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Sugar wins the ratings war

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Geek TV Mixed fortunes this week for unshaven Amstrad boss Alan Sugar. The good news is that his wildly compelling BBC2 show The Apprentice - an X Factor for people who use the phrase "at the end of the day" without feeling embarrassed - slaughtered all rivals in the TV ratings.

Over on the supposedly populist BBC1, hyped chatshow hostess Davina McCall was left with a viewership of two old ladies in Hove. And they were only watching because the batteries in their remote had run out.

But it's not all been good news for Siralan, as he must be called. Hours after The Apprentice cleaned up, Amstrad announced it had finally pulled the plug on Sugar's beloved emailer. The phone-stroke-email gadget remained on life support for years thanks to Sugar's obsession, but has finally surrendered to competition from Skype and the like.

While Sugar's pet project went down the dumpster, other tech companies are busy showing their vision of the future. Sky has posted tasters of its HDTV service online, but still remains tight-lipped about a launch date for its HDTV roll-out. Meanwhile, Sony has unveiled Sony its latest HD camcorder, the HC3, and there are now the first murmurings about free to air HD in the UK.

Siralan can only dream of the telephonic success enjoyed by Vodafone, which has joined forces with Channel 4 for a series of televised flashmob concerts. Over the next couple of months, Vodafone will text random people with details of the secret gigs, said to feature "international artists of the calibre of Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera". The results will be aired live on C4 or E4 in a slot designated 'TBA' in the schedules. So, what if no-one turns up to the concerts? That'd be TV gold.

What to watch this week

The Mark Steel Lectures, Saturday, BBC4, 9pm
The shouty comedian is back with a new series of Trivial Pursuit-friendly mini-biogs. First up is Oliver Cromwell, ASBO boy of the 17th century.

Rescue Me, Sunday, Sky One, 10pm
Ciggie-totin' comedian Denis Leary returns in a new series of the Noo Yoik City firefighter comedy-drama.

Life on Mars, Monday, BBC1, 9pm
The final episode in this splendid series sees time-tripping cop Sam Tyler (John Simm) meeting his dad as a young man and, as they say in trailers, facing a terrible decision.

Thin Ice, Tuesday, BBC2, 10pm
Marc 'Shirley Ghostman' Wootton turns up in this new sitcom, which could be: a) the Spinal Tap of ice skating, or: b) so bad we'll deny ever mentioning it.

Mysterious Island, Wednesday, Sky One, 8pm
Thrill to the sight of Vinnie Jones in gainful employment in this adaptation of the Jules Verne story. The footballing berserker plays a pirate, and Patrick Stewart is Captain Nemo.

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