Last Night's Viewing: The Aristocrats, Channel 4
Falcón, Sky Atlantic

 

There's already a feature-length documentary called The Aristocrats, in which an array of comedians each deliver their personal rendition of an old and extremely dirty joke about incest, coprophilia and bestiality; the punchline is: "the Aristocrats". A prurient Channel 4 probably had this in mind when it commissioned and named its new series, about the large but mixed fortunes of Britain's remaining aristocratic families. The first episode promised much, but ultimately failed to muster any major family drama, let alone incest.

With 187 rooms, Blenheim Palace is the biggest in the UK: bigger than Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. It's home to the Dukes of Marlborough, the first of whom won the Battle of Blenheim and was awarded his prize – a vast stately home – by Queen Anne. But he fell out with the monarch, who forced him and his descendants to foot the bill for its upkeep. The present 11th Duke is a military man devoted to home and family. It was his idea to turn Blenheim into a tourist attraction, thus allowing the palace to pay its way.

His eldest son, Jamie Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, is a Sandhurst reject, former drug addict and – if the programme's intro was to be believed – a bit of a useless git. The conscientious Duke did his best to disinherit the Marquess during the 1990s, but Jamie is now clean and living on the Blenheim estate, with the expectation that he'll take over when his father kicks the bucket. Any major decisions, though, will be subject to the agreement of a board of trustees, chaired by Jamie's younger brother, Edward, who wisely failed to take part in the documentary at all.

The programme-makers were granted less access than I suspect they'd have preferred, and resorted to what seemed like selective editing in order to portray Jamie as the feckless idiot they wanted him to be. The Duke's commitment to the local community was juxtaposed, for instance, with Jamie's plans for a water feature: "a HUGE fountain in the middle of the lake... Something ginormous!" In an attempt to inject some tension into proceedings, we also followed the weather-dogged construction of a new loo and gift shop.

Far more fascinating was the revelation, 22 minutes in, that the Duke had recently married his fourth wife, Lily, a rich Iranian. The first three were WH Smith heiress Susan Hornby, Jamie's mother; Athina Onassis, ex-wife of Aristotle; and Countess Rosita Douglas-Stjernorp, Edward's mother. Might this marital history have a part to play in the Duke's troubled relationship with his heir, not to mention the fraternal friction between James and Edward? The question was never asked, and Jamie and the Duke shared the screen for little more than a minute in the whole hour.

The show's juiciest moment did not concern the Spencer-Churchills at all, but their local MP, who came to officially open the new palace gift shop. The MP's minders would not allow him to be filmed in the presence of the aristocracy, so the programme-makers had to turn off their cameras. The constituency is Witney; the MP was David Cameron.

Sky Atlantic's new cop show, Falcón, also concerned itself with fathers and sons. Detective Javier Falcón was called in to investigate the brutal murder of a restaurateur, only to discover that the victim's history intersected with that of the late Falcón senior. A hefty budget and a lot of good actors have been thrown at this drama, including the fabulously brooding Marton Csokas in the title role. Falcón is based on the novels by Robert Wilson, and doubtless intended to rival the BBC's English-speaking Euro-cops Wallander and Zen. But the fine performers were let down by a bad story and a worse script. Wallander's misery is understandable: he inhabits bleak rural Sweden. But what's eating Falcón? He lives in Seville.

twitter.com/timwalker

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
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.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game