TV blog: Wimbledon 2016

Benjie Goodhart / 23 June 2016

Welcome back to Wimbledon. Plus, new drama The Living and the Dead and the best of the rest of the week ahead on TV.

Wimbledon, BBC TV daily, 11:30am-8:30pm

It’s been a pretty divisive few weeks in this country, so thank heavens for the soothing balm of good old, civilised Wimbers, where the country can get down to the serious business of televised sport and unite in its support for Andy Murray.

Yes, Wimbledon is back, forming a very British fortnight in a spectacular summer of sport, boasting both Euro 2016 and the Rio Olympics. But for many, Wimbledon is the high point.

As ever, the tournament is on the BBC. As surely must always be the case. I dread the prospect of ITV or Sky winning the rights, and having coverage fronted by Ant and Dec, and adverts in the game breaks, precisely when we’re all meant to be gawping at the gorgeousness of the players’ partners. Wimbledon is a quintessential BBC event, with the iconic music, Sue and Clare, Boris and Supermac, coverage continuing on BBC Two etc. Play with that at your peril. We might get tens of millions of people not bothering to vote on the future of our country, but you mess with our TV coverage of Wimbledon and we will unite as one and, well, write some very cross letters to The Telegraph.

Just look at last year’s highlights programme. They gave it a jazzy new programme title, had the presenters standing up, and moved from the studio to a Pimms bar, and there were people calling for the Director General of the BBC to be trussed up in a tennis net and have Milos Raonic fire serves at his face for 24 hours. This year, not surprisingly, the highlights have gone back to their more traditional format.

As for the live stuff, as ever, Sue Barker anchors in her twinkly, knowledgeable style. We have the usual commentators and pundits, who are routinely brilliant (although I do miss Dan Maskell – a man who could emote so much with a simple, breathy “Oh I say!”). Coverage begins on BBC Two each day at 11am, where it continues uninterrupted until Today at Wimbledon starts at 8:30pm. There is, of course, plenty of tennis on BBC One as well, not to mention up to 15 live streams on the Red Button.

In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic defends his title, having beaten Roger Federer in last year’s final. He starts, rightly, as strong favourite, having won both Grand Slams so far this year. In both of those finals, he beat Andy Murray, who is now indisputably the second best player in the world. There are reasons for optimism, not least of which is Murray’s recent Italian Open final victory over the World No. 1, and his fifth Queens club title last week. There is no need to look further than these two for your winner.

In the women’s event, Serena Williams starts as strong favourite to defend her title, and win her 22nd Major, an astonishing figure. But she’s not won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon, and faces strong opposition, particularly in the figure of former champion Petra Kvitova. Watch out, too, for Garbine Muguruza, who recently beat Williams in the final of the French Open. British hopes will rest on the increasingly broad and impressive shoulders of Johanna Konta, currently ranked 18 in the world.

Oh, and get ready, too, for the de rigeur shots of pigeons watching a rally, and of someone handing a racket to a ballboy as a 12ft Croat serves their 263rd ace past them. Welcome back Wimbledon, we love you now and always.

The Living and the Dead, Tuesday 28th June, 9pm, BBC One

What would you do if you were a ghost? Obviously it’s not an ideal scenario, what with the need to embrace death to acquire spectral status, but you’ve got to make the best of things. Assuming I was invisible, I think I’d probably end up spending more time than was healthy following Charlize Theron about. But then, what do I care of healthy? I’m dead, right? Then I’d go and haunt everyone who’d ever wronged me. There’s not many, I’ve had a pretty lucky life, so far. Maybe a couple of bullies from school. A very rude woman in a pub in Edinburgh. I wouldn’t traumatise them, just annoy them a bit. Open all their cereal boxes at the bottom, hide the loo roll, that sort of thing. I think it’s fair to say, then, I’d be a bit of a rubbish, slightly sleazy ghost.

Not like the ones in this terrific and truly chilling new series from the BBC. They’re not looking at bra straps and rearranging cupboards. They’re messing with people’s sanity.

It’s 1894, in Somerset. Handsome London psychologist Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) and his beautiful wife Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer) are down visiting the family pile in Shepzoy (sorry, no proper nouns allowed in Scrabble). Nathan’s mum isn’t very well and… oooh, she’s really not very well now. So Nathan and Charlotte make the decision to move down and run the estate.

It takes quite a bit of getting used to. There’s the farming, the people-managing, the new house, the ghosts and demonic possessions, plus Wifi is non-existent and Ocado don’t deliver here. But back to the supernatural business. Harriet (a wonderfully eerie turn by Tallulah Haddon) is a teenage girl who is exhibiting some very peculiar behaviour. Yes, even by teenage girl standards. Wandering into lakes in the middle of the night, speaking in the voices of the dead, spitting and biting, and doing unspeakable things to fluffy little ducklings.

“She needs rest,” says her mother heroically. It reminds me of our school nurse, who would prescribe a sit down and a cup of tea for every ailment, up to and including rampant Ebola and two broken legs. I think she was sponsored by PG Tips.

Meanwhile, other bad things are happening. People are behaving oddly. It seems there are more dangerous spirits here than in a moonshine factory. Mind you, if I were a ghost, I’d probably haunt the Applebys, too. They’re very good looking, and the house is nice. If you’re going to be hanging around for eternity, you might as well make it pleasing to the eye.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 25th June

Casualty, 9:25pm, BBC One: The 1000th episode. If you watched them all, back-to-back… well, you’d be a bit weird.

Sunday 26th June

Messages Home: Lost Films of the British Army, 8pm, Channel 4: A fascinating and poignant documentary featuring long-forgotten archive film of messages to loved ones at home from soldiers fighting the Japanese in Burma.

Monday 27th June

Superfoods, 1/6, 8:30pm, Channel 4: Kate Quilton investigates the purported health benefits of so-called ‘superfoods’. Which ones really deserve the title? Fingers crossed for burgers…

Tuesday 28th June

Love Your Garden, 8pm, ITV: The Brad Pitt of TV gardening, Alan Titchmarsh, arranges a garden makeover for a 90-year-old, twice-widowed former Land Girl who finds it difficult to tend her plants these days.

Life Inside Jail: Hell on Earth 1/2, 9pm, ITV: Two-part documentary series filmed over six months in Albany County Jail, New York.

Wednesday 29th June

Britain’s Favourite Dogs, 8pm, ITV: a quarter of the households in Britain have a dog. This programme looks at the most popular breeds, and why we love them. (Clue: It’s not because we like picking up poo in bags.)

CCTV: Neighbourhood Watching, 9pm, ITV: Documentary exploring the rise in domestic CCTV use, featuring dramatic, funny and bizarre footage. 

The Women Who Kill Lions, 9pm, Channel 4: I’ll never understand humanity.

Thursday 30th June

Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, 7:30pm, BBC Two: In tribute to the bloodiest day in British military history, a vigil is taking place overnight in Westminster Abbey at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. Quite rightly, the Queen will be in attendance.

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