Arts and Entertainment

Shearsmith suggests new series would be with different characters

'Only Fools and Horses' writer John Sullivan dies

Scriptwriter John Sullivan has died at the age of 64, the BBC announced today.

The Week in Radio: Portrait of a pretend Pope that restores the faith

Who will be the first female Pope? Before you start saying "Ann Widdecombe" or talking about the doctrine of the all-male priesthood let me stop you. Because we may have already had a female Pope, and what's more she was English! This un-looked for boost to our international reputation came in John Julius Norwich's diverting Book of the Week: The Popes, which kicked off with Joan (or John as she called herself) who was elected in the mid ninth century after Leo IV. Carelessly, Joan got pregnant and gave birth on procession in a narrow lane near St Peter's, leading to horrible clerical reprisals. Yet was she for real? Sadly, Norwich thinks not, though there are plenty of documentary accounts of how she was dragged through the street and Martin Luther says he saw a statue of Joan, which was thrown into the Tiber by Sixtus IV. But coins from the period seem to prove otherwise, so perhaps the female Pope was only the result of wishful thinking by historians trying to spice up the institution of the papacy, though judging by the rest of this series, it needs little spicing. Wonderfully, however, Joan's legacy was said to live on in the form of the Porphyry Chair, a throne with a reclining back and a huge keyhole in the seat. Before the Pope's enthronement, "his testicles are felt by a junior cleric present as proof of his male sex, and the cleric shouts out 'here hangs testicles!'" If undignified clerical groping was the fate of every Pope for centuries then you might say that Joan had the last laugh.

Horrible Histories: The best laughs are on children's TV

CBBC's Horrible Histories triumphed over its adult counterparts at the British Comedy Awards – and rightly so, says Gerard Gilbert

Hart plans move to stage following awards success

The comic Miranda Hart plans to use her success at the British Comedy Awards to move into theatre, and hopes to make her West End stage debut. Hart, who on Saturday picked up three prizes, for Best New TV Comedy Show, Best Female Comedy Actress and the People's Choice Award, has already been commissioned to write and star in a new series of her eponymous BBC2 sitcom. The last series of Miranda averaged 3.7 million viewers and it is expected that a third run of the sitcom will move to a prime-time BBC1 slot. She is also scheduled to appear in a Comic Relief sketch in April.

The Week In Radio: A good sense of humour desperately required

For an organisation devoted to popular entertainment, the BBC's public pronouncements always carry a drearily leaden ring. Just look at the statement of policy, vision and challenges for Radio 2 this year. The plan, apparently, is to "refresh and refocus its comedy output to gain greater impact from existing levels of investment in this genre, ensuring differentiation from comedy on Radio 4". Different from Radio 4? Please God, they don't mean less funny.

Navy captain's lewd videos revealed

A senior officer aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise broadcast to his crew a series of profanity-laced comedy sketches in which he used gay slurs, mimicked masturbation and opened the shower curtain on women pretending to bathe together, according to reports.

Eric, Ernie... and Victoria

Victoria Wood has brought the story of the double act's early years to the screen – and she plays Morecambe's mother. Gerard Gilbert meets her

Frankie Boyle sparks fresh complaints

Channel 4 has been condemned for broadcasting "deeply offensive" language after comedian Frankie Boyle used the words "nigger" and "Paki".

'Gap Yah' sketch wins online prize

A satirical sketch poking fun at posh "gap yah" students has been named one of the online hits of the year.

Michael Sharvell-Martin: Perennial supporting actor who worked with Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson

The actor Michael Sharvell-Martin was the perennial supporting player, most often seen in television sketches alongside comedians such as Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson – and on stage as a long-running pantomime dame.

Nella Last in the 1950s, Edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson

Of the hundreds of volunteers who kept diaries as part of the Mass Observation project, one of the most prolific contributors to the scheme was Barrow-in-Furness housewife, Nella Last. Picking up her pen in 1939, she kept a regular diary for over a quarter of a century. This third volume proves a muted coda to Nella's last years and an evocative record of post-war provincial life.

Angelos Epithemiou and Friends, Bloomsbury Theatre, London

BBC2's Shooting Stars provided the big break for Angelos Epithemiou and in a very short space of time, the dishevelled clown, who owes so much to the stylings of his hosts Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, has enjoyed a suitably stellar ascent.

A pity for Morgana that first impressions last

It’s good to take risks with new comedy talent on TV, says FionaSturges, but Channel 4’s latest starlet has badly misfired

The Sketch: Cameron won the bonus points and Eddie was left crouching

Ok, he's stopped touching his face. That's an improvement, it shows progress. At this rate he'll be ready to be prime minister when Sam Miliband comes of age (and pips his father to the vote while uncle David laughs).

Caught in the Net: Mogwai turn up the volume

In a glib summation of Mogwai's music, they tend to start quiet and then get pretty loud. On their new song "Rano Pano", the long-running Scottish post-rockers (pictured) dispense with the quiet side – instead they start loud and stay there.

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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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'