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.

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Stinson Hunter and his associates Stubbs and Grime in Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Hunter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
This Banksy mural in Clacton has been removed by the council
art
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
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.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?