Stuck for what to watch on the box this weekend? Here’s a handy guide to the best of the unmissable TV coming up, including the Last Leg lads visiting Australia, amazing tips on how to save time and the epic return of The Jump.
Pierre Boulez at the BBC: Master and Maverick
Friday 29th January at 8pm on BBC Four (CH 107)
Celebrating the life of Pierre Boulez, who passed away at the age of 90 earlier this year, this documentary fizzed with ideas and conveyed both the grandeur and mystery of the musical pioneer.
Some might suggest that watching a serious documentary about an avant-garde composer is a strange way to spend a Friday night. But we would suggest the opposite: it’s the BEST way. Because, if you are going to spend a Friday in, then you should go all out. Embrace your hermitude. Don’t seek refuge in some chat show that will trick you into thinking you’re socialising. No: go for the most obscure, challenging, unashamedly highbrow thing imaginable, and OWN that Friday night in.
This documentary ticks all those boxes, and then some. The man was an eminent master of contemporary classical music, which is another way of saying he created sounds that make most people pull faces and reach for the Mozart. An acquired taste to be sure, but this programme does a fine job of providing the right context for understanding, as well as revealing fascinating moments from the man’s life, from his time at the BBC Symphony Orchestra to footage of him rehearing works by the likes of Debussy and Stravinsky. Also, we learn that he conducted with his hands, rather than a baton. Remember that for the next time you want to show off a trivia tidbit that will make no sense to anyone.
What's the verdict?
Not a programme for everyone, but many will find this an inspiring, rather moving look at a great innovator’s life. Music to our ears, in fact.
The Last Leg Goes Down Under
Friday 29th January at 10pm on Channel 4 (CH 104)
Suave, smirking Aussie comedian Adam Hills returns to Channel 4 for another bout of good-natured bad taste, but this time he’s taking his minions Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker back to the old country with him. Strewth!
During the 2012 Paralympics, when most journalists and commentators were busy making suitably admiring faces and coming out with the usual platitudes about how inspiring the occasion was, this is the kind of thing Adam Hills was saying: "There was blind long jump, blind football and blind athletics today. If you didn't see any of it, don't worry. Neither did they."
Thus, The Last Leg became the hippest show on the telly. The fact that Adam has a prosthetic foot himself gave him free reign to throw a custard pie in the face of PC and crack the sorts of jokes that would make your average BBC sports journalist swallow their own chin in fear. Now the motley trio are back, but with a rather unexpected twist: Adam is determined to prove how wonderful things are in his home country, which means taking his fellow chuckle-mongers to the Outback, for a mammoth 3,000-mile drive. First up, Uluru, where deadly snakes await.
What’s the verdict?
Last Leg going all Crocodile Dundee? We didn’t see this one coming, but we’re sure the sight of Josh looking all sweaty and pink and flustered and generally thoroughly British in the Outback will be worth the price of admission alone.
Saving Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid
Saturday 30th January at 8pm on National Geographic (CH 266)
Global experts in Egyptian history, as well as a team of engineers from Newport, Wales, feature in the story of how one of the most ancient and important structures in the world was saved from destruction.
When something dates back to the 27th Century BC, it's fair to assume it's not going to be in good nick. The Step Pyramid of Saqqara, also known as the Pyramid of Djoser, is certainly showing its age, after eons of earthquakes, trespassers, and the generally terrible, weathering effects of time marching on. This is bad news for the pyramid and bad news for our shared culture, because the structure isn't just a monument to Ancient Egypt, but an archaeological milestone of human civilisation.
So, yes, it's a pretty big deal that the roof was threatening to fall in. Luckily, a team of intrepid experts – including a firm from Wales, no less – are on the case. Their efforts are chronicled in this fascinating film, which shows just what it takes to keep an ancient burial chamber from giving up the ghost (literally, probably). Can the treasures within be saved?
What’s the verdict?
Tomb raiding is easy. It's tomb SAVING which takes real commitment and hassle, and history buffs will be riveted by the revelations on Egypt and pyramid building in this film. And the fact that British workers were key to it all makes it all the more enjoyable in a shamelessly patriotic kind of way. Let's go to work.
Extreme Time Cheaters
Saturday 30th January at 9pm on TLC (CH 167)
Thought “extreme couponing” was an unlikely basis for TV shows? Well now we reach the next level, with “extreme time cheating”. But are we wasting OUR time with this nonsense?
So on TLC we meet a couple called Barby and Ken. Which is surely peak TLC, right there, especially given their array of highly entertaining quirks. The couple, who we repeat are literally called Barby and Ken, have made it their mission to be as time efficient as possible, which means that Barby shaves her legs while working out in the pool, and takes dirty dishes into the shower with her so she can do the washing up while bathing herself. The couple even have ACTUAL HOOKS in the shower room to hang the pans.
Which is all very quirky indeed, although there is a vague undercurrent of seriousness, because Barby’s time-saving antics stems from an illness she had, which makes her conscious of how every second counts. That means also having colour-coded timesheets which schedule every last moment of their daily lives, including “intimate” moments (which happen to coincide with boiling the kettle, naturally), and scheduled periods in which they can, er, look at the schedule. Oh, and it seems that wearing flip-flops shaves six hours off the average person’s “putting on shoes” time every year.
What's the verdict?
Flabbergasting, fascinating, and the kind of show that makes you call friends and relatives over to the telly to verify that you’re not hallucinating and that these people ACTUALLY exist. Well done, TLC. Well done.
Sunday 31st January at 7.30pm on Channel 4 (CH 104)
Are you sad that the Winter Olympics are two years away? Well, here’s a worthy substitute: a gaggle of celebs in multi-coloured lycra, resembling X-Men on an acid trip. It's what the Ancient Greeks would have wanted.
Is it just us, or does Dean Cain strike you as a bit like the Peter Andre of America? The similarities are, you’ll agree, uncanny. Both big in the 90s. Both sort of Mediterraneanishly hunky. And both beaming with a kind of unstoppable air of optimism and cheerfulness, quite at odds with their bizarre career trajectories. Look at Dean Cain now, gamely putting on his garish ski gear to do silly snow-related things for Channel 4. The bloke was SUPERMAN for goodness sake. Now he’s a reality show marionette. But he’s happy with that. Look at his big happy face. He’s great.
Also along for the ride are the likes of James “Arg” Argent, Tamara Beckwith and the iconic Sid Owen. As is usual with these sorts of things, there are also some actual, proper sporting types thrown into the mix – so look out for Linford Christie and Rebecca Adlington trying not to look too embarrassed among the C-listers. The first episode sees them getting stuck into the skeleton event, and the infamous Air Jump. Goggles on, everyone.
What’s the verdict?
Davina McCall's on bellowing duties as the host, and we like her. So even the archest talent show cynics shouldn't give The Jump the cold shoulder. It's got Dean Cain. And it’ll make you snigger, and that's about as much as you can ask of anything featuring Sid Owen waggling his arms helplessly in skintight lycra.
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