How the papers reacted: Farage ‘destroyed’ as Cameron is ‘taken to task’ during live EU showdown

David Cameron and Nigel Farage both avoided making any disastrous blunders during last night’s TV showdown and for that reason alone they’ll be pleased with their performances. Those in the ‘Leave’ camp especially were concerned about what Farage might do or say when he took to the stage. On the basis of last night’s showing, however, they need not have worried too much (albeit for the moment he told a woman watching to calm down). But as with last week’s EU events involving the Prime Minister and Michael Gove, much of the press coverage doesn’t focus on the two politicians who took the stage. Instead, it’s those in the audience


Ukip’s David Coburn cries BBC bias… over ITV debate

Nowadays it’s difficult for the BBC to air anything without facing some accusation of bias. As well as the well documented strand of right-wing bias and EU bias, there’s now anti-Corbyn bias — with the BBC’s Nick Robinson even accusing his employer of the latter. Last night things got so bad in the EU debate with David Cameron and Nigel Farage that the Beeb were accused of pro-EU bias once more. Ukip’s David Coburn took to Twitter to vent that the ‘BBC Knew the questions in advance’ and ‘chose which audience members speak’ so Remain had an easier ride. Alas, the Scottish MEP concludes that ‘Cameron still lost despite Aunties

Warning: top-performing funds are highly likely to contain tobacco

Axa will no longer invest in the tobacco industry: the French insurance giant will sell €184 million of shares and gradually reduce its €1.6 billion bond holdings in the sector. No surprise, given Axa’s role as a health insurer and the oft-repeated statistic that smoking kills six million people a year; indeed, you might think any health-related investor would have taken the decision years ago. Except that cigarette-makers have been stellar stock market performers since the beginning of the century: British American Tobacco’s shares have multiplied in value a dozen times while paying rich dividends, and Imperial Tobacco (now Imperial Brands) has been almost as good. MSCI’s global index of

Singing Ireland into being

In recent years there’s been a fashion for arts documentaries presented by celebs rather than boring old experts — presumably on the grounds that knowledge and insight are no match for vague enthusiasm and a touch of showbiz glamour. (In a particularly gruesome episode of ITV’s Perspectives, Pop Idol winner Will Young established his credentials for discussing the life and works of René Magritte with the words, ‘I’ve been collecting bowler hats for 12 years now.’) Even so, one channel you might have expected to hold out against such frivolity is BBC4, the natural home of resolutely untelegenic academics telling us stuff they really know about. But then on Sunday

Just what the doctor ordered

Every now and then, a costume drama comes along that’s so daringly unconventional as to make us re-examine our whole idea of what the form can achieve. ITV’s Doctor Thorne, though, isn’t one of them. Instead, Julian Fellowes’s adaptation of Anthony Trollope observes the usual rules with almost pathological fidelity. Extras dance gamely in ballrooms, scheming matriarchs stand in the way of sweet young lovers and characters express deep fury with the words, ‘Good day to you, madam.’ In the first scene, we even had a handy refresher on the genre’s use of hats as a social signifier. (Basically, toppers for the toffs, peaks for the proles.) The title role

I’m a Celebrity is like The Simpsons: good if you’re thick; even better if you’re not

The best bit in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV) will be when the prisoners finally revolt and turn on their evil captors, Ant and Dec. The sparky Geordie comedy duo will be imprisoned in a semi-submerged, rat-infested cage like the one in The Deer Hunter, fed on a diet of liquidised kangaroo bottom and wombat testicle, and released only to participate in a series of amusing challenges, such as a recreation of the Lemmiwinks episode from South Park, involving two giant funnels, a bunch of inserted eucalyptus leaves and a pair of ravening koalas. Though it hasn’t happened yet I’m going to keep watching every night,

DVF worship

Girl is back for half-term so I’ve been able to watch nothing but crap on TV this week. Some of you will say, ‘Oh come on! You pay the bills, so you get to control the remote.’ But that’s not how things work when you’ve got a teenage girl at home. Especially not one whose ankle you have been responsible for breaking. So crap, I’m afraid, is what I’m going to have to review. Not, it must be said, that the crap has all been crap. House of DVF (E! Online), for example. I’ve mentioned it before and the reason I’m mentioning it again is the matchless insights it offers

Tales of the unexpected | 24 September 2015

Two significant anniversaries, each very different but both reflecting the BBC’s mission and the reasons for its continued success. From Our Own Correspondent has been on air for 60 years, reporting on events across the world not just as news but to fill in the back story to the headlines. Instead of bombs and bullets, we might find ourselves listening to a Russian-born piano teacher in Gaza who at last finds a grand piano and begins entertaining her neighbours with Chopin. A single episode might take us from shallots in Mali to the strange ways in which Norwegians celebrate midsummer via China’s new passion for shopping, playing roulette in Russia,

Talk of the devil | 24 September 2015

For years, Ian Fleming was famously self-deprecating about the James Bond books. (‘I have a rule of not looking back,’ he once said. ‘Otherwise I’d wonder, “How could I write such piffle?”’) Towards the end of his life, though, he finally produced an essay in their defence — proudly pointing out, among other things, that however fantastical the plots may become, they’re always carefully rooted in a world recognisable as our own. Of course, this is not something that can necessarily be said of all the Bond films — but it certainly applies to ITV’s new three-part thriller Midwinter of the Spirit (Wednesday), based on the novel by Phil Rickman.

Serial thriller

For keen students of China, this week’s television provided yet more proof that Deng Xiaoping’s decision to open the country to the West has had consequences that he’s unlikely to have foreseen. He probably couldn’t have predicted, for example, that one day a former Bond girl would travel the country finding almost everything ‘thrilling’. Or that a bloke who made his name in a British makeover show would proudly explain to a group of Chinese journalists that ‘I’ve got the sunglasses, I’ve got the big hair — all [sic] of these things are what you’d expect from a celebrity.’ The Bond girl in question was Joanna Lumley, who began Joanna

Are you being funny?

Monday saw the return of possibly the weirdest TV series in living memory. Imagine a parallel universe in which Are You Being Served? had starred Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Janet Suzman, and you might get some idea of what ITV’s Vicious is like. Alternatively, I suppose, you could just watch the thing and realise that no, you’re not drunk — you really are seeing Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen and Frances de la Tour acting their socks off in a sitcom that would have been considered rather creaky in 1975. Jacobi and McKellen play Stuart and Freddie: a pair of gay actors who’ve been living together for decades despite the

Ruth Davidson, Scotland’s Iron Lady, could be just what the Tories need

Nicola Sturgeon has been described as a rock star politician. In Tuesday’s STV debate she looked like one who is suffering from second album syndrome. Having impressed a UK-wide audience in the seven-leader ITV debate last week, her reception at the Scottish version was far more muted, with some instant polls suggesting a narrow victory for Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. A dispassionate observer might place Sturgeon third, behind Murphy and an impressively plucky Ruth Davidson. It takes something to stand before a Scottish audience, where the Tory brand isn’t just toxic but radioactive, and earn applause for making the case to reintroduce prescription charges. Ruth Davidson is unlikely to

Why James Delingpole is addicted to Pointless

Ever since Boy got back from school my work schedule has fallen to pieces. Every few minutes, just when I’ve got my concentration back after the last interruption, Boy will burst into the office and say, ‘Dad, Dad. How good are you on obscure New Zealanders?’ Or, ‘Quick, Dad, it’s your subject: reptiles!’ Or, ‘Dad, this is ridiculous. Only four people recognised Johnny Marr.’ And so on and on it goes. If I were a stricter parent or a more self-disciplined worker, I wouldn’t let this happen. Problem is, the programme we’re talking about here is Pointless (BBC1, Mondays) and I’m afraid I’m just as addicted as Boy is. Helpless,

Channel 4’s The Coalition reviewed: heroically free of cynicism

In a late schedule change, Channel 4’s Coalition was shifted from Thursday to Saturday to make room for Jeremy Paxman interviewing the party leaders. With most dramas, that would mean I’d have to issue the sternest of spoiler alerts for anybody reading before the programme goes out. In this case, though, you know the story already — because Coalition was a dramatisation of what happened in Westminster in the days after the last general election. Fortunately, one of the programme’s many qualities was its Day of the Jackal ability to keep us gripped even though we were always aware of the outcome — largely by reminding us that the characters

The Heckler: how funny really was Spitting Image?

Hold the front page! Spitting Image is back! Well, sort of. A new six-part series, from (some of) the team behind Fluck and Law’s puppetry satire show, will be broadcast on ITV this spring. Called Newzoids, it promises to provide a ‘biting look at the world of politics and celebrity’. Cue ecstatic reports in all the papers about how hilarious the original was, and how much we’ve all missed it. There’s only one problem with this analysis. Whisper it on Wardour Street, but Spitting Image wasn’t actually all that funny. Yes, the voices were pin-sharp (shout-outs for Rory Bremner, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dennis, Harry Enfield, Alistair McGowan and a host

From Umbrella Man to the Coughing Major, the truth is often very strange

Are you sitting comfortably and wearing your tinfoil hat? If so, open YouTube and watch a full-screen version of the Zapruder film, in particular the section after frame 215 where the presidential limousine passes behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. What you will see, partly obscured by the sign, is a man’s opened umbrella 30 feet from the presidential car when the first shot is fired. Yet it hadn’t rained in Dallas since early morning; Dealey Plaza was bathed in sunshine. As you can imagine, many conspiracy theories formed around ‘Umbrella Man’ — who also appears in still photographs of the scene. Some theorised that the umbrella canopy concealed a gun

Broadchurch, review: ‘unwatchable’

Probably the two greatest advances in western culture in my lifetime have been the Sopranos-style epic serial drama and the advent of TV on demand and/or the DVD box set. I don’t think I’m saying anything weird or contentious — or indeed original — here. For example, I’m writing these words at the end of a week with the Fawn in the Canaries, a holiday which I just know wouldn’t have been half as pleasurable if we hadn’t been able to retire to our room every evening after another hard day’s beach work to the solace of two more episodes of the Nordic miseryfest that is The Bridge. And just

Griff Rhys Jones’s diary: I am now less of a celebrity than my daughter’s dog

In order to promote the Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia festival, I am trying to persuade Jason Morell, the director, that he must help me come up with stunts. ‘It’s stunts that will get us into the meeja,’ I tell him. So we launch the ‘Dylan Thomas Fitzrovia Breakfast Challenge’. Gary Kemp, Tom Hollander, Owen Teale and myself swallow a glass of beer with a raw egg in it — the great Celtic bard’s preferred nutritional morning kick-off. We are supposed to film it and challenge three others to do the same in aid of inner-city charities, and thus news of our festival will spread like a west African disease. Nobody

BBC2’s Hotel India: slums? What slums?

Viewers who like their TV journalism hard-hitting should probably avoid Hotel India, a new BBC2 series about the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. The tone of Wednesday’s episode was set immediately when the narrator introduced us to ‘one of the oldest and grandest hotels in the world’, where ‘no detail is too small or demand too great’, and there’s ‘an army of staff dedicated to flawless service’. To prove it, head of housekeeping Indrani then strode fearsomely down a corridor like a more elegant version of Hattie Jacques’s matron in the Carry On films. After using a torch (in daylight) to make sure the sheets just back from the laundry

Number 10 plays down Warsi Eton Mess stunt

Downing Street is trying to play down Sayeeda Warsi’s  Eton Mess stunt on The Agenda last night. Asked what his response to her decision to hold up a front page saying ‘Number 10 takes Eton Mess off the menu’, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Look, I think that was in the light-hearted section of the programme. I’m not sure whether he actually caught the programme, as it happens.’ He then added that the Prime Minister had ‘spoken about the importance’ of greater social mobility, and that the Chancellor had made similar comments to that effect yesterday. Both Warsi and Michael Gove were at Cabinet today, but the spokesman said there