School of Saatchi, BBC2
The Age of Stupid, BBC4

Take six aspiring artists, tart judges, and an absent patron – and the result is surprisingly engaging

By the end of School of Saatchi, you could imagine its producers hopping with glee: the "winner" of the series, a sort of X Factor for the art set, turned out to be pretty Eugenie, the infuriatingly unreadable 20-year- old.

Even better, the work she clinched it with was a tree trunk impaled on a set of railings that she'd spotted on an errand. All she did was plonk it, railings and all, in a corner of the Saatchi Gallery, and, Charlie's your uncle – she's off to the Hermitage to exhibit it. Serendipity, opportunism, gall – her victory seemed almost too good a metaphor for the crapshoot that is a career in contemporary art. But there it was.

In fact, everyone involved in this gem of a series seemed to connive with their stereotypes. The six young artists competing for the honour of exhibiting in the Hermitage and a studio in London for three years, each courtesy of Saatchi, ranged from the so-ambitious-it-hurts (you'll go far, Saad) to the I-thought-this-was-the-metalwork-class? (sweet Samuel was many things, but not an artist).

The judges, too, did their bit. Tracey Emin wafted in and out, handing out verbal kickings where she saw fit, but with an unerring eye for talent. The art collector Frank Cohen, paragon of taste though he may be, peered out from his Oscar Wilde fringe like a puppy looking for its lead, happy to be led. Best of all, as ever, was Matthew Collings, stealing most scenes and, in that faux-earnest sing-song, handing out devastating critiques: "I feel insulted to have to look at this," he said of one of Eugenie's works, calling her a "bit of a bullshitter". You felt that qualifier had only been added for form's sake.

Saatchi, too, played his role as the arch-mage of the contemporary art scene. He never actually appeared and was represented on screen by a helicopter landing occasionally, and, more often, by a female factotum with a gaze to make a basilisk blink. You didn't screw around with Rebecca; as she said, over and over, there was not much point trying to be subtle with your art if you wanted to impress her boss.

Over the series the artists were asked to create public works for Sudeley Castle, the Saatchi Gallery itself and, in possibly the most revealing passage, Hastings shoreline. At a funny little pond on the promenade, the judges took to pedalos, the better to view Eugenie and Matt's work: a climbing frame on one island and a fake rock on another, the idea being that each looked like a zoo enclosure abandoned by its inhabitant.

It was, on balance, a load of crap, a fact which Matt acknowledged as the deadline neared. The look on his face on being told that both the judges and Charles loved the piece's ironic commentary on British seaside mundanity endeared you to him all the more.

Matt, in truth, was the most accomplished artist of the six, which Saatchi acknowledged by awarding him a consolation prize of a spot in his gallery in 2010. He represented the hard work, determination and intelligence necessary for his art career; Eugenie represented, well, everything else.

I had planned to make this column more in keeping with this week's big news, the climate-change conference in Copenhagen. But it's a measure of the all-encompassing scale of the fast-approaching environmental apocalypse that no one has a clue how to dramatise it on telly. There was that awful ITV drama, The Flood, which was inundated by its own tide of cliché. And, last week, The Age of Stupid, which was listed as a drama-documentary, but which proved to be beneath even that iffy sub-genre. It was a cuttings job, the conceit being that Pete Postlethwaite was the last man on Earth, reviewing newsreels from the Noughties. Each passage told a real story, such as that of the Indian playboy launching a low-cost airline, a wind-farm entrepreneur battling Nimbys, a French mountain guide mourning the death of his local glacier. It then cut to Postlethwaite, who can do rueful like Stephen Hawking can do maths.

It was like trying to get a 40-a-day smoker to pack in his habit by sitting him down in front of a 90-minute film of a cancerous lung. Chilling, in its way, but not nearly as chilling as watching on the news 45,000 delegates trying to get into a Danish conference barn meant for a third that number. Let's hope the guy who handed out the accreditation won't be doling out the carbon credits.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

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

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


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


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


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


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


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

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    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
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions