'Democracy is not a Campbell's soup," says Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen, ruler of the über-conservative Hail province of Saudi Arabia. You can't just crack open the tin and splat it into a pan, or, in his case, on to your 600,000 loyal subjects. True, but even if you could, would the people want it?
According to the prince, who granted rare access to Lionel Mill for Inside the Saudi Kingdom, a fascinating exploration of one of the Middle East's most secretive countries, they don't. They're perfectly happy suppressing their women and having their hands chopped off, thank you very much. Well, sort of.
To be fair, the prince comes across as a decent fellow, prepared and willing for change. Progress is being made and he is happy to enable it. Look, he says, there are three unveiled female newsreaders on state TV. Three – imagine! The trouble is the people. They don't want to be westernised. "Go and look at the people we are supposed to serve!" he sighs, a complaint often made by Basil Fawlty.
Saudi Arabia is a country smothered by its traditions. Marriages are arranged; only five per cent of the workforce are women, and it's the only place in the world where women don't drive. The prince has no objection to women driving, mind you, and points out that there is no law forbidding it. But the older generation doesn't like it. You can't change these habits overnight, he says. It's time for their Rosa Parks moment.
One of his subjects hoping for a revolution is Fatima, a young girl in full burka, a gleaming laptop perched on her knee. A little learning is a dangerous thing, and thanks to the internet Fatima knows that women don't have to be second-class citizens. One day she hopes to be a minister, but for now is happy to have an ID card. Until recently women didn't exist other than on their husband's birth certificates. A country in which ID cards spell freedom is a foreign place indeed.
Clashes between antiquity and modernity always make for good television. We see the prince's morning ritual as he is wafted with frankincense and dabbed with rose-petal perfume. Then he's in the back of a BMW and on his BlackBerry. On a typical day he visits the town hall where, apparently, anyone can queue up and chew his ear for five minutes. It's a remarkably direct form of government, like an MP's surgery. The trouble is it's impossible to tell how much of what we see is put on for the camera.
The prince likes hunting and relaxing in the desert. When asked if he is looking forward to seeing his daughter, he says yes. "She has a new puppy, a poodle!" Royals are all the same – their main interest is in dogs.
Prince Charles is more interested in plants, but it's his women we're fascinated with. That was the assumption behind Prince Charles's Other Mistress, a rehash of the story of Dale Tryon, the Australian PR girl with whom he had an affair in the 1970s and who later lost her marbles after an accident. It's hardly the friendliest way to mark Charles's 60th birthday, but it's a good tabloid tale. Kanga (short for Kangaroo – she was Ozzie, see) was blond, clever and straight talking, and Camilla probably did see her as a threat. But it's pushing things to claim that theirs was a "deep and meaningful" relationship. Kanga was one of several girlfriends Charles had before he married. And a good tabloid story doesn't justify giving air time to twittering pundits who say: "She exploded on to the scene. Not only was she a blond bombshell but a breath of fresh air." Clichés anyone?
Less breathless was The Prince Charles Generation, a series of interviews with men also born on 14 November 1948. Probably a decent idea in the commissioning room, it materialised into a series of rather dull reminiscences from some singularly boring men, revealing nothing. We all know there was rationing after the war and that the Sixties swung, don't we? And why did nearly all the interviewees came from working-class backgrounds? It had the whiff of a rather tawdry them-and-us message.
Much more fun was Jack Hunter, a new Indiana Jones-style action drama packed with sweat, guns and crypto-babble. He's a rugged archaeologist looking for a lost city in the Syrian desert, but is soon up against the Russian mafia. Cutting from Paris to Damascus to Egypt, it could have been brilliant. But it's silly, so silly it's almost a spoof, except it's not. Now that would have been fun.Reuse content