You know what the worst thing about January is? No, not the snow, or the cold, or the diets or the broken New Year's resolutions. It's the pictures of beach-bound celebrities that litter the pages of every glossy magazine and red-top paper in the land. Not only are they (the celebs) thinner, prettier, better dressed and having more fun than you, but they're warmer than you. So while you shiver over a lukewarm mug of tea in your freezing home that has no heating because the gas pipes have frozen or the electricity line is covered in snow or whatever it is that keeps happening, there they are basking in it. In the heat, and the fame, and the soft glow of the spotlights. Honestly, it's enough to drive anyone to distraction.
Happily, the BBC was offering an antidote to this, in the form of the spew-and-all documentary Sun, Sex and Holiday Madness, which promised to "examine the risks that British tourists take with their mind, body and soul". And examine the risks it did, presided over by Greg James, young pup of Radio 1, who turns out to be a rather charming TV host, too. At 24, he can't be much older than the people he's trailing but managed, all the same, to negotiate the tricky tightrope of joy-killing documentary-maker/sympathetic fun-lover with aplomb.
The basic premise was to follow three holiday- makers at Magaluf (or "Shagaluf," as it's apparently known). So we had Lizzie, an architecture student on holiday to get over working in a chicken factory; Adam, a former serviceman recently returned from Iraq; and Charlotte, a student from Bath for whom a "normal binge" would be 30 alcohol units.
Predictably, things got raucous. Though not, they discover at the end of a week's observation, to the detriment of their health. Adam's hand injury aside, only Charlotte suffers any direct health implications from drinking – reduced lung capacity. Which does sort of make you think that maybe binge drinking isn't such a bad thing after all.
Of more interest was Hannah, a Magaluf tourist-turned-summer worker, who decided to head abroad after a relationship broke down. "Everyone here is running away from something," she observed. "Ha ha!" Before her holiday, she said, she was the quiet one among her friends – now she's flashing her breasts at TV cameras and clambering into flowerpots. The reason? Vodka. "If I haven't had a drink by one o'clock, I start to get the shakes," she exclaimed. On her last night there, she got locked out of her flat by some angry flatmates. "I'll have to find someone to sleep with, then," she told the camera. She did too. Entertaining enough, though hardly anything new. Binge Britain headlines have been one of the most common sights of the decade, and thirsty Brits abroad the subject of many of them. Depressingly, all the attention doesn't seem to have changed things. Ah well. On the plus side, I don't want to go on holiday anymore. Well, not to Magaluf anyway.
Speaking of common sights this decade, part two of History of Now: the Story of the Noughties was good. Better, I think, than part one. Either way, it was worth tuning in just to see Andrew Marr discussing "the tramp stamp on the muffin top on the chav" – linguistic (and stylistic) hallmark of the decade, apparently. The Noughties, reflected our talking heads – Toby Young, Andrew Marr, Will Self et al – were all about all cultural levelling but economic un-levelling: "chavs" became the celebrities of the decade, in the form of Wags, Big Brother winners and X Factor contestants, able to make the front pages of even broadsheets. But for most of us, it was a case of the rich getting richer and more powerful (cf oligarchs, non-doms, retail kings) and the rest of us just getting, well, not very much. If you don't count designer handbags, oversized credit accounts and cheap holidays, that is.
If, on the other hand, it's a taste of what the next decade holds that you wanted, you could have done far worse than tune into Jimmy's Global Harvest, which sees Jimmy Doherty travel the world to see just how we're going to cope with the impending food crisis (growing population, diminishing land on which to feed it). Last night, we were in Brazil, fast on its way to becoming the world's largest food producer. Their practices are remarkable, if something of an anathema to environmentalists. Everything is achieved by human intervention: acidic soil? No problem, they neutralise it. Short growing terms? They modify it. High demand? Variety is replaced by mono-culture. It's impressive, really, if a little unsettling. There's a lot that could do with being left behind in Brazil. But there's a lot to be learned, too. After all, if it didn't produce its soy on such a mass scale, thousands around the world would starve.