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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • 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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor