Last Night's Viewing: Death Row, Channel 4
Get Your House in Order, Channel 4

 

"What we are doing here is not an instrument for proving your innocence," Werner Herzog told Hank Skinner at the beginning of Death Row. Hank's innocence, it should be said, is a fiercely contested matter. Hank and his lawyers strenuously assert it, but the state of Texas, which aims to execute Hank just as soon as they can get the final paperwork sorted, is stubbornly resistant to the idea that they got the wrong man for the 1995 murder of Twila Busby and her two mentally disabled sons. Anyway, Herzog was as good as his word. This gripping film offered very little evidence that cast doubt on Hank's original conviction. What it did do was confirm once again the strange and wonderful innocence of Werner Herzog.

I don't mean by this that he's a stupid film-maker, just that he's managed to preserve into maturity a quality of almost childlike earnestness. There's no hidden agenda or concealment in the way that he addresses the world, and no sense that he will trim his delivery to match the audience. He can sit face to face with a convicted killer and ask him, in tones of urgent gravity, "How does time function? Does it stand still or does it race? Tell me about time." Hank Skinner, it has to be said, was more than up to the task of replying in kind – a garrulous autodidact who was prone to quoting Leonardo da Vinci or suddenly alluding to the epic of Gilgamesh. Not every death row inmate can have quite such a Herzogian breadth of reference.

The first of three interviews with death row inmates, this one began with Hank's account of the time that he got within 20 minutes of execution. He'd made the 40-mile journey from death row to the specialist execution centre, and he'd started on his last meal – a gargantuan feast of fried chicken, catfish fillets, bacon-cheese burger, grated cheese, bacon bits, large fries and chocolate milk. Then he called his lawyer, who told him he'd just received a stay of execution. "I felt like somebody had lifted a 1,000lb weight off my chest," said Hank. And then the warder explained that the defence lawyer's word wasn't enough. Unless the governor or attorney called, the execution would go ahead. "That was the longest 23 minutes of my life," Hank said of the gap between his first call and the official confirmation.

It did occur to you that if the Texas Department of Corrections simply let Hank eat what he wanted, he'd soon do the job for them. And if that sounds improperly flippant, all I can say is that Hank himself had an eye for the black comedy of his situation. Why hadn't he taken his blood pressure medication, a guard asked him when this last minute reprieve gave him palpitations. "Well, hell, they were going to kill me!" Hank replied, "What's the point?" He then insisted on finishing off his last meal before he was taken back to death row. As if he wanted to counterbalance the unexpected charm of Hank's presence, Herzog broke off from claustrophobic face-to-face through the glass to tread the location of his crime, a grim tract of Texas hardscrabble under a sky like the end of the world. And then, after more conversation, he finished by driving the route Hank may yet follow in one direction only, offering a premonition of his subject's final sights. The last image of the film was a giant crab wearing sunglasses outside a seafood restaurant – mad, and innocent, and pure Herzog.

Get Your House in Order bizarrely marries the hoarding documentary genre with a makeover show, pairing an antiques dealer with an interior designer, who uses the proceeds of the clutter sale to fund a redecoration. Judging from last night's show about a shopaholic called Abi, they could do with a resident psychiatrist too. Death please, and no reprieve.

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape