TRAVEL MAN, C4, 8.30pm

Fans of Richard Ayoade will be delighted with this new series which sends him on a 48-hour tour of a great city. To make things even more interesting he’s joined by a different celebrity each week. This first episode dispatches him to funky Barcelona in the company of Kathy Burke.

The idea of this new travel show is for Ayoade to enjoy the most “efficient” holiday in the time allotted, so he has 48 hours within which to cram as many of Barcelona’s artistic and culinary gems as possible, one of which is potatoes covered in clay. Well, I’d hate to be seen as a typical British tourist, but I think I’d rather have chips.

The pair also manage to fit in some football, an energetic tricycle trip and some surreal artwork. It’s definitely not a holiday, but more of a frantic, funny, carefully timed treasure hunt, and it’s a world away from the leisurely, middle-aged ditherings of Judith Chalmers et al. This is a fast-paced, humorous travel show which is cut to suit the modern world, where time and money are often short, so here’s how to get the most out of a city in just 48 hours.

THE ARK, BBC1, 8.30pm

This is a one-off drama about Noah’s Ark and whilst biblical stories don’t interest me at all, this re-telling of Noah’s story does it in a fresh, modern way, and never feels aged and preachy.

Instead, it has an energetic tone, with Noah and his noisy family speaking in working-class accents (does Noah have a hint of the Scouser about him?) elbowing one another at the dinner table, and splashing around in a pool instead of toiling in the fields. One of Noah’s sons is having some marital problems as his wife won’t have sex in their small house with the family within earshot. When the poor lad seeks advice from his brothers as to how they manage it, they laugh and joke at him. This is no dusty old Bible story.

The drama definitely has a modern feel, with a jaunty soundtrack, and even some comic moments, helped by Noah’s resemblance to Spike Milligan.

When Noah is instructed by an angel to build his ark, he seeks help from his strapping sons but they refuse. They want to work on the farmland so they can provide for their families, not waste time building a boat in the midst of a desert. Ridiculed and abandoned, Noah starts his lonely work on the ark.



Yet again, the drama disproves its title. The lies in this week’s episode, and the scenarios into which the lies lead the characters, are anything but ordinary. Of course, the extraordinary nature of the porkies highlights how humdrum are the lives they spring from. That’s a nice trick but, even so, we do require a semblance of believability.

This week, the drama focuses on Kathy, the secretary. She’s always prim and efficient in the office and, when she goes home, it’s to her jolly husband and loving family. So we’re surprised to see sensible, 40-year old Kathy arrange to meet a stranger in a hotel for some no-strings sex. She is initially horrified at what she’s doing, but tells the sympathetic, handsome stranger that her husband has been made impotent and she merely has a physical need which must be satisfied.

Her secret liaison – not an affair, she insists, but simply a practical arrangement – soon escalates out of her control when she and her lover witness a terrible crime, leading her into lies and a frankly absurd scene where she impersonates a police officer by making a little plastic ID card.

NURSE, BBC2, 10pm

Tuesday night brings the last episode in this warm and gently comic series about the different forms of mental illness. Ugly tabloid headlines over the past few days have presented but one view of mental illness, and it’s one which is cruel and unfair. This series, by contrast, shows the nuance, depth and variety which exists in mental ill-health. There are a thousand ways in which it can enter, and alter, your life, and this comedy shows us several of them without ever descending into the crude clichés which belong back in the 1950s.

Liz, the brave community psychiatric nurse of the title, still does her rounds, visiting her “service users” in their homes whilst trying to keep her own messy personal life in order. Her own dishevelled life suggests that doubt, chaos and anxiety can plague us all, whether we carry the label of mental illness or not.

There is also a victory this week for the morbidly obese Graham, who finally manages to get up from his chair and walk.



How could a prison with a spectacular name like Strangeways fail to produce some startling stories? Likewise with the infamous Wormwood Scrubs. Perhaps there’s a case to be made for going very stark and Communist with prisons and giving them bland titles like “Prison No. 1” etc.

This documentary marks the 25th anniversary of the Strangeways prison riot which lasted for three weeks, eventually spilling out onto the prison roof. TV cameras were waiting to capture the shocking footage of prisoners cavorting on the rooftops waving banners, stripping off their shirts and generally sticking their fingers up at authority. As the prisoners escaped from their cells, they set light to the wings and hunted out the jail’s notorious sex offenders who had been held in separate areas for their own protection.

This programme interviews the prisoners who led the revolt, and speaks to the guards responsible for regaining control whilst the country watched and scrutinised their every move. Were the rioting prisoners just thugs or was this a legitimate protest about a harsh, unenlightened prison regime which had scarcely changed since the Victorian era?


When Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in 1960, nurses were stationed in cinemas to assist anyone fainting or panicking from the horror. To the director’s chuckling delight, people ran screaming into the streets and the scene which best sums up that film’s shock quality is the infamous shower scene. Janet Leigh’s is the face we associate with the movie, but the underlying horror comes from the quiet and sinister Norman Bates.

This contemporary series is a prequel to Psycho, and focuses on Norman, showing us how he became the killer we know from the classic film. Beginning in his teenage years, it shows his unhealthy, suffocating relationship with his mother, Norma. Oh dear: Norman and Norma? We already know that’s an unwholesomely close pairing. We all know how the story ends, but this series shows us why it ended as it did, and how Norman evolved into a killer in his mother’s clothes.

The third series starts on Wednesday, and shows Norma setting out rules and boundaries for her deeply troubled son.



Last week, Sky Arts launched the new drama, 1992, and now here comes another new show for the channel, Sensitive Skin, which was originally broadcast on HBO, and that can be taken as a marker of its quality.

It’s a Canadian black comedy series starring Kim Cattrall,best known as Samantha from Sex and the City. She plays Davina, a former model and actress who’s suffering a classic mid-life crisis, though hers concerns sex and her appearance rather than splurging on fast cars.

Davina and her husband, Al, have given up their comfortable family home in the cosy suburbs and moved into hip downtown Toronto, feeling the need to transform their stagnating lives and recapture the energy of youth.

Of course, for this couple who’re slipping reluctantly into middle-age, things will not go smoothly, and they struggle to acclimatise to the cool and trendy city.

Sensitive Skin is a Canadian remake of the 2005 BBC comedy of the same name, which originally starred Joanna Lumley.


INSIDE NO 9, BBC2, 10pm

This is the best TV I’ve seen all year and I urge you to watch it.

I’m in dread of giving the plot away, so will only say I felt absolutely flattened by it, and had to pour myself a stiff, mid-afternoon brandy when it ended. The drink fortified me, and so I was able to stop trembling and proceed with my day but that night, after the lights were out, the story came rushing back and ruined me afresh. You must watch this!

This week’s episode stars the brilliant Sheridan Smith, with Michele Dotrice (forever known as Betty from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) as her mother, and it’s an awesome melding of nightmare, memory, the greatest horror and the deepest sadness.

It opens with Christine (Smith) bringing a man home for a one-night stand. From that moment, she begins to experience life strangely, having frightening visions of a man in her flat. I’ll end with saying it’s surely the best thing the ingenious Shearsmith and Pemberton have done. I tweeted the former after watching it to offer my stricken admiration and he said they’re very proud of this one. Proud? He should be parading the streets having golden roses tossed at his feet.


“Glasgow’s Miles Better” we told the world in the 1980s. The Victorian soot was blasted off our tenement walls, we hosted festivals and fancy shops and topped the renaissance off by being crowned City of Culture. Yet, for some people, Glasgow will always be about knives and gangs. Those who’re unimaginative, pessimistic, or just plain misinformed will only ever see Glasgow as “no mean city”.

This programme lies in the latter camp as its titillating title makes clear: it will show you footage of dank, dark East End streets, lined with shattered windows and wire fencing, pit bulls baring their teeth and neds baring their knives. It’ll show you the same old story.

However, the presenter, journalist Nick Wallis, will try and show the other side of the coin. He’ll investigate how some

Glaswegians are working on projects to combat crime and anti-social behaviour, partnering with the police and the health service to try and end knife crime – and maybe to try and bury the old images which still dog Glasgow.


If ever Jeremy Paxman was needed, he’s needed in this debate.

The leaders of the seven main parties in the UK will line up together and it’s hard to imagine how anything coherent will be heard over the inevitable squabbling and interruptions. Fearsome Jeremy is the only moderator I can see exercising any control but, instead, ITV are giving us Julie Etchingham. I’m already feeling concerned for her.

It’s a two hour debate between the party leaders, so we’ll have Cameron, Clegg, Miliband - the usual tiresome trio - and they’re joined by Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett from the Greens and

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru. Bennett has proven recently that she utterly lacks charisma and coherence, and I freely confess that I had to google Leanne

Wood, so let’s expect, and it’s quite a reasonable expectation, that it’s Sturgeon and Farage who’ll wrest the limelight away from the Westminster triplets, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.

Each leader will take questions from the audience individually before the gloves come off and we have a free debate between all seven. I’m looking forward to this but such a mammoth enterprise needs Paxman.