Last Night's Television - Russell Brand: Skinned, Channel 4; Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure, ITV1

The lengths he'll go to

Take a likeable minor television celebrity, a random location, an offbeat activity, affix the word "adventure" to the title, and voilà: two hours' worth of prime-time programming. Hence, Stephen Tompkinson's African Balloon Adventure,
Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure, and Adam Woodyatt's Galashiels Spelunking Adventure (I made the last one up). Anyway, ITV1 is fond of the format, and of Robson Green. Thus, Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure – that one was real – which began with a dream sequence, of the young Green trotting through a pastoral idyll, freshwater stream and all.

Green has always been drawn to water, he explained as he revisited Seaton Burn, where he, "Snadge" and "Bananas" used to swim as children. (He didn't clarify whether Snadge and Bananas were siblings, friends or family pets.) His miner father, whom he idolised, used to chuck him into the North Sea in his Y-fronts. And since Green Sr's recent passing, Green Jr had decided to swim to Holy Island, in their native North-east, as a tribute of sorts. We'll have to wait until next week to find out whether he made it.

Green is a strong amateur swimmer, but there's a big difference between a few lengths of the local indoor pool and an endurance swim through bone-chilling open sea. So, to prepare himself for the challenge, he took a tour of the country's various wild-water swimming options, from a lido in Plymouth, to Britain's oldest lake swimming club at Henleaze in Bristol, to a moonlit hot tub in the company of the Outdoor Swimming Society's comely founder, Kate Rew. Along the way, he showed no compunction about changing into his "budgie-smugglers" in front of various middle-aged women, who had evidently been told to look excited by the prospect.

In fact, the whole thing seemed a little too contrived at times. In one particularly implausible sequence – fortuitously filmed from multiple angles, including a helicopter – Green had to be "rescued" by the local river police after taking an impromptu dip in the Tyne. What with all the actorly romanticising of his personal journey, it was hard to separate the self-indulgent performer from the real person. His fellow wild swimmers were often charming eccentrics, well worth a few minutes more screen time, but instead the show began to feel like a strange, slightly corny ego trip.

Until, that is, the arrival of "human polar bear" Lewis Pugh, the man who swam the North Pole in 2007 and lost all feeling in his fingers for four months as a result. Pugh accompanied Green for a swim in Snowdonia's Llyn Llydaw, the coldest lake in Britain, and not only knocked all the ego out of him, but also enlivened the programme, wresting control of the narrative from its presenter. When Green emerged from the 8C water, his head spun, his legs gave way beneath him and he had to be swaddled and carried to a warm waiting Range Rover. The impervious Pugh, on the other hand, strode happily from the lake in his budgie-smugglers.

There was no danger whatsoever of anyone wresting control of Russell Brand: Skinned from its star, even though the second half of the title referred to Frank Skinner, whose sit-down interview with Brand formed the spine of this shapeless and curiously unrevealing documentary. Or at least it seemed unrevealing, because so much of Brand's life comes pre-revealed. Unfortunately for the programme-makers, their subject has built his stand-up career on confessional routines, so even when he was describing his most private thoughts to his fellow comedian, I felt like I'd heard it all before.

Still, neither man is ever less than engaging, especially when they're talking about themselves. Brand, much of whose recent Scandalous tour revolves around so-called Sachsgate, spoke intelligently about the affair. Clear-eyed when it comes to his own mistakes, he also argued convincingly that they were amplified by the context of the disputed BBC licence fee, Jonathan Ross's salary, and the hammed-up outrage of the press.

The most interesting moments of their conversation came when Skinner paralleled Brand's experiences with his own comparatively sedate career. Skinner admitted to having "done a lot of groupie-ing" in his time, but was troubled by the blot such behaviour might have left on his moral copybook. Brand agreed, but often, he said, he's simply overcome by the "oestrogen-filled mist" that descends on his gigs. He created his womanising, Byronic goth persona, he confessed, partly as a substitute for the drugs and alcohol that once sustained him. Now that it's brought him the fame he craved, he's stuck with it. "My personality does not work without fame," he joked. "Without fame, this haircut just looks like mental illness."

Skinner also praised Brand for having – with his distinctive estuary eloquence – made it cool to be articulate, a fantastic compliment from a comedian who'll probably always be associated with mid-Nineties laddism, which sadly had the opposite effect. At one point, Brand went into lyrical detail about his ritual, pre-gig poo, describing it as a physical and spiritual cleansing that prepares him to meet his adoring public. Hmm, Skinner replied, "Most comedians just call that 'the comedy shit'."

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests