Watson’s Window


DONALD TAFFNER. The man who brought laughter to millions of. Americans and Brits in the US, and was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, for syndicating the top British comedy TV shows from the BBC and, Thames Television, has died.

Donald L Taffner, an, independent American distributor of television progamming was believed to have suffered an aneurysm or blood clot in the heart. He was 80.

Taffner began his career in showbiz in 1952, working at the William Morris Agency with a .job in the mailroom, and later became an agent. Four years later he went to Paramount where he helped to begin their TV Distribution Programme Dept.

After his marriage to Eleanor :Eolta in 1961, he and his, wife started their own business as a worldwide distributor of TV programmes and later added TV and stage productions.

In the 1970s, in a deal with Thames Television in the UK; Taffner’s company produced an American version of Man About the House that became Three’s Company on ABC, and likewise with adapting Thames’ Keep It in the Family that became Too Close for Comfort, on ABC. He also packaged the very popular The Benny Hill Show for syndication in the US.

Taffner later added the very popular BBC comedy series My Family and Judi Dench in As Times Goes By.

On the theatrical side the company owns and manages the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End.

His contributions to the TV industry were recognized by the International Council of the National Academy of TV Arts & Sciences, which presented him with its Founders Award Emmy in 1986 for setting new levels of creativity in the worldwide exchange of television programmes.

Taffner is survived by a son, producer Donald L Taffner Jr, two daughters Karen Butler and Rhonda Taffner Cantor, and three grandchildren. His wife Eleanor died a year ago.

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VETERAN British star Derek Jacobi, 62, will portray Lord William Pirrie, chairman of the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff that built the ill-fated liner Titanic, in the $30m, 12-part TV miniseries Titanic – Blood and Steel.

The series will focus on the financial pressures in building the ship in Edwardian Belfast, and the fatal compromises. It’s expected to air next spring, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage to New York.

The series will be directed by Irishman Ciaran Donnelly, (The Tudors.)

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THIS YEAR’S London Film Festival (October 12-27), will premiere as its opening night attraction, Fernando Meirelles’ 360 starring Anthony Hopkins. Rachel Weisz and Jude Law. The film, scripted by Peter Morgan, is a kaleidoscope of relationships, linking characters in London. Paris, Vienna. Rio De Janeiro, the US and elsewhere.

Meirelles last had the honour of opening the Festival in 2005, with his movie The Constant Gardner.

Artistic director Sandra Hebron said “I was delighted that 360 will be our opening night film, and very proud to welcome back Fernando Meirelles to the festival.

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MORE ON Anthony Hopkins, 73, who took home an Oscar for his role as the murderous Dr Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

He was in final negotiations last month to star in New Line’s serial killer movie Solace. This time he will portray a former doctor with psychic abilities, working for the FBI.

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LEEDS-BORN actor Tom Wilkinson, 62, will costar in Metanoia Films historical family drama Little Boy, set in a small American town in the early days of World War II, and centers around an eight-year-old with developmental problems.

Busy Tom recently completed roles in three productions, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Burke and Hare and The Debt, and is likely to appear in Disney’s western The Lone Ranger.

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COMEDY PAYS off for actor Ben Stiller, 45, who will be honoured by BAFTA/LA, with their Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, at their Britannia Awards on November 3, in Beverly Hills.

Stiller has received critical acclaim as an actor, director, writer and producer.




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