TV blog: Mind the Age Gap

Benjie Goodhart / 04 May 2017

This week’s TV highlights include an inter-generational house share and a drama-documentary about the life of Elizabeth the First.

Mind the Age Gap, Monday 8th May, 10pm, Channel 5

Split across five nights over the week, this new series sees twelve strangers from across the UK move into a house together. So far, so Channel 5. But instead of getting them all to share a room, get drunk and fight with each other for ten weeks until they’re voted out one by one and fed to the baying hordes outside, this show has a rather intriguing premise. Because half of the group are under 30, and the other half are over 62.

The idea is to get them to discuss the issues of the day, to give us an idea about whether attitudes differ between the old and the young (well, duh!) and whether, by living together, they can learn from each other. To ensure that debate ensues, rather than everyone just sits around drinking tea and chatting about Corrie, the producers have left reading material around the house – copies of books about Margaret Thatcher, the Daily Mail left casually open on a headline concerning gay marriage, that sort of thing. Subtle it ain’t.

Initially, it also looks as though the housemates have been drawn from the Classic Cliché school of casting. Yet, as the programme continues, it begins to emerge that the producers have been a little more ambitious in their casting. Once you get beyond the caricatures of both the older and younger residents, you see that there is an intriguing mix. There are UKIP enthusiasts among the young, and gay liberals among the old. As such, it would seem that the exercise may have some merit after all. Will the older housemates have more in common, in spite of their differences? Will they split along political lines, or chronological ones?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that. Because, after an intriguing part one, there was nothing else for me to see. This may have been due to a technical fault, or because the programme was still being edited. Alternatively, it may have been because the whole thing kicks off into the most unimaginable row, which turns unspeakably violent, and the footage has now been handed over to the Met. I hope it’s not the latter, because it’s nice to think that there is a degree of dialogue between old and young, and that everyone can learn from each other in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. But this is TV in 2017, so I’m not holding out much hope.

Elizabeth, Tuesday 9th May, 9pm, Channel 5

Verily, we live in strange times, dear reader. I think it may have been Nostradamus who predicted that the end of days would be heralded by my previewing two Channel 5 programmes in the same week. Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are. I actually wanted to write about King Charles III, a play about the Prince of Wales becoming king, but the BBC are being a little twitchy about giving access to it. Perhaps a few of the hierarchy are worried it might impact their chances of an MBE down the line.

Instead, then, there’s this rather peculiar, but extremely diverting, offering from Channel 5. It’s a three-part drama-documentary tracing the turbulent and intriguing life of the Virgin Queen. This being Channel 5, the historians aren’t your David Starkey types. Suzannah Lipscomb and Dan Jones stride about the place in their overcoats, all coiffured and gorgeous, looking more like an 80s pop duo than a couple of academics. And you can’t imagine David Starkey condensing history into this little phrase, as Jones does: “Queen Mary wasn’t exactly a looker.” Meow! Just cos you’ve got great hair and a proud jawline.

This also being Channel 5, Elizabeth (who, in Jones’ parlance, was famously “not exactly a looker”) is played by model-turned actress Lily Cole. It’s not the only sacrifice of realism. Do we really believe that, in the mid-16th century, husbands pursued their wives down corridors with the agonised plea “Please, I can explain…” Indeed, has anyone, outside of a TV drama, ever uttered those words?

The dramatic reconstructions in the show are like a pig barn – almost entirely wooden, and with an awful lot of ham in them – and as an actress, Lily Cole is an excellent model. But the actual facts of Elizabeth’s life are sufficiently remarkable that the hour actually zips by at pace. Poor Lizzie didn’t have what you’d call an easy start in life. When she was three, her father had her mother’s head rather abruptly disconnected from the rest of her. She was then cut off, banished from court, and declared a bastard. (Never again will I beat myself up about getting cross with my kids). And the awful news for Elizabeth is that, after that somewhat melodramatic start in life, things just got tougher from there.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 6th May

Michael McIntyre: Happy and Glorious, 9pm, BBC One: The amiable comedian’s live show recorded in 2015 at the vast O2 arena, where he has performed more than any other act – 27 times.

Sunday 7th May

Babs, 8pm, BBC One: Feature-length biopic covering the 50-year career of Barbara Windsor, featuring five actors playing the titular role, including (intriguingly) Windsor herself. Nobody could say she was miscast.

Mexico: Earth’s Festival of Life 1/3, 8pm, BBC Two: Three-part series looking at the wildlife, landscape and culture of Mexico, beginning tonight with the Sierra Madre mountains.

Enjoy a tropical getaway in the heart of the Riviera Maya at the Dreams Puerto Aventuras. Find out more here

Dara and Ed’s Road to Mandalay, 9pm, BBC Two: Difficult-to-spell comedian Dara O Briain and his fellow Irish comic Ed Byrne tread their cheerfully chaotic path through South East Asia, winding 3000 miles from Malaysia to Myanmar, starting tonight in Kuala Lumpur.

Discover more about holidays to Malaysia

Monday 8th May

Food Unwrapped, 8:30pm, Channel 4: The food magazine show returns, with tonight’s series opener examining how, in the near future, we might all be getting squid and chips from the chippie.

Loaded 1/8, 10pm, Channel 4: Warmly amusing new comedy drama series following the travails of four friends who find themselves overnight multi-millionaires when they sell their gaming business.

Tuesday 9th May

Long Lost Family: What Happened Next? 9pm, ITV: Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell revisit some of the show’s most memorable stories. Hankies at the ready…

Wednesday 10th May

Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport, 9pm, ITV: Wowsers! A fly-on-the-wall documentary set in an airport. Why on earth didn’t anyone ever think of this before? Oh…

King Charles III, 9pm, BBC Two: The late Tim Pigott-Smith’s swansong is this TV adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s play. He plays Charles who, on becoming king, faces a constitutional crisis in this thoughtful and unusual drama.

Quadruplets and Homeless, 10pm, Channel 4: Following the occasionally harrowing fate of a couple and their four young babies in their search for a permanent home.

Thursday 11th May

From Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure 1/3, 9pm, BBC Two: Alison Morrison, an Arabist, writer and explorer, follows the old salt road to the fabled city of Timbuktu.

Bursting with colour, Morocco’s vibrant cities and glorious landscapes are sure to inspire you. Find out more here

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