The Lakes with Paul Rose 1/4, Friday 19th October, 8:30pm, BBC Two
We’ve gone soft on our kids. Everything revolves around them. We spend our holidays in hotels with kids’ clubs and mini discos and chips with everything, and our days out are to waterparks and arcades. But when I was a lad, often as not a holiday consisted of a six-hour car journey to a guest house with no telly and communal meals, where literally the only pastime, other than hill-walking, was talking about hill-walking. No, I tell a lie. When you got bored of talking about hill-walking, you could read one of the books they had in the sitting room. About hill-walking, of course.
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And, in what struck me as a particularly cruel detail for a holiday based almost entirely out of doors, it was in quite literally the wettest spot in England. Actually, it was about a 1.5 miles from the wettest spot in England, but there wasn’t a surprisingly dry microclimate in the space between our guest house and the village in question. Needless to say, the younger version of me was less than impressed, and bore it with all the good grace you would expect of an angry pre-teen.
But how my dad loved it there. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to go back there with him now. To tell him that I get it. The bracing wind, the fresh air, the picnics taken leaning against old walls and cairns, the drinking from streams, the pleasantly sore limbs, the roaring fire, and the endless views that seemed to stretch back through time, unchanged for millennia.
In case you’ve not been to the Lake District, or if you need a quick reminder of its impossible beauty, this new four-part series is well worth a look. It’s presented by Paul Rose, a gently affable adventurer and explorer who has lived there for the last 20 years. He’s one of only 41,000 people who live in the Lake District National Park – yet 18 million people visit every year.
Episode one deals with Lake Windermere and its environs. Paul begins on an old steamer, The Teal, which has ploughed up-and-down Windermere’s 11-mile length for over 80 years. But Paul is an adventurer, we don’t want to see him pootling about on a pleasure cruiser – and sure enough, it’s not long before he’s in the water, sans wetsuit, with local open water swimmer Becky Lewis, who is an eager proponent of her hobby. She has recently swum the length of the lake four times – a 44-mile round-dip, as it were. Lunacy. “Is there a better place to do it?” asks a cheerfully chilly Paul. Yes. Somewhere with palm trees, white sand, and a cocktail bar. Or – let’s not be fussy – just anywhere where the water is above 17°C.
Next up, it’s the local sport of hound-trailling. Basically, a load of dogs chase a scent (paraffin and aniseed, since you ask) around a ten-mile course, and everyone bets on who will win. (Clue: It’s never likely to be a pug). Then, moving on with the energetic speed of a dog with a scent of aniseed in its nostrils, we hear the moving story of the 300 kids who survived the concentration camps, and came to recover and recuperate in the Lake District in 1945. “We felt we were alive again,” says Auschwitz survivor Arek Hersh. It’s a story that could do with a programme of its own, rather than a three-minute slot here.
Finally, Paul takes a walk up to Orrest Head, little more than a hillock, but one with majestic views. It was here, many moons ago, that a 23-year-old from Blackburn took his first ever walk in the Lake District. His name was Alfred Wainwright, the man who, with his handwritten books and glorious illustrations, brought the majesty of this landscape to the attention of the world. We read out a passage from one of his books at my dad’s memorial service last year.
For Facts Sake, Monday 15th October, 9:30pm, BBC One
There are some things in this world of ours whose popularity I cannot understand. Notwithstanding various world leaders, the list includes vinegar, camping, whisky, umbrellas, goat’s cheese, waxwork museums and, I’m sorry to say it, Mrs Brown’s Boys. I know, I know. Another snooty metropolitan critic dabbing the last remnants of swan roulade from his lips, looking down his nose at one of the most popular comedies on television. But really, the entire joke seems to involve a man dressed as a woman saying ‘feck’ a lot and falling over.
But what is undeniable is that writer-and-star Brendan O’Carroll has brought more pleasure to more people than most of us in this world, and comedy is about as subjective an art as it’s possible to get, so good on him. I wish him well with all endeavours, and hope that everything he does continues to bring pleasure to millions. Which is why I really wanted to like his new comedy panel show, For Facts Sake. But… well… I really didn’t.
The concept is straightforward enough: the teams have to work out what are true facts, and what is nonsense. While O’Carroll hosts, the teams are captained by two of the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys, O’Carroll’s son Danny and Paddy Houlihan. But the other team members are selected from the audience. At any moment, they can be substituted by the team captains for other members of the audience. It doesn’t work particularly well – some of the panel are almost completely ignored, sitting there mute and embarrassed, while others are given too much airtime, and can become ever-so-slightly irksome.
Meanwhile, the jokes seem to have been written by a phalanx of 15-year-old boys with a two-litre bottle of Diamond White and a pen and paper. In one round, the panel all have props, which are referred to as ‘thingamajiggies’. There is uproarious hilarity as O’Carroll says things like “Get your thingamajiggies out,” and “Whose thingamajiggies are you going to play with.” Then there’s a round called “Fact Hunt”, which has everyone in stitches because it sounds like a rude word. Things continue with discussion of a hyena’s private parts, a great deal of giggling about bananas, and a golf trophy that looks like a willy.
It’s not the lewdness that I object to, it’s that the whole thing is handled with such a spectacular lack of sophistication. I appreciate that there are plenty of people out there who appreciate what is an old-fashioned, Carry-On-style, seaside postcard bawdiness where innuendo and a bit of cheek is as far as things go. But, mystifyingly, O’Carroll then goes on to alienate this demographic by repeatedly dropping the F-bomb (and I don’t mean Feck). What we end up with is a bizarre mishmash that doesn’t seem to know who it is aimed at.
Last night, after watching this, I treated myself to two episodes of Would I Lie to You, which has just returned for a new run on BBC One. The contrast between a panel show that works, and one that manifestly does not, was pretty striking.
The best… and the rest
Sunday 14th October
Butterfly 1/3, 9pm, ITV: New three-part drama starring Anna Friel and Emmett J Scanlan as an estranged couple whose son, Max (Callum Booth-Ford) announces to them that he identifies as a girl.
Monday 15th October
Autumnwatch 1/4, 8pm, BBC Two: Michaela, Chris and co return with another series examining little furry and feathered beasties as they prepare for winter. Quietly charming.
Peter Kay’s Comedy Shuffle 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: Bolton’s funniest returns with another series looking back at the most memorable moments and sketches from his career to date. He’s a brilliant comedian, but it feels a little self-indulgent.
Tuesday 16th October
Informer, 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: Verily, this has been the year of the drama, and here is the BBC with yet another one. This time, it’s a six-part series about a young man recruited as an informer by the Counter Terrorism Special Unit. Paddy Considine and Arsher Ali star.
Caught on Camera, 9pm, ITV: Extreme weather. We all love a bit of extreme weather footage, right? Well, here’s an hour of it.
Celebrity Hunted, 9:15pm, Channel 4: Celebs including Dom Joly, Vicky Pattison, Kay Burley and Johnny Mercer MP attempt to evade capture for two weeks, all for Stand Up to Cancer. For some, it will be a disadvantage being so instantly recognisable. For others… not so much.
Wednesday 17th October
Without Limits 1/2 8pm, BBC One: A team of British and Australian injured veterans attempts to travel 1000 miles across the remote and wild Kimberley region of Western Australia. Marking the 2018 Invictus Games starting shortly in Sydney, file under ‘inspirational’.
The Parachute Murder Plot, 9pm, ITV: Fiona Bruce swaps newsreading and antiques for an investigation of the facts behind Emile Cilliers’ sinister attempt to kill his wife. ITV’s obsession with murder and true crime continues unabated.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep 1/2, 9pm, Channel 5: Husband-and-wife team Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford attempt to find solutions to their respective sleep issues. Eamonn has problems sleeping, and Ruth snores. (Just a wild idea here – could the two things be related???)
Thursday 18th October
Child of Mine, 10pm, Channel 4: A one-off, feature-length documentary, this is a deeply moving look at stillbirth, from the viewpoint of three couples brave enough to share their stories with the cameras.
Friday 19th October
Invictus Games 2018, 7:30pm, BBC One: Alex Jones and JJ Chalmers look ahead to the games, starting tomorrow in Sydney.