Last Night's TV: This is no country for funny old men

Wonderland: The Secret Life of Norman Wisdom Aged 92 3/4, BBC2

"Ooohhh... he's naughty," said Ann, shortly after being pushed on to the bed she was attempting to make by the old man she cares for. She said this with what sounded like genuine affection – difficult to believe given the wearisome juvenility of most of her charge's "jokes", but I think she really meant it. And it's quite likely that a lot of viewers will have shared her sense of fond indulgence, since the old man in question was Norman Wisdom, the subject of Lorraine Charker-Phillips's quietly lethal film about old age and self-absorption. This was, after all, how Wisdom got famous, and one of the things that had cemented the loyalty of Ann, originally the entertainer's PA and subsequently his full-time carer. At the age of 68, Ann had decided to care for herself a little and take a break from Wisdom's unremitting jocularity. Wonderland: the Secret Life of Norman Wisdom Aged 92 3/4 followed Wisdom's children as they tried to work out how best to care for their elderly father in her absence.

One of the oddities, even discomforts of the film was that Wisdom was beginning to have problems with his memory, a common enough plight but complicated here by the fact that his trademark schtick fades seamlessly into the disconnects of senility. A cluelessness that had once been carefully calculated now frequently looked as if it might be involuntary. He had to be reminded several times what the camera crew was doing in his house, for example, and yet he was never less than delighted to find them there, ready for another comic turn. And because he greeted the camera with a helpless, reflexive exhibitionism, you had the sense of a man embracing the instrument of his own humiliation. He couldn't tell any more what kind of exposure he was exposing himself too.

You can always turn off, of course, if you feel complicit in an intrusion, but it was made harder here by the film's subplot – the slow revelation of what it might do to you to grow up in the shadow of a lovable fool. Wisdom's children, for all their affection, weren't in any doubt about how demanding their father could be. "He is very self-obsessed," said his daughter Jaqui. "You've seen the size of that portrait on the Isle of Man... if that fell on someone... well, it could kill 10 people if it fell on them." You looked at the portrait again, Wisdom winking his face into a mask of hilarity, and it looked a little more sinister this time round. He didn't have a monopoly on self-obsession, though, because when it came time to decide who should move in to devote themselves to Norman's every whim, Jaqui announced that she wouldn't be eligible. Startlingly, she moved in with her brother, Nick, and her 11-year-old nephew Greg, while Nick's wife, Kim, left her husband and child in Sussex to go and live in the Isle of Man. Jaqui, who had a talent for representing her own desires as mere submission to force majeure, explained that she was too worried about her aged dog to submit him to an aircraft hold for even an hour. "I love him, I love Dad as well... but, you know, that is it at the end of the day, and the only people it does affect is Ann and Kim, and they said that's fine," she explained. Charker-Williams ruthlessly played her blithe self-justification over a shot of poor, motherless Greg doing his homework, his eyes widening as he realised that he didn't seem to count. Jaqui, tellingly, was the fiercest defendant of her father's wishes, having taken care to ensure that she was the least likely to be inconvenienced by them. Fortunately, everyone finally realised what viewers at home had been muttering at the screen from 10 minutes in: that Wisdom would actually love it in a care home for the elderly, where the audience is captive and you can tell the same gags time and time again.

The second series of the drama Torchwood started in a sprightly manner, with a large, crested alien screeching to a stop at a pelican crossing to let an old lady across. Shortly after he'd screeched off again, a black Range Rover pulled up: "Excuse me, have you seen a blowfish driving a sports car?" Old lady pointed and, watching the tail-lights of the Range Rover disappear in pursuit, muttered, "Bloody Torchwood!" Clearly, you get blasé about this sort of thing if you live on a rift in time and space. This episode concerned the upsetting arrival of Captain John, an old flame of Captain Jack's who didn't know whether to kiss him or hit him, so set about doing both. Captain Jack, meanwhile, was ignoring best-practice advice on romantic entanglements with workplace colleagues and flirting madly with an underling of each gender. It's pointless, but it's jauntily pointless, and may provide comfort for those who now find Spooks too implausible to be entertaining.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas