Television Review

THE ART OF television reviewing being based around videotape, I watched the Two Minutes' Silence (all channels) five minutes after watching a tearstained Thora Hird recount an Alan Bennett fictionalisation of a France-bound soldier's last date in Talking Heads: Waiting for the Telegram (BBC2). It's not so long ago that moves were afoot to put an end to the Armistice Day remembrances on the grounds that they were in some way a celebration of war. I'm glad that we have finally regained sufficient sophistication to understand that they are exactly the opposite. ITV's cameras had captured the Queen, looking customarily but appropriately grim in Paris, the service in Ypres, and an affecting outdoor ceremony in Staffordshire. I found myself, like, I am sure, many people who observed the ritual, in tears.

I tend toward the lachrymose during ceremonies like this anyway, but Talking Heads hadn't helped. The current series has been a bit like, well, the last series: lots of Bennettisms such as "He could've been a bank manager, except he had no socks on", grim situations, northern accents, dreary decor. He always seems to step up a gear, though, when the divine Thora Hird is involved; "A Cream Cracker Under the Settee" was one of those plays that people still talk about, and Waiting for the Telegram was so depressing that they'll be talking about it again.

Hird, a redoubtable 85 years old herself, played a 95-year-old stroke victim, mouldering in a home as everyone - the woman in the bed next door, her favourite nurse, Francis - died around her. And her stroke-led dysphasia kept pulling her back to the time of the Great War, when she had learned much of the lost vocabulary. When, searching for the word "telegram" she said "Lad comes on a bike, folk stood at the door weeping". You knew then there were going to be no let-ups. This was relentlessly depressing, powerfully political and undoubtedly memorable.

David Attenborough's (I'm sure half the adult population must by now have dreams narrated by the man) Life of Birds (BBC1) furnished another example of the savagery of the world in this week's episode, "Meat Eaters". The BBC wildlife unit always produces quite gobsmacking images, but they had really surpassed themselves this time: you've never seen so much gore so finely portrayed in such short a period of time.

In 45 minutes, we saw a falcon swoop on a flock of African sparrows (for whom, as always, Attenborough had built up some empathy with the viewer by describing their cute seed- eating lifestyles), a sheerwater chick dragged from its nest and butchered by a flock of parrots and a vole tracked down by a kestrel whose ultra violet spectrum vision showed up the urine around its burrow as bright yellow. It also showed vultures shoving their heads right up inside rotting cadavers, vervet monkeys dragged to their deaths by African crowned eagles, iguanas ripped limb-from-limb, and shrikes ripping apart their prey on acacia thorns. And all in the most gloriously clear, feather-ripping close-ups a cameraman could dream of.

Forget the miracles of nature: I will never cease to marvel at the miracle of being able to look at pouncing owl full in the face without suffering the consequent gouged eyes.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam