Town with Nicholas Crane, BBC2, Thursday
Harold Baim's Guide to Britain, BBC4, Wednesday
Olympics 2012: One Year to Go, BBC1, Wednesday

Urban enthusiast Nicholas Crane speaks in fluent exclamation as he (at least) gets high over Ludlow

Even though he cites the statistic that "by 2030, 92 per cent of us will be living an urban life", Nicholas Crane thinks it's a mistake to resign ourselves to a future in sprawling mega-cities. "Towns are the communities of the future, the building blocks of our civilisation," he claims. "Towns are where we learn to be urban."

Which airy inanities might well drive you to live in a small cabin on a mountain. But Crane does have a point: between the narratives of the city (all-consuming, ever-expanding) and the village (blissful retreat), how do Britain's towns impinge upon our collective imagination beyond ring-road retail outlets and Saturday night punch-ups on the high street?

Over the next three weeks, Crane will visit Scarborough, Totnes and Perth. Last week, he began the series Town in Ludlow, a handsome Shropshire town on the Welsh border, about which he was alarmingly enthusiastic ("It's got one of the largest parish churches in the country!" he exclaimed.)

What followed was hard to distinguish from a Shropshire tourist board video, gussied up with a few of the features from Coast, the series that made Crane's name. So, we saw our genial presenter buzzing around the Welsh Marches in a microlight to the strains of generic indie-rock. The problem, however, was that it's a little harder for the viewer to swallow Crane's rhapsodising when we're swooping over the Ludlow Tesco rather than, say, Durdle Door.

The unthreatening travelogue of Coast was built on the assumption that its audience would listen to just about anything as a helicopter-mounted camera produced a seemingly endless pan of the British Isles shoreline Cliffs! Piers! Sheep! Town is a less picturesque and a more subjective affair – why Ludlow, you might well ask. The result was that you could hear the special pleading in Crane's voice as he gushed over its local producers' market or shook his head in wonder at his great aunt's painting of the town.

As Crane strode up, down and around Ludlow, like a funky vicar reading out the town's Wikipedia page, it became clear that his fondness for "the town" rested on his first example's adaptability: frontier outpost, then market town, then regional capital, then tourist attraction.

Racy stuff, eh? There was one diverting encounter, at the livestock market with a businessman who said that each year he acquired half-a-million sheep for his halal meat concern. But, dare I say it, he seemed in rather a hurry to get back to Birmingham.

Perhaps what Ludlow needed was Telly Savalas to sing its praises. Bewilderingly, Savalas provided the narration for a series of British city travelogues made by Harold Baim, a long-dead "quota quickie" film-maker. Savalas's relish for the sights of Aberdeen and Birmingham provided the highlights in the altogether delightful Harold Baim's Guide to Britain – as, indeed, did the Kojak actor's passion for Portsmouth: "I just happen to be one of those people who's crazy about castles ... I suppose this could be called a castle – it's the polytechnic."

Savalas wasn't the only narrator of Baim's films, just the most brilliantly incongruous. Disco-dancing grannies, new flyovers and roller-skating displays spun by in a luridly coloured blur. Torquay Bay, we were told unequivocally, rivals Monte Carlo. And, goodness me, you can't expect anyone but a middle-aged man to judge a local beauty pageant. Although there were plenty of sniggers to be had, it was hard not to be touched by an era that chose to celebrate its civic pride, not with a hand-wringing geography lecture but, rather, with breezily bonkers self-confidence.

Harold Baim, one imagines, might have got on with Boris Johnson. On Wednesday, Johnson led a ceremony in Trafalgar Square to mark a year to go to the opening of the London Olympics. There was Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee; there was Sebastian Coe, looking like he was hiding a spliff down the back of his throat; alongside him was David Cameron, in his Head Prefect mode; and there was Princess Anne, who, in a nice touch, had chosen to style her hair after the Aquatics Centre (Olympics 2012: One Year to Go had just come from a celebrity race there to mark the completion of the pool).

Up stepped Boris to the mic, to rail against "crusties" for apparently vandalising the Olympic countdown clock, and declare that, so far advanced was the building schedule, London may as well call "a snap Olympics". London 2012 may be a big event taking place in a big city, but you can trust Mayor Johnson to bring it down to the level of the village fete.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture