Take tonight's The Last Night of the Proms (Sat BBC1/2), a normally innocuous, faintly ludicrous event full of flag-waving high spirits. A piece by John Adams entitled Short Ride in a Fast Machine has already been pulled, which is a shame as it's a thrilling piece of contemporary music. It's replaced by Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man - or, as we perhaps ought to call it now, "The People's Fanfare". On the other hand, the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde (British princess dies tragically young in France) remains. Seriously, though, in what taste is the jingoistic vulgarity of the traditional finale - "Jerusalem", "Rule Britannia" etc - belted out just yards up the road from Kensington Palace?
Oh well, if you fancy something astringent you could do worse than Alan Clark's History of the Tory Party (Sun BBC2). Refreshingly short on humbug, as usual, Clark's series begins with him standing in front of Tory Central Office in the early hours of 1 May, as Labour Party supporters harangue the silent, darkened building. There follows a series of soundbites in which prominent Tories try to summarise the Conservative ethos, most amusingly Lord Carrington, who asks warily: "What does everybody else say?". The way the Tory party regularly sheds its grandees, by the way, like a snake shedding its skin, is the subtext of the first programme, which follows the party's formation in the Carlton Club "revolution" of 1922. "A government of the second XI", Winston Churchill called the administration of Andrew Bonar Law - echoing the sort of snipes made against John Major's government by the original Thatcherite rebels. Of whom, of course, Clark was one.
Boomark (Sat BBC2) goes back to Alex's Haley's Roots, the bestseller in which Haley purported to trace his African origins to a Gambian slave called Kunta Kinte, and claims that Haley was a plagiarist and that his genealogy was fraudulent. Omnibus (Sun BBC1) goes inside the portals of Royal Academy to look at the effect on the crusty art establishment as it prepares to pay host to "Sensation", the exhibition of "Brit Pack" artists, including Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and, of course, that portrait of Myra Hindley. And The Decision (Sat C4) has a persuasively sympathetic film about female-to-male transsexuals, following three of the 17,000 Britons who feel trapped in the wrong body, as they travel to Holland in search of hormones and penises.
Have you noticed how Liverpudlians have taken over from the Irish as the butt of "politically correct" English jokes. What do you call a scouser in a white shell suit? The bride. That sort of thing. Jimmy McGovern's promising new four-part drama The Lakes (Sun BBC1) gets around this prejudice against young Liverpudlian males by making all the people his protagonist comes up against as he seeks hotel work in the Lake District primed and bigoted against him. It works on our sympathies. The writhing buttock count is high in this one, by the way. What is it with TV dramas and the Lake District - remember Melvyn Bragg's A Time to Dance? It must be the fresh air.Reuse content