The Weekend's TV: British B Movies – Truly, Madly, Cheaply, Sat, BBC4
Doctor Who, Sat, BBC1

One of the great problems with television today is that it doesn't offer children enough opportunities to see rubbishy old films. Back when I was growing up, in the Seventies, television had very little to offer on a wet weekend afternoon beyond wrestling on ITV and the occasional film on BBC2. Not being one for the wrestling, I grew up with a thorough grounding in early British thrillers, the Westerns of Randolph Scott, and the comedies of the Boulting Brothers – the kind of knowledge you can't put a price on. But now, when the weather turns nasty and I'm too busy Facebooking to let them on the computer, my children are faced with reruns of Friends, and programmes actually intended for children. What is that going to teach them?

So I went into British B Movies – Truly, Madly, Cheaply in a sympathetic frame of mind. The premise behind Matthew Sweet's programme was, roughly, that bamboozled by big budgets and foolish ideas about artistic merit, we have neglected the rich heritage represented by the British B-movie: it is time we rescued these films, and began to treasure them. It's a case he put with wit, eloquence, and an astonishing depth of arcane learning, and if I had to sum up my feelings toward this programme in one word, it would be "gratitude". How have I lived so long without the sight of Michael Gough trying to hypnotise a man in a poorly-made gorilla suit?Or Patricia Laffan as the Devil Girl from Mars, spreading terror with a sexy, wicked smile, a sweltering PVC suit and a robot assistant who closely resembles an early prototype for a remote control?

Sweet's history started in the Thirties, with the introduction of the "quota quickies" – the British films that distributors were forced by government fiat to show alongside the slick US product that would actually sell, and went through to the Seventies, when the competing attractions of weekend afternoon television produced a drive to the bottom that gave us some of the most unattractive sex comedies human imagination has ever devised. Along the way, he picked up on some fascinating characters – like Frank Randle, the Lancashire comedian who once advertised for a chauffeur-cum-bricklayer, the rationale being that every time his chauffeur took a day off, and he drove himself, he got so pissed he drove the car through his front wall.

The problem I had with this, though, was that in making the case for B-movies, Sweet forced himself into some bizarre critical and historical contortions. He produced an artificial distinction between supposedly authentic B-movies and the escapism of better-known fare (conveniently forgetting the strong strain of social realism in classic British films, from It Always Rains on Sunday in the Forties, through to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in the Sixties). Talking about the War years, he implied that B-movies were somehow more representative of popular taste than the "classic" films of that period. Well, some classics survive on critical rather than popular reputation, it's true (I don't suppose British audiences of the Forties were knocked over by Les Enfants du Paradis, for example). But I know that my own parents' memories of the time revolve around the big, glamorous films – Casablanca, Gone with the Wind – not the Elsie and Doris Waters comedies; and if the quota quickies had been truly popular, well, they wouldn't have needed a quota.

Elsewhere, E J Fancey, a particularly disreputable producer of the Fifties, was called a "genius" because he spotted the cinematic potential of the Goons and gave Michael Winner his first directing job. But anybody who has seen Down among the Z-Men knows that taking the Goons off the radio was a terrible mistake; and as for Winner... Oh, look, you don't need me to tell you.

In any case, Sweet destroyed any critical authority towards the end when he described The Wicker Man as a "great film" (which it is, if you're not concerned about incidental attributes like decent acting and speakable dialogue, but I'm afraid I'm a bit of a fusspot about these things). Meanwhile, a more measured critical response came from the actor Nicky Henson, who admitted that while making the zombie biker exploitation film Psychomania he had regarded it as "a piece of shit". How did he feel re-watching it 40 years on? "Ashamed."

Where I did agree wholeheartedly with Sweet was when he lamented that: "The idea of modest, inexpensive pleasure has all but vanished." Viz, Doctor Who, which in its current incarnation I cannot bring myself to love. This week's episode, with Catherine Tate going back in time and seeing the world overrun by aliens and comical Italian stereotypes because she made a bad life-choice, seemed to pretty neatly encapsulate much of what's wrong with it: all that peculiar emotional/sexual entanglement of the Doctor and his assistants, all those slick special-effects (though mind you, at least we didn't get any of those speeches about how wondrous the human race is). In my book, Doctor Who should set out to induce two emotions: fear and amusement. If they want to know how it's done, Devil Girl from Mars will show them the way.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada