TV blog: Celebrity Painting Challenge

Benjie Goodhart / 29 March 2019

Jane Seymour, Phil Tufnell and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen are among the celebrity painters taking part in the challenge.

Celebrity Painting Challenge, Thursday 4th April, 8pm, BBC One

Having stuff published for a living can be quite unnerving. There are few things guaranteed to make you feel more vulnerable than having people scrutinise, and comment on, your written work. When I had a regular-ish gig at The Guardian, I would scroll down to the comments section in a cold sweat, in the full certainty that the jackals below the line were waiting to devour me over a throwaway remark, a mis-placed comma, or a terrible joke (there were plenty of those). Frequently they tore me to shreds, leaving me weeping in a foetal position on the kitchen floor in agonised torment. Or, at the very least, wondering who FlamerGirl692 was, and why she hated me so much.

But however vulnerable I felt, it didn’t come close to how it must feel to have your painting judged by Daphne Todd. She’s the portraitist and painting show judge who’s part of the panel presiding over this new Celebrity painting competition, and she is not afraid to say it how she sees it. I still remember her eviscerating one poor contestant on a previous show by telling them their painting was so bad it had made her roar with laughter. She makes Simon Cowell look like a cross between Mother Theresa and Ben Fogle.

Hats off, then, to the list of celebs placing themselves under the microscope for this series. Singer George Shelley, cricketer Phil Tufnell, model and DJ Amber Le Bon, presenter Josie D’Arby, renaissance dandy Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, and my first ever crush, Jane Seymour, kudos. The six enthusiastic amateur painters are to undergo a series of painting challenges at a ‘bespoke artists’ studio’ in East London. East London is almost exclusively bespoke artists’ studios these days – at least the bits of it that aren’t hipster micro-brewery pubs and Vegan cafes.

Playing good judge to Daphne’s bad judge is painter Lachlan Goudie. It must be so difficult, judging something as subjective as painting. “Art is art,” announces Daphne. “It’s either good or it’s bad.” Oh.

Oh well, it might all be deeply nerve-wracking for the artists, but they’ll probably ease them in with a nice easy challenge. Hmmm. It seems they are to paint a naked Keith Allen. “Oh my God, this is going to be hard,” says Jane Seymour. 

It’s all tremendous fun. The whole show is expertly helmed by Mariella Frostrup, and the celebs seem an absolutely charming bunch. I particularly warmed to George Shelley, with whom I was not familiar. His sister was killed in a road accident last year, and painting has helped him deal with that. He explains this with admirable candour.

Meanwhile, it is refreshing to discover that there are some constants in life. It turns out I still have a crush on Jane Seymour. She looks remarkable by any standards, all the more so for her age. I Googled how old she was, just to check. Her Wikipedia entry told me she was born in 1508. She was also married to Henry VIII and was… oh, hang on, I see what I’ve done here. Right. She’s 68. And divine. And a very, very good painter.

They’re all good,  actually. I mean, everyone’s good at painting compared to e (my efforts genuinely look like they’ve been slapped on to paper by a toddler on a sugar rush using their wrong hand and watching CBeebies at the same time). But by any standards, they’re good. Even Daphne hands out a few compliments. Bravo, my brush-wielding gladiators, bravo!

The best and the rest

Saturday 30th March

Mission Ignition, 8:30pm, Channel 4: New series. Every week two teams of amateur mechanics go up against each other as they attempt to reassemble a classic car from components. Tonight, it’s a Ford Capri against a BMW something or another. Howard Donald, of Take That, and former racing driver Dario Franchitti, present.

Sunday 31st March

Line of Duty 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: Jed Mercurio’s riveting smash hit drama about police corruption just gets better and better. Series five sees the incomparable Stephen Graham guest-starring, which augurs well for a consistently high-quality drama.

Monday 1st April

The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story, 9pm, BBC Two: Does anybody have the stomach for this? Really? Kuenssberg is a genuinely superb journalist, but can there be anything we don’t already know about this most analysed of processes?

Thursday 4th April

Jack the Ripper – The Case Reopened, 9pm, BBC One: This is an odd idea. Silent Witness star Emilia Fox and Professor of Criminology David Wilson re-examine the infamous murders. What next? Former Neighbours star Stefan Denis investigates Al Capone?

Grand Designs: The Street, 9pm, Channel 4: Kevin McCloud follows 10 households in Bicester as they seek to build not just a house from scratch, but an entire street and community.

Friday 5th April

Pilgrimage: The Road to Rome, 9pm, BBC Two: Actors Les Dennis and Lesley Joseph, dancer Brendan Cole, comedians Stephen K Amos and Katy Brand, athlete Greg Rutherford, singer Dana and TV host Mehreen Baig embark on a pilgrimage, mostly on foot, from Switzerland to Rome, in a return of the funny, tender and surprisingly engaging series.

Have I Got News For You 1/9, 9pm, BBC One: What EVER will they find to talk about, I wonder…

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