Last Night's TV: Waterloo Road/BBC1
Midsomer Murders/ITV1
The Secret Life of Waves/BBC4

Don't you just love the National Television Awards – the way they puncture the rarefied illusion that the whole world is loving Mad Men or Skins or Peep Show, and where Ant and Dec and David Jason win a prize every year, even if they spent the previous 12 months sunning themselves in the Bahamas (hats off to Sir David for managing to remain in the O2 throughout Stephen Fry's embarrassingly luvvied-up introduction)? It's the sort of popularity contest in which Waterloo Road wins the Best Drama category against Sherlock and Shameless – the biggest shock of the night, although try telling that to Helen Worth, Gail from Coronation Street, who looked like she'd just had a tram come though her living room wall after EastEnders nicked the Best Soap award.

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying it was time I revisited Waterloo Road. I should long ago have been excluded for non-attendance of this saga of a Rochdale comprehensive, usually only turning up for the first day of every term, before bunking off for the duration, a bit like new boy Kyle, the sort of student who arrives at school with his mother and rottweiler in tow (the mother was more menacing). Kyle was played by George Sampson, who won Britain's Got Talent in 2008 for his street-dancing act, and he wasn't the only new but familiar face around here since I last attended this bracing establishment.

The bloke from Men Behaving Badly seems to have been transferred – not for behaving badly, I hope – and his place has been taken by that forensics woman from Silent Witness, not Emilia Fox but the one before her, whose teenage daughter is played by teenage mum Sarah-Louise Platt from Coronation Street (the 27-year-old Tina O'Brien in a school uniform; it doesn't look too St Trinian's), and who seems to have spent the previous two years as a runaway. Anyway, she falsely accused the Britain's Got Talent winner of touching her leg in detention (or "the cooler" as it's known in these parts) and, understandably aggrieved, he set his rottweiler on her. It all ended in a hilarious scene, reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin is mauled by a stuffed lion, as the dog leaps on the Spanish teacher. Great fun, as Miranda's mother says in Miranda, and I'll see you all next term.

I'm surprised Midsomer Murders has never won a National Television Award, after all it's everything they seem to be about – cosy, undemanding, middle-of-the-road, Michael McIntyre-for-best-comedy-act sort of thing. It's a pair of Marks & Spencer cotton slacks of a drama, and the French love it, just like they love Marks & Spencer cotton slacks. They think this is how we live, driving between gorgeous Cotswolds villages in Range Rovers before taking tea on the lawn and politely murdering each other. Anyway, the important thing about last night's mystery was that it was John Nettles's last case.

Nettles is a deeply reassuring figure, with his warm craggy smile and sensible attitude to human foibles, and with a short break in between, he's been playing the same character since 1981, first as Jim Bergerac in Bergerac and then as Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders. In his late sixties in real life, Nettles-as-Barnaby is well past the police retirement age, and last night's swansong found him taking a short break at a country-house health (ha-ha) spa with his schoolmarm'ish wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) in preparation for a forthcoming medical.

Having turned down the offer of her hot stones, Barnaby reluctantly agreed to the new-age masseuse's offer to read his aura – she discerning distress about his coming birthday, since it emerged that his father had died on this same anniversary. In between these intimations of mortality – Barnaby wandering around like his fruit juice had been spiked – was an enjoyably silly whodunit in which victims were dispatched in the flotation chamber, by way of a sabotaged weights machine, and so forth. The big question, however, is whether the format will survive the passing of its greatest asset. Inspector Morse managed it with the inspired casting of Laurence Fox in Lewis, but in casting Neil Dudgeon as Barnaby's replacement, ITV seems to have taken the safe continuity option over vigorous reinvention. But then what do expect of M&S slacks?

I don't suppose The Secret Life of Waves will be winning any National Television Awards next January – that David Malone will be hopping on stage at the O2 to be glad-handed by Dermot O'Leary, although I hope that Bafta take note. Very unassuming it was, but utterly brilliant. David Malone was enthusiastic without being ENTHUSIASTIC, and was so obviously engaged in his subject that you felt you were learning alongside him. And what an unexpectedly fascinating subject.

Waves – we think we all know waves, bouncy wet things that fascinate surfers but make most us seasick. The relatively new science of waves – instigated by the needs of Second World War military planners – has shown that waves are not really made of water, that they are in fact bands of energy using the surface of the water as a medium, and that the sound we hear when they crash on the beach is in fact the popping of trillions of little bubbles. And there are waves beneath waves, often travelling in the opposite direction. It's being shown again on Saturday (8pm BBC4). I promise you won't look at the surf in the same way again.

g.gilbert@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
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

TV

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

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there