Last Night's TV - Ross Kemp’s Extreme World, Sky1
My Life in Books, BBC2
Glee, E4

An injection of adrenalin

If only Ross Kemp had been called up by the Baltimore Police Department, David Simon might have had the whole of The Wire wrapped up in a one-hour HBO special. In the first of his new series, Ross Kemp: Extreme World, the EastEnders actor-turned-Bafta-winning documentary maker set out to expose the murky secrets of Chicago's underworld. And expose them he did, gaining impressive access to a tangle of junkies and dealers, hookers and police, from the inner city to the affluent suburbs. There are now an estimated 50,000 users (and 100,000 gang members) in the Windy City, making it the heroin capital of America.

The aesthetics were all suitably Wire – simmering projects, nocturnal car journeys and a soundtrack growling with Inception levels of portent. Interviews took place on neon-lit street corners, in underpasses and (to avoid wiretaps?) in noisy, clattering diners. It's an acquired taste as documentaries go – macho and in-yer-face, with no qualms about showing needles stabbing around in collapsed veins. And Kemp, looking like an off-duty bouncer in a black T-shirt and jeans, narrated the seamy tour with a rat-ta-tat-tat urgency – think Gordon Ramsay in a war zone.

The show plays on the hard-man image of its host, but even Kemp, who has previously filmed favela gangs in Rio and squaddies in Afghanistan, seemed shocked by what he saw, veering between revulsion, pity and perhaps a little thrill of fear. He stood over a junkie having a speedball seizure in a brickyard, hung around the red-light district and, in one extraordinary scene, called into a "chop house" where strung-out minions, in surgical masks and half-naked to stop them smuggling out a stash, sat diligently cutting smack with Actifed for the street.

The programme culminated in an interview with one of the city's kingpins. Why he would decide to go on camera is a mystery, though, appearing only in silhouette, with his voice distorted, it could have been anyone. "Sometimes people get hurt really badly," said Kingpin. "You mean killed?" demanded Kemp. He's not bad at this kind of muscular interviewing – his thick neck, shaved head and impassive stare giving him an intimidating, no-nonsense air. "I have to say, while we've been here we haven't come up with any solutions to the problem," he barked at the end of a grisly 60 minutes. Don't worry, Ross, it took McNulty at least three episodes just to find Barksdale's stash house. You can't win the war on drugs in an hour.

More gimlet-eyed "interviewing" came courtesy of Anne Robinson in My Life in Books, a 10-parter leading up to World Book Night on 5 March. With a set of squashy leather armchairs and book-piled coffee table straight out of Borders, it's a hybrid of Desert Island Discs and Nigel Slater's A Taste of My Life that doesn't quite manage the cosy charms of either. This is largely down to Robinson, who is, let's be honest, better suited to whipcrack interrogation than soothing sofa chat. The producers have tried to soften her, having her pop up alarmingly from between the covers (of a book) in the credits, looking quizzical and wearing russet shades instead of her usual black. After that, though, she's pure Weakest Link, interrupting – "maybe you're just a bit soppy?" – demanding a "quick summary" of Pride and Prejudice and looking for all the world like a bossy teacher forced to listen to parents boring on at the school open evening.

She was blessed with two very charming participants for the first episode – P D James (shockingly referred to as Phyllis throughout) and Richard Bacon, who obediently explained plots and related anecdotes when instructed by the Iron Lady of literature. You didn't learn much about books, though I liked James's description of Nancy Mitford as "the sort of book you keep by the bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night with bad dreams" and Bacon's succinct observation on One Day: "I've never spent so long thinking about people who don't exist." The real interest came from the guests' own biographies, including insights into James' writing life ("I'm a woman who likes order") and Bacon's tabloid scandal. These came up in spite of, rather than thanks to, Robinson's rapid-fire questioning, though. In fact, the best rapport was between the guests who hit it off famously, Bacon patiently demonstrating his iPad and describing his early foray into television, Behind the Scenes of Topless Darts on Ice, to his 90-year-old counterpart. "In many ways, Phyllis, it's still my best work."

Another week, another guest for Glee, which is becoming the LA elite's personal, well, glee club or at least an all-singing, all-dancing Saturday Night Live for Hollywood stars keen to prove they have a sense of humour and bankable Broadway talent. This week it was Gwyneth Paltrow, fresh from promoting her music movie, Country Strong. She gamely showed her versatility performing a perky Cee Lo Green number, a little razzle-dazzle from Chicago and a splashy Rihanna/"Singin' in the Rain" mash-up as super-cool supply teacher Holly Holliday. It all felt a little try-hard, but you couldn't fault her tits-'n'-teeth, gung-ho attitude. And at least this was an episode where the guest star actually starred, unlike the Britney special, in which the singer put in a 20-second dream sequence cameo and left the entertaining to the preternaturally talented cast.

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?