‘Riviera is the new Night Manager,’ I read somewhere. No, it’s not. Riviera (Sky Atlantic, Thursday) is the new Eldorado — except, unlike the doomed early 1990s soap opera in which Tony Holland attempted to recreate the success of EastEnders on the Costa del Sol, it has at least been glamorously relocated to Nice, Monaco, New York etc.
The settings are the best thing about it. Those Mediterranean palaces with sun-bleached brick-red plaster and bougainvillea and shimmery blue pools and the sun-loungers arranged just so by invisible but discreetly attentive staff: we’ve most of us had the experience at some time or another, either because we’ve lucked out and been invited by an uber-plutocrat friend or, more likely, because we’ve paid through the nose for a weekend at one of the myriad hotels that now specialise in recreating that Onassis in the 1970s experience.
And when we’ve had it we’ve all thought to ourselves, ‘Yes. This is it. This is exactly how my life is going to be when I win the lottery/write my bestseller/cash in my small hedge fund.’ Then we’ve gone home and realised, ‘Actually, no, my life is shite and always will be.’ So watching a series about tanned women with sunglasses who’ve never had to work and men with linen suits, Ferraris and Vertu mobile phones becomes our next best thing.
I think I might be about the second-last person on earth finally to have replaced his squat, bulbous, stone-age TV set with one of those new angled, wide-screen, narrow, HD-ready jobs. My worry is it’s not big enough.
‘No, you can’t have a 50-inch. No way are you having a 50-inch. Not in MY house,’ said the wife, as the kids and I all begged and begged to no avail.
Of course, I understand where the wife is coming from. There was indeed an era when to have a large TV screen dominating your sitting room would have been considered vulgar or nouveau-riche or what we now call chavvy. But that was 20 years ago. Times have changed. Plus, I’m a TV critic — sort of — so I jolly well should.
The other new technology we’ve just acquired is a Virgin box because we’ve just changed our account from Sky so as to get one of those all-in phone, internet and digital TV deals. I’m not yet convinced the service is any better. The Virgin box makes a terrible loud whirring noise, whereas the Sky box was quieter. But it does have one clever feature — a Catch Up TV function — which means you don’t have to worry about videoing stuff any more. You can just scroll through a menu and catch up with all the worthwhile programmes you missed.
This is what I did with The Day of the Triffids (BBC1).