Last Night's Viewing: Jennifer Saunders: Back in the Saddle, ITV1

 

Such a pea-souper is the post-Olympic fog that we find ourselves in that we end up mourning the passing of that Great Sporting Event with programming such as this, a two-part investigation into the early-life equestrian talents of a comedian more usually known for mocking the establishment than jumping on its back and riding it around a gymkhana.

Don't get me wrong, the Olympics left me with a newly kindled interest in dressage and show-jumping. I loved the juxtaposition of a poker-backed toff sitting on top of an animal doing the soft-shoe shuffle. It struck me as a metaphor for society, and I didn't half want to know how on earth you train them.

Watching Jennifer Saunders: Back in the Saddle, I didn't really find out. But I did see enough to want to have a little go myself. Saunders, once a keen if slightly wimpy rider during her girlhood, has decided to try again – as the programme's tagline so winningly and literally suggests – and she has invited some cameras to follow her as she does so. Saunders related her relationship with riding from Pony Club to show-jumping, dwelling particularly on her Olympic hopes, as she trundled through country lanes belting out "Puppy Love", while deep in reverie that she and Topaz would be discovered and recruited for Team GB. Never mind the fact that she keeps on telling us how scared she was of jumping and how she only really liked going for said trundles.

It strikes me that this is the only thing anyone really likes about riding. Clopping along on rolling haunches and admiring the views is a lovely way to get around; being jounced and joggled about as your steed doggedly vaults over a raggedy looking old maypole is far less fun. Still, this is ITV1 and reverie won't do – the audience needs drama, fear, adrenaline and a climax.

They didn't get one here. For a programme that promised thundering hooves and the nobility of woman and beast conjoined in ambitious purpose, the credits and ad break screens looked like a condolence card, and the slow-motion montages set to a Richard Clayderman-esque soundtrack were nigh-on unbearable. I felt like I was being shown some tranquil film stills to distract me and ease my transition to the afterlife while someone – Saunders perhaps – gave me a lethal injection.

Despite the bleeped-out expletives and cheeky asides, Saunders was given a confectionery box of a script that could only ever have appealed to little girls or grannies – and surely (please, somebody back me up on this) what the Olympics proved this summer was that things previously categorised as niche or a bit weird have much further reach than their most obvious demographics. Here was a potentially captive national audience who wanted insight into that world, and what did they get? Jenny, who has run the Cheshire Pony Club for 35 years, telling a little girl off for having loose hair.

The pros provided rather more edifying views. "A horse needs respect, not love," declared rider Tim Stockdale, who recently broke three vertebrae, presumably for giving his horse a box of chocolates rather than a fist-bump. Saunders looked anxious. We will have to wait until next week to find out how she does in her ambition to participate in the Badminton Grassroots Championship, but at least – after donating an hour of our lives – this programme offered one big reveal: what Princess Anne's voice is actually like.

Saunders met the Princess Royal during an event she was holding in her rather extensive back garden. "The thing you need to remember about horses is that they always have the potential to kill you," HRH told her, sounding for all the world like the Queen after she's been on the fags. Saunders looked even more anxious. "I wish I'd never agreed to do this," she breezed. Me too, Jennifer, me too.

twitter.com/harrywalker1

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence