Welcome to another summertime slice of This Week in TV
July has bought us some great drama so far in the form of the excellent The Street as well as timely credit-crunch expose Freefall. But this is summer where’s the light and fluffy nonsense that we expect from this time of year. But fear not, here’s Desperate Romantics the supposed story of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood which featured the artists are William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Milais. The lives of these three artists are soon through the eyes of John Ruskin an aspiring journalist who emulates the PRB and will do anything to help them out and promote them. The first episodes sees the three artists being introduced to their muse Lizzie Sidall, a beautiful hat-shop worker who is discarded by Hunt and painted by Rossetti in the first episode. The three artists are of course given identities so we know what to expect from the throughout the series. Aidan Turner is on top form as Rossetti who swaggers his way through the episode shagging and scrounging money from whoever will give to him. He is, if you will, the rock star of the group having a very high opinion of himself and spouting out clichés as if they were going out of fashion. But just to even the score out a little pit Rafe ‘Son of Tim’ Spall as Holt plays the kind of nervous virgin character who is constantly encouraged by his wife to go past second base and hit the home run. Eventually he is sexually attracted to a woman, Annie Miller, who is his replacement model and does the dirty. Milais has the least to do of the three in the first episode however a story arc featuring the wife of art critic John Ruskin is set off and probably will erupt in episodes to come. Meanwhile Walters’ character seems to be someone who lurks in the background, has homoerotic moments with most of the PRB and lusts after Lizzie constantly telling us that he would be the right man for her. The support performances are also a delight in particular the sour Phil Davis as a gallery owner, Mark Heap camping it up as a disapproving Charles Dickens and the always entertaining Tom Hollander as Ruskin.
As you can probably imagine this is all visually appealing there are lovely costumes all the women walk around with plunging necklines and come to bed eyes while the PRB wear lose fitting cloaks which they can whip round knowingly. The Victorian streets are also shot through a rose-tinted camera lens i.e. there are no beggars, no disease, no mess. Although I’m no expert on these artists or this time period generally I’m guessing it’s all about historically accurate as The Tudors, but at least that has an excuse as it is produced by Americans. Meanwhile it is the BBC that has given us this programme which is a little bit educational but mostly its beautifully decorating sometimes entertaining nonsense.
Going in a completely different direction now and looking at Channel 4’s Revelation season which explores various elements of religion from Muslim dating to Jewish divorce. The programme I am going to look from this series dealt with Peter Mitchell a man who makes a living from the exhumation of bodies. Mitchell is an engaging presence who seems to enjoy his job and treat it exactly the same as a builder or accountant would. The main thrust of the programme was obviously the separation of what Peter does and the religious aspects that go with it. There are talking heads who talk about the digging up of bodies as being unholy and disturbing those who are already with God. But Mitchell is quick to tell us that he has disassociate himself with all the religious and political aspects that might be attached to a job such as his. The programme sees Mitchell and his workmate Tony McHale undertake two jobs in particular. The first sees Mitchell go to Egypt to supervise the mass exhumation of Christian Church. This was of course a controversial operation there was a lot or protest from the locals as a lot of the bodies had only been there a few months and the area itself was very religious. Meanwhile McHale oversees the movement of bodies from a church in Scotland which was about to be demolished, McHale who was as likeable as Mitchell also shared the similar views on the separation of religious views from the job at hand he himself believed that these were just bodies but he did feel sympathy for the families who had been left behind. We were also given an insight into Mitchell’s personal life and his quest to try and have his mother’s body exhumed so she could be buried next to her father. A very interesting look into a much misunderstood profession this was well presented and had a likeable lead.
Now to the plains of Africa for Wildest Dreams a new BBC show which is a combination of The Really Wild Show and The Apprentice. Nine people from different walks of life, most of them mundane, are given the chance to become a new wildlife photographer for the BBC. The contestants are presented by their job titles so there is warehouse worker Alan, Burger Bar Manager Cherise and East End Mum Sadia as well as a handful of students. All of them are self-proclaimed nature lovers and therefore it is justified that without any photography experience these nine people are whisked off to Botswana and then the Kalahari Desert for various Apprentice-style tasks. The Siralan of the group is James Honeyborne a veteran wildlife cameraman who has worked on Big Cat Diary and some of the Attenborough shows and we are given his showreel to show why he is qualified to judge. Obviously the BBC have budgeted on travel costs so haven’t bothered to pay much for a presenter so they have just roped in Nick Knowles who is already presenting the latest Lottery game show Guestimation. Knowles was probably lured to present this on the promise of a first class ride to Africa, a six pack of larger and a large pot noodle. He also gets to judge but I can’t really understand why as far as I can recall Knowles’ speciality is in DIY although recently he has also dealt with weddings and choirs so who knows. The first task sees the nine in search of Meerkats this task will decide who gets put into which team but it is later abandoned because of the stormy weather. Although this task does see Sadia being shown as reckless and Cherise as meek as she didn’t want to tell the rest of her team that she had a dicky tummy. In the end the teams are predictably separated into a team of the eldest contestants, the younger contestants and the three female contestants who are bound to lose. The teams are sent off to hunt for rhinos and present their footage to the judges. The eldest team are presented as the most sensible and come back with the best photos of the rhinos. The youngsters are adventurous and go after the rarer black rhinos but return with some footage of rhinos but don’t present this to the judges. However the women are shown as being the worst so go after elephants and Sadia is eliminated after only filming a tortoise. This was more of the same reality garbage presented with an African backdrop and the ubiquitous Knowles narration. But I’m thinking this must have cost a lot to produce yet we are meant to be in a Credit Crunch, surely a well-produced drama could’ve been made with the money that it cost to ship nine no-marks over to Africa?
Finally in this first blog a look at BB3’s Adult Season, which ironically is about teenagers about to become adults. There are a lot of sensational programmes in this series as young girls try to decide whether to have sex, have babies and get boob jobs. There is also a series about girls who gave birth at a young age but most of these programmes are about and aimed at young women even the programme about the voting age being lowered to 16 is presented by Lucy Beale from Eastenders. The highlight of an otherwise semi-serious season was the completely ludicrous Young Dumb and Living Off Mum. This featured eight horribly pampered teens and twenty-somethings who had sponged off their parents and were sent away to a posh house to live on their own. The youngest was seventeen-year old Diana Vickers look-alike Dina who’s dad claims that the two of them are best friends, he also seems to be the only dad to have send his child onto this ‘social experiment’ show. Dina seems to be the trouble-maker already having rows with several of the girls in the house. Meanwhile there is also Dolan, a 20-year-old heir to a nightclub empire who in his first shot is cutting up half of his garden with a Quad Bike. Straight away the spoilt mob are befuddled when they run out of hot water and struggle to locate the boiler in the house which results in half of the house going down the street asking random befuddled passer-bys where they would find a boiler in a house. Of course sending this lot off to shop was similarly hilarious as they came home with wine, port, yoghurt and a plug-in air freshener. They then have to work in a hotel where they mess up dinner orders and make beds, badly. Their inability to fold sheets sees a massively heated row between Dolan and the French Hotel manager. At the end of the day it is the parents who have to decide who is the most incompetent and that person will be sent home. However they decided to send home Orion the only one of the youngsters who seemed to have a clue about how to operate the hobs on the oven. This is incredibly watchable even if it is a bit naff. Robert Webb is given the job as narrator and gives a typical Dave Lamb like performance saying what we are all thinking about these completely pampered non-entities and their thick parents. Inexplicably the prize is a round-the-world trip for the one who proves to be the hardest worker. But you’ve got to think are these lot going to go back to their old ways after the programme has finished. The answer is most certainly.
Next Time: How the Other Half Live, We Are Klang and The Kevin Bishop Show.