Breaking news ... the end of Downton is coming soon – Christmas Day in fact.
I was lucky enough to spend a day on set while they were filming a top-secret storyline as the hit drama enters into its final era, taking in World War Two. Julian Fellowes, the series’ creator, tells me: “We are all sad it’s ending, but all good things do come to an end and the final series will be really rather special.”
Former Manchester United footballer Dion Dublin has joined the original line-up of Martin Roberts and Lucy Alexander on BBC One daytime show Homes Under The Hammer. The England-capped footballer has traded the Theatre of Dreams for his excitement and love of properties, meeting budding developers from around the country, hearing their stories of homes sold under the hammer.
Someone on Albert Square is in for a surprise when they scoop a seven-figure cash prize on a scratch card. The new storyline which will be aired in eight to 12 weeks’ time and will show the lucky lady/gent holding a celebratory bash in the Queen Vic. Spies tell me that the winner could be Alfie or Sonia, but to look out for someone “who suddenly gets better dressed in the show”...
Benidorm star Sherrie Hewson is just about to head out to the Spanish resort to film series eight – and she says she’s just as excited this time as before. “In a way it reminds me of the Carry On films, because it’s bawdy and a tad vulgar, but all in the best possible taste of course, and I think the viewers really get that,” she said.
Newly-honoured Dame Joan Collins has defended her stint promoting Snickers bars and tells me: “I took the job as I am a jobbing actress. I have bills to pay, but yes I do enjoy the bar now and again. You can’t be starring in A-list films all through your career now, can you?”
ITV’s Loose Women is launching its own book club. Loose Books will see the panellists take it in turns to select their favourite book for discussion on a month-by-month basis. Insiders, though, know the real reason ... the publishers of the books will also take on advertising and supply guests for interview. So it’s a great money-making project too...
Louis Walsh is positive he won’t be axed from The X Factor, despite yet another overhaul of the show this year. “I am Simon’s friend and I know he likes me on the show,” he said. “I said last year it would be my last, but I was just teasing I would never leave and I won’t be sacked.”
Poldark has returned, and we all love it according to the ratings. It also seems that the BBC have already decided that it will return for a second series, with the cast and crew already being booked for a summer shoot. A source tells me: “They are amazed it’s been so well received, but fans are clamouring for more already.”
Holly Willoughby has signed up to present Play To The Whistle, a new comedy panel show for ITV focused on the world of sport. The show will be produced by her husband Dan Baldwin, but she claims she “still had to audition for the show”.
Filming is underway in Cornwall on the seventh series of Doc Martin, with Martin Clunes reprising the role of the curmudgeonly GP. Martin tells me: “I love the show as it’s filmed where we live, but people tell me their ailments all the time, which is funny as I have no idea. No medical training at all, but people believe I am Doc Martin...”
Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson has revealed that she was nearly cast in Coronation Street. Before landing the role of Alicia Metcalfe, the actress auditioned for a part in the fellow ITV soap but lost out due to her similarities to Michelle Keegan. However a spy on Coronation Street tells me: “I think it’s fair to say they just decided against her.” So, the Street’s loss...
The Voice judge Rita Ora is hopeful of a return to the show. “I have really enjoyed it and the fact we get to coach them is a big plus for me. I just hope people have enjoyed the show as much as we have making it.”
Will Thorpe, who played Maria’s boyfriend Gary in Coronation Street, has landed a huge role in the new NBC drama ‘AD’. The biblical epic runs over the Easter period in the US and is set to turn up on Channel 5 later in the year.
Sir Derek Jacobi has revealed that there will be a few changes when the new series of Vicious returns in the summer. He said: “Each episode now starts with us out and about. We go to the gym, we go to dancing classes – so we’re out of that flat. There are some scenes in there, but there’s a lot of stuff outside.”
Former X Factor judge and Take That star Gary Barlow has lent his musical magic to the Calendar Girls story by penning songs for a new version of the stage show. He told me: “It’s been a new and great experience ... I loved the film so much and being able to put music to it has been wonderful for me.”
What can a show do that has terrible ratings despite lots of hype and exposure? Well, in the case of Good Morning Britain, make things worse by signing up unemployed Piers Morgan as a guest host. The real reason is simple – he is contracted and paid by ITV, yet with no other shows to offer him he will become a holiday cover for the show. Now you know...
Former X Factor Contestant Ray Quinn has launched his own autobiography. He tells me: “So much has happened since being on the show and it felt the right time to detail it all. I can’t believe how quick all that time has gone, but the book is a great read.”
Emmerdale’s Danny Miller, who plays bad boy Aaron in the soap, tells me that the show’s producers love him in crying scenes, as: “I can just turn it on, and it happens, but I am not that sad at all off camera. Given his background, it’s easy for me to think about how it could have been for me also.”