TELEVISION / 'Allo, 'allo. What's all this, then?: Andy Gill suffers a Year in Provence and Great Bores of Today

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The Independent Culture
A Year in Provence (Sunday, BBC1) is becoming more like a lifetime, each half-hour episode an eternity. This adaptation of Peter Mayle's bestseller has settled for being a routine sitcom in nice locations, its cast of corny, horny- handed paysans and brusque Brits ambling through a script of Zimmer- esque dash and brio.

This week's fun concerned Peter's soul-gnawing inability to screw up the courage to kick out the cuckoo in his nest, yuppy cliche Tony (Alfred Molina with portable phone attachment), while Annie mooned middle-agedly at Louie the pool-boy, who came complete with a shirt announcing 'I'm so sexy', just in case you hadn't twigged. Admittedly, this offered Lindsay Duncan a chance to stretch out, theatrically speaking, as otherwise her Annie seems to serve largely as a speaking-clock translator, repeating any French dialogue for the benefit of viewers sitting their O-levels.

You wondered how things could get much worse, but then Tony's executive bimbette girlfriend Marion (Catherine Rabett) arrived, a golly-goshing Sloane with an attitude problem, the problem being that she had no attitude. Peter was ready to throw in the towel, but a brisk stroll round the local market stiffened his resolve. 'We mustn't lose sight of how beautiful it all is,' he spluttered. 'Small goat cheeses wrapped in vine leaves . . . bunches of basil and garlic . . . tiny haricots verts . . .' So why didn't he just move closer to Marks & Spencer?

It has become de rigueur to compare Harry Enfield to the late Dick Emery, but Emery's characters were never as barbed as Enfield's. His and Paul Whitehouse's superannuated DJs Smashie and Nicey have become the Dame Ednas of the Nineties, scything celebrity pretension and faux-sincerity. This weekend they, along with virtually every satirical young gun in the country, were at Private Eye's Bore of the Year Awards (Saturday, BBC2) - the most smugmungously backslaptastic of all awards shows - to present an award and, in Nicey's case, to narrate the closing credits of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, whose powerful somnolence finally saw off an audience which had just witnessed the show spiral in upon itself, presenter Angus Deayton eventually receiving the Tony Slattery Award for Ubiquity.

Strangely, none of Slattery's or Deayton's voice-overs featured in the award for Most Irritating Advert, which datedly went to old J R Hartley. The funniest section of the Awards was the attempt by Michael Palin to go 'Kerb to Kerb' across Great Portland Street, though there were enough assorted chuckles and collected video embarrassments to satisfy the most humour-starved.

In The Beginner's Guide to the State We're In (Sunday, BBC2), novelist / lecturer Robert Wilson toured Britain to the accompaniment of a few moody REM electric piano chords, deliberately seeking out the most deprived members of our benighted kingdom to smoke his expensive ciggies in front of. It was as depressingly instructive as you'd expect, this tour of subsistence-level poverty. Some spoke of not daring to let themselves spend what little money they had managed to save - a fiver, maybe, or the pounds 30 one frugal soul had amassed over 18 months - in case their government chose to penalise them further in the future, by VAT-ing them over the head, maybe. Here was a community of fear, brow-beaten by the trickle-down economics that Wilson fruitlessly attempted to explain to them.

You'd imagine they would be pretty angry, but surprisingly, all managed to restrain themselves from chinning Wilson, whose character appeared to have been borrowed from a Lodge or Bradbury roman a campus. When one person he visited to interview happened to be out, he spoke, with no discernible irony, of the 'happy chance' of stumbling upon a single mother next door - and an Asian single mother, at that.

Wilson's fund of arrogant concern ran roughshod over all sensibilities, waged and unwaged, reaching a jaw-dropping apogee early on, as the camera drew back from a group of pensioners huddled round the bare, laminated table-tops of their social club to reveal Wilson on the other side of the room, tapping away at his laptop computer. It was lucky for him, you thought, that all the angry younger men had long since left the place in search of work elsewhere.