Plus: Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins shows you what equality between the sexes really looks like
As the Allies advanced towards Germany in September 1944, their supplies were brought all the way from western Normandy in a constant shuttle convoy known as the Red Ball Express. If you were making a realistic movie about this, three quarters of the truck drivers would be played by black actors, because that’s how it was in real life.
Similar rules would have to apply to any remake of Zulu or Zulu Dawn. It is an awkward but inescapable historical fact that there was no diversity whatsoever among Cetewayo’s Impis: they were all, resolutely, from the same African tribe. At the Battle of Crécy, on the other hand, every single participant was white European — even the misleadingly named Black Prince — so any movie version probably wouldn’t involve a call to Samuel L. Jackson’s casting agent.
Don’t watch The Sinner (originally on Netflix; now on BBC4) because, despite your better judgment, you’ll only get addicted after its irresistibly grabby opening. A pretty if slightly distraite mother called Cora Tannetti — Jessica Biel — is on a lakeside beach with her bearded beta cuck husband and their little boy, surrounded by other relaxed groups of weekend picnickers. Suddenly, she takes huge exception to a hunky male sitting nearby and derangedly stabs him to death with a fruit knife. Why?
That’s why it’s being sold as a new genre — the ‘whydunit’ — because obviously we know whodunit already. With seven more episodes to go, it’s probably safe to assume that the answer is much more complicated — but not nearly as plausible — as the one I gave to the Fawn at the end of episode one. ‘I know exactly why she did it,’ I said. ‘Why?’ said the Fawn. ‘Because she’s a woman…’ I said.
Plus: congratulations to Peter Jackson for one of the most superb pieces of trolling I’ve ever witnessed on TV in They Shall Not Grow Old.
Narcos is back on Netflix, set in Mexico this time, with a cool, world-weary, manly voiceover swearily lecturing us at the beginning that if we smoked sensemilla in the 1970s, then we were partly responsible for the bloody, endless drug wars that went on to kill more than half a million people.
Oh really? Sensemilla (derived from the Spanish for ‘without seeds’) is the kind of product of human ingenuity and free markets we should be celebrating, not decrying. It’s more compact than bog-standard weed, making it easier for entrepreneurs to ship, thereby increasing their profit margins. It affords a sweeter-tasting hit and a more euphoric high, thereby giving greater pleasure to the consumer.
Of course I empathise with the victims of the drug wars, such as the 43 students kidnapped and massacred in Iguala, Mexico, in 2014.
The phrase ‘get woke, go broke’ captures well why Doctor Who was losing fans – and I’m not sure the writing in the new series dispenses with this problem.
You won’t be aware of this because the BBC has been keeping it very quiet. But the new Doctor Who is — wait for it — a woman!
Let me say straight away that Jodie Whittaker is a delight. Opening as the new Doctor is never easy — all that tiresome establishing rigmarole you have to go through along the lines of ‘I’m feeling all funny. Almost like I’m a completely different actor but in the same body. What can it be? Who am I? Has anyone watching at home worked it out yet?’ But already we like her. Yes, at the moment she’s still a bit of a mishmash of previous Doctors but this will change as she grows into the role. Definitely, though, she’s a personality that we’ll be more than happy to explore the galaxy and fight monsters with every Sunday and her casting was a much-needed fillip to a flagging brand.
You don’t get quite the same production values in things like C5’s How the Victorians Built Britain but you don’t get the PC bollocks of Bodyguard and King Arthur’s Britain
What a load of utter tripe Bodyguard (BBC1, Sundays) was. Admittedly, I came to it late having missed all the sex scenes with Keeley Hawes and Robb Stark, which may have dazzled me in the way they seem to have dazzled many impressionable viewers.Sex scenes in TV drama are a bit like the chaff used by fighters to distract radar-guided missiles. You’re so busy feeling simultaneously awkward and embarrassed and half-titillated, covering your eyes with your fingers, wishing your other half wasn’t watching with you because then it would be proper porn and you could enjoy it, that you sometimes forget to notice what convoluted, implausible tosh the surrounding drama is.
Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often. The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence. For instance, there is very high confidence that there will be more extreme events – floods, droughts, heatwaves etc. – but attributing an individual event, such as the UK’s winter floods in 2013/2014, to climate change is much less certain.
We must also be careful to distinguish between the statements. For example: “Climate change makes this kind of event both more frequent and more severe,” and “Climate change caused this event”. The former uses previous scientific evidence to say ‘it is likely’ the event is the result of climate change, whereas the latter may be making an assertion without the proof to back it up.
What’s the BBC’s position?
Man-made climate change exists: If the science proves it we should report it. The BBC accepts that the best science on the issue is the IPCC’s position, set out above.
But the BBC has decided the era of the middle-aged male presenter is over, which is why the only thing I can bear to watch is Bondi Rescue.
All the good non-fiction things that were ever on TV — from Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation to David Attenborough’s Planet Earth(the bits where he’s not proselytising about climate doom, I mean), from Andrew Graham-Dixon’s arty jaunts to Italy to Jonathan Meades’s bizarro forays into architecture, from The World at War to all those more recent war porn documentaries narrated by Sam West, from Werner Herzog’s Little Dieter Needs To Fly to Louis Theroux doing a number on Jimmy Savile — have one thing in common: they were all made by middle-aged men.
Middle-aged men are the business. They’re comfortable in their skin; they’ve got hinterland and character; they’ve put in the hard yards and the long hours getting to know their stuff in that obsessive way only men really do; they’ve replaced the glibness and flashiness and irritating bumptiousness of youth with sly wit and bruised wisdom; they’ve mastered their craft, they know their shit — and now they’re giving the rest of us the benefit of their expertise, as middle-aged men have been doing since time immemorial.
University Challenge – Britain’s best quiz show – is making its questions “gender neutral” to encourage more women to participate.
If you believe the show’s executive producer Peter Gwyn, this is a jolly good thing:
“Perhaps ‘gender-neutrality’ is what we aim for,” Mr Gwyn said. “We try to ensure that when hearing a question, we don’t have any sense of whether it was written by a man or a woman, just as questions should never sound as if they are directed more at men than women.
“We believe very strongly that the more representative, inclusive and diverse we can make the programme, the better and more interesting it will be.”
No it won’t make the programme better and more interesting. It’s a disaster.
We’ve already had a taste of this in the increasing preponderance of boring questions about obscure also-rans from history who have only made the cut by dint of the fact that they’ll help fill the programme’s gender quota. “Which composer of Fantasia on Crochet, rated by JS Bach as the third most-talented lutanist in Leipzig, first made her name…”
Yawn. No one cares. No one’s interested. There are only so many questions you can ask about famous people where the answer is Marie Curie – so let’s move on and accept the fact that almost everything notable in history that was done in science, literature, politics, war, religion or any other field was done by men.
The Daily Mail has published a rubbish piece by Michael Howard, former leader of Britain’s Conservative party, attacking Donald Trump, claiming that man-made global warming is real and that Margaret Thatcher was a true believer.
The piece is headlined “30 years ago, Mrs Thatcher warned of man-made global warming. I fear this blazing summer is proving her right.”
It’s drivel – worthy, if one could be bothered, of a complaint on grounds of accuracy to the press regulator IPSO.
I’ll detail its faults in a moment. The fact that so rigorous and robust a newspaper should publish such dross is worrying indeed.
Though some loathe its mix of prurience and sanctimony, the Mail is one of the last truly great British newspapers. Its journalists do real journalism. It is tightly edited. It is a bastion of conservative values and it speaks for Middle England, as it showed when – against its proprietor’s wishes – it stood up for Brexit. Also, for years it has stood out as one of the few media strongholds of climate scepticism. Often it has published pieces by Christopher Booker – and in its Sunday edition by David Rose – and also by me on occasion exposing the flaws in the climate consensus.
Plus: the women who love Jeffrey Dahmer: Netflix’s Dark Tourist reviewed.
Apparently there’s a new ‘character’ on University Challenge. I wouldn’t know. Last year, I vowed never again to raise my blood pressure by exposing myself to its new, gender-balanced questions: ‘Your starter for ten: which composer of Serenade for My Cat, rated by her father as the equal of Bach’s Goldberg Variations…’ Don’t know. Don’t care. You bastards ruined it, just like you ruined Sanpellegrino and Lucozade.
Same applies, now I think about it, to all the other programmes on the BBC. I never watch anything on it for pleasure these days: only out of duty — to see what the enemy is thinking — and also so I can keep up to date my list of all the people I’m going to have exiled to bare rocks in the Outer Hebrides when I’m king. It’s the kindest thing. They can live on puffins and inbred Soay sheep and discover their inner selves.