Tuesday, 31 May 2016

New dates for Pointless recordings

Pointless recordings are back from Tuesday July 5th, following a break for Richard to do his day job and Xander to work on other projects.

Apply for your free tickets today!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Writers Pointless Celebrities

The latest Pointless Celebrities Writers special is being repeated on Sunday June 5th. Taking part are Germaine Greer and Kathy Lette, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid, Mark Watson and Ian McMillan, and Freya North and Tony Parsons.

I' remember this show pretty well, and very good it was too. Definitely worth another watch.

Euros 2016 Pointless Celebrities

The Euros begin on June 10th, so to add to the footiefest Pointless Celebrities on Saturday June 4th is a Euros 2016 special. Guesting are Stephanie Roche and Kevin Kilbane, Danny Gabbidon and Jason Mohammad, Neil Lennon and Iain Dowie, and Gabby Logan and Steve Wilson.

Keep it up, lads. Or something.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Children's TV Pointless Celebrities

The Children's TV edition of Pointless Celebrities is being repeated on Sunday 29th May at 5.50pm. Taking part are Anthea Turner and Andy Crane, Justin Fletcher and Gemma Hunt, Dave Benson-Phillips and Gareth Jones, Sally James and Geoffrey Hayes.

I remember absolutely nothing about this show. I'm sure it was exciting, fascinating and informative, though.

Law and Order Pointless Celebrities

Pointless Celebrities on Saturday 28th May at 6.10pm is a Law and Order special. The guests are Helen Fraser and Victoria Alcock, Roberta Taylor and Chris Ellison, Arthur Bostrom and Mina Anwar, and Dominic Littlewood and Matt Allwright.

I do hope Xander and Richard have been behaving themselves....

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Crikey, chief! Danger Mouse gets new missions

The rebooted Danger Mouse, starring the voice talents of Alexander Armstrong as the world's greatest secret agent, will return for a second series.

Xander said:
I have had enormous fun playing Danger Mouse, whose style, bravery and wit I greatly admire. I am almost unbearably excited about what new magnificent missions and terrifying situations the writing team will come up with for Danger Mouse and Penfold in series two!
Not hugely surprising news, given how successful Danger Mouse has been. Still, nice to have it confirmed!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Pointless nominated in the TV Choice Awards longlist

Awards season continues, and Pointless has been nominated in the longlist for the TV Choice Awards' Daytime category. Richard Osman's Two Tribes and Ben Miller's It's Not Rocket Science are also both nominated in the Entertainment category . Please give them your vote!

Friday, 13 May 2016

A Pointless History of the World: cover reveal

The next Pointless tie-in book, A Pointless History of the World, will be published on 6th October. The cover has just been revealed and follows very much in the style of the previous four.

I note, however, that they've designed the cover carefully to avoid poor Richard being stickered into oblivion again. Probably for the best.

You can pre-order A Pointless History of the World on Amazon (and, of course, at all other outlets).

FA Cup Pointless Celebrities

The latest FA Cup Pointless Celebrities will be repeated at 3.10 on Saturday 21st May (except in Scotland), shortly before the coverage of the Cup Final starts on the same channel. The guests are Eni Aluko and Guy Mowbray, Kevin Kilbane and Mark Chapman, Dan Walker and Mark Lawrenson, and Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith.

Fortunately this isn't the one where poor Richard had to wear a sheepskin coat throughout. I was at that recording, and I actually thought at one point (being a first aider as I am) I might have to treat him for heatstroke.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Alexander Armstrong's speech at An Evening With The Choristers Of Britain

At the end of last month, Xander spoke at An Evening with the Choristers of Britain, in aid of the Diamond Fund for Choristers. The fund aims to help choristers in financial need, and support choristers to develop and flourish.

Xander was a chorister at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh and at Durham Cathedral, and at both Durham and then at Trinity College Cambridge was a choral scholar.

Here is the text of the excellent speech he gave

Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen: good evening! What a spectacular event this is and what a great honour it is to be a part of it. I am thrilled to be here. Moreover, I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you briefly about the tremendous privilege of choristership: the single greatest leg-up a child can be given in life.
Now, I know that sounds overblown and, yes, it is a bold claim but the more I think about it the truer I realise it is. Someone made the mistake of asking me during an interview the other day what the benefits are of being a chorister. Well that interview ended up overrunning by half of an hour and I was barely halfway through my list.
The most obvious benefit is the total submersion in music. This is a ‘compleat’ musical education by process of osmosis. When you come to hang up your cassock for the final time at the age of 13 you will – without even having realised it was happening because you were just having a lovely time singing – have personal experience of every age and fashion of music from the ancient fauxbourdons of plainchant, to the exciting knotty textures of anthems so contemporary that the composers themselves might very well have conducted you. You will have breathed life into everyone from Buxtehude to Britten to Bach to Bridge to Bax to Brahms to Byrd to Bairstow to Bruckner to Bliss (and that’s just the Bs I can think of off the top of my head). But you will know them, know them and love them in the way only a performer truly can. Choral music, to this day, has the power to move me so profoundly that I can lose myself in it for hours and just ride out the happy contemplations it evokes. It is a constant and lifelong tiding of comfort and – euphoric – joy.
Then there is the musicianship you absorb as a chorister, not just the music theory, the maths (the Italian!) all of which is very useful, but elegant musical phrasing, the projection of good diction, the shaping of beautiful vowel sounds for optimum tone, the careful precision singing a psalm, which can only be achieved by listening intently to those around you and blending your tone and rhythm with theirs – all of these skills and sensitivities become second nature and all of them have strange and unexpected use and resonance in later life.

And then there’s the language – and I don’t mean the salty badinage of the vestry but the liturgy you’re immersed in, the psalms, the collects, the canticles – the poetry you get to sing (Herbert, Donne, Milton, Shakespeare, Hardy, Auden are all poets I first learnt to love – Christopher Smart even – by singing and performing their words). Your lexicon at the age of 13 is astounding, and your turn of phrase, taught by endless psalms and hymns, and not just the range of your vocabulary but your innate sense of the poetic. You will have come to know only too well the powerful quiet of an evensong, the sumptuous echo of a final amen sung from an ante-chapel but rolling around the clerestory like wine in a taster’s glass.
And let’s not overlook the discipline of choristership; the order it brings to a young person’s often chaotic life, the friendship, the focus. Punctuality is one of the first lessons you learn: the ignominy of arriving even a minute late is something no chorister wants to experience twice. Then self-possession, decorum and grace are all attributes you quickly learn to fake – in the first instance – before adopting them for real as you gradually mature. But where else in the modern world is a child taught gravitas? Where else is a child taught, for example, to bow with proper dignity and humility?
I owe my entire career to my experience as a chorister. It was where I learnt to perform, where I learnt to use the full range of my voice; where I learnt to listen, where I learnt to write comedy, where I learnt to carry a pencil at all times – but most importantly it was where I learnt the wonderful truth that something exceptional, something as beautiful as anything anywhere, can be created just by you and your friends. I remember on a choir tour to Salamanca (ooh travel there’s another benefit!) exploring the old cathedral with a couple of friends and finding ourselves alone in some sort of chapter house, we fired off a Boyce 3-part canon just to test the acoustics. A terrible, toe-curlingly self-indulgent thing to do but what a sound we made! And what a thing to discover: that we three – children essentially – carried between us all the components of something so joyous, so perfect, so complete. (And Boyce! There we are, there’s another B for my list.)
I was lucky enough to be a chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh which had a good mix of boy and girl choristers as is now fairly typical in cathedrals up and down the country. And both there and at Trinity College, Cambridge where I ended up as a choral scholar, I sang with people from all walks of life (many of whom had their entire educations – at some of the country’s best schools I might add – paid for by the music they had first learnt as choristers). I sang alongside some people of different faiths and plenty of none at all. And I am always heartened by the ethnic diversity in our cathedral and college choir rooms.
So you see, you don’t need to be a boy to be a chorister, you don’t need to be a toff to be a chorister, you don’t need to be religious, you don’t even need to be Christian. Although as I say that I’m aware there is a certain spirituality that all choristers come to know well – something that lurks in the silences of a darkening nave while rush-hour traffic chugs about just yards outside the West door. A spirituality that is wrapped up in the ritual, the mystery and the beauty of this ancient tradition we have become part of. And I’m going to call that spirituality The Privilege of Choristership. That is what we are here tonight to celebrate and to preserve for the future, ‘throughout all generations’.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Theatre Pointless Celebrities

There's a repeat of Theatre Pointless Celebrities on Sunday 15th May at 5.50pm, with Simon Callow and Imogen Stubbs, Lysette Anthony and Christopher Timothy, Gwen Taylor and Keith Barron, and Claire Sweeney and Simon Shepherd.

All I remember from this show is that there's some Ben Miller banter which totally baffles Simon Shepherd, and that Imogen Stubbs is Xander's cousin. Here's a photo of them together. I don't think either of them would be insulted if I said it was taken a little while back.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Eurovision Pointless Celebrities

The Eurovision Pointless Celebrities, on 14th May at 6.20pm, are Johnny Logan and Linda Martin, Natalie Powers and Russ Spencer, Jenny Frost and Sophie McDonnell, and Bucks Fizz.

Last time there was a Eurovision special, it led to the wonder that is Nul Points. We can't hope for anything that amazing again, I suppose, and yet...and yet...I am a true believer.*

*Don't read anything into this. I have no inside info.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Witney Festival of Food and Drink

The 4th Witney Festival of Food & Drink will take place in the lovely Oxfordshire market town of Witney (obviously) on Saturday 21st May. Xander, who is patron of the festival, hopes to be among the opening party, work commitments permitting.

The festival has stalls from a huge range of food and drink producers, all but one of them from within 35 miles of Witney. There will also be the ever-popular Festival Café and bars; demonstration tents; singers, dancers, and musicians; children's tent; and a Local Focus Pavilion, highlighting local businesses and charities.

Check out the festival's visitor info and head along!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Cards for Keeps for Coram

Cards for Keeps is a celebrity charity auction run by crafting company Stampin' Up to raise funds for Coram, who work with vulnerable children. They get celebrities to make cards using products from their range, then auction them on eBay.

Xander has made a fabulous card, complete with limerick. It's on sale here. Do put in a bid for this very good cause!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Guardian BAFTA 2016 interview with Alexander Armstrong

The BAFTA television awards are on Sunday 8th May, and Sound of Music Live is nominated in the Live Event category.

The Guardian has published a lovely article, with photographic portraits of a selection of nominees, and short interviews about their favourite television.

I'll copy and paste Xander's interview, but I really do recommend you read the whole article. It's very good.
Despite an illustrious career in drama and comedy, Alexander Armstrong is not ashamed to admit it’s his role as the co-host of Pointless that has finally brought him to the attention of Buckingham Palace. “Richard [Osman] has a friend who recently told us that every day at 5.15pm, in the Queen’s private suite, you can hear the music to Pointless,” he grins.
Not bad when you consider that his foray into presenting was a “total accident. A producer I knew was adamant I try it,” he remembers, “but the thought of sitting in that seat scared me more than anything. I had a paranoid fear of being myself on camera.” Clearly he hasn’t looked back.
“Pointless is a joy, and I think the joy for the viewers is that I’m not very good at it,” he laughs. “I can only fathom that Richard and me being so clearly inept is a reason why people watch.”
Favourite comedy: I thought both series of The Wrong Mans were exceptional – well-executed and great fun – but I can watch South Park any day of the week.
TV crush: Tom Hollander – he’s never turned in a duff role. Watching him in Doctor Thorne and The Night Manager was sheer heaven.
Reality TV show you’d appear on: Grand Designs, for which I’d build something disgustingly old-fashioned that Kevin definitely wouldn’t approve of.
Fantasy TV job: Anything with an accent is always fun. Yes. I think I’d quite like to play somebody with a thick Scottish accent.

Radio Pointless Celebrities

There's a Radio special of Pointless Celebrities on Saturday 7th May, at 5.10 in Northern Ireland and 6.15 elsewhere. The guests are Toby Anstis and Jenni Falconer, Janice Long and Bob Harris, Peter White and Steve Punt, and Steve Penk and Angie Greaves.

The last radio special featured Richard's Radio Machine. I wonder if he has any treats in store for us this time?