Last Night's TV: He got his head stuck in the clouds

Bear Grylls: Mission Everest, Channel 4; The Frost Report Is Back! BBC4

Ever since old Daedalus and his impulsive lad Icarus took to the skies over mythological Greece, man has undertaken some really daft airborne adventures. In Bear Grylls: Mission Everest we watched the latest, an attempt to climb higher than the summit of Everest in a paramotor, which is a kind of engine-powered handglider. The record altitude ever achieved in one of these contraptions was previously 20,019ft; Everest is 29,035ft. Moreover, paramotors are not supposed to enjoy wind of more than 20mph; it's a bit breezier on the roof of the Himalayas, where gusts have been measured at 175mph.

Thus was the stage set for a documentary longer than many feature films, which I think we were intended to watch with our hearts in our mouths, as two frightfully well-spoken man-children called Bear Grylls and Gilo Cardozo (their very names were enough to make you yearn for simpler times, when adventurers were called Lewis and Clark, or Mason and Dixon) were stymied by countless mechanical failures and unsympathetic weather patterns, before finally taking off wearing 168lbs of equipment. This was the equivalent, we were told, of carrying a super-middleweight boxer, a piece of information almost completely useless, except for those of us who've had Joe Calzaghe strapped to our backs.

Now, call me a chippy northern grammar school boy if you like, but I found it hard to see all this as much more than a pair of Hooray Henrys with too much breeding and not enough sense contriving a challenge that might have been kindled on the playing fields of Eton. I'm all for people pushing themselves – I have myself attempted to flip a dozen beer-mats in one go and damn near succeeded – and I know that Britain owes its rich heritage of adventure largely to trust-funded ex-public schoolboys who don't need to worry about paying the mortgage while they're trudging alone across the Kalahari or flying solo over the poles or whatever, but Mission Everest didn't really seem fuelled by the spirit of Shackleton or even Ellen MacArthur.

This rather ungenerous view was encouraged by my wife – a chippy northern comprehensive schoolgirl – who kept coming into the room as the narrator solemnly informed us of yet another seemingly intractable problem for Bear and Gilo and ventured that she couldn't get excited about a mission in which two men sought to paramotor higher than Everest for their own satisfaction. Of course, it didn't help that we knew nothing about paramotoring before the programme started. Climbing, sailing or even holding-your-breath records at least chime with Joe Public, but who gives tuppence about motorised handgliders?

Compounding all this was the name of our hero: Bear. It really is no name for a grown-up, especially a grown-up of the rugged, intrepid variety. In fact, I'm only slightly ashamed to say that in our house we got the giggles, especially when the narrator referred to "adventurer Bear". From then on it was all we could do not to see the whole enterprise as a series of books for toddlers: he went from sleepy Bear to tearful Bear to happy Bear, although in the end his altimeter failed and so nobody knows whether he got higher than Everest or not. Meanwhile, even his wife wondered whether his lifestyle was altogether fitting for a married man with two young children. Silly Old Bear.

Whether or not class sensibilities informed my response to Bear Grylls: Mission Everest, it is always good to see the celebrated sketch featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett – "I look up to him because he is upper class, but I look down on him because he is lower-class" – and inevitably, as the most familiar and enduring sequence from the 1960s sketch series The Frost Report, it kicked off The Frost Report Is Back!

This was a frankly interminable celebration presented by Sir David Frost himself, in which original contributors recalled how much they owed him, or were prompted by him into recalling how much they owed him. I should add that I have met Frost and liked him, so it is mean of me to poke even gentle fun at the great man's ego. I spent a morning on the set of one of his interviews for al-Jazeera, and what struck me before the show was how ancient he looked. His eyes seemed lifeless, he seemed unable to lift his chin off his chest, but when the director started counting down to transmission, the effect was as though a huge spark had electrified him. The eyes flashed, the head jerked upwards; the television camera seemed literally to breathe life back into him.

What The Frost Report Is Back! conveyed most powerfully of all, as so often when television gets reverential about its former self, was how much Britain has changed. Also, satire does not age well. Scarcely any of the sketches shown last night would make it on to a comedy show now, but that is not to say that we are the better for it. Perhaps the opposite applies.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot