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Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Mirren

Ah the glory of live TV! Anything can happen, and there is not much anyone can do about whatever it is except smile, apologize and try and keep calm. There again, it’s always a good idea to know which of your guests is likely to misbehave, and keep an eye on them accordingly.

So when BBC Breakfast booked Dame Helen Mirren to come in yesterday and talk about Arthur — the recently remade Dudley Moore film — one can only assume there were a few nervous fingers hovering over the “Run VT” button.

And rightly so. Having explained a bit about her role in the film, and that she was stepping to the shoes of the great John Geilgud, Helen listened politely as Breakfast presenter Sian Williams marvelled at the great man’s extensive use of profanity, both on screen and off (no, we don’t know why she did this either).

Helen’s reply was quick and dirty: “Well, in that sort of wonderful voice he had… ‘you little s**t!'”

Cue a sofa full of horrified faces, and an immediate Damely apology: “I’m so sorry. I do apologize.”

Bill Turnbull, the show’s other presenter, then leapt in gallantly, saying: “This is why we pre-recorded you last time!”

Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this whole thing Sian Williams’s fault? Of all things to bring up to Dame Helen Mirren — a lady who has already been quoted as saying “the whole drama of swearing is so overblown. It’s idiotic that it’s made into such a big deal” (via Metro) — surely John Geilgud’s use of profanity is the least sensible?

I bet they’re wishing they’d got that nice, safe Russell Brand in instead.

Is accidental profanity on live TV a big deal? Tell us here.

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By Fraser McAlpine