Weekend TV preview: Stunts, Stardust and ‘staches | Virgin Media
Weekend TV preview: Stunts, Stardust and ‘staches

Weekend TV preview: Stunts, Stardust and ‘staches

11/03/2016

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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 return of The Incredible Mr Goodwin, a great retrospective on David Bowie and a new, fun detective drama.

Dangerman: The Incredible Mr Goodwin

Friday 11th March at 9pm on Dave (CH 128)

Land Of Hope And Glory – British Country Life

If Jason Statham was a) an escape artist and b) possibly clinically insane, he'd be Jonathan Goodwin. Prepare to be dazzled, dumbfounded and more than a little scared.

Normally, anyone billed as a cross between Houdini and Superman would have us scoffing like a fat rich man in a Dickens novel. “Stuff and nonsense!” we’d chortle. But actually, Jonathan Goodwin may well be some kind of superhero. This is the guy who – in order to prove he could escape from manacles with minimum movement – had himself locked in a box full of bees. Imagine a man covered with a living cloak of bees. That was him. Another time, he did it with a scorpion in his mouth.

Now it’s time to see him perform more flabbergasting feats for our gawping amusement. We'll be seeing him walk up a skyscraper, set off a bear trap with his own helplessly fleshy limbs, and have himself attached to a car hurtling off a cliff. And it won't be just stunts we'll be seeing – he'll also let us into the intense training for each foolhardy event, showing us the levels of mad dedication that go into being an escapologist..

What’s the verdict?

Most celebs don't deserve the levels of money and adulation they receive. Even the great actors – they're just ACTING right? Whereas Mr Goodwin is undergoing senseless mental and physical trauma for our viewing pleasure. And unlike David Blaine, he isn't a prat about it. Watch and applaud.

Comedy Playhouse: Stop/Start

Friday 11th March at 10.35pm on BBC One (CH 101)

The Heart Of Country

Jack Docherty – who became a telly face in the old sketch show Absolutely – returns to our screens for this one-off comedy about three couples dealing with love, jealousy and the general annoyance of living in the 21st Century.

Ah, relationships. They suck, don’t they? Except for the good bits. But then there are the bad bits. Sometimes you just have to ask if it’s all worth it. The characters in this comedy do a lot of asking, and pontificating, and rationalising – often right to the audience, in a bit of fourth-wall-breaking cleverness. (Well, we say cleverness, but everyone’s at it these days, from Frank Underwood in House of Cards to Deadpool.)

These “asides” are part of the charm of this show, but the insights into relationships are often painfully compelling too. The set up is pretty effective – basically, three couples talk about their various issues – and it does a good job of contrasting very different kinds of love, from the tricky age-gap marriage to the fiery couple who spend all their time either arguing or being rampantly passionate. There are quips about jealousy and boredom, not to mention the awkward re-appearance of exes, and the stellar cast (including a perfect role for old smoothie Nigel Havers) helps things along nicely.

What's the verdict?

This one-off has the makings of a show that could be the new Cold Feet – except for the fact that actual Cold Feet will be back on our screens pretty soon. Just goes to show that the world of relationships will always make fertile ground for comedy to take root in. Well, you’ve got to laugh or cry. 

David Bowie – Five Years In The Making Of An Icon

Saturday 12th March at 8pm on Yesterday (CH 245)

Half Ton World

With contributions from legendary producer Brian Eno, who collaborated with Bowie on his monumental Berlin trilogy, this is a long, landmark love letter to one of the most influential artists ever to grace the world of pop music.

As every single news report and obituary constantly banged on about in the wake of his out-of-nowhere death, there was no "one" David Bowie – there were several. He didn't just change his style every so often. He BECAME new people, often to the detriment of his sanity (such as during the uncomfortable Thin White Duke period). The remarkable thing is this never became hilarious, or embarrassing (apart from his brief dip into jungle music in the late 90s, which we'll tactfully skirt over). This sprawling film, lush with footage of the man in action, charts his five most boldly inventive years.

And even the most seasoned and aloof Bowie fan will be thrilled by some of the treasures here. Outtakes from the iconic Life on Mars video! Amusing clips of a spaced-out Bowie – more alien than man – having to make polite chit-chat on primetime talk shows! Plus insights galore on his personas, from glam-rock god Ziggy Stardust to the cold, dangerous Thin White Duke, to the drug-ravaged Bowie who reinvented himself again with the Berlin albums.

What's the verdict?

This is an engrossing time warp of a documentary that will have everyone running back to listen to Bowie's 70s output all over again. And hopefully it'll convert any young scamps who would otherwise have assumed Scary Monsters was a Gaga song. Fools.

Bears Of Fear Island

Saturday 12th March at 10pm on Nat Geo Wild (CH 101)

China’s Ghost Army

Never mind going down to the woods today – this show goes to a far more ominous place: an island that’s home to the largest concentration of Alaskan brown bears anywhere on the planet. And things get pretty hairy.

May we just say right now that Fear Island is one of the all-time best names for an island, ever. It certainly beats, say, the Sandwich Islands. The only downside is that Fear Island isn’t actually home to some Bond villain’s subterranean super-fortress of doom. But what it does have is bears. A lot of bears. As this rather ravishing documentary reveals, there are something like 1,800 brown bears frolicking and stalking across the craggy landscape, and we certainly get up close and personal.

In the standard wildlife documentary way, a narrative of sorts is attached to all the goings-on. There is a “plotline” about a sudden lack of salmon in the region, a shortage which means the bears have to resort to eating everything from crabs to grass. Grass! Oh the indignity of such mighty predators having to go vegetarian. We also get an insight into inter-bear relations, and the particular fear that the smaller critters had for the larger ones, as well as the mother-son bonds which are tested by the merciless cruelty of Mother Nature.

What’s the verdict?

This isn’t just about bears – we are also treated to dreamy shots of sashaying whales, and smaller, nimbler creatures which call Fear Island home. Beautifully shot and filled with awe-struck reverence for its subject, this is wonderful to watch, even as it reveals the hardships of life in the wild.

Houdini & Doyle

Sunday 13th March at 10.15pm on ITV (CH 103)

Thirteen

Stephen Mangan gets his moustache on as Arthur Conan Doyle, while Michael Weston is the charismatic escapologist Harry Houdini, in what promises to be a spellbinding (if slightly silly) detective drama.

Chalk and cheese detective duos are nothing new – they’re the very backbone of the genre, let’s face it. But in this case, we’re not talking about any ordinary bit of chalk or cheese. We’ve got two of the most famous icons of the early 20th Century, who were apparently good pals in real life. This series takes that idea and runs with it, presenting Conan Doyle and Houdini as crime-solvers who approach each case from very different angles. Essentially, they’re Mulder and Scully, only with more tweed and facial hair.

Conan Doyle, despite inventing the uber-rational thinking machine Sherlock Holmes, was actually a bit of an airy-fairy believer in all things spooky and supernatural, while Houdini – who liked to present himself as a magical presence on stage – was actually a strict sceptic who went on to devote himself to debunking psychics, spiritualists and other con-artists. So in this series they’ll be bickering quite a bit about the various cases, Mulder and Scully style. First up, the death of a nun. Which is a suitably Gothic-sounding start, especially when an eyewitness claims a ghost was behind it...

What’s the verdict?

Expect plenty of posh banter, raised eyebrows and impassioned defences/attacks on supernatural phenomena. And while it’s all very cheesy really, the talented cast and inherent fascination with all things Conan Doyle should make this a bit of a hit. The game is afoot!

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