BBC millennium line-up unveiled to critical yawns

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The Independent Online
By Jane Robins Media Correspondent

A NEW version of Bob Marley's song "One Love" will be the BBC's official anthem on Millennium Eve, the corporation said yesterday. It will feature Marley's son Ziggy with the Gipsy Kings and the Boys' Choir of Harlem.

The song will be part of a pounds 12m, 28-hour marathon, 2000 Today, running across New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, hosted by a team led by Gaby Roslin and Michael Parkinson. The BBC calls the programme "the most ambitious live broadcast undertaken". It will include appearances by Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Professor Stephen Hawking, Sophia Loren, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Tina Turner, and the pop groups Eurythmics and Simply Red.

Sir Cliff Richard will perform live from Birmingham. Despite being snubbed by radio stations around the country, his "Millennium Prayer" single is at number one in the charts.

2000 Today has been planned for three years and will bring together 60 broadcasters, using 78 satellite paths, to capture events around the world.

John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor, will introduce the first minutes of the millennium from the South Pacific island of Kiribati, Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage will be in New York City's Times Square, and the veteran reporter Jeremy Bowen will be in Bethlehem. The children's broadcaster, Jamie Theakston, will present the millennium countdown concert from Greenwich, and the former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson will cover the last sunset of 1999 in Britain.

The line-up of familiar faces is seen as typical of the "safe" BBC television criticised by the Campaign for Quality Television. The leading actor Michael Gambon, star of the Dennis Potter drama The Singing Detective, said in a Radio Times interview yesterday: "They wouldn't do The Singing Detective now, would they? It seems my generation has been elbowed away. My mates who earned a good living on telly can't get arrested now. It's all youth, isn't it? Soaps have taken over from drama. TV is full of gardening, cooking, antiques and animals. Cookery programmes are a lot of crap."

Perhaps, he said, he "should do a TV series with a vet who likes gardening and cooking" or write a series about a policeman "called Police Canteen Supervisor where I'd drive my mobile canteen to feed policemen investigating murders. You could fit animals in there somewhere."

The BBC Christmas specials include four episodes of Dawn French's The Vicar of Dibley, by the Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis. The Royle Family, Dinnerladies and Jonathan Creek all have Christmas specials. Films feature Mission: Impossible.

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