Romantic comedy can survive

America could be on the verge of falling in love with Gavin and Stacey

Gavin and Stacey in the USA

James Corden’s already perilously large ego may be about to go super-sized. If the critics are anything to go by, America may be on the verge of falling in love with Gavin and Stacey. The LA Times called the show, which has just started on BBC America, “funny, touching and welcome proof that the romantic comedy can and will survive irony, Botox, Judd Apatow and all the vagaries of the modern age”. Given the verbal castigation Corden gave The Guardian’s TV critic for wondering what all the fuss was about, it’s possibly just as well.

Immaterial Girl

The Vatican can breathe a sigh of relief, Madonna’s found a new target. Her tours have been ever-less subtle attacks on the Church, from the Blonde Ambition tour which combined sex and Catholicism (leading the Pope to demanded a boycott) to 2006’s Confessions tour which included Madge performing in a crown of thorns on a huge mirrored cross.

Now she’s got politics in her somewhat off-kilter crosshairs. Her new Sticky and Sweet tour features a montage juxtaposing Hitler, Mugabe and, em, John McCain. The McCain camp is unimpressed with a spokesman calling the comparisons "outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive".

Meanwhile Sheryl Crow has also been weighing into the American election debate. To encourage political engagement she’s giving away free copies of her new album to the first 50,000 people who sign up three friends to vote. Cynics who think Crow is trying to jumpstart her career should consider her recent dalliances with world issues. Last year she made her own suggestion for how America could tackle global warming.

"I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required."

The Facebook Veneration

Meanwhile Aaron Sorkin’s attempts to revive his career continue apace. After the self-indulgent nonsense of Studio 60 and the tepid Charlie Wilson’s War, Sorkin is writing a screenplay about Facebook. Quite how the West Wing scribe will capture the drama of a game of Scrabulous or the exhilaration of being poked by someone you never spoke to a primary school remains to be seen. Let’s hope it fares better than his last project involving technology; the Farnsworth Invention, a play about the invention of television, which the New York Times compared to an "animated Wikipedia entry".

Don't play with Karl

Finally, Karl Lagerfeld has a new muse – himself. Kaiser Karl, so familiar in his black shades, monochrome suits and fingerless gloves that he caused a collective fashionista intake of breath when he took to wearing pink this summer, has designed a teddy bear in his own image. It’s safe to say this isn’t a toy (along with body odour, fat people, strangers, travelling and technology, Lagerfeld says he hates children), retailing for $1500.

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Don’t worry, Old Etonian Damian Lewis calls claims of privilege in acting “nonsense!”

The actor says over-representation of the privately educated at the top of acting is nothing to worry about – and his many, many privately educated peers agree.

In the last few years, fears have grown over the lack of working class British actors. “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today,” said Dame Julie Walters. “I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now.”

Last year, a report revealed that half of Britain’s most successful actors were privately educated. The Sutton Trust found that 42 per cent of Bafta winners over all time were educated independently. 67 per cent of British winners in the best leading actor, actress and director categories at the Oscars attended fee-paying schools – and just seven per cent of British Oscar winners were state educated.

“That’s a frightening world to live in,” said James McAvoy, “because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part. That’s not fair to begin with, but it’s also damaging for society.”

But have no fear! Old Etonian Damian Lewis is here to reassure us. Comfortingly, the privately-educated successful actor sees no problem with the proliferation of privately-educated successful actors. Speaking to the Evening Standard in February, he said that one thing that really makes him angry is “the flaring up recently of this idea that it was unfair that people from private schools were getting acting jobs.” Such concerns are, simply, “a nonsense!”

He elaborated in April, during a Guardian web chat. "As an actor educated at Eton, I'm still always in a minority," he wrote. "What is true and always rewarding about the acting profession is that everyone has a similar story about them being in a minority."

Lewis’s fellow alumni actors include Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne – a happy coincidence, then, and nothing to do with the fact that Etonians have drama facilities including a designer, carpenter, manager, and wardrobe mistress. It is equally serendipitous that Laurie, Hiddleston and Tom Hollander – all stars of last year’s The Night Manager – attended the same posh prep school, The Dragon School in Oxford, alongside Emma Watson, Jack Davenport, Hugh Dancy, Dom Joly and Jack Whitehall. “Old Dragons (ODs) are absolutely everywhere,” said one former pupil, “and there’s a great sense of ‘looking after our own’." Tom Hollander said the Dragon School, which has a focus on creativity, is the reason for his love of acting, but that’s neither here nor there.

Damian Lewis’s wife, fellow actor Helen McCrory, first studied at her local state school before switching to the independent boarding school Queenswood Girls’ School in Hertfordshire (“I’m just as happy to eat foie gras as a baked potato,” the Telegraph quote her as saying on the subject). But she says she didn’t develop an interest in acting until she moved schools, thanks to her drama teacher, former actor Thane Bettany (father of Paul). Of course, private school has had literally no impact on her career either.

In fact, it could have had an adverse affect – as Benedict Cumberbatch’s old drama teacher at Harrow, Martin Tyrell, has explained: “I feel that [Cumberbatch and co] are being limited [from playing certain parts] by critics and audiences as a result of what their parents did for them at the age of 13. And that seems to me very unfair.”

He added: “I don’t think anyone ever bought an education at Harrow in order for their son to become an actor. Going to a major independent school is of no importance or value or help at all.” That clears that up.

The words of Michael Gambon should also put fears to rest. “The more Old Etonians the better, I think!” he said. “The two or three who are playing at the moment are geniuses, aren’t they? The more geniuses you get, the better. It’s to do with being actors and wanting to do it; it’s nothing to do with where they come from.”

So we should rejoice, and not feel worried when we read a list of privately educated Bafta and Oscar winners as long as this: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dulwich College), Emilia Clarke (St Edward’s), Carey Mulligan (Woldingham School), Kate Winslet (Redroofs Theatre School), Daniel Day-Lewis (Sevenoaks School, Bedales), Jeremy Irons (Sherborne School), Rosamund Pike (Badminton), Tom Hardy (Reed), Kate Beckinsale (Godolphin and Latymer), Matthew Goode (Exeter), Rebecca Hall (Roedean), Emily Blunt (Hurtwood House) and Dan Stevens (Tonbridge).

Life is a meritocracy, and these guys were simply always the best. I guess the working classes just aren’t as talented.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

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