Belfast Telegraph

My Last Summer: Quintet's last season in the sun was dead inspiring

The programmes to watch... and the ones you'll really want to miss

By Joe Nawaz

I for one haven't quite come to terms yet with the conclusion of last Sunday's Game Of Thrones (Sky Atlantic). Without wishing to give too much away to those three fans who've yet to see it, the shattering finale to episode 8 really did my head in.

And I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was wrong-footed to the point of kicking myself up the butt. HBO won't be apologising any time soon, and if it did, it wouldn't mean it anyway, so delicate souls like myself had to take televisual succour in the reassuringly mundane stuff of "real life". And where better to get away from the blood bubbling over-excitements and profound emotive stirrings of superior fantasy than the rickety raft of reality shows on Channel 4?

I could have picked a better week to be honest, as The Mountain And The Viper paled into kitchen sink whimsy next to the My Last Summer. This astonishing programme forced us to contemplate death untampered by swelling strings and carefully scripted and choreographed final moments. Or at least let us into the world of five people facing their final moments together.

They'd agreed to take part in a retreat where they'd share their experiences as they approached their own death.

The outcome was unsurprisingly harrowing, but ridiculously moving and yes, even funny. When upbeat Andy was walking admiringly around the expansive grounds of the retreat, he mused whether they all got their own burial spot here when they expired.

Passing a freshly dug flowerbed, he quipped: "That was last week's show." I doubt I'd be able to handle anything other than a Stan Laurel lip and a bottle of Scotch.

Terminally ill Lou (38) and her daughter didn't ever use the D-word, they called it "chocolating" instead. "When you're chocolate, can I have your phone?" asked her daughter innocently, to which Lou erupted in peels of laugher. They say you don't know how you're going to react until it happens to you, but these people, for all their frailties, fears and flaws, were truly inspiring.

Equally as impressive were the eight 11-year-olds Channel Four got to sit around a table and have dinner together whilst being filmed.

Or Dinner At 11 as they'd plumped on calling it. And the results were hugely enjoyable, and again, oddly moving. These young people on the cusp of life's "grate" adventure turned out to be as thoughtful and eloquent as most adults.

Whether they were discussing life, love, dealing with family break-ups or even how to avoid paedophiles with tranquiliser darts, there was more savvy round the table than I remember possessing in P7. Or sixth year, for that matter.

The fact they were hand-picked for their precociousness and entertainment value was tempered by the facts that they also appeared to be ordinary kids with ordinary concerns about their academic futures, social status in school and bullying.

When most of them reacted violently to the very notion of a David Cameron, it even gave one hope for a more progressive future. You'd dare to believe that a similar northern Irish dinner table would be equally as disparaging about the forces of conservatism here, but I'd be too squeamish to find out.

And speaking of squeamish, watching My Granny The Escort perhaps did more to move me out of my Game Of Thrones reverie than a month of Ski Sundays. Desperate or eccentric old women selling their bodies for sex was the excuse for an attempt at thought provoking documentary.

It perhaps said more for our patronising attitudes to the elderly, and that men will pay to have sex with practically anybody, than it examined any deep specific psychological quirk that inspired – gasp! – women over 50 to sell their bodies. At any rate, Kings Landing and heroic heads being squashed like watermelons suddenly felt very long ago and very far away ...

A land where threadbare, tyre-some arguments defy all logic

I know, I know — The Nolan Show (BBC1) again. But often it's literally the only show in town.

And as someone with a keen local responsibility, I feel it only fitting to point out that the current series ended on a high/nadir (delete according to the entertainment you derive from the lamentable current paucity of leadership within unionism).

And I speak as a card-carrying member of the themunsisasbadasthoseuns brigade.

“How are the brethren to get home?” lamented William Humphrey of the Orange marchers who have been prevented from marching up the Crumlin Road since July last year by the Parades Commission.

To which our Stephen zinged him with “presumably they've been home before now?” and “do you mean to say they've been staying in tents all this while?”

Later on, a “bonfire” expert clamed that scientists were “making it up” that burning tyres was detrimental to the environment.

Like the scientists, you really couldn't, could you?

I'd be happy with more of police thriller

Line of Duty goes and another cracking Tuesday night thriller takes its place.

Happy Valley (BBC1) by Sally Wainwright (surprisingly, also the writer of the warm and fuzzy Last Tango In Halifax) has gripped more tightly than a mooted NI21 mini-series with each successive episode.

Sarah 'Not Raquel' Lancashire as single grandparent cop Sgt Catherine Cawood has given life to one of the most interesting fictional characters on our screens this year.

And unlike Line Of Duty, the ending wasn't so bleak that you lost just another little sliver of any remaining faith in the police.

A second series for Sgt Cawood and co please, and I promise that I will think about renewing my TV licence.

Switch on...

Amber (BBC4): Amber is ostensibly about the disappearance of a teenage girl in Dublin. Really, it's about the disturbing fallout this creates in families and communities. It’s a beautifully understated and hugely watchable drama.

Switch off...

Badults (BBC3): Love the World Cup, but hate World Cup-related programming. For example, Badults went football crazy and proved once again it's quite the least funny thing on doomed BBC3 since that last one. Jack Whitehall and his pater returned with a World Cup ‘special’, but the only thing they brought into play was the Trades Description Act.

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