Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began featured Joanna Lumley at her most breathily excited, proving herself capable of getting audibly flushed even at the sight of a nondescript Whitehall office. The point was, you understand, that this was Room 39, in which Fleming had served as a Naval intelligence officer during the Second World War, and against whose ornate black-marble fireplace he'd posed for a photograph.
Look, said Lumley, it's the same fireplace. And then she stroked it wonderingly. She got even more excited at Goldeneye, Fleming's Jamaican home, pointing reverently at his writing desk and noting that all the characters in the books – Blofeld and Scaramanga and M and Moneypenny – had "spilled and fumed out of this one little corner". I began to feel a sensation that I wouldn't have believed it was possible to associate with Joanna Lumley, which was mild exasperation. He wasn't Dickens, for God's sake.
I'm relieved to say that she put things right later, with what I took to be an ad lib tacked on to a piece of pre-prepared script. Bond, she informed us, as she perched next to a fine-looking martini, "expects his woman to make a Béarnaise sauce as well as she makes love, though presumably not at the same time". And then she paused and went on: "Although I, of course, can, and do. Frequently." This was funny, and done with nice comic timing, and I imagine will have induced spiking blood pressure in her older admirers, particularly those who like their sex flavoured with butter and tarragon. But while the larkiness unblotted her copybook, it still couldn't quite persuade you that her subject was worthy of the awed devotion he inspired in her. I thought it a little poignant, too, that Lumley's own appearance as a Bond girl should have been opposite George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a performer who made even Roger Moore look good in the role.
I don't suppose that Bond obsessives will have learnt anything new about their subject, but there was lots here for the casual fan, including a glimpse inside Fleming's writer's notebooks, one of which mysteriously seemed to be devoted to advertising copy lines for Booth's gin, an important component of Fleming's daily schedule. We also met Q's son (or rather the son of the intelligence quartermaster on whom Q was based), who displayed a bar of Menier chocolate that was issued to undercover men headed for France. It was densely impregnated with garlic chunks, on the brilliantly xenophobic principle that your average Englishman would simply smell too sweet to pass as authentically Gallic unless he first overdosed on alliums. The Bond books would be a lot more enjoyable if they had guyed and undermined such attitudes rather than implicitly endorsing them.
The final episode of The Story of the Guitar, Alan Yentob's three-part series about the 20th century's most democratic musical instrument, turned to the people who play it, and was full of unexpected pleasures. You only have to look at Slash, the legendary guitarist from Guns N' Roses, to feel better, because he delivers such a perfect self-parody of rocker pomp. But elsewhere it was what the guitarists did and said that lifted your mood, whether it was Johnny Marr pinning down the way in which the guitar could bypass verbal communication with the lovely line "It's like turning your daydreams into sound", or the Edge, standing next to something that looked like a Nasa control centre, and tweaking a simple plucked string into a stadium-filling swirl of sound. I also enjoyed the archive clip of Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin's guitar god, being interviewed by Hugh Wheldon after a performance with a schoolboy skiffle band. "Are you going to be a musician when you grow up?" Wheldon asked, all tweedy condescension. "Well, no, I want to do biological research," Page piped back, as Brylcreem-neat as the boy off the front of a Meccano box. Is he a disappointed man, I wonder?
Walter White, the hero of FX's Breaking Bad, certainly is, his disappointment stemming not from his life as a high-school chemistry teacher, or the fact that his son has cerebral palsy or the discovery that his wife is pregnant. Walter is more than happy with all of that, but deeply disconsolate that stage-three lung cancer isn't going to give him enough time to enjoy it all, and sufficiently anxious about his family's financial future to decide to apply his lab skills to the production of market-beating crystal meth. Breaking Bad won two Emmys this year and it deserves them, because it's bleakly funny, exploiting the comic contrast of suburban rectitude and slacker underworld without forfeiting its access to something deeper and sadder. Even the knuckleheads are given the grace of a rounding back story. And it must surely be the first mainstream American television series to make the periodic table look cool.Reuse content