Today, December 11


This new series sends Alex Polizzi to meet four ex-servicemen who’re having trouble finding jobs now that they’re back on civvy street.

Although a noble project, the show often feels like sentimental propaganda: there are plenty of people who’re stuck in long-term unemployment, and many who’re in work but still experiencing hardship with zero hours contracts, chronic insecurity and low wages, so why is Polizzi not bouncing off to rescue them? Why is it only ‘heroes’ who’re deserving of help?

Admittedly, the men who feature in the programme have suffered greatly. One of them, Lee, has PTSD having witnessed a bus explosion in Iraq and speaks of seeing burning body parts, though he surely needs psychological help rather than a bubbly business expert who’s going to ‘mentor’ him.

These men carry various injuries but we realise these aren’t the sole cause of their unemployment. Instead, it might be linked to the prejudices of prospective employers who might regard ex-soldiers as a dangerous or unwholesome prospect. The same might be said for a teenager from a rough council estate who doesn’t have the proper accent, education or social skills. They need help too, but wouldn’t merit the sentimental use of the word ‘heroes’.


In this episode Gino visits Sicily and, if various films and TV shows are accurate, then the Sicilians don’t consider themselves Italian – they are Sicilian first and last – and so they might not appreciate being lumped in with the other destinations as an ‘Italian escape’. But perhaps the Sicilians don’t watch STV…

Gino visits the towns of Noto and Modica which elevates this programme above a simple, sunny, foodie show because I’d wager most of us haven’t heard of these places and think of Sicily merely as Palermo, Mount Etna and acres of beautiful lemon groves; so it was a nice surprise to be taken to these relatively unknown towns, both of which are filled with stunning Baroque architecture and awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Yet Gino isn’t here for the architecture, beautiful though it is; he’s here to celebrate the food and he uses Sicily’s plentiful lemons to make a tangy lemon risotto and also tries some weird food combinations, sampling a dessert made with strawberries and tomatoes and a pastry stuffed with chocolate and beef.


I’m lucky enough (and I use that word with great sarcasm) to live with a Star Wars fanatic. When I told him that its “definitive history” was being broadcast on Channel 5 he immediately wanted to know who was featuring in the show but when I told him that the two main contributors were Gary Kurtz and Robert Watts, he was dismissive.

These men were producers on Star Wars and so hold little appeal for the die-hard fans who’ll want to hear from the actors, or the people who designed the robots, or assembled the spaceships or came up with the storylines. They don’t care for the men in suits as they represent reality and chequebooks, not fantasy and wee bears (Sorry, ewoks).

So don’t watch this in the company of Star Wars fanatics as they’ll just irritate you – though some might say they’ll irritate you regardless of what you watch. This show is a pleasant little walk through the film’s history, starting off with tales of the young George Lucas and showing how he went on to create the famous film series. 

It’s not a “definitive” history but you weren’t expecting that from Channel 5 anyway.

Tomorrow, December 12


I WAS worried in the early episodes that this series was becoming quite absurd. When Saga and Henrik had to enter a ghost train at an empty funfair only to find Hans crucified, it seemed to be verging on comic-book horror. There was also the fear that Saga might seem too robotic in her inability to relate to people or to speak kindly to grieving families, but I’m happy to say these problems have resolved themselves. The outlandish murder scenes are explained by the killer’s desire to recreate artworks, and Saga’s detachment is being softened by the irritating presence of her mother which is forcing emotional reactions and keeping her character away from being too blunt and unnatural.

In this episode, the seventh, two burglars break into a house only to get a nasty shock when they discover the latest murder scene. An elderly couple have been murdered, with the man receiving a particularly gruesome injury, and Henrik realises it conforms to an artwork called Cancel Christmas.

The dead couple were foster carers so the police get a list of their former children and begin trying to find relevant names amongst them.


WHO’D have thought it? Of the two actors in Peep Show, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, it’s the former who’s gone on to bigger success elsewhere, leaving his younger and better-looking partner behind. Mitchell is all over BBC2 and 4, is a regular on the radio, and has a column in a national newspaper whereas poor Webb is reduced to doing adverts for the Post Office and price comparison sites and appearing on TV channels such as 5 and Watch.

He presents this programme which is a two-hour festival of nostalgia, taking us back to Christmases past when children were given real toys, not sleek iPads, smartphones and tablets.

The toys here will provoke warm memories amongst everyone who’s 35 or over, and bafflement amongst anyone younger. 

Try explaining to a technology-dependent child how you could lose hours drawing fantastic patterns with a Spirograph set, or making surreal pictures with Fuzzy Felt, or playing football with a Subbuteo set instead of onscreen. Kids of today, they don’t know what they’re missing.

TOTP2, BBC2, 10.45pm

IT’S odd how the famous Christmas songs are hugely cheesy and irritating but once the calendar reaches mid-December it’s as though a switch is flicked and suddenly they become festive and warm. Listening to them, you feel the urge to bake ginger biscuits shaped like snowflakes, put on a daft reindeer jumper and look out the scissors and sellotape to start wrapping up presents. It must be what they call “Christmas spirit”.

This edition of TOTP2 brings out all the old Christmas favourites from the Top of The Pops archive, such as Wizzard, Slade, The Pogues, Wham! and Jona Lewie, but there also some less traditional Christmas hits such as songs by Adele, Cilla Black and Tom Jones.

It also features Pulp singing Common People in front of some white Christmas trees. The latter is hardly a Christmas song, so I’m not sure why it made an appearance on festive Top of the Pops, having been released in May 1995.

Sunday 13 December


When I reviewed the first episode of The Hunt back in November several people commented they were horrified by the brutality. I shrugged, saying “That’s nature”. How do they think wild animals eat? Cheetahs and tigers don’t have supermarkets; they need to hunt and kill.

However, those who were upset by the violence might be pacified somewhat by this final episode which is devoted to conservation.

David Attenborough reminds us there is a conflict between people and wildlife as mankind claims ever more space and resources. “Humans have created this crisis but we also have the power to resolve it”, he says. He introduces us to the “pioneers at the front line” who’re trying to help animals survive in the face of the world’s worst predator: us.

We start with the tiger, an animal once on the verge of extinction but who is now making “a comeback”. So how was this achieved? Tigers who live in India’s forests were nearly wiped out by poaching and the destruction of forests which cut their numbers in the last century from 300,000 to just 2,000. Thankfully, India changed its laws to protect the tiger but can these rules stand up against the country’s incredible population growth and the competition for space which will result?


‘Astronauts Wanted’ said the advert and Tim Peake decided to apply.

He’ll be the first British astronaut to carry out a mission on the International Space Station and is due to lift off on 15th December. To mark the occasion the BBC are showing the video diary which Tim has kept for the last six months, giving us the insider’s view of what it’s like to train for spaceflight.

The training takes six years and isn’t just about physical and technical aspects; Tim also had to learn Russian as that’s the language of all the instructions and commands on board – and he had to learn technical Russian, not just how to say “Hello. Where is the tourist office?”

He’s not nervous about going to space. Instead, he’s nervous about failing the programme and therefore not going into space. I’m glad he’s honest enough to admit to some anxieties as this makes him human rather than a heroic figure from a 1950s sci-fi comic.

He’s training in Star City and zips around the centre on a bike but, as launch day approaches, he becomes hyper-aware of safety because any little scrape or sprain from cycling could render him invalid and cancel out his six years of training.


This documentary is about the “mavericks whose radical ideas changed dance forever.”

Dance was stuck in delicate and frilly tradition and this is the story of the revolution that was ushered in by modern dance, and it’s told through the most famous works and notorious performances.

Modern dance sought to introduce a new era which would no longer be about “swans and royalty”. Instead it’d be a daring world where a ballerina could mock the traditions by sticking a papier mache bun on her shaved head. After all, without this rebellious spirit, “it’s not dance, it’s exercise.”

The story starts with Isadora Duncan, who’s perhaps more well-known for her infamous death where her neck was broken when her fluttering scarf became tangled in the wheels of her open-topped car. Duncan was the “icon” of the new wave of American female dancers who performed in loose clothes rather in constricting ballet outfits and tight pointe shoes. “She will dance not in the form of a nymph or fairy or coquette but in the form of a woman…This is the mission of the dancer of the future.”


“He was a sort of imp from another planet!”

This documentary about Kenny Everett, who died in 1995, is packed with contributions from his showbiz friends, including Barry Cryer, Chris Tarrant, Billy Connolly and Paul Gambaccini but we also hear from Kenny himself in generous archive footage.

We start with his childhood. He was born in Liverpool on Christmas Day during the war and Everett makes affectionate fun of his mother, a polite and traditional lady who would have hated to be considered ‘common’ so would carefully arrange a fruit bowl on top of the TV (a terrible place to put your fruit, Everett declares) and would never permit her young son to take a piece as it would upset her nicely arranged display.

His father wasn’t quite so genteel, being a tugboat captain on the Mersey and possessing a wicked sense of humour.

From this childhood, a combination of strict manners and cheeky jokes, we trace his journey as he became one of the most beloved and daring comedians of the 1980s.