Last Night's TV: These patriot games are beyond a joke

Spooks, BBC1; Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work, BBC1; Sex in the Noughties: Dear Deidre, Channel 4
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The Independent Culture

"The director-general has agreed to the transmission... apparently keen to sex-up a tired format." No, not Monarchy: the Royal Family at Work, cunningly re-edited to show Her Majesty performing tae kwon do on Annie Leibowitz, but a special edition of Ask the Question, obligingly laid on so that the tireless agents of MI5 can (ho-hum, here we go again) save the world. Fresh from smuggling nuclear triggers into Tehran, the Iranian consul, who was having a very busy week, was to go on a live discussion programme with the British Foreign Secretary and some American bloke and announce a peace deal. The director-general got more than he bargained for in regard to sexing-up, though, because three armed Islamaphobes inveigled themselves into the audience and threatened to shoot hostages unless their awkward questions were answered on live television. Well, one knows how they feel. Faced with the practised evasions of the average Question Time panel, we've all fantasised about the use of force, though it doesn't work in this case, since Ros and Adam were on hand to thwart and forestall the nefarious.

I have to confess that my surveillance has not been all it should be just recently, but when did Spooks get so preposterous? I don't mean good-preposterous either, that we-know-that-you-know-we-know deal that several popular programmes strike with their audience. I mean insulting-preposterous, such an offhand lash-up of improbability and nonsense that you feel humiliated to watch it. When the team needed to fool a terrorist into thinking that the television programme was still being broadcast live, it took them about three minutes to set up a direct satellite feed into the house he'd scuttled off to. Either they really thought you wouldn't notice the absurdity, or they just don't care, neither of which are good for the amour-propre.

They're such rubbish spies as well, prone to the kind of probationer's mistakes that you learn to avoid just by reading Robert Ludlum novels. Ros let someone slip a bug into her handbag despite the fact that the two women were alone in a wind-swept plaza (what kind of weird body-space invasion did that involve?) and Adam placidly assumed that the bad guy had been incapacitated by a single shot, rather than taking out the standard double-tap insurance policy of an extra bullet to the head. Frankly, you wouldn't trust them to supervise inter-office mailing, let alone the serious cutting-edge stuff.

As for Monday's Monarchy: the Royal Family at Work, that came across as seriously sexed-down - proof of how the presence of Her Majesty can reduce the brains of even quite intelligent people to Windsor soup - but still an anticlimactic sequel to the hysterical melodrama that preceded it. They got the photo-shoot out of the way first of all, revealing, for anybody who was still anxious about the matter, that whichever way you run the footage, there's no question that the Queen was feeling a little brusque that day, a fact that rather got lost in all the wild accusations about "fakery". But what followed couldn't justify the length the BBC had given it. It was mildly diverting to watch President Bush wittering idiotically about Barney the White House dog, but rather too much of a good thing to then have a minor White House functionary expatiate about what fun it is to play golf with Barney. And the state visits were no more fun to watch than they must be to experience. I abdicated half-way through, and felt a grudging respect for the fact that the Queen didn't do the same 40 years ago.

Sex in the Noughties: Dear Deidre introduced us to the work of The Sun's agony aunt, a woman who has been giving sex advice to the paper's readers for more than 27 years. For which read "giving a bit of lunchtime titillation to truck drivers in the guise of relationship guidance". Deidre had notionally identified seven "shocking" new trends in sexual behaviour in the new century, each of which supplied the excuse for mildly lubricious confessions, including that of Angelica, who has casual sex with strangers, though it doesn't sound nearly casual enough to me. "I have a seven-minute rule," she explained. "Basically, if you can't make me come in seven minutes, then you're horrible."

Deidre blamed the internet and changed attitudes to female sexuality for a new, coarsely physical approach to sexual pleasure. It doesn't seem to have crossed her mind that she might be part of the problem. At one point, the image cut to a woman directing a photo-shoot. "Right, let's have a lesbian romp, in a position we haven't had before," she said. You assumed she was involved in home-made porn, but it turned out she was photographing Deidre's Casebook, the glamour- model photo-strip that fleshes out the column for Deidre's slower readers. No wonder there's been a boom in three-in-a-bed sex, dogging and swinging. People are reading Deidre and thinking "everybody else seems to be at it... perhaps we should have a dabble too".