Arts and Entertainment

The form has changed but the impulses remain the same. The quickening of the heart can lie in an inbox too

Play it again, Auntie

There's a hole in the schedules. Time to repeat a 'classic' sitcom. Nothing wrong with that, says W Stephen Gilbert, but what about the rest of our television heritage?

review: Madness is a funny thing to laugh about

It would be easier to like Searching (ITV), Carla Lane's new comedy, if Fawlty Towers wasn't currently being repeated on BBC1. This is, I know, an unfair comparison - like complaining about Castles on the grounds that it isn't Hamlet - but the fact that Prunella Scales is in both programmes can't help but illuminate one of the problems with Lane's particular brand of comic writing. The wonderful thing about Fawlty Towers is that it is a comedy without charm. I don't mean by this that it's entirely charmless - both the Major and Manuel offer something sweet, moments when we are offered relief after shooting the comic rapids. But there is never any sense that the writers have stuck them in as a plea for your good opinion, that dreadful sense that the comedy is frightened that you might not think it's nice. Fawlty Towers took real risks with the likeability of its principal characters - as the unsettled response to the first episodes revealed.

Television / Till sleaze do them part

FLORA MATLOCK comes from good country stock. The kind of stock you get by simmering large jawbones for two or three centuries. At Cambridge she met Duncan, a grammar-school boy, and was attracted by "his intellect, his commitment and his moral base". Wanting a career where he could use all three, Duncan naturally became a Tory MP and Flora became The Politician's Wife (C4).

ARTS: TO HELL WITH BASIL

Is 'Fawlty Towers' the best British television comedy ever written? To mark its return to BBC1 tonight, John Cleese tells Andrew Davidson in a rare interview how Basil and Manuel were created and why he will never write about them again

centrepiece; Breathing lessons

How to Win Playwrighting Awards:

Funny you should ask

At lunch the other day I found myself sitting next to a distinguished writer who also reviews television from time to time. After we had established the ground rules of sitting next to each other, such as which one of us liked salt and pepper more than the other, and who got first wipe of the only available napkin, he opened the conversation by saying: "Tell me, do you like Absolutely Fabulous"?

ARTS TELEVISION In the name of the Father

`Father Ted' is a sit-com with a difference - it's funny. Ben Thompson witnesses a miracle in the making

FISCAL FORTITUDE

Can't pay? Won't pay. That's Major Duncan. Robert Verkaik reports

Life and soul of the Partridge

"Your autobiography... what's that all about?" Thus the world's greatest living sports commentator and chat-show host, Alan Partridge, to his distinguished guest Lord Morgan of Glossop, in the final episode of Partridge's Radio 4 series Knowing M e, Knowing You. Lord Morgan, understandably taxed by such searching queries, died in mid-interview. Demonstrating yet again the resourcefulness and sheer grit that has taken him to the very summit of his profession, Partridge hastily improvised a shroud from his Pringle sweater and ordered the nation to observe a minute of silence.

Heavy metal shapes the good life

moscow days

A view from abroad: Guy Pearce, actor

The first thing I notice about London is the number of people in comparison with Melbourne. It is really jam-packed. And I really adore the architecture - these awesome buildings which are 20 times older than the ones at home. Wow, it's like being in a museum.

TELEVISION / Fact is stranger than fiction - but not as funny

FOR A sustained attack of skin- stripping vitriol, the opening scene from last night's Chef] (BBC 1) would be hard to beat if you chucked a bucket of sulphuric acid over the set.

Letter: Le patron travaille ici

Sir: With regard to Mr T. Hart's letter of 1 September concerning hotel staffing , it has been the experience of my wife and I when staying in French and British hotels of a similar standard that the reason for the different numbers of full-time staff in the two countries is not that wages in France are higher.

View from City Road: Savoy must swallow its pride

From the kitchens, where microwave is a dirty word, to the marketing department, the Savoy group is out of touch.

Letter: Traveller's tale of filtered facts

Sir: Your new travel editor Simon Calder's 'Dear Adele Bliss' letter (5 August) has taught me one home truth at least - that journalist's copy has a lot more in common with tourist brochures than is generally appreciated.
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
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Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
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Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
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Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
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i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
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Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

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Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick