TV preview: Comic Relief 2017 (BBC1, 7pm) Charity, actually

Plus: International Football: England v Germany (ITV, Wednesday 7.15pm), Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday (BBC2, Saturday 9pm), Vera (ITV, Sunday 8pm), Primodos (Sky Atlantic Tuesday, 8pm), The Nightly Show with Dermot O'Leary (ITV, Monday to Thursday, 10pm)  

Click to follow

I have to admit that, without being unduly curmudgeonly, or uncharitable, I’ve never been much captured by the spirit of Children in Need or Red Nose Day, though I can’t deny their power as fundraisers. Ricky Gervais came closest to my verdict on it, when he created a memorable episode of The Office, where David Brent dresses up in a comedy ostrich outfit, plus red nose, on the day he got sacked from Wernham Hogg. 

Still and all, all the Red Nose days since 1985 have raised over £1bn for charities, and, despite what you read about foreign aid, I should think the great majority of that has transformed many lives for the better. Its TV form Comic Relief is back on our screens this Friday, and this year’s highlights – as you may already have gathered – include a reunion of Martine McCutcheon and Hugh Grant in a sequel to Love Actually, plus a bumper edition of ‘Carpool Karaoke’ with James Corden. You'll also get delivery of Jonathan Ross, Romesh Ranganathan, Miranda Hart, Rob Beckett, Greg Davies, Warwick Davis, Russell Brand, Joe Lycett, Luisa Omielan, Sally Phillips and Sir Lenny Henry. No dancing newsreaders, though.

An even more venerable TV tradition can be caught on Wednesday night, which is Germany playing England at football, this time in a friendly match from Dortmund. Even for those who don’t follow the beautiful game much, it’s an opportunity to see, one hopes, some top class football on terrestrial TV, something that has almost disappeared of course. Enjoy it while it lasts, and see how Gareth Southgate gets on in his first game as permanent manager of the England team (apologies, of course, to readers outside England).

In fact, the most venerable British institution enjoying an airing this week is Dame Vera Lynn who has reached the great age of 100, and the landmark is celebrated on BBC2 in Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday. So, she was born in the year of the Russian Revolution, was getting us through the second world war in her twenties, reached early retirement age half a century ago, and released her latest collection of songs only last year. Forces’ sweetheart, national treasure and, now, a remarkable representative of a generation that went through so much for so many. Not much more to add, except happy birthday. Also 100, by the way, are the imperial war museums, celebrated the same evening by the BBC. 

I ought also to mention another Vera, not quite as loved – Vera Stanhope. ITV’s latest variation on the TV cop theme is back rummaging for killers in Northumbria. Better than it sounds, in fact, I hope.

Last, but most highly recommended, is by far the saddest viewing of the next seven days. Primodos: the Secret Drug Scandal takes the story of a pregnancy testing drug, Primodos, that, it is alleged, left many babies with deformities, in some cases so severe that they ended their lives after only days. Sky News’ Jason Farrell produces much apparently new or rediscovered evidence from archives in Britain and Germany, talks to victims and survivors and asks the difficult questions about what this drug actually was.

Sky News is to be congratulated on committing the resources to this important project, and demonstrates, were proof needed, that it has come of age as a force in the kind of investigative public interest journalism that the old ITV channels sued to be so good at (if you remember This Week, Weekend World and World in Action you’ll know what I mean).

Which just gives me a cue to beg ITV to re-instate ITV News at Ten, and drop the brave but ultimately calamitous experiment of The Nightly Show. This week it’s Dermot O’Leary’s turn to die the death five nights a week. 

Comments