The Feral Beast

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The Independent Online

Last two apprentices keep Sugar sweet for months

Not a lot of people know that two endings of 'The Apprentice' are recorded, ostensibly to keep the identity of the winner a secret. Is that the only reason? A former contestant tells me the two finalists spend nearly six months working for Viglen, the company owned by Sir Alan Sugar, right, in between recording and transmitting the final episode. Although producers insist Sir Alan makes his decision at the time of filming, they admit they are not told until the day before transmission which video to pop in the machine. So the two hopefuls beaver away for months while nobody except Sir Alan knows who has won. Why doesn't he tell the producers? Does he not trust them to keep a secret? "We trust Sir Alan absolutely," says a spokesman. But if he changed his mind at any time, nobody would ever know.

Chinese whispers

How will the half million visitors to Beijing who don't speak Chinese fare at the Games next month? Martin Fletcher of 'The Times' filed more than 2,000 words on how he got by without a single word, with anecdotes of gesticulating and drawing to communicate. But it wasn't such a daunting task for Fletcher: had he got stuck, he need only have phoned his daughter, who is studying Chinese at university and doing a stint at his paper's China bureau. How handy!

Last chapter for trade mag

An abrupt and sad goodbye to 'Publishing News', the trade magazine that has seen its last edition after 29 years, making eight staff redundant. Founder Fred Newman described his decision to pull the plug as "sad and difficult". In the final edition, a festival of farewells, he recalls the magazine's inception in what used to be Harry's Bar in Mayfair. Thus was born PN's gossip columnist, Harry Barr. Publishing News Ltd will still host the British Book Awards.

Panama is a link too far

It was relaunches all round for newspaper websites last week, as the Telegraph, Mirror and Guardian all underwent some cyber-tinkering. Least drastic in its approach was the Guardian, which made back-end changes, but in doing so took cross-referencing to a new extreme. As news of canoe couple John and Anne Darwin's sentencing broke on the homepage, a link to the weather pages gave temperatures in, er, Panama.

Keep it in the family

It's a two-horse race to succeed Roly Keating as BBC2 controller after he unexpectedly stepped down last week. 'Newsnight' editor Peter Barron and BBC4 controller Janice Hadlow are both in the running. If Hadlow succeeds it will be good news for Martin Davidson, senior commissioning editor at the Beeb's specialist factual unit. When he's not busy pitching ideas to BBC2, he's also Mr Janice Hadlow. Anyone for a conflict of interest?

Piers scores at Chequers with his footie faux pas

Writing in the 'Telegraph', Celia Walden gives tips on how to get through lunch at Chequers, included avoiding the mistake of one guest, who, on leaving, "tripped merrily down the steps before flinging out: 'I've gotta dash – I might just catch the second half of the game.'" The unnamed guest was of course Walden's other half, ex-'Mirror' editor Piers Morgan, left. The Beast hears Gordon Brown was in fact envious of Morgan, who was leaving to watch Arsenal v Chelsea. "He couldn't believe I'd stayed as long as I had," Morgan tells me. "He was only sorry he couldn't join me, instead of having to go back to Downing Street."

Pernickety Giles is not so precious about his reviews

Much sniggering at 'The Guardian' and across the chattering internet at leaked emails from Giles Coren, right, to 'The Times' subs' desk, in which he explains with some vigour why they should refrain from meddling with his copy. We salute the sentiment, but it's interesting to learn Coren cares so much about the words printed under his byline when he is apparently less than fussy about the restaurants he reviews. Asked on one occasion why he had dismissed the Notting Hill eaterie E&O as "pretty terrible" when others were full of praise, Coren said: "I gave E&O a crap review because Adrian Gill loved it." Childish, eh?

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Ross?

As 'Dad's Army' reaches its 40th anniversary on 3 August, the Beeb is marking the occasion with a one-off special paying tribute to the much-loved sitcom. Trouble is, none of the cast is still alive, and finding contributors has been tricky. Fans were invited to the recording, but were unimpressed to find Jonathan Ross, right, drafted in to present it. "He failed to strike the right note with his tomfoolery," huffs my source in the studio. "He looked ridiculous dressed up in a 'Dad's Army' uniform." Ronnie Corbett and Dan Snow were also involved, although Snow was minus 10 when 'Dad's Army' was first aired.