TV blog: The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Growing Old

Benjie Goodhart / 08 June 2017

The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Growing Old, Tuesday 13th June, 10pm, More4

Let us, together, take the unusual step of moving away from television’s main five channels, to bring you an offering from the outer-reaches of civilisation known as More4. I would never normally stray so far from the popular path, but the concept of this new four-part series proved too compelling to ignore. Essentially, this is a show where famous older people share their insights into the ageing experience. Now, you may feel that you don’t necessarily need to hear advice from Roy Hudd, Edwina Currie or Kenny Lynch about getting old – hell, you’ve managed to get this far without being dependent on their sagacity – but there are plenty of worse ways to spend an hour.

Tonight’s subject is romance and relationships. As Su Pollard’s breathy voiceover asserts: “This programme contains old people talking about sex: Get over it!” Along with the thoughts on this subject from the great and the good, including John Prescott, Stanley Johnson and Nina Myskow, the programme seeks to discover more about the elderly dating scene by getting actress Amanda Barrie and cricket commentator Henry “Blowers” Blofeld to do a spot of match-making.

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Away they go, then, to a hotel in Maidstone – because nothing screams romance like a suburban hotel-and-conference centre. Here, they meet a rather timid chap called John, 72, who’s looking for love. They interview six women – each of whom Blowers insists on referring to as “my dear old thing” which will do wonders for their confidence – before selecting their chosen date for John. The happy couple are then sent on a glamorous date to… the next room, where they are given afternoon tea. Not even dinner! Mind you, this is More4.

Blowers and Barrie are watching the date on a monitor next door. “They both let the first ball go past the off stump,” says Blowers, using a cricket metaphor. At least, I hope he’s using a cricket metaphor.

The programme’s other couple-on-a-mission are Johnny Ball and Esther Rantzen, who are sent ceroc dancing, with the aim of finding romance for single Esther. Esther is frustrated with some aspects of ageing, in particular the fact that nobody says ‘You look pretty’ anymore, they replace it with ‘You look well’. “What do you mean?” she rails. “The fact that I’m standing here in front of you, that I’m not dead, is somehow surprising?” Those ceroc-dancing men aren’t going to know what’s hit them.

This programme is an absolute riot, if you can forgive the slightly scattergun attention span and a certain levity of approach. Rantzen and Ball are extremely amiable company, and if nobody gives Barrie and Blowers their own show after this, they’re missing a trick. The last word, not surprisingly, must go to Blowers, who is asked whether he would ever do internet dating. “Absolutely not! Partly because I’m extremely happily married.” Partly?

How to Stay Well, Monday 12th June, 8:30pm, Channel 4

You might think you’ve seen this kind of programme hundreds of times before: A magazine programme taking medical science and making it popular by delivering it in easily digested little chunks over a jaunty half-hour before the big-hitting docs and dramas come out to play at 9pm. (I am increasingly developing the theory that almost nothing of any real substance occurs before 9pm in the wonderful world of telly). But actually, in its own way, this is a quite revolutionary experiment – a medical TV programme that does not feature one of the van Tulleken brothers.

Instead, this new four-part series is presented by three other doctors – Phil Kieran, Helen Lawal, and Javid Abdelmoneim. All three are young, charismatic, cool and good-looking, which makes me wonder why all the doctors I ever visit look exhausted and beaten by life, have bags under their eyes and the Forest of Dean growing out of their ears. Anyway, between segments, our three doctors hang out in an achingly trendy café, the type where none of the tables or crockery matches, and everyone looks like an extra from a soft drinks commercial. It feels like an attempt to convince the audience that it’s watching Friends rather than a medical magazine show.

But a medical magazine show the resolutely and undeniably is. You can tell because they keep putting vaguely medical segments in it. The programme purports to bust medical myths and to give viewers tips on how to stay healthy. So, to start off with, Dr Javid investigates whether taking the dog for a walk is healthy. He seems unreasonably worried that we might all get Lyme’s Disease from tics. He points out that this is possible in urban as well as rural areas. And I never quite worked out why walking a dog would increase the danger. Anyway, the upshot is, what the doctor is essentially asking, then, is “Is it safe to go outside?”

Walkers beware tick bites

There is also a section of the programme in which – I kid you not – Dr Helen goes to some length to point out that sneezing into a hankie is better than doing so out into the air of those around you.

Finally, we have Dr Phil looking into the pressing issue of whether mobile phones can cause infertility. In order to answer this question, he visits a swimming pool in Birmingham, where he meets up with a group of men, each one more impossibly buff and sculpted than the last. The Adonis-like specimens dotted throughout this programme are enough to power a deep-seated inferiority complex. But why bother meeting at a swimming pool? It turns out that the whole elaborate conceit has been set up just so Dr Phil can make a joke about finding out how healthy our ‘swimmers’ are.

So he goes to visit a medical research facility with two samples of his own sperm. Honestly, next time just a card and some flowers will do. Anyway, it turns out there is some effect on sperm motility, but, cautions a scientist, “I certainly wouldn’t recommend a phone as a contraceptive device.” She’s clearly never tried to get my wife to switch off Facebook at bedtime.

7 ways a mobile phone could be bad for your health

The best… and the rest

Saturday 10th June

Live French Open, 1:30pm, ITV: The women’s final, in a tournament that has been blown wide open by the absence of Serena Williams and the collapse of the top seeds.

Live International Football, 4:30pm, ITV: This Group F World Cup Qualifier from Hampden should be a good-natured affair, with the generous Scottish crowd happily cheering on both teams. Ah…

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 7pm, BBC Two: Kirsty Wark and Brenda Emmanus present a preview of the summer exhibition and, in so doing, break all records for viewing figures in TV history.

The Voice Kids, 1/8, 7:45pm, ITV: Emma Willis hosts this new series, trampling on the hopes and dreams of innocent kids for our titillation.

Live International Rugby Union, 8pm, BBC Two: Argentina host England in the first of two tests. More good-natured banter between fans of these traditionally chummy nations…

Sunday 11th June

Live French Open, 1:30pm, ITV: The men’s final. At the time of writing, Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal are leading the charge for the trophy.

Poldark, 9pm, BBC One: New series of the popular costume drama starring Aidan Turner’s abs.

The Loch 1/6, 9pm, ITV: Laura Fraser and Siobhan Finneran star in a new drama about a serial killer in Loch Ness.

Monday 12th June

Amazing Animal Births, 8pm, ITV: One Born Every Minute, but with animals.

Horizon, 9pm, BBC Two: Looking at the facts behind last month’s NHS ransomware attack.

What is ransomware and how can you protect yourself?

Fearless, 9pm, ITV: Hlen McCrory and Michael Gambon star in a thriller about a human rights lawyer investigating a miscarriage of justice.

Tuesday 13th June

Live International Football, 7:30pm, ITV: Yet another rivalry comes to the fore, as England travel to Paris for an essentially meaningless friendly. Expect substitutes galore, and players already mentally supping their Pina Coladas on the beach.

Jo Cox: Death of an MP, 9pm, BBC One: Friday will be the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of the MP for Batley and Spen. This programme tells the story behind that unforgettably grim day.

Wednesday 14th June

The Passengers that Took on the Train Line, 9pm, BBC Two: A bunch of passengers try and do a better job of running part of the South Eastern train network than the operator.

Thursday 15th June

Britain’s Greatest Invention, 8:30pm, BBC Two: Celebrities put forward their arguments for antibiotics, concrete, the fridge, the jet engine, the steam engine, the mobile phone and television, before viewers vote. Television should win, obviously.

The Real Full Monty, 8:30pm, ITV: Twenty years after the film, Alexander Armstrong and Ashley Banjo recruit a team of male celebs to recreate the iconic strip in front of an audience of 2000 at the London Palladium, in the name of promoting awareness of men’s health issues.

Wife Swap: Brexit Special, 9pm, Channel 4: The old antagonistic favourite is recycled to calmly and rationally address the biggest political hot potato of our times. What could possibly go wrong?

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