Dowell, Ben, New Statesman (1996)
* After all the unwelcome attention for the book and film of The Da Vinci Code, it seems that the Roman Catholic Church is keen to vamp up its media image. This autumn brings the release of a DVD featuring Pope John Paul II preaching messages of love and hope to the faithful. Nothing strange there--the Vatican has an army of clerical A & R men, from a company called St Paul Multimedia, responsible for making devotional records. But this latest venture is more daring than usual. The Curia has officially sanctioned the avant-garde British film and TV composer Simon Boswell for the project. He's written a remarkably modern score: soaring orchestras, world-music inserts and house-music-style anthems play over trancey, trippy images of the late pope. It looks rather like an acid house video.
* Channel 4's latest venture, Fame Asylum, looks set to push the boundaries of reality TV. Cameras will follow a boy band composed entirely of asylum-seekers as they attempt to make it big in the music business. The Refugee Council is supporting the project, brainchild of the performance artist Richard Domenici. The band will make their first public appearance at the Celebrating Sanctuary festival on London's South Bank later this month. I'm assured that the show will not require viewers to vote on whether or not the contestants should be deported.
* Still no one to take over from Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs. My man in Broadcasting House tells me that Andrew Marr--initially a favourite for the berth--is not in the running. …