Living with Brucie, Channel 4
Mary Queen of Shops, BBC2
Forsyth is revealed as a compulsive control freak while Queen Mary emerges as a force of nature
Sunday 18 July 2010
Forget Gillian Duffy. If one scene lingers with me from this year's election coverage, it came courtesy of another spotlight-grabbing pensioner.
At the BBC's election night boat party embarrassing moments abounded as a coterie of ill-informed celebrities weighed in with their two cents, but it was when the cameras rolled on to Bruce Forsyth that the event's Titanic-sized disastrousness became truly apparent. As he regaled the crowd with an impromptu rendition of "Nice to see you. To see you, nice", leaving tumbleweed blowing across the Thames, he created a never-more-dazzling tribute to the ghastly co-mingling of showbiz and politics.
Yet it was difficult not to feel perverse admiration for a man so in thrall to his Saturday-night persona that he would not let our country's political future get in the way of a bad catchphrase.
It was that same indefatigability that made Living With Brucie both fascinating and excruciating. Ostensibly, this was a fly-on-the-wall documentary job by filmmaker David Nath in conjunction with Forsyth's wife Wilnelia, a former Miss World. But come the opening seconds, Forsyth was already displaying his disdain for the format with direct-to-camera tips about walking so as to not look "quite so old as people think you are".
Soon after, he was admonishing his wife for spoiling a joke and ordering Nath to keep close-ups restricted to his toes, they being "younger-looking" than his face. The irony was, of course, that Nath got exactly the close-ups he was looking for: that of a pathological control freak wholly incapable of living off-script. Indeed, as we followed the couple on holiday in Puerto Rico, it seemed certain that this programme was going to single-handedly turn this national treasure into a national cast-off. Not only a control freak, here was someone who thought nothing of slagging off his golfing buddies behind their backs or exploding into contemptuous rage at a security guard who dared question whether they had permission to film. Not that Nath did himself any favours, however, by employing the kind of smugly deadpan voiceover that suggested we may have another Louis Theroux on our hands.
Yet as the action shifted to the UK, and we saw Brucie back at work filming Have I Got News for You?, the worm turned slightly. Yes, his twirling "fountain of youth" exercises were absurd, as was his OCD-esque arrangement of blueberries on his morning porridge. They were also the measure of an 82-year-old man determined to defy age stereotypes, a determination lent added poignancy by his reflections on being the last of his showbiz contemporaries left standing.
Then there was his marriage to 50-year-old Wilnelia. Despite Nath's best efforts to ridicule the age gap – "what was it Winnie had seen in him?" he asked, before cutting to the lavishly ornamented gardens of Forsyth's Surrey mansion – you were left in no doubt that this couple's love possessed all the sincerity that the filmmaker himself lacked. Sorta nice to see you then, Brucie, though your second appearance in a week, on tomorrow's Who Do You Think You Are?, might be pushing it.
If a little of Brucie goes a long way, however, these past weeks have seen me pathetically beholden to Mary Portas, aka the Queen of Shops, who knocks all other TV gurus into a cocked hat. The third series of her retail nightmare show has been the best yet, buoyed by expanding the remit beyond fashion and blessed with wonderful characters, from hippie furniture sellers Denny and Dazzle to the squabbling sisters of Mersey greengrocers Fosters.
The final episode, revolving around a Surrey DIY store, was something of an anti-climax: even fancy displays inspired by the Saatchi Gallery could never get this reviewer excited about the prospect of purchasing a spirit level. Yet, as ever, Portas herself was a USP enough.
If critics once had her down as an Anna Wintour/Simon Cowell hybrid, she has since revealed herself as her own force of nature. She's at once supportive teacher, up-front best mate and formidable strategist, complete with fabulous quips and a missionary zeal that sets her apart from the makeover charlatans.
Move over Lord Sugar: if there's one TV personality that Westminster needs to sign up, pronto, it's Portas. One click of those heeled boots, and little Mikey Gove wouldn't just be rebuilding those schools, he'd be refitting them with colour-coded departments and super spacious classrooms. Who said showbusiness and politics don't mix?
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