Week in the arts

MR BEAN, rubbery-limbed and accident prone, is a lovable sort of chap. He also says very little. Perhaps that comes from studying the outbursts of his alter ego, Rowan Atkinson. The latter has taken a snipe at Bafta in advance of next month's awards, because the British Academy had failed to nominate the Bean film. And as with all notable comedians, it's the way he tells 'em.

"I have become accustomed to Mr Bean's lack of appeal to the kind of people who work in television and the media," his quote ran, "and so I am a little more philosophical about our latest failures. The entertainment industry is littered with characters and personalities who have enjoyed broad popular appeal and a regular critical mauling in equal measure."Actually I can think of other examples. There were The Two Ronnies, for example, huge in the ratings but mercilessly mocked some years ago in sketches on Not The Nine O'Clock News (starring Rowan Atkinson). There was also Benny Hill, a pariah to critics in the years before his death and publicly attacked by Ben Elton, co-writer on Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder.

Rowan Atkinson's argument, namely that there should be a correlation between popular appeal and critical acclaim, does not stand up. If it were the case then there would never be a need for judging panels. The top three at the box office would simply win the top three prizes. It can be hard for those involved to accept that, just as it can be hard for them to accept that they may have now joined the comedy establishment that they once picked up awards for pillorying.

IN THE whole HarperCollins affair, the publisher's best-selling author, Jeffrey Archer, has been unusually silent. No longer. He explained to me in his penthouse flat that he had felt in a difficult position, being an old friend of the two opposing protaganists - UK chairman Eddie Bell and his own editor, whistleblower Stuart Proffitt. But he did manage to find words, none too friendly, for his fellow authors threatening to leave the tarnished publishers. "You don't walk out on old friends just to get a bit of praise and publicity."

So could I take it that Lord Archer's agent would not be renegotiating his own three-book deal? "I don't have an agent any more," he grinned, glancing up at the Monet on the wall. "When you earn what I do, 15 per cent comes to rather a lot."

NOEL COWARD, I suspect, might have taken quite a fancy to Blur's Damon Albarn. But the two are never to be linked, not even on disc. Albarn collaborated with Michael Nyman on a version of Coward's London Pride for a new tribute album. But executive producer Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys has rejected it. Apparently the pair had written an experimental electronic track. "It bears no resemblance to the original," says a startled spokeswoman. And thus The Master's chance of joining Cool Britannia disappears.

THE quarterly journal of the National Art Collections Fund places the obituaries column for leading figures in the art world next to the column on people moving jobs. So next to the heading Obituary is the heading "Going, Going, Gone". I can reassure Lord Gowrie's friends that though his name appeared under the black letters GOING, he may be leaving the Arts Council but remains in robust health.

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