of a colleague, refers several times to plastic.
It seems unlikely that “the master of the intelligent thriller”, as Harris has been hailed, would make rudimentary errors. So what is going on?
The setting, it transpires, is a dystopian future dating from the apocalypse of 2025 AD. England has been reduced to a pre-industrial theocracy where the food is disgusting and you can be executed for heresy. Rumours abound of “ancients” who “with all their comforts had been able to exist without faith” and communicated “using their strange devices with the symbol of the bitten apple”. How did the idea come about? “When the Romans pulled out of Ancient Britain in the first century, the infrastructure decayed and the civilisation vanished,” says Harris. “Then it began to be rediscovered. I wanted to tell the story of antiquarians who appear to be living in the past, but it turns out the ruined civilisation they’re discovering is ours.”
It is an ingenious premise executed smartly, with Fairfax uncovering the village’s sinister mysteries and making discoveries about the fate of the ancients that lead him to question his faith.
“Generally, when I start writing, I have a plan,” says Harris. “But this time I simply had the image of a man on horseback riding to a remote village. The story assembled itself as I wrote. It’s my most purely imaginative novel. The style is a sort of mash-up of 18th-century, Thomas Hardy homage and English pastoral. Once again, power is my subject, because I’m writing about a world where religious fundamentalism is returned to this country, as I think it would be if our technological society collapsed.”
Nearly 30 years ago, writing his first novel, Fatherland (1992), was a revelatory experience for Harris: “I was astonished by the extraordinary possibility of fiction,” says the 62-year-old. “I lay down after writing the first page and thought: ‘My god, I can invent anything.’”
Its success meant Harris could give up working as a political journalist. Today, 12 best-selling novels on, “composition has become a drug to me”. But do current events make him wish he were back in the fray of his old job?
“They make me glad I’m no longer in it,” he says. “We’ve become extremely tribal. There’s a huge amount of chatter, but we no longer have debate where minds are changed. Once you get to that stage in a democracy, something has gone seriously wrong.”
The Second Sleep is chilling to read at a moment of climate crisis, political chaos and creeping authoritarianism. The ancient catastrophe that is investigated by Fairfax happens just six years from now. Are we at a desperate juncture?
“Our vulnerabilities, our dependence on the digital realm, are becoming obvious,” says Harris.
“If you want an historical analogy, I’d say the period before the First World War. You often have two generations of peace and relative prosperity before a revolutionary period. I’m both pessimistic, because I think things are going to get much more turbulent, and optimistic because I think we live through periods of cataclysm and come out the other side. All civilisations believe they’re the last word, but history shows that’s not the way it works.”
While the now paired-off celebrities exit for some dance lessons before the first of the live shows, BBC One keeps Strictly in the nation’s consciousness with this programme focusing on the professional dancers, looking back at their “journeys”, some of their best moments from the show and their “behind-the-scenes secrets” – albeit presumably not touching on the “curse of Strictly”.
Last Night Of The Proms
7.15pm, BBC Two and 9pm, BBC One
The traditionally jingoistic send-off to the greatest classical music festival on Earth was last year subverted by the EU flags being waved alongside the Union Jacks, and a really provocative programmer would this year have scheduled Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. Let’s see who turns their back now. Anyway, the first “serious” half of the bill sees a world premiere by Daniel Kidane, ballet music from Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, Laura Mvula performing “Sing to the Moon”, plus classics by Bizet, Saint-Saëns and Verdi. And then it’s full tilt into “Rule, Britannia!”, “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Jerusalem”.
Britain At Low Tide
8pm, Channel 4
Palaeobiologist Tori Herridge and experts return to trudge among more seaweed-encrusted rocks, starting with the north coast of Kent around the trendy town of Whitstable. They look at the excavation of one of the most significant shipwreck discoveries of recent times, the origins of a strange sandbar, and a forgotten military base in an unusual location that proved pivotal in deciding the outcome of the First World War. But will rising sea levels and coastal erosion mean that a great deal of precious artefacts may be lost before they can be documented?
Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions
This week’s visitors include DJ Arch Jr whose DJ skills saw him win South Africa’s Got Talent at the age of just three, up against old British favourites such as dancers Paddy and Nico, and Jack Carroll, runner up in 2013 and favourite to win this year’s competition.
An opening sequence explains why Stine, female accomplice of girl-abducting serial killer Andres Kjeldsen, doesn’t want to attend her brother’s birthday party – and when she does finally agree to come along, why her speech wipes the smiles off the faces of the other guests. The penultimate double bill of this Danish noir thriller also sees detectives Jan and Louise raiding Kjeldsen’s boat and discovering a dress belonging to his first victim. Time to issue his description to the general public?
The Jonathan Ross Show
The chat show returns to give ITV Saturday nights a familiar autumnal feel (minus, of course, The X Factor, but not Simon Cowell). Ross is joined tonight by Downton Abbey stars Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery, who discuss reviving the period drama for a new movie. Other guests include Stephen Fry, Craig David and Martin Freeman, while Charli XCX and Christine And The Queens perform together.
On a weekend that saw the Drake-produced return of Top Boy, courtesy of Netflix, the London underworld was also the focus of new drama Temple – in this case, literally.
Below the streets of London, grieving surgeon Daniel Milton (Mark Strong) has built an illegal clinic to treat those whose injuries render plonking yourself in A&E out of the question.
In the opening episode, going off the NHS grid involved helping himself to a few supplies from his old hospital, then making his excuses from the memorial service for his wife to remove the spleen from Jamie (Tobi King Bakare), a getaway driver shot in a bungled robbery.
He was helped in all this by Lee (Daniel Mays), a disgruntled Tube worker who had provided the premises (below the Temple station of the title) but can’t stand the sight of blood; and Anna (Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones), a colleague and ex-lover whose initial reaction spoke for us all: “This is crazy”.
It’s also blackly comic, gloriously Gothic and potentially very addictive. Much like the Norwegian original Valkyrien, which so impressed Strong that, Drake-style, he put on a producer’s hat to help create an English version. As in many a Hollywood blockbuster, his classy presence adds a real-world gravitas to the most outlandish scenario.
The opener (two more parts to come, or you can binge it on Now TV) ended with him weighing up the dilemma of whether to use the raid money for a few clinic extensions – and a plot twist which explained why he set it up in the first place. Well, sort of explained – this is one of those programmes where it’s best not to look too closely at the many absurdities of the premise.
But a top-notch cast play it straight. The script (by playwright Mark O’Rowe) is tight and pacy. And director Luke Snellin creates a suitably surreal atmosphere from the landscape of tunnels, staircases and side doors that Tube travellers glimpse out of the corners of their eyes every day.
Well worth a look if you like your medical drama full-on and a bit bonkers. A word of warnng, though – if you’re as squeamish as Lee, be prepared for frequent use of the fast-forward button.
Feel-good moments will be severely rationed at this year’s Mercury Music Prize ceremony. Angry punks, supremely articulate rappers and pop-stars-with-a-conscience instead promise to dominate the annual gong-giving.
From the top of its carefully-mussed hair to the tip of its trendy boots, the latest shortlist for best British or Irish album of the past 12 months rates as one of the most politically and socially engaged, and outraged, in the Mercury’s 27-year history.
Patriarchy-toppling rockers Idles share the podium with “voice of forgotten Britain” rapper slowthai and take-no-prisoners rhymer Little Simz. Streatham grime champ Dave brings us frontline reports of police violence against the black community. Foals ponder the irreversibility of global warming. Happy clappy singalongs are entirely absent.
Each of these artists is, in their own way, a light in the dark. Their music provides crucial illumination as we seek to negotiate the age of proroguing PMs, tweeting tyrants and climate change.
They also serve as a reminder that “political” no longer means wearing a t-shirt or sloganeering on stage (sorry, Bono). Simply by going out into the world with their songs, the artists who will gather at the Eventim Apollo for the Mercury speak to the suspicion that the gears and levers of our society are fundamentally misaligned.
When, for instance, slowthai’s Tyron Frampton calls the Queen something rude at the end of the title track of his nominated album Nothing Great About Britain, there is an understanding that he does so not out of a wish to provoke. He drops the “C” word because the time for shilly-shallying is over. As we wake to find ourselves in the fever dream-on-loop that is Boris Britain, there is no room left for tiptoeing and clearing our throats.
A similar progressive zeal runs through Ireland’s Fontaines D.C. and their album Dogrel. The record doesn’t explicitly address fears of a post-Brexit return of the Troubles, or the wave of gentrification threatening to turn Dublin into a damp San Francisco. But their debut nonetheless rattles with dread. It taps into the anxieties of renters priced out of the property market and of border communities wondering if the paras are returning.
They and their fellow nominees stand in contrast to the sounds the Mercury has traditionally championed. The 2018 winners Wolf Alice were archetypal indie introverts. Their songs came off like a Sylvia Plath poetry circle struggling to be heard over a Pixies tribute act.
They were worthy victors. Yet, as with the majority of the shortlist, their music is strikingly apolitical. Other 2018 contenders included Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino – a project that was essentially Alex Turner trying to fend off a midlife crisis by pretending to be David Bowie.
This year’s hopefuls are, by contrast, throwing open the shutters and rushing to meet the world head-on. Even the preening pop stars on the list seem to understand something has changed – that, as artists, it is their duty to stand up and be counted. Matty Healy of The 1975 is coming out swinging. His band’s third album, A Brief History of Online Relationships, muses on the horrors wrought by social media and smartphone addiction.
The 12 nominated acts convene in west London this Thursday for the fateful announcement. Pop and rock pale in significance against the political and environmental challenges facing the present generation. The unexpected side effect is that the Mercury matters more than ever.
The Mercury Prize will be broadcast live on Thursday on BBC4 from 9pm
It can be tough reporting from the art frontline. Following a recent – particularly fearless – expedition, I return with news that Maurizio Cattelan’s solid gold lavatory is fully functional, but that the seat is a touch chilly. The loo, titled America (2016), is currently installed in a convenience once frequented by Winston Churchill at Blenheim Palace.
A kindly man is stationed outside the lavatory – both to manage the queue (the 20 timeslots an hour are bookable in advance) – and to ensure the weighty throne remains respectably unbesmirched.
“Don’t worry, I don’t look after every visitor: it’s just because a gentleman was in ahead of you” he said, reassuringly, after giving me the all clear to step on up.
Cattelan has an unapologetically puerile sense of humour – the Italian artist founded a magazine called Toiletpaper – he is also irreverent, provocative and antiauthoritarian. In 1995, for the work Errotin, Le Vrai Lapin he made his French gallerist Emanuel Perrotin a pink rabbit costume that resembled a giant cartoon cock and balls which he was obliged to wear every day for the duration of Cattelan’s exhibition. In 1999 he stuck another gallerist (Massimo de Carlo) to the wall with duct tape for the two-hour private view.
Cattelan hits with heavy-handed symbolism
A Cattelan exhibition at Blenheim Palace was never going to be a polite love letter to the glories of the English stately home and the delights of a Capability Brown landscape. It is, however, a blisteringly good mix.
Seldom the most understated of artists, Blenheim finds Cattelan playing to his strengths: spectacle, scale, shock, subversion. Cattelan’s 18-karat khazi was installed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York during Donald Trump’s electoral campaign, and was subsequently offered by the museum as a loan following his inauguration (the White House declined the offer.)
Cattelan hits Blenheim – birthplace of Churchill – with similar heavy-handed symbolism. The Great Court is now crossed by a walkway lined in Union Flags. Red white and blue: like patriotic bunting, like Posh Spice’s mini dress, like a Burberry cape. Titled Victory is Not an Option (2019) it leaves visitors to the Palace little choice but to trample over the British flag to get there.
What price the prize, as we supposedly tread in Churchill’s footsteps? Boot marks, mud, dust, gravel: the whole expanse of it will be churned into a sorry mess by the end as we all trot unthinkingly along the pathways laid out for us. Gosh, thanks Maurizio.
Bad taste, national jokes, scandals, excess, aggro: Cattelan beats Blenheim at its own game
The Great Hall is similarly graced with a monument to vainglory: the broken arm of Joan of Arc, still clinging valiantly to her pole and banner, now barely kept aloft by sandbags. We’ll Never Die is taken from portions of Emmanuel Frémiet’s equestrian statue to the French national hero (burned at the stake by the English aged 19.) In Cattelan’s hands it becomes an anti-monument to the folly of nationalism, isolationism, exceptionalism and supposed indomitability. (I can’t think for the life of me what he might be getting at…)
The sculptures arranged around the interior of Blenheim are a little less direct, but step up quite brilliantly to an interior every centimetre of which seems dedicated to glorifying military victory, breeding, and inherited power. Glory Glory Hallelujah (2019) is three horse skulls (I’m guessing four looked too apocalyptic) clad in gold armour, mounted on the wall like trophies.
More equestrian trauma comes in Novecento (1997) a taxidermied horse in archaic saddlery, suspended from the ceiling. This, Cattelan has positioned in the Red Drawing Room, in which war horses rear in bronze and tapestry, representing the supposed majesty and nobility of victory on the battlefield. “Novecento” is the Italian term for the twentieth century, the grim conflicts of which seem more aptly expressed by Cattelan’s etiolated equine.
It is not only horses that are selectively bred around these parts: apparently they’ve been quite picky about who the humans get to mate with, too. Cattelan has inserted himself into the Churchill family tree in jarring and subversive ways. In the Green Drawing Room, a diminutive effigy of the artist is suspended by a chain from the back of his collar, between ancestral portraits in their gilded frames. On the desk, between pictures of gymkhana triumphs and posed moments of intimacy, he appears again, stripped to the waist making the heart symbol over his chest, the Italian lover as interloper.
Two little Cattelans of different ages share a diminutive bed in We (2010), placed disconcertingly in the centre of the grand Saloon, like a macabre child’s toy waiting to be tripped over. The smallest Cattelan of all is perched on a picture rail at the back of the Great Hall, little larger than an action man, watching as if for great men to step through the great doorway and commit great deeds.
The famous La Nona Ora (1999) – a life-sized sculpture of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite – is brilliantly positioned beneath a portrait of Louis XIV. A warning to all who feel they have an unquestionable God-given right to lead, the sceptres of the two premiers are lined up in impeccable mirror angles to one another.
Another ancient monster follows: a vast crocodile, hung from his mouth like an exotic trophy. The title – Ego (2019) – again hints at the illusion of invulnerability. Is this a portrait of the legendary foe (leviathan, dragon, horror of the deep) defeated by human ingenuity, or a reminder that however thick your skin, eventually someone will work out how to pierce your armour?
Cattelan plays cunningly with the scale of works throughout, cramming substantial sculptures in the smaller chambers, and leaving some of the largest spaces almost bare, the better to surprise. The most potent of these is the infamous Him (2001.) Positioned at the far end of Blenheim’s 55 metre-long Library is the penitent, kneeling, figure of what appears to be a child. It is only when you reach the end and turn to see the face that you realise that the “child” is a diminutive effigy of Adolf Hitler.
What changes when we represent an appalling human as a monster, as a man, or as a child?
It’s a shock, and at first it feels like a cheap one, but it also churns up weird questions about enduring iconic status, and what changes when we represent an appalling human as a monster, as a man, or as a child. Here of all places, the sight of an old foe has curious potency.
The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel also gets the miniaturisation treatment, transformed into a painted chamber smaller than a shipping container: high art gone model village, reduced to the tourist entertainment that it has arguably become. Cocking a snook at his hosts, Cattelan fills their private chapel with stuffed pigeons and a rough sleeper curled up on a pew (you can tell he’s a sculpture immediately, not because the figure is unconvincing, but because he’d never have made it past the Blenheim security if he was actually human.)
Bad taste, national jokes, scandals, excess, aggro: Cattelan beats Blenheim at its own game. It’s about as subtle as a solid-gold toilet. What could be more apt?
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, the only certain things in this life are death, taxes – and movie spin-offs. Behind every globally successful television series is a team of people asking ‘how hard can it be?’ about the transition from small screen to big screen. It just needs to be longer, doesn’t it? And, sort of, bigger. Maybe with guns? Or a plane?
Or, in the case of the new Downton Abbey film, with royalty. For a show about aristocratic people doing aristocratic things while working-class people help them to do those things, there is only one way to go on the silver screen – right to the top. What is posher than Maggie Smith playing a Dowager Countess who might, eventually, be the first person to die from strangulation by her own vowels? The king, of course.
And so we meet the Crawleys – exhumed from the TV vaults after four years – in 1927, a year on from the action of the show’s neatly concluded finale, as they await a visit from King George V and Queen Mary.
This plot, such as it is, allows for all manner of Downtonania – flappy servants, stress about silks, hilarious etiquette pitfalls – and, crucially, many, many sweeping drone shots of the Abbey, which everyone can agree are “cinematic.”
Downton thus follows a long line of television shows which have made a bid for cinema glory, or at least a little more cash. Some make the move with a sort of crass triumph (The Inbetweeners, South Park), most don’t (Sex and the City, The Office, Baywatch).
Breaking Bad – one of the best television dramas ever made, with one of the finest endings – will re-emerge on Netflix next month in a film version called El Camino. The will-they-won’t-they over a Friends film has now gone on longer than Ross and Rachel’s prevaricating.
The reasons for bringing back television shows are obvious – much-loved characters, familiar settings, a ready-made audience. But it’s also a symptom of a wider inability to say goodbye in culture: the 12 episodes and out of Fawlty Towers is an increasingly rare beast.
As anyone who has ever been to a school reunion knows, some things are best left in the past.
Unbelievable tells the story of teenager Marie Adler, an 18-year-old who filed a report claiming she had been raped in 2008. But police detectives and those closest to her doubted the truth of her claim, and Adler later retracted her story, telling the police she had lied.
While Adler went through this, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall meet while investigating an eerily similar pair of intruder rapes, and partnered up to catch a what they suspected was a serial rapist.
Here’s all you need to know about Unbelievable.
Is Unbelievable based on a true story?
Yes it is. The eight episodes have been inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, An Unbelievable Story of Rape, written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, as featured in the This American Life radio episode, “Anatomy of Doubt”.
In 2008, Adler reported that she had been “tied up, blindfolded, gagged and raped” in her apartment in Washington.
Unable to remember much about the attack, the sparse details that she did have was that her attacker was a “white man” who was wearing a “grey sweater”.
In the aftermath of the attack, Adler came under suspicion from her former foster mother Shannon, who claimed that Adler showed “no emotion” when they met after the attack. Friend Peggy Cunningham, who Adler lived with for a short while, also wondered whether she was telling the truth.
It had been documented that Adler’s upbringing had been unstable as she was in and out of foster homes for much of her childhood. However, by the age of 18 she was living independently and had got a job at Costco.
As the police were alerted to the concerns that her claims may not have been entirely truthful, Adler was asked to go through the incident again. After noticing inconsistencies in her story, the police believed the idea that Adler had made it all up and asked her to write out a true statement of what really happened that night. In her statement, she wrote that she had “dreamt that someone broke in and raped me”.
However, after some time, Adler wrote another statement where she said that she had lied. As a result, she was charged with false reporting and faced spending a year in prison.
But she was spared jail when she agreed to a number of conditions which included attending mental health counselling for her lying and paying $500 to cover court costs.
However, two years later, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall were investigating a similar rape case and found a man called Marc O’Leary was actually guilty. He had taken pictures of his victims, and detectives discovered photos confirming he had attacked Adler.
O’Leary was later found guilty of two rapes in Washington, with Adler named as one of the victims.
What happened after Adler’s rapist was convicted?
Following O’Leary’s conviction, the police removed the charge against Adler and returned the $500 she had paid to cover the court fees. She went on to sue the city of Lynwood and was awarded $150,000 in settlement.
According to reports, Adler is now married with two children.
When is Unbelievable on Netflix?
Unbelievable is available to stream and watch now.
Who is in the cast?
Booksmart actress Kaitlyn Dever plays the role of Adler while Toni Collette can be seen in the role of Detective Rasmussen alongside Merritt Wever as Detective Duvall.
Politicians are notorious for not giving straight answers. During the height of their career, they tend to be more interested in optics and spin than giving the public the full picture.
But once they are out of office, all can change. Political memoir is a genre that can be illuminating, funny and surprising.
There is hope in Westminster that David Cameron’s memoir, For the Record, out on Thursday, will be all three. Written from his shepherd’s hut after he quit as prime minister and an MP in the wake of the EU referendum result, the tome is expected to lift the lid on his regrets from his time in office – there are rumours that he will find time to name colleagues who let him down over Brexit, with both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove tipped to be in the firing line.
Political memoirs have a rich history. Reflecting the fact that this sphere has traditionally been male-heavy, the bulk are by men – but expect that to change in a few years’ time as women who have had frontline politics careers put pen to paper.
Here is a look at 20 that have stood out over the years, from across the spectrum.
Alan Clark Diaries
Perhaps the most honest account of the highs and – in this case – many lows of life as a mid-ranking government minister. This instalment of Alan Clark’s diaries gives readers a front-row seat behind the scenes of the Thatcher years, up to her ousting in a coup. The reason the diaries have become a classic of the genre is Clark’s style, marked out by his numerous character flaws. His frequent laments on his lack of promotion, bouts of snobbery and womanising ways make this an entertaining read, even if you wouldn’t want him on your dream dinner party guestlist.
Damian McBride Power Trip
The first rule for any good spin doctor is not to become the story. But when Gordon Brown’s spinner, Damian McBride, had to resign from No 10 in disgrace over a plot to smear top Tories, he responded by producing one of the most eye-opening accounts of life in politics. Opening with McBride clambering out of a window and jumping into a car boot to escape the media, he offers an account of his career from civil servant to one of the most despised men in politics.
Harriet Harman A Woman’s Work
Before writing this book, Harriet Harman had viewed political memoirs as “vanity projects”. But after she clocked the number of tomes being penned by men she’d shared the front bench with in the New Labour years, the first ever minister for women decided to fill a gap in the market. Rather than opt for Westminster titbits, this frank and reflective memoir focuses on the progress made for women in politics since Harman entered parliament in 1982. She documents her campaigning on childcare, domestic violence and increasing the number of female MPs.
William Waldegrave A Different Kind of Weather
The man behind the poll tax, who served under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, writes of a privileged life in which he never quite managed to break through as he had first imagined. As a pupil at Eton, he had written of his ambitions to be foreign secretary and then prime minister. It never was to be. Waldegrave comes across as likeable, taking readers with him as he gets to grips with the fact that he might not have been cut out to be top dog after all.
Harold Macmillan The Macmillan Diaries Vol II
Alongside the day job of being prime minister, Harold Macmillan also found time to write a regular diary. His witty and vivid prose means readers get unmatchable insight into events that took place under his watch during a seismic period for the UK – from the Cuban missile crisis to the Profumo affair. We are given an insight into the drain of his premiership as it goes on, but there are also lighter moments such as Macmillan’s amusement at an incident involving an Alsatian and a Daily Mail hack.
Margaret Thatcher The Downing Street Years
Margaret Thatcher’s memoir chronicling her 11 years as prime minister – from 1979 to 1990 – was the subject of much hype when it was first conceived. Her son, Mark, found himself accused of asking for too high a price and Thatcher eventually agreed a £3.5m deal for two books – equivalent to more than £9m today. At 862 pages, the first is no light read. Britain’s first female prime minister looks back on the Falklands War, the miners’ strike and the Brighton bomb attack. Critics say it has less personal reflection than traditional of the genre. However, there are amusing asides on various colleagues and statesmen.
Tony Blair A Journey
Michael Gove was so taken by this memoir – in which Tony Blair looks back on his political career and 10 years in No 10 – that he keeps it by his bedside. Released in 2010, three years after Blair had left office, it lacks the candidness of some memoirs, instead focusing on the former PM pushing how he wants to be remembered. The sections on the Iraq War are particularly “on message”. However, there are parts that amuse and enlighten, from praise for Silvio Berlusconi to his own vulnerability, as he talks about the stilting effects of personal fear at the beginning of his premiership.
Edwina Currie Diaries 1987–1992
Edwina Currie’s diaries are best known not for their quality of prose but for revealing her four-year affair with John Major (1984-1988). After the book’s publication in 2002, John Major released a statement voicing his shame. The book itself shows the one-time junior health minister write of her unhappy marriage and her affair with Major – of whom she writes movingly. However, the part less discovered is of her political career – not least having to quit over a salmonella row – and how she stood out in her party at the time.
Hillary Clinton What Happened
‘“Deep breath. Feel the air fill my lungs. This is the right thing to do. The country needs to see that our democracy still works, no matter how painful this is. Breathe out. Scream later.” This is Hillary Clinton’s pep talk to herself at Donald Trump’s inauguration as the President of the United States. After losing the 2016 US presidential election in a surprise result, the first ever female presidential candidate from a major party’s account of the campaign asks: what happened? Particularly striking is Clinton’s account of the days immediately after her defeat, as she tries to come to terms with failing so publicly – friends suggest Xanax. However, the book suffers from the fact that Clinton (below) seems happier blaming others than examining her own role.
Peter Mandelson The Third Man
Of all the memoirs that emerged from the New Labour government, Peter Mandelson’s stands out for its mischievousness. During his time in power, Mandelson earned the nickname the Prince of Darkness for his Machiavellian ways. In this memoir, he sets the tone immediately – beginning by stating that he “once embodied New Labour’s reputation for spin and control freakery”. Tony Blair was said to be left livid by some of the disclosures of his feuding with his chancellor, Gordon Brown.
John Major The Autobiography
Autobiographies by former prime ministers can be hit and miss – revelations but bad prose or vice versa. This is an exception to the rule. Major is candid, frank and self-reflective in this look back at the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Unlike Tony Blair, he appears less conscious of crafting a media-friendly image. He writes of hitting the fast track as one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourites – appointed foreign secretary then chancellor – his against-the-odds election victory in 1992 and the (ongoing) Tory civil war over Europe.
Bill Clinton My Life
Publishing three years after he left office, the former American President recounts his life and political journey, from his youth in Arkansas through to his time in the White House – including reference to the Monica Lewisnksy affair and looming impeachment. It’s a conversational style – even if it is 957 pages. While Clinton is candid at points, self-reflection is often drowned out by self-justification.
Christine Keeler The Truth at Last
The Profumo affair defined politics in the 1960s and led to the downfall of Harold Macmillan’s government. At the centre of it all was 19-year-old Christine Keeler – a showgirl who became involved with John Profumo, the minister of war, and a Soviet diplomat. Her affairs were deemed a potential threat to national security. Keeler has written various accounts of the affair, but this book is her final word on the matter. Her claims are unverifiable for now – though the official papers ought to be released in 2046.
Chris Mullin A View from the Foothills
“It is said that failed politicians make the best diarists,” writes Chris Mullins. “In which case I am in with a chance.” The long-serving Labour MP – who has held a handful of junior government roles – offers an amusing, insightful and revealing account of politics and government in his diary of the Blair years. His distance from the top levers of government allows Mullin to add insight and wry humour as he casts a cynical eye on the lows of junior office, taxpayer funds misspent and New Labour buzzwords.
Dalai Lama Freedom in Exile
The second memoir of the 14th Dalai Lama was published just after the anti-Communist revolutions of 1989 and is as political book as it is religious – on the freedom that Tibet offers to him away from Chinese communism. It came about from taped conversations the Dalai Lama had with Alexander Norman, an Oxford-trained scholar of the history of Tibet, in the 1980s. The book was written from the transcripts.
Leon Trotsky My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography
Leon Trotsky was assassinated in 1940 by a Stalin-issued agent with an ice axe. However, the Russian revolutionary and his brand of Marxism lives on in part through his memoir, penned in the first year of his exile in Turkey and published in 1930. Trotsky writes of his political journey through therevolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the Russian civil war. He also examines his struggle with Stalinism – writing of his disillusionment of the regime which followed Lenin.
Gina Miller Rise
Given that memoirs are traditionally written once a political career is over or an event is in the past, there are very few covering the period that is Brexit. Gina Miller’s is an exception. The philanthropist rose to notoriety when she challenged the British Government over its authority to implement Brexit without Parliamentary approval. In this book, she documents the abuse she received as a result of that decision – and also writes of her personal life, including having a child with learning difficulties.
Elizabeth Warren A Fighting Chance
Elizabeth Warren is in the running to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the 2020 US election. Here, she mixes memoir with policy – using the story of her small-town upbringing in Oklahoma to explain how she came to see the world and the best ways to use politics. She uses the story of her parent’s financial struggles and her family’s future to advance her personal politics of fighting a rigged system and financial institutions holding normal people back.
Bernard Donoughue Downing Street Diary With Harold Wilson in No 10
Bernard Donoughue worked for Harold Wilson in the 1970s, running the policy unit at No 10. He was privy to the so-called “Kitchen Cabinet” of advisers who made up Wilson’s inner circle, including the influential Marcia Williams. Donoughue had a front row seat through Wilson’s final premiership and offers intricate details of the leader’s struggle to unite his party, his drinking and his paranoia.
Alastair Campbell The Blair Years
As Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell earnt a reputation for being potty-mouthed, aggressive and meticulous in his media operation. For all of New Labour’s success, its slickness eventually came to be seen as a negative. In published extracts from Campbell’s diaries during the government years, Campbell records his personal anxiety and down days as he executed this strategy. The main drawback is that the extracts don’t tell the full story – Campbell admitted that he left out entries that he thought could be used to help Labour’s opponents.
Along with the usual mix of singers, dancers, comedians and magicians, one act who will be trying to impress Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and David Walliams viewers will be South Africa’s Got Talent star DJ Arch Jr who is just six years old.
The world’s youngest DJ already as a Got Talent winner’s title under his belt after he won South Africa’s Got Talent in 2015 at the age of three.
As we prepare for his roof raising set, here’s all you need to know about DJ Arch Jr.
Who is DJ Arch Jr?
DJ Arch Jr, whose real name is Oratilwe AJ Hlongwane, currently holds the title for being the youngest ever act to win Got Talent in the world.
He also holds the record for being the world’s youngest DJ and has become so popular that his YouTube videos have amassed a total of 38 million views.
According to reports, DJ Arch Jr got his first taste of music at the age of eight months when his dad bought him an iPad mini.
After winning South Africa’s Got Talent in 2015, the young DJ went on to appear on America’s Got Talent: The Champions where he received standing ovations from Cowell, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum.
However, he sadly failed to make it into the top three which meant that he was sent home.
DJ Arch Jr’s dad Glen Hlongwane recently spoke about how proud he was of his son.
“I keep getting asked the question of how proud I am of my son, and to be honest I have run out of words to describe how proud I am. He does so well in every aspect of his life, from his deejaying career to his achievements at school,” South African website iol quoted him as saying.
“He is constantly learning new things. Recently, he started learning how to produce. Everything’s coming together really nicely, like a perfect puzzle.”
How old is DJ Arch Jr?
DJ Arch Jr is six years old.
When are they on Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions?
DJ Arch Jr will be seen showing off his talent on the Britain’s Got Talent stage on Saturday 14 September at 8.15pm.
They will be up against: Richard Jones, Mayyas, Jack Carroll, Paddy and Nico, Richard & Adam, Darcy Oake, The Fire and Cristina Ramos.
How does the show work?
The episodes will differ slightly from the normal Britain’s Got Talent format because the judges will choose the act they want to see in the final by pressing their golden buzzer. The second act through to the final will be chosen by the audience.
Another BAFTA-winner completes the Doctor’s support circle – with Jessica Ransom playing his receptionist, Morwenna Newcross.
Ian McNeice, who once played Winston Churchill in an episode of Doctor Who, appears as the enterprising Bert Large. Joe Absolom, of Eastenders fame, completes their father-son duo as Al Large.
Fellow Eastender John Marquez maintains order as PC Joe Penhale, while Selina Cadell mans the local pharmacy as Mrs Tishell.
American tourist Beth Traywick, played by none other than Oscar-winner and Sci-Fi legend Sigourney Weaver, has appeared twice before and may yet return.
When does the new series start?
The new season begins on Wednesday 25 September at 9pm on ITV. It will be an eight-part series, with episodes arriving weekly.
What has Martin Clunes said about the new series?
While Doc Martin has complained long and hard about his Cornish surroundings, Martin Clunes has spoken of his time there with unrestrained enthusiasm.
“We love going to Cornwall to make Doc Martin, and we miss it when we are not there.” he told Digital Spy ahead of the new series. “The county is so beautiful and the people have been so warm and welcoming to us.”
Channel 4’s hit drama has been resurrected and transported to Netflix with the help of Canadian rapper and London fanboy Drake. Dushane (Ashley Walters) is out of prison and taking his place back as Summerhouse’s premier drug dealer alongside frenemy Sully (Kane Robinson). With Simbi Ajikawo and David Omoregie – better known as Little Simz and Dave – joining the cast, the new series promises to be a showcase of Britain’s best black talent.
Olivia Colman makes her debut as Queen Elizabeth II following on from Claire Foy’s two-year tenure. Hers are big shoes to fill, even for an Oscar winner, though it’s doubtful the Broadchurch star will fall short of the world’s high expectations. The third and fourth series were filmed back-to-back and span across 1964-76, meaning we’ll be privy to Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lord Snowdon’s (Ben Daniels) divorce.
World On Fire
This epic World War II series has already been bought by US broadcaster PBS, so is already looking rather promising. Starting with the day Germany invaded Poland and ending with the Battle of Britain, World On Fire aims to tell the story of the second world war through the eyes of “normal people” on every side. Lesley Manville and Helen Hunt head up an international cast, and are also joined by Sean Bean. Bets on whether he’ll die in the first episode are now closed.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning ProPublica article, this difficult and emotional adaptation tells the true story of 18-year-old Marie who was charged with reporting a false rape in 2008. She accepted a plea deal, but two years later a team of investigators tracked down her attackers and proved her story to be true after all. You’ll recognise Marie as Kaitlyn Dever, the sidekick to Beanie Feldstein in hit summer movie Booksmart.
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series has been crying out for a TV adaption for years, and with help from Irish national broadcaster RTÉ the BBC has finally stepped up. Killian Scott (Strike) and Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) play detectives Rob Reilly and Cassie Maddox tasked with solving two equally disturbing murders – a ballerina found on an ancient altar and a woman found stabbed to death inside an old Famine cottage.
Mackenzie Croook takes on a second role in this year’s series of Britannia, Sky’s original drama charting the birth of the country we know today. Created and written by Jez Butterworth, the playwright behind The Ferryman and 2015 James Bond movie Spectre, the second round will see the Romans settle into their new role as rulers – “In the pantheon of right s***holes, Britannia is right up there,” says Steve Pemberton’s Emperor Claudius of his new home.
American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy goes back to his Glee roots with this new high school drama-comedy. Ben Platt plays a privileged, high achieving wannabe politician who will stop at nothing to become high school president. It’s essentially the 2016 US presidential race under a microscope, with all the subterfuge, games and underhand tactics you could ever want. Gwyneth Paltrow also stars as Peyton’s mum, with a less-than-subtle nod to her oft debated public image.
A step away from the grown-up cartoons of Bojack Horseman and Big Mouth, Amazon’s Undone is a little more stylish in its animation. Starring Rosa Salazar (Bird Box, Maze Runner) as Alma and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) as her dead dad, it tells a trippy story of time when the 28-year-old finds herself the victim of a life threatening accident. One for fans of Doctor Who, but with a little more grit.
Catherine The Great
Helen Mirren returns to serialised TV for the first time since 2005, when she played Queen Elizabeth I on Channel 4. Now she’s taking on Russia’s former empress, Catherine II, in a four-part co-production between Sky Atlantic and HBO. The monarch was in charge of the Russian empire for 34 years and this series chooses to focus on the latter part of the 18th century, otherwise known as the Golden Age of Russia.
The phrase ‘ensemble cast’ might be overused to plump up an average line up every now and then, but that’s certainly not the case for anthology series Modern Love. Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Andrew Scott, Dev Patel, John Slattery, Andy Garcia and Cristin Milioti are just a small handful of the A-listers set to appear in the series, which is based on the popular New York Times column of the same name. Think Love Actually, but for 2019.
You might not recognise Jack Thorne’s name, but you will have almost certainly watched his work – National Treasure, Kiri, This Is England ‘86, ‘88 and ‘90 as well as theatre production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For the final instalment of his Channel 4 trilogy, Thorne has recruited Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire to help tell a story of “justice” after a huge explosion kills a number of residents – including children – of a small town.
Seven Worlds, One Planet
David Attenborough’s much-anticipated follow up to last year’s Blue Planet promises to live up to expectations, as we’re taken on a journey through each of Earth’s seven continents. From sparring lizards and gravity defying monkeys in Asia, to the charging bison of Europe and humongous blue whales of Antarctica, the natural history legend’s newest venture promises to leave no stone of our glorious but endangered planet unturned.
Inside The Vatican
This documentary fits a whole year’s worth of footage of the seat of the Catholic world into just two hour-long programmes. Pope Francis himself makes an appearance, but it’s the day-to-day running of the Vatican and the confines of the city walls that really make this an interesting watch.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival
As the only channel on UK television completely dedicated to culture, it’s a no-brainer that Sky Arts would set up camp to broadcast live from one of the nation’s biggest book festivals. With headliners ranging from Blondie’s Debbie Harry and comedian Lenny Henry to former Prime Minister David Cameron, the coverage promises to be as interesting as it is diverse.
Just how easy is it to sneak through the UK’s borders illegally? This new reality show aims to find out as Channel 4 have tasked a series of normal British citizens to find their way back home from Europe without using their passport. A thinly veiled attack on Brexit, this two-parter has billed itself as a “dramatic experiment” with “real purpose at its heart”.
Population with Chris Packham
Chris Packham isn’t scared of controversy, but this might well be his most opinion splitting documentary yet. According to forecasters, by 2050 there’ll be a billion people in the world – a figure pretty much everyone agrees is far too big. But what are we supposed to do? Stop Having children? Well, maybe.
This UK version of RuPaul’s reality show has finally arrived, a mere ten months after its announcement. Queens competing for Ru’s crown of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent include Baga Chipz, Sum Ting Wong and Scaredy Kat, while chat show hosts Graham Norton and Alan Carr will take it in turns to sit on the judging panel. Fans of the US version will be glad to hear the Snatch Game challenge has safely made it across the pond.
Defending the Guilty
A new comedy from the clever brains behind Mum and Cold Feet, Defending the Guilty pretty much does what it says on the tin. At once hilarious and questioning of our impossibly complicated and tricky legal system, it follows student barrister Will (Will Sharpe, Flowers) who is guided by the world weary but impressively staunch mentor Caroline (Katherine Parkinson, The IT Crowd). A word of warning to any readers in the legal profession – the constant battle between holding onto your principles and doing your job might hit close to the bone.
State of The Union
Not strictly a comedy, but funny all the same, these ten-minute vignettes of a marriage in crisis are some of the best TV this autumn. Proper Hollywood stars Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) play husband and wife Louise and Tom, who meet in the pub ten minutes before their weekly couple’s counselling session. Whether they’re discussing Louise’s affair or Call The Midwife, the razor sharp dialogue straight from Nick Hornby’s novella of the same name is enough to keep you hooked.
Former Big Brother presenter Emma Willis takes the reigns for the second series of social media reality show The Circle. The concept is simple: a group of people are locked away in separate rooms in a block of flats, with only The Circle – a sort of online network – as a form of communication between them. The twist is that, thanks to the anonymity of The Circle, the contestants can choose to be whoever they want and since the winner is the most popular, most of them decide to present as someone entirely different to their true self. Terrifying and entertaining in equal measures.
The Good Place
After four seasons, the standout NBC comedy takes its final bow at the end of September, much to the dismay of its fans. For the uninitiated, The Good Place refers to the space where intrinsically good people go once they die – as opposed to The Bad Place. Over the years it has gotten a lot more complicated, though also much funnier. Not an accolade often afforded to a TV with roots in philosophical theory.
Paddy and Nico won the nation’s heart when the salsa dancing duo took to the Britain’s Got Talentstage in 2014.
Their quick moves and high energy had the judges up on their feet, including Amanda Holden who secured their place in the live semi-finals after she pressed her golden buzzer for them.
Almost five years after their last performance on the show, the duo will be proving to the audience that age is just a number when they take to the stage to secure their place as Britain’s Got Talent’s ultimate champions.
With a range of acts from BGT of yesteryear all taking part in the special spin off show, here’s all you need to know about Paddy and Nico.
Who are Paddy and Nico?
Paddy, whose real name is Sarah Patricia Jones, is a British salsa dancer who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent’s eighth series. She currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest acrobatic salsa dancer.
Nico Espinosa is Paddy’s dance partner whom she met while attending his dance school in Spain following the death of her husband.
After Paddy took up acrobatic salsa, she and Nico formed a duo and began dancing together. They went on to make appearances on the Spanish version of BGT which they won and even appeared on the Argentinian version of Dancing with the Stars.
Despite their strong bond on Britain’s Got Talent, the pair’s dancing partnership wasn’t always smooth sailing, as Paddy recalled the time Nico left area in Spain he was living in without even telling her following a falling out.
“Seven years down the drain — you think surely he could have said something, but no — absolutely nothing. I think he realised it was worth his while to keep in touch with me,” The Sun reported her saying.
However, they later reconnected.
When did they appear on Britain’s Got Talent?
Paddy and Nico appeared on Britain’s Got Talent during the eighth series of the show in 2014.
Having been given a straight pass into the semi-finals, the duo’s chance at making it to the finals was put in jeopardy when Paddy cracked a rib during rehearsals for a routine with Nico.
However, despite the injury, Paddy carried on and performed the routine and made it through to the finals. But the pair ended up coming in at seventh place with Collabro taking the coveted winner’s title.
What are Paddy and Nico doing now?
Following their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, Paddy and Nico auditioned for the French version in 2016 and were voted through to the next round.
When are they on Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions?
Paddy and Nico will be back on the Britain’s Got Talent stage on Saturday 14 September at 8.15pm.
They will be up against: Richard Jones, Mayyas, Jack Carroll, DJ Arch Jnr, Richard & Adam, Darcy Oake, The Fire and Cristina Ramos.
You’ll be sent a unique pre-sale code by 7pm on Tuesday 17 September, so you should keep an eye on your inbox and spam folders.
If you’re in The Who Fan Club, you’ll automatically get pre-sale access as part of your subscription.
But be warned – entry into the pre-sale doesn’t guarantee tickets.
What songs are on the new album?
The Who’s new album, WHO features singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, joined by long-time Who drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino.
It also includes contributions from Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap.
Recorded in Los Angeles and London during the spring and summer this year, it contains 11 tracks including the band’s first new single, Ball and Chain.
It covers subjects including the Grenfell Tower fire, musical theft, spirituality, reincarnation, the power of memory and ‘an old rock star that has lost his marbles’.
Singer Roger Daltrey rates it amongst their strongest, commenting: “I think we’ve made our best album since Quadrophenia in 1973, Pete hasn’t lost it, he’s still a fabulous songwriter, and he’s still got that cutting edge.”
Pete Townshend said: “Roger and I are both old men now, by any measure, so I’ve tried to stay away from romance, but also from nostalgia if I can. I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Memories are OK, and some of the songs refer to the explosive state of things today.”
The artwork for WHO was unveiled on 12 September in New York at the opening of the Pace contemporary art gallery where the band also performed a short acoustic set.
It was created by pop artist, Sir Peter Blake who first met the band in 1964, and designed and contributed a painting to the sleeve of The Who’s album Face Dances in 1981.
Two songs on the record, ‘Ball And Chain’ and string-laden ‘Hero Ground Zero’ recently got their world premiere when the band played with a 40-piece orchestra to a packed Wembley Stadium.
This is the full track-list from WHO:
All This Music Must Fade Ball and Chain I Don’t Wanna Get Wise Detour Beads On One String Hero Ground Zero Street Song I’ll Be Back Break The Newse Rockin’ In Rage She Rocked My World
It’s fair to say that the celebrities who sign up to appear on Strictly Come Dancing get the majority of the attention during the show’s run, unless the professional dancers are caught doing something they shouldn’t.
But this year, the pros have been given their own show before the latest series kicks off.
Strictly The Professionals will look at how the current group of professionals made their journey to the famous ballroom and the sacrifices they made to get to the top of their game.
Viewers of the show will also be given behind the scenes access where some of the show’s most guarded secrets will be revealed, including how the annual pairings between the celebrities and the dancers are decided by the show’s producers.
Here’s all you need to know about Strictly The Professionals.
When is Strictly The Professionals on TV?
Strictly The Professionals airs on BBC One on Saturday 14 September at 7pm.
What to expect?
The 90 minute special will feature appearances from former Strictly celebrities including Jeremy Vine, Ed Balls and Ann Widdecombe as they join the professionals on their trip down memory lane as they recall some of the astonishing highlights from their time on the show.
The format will be relaxed as the pro dancers reunite to discuss their time on the hit BBC talent show so far.
Professional dancer Kevin Clifton will be seen recalling how he was rejected by the show’s producers twice before finally joining the line up. During a conversation with Aljaz Skorjanec, Clifton reveals how he auditioned with then girlfriend Karen Hauer, only to find out that she had been asked to join the cast in 2012 and he hadn’t.
“They said, ‘We’d love to take Karen, but not that guy’. We’ve no need for that gothic scarecrow who thinks he’s the rock star of the ballroom,” he states in the special episode.
Meanwhile, Anton du Beke, Giovanni Pernice and Skorjanec will be seen admitting that they only got into dance to meet girls.
“All the boys were doing football, wanting to be firemen – all the girls were dancing… I’m going to go with the girls. I loved it, Skorjanec, who is married to fellow Strictly pro Janette Manrara, states.
Pernice adds: “If I play football, I’m going to have, for the rest of my life, to shower with boys. So I’m going to be a dancer and spend time with the girls.”
Revealing that he had the same idea, du Beke adds: “I went with my sister, It was a room full of girls, I was 14, so I thought… ‘Hello.’”
Who are the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing this year?
Anton Du Beke
Graziano Di Prima
When does the Strictly Come Dancing live shows start?
The Strictly live shows kick off on Saturday 21 September on BBC One.
Newly arrived from a much-lauded stint at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Rachel O’Riordan has undertaken to make “work of scale by women” during her time as artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith. What better place to start than with Ibsen’s once-shocking heroine, her story reimagined by prolific playwright Tanika Gupta?
Gupta exchanges Norway for Calcutta but retains the date of the original, 1879, thus providing the opportunity to investigate colonialism. The parallels with an oppressive patriarchy are clear enough.
Nora has become Niru, a girlish young Indian woman married to Tom Helmer, an English colonial administrator. Nora’s Nemesis, Krogstad, is now an Indian clerk named Kaushik Das (Assad Zaman) and Nora’s friend Kristine Linde is the widowed Mrs Lahiri (Tripti Tripuraneni), obliged to wear white in keeping with her lost marital status. Arun Gosh’s music, played on a variety of Indian instruments, emphasises location, underscores emotion and accompanies Niru’s wild classical dance which replaces the Tarantella.
Under Rachel O’Riordan’s fluid direction, Anjana Vasan is luminous as Niru, seamlessly combining the childish playfulness of the early scenes with terror that her misdemeanour will be discovered and, ultimately, a graceful but steely acknowledgement of previously hidden strengths. Elliot Cowan’s Tom, tall and blond, towers over the diminutive Vasan, his doll-wife, a physical manifestation of the power of paternalistic colonial rule. Cowan has a tough job, though.
The parallels with colonialism and an oppressive patriarchy are clear
In the final showdown, when he discovers his wife’s guilt in fraudulently signing a document to obtain a loan to pay for his health-giving holiday, he now has the task of speaking both as an angry husband and a spokesperson for blinkered colonialism. Any residual sympathy felt for Ibsen’s Helmer as someone also bound by the mores of his time is removed by Tom’s spitting the word “heathen” at Niru.
The extra weight the play has to bear is in danger of overburdening it. Gupta keeps pretty faithfully to the plot, but she has introduced a new scene in which Helmer and the dying Dr Rank discuss attitudes to Britain’s colonial rule. Rank, sympathetically played by Colin Tierney counterbalances Tom, ashamed of the behaviour of the English but powerless.
There is no door slam! The ornate portal which dominates Lily Arnold’s otherwise simply elegant set, with its balcony reminiscent both of Indian verandahs and Victorian prisons, remains ajar when Niru leaves. Is there the possibility of another episode in this unequal marriage? Niru is a work in progress – but so perhaps is Tom.
Despite some reservations, this is a strong beginning for O’Riordan and the new regime at the Lyric.
When it was announced that Downton Abbey would be finishing with a final sixth series back in 2015, fans were devastated.
For five years, the exploits of the Crawley family, their friends, enemies and staff entertained much of the nation, until the creator and writer Julian Fellowes decided to take it out on a high.
But then, in 2016, a Downton movie was announced – and now, it’s almost upon us. Here’s everything you need to know…
When will it be in cinemas?
Downton Abbey will be released in the UK on 13 September 2019.
Fans who have missed the Countess (Maggie Smith) and her biting cut-downs, simmering upstairs-downstairs elicit affairs and just a general taste of the retro good life will be pleased to know that it looks ready to deliver on that front.
But the main thrust of the film seems to centre around some royalty coming for dinner.
It is set 18 months after the end of the finale series, in 1927.
Who appears in it?
Most of the main cast from the ITV series will also be appearing in the movie.
Expect to see Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley), Laura Carmichael (Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot) and Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates).
Also returning are Jim Carter as Charles Carson, Raquel Cassidy as Phyllis Baxter, Brendan Coyle as John Bates, Kevin Doyle as Joseph Molesley and Michael C. Fox as Andrew “Andy” Parker .
Other actors include Harry Hadden-Paton, Rob James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol and Douglas Reith.
Newcomers to Grantham House include Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James, Tuppence Middleton, Simon Jones, David Haig, Kate Phillips, and Stephen Campbell Moore.
Where was it filmed?
The primary set for the Downton Abbey castle in both the film and TV series is in actual fact, Highclere Castle in Hampshire.
The Gothic style house, which boasts grand, historic rooms such as a library and a great hall, is set in 1000 acres of parkland.
In real life, it is the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavaron, whose family have lived there since 1679 – Julian Fellowes, reportedly had the castle in mind when writing the series.
While some scenes are filmed in studios and other locations, the exterior shots and certain indoor scenes are filmed at Highclere.
Other film locations for Downton Abbey include Bampton Village in Oxfordshire, which appears in the ITV series as the village of Downton, Cogges Manor Farm in Oxfordshire, which is the setting for Yew Tree Farm and Basildon Park in Berkshire, where the interiors of Grantham House are set.
What do the reviews say?
Overall, the critics seem to have been appreciative, with the film holding an early approval rating of 85 per cent from the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes after the previews.
However, many of these come from US writers, a country that famously goes wild for Downton’s idealised version of aristocratic English life.
Indeed, Empire magazine call the film “England as Americans see it, a horrendously dated perspective”, and reviews from critics on this side of the pond are far less kind.
That publication called it an “aggressively gentle nostalgia trip”, although it also acknowledged that the “big-screen debut will likely delight” fans of the series.
The Guardian described it as “the most intensely glucose and sometimes baffling Christmas special,” adding “every so often you can feel the rhythmic thud of where the ad break would normally go” on TV.
Despite all this, reviewer Peter Bradshaw again conceded that while it is “at all times ridiculous” it was also “quite enjoyable”.
What does Julian Fellowes say about the film?
Speaking during a Twitter Q&A, he said: “The idea of a film didn’t really cross our minds when doing the series. When we finished, the idea of a film started to form. I was keen to bring the theme of a royal visit, where everyone upstairs and downstairs would be on their best behaviour. This became the centre of the film.”
He was also asked if it was nice to have the cast together again. He replied: “Very slightly strange to find ourselves back in Highclere and everyone back in their costumes. It was peculiar but very nice. And they’ve all been doing different things, so it’s certainly nice to have everyone back sitting around the dining table again.
The Great Model Railway Challenge has returned to Channel 5 for another series to find the country’s best railway modellers.
Fronted by Tim Shaw and James Richardson, the latest batch of episodes will show the teams of skilled railway modellers demonstrating their talent and attention to detail in a bid to impress judges Steve Flint, editor of Railway Modeller magazine and Kathy Millatt, who is a modelling expert.
As each episode pushes the 15 teams to the limit, here’s everything you need to know about the new series of The Great Model Railway Challenge.
When is The Great Model Railway Challenge on TV?
The Great Model Railway Challenge returns to Channel 5 tonight (Friday 13 September) at 8pm.
However, the new series is slightly different from the last as the duration of each episode has got longer.
What is the show about?
The unique series follows railway modellers as they compete to create miniature masterpieces against the clock.
With the focus being on the detail and the skills of creating a railway model masterpiece, the teams must demonstrate their attention to detail in order to impress the judges in a bid to make it all the way to the final.
Each episode of the series covers one round of the competition where the teams are tasked with creating a variety of sets based on a specific theme they have been given.
But as the weeks go on and the final draws closer, the tasks become more and more complex.
The first episode will see the contestants being given the challenge to create a set based on the theme of “The Restless Earth”.
With all to play for, the teams set their creativity free with volcanoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Judge Millatt previously aired her concerns about how the show would be perceived when it launched in 2018 but was comforted by the fact that it didn’t happen when the show was being made.
The Mail Onlinereported her saying at the time: “People were worried the TV channel wanted to take the mickey out of the model railway community but I can assure you that didn’t happen during filming.
“The production company and Channel 5 treated what we do as a serious endeavour and tried to show the trials and tribulations evenly as well as the achievements.”
What does the winner get?
The winner receives the coveted title and the accolade of having their model going on display at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition on Saturday 23 November 2019.
A celebrity fan brings a bit of kudos to any television programme. But Canadian rapper Drake’s love for the east London drug-dealing drama Top Boy is almost single-handedly responsible for its return after a six-year gap.
He’s an executive producer for this third series, now on Netflix, and has managed to persuade several members of the original team back – including writer Ronan Bennett and Ashley Walters, whose charismatic dealer Dushane grew from a subsidiary character to series lead in its original Channel 4 incarnation.
As the series opened, he was in exile in Jamaica attempting to go straight. But the temptation for “easy money” proved too strong and a botched robbery landed him in debt to a seriously scary Kingston crime kingpin. He offered to pay off the favour by returning to London and opening up a market for Jamaican drugs in his old stomping ground. But he faced competition from his long-time friend/partner/rival Sully (Kane Robinson), recently released from prison and a new kid on the block, Jamie (Micheal Ward), who is just as ruthless as the veterans.
The series has attracted criticism (as did the original) for glamorising drug dealing and stereotyping black Britons, with comedian and writer London Hughes making the fair point that it is possible to grow up black in London without joining a gang or witnessing a shooting.
But on the evidence of the first two episodes, the spurious glamour of the “player” lifestyle is depicted as just that – spurious. Dushane may think he’s in control but, like his fellow dealers, he’s simply perpetuating a grim cycle which only serves to make the bigger fish richer.
The attention to detail, sense of desperation and constant danger which marked the original out were still very much in evidence. But it’s been updated with some wry nods to Hackney’s gentrification – Dushane is baffled by a hipster barista the first time he tries to order a coffee, while Jamie’s suppliers are well-heeled but amoral white incomers.
And other plot strands – Jamie’s determination to keep his younger brothers in education and away from the route he’s taken; a hard-working mum on the estate becoming a casualty of the Windrush scandal – were a reminder that, while nobody is born a criminal and there is always a way out, social deprivation and government indifference don’t make it easy to be a saint in the city.
There was a bit too much going on, and an overly extensive cast was introduced in the first two episodes, but it’s got eight more to develop what look to be compelling storylines. The new additions to the ensemble – especially the rappers Dave, as Sully’s prison adversary Mobie, and Little Simz as Shelley, the carer who looks after Dushane’s mum – are as impressive as the familiar faces. And neither the passage of time nor a change of channel have dulled its pace and bite.
The first two series of Channel 4 crime series Top Boy – about drug dealing and gang violence on a London estate – were billed as England’s answer to The Wire when they aired in 2011 and 2013. This revival, filmed after rapper Drake bought the production rights, brings back Dushane (Ashley Walters) and his rival Sully (Kane Robinson) for a new, stand-alone story. Additions to the cast include Simbi Ajikawo (aka rapper Little Simz) and David Orobosa Omoregie (Dave).
Friday 13 September, Netflix
This harrowing true-crime miniseries, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, tells the story of Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever), an 18-year-old who is raped by a masked stranger in her home. The high-calibre cast includes Elizabeth Marvel and Bridget Everett as Marie’s foster parents, and Merritt Wever and Toni Colette as detectives who discover a similar case elsewhere.
Friday 13 September, 9pm, Sky One
A remake of the Norwegian crime series Valkyrien, set in a secret underground tunnel system beneath Temple tube station in central London. Mark Strong stars as Daniel, a tragedy-stricken surgeon who runs an off-the-grid medical centre below ground. Carice Van Houten (Game of Thrones) plays Anna, Daniel’s troubled medical researcher, and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty) is Lee, a dissatisfied transport worker.
Last Night of the Proms
Saturday 14 September, 7.15pm, BBC Two
Live from the Royal Albert Hall, Katie Derham hosts proceedings from the world’s most celebrated classical music festival as it draws to a close. Highlights include a world premiere by Daniel Kidane, ballet from Manuel de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat and classics by Bizet and Verdi. Shifting to BBC1 for part two at 9pm, there are pieces by Offenbach, Grainger and Gershwin, before the traditional Last Night classics.
Sunday 15 September, 10pm, BBC Four
David Ireland’s award-winning play comes to television through a combination of shooting on location in Belfast and live capture of a performance at the Royal Court Theatre. A pitch-black comedy, Cyprus Avenue focuses on a Belfast loyalist (Stephen Rea) who, in the midst of a psychotic episode, mistakes his five-week-old granddaughter for Gerry Adams.
Crime and Punishment
Monday 16 September, 9pm, Channel 4
This series takes a closer look at the criminal justice system and whether its archaic ways are still fit for purpose. In the first episode, we meet 28-year-old Paul Bousell, who is being held in prison without a fixed release date after robbing a shop at knife point. He is on an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentence, a controversial ruling that was abolished in 2012. However, there are still 3,429 IPP prisoners in the UK, each struggling to convince a parole board that they are safe to release.
Defending The Guilty
Tuesday 17 September, 10pm, BBC Two
Another legal-themed show, but this time designed to make you laugh. Will (Will Sharpe) is a fledgling barrister, thrown into the lion’s den of chambers, where his fellow pupils are desperate to prove their worth. Taken under the capable but rather cold wing of senior barrister Caroline (Katherine Parkinson, The IT Crowd), he finds himself navigating a world of politics and backstabbing. And that’s not even the clients he finds himself defending, every one of them as guilty as sin.
Japan with Sue Perkins
Wednesday 18 September, 9pm, BBC One
Sue Perkins has really leaned in to travel presenting since leaving Bake Off behind and who can blame her. This time Japan beckons, so off we go to Tokyo, home to 36 million people and a booming tech industry. After spending a night in a “robot hotel”, Sue finds herself learning how to sumo wrestle with an all-female team and attending a wedding with only one participant. Away from the city, the presenter is put through her paces in “Hell Camp” – Japan’s toughest business school.
City on a Hill
Wednesday 18 September, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
Set in 90s Boston, this 10-episode cop drama stars Kevin Bacon as a corrupt FBI veteran who teams up with the district attorney to clean up the city’s streets. It is loosely based on the policing initiative known as “The Boston Miracle”, which resulted in a ceasefire across the city. A second season of the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon-producedshow has already been greenlit.
The Cameron Years
Thursday 19 September, 9pm, BBC One
Broadcast to coincide with the release of David Cameron’s memoir, this two-part documentary explores the political career of the maligned former prime minister. Going back to 2013, the first episode looks at the Conservative infighting which prompted him to hold a referendum on EU membership – a decision the British political system is still grappling with today.
Toronto is in the grip of film festival fever, and while The Lumineers may be one of the most successful bands in the world – their 2012 breakthrough track “Ho Hey” has been streamed almost 500 million times on Spotify alone – that doesn’t make them immune to the excitement.
In the lobby of the Hotel InterContinental, frontman Wesley Schultz has spotted Wagner Moura on an escalator. “That’s the guy from Narcos, dude!” he nods to drummer Jeremiah Fraites. “We love your show!” shouts Fraites. Moura gives the pair a cautious thumbs-up.
The bandmates could almost pass for film stars themselves. The long-haired Schultz looks not unlike a young Kurt Russell, while Fraites, in his pork pie hat, is a dead ringer for Woody Harrelson.
In fact, they’re in town for the premiere of III – either a short film or a long music video, depending which way you look at it, which dramatises their third album, a concept record of the same name which is released today.
III tells the story of three generations of the Sparks family: matriarch Gloria, her son Jimmy, and grandson Junior. It plays out a little like a musical version of Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”: “They f**k you up, your mum and dad…” While the characters are fictional, their tale of alcoholism, drug addiction and a cross-generational struggle to overcome both is rooted in the band’s own life experiences growing up in Ramsey, New Jersey.
Schultz explains that Gloria is “a composite” of members of his extended family, while the band itself grew out of tragedy. When Fraites was just 14, his older brother, Josh, died of a heroin overdose. “I pray that it’s the worst thing that ever happens to me,” says Fraites.
Schultz was a childhood friend of Josh, and lost his own father to cancer around the same time. Playing music together was initially part of their shared grieving process. “When we first started writing songs, I remember writing a lot about Josh,” says Schultz.
‘I pray that losing my brother is the worst thing that ever happens to me’
As they have grown and matured as a band – the pair moved to Denver, Colorado, together before finding their eloquent folk-rock sound, and eventually an audience – they say they have become better able to elucidate the overwhelming emotions that first drew them to make music.
“We’ve been writing together for 14 years and this third album is in some ways, maybe a lot of ways, most reflective of how we started out,” says Fraites. “It feels more genuine.”
The band’s self-titled 2012 debut album – which featured “Ho Hey” – went platinum several times over around the world, while 2016 follow-up Cleopatra debuted at number one in the UK and spawned two more huge hits in “Ophelia” and “Sleep on the Floor”. They haven’t always enjoyed the easiest critical ride, however, and Schultz says that the ambitious idea to create a film around III was at least in part inspired by the desire to push their narrative storytelling to the fore.
“It can be frustrating,” he says. “They always tell you never to read reviews, but I probably had one too many one night and went on a site to read a review of Cleopatra. This guy described ‘Long Way From Home’ as ‘the worst problem this guy has is that his hospital gown doesn’t fit well’. That song is about my dad dying! I was just like: ‘that’s cold, man!’
“I felt like with these videos for III, part of the joy of it is that even though it’s dark or it’s sad or it’s a tough subject matter, at least you have more of a say visually so that people see it for what it really is.”
The film version of III was directed by Kevin Phillips, whom Schultz and Fraites first met when he was working as a director of photography on their music videos. He became the obvious choice to translate the album for the screen. “I remember chatting with him on ‘Ophelia’ and he had just filmed [2017 psychological thriller] Super Dark Times,” recalls Schultz.
“The thing that surprised me most was Kevin’s instincts. With a song like ‘Jimmy Sparks’, I thought he would just tell the story in a literal way, but he made it more metaphorical. I was like: ‘He’s wearing boots but he’s walking barefoot in the song, what are you doing?’ It’s interesting when someone takes something and does it in a way you wouldn’t have done it yourself, yet you end up liking it more.”
In November, the band will tour the album around the UK, playing Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and London – where they will play their biggest-ever British show at The O2. No matter the temptations of touring life, Schultz and Fraites – who have both become fathers since their last record – say they have learnt to keep their own excesses under control.
“It’s hard to pick up a habit or drop a habit on the road,” says Schultz. “It’s a very easy place to have vices, but I think being a singer keeps me out of trouble, because I pay for it with my voice. People don’t care if I had a good night last night, they want a good show today.”
Fraites has been sober for four years. “It wasn’t because of anything like getting in a car accident,” he says. “Nothing crazy happened, but it just stopped working for me. I’d met other people who said: ‘When you stop using drugs or alcohol, you’re going to be so much more creative!’ I thought: ‘Man, what a crock! You guys are just lost and buying into this bullshit of having to do everything sober.’ Then it turned out to be totally true. This album, creatively with Wes, was just the best.”
Having seen his own brother become a statistic in America’s opioid crisis, Fraites sees III as his and Schultz’s way of humanising the issue once again. “We’re not trying to say, ‘Don’t drink or do any of this other stuff!’, but it is taking a hard look at it and opening the dialogue through storytelling,” he says.
“There are so many shades of grey between addiction, abusing a drug, moderation, what’s safe and what’s not. It’s really such a complex issue, and that’s what I love about this album. It’s not just about one thing.”
The nation’s favourite TV critics return for a 14th series – proof of the enduring genius of the format, although regular cast changes are required to keep things fresh. Surely returning are Giles and Mary, caravan-residing best friends Jenny and Lee, and married Shirley and Dave. There’s no coincidence that the programme returns alongside the new autumn season, providing plenty of choice (I think we can expect Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions and Bake Off), and it would certainly be an overdue meta-moment if they watch this week’s Celebrity MasterChef, featuring former fellow couch potato Dom Parker.
The Great Model Railway Challenge
8pm, Channel 5
The charming model-railway building contest returns with an opening theme entitled “the restless earth”. Co-presenter James Richardson tells representatives of the Corby Model Railway Society that they have created “an extraordinary amount of catastrophe for one layout” as the modellers prepare for a volcano, earthquake and landslide on their ten-by-five baseboard, a family team from Fancott in Bedfordshire won’t endear themselves to the fracking industry with their layout, while a quartet of cancer researchers prove nifty with the dry ice.
Showbands: How Ireland Learned To Party
9.10pm, BBC Four
Ardal O’Hanlon’s documentary is well worthy of this repeat, as the actor drives around Ireland to tell of the country’s unique showbands phenomenon. In the 50s and 60s, he tells us, Ireland was poor, priest-ridden, and a million miles from Swinging London. But out of this musical vacuum arose the showbands, “versatile hard-working human jukeboxes in shiny suits”. At the height of their popularity, 600 or so bands played to packed halls on both sides of the border. The phenomenon was fading by the time UVF gunmen murdered three members of the Miami Showband in 1975 and brought it to a grisly end.
Some NHS surgeons work privately on the side, but Mark Strong’s bereaved doctor runs an illegal secret clinic deep underneath Temple underground station in London. Swallow that premise and you’ll enjoy this new three-part thriller that co-stars Daniel Mays as the Tube worker who provides him with an unwelcome new patient.
9.30pm, BBC One
There is a whole sub-genre of gently entertaining sitcoms set in seaside towns, and Derren “Benidorm” Litten’s new comedy fits snugly into the mould. Jason Manford provides an easy, natural performance as Mike, the musician eager to rekindle his relationship with Karen (Catherine Tyldesley). The second visit to the North Yorkshire resort finds Bigsy hiding from jealous ice cream Mr Big Tony Peroni.
With more alliteration than a lazy tabloid headline, this week’s Q words are addressed to guests “quirky” Holly Walsh, “quizzical” Cariad Lloyd and “quixotic” Josh Widdicombe. Among the interesting facts is that, in the 20s, it was thought you might be able to cure deafness by giving sufferers a fright: patients were taken up in a plane and subjected to aerobatics without warning.
In the opening episode of Netflix’s absorbing new true-crime drama Unbelievable, 18-year-old Marie Adler is forced to recount the details of her rape more than six times. The first time, she is sitting on the floor, wrapped in a sleeping bag, flinching and shivering.
When asked how it happened, she finds it hard to verbalise the answer directly – to make the specifics clear, she can only say, “Not his fingers”.
By the fourth or fifth time the words are prised out of her she is bouncing up and down in her seat with impatience, frustration and indignation, panic swarming around her as she is scrutinised by stern, accusatory pairs of eyes.
In the brutal first hour, there is barely a moment that Marie (played by Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever) – a woman with an apartment in a kind of foster-care independent facility – is not on screen. Dever’s performance is intimate and sensitive, displaying the sort of resigned acceptance that someone with a difficult upbringing might possess about life’s injustices.
Eventually, she comes to doubt her own memory and concedes to the police – who pounce on every inconsistency – that perhaps she did hallucinate, perhaps she did black out, perhaps it didn’t happen at all.
Unbelievable probes the fragility of those surviving in the aftermath of barbaric crimes
She is soon punished by officers who accuse her of lying, wasting time and impeding their ability to “protect the public” – though they fail ever to make any committed attempt to protect her. Her trauma becomes their inconvenience, and after a life of being made to feel like an inconvenience, she accepts it.
In its portrayal of a vulnerable woman devastatingly mistreated, Unbelievable is relentlessly bleak. Throughout, Marie flashes back to the crime, when she was gagged and blindfolded, her wrists constrained by shoelaces. Sometimes it is the sound of the smacks and pounds and grunts; at others, it is the distorted vision of a terrifying shadow in a balaclava looming over her.
Then there is her wearying ordeal in hospital, another invasion: bright camera flashes and swabs wherever he might have touched, cold speculums, a cup to unscrew and aim into, a gown to button up and rip off. The “phut, phut, phut” of syringes.
Everything is sterile and she is alone and exhausted, all her senses heightened and confused on no sleep. There is the deafening rustle of a paper bag (side-effects of STD exposure medication: “excessive bleeding”, “shortness of breath”, “thoughts of killing yourself”, all matter of fact). There is a growing, tinnitus buzz in our ears, too. Every colour is muted, most of them a shade of grey. Except for her chipped blue sparkly nail polish, a reminder – if you needed one – that she is just a child.
The eight-part series, which is available to watch from today, broadens out to tell another story in tandem, in which the superb Toni Collette and Merritt Wever star as (far kinder, more diligent) police on the search for a serial rapist who operates in a similar way to the man who attacked Marie. It’s a desperately sad starting point, and the show is not an easy watch.
But it is powerful, compelling television – even more so as the two narratives begin to bind and our hopes build for justice for Marie. Most of all, it is one of very few times that a story of sexual assault is used not as a lazy plot device, nor as an excuse to indulge in violence, nor to shock, nor as a vehicle to tell the twisty-turny story of a male hero detective.
Instead, Unbelievable probes the fragility of those surviving in the aftermath of barbaric crimes and examines the innate, institutionalised misogyny that means their testimony is so rarely believed.
“We’ve been expecting you” reads the tagline for the new Downton Abbey movie. A neat summary, you might say, of one of the most anticipated films of the year, the first big-screen outing for the Crawley family from Julian Fellowes’ beloved ITV drama. After the show finished its final, sixth season in 2015, that expectation has grown and grown.
“We’d done a series I was so proud of, and I was nervous of tainting that in a way,” admits Elizabeth McGovern, who returns as Cora, Countess of Grantham. “I’m sure I wasn’t as nervous as everyone else – Julian, for instance. It’s a big challenge for him to come up with something that will satisfy people on every level.”
It is the day of the premiere, and London’s Corinthia Hotel is awash with the cast. Lesley Nicol and Sophie McShera, aka cook Mrs Patmore and maid Daisy, walk past me in the corridor, marvelling at the hotel’s spa. “Look at you, you’ve done waitressing!” smiles Jim Carter, the inimitable butler Carson, when he is served a coffee by a publicist. Today, even the domestics are treated like royalty.
Television is littered with the corpses of dud movie spin-offs: Sex and the City, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team and on and on. But Downton has a distinct advantage. “I think the series is pretty cinematic,” says Carter. “There are big, wide shots of countryside, there are balls, there’s ceremony. It didn’t feel as much of a leap as, say, Dad’s Army going from a TV set to a big screen.”
Even so, the stakes had to be raised for the film, which is set in 1927, a year after the TV finale. Fellowes considered several ideas, until he read Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds, which included an account of a 1912 royal visit to Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire. Whether they were excited, indifferent or indignant, says Fellowes, “everyone would have an emotional response to the idea that the King and Queen are coming to Downton”.
The visit of King George V (played by Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) is the perfect canvas for a one-off Downton story, allowing all manner of mini-plotlines to swirl beneath, from the mundane (the boiler needs fixing! Send in the handsome plumber!) and the humorous (the snooty royal household sweep in) to the exciting (an attempt on the king’s life). It is a sumptuously soapy ride.
‘Imelda Staunton is a kind of a match for Maggie Smith. And we want it to have a degree of slugging it out’
Pathos has not been overlooked, notably with Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), an estranged cousin of Maggie Smith’s dowager Countess Violet, who arrives with her maid Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) and a suitcase full of secrets. Given that she is married in real life to Jim Carter, Staunton was an automatic fan. “No choice!” Like so many, she, Carter and their daughter watched the show every Sunday night as a family.
Her storyline revolves around Lady Maud’s decision to leave her fortune to her maid rather than the Crawleys, leaving Smith’s character apoplectic and Penelope Wilton’s Baroness Merton refereeing in the middle.
Fellowes was relieved to get Staunton on board. “Imelda is a kind of a match for Maggie,” he says. “And we want it to have a degree of slugging it out.”
For younger newcomer Middleton (The Imitation Game), it was eye-opening. “When we first went for the read-through, we had to do it on a sound stage in a studio because there were so many people. You could barely see across the table. That was when I really thought, ‘Wow, this cast is huge.’”
Director Michael Engler estimates there were at least 50 cast there that day. “People really had to speak loudly… it was like a theatrical presentation.”
It is no surprise to hear how delighted they all were to reunite. “We’d not met up en masse since the TV series finished,” says Carter.
That sense of familiarity was furthered by the return of key behind-the-scenes folk: production designer Donal Woods, hair-and-make-up head Anne Oldham, costume designer Anna Robbins and composer John Lunn. Engler himself was a veteran of four episodes, including the moving finale.
Engler wanted to ensure against “a commercial money-grab” while also inviting in newcomers to the Downton world. “While I wanted fans to feel satisfied, I also wanted people who came new to it to feel like, ‘Oh, I should go back and watch the series. There’s a world here I’d be interested in’, and not to come in and feel lost.”
Visually, there are a few more sweeping drone shots of Highclere Castle, the Hampshire-based pile where it is all filmed, but Engler remained loyal to the house style.
“He couldn’t mess with it, he couldn’t put an attitude on it, because people’s expectations are set,” says Carter, who adds that Engler is “one of the few directors who has the confidence to direct Maggie Smith”. Praise indeed.
Fellowes, as Staunton puts it, does a marvellous job of “spinning plates”. Among myriad plotlines, butler Thomas (Rob James-Collier) finally finds a little freedom to express his sexuality. “I hope that we haven’t lost the fact that being gay in the 20s was very hard,” says Fellowes. “Ninety per cent of the gay population had to live a lie.”
Gender equality issues also get a look-in with a plotline involving Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael). “I think one thing Downton is really good at is tackling all of the issues at the time,” says Middleton. “And Julian has tapped into some stuff that we can still relate to today.”
With the film serving as both wrap-up and continuation, Fellowes has Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) musing on whether to continue running Downton. “I hope we imply that they are going to stick it out,” says Fellowes.
‘If they’re still there in 1947, it will be a very different household that looks after them’
“But if they’re still there in 1947, it will be a very different household that looks after them.”
It’s something we might one day find out: if the film hits big, audiences will demand a sequel – Lady Mary and co will simply have to come back. Could Fellowes return to Downton one more time? He smiles, beatifically.
“There’s never a point in saying never, is there?”
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this book, about a 1980s high-school romance, has been translated from French by Molly Ringwald, star of The Breakfast Club. Dubbed the French Brokeback Mountain, Philippe Besson’s best-seller Lie With Me, about gay first love, remains a very French book. It is light on laughs and dialogue, heavy on precocious introspection.
An awkward 17-year-old in a tiny French village, fresh out of a two-hour philosophy class, lusts after a cool, seemingly oblivious classmate with shaggy hair and a surly manner. A surprise invitation for coffee turns into rough, secret sex, and hidden passion slowly morphs into a kind of unspoken love.
It is a love that we know won’t last. We first meet “Philippe” in a prologue, as a famous writer in his forties who thinks he has spotted his long-lost old lover in a café. Casting his mind back to their first meeting, Philippe remembers Thomas told him: “You will leave and we will stay.”
Philippe, a bookish ingénu, is indeed destined to get good grades and move on; Thomas, stuck on his family’s farm, knows there is nothing much out there for him, and this lends their affair a terrible sadness. High-school jocks like Thomas, stuck in provincial 1984 France, just don’t get to be gay. Later, Philippe will ruminate on the friends he lost to Aids, but Thomas’s future is a kind of death, too.
The wretchedness of Thomas’s situation makes him, oddly, the more likeable of the two. At first, Philippe is the thoughtful nerd, Thomas the insensitive popular kid. But Philippe’s opining gradually becomes unbearable. “Everything reeked of savings… not poverty so much as mediocrity, which struck me as less forgiveable,” he whinges of some poor cousin’s wedding.
Is this fiction? Autofiction? It claims it is a novel, but is dedicated to “Thomas Andrieu”, and the character Philippe comes from Barbezieux, the real village where Besson grew up. Besson toys with us, enjoying, it seems, that question most authors hate: how much of this character is you?
The translation feels patchy. Ringwald, who is apparently an avid Francophile, has said in interviews that she wanted to retain the “foreignness” of the text and her work isn’t all bad: there are delicate moments. But awkward phrases such as “it was said the landscape undulated” just don’t sit right.
I wanted to like this book, curious as it is about the intensity of first love. Sadly, it reads like the self-aggrandising diary of a 17-year-old, a heavy-handed pseudo-memoir masquerading as a nuanced meditation on regret.
As for celebrity translations? I don’t think they’re going to be a thing.
There’s not long to go until the new season of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, returns to TV screens in the US and the UK.
Following on from the last season which came to an end in March of this year, season ten will pick up several months after the massacre that took place during the community fair and will focus on the group’s preparation and war against the Whisperers.
Ahead of the show’s highly anticipated new season, showrunner Angela Kang recently teased details of romantic developments and how Michonne will bow out after actress Danai Gurira confirmed her departure earlier this year.
Here’s all you need to know about The Walking Dead: Season 10.
When is The Walking Dead season 10 on TV?
The Walking Dead returns to TV screens on Sunday 6 October in the US and a day later on Monday 7 October on FOX in the UK.
What’s going to happen in season 10?
After being left heartbroken over adoptive son Henry’s death at the hands of Alpha and The Whisperers, Carol will seek nothing but revenge in the new season when she takes the fight with Alpha and The Whisperers to the masked group.
In an interview with EW, Kang explained: “Carol will be surprisingly not exactly in the same place she was emotionally when we ended last season…We’ll see what that does to her over the course of the season as she’s pursuing revenge against [Alpha].”
As for Daryl, well, he’ll remain by Carol’s side but there’ll be bumps along the way after Kang teased: “There’s some really deep stuff between them. There’s funny stuff and then there’s stuff that gets pretty hairy. They’re just kind of on this adventure together.”
Meanwhile, a recent trailer also teased a possible romance between Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton, and Michonne, as well as the possible death of Alpha.
Who stars in The Walking Dead season 10?
Norman Reedus will return as Daryl Dixon alongside Carol Peletier who plays the role of Melissa McBride and Danai Gurira, who stars as Michonne in the hit drama.
Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos and Seth Gilliam will also be seen back on screen as Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa and Gabriel Stokes respectively. They will be joined by actor Ross Marquand,who returns as Aaron, Khary Payton in the role of Ezekiel and Samantha Morton as Alpha.
Fans will be pleased to hear that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan has been confirmed to return.
However, it will be the last season that Gurira will appear in as she confirmed her departure from the show earlier this year at San Diego Comic-Con.
“I can confirm this is the last season I’ll be on this amazing TV show as Michonne. I would just like to say this has been one of the purest joys in my life. I am very, very thankful for the experience I’ve had in ways that I can’t even express right now,” the Radio Times reported her saying at the time.
“My heart does not leave… it doesn’t ever end, the connection between us never ends. It was a very difficult decision. It was about my calling and other things I feel called to… as a creator of work. All I’m filled with is a lot of pain about leaving and a lot of gratitude.”
How many episodes are in season 10?
Season ten is expected to air 16 episodes, assuming it follows the same format as previous seasons.
Gogglebox is back with a new set of families to brighten up our TV watching experience, as they give us their view of the world from in front of the telly.
The first episode of series 14 airs on Friday 13 September and will air each week for three months.
Along with some familiar faces, there will also be a few new armchair critics. Here’s an introduction to the families on this season’s show.
Who are the families?
Sisters Olivia, 22, and Grace, 25, join their 51-year-old mum Jacquie on the sofa with their pug.
Stephen & Daniel
Stephen has been a long-standing star of the show. His former partner, Chris Butland, quit the series after the pair parted ways, and Stephen was joined by his mum on the sofa. Now he is married to Daniel, who will appear alongside him (with their dogs) for this series.
Kathy, Cilla & Elvie
Known as the “three aunties”, the funny trio from Leeds are back to share their quips for the second time on the show. They first made an appearance in series 11, so this is not their first run as Goggleboxers.
Baasit, Umar and their dad Sid. Another brother Raza sometimes makes an appearance.
German-born Ralf Woerdenweber, 52, his English wife Viv, 53, and their daughter Eve, 21 still appear in series 13. But fans of Eve’s boyfriend “Silent” Jay may be disappointed as he won’t be making any more cameos after the pair broke up.
Mum Nikki, dad Jonathan and their children Josh and Amy has been on the show since series 1.
Louis and his sister Alex along with mum and dad, Andrew and Carolyne, are from Brighton.
Linda & Peter
Linda, Pete and their son George are from Clacton-On-Sea, Essex. The family were briefly axed from Gogglebox in 2014 when George opposed rules about appearing on other TV shows, by taking part in Celebrity Big Brother.
Bill & Josef
Bill Hartston and Josef Kollar have been best friends since meeting seventeen years ago at a Monopoly charity walk. Bill is a Cambridge maths graduate, journalist and former British Chess Champion, while Josef is an accountant.
Tom and Julie and their two sons Tom junior and Shaun are from Manchester. The family have many dogs and are partial to snacking on sweet treats in front of the telly.
Jenny & Lee
Caravaners Jenny and Lee are best friends from Hull. The pair met 21 years ago when she was the landlady of a pub in Yorkshire village Paull, and he was a regular customer.
Giles & Mary
Giles Wood, an artist, and Mary Killen (aka “nutty”), a writer for The Spectator, joined the show since 2015. The couple live in rural Wiltshire.
Ellie and Izzi
Sisters Ellie and Izzi are from Leeds. The self-confessed couch potatoes enjoy hanging out in Ellie’s flat with her new dog and eating takeaways.
David and Shirley
The pair from Wales only joined the Gogglebox family in 2015. Shirley is 62 and David is 61.
The family from Peterborough include mum Georgia, who has a different hair colour every week, dad Scott whose beard seems to grow three inches every time we see him, and son Isaac.
Three brothers Tremaine, Twaine and Tristan Plummer from Bristol have appeared on the show since series eight.
The three are seriously football crazy, and Twaine Plummer is a footballer for Bradford Town.
Mary & Marina
Both widowed, best friends Mary and Marina live in the same retirement home in Bristol. They share a love of cream teas and sexual innuendo.
Amira, Amani & Iqra
School girls Amira, Amani and Iqra have appeared on the show since series 10.
Alison, George & Helena
Alison, husband George and her daughter Helena from a previous relationship have appeared on the show since series 10. A Gogglesprog will soon be on the way as Helena is now pregnant.
Pete & Sophie
Siblings Pete and Sophie Sandiford from Blackpool have been on Gogglebox since series 10. Listen out for Sophie laughing hard at Pete’s jokes.
Marcus, Mica, Sachelle & Shuggy
South Londoners Marcus, Mica, Sachelle and Shuggy joined Gogglebox in series 11.
John & Beryl
Well-spoken retirees John and Beryl have left viewers in hysterics with their constant bickering.
Abbie & Georgia
Durham best friends Abbie and Georgia joined Gogglebox in series 12 after the departure of much-loved Durham family The Moffats.
Who has left the show?
Amy Tapper, who has appeared on the show with her family from North London since series one, announced that she would not be appearing in the thirteenth series.
Best friends Fawn and Andrew from the North East were also absent from the last series.
When is Gogglebox back on telly?
The reality series will be back on TV every Friday. Episode two airs on Friday 1 March at 9pm on Channel 4.
As a result, many of PES’s quirkier factors have been vital to the cult following that it has now sustained for over a decade.
From the knock-off team names it has used to get around licensing laws (eg Manchester United becoming Man Red) to its fully fictionalised players and penchant for 40-yard screamers, PES has found a niche for itself as the hipster little brother to EA’s stern, all-business FIFA.
For this year’s game, Konami have rebranded as eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer, highlighting their new focus upon online gaming.
What happened this year?
When eFootball PES 2020 launched on Tuesday 10 September, fans were quick to notice that the game was still using last season’s squad lists.
After a summer in which superstars like Eden Hazard, Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann and Romelu Lukaku all relocated, this made the game feel immediately outdated.
After acquiring the exclusive rights to Champions League favourites Juventus,it looked like PES were set to begin challenging FIFA on their own patch.
While this team list mistake is far from fatal and can be quickly rectified, it has them looking less polished and professional than their rivals.
What are Konami doing about it?
Fixing the squads themselves is easy enough. Thanks to an online update, fans will soon have today’s squads at their disposal.
Hazard will be wearing the Galacticos pristine whites, de Jong will be sitting snugly behind Lionel Messi, and Neymar will be in exactly the same place as he was before.
On top of that, Konami are determined to make amends for the error, offering fans a sum of myClub coins – the in-game currency that allows gamers to buy better players and agents, or to boost players’ stamina – for each day that the wrong squads were in action.
How do I claim them?
The coins have been sent out to all affected gamers and can be found in the inbox of the game’s myClub mode.
However, the coins will only be available to those who completed the game’s tutorial BEFORE the arrival earlier today (Thursday 12 September) of the update that set things right.
The search for the champion of Britain’s Got Talent continues as a new group of international Got Talent stars take to the stage to perform in front of Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and David Walliams.
Sticking to tradition, the nine acts taking to the stage this weekend are varied and include singers, magicians, dance troupes and comedians.
Here’s what to expect from episode three of the series.
When is Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions back on TV?
Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions returns to ITV on Saturday 14 September at 8.15pm.
Who’s appearing on this week’s show?
British magician Jones won the show in 2016, wowing the audience and judges when he told the story of a 97 year old war veteran with a card trick. Despite his win, Jones still serves as a solider in the Household Cavalry.
The dance group from Lebanon won Arab’s Got Talent earlier this year. Made up of 31 dancers, the group were the first Lebanese act to take the winner’s title in the show’s six seasons.
Carroll, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was runner up at the end of series seven in 2013.
Since his appearance on the show, Carroll has gone on to star in a number of other TV shows, including the Sky One show, Trollied and more recently in the film, Eaten By Lions.
DJ Arch Jnr
The talented act from South Africa was just three years old when he won the country’s Got Talent in 2015.
DJ Arch, whose real name is Oratilwe AJ Hlongwane, became the youngest act ever to win Got Talent in the world.
Richard & Adam
The classical singing brothers took the third place spot during the Britain’s Got Talent 2013 finals.
Their debut album stayed at number one in the UK for four consecutive weeks.
Paddy & Nico
The Acrobatic Salsa Duo wowed the audience and judges with their showstopping performance on the show in 2014. The pair made it through to the finals thanks to Amanda’s golden buzzer, but they failed to make it all the way to the end.
Oake featured on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014 and was described as the “best magician ever on Britain’s Got Talent” by Simon Cowell.
The Fire are a dance group from The Netherlands who appeared on Holland’s Got Talent.
Spanish singer Ramos won the country’s first Got Talent series in 2016. Her first audition reached more than 100m views in one week.
She’s no stranger to the Got Talent champions format as she participated in the American version earlier this year.
Who is in the Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions final so far?
So far, Bello & Annaliese Nock, Alexa Lauenburger, Kseniya Simonova and MerseyGirls have all made it through to the Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions grand final.
When is the final?
The final is expected to take place on Saturday 5 October. However, the date has yet to be officially confirmed by ITV. Unlike the previous Britain’s Got Talent finals, this one won’t be live.
The series was filmed earlier this year. It has been reported that some fans know the identity of the winner after the recipient of the coveted title reportedly showed off their trophy to the general public.
Graham Norton and his red sofa are back for the 26th series of his BBC chat show.
Following a summer break which saw Norton leave the British isles to go on a tour across America to promote his book, viewers will be pleased to know that the talk show host will be back on TV screens very soon.
With a number of high profile guests confirmed to share funny stories and the latest updates about their current projects, here’s all you need to know about the latest series of The Graham Norton Show.
When is The Graham Norton show back on TV?
The new series launches on Friday 27 September on BBC One at 10.35pm.
As always, the episode will be available on BBC iPlayer following the original broadcast.
Which celebrities are on the Show?
Dame Helen Mirren
Mirren will be chatting to Norton about her appearance as Russian Empress Catherine The Great in the new TV drama with the same name.
Having stepped in for Norton whilst the chat show host fulfilled his Eurovision Song Contest duties, Whitehall returns as a guest to talk to about his latest TV projects.
The author, adventurer and documentary-maker will be telling Norton about his latest travels and his upcoming UK theatre show that kicks off in October.
Following the confirmation that RuPaul’s Drag Race was heading to the UK, a long list of well known faces have signed up to guest judge the hit show when it airs on the BBC – and RuPaul himself will be gracing Norton’s sofa to spill the tea.
The guests and audience will be entertained by Normani when she performs her new single ‘Motivation’.
Which other celebrities will be appearing on the show?
The list of this year’s celebrity guests are yet to be revealed. However, viewers can expect the same calibre as those who have adorned the red sofa in series gone by. The most recent series saw the likes of Tom Hanks, Madonna, Will Smith, and Kevin Hart catch up with Norton and talk about their latest projects.
Is this the last series of The Graham Norton Show?
At the moment, no. However, Norton recently spoke about the idea of going into semi-retirement.
During an appearance on SiriusXM, the host, who has fronted his talk show for 12 years, explained: “Having observed friends of mine who’ve stopped working, it doesn’t seem like a great thing to do. What I might try to do is cut back on my workload.
“We are on air right now 35 to 36 weeks a year. So if I cut that down, maybe lob ten weeks off it, then I think that would be ideal. Then I would be able to stare at a wall, write a book, walk the dogs.”