Bafta Award-winning actress and comedienne Victoria Wood is back on telly this Christmas with a 60-minute special for BBC One.

Victoria Wood’s Mid-Life Christmas (working title) features highlights from the mid-life Olympics 2009, the popular costume drama Lark Pies To Cranchesterford and the further adventures of soap star Bo Beaumont, played by long-term collaborator Julie Walters.

Victoria said: “The show is a whole night’s telly crammed into one hour. Christmas is a stressful time and, by compressing an evening’s viewing into 60 minutes, we hope families will have more time for other festive traditions such as arguing with relatives and defrosting turkeys under the hot tap.”

This new special has been commissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One, and BBC Comedy Commissioning.

Executive producers for the BBC are Rebecca Papworth and Jon Rolph, and Lucy Ansbro for Phil McIntyre productions.

Jay Hunt added: “It’s a real treat for viewers to have Victoria Wood back on BBC One at Christmas. I am thrilled she will be returning with her unique mix of comedy and entertainment.”

Accompanying the series will be an extra 45-minute show including some behind-the-scenes footage and additional unseen material.

More content about Victoria Wood’s Mid-Life Christmas will be published, as transmission approaches, on this page:

Following the success of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, I’d Do Anything and Any Dream Will Do, Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, today announces the commission of The Wizard Of Oz which will search for Dorothy and Toto for the forthcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber West End production.

The Wizard Of Oz has been commissioned by Jay Hunt and Mark Linsey, Controller, Entertainment Commissioning.

The show will see the happy reunion of Andrew Lloyd Webber and host Graham Norton.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “Our previous musical talent searches have provided an incredible shot in the arm for musical theatre in Britain and I can’t wait to work with the BBC again in the hunt for Dorothy – an iconic role of course made famous by a young Judy Garland in the film in 1939, but, as a cat man myself, however, I approach casting Toto with considerable trepidation.”

Jay Hunt said: “The Wizard Of Oz is one of the great musicals and I am sure BBC One audiences will delight in having a front row seat in the casting of a new musical star.”

Mark Linsey said: “I’m thrilled to be announcing this commission today. BBC One has a proven track record in musical theatre talent searches so I’m delighted to be working with Andrew again and can’t wait to see what wonderful talent we unearth in the process.”

The search for Dorothy will begin with auditions in several UK cities in early 2010.

The Wizard Of Oz will reunite host Graham Norton and music impresario, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who, along with a panel of experts and BBC One viewers, will choose a Dorothy who will be performing in the West End next year.

Judges are yet to be announced. The show will transmit in 2010.

The series will be made by TalkbackThames.

The executive producer is Suzy Lamb, who will be reunited with Andrew having executive produced his previous musical theatre productions for the BBC.

BBC Proms today announces that eight previously unannounced artists are to play vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher and rifles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the world-famous Last Night Of The Proms.

Sir David Attenborough, Jiri Belohlavek, Rory Bremner, Goldie, Stephen Hough, Martha Kearney, Chi-chi Nwanoku and Jennifer Pike, have all played a role at the BBC Proms in 2009, either on stage or behind the microphones on radio and television.

They will open the second half the Last Night, live on BBC One and BBC Radio 3, with Sir Malcolm Arnold’s lively and comic A Grand, Grand Overture, which was conceived in 1956 by the humorist and cartoonist Gerard Hoffnung, who died 50 years ago. As well as three vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher and four rifles, the piece requires full orchestra and organ and lasts approximately eight minutes.

All of the artists invited to perform have been connected with the 2009 Proms season. Sir David Attenborough returns to the Proms following his guest appearances at the family-oriented Darwin Extravaganza For Kids in August to make his performing debut on floor polisher. Drum ‘n’ bass star Goldie was commissioned to write a new work for those same concerts, and he now returns to perform on vacuum cleaner.

The other vacuum cleaners are played by 2007’s Last Night Of The Proms conductor Jiri Belohlavek, who has conducted three Proms as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2009, including the First Night, and young violinist Jennifer Pike.

Nineteen-year-old Jennifer, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist and youngest ever winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year, when she was 12, played Holst and Saint-Saens at the free Family Prom in July and also took part in the 10th-anniversary celebrations for Radio 3’s New Generation Artists in August.

The rifle parts are to be taken by opera-enthusiast and comedian Rory Bremner, who is joining Clive Anderson in the commentary box for the television relays on BBC One and BBC Two; Martha Kearney, who presented a BBC Prom with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Sir Roger Norrington on BBC Two (5 September) and Chi-chi Nwanoku, a double-bassist, regular Proms guest for BBC television and presenter for Radio 3.

The final rifle part is taken by pianist Stephen Hough, who undertook a one-man piano marathon this season, performing all of Tchaikovsky’s works for piano and orchestra. He also joins Sean Rafferty in the Radio 3 commentary box for the Last Night broadcast.

The Last Night Of The Proms is the world-famous finale to the 115th season of BBC Proms, which opened on 17 July.

This year’s festivities draw together many of the season’s threads and features the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Robertson with soloists Alison Balsom (trumpet) and Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano).

As well as the traditional participatory ingredients, including Rule, Britannia!, Land Of Hope And Glory and Jerusalem, there’s music by Radio 3’s Composers of the Year – Handel, Purcell and Haydn – as well as works by Mahler, Villa-Lobos, Ketelbey and others.

Among the highlights are new fanfares written by BBC Proms Inspire Young Composer winners, which will link together the Last Night festivities in the Royal Albert Hall to the five BBC Proms In The Park events around the country.

Radio 3 broadcasts the whole event live, while the first half is on BBC Two and the second on BBC One. Hundreds of “Promming” tickets are released on the day.

For full listings and ticket details for all Last Night Of The Proms events, please visit

One of the biggest and best-loved superstars in the world, Barbra Streisand, has today confirmed a world exclusive appearance with Jonathan Ross.

In her first British TV interview this century, she will be in the UK for a unique edition of Jonathan’s BBC One Friday night talk show, Friday Night With Streisand And Ross, entirely devoted to a celebration of her legendary life as a performing icon.

As well as discussing her extraordinary career as a double Oscar-winning artist, actress of stage and screen, concert performer, film director, movie producer, screenwriter, songwriter and best album-selling female recording artist ever, Streisand will also be performing live in the studio intimate material from her eagerly-awaited new album Love Is The Answer as well as one of her all-time classic hits.

Friday Night With Streisand And Ross, BBC One, Friday 2 October 2009 (repeated Sunday 4 October).

A Hotsauce TV production for BBC One.

BBC One’s dance spectacular Strictly Come Dancing is hot-footing it to the spiritual home of all things ballroom as the show decamps to Blackpool for one night only, as part of the sparkling seventh series.

Bringing a touch of old-world grandeur and glamour to the smash hit show, Blackpool’s famous Tower Ballroom will play host to a special edition of the programme on Saturday 7 November 2009.

Waltzing their way to the north, hosts Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly will be joined by the nine remaining couples in the competition, as well as the judging panel of Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon.

Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, says: “It’s great that this year Strictly Come Dancing is going back to the home of ballroom. Our night in Blackpool will add extra sparkle to this series.”

Blackpool Tower Ballroom originally played host to the popular BBC series Come Dancing, which was the predecessor for today’s hit show.

Strictly Come Dancing has previously broadcast from Blackpool. The last time was the final of series two in 2004, when actress Jill Halfpenny and her dancing partner Darren Bennett were crowned Strictly champions.

Councillor Maxine Callow, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Tourism & Regeneration, said: “Blackpool is absolutely thrilled to be hosting Strictly Come Dancing again and is very grateful to the BBC for bringing this fantastic spectacle back to the home of ballroom dancing.

“Blackpool’s world-famous Tower Ballroom will once again look fabulous on TV and, as November 7th is the last weekend of the illuminations, I’m sure all the dancers and celebrities will enjoy the wonderful atmosphere here.”

Michael Williams, Operations Director, Blackpool Tower, said: “It is fantastic news that the BBC is once again bringing Strictly to the Tower Ballroom. The ballroom will certainly add to the atmosphere and give this year’s contestants the opportunity to dance in magnificent surroundings – it really is a welcome return.”

BBC One Daytime marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War with a week of special programmes from Monday 7 to Friday 11 September at 9.15am.

The Week We Went To War, presented by Forces Sweetheart Katherine Jenkins, celebrates the everyday heroes of the Home Front, from families who took in evacuees, to ordinary people who went into bombed buildings at risk of their own lives to save those trapped inside.

Each day Katherine, the world-renowned singer who is also known for her charitable work supporting British troops, is joined in the studio by Michael Aspel talking about his wartime memories, including his experiences as an evacuee, and, from Bletchley Park, BBC antiques expert Tim Wonnacott looks at the everyday wartime items which have become today’s collectables.

Among the wartime stories included in the programme are interviews with survivors of the Catford school bombing in South London; the recipient of Britain’s first George Cross; and witnesses of the worst civilian tragedy on the Home Front. Survivors of what became known as the Bethnal Green Tube disaster recall that fateful day.

Tributes are paid during the series to the firemen of London; and the story of one of the most unexpected and intensive bombing raids in Britain is told – when the town of Clydebank, in Scotland, was virtually wiped off the map.

Meanwhile, famous people who lived through the war – actress Sylvia Syms, Baroness Williams, Tony Benn, Lionel Blair, Leslie Phillips and Rabbi Lionel Blue – share their childhood memories.

The Week We Went To War is accompanied by new period drama Land Girls (BBC Birmingham), starring Nathaniel Parker, Sophie Ward and Christine Bottomley.

BBC Learning is supporting the week with a project aimed at school children aged seven to 12 throughout the UK and the BBC Archive is releasing a new online collection exploring the outbreak of the Second World War, featuring radio recordings and documents from the period.

The Week We Went To War is a Finestripe production for BBC Daytime.

After a packed 58 days, the 115th BBC Proms comes to a spectacular end on Saturday 12 September.

The world-renowned Last Night Of The Proms will once again see celebrations in London’s Royal Albert Hall and at BBC Proms In The Park events around the UK.

The event, dubbed “the world’s biggest musical party”, is set to reach a bigger worldwide audience than ever before, with broadcasts in sound or vision reaching music lovers on every continent.

For the first time, the Last Night Of The Proms is screened via satellite to cinema chains in Asia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA on 12 September (13 September in time-delayed territories), presenting one of the UK’s most iconic music events on the big screen and in digital surround sound. Among those to sign up is the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

Proms on BBC television in the UK have already reached more than 12 million viewers to date (excluding time-shifted viewing, ie via the BBC iPlayer), and the Last Night from the Royal Albert Hall can be enjoyed by UK audiences on BBC Two (first half) and BBC One (second half).

Music lovers in the UK can also view the celebrations at the BBC Proms In The Park events, which are taking place in London, County Down, Glasgow, Swansea and Salford.

The concert from Hillsborough Castle, County Down, is broadcast live on BBC Four and viewers can also use the red button to view a selection of coverage from all of the Proms In The Park events.

The expanding programme of BBC Big Screens, currently in 20 locations, takes BBC Proms In The Park even further around the country, including Bradford (Centenary Square), Middlesbrough and Swindon (Wharf Green).

Countries lined up to broadcast this year’s event on television include Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Romania.

Through BBC Radio, the reach of the Last Night goes wider still in the UK and abroad. The Royal Albert Hall event is live on BBC Radio 3, while the BBC Proms In The Park London Hyde Park event is live on BBC Radio 2, with live streaming on both stations’ websites.

The BBC Proms In The Park events in County Down, Glasgow, Swansea and Salford are broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Manchester respectively.

BBC World Service, which has broadcast Proms concerts since 1932, reaches a potential worldwide audience of 40 million on its English language service alone, and the Last Night is broadcast live on the joint BBC World Service/Deutsche Welle DRM (digital shortwave) network, with highlights on Sunday on the regular World Service radio and online networks.

More than 20 other countries among the BBC’s European Broadcast Union partners and National Public Radio in USA are also broadcasting Radio 3’s relay of Last Night, including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and USA. More than half of those countries will be broadcasting the event live via satellite, and some even have their own presenters in the Royal Albert Hall.

Roger Wright, Director BBC Proms, says: “The aim of the Proms has always been to bring classical music to the widest possible audience. Thanks to modern technology we are able to present the concerts in new and expanding ways to an ever-increasing global audience. We are proud of the international success of the Last Night Of The Proms and that one the UK’s great events is becoming such an international phenomenon.”

The BBC’s Natural History Unit has discovered a new species of giant rat on an expedition to a remote rainforest in Papua New Guinea. Weighing in at 1.5kg, and measuring 82cm from nose to tail, the Bosavi Woolly Rat is one of the biggest rats in the world – as big as a domestic cat.

The find was made in the crater of the extinct volcano Mount Bosavi while filming for the Lost Land Of The Volcano, the third in a series of BBC One expeditions to remote jungles.

The team, led by climber and naturalist Steve Backshall, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and head scientist Dr George McGavin, explore little-known and unprotected parts of rainforest searching for new and barely known wildlife.

The crater is 4km wide with walls up to 1km high, trapping the creatures inside a lost world.

The rat is silvery grey and the name woolly is due to its dense fur. The animal’s teeth suggest it has a largely vegetarian diet and probably builds nests in either tree hollows or underground.

Dr Kristofer Helgen, Smithsonian biologist, and Gordon Buchanan, were first on the scene, when the rat was found by a tracker from the Kasua tribe that lives outside the crater.

Dr Helgen says: “This is the one of the world’s largest rats. It is a true rat, related to the same kind you find in the city sewers, but a heck of a lot bigger.”

Gordon says: “I had a cat and it was about the same size of this rat. This rat was incredibly tame. It just sat next to me nibbling on a piece of leaf. It won’t have seen a human being before. This crater of Mount Bosavi really is the lost world.”

Papua New Guinea is famous for the number and diversity of the rats and mice that inhabit the island. More than 57 species of true “Murid” rats and mice can be found on the tropical island.

The giant rat is not the only discovery made by the expedition team. They also found another unique type of mammal called the Bosavi Silky Cuscus.

The animal – which looks like a small bear – is a marsupial that lives up trees, feeding on fruits and leaves. Weighing in at over 2kg, it has dense silky fur adapted for a mountain environment.

Dr Helgen has identified it as a new subspecies in a group of strange marsupials known as cuscuses, saying: “Long ago, it was isolated on this volcano and has become something unique to Bosavi. I travel the world looking for mammals in many different places, but to find something of this size for the first time is a cause for major celebration.”

Steve Backshall, who led the team into the crater and held the cuscus in his arms, says: “I can’t even begin to say how it feels to have in my hand an animal that has never been seen before.”

Like the giant rat, the Bosavi Silky Cuscus also appeared to have no fear of man, suggesting these animals have never come into contact with humans before.

This scientific expedition also found approximately 40 other new species, which are at various stages of being verified. These include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo Grunter – named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.

The expedition base camp was in the foothills east of Mount Bosavi, with smaller teams going to remote locations – one team into the crater and one onto the summit of the mountain. The habitat is currently pristine but, 30km to the south of Mount Bosavi, there are extensive logging operations.

Mount Bosavi was chosen because the fauna of that region is poorly known. The height of the mountain (rising up to 2,700 metres) meant there was a range of habitats from lowland rainforest to montane moss forest. The mountain acts like an island in a sea of jungle, trapping species on it.

Lost Land Of The Volcano (3 x 60-minutes), starts Tuesday 8 September 2009 at 9.00pm on BBC One.

BBC One today launches an ambitious project that uses the power of the audience to explore how effective brain training really is.

BBC One and new science show Bang Goes The Theory are asking the nation to get involved in Brain Test Britain, a bold research project that wants to find out the truth about brain training.

Brain Test Britain will test whether brain training truly works and, if it does, whether some types of brain training are better than others. The results of the trial will be announced in a one-off BBC One TV special of Bang Goes The Theory in early 2010. The Brain Test Britain experiment is set to be the largest investigation of computer-based brain training ever carried out.

The Bang Goes The Theory team will also reveal a national audit of our brain power. Who did better – men or women? Does exercise affect how much you improve at brain training and can anyone improve their brain power?

The team have partnered with leading scientists from Cambridge University, King’s College London and the Alzheimer’s Society to develop an experiment that will pool data from thousands of people across the country. Volunteers are being asked to train their brains for 10 minutes a day, three times a week, for at least six weeks. The team of scientists will then investigate whether brain training can improve a person’s memory, reasoning and intelligence.

Celebrity ambassadors from Alzheimer’s Society are keen to lend their support:

Russell Grant: “My grandmother had dementia, so I’m only too willing to support an experiment to see if brain training really does make a difference in improving memory and brain functions. I can’t predict what the outcome will be, but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting experience!”

Richard McCourt (from BBC’s Dick ‘n’ Dom): “I’ve always wondered if any of these brain training gadgets and games really work. We’re looking forward to being trained up and finding out a lot more about how our brains function. The more we know about the brain, the nearer we’ll come to finding a cure for dementia – and that’s the reason why I want to be involved.”

The Brain Test Britain trial will be powered by Lab UK, a BBC website where people can participate in ground-breaking scientific experiments online. Using tools like Lab UK, the BBC has launched more than 20 online science experiments since 2001 – collecting data from over a million people about a variety of subjects.

In 2005, more than a quarter of a million people took part in the Sex ID experiment that investigated gender differences – leading to the publication of six scientific papers in Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

Lab UK works with leading scientists to conduct scientifically valid experiments in collaboration with the British public.

Idris Elba is to star in Neil Cross’s first thrilling six-part series Luther, it was announced today, made by BBC Drama Production for BBC One.

Elba notably played Russell “Stringer” Bell in the ground-breaking American series The Wire, currently screening on BBC Two.

As John Luther, he plays a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can’t always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.

Elba says: “I’m really excited about playing Luther. He’s a challenging and exciting character because he’s so complex. While he’s capable of great kindness and loyalty, sometimes he steps over the edge of madness – simmering with anger and rage.”

Luther is a new kind of crime thriller for British TV. In each exciting and fast-moving story, the murderer’s identity is known from the start – focussing the drama on the psychic duel between hunter and quarry, who sometimes have more in common than either would like to think.

Creator and writer Neil Cross is an acclaimed suspense novelist and was lead writer for the last two series of BBC One’s Spooks.

“I’m delighted that BBC One is bringing Luther to life,” he says. “It’s an intense psychological thriller which examines not only human depravity but the complex nature of love and how it’s often this – our finest attribute – that leads us into darkness.”

Further casting is to be announced soon.

Luther is a 6 x 60-minute series and filming begins this autumn for transmission next year on BBC One.

Luther was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One. The BBC executive producer is Phillippa Giles and the producer is Katie Swinden.

BBC Drama Production is a world leader in producing much-loved and critically acclaimed dramas. Recent productions include: A Short Stay In Switzerland, The 39 Steps, Little Dorrit, Waking The Dead and Silent Witness on BBC One; and House Of Saddam and Desperate Romantics on BBC Two.

Forthcoming dramas include : The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers, Criminal Justice 2, Emma, Cranford 2, Survivors 2, Five Days 2 and Lark Rise To Candleford.

Biography of Idris Elba

A household name in the USA since leaving The Wire, Idris Elba has become an in-demand actor, with eye-catching roles in American Gangster and Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla as well as the lead role opposite Beyonce Knowles in the US hit Obsessed.

Idris recently completed a guest-starring stint in the biggest comedy series on US TV, The Office, and is currently shooting the big-budget action epic The Losers, in Puerto Rico.

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