Michael Grade CBE really is from a sho5wbiz dynasty. His uncle Lew gave us such great shows as Sunday Night At The London Palladium and Thunderbirds, while Michael also brought us Neighbours and EastEnders during his time as head of BBC TV. He told me: “I have big plans in my new role as the head of Pinewood Studios, something I know we will all know about soon.”
It has been announced that principal photography has begun on The Harry Hill Movie. The big-screen debut of the TV Burp star will feature a host of famous comic actors, including Julie Walters, Simon Bird, Matt Lucas, Sheridan Smith, Jim Broadbent, Julian Barratt and Marc Wootton. Shooting on location in the UK, filming will take eight weeks.
Michael French is heading back to Albert Square to play womaniser David Wicks, The 50-year-old actor, who has also appeared in hospital drama Casualty, briefly returned to EastEnders last year to film scenes around the departure of Pam St Clement, who played his on-screen mother Pat Butcher. His character's on-off relationship with childhood sweetheart Carol Jackson, played by Lindsey Coulson, is likely to feature again.
There really is no escape from Holly Willoughby ... ads for clothing, phones and toothpaste on TV seven days a week coupled with This Morning and The Voice, but she has also found time to “write” a children’s book with her sister which comes out next month. “I like to make up stories in my head and someone suggested and offered a publishing deal,” she said. Fancy...
It appears that Gok Wan is now out of fashion with Channel Four after his well-hyped dating show ‘Baggage’ was axed after just one series. A friend at the channel tells me: “He simply is not a host. Fine with fashion and all that, but in reality he cannot hold an audience for longer than a small segment.”
ITV presenters Ant and Dec – AKA Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly – have signalled their intention to create a silent sitcom series. McPartlin told me: “We’re developing a silent comedy idea at the moment. It will take a couple of years and we might never get there, but it's the way we'd like to go.”
Fans of the wonderful Sir Bruce Forsyth may not know that the legend also acts as his own warm-up man, prior to Strictly Come Dancing going on the air. He said: “I have done it for years and I enjoy those 15 minutes, I often wonder if we should record them in a way, as lots of funny things happen that we never show on TV. Who knows, it could happen in the end.”
Bill Roache may have been written out of Coronation Street following his recent troubles, but it appears that it’s thrown the soap into a dilemma too as Bill, who plays Ken Barlow in the soap, was at the centre of a huge summer storyline. According to insiders: “It’s now been hastily re-written … we hope to have it back on track later in the year.”
Comedian Paul O’Grady is set to return to teatime TV after signing up for a new chat show on ITV. The Liverpudlian funny man, also known for his comedic alter ego Lily Savage, will initially make 25 new episodes of the show, to be aired later this year. “I can’t wait to get back in the studio, it seems ages since I was sat behind that desk at teatime,” he told me.
Lord Sugar has said that he hates delivering his trademark Apprentice line ‘You’re fired!’. The entrepreneur and TV star revealed he would rather let contestants down more gently, but his contract says he must stick to the catchphrase. Lord Sugar, 66, said: “I don’t like that bit. Regretfully, it’s part of a written commitment. I would far prefer to say ‘I’m sorry, you’re at the end of the stage.’”
Playing Lord Grantham in the hit ITV drama Downton Abbey, you would think its star Hugh Bonneville would have no problem getting major A-list movie work, but it appears not to be the case. He reveals: “I am currently working on a little independent movie simply because I believe in it, and I would like to think I could be proved right with my choices. Who knows, the film could end up very big.”
Debbie Arnold recently appeared in Coronation Street as Carole Evans, the landlady of the Weatherfield Arms, and proved such a success that they plan to bring her back as a regular sparring partner for Rovers Return landlady Stella Price. Insiders tell me: “Debbie was in the mould of Nellie Harvey vs Annie Walker back in the 60s and 70s, it’s good to recreate this kind of storyline again.”
Happy Days actor Henry Winkler is coming back to the UK and will be starring in the panto Captain Hook at the Richmond Theatre in West London. “I heard my role as the Fonz was in fact the basis for John Travolta in Grease, but he has never confirmed it,” he laughed.
Weeks into its disappointing second series, the future of BBC talent show The Voice is far from certain. Insiders tell me it will be ‘difficult’ to renew the show’s contract with Dutch producer Talpa at anywhere close to the £25million they paid to get the first two series. I heard: “It may even be axed all together in the future, as they can’t justify that kind of figure being spent on something with such low ratings.”