INSIDE THE TUBE

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The Independent Culture
You might call it the "This Life factor". The hippest show of recent years - which featured a house full of twentysomething lawyers taking an inordinate interest in each others' briefs - has catapulted its cast into stellar orbit. Ramon Tikaram, the gorgeous pouting bi-sexual biker Ferdy, has had a successful West End run in Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Lincoln, the dreamer Egg, played opposite Tara Fitzgerald in BBC1's Christmas costume drama, The Woman in White. Steve John Shepherd, the wide-boy clerk Jo, co-stars in the new Pauline Quirke vehicle, Maisie Raine. Jack Davenport, the self-confident barrister Miles, is set to lead the cast in C4's big autumn drama, a six-part thriller called Ultraviolet. Natasha Little, the scheming solicitor Rachel, follows up Far From the Madding Crowd with the starring role in Vanity Fair, the BBC's autumn period piece. And Daniela Nardini, the caustic Anna, after taking the lead in Big Women, headlines in Undercover Heart, a forthcoming BBC thriller. Even David Mallinson, who played the creepy adulterer O'Donnell, had a significant role in In the Red. Not a bad success rate for a BBC2 programme which apparently started out being watched only by the cast's very close friends and relatives.

On 29 August it's Monkees Night on Channel 4. The celebration kicks off with Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees which focuses on the creation of what was perhaps the world's first pre-packaged boy band. At the auditions, none of the hopefuls was required to sing or play an instrument and the band was selected by marketing executives. They still went on to be the most successful US pop band of the time, even outselling the Beatles. After that, Daydream Believers revisits some of the 433 unsuccessful applicants to the ad in an LA paper inviting people to audition for the band. One is now a stand-in actor (principally for Richard Gere), another is a pool- table salesman and yet another is a swimming-pool cleaner who once "nearly" released a record. The programme also examines the rumour that one of the wannabe Monkees was a certain Charles Manson.

What has Michael Portillo been up to since That Night on 1 May, when his sensational defeat in the General Election led everyone subsequently to ask, "Were you up for Portillo?" Well, he appears to have become a TV presenter - but one with a political bent. In a new three-parter for broadcast on Channel 4 next month, provisonally entitled In Search of Conservatism, he seeks a new agenda for the Conservative Party, particularly on the incendiary topic of Europe. Speaking entirely hypothetically, if you were not actually in Parliament and were considering mounting a leadership campaign, there would be no better way of doing it than through your own three-part television series.

James Rampton

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