Television choices: The creative flair and keen image of a camera king


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Arena: Norman Parkinson

Sunday 9pm & 2.30am BBC4

"What a flirt he was," recalls Iman in this beguiling centenary profile of Norman Parkinson, the fashion photographer who began life in middle-class suburbia as Ronald Smith before re-inventing himself as society snapper of choice to Thirties debs. Other muses interviewed are Jerry Hall, Celia Hammond (filmed at her cat sanctuary, Hammond is unimpressed by his sideline in pork sausages, the so-called "Porkinson sausage") and Uma Thurman's mother, Nena von Schlebrugge. Parkinson's repeated ability to re-invent himself was key, says Grace Coddington of US Vogue, and with access to the Parkinson Archive, there is plenty to illustrate the genius of the man with the "magic hat". Apparently, he wouldn't open his shutter without it.

The United States of Television: America in Primetime

Saturday 10.15pm BBC2

Alan Yentob explores the history and influence of US drama series and sitcoms, tracking the social changes that have transformed America along the way. He begins by examining the depictions of fathers on the small screen, with help from Ron Howard, David Lynch, Rob Reiner, David Chase, Jon Hamm and James L Brooks.

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild

Monday 9pm Channel 5

The presenter-adventurer meets those who have left the rat race behind, starting on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. David Glasheen, who lost his fortune, marriage and home in the stock market crash of 1987, is the sole inhabitant of a volcanic island, living in a house made of recycled material and making beer to trade. And drink, I hope.

The Wright Way

Tuesday 10.35pm BBC1

Ben Elton pays homage to the classic BBC1 studio-audience sitcom in his first new scripted comedy in a decade – David Haig playing a health and safety officer given to mishaps with blow-dryers, dishwashers and other modern conveniences. The style is more The Thin Blue Line than Blackadder, and a lesbian daughter apart, could have been written in the Seventies.

10 O'Clock Live

Wednesday 10pm Channel 4

Whenever I hear the words "topical satire" on British television, I reach for my remote control, and the first two series of Channel 4's, eek, topical satire has done little to change that. It's a talented cast (David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker, Lauren Laverne), so maybe they'll get there. Where? I imagine the hoped-for destination is a UK version of The Daily Show.

The Politician's Husband

Thursday 9pm BBC2

Paula Milne follows up her 1995 drama series, The Politician's Wife (Juliet Stevenson blistering as the wronged MP's spouse), with a three-parter starring David Tennant and Emily Watson as married politicians, he the more ambitious until a leader- ship coup goes awry. A tasty saga of power (political and domestic), betrayal and revenge, with Watson as terrific as ever.

Ben Earl: Trick Artist

Friday 9pm Channel 4

Ben Earl is the new Derren Brown, although with Brown going for bigger stunts, it leaves quite a wide field for the illusionist who got his big break on Penn and Teller: Fool Us. He takes a different theme each week: starting with crime, he leaps from the top of a moving car, goes to prison to perform with ex-convicts, and teaches the public how to pick pockets.