Christopher Stevens on Walking With Elephants and the weekend's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Stealing raw meat from hungry lions? Now that’s real bravado!

Walking With Elephants 

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Britain’s Greatest Comedy Character

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Any walk with adventurer Levison Wood is exhausting, and not only because the former paratrooper routinely hikes across whole continents. 

He’s so relentlessly macho, even watching him take the dog to the park would leave you drained.

Striding across the bristling swamp-grass of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, in Walking With Elephants (C4), he insisted on taking his boots off, going barefoot.

Walking With Elephant’s Levison Wood (left) is so macho that watching him take his dog to the park would leave you drained

His guide Kane Motswana, a San bushman raised on the African plains, followed suit but politely suggested this was pointless and foolhardy. 

Levison marched on, until Kane was forced to admit that his now-Western lifestyle was making him soft.

‘Too much beer!’ Levison taunted. Kane admitted it, and was allowed to put his shoes back on.

A few miles later, the explorer waded across a river, nonchalantly telling his camera crew to ‘watch out for hippos’. 

The hippos were watching them . . . and so were the 15ft basking crocodiles. ‘Still alive,’ crowed Levison, as he emerged on the other bank.

Kane just grunted agreement, though the look he gave his boss suggested he’d prefer to be taking a party of wealthy Yanks on safari.

But when Levison was woken from his tent at dawn by the grunts of three lions on the hunt, the bushman showed why no amount of manly swagger is a match for a lifetime in Africa’s wilderness.

The lions had brought down a buffalo and were tearing strips off its hide . . . even though their dinner wasn’t dead. Levison turned green, and then chalk-white when Kane beckoned him forward.

‘Want some buffalo meat?’ asked the guide, as the lions reluctantly retreated at the sight of humans. Despite skipping breakfast, Levison didn’t seem hungry.

Grinning with his own brand of macho mischief, Kane explained that he was just a baby in a sling on his mother’s back, the first time he saw her stealing meat from lions. Now that’s real bravado.

When the boys weren’t showing off, the shots of this untouched habitat were glorious — not only the plentiful wildlife, but the shimmering delta waters and the liquid bronze of the sunsets. It’s good to know there are still places like that in the world.

The walking pace dropped to a ponderous plod as a committee of actors, writers and stand-ups debated the merits of Del Boy over Basil Fawlty, for three hours on Britain’s Greatest Comedy Character (Gold).

Chairperson Sally Phillips, best-known as Miranda Hart’s sidekick, set the tone at the start when she bemoaned the fact that most of the candidates were male and white — as if what every sitcom needs to make it funny is a lot more political correctness.

Sally Phillips began Britain’s Greatest Comedy Character on Gold with a political correctness comment – which is what every sitcom needs right now

It’s a good job that old bigot Alf Garnett wasn’t in the running, or Sally might have felt a right silly moo.

There were other unforgivable omissions: Mr Humphries (John Inman) from Are You Being Served? or Ma Boswell (Jean Boht) from Carla Lane’s Bread. 

’Allo ’Allo’s Rene (Gorden Kaye) deserved a place and so did Windsor Davies from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

All four of those were brilliant characters in sitcoms that topped the ratings — every one of them more popular, I’d wager, than the winner of the poll, Steve Coogan’s TV presenter Alan Partridge. But Partridge appeals to people in the telly bubble.

If you think I’m being unfair, you should have seen the superior sneers on the faces of the committee members when they discussed Mammy (Brendan O’Carroll) from — ugh! how common — Mrs Brown’s Boys, currently the Beeb’s most popular comedy.

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FBI chief Christopher Wray opens internal probe of Michael Flynn case

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday ordered an internal investigation of the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The move follows the Justice Department’s decision this month to drop its prosecution of Flynn, who pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI. President Trump alleges the Flynn case was part of a conspiracy by “dirty cops” to “take down” his presidency.

“FBI Director Christopher Wray today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the FBI said in a statement first reported by Fox News.

The FBI’s internal-affairs Inspection Division reportedly will handle the review.

Justice Department leaders moved to drop the case against Flynn after they determined FBI agents had no legitimate reason to interview Flynn in late January 2017. During that interview, Flynn allegedly lied about two December 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn says he did not intentionally lie and was seeking to withdraw his plea.

Before the interview, the FBI nearly closed an investigation into Flynn on Jan. 4, 2017, after finding no evidence that Flynn was a Russian agent, according to newly released documents.

But FBI official Peter Strzok and his mistress, then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he traded anti-Trump text messages, intervened to keep the case open citing the never-used Logan Act of 1799, which bans ordinary citizens from conducting foreign diplomacy. The law is widely considered unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama learned of Flynn’s calls with Kislyak before then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who ran day-to-day operations at the Justice Department. Yates, who became a Democratic superstar when fired by Trump for refusing to defend a travel ban on a group of predominately Muslim countries, was stunned to learn about the Flynn-Kislyak calls directly from Obama at a Jan, 5, 2017, meeting, rather than from her subordinates, according to recently released documents.

The FBI’s interview of Flynn in late January 2017 occurred outside of standard protocol. Former FBI Director James Comey publicly acknowledged he sent agents including Strzok to interview Flynn days into Trump’s administration without informing the White House counsel’s office. Senior Justice Department leaders also were cut out of the decision, which Yates said frustrated her.

A handwritten note released this month from former FBI counterintelligence director Bill Priestap — following a meeting with Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — said regarding Flynn: “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Flynn’s defenders point out that his calls with Kislyak were made with the knowledge of other Trump transition officials, and that the FBI had transcripts.

In pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, Flynn avoided charges for working as an unregistered agent of Turkey and agreed to cooperate with investigators in the Russia probe. A subsequent investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

Trump fired Flynn less than one month into his administration, initially saying he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak. Pence recently said he’s inclined to believe Flynn did not intentionally lie.

Democrats allege that the Justice Department wrongfully dropped its prosecution of Flynn in a politically motivated decision. A federal judge still must approve the Justice Department’s request.

Trump said this month that “human scum” atop the FBI persecuted Flynn as part of a broader “hoax” accusing him of colluding with Russia.

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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: If Di was Good and Clint Bad, what was Charles?

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: If Di was the ‘Good’ and Clint the ‘Bad’, what was poor old Charles?

Secrets Of The Royals On Tour

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How To Make: Headphones

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Whenever the Duchess of Cambridge flies abroad on royal tours, whole rows of seats are taken up by racks of her dresses.

That’s all very well, but how do the crew ensure seatbelts are fastened for take-off, without crumpling everything?

This was just one of the entertaining conundrums posed by Secrets Of The Royals On Tour (C5), a mischievous peep behind the scenes of pomp and ceremony of a Commonwealth trip.

Apparently all the royals have passports, except the Queen, because a passport identifies the bearer as a subject of Her Britannic Majesty. She can’t be her own royal subject. Some of the stories were familiar. Her Majesty is pictured on a trip to Turkey in 2000

Hours of glorious footage from the Queen’s global travels in the Fifties and Sixties were released on a series of DVDs several years ago. 

They revealed the glamour of the royal wardrobe on tour, the sables and satin dresses, the elbow-length silk gloves and yards of pearls.

How all this was possible, thousands of miles from the nearest palace, was never explained. 

The pictures of Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House made front pages worldwide, but I didn’t know that Di’s first choice of partner was Russian ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov . . . while First Lady Nancy Reagan wanted the princess to waltz with Clint Eastwood

But now, a few erstwhile royal servants such as former press secretary Dickie Arbiter and Princess Di’s favourite footman Paul Burrell were happy to drop some hints.

The Queen, we learned, took ten tons of luggage in steamer trunks, the sort of monster packing cases that were designed for transatlantic voyages. 

The rest of us don’t use them, because the excess charged by a budget airline on a fully laden steamer trunk would bankrupt the Sultan of Brunei.

Apparently all the royals have passports, except the Queen, because a passport identifies the bearer as a subject of Her Britannic Majesty. She can’t be her own royal subject.

Some of the stories were familiar. Such as how, when she dashed home from safari in Kenya following the death of her father, the young Elizabeth II had no black dress in her luggage. 

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others had to wait on the Tarmac while clothes suitable for mourning were rushed to her plane on her return.

They revealed the glamour of the royal wardrobe on tour, the sables and satin dresses, the elbow-length silk gloves and yards of pearls. Her Majesty is pictured in Australia in 1976

Others were more tantalising. The pictures of Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House made front pages worldwide, but I didn’t know that Di’s first choice of partner was Russian ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov . . . while First Lady Nancy Reagan wanted the princess to waltz with Clint Eastwood.

Thank heavens she didn’t. Think of the headlines: if Diana was the ‘Good’ and Clint was the ‘Bad’, where would that leave poor old Prince Charles? 

Cramming enough regal outfits for two months of state banquets into suitcases is a challenge.

What I’ve never understood is how the sound of the 106 musicians of the London Philharmonic Orchestra can be squeezed through a speaker less than a centimetre across.

Think about it: the timbre of a Stradivarius violin requires rare wood crafted by a genius and aged for 200 years . . . yet it can be accurately reproduced by a cheap bit of paper and plastic that fits in your lughole.

Design expert Zoe Laughlin didn’t manage to explain it, in How To Make: Headphones (BBC4). She’s a boisterous presenter who conveys all her enthusiasm by smashing household items into bits, to discover how they are made

That makes no sense to me.

Design expert Zoe Laughlin didn’t manage to explain it, in How To Make: Headphones (BBC4). 

She’s a boisterous presenter who conveys all her enthusiasm by smashing household items into bits, to discover how they are made.

Fashioning her own headphones, she wound copper wire onto a coil by slapping a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel and planting a stick in it, to create a do-it-yourself spindle. The padding around the ears was made from cushion foam wrapped in offcuts of silk.

But when it came to the all-important speaker, Zoe cadged one from top-end speakers company Bowers & Wilkins.

That’s like building a kit-car out of plywood and slipping the engine from a Jaguar inside.

Reruns of the week: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines in the afternoon on BBC2. New Tricks on BBC1 in the evening. That’s why every day in lockdown feels the same — there’s so many old movies and repeats. Better get used to it…

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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews Red Dwarf: The Promised Land

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Is that creature a Red Dwarf alien — or Judi Dench in Cats?

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land

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How To Make: The Toothbrush

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Red Dwarf (Dave), the sci-fi sitcom that’s been running almost since the ­beginning of the universe, switched format to record a feature-length episode, a full two hours.

Even Dad’s Army couldn’t ­manage that.

And it was funny. Not just catchphrase funny, more than simply in-joke, fan-favourite funny, but loaded with some great gags.

I laughed out loud before the first line was even spoken, as we were transported aboard a spaceship piloted by half-feline humanoids in Star Trek costumes. With furry faces and whiskers, they looked as ridiculous as Judi Dench in Cats. Thank heavens they didn’t sing.

Red Dwarf has such a devoted audience that a made-for-TV movie could hardly fai

A door opened with that familiar swish of compressed air, the noise all doors make on movie spacecraft. A cat-human entered — pushing the bottom of the door up with its nose. Of course: alien cats need alien catflaps.

Red Dwarf has such a devoted audience that a made-for-TV movie could hardly fail. The show ran for ten years from 1988 on BBC1, before being placed (like its hero, Lister, played by Craig Charles) in suspended animation.

The Dave channel, recognising it had a fanbase as devoted as that of Doctor Who (which the show resembles in looks), revived it in 2012. Remarkably, all four of the main cast came back on board: not only Charles, who by then was a Coronation Street regular, but Chris Barrie as the prissy hologram Rimmer, Danny John-Jules as the supercool Cat and Robert Llewellyn as the apologetic robot Kryten.

Blow-out of the night:

Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix tucked in to a lobster and beef burger, drizzled in 100-year-old vinegar, at the Paris Las Vegas hotel, on their American Road Trip (ITV). It cost $777 (£615). You want fries with that?

Red Dwarf succeeds because it never tries to be more than it was at the beginning: a smartly scripted bickering match between characters who are stuck together, apparently for the rest of infinity, loathing each other more every day.

Thanks to a fortunate quirk of scheduling, this makes it the flagship show for the lockdown.

And it’s practically unique in making the quantum leap to movie-length. In the Seventies, many popular sitcoms tried it: On The Buses, Steptoe & Son and even Dad’s Army were box office successes, but they weren’t a patch on the 30-minute episodes.

Most later comedies knew better than to think of trying it. Imagine Blackadder or Father Ted in the cinema . . . it just wouldn’t have worked. Red Dwarf: The Promised Land did it with panache, aided by some big-budget special effects that contrasted hilariously with the wobbly scenery. Filming in front of a live audience, Doug Naylor’s script showered us with so many gags that Charles almost corpsed (luvvie-speak for ‘broke down in giggles’).

On a good night for overgrown kids, Dr Zoe Laughlin explored the history and design of a bathroom staple in How To Make: The Toothbrush (BBC4). She did it with glee and gusto, thrilled to be let loose with a giant chemistry set in the studio.

Even if you don’t much care about how nylon is made, it was entertaining to see her excitement as she donned protective goggles to mix dangerous solutions in glass beakers, and somehow teased miles of plastic thread from the mixture with an electric drill.

At the end of the hour, though, she’d given up on trying to replicate the plastic bristles and flexible handle of a shop-bought toothbrush. Instead, she claimed a scrap of towelling sock on the end of a stick worked equally well. That’s not really a toothbrush . . . it’s a toothswab.

Dr Zoe ought to apply her enthusiasm to bigger projects. Give her a bucket of bolts, a lightning conductor and access to a warehouse full of discarded shop mannequins, and we’ll see what she can do. It’s a-liiive!

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Christopher Meloni Is Returning as Detective Stabler of 'Law & Order: SVU' in New Show

Fans fell in love with Law & Order: SVU by watching Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) solving crimes together. They were then heartbroken when Meloni decided to leave the show.

Many still held out hope that the former partners would somehow reunite. Now that might be possible because Meloni is returning to the role in a new series.

Christopher Meloni left ‘Law & Order: SVU’

Meloni played the detective from season 1 to 12. He then decided to leave and his last episode was “Smoke.” Stabler decides to shoot a woman after she gets her revenge by shooting criminals that were kept in a cell. Season 13 revealed Stabler decided to retire after being put on mandatory leave after the incident.

The actor was asked if he regretted leaving the show on Watch What Happens Live. “Not a day,” he answered. Andy Cohen asked him when he decided to quit. “When negotiations broke down,” he said.

The Hollywood Reporter reported Meloni rejected getting a pay cut from $400,000 per episode to $300,000 per episode to return. He has since moved on to other roles in TV and movies.

There was hope given that he’d return

Showrunner Warren Leight talked to TV Line last year about whether Stabler could come back to SVU in season 21. Leight did give fans some hope of a return in the future.

“Look: I assume that if some year, some decade, couple decades from now, we get to the last SVU, [Meloni] would have to come back before we do the last episode or before the show signs off,” answered the showrunner.

Leight did make sure to note that there was nothing in the works at the moment. “However, I don’t think we’re at that point in the show’s run,” he said.

Hargitay also shared her opinion on a possible reunion between Stabler and Benson. “He’s on a show right now and he’s super ‘happy’ — literally — he’s happy, I’m happy,” she told TV Insider. “I’ll speak for myself: I think it would be fun to have ‘one last hurrah.’”

He is returning as Stabler in a new show

Fans are now getting what they want because Meloni is returning as Stabler in a new NBC series by creator Dick Wolf. The series will get 13 episodes showing the detective leading an organized crime division as part of the New York Police Department, according Entertainment Tonight.

Deadline reports that there is talk of former Chicago P.D. showrunner Matt Olmstead being considered for the role of writer and showrunner of the new series. It’s unknown when the show can be expected to premiere.

There are still many other details unknown about the series. One of the biggest questions is if there will be a crossover in the first season with SVU. There is hope since Meloni and Hargitay recently reunited. Hargitay posted a picture of them together on Instagram a few months ago with the caption “Sunday night dinner.”

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Sunday night dinner….

A post shared by Mariska Hargitay (@therealmariskahargitay) on

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Can Hollywood Freelancers Survive the Coronavirus Shutdowns?

Tech Company CreativeKit Wants to Give Creators $500 to Deal With the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, even the Hollywood community has been affected. From actors to executives, here is a list of confirmed celebrity coronavirus cases.

Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson announced they both tested positive for the coronavirus in Australia while filming their Elvis Presley biopic. The couple isolated themselves and are keeping their spirits up, sharing their experience on Instagram.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Former Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko posted on Instagram Sunday that she was self-quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus. She appeared in “Quantum of Solace” opposite Daniel Craig in 2008 and in the sci-fi movie “Oblivion.”

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Idris Elba posted a video on Twitter Monday saying that he tested positive for the coronavirus. The British actor said he is asymptomatic and encourages people to stay pragmatic.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Lucian Grainge, longtime chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, tested positive for the coronavirus and has been hospitalized at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Kristofer Hivju posted on Instagram Monday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. The “Game of Thrones” alum is set to star on season 2 of Netflix’s “The Witcher.” 

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Rachel Matthews, the voice of Honeymaren in “Frozen II” and an actress known for “Looking for Alaksa” and “Happy Death Day 2 You,” said in a series of posts on her Instagram story (via Page Six) that she tested positive for the coronavirus. Matthews described her symptoms over the course of a week in her posts and added that she found tests for the virus “INSANELY hard to come by.” 

     

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Kevin Durant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and currently a player for the Brooklyn Nets, was one of four players who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to The Athletic. “Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine. We’re going to get through this,” he told The Athletic.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Actor Daniel Dae Kim announced on Instagram Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. “For all those out there, especially teenagers and millennials who think this is not serious, please know that it is,” the former “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0” star pleaded.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Prince Albert of Monaco is the first known head of state to contract the coronavirus.

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Sean Payton told ESPN he tested positive for the coronavirus. He is the first confirmed case in the NFL

    Photo credit: Getty Images

  • Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Idris Elba have all come down with COVID-19

    As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, even the Hollywood community has been affected. From actors to executives, here is a list of confirmed celebrity coronavirus cases.

    Brian WelkAuthor mediabestPosted on Categories TV and MoviesTags ,

    CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: I don't believe it!

    CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: An ITV sitcom to make even Victor Meldrew laugh? I don’t believe it!

    Kate & Koji

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    Feel Good

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    Beyond any argument, what ITV does well is costume drama. It has done, ever since Upstairs, Downstairs half a century ago.

    Frocks, bonnets, silks, toppers, snobbery and romance — these are its hallmarks.

    Vanity Fair was fabulous. So is Victoria. Downton was good enough for Hollywood, and last Sunday Julian Fellowes’s new serial Belgravia got off to a cannonball start. Even when the channel trips over its crinolines and falls on its bustle, it does it with elan.

    Beecham House looked glorious if you could ignore the dialogue. Sanditon might have worked if everyone had kept their breeches and bloomers on.

    Kate & Koji is funny — and funny enough to make me snort with laughter, writes Christopher Stevens

    But conventional wisdom holds that what ITV cannot do is comedy. The political weekly New Statesman even ran a headline last year: ‘Why is ITV so bad at sitcom?’

    The head of studios, Kevin Lygo, couldn’t answer that question. He was flummoxed, announcing instead that the channel was axing its only half-hour comedy — Jack Dee’s Bad Move.

    It’s years since Benidorm was at its acerbic best. Since then, flashes of brilliance such as Vicious with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi have been rarities.

    Purists say ITV peaked with Rising Damp in the Seventies and has never matched it. So I had no great hopes for Kate & Koji (ITV), set in a seaside caff and starring Brenda Blethyn — she of the sour quips and wellington boots in Vera.

    The press release said it’s a comedy about a family that adopts an asylum seeker. Oh gawd . . . hasn’t Channel 4 already done that idea to death with Home?

    And then I watched it.

    Kate & Koji is funny — and funny enough to make me snort with laughter. The script is well-honed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, who wrote Outnumbered. But what raises this show far above the ordinary are the performances by Blethyn and Jimmy Akingbola as the title characters.

    She’s a cantankerous old bag, he’s a pompous prig with a broad streak of self-pity. They loathe each other on sight. But Kate’s cafe customers love Koji, because he’s a doctor who can diagnose their ailments, without a six-week wait for a GP’s appointment.

    ‘There’s four things in life I hate,’ Kate seethes. ‘Scroungers, foreigners, doctors and posh people — and he’s all of them.’ Sitcom works best when the characters are one frayed nerve away from strangling each other.

    Family heirloom of the night:

    Teatime telly’s best-kept secret is out. The Repair Shop (BBC1), for years hidden away in the early evening, is now on primetime — and it’s a joy. Bet you never thought you’d get choked up over a peaked cap.

    It’s better still when you throw in a bagful of pretentions with a sackload of suspicion and mean-mindedness.

    Blethyn especially is relishing her character, as bigoted as Alf Garnett and as short-tempered as Victor Meldrew. She delivers her lines with such a snap, they could have your fingers off.

    My first big laugh came when Koji was trying to explain why he wasn’t allowed to work. ‘Because you self-identify as a lazy person!’ Kate barked.

    The studio audience roared. I bet they weren’t expecting to enjoy the show so much either.

    It was a good night for new comedy, with the debut of Mae Martin’s Feel Good (C4), about a stand-up comic who falls in love with a crash for a girl in the front row — Call The Midwife’s Charlotte Ritchie.

    The laughs were more strained, as though the lines had been rewritten so often that their originality had worn away. But the love affair is sweetly appealing, and there’s an undercurrent of heartbreak as we begin to realise that both women are hiding pain in their past.

    Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe from Friends) had a cameo as Mae’s vain, self-obsessed mother who apparently can’t bear to see her daughter happy for a moment. More of her, please.

     

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    CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A forbidden romance with a troubling heart

    CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: In black and white, a forbidden romance with a troubling heart

    Noughts + Crosses

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    Villages By The Sea

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    Every generation remakes Romeo And Juliet in its own image. 

    In the Fifties there was West Side Story, with its fabulous music and whirling petticoats, set against a backdrop of gang violence in New York.

    The Nineties gave us Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic, rich and poor thrown together in a world of doomed extravagance.

    Now the classic story is told again with black vs white, in Noughts + Crosses (BBC1) — a tale of love across the divide in a dystopian, apartheid Britain.

    If this is meant to be a parable with the colours reversed, then it is a dishonest one, and a hypocritical one too — running the risk of stirring up the very prejudices it pretends to condemn

    There’s nothing uplifting or aspirational about this version. It’s full of recriminations, resentment, guilt and prejudice. How very 21st century.

    The forbidden romance at the heart of Noughts + Crosses is still appealing. 

    Masali Baduza plays 17-year-old Sephy Hadley, the spoilt daughter of a hardline Home Secretary who indulges her every whim, just as he cracks down on the mutinous unrest among Britain’s white underclass.

    Jack Rowan plays Callum, the son of the Hadley family’s white housekeeper (Helen Baxendale, always excellent). Callum and Sephy played together as children. Now their eyes meet at a party (he’s a servant, she’s swanning round in a gorgeous gown) and instantly they fall in love.

    But in this version of Britain, renamed Albion, all the wealth and power lies in the hands of the black ruling class.

    There’s nothing uplifting or aspirational about this version. It’s full of recriminations, resentment, guilt and prejudice. How very 21st century

    Callum risks a beating or worst just for speaking to a girl like Sephy. Meanwhile, his best friend was beaten into a coma by black police in paramilitary uniforms for the crime of answering back.

    Shakespeare’s original Romeo And Juliet is a violent play, of course, with brawls and stabbings between the enemy clans.

    But there’s a deeply unpleasant undercurrent to Noughts + Crosses, an implication that the brutal racism of the drama somehow reflects real-world racism pervading Britain.

    If this is meant to be a parable with the colours reversed, then it is a dishonest one, and a hypocritical one too — running the risk of stirring up the very prejudices it pretends to condemn.

    Thankfully, some parts of our real Britain are as far removed from that nightmare as could ever be imagined.

    One such place is Clovelly, where life is barely different from how it was in the 1800s. 

    But in this version of Britain, renamed Albion, all the wealth and power lies in the hands of the black ruling class. Callum risks a beating or worst just for speaking to a girl like Sephy

    This cascade of half-timbered houses on the steep shore of north Devon was visited by historian Ben Robinson in the first of his excursions along the coastline, Villages By The Sea (BBC2).

    There has been a harbour wall here for 700 years, protecting little boats like the picarooner sailed by local fisherman Stephen. 

    He comes from generations of fisher folk and still manoeuvres his vessel with a single oar at the stern, almost like a punting pole. The boat has no engine.

    Young mother Ellie can watch him set out to sea each morning from her kitchen door, which opens on to the harbourside.

    Once, the cottage was home to Crazy Kate who, according to local legend, went mad after she stood in that doorway during a storm and watched powerless as her husband’s boat was sunk.

    Years later, still consumed by grief, the poor woman put on her wedding dress and waded into the waves, to be with the man she loved.

    This promises to be a smashing little series: part history, part inspiration for your holidays, and filled with facts that make you say: ‘I didn’t know that.’

    For instance, since lorries (like all motor vehicles) are banned from Clovelly’s cobbled streets, the tenants move their furniture by hand-drawn sleds when they swap houses.

    I didn’t know that.

    Aerial ace of the night:  Former racing driver Yve Mann flew a Spitfire on Warbird Workshop (Yesterday channel), as a salute to her late husband Peter, an RAF pilot. 

    ‘Let’s have some fun,’ she whooped, before tackling a victory roll. Attagirl!

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