Last Night's Viewing: All in the Best Possible Taste, Channel 4 Martin Clunes: the Lemurs of Madagascar, ITV1

 

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The Independent Culture

Grayson Perry in a paper thong and shower cap, getting a spray tan. It's not the image of the Jubilee that will go down in posterity, but it's the one that will probably linger in my memory longest. And in its own peculiar, fleshy, way, it was quite fitting, forming the high point of Channel 4's contribution to the patriotic party – a celebration of Great British taste, or the lack of it.

In All in the Best Possible Taste, the nation's favourite Turner Prize-winning transvestite potter set off on a "safari through the taste tribes of Britain". Having snapped them in their natural environment, marvelled at their appearance and pondered the significance of their rituals, he used his findings to create a new artwork – a giant, overblown tapestry in which the noble battles, fair maidens and unicorns of yore were replaced with woven homages to Ikea, WKD and karaoke. Sort of like a twisted version of what Rolf Harris was doing over on BBC1, with fewer felt tips and more swearing.

In this, the first of a three-part series, Perry directed his loom at the mores of the working classes, capturing them in their natural habitat (as media types see it) of Sunderland. Even he sounded a bit surprised to be there – "I've come to Sunderland!" – but he gamely threw himself into all manner of local activities, admiring spoilers with rude boys at a hot-car meet, drinking tea with cage fighters and downing Jägerbombs on a girls' night out.

A self-styled working-class Essex boy who has spent most of his life in the middle-class world of modern art, Perry made for a likeable and thoughtful interlocutor – Theroux-like in his naive questioning, but with an artist's penetrating eye for detail. Was his praise of "exotic, colourful, creative working-class rituals" a little broad brush, patronising even? Probably, but you couldn't fault the fearless way he went about drawing his conclusions, most strikingly dragging up for a night out on the town in a Cheryl Cole wig, towering platforms and the aforementioned fake tan.

Other treats included watching the artist sketching the scenes he'd just seen and hearing him talk about his work in user-friendly terms. I was less keen on the climactic "big reveal", when he showed his new friends their immortalisation in warp and weft, which seemed to come straight out of the Gok Wan school of sentimental self-affirmation. Of course they were going to say nice things about the tapestry – they were on camera.

Still, in the next two episodes, Perry casts his eye over the middle and upper classes and I suspect he'll dare to be rather ruder about them, and them about him. His raw material may be stereotypes, but it's the colourful, odd way he shapes it that makes it worth watching.

Over on ITV1, a different species was being prodded and poked for the cameras in Martin Clunes: the Lemurs of Madagascar. There is no particular link, sad to report, between the actor and the boggle-eyed primates, except for the fact that Clunes has always liked lemurs. Happily for him, Madagascar is teeming with them. Its rainforest is home to 101 separate species, though that number is falling rapidly as humans thrash their way through it in search of food, gold and subjects for television documentaries.

While Madagascar came across as lushly inviting, some of the wobbly wildlife photography and Clunes as a natural historian left a little to be desired. "He's just stuffing his face with food. Go on, son!" he whispered on his first encounter with his subject. Later, on entering the rainforest for the first time, he marvelled: "There's things, growing on things, growing on things..." David Attenborough can rest easy in his hiking boots for now.

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