The Weekend's Television: Monty Halls' Great Escape, Sun, BBC2
Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock, Sat, BBC4
Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder, Fri, ITV1

The best of both worlds

Judging from the first episode of Monty Halls' Great Escape, its presenter is not a man who's nervous about stating the obvious. "The nearest supermarket is over an hour away!" he bellowed excitedly at a circling helicopter near the beginning of his back-to-nature series, a revelation that was less than overwhelming given that he was standing on the top of a mountain, natural features that are famously badly served by the major food retailers.

Later, marvelling at a prospect of sea and sky, he delivered another exhilarated ad lib: "It really does feel like I've left the city behind," he exclaimed. Yes, well that's probably because that's exactly what you have done, Monty. Remember? You told us earlier that you'd rented out your Bristol house to fulfil a long-held dream to live the life of a Highland crofter. And you also told us that it took you 15 hours to drive to the semi-derelict cow shed that is to be your home for the next three months. So the sensation of rural isolation shouldn't have been entirely surprising. It might have been worth mentioning if you had been in a dense bit of shrubbery in Berkeley Square, but I think you'll find it's par for the course in the remoter glens. The line I liked best, though, came when Monty was preparing to stock up his smallholding with poultry. "I'm visiting Donald 'the Hen' McDonald," he said, "so I'm assuming from that nickname that he'll know something about hens." I prayed that Donald would actually turn out to be a local madman who dressed in a chicken costume and only ate worms, but it turned out that the locals are just as literal-minded as Monty.

As a form of proxy escapism, though, Monty Halls' Great Escape is perfectly fine, a hybrid of natural-history programme, lifestyle makeover and reality challenge that was only mildly undermined by the fact that Monty's only there for the summer months. That's cheating in a whopping way, surely... a bit like announcing that you're going to climb Mount Everest, but you're going to leave out the jagged, icy bits at the top. A Highland winter is what decides whether you're a crofter or just an unusually committed holidaymaker. Still, never mind. We're not really here for a valid experiment in living history, and Monty himself made no bones about his short cuts: "I'm not some survival expert who can rub two squirrels together and make a fire and knit my own pants from kelp," he explained cheerfully. What he is is someone who wants to get away from it all for a bit, and doesn't mind taking us with him. He's bought a little boat, so that he can chase dolphins, he's got some pigs and Soay sheep, largely, I suspect, for helpful comic interludes involving wayward livestock, and he's got the beginning of a vegetable garden. He's also got an exuberant dog called Reuben, that I suspect will give Rick Stein's late, lamented Chalky a run for his money in the virtual-pet stakes.

Paul Merton can very rarely be accused of stating the obvious. Take this Mertonesque line from his Saturday-night documentary about Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock: "If you think Alfred Hitchcock's head on a penguin makes him look like a Jesuit priest, then there's a good reason for this: he was educated by Jesuits." Which slightly raised the question of where the penguin had come from, spliced on to the great director's body in one of the many sight gags Merton had threaded through his film. Merton directed as well as presented, which may account for the slightly erratic inventiveness of the thing, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable film, partly because Merton had had the good sense to let Hitchcock do most of the talking, in lengthy clips from archive interviews, but also because he'd concentrated largely on Hitchcock's British silent career, the period when the director learnt how to tell a story with images alone and before he'd signed up with Hollywood studios that charge so much for film clips that it would break the budget to show any. Here, by contrast, Merton could properly illustrate his film, letting you see the intriguing fact that Hitchcock's early films combined shots that can still dazzle alongside bits of Cholmondeley-Warner clunkiness that make you howl.

In Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder, the comic makes a break from the character of the pub landlord in a sketch-show format from the Viz school of comedy. I liked The PC PCs, forced to take control of a hostage situation because the firearms officers were off on a diversity course learning Latin. "Right!" bellowed Sarge at the hostage-taker. "We know you're in there, and more importantly, we know you 'ad an un'appy childhood." I also enjoyed the trailer for ITV1's compelling new autumn drama, "Gandhi", starring Ray Winstone ("If that Mountbatten comes in 'ere talking compromise, I'll tear 'im a new arsehole"). Not sure the sketch will repair ITV1's fortunes, but there'd surely be viewers for "Gandhi".

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory