Diary

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The Independent Online
Some 11 million viewers watched the last episode of Absolutely Fabulous, which ended gloriously with Patsy and Edina tottering off to their granny flat. But if the viewer feels bereft, what of the producer? Jon Plowman told me: "You feel a mixture of emotions; thank God it's gone out on a high. But you're sad that you're never going to get that group of people together in a rehearsal room again. It's glorious when something catches on. Jennifer Saunders came into the BBC with a pilot script, which was made into episode one. We knew we were on to something when we spotted our secretary showing it to her friends in the lunch hour." Now head of comedy entertainment at the BBC, Jon is working on a new series of French & Saunders and trying to arrange for Dawn French and Richard Curtis (who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral) to write a second run of The Vicar of Dibley. In a neat counterpoint, BBC1 started repeating the classic series Fawlty Towers last weekend to a rapturous reception. It begs the question: will Absolutely Fabulous convulse the next generation the same way? Is it a comedy classic, or a cultural in-joke?

Perhaps it was the impact of a glass of champagne and the thinner air on the 24th floor of the Canary Wharf tower, but for a brief moment yesterday I thought I had wandered on to the set of Ab Fab. In front of me was an immensely tall, thin and red-suited female of a certain age. Janet Street-Porter, managing director of Live TV, a new cable channel starting in June, was explaining why viewers would tune in to an "events station" to watch people like her going to the British Academy Awards, a Joan Collins book launch, Wimbledon, or Imran Khan's wedding. When she mentioned a £2,000 budget I immediately assumed it was her weekly clothes allowance (it is actually the sum Live TV will spend per hour of programming).

I asked her where she had bought her suit. "Harvey Nicks ... and it's Joseph," she giggled. Her female staff say that tales of tensions between her and Kelvin MacKenzie, managing director of Mirror Television and former editor of the Sun, are all true, though he denies it. "The low-life tabloid boys can't handle a powerful woman," confessed a Janet supporter.

But senior people in television take her very seriously indeed. One guest at the launch was Richard Tait, the new editor-in-chief of ITN, anxious to bone up on low-cost editing equipment.

Rupert Murdoch's very public criticism of Piers Morgan, editor of the News of the World, for breaching the privacy of the suffering Countess Spencer, concentrated on the fact that he is a young man (aged 30) who went over the top. But a meeting of the founding members of Women in Journalism, set up to lobby and network, was reminded by NoW female staffers about the way there had been a complete gender change at the top of the paper, with the lads very much back in charge.

During the rewriting of the Press Complaints Commission's code in 1988- 89, a previous News of the World editor, Patsy Chapman, played a crucial role in bringing the tabloid press into discussions, ensuring that the revived commission did not become a group of broadsheet editors ganging up on the mucky, vulgar end of the profession. Regular readers such as myself will also remember that Patsy Chapman fought the circulation battle with investigations into child-abusing vicars, not ill young mothers.

The tabloid press is also occupying the mind of Lindsay Leonard, the new editor of Mediumwave, Radio 4's Sunday morning media programme. Ms Leonard is keen to capture some of the "knockabout seediness of the media ... the grubbiness of the tabloids" in the programme - and also plans what she calls an injection of testosterone to the all-female production team, with the media odd-job man Roy Greenslade standing in more frequently for the regular presenter, Joanna Coles. "I am looking forward to making a greater contribution," he said diplomatically yesterday.

London media hotshots are still complaining about the programme being produced in Manchester, but Ms Leonard thinks a bit of regional detachment is all for the good. But then she lives in rural Holmfirth in the Pennines, which is about as ungrubby as one can get and still be in the media.

Media grandees gathered last week for the third annual Goodman Lecture, set up to honour Lord Goodman, who died the very next day. David Glencross, chief executive of the Independent Television Commission, was the speaker. He dwelt on Lord Goodman's jaundiced views on commercial television, particularly when the eminent lawyer had to use all his powers of persuasion to stop the impresario Jack Hylton, who was madly in love with an Italian cabaret singer, from including her in every variety show he produced for ITV.

University College London, Lord Goodman's old university and the venue for the lecture, has benefited in the past five years from the creation of a media law chair funded by Lord Goodman's law firm and a host of distinguished friends including the former Observer editor David Astor, the publisher Andr Deutsch, Granada TV's Sir Denis Forman, Jeremy Isaacs, Rupert Murdoch and a part-time publisher called Michael Heseltine (though he has yet to be spotted at a lecture). The word is that they may soon be asked for a top-up.

I should be flaunting a badge proclaiming: "I survived the six-year-olds' party", which, mad fools, we held at home, not in the nearby sports centre or House of Fun as most sensible friends do. There were some truly hairy moments. One boy bit another on the arm, raced upstairs and hid under a bed. One girl refused to let her father leave until two hours into the party: when he did, two boys trod on her and she spent the rest of the time in tears.

My two-year-old son, incensed at the way his big sister's friends were riding his baby trikes and invading his sandpit, stood in the middle, throwing handfuls of sand into the guests' eyes. His two-year-old friend, invited especially to keep him company, put a stop to this cave-child behaviour by hitting him over the head with the cricket stumps.

But, for the first time, we hired a children's entertainer, actually an out-of-work actor. He rode a monocycle, juggled, did tricks and allowed them to pull his strangely bouncy hair to prove it wasn't a wig. The birthday girl got to wave a collapsing magic wand over a tin containing torn-up tea bags, paper and glue, turning them into Opal Fruits. Modern treasures come in unexpected forms.

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