Billy Connolly’s Big Send Off, ITV, review: The Big Yin looks on the bright side of death

If you think you're having a "bad week", compare it to one of Billy Connolly's. On the Tuesday he was told he'd require a hearing aid; on the Wednesday he was given pills for heartburn that he'll need to take for the rest of his life; and on the Thursday he received the news that "the rest of his life" might not quite be as lengthy as hitherto assumed since he had prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease.

As the Big Yin related in last night's ITV documentary Billy Connolly's Big Send Off, it was a Tasmanian surgeon who approached him in a hotel to say that, "I don't want to depress you but your gait would suggest you had early-onset Parkinson's." What's the etiquette about that exactly – about telling a stranger that they might have a degenerative condition?

All power to the accuracy of his prognosis though – rather more impressive than the woman who ventured of the 71-year-old comedian at a voodoo ceremony in New Orleans that, "You're not well, are you?" Since most people would have naturally asked what a film crew was doing at the ritual, and would have been told that it was that white-haired old fella over there making a film about death, this "guess" wasn't exactly like backing a 100-1 outsider to win the Grand National.

ITV has a roster of celebrities it likes to pack off on their travels, and Connolly's last ITV series had him exploring the iconic American highway Route 66. This time he was travelling to Hamlet's "undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns", although Connolly presumably had various first-class return tickets as he criss-crossed the US. For, as Evelyn Waugh had discovered when researching his 1948 novel The Loved One, America provides rich pickings for both funeral businesses and Brits wanting to have a good old scoff.

Not that Connolly is one of nature's scoffers and he doesn't mind being thought sentimental, and if I was a Californian mortician, I'd rather deal with him than be loomed over by the deeply enigmatic Louis Theroux. His openness and easy manner charmed the locals, whether it was hugging the owner of a drive-thru funeral parlour – with no need to get out the car as you pay your respects to embalmed loved ones – or a Texas funeral convention with stands selling such products as "Bereave Mints", zombie-proof steel coffins and (like something out of Hannibal), an eco-death suit complete with fungi spores.

Connolly didn't like the idea of being eaten by mushrooms. Happily, his cancer is considered non-fatal and hopefully he won't have to give the matter more serious consideration for a wee while yet.

The unfairly neglected BBC America (broadcast on BBC3 over here) sci-fi drama Orphan Black was one of my favourite shows of last year, and last night's episode was the second in the new series. It's starting to evolve a complex mythology so this might be the last chance for newcomers to get a foothold, but all you really need to know is that features several cloned "sisters" being hunted by a nefarious outfit that believes it has legal ownership of their DNA.

Each of the sisters, both good and bad, in this subversively feminist drama (which, unlike the relentlessly larky Doctor Who, maintains just the right ratio of humour to thrills) is played by the über-talented Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany. Nominated for a Golden Globe, many people thought Maslany should have won it – and she might be worth a punt in 2015.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders