Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week Thirty: Hunt The BBC Down

Graham Norton will 'probably' have his chat show moved to Fridays, a BBC spokeswoman has announced. Somewhat less than definitively. However, Norton - who is replacing Jonathan Ross as the corporation's 'flagship light entertainment presenter' - will not adopt the Friday Night With ... brand. Probably. 'In all likelihood, when his show returns later in the year it will play in the Friday night slot,' the corporation's spokeswoman said. before nervously checking over her shoulder to see if she'd got that right. And then, going to ask her dad. Meanwhile, Paul O'Grady is reportedly being lined up to replace Simon Cowell on the judging panel of Britain's Got Talent. O'Grady, who moved to ITV from Channel 4 last year, will allegedly replace Cowell after he quit the audition stage of the show. A 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'Paul is famous for being a no-nonsense operator. He'd be perfect.'

The ashes of the cat, seen skulking in the title sequence of Coronation Street for over a decade, are to be auctioned. Frisky was seen crouching on the roof of Jack Duckworth's pigeon loft at the start of more than a thousand episodes of the show from 1990 until 2002. His owner, John Rimington, from Leeds, is not sure how much Frisky's ashes will sell for but he hopes they will go to an 'avid Corrie fan.' They will be sold on 22 July. Frisky famously starred in Coronation Street's opening sequence where he was, seemingly, about to try and murder some hapless dicky birds. The cat, who lost his battle against stomach cancer in 2000 at the age of fourteen, had to go through an intense audition process to get the coveted part a decade earlier. Coronation Street's producers received more than five thousand applications for the role. After whittling it down to ten, the cats appeared on ITV's This Morning. Viewers' votes were cast and the five felines with the most votes went on to be judged on a live, ahem, 'catwalk.' Ken Dodd and Jean Alexander, the actress who played Hilda Ogden, were two of the judges called upon to pick the top cat. Frisky was chosen and a life of soap stardom followed. Mr Rimington said: 'He loved being in the limelight and being the centre of attention. He was a fabulous, fun and outgoing cat - but many thought he was streetwise. He certainly wasn't - in real life he wasn't skulking round back yards - he had a converted castle to lounge around.' Dominic Winter Book Auctions, the firm in charge of selling Frisky's ashes - which come in a wooden casket complete with plaque and certificate - has a rough price of one hundred and fifty pounds but no reserve has been set. Auctioneer Chris Albury said: 'This is probably one of the most unusual things we have sold. Saying that, we have had bidding wars over a lock of Jane Austen's hair and Napoleon's tooth.' In actual fact, a series of cats have been part of successive Coronation Street title sequences ever since 1976. You've got to have a cat in the title sequence of classic Corrie. It's The Law. Much attention was paid earlier this year when new producer Phil Collinson revamped the titles and there was considerable rejoicing in Corrie fandom at the fact that the 2010 cat was much more prominent than the one seen, briefly, in the previous (2002) titles. Cats have featured within the soap itself ever since the early 1960s. The original Corrie cat was Bobby, Minnie Caldwell's ginger tabby, who first appeared in The Street in 1962. It was originally going to be called Skippy, but Margot Bryant – who played Minnie – changed his name to Bobby after a real life pet she'd had some years previously. The first Bobby was actually called Toby and died in 1968 which apparently upset Margot greatly. Several replacement Bobbies were used over the next couple of years with occasional storylines inserted to explain the sudden disappearance and then reappearance of the animal. In one celebrated instance, in 1969, Albert Tatlock accidentally killed Bobby and had to buy a hasty replacement cat before Minnie noticed. Then, in the early seventies, Bobby disappeared seemingly for good. Some time later Minnie thought she'd spotted him up on the viaduct and Stan Ogden - in the single most athletic storyline he got ever got on the show - brought him down, getting scratched in the process. However, the viaduct cat turned out not to be Bobby but, rather, a stray whom Minnie adopted and called Sonny Jim which had been her nickname for her former lodger, Jed Stone. Jed (Kenneth Cope), of course, returned to The Street a couple of years ago and brought with him his own moggy, also called Sonny Jim. Cats have always been something of a Street favourite: Betty Turpin had a cat called Marmaduke, Hilda and Stan owned Rommel and Maxine Peacock had Bella.

Anyway, enough of all this pussy talk, 'where's the next lot of Top Telly Tips, Keith Telly Topping?' I hear you ask, dear blog reader. To which I reply, 'Oi, lose that attitude, mister. This is my blog, we do what I say in this house. Capiche?' Anyway, queue the dancing girls -

Friday 23 July
Tonight series the current series finale of The Mentalist - 9:00 Five. The agents are drawn into the hunt for a murderer impersonating Red John, only for the real serial killer to strike on the other side of California. Seemingly intent on gaining publicity for herself, professional psychic Kristina Frye makes a potentially fatal mistake in appealing to Red John during a televised interview. Can Patrick (Simon Baker) save the girl, find the killer and get it all sorted? They don't call him The Mentalist for nothing, you know.

Rob Brydon returns to the host's chair for the fourth series of the comedy panel show Would I Lie to You? - 10:35 BBC1, with lightning-quick team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack. Over the course of the show, celebrity guests reveal amazing stories about themselves, some of which are true and some of which are not; the aim of the game is to fool the opposition into mistaking fact for fiction and fiction for fact. As previously noted it's, essentially, Call My Bluff for the Twenty First Century. Only funnier. Much funnier. In tonight's episode, David's team-mates are Fern Britton and Richard E Grant, whilst Lee is joined by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Martin Clunes. Good to have it back. One of TV's more interesting game show conceits, this.

In Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - once again we've got a whole series of questions to be answered. How will Gail react to the truth about Lewis? Will Eileen's property ambitions cause problems for Molly and Tyrone? Will Hayley's wedding preparations cause friction between her and Mary? Well, the answer to the latter two is, almost certainly, yes, I'd've said.

Saturday 24 July
Tonight's the Night - 8:00 BBC1 - sees John Barrowman making more dreams come true for some very special people in this light entertainment mixture of Jim'll Fix It and The Generation Game. In this particularly case, an army officer swaps the barracks for the West End to perform with the cast of hit musical Grease. Tell me more. Also, two brave young kids who've helped raise thousands for charrridy chill out with their heroes - Miley Cyrus and Kevin Pietersen. Plus, John goes undercover 'with hilarious results', it says here, to surprise an air hostess with the news that she's singing with international superstar Michael Bolton. Bet that'll put her in the mile high club. I mean, not the actual one but rather, emotionally ... Anyway.

Thirty Years of An Audience With... - 9:00 ITV - celebrates, as the title may well suggest, the thirtieth anniversary of 'much-loved' (it says here) entertainment series An Audience With..., featuring interviews with the performers and celebrity audience members as well as memorable moments from the show. This episode looks back at some unforgettable appearances by Ken Dodd, Lionel Richie, Brian Conley, Lulu and Victoria Wood, and includes chats with Ken, Brian and Lulu, among others. Narrated by Chris Tarrant.

Sunday 25 July
The much-anticipated Sherlock kicks-off its three-week run at 9:00 on Beeb1. This is, just in case you've missed all of the heavy pre-publicity and the trailers - a contemporary crime drama, based on the celebrated novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and written by Doctor Who's Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. A war hero, doctor John Watson, invalided home from Afghanistan, meets a strange but charismatic genius who is looking for a flatmate in Baker Street. This is London, 2010, and Watson and Sherlock Holmes are meeting for the very first time. A string of impossible suicides has Scotland Yard baffled - and only one man can help. Stars Benedict Cumberbatch - daft name, good actor - and Martin Freeman - ordinary name, really good actor - and yer Keith Telly Topping is very much looking forward to it.

Tragically on at the same time, we've got Coast - 9:00 BBC2 - which returns for its fifth run for yet another journey around the British Isles and beyond to see how shared seas unite us all. The team takes a circular tour of the Irish Sea to visit every country of the British Isles. Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) is on the Isle of Man, home to some big inventions. Dr Alice Roberts the queen of punk archaeology investigates the quicksand on Morecambe Bay. In Liverpool, Mark Horton unearths the remains of Brunel's steamer, the Great Eastern. In Northern Ireland the deadly killer Miranda Krestovnikoff studies seals in Strangford Lough and Dick Strawbridge looks at the work of inventor Harry Ferguson. And, Nick Crane is sea cliff climbing in Anglesey.

Last of the Summer Wine - 7:30 BBC1 - as you may have heard, has been cancelled by the BBC and this is its final series. Twenty five years, at least, overdue, but welcome none-the-less. In the latest 'hilarious' episode, Hobbo enlists the services of his 'team' to help Toby win back the affections of his ex-wife. Glenda decides to make it her mission to find Morton a woman. Howard sneaks into the library to tell Marina there's a problem with their bike ride that afternoon - Pearl is going out too. Meanwhile, PCs Cooper and Walsh try out a new in-car fryer. And, as usual, it will be about as funny as an afternoon at the genital torturers with a studio audience of old morons guffawing away at tired slapstick conceits which were old hat when Buster Keaton was doing them a hundred years ago. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Meanwhile, in Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - Richard Hammond finds out if Volkswagen has improved its second-generation Touareg 4x4 by taking it to Sweden for a race against some hardcore snowmobilers. It's a rotten life, innit Hamster?! James May, on the other hand, is in Germany attempting to break his own personal speed record in a brand new, even more powerful version of the amazing Bugatti Veyron. And, in the year that legendary F1 star Ayrton Senna would have turned fifty, Jeremy Clarkson asks why he's still considered the best driver of his generation.

Monday 26 July
I can't quite believe it but, over the course of the last few months yer Keith Telly Topping has become something of a fan of Dragons' Den - 9:00 BBC2. Yes, it's thoroughly nasty, vicious, humiliating bully-boy telly but, somehow, it manages to transcend that and become high comedy of the absurd. Particularly the moments when Theo Paphitis' eyes narrow when he senses a kill! In tonight's episode, another set of hopeful entrepreneurs pitch to the multi-millionaire investors. A Manchester-based entrepreneur thinks he has invented the cut-price alternative to a romantic weekend away - a rental kit that transforms an ordinary bed into a four-poster. The bottled water industry is worth millions and Guy Jeremiah from London wants to tempt the Dragons with his green alternative - a collapsible, reusable bottle. And Sam Petter brightens up the Den with her mission to get kids more active. Will some or all of them survive without having all of the skin stripped from by their backs by a severe Deborah Meaden tongue-lashing? We can only watch and pray for their souls!

In The Games That Time Forgot - 9:00 BBC4 - Alex Horne tries to discover why some childhood games survive, and examines the best of those that didn't. Whilst revisiting his own juvenile haunts, he tries to relaunch the ancient sport of The Quintain, (horseless jousting) and try his damnedest to understand the rules of the Jingling Match. Not forgetting his attempt to re-stage the forgotten spectacle of Cricket on Horseback. Sounds rather fun that one.

The Hospital - 9:00 Channel 4 is a documentary series which examines the sometimes rather fragile relationship between British teenagers and the NHS. Consultants, doctors, nurses, surgeons and midwives speak with candour about the problems faced with this age group. Well, yes. I mean, they're all surly, rude and inarticulate what with their constant assertions that they 'never done nothin', neither, innit?' are they not? Stick 'em all in the army and give 'em a haircut, that's my solution. Lead consultant Rachael Jones and her team in West London are tackling Britain's sexual time bomb - chlamydia is her clinic's number one diagnosis. What, including when somebody comes in with a broken leg? Blimey, that's a bit drastic.

ITV are still claiming that Identity - 9:00 - is a 'gripping drama series about an elite police unit which battles identity crime.' Not sure I'd go all the way with that though it does have its moments and some very good actors in it. In this episode, the Identity Unit investigates a businessman who is crucial to a major government deal. Anomalies in dental records spark fears that the businessman may not be who he says he is, so the team must try to get a DNA sample from him - without his knowledge - to verify his identity. Unfortunately, the case is compromised when Bloom's undercover life catches up with him yet again and he is forced to choose between doing his job and saving his own skin.

Tuesday 27 July
In Shooting Stars - 9:30 BBC2 - Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer host the hit comedy panel show with team captains Jack Dee and Ulrika Jonsson. Joining them are Strictly dancer Brendan Cole, football pundit Chris Kamara ('unbelieveable!'), war correspondent John Simpson and Tulisa from the 'top pop group' N-Dubz, apparently. Angelos Epithemiou keeps the scores and interrogates John Simpson. Bob questions Chris' professional abilities and Vic impresses Tulisa with an incredible display of strength. Brendan takes part in the final challenge. I particularly enjoy episodes of Shooting Stars where someone has been booked who clearly had no idea what they've let themselves in for. Last week's example was, ahem, Example, who is a rapper, I'm assured by young people who are with-it. Or, 'For example' as Vic and Bob kept calling him!

Ship Rescue: The Devon Disaster - 8:00 Five - is a documentary exploring the attempts of the emergency services to rescue MSC Napoli, a fifty three thousand-ton container ship that ran aground on the Devon coastline in 2007, spilling its cargo into the hands of looters. For three years, teams have fought to prevent an environmental disaster and remove the ship from busy UK waters.

In Britain by Bike - 8:30 BBC4 - Clare Balding attempts to re-discover Britain from the saddle of a touring cycle, following in the wheeltracks of compulsive cyclist and author Harold Briercliffe, whose evocative guide books of the late 1940s lovingly describe by-passed Britain. In the latest adventure, Clare's journey into the Welsh borders and discovers that Wales is rich in literary connections to both Bruce Chatwin and AE Houseman. And leeks. She also reveals how a cycle factory went to war and finds out about the Bride's Tree - a bizarre village ceremony with a dark secret. She's actually very good in this is Clare - a kind of weird bicycling stepsister show to Eddie Izzard's round-Britain marathon travelogue last year. And again, it's an example of a travelogue that doesn't need to see Michael Palin trotting off aroudn the globe for the forty seventh time to be watchable, funny and informative.

Fat Pets - 9:00 Sky1 - is, according to the makers, 'a tongue-in-cheek look at the obese pets of Britain.' Sounds delightful. Millions of animals are overweight through overfeeding, driving some owners to book their pets into clinics and gyms. Others turn to animal behaviourists and even surgery to cut the weight of their loved ones. Ah brilliant, having seemingly run out of ways to demonstrate humiliating, intrusive and condescending fat fascism towards humans, TV's now turned on the animals. Let's hope a few of the animals turn back an give the presenters a damned good clawing.

Wednesday 28 July
In The Men Who Jump Off Buildings - 9:00 Channel 4 - the Cutting Edge team follow extreme sports enthusiasts Dan Witchalls and Ian Richardson as they base jump from some of Britain's iconic structures: Blackpool Tower, Nelson's Column, the Millennium Dome and Wembley Stadium.

The Great Outdoors - 9:00 BBC4 - is a comedy which follows the hikes, heartaches, friendships and rivalries of a misfit rambling club. Club organiser Bob (Spaced's Mark Heap) begins a titanic battle of wills with the newest member, Christine (the gloriously unfunny Ruth Jones from Gavin & Stacey), for the heart and soul of his treasured walking group. Bob's teenage daughter Hazel is mortified at the arrival of geeky Victor from her school and married businesswoman Sophie is looking for a way out from her freeloading husband Joe. Also stars another of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite comedy actors, Steve Edge. On the surface it looks very good but, I repeat, Ruth Jones is in it. That's, sadly, these days like saying 'James Corden's in it.' An automatic vote of no confidence on general principle.

Shamelessly manipulative and voiced by the king of anthropomorphic schmaltz, Rolf Harris, the delightful Penguin Island continues at 7:30 on BBC1. Time is running out for hungry penguin chicks Sammy and Tom, whose parents - Bluey and Sheila - must swim further and further out to sea in a desperate attempt to find fish. Ranger Elizabeth Lundahl-Hegedus keeps watch over the under-nourished chicks, worried they won't survive until their parents return to feed them, while ranger John Evans patrols the colony, checking for offshore 'baitballs' of fish, a sign that food is nearby.

The third heat of Britain's favourite celebrity cooking contest Celebrity MasterChef is at 8:00 on BBC1. Not that it's got much competition, ofc course. Come Dine With me just doesn't cut the mustard. Or the potatoes for that matter. Big moustachioed star of It's Not Easy Being Green and Coast, Dick Strawbridge, presenter Jennie Bond, actor Marcus Patrick, soul singer Kym Mazelle and former Olympic decathlete Dean Macey are put through a series of gruelling cooking challenges as they try to impress judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Only two of them can go through to the week's quarter final.

Thursday 29 July
The Secret Tourist - 9:00 BBC1 - is a consumer travel series in which Matt Allwright - who seems to be on TV more often than the news at the moment - re-creates popular scams on unsuspecting tourists abroad. Here, he demonstrates a hotel room theft and a fake day trip con. Plus a family of secret tourists investigate a package holiday in the Dominican Republic, making some shocking revelations about the health, hygiene and safety at the resort. And Carole Machin investigates doctors on the Spanish island of Tenerife after reports of over-treating and over-charging tourists.

Five Days that Changed Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - investigates the extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of five days in May when the UK's political leaders haggled over who should form the next government. In exclusive interviews, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and other key players tell the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson exactly how the coalition government was created. Blimey, that didn't take them long. You normally wait at least six months before you start doing 'historical perspective' documentaries on stuff like this.

Police Camera Action - 9:00 ITV - sees Gethin Jones presenting this series which look at dangerous driving on Britain's roads. In this edition, Gethin investigates why young drivers are such a menace on the roads, going on patrol with two police forces in Essex and Hull. He witnesses a crackdown on a young speeding driver, another with potentially dangerous car modifications, and a driver carrying too many passengers - including two people in the boot. Plus, the police come across a young drunk driver who only has a provisional license and who was previously convicted for driving under the influence when he was just fifteen. Gethin also meets four reckless young drivers to try to understand why they take such lethal risks while behind the wheel.

Finally, being shown as a tribute to its author, Alan Plater who recently died, Last of the Blonde Bombshells - 9:20 BBC4 - is a musical drama about a recently widowed woman who realises that the happiest days of her life were spent playing in a swing band during the Second World War and starring Judi Dench. A chance encounter with the band's drummer sets in motion the greatest adventure of her life, as the two attempt to reunite the band for one last performance. if you didn't catch this one the first time it was on, make a datem, it's beautiful.

And so to the news: A teenager from Essex has won a competition offering a part in the Australian soap Neighbours. Gabriella Darlington, eighteen, will guest star as Poppy Rogers in the long-running show after winning Five's Be A Star On Neighbours contest. The Essex student will start filming her four-week stint on Monday. 'I can't believe how lucky I am. I never expected to be shortlisted, let alone get to Australia and win,' she said. Producer Neal Kingston said casting decisions were made because Darlington 'ticked all the of the boxes.' In her audition video, the teenager told producers she was 'leaving school this summer' and 'going travelling before Uni, so I'd love to start in Australia and Neighbours.' She beat sixteen hundred hopefuls to the prize, and has spent the last week in Melbourne with the cast and crew, visiting the set and being screen tested. 'I have had an amazing week and am really excited to start on Monday,' she said. Darlington, who has no previous acting experience, will appear on UK screens from 10 November.

Our regular series HuntWatch now: The television licence fee could be cut under the government's public spending austerity drive, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Hunt attacked the BBC's 'extraordinary and outrageous' waste. Hunt, who last year during the run up to the election suggested that the BBC should be hiring staff on the grounds of their political affiliations rather than their ability to to do the job said he could 'absolutely' see viewers paying less than the current £145.50 after next year's negotiations between the BBC and the government. The BBC recently announced plans to cut its top managers' pay bill. The aim is to reduce their pay by a quarter over eighteen months. The culture secretary said the BBC needed to recognise the 'very constrained financial situation' the country is in. He told the Telegraph the possibility of a reduction in the licence fee was a 'discussion that we need to have.' Hunt said: 'The BBC should not interpret the fact that we haven't said anything about the way licence fee funds are used as an indication that we are happy about it. We will be having very tough discussions.' So much for David Cameron's promise that the BBC would be safe under any government he was running. Just another Tory scum lie, it would seem. We should be used to those, by now. The Telegraph reported that a lower levy could be in place for 2012 following next year's review process. The culture secretary said the BBC 'will have to make tough decisions like everyone else. There are huge numbers of things that need to be changed at the BBC. They need to demonstrate the very constrained financial situation we are now in,' he said. A Department of Culture spokesman said 'no decisions about the level of the licence fee' would be taken ahead of the review process. 'Like all other public organisations, ministers expect the BBC to demonstrate that they are operating efficiently and giving value for money,' he added. Still, if it's any consolation, with Hunt's unerring ability to open his mouth and put his foot in it, his days will, probably, also be numbered. Just remember, all of you good people who voted Liberal Democrat at the last election - was this in your manifesto?

EastEnders legend Barbara Windsor has filmed her final scene for the soap after almost sixteen years in the part of Peggy Mitchell. The seventy two-year-old performed in the role for the last time yesterday, bringing her long history with the Albert Square serial to a close. After completing her final scene, the actress hugged fellow cast members Samantha Womack (Ronnie), Rita Simons (Roxy) and Glynis Barber (Glenda) and gave a speech which reflected on her time with the programme. Speaking of Windsor's exit, Womack commented: 'There was a line in a script, "You have always been like a mother to me," and that summed it up perfectly for me. Barbara took myself and Rita under her wing from the day we started and it's a wrench to let her go. We will miss her dearly and we will definitely stay in touch - she won't be able to get rid of us!' Simons added: 'I am really going to miss Barbara. On set, Barbara is like my honorary real-life auntie. She is a great mentor and she's taught me so much. Barbara is such a professional and it has been an honour to work with her. She is truly supportive and she will be greatly missed at EastEnders.' Meanwhile, June Brown - who plays Dot Branning - said: 'I shall miss her enormously and she is a wonderful friend. I will miss our lunches, coffee and catching up on gossip!' Windsor announced her decision to quit EastEnders last October, explaining that she was keen to spend more time with her husband Scott Mitchell. Details surrounding Peggy's exit are still being kept under wraps by the soap's producers. However, it has been confirmed that, as shooting does not take place in order, the final scene Windsor recorded will not be the last one to air on screen featuring her character.

Jane McDonald has announced that she is taking a break from the next series of Loose Women. The singer confirmed her decision to leave the lunchtime show due to her 'hectic' schedule. 'I have been a regular presenter on the show for the past seven years and I just felt that maybe it was time I gave everyone a break!' she wrote on her official website. 'I absolutely love the show (of course I do!!) and I will miss everyone connected with it enormously but I really feel it is time I took a sabbatical.' In an official statement McDonald added: 'I have had an absolute ball over the last six years and am going to miss everyone so much. But don't worry when it's calmed down a bit I'll be back! The forty seven-year-old said that she will continue to tour with her music. 'With a UK and Australia tour, filming a DVD and recording a single and an album there just isn't enough time to do everything!' She added: 'I will (of course) still be appearing in concert through-out the UK this year, and next year with my new 2011 show and I look forward to continually seeing you all there and having a chat (so don't panic. You will still be seeing and hearing lots from me!)' Oh, good.

Peter Sellers tried to change his will on the day he suffered his fatal heart attack, a newly-discovered legal document suggests. According to the letter signed by Sellers, the comic actor wanted to stop his entire fortune passing to his estranged fourth wife, Lynne Frederick. The letter is dated 22 July 1980 - the day Sellers collapsed and fell into a coma at the Dorchester Hotel. It is expected to fetch up to fifteen hundred pounds when it is auctioned this weekend. Sellers had arranged to have dinner with his Goon Show co-stars, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, in late July 1980. But on 22 July, he collapsed from a massive heart attack, just days before he was scheduled to have major heart surgery in Los Angeles. The actor had suffered a series of heart attacks in 1964 - as many as thirteen over the course of a few days - and the condition of his heart had deteriorated over the following years. After two days in a London hospital, he died on the night of 24 July, 1980, aged fifty four. Sellers was survived by his fourth wife, from whom he was separated, and three children, Michael, Sarah and Victoria. The letter, which was signed at the Dorchester, features Sellers' signature, and reads: 'The Trustees shall hold, manage, invest, reinvest the trust property for the benefit of Victoria Sellers, daughter of the Grantor, born 20 January 20 1965 upon the following terms.' It goes on to add that Victoria - his daughter with his second wife, Britt Ekland - should inherit twenty thousand pounds on her twenty first birthday. But the papers were never made official and Frederick inherited the bulk of his fortune. His children all received token amounts. Auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes, said: 'This document is exceptional on two fronts. One, that it was the very last item ever to be signed by Peter, and two, because his daughter Victoria was left just eight hundred pounds in his will. If this trust fund had been known about then she would have been left a very large amount.'

The sixteen-year-old daughter of Tajikistan's President has been given a summer job reading the news on the country's national TV station. Zarina Rahmonova, who studies in the UK, made her debut on Wednesday, with a seven-minute bulletin read in English. She had two weeks' training, during which time news programmes were moved around the schedule on the state run Channel One. Zarina will work at the station for two months, until she resumes her studies. Her news programme, aired on daytime TV, is targeted at foreigners living in Tajikistan and international viewers who can pick up the channel by satellite. The channel's chief news editor, Khujanazar Aminiyen, said he was pleased with her performance. But her new colleagues did not find out until the last minute that she would be joining them. They said the TV studio was hastily spruced up and new carpets were laid before she arrived. 'You could sense that she was confident,' commented Asliya Kurbanova, who reads the news in Uzbek. 'I hope there will be changes now that she has arrived. I hope, for example, that we will get professional stylists and make-up staff on this channel.' Tajikistan has three other state-run TV channels. Channel One's news programmes are dominated by Soviet-style reports about official visits by the country's leadership. Critical remarks are extremely rare. There is strict censorship - even if not officially acknowledged, observers say. Certain topics, faces and names are deemed undesirable on state TV. An independent media activist, Nuriddin Karshibayev, said Zarina's appearance as a newsreader was 'not very practical, as the programmes are watched not only in Tajikistan but also abroad.' Zarina is one of the seven daughters of the Tajik president, Emomali Rahmon. Her sister, Ozoda Rahmon, is Tajik deputy foreign minister. Ozoda's husband Jamoliddin Nuraliyev is deputy finance minister. Sounds like a good old fashioned family run operation, there. This year the president's eldest son, Rustam Emomali, was elected as a deputy in the Dushanbe city assembly, the Majlis.

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