The Weekend's Television: This World: The Madoff Hustle, Sun, BBC2

On Thin Ice, Sun, BBC2

Another false profit

"He's a petty thief," concluded one of Bernie Madoff's victims bitterly in This World's stylish film about the world's biggest fraudster.

Well, I suppose you could see where he was coming from. It must rankle to have the man who's ruined your life spoken of as a criminal mastermind and prodigy of larceny. But petty? Come on. The estimates of Madoff's haul range between $20 billion to $50 billion, which is a bit more substantial than a hastily pocketed handful of pick'n'mix. And Roger Corke's film – an extended pastiche of the BBC's con-man drama Hustle – sensibly began by pitching the unprecedented magnitude of Madoff's theft: "He's the greatest grifter the world has ever seen," murmured the cashmere tones of Robert Vaughn, "... he ran the longest of long cons." Leaving aside what we've all just been collectively taken for in order to bail out the banks it's hard to deny him the top spot.

In Hustle, of course, the audience always sympathises with the con-men, because the marks are generally so loathsome. As if to prevent that happening Corke had contrived to have his film fronted by Willard Foxton, whose father Bill shot himself in a Southampton park after discovering that his relatively modest life savings had all – unknown to him – been entrusted to Madoff.

And though some of Madoff's surviving victims provoked the occasional twitch of schadenfreude (some of these people could afford to be robbed by him twice over and still not notice), it was also clear that one of the central tenets of the long con – "You can't cheat an honest man" – isn't always true. You can cheat honest ones – because they trust the brokers who advise them. And you can cheat knowing ones too. Step forward the rueful Dr Stephen Greenspan, author of Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It. Dr Greenspan received the first bound copies of his new book on 10 December. On 12 December, he learned that Madoff had stolen $400,000 from him. When I last checked Dr Greenspan's book was ranked number 510,357 on the Amazon sales chart, perhaps because word has got out that he's not exactly a glowing advert for the practical application of his subtitle.

Some sharper New York analysts did spot what Madoff was up to, and they appeared here to explain how even raising an eyebrow about his alluringly consistent returns provoked splenetic attack from Madoff loyalists, many of whom were reassured by the fake share-dealing certificates that Madoff churned out from a sealed floor in his Manhattan office. One analyst had even provided the Securities and Exchange Commission with a detailed dossier on Madoff's Ponzi scheme but had simply been ignored by watchdogs who had already got far too friendly with the fox.

The blind faith of his long-term clients exemplified another central truth of the long con – that there comes a point when you've invested so much trust and money that you can't afford to do anything but continue to believe. And then, when belief finally becomes unsustainable, you discover that you can't afford to do anything at all. Madoff, incidentally, specialised in stealing from charities, since they were far less likely to ask for their initial capital back at short notice and he traded on the trust of the people who knew and liked him to draw in the fresh funds that would keep the ball in the air. Not petty at all really I think. Monstrous would be a better word.

In On Thin Ice, Ben Fogle and James Cracknell – who risked delirium, death and boils to row across the Atlantic – engage in another extended passage of self-mortification, taking part in a race to the South Pole. Last night's opening episode saw them travel to a giant fridge somewhere in England where they could simulate the effects of spending 24 hours in sub-zero temperatures. Not only just sub-zero either, but, with artificial wind-chill added, minus 52 degrees centigrade, a temperature at which your extremities are on a knife edge, possibly a lot more literally than you would like.

The polar doctor supervising their induction warned them that he had encountered at least one case of penile frostbite. "He had to have a trimming procedure, shall we say," he explained coyly. I loved the "shall we say", as if the word "trimming procedure" might actually have euphemistic effect in these particular circumstances. There's only one end you can practically trim from, after all, and it's not a bit any man would feel he could happily spare. Later on, during a four-day expedition on the Nordic plateau, the boys dived naked into the night for a snow bath, the modest pixellation around their crotches suggesting that at least part of them was beginning to think that discretion was the better part of valour. But the rest of them seems hell bent on getting to the South Pole.

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
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.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin