Television Review: EastEnders

TELEVISION, WHICH you would think was the supreme here-and-now medium, is obsessed with the idea that things ain't what they used to be. Everyone is trying to re-create the past. On last night's EastEnders (BBC1), Melanie was trying to recapture the magic with Steve; Ricky and Sam were waxing nostalgic about what everybody seems to agree was an appalling marriage; and Mark was getting misty-eyed over his ex-wife.

Meanwhile, Monty Don was trying to remake a piece of horti-cultural history in Lost Gardens (C4). Don and his team - Ann-Marie Powell, Dr Toby Musgrave and the fundamentally implausible Dr Twigs Way - gave themselves five days to rebuild an overgrown Japanese garden at Gatton Park in Surrey, formerly home to the mustard magnate Sir Jeremiah Colman: Ground Force meets House Detectives.

The house and its grounds had gone to seed after a fire one night in 1934 - which pointed up the wisdom of EastEnders' Ricky Butcher, the Kierkegaard of Albert Square. After he found his sister dead drunk on the beach and on the point of being washed away by the tide, Ricky remarked: "Makes you fink. One night of madness and you can lose everything." (He also observed that as long as you've got people that care about you, you're one of the lucky ones. Pay attention, you could learn something.)

Lost Gardens was a peculiar mix of academic passion and frantic activity. While Dr Musgrave groped through the undergrowth and Dr Way leafed through the Royal Horticultural Society's archives in search of information about the original garden, Powell and her team of diggers, choppers and planters battled against pouring rain, sucking mud and 60 years of vegetable detritus. By the end of the five days, the garden was only just this side of a building- site; but two months on, and cleaned up a bit, it looked pretty good. The whole programme was rather effective - never too slow-moving or too simple-minded to be dull, and with enough unselfconscious enthusiasm to stir the emotions. Still, it did seem an odd way to pay tribute to a more leisured age.

In The 1900 House (C4), the Bowlers, still struggling to lead a late Victorian life in modern, thrusting Charlton, were finding out about leisure the hard way. Forced to rely on the old-fashioned pleasures of conversation and "making your own entertainment", they were going slowly insane. Mrs Bowler - Joyce - began by reading out a passage from Sherlock Holmes about how he resorted to cocaine as a cure for boredom. "I know exactly how it feels to be stuck in a Victorian boring... mind-numbingly boring existence," she told the camera, eyes stretching wide in amazement at the magnitude of the tedium she had encountered.

In line with the programme's commitment to authenticity, she took to injecting a seven per cent solution of charlie, while Mr Bowler reacted against Victorian repression by heading up to the East End to pick up a tart. Well, not really. In fact, he settled for reading an antique copy of the Illustrated London News, while his older daughter, Kathryn, pored over the Girls' Own Paper: "Boring stories. No sex. No drugs. No alcohol. Nothing." I did not think she had quite got the hang of the 1900 mindset.

As a treat, the family trooped off to a Victorian-style music-hall evening, which they thought was fantastic - evidence of how far their wits had been decayed by their monotonous existence. Kathryn was so excited that she and Joyce decided to audition for the music hall themselves, ignoring warnings that going on stage would make them little better than prostitutes.

Perhaps it was fortunate for the family's good name that they failed the audition: the reason given was that their act was "too modern".

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
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.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?