Blair to face tough interrogation at the mighty hands of MTV

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The Independent Online

The days when Tony Blair went into battle against their sort are seriously numbered, though.

For the Prime Minster, above, has decided to side-step the big guns and grant his first major televised interview of this Parliament to the youth channel MTV.

Tonight, Blair will appear before a studio audience containing Bob Geldof, alongside forty 16-30 year -olds. He's agreed to be quizzed (via video-link) by the pop group Destiny's Child, before taking a series of off-the-cuff questions from the floor.

News of the programme, All Eyes on Tony Blair – to be screened on Friday – has upset heavyweight broadcasters, who say the Prime Minister rejected other bids for an exclusive interview to mark next week's G8 summit at Gleneagles.

They say his appearance on MTV smacks of dumbing down. It's the second time he's done a chat-show for the channel, which has also brought us Beavis and Butthead, Jackass, and The Osbournes.

Downing Street, for its part, says the show forms part of a drive to "reach out" to a young audience.

"MTV has an international audience," says a spokesman. "Although they have Tony Blair on as a politician, young people are more likely to watch it if there are well known people in the music world also involved."

* Samuel West is playing with fire in his first season as the artistic director of Sheffield Theatres.

The highbrow actor is to revive The Romans in Britain by Howard Brenton, which can (justifiably) be described as the most controversial play of its era.

Its premiere, at the National Theatre in 1980, prompted Mary Whitehouse to prosecute the director Michael Bogdanov over a scene depicting homosexual rape.

Her case was eventually withdrawn, but established a legal precedent – that the Sexual Offences Act applies to theatre – which (until now) prevented any venue from reviving the play.

I gather that Whitehouse's former organisation, MediaWatch UK, has just got wind of West's forthcoming production, scheduled for February.

"Any revival will have to take 1980 very seriously," they say. "The precedent set then still stands, so they'll have to consider if it's worth including this scene."

West is unlikely to give way. Stand by for a legal showdown early next year.

* It's the curse of Pandora! A week after David Schwimmer treated me to a hostile anonymous "prank" call – he was upset by coverage of co-star Catherine Tate's New Statesman diary – there is evidence of divine retribution.

Midweek matinées of The Schwimm's West End play, Some Girl(s), have been cancelled, because he's suffering from hay fever. According to the producer Nica Burns, the antihistamines Schwimmer is taking have dried out his throat.

"We simply don't want to take the risk of wrecking his voice by allowing him to do two shows on Thursday with insufficient vocal rest before he does three more shows," she says. "David regretfully accepts our decision, but we feel we'll risk less disappointment to the public."

There may be more to this than meets the eye. But after what happened last time, I won't even try to find out.

* Maria Sharapova's progress to today's Wimbledon semi-final provides an opportunity to reflect on her sudden ubiquity.

Last week, I asked readers to guess how many photos of the Queen of Screams would brighten up Fleet Street newspapers during the tournament.

Entries to my competition are now closed – the best wins a bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 – and the current running total is a staggering 170.

That's an average of two per day per newspaper. And in case you're wondering, the Daily Star and Daily Mail look to be her keenest fans.

If they keep it up, the bookmaker Bethilo, with whom I've "gone high" in a charity spread bet on this, faces a monster payout. Chi-ching!

* Say what you like about Lord Archer, he knows how to exploit the post-feminist decline in modern manners. The dodgy peer brought his wife, Mary, to a private view of Robin Douglas-Home's new exhibition The Sixties Set on Tuesday.

Having been bothered by several photographers, Lady Archer left the Air Gallery to wait for her husband in their silver Mini, which was parked outside.

"Everyone expected Jeffrey to say his goodbyes, and follow her back to the car," I'm told. "But instead, he got talking to a trio of rather glamorous ladies, and didn't move. After a while, Mary got bored of waiting, and came back in to get him."

I gather milord Archer told his wife he was "just coming", before saying an extended farewell to the young beauties. Swordsman to the end, he didn't want to leave without their phone numbers.