Last Night's Television: Who Do You Think You Are?, BBC1
Wildest Dreams, BBC1

"This is going to be another depressing day isn't it," said Chris Moyles, absorbing the latest of the revelations about his family line in Who Do You Think You Are?, "... it's going to be death all day today." Could have been worse Chris. The programme researchers could have come back with the news that your ancestry was so tediously unremarkable that they weren't going to bother filming at all, as Michael Parkinson has just revealed happened to him. And while stories of infant mortality and Dublin slum hardship might bring a lump to your throat you must have known that it would be the sort of thing to get a Who Do You Think You Are? researcher beaming broadly. This is, after all, a social-history programme cunningly disguised as celebrity biography, and the only real point of the latter is to sugar coat the more interesting bits of the former with a gloss of intimate connection. A documentary about slum conditions in Dublin in 1910 wouldn't stand much chance of a 9pm slot on BBC One. But attach it to that fat, mouthy bloke off Radio One's breakfast show and you're home and dry.

At the beginning Moyles confessed that he was hoping to discover more about his Irish roots. His name, he had always believed, was the Gaelic for "soldier", and though someone had already disabused him of this notion he didn't yet know what the real explanation was. "Flower arranger?... not so cool," he speculated, though he probably would have settled for that when he found out its actual origin, which was something like "bald monk servant". "My surname is bald?," he said incredulously to the researcher, "As in slap-head? As in no hair? This trip gets better and better." His grandmother – he'd already discovered – had survived a childhood in a Dublin slum, where she shared a house with five other families and an outhouse with even more. Her own mother and father had died early, in her mother's case shortly after leaving the Dublin workhouse to which she'd been admitted with TB. On his father's side he discovered a tale that brought to mind that old sketch about competitive misery. Five families in one house? You were lucky! What was recorded in the registers here was an infant mortality so grim that his great grandmother had raised only five of the 15 children she'd given birth to.

Moyles did find a soldier in the family – his great-grandfather James, whose experiences lit up another curious footnote in British history – the eager readiness with which Irish nationalists signed up to fight in the First World War, convinced that helping the Empire to win the war would be rewarded with an early release from its grip. James had trained nationalist volunteers before the war, but ended up shortly after it broke out on the Ypres Salient, facing repeated assaults by German troops. They'd even managed to find the very field in which he'd been killed and a newspaper account of his death: "He peeped over the trench and fell back quite dead... a bullet had cut clean through his forehead. He was one of the pleasantest men in the trench". His great grandson – generously paid for his ability to witter on without ceasing – was temporarily lost for words, which was a mercy frankly. Choked inarticulacy seemed a better tribute than the chatty kind.

Wildest Dreams is the result of a breeding experiment – the BBC's Entertainment and Natural History Departments having been persuaded to copulate and produce a reality show in which eight wildlife enthusiasts compete for a potential job as a wildlife cameraman in the Natural History Unit.

It seems a very peculiar way to maintain that department's global reputation for excellence, to me – given that none of these people were qualified by anything other than eagerness and could well have been plucked at random from a passing bus. They are continually briefed on the hazardous unreliability of wild animals ("Don't run... Think about this... Out here food runs") and exposed to the ardours of life in the bush, which in this case included a Kalahari flash food washing them out of their tents at four in the morning. They also get ticked off a lot by their mentors whenever they take an unnecessary risk, which seems a bit rich frankly given that every risk they encounter could have been avoided by not commissioning the programme in the first place.

I assume there must have been a meeting at some point at which "What if a licence payer gets eaten by a lion?" figured on the agenda, but fortunately it didn't happen this time round. Nick Knowles presents, with the assistance of a sizeable repertoire of clichés. "This is Kate," he said, introducing one expert, "What she doesn't know about elephants isn't worth knowing." Peculiarly irritating that one, since if it was true she would rather be wasting her time out in the Kalahari trying to find out more.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
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.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...