Last Night's Television: Alan Whicker's Journey Of A Lifetime, BBC2

The Apprentice, BBC1

Queens Of British Pop, BBC1

In fact, the dapper conservatism of his dress almost certainly helped, particularly when he found himself reporting from California, a state which, as he pointed out, prided itself on getting to the future several years ahead of the rest of the world. A younger reporter might have been suspected of a proselytising motive in filming hippies dropping acid amid the redwoods or recording the first gay kiss to be screened on British television. But Whicker, impeccably respectable and never flustered, arms folded in bemused inspection, was manifestly a detached observer. And if he didn't get in an on-screen panic about people smoking dope or two men getting married, it implicitly suggested that no one else really need to either. Revisiting a gay pastor he'd first interviewed back in the Seventies – for a programme on California's burgeoning gay-pride movement – Whicker discovered that the man's British friends had first warned him to be on his guard and then, after the programme had gone out, talked tearfully about its impact on them, as the first programme they'd seen in which the normality of homosexuality had been unhysterically acknowledged. The pastor, fluent and articulate, could take some credit for that. But Whicker, one of the least moralising of the old big beasts of television, deserved some too. You only had to imagine how Malcolm Muggeridge might have covered the same story to see how bemused curiosity can be a kind of liberalism in itself.

He hasn't changed much, even if the moustache is whiter than it used to be, and the gait a little stiffer. He's still fond of alliteration (we have, he said, "an insatiable appetite for the goings-on in this lavish, loony place on America's far-out fringe) and he still likes open-topped Rollers (though that may have been a producer, contriving a neat edit between past and present footage). There have though been large changes in California and what you can show on television. Back then the gay kiss was borderline stuff. These days the camera can cheerfully pan over a T-shirt in a boutique window, which would once have led to questions in the House: "Love Sucks. True Love Swallows". The best bits in the series are when you get to see the original interviewees 30 years on, including, in one case, a San Francisco policeman who had made the shift from Stephanie to Steve in the intervening years. But even when there isn't a "now" to justify the "then", the material bears re-inspection. Whicker, during a report on California's gun culture, interviewed an unnerving old dame who proudly recounted the serial fatalities she'd inflicted while defending the cash register in her liquor store. "I shoot 'em twice," she said cheerfully, "If I can't get them in those two, then I quit." Her husband, sitting alongside her with an understandable meekness, was wearing a wig so appalling that it constituted an offensive weapon in itself. I also enjoyed Whicker's question to the executive from the Cryonics Society, who had just sidestepped an inquiry about whether they had Walt Disney on ice. "Are you awaiting any other famous freezees?," he said politely.

Queens of British Pop is also dependent on the pleasures of old telly clips – a breezy and slightly purposeless celebration of pop divas, which didn't appear to be able to distinguish between the genuinely great and influential (Dusty Springfield) and acts who just hit a good wave and knew how to ride it to the beach (Suzi Quatro). It's a little disappointing, really, because they had interviewees who might have delivered something more substantial, from Burt Bacharach to Lulu (admirably unsnippy about appearing only as commentator rather than a subject). The biggest surprise here was John Lydon, on hand to express his enthusiasm for the music of Kate Bush. "Those shrieks and warbles," he said of "Wuthering Heights", "are beautiful beyond belief to me." His mum didn't agree, apparently. "Oh Johnny," she said, "it sounds like a bag of cats." Curiously, they were both right.

"We were looking like complete prats," said Majid in The Apprentice, complaining about the fact that he'd been required to pitch a catering contract at roughly 400 per cent of the going rate. This struck me as rich coming from a man who at some point must have thought to himself "Hmm... what can I do to my real beard to make it look as much like a fake beard as possible?" The greatest mystery now though is not Majid's facial hair, but the meaning of the phrase, "you could certainly bunny off a scratch". Derogatory, I take it, given Sir Alan's expression and clearly something to do with verbosity. Beyond that though I'm lost.

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy