Jeremy Clarkson saga enough to drive you to despair
The programmes to watch and the ones you really want to miss
As John Inverdale wouldn't exactly say: thank Crunchie it's Friday.
And whether the "S" word today causes you to cheer on, poo-poo or simply enjoying the freedom of driving up and down abandoned bus lanes, you'll agree it's been a hell of a week all round. I'm not even talking about the latest welfare-scented love letter to direct rule from the clots in the cream-coloured castle on the hill. More importantly, there's also been right royal pandemonium in Goggleboxlandia, where boot-cut jeaned giants have been slain (indefinitely suspended), the mulleted mighty have been laid low with a blow of the tongue (on-air gaffe) and The Fall has been given a third series.
Accordingly, taxi drivers, so often the barometer of public opinion, were on the scent of injustice. The cabbie I was stuck with in rush-hour on Wednesday used the time profitably to expound to me -as a writer of all things tellie - the reasons why Jeremy Clarkson and John Inverdale were sacrificial lambs to the media and libertarian beacons of light in a politically correct blanket of night. Or as he put it "a pair of gems". As in most taxi journeys I've ever undertaken (where my awkward smiling and mumbling routine renders my usually firm attitudes to immigrants, women and even the weather temporarily ambivalent) I sat there grunting, pretending to text, and saying things like "well, that Clarkson certainly knows how to stir the pot!". What I wanted to say was "Jeremy Clarkson is not a maverick! He writes for the Sun, is best friends with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and isn't 'one of us'. In fact, he'd hate you. And he'd sneer at your Skoda, which to him, while admittedly cost-effective in diesel, is just a glorified skip with wheels." Or something.
Then the driver said he loved Clarkson's Sun column because he "tells it like it is", and I was glad I'd stayed schtum. I may not be a Top Gear fan - it's car porn for people with abandonment issues - but I get why Clarkson's schtick has made it so popular. What I don't get is why the BBC suspended him for a staff-related "fracas". It sounds suspiciously foreign to me.
But it would make it seem that the final straw at Beeb HR isn't successfully wresting the Appalling Posh Racist Abroad Crown from the manicured talons of Prince Philip, but socking a BBC employee at a do. Something we've surely all done at one time or another.
"We're losing him!" ran a BBC trailer this week, but it wasn't belated remorse for Jeremygate. It was a reminder that The Fall would be returning to our screens for a third slice of shark-jumping serial killing. My taxi driver, in a blessed moment of shared value round about Shaftesbury Square, said he didn't care for The Fall.
The accents were "all wrong for starters". The major problem of The Fall, though, must be that the guts of a solid single series are being teased out into ever-thinning entrails over three. With a presumably straight face, the controller of BBC drama commissioning said: "Allan (Cubbitt, creator of The Fall) has known the end game from the beginning - the cat and mouse game between Gillian and Jamie has one last act to play out. Who will win?" "Who cares?" is probably what my taxi driver would have said, but I'd jumped out at Great Victoria Street by then.
Everybody needs good Neighbours, they found the perfect blend
Strewth! Fair Dinkum! etc etc... Neighbours is 30 years old. While I haven't watched it since the giddy glory days of Bouncer's dream, crazy Henry and Mike the student (who went on to become Guy Pearce), it still exerts a curious hold on folks of my generation. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that it was the first time (the late eighties), any of us had seen contemporary Australian life on prime-time TV.
Sure, there was Sons and Daughters - whose theme tune I can, in theory, still sing - and Prisoner Cell Block H, but Ramsay Street was a place you could imagine living in. I remember, as luck would have it, being off school sick for the first ever episode shown over here.
It was possibly the only time I've been in at the birth of a cultural phenomenon. Des had just had his stag do, and the stripper Daphne had woken up in his house the morning after. It's an unlikely premise for one of the enduring romances of soapsville, but nevertheless, millions tuned in to see them getting hitched. Even more saw Scott and Charlene tie the knot.
I remember dozens of us eschewing football in the playground to see what unlikely mishaps had befallen the folks of Erinsborough. The most unlikely thing of all perhaps was that, for a time, my school actually screened Neighbours at lunchtime. That was a long time ago, and it's since moved to Channel 5. But you were good Neighbours. And everybody needs that, once in a while.
Discovering the man with the golden flute is a musician of note
Being James Galway suprised me. It presumably doesn't surprise James Galway, who's been James Galway for 75 years now. But watching this affectionate programme about his life and musical legacy reminded me that he's still playing, still very much alive. "The man with the golden flute" turned out to be a literal description as he showed off is 24-carat gold flute amidst an array of instruments in what looked like an extremely fancy cutlery drawer.
The most surprising thing, however, was the realisation that the Belfast man was such an accomplished and respected musician. Growing up, Galway's music to my culturally Stalinist mind was the stuff of musical wallpaper. Admittedly it was our musical wallpaper - a local take on the 'pan pipe moods goes pop' and the like - but it was a revelation to find out just what a seminal artist he was. The likes of Melvyn Bragg marvelled at his natural ability with the instrument and leant some highbrow wellie to the tale.
He may have lived in Switzerland for 40 years now, but this was a warming reminder of ostensibly decent and hugely gifted man from the streets of Belfast.
The antipodean penal saga Banished was good, even if the “contemporary” dialogue in 18th century mouths was often mortifying. Still as gripping as the hangman’s noose that so nearly finished off our hero. On Channel 5, Filming My Father: In Life and Death was beautiful. Catch it. Seriously.
Poldark remake? Meh. I am of an age that I remember the original series — when it was repeated on UK Gold in the 90s. It seemed like perfectly good BBC costume melodrama, and not really in need of a hip “re-imagining” (like a hip replacement, only pointless). But what do I know? The attractive Irish one from Being Human had a window in his schedule, so...