Archive for November, 2017

Peaky Blinders

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Cillian Murphy plays gangster Tommy Shelby in Birmingham-based drama, Peaky Blinders

The BBC iPlayer is upping its game in the battle to take on Netflix and Amazon – by dropping a raft of box sets on the service in time for Christmas.

The slate includes hit series Taboo, starring Tom Hardy, the first three series of Peaky Blinders and Golden Globe-winning drama, Wolf Hall.

Every regeneration episode of Doctor Who since 2005 will also be on offer.

The box sets will be available from 16 December with most series made available for 30 days.

It is the first time the BBC has put so many complete series on the iPlayer in one go.

What’s occurring?

Every series of both Line of Duty and Happy Valley and series three and four of Sherlock will also be up for grabs.

Classic Christmas EastEnders’ episodes including Den and Angie’s divorce papers (1986) and Max and Stacey’s affair (2007) are going to be available too.

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Gavin Stacey – the show that made Welsh town Barry famous

The full original series of 2001′s The Blue Planet, 2006′s Planet Earth, last year’s Planet Earth II and 2011′s Frozen Planet are also included.

Comedy offerings include Miranda and Inside Number 9, Fleabag, Gavin Stacey and Bad Education.

BBC director general Tony Hall has previously said he wants to boost the iPlayer’s profile.

“We need it to make the leap from a catch-up service to a must-visit destination in its own right,” he said.

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Sarah Lancashire stars in Happy Valley

Charlotte Moore, director of content at the BBC, said: “There is no need to go anywhere else this Christmas because we have an even richer offer across the BBC than ever before.

“We are always home to the very best British programmes during the festive season but with so much content to fit in, it’s fantastic to give audiences a special gift on iPlayer to complement our schedule.”

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RuPaul and Djimon HounsouImage copyright
Tim Walker / Pirelli

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RuPaul and Djimon Hounsou star in the 2018 calendar

Last Christmas, the best-selling calendars for 2017 included Little Mix, Justin Bieber, Kelly Brook and, umm… Cliff Richard.

But it’s fair to say that most of the celebrity calendars you see every year on the supermarket shelves don’t have quite the same status and history as the Pirelli calendar.

The prestigious publication, which has been released annually since 1963 (with an eight-year gap from 1975), is sent out to customers and celebrities of the Italian automotive company every Christmas.

And it’s a pretty big deal.

“The Pirelli calendar would be a dream project for any photographer,” says Caryn Franklin, professor of diversity at Kingston School of Art and former fashion editor at i-D magazine.

“It’s a high-status platform for photographers of note to be given the space to promote their own aesthetic. It’s big budgets and top models.”

But for decades that aesthetic has often meant female stars, albeit artistically photographed, in nude or highly-sexualised positions – an approach which Pirelli has been moving away from in recent years.

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Tim Walker has photographed tihs year’s models, who include Jaha Dukureh, Duckie Thot and Thando Hopa

“For me, the Pirelli calendar was always something I was conflicted about,” says Leah Sinclair, online editor at The Voice, a newspaper which primarily caters to BAME audiences.

“You’d check to see who would be featured in a particular calendar, who the photographer was, what the vision was for it. So it was something you engaged with, but whether you agreed with it was debatable.”

She adds: “For the first 10 years of the calendar, women were fully-clothed, and there wasn’t such an emphasis on their naked bodies, that only came about around the 1980s.

“And that’s when it became more popular and pivotal in people’s lives on a year-to-year basis.”

Photographers to have taken the reins of the Pirelli calendar over the decades have included Karl Lagerfeld, Peter Lindbergh and Robert Freeman, while Sophia Loren, Kate Moss, Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss have modelled.

Until as recently as 2015, which had a latex theme (we’d include a link to the images here if they weren’t so watershed), the calendar mostly featured eroticised images.

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Peter Lindbergh / Pirelli

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Nicole Kidman and Dame Helen appeared in 2017′s calendar wearing minimal make-up

But, as Sinclair points out: “In the last couple of years, there’s been a notable shift in the approach to the calendar. I’d say it’s taken on a more positive tone as they’re now addressing different issues.”

For last year’s publication, some of the world’s top actresses including Dame Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain were photographed wearing minimal make-up and in black and white, giving the calendar a classy, purer and more natural look.

For 2018′s calendar, which is published this week and styled by Vogue’s new editor Edward Enninful, the theme is Alice in Wonderland.

Tim Walker has photographed this year’s models and the calendar features an all-BAME cast including Naomi Campbell, Whoopi Goldberg and Lupita Nyong’o.

Franklin says: “Here’s a Pirelli calendar where we can see a range of characters, all of whom are black. How often do you see that? For me that’s really exciting.

“It shows we are beginning to tackle entrenched thinking, you know a mostly white perspective, or women who are posturing to the male gaze. That’s old school.”

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Tim Walker / Pirelli

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L-R: Diddy, Naomi Campbell, Thando Hopa and Whoopi Goldberg

She continues: “As we move forward now, business begins to recognise that diverse perspectives are valuable, exciting, and they have currency. So the last three Pirelli projects have all shown some recognition of that.”

Sinclair points out: “Even with it being an all-black cast, you’ve got so much variation in there.

“You’ve got people like like RuPaul and Diddy, and also this younger generation of talent like Duckie Thot, who is one of the big rising dark-skinned models.”

Earlier this month, Diddy said: “I think Pirelli was smart enough to see the future. This is the future. Black excellence.

“To see us all together and to be standing tall and proud and to be able to be seen as kings and queens and part of an empire, that’s something I want my little girls to see.”

But taking on the subject of diversity could be seen by some as a cynical move, taking on a topical issue to maximise publicity.

“It’s trendy in a sense – there’s the hashtags like #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackExcellence going around at the moment, there’s a real celebration of black culture right now,” Sinclair says.

“So there’s an element of catching on to something that is popular, but is also embracing of something that’s new.”

Analysis by Will Gompetz, BBC Arts Editor

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Tim Walker / Pirelli

The Pirelli calendar has always been about two things – the first is glamour, the second is photography.

It has developed in the recent past, away from nude for nude’s sake, to a more considered editorial theme being explored in a more considered way. It points towards a far more visually literate consumer, who is au fait with the aesthetics of Instagram, selfies, and photography as an everyday language.

But also, the way the photographers are selected to make the calendar and the way in which they’re doing so shows a shift away from the hackneyed, 1970s, page three-type approach, to something which is much more visually sensual and less overtly sexual.

But regardless of whether it’s been done to make a political statement or attract column inches (or both) – Franklin says it’s a welcome move.

“The world is moving on. And the voices of women and people of colour are now changing the game and we reject the previous incarnations of what a woman could look like or what someone of a diverse ethnicity could look like, which would be having a marginalised presence in a calendar like this.”

“The question that makes me ask is whether there’s perhaps a more diverse perspective now amongst the controllers, the people who decide if they will employ an Annie Lebowitz or an Edward Enninful.

Media captionNaomi Campbell, speaking earlier this month, features in the calendar

“Because, for these people to get through, they have to get commissioned. So what that might imply is that there is no longer a table of middle-aged white men imposing their perspective on the content of the calendar.”

Sinclair agrees: “The calendar is now about addressing different issues. One of the portraits shot by Annie Lebowitz in 2015 was Amy Schumer, who some might say isn’t necessarily your stereotypical idea of beauty, and they had her sitting down naked. And they really pushed forward what the Pirelli calendar is.”

She adds that it’s a sensible move for Pirelli to have shifted the tone of the calendar in recent years.

“The way the Pirelli calendar was done between the 1980s until recently, this objectification of women, isn’t really something that people would accept going forward, so I think it’s just a smart idea for them to evolve,” she says.

“I think they want to draw in a younger audience who are a lot more conscious, you’d be surprised at how much this Generation Z are really engaged in what’s going on. So I think it’s a smart move to address issues like body image, race and female empowerment.”

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Bruno LangleyImage copyright
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Bruno Langley was sentenced to a 12-month community order at Manchester Magistrates’ Court

Former Coronation Street actor Bruno Langley has admitted groping two women in a music venue.

The women were assaulted at the Band on the Wall music venue on Swan Street in Manchester on 1 October.

Langley, 34, of Altrincham, admitted two sexual assaults and was sentenced to a 12-month community order at Manchester Magistrates’ Court.

ITV said he had left the soap’s cast, but existing storylines meant he would be seen on screen until 24 December.

The court heard Langley had grabbed the crotch of one woman and touched the breasts and bottom of the other while drunk.

Prosecutor Karen Saffman said the actor had been “clearly intoxicated” when he approached the first woman, who was out with her husband.

Reading from the woman’s victim statement, she said he had “properly grabbed” her crotch with a “rough grab”.

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Bruno Langley played Todd Grimshaw, Coronation Street’s first openly gay character, for 16 years

Ms Saffman said the woman “was thinking about hitting him” but instead confronted him, asking: “Did you do that on purpose?”

She said Langley had not replied but a man who was with him apologised for the actor’s actions.

The court heard the woman had then gone to the toilets where she was approached by his second victim who told her she had also been attacked.

‘Quite disgraceful’

Ms Saffman said Langley had also sexually touched two other women, but had not faced charges over those assaults.

She added that while he was not charged, those incidents were “indicative of his behaviour” on the night.

Sentencing, District Judge Mark Hadfield said he had to consider if he would pass a custodial sentence, telling Langley his actions had been “quite disgraceful and degrading”.

He said Langley had shown genuine remorse, though his defence of being drunk was “not mitigation, [but] a further aggravating feature” and the “consequences” of what happened were “serious for all concerned, the two victims but also for you”.

“You have lost your good name and I know nothing of showbusiness, but… in the current climate, I suspect it may be very difficult for you to gain employment in that industry in the future,” he added.

Langley was handed a 12-month community order, including 40 days of rehabilitation activity, and was ordered to wear an electronic tag, observe a curfew and pay £250 compensation to his victims.

He also must sign the sex offenders register for five years.

Langley, whose contract was terminated after an internal inquiry in October, had played Coronation Street’s first openly gay character Todd Grimshaw since 2001.

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Nadiya Hussain, Lena Headey and Stacey SolomonImage copyright

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These celebrity mums speak candidly about their experiences

“It’s the hardest, hardest job in the world,” says Game of Thrones star Lena Headey.

Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain agrees: “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done.”

So are they talking about fame, acting, presenting? No, actually, they’re talking about being a mum.

The pair spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live for its #mumtakeover event, along with Loose Women panellist Stacey Solomon, who said she was “fed a fairytale”.

The frank videos posted on BBC Radio 5 Live website are part of the radio station’s discussion on motherhood and mental health.

Media captionActress Lena Headey talks about the ups and downs of motherhood.

Headey, a mother of two who suffered from postnatal depression after giving birth to her first child, said: “You’re last to get a shower. You come last in everything in the nicest possible way.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom.

“Relationships deepen everywhere because of it. Every day is funny,” Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, said.

And her advice?

“Trust yourself and ask for help.”

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Nadiya Hussain with her husband Abdal and their three children

Hussain, a mother of three, said: “The best thing I’ve learned about being a mum is not listening to anyone, I’ve got my instinct.”

She also advised to “just kind of take each day as it comes”.

But the TV presenter warned: “Someone gave me advice once – it gets easier. The truth is, it doesn’t. Every phase, every year comes with its own challenges.”

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Stacey Solomon took part in a documentary called Depression, Teen Mums and Me

Solomon, who first found fame on X Factor, spoke of her struggles with post-natal depression following the birth of her first child. She has two sons.

“There was an enormous pressure to be perfect all of the time.

“We are fed this fairytale that as soon as you become a mum, you’ll know what to do.”

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Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar are the main contenders for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, leading a crop of nominations that is heavy on hip-hop and RB but has left mainstream pop stars like Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga out of the running for the major prizes.

The awards will be announced at New York’s Madison Square Garden on 28 January 2018, and will be screened on 4 Music the following evening.

Here are six of the stories highlighted by this year’s nominees.

Hip-hop and RB rule the roost

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It was becoming embarrassing. In the last 20 years, only two black artists have won the Grammys main prize, album of the year. Two years ago, Beck controversially beat Beyonce’s ground-breaking, self-titled video album to the title. Then, last year, Adele did it again.

Adele seemed embarrassed by the accolade, and spoke for many Grammy-watchers when she said her rival deserved it more, describing Lemonade as “monumental… beautiful and soul-baring”.

Following that, Canadian superstar Drake withdrew his album, More Life, from consideration for the Grammy Awards; echoing Frank Ocean, who withheld his 2016 album Blonde, citing the ceremony’s “cultural bias”.

It all amounted to a wake-up call and, this year, the main categories are dominated by rap and RB.

  • Ed Sheeran overlooked at Grammys
  • Grammys 2018: The main nominees
  • Did Adele give a Grammy to Beyonce?

Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar’s multiple nominations were expected; but the recognition for Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic and Childish Gambino’s brilliant, psychedelic P-Funk album Awaken, My Love were both surprises.

The latter, in particular, seems responsible for pushing aside Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide); which many Grammy observers assumed was a shoo-in for album of the year.

But the story goes deeper than the main awards categories – the top nine most-nominated people at the 2018 Grammys are non-white performers.

Neil Portnow, chief executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences, which runs the Grammys, called the mix of nominees “a really terrific reflection of the voting membership of the academy”.

It’s a pivotal moment; and you have to hope that those voters don’t fumble the ball by giving album of the year to Lorde’s Melodrama, the only pop record on the shortlist.

Kesha seals her comeback

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Kesha’s first incarnation as a heavily autotuned wildchild pop diva was roundly ignored by Grammy voters. But following accusations of abuse against her producer, Dr Luke, the singer produced a potent and cathartic album, Rainbow, channelling all of her personal drama into the best music of her career.

She’s rewarded with a nomination for best pop vocal album; and she must be a favourite for best pop performance for the remarkable high note she hits four minutes into the gospel ballad, Praying.

Non appetit for Katy Perry

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Katy Perry has yet to win a Grammy – something arch rival Taylor Swift alluded to in the vicious video for her single Look What You Made Me Do. However each of her albums had received a nomination. Until now.

Her misfiring fourth album, Witness, fails to garner any recognition from the Recording Academy, despite Perry launching the project with a spirited performance of Chained To The Rhythm at the Grammy ceremony earlier this year.

She’s not the only pop artist to be overlooked. Harry Styles’ debut album is absent from the shortlist, despite the fact it produced two big hits and was coaxed into life by 2016 Grammy producer of the year Jeff Bhasker.

Carrie Fisher gets a nomination

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Eleven months after her death, Carrie Fisher gets a posthumous Grammy nomination in the spoken word category for a wry, self-aware reading of her autobiography The Princess Diarist.

The book also features Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who narrates her mother’s diary entries from the 1970s, which mostly concern her relationship with Harrison Ford.

Elsewhere, the Grammys give posthumous nominations to Leonard Cohen, Linkin Park’s Chester Beningfield and Chris Cornell.

Is rock redundant? Has country come a cropper?

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Rock and country – in fact, all songs played on a guitar – are notable by their absence this year.

Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age failed to break out of their genre categories despite delivering strong albums; while crossover act Imagine Dragons, whose singles Thunder and Believer have been a major presence on the US charts, are consigned to the pop ghetto.

And while the Grammys traditionally recognise one country artist in the album of the year category, even Sam Hunt – whose album Body Like a Back Road, which spent 25 weeks at number one – failed to make the cut.

Taylor Swift will have to wait for next year

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Taylor Swift’s Reputation is the biggest-selling album of the year in the US, but it was released after the Grammys’ cut-off point, so she won’t be a big presence at the 2018 ceremony.

The star had hoped to secure nominations by releasing two singles before the deadline, but neither Look What You Made Me Do nor Ready For It impressed the 13,000-strong Grammy panel.

However, the star does receive recognition for writing Little Big Town’s single Better Man, which is up for best country song; and for her duet with One Direction’s Zayn Malik, I Don’t Want To Live Forever, which is featured on the Fifty Shades soundtrack.

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The League of Gentlemen

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The League of Gentlemen ran for three TV series and was made into a film and a stage show

“Welcome to Royston Vasey. You’ll never leave.” That sign greeted visitors to The League of Gentlemen’s fictional home town. And it’s proving true for the cult sketch show’s creators, who have been drawn back there for three Christmas specials after more than a decade away.

Mark Gatiss has a grey dressing gown over a bare chest, and is wearing a long ginger wig. Reece Shearsmith is next to him in blue and white striped pyjamas.

It’s daytime and the League of Gentlemen co-stars are in a meeting room in central Manchester. But they are dressed like this because they’ve just come from Royston Vasey.

Or, rather, they’ve just come from another part of the building, where the show’s sets have been recreated for three new episodes – 15 years after the last series ended.

Their co-star Steve Pemberton is in the meeting room doing press interviews too, as is League of Gentlemen co-creator and co-writer Jeremy Dyson.

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Edward and Tubbs have survived to appear in the first photo from the new specials

Gatiss, Shearsmith and Pemberton are taking a break from filming a scene as the Dentons, the strange, strict family who are obsessed with toads and bathroom habits.

Gatiss, who is also known for writing and acting in Doctor Who and Sherlock, and for roles in Game of Thrones and Gunpowder, says they had no trouble slipping back into the characters that made them famous.

“I thought it would take us a couple of days just to get back into the swing of it, and it didn’t,” he says.

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Legz Akimbo – seen here in series two – are returning to warn children about stranger danger

The first new scene they shot was as Legz Akimbo, the cringeworthy school drama troupe, using real pupils as extras.

“We had a group of 60 kids who didn’t know the characters, obviously, because they were all 15-year-olds,” Pemberton says.

“And we bounded out. Mark started doing a rap all about stranger danger with his baseball cap on, and I was standing in the wings watching him.

“I just had this big smile on my face thinking, I can’t believe we’re back here doing this.”

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Papa Lazarou: “You’re my wife now, Dave”

During three award-winning TV series, a film and a stage show, the twilight zone of Royston Vasey was home to a collection of sinister, twisted and wickedly funny characters, including:

  • The grotesque Tubbs and Edward, fiercely protective of their “local shop for local people”, who warned unfortunate visitors “we’ll have no trouble here”
  • Demonic carnival ringmaster Papa Lazarou, who kidnapped women, calling them all Dave and telling them “you’re my wife now”
  • Sadistic pen-pushing Job Centre trainer Pauline and her loyal trainee Mickey
  • Hilary Briss, the butcher who sold illicit, addictive and unspecified meat known as his “special stuff”
  • Herr Lipp, the German schoolmaster whose poor English skills often threw up double entendres.

The co-stars have reunited for the 20th anniversary of two things – winning the Perrier, the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe, and their first national exposure with a series on BBC Radio 4.

The League of Gentlemen were last seen on tour in 2005, after which they decided to take time off. But the quartet didn’t fall out and often worked together on other projects.

“There was never any unpleasantness or any acrimony,” Dyson says.

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Left-right: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson at the premiere of the League of Gentlemen film in 2005

After enjoying successful post-League careers, they wanted to see what had become of Royston Vasey.

“The lovely thing is it’s born of wanting to do it not having to do it,” Gatiss says of the comeback. “We’re not wanting to feel like a ’90s band going back on the road, like Bros or something.

“We’ve had a really good laugh. You have to be relaxed to feel funny – to feel that you can just do what you like.”

Fans will have high expectations, but Shearsmith says the scripts “sort of poured out of us” and they avoided getting “trapped in the headlights of the enormity of what it could be”.

Which is just as well, given that Shane Allen, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, has added to the pressure by describing them as “the most original, distinct and influential writer-performers since Monty Python”.

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Steve Pemberton as Pauline, the matriarch of Royston Vasey Job Centre

Pemberton says: “There’s always pressure going back to something.

“I remember reading an article with John Cleese where he said the longer ago something was, people remember the best bits and they edit out all the boring bits of Monty Python or Fawlty Towers, so in peoples’ heads it becomes a highlights show.”

So fans will be expecting the specials to live up to what’s in their heads.

“All the episodes of The League of Gentlemen had great moments, and what we’ve tried to do in these specials is give as many characters those special great moments over three episodes as possible,” Pemberton adds.

The specials will pick up with the Dentons and the other characters 15 years on.

“Part of the main story arc is about Royston Vasey now and how it’s even further in decline than it was before,” Shearsmith says.

Gatiss bats away a suggestion that the comeback was inspired by Brexit. In October 2016, he told BBC 6 Music he had an idea for a Brexit theme because Britain had “become a local country for local people”.

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Mark Gatiss plays sinister butcher Hilary Briss

At the TV studio, he simply says: “The people of Royston Vasey are so strange, many of them can’t vote, can’t eat, can’t see.

“I wouldn’t like to presume the politics of Royston Vasey. It’s a weird bunch of strange people roped together for a concept.”

In the three new episodes, local residents will rise up to battle “administrative annihilation” after boundary changes threaten to wipe the town off the map.

In showing us how the town and its inhabitants have changed, the specials could also tell us something about how public tastes and humour have altered in the last 15 years.

Some of the old characters feel like they would sit uneasily in a modern show. For instance, the deep-voiced, high-heeled taxi driver Barbara, who jokes about having what we now call gender affirmation surgery.

‘We stand by all those characters’

“Certain things that we would make jokes about are now more difficult areas, and we’ve tackled that head on,” Pemberton says.

But he adds: “Even the original series, there’s nothing in there now where we go: ‘God I wish we’d never done that’ or ‘that makes me a bit uncomfortable’.

“I think we can stand by all those characters because they’re rounded characters.”

In the age of social media, the reaction to Papa Lazarou – played by Shearsmith with a blacked-up face – could perhaps be more swift and vocal than anything they dealt with first time around.

Pemberton pre-empts any outrage by insisting the character “was clearly not a thing about race – it never was”.

Social media age

“Someone could create a whole campaign taking that out of context,” he says. “This is something that we’ll have to deal with because now we’re doing the shows in the Twitter age and we never were at the time.

“We’re confident in our characters and we feel they’re rounded characters and we’re not trying to upset anyone.”

After these three specials, The League of Gentlemen’s four members will escape Royston Vasey again – for a while at least.

But, as they talk about their affection for their characters and each other, it sounds like they’ll never truly leave.

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Prince Harry and Meghan MarkleImage copyright

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle posed for photos after announcing their engagement on Monday, Ms Markle wore a white coat from a brand called Line the Label.

The Canadian brand’s website then received so many visitors it crashed under the volume of traffic.

It proves the world’s eyes are now firmly watching the US actress – and what she wears – ahead of the royal wedding.

Clarence House announced the couple will marry in spring 2018, which – as any bride-to-be will know – means Ms Markle needs to act quickly to find her perfect wedding dress. So which designer will she choose?

‘Subtly romantic’

Asked about what she would love to wear to walk down the aisle, Ms Markle previously told Hello! magazine the dress would be “classic and simple”.

Making the comments after trying on dresses when her character in US legal drama Suits got married, she added: “I personally prefer dresses that are whimsical or subtly romantic”.

“She is covering all bases there,” says Katie Rosseinsky, a fashion writer for Grazia Daily.

“She’s been photographed wearing Erdem and Antonio Berardi recently. Erdem has that whimsical element of design which she likes, so that could be an option.”

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British designer Berardi could design a ‘simple and classic’ dress for Meghan

British designer Berardi on the other hand is famed for the classic and simple look which Ms Markle says she favours.

“I could also see her in something a bit more directional like Emilia Wickstead, who is also one of Kate’s favourite designers,” says Rosseinsky.

“It would be a cool option, not super-embellished, but with interesting shapes that photograph well.”

Rosseinsky describes Ms Markle – who appeared at the Invictus Games in Toronto in ripped jeans in September – as “a relaxed, casual dresser”.

“It’s very different to the coat dresses we see Kate [the Duchess of Cambridge] and other royals wearing. Will she be compelled to smarten up?” asks Rosseinsky.

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Meghan Markle’s ripped jeans sold out after her appearance at the Invictus Games

Jodie Davis, co-executive producer of TV show Entertainment Tonight Canada, thinks the wedding will have some Canadian input, as Ms Markle lived there for more than six years while filming Suits.

Davis says those ripped jeans at the Invictus Games sold out after the 36-year-old appeared in them.

“It became the ‘it’ look in the city,” he says, adding that Ms Markle made the Toronto Life magazine’s list of most influential people during her time there.

Canadian influence?

Davis says he thinks there will be “ethical brands from the US and Canada” involved in the wedding, reflecting Markle’s charity work.

“There are rumours there will be a Canadian influence in the wedding photos or the dress itself,” he says.

“She definitely brings a very relaxed but stylish and chic look when she’s out and about. She’s the opposite to the character in Suits, which is well tailored power-dressing.”

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Markle’s character Rachel is known for her power dressing on the show Suits

Christine Ross, who is the editorial director of Meghan’s Mirror – a fashion blog chronicling Ms Markle’s style – agrees.

“Her style hasn’t changed since before Harry – it’s quite modern and edgy but with a bohemian softness, so it’s a relaxed vibe,” she says.

“I expect her wedding dress will be quite classic but modern and structural. She will pick a diplomatic brand – with a British or American choice. She will be demure with maybe a crisp satin, but definitely modern.”

Ross says while the Duchess of Cambridge has a “traditional” look, Ms Markle “will be a bit more trendy and fearless”.

“It’s because she’s an American – the culture is a lot different,” she explains “Kate is an upper middle class British girl and Meghan grew up in LA, it’s a completely different lifestyle.”

‘Ethical credentials’

Mark Niemierko, a celebrity wedding planner, says he’s “excited and intrigued” by what form the wedding will take.

“She could choose a Vera Wang, or Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier is also very chic, very classic,” he says naming three of the most respected American dress design houses.

“If she goes down the British route it could be Christopher Bailey at Burberry. Another really good option would be Stella McCartney, which would play into Meghan’s ethical credentials.

“Alice Temperley is also really ethical, but would be a bit slinky, so it would really depend on the location. If you’re getting married at Westminster Abbey you need a dress to fill it.”

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Oscar de la Renta, Erdem and Emilia Wickstead could all be options for Meghan Markle

Niemierko, who planned James Corden’s wedding to Julia Carey in 2012, adds: “Meghan is not from British high society and there is a whole new raft of people at British Vogue who are also not from society.

“Alexandra Schulman [the former British Vogue editor] played a big part in advising Kate for her wedding dress. So Edward Enninful might be a great influence. That would be really interesting.”

But on the other hand, it may even be US Vogue editor Anna Wintour who advises Ms Markle.

“Wintour is incredibly powerful and takes great personal interest in things like this,” says Niemerko. “Harry will play his part. He’s the young, cool one. He’ll be encouraging her to be herself.”

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Hugo Burnand/Clarence House

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The Duchess of Cambridge’s dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Whatever happens, certain to be a big influence is Jessica Mulroney, a friend and stylist to Ms Markle.

Mulroney is also the stylist for Canada’s first lady, Sophie Trudeau, and runs a New York wedding boutique.

“They’re very close friends,” says Grazia’s Rosseinsky, who thinks Mulroney’s influence on Ms Markle is clear.

“If you look at the earlier photos of Meghan, she’s definitely become more polished. I think that’s definitely the influence of Jessica Mulroney.

“When you style one of the most powerful and most photographed women in the world like Sophie Trudeau, you will definitely bring some tips across.”

‘Diplomatic dressing’

The fashion writer thinks Mulroney will not only play a part in the look of Prince Harry’s wife-to-be for the pending nuptials, but also in the future.

“I imagine she will definitely be involved in the wedding,” she says. “She will also be very good for diplomatic dressing. Kate is good at throwing a nod to labels from the countries she’s visiting. Jessica Mulroney will be already used to this from styling Sophie Trudeau.”

Wedding planner Niemerko adds that whatever Ms Markle’s choice of dress, only one thing is important.

“The most exciting thing about the wedding is being yourselves,” he says. “They’re marrying for love – which is the best way.”

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Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs BrownImage copyright
BBC Studios/Alan Peebles

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There will be two Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas specials

Mrs Brown’s Boys is returning for two festive special, following revelations that three of its actors were allegedly involved in a tax avoidance scheme.

Leaked documents showed Patrick Houlihan and Martin and Fiona Delany transferred their fees to companies in Mauritius and sent money back as loans.

The trio did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment when the story broke last month.

The BBC said “it hoped viewers would enjoy the festive Mrs Brown’s Boys”.

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BBC/Camera Press

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Victoria Wood died in April last year

Houlihan plays Dermot in the comedy, while Fiona Delany stars as his nurse wife Maria. Her real-life husband, Martin plays Trevor Brown, the youngest son.

The two shows will air over Christmas and New Year.

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BBC/Neal Street Productions/Nicky Johnston

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A huge snowfall causes disruption in Call the Midwife

The highlights of the BBC’s Christmas schedule include a Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders special, which reunites the comedy double act for the first time in 10 years to mark their 30th anniversary.

Other highlights include:

  • Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders learn about their favourite tipple in Absolutely Champers
  • Sports Personality of the Year
  • The Apprentice final
  • Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show
  • Pointless Celebrities and Celebrity Mastermind
  • David Walliams’ Grandpa’s Great Escape
  • Mary Berry’s Christmas Party
  • Gospel Christmas on BBC Two

The late comedian Victoria Wood is also being celebrated in an extended episode of Our Friend Victoria, with plenty of clips from her back catalogue and anecdotes from friends including Dame Julie Walters, Anne Reid and Reece Shearsmith.

Shearsmith also returns with Steve Pemberton, Mike Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson for three new episodes of The League of Gentlemen on BBC Two.

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French and Saunders are celebrating 30 years together as a comedy duo

Mary Berry is being reunited with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins for the first time since the trio left the Great British Bake Off.

Big Christmas Thank You will see them visit a community centre in South Wales to bring festive cheer.

Berry will make a special Christmas dinner for residents while Mel and Sue help give the centre a makeover.

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BBC/Matt Holyoak

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Strictly returns with a special episode on Christmas Day

Doctor Who fans will see Peter Capaldi take on his final battle before he regenerates into the 13th Doctor – played by Jodie Whittaker – in the show’s Christmas special.

Dramas include the crime thriller McMafia starring James Norton, and adaptations of Little Women, starring Dame Angela Lansbury, Sir Michael Gambon and Emily Watson, and Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist.

The usual specials from programmes like Call the Midwife, Still Open All Hours, Not Going Out, Top of the Pops and Strictly Come Dancing will also be on offer.

From the stage, Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong will both feature along with Puccini’s opera La Boheme.

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Media captionPrince Harry and Meghan Markle posed for the cameras in the garden at Kensington Palace

Prince Harry says he is “thrilled” after announcing he is to marry US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle.

The fifth in line to the throne will marry Ms Markle in spring 2018.

The couple, who have been dating since the summer of 2016, smiled as they posed for photographs outside Kensington Palace in London, where they will live.

Prince Harry said it had been a romantic proposal, while Ms Markle said she was “so very happy, thank you”.

Ms Markle, wearing a white belted coat, held Harry’s hand as they appeared briefly for the press at the palace’s Sunken Garden, and showed off her diamond engagement ring.

Asked by a reporter when he knew Suits star Ms Markle “was the one”, Prince Harry said: “The very first time we met”.

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A TV interview the couple are giving to the BBC’s Mishal Husain will be broadcast at 18:00 GMT.

Kensington Palace said Ms Markle’s engagement ring was designed by Prince Harry and features two diamonds which belonged to his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

At the centre of the ring is a diamond from Botswana, a country the couple has spent time together over the last year and a half. The band is made from gold.

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Getty Images

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Getty Images

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The photocall took place at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden

Downing Street said there are “no plans” for a bank holiday on the day of the wedding.

Prince Charles also said he was “thrilled”, adding that Ms Markle’s parents had given their blessing.

Prince Harry had already told the Queen and “other close members of his family” of the engagement, which took place in London earlier this month, Prince Charles said on Twitter.

The announcement, issued by Clarence House, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s official residence, said details about the wedding day would be unveiled “in due course”.

Media captionWhen Harry met Meghan

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh said they were “delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness”, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan”, adding: “It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”

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Getty Images

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Ms Markle met Prince Harry through mutual friends in London in July 2016

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose predecessor officiated at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011, wished them “many years of love, happiness and fulfilment”.

Ms Markle’s parents, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, said their daughter was a “kind and loving person” and they were “incredibly happy”.

They added: “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”

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Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “very warmest congratulations” and wished the couple “great happiness for the future”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I wish them well – I hope they have a great life together.”

Prince Harry, 33 and Ms Markle, 36, made their first public appearance as a couple in September at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games, a sporting event set up by the prince for injured, wounded and sick soldiers.

Their married home will be the prince’s current residence, Nottingham Cottage, on the grounds of Kensington Palace – where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, also have an apartment.

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The couple will live in Prince Harry’s current home, Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace

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Their 16-month relationship began in July 2016 when they met through mutual friends in London.

Prince Harry first confirmed his relationship with Ms Markle in November 2016, in a statement from Kensington Palace attacking the media for subjecting her to a “wave of abuse and harassment”.

That statement said the couple were “a few months into a relationship” and it was “not right” that Ms Markle should receive such treatment.

It described nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers, attempts by reporters and photographers to get into her home and the “bombardment” of nearly every friend and loved one in her life.

Ms Markle spoke about her love for the prince for the first time in September – telling Vanity Fair magazine: “We’re two people who are really happy and in love”.

She said the pair were enjoying a “special” time together, adding: “I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time.”

Ms Markle may not have been a familiar name in the UK until recently, but in the US she was known for her role as Rachel Zane in TV legal drama Suits.

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There had been speculation about the pair since they were pictured at the Invictus Games in September

She attended a private primary school before studying at a girls’ Roman Catholic college and later graduating from Northwestern University School of Communication in 2003, just as her acting career was beginning.

Until recently, a union with Ms Markle would have ruled Prince Harry out of succeeding to the throne – due to her being a Roman Catholic.

New rules on royal succession came into force in 2015, allowing members of the Royal Family to marry a Roman Catholic and become king or queen.

Ms Markle was previously married, but the Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church at the discretion of the priest.

What will we call her?

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The instant Prince Harry and Ms Markle are pronounced “man and wife” she will automatically become Her Royal Highness, Princess Henry of Wales.

However, she does not automatically become Princess Meghan – because she is not of royal blood.

The Queen’s late sister Margaret was entitled to call herself Princess Margaret. The Queen’s daughter is Princess Anne and her granddaughters are Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

The Queen’s great granddaughter, Prince William’s daughter, is Princess Charlotte. All of these are, or were, of royal blood and so are princesses in their own right.

But Princess Charlotte’s mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, is not known as Princess Catherine, just as the Duchess of York never became Princess Sarah and the Countess of Wessex, the wife of Prince Edward, is not Princess Sophie.

Lady Diana Spencer was never officially Princess Diana. She was the Princess of Wales and, after her divorce from Prince Charles, she was Diana, Princess of Wales.

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Harvey WeinsteinImage copyright

The first UK civil claim against Harvey Weinstein has been issued in the High Court.

A woman, who worked in the film industry and wishes to remain anonymous, is alleging a series of sexual assaults by the film producer.

The claim, which was lodged by personal injury lawyer Jill Greenfield on the woman’s behalf, is expected to exceed £300,000.

Harvey Weinstein denies any allegations of non-consensual sex.

The claim form, which has been seen by the BBC, states the woman is seeking damages for personal injury, expenses, and consequential loss.

It also includes a claim against the Weinstein Company UK Ltd and the Weinstein Company LLC in the US, who are liable as employers of Weinstein.

It’s understood the woman has not yet submitted an official complaint to Scotland Yard, but Ms Greenfield confirmed to the BBC she expects a criminal case to run at the same time as the civil claim.

UK police investigating the movie mogul confirmed last month they are now looking at sexual assault allegations from seven women.

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