The Weekend's TV: Fake or Fortune? Sun, BBC1
The Marriage Ref, Sat, ITV1

They didn't give the whole picture

Establishing the authenticity of a painting – as Fake or Fortune? entertainingly demonstrated last night – involves a tricky combination of taste, technology and scholarship.

Establishing the exact authenticity of a television programme can be even trickier. On the face of it, Fake or Fortune? was a real-life detective story, full of twists and revelations that appeared to be as unexpected and exciting to those on screen as they were to us at home. Fiona Bruce was there as a kind of fine art Emma Peel with Philip Mould, an Antiques Roadshow regular, as her John Steed, the two of them racing around the place in expensive cars and speedboats, from Paris to Cairo, in a quest to prove that a pretty oil sketch of the Seine really was a missing Monet. It was full of cliffhanger tension and thrilling moments of discovery. But I couldn't entirely shift the suspicion that some of it was just a little too good to be true.

The essential storyline was a gripping one. Some 18 years ago, David Joel, a retired naval officer, had paid £40,000 for a view of the Seine at Argenteuil signed by Monet. The dealer who sold it to him either believed that the signature wasn't authentic, or had given up hope of getting the Wildenstein Institute to admit it to its Monet Catalogue Raisonné, without which it could never be sold as the real thing. David, a dogged kind of fellow, had been trying himself for years, collecting a series of increasingly terse letters of refusal. Enter Mould and Bruce, to have another go at getting this formidably self-regarding body to entertain the possibility that it might have made a mistake.

The programme offers a beginner's guide to the lively snake-pit of attribution, which used to be mostly a matter of connoisseurship and gut-feeling but has steadily been transformed by technology. The painting was taken to Paris, to be photographed on a 240-million-pixel camera that could, with the help of different filters, allow the curious to peer beneath the paint surface. A German Monet expert ramped the zoom up to maximum and announced that there was nothing in the brushwork to arouse her suspicions. Then they turned the painting round, and started to pick away at the clues they found there. A French railway stamp suggested that the blank canvas had been despatched to Argenteuil at about the right time from an art supplies merchant that Monet had certainly had dealings with. They even identified the spot on the Seine where it might have been painted.

Naturally, as in any good adventure, there were setbacks. The French customs high-handedly impounded the picture as it was being taken back to London, on the ironic grounds that it might be a national treasure, and displayed a characteristic Gallic disdain in the face of Bruce's furious protests. And then, in the Cairo palace of one of the painting's former owners, they turned up what looked like absolutely clinching evidence – an old dealer's photograph of the painting, of the kind sent out to rich clients to whip up interest, and an exact correspondence between the style of the stock number on the frame and the tickets used by a Paris dealer called George Petit, who dealt in Monet's work. If it wasn't a work of genius as a painting, then it was undoubtedly a work of genius as a forgery. Along with affidavits from distinguished international Monet scholars, the painting was resubmitted to the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, a thrillingly ominous looking building with a spymaster's electronic gate. Astonishingly, they said no – Guy Wildenstein, a Sepp Blatter of art history, declining to sully his father's record just because of a few inconvenient facts. "We don't think it looks right," they declared loftily.

So what didn't "feel right" to me, you might be wondering, given that this downbeat ending was the exact opposite of what any television faker would have contrived? Well, nothing to do with the facts, only with the way they were presented to us. It was implied, for example, that Bruce and Mould had to wait on tenterhooks for their emissary to return to London from Paris before finding out the final verdict, though it seems frankly inconceivable that he wouldn't have called them on the phone the moment he got the news. And it seemed a little strange too not to mention that David Joel has actually published a book about Monet himself, as if that detail might compromise the idea that he was a plucky outsider up against arrogant art-world insiders. I'm sure the basic picture was the real thing, but they'd added a little varnish to make it shine.

The Marriage Ref – based on an idea by Jerry Seinfeld – was a disaster in the States and doesn't look as if it will do much better here. The idea is that bickering couples bring their disputes for resolution to a panel of celebrities, though since there's absolutely nothing at stake for anyone involved and the disputes are cutely trivial anyway (a husband's obsession with pickles, a wife's addiction to to-do lists), it's really just an excuse for yet another comedy panel show. Dermot O'Leary presents, with tiresome ebullience, and the audience goes "aaahhh" whenever a couple turn up who are over 60. Sarah Millican and Jimmy Carr both had their moments in the first episode, but I'm not sure that there's a lot to keep you watching other than a long unresolved row with your partner over whose turn it is to find the remote control.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links