Coastal Walks with My Dog, Saturday 19th March, 8pm, More4
This Saturday (19th) and next, More4 are dedicating all afternoon and all evening to Rambling, showing a collection of programmes all about… have you guessed? I’ll give you a clue – it’s not bobsledding.
The programmes being shown include the series Tony Robinson’s Walking Through History, and the film Downhill, a comedy drama about four middle aged friends attempting to walk all the way across northern England. And there’s Levison Wood’s recent series, Walking the Himalayas, which is rambling only in the sense that conquering Everest is a bit like doing the climbing wall at your local gym.
Anyway, the centrepiece to these two days of programming is a two-part series, Coastal Walks with My Dog. Once again, you may be able to work out the premise of the show. It involves various celebrities taking walks along the coast with… wow, you’re already there. Good work, supersleuth!
Comedian Bill Bailey is walking along a picturesque trail in the footsteps of smugglers in Dorset with his dog Louie. Or Louis. He didn’t specify. I dare say Louie/Louis isn’t picky. His walk takes him along some dramatic coastline, as well as some extremely pleasant sandy beaches. It’s all rather lovely.
Related: read our interview with Bill Bailey
Meanwhile pop songstress-turned-radio DJ Cerys Matthews is walking along the Pembrokeshire coast with her dog Smot. Smot, I believe, is Welsh for “I have no idea what to call my dog.” Again, it’s all rather lovely, though I wish she’d stop talking about everything being a battle between man and nature on this coastline. It is horrible weather. Windy. Rainy. Cold. Presumably summer. At one point she remarks that Smot is a working dog. Eh? But you’re not exactly a farmer, Cerys. What does he do? Alphabetise your albums?
And so to actor and impressionist Debra Stephenson, whose walk sounds spectacular, along Dorset’s Jurassic coast. Although disappointingly it turns out not to be a misguided attempt at a live dinosaur theme park. Mind you, it boasts the extraordinary Durdle Door and the beautiful Lulworth Cove, so it’s still quite something. She is accompanied by her hound, Biscuit, who I’m afraid seems to have had one or two too many. Biscuits, I mean. He’s not drunk. That would be madness. He’s also quite fond of chomping down on sheep poo. He’ll pretty much eat anything. It’s a surprise to see he’s got all four legs.
We meander gently between the stories, passing as amiable an hour as you could wish. All three are warm and companionable hosts, imbued with charm and a sense of fun. And their owners aren’t bad either.
Related: visit our walking section for great walking route ideas
Tribes, Predators and Me, Sunday 20th March, 9pm, BBC Two
We love an anthropological series in our house. Shows like Tribe, where a tough but sensitive British man travels to the back of beyond to live with a tribe for weeks on end. I like it because it is a gateway to a world I would otherwise never discover. I get nervous going on package holidays to Spain, so a month living in the middle of the Sahara eating snakes is never going to be high on my list of proposed holidays.
My wife enjoys them because she gets to watch a handsome, sensitive tough guy, as opposed to a bloke sitting on the couch eating Frazzles and drinking cider, occasionally taking notes and chuckling to himself. Sometimes I feel watching TV together can only ever lead to disappointment.
Anyway, in the first of this new three part series, the role of Mr Tough-But-Sensitive is played by a fellow called Gordon Buchanan, who is off to live with the Woarani people in the Amazon. We first meet him in a plane the size of a shoe, as he gazes upon endless miles of wild rainforest. He looks excited. I think I might have a panic attack.
The Woarani are a smiling, gentle, kindly people. Aren’t they always. Just once, I’d like them to be a collection of hostile, antisocial, glum and unpleasant individuals. Possibly cannibals. It would be a change.
Anyway, they also revere the anaconda. They believe the Woarani are descended from anacondas, which might have Mr Darwin spinning in his grave, but it’s good news for the snakes themselves. Instead of killing them, the Woarani men like to prove their manliness by wrestling these giant serpents. I suppose it’s no more daft than proving machismo by eating a Vindaloo and downing nine pints of strong lager.
First, they go off to hunt wild pigs. They look harmless enough, but Gordon is worried he might be killed by one, which doesn’t augur well for his prospects of facing down a five-metre snake. Meanwhile, while the men gad about occasionally bringing home some meat, or just wrestling snakes for the hell of it, the women do the backbreaking work of planting, harvesting, cooking, childcare etc. My wife is eyeing me with irritation. Surely she can’t be drawing a parallel with the intellectually backbreaking world of TV criticism?
Later, Gordon sets up a camera to film local wildlife, and shows it to the Woarani. I don’t approve of this introduction to screens. If my son is anything to go by, in a week they’ll be addicted to Minecraft on the iPad. The camera has picked up a load of wild pigs. “Why didn’t you hunt them,” one woman asks her husband accusingly. It seems screen-induced spousal disappointment can straddle continents and cultures.
Then it’s off to track down an anaconda. And boy, do they find one… It’s like an angry underground train. I’m staying on my sofa, where the only danger is from my better half.
Best of the rest
If I’m something of a disappointment to my wife now, that’s nothing to how she’ll feel about me after this weekend.
There is an absolute phantasmagoria of sport on TV on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 1pm on Saturday with highlights from the World Indoor Athletics Championships from Oregon on BBC One. Then, at 2:30pm it’s Six Nations time, with Wales v Italy (BBC One) followed by Ireland v Scotland (4:30pm, ITV) and then the main event at 7:20pm (BBC One) with England going for the Grand Slam in Paris.
There’s just time for Football League Highlights on Channel 5 (9pm) before Match of the Day (10:30pm) on BBC One. Then it’s time for bed, because you want to be on form for Channel 4’s first ever Grand Prix (highlights of the Australian Grand Prix, Sunday, 1:30pm). After that, there’s just time to pack your bags before your other half calls you a taxi to a local hotel.
Sunday evening sees a ridiculous array of televisual goodies, including The Night Manager (BBC One), Indian Summers (C4) and Doctor Thorne (ITV) all on at 9pm, along with Tribes, Predators and Me. It drives you mad to think that there are nights when you’re left flipping through old repeats or (shudder) switching off the telly because nothing’s on. Before that, at 6pm on 4, Heston Blumenthal is trying to revolutionise the traditionally drab space food for Tim Peake, in a fascinating feature-length documentary called Heston’s Dinner in Space (and to think, they could have called it Heston, We Have a Problem).
Related: Benjie Goodhart's review of Indian Summers
Tuesday night sees another promising-looking new drama, The A Word, about how a family is affected by the news that their five-year-old son has autism. The cast includes Morven Christie, Lee Ingleby, Greg McHugh, Christopher Ecclestone, and the magnificently monickered Pooky Quesnel.
Also on Tuesday night at 9pm is Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall maternity ward series One Born Every Minute return for its six millionth series. I think early episodes may have filmed the birth of Queen Victoria. Still, if it ain’t broke… Speaking of long-runners, Masterchef returns on Wednesday at 8pm on BBC One. Cooking, it seems, still doesn’t get tougher than this. (Clearly they’ve never had to make a roast using my oven.) At the same time BBC Two is showing a Horizon about something to do with gravity. I couldn’t even understand the press release, so there’s little hope for the programme, but for those of you who didn’t fail every Physics exam you ever sat, this might be of interest.
Employable Me is a new three-part documentary series on BBC Two on Wednesday at 9pm, in which people with conditions such as autism or Tourette’s try to find gainful employment in a world that seems to be predicated against them.
For many, the most exciting moment of the week will be on Thursday, when the excellent police drama Line of Duty returns (BBC Two, 9pm) starring the superb Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Daniel Mays. The first series of this was magnificent, and while I missed the second (probably so the wife could watch Don’t Tell the Bride, tsk) it was meant to be even better.
Friday (9pm, BBC One) sees the return of Boomers, the ensemble sitcom about retirees, starring Philip Jackson, Alison Steadman, Russ Abbott and Stephanie Beacham. At the same time, Springwatch starts on BBC Two. ITV, meanwhile, is showing a two-part series, Britain’s Whales and Sharks, with the programmes half an hour apart, separated by Corrie. Two programmes about marine behemoths, split by an entertainment behemoth. Ellie Harrison presents with the man who’s on TV more often than the ITV logo, Ben Fogle.