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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

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

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

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

TV review
  • 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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence