Last night's viewing: The Town Taking on China, BBC2; Silk, BBC1; Cardinal Burns, E4

 

He's a versatile actor, Bill Paterson, with a nice line in dry top-spin. But there are phrases that even he finds hard to rescue from bathos. Such as this one, for example, from The Town Taking on China: "Anyone who's anyone in the world of cushions, curtains and bedlinens is here."

The line was a reference to the Frankfurt textiles trade fair, a critical diary date for Tony Caldeira, whose attempt to restore a bit of the British manufacturing base was the subject of this two-part documentary. And I suppose you might reasonably point out that finding it funny illustrates part of the problem. Why shouldn't cushion manufacturers have their stardom and their A-lists? Isn't the assumption that manufacturing things is dull part of the problem?

The Town Taking on China didn't always successfully counter the prejudice. I'm sure there must be some viewers who find themselves utterly gripped by a discussion about how to turn the mezzanine level into a new machinists' floor, but it isn't likely to be the kind of demographic slice that would threaten Britain's Got Talent. And, unlike Mary's Bottom Line, The Town Taking on China couldn't boast an established television personality to wrangle the tantrums and the emotional cliffhangers that are a staple of more mainstream series. Instead, we had Tony, whose mum had started the business on a market stall, and a more straightforward account of what it would take to start importing jobs back from Hangzhou.

The good news is that it's getting easier with every passing month, as Chinese wages rise and the downsides of having a factory on the other side of the world become more salient in the calculation. Which doesn't mean that it's easy. Tony had taken on 18 new recruits in Kirkby to work on making a more upmarket line of cushions. Of those, seven had dropped out, either because they couldn't be bothered or couldn't be trained. And that meant that even if he could get a big order in Frankfurt (as he did) he couldn't be absolutely sure that he'd be able to fulfil it. There were some pleasing surprises, though. "People here are quicker than in China," said two visitors from Tony's Chinese factory. Which meant that Tony could justify expanding his English operation and leave us feeling a little more cheerful about the warning issued by another manufacturer: "This country cannot live long term by selling each other cappucinos over the internet."

I don't know what lawyers think of Silk. I assume that after a hard day lawyering they'd prefer to watch something else in the evening, but its account of courtroom strategy is deeply soothing for the non-professional, suggesting that it consists largely of arrogantly knowing smirks, downcast looks and dramatic reversals. Maxine Peake has a particularly nice line in rubbing her forehead anxiously during tricky moments, a gesture that is almost invariably a prelude to the witness blurting out something the opposition desperately don't want said. I was rather startled to see the judge in last night's case directly instruct the jury that they had to come back with a guilty verdict, not something I thought they were allowed to do. But it was fine anyway because the jury exercised their right to perversity, Martha Costello QC having touched their hearts in her closing. Oh, and Frances Barber is in this series, which is always a good reason to watch virtually anything.

I'm not really sure about Cardinal Burns, E4's new sketch show, but I think it's a good sign that it had turned me from bemusement to gentle chuckling in the course of a single episode. And, thinking about it further, bemusement isn't the worst state a comedy show can leave you in. Belly laughs are fine, but there's something about a sketch that leaves you wondering exactly why you're smiling, particularly when they're as well performed as this.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
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
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
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.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried