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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 17:27 GMT
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Noel Edmonds (main picture), with GREG DYKE, DUCHESS OF CORNWALL, MONTY PANESAR and CLIVE OF INDIA'S TORTOISE.


The man who inflicted Mr Blobby on Britain, Noel Edmonds, has resurfaced as the king of daytime TV - signing up to host a second series of Channel 4's runaway hit Deal or No Deal for a reported 3m.

The show, which began in October, has fast become one of the most talked about TV programmes of the moment, oozing with tension as contestants must decide whether to accept the latest offer from the "banker", or gamble on what's in the box. It could be 250,000. Or it could be 1p.

But Edmonds was no push over. He reportedly turned down Channel 4's proposed deal to front the show, which was born in Australia and is now broadcast in 45 countries - several times.

The presenter wasn't impressed when he was shown the French version of the game, which is screened as a 90-minute light entertainment spectacular. But when Channel 4 plumped for six half-hour episodes a week, he was persuaded.

Although the concept is the same around the world, the format varies in each country: in Italy, the prizes to avoid include a salami, while in the American version, the booty can climb to $3m.

Noel Edmonds presenting Noel's Christmas House Party
Noel's Christmas House Party
But everywhere, it seems, the show has been a resounding success. In Britain, Channel 4 is extending the initial 10-week run of late-afternoon Monday to Friday shows and on Saturdays promoting Edmonds to the prime-time evening slot.

That was a time which he once commanded in BBC television schedules. Noel's House Party was described by BBC One controller of the day, Alan Yentob, as the corporation's "most important show".

Set in the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom and featuring such highlights such as the Gunge Tank and Grab A Grand, it won audiences of up to 17 million. The show's icon, Mr Blobby, even achieved the 1993 Christmas No1.

Spurned university

Noel Edmonds demonstrated an unusual shrewdness even as a boy. On a school trip abroad, he once bought all the oranges handed out to the other boys and then, on the ferry home, sold them back at a profit.

The only child of two Essex schoolteachers, he once said his parents had "poured all their resources into me, and that's a hell of an obligation".

Leaving school with 10 O-levels and three A-levels, he turned down university for a stab at showbiz. Joining Radio Luxembourg in 1969, it was onward and upward, via Radio 1 and television's Top of the Pops, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, the Late Late Breakfast Show and Telly Addicts.

Noel Edmonds with Mr Blobby
With the infamous Mr Blobby
In addition to the presenting, Edmonds proved a shrewd business operator, building his Unique Group to encompass a host of entertainment and technology businesses. Edmonds amassed millions through licensing deals and rights. Some of his ventures though, such as Mr Blobby theme parks and an attempt to break into the mineral water market, proved ill-fated.

But as owners of the House Party format, Edmonds was able to plough his profits into a secluded mansion in Devon - now worth an estimated 10m - and expensive sports cars.

In 1999, though, with audiences falling to little more than half House Party's peak of more than 16 million, the show ended and Edmonds' golden age seemed to be over.

The split with the BBC was bitter and another relationship, with his second wife, Helen, mother of three of his four daughters, was also heading for the rocks. The end of the marriage was confirmed last summer.

But his businesses, his fortune and his pride were still intact. Recently Noel Edmonds, now 57, reflected that his decision to leave television presenting seven years ago was something he "never ever thought" he would reverse.

He also once insisted: "I never gamble".

One suspects that, instead, it was his business acumen that led him to accept Channel 4's Deal, rather than chancing what prize was in the box.

Media magnate, Greg Dyke

An audacious takeover approach was launched for ITV which would put Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general, in charge of Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster, which has been struggling with declining audiences and advertising share. The battle for control of the company would pit Dyke against the current chief executive, Charles Allen, once described by Dyke as "a cost-cutting caterer who knew little about television". But ITV rejected the bid.

The Duchess of Cornwall

The Duchess of Cornwall has been wowing them on her visit to Egypt with Prince Charles. But back home in Gloucestershire, the talk is all about her joining the Women's Institute in Tetbury, near her Highgrove home. She apparently became interested when she met some of the women who inspired the box office hit film, Calendar Girls, about the Yorkshire WI members who bared almost all to raise money for charity. The Duchess is not expected to emulate their action.

Cricketer, Monty Panesar

The England cricket team may have been inspired to the final Test victory against India by Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, but fielder Monty Panesar blamed the glare of the sun when he failed to get a hand to a ball that landed only a metre or so away. Maybe he adjusted his hat, but when, two balls later, the same batsman offered a similar chance, Panesar composed himself, gathered it safely, and breathed a huge sigh of relief, along with the whole nation.

Clive of India's tortoise

The remarkable story of a giant tortoise's longevity has emerged after its death in India. Documents have come to light apparently proving that it was a pet of Clive of India, the famed 18th Century general, having been given to him by sailors who'd brought it from the Seychelles. Officials say the tortoise, which has died of liver failure, was more than 250 years old. Its shell will be preserved at the zoo in West Bengal where it had spent the past 130 years.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Chris Jones

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