The Cult of Sunday, BBC4
Timewatch: Ten Pound Poms, BBC2

Vets didn't make me squeal with delight

"It's cup-of-cocoa drama," said one of the contributors to The Cult of Sunday's opening episode about All Creatures Great and Small. "It's warm and simple and nice and lovely and it's not going to frighten the horses." He didn't add that it also has the capacity to drop a shire horse where it stands, such is its sedative potency, but then that's the point, I guess. Sunday-night drama is supposed to aneasthetise the process of work re-entry, to send the audience to bed soporific and soothed. Hence, programmes such as Wild at Heart, which gives the vet a twist of safari exoticism, and Lark Rise to Candleford, television's equivalent of a Lilliput Lane cottage collectible.

Robert Hardy apparently advised the BBC against making the James Herriot books into a series. "It will bore the townspeople and annoy the country people," he said. Perhaps that's why he signed up for the first series, imagining that he could pocket the fee and pass on his way relatively unscarred. But he paid for his error of judgement by finding himself trapped in a seven-series hit, which bricked him into a corner as the irascible Siegfried. He got so fed up with having to lose his temper on screen that he started losing it off screen, too, stomping off set when the scripts didn't meet his exacting tantrum standards. And he wasn't in repentant mood here. "It needs steel and a stone to make a spark," he said, though he unhelpfully didn't reveal in which of the 90 episodes the spark had occurred.

Still if the drama itself was resistant to anything more elaborately plotted than a pub anecdote things did happen off screen. Christopher Timothy, who'd been plucked from obscurity to take the lead role, stepped in front of a car after just six episodes had been filmed (it's possible it was a cry for help). But after being pinned and plated he staggered back in front of the cameras nine weeks later. Presumably an explanatory plot-turn was pinned into place as well, to account for the Long John Silver lurch that now accompanied his every movement, but perhaps, Acorn Antiques-style, they just hoped the viewers wouldn't notice. He also had an affair with his screen wife, Carol Drinkwater, which excited the tabloids at the time. You hope for her sake that he washed his hands well because he seemed to spend more time than was strictly necessary with his arm up the back passage of a cow, a sequence the BBC, with an admirable commitment to authenticity, insisted on filming without stunt-doubles, human or bovine. And, judging from the clips shown here, when he wasn't doing that he was falling face first into a pile of manure, a trope that the series clearly regarded as inexhaustible in its hilarity. Timothy, too, paid for his success, climbing the stairs to his agent's office years after the series had ended to hear the man bellowing in rage down the phone. "He's not a vet! He's a bloody actor!"

If production companies are running short of Fifties and Sixties settings for unchallenging dramas of family life they could do worse than check out the documentary Timewatch: Ten Pound Poms, which looked back at the assisted-passage scheme set up just after the war. The subject offers everything – perfect co-production opportunities, culture shock, tales of aspiration and set-back and even, should you really feel the need, the possibility of ailing farm animals and poorly koalas. On the other hand, they'd have to tone down the disillusionment and bitterness that many of those who took up the offer of a new life eventually came to feel.

On the face of it, it was a terrific deal. For just £10, the price of a one- way passage, you could leave behind rationing, and bomb damage and record-breaking winters for the sunshine of Australia. When emigrants reached Australia, though, some of them discovered that its charms had been oversold by the Australian government information films. One women decided to walk into Perth one day to do a bit of window-shopping and walked straight through and out the other side without noticing, so undeveloped was it at the time. Others found themselves in cockroad-infested shacks out in the bush, thinking longingly of England.

But for every disappointment there seemed to be a matching delight. "How much can I have?" asked one woman, faced with the astonishing spectacle of an overflowing meat counter. "You can have the whole ruddy shop if you want," the butcher replied, magic words for anyone who'd measured meat out in ounces. John and Sylvia, admirably can-do East Enders, transformed their lives, taking advantage of local-education schemes to qualify as a psychologist and psychotherapist. And John Howell, a young boy who'd hoped only for a horse and dog with sticky-up ears, ended up with millions, building on a little block of coastal paradise that he'd bought with money saved from weekend work. They'd gone voluntarily but you could say they were transported, too.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
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 History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice