ALISON BOSHOFF: Anne Robinson turned down BBC twice on show return

ALISON BOSHOFF: I won’t be the wokest link – goodbye! Anne Robinson says she turned down BBC twice when she was asked to return to host hit quiz show

The BBC revived The Weakest Link last year with funnyman Romesh Ranganathan as the cuddly new host — dividing viewers who remembered Anne Robinson’s trademark beastliness in the long-running original.

It can now be revealed that the BBC actually twice offered Robinson her old job back, but she said no.

She didn’t want to change the show into the kindly new version that the Beeb wanted — which you might even call The Wokest Link.

Robinson, 77, tells me: ‘Wokeness has taken the heart out of comedy. Times have really changed.

It can now be revealed that the BBC actually twice offered Robinson her old job back, but she said no

‘I wouldn’t want to be a cheesy game-show host, and that is what the BBC wanted. Where’s the fun if you can’t ask, ‘What do you do when you’re not eating?’ or ‘Have you had that hair cut for a bet?’

‘No one saw anything wrong with it, but you couldn’t say it today.’

Talking about her input into the original Weakest Link — which ran on the BBC from 2000 until 2012 — the former journalist recalled: ‘Initially, it was a completely different show to the one which went out. Then we started to test it with real contestants.

‘I asked one of them why someone else should go, and he said acidly, ‘Well, anyone who comes on the show should know the names of the Teletubbies.’ And I thought, ‘Ah!’

‘From then on I could be me — the person I was in a newspaper newsroom. When we were doing the pilot, someone p****d me off and I said, ‘You are the weakest link,’ and added ‘Goodbye.’ I was very much part of the development.’

Anne says that last year Kate Phillips, BBC controller of entertainment, chatted with her about having ‘another go’ at The Weakest Link. ‘But it was obvious that the character I created would have to be changed,’ she says. ‘It’s a slightly pantomime version of who I am.

The BBC revived The Weakest Link last year with funnyman Romesh Ranganathan as the cuddly new host — dividing viewers who remembered Anne Robinson’s trademark beastliness in the long-running original

‘Originally, I was approached via a fax which said they would like me to do it because ‘Anne will look as if she knows the answers to the questions and she can ease the disappointment of the contestants as they leave the podiums’. I have that framed in all my loos in all my houses!’

The Weakest Link reboot made its debut in December 2021 with a series of celebrity shows.

Ranganathan told an interviewer: ‘Anne was amazing at it, and she was a big reason why that show was so popular. But I don’t think any good can come from trying to emulate that. And it’s just me doing it my own way.’

Ms Robinson announced on Monday that she is stepping down from her role as the host of Channel 4’s Countdown. Could it be a case of history repeating itself that Ranganathan is an early bookie’s favourite to succeed her?

Will it be a sinfully big Bafta night for Callum?

BAFTA night this Sunday should be a big one for the creators and cast of Channel 4’s It’s A Sin — which is nominated for 11 awards.

Newcomer Callum Scott Howells (second right) is up for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Colin Morris-Jones in the show, and in the Virgin Media Must See Moment for the scene in which he receives his devastating Aids diagnosis. Scott Howells, 22, said: ‘I was a first time actor with everything to prove. I was so scared of that scene.’

The actor, who was born in Pontypridd, Wales, added: ‘We owe so much to this show and I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life — and I know my parents are as well. My father works for Ginsters and he delivers to garages and shops, and they’d be like, “I saw your boy on the telly!”’

Scott Howells will next be seen in the Film4 and Netflix movie The Beautiful Game as a man who competes in the Homeless World Cup. Bill Nighy plays their manager.

BAFTA night this Sunday should be a big one for the creators and cast of Channel 4’s It’s A Sin — which is nominated for 11 awards

Stranger kerchings for Millie! 

It’s Stranger Kerchings! for actress Millie Bobby Brown now she has been named the ‘face’ of Louis Vuitton eyewear and has shot a campaign with famed photographer Stephen Meisel. Brown, 18, stars as telekinetic teen Eleven in Stranger Things, which returns to Netflix for a fourth series at the end of May. It’s made her globally famous, and rich, too, with estimates suggesting she is worth £10 million.

Along with the Louis Vuitton deal she has plugged Samsung, Citigroup, Converse shoes and her own range of make-up: Florence by Mills.

Benedict Cumberbatch, CBE, has a reputation for being a shade superior — probably because he doesn’t trouble to hide his intelligence.

The actor, who reprises his role as Dr Strange in Marvel’s latest blockbuster, said the challenge of acting in the effects-heavy movie was ‘to create authenticity out of literally nothing’ and loved the ‘sheer inventiveness of playing’ to a green screen.

But he’s definitely got a sense of humour — he told journalists to refer to him as ‘Benny C’ in interviews to differentiate him from the ‘other Benedict’ — co-star Benedict Wong.

It has taken 13 years for the hugely anticipated £200 million sequel to Avatar (still the highest-grossing film of all time globally) to arrive — and I got a first peek at the trailer this week.

The small audience at the Odeon Leicester Square in London were plunged back into the breathtaking world of Pandora, and it says something about the power of what we were shown that a significant number of the normally cynical pundits just sat and watched it on a loop for a full 15 minutes.

Avatar: The Way Of Water picks up the story of human Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his Na’vi warrior love Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), living on the distant planet Pandora. 

They have four chil-dren. One of them, Spider (Jack Champion), is adopted and is shown wearing a mask which allows him to breathe underwater. The Na’vi don’t need masks.

James Cameron’s film, due out in December, will tell an epic dynastic story about the family and their struggle to survive.

The trailer shows the Na’vi riding flying creatures and dinosaur-like beasts that paddle in the sea, plus vast underwater whale-like animals and spectacular reefs. Neytiri is pregnant in some of the scenes.

It has taken 13 years for the hugely anticipated £200 million sequel to Avatar (still the highest-grossing film of all time globally) to arrive — and I got a first peek at the trailer this week

It looks like the family go to live with another tribe who exist underwater on the habitable moon of Pandora.

Kate Winslet, who joins the cast as Ronal, one of the ‘water people’, spent around a month mostly submerged in a tank (she should be used to it having shot to stardom in Cameron’s Titanic) and acting via motion capture technology.

The director insisted on presenting his vision in 3D this week, even though that has fallen far out of fashion over the years since the original film.

It will also be shown in other formats.

Three further films were shot at the same time in New Zealand and will come out in 2024, 2026 and 2028 respectively.

And although Sigourney Weaver as Dr Grace Augustine and Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch both died in Avatar, we will be seeing them again.

Kaia and Austin’s gala of good news

Amid all the fuss about Kim Kardashian and a topless Cara Delevingne, you may have missed Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s 20-year-old daughter, becoming ‘Met Gala Official’ with her actor boyfriend Austin Butler.

The couple, separated by ten years, will soon be storming up the red carpet again — in Cannes on May 17 for the premiere of the film Elvis, which stars Butler as the King.

It has been endorsed by Elvis’s widow Priscilla Presley, who also made an appearance with Butler at the Met Gala.

She is believed to be going to Cannes, too, and her granddaughter, Riley Keough, will also be in the Riviera as she has a film showing at the festival.

The director of Elvis, Baz Luhrmann, says that Butler wept when he read a note from Priscilla praising the film, and calls her support ‘a dream come true’.

She called Butler’s performance ‘outstanding’.

The couple, separated by ten years, will soon be storming up the red carpet again — in Cannes on May 17 for the premiere of the film Elvis, which stars Butler as the King

Dame Vanessa Redgrave made her West End debut 64 years ago — and will be back treading the boards in the new revival of the beloved Lerner & Loewe musical My Fair Lady, which begins previews at the London Coliseum tomorrow. She plays Mrs Higgins, the mother of Professor Henry Higgins.

In rehearsals Dame Vanessa, 85, has been walking with a crutch. But I am told that this is purely a prop and that she has no need of support in real life. 

Amara Okereke will play Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle and her father Alfred will be played by comedian Stephen K. Amos.

It’s Midsomer’s silver celebration of murder

Transfixed by murders using cheese, guillotines, pitchforks, a truffle pig or tumble drier? Then you are among the millions of fans of ITV’s long-running crime drama Midsomer Murders.

The good news is that the show, which combines picture-perfect English village life with gruesome homicides, is returning for a new series — its 23rd.

I can reveal that production has quietly begun, with Neil Dudgeon once again playing DCI John Barnaby and Fiona Dolman as his wife Sarah.

It’s largely filmed in the towns of Wallingford and Thame in Oxfordshire.

Dudgeon tells me: ‘It is fabulous to be back in Midsomer enjoying the beautiful locations, and this year it is especially fabulous as Fiona and I have a ten-year anniversary, and the show is 25 years old.’

I can reveal that production has quietly begun, with Neil Dudgeon once again playing DCI John Barnaby and Fiona Dolman as his wife Sarah

This landmark will be marked by ITV with a documentary, featuring interviews with cast members past and present, including John Nettles who played (his on-screen cousin) DI Tom Barnaby for 14 years.

Meanwhile, ITV is continuing to broadcast the 22nd series, with one episode due out later this month, and another two to follow later in the summer.

Actress Jessica Ellerby will make a guest appearance as an old flame of DS Jamie Winter. In real life she and Nick Hendrix, who plays Winter, are married and it is their first time working together.

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