Last Night's TV: The Secret Tourist/BBC1
Police, Camera, Action!/ITV1
Undercover Boss/Channel 4
Friday 30 July 2010
Matt Allwright isn't a real tourist. How do I know? Look at him! He's wearing a money belt. No one wears those, do they? In truth, the clue was in the title. Allwright is the BBC's Secret Tourist: he's going to have all the holidays from hell, so you don't have to. At least that's what he claimed last night, though perhaps his pledge should be elongated to take into account the decidedly un-sunny state of the economy. "We're going to have the holidays from hell," he could have said. "So you don't have to feel bad about staying at home." The Caribbean? Who can afford to go there? Well, apart from the Woodses, who got their trip to a hotel in the Dominican Republic courtesy of the BBC. Not that it is much of a treat. The hotel, as it turned out, left quite a lot to be desired: if not quite a holiday from hell, it rapidly became a holiday from somewhere you'd like to get out of as quickly as possible.
There were birds stealing food from the communal dining room (out of the very same dishes from which the punters were being served). Resort "entertainment" was so raucous that none of the Woodses could fall asleep. And the plumbing was infested with bacteria, so the hotel's guests were at risk from potentially fatal legionnaire's disease. Wish you were there? Perhaps not. Incidentally, I see from the hotel's website that location weddings are available.
Closer to home, the money-belt-wearing Allwright was playing Beadle-esque pranks on Spanish sun seekers, nicking their laptops, disguising himself as "Juan the hotel manager", and tricking them into buying tickets for bogus boat tours. It was all a tad far-fetched (how often do teams of costume-wearing criminals really conspire to convince hotel guests to let them in so that they can quickly snatch their passports?), though not uninteresting. More alarming was the way that Tenerife doctors doled out hundreds of pounds' worth of injections to anyone pleading diarrhoea, even when they were perfectly healthy undercover reporters.
When it came to the final, Watchdog-style, confrontation, Allwright and his colleagues ditched their prankster personas to become Top-Level Undercover Reporters. "Please don't hit the camera," commanded our newly authoritative host in response to a bashing from the hotel's irate owners. Given his earlier disguise, it was hard to take any of it too seriously. Still, The Secret Tourist is an entertaining watch – as a televisual summer fling, it will do just fine.
Gah! Young people. Bane of society, innit. This, at least, appeared to be the message of ITV1's Police, Camera, Action!, in which Gethin Jones (inexplicably) was tasked with persuading four wayward young drivers to forsake their perilous habits and embrace a life of speed limits and – goodness, the novelty! – driving with both hands. Presumably, programme-makers weren't hoping to convert many more. The first few minutes were enough to deter any channel-hopping youngsters from sticking around, so damning was Jones's yoof bashing. Young drivers are overconfident and underskilled, he told us. A liability on the road. When you're young, see, you're incapable of understanding why speeding is wrong.
It's really awful that such levels of ageism are allowed. Throughout, little was offered in the way of qualifiers and even less in the way of concrete statistics. Instead, we got admittedly shocking, though frequently irrelevant case studies. "Look at this dangerous driver," they screeched "He's 12!" Um, hold on a minute: Twelve? Not exactly typical then, is he?
Our four road reprobates were put through a weird kind of driving rehab: tests, interviews with victims' relatives and grillings on their emotional development. Sad, as opposed to bad, individuals, they were rightly moved by their gut-wrenching encounter with two parents who had lost their children in car accidents. As for the rest of us... Well, I learned not to tune in next week.
Until last night, I had never heard of Harry Ramsden's. Colleagues assure me that this is deeply odd – a sign of a childhood abroad or profound stupidity, probably the latter – but I'm not sure. They don't exist in London. Not properly. There's one – a quick-service outlet at Euston station – and that's it. I looked it up. So really, can you blame me?
Anyway, ignorant as I may be, I can tell you this much: their chips photograph beautifully. Boy, do they look good. Even given the dubious circumstances of their inception at the disconcertingly decrepit Great Yarmouth branch, a quick once-over is enough to whet your appetite. The business's fortunes are rather less delectable; hence, the appearance last night on Undercover Boss. The disguised executive in question was Marija Simovic, who only recently took over as CEO. Simovic seems like a good egg, despite her apparent delusion over the place Ramsden's holds in our collective consciousness. The rest of her staff are pretty impressive, too: unlike most UB episodes, there aren't any apparent skivers or scapegoats. Just empty restaurants with poor infrastructure. As per usual, loyal employees were rewarded with some token recognition – a design role here, a promotion there – though more intriguing is the idea of an updated, gastro-style menu. I've no idea whether they will be any good, or what the food is like at the moment, but if the chips are half as good as they look, it might not be bad at all.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
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