As it’s been a rather subdued fortnight I thought I’d combine some of the last two weeks’ highlights into one instalment of This Week in TV and here it is.
First a bit of charity and the mainstay of the even-numbered year – Sports Relief. Yes when we don’t have comic relief we have Sports Relief. In my mind I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the two save that Sports Relief has sports related challenges. But then not really I mean both Comic and Sports Relief had the Let’s Dance programme which this year was won by Rufus Hound as Cheryl Cole (my personal favourite was the Grumpy Old Women doing Lady GaGa’s Poker Face) . So it’s a blurring of the lines really and some people get confused especially my mother who thought we were raising money for sports people. Before Friday’s big event there was a Thursday show in which David Walliams lead a group of comics and presenters in a biking challenge (these included Miranda Hart, Jimmy Carr, Russell Howard, Patrick Kielty, Davina McCall and Fearne Cotton) cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End in a million pound bike ride, of course the celebs reached their target because they obviously do. Also we saw the One Show’s Christine Bleakley water-ski over the channel and someone from Blue Peter do something on a canoe. All very charitable and entertaining to watch but not up their with Walliams’ channel swim which has become the one thing that everybody associates with Sports Relief.
The big night was very similar to a Comic Relief night but a little less prestigous. Possibly the bit eveyrone was waiting for, I know I was, was James Corden as Smithy coaching various sports people, again following up a Comic Relief sketch where Smithy met the England team. We saw him with Andy Murray, the Man United team, Tom Daly, Jenson Button and best of all David Beckham. The Beckham scenes saw Corden and Becks in bed together, maybe Posh was there as well but Cordern was just squashing her. After that Corden launched into an attack on the sports people in the audience. This has to be the highlight of the evening even though a Question of Sports Relief was okay and the Outnumbered sketch was as brilliant as it ever is but people will remember Smithy more than the presenters or JLS’ official Sports Relief single. Overall everyone will tune in for a charity event if there’s a big sketch to watch but I don’t think Sports Relief will ever be in the same league as its Comic brother.
After a couple of weeks without political programmes, the race up to the election again grew a televisual face in two specials on ITV1. First of all Trevor McDonald met up with Conservative Leader David Cameron, whereas Gordon Brown had met Piers Morgan in a sit down interview this was all over the place as Sir Trev followed DaveCam around the country at various speeches and on the campaign trail. The main focus of this hour long programme seemed to be humanising the man as he is constantly presented as being too posh. So as Cameron held Q and A sessions we had a lot of ‘soundbites’ from people saying things along the lines of ‘he comes across as very posh but he’s really down to Earth.’ He did admit to being posh but also tried to show himself as a family man and also the inner workings of his government. We were told in brief about his upbringing and his secret clubs in Oxford, he obviously tried to make pains that he got on with everyone in his party and there was no infighting. Of course there were the hints towards SamCam’s involvement in his campaign as his secret weapon and as we all know now she is very involved in getting Tory votes. But at the same time he did try and push issues under the carpet, one scene in particular saw him pursued by Anti-Hunt protesters when asked about this he gave a flippant reply and tried to divert the conversation to other matters. Overall this was a decent profile of the man who will most probably be the new Prime Minister, at the same time we didn’t get as personal a look at him as we did Brown on Piers Morgan, whether that will count against him we’ll have to find out next month.
Meanwhile the third party got in on the act while Cameron had Sir Trev and Gordon and Piers had their love-in, Nick Clegg was treated to an interview with Mary Nightingale. While Nightingale may not be as recognisable as the other interviewers she seemed was more professional than Piers and not as authoritative as McDonald which meant that Clegg probably had the best pick of the three. This hour was meant to give us more of an idea of who Clegg is and maybe try and put a face to a name. While Clegg wants everyone to know that it’s not a popularity contest, it most certainly comes down to that and while we know the posh-schoolboy and the surly Scot we can’t really give any idenity to the LibDem Head Honcho. After watching this I got the impression of a man with a young family and an attractive wife who had lead an interesting life and had got into politics after trying his hand at other things. He did have an education similar to Cameron – Boarding school and then Oxbridge University but then he only finished with a 2:1 in Anthropology and decided to go travelling around America with Louis Theroux and Theroux’s brother who is one of Clegg’s best mates. We also heard a lovely story about how Clegg met his Spanish wife Miriam and how much his three sons mean to him (all with exotic names – Antonio, Roberto and Miguel but cursed with his very ordinary surname). He also seemed to have an impression on the people he meant on his trail although they said they all enjoyed his speeches and thought that his policies sounded great they all agreed he hadn’t got himself out there enough. This was an effort to get Clegg across and this is a man whose wife will back him but her first priority is her job as a lawyer and her sons unlike SamCam and Sarah Brown who have already become keys to their campaigns. While the LibDems may get some momentum off the back of this next election he’ll never become Prime Minister but may hold the key during a hung election but he doesn’t see himself as a King Maker and said that the decision was akin to Cinderella trying to choose between the Ugly Sisters. I think of the three politician specials on ITV1 I mostly enjoyed getting to know Clegg and his life, and more than that he managed to get a Come Dine with Me reference in there and that’s worth a vote if nothing else!
Property makeover programmes have become a staple after the huge success of Grand Designs and more recently Kirsty’s Homemade Homes. Now we have the Restoration Man which could be dubbed Grander Designs. George Clarke is the new Kevin McCloud, only trendier and younger and with a more appealing hair-do (or just more hair). His job is to advise and support families who want to convert odd and ancient buildings into homes for their families. The first episode saw him meet Liverpudlian builder Mark who wanted to convert an old 18th century folly into a home for him and his family. You could tell that his wife and two elder daughters (one 21 and the other 15) were used to him doing stupid stuff like this and his daughters seemed embarrassed just to be appearing on this programme. George’s job seemed to be mainly being in awe of old buildings which I suppose if you’re into your restoration work you have to be. We also see the pitfalls of restoration from getting planning permission to making sure where you have to put the electrical wiring and drainage systems. This programme was all about following the journey of Mark and also giving a little history into the building of the original follys and bath lodges. It’s not easy and although George claims that he is constantly giving Mark advice it seems that most of the time he is nagging including a bone of contention due to plastic coatings on a sky-light. The fact that Mark has a heart attack halfway through the restoration is brushed under the carpet (not the one in the folly though) instead there are more wars between Mark and the conversation official. Of course after eighteen months and going completely over budget Mark finally has his dream house, and although he spent loads on the building can still afford a hot tub in the courtyard, a massive TV in the master bedroom, a home gym and a cinema-style screen in the main living room. At the end George presents the family with kind of a collage book of the project, I wonder if it has any pictures of Mark’s heart scar? Altogether this isn’t as great as Grand Designs, and George Clarke is no Kevin McCloud but it is still very interesting to watch and the transformation of these buildings is extraordinary.
After Professor Brian Cox’s success on BBC2 with the Wonders of The Solar System, another scruffy haired likeable lad-type has his own BBC2 programme in which he travels across the globe. That man is Simon Reeve and his journey is across the Tropic of Cancer which begins in Mexico. Simon’s journey took him to the drug capital of Mexico – Culiacan in which a police escort took him round some of the hotspots of where the drugs (mainly cocaine) are bought and sold on a regular basis. We heard tales of gang crime and people who were involved in the drugs trade in Mexico, so the first half of the programme all felt a bit like Ross Kemp on Gangs. Although the programme got lighter again when Simon visited an old film set used by Johns Wayne and Ford a lot in the 1950s and 1960s to shoot their western films, although not used as a filming location for about thirty years Simon met a man who still remembers fondly the days of the shooting and still lives on the abandoned train next to the film set. He then journeys to Cuba to look at the beautiful cars and the odd living situations before finally journeying to the Bahamas. In The Bahamas again things turn crime-related as he tries to go to high security prison and learns a lot about the relations between the Bahamas and their closest neighbours – Haiti, I’m guessing this was filmed before all the tragedies in Haiti began. Part of me wonders why, Reeve is doing this, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation to why he wants to travel the Tropic of Cancer. But in another way I’m glad he does, he doesn’t have an air of authority about him or the fact that he is doing something noble, this may be because he’s not a recognisable face and therefore doesn’t have the celebrity stigma attached to him like a Charley Boorman or a Griff Rhys Jones. I found Reeve’s style laid-back but incredibly informative and I think Tropic of Cancer is possibly the best travel-centric programme since Stephen Fry went round America back in 2007.
While the men are out raising money for charity, involved in politics, restoring old properties and travelling around the world, where are the women? That’s right in the kitchen. For the final programme in this instalment its a cookery show with a bit of a difference, the difference being its being hosted by a model. But it’s not Naomi Campbell’s How To Dine on a Lettuce Leaf but instead Sophie Dahl invites us into her world in The Delicious Miss Dahl. Every week Sophie devotes the food she cooks to a different emotion and the first one was selfishness. That didn’t mean she went around and stole sweets from kids and took digestives from OAPs but instead just cooked what she wanted and sod everyone else. That includes an audacious Arnold Bennett omelette for breakfast, a rather mediocre Buffalo Mozarella bruschetta for lunch and dinner is Baked Halibut topped off with a Dirty Martini and throughout the day the preparation of Peanut Butter fudge. So basically these are all high dairy and high fat recipes cooked by a model who while not skinny doesn’t exactly look like she eats an omelette for breakfast every day. As she’s not a cook, Sophie really doesn’t use the proper vocabulary and instead she takes a tip from Nigella Lawson and tries to sexualise the food sometimes with hilarious results (especially when trying to squeeze the buffallo Mozerlla through her fingers). She also gives us the history of the Arnold Bennett omelette and goes all Art Deco when she makes her dirty martinis. This is kind of like watching someone comfort eat, so comfort watching, I don’t think anyone will have picked up any cooking tips from the Delicious Miss Dahl but her warm and inviting nature and her girlish-like narration are just the right side of being completely annoying. While some people find her irritating I think she’s good natured and enjoys food rather than cooking. Good for her!
Next Time: Over The Rainbow, Ashes to Ashes and The Door