News, Culture & Society

SARAH VINE’s My TV WEEK: Fiona’s fitting tribute to the BBC 

BBC 100

ACROSS THE BBC

Rating:

This was the week that the BBC celebrated turning 100, and as with all these sorts of things, it was a mixed bag. Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse made a really weird ‘tribute’ programme called The Love Box In Your Living Room which, I think, was meant to be funny in a clever sort of a way but was in fact a bit sneery and surreal.

Granted, there were lots of witty cultural references and one or two genuinely funny moments, but the overall flavour was rather bitter, and far too cynical for my liking. It was also, at times, extremely vulgar.

Enfield and Whitehouse have produced many brilliant shows in their time, but this was not one of them. If the idea was to give viewers a bit of satire, the BBC would have been much better off commissioning the team behind the brilliant W1A, who know how to take the mickey without descending into the gutter.

Antiques Roadshow: 100 Years Of The BBC was presented by Fiona Bruce (picture), and Sarah Vine said it 'did exactly what it said on the tin'

Antiques Roadshow: 100 Years Of The BBC was presented by Fiona Bruce (picture), and Sarah Vine said it ‘did exactly what it said on the tin’

Sarah said the tribute 'proved the perfect vehicle for a very British, very understated and very human celebration of the BBC', featuring Humpty and Jemima from Play School (pictured)

Sarah said the tribute ‘proved the perfect vehicle for a very British, very understated and very human celebration of the BBC’, featuring Humpty and Jemima from Play School (pictured)

It’s like an old armchair, a refuge from life’s pressures 

A far more straightforward and enjoyable experience was Antiques Roadshow: 100 Years Of The BBC, which did exactly what it said on the tin. Presented by Fiona Bruce, who in many ways embodies the spirit of the BBC with her consummate professionalism and unfailing unflappability, it took us on an uncomplicated but nevertheless fascinating romp through the history of the corporation, going back to where it all began at Alexandra Palace in London.

If I had to choose just one show that really represents the BBC, Antiques Roadshow would be top of my list. There is something so comforting – and so familiar – about it and the way it frames British culture in such a gentle yet telling way.

Sarah (pictured) praised the BBC's 'quality, consistency and creativity'

Sarah (pictured) praised the BBC’s ‘quality, consistency and creativity’

It’s like an old but favourite armchair, a bit threadbare but an always welcome refuge from the pressures of life.

As such, it proved the perfect vehicle for a very British, very understated and very human celebration of the BBC, from ink drawings by Harry Rutherford – who sketched the early days of TV – to Floella Benjamin (now Dame), with Humpty and Jemima from Play School and the girl in the test card, now a middle-aged woman, with a doll, Bubbles the Clown.

It was a reminder of just how much joy and quality entertainment the Beeb has given us over the years – something we tend to take for granted.

It’s fair to say that not everyone shares my love of the BBC. But then I grew up without it, in Italy, and remember what it’s like to only have ratings-driven commercial TV. You end up with endless inane gameshows and re-runs. No nature programmes, no children’s TV and absolutely no quirky gems like University Challenge.

Sure, it has its misses as well as its hits, and bits of it (especially the woke political nonsense) can be extremely irritating. But if you look back at what the Beeb has achieved over the 100 years of its existence, it’s a truly amazing record.

Truth is, when it comes to quality, consistency and creativity, the BBC has led the way. No other organisation has delivered such a high standard of programming over such a long period.

We should treasure it, not trash it. Happy birthday, Auntie.

GHOSTS GETS BETTER AND BETTER

GHOSTS 

Friday, BBC1

Rating:

This was the final episode in the fourth series of this now cult sitcom from the team behind Horrible Histories. I must confess I’ve loved it from the start. There’s something about the silliness of the premise that appeals to my inner child, and there’s a refreshing lack of cynicism to it.

That makes it sound a bit banal, which it’s not. For a show about an ordinary couple living in a small stately home struggling to pay the bills and surrounded by a host of neurotic spirits, it’s surprisingly sophisticated. It is, in every sense, a classic sitcom: all of life’s complexities played out in a familiar, day-to-day setting.

Sarah says that unlike similar cult shows, which tend to start off well but then go downhill, Ghosts has gone from strength to strength

Sarah says that unlike similar cult shows, which tend to start off well but then go downhill, Ghosts has gone from strength to strength

The ghosts aren’t really ghosts, they’re an excuse to have a large extended family of characters; but the conceit allows for a range of plotlines and quirks, from caveman Robin (Larry Rickard, left) – whose intelligence belies his Neanderthal exterior – to Kitty (Lolly Adefope), who acts as an idiot savant to them all.

Unlike similar cult shows, which tend to start off well but then go downhill, Ghosts has gone from strength to strength. This last series has been the best so far, with some superb writing and an ensemble cast that is really on its game. This final episode was a cracker. We found out how Robin met his maker (I won’t spoil it for you, but it involves a bear), and there are some excellent and rather naughty jokes at the expense of vegans. I have no idea if a fifth series is in the pipes, but I sincerely hope so.

I shed a few tears at the Doc’s finale

Doc Martin (Wed, ITV) (pictured) took his final call this week, heading off for pastures new with a series finale

Doc Martin (Wed, ITV) (pictured) took his final call this week, heading off for pastures new with a series finale

After about a million years, Doc Martin (Wed, ITV) took his final call this week, heading off for pastures new. Funny: when this series started back in 2004, the idea of a London surgeon giving up a glamorous career for a Cornish backwater seemed rather odd; now, of course, everyone’s after the rural idyll. So it’s fitting, really, that this most curmudgeonly of characters should be going the opposite way to everyone else. Or is he? Jam-packed with emotion, drama and more than a smattering of madness, this was quite the series finale. I even shed a bit of a tear. 

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