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TV reviews: My Life as a Rolling Stone: Mick Jagger and more

Benjie Goodhart / 29 June 2022

A new BBC documentary series examines the lives of one of the most celebrated bands of all time, The Rolling Stones. Plus, Freddie Flintoff shares his passion for cricket with children completely new to the sport, and find out what else to watch in the week ahead.

The Rolling Stones seated on leather chairs
Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood. BBC/Mercury Studios/Steven Kle

My Life as a Rolling Stone: Mick Jagger, Saturday 2nd July, 9:30pm, BBC Two

It’s quite the year for anniversaries. It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that HRH has been perched atop her throne for a glorious 70 years. August will see the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, and will be 25 years since the death of Princess Diana. October marks 100 years since the founding of the BBC. And, perhaps most excitingly of all, on a global level, September will mark my 50th birthday. All gifts may be sent to Saga Towers, or placed directly in my bank account.

But this year also marks a significant milestone in the history of popular music. On 12th July, it will be exactly 60 years since a band called The Rolling Stones played their first live gig, at the Marquee Club in London. To mark the anniversary, and six astonishing decades at the top of the musical tree, the BBC is broadcasting a season of programming across television, radio and digital platforms. The centrepiece is a world-exclusive four-part series of films, My Life as a Rolling Stone, four hour-long films, each an intimate portrait of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, showing how these individual musical geniuses came together to make the music that has provided the soundtrack to the lives of millions.

The films feature unrivalled access to, and newly-filmed interviews with the band members, and from a stellar cast of artists who’ve loved and been inspired by the band.

First up – no great surprise here, is Mick Jagger.

He’s quite annoying, our Mick. I mean, aged 78, he is still remarkably good-looking, toned, and energetic, not to mention intelligent, self-deprecating and funny. He also has a healthy understanding of the nature of his work. “One of my big jobs is to be a show-off, really. That’s my job.” And it’s one he does remarkably well.

Using Mick’s own words, combined with the testimony of other band members and their entourage, famous fans, and a wealth of archive footage, this is the story of a life lived at the very heart of popular culture. It takes us from Mick’s early performances, singing the occasional song at dance parties at the end of the 50s, to the formation of the Stones, to their rise to becoming one of the most celebrated bands of all time.

Much of the story will be familiar – the songs, the drugs, the anti-establishment tone – but it is fascinating to hear the tales straight from the horse’s mouth. But what’s really intriguing is Jagger’s ambition, his understanding of the industry, and the effort it took to get to the top. It turns out, the success of the Stones isn’t just down to some great performances and some brilliant songs – its Jagger’s early grasp of the importance of TV, and how to get the most out of the medium. It’s down to the band being positioned as the industry bad-boys as compared to the clean-cut Beatles. It’s even down to Jagger practicing his idiosyncratic dance moves in front of the mirror in his bedroom before performances.

What makes the film so watchable is the mixture of Jagger’s candid interview (“I haven’t got a great voice – it’s okay, it does its job”) and the carefully selected archive footage that shows some of the key moments in his life. It’s also a reminder of what an absolutely beautiful physical specimen Jagger was as a young man.

Inevitably, condensing 60 years into 60 minutes of film is far from easy, and I’d have liked more focus on the death of Brian Jones, which is only mentioned incidentally – though that is a story that may emerge further in other episodes. Similarly, it would be interesting to have more of a focus on the effects of the copious amounts of drugs the band took – although it may very well be that the issue is tackled, for understandable reasons, more fully in Keith Richards’ episode. It’s also worth noting that Bill Wyman doesn’t really get a look-in.

But overall, this is a superb film, the first in a series that promises to be an absolute treat for Stones fans. At one point, Jagger says: “If you look at pop music history, nothing lasts forever.” Respectfully, Mr Jagger, I beg to differ.

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Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams, Tuesday 5th July, 8pm, BBC One

There are certain things in life I’d love to be good at. I’d love to be more artistic, but when I paint, it ends up looking like a bad Jackson Pollock copy, even if I’m trying to do a landscape. I’d love to be an instinctive cook, who can look at a bunch of leftovers in the fridge and turn out a banquet, but I’m very much of the unimaginative variety, and find even following a recipe can reduce me to a quivering wreck. And I’d love – really love – to be good at cricket.

The idea of long, languid days in the field, the sound of leather on willow, sumptuous teas, and the thought of taking a five-for, or hammering a quick 50, is my idea of bliss. But the truth is, I am, and I mean this very literally, almost certainly the worst cricketer IN THE WORLD. At school, if I was picked for the cricket team, on account of everyone else being ill or otherwise engaged, I was a specialist batsman who went in at Number 11. I wasn’t allowed to bowl, for fear of bringing down passing airplanes or damaging cars that were nowhere near the wicket. And I couldn’t really field, on account of being scared of the ball.

But at least I had the opportunity. And I had the opportunity for one key reason: I went to a private school.

Cricket, you see, is still a game for posh people. In the most recent Ashes series, two-thirds of the England squad had been privately educated. Most kids from normal backgrounds never get the opportunity to even lift a cricket bat.

Now, Freddie Flintoff, one of England’s greatest ever all-rounders, and a thoroughly decent chap to boot, is trying to change that. A working-class lad from Preston, he wants to give other local boys the same opportunity he had growing up. His mission, in this new three-part series, is to put together a team of lads from local Preston estates who have never played the game before, and inspire them to seize this new opportunity.

His scheme involves him putting up fliers all over Preston, and visiting local schools, to get youngsters to come for try-outs at Preston Cricket Club. The day arrives, and so too do 26 potential recruits. Most of them see cricket as either boring or posh. Or, more often than not, both. Freddie has his work cut out, especially when the boys start to practice. They are, understandably, as hopeless as… well, as I am.

But with endless good humour and patience, Flintoff and his coaching team take the boys for regular sessions, and begin to introduce them to the basics of the game. The boys are a diverse, likeable bunch, chief among them Sean, 15, who keeps being moved schools and has a history of fighting, and Ethan, also 15, who has been a victim of bullying.

In a show of what seems like excessive optimism, a few weeks into their training, Flintoff has organised a match for the boys. With a week to go, they’ve never worn pads or batting gloves. Most of them don’t even know the games rules. “We’re a little bit undercooked, maybe,” admits Flintoff. I’d say, in the scheme of being undercooked, they’re somewhere between salad and sushi.

Nevertheless, the match goes ahead, in an impossibly picturesque ground in the Lake District. “It’s boring out here,” says one of the boys, confronted by the wild beauty of the landscape. Their opponents, meanwhile, have an average age of 65.

This is a quietly touching show, with Flintoff’s considerable charisma at its heart. He is clearly passionate about brining cricket to a wider demographic, and while he has an awful lot still to do at the end of episode one, it is a noble and inspiring undertaking. It’s impossible to do anything other than wish Freddie and his delightful motley crew of cricketing novices the very best in their endeavours. And it promises to be a thoroughly entertaining ride, to boot.

The best… and the rest:

Saturday 2nd July

Freedom: 50 Years of Pride, 8pm, Channel 4: The inspiring and important story of five decades of LGBTQ+ activism, told by the people who were there. Contributors include Olly Alexander, Bimini, Lady Phyll, Sir Ian McKellen, Holly Johnson, Peter Tatchell, Cat Burns, MNEK, Tom Robinson, and Lucia Blayke.

Morecambe and Wise: 30 Funniest Moments, 8:30pm, Channel 5: A two-hour countdown of the comedy duo's most memorable sketches, along with recollections and comments from Eric and Ernie's friends, co-stars and celebrity fans.

Sunday 3rd July

Live: Joe Lycett’s Big Pride Party, 9pm, Channel 4: Join Joe Lycett live in Birmingham to celebrate 50 years of Pride with a party full of mayhem, mischief and naughty stunts. Joe Lycett's Big Pride Party will celebrate everything about Queer Britannia, with music, comedy and celebrity guests.

Monday 4th July

Summer on the Farm, 8pm, Channel 5: Helen Skelton and Martin Hughes-Games host a week of programmes from Cannon Hall Farm in South Yorkshire, run by brothers Rob and Dave Nicholson. There will be a campaign to get the whole nation to eat fresh local produce and wean themselves off expensive imports, while JB Gill is out and about meeting local heroes across the UK.

24 Hours in Police Custody: The Murder of Rikki Neave 1/2, 9pm, Channel 4: This two-part true crime special (concluding tomorrow) features unprecedented access behind the scenes of the largest ever unsolved murder case in the history of Cambridgeshire Police. The killing of Rikki Neave, a six-year-old child, shocked the nation 27 years ago. Only now can the full truth be revealed of how a killer remained unpunished and on the loose for nearly three decades.

Tuesday 5th July

Ben Fogle: Make a New Life in the Country, 9pm, Channel 5: Ben spends a year following Paul, Toni and daughter Harriet as they risk everything to buy a rundown pub in a remote village in the wilds of Scotland. Desperate to spend more time together as a family, they left their lives in Kent behind to restore and run the 200-year-old pub in the village of Kilmichael Glassary.

Ghislaine Maxwell: The Making of a Monster 1/3, 10pm, Channel 4: Launching this three-part series about the world's most enigmatic female sex trafficker, this first episode, Queen Bee, delves into Ghislaine Maxwell's early life - told through the eyes of those who knew her well in this era. Continues tomorrow.

Wednesday 6th July

Match of the Day Live: England v Austria, 7pm, BBC One: The Women’s European Championships get underway at Old Trafford tonight, and will be on the BBC over the next month. Gaby Logan presents England v Austria, with the hosts among the favourites to win the competition.

George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations, 9pm, Channel 4: Architect George Clarke is back with a new series, as he meets more brave people taking on ambitious projects and preserving our country's architecture by breathing new life into it.

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