I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, Sunday 18th November, 9pm, ITV
And so the annual dilemma comes around again. Do I commit to episode one, thus almost certainly hooking myself in for three weeks of watching erstwhile soap stars getting thinner whilst occasionally eating the private parts of an indigenous creature? Or do I dedicate that time to doing something constructive? Reading bedtime stories to the kids? Learning a language? Writing the screenplay that has been in my head for years?
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Of course, the truth of the matter is, if I don’t watch I’m a Celebrity, I’ll just end up on the sofa watching something else. I mean, the kids should be asleep by that time, everyone speaks English anyway, and if I ever write my screenplay I’ll have to face up to the fact that it’s terrible and I’m an idiot. Plus, it’s all academic anyway, because I will watch the first episode. I’ll probably justify it to myself on the basis that it’s a landmark annual event in the TV calendar, and it’s my professional duty to stay on top of televisual trends. My wife will nod sagely, and say that, okay then, she understands, and she will watch it too, just to be supportive. Then we’ll hunker down, trying to disguise our glee, and making sure we’ve set the machine to record it in case we miss a millisecond.
I’m a Celebrity, you see, is very good. I mean, it’s not The World at War or Brideshead Revisited, but it’s marvellous tosh. And this year, it promises to be particularly intriguing. This is partly because Ant and Dec has now become Dec and Holly, while poor Ant McPartlin continues his recovery. It will be odd to see two people, who are both part of a different celebrity pairing, working together, a bit like watching your parents remarry, though hopefully less traumatic. One of the highlights of the show is the comic chemistry between the Geordie duo, so it will be fascinating to see how Holly Willoughby steps up to the plate.
Mainly, though, the excitement comes from what looks like a really interesting cast of characters. There are the usual soap stars and pop stars of whom I know absolutely nothing. You can guarantee, though, that in three weeks’ time I will have opinions about each one that I cling to with a passion most people reserve for Brexit. But there is also actor John Barrowman from Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, Anne Hegerty, aka The Governess from The Chase, Nick Knowles from all sorts of programmes where he wears a hard hat, and Emily Atack, from The Inbetweeners. And then there’s football manager Harry Redknapp, a proper A-lister who has had the top job at Spurs, Southampton, Portsmouth and the world’s biggest club, QPR (a little personal bias may have crept in there).
Even more excitingly, Noel Edmonds is strongly rumoured to be joining the camp-mates as one of the surprise additions during the series. Not a man who is reticent about airing his opinions, it will be fascinating to see what happens when he arrives. In this critic’s humble opinion, the fireworks will make November 5th look like a birthday candle being blown out by a mosquito’s hiccup.
Elsewhere, there will be the usual smattering of challenges, including ones that absolutely turn my stomach. Unlike most viewers, though, these aren’t the ones where they have to eat a gooey fish eye, but the ones involving heights. The one they normally do on the skyscraper in episode one is the worst of the lot. I’ll be watching from behind the sofa. But I’ll be watching, you can bank on that. Sorry, kids.
Britain by Boat, Friday 23rd November, 8pm, Channel 5
There is a theory, postulated by Kurt Vonnegut amongst others, that there are only a few stories in existence, and that all writers ever do is tell them in slightly different ways. The number of stories ranges from 3 to 36, depending on whose theory you are reading, but the principle remains the same.
TV looks to be heading down a similar route. Twenty years ago, the celebrity travelogue was the almost exclusive preserve of Michael Palin. Now, you can hardly switch on the telly without encountering someone who used to be in a sitcom in the early 1980s having a mudbath in Patagonia, or a former Olympian trying to herd goats on the Mongolian steppe. Pretty soon, we will abolish all other forms of televised entertainment, and just have 250 channels, each one following banter-filled escapades as film crews vie for the best panoramic shots in exotic locations.
And so to this latest offering from Channel 5. Okay, I may have exaggerated about the exotic location (they’re in Lowestoft) but the action does take place aboard Bonaventure, a glorious 50-ft yacht. And, when the sun’s shining, there are plenty worse places to be than Suffolk. Our guides for this four-part travelogue series around the UK’s coast are former BBC newsmen Michael Buerk and John Sergeant. Both are enthusiastic amateur sailors, who are daunted by the prospect of handling such a magnificent boat. It is, after all, a 22-tonne beast with a 70ft mast.
They clamber on board, amidst much talk of nervousness and coming out of their comfort zones. (There is, in my opinion, a particularly fiery corner of hell waiting for whoever first coined the phrase ‘comfort zone’ but perhaps it’s just me…) Oh, that’s nice, there’s a couple of people on board to help them with their luggage. Hang on… they’re the boat’s ruddy crew! They’re professional sailors. What’s all this talk of hideous danger and colossal jeopardy? They are basically going to be escorted across the glassy-waters of the UK, during a baking hot summer, by a couple of experts. Michael and John are talking it up like they’re about to round Cape Horn in a hollowed out coconut shell during a force 10 storm. It’s a bit like me getting on a plane and panicking that I’ve got to fly it myself, in spite of the presence of the pilot and his crew.
Anyway, off they go, all full of excitement and nerves. And then, within three minutes, back they come. Engine trouble. As they drift quietly across a deserted dock, the skipper issues an emergency signal, and we are told breathlessly that this is a terrifically perilous moment. Miraculously, the boat makes it to the dock, where it ties up, and Michael and John decide to celebrate their astonishing escape from death’s slavering jaws by retiring to the pub.
Fortunately, the boat is eventually repaired. It would have been a rather different series had it just involved Michael and John getting quietly sloshed in a seaside pub for four weeks. Mind you, I’d probably watch that too – they’re both rather engaging company. And Bonaventure is every inch a star, chiselled, handsome, sleek and debonair. And, set fair and with a good tail wind, she can really move. “It goes through the water as if it was made for it,” suggests Michael. Yes, that is sort of the point of boats, dear chap!
The best… and the rest
Saturday 17th November
Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, 1/8, 8:10pm, BBC One: The comedian returns with his cheerfully upbeat Saturday night fayre. This week, Holly Willoughby hands over her phone for the brilliant ‘Send to All’ segment.
Holst and Vaughan-Williams: Making Music English, 9pm, BBC Two: Documentary examining the lifelong friendship between the two composers, and their influences upon each other. Includes music from the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Sunday 18th November
The Interrogation of Tony Martin, 9pm, Channel 4: A one-off dramatization of the story of the Norfolk farmer who, in 1999, confronted two burglars in his home, with fatal consequences. Stars the always-watchable Steve Pemberton as Martin.
Louis Theroux’s Altered States: Choosing Death, 9pm, BBC Two: Assisted suicide is legal in six US states for the terminally ill. The documentarian meets some of those who want to die, including some cases that present serious ethical dilemmas.
Tin Star 1/10, Channel 4, 10pm: First showing on free-to-air TV of Sky’s popular whodunit starring Tim Roth as Sherriff Jim Worth, trying to keep the peace in a crime-riddled Canadian mountain town.
Monday 19th November
Driven: The Billy Manger Story, 9pm, BBC Two: The utterly inspirational tale of 18-year-old Billy, who lost his legs last year in a racing accident, but is determined to get back in the car and race again. Some people are just made from far sterner stuff than the rest of us.
Tuesday 20th November
The Martin Lewis Money Show, 8pm, ITV: A new run of the show packed with financially prudent tips kicks off tonight with a live, hour-long special. Can you afford not to watch?
Thursday 22nd November
Esther Rantzen’s House Trapped 1/4, 7pm, Channel 5: Frustratingly unavailable for preview, this is a new series looking at the unscrupulous methods crooks employ to get older people to pay above the odds for unnecessary work on their homes. Using hidden cameras and actors playing the vulnerable pensioners, Rantzen catches these shifty types in the act.
Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack: The Inside Story, 8pm, BBC One: Jane Corbin speaks to intelligence experts, diplomats and scientists, and travels to the USA and Russia, in an attempt to shed light on the baffling tale of the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal that tragically claimed the life of local resident Dawn Sturgess.