Last Night's TV: Egypt's Lost Cities, BBC1
Gordon's Great Escape, Channel 4
Queen – Days of Our Lives, BBC2

Plenty to dig in this Egyptian adventure

Fedoras off to BBC1 for not showing Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on a Bank Holiday Monday but a 21st-century documentary version, more or less.
Egypt's Lost Cities explained how satellite and infra-red technology have enabled an American Egyptologist called Sarah Parcak to see what lies beneath the desert sand, leading, some looting during the recent revolution notwithstanding, to one of the most exciting excavations of modern times.

By examining her satellite pictures of Tanis, the lost city made famous either by a succession of pharaohs or by Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford, depending on your point of view, and then passing them through an infra-red filter, Parcak was able to see "the ghostly image" of what was once the capital of ancient Egypt, complete with roads and even what looked spookily like gyratory systems.

This was truly mind-boggling stuff, and I could only give thanks that Tony Robinson hadn't been drafted in as presenter, because we have a fragile vase in our living-room that might not have stood up to his excitable high-pitched shouting. Instead, the presenters were Dallas Campbell and Liz Bonnin, both of whom added the sex appeal that Robinson, bless him, so manifestly lacks, and that archaeology, even archaeology this fascinating, so badly needs. Accompanying them almost every step of the way was Parcak, who saw her satellite-imaging technology yielding major results for the first time, and yet steadfastly refused to shed even a single tear of joy. That's academics for you. No sense of televisual occasion.

Whatever, the key to getting things to happen on the ground, following discoveries made in space, lay in convincing an Egyptian man called Dr Hawass, who enjoyed the truly splendid title of Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. I have long thought that John Simpson's grandiose title at the BBC, World Affairs Editor, sounds like a euphemism for God. But so does Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. It should really be the job title of someone who's been in charge of the universe since the year dot.

Anyway, Hawass is a forward-thinking sort of chap and recognised the literally ground-breaking potential of Parcak's findings. Permission was duly given to start digging, and thus she edged a little close to realising her lofty ambition, to uncover the 99 per cent of ancient Egypt that hasn't yet been found. If only there was an archaeology category, she'd be a cert for a Nobel Prize.

If there were a food category, I don't think Gordon Ramsay would be in the running, not after all that effing and blinding on television. And yet he has a certain rough charm, which he deployed to good effect in Thailand, in the last leg of Gordon's Great Escape.

Out there, they all thought he was a hoot, including Thailand's own famous telly chef, a chap called McDang whose programme goes out once a week, 52 weeks a year and who, according to Ramsay, "knows his shit", although in practically the next breath Ramsay asked him whether he was "a real chef or a TV chef". On the basis that he can't have been issuing orders in his own three-star kitchen while he was cheerfully goading McDang in Thailand, this is a distinction Ramsay increasingly appears to have forgotten himself.

Still, ever bumptious, he challenged his host to a cookery competition on McDang's own show. They each prepared three Thai dishes, the judges declaring one of McDang's the winner and one of Ramsay's the winner, with the third dish declared a draw. Which is what I call cooking the results, but everyone left very happy, except Gordon, who was effing happy.

As always with these series in which chefs visit foreign lands, Gordon's Great Escape is as much a travelogue as a cookery show, not that there was too much in last night's programme to make me want to check airfares to Bangkok, apart from the obvious attraction of a Thai boxing evening with drinks served by ladyboys, who suddenly broke into their own version of "Y.M.C.A.". It's not often that you see sheer bewilderment settle on the rocky crag that is Gordon's face, but this was one of those moments.

There was more bewildering behaviour from Johnny Foreigner in the concluding part of Queen – Days of Our Lives, a terrific documentary about the rock band. In 1981, when Queen performed in Argentina, a fellow was proposed as an ideal minder for Freddie Mercury on the basis that he had killed 212 people. Later, another minder's way of clearing space for the band's car in a Buenos Aires traffic jam, was to open the roof and wildly fire bullets into the air.

Barely 10 years later, alas, Mercury was dead, one of the highest-profile people to die from an Aids-related illness. His band-mates Brian May and Roger Taylor recalled his final months and weeks with such affectionate eloquence that I very nearly shed the tear that eluded Sarah the archaeologist. Indeed, their contributions throughout were a joy. It's not often that the story of a massively successful rock band is told with next to no anecdotes about terrible clashes of ego and terminal fallings-out, and yet this was fascinating even without them, thanks largely to Taylor and the ever-urbane May, a living contradiction of the old adage that a man can't have big, big hair and be considered suave.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
    and  

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

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape