TV blog: Britain’s Greatest Treasures

Benjie Goodhart / 11 July 2019

Britain’s monuments and beauty spots are put to the vote in a public poll; plus, celebs on river boats and the best of the rest of the week on TV.

Britain’s Greatest National Treasures, Thursday 18th July, 8:30pm, ITV

When I came across the information page about this programme on the ITV press website, I was momentarily baffled. The text was illustrated with a picture of Sir Trevor McDonald and Julia Bradbury. Now, I bow to nobody in my admiration for Julia Bradbury (apart from my late dad, who had something of a crush on her), but surely describing her as a national treasure is a little premature. Sir Trevor, yes, natch. But Julia surely has a few years to go before such a title can be bestowed upon her?

Of course, dear reader, you are one step ahead of me. They’re presenting the programme, not the subject of it. Sometimes it feels like an achievement for me just to get my feet to go down different trouser legs in the morning.

Anyway, sadly, there was nothing of this feature-length one-off programme available for me to see before my deadline. So instead, like a high-tech American toaster, I’m forced to engage waffle mode.

According to the blurb, the programme will feature the public’s top 20 favourite national treasures, from buildings and monuments to natural wonders and feats of engineering. Each location will offer privileged access to the cameras, while a host of famous faces and fans share their own thoughts on what makes each choice special.

The countdown is based on a survey, after a shortlist was drawn up “in conjunction with the National Trust, English Heritage and others.” Whoa! English Heritage? ENGLISH?? ITV, you’d better hope that there are Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish representatives involved as well, or you are toasted like my waffles. These things matter to people.

So, what qualifies as a national treasure? My own list would have to include the Thameside bench where I had my first kiss in 1985; the video store in Marchmont, Edinburgh, which prevented me from getting a better degree; and the spot on the pitch at Loftus Road where Trevor Sinclair scored his overhead kick against Barnsley in 1997. However, I’m willing to accept that not all of these will make the list.

So what might?

Ooh, this is a fun game. Quick, get a pen and paper. (I can see my wife rolling her eyes if she reads this. She hates the fact that I turn everything into a competitive game. I still maintain it made for an interesting wedding night.) Anyway, challenge your friends to make their own list of 20, and then cross them off on the night. Whoever gets the most right wins the other person’s home and pension. No, actually, that’s a bit steep – let’s says a packet of Werther’s and a cup of Typhoo.

Obviously I get to play too, so if you don’t want to see my guesses, look away now. (I’m not sure the entire point of a blog is to try and persuade readers to navigate away from the page, but if it is, I’m probably a highly prized web asset…) Okay, here goes:

Big Ben/parliament, Buckingham Palace (though I’d prefer Windsor Castle), Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Giant’s Causeway, Hadrian’s Wall, Greenwich Observatory, Stonehenge, Tate Modern, Cheddar Gorge, the Angel of the North, Nelson’s Column, the Forth Rail Bridge, Blackpool Tower, Wembley Stadium, the Falkirk Wheel, Seven Sisters cliffs and… um… Wales. I know that Wales isn’t going to be one, but I haven’t got anything Welsh on my list, I don’t want to become the next Cymru pariah a la Anne Robinson, and besides, the whole country is beautiful (with the possible exception of a couple of pubs I’ve visited in Cardiff).

I know, I know, inevitably I will have left out loads and loads of really obvious stuff (my list initially didn’t include Stonehenge!!!) You’ll have to tune in on Thursday to get the definitive list. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me and tell me what an idiot I am with my ridiculous list, on IWillDefinitelyReadYourEmail@OfCourseThisIsARealAddress.com .

Celebrity Five Go Barging, Friday 19th July, 9pm, Channel 5

I have been on two water-based holidays in my life. I mean, obviously I’ve been on other holidays where there’s been a pool or a beach, and all holidays are water-based in the sense that, without the presence of water, the holiday will end fairly quickly and tragically. But I’ve been on two holidays where I’ve actually slept on the water. With the aid of a boat, obviously – I don’t have a messianic complex.

One of them was on a cruise ship. The other was a boating holiday pootling around the Norfolk Broads. The boat was a touch smaller – when one of us crossed the boat to go to the loo in the night, the other almost fell out of bed due to the yawing.

It was a wonderful holiday, sedately chugging along, mooring up at a pub for lunch, sedately chugging a bit more, mooring up at a pub for a drink, sedately chugging along, mooring up for the night. At a pub, obviously. Steering wasn’t easy, mind. In retrospect, that may have had something to do with all the pub stops, but it was also because controlling a 40-ft long beast on narrow waterways isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Just ask John Prescott, Michael Burke or Shaun Williamson (Barry in EastEnders). Burke is an enthusiastic sailor, Prescott used to be in the Merchant Navy, and Williamson was in the Royal Navy. If ever three blokes should be able to operate a boat, it’s them, but they spend most of this first episode crashing into riverbanks and running aground. Rather humiliatingly for them, they keep needing to be rescued by actors Amanda Barrie and Anita Harris, who come sailing serenely along behind them without so much as a scratch on their barge.

The five are spending a week travelling along the canals of the Midlands, starting near Stoke on the Caldon Canal. When they’re not crashing their boats, the five are having an extremely jolly time. The boats are gorgeous - although poor John Prescott loses a coin toss and has to sleep on a pull-out bed in the kitchen. Not that it seems to disturb him, if the snoring is anything to go by. Williamson doesn’t mind – he used to share a room with 27 other men. I assume that was when he was in the Navy rather than some weird arrangement where the cast of Albert Square are all made to doss down together night after night.

The five visit local mills, go shopping in a market town, and pop to the pub, where they just happen to bump into a local historian who tells them all about the area. You know, as you do. Me neither. Much of the day seems to revolve around eating and drinking – I told you boating holidays were fun. One morning, Shaun Williamson knocks up a batch of bacon sarnies – you’d think it was Beef Wellington, from the fuss he makes about it – and there ensues a ludicrous debate about how best to serve a bacon sarnie. I say ludicrous, because it’s patently obvious it should be on buttered white bread, with a small amount of ketchup. Anyone who disagrees with me on this is a savage in my book. Never mind Brexit, this is the issue that will cause me to really judge someone. People who use the monstrosity that is Brown Sauce should, and I mean this quite genuinely, be imprisoned.

This show is pretty much what you would predict. It is gentle, wry and affectionate (even if some of the banter-tastic voiceover is occasionally a bit much). The five participants seem rather lovely – I particularly enjoyed Williamson’s cheerful bonhomie – and what’s not to love about messing about in boats. Speaking of the participants, a few weeks ago John Prescott was taken to hospital having suffered a stroke. It’s a shock, as he seems an incredibly youthful 81 in this show – but we wish him well in his recovery. Here’s to many more aquatic adventures, John.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 13th July

Wimbledon Women’s Final, BBC One, 1pm: At the time of writing, there is a genuine chance that Johanna Konta could make the women’s final. [I’m now re-reading this, she’s lost, and I’m a fool who jinxed everything]. There is, however, a very good chance that Serena Williams could add to her extraordinary tally at Wimbledon. Sue Barker presents.

Moon Launch Live, 8pm, Channel 4: To mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, Channel 4 has built its own lunar craft and is sending Krishnan Guru Murthy, Rachel Riley and Bez from the Happy Mondays to the moon in a one-off spectacular live event. (Okay, actually this is extensive archive footage of the original event, but I like my idea better).

Sunday 14th July

Wimbledon Men’s Final, BBC One, 12:45pm: Pick two from the usual three. My money’s on Novak Djokovic (or would be, if I wasn’t such a tightwad). If it’s won by an outsider, I will streak around Centre court at next year’s championships. (Parental Advisory: In such an event, keep children and those of a nervous disposition away from the screen).

Poldark 1/8, 9pm, BBC One: The final series of the drama based on a heady combination of Winston Graham’s novels and Aidan Turner’s six-pack. This quality drama will be missed, unlike so much Sunday night fare.

Louis Theroux: Surviving America's Most Hated Family, 9pm, BBC Two: Louis Theroux makes his third visit to the unspeakably vile denizens of the Westboro Baptist Church. Grimly fascinating.

Monday 15th July

Nadiya’s Time to Eat 1/6, 8pm, BBC Two: The indescribably fabulous Ms Hussain, whose recent revelations about her struggles with anxiety have merely heightened my admiration for her, returns with a new series about preparing tasty meals in a short window of time. Scrumptious.

University Challenge, 8:30pm, BBC Two: Whoop whoop. It’s back again, for another squillion-part series. Tonight, University of Lancaster takes on Glasgow University.

Stargazing: Moon-Landing Special, 9pm, BBC Two: Professor Brian Cox and comedian Dara O’Briain look to the heavens, and reminisce about the spectacular events of 50 years ago.

Tuesday 16th July

Yorkshire Airport 1/6, 8:30pm, ITV: Oh great, a fly-on-the-wall documentary in an airport. That is quite a relief, as we’ve not had one of them for over a week.

The Day We Walked on the Moon, 9pm, ITV: Documentary charting… you’ll never guess… the moon landing. Using archive footage, interviews, and basically the same stuff that the other squillion moon programmes are using.

Wednesday 17th July

Remarkable Places to Eat, 8pm, BBC Two: First Dates Maitre d’ Fred Sirieix travels with leading chefs to their favourite restaurants to find out what makes them so special. Tonight, he visits Venice with Angela Hartnett. Nice work, if you can get it.

The Invention of Boris Johnson, 9pm, Channel 4: One-off documentary sifting through archive interviews and newspaper columns to paint a portrait, through his own words, of the man who would be PM.

Thursday 18th July

The Open, 8pm, BBC Two: The world’s finest golfers converge on Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. As home favourite, Rory McIlroy will be even more eager than usual to impress.

Britain’s Brexit Crisis, 9pm, BBC One: Apparently there’s this thing called Brexit? I know, right? If it’s so important, don’t you just wish there would be a bit more chat about it? Thankfully, Nick Robinson is here to tell us how we got to where we are, and what might happen next.



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