Comedy: Knowing me, knowing who?

At a recent Royal Television Society dinner, the BBC's head of comedy, Geoffrey Perkins, used a clip from BBC2's I'm Alan Partridge as the climax to a state-of-the-nation address about the sitcom. It was greeted - even by an audience of jaded industry insiders - with rapturous applause.

Ciao Baby: Throw out your high-heeled sneakers

Murmurings that the stiletto heel will make a come-back have been growing since last year. However, albeit endorsed by fashion bible, US Vogue, people haven't rushed out to adopt the latest heel. They are either immobilised from a recent dancing spree in six-inch heel hell, or stilettoes just aren't a good idea.

Today's pick: Innocents Lost

Innocents Lost (9pm C4) Brian Woods and Kate Blewett, who brought the distressing scandal of China's state orphanages to light in their films The Dying Rooms and Return to the Dying Rooms, broaden their scope to take in the state abuse of children in 21 of the 191 countries which have signed The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this first of two films (the second is screened tomorrow night), Woods and Blewett visit Guatemala, where street children inhale glue to deaden the pain of hunger and the fear that they might be tortured and killed by security forces, and to Russia, where teenage petty thieves now swell the emptied gulags in scenes that Dickens would have immediately recognised. The last report comes from within the EC - and some of Greece's horrific "hospitals" for the disabled.

Television: The importance of being Esther

The title, Joanna Lumley in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (BBC1, Tues), does not exactly trip off the tongue, but you can see the BBC's problem. In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon is more exciting than Holiday in Bhutan, and it is virtually a rule these days that when you have a star, their name gets into the title. Lumley is unquestionably a star: brave, funny and very English. So there was this monster bit of nomenclature, taking up three whole lines in the Radio Times.

Poetry: Manchester Poetry Festival - A town swathed in poetry

Indulge the media whimsy that poetry is "the new rock n roll", and Ric Michael, an organiser of the 1997 Manchester Poetry Festival, brings you up short. "I've run a club for years and I can tell you it's not," avers the one-time rock promoter and manager of The Roadhouse club. "Poets don't get half-empty cans of beer thrown on them, for a start."

TV review: Hotel

How was it that the rather overblown young lady, ejected by Eileen after a pursuit through the hotel's bars, was filmed arriving with her equally blowsy friends? Just good luck or a spot of private catering on the producer's part?

Coogan's straight run: from bonks to bungs

The price of fame for Steve Coogan has been the prying eyes of the tabloids. So why has the comedian taken on a straight acting role as Mike Gabbert, the newshound who exposed match-rigging in the Sixties? By James Rampton

Comedy: Still feeling fizzy? Perrier's past winners

With a forthcoming Radio 4 series which will doubtless magically transfer to BBC2, the League of Gentlemen are in no danger of suddenly disappearing from public view. That has not always been the case with Perrier Award winners, however.

TV producer hits out at BBC `quota' on swearing

Television executives at the BBC have told one of Britain's top television producers to remove four swear words from a new BBC1 drama.

COMEDY Lenny Beige Regency Rooms, London

I've never been, but I imagine Kitsch Heaven looks something like this: a self-styled showbiz legend in a velvet bow-tie and matching cummerbund puffing a cigar and wearing more jewellery than Mr T introduces such acts as Barry from EastEnders belting out "Young Girl" - with added vibrato in the chorus.

This death was different; Revelations

The time: 8 October 1996 The place: London The man: David Baddiel, comedian

Voices of protest: Where are they now?

Although all three major parties claim to be recruiting heavily among young voters the truth is that youth wings in British politics have often been the source of discomfort.

When is a TV show not a TV show?


Festive telly fun

Christmas - total ratings war, no weapon too lethal or trick too low.

Love in a distinctly chilly climate; FILM

Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves (18) is a film that seems to be making strong men weep and cynics attend in reverent silence, and not without reason. Though you might easily take it for a bleak social drama in its early reels, it soon dawns that Von Trier is really thrashing around in religious dilemmas. Like Bergman or, more aptly, like his great fellow countryman Carl Theodore Dreyer, he's grappling with some profoundly vexed (and no less profoundly unmodish) notions about spirituality, redemption, miracles and the nature of good - indeed, of sanctity. In Emily Watson he has a wonderfully true and harrowing female lead, who richly deserves her "Felix" award as European Actress of the Year. Working with cinematographer Robby Muller and others, he has arrived at an idiosyncratic and apt style for his harsh fable, at once intimate and grandiose. It's impressive work. Yet it has a faint air of the bully, too, as though insisting that not to take it on its own grimly earnest terms would be cheap, possibly heretical. There are, however, causes for doubt.
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